Beskrivelse av boka
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Archenon moved stealthily through the castle when he left his chamber that night, careful not to be seen as he made his way to the Grand Library. Even in the dark of night, the white wood of the bookshelves and ghostly marble floors reflected any scrap of moonlight, illuminating the room with a soft light.
Archenon’s eyes flickered back and forth between the balconies separating the countless bookcases and the double doors behind him. The library was empty apart from the thousands upon thousands of scrolls stacked on top of each other.
The bookcases were marked, the categories of their contents carved with a gentle touch into the wood. Geography. Mythology. Fire. Air. None of which was right. Only one category might have what he was looking for. Archenon searched the scrolls in the section marked “Spirit.” There were hundreds of scrolls marked “Rhonja” with a number attached. It would not be in any of those, so he did not bother to pay them any attention.
He opened one scroll after another. Most of the information was familiar, but he could not find a single mention of Night Mara. Archenon grabbed a ladder and climbed to the balcony above, ready to tackle the next section.
Something creaked down below. Archenon squatted behind the rails and peered around the room.
An entire section of shelving marked “Fire” moved, gaping wide like a doorway, and a figure emerged. He removed his hood, revealing silver, shoulder-length hair. Archenon’s teacher turned his head this way and that as he strode across the room.
“We must hurry,” Pyralis whispered.
A smaller, rodent-like figure bounced on his hind legs before jumping onto Pyralis’s cloak and scurrying up to his shoulder, his large tail wrapping around the wizard’s neck. Pyralis and his companion quickly disappeared through the double doors leading out of the library.
Archenon shook his head in puzzlement. Where had they come from?
The wood creaked again as the hidden doorway from which they had come began to swing close.
Without pausing to think, Archenon swung himself over the rail and slid down the ladder. He hit the floor with a thump and sprinted for the closing doorway. As he slipped inside, the door closed behind him.
It was pitch black. Archenon muttered a couple of words, and a flame formed in the palm of his hand. The space where he stood looked nothing like the rest of the castle. The downward spiral staircase in front of him matched the obsidian stone walls. A musty smell crawled up his nose, and his throat clogged.
He bit down on his lip and started descending the stairs. He had no idea how far he traveled, but eventually he reached the bottom and the opening to a tunnel.
Archenon hovered at the entrance before him. He should not be taking any chances. He placed his free palm on the wall and muttered, “Traps, things hidden. Show yourself. Visande dèj.”
A ball of light shot through the tunnel and disappeared, leaving three glowing embers the size of his fist scattered ahead of him. Archenon took a step forward, and his foot kicked against a layer of loose gravel. He picked up a handful, placing most of it in his pocket before throwing one pebble at the ember in the middle of the tunnel floor. A surge of wind tugged at him as the floor cracked open, leaving a wide circle surrounded by stony spikes.
Archenon sidled closer. The wind quickly picked up, forcing him back. Something like a small tornado whipped out of the crevice. He shielded his eyes as particles of dust scratched at his skin. Archenon pushed himself against the air current, but he was thrown back yet again. A sharp pain ran down his spine as his fall met the bottom steps of the stairwell.
The storm continued to build. He had to get out. Nothing could stop a force of nature like this, which raged as if made by magic. No, it was magic.
Everything in Aradria had a counterbalance. That was what Archenon had been taught. He must either fight the hurricane with extreme ice or, better yet, extreme heat. He rose to his feet, closed his eyes, and reached for the burning sensation always present in his veins.
“Archanath,” he whispered.
His skin flared like the sun, tendrils of flame leaking from his hands and licking their way down the tunnel to encase the walls.
To his relief, the wind stilled and then died. Panting, Archenon slid to the floor. “Fria,” he said, allowing the flames to die down and his body to return to normal.
He stepped forward, keeping a close watch on the remaining two embers still shining brightly from opposing walls further down the tunnel. The open pit still loomed before him as well. Archenon shuddered and allowed a single tendril of flame to escape his hand and slither into the crevice. The void never ended before he lost sight of the flame.
Holding his breath, Archenon placed his back flat against the wall, carefully shuffling to the other side of the dark hole. He took a moment to steady his breath before returning his attention to the remaining embers. They aligned perfectly with each other.
He retrieved a couple of the pebbles from his pocket, pressing himself against the wall to steady himself. The rough surface dug into Archenon’s back as he chucked the pebbles at one of the embers.
