The dense jungle leaves blocked her view as she tried to keep up. The others were ahead, running away from her. But it was different from before. They weren't running from another giant ape-like creature that Kricoo had never seen before. No, this time they were running too something they spotted in the distance. It was some kind of structure. A building maybe. Arayoo saw it when he flew up to scout, and they were understandably excited—Kricoo included.
She chased after them, not knowing what she'd find each time she pushed through a wall of leaves. But Quetza had been teaching her to rely on her magic more. Now was as good a time any. She focused on the energy within her and closed her eyes as she ran. It was still scary, especially in a dense jungle full of oversized animals, but she was fairly certain she could do it. From the darkness that was the back of her eyelids, a light began to appear. She could see the plants as they were blowing in the wind, moving in quick jerks. It was sped up. She saw blurs of animals that had crossed the same path earlier that day, or maybe the day before. She was still honing the timing of it all.
It was a lot to take in at once. It was hard to parse all of it, but she didn't need to. All she had to do was focus on her next footsteps, where they would land. And she did. She could see the shape of the ground before her and moved her feet in accordance. She saw a branch waving sporadically in the wind at her head level and ducked under it.
She smiled, excited that she was using her magic, and using it well. She thought of the others. She thought of the looks they gave her when she messed something up or when she didn't yet know how to use her magic in certain situations. Maybe she'd be able to prove to them that she can contribute. If she kept this up, she would stand shoulder to shoulder with them and no longer be looked down on.
She continued, with her feet landing on flat ground each time, thanks to her sight magic filling in the upcoming path. Then the image became blurred. Kricoo tried to focus on the ground but there was a blur too dense to see through. She opened her eyes without slowing down and crashed into the back of another Avian. He was already moving to dodge, but she still knocked him off one foot. Kricoo tripped over the other foot and was launched to the clearing in front of him. She skidded to a halt in the dirt and then turned to look up at him. It was Skaith, the last one she would want to run into.
Skaith stared down at her with his dark eyes set in a scowl. A gust of wind caused his dark brown feathers to raise in the wrong direction and his yellow hooked beak pointed down at her, accusatory.
"I'm sorry," said Kricoo. She tried not to look up at him. She had a feeling that because her own Avian features resembled a barn owl, she looked weak—submissive. She didn't want to give him the gratification of thinking he embarrassed her. But he did.
"Get up," said Skaith. He looked away and back up at something behind her. She pushed herself onto taloned feet and turned to see what he was staring at. The others were in the clearing as well looking at a tiered stone pyramid sitting among the jungle foliage.
"Woah," said Kricoo. After the word left her mouth, she regretted saying it. One more thing to make her look like a novice out here.
"There's a door over here," said Calack. The others approached and after a few moments of fiddling, there was a sound of grinding stone as Calack pushed the stone door aside.
"Careful," said Arayoo. "There may be traps."
"I can go first," said Skaith. "I'll keep my mind open."
Arayoo nodded and Calack stepped aside.
Quetza went in next, her tropical colored feathers disappearing into the darkness. Calack and Arayoo followed, leaving only Kricoo outside.
Kricoo hurried to the edge of the doorway and stepped inside, hoping not to get behind and lose the group. She knew they wouldn't wait and she didn't want to face whatever might be in the forest behind them.
The group moved fast, as did most Avians. But living with Avians was different than exploring with them. They were on a mission, and it was clear. They waited for nothing, relying on their magic to prepare them for threats. And this group was some of the best. She was lucky to be with them, even though she didn't feel that way.
The light from the doorway quickly faded as she entered the pyramid. The path took a sharp left turn and then a right, and then the path split.
Oh no, she thought to herself. How do I find them now?
She looked at both paths trying to find signs of the other Avians. There was nothing definite in the dim lighting. She thought again about her training. She needed to learn to rely on it more. She closed her eyes, and her view only darkened a little, but magic filled her mind with images. She could see the walls. They were old. There was very little change in a long time, aside from a crack forming, or dust falling from them, but that wasn't what she was after.
She focused on the ground and the space between the walls and the blurs filled in. The blurs went off to the left. She followed with her eyes still closed but her mind open. The blurs danced in her mind like wisps of smoke. A different color for each of the Avians she followed. Dark brown for Skaith. He was the most faded. Yellow and orange for Quetza. Black for Calack and White for Arayoo.
She followed them around several bends and then saw the blurs begin to solidify again. She thought of last time and didn't want to have another accident, especially in such tight quarters. She closed her mind and opened her eyes as she slowed her pace.
When she did, she looked ahead. The group was staring at the ground, a light beyond them outlined their silhouettes. Kricoo stepped closer and found a white glowing shape like a snake lining the floor.
"What is it?" said Skaith.
Arayoo was the one to answer. "This must be what the others were talking about. The veins of magic."
"And it looks like we've found ours," said Quetza.
"Indeed," said Arayoo. "But let's not tamper with it. There's no telling what it might do."
"What veins?" asked Kricoo.
"Just don't mess with it," said Skaith.
The group continued down the corridor. Taking quick turns that took Kricoo longer to follow than the rest. She heard talk up ahead, but couldn't tell what they were saying. When she reached the approximate location, she felt the floor shift beneath her. A hand grabbed her by the feathers and yanked her to the floor. She opened her eyes and saw spears sticking out of the wall where she just stood.
"Keep your mind open," hissed Skaith.
"Oh... Thanks," said Kricoo. Once again, Skaith had embarrassed her. He offered no help but still reprimanded her every time she missed something. It was infuriating. How was she supposed to get better if all they ever did was look down on her and treat her like she was incapable? They wouldn't have even let her come to Daegal if they weren't hurting for willing warriors so badly. They resented her, and all she wanted to do was help. She wanted to find her people.
