Introduction



01. In the Beginning



The first thing that he noticed was that the days were long.

Well, that wasn't even remotely close to being the first thing that he noticed. However, it was the first thing that he noticed and believed. When he, all of a sudden, found himself in the middle of Arabic city, he bluntly refused to believe that he was in a middle of an Arabic city, especially since he's never been to Arabia. The climate was a bit off. It was warm, but it wasn't hot; and on the outskirts of the city, he could see a rich forest-where he headed to escape the nightmare.

But the nightmare didn't end. In fact, after quite a few hours of sunshine, it was still as sunny as it was about ten hours ago. During these ten hours, he tried to understand his situation; however, he could in no way do so. So instead he ate some berries and other fruits.

By the nightfall he decided to walk back into the city. He's already accepted the fact that it wasn't the same city, or even the same country. He couldn't conclude much more than that. He figured that he had a higher chance of survival near people, because even though he had no idea what was going on, the woods, especially these ones, seemed to be filled with danger.

The city was nearly empty when he came back. The sky was deep blue near the sky and faded red everywhere else. The air was getting cold and moist. All the stores were closed; all the street vendors were long gone. He was stumbling from one sand-coloured house to another, trying to find a place to sleep and hide from the darkness, when he was beckoned by a young lady. She had a black gown wrapped around her body and a plaid turban wrapped around her head. Confused, he stopped and tried to ask her, using gestures, whether she was signalling at him. She nodded, but seeing that he was reluctant to move, she ran up to him, grabbed his hand, and lead him inside the building, slamming the door shut behind him. Within minutes, storm and lightning were ravishing the city. But he was safe from it, sitting on a thick rug in front of an indoor fire. That was where he would spend the night.



02. Exploration



He woke up in the middle of the night. He'd slept quite comfortably: the calming cracking of embers mixed with a bowl of soup made of unfamiliar (but delicious) ingredients and the warm blanket all made him sleep soundly. His mind finally let him relax and he had an unusual dream about descending into a well-lit cavern, which turned out to be a mine that had slabs of some unknown precious stone. He curiously wandered deeper and deeper, but then something made him wake up.

He ventured around inside the small adobe, and ventured outside. The stars were unlike anything he'd seen before. After his initial awe passed, he began to notice the unfamiliar colouration of the sky. It was black with a bluish tint, with patches of reddish-yellow and bluish-white tossed around in no particular order. He was amazed by its beauty; but, at the same time, he was scared. He didn't recognise any of the constellations. He had no idea where he was, nor how to get home.

The city was empty. Of all the windows, at most three had any light coming from behind them; the rest were dark. Afraid to get lost, he didn't stray for more than a few steps. It was easy to get lost: most of the buildings were two or three stories high. The windows were protected from the storms by the wooden shutters, hinged on the outside of the windows. Houses themselves were made of faded-yellow blocks, and all looked alike. Of course, some were obviously much smaller, but it was still difficult to tell them apart.

He'd slept enough and his curiosity didn't let him sleep any more, but since everyone else was asleep, he didn't have any choice but to get back into his bed, and toss and turn and worry about getting home. He got up a few hours later, at the crack of dawn, and impatiently waited the unfolding of the day.



03. The Towne Mage



The sun lazily rose up from the horizon. The city was already in motion: the markets were filled with traders who were trying to sell off their goods, and buyers who were loudly bargaining for the best prices. Whole streets were busy hustling and scuffling, and only the guards refrained from the overall sense of panic. They stoically stood on their posts, looking over the whole crowd; only they conveyed any sense of calmness.

Breakfast was as unusual and as delicious as last night's dinner. He noticed that many people had different table manners. Some would use two spoons; others drank straight from the bowl. No one seemed to mind; and besides, food was good, and there was no reason to complain. He quickly finished his bowl, but refused the offer for the second. After breakfast, the maiden with the checkered turban invited him to follow. The two of them headed outside.

