It took three magic users poking very carefully at the edge of reality to finally find the opening that we needed. We pass through the veil, our spirits did anyway, and together we floated into a realm that did not belong to us. We didn’t know what we would find. We hoped the right Yunai would find us.
Thankfully, we were rewarded.
In the very center of this strange place, a figure appeared. We all knew it was Noaath. I wished the young paladin could be here to see this, but he didn’t know how to harness the aether like we did, so he couldn’t travel between realms.
“It’s been a long time,” I said loudly. “We have come to talk.”
The Yunai twisted and lowered its head to look at me. He looked like a dragon again, but as he drew closer his shape shifted in size and stature, until it had completely transformed into a masculine and youthful male. “I knew you would come eventually,” Noaath said as he finished his approach. “I am glad you put the pieces together on your own.”
“We are still missing a few,” I said.
Noaath let out a heavy sigh. “When I set my plan into motion, I didn’t fully calculate the impact that a few dozen heroes could have on the future. I ended up saving well over a hundred of you. When I brought you to safety and set you loose, the impacts on your reality were small… almost microscopic. I thought my plan was working, but I was too lost in my own pride. Saving each person made another small tear in the fabric. Each time you saved someone or inspired them to join your cause, you were then causing your own small rips. Your reality became frayed and stressed by the changes. The longer this went on, the worse things got. I thought my plan would help strengthen your reality against us. Then, she figured it out.
“She?” Evanor asked.
“The Yunai Commander known a Keaira,” Noaath answered. “She exists in your reality now, anchored on that side of the divide. She nearly conquered your world while she controlled the fallen Princess of Lederan. Now, she seeks to stop my plan, and I believe she intends to use the life energy of her victims to strengthen her presence in your physical reality.”
“The Yunai hunting us… it’s the same Yunai that once controlled Princess Ayla?”
“That’s right,” Noaath said. “She cannot return here. She doesn’t seem interested in that. No, she wants to rule over your reality. She wants to destroy it all and stand atop the ashes of your greatest accomplishments.”
“Thousands of lives are at stake,” I said. “How do we survive this?”
“I have heard Evanor’s thoughts. She is correct. Because Keaira is bound to your reality, she must obey its rules. She cannot travel through the aether in her current form. She would need a host to carry her, and claiming a host is dangerous for a Yunai. She is, for the most part, contained to Azirin.”
“Okay,” I replied. “So we retreat to the other World Ship.”
“Keiara could still attempt to reach you,” Noaath said. “You’ll never truly be safe, but it would be difficult for her to follow you. It would buy us time to come up with a plan to combat her.”
“I have another plan,” Evanor said, stepping forward. “We know Keaira is the Yunai hunting us. We know that she has to be defeated. What if we went back in time and stopped her? We’ve already seen that it can be done.”
Noaath smiled at this. “A brave theory. Unfortunately, time travel is forbidden in both of our realities.”
“I refuse to accept that,” Evanor said loudly. “I can go back and find a way. We can stop her.”
“I’m not going to run,” Kaellax said. “Not to another World Ship, and not through a time spell. I’ll take my chances against the Yunai. After all, Seti and I have come to appreciate one another,” Kaellax said. “I’m too old to run.”
Noaath regarded her for a moment, then nodded. He then looked to Evanor and I could have sworn his face drooped. It was like he was suddenly filled with regret, or disappointment. I don’t know. I never got the chance to ask him. I knew he wasn’t happy. That was enough.
“Lady Evanor’s future is not a linear path,” he said. “I have watched you for a long time, Evanor but I dreaded the day I had to put this plan in motion. Here, in Azirin, Keaira will attempt to destroy you. In the past, you can attempt to destroy her. You must understand, however, that I cannot bring you back. Only a Yunai can infuse you with that much power, and they would need to exist within the physical realm.”
“Wait,” I said. “Evanor, what about all that mumbo jumbo about altering timelines and creating new realities? If you go back and kill Keaira, wont’ you just alter history in massive ways?”
Evanor chuckled. “Sionis, I have to try.”
“You can stay with me, Evanor,” Kaellax said. “I know we can survive this. Time travel is absurd.”
Evanor laughed. “I believe you, old friend, but surely you understand by now, don’t you?”
Kaellax paused. “What?”
“You and I will meet again,” Evanor said, laughing, then crying.
“Oh no,” I said. It suddenly clicked.
Evanor didn’t say another word. Her body vanished from this floating place where we’d met Noaath, and I realized she had just returned to our reality, likely to perform the time spell before any of us could get in another speech.
