Another character that this book has referenced, and not yet introduced properly, is Scirririn. She is a Wood Elf about 30 years old. That works out to be about 15-20 in Human years. As we found out in the first book, slavers raided her family's farm. Her parents were both killed, while she and her younger brother were taken. There were hints of her magic in Uiyah's Paw, specifically when Aeriona let her hold the magic sniffing globe called a mouse. The covenant between the mage's guild and the followers of Uiyah prohibits interference. This seems odd given that Uiyah is the goddess of magic, but they view it as being the best way to prevent corruption of each other's purpose. Scirririn was studying to become a priest of Uiyah when she met Aeriona. Now we find that her magic is manifesting, and Aeriona must intervene to prevent the emerging power from consuming her.
Scirririn was basically raised by the slavers, and thought of herself as one until forced to escape. The memories she had of living on the farm had been shoved into forgetfulness as she integrated herself into the life among the slavers. When Pantarra escaped, she was drug along kicking and screaming. Afterward she started looking at a new life of freedom, and chose a course devoted to Uiyah. With her awakening magic that life isn't possible any longer. At this point her magic is a mystery that I won't spoil with telling about it.
Delving in to Zyndel’s saddle bags netted her a pouch of jerked fish, and a flask of cider to wash it down with. It was rather a bland beginning to her day, highlighted by the wonderful view of the river ahead. By now it had cleared the deep cut valley, and spread out on the middle plain. The boat had already shortened their journey by a day’s ride. She washed down the last few bites of fish just as the shuffling behind her announced a few crewmen gathering.
Aeriona turned around expecting to find the usual gawkers, come to catch a glimpse of the mage, or even a few who thought themselves impressive enough to catch her fancy. There were four of them skulking in the shadows of the few crates still bound on the deck. Another two were scuffling by the mast. They had picked a spot away from the eyes of their captain standing firm on the fore deck.
This was not her first time on a boat; a few of the errands she had run for the council had even taken her across oceans. Always there were the curious, but they never carried cargo hooks and belay pins as these men did. Her mind raced with thoughts of what she should do. Step out from behind the shielding crate bound for Caliroth Traders and call to the captain? Would he help her or them? Scream for John? They’d be upon her before he reached the deck.
She needed to get out of their reach and fast. Jumping over the side was too absurd to even consider. That left… Reaching for the flux felt like it was buried at the bottom of a tar pit. It came, but slowly, as though the river had washed all trace of flux from the area. Aeriona gritted her teeth to stop her tumbling thoughts that wanted to argue whether rivers could was away the flux when the flux wasn’t part of the physical world.
She shoved the flux into her newest rune combination, finding a use for third master level accomplishment. Combined with the flux she still held within herself it snapped her attention into reading the wind currents. With her heightened senses, it was no problem at all to see the rectangles spring up circling the mast. Scrambling up the invisible steps that threatened to disperse with the wind, she gained the yardarm. In a moment she was seated with her legs wrapped around the mast as the crew stared up in wonder. Even the captain took notice enough to call out.
“Just how… No, what are you doing up there?”
She wanted to scream that his crew was trying to kill her, but it came out as. “I don’t know.”
“Well, then little mage, best ye get back down before you fall.”
“Drop the sail.”
“Get down however ye gots yourself up there, and hurry bout it now. Last thing I need is trying to deal with him when ye break your fool neck.”
“No, drop the sail so we can use it.”
“That only works for going up the river. Can’t ye feel that breeze in your face?”
“I most certainly can feel it, and more.”
The feel of the flux was getting stronger by the minute, as the barge drew nearer another of the energy strings flowing through the ground. It wasn’t long before she felt ready to show them just what she could do. She had used this trick before, only the last time was returning from Westerlind.
She didn’t have to create a breeze from nothing, though she could with more flux. She split the breeze right before the prow, and curled it around behind the ship. Now the pennant at the top of the mast stood out straight forward. It was tricky keeping the wind going in the loop when it really wanted to shove them up the river.
