It was a couple of hours later when the pair returned to her room, Velvet having spent the time in a light doze while Light had curled up beside her. She had sensed their arrival even before they had opened the door to her room, and watched them as they entered. The one that had been called Clocky was tall and muscular and looked to be in his late teens. His hair was a deep orange, roughly cropped, a pair of similarly coloured eyes peering out from a weathered and tanned face that sported stubble of the kind that gave the impression that he was unsuccessfully trying to grow a beard. He was dressed in a pair of oily grey overalls, though she could just make out the presence of leather armour underneath it. His face broke into a nervous smile when he saw that she was awake. The woman that was with him was about half his height, and looked to be middle aged, though Velvet was finding it hard to actually pin it down, and she was usually pretty good with ages. She had chocolate brown hair that was tied up in a tidy bun with three intricate Mythril needles poked into it. Her ears were adorned with numerous stud earrings, each one sporting a different gem. She had a kind and pleasant face, her eyes a comforting light blue and her features fine. She was dressed in well made and well kept leather armour, except for her lower arms which sported weird looking bracers, also made of Mythril and covered in gems laid out in deliberate patterns.
‘It’s good to see that you are awake,” the woman said to Velvet. “How do you feel?”
“Better than I was, but still in a lot of pain,” Velvet replied, grimacing as she attempted to raise herself up.
“Not surprising,” the woman said. “That wound would have killed a normal person, ignoring all the complications that were laced into it as well.”
“I’m grateful for your help,” Velvet said, letting herself lie back down.
“You’re welcome child,” the woman said, walking up to the bed. “We couldn’t just leave you out there. My name is Merianne. This pervert here is Clocky, my son.”
“Hey,” Clocky started in protest, Merianne ignoring his outburst.
“My name is Velvet,” Velvet stated, anticipating the question. “And the little dragon is Light.”
‘I’m only little at the moment,’ miffed Light.
“Where are you from?” asked Merianne.
“Evergreen, of the kingdom of Avaraline,” Velvet answered after a brief pause. Now that she thought about it, she didn’t really have a town that she called home, so her birthplace would have to do.
“Where’s that?” Clocky asked, before Merianne could stop him.
“It’s the western kingdom?” Velvet replied, a little confused.
“It’s part of the Innerlands,” Merianne said, looking at Clocky. “We know very little about its layout, just like Velvet here will know naught about the Outerlands. But as she said, Avaraline is the western one. You really need to read some more.”
“On that you’re right,” said Velvet, nodding. “I’m all ears though if you’d be willing to elaborate.”
“That I can,” Merianne said, as she pulled up a chair and sat down beside Velvet. “From what records we have,” she began, “there hasn’t been anyone from the Innerlands out here for a very very long time. Probably close to nine hundred years I think, but that of course was before my time, as I’m not quite that old. Almost no one is capable of making the crossing in either direction, so to be honest both sides probably find it easiest to ignore the existence of the other.” Merianne smiled.
“That probably wasn’t the best place to start though. You’re probably wondering about this whole Inner and Outerlands thing. We class the continent that you come from as the Innerlands, and the lands outside of it, separated by the Circle Sea, as the Outerlands. Those however are terms that we have used in our history books, and I’m not even sure if our lands even get a mention in yours.”
Merianne paused, before continuing.
“The event that you refer to as the Shattering of the Core, that happened at the end of the Great War against the Demon King, reshaped the lands, and birthed magic into the world, but did so differently on the two sides. In the Innerlands, not only was magic spread through out the land forming the interconnected leylines, it was also seeded throughout the population, creating a true fantasy world. A world where most people had magic in them, and a good number could use it too. In the Outerlands however we only got the leylines, with no one possessing or showing any capacity for magic. The Shattering also forcibly separated the two sides, with the winds and currents of the Circle Sea, certainly magically induced in nature, stopping almost everyone from crossing it. No ships can for certain, and the only thing that did manage was a woman who flew over on her massive Dragon in the early years following the Shattering. She didn’t stay for long though, and I don’t think she thought it prudent to mention our existence to her peoples, though she did return a couple more times.”
