After the war, we went back to Vers.
The Yunai were purged, the enemy had, shocking, fallen to our might and determination. With a sudden sense that we were going to actually survive for the foreseeable future, we realized that we were going to have to find our place in this new world. We had new allies in the Besherman, and after seeing how life could be in the city of Kennis, it became quickly apparent that wood huts and simple hunting parties with bows and arrows were not in our future. We turned to the engineers of the Besherman ranks and they offered us new techniques in exchange for us giving them a better understanding of the magical energy that we called the aether.
Once we had our civil engineering underway, we turned to our population planning. We still had no idea what had become of the world we left behind, and most of our airships had been used for building materials or as defensive weapons against the Yunai. There was one vessel that might be able to return to the world below, but we feared the death and destruction that could still be waiting for us. That being said, we decided we were going to need more hands. We needed babies.
Many of the young soldiers set out to accomplish that goal without another word, but it also became a silent rule of the land that young women were expected to bring new life to our world. Having children had been a luxury in Azirin, but here in Vers it was a necessity. That rule wasn’t greatly appreciated by everyone, but the acceptance that our people might die out without newborns meant it was not argued against. Evanor said that it could be reviewed in the years ahead, when things were different.
Meanwhile, Appoleon was one of the few surviving members of the Order of the Crystal Blade. As the first soldier to use his weapon, a blade fused of both magic and technology, he quickly became the figurehead of military might in Vers. He went to work on training a few soldier, one that could become a master of the old and the new. A blade in hand, and powerful lightning that could carve a path through stone. He called this new power luminous magic, and since he was the pioneer of fighting with these weapons, no one spoke against it. He became the first Paladin of the Luminous Blades. Ironically, one of this first students was a young boy named Fynn. He was Sellia’s son, and he was eager to fight like his mother.
Angus returned to his duties of teaching so that the Udiria Academy of Magic Users would survive through him. He revealed to us that he had allowed his longing for knowledge to save a legacy. He had used a magical spell to shrink his library of spell books so that they all fit inside a small bag. The discovery was a pleasant one and it revived the spirits of the few surviving Udirian students.
A young and partially grumpy magic user named Donathan was given the task of caring for the surviving books. I didn’t like Donathan, but I was happy that he had found a job where he wouldn’t cross paths with me. I knew this, of course, because I didn’t care for the library at all.
As others took up roles of leadership and power, I avoided it. I was not a great marksman, so hunting parties did not care for me. I was not built for lifting great weight, so the construction teams did not care for me. My magical power was impressive, but with no refinement or control, I was a risk in almost any capacity. I spent hours stoking fires in the blacksmith shop, or conjuring food and water for the tired workers as they built new houses or hauled freshly cut stone from a quarry that the elder had helped create.
Many days I just went fishing with the older survivors. Fishing seemed to be one of the only areas where the Besherman technology didn’t radically reinvent. People still just threw a line in the water and waited for an eager fish to take hold.
From time to time, Angus would approach me and attempt to pull me back into fire lessons, but I would resist. I’m not sure what I was waiting for. Perhaps I was locked in a state of depression. Now that my mind was finally able to think about the horrors that our generation had lived through; the fall of kingdoms, the end of the world, and the start of a new one… Maybe I just didn’t know where I was supposed to go from there.
Regardless of what I thought or wanted, things were about to change for me.
On a particularly cool morning I woke and headed down to the stables as I generally did. I would feed Surfal, take him out for a short ride, and then return to my work at the blacksmith. This morning, however, I was in for a surprise.
“Good morning Surfal,” I said, walking into the stables. “Are you ready for—”
In the darkness I saw a figure next to my horse. At first, I wasn’t sure of anything other than gender, but when she stepped out into the morning light I saw that she was too tall to be one of us. She was a Besherman, of course.
“Goededag,” the woman spoke, grinning slightly. “Ik ben hier voor het paard.”
