Sacred Fires – Part 3

“Who are you? How long have you been there?!” demanded Ennaya.

Her heart was pounding, but the man appeared to be unarmed and she thought he had a kind face. The man raised open palms, which Ennaya recognised as a gesture to indicate no threat was intended.

“I offer my apologies for my sudden appearance, traveller. My name is Deywan. I have not been stalking you, worry not. I merely like to walk in these woods and gather mushrooms. We get so few visitors around these parts that my curiosity got the better of me and I came to get a closer look.”

Ennaya eyed the man cautiously, but relaxed her guard, and introduced herself.

“Ennaya. I’m not sure you’d believe me if I told the story of my travels, but I’m looking for someone called Farrda.”

“Ah, are you a Flametender?”

“Not as such…” replied Ennaya, grasping the vial around her neck – partly for comfort and partly to hide the flame.

“Well I don’t know what that means, but I shall not invade the privacy of the sect’s affairs. Brother Farrda is well-respected in our village, Tanai, and I would be glad to introduce you to each other.”

Ennaya gave thanks and smiled at Deywan.

They spoke only a little on the walk to the village, as Ennaya had decided to keep the stupid questions like “Where in the world am I?” for Farrda. Their small conversation intrigued Deywan, who seemed very jealous that she had been to the Sa’Ellai Library, but he sensed her reluctance to share much information and did not push for details.

The village of Tanai was surrounded by a wooden fence, which Ennaya though was so low that it must be for decoration, not security. Inside the fence, it was not significantly different to villages on Lahana. Everything was made from wood with the exception of two stone buildings in the centre – a church and some kind of public hall. The familiarity offered Ennaya a little comfort, though her apprehensiveness about meeting Farrda was growing second by second as Deywan led her towards the church.

“Go ahead,” reassured Deywan. “Farrda is inside – probably studying some boring old scrolls and wishing for a distraction like this!”

“Thank you, Deywan,” said Ennaya.

She entered the church and nervously called out, “hello?”

She inched further inside. It was very similar to churches on Lahana. The architecture was fairly simplistic, a theme broken only by two carved sculptures on either side of a stone altar at the front. The familiarity calmed her racing heart for a moment, and then the rattle of a door to a side-room made it skip a beat. The next sound was that of a kindly voice.

“Hello? Do you seek my counsel, friend?”

As the man saw Ennaya, he added, “Oh, you are from out of town, yes? I love to meet a traveller.”

His presence somehow made Ennaya feel at ease, as if the man radiated calm.

“Are you Brother Farrda?”

“Yes, I am. What is your name?”

Ennaya had no second thoughts about talking to him – it just felt right to tell him everything. So she did. She spoke for several minutes while Farrda watched and listened closely. When she was done, Farrda sat silent for several seconds then laughed and said, “Well, although I didn’t expect you to appear in Tanai, I’m very pleased to find you safe and strong, Ennaya. Don’t worry, Brother Lukani is not dead, you weren’t divinely chosen at the random whim of a god. The Deep Circle passed your name to the Flamesingers.”

“Slow down!” interrupted Ennaya. “I have so many questions and you’re just adding to the list with this talk of some deep circle and flamesingers as if I wasn’t already confused enough! Why do these people know me?”

“Sorry, I shall take it back a step. What do you know of the Sa’Ellai Sect?”

“Well I know of the library… and that it has – had? – the fire of wisdom…”

“Has. It still burns. Wisdom is just one of many human names for it. Sa’Ellai is its true name. The library is named after that, Sa’Ellai is not some word from a forgotten old language as many think.”

“What is it then, if not just a magical fire?”

“It is one of the Sacred Fires, the Drayr-Sa – they are a physical manifestation of magic – not just the simple regular magic of wizards and sorcerers. I mean the most fundamental and ancient wild-magic of the world. Did Pallelan not tell you any of this?”

“You know my father?”

“I do not know him personally, but he is known to the sect. He is of the Deep Circle. We are not just a religion. We are the protectors of the Drayr-Sa. The Sa’Ellai Sect is just one branch of a worldwide organisation. While many of us bear the robes and symbols of the sect, the Deep Circle remains secret. They are a council of the most trusted and knowledgeable flametenders, and must keep that identity hidden. Though I do find it a little uncomfortable that he kept it hidden from you despite convincing the Deep Circle to pass your name to the flamesingers… I was under the impression that they had consent to do so, but I suppose not…”

“So I’m the chosen one of my father, not of the gods? That doesn’t reassure me very much! Sa’Ellai told me to reignite the other fires! How many are there? Where are they? Why me? How does one even reignite a magic fire? Why do they need reigniting if there’s a whole worldwide group protecting them? What…”

“Ennaya,” said Farrda firmly, but not angrily. More gently, he continued, “There are five Drayr-Sa dotted around the world. There is a division in our sect, those loyal to the protection, and those who follow Ansakari’s vision of dominance and control rather than protection. Similar groups exist at the others. Some have been successful. Three have already been extinguished and the fourth may fall soon, but the essence that let them burn still remains – they are far from dead. As they are all connected, a spark from one can reignite another. You were chosen because we knew you would be trustworthy and strong enough. The flamesingers sang your name into Sa’Ellai, and now that it has given you a piece of itself the essence of Drayr-Sa is intertwined with your soul. The library may have fallen to Ansakari, but as long as you carry a piece of Sa’Ellai, it cannot be fully corrupted while your soul remains pure. Each fire, once reignited, will grant you a piece of its flame. They trust you, Ennaya. Once you carry all of them, we will have a secret temple ready in which to keep them secure and incorruptible.”

Ennaya took deep breaths as she processed the information. Hearing Farrda’s answers had lifted some of the burden of confusion. This burden being lifted offered little relief in the face of the huge weight of the quest that lay ahead, but she was determined to not be afraid.

“So where must I go first?” she said with well-feigned confidence.

“If you know of it, you may not like the answer, but I can tell you it not as bad as it sounds. Both the journey and the destination should be safe – the Deep Circle is as yet unsure if the same can be said of the flame temple. Ennaya, you must head to Kazzanhof.”

 

 

<click here for a story that introduces the city of Kazzanhof. It is not linked with Ennaya’s story, but could provide some useful context if read before she goes there!>

 

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Sacred Fires – Part 1

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?”

“Yes, but…”

“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.”

 

PART 2