Saturday, 12 August 2017

Chapter 3.06 - The Hunt

*Warning: Bad language*

Lyra stared at her reflection, critically inspecting the clothes she was wearing. It wasn’t her style at all, but she supposed it was pretty enough. There had been no skirts in the closet, and both the jeans and the tops were a bit more revealing than she preferred, but overall, it wasn’t too bad. It could’ve been a lot worse. At least she could still wear her preferred colours.
She smoothed her hands over the top, taking a deep breath. It was time to face the rest of her new housemates. She hadn’t ventured out of her room yet, too busy taking stock of her new belongings, and to be perfectly honest, she’d been trying to avoid meeting that ass again.
And of course thinking that sentence caused her mind to helpfully provide her with the images of his half-naked body. She paused irritably, leaning against the dresser and trying to force the images out of her mind. She’d admit, he had a damn good body, but that didn’t change the fact that he was big, arrogant, chauvinistic asshole. She’d gladly follow his command of staying as far away from him as possible, but that would mean she’d be obeying his orders. She couldn’t quite decide which option was worse.
The alarm clock on her bedside table beeped once, marking the new hour, simultaneously reminding her that time was passing, and no matter how tempting the thought of never leaving her room sounded, she couldn’t avoid the others forever. She exhaled irritably and smoothed the creases out of her clothes one last time before steeling herself and exiting the room.
Almost immediately, she encountered that ass (and Plumbbob, she needed to find something else to call him). He was sitting by the table, that little red monster perched in front of him, greedily taking little strips of raw meat from Blaise’s fingers. It was such an utterly surreal scene that Lyra paused, staring at them in bemusement.
The little red dragon chirped happily, greedily snatching a piece of meat from Blaise before it turned its eyes on her, staring balefully. It flared its wings and screeched at Lyra, clearly warning her to stay away. To her surprise, the action caused Blaise to chuckle fondly, one corner of his mouth pulled up with amusement. The action softened his features, and for the first time Lyra could see what he looked like without a scowl marring his face.
“She’s not here to steal your food, you greedy little bastard,” he mildly rebuked the dragon, still paying Lyra absolutely no attention. The dragon chirped innocently and turned back to Blaise, eagerly watching the next strip of meat in Blaise’s hand. It was gone in the time it took Lyra to blink. The dragon crooned with disappointment when it realised the plate in front of Blaise was empty, and that there was no more food available. With a dismissive flip of its tail it curled up in front of Blaise and promptly went to sleep. Blaise simply watched it with bored eyes, clearly used to its antics.
“Is that really a dragon?” Lyra asked, overcome by curiosity. She still couldn’t believe they were real. She immediately snapped her mouth closed after she asked the question, mentally kicking herself. She did not want to talk to him!
“No, it’s a bird,” Blaise retorted, rolling his eyes at her before fixing her a baleful glare. “Yes, he’s a dragon. Why are you bothering me?”
Lyra drew herself up, ready to give him a piece of her mind, but Sionann’s voice stopped her rant in its tracks.
“Blaise,” the fairy rebuked, a faint warning in her voice. “You promised.” The words seemed to mean something to him, as he sighed in defeat and rested his head in his hand, turning his face away from Lyra, clearly done paying her attention.
 “I see you’ve met,” Sionann addressed Lyra, giving her a smile. “Please excuse Blaise’s horrifically rude behaviour. He’s a bit of a grouch, but we still love him.”
Blaise huffed disbelievingly and pushed away from the table.
“That’s it, I’m out of here,” he declared with a growl. “I don’t have to listen to this shit.”

 “Good,” Sionann agreed sweetly. “I’ll see you at dinner then. Oh, and if you’re going to the base, would you mind bringing back some sugar? We’re running a bit low, and I hate tea without sugar.”
 “Whatever,” Blaise replied, flicking his hand in dismissal (or maybe it was acknowledgement? Lyra didn’t know him well enough to tell) before stalking across the room to leave the house. Seconds later he was gone, leaving only the two women and the fast-asleep dragon in the house.
Sionann simply shook her head, a fond smile on her face.
“Don’t let him get to you,” she told Lyra warmly, still staring at the door Blaise had disappeared through. “He acts terribly rude most of the time, and he needs some manners, but his heart’s in the right place. Blaise is one of the most dependable people I know. He’s like a brother to me and Adrian.” She clapped her hands together and turned her gaze back to Lyra. “Now. Have you settled in okay?”
“Ah, yes,” Lyra agreed, a little taken off-guard by the swift change of topic. “I guess.”
“Good!” Sionann enthused happily. “I’m so glad I’m not the only woman in this house anymore. I love A and B, but they’re out of the house so often, and when they’re back they only talk about the Hunt. I’ve been dying for some proper conversation.”
 “Uhm, yeah. Right,” Lyra agreed hesitantly, suddenly reminded of the first time she had heard that term. She never had gotten clarification on that. “Mind explaining what exactly the Hunt is? Everybody’s been mentioning it and I have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.”
“Oh! Right,” Sionann exclaimed, sheepish. “I keep forgetting you don’t know this stuff. Right. The Hunt. Well.” She turned to the kitchen, turning on the beverage-maker for some hot water. Making another drink of tea, then. Lyra had never seen anybody drink as much tea as this woman did.
“So, you know this is a Gateway World, right?” Sionann asked patiently, hands busy with the predicted tea-making. She tipped what must’ve been half a bowl of sugar into the tea cup.
 “So I’ve heard,” Lyra agreed non-committedly, leaning against the counter, “but I have no idea what that means. The person who mentioned it didn’t exactly elaborate.”
Sionann idly tapped her chin in thought.
“Hmm, alright,” she murmured, probably trying to get her thoughts in order. “Basically, Gateway Worlds are the first line of defence against the Wilds.”
Right. More fairy tales that aren’t.
