I'm gonna post 61 pages of ammatuer writing at the same time. So watch out. This may take up to a half hour to read, so you may want to read chapter by chapter.
So here goes...
Anything was better than being locked up. Even living in an attic, surviving off of food from a soup kitchen, spending the majority of your time either doing odd jobs around said soup kitchen as your only source of money, or searching unsuccessfully for a real job. I’ve lived like this for nearly a year. Let me revise that. We’ve lived like this for nearly a year. I couldn’t forget Elaine, the bouncy six year old tugging at my sleeve.
“What is it, Lainey?” I asked, exasperated.
“I want to see Rosalina!” she informed me, her voice actually sounding whiny, “I don’t like shopping!”
“Nor do I, but we need to get you out of those rags.” I gestured to the gown we had been forced to wear by our kidnappers. She hadn’t been shopping since we escaped, and it was the only clothing she had.
Elaine sighed. “I know. But I still don’t have to like it.”
I laughed to myself “I know you don’t have to like it. I’m asking you to try and put up with it, or you’ll be stuck in that gown forever” after a second I added “And we’ll go see Rosalina right after this.”
Elaine was about to say something, but her mouth snapped shut. I couldn’t tell if it was the mention of Rosalina or the gown that finally shut her up. We continued through the department store in silence.
The moment the kids’ clothes section was in sight, Elaine ran and dived right into the aisle with the sickeningly pink dresses. Sure, of course she didn’t like shopping. I jogged to catch up to her. When I found her, she was inspecting a hideous pink, satin, floral dress, frills and everything. The moment I caught her eye, I scowled at her. She came running over with the dress. “But I like it” she told me, correctly interpreting look.
“You need something more…comfortable. Something you can run around in. Something that blends in” I waved towards my clothes, a light green fitted t-shirt and a pair of navy blue sweatpants. Closer inspection of the dress also revealed the price tag. Enough said. “And Lainey, even if I did manage to get a job I would never be able to afford this.
Sulking, Elaine returned the dress to the rack, and came back with a pair of purple skinny jeans, a hot pink t-shirt saying “Princess Gone Bad” with a picture of a skull, a plain light pink hoodie and a pair of short white denim shorts. I was amazed at her mad shopping skills. Too bad she didn’t like it. In a couple of years I could send her for all of our food.
Eying her load of clothes, I told her “It’s a start…” I pulled the jeans from her grasp. “…except for these. How do you expect to be able to run in these…these things? They might very well cut off the circulation in your legs…” I stopped at the look on Elaine’s face. In a slightly more gentle tone, I continued “If you get them in a bigger size, then maybe…”
Her eyes brightened. “Sure, Mary. I’ll be right back…” she rushed, then raced over to the rack where she had found the jeans and grabbed a new pair and was back by the time my brain had registered that she had called me Mary again. I hate being called Mary. Smiling, I decided not to correct her. I had already scolded her enough today. My hand firm on her wrist, we walked to the cash register.
We left the store quickly and headed directly to the soup kitchen, as I had promised Elaine, to go see Rosalina. Elaine marched down the street proudly, the shopping bag tucked under her arm. “We’re going to see Rosalina now, right Marissa?”
I smiled. “Yes, Lainey, we’re going right to Rosalina…and you can show her your new clothes.”
Her face broke out in a grin. “I’ll tell her I picked them all by myself” she looked at me “which I did…with some criticism from you.”
“Yes…yes you did” I told her, my mind elsewhere. Rosalina was a soup kitchen cook, and the only one who knew our story. She had been feeding us and housing us in a room in the back of the kitchen. I felt bad, so I had been looking for a job from the time we escaped. If I found one, that would take care of the food problem, but the housing problem? It would be months, years actually before I would be able to afford an apartment. I was snapped back to reality when I realized Lainey was still talking.
“Yes, I will go job hunting tomorrow, too” I answered quickly.
I smiled. Elaine loved Rosalina, or as we both called her, Rosa. And a day that I spent job hunting was a day Lainey had Rosa to herself. Well, to herself and everyone else in the soup kitchen. Speaking of the soup kitchen¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬…
I opened the door for Elaine who ran, right into Rosalina’s arms. I smiled at the older lady apologetically. “Elaine is excited. She just…”
I was interrupted by an overenthusiastic six-year-old. “No…no Marissa I want to tell her!” she whined.
Rosalina looked back at Lainey, smiling. “What is it, El, sweetie?” Poor Elaine. So many names. There was “Elaine,” of course, there was “El,” “Lainey…” I sighed. And there was what my mom and dad used to call her: “Ellie-girl.”
“I went shopping. Like a big girl. I picked out my own clothes.” Rosalina’s mouth dropped open in a well practiced look of mock admiration, surprise, and pride.
“By…by yourself?” Rosa stuttered.
Elaine smiled triumphantly, angled her head upwards, and closed her eyes just the slightest bit. “By myself” she confirmed.
“Show me what you bought.”
As Lainey started to pull the clothes out of the shopping bag, I headed to the back of the soup kitchen, silently, leaving them to their chat.
Once through the door separating the actual kitchen from the eating space, I looked around. The only people there were Lawrence and Anna, two of Rosa’s friends. Lawrence turned to say hi to me.
“Hey, Marissa. Where’s the little one?”
“Out front with Rosalina.”
A throaty chuckle escaped from Lawrence’s throat. Anna turned to face me. “That girl. She really admires Rosalina, doesn’t she?”
“Anna, that might just be the understatement of the century” I joked.
Lawrence looked into my face, his eyes glinting with mischief. “How can Rosalina poison the mind of our Ellie?”
Anna looked at him like he was insane, and then started to laugh. After a second she turned to me. “Well, Lawrence didn’t mean to keep you captive here. Go on with whatever you were doing.”
I smiled at both of them again, and opened the door to the supply closet. I crept in, then pulled the string which pulled down the trapdoor in the ceiling and let down the ladder. At the top of the ladder, I emerged into a dark musty attic. Home.
* * *
A bit later, while I was stretched out on the makeshift couch, reading, Elaine came up and spread out her clothes on the floor. “Marissa? Where should I put these?”
I got up without a word, and pulled a large shoebox out of the corner. Elaine took it from me and started carefully folded the clothes, all except for the jeans and t-shirt, smoothing out every wrinkle. Gingerly, she placed them in the box, picked up the clothes she had left outside, and then looked at me, back on the couch.
“Should I put my box next to yours?” she asked, uncertainly.
“Go ahead” I mumbled, my face buried in my book.
She pushed her box to the end of the couch and ducked into the corner surrounded by blankets hung from the low ceiling to change. Seconds later she emerged, the pink t-shirt saying “Princess Gone Bad” with the skull contrasted very interestingly with her tousled hair and her too big should-be-skinny-jeans. She definitely looked like a Princess Gone Bad. More accurately a preppy zombie.
She smiled proudly. “Looks good, right?” Oh, that’s right. I still haven’t bought a mirror for inside our ‘changing room’.
“Well. It looks okay” I told her, standing up. “Maybe I could…” I put down my book, picked up my hairbrush and started yanking it through her straight, red hair. She bit her lip, and waited until I was done. Poor girl. She hadn’t brushed her hair with an actual brush since her capture. One by one I worked the tangles out of her hair, then stood back to look at her. The zombie look was almost gone. Now she looked something like a deranged giant lollipop, the kind you get at theme parks. Between the bright pink t-shirt, the bright purple jeans, and her bright red hair, it almost hurt to look at her. After a second, I came up with an idea to reduce her flamboyant appearance. I picked a rubber band out of the pile I use to restrain my curly brownish hair, and tied her hair up in a ponytail. Much better. “There. That looks great.”
“Can I go show Rosa?”
I shrugged. “I’m not stopping you, am I?”
Elaine whooped, then flew down the ladder to the supply closet. I sighed, and hopped back onto the couch with my book, leaving the trapdoor open. I never closed it while I was up here and Lainey was down in the kitchen. She couldn’t reach the rope to open it, so she wouldn’t be able to come back up if the door was closed, unless she had the assistance of one of the kitchen staff.
A few minutes later, Rosa’s head appeared above the trapdoor. She climbed the stairs, and came to sit beside me. “She looks like a popsicle.”
Without lifting my eyes from my book, I answered “I was thinking a multicolored lollipop, but that works too.”
Rosa grinned. “Now she’s down posing for Anna’s camera.”
I laughed, caught off guard. “That’s Elaine for you.”
The door in the supply room below slammed and a voice rose from below. “Rosa?”
