Mother jumped to her feet.
“Excuse me?!” She said, clearly perturbed by the sudden change of events. She didn’t expect Vangele to even notice me, but instead she was completely disregarded, his vision focused completely on me. “I came here to get my fortune told, not for my son to b-“
“Silence, woman!” Vangele snarled. He threw his palm up towards her face, making it clear that he didn’t want to be interrupted. “This has much larger consequences that your petty infatuations. I would appreciate it if you remained silent for the remainder of the conversation.” His eyes didn’t leave mine even for a second.
Mother sat down, both visibly shocked and disgusted that her darling Vangele would speak to her that way. Her expectations for the day turned on their head, she folded her arms and resigned herself to sulking childishly because things didn’t go her way.
“Nathaniel, came with me please” He gestured to the door behind him, still open from when he strode in, nothing visible beyond the darkness in the doorframe. I nodded silently and walked towards it. I passed by Vangele, his eyes still on me the entire time, until I went through the doorway.
“We shall be back momentarily Madeline” I heard Vangele say behind me, his tone polite yet forceful. I stood there in the darkness, the only light peeking through the partially closed shutters hanging on the window. Motes of dust drifted gently in the stale air, made visible by the thin streams of sunlight before they came to rest on the large, wooden table in the middle of the room, the light pooling in sparkling lines on the table top. Four chairs sat around the table, two on each side, one pulled out for someone to sit, perhaps where Vangele sat before he came out into the tent. Squinting in the darkness, I could make out shelves lining the walls, books of different colours and widths laying across them, and strange, oddly shaped instruments, used perhaps in his questionable experiments, that I had never seen before, gathering dust between the rows of old tomes.
Behind me, I heard the sound of the heavy wooden door clicking into place in its frame. Vangele locked the door, the bolt sliding bulkily but securely into place, and then he quickly walked towards the window, squinting out into the market from behind the blinds.
“Please sit down Nathaniel,” he said quietly, his back to me as he continued to look out the window. I did as I was asked, and pulled out a chair, sitting down without a word opposite the one already pulled out. I turned around in my chair to look at Vangele, still standing there, peering out into the busy street beyond.
“What I am about to tell you is extremely important. You must listen carefully to every word I say, as they will serve you quite valuably in the future. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” I replied, quietly.
“Good.” He said with a smile. He turned around, and walked over the empty chair facing me. My eyes followed him across the room, his long, purple robes swishing as he gracefully glided through the stagnant air,. When he say down, he rested each elbow on the table top and linked his fingers together, his eyes carefully studying mine, like a jeweller appraising a diamond, over his interlocked fists. I took this opportunity to take a good look at the man, considering I had never seen him before in my life; he said fairly old, in his late forties or perhaps early fifties, and patches of grey could clearly be seen in his tight hair and gristly beard. His face was rough and wrinkled, currently scrunched up in an almost judgemental frown, and his dark brown eyes seemed almost black, unable to discern the subtle difference of colour in the low light.
“How to explain to someone who….ugh” He rested his forehead on his knuckles, letting out an exasperated sigh as he seemingly gathered his thoughts. Finally, with a deep breath, seemingly getting inspiration from the stagnant air around him, he lifted his head and began.
