The Sad Tale of the Zonn Family
As far as science goes, the universe is expanding. At least that is what the Doppler Effect tells us. The human race has only gotten as far as to step on the moon's surface and view our planet from the gracious alien perspective, but we have seen much more with the help of high-powered telescopes. This is only the start, though. We are but ameobas on a Frisbee – nay – a massive boreal forest. The universe is large enough so that, no matter how much we discover, it will never be enough. We're not at all sure what constitutes the other 90% of the universe that humanity has not seen, but The Doppler Effect tells us that there will be more and more of that unknown abyss each day. The real question is, into what is our universe expanding? Dark energy is the fuel that drives our universe's expansion, but where is that proverbial car headed?
We'll tell you where it is headed: A place that mankind can only theorize about. People have conducted theories about other life in the universe, but has anybody ever conducted a theory of life beyond our universe? Based on what advanced scientific minds say on the matter, we can only assume that it is a place where darkness stretches on forever. Or a place where people wear shoes on their heads and play a version of polo where they ride giant, three-eyed rainbow-colored anteaters. Or an exact mirror replica of what is going on in this universe at this very second. Unfortunately, we do not know the whereabouts of an outside universe or whether or not it even has boundaries. Unless humanity will be around long enough to conjure up technology to take us to these boundaries, I am not entirely sure we will ever find straight answers to any of these questions. For most of that time, anyone who asks the question, "what is beyond our universe" will only be met with wacky speculations.
We could go on and on about the theories of what lies beyond, but that would fill up the entire book. We do have one hypothetical explanation and it's probably the most interesting one of them all. But that's the wonderful thing about speculation; the person of that time or place does not necessarily have to be right. In fact, nine times out of ten, he usually isn't. Presented in this book is just one of the possible speculations. It should not matter if they cause an actual astrophysicist to snort like a bull and pull the "scientifically inaccurate" card. The scientific laws could be turned on their heads, so that argument is automatically invalid. Hear me out: Let's say that there are stars and comets and planets outside of our universe. Let's say that some of these planets foster life and contain people as well. Let's say these people eat three meals a day, go to work and make friends. Let's say that there are governments and authority figures that make important decisions. This place is pretty easy to imagine.
Now let's say that some of these people are born with the ability to warp reality to their liking and create things out of nowhere using a paranormal force known as magic. Let's say that some of these people can (if they want to) happily live in pockets of deep space where there is oxygen and gravity. Let's say that these people can directly contact a netherworld where gods and spirits of all shapes and sizes reside. Not so easy to imagine anymore, is it? We will be sticking to this theory for the duration of this epic story. If you cannot imagine teens riding gryphons to the prom, don't worry – the events in this story might not be true. Or maybe they are.
Who are we, you ask? Why, we are the Royal We. We insert ourselves into the character of our choosing and yet we are everywhere at once. We are the narrative force that knows of the past, present and future, as well as other tenses that have not yet been discovered. We are not the prestigious member of any royal family (that honor goes to the main character). Rather, we are above them, above the land, above the clouds, even above the gods. Yet at the same time, we are just as human as you. We do not stop a story until it has a satisfying conclusion no matter how sad or happy it makes one feel. We do not smite the people with lightning bolts, we move the plot along. We do not discriminate, we elaborate. We will promise that we will not insert some sort of commentary, but sometimes it cannot be helped. The best part is this none of the characters even know that we exist. There shall be no fourth-wall-breaking, not even from the most intelligent person in the room. Sit back and enjoy, for they do not know that you, Dear Reader, are in on this.
The 21st Day of the Clove Moon, 10-182
Astrapolis, situated conveniently on a circular, rotating nebula cloud in a hospitable region of space, was a bustling city of opportunity, culture and innovation. People from all across the Outer Universe lived and worked there and even more went there to vacation. Quite possibly the most important factor in what made the city amazing was that it was the result of establishing peace between the worlds and lands, even if those worlds and lands still had minor conflicts within and without. After all, how could people of all different races and cultures live together and understand each other if there were massive wars being fought?
The Grand Sorcerer – the head honcho of the head honchoes -- was responsible for keeping order in the Outer Universe and he was normally rumored to have divine ancestry. He may have been the richest, most powerful man in the entire Outer Universe, but he also had the hardest job. Every little decision he would make would affect the societal structure of the physical realm. The Grand Sorcerer at this time was Grand Sorcerer Paul Zonn, a humble man who seemed eerily calm for having such a powerful position. His wife, Queen Essa, bore him ten children: Prince Euripides, Prince Gaffey, Prince Sarlo, Prince Ebyn, Prince Rowan, Prince Lawrence, and Princesses Anna, Serie and Thumian (they were triplets). And then there was little Ablias. At fifty-one moons old, he was the youngest of the Zonn children. His parents loved him but in the eyes of the populous he didn't much matter. In the royal family it was the eldest wizard child who would get the title of grand sorcerer/sorceress, so Ablias' chances of getting any important title were slim to nil unless all his siblings were to disappear somehow. He would have been lucky if his parents married him off to the village idiot's daughter.
Along with the Grand Sorcerer were the council members, Ludwig the walrus man (race: walron) and Vannis the finely-feathered raptor man (race: velosis). Ablias did not think much about Ludwig since he forgot about his existence for most of the time (and hence, did not bother him) but Vannis was the one he dreaded. Vannis, the Secretary of Defense, held the opinion that humans hog far more attention than the other races. In his old age, he also did not like children. With those things in mind, he especially did not care for human children. Whenever Ablias walked into a room where he was present, the man felt obligated to growl and bare his teeth at the boy, causing him to run away screaming. Paul never did anything about this since he told Vannis that this was a good way "to put the ankle-biters in their place."
Little Ablias Zonn is sitting on his mother's left leg in the famous family photo right next to two of his three triplet sisters. He was having a bad day when the picture was taken with that era's model of a petriscope. He did not much like being dressed in fancy clothing if he was no different than a commoner. To him, it didn't matter that he was in the front or that he was not smiling because the eyes on this picture would veer towards his older brother in the back Euripedes, who, in many years, would be referred to as Grand Sorcerer Euripedes.
So what happened to all of them, you say? Why is this story giving more sympathy to the runt of the litter who doesn't like anything about his family or his father's job? Keep reading and you'll find out.
Little Ablias Zonn enjoyed taking naps in the large toy room in Galactic Manor, a habit that one could get used to since it is said that everything is peaceful when a wizard child sleeps. He would wake when the daytime stars had shone through that particular large window, always at 3 PM sharp. His brothers and sisters may have been older, but alas, they were still children who enjoyed playing: children who had their entire lives ahead of them. They were all being watched by the "mother eagle" of that situation, Future Grand Sorcerer Euripides Zonn, who was a whopping eighteen sun cycles older than Ablias. That, by no means, meant that he was nurturing to the children.
He was rather mean to Ablias, which made him into a tall, godly beast to the little boy, and there's no use trying to reason with a tall, godly beast. However, there were other reasons why he was an unlikable person that little Ablias did not quite grasp. If the Ancient Greeks taught us anything, it's that divinity (or divine appearance) often came with a license that allowed one to be morally corrupt. On some nights, the littlest boy would overhear his parents being angry at Euripides for staying out all night at parties and dipping into the collected tax money to buy extravagant things. Despite that, the girls could not get enough of him. In fact, he would get more tail that a city dog catcher, usually from girls he would never see again. Whenever Ablias overheard someone mentioning that Euripides would sleep with countless girls, he questioned why this would be such a bad thing. After all, whenever he was scared of the dark, he would scuttle into his mom and dad's room and they would let him sleep in the same bed as him for the rest of the night. In that literal sense, he would sleep with them. What's so bad about Euripides being afraid of the dark?
Ablias groggily dragged his beloved stuffed bird over to Euripides, who was reading a magazine while sitting on a stool.
"Yu-Yu," said Ablias, who could not yet pronounce his brother's name, "I want a snack." Euripides peered over his magazine and gave Ablias a sneering look.
"Sorry, kiddo," said Euripides, "But snack time isn't ‘til ten-and-a-half-sun. No exceptions." He went right back to reading his magazine with no regards to others.