“Now, Captain? Now will you drop the sail?”
“So, you really are a mage after all. Men, rig that sail on the five. Half mark up. Might as well set the bow kite too.”
The men that had been milling around after the loss of their quarry, suddenly perked up with a task at hand. The ropes looping over the yard arm slipped loose, releasing the sail below her perch. It fluttered a few times before they got it secured. With a final snap it filled out, nearly shaking her off the precarious spot she held.
The land to either side began slipping by at a blurring pace. They rounded the bend by Yelnar, and came within an arm’s reach of another barge making way up the river. The sudden reversal of his breeze sent the other craft spinning until they had passed far enough for his sails to right the course once more.
The river shallows were dotted with dozens of canoes and fishing skiffs, all vying for the best spots. For several of them, it put them right in the path of the barge. The crew below her was well versed in the art of shaking fists, and responding with equally angry shouts and laughter as their wake rocked the small craft.
The captain called up to her with a little excitement as he pointed to a waterfall easily a hundred foot wide, dropping over a stone wall.
“That’s the Fir’tli. Plenty of water to play in now.”
Clearing the last of the houses on the shore, the river wound into the edges of Yi’Dur Forest. She could feel the flux strengthening, and thus the breeze she had been twisting was becoming more of a wind. Trees on both banks were flashing by in denser numbers. The banks drew closer, though still wide enough to pass four of the boats without scraping hulls or rocks.
As the boat plowed along with the wind behind it, waves started breaking over the bow railing. Half the crew was getting soaked as they worked to shift the lines guiding the sail.
“Easy on that wind little shrike. This is a barge, not some Virago schooner, mind ye.”
“Sorry, just in a bit of a hurry.”
“Won’t do ye no good, if ye drop us to the bottom of the river here. Besides, theres only a few leagues left till we have to make a quick stop in Ca’min’ra.”
“You were hired to get us to Port Haven.”
“Never agreed that it were a non-stop ride down the river. One of the few crates I got loaded before ye hijacked my ship were a crate for them Mudbloods.”
Aeriona let her grasp on the wind die off. Released from her control, it shifted back to the gentle upstream course. The sail drooped, and then flapped back against the mast as it worked to push them back from whence they came. The crew was moving even as the captain shouted his orders. Their ropes pulled the sail back up to a tight bundle under the yard arm.
With a bit of show, Aeriona stood up on the yard arm, and stepped off. The gasps below told her that the effect had hit home. It took only a little of the flux to send through the runes for her feather weave, and bring her descent to a gentle stop. She landed with the barest flexing of her knees before the stunned crew and captain.
The first of the mighty trees came into view on the left, towering out of sight in the sky above on a trunk larger than the barge. The trees that had comprised the forest so far, looked like brush at the base of these giants. The small dock at the base jutted out into the river like a root that had breached the ground. Even the stairs that spiraled up to the platforms seemed more like growths of the bark than anything carved by the forest Elves.
One after another of these towering trees appeared, all seemingly joined by walkways along the interwoven branches that spanned the river. They had passed a dozen trees before reaching the main dock; one of the few actual structures crafted from stone. The platform stretched out to the deep water on the backs of stonework animals.
Few Human cities rivaled the Elven ones for beauty. Where Humans built according to need, Elves built for artistry. Even the lifting cranes on the dock were crafted to merge with the flowing stone lines, and sweeping tree branches, to form a single harmonious scene.
A handful of the brown-skinned Elves was waiting on the end of the dock to grab the ropes thrown across. In surprisingly short time the boat was tight against the stone pier, and a giant carved wooden spider was lowering ropes for the medium crate strapped to the deck.
It had been nigh on three years since Aeriona had last set foot in this Elvish abode on council business, and she was anxious to take advantage of the chance, despite the urgency to continue onward. Grabbing the small knapsack tied to Ryndel’s saddle, she raced across the dock and up a set of stairs on the second tree.