I was aware that someone was near me, but my senses were hazy and untrustworthy. Where was I? Who was I? I knew who I was, the girl known as Tabri. My body burned, every vain and muscle ached. The worst of the pain came from a deep stabbing in my legs. No, just my right thigh. It pounded with every beat of my heart.
At least my heart was still beating and I wasn’t dead. Not yet at least. I tried to squirm in my skin to relieve the burning sensations, but it was no good, it only burned more. My feet, I couldn’t feel them, or the tips of my fingers. It was no use trying to move, they wouldn’t respond.
“Tabri.” A soft voice called to me. The sound was familiar, but my mind wouldn’t let me picture the face. It was a man, someone I was connected to. Who was it that was there calling to me?
My eye lids felt as heavy as bricks. They fought back as I tried to open them. Slowly, carefully I pealed them back. It was dark around me. The only light was the shadows dancing on the rock face above my head from a nearby fire. It crackled and spat letting off heat to warm my already burning hot limbs. I blinked trying to make sure my eyes wouldn’t close again without my consent. If only I could move from the fire side. It was as hot as hell. Sweat poured from my skin, soaking my under clothes, matting my hair to my forehead. The fire inside me burned uncontrollably.
There was no recollection of coming here. Where was here anyway? From the look of the rocks all around, even where the sky should be, made me think I was in a cave, but then again my vision was blurry and I was confused. Something happened that brought me here. Something I couldn’t remember. Why couldn’t I remember?
“Tabri.” A hand touched my cheek. It was warm and ruff, but felt cool to my skin. A face crossed my vision, I recognized it. Who was he? I searched my mind for the images, wondering how I knew this man. It was the blue eyes. They gave him away, Arsan.
He smiled at me, but his smile faded with concern. His hand left my face. The coolness of his touch was gone. My cheek begged for it to come back. It felt nice. My face began to burn again, worse, torturous. My face grimaced with pain. What was happening to me?
“Tabri, I don’t know what to do for you.” Arsan sat back on his heals and wrapped his arms around his legs.
I needed to form words, to tell him to use his magic. If he could intertwine his life force with mine, I might have a chance. My mouth tried to move, but it wasn’t responding. Pulling all the magic I could find, I sent it to my lips to make them move. “Use your magic.”
It came out scratchy, a whisper. It was barely audible to even my ears.
“What magic? I don’t have magic.”
My heart sunk. He didn’t even know who he was. How was I supposed to convince him of his powers when I couldn’t even use mine properly?
With all the force I could muster, my hand twitched towards his. He grabbed it right away and held it tightly to his chest. “I don’t know what you want me to do?”
He had magic. I could feel it with every beat of his heart. The warmth in his fingers called to me. It wanted to help me, but it was still weak and untrained. It didn’t know what to do. Letting go of my control, my magic flowed from my fingers. It poured itself into Arsan’s veins searching for anything it could use to heal me. As it left, my body began to feel cold and I started to shiver.
“What are you doing? Why do my hands feel like they are on fire?” Arsan touched my face again with his free hand. It was the fire I needed to feel alive again.
“Your magic.” I managed to spit out. “Concentrate.”
Arsan shook his head and closed his eyes. “I have no idea if this will work, but I will try my hardest.”
The magic that had left my body began to flow back through my fingers. It brought with it the warmth and fire of my life force, but also an extra fire that belonged to Arsan. There was not much strength in it yet, but as it intertwined with mine it became bold and searched for the darkness that was consuming me.
A pain formed in my chest. It ripped at my heart and pulled at my skin. Something was fighting to keep hold of me. It was the dark magic that had entered my body. It wanted to claim me, but Arsan was fighting it. He was fighting for my life.
“Hang in there.” He screamed as my body started to convulse.
The pain was too much. My vision became blurred and dark. I was slipping back into the nothingness. Slipping into a dark slumber.
My body felt stiff and soar, but my limbs were mine again and they twitched at my command. The darkness that tried to consume me was gone, burnt away by the fire inside of me. Arsan had done it. He had used his magic to push out the death that was slowly taking me.
“Arsan,” My voice didn’t seem as shaky this time. With each passing second I felt stronger, being healed from the inside out.
A warm hand held mine in the dim light. I opened my eyes to see Arsan’s piercing gaze watching me with concern. “How do you feel?”
I smiled. “Better. Will you help me to sit up?”
Arsan shook his head and helped me closer to the fire. The chill in my body was finally gone and the warmth of the fire felt good upon my skin.