"I can't tell time and my tummy can't either."
Euripides simply ignored Ablias' complaints and flipped the page.
"Why do you make the rules, anyway?"
"Hmm… questioning authority. That gets you ten minutes in the dunce corner."
"That's not fair! We have an edict and that's not on the edict!" Ablias took out his brightly-colored beginner's wand and used his magic to make an important piece of paper appear, one with fancy writing.
"Okay, first of all, you can't read. Second of all, I am the praetor to that edict, so I can do whatever I want with it whenever I want." He then swiped the piece of paper from Ablias' hand and made a feather pen appear in his hand. In neat handwriting, he wrote "questioning authority" in the section explaining what one must do to earn time in the dunce corner. "Now off to the dunce corner with thee, before I get really pissed!"
Ablias, knowing that arguing was futile, sulked as he walked over to the little stool in the corner of the room. He put on the pointed cap that said "dunce" in vibrant letters, feeling humiliated and defeated. Things were going to look up for him, though. He may have been wearing a humiliating pointy hat right now but one day from now, he would be given a pointy hat that was much more honorable at his honorary awakening ceremony. Maybe he would get a little more respect afterwards. Of course, this would not change Euripides' authority over him since in the race of time passage, Euripides would still be in the lead.
The sisters, Anna, Serie and Thumien, approached Ablias just when he thought he couldn't be dehumanized any more than he was at that moment. Serie took out some sparkling pink lipstick; Anna took out some blush and Thumian had the mascara. Ablias did not use words but he gave them the terrified look saying "what in all the galaxies are you planning on doing to me?"
"We're gonna make you pretty!" said Anna. The three girls cornered Ablias and smothered him with the makeup that was illegally obtained from their mother's vanity table.
"Ahhh!" he screamed as he was trying to escape from the Dunce Corner. All that cold, wet, squishy stuff was being sloppily applied to his face! He was almost positive that his sisters were practicing a form of biological warfare and infecting him with cooties! Eww!
Euripides peered up from his magazine once again.
"Back in the corner, pipsqueak!" he said, "You can't wait another nine minutes and thirty seconds?"
The 22nd Day of the Clove Moon, 10-182
The next day was the day of fulfillment. Ablias was in his extravagant room in front of his life-sized mirror, an object that, as a small child, he did not consult much. Queen Essa had already helped him put on his formal cloak for the upcoming ceremony: a white cloak with a golden chest and cotton-stuffed purple curls that looked like they were trying to avoid the contaminants on the floor. His cloak tailed behind him almost to the point where he could barely walk in it. For once, he felt comfortable in a piece of stylish clothing, possible because it was not hugging him too much. He was told that it was a hand-me-down from Ebyn… or Gaffey… or any of his brothers since they were too numerous to keep track. Essa rubbed a lint roller down the back of the beautiful cloak to get every bit of hair and dust out of its fibers.
"Mommy," said Ablias, "Do I matter?"
Essa had stopped brushing before answering the question posed by her youngest of kin.
"Ablias, all of my children matter," she said, "Is this because your oldest brother is next in line to become sorcerer?"
Ablias nodded his head and curled his lips into his mouth.
"Sweetie, the title of Grand Sorcerer has always gone to the eldest sibling. There is nothing that we can do to change that. This doesn't mean that you aren't special."
Ablias liked that word "special." It popped up a lot in children's books and often had positive connotations when it did. "I'm special?"
"Yes. To date, you are the youngest of your siblings to hold an awakening. You showed a profound interest in magic at a young age, which is always a good trait in a wizard. In fact, children usually don't get ‘awakened' at your age. Euripides did not have his awakening until he was nearly twelve."
Ablias smirked, but not enough to be entirely noticeable in the mirror.
"This isn't the only thing you have done early. You've managed to put a puzzle together at the age of twenty-four moons, even though the box said ‘thirty-six to sixty moons of age.' You're a smart and curious boy, Ablias. Those traits will really get you places."
Ablias' smile grew a bit bigger.
"Besides, would I do this to someone who isn't special?" Essa kissed Ablias four times in a row on his left cheek, leaving a slight lipstick mark and making his face sticky. Ablias then giggled and revealed a full smile.
"Mommy, you have candy kisses!"
Even if Essa was not queen of the wizards, she would still be queen in her own right. She was proud Mama Bear, one who cared as much for her children as she did for the nation of Vitalia and vice-versa. The "bear" title was especially evident in that her elemental battle magic was unmatched. People were just as likely to mess with her youngest cubs as they were to mess with her. At times, Ablias questioned whether his love for her was justified when she would solve problems using chaotic battle spells instead of using words like other mothers. He questioned his love for her when she would sink into her exuberant material paradise for hours at a time and simply answer his questions with, "Not now, sweetie, Mommy is soaking in the Jacuzzi." It was understandable why she would want a break from everyone, for there were nine other children pestering her for attention, especially the "he-thinks-he's-so-great" Prince Euripides. Indeed, the quickest cubs drink from the sweetest and juiciest teat while the cubs that were born last are bottle fed. This was especially true for his Papa Bear, who often treated Euripides like his only son. Ablias may have felt the mixture of the emotions of happy, insecure, awe-inspired, and grateful when her rose perfume let him know that she was there (and by extension, her motherly warmth) but he certainly did not feel unloved. Sometimes, he felt that whenever she did see him and tend to his needs, she heaped just as much attention on him as she did for his oldest sibling… and he did not quite know why.
Queen Essa escorted Prince Ablias into the multipurpose room, which had numerous fancily-clad people observing the center of the floor. In a circle, there were blue candles, a color that represented beginnings in the Vitalian culture. In the very center was a small statue of the mighty and symbolic asterisk: five svelte triangles extending outward in a star shape and four small rectangles in between those triangles. Grand Sorcerer Paul stood in front of the asterisk holding a tome of poems and ceremonies while wearing a fancy cloak. To his left was Vannis the velosis. To his right was a Ludwig the walron. They were both members of the Galactic Council which helped run Astrapolis and wizardom as a whole, although they had little to no say in the affairs of the rest of the Outer Universe.
Besides the candles being lit, the room was eerily dark. Ablias did not want to let go of his mother's soft hand, especially if the big people kept staring at him and waiting for him to do something. It rather reminded him of his toilet-training days when his parents would stare at him with determined, serious eyes waiting for his body to follow the natural outcome of his digestion. This time, though, the people were waiting for the movement of his little legs down the aisle, a feat that he could do or not do at any time.
"Are you sure he's not too young for this?" whispered Ludwig the walron.
"I'm positive," whispered Grand Sorcerer Paul, "It was his idea to do it this early."
Ablias looked up from the ground and stared at his father.
"Come, young sultan. Your special day is at hand."
Ablias gently let go of his mother's hand and walked down the aisle. He could hear woman attendees commenting about how cute he looked and how fast he was growing up. His shoulders relaxed because he was rather comforted by the glowing of the tiny, fat candles. He was the bride in a twilight wedding. The coupling of his body and his divine gift were soon to be recognized. He figured that he may have been away from his mother then, but he would surely touch her hand again after the ceremony… surely…
"Ablias Zonn, we have set aside this day to honor your magical abilities and show the Lord and Lady that you have harnessed Their divine power. As a wizard, you will be taught to use your powers responsibly and to make the Outer Universe a better place."
Ablias did not understand any of those words, but knew that he would ruin the mood if he asked what any of them meant. He was so focused and halcyon that he barely noticed this one guest in the audience; for in the audience was a man with a beat-up overcoat and a brimmed hat. His exaggerated coat collar covered his entire face, giving no impression of any particular skin color. If there had been more light in the room, he would have stood out. He had been looking around at all of the people, sometimes turning his head 180 degrees like an owl. He had a slow, labored breathing, as if he had some sort of throat infection. Only the whites of his eyes, which we actually red, could be seen.
The ceremony continued on as scheduled.
"Young lad," said Vannis the velosis, "We would like you to perform some spells to appease both your family and the divine powers. What do you have in store for us?" For once, Vannis actually had his impulses under control and did not sneer at the boy.
