All was quiet in the village of Vunao, where the girls were staying for the night. Even the Flying Dragon Inn, known for the habit of the residents to stay up late and talk the night through, was quiet. A few minutes earlier, Horans, the Innkeeper, and his son, Oairn, patroled the perimeters of the inn before they went to bed, convinced that nothing was about to happen that night.
But they were wrong.
Moments after Horans passed a large statue, the clouds in front of the moon moved, shining bright light onto the statue, revealing the newest member of the Mages of the Gems hiding behind it. Lexa Field peered out of the statue and looked around. All clear. Suddenly she stopped for a while. One hand was on the stone wall as she surveyed her surroundings. 'Why don't you just come out and let me see you?' she said quietly.
There was silence, then a rustle of clothing. All of a sudden, the other Mages appeared right in front of her. 'Where were you going?' Andrea asked sharply. Lexa raised an eyebrow delicately. 'For a walk. Do I need your permission?' With that, she made to walk past them, but Skye held her back. Of all the other Mages, Skye was the one she respected the most, while Andrea, despite their agreements, was like a big sister to her. Liora was the one she connected with the most, while she envied Ellyn's beauty, and she knew under Shoe's shy demeanor she was a kind person.
'Lex,' Skye said warningly. Lexa looked back at her "sister," bracing herself for the explosion. Skye continued. 'How did you know we were here?'
That caught her off caught.
'Excuse me?' Lexa asked. She was expecting something that went more along the lines of Andrea's "Where are you going?". Skye repeated the question. 'How did you know?'
Gathering her wits, Lexa gave what she hoped was a nonchalant shrug. 'I can talk to rocks and minerals, and as you can see, this place isn't exactly a forest. Besides, I'm an empath. Even if I can't see you, I can sense your emotions.'
Ellyn stepped forward. 'Where do you think you're going?' Now this was more like what Lexa knew was coming.
'And don't even think of lying to us,' Liora spat out warningly. Lexa felt a presence in her head and immediately erected mind blocks all around her. Stay outta my head! she screamed telepathically. Liora flinched as if stung. Suddenly she stiffened. 'Someone's coming,' she hissed. 'Hide!'
Immediately, everyone scurried around to find a hiding place. Lexa crouched behind the statue she was hiding earlier, with Andrea squeezed in beside her. She looked around. From what the stones told her, Skye and Shoe were hiding behind a large life-like figurine of Monaehs, the founder of the town, while Liora was tucked in a corner, shielded by the weapons brandished in front of her. Ellyn was nowhere to be seen.
Then shadows came into view. A young man stepped into the light. He had a black cloak, and he wore a sword at his hip. Beside him, a figure in peasant's clothing appeared, carrying a lamp. Oairn! Skye held back a gasp. What was he doing here? His rounds ended moments ago.
The first stranger thought the same thing. 'What are you doing here, Oairn?' he said irritably. 'I told you to stay inside.'
'For one, Toresh, I'm not going to be ordered around by you any more!' Oairn began hotly. 'Second, I'm not going to let you go out to your death by letting you do what you're going to do!' He lowered his voice. 'Why are you doing this? You know whoever defies Lord Petrius dies. You're my brother, Resh. I don't wanna see you die.'
Behind the shadows, Liora and Shoe exchanged a look. Maybe they should look into this, Lord Petrius. Elck, even saying the name brought a disgusting taste to Liora's mouth as she did a mental roll of her eyes. Why couldn't these people have names like Jack or Bob or Tony? Geez, even Jeremiah would do the trick! But no...they just had to choose Petrius. Urgh.
Oairn started speaking again. 'So you're leaving because you're sick of being his slave?'
'Not only that,' an excited tone crept into Toresh's voice. 'Apparently we can be saved. The prophecy says that the Mages of the Gems are discovered in the Shaeran Country, and word has come that the prophecy fulfilled! There! In Shaera! That's why I'm going there. I want to find the Shaeran, as the Mages are called, and invite them to our town to help us in our quest!'
Oairn's mouth dropped open. 'Toresh....that's suicide!'
