A Gamble

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
Reese is a young alchemist in a world that doesn't really make sense, but when a girl walks into his life through a crack in space and time, he finds out small his world really is.

Submitted: September 14, 2012

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Submitted: September 14, 2012

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The year is irrelevant, and as far as our story is concerned, neither is the setting. However, for the sake of argument, let's say that the year is 2012 N.T.I.M. in the land of Alsatia, particularly in the Royal Alsatian Empire. It's said that long ago, the Alsatians rejected the idea that their lives were in the hands of fate or happenstance or even Gods for that matter, so they've employed any and all methods necessary to ensure their tomorrow. To this day, Alsatia remains a place where complex technologies and strange magics exist side-by-side. Our "hero" Reese, lives in the lower levels of a castle, though he's not a prince. Reese was orphaned at a young age when his parents were killed in Alsatia's only civil war. Currently he lives under the care of a Sorceress named Jesebelline the Amethyst, an adviser to the Emperor of Alsatia.

 

The day was Reese's 18th birthday. A day, he thought, would be the same as every other day of his life. He awoke to see the same face staring back at him in the mirror. The same short curly mop of hair, the same dark blue eyes, the same tanned complexion, the same Reese, only…

 

"Huh, I think I actually got taller." Reese remarked even though he knew it was more than likely his imagination.

 

"Hey mom!" He shouted through his threshold.

 

No reply.

 

"Maybe she's out." he thought to himself.

 

He did his best to "fix" his bed-hair but when it proved to fearsome of a beast he withdrew from the endeavor and slipped on his large dark blue robe and slippers and made his way out of his laboratory and began to wander the halls of the castle. He wandered the large golden halls aimlessly until he reached the vineyard. Though he had no interest in wine, unlike his mother, the vineyard was his favorite place to relax in the morning. For some reason the twisting vines and smell of grapes made him feel at peace. He sat on a marble bench for some time, lost in a sea of his own thoughts. He was seconds away from falling asleep when he heard it.

 

The sound of cracking glass.

 

This struck him as odd as well as alarming for two reasons. First because he knew that he should be totally alone at this hour, secondly because there was no glass anywhere near the vineyard. He looked around the vineyard to see where the sound could have come from. He searched fervently but he couldn't find any sort of glass anywhere near him. He had reached the conclusion that the sound couldn't possibly have come from inside the vineyard, when he heard the sound again, only louder.

 

"What the hell..." said Reese as he slowly looked behind him.

 

He wondered if his mind was playing tricks on him, if maybe he was still half-asleep, or if he had simply gone insane. Then he heard a loud explosive shattering sound as a large blue tear open up in the center of the vineyard.

 

"What the...!?" Reese started, but then he saw the boot slowly stepping out of the tear.

 

He stared in utter disbelief as a young woman made her way out of the rift that slowly closed behind her. She wore a long blood-red hooded cloak, a dark brown shirt and ripped blue jeans that reminded him of something girls in the city had often worn. She had long brown hair tied in a single braid that hung over her shoulder. She had a bright, mischievous smile and heterochromatic eyes, one a dark green and the other a deep blue. She looked around the vineyard for a moment until her eyes stopped on Reese. She looked at what he was he was wearing then locked eyes with him and smirked.

 

"Why hello there handsome. The name's Teralyn Idalia. Teralyn works just fine. I'm new here." She said.

 

"I can see that..." replied a shocked Reese.

 

"Perceptive, or just observant, and cheeky. Where am I exactly?" she asked, looking around the vineyard again.

 

"You're..You're in the Royal Vineyard of the Castle of the Royal Alsatian Empire." Reese said, slowly regaining his composure.

 

"A castle huh...wait. Are you a prince? Not to sound rude but you sure don't look it." she remarked.

 

Reese simply sighed and smiled softly. "No, you're right. I'm not a prince, I'm not nobility at all. I'm actually an alchemist. My mother is a sorceress so I live here with her."

 

"So there's magic here..." the girl in red muttered softly under her breath. "Hey handsome what can I call you?" the girl asked.

 

"You know, if it's all the same, handsome works just fine." Reese said with a smirk.

 

"You say that like you don't get called handsome often." she teased.

 

At this, Reese looked down, his eyes narrowed.

 

"I don't really...get out all that much. I usually just go out into the city when I need to get ingredients, but aside from that..."

 

"That's no good...I kinda wanted to see the city. In that case, since these walls are so familiar to you, why don't you show me around?" she asked, though not entirely asking.

 

"I don't see why not. However..." Reese started.

 

"You have questions. Ask and you shall receive my handsome escort." said Teralyn with a wink.

 

Reese opened the door to the castle halls and held it open with a bow.

 

"Milady." he said theatrically "Though I am but a humble alchemist, it is my dearest wish to serve as your knight and escort this day."

 

"I have a feeling," she said walking gracefully through the threshold "that you will make a fine knight even if you do lack a suit of shining armor."

 

They both shared a laugh as Reese began to show the girl around the golden halls of the castle.

 

"So, first things first..." Reese started.

 

"You want to know how I got here. It's a long story, trust me, you wouldn't believe me if I told you." Teralyn replied.

 

"I'd be a poor excuse of an alchemist if I was prone to disbelief." he said.

 

"I guess you're right" the girl said with a laugh "I lost my parents a long time ago, I was so young I can't even remember them."

 

"Something we have in common." Reese interjected.

 

This made Teralyn stop. "I thought you said..."

 

"My mom adopted me when I was brought here. That is, after my parents were both killed in the war. I was in shock so I hardly remember that night. Ever since then, mom has been raising me and teaching me magic and alchemy." The boy said with a solemn smile.

