previous: Isekai ch6
When I returned to the pier, the commuters were back, shifting from place to place. I headed for the exit, with the goal of returning back to the med ward to collect any remaining belongings. That was when I noticed the sound; each portal seemed to be gleefully saying ‘Mirapo.’
The sound was quaint, almost comforting. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be back.’ I walked to my father’s room with an odd sense of joy. This day could only get better. And then I opened the door.
“Marcus?” Becca was still in the room, sitting on my father’s now empty bed.
‘The former friend you’re trying to reach no longer gives a shit.’ I chose to ignore her presence and instead, started to load my stuff into my personal item box. To Becca, this must have looked like I was hurling my clothes and other belongings into the fabric of space.
“Marcus?” she repeated, not moving from her seat.
“What are you doing?”
Becca froze, I could tell she was debating how to clarify her question. Did she want to ask what was up with my item box? Or attempt to ask where I was planning on going to with just the clothes on my back. “Can I come with you?”
I paused, unable to move. I wanted to tell her off, to use any and all profanity even if it was words that didn’t exist in this realm. Looking at her eyes, the answer was not as clean cut as I once assumed. “What about your family?” Suddenly my previous injuries started to flare up. All I could think about was how much I hated her siblings.
“They made me do bad things,” she muttered, looking down at her feet.
“What kind of bad things?” I asked, while continuing to hurl items into my little space pocket. Her answer would heavily sway my decision.
“I did favors for them.
“But you had the choice.”
“Easy for you to say,” she muttered with an obvious tone of distain.
“I’m sorry, what did you say to me?”
“Your family is dead,” Becca replied, with more than a hint of cruelty. “You have no one left to impress.”
I wanted so badly to laugh in her face. “Thanks.”
“You’ve made my decision really easy.” I waved my hand to close my item box. “I work better without having anyone to impress.”
Only then did she get up. “Marcus, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.”
“No, I’m pretty sure you did.” I started to walk in the direction of the pier. Part of me wanted to say goodbye to Jay and the many medical staff who cared for my father and I, but that would require me to look at the dumbass slut that was my former best friend.
‘Dumbass slut? Who even says that? Oh right, I’m thirteen.’ When I reached the pier, the commute was in full swing. I needed to pick a direction and jump. It didn’t matter where I went; all I had was myself; my power, my future.
“Marcus wait!” Becca grabbed my hand, causing me to stop just long enough for her to wrap a twine necklace around my wrist.
I froze in place. Even without looking back, I could feel what she had given me; a small pendent made of charcoal.
“Is this for the unlikely event I ever want to see you again?”
Becca remained silent. For a moment I assumed she was holding her answer hostage; in that she’d only speak to me if I looked her in the eyes. This was only half correct.
Becca’s face was red and puffy with tears. She appeared to be hyperventilating. “You already know what it is and how it works. I won’t bore you with the details of how I made it or how long I’ve had it. Just,” she stuttered, struggling to catch her breath. “If you’re going to throw it away, could you at least wait until after you leave?”
I nodded. I put the necklace on over my head, letting the pendent touch my chest. It felt warm, sentient, alive. I locked eyes with Becca for just a moment, long enough to gain her trust. She released my hand, but before she could say any more, I ran towards the nearest portal, making a running dive.
I landed face first into a pile of soft snow. At first, I felt fortunate, at least I was safe. That was, until the light, softly packed snow slipped down a hillside. I took a hard hit to my shoulder as a tree finally stopped my fall.
“Ok, that hurt.” I looked up at the sky, a flock of large black birds (a cross between crows and perhaps eagles) flew past, in a menacing pack. My body ached but I got up, narrowly avoiding a woman with a crossbow.
The tall blonde uttered a curse word in a language I did not understand. Upon seeing my confusion, she paused, offering her hand. “My apologies, I assumed you were a rival hunter trying to take my kill, but since you are unarmed that is clearly not the case.” She spoke like a high school senior auditioning for a role in the school production of Macbeth. “Are you a stranger to these parts?”
“Yes, Miss. I’m not really sure how I arrived here,” I said incase the portal system was unknown or illegal.
“I see.” She shook my hand, lowering herself into a partial bow. “I’m Leah.”
“Marcus,” I said nervously. I had no idea why, but something felt off about her.
“Marcus?” she repeated, her voice subtly drifting off. “That was my baby brother’s name.”
“I’ll just let you be on your way.” Looking up at the sky, the birds had long flown off, but there were likely other packs of animals to hunt.
“Nah, I’m done for today,” she replied, her accent slipping in to something more age appropriate. “My sister runs the local inn. Do you have a place to stay?”
“No, but I also have no money. I was hoping to find work.”
“I’m sure we can find something for you to do.”