'I know,' Toresh said grimly. 'But so's staying here! One day or another, Petrius will not let us walk free once he finds out that I know he's working with the--' here, Toresh's voice lowered even more. '--with the Raiders of the North. He uses dark magic to ensnare the people of the village, and it is said that those who are affected have red eyes due to the darkness residing inside them.'
'And what of the Mages?' Oairn asked eagerly. Toresh was smug. 'They say the Mages are goddesses of the light, with superhuman powers and ravishing looks!' At this, the hidden Mages were rolling their eyes while Oairn looked heavenward, awed. 'And they also say that these Mages are even more beautiful than Majesta herself! And you know how beautiful Majesta is!'
Everyone present knew of the legend of Majesta, the Goddess of Beauty and all things feminine. Being the daughters of rich and powerful lords, Andrea and Ellyn had often seen busts and statues of Majesta, and they were pleasently awed. Not by the golden leaves circling the goddess's head, or the strings of diamonds around her neck, but of the beauty of the lady. To be called more beautiful than Majesta was, to the girls, overrated.
'And,' Toresh continued triumphantly, excitement growing. 'No one knows their names, but each of the Mages have a different title according to the prophecy. First there's the eldest, who is said to be the most fearsome fighter of them all, and is known as the "Lady Combat", bearing a spiked mace and a sword as her weapon. ' Here, Skye tried her best to muffle her choked laughter, even clamping a hand over her mouth to silence the sound.
Ellyn glanced at Oairn, who was positively glowing. 'And, Toresh? Go on.'
Toresh grinned. 'Well, the second eldest is the most gifted in magic despite having grown up without it, and is therefore called the "Lady Mystique." Next is the "Lady Juno," the most beautiful yet sensible and hardy--all at the same time.' Toresh let out a laugh as he continued.
'The fourth Mage is the known as the Keeper of the Booke, which basically sums it up. The fifth mage is the "Lady Wise" who knows the most about magic, while the sixth and youngest mage is--' here, Toresh looked at his younger brother, a gleam in his eyes. 'They say the youngest Mage is the coldest of them all, but is fiery with passion underneath the deep icicles that flaw her beauty. They call her "Lady Icefire."'
Shoe could not for the life of her imagine how Lexa would react to this. She chose not to think about it and instead focus on what Toresh was saying next. He ended his long speech with something that sounded like, 'I'll leave now to catch up with the Shaeran.' With that, he left the hallway, running into the darkness of the night. Oairn kept the light burning for a while, before snuffing it and leaving the hallway also.
There was silence. Then Ellyn spoke. 'Lady Juno?' her eyebrows were arched, her tone cynical. Skye looked around. 'I suggest we get back to our rooms before someone notices we're gone,' she said in a hushed tone. Everyone nodded at her sound advice and immediately headed back to their chambers, almost forgetting why they were even in that hallway in the first place.
The keyword being almost.
'Okay, where were you going earlier?' Ellyn snapped, not finding the whole "Lady Juno" thing amusing. Lexa winced. She shouldn't have jinxed it by thinking about it. Reluctantly, curtly, she told them the truth, leaving out the parts about Christophe. But that wasn't so easy. Liora spoke up. 'So...who's the guy?'
'What guy?' Lexa replied a little too quickly, freigning ignorance. Liora shrugged. 'The one you were talking to. Tall, dark and handsome, with the falcon and the sword that's slightly curved at the tip, hanging from the baldric across his shoulder.'
Damn, how did she know. Oh right, she's a telepath. Stupid me.
'So?' Skye demanded. 'Tell us about him.'
Lexa blushed sheepishly. 'There's nothing to tell about,' she said. Andrea, however, caught her uncertainty. 'Ah ha! She's blushing!'