“Speak of the devil…” I muttered, already sucked back into my book.
“What is it, El?” Rosa called.
“Nothing. I just wanted to know where you were.”
Rosa rolled her eyes at me, laughing to herself, then turned just as the blinding Elaine appeared through the door. “El, the floor might just collapse, there are so many of us here. Why don’t we go downstairs?
I sent a silent thanks to Rosa for saving my reading-time, watching as Elaine then Rosa disappeared through the trapdoor.
I yawned, and stepped off of the couch, where I slept. I stumbled over to my shoebox of clothes and pulled out my clothes for the day, a plain gray fitted t-shirt and a pair of loose jeans. Loose jeans. I looked over at Elaine on the only bed-type-thing, and saw that she was still wearing her vibrant outfit from the other day. “Who knew?” I muttered. “She said she hated shopping, and managed to duck it for almost a year, and now she refuses to change from the clothes we had bought her.”
Smiling, I ducked into the changing space to change. Quickly, I looked at the watch I had bought at a secondhand shop last week. 7:45.
Five minutes later, I was almost ready to leave. I pulled on some old sneakers and had just opened the trapdoor when I heard Elaine’s voice. “Bye, Marissa.”
“Bye, Lainey. Have fun with Rosalina.”
I smiled, then descended the ladder.
When I left the supply closet, I found Anna waiting outside. She handed me a bagel with a generous slathering of cream cheese, and some juice. Wordlessly, I sat and quickly downed the food. Thanking Anna, I left the warmth of the kitchen.
Today, I didn’t even bother to pick up a copy of the paper for any jobs. I didn’t have to. There was a want ad, posted in the window of the shop next door to the soup kitchen, for a babysitter. I decided to give it a shot. I didn’t need directions to get to the address on the poster. I knew DC like the back of my hand.
The address turned out to be a large apartment complex near the soup kitchen, like I had expected. I calmly climbed the flights of stairs until I got to the right door.
Almost immediately after my knock, the door flew open to reveal a girl in her late teens. She looked me over. “Who the hell are you?”
“I’m Marissa Calix. I’m here for the job…as a babysitter.”
“I’m the babysitter. That ad was about a week old. And aren’t you waaay too young? The oldest of the kids is like eleven.”
I smiled sweetly. “I’m sixteen, Miss.”
“Eh, I doubt it. You look like you’re fourteen, at the most. So scram” she slammed the door in my face.
I spun around and trudged down the stairs. I felt unusually tired. And I couldn’t face the shame of going home yet. Just to say that I’d given up. I stopped myself. I had NOT given up. Not yet, anyways. I forced myself to keep looking for wanted ads.
After an hour, I hadn’t found any jobs I was eligible for. At least now I had an excuse to go home.
The moment I opened the door to the soup kitchen, Lainey came running at me. “Mary! Mary! Rosa found a job…” That was all I needed to hear. All of about thirty seconds later I was in the kitchen, talking to Rosa.
“We got a flier to post in our window, a help wanted ad for a nearby Starbucks. They say they’re desperate for help” Rosalina told me.
I smiled and leaned over to hug Rosa. “Thank you…thank you so much!”
Lainey tugged at me arm. “You’re gonna get a job? I wanna go with you!”
I looked down at her, surprised. Rosa answered my unspoken question immediately. “Busy day today, so I haven’t been able to spend much time with her…she’s completely stir-crazy.”
I grinned. “Sure Lainey…” I paused, noticing she was still wearing her clothes from yesterday. After thinking for a second I shrugged. Oh, what the heck. “Rosa, what’s the address?”
“I made a copy of the flier” she said, handing me the piece of paper she had been holding.
I grinned then hugged her again. “Thanks so much!” I said before leading Lainey outside.
* * *
“Good. Come back here to fill out the paperwork.” The employee’s voice was throaty and rough.
I nodded then followed him with Lainey to the room he had pointed out. “Yes sir…and thank you.” Looking around the room I saw a desk with some papers on it. I walked over, turning my back to the door. Leaning over I started to sign the papers.
Suddenly the door slammed shut and I saw everything basked in an eerie blue light. I felt strange and my stomach started to drop. I felt like I was seeing this scene in a dream, as if I wasn’t actually there. I looked towards Lainey, who was glowing with blue light, looking as confused as I felt. Looking down, I noticed I was glowing with the same blue light. I whirled around just as the room started to fade, and saw the old employee, Quinton, with his arms raised, fire the same shade as the blue light bellowing around his hands, and a horrible smirk on his face. That smirk was the last thing I saw before I sunk into darkness.
* * *
I rolled over and ended up with a mouthful of grass. Wait…grass? My eyes snapped open. I was lying on the side of some road. Not a paved road, but a dirt one. About ten feet from where I was laying was a forest, trees stretching to the sunny sky.
But where was Lainey?
After a few moments of frantic searching I glanced a flash of hot pink. Spinning around to face where I had seen the pink I saw her, dozing peacefully behind a bush. The bush…it wasn’t a type I had ever seen before. It had bright orange berries, each exactly the size of my thumbnail, hanging precariously from thin branches. All of the leaves had a hint of purple in them.
Shrugging, I walked over to Lainey and shook her. A small moan escaped from her sleeping figure. “Lainey! Wake up! It’s Marissa!”
Slowly her eyes opened, taking in the scene around us. “Where are we?”
I sighed. “I wish I knew.”
She sat up. “What time is it?”
I looked down at my watch which, I realized, had stopped sometime while I was asleep. I gave in and looked up at the position of the sun. “It’s about noon” I finally answered.
“How long have we been asleep?”
I looked down at my watch, which I learned had stopped at about 2:30. Surprised I looked up at Lainey. “A day or so” I answered, quietly. “Enough questions. We have to figure out where we are.”
I lifted Lainey to her feet, and lead her to the road. After looking both ways down the road, trying to see what lay on either end, I finally caught sight of something in the distance. It looked like some sort of building…
“Let’s go this way” I said, pointing to where I had seen the structure. Sullenly, Lainey nodded.
We had been walking in silence for a while when I heard the rustling noise in the forest on the side of the road. I kept walking, pretending I hadn’t noticed a thing, but when I heard the noise again I froze and held out my arm to stop Lainey. Slowly I turned towards the forest.
“Who’s th…” I was forced to stop when a strong hand covered my mouth. When I looked down to Lainey, I saw a hand over hers as well.
A voice from behind me, quiet but intense, whispered “Shut up…now.”
After struggling for a second I gave up, and nodded to show that I had understood. The hand released my mouth, and, I saw, Lainey’s as well. I spun around. “Just who d…” at the look I got from the boy, looking to be about sixteen, standing there, I stopped and lowered my voice. “Just who do you think you are? Sneaking up behind us and telling us to shut up…”
The boy shrugged, his brown eyes glinting dangerously. “It was for your own good. Now tell me…who are you?”
I thought for a second, then answered “Rachel Alexson. And this…”¬¬ I pointed to Lainey “…is my sister, Elizabeth.”
“Right then…Rachel” I could tell immediately that he didn’t buy it. “What are you doing wandering down the roads near the…you know…”
I frowned. “No…I don’t know. And it’s only fair if you tell me your name as well.”
He sighed. “Darius Fletcher” he said, his face showing all the signs of a liar. “And of course you know. Everyone in Aya knows very well.”
“Yes Aya. The Ayan realm? Ring any bells?” He continued at the blank look on my face. “Oh for Heisil’s sake where have you been for your whole life?”
I frown. Heisil? Where the heck are we? After a second I answer him. “Not here. And we would like to go back to where we came from. So if you would excuse us…” I grabbed Lainey’s hand and tried to push by him. Immediately he stepped in front of us.
“Tell me your real names. And how you got here. Only then will I explain things to you two.”
Lainey, who had remained silent all this time looked up at him, anger showing in her small face. “Leave us alone” she demanded.
I sighed, and patted her shoulder. “It’s okay…Lainey” I turned towards ‘Darius’. “My name…I’m really Marissa Calix. This is Elaine Calix. Now before I tell you more, you have to tell me your real name too.” He swore to himself. Shrugging, I explained “You’re a really bad liar.”
“Ugh. Fine. Porter Beckett.”
“Okay then. Well, honestly neither Lainey nor I is sure how we got here. I don’t live here. Maybe if I could find an airport…”
He looked at me quizzically. “Airport?”
Now it was my turn to stare. “Where have I been for all of my life? Really?”
“Oh, forget it. You must know how you got here.”