Skaith continued through the darkness through the maze and Kricoo lifted herself back to her feet. She opened her mind again and continued to follow, paying extra attention to ripples in the blurs of smoke that might indicate that the others had dodged some kind of trap.
The mazed wound on for what seemed like forever, and Kricoo was moving slower to ensure that she was interpreting her magic correctly. When it did finally come to an end, the blurs coalesced into the rough shapes of Avians. She opened her eyes. The white glow of the veins on the floor and ceiling was so bright that she could make out where everyone was and who each figure was. They all stood in a tight corridor that seemed to stop at a dead end. White veins pushed through the crack in the dead end. That must be what they were after.
Arayoo was working on something in the wall. It was like he was reading it, but there were only a series of dots arranged in the shape of an eye from what Kricoo could see. Arayoo pushed a white feathered hand against a panel that was hidden only a second ago and a door shifted, though it did not open entirely. The vines wedged it in place.
"I've got it," said Calack. He backed up and everyone flattened against the wall. Calack was big, so it was hard to stay out of his way. The large black feathered Avian ran at the door like a ghost in the shadows. There was a noise, and then the light of the room beyond poured into the hallway.
It was much of the same light—a white pulsing glow emanating from the veins themselves. In this room, there were enough veins that it made for a significant light source.
The Avians entered slowly. It was odd. Kricoo entered last. She wished they had talked to her about what all of this might be. Sure they could see things that other races couldn't, but they couldn't read minds. Nobody could. She was trying to help. Kricoo just wished they would keep her informed like the others. She tired of being left in the dark.
At the center of the room, where the veins were at their brightest, she saw two bodies lying on the ground. One was an Avian, with brown and black speckled feathers. The other was Saurian, with green scales and yellow fins that ran down the top of his head and center of his back.
What were they doing here? thought Kricoo. Were they fighting? Did they both die at the same time.
Kricoo looked at the others. The others exchanged glances, but not with her. She had a feeling they knew more about these veins. They did not look surprised in the least. Rather, it looked like seeing them in person confirmed their suspicions. Suspicions not shared with Kricoo.
Alongside the two bodies, was a book. Kricoo walked closer, hoping to not draw the attention of the others. The book was open, and she read a line from it.
Kricoo recognized the text. It was from The Dangers of Magic, a book that all races had in some form or another. However, there was something odd about this copy. It didn't look like it was created in the same way as any other copy she had seen. This one looked to be hand-written with quill and ink. It looked like a rough draft almost.
The rest of the group walked about the room studying it—looking for age-old secrets.
Kricoo didn't care. She could look dumb and inexperienced. She needed to find their people just like the rest of them and withholding information was only going to hurt that goal. "What is all of this?" she asked.
Skaith gave her a pointed look. Arayoo looked her way and said, "It's none of your concern."
"I'm trying to help," said Kricoo. "It's just hard to when you won't—"
"Enough," said Skaith. "You'll be told more when you're ready to be told more."
Kricoo looked at Quetza, hoping her teacher would at least support her in this. Quetza met her eyes, and then looked away.
That was it! She was tired of not getting any answers, of always being kept out of the loop. Why did they think it was better this way?
Kricoo looked around the room, her eyes watering with embarrassment and frustration. The light of the veins sparkled in her eyes. She looked at it and could feel it's power in her mind. It danced along as if teasing her. Like her group withholding information, the veins glowed with untouchable energy. But if those veins were filled with sight magic, maybe she could use it. Even just a little of it in such a raw form would be sure to give her answers, maybe even more answers than the others had. What would they think of her then?
She knew they told her not to, but a little bit couldn't hurt, could it?
Kricoo closed her eyes and opened her mind. She focused a sliver of her magic on the veins. She focused on the center of the room where the veins were their brightest.
At first, it didn't feel like much. The images of the Avians in her group walked quickly backward, out of the room and the room was left empty. There was no movement other than the pulsing of the veins.
Then, the vision sped up rapidly. Kricoo began breathing heavily, and a sharp headache set in. She tried to pull back, to close her mind, and open her eyes, but the magic had locked her in. The visions zoomed and the room was suddenly underwater, with white veins lighting up the various blurs of fish and other aquatic creatures that swam by and through the room. The visions went on for what felt like hundreds of years.
She struggled to pull herself out and heard a distant scream. It was a familiar scream. It was her own. The visions churned on and the temple was free of water once again. The white veins crawled out of existence and at the center of the room was the brown and black speckled Avian with the green Saurian. They rose to life. Their bodies unslumped, and they shared a hug before walking backward out of the room.
Kricoo tried again to escape the vision, but the veins held her there. Her own scream was like a warhorn blasting in her ears. The vision traveled to the center of the room and then deep underground, through dirt and roots and stone. Deeper it went, and the vision went dark.
Kricoo thought it might be over. She tried to close her mind again, but it didn't seem to work. She waited, in the darkness, and then, she heard it.
A white light lit a shape, round and muscular, with each beat. It pulsed.
She waited in silence. One more time:
Her mind closed and Kricoo fell to the ground. Her head was pounding and she could feel a fresh stream of blood running from her nostrils.
"What happened to her eyes?" said Quetza.
"You foolish girl," shouted Arayoo.
Kricoo tried to open her eyes, but everything was black. She tried again and still saw nothing. "I can't see!" she said, frantic.
"You looked deeper than you could handle," said Arayoo. "What did you see?"
Kricoo looked around her eyes not working.
She felt hands grab her shoulders, "What did you see?" shouted Arayoo.
Kricoo looked up in the direction of his voice. "I—I saw a giant's beating heart."