Chapter 543 – Projection

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Many times since the day I awoke to my strangely changed world, having lost three months of what by all reports would have been some remarkable memories, I have been plagued with strange feelings, half-remembered recollections that didn’t fit into the life I knew.

Lydia warns me when I reflect too much on them that they are dangerous ‘leaks’ from a reservoir we must absolutely avoid tapping. But it’s hard to pretend something so massive does not exist, especially in these moments when it is standing right in front of you.

Actually, Lydia’s presence has helped in that respect. Although those moments have greatly increased, I have, instead, mostly experienced flashes of her life in a time that seems to have been similar to that of the Ati’i, the ancient people whose culture gave Atius its name. They built a mighty civilization, in the terms of their time, that prospered for a thousand years before succumbing to the Ostish empire. But their age, a time of bronze and primitive magic, could never have any secrets that were a threat to my mind.

But outside those memories, my blood magic spell, [Blood Presence], also gave me a powerful flashback to someplace else. A place of high esoteric magic having a sophistication far beyond anything I knew before this moment.

<Is this the same magic that Lhan and the others are using?> I projected to Lydia. Without speaking aloud, I could only communicate with Rhea, currently possessing Mireia, through her mind-reading. I had to do it that way because, if I did speak aloud, my image in the Kasarene Highlands would say it as well.

(“No, My Lady,”) Mirea/Rhea answered. (“The spell they are using is far more sophisticated. It leverages an otherworld skill that you haven’t learned yet, so you would be unable to use it. They have the true sensation of being present in that location, and a solid body that can interact with their surroundings. You are merely sending a projection of your image and voice. It’s like an illusion spell, except that it adds the ability to see and hear the scene.”)

I could hear both the sounds of the Highland scene before me and Mirea’s voice in my bedroom. I could also hear the maid staff in the next room going about their daily chores.

At that moment, my hands lay immobile at my sides as I lay on my back with my eyes closed, because the spell required me to relax as if asleep in order to control it. The way that I operated the magic reminded me of the imagery training I did as a squire in my swordfighting lessons, except the spell in operation had the effect of showing me real sights and sounds.

But real is not the correct word for it, really. The sounds I heard through the magic were like those heard from the other end of a communication spell, and the sights had the quality of something seen in a visual projection. But the very oddly familiar sensation of its artificial nature bothered me so much despite these facts.

Somewhere, at some time, I experienced something very similar to this magic before. With the sole exception that my image in this spell moved with my thoughts, while in my memory, my hands wanted to hold an oddly-shaped object perhaps six inches wide at waist level, upon which my fingertips ought to dance in order to control the actions of my surrogate figure. My eyes should not be closed, but open to see the scenery I beheld, projected upon the inner surface of strange goggles.

The alien, unreal sensation bore no resemblance to any part of the world I knew, yet it remained a true, clear memory. I surely took part in this activity before. I surely enjoyed it at some point, in a lost time disconnected from my current life…

(“Concentrate upon the spell, My Lady!”) Mireia/Rhea scolded, yanking me back into the present.

I jolted and realized my dive into that memory nearly caused me to lose control of the magic.

Imagery Training! Stay focused!

I focused upon the scene before me. The battle I had overheard through Mireia’s spell had paused for the moment, but it had wrought destruction widely across the forest. In the air, a trio of impressive individuals stood in a three-way face-off, showing the threat of arms but not currently fighting each other.

The three forces on the ground also held their positions and used the pause to tend their wounded.

Before I ‘arrived’, by which I mean, before I manifested the spell at the position Rhea guided me to, they had already reached some sort of impasse, because they were simply glaring at one another. But the spell gave me a manner of [Fairy Sense] that told me of the massive levels of mana they each were maintaining. This was a static situation, but it was by no means a peaceful one.

Lady Serera, I knew. Snow white hair, gray dove wings and an indecent amount of visible skin thanks to her ‘hauberk’ that was her only attire above the waist, a fairy mail scarf not quite wide enough to properly cover her bosom. She had sheathed her blade and was mockingly keeping her chin high, her bosom jutted proudly forward and her fist on her hip, in a non-verbal dare for the other two to attack her.

The first person facing her, a lilac-haired belle with mayfly wings in slightly less shameless fairy knight armor, kept the sword in her hand in a guarding position, wisely wary. Being without a sword should be no handicap at all for a royal knight of Faerie, after all.

