21. Prophecies and New Alliances
Voices murmured around me when I woke. I strained to decipher them but only grew more confused. I couldn’t remember where I was, except that I was obviously no longer in Jake’s camp. I roused myself roughly, trying to find out who was with me and where I was. I stared at the group of people that surrounded the bed in confusion. All of them except one were short but slim with blue skin and hair. I gasped for breath, panicking, before I remembered I was in the Nymph’s Realm – and that they had rescued me the night before. I collapsed back on the pillows, with a sigh and relaxed. I did not think they meant me any harm and my instincts rarely let me down.
“I am sorry,” said the tallest Nymph with a musical voice. “We did not mean to intrude but the children… They have never seen, or met, a Human before and you must know how awfully curious they get…” She was older than the other six Nymphs but not by much, I judged. She stood in front of me wringing her hands, worried that I would be upset.
“It’s okay,” I said, “I don’t mind.” I beckoned to a little girl who approached me nervously. “What’s your name?” I asked softly.
She looked at the older girl, who nodded reassuringly. “Brooke,” she quavered. I felt my heart twist for her and I wondered whether I be equally scared of the strange Human girl, if I were a Nymph?
I watched silently as the older girl knelt down and murmured something in the ear of one. Then she stood up and started to usher them out of the door. “Goodbye,” they called over their shoulders. I missed them almost immediately. It had been a long time since I’d seen children of any sort – well… at least five or six months. I adored the children in the Tent City and since I’d started the job at the Medici’s house, I didn’t have any time to visit them.
The girl came back into the room. “Again, I apologize.”
“No,” I said, “It’s … it’s been a long time since I’ve seen children of any sort.” She curtsied. “Please, don’t curtsy. I’ve never considered myself important enough for such ceremony!” I exclaimed. Her cheeks blushed to a deep purple and she started to apologize again. I wanted to shake her. The apologizing was getting on my nerves.
“I’m sorry,” she said yet again, “I’m used to waiting on our Queen – Oceania. I’m supposed to take you to her when you are ready.”
“Then let’s go,” I replied, frustration creeping into my voice. I struggled to keep it under control – I hated being treated as though I was better than other people – particularly after I’d screwed up. It grated my nerves up and made me short-tempered.
Standing, I followed her from the room and into the bustling corridor that wavered with a strange blue-ish light. Intricately carved door frames and broken arches lined the hall. The carvings reminded me of gothic houses in the older sections of Saffron, except Nymphs, underwater plants and animals were depicted within them instead Humans and their assorted terrestrial plants and animals. The floor was a pale blue-ish white marble, with veins of deep aquamarine. Many Magicians would covet marble with the same colouring if they could get their hands on it.
As we made our way into the crowd, Nymphs stopped and watched my guide and I pass curiously. Apparently, I was a novelty of a sort. “It’s crowded,” my guide explained, “because our whole nation has lived here for the past hundred years - and the Realm is unable to expand anymore. Her Majesty’s daughter kindly lent you her room last night.”
"Oh no!" I cried, “She didn’t have to do that!”
“Your concern is touching,” a familiar voice murmured drily behind me. I immediately turned and smiled at the Nymph who had brought me here the night before. She smiled at me in response. Her dark blue hair had been braided into many small braids and held back from her face with a band of what looked like seaweed. “But I was fine. You see, I had some… more pressing… issues to attend to.” She turned to the serving Nymph, “Lilian – I can play guide from here.” She dismissed the girl with a wave of her hand and then motioned me to follow her. “Come, there is much to explain and not much time to say what needs to be said.”
A few minutes later, I stood before a grand throne in the middle of a huge hall. The Queen’s daughter stepped aside, announcing my presence. “Mother,” she declared, “May I present to you Aurora Lopez of the Human Race.” I dipped into a curtsey, using it to school my features and hide my surprise at the mention of my name. I hadn’t been aware that I’d told it to them – in fact, I was sure I hadn’t. I almost opened my mouth to interrupt but managed to hold my tongue through the introductions.