I frown. “Well, no. We passed out after…” Then it all came flooding back to me. “Oh my gosh…”
“It’s a long story…is there anywhere we can sit? Somewhere where people can’t overhear?”
He nodded then led Lainey and I into the forest, stopping in front of a tall, thick oak with planks of wood nailed into the trunk all the way up. Lainey easily scampered up the tree, waiting for me at the top. I turned to look behind be at Porter, thanked Rosalina for giving us the attic room, which meant practice with climbing, and started up the tree.
Porter repeatedly ran his hand through his shaggy light brown hair, thinking. “So after that you woke up here? You have no idea what happened after you passed out?” he asked for the fifth time.
“The answer hasn’t changed from the last four times you’ve asked: no” I answered, startling a grin out of him. His face became serious again, and he asked a new question.
“Do you remember the man’s name?”
I frowned, trying to remember. Right. His name tag had said ‘Quinton’. “I don’t know his last name, but his first was Quinton or something like that.”
Porter swore and hit himself in the head, irritated. “I should have known…”
I looked at him, confused. “Known what?”
He looked me in the eyes. “Marissa…I don’t know how to tell you this, but you’re in…a whole different realm. You’re from The Earthly Realm, am I right?”
I frowned. “You mean Earth…?”
He nodded. “Well this is the Ayan realm. A completely different place. Thadius Te…Quinton I mean. He transferred you between the realms. That means you’re…” he stopped.
“I can’t explain it…I need to show you. Get your sister down here.”
“Lainey!” I called in a loud whisper. Seconds later I was able to see her scuttling down the tree.
“Wha-at?” she asked, annoyed, when she was only a few branches above us.
“Porter needs to show us something.”
She went quiet and jumped down on the branch, next to me.
Porter looked us over. “Okay…watch carefully.” He closed his eyes and held out his balled up fist in front of him. For a few seconds he just sat there, his brow furrowed. Suddenly, he relaxed and opened his hand to reveal a blue orb of fire floating a couple of inches above his hand. I jumped, surprised.
He opened his eyes. “I’m a conjurer. So are you two.”
“You MUST be kidding me.”
“No. I’m not. You can try. I’ll teach you how” he said, balling up his fist and extinguishing the fire.
I shrugged, now sure this is just a dream. “Why not?”
He nodded, thinking. “Now what’s the best way to teach you this…ah. Let’s start with the basics. So close your eyes” I closed my eyes obligingly. “Good. Now think only of any form of your magic…let’s start with the orb of fire, since that’s the only thing you’ve actually seen. When you see your actual magic supply it’ll be easier to get to it in the future.”
I nod to show him that I understood. “Okay…” he continued. “now after a while you’ll be able to see your magic…it appears differently for everyone.”
And there it was. I saw it. I couldn’t tell what it was, it was constantly changing shape. Blue streams of light shot from it like vines. For a second I was tugged away from the world around me, just watching its beauty.
Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my arm “OW!” I yelled, opening my eyes. “Porter!”
He sighed and pocketed the needle. “It was for your own good. The magic was taking over you. You’re supposed to take control of it. Well at least you got that far. You’re going to try it again. This time you have to control the magic. You have to take a bit of it and force it into whatever you want…in this case fire.”
I sighed. “Fine.” Quickly I looked at Lainey who had been staring at me with wide eyes. “I’m fine” I reassured her, then closed my eyes again and started over.
There was the magic again, brilliant blue, the delicate streams of light surrounding it…“Quit it” I told myself, and focused on a small chunk of the magic. I forced it away from the rest of the stock, moved it down to my outstretched, balled up fist. I opened my hand, letting the magic out. Suddenly a searing pain shot through my arm. Quickly I closed my fist, then opened my eyes. “My arm…it’s burning.”
Porter patted my back reassuringly. “You didn’t focus on the fire enough. You need to keep all of the heat packed into the ball of fire, and if you learn to do that right you can either make the fire cool or hot. And by the way, this isn’t a dream.”
I sighed. I knew now. That pain was too real.
“And now you try again” he said, gently. “I won’t stop until you get this right.”
I groaned. “Gee thanks” I muttered sarcastically, then closed my eyes once more.
The magic was getting easier to handle now. I easily forced a chunk away from the rest of the supply and shaped it as the orb of fire. Next came the tricky part. I carefully navigated the fire to my hand, careful to keep the heat inside the orb. Carefully, I snapped my hand open. Energy washed through me, and dreading what I was about to see, I opened my eyes. There was the blue orb of fire, floating inches above my hand.
Gingerly, Porter reached out to touch the fire. He didn’t recoil, so I figured I was successfully holding in the heat. “Porter, you might want to move your hand now…I’m going to unleash the heat.”
Quickly, he pulled his hand back. “Don’t let it all go at on…”
I held up my free hand “I know, I know.”
Somehow, my instincts knew exactly what to do. I had been meant to do this. Slowly, I let go of my control over the heat, bit by bit. This time Porter reached forward and held his hand about three inches above the orb.
He smiled. “Good. Now let’s see if you can suck the heat back into the orb.”
I grinned. “Of course.”
Slowly, I reached my mind around the heat dancing over the surface of the flame and pulled it back in to the blue orb floating in my hand. Porter reached out his hand, carefully, and felt the orb. A look of astonishment came over his face. I closed my hand, extinguishing the fire.
“What?” I asked Porter, who had been staring at me.
“…And…you swear you didn’t know of your power until this morning?” I nodded, confused. He took a deep breath. “There are only a handful of enchanters who have mastered the fire spell in less than ten tries. All of whom became legends.”
I grinned. “So I’m not that bad at this.”
He nodded enthusiastically. “No…definitely not.”
I turned to Lainey, grinning. She gave me a weak smile. Poor girl. It’s a lot for a seven-year-old to take in. That reminds me… “Lainey? It turns out we’re farther from home than we expe…”
“I know” she said quietly. “I heard the whole conversation from up there.”
Suddenly it struck me how much she’d changed since we had got here. Whatever happened to the innocent, bubbly little sister I used to have? “We’ll get home soon Lainey. Don’t worry.”
Porter looked at us both “I won’t leave you guys out here alone. I’ll help you find a way for you to get home” he said, and then shrugged. “How about we work more on the fire?”
I tore my eyes from Lainey’s impassive face to look at Porter gratefully. “Sure” I said, stretching out my fist once again and closing my eyes.
This time, making the fire was easy. Porter nodded his approval, and then gave me a new instruction. “So what you need to try now is transporting the fire.” I looked up at him in shock, barely managing to keep the heat contained inside the orb of fire. Porter looked steadily back at me. “To do that, you have t…” I stopped him again. Still, my instincts knew exactly what to do. I grasped the orb with my mind and moved it to the branch below us. Then, I slowly released my control over its shape, and it slowly started to settle onto the branch until there was a blue fire dancing on the branch. At the last second I decided to keep the heat inside or it would burn off the branch.
Porter looked at me, mouth hanging open. I grinned at him without moving my focus from the fire on the branch below, and then started to gather the fire back into an orb by wrapping around it with my mind, the same way I had re-captured the heat in the orb earlier. Once it was back in an orb shape, I moved it back into my hand. After a second, I closed my hand, extinguishing the fire.
“That was fun. Can I try something else?”
Porter looked at me like I was insane. “Almost no one has gotten that on their first try…ever.” He swallowed, then started talking again. “And anyways, aren’t you worn out? Doesn’t your magic feel kinda used up?”
I shrugged. “Lemme try something…” I closed my eyes and thought about my magic until it appeared. I looked carefully at the magic, noticing about a quarter of it was a darker shade of blue than normal. I opened my eyes, ending the vision. “Porter…if part of my magic is darker…”
He answered my question before I had finished asking it. “…that means you’ve exhausted it. After a rest it’ll be back in use…wait…what do you mean part of your magic? After that, all of your magic should be used up.”
I looked at him, confused. “But only about a fourth of mine was used…”
He stared into space for a second. “Now tell me…what shape does your magic take?”
“I…don’t know. It’s always changing.”
Now Porter stopped completely and just stared at me. “Oh my god…” he breathed.
“This time you have to be kidding. I just learned of my power today. How is this possible?” I asked Porter. Lainey had gone scampering back up the tree, and this time we made sure she couldn’t hear us.
