The Air Runes - Chapter 4

The Last Descendant: The Air Runes

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Chapter 4: A Riddle Revealed

Cail had many dreams while he slept that night. He drifted between different worlds, all of them being mysterious in their own way. Out of all the dreams, he only remembered one. In this dream, he was in a world surrounded by darkness, a world that Cail could not see beyond his own body. All he could see was an empty, black void. His eyes were unremittingly searching the environment around him.

After turning around time and time again, he found a robust tree with a strong, healthy trunk, thick branches, and emerald leaves. The tree fascinated Cail. He could see that it was a healthy tree and full of life. After gazing at the tree for several moments, Cail saw a cloud approaching him from the distance, a cloud as plump as a pillow. It drifted closer and closer to the tree until the cloud was absorbed into the leaves. After consuming the cloud, the tree grew even larger and sturdier. Somehow the cloud had filled a vacant gap inside the tree.

Shortly after, Cail saw a long strand of light emerge from the darkness, looking like a glowing snake. At first, it frightened Cail, but then he could see that the light was tender and kind. It slithered toward the tree, graciously flowing through the air. Then it wrapped around the trunk of the tree, creating a halo of light. Cail marveled at the light, seeing its power and beauty.

Then a glob of water, not much larger than Cail’s head, emerged from the darkness. In the same manner as the strand of light, the water floated over to the tree and wrapped itself around the outside of the trunk. The water and the light then started to slowly merge together, forming a fluid ring of luminescence.

Cail could feel the essence of the tree’s life. He could feel it breathe, he could feel its fulfillment. A sudden and gentle warmth filled Cail’s body and happiness flooded into his heart. He developed a passionate and peaceful love for the tree, as though he had planted the tree and grown it himself.

Then the warmth escaped from Cail’s body and oozed from his skin and into the air surrounding him. The warm air transformed into a shroud of fierce heat, creating a sauna. Then the invisible oven started to creep toward the tree, filling Cail with terror. He tried to run toward the tree, but his feet remained chained to the ground, as though he wore shackles. The heat eclipsed the tree, trapping it inside of a scorching prison. Cail could feel the pain and anguish of the tree. The pain took his breath away and left him gasping for air. The tree shriveled and the leaves started to collapse onto the ground. The tree was dying.

A wisp of smoke rose from the trunk of the tree. The small wisp gradually grew larger until there was a mammoth wall of black smoke climbing through the branches and rising into the air. In the same spot that the smoke had first appeared, a tiny flame kindled. At first, the flame was silent and insignificant, but then it abruptly exploded into a hurricane of fire that swallowed the tree.

Cail could do nothing except for watch this horror unfold right before his unbelieving eyes. The inferno caused an intense blast of heat to radiate from the tree, sending Cail backward. Cail felt sympathy toward the tree, as it was helplessly being burned alive. The fire from the tree began to diminish until it was nothing but the tiny flame that it was from the inception. The tree still remained, but it was charred and singed. There were no more leaves and many of the branches were either broken or burned away completely. Cail looked at the flame that had caused all of the mayhem and destruction. The flame began to snarl at Cail, and the snarl turned into a loud roar. Then, without warning, the flame exploded like a bomb, engulfing Cail in the fire. He could feel the fire ripping and piercing his body apart, causing him to scream in agony.

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Cail shot upright in his bed. He was breathing heavily and sweat was rolling down his face and onto his bed covers. After coming to his senses, he was relieved that the nightmare was finally over. He wasn’t entirely certain that it was a nightmare, it felt much more real than that. It felt like a vision.

After eating some breakfast, Cail decided to dive into the book that he had acquired the day before. He was able to gradually progress through it, but the vision he had from the night before still haunted his mind. Frustrated, he slammed the heavy book shut, creating a loud bang on his desk. Then he made his way down to the front door, but his father managed to intercept Cail just as he was about to leave.

“Where are you off to in such a hurry?” Cecil asked while he was sitting at the dining room table. He was fiddling with some sort of contraption that looked like a gardening fork.

“I didn’t sleep very well last night, so I’m just going out for some fresh air,” Cail responded.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Cecil said sincerely. “I wanted to make sure that I told you Kadir is having a hearing with the Elders today, but I’m sure you’re already aware of that.”

Cail’s stomach shot up through his throat. Does he know that I was in the library yesterday? Cail thought to himself. “What do you mean by that?” Cail asked.

“Kadir is one of your best friends, isn’t he? Surely he would’ve told you about the incident that he got himself into yesterday.”

“Ah, yes,” Cail said, putting on a mask of innocence. “He did. I’m not sure what he was thinking. That was rather foolish of him if you ask me.”

“That it was. Well, don’t be gone for too long today, the garden needs tended to and I can’t do it by myself.”

