Alex did not know what to expect. She watched too many horror movies to know what an Underworld looks like.
‘It’s not safe there! Only dead people go there and they got those dogs! The Cerberus! OMG! I can’t go there, it will totally sniff out all my little sins and it’s going to eat me!’ she tells Boon.
‘It’s one of the safest places in the world.’ Boon reassures her, feeling her dread. Alex blinks and she found herself in a large field with the rest of Tylwyth Teg’s kingdom. It was even more beautiful that Tylwyth Teg itself. She couldn’t believe her eyes. ‘Welcome to Annwn, Alex.’ Alex looks around her. It was marvellous. Her expectations were way below.
‘If this is the underworld, then I really like that they redecorated,’ she tells him, still shocked at how wonderful it looked. She notices a group of people walking towards them. She could not see who they were because the light was shining on them. Alex watches them and as they drew closer to them, she recognizes the faces of Hera and Fortesque among them. The rest of the people are men and women who look almost like her. Alex is about to run to them when Boon holds her arm to stop her.
‘Alex, you have to remember that you cannot touch them but you may speak to them.’ Boon tells her gravely. ‘They are just souls but you will find yourself trapped here if you have any contact with them.’ Alex looks at them longingly then nods in understanding towards Boon. She slowly takes off Boon’s hand from her arm and holds it instead.
‘I understand. I would just like to talk to them.’ She walks towards them along with Boon following her. Her Aunt Hera and Fortesque look happy, smiling at Alex and Boon.
‘I hope you both are well,’ Hera says to them. Her voice sounds distorted like her voice and image is not in sync.
‘I hope you are both happy too.’ Alex says, trying to control her emotions. ‘I miss and love you both.’
Hera and Fortesque look at each other and smile. ‘We love you too. We have faith in you both.’ Hera says to them and to Alex’s dismay, they start to walk away. Alex watches them disappear by the trees not far from where they are.
Boon holds her hand tighter and Alex starts crying. How she wishes this isn’t what she can only do. Can’t she be more perceptive with magia? Can’t she be more farking helpful? All she can be is scared. How can she save the world when she doesn’t know what to do in the first place? Why is she whining so much, she hates it but she does it.
‘Alexandria,’ a voice behind her calls out. ‘Are you both alright?’ Gwyn asks as Terra and Boon follow behind him.
‘Yes. Just super,’ Alex says as she wipes her face.
‘Let’s go somewhere else where we can talk then.’ He leads them up on a hill where the forest starts. The go through a tunnel of trees and into an opening in the forest where Gwyn’s subjects have already set camp.
‘Does this often happen to the Kingdom?’ Alex asks as she notices that there are camps already pre-set up.
‘It’s been more frequent for the past few hundred years. Before, it used to be every few centennial but it changed. From what we know, they are unable to come here because this is the land of the dead. They will be bound here for eternity if they do. We have reason to believe it is because the complete reincarnation was going to happen soon, but that was all theories then.’
They set down to another clearing, just like in Tylwyth Teg, but there is a long table. Alex notices there are maps along with names she can’t read and crests, she assumes they are kingdom names.
‘I apologize for being so unkindly or maybe quite eccentric when we are in Tylwyth Teg. I am afraid that there may be Chaos hiding that my people and I cannot see. I am quite polite and not as brash. As I said before, there have been more frequent sightings and visits. Since we are bound by the laws, we dare not do anything and if they want to, they are able to completely annihilate the entire kingdom. We respect the King-Emperor and Queen-Empress but we are afraid for our existence. So we did what we do best. We gathered information.’ Gwyn nervously looks at Terra’s reaction.
‘Do go on, Gwyn. I would very much like to know what you have learnt all these years.’
Gwyn bows towards Terra. ‘We have very little to offer. We have tried to get as much as we can and it is quite difficult. Please pardon me, Empress-Queen. I did what is best for my kingdom and my allies.’ Terra nods in agreement to Gwyn who looks relieved.
‘What are these?’ Alex finally asks, unable to contain her curiosity as she looks at the detailed map with names she can’t understand or pronounce.
‘Those are the kingdoms that fought together in the four thousand year war. Unfortunately, the Gorgons are gone. Most of the kingdoms are gone too. I have tried but in vain to unite the old allies together as the King-Emperor and Queen-Empress recovered but I could not find them. Either they are extinct or they hide as well as we do.’
‘So, we’re not actually sure they are gone?’
‘Correct. My best trackers have been trying to find them. All they find are ghosts from the past.’
‘There must be some magical creatures left.’ Alex persists.
‘I do not know where they can be found, Domina. Perhaps they are all waiting for you too.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Could it be light…?’
‘What light?’ Alex asks, confused, ‘Explain please.’
‘Do you remember that dream you had on the first night at Maison de la Mer?’
‘When I got my mark? You had the dream too?’ she asks Boon, shock. Boon is nodding his head, blushing. ‘I remember she was crying, and then she swallowed the stone and then, she marks herself and then there’s that creepy light from her eyes and her mouth and then bright light everywhere and then I woke up.’ Alex says as she tries to recall her dream.
‘Could it be she made everyone else sleep?’ Gwyn wonders.
‘It could be possible,’ Terra answers this time. ‘Tūllus and I were recovering and then we went into a deep slumber. It was certainly strange waking up to another world.’
‘But how come the kingdom of Tylwyth Teg was the only one that was spared?’ Teg wonders out loudly.
