Adrianna clutched tightly the golden looped cross in the palm of her hand.
Standing to the side of the newly weathered mountain pass, the rock-strewn path winding through, Adrianna looked on with silent lament cast on her face, her coruscate eyes leading her backwards through past events.
In the back of her mind, she relieved the betrayal and murder of kings, the battles that ended the lives of countless heroes: their eventual defeat at a vastly superior enemy and subsequent flight to the base of the mountains.
Interrupting her of these sights, the ragged remnants of Adrianna's people, who graciously expressed their gratitude to her as they passed by.
"Thank you, my lady." "How can we ever repay you?" "May you have many sons and daughters," they said to her as they hurried down to the other side of the mountain pass.
Strands of her long auburn-brown hair adrift along beside her she hid her emotions behind a wind-swept face. Adrianna looked at each of them in turn, nodded and said she would see them all on the other side—lies.
A talented clairvoyant, and a sorceress, Adrianna unfortunately had the burden of foreknowing events that others did not. That alone left her with the responsibility to act, knowing that if she did not—no one would.
Around her, the tops of Adrianna's eyes perceived the gleaming white tips of the lofty mountain range once thought to be impassable. A gift from the light above, her father had used the remainder of time imbued inside the cross to weather the mountain pass into being. While only a few moments had passed for her and those around her, for her father countless unmeasured years, perhaps an entire Age, had passed as temporal wind rapidly grinded away granite rock with a whooshing torrent of ice cold wind and rain.
When the temporal wind ceased and the swirling green barrier fell, they saw inside, but all that remained was an old man on the ground.
Adrianna recalled running to her father's side, cradling him in her already burdened arms then watching as he finally succumbed to all the sand in the hourglass, having used the cross—until that point—to keep the grains at bay while they continued to ravage those around him.
In fact, only moments before, Adrianna herself had looked older than her father.
One last grain for her to spend on her father, Adrianna looked at the cairn atop the mountain pass.
Forcibly removing her gaze from such a sight, Adrianna averted her eyes and turned them onto the far north, above the other side of the mountain pass and the climbing bodies, hefting on their shoulders what belongings they had left.
There inside a snow globe, within a magical glass-like barrier,she saw falling snow hanging in mid air upon the remnants of their once magnificent castles, halls, towers, mansions and arks.
In the back of her mind, Adrianna thought of the brave two hundred temporal knights and their daring captain—now hidden from her eyes inside the barrier—that had given their lives to buy the time needed for the last of their kind to lock their swords together, weave their magic and freeze Palador in that moment of time.
Once more her clairvoyant gaze announced its presence, arriving from out of the netherworld. It resumed control of her eyes, replacing the color with the brilliant hues and tinctures of the world unfolding inside them.
Beyond the scope of what men see, she saw the barrier shimmer and vanish and the curse lift then a dark cloud begin to waft and rise towards her up the mountain pass in obvious pursuit of the cross.
Although her body shook and her mind felt the tremors of the internal kind, Adrianna steadied herself and remained strong, refusing to shut her eyes or turn away. Not only was she determined to keep up a brave appearance, she knew from past experiences, the pain felt when a clairvoyant tried to ignore a vision: like a bandage being peeled off your eyes instead of your skin.
Soon enough Adrianna's sight returned to her.
The vision over, Adrianna watched her people descend to safety, but the last to follow noticed she had yet to turn away.
"Are you feeling distressed, my dear?" an elderly lady herding her husband along asked; the old couple stopped before Adrianna.
"For now..." she told them, "but I promise I will follow when I am able."
She did not know whether those last few words were the truth or not.
The woman nodded before the couple proceeded on their way. Adrianna could not tell whether the woman had sensed the truth.
When she was alone again Adrianna focused her gaze back to where it had been. She waited until she was sure the last of her people were safely down the mountain pass then clenched ever more tightly the looped cross she held in her hand.
Adrianna closed her eyes and with a single thought froze time a small radius around her while leaving herself relatively unaffected. The sorceress' staff she held in her other hand she raised into the air. In combination with her other talent, she flung her arms, shouted spell mantras and built up a great chandelier of earth above her. When she sensed it was large enough to close the mountain pass, she opened her eyes and resumed time.
The earth fell, but in unison a light flowed out of the cross and fleeted above Adrianna, protecting her and deflecting the collapsing earth away.