Because the crowds were very dense, she took his hand and grasped it tightly. He held on. They navigated their way through endlessly similar streets and twisted passages that sometimes turned into tunnels. Finally, they stopped in front of a large house. She knocked on the door three times. The door opened. They went inside. There was a strong smell of medicine, mixed with the sensation of stale air. All the windows were closed, allowing only a few rays to sneak inside and illuminate the floor and the nearby furniture. They went up the large ooden staircase that towered in the middle of the living room. They turned left and entered a small sunny room. There was a bed in the middle and three chairs standing near the three otherwise empty corners. (The fourth corner was occupied by the door.) An old man with a long white beard and a magnificent blue cape was sitting on one of the chairs near the window. The girl sat down onto another chair, and the old man gestured for the young man to lie on the bed, at the same time closing the window and, afterwards, lighting candles. He then sat on the chair closest to the bed, and started mumbling sometime indiscernible. The candles mysteriously began to burn brighter, and his hands started glowing. The whole room heated up, and in an instant, as he put his hands near the young man's head, after turning blindingly bright, the room turned dark.

“What is your name,” asked the old man.

“Charles.” He sat up.

“That name is hard to pronounce. I am Ummka, and this is Dola.” Dola bowed.

Charles bowed back at them. “What am I doing here?”

“No one knows. Many foreigners in this town. Appear not knowing the cause. They come from different places.”

“Can I go back?”

“I cannot foresee your destiny. Many leave. Many stay.”

“How can I understand you now?”

“I put a spell that makes you understand many tongues. We all have that spell.”

“Thank you.”

“May good fortune stay with you.” Dola rose, and they all bowed. She went out of the room and they headed back.



04. Destiny, part 1



Charles kept close to Dola, still afraid to get lost. It was unnecessary: although they went back the same way that they took to Ummka's house, there were far fewer people on the street.

“Where is everyone?” asked Charles.

“It is the midday, and during the midday, everyone goes inside because of the sun.”

They walked in silence for some time.

“Were you teleported here as well?”

“Teh-leh-poh-ted. I like that word. In here, we call it 'taken'. But I was born here.”

“Why are people taken?”

“We are not certain. There are many myths and legends. It started a long time ago; it stopped a long time ago. Now, it resumed, and it happens more often than before. Some believe that the gods are angry and want a sacrifice; but the Counsel and the Temple forbade sacrifices. Some believe that it is the evil works of the sorcerers over the mountains, and that they are either seeking slaves, or apprentices.”

“Have you been over the mountains?”

“No, it is too dangerous, and it is not my Destiny. But it may be yours.”

“My destiny?”

“We believe that everyone has a Destiny. Some are destined to travel over the mountains to battle the evil sorcerers. Some are destined to travel to the land beyond the ocean. My Destiny is to guide the newly taken.”

“What is my destiny?”

“Only you can discover it. I can guide you, but the rest is up to you.”

“Can I go back?”

“You can, but many choose to stay here. Once they fulfil their Destiny, they find happiness in this world, and settle here. There is enough land for everyone. There are legends that some have the Destiny to go return to their previous worlds, but once they leave this town, we never hear of them again, and there is no way to know.”

“I want to go back.”

“I know you do; but there is not a way to take you back until you have learned your Destiny.”

“When can I learn it?”

“Whenever you are ready. But you must know that you are ready, lest you misunderstand it.”

“How long will it take?”

“I cannot answer that. All I can say is that no one has stayed for more than a year, unless it was their Destiny.”

They approached the house and quietly walked inside. “They like to sleep through midday,” she whispered as they passed by the beds in the living room. The house was rather small. The living room was also a bedroom, as the beds were rugs that were put away when they were not in use. There also were a kitchen and a study, and a rather odd bath house. It was odd because the shower had to be filled manually. Although there was water, it had no pressure to it because of the construction of the aqueduct. It didn't matter to Charles, however, for he was grateful for being able to shower in the first place. He quickly realised that he should not expect anything from this place; and thus everything was a luxury to him. He was still very confused, and a little dizzy from the magic spell, but he could rationalise his thoughts and keep himself from panicking.

“I'm scared, Dola.”

“I know what you feel; many people feel the same way. Trust in me. I will protect you from hurt.”

“I am worried about my home.”

“I understand your worries. I want you to learn your Destiny quickly. I don't want you to leave, I like you already. But if your Destiny is to leave, then you must. I will be sad; but that is the burden of my job.”

“Thank you for taking care of me.”

She smiled in return. “I cannot pronounce your name, it is difficult for me.”

“My real name is John, but everyone calls me Charles, or Charley, or Chas.”

“That is unusual. The two names are very different.”

“It is because in my world, most people have three names. The first two are chosen by the parents, and the third one is passed along on the father's side, from generation to generation. My first two names are John and Charles, and my last name is Anders. Call me John.”

