Chapters 1-12 can be found here.
The statue started to move, placing his heavy legs in front in him slowly, but surely. It seemed like the first steps were the hardest for him, causing him to expend a lot of energy. But as soon as he had started moving, he became more comfortable with every step he took. Laurenar, Seraphina and I followed his deliberate movements with our eyes, eager to see where he would lead us. The two caves behind him didn’t interest him in the slightest, proving that this path of the wise was a completely different way.
“Do not believe that this path will be an easy one. As a matter of fact, it is probably the most dangerous and perilous path to take. But if you stay close, no harm will come to you.”
We believed every word of the warning issued to us by the deep, mellow voice of the statue. Seraphina followed him first and Laurenar gave me a slight push, indicating he would remain at the end of our little group. The statue walked along the steep cliffs until he reached a lonely torch fixed to the stones. With a surprisingly graceful movement he pulled down the torch, revealing a hidden entrance and a long staircase leading up the wall. He then proceeded to take the torch out of the fixation and motioned to Seraphina. She lit the torch with a neat feat of magic before we continued to take the stairs up the wall. I tried counting the steps, but lost count when we reached thirty-seven. I didn’t turn around as long as we were on the stairs, just concentrating on every step and listening to the calm breathing of Seraphina before and Laurenar behind me.
After what seemed to be around eighty steps (when I lost count, we were about halfway through the stone staircase), we reached a narrow path. The cliff continued to rise above us, but it was impossible to continue straight upwards. Instead, we would have to take a slower route at the side of the wall. I wasn’t scared of heights, but I still avoided looking down at the abyss. Seraphina and the statue seemed untroubled by the steep decline now at our sides. However, Laurenar’s breathing turned slower and I began to feel his discomfort. With his heavy armor and weaponry he was at a disadvantage to Seraphina and me. The statue shared the weight he was carrying, but probably knew the way as well as anyone else.
“Are you alright?” I asked cautiously.
“I prefer to remain on solid ground.” Laurenar replied tersely. He then took a small step forward to tell us he would do his best to reach the top.
The circular tower standing atop the cliff was coming closer, but we could see the sun slowly go down at the horizon, leaving the torch and the bonfire from the lighthouse as our only sources of light. This certainly wasn’t a thrilling experience for Laurenar, who was clinging to the wall as much as possible. And it didn’t get better.
Darkness brings out the creatures of the night; I remembered that from the game version of Illusio. I preferred playing during the daytime, but some of the quests were only achievable by playing after the stars had set the stage of the night. The fiercest creatures my character had encountered during his nightly adventures were the Aguilar, which was derived from the Latin word from eagle. They shared the looks of the eagle with their massive wingspans and majestic behaviors. However, the main difference was that two kinds of Aguilar existed: Some of them were swift and wise birds serving humans as messengers and scouts alike. They ruled the sky during daylight. The night however belonged to the other kind: the bloodthirsty brothers who preyed on everything that dared to walk through their territory.
As our luck had it, we had just come across the nest of two of these winged hunters. They circled above us at a great height, getting ready for their attack. The statues motioned us to stop and to press our backs against the wall.
“The Wise know the appropriate weaponry to use when faced with a challenge.”
He held out his giant sword in front of our sorceress and motioned her to use a spell. This time, Seraphina had to focus a bit longer than when she lit the torch, but an instant later the sword had received a coating of fire.
The new light blinded the Aguilar high above us and enraged them. It robbed them from their advantage. Furiously, they launched their attack. The birds flew at the statue’s neck with a speed I hadn’t witnessed in real life. But they were met by a forceful swing and they had to pull up. The blow had caught one of the majestic birds and its feathers had slowly started to ignite. Seraphina had conjured one of her shields around Laurenar and me. His fighting prowess was useless on this unfamiliar terrain.
The statue stated dryly: “The Wise know when to stand back and let others do the fighting for them.”
I observed how she was gathering energy, focusing on the burning Aguilar. A tiny fire bolt appeared, slowly growing between her hands before she released it, just as the birds swept down for their second salvo. Her spell sought out the heat radiating from the injured bird and engulfed it in flames.
Seeing its companion fall naturally enraged the other hunter, who turned mid-air and accelerated towards the scarcely protected Seraphina. It seemed as if its sharp beak would connect with her fragile body, but a loud cry later it fell listlessly to the ground. A clean hit by the statue had prevented the Aguilar from doing any lasting damage. The statue kept its sword burning and continued on the path as if nothing had happened. Seraphina exhaled relieved, before lifting the shield from Laurenar and me. We continued our path up the cliffs.
As we got closer to the lighthouse, the path turned left and we followed the statue as we moved higher and higher. We were walking away from the lighthouse, but a few hundreds meters, the path broadened and we had reached a plateau. Laurenar was pale, but he had managed the ordeal with his dignity intact. The statue led us across the plateau as we turned back against the tower, which now came into sight in a distance. The only obstacle left in our way was a giant chasm with no way across except for climbing down and up again.
“How will we cross the gap?” I asked the statue as Seraphina and I stood at the edge of the plateau looking down into the darkness, unable to decipher anything far below.
“The Wise are also patient, my dear friend. A bridge will appear as soon as the sun rises anew.” The statue answered. If I could have seen its mouth, it would probably have been smiling.
We had travelled quite a while and we figured it would be day soon enough. Laurenar stood guard, while Seraphina fell asleep almost immediately. She was recovering from the spells she was forced to cast during the attack of the Aguilar. I closed my eyes for a moment. When I opened them, it was broad daylight. Seraphina and Laurenar were staring across the ledge. No bridge had appeared.
“The Wise have faith and trust in others.” The statue said nothing more and did not take the lead as it had before.
I stared at the statue in disbelief and felt anger creeping up in me. Had we come this far only to be deceived by the statue so close to our goal? I refused to believe that. My two companions were talking in a hushed voice and I could see Laurenar place his gloved hand tenderly on Seraphina’s arm. They were not really paying attention to the rift.
Suddenly, a sparkle caught my eye and I moved closer to the edge to inspect the place the bridge should have appeared. In the glistening sunlight, the Silver Lighthouse looked beautiful and its sight encouraged me to follow the statue’s word and to have faith. Seraphina and Laurenar now turned to me, observing my every move.
I took a step off the ledge and found an invisible structure to catch my foot just as I was sure I would plunge into darkness. Thinking of Indiana Jones, I moved across the gap smiling all the way over, followed by Laurenar and Seraphina. The statue remained on the other side and shouted over:
“You have proven worthy of the path of the wise. May you find the answers you seek.”
And just like that, it was gone.
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