 

"Then, to that extent, we have something else in common. I was raised by a witch. At least that's what she called herself. She's the one that gave me this ability. The ability to see the tears in reality and cross through them. I remember I was crying, a lot. I was alone and afraid and cold. I was clutching my knees and sobbing because there was nothing else I could do, there was nowhere else I could go. I wandered so far away from any family I was completely isolated. Then I heard a glass shatter, and I heard a voice, a soft voice, the softest voice I'd ever heard. It was a woman, obviously, she said 'Child are you lost?' I said that there was nowhere else for me to go and she said 'There are as many places to go as there are stars in the sky, as many things to see as thoughts in your head, and as many people to meet as words there are to say my child.' I remember when she called me her child I turned around immediately and I could see her face through the cracks. She was beautiful. She had luminescent skin, and her long hair cascaded behind her in a sea of a billion colors, like a nebula. Her face was always warm and kind and she made me feel safe. I asked her if she was my mother and she said 'If you truly think you have nowhere to go, I will tell you this; you will always have a place with me, and I will show you everywhere and tech you everything my lovely Teralyn.' It was her that gave me that name."

 

"The planet Earth...Teralyn." Reese said.

 

"Wherever she was, she was stuck there. I was her proxy to Earth and its many incarnations. I didn't mind though. She guided me through the rifts and taught me how to sense where they were." Teralyn continued

 

"What happened to her?" Reese asked.

 

"She got out. I had no idea how or why she left but it was the best time of my life, my mother could actually visit me and walk me around the worlds herself. Of course, it couldn't stay like that. One day when I was sixteen, I heard her crying. 'Mom? What's wrong?' I asked, and she looked at me and wept some more before she said 'Oh Teralyn, my daughter. My beautiful, brilliant daughter. I have to go now. There is something your mother has to take care of. I...' and at this point she was speaking through tears..." and at this point Teralyn herself began to cry

 

"She said, 'I don't know when you'll see me again or when I'll see you, I don't know if you'll even recognize me if you do, or if...no. Teralyn Idalia I will always be your mother, and I will always love you, no matter what form I take, remember that. Just promise me that you'll will always remember your mother.' And I promised. She pointed out one last crack and turned around and vanished. I ran through the rift she pointed out as fast as I could, and I've been running ever since..." she finished, her eyes red from crying.

 

Reese drew a deep blue handkerchief from beneath his robe and offered it to Teralyn. She took it and blew her nose, then drew her face from the handkerchief with her tongue stuck out at Reese.

 

"Charming." he said with a laugh.

 

"Oh I am well aware." said Teralyn "Shall we continue, good sir?"

 

"Why yes milady, I believe we had best be off."

 

As they continued to wander the halls, a man in a cloak took notice of the couple.

 

"Good morning young Cobalt. Have you finally found your muse?" he asked with a chuckle

 

"Very funny. Have you seen my mother this morning?" asked Reese.

 

"The Amethyst? I believe she was summoned by His Highness. She should be making an appearance soon." replied the man

 

"An appearance huh..." muttered Reese with a sigh

 

They reached the foyer of the castle, where a large blue statue of a bold looking man in armor stood in the center.

 

"So your name is Cobalt?" Teralyn pressed.

 

"Oh, no my name is actually Reese. It's just that around here, people tend to call me The Cobalt." he said.

 

"Why is that?"

 

"See that statue? It's was built to commemorate the Emperor's reign. The Imperial Architects had their hands full trying to grant the Emperor's wish of an everlasting monument that would outlive even his own memory, a monument of neither bronze or iron." he remarked.

 

"Yeah, so what...no way..you didn't..." she stammered, marveling at the statue.

 

"When I was 11." he said folding his arms.

 

"Impressive...you did that with alchemy?"

 

"That's right." Reese said with a smirk.

 

Right when Reese started to feel the slightest hint of conceit, the voice of a woman began to echo throughout the foyer.

 

"I can see that ego of yours inflating from here sweetie."

 

"Crap." Reese said "Why now?"

 

"Why wha.."Teralyn started.

 

She looked down to see a large violet circle begin to glow beneath her feet. She felt Reese's hands on her shoulders slowly pull her away from the circle.

 

"You might wanna step back a bit." he said.

 

The circle began to glow brighter as a violet mass of some sort jutted from the center in the form of a woman. The substance turned what appeared its head towards the two onlookers then began to until the room was filled with a blinding light. When the light had finally faded, the circle had vanished and so had the mass. Standing in its place was a tall woman with long silver hair tied in a massive ponytail that just touched the floor beneath it. Her skin reflected a life outside in the sun, or a heritage of a race of people that trekked the desert. There was a chain of strange symbols, possibly even letters, on her skin, starting at her neck and ending on her left ankle. Her strange clothing looked like it may have originally have been a robe but after a series of alterations it appeared much more...casual than a traditional robe. She a very mature face but with a certain air of mischief that gave Teralyn a run for her money. What caught the girl off guard however were the woman's eyes. A striking violet color, like pure crystallized...

 

"Amethyst..." said Teralyn stunned.

 

"Hi mom." said Reese unimpressed by the display.

 

"Hello there sweetheart." said the woman with a smile. She spoke with a voice that was half regal and half casual.

 

"This is my mother, adviser to the emperor and sorceress of the castle, Jesebelline the Amethyst." Reese said with a yawn and a lazy hand gesture.

 

The Amethyst sauntered behind her son and pulled on his cheeks with a smirk and let them snap back in place. Reese was about to open his mouth to protest but his mouth had disappeared. The sorceress placed an arm on his shoulder and leaned to look at the young girl standing next to him.

