Moments #2

Introduction

The following short story is part of the Moments series. It is set in Weissland twenty-four years and eleven months before the White War. It features Nathaniel Drakkon travelling and arriving in Ataya and is the earliest story chronologically in the Moments series.

Ancient Morning

He had been riding hard all night. Nathaniel pulled the reins on the horse and slowed to a trot. With a quick movement he flipped the hood of his riding cloak down and looked around, left and right. The road was deserted which was to be expected at this time.

He thought back over the past few days. His journey had taken him from Crint, west to Ledek and then south towards Ataya. It would not be long and then he would begin his training as a mage of Weissland, although he did not know what to expect. Perhaps that is the right reaction, he thought. To expect the unexpected and be ready for anything was probably a good idea.

Ever since he had left Ledek he had felt strange. It was like the hairs on the back of his neck were always up. So much so he was wondering if cutting those hairs off would remove the feeling. He was constantly on edge. It had not helped that when he passed over the bridge south of Ledek two common criminals had tried to make him pay a ‘toll’.

As they had stood beside his horse, he had kicked one in the face, sending him crashing to the ground. Before the other could draw a weapon Nathaniel spurred his chestnut coloured horse onwards and grabbed the scrawny man by the neck. He lifted the man as the horse ran on, the man’s feet scrabbling and scuffing over the road. As Nathaniel skilfully manoeuvred the horse towards the side of the road at speed he hefted the man higher and then let go as he angled the horse away. The man had smashed into the fence and hedge, rolling and cart wheeling comically.

It had not raised Nathaniel’s spirits, only served to dampen them and ever since he had felt as if someone was watching him, someone unseen and stealthy, yet there none the less. He wondered if it was somehow connected to Arthan. If it was… no, the idea is preposterous, he convinced himself. Had it only been two months since it happened, since Arthan had been taken from them?

Riding on, he could tell by the faint light that it was still dawn; the sun had not risen to the east, even though the tree line was thick. Eventually he came over a rise and the land dropped away gently into a wide plain and Nathaniel saw it in the distance. A vast city full of buildings, some squat, others tall. He could see the tower, so far above anything else the city had to offer. As he looked at the city, the light played across walls and Nathaniel saw the refractions of dawn arc from rooftop to spire. It was eternal, an ancient morning like every other yet still unique.

Nathaniel rode onwards, eventually entering the city. He had expected the streets to be all but empty, and was surprised to find many of them busy. Ataya was a huge city, much vaster than his home city of Crint, and it seemed that people were always busy here. Slowly the young man made his way through the streets, heading south towards the tower of Ataya. As he was riding through the streets, less than a mile from the tower, the sun began to rise to his left. Finally he was free of the city and he began to ride quicker towards the tower which sat some distance to the south-east of the city itself. He rode up to the tower and halted. Guards approached and Nathaniel got down from the horse to speak with them. The first guard held up a hand and said “What business brings you to the tower of Ataya?”

Nathaniel replied “I am to begin training as a mage of Weissland.” He produced a document from his clothes and said “Here is the document which proves it.”

The first guard took the pro-offered letter and began to look it over. The second guard remained alert, his spear at the ready as he cautiously watched Nathaniel for signs of hostility. After a few moments the first guard said “This document is in order, you may enter the tower. Carry on, there are stables over there.” The guard pointed to the stables.

Nathaniel nodded and said “Thank you.” He took his horse by the reins and led it to the stables. He was still numb from the sheer magnitude of the tower. He stabled his horse, and once the animal was settled, he walked back towards the doors of the tower. As he entered he looked around, almost in awe. He spoke with a man just inside the entrance “I have just arrived to begin my training as a mage. Could you tell me where new arrivals should go?”

The man replied “Ah, the new mages. There are quite a few of you this year. You are to gather in the audience hall on the second floor. You can’t miss it really, just the first door on your right when take those stairs over there. Good luck.”

Nathaniel nodded “Thank you.” He headed up the stairs, taking his time so he could admire the amazing stonework of the tower. Eventually he reached the second floor and turned right, entering the first door there. As he entered a few other people looked over, most with nervous or amazed expressions fixed upon their faces. They were clearly the new trainees, most were around Nathaniel’s age, either slightly younger or older. Around a dozen were already gathered here, and more still arrived after him. It seemed that there were at least fifty people in the room by the time an hour had passed. Nathaniel was glad he was not the last to arrive.

Shortly after the last few new hopefuls arrived a man in simple mages robes entered the room from another door and took up a place behind a lectern. The man had a short beard and short, straight brown hair. His eyes seemed to glint with a jovial energy. The man introduced himself “I am mage Jarroth Boralays. I am to be one of your instructors. Welcome to the tower of Ataya. Your journeys have led you here, and now you will embark upon the greatest journey yet.”

Nathaniel looked around the room, taking in the electric atmosphere. He saw a girl with stunning red hair and the most amazing smile. That smile reminded him of the refractions of dawn. Perhaps this is where I should be, where I need to be, he thought. And I want to know her name.

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