Ablias took out his wand from his cloak pocket and concentrated thoroughly on his inner power. In the vague, desolate backdrop in his mind, a little finch appeared clearly; he based this image off of a finch he saw outside the window carrying twigs and brush for a nest. "Appear, oh bird!" His wand glowed bright red and emitted sparkles. A tiny, chickadee-like bird bird statue appeared before the men. He originally intended on having a live bird fly to the ceiling and chirp for the audience and did not know why this was not the case. Either way, the audience showed their approval at this first spell.
"Please, young man," said Ludwig, "Show us another spell."
Ablias thought for a moment about what part of reality to bend next. He looked at the statue of the asterisk and creative ideas swept his mind. This one was a cinch; there was no memory required since the statue's presence from his perspective painted the exact detail of which he had to think. That, is except for the detail that he wished to change. "Sparkly surprise!" He pointed his wand at the statue and immediately, the statue turned a sparkly blue like oddly-colored champagne. Though it was a holy symbol, nobody was offended. If anything, Ablias lightened up the mood a bit.
"Very good," said Grand Sorcerer Paul.
The shady man in the audience kept looking around at everything else except the ceremony. His motives remained a mystery, much like the mystery of how he showed up at the Zonn gathering without an invitation.
"I hope you do not mind showing the Lord and Lady one more spell."
Ablias thought some more. He finally decided that, instead of casting an original spell, he should expand on what he had already cast. Now, he thought of multiple statues aligned evenly, each one a reflection of another. "Sextupla!" Ablias aimed his wand at the blue, sparkly statue and made another one appear… and another… and another, until there were five of them in a row. Ablias felt disillusioned at the outcome, much like he did with his first spell. This time, though, he wanted to express this disillusionment. "I wanted six statues…"
"That is quite alright, lad. The God and Goddess do not demand perfection from a beginner." The age lines on Paul's face collided with his dimples. The saying about smiles wasting fewer muscles than frowns was true in this case because the facial expression managed to be pulled off without any effort.
"We will now ask you the three important oaths that a wizard must swear by," said Vannis. "Do you swear to practice your magical power and flourish into a well-skilled user of magic?"
Ah, yes, the questions: the final part of the ceremony that only required one word as an answer for all three.
"Yes," said Ablias in a tone that was almost too soft for the audience to hear.
"Do you promise not to use your magic to harm others, be it plant or animal, physically or emotionally, unless there is a justified reason?"
"Last but not least," started Ludwig, "Do you promise to use your magic to benefit yourself, but also benefit others and your society as a whole?"
Ablias opened his mouth to say his final expected answer to the question until something of remarkable proportions started happening, something that the audience had to be warned was not part of the act.
"Unholy scourge!" shouted the shady man in the audience, "Affront to the creative power! Leaders of darkness in your government's control! Your doom is at hand!" The man, still in his suit and brimmed hat, made a knife appear and pulled an old lady toward him by her waist before stabbing her in the stomach. The audience tried to disperse in horror as much as possible without stepping foot into the aisle or the holy circle. The lady collapsed and tried to cover the blood that was spilling out of her, groaning in pitches that would switch from high to low. That is, until she lost all consciousness.
"What is that man doing?!" shrieked Queen Essa, even though it was obvious.
Little Ablias started shaking. He was already very much nervous before the start of the ceremony, but he did not know what to make of this. What his parents told him was a lie: monsters very much existed and Euripedes had a very good reason for sleeping in the same bed as other girls. It all makes so much sense now.
Obeying their initial instinct, people ran toward the door screaming, knocking over candles and statues in the process. There was pushing and shoving and barely anybody made it through the single door except for those who were lucky enough to slip away. The unknown homicidal maniac easily took advantage of the fact that normies, that is to say non-wizards, are often the easiest to kill. With one swipe of his wand he unleashed a massive blade that cut seven innocent people in half, spilling their pinkish guts and sticky blood on the previously-clean floor. Ablias, too astonished for words and scarred for his life, ran to his father and held on to his ceremonial cloak. The tension rose further when the maniac decided that things weren't manic enough and he made the entire room remarkably different. His wand emanated with black sparks. He made the walls, floor and ceiling disappear and replaced them with an infinite purple and red void that lead to both everywhere and nowhere. The floor turned black and split apart like a cracker, dispersing in a way that many of the ceremony-goers wish they had before this moment. Many of the normies who had attended fell to their deaths but the wizards and witches could manage to levitate if something of this caliber were to happen.
Lightning bolt spells struck these survivors in singular gleams, recognizable to Ablias by the way that these fallen angels would make war with the land during thunderstorms. Unlike that situation, Ablias had no comfy covers to hide under, no stone-crafted castle to keep him safe. This rumbling horror was not going to go away by having his father read bedtime stories of heroes past in order to coax the sunny morning out from the horizon. Ablias did not want to have anything more to do with the situation but he was far too curious about the happenings. Once he dared to look away from his father, he saw his siblings floating there, too busy with their own safety to worry about his. He reached out to Sarlo, and then to Serie, and then to Gaffey, but the dimensional gap widened further as the lightning bolts crowded the scenery.
Wizards, especially ones that were skilled in battle magic, normally weren't significantly affected by lightning strikes or other spells, but this man's godly power and unbridled rage made each bolt stronger than the last. After several strikes, the elder wizards turned into colored dust. Ablias' young mind still could not comprehend what was occurring but he knew that it was not expected of a ceremonial gathering. It was illogical that the elder wizards were ever going to return to their original state, or if they were, the process would be extremely difficult. Ablias had never touched colored sand before but he had touched sand: gritty, sparkly, everywhere at once. No. Men could not function in millions of pieces. They had become anti-men, no longer defined by their names, no longer thrown together as their own beings. By this point, everybody except Ludwig, Vannis, and his family were gone.
Queen Essa, far away on a floating piece of floor, fired up her own wand and soon, the element of earth came into the picture. From the bottom of the abyss came a massive horrendous claw, about the size of the perpetrator, made of tree bark that it shed in little bits. Although nobody knew how, it made growling noises as it reached toward the mysterious man. As expected, it made the familiar creaking sound of a tree being moved by a force more powerful than it, bringing to Ablias' mind more imagery of the thunderstorms he hated. The giant claw grabbed the man and squeezed him as if it meant for him to slip out of the cloak like ointment from its tube. However, the man gave no signs that he was struggling at all, no closing his eyes, no cries of pain. In fact, he tore the sentient claw apart with the simple movement of his arms. With an ear-splitting crack, the tree claw fell to pieces… but not in the sandy way like with the older wizards.
"There's no way he could have the heart to kill children," said Paul as he held Ablias' head close to him.
Essa floated in front of her children and aimed her wand at the man's head. From the way that the mysterious man stiffened and shook, this was a spell that impeded muscle movement.
"Look at your mother, Ablias," assured Paul, "She's protecting us."
Once Ablias looked, he saw the man frozen in a funny walking position with one arm held out and one arm straightened to his side like he had become a clock. The situation was far too frightening for him to laugh and he managed to surprise himself with his ability to stay dry-eyed when such violent events had happened and were going to continue to happen. Essa spent that time concentrating, although her wand started to wobble, perhaps from nervousness. The man managed to slowly regain power over his own body and escaped the spell.
Ablias' siblings tried fighting the maniac with their limited battle magic abilities. All they could make were little fireballs, paltry arrows and thin beams of blue light that barely pieced the man's jacket. The man gripped his wand and squeezed it, all the while allowing his sleeve to fall and his throbbing, hyper-functional veins to pump purple liquid instead of blood. With his swift stealth, he fired tiny stars that zoomed so fast that the only way to view one properly was to stop time itself. Each star barely missed the young children, but hit Euripides in his left shoulder. He clutched his wound and winced excruciatingly.
"Gyag!" he exclaimed, "My left shoulder! How did he know that I was a lefty?"
Without warning, the maniac grabbed Serie (or was it Anna?) by her neck and aimed his wand. She closed her eyes and tightened her muscles as much as possible but it did not make the situation go away.
