“What does it mean?” Aria asked the others as she stood before the dire scrawling that obscured the great mural of the Houses. “Did the Skavyns do this?”
Rhazgul, puffed up with indignation, sputtered, “Skavyns are mad. Of course they’d color on the walls, and other such nonsense.”
Doran cast his eyes around the decimated room. It was once impeccably beautiful, with great chandeliers and ornately sculpted marble trimmings. It sat in shambles now, absolute ruins. His heart hung heavy in his chest. “We must leave her. To find her. We must go eastward to the Elestyne Forest, just along the coast. Fe’Lora is there with the others.”
“This journey would take seven crosses of the Burning Star. We do not know what lay between us and them,” Xarian said matter-of-factly.
Rhazgul guffawed. “Don’t suppose you could sprout wings again, Consul Xarian. That’d expedite the trip!” He knew full well that a shape-shifting glamour was only temporary – that they could last only for the short window of time after the target shape had been seen, but before the memory of its intricacies decayed. Even the strongest memory could never hold one for seven days. Still, he enjoyed heckling Xarian and trying to chip away at his impervious, stone-like demeanor.
Xarian did not flinch, but turned to Rhazgul slowly. “What of your house of Grimthane and your instruments of flight?”
With a wistful sigh, Rhazgul replied, “The Skyboat was on the East Platform. But, like everything else, it has been destroyed.” He leaned against an overturned bench. “It would take all the Magika in the world to-“
Throwing up a hand, Doran stopped him. “We have that.” His eyes darted to each of their faces. “The EverMaji well. Yes?” He sat Tobee down upon the floor. “This place remains unaffected by the Gray. Magika here is intact, this is what allowed Aria to resurrect dead leaves, and Xarian to become a dinosaur…”
Xarian cleared his throat and rolled his eye slightly. “A Skavyn.” Sometimes the human was obtuse.
Disregarding Xarian, Doran moved past them, rushing to the door. “Follow me. Watch.”
Standing on the cobblestone platform, wrapped in the blue ambiance of the pulsing crystals, he picked up a shard of metal flung from a collapsed wall. “If I am wrong, may Spectra strike me down in my shoes.” He knelt down. “But, before I ever arrived here, I witnessed something I never imagined possible.” He began driving the metal against the stone, scraping away the polished surface. “One moment, I was within the ruins of a garden, overgrown with weeds behind a decrepit old tower.” He scraped more aggressively now as flecks of stone chipped away. “I, myself, had grown old and deteriorated from time and consequence. But I sought a source of Magic. I believed it existed in the world once, during an era lost to time and fable. I sought artifacts and relics.” Fine dust rose from around his sharp instrument, billowing out from the stone. “But I had been defeated. I had given up hope. And in that moment when I allowed my determination to exhaust itself, I dumped these artifacts down an old well, where they smashed apart. They must have had just enough Magika in them to activate the Portal within. And from it came a flood so great that it…” He stopped whittling at the stone and stared, expectantly, at the deep line he’d engraved within it. He watched the a stream of glowing blue Magika course over it. And he watched as, in a matter of moments, the stone healed itself, leaving it perfectly polished as it had been a minute before. He concluded with a smile “…. Restored everything.”
His comrades stood in awe. Aria touched the reflective stone, and indeed it had no indication of scratches. “What do we do?”
He looked up at the humming EverMaji well, which was bubbling over from the gouge at the center of the three severed pieces. “We use an explosive.”
“Now you’re speaking me language!” Rhazgul shouted.
“You mean to destroy it?” Aria said with concern.
Doran took her shoulders excitedly, “As with the stone, it will heal!”
It took Rhazgul just a few moments to scour the remains of his old House Quarters in the Grimthane wing to find some sparklepowder and an empty Bloomy Ale container to use. A tattered old drawstring would be his wick, when dipped in lantern oil. and thick wax to seal it tight. They stood around the EverMaji well, mostly with trepidation, except for Doran, who seemed intent that it should work.
Xarian leaned down toward the wick and, with a flick of his finger, ignited it.
Doran hustled Aria away and the others followed. Behind one of the collapsed vestibules, they huddled and took shelter against the flying debris to come. Tobee’s legs wriggled in Doran’s grasp. “I’d like to watch. Can I watch?”
The explosion rang out like thunder in the night, followed by a series of heavy splatters and the thuds and cracks of rubble colliding with the surroundings. The Magicians emerged slowly from their alcove of safety and saw a gash in the platform where the stone once sat. A stream of Magika spiraled high into the air like a geyser, raining down upon the Academy. But the wreckage stayed the same.
Holding out his hand, Rhazgul caught some gleaming droplets in his palm. “It didn’t work,” he murmured, sadness darkening his voice..
Doran shook his head. Had he made a mistake? Had he forgotten the exact course of events that had led him to this very courtyard so long ago?. They were all drenched now in the thick blue liquid. “I don’t understand…” he uttered quietly.
