Els rounded the corner, entering the main square, smiling at what she saw. There was a great stone circle, surrounded by four pillars. The youths were already lining up, chattering excitedly at the sight. But it was understandable; most of these children weren’t even from this continent, let alone this city. So the awed looks being given to the Soul Gate were expected.
There didn’t seem to be more than a couple thousand children this year, which was pretty unusual, given that there were representatives from each of the five continents. The severe lack of heavy winter gear or thick full body cloaking suggested that the children from the Hielschnee and Kiatek regions hadn’t arrived yet. Or at least, Els amended, watching two heavily cloaked figures join the growing line, not all of them. But given that the Choosing was part of a festival that lasted 3 days…it made sense.
The Soul Gate of Mahci City was known even to those who had never even left their village. All youths at the age of 17 were brought to the city for their Choosing. Not to say that coming here was the only way to complete your Choosing, there were smaller temples on each of the world’s other four continents that could fulfill that purpose. But this one was certainly the one of highest renown. Ships came from all over on the first day of the year, bringing new hopes and dreams to Mahci City.
How could it not be? It was on this spot that the five nations had come together in peace after The War. Each of the Five Great Sages came and put their magic into this structure, granting the Choice to any who came of age. And giving those with great potential the opportunity to study magic and become a mage in their own right. That was how it had been for thousands of years.
Once the sun rose in the sky to a position where it could be seen as touching the tips of the four pillars, the gate would open and the ceremony would start. Els smiled as she remembered standing in line, terrified for her choice. Even listening to the boring speech of the master of ceremonies couldn’t calm her down. And yet, when she stepped through the gate, and made her first Bond….The relief that she felt was palpable. The applause that she received when she returned through the gate with a partner that had never before bonded to someone from the Aluz continent didn’t hurt either.
Els felt a low throb of amusement through her bond, letting her know that San had heard her thoughts. Although Umbern couldn’t speak, they were capable of expressing their emotions directly to their chosen. Umbern were rare creatures that hailed from the Unphar continent. They lived in caves in the deepest parts of the forests, only leaving to hunt for food. Only one of the many fantastic creatures that could be bonded.
A horn blast sounded from the square, silencing the low chatter. Els found a spot against a back pillar and watched as the ceremony began. A man in a red robe began to walk across the stage; following behind him was a Griffin. The feathers on his chin were grey with age. He was clearly very old, as was his partner. Once they were in the middle of the Soul Gate, the old man composed himself and began to speak.
“I welcome you all, young ones,” he said solemnly, “ in this time of great celebration. Over the next three days, you will all receive the great honor of becoming Bonded. To become a bonded the rite of passage that signals adulthood. Once you return through these gates with your Chosen, you will have left the world of childhood behind.” The master of ceremonies paused for a moment, to make sure that every eye was on him.
“I won’t bother you with a long speech, instead I will simply tell you a story; The story of the First Bonding.”