Episode 4: Time-Lost Lives

          The woman named Sonea.

          The woman named Evanor.

          Both the same. Both different.

          Both of them, one person, trudging through the damp seabed of an ocean turned into land.

          “It has been a long time in the making,” Pashmar, a large Zinji sorceress walked beside the woman, speaking of today’s earlier events like it was the greatest thing she had ever seen. She was arrogant, and Evanor was weary of arrogance. “Today marks the beginning of the end for our mortal enemies.”

          “I’d be careful,” Evanor countered. “Think of all the enemies of Azirin that stood where we are now, speaking the same proclamation. My people are not so easily defeated. Even now they run amok in this place you once called home.”

          “This is because the Queen wills it,” Pashmar hissed. “Speak ill of her plans again, and I may find that you are not worthy of our attention. The ones you call your people are part of a grand plan or our master. You couldn’t begin to understand.”

          Evanor’s back straightened. “Excuse me? I just traversed decades of time and space to aid your Queen in her plans. Surely you don’t dare to question—”

          “You have aided us for your own means,” Pashmar snapped. “Immortality. You do not see the Queen’s vision or hope to understand our greater goals. Do not fool yourself by thinking that we see your alliance with us as anything other than self-serving.”

          Evanor hated to admit it, but this was the truth. She had no true friends here in the Queen’s ranks, and she no longer had another soul on Azirin that would call her an ally. She had betrayed everything in the name of survival.

          When her life was endless, things would change. She could begin to live without fear of her mortality, and in the service of the Queen, she might find greater opportunities to become a respected individual. It was only a matter of time.

          “We shall arrive at the Queen’s palace soon,” Pahsmar said, her voice excited. “When we do… the real work begins. There is much to prepare for before our foes arrive.”

          “Right,” Evanor replied. “The real work.”

          The long silent walk next to Zenji made Lady Evanor Stots a bit nostalgic for the simpler days. She had known much about struggles in her life. She had been born the same year the Yunai invaded for the second time, her family lost to their raiders. Her ability to use magic led to her acceptance within Uidira, and there she was taken in under the tutelage of a woman in her thirties named Lady Sonea Everhart. With Sonea as her teacher, her skills flourished, and she lived a happy life, moving between Udiria and Stonehaven.

          She had been living in Stonehaven when the Yunai came again for the third time. Lady Sonea, the brave and noble magic user that she was, had died in a final stand against the endless waves of enemies that assaulted the city. At least, that was the story they told.

          Lady Evanor had gone to the world above, as instructed by Sonea. She’d settled Vers. She’d conquered the Yunai. She became a bit of a legend, fighting for freedom and peace. She went to the frozen realm to see the Yunai named Keaira be undone, then she fought the Zinji, eventually made her way to another World Ship, and finally travelled back in time to become Lady Sonea. If it had ended there, oh it would have been nice. Unfortunately, things got complicated.

          When she traveled back in time, Lady Sonea Everhart was born. She took on the name, joined the Udirian Academy of Magic Users, and eventually gravitated toward her own younger self.

          Yes. She had lived a complicated life.

          Of course, it got worse.

          Living in the past with all the knowledge of the future sounds fun. The problem is that one always tends to think about all the happy things, or the fun things, or whatever else might enter their mind. For Lady Sonea, each day was spent wondering when the Yunai would begin to usher in death and destruction for entire kingdoms.

          She also wondered how she would die.

          Then, she started to wonder why she had to die.

          Eventually, Sonea became deeply depressed. She hid her true emotions from her young students, including the adorable Sionis Sepher, who she cared for deeply, despite the path he would eventually put her on… 

          Still, it gnawed at her very fiber.

          She wasn’t a fool. She knew she couldn’t dare mess with the timeline, as she had already seen the damage she could cause. She wanted to take a boat to Stonehaven and be there when the war began, but she had her memories of her own youth. Evanor had grown up knowing Sonea died in Udiria. If she stayed with her younger self, she would alter time, but if she remained in Udiria, then she would die.

          She spent all her days preparing herself.

          She would practice holding her breath.

          Sometimes she tried to stand on the tall ledge of her Udirian balcony.

          It became a common practice, when she was sailing on ships, to lean out on the railing and very nearly let herself fall overboard.

          Then, on a fateful day, it happened.

          She leaned too far, just an inch, and her balance shifted. The ship tilted and she was thrown down into the massive waves of the ocean, screaming the whole way down so she had no breath to hold when she slipped beneath the icy waters. 

          Fear and panic swept over her and she felt her mind crying out. 

          She did not want to die. She did not want to end.

          She saw the yellow sunlight glimmering through the water’s surface above, and she knew she must swim toward it. She would die, yes, but it didn’t have to be like this.

          Then, something grabbed her.

