The Veil Within Worlds is thinning. If it dissolves completely, then both worlds will be destroyed to make way for a new one. Much of this story takes place in Althea, the counterpart of earth, but ties between both worlds exist in this epic fantasy which explores human nature within the fantasy world of Althea.
“Are there any objections?” Hannan asks the six Reisgard Shifters sitting at the round table.
Kaliyah’s jaw clenches, chin jutting towards her beige toned shoulder.
Hannan scrutinizes the pyromancer, thick blond hair brushing against each side of their chin. “Speak now if you have any complaints. I don’t want to hear them later.”
“Okay, yes. I have one!”
Hannan shakes their head. “What is it?”
Kaliyah glances at Celene, whose bright emerald eyes plead for her to stay quiet, and shakes her head in return.
Kaliyah looks back to Hannan and says, “This whole plan. Maybe you think playing the long game with King Farhan is the safest option, but it’s also wasting so much time. Precious time where dragons could be roaming free as they should be. If we keep waiting, the king will just continue using me and other pyromancers to capture those few that are still free!”
Hannan holds up a hand. “Dragons are not the only thing to be worried about under his rule. We must do what we can to keep others safe. If we mess up in any aspect…” They pause, looking down at the table. “Well, the king is a vengeful man.”
“Haven’t we waited long enough?” Kaliyah leans closer to the table with each word. “I honed my skills as a pyromancer, studying for years to be good enough for the king’s guard. Every weekday, I go in there and pretend to have the same beliefs as the others. I’m tired of pretending that working under some bullshit king is serving Althea in the best way possible.”
“You just got on the top pyromancer team. We can’t waste your position,” Hannan states.
Kaliyah slams her hands on the table and stands. “You always talk so easily about firing us from the Shifters if we step out of line, but you need me more than I need you. I thought this team was the best way to free the dragons, but I’m starting to think this is more about the money for you.”
Hannan stares from their seated position. “You don’t know anything about my life before I formed the Reisgard Shifters or why I formed them. And you seem to be forgetting that you’re not the only one of us on the king’s pyromancer team.” Hannan glances at James, who’s smirking under his mop of red hair.
“Okay, just forget it.” Kaliyah sighs. “Why do you even ask if we have objections when you’re bound to shut them down?”
“Well, do you feel any better now that you at least voiced your opinion?” Hannan sighs. “Look, Kaliyah. I understand where you’re coming from. I really do. But we cannot recklessly fight the king yet. You and James will put an end to the entrapment of dragons when the time is right, but for now you need to continue your job. Keep gaining the trust of him and his council.”
“Fine. Whatever you say, Hannan.”
Hannan sighs. “Okay everyone. Dismissed.”
Kaliyah rushes for the tall, pointed door with embellishments of dragons and fairies on each of the four quadrants. Celene follows close behind her. In the grand hallway, Celene falls into place by Kaliyah’s side and touches her friend’s shoulder.
“What?” Kaliyah asks.
“Jeez, Kaliyah. I’m on your team. No need to snap at me.” Celene removes her hand and pushes her long wavy red hair away from her face.
Kaliyah breathes deeply and crosses her arms. “Sorry.”
“So, what are you really going to do?”
Kaliyah purses her lips. “What do you mean?”
“Oh please. We both know you’re not just going to go along with what Hannan says.”
She chuckles. “You know me so well.”
“I should…” Celene utters, and Kaliyah suddenly recalls the old memories, with the two of them spending twelve years at the orphanage before getting picked up here together. They’re basically sisters.
Kaliyah glances back, shoulder length brown hair swaying off her cheek. James and the other Shifters walk about ten yards behind them, laughing at some joke one of them said.
She whispers, “Let’s not talk about this here, this hallway echoes if you speak too loud.”
They sift through the smaller hallways and dart up the staircase leading to Kaliyah’s room. It’s more spacious than the tiny studio she stays in on weekdays to be closer to the king’s hall. Celene jumps onto the bed and lays perched on her elbow. Kaliyah closes the door without making a sound.
“Okay.” Kaliyah holds out her hands in front of her and turns around. “I know I just got on the top pyromancer crew, but that means I’m already trusted enough to do what we have to do, right?”
“Right. So, he’s coming with us this week to capture a Shadow Dancer. I’m going to make my move there.”
“What are you going to do exactly?”
“I’m going to gain the dragon’s blessing and fly away with it. Then, we’ll free the others trapped near the castle that the king already captured. If I can’t gain its blessing, well then maybe that means I’m in the wrong.”
Celene asks “How can I help?”
“This is something that could get me killed. I don’t want to bring you into it too.”
“Don’t you think that’s being a little melodramatic?”
Kaliyah’s brown eyes open wider. “No. You’ve only ever worked behind the scenes. Dragons are beautiful creatures, but they’re dangerous. As a pyromancer I have an affinity for them, but there’s always the possibility of a mistake. And once the king discovers what I’ve done, if he finds out you’re helping me…” she pauses for a moment and sighs. “Well, I can’t ask you to take that risk.”
