The Best of Both Worlds Chapter 1
Hunting the Lost
It was a dark and stormy night.
Well, not really. The sun was glittering on the water. Birds were singing. Fish were wandering aimlessly. Turtles were scuttling around. A lone crab tried to pinch him through his leather boots but eventually gave up and went off in search of new prey. It was a mildly warm, peaceful, careless day in the El Nido archipelago.
The dark and stormy night was all in the mind of the Magus.
He waited silently, and patiently. At least, as patiently as he ever did anything. He was waiting on a small island by the name of Guldove. The villagers were all very pleasant and talkative, and Magus ignored them completely. He wasnt in the mood to hear a bunch of CHA-CHA-CHA crap. These island people irritated him. But of course, most people irritated him.
He was waiting for... friends, if the term could be used. It wasnt a word hed used that often in his lifetime. Most people that he now considered friends had either betrayed him or died. He had not cared about them while they lived, not really. Once they had gone, though, he had mourned, and he supposed that was a sign of friendship. Or loneliness.
He was waiting on a pier on this small island. If he were in a better mood, he might have been leaning casually against a post, but he was never in a better mood, and he never did anything casually. As he waited, he stared out into the ocean. The man wasnt looking at the squirrels, or the rabbits, or the birds, who were too damned loud for his tastes. No, he was looking at the dark and stormy night, a night in his memory. Long ago, it seemed. Or not that long. The problem with time travel was that dates seemed to get a little confused. He knew that he was now forty-three, a thought which still irked him. It was apparently 1023 A.D.,which meant that twenty-three years had passed here, even though hed only aged thirteen years. In the end, he just ignored the dates and lived for the moment. It made things easier. Hell, his life was hard enough as it was.
A whistle alerted him to the approach of the boat he had been waiting for. It wasnt far, but he had missed its approach, a fact which annoyed him. Hed been deep in thought, but that was no excuse to miss the very thing hed been looking for. Getting old, he thought.
The boat pulled up to the dock, and a rope flew out. Magus watched it hit the pier impassively. Am I supposed to do something with this? He knew what to do with it, of course. But he was no manservant, and now and then they needed to be reminded of it.
The boat creaked and wobbled slightly as a short, squat, green figure stepped out. He picked up the rope, stared at Magus for a moment, and then tied the rope to a nearby post. Thou wert supposed to have tied it, Frog muttered, and turned away from the mage. He reached out a hand, and helped another figure, little taller than Frog himself, step out of the boat. Come on, Cyrus. Watch thine step.
Cyrus, the boy, nodded absently. He was used to such admonishments; Frog had been his sworn guardian since birth, and the knight took the duty very seriously. Hed trained Cyrus with the broadsword, and Cyrus could wield it quite well, but Frog would never consider allowing him to use the thing. Too dangerous, he would say. Thourt too young, yet.
Of course, he really was too young: only thirteen years old. Having lived most of his life on the run, though, he was more capable of survival than most adults. Hed had a big brother to watch after him once, but Cyrus had no idea where he was now. His little sister was lost, too, but shed been so young, Cyrus really hadnt formed any attachment to her. Shed never even been named.
He may have been thirteen, but he tried his best to look older. Hed lately taken to wearing a cape too big for him. He could never do anything with his black hair, so had simply given up and let it do what it wanted, which meant that it spiked wildly. His brown eyes were constantly hooded, which was normal in a teenager; he tried to look like he didnt care.
Well? Magus demanded. Did you find it?
Cyrus shrugged uncertainly. I think so... He held up an object attached to a chain around his neck. The pendant seemed to warm up.
Frog rolled his eyes, and walked to the edge of the pier. He stared into the water. The sun was hot, Cyrus. We were boiling alive, and a heated pendant caught thine attention?
Magus glanced at the squat figure. It probably hadnt been very hot on the beach at all for anyone but Frog. It was fall, and while El Nido was a tropical area, it didnt get that hot except in the summer. Frog, however, had been getting increasingly sensitive to heat. Hed been swimming more, and Magus thought he detected a little more croak to the knights voice. There was no question about it: Frog was still changing. The spell that Magus had cast so long ago was still in operation, and Magus didnt know when it would stop. If it would stop. Recently, hed been researching how to reverse the spell, but had met with no success.
Still, he couldnt let himself soften on the amphibian. Dreamstone doesnt heat, dolt. Pay attention sometimes, rather than snacking on flies. Frog, as usual, didnt react to the barb, and Cyrus was undisturbed by it as well. They were used to Magus acerbity. Magus, also as usual, was mildly irritated by the lack of response, and continued, There are many places that cause strange reactions in Dreamstone. Did you notice anything else?
Cyrus frowned in thought. Well... I kept seeing something out of the corner of my eye. Maybe it was just a mirage from the... uh, heat, but I felt like someone was looking over my shoulder.
Magus frowned as well, and nodded slowly. This wasnt quite what hed been expecting, but... He pulled a small notebook out of his pocket and flipped through a few pages. Shadows, he read aloud. There are shadows behind my eyes, under my feet. Can they see me? Are they real? The world is mad here, and angels go astray. He nodded again. Sounds about right. I suppose it makes sense. Maybe he wasnt just seeing things.