“You know how the Rifts can be opened at Full Moon, and connect to the different worlds?” Sionann asked before shaking her head. “What am I saying, of course you know. Thing is, there are some people and creatures out there in the multi-verse that…well, I guess it’s simplest to say they’re addicted to the forces of the Balance. When Full Moon occurs, they open the Rifts, and go travelling through the multi-verse in search of worlds rich in the forces they’re addicted to.”
She dropped some dried leaves in a teapot and promptly filled it with boiling water. A faint smell of mint-leaves drifted from the pot as the water began to rehydrate the dried leaves.
“Their very presence in those worlds causes the Balance to distort. On top of that, they will very often go on a killing spree once they arrive in the other worlds, killing every being they encounter. So, to protect the other worlds, and the creatures in those worlds, the Keeper set up the Gateway Worlds. Oh, would you like something to drink?”
“No thanks,” Lyra rejecting the offer for a drink. “What exactly is the deal with the Keeper anyway? Is it – he, she, whatever – actually real?”
“Oh, very real, yes,” Sionann confirmed, turning back to Lyra as she left the leaves to steep in the water. “I’ve never met him myself, but I know Lady Alison is quite close to him. The Keeper…nobody really knows where he came from, or even what he really is, but he’s pretty important to the multi-verse. As far as I understand, he is very…close, to the Balance. Everything he is, apparently his very existence, is somehow tied to the Balance. He comes and goes in the different worlds as he pleases, but there is one thing and one thing only he does – protecting the Balance.”
She looked into her teapot, judging the strength of the brew before putting the lid back on, the action causing the minty smell of wet leaves to drift towards Lyra, before continuing.
“I know he’s always searching for disruptions and Anomalies, and once he finds them, he either deals with them himself, or he leaves it to his agents. But despite his absolutely immense power and ability, even he cannot be everywhere at once, so when he first noticed the problem of the Wilds – the creatures I mentioned, the ones that travel the worlds on Full Moon – he set up the Gateway Worlds, and he left his agents in charge of them.”
She rummaged through the drawers in front of her, pulling out her trusty tea strainer and promptly placing it on top of her cup. The freshly-brewed tea from the teapot quickly followed through the strainer, filling Sionann’s cup with the aromatic brew.
 “The Gateway Worlds work by forcing any creature that travels the multi-verse to cross into them, and then sealing the Rift behind them so they cannot go back to the world they left. It also prevents other creatures from entering or exiting through that Rift, so in effect I suppose the Gateway Worlds control the spread of Wilds. Once a Wild has entered a Gateway World it will be trapped until the next Full Moon, which will give the Keeper’s agents time to deal with them.”
She took a tentative sip of her tea, and then a bigger one when she was satisfied with the quality and temperature of the tea.
“Deal with them? How?” Lyra asked curiously, a dreadful suspicion forming in her mind. ‘The Hunt’…the name started to make a bit more sense, but it didn’t lead to a very good conclusion.
Sionann glanced up from her tea, and there was a dark shadow in her eyes.
“We hunt them,” she confirmed callously. “We capture them, question them, and let them be judged. If they pass, we do everything in our power to either return them to where they came from, or make life comfortable for them in their new lives. If they don’t pass…well.”
She didn’t complete the sentence, so Lyra did it for her.
“You kill them?” she asked bluntly, a little horrified by the idea.
“Yes.” Sionann’s voice was rock-hard, and her eyes glittered with ice. “We kill them.” She placed her cup back on the counter with a loud clank and fixed Lyra with a hard stare. “Do not feel pity or compassion for these creatures, for they deserve neither. They are cruel, vicious, and evil, and they take an absolute delight in the suffering of others.”
“That’s horrific,” Lyra immediately retorted, horrified that she was sharing a house with killers, murderers. “Just like that, you kill them? No second chances, no option to get help, nothing?”
“They are not poor, helpless victims, caught in an addiction they can find help for, Lyra,” Sionann declared firmly. “Given the chance, they would happily destroy every single thing, kill every living being, all in pursuit of their twisted desires. I will repeat: they do not deserve pity. There is only one cure for them, and we give it to them.” She closed her eyes and exhaled, and the hard tension left her body. “That is the Hunt.”
Lyra crossed her arms, scowling at Sionann.
“And everybody on this island participate in this fucked up activity?” she interrogated the fairy.
 “I see there is no reasoning with you,” Sionann sighed and picked up her tea again. “You do not understand the horror of these creatures. You haven’t experienced their twisted maliciousness. I pray you never will, but this is a Gateway World, so chances are you will.”
She lowered her cup and stared silently at her tea, the corners of her eyes pulling with sadness. 
“I have lost many, many friends to the Wilds,” she admitted softly. “We all have. But we stay here, and we will remain here, because without us, the destruction the Wilds would incur is much, much bigger than anything you can imagine. Innocent worlds, worlds without an inkling of what true violence looks like, worlds like the one you came from, they will fall completely against these creatures, because they do not know how to fight against them. If by staying here, and killing the Wilds, we can save even one world, it is cause enough.”
Her earnest words caused Lyra to fall silent. The thought of creatures like the ones Sionann had described invading Sunset Valley filled her with dread. If the creatures – the Wilds – were really as vicious and malicious as Sionann claimed…Plumbbob. Nobody back home would stand a chance against them.
“Maybe I just don’t know enough to judge,” she admitted. It was as much apology as Sionann would get.
Sionann picked her tea back up. “Indeed,” she agreed mildly, sipping at her tea and closing her eyes in pleasure. “The Wilds and the Hunt is a complex topic, and it’s not one that can be explained in some simple sentences. It has to be experienced to be understood. Please, do not go looking into it any further, and do not question it. It is the way things are, out of necessity.”
Lyra inclined her head just slightly, wordlessly agreeing to Sionann’s request. She still didn’t agree completely, but it wasn’t worth it to get into an argument about it. She really didn’t know enough.
“So, you’re all ‘agents’ of the Keeper?” she asked instead, trying to change the topic. Sionann smiled at her, clearly appreciating the gesture.
