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The Guardian
4. Up and down

She stood at the Eagle Tower, the highest place on the Pink Isle, built at the time when Melrines, now forgotten, dwelt here. She was quite young again; her scale was bright and she didn't wear the sign of the High Priest. She remembered well the lessons of the priests; bound to their deity, they combined theology and many other sciences.

She closed her eyes and clutched the warm parapet stone. Sun was behind her; warmth filled her, energy concentrating inside her sought exit, agitating and sharpening her senses. Like all other cleric novices, she couldn't control her power completely; sometimes the inner power came out with quite unusual effects.

And now she imagined herself flying over the planet, where only a small part was land. She thought about it with some new, weird vision; the great continent of Swalans, Great North Land, the circle of the rocky and unwelcome Dragon Islands a hundred miles to the east of the continent. She visited white and lifeless Blasted Isle, where all the life was either burnt out or buried under the mass of sand; she had a brief look at Serpent Archipelago, a group of islands forming a figure resembling a coiled snake. And Ice Lands, lifeless, polar islands under ice shields a mile deep. She laughed and her laugh stirred the dreaming winds that took her and carried her farther, farther, farther... And here she felt too tired to continue her dreamlike flight.

She cried in terror, for she was falling into the green ocean, occupying all the void around. She managed to shake off her vision and found herself standing at the top of the Tower, desperately clutching the stone wall... Her head was buzzing with the colors and emotions of her flight.

"Take care of your thoughts," she was told by the teacher, High Priest of Naata, gray-scaled Haans more than four centuries old. "The origin of your power is life; you gather your energy from the life around you. But this is the power with no mind. You can stir it; but you will find it hard to stop. So never hurry the forces you are trying to master. Many clerics fall prey to their inability to control the energy they released."

He paused. Rhissa was listening closely; she was taught to ask no questions unless told to; this restriction was wise, for thoughts unharnessed were greater obstacles than any lack of training. In the matter of magic deeds any loss of concentration could cost a very, very dear price.

"Try to concentrate on your task, Rhissa. Mind: you will never be allowed to use any other spell until you polish your skill in the simplest one. You understand that ?"

"Yes, teacher," Rhissa answered, though impatience sounded in her voice.

Rmair, her teacher, smiled a bit. His smile didn't hurt her. In fact, she managed to see whether the teacher was smiling only after several years of studying with Rmair ans Kanlanss, who personally offered to teach her The Art. She was a good Haans, patient... mostly patient, in any case, and clever.

"I feel you are disturbed by the limits I place," he added.

"Well, Rhissa, teach yourself to control your emotions. You cannot allow emotions to control you. This will awaken the Dark Art; the force without spirit, the destruction. I will not allow you to follow the Dark Art, my child, but you will be always lured by it. Our lessons are finished this time. Come here as soon as you have fulfilled the task."

When he addressed anyone as "my child", Rmair spoke only of serious things. Rhissa rose in silence, bowed and left the room.

Rmair was a bit troubled. Something strange was about her... he thought he saw some dark future for her when his precognition talents awakened. But at times... at times he thought he saw no clear future for her. The visions were dark and forbidding... yet no gloom was about her; Naata didn't warn him. Well, even gods can miss the Dark Side coming to life. I will tell her, he thought as she ran down to the sandy beach. He saw her throwing stones at the angry waves and smiled again. She's mostly a child now; when The Art will be her spirit, she will become wise and powerful.

He felt his own fatigue, many years old, unceasing. It was the burden that all High Priests carried through life. The balance between Life and Chaos was thin and vulnerable. She will play a very important role... if only he knew which one.

She came back two years later.

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-- mecenat --

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