Authors: Terah Edun
Tags: #coming of age, #fantasy, #Young Adult, #teen
iardis Weathervane stood on the frozen ground of the North dressed in a too thin tunic and pants while staring around in confusion. Her vision was blurred out and her hearing was a distance echo of an increasingly louder clamor of voices. Men. But she tuned them out. They weren’t important. Neither was the cold landscape beneath her feet and the icy chill in the air. Minutes passed and she stood still. She didn’t hear the men surrounding her as they demanded to know where she had come from or see the frustration cross their faces when she didn’t answer. Her senses were closing off and her mind had gone remote. It was as if everything else was a blur and nothing was real in that moment but the magic in the air around her.
A rainbow of colors swirled in the air high above her like banners fluttering in the wind. The colors moved in and around each other freely. First a hue of bright blue like a crystal clear lake on a spring day passed over, next to it the green of a new summer’s grass arced in a playful manner, and then the purple of a weaver’s gown swooped up over the both of them. Gorgeous, gorgeous colors in the sky. She couldn’t take her eyes off the brilliant hues that formed over the icy mountain passes—more ethereal and wonderful than anything she’d ever seen.
Minutes passed and she couldn’t ignore her senses anymore as she watched the colors move with a majesty and grace across the arctic sky. Her attention focused on the feeling of nature surrounding her. She heard the whistle of the arctic wind as it wound around the crags of the mountain pass and left her feeling chilled after passing by. She felt the glare of the sunrise above the mountain peaks as its rays shone down on the ice of the mountain passage. Lastly, in front of her she saw the edge of the broad cliff that spread as far her eyes could see to the west and east.
She stood close to that cliff’s edge on packed snow. The ribbon of lights wound its way through the mountain pass and down into the chasm below. Taking tentative steps forward, Ciardis walked. She was aware that two men were by her side. They were muttering darkly as she shuffled forward on cold feet. Complaining, she surmised. Within a few steps she made it to the edge of the cliff and she looked down in incomprehension. A startlingly sheer drop-off met her eyes as she watched the ribbon of hued light flow down the chasm to the bottom.
It wasn’t the chasm that mystified her, or the depth of the fall. It was the seemingly endless horde gathered at its base. They moved and shuffled and walked with a single-minded purpose. Gray figures that bore metal weapons and leather coverings. Even at a distance it was clear that they weren’t human. She didn’t know what they were. But from the way their backs angled sharply upward with a hunch at its peak and then sloped back down to a small head perched on huge shoulders where long stumpy arms swung forth as front legs in a shuffling gait, they were assuredly
It was like a dream. But the feel of ice-cold air and a bright sky uninhibited by a towering forest told her it was very real. She stared around in what felt like delirium. Surrounded on all sides by strange men in an even stranger land. They all shouted their demands.
Who was she?
Where had she come from?
Whom did she serve?
All of the voices had been too much. So she’d turned and run. She didn’t know where she was going. She had never been here before and her feet immediately bruised as they ran across the rough terrain where the soldiers had done their best to clear the snow and packed ice, exposing the rocks beneath. Needless to say, she didn’t get far. But she did manage to escape through the group of men encircling her. It was enough to breach their circle and reach fresh air amid the cacophony of sound.
As she sought to comprehend the hordes below her, a tall man stepped firmly into her line of sight and into her personal space. General Barnaren’s intrusion caused her to shuffle back from the edge with chattering teeth. Seeing that she was still in a daze, the man, at least two decades older than her with gray hair and the scars of a seasoned warrior on his face, shook her forcefully by the shoulders, trying to wake her from her daze. It did nothing. She didn’t want to come out. She didn’t want to hear more. She didn’t want to hear from them that she’d somehow transported herself into the middle of a goddamned war. She just wanted to go sleep in the cold night air and wake up in her bed in Sandrin. Snuggled in her covers. Or even the cot in the Ameles Forest would do.
