Tyrese the Seer stood over the smoking body of the bandit mage. He wore the high, collared black and gray leather armor of the Order of Nabu Saa. Steam rose from his rich brown skin, as the fire went out of his hawk yellow eyes. His breath was steady, he didn’t loose control even in the middle of combat.
The life streamed from the dead. It wouldn’t be right to say that he could see it, since he couldn’t see anything, but he had been blind long enough to piece his sensations of the world and the myriad energies of life into a cohesive image of his surroundings.
He mastered sorcery before the fateful day he lost his vision. He had already come to perceive the multifarious patterns of nature in all he encountered. Everything was merely a tapestry of various forces woven together for its time then dissolving back into the elements from which it arose.
The events that took his sight turned his eyes the golden yellow that unnerved so many.
Widening his focus, he counted the bandits again. There were seven when this started. He thought. But there are only five bodies here if I don’t count the poor driver. He took a moment to say a prayer for the soul of the man he had thought of as a friend. This wasn’t the first bandit attack they faced, but sadly it was the last one they would face together.
The driver’s life bled out of his body with his blood into the mud.
Back where the horse tracks stopped, boot prints ran off into the woods through the snow. They were in a hurry, but they left before their comrades met their ends. They must have chased after the passenger, who fled at the start of the fight.
The bandits’ horses and those that were attached to the coach were long gone.
Tyrese sighed. Looks like I am on foot from this point.
Studying the woods, he searched for the woman who ran. Something stood out from the ridged hatches of hibernating trees. It was large, and so powerful. He inhaled sharply. He could smell it on the air like a breath from an open door to an old library, a mix of worn leather and musty pages with a slight metallic note from the ink.
Its power radiated like a strong wind. Tyrese basked in it like it was the heat from the sun. It was wounded, and sad, but not afraid the way an animal would be given its situation.
Under the luminous shadow of its might, Tyrese felt the passenger he was looking for, but there was something different about her. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but she was different. She was frightened, and sad, but she didn’t feel like she was in trouble.
Something has changed in the world. he thought, as he started walking toward the passenger.
He opened his awareness as wide as he could and stretched it as far as it would go. The violence could have agitated a breach.
The last thing they needed right now as for a breach to open to one of the elemental realms. For millennia, the realms of wood, fire, earth, metal, water, light, and darkness periodically broke into the world.
Violence like the raid can cause a shatter point for the realms of earth, metal, or darkness to fall through the crack. The fight was quick, and I balanced their reckless mage through out it, so if anything, there is the greatest danger of an earth breach.
Tyrese couldn’t feel the preternatural dryness that would accompany such a breach. The stray energies that unnerved him so much were wild, not as in chaotic but in their freedom. They were unfettered, not tied to any one thing or group of things. They swam through the air like a large school of fish, or a flock of starlings. Ebbing and flowing around in a spiraling dance that affected everything they streamed through.
As he entered the swirling vortex, his mind left him for a moment that stretched on and on. He felt like a child entering a playground with his friends for a careless day out. He couldn’t help but smile as the energies flowed through him. Unlike everything else he had ever encountered, these forces had no distinct pattern. They were free.
Tyrese let himself twirl in the stream, and for a moment he felt his feet leave the ground. He had never felt so light. All his cares washed away, nothing could hold him down. Nothing could challenge him.
This must be how Master Saa felt when he freed himself from the twin cycles of becoming. He thought as he whirled through the air like a leaf cast off from a tree in autumn. I am not a cast off. he thought, and his feet returned to the ground.
Xiomara stood up and patted the snow off her leather leggings. Brushing her fingers through her long black hair, she pulled out a few small twigs and leaves.
She looked over at the dragon, still feeling like it was impossible that she was in the presence of one. She wondered how long it would take for the novelty of that to wear off. Is is possible for anyone to get used to being around a dragon?
“You will be surprised how fast it happens,” Anam said.
Xo smirked at him, “You were listening again. I suppose I will have to get used to that too.”
Anam nodded, and one of his horns caught on the branch of a tree knocking a bunch of snow onto his back.
His eyes widened.
Shaking off the snow, Anam quickly looked off to his right.
A dark skinned man in high collared black and gray leather armor approached them with his hands up.
“It’s alright, Anam,” Xo said, “That is the mage from the coach I was riding.”
The man didn’t turn his head toward her when she spoke, and he didn’t look directly at the dragon either. Instead, he kept his haunting, hawk yellow eyes fixed on a spot on the ground roughly halfway between them.
“A mage,” Anam said sadly, “We don’t need a mage, we need a shaman.”
“Don’t be rude,” Xo said, “Wait, why do we need a shaman?”
Anam didn’t answer, he just kept his focus on the mage.
“My name is Tyrese the Seer,” the mage said, “An unfortunate title to be sure, but it is mine all the same.”
“I am Xo, and this is Anam. Are the bandits...”
“Dead,” Tyrese said, “As is Curtis Llavallo, the unfortunate driver.” Pain covered his face like it was suddenly real that he was dead. “If you know a dragon, Xiomara, why were you riding a coach?”
“I didn’t know him when I bought the ticket.” Xo said. *All my savings for a ticket to nowhere. Money well spent.”
Anam looked at her and sighed.
“Master Dragon,” Tyrese said, “Would it be possible for you to take me the rest of the way to Linn?”
“I am sorry, but we are going to Saladus, in Golyn.” Anam said not taking his eyes off Xo.
“Saladus?” Tyrese said like it reminded him of something he should know. Straightening up, he cocked his head to the side. “That isn’t possible...”