As her surroundings darkened, so too did her eyes as the weight of what was happening around her pushed her conscious to the farthest recesses of her mind...
Adrianna’s eyes opened, but saw only darkness. Her body felt something hard beneath her.
Instinctively, she searched in the dark for her staff. A few blind grabs later her hand caught hold of something.
Leaning on her staff, Adrianna pulled herself off the ground. In unison to the thought of brightening her surroundings a light came to life from the stone inset on her staff, illuminating her immediate surroundings.
Adrianna redirected the light around her and found she was in a large, dome-shaped cavern riddled with clefts that there as dark as a void. She looked up momentarily, shone the light up towards the ceiling, but saw only the empty space above her.
Grimacing, Adrianna brought the light back before her: her body felt broken and her mind half closed to her – as if all the wonders of the Age of Legends had been taken away and those that had counted on them were still feeling the effects.
She no longer felt the pain that accompanied her clairvoyant visions, which gave her slight pause: she had grown accustomed to them and now that they were not there—she was not sure how to react. Should she lament the loss of one of her powers or celebrate the loss of a curse? Either way, for now at the very least, she figured she would be able to survive with only the most basic of spells.
She pondered the implications of the previous day and asked herself how she had managed to survive it. A momentary thought of her father passed through her.
Adrianna pictured the flash of light as she remembered the last thing she saw before falling. She pulled the cross up to her eyes. Was this tiny piece of jewelry responsible for all this she now saw around her and that aura which had engulfed and protected her?
This is truly one of four godly gifts, Adrianna thought.
She wished to give the subject more of her time, but at the moment she believed it more prudent to remove herself from this surrounding.
Adrianna illuminated the entrance of one of the tunnels then turned and sauntered off, using her staff as support. She headed down a tunnel, one being as good as any. Upon reaching deeper, she saw that the sides of it were riddled with cracks and small holes. If the cross was somehow responsible for creating this cave, a tremendous amount of energy must have gone into it…
Here and there more tunnels crisscrossed with the one she was on. Adrianna ignored them and proceeded on the path she was on. She knew the surest way of finding a way out was staying more or less on the same direction.
After what seemed to be days spent walking through the dark, accompanied only by the sound of her feet echoing off the hard cavern floor, finally, Adrianna glimpsed light at the end of the tunnel.
At long last, Adrianna murmured out loud to herself before she hurriedly hobbled to the exit of the cave, the strength in her legs having yet to return to her fully, and stepped outside.
Adrianna had to shield her eyes with a hand, the sun being unusually bright on its mountain perch. Before she could finish thinking that perhaps she had been asleep underground for too long and her eyes were no longer used to sunlight, two fierce, blistering winds swept down on her from both directions, sending shivers down her spine. She tried to brace herself against them, wrapping her rubicund cloak around the supple curves of her body, but to little prevail.
How unbecoming, she thought to herself—windcoming from two directions. Her eyes adjusted somewhat from the glare and she was able to lower her hand and look before her.
She wondered where she had emerged to.By the look of things, she had arisen in an entirely different realm. Like the rim in her father’s crown a wing of mountains stood majestic against the setting sun, encircling the land she was in. The land itself was narrow and wind-swept,which gave way to a highly eroded gorge at the valley’s bottom. The gorge also encircled the land and Adrianna followed one side of it before it disappeared behind a mountain’s side.
Adrianna looked and saw the base of a mountain right there in front of her. She gazed up the length of it and saw it stretched past the clouds higher than the mountains around it.
Adrianna stumbled backwards a few steps as she tried to get a better look at the mountain. Despite appearing almost kingly, the wind-swept damage not without standing, Adrianna immediately thought of her father. If she had not known better she might have thought this was where she had left him.
When Adrianna had sufficiently recovered, she swung back around, intending to figure out which way to head next, but both sides of the vale looked equally uninviting: steep slopes leading to jagged edges stretching out to what appeared to go nowhere in particular.
In the end, Adrianna decided to head back into the cave. First of all, she wanted to get out of this blasted wind that kept blowing everywhere (already, she could feel parts of her ears start to turn pink). Secondly, her insides twisted with hunger. And thirdly, not knowing where she was, if she waited until night – perhaps the stars would help her.
Adrianna proceeded to sit down on the floor of the cave and conjure herself some bread and cheese while she waited for the sky to darken. As she did so, the wind gave no hint of dying or even slowing down. Throughout the day, it remained steadfast.
