Sara Nadran, White Mage of Ranwar, the most powerful good Mage on the continent of Ranwar, focused her will and magical energy into the spell she had created. Finally she held out her hands and spoke a word of command. The force of the spell rushed through her; the magic coalesced at the tips of her fingers and was released. The blast she was expecting blew apart the stone wall 100 feet in front of her. The fire that was supposed to accompany the blast drifted out in a two foot diameter sphere and dissipated.
Sara let out a string of curses that caused her assistant’s thick white brows to rise in surprise. “I take it that was not supposed to happen quite that way,” he said, not fully successful at keeping the amusement out of his voice.
“No,” Sara snapped, her ice blue eyes ablaze, “you know it was not, Calinus.” She stalked back into her laboratory, grabbed her staff and said, “I’ll be at the library in Winlodar.”
The Great Library in the portal city of Winlodar was the largest, most extensive library on Gorthus. It rose ten stories above street level and had fifteen more labyrinthine floors below ground. Over 1500 Sages ran the library. They kept track of the millions of books, tomes and scrolls, helped the library’s patrons find information, and constantly gathered new material to add to its stores. Mages from every corner of Gorthus came to the Great Library to glean the knowledge to advance their craft.
In order to keep the treasures of the library safe, the original founders set magical workings into the stones themselves to prevent everything from petty thievery to Mages casting complex spells to make off with the most ancient of texts. The Sages also employed a small army of guards and other types of protectors as a further precaution.
Sara was well known at the Great Library. She was the youngest colored Mage in remembered history and by far the most beautiful Mage the Sages had ever seen. Her waist length jet-black hair was a stark contrast to her snow-white robes and her piercing blue eyes were set in a face that stopped most men in their tracks. She was tall for a woman, and slender as Mages tended to be, but not gaunt. Her razor sharp intellect was a constant challenge to Sages as they worked to keep up with her demands. Only a small handful were up to the task.
Sara’s status gave her certain privileges not afforded to most of the other patrons and on this day she strode up to the reception desk and asked curtly, “Is Yadoshuri here?”
The young Sage at the desk stared at her blankly for a moment. “Who…?” Then his eyes widened slightly. “Oh yes, of course. I’ll have someone take you to him.”
Sara shook her head impatiently. “If you tell me where he is I can find him myself.”
The young man looked nervous. “I’m sorry Master Nadran,” he said hesitantly, “I am not permitted…”
“Master Nadran,” a deep voice said, “I did not expect to see you back so soon.”
Sara smiled with relief. “Yadoshuri, I was about to look for you.”
The master Sage smiled in return. “Well now you have found me. How can I be of service?”
“The spell didn’t work,” she replied.
“Ah, I see,” he responded. “It seems then, we need to explore other avenues.”
Sara’s smile broadened. “I hoped you would say that.”
He offered her his arm. “I think I know where we can look next.” He nodded to the young man behind the reception desk and said, “Thank you for your diligence, Wynan.”
Sara took his arm and they made their way through the endless shelves of books and scrolls on the ground floor to the winding stairs that led to the treasure trove of ancient works below. Yadoshuri took her down to the lowest level of the library, where only the master Sages and a few select patrons were permitted to go. Two very large, well armed guards stood outside the magically warded door. They bowed their heads respectfully to Sara and Yadoshuri and stepped aside. The master Sage murmured a few words and put his hand on the door, which swung open silently.
Even though Sara had been on this level of the library before, she still felt the thrill of discovery every time she walked through the door. This level housed some of the most ancient writings that existed on Gorthus. Yadoshuri led her down this corridor and that, past intricately carved, rune-etched doors. Finally they went down a long, narrow hallway at the end of which hung a dark blue velvet curtain. Sara blinked in surprise. “Strange. I never noticed that before.”
Yadoshuri smiled. “It is well hidden.” He pulled the curtain aside to reveal a plain wooden door. A single silver-etched rune adorned the very center of the door. Sara sensed the magic imbued in the rune. It was subtle but incredibly powerful. The marking looked familiar to her and she tried to remember where she had seen it before. She felt drawn to it, as if the power within beckoned her. She reached out to touch the rune, but Yadoshuri grasped her hand and gently drew it away. “Allow me,” he said. He placed his hand on the rune, and she felt a pulse of immense power surge through him. She made a small sound of surprise and felt his hand squeeze hers reassuringly. It was then that she realized that he was still holding her hand. She also realized that she rather liked it. She turned to look at him. He returned her gaze with a soft smile on his lips. He did not let go of her hand, nor did she try to pull it away.
