by Bella Rylee
(WIP) Please give constructive criticism and ideas of where you want the story to go.
“What is reality my dear reader? I may not be quite sure of what that is anymore…but oh the places I have gone. The things I have seen. Fantastical to say the least. There is just one thing in all of this that I know for sure: there exists a world somewhere out there in the multiverse that contains a room which is surrounded by glass – a girl with her father - discussing topics of immense philosophical weight”.
Chapter 1: Mr. Fraser
“Mr. Fraser, tell me more about these worlds you write about. What do you see when you imagine them? What do you feel? What do you hear?” Dr. Morgan’s nosed wrinkled, trying her best to keep an open mind.
Hubert wiped the perspiration on his brow, adjusted his rounded prescription glasses and licked his lips; a little distracted by the sounds.
“…it is quite vivid and bizarre really. I see shades of colors the human eye simply cannot comprehend. I feel the heat of a double-sun beating down on my wrinkled pale skin. I hear the barks of wolves that resemble dolphins but swim like ducks. In other instances, I see streams of diamonds glinting amidst the maroon-lime green twilight; a cold breeze that feels just a little warmer merely by thought alone; sometimes there is a half-lizard half-human that communicates with me telepathically via their forked tongue”. He chuckled a little.
“That sounds wonderful, but perhaps a bit overwhelming.” Dr. Morgan replied sincerely.
He scowled a little, “Of course not, my dear. Quite on the contrary. It is exhilarating, refreshing even.”
“I see. Now Mr. Fraser, may I ask you another question which may be a little odd?”, Dr. Morgan smiled and scribbled notes onto a pad with expert attention to detail.
Hubert’s head bobbed enthusiastically. “Of course. I must remind you however, my conception of ‘odd’ may be much different than yours.” He mouthed the word shoot.
Dr. Morgan nodded more out of respect than strict understanding. “Why do you suppose the worlds you create seem so fantastical in nature?”, she listened carefully.
“My dear, you are quite mistaken. These worlds are not created by me – no, no, they present themselves in such a way that allows me to easily transcribe them into written words”. His face contorted slightly in a blend of annoyance and condescension. “Perhaps you should consider investing in a better ceiling fan? The summer heat is making me quite uncomfortable”. Hubert frowned and began to fan himself with his own hand.
“Oh I must apologize, but I do not normally run it during the winter months”, Dr. Morgan replied cordially. “On that note, I regret to say that we are out of time. This time next week?”
“Most definitely”. Hubert promptly stood up from the sterile couch, and paused in silence for a few moments. Before exiting the room, his expression softened, “thank you for listening to me once again, my dear.”
Just beyond the doorway, a purple mouse the size of a small cat appeared. The creature had three large beady eyes. It squeaked once and paused before scurrying along the hallway, as if beckoning Hubert to follow. He trailed along the well-lit, wooden-paneled corridor – the creature glanced back with one of its eyes periodically to ensure Hubert was in tow.
They travelled down the stainless steel elevator together. Hubert was not in the least bit uncomfortable. The mouse continued toward the main floor entrance, Mr. Fraser obediently followed. He was curious to see what would happen next.
Out on the street, ice-crystals formed on the roofs of parked cars. Light drops of rain fell on patches of grass along the sidewalk, beading unopposed by the disturbance of human footsteps. Meanwhile, the duo trekked towards the unknown – through puddles that reflected a stiller world; mirrors – a gateway to countless variation. Hubert must have walked a couple miles by now, he did not know for sure, nor did he care.
At last, the peculiar rodent stopped suddenly next to a large featureless grey door stuck in an alleyway filled with various street artwork; the creature wagged its obsidian black tail, chattering excitedly amongst itself. The door had no handle; Hubert was curious but slightly confused. He attempted to open the door by pushing it. Unfortunately, it did not budge. Hubert frowned. Without missing a beat, he glanced down at the creature, “Mind helping me out there, my little friend?”
