“So that’s what you were referring to in the courtyard earlier today,” Eathe said.
“Yes,” she nodded. “I had planned on telling you because you should know. But now we’re pressed for time, and as much as I would prefer the other two not hearing this, I think it’s better this way.”
“Well, I can’t say I’m not curious. How much is there to tell?”
“I’ll give you the short version. The first part is common knowledge: the Spear Gate has been around for all of recorded history. Even the most ancient texts in Tal’Doraken note it’s existence and the Constructors that guard it. The Hands believe that Aenias created both, for they are both of the same indestructible material. Terrace was built around that obelisk, but not as a city. At least, not at first. Terrace was originally a prison.
“The Spear Gate is not just an obelisk, as you now know. It’s a portal. You see the Gate is at the spot on the planet that is closest to Eranos. The sister-planet lies directly above it, and on the opposite side is another Spear Gate, and when the Gates open, the two connect. One can simply walk right through. One foot on Asamos. The next on Eranos. And vice-versa.
“In an age far gone, long before Tebrein claimed independence from the rest of the continent, records have stated that the Gates were always open. Thousands of alien beings from the sister-planet flooded through. Your ancestors, Xan. The Athaxi.”
The masked figure stomped its feet, head cocked to one side. They made no noise of protest at this, though.
Varra continued. “The Constructors halted their advance, but the flood was constant, and what’s more, the Athaxi seemed to have powers of some kind. Then, one day, everything stopped. The Spear Gates closed and the Constructors went silent. A fractured number of Athaxi remained here, stranded. Hundreds of years passed, and slowly the Constructors began to reawaken, even if the object that they guarded never did. And so, people flocked to Terrace. It’s location and circumstances were easy to defend after we found the secret to controlling the Constructors. Which brings us to today. Knowledge of what the Gate is has been kept hidden.
She paused, and her brow furrowed under the orange torchlight. “But things have been changing. Twenty years ago, when my mother was the Hand of Defense, the Spear Gate opened. A single person stepped through from Eranos, but he was no Athaxi. He called himself Rozire.”
Maelys’ jaw dropped at this. Rozire was from another planet?
“His purposes were unknown, and he was apprehended. But we found out that he had powers of his own, and one day he vanished without a trace. He didn’t go back to Eranos. The Gate did not open again.”
“You’re saying he’s still around?” Eathe asked. Maelys perked up at that. If Rozire was here, he could get everyone out of this situation. Everything would be fine.
But Varra shook her head. “I doubt it. The boy told me that he entered the Meadows with Rozire. He hasn’t been seen since, and—”
“He must be here, then,” Eathe interrupted. “How far could he have gotten?”
“Eathe, nobody has seen him, and we don’t really know what he can do. Magic isn’t of this world.”
“Well,” the former guard captain said. “What do you know of his magic, boy?”
Maelys reddened. “I’m hardly any younger than either of you. And I don’t know. He’s never used any magic around me.”
Varra made a confused sound. “Don’t lie to me, you used magic just after I found you. Rozire’s magic, in fact.”
“What are you talking about?” Maelys and Eathe said in unison.
“Your master’s staff? It has a runestone in it. The Athaxi used runes to manipulate the world around them. You used Rozire’s staff to summon flame.”
Maelys held his hands up. “That doesn’t sound familiar. He’s used his staff as a torch sometimes, but he’s always used flint.”
Varra grunted. “Boy, you don’t have anything to gain from lying to us, we’re in the same position as you!”
“I’m not lying!” Maelys yelled. “And stop calling me ‘boy’! This all sounds insane and I have nothing to contribute.”
He took a breath and looked away from the others.
“Rozire found me and took me away from a bad place. An island off the coast of Tebrein, near the Sanguine Archipelago, but independent. We spent several months together. He told me he was a cartographer and showed me how to make maps. He never said why we were going to Upper Terrace, and when we got here, we were attacked by a Constructor, and he vanished.”
In that instant, he felt a spark in his head. He had told Maelys. They were looking for his mother, a woman whom he had never known. Why in Upper Terrace, and what did Maelys have to do with any of this?
Voices came from down the hall. Everyone glanced at each other, and a tense moment passed. Eathe shrugged at Varra in a rare request for orders.
She leaned in close to him. “We’re done for now,” she whispered. “Come back sometime tomorrow. For now, hide in one of the further cells. They won’t check for any additional prisoners. And don’t make any sound. They’ve only heard me and Maelys talk.”
Eathe nodded and tugged at Xan’s robes as they pulled away. With a silent wave of dismissal, the two of them ventured further into the dungeon to avoid the approaching patrol.