Sequel: Return to Emanon
Status: Because of classes, updates may be a tad slow and infrequent, but I will try to be as constant as I can with new chapters!

Children of the Beacon

Chapter One: Two Rings and Three Moons

The fleeting sun was sinking into the horizon, right where the glimmering sea met the abyss that was the heavens above. The last slivers of daylight were quickly fading as the skies turned black and bedazzled with constellations. The moon began to rise high. It glowed with a thin aura of lunar light, dimly illuminating the now-dark ocean. Waves crashed against the rocky shore of eastern Emanon and the salty sea breeze laced the night air. All was silent, save the roaring waves and the occasional crying gull.

Inside the Tower of Pyre, however, which sat on its own islet right off the coast, everything was bright and loud as Edana prepared supper. Children laughed and played as Edana hummed to herself whilst she stirred the stew that bubbled in the cauldron. She sniffed and the aroma of buttery potatoes, savory beef, thick broth, and sweet carrots filled her nose. A smile graced her naturally red lips.

"Queen Edana!" a voice suddenly whined. "Itzel and Nerio won't let me play with them!"

Edana turned around and saw sweet, little Ciel tugging at the hem of her flowing, gold skirt. Her soft, rose-petal-pink lips were pouted and tears welled in her sapphire eyes. Edana let go of the ladle and knelt down, running her dark, delicate hand through Ciel's flowing, blonde waves.

"My sweet child," she cooed in a soothing, melodic voice, "I would speak to them now, but I'm cooking, so I'll talk to them after supper. Until then, why don't you help me set the table?"

Ciel nodded with a grin, wiping her tears away. She then went to the cabinet and started taking out ceramic bowls. Edana turned her attention back to the stew and continued to stir. Meanwhile, the other children continued to laugh and play. Itzel and Nerio chased each other about the fourth floor of the tower, occasionally slipping out onto the wrap-around balcony. Amaya and Merrick played a game on a wooden board, moving colorful stones in all different directions. Amaya smirked as Merrick scowled in defeat. Rowan, meanwhile, was playing with Ruby. The two were playing with the few plush toys Edana kept in the tower: a bear, a lion, and a dragon with shiny, red scales. Ruby always liked the dragon the best.

Several floors up, on the top of the tower, was Zephyr. He stared out at the endless ocean. His gaze shifted upwards to the night sky and sighed. Underneath the cowl that covered the lower half of his tanned face, his lips tugged downward ever so slightly. The moon was almost half full. A cool breeze danced through the air, making shivers race down the boy's spine.

There were eight shrines on the Tower of Pyre's Beacon, one for each of the cardinal and intercardinal directions. Zephyr walked to the one that faced the southwest, marked by an amber arrow inlaid in the stone floor that pointed outwards. There was a small chest underneath the shrine's altar. Zephyr pulled it out.

The wood was smooth and stained red, It was carved with an intricate pattern resembling dragon scales. Zephyr ran his fingers over it. He then reached for the gilded key that hung around his neck next to a thin, opalescent stone and placed it into the chest's lock. It made a dull click and sprung open. Inside the box, laid upon scarlet velvet, were two candles, also etched with a dragon scale pattern, and a stone statue of a dragon with eyes made from clear gems.

Zephyr placed the statue on the center of the altar. He then set one candle on each side of the idol. He shut the chest and slid it back underneath before getting down on his left knee, resting his right forearm upon his right one, and bowing his head.

"Almighty Sabine, please grant me your eternal flame. It is I, Lord Zephyr of the Scalewing Clan, who wishes to speak with you on this Winter Solstice," he prayed. "Can you hear me?"

Zephyr then felt a strong wind, but this one was not laced with frost like the one before. No, this one brought up the heat of the Jalenda region. For a brief moment, the boy swore he felt the sands of his homeland upon his face. The gale was strong, but Zephyr felt at ease in its warm embrace. Then, the wind stopped and he was left once again in the eastern sea breeze. He looked up and saw that the candles were now ignited with a small, white flame and that the statue's eyes glowed in the same hue.

"Thank you for blessing me with your presence, Almighty Sabine," he said. "Not much has changed here in the Tower since the last Autumnal Equinox. It is still safe, though I long to be home still. Are things in the homeland well?”

The flames and eyes shifted from a glowing white to a brilliant azure. Zephyr smiled.

“And my father? He’s alright?”

They remained blue. Zephyr sighed in relief.

“Thank you, Almighty Sabine. I have been here now for two whole rings and three moons,” he said. “I fear that we may not be able to hide much longer, though. Estrella will find us soon enough. Please, I do not care for myself, but I beg of you to grant the other children and my father protection from whatever that wretched banshee has planned.”

