Adventure in a Virtual World

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

Chapter 32 (v.1) - Unexpected Truths

Submitted: March 28, 2017

Reads: 84

Comments: 2

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Submitted: March 28, 2017

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I grin as the childlike teen spins in circles, flaunting her new flower patterned dress. Her light blue hair bobs at her shoulders as she skips around and inbetween the horse drawn carts. Lila’s playful laughter drifts over the monotonous rattle of the wooden wheels that roll over the dusty ground.

High above, the bright yellow sun gleams in the clear blue sky. A pair of birds flit above the nearest cart, their melodic chirps remind me of the park my adoptive parents used to bring me to. The warm, beautiful days like today were the best. After running around and working up a sweat Mom would rush us home to start on dinner. That evening the three of us would sit down and eat as a family. I hope they’re doing ok without me… I think with worry.

I look around at a dozen families working together in the fields of golden amber. A young couple catches my eye as they chase after an energetic young boy. Every time they get close the boy disappears into the tall stalks of wheat only to appear farther down a few seconds later. He sticks his head out and giggles, taunting his ragged parents. Out of breath they rest hands on knees and pant heavily, their son encouraged even more by his victory. 

Darting out of his latest hiding spot blindly he runs straight into the leg of an older gentleman. For a moment things seem tense as the two silently size each other up but with a wink and hands fast as lighting the man scoops the boy up and plops him atop his shoulder. I smile to myself as the boy’s parents try to apologize but the baron shakes his head in dismissal. After all, no harm was done and it was all in good fun.

Rich or poor, big or small, noble or common—it doesn’t matter today. The noble men and women spend their day hard at work alongside their subjects, learning from and beginning to understand each other a bit more. It’s almost perfect.

Our caravan grinds to a halt just outside the outer gate, the old church bell in the center of town chimes for the twelfth time in two hours. I solemnly bow my head as yet another family will soon be receiving the gravest of news. Three weeks have passed since the fighting began once again—three weeks to the day since the events in the courtroom.

A small village a mile from the Strauss/Dermith border was the first to fall in a renewed push to invade our lands. Two major battles slowed their progress considerably but it just wasn’t enough as our front lines broke every time. Today Lord David Roberts, a baron serving under Marquess Melwood, engaged Dermith forces at Ortaro—six miles into our territory. Things were finally starting to look promising when Sir Ordwell of Clarendal and his one hundred Clarendal native soldiers arrived to aid the baron. Then two hours ago the first bell chimed and the first man not returning to the capital was named.

Lila takes my hand and holds tightly. The playful energy she had is now completely gone and a deep sadness has taken its place. Life was tough on the streets of Caldona and the unfortunate truth is that she’s no stranger to death. When she heard that the earl was no more she came to me early the next morning. We talked for hours about every little thing that popped into that strange little head of hers until finally she opened up. 

Every day another would succumb to disease, famine, or just being over worked. For years she constantly worried that she would be next, to lie dying on the forest floor without a single person to miss her when she was gone. The whole time we talked she never once cried.

Her hand trembles in mine and a tear rolls down her cheek as she looks up at me. I fight the urge to cry as her lip starts to quiver. Unsure of what to say or do I hold her close against me and stroke her hair. For a moment she squirms but doesn’t try to pull away. Instead she buries her face deeper into the fabric of my tunic. There we stay even as the carts start moving once again. One by one I feel a kind hand on my shoulder as the workers pass by. 

With the carts gone and the gates about to close again I say, “Hey, how about we go find out why Hesire asked to see me earlier.”

“Only if you promise you won’t leave me behind,” she says, her face still buried.

I push her away gently and tilt her chin towards me so I can wipe away the streaks from her face. “I promise, but you have to make me a promise too.”

Like a flip of a switch her mood instantly changes. “What’s that?” she asks eagerly. I have to admit, I wish I could be more like her sometimes.

“Try to stay out of trouble and listen to what I say. If I tell you to run...” 

“Ruuuun!” she yells as she takes off for the castle, giggling the entire way. I shake my head and sprint to catch up.

I gasp for air as I reach the doorway of Hesire’s study. “You have. Too much. Energy.” 