Before she had time to examine this unexpected turn of events, the door swung open. Sara stood in the doorway transfixed by the sight that met her eyes. The room was not very large by the standards of the Great Library, but every shelf, from floor to ceiling, was neatly stacked with ancient scrolls. Each scroll was inside its own circular compartment, which made the shelves look like a gigantic honeycomb. In the center of the room stood a long, heavy wooden table on which lay a tall stack of blank parchment and several inkpots and quills.
Yadoshuri led her into the room, careful to shut the door behind them. “This is amazing,” she said. She took a deep breath, inhaling the fragrance of old parchment and worn leather wrappings. “Do you think there is something in here that will help me?”
“I know there is,” he replied. He let go of her hand and walked to a shelf on the opposite side of the room. He stood in front of it and began to pass his hand slowly over of the scrolls until he finally stopped on a particularly fragile looking one. He gently pulled it from its sheath and brought it over to the table, where Sara joined him. “I think this may have what you are looking for,” he said as he unrolled the scroll. “It is said that this was written by Laplutious himself, although there is no proof to the claim.”
Sara’s eyes gleamed with excitement. Laplutious was the founder of the Wizard order—the first Wizard known on Gorthus. She looked at the faded, flowing script and tried to imagine the man who wrote it. When she looked again, the writing had shifted and changed. Her shoulders slumped in disappointment. “I cannot read this. It is magically protected.”
“Ah yes,” Yadoshuri replied, “I had forgotten.” He went back over to the shelf, reached into the wooden tube and pulled out a folded piece of parchment. “You will need to cast this spell in order to read the scroll.”
Sara’s heart leapt. She eagerly took the parchment from him and opened it. The spell looked simple enough, but she recognized the subtle beauty in its simplicity. One mispronounced word would forever bar the Wizard speaking it from reading the contents of the scroll. She pored over the spell until she had every syllable memorized. She took a deep breath to steady herself then slowly and carefully recited the spell. She looked at the scroll again and thought that she had failed. Gradually, however, the faint words stopped shifting and became boldly recognizable.
Sara let out a cry of joy and impulsively threw her arms around Yadoshuri’s neck. “Thank you!”
The Sage held her tightly for a moment longer than was strictly necessary. “You’re welcome, Master Nadran.”
“Sara,” she said softly, “Please call me Sara.”
“You honor me, Sara,” he replied.
“It is I who am honored,” she said. “You have given me an invaluable gift. Even if this doesn’t help me with my spell, just to read the writings of the progenitor of my order is enough.” She unrolled the scroll further and started reading. She had gotten nearly to the end when she exclaimed, “This is what I have been missing! I will have to study this further.”
“The scroll cannot leave this place,” the Sage said, “but I can create a copy for you.”
“Thank you,” she said.
Yadoshuri got a stack of parchment from the table as well as an inkpot and one of the quills. He murmured a quiet spell and the pen dipped itself in the ink and began writing on the blank parchment.
Sara watched him while he worked his Sage magic. She felt almost like she was seeing him for the first time. His dark shoulder-length hair was streaked with silver and framed the strong features of his face well. She noted that his heavy, dark blue robes hid a pair of broad shoulders and she found herself wondering what he would look like without the robes. She remembered how his hand felt wrapped around hers—strong and firm. She watched his long fingers as he worked and imagined what it would be like to have them touch her.
Yadoshuri turned and caught her staring at him. She blushed and murmured, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be staring.”
“Any man would be flattered by the attention of a beautiful woman,” he replied. Sara’s blush deepened and she looked down. He smiled and added, “One whom, I suspect, spends far too much time alone.”
“It is the nature of my position,” she replied quietly.
He moved closer to her. “Even the mightiest among us must at times fulfill their own needs.”