 “No, not quite,” she denied, a little sheepish. “Lady Alison is, and I suppose Lord Leneo as well, but the rest of us…we follow them. So maybe we are, indirectly.” She tapped her chin again in thought. “The structure is a bit complex. The Keeper converses with Lady Alison, and gives her his orders, and she ensures they get followed. If the orders have something to do with the Hunt, or the Wilds, they belong under Lord Leneo’s jurisdiction, while if the orders have something to do with the Balance, or the multi-verse in general, Lady Alison acts on it. We’re the ones who actively carry out the orders, so I guess we too, are the Keeper’s agents – just not as directly as our leaders.”
“Right,” Lyra muttered blankly. It was so weird. Two days ago, the Keeper and the Wilds and dragons and all those supernatural kinds of things belonged firmly in the realm of stories. Now it was reality, and she was talking to someone who publicly claimed to be the agent of a surreal being, and nobody would look at her twice for doing so. It was so surreal.
The door to the house opened, causing both Lyra and Sionann to instinctively turn to the newcomer. Lyra didn’t recognise him, but Sionann clearly did, for she bounded up to him and threw her arms around his neck.
“Adrian!” she exclaimed happily, her entire face lighting up with delight. “You’re home!” The newly-identified Adrian smiled back at her, his arms encircling her waist.
“I am,” he agreed, his voice warm and just as happy as Sionann’s. Lyra tilted her head, bemusedly studying her new housemate, the only one she hadn’t met with yet. For some reason, she’d thought he’d be a fairy, like Sionann, but he most definitely wasn’t. He looked just as normal as she and Blaise did.
“What took you so long?” Sionann pouted at him, her wings fluttering happily behind her. Adrian smiled at her like a sap, and for what felt like way-too-long, they made lovey-faces at each other. It was nausea-inducingly sweet, and Lyra mentally pulled a face at the scene. She had never acted like that with Edwin.
Adrian chuckled at Sionann’s question and gently disengaged himself from her arms. Her hands slipped from his shoulders and down his chest, and even Lyra didn’t miss the wince on his face as Sionann’s hands grazed his skin.
Sionann’s attitude did an abrupt one-eighty.
“Strip,” she ordered with a no-nonsense voice. Adrian stiffened guiltily, a slight frown appearing on his face.
“Sionann,” he protested, but the fairy was resolute.
“Don’t try to wriggle out of this, Adrian,” she ordered briskly. “Strip.”
“It’s just a scratch, Sionann,” Adrian protested feebly. “It’s already been treated. I’m fine.”
The words didn’t seem to reassure the fairy. If anything, it caused her posture to stiffen even more. Adrian seemed to recognise the warning signs, as he sighed in defeat and took off his shirt.
Lyra gripped the edge of the counter. His entire chest was wrapped in bandages. A mere scratch wouldn’t warrant that.
Sionann’s slender fingers hovered over the bandages, threatening to unveil the carefully covered injury.
“Keeper, Adrian,” she breathed, her voice hitching in concern. “What happened?” The raw concern in her voice felt so intimate, so private, that Lyra felt like she was intruding in a moment she wasn’t supposed to witness.
“Got careless,” Adrian confessed, his voice dropping to a low murmur that Lyra could only just make out. “Werewolf gouged me just as I brought it down.”
Lyra felt her breath hitch as sudden realisation burst into her mind. The Hunt. He was talking about killing someone. A shiver of fear ran down her spine.
 “It’s been cleaned?” Sionann asked concernedly. “No infection?”
“It’s a scratch, not a bite,” Adrian interjected easily, “so no infection. Lady Alison checked it over herself. I’m fine.”
Sionann sighed in relief and cupped Adrian’s cheek with her hand.
“Don’t scare me like that,” she pleaded emotionally, her voice a soft murmur.
“Sorry,” Adrian apologised earnestly, and Lyra was very tempted to scuffle her feet, or clear her throat, anything to remind them they were not alone. Did they have to be so damn intimate?
It didn’t turn out to be necessary, as Adrian put his shirt back on and looked in her direction, noticing her standing awkwardly by the counter. His eyebrows lifted in surprise, but the expression was quickly replaced by a welcoming smile.
“Hi there!” he greeted her rather enthusiastically. “You must be Lyra, our new housemate.”
Lyra inclined her head. “I am,” she agreed neutrally. He seemed nice enough, but then again, Lyra hadn’t had the best experience with the males on this damn island.
“Welcome to our house,” he welcomed her earnestly, his voice warm. “You came from the Sunset Valley world, right? What’s it like there?”
“Boring,” she declared flatly, and there was something in Adrian’s eyes that caused her to change her answer with a sigh, if only slightly. “It’s very quiet, and nothing ever seems to change. People live, love, have kids, grow old, and die at a ripe old age, following the same path their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents did. It’s…peaceful, I suppose.”
And she was suddenly stuck with an absolutely immense pang of homesickness. For all its faults, Sunset Valley was her home. It was the place she had lived, laughed and loved, and it was the place she had cried, grieved and hoped. It was the place she had been loved, and it was the place she had grown up, and despite all the bad things that had happened, her memories were filled with hours of laughter and fun and camaraderie. Life had seemed so sucky in Sunset Valley, but now… now she missed it with a tangible pain in her heart.
 “Sounds like a great place,” Adrian replied, and there was a deep, deep sadness in his eyes and voice, but a very content smile on his face. It was absolutely contradictory, and Lyra didn’t feel even close to comfortable enough to ask about it.
“It is,” she admitted softly, both to him and herself. “When the sun sets, the town is bathed in a soft pink light, turning the sea purple…”
She ended up talking for a long, long time, telling the couple about life in Sunset Valley. She told them about the sunsets, the scenery, the stars, the way the snow blanketed the valley in the winter, and the way her house had been protected from the weather by the mountains surrounding it. She talked about the exhilaration of windsurfing in summer, the cosiness of campfires in autumn, the excitement of the brisk cold of winter that coloured cheeks and caused the entire world to sparkle, and about lazy picnics in autumn. It was an absolute relief to talk about it, but at the same time her heart was crying in bittersweet sorrow deep, deep inside her chest. She missed Sunset Valley so much.