'No I'm not!' With that outburst, Lexa crossed her arms and walked towards her bed, picking up her sword, Trofast. [Pictures for the swords of Lexa, Christophe, Liora and Skye will be at the end of the post if I manage to insert them in. If I can't they'll be in the next post.] In the gleam of the night, she reached for the hilt, and with one mighty stroke drew the sword from the scabbard. It was a hand-and-half, or a longsword. Forged in the fires by her father, Siroc, it was the only inheritance she had left of her past other than her bow. The hilt was fine silver, and it had delicately-carved images of acorns and evergreen trees and hawks. The grip was black leather, and the pommel and guard was made of steel. The carved images were by Christophe, who'd designed the blade for her last birthday, right before he left.
Studying the sword, she said slowly. 'Christophe designed my sword for me.' There was a pause. 'Father forged it according to his measurements. A gift, from the two men I loved the most.' The last sentence was in a quiet whisper. 'One of which is dead, the other of which warned me to stay away from this place. That was why I went out tonight, to see what was going on. Christophe said something's wrong with this village.'
'So that was what you were referring to when we were entering the gates,' Shoe exclaimed, remembering the commotion between Andrea and Lexa earlier. She rubbed her eyes. That seemed like a timeline ago. Lexa nodded, sheating her sword as she buckled it to her belt. The hilt rested on her hip nicely. 'So, Skye, what are we to do about Petrius?'
Skye thought a while. 'I'm not sure,' she said slowly. 'It certainly sounds like he's working up some damage around here...Shoe, what does the Booke say about him?'
Shoe summoned the Booke of Magic and opened it. On the first page of the Booke was a large map of the world. She touched the map on the country they were in: Vanicea. Magic flew from her fingers, and the whole map then dissolved to show an enlarged version of the map of Peliant. She then continued to narrow down the perimeter by touching the part of the country they were travelling in and the village of Metaya in that order. The map of Metaya showed everything clearly, from the apocathery to the inn to the mansion where Lord Petrius lived.
Flipping the pages, she started searching for information on Petrius, and stopped at an entry, her finger underlining Petrius's name, written in ancient text. '"Petrius, son of Giane, from the house of Beirn,"' Shoe read out loud. '"Is the current lord of the village Metaya, but is known to have been fraternizing with the Raiders of the North, vile beings who practice the Dark Arts. Even though his evil doings are common knowledge, nothing has been said about it since it is also known that he is a cousin of the current King of Vanisea, Erlion." That's it. Nothing else.' She closed the Booke.
All of a sudden, they heard a scream and some shouts of terror. Exchanging glances, the Mages immediately ran out of the room, Liora buckling on her sword as she ran. Skye attempted to do the same while balancing the spiked mace in her other hand.
When they reached outside, all they saw was a crowd surrounding a house that was currently on fire. 'Help!' a woman cried. 'Fire!'
Villagers hurried to help put the fire out when Ellyn grimaced. 'Enough of this,' she hollered. Focusing on her powers, she raised a large jet of water from the well, directing it into the heart of the fire. Skye helped by using her telekinesis to direct the water properly. Within minutes, the fire was slowly but surely being put out.
There was another cry from the villagers. With a sinking feeling, Ellyn bit her lip. In the excitement, she forgotten about keeping a low profile. Turning around, she was ready for a horde of dumbstruck peasants when Stelleen, Ellyn's Water Hawk, screeched out a warning. Ellyn looked up as she connected with her pet. Alert, friends, Stelleen cried out softly, a small army is headed this way! I see trolls and goblins, as well as Raiders of the North. Watch out!
Shocked, Ellyn relayed the information to the other quickly. 'What we must do first is evacuate the people!' she cried over the loud shouts of the peasants. Andrea was getting sick at yelling. 'Alright now! Enough of this nonsense, people! We're the Shaeran, for crying out loud!' Flicking her fingers, she froze the whole village abruptly. Shoe looked amused at the sight of a man frozen halfway between a jump. She was so tempted to kick his legs out from under him.
Suddenly there was another yelp of surprise. The Mages swung around to see Toresh and Oairn looking at them. 'So,' Toresh said slowly, in awe. 'You are the Mages of the Gems?'
Rolling her eyes, ever the one to be sarcastic, Skye groaned. 'So, now what do we do?'
To be continued...