Porter shrugged “While it’s very probable, it’s not definite. The prophecy says, and I quote, ‘In many years, a girl thrice blessed shall come to save Aya thrice. The magic she wields is more than most, and never shall settle one shape.’ I’m not sure what the whole ‘thrice blessed’ thing is, but for the rest…” he paused, seeing me staring into space. Just this morning I was looking for a job at Starbucks and now I learn that I’m possibly a legend in a parallel dimension where magic exists…
I glanced at the ground and the shadow of us and the tree branch directly below us. Confused, I looked up but was unable to see the sky through the thick tree cover. “Porter…what time is it?”
He looked at me for a second, confused, then understanding swept over his face. “Ah. Right. That still needs to be explained to you…” he said. As he explained what had happened, my face grew more and more bewildered.
“You are kidding me, right?”
“Nope. I’m serious” he replied “time has completely stopped here. For as long as I’ve been alive the sun has been in that exact position.”
“But…if time stopped how have you been aging?”
“I…I honestly don’t know. I think it has something to do with the fact that people just like us are aging…in a different realm…The Earthly Realms. Same with the animals. The animals existing only in Aya are staying the same age, like the joeldings for example, while chipmunks and such age just as they would if time were passing.”
I looked at him, remembering something. “Wait a second…earlier on the road you asked what I was doing here. You said something about it being near something…”
Porter sighed. “I don’t know how to explain this exactly…so there’s this group, The Controllers. They have the power of mind-magic. Basically they can do anything with your mind. They can read your mind, mess with your thoughts and memories, drive you insane, send you telepathic messages, and their favorite part, force you to do nearly anything. That’s why they’re called The Controllers. Mind-magic used to be one of the four types of magic. But at one point, everyone with mind-magic united and went evil. Their headquarters are near here, where they spend all their time plotting. To take over Aya. Clairvoyants have been able to see that they have plans, but as far as they’ve been able to See before their Seeing is ended by a Controller is when the plans go into effect. In two months.”
“Clairvoyants…?” I asked quietly.
“One of the four…well now three types of magic. Seeing. They basically are able to focus their power on any given area or individual. Some of the more powerful ones can read minds, while all are able to tell if a person is lying or not and that type of thing. Also clairvoyants sometimes see flashes of the future.”
“And what are the other types of magic?”
“Well there’s Conjuring which is what we have, Seeing, and then there’s The Warriors. With war-magic. They’re basically born as skilled fighters. Unnaturally skilled. Many have issues sitting still, or sometimes even claustrophobia, all are extremely agile, as well as being fast runners. They can basically overtake any enemy by themselves. Right now they’re in high demand as body guards, with The Controllers’ plans starting soon.”
“So you’re saying there are people running around at home who have no idea of their power? Or what they could do to others, say, if they got in a little fist fight? And there are kids who think they are insane because they sometimes see things in their mind like, I don’t know, their cat getting hit by a car, then the next day their cat gets run over?”
Porter shrugged nonchalantly “It depends, but not really. People whose ancestors have lived in the Earthly Realm since The Parting, when the realms split, don’t have powers, while people who come from a few families who switched realms after the parting do. And anyways, the magic is kind of muffled and trapped inside of the bearer while they are in the Earthly Realm. When the realms split everyone had to choose a realm. Soon after The Parting, magic started to appear in the Ayan Realm.”
Suddenly, I realized something. “Wait a second. We’re near the headquarters of The Controllers, right? So if they could sense clairvoyants who were only in their headquarters in mind, shouldn’t they be able to sense us?”
Porter stiffened. “I didn’t think of that. They may not have sensed us yet though we’re a mile or so away. I come here sometimes, thus the planks of wood nailed to the tree, but I’m normally able to shield myself with my magic. All three of us would be hard to shield. So we should really go.”
Nodding, I called Lainey down to the branch we were sitting on. “We’re going to go now” I told her quietly.
“Good. I’m bored of climbing.”
Despite the circumstances, I smiled. “Porter, I’ll climb down first. Then Lainey, then you.”
While walking down the road on the way to Nouce, Porter basically caught us up on seven years worth of Ayan Geography. We were in Tosete, one of the countries in Aya of which Nouce was the capitol. Tosete, one of the smallest of the eleven Ayan countries was also one of the most advanced, and involved in magic. The best magic school in the realm was in Nouce, as well as one of the largest libraries in Aya. Then of course The Controllers were headquartered in Tosete.
“I can imagine why Thadius Termir…the guy calling himself ‘Quinton’, transported you here to Tosete of all places” Porter told me “He basically is one of The Controllers, and is in charge of getting all magic-wielding people into Aya before the controllers take over. God knows why they need all of us here.”
I shrugged and walked on, as I had been doing for a while, trying to process all of this information that had been heaped onto me in the last…right. Time doesn’t pass. Does that mean I can’t say “in the last few hours?” And that was number one on the list of ‘information that came at me so fast it made my head spin’. It was always noon. Number two on that list was maybe, maybe that I was a legend to everyone in a universe parallel to the one I came from. See, there was another thing. Number three on my all-together-too-long list: my parents wielded some sort of magic. Number four: Did I really leave out that there is a realm parallel to ours? Number five: Lainey hadn’t talked since we left the tree. Now that was shocking.
“Lainey, are you okay?” I finally asked.
She looked up at me, surprise plain on her face. “Of course, Mary. I’m just thinking.”
I winced at the use of my nickname. Mary just sounds so…I don’t know, drab I guess. “Thinking?” I asked, as if it was a completely new concept.
She nodded. “Thinking. Mom and Dad used to tell me bedtime stories about somewhere like this. They called it Marpire or something like that. There were people with magic there. Blue magic. Just like ours.”
Porter looked up. “Marpire? That’s what the realm was called, years ago. Sometimes it’s still used to refer to Aya, although not very often…”
Lainey looked up. “So all those stories were true? About the fairies, and…”
Porter cringed. “Fairies?”
For the first time since we arrived here, Lainey smiled. “Gotcha” she said, laughing.
Porter grinned. “Why you little…”
Squealing, Lainey started to run down the path, Porter following in close pursuit. I smiled, then set off running behind them.
“Welcome to Nouce” Porter announced.
I looked around, unable to reply. We were surrounded by buildings that shot up into the sky, the sun glinting on their metal sides. The air was filled by the smell of freshly baked rolls and the cries of market vendors. Further down the street, the rows of skyscrapers disappeared, replaced with small market stands. I took Lainey’s hand, then asked “Porter…you…you live here?”
“Oh, no. Not in this part of town. The residential area is further down there” he waved down the street “but that’s for the rich people. People like me…us live in Old Jureas, the abandoned districts.”
I nodded. Abandoned. Fun stuff. Just like in those old movies…
“Let’s go get you two some food. You look hungry. When was the last time you ate?”
“Umm. How should I answer that if there’s no time? Does that mean there’s no time measurement?”
He laughed. “Naw. Hours, minutes, seconds, that’s all still used. As kinda a figure of speech.”
Nodding, I answered “Then in that case, it’s been probably a day or so.”
“Right then.” Porter answered, then lead us down the street to what I assumed was the market. Here the smells were nearly overwhelming, and with each breath I took in I became more and more famished. Finally, Porter stopped at a stall. “Hey, Sarah. Got anything good today?”
The old woman at the stand, Sarah, replied, her voice frail. “Porter! I haven’t seen you in a while! I baked some of my iopou bread this morning...”
“Perfect. We need about a loaf.”
“That’ll be 6 t’meres, but as a family friend you can have it for 4.”
He nodded, then handed her some black coins. “Thank you. I’ve been gone, but now that I’m back I’ll stop by more often.”
She smiled and gave him a loaf of purplish bread in a clear bag. “Say hi to Jonathan for me.”
“Will do” he replied, then turned and lead us back down the street.
“Porter?” I finally asked.
“Can I please have some bread now?”
“Right, sorry” he replied, then broke off a chunk of the bread.
After looking at the bread for a second I asked “What is this stuff?”
“Iopou bread. Iopou is like…it’s a bush with purplish leaves and bright orange berries.” I nodded, remembering the bush Lainey had been sleeping behind when we first woke up in Aya. “Basically iopou bread is bread with some iopou leaves and berries grinded into it.”
After a second I took an even smaller chunk off of the one Porter had broken off of the loaf and tossed it in my mouth and slowly chewed it. The taste was...unusual. When you first put it in your mouth it was sour, but after a while it became sweeter and started tasting like blueberry, then, after swallowing it, it left a sugary aftertaste. “It’s…good” I informed Porter, then handed some to Lainey. “Filling, too.” Porter smiled and handed both Lainey and I another piece.
