"Come on." Lein reached out for her hand, rolling his eyes and letting out an exasperated sigh as Riva didn't move. "We have a job to do." His voice was softer as he said it.
"I'm coming." she responded after a moment, glancing down at her tablet again. She clutched it to her chest as they walked through the semi-opaque double doors. Riva followed as he traveled towards the back of the Medic-filled room, almost needing to run to keep up with him.
Lein stopped at a large control panel, taking Riva's tablet as she set it down. She touched her white wristband to a small disk, and the holographic screen flickered to life.
"Initializing." said a bodiless feminine voice as the screen swirled to one of the arena. Riva stared out at the falling snow, taking a step towards Lein as the screen split in half. They could see a cave embedded in the rock face on the upper right. The faint light of a glowing fire visible from inside. On the lower section, there was a familiar, fair-skinned face. A sleek, feathered dragon stood close to her. Though bathed in shadow from the cliff above, her features were easily distinguished.
"We'll learn much from her." Commented a passing white-coat, gesturing to the girl on the screen. Riva nodded, unable to do anything else. This was wrong. Everything about this was wrong. But why couldn't she bring herself to fight?
I lean against Veradis, the newly found information about the Races refusing to leave my mind. Who even is Althea? Why is she so important?
The sky is a brilliant shade of blue, with clouds floating above in faint wisps. It changes to the northwest, where everything is in shades of gray with snow beating down. I stand, opening my mind. Of all Elementals, the ones with power over Wind and Air are unique. I can locate people as a Telepath would, as long as they're within the parameters of my abilities.
I sense two people, first. They're together, with their dragons. I look out at the snow far in the distance, eyes searching for anything besides white. Those people are within the icy tundra.
"I thought I could just talk to the dragons and somehow end all this." I murmur to Veradis, shaking my head. "I didn't know anything, did I." She flexes her wings, staring at me those blue eyes.
She has hope.
Hope that somehow I'll be able to fight, and untangle the interwoven threads of this tapestry. I don't have that much in myself. But if Veradis believes I can, then I'll try. I open my mind again, and find Everlys somewhere behind me and to the east. I search for Theirn and Karila, knowing that they are my only allies. I don't sense them. It's worrying, and makes my blood run cold. What if they've both been killed? I'm distracted as I find Alaric. He's further away than everyone else, far off to south.
My original plan was to talk to the dragons and put them against the people who act as their masters. Maybe, if I could get the contestants on my side, as well, we would have some chance of facing the enemy, whomever that enemy may be.
"Who should we talk to first?" Veradis stared at me for a moment before turning in the direction of the expanse of white.
"That's going to be very cold." I say, then pointed back towards the forests. "How about that way? Where it's still moderately warm?"
Veradis shakes her head and paws at the ground, thrusting her muzzle towards the tundra. She knew more than I when it came to the arena. Though I would greatly prefer not to venture into the ice and snow, she wanted us to go there. After all, Veradis did show me the secrets of that cave. Following what she says will be my best chance of survival.
I climb on to her back, and Veradis stands to her full, magnificent height. She spreads her wings, and I clutch her feathers in tight fists as she leaps into the sky. Her wing-beats are powerful, and I narrow my eyes against the wind. I've never flown before. Now, I'm quite literally in my element.
I've never felt this powerful before. The wind feels strengthening, rather than a force I have to fight against. Veradis doesn't seem to be having any difficulty against the icy gusts, flying in an elegant streamline. Her compact and sleek feathers offer no resistance.
A smile spreads across my face. But this smile isn't fake, or forced for an audience. This is the first time in weeks that I've felt truly happy. I stare out at the expanse, not seeing anything in sight. I don't worry about the cold, but rather the sudden change from green and brown to white.
"Keep going." I instruct, and she spreads her wings again. We only fly for another few minutes before a frozen lake comes into view. It's large, though not overly so, and covered with sheets of glittering ice. She dips down, landing lightly ten meters from the frozen lake. I jump off, and she folds in her wings. There's something in front of us- something that made Veradis stop mid-flight.
I walk towards the edge of the lake and extend my hand forward, then sharply pull it back. A tingle goes down my arm, like a spark of electricity. The symbol that the cloaked figure had marked on my arm appeared again in sharp tingles. I pull up my sleeve, turning back to Veradis as I yank it back down.
"Maybe it's a sign." I pronounce with an attempt to lift the mood. "The arena doesn't want us to risk dying of hypothermia." Veradis stares at me, then out at the lake. I follow her gaze into the expanse of ice with a sigh. I hesitate before taking a step forward and holding up my hand. There's some sort of barrier I'll have to walk through.
The mysterious mass induces fear, along with a surprised excitement. My fingertips glow a soft, faint white as I touch whatever it is that's in front of me. It doesn't tingle, this time. It doesn't feel like anything.
I take another few steps forward, and turn in a circle before facing Veradis. "It looks safe, I think. Come on." She doesn't move, pawing at the ground. Her tail swishes back and forth. I'm not sure how I know, but Veradis can't pass whatever shield I walked through. She points her nose to the left, then forward, gesturing that she'll find a way around. I nod, meeting her eyes. They're filled with determination, for both me and herself.
"See you soon, Vera." I whisper, and she ruffles her wings before launching off into the sky. She circles above me once before turning to the west. I watch until she disappears from view.
I look out at the lake, pulling my hood up to cover my head. Surprisingly, it isn't cold. The jacket seems to be holding in warmth.
To the right, there's an expanse of snow reaching further than I can see. To the left, there are steep, sheer cliffs I can't climb. Even if I could, the ice and snow would make it impossible.
I take a step forward out on to the lake, testing my weight on the ice. I reach out my hand as if to grab something, closing it around the cold air. It acts as a rail and form of balance as I take another step.
I look back in the direction my dragon had flown, then out at the land visible on the other side.
I hope Veradis makes it. Whatever it is I'll have to face, I won't be able to do it without her.