Hello, seekers! Thank you to those who read our first excerpt. We have a second glimpse into the world of Etherea ready for you!

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-J&K
Trials of the Innermost

from CHAPTER 9

The Leske road varied little. Idrilia and Kalis passed boulders of fluctuating sizes and placement while the sand and pebbles beneath them crunched in a hypnotic drone. The dry smell of soil, long devoid of nutrients, filtered through Idrilia’s scarf, which kept her nose free from the irritating dust. She and Kalis were pierced by the sun if they strayed from the intermittent shadow on the sides of the dried riverbed.

It was a prison, blistering and arid, guarded on two sides by impenetrable walls. Although the rock face could be climbed by the solendrake, riding one on a vertical ascent was risky. The leather saddles were not built to support their backs from a potential backward slide, and the attached foot straps only secured their legs from excessive bouncing. Although the crystals could be activated in a way to cushion a fall, Sondrinel were taught to be proactive in their planning rather than reactive to their errors.

Idrilia’s thoughts drifted to why she was here, making the three day journey to the land between light and darkness, meeting Sondrine’s enemies and allies in Waverling, Heathström ’s capital. Marrying Kalis when they returned home.

No.

She shook her head, a physical motion coupled with clearing her thoughts.

Don’t think of that now.

Her focus returned to their journey, then her mind moved backward in time to a scene much like this one. Images flashed by as if they were occurring in the present.  Instead of the canyon, she was traversing the salt flats of Lake Stelwin. The destructive power of the Great Calamity  shown here most of all in Sondrine. It wasn’t one flat surface like the salt flats of Lake Eduma in the north. It was ridged and three great canyons opened up in the lake bed, sectioning the long-dried ground. Now white and coarse like coral, the surface preserved remnants of life in sedimentary form.

This was the first time Idrilia had journeyed here.  Passing one of these structures, which resembled a rib cage her height, was not made less ominous by Idrilia being one of a group of ten. She was in the middle of Pedium’s second to last lesson and evaluation for those in line for Priorium. A Master Sentinel observed the students from a quiet distance.

A figure suddenly materialized from the depths of the nearest fissure, grabbed Klaara and disappeared over the edge of the rift. His attire was not much different than those of the initiates. Idrilia charged to the edge and spurred her solendrake over the precipice. Descending the sheer rock in bounding leaps, its toe pads adhered to the rock face each time it landed.

Caught up in the playback of memory, Idrilia saw a fast progression of her subsequent actions. The protective crystal she tossed at Klaara, surrounding her in a translucent shield that mimicked the shape of her body. The fire crystal she activated and hurled, aimed at the fleeing solendrake’s back legs. The explosion which wrenched its feet and fragments of the rock from beneath it. The assailant and his mount tumbling to the crevasse floor, Klaara landing safely nearby in a bounce. The shattered absorption layer from Idrilia’s crystal smeared across rock and sand. Finding a face from Komor beneath the stranger’s head scarf, his neck twisted at an odd angle from his body. Staring into his eyes cold and empty. Dead.

 

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