Sionann left sometime during the talking, muttering about tending to her garden, but Adrian stayed the entire time, listening attentively to her rambling, that same contented sadness on his face and in his eyes.
It was only when she started to run out of words, having told him everything about life in Sunset Valley short from the stuff that had happened with her family, that he finally took a turn at the conversation himself.
“You and I are more alike than you think,” he told her gently. “I, too, am an Anomaly. I was born in the Monte Vista world, which, like Sunset Valley, is an Energetic world. Would you like to hear about it?”
And hell, there was no way Lyra could refuse. Despite all the claims otherwise, no one else had truly understood what it meant to be ripped away from your world without choice, but here was someone who did. Her heart yearned for his story, to understand how it could be possible to move on from that utter homesickness, as Adrian clearly had.
They talked until late, late in the night, and when they finally retreated to bed, Lyra felt closer to Adrian than she had ever felt to anybody aside from her family and Edwin back home. She had been in this world only one day, but things were already starting to look up again.
Time had a funny habit of disappearing on you when you didn’t pay attention.
Lyra stared over the yard, idly watching the rain fall on Sionann’s painstakingly cared-for garden. It had rained almost unendingly the whole time she’d been on Howell Island, something not unusual for the autumn season currently reigning over the island, Sionann had assured her.
It had already been over six months since she’d arrived in this world.
It had been difficult to adjust, in the beginning. The house was a lot quieter than Lyra had been used to. Back home, there had always been some noise. The waterfall drumming into the lake beside their house had been a constant din she had long learned to push to the back on her mind. It had been a sign of home, the same way the fact that there had always been some music had been, whether it was from the radio, an instrument, or more commonly, a combination of the two.
Now though…now all of that was gone.
Instead, there was the never-ending pitter-patter of raindrops hitting the roof, and the occasional hum as the wind blew Sionann’s singing voice towards the house.
She took a sip from her coffee, rolling the liquid on her tongue and savouring the taste of the rich Maui bean grind. Sionann grew more than just tea in her garden, and Lyra had to admit, the specially grown coffee beans had spoiled her for any other coffee out there.
It had been difficult to adjust, but she had, and while life wasn’t exactly great, she wouldn’t say it was horrible either. It just was. If pressed, Lyra would have to admit she had very little to complain about.
The biggest complaint she had, was that she couldn’t leave the house or yard without an escort. ‘For your own safety,’ Sionann and Adrian had claimed.
 “You have to understand, Lyra,” Adrian had tried to explain, “that this is a Gateway World. Wilds roam this island, and you don’t have the skills or the training to deal with them. If one of them should find you, you would be absolutely defenceless against them. Please, this is for your own safety.”
The words had irked her immensely, but in the end, she hadn’t protested. It had reminded her of that night, where Renard had ignored their dad’s orders to stay inside, and had promptly ended up in a situation none of them had been equipped to deal with. The price paid had been so very high, and she would hate for it to happen again. She’d lost enough.
A sudden cacophony in the garden drew her out of her morose thoughts. Chickens scattered every which way, clucking loudly and wildly flapping their wings as they ran from their coop as fast as they could. A little red head popped out the door, looking far more satisfied than the little beast should.
Lyra winced, and mentally prepared herself for the shriek that would follow. Sure enough…
Blaise!” Sionann’s voice reverberated. “Get your Keeper-damned dragon out of my coop!” The fairy was naturally soft-spoken and gentle, but when something managed to invoke her ire…
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” a voice sounded right behind Lyra, startling her. She spun around, nearly flinging her coffee at him, and pressed into the wall, trying to get as far away from Blaise as possible. Plumbob, she hated him. Living and sharing a house with him had not changed her mind, and she was pretty sure he thought the same about her. She wanted absolutely nothing to do with him.
He whistled sharply, the sound tearing through her eardrums with its shrillness, and the satisfied little monster strutted out of the coop and flew to Blaise without a single sign of guilt or regret. Any curiosity Lyra might’ve once held over the little pest was long gone. The dragon was a menace.
And keep him under control!” Sionann ordered from the garden. Blaise merely rolled his eyes and walked away, ignoring Lyra as flatly as he always did.
Arrogant ass.
He didn’t get very far before another dragon burst into the room, appearing out of nothingness. At the sight of the familiar dragon, both Blaise and Adrian froze, their bodies tensing up. The entire atmosphere in the house changed, going from a lazy peacefulness to a tense anticipation.
“Keeper,” Adrian breathed in fearful concern, staring at the death dragon with wide, fearful eyes.
A/N: I think I’ve managed to confuse myself with all this lore. -_- I’ve written and rewritten it in so many different versions that I don’t even know what I’ve explained and what I haven’t explained yet. Sorry for the absolute overload of information in the last couple of chapters, but this should be the last of it, and now hopefully the story will make more sense!
I did consider dressing Lyra in some different colours (because it’s just way too convenient that she’ll find her fav colours in the closet), but she just wouldn’t be Lyra without her hot pink, so I gave in and gave her pink.
Also, dragons. Because, dragons! They’re way too fun to play around with. They’re pretty boring and limited in-game, but their story-telling possibilities are just too delicious to ignore. (Plus they still animate when you place them on OMSP, and that is just too adorable to bypass XD.) I’ll admit, I’m basing them a little off Anne McCaffrey’s fire lizards (pretty much just the teleportation and semi-telepathic abilities), but only because I want one so bad, and the dragons from Dragon Valley are the right size. So, you’ll get dragons this generation. :)

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Chapter 3.05 - Anomaly

*Warning: This blog contains bad language and a little bit of nudity (nothing explicit). If any of this upsets you, don't continue.* I have issues with the normal adult content warning, so I'm trying to sort that out. :)

 Alison had poured herself another cup of tea, and the silver spoon clinked against the fine porcelain as she stirred the aromatic fluid, dissolving the little sugar crystals hidden within. Lyra wrapped her hands around her own mug of rich strong coffee, grateful for the thoughtful gesture. She’d definitely need the caffeine if she was to listen to old bedtime stories and accept them as truth.