“The world in which you live, Nathaniel… it’s simply a bubble. A screen, so to speak. You’ve lived your entire life in ignorance of the world beyond the parameters of your vision, silently accepting that what you see is simply what there is. Have you never questioned the fact that everything you know, everything you think you know, is simply a fabrication? A lie? Allow me to explain: Long ago, in a time long before you, I, or in fact anyone else here was born, there existed a life force, an energy, which we mystics called Magia. This energy was the driving force behind the existence of multitudes of animals and creatures, and also brought about the happenings of different phenomena. People, blessed with ability of channelling the natural forces, were born on rare occasions, and were able to manipulate the Magia to their own ends, the end results being referred to as magic; lifting things without touching them, conjuring things out of thin air, and in times of great need, summoning the use of the natural elemental forces to defend themselves. Thus, these people were respected as much as they were feared, with people suspicious of their intentions and scared at the potential destruction these people could cause. However, regardless of this superstition, working together people and casters (the name given to those born with the ability to focus Magia) had society flourish, creating a world in which most lived happily. However, wherever there is power, there are those who seek to control it; it is simply how to world works. These people, casters themselves, believed that through the purification of non-caster people, they would usher in a newer era of power and possibility, unencumbered by the “dunces” the non-caster population apparently was. Collectively this threat was none as “The Malevolence” and originally it was nothing; a few crazed revolutionists with their insane ramblings of taking over the world. But then their numbers grew. Meetings were in order, in dark alleyways or beneath the cities in hidden sewers, discussing their plans and recruiting new members, the disease of their idealogies spreading like a plaque. Member came to them in search of fame and glory, others intoxicated with the promise of power once their goals had been achieved. Eventually The Malevolence posed a serious threat to the sanctity of the people, so the Magi Council (the ruling body at the time) put into place a series of countermeasures and sanctions to stop to spread of the Malevolence’s influence on the people.
“Why couldn’t they simply be prosecuted?” I inquired, not seeing why these people simply got these people “out of the way”.
“Because, Nathaniel, they had done nothing visibly wrong! There was no evidence to support that this group was in fact any way harmful, as their alibi, The Light Society, was innocent and flawless, taking in homeless individuals and giving them somewhere to stay, but in fact was simply a front for their devious scheming; they brainwashed these people to their own nefarious ends, and eventually the higher echelons of the organization had a massive army of willing soldiers to do their bidding. No matter how hard they tried, the Magi Council or in fact anyone else couldn’t find a single trace of wrong-doing, with The Malevolence covering their tracks discreetly and effectively. Eventually, they managed to worm their way into The Magi Council itself, luring officials to their side with lucrative offers or blackmail, leaving a small group of dedicated individuals who-
“I’m sorry,” I interrupted, “but what exactly has this all got to do with me?”
“Have patience, Nathaniel!” He barked, “I’m getting there! Like I said, this ended up leaving a group of individuals who would stop at nothing to stop these usurpers to the council. Suspicious even among themselves, the last remaining faithful mages put together a last effort to save the non-caster population from the tyranny of The Malevolence, combining their power through the secrets of an ancient rite and hiding away everyone who didn’t have the gift into an alternate world, simultaneously destroying themselves. They made the ultimate sacrifice, saving the citizens of Aetheria and giving The Malevolence exactly what they wanted; a world without non-casters. Everyone, unbeknownst to themselves, were spirited away to a closed off dimension. That is this world.”
When he finished that last sentence, I felt a sudden sense of dizzying vertigo, of complete and utter disbelief that for a moment, I didn’t know which way was up; how could my entire life, the world in which I live, this peaceful, perfect and picturesque village of Estelline simply be the fabrication of magical beings? I couldn’t believe it, I literally couldn’t, it was impossible. Things like that don’t exist, they never existed. But something inside me told me it was all true, that he was speaking the truth, and really it was just that insane that it was too insane NOT to be real. But still I refused to believe it.
“You’re insane!” I said. “You’re a complete and utter lunatic! How could you possibly expect me to believe such outrageous claims, accept the idea of my entire world being….being a lie?” I stood up, ready to leave, when he put he put his hand up.
“Please sit down Nathaniel,” he sighed, “I expected as much. Wait here a moment please.”
He got up and spun around on the spot, turning to the bookshelves on the wall behind him. I still stood there, ready to leave, ready to walk out the door, but something told me to stay. Something told me I needed to be here. I sat back down reluctantly, and watched him stretch and squat as he searched the dusty old bookshelves on the wall. Eventually I heard an “Aahh...” as he pulled a rather old, thick looking book from the middle shelf and then walked back to the table. He gentle placed the book on the old table top.
