Crow nodded and hurried over to Will. He put his hands under Will's arms and helped him to stand again, and led the shocked boy back onto the concrete and then back into the shop. Crow let go of Will once they were back in the bedroom and Will was sitting back on the bed, Crow felt his cheeks.
"Hey, you okay?"
Will nodded a bit in shock, though he looked pale. "Wh-... What was that?"
"Uh..." Crow straightened back up. "That was Matéas. Uh... well, a god."
Will stared at him, the color coming back into his cheeks. "Just what the heck was-"
Crow waved his arm. "Calm down." Will took a breath, settling a glare on the young man. Crow sighed a bit and gestured to himself with a hand, as he took a few steps back. "Let's start from the basics. I'm Crow."
"Crow? Like... the bird, crow?" Will asked, as he began to calm down.
Crow nodded as a knock came on the door. He went over and opened it. The young blond whispered something in his ear. Crow turned back to Will, waving a hand up. "Try and stay put for a bit. I'll be back soon."
Will opened his mouth to say something, but no sound came. And Crow had already closed the door and gone again.
Will sighed, slumping his shoulders. He looked to the door again, then over his shoulder to the window. Then back to the door. Again... no sound of the lock. Will stood up and went to the door, opening it. He peeked out and down the hall.
By the bookshelf he saw the three boys talking to a blond with pointed ears. The girl from before. They were speaking in hushed tones. After a few minutes, Crow nodded and headed back toward the bedroom. Will closed the door and hurried back to the bed. Just as he sat down, Crow opened the door.
"Alright," he exhaled heavily. Crow closed the door as he came in and stepped into the room. "I've got the okay to explain some things to you."
"Really?" Will raised a brow, feeling a sour taste begin in his mouth. Is the fear coming back up?
Crow nodded. "Okay, so... This is a long explanation. Kind of." He took a breath and began, "First off there's two worlds. But to get from one world to the other, you have to pass through something, kind of like going from one room to another." He pointed to the door behind him. "You have to pass through a threshold."
Will nodded a bit. "Well, the Threshold is real. There's no 'life and death', more like 'black and white'... They're the worlds of the Humans and the Ghumans." Crow continued. "Say you survive to be 32 years old right now, as a human. When you die, you'll pass through the Threshold. There, you'll collect your memories, which are stored in giant vaults all over. Once you have them, you can pass to the other side and enter the Ghuman world. There, you'll live for however long you were alive in the Human world. So, 32 years. Again, you'll die. This time, you'll give all of your memories back and be reborn not recalling anything."
Will had sat in silence listening to the crazy story. "What lives on the Threshold?"
Crow shrugged one shoulder, like it didn't take any thought to answer. "Gods, demons, ghouls, spirits... Those kind of things." Crow answered. "They're ranked. Gods always need servants to do their work for them, so they'll trick the people and put a mark of protection over the wandering ghouls, which then become spirits. A spirit has protection, and a ghoul doesn't."
Will nodded again. "Then, what are you?"
"I'm a human. The blond guy before, he's a spirit, and so is Akiio." Crow shrugged a bit, "The girl is a rank of god, though very low. So she's in service to another god right now."
"How long are you in service?"
"Until we're freed." Crow shrugged, crossing his arms. He looked to the ground. For a moment there was a flash of something unhappy in his golden orange eyes. "Anyway," he shook his head, shaking off the uneasy thoughts. Crow looked back up to Will's blue eyes. He saw the air of doubt lingering within them. Even Crow himself thought the basic outlines of how the worlds functioned sounded crazy. And even he wasn't sure if they worked that smoothly.
"So," Crow said, clearing his throat. "You're on the Threshold right now. You're a human, obviously, so you live in the human world."
"And you... brought me to the Threshold?" Will asked, his voice going soft. Letting all this sink in was starting to confuse and stress him out.
Crow took a second to respond, but slowly he did nod his head. "Uh... Yeah. Lisez asked me to- well to get-" Crow cut himself off and stopped his sentence. "She wanted to ask you a few questions."
Will stared blankly at Crow, and Crow just stood and waited. He was hoping Will was believing everything he was telling him. Crow wasn't lying to him, but Will could tell there were key bits of information being left out.
Thinking over his options and ruling out being completely terrified of this whole situation, Will thought, If I don't find out just what's going on, I'll just keep being afraid. So...
Will asked his first question out of honest curiosity. "Did you die?"
Crow's eyes widened a bit. Something about that question bothered him deep inside, and Will could spot that unrest just under the calm surface Crow was showing. Crow forced a smile that appeared genuine and he nodded his head to one side, "Not exactly. I got lost and ended up tricked into working for Lisez."
Again, Crow nodded, almost with a bitter look on his face. "Yep."
There was silence for a few seconds and then Will asked another question. "You can't go back?"
Crow turned around on his heel quickly, not letting Will see his face that was starting to show anger. "There's nothing I want to go back to." He said in a low, quiet and husky voice, full of frustration, anger and many other mixed emotions that piqued Will's thirst to know. Then, louder and clearer, Crow answered, "But I do miss the sun." He smiled a bit, looking over his shoulder at Will. "Come on. Lisez is waiting for you."
Will stood up and buttoned up his shirt properly as he followed Crow out into the hall. From there, they turned toward the bookshelf and headed into a doorway just on the other side of it. In the room was a fancy office, like an old den you'd find some Victorian houses. A large desk was centered in the small room, with all the walls covered in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves full of books with no titles on their spines, and just in front of the desk was a red velvet chair with a low back. Behind the desk was another red velvet chair, but this one had a high back and the little girl sitting in it.
The girl smiled at them, but it still sent a shiver down Will's spine. Something about this room and this girl told him he shouldn't be here.
