“I am very disappointed in all of you!” Athde screamed at all of us, after I changed back into normal clothes and rid myself of the hundreds of crystals that fell from my hair when I took the style down. He looked to Keres, “You most of all! What were you thinking going to the human realm and Heaven?!”
I bowed to him and stepped forward, “It was my fault, sir. I couldn’t let my mum’s memories die or chance them getting stolen by another. I convinced them to come with by use of their names and I hadn’t thought of anything but creating a memorial for her.”
Athde looked at me, his skull actually looking shocked, “You take full responsibility?”
I nodded, ignoring the thoughts of the others, as they tried to stop me. “Yes, sir. I wasn’t thinking of the consequences of my actions and the repercussions it would have on my friends. All of the punishment should be placed on me.” I looked up and met Athde’s eye sockets.
He stoked his jawbone, “Your punishment…” He grinned, “You have to explain to your father what you did, all of it, including that you lied to him in the cemetery.”
I took a step back, I was not expecting something as vicious as that. I would have rather my power being bound to telling my father everything. “That’s harsh.”
“No, it is justified. Your father told me what happened in the cemetery, you have to tell him what happened to Heaven and everything you learned.” He smiled as he sat down in his chair.
“What if it starts a war between Hell and Heaven breaks out because of this? Father wouldn’t be able to stop those who loved mum from fighting. If Michael gets any hint of a war, he will unleash Mirri’s power and it could escalate into a full blown war.” I begged to Athde.
He thought of the possibility, looking glum, “What do you suggest your punishment be?”
I thought quickly, “I was able to confuse Mirri into not being sure of what consisted of light and dark, and I swore to him, I would answer his questions, if the Lord God would not.”
Athde stood up, “Punishment for all of you is to find Arcadia through the Gates.”
Keres shouted, “That’s the third test! They are not ready for it!”
Athde shook his head, “It has been decided; you leave in two hours. Take care of any business you need to do before then. Say your goodbyes, get your things together and be ready for my summons.”
The floor vanished under our feet and we were transported to outside the dining hall. I looked to the others, “I’m sorry…”
Dei smiled, “Well, think about it this way, it should not be too hard. We just have to ask the Gate to take us to Arcadia.”
Keres shook his head, “It is not that easy… To enter Arcadia, you have to gather the thirteen pieces that are scattered across the realms to open that Gate. Even then, the places that hold the pieces change every year and do you realize how many realms there are out there?”
This just became more difficult within the second. “Okay. Besides me, who else has a bag?” They all nodded to me, “Good, bring one, a backpack is preferred. Everyone needs to have a notebook, at least two pens, a book of maps of the realms, a compass, a way to identify you, in case we end up in something like the first test, weapons and anything you think we will need. Got all that?”
“Yes,” Dei answered for the others.
I nodded once, “Good. Meet me back here in an hour and we will figure out a plan of attack.”
“Sounds good.” Cittrite said, before we all departed towards our rooms.
I walked into the door portal for the dining hall, using its magic to take me to my room without wasting time. I walked around the room and found the bag I left at the cemetery. I pulled everything out of the purse, the letters from Raphael, the one from my mum, her compass, the pipes and stones.
I looked at Raphael’s letters and tore them to shreds before smiling to myself. I grabbed a shimmering blue bowl that I used for this kind of thing from my dresser. I put the remnants of the letters into the bowl and felt my rage build for the man who sold his daughter to a monster. I held the bowl in my hands and pushed all of my rage and hatred into concave of the bowl. The letter pieces caught fire and I continued to channel my anger into the flames, until I felt empty inside. The fire died out, leaving only ashes in the bottom of the bowl. I dumped the ashes into the toilet and washed out the bowl, before putting it into my backpack.
I grabbed mum’s compass, the pipes and stones and set them into a smaller compartment inside the pack. I looked at the letter mum had written to me and I fought with myself either to open it or not to open it. I made my mind and put the letter into my pack.
I grabbed the four notebooks I have yet to have used at the Academy and stuffed them into the pack, along with all three hundred pens mum and I bought for this year. What can I say? I lose pens… I then went to grab the maps mum had given to me originally from my father.