The mouse blinked twice and cocked its head, looking from him back towards the door. Standing up on its hind legs, the creature pushed the door open as easily as if a strong wind had caught it.
Beyond the precipice, a soft light shone through. Hubert heard the sound of an ocean but couldn’t be too sure. He thanked his companion, whom nodded before scurrying away, then confidently strode forward into the unknown.
Chapter 2: Much Left to Be Desired
His brown loafers depressed the sand-like substance which was most definitely not sand. It stuck to the bottom of Hubert’s shoes. He shook his legs, leaving large clumps of the blueish gray powder in his wake. Minerals such as sapphires and rubies littered the beach methodically; it formed a shape like a sideways ‘s’. Hubert bent down to pick one up, but it dissolved instantly in his hands – into the unknown substance. He breathed the air – it wasn’t as salty as expected, but more sour, like the aftertaste of a ripe lemon. Wiping his hands on his pinstripe suit pants, Hubert sighed in satisfaction and turned his attention towards the waters’ edge.
As he gazed outward, a set of three orange suns were setting, from left to right – each appearing just a smidge smaller than the last on the horizon. The skyline was an impressive mix of lilac and royal blue. Twenty-foot pillars of pure crystal scattered the ocean, jutting out from the depths like translucent spikes. The water itself was murky as if made from the waste of a sea creatures’ own bile; it was ice cold to the touch but lapped the shore calmly. In the distance, Hubert saw something magnificent: A huge amphibious creature coiled around one such pillar – its scales glistening a sunburnt orange hue; it appeared to be in a deep slumber. Hubert marvelled at the sight for a while, but was interrupted by small voice behind him.
“Pretty isn’t it?” A little girl beamed in awe.
Hubert nodded slowly, before turning around to face her and smiling back, “Why yes it sure is, my dear. And what might your name be?”
The girl replied quickly, “Hannah”; then immediately added, “I know who you are. You created me right?”
Mr. Fraser nodded his head in disagreement, “I don’t believe so, but I did notice you.”
Hannah seemed pleased with that answer, but inexplicably ran off almost as soon as she had appeared.
Hubert was left alone slightly puzzled by the visit, yet pleased with this world. Another in an endless line of fantastical realms. However, he longed for a world with a little more danger.
He took his time along the length of the beach, careful to not crush the fragile minerals beneath his steps. Along the way, Hubert noticed something of interest: a small white crab (no larger than a minnow) with an apparent lack of eyesight but instead, a set of four identical red tentacles used to navigate the beach.
Hubert watched as the crustacean worked; it would walk a few steps, gather a clump of the powdery substance in its pincers, form it into a ball and swallow the substance whole. Merely seconds later, the creature appeared to gag and deposit an output – the same minerals that littered the beach. It continued this process indefinitely. Hubert felt sorry for the creature given its monotonous purpose.
At the end of the ‘s’, was a ladder leading up into the sky. Hubert took the cue and climbed the white ornate rungs – which appeared as if they were cast from ivory. He did not bother to look down.
At the top, there was a large metal grate with a strange insignia – depicting a tree surrounded by a white circle. Lifting it, Hubert came up, and began his next adventure.
Unbeknownst to him, the sea creature began to stir.
Chapter 3: The Descent
The scenery here was quite different than before. Hubert stood atop a mountain plateau devoid of both flora and fauna. It overlooked the lush landscape below - trees with intricate root systems claimed nutritional dominance over one another; their leaves of metallic gold, silver, purple, and blue placed methodically as far as the eye could see fought over strategic angles to achieve maximum growth from photosynthesis. A small village in the distance promised Hubert an adventure he would not soon forget.
A small narrow trail winded down the mountain-side; Hubert was careful enough to take his time, ‘it would be a damn shame to get injured before the adventure had even begun’. He looked backwards briefly to see if anyone was following – he could never be too sure what kinds of companions might be accompanying him.
