(Wasn’t able to get into a ‘writing zone’ this week, so instead of writing a two thousand word piece I made this awkwardly-lengthed lump. Oh well.)
The Windcallers had left me alone in the chambers to handle the problem as I saw fit. Being banished wouldn’t be so bad, but it would forever haunt me if they had the last laugh. The knight alone had remained, volunteering to be the one to escort be back down should I accept banishment.
I spent most of the next day sleeping in one corner of the room, as far away from torchlight as possible. Cold, hard rock didn’t make for the most comfortable rest, but my body was glad to have some uninterrupted sleep. My back hurt afterwards, but it was a small price to pay.
When I awoke, he sat just outside the candle-lit ring, meditating. He still wore his armor, which had to be incredibly uncomfortable.
“Who are you?” I asked, returning to the center of the room.
He opened his eyes to address me. “Graysteel.”
“What kind of name is that?” I said, doing a poor job at hiding my distaste.
“One that was given to me,” he smirked.
“All names are given to us,” I snapped.
He chuckled. “That is true.”
This was getting nowhere. “Why are you here?”
“To observe and judge.”
“You sound like them,” I all but spat.
He sighed. “I am a knight of the Riftguard, hailing from Aluvalia. I came here to observe the Zephiran ways of magic, and perhaps finding candidates worthy of joining my order.”
“What is the ‘Riftguard’?”
“We are knights trained in flat combat. We know how to fight magic without magic.”
“So you’re here to see if I’m ‘worthy’ of being trained?”
“In a sense,” he replied. “I have to say, I was impressed with your Trial. I was under the impression air magic was a lost art.”
“What do you mean?”
“You altered the air currents to curve the direction of the rock you threw, and made it look like a natural spin. It was masterfully done.”
“I didn’t do anything like that. Nobody can. It’s impossible.” Was this guy for real?
“Suit yourself. I don’t know why you keep it hidden from the Windcallers, but your secret is safe with me.”
It was obvious that his mind was already made up on the matter. Arguing would do no good.”Why are you being so nice to me? You don’t even know me. Are you trying to recruit me to your order or something?”
He shook his head. “I already know it wouldn’t suit you. You seem to think Zephiran ways and traditions are restrictive.”
“You’re going to tell me they aren’t?”
He sighed. “You’re young. You have much to learn about the world around you. Getting banished would perhaps be the best thing for personal growth.”
I rolled my eyes. “Are you sure you’re not one of the Windcallers?”
“Do you antagonize every person you meet?” he countered.
I bit back a retort. Maybe this guy wasn’t as understanding as he initially seemed. “Why were you meditating if you’re not Zephiran?”
“Zephirans didn’t invent meditation. It’s been a practice long before the rebirth of magic. Or Chi, if you want to call it that. Have you figured out how to get to Zephirine’s temple?”
I sighed, leaning against one of the stone columns. “No. I did think of something, but it involved the use of turning Chi to fire, which wouldn’t work without air to burn. I can’t imagine holding my breath would suffice.”
“You’re probably right.”
“I don’t suppose you have any ideas?” I wondered.
“This isn’t my trial, Aspirant.”
Of course it isn’t. Just then, a troubling thought occurred to me. “How long as I asleep?”
Graysteel scratched his chin. “Half a day, I suspect. I’m to take you down the mountain in a few hours if you haven’t already given up by then.”
“Archon’s breath,” I muttered. “Don’t talk to me. I’ve got to think of a plan and gather Chi, and I don’t have time for distractions.”
“Alright,” he smiled. “I’ll wake you up in a few hours when it’s time to leave.”