~Chapter VI: Wind At My Feet, Sigil Beneath~
"The exit! Finally!"
The doors are wide open. More visitors flood in by the hundreds. Not caring for anything else, Maeveren elbows the guests coming in as he weaves through their odd bodies. Every step closer to the exit made his heart beat faster and faster.
"Yes! Just a little further-"
When Maeveren made it between the two doors, he stood there and looked ahead. The visting folk aside, no oddities could be seen with the entrance. Beaming from ear to ear, Maeveren walks through the doors and down the south entrance's path.
"Oh, thank goodness. I thought there was a catch. Thank goodness-home, here I come! I have so much to tell Niilas."
The farther he went out, the more the path became less pristine, and less and less folk populated the path. He flips his hood over his head as to not attract attention as the crowds become less dense. He sees no sign of his motorbroom or tent amongst the greenery that lined the path, but he focused mostly on getting out first and foremost.
Eventually, he makes it to the path's starting point. It is intact, though a tad mossy and not as clean as the path near the doors. A great arch stands before him, the size matching the size of the double doors that are now behind him. The odd letters on it glow a faint golden color. On the ground around the arch, Maeveren could see that many glowing letters are written into the ground on stone slabs, forming a curve along the forest floor to the west and east of him.
Looking ahead, he saw nothing but forest and a semi-clear path, though he notices that the tint of the forest is off-the plants take on a golden coating, and the forest itself seemed almost like a desert mirage, the visuals of it having a wave-like motion going upward. He walks towards it slowly, reaching out his hand more and more with each step.
His hand touches a smooth, solid surface before it could cross the arch, as if a wall had been put up. He flinches backward. Yellow dots where his hands had appeared glowed brightly for a moment, but then faded away.
"...Is this a ward? What even is this?"
He tries again, this time with his whole body. He pushes against the odd wall for a few minutes. From the barrier, a caped figure manifests, a yellow ring of sorts forming around it as it steps from beyong the golden-tinted wall. When it finally completed walking through the arch, a golden outline of the being is left, and fades.
The hooded figure looks at Maeveren, who is now on the ground from shock. It tilts its head. A thick, reptilian tail peeks from under the cape, dragging behind the being. After a few seconds of staring, it goes down the path.
"I didn't even see that thing coming from the other side! And it looked at me like I was a snack! need to leave. Now. But this ward..."
Again, he pushes against it. Nothing is left but an outline of his shoulder and hands.
Walking off of the path, he observes the arch's sides. The ancient lettering glowed gold on large stone slabs.
"No...I can't reverse the runes if I don't know the language! No, no, NO! M-maybe here...?"
He holds out his hand and tries to put it across the stone slab. Again, he got dots and nothing else.
"N-ngh...m-maybe my teleportation spell back to the academy...if I draw it, even within this ward, I can go home."
Now panicking somewhat, he takes his pen-wand, and draws into the dirt. First, he draws a medium sized circle for him to stand in. In the middle, he draws a 90 degree angle with three lines inside of it. Then, he draws triangles inside the perimiter of the circle, all pointing towards the symbol in the middle. Finally, on the tips of the triangles, he draws arrows, all pointing eastward.
"...O-okay. Let me check...wings...check...energy centered to the symbol...check, arrows pointing to the academy...check. No doubt this is right. This should take me to the atrium's center sigil. Please work! I mean-this will work. Now..."
With the end of his wand, he taps the center, and the sigil glows a blue light.
"Yes! Okay. Now that the shape is stablized...now...ahem."
Carefully, he steps onto the sigil, which glows brighter when his soles make contact. A wind is felt below him, making him smile.
"Wind at my feet, sigil beneath! Take me to where land and sky meet, where the heaven's tears become cold, unforgiving sleet. Where Ichor legacy made manifest lies, and the wisdom of Norbine in the east wind flies."
At his command, the bottom of his shoes glow blue, a short paragraph of text lighting up. The sigil does the same. His cape flaps around wildly as the wind made by the magic picks up.
"Yes! It's happening! I'm going home!"
He closes his eyes, expecting to be out of the forest when he opens them back up. Unfortuntaely, when he closes his eyes, all he feels is the wind coming from the sigil stopping immediately.
His eyes snap open. Beneath him, the sigil no longer glows. His shoes also stopped glowing.
"NO...ARRRGH! Why did it fail? My spells NEVER fail. What kind of ward blocks teleportation!? The magic engineering here is so horrible that I can't even access the leylines here and go back to the academy!? Why does the earth here reject my sigil? Is that even what's happening? I...no. I can't do a night in a monster's den. I refuse. That frail old man can't defend me from them-in fact, what if he's one of them!? Those ears and his tail...those were real. And the name of his inn...oh god, he probably serves actual changelings! D-does this mean...I refuse to believe...but everything points to...to..."
Maeveren falls to his knees. He feels a pressure behind his eyes, but blinks a few times to stop anything from coming out.
"I'm an idiot. The voice...she was right. I walked right into danger, thinking this was a chance to do research. I though the city had come to life-a city lost in time and space...and it had come to life, and it is lost in time and space...but not in the way I had thought. Oh, by the Founder...oh god. I'm going to have to find a way to live among monsters. If they don't kill or me before I can...I...feel sick. How did I jump planes in my sleep? I'm not even...unless...no...I'm not a...my head hurts. It hurts, badly!"
Gradually, his body unfreezes, and the tears finally fall.
"I'm stuck, aren't I? I acted like an idiot, and now I'm stuck! Someone...a voice told me I shouldn't be here. But I ran in. I thought this was my chance to do research, to figure out why this city fell, why researchers have so little information, why my clan became so horrible throughout history-and now I'm going to be a changeling. My body and mind will change, and I'll never go back home. Even if I did, how do I explain to my mentor and collegues that I'm a monster now!? I...I'm going to become a monster, and it's my own fault!"
Maeveren wipes his face and gets to his feet. He sighs and looks at his wand, his only light in the dark. No longer feeling frustration, fear, and anger, he looks the man before him in the eyes and speaks with newfound mental clarity.
"...I...I have...I have a place to stay. I just need to sleep."
With that, Maeveren walks towards the path, using his wand as a light. As he does so, he spots the man in black, who stared at him as he approached. Noticing his gaze, he makes sure he stays away from the man, taking an extra cut through the wood to get around and ahead of where he stood. He felt the gaze of both men as he walked back into the city.