Van Ella shivered. Her breath surrounded her in a frosty mist as she exhaled. She was standing alone in bone shiveringly cold room of grey metal walls, floor, and ceiling. A low hum made her ears hurt, as she faced a nearby flat, featureless wall.
Slowly she turned around to see something she could scarcely believe. Hovering before her - almost completely filling the immense room - was a black, featureless sphere. There were more of the strangely intense lights in the ceiling, but when the light hit the sphere, it seemed almost to be pulled into it. There was an aura of shadow that repulsed Van Ella. Blue and Red lightning played across the surface of the sphere, almost as if it contained a great storm.
She shuddered in the immense cold. The floor was so frigid she could feel the cold encroaching through her shoes. Her bare legs beneath her dress were freezing cold.
“What is this place?” she said out loud. Her voice echoed oddly in the room, as if it were much larger than it seemed.
“Hello?” she called. “Is anyone here?”
She tried to see with her magic vision. Instead of a featureless sphere - before her was an impossibly complex array of magic. Structures moved and twisted, almost like living things. Energies played across the surface in almost maddening patterns.
Her cold breath shuddered and she closed her eyes.
There was no other feature in the room. And as she slowly walked around the sphere, there were no other doors or windows. Fear welled up within her.
“What am I going to do?” She thought back to her time with her Aunt and Uncle. How harsh they had been to her. It all seemed like something quaint and simple compared to her life now. She wished desperately that she had turned away from this magic. This impossible, overwhelming, fearful, even deadly life she had somehow stepped into. Her regrets came to a halt when she remembered her master Brand, the little cat Sparrow, and Mane. She thought about Weland, her newly found Spell Book, and somehow a part of her she never knew she lacked. Yes, this was her life now. And her master had told her that fear was going to be her greatest enemy. Somehow, she had to figure this out. Or, she would freeze to death.
She tentatively stepped closer to the huge black sphere. The humming grew louder, and she squinched up her face at the low pitched noise. Her hand came up suddenly, unbidden. Something was moving her arm!
“Stop! Stop it!” she cried.
Her feet shuffled closer. Her arm lifted higher. She began to sweat from the effort of resisting whatever, or whomever was trying to control her. The iron grip on her muscles increased.
She was almost touching the sphere now. Van Ella’s eyes grew wider. She screamed.
The force that was moving her arms and legs compelled her to touch the sphere. She realized the tremendous cold was coming from the dark orb. As she touched the oily black surface, it moved. The darkness engulfed her hand, pulling, sucking her in.
She tried to resist, to hold back, but the force controlling her moved her closer. Her arm grew numb from the cold, now her shoulder. Pulling, pulling her in!
As her head touched the sphere, everything went black. An immense cold embraced her - and she felt like she was falling.
Soundlessly screaming she drifted. The darkness, the cold, the lack of sound drove her into a panic. She thrashed wildly.
Suddenly, a warm hand touched hers.
Light burst all around her and she squinted in the sudden intensity.
Somehow, she was lying on the ground. The surface felt like nothing she had ever felt before. Not stone, not metal. Neither hot nor cold. It was hard, but yielded slightly to her touch. She looked at her hand, at the source of the warm touch.
“What? What! Who? Who are you?” She called, and realized suddenly she had a voice again. The sound of her own voice startled her. There was no echo here, only silence.
She saw a hand, leading to an arm. To a person. There was someone else here! Whatever - wherever here was. Her vision cleared. She gasped. Confusion overwhelmed her.
There was a woman standing over her. Dressed in red leathers - like her master Brand. She had long brown hair. The same color as Van Ella. She had intense green eyes. The same color as Van Ella. She looked to be about 25 years old. She was a head taller than Van Ella. Her body shape taller and fuller in every way from the thin lanky girl. Van Ella looked at her face. There was a scar below her left eye. The woman carried a large sword on her back - half as tall as she was herself. There were two dull lead bracelets - one on each arm. They were thin and dark and dull metal, but inscribed with runic symbols that glowed blue and yellow with strange intensity.
All of this Van Ella took in in an instant. And while remarkable, it was not these features that caused her to gasp. The face. The face she was looking at on this young woman. This face was her own!
“I’m so glad to see you, Van Ella.” It was her own voice. Older yes, and more mature, but unmistakably hers!
The woman pulled Van Ella up from the ground. The sword clinked in the scabbard as she moved. Van Ella gaped.
“Who - who are you? You look, like me!” she exclaimed.
The other woman smiled sadly. “I was such a baby, wasn’t I?” She asked herself.
“What are you talking about? This isn’t happening! I must be in some kind of dream, or enchantment. How can you look like me?”
The older woman held up her hands gently. She seemed very tired.
“Listen to me carefully, Van Ella. I need you to understand what is going on. ” she spoke with authority. But then she looked away and said to herself “This is really happening, isn’t it? I remember this so clearly. I was so confused.”
“Are you going to give me some answers, or - ” Van Ella started, desperately.
