Chapter 31 Blood Fire

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The two men don’t speak as they pass through the city. Ime is unsure of where Kiphy is leading him, but the old man knows his way through the streets and alleys of the city better than most.

A path leading up towards the top of the west wall of the canyon appears before them and they begin the ascent. A similar gate to the one on the eastern wall signals their departure from the city. The top of the canyon appears much similar on the east side as the west side.

Kiphy continues walking out into the plains surrounding the canyon, never slowing his pace. Ime follows, curious as to where the old man is leading him…and what the mysterious training will be to regain his magic.

“I hope those two didn’t cause you too much trouble,” Kiphy speaks suddenly after the canyon disappears from their view. “They’ve always been quite the tricksters.”

It takes Ime a moment to realize Kiphy is speaking of Daniil and Kylii. “They’re good men. Inseparable and loyal to their friends.” Searching Kiphy’s back for any reaction, Ime picks up his pace to walk next to him. “Meah wasn’t the only one to notice the resemblance.”

“What’s your relation to that Life Healer?”

“Is it important?”

“It may be.”

Debating how to answer, Ime realizes he doesn’t wholly trust Kiphy. He remembers feeling the same when he met Daniil and Kylii the first time. “There’s no relation.”

Laughing loudly, Kiphy’s entire face changes as a bright smile spreads across his face. He turns his head at Ime. “That must be why you nearly got yourself killed fighting that faux magic user.”

Ime’s cheeks burn red with anger and embarrassment. “If you already knew the answer, why ask the question?”

“Questions are the most important things that can come from a person’s mouth. Ask questions. If you don’t, it may get you killed.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You will.”

The silence falls over them again as they continue their uninterrupted path across the plains. The night sky is full of stars and a crescent moon smiles at the two from its perch high in the sky.

Never-ending seem the plains until the first light of dawn brightens the sky behind them. In the distance, Ime sees mountains growing from the earth. These are different mountains than he’s seen before. Their peaks reach so high in the sky clouds block the tops from being seen and snow covers the sides, creating a line where it begins and ends.

It isn’t until the sun has peeked above the horizon Ime can even see where the bottoms of the mountains begin. Even then, it takes several hours more for he and Kiphy to make the smallest bit of progress.

“You’re very quiet,” Kiphy says after hours of silent walking.

Jumping at the old man’s voice, Ime responds, “I don’t know what to say so I stay silent.”

“A skill many men never learn.”

The sun rises to its highest point in the sky when Ime and Kiphy approach a lake at the base of the mountains. The water is a deep, dark color and trees line its banks. Birds fly across the still water. The mountains tower over like giant guardians. But with the clouds blocking the tops, a feeling of unknown hovers in the air.

Kiphy leads Ime to the water’s edge, sitting on a large rock. He motions for Ime to join him and Ime sits on a second rock across from the old man.

Crossing his arms and taking a moment to think, Kiphy releases a long sigh before meeting Ime’s eyes. “Before we begin your training it’s my custom to tell those I train a little of my history. It won’t serve you any purpose, unless you find some meaning in it. But it’s a tradition I find hard to break.”

Ime nods his head. “I don’t mind.”

“Good. Where I was born is unimportant. It no longer exists, destroyed during a war many won’t remember or haven’t been alive long enough to remember. My magic appeared during that time, but I’ll talk about that in more detail later.

“After my home’s destruction I travelled for many years, surviving off the land and training my mind and body. Why? In order to properly seek vengeance on those who destroyed my home. Did I succeed? Yes. Did it satisfy my needs and life? No.”

Kiphy’s eyes grow distant as a wave of emotion falls over him. “Revenge is a strange thing. When the focus of your anger decays before you can fulfill your desire, is that truly revenge? I found the ones responsible for my home’s destruction. But I was too late. They were already dying from their own destruction. Another more powerful group had beaten them, many killed. The ones I found who were still alive were too crazed to understand why I was there. My revenge had been taken from me…and yet, I was spared from what comes with revenge.

“I turned my back on my revenge and travelled farther and farther across the world. I sought masters of magic and though we were different, we learned from one another. They helped me to find focus and I found myself travelling down a new path, a path of enlightenment. I wanted to learn all I could about magic.”

Leaning forward, Kiphy rests his arms on his legs. “At the prime of my life, I found a new home. I found a wife. But I couldn’t stay. Travelling was ingrained in me and staying put in one place was wrong. My wife didn’t understand, but she accepted it. She told me I would always have a home to return to when I needed it.

“For years, that was how I lived. I crossed the lands in search of masters of magic and when I found them I’d return to my home, my wife. One year I returned home and two boys were waiting for me. They were two years of age when I met them for the first time and they didn’t know who I was. It took several days for them to understand that I was their father, even with their mother constantly reminding them.

“Then I left again, this time for many years. Returning home I found my new home gone. Fires still burned. My wife was dead, but my boys…they were alive. Their mother hid them when the attack began. And afterwards they managed to survive by scavenging food and clothes from the destroyed village. I vowed to stay with them, to keep them safe. But I didn’t know how to raise children, a cruel fact that filled me with guilt for leaving my wife alone for so many years.

“Two years we lived together. I taught them to fight. I taught them how to survive. Then I woke one morning and they were gone. Stolen in the night while we slept. I still don’t know how they were spirited away from me, but I searched for them for months before realizing they were gone forever.” Kiphy pauses. His mind races with memories. “I continued my travels and found that Arena in the desert. Two years had passed since my boys disappeared.”

Raising a hand as though reaching for something, Kiphy sat up. “And there they were. Twelve years old and killing full grown men with their magic I didn’t even know they had. I considered rescuing them, freeing them from their enslavement. But my cowardice at having to explain why it took so long for me to find them prevented me. I left them there and never returned to that Arena.

“I started taking on pupils as the wisdom from other magic users filled my mind to overflowing. I taught how to improve one’s magic, make it stronger. But none ever surpassed what I believed they could do. A few came close, one nearly surprising me with her ability to learn quickly. But even the ones I praised highly still fell short.”

Kiphy’s eyes fill with fire and he locks eyes with Ime. “Ime, you will get your fire back, I promise you that. But you won’t surpass my belief in you. You’re a rare magic user and your source is strong. What you’re able to do with it depends on you.”

Furrowing his brow, Ime shakes his head slowly. “Source, you said that before. What do you mean?”

Kiphy takes a deep breath and crosses his arms over his chest. Exhaustion fills his eyes. “That’s another long conversation we’ll have. But first, sleep. You’re about ready to fall off that rock and I know it isn’t from my enthralling storytelling.”

Ime’s eyes droop, reminding him he hasn’t slept in over a day. He struggles to keep his eyes open. “I can continue. The sooner we begin the sooner we can return to Kellahn.”

“If you aren’t fully rested, the training will be useless.” Kiphy points at Ime.

Ime feels a surge of magic wash over him. He lowers to the ground and his eyes close. He’s so surprised by the sensation he doesn’t have the strength to fight it and falls into a deep sleep.

Standing, Kiphy stares down at Ime’s still form. “The fight for your magic will be difficult. But all things we truly love must be fought for.”

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