“Can I look yet?”
“Not yet! Keep walking!” AsaHi shuffled SoYa along, covering his eyes with her palms.
He managed a full ten steps before he asked again, playfully, “How about now?”
“SoYa! Keep going. I’ll tell you when!” the girl nudged him in the back.
She wanted the Great Chamber to be a surprise. The Apprentice was unconscious when he first entered Wyndor. But now that they were both awake and well rested, AsaHi thought that the marvel of the Dragon Realm would cheer SoYa a little.
He’s still not talking about what’s on his mind. Maybe it was just the shock of the Passage. Or maybe it is just this whole journey. It’s not been easy for any of us.
SoYa now looked far better than he had in days. AsaHi knew it was something about this place and because of Zemi’s influence. As un-Earthian as the Dreigiau was at times, he had a strong grasp on things that afflicted the Earthian’s day-to-day life.
I still can’t help but really wonder why Zemi chose to become more like us… why he would take the burden of banishment. Are we really that important to him?
The Apprentice stumbled as they moved out into the wide black-glass floor of the Chamber. Both hands shot out to grasp the wall. “Woah! Slippery!”
“You’re just trying to peek!” AsaHi accused, pulling her thoughts away from Zemi. Far too often she found herself thinking about the Dreigiau rather than about the time she was supposed to be spending with SoYa. And that bothered her.
“I’m not, I promise!” he quivered in mock fear.
AsaHi smiled, just a bit.
Maybe it’s because I’d rather not think about SoYa…
She let the smile fade. The girl promised not to judge SoYa or his abilities, but it still chilled her to have seen him work that power over other people. Sometimes her mind replayed the image of the pale blonde warrior who in the forest, his blade reflecting her startled face as the weapon dropped from his hand. In her memory he crumpled, once again clutching his throat.
I wonder if he lived…
She remembered the look of resolve on SoYa’s face, the Athrylith hand still outstretched. A command so powerful that it wrenched the other man’s mind and left him helpless upon the forest floor.
What did it mean?
She had never seen such grim determination on her Promised’s face.
Maybe because he was protecting me?
No matter how she looked at it, the whole situation still left her hair standing on end. Though AsaHi wasn’t going to go back on her Promise to SoYa — she certainly cared for him just as much as ever — it was still one thing to talk about Mind Magic and quite another to witness it being used.
“Okay,” she murmured in his ear. Then she pulled her hands away from his eyes, revealing the majesty of the Great Chamber, painted in a cloak of twilight hues.
It was just as beautiful as it was during the day, though night transformed it from a vibrant brilliance to a peaceful serenity. The globes now gave off a dim, blue glow, filling the room with a calming illumination. The sky was huge above them, the stars dazzling and spread with impossible numbers. One of the moons faded off into the speckled horizon, mystical in its sinking silence.
“Hedd-ynad…” SoYa said, eyes round as they struggled to make sense of the impossible vision that swept up around him.
He’s been saying that a lot lately. Not that I really blame him…
AsaHi pursed her lips, folding her tiny hand into his. She leaned lightly against his shoulder. “So what do you think?”
“Is this place for real?”
“That’s what I said when I first saw it, too,” she almost laughed.
Despite SoYa’s magical nature, he was as grounded as she was. It was the quiet level-headedness that AsaHi loved about him.
“And this is where the Dragons live?”
“Yes, though… I guess they’re all off doing something. Or maybe they’re sleeping,” she squinted around the Chamber with a little frown. “I’ve only met a few of them. I really don’t know how many Dragons there are.”
“You’ve met some of the Dragons?” SoYa gave her an incredulous look.
“Well, sure,” AsaHi smiled for him, tugging him across the room towards the flower-lit pool. “You’re one of Zemi’s Apprentices. Surely you have, too?”
He shook his head with a swallow, “Kudako… but that’s all. I’d never seen Kudako’s Dragon form before this, either. Considering all the years I’ve known him…”
“The other Dragons don’t look like Kudako, though. So don’t worry,” she told him. Carefully making her way through the vine-grass, AsaHi led him to one of the flat mossy rocks at the waterside. Folding her tunic fringe she settled down and gave him an inviting motion. “Come on?”
“What is this place?” SoYa stared at the cred flowers. He knew exactly what he was looking at, and his shock was very evident.
