The Grove was surrounded by a fortress made of dried vines. Some were reedy tendrils, some were thick as a fist, and they reached even higher than the grove’s walls. As if a living castle had grown from the ground and surrounded the grove, protecting it. The vines were so tightly coiled you couldn’t see through them, but a few purposeful-looking gaps allowed streams of light in. I could see bits of dense forest outside.
To the right of the crystal door the vines had grown so thick they were impassable, so I started following the “hall” created between the vines and the grove’s wall to the left.
After a while I reached the corner of the grove and turned… High up, the wall of vines had been crushed. The limbs had fallen into the hall, blocking my way.
Draped in the opening was the bleached white skeleton of a bird, the size of a large house. Its head and right wing were hanging on this side of the wall. Its flesh and feathers had fallen away years ago, but I could see that when it was alive it had been… armoured.
Rotting leather straps held a metal breastplate to its chest, and a long, spined helmet protected its head and beak. I could just make out what looked like a seat or a saddle on its back. Had someone flown this bird? Forced it to dive through the vine wall? Why?
Had the vines always been here, or had they been some sort of barricade? An attempt to protect the grove?
The War of Neithernor.
I’d forgotten. It was heartbreaking to see.
The sun was lower now so the shadows were growing. Standing below the shattered body of this behemoth was disquieting. Why would my dad lead me here? Why would he show me this?
All of this lost, fighting over magiq. Night was coming and I didn’t want to be alone there. It took longer to pass through the wall, the taste wasn’t as sweet, the stick didn’t react like it had.
I found myself running through the grove. I needed a break from Neithernor. I went back to the brownstone, but just before I fell asleep I remembered I hadn’t checked the journal.
My father wrote about the war. About “The Silver” and seeing what they were truly capable of, how he was also heartbroken by the bird when he first saw it.
“This was the world they wanted. Magiq, mined dry. Wonder, subjugated. To have all. To win control of a thing that didn’t belong to anyone. And when they were finally barred from paradise they set their sights on the mundane world. Drawing what little light remains into the dark place they hide. From the moment I left that grove I knew I had to do everything I could to stop them. The purpose I’d looked for all my life, and only seen glimpses of, was now looking back at me from the skull of that animal. Even though Monarch’s Mountain had been wiped away, their purpose, their soul still remained in those few remaining shafts of light. The Silver can’t win as long as we live to fight.”