Read The Flames of Deception - A Horizon of Storms: Book 1 Online

Authors: AJ Martin

Tags: #fantasy, #epic, #dragon, #wizard, #folklore

The Flames of Deception - A Horizon of Storms: Book 1 (56 page)

BOOK: The Flames of Deception - A Horizon of Storms: Book 1
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What
felt like hours passed; hours of walking across the eternal
grassland with no end in sight. Walking began to feel somewhat
pointless. Yet there seemed nothing else to do and as she continued
she started to feel a pull on her, as if she were being drawn
forward by an invisible thread. So she carried on. It was another
half - hour at least of walking, when she suddenly felt the wind in
her hair. It came from nowhere, but the further forward she walked
the stronger it became. It was glorious, a feeling of reality
bursting through the endless, lifeless landscape. As she continued
on, fighting against the wind, her ears pricked up. There was a new
sound in the distance.

What is it? Could it be water?

The wind seemed to grow stronger still, trying to
push her backwards and she almost felt as if she could feel hands
made of air, grasping at her, forcing her back. But the invisible
thread kept her on course, tugging at her, and she stretched out
her arms and flailed madly to keep going. She could feel no energy
flowing through her, no ability to even grasp the power-however
weak she may still be in its use- to help her push through. A
bloodcurdling laugh echoed around her in the wind, and her neck
grew tight, as if the wind were trying to suffocate her. She
panicked and grasped at her throat against the invisible forces.
With the blackness of unconsciousness starting to mask her vision,
she forced her legs on and managed to take another step. As she did
so, the wind seemed to lose its grip. Another step forward and she
could breathe properly again. She ran forward as the wind died
down, through the grass as fast as she could, and then, as quickly
as she had started running, she skidded to a halt and yelped. The
land in front of her had disappeared, replaced with thin air. She
was standing on the edge of a cliff! The sea swirled below her. She
looked behind, expecting to see the expanse of green field where
she had come from. There was nothing. The land had disappeared. She
looked down at her feet and saw that the grass had been replaced by
flagstones, surrounding her in a small circle.
What
was going on?

The sea thundered against the cliff - face,
crashing into jagged rocks beneath her. She didn’t recognise the
area, but it made her feel uneasy, as if she wanted to turn and run
and not look back. The sea seemed formed, for a moment, into a
malevolent face. It howled up at her, a whirlpool of a mouth
shrieking its hatred for her presence. She closed her eyes as the
face erupted towards her, stretching up the cliff. It was going
to
swallow
her!

There was a sucking sound and then the sounds of
the torrent disappeared. She opened her eyes, and was presented
with a grand hallway. Enormous pillars of red marble flanked her
left and right, stretching outwards toward an archway. The ceiling
was immensely high, taller than any building she had ever set foot
in. Gold plastered its heady domes on which ornately painted blue
beings were wrapped in marble - etched togas, surrounded by silvery
clouds. They were unmistakably Akari. She couldn’t help but stare
in wonderment. Until recently she had thought them nothing but a
myth- an ancient story of people who may have lived well before her
time. But now, looking up at those ethereal beings, she almost felt
a kinship to them. In a way she was connected to them through the
power she held inside her. She may not be an Akari, but someone had
chosen to give her their power and so
some
part of her was like them. They looked
divine, gazing down at her from their seat in the heavens, the ones
sent by the gods to bring peace to the world. Well, the power
certainly hadn’t brought peace to
her
world. All it had brought her so far was death and
sorrow.

She started forward across the room, her gaze
still fixed on the fresco, but stopped again as she heard whispers.
She ducked behind one of the pillars and tried to listen to where
the voices were coming from. They were faint, and they seemed to
have no point of origin. It was almost as if… as if they were
coming from inside her mind. Which was silly, she reasoned, since
she had decided that she was
already
inside her mind as it was, in
some
kind a dream. But then, this whole
situation was silly. Why could she not wake up? What was happening
out there in the waking world? How
long
had she been dreaming like this?

The voices were pulling her towards the archway in
the far wall. She took a step away from the column she had hidden
behind, and the whispers babbled in her head, louder this time,
overlapping voices. Or was it
one
voice? Another few steps and the whispers became
clearer. Someone was repeating her name, over and over again. They
were beckoning her to come to them. How did she know that? She
could not explain it. But she knew they wanted her to
continue.


Who is there?” she called out, pausing again. The
whispers stopped. The only answer she got was her own voice
ricocheting through the room. Warily, she glided towards the
archway in front of her, and passed into its dark confines. She
emerged into a new hallway, divided into two shadowy routes. Which
way should she go? Left or right? Each looked identical. The
whispering came again, if it could still be called that. It had
grown louder and nearly drowned out her thoughts with its
intensity. She thought it was coming from the left. Tentatively she
padded down the corridor and turned the corner. A doorway welcomed
her, with black wooden panels, but there was no bolt, no lock. She
pressed on it, expecting it to be stuck fast, but it evaporated at
her touch into smoke. A dark spiral staircase wound down to the
left. She tutted.
More
walking! The voice that filled her mind was coming,
somehow, from its depths:


Josephine. Josephine. Josephine. Josephine.” It was never
ending.


Be
quiet!
” She called down the stairwell. “You are giving me a
headache!” The voice continued. She shook her head and descended
the stairs.


I am
coming
as
fast
as I
can!
” she called as the voice continued to chant her
name.

Her spine tingled as she continued downwards.
Hundreds of steps! How
tall
this building must be to accommodate such
depths!

