Adventure in a Virtual World

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Era = 3000 years

Chapter 16 (v.1) - Duty Calls

Submitted: May 05, 2016

Reads: 179

Comments: 1

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Submitted: May 05, 2016

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“How curious,” Hesire says observing the gem. He flips it over and looks at it from every possible angle, pulling it closer and then pulling it away. He hands it back to me to put back on. The instant the clasp closes the emerald dulls for a few seconds before lighting up brighter than it had been just moments before. “It appears as if it does not recognize you at first.” 

“Like its memory was altered,” Zoe says as if it should be obvious.

“Ah, yes. That might explain it.” Hesire strokes his silver beard while he ponders what she said.

She turns to me and says in a hushed whisper, “He’ll never admit it but he’s jealous I’ve always been smarter than him.” 

“And that is why I sent you away for the better half of a century... twice. Not because you are smarter, because you always tell lies,” Hesire says. 

Yep, definitely siblings.

“How old are you actually Zoe?” I ask changing the subject, just as there‘s a knock on the door.

“Twenty-five, twenty-six, one-hundred ninety-three... depends on who you ask.” She shrugs.

Carmen opens the door in a huff and walks in. “Time is up. Start explaining.” 

“Woah. That’s new,” Elliot says pretending to shield his eyes from the glow of the necklace.

Tracy and Elenora enter the room, closing the door behind them. Guess the other guys went to bed. 

“Where do you want to begin?” Zoe asks.

“How about, who are you really?” Carmen demands.

“Hesire’s younger older sister.”

We all turn to look at her, waiting for how she could possibly explain that one.

“I was born on June fifth in the year one-hundred nine after the eighth era. He was born August twenty-eighth in the year one-hundred ten. I spent fifteen years on Earth, he spent one-hundred eighty-three here,” she says plainly. “If you don’t believe me you can always check the family tree.” She gestures to the closed book sitting in front of me. I lean back in my chair quickly just in case it decides to flip open like it did before.

“Again with the breach nonsense.” Elenora shakes her head.

“It’s not nonsense though. Every year on the same day the breach opens both directions if you simply know where to look,” Zoe says in frustration.

“Coincidently on her birthday,” Hesire adds. Zoe sticks her tongue out at him and a flash of guilt washes over his face.

“Now that it is clear to me that you are both insane, I am almost inclined to believe you are related.” Carmen slides her chair back with a loud scrape and heads out of the room, Elenora following soon after.

Elliot lets out a laugh after he was sure the two women had gone. “You had us going for a minute there”—I raise an eyebrow at him—“aaand you weren’t joking.”

“I think it is time for bed. Remember, large feast at noon. You are free to do what you wish until then, but be on time.” With that Hesire heads off to bed. 

“I’m getting sleepy now too. Goodnight you guys,” I yawn. Clutching my family portrait I rush off to bed.

I prop the picture frame up on the bedstand before climbing into bed. For awhile I lay there thinking about what my parents were like. I feel like I know them but I can’t remember anything. My hair was so red, even then. A wave of comfort washes over me and I reach out my hand. A strong but gentle, warm but firm, grip takes my hand. I’m in the crowded streets of Calemdor as a festival rages on. Fruit stands, fresh bread and cooking meat fill the air with their wonderful aromas. Somewhere in the distance a sweet string melody plays. My little feet scurry along the cobblestones as fast as my little legs can carry me. I smell peach cobbler and nothing is going to stop me until I get some. Just when I think I’m about to claim my prize from the cart ahead I zoom into the air. I can’t help but giggle as my father spins me around and around. 

Little green eyes stare at me. I reach out and straighten the picture frame before pulling the covers back and climbing out of bed. I look at my pocket watch and realize it’s almost noon already. If I run I might just make it on time. As I pass by the mirror I quickly straighten my hair with my fingers. Good enough. 

“G’day My Lady,” the guards greet me as I hurry by. More guards than usual patrolling the castle can only mean one thing. Great, more marriage proposals. I swear that’s all nobility thinks about. As I enter the final corridor I pull out my watch and see that it’s three minutes after noon. I slow my pace to a walk to catch my breath and calm my heart rate. If I’m going to be late anyway, I might as well keep my dignity intact. The men standing guard bow at my arrival and hold the doors open for me. As gracefully as possible I enter, my footsteps clacking on the stone floor. 

I focus on the ground in front of me as I make my way to the far end of the hall. I don’t have to look around to know everyone in the crowded room is staring at me and whispering things that I can’t hear. A man at the center of the table in Lord Merriweather’s spot stands. I glance up at the man, his soft blue eyes meet mine. His strong jawline, prominent cheek bones, light sandy colored hair and rosy cheeks reminds me of a more youthful Prince Avery. I make my way around the table and sit in the empty chair beside him. I can’t help but think that everyone was waiting on my arrival.

“Glad you could join us Your Grace,” he says winking at me. 