“Tell me about it,” Hesire grumbles from behind a mountain of books piled on top of a desk. “She has not quit fidgeting since I finally let her in, otherwise she would still be banging on that blasted door!”

“Lilac, what am I going to do with you?” I ask with a frown. 

Lila crosses her ankles and holds tightly to the arms of the chair as Hesire mumbles, “I have a few ideas…”

“Sorry Hesire, I suggested we come see you,” I apologize sheepishly. He stands up and waves me off, beckoning the two of us to follow as he slips past me. 

Hesire leads us to the other side of the castle and down the steps to a large underground training facility. The mat covered floor and intricate carvings along the wall remind me of the building where our training first began.

“The old hag asked to see both of you actually,” Hesire says with hushed disdain.

At the far end of the room the seamstress dances gracefully with the precise, twirling motions of a much younger woman. Light on her feet she prances across the room. She bends at the waist and concludes the performance with a half bow, golden ribbons of light stream from her fingertips as she flicks her wrist in a downward spiral. 

“Clarissa. This old hag has a name and you ought not forget that.” She scowls at Hesire as he begins to walk away. “Dontchu walk away from me, boy,” she scolds.

The aging wizard stops in his tracks and goes rigid. His fingers glow as he slowly lifts them from his sides. A single marble sized ball hovers in his palm, growing in size as it rotates with increasing speed. Twisting cords of red electricity crackle as they erupt from his fingertips and attach themselves to the core of the swirling mass.

In one fluid motion Hesire pivots and unleashes a baseball pitch from hell. Without hesitation he begins to draw upon more energy even as Clarissa conjures a shimmering barrier between her and the flaming projectile that dissipates on impact. Glittering ash begins to fall all around her.

With a flick of the wrist Hesire releases another, more powerful, burst of magic. I shield my eyes as the very air around Clarissa ignites into a bright red pillar of flame. For a brief moment the intense heat singes the hair on my arm. In the next instant the temperature plummets rapidly and the weapon racks rattle as they gravitate towards the icy inferno. The room grows dark as the ball of fire collapses upon itself, only the faint golden light of the barrier remains. 

The floor begins to tremble so fiercely I have trouble staying on my feet. With a sudden flash the barrier explodes. A silent shock wave rushes past me and slams into Hesire, tossing him like a ragdoll across the room.

With a growl he shakily climbs to his feet, powerful magic radiating from every inch of his body. My feet remain rooted, my body paralyzed by fear, as Hesire launches volley after volley of molten energy fueled off of decades of pent up emotions.

Rage flashes in Clarissa's eyes as she fends off the renewed assault. Until now she had remained calm and only sought to defend herself. I worry for the safety of us all if she were to start fighting back for real. I reach out to take Lila’s hand but grasp only air. The curious girl inches closer into the line of fire, fascinated by the two combatants.

One face melting close call later Clarissa’s patience snaps. Golden tendrils lash out like coiled vipers, forcing Hesire to go on the defensive. His attacks no longer aimed with precision grow increasingly more wild with every strike of the tendrils. 

Three tendrils rush simultaneously for Hesire’s chest. Fear, anger, and desperation show in his eyes as he hastily erects a barrier of his own. The barrier appears to hold however all around the tips of the tendrils are tiny glowing lights like a hundred fireflies. The sound of cracking glass stabs at my eardrums as the lights grow in size.  

I throw my hands over my ears as a piercing screech echoes throughout the facility. Hesire’s eyes grow wide as razor thin lines spiderweb in the space between him and the dagger tipped tendrils. Clarissa takes a single step forward and the barrier shatters violently. I barely even notice as Hesire is sent sliding across the floor for a second time.

Time slows to a crawl as my eyes fixate on the weapon rack near the wall. Six freshly sharpened blades, meant to slice through flesh and bone with ease, lie overturned with their deadly points extended. I can only watch in horror as a solid wall of magic slams into Lila’s tiny frame and hurtles towards the cold steel death trap. At the very last moment I squeeze my eyes shut and turn away, the sickening thud of a body hitting the floor to follow.

The room grows silent save for a lone shield wobbling somewhere in the distance. Afraid of what I might see I peek at the floor through squinted eyes. Dropping to my hands and knees I crawl in the direction of that sweet innocent girl. Little by little I pull myself along even though somewhere in the back of my mind I know what’s waiting.