The star that came out of the wand shot right through Serie's head, making her immediately turn to pink dust. One Zonn family member down, eleven to go. Essa shrieked, but she was the strongest woman Ablias had the privilege to know in his brief fifty-one moons. There was never a time when she showed weakness or submissive behavior. She had managed to catch herself when she was about to express uncontrollable grief and her face stayed in her bullish sneer. Although she refrained from any loud, feminine reaction to her daughter's death, her physical reaction became fierce and unforgiving. She flew to the man, transformed her wand into a glowing blade and slashed him, causing his jacket to tear.
Grand Sorcerer Paul stood his ground and kept his dignity. Little Ablias, still holding on to his father's cloak, never had his dignity in the first place. Paul was not one to resort to violence immediately. He was a fellow who often tried to reason with his enemies.
"I want you to leave… NOW!" he said sternly. He glared at the man to make his point. A flame in the shape of a dragon shot out of the mysterious man's wand and bit Paul with a painful and scalding intensity. Vannis the raptor man, who was standing on the same piece of floor as Paul, bore his teeth and lunged at the maniac, jumping onto another floating tile in the process. The maniac acted quickly and formed a clear, Teflon-like shield to block the dinosaur man's bite. Because of the inability to hold on or think quickly, Vannis slipped and fell into the abyss. His scream got quieter and quieter until he met his doom.
Ludwig panicked at the sight of his longtime friend disappearing forever. Paul kept standing his ground. From the way that the maniac grinned through his coat, he had some sort of sick thrill from all of the easy killings that he had made. It was only that dastardly matriarch who was complicating things. Without warning, he cast a spell that let out a wall of fire which came racing at Ebyn, Anna, Gaffey and Sarlo. Like a tsunami, they were not able to escape it no matter how fast they moved. Woosh! Blue, yellow and orange dust filled the air like a mild wind in a dry environment. Five Zonns down, seven to go.
Queen Essa was not being killed by the maniac, but from the way she was deep-breathing, her repressed emotions starting to get to her. After the maniac violently grabbed her wrists and tied them with magic rope, she was pushed to her knees with his misshapen hands. He stroke her delicate neck, indicating that he probably found the woman to be sexually alluring when she was helpless. Paul, by this point, grinded his teeth and produced a vibration from his throat that resembled a growl. Nobody – we repeat, nobody – was crazy enough to make moves on his woman, especially since this was the one and only Queen Essa. Her breathing became shorter and deeper, especially since she was in a position that allowed her limited head movement for seeing what was going to happen to her. A small beam of light that looked like a machete protruded from the maniac's wand growing pointier and pointier. He rammed the pointed edge into Essa's left bosom, twisting it in case her body did not succumb to enough trauma.
"You're a strong woman, dear," said the maniac, the first words that he had uttered since the massacre began, "You can deal with it."
But she couldn't. The woman who never bowed down to anybody but herself was unwillingly drained of her wispy soul. Her ear-shattering screams pierced through Ablias to the point where his shaking made him loose grip of his father's cloak. By now, his lungs deflated from the horrifying sensory overload and he could barely get himself to fill them back up with oxygen.
Poof! Colorful sand falling into the abyss…
By now, Ablias could not repress his own feelings anymore. As he winced, his face turned a cherry red and one tear followed another from each of his eyes.
"Just where do you get off?" asked Euripides. Euripides may have been a jerk but he was the type of jerk who would give somebody a piece of his mind for messing with his mother. He stood still for a second and fired his wand at the murderer. After a blue beam of light fired from the wand, the maniac was trapped in a large block of ice, a similar spell to his mother's muscle-inhibiting spell. But why would he perform what is basically the same function? Maybe he had other things in store…
The frozen water paused the maniac as he had a mad grin on his face.
"And now, a disappearing spell…" Unfortunately for him, the ice around the maniac melted a little too quickly. Of course, it didn't as much melt as it did explode into bits and pieces as the maniac produced a fiery bomb from both his hands. This explosion tore off more sections of his overcoat to reveal a skinny, dark leg and a rather big foot. Another bomb spell hit Euripides' right arm and blew him away. Thankfully, he landed on a different piece of floating floor, but the impact did not cushion his fall in any way.
Grand Sorcerer Paul created a beautiful blue sword from his wand, floated over to the maniac and successfully slashed him across the chest. Someone would normally fall into oblivion when met with something like this but he managed to keep still the entire time. The laws of physics in this situation were skewed enough and now the maniac seemed to have altered his gravitational force. He was proving to be unstoppable, although more of his overcoat had become tattered from the cut.
"You have caused too much trouble, sir," said Paul as he grinded his teeth and pointed the sword directly at the maniac's nose, "You are not welcome to this event!"
This remark was a tad too late since the event had already been ruined. Ablias was all alone on his floating island. He looked to his left and spotted another piece of floating floor. In an attempt to escape the situation, he jumped to as many tiny islands as he could, pretending to be a frog while using his leg strength. A storm of meteors rained onto the scene caused by the maniac's wand. The raining miniature infernos caused Ablias to cower to the ground, thinking that putting his hands over his head would protect him. The only reason why he wasn't harmed was because no meteor came close to hitting him. It was an entirely different story with Rowan, Lawrence and Thumian. Nine Zonns down, three to go.
Through motives unknown, the piece of floating floor that held the maniac and Grand Sorcerer Paul split apart even further, separating Paul from his target. The mysterious man peered to his left and saw Ablias, who had changed position and wrapped his arms around his knees. Ablias wasn't brave enough to make eye contact with the horrible man but still, his curiosity prompted him to see what he was about to do next.
"It seems that the littlest one has escaped my wrath," he said in a sly, raspy voice, "The mouse has escaped into the cracks, but escape will not come easy. Don't expect me to go easy on you!"
The man reached out his arm as if he were preparing something. Ablias then felt his clothes pull toward the man, and then his body started inexplicably moving without him having to lift his feet or cast a floating spell. Quicker than his mind could comprehend, his body flew to the maniac's palm with an attraction that was no more or less magnetic. The maniac morphed his wand into a knife with gold etchings and shiny sequins, a weapon that would be beautiful and honorable if it were not being used for a heinous crime. He put the knife to Ablias' throat, in a position where the knife was about to cut into his supple skin. Ablias' pupils shrunk to one-third their normal size; his muscles tensed up so much that squirming was no longer an option.
"Mr. Zonn," he said, "You have watched your wife and your other children perish. Two are left. Why not stick around for the grand finale?" The man's voice sounded not like a serial killer but a distinguished man who was deceivingly welcoming. Paul transformed his sword back into a wand and cast a spell on the man's knife, which transformed its material properties to the state of liquid. As soon Ablias felt the droplet on his cheek as the water spilled onto the ground, he escaped from the maniac's grip to jump to the other tile and be in the arms of his father. By now, Euripides was too far away to do anything besides fire intensely hot beams of light that kept missing the enemy (he was never a good shot).
The wand belonging to the maniac glowed an intense, molten red as its temperature was rising. This man could not run out of ideas.
"That was not the grand finale," he said. Concentrating his magic on the wand, he made the red rod expand its glow to a point where it became difficult not to squint and look away. If devils wore halos, they would proudly wear this flash of anti-light proudly.
"Hold tight, son!" shouted Grand Sorcerer Paul. He squatted to the ground so Ablias could squeeze him tight. Ablias had previously heard his father yell when he was angry at family members, but this one was not an angry yell, it was a worried one. Ablias felt his father's pulse beating faster and faster through his ceremonial cloak. Time seemed to have slowed to a sloth's pace as the flare produced by the maniac's wand engulfed its surroundings. Paul had cast a spell that formed a white, bubble-like shield. Ablias did not know that, though. All the while, he was afraid that he would encounter his doom any second.
The engulfing hellfire eventually died down. Paul opened his eyes and looked around. Little Ablias opened his eyes to gaze at the unfamiliar surroundings. Just an hour ago, they were in a function room decorated with candles and statues. Now, all that Ablias could see was a blackened room with flames scattered everywhere from the curtains to the purse that one of the woman attendees had previously carried. The floor was put back together and no longer floating in a nightmarish purple and red oblivion, but that did not make the situation any less horrifying.
