Nypre eagerly entered the grand library. Like the temple, it was two stories high, but unlike the temple the first room was very compact. To the left of the entrance there was a desk with a nondescript man sitting behind it. Spread throughout the room were bookcases which created aisles between them for people to walk down. On the back wall there were three doorways leading deeper into the library, likely separating it into sections. At each of the doors there was a soldier. In one of the corners there was a large table for reading. Nypre walked to the front desk.
“Hello sir, how may I help you?” the man there inquired in a friendly tone. He was wearing the usual Lumin fashion of pure white robes.
“I’ve come to look for information on the four guardians of magic.” Nypre tried to be as inconspicuous as possible. The man gave Nypre a strange look.
“And why would someone like you be interested in something like that?” he asked. Nypre felt he was in trouble already.
“Well, the truth is I’m only interested in one guardian, Wonik. I come from the Tawarln territory and I’m afraid she may lash out and destroy my small town.” Nypre quickly came up with an excuse.
“I see. I regret to say that we keep a lot of our current information on the guardians hidden from the public. We do have documents of what she has done in the past if that interests you.” the man explained.
“Yes, I need to know what she’s capable of. I have two younger siblings and my mother fears for them and me. She sent me here to find out information on her. If things are as bad as they seem we may have to move to another territory.” Nypre did his best to act fearful, but the man wasn’t buying it at all.
“Row five has all of the information on the guardians and magic that we keep open to the public.” The man pointed to one of the bookcases. With a quick thank you, Nypre walked where he had pointed. There were many books on each of the guardians, much more information than he had originally expected. He found a book called “Wonik’s Thunderous Fury” and decided that it would be the best choice. Other books did interest him, such as “The Creation of Magic” and “Four Guardians, the Incorrect Prophecy”. He decided to grab “The Creation of Magic” to read if he had time. There was no reason why he shouldn’t increase his own knowledge.
He sat at the corner table and opened the book on Wonik. It wasn’t so much a book as a collection of reports taken from Lumin soldiers and others who witnessed her. Some were personal journal entries about battles against her.
" My men were patrolling through Yin’s territory when she attacked. I did not know what was going on at first, I heard a wind mage casting spells. My men and I held our spears out ready looking for the source. There was none, instead my men fell one by one, each with stab wounds. We swung our spears wildly like we have been trained against invisible opponents, but to no avail. I could do nothing to save them. Only when the last of them fell and I was disarmed did she appear. While she inhabited the body of a young girl, no more than fourteen years old, I knew she was a monster. She smiled at me, walking slowly towards me carrying a bloodied dagger. I feel if I hadn’t been terrified as I was I could have struck her down then. She placed her hand on my face, and electrified me. Her lightning ran through my body, my dragon metal was of no help as she tortured me. I gave up the information on the other patrols in the area she was after, and she let me live. I had no choice. Ana forgive me.”
Nypre closed the book for a second, unsure of what he had just read. It was his own mother, doing something that horrific. He shook his head. For her to kill, it had to be for a good reason. He opened the book to the end and found another entry written by another soldier. It was the last entry in the book. It was about a mission where soldiers were sent to assassinate Wonik.
“We had her surrounded, or so we thought. She had been moving around the territories for several months and finally settled in a cabin in the Wild Lands. There were a hundred of us, the biggest squadron we have ever created to go against a guardian. She had two of her followers outside, one male and one female. The male used fire magic, and the female water in addition to their wind magic. They were powerful, but with our dragon armor their spells had no effect. The male resorted to fighting with a sword. I still remember him, he fought bravely. He is, to this day, the only mage I’ve ever seen fight with a weapon. He fought with a skill much like our own, but I was able to break his guard. The woman tried supporting him by conjuring mist to cloud our vision.”
As Nypre read his eyes widened. The tone of the entry changed from basic description to a very emotional tale.
“Ana, I feel bad. They were the victims here, not us. They gave their lives to protect her. We overpowered them. Why did they do this? May you forgive them, and understand that their fighting was done out of compassion. And may you forgive me for slaying them. We entered the cabin, but Wonik was not there. There were two cribs in the cabin, as well as a stock of food. Wonik, who had never settled in one place since becoming guardian, who was always wandering the territories and causing havoc, had made herself a home. It is rumored that she has children. If so, she is the first guardian to produce offspring. She and her potential children must be killed. She has always converted people to believing the lies of Letum. I do not want to battle good people, like the two I had to kill, again.”
There were only a few more scribbles written in the book that were added after it had been created. Scribbles about trying to pinpoint her location based on information gained by capturing wind mages. They knew she was in the Tawarln Territory, they just didn’t know where. Suddenly Nypre didn’t think his mother was being paranoid for making the house invisible as often as she did.
