Quest of No Return: Chapter One
It's entirely too early, she decided. She rolled over to open the shutters over her bed and spied the musical menace meandering in the yard, with the yellow dog and white duck.
Flopping back down, and out of Aria's view, with a groan, Taura hoped for a few more moments rest. But, she forgot to close the shutter.
"It’s a beautiful day!" Aria announced from the windowsill. "Breakfast is on the hearth.” She skipped away and played a few more notes, lighter and faster than before. “Time to move!” she taunted. “That is, unless you want me to go without you….”
The threat of being left behind jolted Taura from her sleepy haze. She jumped to her feet and commenced tossing through a pile of clothes, looking for her riding trousers.
Aria breathed in the delicious morning air, savoring the slightly damp, earthy scent of the new day for a moment before exhaling. Despite the early hour, the yard was already bustling with activity. The crennas were busy making preparations, also anticipating Corvin and Serranna's homecoming.
On her way to the shed, one group of crennas, four squirrels to be exact, caught Aria'a attention. It appeared they were supposed to be gathering berries at the edge of the orchard, but, one was clearly eating more than he was putting away. The other three, taking notice, stopped to scold him, chittering loudly and flicking their tails.
Aria watched a moment, chuckling to herself, before deciding to intervene. She asked, Would you four do me a favor?
They dropped what berries remained and rushed eagerly across the yard, sliding to a stop and sitting up at her feet. Yes, Aria! Yes! How can we help? they responded in unison.
I meant to gather some flowers from the garden yesterday, to decorate outside the cabin and in the common room. Will you do that for me while we’re gone?
Yes! Yes, Aria! We can’t wait to celebrate! they replied.
Thank you, my dear little ones. Smiling, she bent down to give each of them an affectionate stroke. Once you’ve gathered them, would you weave them into garlands, please? And hang them?
Yes! they replied in chorus.
I know just the ones!
There’s a new pattern I’ve wanted to try….
Squirrels are all too easily diverted from the task at hand, and these four went off to their new chore without giving their previous argument another thought. Though, there was bound to be another soon enough.
Aria could feel the horses' energy before she entered the stable. Romburr and Illitz were especially eager for Corvin and Serranna's return. Nearly six months had passed since they’d gone on one of their daily outings with their riders.
As she was cinching the buckle on Romburr's saddle, the air was suddenly forced from Aria's lungs, and a prickling, burning sensation spread throughout her chest. She fell to her knees and forward on her hands, rocking and gritting her teeth, wracked in pain.
Then, as quickly as it came, it subsided. Aria was left with the need to inhale deeply, and the impression something somewhere was not going according to plan. Whose plan it was she didn't know.
Still shaking, Aria was picking herself up off the floor as Taura came in with the last of their supplies. When she saw the look on her sister’s face, she was concerned. "What's the matter with you?"
"I've got one of those feelings again - and no, don't ask me to explain it, because you know I can't," she blurted. "I don't understand why this keeps happening. It's almost as though I'm having premonitions." She didn’t mention the part about not being able to breathe.
"Well, maybe you are," Taura suggested. She mounted Liia, and giggled as she patted the horse's neck affectionately, an indication something humorous transpired between them.
"And what is it you two find so amusing?" Aria changed the subject.
"Liia thinks you're spending too much time talking to the squirrels and lizards. She said their paranoia is rubbing off on you," Taura replied.
Aria swung herself up into Romburr's saddle. "You're just jealous because you can only talk to Liia."
"Hey now, there’s no need to rub in that you're a true crennaran and I'm not."
They exchanged faux scowls before bursting into laughter. Together, they said, "Let's go."
They set out a gallop straight out of the east gate of the fifteen foot log wall that surrounded the Cernaah, and turned slightly north. After a few miles, Aria slowed Romburr down, once she was sure the path ahead was clear, and Taura and Liia caught them and passed them leaving Iliitz in the rear position.
Once they were well in the heart of the forest, they slowed their pace to a trot, and Taura resumed their previous conversation, this time cutting right to the point. "Seriously though, it's obvious the Siyen blood runs thicker in you than in me."
Aria rode in silence for a moment before she spoke. "That's impossible, we're the same. We have the same parents, so we have the same mix."