Xarian, expressionless as ever, slowly pulled back his hood. Lightly touching his Myrridian Ore mask, he lifted it away. The warm blue rain pattered on his skin, and he closed his one good eye. The other, fixed and lidless, could only squint. But he did not flinch as the liquid reached his eyes. It did not burn or sting, but rather filled his flesh with a glorious sensation he had never felt before. The mangled pulp of scars were smoothed away. The deep wound within his cheek knitted itself together. The gleaming bone was covered by soft flesh.
Aria watched closely and took her hand to her mouth in what might have been fear or shock, no more could she discern between the two. At last, Xarian’s blind and milky eye cleared, and an iris as brown and warm as summer soil formed at the center. Xarian blinked hard. “Look,” was all that she could say. And they did. And Xarian looked, with both eyes, on them.
“Ahhhaaa!” Rhazgul cheered, “I liked you better ugly, Ugly!”
Losing his balance, Xarian collapsed into the nearby broken pillar. He hadn’t seen out of both eyes in so long that the sudden depth of perspective was dizzying. Aria took his arm to steady him.
Suddenly, things did indeed begin to change. The bend iron bars of the Courtyard gate grew straight again, and the shattered glass from the courtyard cobbles rose and reassembled, like a series of intricate puzzles, then settled back into their sills. The broken walls were rebuilt themselves and reached for their former glory. It was as if time itself were turning backward.
Doran laughed aloud as he watched the Magic Academy restore itself, just as the old tower back home had.
The fountain at the center of the courtyard came together and spouted forth beautiful water once again, and flowers of red and yellow leapt up from the ground and bloomed with life. The slumped bodies of the Skavyn turned into rich earth and blew away on a strong breeze, leaving nothing in their place but strange blue-black ferns with slim blue-black fronds.)
Rhazgul laughed like a child and stuck out his tongue as he tried to catch some drops of Magika upon it. Suddenly he made a sour face. “Ehh, disgustin’! Blah!” He spat twice and then, startled, threw his hand over his mouth as his eyes became wide as saucers. Yanking his hand away he looked into it and saw his wooden dentures. Confused for a moment, he stuck his fingers in his mouth and felt around before declaring, “Me old teeth grew back!”
After the reconstruction of the Academy had been completed and the damage from battles and time had all but been erased, the well, too, recovered its original form. The three severed pieces of the stone shaped themselves around the flow of Magika, stemming it from a massive geyser to a spluttering burble.
Aria stood beside Xarian, now holding his arm as much to support herself as him. Nearly in tears, she pressed her hand to her chest and gazed at the magnificence of the Magic Academy. She felt it was even more beautiful than she’d remembered it, and with a pang in her heart, she realized she’d once taken it for granted. She never would do so again.
Doran made haste for the EverMaji well and began to study the runes carved into the stones along the perimeter. Rhazgul appeared at his side and clapped him on the shoulder. “What now, my lad? Do we take the Skyboat to Elestyn Forest and bring them home?” He rocked back and forth on his heels with delight. “Did ya see me new teeth, too?”
Xarian, now more steady on his feet, approached them, Aria by his side. He looked on Rhazgul with the faintest hint of a smile on his lips. “Just when I was hoping your old ones would soon wear out.” Aria let out a sound somewhere between a laugh and sob and smiled at them both.
Seemingly lost in his own thoughts, Doran paid all of them no mind, but scurried from stone to stone, examining the Portal. “It was done once before,” he muttered.“I believe I can…”
“What are you on about, Doran?” Rhazgul asked, rubbing his head and wondering if one of them had lost their senses.
Looking up at them all with a gleam in his eye, Doran grinned. “Portals! I think I can recreate them! Smaller, of course. But we can deliver them to safety. We can send the Mystics through them!” He scrambled to his feet and gripped Xarian by the vest. Clearly somewhat rattled by all the day’s events, Xarian actually raised an eyebrow in surprise. Doran shook him gently by the lapels. “Can you fly the Skyboat, collect everyone from the Forest, and bring them back here?”
Xarian nodded with acknowledgment, extracted himself from Doran’s grip, and set off, almost chuckling.
Turning his attention to Rhazgul, Doran spoke fast. “I need a delivery instrument, a gadget of some sort. We won’t send the Mystics directly through the portal, because what if no one is on the other end to release them? So we’ll send smaller portals – many, many smaller portals! Infinite portals, crafted from this stone – the Magika will heal it! Can you make me a device to ship them in, Rhazgul?”
His stumpy legs stomped the ground and he gave a salute as straight and true as a spirit level. “Rhazgul, at your command. I’ll get to it now!” and he scurried off toward the workshops.
Quietly, Aria sat upon the edge of the portal wall. “So we’re going to create portals from this stone, with this Magika, and shuttle the Mystics into the stars, with only hope on our side.”
Doran grinned and shook his head. “No, not just any star. We will send portals to only one world. The only place I know where people may be able to help us. The one safe place we can reach where Magika once existed. Where we know it can exist again.”