by Michael R. Grice

The Calling

Colren smiled happily as he patted the soft earth around his glowing yellow and pink flowers. He didn't know the names of those particular plants, but he enjoyed the site and smell of them enough to have started a garden filled with the flowers nearly two years ago with seeds he had bought from a traveling merchant. He nodded in satisfaction as he stood, scooping up a small single-handed shovel and a long nosed watering tin.

"Ha! Why do you even bother with that?" A mocking but strong voice ripped at Colren's ears. Colren turned around and glared at his brother, his hands gripping tightly to the shovel as if it were a double edged sword. "It's going to die again in the winter anyway."

"I grow it because I enjoy tending it," Colren snapped, almost kicking himself for sounding like a child. "Leave me to my gardens and you go smack some trees with those silly fake weapons you're always fooling around with." Tyras snickered at his little brother who was practically the same height, but far thinner in build. Colren's face tightened as he stared coldly into Tyras's dark brown eyes. "Excuse me," Colren growled as he stomped passed his older brother. Tyras loosed a satisfied half-sigh, half-grunt into the air and walked the opposite direction.

Just because you're bigger and two years older than me, doesn't mean you can order me around like you're the king of Pandora, Colren thought darkly as he rushed towards his best friends home. The young man suddenly found himself standing in front of a tall oak door with a massive maple's leafy branches shadowing the path he had just walked across. He took a calming breath and lifted his hand to tap on the door but rapped empty air, the door swinging wide before he could hit it. "Colren!" Liva exclaimed, bursting through the open door, almost tackling the dirty brown haired young man.

"Liva!" the little girl's mother shouted from within the building. "Must you constantly do that? For the sake of all that's pure in the eyes of the Elementals, you see the poor fellow every day." The slender mother reached the door and smiled warmly at Colren. "Ethan won't be able to join you for a while Colren. He and his father had a little encounter last night so he's scrubbing the back of the house for me."

Colren laughed. "You mean he actually did it?" Mrs. Irdal nodded, a slight smile touching her ebony face. "Only Ethan would even consider putting sand in his own mother's pies." He laughed again.

"But he won't do it again," Ethan's mother laughed back. Colren grinned and looked down at Liva who was staring up at him wide eyed, her arms wrapped tightly around his waist, her mouth split wider than Colren thought a smile could go. "Come on Liva, back inside. You can help me bake another pie." Colren thanked Mrs. Irdal and ran to the fence at the side of the small two roomed house. He peeked over the top and burst into unstoppable laughter at the sight of Ethan, a very round and very large young man nearly the same age as Colren, scrubbing furiously at the wood wall of his own home.

"Quiet Colren, I'm not in the mood," Ethan warned in a cracking voice. He turned back to forcing the large wet cloth into the rough wood siding. "I don't think it's possible to clean the outside of this cursed house. And why bother, it's older than my da' if what he says about it being built before the Resealing is true."

Colren opened his mouth to respond but was interrupted by the deep rumble of Bain voice. The Priest's apprentice rushed down the street yelling, "Tyras, Tyras come quick! Master Vesray needs you! Hurry!" Bain, being older than Colren by nearly five years, sped down the wide dirt street in search of Colren's only brother, causing Colren to roll his eyes and shake his head in disgust. Bain was always over reacting.

...Here it begins.... Colren choked. What? he thought. Who said that?

...You can not ignore you gifts any longer... Colren's face distorted in anger. "You haven't spoken to me in months. Why now do you decide to pollute my mind again?" he mumbled to the voice that had no form, the voice that had always existed in his mind but rarely spoke to him.

...Here it begins.... The tinkling whisper echoed through his head, fading like fog before the blazing summer sun. "Curse you," Colren spat a little too loudly. He lowered his voice so only he and whoever the unearthly voice emanated from could hear it. "I will not use magic. You may have convinced me that magic was a gift when I was younger, but now it's a curse, just like you. Leave me alone and let me live my life how I want it lived."

"Thank the Elements," Bain sighed from a short distance down the road while Tyras ran up beside him. "Come quick Tyras, Master Vesray is dying and he says he must speak with you." Master Vesray dying!? Colren gasped mentally. The elder priest was certainly old, but priests of the Elementals were normally gifted with long lives, enabling them to guide the children of the Elementals with great wisdom and knowledge.

Colren dashed after Bain and Tyras, deciding that he could not believe the kind man was dying unless he saw it for himself. They rushed passed the small store owned by Colren's father and mother, passed the village gardens that Colren had only minutes before been tending to, and ran through the wide arched double doors of the tiny village church.

