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The tall Enchanter Guard shouted, as he sensed an encroacher coming towards the Restricted Region. And the power of the Enchanter Guard was such that his voice was heard all around the perimeter of the Restricted Region.
No sooner than he had spoken, the Staff in the Guard’s hands glowed and the border of the Restricted Region behind him glowed brightly. The Guard could not understand who would venture inside the Restricted Region and that too today. But there was a part of the Guard which was thrilled. An Encroacher on the day of balance....Could this be the one....?
The Sentry ignored these thoughts as he armed his Staff and he put on a Defence Enchantment as he went towards the hooded encroacher. He sensed the powers of the encroacher and was in for another surprise. The raw, untamed power flowing from the encroacher was enormous. And the most surprising part was that the encroacher did absolutely nothing to stop him from sensing it.
The encroacher sensed the Guard as she pulled back her hood and the Guard saw the child for the first time.
“I am Sahana, the daughter of Kragon.” the child said in her local language, watching the Guard. The expression on the face of the child almost made the Guard smile. He had seen this expression on another face, a long time back – It was an expression of fear mixed with a resoluteness to push through no matter what.
“What brings you here, daughter of Kragon?” the Guard asked the child, in the language of the Ancients. Though the Guard was sure that the child was not here on a whim, he was entrusted with a very difficult job. He had to keep the secrets of the Restricted Region outside the reach of the undeserving. And the Ancient language was great help in that regard. People who heard the language were confused and backed away from the place. Such was the power of the language. The guard expected the same from the child now.
The Guard was in for another surprise.
“I need to get inside the Restricted Region!”
There was no confusion in the mind of the Sahana, the daughter of Kragon. And the Guard was shocked because the child was able to reply to him in the Ancient language. Because though to the Guard, even the oldest head-woman of the village, was a child, this girl before him, was a child even by human standards. It looked like she had barely crossed eleven rainy seasons.
“How can you speak this language, child?” the Guard asked unable to stop himself.
There was a sad expression in the face of the child. But the child controlled herself and watched him.
“I was taught the language!” the child said without elaborating any further.
The Guard frowned as he realized that the child was in no mood for conversation. “Why do you wish to get inside the Restricted Region?” he finally asked.
“I need to get herbs for my grandfather!” Sahana said quietly. “My grandfather has taken ill. From yesterday morning, he has been completely unresponsive to anything. The physicians can offer no hope!” the child looked terrified and the Guard could see that she was trying to beat back the fear and try to appear determined. The Guard felt an immense respect for the child but let nothing show in his face.
“So, why do you wish to get inside the Restricted Region?” The Guard asked.
“One of the new physicians who was passing through town said that my grandfather can be revived by Todgil. The Todgil herb, which is found only inside the Restricted Region.” Sahana said taking a deep breath.
And that was when the Guard saw the child clutching an ornately carved dagger in her belt.
The Guard’s powerful vision let him see the emblem carved on the dagger, though the child was far away. And what he saw, shocked the Guard.
“Why does your father not come?” he asked.
“My father has gone to another realm on the Queen’s command. He is not expected until another rainy season.” the child said.
“And he thought you fit to have that dagger?” the Guard asked the child carefully.
He could see the confusion running through the child’s face as he saw her clutch the dagger more tightly. “My grandfather said I was worthy for it.” the child said finally. She really did not see any reason to explain to the Guard, what she had done for her grandfather to make that particular comment.
“Was your grandfather the one who taught you the Ancient language, child?” the Guard asked gently.
The child looked even more worried as she nodded slowly. Right now, with her parents out of the village, Sahana had been living with her grandfather – Nori. He took her everywhere. Even when he was gathering herbs. Sometimes he even took her to far away places of snow. And right now, he was unwell. Terribly unwell. Which was why Sahana was completely willing to make this journey. Her friends had deterred her from the journey saying that the Restricted Region was a dangerous place. But Sahana was determined. She was the daughter of Kragon, the bravest man in the world and right now, Nori needed her to be brave.
“Do you know that the Ancients speak of a path which will guide you through the quest of the Restricted Region?” The Guard asked. “It has been written in the Lore caves.”
“Yes. I do!” the child said immediately with a ferocious expression. “That is the reason, I need to start on my journey immediately.”
“Explain.” the Guard said, feeling shocked. He refused to even let himself think about this. He had waited for this for such a long time that he had all but given up hope.