I looked around the room and it felt like it looked when I first came to the Academy, empty. The only personal effects left were my bedding and clothes, everything else having been here. I looked to the desk I never got to use for study and sat down. I pulled out a sheet of stationary from the drawer, along with another pen. I sighed and looked at the blank page.
I picked up the pen and started to write,
I’m sorry that I never got the chance to go fishing with you or anything that fathers and daughters do. I wish you could have seen mum light up when she first got me into a dress for a school dance. But now comes the time to part ways after we just met.
I need to tell you what happened after you all left the cemetery. I tried to spiral into my power, but Mirri (The Black Knight) knocked me out of the Chasm. Michael then told me of his plans. He made sure that mum would run away and meet you, he hinted something about a prophecy that you two would have me. He wanted mum’s, yours, grandma’s and grandpa’s power combined with his and that was the easiest way to do it. He wanted to conceive a child with me, so the powerful child would help him take the Lord God’s place.
Mirri is Michael’s pet, but he is so much stronger than that. If there is a way, I need to figure out how to pull Mirri away from Michael’s influence and show him that darkness is needed to see the light… He helped me escape from being broken down to a puppet by Michael. I fear that if he is not helped, he will still initiate the war on the dark ones.
Well, it is time for Dei, Cittrite, Keres and I to find Arcadia. And one last question for you… What is Oblivion truly? Keres told me it is the final resting place for souls and if a living soul tries to reach it, it would rip the living soul apart… Is this true?
I love you, father and if we survive this, I will see you in Hell.
I folded up my letter and put it into the pack. I looked at my watch and saw that I still had a little time left. I remembered something an old boyfriend had given me. I found the small wooden music box that had mirrors spread throughout the interior of the box. I locked the box with the same key I used to open the Gate picture and put it into my pack as well.
“Well, time to go, I guess.” I took one last look around the room, “And hopefully I will be able to come back here… And actually rest…” I picked up my pack and the Mortalitas, before wishing I had just gone to tell father the truth.
I opened the door-portal and found myself in the dining hall, with the guys waiting. They each had their packs and I felt relieved that at least I was not going alone. I went and grabbed my comfort food of tacos, enchiladas, a quesadilla and a small bowl of beef jerky and ribs. I sat down next to Keres, with Dei and Cittrite across the table from us. We ate in silence, though Keres kept his hand on my thigh, a gesture of comfort.
When we all finished our meals, Cittrite took the plates away, passing by the elfin youth I slammed into the tables. The elf’s eyes widened as I gave him one look out of the corner of my eye. The youth turned away and ignored Cittrite, as the orcling went back to his seat.
Keres spoke, “Well, puppies? Do you have a plan?”
“Puppies?” Dei asked.
“All three of you are younger than me by about eight years in human years. Therefore, you are all puppies to me.” Keres grinned.
“Keres…?” Cittrite started to ask.
“Yes?” Keres gave him his full attention.
“Why did you tell Athde that we weren’t ready for this? Aren’t you about to take it?”
Keres shook his head, “I’m not ready for it. This journey can take years to complete. As it is, there is a group of twenty students who still have not made it back and they left thirty years ago.”
I smiled, “Maybe we will meet them along the way.”
Keres hook his head, “Do not count on it. Even if we do meet some of that team, we can be sure that they have become immersed in the places they became lost in. Some might have found their true homes and decided to stay, some might have died and we would be lucky if some have not become vengeful for never completing their training.”
We sat there in a minute of silence for the lost ones. Dei pulled out his book of maps, “We need to plan where we are going to go and a safe place.”
I turned to Keres, “Can’t the academy become the safe place?”
He shook his head, “The Gate that we will be going through will be destroyed after we go through it. The only way back is from the Gate of Arcadia, that Athde has hidden somewhere.”
Cittrite spoke up, “How about the human realm?”
Keres shook his head again, “Each person can only pass through the Gate twice, once in, once out. If we used that once, we would be locked out of that area for the rest of the trial.”
“Is there a safe ground?”