This all seemed oddly too easy. I followed her, keeping close. Hopefully I could locate some warmer clothing. Either that or I was walking in to a trap. The last few years of my life did not warrant me becoming a trusting person, especially to random women. There was always the chance these women were just kind workers like the nurses or my childhood nanny. There were good people in the world. ‘Yeah, just keep telling yourself that.’
Soon we approached a multi-story cabin that appeared to be carved from a gigantic tree. “Is this tree alive?”
“Yeah, of course.” Leah placed her hand to the front of the tree causing a door to appear. “A dead tree would just rot. “It’s also enchanted but that’s just a given.”
“Noelle!” Leah shouted from behind the thick wooden door. “Open up!”
A window opened on the second floor. “Use your key!”
“I’ve got a visitor.”
“Fine, just give me a second.”
“Why can’t you use your key with a visitor?
She glanced at me with a smirk. “I’ll show you.” she took a glowing green key from her pocket and put it in the door. Not in a key hole; no, she stabbed it directly into the wood. The door creaked open, revealing a room that looked like a typical hotel reception area, except everything was covered in a green haze. With Leah holding the door open, I took one step forward and then another, until I passed the green and entered the clear, normal-looking area. And then Leah screamed.
“What are you!”
I turned to see she now had her crossbow pointed at my throat. I raised my hands as if I was getting arrested. “I’m just a kid, I swear.” I could only assume I was not meant to be able to walk through the doorway, but I did and that meant one of two things. Either I was a threat or I was a magic user who didn’t know any better.
Another blonde woman came down stairs, followed by two guards armed with electrified swords and shields. Upon seeing me, she raised her arm, motioning for the guards to lower their weapons. “He is just a child.” She took a step closer, placing her hand under my chin. “Your features are so familiar. Where are you from?”
“I ran away from the Amanar estate.” I really should have had a better story prepared.
“Amanar? That sounds gypsy. How do I know you’re not a spy?”
“I lived as a slave.”
Before I could even offer proof, Leah took it upon herself to slash at my back. “If you’re an escaped slave you’d have an owner mark.” The air was warm but it was still uncomfortable being undressed in the middle of a strange hotel lobby, surrounded by security.
“No need to be cruel,” Noelle said, pushing away her sister. “I’m going to lock you in a room, you’ll have access to all the amenities. All I ask is for you to stay put until our oldest sister arrives. She is the highest ranking of our family and her word is law.”
“Her word is law?” I repeated with a noticeable tone of fear.
“I assure you she will be fair. As the queen of our land Emily has met with all the magic users who pass through our territories.”
Her name is Emily? Of course, it is. Literally the alt world version of Emma. Actually, the more I thought about it, that name offered a glimmer of hope. Only time would tell. “Fine, I’ll wait for Queen Emily.”
I followed Noelle to the front desk where she issued me a key. She escorted me (thankfully without her guards) to the attic suite. This apparently involved climbing a ladder and entering via a floorboard.
“Just push it open with your head,” she said thoughtfully.
“Sure, thanks.” This was a dungeon. I was going to die here. I expected to find darkness, maybe chains but instead the room was flooded with natural light. The furniture looked handmade; a bed, table and two chairs. It was quaint, peaceful even. “Wow, it’s beautiful.”
“I’m glad.” Noelle stayed on the ladder, speaking to me like a disembodied head. “The sink in the restroom has running water, I’ll bring you some food.”
The floor door closed, coupled with an audible locking sound. With nothing else to do I decided to attempt to sleep. I stared up at the ceiling; the glass panels came together like a flower, with the branches of the tree holding them in place.
I reached up my hand, “Item box?” Nothing. I needed to focus. There was one particular item I wanted. I had hurled it into my inter-dimensional pocket without a second care, but in reality, it was my most valuable possession. “Notebook please?”
I could picture the small book Jay had given to me; the cracked leather cover, the torn pages, the odd-looking pencil and pen, but most importantly the drawings. The cursor appeared, flicking for a moment before dispensing the item. The book fell from a random height, hitting me in the stomach. It actually felt kind of nice; like a visit from an old friend.
My original plan was to write or draw to pass the time but fate had other plans. I opened to my father’s drawing, the one that seemed like a series of well placed, intentional scribbles. My hands trembled; each direction I turned the piece seemed to create an entirely new landscape image. I rolled my head to the side catching a glimpse of the night sky. From a certain angle, the drawing kind of looked like the stars. Or perhaps I was just seeing what I wanted to see.
I placed the book on the pillow by my side. Suddenly I felt comfortable and warm. Just above me I could hear a flutter; a soothing pat-pat-pat coaxing me to close my eyes.
