The Responsibility of Arifos
In a time of great darkness, when evil sweeps the land, a prophecy foretells the coming of a savior, a child that will defeat the forces of evil and save the world. She is Kyria, the Chosen One.
A full year since Kyria first set foot in the Mage’s Council, and she could hardly believe how different her life was. She had friends, she had teammates, she had instructors she liked, and she even enjoyed the classes she was taking. She was not sure how it happened, but Kyria had become a Mage in every sense of the word, and was enjoying every minute of it.
But according to the Madrew prophecy, Kyria’s destiny is not to just be a Mage, but to be the savior of the world. One of the Triad, the champion swordsman Arifos, risks everything to fulfill his obligation by protecting Kyria and helping her to fulfill the prophecy.
Taken forcibly from the place she now calls home, Kyria finds that the world has become very dangerous with the forces of Zoldex lurking around every corner. Arifos’s definition of protection put’s Kyria in more danger than she ever has been in before. Without her friends to help her, Kyria must struggle to survive in a world that has become deadly and foreign to her. Her only hope is to find a way to get back to the Mage’s Council and finish her studies so that she is ready to face the dangers of the world and find some way to live up to her prophesied destiny.
Kyria began picking up her things, preparing for the day ahead, then paused, snickering to herself. Could it really be a year? On this same day, one year ago, she had first been brought before the Council of Elders to determine her fate. Of course, she thought that she was being brought before Zoldex, her prophesied nemesis; the leading body of the Mage’s Council had been nearly as uninviting, in her opinion.
Not everyone, but definitely some. There were exceptions: Kyria counted three Council of Elders members amongst her friends—Master Cala, an elf; Master Ilfanti, a dwarf; and Master Hergzenbarung, the only lupan in the history of the realm that was known to be sentient. (Of course, they all must be, but that was an argument for nature versus nurture). Being raised in the Mage’s Council, Herg, as he liked to be called, was provided the best education in the land. Apparently, all lupans could be taught to be sentient and speak—they just had not been.
Kyria wondered if that would ever be a worthy project. Lupans were considered one of the most dangerous creatures in the realm: brutal, bestial, and unyielding. Oftentimes, coming across a lone lupan was enough to change a trained hunter’s life forever—then again, that was because his life would come crashing to a halt. Not very many people could come across a lupan alone and live to tell the tale. But if somehow they could be brought together and taught, would later generations know the lupans as kindly scholars?
Kyria snickered again at the direction of her thoughts: a lot really had happened in a year if she could engage herself in some kind of academic debate. It had taken her so long to adjust to life at the Academy; but somewhere along the way, she had been acclimated and turned into a normal student with just as much promise and potential as anyone who was raised here since birth. Of course, with all of the gold in her robes and magical prowess under her command, that was a foregone conclusion, but Kyria had never really felt like she would fit in—always feeling somewhat lost, even after being there for several months. She now wondered when exactly that had changed?
Thinking back to her friends in the Council of Elders, Kyria began speculating as to what Master Ilfanti was up to at the moment. After rescuing Nezbith, her childhood friend, and returning from Tenalong, Kyria learned that Master Ilfanti had left the Council without permission. Not only that, but he was now considered an outlaw, and Gatherers were on the hunt to find him.
Not all Gatherers though. Tarwas—a sarnal who Kyria had oncehated for trapping her and bringing her to the Mage’s Council originally—was more than happy to provide updates to Kyria about the hunt for Ilfanti. Whenever she went down to the tunnels of the Gatherers to visit Nezbith—which he now called home—Tarwas would tell her how the search was going.
Apparently, Ilfanti was quite resourceful. The way a Mage is normally tracked begins with a group of gifted Mages known as the Seers: they can sense anyone with magic potential, and then pinpoint their exact location. This location is then transferred to a small mystical device known as a Trackbar, and the Gatherers use it to find their quarry. When Master Zane—an eternal and one of the original Gatherers—had followed Ilfanti’s Trackbar, all they found was a mule. Somehow—and Kyria sure wished she knew how—Ilfanti had masked his own presence and led the Seers to believe that the mule was him.