“The Lore Caves speak that the journey inside the Restricted Region can only be successful if it is started on the day of Balance.” The child looked at the Sentry almost desperately. “Today is that day.” she declared.
“Why?” the Sentry said, his heart thudding painfully hard.
“Our world is a sphere and the sun is in the centre.” the girl said. “Today is the day the sun passes through the centre of the world and the day and night are equal in time. The day of Balance! The path inside the Region would be illuminated today. If I see the path, I can get inside today, and I would be able to save my grandfather!” the child watched the rays of the setting sun almost desperately.
“For that I need to let you inside.” the girl watched the Guard dismayed as he continued. “And I have made a promise that only the worthy shall enter the Region.”
The child looked at him stubbornly. “Please speak in haste! How should I prove my worth to you?”
The Guard was silent for a long time and then he spoke. “Inside you would find something which flies when it is born, lies when it is alive and runs when it is dead. I need you to tell me what it is!”
Sahana stared at the Guard dismayed. The question made no sense to her and she needed to get inside. Otherwise Nori had no hope. Nori, who had brought her up. Nori who loved her....Sahana blinked as she stared at the Guard, realizing why she was thinking all this.
“A snowflake.” Sahana whispered looking shocked with herself. “When the snowflake is born, it comes flying down from the skies and it lies down after it falls on the earth as snow and when the snow flake is heated, it flows as water.”
The Guard was speechless. His work here was finally going to be over. He could feel it. And it all depended on this child with pure heart. One whom an Ancient had seen fit to give that dagger. The Guard wished from the bottom of his heart that the child was successful.
“You may pass!” the Guard said without any further question. His staff glowed and the border behind him glowed.
Sahana watched the last rays of the Equinox sun fall inside the border. Sahana gasped, because suddenly inside the Restricted Region, she could see a path shining from the place she was standing. Everything was clear, like it was meant for her to see it.
“What do you see?” the Guard asked eagerly.
“A path from the fading light of the skies!” Sahana said with wonder.
“Follow the path child and fulfill your destiny.” the Guard said gently with a smile.
Sahana nodded and was about to start as the Guard stopped her one last time. “I need to tell you one thing before you go. The Ancient Pact requires that once someone steps over the borders, I have to seal the border to prevent outside interference. You shall not be able to return unless you get what you shall seek.” the Guard said taking a deep breath.
“I shall not return without the herbs.” Sahana said as her eyes glowed with pride. Her grandfather needed her and she was going to make her father and grandfather proud of her. Sahana took a last look as she stepped over the border as the path glowed brighter, almost welcoming her.
She smiled as the Guard bowed to her.
The Guard was filled with a joy he had never known in his mortal life as he sealed the borders for the last time. His work was about to get over and it all depended on that child. He was so lost in joy that he failed to see someone watching the entire event with a lens from far away.
The Guard turned and that was when Mystic appeared before him. The Guard immediately went on his guard, pulling out his Staff.
The Sentry fired as Mystic blocked the magic with her shield.
“Relax old man!” Mystic said, as the Staff in her hand glowed a dark gray. “I am not here to fight!” she said with a smile.
“What are you here for?” The Guard asked angrily.
“If your punishment were to get over, it is because of me!” the Mystic said as her gray hair glinted in the setting rays of the sun.
“I am doing my penance!” the Guard said angrily as Mystic snorted.
“Call it by whatever name you want, old man!” The Mystic said as she watched the borders of the Restricted Region and smiled. “I am the one who sent the Unique of her journey. And I made sure that she started on the day of Balance.” Mystic said.
“What do you mean?” The Guard asked looking shocked.
He turned back and realized that he could not call the child back, even if he wanted to. He had sealed the borders and that was powerful magic. One which could not be undone.
That was the pact. But now.....
“What have you done?” the Guard asked as his heart thudding painfully.
‘I was the one who infected her grandfather, with my dark magic!” Mystic said laughing. “And do you know the person, whom the Unique thinks is her grandfather?” Mystic asked watching the Guard.
The Guard was sure he did not want to know the answer as Mystic continued.
“It is Nori!” Mystic said laughing.
The Guard was horrified as Mystic continued, her eyes shining with anticipation. “After Nori was infected, I told the Unique to get Todgil, which would be available in the Restricted Region. I sensed her potential and I intend to channelize it.” was all Mystic said as she disappeared from there.