Submitted Date 07/28/2019

Aery let out a loud groan that morphed into a cry. Small, black birds flitted from the giant forest trees. Jane huffed and wiped the sweat from her brow. She nearly put a hand on Aery in comfort, but quickly thought better of it.

"I can't believe it!" Aery cried. She looked as if she was about to collapse to the grassy floor.

In front of them lay a barren patch of dirt wider than a tavern in Valguard. That was it. No ruins, no buildings, and most importantly to Aery: no scrolls. She felt like kicking the young tree that stood stoic and alone beside her.

"Where is it?" She whined. "The maps led us right here. We followed every landmark and took every turn to a tee!"

"I don't know," Jane murmured.

For five days the pair had traveled through the forsaken forest on the outskirts of Terramune. The two had uncovered a map that they believed would lead them to a long-forgotten, ancient library that may have held the scriptures that Aery sought. They had promptly began their travel on horse-back through the dark and daunting forest. Just how many deadly, giant spiders had they fought off during the night? How many treacherous direwolves had they slain, all for naught?

Jane's fiery eyes scoured the map for some sort of mistake they had made along the way. She retraced each step they had taken, each turn they had made. She found no error. She let out a chuckle under her breath, but like a bridging dam, a flood of her laughter was released.

Aery turned to glare at the other woman. Jane's knees had buckled and she was nearly on the floor with laughter. She met Aery's cool glare and quickly sobered up.

"I'm… I'm sorry," she said after another chuckle. "I mean, we came all this way. For nothing. Nothing!" She began to giggle again.

"It's not funny, Jane!" Aery barked. "All of this time we've wasted! And we're nowhere near closer!"

"I know, I know." She sighed. "I'm sorry."

"What the hell is this damn map good for anyway?" Aery growled as she snatched it from Jane. She crumpled it up into a tight ball and cast it to the ground, and began to stomp on it with her leather-booted foot. This brought another smile to Jane's lips, though she dared not to make a sound. She understood the elf's frustration.

"And to think," Aery said between stomps, "we were this close! This close to finding out more! This close!" With that, she finally kicked the small tree beside her. The thing had more girth than she was expecting, and she howled in pain as her toes felt the crunch of bark.

A peculiar thing happened then. The tree seemed to move to the direction Aery kicked it, and a few moments later, the earth began to rumble. The soft ground beneath them began to shake and tremble, and a horrendously loud grinding sound could be heard. Both Jane and Aery covered their ears and looked at each other in panic.

Thinking quickly, they both dashed back to the forest. Each scaled a tree as the earthquake continued. Even the thick trunks began to tremble.

"What is it?" Aery called to Jane, who was peering out to their previous vantage point.

"I don't… oh!" There was now a huge, gaping hole in the ground near where they had just stood. As she watched, there seemed to be stone walls erupting from the earth. Giant, white bricks began to emerge gradually. After a few painstaking minutes, Jane could see the formation of a building that looked ancient as time.

"The library, Aery!" Jane called as she quickly climbed down from her tree. Aery reluctantly followed after her. Her silver eyes widened in surprise when she saw the towering estate.

"It was here!" She cawed, and sprinted towards the large, stone door.

"Wait!" Jane grabbed Aery's hand and held her back. "We don't know what's in there!" Aery huffed. Together they hesitantly approached the library.

It looked rather like a Human church, with a high bell tower in its center. Aery gazed in awe. The door was made of solid grey stone, and as they approached, they realized it had no handle.

"How do we get in?" Jane wondered aloud. They stood a few yards from the entrance. As they walked closer, they made out engraving on the door. In elvish, it read: "Those who wander here are not lost, and those who seek it shall find it."

"What is it?" Jane asked. Aery stared silently at the door. She gingerly placed her hand on the center and pushed. It didn't budge an inch. She sighed.

"Of course it wouldn't be that easy," she murmured to herself.

"Is it a riddle?" Jane asked.

"I think so. 'Those who wander here are not lost, and those who seek it shall find it'..." Aery repeated. "What do we seek?"

"A scroll or two, I think." Jane answered and awaited a well-earned glare from Aery, but she was preoccupied. Her hand still rested on the door.

"We seek… knowledge." She finally said. She almost hoped the word would burst open the door. It stood silent without movement.

"Knowledge of what?" Jane urged.

"Knowledge of… magic. Magic! Maybe if I use magic on the door, it will open!" She placed both hands on the cold stone, and spoke: "Aruna Forsetha!" Light glowed from her palms and Jane could feel the inexplicable change in the air. Suddenly, the writing on the door glowed with the same magic, and with a hesitant, booming creak, the door languidly opened.