Kyria imagined that the sight of Zane and his avarian Gatherers trying to capture the mule—certain that it was Ilfanti—must have been hilarious. She only wished that she could have been there to see it. After that, Ilfanti was seen on a boat sailing west, but the Gatherers had been recalled—largely in part to the fact that she and her friends had gone to Tenalong to try and rescue Nezbith. Kyria was glad for whatever part she had played in helping Ilfanti elude the Gatherers.
According to Tarwas, Ilfanti had not been found again since then. Did he sail out of the Seers’ range? Was he somehow masking his presence again? Could he possibly be dead, and that was why he was no longer registering? Any one could be the answer, but Kyria felt deep down that, at this very moment, Ilfanti was probably someplace with the wind blowing through his hair, a smile on his face, and—even though he was one of the most esteemed Mages to live in the past millennia—mischief on his mind. Kyria wished him the best.
Since he had left, though, things around the Mage’s Council had become somewhat strained. Master Pierce—the leader of the Council of Elders—was assuming more and more control, ignoring his fellow council members. He recalled all Mages from around the realm to the Tower, and that only seemed to make everyone more crowded and irritable. Quite a few Mages also began debating—often so aggressively that the conflict became physical—the policies that Pierce was implementing. In short, some agreed that the Mages should not be involved with what was happening beyond the swirling waters that acted as a protective barrier, and some felt that the Mages should be at the forefront. Those that wanted to be involved also splintered a bit further—some wanted to be mediators and try to negotiate for peace; others wanted to actually combat the forces that were sweeping the land.
One other thing that seemed clear to everyone else but Pierce—the armies sweeping the land were the legions of Zoldex. For some reason, Master Pierce still denied that Zoldex had returned, claiming that as a ludicrous notion, and that it was merely a struggle for the balance of power—as had been in all of the eras since the Mage’s Council had been formed. Kyria could not believe how shortsighted he was.
Things were getting bad, though. In Trespias alone, the people that had lived there were all but gone, though some were still in hiding and trying to avoid the occupying force. Instead, creatures that had arrived by ship were wandering the streets. Fortunately, Master Korgoth had begun using part of his Advanced Self Defense class to provide information about the creatures that were now here, and to analyze them for their strengths and weaknesses.
Kyria knew that Headmistress Auria felt that Master Korgoth was deviating a bit too far from the assigned scope of the course, but Master Korgoth was renown as the greatest swordfighter in the Mage’s Council, and, secretly—which of course meant that everyone knew—was a former Drannin, a Renegade Mage hunter. Kyria doubted very much that he would be swayed by anyone if he felt that what he was doing was beneficial for his students.
Since Kyria was destined to defeat Zoldex—and undoubtedly, that meant confronting Zoldex’s forces—Kyria was glad for the lessons. Some of the creatures she had been introduced to in prior History lessons, but none were anywhere near as thorough as what Master Korgoth provided them.
Of course, Sartir—one of Kyria’s first and best friends since arriving at the Mage’s Council—still wanted additional information, leading to hours and hours of research in the library before he returned with a report that would have made poor Master Forales proud before he passed away.
Kyria and her other best friends, Mica and Tyrene, both listened with great anticipation to help support their friend. Kyria knew that Mica and Tyrene were only humoring him; but she had asked him to make her a copy of the report to study in more depth later. Since then, she skimmed it at least once a week. It doesn’t hurt to know your enemies.
Unable to do anything at the moment outside of the Mage’s Council, Kyria spent the last few months trying to remain focused on her studies. It was remarkable how much it helped. Even Master Critchley, her Trivium professor, had been praising her of late. Astonishingly, Kyria was asked to give an oral presentation of a paper that she had written on Logic. Since Trivium also included Rhetoric, a study of public speaking, Kyria wasn’t sure if it really was a good thing to have an added assignment, but she still felt honored and excited that the troll appreciated her work.