“Jon.” She smiled. “Here, there is no need for three names. Most people have only one name, but sometimes we add the title or the name of the town. I am Dola the Guide from Veleno.”

They talked some more, and told each other a bit of each other's past. Midday was ending, and those taking a nap in the living room were waking up. It was time for dinner, and Charles volunteered to help. After dinner, Dola suddenly approached Charles and exclaimed,

“Jon, go with me.”

“Where are we going?”

“We shall visit the Temple.”



05. Temple



The crowds on the streets began to reassemble. Tables and tents kept popping up on the sides of the streets; the area became saturated with noisy chatter. Dola kept a brisk pace, Charles stayed close to her, still feeling uncomfortable in, and slightly scared of, the surrounding flocks of people. After a few turns, the streets widened, and after a few more turns, they arrived at a very large building. Eight columns, four on each side of the entrance, stood atop the staircase made of white brick. It was a very popular place, as many people different in rank (as denoted by their different outfits) hurried in and out.

After a short pause to admire the marble decorations that embellished the edifice, they proceeded up the stairs and entered through the huge portals. The inside-also made of white marble-was cool and pleasant. Straight ahead of them was an immense decorated room of worship-the heart of the Temple; to the sides were two large staircases and small hallways leading to tiny study rooms. They walked up the staircase to the left and walked into what seemed a reception office.

“Greetings, Dola and Friend,” they were greeted warmly. “Another newcomer?”

“Yes,” replied Dola.

“And what would your name be?”

“John.”

“Welcome, Jon. I am Numoa. Please follow me.” She opened a heavy wooden door, and they stepped inside a large circular room. It was dim and damp; the only light came from a ring of candles circling the room. Spaced evenly, the arches in the wall hosted an array of shrines. Two men wearing long golden robes were busy attending their tasks: towards the far end of the room one of them was perusing through a huge tome of ancient lore; the other one was walking from shrine to shrine cleaning the candles at the foot of each one.

“Hamkau ula neshnu, alimahne,” proclaimed Numoa.

“Hamkau, Numoa kali alimah,” replied the man attending to the book. His robe had green decorations. The other man, with a reddish tone to his golden robe, turned around and stood up; the four of them bowed.

“Welcome! What is your name?” said the man in greenish gold.

“John.”

“Welcome, Jon. We are in the Temple of Veleno. Veleno is the god who helped found this city, and so it was named after him. The main chamber of the temple is Veleno's sacred shrine where his mortal body is buried. Of course, his spirit still protects our peoples. Follow me.” All four went through the door that Charles didn't notice before because blended with the rest of the wall exceptionally well. They went up a narrow staircase and ended up in a smaller, dimmer, but dryer room.

“Before we tell you more,” began the man in reddish gold, “we must test your magic.” The two men led Charles into an arch in the corned of the room. Each of them took a small stick and held it to a candle to light it on fire. One of the sticks gave off a greenish tint, the other one was reddish. (He immediately thought of copper and calcium.) They handed him the sticks, one in each hand, and said,

“Now, unite the flames.”

Charles brought the two sticks together. Having met, the two flames merged together and brightly illuminated the room, cracking and popping happily like holiday sparklers.

“No, not that way,” shouted the man in green. Charles quickly held the sticks apart. “Make the flames meet without bringing them together. Do not your hands. Concentrate.”

Charles did just that: he concentrated. At least he pretended to, because the idea seemed absurd to him. He very well knew that such a phenomenon was impossible, but he genuinely tried to imagine the flames move together. It did not happen.

“Reach out to the flames, feel their energy.”

He decided to give it one last try. He took a deep breath and concentrated. He opened his palms (still holding the sticks with his thumbs), turned them upward as to catch the flames should they drop down, and tried to feel them, to reach out to them. He imagined reaching them and touching them, controlling their energy and bringing them close together. He thought of their source, the glowing red pieces of wood-but after suddenly imagining touching it, he felt a burning pain is his fingers and dropped both sticks on the floor. Having fallen one on top of the other, the sticks once again lit brightly and sent sparks flying across the floor, with the same pleasant crackling noise. Charles smiled as he watched, entranced, the dance of the bright yellow flame. When the sticks burned out, the man in red said,

“We have just tested you against the Prophecy. The Prophecy foretells that to this world shall be taken a foreigner, skilled in magic, who shall reunite the lands. Many generations ago, there was a unified kingdom. Shortly after different provinces declared their independence, they declared wars on each other. It took many years for peace to be restored, but there is still tension. After reuniting the provinces, the foreigner shall become the new leader of our lands.”