“However, there is a flip side to all of that, well according to of our records at least, as we don’t know how much has changed in the Innerlands since then. While technology appears to have all but been destroyed on your side by the initial wave of magic, some of it survived quite well on this side as we were quite simply much further away and its effect weaker. It was the simpler stuff mostly, as the more complex and delicate stuff still got fried. However, even with what survived, we lost most of the infrastructure necessary to use it long term or maintain it. The reshaping of the world does that. Over the centuries we have recovered a lot more, much of it in okay-ish condition, but also lost as much as well. Along the way we did learn that magic can power the technology, some things better than others, albeit only in the presence of leylines, and only when actively channelled. While the old form of technology required everything to be in perfect condition to work, with magic we discovered that it didn’t have to be. Magic can overcome breakages and defects. However, those able to pull magic out of the leylines and through technology are rare. We call them Channellers. There have been bloody conflicts over them, some have been revered like cult leaders, while others have had short and painful existences. Some just wanted a normal life. Hence while it is a viable and powerful option, most of the time it isn’t an option and people have either regressed back to older times, or they just use the technology as best as they can. We used cars for travel for example until the reserves of fuel ran out, and even nearly a millennium later we still haven’t got a perfect replacement. Some okay ones, but they tend to ruin them a lot quicker than we’d like. Mind you, we can’t manufacture new parts properly either, so eventually it’ll be a moot point.”
“Anyways, where was I. Ah yes, Channellers. Rare as hens teeth. However you are likely to find one in a good number of the large cities, either as part of its leading echelon, or as a slave to it. After all they all sit on leylines now. I think most of the surviving population from the Shattering ended up in the Innerlands, as the Outerlands is sparsely populated, with most people living in the larger towns and cities. Travelling isn’t as common as it used to be either. But there is a living to be made as a scavenger or explorer.”
“So not so happy a life for some of them, and a life of luxury for others?” Velvet asked.
“Be the same on both sides I’d guess,” Merianne replied with a coy smile.
“True,” Velvet agreed. “And I take it you are a Channeller then?”
“One of the best, and an independent at that, not tied to any city.” Merianne grinned. “There are of course those that hate me for the lifestyle I chose, but it is mine and I live it how I choose.”
Merianne then looked Velvet directly in the eyes.
“And that bring us round to you. How did you get here, especially in the state that you are? You couldn’t have crossed the Circle Sea in your condition, but I am also certain that you didn’t, given that I sensed your arrival. You just appeared, and your magic is very strong. Granted that I haven’t really got a comparison, but you dwarf the leyline here. And what are you?”
Velvet thought carefully before she replied.
“I don’t know how I got here, especially as I wasn’t conscious at the time. My best guess is that my magic brought me here, I would hazard utilizing the leylines, probably to keep me safe while I healed. But it also separated me from my friends. It’s not something that it’s ever done before. I’m sorry that I can’t answer that one any better, and I’m not sure I could replicate that trick again at this point in time.”
‘You probably could,’ Light answered to her. ‘The weaving is complex but not difficult, but who knows where we’d end up. Flying is much easier though.’
Velvet thought on that, but had to agree with Lights conclusion. Without actually knowing what she was doing, flying was a much better option. It yet again highlighted that she really needed more training.
“As to what I am,” she continued after a pause, “I am classed as a Dragon Rider, although my dragons are somewhat unique compared to most Riders. In theory, a Riders magic is mostly manifest through their familiar,” Velvet pointed to Light as she said that, “and through their armour, of which mine is dismissed at the moment, but my magic has shown that it can do a lot more than that, such as my being here. It’s also of a different grade to most Riders as well. However I am also very naive in my powers, hence why I am in this state. I wasn’t quick enough to block the attack.” Velvet’s face was sad as she said the last part.
“Surely you’ve had your life thus far to learn how to use your magic?” Clocky queried.
“Most peoples magic awakens in their early teens. I’ve only had the use of mine for a few months,” Velvet replied.
“Oh.” Clocky looked embarrassed.
Merianne waved her son silent.
“What grade is your magic then, if you don’t mind me asking?” She then asked.
“My understanding is that it is on the higher end of the scale. But that means naught if you can’t wield it properly.” Velvet wasn’t quite willing to give a full answer to that. She liked the lady, and she seemed trustworthy, and had been helping with her healing, but some things were best left unsaid. She was also mentally beating herself up over her lack of skill at the moment. She needed to get better, and fast. They had pretty much run out of time she was sure, not that they had had much in the first place. But first of course she needed to heal up.
