The world shook, and she was forced awake as she fell from her over-sized bed. Her pet twin tail was already awake and looking around with panicked scared eyes. Its greem and white fur stood on end and its cat-like ears laid flat on his head. It’s two long tails stuck straight up in the air.
She was still half asleep and couldn’t even focus enough to wonder what was going on. She grabbed at her bed in a blind panic, trying to climb back up as though the bed could protect her. She tried to call for help, but no sound came out of her mouth. Her pet twin tail jumped into her lap and opened its mouth as though it were hissing. But the sound didn’t form.
Cracks started to appear along the wall and her books and toys started to fly off the shelves. But the chaotic destruction was completely soundless.
The door to her room flew open and her dad rushed in. He seemed to be trying to shout something at her but she couldn’t hear what it was. And then she noticed—her dad was slowly falling apart. Bit by bit he was turning to dust. He probably would have fallen to the ground already if it wasn’t for his staff.
The beautifully carved redwood staff with a metal ring stuck to the top. It was her dad’s magic staff. She had tried to borrow it a few times. But he had caught her every time. The staff only kept him upright for a few short moments before the combination of the shaking room and his disintegrating body caused him to fall helplessly on the floor near his daughter.
Despite everything, he smiled at his child reassuringly. And placed his staff gently in her hands. When the staff left his hands, his body started to fall apart even faster. He said something—but she still couldn’t hear, and then he touched her face one last time before turning to dust.
The cracks in the wall started to form fissures. The room was splitting in half somehow, and the side she was on drifted away from the rest of her home. She could see the rest of the castle she had lived in all her life slowly crumbling to dust. Even the ground underneath it seemed to begin crumbling away to nothing….
She opened her eyes. The same dream, she had dreamed about it every night since it had happened. Her dad’s staff was laying on the bed next to her. She was still in her room, but it was split in half with the open side facing out into the world. When she woke up half of her family home, half of the castle she had grown up in, was gone.
Her family’s castle had been built into and through a mountain that sat on a sort of peninsula that extended out into the ocean—or had anyways. The other side of the mountain was a wild forested area that was filled with wild Cryptix, dangerous monsters with a strong connection to magic. Of course, her pet twin tail—or rather her familiar—was a Cryptix as well. That was important for some reason….
She had wandered around the half of the castle that was still intact. But she was the only person there. All the servants, and staff, and the advisors were all gone. The empty castle felt lonely even though there was only half as much castle. Luckily the kitchen was on the side of the castle that survived, unfortunately, the generator had been on the other side. All the refrigerated food had gone bad within a few days. Or at least she thought it had been a few days, she had been stuck in a daze and couldn’t even tell how many days it had been.
She looked over at her staff that she had been clenching since her dad had given it to her. The staff was the sign of her dads’ power, the power of the Philosopher King. Whoever rightfully held the staff ruled the lands of Lomus.
So that means what exactly? she thought as she squinted at the staff. She hadn’t been able to think clearly since the castle had been torn in half. And then all at once, her dad’s words came rushing back to her. She clenched the staff and jumped to her feet panicking like someone who had overslept.
Of course, with my dad gone that means I’m the Queen now. And dad always said a ruler never lazes around when there’s work to be done.
“Dual, we’re going,” the twin tail was lazing around on her bed with the same distant look that she had just moments before.
“Meow?” it asked, confused.
“I’m the Queen now, and you’re my familiar, we can’t just sit around all day.”
Suddenly the fog cleared from the monster’s eyes and it jumped onto its four feet. “Meow!” It seemed to understand.
“Come, let us go survey the damage to the kingdom.”
She ran out of her bisected room and down the stairs to the lower floors. And then she stopped for a moment and realized that she was still wearing her pajamas—no queen could be seen walking around in her PJs.
She ran back up the stairs as quickly as she could and back into her room looking for something appropriately royal to wear. After a few moments, she settled on a black and red robe and a pair of red pants. Her dad always seemed to have his royal robe on even when sleeping. She figured she probably wouldn’t go that far. She even put Duel’s collar on. It had a lovely golden crown ornament hanging off of the black studded leather.