The eyes shifted to gold. The warm wind reappeared, but this time, there was a soft voice that danced among the breeze. The grew slightly larger.

"I cannot promise protection, but I will make sure that the dragons do not harm the children. The most I can grant for your father is resistance to death as long as he is on the Ejder Islet."

Zephyr gave a solemn nod.

“Thank you, Almighty Sabine,” he said. “I am forever grateful for you. What can I do in return?”

”Pray with me, my child, and leave an object of gold on the altar. That is all I ask.”

Zephyr reached into his pocket and dug out the gilded coin that Edana had given him in the morning, knowing it was time for him to pay tribute. He placed it in front of the statue and bowed his head. He then began to chant in his native tongue, an ancient language that only the Dragonlords have learned. Sabine’s voice joined him, a faint whisper harmonizing with his lower voice.

As he chanted, Rowan had come up the stairs to tell him that supper was ready. However, when he saw the glowing statue and his bunkmate chanting cryptic, foreign words, the younger boy just stood there frozen. He felt the odd swell of heat, despite this being the coldest day of the year. As if that was not strange enough, he then heard another voice, an unfamiliar voice, despite the fact that he and Zephyr were the only two on the Beacon.

He just stared as Zephyr continued to chant. Suddenly, he heard a low growl, followed by a booming roar. It shook the tower and struck fear into the heart of the crimson-eyed boy. The wind picked up even more, the hot air swirling atop the Tower of Pyre. The flickering flames on the candles grew into giant, billowing infernos and the eyes of the statue glowed so bright that they vastly outshone the fire in the Beacon’s hearth. They were blinding, but so beautiful. Despite all of his fear, Rowan was entranced and could not bring himself to look away.

The roar was deafening and the breeze was nothing short of brutal, but he noticed that Zephyr stayed focused on his prayer. He then saw the golden coin on the altar gleam in the moonlight, then glow from within. It floated up into the air and disintegrated into tiny, gilded flecks.

After it completely disappeared, the wind left and the air grew crisp and chilled once again. The flames went out and the eyes of the statue stopped glowing. Everything was silent and dark, save the Beacon’s still-blazing hearth. Rowan felt himself tremble. His heart pounded against his ribcage. He watched as Zephyr so calmly placed the statues and the candles back in the chest that he had retrieved yet again from underneath the altar.

Zephyr then stood up and stretched. He looked up to the skies. He then turned around to head back inside, but froze as his gaze met that of an equally stiff Rowan. Zephyr’s eyes turned dark and he lowered his head, looking at the younger boy from underneath furrowed brows.

“How long have you been there, Rowan?” he asked, voice low and laced with fire, though Rowan swore he also heard worry and concern.

Rowan could not bring himself to answer, still spellbound by the sight he had just witnessed. Zephyr stepped closer. Rowan could see the snarl through the elder boy’s cowl.

“Answer me, Rowan,” Zephyr demanded. “How much did you see?”
Rowan’s fear outweighed his shock and he finally snapped out of his trance.

“What was that?” he asked. “It’s never been that hot up here a-a-and that voice― Zephyr, whose voice was that?”

“None of your concern,” Zephyr growled, turning away from Rowan. “Go back downstairs.”

Rowan gave a meek nod and receded back into the stairwell before remembering why he came up to the Beacon in the first place.

“Supper’s ready,” he called out as he descended to the lower level, voice shaking.

Once Rowan was completely out of sight, Zephyr let out a loud sigh and his face softened into one of shame.

“Edana is going to kill me,” he grumbled as he looked back up at the sky.

'Father, when can I go back?' he asked. 'I know why you brought me here, but I have been of no service to these children. I should be training with you for when that time does come, but I just sit here instead, rotting.'

Zephyr walked downstairs to the fifth floor, which housed the children’s bunks. His and Rowan's bunk was the furthest from the stairs and in a separate room to keep the other children from hearing Ruby's crying in the middle of the night. His bed was right underneath his bunkmate's. He had fabric hanging from the bottom of Rowan’s bed, giving him a thin screen of privacy. He walked over to his bed and reached underneath, pulling out a large trunk. He opened it. Inside were many books, journals, and more remnants of Jalenda. He pulled out his sketchbook and flipped through the pages.

One sketch was of the throne room, depicting the large seat that was placed in the gaping maw of a sculpted dragon. Serpentine creatures of stone stretched and wrapped around the pillars on either side of the hall, giving the illusion that they themselves were holding up the ceiling. In their mouths were torches that never had to be relit, for they were ignited with pure dragon’s breath. Zephyr reminisced about the few times he had seen his father sit in the grand throne, how majestic he had looked as he negotiated with other Mystic leaders. He reminisced about the times in which he actually thought that one day he would be the one sitting in that throne.