After a while, we turned down a smaller road. The color and life of the main city abruptly faded. Old buildings with darkened windows, most less than four stories high filled the streets. Porter pointed at the small house we were passing. “Sarah…the lady who sold us the bread…this is her house. No one’s supposed to be living here, but that’s never stopped anyone. I live further down this road, with my friend Jonathan and his little sister…she’s actually about your age, Elaine.”
Lainey smiled. “Really? Oooh! Can we be friends? Oh, and call me Lainey, El, Ellie, whatever you want. No one ever calls me Elaine.”
Porter smiled. “Ok, Lainey. And yes, that’s what I was getting at. Marissa and I will need to do some work, so you can spend time with her.”
I looked at Porter, mystified. “Some…work?”
“I’ll explain later” he answered quietly.
“Great…more explaining” I muttered sarcastically.
I thought I heard Porter laugh, but I’m not sure. “Here we are” he declared.
“Jonathan!” Porter called.
“Wha-at?” a voice replied, clearly annoyed.
“Get down here! And bring Allie!”
There was a groan, then after a couple seconds footsteps were clearly audible. “Al?” called the person who was obviously Jonathan.
A higher-pitched, smaller voice from upstairs replied “Jonny?”
Another groan from Jonathan.
“What is it?” asked the same voice, apparently this was Allie.
“Porter’s back. And he needs us downstairs for some ‘very important’ reason.”
Porter and I looked at each other, Porter’s eyes filled with both laughter and exasperation. “That’s Jon for you” he said, quietly.
Finally footsteps charged down the stairs, followed by heavier ones. Both Allie and Jonathan the moment they came within view, Allie staring at Lainey, and Jonathan, much to both my amusement and embarrassment, staring at me.
“Uhh…hi” I said quietly, the sudden silence and Jonathan’s gaze making me uncomfortable.
Jonathan, without moving, looked at Porter. “You didn’t tell us you had guests.”
Yeah, sure. Go ahead and ignore my greeting.
Allie walked down the rest of the stairs to Lainey. “Hi! I’m Allison! But everyone calls me Allie. And my brother, Jonny calls me Al sometimes, but I don’t know why. I like your clothes. I almost never get new clothes. What’s your name?”
I grinned, noticing she had said all of this in one breath. Lainey and Allie would get along fine.
“Thanks, and I’m Elaine” Lainey replied. “But you can call me Lainey, Ellie, or El.”
Allie looked completely confused. “Which should I call you then?”
Lainey smiled. “I don’t know, your choice.”
I turned my attention to Porter and Jonathan. Jonathan was still at the top of the stairs.
“Come on, Jonathan. Be polite. In other words, get your fat ass down here.”
I laughed to myself, partly at Porter’s terminology, partly at how Jonathan’s face didn’t change. Apparently these statements were totally normal around here. Good to know.
After a few seconds, Jonathan walked down to Porter and me. “I’m Jonathan, if that wasn’t already made clear” he said slowly and cautiously, although there was a hint of laughter in the last statement.
I grinned. “Marissa.”
“Now that I’ve been polite, will someone explain what’s going on?”
I looked at Porter. “Porter…?”
He sighed. “I don’t enjoy giving explanations any more than you enjoy getting them” he told me, smiling, then grabbed Jonathan by the arm. “It’s a long story. Let’s go upstairs and I’ll explain. Marissa, you should be able to keep entertained.
I turned to Allie and Lainey as the two headed upstairs. “Hi…Allie? I’m Marissa.”
“Are you Ellie’s sister?” Allie asked.
So then their little nickname crisis had been sorted out. “Yep. And you’re Jonathan’s brother?”
After a second, Lainey announced. “Actually, Allie, call me Lainey. Otherwise it gets confusing. Almost everyone calls me Lainey.”
Allie nodded again, completely forgetting me. “Ok then.”
Well then. I waved at them, then set off to look around the house.
None of the lights were on, or, I learned, working, so the only light came from the sunlight outside. Finally I found what was at one point a sitting room, which was completely empty except for a couple of couches, and a sword leaning against one wall.
I walked over to the sword and quickly unsheathed it. The weight was a bit off-balance, but otherwise it felt right. After a second, I slowly lifted it and held it up to the window to inspect it. It looked like it had been used before…
I spun around and saw Porter at the door, Jonathan right behind him. “Hmm…what is it?”
This time Jonathan stepped forward. “I know what the ‘thrice blessed’ part of the prophecy means.”
There was no way. No freaking way. “Seriously? I hope this isn’t some sick joke…actually, I hope it is…”
“I’m not kidding, Marissa. There used to be a second version of the prophecy…one where it actually said ‘three magics’…”
I looked at Porter pleadingly. “Porter…please tell him he’s insane…”
“He’s telling the truth, Marissa. You have all three types of magic. Probably. Unless the prophecy isn’t about you, which I’m sure it is…”
I took a breath, trying to calm down. “So then I’m a Conjurer, Clairvoyant, and Warrior?”
Porter nodded. “Of course we could be wrong, and you might not be the one in the prophecy.”
“Right. We should go check on Lainey and Allie to make sure they haven’t blown up the upstairs yet.
Clearly, Porter saw my desperate grab for an escape from the subject of my destiny, and didn’t try to stop me. Smiling, he answered “It honestly wouldn’t surprise me if they have…” then grabbed my arm and led us upstairs.
The moment I saw Lainey I saw that both she and her new clothes needed a wash. Not only was her hair caked in mud, so much so that her bright red hair had turned nearly the same brown as mine, but also paint spots of various colors were visible all over her. She looked like some sort of tropical bird.
“Allie? Do you have any clothes Lainey could borrow?” I asked. Allie looked up from her jars of paint spread over the floor. I could see that she too was covered in paint.
“Definitely. Not as nice as what she’s wearing…”
I grinned. Nice was one word for it. “That’s perfect. Could you give Lainey a second? She needs a bath. She hasn’t had a bath in” I looked at Porter “days.”
Allie nodded, then stood up. “Sure thing, Mary. I’ll go get the clothes now.”
Dang it. So Lainey had already taught Allie her annoying nickname for me. “Thanks, Allie” I responded.
Minutes later, Lainey was in the bath, and her clothes were in a washtub. When she got out, she looked almost like her old self. Her hair was the bright red it was before, and all of the paint spots were out, except one spot where her hair had a barely noticeable green stripe going down it. She was wearing a pair of Allie’s less conspicuous clothes, and now looked neither like a giant lollipop, nor like a tropical bird. She almost looked human.
“Hey Lainey, it doesn’t hurt my eyes to look at you anymore” I joked. She laughed, then set off chasing me around the room. After a second I turned my head to see Jonathan rolling his eyes at us. “What?” I demanded, then right as he was about to answer I collided with Porter, both of us falling to the ground in a heap and Lainey falling on top of us. Now Jonathan and Allie were laughing hysterically. I pushed Lainey off of me, then rolled off of Porter, who promptly started laughing. I pointedly ignored them, then stood up next to Lainey, who was already up, then offered my hand to Porter to help him up. He took it, his laughter not stopping. Once he was standing, I punched him playfully in the arm. “It’s not nice to ridicule” I announced, my head held high, and amusement clear in my voice.
“It may not be nice, but…” Porter stopped as he was overtaken by laughter once again.
Lainey looked around at all of us. “Shouldn’t we get working? If Mary’s supposed to save Aya, doesn’t she need training?”
I winced. She’s just too smart. I thought I could get away with doing nothing for a while. I was hoping I could get some rest...
My pity-trip was interrupted by Porter’s voice. “…in charge of showing Lainey around, Allie, you can go too, and Marissa, you come with me. I’m going to train you.”
I groaned. “But Porter…”
He cut me off. “Nope. You’re training. Jonathan, don’t get Allie and Lainey lost, will you?”
Jonathan grinned. “Have some faith in me, Porter.”
“Alright then.” Porter grabbed my arm, and lead me outside. “Now do you want to train your war-magic, or clairvoyance first? You’re already semi-trained in conjuring, so yeah.”
I shrugged. “Clairvoyance, I guess.”
He nodded, then lead me down the street until we came to a small house. After a second, he turned to look at me. “For clairvoyance, you have to be somewhere quiet. So…” he walked to the back of the house and opened a small gate, then we stepped through, into a small garden.
I looked around, taking in the smell of various flowers and berries, all of which were completely unknown to me with the exception of a small iopou bush in the corner. The colorful garden seemed completely out of place in the dull, nearly deserted Old Jureas district. “How is this garden alive?” I asked quietly.