Your Grace? Isn’t that how people address Lord Merriweather because he’s a duke?

“Welcome Lords and Ladies of Strauss to the royal castle of Calemdor. For the benefit of those who may not know, allow me to introduce myself. I am Prince Aaron Crestwater, second son of King Arahnie Crestwater. My brother, His Highness Prince Avery Crestwater, sends you his sincerest apologies that he could not be here to oversee the annual ball on the eve of June 24th. With this I bring the glorious announcement that I will be hosting the grandest of balls in five days time on the eve of July 1st.”

Cheers and applause erupt around the hall, chairs screech and glasses chime as the prince receives a standing ovation. This clearly means a lot to the people here so I can’t help but feel excitement right along with them. 

Two hours pass before the last of the guests depart. I slump back into my chair, exhausted and ready for bed already. Prince Aaron still looks chipper even after dealing with pompous jerks seeking handouts and attempts to garner favor with the royal family. I don’t know how he and Avery do it. The more I think about it the sleepier I get until I’m resting my head on my chin, barely aware of my surroundings. 

A hand on my arm startles me so much that I nearly tip the chair backwards. The heavy oak chairs that adorn the main table made this feat quite impressive. 

“Sorry Miss Belrose,” the prince laughs, “I did not mean to scare you.” 

“It’s ok. I guess I was more tired than I thought.”

“Up late last night were we?” He gives me a knowing smile.

“Yeah, just a bit,” I say sheepishly.

He briefly looks around the room before asking, “Could we talk in private?”

“Um. Sure Your Highness.”

“Please, Aaron will do just fine,” he chuckles. He grabs my hand and takes the lead as I look over my shoulder. Hesire is staring our way while saying something to Devlin. The two of them watch as we disappear through the large dining hall doors.

“Quick, before someone follows us.” He quickens his pace almost to a run, practically dragging me along with him. He hushes the guards that greet us as we race to the upper floors of the castle. When we reach the top floor he guides me through a series of doors and rooms until we’re standing in what looks like a small office. A quaint desk sits near the single glass pane window, paperwork litters its surface. A single bookcase shelving three rows of books sits in the back right corner. Aaron offers me a seat on a fancy velvet covered chair pressed against the left wall. I sit down while he walks around to grab a matching chair from behind the desk. He pulls the chair up directly in front of me. He sits down with his elbows on his knees and rests his chin on his hands, his face less than a foot from my own as he gazes into my eyes.

“Eventually they will find us and take you away, but I have some questions I would like to ask you first,” he says batting his eyelashes.

I feel my face start to flush as I slouch back into the chair, trying to put some distance between us.

“My, my. You really do turn as red as they say,” he laughs as he straightens his back. “Forgive me but I just had to see it for myself.”

“Jerk,” I mumble under my breath.

“Come now, it suits you. But that is not the reason I brought you here. I want to know more about that necklace of yours.”

I instinctively clutch the jewel around my neck.

“I know Hesire has been keeping one just like it hidden for years now. I swear my father threw the biggest tantrum I have ever seen when he heard about it,” he laughs at the memory.

“What do you know about it?”

“Only that it belonged to the Belrose family. The same Belrose family that has resided in the North ever since their banishment. So now imagine my surprise when I hear word of a young, pretty Belrose girl welcomed by my brother into Calemdor of all places.” He sits there studying me, attempting to read my expression. I’m trying to stay calm but I have to admit that the thought of possibly not being welcome here is unsettling.

“You need not worry, you are under my brother’s protection and an official member of the vanguard. I just find it all... curious.” He stands up and begins pacing around the room. “Have you heard of the Vadim Council?”

“No,” I reply.

“They are the five eldest magicians from the lands that make up the Trinity. They serve as the authority on magic.”

How does that relate to dragging me up here? I have many questions but I’m not sure if I can trust Aaron to have the answers.

He continues pacing, becoming more frustrated with every passing second. “Are you really thee Belrose child?” He stops pacing and watches me intently. After thirty seconds of silence he walks forward, places his hands on either armrest of my chair and leans towards me. Sweat rolls down the side of his face. 

“I might be. I honestly don’t know... I mean, I think I am,” I say nervously.

He plops himself back into the chair behind him—it creaks in protest—and let’s out a sigh. “I suppose that makes sense if what they say about the breach is true.”

“The breach? Like the portal between worlds or something, right? That just does not make much sense to me.”

“The Vadim consider it more of a convergence of two worlds than a portal. Portals transcend universes.” 

Yep, totally makes more sense. I roll my eyes at my sarcastic thoughts.

“My apologies, I forget that this is a foreign concept for most people from Earth.”

Loud knocking on a nearby door and voices shouting announce the arrival of the party sent in search for the prince and me.

“Our time is up. I will contact the Vadim Council and request their audience so that they may shed light on these rumors once and for all. Until then your secret is safe with me Your Grace, Shana Belrose Duchess of Calemdor.”

