It was strange; she usually didn’t dream about such things. Yet there she was, in some sort of cave, dimly lit by some outside source. Her eyes wandered for a moment to take in her surroundings, which somehow included a frozen stream of water. However, it wasn’t frozen like an icicle; instead, it was simply not in motion, as if time had frozen while it was flowing. Two things about that seemed bizarre to her; the fact that the stream wasn’t flowing and flooding into the rest of the cave, and the fact that where the stream was supposed to be touching the ground was instead touching what seemed to be a small box.
Her first instinct was to run, of course, or to pinch herself until she woke up, but there were waves of power radiating from the small box. She took slow steps that she could hardly feel herself making, until she stood just before the box and had a better look at the scene.
The stream looked as if it was going to flow over the small box and onto the rest of the cave, but it instead stilled and barely pressed itself against the surface of the box. When she looked down at it, she realized that it was actually a little case for expensive jewelry. She couldn’t help but furrow her eyebrows in confusion.
She came from a wealthy family, so she knew that water could destroy a velvet box that size. Also, it wasn’t cold and she couldn’t believe that the water froze on its own power. To confirm this, she stepped closer to the stream and tried to push her fingers through the water, expecting them to come out wet. She did just that, but when she pulled her hand back, the water still looked frozen. There were also no drops of water on her fingers.
What was most puzzling to her, of course, was the velvet box and why it was still in what seemed to be perfect condition. It was radiating waves of power now that she was closer to it, that much was clear. There was something holding her back from reaching out to it, though; possibly, because it was a dream, and none of the contents were supposed to be real. The strangest urge to run away filled her again, but her eyes and her heart were focusing on the velvet box.
There was an intricate pattern lacing the surface of the velvet box, as well as the imprint of letters. She still couldn’t see them properly without being able to touch the actual object; but she wasn’t going to touch it. No, she refused to let herself touch it, knowing it was still just a dream, and that none of this was worth getting worked up over. That thing, however, was still pulsing with energy, almost as if pleading for her to grasp it in her hands; and she unknowingly did so.
Only to hit the snooze button on her alarm clock. She groaned as she was awakened, then looked around the room to remember where she was. The dream wasn’t too vivid anymore, and she almost had to wonder if she was just making things up after all.
She must’ve, she realized, as she got up and readied herself for school. She was a high school senior and the stress from college preparations was just getting to her head, she told herself. Still, her gaze kept traveling to the window, as if to search for that cave. Her eyebrows furrowed again at her behavior, since she didn’t know why she was reacting in such a way— it was only a dream, after all.
Yet, she made no move to stop looking for that cave as her gaze wandered, over the town and past the forests, to just where the gates stood, tall and intimidatingly white.
Her parents were wealthy, and thus, they had a home in the middle of town; one that was actually several meters tall to support the watchtower several meters higher. She lived in one of the four castles protecting their town. The castles were their first and greatest warning in case they broke the walls down. Not like that was going to happen, though; the townspeople had enchanted their walls, and the walls were constantly being expanded and improved on.
Several decades ago, aliens had started arriving on their planet and taking over, doing whatever they wished to the people living on the planet before them- from raping to torturing to killing and even eating them. To save themselves, the humans of that time had rallied up warlocks and witches, as well as the strongest giants and ogres they could find.
They had them come up with the idea for the walls surrounding their every side, as well as an enchanted glass screen covering their town; enchanted so that rain and sunlight could still pass through, but nothing that could harm the lives of whoever was living in the town could ever make it through.
Everyone had been grateful for that back then; heck, everyone was still so grateful for all of it even after decades passed, but it didn’t change the fact that the aliens were out there and adapting in ways that startled us daily. Through psychic connections with other towns, they learned that the aliens were now somehow able to put on human facades and would walk into their towns, destroying them stealthily, and in a way that made them impossible to stop.
Though they all feared
that they would be the next town to become victim to the aliens’ harsh attacks,
they hadn’t let the fear consume them, and schools were set up to train the
humans in combat against those terrible creatures—not that they’d ever win
should they go against them. Still, they were humans, and humans
were both prideful and naïve.
Her parents also had her enrolled in one of these special combat schools, should she ever find herself ambushed by an alien. She had been fighting since the age of five, when she started going to kindergarten, and her skills have been getting better as the years rolled by. Her weapons of choice to fight those blasted things were dual pistols, and she was good enough to shoot from quite a distance away from the simulation aliens before they could attack her.