“Okay. I’ll be back in a little bit,” Cail said as he finally escaped the house. While walking to the coast to see Emey, he wondered what his father knew. Cail was certain that he remained quiet and out of eyesight while he was hiding in the library, however, his father seemed like he knew something that Cail didn’t.

Once Cail had reached the coast, he found Emey sitting in the grass, resting and gazing out to the horizon. Cail sat down next to her and began to stroke her feathers. “What do you see out there, girl?” Cail asked with a smile on his face. Emey didn’t seem to notice his arrival or that he was massaging her feathers.

Emey blinked and then stood upright, spread her wings out wide, and glided into the village. Cail decided to run after her, she didn’t usually fly away from him. He weaved through the streets of Elona, switching between looking at the path in front of him and scanning the sky to see which direction Emey was flying in. After quite a while, Emey began to descend, her body growing larger as she flew closer to the ground. Then she finally landed on top of a small hut with a thin stream of white smoke drifting from the chimney.

Next to the hut was a petite garden with some berries, a few ears of corn, and some colorful vegetables. On the edge of the garden was an old woman sitting in a rocking chair, gazing into the sky. Cail recognized this woman; she was Lydia! She can help me interpret my dream! Cail thought to himself. He looked to Emey, who stood proud upon the wooden fence that surrounded Lydia’s garden, and said, “How did you know that I needed to come here? I never told you about my dream.”

Emey briefly glanced at Cail, then she spread her wings, displaying the beauty of her feathers, and let out a vociferous screech, which nabbed the attention of Lydia. Lydia got out of her chair and as she gradually walked toward Cail, she said, “Now there’s something you don’t see every day,” she snickered, proud of her joke. “The Lord of Elona and his majestic beast at my front door.”

“I apologize for the intrusion,” Cail said, embarrassed by Emey’s flamboyancy. “I was actually following Emey through the town.”

“And now she won’t leave, at least not until you have what you need. Your feathered friend is much wiser than she appears,” Lydia said as she began to stroke Emey’s resting wings. “I can always feel an aura that has seen a vision into the future. Please, come into my home and tell me about it.” Cail was baffled that she was able to deduce as much as she did. He decided to follow Lydia into her hut.

Cail shut the door right behind him, which was not much taller than his head, and the first room he walked into was Lydia’s living room. It was composed of a hard, wooden floor, which creaked at certain spots, two small chairs with thin, fern fabric, and a small table in between the chairs with a couple of thick books on it. Lydia walked over to the kitchen, where she tended to a kettle of soup that she was cooking over a fire, creating the smoke that rose from the chimney. “I cooked some vegetable soup for lunch if you would like some?”

“No, thank you,” Cail politely refused. “I’m still rather full from my breakfast.”

“Suit yourself,” Lydia said. Then she brought the boiling soup to a simmer and walked into the living room, sitting in the chair opposite of Cail. “Now, you have a story to tell me, do you not?”

Cail proceeded to tell the story of the nightmarish vision that he had had the night before, making certain to include as much detail as he could. Lydia remained intensely focused for the entire time he told his story to her. She didn’t interrupt, ask a single question, or even change her facial expression. She just sat there, listening. After Cail had finished, they both sat in silence for a moment, partially due to the fact that Cail had run out of breath.

Growing weary of the quietude, Cail asked, “Do you know what it means?”

“Yes. However, there is much about Elona’s past that I must teach you in order to truly understand what your dream means, so I expect you to give me the same amount of silence that I just gave to you.” Cail agreed and then Lydia proceeded, “There is a common misapprehension in this village that Kalil was the first and only Kordonian to use magic, be it for good or evil. People believe it simply because that’s what Alden tells everyone. That’s one of the problems with entrusting all the knowledge with one family. Instead of documenting the truth, they just create it.

“The real truth is that centuries before Kalil’s life, there was an entire race of men and women, or rather a tribe, who could wield magic. They called themselves the Xorith Tribe. The Xorith split the entire world into four domains. One domain ruled all the bodies of water, one ruled the land of fire, one domain thrived in the light and one domain ruled the skies. What used to be the domain in the skies is now known today as the nation of Kordon.”

“Where are the other domains?” Cail interrupted, Lydia showed a hint of agitation by Cail’s inability to remain quiet.

“Everyone has their own theory,” she replied. “But I don’t know of anyone who has the true answer. Some even go so far as to say that the other domains are no more, but I’m skeptical of that claim. Bearing that little bit of history in mind, I believe that this vision is suggesting that you are meant to find all the domains.”

Cail nearly jumped out of his chair in excitement, “I was right! There are other islands outside of Elona!”

“Without question, but where they are or how to find them, I do not know. It would not be wise to simply venture out into the ocean of clouds without a heading, though. There’s no telling how far away the nearest island is.” Lydia paused for a moment, allowing Cail to take in all that he had heard. If there really was a world outside of Elona, he knew he must find it, but how?