“So instead you’re asking me to sit here and wait to hear if you’re dead or alive? I’m not going to do that. I may not be a pyromancer, but I can be useful too, Kaliyah. Just because my affinity is air doesn’t mean I’m weak. In fact, I could help you make your escape if needed.”
Kaliyah raises an eyebrow. “Maybe you’re right. I care about setting the dragons free, but I don’t have a death wish. There’s a fifty percent chance I may not be able to commune with this one on the level required to ride a dragon for my escape. With your help, we could ride the wind away from the scene.”
Kaliyah sits next to Celene on the bed and continues. “But, like I said, if the king discovers you’ve helped me after this is done, we’ll both have to spend the rest of our lives in hiding; at best. At worst, he could capture us before we escape the area, and you know what would happen then. I’d feel better if the consequences were mine alone.”
Celene shakes her head. “Okay, martyr. You’re not the only one who cares about setting the dragons free, you know. It’s the reason I joined this slow-moving group. I’m telling you, I want to be a part of this, and I’m ready for the consequences that come with it. We’ve already been through so much together. I wouldn’t let you go into exile alone.”
“Thanks Celene. Okay, let’s do this then. We don’t need the Reisgard Shifters to rebel against the king.”
Kaliyah, James, and six other pyromancers hike in a V formation behind King Farhan over the wide obsidian trail leading to Mount Cyanise. All but Farhan wear black cloaks with their hoods down, signifying unity under the ashen king. Kaliyah’s face doesn’t betray any emotion boiling underneath, but her hair is spiked back as though many swords cover her trail. She glances sidelong at James, who also walks behind everyone else. His freckled face is set in stone like hers.
They continue hiking for two hours, trained to always be the same distance apart. The entrance to the cave grows nearer as though Kaliyah’s watching the slow bloom of a flower. She wonders if time seems to be passing as sedated for the others.
They approach the foot of the cave and halt in sync with the king, his waist-length black ponytail swaying behind his shoulder as he turns around. The two pyromancers standing directly on each side of him turn to face the others. The king nods his head towards his niece Anna, the pyromancer at his left.
Her voice booms out for being one so small. “I know some of you here today are new to this crew.” Her eyes glaze past Kaliyah, James, and Henry, who worked with Kaliyah on her training crew. “But you’ve captured smaller dragons for the king before on your past work assignments. You know what to do.”
“Aye!” They yell in unison.
She continues. “However, our scouts confirmed that this one is a Shadow Dancer. While I’m sure you remember what that is from your studies, does anyone care to refresh our memories?” She glances over each of them.
“I do ma’am!” Kaliyah figures she may as well pretend to be all in with the crew up to the point where she can’t anymore.
“Go on then.”
“Shadow Dancers, also known as Dreamweavers, have ties to the Dream Realm. They can transport from one point to another in the blink of an eye, as long as it’s in view for them. One of the advantages we’ll have is that the dragon may be asleep, since Dreamweavers sleep through most of the day.”
“That’s correct. And while we always need to have our guards up, be on high alert today. If that thing wakes up, we need to be ready for it.” She looks them over one more time. “Now, let’s capture ourselves a dragon.”
King Farhan says, “I’m counting on you all. In the name of the Veil.”
“In the name of the Veil,” they repeat.
He remains at the foot of the cave as they continue through the entrance. Kaliyah’s eyes follow his stillness for a moment, but she shifts her face forward before he catches her. Their plans could become a little more complicated if the king stays at the entrance. She hopes Celene found a decent hiding spot.
The spacious cavern holds an amethyst hued dragon sleeping in the middle of it. Black spikes line down its back, its scales looking almost like gemstones, and a subtle mist flows out of its body. Anna leads them forward with caution. Once they’re all inside, she holds her hand back to the crew, signaling for them to stop walking.
The mist flowing out of the dragon drifts in Kaliyah’s direction. She glances at the others to gauge their reactions, but no one seems to notice. They all assess the sleeping dragon as though the mist wasn’t there. The fog dances along her skin, whispering “Asherion”.
The world blurs around Kaliyah and turns into a frosty land. Everything around her is white. Even the sky is a shade of blue so pale, it nearly blends in with the snow. A marble house stands alone in the distance. Despite wearing clothes meant for a moderate climate, she doesn’t feel cold. There’s no change in temperature.
“The Veil will soon start thinning,” a soft voice from nowhere yet everywhere says.
She looks all around, but sees no one. Only the expanse of white and the house in the distance.
The voice continues, “He who wants the Veil to thin has already chosen his vessel, though I can’t see who he’s chosen. He knows what unfolds from today’s events. Althea and the other side will become one if we do nothing.”
Kaliyah looks around once more. “Who are you?”
“I am merely one who sees. This is the day when everything changes. We will meet again in the future when the time is right. Go east, Kaliyah.”
“What?” The world surrounding her dissolves.