By now, the maniac's coat had come completely off in the explosion. The man under that coat had hair (if one could call it that) like dragon spikes accompanied by an unnaturally skinny figure. His cape and gloves were the very color of blackest death. Ablias didn't know that he was even a person until he turned his head to peer over his shoulder. His gigantic, crimson eyes glared into Ablias' soul and his toothy grin told him that this was meant to be a joyous occasion on his behalf. The monsters and ghouls that haunted Ablias' nightmares did not hold a candle – no – TEN candles to this man... if he WAS a man.
"Fare thee well," he said in a devilish, intimidating voice. With his magic, he disappeared from the wreckage in a flash of darkness that would have been missed if someone had blinked at that moment. Ablias surveyed the damage while slowly letting go of his father.
"Yu-Yu!" said Ablias. He escaped from his father's arms and ran over to Euripides, who was still alive after all of the chaos. He was lying on his left side and keeping his eyes sealed shut. The only movement he could make was the twitching that was present in all of his body. The index finger on his left hand had been blown off and a small puddle of blood oozed onto the linoleum in a tiny, maroon stream. There were plenty of other reasons for his agony but Ablias did not have the time or medical skills to figure them out. Paul sighed with relief that two of his children were still alive, but one did not have a chance for survival if no medical help was reached.
The 22nd Night of the Clove Moon, 10-182
Later, Grand Sorcerer Paul was pacing in an upstairs hallway. Ablias sat on the ground and stared at the opposite wall because there was nothing else on which to focus his attention. His rate of breathing returned to normal for the most part but his chest still hurt from the emotional weight from earlier. He was relieved to be alive, but he did not understand the situation enough to feel any sort of emotion. At best, the moment could be described as neutral to him.
A human nurse emerged from the closed room with a blank look on her face. She closed the door behind her very slowly so that its clicking could be heard precisely.
"Mr. Zonn," she said, "Euripides was very lucky to have survived such devastation. I have done all that I could with him, but only time will tell if he will recover from this condition." The nurse walked away with her medical kit to leave the wounded family alone.
Paul opened the door just a crack to peer in on his eldest son, who was in his elegant royal-purple bed with his arms on top of the finely-stitched covers. He had the entire Outer Universe hidden behind the dark-colored curtain of his closed eyes. Ablias looked into the slightly open door. To him, his brother looked like he was sleeping, but he could not remember the last time he saw his brother so void of energy. Looking was not enough for a curious fifty-one moon-old, so he slowly walked into the room to be a part of its quiet atmosphere. He put his little hands on the right side of the bed and observed his brother, thinking that he would do something soon… like wake up. His intuition was correct to a certain extent. Euripides awoke and greeted Ablias with weak, ice-colored eyes.
"Hey, pipsqueak," he said in a damaged voice.
Ablias didn't mind that his brother called him his usual demeaning nickname because of the tone he used.
"How are you doing?"
"I'm okay, I guess," said Ablias. His physical well-being was perfectly fine, but he wasn't sure about his mental well-being. He didn't want to bother going into details about that.
"I could be better."
Ablias knew right away that this was an understatement. "Your finger is gone." Ablias gazed upon the blood-stained bandaged stump on his brother's left hand where his pointer finger used to be.
"The good news is that the man didn't get all of us. You win some, you lose some."
Ablias looked down at Euripides' diamond-patterned bedspread. He did not understand his condition, but the very thought of him not being his usual unforgiving self made him sink emotionally. Never in a million years would he think that he would miss the way his brother used to be.
"You know… I've been acting like a total jackass to you for most of your life."
Ablias' ears pricked up.
"Since there were eight other siblings in between the age spectrum, I just treated you like garbage, like something that didn't even matter. Right now, little guy, you do matter. I take back those nasty things I said to you since your birth. I wasn't being a responsible brother or a role model. Nobody would want me to be a Grand Sorcerer if I treated even one of my family members with ill contempt. If I ever fully recover, I will dedicate some of my time to teaching you to be a wise and talented wizard. Hopefully, you won't imitate me in other ways, since my morals are a bit rusty."
Ablias actually liked this new brother since he singlehandedly admitted all of his faults in his heartfelt speech. Maybe the gruesome attack that happened that afternoon was for his own good.
"I will turn my life around and that is a promise, Little Guy." Euripides closed his eyes and then used the miniscule muscles in his eyelids to keep them open in their sedated slivers. "That's all I'm going to say, since I'm in too much pain to talk right now."
"Ablias," said Grand Sorcerer Paul as he walked into the room, "I think it is time that you left your brother alone." More serious words had not been spoken by Paul.
Ablias felt hopeful and recited a mini-prayer in his mind for his brother's recovery. He took his father's hand and began walking out of the room.
"Let's make some dinner, shall we?" Paul tried making Ablias focus his mind on something else so he would forget about his brother's malady and not look back. Ablias did this anyway. "I said, ‘Let's make some dinner, shall we?'"
Ablias stopped in his tracks while still holding his father's hand. Euripides' body started emitting a blue flash from under his blankets. That flash soon morphed into blue dust, which covered the sheets under the bed's covers. Some of it spilled over the sides and onto the wood floor.
"Yu-Yu?" asked Ablias, "Why are you doing this, Yu-Yu?" That dust was easily recognizable. What happened to the other wizards in that dimension of horror had just happened to one last family member.
Paul just turned around and stood there. He cleared his throat before speaking again. "It's best if you stopped asking questions."
"But why did –"
"Go off and play, Ablias."
Ablias felt changed by that very moment. He didn't want to play. Even with the distraction of children's playthings, he was mentally unable to erase this image from his mind. Practically everything that happened that night was beyond his comprehension.
The 23rd Day of the Clove Moon, 10-182
Before holding a meeting with the last surviving council member, Ablias peered into the conference room, where he spied Ludwig solemnly starring at a picture of Vannis. The largest tears he ever saw seeped from his eyes, bursting the dams that "real" men were supposed to erect over their tear ducts. Ablias thought that his father would be angry at these gigantic tears falling to the table since he had a strict rule concerning the use of coasters when anyone had a beverage. Ludwig looked positively lifeless, even though it was his fellow council member who had ceased living. But who would want to cry over Vannis? He was a nasty person who judged others based on the little knowledge he had of them. At Ablias' age, he was still largely self-centered and the idea of sympathy eluded him. Now he got it: He was supposed to feel happy about this man not being around anymore. Ludwig was wrong.
He did not know of the long relationship that Ludwig had with him. He did not know how Ludwig could manage to ignore his negative qualities. Then again, Vannis did try to fend away the maniac and sacrificed himself in doing so. Was this how he was supposed to feel about Vannis? Sad? He shivered in his uncertainty. He had actually had boughts of shivering all morning, not aware of what place in reality the perished people filled, if they filled any place. Which place did he fill? His stomach suddenly felt blocked off, not giving his brain any signals of the status of his appetite. He retreated to his room quieter than any time than he had done it before.
Soon enough, Ludwig hastily wiped his walrus tears off of the table when Paul's footsteps made it clear that he was coming. Once he came into the room, he sat down with a blank facial expression. The conference room, with its specially-carved fancy wooden chairs and tables, was unusually quiet without the presence of the third member. Most of the conversation was dominated by the crippling tragedy of the previous night.
"I saw that man for the briefest second," said Ludwig vengefully, "That was Sardonicus! I could tell from his hideously disfigured face!"
"I always knew that there was something strange about that man," said Paul, "He never went public with any of his plans, which is mostly why we didn't see this coming. What especially sickens me is that I didn't stop him fast enough before he killed Essa and the kids." Paul was never known to cry even in the most dismal of situations, so he certainly didn't do so now.
"You still have that little one left. What's his name? Abloo? Abibab? Abocaminambipop?"
"It's Ablias. You better get his name right because he will be our one hope for stabilizing this royal family."
"Where is the little whippersnapper, anyway?"
"He has been in his room all day. I've yet to talk to him."
