I open my eyes and find myself surrounded by sand. I groan inwardly, not this again.
The landscape is unchanged. A bright sky with no light source hangs above me, a dry wind blowing around me, and in every direction and that damn voice that keeps saying my name.
“I hear you! What do you want?! Jeez!” I shout at the empty landscape. The wind doesn’t reply. Maybe it was foolish to think it was actually a conscious being that could respond in the first place. I take a few steps in the direction I am facing, wondering just how far this landscape goes on for. For a dream, it’s pretty vivid.
“Yes! That’s right! Andrei’s my name, don’t wear it out! What the heck do you want?!” I shout back. If only it would say something other than my name! God!
Don’t yell Andrei…
Now it speaks… I rub my temple in frustration. I’ve gone and angered the dream wind. Whatever shall I do?
“I’m sorry,” I whisper. “What do you want? Why do you keep calling me? Who are you?” Maybe I’m rushing in with too many questions, but seriously, I keep having this dream and nothing ever happens. Why am I here?
The breeze shifts around me, changing direction as it becomes stronger. It pushes against me, stronger and stronger until I can barely maintain my footing and stumble forwards with the wind.
Andrei… you have the mirror of the wind… That is why I take this form. You must find the others… find the artifacts or water, earth, and fire. Do not delay… Andrei…
Well, that clears it up. “Why? Why must I find these things? Who are you?” I ask, throwing my hands out. The wind snaps them forwards and I cringe with the slight pain it brings to my shoulders. Stupid wind.
You ask many questions. There’s no time for questions… No… Time…
I roll my eyes. “If you haven’t noticed, I am the mage of Time. I can slow it down, speed it up, jump backward, and potentially forwards. There’s plenty of time,” I reply with a snarl.
No Time! The wind shouts back.
I back off, hands up in defense against… well, nothing. It’s only wind.
“Why can’t you tell me who you are?”
I am… hmm… I … am…
I forget. I just… am.
Oh great. A voice that forgets. “Look, let’s not waste each other’s time. I’m just going to wake up now, and forget this ever happened. Cool with you?” I suggest, looking around at the empty desert. Sand blows around my feet as I turn.
No! You can’t. You must… learn. Find the things. Find them… enter the dream…
“I’m already in the dream!”
No! You are dreaming. Only dreaming… Enter the dream… Find them… Andrei… Hurry!
The wind blows stronger and stronger and the sand piles up around me. I can’t move my feet and I start to panic. I try to crawl up out of the sand as the wind continues to blow it into me but I am slow and sluggish, it is a dream after all. The sand crawls up over my arms and covers my mouth. I struggle to breathe as all goes dark.
I gasp for air, coughing as my eyes snap open. It feels like I have sand in my throat, but it was just a dream… wasn’t it? My heart races as the memories of the dream pound in my head. Find the things, the voice echoes in my head.
What things? The wind said I had the mirror of the wind. It mentioned the other elements, but what was it referring to? It was way too early for a mystery like this, only 2:17 in the morning. I lean back onto my pillow, trying to get comfy again, but my hopes are dashed.
I freeze as I notice Kaitlyn sitting up in the bed, unmoving. Her eyes seem glazed over, unfocused on anything in the room. She doesn’t seem to have noticed I’ve awoken either. I lean forward, waving a hand in front of her eyes. How long has she been like this?
“Kaitlyn?” I whisper. “Are you awake?” No answer. “Not this again,” I moan. I sit up, forgetting sleep and watch her as she zones on the bed. It’s a little creepy how still she can sit there, like a statue. The minutes tick by as I wait for any sign of movement.
My eyes begin to get heavy again and I feel sleep pressing in on me. My head dips and my breathing slows.
“Ow!!” She gasps, startling me out of my doze, again.
“What? What happened? Kaitlyn? Are you awake?” I ask, getting my bearings again. I see Rhoan, in his mouse-form, sitting in her lap and Kaitlyn’s rubbing her finger. When did he get there? Did he just bite her?