Once dressed she dashed down the stairs once more and onto the castle’s main floor. Her faithful familiar followed her, easily keeping up. The dark castle made it hard to see, the generator was gone and so none of the lights were on. They had converted from simple torches hundreds of years before. But her ancestors had wanted to keep the medieval aesthetic, so they hid the electronic lights along the edges of the ceiling.
But she had her dad’s staff, and that gave her the power to solve a lot of problems. She focused her energy into the staff and tapped the ring at the top. The staff lit up like a flashlight, casting shadows that danced along the floor and walls of the castle.
“I’m the Queen now Dual; I have to find out what happened to my kingdom.”
What she had seen when the castle split in half made no sense. She had to figure out what had happened. Her dad had tried to tell her something before—before—before. But she couldn’t hear him—or couldn’t remember. She wasn’t sure….
It’s my responsibility now, I’m in charge. So, I have to do everything I can to fix it, she thought.
She had an idea of where to start. Before—the thing happened. Her dad had been spending a lot of time in the magic lab hidden under the castle. She hadn’t been allowed in that lab, though her dad never told her why. She figured the lab was the first place to check—it had nothing to do with the fact that there wasn’t anybody to stop her and she was curious.
She walked down the hallway by the light of her staff. And came to the heavy wooden doorway with the sign that read “forbidden, authorized personnel only.” The door was made out of a special kind of wood called dusk wood that was supposed to keep magical energies from passing through. She understood that she was actually really knowledgeable about magic. Her tutors were always impressed with how quickly she picked up new information—especially since magic was not an intuitive subject.
“Alright Dual, we’ll have to be careful once we go here. You’re not going to be able to teleport in there.”
“Meow?” Dual looked at the door confused. And then he disappeared with a flash of light and a strange vibrating sound. Then there was a loud bang as Dual reappeared comically pressed up against the dusk wood door.
“Why do you do these things?” she asked her familiar after it had peeled its self off the door. She shook her head and pushed the heavy door open, she had to lean into the door with her whole body to get it to open since she wasn’t strong enough to open it like she would an ordinary door.
The door opened onto a long stairway that extended down into the depths of the castle. She had spent a lot of time coming up with ways to sneak down there in the middle of the night. But she had never been able to pull it off. She shook loose the thoughts in her head; it didn’t matter at that point. She was going to see what was in the lab very soon anyway, no point in getting lost in her past shenanigans.
She started walking down the stairs. She was expecting dust and spider webs littering the stairwell like a haunted house. But the stairs were almost too clean, sterile, it was part of a lab after all.
When she reached the bottom, she gasped, the castle had split perfectly in half, exactly halfway through the lab. Tables were cut in half, teetering on the edge. Beakers and other lab tools that sat at the edge were also cut in an unnaturally perfect way. The lab opened up into a cave system of some sort. The strange circular pattern of the caves made it look like something had tunneled out of the lab and deep into the earth.
Human-sized glass cylinders ran along the left side of the room, specimens floated in some sort of green fluid in each of the cylinders–different types of Cryptix. A strange black and green bird with a long tail, a crow with a unicorn horn, a rodent with pine needles sticking out of it’s back, a tiny lizard with pixie wings. All with their eyes closed and unmoving save for the bob and sway of the liquid.
“Let’s see,” she said looking at all the different monsters. “That one’s a pixdragonia, that’s a Cronicorn, and that’s a pinmartin. But what’s this one?” She couldn’t figure out what species the weird black and green bird was. She looked to her familiar for guidance–but he was trying to bat at the pixdragonia through the glass as it floated around in the strange green liquid. She sighed and went back to examining the lab.
There were scalpels for cutting things, and syringes for injecting things. Thermometers, beakers, goggles, forceps, and crystals scattered here and there.