Porter looked up from a bed of orange-leafed plants. “What…oh. I take care of it. I know…gardening isn’t the manliest hobby” he grinned. “Anyways. Find somewhere to sit…” he stopped when he saw me sit cross-legged and straight backed, staring straight ahead “…or stand. This isn’t yoga, Marissa.”
I grinned “Yes. No. Shut up.” After a second, I wasn’t able to hold in my laughter. I fell over backwards laughing, which is very uncomfortable if you’re sitting in a meditative position. Soon Porter was laughing also, but his amusement was at my lack of grace. “Shut up Porter” I managed to get out between bursts of laughter.
“Who? Me? I didn’t say anything!” he laughed.
I finally managed to sit back up, hugging my knees to my chest. “Shouldn’t we…I get started?” I asked, after my laughter receded.
Abruptly, he silenced, and nodded in such a businesslike manner that I almost burst out laughing again. “Okay, so you’re sitting. Now it’ll be a bit more difficult to reach your clairvoyance, because you’ve never seen any form of it. Well also, there’s no real way to visualize it, so just imagine your conjuring magic, but in green. If that makes sense.”
I nodded, pulled up a green version of my conjuring magic in my mind, and closed my eyes. For a while, nothing happened. So of course I felt really stupid. I was about to tell Porter it wasn’t working and that I was not the one from the prophecy, when suddenly a green…blob, nearly identical to my conjuring supply, began to show in the edge of my vision. Soon, the magic was clear in my vision, shifting from shape to shape, just as my conjuring magic had.
“Now” Porter’s voice came from seemingly nowhere “try seeing inside your magic supply…” I nodded again, then focused on the magic until it seemed to zoom in until I actually entered the orb. After a few seconds, my vision seemed to slowly change. After a second, an image of the garden from where I was sitting replaced the green mass of magic. For a second I thought I had opened my eyes. Then I heard Porter’s voice again, but it wasn’t coming from his mouth. “Do you see it? Did you do it?”
I opened my eyes. “Yeah…I guess. I mean the vision was this exactly. Like I was looking out of my eyes.”
He nodded. “I’m not a Clairvoyant, so I’m no expert, but I think you have to think about what you want to see…”
“Makes sense. But what should I want to See?”
Porter thought for a second. “Here…try to See Jonathan, Allie, and Lainey.”
I nodded, my eyes already closed. This time, now that I knew what I was looking for, it only took me a second to find my magic. I entered the magic supply, concentrating on Lainey’s face. Soon, the scene changed to one of the market. Jonathan was walking ahead of Lainey and Allie, who were side by side, talking.
I snapped my eyes open. “I saw them. They’re okay.”
Porter nodded. “One more thing you should know, sometimes Clairvoyants have random visions, if there’s something important they have to see. So don’t freak out if you randomly pass out and have some type of urgent vision. You’re not going insane. Anyways, that was good. Let’s move on to your war-magic.”
I pulled back the arrow, and waited as Porter checked me over. “Perfect position…” He paused. “I don’t know if I’ve told you this, but war-magic is different. You don’t actually need to access the supply. There is a supply, but basically any time you’re awake, it’s spread out through your body, but it’s inactive. When you touch a weapon it’s automatically activated and takes control, but for martial arts, or anything physical where you don’t use a weapon, you actually have to…we’ll work on it later. Basically you have to manually activate it. Just so you know. Now, go ahead and shoot.”
I nodded to him slightly, and focused on the dot on the tree. I shifted my bow slightly to the right, and suddenly everything seemed to fall into place. Everything around that one target on the tree seemed insignificant. The only thing that mattered was hitting that on little red dot.
I released the bowstring.
The arrow flew completely straight, and hit the red dot right in the center. I was still staring in shock when Porter slapped me on the back in congratulation. “I would expect no less from a Warrior. Especially one as strong as you.”
I turned around and grinned at him. “Now let’s get that arrow.”
It turns out that the arrow was buried about four inches into the tree trunk. “Porter, how are you planning on getting that out?” I asked, dubiously.
Porter smiled slyly and pulled a dagger from his sleeve. “Flat, strap on sheaths. They come in quite handy.” After a lot of hacking, pulling, and cursing, the arrow was out.
I grinned. “And a saw would come in even handier.”
Porter snorted. “Very modest” he retorted sarcastically, as he turned around started towards the edge of the woods.
“How was that immo…” I started, then gave up, and ran to catch up with him.
“So we’ll need at least a small supply of food, to last us the beginning of the trip. Maybe a couple horses. Lainey, do you want to come along?” Lainey replied by nodding vigorously, and Porter continued. “Marissa and I both need a sword. Be sure to give Marissa a bow and quiver. And Jonathan, can you give Marissa a couple strap-on flat sheaths and daggers?”
“I think we have two more, then I can go buy a couple more.”
“Alright. And, Marissa, do you think Lainey should have some protection.”
“Maybe a small dagger or something to hide in her shoe.”
Porter nodded. “Jonathan do you have one?” Jonathan left the room, only to return a minute later with two sheaths and a small, flat knife. He handed me the sheaths, and went over to show Lainey where the knife fitted into her shoe. Porter walked over to me. “You ready?”
I nodded slowly. “Nervous though.”
Porter chuckled. “Don’t be. The trip will be a week or so long, not including any stops we may have to take, because now we’re not taking the quick and easy path we used to get here, for secrecy’s sake. So if you’re nervous now, that worry will be eating away at you by the end of the journey.”
I elbowed him. “Gee thanks.”
He grinned. “Glad to help. Speaking of which, do you need help getting those sheaths on?” I quickly nodded and handed him the large wrist sheath I had been attempting to put on one handed. His hands quickly untangled the straps and wrapped them around my wrist. He toyed with the buckle experimentally. “Tell me when it’s tight enough.”
I nodded, then after a few adjustments, blurted out “PORTER! That’s way too tight. You’re going to cut off my circulation.”
He grinned and loosened it a bit. “Whoops, sorry.”
I eyed at him suspiciously. “You tried to kill my arm, didn’t you?”
He chuckled. “Marissa, Marissa, have faith in me…although you are right.”
I punched his arm. “Of course I am.”
Jonathan, who had just finished showing Lainey how to use her knife, came over. “Quit flirting, Beckett.” Immediately, Porter kicked him, although I could tell that he too was blushing.
Things went a lot faster after that. While I was struggling to put on an ankle sheathe, Porter was packing the swords, extra knives, and preparing my bow, and Jonathan was buying what we didn’t have, a belt sheath, some food, rented horses, an extra wrist sheath; Lainey, of course, was playing upstairs with Allie. Soon, Jonathan returned to the house with all of the supplies, plus a sheath that was supposed to be tucked under your hair. Immediately I offered it to Porter, with the explanation “I really don’t like the idea of storing a knife on my head.” Apparently, he wasn’t so keen on it either, so we decided that, the way it was shaped, it would fit well into the back of my sneaker.
After a while, I, my bow and quiver, and my ten thousand hidden knives were ready for battle. Porter and Lainey took less time to get ready, their amount of weapons being much less. When I complained, Porter told me that it was my duty as a Warrior.
“Duty? What duty? Being your mobile weapon storage?”
He grinned at that. “Exactly” he remarked, but after a second repented. “You’re clearly the best warrior of all of us. So.”
‘So’? Was that seriously his explanation? Nevertheless, I gave in, and one tear-filled Lainey to Allie goodbye later, we were on the road.
To add to the ‘fun’ of the day, I was given the large, uncontrollable stallion, Johnny, because apparently I “deserved a proper warhorse.”
About ten minutes down the road, I was wishing that I wasn’t a Warrior. The back of my shirt was soon completely covered with mud from all of the falls I had taken from dear old Johnny. When Porter led us into the woods, the falling got even worse. Porter had to get down from his steady old mare to get him under control. After receiving a good number of whacks from Porter, the stallion became meek as a lamb. Too meek. For the next mile or so, he would stop to try to eat whatever grass he could find, peeking through fallen brown leaves. It seemed this Johnny didn’t have a good side. After the use of an improvised grass rein, Rev’s head was forced up. For the next few hours, I at least had a semi-smooth ride.
“Time to stop for the night” Porter announced after a while. I looked up at the sky dubiously, the sun, as always, directly overhead. Porter grinned at the look on my face. “Like seconds, minutes, hours, and days, it’s a figure of speech, Marissa.”