"I won't interfere." Ludwig made the latest issue of Walron Wizardry magazine appear with his wand. Paul slowly pushed out the chair and got up to visit Ablias while Ludwig was submerged in his printed text.
On the third floor of Galactic Manor was Ablias' room. The large door was closed, signifying that Ablias wanted some alone time. To a little boy whose limited knowledge of time was altered by a sole event, half a day's of alone time just wasn't enough.
Paul opened the door and saw Ablias at his rather large window seat. He was staring up at the endless sky. He could tell that the day was almost over since the nebula orb where the nation of Vitalia was placed was rotating from the super-bright daytime stars to the dimmer ones that were shown at night. For the longest time, Ablias sat there and didn't do anything, really. He just… thought. The tragedy that happened yesterday left the most emotionless expression on his face, no smile, no frown. It was not a natural expression for a child. He was still deciding whether to feel sad or angry or fearful. He found it hard to have any positive emotions in that mix. He also found it hard to move around or swallow his saliva. He was in emotional limbo. His soul hurt.
"Son," said Paul in the most comforting voice, "Would you like to talk?"
Ablias turned his head towards his father and then back to the window. He did not want to spill his thoughts into his father's ears but eventually caved in to his father's silent demands and started asking questions.
"Dad?" he said in a choppy voice, "Where is Mommy and the rest of our family?"
Paul swallowed and gave the most blunt and least exciting answer. "They're dead, son."
"When are they going to stop being dead?"
Such words struck Ablias out of nowhere, even though he knew that they came from his father's mouth.
"When somebody dies, they're like that forever."
Forever. No other word leaves such a lasting impact as "forever." "Can I die, too?"
"Of course you can't die. At least not now. We need you because you and I are the only ones of our family left. You also can't die because it would be nice to live a full, long life before succumbing. You have yet to learn new things. You have yet to explore the three worlds of the Outer Universe. Unfortunately, not everyone gets a chance at doing those things, case in point with your mother and siblings."
"So there will be a time when I will be gone forever?"
"Yes. That time happens for everybody and everything."
"What does it feel like to be gone forever?"
"I don't know. I've never been dead."
After that talk, Ablias knew exactly how to feel: depressed, hopeless, skeptical of everything. The entire Outer Universe came crashing down on top of him and left in his mouth a rusty taste. "I'll leave you alone some more, though you shouldn't stay in your room for a terribly long while."
Back in the conference room, Ludwig was finished reading his magazine and spent his time gazing at the door. He lifted his head from the hand on his resting elbow when Paul finally came back.
"Any interesting articles in that magazine of yours?" Paul asked Ludwig.
"There were interesting tips on casting spells underwater, but enough about that," he said, "I want to know about your son."
Paul sat back down in his chair and his look of remorse had remained unchanged. "Now that the boy understands death, I think he is feeling grief now."
"That's the most obvious thing you've said all day. I would feel concerned if he is feeling an emotion other than grief."
"It would be best if we give him some space."
Ludwig tapped his fingers on the table one at a time, producing a tiny galloping noise. "Paul, you may have had nine other children before this one, but if you know anything at all about baby wizards…"
Paul put both his hands in his lap and squeezed them. "Ablias is not a baby anymore."
"Like I said, if you know anything at all about baby wizards, you should know that they are not yet able to control their magical outbursts when they are overcome with any sort of emotion. This grief could cause him to create a lightning storm in your own castle or a turtle monster that would eat your paperwork. You have to monitor this boy and be prepared for the worst."
"Ludwig, you treat me as though I am too incompetent to be a leader. I know all about wizard childcare and, if something bad happens with Ablias while I'm gone, the nanny can always do something about it."
Once Paul left the room, Ludwig could do nothing more than produce a gruff snort and pick up another magazine.
The 24th Day of the Clove Moon, 10-182
Paul acted as fatherly as possible to Ablias but didn't interfere too much. Ablias acted in a way that deviated from his normal behavior: he wouldn't talk, he would run away at random, strange times, and he would often be seen with a tear running down his cheek… that is, before he stopped himself from submitting to his emotional release. Whenever he was outside his room, he felt exposed and helpless, no longer willing to face anything.
On that fine afternoon, Paul was coming home from the market with a bag of food. He used his key to open his magic-proof gates and walked down the stone path to his front door. Before he could open the next door, the human nanny he had hired to watch Ablias came running out of the castle screaming. Paul nearly dropped his bag from seeing the normally calm middle-aged woman act so irrationally. He grabbed the woman's arm tightly and stopped her in her tracks.
"What is the meaning of this?!" he asked frantically.
The woman had strands of gray hair flying out of her bun and eyes decorated with bags. "That child of yours is your problem now!"
Paul let the woman go and she climbed the fancy gate as if she were escaping from a maximum security penitentiary.
Paul opened the door and, this time, he really did drop his bag of food. The inside of Galactic Manor looked like the gates of an underworld with an artistic license. Demons large and small, humanistic and bestial were protruding from each crevasse. Everything in the main hall was blue and melting. This wasn't a calming sky blue, it was an unusually dark shade of indigo that made one's eyes hurt. The noises in the background sounded like a man whispering threatening words through a drainage pipe. Music could also be heard, but not particularly the type that one would want to hear. It could easily be described as a bell whose gong went on forever. Its pitch changed every now and then, sometimes for a minute, sometimes for a second. Being the brave soul that people expected him to be, Paul trekked through the ghastly mess.
As Paul walked, giant red lips came out of nowhere and tried to bite him. Using his transformation magic, he zapped any giant set of lips that came near him and made them shrink to the size of ordinary lips. The lips then started biting at his feet. He eventually made the lips disappear entirely since something like that could get on anyone's nerves. Unfortunately, his magic wasn't powerful enough to make the entire dreary situation disappear.
As he walked up what used to be the staircase, each step started flattening itself out as if someone somewhere had pulled a lever for this purpose. Paul started rapidly sliding down the makeshift slide, except the foot of what used to be those stairs was not the same as it was when he had encountered them. The slide was much longer than the original staircase and lead to an ominous cloudy place that could not be reached, no matter how long he slid. Fortunately, the railing was still there, so he grabbed onto it. He would reach the top eventually. Just when he started to succeed at reaching his destination, the railing became extremely hot and burnt his hands. This caused him to let go and start sliding again. Obviously, this twisted fantasy of mysterious origin was not going easy on him. Using his magical power, he floated away from the "staircase" and it crumbled in large pieces.
Paul, using his knowledge of where things were in the mansion, flew to where Ablias' room would be. As he approached the door, a demon the size of a silver dollar started pestering him by jumping up and down and shouting "weeweeweewee!"
"Get out of my way!" said Paul. He stepped on the demon, which made it grow silent. Bad idea: from right under his foot, the demon grew massive in size and was soon the size of a large tree. It was devil-like and had a look of pure lunacy on its face that was almost comical. It chuckled maniacally at first, but it soon became a slow, deep laugh. Paul stopped backing away and fired up his wand for a powerful battle spell.
"Come forth!" he said. A blinding beam hit the beast directly in the stomach and dissipated it immediately. Paul could now open the door and free his son.
Behind the door, Ablias could be seen hugging his legs in the corner of his room. He sat there hoping that if he curled up tightly enough, the world around him would go away and he would go back the dark sanctuary of the fetal stage, a part of his life that he never imagined envying. Around him were dark spirits that resembled snakes sticking out of the ground. Ablias very slowly looked behind his back in the same manner as a psychotic living doll and shook at the sight of his open door. He shook at the sight of everything.
"Ablias?" questioned his father.
Little Ablias could not speak in his deranged mental state. Now that he knew that his family has vanished forever and that the same fate would bestow everyone and everything else, he could no longer face the Outer Universe. He was the fabric of a limited and possibly pointless existence. Anything could be out to get him and he was just as vulnerable as everyone else, possibly even more so. At the same time, the stressed, twisting feeling in his chest and pervasive goose bumps made him believe that he was indeed dying, adding further fuel to this view. Ablias was not the victim of this nightmarish environment, he was the godly creator. Ludwig had warned Paul about young wizards not being able to control their magic when in a highly emotional state so why did he not listen? All efforts to console Ablias would ultimately fail because of the child's mental anguish and warped view of reality. Ablias had to see an expert.