“That is why we had to evaluate your potential to use magic,” added the man in green. “But now, you must leave and let us discuss the matters at hand. Welcome to Veleno.” All four bowed again.

They headed outside the small room, down the stairs, and back into the reception area. Dola and Charles bade farewell to Numoa and went out of the office and down the stairs. Instead of leaving the temple, Dola led Charles into the shrine. Inside, on a large pedestal, towered ominously a huge bronze statue of Veleno. He was a man with a bald gnomish head and a pointy tail. There were doorways to small rooms scattered around the circular wall, but all were overshadowed by the massive statue. Impressed by this sight, Charles did not notice that Dola stepped away to talk to a woman in dark green robes. He slowly walked around the statue and peeked into little rooms. In some, priests in golden robes read tomes as ancient as the one he saw upstairs; in others, people were worshipping the deity.

“Alimah.” He turned around and saw a girl draped in brown rags. She wore a hood and seemed to be in a hurry. “Be here tomorrow after midday.” She quickly turned around and left. Confused, he walked back to the entrance, where he ran into Dola.

“Let us go back,” she said and they headed out of the Temple. After a few turns, he realised that the girl probably mistook him for someone else (because she greeted him in a foreign language), and so he let his worries go. They safely reached their home.



06. Counsel



As soon as the warning light went out, Charles unbuckled his seatbelt. He was sitting in an uncomfortable airplane seat, flying hundreds of miles above the ground. (As he realised later, it was actually only a couple of thousand feet.) He peeked outside, viewing the gorgeous scenery-the evergreen pasture surrounded by distant mountaintops. The airplane descended into the clouds. He spotted an eagle (or was it a hawk?) not too far away from the plane. He wished to leap out of the plane and to follow the bird, and almost instantly his hands melted and, like a ghost, he passed through the wall of the plane. First he thought he was flying; then he thought he was falling. By now, both the airplane and the eagle were gone, and he was slowly drifting through the treetops, landing near a walled compound. He was a spy on a mission to extract some information from this secret base…

“What an interesting dream!” exclaimed Dola. “I have heard of flying devices in the past; and a secret compound is something that is, sadly, far too easy to find in these lands. I have always liked to hear of others' dreams. Mine occur so rarely and are so dim that I cannot remember them.”

“Dreams are fascinating, it'd be nice if you could remember yours.”

After breakfast, they headed outside. Charles noted to himself that he was becoming familiar with the layout of the city: he was certain that he would be able to stumble his way into the Temple or even, after an exhaustive search, to Ummka's house. As it turned out, the city was very symmetrical and the Counsel was on the opposite side from the Temple. Their current path was a mirror image of yesterday's; and after a little while he already knew which way they were going to turn. After a few more streets they reached a prominent walkway leading up to the Counsel. The front of the Counsel was almost identical to that of the Temple, except for the large banners hanging on the front wall, denoting the sign of the city. They proceeded inside and turned right to go up a set of stairs. They entered one of the rooms on the second floor. Dola told Charles to sit down and walked up to the man behind a desk. As they whispered inaudibly, Charles decided to look around. Interestingly, this place was like every bureaucratic place he'd been to back at home: There were drawers full of paperwork, cubicles full of receptionists, and a front desk with something that looked like a sign-in sheet.

“Jon, please stand here,” said Dola. “You will be registered in this office. Here,” she said as she pointed to the sign-in sheet, “you must sign your name.” He would be the third on the list.

“But I don't know how to write in your language.”

“Your signed name can be in any language, you must learn your written name.” Next to his signature, in a few beautiful strokes she wrote what he gathered was his name. The written language had elements of both the Latin alphabet and Kanji. Line numbers were on the right hand side of the paper, which seemed strange to him because Dola's writing was from left to right. Their number system was base twelve: the twelfth number consisted of the first digit followed by what he assumed was 0; the thirteenth was 1 followed by itself; and so forth. He wanted to memorise the system but Dola told him to sit down.

“I have to attend to other affairs. Wait and when he asks for your name, follow him,” she said without indicating any particular him. “I will return.”