She stopped as she heard another voice, one that
was happily familiar. It was
Thadius!
But she couldn’t make out what he said. It was
muffled: distant. She thought she heard another voice asking with
him, but whoever it was, she couldn't tell.


Thadius!
” she cried out. “I’m here! Where
are
you?” But he didn’t
reply. Only the repetition of her name carried on, bouncing around
her head incessantly.

She
reached the bottom of the stairs. Another door stood between her
and the next room. This one instilled fear within her; dried blood
smeared the ancient wood, drawing patterns she did not recognise.
Gingerly she reached out and touched the door again, pressing it
with her fingertips. From where she tapped, smoke began to rise.
The wood blackened, and flame sparked into life, eating at the
material until the entire door was ablaze. And then it stopped, as
the wood turned to ash and collapsed into a smoking pile on the
floor beneath her. She stepped beyond the doorway.

The
room she emerged into was unlike anything she had ever seen before.
A maze of mirrors surrounded her, as tall as the ceiling,
reflecting light from unseen sources. Her reflection stared back at
her. The voices in her head seemed to bounce of the mirrors in the
same way as her own image, and she could hear that they were coming
from within the maze.


Oh
well,” she sighed, “here goes.” She walked forward, her own face
staring back at her through hundreds of reflective panels, and met
with her first fork in the road. She chose the left way, as the
voice seemed to her to be stronger that way, and carried on until
the path split into three. Whichever way she turned, her own face
looked back at her, and the light shone in her eyes.


Oh Matthias I
really
wish you were here right now,” she
whispered, and then smiled. “
Instead
of me.” She pressed on. “You would likely
have
some
Mahalian trick to navigate this maze. Whereas
I
have only my eyes
and my ears to guide me.
Neither
of which is much help right
now.”

She
stopped as the hairs on the back of her neck prickled and turned
swiftly, convinced someone was behind her. The mirrors glared back
at her. Swallowing, she continued, picking up the pace around the
maze. Something caught her vision in the mirrors: a small, black
shape rushing past, and she turned again. Nothing.


Pull yourself
together
Josephine!” she whispered. She moved
deeper and deeper within the maze. As she stepped forward, another
voice permeated the first. She couldn’t hear what it whispered, but
something deep within her told her that it came from someone or
something evil. Such black and white descriptions were hardly ever
appropriate. The world was such a mixture of shades of grey. But in
her core, she knew without any doubt that the voice belonged to the
darkest soul she had ever encountered. It would kill her if she let
it. An instinct told her to run. She began to grow panicked and
disorientated. The room spun, faster and faster, and she threw her
hands to her ears as the voices continued to cry out her name and
the cackling, tormenting voice bombarded her.

"
Stop it! Stop it please!
" she cried, as everything blurred around
her. She screamed, and the mirrored glass around her shattered into
a million pieces. Instantly she was falling, faster and faster,
through darkness that seemed to have no end. She shut her eyes as
she waited for the ground to find her and crush her bones. She knew
it was a dream, but somehow, she felt that if she were to die here,
she would never wake up.

She
hit water with massive force and sank, deeper and deeper, bubbles
escaping from her mouth. She fought hard to open her eyes against
the murky blue - green water that surrounded her and flailed around
desperately. Her eye caught an object below her in the depths:
light glinting off a large, golden ring embedded into a stone
plinth. No, it wasn’t just one golden ring. There were three rings,
implanted into the surrounding stone, with symbols engraved all
around their circumference. Gasping for air, lungs heaving and her
heart pumping, she scrambled towards the surface. Her head broke
the water and she drew air into her lungs with a great gasp. Her
vision danced with multi-coloured spots. Viciously she hit out with
her legs to keep herself afloat and wiped at her eyes with a hand
to clear them of water.


Welcome child”, said a voice behind her.

She
spun round towards the owner. Light shone from the figure that
stared at her; a beautiful, intoxicating figure, dressed in robed
of pure white. She was dazzling. She was an Akari.

 

Visionary
Day of the Cycle
Unknown, 495 N.E. (New Era)

 


You… you’re an Akari!” Josephine exclaimed, staring at the
ethereal figure standing above. The creature had pastel blue skin,
unblemished, smooth like porcelain. Veins of dark blue ran across
her cheeks and speckled her forehead. Her eyes shone like mercury.
Behind her back she seemed to have wings, although they flickered
in and out of Josephine’s vision and she couldn’t be sure they
truly existed or if she were painting them out of her imagination.
The Akari wore a white peplos, its cut running diagonally across
her neck and chest, leaving her right shoulder bare. An ornamental
clasp at her left shoulder held the garment in place, and the
tubular cloth hung down to her ankles. A pattern of meandering gold
lines in a repeating square pattern ran around her midriff. The
creature surveyed her with its unearthly stare. Josephine was in
awe at its unusual beauty, but tried to speak. “You have summoned
me?” she asked.

The woman shook head from where she stood on the
plinth above her. “I did not do this”, she replied and her body
flickered. “Though we
did
try and speak with you before,
many
times.”


Then am I... am I
dead?
Is
that
what I am doing here? Are you to guide me to the
temple of the passing?”

The Akari smiled and tilted her head. Her velvet
words fell into Josephine’s head and caressed her mind. “You
misunderstand your circumstances child. Though in a way, you
are
almost
correct. But I am not here to take you to the next
world.”


Then... then why
am
I here?” Josephine asked.

BOOK: The Flames of Deception - A Horizon of Storms: Book 1
5.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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