Chapter 3: Mioverold

Gale stood a little away from his house, Aaron just a few steps behind him. He watched his mother do the dishes through the window, remembering that she would often hum to a beat as she did. A smile found its way onto his lips. It was a good memory; memories — something both his parents were stripped of presently.

“Does it bother you?” asked Aaron.

“I wonder,” said Gale, without thought. “Should it matter now anyway?”

“You won’t be remembered, Gale,” reminded Aaron. “There will be nothing. Not a trace of even your most cherished time together.”

“It’s a good thing,” said Gale, masking his sadness. “Nobody would want to live that way, knowing that their child had passed.”

Aaron turned away, his thoughts about the oddity surfacing once more. It wasn’t often that he engaged in conversation with those he had personally executed, especially at their most vulnerable state right after. This time was different. He felt a rather strange aura of uncertainty around Gale, something that made him regret commissioning his death. And while that did surprise him, he was quick to bury the notion.

Meanwhile, and amidst the sudden curtain of silence between them, Aaron pressed his hands into prayer with the boy as his witness. Gale felt an indescribable force radiate from the knight, stirring the pebbles around his feet into a rattle. The nimbus gravitated towards the pressure as the space in front of Aaron distorted into tangibility. A low rumble followed, and then the sound of thunder.

A vortex swirled to life, and the heavens responded with a drizzle. Small at first, Aaron parted his hands, expanding it in size. He controlled what appeared to be a portal as a conductor would an orchestra and rested only upon confirming its stability; large enough to allow them passage. Aaron stepped away for Gale to bear witness to his new reality, one that would barely resemble his old.

He gestured for Gale to make the first move with an encouraging smile. Not that it helped. Gale had come to accept the change in his short time dead — a word that now puzzled him. But it wasn’t something that translated into happiness. He was still inherently human, which was why the sadness lingered.

“It’s understandable to feel some hesitation,” said Aaron. “Would it help if I called this a second chance at a different life?”

“I appreciate the sentiment,” said Gale. “You needn’t worry though; this is something I’m bound to forget.”

As the words escaped his lips, Gale mustered the will to clear his mind. He moved with stern determination while Aaron followed, the portal closing behind them. Unease settled into his steps soon after, something the boy had already expected.

“You made sure to step in with confidence,” praised Aaron. “It’s not something you see often.”

“It’s all that matters,” said Gale with a sigh. “I knew that regret was an inevitability, but for the sake of whatever it is I am to face going forward, I wanted it to be confident — that first step.”

“Tell me something though,” said Aaron. “You mentioned something about forgetting your past; I’m curious about what that meant.”

“It’s human nature,” said Gale matter-of-factly. “When the British conquered India for its gain, we hated them. Freedom came at the price of blood, and yet, we face them today with no more than a smile.”

“I’m familiar with your kind’s history,” said Aaron. “Not unlike our own. I suppose war isn’t something unique to our world.”

If history has taught us anything, it’s that time tends to heal most wounds of the mind,” said Gale. “At least in theory.”

“That’s an interesting perspective.”

Gale detached himself from the conversation when the portal dimmed into blackness, almost as if they were inside a tunnel devoid of light. In the moments that followed, the gravity shifted, enough to force the boy onto his knees and then some. The atmosphere had changed without notice, and through it, Aaron remained without emotion even as he watched Gale wheeze in an effort to breathe the ever-thinning air.

But there was little to worry about. As the portal pushed Gale forward without end in sight, the boy adjusted. His breathing steadied, and soon, he had managed to get back on his feet almost as if he had been unchallenged the entire time. One thing did change, however.

“The portal,” said Gale with a worried look on his face. “Why did it stop?”

“This is as far as it goes,” said Aaron. “We’ll have to walk now.”

“I’m glad about that we bit,” said Gale, sounding relieved. “For a moment, I’d thought that this was another b******* challenge I’d have to undertake by myself.”

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“Oh, but it is.”

“What?”

“That’s right,” Aaron reaffirmed. “I’m just here to bear witness to everything.”

“Have you ever read Lord of the Rings?” said Gale. “Game of Thrones, or maybe the Wheel of Time even.”

“I don’t believe I have,” Aaron slowly said, unsure about the nature of the question asked. “What are they?”

“Novels, books of the fantasy genre,” said Gale. “You seem to operate under similar principles.”

Aaron found himself in unfamiliar territory and chose not to respond. He observed his latest recruit instead, and with great admiration.

Gale walked head first into darkness, showing determination the knight had first seen at the entrance to the portal. Just as it was in the novels he had read, whispers echoed from inside his head.

His confidence rose with every passing step, and even more so with accurate and sharp turns. They stalled for but a moment as the whispers fell into silence, and with good reason. A smile was all Gale allowed himself; after all, he had managed to come this far without the help of his apparent guide. It was light, no larger than a pinhole, and at a significant distance from where he stood.

“Ehedus seems to have forged a connection with the boy already,” thought Aaron, merely a step behind in the chase. “That’s good.”

Gale broke into a sprint and stretched his arm out wide, hoping that he would grasp onto something, anything. His focus sharpened to thoughts of escape until the darkness no longer remained. He felt fresh air against his skin, the whistling of birds, and thick grass at the bottom of his feet. It seemed that the tunnel had simply ceased to exist through the sprint, avoiding the need for a conventional exit.

Aaron smiled when he noticed the expression on the boy’s face; it was the same every time he had brought someone over for the first time. It evoked a sense of pride for the place he had come to call home.

Gale turned his head from left to right, and then once more, immersing fully in the experience that he soon expected to become accustomed to.