Charles sat down and started waiting. After a few minutes the clerk who was behind the front desk suddenly got up an walked outside, leaving Charles alone in the room. He quickly got up and started looking at the sign-in sheet, trying to memorise the numbers. The writing was very unusual but not difficult, and every number could be written in only a few strokes. He was fascinated with the fact that the numbering system was so similar to the one he considered normal, and with the fact that it was base twelve. Dola and everyone else had only five fingers on each hand.

There was still nothing to do. Charles was boring. He wanted to read the writings on the walls or the titles of the books, but he couldn't-he only knew a way to write his name. He wanted to practise writing it. He spotted an unused parchment, made of something similar to paper. He took a pen and dipped it in ink and wrote his name. He tried again, many times, until his handwriting began to resemble Dola's closely. He also copied down all the digits on paper, folded it, and put it in his pocket. He put the pen back and sat down.

He was bored. He started wondering around. He peeked behind a few cubicle walls and realised that there was no one there. The office was empty, as if everyone had gone out for lunch. From what he knew of the customs, midday wasn't for another few hours, and he found it very unusual to be left alone with no explanation.

He opened the door and walked outside. The building had far fewer people than there were an hour ago. It was not the first time that he thought he was forgotten. He wondered if he was supposed to be wandering around, but he was not about to go back in. He descended the staircase and walked towards to large doors. Behind them was a giant room, as large as the giant statue inside the Temple. He wanted to open the doors but decided against it; instead he started listening to the man speaking inside, interrupted by a woman. Fragments of words were shaping themselves into sentences and sentences into thoughts.

“I shall not remain still and watch this segment become a lobby.” Charles shrugged, confused.

“But an ultimatum may lead to a war, and we are not prepared for it.”

“I will not ask for a war, but I will ask for explanations. There is a newcomer every week; and I do not believe they are only taken here. I have a reason to believe he is acting merely on the Prophecy.”

“The Prophecy

has no relation to his authority; and it is not a matter of the Counsel. We will send a message asking for opinions; we will not demand but inquire. In the meantime, we shall provide as needed.”

“La hondune ula teshu.”

The meeting seemed to be disbanding. He ran upstairs and sat in the lobby. In a few minutes the door opened, and the receptionist walked back behind the desk. Shortly, another man came by and told Charles to follow him inside. They proceeded in silence. Charles signed a document with his signature and his newly-given name. The man gave him a quick bow, and Charles walked back to the lobby. There was no sign of Dola. He waited for her, still wondering why he could understand only some words said in the meeting and not all of them. After realising that Dola was not about to come back for him, he got up, asked the receptionist to tell her that he was leaving, and headed back.



07. Temple Revisited



It was almost midday, and Dola still hasn't returned from the Counsel. Charles attempted to communicate with the people in the house but realised that talking to them was as effective as talking to a mirror in a room with an echo. He was getting worried. Early on he noticed that the number of residents changed on a daily basis like in a come-and-go sort of shelter. And it probably was, and it probably wasn't the only one in town.

He couldn't go to sleep. He wasn't used to the sun cycles, the forty-hour-long days, and sleeping this much. And also he was worried about Dola. He felt stupid because he knew nothing about her culture or what she could be doing; for all he knew she could be hanging out having a life for a change. But none of those thoughts comforted him.

He kept tossing and turning up until the end of the midday. He quickly got out of his bed and walked to the kitchen. He wasn't hungry but he still decided to help with dinner preparations. No one else was helping, and he wondered why; but there were far stranger things in this place. He finished setting up the plates and other dining utensils and wandered outside. There wasn't anything that he could do, and of the things that he could do, there wasn't anything that he wanted to do. The girl from the Temple waltzed into his thoughts. She did tell him to visit her (even though she probably confused him with someone else). Still, his curiosity was rising. Perhaps she had not mistaken? But she did speak in another language, and that whole concept confused him. But his clothes stood out in the crowd and were difficult to ignore.

He headed towards the Temple. The way there was simpler than he expected. He walked up the stairs and through the doors, stopping momentarily in the lobby. She would probably be near the Shrine like the last time, so he proceeded through the other set of doors. There weren't yet many people inside; most were probably finishing up their dinners. And she was probably one of them. He was walking around the statue admiring its workmanship, when suddenly a hooded figure gently grabbed his hand and led him into a small room, shutting the door behind him.

“Alimah!” She took off her hood.

“Hi. Who are you?”

“I am a friend. My name is Sota.”

“Why am I here?”

