Kale awakened to a biter wind that cut the skin. He lay on the cool harsh rock, a blanket of ash draped over his body. As he jerkily lifted his head, a rotten stench slipped into his nose. The smell was odd. It was the smell of the mountains. It was the smell of the mist.
Beneath his wild black hair, he rubbed his eyes awake until he could see a dim ball of light. The light was Ekin, standing tall on the edge of the precipice, gazing out across the mountain peaks hidden by blackness. His ancient sword lay sheathed on his hip, its light masked by the deep blue scabbard. At the end of its long hilt the sapphire pommel fought to glow, it heart pulsing a dark and deep black. Ekin laid his gloved hand over the sapphire, shielding its light and turned back on Kale.
Beneath his sterling silver hood, tainted with ash, his eyes glimmered like diamonds and his face was masked by shadow. He said in drowned out voice, “We cannot linger for too long a time. We must leave this ground and venture onwards. These mountains are wide and high, we cannot simply cross.”
Kale managed a nod, then rolled off the ground, the blanket of ash tumbling off his back and disappeared as it touched the dark rock. The mist beat down on him heavily, as if sucking him up like a great vacuum. Kale resisted the pull, the red glow tinting the sheer faces of the mountains. In the deep darkness of no stars, Ekin led Kale from their outcropping and off into the convoluted maze of paths and peaks.
The mountains rose close, leaning and slumping on each other. The grey-red ash floated languorously down from the dark skies and crimson mists, lying on the shoulders of rock. The smell was horrid and the ferocious gales of wind carried the scent all across the mountain paths. Kale had never seen such ash fall down in Vaelon. Its color was mixed with red and grey and looped down much heavier. It was the ash of the Black Land, outside the cities.
Ekin led Kale on through the mountains for a time, winding through the paths like a river. There was not much of a change in scenery, all was still dark and grey and red. The scent lingered as well as the winds, clawing at their clothes and exposed flesh. The path upon which they traveled soon dropped off in a void of black, a sheer vertical descent. Ekin halted, leaning over the edge and looking into the pit, holding Kale back.
He looked around, searching for another way to cross. There was no other way, no bridge, no flat ground crossing. Ekin frowned, “I do not remember such void.”
“The world has changed much since you have been in these mountains.” Replied Kale.
“It appears so.” Said Ekin. “Here there is a thin ledge we can walk along that might take us to a bridge.” He pointed down to narrow, crumbled path cut into the side of the rock wall. Kale gulped deeply, there was not much walking space.
Ekin went first, hugging the flat stonewall tightly and sidled across, his plate armor grinding against the rock in a piercing screech. Kale looked down into the void, then back at the ledge. He leaned forward then leaned back. His mind was flooding with thoughts and his heart thumped against his skull.
He took the first step, his leg shaking horribly. Tremulously, he sidled across, leaning on the wall as if he was attached. The unnerving drum did not cease once he had crossed, but beat louder, his chest rising and falling in great heaps as his heart rattled against his rib cage.
Across, there was a narrow slit of a path that sliced through the stone peaks like a spear. Ekin glanced back at Kale, saying, “We have no other choice.” And he slipped between the rocks. Kale followed behind closely, keeping the light of Ekin’s armor close. The path snaked through the stone for a good while, spitting them out at a great peak, standing atop the mountain. The descent was steep and jagged.
The mists loomed closer, its vaporous arms hanging down ominously. It wanted them. It wanted to consume them. Kale’s head beat, though it was not from the heart. It was in his ears, a sense of tightening. A high ring scratched his ears and a kind of deep rasp echoed through his head. It was the mist.
Kale cupped his hands around his ears quickly, the pain did not diminish, nor the sounds of torment. Ekin wrapped his arms around Kale and lowered him down from the peak, until they stood at its base, the mists retreating back to its shifting curtain. Under its crimson tide, Ekin laid kale against a rock spire, high and wide. He looked into his eyes, and placed his hand along his forehead, taking his glove off.
The ringing slowly lessened in force and the pain in his head faded, drifting away. Ekin retired his naked hand back to its glove, then said, “You feel the force of the mist greatly.”
“Why?” Kale managed to breathe. “Why were you fine?”
“Because I have been around the mist far longer than you have.” Ekin replied.
“I have been closer to its wroth and I have endured its relentless strength. The mists are a very dangerous thing, Kale. Far more dangerous than steel or iron. The mists want flesh, they need it. The mists feed of it and drag the weak into its vaporous hell. Inside, there is nothing but red and black, but yet you live.”
“How.” Asked Kale.