He flipped the page. It was of a sleek and beautiful dragon. Albeit a sketch of only charcoal, she looked as though she was gleaming, dazzling in the desert sun. She had soft and friendly eyes that pierced Zephyr’s soul. He then reached down to the chain that hung around his neck and grasped at the thin, opalescent stone.

“Orminth…,” he muttered.

He flipped to the last page. This one was not a beautiful drawing, no. Instead, it was a chart. It was filled with tally marks. Most were drawn in black ink, others blue, a few green, and only two in shining, gold ink. They were in groups of seven instead of the normal five. Zephyr reached into his trunk and pulled out his quill and a vial of green ink. He set the vial on the floor and dabbed the pen in it. He put a tally next to three black ones. Looking at the whole page, he let out a sigh of disappointment.

It had been two rings and three moons since he first arrived at the Tower of Pyre.

Zephyr wanted to cry, to run away back to Jalenda and never return, but he knew that it was not an option. It was not even that he hated his life in the Tower. He actually was rather content, for there was always a flame in the heart, food on the table, and water in the well. It was safe, yes, and he enjoyed the company of the other children when they made the wise choice of not getting on his nerves, but it still was not home, Queen Edana —as lovely as she was— was not his father, and the plush dragon that Ruby was so fond of was certainly not Orminth.

He heard Ciel leading the prayer to the Phoenix Spirits as they all prepared to eat. He could smell the stew and the freshly baked bread. Zephyr’s mouth watered, though he knew he could not touch it until the Winter Solstice had ended.

Downstairs, Rowan was barely able to touch his food. He was still trembling. He looked at Edana, who was talking to Merrick about buying her fresh ink from the market tomorrow. The two were so happy, as were all the other children as they gathered around the table, devouring their dinner, but Rowan still felt unease and confusion weigh his heart down to the pit of his stomach.

He wanted to tell Edana what he had seen. He was dying to tell her about the heat wave, the roar, the voices, the disappearing coin, everything, but he knew that she would not believe him. He envisioned the usually-kind woman laughing in his face. He knew in actuality that she would merely dismiss his thought as nothing more than his wild imagination and offer a cup of tea to soothe his nerves.

Edana glanced at Rowan. She saw the fear in the boy’s wide eyes. One by one, all of the other children finished their food and placed their plates and utensils in the sink, thanking Edana for the delicious meal as they retreated to the washrooms to get ready for bed. Only Rowan and Ruby remained. Ruby sat in her high chair and cooed as Edana finished feeding her spoonfuls of mashed vegetables. She then faced Rowan.

“What is it, my sprite?” she asked. “You look as though you’ve seen a ghost.”

The way that she said the last part was almost as if she was posing a question. Rowan looked up at her, brows knitted upwards.

“Qu-Queen Edana, if I tell you something that sounds completely mad, do you promise to not laugh at me?” he asked.

More concern found its way onto Edana’s elegant face. She tilted her head to one side.

“Rowan, what’s wrong?” she asked.

“Well, I went to the Beacon and I… saw something,” he said, scratching the back of his neck. “Zephyr was doing some really strange stuff. I…, I heard a roar and this voice and there was fire and everything suddenly got really, really hot and I don’t know what it was, but it was crazy! He kept chanting all these weird words I didn’t understand and―”

“Rowan!” Edana said, getting up and placing her hands on his shoulders. “Calm down! It was just your imagination, that’s all. Stay right there. I’ll make you some cloudroot tea to help you calm down.”

Rowan sighed and his face fell. “Sure, Queen Edana, that sounds great.”

Edana went to go fill the kettle and place it above the small hearth in the kitchen. The minute she turned away from Rowan, her face fell as well. She let out a long exhale through her nose. She opened the top cabinet and rummaged through the glass jars until she found the one labelled Cloudroot in white ink on lavender parchment paper. She opened the jar and inhaled deeply. She felt the Cloudroot’s sweet, cool aroma numb her mind, but it quickly faded.

She retrieved her mortar and pestle and plucked a piece of the root from the jar. She began grinding it into a powder. She then placed the powder into a silk sachet and set it into the kettle. She rubbed her fingers together, causing the fire to grow and heat the water more quickly. Edana then went to the other cabinet to get a ceramic mug and filled it with the brew. All of her movements were swift and fluid, though also mechanical. She set the mug down in front of Rowan.

“One sip of Cloudroot and you will worry no more my dear,” she said. “I’ll be back down shortly if you still want to talk.”