The other, possibly a fairy without her wings grown, stayed comfortably seated on a firebird of all things, somehow completely unbothered by her fiery mount. She kept her imperious gaze on both opponents.

(“No, My Lady, that’s no fairy,”) Mireia/Rhea corrected. (“She’s the Lady of the Red Tower, a dangerous being who regards this territory as her own. She’s technically an Apsara through her mother, but her father was a Blaze, so she’s a dual Elemental, wielding both Wind and Fire. She’s an ancient who has ruled this territory since the collapse of the Ancient Fairy Age, and both the fairies and the monsters of her domain follow her.”)

Ancient Fairy Age. A chill filled me. Those words evoked the weathered, haunted ancient megalithic ruins one occasionally stumbles upon in the wilderness, older than the Demonic Age, older than the Heroic Age, older than the Elven Golden Age, older than history itself. In most minds, only fanciful fairy tales and the knowledge that such ruins date from that era survive.

Serera and the others tell me that my grandfather is the Fairy King, and that’s why we’ve received all this help from him. He, too, is a name from that era, since he figures in many of those stories. But hearing that claim and actually meeting a creature of that antiquity are surely two very different things.

<Like facing a character from the Titanomachia, I suppose?> Lydia mused in the back of my mind.

I overheard her private thought, reflecting with a little irony that ‘Rhea’ actually was a character in that story from her world.

The thought that this being was an Elemental, one of those very rare beings who rivaled the strongest fairies in power, only made the situation more worrisome. I had learned recently that Benedetta and Carson were also Elementals, truly an amazing thing itself, but they had figured as positive figures in my life since I was a baby. This was very different.

As I watched, my senses told me of two more beings nearby, the only ones in motion, dashing through the underbrush away from the devastation. Moments later, they reached their goal, a wounded soldier and his comrade tending him.

(“Send Durandal to her right now!”) my companion demanded, and I realized one of the two was Miss Lhan, who carried a replica of the bastard sword in my wardrobe. The other was Miss Brigitte, from the Hero’s Party.

<Durandal?> I called out to him. He was not far away, but…

<On my way, My Lady!> he answered.

I guess he was close enough to hear me.

The reason for her urgency appeared a heartbeat later, a lesser fairy warrior sprinting in Miss Lhan’s direction only a pace above the ground who shouted in the Forest Tongue, “Get down!”

Although it isn’t mutually intelligible with Modern Ostish, the Forest Tongue descends from the same Ancient Ostish language. It’s close enough that it doesn’t even have its own name. It calls itself “Ostache ” and its name for Modern Ostish translates as “The Farmer Tongue”.

That’s why the names of Rock Dwarves and Halflings and many humans from the lands between Atianus and Doria always sound very similar to, yet not quite like Ostish names.

Mother had ensured that I knew all of the languages used in her duchy, and they included the peculiar tongue spoken in the wild lands. I understood the words clearly, but not whom they were directed at.

In the next instant, magic flew, both from the fairy warrior and the replica of Durandal on Miss Lhan’s hip. The mana collided in a massive display. As the surprised warrior pulled back, now wary, I finally spotted the two ogres whom the fairy warrior had overflown. They had been creeping toward the soldiers. 

I had yet to make my projection visible, but this had happened right below me. I guessed that Rhea was responsible for my remarkably good placement, and decided I should make myself known now.

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Ëi onar lâ,” I greeted the warrior once I appeared, then, in her own language, I warned her, “Do not approach any closer to my people, please.”

The trio of powerful beings in the air were now aware of my presence. The apsara warned me, “Move no closer to my people!”

As I floated my projection upward to the level of the trio, I answered, “Tell your people to move no closer to mine.”

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I pointed down at the ogres and added, “Especially those two.”

Finally, I said, switching to Dorian, “And kindly speak a language my people understand.”

She didn’t. She just demanded, in Forest Tongue, “All of you are invaders anyhow! Leave our lands, immediately!”

Screw that, was my urge to tell her, but I made myself stay civil. With a curtsey, I stated, in Dorian, “This Tiana, the Acting Duchess of Pendor, greets the esteemed Lady of the Red Tower.”

The apsara’s eyes narrowed, her stare remaining lethal, but she stated, grudgingly, at last, “Alwain of the Red Tower accepts your greetings, Lady Tiana. But I neither welcome you nor anyone else here to my domain. All of you must leave immediately!”

The lilac-haired fairy knight snapped, “This is the royal forest of King Cullen the Fifth of Orestania! Bow down and submit to his dominion!”

