She had been walking for hours. Maybe even days, who knows at this point. All she knows for sure is that she reached a deadland. Although, half the world is practically already a deadland, at least those places had something resembling buildings. Here, there was nothing but sand and wind for as long as she can see. She’s dying for some water. She needed her cloak to get this far, but now the sun is burning into her skin. She feels like it’s making a mark.
She looks up from the swirling sand and sees something that definitely wasn’t there before. A circle. A circle made of stone. Was that a city, she thought. It can’t be. It was not there before. However, she seriously needed a drink. She was about to faint and the apple she had earlier definitely had not been helpful.
Maybe she could go investigate, just in case there really was something there. She was walking towards the circle, the hot sand underneath her worn sandals, her sword at her side, swinging with her movements.
The more she walked, the more it seemed like the circle was getting farther from her and the stone walls her getting higher. The wind was picking up, sending sand flying into her face and making it feel like a bunch of tiny rocks were hitting her face. Maybe they were. She could hear the wind howling in her ears, but she was also sure she heard somebody calling her name.
She whipped her around to see who was there, who could be calling her, but she didn’t see anyone there. She squinted to be really sure but there was nobody there. The whispers stopped and she relished the silence, only hearing the wind. One of the reasons she left was because she was sick of all the people talking, sick of the noise.
She was walking against the wind now and it felt like hours before she reached the wall. It looked like a fortress. She ripped her sword from her side and looked up at the wall. It definitely got taller. There was no door, or gate, so she walked around the wall trying to find an opening.
She made a full circle and came up empty handed. Then she heard the whispers again. “Who.....Sssss.....Can’t......Try.....Come....”
She spun around, sword held up in front of her, and looked around. Again, she didn’t find anybody so she cautiously turned back around, only to fall to the floor in surprise. It seemed like the wall got closer to her and suddenly there was a door/gate in front of her.
She dropped her sword when she fell and scrambled to get it before she couldn’t. She really did not trust this place. When she stood up, she nearly fell over again because suddenly there was a person standing right in front of her, behind the gate. The person was nearly as tall as her and had long hair. They were wearing a cloak and had a sword, just like her. The tint of their skin was kind of—blue? And—
Okay the dehydration was for sure getting to her, because she could’ve sworn this person had pointy ears. Like an elf, or a faerie.
“What—” she began but didn’t get a chance to finish because the person—creature?—pounced on her, used their sword to throw hers out of her hand and out his to her throat. It all happened in the span of a few seconds, and once it was over, she couldn’t wrap her head around what the hell jut happened. She wanted her sword. She wanted Gryffin.
And that had to be the weirdest thing so far. She wanted Gryffin, needed him to protect herself and then he just showed up in her hand. She hid him behind her back, so the thing in front of her couldn’t see.
“How did you find us, girl?” They growled.
“I didn’t. How about you let me go and we can talk about this like people. Or whatever the hell you are.”
They let out a ferocious growl and put the sword closer to her neck. “What do you mean, you didn’t find us?”
“I mean I was wandering until I found the deadzone, and suddenly this gigantic wall showed up and I really need some water so I thought I would come and see if I could get any. And now here we are.” She leaned forward, pressing her throat farther into the edge of the blade. It hurt, obviously, but now she could prove just how brave she was.
They seemed to be judging her, looking her up and down. She squirmed under his scrutiny until finally, he seemed to discern that she was of no harm. They backed away from her and lowered their sword. They looked me up and down again and said, “What’s your name, girl?” They had a slight accent, but nothing that she as able to immediately recognize.
She looked them straight in the eye before safely tucking Gryffin back into her side. They looked surprised that she had it back, so she smirked and said, “A—Apollo.” Probably best not to give her real name.
“Nice to meet you Apollo, I’m Atlas.” She wondered if that was their real name.
They opened the gate and gestured for her to come inside. She walked past the gate and as soon as she did, the whistle of the wind was gone, the feeling under her feet changed from hot sand to wet grass and Atlas looked at her and smiled, like they knew how confused she must be. “Come with me, girl.”
