Lyrrel waits patiently as Ime and Meah finish their morning meal. He stands by the doors watching them with his violet eyes.
“What does Wynsil want to discuss with you two, I wonder,” Jaxon says, his eyes carefully observing Lyrrel.
“We’ll know when we know,” Ime grumbles. “It can’t be that important if he waited until now to speak with us.”
“Maybe they know something we don’t,” Kylii suggests, leaning in as though to keep Lyrrel from overhearing.
Rolling his eyes, Daniil smirks at him. “Not hard since they’re Seers and can see into our futures and pasts. Though it is strange Wynsil only wants to speak to Ime and Meah.”
“How is that strange?” Jaxon asks. “Are you insulted that you weren’t invited?”
“No, but they didn’t seem to have a problem talking to all of us before.”
“Well, when we get back we’ll tell you what we discussed. But putting it off and guessing at it won’t bring us anything.” Ime turns to Meah. “Are you ready?”
Nodding her head, Meah stands. She and Ime cross the dining hall to the doors and the waiting Lyrrel.
Meeting Lyrrel’s eyes, Ime says, “Yes.”
Lyrrel takes them to the large room at the top of the tower with the large clear stone. Wynsil sits in his chair facing the table at the center of the room.
The cloaked men seated around the U-shaped table face the clear stone, waiting patiently for the final chair to be filled. Lyrrel moves to the chair and sits without speaking a word to Ime and Meah.
The doors to the room close behind them, slamming and causing Meah to jump. Ime places a hand on her shoulder and they return their attention to the men in front of them.
With the table full, the cloaked men and Lyrrel close their eyes and bow their heads. Placing their hands in front of them, they make strange symbols in the air with their fingers. One of the men begins a low, guttural hum. The others join in one by one.
Wynsil waves Ime and Meah over to him and they quickly cross the room, careful to not disturb the men. Laughing at their discretion, Wynsil doesn’t even try to speak softly as they move to his side. “You don’t need to worry. Once they begin the ritual, nothing can disturb them until they’ve finished.”
“Why have you called us here? Is something wrong?” Ime asks, his voice still softer than normal even with Wynsil’s assurance.
“I imagine you’ve had plenty of time to think about what we discussed. I apologize if it was a lot of information at once, but it was information you needed to know.”
The humming changes tone and Wynsil watches the men carefully. They have finished making symbols in the air and their hands are held in front of their chests.
“We appreciate your kindness and help. You’ve done more than enough for us and we only wish to know how we can repay you?” Meah says.
The clear stone becomes cloudy. Blue light emanates from it and Wynsil leans forward, expectantly. The intense look in his eyes draw Ime and Meah’s gazes to the men and stone.
The volume of the men’s humming grows in volume and dissonance. When the hypnotic barrage of sound ceases, the reverberating echo remains behind for several long seconds. The blue light of the stone fills it, chasing away the cloudiness.
Once silence returns to the room, Meah and Ime wait for Wynsil to speak, afraid to be the first ones to break the silence.
Wynsil sits back in his chair and raises his chin slightly, the aura of a ruler filling him. “What do you see?”
The oldest of the cloaked men opens his eyes. They are odd eyes matching the blue of the stone. When he speaks the others speak with him, but keep their heads bowed and eyes closed.
“A great trial to come to the land. A great loss of what has always been. Slowly it fades from the world. Slowly it dies out, leaving behind only the chosen few to carry out the gods’ work.”
“What dies out?”
The old speaker raises his head, his eyes focusing on Wynsil. “Mixed blood of red and black. Children of two brothers gifted with their combined strengths.”
Meah furrows her brows. The words the men speak sound familiar as though pulled from her memories. Her mind flashes back to the story Bruer told her of the brother gods, Kellot and Ogrin.
“They mean magic,” her voice is a whisper.
The speaker’s eyes lock onto her and a strange pressure surrounds her, pressing her entire body at once. She shivers and Ime holds her comfortingly.
Slowly standing, Wynsil’s expression darkens and his eyes widen slightly. “Are you speaking of magic fading away from this world?
“In times yet come to pass.”
“Rephrase the question.”
“Why will magic fade away?”
“Rephrase the question.”
“What will cause magic to fade away?” Ime asks loudly.
The speaker’s eyes move to Ime and a moment passes before he speaks. “Unknown. It has yet come to pass.”
Ime prepares to ask another question, but Wynsil raises a hand to silence him. “What else do you see?” Wynsil asks, taking a deep, calming breath.
The pressure surrounding Meah increases. She meets the man’s strange eyes and a voice, like a breeze through her mind, whispers, Welcome, Life Healer.
Meah’s blood runs cold and the room darkens around her. The pressure squeezes her body tight, making it difficult to catch her breath. The last things she sees before complete darkness are the speaker’s blue eyes.
“Meah? Meah, look at me!” Ime turns on Wynsil. “What are they doing to her?”
“He’s calling her. She’ll be fine. It feels odd to those unused to it.”
“Who’s calling her?”
Opening her eyes, Meah is shocked to find herself no longer in the room with the stone or even in Eraunel. She’s flying through the trees of the forest. But she knows she’s being called somewhere. She feels the call filling her and flies down to the earth.
An enormous tree, larger than any tree she has ever seen, towers above the other trees of the forest. But unlike the others, large growths of stone cover its bark. Meah recognizes the stones as the same as the one back in Eraunel.
The tree is the one calling her. The oldest living thing in the forest and it’s calling her. And it’s dying.
You must heal me, Life Healer.
The voice speaks directly into Meah’s mind. It’s the voice of the tree. She shakes her head, slowly. “I can’t. You’re too close to death.”