“It is a creation of the Oppressive One.” Stated Ekin. “Once one dies or falls to
the mist they lie in an endless darkness seeing nothing and feeling nothing. Though you are alive, forced to endure the forever torments of the mists sadistic torture. It is the greatest fear of all, to be eaten by the mist, for there you will stay forever until the ends of time and space.”
Kale looked out at the black horizon, a grey spear swirling in the air. A storm was approaching.
It was a storm indeed, and a nasty one at that. Kale huddled closely beneath a roof of rock with Ekin, his armor dim. Kale’s pale face glowed in the darkness and gleamed as the contorted spears of light lanced through the sky in great cracks. The sky was dark and grey, murky and eerie. The red mist swirled through the black thunderclouds like tendrils of marble and created a red-black sky. The shadow darkness was illuminated blindingly as constant blades of white light ripped through the sky like white fire and burst with light.
A curtain of grey showered down on the high mountains, heavy and relentless. Beneath the rock, Kale and Ekin were barraged with piercing
needles of rain that sliced at the skin ferociously. Monstrous winds screamed like howling banshees, tearing at the air with iron talons. Kale jumped rigidly as another rumbling chorus of thunder clashed throughout the sky, white light blaring erratically.
The storm was heavy and did not abate. There under the overhang of stone Ekin and Kale waited, until Kale faded into a darkness that ate him whole.
He woke to the rugged tug at his shoulder with a start. Ekin hunched over him, his hood drenched and soaked. His plate armor burned white, but its light was struggling to break through something. It was the mist. Kale glanced out from the overhang to see his vision veiled by a grey, hazy curtain. The stone blended with the fog and the shield of stagnant water veiled the red mist above. There was a musty, damp scent that slithered across the dark, wet rock floor and droplets of water rapped on Kale’s forehead.
Ekin lugged him up, “The storm has passed.” He looked out at the haze.
“Though now the maze before us has been blocked by fog.”
Kale nodded, “Indeed. We must continue on, for as you said, the enemy will be
Ekin bit his lip, “Very well, we shall depart soon enough and make our wake through the mountains.”
The fog was heavy and thick, walking along with them as if holding their hands. It never parted, never so slightly. Always the white consumed them, never spitting them out. For a time, Ekin led Kale through the jagged rock peaks and convoluted paths until Kale narrowed his eyes at a roof of rock jutting out from a wall close by.
Kale dropped his arms, “We’re going in circles. We’ve been here before.”
Ekin folded his arms, “This haze is impervious. We are only wasting our time. Let us rest our legs. We can go no further.”
Kale agreed and they found a round level platform, which stood on the top of a sheer descent, falling into white. The ground was wet and cool, as well as the air. Kale wiped the freezing water off his clammy arm, then looked over at Ekin who’s armor only blended with the fog.
“You said you knew the magic of Arkency.” Said Kale, “How? You’re a Knight of Abelon. You said yourself you couldn’t perform it.”
Ekin inched closer. “I have lived long, Kale, and been around many people. Back before His Ascension, I knew a master Arkentite of the now ruined palace of Arbelen. He used his magic in ways I could never fathom and did things I could never dream of. I studied with him, in his great halls in the mountaintops, learning the ways of Arkency. His name was Anordrin, and he had come over from lands afar, across the Endless Sea where they say a land of magic and mystic lay in the vast oceans.”
“Does it exist?” Asked Kale, curious.
“I am not the person to ask,” Ekin said, “but I do believe in such land. And I hope that one day I can go there.”
“What happened to Anordrin, your master.” Asked Kale.
“Anordrin died, my boy, sadly. For you see, a gathering of dragons, from their homeland in the far west flew over the peaks of what are now the Mountains of Vvher, The Mountains of Shadow. These dragons were the Dragons of Eld, of the First Age of the land. They were great and powerful with green flame streaming out of their mouths. As strong as Anordrin was in his craft, his Arkency did not compare the force of the five dragons. There he fell, and so to did the palace of Arbelen in the mountains.”
“I am sorry.” Said Kale, bowing his head.
“There is nothing to be sorry for, Kale. You were not born at such a time, nor were you there.”
Kale nodded, lifting his head. He picked up a rock from the scattered remains lying along the floor. He showed to Ekin, “What is this stone?”
Ekin examined it momentarily, “Quartz.” He said. “One of the Seven Fundamental Stones of Arkency.”
“What does it do?” Asked Kale.
“It Pulls or Lashes the user to the quartz stone and can allow the user to throw or Push the quartz stone at any given target. Most of Varrin is consisted of quartz stone, though inside you will find many more stones.”
Kale studied the stone, “How?”