Nypre decided to stop reading the Wonik book and turned his attention to the book on magic. He opened it to a random page and began to read.
“Much like Tana predicted, chaos erupted in the skies. The sunny sky over Lumin was torn open, revealing a star lit night with a blue sphere in the distance. Four balls of pure light shot through the tear in the sky and were tossed off to distant lands. The tear closed as quickly as it opened. It is believed that the balls of light were the guardians that were placed throughout the nine territories.”
Nine territories? This meant that this book was written before the Night Land appeared.
“Within the next year we started hearing about children capable of using supernatural forces they called magic. Magic is the dark force that Tana predicted would enter our world. A force created by the dark god Letum to cause both chaos and destruction. The children wielding it certainly did both of these things. First we discovered Foran hiding in the mountainous territory of Telkis. He was capable of creating and controlling fire. The Telkis army got to him before us and to this day Telkis uses Foran’s dark power for his own greed.”
“We then heard of a girl called Meni in the Aqnis territory capable of manipulating water and ice. Similar to the situation in Telkis, Aqnis took Meni in and raised her alongside her own daughter. Just like Telkis uses Foran, Aqnis uses Meni to strengthen her own army.”
“The other two guardians, Wonik and Quin, were not discovered until a couple of years later. Quin had already started gathering his own followers, using his magic to gain power in the desert. Wonik kept herself hidden from the rest of the world. With her ability to fly, she had been spotted all around the world.”
“Before long our worst fears were realized. The Telkis territory attacked the Land of Flowers. The army fought with fire magic. If High Priestess Tana had not discovered dragon metal then the armies of Lumin would have been decimated. Fortunately, as if Ana herself willed it, we were able to hold back the army of Telkis and defend the innocents of the Land of Flowers.”
“The creation of magic, and, more important, the guardians’ ability to teach their magic to others, has created a new era for Lumin. It is up to us to protect the world against magic and the evil Letum spreads.”
Nypre stopped reading there. He was hearing a lot about Letum, a name rarely spoken in the Tawarln territory. Letum was the dark god, the complete opposite of Ana. People in the Telkis territory were said to worship Letum, as it was their belief that Ana abandoned humans long ago. Nypre didn’t see the logic in them worshiping Letum, considering he was said to hate humans above all else. Of course it was the people of Lumin who claimed that, and they also claimed that the guardians were all evil. The words good and evil were starting to mean less and less to Nypre. He kept reading between the two books for the rest of the day trying to absorb as much information as possible.
Deren found himself standing outside the back of the temple where the training grounds for the soldiers were. He had asked a soldier at the temple where they trained and the soldier was kind enough to show him the way. The training ground was very large, blocked only by a small fence from the outside. There were many wooden training dummies where the newer soldiers trained, as well as a large obstacle course where the soldiers had to get used to moving in their heavy armor. The main attraction, however, was the center of the training ground where soldiers sparred with each other with impressive form unlike anything Deren had seen.
“So, are you interested in joining our ranks? We’re always looking for new recruits,” the soldier who led Deren to the training grounds asked.
“I would love to,” Deren admitted. “However, I have other responsibilities which prevent me from doing so. My family needs me.”
“I understand.” The soldier patted Deren on the back rather hard.
“I wouldn’t mind a suit of that armor you guys are wearing. It doesn’t seem to restrict movement very much.” Deren pointed at some of the soldiers who were running the obstacle course unhindered.
“Don’t let your eyes deceive you. Learning to walk in this armor is like learning to walk all over again. It takes years before a soldier is ready to go against a mage. Even if the dragon metal our armor and weapons are made up of can absorb most magical attacks, mages are tricky. Being swift on your feet is the only way to survive.” the soldier boasted. Deren nodded. “I’m not supposed to do this. But say you and I have a friendly sparring match. You’re clearly an aspiring sword master if I ever saw one. I’d love to see your talent in action.”
“I would be honored.” Deren bowed. The two walked to the center of the field, both bowed to each other before beginning.
“Maybe I can teach you a few things, come at me,” the soldier laughed, pointing his spear forward. Deren drew his sword and charged the soldier. He clashed his sword against the soldier’s spear parrying it to the side pinning it down against the ground. It was easier than he thought it would be. He went to pull his sword upwards and back with a curved slash, but the soldier kicked him hard in the chest, sending him flying a short distance backwards landing on his bottom.
“Don’t rely too much on your weapon and always watch your opponent’s movements,” the soldier lectured as Deren slowly stood up. To the soldier’s surprise, Deren was grinning. He charged again thrusting his sword forward with a stabbing motion. The soldier parried the attack easily, holding his spear vertical with both hands and pushing Deren’s blade to his right. Deren was expecting it. He used the momentum from the push to spin around turning his back to the soldier. The soldier’s guard was open. He quickly launched a backwards kick to the soldier’s side. His foot clanged against the soldier’s armor ineffectively. The soldier reversed his parry against Deren’s leg and threw him off balance.
