Kyprosa had finally found a master to teach her magic. Even worse, she'd invited Gene to tag along and learn what he could during her lessons. I worried about them becoming too close; I could still see the strands of fate that would bind him to her, and the pain that he would cause.
I was determined to stop it if I could.
But with nothing to do while they were gone, I spent most of my time either at the Shadowhawk House with Tahyang, or wandering the streets of Delphinad alone. With my powers, there was little risk in traveling by myself.
Well...little risk for me, anyway.
One day, a stranger arrived at the Shadowhawk House with Kyprosa. She introduced him as Aranzeb, an Elf who was studying with her under the Archmage Alexander.
I instantly spotted the strands of fate that bound them together; they were lighter than those between her and Gene, but they still gave me hope. Perhaps this Elf was the key to keeping my sister safe!
I knew that I could force the issue if I wanted. I could use my power and subtly alter Aranzeb's mind to make him love Kyprosa. I could even see from her thoughts that she was interested. But I had already promised her that I wouldn't use my magic unless in dire need...and I had a sneaking suspicion that she'd tell me this didn't count.
I gave him some of my favorite taffy, instead.
Kyprosa and Aranzeb's stories of their magical training fascinated me. They spoke of a secret parallel city within Delphinad, which only mages could access. It was not at the Delphinad Library that the real magic happened, she explained, but in the hidden library of Ayanad.
The idea of magic lessons still bored me; I clearly had no need of them. But knowing there was another world, just moments from my own, I became obsessed with the idea of finding a way in.
Kyprosa told me that I couldn't go to Ayanad yet. The mages' city was dangerous without a guide, she said, and she needed time to earn Archmage Alexander's trust so he would agree to see me. But I was not so easily dissuaded.
The next time the others traveled to Ayanad, I followed them in secret. Long nights of patrolling with Tahyang had given me plenty of time to perfect the art of misleading people's minds, allowing me to slip unnoticed along the edges of their vision.
So I was watching from around the corner while Kyprosa muttered arcane words I couldn't hear, drawing a door of light in the air before her. I saw the sudden flash as she, Gene, and Aranzeb disappeared without a trace.
I approached the area carefully, extending my senses in every direction. But my sister, her friends, and the gate they'd traveled through were gone--as if they'd never existed at all.
I grew frustrated. Angry at being left behind. Furious that they would treat me like such a child. I reached down into the depths of myself, and the ever-present voices rose to meet me.
"Look!" hissed the whispers in my mind. "See the worlds beyond! They are but a step away for you!"
I frowned, concentrating on the space where my sister and the others had disappeared. I focused my power, reaching out for something--anything-- that I couldn't see. And suddenly, there it was.
I laughed in delight at how simple it all seemed, now that I knew the trick of looking. The gate didn't matter. The spells didn't matter. There before me was another world, separated only by a breath and a thought. I stepped through as easily as one might part a beaded curtain, and found myself in Ayanad.
The magic city was like a giant puzzlebox. Some parts were practically mirrors of Delphinad; simple homes or towers with only minor differences. But the more I looked, the stranger it became.
Geometry collapsed, stairways looped back upon themselves, and multiple buildings seemed to occupy the same space all at once. Stepping through a simple arch might lead you to a distant tunnel or to the top of a floating building miles in the air. The power it must have taken to create such a place astonished me.
I had to be careful, though. While the minds in Delphinad were easily fooled, Ayanad was full of powerful mages. It took all of my willpower to keep myself hidden, flitting between the blind spots in the passing wizards' sight.
It was hard not to feel smug at having gained access to Ayanad so easily. I had never felt stronger or more sure of my growing power. I didn't need the training Kyprosa did. I was a force of magic by myself, and I came and went as I pleased.
The voices whispered encouragement as I explored the strange city.
"All doors open for the young queen," they crowed with pride.
"The queen is the key."
"Soon now she will find us, and leave her life behind."
The voices' obsession with my future made me uneasy. I knew they were tied to my power, and my fate. But I also knew that to meet that fate would be to leave Kyprosa behind, and that was something I would never willingly do. I would watch the world burn before I left her. I would rip the voices from my mind and thrust them screaming into the fire.
I shook my head, willing their constant whispers into silence. They slunk back into the dark corners of my mind, waiting. Watching for the next time that I took a step towards my destiny.
I looked around, realizing that I had walked absentmindedly into an ornamental garden. With a start, I noticed Aranzeb not far from me, lost in thought beneath a stand of trees. I crept closer, eavesdropping on his mind.
I quickly saw that the Elf's heart was torn in two. He still honored the memory of a lost love, but yearned to find a way to move on. I could see the strands of fate tangling around him in confusion, quivering as he wrestled with a decision that would alter his future forever.
I understood the feeling.
I turned to go, slipping quietly out of the garden and heading back the way I'd come.
Outside the garden, the voices I'd suppressed suddenly broke free and hissed a desperate warning. I looked around frantically, saw a figure approaching up the street, and quickly ducked into a nearby alley. I wrapped myself in my strongest magic, turning eyes and minds away from my location.
Peeking around the corner, I saw a man with pure white hair walking past. His eyes were the brightest blue, and his robes were spotless. He radiated arcane power on a level I had never seen before. I nearly gasped when I recognized him.
It was Denistrious from Fir Castle!
I reached out tentatively with a tendril of power, attempting to read his reason for being here. But at the slightest, feather-light touch, he stopped and lifted his shaggy head.
All at once, an immense wave of magic washed out in every direction. It crawled along walls and into windows, questing down every avenue in search of nearby intruders. Terrified, I shrunk into myself until it passed.
Kyprosa was right. Ayanad was dangerous.
That night, I joined Aranzeb, Gene, and Kyprosa for dinner. I said nothing of my adventures in Ayanad, afraid to admit how close I had come to being discovered. But I couldn't help but notice a change in the strands of fate that bound the three of them together.
Whatever decision Aranzeb had reached in the garden, it had altered his destiny irrevocably. I saw no future now between the Elf and Kyprosa. But strangely, I saw a new one connecting Aranzeb and Gene: a vibrant line of red, so bright it hurt my eyes to look at. There was violence there, I knew. Suffering on a scale I couldn't imagine. I only hoped my sister would be safely away when it occurred.
I grimaced at my porridge, stirring it resentfully with my spoon. These men might be tools of fate, but I was determined that I would not be. I would refuse the destiny that I felt tugging at my soul. I would not lose Kyprosa to another's grand design.
In the back of my mind, the voices snickered softly.