- 3rd day of Hanotë -
Part 1 - Permission Granted
Arkadi sat down in disbelieve.
They’d met in Astronomy room where the night sky could always be seen, projected in the arched dark ceiling, as long as the oil lamps of the various projectors around the room were lit.
On any other day the room would have been full of Apprentices, since the influences of the various stars and planets on the flows of Magic was frequently discussed. However, due to the strange Force that had awaken in the world, a Council had been called, and all classes had been suspended till further notice. At the moment the majority of the Magi inside the Tower spent every waking hour trying to learn more about this new Power and, if possible, locate its origin.
When recess had been called, Arkadi had immediately left the company of his elders, wishing for a few moments of peace and quiet. The fact that Ilea had found him in such an improbable place hadn’t surprised him. The news she bared, on the other hand, were an entire different matter.
“I can’t believe it … He agreed?” he asked, wanting to confirm it, and she sighed.
“I suppose he didn’t exactly know how to deny it …” she answered. The truth was that, since she’d agreed with Amâmbar’s condition, a new dark shadow had taken residence in her heart.
Unable to perceive it, a smile brightened Arkadi’s face as all the implications of what she’d just told him became clear.
“I can hardly believe it! I’m leaving this place! And I won’t have to put up with those ingrate bastards anymore!”
“Please be more serious about this. This isn’t some kind of break from work trip we're talking about, you know?” she scolded him, already worrying, even though they had yet to step one foot outside the Tower, and he smiled again.
“You’re too serious!” he reproached her lightly but Ilea’s look of disapproval made him sigh. “Alright, fine … I’m not a child. I know this is a serious matter. How could I not? I feel it in my blood.”
Ilea took a deep breath. Yes, of course he knew. But she could also see the gleam of excitement in his almond eyes, and the fire of youth burning beneath it. Now that things had finally been decided he no longer tried to hide just how much he had wanted this. And that restless desire made her feel uneasy and question if he was really ready to face what was yet to come.
Arkadi hugged her from behind, pulling her against his chest, and placed a gentle kiss at the base of her neck.
“Please don’t be angry at me for longing for this change,” he asked in a softer voice as if he’d just read her mind, and Ilea sighed, unable to scold him as she knew she should.
“I just don’t want you to get hurt.”
“I’ll be fine. Trust me.”
“That’s all I’ve done since I've met you,” she replied and turned in his arms to face him. “Amâmbar has requested that I leave with you.”
“What about the Tower …? And your People?”
She smiled, thinking how much she loved that honest part of him, always worrying about others before himself, even if his usual behavior might lead people to think otherwise.
“I suppose they’ll all have to wait. This is Amâmbar’s only request. Even though it is my right to refuse him, I had no choice but to comply. This is a moment for union, not for quarrel. As such, if it is his wish that I should go, I’ll go, even though I know this is not my path. You should see him in private before the day is over. We shall leave when morning comes …” Arkadi nodded, his eyes again alight with enthusiasm, and placed a light kiss on her cheek.
“I’ll do that, then. And Ilea … whatever you may say, I’m really happy that you’re coming with me,” he told her with a youthful smile brightening his young face and happily left her all alone in the dim room.
She waited until she was sure he had really left and pulled a small golden hand mirror from one of the silk pouches that always hang from her belt. Facing her own reflection she whispered a single word and the mirror’s surface waved as if it were made of water, suddenly becoming cloudy, the white fog inside it covering her own image.
“Ileaknalan?!” a strong voice asked from the other side of the mirror and she nodded, obediently.
“Yes, father …”
“It is good to hear you! I had thought you had left us for good. Come back home! You are needed here! Your siblings grow farther and farther away from me …”
“I’m sorry father, but I can’t … yet. A mysterious Force has awoken in the world …”
“Yes … A Human Force! Leave the Humans to solve their own problems! Your place is amongst us!”
“I can’t go back now! If I do there won’t be anyone to guide them. Although I understand that this Force is in Human hands I also know that it is too strong … and …”
“I’ve been dreaming again …”
“That path doesn’t belong to you!”
“I know …”
“You also know what happens when one of us decides to walk down another’s path, do you not? You are self-destructing! And all for a handful of beings that don’t have the slightest respect for themselves or for those around them! Ileaknalan … Your place is by my side, at the head of our People!”
“I only wanted to let you know that I’ll be leaving the Tower soon … and that you won’t be able to reach me for a while,” she told the white mist inside the mirror and, for a moment, silence was her only answer.
“This means you will not change your mind …”
A deep sigh filled the room and Ilea lowered her gaze as sadness washed over her.
“Our end grows near … You were … my last hope,” the voice told her and then the fog was gone, and all she could see was a reflection of her own face, where bright tears streamed down her cheeks.
“I’m really … sorry …”