Up above, on one of the tallest stalagmites within the realm, an old man stood with his hands clasped behind his back. The night was dark, and the clouds churned among the roaring winds. With an appearance of calm, he looked out at the land. His short, salt and pepper colored hair whipped around widely, and his eyes scanned across as if everything within its sight he claimed dominion over.
After a few minutes gazing out, the old man clicked his tongue. “What happened?” He spoke, suddenly.
The top of the stalagmite was wide enough for five or six people to stand on, but the wind itself was so strong that it could blow any normal person away. But the old man stayed firm, unmoved by the world, and standing at the edge where one small movement, and he could end up tumbling down.
In moments, the air warped behind him, and a black mist exuded from the stalagmite surface. It grew and grew until it became a giant ball of black cloud that congealed in the middle, but remained wispy at the edges. And a peerless black mask-like face appeared amidst the cloud. Even with the wind, the black cloud remained centered and ethereal, as if the physical laws of the world could not touch it.
“The boy’s power was unexpected.” The wraith replied, its voice like a warping whisper. This wraith was large, and if Delias were here, he would be able to pinpoint it as the same one that attacked him at every floor as he ran up!
The old man was silent for a time before speaking again. “For the transition construct to chase after him with such fervor, or, more so, for that boy to escape its pull and speed… Just who is he? I can tell that he is young, and new to our world. But his body. There was something strange about his body. It was almost as if he were of your world.”
“Is that why you chose him?”
“Yes. It was better than outright killing him. I thought it fortunate, but now?… Tossing him in should have resulted in only two ways. Either he became an excellent host, or the construct consumed and refined him to make it more steady. But…” The old man’s hands gripped tightly into a fist.
“And the summons? The construct leaving the lava pool was not part of the plan.” The wraith said.
“Hmm. But we cannot do anything about that now. In this world, the rate of decay is not as significant. It has three days the moment it left the pool.” The fist grew tighter and tighter until his knuckles cracked.
“Is this not risky?”
“Of course it is!” The old man seethed. He breathed in and out, trying to reign the bit of anger that slipped out. “ My years of work, and for the mere slightest idea that it would end up with an unsuitable host after so long…” The old man clenched his teeth. “Or worse, those bastards coming in and destroying the construct before… It would be a huge loss!
“I cannot let it happen!”
“The amount of stalagmites connected to the lava system are significantly smaller towards the north. The wraiths will not be able to travel that far…But the Night Festival comes in seven days time.” The wraith continued. It seemed unconcerned towards the old man’s anger.
The old man’s eyebrow twitched. It was apparent, but it went unnoticed by the wraith as the old man’s back faced it, but that slight movement showed how utterly surprised the old man was!
“Has it been ten years already?” The old man said solemnly.
“Yes, it has.”
The old man looked at his hand. He pulled up the sleeve, revealing his pale skin, and looked up his arm. There, four markings on that could be seen. All four markings were a deep orange color, but two looked like flower petals and the rest look like sepals. But what was more surprising was that together, the markings formed a more than half complete orange lily! At the center, among the petals and sepals, black spots dotted the arm.
The old man squeezed his arm, and an orange glow flickered within his pupils.
I need more time. I need more time!
In a nondescript town, where a dirt road passed between, leading from the main road that connected the capital and The Crawfields Academy, a horse drawn carriage pulled up a few blocks from a pub. Now this town was not small, but it was not large either. The streets were slightly busy as the market was down aways, and the nearby stores and buildings were built of stone and good wood.
Now, this carriage was not the best money could ever buy nor had horses of a breed that was famous for its strength and beauty. It was just a simple carriage with a couple of barely acceptable horses for a journey of a few dozen miles.
As the carriage door opened, a short person popped out. He was plain looking, dressed in a simple grey tunic and brown pants. And if any normal person had looked at him, they would pass him off as someone with some means, but not anything worth stealing. But under a martial expert’s eye, they would see a capable fighter. His muscles were toned and he seemed lean. His eyes were sharp, but not sharp enough to be considered intimidating. But as he walked down the nearby sidewalk, to the right of the pub, and into the alleyway, his steps were so practiced, so silent, that it would intimidate any normal martial expert.
This short person’s name was Jonathan.
Jonathan went into the darkness, walking for a few steps. He skirted around the empty beer bottles, and the wooden mugs that littered the area. But unlike most alleys, there was not a sign of life to be seen. No stray cats or dogs. No mice scuttling back and forth. There wasn’t even the occasional spider or fungi living in the folds between the ground and the building walls.
After a few minutes, as Jonathan walked for far longer than it would have taken him to cross to the other side and onto a smaller road, a semi-cylindrical awning suddenly appeared on his right hand side. This awning was of a dark red, and under it was three white, pearl steps.
Jonathan looked towards the door that those steps led to. It was a tall but narrow black frame with a simple square glass window in the center. And in the center of that glass window, there were three words written in a bold white.