The building was warm, though made of stone bricks and well lit due to the many windows placed high in the tall entry and worship hall walls. The church did not radiate even slightly with the sense of death. Colren sighed inwardly at this, knowing that his magical "gifts" would have stirred if death was present in the comfortable air. This knowledge quickly dissolved when he followed Bain and Tyras into a side room, into Vesray's private sleeping quarters.

The room was small, extremely clean, and brighter than the clouded sky beyond the closed window that overlooked the bed Vesray lay upon. A rasping sigh of relief escaped the old priest's parted pale lips. "Tyras, thank the Elementals you're here." Tyras's expression mirrored Colren's, concern and pain skittering across his wide eyes.

"Master, what is wrong?" he asked numbly, seeming to find it difficult to breath properly. Now I sense it, Colren growled inwardly. Death, feels the exact same as it did five years ago when Beth died- No, I will not think on that, not now. Vesray's eyes slowly closed but the old man lifted a wrinkled yet strong hand to grip Tyras's shirt, pulling him closer. "You must listen to me, you must believe... Do as I say.... Listen," Vesray gasped into the air. The old man's body trembled, the long gray beard lying across his chest falling down to rest at the side of Vesray's large body. His eyes opened and Colren stepped back, seeing more than just the haze of death coating the blue irises.

"Tyras," Vesray moaned. "I can not be save." His voice sounded stronger now, more like the man Colren had known all his life. "My death is not a natural occurrence." He took a calming breath and continued. "Shade, Salamander, Gnome, Aura and Undine came to me only minutes ago." He was quiet again, a smile slipping onto his colorless face.

Bain's mouth opened in shock and a strangled exclamation of wonder escaped into the warm air. "But master, the Elementals?" Vesray didn't turn his head to look at his apprentice, and Colren understood what had confused him about Vesray's eyes. The priest was blind. "You have never even had a vision of one of them. Why would five of them decide to visit you now?"

Vesray coughed and closed his eyes, his face brightening a little more. "Because I have been given a message that is to be given to Tyras, before I die." Tyras leaned closer, though Vesray's voice was still strong enough to be heard from the church entry. "It is a rare thing to be visited by even one of the god Elementals. To have five of the eight powers come to me must pertain to something important, right?" Tyras only nodded. "They told me, that-" He coughed and convulsed suddenly, growling and slapping his hand on the hard mattress beneath him. "Tyras, you are to be the next Mana Knight." Tyras coughed, his eyes rolling back as if he would slip into unconsciousness. He fell back against Bain's legs, his hands gripping his chest. Colren's eyes stared at his older brother but couldn't focus properly.

"No," Colren gasped. Vesray is sick, he's dying and doesn't know what he's saying, Colren shouted within his mind. Vesray gasped for breath and coughed out his last words.

"Visit the Water Palace. Undine will explain what I cannot. You must fulfill this destiny. The Elementals would not call for another Knight without good reason." Tyras nodded numbly and found warm air entering and leaving his body more easily. Vesray's last breath slid from his lips and the man's chest sank, his lounges empty like his darkened eyes. Tears spilled down Bain's cheeks and he collapsed onto the priest, sobbing like a child that had just lost his father.

Colren gritted his teeth, still unwilling to believe Vesray's final words. He stormed out of the small room and fell against the far wall in the church entry. He beat his fist against the solid stone and lifted his eyes to the ceiling, searching for a sign from the Elementals, a sign that would crumble the words of their priest. The haunting female voice drifted into his mind. But why would a healthy priest die so suddenly, if not visited by one of us... Colren slammed his fist into the wall again. "Leave me alone!" He shouted at the intruding voice You know I can't. Your brother has been called, and so are you being called. Follow him, guide him, and I will guide you in your magic...

Colren looked up at the sound of Tyras gently closing the door to Vesray's room. Tyras took a deep breath, and his usual arrogance and confidence returned to him. Tyras smiled, a smile that didn't attempt to reach his eyes. "I guess I should leave as soon as I can." He spoke with a commanding tone, the same voice he had always used when addressing Colren. The whispering had slipped from Colren's mind again, his own thoughts replacing it. You're not the Mana Knight yet Tyras. By Lumina herself, Colren swore mentally, the Mana Knight only died a decade ago, how could another one be needed so soon?

Colren stood straighter and wanted to rip his soul from his own chest, but he obeyed the voice that haunted him. "Then we had better prepare to leave."

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