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In this excerpt, Tib, the Dreamstalker (an escaped slave boy who is immune to magic) finds himself deep in the temple of the Savarikta, a mystical tribe of jungle-dwellers.) By his side is Saesa, his best friend and companion on his quest to find the Wellspring of Elepen. 

    Just as bright as the first two had been, this room is completely undecorated. The walls are smooth, untouched stone. The ceiling opens completely to the sky, which is strange because I’m sure those circle rooms with the alcoves are above us.

    In the center of the huge room is a hole in the floor big enough to fit a sava. Greenish light floods from it, spilling over the smooth walls and floor.

    Saesa inches closer to me. Her hair and skin are washed grayish in the strange green light. Opal is still draped across her shoulders, sound asleep. Without a word, Saesa takes my hand. With the other, she points to the far end of the room, where a pointed golden arch frames a doorway of pure white, sparkling light. Something appears in front of it. A silhouette. A figure, tall and slender like an elf, with broad wings and some sort of bushy headdress.

    “There is Velu,” Akkoti explains. She sinks to her knees. Kruti does, too, and tugs at Saesa’s silks until she does the same. Even the sava and their riders kneel. Nobody tells me to, so I don’t. I don’t know this Velu, and as great as this place seems to be, I’m not about to bow to someone I’ve never met.

    “Velu is our sage, our connection to the Lifesap, our protector and our guardian. Velu is neither ‘he’ nor ‘she’. Velu rises above mortal understanding of such things. Velu is a sacred presence. A mystic. Velu has touched the earth and sky, and commands the growth of trees, ferns, and vines. Velu guides our people with vast knowledge, love, and understanding. Velu protects us, past, present, and future.”

    Akkoti and Kruti tell us these things in unison. This is a practiced speech. A recitation. It’s meant to inspire awe and respect. It’s not really needed. Velu drifts forward, wings barely moving, feet hardly skimming the floor.

    They’re a fae, I think, but the magic in them is mixed with something even more mystical and powerful. As tall as two people at least, Velu looks down on us with a raised chin as they approach. The crown headdress Velu wears is gold, with an eye of pink and orange at the center. It’s stuffed with real leaves, fronds, and vines that shimmer and drip with Lifesap like dew.

    “Tib,” Saesa hisses, tugging at my silk garb. It doesn’t take much convincing. As the crown’s eye gazes at us both, and Velu looks down their perfect nose, I sink slowly to my knees. I can’t help but stare at the fae’s gold-green skin, at the interesting spots of midnight blue that dot their face and neck, not like Mage Mark. More like the spots on a frog or a butterfly.

    There’s so much about Velu that’s intriguing. A sense of caring and concern for their people. They aren't like the unpredictable fae who lord over their magic in Kythshire and Sunteri. They’re not like the Mages and Sorcerers who selfishly suck up every bit of knowledge they can muster for their own gain.

    Just kneeling in their presence, I understand. Respect. Velu respects the Source, which gives the Savarikta everything they need. It keeps them healthy and joyful. That joy comes out in song, and that song is a protection for the temple and Velu.

    It’s not like in Cerion, where magic is borrowed from Kythshire with so many rules and restrictions. It’s not like in Sunteri, where the fae are forced to guard their source from the ever-thirsty Sorcerers of Zhaghen. It’s not even like Ceras’lain, where the elves have had to build enormous walls to keep out invaders to guard their Wellspring. This place is too well hidden and too respected, and Velu is the reason for that.

    The sage whispers over the sava and the Savarikta in their language, and an orb of green light floats up from the well. It drifts to our group and touches each of them. I can feel the magic: blessings of peace, power, strength, and wisdom.

    While the orb distracts them, the eye of Velu’s crown flicks over each of them. It pulls visions from the riders, learning about their discoveries. I get a sense of what it’s doing, but I can’t see exactly what it’s seeing. The magic in here is too overwhelming. Picking out details is hard.

    My boots tingle at this realization. That tingle creeps up from my toes through my legs into the rest of me. It charges me with clarity. Pushes away Velu’s tricky enchantments.

    This place is just like any other Wellspring. Velu is just like any other fae. These people are just like everyone else. My mouth goes dry. I push myself to my feet with the crown of my head still tingling. Velu turns to me wearing an expression between curiosity and offense.

    “My name is Tibreseli Nullen-Ganvent,” I announce.

    “Tib!” Saesa hisses, tugging at my boot strap. I pull away from her. Take a step closer to Velu, whose chin goes even higher. The mystic’s eyes are strange. Orange, pink, and yellow. No pupils, like Flitt’s. Light fae.

    Wings bearing huge eyes on the top section glare down at me, trying to intimidate. It doesn’t work. The others are too enthralled by the green orb and the eye of the crown to notice me take a bold step forward. Only Saesa watches, slightly mortified.

    “Steward of the Last,” I declare. “Knifethrower, Dreamstalker, Bearer of the Guardian, Slayer of Shadows, Liberator of Valenor, The Dreamstalker, The Untouched, Key to the Skies.”

    Velu’s expression is blank as those strange eyes look past their yellow-white nose tip and raised, perfect chin. Haughty. Arrogant. There’s a long stretch of silence before the sage’s attention switches from me to the others.

    “My children,” Velu says. The guardian’s voice is perfect. Not too deep or too high. I watch the others shiver with pleasure at the sound of it. Even the sava. Even Saesa. While the sage’s attention is on the Savarikta, I grasp Saesa’s hand and pull her to her feet. Pull her a few paces away, while Velu speaks to the others in their language.

    After what just happened, the adoration I felt, the warning from my boots, I’m not taking any chances around this Velu. I understand now, what I was admiring so much. Power. Beauty. The awe inspired by this place and its guardian.

Some of it is magical, but most of it is in its design. The majesty of the temple. The artistry of the pillars and statues. The beauty of the children in the alcoves. Even without a magical influence, it was easy to get drawn in by all of that.

    I wonder what would happen to someone without my abilities. Without the protections Opal gave to Saesa. How captivated they’d be. How enraptured. And why? To keep people obedient? To force respect? I look at Akkoti, still kneeling, her forehead pressed to the floor. That’s what would happen, exactly.

    “Dreamstalker,” Velu interrupts my thoughts. “Come.”

Without waiting to see what we’ll do, the mystic turns, drifts across the room to the golden archway, and disappears into the light.

    “It is a great honor to be invited into the depths of Velu’s temple,” Akkoti whispers, looking up from her bow. “Go quickly, Evtu, and bask in the honor you’ve been given this day. Even we Dona are forbidden to venture further than this. Go,” she urges me, smiling with pride. “Go, and when you return to the village, you will tell us all of the wonders you have experienced within.”

    With Saesa’s hand gripped tightly in mine, I cross the huge room and step through the archway. The light inside is so bright my eyes water. Beside me, Saesa gasps. To her, it’s blinding. Overwhelming.

    I’ve seen this magic before, though. Flitt does it, too. It’s just light. Nothing special. I squint into the glare, searching for Velu. With my healed eye, I finally spot the fae a few paces ahead. The sage is much smaller, though, in here. Not the imposing figure it was outside with the others.

    In the wash of light, all I can make out are the eyes: two on the wings, one on the crown. They drift closer to me, emerging from the glare of light, and narrow to scowling slits.

-Excerpt from Call of Elespen, Keepers of the Wellsprings, Book Five, by Missy Sheldrake

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