Xo felt like the conversation had left her behind. They obviously knew something she didn’t, but she didn’t want to ask. She couldn’t take anymore surprises today, and she felt like this was one thing she could just not know for a while. At least until she had to know. She felt like that time would come, but not now. Not today. Today was full of wonders already. One more was just too much.
Tyrese knelt before Anam, “Master Dragon, I ask to accompany you to Saladus. I swore to see this woman safe on her journey, and if that is her new destination, I must follow.”
Anam grinned in a way only a dragon can, “That is a flimsy excuse, Master Mage, and you know as well as I do that your oath ended in the broken coach you came from.” He closed his eyes for a moment, “You are right, though, we could use a... Guard on the journey. I have yet to regain my full strength, and while she is brave, the more protection we have the better.”
“She is right here,” Xo put her hands on her hips and huffed at them, “And she would prefer not to be talked about in the third person in her presence.”
“I apologize,” Anam said, “Would you rather us leave the mage behind?”
Xo found the question shocking, “No, of course not, that would be cruel to leave him out here in the middle of no where.”
“Then we will travel to Saladus together?” Anam asked.
“I am not so sure about that part,” Xo said, “I was on my way to Linn, and I know you really want to go to this temple, but I am sure they have temples in Linn.”
“Not like the one we are going to.” Anam insisted.
Xo wanted to protest, but she knew it wouldn’t matter even if she did. How do you argue with a dragon? Besides, he could tell me we are going to Linn and take me to Saladus.
Anam snorted smoke at her.
“I know you wouldn’t do that, I just wish I had more of a choice in the matter.” Xo stopped the tears from forming. It was too cold for that.
“Choice isn’t a luxury of the chosen,” Tyrese said.
“Kharani Nartaka,” Anam said approvingly.
“Who is that?” Xo asked.
“Someone I once knew,” Anam said, “A long, long time ago. We should take flight before it gets dark. You should see if you can find any provision in the coach, and then we can go.”
Tyrese nodded and stood.
Xo couldn’t believe any of this was real. She still expected to wake up any minute, but she knew that wasn’t going to happen.
After they picked up the couple canteens, a package of dried meat, and another of dried fruits, Tyrese conjured a saddle for Anam to make the flight easier. While he strapped it in place, Xo walked away from the attack site.
Anam had incinerated the bodies while they rummaged for supplies, but the smell still lingered in the air. It was too much for her to take in. She walked into the breeze to get away from it.
Stopping, she realized her entire life had been dedicated to getting away from one thing or another. She worked hard in school to prepare for the day she got out of the village. She worked hard after that to earn the money to get out... She never really dated anyone. She didn’t want to risk getting tied down. Somehow, that made her feel like a coward. Every single aspect of her life was little more than an escape plan. Even now, all she wanted to do was run, to get away. The only thing that stopped her was the distance from here to anywhere else. Mura and Linn were both far enough she would freeze to death before reaching them. Besides, a dragon and a mage would be on her heels to get her to Saladus. There was no way she could out run a dragon, and if she was honest with herself, she didn’t really want to try.
Anam was hard to read, but she knew in her bones he was as scared as she was. She just didn’t know what could scare a dragon.
She turned around and watched Tyrese tightening the last straps.
Who knows how long Anam was trapped, with a sword in his heart before I found him. It was long enough for grass to grow over most of him to the point where he looked like a group of rocks in the snow. He must want to get away from here as bad as I do if not more.
When the last buckle was buckled, she didn’t wait for them to beckon. She just walked toward them.
Anam presented a knee for her to step up on, and Tyrese helped her up into the saddle. He handed her their meager supplies, and then climbed in himself. He looked so tired. Conjuring a heavy blanket for each of them, he laid down and fell almost instantly to sleep.
Xo pulled the blanket over her shoulders, and rested her back on what he had called a saddle. It was more like a low walled sleigh made out of what appeared to be oak. It even swooped up to block the wind.
Anam galloped and with a few flaps of his wings, they were airborne. Each flap of his enormous white wings carried them higher and higher into the sky. Once they where high enough, they glided on the currents, occasionally flapping to maintain altitude.
Xo smiled. She couldn’t help herself. She was in the air like a bird.
Glancing over the edge, she marveled at how small everything looked. She laughed. Of all the ways she imagined getting away from the doldrums of her old life, she never could have dreamt she would fly away. She was though, and it didn’t scare her at all. She wondered about that. Somehow, being up here with the wind blowing in her face felt so natural. She belonged in the sky.
She watched the world turn below them until the sun began to set behind them. She moved to the back of the slay to watch the golden sun give way to the red sky and then to the purple twilight before the millions of stars took control of the sky.
After who knows how many hours, she laid down, and drifted off to sleep. She was happy, for the first time in a while, she was truly happy.
In her dreams, she flew along side Anam through the endless sky. She flew without wings like her joy alone was enough to carry her aloft. Twirling, spinning, diving, and rising back to soar through the highest heavens, she thrilled at every moment. The sky was her home.
Like a fish raise in the desert tossed into the sea, she was exactly where she needed to be.
She awoke before the sun, and watched the sun rise between Anam’s horns. The land looked so different. There were patches of evergreen trees clustered around the rivers that snaked through the hills and valleys below. She didn’t know how far they were from Saladus, and she didn’t really care. The further it was, the longer they would command the skies.
Around noon, Anam swooped down toward a large lake. Lowering his head slightly, he trailed his jaw through the water. The muscles in his neck rippled subtly as he drank.
Xo forgot all about why she was afraid. This somehow felt like home.