It was a soft breeze, the one that took me away. It was soft, like a hand brushing my cheek… Almost comforting.
That clear winter morning, as I stood in front of the convenience store, the wind carried runaway leaves around me. I was distracted with such triviality as the contents of my bag, and it happened in the blink of an eye. I can’t really understand it, either.
How gentle and silent could magic be, how small of a gathering, in a land nowhere to be found.
I looked around, a forest. And before I could react, a stranger approached me, his blonde hair shining from the clear skies, the warm sunshine hitting my glasses as I looked up and noticed that winter was no more.
- “O, Grand Hero from another realm! Is such an honor to make your acquaintance!” - Is what he said that time, the blonde stranger. I couldn’t understand, though, for he spoke in a language that was unknown to me.
All I could manage to do was look around in confusion, holding the plastic bag I had in my hand when I left the store, feeling it was the only thing I could trust. My mind rationalized - did I get kidnapped? By weirdly dressed people?
The blonde stranger kept talking and, by his movements, I could understand that he was presenting himself as Arsamira de Argatha. His shiny hair was decorated in a braid as a crown, and an elegant outfit with detailed embroidery made him look like some sort of prince. He wore a light blue scarf that looked rather simple, surely contrasting the formality and care of his looks. The other two persons there were just as young and eccentric as he was. They looked around my age, or probably younger. A white-haired girl with soft curls and clothes almost as white as her hair, diamonds decorating her robes. She looked like a winter fairy, gracefully carrying a staff decorated with crystals. The last one was an androgynous figure with a troubled posture. His (now I know) wine-colored hair covered most of his face, but left to show eye tattoos on his cheeks. His outfit was dull but still skillfully made, lots of buttons connected by elegant silver chains, though it was hard to tell how many under the hooded cape he was wearing. A point of interest was the open book in his left hand, one that I saw glowing as soon as I opened my eyes. Of course, I just shrugged that off as some prop for the act. I couldn’t think of them as any more than cosplayers or role-players, with those looks.
They didn’t look dangerous nor aggressive, but I sat on my knees and raised my hands while they talked to each other, hoping this would let them understand I was defenseless and willing to cooperate. The one I understood was called Arsamira seemed worried and scolded the one who had the book, then walked towards me and got on his knees too. As he talked once again and I couldn’t understand a thing, I tried answering in the most open language I knew, English, hoping one of them knew a bit.
- “I’m sorry, I can’t understand your language. Do you speak English?”
To my surprise, the one with the book had quite the reaction; a mix between panic, confusion, relief, understanding, and, most of all, an expression of what I can only think of as dumbfounded.
- “…I do. A bit.” - He approached me, after apparently telling the blondie to move aside. - “I am sorry for the confusion. Are you okay? Do you hurt?” - His English wasn’t the best, surely, but it was more than enough to communicate. My relief must have been… rather noticeable, since the blonde prince made a comment with a dumb smile on his face.
- “I’m okay. But where am I? And who are you?” - I figured that since they didn’t seem to have bad intentions, I could ask away. He was happy to comply.
- “This is the kingdom of Argatha, we are in Stepa Reion.” - That, I would later learn, just means Reion Forest. - “Ah- …We are in a world different than yours, if the witchcraft… Ayo, ayo, the spell! Worked correctly.”
- “…Yeah no I mean the truth.”
- “Ah, I know it’s hard to believe-! Eh…How to say…Come with us. Carriage. I will explain on our way to the castle.” - I just assumed that if that was the truth, it must be a dream. The book guy, whom I forgot to ask the name of, called out for Arsamira and the diamond girl, and then led us onto an actual carriage.
The dark blue coating clashed with the reflection of the clear sky, making it hard to look at. Despite the simple square shape and the underwhelmingly decorated horses, the delicate carvings of silver on the corners and the pristine, embroidered maroon curtains disregarded all attempts to mask its fanciness. It did its best trying to seem simple, but utterly failed once you paid attention to it. Just like the prince.
The inside was cozy and the seats comfortable, the silky fabric and the fluffy cushions hugging me after all this nonsense. It wasn’t normal to have dreams this vivid, I thought, but they were surely not impossible. I had been a victim of confusing dreams with reality more than once. Then, the servant in charge gave the call for the carriage to move, bringing me back to my senses.
And the round of answers went on.
- “And so, you got summoned to help us during the war. For the time being, our enemy, Jesgavaula Zeliram…Wait that’s…The Principality? Of Zeliram, is retreating due to inter…inter…internal! Problems. They can afford that since we are weak and have no allies. All the neighbor countries are on their side, so we were desperate.”
- “Why do you have so many enemies though? That sounds fishy, if…If I can say.” - I reminded myself that despite their friendly attitude, I still was pretty much a hostage. - “I mean…”
- “It is normal that you would think that, do not worry. So- …Oh, we need to present ourselves.” - And the subject changed, just like that, when he turned to the blonde guy. He got closer from his spot on the carriage with an apparent excitement he couldn’t manage to hide. He had clear blue eyes that shone with innocence, the sight of someone so bright hurting my eyes. - “This is Your Majesty, the crown prince Arsamira de Argatha, who personally took it upon himself to welcome you, hero.”
The aforementioned prince bowed in front of me with a grace that proved true his title. Even sitting in the carriage, he managed to keep an elegant posture that contrasted with his bubbly attitude. I felt embarrassed by my simple clothes and my messy hair and bowed to him, almost hiding myself and the plastic bag I had. I heard his soft laugh and a word escape his lips, but when I looked, he was back in his relaxed position, waiting for the next person to present themself.