“What was that for?” She whines, putting the tip of her finger to her mouth.
Rhoan grooms himself shamelessly. “You’re welcome.”
“Kat, what happened? You were zoning again. Was it a dream?” I ask her.
She sighs. “Yeah. I think he’s calling me to the crypt again…”
“The crypts? Who? What?” Then it dawns on me, she’s talking about the founder. “How do you know that? What did you see?” Memories of my own dream are fading fast. Maybe hers made more sense.
“I hear him, whispering my name. Like the first time, with the book. I was in the crypt, but nothing happened yet,” she mumbles, still a little out of it. I am too.
I crease my brows in confusion. “So you saw the book and the crypt? That was it? I don’t get it. It’s more confusing than mine,” I groan. “Let’s just go back to bed. It’s too early for this.” I move to lay back again, pulling at the covers.
I feel her move beside me and I watch as she crawls out of the bed and puts on her pj’s. “Common, this can wait till the morning. Kat, let’s just get s’more sleep,” I beg.
“I just need to check. I’ll be back before you know it,” she smiles reassuringly.
I groan, ‘cause I know I should go with her. That place sometimes freaks her out. I roll out of bed, searching the floor for my pants and finding my shirt on the back of a chair. “Wait for me,” I grumble as I pull the shirt over my head. “There’s nothing quick about getting to the crypt Kat, you know that.”
She frowns. “Yeah, but… you’re tired… I’ll be okay,” she says, half-hearted.
“Don’t lie. I’ll go with you. Besides, then I can try and explain my own dream while we walk,” I say, joining her at the door. We slip into the dark hallway, the moon barely casts enough light through the windows to see by. I forgot my shoes in the room, cringing as the cold stone freezes my toes. Why is December so cold here? Aren’t we near the equator?
Kat raises her hand and little balls of fire, like dancing fireflies, whirl around us, lighting up the hallway. I’m stunned by the delicate glow they put off. “Wow,” I say, “they’re beautiful.” I stare at them in wonder, not watching where I’m walking as I trip over something that rolls away into the dark. I look around to see what it was, but it’s gone. Strange. “What was that?” I ask, not really looking for an answer, but more embarrassed at my stumble.
Kat giggles. “I dunno, but thanks. I created this spell myself, because of the nightmares.”
“Wow, that’s fantastic, I mean… not the nightmares, but the magic.” Lame Andrei, lame. “That reminds me, can I tell you about my dream?”
I launch into a sketchy retelling of my dream. Bringing up the winds earnest plea to find some item related to each of the main elements and the choking sand. I leave out the details of how dumb it was, not remembering who it was and repeating my name endlessly. “So, what do you think it means? Why in the world do you think I need these things?” I ask.
She hums, staring forward. “You got the mirror while you were researching Time magic, right? Maybe there’s a connection. Maybe it’s telling you that you were on the right track?”
“What in the world do the four elements have to do with time? I mean, according to Ceph’s handwriting, the mirror was of interest, but it didn’t say anything about the mirror? I got it randomly as a gift from the then Guardian of Wind.” I don’t really see the connection, but it wouldn’t hurt to look into it further. I have been putting my studies off since we started hunting down ‘him’.
Kat shrugs. “I don’t know, but I’m only one of those four elements. Maybe finding the connection is the point.”
“I guess. I’ll look into it later. Thanks.” We walk in silence for a while. The closer we get to the library and the crypts, the eerier the place seems to be, at least, to me. It almost seems too quiet.
Before long, we arrive at the library. It’s dark and ominous, until the torches spring to life, lighting the aisles and casting long shadows across our path as we head for the crypt entrance at the back.
“Want me to check first? See if the ways clear? I can use my speed to get back quickly in case I see anything out of the ordinary,” I offer.
Her expression turns serious. “No. I’ll go too.”
I shrug and enter the crypt first. The place is dark and quiet. No surprise there. We descend the stairs and pass through the anteroom. I freeze, throwing my arm out to stop Kaitlyn when I see a figure in white standing before the crypt, back towards us. I hold my breath. Who would be down here… other than us, at this time of night? I shift my eyes to give Kaitlyn a glance, hoping she gets the hint to get ready to shoot fire in case it’s a threat.