“Do you know what a Serenier is, Nathaniel?” He asked, his elbows now resting on table once more.
Suddenly I was pulled back, drawn into a sudden rush of nostalgia, into a memory I had long forgotten: I was really young, maybe five, back when my father was still around. He disappeared a long time ago; nearly ten years ago now, just got up one day and vanished. He used to tell me all these stories of heroes conquering insurmountable odds and love triumphing over the forces of evil. Of course, at the time, I never believed them; they were bed-time stories, fabrications made by a father to put his soon to sleep, to dream of far off lands that didn’t exist. But I remember that word, that…”Serenier”.
“Put simply, Nathaniel, Serenier are protectors, people bound to certain important individuals through magic in the case of them facing grave danger. The idea was that if someone was about the fall into a trap or was close to death, their Serenier, carefully trained for their duty, would come to their aid and help them whichever way they can, whether it was simply just guide them out of harm’s way or to fight to the death defending their employer. These individuals were selected by the Magi Council for themselves for their abilities and traits, and were assigned to important people throughout the realm; diplomats, politicians, and people who had the resources and means to employ to use of a Serenier. During the Malevolence’s reign of terror throughout Aetheria, Serenier were made use of left, right and centre by people who feared that they would be selected next to be either seduced by the lucrative offers of gold or being permanently silenced. Many lives were lost during that time, including those of the Serenier, and you’re great, great grandfather was one of the very few left by the time The Magi Council made their decision to segregate the population. What The Magi Council wasn’t aware of, however, was when they selected someone to become a Serenier and imbued them with the abilities to protect their bound employers, their abilities passed down to their sons and daughters. Over time these abilities diminish, but there’s always a trace of the original Serenier’s ability to instantaneously teleport to the endangered individual’s location, consciously or otherwise.
“So you’re telling me that I can ‘magically’ teleport to a random person’s location so I can save them? Yeah right, stuff like that doesn’t exist.” I replied, indignantly.
“Oh does it, Nathaniel?” He smiled. “I’ll prove it to you. You had a rather strange dream last night, didn’t you? Allow me a guess; you went to sleep last night, and woke up somewhere else completely…you didn’t know where you were, and eventually you found a young girl by the name of Alexandra. But then you inexplicably lost consciousness and woke up back home, didn’t you?”
I couldn’t believe it. How could he possibly know that happened, he’s never seen before my life!
“Well Nathaniel, I can assure that was anything but a dream: every moment of it was real and you were there for a reason. I don’t who did it, and I don’t know why, but someone bound you to princess Alexandra as her Serenier, and you were there to protect her.
“Protect her? From what!?”
“Again, I don’t know how, but one way or another, the Malevolence have managed to locate this world and enter it. It’s completely beyond my knowledge how they manage to do it but they did, and now, for some reason, they taken Alexandra back with them to Aetheria. You failed in your duty as a Serenier and now you’d be lucky if you didn’t drop dead at any second now!”
“What?! How do you know all this? Who are you!?” I roared at the old man.
“I am Vangele, last remaining member of the Magi Council and the only chance you have of saving your life. You see, when someone is bound as a Serenier to an individual, if they fail in their task of protecting their employer and they die, the Serenier alongside them”
Immediately all the colour drained from my face and a falling sensation in my stomach; I didn’t know what to believe anymore: Vangele’s story was simply to insane NOT to be true, and there was no way in heaven or hell that he would know that I dreamt- no, that I was actually IN Cyprorcea Castle last night.
“W-what can I do?” I stammered, suddenly shaking from fear of my own mortality.
“It’s my belief that whoever did this had a reason for what they did; selecting you as Alexandra’s Serenier in particular, and bringing her off to Aetheria.
“What reason??” I asked, not entirely sure I wanted to answer.
“I think they want you,Nathaniel”