Sara looked into his storm-cloud gray eyes and saw desire in them. Her heart began to race. Then the pain of past failure flooded her mind and she looked away. “I am not very good at,” she swallowed hard and continued, “fulfilling the needs of others. I am, perhaps, too dedicated to my work.”
Yadoshuri closed the gap between them in two strides. He put two fingers underneath her chin and turned her face toward his. “I think rather,” he replied as he brushed his fingers along her cheek, “others do not understand your work and resent your position.”
Sara let out a tremulous sigh. “It’s been a very long time since anyone has touched me like that.”
“Then perhaps it is time,” Yadoshuri said. He bent his head and lightly touched his lips to hers. She let out a small sound of need and slid her hands up his chest and around his neck. His hands went around her waist and he drew her to him. He pulled his head back slightly, a look akin to wonder on his face. “You are so beautiful, so alive.” He lowered his head to hers again, his kiss tentative and questioning.
Sara answered by pulling him closer and molding her body to his. She could feel his response to her, even through their robes. Their kiss deepened as he explored her mouth with his tongue. Sara moaned softly as desire coursed through her. A low sound like a growl rumbled in Yadoshuri’s chest. Grabbing her hips, he bent her back against the table and pushed one knee between her thighs, his arousal pressed hard against her. He moved one hand up and entwined it in her thick tresses as he ravished her mouth with his. Without warning, his head snapped up and he pulled away from her. He was breathing heavily and his eyes were dark with desire. “Sara, forgive me. I lost control.”
Sara straightened up, her fingers touching her still tingling lips. She went over to him, put her arms around his waist and rested her cheek on his chest. “There is nothing to forgive. We both wanted it.”
He tightened his arms around her. “And so much more.”
“Yes,” she whispered. They stood like that until the pen finished its task and replaced itself in the inkpot with a sharp tap. Sara lifted her head to look at the neat stack of newly scribed parchment. With a sigh, she stepped out of Yadoshuri’s embrace. “I should go back. There is more work to be done.”
He took her hand. “When can we be together again?”
The touch of his hand sent thrills of pleasure through her. Her body cried out for her to say ‘now!’ but almost a century of self-discipline overruled it. “Three days,” she replied in a low voice. “Give me three days to work through this.” She winced at the disappointment she saw on his face and bowed her head. Once again her dedication to her craft had caused her to hurt someone.
Yadoshuri put his hands on either side of her face and lifted it up. “I will come to you in three days,” he said firmly. Then he kissed her, a warm kiss filled with promise. She almost gave in right then, but he lifted his head put his arm around her shoulders. “We should leave before we are no longer willing or able.”
Sara let out a short laugh. “Yes.”
Yadoshuri walked with Sara to the outer doors of the library, where he bid her a discreet farewell. A Mage with long white hair and crimson robes stepped into Yadoshuri’s path as he walked back into the entry hall. “A moment of your time, Master Sage,” the Mage said.
Yadoshuri stopped and stared at the Mage for a moment before he replied, “What can I do for you?”
“I have been told that you took Master Nadran down to the lowest level. I am very curious as to what she was seeking.”
The Sage raised a single brow. “I am sure you are aware, Master Melnasins, that we regard the privacy of our patrons as sacrosanct.”
The Mage’s expression darkened. “What is your name, Sage?”
“I am called Master Yadoshuri,” he replied softly.
“I am sure you are aware, Master Yadoshuri, that it is at times in one’s best interest to…circumvent…such policies.” A slight smile touched Master Melnasins’ lips as he watched Yadoshuri’s expression change from confusion to comprehension. All that was left was the fear.
Yadoshuri’s brows lowered and the Mage thought he saw a momentary glint of silver in the Sage’s gray eyes. “I assure you, Master Melnasins,” he said in a level tone, “such a course of action would not end as you anticipate.”
For the first time in more than four centuries, Sarkanavis Melnasins felt the unfamiliar sensation of fear. His pale blue eyes went wide. “You dare?” he breathed.
Yadoshuri’s expression did not change when he said, “You will let me pass.” Master Melnasins tried to deny the command, but found himself stepping aside to allow the Sage to go by him. “Good day, Master Melnasins,” Yadoshuri said as he passed.