 

"Why hello there young lady. You have very pretty eyes. What should I call you? Daughter? Guest? Or...?" she asked.

 

"Oh...uhm.." Teralyn gulped "My name's Teralyn."

 

"That's gorgeous." The Amethyst said with a broadening smile "You're mother sure called it right. One eye green like the forests and plains. One eye blue like the vast oceans. Hair brown like the ground from which it all springs. The planet earth indeed."

 

"That's what she seemed to think." said Teralyn with a sorrowful smile.

 

"Oh dear, you aren't from around here are you?" Jesebelline asked leaning in closer.

 

"No..I'm not..I'm actually-"

 

"A traveler. I can tell. I've been around long enough to see quite a few of you. How long do you think you'll be staying?"

 

"I'm not sure.." said a downtrodden Teralyn.

 

"Well..." the sorceress began, standing up straight.

 

She then flicked her son on the forehead which was met with a loud "OW!" from The Cobalt, surprised at the return of his mouth. She then drew him into a playful headlock and looked at Teralyn with a smile.

 

"Allow my pride and joy here to escort you around the city for the day. Actually since he's been slacking on his thaumaturgy anyway, let him escort him as long as you're here my dear." the sorceress giggled at her unintentional rhyme and released her son.

 

 

"I'm going to the cellar to grab an afternoon drink, or two, or more." she said as she began to walk away.

 

"Try not to get drunk this early mom. Twelve O' one barely constitutes as afternoon." Reese pleaded with a frown.

 

"I can't get drunk you silly boy." she replied with a wave, not looking back.

 

"Mom!" Reese yelled.

 

"I make no promises, but I will try my best." said the sorceress

 

"Jeez..." sighed Reese

 

"She's beautiful..." said Teralyn "She makes me think of my mom."

 

"Because she was a witch?"

 

"No it's something else..." she said.

 

She began to look down and bit her lip lost in her own thoughts.

 

"Let's get going." said Reese finally "You'll probably want to see the city before it gets too dark."

 

"Are there no lights?" Teralyn asked.

 

"That's what the stars are for." Reese said looking upwards.

 

The Capital City of Alsatia, known as The Imperial Capital City of The Royal Alsatian Empire, or Alsatia, was a gargantuan, sprawling metropolis with over a hundred thousand residents. Towering skyscrapers are met at the precipice by colossal towers fueled by a combination steam and electrical power. The architecture betrayed a sense of regalia and whimsy as towers spiraled and wrapped themselves around other structures while others jutted out of the ground at odd angles.

 

"There's no smog at all." remarked Teralyn.

 

"Not at all. Everything's either powered by electricity or steam." Reese added.

 

"Steam?"

 

"Yeah, all the emissions, or lack thereof are shot out of that big tower there." Reese said pointing towards a massive brick tower in the center of the city.

 

"I bet the view from up there is fantastic." Teralyn thought aloud.

 

"I wouldn't doubt it." Reese said.

 

"Let’s get a closer look then." suggested Teralyn.

 

"Alright, it's pretty boring up close though." Reese sighed.

 

"That's what you think."

 

Reese led Teralyn running through busy streets, dashing through winding alleyways and even vaulting over rooftops to get to the massive structure that stood waiting for them in the center of the city. As they faced the tower Reese felt like an ant trying to look at the face that wills the mighty boot that hovered over him.

 

"That's big..." Teralyn marveled.

 

"That's a fact..." said Reese.

 

"I sure hope you aren't acrophobic." said Teralyn.

 

"Why's that...?" Reese asked looking at her widening grin "You're not serious..oh what am I saying, of course you are! I mean we're talking about the girl that hops through cracks in the fabric of space and time here! You're going to kill me. I'm going to die because of you. I hope you're happy."

 

"Thrilled. It'll be fine. Just don't look down." asserted Teralyn, still looking upwards.

 

"Whatever. So how are you getting up there?" Reese asked.

 

"I'm a Rift-hopper, I go wherever I want. Not even gravity can stop me. How about you handsome?" she asked.

 

"I should be able to fix my boots so I can walk up there." Reese stated.

 

"How long will that take?" asked Teralyn.

 

"Ten, maybe fifteen minutes." said Reese.

 

"Too long!" shouted Teralyn pulling her crimson hood over her head.

 

She grabbed Reese by the hand and, with strength and speed that surprised the young alchemist, ran towards the tower dragging him behind her. They reached the base of the tower within seconds and with one fantastic leap upwards, Teralyn planted her feet on the side of the tower and continued her sprint skywards.

 

It was then, in utter disbelief and shock, Reese forgot himself and committed cardinal sin for an acrophobic.

 

He looked down.

 

"OH CRAP OH CRAP OH CRAP OH CRAP!" he screamed.

 

"Hey!" Teralyn shouted behind her. She pulled down her hood, looked Reese in the eyes and winked "Eyes up here!"

 

Reese simply gulped and nodded as they continued their rapid ascension of the tower. It had barely been an entire minute but they had soon reached the precipice of the structure and with one more violent leap upwards, Teralyn kicked off of the tower and shot upwards with Reese high above the edge of the tower.

 

"Whoa! Too high!" yelled Teralyn as he began to plummet downwards.

 

"Ya think!" shouted Reese.

 

"Heads up!" cried Teralyn as fell towards a falling Reese

 

"Here!" Reese reached out a hand to grab Teralyn's wrist then pulled her towards him until her head was against his chest.

 

"I gotcha." he said.