Paul held onto Ablias and hugged him like his mother would have. Once the wacky environment perished, a storm cloud appeared above his head as tears spilled from his eyes. After a half hour of non-stop crying, he felt the utmost comfort, the result of letting out his emotions.
Afterward, Paul put Ablias in his bonslower (a personal mode of transportation that runs on a series of rails) limousine and tried to keep him calm to keep disturbing thoughts from exposing themselves. He wrapped him in a blanket and rubbed his shoulder but this did nothing for the vibrating nerves that came back soon after his relaxed feeling wore off. The chauffer, a velosis wearing a special limousine-driver's uniform, drove them through the city of Astrapolis until the tall buildings became few. The nebula cloud started looking hilly with pastures of grazing rodent-like behemoths called luktoongs. This was clearly the outskirts of the city, where someone's country cousin would live.
Ablias was eerily silent as the limousine drove into the parking lot of Bedlam Heights Insane Asylum. Not even the rural scenery and friendly luktoongs could quell his anxiety, although this method usually worked for children at petting zoos.
Inside, a nicely carpeted front office awaited Paul and Ablias. The color of the carpet reminded Ablias of puke. There were watercolor pictures of nice things, like waterfalls and bunnies, as if the room itself was trying to make people forget that this wasn't particularly a happy place. The feeling of uncomfortable exposure came back but he was at least thankful for not being outside anymore. He held his blanket tighter, naively thinking that his chills were caused by below-average temperatures. The secretary was so busy typing on her typewriter that she didn't notice that the most powerful authority figure had graced her presence.
"Excuse me," said Grand Sorcerer Paul, "I would like to speak to somebody."
"You're going to have to wait, sir, because I know that you or a loved one has problems, but I have to deal with my own sh -- Oh!" she exclaimed, "Your highness! It is a pleasure to meet you."
Now THAT'S more like it.
"I am interested in checking my son into your facilities."
The woman looked around, expecting to see another adult with this man.
"Where is he?"
"He's right down here."
The woman got up from her oval-like seat and gazed down the front of the counter. Ablias squeezed his father's hand tighter as he averted his gaze. Most adults that were trustworthy normally weren't scary to him, but this situation was far, far different now that he had a crippling mental malady. The woman proceeded to dial the administrator on her phone.
After pushing a few buttons and turning the crank on the side of the blue, box-like contraption, she finally reached Mr. Y'Rado.
"Mr. Y'Rado," said the secretary. "…A man has come here expecting us to take in his child. We normally do not house children at this mental hospital. Should I politely turn him away? …Yes it is. And he can probably hear me right now. …Thank you, Mr. Y'Rado. I just needed your input; otherwise I wouldn't be a very good secretary."
The woman hung up the phone and focused her attention on Paul again.
"We normally do not check children into a mental institution, but I have gotten permission from the administrator to grant your son a stay at the hospital. Please sign these papers and Prince Ablias will be on his way."
Within a half an hour, Ablias said goodbye to his father and was checked into a room on the first floor of the asylum. The room had a door that made a creaking noise whenever it was slowly opened, definitely something that would make a little fifty-one moon-old boy uncomfortable. On the ceiling was a florescent star bulb that flickered so fast that it was almost like it never flickered at all. The floor had a green and red carpet with symmetric shapes that almost didn't go together.
"Well, Ablias," said the nurse practitioner, "This is your home away from home." She talked in a voice that was sickeningly sweet even to a small child. Ablias whimpered a bit and slinked away from the doctor and nurse in his new room. He knew that his life would go into a new direction after his awakening but this was the theoretical GPS system led him down the wrong road.
"Aw, you look scared," said another young doctor, "I think we have just the thing for you."
The young man went out into the hallway for a brief second and returned with a small blanket. He unfolded the blanket to reveal an asterisk that was colored a purplish blue.
"Your father took away your blanket when he left, so we're going to give you a new one."
This blanket was a bit more pleasing to the eye than the rug but it still looked a bit tacky in an elegant sort of way. Ablias had a different frame of mind when looking at the asterisk. As soon as he set his eyes on it, the memory of one of the asterisk statues falling into the abyss from the maniac making the floor break apart was impossible to escape. Ablias started hyperventilating and shaking profusely. As soon as he started screaming, strange colors and demons made themselves visible again, just like earlier. The nurses backed away as expected. Sensing the seriousness of the situation, the nurse pulled out her walky-talky to contact multiple other nurses.
"Everyone, we have a code 14," interpreted the nurse, "A young wizard is having emotion-driven magical outbursts."
Two other women in uniform did not hesitate to arrive in the room on the spot. They stopped for a second because they were startled by the demons and other disturbing images flying around the room. One nurse then grabbed Ablias' arm and held on to his neck with the other hand to keep his head still. The other nurse opened a bottle of strange pink liquid and put it up to Ablias' lips. As she was pouring the liquid into his mouth, Ablias' reflexes caused him to swallow it. Within ten seconds, his eyelids felt heavy and the disturbing images started dissipating around him. A nurse picked him up and lay him on his new bed to sleep. Things were finally peaceful again.
"Shhh…" said the doctor. The personnel left the room so that Ablias would have some quiet time without anything out of the ordinary happening. The window right above Ablias' bed showed dimming stars taking daylight away and preparing for night.
The 24th Night of the Clove Moon, 10-182
Many hours later, it was well past Ablias' bedtime, not that it mattered. He was still in his serum-induced coma. Although they say that the Outer Universe is at peace when a wizard child sleeps, this was hardly a pleasant slumber. Sure, there were no more magical outbursts in the Corporeal Realms, but inside Ablias' head was a different scene. The asylum personnel's method of getting rid of his PTSD didn't vanquish the problem, it merely masked it.
Ablias' strange colors and visions had migrated to the inside of his mind, where he was in a desert of purple sand. He was all alone – no other human beings could be seen; no friends, no family. The sand was hard to walk through because of its soft, thick, dry texture. The poor boy was clearly trapped. When he looked behind him, he saw that the moon and stars were falling out of the sky and onto the ground. His perception of distance and dimension was falling flat on its face. The moon, like a gigantic, white bowling ball, made a crashing noise and an earthquake. The tremor only caused Ablias to rise an inch above the ground because the sticky sand was just that powerful. Just then, a giant, shadowy figure rose from the horizon. From the red eyes, Ablias could clearly see that it was the maniac who crashed his party – Overlord Sardonicus. This variation of him was as big as the sky and Ablias used the brief second that he saw his actual face in the Corporeal Realms as a reference. Suddenly, he felt thankful that he had used the bathroom before leaving Galactic Manor. Sardonicus reached his claw-like hand (even though he didn't have claws in real life) and tried to grab Ablias as if he were a hamster in a cage. Because the purple sand slowed him down, Sardonicus succeeded in his attempt at capturing him.
Ablias was in the palm of the overlord's hand,too scared to move unless you don't count the shivering. The man's insect face was terrible enough to look at but this time, it was magnified by many percentage points. Sardonicus grinned at him and prepared to cup his hand into a fist, which would kill Ablias immediately from all of the pressure. Ablias covered his head and curled into a semi-ball as the evil lord closed his hand.
"Who died and made you king of the Outer Universe?" asked an almost childish voice.
Out of the sky came a fireball with a face in its center. It hit the giant Sardonicus smack in the forehead. He nearly dropped the tiny-in-comparison Ablias, but he managed to grasp one of his giant fingers. Next, a tornado appeared over the horizon and swept through the purple desert, pummeling Sardonicus with its fierce winds. Now, Ablias was unable to hold on and was sucked into the twister. He spun so fast that he no longer had perception of left or right, not that he knew the difference between those directions at his young age. Next came a tidal wave that practically appeared out of nowhere, although it probably did since dreams do not typically follow the laws of physics. Ablias was thrown out of the tornado and he landed on a giant floating leaf in the water. He watched as the overlord was pulled under by the biblical flow.