“You are in danger. You must escape this city. I am here to warn you of this.”

“Escape? Why, wh-who is after me?”

“The Prophecy predicts the arrival of a foreigner. You are a foreigner, and he fears that you will fulfil it. If you unite the lands then he will lose his control, and he wants to prevent it.”

“How would I unite the lands?”

“You have the potential for magic, and if you learn it then you will become powerful.”

“How can I have potential? I couldn't even unite the flames; I dropped the two sticks and burned them.”

“The flames will merge only if you have fire in your soul. Yours burns brightly.”

He was taken aback slightly by her statement. He's never believed in magic before, but now he learned that he could learn it. The idea excited him, though he didn't believe that it was true. It would be fun to use magic, probably, even though he didn't think he would be able to, it not existing and all.

“Take them,” said Sota as she handed him two similar but unusual objects. Both of them had a brown wooden handle. At the end of one of them was a metal hoop surrounded by a glass sphere, and the other one ended with a needle.

“There is a hole in the cover. Find it and put the needle into the loop.”

He was rather confused. He was looking for a hole in the glass. It was pointless, and he was already puzzled and intimidated by her, but he decided to try to find the opening anyway. The needle touched the glass with a quiet ring. He scraped the glass with it, probing its surface. There was nothing. Yet she continued to look at him expectantly. Even worse were her standing up and walking behind him to look over his shoulder and making him feel even more uncomfortable. She placed her hand on his back. She had a relaxing touch that conveyed peace and reassurance. He concentrated more on the task, enjoying the pleasant feeling on his back. His hands relaxed.

“Perceive that there is no glass,” she whispered softly. It wasn't difficult to do because he was already relaxed and dreamy. He imagined the glass slowly melting and becoming increasingly softer, as the needle punctured a hole in it and touched the hoop. He opened his eyes but didn't believe them. He found the hole. He quickly pulled the needle out and tried to put it back in, but he'd already lost the spot.

“It worked!” he exclaimed to Sota.

“Try again, without my help.”

“But… Why?”

“I'll tell you after you succeed. Relax.”

Excited by his recent success, Charles decided to try again. Once again he relaxed and began scratching the glass. He tried to relax some more, but something began to distract him. Sota placed her palms on her temples and closed her eyes, concentrating. He continued with his task. He stopped all thoughts and imagined reaching for the sphere and melting it with his mind. A sudden surge of energy made him shudder and brought his hands together, again pushing the needle through the hoop.

“I did it!”

“This is good. Now I must tell you something which you won't believe. The glass is solid.”

“What?”

“There are no openings. Let me show you.” She took his instruments and dragged the needle through the glass, and the hoop, as if they didn't exist.

“How did you do that?”

“I phased them. Phasing is the first skill that you must learn because it is the easiest to grasp and to practice.”

He still could not believe her. “Do that again,” he asked. She brought the needle close to the handle and dragged it across-and through-the wood. He opened his mouth.

“You must believe it, Jon.” This was the first time she said his name.

“Who are you?”

“I cannot answer. You must hurry. Leave by tonight.” She opened the door and let him out, shutting it close behind him. Even more confused, he headed back.



08. Leaving Town



The sun was nearing the horizon by the time that he reached the house. He took a wrong turn and had to stumble around seeking familiar streets. The last unfamiliar street took him right back to the Temple, giving him another chance to find his way. He made no mistakes the second time around.

Dola was back, fluttering about in preparations for the night. She greeted him and asked him about his registration, failing to mention her disappearance. He offered her a hand and they began to move the mattresses and clean the house. Darkness was descending upon the city; most houses on the street began to close their doors and windows. The night was warm and dry; slight gusts of wind instilled Charles with a sense of excitement. He closed the windows and the front door and extinguished half of the lights. Quietness crept through the house as most residents headed for bed. Charles walked up to Dola and tapped her on the shoulder, informing her that he wanted to talk to her. She told him they'd talk later and walked off to the kitchen. He lay down on his mattress and thought about the day. He concluded that he did not understand anything and that bugging Dola was the way to go about it. Still, the phasing thing was so convincing… Could it have possibly been true? The only way to find out was to practice and he was too tired for that. He curled up on the mattress and slowly drifted to sleep.

He woke up to see Dola sitting by his mattress. She was softly squeezing his shoulder. He was about to speak when she held her hand close to lips and beckoned him to follow. He rose, and they went outside. Dola was walking briskly, steering through unfamiliar streets. The city was silent. They soon reached the city wall and exited through the gates. After a few moments, Dola stopped and turned towards Charles.