Life at the Academy had also remained pretty much the same. Sartir and Traina hit a rocky patch for a while. She was upset that he had gone with Kyria, Mica, and Tyrene to try and rescue Nezbith without telling her. She claimed that he did not respect or trust her if he could not confide in her. Sartir tried to explain that everything happened quickly, and that he did not purposefully leave her out of it, but she would not listen.
For about a month, Sartir was depressed and sulking quite often; but the two finally reconciled, and their relationship had been strong ever since. Even though Kyria had never really gotten along with Traina all that well, she was overjoyed to see the reunion, just because of how happy Sartir was. Apparently, both had been miserable while apart.
Mica had also been busy, and far more temperamental than Sartir. Somehow—and Kyria still did not fully understand how—Mica and Danus, an older fairy who always seemed to do just enough to stay back from year to year, had decided to give it a go. Ever since, Kyria—as Mica’s roommate—had been the butt of every joke. Danus’s pranks were frequent, and rather annoying, but Mica said that she was beginning to love him.
Well, love may be a bit strong. The two had a fight and broke up at least once a week. Usually because Danus went too far in one of his pranks and Mica got upset, but then he would make some elaborate overture and she would just swoop into his arms and forgive him. Kyria still could not understand it.
Tyrene has also been quite busy. After her experience in Tenalong, she has been opening up a lot more lately, becoming more outgoing and friendly. When Kyria first met her, she had been quiet and reserved—around, but almost as if she was not seen. She had been scarred in Tenalong, after Kyria attempted to heal an arrow wound, and she used it as a symbol of life and how one should try to live it to its fullest.
She and Mica became regular fans at the Dragon’s Breath Lumnia games, where both Kyria and Sartir played. One day, Tyrene met Ornan, the younger sibling of starting defensiveback Osyf. The two had been practically inseparable for the past three months.
Kyria was happy for Tyrene; but deep down, if she could admit it to herself, she was also a little envious and jealous. All of her friends were involved with somebody, yet she had nobody. Of course, she realized that she was still a month away from turning fourteen, but she wanted to feel what it was that her friends were feeling. For a while, she thought that she had some hope, but nothing ever turned out right.
First there had been Kabilian, but he was a boy that lived eight thousand years ago. That was a real disaster waiting to happen. Falling for a boy that she could not possibly become involved with. How shocking was it when she met him again as an adult, and though he was older, he looked awfully good for eight thousand!
Second, she had thought that Sartir’s old roommate, Kruskall, had been interested in her. Kyria recalled being hesitant at first, but gradually she began to fall for the Lumnia star. She had been completely oblivious to the fact that he was a disciple of Zoldex and was trying to kill her. Not the best trait to look for in a potential boyfriend!
During that whole ordeal, Jaunin had entered her life. He was a year older, handsome, charismatic, and interested in her. Yet Kyria was blinded by Kruskall, and did not see Jaunin at all, even when he escorted her to the Founding Celebration Ball. Afterwards, Kyria began to see Jaunin for who he was, but she was afraid that her time had passed. He seemed only interested in her as friends now, not as anything more.
To complicate matters even more, she had heard rumors that Jaunin and Katara had recently begun to see each other. Katara was another teammate in Lumnia, a Forward, and like Jaunin, one of the Captains. If you take away the fact that Katara talked to herself and kept lists of people that the ‘dragons would come for,’ Kyria could not find any fault with the mystral. She was a great person, and she and Jaunin seemed to get along really well.
Kyria knew that, but she still harbored some resentment that it was Katara that Jaunin was with, and not her. It was funny how things worked out sometimes.
Other than that, things were really going great. Kyria had learned quite a bit from both Masters Cali and Balfour in their independent training each night. After Kyria stopped trying to sneak away with her own little preoccupations, she found that the sessions were quite invigorating and helpful. She knew how to control her abilities so much better now than she ever dreamed that she could.
