“The hardest thing you will ever do, my dear, is to grieve someone who is not dead. And I should know.” Zinnia glanced up at the older lady again. She was that sort of simple pretty, with caramel-brown hair and startling grey eyes. Gray eyes that looked like Zinnia’s, caramel-brown hair like Zinnia’s.
“Zinnia, you must believe me! Find out about the storm, please. And remember what I told you.”
“Zinnia, older Zinnia, tell me what you mean. Isn’t it better just to prepare me?” She studied Zinnia for a long time before shaking her head.
“No. You musn’t know. It might change the past- future for you- and that’s not good. Goodbye, my time is up.” She hurried back to the slim white pod, zooming away. Time travel, who knew it was possible? Future me thinks- knows– it is. She did say to research the storm. Zinnia glanced up at the sky. It had been storming for a hundred years now, or longer. No one knew why, only Mysgale would have any idea, and he was wrong in the head. Zinnia knew she would have to take a trip to the library in order to research the storm. Maybe Arion will come with. Zinnia took off at a run, dodging and ducking through the streets. Finally she arrived at Arion’s door and knocked quite loudly.
“Ari! It’s Zinnia!”
“Coming!” His feet could be heard from the doorway, pounding on the boards as he raced to the door.
“Zin!” The door sprung open and Zinnia stepped inside.
“Hey, Ari can you come to the library today?” She ran her fingers over the carved table and traced the swirls on the wall.
“Sure. I’m free for the rest of the day, but why?” Arion grabbed his boots while Zinnia explained.
“Okay, okay, time travel? But I’m not protesting, Zin!” Laughing, he pulled Zinnia outside with an umbrella. They walked arm in arm, squished under his red umbrella, all the way to the castle library. Once, there a door keeper let them in.
“And what may I do for you, M’lady, sir?”
“Oh, nothing. We’ll do it ourselves.” As soon as the door keeper walked away, Arion turned to the shelves.
“S, or H for hundred?” Arion frowned and Zinnia turned to the sorting wands with a grin.
“Or a sorting wand?” Arion returned her grin and picked up a wand.
“Search, search for the storm of a hundred years.” The familiar blue sparkles shot out and they leaned back to wait. A while back Zinnia and Arion had volunteered frequently at the library, so they knew how to book search efficiently. Eventually the wand’s sparkles zoomed back with books. There was a lot, Arion counted while Zinnia sorted them. Half for Arion, half for Zinnia.
“Twenty. And lots of ones at the downtown library. But those ones aren’t as accurate as the castle library, correct Zin?”
“Yes, this library’s a million times better. But only because you’re father runs the place… Ari. Now get to work, ten for you!” She shoved a stack at him and selected the book on top of her stack. About six books later, they looked up at each other.
“This isn’t getting us anywhere, is it?”
“No.” Sighing, Zinnia pushed away the books. “Anything else you can think of?” She grabbed the sorting wand and sent all the books back to the correct shelves. Without warning the door keeper springed up next to them.
“My dear sir Arion, have you found what you need?”
“No. We are looking for information on the storm.” Slowly, Arion stood and stretched.
“Well, may I suggest Mysgale?” Frowning, Zinnia turned to Arion. Arion shrugged, as if to say sure, and she smiled. Together, they exited the library under his red umbrella and hurried up to Mysgale’s house. His tower house stood on top of a hill, near the center of the island. When they arrived Arion knocked sharply on the door.
“Open the door and head right in, unless you are the island officials. In that case please exit immediately, as I am preoccupied with important matters.” With a shrug Arion opened the door and they walked in. There was nobody to be seem and Zinnia looked around carefully. There were three doors off to the side, a spiral staircase up to the observation deck, and the room was cluttered with book shelves, old papers, plus small magical items.
“Mysgale sir? The storm, we thought you might know about it. Perhaps you could tell us?” Zinnia folded in the umbrella and peered around the room.
“The storm!” A old man shot up from the purple easy chair in the corner, surprising both Zinnia and Arion. He whirled to face them and his blue robes swirled around him, shedding magical herbs all over the floor.
“Oh dear, oh dear me. What a mess!” Mysgale quickly waved his wand over the herbs and they swooshed back into his pockets. “Now, the storm you say? You want to know about the storm? Well, you have come to the right place. Make yourself comfortable!” They gingerly lowered themselves into the couch that slid out of an alcove, and Mysgale plopped himself into the same purple chair.
“Now, who are you, and what did you want again?” Arion frowned and opened his mouth, but Mysgale interrupted. “Wait, I remember now. The storm. Always the storm. But who are you?”
“I’m Arion Laster, and this is Zinnia.” Mysgale nodded energetically and pointed to the stairs.
“I’m Mysgale and these are the stairs to my observation deck. Care to take a look? No? Oh well, another day. Anyway, the storm. Yes, yes. You probably don’t know this, because you are from the sixth generation. But the storm was made to keep the Isra out. Isra are bad bad people, Arion, Zinnia.”
“Wait,” Arion tapped the old wizard gently “who are the Isra?”
“You don’t know? Wait, who are you? Oh yes, Arion and Zinnia, Arion and Zinnia. The Isra are a group of non-humans who wander and command the uninhabitable south. The rules clearly state that the Isra control the southern lands, the humans the northern islands. But once, long ago, the Isra broke the rules and took over a border island. They took over island after island.” Mysgale paused and shuttered, covering his eyes. “Ah, that was a bad time.”