There was a cave over my head. It was small, but warm. The winter storm raged outside, its winds howled through the mountains but kept their distance from the mouth of the cave.
“How long have I been sleeping?”
Arsan scratched his chin and stared into the fire. “Its only been a few hours. The sun has set and the monastery is gone. Cloaked in darkness just as the monk had said. There is no going back.”
If Delah had escaped she would have been here by now. My heart sunk with the feeling that I would never see her again. She would be trapped under the cloak until the monks decided the danger was gone. Maybe she would come find me as soon as she was free. That’s if she was even still alive.
Arsan stared into the fire across from me. Behind those icy eyes there was a struggle, something inside of him that was lost and confused. He needed answers and I wasn’t sure what to tell him. “Did you not know you had magic?”
He looked up startled. Like I had disturbed him from his thoughts and now he was processing what I had said. “I… I had always suspected there was something different about me, but magic was never a thought.”
“You have ancient blood within you. I can feel it running through your veins. It’s not pure and it definitely needs to be trained, but it is there none the less.” I scooted over to sit next to him. “Give me your hand.”
I held my hand closer to him. “Do you want to know more about your past or not?”
Arsan put his hand reluctantly onto mine. It was still warm from before. His magic hadn’t gone to sleep yet.
“Do you feel the warmth?” As my magic weaved with his, it began to move and flow with his life source. It was warm and told me much about his blood line. I smiled when I felt the bond of his blood with mine. “There is Artican blood in your veins. It pulses through your body like mine does.”
“How do you know?” Arsan said calmly. He could feel the warmth in his hand.
“Your blood bonds with mine. Only magic from the same source can do that.” I took my hand away from his. “Now call to it, let it breathe within you.”
Arsan closed his eyes and tried to move his magic through his veins. At first, nothing happened. His magic sat dormant and wouldn’t succumb to his whim, but after a few moments the fire within him began to boil in his fingers. It wasn’t much but it was a start.
“Tell me, Arsan.” I interrupted. “What was it that you were looking for at the monastery?”
Arsan opened his eyes and took a deep breath. His body went ridged as he sat up straight and stared into the fire again. “I was searching for my father.”
“In the mountains?”
“No.” Arsan looked at me. “I was hoping the monks would have some clue as to where he went. He disappeared when I was a boy, left my mother, my sister and me. Now, my mother and sister are gone and I’m alone. I thought maybe if I found my father I wouldn’t feel so empty.”
I didn’t know what to say, but I knew the feeling of being abandoned. “It is… possible that your father is with the Articans. You should come with me north. Maybe we will find them there.”
Arsan shook his head. “I would like that.”
“Get some sleep. I will keep watch till the sun comes up.”
As Arsan lay sleeping soundly on the hard rocks next to me, my mind wandered. Thoughts of my mother’s face passed through my mind and the sounds of her voice telling me it would be ok. She had died in these mountains, not far from this place. If only I had been older, maybe I could have saved her.
My fingers absentmindedly brushed soft leather. I glanced into my lap to find the cuff in my hands. I had forgotten it was in my pocket the whole time. This was what my magic had brought me to this forsaken place for. This cuff held the key to finding the Articans.
I tied it to my wrist, wondering what I had done back at the monastery to trigger its vision. Maybe I could do it again?
My legs ached from sitting, they needed to stretch and move around. I left the fire and wandered to the mouth of the cave. The storm had settled slightly. Snow had built up at the mouth of the cave and the wind only howled off in the distance. The stars shown brightly overhead sharing their light with the moon that hung low in the winter sky. It was the same sky I had seen so many nights before.
I held the cuff out to the moon light. Its golden broach looked blue in the darkness. “Show yourself to me.”
The warmth of my magic spread through my veins, reaching out to the old magic in the cuff. What ever the trigger was that started the vision was buried deep down in its depths, it only came to the surface when I brushed the golden broach with the tips of my fingers. The mouth of the cave lit up all around me. The vision had returned.
It was the snowy cliffs beyond the cave. The vision moved quickly through the mountains and up over the peak, skimming the snow as it flew faster and faster. It descended into the valley below and through a thick forest. A lush field followed with grasses as yellow as the sun. Beyond the fields lay the Barrens and Winterland. The vision finally came to the tundra that it had shown me before. This time it was empty. There wasn’t a sole to be seen.
As quickly as it had come, the vision was gone leaving the cave in darkness once again.
I stared out into the cold, the snow falling slowly past my face. Something moved out in the frost, red amongst a sea of white. The men from the monastery had come. They had surly seen the light from the vision. Stupid me, I had lead them right to us.