The city is quiet.
The last of the funerals is finishing. Mourners move through the city, passing others cleaning the destroyed homes.
Ari sits on the steps of the Great Hall, dark circles under her eyes. She plays with the silk bracelet on her hand. Her mother’s funeral took place early in the morning. Most of the city showed to pay their respects. Many who made the journey with Meah and Ime from the Bloodfall Arena to Kellahn gave speeches, but Ari doesn’t remember anything spoken.
Since the funeral ended she’s been wandering the city. She doesn’t want to go home. She doesn’t want to be alone in the house. She can’t face the emptiness, the coldness left behind.
A warm hand rests on Ari’s back as Lyrrel sits down on the steps. “Your friends are worried about you. I’d be lying if I said they were the only ones.”
Lowering her eyes to the ground, Ari doesn’t answer.
“Fleance and Mava say you can stay with them for however long you need. They’ve also volunteered to gather anything from your home.”
Ari stays silent.
Eyeing her with his violet eyes, Lyrrel rests his hands on his knees. “I have something for you…from your mother.”
“What is it?”
Taking her hands in his, Lyrrel turns Ari to look at him. “It’s a message you need to hear.” He places his hands on either side of her head. “Are you ready?”
Ari leans back from him, pulling her hands from his. “Can we do this inside?”
Raising a curious eyebrow, Lyrrel lowers his hands. “Why?”
“This city doesn’t feel safe anymore.” She stands and heads into the Great Hall.
Following, Lyrrel closes the doors behind him and meets her at the center of the Hall. The table for the council is bare, the chairs removed. No torches burn, but the afternoon sun fills the large room.
Sitting on top of the table, Ari watches Lyrrel as he moves close to her. He stares into her green eyes concern creating wrinkles on his forehead.
“Are you ready?”
Ari nods. Lyrrel places his hands on either side of her head and places his forehead on hers. Magic surrounds the two and Ari closes her eyes.
When she opens her eyes again, she’s standing at the top of the watchtower. Her mother is standing in front of her. Looking down, Ari sees she’s inside of Lyrrel, but instead of simply being an observer she can actually control him.
“Is this real?” Ari asks, but it’s Lyrrel’s voice speaking.
Meah steps forward and places a hand on Ari’s cheek. “The spirit of the forest who grants Lyrrel his magic has given me this time to speak with you. I know you have many questions and I know by the time Lyrrel shows you this I’ll already be dead. I have many things to tell you.”
“If you knew you were going to die, why didn’t you try to stop it or ask me for help?”
“Don’t try to understand, Ari. There are some things that no matter how much we want to change it can’t be. But we’re running out of time. The ones who attacked the city were sent by the Source of magic, or at least the thing claiming to be the Source. It means your father is getting close to finding it and it’s panicking.”
“So it killed you to try to stop dad? But we haven’t been able to communicate with dad for years.”
“There are some things pen and paper aren’t needed for. Your father will know something’s happened and he’ll find a way to learn what it was. But that’s not what I want to tell you. The Source also sent them to kill you. But I won’t let that happen. You have to leave Kellahn.”
Ari’s eyes widen. “Leave?”
Taking Ari’s hand, Meah places her bracelet in it. “You have to follow the trail your father left behind and find him.”
“I don’t understand.”
“The ones who attacked this city will keep coming back for you and as you are now you can’t fight them.”
“I took care of a few of them in the forest. I can handle it.”
Meah shakes her head and places a finger over Ari’s heart. “Your magic is blocked, Ari. I know you’ve felt it before. Your father and I don’t know how it came to be this way, but something is blocking your true magic. I’ve tried to find ways to release it, but only one has ever proven helpful.”
Ari’s vision blacks out and she panics thinking the vision is fading. Meah grabs her arm and Ari’s vision returns. “We’re already running out of time. Ari, in order to unlock your true magic you have to find masters of magic. They can teach you how to access your locked magic.”
“Masters of magic? What does that mean?”
“There are people who’ve unlocked their magic to such an extent it’s become more part of them than anything you or I could imagine. Kiphy Lakeen was one such master.”
“But he’s dead, he died two years ago.”
“Yes, but you knew him. You knew he was different than other magic users, you could feel it when you stood near him, couldn’t you?”