Hubert noticed a deeper ecology now being amidst the forest; the interconnected root systems slowly pulsed colors cycling from blue, orange, green, and yellow. Small black mushrooms clutched the trunks of the trees in a seemingly subtle symbiotic relationship – he knew better than to investigate them more closely however. Besides, the implications of disturbing such an ecosystem could be catastrophic – Hubert had learned that lesson the hard way only once before. Deep within the brush, three purple glowing eyes watched him curiously.
The temperature was noticeably different here as well, compared to the top of the plateau – sticky beads of sweat leaked through Hubert’s’ clothes; his glasses acquired a foggy characteristic. Hubert stopped briefly to wipe them clean. He heard a rustling in a nearby bush and listened closely – waiting for at least five minutes – nothing emerged. Feeling slightly unsettled, Hubert moved on anyways.
The underbrush grew thicker the further he walked; an eerie silence prevailed. Even the slight breeze had ceased. Hubert began to walk faster; he did not care much for being alone with hearing nothing but his own thoughts.
A few paces later, Hubert was in luck; an odd figure emerged from a few nearby trees – too short to be human, too tall to be a dwarf. It had piercing blue eyes, crackling bolts of electricity for hair. The individuals’ head was a little too large for its stature. He introduced himself to Hubert right away, “My name is Fulgur. We have been expecting you. Please follow me, and don’t mind the local wildlife, they are just as curious as you are – we do not receive many visitors.”
Hubert merely nodded and began walking alongside him. About 60 yards in, Hubert spoke up, “I’m all for adventure, but where exactly are we going?” Fulgur merely smiled politely and kept on leading the way.
The duo passed red streams as clear as day but dark as blood; isolated fields of various exotic flowers. Fulgur had warned in particular, “Do not get too close to the pink ones – pretty but poisonous”.
Not too far beyond the fields were the tunnels. Fulgur led Hubert into a dark crevasse in the mountain – he had forgotten all about the village he was intending to visit. It was pitch black; but their footsteps echoed far into the winding depths. Fulgur remained quiet, barely breathing – the only light came from his electric visage. Impossibly, their environment grew darker as they went further in. Soon, Hubert was forced to rely on his other senses to navigate: the stale smell of metallic minerals. The dry lump in his own throat forebode an unseen threat. The rocks underfoot attempted to betray him at every turn. Fulgur, meanwhile, navigated expertly - almost effortlessly.
“Where the hell are we going?” Hubert questioned.
No response. His voice became a little shaky, “Fulgur, are you there?” But Hubert was unable to spot Fulgur amidst the darkness. He had seemingly disappeared, leaving Hubert utterly alone. He felt the coolness of his own breath; the perspiration gathering on his armpits. Fear pervaded his psyche. He sensed the gaze of the purple eyes from before. Hubert froze.
Then a realization hit him – the creature was the small rodent which he had followed earlier, the same one that had led him to the world he had visited previously. A smile grew across Hubert’s face, his fear quickly subsided knowing his trusty companion could help him navigate the unknown. The creature guided him through the winding darkness, purple eyes glancing backwards occasionally.
“Shit!” Hubert cursed loudly, his hands met the ground in self-preservation; fortunately, his face was protected. He quickly dusted himself off wincing in pain – cuts and bruises spanned much of his exposed extremities. The cuts bled a little – smelling of cold metal. His glasses did not fall off but a crack had appeared in the left lens. The rodent appeared concerned; its whiskers twitched nervously, chittering to itself silently.
Hubert reassured the creature despite his constant level of pain, “It is ok my friend. Let us continue onward.” The rodent’s obsidian black tail wagged in simultaneous agreeance of Hubert’s plan and doubt in his condition.