“Mysgale sir, why did they attack?”
“Why did who attack? Oh, the Isra? No one knows. But a group of wizards swore to protect every human, and transplanted a whole lot of us to this island- Chehia.” Arion gasped and hurriedly interrupted.
“Sorry to interupt, but are you part of the wizard group?”
“Yes, how did you guess, er, what is your name?” Zinnia let out a small sigh and caught Arion’s eye roll.
“Arion Laster and Zinnia.”
“Ah, Arion. And what are we talking about? Oh, the transplant to Chehia. Well, after all the remaining survivors got to Chehia, the wizards decided to create a very special guard so that the Isra could never attack. A storm. The storm was built to last forever, and the only way to stop it is to- well it’s complicated and involves a wizard from the original group, plus a human sacrifice.”
“Wait wait wait. This sounds like a fairy tale! Where are the Isra now?”
“Now? Ruling over all the northern islands except for two: Chehia and that island they can’t get to because only humans can. It’s called Llyn. They say that it is filled with magic and secrets long forgotten. But that’s not what we are worried about. No, what we need is this one thing: to stop the storm.”
“Mysgale! That requires a ‘human sacrifice’ does it not? Yes? I thought so. Where are we going to get that one? Put up an ad?” Zinnia was raging mad, and she was quick to show it. Arion took one look at the wizard’s frown and tugged Zinnia’s arm.
“Zin!” In a quieter tone he added “Don’t make the wizard mad.” She gave Arion a small nod and settled back into her seat.
“My, my, who are you young lady? What are you yelling about?” Mysgale waved away Arion’s explanation and continued on. “Never mind, Arion. I remember who Zinnia is now. I understand your complaints, Zinnia. But the time has come to stop the storm. You see, the Isra are weak and believe that all humans are dead or trapped. They think that Chehia is a trap and we are stuck here. So, if we leave now we are sure to be granted safe passage and we can easily overcome the Isra! So easily, that we simply must do it now.” The old wizard smiled in satisfaction and poured a cup of tea into a teacup.
“But who would be our human sacrifice?” Zinnia cocked her head defiantly and refused the cup of tea he offered. Arion accepted and the room was quiet as he and Mysgale took their first sips.
“I would.” Arion’s voice was so soft and low, Zinnia nearly missed it. However, she didn’t miss it, however much she wished she had. She responded with a shocked look and a dropped jaw that Arion put a finger on and raised.
“Oh. Do you, Arion, a Lord’s son, fully understand?”
“Yes. I will be dead. For the good of my island- my people- the last remaining humans.” Arion took a deep breath and set his tea down. “No one else will do it, especially not a court person. Am I right in assuming that the person has to agree in order for it to work?”
“Yes. But you must see, Arion, that you could do great things. You have potential as a military commander, which would be useful against the Isra.” Zinnia’s eyes widened and suddenly she threw herself into the conversation.
“No, Ari. You can’t do it.”
“Why not?” Arion and the wizard both turned to Zinnia, confusion on their faces.
“Because you are all I have left! Remember? I’m an orphan, Ari. You, a lord’s son, are my only friend and no one else even likes me. You can’t leave me, Ari!” Arion’s face briefly darkened and he was quiet for a minute.
“Zin. Let’s take this conversation outside.” Arion took Zinnia by the elbow and led her out onto the porch, leaving the wizard sitting at his chair. “I need to do this, Zinnia. And it is my choice, not yours.”
“Ari, no! I can’t just live without my only friend!” Horror lept over Zinnia’s face, sadness danced within Arion’s eyes.
“Zin…. Oh Zin. I don’t want to do this to you!”
“Then don’t. And that- right there- that ‘Zin’. You are the only one who ever calls me that. You’re the only one who bothered giving me a nickname. See how much that proves?”
“I’m so sorry. But I have to do it! No one else is going to, and it needs to be done. Besides, who came and visited you, Zin?” Zinnia was quiet for a moment, then answered in a soft voice.
“And not future me.” Arion’s expression softened and he smiled weakly. “We are always together, Zin. If I was in the future, then I definitely would go with you and warn you. But… there was no Arion.”
“That doesn’t prove anything. We could change the future!” Arion shook his head at Zinnia and she sighed. “Well, you still can’t do it!”
“I will. Zin, nothing you say will stop me.” Zinnia’s eyes darkened and she turned on her heel, facing the road.
“Fine then.” Arion allowed hope to flare up for a minute, but quickly pushed it back down again. Zinnia was not one to give up so easily. “You, Ari. Go along, talk to Mysgale the mysterious wizard. Sacrifice yourself. Do it- and no longer be my friend.” Arion gasped and Zinnia popped open the little red umbrella, then fled down the long road.
“Wait! Zin- come back!” Arion ran into the rain and quickly backtracked, after he realised Zinnia had his umbrella still. His shoulders sagged and he turned to the tower again.
“Give her time.” Arion jumped up and faced the wizard, who had joined him on the porch.
“I will. But I don’t have much time.” Mysgale smiled encouragingly and handed Arion a roomy blue umbrella.
“I will see you tomorrow- Arion.”