Ennaya had no clue where she was. She was alone and afraid, and did not understand anything that had just happened to her. It was obvious there was magic involved in the fire and the library, but she had never, in all the stories about it, read anything about it teleporting young women to strange lands to save them from evil witches. Nor had she heard of anyone being a “chosen one” in historically reputable texts, yet here she was, seemingly chosen by a giant fire to save some other fires. The absurdity of it almost overwhelmed her, but being overwhelmed was counterproductive to her situation so she pushed back those thoughts. The grand picture of this journey that had apparently begun could wait. The here-and-now mattered more. She stood up, clutched her necklace and the newly appeared vial while she whispered a couple of lines of an old prayer. Then, fairly calm and collected, she brushed the dust from her knees and began to look around.
She picked a leaf from a tree and examined it closely. It was like none she could recognise from home on the island of Lahana. The teleportation must have taken her far, but where? The leaf was familiar though – she knew she had flicked through a book on the trees of the world just yesterday and seen mention of it. She closed her eyes and cursed herself for not being able to remember its name or location. With an angry grunt she tossed it to the ground. None of the trees in the sparsely wooded area helped much, though she did rule out being further East than the Aadolhi Mountains, and not far enough North to hit the tropical regions.
The first thing she had done upon reaching nineteen years of age was to travel from her hometown Bo’Hai on the south shore of Lahana to the library eighty miles to the North. Just two days later, this had happened – before she even had the chance to take in more than a shred of its world of knowledge. If only she had had a little longer, she might have read about the other sacred fires, and might have found something about this one without a dozen layers of myth and religion blurring the history. All she knew for certain was that many people went to great lengths to protect it and that it was known to some as the Fire of Wisdom. Other fires mentioned were Blood, Death, Light, Spirit, Passion, and Creation. Whether that list was comprehensive or accurate was unclear.
“I have no damned clue where to go,” she groaned aloud.
Once more, smoke made words.
“I am too far from my core and too weak…
I must conserve strength…
Go South. Seek Brother Farrda.”
Ennaya wanted to beg for more information, but the flame had grown visibly smaller from the effort of the message. She dared not ask in case it put itself out trying to reply. She put on a determined face and looked up. Shielding her eyes from the sun, she looked around and raised a pointing finger. After turning one way then another, then back the first way, she stopped. She nodded to herself and set off in that direction. A thin wisp of smoke rose before her eyes, creating an arrow pointing to her left.
“Oh. Yes. I knew that. I was about to turn that way. Right. South. Let’s go.”
She marched with the same confidence and determination with which she had marched to the library doors for the first time. She focused herself with the thought that she had always been an adventurer at heart – although, of course, the real thing was a lot scarier than childhood games where a safe bed and family were waiting for you when you got too tired. While the prospect of a divinely assigned task lying ahead was intimidating, the immediate task of walking south to find someone to help was much more manageable. In fact, it was pleasant weather in a serenely beautiful environment, and not at all like the fiery dragon mountains that filled the story books about similarly epic quests.
Twenty minutes had passed, simply walking in peace, when the grassland met a wooded area. This too was pretty and calm. She followed a narrow path which wound its way through the trees while birds sang unfamiliar hymns. With more plants and birds to look at, she tried again to remember the books she had flicked through. The kingdom of Tursa was her best guess as to where she was, but she could not be confident. The woodland turned out to be small, and in just another ten minutes she was on the other side, facing out over more grassland. In the distance ahead, a group of brown huts could be seen. This must be where I’ll find Farrda, she thought, and the thought shook her confidence. The peaceful feeling of exploring a new land was replaced in an instant with worries about what she may yet have to do and when, if ever, she would get home.
“No. Not ‘if ever’. Just when,” she said aloud to herself. “No pessimism.”
“Do you always talk to yourself?” asked a voice from behind.