Anything but this.
“She’s in shock. Call the healer!” snapped the general.
He picked Ciardis up, noting her chilled body and her feet that looked blue with the cold of winter as he swung her into his arms. She was too cold to stay out here.
To his men, he said, “Have the Healer come to my tent.” Wrapping her in a cloak wasn’t going to do much good. Not in these cold temperatures. Hurrying to his tent, he set her down on the pallet and proceeded to lump as many blankets as possible over her shivering form.
“Where’s the damn
?” he said as he pushed the blankets into a cocoon around her. Anxiously he reached over to his tent chest for the pillow on top. It wasn’t fluffy, but it was what he had.
“Behind you,” came the snarl of the healer. “And I very much doubt, that she is the least bit concerned for a pillow.”
He dropped the offending piece of bedding onto the rug with a guilty look and anxiously backed away. He knew Maris. The female was brash, cold, and impersonal, but also the best healer in the Empire and the
healer he had demanded be placed under his command.
aris swept forward to her patient, ignoring the commander of over three thousand men that she had just casually chastised. Leaning over Ciardis, she couldn’t yet see her injuries. The blankets covered her from head to toe. She reached with a furred hand to take the girl’s pulse at the base of her throat. Checking her extremities would be her next priority.
Maris’s ears curled back with unease as she brusquely said, “I’ll check for normal vitals and signs of frostbite. Unless there’s something more damaging that I wasn’t informed of. She wasn’t stabbed or poisoned, was she?”
“No,” came the answer.
She pushed down the blankets covering Ciardis to reveal a shivering girl with golden eyes, curling chestnut hair, bronzed skin, and a complexion that looked like it was turning blue. As she set to work, Maris murmured soothing words. She poured her power into the girl and turned up Ciardis’s internal heat by pushing her own body’s warmth into Ciardis’s internal organs first and then her extremities.
“Have an attendant bring a brazier with hot coals and a teapot. Have them fill the pot with packed snow from the hills before they come,” she said, not taking her eyes or her wandering fingers off her patient.
Maris knew that her patient’s fingers and hands as well as her toes and her feet would be the worst off from hypothermia. The extensiveness of the damage would depend on how long the girl had stood exposed in the snow and where the hell she had come from in the first place. Absentmindedly she went over the symptoms in her head while her ears snapped back and forth in concentration. Extremities would always absorb more of the cold quickly, as they laid the farthest from the pump of blood through the heart. Dark or blackened extremities would indicate a patient far gone into a severe case of hypothermia.
But from a brief examination Ciardis looked fine. None of her fingers or toes had darkened substantially from frostbite and the bluish chill of her skin was being rectified by the heat. But there was something else. A mental darkness that worried Maris. As the girl began to flail and mutter darkly in her sleep, the healer reached into her mind to soothe her. Maris frowned as she muttered, “Delirium should not have set in this quickly. Not with this little damage from the cold.”
She leaned forward, her cat eyes glowing in the confines of the tent as she sought to soothe Ciardis’s mind. Even now the girl was delirious. Maris frowned as she felt for the illness that was causing the girl’s delusions. Cold and ice wouldn’t do this.
She looked for the culprit with her mage sight. Reaching forward with the blue swirl of her magic, she opened her eyes and looked over Ciardis’s body with the practiced assessment of a hunter. Most non-human races, known as
had some ability to use their natural gifts in sync with their magical ones. But none were able to use that union of natural and magical like Maris’s kind were able to. She came from a clan chimeras with highly skilled mage bloodlines, which made her magic intrinsic and natural. Even non-mage chimera were infamous hunters who ran in packs to hunt down their prey. On a hunt skilled mages were necessary, as they could imbue their physical strengths with the natural talent of their magic. This allowed those mage hunters, already fleet of foot with the endurance to run for days and the strength to claw down a white hart elk, to become twice of fast, with the sight of eagles and the individual strength of a dozen of their pride.