She opened her eyes, exhaustion weighing on her fluttering heart. Time was relative. She had no idea how long it had been since before, but knew these journeys were transformative both physically and cosmically. Waiting to land in another world always spiked her adrenaline in the black unknown. This time was different, though. Running from a force intent on capturing her had taken its toll. She remembered flying, erratic and desperate to escape the light being. A space, spanning the lengths of the universe, yet full of nothing, beckoned her. Stars danced, dizzying and all-consuming. Then, a voice spoke.
I am the one that took you, and the rest, out of your homeworld. I wish there were more reasons behind my acting that I could explain to appease you, but that’s not the case. I was desperate. I shall start from the beginning so you can at least maybe understand.
When I pulled you out, it was not the first time you traveled. It wasn’t the first time for any of you. Every time you go to sleep, a piece of your mind leaves your body. Everything you have ever dreamed of was real for someone else. The nicest dream you had, the most utterly terrifying nightmare is just other worlds your mind was attracted to. What I did was merely bring your body with it to serve a purpose. That’s also why your memory was fragmented at the start, because of all the unusual heavyweight.
But the reason I did all this was that I needed help. The beings that chased you here, they’re threatening to end it all. They may not realize it, but they’re leading everything into extinction. You see, trillions of years ago, their civilization was going to disappear rather sooner than later, so they retreated into themselves, learned to control the journeys their minds went in to escape their reality. We achieved what we set ourselves to do, but we never stopped. At some point, I realized we were changing. Deep inside ourselves, we were different. Our minds were lost in the infinite universes with nothing to come back to, and so, we recessed into something that we never meant to become. I retreated here, into this limbo detached from any world, to remain forever. Alone, but sane. Now, my people are unrecognizable. If they still think, it’s in a way that nobody else can understand, and their behavior is simply erratic. There is no helping them anymore.
They feed off the places they inhabit through the objects you’ve been finding. I wanted to do something before, but if I ever go out, my mind could simply never return. Using you was the only way to stop this, and even then, communicating has been hard. They’re far too sensitive to the ways of the universe now and able to feel any alteration in it. Even when you travel. Even right now that I brought you here. Now that you know this, you have to focus. You have to find the world they once belonged to and bring me the object so that I may destroy it, and them, once and for all. What I have placed on your shoulders might be a burden, but I fear it’s a necessary one.
Nothing more and nothing less needed to be spoken. She nodded firmly before entering the magic embrace of another world.
She tumbled, her hair caught in the grassy knoll in the forest. There, she saw her familiars. Jo and the witch of Haresden, Orla, repaired a cairn to appease Mamo’s restless spirit. The woman wrote in her journal. Documenting her travels for the Higher Being now equated to saving her world from ruin.
Emilia’s Journal: The world is so much bigger than anyone could ever fathom. I’m grateful to again visit Orla and Jo’s universe, where magic seeps from the whispering leaves of the forest to roots buried in hardened soil. Orla and Jo build the cairn, and Jo asks Orla to teach her magic. Jo wants to wield this power. She is drawn to magic and the secrets it contains, and now, I feel a similar pull. If magic settles in the right hands, it can change the world.
Much to Jo’s surprise, she realized Orla had already shared a magic conduit. The necklace hanging around Jo’s neck — once a gift from Mamo to Orla — was a gift from Orla to Jo. A pedant yields power. A pendant funnels power from its users: the power to share, to give, and to accept the responsibility of this power.
Emilia’s Journal: I am transported as Orla and Jo bike around town. My own body feels untethered from time and reality at this point. It’s becoming harder to discern reality from a dream, and I feel as if I am merely a soul floating at this point. I have to find an object to return to the Higher Being. In a land with magic literally altering the town itself, I’m sure the object will turn up when I least expect it.
She searched heartily, the traveler once confined to isolation, then shivering with enlightenment. Orla and Jo collected nettles under the simmering sunlight to ward off bad magic. They collect enough, gently uprooting their stalks and weaving them into a protection ward. Together, the two casted magic upon a group of sheep standing in a concentric pattern around one of Mamo’s buried bones.
Emilia’s Journal: Jo performed magic! Magic can be utilized, learned by the power of willfulness and collaboration. The creepy sheep crop circle dispersed and revealed another eerie bone. I hurried to keep up with them as they headed to this forest where black birds circle the sky unendingly. Hopefully, they can find the answers to why Mamo’s bones are misplaced, strewn throughout Haresden.
A black crow, obsidian wings reflecting the light, spoke to the young women. Jo had saved Caractus before, and she was calling in a returned favor.
Emilia’s Journal: I don’t know why a talking bird surprises me after all I’ve seen now, but the gravelly timbre to his voice makes me uneasy. He looks like a shadow. A streaked ink stain painted on a canvas. Caractus wears a lengthened black hat upon his bird head that appears to mesh into his body. Finally, Jo and Orla find answers to their burning questions from this corvid. Before her death, Mamo asked the corvids, the magical birds, to scatter her bones in all corners of Haresden. Oh god…she let the bird eat her body for…power? Power seems dangerous in the wings of these creatures. Talk of death and bones upsets my stomach still, but my intrigue has overtaken my fear of death these days. “Power given freely is power doubled.” The mantra repeats itself again in this universe. It holds nuanced implications about the cycle of life and death itself.
Bound by the bargain, Caractus explains how his deal with Mamo came with no additional inquiries. They simply accepted the exchange of services and unleashed Mamo’s chaos into Haresden. Without understanding, Orla and Jo charted the buried bones once again on their map. A pattern emerged on the piece of paper.
Emilia’s Journal: They’ve buried nearly all the bones at gravesites except one. Looking at their map, they realize they’ve fallen into a trap! This devil bird and the untamed magic duped the two women. A faery ring pattern has surfaced on the map. I remember faery rings meaning curses from before…they’re in trouble now.
Next to her, the woman found a black shape no bigger than her fingernail pushing through the earth. She dug up the soil to find a ceramic figurine in the shape, carved in the shape of a black bird. From the figure, blackness swirled until it overwhelmed her body and stole her back into the void.
From the depths of that empty space outside of everyone’s reach, Aimée now appeared on a beach. They remembered it well. It was the first time they met with Emilia. Wexler, the threatening robot, was there. Pacing, waiting for something to come out of the water. It dawned on them he was waiting for Eve, who, the last time they saw her, had dived into the water to look for the vault that could save humanity.
A threatening sound came from underneath the sea, like the world itself was roaring. A giant monster made of metal thrust out to the beach. In a rapid series of events, Wexler threw a blow against the robot, but it was a useless attempt, as it made no real damage, and the machine suddenly returned the favor with a missile. Everything happened so fast that Aimée’s head took time to process the sound of the chaotic scene. When they finally reacted, they hid behind some debris to write what they just witnessed.
Aimée’s journal: The missile did not explode or anything. It…grew trees in the collision area, they trapped Wexler. The mecha is not attacking either. They’re…talking! It’s Eve! And that’s the vault, I’m guessing. She’s telling him to do better while she’s away, trying to save the world. She will go for a long time, planting the seeds all around the continent. But she will come back.
The vault then started walking in the opposite direction across the beach, shooting the seeds from its mechanic tail, automatically planting them into the ground. Trees grew large in a manner of moments, as the gigantic silhouette became little until it disappeared in the distance.
Aimée’s journal: How does Eve manage to maintain so much hope? She not only firmly believes she’ll be back, but she will also save the whole world, preserve humanity. It’s admiring. I wish I could do the same. What I find hard to understand, though, is Wexler. Does she really expect him to be better? I mean, he clearly has a deep care for all the Eves, but…I don’t know, how can that work out? Talking about that, I should check on him.
Aimée returned to the wooden chains where the robot was trapped. Somehow, walking on that beach, they noticed how the sensation of the world had already changed. It wasn’t just a devastated and ruined world, but a devastated and ruined world with a future brighter than its present. However, when they reached the place, Wexler’s absence surprised them. He had already escaped, which worried Aimée, considering his previous homicidal tendencies regarding any humans apart from Eve.
It felt like he could be right behind her, with his claws prepared to rip them apart. But despite that, they kept looking and were able to hear sounds coming from the house at the shore. Some growling mixed some steps. They got dangerously close to the window in order to check what was going on and found the killer robot with an unexpected prisoner inside: Eve. The older Eve who turned into one of the monsters. She was tied to the wall, with the eyes blank and an inexpressive face.
Aimée’s journal: I thought he killed her after she turned! He’s saying something…He’s gonna keep her alive and try to cure her somehow. Even he hopes for things to be better, no matter how bleak they seem. I guess…maybe I should allow myself to do that for once.
They held their journal against their chest, a bit afraid, a bit braver. They realized now what they needed to change. Then, the time would come to put that into practice.
Aimée’s journal: Night is just about to come, and I’m gonna go to sleep. Until next time.