One - Xan'aki

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One

The wind howled south across the highlands of Emeryri, flattening the grass and sending dried red grass seed flying in swoops and swirls over the steppe. As the seed drifted with the wind, it passed over the massive herds of horses guarded by solitary warriors and their huge dogs.

The wind whipped up orange dust from the shores of the river dividing the steppe from the northern province of Citronae, mingling the dust and grass seed. The dwarves shivered as the wind passed the city of Rhialegard, looking up as the dust and seed mixed with the cloud above the mountain, casting a dull red glow down onto them. The dwarves muttered amongst themselves and from deep within Rhialegard, the message was passed to close the gates.

The red-orange cloud flew with the wind south, whipping up silver lined leaves from the elven forests of Lothlarienaeryl. The force of the wind, combined with the scouring of the dust reduced the leaves to a silvery glittering mass which swept up higher into the red-orange cloud adding a strange glow.

In Kaeshiryl Village, an elven warrior stopped sharpening his blade and watched the cloud approach.

"That can't be good." He murmured as the wind hit the trees around the village.

"That wind sounds like the Air Guardian is angry." His companion said as she emerged from the doorway beside him.

"I didn't mean the wind, I meant that cloud." The warrior took the mug of ale she gave him and drank deeply.

She looked up at the strange formation passing over them. "It does look ominous."

"I'm sure I've heard something about this when I was training." He frowned, trying to remember.

"Are you sure? It was a long time ago." She drank from her own mug and sat down on the chopping log.

"Five hundred years of life does not make me old; just lucky." He squinted along the edge of his sword and blew away the minute granules of steel produced by the whetstone he was using.

"You're an elf; five hundred is a mere stripling." The young woman shrugged.

"Oh and being eighteen makes you an adult?" the warrior laughed and swapped the stone for a leather strop.

"I'm human; of course I'm an adult." She finished her drink.

He concentrated on his task. "Haven't you got anything better to do than bother me? Something that the old man might have given you to do?"

"I'm bored of studying. Besides, he said that once I had finished the last book, I could have free time until he got back from the city." She stood up. "I still don't understand why I couldn't go with him."

The warrior put the strop down and looked at her. "A Royal Messenger summoned him. You might be his apprentice, but you can't attend a Royal Council."

"Amerlyn said that I could go the next time he was summoned." She took a deep breath. "He said that three High Councils ago. When is he going to stop treating me like a child and let me help?"

"Possibly when you stop acting like a child." The elf picked up the oil bottle and a clean rag from the small leather bag beside his feet. "When I found you, you were a toddler, playing with rabbits and birds in the forest, screaming with frustration when they wouldn't stay with you. You may have grown the body of a human adult, but you still have the attitude of a babe in arms."

Throwing her mug down into the wood shavings, his companion stormed back into the house. The warrior grinned and returned his concentration to his sword. He started whistling as he worked, the sound carrying into the dwelling and echoing through the rooms.

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