The inner courtyard of the palace was large. The stage of his execution was near the front, and cobblestone paths made beelines towards the Spear Gate, which loomed in the very center of the area as an ominous guardian to the carefully cultivated foliage around it.
He had no idea how to open it. Wasn’t even conscious when it had opened a few days ago. The only person anyone had ever known to open the gate was Rozire, and even that was hearsay.
His life depended on his use of magic. He didn’t even have any proof it existed, and now his fate would be the result of his trust on people he hadn’t known for a week.
But he couldn’t hesitate now.
He approached the bronze-colored obelisk in a huff. People were after him, but his surprise had gained him some ground.
He inspected the monument, looking for any monuments or handholds, or anything that looked suspect. He doubted there would be a hand imprint that would cause the portal to open once he touched it.
There wasn’t, of course. The surface of the entire object was smooth, and the dark reflection of a terrified young man stared back at him, willing him to hurry up.
Shouts came from behind, commanding him to stop. A quick glance behind him revealed that the half dozen guards running after him already had their weapons drawn.
“There’s no time to meditate,” Maelys muttered to himself. “Mind projection is out. Varra said I ignited Rozire’s staff when she first found me, but I don’t have that now.”
What would Rozire do? Open the Gate, of course, but how?
He closed his eyes and pressed both hands against the obelisk. The cold, smooth metal seemed to push back against him, as if it was a wall testing his resolve.
He thought about the Spear Gate. He envisioned it opening the way Varra and Eathe had described. A blue beam of light shooting into the sky as the obelisk shattered and reformed into the shape of a doorway. When nothing felt different, he pushed harder against the Gate.
The clamor behind him grew louder, and he could feel his heart speeding up along with it.
“By the Maker’s five hands, I command you to open!” The stone remained silent. “I’m going to die making a fool of myself,” he muttered.
Maelys tried for the thousandth time to think of any hidden meaning in any of Rozire’s lessons. He tried to think of an often repeated phrase, or a suspicious hand gesture his master might have employed.
Nothing came to mind.
Helpless, he lowered his arms and turned back to face the approaching guards. They raised their weapons with intent to use them.
He looked up at the sister-planet in desperation. The dark spot loomed in the sky, gazing down at him in disapproval. As if he had failed the test.
The first guard finished closing the gap, sword raised to slash down through his shoulder.
What would be the point of raising his arms in defense? He couldn’t fight six armed soldiers unarmed. He doubted he could even win a fight against one soldier, even if Maelys was the one that was armed.
In that moment, two thoughts popped into his head, slowing time as if they would not allow Maelys to die until he had considered them long enough.
The first thought was Rozire. What had happened to him? He wasn’t one to turn back when things got difficult. If anything, he pressed on with more determination. Varra was fairly certain none of the constructors had killed anyone the night she found him dying of Red Teeth, but since Upper Terrace was literally on a platform raised high above the Meadows around it, nobody could have entered without being spotted.
The second thought was what Rozire had said to him on the last night Maelys had seen him. His master was looking for his mother, and commented that he had been searching for her ever since she left Upper Terrace. Maelys had never known his mother, and in that moment he had first brought it up, Rozire had instilled a dream in him that he had never known he had.
He wanted to see his mother. To at least know who she was and why she had left.
The sword came down, and the world went white around him.