 “Before we begin,” Alison started mildly, her eyes focused on the swirling liquid inside her cup, “there are a couple of things that need to be established. The main thing: everything I am about to tell you, is the absolute truth. No matter how unlikely something sounds, or how unreal it seems, or how unlike it is from the stories you’ve heard, everything is true. You will get no twisting of facts from me, and I will not sugar-coat anything either. Everything you hear from me, is the absolute, unaltered truth. You are, of course, free to ask questions, but I would prefer it if you allow me to finish, before you do so.” She picked her cup up, and smiled invitingly at Lyra. “Now then, let’s start.
 “The first thing you need to be aware of – and you probably already are – is that there are an infinite number of different worlds out there. What you might not know, is that all of these different worlds, every single one of them, are the same physical world.”
Lyra blinked in confusion. That didn’t make sense at all. Alison seemed to realise this, as she held up a hand to halt Lyra’s question before she even had the chance to ask it.
“Rather than call them different worlds, it is more accurate to call them different versions of the same world, or in more common terms, different dimensions. They all started out exactly the same, but due to different histories they evolved differently, thus presenting us with the worlds we have today. This collection of different worlds, different dimensions, I will refer to as the ‘multi-verse’.
 “The next thing you need to be aware of is quite complex, and for that I will need to go back a step further. Tell me: have you ever heard the terms ‘Magic’ and ‘Energy’ before?”
Lyra frowned at the question, idly sipping at her coffee.
“Magic and energy?” she repeated hesitantly. “I’ve heard of both, obviously. But…I get the feeling you’re not referring to the conventional definition of the words.”
Alison smiled into her cup, as if the very idea that she was referring to a definition was greatly amusing her.
“Of course not,” she agreed. “I am referring to the forces. The Magical and Energetic forces which determines what kind of life a world sustains; the forces which makes out the very essence of the Balance.”
Mutely, Lyra shook her head. In all of the stories she had heard, there had never been any mention of forces.
 “Very well,” Alison replied. “I will explain. In the multi-verse, there are two different forces – Magic, and Energy. As I mentioned, these forces determine what kind of life a certain world sustains. The world you came from, a world we refer to as the Sunset Valley world, is an Energetic world. That means that only the Energy force is present in significant amounts. All life in the Sunset Valley world are of the non-magical kind – nothing and nobody is capable of the supernatural, of magic. This is true for all Energetic worlds. On the upside, Energetic people have better control over their minds. They are capable of more complex thought, so those worlds are scientifically and technologically much, much more advanced.”
“Hold up,” Lyra interrupted Alison’s explanation. “That can’t be true. My mom can touch ghosts, and my Aunt Mia developed a potion that can turn you into one for three hours. How is that not supernatural?”
 “And that, child,” Alison replied with mournful eyes, “is where everything went wrong.”
The reply was not something Lyra had expected. “What do you mean?” she asked, confused.
“If you’ll let me continue…” Alison reprimanded lightly, slightly tilting her teacup to the side. Lyra waved the woman ahead, rebuked by the mild reprimand.
“What I just explained was the Energy force. The other force is, of course, Magic. It works on a similar principle: on a Magical world – that is, a world that’s mostly surrounded by the Magic force – all life are of the magical kind. Everyone and everything is capable of the supernatural or magic in some manner. It is also on Magical worlds where you will find creatures such as unicorns, or dragons, like the ones our dragoneers command.
 “It is absolutely vital you understand that these forces cannot mix. Life in the multi-verse is very fragile, and the creatures that live here cannot cope with an incompatible force. If they are exposed to the wrong force for a prolonged period of time, they will fall into a downward spiral, losing their emotions and eventually, their minds, making them mere shades of existence, incapable of forming thought. This process is known as ‘Falling into Damnation’.”
Lyra frowned. Again, that was different from the stories she had grown up with.
 “It’s similar to the stories I know,” she admitted, “but I thought Damnation is something that only affects ghosts. When they linger too long, they lose themselves, and they become Damned.”
Alison’s lips tugged into an easy smile. “That is true,” she agreed, “but it is not the whole truth. Ghosts – who at the very moment of their deaths, become magical – cannot cope with Energy, so if they linger on an Energetic world, they will start to Fall. On the other hand, if a ghost lingers on a Magical world, they will not Fall. They will be compatible with that world’s force, so they will be free to linger as long as they wish. Damnation most definitely is not something that is limited to ghosts. The proof of that, my dear child, lies in you.”
 “What the hell do you mean by that?” Lyra asked defensively, a massive scowl on her face. It didn’t make sense. They were talking about ghosts and different worlds, so how exactly did she suddenly fall into the picture?
“Peace, child,” Alison deflected easily. “All will be explained. So, do you understand the link between Energy, Magic, and Damnation?”
At Lyra’s terse nod, she continued. “This link, this ratio, this delicate balance of forces surrounding a world and its creatures, is known as the Balance. Nothing more, nothing less. But since every single life in the multi-verse depends on these forces, you can understand why it is so vital that the ratio – the Balance – does not get disrupted. Are you still with me?”
At that, Lyra nodded slowly. “I think so, yes,” she agreed hesitantly, still trying to wrap her mind around the concepts.
 “Good,” Alison praised, an enigmatic smile on her face, “because this is where it becomes complicated. When the Balance gets distorted, things go wrong. The Balance is auto-corrective, which means that if everything is as it should be, every world will deal with small changes to the Balance on its own, and no intervention is required to protect a world’s life.