“Do you hear him too?” The figure shifts, turning its head slightly. I nearly jump out of my skin. The voice is… female? “He calls for you,” it continues, “his last surviving progeny.”
Kat flinches. “… Selene? Is that you?”
“Guilty,” the figure chuckles as it turns fully to face us. I recognize her now, pale hair, even paler skin. The accent should have been a dead giveaway.
“Oh My God! Selene?! Don’t do that to us! I nearly died!” I shout at her. “What are you doing down here anyway? We didn’t show you this place. How do you know about it?”
Selene waves casually at the sarcophagus. “He called to me, and showed me the way.”
“That’s ridiculous,” I sniff. I’m way too tired for this mystery sleuthing. I should have stayed in bed as Kaitlyn suggested.
“Ridiculous? How so?” Selene tilts her head, curious grey eyes glint in the light of the little flames.
“A man, sleeping or dead, can’t call to you. How can someone lead the way from the rooms upstairs if they aren’t even conscious?” I ask skeptically.
The blonde stares back at me with a frown. “You can travel through time, something most people consider impossible, yet speaking to a spirit is beyond your comprehension?”
“At two in the morning? Yes.” I wave my hand in a circular motion, encouraging her to continue. “Just tell me how. I don’t really care for surprises at this hour,” I grumble.
“How?” She purses her lips, thinking. “He spoke to me in a dream, showed me this place. Here, I hear his voice like a whisper from the shadows.”
A dream? Everyone seems to have dreams of people talking to them… I guess it’s not too different from mine with the speaking wind. “So he’s still alive in there? Why would anyone willingly lock themselves in a crypt? What does he have to say?” I ask.
“It was not his choice,” she replies firmly. “This is a curse inflicted on him by his once beloved brother. He asks that we gather the five core elements and the four artifacts. This is the way to lift his condition.”
“Artifacts?” I wonder aloud. My dream also mentioned four artifacts. Curious. “Wait, did you say five elements? I thought there were only four core elements? Fire, water, earth, and wind?” I tick off on my fingers one by one.
Selene pauses, as though listening. “Yes, that is a common belief. The fifth has been forgotten for ages. He calls it Spirit.”
“Spirit? Wouldn’t that be like… I don’t know, life? Or Light? What are the attributes of Spirit?” I turn to Kaitlyn, perhaps she knows. She’s studied here way longer than I have. Maybe she knows if there are any texts on the element of Spirit.
Kat shrugs. “I’ve never heard of it.”
“Well, that’s convenient. And how are we supposed to find someone with an element no one’s ever heard of before?” I ask.
“You don’t have to,” Selene smiles, “you already have.”
I raise a confused eyebrow. “Who?” I look between Kat and Selene, Kat’s blank expression doesn’t help, and Selene just smiles. “You?” I say incredulously.
“I understand… That’s why I don’t recognize your aura,” Kat muses, nodding.
“So, the things Cliff said, like dying and coming back alive, healing and now talking to sleeping or dead things, these are all things the Spirit element can do?” I guess it makes sense. Spirit is an idea that was heavily revered in various cultures, like the indigenous nations and African tribes. It shouldn’t surprise me, but still, it does. Keeping track of all the different elements there are, I feel like I need to make a chart.
“So what is the founder saying? Can we ask him the burning questions we’ve had?” I press, hoping to make this night useful.
Selene shakes her head. “He is very weak. It took a lot of effort to call us here. Restore him, and he will answer your questions.”
“But how will we know what the artifacts are? I stumbled across the mirror of the wind by pure luck.” I add.
Again, she shakes her head from side to side. “Not ‘chance’. You are already on the right path. Find the two missing elements and the artifacts. I will take care of the rest.”
I sigh, knowing this means I have to hit the books again. But maybe the elements are more of a priority. With the Master at large and the Guardians returning, it should be the first thing we do.