He nodded, “There is one Gate that has unlimited access to it. It is the Gate to my people’s land, the Krov’Nodej Castle. Athde allowed it, since I was supposed to be going alone on my journey and because most would not even use it anyways.”
“Krov’Nodej Castle…” I memorized the words quickly, “Would we be welcomed there?”
Keres shrugged, “I would have to speak to the others first and convince the Queen that you belong to me. Once that’s established, then we would be free to use their Gate as a safe haven during the journey.”
Dei wrote it down in a notebook, “Then we will stop there first, and if at anytime after that, we become separated for too long, we will meet there.”
Cittrite looked thoughtful, “Actually, it would probably be best if we split into two teams.”
I shook my head, “No, we got into this together, we are going through it together. It will take longer, yes, but in the long run, I think it will help us. After Krov’Nodej Castle, we could head to either the Elfin lands or Orc lands, get those two out of the way.”
“Myst, there is a war going on in those lands. It would be best if we split up there, then meet at Krov’Nodej castle. Actually…” Dei looked directly at me, “We should split up completely during those times. We know where the safe haven is, and since we would be better received in our homelands, than in enemy lands. Cittrite can look in the Orc lands, you in the human realm, Keres at Krov’Nodej Castle and I can look in the Elf ones at the same time.”
Keres and Cittrite nodded, over throwing my vote, “Fine then.” I grumbled. “But when will we know when Krov’Nodej is safe, or if someone gets in trouble somewhere?”
Cittrite pulled four crystal balls from his pack, using a cloth to touch each one, “These. They can communicate through the different realms to do as needed. My grandmother made them because she foresaw a coming shadow to my life and knew that without them, I would die. They are unbreakable and once it becomes yours, nothing can take it away from you.” He handed them out and when the crystal touched my skin, it started to glow gray.
“Great idea!” I smiled to Cittrite, before my mind went to Michael’s schemes, “Protection… We need something that can’t be destroyed that will protect us.” When nobody had anything, my mind went to the silver music box. “I might have something that could help.” I pulled out the music box and opened it. I grabbed the three mirrors and handed one to each male. “It needs blood to become connected to your bodies, and when blood is spilled, the mirror will start healing the wounds, until someone else gets there. The mirrors will be connected to all of our power, creating a huge well of power to draw drops of healing energy from.”
“Where is yours?” Keres asked me.
I did not want to tell him there was only three and I would be unprotected, so I lied, “The box acts as my mirror.”
They were about to argue with me when Athde asked us, appearing over the table, “Are you all ready?”
I looked to the others, as we gathered our packs and nodded, “Yes, sir.”
We stood up and found ourselves in a large room full of Gates. Many were destroyed, only three still standing. We all stood at one of these Gates, listening to Athde. “You are trying to find all of the pages to this book.” He held out the empty book, no pages were held between the front and the back covers and the title was so worn, I could not make out a title.
Dei pushed me forward to take the book and once my hand touched it, I could feel the magic bind around me. The book vanished, but I could feel its presence close by… Not close by… I looked down and knew, “It’s inside of me…”
Athde nodded, “Yes, Valiente. This is not a task to be taken lightly. You have to pass through the Gate, your friends now have a choice, if they go with you through the Gate, then they become bound to the book. Myst, you are the Keeper of this Book and as long as you live during the trials, the Gates will open for you all. You die and the Gates close forever to any who follow you. Do you all understand?”
They all nodded, but I was starting to worry that maybe they would back away from the task ahead. Athde activated the Gate, “Just say the name of where you wish to go and it will take you there.”
“What’s the book about?”
“Light and Dark.” Athde was curt in his reply.
I took a deep breath, Ready for this?
Your letter! Mortalitas reminded me.
“Oh, yeah.” I pulled the letter from my pack, “Can you give this to father for me?”
“You will be seeing him yourself as part of your journey.”
“Please. I want to make sure that he knows everything.”
Athde grabbed it and nodded, “I will give it to him.”
With my last bit of business finished, I spoke, “Human Realm.” I took one last look at my comrades and walked through the Gate to start the trials.