It’s a Cryptix lab, she thought with some surprise. I thought there would be some big cool magic thing down here.
There was one odd thing she couldn’t figure out right away. In the middle of the room there was another glass cylinder, but that one had been bisected with the rest of the room. And there was no sign of the Cryptix that had been in there. She found it strange that all the other monsters had been in tubes along the side of the wall, but there had apparently been just one at what would have been the exact center of the room.
A little disappointed that she hadn’t found a cool magic weapon she sat down on a chair to think. There were no notes or books of any kind in the lab that might help her figure out what they had been doing. Her dad was a meticulous note-taker, so that was odd. But his notes could have been on the other side of the lab when ‘it’ happened. Some of the crystals might have been knowledge crystals, but she doubted any Thaumaturge or wizard worth their salt would just leave knowledge crystals laying around. She searched her brain for one of her dad’s lectures. He knew everything about magic, so there had to be some reason.
“Magic is divided into two categories,” she said mimicking her dad’s stern lecture voice. “Magic from above, is called Thaumaturgey, and magic from below, which is drawn from Cryptix, is called Auramancy.” She giggled, amused at how accurate her mimicry was.
“Oh,” she said in her own voice. “So then if this is a magic lab with Cryptix in it, then they must have been studying Auramancy.”
“That’s right,” she said in her dad’s voice again. “Auramancy is the weaker form of magic, however, Cryptix are plentiful so it’s the most common type of magic.”
Magic users all had different gifts. When she first started using magic, Dual had appeared seemingly out of nowhere to help her cast her spells. She remembered that her dad had frowned since that meant she was an Auramancer, and he didn’t seem to like the art. He didn’t even have a familiar of his own.
“People who can use magic get special titles. Since you can use Auramancy and control Cryptix what does that make you Sylvy?” she said in her dad’s voice.
“Ouhh, ouhh,” she said waving her hand in the air as though there was actually someone else he could pick on. “A wizard.” She really liked the title even if her dad seemed disappointed about it sometimes.
In her mind, she was now sitting in a classroom with her dad drawing complex diagrams on the chalkboard. It was halfway between memory and something she was imagining. She wasn’t sure if her dad had ever given her a lecture exactly like that one. But it didn’t seem to matter.
“Exactly, and someone like me who can use Thaumaturgey is called a…”
“A thhuu–a thhuu–thhuutmaterg,” she had said, struggling over the complicated word.
“A Thaumaturge, you had the right word in your head so I’ll count it as a right answer.” Her dad said with a wink.
“Now someone who can use both kinds of magic is called an Archmage, but there hasn’t been someone like that since the first Philosopher King way back at the founding of our kingdom…”
“Dad you missed one,” she said, interrupting him mid-lecture. But her dad just looked at her confused.
“What do you call someone who can control Cryptix but can’t use magic. My Auramancy teacher says that happens sometimes.”
“Oh,” her dad said, almost sounding disappointed for some reason. “Someone like that is just called a Linker.”
She opened her eyes, trying to clear away the rest of the strange fantasy from her mind. She had everything she needed. The strange secret lab was an Auramancy lab. They were researching the innate magical powers of Cryptix. Her dad had taken a special interest in that project, which seemed odd to her. He didn’t seem to like Auramancy that much. Why would he be so interested in Cryptix research?
Then again, she thought. Maybe they weren’t researching Auramancy. She had a lot of different magic tutors, but all of them agreed that Auramancy can’t be forced, the power of a Cryptix can only be drawn upon when the monster consents.
She stared at the monsters suspended helplessly in the cylinders for a few moments. Is there a kind of magic that can draw power from monsters forcefully? If there is, that would be horrible. Her teachers had always said that humans and monsters needed to work together. Well except for her dad–what had he said? She couldn’t remember for some reason.
But–for some reason, she didn’t really understand, it didn’t seem right to keep those Cryptix sealed in those glass cylinders. So she walked over to the release valves, and one by one began to open them. The valves hissed and protested as the liquid started to drain out….