Running. Legs burning, gasping for air, arms pumping, heavy hands, but no stopping. Barreling along the perilously thin path, coming close to falling several times, shoulder scraping on the rock wall. Sliding around the corner without slowing; this is too important to slow down for. Eyes squinting, pupils contracting in the early light, which reveals the house. As expected, Zheek outside, though what he is doing there, Jon cannot guess.
“It—the dream—” says Jon, trying desperately to catch his breath to relate what happened in the dream.
Zheek interrupted: “I figured. Nothing new, I assume. You couldn’t see the lanterns clearer, the blackness was still there?” Zheek crossed the clearing to Jon and looked in his eyes as the young man caught his breath.
Jon shook his head—nothing new since the last time he had had the dream, but there was…something about it. He couldn’t put his finger on it for sure, but it felt more…urgent. There was more of a sense of importance than the last several times and he could still vaguely feel its pull, though he was no longer sleeping. Jon thought that it felt like something more than a dream. “But, Zheek, how could you know? Weren’t you just guessing yesterday? You couldn’t possibly know what dream I’m going to have and when, could you?”
“Of course not. Not for sure. My…well, the place where I lived before I moved here anyway, thought there was importance tied to dreams, that they could tell the future and had some other mystical capabilities. However, I only believe parts of that philosophy and now is not the time to be discussing what I believe and it would take too long to explain anyway. The point is that I had a feeling about what was causing your dreams and now I am sure of it. You must leave the town.”
Jon stood there with a puzzled look on his face, not fully registering what Zheek was saying to him. “Jon. Did you hear what I said?”
“Yes, yes…uh…” Jon ran a hand through his hair and let out a breath through hardly opened lips, “Why?”
Zheek shook his head. “Were you paying attention at all yesterday? You even said it yourself: something’s coming for you. I’m pretty sure what it is, and if it is what I think, you have to leave. Today.” Jon would have been even more stunned at this news, but he was at his limit for shock today. Leave the town? He had grown up here, lived here his whole life and never left its safety for much more than several miles. Everyone, everything, he knew was here, and he knew nothing outside of it. Jon had seen maps of the surrounding areas of course, but he didn’t think he’d ever really need to venture outside of the town for anything—everything that he needed was here.
Too many questions filled Jon’s head for him to say all at once, though he wished he could’ve. “To—I—what is it?”
“Now, Jon, I don’t want to unnerve you unnecessarily. You shouldn’t worry. Well…never mind. Just pack up your things—I’m leaving too, so I’ll help you—and follow me north. Pack enough food for about a week. I’ll be leaving you about the second day or so, but I’ll give you directions. Nothing to worry about if we get out of here soon.”
“A week? I’m going to be traveling that long?” said Jon, racking his brain, trying to think of where he could possibly be going that would require a week’s travel.
“I hope it will be that short. I have my own…business…to tend to while you’re heading to the Crux, but I’ll meet with you there shortly after you arrive, I assume. I hope.” Zheek had turned Jon around and was impatiently pushing him back along the path that would lead him back to the village, but Jon had stopped dead in his tracks.
“The Crux? I have to go to the Crux?” Jon was staring straight forward, his brain not working correctly. The Crux.
“Where else would you be trained in magic? Where else could you, near here?” Zheek was no longer hurrying Jon. “I’m sorry I forgot to mention it to you earlier, but there are so many things that I must do now…you understand, don’t you?”
“I…why can’t you teach me here, in the village. Why do I have to learn at the Crux?” Jon had turned to face Zheek, his expression pleading to stay in the village. He did not want to leave his hometown, the only place he had ever known, leave all the people that he knew. Yet, somehow, Jon knew that he would get nowhere pleading with Zheek—he never had before, and he would definitely not now. There was something in Zheek’s eyes that wouldn’t be moved.
“Technically, your training here is illegal, and the penalty is severe, if anyone were to find out. Luckily, there is no one here that knows of our training, and unless either one of us were to tell the…er…authorities, there would be no evidence. Now, something may be coming for you here, I am almost sure of it; I feel it in my bones. The Crux will provide far better training than I ever could, and will teach you how to use more than just Sight; they will teach you other ways of magic, ways to manipulate the environment and…well, like I said, there is no time now. I can explain more to you when we are on the road tomorrow. Go down and pack. Now.”
“No more questions! Go, now!” roared Zheek, and Jon left.
On his way down, back into the town, Jon though about what Zheek had told him of the Crux. Over the time he had begun his learning of Sight, Zheek had told him some stories of when he was a young trainee, though Jon had no clue how long ago that was and was too polite to ask.
Zheek had been successful, but by no means the best, not even in his age group. The Crux trained members of all ages and skill levels, even those that only had a hint of magic in their blood. They felt that it was their duty to provide training to any with magical ability, no matter if it would be used or not. They wanted all to have an opportunity to achieve their full potential in magic. The wizards that had founded it saw magic as the crux, the core, the essence of life, and named the school after their belief. Indeed, it had become a crux, in a different sense of the word: it had become a crossroads of the trading infrastructure, and a huge town had been built around it. Tekin, the massive city, was very prosperous because of the many wizards that resided at the Crux during their training and all of the merchants who traded at the market in the middle of the town.
And now, Jon would be traveling there. From his small village where he knew everyone to a massive, sprawling city where he knew no one. To leave everything behind, throw it all away for something chasing him, something that he didn’t even know. Yet, he trusted Zheek and took his word as fact most of the time. Zheek was almost a second father to him, and if he couldn’t trust Zheek, then who could he trust? What choice did he really have? Besides, eventually, he would come back to his home, and would be better for the experience.
Newly resolved, Jon walked for possibly the last time into the town.
Hoped you liked this one. I'm finally getting somewhere on a fantasy, which hasn't happened in a while. I guess it's because it's summer and I have more time to work on it. Any feedback is welcome.