 

Reese looked down as the wide edge of the tower raced upwards towards them. He braced himself as he held Teralyn tight against himself. Teralyn's eyes widened as she noticed the boy's robe lengthen until it became longer than the both of them. She felt Reese body tense up and she heard him grunt as his back hit the brick. They slid along the edge of the top of the tower's outer wall for just a moment, but came to a halt.

 

Reese slowly lifted himself up just enough to look Teralyn in the eye.

 

"Close enough for you?" he asked.

 

"Yeah..." Teralyn replied amused, but visibly shaken.

 

The two locked eyes for a moment. They saw, in their very different eyes, the same fear, the same worry, the same awe and wonder. They saw that although they were quite literally from different worlds, their own inner worlds, their thoughts yet to be expressed, had crossed completely in one brilliant moment of utter stupidity.

 

And they laughed.

 

Teralyn propped herself up next to Reese and looked over the side of the tower.

 

"So...is the view from the top everything you hoped it would be?" asked the boy next to her.

 

"Yeah.." she sighed.

 

She stared in awe as the setting sun illuminated the golden city in a blaze. It was as if the area had been set aflame then suspended in time.

 

"Better be.." said Reese with a weak chuckle.

 

"Still shaken up?" asked Teralyn.

 

"A little bit yeah." answered Reese.

 

"Me too.." Teralyn said with a loud yawn. She stretched her arms above her head and groaned before falling back and closing her eyes. "Wake me up when the lights come up."

 

"Will do."

 

Reese saw her lying there and wondered what it was she could possibly be dreaming about. All of the places she'd been to? All of the things she'd seen? It could have been any number of things Reese couldn't even begin to imagine. As he thought he began to scratch his head in confusion. What could it be? Why does it matter? Maybe a favorite dish from a restaurant she had visited. Maybe a love affair she had.

 

Maybe...

 

"No that can't be it..." Reese muttered to himself.

 

He thought about his own dreams. Some wild, some mundane, mostly however his dreams were centered around his home.

 

"Wait."

 

And then he knew without a doubt that of all of the things she could have possibly been dreaming about, more than anything else, she was likely dreaming of a witch. Her mother.

 

Reese laughed softly and fell backwards against the brick wall of the tower with his head in his hands. He closed his eyes and let his mind wander as he often did. The sun made its exit past the horizon as the moon began its entrance from the opposite end of the sky's vast stage. The stars lit their fires and lined in the formation of an endless array of constellations. Reese had spent so much time studying star patterns that he could probably name every single shape they made and the story behind it. He looked to his right to see the girl still sleeping next to him. He leaned over to say something to wake her up but when he saw her sleeping face in the light of a billion patient stars and a single grandstanding moon he paused and turned to face the sky again. He wondered where she had been, and how of all places, of all times, she managed to slip through a crack and end up here next to him.

 

"Hey." said Reese still facing the stars.

 

"Hey yourself." said a slowly awakening Teralyn.

 

"Check it out."

 

"You know. When I look up and see the night sky like this, I can't but think that maybe she's out there somewhere. My mom I mean." Teralyn said.

 

"Called it." Reese thought to himself. "Hey." he said aloud.

 

"What's up?" asked Teralyn.

 

"Mind if I monologue?" asked Reese.

 

Teralyn laughed "Be my guest."

 

"It was a long time ago, before I got to where I am now. I looked up on a night like this and I couldn't see a thing. In fact, it looked like the farther away I tried to look, the darker it got. I just stared up into the center of the sky looking through the endless darkness, and it was when the darkness was darker than any other shade of black I had ever seen, I saw it. A single star. Do you know what the scientific definition of a light year is? It's the distance light travels in a year. So if a star is a billion miles away, from here we're seeing it's light from a billion years ago. Think about it. Somewhere out there, a star tried so hard just to stay alive that we can still see its efforts a billion years later, and I think that that's freaking brilliant. They say that your eyes adjust to darkness, but that's not really the case. In fact your eyes actually get desperate. Your pupils get bigger and bigger trying to find something, anything. Your eyes are naturally drawn to light but if you focus on light for too long, then your eyes get jaded and think that there's nothing else worth looking at, and that's when you go blind. All light is, is something to take your eyes away from darkness long enough to show you that there's something else out there. There's so much out there. A candle-light dancing so wonderfully that it melts wax, a firefly that's signaling out to a lover, even your shadow trailing behind you, reminding that you never walk alone. Even darkness can be a light sometimes, but only when the light becomes too much to bear. No matter how dark it is though, as long as you keep looking, you'll find your light."

 

"Is that so?" asked Teralyn shifting her gaze from Reese to the sky.

 

"It's a fact. Hey, let's head home." Reese suggested.

 

"I don't have a home. I haven't in a very long time." said Teralyn with a sigh.

 

Reese stood up and offered his hand to Teralyn to pull her up to her feet.

 

"Doesn't matter. You're welcome in mine." Reese said. "Let's take a shortcut. Wanna give me a boost?"

 

"Sure." said Teralyn with her trademark smirk.

 

With his hand in hers, Teralyn bounded from the edge of the tower's wall into the night. Reese undid the buckle keeping his robe in place around his neck, allowing it to slip off of his body and into his hand. Suddenly the robe began to elongate at an incredible speed heading straight towards the castle. The two fell and glided on the robe as if it were a sort of monstrous slope.

 

"One hell of a shortcut you got here!" laughed Teralyn.

 

"You think so?" smiled Reese just seconds behind her.

 

Teralyn began to prop herself up until she was on her feet posed like a surfer.

 

"Hey what are you doing?!" yelled Reese.

