Among the Stars

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Chapter 3

The path Kendry led her down was long, winding, and steep. They continued walking until the city was almost a speck behind them. The path fell off the sides abruptly to a raging river below. Zeke kept herself as close to the middle as she could and tried not to fall too far behind Kendry. In the distance, she began to see the shape of a massive silver castle. The walls that surrounded the castle were glowing almost as if electrified. As they got closer Zeke could see that it was actually made of lightning packed tight together. The walls gave off an eerie purple glow because of this.

“Will it shock me if I touch it?” Zeke wondered out loud.

“Try it and find out.” Kendry replied. Zeke reached out to touch the wall and Kendry’s hand batted her away. “I didn’t mean that. Don’t touch it. Of course, it will zap you. It’s lightning, duh.”

“No need to be rude about it.” Zamara muttered.

Kendry and her stopped in front of a large iron gate. It swung open on its own accord letting them continue on the path. A silver castle with large spires stood looming in front of them. The tallest tower seemed to stretch hundreds of feet up in the air. Statues of people were mounted on many of the lower walls. She recognized some of them from stories her mother had told her. One young woman’s statue mounted on the wall was Arianna the Absent. She had been one of the creators of the city but disappeared as soon as its creation was complete. Another was of a three-foot-tall man holding an egg under his arm. That was Harold the Caretaker. He had been an early creature breeder and was why lots of new dragon races existed today. The last statue was of Gemma the Kind. She had a gift for healing magic and saved the entire planet from a rampant disease spread by flying creatures. Zamara stared on in amazement to see the stories she had thought as fiction cemented in stone as real.

With the lightning walls behind them, Zamara wasn’t surprised to see a moat in front of the castle. The moat was at least twenty feet across from the castle to the land they stood and was filled with a black bubbling liquid. Zeke hoped it was some sort of oil and not ectoplasm of any kind. Kendry stood silent in front of the moat, waiting for something.

“What exactly are we waiting for?” Zeke asked after a few minutes had passed.

Kendry held up a hand to silence her “Patience.”

“But-” Zeke started. The smashing sound of a dark wooden drawbridge hitting the ground a few feet in front of them interrupted her. Kendry strolled ahead without a word. “What’s that liquid beneath us?” Zeke waited for a response and got nothing. “What is this place? What are we doing here?” All that answered her was silence. “I feel like I let myself be kidnapped on my own free will.” Zeke said to no one in particular as they entered the castle and the drawbridge slammed up behind them.

“She’s quite a chatty one isn’t she Kendry.” An amused man’s voice said. His voice was light and airy, almost like a chiming bell. A man clothed in a dark blue robe and hood stood at the top of a staircase. His hood was up so Zeke couldn’t tell what he looked like, other than the fact he was of average height.

The staircase itself was narrow at the top and widened out a great deal at the bottom. Decorative iron railings were on either side, flowers twisted into them.

The man descended slowly until he stood before them and removed his hood. He was a rather plump man, but his skin was a magnificent yellow, similar to a sunflower. His eyes were as black as coal and rather intimidating. Zeke found herself shrinking away despite his small plump stature. He extended a hand to her.

“I am Yannis. I’m our expert weather mage.”

Zeke took his hand and shook. “Zeke. Expert orphan. Nice to meet you. You kind of look like an evil duck. Are you the weather mage because-”

“I’m bright yellow? Like I haven’t heard that one before.” Yannis replied wryly. “No, that is not why. I learned to control the weather well because I don’t like when it my hair gets ruined by the rain.”

“You’re bald.” Zeke pointed out.

Yannis laughed. “Quite blunt this one is. I like her Kendry. Why is she here? Merely for her witty banter or do you have something planned for her?”

“That will be up to her, Yannis.” Kendry replied.

“Well, I do hope for all our sakes you decide to stay. It’s been a pleasure meeting with you Zeke.”

“Meeting you hasn’t been all bad either, I suppose.” Zeke said.

Yannis chuckled. “My my, she keeps getting better. Well, I best be on my way. Those sunny skies don’t keep themselves.” Yannis disappeared behind a black door that thudded shut behind him.