‘Because they have Annwn.’ Alex and Boon says at the same time. They look at each other with excited faces. Alex puts up her hand to Boon, ‘hit that like I taught you,’ she tells him and Boon hits her hand with his excitedly.
‘I still can’t believe you taught him to give you a high-five,’ Teg says shaking his head from side to side. ‘Am I the only one who thinks they are the oddest Balance that existed?’
‘Domina knew that you are able to protect yourself because she knew that the Chaos cannot pass through Annwn and in some way, she appointed you as the guardian of the sleeping magical world but she didn’t have to tell you that because she knew you would take it upon yourself.’ Boon says confidently.
‘I am a righteous warrior and I will protect who needs protecting,’ Gwyn says as he half bows towards them. ‘But we do not know if all our theories are correct.’
‘He is right,’ Teg agreeing for once, with the King. ‘We don’t know where to start and where to go. There is no doubt that Vtl is more aggressive with hunting both Alex and Boon down especially now that she knows that Boon is alive.’
‘Can anyone please tell me something about Vtl? I keep hearing her name.’ Alex feels like she knew Vtl but how? Maybe because of Stēlla’s soul, she thought.
‘I know Vtl well,’ Gwyn says, darkly. ‘During the war, she fought with us without a bond. She was one of the best. One day, she tried helping this woman who she took pity on. Vtl, being kind but naïve, thought she could make the helpless woman’s life better so she bonded with her. What she didn’t know was this woman was beyond help. Her difficult life made her mentally unstable. This corrupted Vtl and since this woman was physically weak, she died and Vtl became, not just a Chaos, but a Chaos with a different intent. It was a strange time. One day she was fighting along with us and the next, she was fighting against us. She became stronger too, feeding on the negative forces of the world. She became so powerful that she managed to convince one of your ancestors to be her Libra.’
‘What?!’ Alex couldn’t believe her ears but she can only think of one person that would be naïve enough to think she is more powerful than the Chaos.
‘Yes Domina Alexandria, your guess is right. It was Georgina.’
‘How could she do that?!’
‘She was young and reckless. She was much younger than you. Her uncle thought it would be best if she had her training to look after the stone early on. But she was a different kind of plate all together. She wanted power; she wanted to be the one to control the Libra – that’s her very words. Her uncle explained to her that she is not going to control anything but instead, work together with a Libra hence they are called the Balance. And when the manor marked her, she was quite dismayed that she is not the chosen one. But she is not one to give up. She started tampering with dark magia and that is how Vtl found her. Vtl pretended to be a weak, ordinary Chaos and managed to corrupt Georgina’s mind. Georgina believed that if she can bond with a Chaos, she will be able to change it back to a Libra. I tried to stop her when it was happening but she was proud. When she realized too late that the Chaos was more powerful than her, she tried to kill it but as we all know now, she was unsuccessful. She vanished into thin air. Vtl managed to take a small portion of Georgina’s essence. It was very tiny but what power it gave her. It gave her leverage. She rose in the ranks as quickly as you can blink. Ever since, she’s been hungry for Domina Stēlla’s essence and your family has been more careful ever since. If we survive this, not that I am implying that we won’t, visit your family’s mausoleum. She has no grave in the family mausoleum, not even a mention of her because there was no body and they are quite superstitious about empty graves so the only thing that she can be remembered of is with the painting in your manor. But know that she almost used all of her life and soul essence by stopping Vtl. Georgina became what she could have been in her last breath.’
‘How did you know this?’ Alex asks, without missing a beat.
‘I told you, Domina. We gather information that would be vital for every one. Teg was one of our field agents who helped us with that.’
‘Is this true, Teg?’ Alex asks.
‘I have overlooked it, Alex. It did not cross my mind that it is going to be this important. I apologize.’ Teg says, bowing in shame.
‘It’s quite alright Teg. You have done so much.’ Alex is shaking her head from side to side. She feels like her chances of defeating Vtl is becoming slimmer by the day. ‘No wonder she wanted the stone, that she wanted Boon. She knows that she can become more powerful by being bonded with a Libra, especially the one that is Stēlla’s.’ Alex looks like she is having a bad headache. Her head feels heavy. How did she get this job of saving the world again? She was perfectly happy with chopping envelopes and telling her cats when to eat their food. ‘Could I have a moment please?’ Alex asks but she does not wait for their reply and walks away from the table.
‘Chances are I may get myself killed.’ Alex says to Boon when they are far from being heard. Boon does not say anything. ‘I am seriously mind boggled by all this. I do not know what to do. I wish I knew so I can help but it seems like things keep getting worse by the day. If anyone asks me how I can defeat Vtl, I can’t think of anything. I don’t know this. I wasn’t born, raised and trained as a warrior mage. Even if I was powerful enough to rewind back time, I don’t think I am able to escape what will inevitably happen. I don’t know it’s a fixed cosmic event but I can feel that it will happen eventually. I know I cannot run forever but I believe I know why Stēlla did it. She was not afraid but she knew it was not her fight. But I don’t know why it’s up to me to fight. I’m confused! She is probably the most powerful mage who ever lived that myths, books and fairytales talk about. But…she is not as real to them as she is to us. Because I may have her blood and her soul and…you, you have her heart,’ she stops walking. ‘You know what, Boon? We are a team. Help me do this and I will help you in return. Tell me what to do and I trust you with everything I got.’
‘I will not leave you, I promise.’ Boon says as he takes her hand.
‘Good to know. I hope you have a plan,’ Alex says as she starts walking towards the entrance back to Tylwyth Teg.