“Sure, sure” I replied grumpily and slid off my oversized poor excuse for a horse. In turn, Porter and Lainey, who had been riding with him, slid off of their calm, sturdy, gentle horse. Just what I needed right now. Actually, any horse that doesn’t try to buck me from the saddle every ten minutes will do.
“We can set up camp here” Porter commented after a quick look around.
“Where are the tents?”
“Tents? We didn’t bring any. It lightens our load.”
Perfect. Just absolutely perfect. “Just for once I wish you’d run your brilliant plans by me” I grumbled before sitting down on a rare patch of grass. Porter didn’t reply, instead he started to unpack the scant supply of blankets we had brought.
“Sleep on top of your saddle blanket” he had instructed. Apparently, since Lainey didn’t have one, he had brought her a separate blanket. The one thing I was glad for was the fact that he had brought us each an extra blanket, so I didn’t have to sleep on a sweaty, horse-hair covered saddle blanket. So I set up my ‘bed’, and lay down in the middle of the woods. Despite the root under my bedspread and the sun in my eyes, I fell asleep within seconds.
“And how’s Lainey?”
“Crazy as always, Mom” I replied.
My mom looked me over. “You seem to be well. You’ve grown a lot.”
“You’re in Aya?”
I looked at her confused. Aya…now where had I heard that before? “I’m in our sitting room.”
“Marissa, you’re dreaming.”
Those three words brought on a flood of memories. “Oh…Aya…magic. Right.” I held my hand to my head. “So…you aren’t real?”
“Of…of course I’m real dear. This is just a dream, so I’m not real here. I’m sending you this dream…”
“So if you have Conjuring, you can do that?”
She shook her head. “Not conjuring, but…”
Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder, shaking me. “What…Mom!”
The vision of my mother disappeared, to be replaced by an old, worn pair of jeans. What? I looked up. No, there was a person in those jeans. And that person was… “PORTER!” I yelled, irritated. “I had a dream. It was important…you woke me up!!”
He only nodded. “Why yes, yes I did.”
I narrowed my eyes to look at him, then after a second gave up and sighed. “What is it, Porter?”
“You have to get up. We’re going.”
I sighed. “And I have to deal with that nasty stallion again.”
“Johnny’s a proper warhorse.”
“Really? Well my guess is that the majority of the soldiers who’ve rode him have died. And I don’t mean by anything inflicted by the enemy.” Nevertheless, I stood up and looked at Porter. “There, I’m up and I’m starved. So where’s the food?”
Porter silently headed to his horse, already tacked, and reached in the saddlebag. When he returned moments later, I saw that he was holding a chunk of frozen fish. Wonderful. “Start a fire and roast this. I’ll wake Lainey.”
Moodily, I nodded and headed to a flat area of ground. At least I knew how to make a fire pit. In minutes, I had created a small circle of rocks to light a fire in. Then it was time to look for wood. For the most part, this was easy. I started with a stack of leaves, then threw some small sticks in. Then I had to go find bigger ones. I wandered out into the woods, and started finding some sticks. Just as I was picking up my last stick, I heard Porter’s voice, calling my name urgently. Worried, I ran back to the campsite, collecting a number of scratches on the way.
“Where WERE you?” Porter asked when I finally got back to my fire.
I looked at him, unbelieving. I seriously had sprinted back just so he could ask me where I was. “I was collecting sticks for my fire” I replied, angry, then bent down and started to create a three-stick pyramid from the larger sticks.
Porter looked at me like I was insane, then looked at my neat little fire pit. “And WHAT is this?”
“It’s a fire pit. You know, to start fires” I answered, standing up and looking at my creation.
Porter nodded comprehendingly, then walked over to it, and kicked over the pyramid.
“That’s IT Porter. I’m done dealing with you. I’ll go home to my realm and leave yours to be taken over by mind-controllers.”
He looked at me, completely calm, and answered, “You don’t need a fire pit. Just use your magical fire.”
Ah. Right. “You mean, I worked hard on a fire pit, and all I have to show for it is…” I pointed at a gash I had gotten while running back to the campsite. “…this? Really?”
Porter nodded. I ignored him and closed my eyes. Okay. Calm. Here we go. Immediately, my magic supply appeared. I quickly formed the fire and moved it to my palm. I opened my eyes. Now came the tricky part. In my mind, I took complete control of the fire, then brought it slowly to the fire pit. Carefully, I unleashed the heat, bit by bit. Letting go of my control over the shape was also easy, and soon there was a bright blue fire dancing on the sticks I had worked so hard to find.
I looked at Porter again. “Should I…blue…”
He shook his head. “There is a way to make it completely normal fire, but to do that you have to let go of your control over it all together. Then we have to put it out with water. And magical fire, it you haven’t noticed, it’s a lot hotter, and it doesn’t let out any smoke. Which is very important.”
I nodded, then found a thin stick to roast my chunk of salmon on. Porter, then Lainey joined me with their own salmon. I looked at Lainey. I knew that she was thinking the same thing as I. From the time Lainey was born, my mom and dad used to take us on camping trips every month. Lainey was small, so she never made s’mores with us, but I had. And this had the exact same feeling. Because of the extra heat from the fire, it only took slightly longer than it took to make s’mores to finish roasting the fish, which I learned was salmon.
When I finished eating, I headed to tack my evil horse. When I attempted to put on the bridle, Johnny tried to bite my hand off. After a second, Porter came over to help me. Within seconds, we had the bridle on, but the saddle was a challenge. In the end, Porter ended up using the same means he had the ‘day’ before. After about half a dozen slaps, the horse finally quieted enough for us to wrestle the saddle on. Just as I was finishing tightening up the girth, as Porter had showed me, he told us we should get going. He quickly stashed my ten-second bedspread in my saddle pack, as I combed back my frizzy hair with my fingers, and tied it in a quick knot at the nape of my neck. Then we were off.
That ‘day’, the riding was a slight bit easier, now that Johnny was used to the idea that I was his master. After some time, Porter stopped us.
“Marissa. I’m going to train Lainey with her magic a little bit, and you practice with yours. Tomorrow…or maybe later today…I’ll show you how to create a spell.” I nodded mutely and sat down on the ground. I closed my eyes and listened to Porter and Lainey walk into the woods, then accessed my magic supply and got to work.
Should I? I could try it…I shrugged and accessed my magic supply. Within seconds, I was holding a blue, shimmering, cheeseburger. That’s right, a burger. Being a conjurer does mean you can conjure nearly anything. I just needed to have Porter show me how to let it go, making it a normal burger. My guess, though, was that it wasn’t all that great food, because Porter had packed food instead of just relying on his conjuring skills. Slowly, I brought the burger back into my magic supply.
After a second, I was able to hear light footsteps running towards me. Lainey. “What is it, Lainey?” I called, worried.
“Nothing!” she replied. “Porter just finished showing me how to use my magic is all.”
I nodded and stood up from the log I was sitting on. Turning to the direction Lainey came from, I saw Porter following her, smiling. “Come on, back on our horses.”
I smiled, and got on to Johnny without complaining. I didn’t want to ruin Porter’s good mood.
That night, I didn’t have any dreams of my mother, as much as I had hoped. Again, Porter woke me up earlier than I normally would’ve, and again I was completely ticked at him. Also, we ate roasted salmon again, but this time Porter made the fire.
We got on our horses, and Porter turned to me. “We’ll be coming across a village sometime in the next couple of days, and if you want, we can trade Johnny.”
I grinned. “Of course.”
Porter grinned back at me, then lead his horse ahead.
About two ‘hours’ later, it started to rain. I looked at Porter. “Ah, so even though time is stopped, the weather isn’t always sunny and perfect.”
Porter grimaced in reply. “Sadly not. It’s always around this temperature, though. Unless it rains. Time was frozen on the longest day of the year, too. And at noon.” He looked at me, eagerness consuming his face, dripping from the rain. “Tell me, what’s snow like?”
I shrugged. “I’ll explain it later. And when this whole mess is over, maybe you can stay the winter in the Earthly Realms.” I smiled, realizing how normal it felt to refer to my home as a ‘realm’.
“Really?” Porter asked. “You aren’t just messing with me?”
Now, I grinned at how childlike he could be. “Really. If we get through this…” I paused and waved my arm towards the dense forestland ahead. As if in response, Johnny immediately bucked. Caught off guard, I went flying off of him and landed in a mud puddle nearby. Just my luck that it was raining. Dirt wouldn’t have been half as bad. Although, I suppose mud is softer, better to land on.
Porter jumped off of his horse the moment I was air-bound, and walked over to me. “You still sure you want to trade that horse?” he joked.