“It’s called Wyndor. You already know it’s where the Dragons live,” And that summed up about everything AsaHi really did know the place, she realized.
“No, no… I mean this place in particular?”
“Oh, this? I don’t really know,” she frowned. “But it’s pretty and I think…”
He was gazing around, still trying to digest it.
“And I think it’s a nice place to just sit,” AsaHi encouraged. She didn’t know why she suddenly felt like holding on to something familiar. But at that point she did. “Come sit with me, SoYa.”
The Apprentice’s eyes met hers for an instant. No further words were needed — a silent understanding connected between them, as it always did with SoYa. Now she knew why…
The same powers that can crumple a man to his knees with agony… can also reach out in understanding to someone. He’s always been there for me. He’s always been able to understand.
SoYa climbed up and sat beside her on the stone, his motions a bit clumsy after having just recovered from his illness and sleep. His breathing was raspy and irregular, as if he was far more scared than she was.
“How do you feel?” AsaHi put her hand on top of his, watching the last reflections of the falling moon dance upon the faint ripples of the pool.
“Like I’m in some sort of children’s fairy-story,” he said softly.
The girl’s head tilted towards him. “That’s not what I was asking but… I know what you mean. It all seems so impossible, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah,” SoYa rasped slightly. “I remember when I was really young, Father used to tell Tsu and I stories of his own childhood. Stories of him and Kudako and the other Dragons… back before there was a Nefol. We’d laugh and tell him there was no such a thing as a time before Nefol. It was far too hard to imagine. But…”
AsaHi kept silent, allowing him the time to pick his words. She traced her fingers over the back of his hand, watching how the light motion from the pool’s reflection played across his face.
“But now, it’s as if everything’s become one of those stories. Maybe Father and Tsu are good at these sorts of big adventures, but I’m not. Not really,” he finished, looking at her for feedback.
“I always thought adventures would be fun, myself,” AsaHi admitted. “But most of this has just been plain scary.”
“Scary? For you?” SoYa smiled gently. “You’re the bravest person I know, AsaHi.”
She felt a flush rise in her cheeks, mostly because she could tell he wasn’t just saying that to make her feel good. “Me?” I don’t know about that…”
“It’s true,” he protested.
“It is true,” a second voice joined the conversation from behind, startling them so much that they both jumped.
A familiar, fangy grin greeted AsaHi’s startled stare. Dressed down in his usual red robes, hair a bit wild as it always was, Zemi looked very much like he had when he last talked to the girl. That was a few days ago, and AsaHi realized that she never visited him as she promised.
“L-Lord Zemi?” SoYa beat her to the exclamation. It was quite obvious that the young Apprentice was not comfortable in the presence of the Dreigiau.
“Sorry if I interrupted,” Zemi quipped, not looking very sorry. In fact, he strode over and sat down on the other side of AsaHi, his grin wide and easy.
SoYa was absolutely silent.
AsaHi suddenly felt quite uncomfortable, too.
“It’s such a beautiful night, I thought I’d steal myself a walk. I didn’t think I’d see the two of you up and roaming around. But I suppose you rested long enough,” the Arweinydd said, leaning back to peer at the stars with a casual air.
Something in his expression changed. Something about the way the starlight fell upon him made him seem somehow more unreal. As if he belonged among the pulses of silver, red and blue, and it was only a matter of his vast will alone that kept him from bursting into a nebula of wondrous, devouring light.
SoYa was still tongue tied. Not wanting to be the only one to hold a conversation with the Dreigiau, AsaHi began to encourage subtle interaction. “SoYa and I really want to thank you for your wonderful hospitality…”
The Apprentice nodded his head, eager to please.
“Hospitality?” Zemi snorted. “I’m offended!”
The Apprentice shook his head just as quickly, face suddenly afraid.
“Hospitality is what you give strangers and people that you know but you’d rather not see,” the Dreigiau grumbled.
By this time, SoYa was too bewildered to be able to figure out how he should react.
Zemi eyed the Apprentice with a soft chuckle, “Relax, SoYa. You act like I’m going to strike you down with a spare meteor or something.”
“Um..!” SoYa’s frightened breath.
“Zemi,” AsaHi gave a gentle reminder, “SoYa’s just recovered.”
“That’s right,” the Dreigiau leaned forward so that he could peer past the girl at the frightened Apprentice. “I heard about what happened at the Passage. I’m sorry it was so difficult for you. There’s always been a lot of tricky stuff going on in that place.”