 “But sometimes, something happens in a world that causes its Balance to get out of sync. Over time, the distortion will increase, and eventually the Balance will be completely disrupted, causing the creatures of that world to start the Fall. To make it even worse, in worlds where the Balance is in serious danger, there are people or creatures who are born to a world they do not belong to. Magical creatures, born to an Energetic world, or Energetic creatures born to a Magical world. It goes against the laws of nature, and it is never supposed to happen. It is one of the biggest signs that intervention is required in a world. These creatures, we refer to, as Anomalies.”
Silence fell around them as Alison gave Lyra a chance to process her words. She felt numb, a little overwhelmed by the knowledge she had learned. The same words that had echoed through her mind the previous night reverberated now, repeating over and over.
Anomaly. Not Right. Balance cannot be kept.
Leneo had called her an Anomaly.
A Magical creature born to an Energetic world.
Lyra shook her head, desperately trying to deny it.
“That can’t be right,” she denied vehemently. “No. No way. Why would I be an Anomaly? What makes me so different from all the other people in my world? If someone was to be an Anomaly, wouldn’t that be my mother? She’s the one who’s always going on about magic.”
 “Your mother is Magic-touched, yes,” Alison agreed, “but in essence she remains purely Energetic. The amount of Magic that has touched her is far too minute to affect the essence of her being. You, on the other hand, are the opposite. You have been born to Magic, with only a minute amount of Energy affecting you.”
“That’s bullshit,” Lyra disagreed angrily. “How the hell would it be possible for me to be ‘born to Magic’? I wasn’t even born on Full Moon.”
“No, you weren’t,” Alison agreed, “but you are the result of a combination of factors. One,” she raised a finger, “your mother is Magic-touched. It means that from the very beginning, you were never going to be born completely Energetic. The same, of course, applies to your siblings.”
The words caused a chill to run down Lyra’s back, and she felt herself blanch. She had never even considered the fact that Arienne or Renard might’ve been affected as well.
“Are you saying my siblings are Anomalies too?” she asked softly, her voice filled with dread. To her utmost relief, Alison shook her head.
“No, they’re not,” she confirmed. “They are Energetic – barely – but Energetic nevertheless. But your idea was right: they could’ve been Anomalies. The second factor,” she continued, raising a second finger, “lies in that very potion you mentioned earlier, the one your Aunt Mia created, and the fact that it was used on your father. That potion, dear child, was the very reason the Balance in Sunset Valley started to deteriorate.”
Lyra’s mouth was completely dry, and she tried her best to swallow the lump in her throat. Her coffee sat forgotten, cold from being ignored for so long.
“How?” she whispered, forcing the words around the lump in her throat. How could something so innocent as a simple potion have an effect that was so big?
Alison sighed, the slight smile still on her face as she fiddled around with the fresh pot of tea Sionann, who had so far simply been listening patiently, placed on the table.
 “The core concept of the potion is flawed,” Alison admitted, daintily holding the lid of the teapot close as she poured herself another cup. “It doesn’t really turn the user into a ghost for a short time. It simply mimics the effect, by enveloping the user in a field of Magic. It tricks the brain, making it believe that it can recognise Magic, which it cannot do. The maintain the ‘trick’, Magic is needed, so the potion causes Magic to be constantly drawn to the user. This causes the Balance to distort, as it cannot get rid of the excess Magic. The potion causes that Magic to be trapped around the user.
“So why would the fact that it was used on your father, have an influence on you being an Anomaly?” Alison asked. “Do you think you can answer this, considering what I’ve told you so far?”
Lyra frowned, deep in thought, idly playing with her mug of cold coffee.
“I suppose…if my mom is ‘Magic-touched’, and the potion caused Magic to be drawn to my dad, that would mean…” Her eyes widened as things started to fall into place, especially as she considered what Alison had said about her siblings, “…that we, as their children, would be affected by the Magic as well? Is that right?”
A satisfied smile played on Alison’s lips. “Yes. Exactly. The difference being, that while your mother got touched by the Magic at birth, you and your siblings were touched before birth. ‘Magical creatures born to an Energetic world’. Now the third factor,” Alison continued, raising a third finger, “and the thing that distinguishes you from your siblings, was the fact that you were born at home, and your siblings not. At the time of their births, they had not been exposed to any additional Magic, while you, being born in a house build right next to the Rift, was bathed in it. You, were born Magical.”
Lyra stared mutely at Alison with wide eyes, completely overwhelmed by the things she had learned.
“The Rift?” she asked, a bit confused. “The one Charlotte apparently opened last night? That thing that brought us here? Why would that have an influence? Isn’t the Rift closed normally?”
Alison inclined her head. “Indeed,” she agreed. “But Charlotte has been opening that Rift for many, many Full Moons. Consider that with the fact that for a very long time, the house you lived in was inhabited by Magical creatures – ghosts – and then, by your family. Your family, which we have already established have a unique link with Magic. Magic has been drawn to that house for many, many years, and when your family moved in, it couldn’t escape the effects of the potion. It continued to build up and linger around the house. Have you never wondered by people tended to avoid your house?”
Lyra shook her head. She hadn’t. She’d only been glad that people avoided their house, especially after her dad had died.
She wrapped her hands around the warm coffee mug in front of her, freshly replenished by Sionann. The things Alison had said…she desperately wanted to ignore it, deny it, but deep within herself, she knew she couldn’t. Everything Alison had told her, was the truth.
Anomaly. It felt utterly unreal. She finally understood though, why she had never felt like she belonged in Sunset Valley, and that no matter how far and how long she looked, she would never have found anywhere she felt at home. It was daunting, to think that if she hadn’t followed Charlotte last night, she would never have found out, and she would have been doomed to live a drifting life, never belonging anywhere. What a horrible thought.
 “So what,” she asked hesitantly, “will this mean for me? I get that I can’t go home, that I will never belong there, but…” She looked down, unable to form her thoughts into words. Plumbob. She was never going to see her family again. She was never going to see the bonds in her family repaired, and she was never going to see Renard be a dad, and…and…
A soft touch on her hands drew her out of her thoughts, and she stared at Alison with tears in her eyes.
