Chapter Thirteen – The Walk of Time
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Like needles, the ice stung Cateline’s face as her eyes opened wide. Around her was nothing but barren wasteland—the scenery of what was once alive now frozen over. Trees the size of her since-forgotten castle expanded into the sky, branches naked and poisoned with icicles that dangled freely.

If she was not careful they would strike through her without hesitation. So, she did the only thing she could. She walked.

Hugging her elbows, she slipped around the trees and twitched her head upward to make sure she was safe from the icy daggers. The sky was gray and fog overcame the canopy of dead oak. A blanket of white extended just past her ankles, making it a cold and difficult trek.

Even Axulran had never been a victim to such a blizzard. This was otherworldly.

It was not necessarily the amount of snow that was terrifying, but instead the ferocity of the wind. Her hair, like streaks of black ink cascading against pallid parchment, whipped in front of her face with each gust. Despite the nature of this, she was warm.

 

And when she looked down at her hands she saw a subtle glow.

 

Reaching out in front of her, she watched as they illuminated into the night, stretching only a few feet before the darkness consumed the rest of the forest. She was alone, but she felt good. Safe, even.

A hint of a smile crossed her rosy lips and lifted her feet with more confidence. Creating light, even if it was but a figment of her imagination—a loss of sanity in the midst of that library—made her yearn for more.

So, she kept on. Deeper and deeper into the forest she traveled, stopping only at the peak of a cliff. It felt familiar.

The familiarity warmed her, too, but this time it was at her core. Wrapping around her heart like the tendrils of a vine, she stood at the edge of that cliff and kneeled, welcoming this embrace with a happy sob.

It was absurd—feeling so warm, both inside and out, in the midst of a blizzard? It was remarkable. And when she reached down to support herself on that giant rock she sat on, the veins of the earth began to glow just as her hands did. The light dived off the cliff with the agility of a dove and disappeared for only a minute.

As Cateline looked down she saw the water breathe to life, once as shadowed and desperate as tides in the calm before a storm. The fishes that were consumed in the darkness now appeared at the surface of the water, swimming downstream.

The luminous vessels stretched to the edge of the land, awakening the night and creating a fool’s day.

The beauty of this miracle was unlike anything Cateline had ever seen, but to be fair she was aware she had not seen much.

Suddenly, she felt like a trespasser. She was born of the world, but this phenomenon was not for her eyes—they were for the eyes of only Denzethea.

Cateline was never one to turn away from curiosity. It often got her in trouble while she was tucked away in the crevices of that castle, but who could blame her?

Concealing the world from a child was only asking for mischief.

Standing back to her feet, she began to descend down that cliff. Hopping stone to stone, she gripped onto the jagged rock and tried her very best not to look down. Even so, her heart raced faster than a horse at the break of war. She made it halfway before coming to a tear in the stone.

A gap just too wide to cross comfortably was the only thing standing in her way to the final descent. She did the thing only an imbecile would do—she peered down that trench and quivered.

At the bottom of a ghastly drop—one so large it could be described as a ditch fit for a Giant—appeared to be stalagmites that were sharpened to a point, only coming to view with the light that breathed through the ground.

 

The teeth of Denzethea.

 

Blades of a sudden death, should her feet slip just past the edge of that landing. Sucking in a jagged breath, she backed away and looked back to the horizon, those streams of ambers still breathing up the current.

For reasons unknown to her, she decided to take the leap. It started with a few steps back, a deep sigh, and eyes opened wide. She got a running start, jumping from the very lip of that drop and screamed out into the night when her abdomen collided into the other side.

Her hands, clammy and slipping against the rock, gripped at any part of that landing to pull herself up. The ice made it slick, though, and she cried out to the heavens when her fingers began to slip. She looked over her shoulder in hopes of reminding herself what would happen if she welcomed the fall and her heartbeat hastened.

To her surprise, this was not because of the drop. No, this was far more daunting than her inevitable demise. Below her, flying sideways between the trench’s walls, was a white beast with its wings scraping against the walls. The ground shook from impact, her fingers losing grip of what little rock she had to hold onto. A dragon.

Screaming, she dug her foot into a crevice of the wall and hoisted herself up to the ledge. Her fingernails dug into the earth and separated from the bed, droplets of blood seeping through the seam of connected skin.

Scraping her knee against the side of that trench, she fell onto her back and pulled it to her chest and wept. As Cateline lifted her dress to observe the wound, she saw crimson trickling down to her ankle. Her hands, legs, and head were aching, the world around her spinning as she stared up at the sky.

But was this not a dream? She wondered. A figment of my imagination?

Deciding to hold onto any last fiber of sanity she had left, she let out a shaky breath and stood, daring to look down that trench once more.

The dragon was flying further away, lifting up into the sky and away into the horizon. Those eyes… eyes that glowed into the stormy horizon despite its untangle distance.

She told herself this was not real, but the pain in her knee with each step spoke volumes for the contrary—the pain surely was real. As real as this storm. As real as this soil. As real as that dragon.

The final jumps down were easy when she continued, but they gnawed at her. She let out a few whimpers as she landed on her bad knee, limping to the grass where she took a final rest. Suddenly, the horizon seemed too far. The water taunted her, reminding her of that leap she made before ending up in Traburg. It was then that a familiar tune of a voice called to her.

A mother would search until the end of time for her daughter, it said. The end of time means new beginnings.

Looking all around, she gripped at the shards of frozen grass and wiped a bead of sweat from her brow. “M-mother?”

She knew it not to be her mother, just as she knew it when she followed that orb of energy to her seeming death. In the distance, though, she spotted the ball of light that called to her just as strongly as it did the first time.