          It pulled her down, straight down, until the light of day faded into darkness.

          “Such sad thoughts,” a voice whispered through the darkness. “A sad child. All alone.”

          Sonea asked herself what she was hearing… was it a hallucination?

          “No, child,” the voice answered her internal question. “I am very real.”

          “Who are you?” Sonea thought. “What is happening to me?”

          “Fate has brought us together,” the voice answered. “I know you, Sonea. I can see into your mind, from your first day until today. There are no secrets here.”

          “You can tell I have nothing to offer,” Sonea said, mentally. “What use am I to you?”

          “You have more to offer than you know,” the voice whispered. “Serve me, Evanor, and I will grant you a life with no death. Immortal and free of the fear you feel crushing you now.”

          Sonea had not been called by her real name for several years. She felt invigorated by it, and she nodded into the darkness, happy to be told there was hope, no matter the source. She wanted to survive, she had to survive.

          “I will serve,” she said, speaking aloud in the water. “I will serve!”

          The whisper chuckled. “Of course you will, my child. Now, go, return to your life, and when I contact you again, we will begin.”

          A moment later, Sonea was thrown from the sea and she landed hard on the deck of the ship she had fallen from. The sailors rushed over to her, congratulating her on her magic while also checking her for injuries. 

          The voice had been Queen Ariela.

          The Queen’s agents contacted Sonea later that month. It was there that she learned the beginnings of the spell that would save her from death, and it was with the Queen’s own understanding of the flow of space and time that she was able to harness the power she needed, neatly concealed within a powerful relic from the ancient Besherman empire.

          A simple wooden wand.

          A gift to Sionis Sepher, bound with a trigger that was synced to the life energy of the one named Iliera, which wasn’t easy to find, since Iliera did not yet exist in this time. She wouldn’t exist for years more, until her sister would pull a World Ship through an alternate past… but Evanor knew how to make it work. Patience was required… time would mend this issue.

          So Lady Evanor, still pretending to be Sonea, gave the wand to young Sionis, both as a meaningful memento, and as a carefully baited trap. Then, all she had to do was wait. Ariela had anchored the spell to the magical energies that flowed through this world, bound to the same day that the Yunai destroyed the magical city of Udiria.

          Sonea just had to wait.

          If the wand ever found its way to Iliera, no matter when in time, it would activate, and on that day the portal would open. If it did not… the Yunai would come, and Ariela would let Sonea die at their hands.

          Sonea hoped for the portal. She begged for it.

          As the skies darkened years later, the end had come.

          She stood on her balcony, empowered by her Queen, and yet filled with the same fear that she had been promised would be gone for good. In the final hours she felt betrayed. She worried that it had all been for not. It was all just some kind of twisted prank.

          Then… it happened.

          The portal ripped open spouting latent energy of the aether.

          A golden thunderstorm of powerful energy, and right there, on the other side… freedom.

          She stepped through, feeling the fear slip away. She realized the Queen was right.

          She would never be afraid again.

          She was alive.

          On the far side of the portal, she saw the first victim of her deal with the Queen.

          The woman named Iliera, charred and lifeless… no… still alive.

          The Queen’s whisper pounded in her ear almost instantly, more powerful than ever, “Lead them to me. The mighty heroes. Lead them to me. Follow the Zinji. Follow the fleet.”

          She looked to Iliera, and decided she should have mercy. She could kill her to end her suffering. She said as much, trying not to sound like a villain, but then those guards attacked, and she was forced to retreat. She told them as she parted, knowing Sionis Sepher would find her.

          And that had led her here… to the soggy floor of the ocean.

          She did not doubt her Queen, but she did question the method.

          The Queen’s palace, known as the Temple of Containment, was truly a sight to behold. It held a kind of mysterious and alien beauty, one that you had to be careful not to stare at for too long or you might accidentally realize it was quite horrid.

          Pashmar led Evanor inside, taking her down winding corridors and through large rooms until they finally arrived in a strange chamber. It was here that Lady Evanor recognized the ancient technology. It looked similar to the actual Yunai machinations… and she realized… it was Yunai technology. The entire temple was like this.

          All of this time… all of this energy… this is why she was here.

          “No,” the Queen whispered, laughing to herself. “I have no need or your limited knowledge of ancient technology. I have brought you here to show you the scope of my plan, Lady Evanor, and then I will show you your role in it. Long ago, the Yunai imprisoned me. I will be free.”

          Evanor smiled, happily.

          This was the moment she had been waiting for since that day in the dark water.

          Today she would secure her future and her Queen would grant her the immortality she sought. Destiny would be fulfilled, and nothing short of shattered timelines would stop her.

          She had been lost. One had become two, but now she was whole once again.

          Lady Evanor would live forever.

To be continued…

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