The pair glanced at each other in amazement. Aery wore a wide, proud grin. Jane simply shook her head in disbelief and smirked.

"Should we just walk in?" Aery whispered.

"It could be boobytrapped." Jane replied. "Let me enter first; you follow. We'll go slow." Aery was nearly bouncing behind Jane as she crept forward into the library.

Inside the building, they both stared around them in awe. High columns held books of every size, color, and length imaginable. There had to be thousands of books everywhere they turned. Aery strode past Jane and immediately began browsing the columns. Her small index finger hovered just above the books as she read their titles silently. On Jane's right there stood a table with a towering pile of rolled up scrolls. She gingerly unraveled one and began skimming its contents.

"Some of these are in languages I've never even seen!" Aery whined; she already clutched a small army of books to her chest.

"Just focus on the ones you can read." Jane chortled.

The two spent the next few hours pouring over the literature. The day was spent mostly in silence, aside from the occasional crow of excitement from Aery when she discovered something new. The hot sun slowly began to descend behind the black forest.

"We're losing light," Aery murmured.

"Yes, it would seem our time is up for the day."

"I've only just begun, though. There are so many things to learn." Aery sighed and flipped a page in her book.

"Have you discovered anything more of Alagor?" Jane wondered.

"Surprisingly, yes—there is much told about him in these works. I believe we will find much of his work in the land of Olentas."

"Maybe that should be our next stop, then." Aery nodded at her suggestion, distracted.

"Here!" She shouted suddenly. She stabbed a finger at a small map in the back of one of her many books. Jane peered over her shoulder.

"What is that?"

"This is where we can find a small library dedicated to Alagor's scriptures. The literature on it says only a select few are allowed to enter. It's guarded."

"Huh. I wonder what qualifications you need. You think we'll be allowed in?"

"I don't care. Either way, I'm going in that library." Aery closed her book with an audible thump. She peered out the window. Only a sliver could be seen of the sun, and it quickly passed under the silhouette of the towering fir trees. Just as the final rays of light tucked under the forest, the entire earth began to quake again. Jane and Aery whipped their heads towards the door. A grinding sound could be heard, and they were moving downwards.

"It's going back underground!" Jane cried. "We've got to get out of here!" Aery quickly gathered a small hoard of books and headed to the door. Jane briskly followed suit. They found the door was closed again, and as Aery pushed on it, nothing happened.

"Shit!" She gasped. Summoning her magic, she cast a spell with the words, "Aruna Forsetha!" Still, the door did not move.

"What's happening?!" Jane shouted over the ominous groaning of the walls. As she looked around her, books were cast to the ground by the force of the trembling.

"My magic didn't work!"

"Try another spell!" Aery placed her quivering hand on the door.

"Aro Timplasa!" The door made no move to open.

"We've got to hurry or we're stuck here forever!" Jane shouted.

"Magic worked the first time, why won't it now? It's as if there's a magic barrier!"

Jane gasped, "The books! They must have a spell cast to protect them from leaving this place!" Aery nodded and threw the books onto the table of scrolls; they scattered and fell to the floor.

"Aruna Forsetha!" She cried again. This time the door began to glow, and Aery pushed on it, but it only slightly cracked open. "We're too deep now; the ground is in the way!"

Jane whipped her head around the room searching for an answer. Her eyes halted on the window. Without hesitation she grabbed Aery's hand and yanked her forward. Unsheathing her sword, she drew it from her side and struck the window. Glass shattered around them, but Aery didn't have time to react. Jane lifted her with surprising strength and tossed her through the gaping hole. With a thud she landed on her back. After a moment, she saw Jane scale the wall and leap through the broken window. She landed on her feet with grace.

Aery quietly watched as the library slowly disappeared back into the earth. The ground tumbled more as it shifted and slid until the hole was closed. She sighed and got to her feet.

"That was close," Jane chuckled after a few minutes of silence. She glanced over at Aery, who was still staring at the now-quiet ground.

"If only we had a little longer, perhaps I could have discovered more." She whispered.

"At least we know about the library in Olentas."

"Yes, but I hadn't memorized the map. We will be searching in the dark." Aery sighed. She glanced over at Jane, who was smirking at her.

"We might not be completely in the dark." She said while reaching into her knapsack. She produced a small, dark green book. Aery recognized it immediately and gasped.

"But how?!"

"I guess they don't spell-proof their windows." Jane grinned. Aery stared at her with wide eyes, but then she began to giggle, which turned into full out laughter.

"You're pretty useful, after all, Jane."

"I have my moments." She handed Aery the book.

Caramel colored clouds hung in the deepening sky. Stars began to peek into the night. Together they walked back to the eerie forest where their horses and another journey awaited.

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