Her classes with both Masters Korgoth and Aravinda, as well as her private sessions with Master Lystra had also made her a much more competent warrior. She now felt like she knew what she was doing rather than relying upon instincts, and that was fighting with weapons that were not mystical or enchanted. If she had one of those, she became even more proficient. The three always commended her for her rapid progression.
Yes, it has been a year,
and more has happened than Kyria could ever have dreamed. But, in
hindsight, she was far more ready to face Zoldex today than she was a year
ago. Perhaps for the first time in her life, she was not afraid of the
Madrew prophecy. She would not go so far as to being cocky and expect to
win, but she felt like she was ready if fate played its hand earlier than
she anticipated. Zoldex could come. She would be here. He would find that
she was not the naive student that Kruskall failed to eliminate. He would
learn that, and it would be his undoing.
The anniversary of her arrival at the Council went pretty well. It was a Thursday, and Kyria had Philosophy, Art, Advanced Self Defense, Strategy and Creative Thinking, and finally Science and Alchemy. Sitting in her Strategy and Creative Thinking class, Kyria glanced at her chronometer and was amazed to see that class was almost over, leaving only Science and Alchemy.
Master Cali had the class broken up into small teams, working on a single goal: solving a puzzle. It sounded simple enough, but if anyone truly thought that, then they did not know the intricacies involved in a magical puzzle!
Kyria had spent enough evenings with Master Cali to realize that it wasn’t really the puzzle that she wanted to have solved, but rather the ability for several diverse individuals to pull together and agree upon a single strategy—that was often far harder done.
Some groups had a single strong and assertive individual: someone confident and self-assured who then forced everyone else to go along with their suggestion. Although neither Shelby nor Jialie were in the Advanced Class, Kyria suspected that both of them would try to enact a strategy in such a manner.
Other groups had people that merely did not care and had an aversion to trying. Kyria suspected that these few would be the future Gatherers, shop employees, and servants of the Mage’s Council. Since the Mage’s Council was so stringent, Kyria found it simply amazing that people would willingly choose to act like this.
Then there were groups where too many people tried to be assertive, creating dissention amongst the teammates. Kyria hated groups like this. Usually, there were two people who felt that they were right, each spending the entire class trying to persuade others that their way is the right way; then if their way was not selected, they sulked and tried to put down the efforts of the others.
Kyria found herself in a good group at the moment, though. Her group was composed entirely of players on her Lumnia team, who already had an established bond and rapport. There were five of them working together, including herself; the others were Jaunin, Katara, Chorhan, and Borke.
Oddly enough, Master Cali allowed the teammates to work together, but had Brenna, Bonde, and Borke—a trio of wraith triplets who on the Lumnia field seemed able to work so well together that it was like their minds were joined—separated into three different teams.
Poor Brenna was stuck with Danus, who Kyria suspected filled the role of the teammate who simply did not care, and Rygarg, who always seemed to find a reason to shout at his teammates. Perhaps he thought he could force them into submission if he yelled loudly enough.
With her group though, they took on the roles that they had on the field. Jaunin and Katara led the team, both as the Lumnia Captains and perceived group leaders. They were the ones that often led the discussion, sometimes coming up with ideas, but often encouraging everyone else to participate. Chorhan was the most insightful, reminding Kyria a bit of Sartir with his reasoning. He always helped to support a discussion with some kind of relevant fact. Borke listened intently, rarely coming up with a suggestion of his own, but when he spoke, everyone listened.
Kyria was relied upon more for her instincts, and her magical prowess. Since it was a magical puzzle, her augmented powers could sometimes provide a distinct advantage. Of course, Master Cali tried to find ways around that, making it even more challenging.
The puzzle they had was quite intricate. It consisted of at least a thousand pieces, each piece appearing like a small rod and of varying colors. The group decided that the colors represented different magical spells—for instance, blue was water and red was fire. Once they agreed upon that, they had to decide exactly how the spells worked together to create the final outcome that they were searching for.
