The Forbidden Spark - Chapter 7

Jun 16 2020

Coming back to her senses, the first thing Selenia noticed was a hard surface under the side she was laying on, sore flesh aching around the points of contact. The second thing she noticed was that she was in a cold, silent space. That she could feel cold again felt somehow encouraging. As unpleasant as it was, at least she apparently was no longer dying out in the freezing winds.

She opened her eyes to a line of horizontal bars right in her field of vision. Once she oriented herself she realized they were in fact vertical, forming a prison cell. The wooden bench she had been sleeping on was not wide enough for the the full width of her curled up thigh, leaving her knees to hang off the edge. The board was fixed to the rock wall by a pair of taut chains. She hurt everywhere.

She groaned as she righted herself, resting the weight of her wrists against the bench. A source of light caught her eye, a dancing yellow pattern on the wall beyond the bars. She struggled to her feet and walked to investigate. Inspecting the walls more closely, she noticed they were strangely smooth, as if sheared off clean from the surrounding rock rather than assembled from pre-cut blocks of it.

Walking up to the bars, the source of light became visible: a torch resting in a metal sconce. A guard sat at a desk below it, one hand propped against her forehead and the other scribbling on a sheet of paper. Noticing Selenia, she promptly stood up and walked away down the narrow corridor. Selenia shrugged and sat down on the floor by the bars, stretching her legs out. She wondered how long she'd been here, and more importantly where 'here' was, exactly. Had she finally found Ryst? What else could this be?

Her musings were interrupted by a set of footsteps approaching down the corridor, and two people came into view. The guard stopped at her desk while a man approached her cell. He wore dark blue robes, with long lines of white thread drawing intricate glyphs against the cloth. A metal loop decorated the top of his left ear. Finally, thought Selenia.

She quickly rose to meet him, so quickly that in her weakened state she nearly fainted from the light-headedness that ensued. She wrapped a fist around one of the bars, steadying herself.

"Greetings, Scout. I am Magus Willen." He spoke with an even voice. His long black hair hung with a slight curl, parting around his broad shoulders almost down to his elbows. For a brief moment Selenia wondered how he had identified her as a scout, and realized that she no longer wore the thick furs she had traveled with, leaving just her uniform on her shoulders.

The visitor handed her a cup filled with water, which she gulped down so fast she almost choked on it. Never had anything tasted so wonderful. She returned the cup to him but held her tongue, waiting for what he would say next.

"Why don't you start by telling me what you were trying to achieve by freezing outside our walls?" His tone was neither gentle nor harsh.

"I was trying to find Ryst. I was seeking the Magus Guild."

The man raised one of his arms to the side until it was parallel to the ground, highlighting the patterns on his robe hanging in the air. "You had some success there. But you almost paid for it with your life. What made you think you'd be able to get through the perimeter?"

"I'd heard that mages were able to enter it," she responded meekly. "I assumed it would just… happen."

Willen studied her. "Mages can," he said. "But they do need to know how. Having the spark is not sufficient. Why didn't you use fire to keep yourself warm until morning at least? Or expel the cold from your being by channeling it into something else?"

"I… don't know how."

"Then what makes you think you are one of us? If you are unable to draw from the Lattice?"

"Because I've done it once before," said Selenia. Willen waited for her to continue. "I was scouting the great Gap, just a little over two weeks ago, and got jumped by a pair of orcs. I wrestled with them, but they were overpowering me, completely. I'd never been so afraid. I thought for sure I was going to die…" She looked away. "And then it happened. I felt a… surge, at the base of my neck, and it spread all over, in an instant. Then streaks of fire started flowing from my hands, burning one of the orcs to a crisp and startling the other enough to loosen his grip on me."

"I fled out of there," she continued, "sprinting as fast as I could. I was so panicked… On my way back I tripped near a crevice and fell right into it. The fall knocked me out."

The Magus's lips curved into a subtle smile. "So would it be fair to say then that you've had an unpleasant couple of weeks?" he asked.

Selenia's eyes stung, a rush of emotion welling in her. "I… I don't know who I am anymore. I've never been so scared. I feel like the Masters of Information are onto me. Their eyes are everywhere…"

She felt the finality of her recent actions weighing heavily on her conscience. There was no turning back now. The Renisian Army had no doubt already branded her a deserter. Her mind assaulted her with waking nightmares of her mother's face once she heard the news. She could not bear the thought.

Not only was she a deserter, but it was only a matter of time until the Masters of Information would come to the conclusion that she was a mage. Perhaps they already had. Surely they'd uncovered the burnt orc carcass and connected the dots with her burnt sleeves. The cave where she had fought them was not hard to find, and unless the other orc had carried the corpse all the way back to the other side of the gap…

Selenia felt the Magus's hand lightly rest on her own. "Young scout, you're hardly the first to suffer great confusion following the initial discovery that they have the spark," he said.

"I don't really think I can call myself a scout anymore… I deserted. They will be looking for me." Selenia looked down.

"Be that as it may," said the Willen "your skills as a scout may serve you yet. Tell me, what do you know about Ennar?"

"Ennar?" repeated Selenia, confused by the change of topic. She paused, and he nodded. "It's the region south of Saphrin, all the way to the sea. A lot of it is uncharted jungles. I've never been personally, but I've studied it."

Willen nodded and smiled. "Very well, that will help."

"Help with what?" asked Selenia.

"Help make your case for your timely release," he said. "There are urgent matters at hand. And then, we'll see about that spark of yours."