‘Elders Pavilion Twenty-three’
Jonathan sucked in a cool breath. He had made his decision long ago. It was already too late now that the awning popped up. That meant that he had fully entered in the small pocket of space that separated the normal world with another. And for that to happen, he needed permission by the installed pavilion master of this area. If he had second thoughts and just left, or came and spoke of something else with unimportance, no one would blink if he were killed.
Pavilion masters were reclusive experts of The Crawfields Academy. Though they were rumored to be reclusive, in actuality, they were quite busy handling the affairs in the various strategic localities that kept Crawfields running smoothly. The higher the strategic value of where the pavilion was placed, the higher the position of the elder. But all pavilion masters were of a higher or equal position of even the head elders and were only second to that of the Academy Council.
Pavilion Twenty-three was stationed in one of the more important areas, right between the capital and the academy. It was so important that the elder that managed this pavilion was considered one of the top hundred most valuable experts of the academy.
But Jonathan did not pick this pavilion because of this. He picked it because he knew that from what he knew, he had a higher probability of coming out of the pavilion alive.
Jonathan took another deep breath in, climbed up the stone steps, and pushed the door open.
Through the shadows of the night, Delias skirted through grass, and various rock formations. He did as best as he could to avoid the stalagmites and anywhere in which the glowing green light illuminated.
He was not as much afraid of the wraiths as before considering that now he knew that the light crystals affected them, but he still remained careful. His supply of crystals were limited. And as far as he could see, the wraiths were beyond count.
It took a few hours, but finally Delias managed to reach the stalagmite that the group had made camp of.
I haven’t seen anyone the entire time.
Delias was a bit skeptical of the situation. There were no screams or sounds of battle nearby as there had been the night before, but he didn’t think too much of it. They all probably found a safe place to wait it out. Delias told himself. After all, the students that survived would have come to understand which areas were safe. Furthermore, Delias wanted to everything to be alright. Which was against his inner being of wanting things to always be in action. The silence reminded him too much of his tiny room on the human side. But after so much, he could not handle anymore problems at the moment. There was just too much going on, and none of it within his power to affect change.
Delias managed to swiftly bypass the wraiths that were near the stalagmite. There were a lot less than there was before. It seems that most of them flocked to the stalagmite near the chamber.
As Delias entered the cave, he could feel the stale dampness on his skin. The cave was dark. There was no fire, like they had planned earlier. There were none of the few belongings the others had left. No signs of it being lived in.
Delias’s heart skipped. He was now very worried that something wrong had happened. Or worse, that something bad was going to happen. A trap? No. They would not leave the place so empty.
As Delias walked in deeper, he could tell that the cave had not been frequented for a long time. He went back to the entrance, and observed the surroundings. There were no tracks to be seen. Nothing to indicate that anyone had been to the cave recently other than his own.. I doubt they tried to conceal the tracks. I didn’t even think of that till now. … I’m slipping. How could I not have thought of that?
But Delias shook his head. He was steering off in his thoughts.
It was then a slight breeze blew in from outside, and a slight rustle of flapping paper piqued Delias’s ears. He turned to see a note curled and stuffed in a gap within the cave wall.
Paper and ink was provided as two of the tools in the toolkit. Why they needed paper or ink? Delias did not know. Nor did he think much about it, but at least for now, it showed to have some use.
Delias crabbed the note and unfurled it.
We have waited and searched for you for three days. I don’t know if you are alive or not. I don’t know if you abandoned us or not. My brother has gone missing as well. I have decided to go with the other one past the bridge. I seek my brother there. If he followed the plan, then it is likely he is either taken or dead. If he has been taken, I will get him back. If he is dead, I will bury his body.
Till we meet again,
It was left unsigned. The note said no names, and gave no names; but just from that, Delias knew much. It was something that only those who knew a bit more than the basics about them could puzzle out. And there were not many that could.
From the note, Delias knew that Skylar was ok and one of the brothers was missing. But by tone alone, he could tell that it was Daniel. Which meant that Cotter was the one in trouble.
Delias cursed under his breath.
“Daniel and Skylar traveling together? And considering how they searched, but found no body, it’s more likely Cotter was taken. Who would go out of their way to stash a body during the trial? People are dropping like flies, here! No one is that important”
But suddenly Delias’s eyes widened as his eyes went back to a line in the message. “Three Days!! I was gone for three days?!” No, it’s more likely that I was gone for longer. The paper looks a bit worn from the dampness, and considering how the place is empty of people, the tracks are gone and it would take longer than that for everyone to supply enough to just head on out. Which means I must have been out for five to seven days.
Daniel stood there with the note in his hand as he gazed out of the cave and out into the night. The same green glow pulsed and the same wailing sound echoed in his ears. But he found the everything still and silent.
For all things considered, I am alone.
Author’s ramblings: I’m starting to realize why many authors like to divide chapters with other characters. It’s exhausting writing a whole chapter on the events of one person. But when you divide it into three, its much better. … Better for me, as its easier to write. But as a reader, I know you guys just want to hurry it up and get to more MC action! lol