They could not tell right away if their theories were right, and their attempt was based more on their perceived reasoning, but they felt confident. They all agreed that certain pieces were connected in certain ways. After all, water doused fire, so the red rods would connect to the blue ones. Also, lightning would cause problems in water, but not on some kind of earth spell, so it could connect to the brown rods.
About fifteen minutes before class was over, they had nearly finished constructing what they thought would be the true nature of the puzzle. Theirs formed a pyramid shape, with an arched pillar at each end. They were confident that they had assembled it properly, but if they spared the time to glance around, they saw that other tables had constructed things completely differently. Kyria saw an octagon at one table, a cube at another, and at the table where Rygarg was shouting, a large pile of unassembled rods.
Master Cali stood up, glanced at the chronometer, and addressed the class. “Time’s up,” she said. “I want someone from each table to explain what it was that you had done, and why.”
One by one, Master Cali selected a team and a single representative explained their logic and reasoning. Some theories were quite good, some were a bit sketchier, and some even received a boisterous outroar of laughter from classmates.
When Master Cali indicated Kyria’s group was next, Jaunin stood up and explained how they had arrived at the conclusion that the different colors represented different magical powers. He then discussed how they had assembled the rods, and how the shape of the pyramid was formed. When he was done, Master Cali asked everyone else in the group if they agreed with the way that the project had been conducted. Unlike certain tables, everyone agreed with the way it was done and the final product.
Master Cali thanked Jaunin for his presentation, congratulated the group on their efforts, and moved on to the next table. Kyria wished that she knew whether they had been right or not, but she accepted that that was not the intention of the exercise.
At 4:15, the class was dismissed, giving them all until 6:00 before their final session of the day. Kyria saw Jaunin take Katara’s hand, wave goodbye with his other hand, and walk out of the room. The moment was crushing. Kyria knew that Jaunin and Katara were together, but to actually see it was like being the victim of a slitharell—a small piece of you devoured each day.
The wraith triplets saw that Kyria was down, and paused to see if they could cheer up their star player. As Defensivebacks, they were accustomed to trying to defend Kyria, and they instantly went into defensive mode when they saw she was sad.
“Somebody giving you trouble?” Bonde asked.
“Yeah, if they are, we’ll give them trouble right back,” chimed in Borke.
Brenna, the only girl of the trio, frowned knowingly. She could see the way that Kyria looked at Jaunin, and could relate better with Kyria. “Not now boys, Kyria and I need to have a little chat.”
“Well, okay,” Bonde shrugged. “But if you need help—help with anything at all—let us know.”
“Especially if its help with him,” Borke said, jabbing his thumb in the direction of Rygarg, who turned around and glared menacingly at the wraith.
“What do you want?” he barked challengingly.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Bonde snickered.
Brenna took Kyria’s hand and led her from the room. “We should get going before the three of them start a fight.”
“Why would they pick a fight? With him?” asked Kyria.
“They’ve been working on a magical snare spell, which binds someone’s legs together and keeps them from being able to move. They’ve been practicing on each other, but have been itching to try it on something bigger. Rygarg’s bigger.”
“That he is,” Kyria agreed, trying to visualize the cylops with his legs bound together and unable to move. She wouldn’t have to visualize it for long.
“Run!” she heard Bonde scream. The two wraiths ran from the room. Danus flew out of the door after them, laughing hysterically and pointing back inside the room. Before Kyria and Brenna rounded the corner, she saw Rygarg crawling out of the room, looking as if he would kill the first thing that crossed his path, and moving like an inchworm, his legs frozen together.
“They’re in for it now,” sighed Brenna. She began smiling as she watched Kyria.
“What is it?” asked Kyria.
“At least they got you to smile,” Brenna said. “So, Jaunin?”
“It’s that obvious?” groaned Kyria.