“Good, if I wasn’t so heavily armored that would have staggered me,” the soldier admitted. Deren knew he was far outmatched and if the soldier went on the offensive there would be no stopping him. The soldier seemed to realize this as well and there was a silent agreement between them to end the battle.
“You’re a very skilled swordsman for your age Deren, I recognized that immediately. Or is it Nypre, you two look so alike it’s hard to tell!” the soldier laughed.
“It’s Deren. Wait, I don’t recall telling you my name,” Deren’s face was covered in shock now. He held his sword pointed at the soldier, still paranoid that Nypre had been found out and that they would expect him to be a mage as well.
“Calm down. It’s me, Norris. I’m Lina’s personal guard.” The soldier held up his hands in a non threatening manner.
“Sorry. It’s hard to tell you guys apart too.” Deren sighed with relief sheathing his sword. Norris chuckled.
“I don’t blame you. Now as I was saying, you have potential. Are you sure you don’t wish to join our ranks? With a couple years of training your skill will grow to match even the strongest of mages. Or if that’s not your forte and you’re more like me, you can be an instructor to new recruits and personal guard to a priestess,” Norris offered.
“Thank you for the offer, but believe me when I say it just wouldn’t work out,” Deren explained. He really wouldn’t mind joining to increase his own skill, but the idea of having to fight against mages such as Nypre was not satisfying. He knew the soldiers of Lumin were more foe than friend when it came to his family.
“I’ll tell you what. I know you and your brother plan on leaving Lumin soon. How about I teach you some tricks before you go? It’s a dangerous world out there after all. If you want to go find your brother I’d be happy to teach both of you.” Norris wasn’t going to let Deren get away so easily, it seemed. Deren didn’t mind, he really wanted to increase his skill anyway possible.
“That sounds great. Don’t worry about Nypre, he may not be much with his sword but he has his,” Deren stopped speaking, catching himself at the last minute.
“His what?” Norris asked curiously, but still with a friendly voice.
“His attitude. Sorry, couldn’t think of the word. He’s more the diplomat of the group, while I handle the fighting should some occur,” Deren quickly came up with an excuse.
“Ha! Always good to have a diplomat with you! The best fight is the one that never occurs.” Norris laughed some more.
Deren trained with Norris while Nypre studied in the library. Both boys were preoccupied until nightfall. Nypre met with Deren and Norris in front of the temple at sunset. Norris offered to let the boys stay at his place for the night, for which they were both grateful. Nypre was first a bit wary in trusting Norris, but Deren told Nypre how Norris had been teaching him in combat.
Norris led the two boys to a different section of Lumin where housing was kept. The pure white houses were built in a very orderly fashion similar to the ones in Falkner’s territory, only cleaner. They almost blended in with the snow of the surrounding environment but the two colors of white were different enough to tell apart. Snow seemed to pile more between the buildings than on the roads. Norris pointed to a small one story building in the center of the district
“This is my home. I have a guest room for you two to sleep in. I’m supposed to keep it free for Lina in case a crisis were to happen, like Lumin is attacked, but personal guards like me are always giving travelers a place to stay,” Norris explained.
“I really hope nothing will happen,” Nypre murmured to Deren. Deren waved his concern away with both a reassuring and patronizing hand motion. They followed Norris into his house. It was very compact. They entered a thin hallway which continued left and right. Straight across from them was a door leading into one of the rooms. Norris explained that was the guest room. To the right was another door which Nypre assumed was his. There was a sitting room to the left with a table in the center and many shelves filled with plant life. The house was small but efficient.
“You two make yourselves at home. I have to stop by the temple to check on Lina,” Norris told them with a friendly tone.
“Thank you again for letting us stay with you,” Deren responded politely. Nypre quickly added his thanks as well to not be rude. Norris left the two and headed back for the temple.
“I’m exhausted, let’s just get some sleep,” Nypre suggested.
“Me too, training with Norris was intense,” Deren agreed. The two opened the door to the guest room. It was a plain room with nothing but a single bed with a stack of two pillows. Both Nypre and Deren stared at each other, ready to run for the bed to claim it.
“You take it, you’re physically exhausted. I’m just mentally exhausted,” Nypre said. Deren grinned and rushed for the bed anyway. Nypre followed him inside the room, closing the door behind them. Deren tossed him one of the pillows and Nypre quickly lay on the floor next to the bed. The two were asleep in seconds after their long day.