“We should stop her,” Kaellax said. “We can’t let her do this.”
“She already did do it,” I said with a frown, feeling a wave of emotion. It all made sense. I understood now why Evanor and Sonea had looked so similar. They were the same, only aged to different points of time. The choices, the warnings, the guidance… all of her wisdom that led me on the path to defeat the Yunai. She hadn’t done any of that yet. I realized that it was part of the plan. All along. She had been working toward the goal of stopping Keaira.
The wand. Iliera. There was still more to understand. I quickly snapped myself out of the Yunai’s reality and appeared back in the swamp shack. I saw Kaellax was still gone, but Evanor was standing in the corner of the shack, already working on her incantations.
“Wait,” I said. “Please.”
“You can’t stop me,” she said. “I’m ready to do this. I understand my place. It feels… right.”
“You already figured it out,” I said. “Lady Sonea.”
“Any advice for your old teacher?” she asked, wiping a tear from her face.
“Don’t go so hard on me the first time I perform magic,” I said, grinning slightly.
“Okay then,” she replied. “Done. Anything else?”
“Actually, yes,” I said, thinking of my wand. “Lady Sonea gave me a wand when I was a child. I didn’t know it for a long time, but the wand was named Iliera. Do you know why you named it that?”
Evanor shrugged. “You mentioned the name to Flynn. Anything special about her?”
I shrugged. “I dunno. Maybe? Her teachers say she’s strong. Full of energy.”
“Hmm,” Evanor mused. “I can’t say, Sepher, but I’ll make sure to follow through.”
I hesitated. If Evanor was Sonea, then she would eventually die when the Yunai destroyed Udira. I thought of reminding her about this, but then I knew that she already knew that too. We had all lived through those dark times. Now, she would live through them again…
“It’s okay, Sionis,” Evanor said, as though she could read my mind. “I’ll be okay.”
I nodded, but still didn’t move. I felt Kaellax’s hand come down on my shoulder and she turned me away from Evanor. The Shadowspeaker looked heartbroken, but she nodded to Evanor. “See you around, Evanor.”
“No, I don’t suspect you will,” Evanor said. She finished her spell, and a wave of energy rushed over the room. The connection to the aethereal energy in the shack was strong, and Evanor tapped into it. There was a moment where she seemed to stand completely still, and then… she was gone.
“Come on, Sionis,” Kaellax said. “We need to move.”
I turned to leave. My heart ached, but there was nothing to do.
My future wouldn’t be found here in the swamp.
After we departed from the Yunai’s reality, I used a portal to get us to Stonehaven. We reported to Stonehaven Command, informed them that Keaira was still alive and hunting people. We set up a system as best as we could to inform anyone that had spoken to Noaath to reach out to us through the aether. Then, with the help of several magic users, Kaellax made sure Fynna and I were sent through the twisting magical energy back to Starfall Garrison aboard the other World Ship.
“The Flamecaller returns,” Iliera said proudly as I emerged. “I have missed you, Sepher.”
I gave her a shy smile and she responded by wrapping me in a hug that was so tight she proceeded to pull me off the ground. When she finally released me, she slid me to the side and stepped up to the young blonde paladin that I had brought along.
“Luminous One be with you,” she said. “You are a paladin of Azirin?”
“I am,” he said nervously. “My name is Fynn”
“I would be honored to have you as my apprentice.”
Fynn smiled. “Really?”
“Of course. I am eager to take on my first student, and you can teach me of your World Ship, the paladins there, and the tactics that you use from your home.”
“That sounds great,” Fynn said, appearing to warm up. “Yeah. This is good.”
“There will be others,” I added. “I don’t know how many. Noaath and Kaellax are gathering anyone else that has survived this long and sending them our way.”
“We accept all who need our assistance,” Iliera said.
“Spirehands Foundry?” I asked.
“Fallen,” Iliera replied.
Iliera’s smile dropped. “None of the prisoners are talking, yet, but in time we will find a solution.”
“For now, Sionis, nothing changes. We hunt the agents of the Yunai. When our World Ship is safe, then we can discuss more about the dangers of your own world and how our people can aid you.”
I nodded. “That seems fair.”
“Then we fight on. For our homes and people.”
“For our homes and our people,” I repeated.
I bottled up the fear, the anxiety, all of the mixed emotions I had about being trapped here… I forced it deep down and told myself it was going to be okay. It had to be okay.
But first, the Yunai on this World Ship had to go.