“I’ve known for awhile,” Brenna said. “Even before he and Katara got together, I saw the way you seemed to find everything he said funny, and how you were in la-la-land at times.”
“What do you mean by that?” asked Kyria, not sure if she should be offended or not.
“I’m just saying that every now and then, when he was around, you were a million miles away, lost in your own dream world,” explained Brenna. “Not that he, or any boy for that matter, would pick up on any of that.”
“Well, it’s my own fault for not saying something,” Kyria sighed.
“Just remember, there are many leaves on a tree,” Brenna said. “If things don’t work out with Jaunin, then maybe you’ll meet someone else.”
“Leaves on a tree, eh?” snickered Kyria.
“What’s so funny?”
“I’m from a fishing village,” shrugged Kyria. “I always heard it as ‘fish in the sea’.”
“They’re one in the same,” said Brenna. “But, knowing that, and accepting it are two entirely different things.”
“What do you mean?”
“Those are just words. Will knowing it make your heart long for him less? No. If it did, then I would have stopped dreaming about Greer two years ago!”
“Greer?” Kyria asked, thinking of the sarnal on their team. “Really?”
“Really,” Brenna said. “I see his muscles while we’re working out, and I just get all wobbly in my knees. But other than the ‘girl I have to get through in practice,’ he doesn’t know that I exist.”
“Maybe we should do something about that,” suggested Kyria.
“Maybe,” Brenna said, dreaming of the Forward. “But let’s get back to you.”
“I’m fine, really,” Kyria said. “I had my chance and I blew it. I was too caught up with the bad-boy.”
“Bad-boys, eh?” Brenna said. “There is often an allure there.”
“Not any more,” Kyria said, adamantly.
Brenna held her gaze and nodded. “I think you may be right.”
Kyria spun around and saw Mica soaring toward her. Since Kyria was in an Advanced Studies class, it was one of the few sessions that Kyria and Mica did not share together. Instead, Mica was in an Independent Study session, focusing on Creatures of Yore. She had originally decided upon the topic to try and discover what exactly Pookie was, but almost a year into the course, she still had not found a single hint as to their little monkey-like chameleon friend.
“Hey Brenna,” Mica added when she reached them.
“Mica,” Brenna said.
“Did you see Rygarg? That was priceless!”
“Compliments of my brothers,” Brenna said.
“That’s fabulous!” Mica beamed. “They have to teach me that one!”
“If you ask, I’m sure they would be overjoyed,” snickered Brenna. “But if you two will excuse me, I have a project that I need to finish up.”
“No problem, thanks Brenna,” said Kyria.
“Remember, I’m a corryby call away if you need me,” Brenna said.
After Brenna walked away, Mica raised her arms inquisitively. “What was that all about?”
“Nothing much,” Kyria said. “Just some relationship talk.”
“Jaunin and Katara?” Mica asked.
“Yeah,” Kyria admitted.
“I am,” Kyria said. “We should get home though. Science and Alchemy tonight, and I still haven’t finished my reading.”
“It’s Ferdish,” Mica said. “You can just skim it.”
“I know,” shrugged Kyria. “I just want to do it all though.”
Mica looked stunned, but then shrugged. “I knew that eventually Sartir would be a bad influence on you.”
“You mean a good influence,” Kyria teased.
“Good, bad—it’s all a matter of perspective,” snickered Mica.
“Well, this perspective is going to finish preparing before dinner,” said Kyria.
“Okay, I’ll see you there, then.” Mica gave a mock salute and then began flying down the corridor.
Kyria watched her fly off, and for the briefest moment, was tempted to go after her. It had been a long time since she took an afternoon off and just had fun. Then again, at the Academy, students only were supposed to have fun one week a year. That was only about a month away. Kyria guessed that she could wait. For now, there was a Potions, Volume 3 book with her name on it, just waiting for her to come and read the next two chapters before class. With that thought, she was off, her focus back on her schoolwork.
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