“He was bright.” Zeke commented.

Kendry smiled down at her. “Do you mean his skin or his personality?”

Zeke grinned back. “Now that you mention it...”

Kendry walked over to the one part of the grey walls not covered in paintings or weapons. “What are you doing?” Zeke wondered. She studied the rest of the room and noted that this was the only part of the wall not covered with something. It was about the size of a small doorway and the stone there looked darker than the rest.

“I’m going to ask the wall to let us in.” Kendry answered.

“And it’s going to let us?”

“If I ask nicely.” Kendry replied. Zeke laughed until Kendry spoke. “Excuse my accomplice my darling, but would you mind letting us in. Very important business to attend to.” Zeke couldn’t believe her eyes. The wall sighed, then got up and moved, melting into the rest of the wall. A steep staircase lit by torches remained where the wall had been.

“Whoa, no way.” Zeke gasped.

“Oh yes way, as the kids are saying these days.” Kendry said, an amused sparkle in his charcoal eyes.

Zeke followed Kendry up the stairs. She was concentrating as hard as she could not to step on his robe. She had a feeling the consequences of that could be disastrous. Finally, the stairs opened up into a large dome room. The ceiling was painted with the pink sky. Storm clouds danced around the ceiling shooting out purple lightning. Nexus still glowed bright in the middle of the sky and stole the show. The three moons scattered throughout the mural were each varying shades of grey and white.

A dark wood desk with a great red chair, like a throne set behind it. A table filled with odd sparkling and moving trinkets caught Zeke’s eye. One had floppy ears and hopped around, a crank clicking on its back. One wall made entirely of glass showed a large orchard of trees beyond.

To her delight, an entire row of them were zinc trees. Kendry took a seat in the red throne chair behind the massive desk and motioned for her to sit across from him. Zeke sat and stared up at the ceiling.

“How did the painter get Nexus to glow like that?” Zeke questioned. “Or the clouds to move?”

“Luminous paint and sliding panels.”

“Ha, I expected some kind of magic.” Zeke said and continued to stare at the ceiling in awe.

Kendry shook his head. “Just because we are all sorcerers and sorceresses, doesn’t mean we have to use magic for everything all the time. Sometimes there is a much simpler alternative.”

“In other words, there isn’t a good spell for that.” Zeke muttered.

Kendry chuckled and put his feet up on the table. Strangely enough Zeke noticed he was wearing no shoes, but she had to admit his toes were a very pretty shade of lilac. “In other words yes.” Kendry replied.

“Why am I here?” Zeke blurted out. Kendry didn’t look startled but rather amused.

“Do you really not know or are you just afraid to admit to yourself why?” Kendry asked.

Zeke sighed. “That stuff, that I did on the mountain… It wasn’t just a onetime thing was it?” She could see the blue light anytime she closed her eyes. She could feel the ice chill that had gone up her spine and into her hands. Her heart thumped faster in her chest just thinking about it all. That morning Zeke thought she would take her last breath after being crushed by the same planet that had taken her parents lives. Instead she was alive and well, though perhaps a little confused.

“You tell me.”

“I’m one of the lucky ones, aren’t I? One of the Magi that actually got special abilities?” Zeke said, holding her breath for what she was hoping to hear. The stories her mother told her were coming to life in her head. People could live in one place here, without worry that they would never wake up again. Here she could have a real home and maybe someday be as great as the Magi her mother always told her about. They could call her Zeke the Outsider or Zeke the Zealous. She imagined them building a great marble statue in her name to adorn the walls outside the castle.

“I would not have brought you here if I didn’t think you were special.” Kendry answered. There were so many things that could be special though. She could be special like a child was to a parent, the way that few people beside your parent really thought you were so amazing. She could also be special in the way that legends of the world were, unforgettable forever. Zeke hoped she could even someday be considered as great as the names she had grew up learning as a young girl.

Zeke released the breath she was holding and smiled. “So, am I going to learn how to make fire with my bare hands and stuff?”

“Yes, and stuff.” Kendry beamed.

“When do we start?” Zeke grinned. She wanted to know anything and everything. She wanted to be like any other before her.

“Today.” Kendry replied.

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