Ablias was happy that the terror was no longer terrorizing him but still feared for his own life. After all, he could drown in those waters. He needed not to worry, though; the water from the recently-created sea receded within seconds. The overlord, already flat on his stomach and weakened by the clash of natural disasters, was unable to move. He tried reaching his oversized hand toward Ablias, who was still inside his giant leaf but dormant on the saturated sand. Thankfully, Sardonicus was too far away to come into physical contact with him. Before Ablias could get up and stretch, a rumbling could be felt beneath the sand – another earthquake. The plates underneath them were moving to the point where they created cracks on the surface. These cracks soon reached Sardonicus and the ground started separating into a spontaneous canyon. The gritty sand fell into the cracks in bunched pieces and when the gap under Sardonicus got wide enough, he fell through. He emitted a scream, as it seemed that his voice was the only part of his body with any strength left. From all of the danger that sabotaged him, Ablias couldn't believe that he was safe. While the cracks that had separated were firmly under Sardonicus, the cracks under him didn't separate at all, as if some higher being planned this onslaught of the elements to save him.
After Ablias had a brief moment of feeling thankful for his survival, the scenery started to dissipate. Everything in this reality turned blurry and wavy like it was being seen with teary eyes.
Ablias awoke in the room where the asylum personnel left him. This time, it was dark and the stars outside were completely dimmed. In the corner of his eye, he saw luminescence, thinking that somebody had left on a tiny light. He then turned his head to see what it really was.
In front of him were four tiny, floating spirits, each one looking wildly different from the other. One spirit looked like a tiny, upside-down ocean wave with a small head. Another was fat and green with stubby feet and a head that was pointed. Another had a gray swirl for a body and a helmet that looked like a purple bird's head. The one making the soothing light was a little fireball with big, observant eyes. Ablias had never seen such animals… or people… or were they ghosts?
"Who are you?" asked Ablias. He seemed rather threatened by these new beings, especially since he had no idea how they got into his room. Did his imagination create them? No… the glowing one was giving off warmth that was clearly there.
"We are sorry if we startled you," said the fireball, "Allow us to introduce ourselves. I am Hadrian, the salamander."
"I am Cornelia the nymph," said the water droplet.
"I am Luscious the gnome," said the green one.
"I am Aurora the sylph," said the swirly one.
Ablias needed a little more background than that.
"Why are you here?" Ablias asked, still having a little intimidation in his voice.
"You know that asteroid, tornado, title wave and earthquake that were in your dreams?" asked Aurora.
"That was us. We went inside your head and combated your worst fear."
"Elemental spirits like us help people," said Luscious, "We provide oxygen for you to breath, flames to keep you warm, dirt to grow your food, water to drink. In other words, you need us."
"Thank you for saving me and killing that mean man," said Ablias.
"We may have saved you this time, young sultan," said Hadrian, "But we only defeated Overlord Sardonicus in your dreams. In real life, he is still very much a threat. His plan is to dominate the Outer Universe and subject everyone to his ideals."
Ablias considered this victory on their part to be bittersweet. It is always a letdown when a good dream turns out to be just that… a good dream.
"It is up to you to train yourself in the art of wizardry so you can defeat this man someday. This will take many years and lots of effort, but it will be worthwhile when you save the entire Outer Universe, as well as your royal bloodline."
"As for you, you should try and become mentally healthy," said Aurora, "You cannot bring balance to the Outer Universe if you are always fearful. The people at this institution are here to help, no matter how long it takes. Do not become dominated by your thoughts."
"Where do you come from?" asked Ablias as he wrapped his arms around his bare knees.
"We come from the Winter Realms, where all spirits dwell at one point or another," said Cornelia. "By the way, do you know anyone by the name of Euripides?"
Ablias nodded his head excitingly.
"He and his siblings entered the Winter Realms just yesterday. We came up to him because he wanted some cheering up, too."
Ablias perked up when he heard that somewhere, somehow, his siblings were okay. While he still did not like the concept of death (and he is certainly not alone), he had a more hopeful grasp on it. "Why was he sad?"
"His spirit was sad because he broke a promise to you. He said something about promising to be a better brother, but can't act on it now that he's dead."
Ablias was more relieved that his brother really did wish to be nicer to him and that he wasn't being dishonest like a mean brother would be. "What else did he say?"
"He said that he would be real proud of you if you can continue on with your goals without him. Although he didn't want to admit it, when he was alive, he thought of you as a curious and intriguing child. He had never seen anybody else your age who had such an interest in the magical arts."
Ablias nearly blushed at the remark. His mother told him the same thing, but he only believed she was being nice because she birthed him. "Will you stay here to keep me company?"
"We can't guarantee that we will help you with all your issues, but we will be there for when your dreams get ugly," said Luscious.
"Here, maybe this will help," said Hadrian. Hadrian flew over to the wall opposite the bed and situated himself in front of the star power socket. He basically acted as a nightlight with a semi-dim glow. Ablias crawled under his covers and closed his eyes. He felt comfort not only through the pseudo nightlight but through the kind spirits who became his new friends and makeshift parents. He knew that there was a whole dimension wedged within the fabric of space-time that housed these benevolent spirits but he also knew that, like the demons that he had summoned with his disturbing thoughts, not all spirits were well-meaning, courteous and optimistic. He didn't much mind that, though. As long as his elemental friends looked out for him, he could tolerate being the only child in an insane asylum.
"Goodnight, prince," said Cornelia, "You will make a powerful and fair ruler someday." She kissed Ablias on the cheek, and because of her elemental makeup, the kiss felt like a strong wind concentrated within a thimble. Along with Aurora and Luscious, she disappeared from sight. Hadrian remained there all night, being the dedicated little flame that he was.
Meanwhile, far off in another world, the mighty Overlord Sardonicus entered a quiet, secluded room in his immense mansion. Although he was alone, he did not reveal his ghoulish face. He had covered it with a red mask that looked like a cross between a cat and a devil. The rest of his body was covered in a red and orange robe that had flaps of fabric hanging down in floppy strands. He did not turn on the lights in this room. Instead, he lay out a small rug with crescent patterns and placed two candles on both sides of it. When Sardonicus lit the candles, he spread out his arms, embracing an invisible being.
"I summon you… Omnishia," he said, "Goddess of all, sculptor of creation, the one true queen…"
Five seconds of silence had passed before a vortex appeared at the end of the room. This vortex spewed out the dark colors of night until it engulfed everything and the room did not look like a room anymore. Then, a shining blue light emerged like a sunrise over a fake, firmly-situated horizon.
"Overlord Sardonicus," said the woman's voice from the blue light, "How is the mortal realm at this time?"
"It is good, oh Creatrix. The people of this land cower in fear of you just as they always have."
"Have you gone through with the termination of the royal warlocks yet?"
Sardonicus nearly hesitated before he answered.
"I have managed to annihilate most of them. The mother and nine of the wicked children have felt my wrath."
"All according to plan…"
"Except… I have failed to kill them all."
The goddess showed no expression since she did not have a face, but she would have had a look of disgust and bewilderment at this news.
"You have?! My messenger, you are skilled in my battle blessings and have trained for many years. What could have possibly slowed you down?"
"The Grand Sorcerer was stronger than I expected. I guess it sort of had to do with the fact that I trained quite infrequently in my six-thousand moons than he did in his six-hundred and forty-eight moons."
"You left the Grand Sorcerer alive? You mind as well have left everyone else alive and given the children candy!"
"Well if you want them dead so badly you should have smitten them yourself!"
There was a pause as the goddess let this reply sink in.
"I'm sorry I snapped at you like that. It's just that I'm as devastated at my failure as you are."
"I understand. Who else was spared from your fury?"
"The littlest one. He was lucky, I guess."
"Look on the bright side, my future husband: your wrath has served as a warning to those who survived. It tells them that they are immoral for worshipping false gods and that their witchcraft is a mockery of my greatness. Only your most important people are meant to share my power and no one else."
"I know, I know, my love. As a future god, I should give my soldiers the leading edge so that we can remain the most powerful of the Outer Universe's armies."
"I do not want you to give up on trying to annihilate the remaining two family members. I want you to see to it that the little boy does not live to see adulthood."