Resistance to this call was futile. It was like telling a toddler not to suckle at its mothers breast—or for a drunkard to not succumb to their tavern.

She crawled closer, squinting toward the sphere just as it began to shift and take form. Rubbing her eyes to make sure she was not losing her mind, she caught sight of her mother. Standing, Cateline hobbled towards the figure as it slipped away into the shadows.

“Mother! Please, you must stop…”

She felt silly. So desperate for her mother that she would fall for this trickery again.

The ethereal call was too much to ignore. It had to be true. Just like this blizzard. It was all. too. real.

Cateline had no sense of direction or time. She could have been walking for hours, gripping onto the same trees her mother did as it ran toward the horizon.

Bands of light flashed throughout the forest every few steps, eventually coming to an opening that comforted her.

Her mother stood still, with her arms stretched out as she motioned for a hug. Cateline took a few steps, her toes curling as shocks of pain spiraled up her leg. Stopping to support herself on a large oak, she stared at the figment and let a tear fall from her eyes.

“What is this?” Cateline whispered.

A testament to time, Cateline.

The voice echoed throughout the meadow, the veins of amber light shooting into the sky and formed a wall around them. With a heaving chest, she stood upright and spun around wildly.

It was a terrifying masterpiece, runes floating around this wall of light and blinded her senses. The wind began to pick up, and when her eyes returned to her mother she wept.

Cateline was now alone in this void of light, the ice melting away before her eyes and replaced with sprouting stems of petunias and wildflowers. She watched them blossom in seconds, Spring enveloping her senses instead of that ghostly picture of her mother.

Moving to the middle of this circle, she looked up to the sky and saw a circle with four runes inside. They were tribal in nature, lowering to the ground and warming her skin as it surrounded her. All Cateline could do was stand still, allowing this rune to overcome her. The light was overwhelming, but she felt safe now.

There was this stinging feeling at her core, one that expanded into the roots of her abdomen and chest. It reached to the tips of her fingers and suffocated the glow at her hands, allowing the darkness to overtake the clearing, each rune disappearing into the ground. Wiping her eyes to readjust, she saw a sword driven into the ground that shimmered under the moonlight. On the leather handle was a red ribbon with a pendant dangling at the end.

As she approached it, she gasped and snatched for it. When her fingers were about to interlock with it, the world went black. Her pendant, the one with a golden leaf and singular red ruby, hung so freely on the sword and taunted her.

Cateline was no fool, she knew that pendant restricted her mana and concealed all the magic she possessed—as little or excessive as it may be—but she yearned for the comfort. For that pendant reminded her of home.

Lifting her gaze up to the heavens, she saw that dragon soaring throughout the sky and dipping down, flying right toward her. With large, radiant cyan eyes and white scales, she held her hands up and closed her eyes.

The Silver Dragon beckons for you, Cateline. On Lunarseve, come the second ring of Midnight, the sisters of Denzethea will call for you and bring you Home.


Cateline awoke in a puddle of her drool, a loose shard of wood on the tabletop digging into her cheek. Blinking, she sat upright and looked around, eyes eventually meeting large, disappointed gray ones. Aiora blinked down at her, those long and silvery locks of hair tied into a braid. She had a dagger on her belt, a vial of liquid in her other hand closed with a cork.

“Good Morning, Cateline. Sleep well?”

Cateline shook her head and peered down at her hands, the droplets of blood that was once at the bed of her nail from fighting the elements gone. Her knee no longer ached, but a throbbing sensation pulsed at the center of her forehead.

“I am not sure what happened.”

“That seems to be a pattern.” Aiora snatched the book, which was now closed and lacked that aura of energy it held when it called to her. The elf flipped through a few pages. “Learning of our history, are you?”

“I suppose.”

Cateline nibbled on her lip and stood, wiping some dust from the skirt of her dress. Aiora peered at her through her eyelashes and sighed. “If I can make a suggestion, Cateline, I would propose you take your naps in your quarters. The scholars here do not take lightly to disrespect.”

Aiora tapped her fingers on the book and walked toward the exit. From here, she could see the golden runes that tucked away beneath her blouse.

Cateline cleared her throat and chased after her, pinching the fabric of her dress between her fingers. “May I ask you something? In confidence?”

Aiora turned to her with wide eyes, that mischievous stare shooting between the vial she held and the door. “Must it be now? I have a prior engagement.”

“It is quick, I assure you. It is just, you see… I am clueless, and I do not do a good job at hiding it. The headmistress seems to have faith in you, and I was wondering if you could walk me through the possibility of… something.

“Something? How vague can you be?” Aiora beamed, turning to face her head on. “If you want my help, I would hope you could elaborate a little.”

“Of course.” Cateline hesitated, tucking her bottom lip between her teeth before nodding. “Traveling to another… place. Is it possible?”

“Anything is if you have a good enough horse and saddle, Cateline.”

“That is not what I mean,” Cateline said with a scowl. Aiora was testing her patience. Looking around, she nodded towards the glaring scholars and huffed out. “I mean, can a dream be so real that it can harm you? Freeze you? Maybe even kill you?”

Aiora’s eyes got wide once more, her lips pursing into a thin line before she nodded carefully. “It is called the Walk of Time, Cateline. It is very dangerous. Surely you are not talking about that.”

“The Walk of Time? Can you tell me more about it?”

Aiora shook her head, opening the library doors and gesturing for her to follow. “I must get going, but if you venture to town with me I can walk and talk.”

Cateline smiled gently, following the mentor with her hands behind her back.

“So, Cateline,” Aiora nodded as they exited the academy, “tell me a little more about what has you so wound up?”

 
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