The Nymph peered down from her golden perch, examining me. She looked like an older version of her daughter – high cheekbones, angular face, tall, slim, pale blue skin, long dark blue hair, head held high with pride and arrogance. “This is one of the legendary twins, Aquamarine?” she asked, her voice the sound of a thundering waterfall. It held the power of authority.
“Yes mother,” her daughter replied. I was puzzled – Who were the legendary twins? I didn’t even have a sibling.
The woman looked at me directly with her icy blue eyes now, x-raying me, “Daughter of Earth, welcome to our Realms. You are the first Human in more than a hundred years to pass through the gates of our Realms… alive.”
I swallowed; there was a hidden warning in her words. I could not afford to offend them. This was a delicate matter – not the sort of situation I was skilled at dealing with. “Your daughter said as much,” I started to reply humbly, “and I am honored to be such.”
To my amazement she laughed. “You are lost and confused in the strangeness of our culture,” she smiled, “and yet you still manage to have well-worded responses… not something we have received from other… less expected visitors. It is good my daughter helped you – she might learn some skills from you.” She looked up at the assembled court. “Stay here,” she commanded them, “I will retire to a private chamber to talk with our guest. In the meantime, a feast is in order. Help prepare for it.” Then motioning me to follow her she swept from the room. I hurried after her, anxious to hear what she had to say.
She pushed open an elaborate blue, double door that was decorated with golden fish, dolphins and seaweed. Entering the room, I saw that it was no less elaborate than the throne room – just on a smaller scale. The walls were a bright colour that I couldn’t name. They were… the colour water turns when light shines through it. Along all the walls, there were chairs and cushions to sit on. Seating herself in a chair in the corner, she turned and surveyed me. Feeling self-conscious, I sat across from her.
She started talking more to herself than to me. “So you’re one of the twins of legend,” she murmured.
“But I don’t have a twin,” I protested.
“You do,” she replied.
“And how do you know this?” I asked. My chin jutted out stubbornly, “You know nothing about me!”
She looked at me with clear blue eyes. It was unnerving how quickly they changed color – like water reflects the weather. “Actually, I know quite a bit about you,” she said coolly, “You are Aurora Lopez, more commonly known to your friends as Rory. The Magicians sometimes call you the Phantom because of their inability to catch you and at one point, you were known as slave 06392012 to them as well. You discovered your magical abilities at the age of ten and escaped with your nine other companions from the Slavery in Neuvia and fled to Saffron where you met the rogue Mage Aatiqah who taught you most of the magic you know now.
“After his supposed death, you took leadership of the Liberation. Three years ago, two of your closest friends, Jake and Samantha, betrayed you in the event you call the Uprising – an event that cost you your leadership. Recently you rescued a slave called Luke in a raid.” She paused in her summary of my past and looked at me. “Does that satisfy you or shall I go on?”
I just stared at her in shock. “How do you know all that about me?” I asked finally.
“I told you, we’ve been watching you since you were born.” This was too unnerving. Maybe it was time to be getting out of here. I tried to leave situations before they became uncomfortable. You could call it an instinct… a mechanism that kept me out of trouble… or, more often, got me into it.
“What did you want to say to me?” I queried, steering the conversation away from myself.
“There was a prophecy some time ago, about two decades ago to be exact, about twins that would free our world from the Magicians. Lord Cian, the head of the Saern had a vision of you and your twin brother. When he delved further into his mind, the prophecy revealed itself to him. It was the first in more than a hundred years.”
“What was the prophecy?” I interrupted her.
She sighed and recited the prophecy quickly.
“When the two of mixed-blood, and mixed powers,
That have been separated since their birth,
Are reunited and embrace their fates;
A magician will change alliances,
The High Races will unite once again,
And the Magicians who have reigned so long,
Shall at last meet their long awaited downfall.”
