The Phoenix Mage (Ch 2)

Ch: 2 The Temple

The Phoenix Mage (Ch 2)

A priestess was waiting when Seidy stepped past the glossy black pillar and into the temple itself. She was led through winding corridors and finally into a room. In the little room sat a wood tub full of water and a stone basin full of water and herbs. Her mother and sister both had coached her in what to do as the whole ceremony was performed in silence. Seidy eyed the tub reluctantly, the reason she hadn't washed before heading out this morning. Seidy carefully stripped out of her clothes and stepped into the wood tub, shivering at the cold water.

The priestess handed her the special un-perfumed soap and Seidy washed as best she could before stepping out of the tub, dripping wet and freezing. It didn't stop there however. Now Seidy made her way to the stone basin filled with more water and herbs. She recognised her favourite herb, rosemary, by scent alone and what might be thyme, but wasn't sure what the others might be.

Picking up a handful or herbs, she started to scrub. She made sure to regularly put used herbs back into the water and grab fresh handfuls as best she could. Even running a handful of herbs through her hair before placing it back into the water.

Once done, the Priestess used what appeared to be silver tongs to remove the herbs from the basin and into a glass bowl. Then she approached Seidy with a knife also made of pure silver. Even to Seidy's untrained eye, the knife was a thing of beauty, so old it had the same long forgotten and ancient script as the monoliths. This too was tradition and Seidy reluctantly knelt to allow the priestess to cut her hair at shoulder height using the knife, the cut hair carefully placed into the glass bowl with the herbs. Then the knife slashed across her arm, opening a shallow wound. Seidy gathered a handful of herbs and hair to collect the blood, and place it back into the bowl, the priestess was at no time allowed to personally handle any of it.

Seidy was handed the bowl and she rose back to her feet as the priestess picked up what appeared to be a large silver soup ladle. This was dipped into the water, remaining in the stone basin and carefully handed to her. With glass bowl in one hand and a ladle in the other, Seidy followed the priestess into the next room. A coal brazier was already glowing hot and the room full of steam.

The priestess seemed pleased, and with a single bow, stepped back out of the room and shut the door behind her. The heat and the steam was helping to thaw Seidy out, but she couldn't stop to enjoy it. This was what all the preparations were for. Seidy gently lifted the ladle and tipped the water over the hot coals, fresh steam billowing out around her.

Taking a deep breath, she then upended the bowl of herbs, hair, and blood on top. The mixture immediately began to sizzle and smoke, and Seidy hurriedly sat down into a cross legged position. Everyone underwent this tradition when they turned sixteen, when they came of age. Everyone received a vision, typically just one, which showed them what they would be doing with the rest of their lives. One day Seidy would realise this too was magic, a very personal type of magic, but for now she merely waited to see what future would be revealed to her.

Her mother worked late at the Healers, helping the sick and injured, her father and brothers all worked in construction, her sister had a gift for cooking. Seidy thought hers would involve some sort of craft, as she loved making things with her hands. She didn't have the knack with wood that her father and brothers had, but she loved spinning wool and then making things from it, like the shawl she wore today, and lately her attention had been making jewelry. Bracelets, necklaces, brooches, and the like. She was not prepared for what she got when the smoke swirled around her and entered into her nose.

The first thing she saw was herself, sitting just as she was, and before she could think, it was like she was looking down at herself, only the temple roof wasn't in the way. She kept moving upwards, just outside the door a novice was running up to the priestess, babbling about a fight, pulling her away from the room.

The vision then showed her the entire temple without its roof, showed her exactly the hallways and doors she would have to go through to find her way to another part of the temple. An elderly priest sat yawning at a desk, a book open in front of him along with quill and ink. He absently picked up what Seidy recognised as a quest token.

"Females never get chosen for quests." He grumbled and then yawned again. Then she saw herself there in front of the desk, priest asleep, turning the book around and using the quill to write even as her spare hand snagged the quest token. The words clear and precise just below the name of the last person to receive a quest token from this town, Aiden.

The vision then showed her a map. Showed a line traveling from Bute to the East, and Seidy knew she would be traveling, but her heart sunk when she realised she would have to cross the border, leaving Leuwin for Riverina. The line continued in a east-north easterly direction until she reached a place called Hume, a place she knew was Riverina's capital city. The vision changed to show her a castle and she had the definite sense that this would be her new home. Then she was inside the castle, in a library full of old books and scrolls, and she somehow knew she would be given full access to these books, to look at, read, and understand all of them.

Suddenly she was at a garden and it felt like time had passed. There were two people walking through beds of flowers and herbs, and it felt like they were friends. A man of perhaps forty with long blond hair and steel grey eyes, and a boy, the man's son of maybe fourteen, whose pale hair had a ginger-ish tinge and eyes a darker grey. Somehow she instinctively knew the man was the King of Riverina. She had the definite sense the garden wasn't hers, but she could do what she liked with it. A flash of movement in the garden, and then there was a dragon perched on a pot. Small, with bright red scales, Seidy barely had a chance to realise this dragon was also friendly, that it knew her, that they trusted each other, but even in her astonishment she could tell there was something wrong with it. Seidy almost reached an answer when the scene shifted again.

She was in the library again, and again time had jumped forward. She was seated in front of parchment with a fine paintbrush and ink, and she was illustrating. Inexplicably filled with a calmness, a contentment and patience she never dreamed of having, her hand was steady and sure as she worked. When she glanced over to a propped up open book nearby, she realised she was actually copying an illustration from an ancient text. So old in fact that she felt that, if she didn't take the time now to copy those pictures, the knowledge in that book would be lost forever.

Something caused her to look up, and a man was seated in a big leather armchair reading an equally old book. He looked up, and Seidy barely had time to take in curly brown hair and honey-coloured eyes over a straight blade of a nose before a wave of affection caught her off guard, and she knew without a doubt this man would be her husband one day. Then she saw the feymark on his right forearm, in the form of a phoenix.

Before she had a moment to process this, she was back in her own body with smoke and steam swirling all round her. She watched as the smoke seemed to gather around her left wrist, and with a sinking feeling of dread watched as it seemed to sink beneath her skin. She felt utterly helpless as a feymark appeared under the skin of her own left forearm. She blinked in shock at the egg shape on her inner wrist, as grey as the smoke that had created it, but otherwise looked like nothing more than an ordinary chicken's egg.

Then fear gripped her, she wasn't sure what exactly just happened, but she couldn't stay here, if she did, she was dead and that much she could be certain of.

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Sonia Wilson
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