"I don't know. It isn’t entirely unheard of. There are a few reported cases where children have possessed greater powers than their parents."
Aria rolled her eyes at her sister. It was obvious she wasn’t letting go of the topic. "I don't know how you can spend so much time in those books," she teased, knowing Taura’s weariness stemmed from staying up to read a volume of Siyen prophecies all night. "I would think that after eighteen years of reading, you would have read everything ever written by now. Everything worth reading, at least."
"Not funny. I really mean it, Aria. I've been doing research."
"And, you’ve found there are only a handful of cases reported since they began recording them in the last, what five or six hundred years. And, none of them were ever proven. In fact, there is so much variation among the powers of our kind, I think the blood mix is almost irrelevant in terms of strength. None of us are exactly the same, some learn to develop more powers than others, and some never learn to develop them at all."
"That's all true," Taura conceded. "Stop reading my journals.”
It wasn’t your journals.
“Stop that!” Taura shook her head before circling back to her point. “There are also recorded cases of some who do have some of the same powers as their parents, were taught by their parents, and were clearly stronger."
"So, what you're trying to tell me is I’m abnormal."
"If that was what I was trying to say, I would say it," Taura sighed. "I just mean it might be possible. Mother and Father can't speak to the crennas the way you do, the way I can with Illitz; they only get impressions."
"Well if they are premonitions, I don't like it, because all of them so far have been bad."
Taura spent a moment composing her response. "We all have our own paths to take, Aria; our own trials and triumphs, loves and losses, choices and destinies. It's all a matter of which direction we take when we come to the crossroads."
"Now you sound like Mother."
Taura continued, unheeded by her sister's sarcasm, "Precious few are gifted with the ability to see what trials lie ahead of them, and even fewer use their ability to figure out how to overcome that trial before they face it. Most of us have to make our decisions on the spot, and in our hastiness we often make mistakes." Taura paused for a long, deep sigh, which Aria knew to mean her sister had finally arrived at her point, "Don't make the mistake of ignoring your abilities, Aria, and not using them to your fullest advantage. If you are having premonitions and you see something you don't like, you have the advantage over the rest of us; time to find a way to change the outcome."
At the edge of Iselos Valley, the horses needed no urging to pick up their pace. After a short gallop, they came to the stream running the length of the valley, and stopped to drink.
Aria dismounted and knelt beside the water. As she dipped her hands in, a falcon swooped in and attempted a landing on her shoulder. Startled, she fell sideways, away from the bird and into the water. She jumped back to her feet and saw the falcon was repositioned on Iliitz's saddle, avoiding getting wet altogether. "Thanks Aerodar," she growled. I didn't think I needed to bathe already.
To startle you was not my intention, he said to Aria. Sometimes I forget to warn you I'm coming.
How could you, of all the crennas, forget? she chided the bird.
I will try to remember to warn you next time.
Right. I’ve heard that one before.
"Well? What news does he have?" Taura's impatience with their silence was growing.
Aerodar reported to Aria, and she translated. "He says the seagulls have seen their sails, and, if we choose, we have time to ride to the Point to watch them come in."
"To the Point then," Taura agreed. "I can't wait to see them." They set off, turning slightly north, to Ile Nottar As Lume - The Point of Light - where they would be able to see Corvin and Serrana well before they sailed into the cove.
Though exhausted from the long ride, the sisters slid from their saddles when they reached the beach, pulled off their boots and ran across the sand to the water's edge. Knowing her sister's ever-watchful eyes were sharper than her own, Taura watched as Aria quickly scanned the water. It took but a minute for her to point out the sails.
Taura squinted in the direction her sister pointed, and she could just barely make it out. The boat was still a mere speck of dust on the water, but the wind was behind them and it was moving steadily closer to shore.
It was close enough for Aria to make out the outline of their parents, though they appeared no thicker than a horse's hair. And, just then, Aria was seized again by a sense of impending doom.
Taura could see something was wrong. "What is it?" she asked.
"It's not right," Aria whispered.
"What's not right?"
Aria pointed to the starboard side of the ship. "The water."
Thank you for stopping by and reading! Check back for Chapter Two next week!
Wishing you a wonderful weekend....