 

"If you're worried about me falling you should know by now that's not really possible!" giggled Teralyn.

 

Reese's descent down the robe slope began to accelerate and his feet met Teralyn's knocking her off balance causing both of them to spiral out of control and spin along the robe that began to expand to ensure their safety. Reese began to near the end of his robe when he felt Teralyn grab his wrist.

 

"Gotcha!" she said as she began to pull him closer to her "I guess this makes us even."

 

"Not just yet." Reese said as the robe began to rise above both of their heads and collapse on both of them until they were in a massive tumbling ball of cloth.

 

"What the..!?" Teralyn started.

 

But before she could finish the ball's speed became breathtaking and she felt her self cascading through the night pinned against Reese all the while. Suddenly she felt a slight thud against her back and the robe unwound itself faster than it had expanded.

 

Teralyn looked around and found herself in what appeared to be a laboratory. Vials and flasks containing an assortment of strange liquids were scattered about the room, each labeled methodically.

 

"If I knew I was going to have a visitor, I would've cleaned up the place." sighed Reese.

 

"Where are we?" asked Teralyn.

 

"My room, which is also my lab, and my study, and a total mess.." groaned Reese.

 

"I've seen worse. So what's with the robe?" asked Teralyn.

 

"Python? It's my work-robe and I guess my pet too. It's a homunculus that my mom made to protect me." said Reese.

 

"So it's alive?" asked Teralyn.

 

"ALIIIIIIVE ALIIIIIIVE OH YES IT'S ALIVE!!!!" said a voice from outside the room.

 

Just then, Jesebelline the Amethyst came waltzing into the room with an empty wine glass. She leaned against the threshold of the door and sighed. Then with a wry smile she began bounding towards the two.

 

"Oh my darling children I thought I lost you two to foolishness and debauchery!" she exclaimed with an arm around both of them. "But you're still here! Lovely! You mustn't leave too soon my dear. Reese gets awfully lonely here all by himself, although he'll never say anything about it." she said, catching Reese's reflection in her glass.

 

Then turning to Teralyn she said. "Which is why you must keep him company as long as you can."

 

"Ms. Jesebelline.." Teralyn started.

 

"Call me Jess dear. I deal with faaaaaaaar more than my fair share of formalities in my line of work." the Amethyst said standing up.

 

"Mom I thought you said you try not to..." Reese began.

 

"And I'm not." proclaimed without so much as a slur or a drag in her voice.

 

"Wait but..?!" Reese started.

 

"When you get to be as old as I am you learn a few useful tricks son." said the sorceress as she left the room.

 

"Old? She doesn't look a day over 25.." said Teralyn.

 

"Oh. About that...My mom is actually over five thousand years old. One of the reasons she's an adviser to the emperor is because she watched the formation of this land as a nation." said Reese.

 

"Hmmm...I guess I could see that." sighed Teralyn.

 

"What do you mean you could see it?! It's ridiculous even to me sometimes." said a startled Reese.

 

"I was raised by a witch from another dimension named Aeon. It really isn't the hardest thing in the world for me to wrap my head around." she said.

 

"I guess." said Reese scratching the back of his head. "Hey, something I've been wondering for a while now, how often do the rifts appear exactly?"

 

"They come and go randomly. Sometimes I'm in and out of a world in a day, sometimes its a month or so." she replied.

 

"And how do you know where they lead to?" asked Reese.

 

"I don't."

 

"What?"

 

"It's a gamble. Sometimes it a wonderful place and I'm there just at the right moment, and sometimes I just want to get the hell out."

 

"And you just keep going?"

 

"I have too."

 

"Why?"

 

"I'm addicted. It's a bad habit me and my mother shared. Call it recklessness or curiosity or whatever you want but I just have to see what all is out there. Everything there is, it's just waiting to be explored."

 

"So you've somehow managed to develop a metaphorical gambling addiction."

 

"Bet your opinion of me has changed a bit hasn't it?"

 

"Yeah, I can't let you sleep on the couch. It's too close to my stuff. Alchemy and chemistry are both the results of experimentation so it's effectively gambling in a way. I can't have an addict that close to hazardous chemicals."

 

"Well that's one way to mask an invitation to your bed. I'll give you points for creativity at the very least."

 

"What I'm saying is that as long as you're here I don't mind sleeping on my couch."

 

"I hope it's a comfortable couch because I just might be here for a while." said the girl in red.

 

"I'm banking on it..." muttered Reese under his breath.

 

"What was that?" asked Teralyn.

 

"That was the sound of a very worn out alchemist. If you need something to change into, I'm sure my mom has something you can borrow." yawned Reese.

 

"I've got it under control." said Teralyn. "Goodnight Reese."

 

"Goodnight."

 

Three weeks had come and gone since Teralyn's arrival and Reese had wondered why it felt like it had been so much longer. He began to forget what his life was like before she had showed up, and even though he knew she would run away someday he tried to push the thought as far as he could, deep into the back of his mind.

 

It was on a day where the rain had threatened to never cease in its assault. Reese and Teralyn had been sent into the market to run errands for Jesebelline. One of this, two of that, more of these than you thought were necessary, and a couple of those for good measure. They were also told to grab snacks from the farthest end of the market where you didn't have to look for the store, instead let the smell guide you. It would have almost been fun if not for the rain. The two found themselves sprinting from the end of the marketplace to the castle gates through the torrent. They made it back to Reese's room where he lit a burner to help them warm up. Teralyn hung up her precious red cloak and draped Python around herself and Reese while they sat in front of the burner.