Die, my less civil side replied in my head. Instead, I held my temper and proclaimed, “She will do nothing of the sort. My people will defend her ground against you, your lord, your pretender king and all others. The true King of Orestania recognizes the Highlands as open wilderness.”

“I do not need your help!” Alwain protested, reverting to Forest Tongue again.

“I’m not asking permission. As a member of the Royal Family of Orestania, I will exercise our authority whether you like it or not.”

This wasn’t easy. I was perfectly safe, but this being was a danger to all the people I held dear, gathered behind me. I needed to make nice with her. 

I noticed at that point the pair of ogres beginning to sneak forward again. I truly thought that they would stay in place after I directly pointed them out. I had to shut down their plans before they reached my people.

“You’re still pretending to be a princess, Monster?” the fairy knight jeered. “What power can you even wield here? This image of you is just some sort of illusion!”

I wasn’t sure why she said ‘still’. Had I met her before? Didn’t matter. I told her, “The people whom you ambushed are my envoys. They are on a mission for the Duchy of Pendor and the Viceroyalty of Doria, commissioned on the authority of Gerald, King of Orestania. They are the power I wield in this place. And with that in mind…”

I was out of time with the ogres below. I looked straight at Miss Lhan and told her, “Stop those fools without inflicting serious wounds.”

For a moment, I thought I had goofed. Because we had slipped back into it, I had used Forest Tongue again, and she blinked at me as if she hadn’t understood. But then she suddenly dashed at the ogres and a moment later, she let loose a blast of Wind mana of a scale that shocked me. I had no idea she could manage that heavy an attack.

I said ‘without inflicting serious wounds’, Miss Lhan…

The fairy warrior reacted, firing magic upon her, but the same shield that had protected Lhan before appeared again, and then the tiny otherworld girl was running up invisible steps into the air and meeting the warrior’s spear with the replica Durandal. 

The fairy escaped backward and the two ended the brief conflict with a staring contest. Meanwhile, Lady Serera had shifted position to stop Alwain from interfering.

Alwain complained, “Is this the alliance you’re offering?”

“Your people attempted to ambush ours,” I told her “We simply held our ground. Have your soldiers remain in place while we parley.”

She glared at me, but couldn’t argue. I spoke the truth and she knew it.

“Um…”

For a moment, Little Miss Lhan looked like she might wilt as everyone turned toward her voice. But she kept her nerve and told the fairy warrior, “One of your comrades got hurt from my attack. Please allow me to heal her.”

<She can heal?> I wondered.

(“She knows the same [Regeneration] spell that you use, My Lady,”) Mireia/Rhea explained.

“Stay back!” the warrior shouted in Forest Tongue.

“Fair warrior,” I answered. “Why don’t you go down to stand guard over your comrade while my comrade helps her? She looks badly wounded.”

After some hesitation, Alwain directed, “Do it.”

I breathed slightly easier. With the immediate crisis over, I could finally address the bigger problem.

- my thoughts:

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This chapter and the previous are of course, the same events, told from two perspectives. They may eventually be merged into one, but I couldn't work out how best to show the bits from Lhan's and Tiana's perspectives that I needed to have without swapping back and forth in a frantic fashion that wasn't appropriate. So I just wrote out the same scene from both POVs, and figured I could sort it later. Or maybe I'll end up just keeping it as is.

And yes, Tiana's unplaceable memory was of using VR goggles and a game controller as Robert.

We now know two more magic species, the Elementals of Wind and Fire. 'Blaze' is a blatantly self explanatory name, like 'Shade' (the name of Benedetta and Carson's species) but Apsara requires explanation. The Apsara (in Sanskrit, 'Apsaras') is the Hindu or Buddhist parallel to the nymph, basically a spirit of cloud and water. In Indian and Southeast Asian art, they are general shown dancing, but in Chinese art, they are often depicted as flying, which is how they became Wind elementals in my universe. I had already used Sylphs (the Wind elementals of Alchemy) as fairies, so yeah.

The Titanomachy, which Lydia mentioned, is a lost epic poem of Ancient Greek literature. Although we've lost most of the actual text, we still know much of its contents because it was constantly cited and quoted by other ancient Greeks. It was seen by them as every bit as important as the Iliad and Odyssey, because it contained quite a bit of the material now known generally as 'Greek Mythology'. It wasn't the only such work, but it was widely cited, so it should have been one of the more prominent ones.

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