I felt a sudden draft. The tree branch moved to the side, allowing a pocket of air and with it, a large purple moth. The creature was the size of a bird, with metallic wings that shimmered in the moonlight. “Hi, Leo.”
Leo stretched his back, unfolding like a piece of origami. “How’d you guess?”
“It was more of a prayer,” I said in all honesty. For all I knew the weird looking moth could have been a surveillance device sent by Queen Emma Rose.
“You’re the one who chose to leave.”
“I know.” The fact that I was lonely and homesick was entirely my own doing.
“Do you think this is right?”
“Well, I’ll still be here.”
I turned to look at him, desperate to ask one last question. “Why do Jay and Queen Emma have similar powers?”
Leo raised an eyebrow. “Define similar?”
“Jay has an item box and Emma said she used to be from Earth?” I pressed my hands to my head. I sounded insane.
The floor-door opened with a creak. Someone slid in a plate with three items, and then immediately closed the only means of escape.
“If I were you, I’d prepare to fake some sleep.” Leo gripped my hand. “Rest assured, there are many truly spectacular places in this world.” The branches on the ceiling shifted, allowing in a gust of air. Leo transformed into sparkly sand, drifting towards the sky.
“Goodbye, I guess.” I awoke to the bright light of morning. ‘Might as well see what’s on the plate.’ In my dream there were three items but now there appeared to be seven. Two bread rolls, both with a hard outer crust. Two pieces of dried meat, which appeared to be tender enough to eat on its own. There was an empty cup which I assumed was for water. As well as a package of matches and a few sticks.
Was I meant to start a fire? Or was this some kind of test? “Item box,” I said softly, pulling up the curser near to where the plate sat. I tossed in one roll, one piece of meat, and a single match stick. Hopefully this was not a mistake. With the remaining items; I put the roll in my pocket and picked at the dried meat for my breakfast. Could I light a fire on the plate, to use as a source of heat?
I broke the single stick into small pieces and was about to strike the match when I heard the door unlock. Unfortunately, I had just scraped it across the rough textured floor, creating a noticeable orange flame.
“Put down the match!” shouted Leah.
Noelle pushed the door all the way open. “What my sister meant to say was, please blow out the match and follow us downstairs. Queen Emily has arrived.”
“She’s not coming up here?” I asked. I was honestly a little afraid of getting kidnapped, but my unfortunate choice of words infuriated Leah.
“That was your plan all along, right? Lure her up here and kill her, before setting the place on fire?” Leah grabbed my arm, forcing me to fall head first down the ladder.
Waiting at the bottom was yet another tall blonde woman, except this one wore the jewels of a queen, over the armor of a soldier. “For god’s sake, Leah, he’s just a kid.” She reached out her hand to help me to my feet. “How old are you, dear child?”
“Thirteen,” I muttered.
Leah rolled her eyes, shaking her head in disbelief. “He has the face of a child, but the body of a man.”
I assumed she was referring to my height. I could easily pass for sixteen, maybe even older. “Look, I’m just a traveler. If I have magic, I assure you I’m not a master of it. I truly do not mean you or your family any harm.” I held out my hands. “I’ll go with you willingly if that’s what it takes.”
Leah shook her head, her hands trembling with noticeable rage. “Tell her your name.”
Emily looked at me. “Noelle already told me; your name is Marcus, a very common name. I doubt this is a direct attack or bid for sympathy.”
Emily seemed to be the reasonable one, so I willingly followed her to a horse drawn carriage. She waved her hand over the heavily armored beasts causing them to awaken from slumber. “We can chat more on the ride to my family’s estate.”
On the bumpy ride across the frigid countryside, I told her the entire truth; my escape, my travels through the dragon kingdom, and even the death of my father.
She appeared to believe me, even take pity on me. At one point she even held my hand. “Do you truly have no last name?”
I had not mentioned that out loud. I chose to laugh off the awkwardness. “Well, to be fair, I don’t know your last name either.”
“Huh, really?” she gripped my hand tighter.
I could feel faint electrical pulses tickle my skin; like a thousand unseen bugs crawling up my arm. It was not itchy nor painful, but the fact remained. “Are you scanning my thoughts?”
“Yes, it’s my primary magic ability.” She paused, looking at me with an expression of confusion and concern. “Where you come from our race has all been exterminated; slaughtered for our bones and blood?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Did she just say ‘our kind’?
“Yes, I did,” Emily replied, still holding my hand. “I have reason to believe you and I are of the same race, possibly even distant siblings.” She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath as she read further into my mind. “In your world we’re called Nordics?”
“What are you called here?”
“Some believe we are the descendants of fairies and elves, so our kind, we are known simply as the blessed.”
“Fairies and elves that mated with humans?”