“You are in danger, you must go back.”

“What's happening, Dola?”

“He is looking for you, and he is close to finding you. I apologise that you walked alone, but it had to be so.”

“I went to the Temple. I need to know more.”

“Do you have magic?”

“Yes.”

“You can understand only what others want you to know. That is Ummka's spell. It takes many years to learn magic, but you have already begun; that is why he fears you. If you stay here he will find you and kill you. You will be safe at your home, and there is a way for you to get there. There is a cave to the northwest of the city. Walk with the forest on your left and go forward when it ends. You will see it. Inside is the portal.”

“Dola…” he began to whisper. “I don't want to… I wish I didn't have to leave.”

“Take it,” she said as she took out a small amulet and held it tightly in her hands. It glowed dimly. “It will point you in the right direction.” He smiled and put it on his neck.

“What is going to happen next?”

“I cannot foresee your destiny either. It is yours to discover.”

“Thank you, Dola,” he uttered, feeling emptiness in his stomach.

“Goodbye, Jon.” They touched their hands and bowed to each other. He remained motionless as he watched her walk back to the city. When she reached the gates she turned around and smiled, weakly. He smiled in return and began to walk towards the forest.



09. Destiny, part 2



There was not a single cloud in the sky. The stars were burning brightly and illuminated his path. He reached the forest and turned to the right, looking at the amulet to verify his direction. He proceeded walking along it, listening to the silence. Only the wind interrupted it, gently rustling the leaves of the dark beautiful trees that composed the forest.

He was tired. He'd been awake for many hours and he had a long and tiring day. To top it off, he was running away from someone trying to kill him. A long day indeed. The forest was ending. He continued past it, now holding the amulet in his hand. It was pleasantly warm and comforting. He walked on.

After another half hour of dullness he suddenly noticed a light not too far off ahead. “The cave!” he thought as he quickened his pace. Indeed, the glow was coming from a cave, the entrance to which was in the middle of huge boulder. He descended the stairs that were engraved into the floor. At the bottom was a giant door made of solid rock. It was illuminated by torches, one on each side. In the middle of the door there were two large metal rings. He lifted one and knocked. He knocked again.

One of the doors began to open raucously. On the other side of it was a large room with a few smaller chambers. “Proceed,” commanded a deep voice. Charles walked inside, and the door began to close. In front of him was a tall burly man wearing a brown robe and a hood. “You are here because you must go back. Follow me.” They walked into a smaller room and sat down on the benches. “Your name is Jon.”

“Yes,” replied Charles peering intently.

“I know the situation. I cannot tell you how I know, but you need not explain anything.”

“How will I get back?”

“The same way you got here. I need a few minutes to prepare. You did wake me up after all. Remain.” The man rose and proceeded to another room, leaving Charles full of guilt and embarrassment. In a few minutes the hum in the background became louder and the man walked back inside. “Do not apologise, it is my job to help.”

“Thank you.”

“I will take you back to your world. There, you will be safe from everything.”

“Who took me here?”

“I know how but I do not know who. Many act solely on the Prophecy, taking it too closely to their hearts. They refuse to accept their Destiny and try to change it.”

“I do not believe in destiny.”

He discerned a small smile. “Neither do I, but they do and they want to control it. They wage wars because of it.”

“You're not from here either, are you?”

“You are keen. I was also taken, and I was told that my Destiny was to help others. In reality, I stay because I do not want to go back.”

“But in a way your Destiny was foretold correctly.”

“When I was first given a choice to leave I was happy. I was already used to this world but I missed home. She trained me how to open the portal. While she was training me we fell in love; and once it was the time for me to leave, I no longer wanted to. I am here because of her.”

Charles smiled. “Who is she?”

“She also helps others. Her name is Sota.” Suddenly everything made sense. The only missing link was the connection between them and Dola, but he was sure it was just as simple to understand. “It is time.” On the floor in the centre of the room there was a large circle decorated by red glowing crystals. A reddish cloud spun in the centre of the circle. “Step inside.” They bowed, and Charles carefully stepped over the crystals and into the fog.

He could barely say “thank you” when the man raised his hands towards the ceiling, the crystals began to glow and hum even more than before, the fog condensed, and everything around Charles turned black and disappeared.


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