Chapter 15: Hidden Secrets
Calder sighs as a scowl settles across his features. Once more, he tosses the book in his hand into the air to float carelessly in the water until it met the floor.
So far, he has yet to glean anything of use in this library.
Things would be simpler if even one of the air attributed warriors were around. But going by the current state of the stones, that isn’t happening anytime soon.
And these paranoid Vilmarians, invested in the human siblings as they are, still refuse him access to the royal archives. The one place in this irksome kingdom that would hold even a sample of the answers he seek.
It’s where all of the forbidden collections are kept among some spells better left lost to time.
So far, the most useful thing he’s managed to come across is a basic remedy for Aether Blisters—a well-known ailment that causes a horrid glowing rash to overtake the entire body.
Meanwhile, the servants hovering about a few feet away are nervously watching each tome and scroll as its discarded from Calder’s hand.
Pah! There are more important things to be worried about than a few scattered papers.
Not that he’d expect them to realize that.
It’s a miracle that the majority of Vilmaris’s inhabitants remain ignorant to their troubles—various as they are. They are blissfully ignorant of the turmoil that lies just beyond their protective barrier.
But then another question comes to mind.
Where on earth is the queen?
He hasn’t seen a single sign of her presence whatsoever and the nobles seem content to just withhold the knowledge from him.
It’s unsettling to say the least.
His scowl deepens as he relents in his fruitless endeavors.
Now there’s yet another concern to occupy his mind.
The absence of the queen and the secrecy about it should give indication that she’s not even in Vilmaris.
He can’t sense a single trace of her power. So how the hells is the veil still standing? Without the magic of the kingdom’s ruler to maintain it, then it should have fallen long ago.
This can only mean that the queen is still in the kingdom and is somehow maintaining the veil from wherever she is. It’s just a simple matter of discerning just where it is she hides.
Calder strokes his chin.
Come to think of it, he hasn’t seen much of those two brothers. Pelagios and Storm, was it?
They’ve been here for nearly a week and the two have managed to stay out of sight for the duration of that time.
He really shouldn’t care about such trivial matters, but there’s an unsettling feeling that lingers in his chest.
There’s far too many questions to feel truly comfortable here no matter how much the nobles boast of the security of the palace.
The queen’s missing, the brothers are behaving strangely, and Calder still has Serena’s situation to deal with on top of why she and her brother are down here!
He clutches his head—an impending migraine beginning to take root in the back of his head.
Where in the seven hells is Cascata when he needs her?
Locating people and keeping up with these Vilmarians is more her expertise than his own.
Even holding a conversation with one of these people is tiresome in and of itself. These nobles seem most fond of their play on words and mind games.
And Calder doesn’t have the patience nor the requisite energy to entertain this foolishness.
They sit on the cusp of destruction—thanks to the instability of these seas—and they’d prefer to play children’s games and pretend everything is right with the world!
Which brings him to yet another question. Why is the Atlantic Ocean so unstable to begin with?
From what he can tell, there have been no particularly alarming anomalies being introduced to the environment.
The atmosphere is still quite habitable, but the Sirenic Guard has been reduced to a band of rampaging beasts and the Great Protectors in a constant state of agitation. