“Eizo. Hey, Eizo!”
Eizo started, visions of last night’s nightmare fading from his mind. A man, lifeless on a cold marble floor. An azure-haired woman screaming his name.
“You were staring off into space. Is everything ok?” Beyna asked.
Eizo was seated at a small table. Across from him was Beyna, his best friend and current brunch partner. “Yeah, I’m fine, it’s nothing,” he said, doing his best to smile. She didn’t need to hear about his dream. He glanced out the window at the sun-bathed rooftops of Camelot.
“Alright, well…just so you know, this food is AMAZING!” Beyna said, her emerald eyes bright with anticipation. Eizo had cooked and prepared this spread for them – well, everything except the jelly donuts. Those were a new item at the local bakery.
“I’m glad you like it – this is the most excited I’ve seen you about anything since I can remember,” Eizo replied. His smile came more easily this time – it was hard to stay sad or mad around Beyna.
“Alright, let’s dig in,” Beyna said. “Not you!” she exclaimed, lightly slapping her giant ladybug familiar, Spots (short for Spotted Sentinel). Spots retreated from where he had been prodding his antennae near one of the plates.
Eizo chuckled. “Too bad he’s not as well-behaved as Buddy,” he said. He picked up his mug and dripped a little water on the sapphire slime sitting on his lap. Buddy burbled appreciatively as the water melded with his form.
They attacked the plates in companionable silence for a few moments. Beyna and Eizo had been through a lot since they’d first met three years ago, at ages 13 and 14, respectively. And through all the ups and downs, they’d developed a familiarity which didn’t require constant conversation.
Beyna sighed appreciatively as she bit into one of the raspberry jelly donuts. “Simply divine.” After taking a swig of water, she said, “So, where should we go today? Merlin’s finally given us a day off and we need to take advantage!”
“Yeah, you’d think us being his apprentices would be all fun and games, but we haven’t had a chance to just hang out in a while,” Eizo said. “Where do you think we should go?”
“Hmm…I’d like to visit that lake that Merlin told us not to visit. I bet he’s hiding something there!”
Eizo felt uneasy at the mention of the lake, He was pretty sure that fey magic was somehow connected to it, and that spelled trouble.
“Yeah, there’s the lake, but I think a mountain-top picnic would be even better!” Eizo said as he popped some berries in his mouth. “The weather’s perfect for it!”
“Stop talking while your mouth’s full of food,” Beyna admonished. “And that’s not for you!” she scolded as she again smacked Spots, who’d been trying to taste the jelly donut. She pulled a bronze coin out of her pocket.
“Let’s flip for it,” she said. “Crowns, and we go to the lake. Swords, we go to the mountains.”
“Fair enough,” Eizo said. “But none of your tricks!”
“What are you talking about, I always play fair,” Beyna said, sticking out her tongue. She flipped the coin.
Sometimes there are moments that seem mundane at the time, but go on to change the course of one’s life forever. This was one of those moments, although the two good friends didn’t know it at the time.
The coin landed and danced around the table with a series of metallic pings. It finally rested near Eizo’s plate, a pair of crossed swords showing on the exposed side.
“Mountains it is,” sighed Beyna.
“Don’t worry, I know a good spot,” said Eizo, grinning.
The hike through the mountains was strenuous, but not excessively challenging for the pair of apprentices, who had been thoroughly trained in nature survival skills as part of their chosen specialization in shamanic magic. “Are we there yet?” huffed Beyna, her auburn hair tied back into a ponytail so it wouldn’t get into her face as they climbed.
“Just a little further,” Eizo encouraged. Buddy was perched on his shoulder as they walked; although he was extremely mobile in water, he usually preferred to stick with Eizo outside of his natural element.
The pair of apprentices finished a steep climb, and they emerged onto a sunny hilltop meadow filled with blooming wildflowers. Spots extended his wings and flew ahead, hunting for insects to eat.
“Wow, Eizo!” Beyna exclaimed as her eyes took in the idyllic scene. “What a romantic spot – oh, is this a date?” she teased. She giggled and ran after Spots before she could spot Eizo blushing. Would it be so bad if it was? he thought, fingering the silver pendant necklace he had brought in his vest pocket.
They found a clear spot in the meadow and set up for their picnic. The King’s castle where Merlin and the apprentices lived had generously provided meat pies and biscuits for the occasion. They enjoyed the food as they watched Spot flying around and grabbing insects in mid-air. As the meal wound down, butterflies fluttered in Eizo’s stomach. It’s time to tell her how I feel, he thought.
“So, Beyna…” he started, then nervously cleared his throat. “You know that next week, we’re going to tell Merlin where we want to go for our advanced shaman training, right? That’s not Merlin’s specialty, so he wants us to go to the Far East, or even this New World that I’ve never heard of.”
“Yeah, we know this,” Beyna said. The sunlight filtered through her hair, making it look even more reddish than usual. “What’s your point?”