“I… believe it…” SoYa attempted to reply.
“It must be hard, especially now that everyone knows that you’re Athrylith,” Zemi flipped a hand forward, nonchalantly.
AsaHi hissed in her breath.
Zemi! How could you say that to him?
The Dreigiau’s eyes alighted on her with a ‘trust-me’ look. Then the gaze turned back to the pale-faced Apprentice.
SoYa looked about ready to hyperventilate. “I… didn’t want to be…”
“You didn’t want to be what?” Zemi’s voice was coaxing, as if he was pulling words from the depths of the Apprentice’s mind that SoYa would not normally say.
A soft sound of grief broke from his lips in response, “Why couldn’t I have been a normal mage like Tsu? Why did I have to be an Athrylith?”
“And why did I have to be Zemi Dreigiau? Why couldn’t I just be a normal, boring floating blob of unstructured light like the rest of the Arweinydd?” Zemi imitated the Apprentice’s anguished tone. And though it had been meant as a gentle joke, the pain in the Dreigiau’s voice sounded too real to be funny.
It was enough to get SoYa’s attention away from himself. Just for a moment.
“You see this?” the Dreigiau reached his hand forward, over AsaHi’s lap and towards the Apprentice.
SoYa shied back, uncertain what an open palm of an Arweinydd pointed in his directionmight mean.
Zemi simply repeated himself, “You see this? Do you know what it is?”
“A… a hand?” the Apprentice answered meekly.
“Close… It’s a potential.” The Arweinydd didn’t miss a beat, “It’s the potential of ‘Esgor-ar.The ability for something without a natural solid form to Make itself on a physical plane. It represents a power that my people are so afraid of that they would rather destroy it than find any way to come to terms with it.”
SoYa just stared at the hand. As if trying to see how it was such a terrible thing.
“Mind Magic,” Zemi snipped the words off at the end, his speech no longer a casual drawl but an intense line of thought, “It’s rare and unusual. It takes a special person to grasp such a thing. It’s the potential of Athrylith. And it represents a power that your people are so afraid of that they would rather destroy it than find any way to come to terms with it.”
AsaHi’s face shifted into an expression of slow understanding.
“My people have banished me, SoYa,” the Arweinydd admitted.
“What!?” the Apprentice’s head jerked up. Impossibility was smeared across his face.
I can’t believe Zemi actually told him!
“That’s right,” the Dreigiau nodded. “Even the world I come from is that afraid of things that cannot be defined. If there’s a potential that is out of the norm, it should be destroyed. It doesn’t seem to matter that there’s just as much of a chance that the knowledge can be used for good as it could be for harm.”
“So… what… what are you going to do now that you’re… banished?” SoYa swallowed, hands shaking a little where they gripped his knees.
“Me?” Zemi leaned back. “Well, at first, it tore me all up inside. Just like it’s ripping at you.”
The last of the moonlight reflection faded into the peaking midnight. Only the soft glow of the orbs lit the room between them. SoYa’s eyes were bright from within, a soft green shimmer in the shadows, fixed upon the Dreigiau as if pleading for an answer to all the troubles of his world.
“But the more I thought about it, the more I decided that they had no business telling me what my intentions were when they didn’t know the first thing about what I was doing to begin with. All they ever tried to do was quantify me by the same means they wanted everything in their society to be measured by,” the Arweinydd murmured.“And I just don’t work that way.”
AsaHi took in a deep breath.
“And what’s more, I don’t ever plan on changing myself to work their way,” Zemi poked his leg repeatedly with one finger, accenting the words as he spoke them. “Because I am the way I am for a reason far beyond anything they could ever dare to dream. And in the end, the same can be said for you, SoYa.”
The Apprentice’s mouth hung slack, as if no one had ever told him such a thing before. And certainly never Lord Zemi Dreigiau.
The Arweinydd glanced a moment at AsaHi and gave a playful grin. “A wise girl once told me that the rest of the world had no idea about what they’re losing out on. I think, maybe it’s true for the both of us. What do you think?”
Still too dumbfounded to get his thoughts in order, SoYa stuttered, “M-maybe so..?”
AsaHi couldn’t contain her pleasure. Her small hands slipped encouragingly around the Athrylith’s arm. Then around the Arweinydd’s. “I know so…. I know so!”