Book 1 Chapter 16

They look exactly like the statues I saw at the Host Gate!

AsaHi craned her head back, staring up at the monolithic stone dragons that arched over the small rock clearing. Their eyes were hooded in deep shadow, giving them a more daunting feel. Their wings reached up towards the sky, meeting at a pointed peak directly above the circle etched on the stone ground.

“Welcome to the Wayrift of Ceiswyr,” Zento waved one hand in a grandiose motion.

Ceiswyr? Is that the city’s name?” AsaHi peeked around from behind Kaze’s arm.

“That’s right. Just walk into the Rift and you’ll be there,” Zento nodded.

As he stepped forward, a light began to trickle from his form. It dripped down from his open palms, pooling into the middle of the circle, tracing the engraved runes and lighting the ground with a pale blue glow. The flame touched his eyes, illuminating them with a power from within.

“Brace yourself,” he told her, glancing back over his shoulder.

That magic! It… it’s just like…

The memory of her discovery in the Host Gate bubbled through her mind.

But something was happening here, something different. She watched as the light enveloped Zento’s form, a luminous shape drawing outwards from his body. The girl squinted in disbelief as the energy began to take form and a pair of silver-blue wings spread from the man’s shoulders.

“Zento!” her voice squeaked his name as her fingers clutched Kaze’s cloak, holding the hem tight in apprehension.


The winged man turned to her, standing within the circle of soft light. His features were lit from the glowing pillar that extended up from the runic ground to the sky. His expression was gentle, a face that understood and sympathized with her reservations.

“It’s all right. You have nothing to fear from this place,” he told her, wings dappled by the dancing reflections of the runes below. “We need to move quickly. I can’t leave this Rift open for long. The energy it gives off might attract notice that we’d rather not have.”

AsaHi bit down on her lip.

“It’s not going to hurt you,” Zento extended his hand towards her. “You have my utmost word.”

The girl stared at his outreached hand with hesitation.

“I’m not sure what you saw on your journey here,” he continued softly. “But we are the true people of the Dreigiau. We have sworn to use our knowledge and power for protection.”

The girl didn’t completely understand his words, but she could hear the sincere concern that edged into the man’s voice. Taking a deep breath, AsaHi moved forward. One foot in front of the other, she carefully avoided stepping on the etchings in the stone. Kaze walked next to her, patiently holding her arm.

Light danced around them both as she passed through the first barrier. Tall shafts of blue rose from the streams of energy that flowed through the narrow rock. AsaHi lifted her face, watching the shimmers drifting up into the sky over the arched wings of the stone dragons. Their eyes were also lit a brilliant, pale blue.

As Zento’s hand closed around her own, a sharp jolt of energy raced up her arm. The light around them grew so brilliant that the rest of the world faded from her vision. Her body felt suspended in mid-air, as if her limbs weighed nothing at all. Her senses fought to tell her that Kaze was right there next to her, but she couldn’t feel or see him.

For half a heartbeat, AsaHi knew what it felt like to be nowhere.

Then, a downward jerk sent her stomach lurching up into her throat. It took the girl a few seconds before she realized her feet were back on solid land. Caught between gratitude and relief, AsaHi slowly opened her eyes. The faded crimson of Kaze’s cloak was the first thing she saw. Turning her head, Zento’s huge grin beamed down at her.

“See now! That wasn’t so bad, was it?” he chortled good-naturedly.

“What just happened?” she asked weakly.

“We Rifted.”


“What? They don’t teach about Rifting in Nefol these days?” he chided, wrinkling his nose at her playfully.

AsaHi answered sheepishly, trying to keep from staring at her wings, “I’m sorry… I wasn’t actually one of the students in Nefol. There’s still so much I don’t know.”

Until now, I didn’t believe something like this could be possible.

“Don’t apologize. I’m just teasing you,” his tone was encouraging, as was his smile. Then he explained, “Rifting is a means of magical instant travel. You stepped on the circle back on the ground and it transported you to this spot in the city. It’s very economical, but requires an enormous amount of control and power to use.”