“Well, it’s just that I hope we can choose to go to the same place,” Eizo said in a rush before he could lose his nerve. “I know this probably sounds like it’s coming out of nowhere, but I really like you, it’s been really special getting to know you, and um, I don’t want us to be apart.” Eizo’s face was flushed, contrasting sharply with his cerulean blue hair and eyes. “Here, I got you this,” he blurted, thrusting a hand out towards her.
Beyna’s eyes were wide as she grasped the silver pendant necklace. “This is beautiful, Eizo. And I always assumed we’d go to study in the same place – but what are you saying with this?”
“It’s just that – I’m trying to say that I love you, Beyna. And I have for a while.” After years of pent-up feelings, Eizo couldn’t stop the flow of his words. “I want us to travel together…as more than friends. I promise to always be there for you, to protect you, and help you, and love you, no matter what happens.” He stepped forward, took her hands, and looked into her eyes.
Beyna was now blushing too, and her eyes glimmered with emotion. “Eizo, I- I- don’t know what to say, I wasn’t prepared for this. It’s a lot, you know, to process,” she stammered. “You’ve always been my best friend since I got to Camelot, and- and- it’s just a lot to process.”
She broke eye contact with Eizo, and noticed Spots flying off towards one end of the meadow. “H-Hey, where’s Spots flying off to? Spots, come back!” She let go of Eizo’s hands and started running after him.
Eizo felt like he might faint. Wait, so what was her answer? he thought, feeling more exhausted than after the hike up to the mountaintop. He started jogging after Beyna and her familiar in a state of confusion.
After a few moments, Beyna shouted back, “I think Spots found something, I’m starting to sense some arcane energy.” They rounded an outcropping of rock at one end of the meadow, and came upon what could only be described as a portal. Blue and purple energy swirled within a circular 3-meter space.
Beyna walked up to within a couple feet of the portal and picked up Spots, who had landed. “Fascinating,” she said, the color fading from her cheeks as she focused on this distraction. “Do you think Merlin knows about this?”
“Probably? He seems to know everything,” Eizo replied. “I’d step back though, we don’t know what this thing does, or whether it’s dangerous.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” said Beyna, turning towards him. Parts of her shadow seemed to elongate, and get slowly pulled towards the portal.
“Beyna, look!” Eizo said, pointing.
Beyna noticed, and said, “well, that’s not normal…you might have a point.” She tried to take a step away from the portal, then said, “I can’t move.” Her shadow started to get sucked into the portal more quickly. Then, Beyna and Spots seemed to glimmer with shining particles, which also began streaming into the portal.
“Beyna!” Eizo shouted. He tried to grab her and pull her away from the portal, but his hands went through her as if through thin air.
“This feels strange – as if I’m here, but also there…” Beyna said, her voice sounding like it was coming from a long distance away.
“Beyna, don’t worry, I’ll come after you! You won’t be alone over there, I promise!” Eizo shouted as the last particles of Beyna and Spots whooshed through the portal. She was gone.
Eizo immediately rushed towards the portal and jumped through.
“For the crime of bearing a child with a fey Royal, the punishment for a human is execution, and banishment for the child. This is necessary to preserve the royal line.”
The judgment thus pronounced, the sentence was carried out immediately. A fey sword slashed through the man, leaving no mark, but the man’s eyes dimmed as his spirit left his body, which slumped on the ground.
A blue-haired fairy in lavish clothing screamed as she was restrained by guards. Others picked up a sobbing toddler who shared her coloring, and started dragging him away, destined for exile from the Fey realm. “Eizooooo!” the fairy screamed, anguish marking her delicate features.
Eizo opened his eyes, and wiped away his tears. That had been the clearest of his dreams to date. Such thoughts vanished as Eizo remembered his situation. He immediately got up and brushed himself off. It appeared that the portal hadn’t harmed him in any obvious way. He was a few feet away from a rocky seashore, the gray waves rushing in and out. Buddy had made it through the portal too, and also seemed none the worse for wear. Inland, Eizo could see mountains, higher and harsher than the foothills near Camelot. This was not home.
“Beynaaaaa!” shouted Eizo, cupping his hands to mouth. He kept looking around and shouting her name. But neither friend nor foe appeared.
Did she leave me behind while I was out? Was she that desperate to get away from me after what I said? No, she wouldn’t do that, I know her, he thought. That left only one distressing conclusion – the portal hadn’t sent them to the same location.
“Where am I, anyway?” Eizo asked Buddy. Doing another slow scan of his surroundings, Eizo made out a tower in the distance. To be visible from where he was standing, the tower must have been quite tall. And somehow, Eizo could see shapes etched onto the sides of the tower, although this level of detail should have been impossible to discern at this distance.
One of the shapes in particular, an inverted cross with a U-shape crossing the top, seemed to resonate with him. Eizo felt that he could trust whoever dwelled in that tower. He decided to start walking toward it in hopes of finding answers and assistance in locating Beyna.