Tasbir came to life on the eve of Freeday with people taking to the streets to escape their families and daily lives or make new experiences. A wandering group of entertainers, known as the Keyif, would travel from world to world and set up for a single night to offer the people a taste from the exotic corners of the galaxies. Men and women of all types were booked by the hour. Delicacies that would melt on the tongue and the best herbs to make the desperate forget how much they hated their lives were only a few of the services offered.
Ardeshir watched from the Guild gates and listened to the music and cheerful cries coming from within the tents. He visited the Keyif once before with Yazdan who left him alone in a tent. Sirin danced in front of him and closed in on him, slowly removing what little clothing she had on until Ardeshir stopped her. They talked for the rest of the hour and he grew to liking Sirin. She told him of all the worlds she’d been to and the many wonders she came across. Live and dead worlds and worlds broken apart it was a miracle people could still survive on the shattered plates. The sands of the hourglass ran dry, and he had to leave for the night but Sirin gave him a kiss on the cheek before he stumbled out of the tent.
With a letter in hand, he visited the field the Keyif had set up on the next day only to find it empty and all traces of Sirin gone. For two years, whenever the Keyif visited, he’d go in search of Sirin to relive the excitement he felt in a single hour.
Vida appeared at his side in a new outfit. She modeled it after a dress one of the Guild elementals wore heading to the fest. “Is there a cause for celebration? I’m not accustomed to your human traditions.”
“It’s nothing,” Ardeshir said, crumbling the letter in his hand before stuffing it into his pocket. He turned his back on the Keyif and strode down the road. “I’d like to do some research and with everyone distracted, you shouldn’t draw too much suspicion.”
“I understand, but you shouldn’t isolate yourself from life. I’ve seen what can happen when a summoner goes into hiding.”
“I said, it’s nothing. Besides, you’re the one warning me of our doom.” Ardeshir paused while a group of magi passed them by on the way to the fest. Not every mage got to travel, most stayed on the world they trained on in order to help the community expand and maintain order.
They arrived at the extensive structure on the west side of the grounds. Lanterns still burned on the outside, signaling they were open.
“Ah, you’ve returned. How was your trip? I see you’ve brought back a woman this time,” the librarian said as they entered. She climbed down from the ladder and fixed her hat to sit firmly on the center of her head again. She made sure to keep her uniform in crisp order, as was everything else inside the library.
“This is Vida, she’s helping me on some research I’ve been doing lately. I promise we won’t get in your way.”
Calisma set her hands on her hips and sized Vida up. She didn’t tolerate nonsense, even though she was significantly shorter than Vida.
“I just want to help,” Vida finally offered.
“Very well. Just make sure you put everything back from where you took it and I don’t want to catch you two doing any funny business in my library.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll behave.” He moved to the door but paused and glanced over his shoulder. “Have you ever heard of a leviathan?”
Calisma slowly turned around. “An interesting topic you bring up at this time of day. I didn’t figure you to be the type interested in fairy tales. Don’t suppose your newfound friend has anything to do with it.”
“It’s just something I came across off-world.”
“The leviathan isn’t something you just stumble across. It’s a relatively new tale, about as old as our understanding of magic. A group of magi believed they were the apostles of the ahura and destined to fight the ultimate evil in form of a leviathan. It’s not an uncommon phenomenon. There have been plenty of messiahs and chosen ones over the generations. Magic can still get to people’s heads.”
“What if it’s not a fairy tale but reality?” Vida asked, drawing the librarian’s attention to her.
“Vida, that’s a beautiful name.” Calisma clasped her hands together and smiled. “Then I’d wish you both the best of luck and point you to aisle seven. You might find what you’re looking for there.”
“Thank you for your time Lady Calisma,” Ardeshir said and nudged Vida to follow him. He broke her trail of thought and she followed him. They proceeded to aisle seven where he trailed his finger across the spines of the books, searching for any volume that might shed some light on the leviathan or ahura. “I don’t understand why she sent us here. These are all outdated realmwalker study materials.”
Vida perked up and removed a book from the shelf and flicked it open. “These are star maps.”
“Yeah but they’re at least fifty years old. The realmwalkers can’t use them anymore without missing their destination.”
“The universe is in motion, which is why I didn’t recognize the maps you kept in your room. These should better align with my knowledge of when we first arrived in this galaxy. See if you can find the oldest map available.”
Ardeshir went along the bookshelf, flipping through the titles until he came across a second edition Introduction to Realmwalking. It was printed five years after the discovery of magic and the ink had largely faded over the past hundred and ten years. The words didn’t matter to Vida who couldn’t read their language but the diagrams and maps could help.
Vida glanced at the content over his shoulder and turned it over in his hands. “The scale is too small. I don’t recognize any of these places.”
Ardeshir pointed at the center system. “You don’t recognize it? That’s Masad where Ahmun taught the first magi and the Guild was founded.”
Vida shook her head. “I never heard of a prince by that name. It’s possible he took on a new name for your kind.”
“But the ahura taught us magic to help better our lives.”
“Perhaps he did but the ahura are not all alike. The outpost you found me in was built by human slaves my master captured when we first came into contact with your kind. It’s how I learned to speak your language.”
They spent the next few hours going through the old volumes and Ardeshir rowed them up chronologically. As the years went by, so too did the maps grow in scope. The worlds became connected to each other through the help of the Guild realmwalkers and people pushed out to discover new frontiers.
Vida dabbed her finger at a blank spot on the page of the Third Edition. “This is where Ashi built his outpost.”
Ardeshir furrowed his brows and gazed into her eyes. “There’s nothing there.”
“You’re not looking correctly. The system is listed in these two later editions but then left out of all following editions. I was able to retrace it’s pathway, and it’s there and our best chance at finding more of the anachiti.”
Ardeshir grinned and snatched the book. “Then all we need to do is find a realmwalker brave enough to explore territory where no one has been in over sixty years and I know just the man.”
Next time on Magefall …
Episode 7 A Close Encounter