“Uh, hello,” I replied, uncertain of how else to respond. “You’re one of the Besherman soldiers, right? What brings you here?”
She didn’t speak, but as she looked at me, I noticed her eyes. The faint green glow that I had seen that day on the battlefield was pulsing within them, the same glow that also pulsed within the eyes of my horse. I knew that this was the woman that had saved my life and fought with me in battle.
“Oh, it’s you,” I said with a smile. “I never thought I’d see you again.”
She said nothing. I frowned. She couldn’t understand me
“You understood me on the mountain,” I said. “Why not now?”
She tilted her head, her smile fading.
That’s when I realized what had happened. She hadn’t spoken to me in my language on the mountain. She had been speaking her native language the entire time, but I had been so open to the arcane magics that I must have been translating on the fly. Such magic wasn’t uncommon. Most magic users learn them when they are very young. My unconscious mind must have simply weaved the magic when I needed it, even if I wasn’t totally aware.
I tried to recall the spell and even did the juvenile hand motion that the teachers showed us in school to help remember the wording. With a flick of my wrist, I cast the spell that would allow me to understand, and speak, the woman’s language language.
“Good fortune to you,” I said, speaking in her tongue. “How are you?”
Her face twisted into a displeased look. “You poison my language with your magic.”
“If we’re going to communicate then I’ll need to use it,” I replied. “I don’t have time to learn it the hard way, at least not this morning.”
“Most of my people would kill you for such blasphemy.”
“Not you?” I asked.
She squinted. “No.”
“Good to know.”
She looked to my horse and reached out, gently touching his face. “You call your horse Surfal. Do you know what that means?”
“It’s Evarian for Strength,” I said. “It’s an old language.”
“It means similar in the old tongue of our people. He is well named.”
I paused for a moment, thinking about it. “Yeah, I suppose so. He lived through the unthinkable.”
“Your connection is important. I can feel his attachment to you through our bond.”
“The glowing eyes thing?” I asked. “You can feel the horse’s thoughts?”
“We are one, in a way,” the woman said. “I bound his soul with my own.”
“That’s how you saved his life at the Grid?”
“Is that some kind of aetheral magic? I thought you shunned it?”
“Do you not have… hypocrisy in your land? My people shun the aether, but the forests do not. The animals, all life, the magical energy flows within us all. I can pull that energy from the trees, the grass, wherever I may need it, and then use it in my own way. We take energy from our own world and use it in our own world. We do not breach the barrier like your kind.”
“Fair enough,” I chuckled. “That is pretty hypocritical.”
“Do you care for him as you should?” she pressed.
“I do,” I replied. “I promise.”
“It is good to know,” she confirmed, turning to look at me. “What is your name?”
“My name is Sionis Sepher. What’s yours?”
“My people call me Marjan.”
“What brings you to Vers, Marjan?”
“A hunger for adventure,” she replied, a devilish energy behind her eyes. “I have come with a small envoy that wishes to speak to Lady Evanor. Much has happened in the time since our last meeting, and we seek your help in hunting the remaining Yunai. We fear there may be more of them coming from the void.”
A fire was lit inside of me at that. More of them?
“You think there are more Yunai coming?” I asked. “You mean the virus? Is this about Lederan?”
“No,” Marjan said, shaking her head. “In your world, you have a place that is massive, open, with ships inside of it, yes?”
“Ah, you have a place where you can and go from this World Ship.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“The Yunai,” she said, sounding frustrated. “They came to us through this place. They travelled here on ships and invaded your lands.”
“The ancient doorway,” I said, trying to understand. “They first invaded from the dark realm, a place covered in total darkness, like the night we defeated Aeshma.”
Marjan nodded knowingly. “So your people have never seen the ships?”
“No,” I said. “Nothing about leaving this world or whatever you’re talking about. You’ve never been to the world below, so how do you know all of this?”
“The Grid is a powerful supercomputer, you saw it yourself. It communicates with every part of this World Ship. It warned us of coming ship. We believe more Yunai are coming. We need to be prepared.”