 

"I'm surprised some of the stores were still open in all of that rain." said Teralyn.

 

"The spirit of competition is an amazing thing." replied Reese "Hey, Teralyn. I've noticed that you just seem to pull clothes from out of nowhere, what's with that?"

 

"My mom says that I have a massive wardrobe waiting for me in her world, and that all I have to do is reach out to it through my cloak and I can pull nearly anything from it." smirked Teralyn.

 

"That cloak...no matter what you always keep it on you." sighed Reese.

 

"It was one of the last things my mother gave to me before she disappeared. It seems to grow with me so I'm never letting it go. Not ever." said Teralyn tugging on Reese's robe.

 

Reese said nothing after that, instead he drifted into sleep. He dreamed that he was in space, floating amidst a massive nebula. He could see billions of worlds floating around him like scattered marbles. Soon he began to notice a trail of darkness tearing through the lights as the worlds were being ripped apart, no, consumed by this trail. As Reese looked around he saw that the beast devouring the worlds was a serpent. A massive serpent with eyes like dying stars. The beast roared as it tore through the worlds, then turned its head towards Reese. The serpent opened its mouth above Reese with its fangs the size of skyscrapers. The young alchemist prepared himself for the beast to bear down on him when he heard the sound of cracking glass.

 

"Reese! Reese!"

 

The boy opened his eyes to see an excited looking Teralyn standing above him.

 

"Hey.." Reese yawned.

 

"It's here Reese, it's here!" squealed Teralyn.

 

"What is?" asked Reese.

 

"A rift! I gotta go before it closes!" said Teralyn tugging at Reese.

 

"Wait where?!" asked a startled Reese.

 

"Near the castle gates! C'mon, or do you not want to see me off..?" Teralyn asked with a sorrowful expression.

 

"Give me five seconds."

 

Reese met Teralyn at the gate in front of the rift.

 

"There you are!" yelled an anxious Teralyn.

 

Reese reached into his pocket and pulled out a round object. "Here."

 

"What's this? A mirror?"

 

"Yeah. I enchanted it so if you focus on it you'll be able to contact me through one that I have in my room. So keep in touch." Reese shrugged with a half-smile.

 

Teralyn through her arms around Reese's neck and smiled. "I'm going to miss you."

 

"I bet you say that to all the strapping young alchemists you meet don't you? Get going before I start thinking I might miss you too." said Reese.

 

Teralyn walked towards the portal and turned to face Reese with a wink. "See you around."

 

As the portal closed Reese turned around and heaved a heavy sigh.

 

"Liar.."

 

He made his way back to his room slowly and sullenly, and he didn't know why. He knew it would end up like this, or so he liked to tell himself. He floundered around on his couch for hours trying to go back to sleep but he just couldn't. He ended up sitting on his floor with his head against his couch, trapped in a half asleep state without the motivation to move or even attempt to. A few hours into his daze his mother peeked her head through the threshold of his room and surveyed the area.

 

"Where's Teralyn?" the last question Reese wanted to answer at the moment.

 

"She left." he sighed and let his head fall to his right shoulder.

 

The Amethyst walked over to her son and sat down next to him. She put her arm around him and tilted her head so it rested on top of his. "How are you buddy?"

 

One of the things Reese loved most about his mother was how quickly she could go from being incredibly formal in her speech to being as informal as she saw fit. She would go from sounding like she was about to give a memorial speech to sounding like the mom he was used to all his life in the course of a sentence.

 

"I'm ok."

 

"You know as a sorceress, it's a little sad how little talent my son has in the way of deception, but it makes me proud to know that I raised a good kid."

 

"It was going to happen sooner or later right? I mean she never stays in one place for long. When you have a power like that why would you?"

 

"You're talking to yourself."

 

"But its true isn't it?"

 

"I don't know. Personally I was hoping she would stick around for both of your sakes. That girl could do with some stability in her life, and you.." she said pulling Reese closer to her "could do with a girl like her in your life. Alchemists live by a lot of boring rules, and that girl isn't the type to adhere to any rules but her own."

 

"You're telling me." he laughed finally.

 

"I have to get back to work but I'll be back to check up on you." she kissed her son on the forehead and left the room.

 

Reese decided to spend his time trying to find his thaumaturgy notes. He wouldn't dare tell his mother that he lost them in the clutter of notes and doodles he had scattered about his room. Not out of fear of his mother reprimanding him but out of sheer embarrassment. He had spent hours looking through his room and still nothing.

 

"Dammit." he scratched his head in frustration and sat down in one his work chairs.

 

He sat there trying to think of where he could have possibly put them until he could swear he was hearing something. It was faint at first but got progressively louder, and it sounded like..

 

"Reese!"

 

It was Teralyn's voice. And it was coming from a pocket mirror, identical to the one he had given her, lying on the floor. Reese nearly fell out of his chair trying to grab the mirror as fast as he could. He opened the mirror and sure enough he could see Teralyn poking at the glass as if trying to get it to work. She seemed frustrated until she saw Reese on the other side.

 

"There you are handsome! You sure know how to keep a girl waiting." she pouted.

 

"Sorry. I wasn't expecting to hear from you so soon." or ever for that matter.

 

"Oh c'mon, who else am I going to spend my time talking to? I mean rift-hopping is fun and all but it can get pretty lonely when the excitement dies down." he could see her cheeks start to flush as she smiled and laughed "So thanks for making my downtime a little easier."

 

"You're welcome." he laughed "Where are you exactly?"

 

"In an office."

 

"An office?"