Edana then walked upstairs, hoisting up her skirt. She went into the bunkroom and beelined to the door across the room. She pulled the door and then the screen open, briefly looking back through the doorway to ensure that none of the other children were present in the room.

“We had another incid—” she stopped as she saw him staring at his tally chart.

Zephyr looked at Edana with sad eyes. “What is it, Edana?”

His voice was hollow. Edana felt her heart sink with guilt and sympathy. She sat on the bed beside him.

“How long has it been now, my sprite?” she asked.

“Two rings, three moons,” he sighed.

“That is quite a long time,” Edana said. "Perhaps we can arrange a trip to Jalenda for you.”

"I suppose that would be nice, but the other children will get too curious," Zephyr said.

"I know."

"Edana?"

"Yes, Zephyr?"

"Suppose that one day we could leave. Even with Estrella gone, would the other children be safe outside the Tower?"

"Well, you would be fine. I would prefer if Merrick stayed human. If she does, she can stay with me. Itzel will go back to Citali with Zyana. As much as I do not care for the High Priestess, she is not a bad mother. Coventina will be so happy to see Nerio again, though I worry what Marinus would do to the boy. I would take in Amaya, as well, and I am definitely going to take in Rowan and Ruby; I made a promise."

“Speaking of the half-breed,” groaned Zephyr, “Rowan saw me pray with Sabine.”

“I know,” Edana said. “He told me after dinner. He was quite shaken about the matter.”

“Where do we go from here?” Zephyr asks. “What if he tells the others?”

"I gave him Cloudroot," assured Edana. "He will think of it all as a dream and nothing more come the morning."

Just then, the sound of footsteps thumping on the stone staircase swelled in volume as Merrick and Amaya entered the bunkroom, clad in their nightgowns. Edana peered out the doorway at them before looking back at Zephyr.

“How about we discuss this on the Beacon?” Edana asked.

Zephyr nodded. The two walked up the stairs as the other children entered the room and headed to their beds, grabbing pillows and bringing them to the center of the room. The duo reached the Beacon and leaned against the stone wall, overlooking the ocean.

“How does Lord Marinus not know that we’re all right here?” Zephyr asked. “We’re so close to his castle.”

“Above the water, he is useless,” Edana chuckled. “According to Coventina, though, he is just as useless underwater, as well.”

Zephyr smirked. He then looked up at the moon.

“And Estrella? If she really is as strong as she claims, how come she has not found us yet, either?”

“Estrella is weak,” Edana said, voice suddenly growing cold. “She only managed to kill Foalan because Foalan was weary and drained in that moment. She had consumed all of her energy to cast her Final Spell.”

“She just placed a shielding spell on me, though,” Zephyr said. “Was it really that strong?”

“Zephyr,” sighed Edana, “Foalan was so strong that any spell of hers was ten times more powerful than that of any other Mage.”

Zephyr nodded. The two looked out at the water. Zephyr faced the southwest. Sometimes, if the weather was clear enough, he could just barely make out the peak of the Dragon’s Horn. However, it was almost always raining or foggy in eastern Emanon.

“I really worry about Rowan," said Zephyr. "I know she most likely will not harm the others, but him? I can barely begin to imagine what she has in store for a half-breed."

"I know you, Zephyr," said Edana, flashing a warm smirk at the Dragonlord. "I know how strong you are and how deeply you care for the others. I know you will do anything to ensure their safety, especially that half-breed. There is no doubt in my mind that you will be able to protect him. You are your father's son, after all."

Zephyr let out a short chuckle and looked down. There was a brief pause.

“The next Guild meeting is soon, no?” asked Zephyr. “So, my father should be writing to you.”

“I will let you know the moment I receive his letter,” Edana said. "That being said, I have heard whispers among the wild winds that a certain Warlock will be attending the next meeting."

Zephyr tensed. "No."

"I cannot be sure if these are more than mere rumors, but if so, we may finally have something to worry about," sighed Edana.

"No, no, no.... I thought he chose to stay neutral!" Zephyr exclaimed.

"I apologize for not telling you sooner, but I did not want to worry you."

"Of course I should worry!" said Zephyr. "I know I can face Estrella, but him?"

"I know, Zephyr. I know...," Edana said. "It is all very sudden, I know. I have not the slightest idea as to why he's coming or whose side he will choose. All I know is that if Aries of the Ulverwood joins his mother, we may not be safe for long."

Edana sighed again, tears welling her eyes. She went back downstairs, leaving Zephyr once again gazing at the sea and the sky. This time, however, he felt a longing to stay in the tower instead of the longing to return home.
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First actual chapter! I hope you all enjoy it!