“You Crush it.” Said Ekin. “You’ve done it before. Tighten your hold on the stone until you feel the energy flow into your body. The you can release it.”
Kale did and he was told and Crushed the stone in his hand. I was quiet easy and the substance flowed into him, activating his magic. With the surge he held out his hand at the stonewall, then Pulled. A large chunk of the wall separated and hovered in the air, at Kale’s command. There it stayed until Kale terminated the flow of magic and released the stone, letting it thunder to the floor.
“What was that stone you had me use in your home?” Asked Kale.
“Granite.” Replied Ekin. “It was one of the Three Advanced Stones.”
“What did that do?”
“Granite allows the user to shut off sources of energy and light. This also deactivates your opponents magic supply, if they’re an Arkentite.”
“There are others?” Asked Kale.
“There are many, most in the mountains, where there is stone to dwell from. Though the others lye in the streets and ghettoes of the cities up north mainly. I have never met or heard of one living in Vaelon, though here you are. Most of them live in the cities of Vorr and Tarar and Ambar and all those along the Mountains of Varrin, where the Ilmari dwell.”
Kale nodded, “What if you’re not around any stones? Can you store their energy.”
“I’m afraid not.” Said Ekin. “An Arkentite needs to be in the presence of stone to perform any form of Arkency. That is the downfall of most, for without stones, they are no more than a common Alduri. Though there are ways to prevent such from occurring. One might carry a supply of stone with them, as I recall you did, Kale, though you lost them during your escape from the Watchers.”
“Unfortunately.” Said Kale, remembering his fall.
“How did you know what you were doing?” asked Ekin, “With the stones.”
“My brother, Caza, taught me how to use them, or at least how to Crush them and use their magic.”
“Though he did not teach you anything else.” Said Ekin. “The it seems I have some explaining to do.”
He shifted his body, then began. “There are three levels of Arkency, all with different stones. The first, are the Seven Fundamental Stones, where you would find the stones: alabaster; flint; marble; ore; quartz; slate; and crystals. Each of these stones have different qualities and magical functions.
Alabaster, once Crushed is used to shape shift or transform and uses minimal energy.
“Flint makes the user’s physical attributes increase, once Crushed, allowing the user to leap hundreds of feet and lift hundred pound objects. This stone takes up a fair bit of energy, but not a great amount. I stone could last a good two hours.”
“What do you mean by the energy?” Asked Kale.
“Each of the stones takes energy from you when you perform them. This energy is what allows the magic to happen. Too much power can leave you without any energy and you could, at the worst die. You have to be careful with your decisions, Kale. One wrong move could prove to be fatal.
“Back to the Seven, the next stone is marble, which stops time. This stoppage does not halt you, just the ones around you. Time is stopped for as long as the user can halt the energy and how much energy the Arkentite has in supply.
“Ore is the stone that draws upon the most energy and is quickly absorbed and used up. This is also the stone that kills many fledgling Arkentites. Ore is Crushed to make one impervious to injury, making the body strong as steel and iron. It acts as a shield from injury and weapons. Though as I said, It drinks a lot of energy. Use it sparingly.
“I have already told you about quartz, which leaves two more, slate and crystals. Slate is Crushed to read minds, which you did to me, unknowingly. Slate does not take up much energy, though it is all up to the user to perform this correctly. If you fly into their mind too quickly they will sense something as switch off their brain and attack. If too soft, you don’t read their mind. There is a balance between the two that you must find to soothe the person and look inside their mind.
“And the last stone, would be the crystals, which is an interesting topic. For short, the crystals are in all three stages of Arkency, though in fundamental level, it is usually a dulled crystal and is used to turn the user invisible for a short time, for it is the second strongest stone and uses to second most amount of energy.”
“What do you mean when you say the three stages?” Asked Kale.
“There are three stages to Arkency, Kale, the first are the Fundamental Seven that I have just explained to you. The second are the Three Advanced Stones and the last are the Two Master Stones. Though I will not teach you those today. Best to start with the basics for now and work your way up to the advanced.”
Kale looked down at his hands, then at the stone. His hands began to pulsate and he could feel the energy Ekin was talking of. Ekin though shattered the surge, saying, “Look, the fog and haze have parted.”
Indeed, the fog and haze had dispersed and the sky all around them returned to its deep shadow of black, the malevolent red mist seething overhead ominously.
“Let us continue on now, for the path is clear.” Ekin said, turning his back and walking in the maze of rocks ahead.
"This extract remains the exclusive property of the author who retains all copyright and other intellectual property rights in the work. It may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced or used by any person or entity for any purpose without the author's express permission and authority."