My hand brushes against something warm and I pause. At a snail’s pace I trace the shape of her fingers with the side of my pinky. I slide my palm along the smooth skin of her forearm. The warmth of life still lingering in the veins just beneath the surface. But she does not stir and her excited chatter does not find my intently listening ears.

I push myself upright, rest my hands on my knees and throw my head back. I stare towards the heavens that cast me out and set me loose upon the world. Angel of death or angel of hope, what does it matter if I can’t save those around me anyway? What good are my powers if I can’t save everyone?

Electricity crackles and fire hisses. Constant flashes of light strobe the room while the two spellcasters continue their reckless duel. At the edge of my vision I catch a glimpse of Hesire sidestepping a golden bolt of lightning. So focused on the mayhem I almost miss what’s right in front of me. My gaze snaps forward into two deep pools of violet. 

Blink. 

I let out a startled yelp as I nearly tip over backwards. The nervous girl standing in front of me tugs at the corners of her dress. “Why are you looking at me like that?” Lila asks, eyeing me cautiously.

I scramble to my feet and take her by the shoulders. I run a scanning hand over various parts of her body, frantically checking her for injuries. I know what I saw and there’s just no way she wasn’t hurt.

“S-stop. I’m getting d-dizzy,” she stammers as I begin spinning her around for the fifth time.

“Oh!” I exclaim letting go so quickly she falls over. “Sorry!”

“No worries... I’m fine,” comes her dazed reply. “Really. I am,” she assures me, brushing away my attempt to help her up.

Feeling flustered I blurt out, “But, how?”

She extends an arm as her skin glows a fluorescent purple. She shrugs and replies, “Clarissa taught me magic?”

“When?!” I ask forcefully, turning my attention back to the duel. 

“No need to involve yourself in matters that do not concern you,” Clarissa warns.

“She could have been seriously hurt, or worse!” I yell shaking with anger. 

“She was never in mortal danger, that is all that matters,” she says nonchalantly, swatting away the latest attack as if it were no more than an overly persistent fly. A knot forms in my stomach, the familiarity of her technique finally hits me. A question gnaws at my insides. Who is the seamstress, really?

Lila tugs on my sleeve and looks at me with those bright violet eyes. “I’m fine, really,” she says with sincerity. 

“The girl is fine, now quit your whining and butt out,” Hesire growls.

Clarissa raises her voice, “Speaking of mortal danger, the same does not apply to the fool who callously challenges his betters!”

Hesire’s movements become sloppier and his reaction times are slowing at a dangerous rate with every second that goes by. Whatever reason he has to keep fighting is clouding his judgement as he nearly dodges into two consecutive attacks. This blind rage is making him oblivious to the fact that the woman is just toying with him. 

This has gone on long enough, I think anxiously. I know I won’t find peace until I get some answers and that won’t happen amidst a temper tantrum. I stride towards the seamstress with no regard for my safety. My one track mind carries me almost headlong into a fireball that explodes a short time later. I raise an arm to shield my eyes, the heat from the blast makes me wince but I continue forward. 

Searing pain shoots down my side as something solid impacts my left shoulder. In response I hastily draw my rapier and let the tip drop to the floor with a click. Like nails on a chalkboard the sharp metal scrapes across the stone floor, slicing through the padded covering with ease. The air grows still as I take the last few steps towards the seamstress.

She eyes me curiously, frowning slightly. Her fingers twitch nervously, a cloudy half formed sphere of magic bobs up and down with the movement. Her gaze darts over my shoulder as a cloak swishes behind me. The seamstress shoves me to the floor as yet another fireball races across the room. Pain rips through my body again as I land on my already injured shoulder. Despite the agony I still manage to thrust my swordhand outward just in time to deflect the seamstress’ counter attack. Wasting no time I stagger to my feet to face Hesire. 

“You would really risk assaulting your Duchess, a second time?” I ask incredulously. My readied blade pulses faint green along its length, itching for a reason to be put to use.

