Sprinting, staggering, and stumbling, Aidia and Orchadia desperately tried to follow Adrian through the tumultuous snarl of trees, thorns, and vines. Suddenly, the forest, which had seemed so empty and quiet, was now seething with glimmering eyes, rustling leaves, and poisonous whispers. In a few moments, the entire wood was writhing with spies, intent on the small party that was Aidia, Orchadia, and Adrian. Several times, Adrian shouted for them to duck while he sent sparks out at those who ventured too near them. Aidia didn't dare add her voice to the cacophonous commotion of shrieking, squawking, chirping, and screaming that now filled the air like some thick fog which penetrated everything with its terrible din. Finally, Adrian stopped at the base of a giant oak tree. He stood up straight, as if he were trying to look the tree in the eye. Aidia thought that this seemed silly for a moment, until one of the long, dangling willow branches rose up as if to usher them in to its depths. Aidia followed him through the opening and sat on the damp ground. As Orchadia seated herself next to Aidia, the willow's leaves rustled in a sort of satisfied way. Silence dropped down upon them and settled itself into a comfortable cocoon. Aidia sighed deeply. The silence was a relief after the frenzied raucous in the forest.
"Is-is it safe to talk now?" Orchadia asked timidly.
"No one can see or hear us in here. This is-was-the sanctuary of the Aelaun. They have left it. Now it only holds their memories." He motioned towards what was obviously some sort of graveyard containing hundreds of small mounds. "This is not the topic we came to discuss. I am here to tell you why that parchment you hold is so precious to so many people." Aidia sat up straight and listened with all of her might.
"You hold in your hands, a powerful and most ancient document. You have, by methods of fate or otherwise, procured the only known map to the Kumani Gazit." He stopped speaking and stared at them as if he had explained everything completely. Aidia was about to question him, but Orchadia beat her to it.
"What is this Kumani Gazit that everyone is so excited about?" she blurted. Adrian stared at her as if he had never seen anything quite like her before.
"You-you possess the map of the Kumani Gazit, yet you are not even aware of its powers?"
"Of course we aren't," Aidia sighed. "All we know is that some how it can save my parents." Adrian shook his head, and his leaves wilted slightly.
"Your parents have been gravely injured in some way?"
"You could say that," she murmured. The memory of her parents' lifeless bodies lying limp on the stone floor was still fresh in her mind. Adrian sighed deeply.
"Let me explain. The story, as our people know it, transpired as thus: five hundred thousand years ago, there were but two wizards in this world. Both had all the power of their kind to draw upon. They had more power than any wizard has ever had since. One, named Afon, was a Wizard of the Light. He wished to do only good with his powers. The other, his brother Serizan, was a Guard-of-the-Dark. His only wish was for great power. "Afon knew that his brother could do terrible evil with his powers, and that he himself, would be powerless to stop him. In those days, blood was a powerful tie that prevented family members from harming each other. For a time, Afon saw no solution. Then, he had a vision. A vision that, my people say, came directly from the Ever-Bloom; the greatest of the Aelaunian Gods. The Ever-Bloom showed Afon that only by relinquishing his powers, could he bind the powers of Serizan to good. "Afon convinced his brother that it was more important for their children to be great, than for them to be powerful. He convinced Serizan that they should both bind their powers to a stone. This stone would give great power to its wielder. Afon's power would allow it to bring life and Serizan's power would allow it to bring death and destruction. Together they bound their powers to the stone; however, Serizan betrayed Afon. He tried to pull his power out at the last moment, intent to leave Afon stripped of all magic while he retained all of his control. His plan succeeded, but only partly. He managed to pull some of his power from the stone, but at a great cost. Part of his soul was lost to the stone. This changed the propertied of the stone dramatically. Instead, of being merely a vessel of power, it became a tool; a tool that could only be used by those who the spirit of Serizan chose to be "the destined." Moreover, he limited the power of the stone. The stone can give or take life from five people-" "Five?" asked Orchadia. "What an odd number. Normally magic is always a business of threes-" "Eight," Adrian continued, "for the eight tears shed by Afon when he realized what had happened to his brother. Every hundred years, the spirit of Serizan-which still resides within the stone-chooses two people who may wield the great power of the stone. The time of the choosing has come again and the stone has chosen two people who have the destiny to find it and use it in whatever way they choose to. One of those people is the warlord Kaimaleus-" "Is the other Aidia?" Orchadia blurted. "It must be! How else could she have found that-" "No, Aidia is not the second one. Aidia's destiny, I'm afraid, is clearly written. She is to be a third princess; nothing more, nothing less. No, the second person is a powerful sorceress named Demona." "But then," Aidia breathed while trying her hardest not to cry. "How-how will I save my parents? What was the point of my finding this stupid map! If I can't use this stone, I might as well toss it in the fire. It's all rubbish to me!" she screamed. "I am sorry Aidia, but please, do not destroy that map. It might be of no use to you, but perhaps the other chosen one will help you once she has gained the power. Demona lives in the ice mountains of Glasheea. I suggest that you journey there and give her this map." Aidia glared at Adrian as she desperately tried to curse him. How could he do this to her? How could he dangle the prospect of saving her parents before her and then snatch it away like that? She was almost shaking with anger now. If only it was her destiny to find that stone. If only- But, she thought, what if it is my destiny to find that stone. Maybe it is and no body has realized it yet.
"Adrian," she began. "I will do as you say and deliver that map to Demona, but first, I ask you a great favor. I will surely need this map to reach the ice mountains of Glasheea, but I cannot read these strange markings. Could you not tell me what they mean?" Aidia hoped that Adrian's sense of pride would lead him to translate the entire map, just to prove that he could. Adrian smiled and Aidia knew that she had won.
"I'll do better than that!" he exclaimed. "Tranlatus!" The letters on the page began to shimmer and bubble as if they were melting. Slowly, they rearranged themselves to spell words that Aidia was familiar with. Letters began to form the names of places that Aidia had heard of. Finally, the entire map had been transformed into her native language. Now she could truly use it.
"Thank you for your help, kind Adrian. I wish you good fortunes and fair weather," she recited from memory. "Come on," she murmured to Orchadia. "Let's go."
"Wait, Aidia. It would be foolish for you to leave without first spending a night. Come, share my food and shelter. Refresh yourselves and be off tomorrow." Aidia wanted more than anything to leave now to rescue her parents; however, to refuse would be impolite and Aidia was suddenly both ravenous and exhausted. She yawned wildly and began to accept his invitation; however, Orchadia spoke up first.
"Thank you, Adrian. I'm so tired and so hungry. It's so kind of you to let us stay! Do you happen to have any fresh salmon from the river?" Adrian laughed merrily and they began to settle in for the night.