Water ran in a steady stream out of the stone dragon’s mouth. The aged wood creaked as the aged wizard sat in the chair. Grey-blue eyes, enveloped by crow’s feet scanned the area. A golden wall rose around him to a height of twelve feet. The solid gold bricks, placed by the ancients when the three magic towers of the continent had been constructed. The tower itself was behind him as he looked out over the gardens, rising high into the sky; even Jarrod, in his ninetieth year of life had never seen the top of the tower.
A wisp of white hair blew across his face as the breeze picked up beyond its usual soft monotony. Jarrod’s eyes opened, he had not realised that they were closed.
Something was happening.
The wind continued to increase. The water spouting from the dragon’s mouth bent in its crystalline arc to the pool below, slowly the stream shrank to a trickle, and then stopped. Jarrod’s eyes widened as the stone took form into silver. The eyes of the creature opened and looked directly at him. Jarrod shrunk back in fear. He knew what this was, and that the Great Dragon would not harm him, but to see it come to life; a creation which had stood firm in stone for hundreds of years rejoining the existence of a living being; though in truth, Jarrod knew that even the stone was living in its existence. It had all been created by the Powers, and within all o fit was the power which held the life and sustenance of creation.
The dragon stared at him for a moment; a moment which lasted an eternity. The creature’s gaze then shifted, staring off into the distance, beyond the walls surrounding the Carthasian Magic Tower. Jarrod turned and unwillingly followed the gaze. The dragon’s silence told him one thing: he would witness something that few people in the world’s modern times had ever received; a visitation of a deity.
Winds blew, Jarrod stood transfixed as the clouds above parted, a white stream of light descended to the ground before him. Jarrod fell to his knees, forced down by the pure energy that emanated from the light. His eyes remained fixed on the light, a light bright enough to burn through a man’s eyes and blind him permanently, yet Jarrod felt no pain, his vision remaining flawless through his ninety-year-old eyes.
A shape took form in the light, Jarrod sensed the dragon behind him move to stand beside him, and then step forth, its head bowed, eyes to the ground. Jarrod felt amazed at the strength of the Power, causing even the Great Dragon, Thorak, to drop its gaze.
Slowly the shape in the light took form; the form of a human woman. The beam of light began to dissipate as the woman drew the heavenly power into her body. She stepped forth, her white hair, bright like freshly fallen snow, glimmered along its entire length to the small of her back; Jarrod was unable to look inter her white eyes, they radiated a strength that forced him to look away from her immaculate face. She was the personification of beauty, pure, clean, flawless.
Leris, the Power of Light, walked slowly towards him. Jarrod fell to the ground, lying prostrate under her radiance. She continued until she stood over him, pausing, she looked into his eyes, lifting him to his feet with no more than her gaze. Leris, the mother of Carthasia, stood before him. As she opened her mouth to speak, he took a step back under the power of her voice.
“Mine children art dying, Jarrod, and it is that mine heart breaketh.”
Jarrod knew, as did most in Carthasia, about the rebel forces that had been gathering. Despite Lord Piers’ best efforts, the hiding place of the rebel army had remained invisible to his forces. It was widely known who was behind the rebels: Garrant Makor – a fallen palace official. It was believed that a final attack would come soon, and as Jarrod heard Leris’ words, he realised who would be victorious in that encounter.
“Mine children shalt be overcome, and still it be that one wouldst survive. Azrial, mine youngest and most beloved, must live. He must survive and one day forth, avenge the blood of his father.”
“My Lady, I am old. How might someone such as me stand against a force of rebels and mercenaries?”
“Within thine hands doth thy hold the Power; and also within thy mind, and in thy heart, to hide thyself; and Azrial, mine child, from the vision of thine enemies. This must thee do, for, shouldst though fail, mine land of Carthasia shalt fall into darkness, and shalt she remain there. Within his hand doth Garrant hold the Blade of Midis, and evenso it may be that Midis and mineself holdeth no quarrel, it is that Midis dost wish the weapon be returned unto her child. Traia dost continue to suffer in the aftermath of the Great Wars. The treasure of Hiram permitteth him not to attack; and his pride – a trait which cometh from his mother – refuses he request assistance. Mine child, Azrial, therefore must survive the violent destruction of his family, and the vile betrayal of his own flesh and blood. This shalt be the only way in which may Carthasia restore herself unto that greatness which she held years afore the Great Wars.”
“My Lady, how might I hide Azrial for so long? He is but six years of age, and will be incapable of undertaking these actions for over a decade. I am unable to train him in weapons.”
Leris laughed, a soft, musical laugh that in spite of the situation, filled Jarrod’s heart with joy.
“Behold, oh Jarrod. Of all the schools of weapons within Aratia, which in supreme?”
“Lycea School of Battle.” Jarrod answered quickly, “but…”
Leris lifted a hand, silencing his speech, and giving him a comical appearance when his lips continued to move. “And wherefore didst the Lady Reena, mother of Azrial be borne in?” She lowered her hand, and Jarrod could speak audibly again.
“Lycea.” He said, realisation flooding his features.
Leris smiled at him, her face radiant. “Thou must contact Boorulf; brother of Reena, and uncle of Azrial. Thou must assist him in transporting Azrial unto Lycea at the specified time. Thenceforth, shalt Azrial remain within the care of Boorulf, and thou shalt remain free of thine feared accusation, for thou shalt not become involved in political disputes.” It was illegal for the High Mage of a nation to involve themselves in any aspect of politics; a law laid down by Mahkon Himself in the days before the Powers left Aratia to dwell once again in the heavens.
Jarrod bowed his head, both in thanks; and in humility and shame at the judgement he had made over a Power, to think that She was incapable of planning the survival of Her own children.
Reading his thoughts, Leris lifted his head by no more than a glance. “Shame not thyself, Jarrod, for thou art mortal, and the ways of the Powers are unknown to thee. The day shalt come, when thou shalt become one within the heavenly spirits. On that day wilt thou begin to understand the ways of the Powers. Presently, thou must bear thy trust within my. The time draws nigh when thine enemy shalt enter into the city of Agalia. At that time wilt they infiltrate the palace and defeat Piers. Thenceforth shalt a party of thine enemy pursue Tarsian. Travel with haste, oh Jarrod.”
Leris took a step backwards and a wind began to blow. Jarrod fell backwards as Leris’ power leaked from the humanoid body she had taken. As he fell, the claws of the Great Dragon, Thorak, caught him as gently as Jarrod would catch an egg. Beams of light shot through the gardens, and Jarrod watched the light refracting off the silver scales. A tear fell from the dragon’s eye, falling on Jarrod’s forehead. It was the final thing he saw before lapsing into unconsciousness.
When Jarrod awoke, the familiar sound of water running from the fountain had returned. Turning, he saw the shape of the dragon, lit up by the moon of Ighna, the Power of Lightning. He wondered if he had dreamt the entire scene, then he saw the reflection of light from a tear in the statue’s eye.
Jarrod looked at the dragon for a moment, before turning his gaze to the Magic Tower. He gazed slowly upwards, his eyes sliding along the structure’s height until it disappeared into the clouds. He realised that his magic knowledge was not even the tip of the iceberg, and he wondered if anyone would ever see the Tower’s top.
As he walked away, to begin his journey, a new thought hit him. The moment his mind spoke the thought, he knew that he was correct.
The Carthasian Magic Tower had no top.