Spikes of stone rained from the ceiling, crashing onto the floor. Before the chaos had even ended, a cluster of vines grew rapidly into a thick wall, with all the appearance of the twisted trunk of a tree. It completely blocked his path. Archenon hesitated but moved forwards.
Frowning, Archenon snapped his fingers and set the trunk ablaze. Why set another trap that could easily be vanquished by fire? He waited as the wall burned. Once it had been reduced to ash, he called for the fire to return to his body. He started forward again, but his feet failed him as a rush of water sent him sliding back towards the crevice. Without a second thought, he uttered, “Stillna.”
His body froze, hovering in place while the tunnel filled completely with the gushing stream. He gulped as the water entered his lungs. There was nothing to do but hang on as his mind started to fail him.
He awoke, gulping and coughing. He lifted himself to his knees and looked down at the crevice where the last remains of water dribbled into the darkness.
What was Pyralis hiding down here? Archenon found himself overcome with curiosity.
He remained where he was a few heartbeats longer before risking any movement forward. Water droplets met stone, echoing lightly as he stood and moved down the tunnel again. No more traps stood between him and the end of the tunnel. He summoned forth a ball of fire in his palm, and blew it onto a torch by the entrance, revealing a small, oval room.
Cobwebs covered a hundred different scrolls similar to those in the Grand Library, though these were all the color of charcoal. Jars and odd containers littered the uneven shelves lining the walls. A dozen different baskets on the floor were filled with crystals, which ranged from gloomy obsidian, to daffodil-yellow, boysenberry-purple, and the clearest pearl-white. A dark green agate desk stood in the center of the room, and behind it lay a double-cylinder black scroll on a similar agate pedestal.
It was a vault filled with dark magic.
Archenon took a deep breath and repeated the spell he had used in the tunnel to reveal any traps. One shining ember hovered above the black scroll. He could not risk damaging it. He flicked his fingers and muttered another spell. “Duth sveva oht mèj.”
The air shifted.
A shimmer surrounded the scroll, lifting it from its place and sending it in Archenon’s direction. He gently plucked it from the air with one hand and waited. The ember disappeared, but nothing else happened. He shrugged and stepped over to the desk.
He stroked a hand over the scroll. The texture was like snakeskin, but tougher. Archenon had only seen this kind of hide in one of his history lessons. A flitter of excitement flew through him. It was dragonhide.
He pulled at the red ribbon holding the scroll closed and was about to roll it open when a speck of ember fell out from within the parchment.
Too easy. The first trap had been a diversion.
Archenon jumped back and curled up against the desk.
The crackling sound of fire hissed from above. He pushed himself up. The entire desktop was ablaze. Archenon smirked. Fire did not hurt him. He pulled up his sleeve and reached into the flames, retrieving the scroll, untouched by the fire. Like him, it did not burn. The flames slowly dissipated, and Archenon placed the scroll back on the desk. On the spine it was marked The Black Lore; A Grimoire of Dark Magic. His eyes widened at the possibilities.
He rolled open the two cylinders, folding away pages upon pages on spells, talismans, divinations, omens, and mythical stories. Archenon pored through every page, soaking up the information. He found instructions on how to best torture magical creatures, a potion to create envy in others, and a reference to an amulet capable of spreading sickness.
Archenon stopped his search upon reaching one page in particular and smoothed it out, fingers tingling. “Night Mara” was scribbled in large letters about halfway down. Archenon skimmed through the passage that followed.
Night Mara are dark spirits, often possessing the body of an after-goer, one who walks after death. They will always search for a way to influence life. They feed on the living, leaving death in their wake. Some believe the Night Mara can possess individuals, keeping them alive, even when they should be dead.
Archenon’s stomach somersaulted. If he could force a dark spirit to possess his mother, then at least he might be able to sustain her until he found another way to save her. He continued reading.
There is no recorded account as to the effects of the possession on the host. It is believed, however, that they will never be the same afterwards. The Night Mara’s influence on their hosts is unpredictable at best. There are said to be ways to summon and control the Night Mara and prevent the after-goer from crossing over to the otherworld. Again, the aftermath is unpredictable. It is worth mentioning that the dark spirit is bound to earth by the elements, as most things in Aradria are.
Archenon folded over to the next page and found a spell for summoning the Night Mara. The instructions would make the Night Mara take possession of the one casting the spell. Archenon would have to rearrange it slightly to suit his purpose, but it should work. He bit down on his lip. At last, however, he stowed the page in his pocket before placing the scroll back on the pedestal and leaving the black vault behind.
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