His hands shake uncontrollably as he snarls at Clarissa, flickering red wisps dance on his fingertips. He steps left, jukes right, and breaks into a run trying to get around me. I sidestep to stand in his way but he nimbly changes directions yet again. I momentarily lose my balance as the speed of his maneuver catches me off guard. 

“Enough already!” I yell in desperation.

Hesire recoils in shock and trips over the hem of his robe. His momentum carries him to the floor—taking with it the last chance at redemption—with a solid thump. I watch him with keen eyes even as he lies sprawled facedown on the floor. Slowly he gets his hands beneath him and pushes himself off the floor. Surely he has no more fight left in him after that? 

I let out a sigh of relief as he takes a seat and slumps his shoulders in defeat. I whirl around as Clarissa cackles like she just escaped the psych ward. Tears stream down her face as she tries to choke back her amusement, drool drips from the corner of her mouth. For almost a minute she howls, nearly convulsing with laughter before she begins to regain composure.

“Are we done?” I tap my foot and look at her sternly, quickly losing my patience with all this foolishness.

Clarissa takes a deep breath, wipes the snot from her nose, takes a seat on the floor and nods. She watches me with excited anticipation, like a young child would their teacher, while Hesire fumes no more than ten feet away, temple throbbing furiously, no doubtedly thinking something inconceivably dark.

What is with these two? I wonder. Have they gone crazy? “Who wants to start explaining?” I ask looking back and forth between the two.

Clarissa grins and begins to speak, “Funny you should ask-”

“Nothing about this is funny,” I cut her off angrily, still pissed that she was teaching Lila magic behind my back. “Hesire?”

Hesire shifts uncomfortably and begrudgingly looks up. Thick, dark smoke rises from underneath his palms. “Where should I start? Your Grace, let me introduce you to my not-so-dead-after-all mother, who I overheard confessing to my sister alone this morning. It is not like I have been living on my own for more than a century!” he spats with rage. 

“What would you have me say? Tell you what I was doing instead of being a mother? Beg for forgiveness and plead to be a part of your life?” Clarissa asks defensively.

“Tell him the truth maybe?” I interject, not giving him a chance to respond. I glance at Hesire and see a tired old man with bags under his half-closed eyes. His dirty, gray beard is unkempt and his robes hang loosely in a tattered mess. To my surprise he lifts his head and gives it a firm shake.

“The past is what it is. That can not be changed,” Hesire says dismissively, but blame and anger lace his words like poison. “What I would like to know is what made you choose to suddenly reveal yourself?”

Clarissa exhales sharply and frowns. She squints her eyes as she studies Hesire, weighing her options. “Your father.”

“My father… why am I not surprised? Do I have other siblings I should know about? Perhaps an estate of your own kept hidden away all these years!” Hesire shouts with increasing agitation.

“This is not the time for foolishness. Seventeen new portals in the last two days, stable enough to accommodate thirty men. I need not spell out how dire this is!” Clarissa says urgently, climbing to her feet.

“What relevance do the damn breaches have to my father?!” he growls, rising to tower over her.

“Your father is the reason they exist in the first place!” Clarissa shouts at him. Her words reverberate and echo off of every wall. I fall to my knees, floored by this revelation. 

“The breaches have been opening on their own for thousands of years. To suggest such a thing… clearly I have misunderstood,” Hesire says trying to rationalize. 

Clarissa shakes her head. “Your father tore open the first breaches long before the first traveler. Then once again in a desperate search for the Moon Diamond of legend. Even the one the Fitzroys escaped through was his doing.”

“The one that killed my parents,” I choke.

“Impossible,” Hesire hisses.

“He was there that day my parents died. He knew the very last words my mother said to me. He closed it on them Hesire!” I sob angrily.  

Hesire’s face becomes deathly pale. “I-I did not know. I could have… I would have done something.”

“Foolish boy, there is nothing you could have done,” she says with disgust. “He would have killed you too given half the chance.” 

Tears splash down my front as I stare at Clarissa. “You’ve known about him all this time,” I say, my voice no more than a whisper. 

“Ahem.” A woman clears her throat behind me. “Pardon the interruption Your Grace. The Prince has requested an audience.”

I pick myself up off the floor, nod politely towards the maid and follow her upstairs.


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

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