 “I know this is a lot to take in,” Alison remarked softly and gently, “but you are not alone. There have been others in the same situation as you, and all of them have found the place they belonged. The future probably feels very bleak to you right now, but that will change. In five years, you’ll get the chance to move to a different world, a Magical one. Until then, you are welcome here, and I’m sure you’ll be surprised by the amount of support you’ll find here.” She smiled, her eyes warm, but Lyra wasn’t exactly warmed by her sentiments.
“That doesn’t help me much,” she pointed out thickly, trying her best not to cry. She had lost everything. Her family, her home, her money, her photos, her camera, every single thing she had ever possessed. Everything. She had no way to get home, and she’d have to find a new way to get money to survive, as she was quite aware that her photography wasn’t going to cut it. The only reason she had been able to make do with it previously was because she had had the massive inheritance her dad had left her when he died. Now she was stuck in a strange land where there were dragons and fairies and fucking magic. How, exactly, was she supposed to be comforted by that?
 “You basically just told me that I have lost everything,” she continued bitterly. “I have nothing. Do you really think I care about something as vague as support at this stage? The only people I have ever cared for are as good as dead to me, and I to them. I care about their support, but hey, what do you know? That’s lost to me now.”
She jerked her gaze away, breaking eye-contact and trying her best to blink away the hot tears pooling in her eyes.
“Perhaps,” Alison agreed not-unkindly, “but nevertheless, life will go on. You can either try to make the best of your circumstances, or sit in a corner and sulk about things you cannot change. We will provide you with everything to make the transition as smooth as possible, but in the end, the choice is yours, child.” She stood up from the table, her every movement graceful. “However, for now, I must bid you farewell. Sionann will take it from here,” she excused herself, leaving Lyra to sit awkwardly with the fairy who had so far not exchanged a single word. She was very tempted to just stand up and leave, but she had nowhere to go. She was all alone; a stranger in a strange land.
 “As Lady Alison has mentioned, I am Sionann,” the fairy reintroduced herself, pulling Lyra away from her brooding. She was very soft-spoken, her voice as pure and sweet as an angel’s. Lyra almost pulled a face at the sound. Plumbob, it was annoying. Soft, gentle, dainty, pretty…nobody should be so perfect. She would be the perfect trophy wife, Lyra was sure. She probably had a husband who was rich and successful and handsome and all those bunch of lovely clichés. It made Lyra sick to just think about it. It didn’t help much that her mind traitorously provided her with an image of Edwin and Sionann standing lovingly by each other, staring adoringly in the other’s eyes.
Here was the wife Edwin should’ve had.
Completely oblivious to her thoughts, the perfect fairy continued talking.
 “Here on Howell Island, all of us serve a specific purpose,” she explained, drawing Lyra out of her unkind thoughts. “We have a duty to protect the multi-verse and the rest of this world from those who would harm it. We have a role to play not only to this world, but also to our community. I provide our community with fresh fruits and vegetables, and otherwise I serve as a Healer.”
“Right,” Lyra agreed flatly, already bored by the conversation. She was so over it. She wanted a shower. She wanted clean clothes. She wanted to get rid of the grime she could still feel on her hands and knees from where that arrogant ass had pushed her into the ground the previous night. She wanted to go home. She wanted clean teeth, but guess what? She couldn’t get any of it. She didn’t even have a goddamn toothbrush!
She was so, completely, and utterly, over it. But Sionann simply blabbered on, either oblivious to Lyra’s disinterest or simply just not caring. Whatever it was, Lyra just hoped she would get to the point.
“Due to the very nature of this island, we have a lot of people coming and going,” Sionann continued. “Those of us who prefer to serve a greater good stay longer, and we try our best to provide those who are stranded with a safe haven. To that end, I would like to offer you a place in my home.”
“I…what?” Lyra blinked at Sionann, completely blindsided by the offer. “Seriously, what? You want to offer me a place in your home? Why?” She had not expected that. To be honest, she didn’t know what she’d been expecting, but it hadn’t been that. She suddenly felt horrible. Here she was, thinking unfavourable thoughts about the woman who had just offered her a place to stay. How low could she get?
“Well, you can’t very well stay here in the base, can you?” Sionann pointed out pragmatically. “The facilities are very limited, and I’m sure you’ll be far more comfortable in a normal house. You’re not here entirely by choice, and we have room in our house, so the least I could do is offer you that room. If not me, someone else would’ve offered you a place in their home. It is simply the way we do things here.”
Lyra ducked her head, trying to hide the tears that formed in her eyes from Sionann, overcome by the sudden gratitude that filled her up. It might not be home, but at least now, she had somewhere to go. Now, she could move on with her life. It was entirely unexpected, and definitely not the way she wanted things to go, but she couldn’t change the past. The only thing she could do was to make the best of it. It was like Alison had said. Sitting in a corner and sulking wasn’t going to change things.
“In that case, I will gladly accept,” she gratefully accepted Sionann’s offer.
The house Sionann took her to was a charming wood-and-stone cottage, nothing like what she’d been expecting. The grey light from the stormy sky above slightly dulled the golden stone, but the bright colours from inside were warm and very welcoming.
 “Welcome to our humble abode,” Sionann welcomed her, twisting the keys in the lock and opening the door for Lyra, graciously inviting her inside. “It’s not much, but it’s home. I hope you’ll enjoy it here.” She flicked on the switch, flooding the room with a bright light that drowned out the dismal light from outside.
“We only have a couple of house rules,” Sionann continued with a wave of her hand, placing her keys on the end table and kicking off her shoes. “Really, it’s just basic stuff. Keep everything tidy, clean up after yourself, respect each other’s space and privacy, you know, basic stuff. Keep your bathroom clean. We take turns to cook and do dishes, laundry is done on Fridays, if something breaks let A or B know…uhm. If we run out of something, let me know...and…yep. I think that’s it. Any questions?”
“A or B?” Lyra repeated sceptically. That could not be their real names.
