The thunder cracked as though it was going to strike the planet itself down. I tried to summon Drake, but there was no response. I couldn’t help but tremble.
“Fear isn’t necessary, Zeus won’t strike you.” The voice was Michael’s. But it couldn’t be, Michael never spoke that informally. Besides, he was still far away. And he’d never come into my room without knocking.
“Who are you?” I demanded.
“I’m your friend, Michael.”
“You’re lying!” I moved to face the direction that the voice was coming from. “Michael doesn’t talk like that.”
The figure laughed in Michael’s voice. I heard the light tread of hooves. “You’re very clever. I always forget about that draconian way of speaking. Most people in your situation would scarce notice, but that’s why I came.” The figure sounded exactly like me now.
I hesitated, I was certain that I was right but it was just so unbelievable. “You’re Pan, aren’t you? Why are you here?”
The God chuckled. “Things are rearranging. The upcoming storm will give a third of the elite, at least, to Thanatos. Karma will be fulfilled.”
“I don’t understand. What storm? And who are the elite?”
“This is a favour; I’m putting you on alert. You may well be called upon.”
“On alert for what? Called upon to do what?”
I found myself in my bed. Was it really just a dream or something more significant? Drake nuzzled my hand, seemingly sensing my agitation. I gently stroked his head.
I ducked my head under the bath water for a couple seconds. Soon, Father would come to collect me and I’d be subjected to a day with them. All so I could be forced to make a choice that I didn’t want to make. There was so little time left. I needed time alone to think and plan. Of course, they had a vested interest in making sure I didn’t get it. “Why do I have to spend the day like this?” I asked the question out loud.
“You don’t seem to mind spending time with Ms. Perom. You talked to her all night,” Lais’ voice offered.
She was standing guard outside the door, just in case I decided to run away again.
“Callie’s actually very nice, but I don’t feel that way about her,” I protested.”I barely even know her!”
“I believe you,” Lais said. Her tone suggested otherwise. She was teasing me, being sarcastic. I wasn’t amused.
Lan looked at the report. “Is this accurate?”
Lang hesitated. “Are you sure that the Royal One can’t be here?”
Lan nodded. “He’s busy with Lyn’s suitors. Do you know what kind of mineral it was?”
“I’m terribly sorry, I didn’t recognize it.”
Lan scratched his head, causing his ears to droop. “I have no idea what he’s doing. It doesn’t even sound familiar. Keep an eye on him, I’ll check my books and see if I can find anything. When my father finishes with the suitors, I’ll give him your report.”
Lang saluted and headed back to the cave.
Bastian leaned against the wall, near the gate.
“Are you sure that they can get here that quickly?” The guard captain cleared her throat. “It’s only been a day since we received notice of the meeting, can the Magi really arrive today?”
Bastian tapped the top of his staff against the wall behind him. “The Magi have abilities beyond us. If they say that they’ll arrive today, they will. You should know as well as I that Hecate only gifts the greatest mages with the title & boons of Magi.”
A sudden powerful gust of wind nearly threw the captain against the wall. A single silver feather fell to the ground.
“That’s the first of our guests,” Bastian muttered.
They heard a rush of air as Solan descended. He had large feathery wings, his eyes were golden. He had short blond hair. He had stubby golden horns just above his eyes. He had a stubby triangular tail. He was wearing golden robes.
Bastian walked forward, his staff tapping against the ground. “Welcome, Solan. Can I guide you to the academy?”
The winged feralial flew past Bastian. “I know where the academy is.” His voice was deep and hollow.
Father looked me over. He didn’t look happy. Good. “Is this a joke?”
“No father.” I put on my best innocent voice.
“Lynai, you should be dressing appropriately. A tunic is too plain.”
“I have to spend time alone with each of my suitors, right?” I waited for father to nod. “So isn’t it better to dress in something that won’t get ruined if one of my suitors wants to spend time outside?”
Father’s eyes widened. “Well … I suppose that does make some sense.”
“Then it’s settled.” I started smirking as I moved past him.
“Not so fast,” Father stated, grabbing my arm. “You’ll at least wear some jewellery. The jade broach, silver bracelet, emerald earrings, and your mother’s ring should do nicely.”
“That’s a bad idea they could get lost or…”
“You will do as I say and wear the jewellery,” Father interrupted. “You want to look nice for your suitors, after all.”
I wanted very badly to say “No, I bloody well don’t. That’s the point.” But I held my tongue. I knew that if I said anything he’d insist that I get really dressed up. It was better to just take the stupid jewellery.
A figure approached Wicadia. He wore crimson robes and was just over a hundred eighty three centimetres tall. His skin was green and scaly. A maul was strapped across his back. The guard put her hand on her blade. Bastian shook his head and walked forward.
“Welcome to Wicadia, Squen. Would you like me to guide you to the academy?”
Squen scoffed. “I know the academy, two centuries ago I taught at the academy. I don’t need your help.”
The orc walked past the stunned guard muttering about “damned younguns always thinking they knew best.”
When he was out of sight the guard whispered to Bastian, “How can he have taught here two centuries ago? I thought that orcs could only live for seventy-five years, maximum.”
“Seventy-three,” Bastian corrected her. “But that’s their natural life-span. One of those boons of being a Magi is that your ageing stops.”
The guard scratched her head. “So they can’t die.”
Bastian chuckled. “Of course they can die. Thanatos has power over every living being. They simply don’t die from the ravages of age.”
“So if you were made a Magi you’d be young again?”
“Unfortunately no, my body would just be stuck at where it is now.” Bastian chuckled. “At this point I can’t imagine Tartarus itself being worse.”