“And where exactly are you taking me?” She asked, mild trepidation creeping into her voice.
Atlas looked right at her, though it looked like he was looking through her, and said, “Straight to the castle.” And started to walk.
On the way to the castle, wherever that was, Apollo was explained what this place was. Apparently, this place was known as The Badlands. A city where everything was possible and all kinds of creatures existed. The stone walls kept all the magic inside, and protected the city from the wasteland outside. This place didn’t use to be magic, until one day, a boy from “The Outside”, as they call it, came to The Badlands and the place slowly started to become beautiful. They made that boy the King. Ever since then, they have been trying to keep the place magical until they could have a new ruler, since the current King was dying and they are unable to leave because the Wasteland holds them captive. Or so the story goes.
According to Atlas, this place willingly doesn’t go outside because they’re too scared of The Wasteland, not because it holds them captive. But they told her never to repeat that because it goes against the word of the King.
When Atlas finished the story, Apollo asked them what kind of creature they were, and they replied faerie. She asked the gender of Atlas and he said, “Don’t have none. Nobody here does, except for the people of The Outside.”
She asked so many questions, for many she got vague, non-answers, until she asked, “Why did I hear whispering voices before you opened the gate?”
Atlas sharply turned their head to look at her and said, “You heard voices?”
“Um, yeah, why?”
“Because only very special people can hear that. Some people say it’s the voice of The Wasteland. That he’s trying to corrupt you and get you to join him. Only one known person has heard the voice. That’s the King. And now you. Maybe your our new ruler!” They looked and sounded so hopeful and soon, everyone around them was whispering about their new saviour. Someone she didn’t know how to be.
When they arrived at the castle, she paused for a moment to stare in awe at the giant building. Atlas paused with her, rather unpatiently, and started to murmur in a language she didn’t recognize. She got the message and started to walk again. When she got to the main hall, she was afraid she was gonna faint from how beautiful it was.
Again Atlas was being very impatient with her so she hurried along, to what she assumed was the throne room.
They stopped walking at a giant door, with embedded jewels and a sign in a language she, again, didn’t recognize but she assumed said something along the lines of “KEEP OUT”.
“This is the throne room,” they said. “Remember to bow when you see Him and do not make eye contact. They sounded really damn nervous about her making eye contact.
They knocked on the door and immediately someone opened it. This person was wearing a cloak, with obvious armour underneath. They had a staff in one hand, and their ears were pointed as well. However, their skin was tinted more grey than blue like Atlas, so she guessed they were an elf, not a faerie.
Atlas and her were lead into the room and they seemed to walk for a very long time, until they got to the front of the room where there was an old man sitting on a very high throne. She looked him right in the eye, after not bowing.
“My friends have told me that you are from The Outside, like me.” She gave him a quick nod, and kept looking him in the eye. Atlas looked appalled. “When I am dead, they say you would make a great Queen.”
“Maybe. I mean, probably better than you. These people are afraid of your old ass, if I was Queen, id make sure they were my equals and friends, not lesser than me.”
“If you want to be Queen, maybe you should keep that pretty mouth shut,” he snapped. She looked at him and gaped. Damn, what an ass. “Does that mean you will take over for me, when I am gone?”
She didn’t know what to say. Se just found this place. By accident. She still didn’t have any water, even though she saw three waterfalls on her way here, or any food. These guys got their kingdom locked up, and are afraid of what lies outside their precious walls. Although, she kind of was too, and if she kept walking, who knows when the next time she’ll find people, or water.
And she has no freaking clue what The Wasteland could do to her.
So she looked him in the eye again, before nodding and saying, “I guess I will.” And everyone except the King cheered.
The King died the very next day, and her reign as Queen begun. She headed straight for the castle, with Atlas at her side, her crown hung proudly on her head, and everyone around her muttering, “Long live the Queen”.