It felt shitty being so useless. Watching one of my best friends get brutalized and not being able to do anything about it was the last thing I was expecting for this trip back. We were gonna have to work on fixing that. This world wasn’t the same as the one we came from. People were shitty and Vetia wasn’t going to get away with being a snarky loudmouth. I didn’t disagree with her about Simira. I knew there was something off when I first met Simira, but even she had some tact when she wasn’t dealing with somebody who was pushing her like Vetia was.

I found myself helping Desmond into Geren’s house, where I laid him down by the cold fireplace. Vetia was rapidly scrawling something with what looked like a rudimentary pencil and a piece of parchment.

Mother Yeline said you could tell me more about sevoans

A smirk crept across Geren’s beak. “Yeline, I should have known… you would help revoan. Sevoan woman… what is your name? What cave are you from?” Geren looked at Vetia with the same curious look as when he was questioning us a few nights before.

Vetia started writing and then her brows pulled inward, like she was a little offended by the followup question.

Vetia. I didn’t come from a cave. I came from the same place as my friends.

Geren looked intrigued and he turned to Desmond and I. “She lived in this Boston? When did she arrive?”

Desmond and I looked at each other. We had told Vetia about our cover story of all being from a small town called Boston during the trip. We hadn’t really figured out anything beyond that, so I figured I should try improvising something. “Yeah, she arrived there when we were all, like, 12. She used to live in… uh… England. It’s another place pretty far away.”

Geren looked confused. “Vetia, what is your age? What is England?”

21. It’s a really shitty place across the pond from Boston. My parents hated it there, so we left.

Geren’s head cocked to the side and he closed his eyes, like he was trying to figure something out. “You have memories? Of before fireblood life? Before fireblood… who were you?”

Geren was leaning forward like he was observing something he had never seen before. I could tell Vetia was trying to figure out what he meant. We hadn’t talked much about what we knew of firebloods because we thought we were done dealing with them. Mother Yeline must not have told her much either, because she was just staring at the paper blankly trying to write something.

I grew up like this. I’ve always been like this.

“Natural born fireblood… impossible. Yet you are different… from other fireblood.”

What is a sevoan?

“Sevoans consume… drink life from people… like other firebloods. Sevoans weaker… harder to find… easier to hide. Sevoans less hungry… less ravenous. Cannot be harvested… for limbs. Absorb blood by touch… through skin… and ingest. Sevoans weak but… manipulate. Scent relaxes, charms. Poison numbs, makes drunk. All fireblood regrow… sevoan must consume… to regrow.”

Do they all have wings and a tail?

Geren looked baffled. “Fireblood look how… they were upon death. Sevoans can change… hide shape. Are you not… part lonsu?”

What are lonsu?

“People of mountains. Appear as scaled jorlad… wings, tail, horns. Born with natural… elemental talent. But you heal. Tell me of your parents.”

Both were humans from England. Ralph (dad) and Lauren (mom).

“What kind of humans?” Geren was looking intrigued and ever more skeptical every time she wrote something.

Her face just looked confused and frustrated.

Regular English people.

“Not where they are from… what humans? I think lonsu and jorlad? You appear as both.” Some kind of realization dawned on her and she quickly jotted something down and flipped it toward Geren. “Of course we are… all humans… except you, fireblood.”

The conversation came to a grinding halt, and it seemed like nobody knew what to say. Desmond was still on the floor with his head in his hands, and I was just watching Geren and Vetia talk. Then there was nothing to watch. She slumped back and leaned against the wall, running a hand over her tail. She seemed like she was just staring off into nothingness, then she blinked and shook her head. She picked up the paper rapidly and wrote something really quickly.

Thanks for the help Geren. We should probably leave now.

“You are welcome… be careful or people… may hunt you.” Geren sat in his old leather chair, and turned his attention to Desmond who was still on the ground rubbing his eyes. The door creaked and Vetia was gone.

“Geren, I’m gonna be a minute.” Desmond’s nose was running and his eyes were still beet red. “How the hell did you deal with that? It was awful. Couldn’t you smell that?”

“What do you mean Desmond?” I said. “You talking about that flower smell?”