Zento took a step back and motioned into the distance with one hand. For the first time, AsaHi realized they were no longer standing under the shadow of the dragons’ wings. They were somewhere quite different.

It was a place wonderful beyond imagination. The sky stretched wide, above and below them. A number of earthen islands floated serenely through the cloud tops, fading off into the distant drifts. Between soft fringes of mists, long white bridges wound in every direction, drawing delicate, vein-like paths from one island to the next.

The islands seemed to be reflections of the world below, in all shapes and sizes, with numerous geographic features. From an islet above, a silver waterfall streamed down into a pool that gathered a few yards away. Birds darted in and out of the draping, dew-speckled tree branches. Off in the distance, a tall rise of purple mountains broke the horizon.

She could see motion across the islands. People. Many of them were crossing the bridges on foot. But, just as many were soaring through the clouds on wings.

“Kaze!” AsaHi felt her breath come in great rushes. “Do you see it? Is it really real?”

Kaze only chuckled in reply.

Zento’s grin was insufferably large, “Welcome, Morh-AsaHi, to the city of Ceiswyr.”

All eyes were upon the group as they descended the steps of the first white-spun rope bridge. The winged people gathered to meet them. Some floated serenely, their wings barely moving, long trailing robes of light pastel colors fluttering around their feet. Others landed on the small island, perching in the nooks of trees or atop the silver rock outcroppings, their eyes reflecting warmly.

Am I the only one here who doesn’t have wings?

AsaHi swallowed, clutching hold of Kaze’s cloak.

Well, other than Kaze.

The big man stood absolutely unruffled by the sea of faces. There were people of all ages, both men and women, and numerous children. A shimmer of adulation rained all around them, from the tree tops, from the passing cloud drifts and from the sky. One word vibrated through the air with the sound of song.


Master? Master… who?

AsaHi’s eyes shifted towards Zento. She couldn’t see his expression, but he stood, intense and commanding, as he faced the gathering. There was something almost triumphant in the way his wings spread, feathers arching up towards the sky.

Master! Of course… they’re welcoming ZenToYa home!

That’s when she turned and saw Kaze. His face, too, reflected the unconstrained bliss, the sunlight reflecting from his form in a hazy, dreamlike luminosity. His teal eyes were very deep and far away, as if he was listening to something immensely wonderful. Something only he could hear. The more she watched Kaze, the more she felt that above anyone else, he belonged in the city in the sky.

It’s as if they all know each other somehow…

The hum diminished into a soft undulation of sparkling harmony as a peaceful contentment fell over the island. AsaHi didn’t dare to move as the stillness filled her mind. She didn’t know how long they remained soundless before the first voice came again. Looking up, AsaHi could see Zento lifting his hands above his head. There was a ritualistic feel to the motion, as if it was something he had done many times before.

“Kindred of Ceiswyr! It is my honor and privileged to present to you Morh-AsaHi.” His voice lifted in a powerful thunder, “Please welcome your new-found Sisterling!”

AsaHi realized in horror that she had just been singled out. The girl felt her stomach drop straight down into her feet as all eyes fixed on her in wonderment. She took a step back only to feel the warm strength of Kaze’s hand on her shoulder.

“AsaHi,” his voice purred quietly right next to her ear, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

“What do I do?” she whispered back to him, grasping for any help she could find.

“Why not say ‘hello’?” Kaze offered gently.

Steeling herself, AsaHi nodded slowly and took three slow steps forward. Her voice trembled to her own ears, “Hello…”

Standing alone in the flow of tall dew-specked grass, without even Kaze’s warmth at her side, AsaHi felt more vulnerable than she had ever known.

The first sound finally came, the soft crunching of grass under light sandaled feet. Approaching her. AsaHi lifted her gaze to see a little winged boy standing in front of her. He raised one hand, a delicate plumed feather pinched between his fingers.

“For hopes of your Awakening,” he urged, lifting the feather higher.

AsaHi’s lips parted, trying to speak. But all she could do was reach out and reverently take the gift. As she did, the soft humming rose around her again. From the smile on the little boy’s face, she knew that this time it was a song of welcoming for her.