With a bit of apprehension in his steps, Will came into the room and took a seat in the chair. Crow stood behind him. I don't like this... Will thought. Oddly enough, Crow was thinking the same thing with a grimace on his face that Will couldn't see from where he sat.
The girl gave a smirk with a glint in her lime eyes to Crow and then turned her eyes onto Will. "Hello, Will." she said in a soothing, stern voice. It was high and childlike in pitch, but the length she carried her vowels and with the confidence she whipped her consonants down, she was giving out an air of mysticism and age.
Will nodded a bit to her. "Hi."
"I have some questions for you." She said, bluntly. "After you answer them, you are welcome to go home."
"Thank you." Will nodded again.
She smiled again. "First, I am Lisez. A god of this realm. I specialize in..." she thought for the right world, as if the obvious one to chose was wrong. "Acquiring... items which others seek. And I treasure and take care of these items until they are delivered. Should anyone steal any of my precious items, they will become my servants, bound to me by name."
Name? Will thought. Stealing her items? Did... Crow steal from her and now he's lost his name in return?
After her extended pause, Lisez took a breath and leaned forward a bit, squinting her eyes. "Now, Will. Could you tell me who your mother is?"
Will blinked, confused. She... doesn't really want to know about my lineage, does she? That was the most boring topic Will could think of being started. "My mother's Lae'ri."
Lisez nodded. "Yes, and your father?" Will's jaw loosened, his mouth opening a crack. The blank, and yet confused look on his face, gave hint to his thoughts. Lisez noticed and shifted closer on her chair. "No need to lie, Will. Everyone here knows your parentage." She paused, her eyes squinting again, "Humor me and just clarify the name, please."
Will looked around at the empty book titles, then back to the little girl god. "He's the Grand Duke, Adell."
Lisez sat back some, a smile coming onto her face. "What happened on your eighteenth birthday?"
Will tilted his head to the side, confused on why she'd want to know that. "It was my coronation party." He answered. With the silence that followed, Will continued on. "The King and my dad had just made it official that I could become a Grand Duke." He paused again, waiting for the silence. There was still silence. Again, Will continued talking. "After I came out dressed in the robes for the ceremony, my dad left without telling anyone where he went. We dismissed the party and waited for him."
"No one knew where he went?" Lisez asked, butting in for a moment.
"No. No one." Will shook his head. Then he exhaled, "When he came back in the morning..." Another exhale, this one heavier. "Adell didn't know who I was. He'd forgotten me, and my mom." There was a longer silence and Will spoke some more. "We tried to tell him, with pictures and stories, who I was and who his wife was. The more we told him..." Will looked to his hands, his thumbs and fingers twiddling and fidgeting together. "The angrier he got. He said he would never forget someone he loved so much just like that, so he figured we were lying. And..." He sighed, "Immediately declarations and notices were sent out. Anyone so much as hinting at the fact of me being his son were subject to spreading falsified rumors, put in prison and punishable to the full power of law."
Lisez nodded. "So you became a servant for your father. Didn't you want to leave?"
Will looked up to her. He sat still, watching her as he thought over his answer, recalling the painful days. Finally he gave a small nod. "Sure, but... Soon he married and then Alexander was born."
Lisez sat back, smiling again. "One more question."
Will looked to her, wondering what this next crazy question might be.
"Just how broken is your heart?"
A blank look came over Will's face. What kind of question was that?! Will sat in stunned silence, not sure how to answer really.
Just as he was about to open his mouth, the girl waved her hand in the air. "That will be all. Crow, take him back to the room. We'll have him sent home soon."
Will baffled and confused, followed as Crow too him by the wrist and led him out of the room and back to the bedroom. He sat on the edge of the bed, staring at his feet.
Crow watched Will with a kind of sadness and grief for him. "It was... four years, wasn't it?" Will gave a single small nod with a very minute motion of his head. "Twenty-Two now?" Again, another small nod. Crow looked to the side with a sad look on his face. It was almost heart breaking to look at Will like he was now. Any emotion that might've been in his blue eyes under his dusty pink rose hair had all but evaporated into thin air.
Crow walked over to his pile of jeans, fished through the drawers for a moment and came back over to Will. He took Will's hand and placed in it a deck of cards in a well-worn cardboard box. "Here," he said with a smile. "Play a little Solitare before you get some sleep."
Will looked to the deck and then up to Crow as he started to leave the room once again. "What time is it?"
"About... four a.m. I think." Crow answered, as he turned and smiled at Will briefly. "Get some sleep. I'll bring you some breakfast in the morning."
After Crow had left and was almost done closing the door he heard a faint word said. So he pushed the door open and poked his head in to look at Will sitting on the edge of the bed. "Say something?"
"Wait." Will repeated, a little louder.
"Yeah?" Crow opened the door more, taking a step in.
"Do..." Will started, his words trailing into silence as he was looking down at the deck's box. "Do you really think I'm Adell's son?"
Crow nodded with a smile. "Well, sure. I used to live there. I remember seeing all of the articles and stuff about you and your family, almost every month." Will looked up to Crow, which made Crow's smile grow larger and more reassuring. "There's no doubt about it. You are Adell's son."
Will scoffed with a pained smile and looked back down. "You're a good liar."
This made Crow frown. "I'm not lying."
Will didn't respond for a moment. Then he closed his eyes and shook his head. "I... I know I'm not his son, but... it was a nice dream."
Crow's frown deepened and his brows furrowed. He took in and deep breath and let it out slowly through his nose as he thought of what to say back to that. "Your Grace." Will's eyes moved to look at Crow's feet, up just slightly. "Marquis Will Bel'vaz of Tahnila." Will shifted his head, tilting one side up as he looked at Crow curiously. He saw the sad and frustrated look on Crow's face. "I know... that's who you are."