Desmond glared up at me. “Yeah, the fuckin’ flashbang to my senses. I haven’t talked about it much, but my senses…” he glanced over Geren, who was casually listening. “They’re better than they used to be, Way better. Hearing, smell, sight. Everything feels amplified like crazy. I’ve barely been able to keep the migraines back half the time. Geren. You have strong smell right? Did Vetia’s stink bomb not suck for you at all?”

“Yeffen, my people… have strong smelling. My nostrils adapt… closes for strong smells. Jorlad have simple noses… no closers to help. Unusual for jorlad… have strong smell.”

“Nothin’? Not an ounce of advice? How do you deal with it?”

Geren looked solemnly at Desmond and sighed. “You will learn your nose. Advice?” Geren chuckled and leaned close to Desmond. “Yes, advice. I have one. Learn of who people are… before deceiving.”

Geren’s face turned darker. It threw me off and I wasn’t sure how to react yet.

“Whaddya mean?” Desmond’s eyes squinted and he sat up like he was at the ready.

“You asked nothing… of my life. Wouldn’t you like to… know what I do?”

Desmond gulped as a more sinister look formed on Geren’s face. Had he figured out that we aren’t from this world? Maybe we offended him by having him help a fireblood? Desmond stuttered out his question. “W-what do you d-do?”

Geren looked completely cold. Devoid of anything. “Cartographer… traveled entire world… never visited… Boston… California… England. You have all been… dishonest and… untrustworthy. Who am I to trust you? And yet you have… good intentions. Why lie? Are even your names yours?”

Desmond seemed like he was having a tough time thinking of something to say back, with Geren so close to his face and the current state of his senses. I didn’t know what I was going to say, but I knew I had to say something to help him out. I’d been doing nothing for everyone all day, just watching. Just letting things happen around me. “We are from those places. We weren’t lying, Geren. Our names are true too. Although the places we are from… aren't here. I don’t know how to explain it, but we haven’t been lying entirely. There’s just no truth that we can tell that will make sense, even to us, I think. I think we’re all still getting used to… all this.”

Geren was just looking at me and Desmond. His statuesque face broke into a grin, then a smile, until he was laughing like a madman. Desmond finally broke out of his fright. “It’s not a joke, Geren, but please don’t tell anyone. Even if we do sound insane.”

Geren settled down, but spoke through sputters and chuckles. “Humans… from sideways planes. Stories tell of them… but never did I think… I would meet. You are not… the first and… will not be the last.”

I stood there dumbstruck. “Wait, what? Like other people that aren’t from this world?”

“Do you listen? I traveled whole world… saw humanity… the underbelly… the skybelt. Stories from all over… tell of humans who… are eclectic. Foreigners… foreign even to… foreigners. Tales say they are balance… people to even out… mishaps. Mishap was made… somehow… somewhere… in the chaos.”

Desmond stood up and looked up. “Are you serious? We’re here because of a mistake?”

“Some call mistake… some call correction.”

We heard knocking and the door swung open. Vetia was standing in the door, motioning us with her hand to come with her. It was gonna take a while to get used to the new look, weird wings, horns, tail and all. I sighed and stood up, still thinking about what Geren just told us. “I suppose we should get going.”

“You will go to… Weyferin, yes? Give to Riviera… Dalu… this from me. At Zeltem Order.” Geren stood and waddled across the room, retrieving a scroll from his desk. “Gift, promised long ago. Riviera… can help you.” He handed the beige parchment scroll out, and Desmond took it from him..

I turned and began walking out the door. Desmond followed behind me, holding his nose past Vetia. I turned at the door. “Thank you Geren, for everything you helped us with.” He grinned the same toothy grin that terrified us the first time, his flesh beak stretched by his wide smile. I turned out the door toward our wagon, where the rest of my family was waiting for me.


About the author

Ren Cory

Bio: I'm an amateur writer, but I've got a story in my head that I want to tell. What I write won't always be amazing, but I really think it will get better with experience. I love reading and watching anything fantasy, scifi and anything in that sort of wheelhouse. I've always been inspired by those genres to be creative and do my own thing, creating entirely new worlds, histories, creatures, plants and the whatnot. I like trying out new ideas in the genres I love.

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