Prince Aaron opens the door and Devlin strides in wearing an off-white uniform I had never seen him wear before. His tunic and pants are crisp and look brand new. He always gives off a vibe of importance but today that number is tenfold. His puffed out chest gives the illusion the eagle on his chest could at any moment spring to life and fly away. “Duchess, huh?”

“Safe with the two of us,” the prince amends as he wanders off.

Devlin turns to watch him leave before turning his attention back to me. “Time for us to go Shana, duty calls.” 

We descend the flights of stairs to the second floor so I can get changed. I quickly switch into my vanguard dress and head back out into the corridor. Hesire stands next to Devlin looking irritated and tells me to give him the Belrose necklace for safe keeping. I don’t understand why he wants to look after it, but I do as he says. He assures me that it will be here when I return and there’s nothing to worry about. 

“You’re not coming with?” I ask.

“No. My services are still needed here.”

Oh. He’s still looking after Landon. I nod my head solemnly and follow Devlin outside the castle. We follow the path across the castle grounds and exit through the gate. 

Devlin turns to me. “The others will be waiting for us at the west wall, but first we need to go pick you out a sword of your own. Then maybe you do not have to resort to ‘borrowing’ one from unsuspecting guards.”

“I’m never going to live that down, am I?”

“Never.”

As we walk to the blacksmith Devlin fills me in on the details of the trip we will be taking. Every year towards the end of June, the city of Alora holds a five day festival for its neighboring towns. This festival normally attracts no more than a couple thousand people which was manageable for the fifty soldiers assigned a station there. However a sudden population increase in the past month on top of growing popularity, the first day of the festival had an attendance of nearly four times as many as the previous year. Twenty-three fights broke out and two people were seriously injured. 

The Flaming Vanguard, headed by Devlin himself, has tens of thousands of members throughout Strauss and each member holds the authority to enforce laws wherever they are within the kingdom. Since Calemdor serves as a training ground for the vanguard the surrounding cities generally only have a few members present at any given time. If a situation arises that calls for more assistance all they have to do is send a letter requesting aid. Early this morning such a letter was delivered to Devlin. He immediately sent forty men to Alora. Ten more will be accompanying our group of seven—Tracy, Ryan, Elliot, Zoe,Elenora, Devlin, and myself. Arino and the Soller siblings were assigned to Prince Aaron’s personal protection detail.

The blacksmith seems overjoyed to see us as we enter his shop, or more specifically to see Devlin. “Dev! With a wee young lass again are ye? Las’ time ye come ‘round was with thee blonde one, no? Was thee blade broad ‘nough for ye?”

Devlin places his thick, muscular arm around the blacksmith’s shoulders and pulls him into a football huddle. After whispering something to him he let’s the man go.

“Lass, if-ee tries ter show ye ‘is sword, run away.”

I blink in shock at what this man just said me. Devlin looks about ready to kill him.

“I’m here to look...”—I start to say—at swords. Yeah, I don’t think so.

“She is shopping for an official vanguard quality weapon,” Devlin says coming to my rescue.

The man seems a bit disappointed. He looks me over and raises a finger and rushes to the other side of the shop. He returns holding a long, thin sword with an intricately designed guard. “One of thee bes’ rapiers I e’er forged.” 

It looks like a fencing sword. I take the rapier from him and hold it out at arm's-length. The sword feels light and flexible in my hand. With a step I thrust the sword forward three times in quick succession. 

“Ah, thee wee lass is a natural.”

Devlin pulls out a bag of coins and drops it on the counter. “Much appreciated Roderick. We are in a hurry so this should more than cover it. Take care my friend.” With a wave we depart his shop and head for the west end of town. 

As we follow the road around the final corner the other fifteen members of our party come into view standing by the gates waiting. Just outside the gates are fifteen horses saddled and loaded with a day’s worth of provisions. 

“Have any of you never ridden a horse before?” Devlin asks. I raise my hand and look around to see that I’m the only one. “That is perfectly alright. Shana you will ride with Zoe. Elliot and Tracy you will ride together. Now that we have that settled, shall we be off?”

I struggle so much to climb on the back of the horse Devlin picks me up and practically throws me up there—Zoe is too busy cackling to be of any use. I couldn’t help but think that I’m in for a long few days.

With Calemdor far behind us the land begins to open up and stretch for miles. The grass isn’t quite as green and only a handful of trees are scattered across the flat landscape. Off in the distance is the faint outline of some mountains that I imagine would have to be nearly a hundred miles away. I wonder if I’ll ever get to see them up close. Devlin never said exactly how far away Alora is, just that we should be there at around nineteen hundred hours and it’s already eighteen zero seven hours. Unfortunately the mountains will still be very far away.

At eighteen forty-nine hours I look at my watch just as the first buildings come into view. 


© Copyright 2018 T.J. Little. All rights reserved.

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