The book was a small, bound, collection of notes, with the words Angelus Errare inscribed hastily on the cover. The book was filled with eclectic scribbled notes, taken over the years by Gaspar. Many of the notes were quotes from men who claimed to have seen, as one put it, the way things might have been. But they didnt simply see it, they actually lived these alternate lives for a while, or so they claimed. Gaspar, as the Guru of Time, had been intensely interested in what he called parallel dimensions, and had recorded everything he had been able to find over the years.
Though most of the notes were written in Zealian or Modern, which Magus could easily read, some were written in languages far after or far before Magus time, and so were useless to him. What he could read, though, provided important clues. All of these people claimed that they could move between the dimensions only in one place, much like a gate. These gates were often referred to as where angels go astray. This phrase was often written in Zealian as Angelus Errare, even in cases where the subject obviously couldnt speak a word of Zealian. As a Zealian himself, Magus knew that Angelus Errare actually translated into Angel to go astray, but he had to admit that Angelus Errare sounded catchy.
Once hed realized what this book was about, of course, hed taken it with him. Gaspar had protested, but Magus had assured him that the book would be returned. Probably. The Guru had still been unsatisfied, but Magus had calmly explained that he didnt give a damn whether Gaspar was satisfied or not, and had taken the book anyway. Using it without Gaspars help, however, had proven more difficult than expected, especially considering that so many of the quotes were from madmen. The passage hed just read had been one such quote, but it had apparently contained a nugget of truth.
He put the book away. Well, then, lets go.
Frog stood and helped steady the boat as Cyrus stepped in, then Magus. Finally, he untied the boat and jumped in. With a push, they drifted away from the pier. They discussed a bit as they floated along, and finally it was agreed that it was Magus turn to row the boat. Opassa Beach was only a few miles away, thankfully
Come on, boy, stand by me. Cyrus obeyed, and joined the wizard on the warm sands of the beach. Frog stared at the glittering sand suspiciously, but eventually went to join them, standing close enough to protect his charge from whatever might go wrong.
Magus held Cyrus hand tightly, as if to keep him from getting away. With his other hand, he lifted his pendant. He glanced at Cyrus, and the boy followed suit. He closed his eyes and concentrated.
He didnt open his eyes. Yes?
What if something goes wrong? What if we... I mean... What if we end up somewhere dangerous?
Magus opened his eyes and stared at the boy. Cyrus looked back up, afraid, but hopeful. Magus tried to look compassionate in an attempt the pacify him, but ended up looking patronizing. He just wasnt built for soft expressions. Dont worry, Cyrus. It will work. Well find a dimension that has everything we could want. Your parents will still be alive in that world, and theyll still rule Guardia. Well find a world where Porre never overthrew them. If we dont find it immediately, well keep looking.
Cyrus nodded thoughtfully. Magus?
What now? Magus was getting irritated at the delay.
Why are you doing this?
Magus looked away. I know what its like to be born high, and then to be cast low. We were both princes. Maybe now you have a chance to become one again. He looked back at Cyrus. The boy looked unconvinced. Magus sighed. Alright. I lost somebody, too. Once we get you a home... maybe I can find her. Ive looked everywhere in our world. Maybe shes still alive in another. He frowned. Now be quiet. I need to concentrate.
He closed his eyes. He concentrated.
He squeezed his pendant more tightly.
He growled in frustration. Unable to think of anything else to do, he began to pour magic into the pendant. He was trying to spark a reaction of some kind. Anything would do.
Magus breath stopped as he felt suddenly and abruptly sick, as if hed stepped through a door and found it led off a cliff. He opened his eyes, and was greeted by the simple ocean, rising and falling, back and forth. He shook his head, and the feeling of vertigo passed.
Slowly, he looked around, trying to find some evidence that theyd gone somewhere else. The sky was the same. The sea was the same. Cyrus still held his hand, and Frog still stood off to the side. The boat was still where theyd left it. Many of the passages in the notebook had referred to something similar to being swallowed by the earth, but Magus hadnt felt anything like that. He growled in frustration.
Were they at home? Or were they somewhere else?
Serge! Marge shook her head as she climbed the steps. Her son was an important part of Arni now, not just a loafing teenager. He couldnt afford to sleep in any more. He hadnt done anything like this in months. Serge, time to wake up! I swear, you need to get your own house.
Marge stepped into Serges room, only to find it wasnt Serges room. She looked around. It was cluttered and small, with a hammock. A green lizard, a Komodo, sat nearby. What happened to your room? Marge asked, shocked, before she realized that Serge wasnt even there.
The lizard turned to her. Nothing happened to my room, man, it said. But if you want to sleep in it, itll cost you.
Nikki! a groupie called ecstatically.
The rock star took a glance at the growing mob of teenage girls and took off at a run. Last time hed been caught, hed lost much of his clothing, and some of his hair. He pulled into his dressing room and shut the door just in time.
What are you doing here? a voice asked indignantly. Nikki looked to the owner of the voice, who was also Nikki. He continued, I dont care if you are a look-alike, get out of my dressing room!
The sun rose over the mountains only to reveal a castle where there had been none the day before. It was large and heavily fortified. However, whatever army it had been defending itself against was now nowhere to be seen. Cautiously, the doors opened, and several generals stepped out onto soil that was at once theirs and not theirs.
Deep in the ocean, the computers of Chronopolis stirred.
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