“Are you telling me that the Yunai came to our World Ship from… another World Ship… and now there are even more of them coming here?!”
“Ah, yes, now you begin to understand! My people, they say your kind is not so smart, but you have adapted so quickly to so much knowledge.”
I paused. “Wait. Your people say we’re dumb?”
“It is prejudice of ancient times,” Marjan said with a laugh. “You see, we believe that touching the aether is what draws the Yunai to our World Ship. This is why it is forbidden, yes? So, you come here and you dive into these magics, but you bring doom with you. My people hold you accountable, and your lack of understanding when it comes to the obvious… we think you must be slow, you know?”
“I feel like I should be offended.”
Marjan laughed again. “You should! See! You are a funny one.”
When I didn’t laugh, she stopped laughing too. “You seem bothered?”
“If what you’re saying is true, we need to speak to Lady Evanor right away.”
“Of course,” Marjan said, clearing her throat. “Come, let us go to the town center.”
At the city center of Vers, Lady Evanor had authorized the construction of a tall tower, one that resembled the spires they used to build in Udiria. She planned to use it as a study hall for all of the magic users that had come, with her own office at the very top. The library that Angus had salvaged was being kept here as well, safe from the weather while the building was being constructed, thanks to the help from the Besherman technology.
When Marjan and I reached the town square, I saw that several other Besherman soldiers had already arrived, and Evanor was talking with them in the open. We were late to listen in on the conversation, but Evanor’s voice was clear and loud as she spoke with the envoy.
“This is a terrifying prospect,” she was just saying. “Getting an airship down there is utmost importance. Especially if what you say about the Travelers is true. I don’t know how the rest of the world below has fared against the Yunai virus, but we must be prepared for another Yunai invasiaon.”
“Excuse me, I’m sorry,” I spoke up without authorization, which could have landed me in trouble, but I had to know. “Lady Evanor, you said something about Travelers? Who are they?”
“Not who, but what,” she replied, not showing any frustration with my outburst. “We’ve been told that beyond the ancient doorway that the Yunai used to invade our World, there are… ships… stellar vessels that can carry us from one world to another.”
Marjan nodded to me. “You see? I told you.”
The Besherman General, Taanach, was with Evanor. He turned to her now and continued. “We are grateful for the aid you have offered us in rebuilding Kennis. Your magical talents have been beneficial, and I wish we could look forward without fear of what we have learned, but I agree that if we are to stand against the Yunai, we must engage them before they reclaim a foothold on our world.”
“We still have the original plans for our airship designs,” Evanor said. “I am confident that your engineers could help us improve upon the designs so that we could reach the world below with great haste. We are eager to assist, but we are still only a handful of survivors.”
“Of course,” Taanach replied. “Come, let us find a comfortable place to discuss these matters.”
As the group started inside Evanor’s unfinished tower, she held a hand to stop me from following. I frowned, feeling rather involved in all of this, but I obeyed. They vanished inside, and the rest of the crowd began to disburse.
“Come, Sionis Sepher,” Marjan said now. “I would like to ride Surfal, if you will allow it.”
I nodded. “Sure, if you want. It would seem unfair to say no.”
“Good,” she replied. “Come.”
I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that my horse took so well to Marjan. They were sharing the same soul, I know, but Surfal had generally only warmed up to me or others that I encouraged. Marjam, on the other hand, jumped right on the creature and rushed off with him.
Soon enough, she circled back with a big smile on her face, and she extended her hand to me. “Come,” she said. “We ride together like we did at the Grid.”
I took her hand and mounted Surfal. We rode out across the edge of the swamp, following the coastline as we went further and further north. Along the way we said almost nothing. We just rode. The wind whipping around us and Surfal blasting along the shore.
We rode together for the rest of the afternoon, and despite the troubling news I had learned, I allowed myself to enjoy the moment for what it was. The world faded, and there was only the wind and the sound of Surfal’s thundering hooves.