“Hmm…flying is quite thrilling.”
He grinned and reached out a hand to help me up. I took it, and let him lift me to my feet. Only he didn’t let go once I was up. Well, it took him a second. After realizing he was still holding my hand, he dropped it immediately, and turned to the side, pretending to look at something to our left. Even I could tell that he had actually turned to hide the fact that he was blushing. I know he was, because I was too. Lainey broke the awkward silence, God bless her little soul. “Come on, you guys! I’m tired! And the rain is soaking through my shirt!”
I looked up at her, a little girl on a big mare, and grinned. “Well, Lainey, mud is soaking through my jeans. So quit complaining.” That earned me a grin from Lainey.
“Lainey’s right though” Porter put in. “Onwards and upwards, soldiers!” He grinned and got back on his horse with Lainey. Despite myself, I grinned in response, and mounted my horse as well.
“What?” he responded.
“What’s that?” I pointed to a small house further through the woods.
“A house is my guess.” Lainey giggled in response.
I looked at him. “Seriously Porter. I knew that, just…where are we?”
He shrugged. “We’re in place-that-we-can-finally-sleep-on-a-real-bed.” I glared. “Fine, fine. This is Reposah’s Village.”
“Means traveler in Old Ayan. We speak English now, it being one of the most widely spoken languages in the Earthly Realms, but most of us are fluent in Old Ayan as well.”
I nodded, and nudged Johnny into a slow trot. The steady hoofbeats from behind and Lainey’s thrilled squeals told me that Porter had done the same with his mare. Within moments, we reached the forestline surrounding the village. I turned towards Porter, only to see him looking around, confused. “What is it?”
“This place…” he stopped.
My heart sunk. “This isn’t Reposah’s village, is it?” He shook his head, defeated. “Then where are we? If this happens to be a den of…I don’t know…theives and murderers, our deaths are on your concience.” But no. I couldn’t let Lainey die.
He grimaced. “I know. Well we may as well figure out where we are…”
I shrugged and followed him into the busy village.
“Is this some sort of sick joke?” Porter asked, his voice sharp.
“Of course not” Jolena replied calmly. “There’s a fifth type of magic.”
She nodded. “Conjurers, Clairvoyants, Warriors, Controllers, and Illusionists.”
Porter relaxed. “Ah. Ok, uhh Controlling isn’t considered a type of magic anymore. After all of the controllers…”
Jolena interrupted. “Trust me, we know everything. We have Clairvoyants in the village, and they watch the situation in Nouce. They know all of the news about the rebellion.”
Rebellion. There’s a good word for the Controller situation. “Thank you ma’am.”
“Jolena” she corrected. “Just Jolena.”
I nodded. “Alright then…”
She seemed to read my mind. “We have a spare tent. You may stay there if you want.”
Porter nodded, relieved. Plainly, he was about as enthusiastic as me when it came to going back to travel. “Thank you Jolena.”
“It was no problem. My son will show you to your tent. One moment” she paused then called, “Keith! Porter and I grinned at each other. Her voice was loud.
A boy slightly older than me, but definitely a couple years younger than Porter came running into the large tent. “Mother?” he asked.
“Escort these two to the extra tent, please. The one on the corner of the village.”
He nodded, and then shifted his gaze to us. “Well come on then.”
The tent was large, maybe ten feet high, and about twenty feet wide each way. Then again, most of the tents were this large, if not larger. Porter and I were both relieved to find that it had four hammocks set up, one on each ‘wall’. They weren’t ‘proper beds’, but they were definitely one step above sleeping on the ground. Lainey charged into the tent and ran towards the hammock on the far wall. Porter and I looked at each other and shrugged, and then we went to choose hammocks. It didn’t take long, needless to say, because there were only three left. I immediately chose the one by the door, and Porter chose the one against the left side of the tent.
“We should probably unpack a bit…” I suggested, then sat on the floor and opened my improvised bag.
A while later, we all had at least one blanket on our bed and Porter had managed to forage an old wooden table for the middle of the tent. Our meager supply of food was spread out over the table, along with the food Jolena, the village leader, had given us.
“Porter, can we go exploring?” Lainey asked.
I looked at Porter, annoyed that he had somehow acquired the position of ‘quest leader’. Sure he was the oldest, but only by about four years. Somehow though, I doubted he even knew his age.
“Fine, fine. Let’s head out” Porter replied.
I was about to follow them towards the door when everything went dark. Faintly, I felt the thump of my body hitting the floor of the tent.
The arrow flew from the bow, and before it hit, I knew what would happen. It would hit dead center. And it did.
“Good job, Marissa” my old archery teacher congratulated me. I had only been five at the time. And now I knew why I had been so good at archery.
The vision changed.
Now, there was a much younger version of me, not quite four years old, standing at exactly the same archery range, with exactly the same teacher. “Range clear!?” shouted my instructor. Silence answered. Satisfied, my teacher continued. “Fire when ready.”
An arrow from a student to my right flew at the target, striking the bulls-eye. Next mine flew from its bow. Expecting it to do the same, I was shocked when it missed the target altogether, embedding itself in the hay behind. That couldn’t be right! But my younger self looked completely used to this type of shot. This was wrong. A mistake. It wasn’t possible. But still, a memory stirred at the back of my mind. This exact memory. Well, there had to be some limits to Warrior powers, right? Just because I was a Warrior didn’t mean I could hit a bulls-eye when I was three-years old. But no, Porter had said Warriors had their power from birth.
I watched as another arrow flew from my bow, even missing the hay bales set up behind the target this time, flying into the woods. I saw a strangely determined look cross my small features. I wouldn’t give up. I had forgotten I had been so bad when I first started archery lessons. Then I had gotten better, and better until…
Until I could hit a small red dot on a tree. Until I could bury my arrow four inches into my target.
I realized that there was one explanation: I was not a Warrior. Therefore, I was not the one in the prophecy. So this whole journey was unnecessary. Aya would be taken over. All because I wasn’t born able to shoot an arrow straight.
I opened my eyes to Lainey’s frightened face. She was kneeling over me, trying to shake me awake. Porter was leaning against the wall, worried creases plain on his face. Lainey gasped when I finally opened my eyes.
“Don’t worry, Lainey” I said, feeling not the least bit drowsy. “And don’t call me ‘Mary’.”
Lainey grinned. “Yes, Marissa.”
I stood up and walked over to Porter. “Clairvoyant vision…I’ll tell you about it later.”
He nodded. “Alright…you feeling okay?”
I shrugged. “Yeah, sure. So are we off to ‘explore’?”
Lainey ran over. “Yes! Let’s go!” Porter and I looked at each other and shrugged, then followed Lainey out of the tent.
“Porter? Can I play for a while?”
Porter nodded. “Why not? Marissa and I have something to do.” I looked at him, confused. He replied with a look which clearly said ‘go with it’. I shrugged, then watched as Lainey smiled, then ran off to play with her new friends.
“Okay, Porter. It’s time you explain. What are we doing?”
“First, you’re going to tell me what happened back there. Then we’re going to talk to the village clairvoyant…ask if he’ll train you. Not because you collapsed. There’s no real way to prevent that. Unless you’re a Conjurer, which you are, and you charm yourself. But normally you wouldn’t want to do that. You only have clairvoyant visions if there’s something you really need to know.”
I nod. “Fine. So…I saw something that happened when I was little. Archery lessons. I saw myself when I was five, hitting the bulls-eye.”
Porter smiled. “That’s it then? Just proof that you’re the one in the prophecy?”
I grimaced. I wish. “No…just the opposite. Then I saw myself when I was three, when I couldn’t hit the target. At all.”
Now Porter frowned. “You sure you weren’t aiming at the target?” he finally asked.
For a second, I felt a ray of hope, thinking that that might have been the reason. Then I remembered the look that crossed my face after shooting the second arrow. I sighed. “I’m sure. I was determined to learn how to shoot well. You could see it. I was frustrated.”
“It’s always a possibility you’re wrong. Maybe that was determination to…I don’t know…”
“It’s not likely that I’m wrong.”
“Not likely at all” he agreed.
“So that’s it then? This quest was pointless? Aya’s doomed to be taken over?”
He shook his head. “Not necessarily. Jonathan could always be wrong about the thrice blessed thing.”
“Again, that’s not very likely. Porter, there’s a different version of the prophecy that says straight out that I should have three powers.”
Porter’s shoulders slumped resignedly. “No matter how small the possibility, we have to try.”