For some reason, though, she was always the last ranked out of the entire town and was constantly sneered at by it. No matter how much she improved, it always felt like something important was missing and that was exactly why she had yet to reach her full potential. Her classmates tended to glare at her, as if to say that if an alien were to come around, she would be the bait. She was used to this treatment, though it never made going through the day any better.
She walked down into
the kitchen. Her parents were part of the team of guards protecting the town
from the inside, so they were usually away from home to think of new ways to
protect the town, leaving her and the rest of the castle under the care of the
There were at least a couple dozens of people taking care of her home under her parents’ orders. This was including the guard that usually stayed in the watchtower to make sure they weren’t ever under the threat of attack. She didn’t mind being with them too much- they were kind, caring, and actually spent time with her.
Out of the entire staff, her favorite was Cook Park, who had also been her nanny since she was a toddler. Cook Park had been the one who scolded her when she got into a fight as a child, the one to give her advice when she was too shy to approach senior Leo in middle school, and the one who encouraged her and praised her accomplishments when her own parents just demanded more.
“Good morning!” Charlotte called to her favorite staff worker, running her fingers through her long and curly black hair as she quickly sat at the island counter for breakfast.
“Heavens, child!” the elderly lady scolded, her wrinkles pulling together as her hands rested on her hips in utter annoyance, “Fix yourself before you come into the kitchen, not when you have food in front of you! What a lack of manners!”
Despite her saying all of that, though, Charlotte knew she meant well and that she didn’t have to take her angry words to heart. With a sheepish grin, Charlotte shoveled the mass of eggs and bacon presented before her into her mouth.
Cook Park wasn’t impressed with her eating habits, she knew, but she’d been used to it after watching Charlotte eat the same way for the past eighteen years.
“Are mother and father home?” Her words came out jumbled as she tried to speak around the food in her mouth.
“They went out to town hall half an hour ago.” Cook Park spoke as if it didn’t concern her, though Charlotte knew better, “You would have seen them had you woken up earlier, like you were supposed to.”
Ignoring the not-so-subtle comment, she thought about the strange dream she had. Charlotte grew up with the knowledge that people had dreams for reasons that they had to decipher on their own, but she didn't exactly understand the need for her to have such a strange dream like this one.
No one went out to the forests unless they were highly trained officers, so there was a high possibility that she could never even go near the caves because of her low ranking. Of course, ranking was decided by weapon performance during fighting simulations, and for some reason, her shots were never good enough for her to get any farther in training than she already was. She would eventually come to learn the reason behind that.
She could hear Cook Park scolding her as she ate, but she was in a rush to get to the Academy, and if she didn't eat quickly, it would just make her even later. However, when she checked the time, it showed that she was already nearing time for school to start. With a hiss, she stood up.
"Don't behave so badly! You are a woman of stature!" Cook Park was nagging at her again, but she just leaned up and kissed her cheek before running out the front door.
"Sorry! I'll listen to your scolding later, promise!” She called to her as she ran out, and she knew that she wouldn't forget to bring it up later, when she had no choice but to listen to her scolding.
The Academy sat in the middle of the town, surrounded by homes and then guarded by the castles, and then you know the rest. She debating on taking a warpboard to the Academy, or even the Skyrail, but she was probably too late for those as well. Eventually, she just sprinted the entire way to the Academy.
She had made it just before the bell rang, and as she threw her fists in the air with a relieved shout of "YES!” she could just feel the judgmental looks she was receiving from the people around her. She had never received bullying or anything, so get that out of your head; but everyone knew her as “the one who couldn't excel”, and most of them wondered why she still went to the Academy. She continued going to the Academy simply because she knew she could be the best combat specialist someday; she was just missing something, and she wanted to find out what it was.
Some of the upperclassmen sighed and shook their heads as she walked past them into her classroom, but the teacher in the room had also given her a disappointed glance that made her smile sheepishly right back to her. Their classroom was set up as a combat training room, with targets lined up on the walls and various chests of weapons scattered around the space. There were desks in the classrooms as well, for their normal lessons like History, Science, Math, and Writing- it wasn't all about destroying aliens... just mostly.
She wasn't only lagging behind in combat training, unfortunately. She had the odd habit of zoning out in all of her classes and then not studying for them, and always ended up with terrible grades for the rest of her classes. She knew that today would be no exception, and she sat down by the window to wait for their classes to go by.
Suddenly, as she was watching the window, she glanced over at her castle and could have sworn to see the guard tower flickering in movement. She didn’t think much of it at first and turned back to the teacher, but then, something terrible happened.
The bells of the four castles were ringing.
They breached the walls.
They had arrived.