“Well, if there’s nothing else, I think we’ve answered your dreams and have enough adventuring for the night. Can we go back to bed?” I offer. Sleep sounds pleasant.
Kat grimaces guiltily. “Sure. Sorry, I guess it was more than a few minutes.”
“Nah, it’s fine. I’m glad we’ve sorted this all out. Now we can sleep peacefully. I need brain power for all this problem-solving.” We head out of the crypt and back through the library, towards our rooms. The darkness seems less creepy with a third person. Hopefully, the dreams have finished for the night.
I find myself back in the library with Kaede, just like the good old days. Caroline’s off training and Kat and Ryan are sharing fire secrets together. I think Cliff is showing Selene around the Guild some more. If I wasn’t mistaken, I’d say he’s taken by her. It’s a little early to tell, he sort of did the same thing with us when we first arrived. So, I’m probably wrong.
A pile of dusty books stares at me from the table where Kaede’s laptop sits. I envy the fact that Kaede doesn’t have anything vital to research. Being the tech guy means you wait around till someone needs something. Lucky him. He’d probably say otherwise though.
“So, what’chya reading about today?” He asks me over the rim of a steaming cup of coffee.
“How did you get that in here?” I ask. I thought food and beverage wasn’t allowed in the library.
“I snuck it in. This early in the day I need a kick start to stay awake,” he says.
“But… how? There are wards on the entrance for things like that,” I point out. Cliff had mentioned some wards when Kaede kept suggesting having a bar be installed for casual library events.
“That, my friend, is a secret. If I tell you, I think that ward will hear me and stop me from bringing in what I like. I can’t have these pleasures taken away from me,” he smiles.
“Whatever. Just… bring me one next time,” I say.
I see him grin, hand reaching into his backpack as I tilt my head to the book in front of me. He pulls out a thermos and passes it to me, followed by a mug. “If you need cream or sugar, it’s in here.” He says, passing me a second, smaller thermos.
“Smart!” I smile, taking the goods. Before long, we’re both siping our coffee mugs, enjoying the library peacefulness. I crack open the voluminous text in front of me, Sands of Time, written by a Jefferies Seditous. The thing is filled with sand and I tip it forward, watching the reddish grains tumble onto the carpet.
“Woah,” Kaede starts with surprise. “Don’t go making a mess. I haven’t found a vacuum yet to keep the place crumb free.
“Sorry,” I say. I look at the index, looking for keywords. I scan the page and see a few handwritten underlines. I smile to myself, wondering if they are Ceph’s again. I flip to page 173 looking for mention of the Sierra desert. The passage basically goes on to explain how ancient hour glasses used pure sand from the Sierra dessert because they were mostly the same size, which many accounted for accurate readings of time. I seriously doubt the logic behind the math, but whatever.
I continue to read as the hours tick by. I find messy scribbles in the margins with referenced notes to other texts, all about hour glasses and sand. I continue to read, ignoring the grumbling that my empty stomach starts to produce as I find a particularly interesting section circled heavily in pencil. It’s a poem, sort of.
Time adheres to no man-made constrictions here.
Time, like the desert itself, abides by the sun. There is no need for a watch.
We rise with the sun to bask in the cool morning breeze as light creeps over the mountain.
High noon is the only place holder.
Three quarters to the sun directly overhead – the heat begins to pound.
A siren of mortality alerts the flesh to seek shade.
Then we rest.
Intriguing. Could this be referring to fire? The sun is a ball of burning flames. It was used to mark time using sundials. I continue, stopping only when the harsh scribbles block an entire line in the text and attempt to squeeze in a detailed note in he margin.
The plant known as Dictamnus albus is the source of one form of living flames.
Commonly found in Southern Europe, Italy. Even in your time.
I stare at the note. A plant that can naturally catch fire? I smirk. Looks like I’ve found the next artifact, interesting that it should be alive, but how else would you contain fire as an element. I tell Kaede and he texts Cliff about a door to Italy. Maybe this researching thing isn’t so bad.
By Kayla West