She paused, “I only tell you this because it involves you and your brother.”
Anger filled me abruptly. “I told you,” I snapped, “I don’t have a brother!”
She looked as equally put out with me as I was with her. That was fine. It was nice to know I wasn’t the only one with a short patience. “If you would listen, you would already know what I wanted to tell you!” she barked, “You wouldn’t be so confused either. Now keep your mouth shut and listen for a time!”
I sighed. This conversation was uncomfortable and confusing. Questions rustled through my mind and I wanted to ask, ask, ask, but I knew that it would only frustrate us both. A good warrior knows when to listen, Aatiqah’s words rang through my head. I had never considered myself a warrior, but his words had always rung true for me. I hated it when I remembered his advice, mostly because I knew he was right. “As you wish, milady,” I said finally, with a touch of sarcasm.
She ignored it and started to continue. “I will answer your questions but it may be wise to forget the stories you have heard about us for now. They have a portion of the truth in them, but only a small portion. The myth containing the eradication of the High Races from Aeirien is for the most part true, although there are some small misconceptions within it that we encouraged for our own safety. Instead, we went into hiding until we found a way to return to life on Aeirien. Aurora, I cannot stress how important you are to our cause. Without you we will surely not win our freedom in the lands again.”
“But you do live in it,” I blurted out in confusion, “You live in the River of Amara.”
“No child,” she replied patiently, “The entrance to our Realm is in the waterfall, nothing more. The Realm itself is not a part of your world – it is a Place-In-Between. It is real, but not real.” I shook my head trying to understand the paradox she had thrown at me.
“So you created the Realm using magic,” I said.
“Yes, we did.” Ah, that cleared a lot up – all that talk about how it could exist and not exist at the same time. Most magic was like that – a sort of illusion.
“But how can I help!” I exclaimed. This was exactly how the Trustees manipulated me and it made me seethe with anger.
“You can help because of your influence over hundreds, maybe thousands, of slave escapees, and because of your own magical abilities,” she said with an urgent voice that I had learned long in the past meant whoever was talking to me was desperate for my cooperation. “You are the key to return of the High Races to Aeirien. Think Aurora, you can help annihilate the Magicians from Aeirien – something we know you’ve been attempting for years. Think about it. The Magicians have a price on your head as much as they do on ours.”
I was getting really annoyed at these people. Yes, I was on the run from the Magicians. Yes, I was grateful the Nymphs had helped me in Jake’s camp. But did that really put me in their debt? Not enough that I would help without anything in return.
“So you want me to side with you?” I snarled, finally losing my temper “Lend you my powers? No.” This discussion was beginning to feel like the ones the Trustees had with me – and I had had enough of their manipulation. There was no way I would let a complete stranger pull the strings.
She blinked at me. “I’m offering you your freedom and the eradication of the Magicians in return.”
“That is what every other ally I’ve ever had has promised me and I am the only one who has made any progress toward that goal, and even that progress is small. What can you promise me that no one else has been able to? How can you guarantee that you are no better than the Magicians?”
“I cannot, there is only the future…. and that can change with any small decision.” Good answer. I wish I’d thought of it – and it resonated within me, making me more willing to join them.
There was a long pause in our conversation as I contemplated what she’d told me. I didn’t believe the nonsense about the prophecy although I knew they could exist theoretically given that there was a Race – the Saern – that lived in time but even so… New allies would be nice though. With the Nymphs – and potentially the other High Races fighting beside the Liberation we might actually have a hope of succeeding. But then there was the problem of the Trustees and their betrayal. The Liberation was going to fall unless I managed to turn the tables on the Trustees. On the other hand, I still had a lot of influence in the Liberation despite the Trustees manipulations so I thought I could sway the bulk of the Liberation to my side and oust the Trustees but I wasn’t certain of it.
“I’ll help you,” I relented finally, “But I think you’ll find I don’t take orders very well… and I like to make my own decisions.”ns 18.104.22.168da2