 

"Yeah. Apparently in this world, it's not that unusual for people our age to become businessmen or businesswomen since I've seen a lot of those here too. They're all so pretty! It makes me feel a little inadequate."

 

"It shouldn't."

 

"Well I should probably change before the CEO comes back."

 

"The CEO?"

 

"He was the first person I met when I got this. He owns this building and runs the company. Get this, he's the same age as you Reese! I can't remember what the name of the company was. It was a funny name, started with an 'n' I think."

 

"Where did he run off to exactly?"

 

"This really pretty girl around my age came in and told him that she think she might have found something or someone important. I think he said she was his partner or something. I didn't catch most of what they were saying. I dunno, seeing them made me feel weird."

 

"Weird how? Like uncomfortable?"

 

"No. It's not that I disliked seeing them together it's just..I'm not sure I can describe it. Hey, I think he's coming back. I gotta change, I'll call you back later ok?"

 

"Later then."

 

"Bye Reese."

 

He closed the mirror opened it again but all he saw was his reflection. He thought he looked a mess.

 

She didn't seem to mind though...at least I think she didn't. Teralyn would've said something, she's not the type to hold her tongue.

 

The surprise of her calling him the first time was nothing to the surprise of her calling him back. It was a few hours later when he had fallen asleep, and she sound panicked.

 

"Reese. Reese! Dammit Reese pick up!"

 

He rolled out of bed, literally, with the mirror floundering in his hands.

 

"Hey! Sorry about that." he yawned.

 

"Oh I'm sorry, were you asleep?" she looked like she was holding back tears.

 

"Yeah but forget about that. What's wrong? And where are you?"

 

"I don't know. I stepped through another rift and I wound up...Reese I don't know where I am. There's no one here, just plains frozen over for miles, and it’s so cold. I'm completely alone surrounded by lifeless nothing and it can't stand it!"

 

"Wait, you're an agoraphobe?" Reese straightened up when he said it, becoming incredibly serious despite being physically half asleep.

 

"More like an autophobe. Why do we know so much about phobias that we can just throw them out there like that? It's weird. How much time to we spend trying to figure out why we're so afraid of everything anyway? It's almost sad." she was half talking to Reese and half trying to calm herself down.

 

"Hey. Just focus on me for now."

 

"Luckily for me you're easy on the eyes."

 

"You aren't too bad yourself." he laughed, but honestly he thought that she was one of the most beautiful people he had ever seen. Having spent his whole life in the presence of a woman known as "The Jewel of Alsatia" and living within the walls of a palace where noble women came and went on a daily basis could have easily jaded him, and in some respects has already, but it was something about her. Maybe it was her eyes, maybe it was her hair, was it even an aesthetic? He wondered.

 

"Hey Reese."

 

"What is it?"

 

"Did I ever tell you about how I became an orphan? Some things can pull things through rifts if they're strong enough. I went to grab something from the river near my village. It's been so long I don't even remember what I was looking for. When I got back the entire village was gone. There was nothing but a crater when I got back. It was only when I was old enough to get it that mom explained to me. A rift had opened up in the center of my village; however on the other end of the rift was a black hole. It was so strong that it tore through a rift in space and time and took my little village. Mom said that if the rift had stayed open then it would have torn through the entire planet. She was the one who sensed it and got it closed before it was too late. And that's when she found me."

 

Reese had nothing to say. He was no stranger to loneliness but when he heard her say that, he wondered how long she had been waiting to tell someone, anyone. As if they would understand. He himself could barely comprehend it.

 

"I think I can feel another rift opening up somewhere around here, I'm going to go look for it.

 

"Ok."

 

"Wait! Don't go yet. Just keep your mirror open until I can find it ok?"

 

"I'm not going anywhere." Reese laughed.

 

"You better not or I'll kick the snot out of you when I come back." she said as she started to look around her.

 

"Wait what? You can do that?!" he yelled.

 

"What's that?"

 

"Uh nothing." she must not have heard him.

 

"I found it!

 

"Great, hurry up and get out of there!"

 

"You don't have to tell me twice! Later!"

 

The next month and a half of Reese's life consisted of searching for notes, figuring out how to properly make a homunculus, and listening to Teralyn's stories of her rift-hopping adventures.

 

"So I have found myself in yet another castle."

 

"Is there a prince in this one?"

 

"Actually yes. His name is Chartreuse, I call him Charlie, and he's quite the party animal."

 

"I can only imagine."

 

"He asked me if I was a runaway princess." Teralyn laughed.

 

"He's not too far off."

 

"Do you really think I'm running?"

 

"Hey, I didn't say that."

 

"I know, but do you think so?"

 

"I have no idea what's going on in that head of yours. Do you think you're running?"

 

"I don't know...I.."

 

"Oh Madame!" Reese heard from somewhere behind Teralyn.

 

"Oh crap Charlie's drunk again, I gotta go."

 

Although to be perfectly honest, I think you've been running for a long time now.

 

"Wait what do you mean a war?!" Reese asked.

 

"There's a lot of guerrilla fighting going on here. Both sides say they've been going at it for so long that they've forgotten why they started to begin with, but they keep going anyway. It's almost as if they're having fun."

 

"That's sick..."

 

"I know. Reese look, I'm not here because I want to be you know."

 

"Yeah I know."

 

"I'll try to get out as soon as I can."

 

Reese wondered if his irritation showed in that conversation. As far back as he could remember he had no patience for the topic of war.

 

"Teralyn why are you upside down?"

 

"Actually I'm right side up. Everything else is upside down. Gravity doesn't affect things equally here."

 

"That doesn't make any sense."