Before long the slopes outside and the entrance of the cave dimmed. Soon enough the sky darkened.
The wind sounding like it was being blown from a horn Adrianna climbed up to her feet, wrapped her cloak tight around her and entered the night.
Looking up at the star-hung sky, she immediately recognized two constellations: to the east, the ranger sidestepping into dimensional shadows and to the north, the dragon knight riding the high winds.
While the land around her told Adrianna she was in an entirely different place, the sight above her told her she was under the same sky as yesterday. Why a trickster sought to confuse her, Adrianna could only assume. She felt unnerved, no longer being connected to her clairvoyant powers. Since childhood, she could not remember a time when they did not provide her with the answers she sought.
Well, she thought: her people went south and the ranger’s arrow pointed in that direction; so that was the direction she decided to head herself.
Heeding the ranger, Adrianna swung to her left and headed south down the mountain vale. She entered the gorge at the bottom and began winding her way through it. Traveling at the thickest time of the night, the shadowed nooks and crannies of the place seemed like the perfect hiding spots for the darkened contortions of necromancers or common night creatures; but, besides the churning of the wind, she saw or heard nothing that might indicate possible perils or wildlife. It was as if a great hand had reached down from above and took hold of every living creature in the vicinity.
Nearly half way through the night, Adrianna found herself approaching the southern rim of the mountains. This up close at night, they almost looked like the spikes of a crown.
Adrianna found a path leading up and climbed out of the gorge. Though almost spent she reached within and climbed up the steep southern slope to the base of the mountains. Searching for a way through, she skimmed the rim when not far along she happened on a narrow chasm leading in.
She headed down the path of this chasm, but nearly a quarter of the way through it narrowed to a small cleft. Turning sideways, she began sliding through. Half way along, the cleft widened again and Adrianna began climbing ridge after ridge. As behind her the sun began its climb back up to its perch, she sensed she was almost there and lo the path leveled off before her, allowing her to continue at her leisure.
In unison to the sun cresting the mountains behind her Adrianna arrived at the edge of a high outcropping overlooking a small grassy green valley. At the center of which, long already built, she saw a magnificent white castle surrounded by a bustling large town with brightly colored roofs and wide cobbled streets.
Recognizing a temporal castle when she saw one, she knew at once her people had reached safety. But how did it come to this point? Her eyes could see that much time had passed. That meant her brother and those she knew would most likely be long dead. Still, despite what she saw before her, she could not believe how much time had passed.
She surveyed the surrounding landscape in search for clues. Around the castle and its town the rolling foothills went up and down, each hill getting bigger than the one before it. The forests stood tall and spread out, casting long shadows. Meadows filled with flowers, and of every imaginable color, were in the height of bloom. Only the mountains were timeless, their pristine white peaks showing not a sign of melt even in spring.
Adrianna spun around to look behind her. To the far west and east, in the fading blue horizon, she saw the shapes of familiar white peaks, but before her, putting what she saw during her journey into perspective, the mountains sloped away from her like a certain ornament, the outcropping its jewel.
It was a crown…
The only possible explanation had latched onto her mind.
The aura from the cross had thrust the White Mountains apart, forming the mountain crown; then, as the earth fell from above, it piled on top, forming the grotto Adrianna had woken up in and the wearer of the mountain crown: the mountain itself—her father.
Adrianna surveyed the surrounding landscape again.
Absorbing such a sight, she clenched once more the looped cross in the palm of her hand: it was over objects such as this that had awoken things in the hearts of men that should have not been woken and so caused the shadow to rise and throw the race of men out of paradise for their folly. She could not throw it away for someone else to stumble on, nor could she destroy it as the aura had proved: that some things were meant to play a role in the world and so could not easily be undone, but it would be a shame to bring such an object to this new world. Adrianna did not need to be a clairvoyant to see what would happen if she did.
Such a vision at the forefront of her mind, Adrianna looked on with silent lament cast on her face as she gave her people another look before turning back the way she came, knowing she could never rejoin them – only set sight on them from a distance, from time to time.
- - - Robert, a residential care aide, is unapologetic in his pursuit of excellent high fantasy and has been writing fantasy for himself in his spare time for the last seven years. He is currently sifting through the first of three novels he wrote in his younger years and has upcoming poetry collection from Diminuendo Press entitled “Fragments Through Time”