- “I’m Mizuen Euphoramis, the Royal Sorcerer and Keeper of the Archives.” - The young male bowed to me too, his wine-colored hair not letting me see his expression. Now that the cloak was off, I could see how fragile and gentle his air and posture were, how caring he was with his movements, and how he had a tendency to play with a curl of his hair when he was thinking. His trembling voice was left behind, and now he was more confident in his spelling and understanding when we talked, so I finally got to see a faint smile coming from him. - “I’m the one who performed the summoning ritual. And this is Daien, my younger sister. She’s the Third Court Mage! My pride and honor. I mean- Daien, oi-.” - Mizuen called out for her, and she looked at me and bowed, but remained silent. - “I’m sorry she’s like that. I would like to say she usually isn’t, but she is.” – The librarian laughed a bit, smiling at his sister.
Arsamira said something to him, and the three of them looked at me with a welcoming expression - or, at least, that’s what I’d like to think considering that a) Mizuen’s eyes were hidden, and b) Daien’s was pretty much emotionless the times I’ve looked at her.
- “What is your name, hero from another world?” – Asked the librarian, his hand on his chest with grace like a greeting, and a warm smile on his lips to calm my heart. But then, it hit me.
Be it a dream or not, I felt an anxiety I only recalled from the past. I felt something overwhelming fly away, like my own self evaporated. I couldn’t remember my own name, yet it didn’t feel wrong. The anxiety eased down, my body warmed up again, and I finally reacted. It was no more than a second, but the incessant flow of emptiness that filled my mind, the sublimity of the lack of self, violent at first, that then held me and comforted me as I settled down … All of it felt eternal.
I caught their stares of curiosity and worry, and I wonder what kind of expressions I made in the lapse of a breeze.
- “I don’t know.”
- “I don’t remember it.”
- “…You don’t?” - And before I could answer, Mizuen went to check his book. – “I…Did I make a mistake somewhere?” – He asked himself, looking back and forth between the spell book and me.
I laughed a bit, I admit.
- “It’s alright. It’s just a name after all. It’s not like I mind it. Assuming all of this is true, when I go back, I’ll remember it.”
And I ignored the awkward, uncomfortable expression Arsamira and Mizuen had.
- “I just hope that’s all. Do you have mental mist…No- Brain fog? Hmm… Are you sure you are okay? I will make sure you get a check-up once we arrive at the castle, if you allow us.” – I just nodded, not really bothered. If anything, I just felt a strange relief; I knew I hadn’t forgotten anything else.
Time went by as I was looking through the window. The fresh air of spring and the open hills full of crops and farms, the clean sky and the relaxing landscape. The villagers greeting the prince’s carriage, his kind eyes reassuring them that all was fine. I could get used to a dream like this. Two hours had passed by the time we reached the capital.
- “As you already noticed, we are a kingdom with access to magic. I do not know about your home world, but here is fairly rare. Our enemies wish to eradicate the use of magic, and that’s why we cannot negotiate peace. Their beliefs are directly against us, is not something we can talk anymore. And because this is the only place mages can live in, because the outside don’t understand how magic works and that is not of evil, we asked for help to protect our home.” – Mizuen had a strong tone with a secure smile that looked almost rare on his fair build. He reassured me. – “This is the capital of Argatha, Leva.”
I looked outside as he pointed, and was overwhelmed by the beauty of the city unfolding before me. With the shape of a circular fortress and open arches for doors, the city grew in a spiral towards the sky, on top of which the royal castle was seated. I saw in the distance green gardens like waterfalls across the walls, filled with flowers of multiple shapes and colors that gave it harmony. Trees serving as parts of the buildings and houses, their roots as benches and their branches as stairs, all having a flow of living with nature and not above it. The clean white stone and the fountains across the street made the city gleam in the sunshine. It looked like a jewel in the fresh spring sky, reflecting the welcoming sun of a new life.
I didn’t believe this was a dream anymore.
People approached the carriage to greet us, some with flowers on their hands, others with a worried look. No - it wasn’t us, it was them. Mizuen put his cloak on me, muttering “Don’t let anyone see your hair.” I didn’t think twice about it, remembering the reality of my situation. Meanwhile, Daien and the prince collected flowers from those who approached the carriage, the servant warning the people to stay at a safe distance. I curled up in my corner, a dark hooded figure. I knew I was avoiding thinking about the main ordeal here, so I kept looking at the city as the streets went by. The spiraling roads led us to what was apparently called the Levitan Castle, or the Feathered Castle, according to Mizuen’s translation.
Once I got off the carriage with the help of Daien, I was stopped. By Arsamira, actually, who smiled at me.
- “Is nice to meet you.” – His pronunciation was rough, so I figured he asked Mizuen to teach him that just now to greet me personally.
- “Is…Nice to meet you too.” – Not being able to smile back at him, I wondered in silence, tense that now things were actually moving forward, and I was being carried like an actual hostage. I hugged the plastic bag under the cloak; the crinkly sound and the weight of its contents bringing me back to reality. Yes, reality. This wasn’t a dream, nor a joke. It wasn’t just a silly prank. I was so far away from home, alone, taken away by strangers with powers. Completely defenseless, and with only one person able to understand me.
Daien noticed I started to shake next to her as we approached one of the castle’s doors. She put her hand on my shoulder and nodded for reassurance, then pulled the hood down, as if to cover my face even more. While I couldn’t stop being nervous, I made my steps as steady and confident as I could. This wasn’t a normal situation, but at least I could remind them that I was not an enemy they needed to subdue, but someone they could rationally talk to without using force. The other two joined my side, sheltering me from the guards protecting the doors and the halls as we entered the castle. The absolute sound of the entrance closing behind us reminded me that I was trapped, its lightning striking faster than I could regret it. I gulped down the fear of what’s to come and kept walking.