Merianne shrugged. “You survived. That in itself is a feat. Final question for the day, which I am sure you knew was coming. What exactly is going on that got you so hurt? You seem like a good kid.”
Velvet’s expression became serious, as she sat up as much as she could even with the pain stabbing through her, looking Merianne straight in the eyes.
“The Demon King has returned, and is back on his path of conquest. We, being the people of the six kingdoms, are ill prepared to stop him, and also responsible for his unsealing. Villagers are being massacred, his corruption and reach has spread through the Clan and probably the Guilds as well, and his army grows stronger by the day.”
Merianne swore loudly. Since she was aware of his existence, she’d know of his nature and the threat he posed.
“Mind you, so far his actions seem to be isolated to Avaraline,” Velvet continued. “Not that we’ve looked further afield mind you, as that is where he has been ‘hiding’. The massacres haven’t really made much sense either, especially since he seems to have a good number of Dragon Riders working for him now, but given your mention of leylines, what we would call natural pools of magic, being interconnected, I am worried that he may be trying to do something to them...” That realisation left Velvet very worried.
Merianne shrugged, but she also looked concerned. “It could be possible I guess, but I have no understanding of how your magic works. However, his return cannot be good. I would be foolish to think that his actions would be isolated to the Innerlands. He’ll eventually make his way here if he’s out to massacre all life, as the history books say.”
“I would say that you’d be right. I need to get better, and get back.” Velvet sighed. The days she’d have to spend healing would feel uncomfortably long. “At least we should be able to make the crossing. If a Lady Knight could do it, then Light will be able to do so.”
“How...?” Clocky started, sounding completely at a loss.
“Light’s not as small as she seems,” Velvet grinned.
That answer didn’t help Clocky any.
“I really appreciate your help Merianne,” Velvet said. “What can I do for you in return, once I am able?”
“Well, if you can make the crossing via flight, then I’d love to see the Innerlands. But probably not right now. I don’t have a death wish after all. Once the new war is over though. Actually, if flight is an option, then I’d love access to the Odinsphere as well. That place has remained untouched since the war.” Merianne’s eyes glinted with excitement. “Oh, and perhaps a wife for my son,” she added cheekily. “You might know someone suitable.”
‘”Heh.” Velvet chuckled. “I’m sure his soulmate could well be in the Innerlands, if the Demon King doesn’t kill her first. Amongst my circle however is just Riders, Ferals, and Alice. Alice would be more like you to him though than a potential partner.”
“Ferals?” queried Clocky?
“Those whose magic manifests through animalistic traits. It’s a similar grade of magic to the Riders, more powerful than the common shards, but far shy of the most powerful types. Animalistic ears and tails are the most common. For example amongst our number we have a Wolf Feral and a Cat Feral.”
“Werewolf and Catgirl?” Obviously he had been reading something.
“Cat girl would work I guess. I’m not sure what a Werewolf is though. Wolf man would be more appropriate using the same style.” They certainly were an interesting pair, Velvet thought. Their cultures were both the same but yet also different, due to the nature of magic and distance. “Taking you places I can do though. Where or what is the Odinsphere?” she asked.
“A rich man's answer to the original war against the Demon King but it was never finished in time. It’s just hung in the sky since, and no one has been able to get up to it and gain access. It can be seen to the Northwest of here,” Merianne answered.
“It just floats in the sky?”
“Yup. We’re not sure how, but it was already there before the Shattering. It must be shielded enough that it didn’t take any damage from the weakened magical wave. You’ll understand when you see it.”
“I’m sure I can help you out there at least.”
“For now though you need to rest,” Merianne said, standing. “We’ll do what we can to aid your healing, as you’re going to be needed back in your kingdom. If the Demon King manages to make it out here I don’t think we’d be able to do much to stop him.”
“Thanks. I’m not really sure what we’re going to be able to do to stop him as it is,” Velvet replied.
“Eliminate his support first,” Clocky suddenly interjected. “One man alone isn’t enough to destroy a world. You have a team. So will he. If he’s too strong to face head on, try taking out those who he relies on. It might be enough to slow him down at the least.”
Velvet looked thoughtful. There was something to what he was saying. It would rely however on how much they could trust Melody, if they brought her over to their side.
“There might be merit to that,” Velvet said as she nodded to him. “If we have enough time.”