 “Oh!” Sionann exclaimed, her expression sheepish. “I’m sorry. Adrian or Blaise. My boyfriend and his best friend respectively, you should meet them later today. We used to have another girl – Agneis – but she moved back to the mainland a coupl’a months ago, which is why we have room available. The rooms aren’t terribly big, I’m afraid, but we spend most of our time out here anyway, so I hope it won’t be a problem.”
“Of course not,” Lyra agreed mildly. It didn’t really matter how big the rooms were. It wasn’t like she was going to turn around and go ‘Fuck this. This room is way too small.’ She needed somewhere to stay. As long as she didn’t have to share a room, she didn’t really care about the size. It wasn’t like she had a ton of stuff to put somewhere. No, that was still in Sunset Valley.
“Good!” Sionann exclaimed happily. “So, directions. This is the communal space…”
 “…kitchen is over there…”
 “…my garden is out of that door – which, by the way, I’ll expect you to help me with.”
“At the end of the corridor is my and Adrian’s room, Blaise’s is the one at the start and yours is…” She led Lyra through the house, pointing out the different rooms before pausing in front of a door.
“…this one.”
She opened the door, revealing an admittedly rather small room. It was smaller than the room Lyra had had back home, but it held all of the essentials, so it would have to do.
Sionann turned around and pointed at the door right opposite Lyra’s new room.
“This is your bathroom,” she explained. “You have to share it with Blaise, unfortunately, so you’ll have to discuss details with him. Other than that there’s not much to show.” She gave Lyra a satisfied little smile before clicking her fingers.
“Oh, right,” she suddenly remembered. “Clothes. Agneis left some behind, so you’re welcome to have them, if they fit you. Otherwise we’ll have to go back to the base so you can search through their collection. We don’t have a lot of access to shops around here, so someone from the island goes back to the mainland every now and again to get the necessities and just drops them at the base. We share pretty much everything here on the island.”
 “Okay,” Lyra nodded, showing she understood. Great. Not only was she stranded in a strange world where they didn’t even have proper shops, she was going to have to wear some stranger’s outcast clothes. Just great.
Sionann clapped her hands together.
“Well, that’s all good!” she exclaimed happily. “I’ll leave you to get settled in then. You’re probably dying for a hot shower, so feel free to have one! You’ll find fresh towels and toiletries on the dresser in your room.” She gave Lyra another bright smile before she excused herself and disappeared off into the room at the end of the corridor.
Well, there was no time like the present. With a despondent sigh, Lyra stepped into her new room, studying the neutral colours with distaste. She silently vowed to get something pink for the room as soon as possible. Bedcovers, preferably, but at this stage she’d settle for anything pink. There was just far too little colour.
The clothes in the closet weren’t exactly her style, but they fit, and they were clean, so they’d have to do. She idly let her thoughts wander as she picked up the clothes, the towel and the toiletries, getting ready for that highly-anticipated shower.
So, she was going to share a house with three other people, none of whom she knew very well at all. Sionann and Adrian were the couple, while she and Blaise would be the hang-ons, all living happily in the same house. Plumbob. It sounded like some sort of cheesy TV-drama, the kind that had a gazillion episodes and faithfully ran every night for the last forever.
…Come to think of it, why did the name Blaise sound so familiar? She idly allowed her eyes to drift upwards as she tried to remember, a part of her brain very appreciative of the view presented to her. Those were some very toned, very good-looking legs.
Where had she heard the name? It was somewhere in this new world, she was sure. The name had been mentioned in an off-hand manner. Oh look, a six-pack. Edwin didn’t have those. Very nice. And those pectorals…hmm.
Wait a minute. Blaise. Wasn’t that the name of…
“Are you going to stare at my chest the whole day, or are you gonna get out of my way?”
…that ass who had knocked her out?
Plumbob!” Lyra shrieked, dropping her stuff and abruptly averting her eyes. “Put some clothes on, you ass! Nobody wants to see you strutting around half-naked!”
He crossed his arms and glared at her, one eyebrow raised marginally.
“You’re the one who were staring,” he pointed out with a dangerous growl. “And you’re still standing in my way.”
She spluttered indignantly, staring at him in disbelief. No. This could not be happening. He was just here visiting. Who cared if he had the same name as someone in the house?! There was no way he could be her new housemate!
“What are you even doing here?” she demanded, stepping away from him and trying to create as much distance between them as the narrow corridor would provide.
 He shot her an incredulous look, as if he couldn’t believe she’d ask the question.
“I live here,” he confirmed, and fuck, there went all her hopes. He brushed past her close enough that she could smell the shampoo he’d used in his shower, and feel the heat radiating from his body. She hurriedly stepped even further away, almost stumbling over the clothes she had dropped on the floor.
 “Just stay out of my way, and we’ll be good,” he warned her with that same dangerous growl before entering his room and closing the door a bit harder than strictly necessary, leaving Lyra to stand awkwardly in the middle of the corridor. She stumbled back, her back hitting the wall, before she slowly slid down to the floor, burying her face in her arms.
Of fucking course. Her luck just never ended, did it? Of all the places she could’ve ended up on, she just had to end up in the same house as the one freak’n person she never wanted to see again. Why? Why was this her life?
Plumbob. The next five years were going to suck royally.
A/N: I know, I know, very cliché, but I couldn’t resist. XD
The sets I’ve been using so far is part of the world, except Sionann’s house. I built that one myself. I’m a little in love with it, but I will actively try to avoid shooting in that corridor again. It was horrible. Way too many walls with way too little space.
So, this chapter should have explained the main concepts that are important to understand Lyra’s story, but there are many other parts of the lore I have touched on before that I haven’t explained here. These parts are explained on the Lore Page. I will occasionally refer to these parts, so feel free to read through them. If, after that, anybody still wants a better explanation, drop me a comment and I will try to work it into the story. :)
Also: Plot-holes? What are those? XD Jokes aside, I’ve tried my best to cover all plot-holes, but I’m only human, so I’m bound to have missed a couple. If you notice any, just ignore them (or point them out, it’s entirely your call). ;)