Not too far further, a light appeared at the end of the tunnel. The duo journeyed beyond the precipice – Fulgur awaited them, along with three other unknown individuals, each more exotic in appearance than the last. Fulgur apologized for his sudden disappearance but tried to explain that the successful navigation of the tunnels was a test Hubert was required to pass in order to meet the rest of his cohort. Hubert understood, but was a little pissed off anyways. He hoped the meeting would be worth the literal pain.
Fulgur introduced the rest of the group one by one from left to right – Aela, Reija, and Schwarjinn.
Aela was both the local huntress and healer; adept in the art of the hunt and the complexities of remedial practices. She appeared the most human-like of the group, with exception to her gold complexion, long pointed ears, and a build that would surely best even an Amazoness warrior in close-quarters combat. Besides Fulgur, she seemed to be the most amiable of the group. Aela tended to Hubert’s various wounds while Fulgur continued with the introductions.
Reija’s features were difficult to make out – covered by a black facial shroud – what was clearly visible however, was a pair of sunburnt orange eyes; claws composed of sharpened metal, and pitch-black feathery wings spanning at least four feet in either direction. Hubert guessed that she was the rogue of the group, despite a lack of explanation of her job description. Fulgur did warn Hubert that she was not to be crossed with – the last individual who did ended up eviscerated and hanged by his own entrails.
Last but not least was Schwarjinn – a bizarre amalgamation of various mythical beasts – the head of a royal griffin; the body of a lion; and the wings and appendages of a dragon (albeit much smaller in scale). He was the designated mage – adept in both battle magic and practical alike.
It was unclear what the role of Fulgur was at this point – fortunately, he described it in detail to Hubert; he served the dual role of master thief and cartographer. Fulgur claimed to have the expertise to find anything and create a detailed intricate map of the best way to acquire it.
Amidst the introductions and discussion, Hubert lost sight of his favorite three-eyed rodent – whom had scampered off aimlessly as if looking to accompany the next weary traveller.
Chapter 4: The plan
Fulgur explained Hubert’s purpose for being here. The group required his unwavering convictions of courage, imagination, and practical intuition for a task that would be both insurmountably dangerous and intoxicatingly enjoyable. How Fulgur knew the composition of his traits so well was Hubert’s best guess. Nonetheless, Hubert was impressed.
They were going to attempt the theft of a valuable artifact known as the Azure Sceptre – a legendary staff allegedly capable of decimating hordes of enemies given an owner with the right magical prowess to wield it properly. Hubert deduced that this was why Schwarjinn was so vital to the group.
Their problem was three-fold; (1) They needed to find its location; (2) Correctly gauge any potential guards and/or enchantments that protected the sceptre; and (3) Figure out the best way to escape from the prying eyes of the law once the deed was done. Hubert expressed concern primarily for the third point in the plan – there were too many things that could go awry. In response, Fulgur grinned mischievously, “That’s the best part of any heist, my friend.”
Fulgur had obtained some rudimentary facts which would help the group on their quest to obtain the sceptre. Firstly, it would most likely be kept in a densely populated area – hidden in plain sight. This would narrow down their search area considerably. He pointed out that the province of Rehevä only had three capital cities – Aavikii, Mäkya, and Rantä. Secondly, there would be some sort of enchantment to obscure it from detection; his scouts which Fulgur left unnamed for their own protection had confirmed. There would also most likely be an ambush prepared in case of a heist attempt. Reija expressed that she was more than up to the task of taking out any potential guards that try to foil their plan. Hubert noticed a worried look in Aela’s face – she did not seem to crave violence unless it was absolutely necessary. He would leave this heart-to-heart for a more appropriate occasion.
Fulgur had his contacts already looking to find information within these three capitals to see if the sceptre was in any of them or had at least may have passed through. Schwarjinn offered his help in this regard, but Fulgur assured him that his expertise was better served keeping the core team working at their best through various magical augments and spells. To that effect, Schwarjinn helped repair Hubert’s cracked lens with a simple spell. He spoke in a language that was unfamiliar to Hubert – resembling a mix between Latin and what he assumed to be the local language of the province.