Atop a hill with a gentle breeze, Gale found a storm-ravaged beach directly in front of him. He nervously shifted his gaze to find blizzard-struck mountains to his right, oddly merging into the sea and without any form of continuity. To his left, he spotted the densest of jungles he had ever come across — book or otherwise, eerily quiet and in sharp contrast to everything else around it.

“What an eccentric blend of nature,” Gale remarked.

“This place, it’s one that has lost its name,” Aaron revealed. “But for the sake of convenience, you could call it a World of Transition.”

The name held more meaning to Gale than the knight could have imagined. After all, this was a world that held him not in death, but a stage in between. He took in a deep breath — chest out wide — and exhaled as gently as he could; it was a new world, but one that touched the realms of both comfort and nervous change.

“You exclude the eccentricity, and it doesn’t feel too different from earth,” Aaron gently said. “I hope that helps ease your mind, at least to a certain degree.”

“It’s a beautiful world,” Gale admitted.

“That it is.”

“Well then,” said Gale with a heavy sigh. “What do I do now?”

As Aaron was about to respond, a thunderous roar emerged from the heavens. It struck once more but in the wake of lightning this time, and dangerously close to both men. Aaron held firmly onto Gale as the winds roughened, finding that the boy had almost fallen off balance. As the dust settled, he eased Gale onto his feet and allowed him sight of a man bearing an insignia much alike his own.

The rugged dwarf knelt out of respect for the knight, covered in scars and with a beard as thick as it could be. Gale’s nose wrinkled at the stench of blood that emanated from the visitor. It was a moment of sheer awe, and even more so when the dwarf pulled an axe — strapped onto his back — and placed it in front of his lord — a sign of tradition and respect. Gale gulped, a little intimidated, aware that he was now in the presence of a seasoned war veteran.

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“Lord Heart,” the dwarf addressed. “I pray that I did not interrupt anything of importance.”

“At ease, General,” commanded Aaron, a relaxed expression settling onto his face. “What is the matter?”

“Could I have a moment alone, perhaps?” asked the General. “I have a message, and it happens to be a matter of grave urgency.”

“Gale, this is Magellan,” introduced Aaron. “He’s among my most trusted soldiers and has served me well for over two hundred years.”

Aaron walked over to a safe distance from the boy, having excused himself momentarily. It allowed Gale the chance to ponder over what was last said, the mention of Magellan’s two-hundred years of servitude. He shuddered at the thought of their age, considering Aaron seemed no more than a man in his early thirties.

Gale caught a tense expression on Aaron’s face, briefly at best. But with one that signified little worry, the knight walked back to his charge soon after.

“It’s a good thing Magellan is here,” said Aaron. “This will help with what little wisdom I can impart before I take my leave.”

“Your leave?” repeated Gale.

“I had expected to take you all the way to your destination, but circumstance begs for my presence elsewhere.”

“How eventful.”

Aaron smiled, amused at the boy’s ability to adjust to change. He was a rarity, even by the knight’s own standards of recruitment. It was a matter to be impressed with, and he couldn’t help but admit it to himself.

“We’ll both benefit from a quick explanation,” said Aaron. “As I’d previously mentioned, Magellan’s timing could not have been better. We’re of the Godvildian race; you included. And as are all beings in this realm, you categorically fall into being either an Elementalist or a Wielder.”

“I suppose Magellan is an Elementalist,” guessed Gale. “Something to do with lightning?”

“General Magellan,” corrected Aaron. “And that’s correct. An Elementalist, based on his or her affinity, possesses the ability to control an element in nature. Contrarily, beings gifted in their mastery over weapons rank as Wielders.”

Magellan stepped forward on cue, revealing the back of his palm. He curled it into a cup, igniting sparks of electricity upon mild concentration. His lips twirled into a smile, noticing that he had managed to baffle the boy.

“Based on my understanding, I fall into the latter,” said Gale, recovering from his short moment of childish excitement. “But I do wonder, having never wielded a sword to begin with, how is it that I’m able to manoeuvre both body and weapon well above average?”

“That answer is embedded firmly in the nature of our realm,” said Aaron. “It’s kept in balance by the existence of two gods. Ehedus favours our kind, and in worship, you become stronger.”

“Interesting; but this will have to do for now,” accepted Gale. “It wouldn’t do us well to keep you from matters of urgency, as you seem to put it.”

“Thank you,” said Aaron. “I’m well-aware that we have a lot to talk about. But for now, let me leave you with this — to your right is the Road of Elements, and to your left is the Path of Wielders. You’re smart enough to figure out what’s next.”

“How will I know if I’ve reached my destination?”

“You just will.”

“Why am I not surprised?” said Gale. “You know, I am of the opinion that cryptic statements rarely help.”

“Funny.”

“It’s a new thing,” said Gale, without a hint of sarcasm this time. “Turns out I get quippy when inconvenienced. I never knew I had this quality in me.”

“It’ll serve you well,” said Aaron with a nod. “And with that, shall I take my leave, Gale?”

“Just one thing,” said Gale, halting the knight. “You said that this world no longer holds onto its name, and I’m sure there’s a reason for it. But I’d still like to know; it is my home now.”

Aaron leant forward, whispering what the boy sought. He smiled as they parted, proud of what they had shared. Aloud he said, “I hope we meet again, Gale. I really do.”

With clenched fists and a mask of confidence, the boy nodded affirmatively. He knew on instinct that behind that statement of goodwill laid a dreadful warning. But his thoughts wavered to that of the world he was now in. Mioverold. It was a good name.

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