 

"Nothing makes sense, there's a clear view of an entire galaxy from the ground, trees are practically floating, and there's a small hurricane wrapped around a volcano. I kinda like it here."

 

He expected that from Teralyn. She was weird, and that was coming from an alchemist. Not that much about her made sense, that's probably why he found himself so interested in her. Still he never expected her to say what she said next.

 

"I think I might be homesick."

 

"Wait what? But you said.."

 

"Look I know what I said. I had a talk with Charlie, who's surprisingly helpful when he's drunk. He was wondering who I was talking to so I told him. Then he asked if I missed it, living with you and Jess."

 

"Do you?"

 

"I have since I left. I think that's what it was when I saw the CEO and his partner, it made me think of back when I was there. I know I said I didn't have a home but that's the closest I think I've ever had. Ever since I left Charlie's world I was hoping that one of the rifts I wandered through would take me back there but no luck."

 

"Do you think there might be a way for you to give the rifts a destination? Like get it to take you where you want to go?"

 

"I've never tried, but I doubt it's that simple."

 

"Then let's simplify it. I'll see what I can do to get you back here."

 

"You'd better. You know you miss me." she said with a laugh.

 

Although in all seriousness he did, and more than she knew. He looked forward to every story she told, but more than anything he looked forward to hearing from her.

 

"I'll ask mom if if there's anything we can do on this side."

 

He looked everywhere for his mother but he couldn't find her anywhere. He had reached the foyer of the castle when he put his hand on his head and sighed in frustration.

 

"Of all times to be unreliable…"

 

At first he thought it was just his mind playing tricks on him but he heard a low growling sound, very similar to an engine in the distance grow louder and louder when all of a sudden the doors to the castle were knocked open by a large car that was flying through the air. A car that was driven by his mother. The car hit the ground and skidded to a halt just seconds away from the statue of the emperor. The sorceress stepped out of the car with a look that was an odd mix of satisfaction an irritation.

 

"Who's unreliable!" she said with a huff.

 

"You are not seriously asking me that. Did you see what you just did?"

 

"If you're referring to one of the finest displays of debauchery that you'll see all week then yes I did in fact see that. Now what are you talking about?!"

 

"I need you to help me get a rift open to get Teralyn back here."

 

"Ridiculous."

 

"What?"

 

"Completely ludicrous."

 

"What are you talking about?"

 

"What are you talking about? You're an alchemist remember? You should know that there are rules, and what you're talking about is breaking all of those. Have you even considered the magnitude of what you're trying to attempt?"

 

"I..."

 

"Of course you haven't. You're talking about manipulating probability and tampering with the very fabric of space and time. In all the time you've been here I've never known you to be so foolish, and over a girl no less. Normally you'd be sitting in your room weighing all the pros and cons of even trying something like this but you just jumped at the thought of finding some way of pulling your girlfriend though the fabric of reality and back to you. It's beyond stupid, and honestly I've never been more proud of you."

 

"What?"

 

"You're thinking with your gut for once! If I knew it would take a girl to make a foolish sorcerer out of my overly-analytical son then I would have pulled her here sooner!"

 

"Pulled her here? What do you mean pulled her here?"

 

"I guess you could think of her as a birthday present for my lonely son. I thought you could do with a take of what foolishness really looks like. You're always so preoccupied with being alone and brilliant and you wouldn't dare tell your poor mother of how lonely you really are. So tell me now, are you really that lonely?"

 

"I.."

 

"Out with it dammit!"

 

"Ok yes! Incredibly!"

 

Jesebelline wrapped her arms around her son and sighed. "I'm sorry Reese."

 

"It's not your fault."

 

"You're supposed to say that. Good work on picking up the cue, but yes it is. I wanted you to be your best but I should've known that you weren't capable of getting there on your own. I wasn't."

 

"I guess not." Reese said putting his head in his mother’s shoulders. "Can you bring her back?"

 

"I most certainly can, but I won't. You will. I think it's time you figured out how fun it is to be a sorcerer."

 

Teralyn felt herself falling. Funny, she knew she couldn't be falling considering she was in outer space. She was wondering how long the breath in her lungs could keep her alive, even with her robe she should have been dead a long time ago. She turned her head slowly to look around her. She thought there would be more stars but it was so dark all around her.

 

Then she saw it. It looked like there was a nebula warping all around her like the coiling of a serpent. She looked up to see what she thought was the face of a massive serpent. She knew she had lost it then, that she probably didn't have much time left either. Then she saw its eyes. Bright and beautiful like dying stars. She had seen them there before; she could never forget eyes like those. She opened her mouth slowly and faintly to say what she thought might be the last thing she ever said.

 

"Mom...?"

 

The serpent leaned its head in closer to her. Then Teralyn heard a very familiar sound.

 

The sound of cracking glass.

 

The serpent nudged Teralyn's floating body through the crack that had appeared, and she floated slowly, crying like the day it first found her.

 

Teralyn closed her tearful eyes and fell. Soon she could hear a voice above her. Strange, it sounded so familiar.

 

"..Hey..Teralyn....wake up..!" it said.

 

"Reese...?" she said slowly.

 

"Good morning. You've been out a while. I was starting to get worried."

 

"What do you mean starting to? I can feel you shaking you know, stop acting tough." she laughed.

 

"I can never catch a break with you can I?"

 

"Not ever."

 

"You were crying when you came through. What happened?"

 

She realized that she probably looked like she was still crying, and she was, so she wiped her face on Reese robe. "I'll tell you later."

 

"Is that a promise?"

 

"I promise."

 

"Then welcome home."


© Copyright 2017 Tsutsuga. All rights reserved.

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