Hesitating, unsure of how exactly to heal a tree, she moves closer to the immense tree. She places her hands on the rough bark and closes her eyes, reaching inside to where her magic lies. The roughness of the bark on her hands reminds her she isn’t healing a human or an animal, but something else.
A guiding light appears in her mind and shows her the way to the heart of the tree. The tree’s warmth is faint and she struggles to concentrate on what little is there. She reaches with her warmth, but immediately feels the coldness of death fill her.
She pulls her magic back. “I can’t.”
She takes a deep breath and reaches once again with her magic. She feels the coldness of death fill her, but she pushes her warmth through it. It reaches the tree’s faint warmth and Meah tries pulling it back with her. The coldness numbs her hands and feet. She hesitates, knowing she can’t fully heal the tree. But she can delay its death.
She works slowly and carefully, knowing if she pulls too hard or moves to fast with her magic, she will die.
Thank you, Life Healer.
Pulling her warmth back as the coldness threatens to move to her chest, tears pool in Meah’s eyes. “Why are you thanking me? I couldn’t save you. I only delayed it for a little while longer.”
Thank you for trying.
The warmth in the voice brings more tears to her eyes as she’s thrown back through the forest and returned to darkness. She opens her eyes back in the room in Eraunel.
She’s on the floor, looking up at Ime’s concerned face. He releases a loud sigh and pulls her into a hug, lifting her from the floor.
Wynsil stands a few feet away, watching with a smile. “Welcome back.”
Meah looks to the Seers and sees the cloaked men collapsed on the table. “Are they all right?”
“They’re fine. The spirit of the forest is leaving them. They’ll awaken soon. But the better question is, are you all right?” Wynsil asks.
Meah turns back to Ime’s concerned face and nods her head.
Relieved, Ime stares at Wynsil. “You said he was calling her. Who was calling her?”
“The spirit of the forest. The one who gives our Seers the magic of sight.”
“He’s dying. Those stones are killing him, sucking his life away,” Meah says, motioning towards the stone at the center of the room. “He asked me to heal him.”
“And did you, Life Healer?” Wynsil asks, moving towards her.
Tears form in Meah’s eyes as she shakes her head. “I couldn’t heal him completely. I’ve only postponed the inevitable for a while longer.” Ime wipes the tears from her face with his thumbs. “Even though I couldn’t save him, I could feel how grateful he was that I tried.”
“The spirit is a kind soul who sees the goodness in all. He could see in your heart how much you wished to help him. That kindness gives him more strength than any magic.”
Helping Meah to her feet, Ime keeps his gaze on Wynsil, a gleam of contempt in his eyes. “Is this why you called us here? To have Meah heal your spirit?”
“No. There was no intention of having either of you meet or even learn of the spirit. He rarely spends energy in calling someone to him. But when he decides to do it, there’s no warning beforehand. I called you both here for another reason.” He motions for them to follow him onto the balcony behind his the chair. “I told you our Seers have seen the outcome of your war with the Blood King. I wasn’t completely honest with you.”
Wynsil looks out over his city. “Though our Seers are highly skilled and receive their power from the spirit of this forest, there are some things that can’t truly be seen.”
“You mean to say you don’t actually know if we will succeed or fail,” Ime interjects.
Wynsil faces Ime. “Yes. Some things can’t truly be seen because they involve a choice. These choices determine the path of the future, leading to multiple outcomes. They create holes that our Seers cannot see through. Until the choice is made the outcome won’t reveal itself. Whether you defeat the Blood King or fail to stop him is hidden to us due to a single choice creating a great hole.”
“What’s the choice?” Ime asks.
“The choice that needs to be made is going to be a difficult one. But it isn’t for either of you to make. Another in your group must make it.”
“Why didn’t you tell us this earlier?” Meah asks.
“Because I wasn’t meant to tell you until now. We all have our roles to play in what can be seen and according to the Seers, this is mine.”
“Do you know who must make the choice?” Ime asks, stepping closer to Wynsil.
The eyes that stare back at Ime reveal nothing. Wynsil places his hands behind his back. “Yes. But I can’t tell you. If you know it will change the path.”
“Then why bother telling us?”
“You must be aware of it. When the choice is made, the future will be set. The key to your victory or the beginning of your destruction will be decided at that point.” His eyes focus on Meah and the weight of his gaze bears down on her. “And the fate of this world will be set into motion.”
Jaxon is waiting for Ime and Meah outside of their room when they return from their meeting with Wynsil. He smiles as they approach and meets them halfway down the hallway.
“That was quite a long meeting. Anything interesting to report from Eraunel’s great leader?”
“He clarified some of what we discussed previously,” Meah says.
“It would seem he wasn’t telling the whole truth when he told us the Seers knew the outcome of the war,” Ime adds.
Raising an eyebrow, Jaxon crosses his arms across his chest. “Really? So they have no idea.”
“They told us there were many possibilities, but until a certain event unfolds, they won’t know which comes to pass,” Meah answers.
“So it can still go either way is what you’re telling me?”
Ime and Meah nod. Walking past Jaxon, they head for their room.
“Ime?” Jaxon calls without turning.
Stopping, Ime turns his head to look at Jaxon. “Yes?”
“I would like to extend my offer to spar with you again. I’m curious to see if you’ve lost any of the fighting spirit you were so well known for in the Arena.” Jaxon faces him. “Plus, I wouldn’t mind having a chance to fight you myself out of pure curiosity of my own abilities.”
“Tomorrow. Training grounds. After morning meal,” Ime says.
The smile on Jaxon’s face makes him look years younger. “I look forward to it.”