“S- sit! Sit down girl! I have your answers. Calm down a moment! I know how you feel, I know what you are going through. Do you know why? I’ll tell you. I’m you! I am Van Ella! ”
Van Ella slumped to the floor. The older woman crossed her legs and sat down next to her. She seemed so graceful, so powerful to Van Ella. How could this be?
The older Van Ella placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“Look, I get what you are going through, ok? I know! I’m you! I have the same memories of this day as you are forming! This is just as crazy to me now - going through this again as it must be for you right now. This is my second time!”
Van Ella bit her lip.
“How can this be? I know magic can to many things, but what even are you? What’s with that sword, and those bracelets? How can you be me?”
“Ok, get this. I’m not an illusion, or a doppelganger, or some kind of spirit. I’m actually you. I am you, from the future. I’ve been trapped here by the Omega - ” She suddenly stopped herself.
She took a deep breath.
“By ... people ... who are very bad. They put a block on my magic, and placed me inside this void world. Then they sent me back into the past where they thought I could never return. But they made a mistake.” She pounded one fist into another.
“They screwed up, Van Ella. They thought they were so smart. Those friggin’ machin - ” She caught herself again.
The sixteen year old Van Ella placed her head in her hands and began to weep.
“This is too much. Master? I don’t think I want to be an Apprentice any more.” the younger Van Ella whispered, biting back tears.
“Look at me Van Ella!” the older woman grabbed Van Ella squarely by her shoulders and shook her gently.
“I know this is probably like day two or three for you, in my Apprenticeship. Is that right?” The older woman asked.
Sniffling, Van Ella nodded.
“The Om - the bad people thought they’d send me far enough back in time, so that I could never escape. You see this sphere you entered is stuck in time. It only exists for this one day. If you had not come here, I would be doomed forever.”
“These people are very bad, Van Ella. They are masters of magic, among other things. And they saw me as a threat. They tricked me into binding my magic, and placed me here - this sphere is keyed only to me. Only to Van Ella.” she spread her arms as she spoke, gesturing to the featureless void they both sat at.
“Nobody but me could ever enter this void. And since my magic is blocked, I was trapped here. My friends couldn’t find me. And they probably think I’m dead.” The older Van Ella looked off into the void.
“Rowan ...” closing her eyes she gathered herself together.
“Which brings us to you. My dear sweet wonderful self! You are the flaw in their plan. Their big mistake. You see, the only person who can be trapped in here is me, because they created this world as a prison for me. But, they never thought about the fact that were was another me. YOU!”
Van Ella stared. “Ok, but now that means we are both trapped in here. Isn’t that ... doubly bad?”
The older Van Ella smiled. “Oh ho ho! No this is good! This is damn good!”
“My magic is locked. It’s sealed by a spell they forced me to cast on myself. I can’t break out of here. But you have no such lock. You are our saviour my dear baby self!”
Van Ella frowned. “I’m not a baby. I’m 16 years old. And I am not sure I believe you.”
“Of course you don’t! I remember everything. Oh this is so weird. I can practically predict your every thought.” the older Van Ella said. She stood up, drawing Van Ella to stand as well.
“I can’t convince you, but I know someone who can. ” The older Van Ella drew her sword.
Van Ella started, and took a step back. “Please, don’t kill me.”
“Oh my god. Weland - I need you.” The older woman spun her sword about deftly and stabbed it into the plastic ground. The sword glowed briefly, then began to move and shape itself. A moment later Weland stood before the younger Van Ella.
She put her hand to her face.
He was much older than the Weland Van Ella had just met. His glasses were just as large, but his face was older, more chiseled in his features. He was taller too, with a larger chest and arms that seemed more muscular. He had the same face, however, and his voice was unmistakable. He crossed his arms and spoke in a didactic tone.
“Van Ella, my dear girl. This is not the time to be an emotional child. We need to pull together to save us all. And we need your help!”
There was no doubt. It WAS Weland. She could feel in her spirit, the Spell Book was standing before her. But, it had been ... a sword? How could that be?
“Wait, aren’t you a book? How can you be a sword?”
He regarded her dryly.
“Really girl. A person changing into a small pile of paper bound by leather doesn’t faze you, but that same magical entity becoming a piece of sharp metal and leather is too far fetched for you? Oh Vella, this was really you 10 years ago?”
“Wey - you were just as much a child as I was. Even more so because you - by my calculations - were only born ... yesterday?” The older Van Ella scolded the Book.
“Hmph” the Spell Book crossed his arms and turned his back on them both.
“Convinced yet, younger me?”
Van Ella struggled internally. But Weland’s standoffish attitude had her convinced. She nodded.
“What can I do? I don’t really know any magic spells. Brand hasn’t taught me anything yet?”
The older Van Ella grinned widely.
“My dear girl. School is in session. Looks like the first spell you’re going to learn is one on breaking magical bindings. And your teacher is going to be ...dum dum dum! Yourself!” She spread her arms wide, in a showman style gesture that reminded Van Ella of her master, Brand. It seemed that he had made a lasting impression on his Apprentice.
Van Ella the younger smiled.