“Now there is the matter of what your vision actually means. In our culture, the tree has always symbolized life and vitality. A healthy tree with a hefty trunk and brawny branches often symbolizes a blooming life, a life that is full of opportunity. In a parallel manner, a withering and rotting tree represents a life that is dying, assuming it isn’t dead already. Therefore, the tree you saw in your vision means that the path ahead of you is full of good fortune.

“In the ancient times, the clouds were always the emblem of Kordon. The tree taking in the cloud would suggest that the tree is reliant on the cloud and the tree cannot thrive without it. Therefore, in some way or another, you will greatly depend on the power of the domain of the skies. This power will flow through you and make you stronger. It won’t be enough to simply rely on the power of Kordon, though.

“The water and the light each represent their respective domains as well. You won’t be able to utilize the power of those domains as you will Kordon, though. The rings around the tree symbolize their foundation and support for you. You will rely on the domains of water and light, and they will answer your call.” Cail was confused by most of what he was hearing. Domains and kingdoms, places he had never even heard of, would come to his aid?

“Now, in your vision, you said that the warmth that ignited the tree originated from inside your own body?” Lydia asked. Cail nodded in confirmation.

Lydia sat back in her chair, mulling over what Cail had told her. “It appears to be some sort of warning,” she said after several silent moments of meditation. “Due to the fire coming from within you, I think you will be one with the fire domain just as you will be one with the domain of the skies. However, there is a danger with fire that can destroy your life, if you lose control of it. Once you find the domain of fire, I would exercise extreme caution, your life may very well depend on it.”

Cail was frightened by the possibility of losing control of his own life. He couldn’t stand the thought of hurting others due to his recklessness. “I won’t do it,” Cail said, determined to control his own destiny.

“You won’t do what?” Lydia asked.

“I won’t go to the fire domain. Not if it means that I’m going to hurt myself or others.”

“Cail, this vision isn’t a certainty. It’s a warning, a foreshadowing. It’s a glimpse into what is possible, not what is imminent. You cannot stay here simply because you are afraid of what could happen to you outside of Elona.” Cail knew that Lydia was right. His entire life was spent dreaming of something bigger than Elona, something beyond the coast. “Given the events of today, there is one more thing that I would like to tell you,” Lydia said.

“What is it?” Cail couldn’t begin to imagine what else she could have to say. Lydia had already told him so much, some hidden truths of the world, the meanings of his vision, the path that he needed to take.

“Your reading. The one that I kept hidden from you at the carnival. It’s more of a riddle than a reading, but if you focus and meditate on it, I believe it will help you on your quest.”

“Why did you wait until now to tell me?” Cail inquired. He remembered how infuriated he was that he had been excluded during his first visit with Lydia.

“Do you wish to receive your reading or don’t you?” Lydia snapped at Cail, annoyed with his constant questioning. Cail remained silent, feeling embarrassed. Then Lydia said “Here is your riddle:

'The night's sun, the forest shrine.
Below the rocks since the dawn of time.
A place of hand, thick or thin.
Accept your fate, taken by wind.'"

At the conclusion of the riddle, they both sat silently in their chairs, trying to weave through their own minds, searching for the answer. Cail had never embarked into the forest before. The villagers were afraid of it. The forest was vast and mysterious. It was at least ten times the size of Elona and covered the entire west side of the island, with Elona being to the east. Inside of the forest was a maze, a labyrinth of trees.

On several occasions, there were Elonians, young and old, who would run into the forest and never be seen again. Many of the villagers claimed that the forest was cursed and also claimed that anyone who dared to enter would be forever doomed. Cail was skeptical of such far-fetched claims, however, he did think that it was wise to steer far from the forest.

“Do you know what any of it means?” Cail asked. He was completely stumped by the riddle that Lydia had posed to him.

“I’ve ruminated on this puzzle for the last couple of days, but the only clue I can gather from it is that you must find some item of importance in the forest. What or where it is, I do not know.”

Cail shuddered at the thought of going into that dreaded land. He had only entered it once in his life. The trees were dark, unlike the trees of Elona. They towered over Cail, stalking and following him. He never did see any animals while he roamed through the edge of the forest, although he was not visiting for very long. Cail was so spooked by the environment that he refused to go there alone ever again.

Cail stood up from his chair and said, “Lydia, you’ve been beyond helpful to me. I don’t know how I can ever repay you.”

Lydia smiled at the compliment. “It’s my pleasure to help the Lord of Elona,” she said. “No matter where this future vision takes you, remember that the only certainty is the present.”

This is only a small portion of Cail's adventure! If you would like to read about the entire tale, click on the image below to purchase the book!

The Last Descendant: The Air Runes

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