Instead of answering me, she was looking out the side window. “We’re almost there!” she motioned at an odd structure that seemed to be made of glass (or crystals.)
Needless to say, the reflective glow was blinding. “Do you actually live in that?”
“Yes, of course. It’s the royal castle.”
The carriage parked. “Follow me.” Instead of going towards the entrance, she power walked in the direction of the garden shed. She opened the rough wooden door, picking up a torch as we walked down a long dark hallway. “I can’t wait for you to meet father.”
“He lives down here?”
“After the death of mother and baby Marcus, he had gone quite mad. He signed over political power to myself as the rightful hair, before taking refuge in the family crypt.” She turned a corner, towards a room lit entirely by candles. “Papa! It’s me, Emily.”
“I have someone you must meet.”
I stood a good distance behind her. This proved to be a smart decision. Apparently seeing my face in the candle lit hallway filled him with psychotic rage.
“What is this? Are you mocking me?” He stood up, hurling a chair at his daughter’s head. “Emily Grace, I trusted you! I trusted you with my crown, my throne, my kingdom and you dare to mock my pain!”
“Papa you need to listen.” She reached for his hand, likely attempting to deliver her message in one quick motion.
Somehow, she was not quick enough. I was taken by previously unseen guards, separated from Emily. I was thrown into a cell, literally. Somehow the bars were made of a material that could allow the guard to push me through then solidify in to an unescapable cage. “What the fuck?” I leaned back, clutching my arm in pain. The small space was lit by four candles set in the corners of the room.
“What the fuck indeed,” said a fellow prisoner. The voice was male, deep and very familiar.
“No, I believe you’re mistaken.” The man was seated in the opposite corner. “I am not a royal.”
“But you are Tomas.” He had the prince’s face, body, even his voice.
“My name is Tomas O’Ryan, a humble doctor from the southern territories.”
“I was once the trusted companion and friend of King Vladimir of the nation of Everlion.
“This place is called Ever Lion?
“Strange, I had never heard it pronounced as two words. Where are you from?”
“I’m an escaped slave from a gypsy colony,” I took a seat, pulling my knees to my chest. “Where I come from, my kind were hunted to extinction.” I swallowed the lump in my throat. “Queen Emily seems to believe I’m the same species as her.”
“So, she introduced you to the king,” Tomas said with a nod. “And that was when everything went to Hell.”
“What can you tell me about the King?”
“Vladimir; Val to his friends, Vlad to his enemies,” Tomas said with a smile. “I met him rather late in life. I was a professor at a world renown medical school, passing through on a lecture circuit. His wife, the late Queen Lilia had gone in to labor with their first child. Little Emily was born in an odd position; her legs were nearly split apart. The current doctor declared the baby to be dead, and suggested surgery to save the queen’s life. Val wanted a second opinion. I managed to perform surgery and with my magic I saved the child’s life.”
“I have thousands of cures committed to memory. My creations combine magic with traditional medicine. Unfortunately, my work will die with me,” he added with a forced chuckle. “I aided Lilia through the birth of her first three children, each more difficult than the last. I suggested for her to have a procedure to remove her womb, but she would not dare disappoint her husband.”
“He expected her to pop out kids until she died?”
“Or until she gave him a son,” he said with a sigh. “I have a feeling he would have been satisfied with four children, if the wee lad survived for more than a few days.” By the faint light I could see a single tear roll down his cheek. “That is why I’m here; I failed my friends, I failed Lila, Val.”
“And Marcus,” I said turning to face him. “How long have you been down here?”
The shock was obvious. Tomas apparently saw what Emily had seen. “You,” Tomas whispered. He lifted his hand to my face. “The resemblance is uncanny.” He cleared his throat, shaking his head in disbelief. “Anyways, to answer your previous question, I have no way of judging the hands of time other than meals and sleep.”
“Meals?” Well at least that was something to look forward to.
“Food sometimes appears after sleep. Now that I have a roommate perhaps, we can track when the guards appear and make plans to escape.” He moved, allowing me a view of the wall behind him, it was completely covered in tick marks. Lines drawn in sets of five seemed to go on forever. “By my research, I’ve been here 3,456 days.”
“Oh,” I was about to panic when suddenly I realized the room had no noticeable smell. “Is there a toilet someplace, or a fresh source of water?”
“Yes.” Tomas motioned to a dark shimmery pool in the opposite corner. “It’s enchanted; you can piss, shit, whatever you need to do, and the moment you turn your back the water becomes clean again.”
“Or maybe there’s a creature inside?” Or a way out. I needed a tool. I took a seat near the water (hopefully it could help my magic work despite my current location.) ‘Item box, please God let me have access to my item box.’ I pinched my fingernail to my palm. I was willing to draw blood, but it did not come to that.
next: Isekai ch8