“Gather your supplies Arden, we leave at noon.” It was the next day and Arden was ready. He wanted to find his parents’ murderer and, well he didn’t know what he’d do when he found them, but he would make them pay. After breakfast Arden and Voeren began loading their weapons and food onto the horses and eventually, they set off. After a day of hard riding, they set up camp for the night. Both Rangers were determined to get there as soon as possible, however for different reasons. Voeren liked to think that his reason derived from his oath to protect the kingdom, an oath he took many years ago, when he became a proper Ranger. But he knew that inside his heart lay the real motive: he and Caspian had been friends since the age of fourteen, and now he was hurt, he wanted to bring the creature to justice.
“We’ll find out what’s going on, don’t worry.” Voeren said reassuringly following diner. Arden nodded solemnly to his master. He knew that they’d find out what was happening, he would make sure of that.
They reached their destination several days earlier than expected because of the Rangers’ eagerness to unravel the mystery. As Arden dismounted, he felt a shiver run down his spine. Blood red light illuminated from inside the pitch black of the caves. Walking, subconsciously tiptoeing, into the caves he could see many branches of tunnels with symbols smothered over the walls. The red light originated from strange torches scattered throughout the caves. Voeren had visited the caves several times before but it still gave even him the creeps.
“Just down this corridor, if I remember correctly.” Voeren said while Arden studied the symbols. The walls were damp; some of the paintings looked ancient. Suddenly a man in a black robe with dark blue stripes running diagonally across him appeared in front of them. Arden fell backwards in shock and Voeren stopped in his tracks.
“Voeren, Arden, we’ve been expecting you. Wait here, Lord Lighttracker will admit you in a moment.” His voice was deep yet hollow and his face was hidden by a hood. He strode away and walked right through a wall!
“Voeren, how did he do that?” Arden whispered to his master.
“Some of the walls are illusions; look carefully at the area he just walked through.” Arden frowned and nodded slowly while he went to inspect the so called “wall.” At first he was sure it was perfectly normal, but then . . .
“Is it . . . is it shimmering?” Arden asked, unsure.
“Yes, Arden, it’s not real, its magic making you think it’s real.” Voeren answered, “Clever, isn’t it?” Arden traced his fingers over some of the writing on the wall.
“What do these mean?” the inquisitive trainee Ranger asked curiously.
“Only a sorcerer or the king could ever be given that knowledge. It is against their code to divulge the secrets with outsiders.” Voeren told Arden. “They’re very proud.” he added. Suddenly the man they had seen before appeared behind them in a cloud of dirt-red smoke and nudged Voeren towards the wall.
“Lord Pethumious Lighttracker will see you now.” He bellowed.
“Not to mention extremely big show-offs.” Voeren grunted to himself as he stumbled forward.
“The child must remain here until needed.” the sorcerer said frostily. Arden looked up at his master glumly.
“Stay here for now, Arden. We’ll only be a couple of minutes.” Voeren told Arden.
“Ok.” Arden replied and shuffled his feet. With that, Voeren and the spooky mage turned and simultaneously strode through another fake wall. Arden turned around and sighed. He hated being down-graded because he was a child. Arden looked around the cave, bored. Suddenly he heard a faint whisper, slowly getting louder. He turned around. Nothing there. Probably just the wind, Arden thought to himself. Deciding he needed to be pre-occupied, he began to study closely one of the paintings on the walls. The young boy flinched and spun round as he felt a hand on his shoulder. Nothing there.
“Just my mind playing tricks on me,” he whispered to himself, “anyway, it MUST be safe because Voeren took us here.” and a moment later he spotted another shimmering wall. Overwhelmed with curiosity, and wanting to forget about being scared, the eager apprentice rushed towards it and slowly stretched his arm out, then pushed his hand gently against the illusion. Arden gasped as his hand disappeared leaving only his arm visible. Quickly realising that he could well be disturbing someone, he attempted to recoil, however his hand would not come back through the wall. In fact, he was being sucked in! Within a few seconds the whole of his right arm had vanished. Panicking, Arden reached for his hunting knife and prepared for the worst . . .
* * *
“Hello, Arden.” There was an elderly man sitting in a chair across the room. Because of his training, Arden had acquired a quick eye, so straight away he noticed that the elderly mage wore a similar cloak to the one he had seen earlier, except without the hood. The other differences were that the threads on his sleeves were a sea-blue whereas the other mages were black. Finally, the most obvious difference was a large turquoise triangle badge sown into his cloak.
“Sit.” the sorcerer said blandly. Unsure of what to do, Arden meekly obeyed. The man closed his eyes, and when he opened them, they were red. Crimson dust floated around his pupils, and then he spoke.
“The prophecy shall be foretold.” He paused. “Go where it is bitter, go where it is blank, you shall find an answer, near a river bank. The key to the door is green; go where it’s thick not lean!”
“But, wha . . . what does that mean?!” Arden blurted out. Before he could question the mage further, the sorcerer clicked his fingers and Arden appeared in the corridor he had been earlier with a puff of smoke. He looked around for the wall he had gone through when . . .
“Arden You may come now.” Arden turned on his heels. It was Voeren. Another mage was standing next to him.
“Ok.” Arden replied, and followed them into the wall. The sorcerer sat down behind a desk, and Arden took the chair next to Voeren.
“So, Arden, I hear you saw something when you touched this tooth?” Lord Lighttracker asked as he produced a shimmering, rough-edged tooth.
“Yes, Lord Lighttracker. I saw my father.” Arden replied.
“But that’s not all, is it?” Lord Lighttracker asked again, tilting his head.
“No, sir. He was being . . . being attacked by a, a creature.” Arden said, trying hard not to remember what he saw.
“Yes and the reason you saw that is magic.”Lord Lighttracker stated finally. “I believe that creature is your parent’s killer, which makes my job a lot easier.”
“All I have to do is re-enact a simple finding spell, and because the creature is magical, the spell should sustain itself.” Lord Lighttracker finished, as if he had just given a magnificent speech.
“Yes, yes. Can we please get on with it? Every second wasted is a second that the creature is using to get away.” Voeren said impatiently.
“Ok, I shall begin.” Lord Lighttracker replied, and with that, he began chanting. It was in a strange language; one that Arden had never heard of before, and it seemed complicated. When he had finished he gave the tooth to Voeren and told him,
“See that little red dot at the edge,” Voeren nodded, “That’s the direction your heading, Follow the spot.”
“Good, well, we’ll be on our way then. Thank you, Pethumious.” Voeren nodded goodbye to the sorcerer.
On the way out Arden was debating whether or not to tell Voeren about what had happened, and eventually decided that there would be no point.
“Seems as if we’re heading North, Arden.” Voeren said, sighing while looking at the tooth. Although he did not show any fear, the senior Ranger dreaded who they might meet if they carried on their travels.
“Come on, master! Every second wasted is a second that the creature is using to get away! Remember!” Arden called to his master, already saddled.
“Yeah, yeah, I know!” Voeren replied, smiling while getting on his horse. After a while, it began to get dark.
“There’s a village several miles from here. We should probably set up camp here and see what’s been going on in the morning.” Voeren told his apprentice. Arden un-saddled and began unloading his horse in reply.