Ari remembers every encounter with the magic borrower she had felt something was different about him. It’d been as though magic was part of him in a way she could never understand. And yet, when he taught her first lessons of magic she remembers how her wind grew stronger as though being released or the first time.
“How am I supposed to find other masters?” Ari asks.
“Follow your father’s path.” Hesitating, Meah closes her eyes, fighting back tears. “These men who killed me, they won’t stop trying to kill you. They’ll follow you wherever you go. Be careful who you trust and stay strong.”
“You can still save yourself, mom. Then we can look for dad together,” Ari pleads, her own tears rolling down her cheeks.
Opening her eyes, Meah smiles and shakes her head. “No. This is how it must be. But don’t think I didn’t go down without a fight.” Her smile fills with a humor Ari remembers seeing on her father’s face in his portrait. “I love you, Ari. Be safe and free your magic.”
Ari wraps her arms around her mother. “I love you, mom.”
“And make sure you punch your father in the face for me. He’ll know why,” Meah whispers.
Ari laughs and squeezes tightly, afraid to let go, but when she opens her eyes, she’s back in the Great Hall.
Lyrrel leans back, releasing her head. His eyes are glowing blue and the expression on his face is strange.
“Lyrrel?” Ari asks.
He slowly shakes his head. “I am the forest spirit. I owe your mother a great debt and I shall repay it now.” Placing a hand on Ari’s head, a small surge of magic fills her.
“What did you do?”
“The block on your magic is too strong for any one being to release it, but with the last of my strength I’ve begun the process.”
“But I don’t feel any different.”
“The block on your magic is made up of many layers, each requiring a different method to break it. However, the first layer is the most powerful and requires the most strength to break. Kiphy Lakeen attempted to break it when you were young, but even he didn’t have the strength in his last years, but he’s made it easier for me. Now that it’s broken it should be easier for other master magic users to help you learn how to pull away each layer.” A worried expression fills Lyrrel’s face. “I must warn you though, now that I’ve broken the first layer some of your contained magic may begin leaking out.”
“Why was my magic contained to begin with? Who contained it?” Ari asks, standing quickly.
“There are many reasons to contain and block magic. From what I can sense, inside of you is a magic that could be used to protect or destroy. I imagine fear is what caused whomever or whatever blocked your magic to do it. As to the identity of the one who cast it, I can’t give you that answer.” Lyrrel’s eyes flash back to their usual violet before regaining the blue of magic. “My strength is fading.”
Taking Lyrrel by the arm, Ari’s eyes widen with concern. “You said you used the last of your strength…does that mean…?”
“I am dying. But with the added time your mother granted me those many years ago I’ve been able to flourish and assure the Seers who depend on me that their magic shall not fade with me.”
“There must be some way to help you,” Ari says, her voice shaking with sadness.
Lyrrel places a hand on Ari’s cheek. “You have your mother’s kindness and care for the life of others. But even she knew every thing must die at some point. This is my time and if I must die I choose to do it helping the child of one who helped me. Heed your mother’s words. Leave this city as soon as you can. Those who attacked are still lurking nearby, waiting for another chance to finish what they came to do.”
“Is it true? Did the Source send them?”
A sad smile forms on Lyrrel’s lips. “The thing that sent these men is as powerful as the Source, but the true Source doesn’t meddle in the affairs of men. Remember that.” Lyrrel’s eyes lose focus and fade from blue to violet before closing.
Feeling the Seer falling, Ari carefully lowers him to the ground. She checks him to make sure he’s still alive. When she feels his heart beating strongly she sits back on her heels, reviewing every thing she’s heard.
After a few moments Lyrrel’s eyes open and he sits up. “What happened? I can’t feel…something’s missing.” Placing a hand on his chest, Lyrrel concentrates and his eyes glow violet. “The spirit of the forest…is gone. But I can still use my magic.”
Ari stands, holding her hand out to help Lyrrel to his feet. “The spirit repaid a debt to my mother, but ended up using the last of its strength to do it. It said it used the life granted it by mother to spread itself to keep your people’s magic going.”
Taking her hand, Lyrrel’s eyes return to normal as he stands. “I’ll need to head back to my home to explain what happened to those there.” He stares at her. “What about you? What are you going to do, Ari?”
Turning away from him, Ari’s eyes travel to the windows of the hall. She gazes up at the sky. “I’m going to find my father.”