There was magic in the books of The Sacred Lahana Sa’Ellai Library. There was magic in the walls and shelves, but most of all, there was magic in the fire that rose and twisted in red and gold from the centre of the room. The base of the fire was surrounded by slate wedges pointing up. Each was engraved with a strange symbol. The fire never crossed the boundary marked by the slate. It never once thought to send a burning tendril out toward the shelves. The books were in no danger. The fire simply burned endlessly without any apparent need for fuel.
The flames reached up above the height of the first upper level. The second upper level gave a beautiful view down to the fire. It was up here that Ennaya Atimari had been reading for hours. Open books littered the floor around her, absentmindedly dropped when another title or cover caught her eye. She had always loved to read but no place had she ever been resonated as strongly with that passion as this place did. A momentary distraction came when she heard a noise from the opposite side. She glanced up just in time to see a hooded figure disappear between the shelves. It was just a librarian or flame-tender – hardly worth looking away from her book for, but just before she returned her focus to the battered pages, something caught her eye. High in the rafters above, thick smoke hung in the air, and in it she saw words. She shook her head and rubbed her eyes, but the words were still there when she looked again. Within the smoke, there were streaks of faint light which read, “Ennaya Atimari, You are powerful.”
“What does that mean?!” whispered Ennaya, and the light shifted in response.
“You are the one who shall reignite the other fires.”
“What other…” she began, but she was cut off by the sound of an explosion below. She stood up to run to the barrier and look down, but an arm restrained her. She spun her head round, and her eyes met those of a flame-tender, who gestured to stay quiet.
“I’m not an enemy,” he whispered to her ear.
A muffled cry came from below, followed by a woman’s voice demanding, “Where is she?”
The rest of the conversation was inaudible, but Ennaya made the connection.
“Is this about the words in the smoke?” she asked the flame-tender.
“So it is true. You are Ennaya Atimari?”
“I am Lukani. I will get you out of here.”
“What does she want with me?”
“I shall explain when we are somewhere safe. Come this way.”
Lakani set off in a silent jog, pulling Ennaya along by the arm. He led her between two shelves, and they made it halfway before a deafening crack sounded and the shelf to their right began to fall towards them. Ennaya dived to the ground, and covered her head with her arms. The impact of the first row of shelves was not enough to topple the second, but a shower of splintered wood and books crashed around her. She anxiously moved her arms aside and looked round. A woman dressed in ornate black and purple robes floated in the air. While Ennaya had been looking away, the fire had grown, and was tall enough to provide a golden background in contrast to the dark robes of the woman. Her presence demanded such attention that Ennaya had not noticed Lukani staggering forward until he had positioned himself directly between the woman and Ennaya.
“Prophetess Ansakari, You are not welcome here!” he said, in a pained but bold voice.
“Brother Lukani, your treachery comes as little surprise. The few who remain on your side cannot stand in my way.”
“Yet I do.”
Ansakari gave a wicked smile and thrust an arm to the side. As she did so Lukani was flung across the room like a ragdoll. Her eyes then locked onto Ennaya, and she gently floated down to land on the floor. Ennaya stood to run, but stumbled on broken wood and fell. She turned to Ansakari and could not look away. She could not move. All she could do was stare fearfully at the approaching figure. Ansakari’s hand rose in a claw shape, and sparks began to fly between her fingertips, growing in intensity. The crackling of lightning became loud, even over the sound of the fire. Ansakari’s hand swung forward to strike, and Ennaya screamed.
The pain of the shock never came. She opened her eyes. There was nothing around her but light. She wondered if she was dead, but then her eyes began to adjust to the glow, and she recognised it as the colour of the flame. Inaudible cries of anger came from outside. Ansakari must not have anticipated this. Ennaya certainly had not. She tried her best to make out what Ansakari was saying, but she could not. The voice seemed to get quieter and quieter. Then the light seemed to get dimmer and dimmer. Then it was gone entirely, and Ennaya saw she was no longer in the library. She looked around, but it did not help. She had no idea where she might be. For comfort she reached to touch her necklace. Beside it, on another chain, she found a tiny vial hanging from her neck. She had no memory of owning such a thing, or putting one on, so she took it off and examined it. Inside, a little piece of flame danced, no bigger than that of a dying candlelight. Despite its size, the flame did not seem weak. As she looked at it, it seemed to grow in power. Smoke found its way out past the stopper, and arranged itself into faint letters in the air.
“Our journey begins.”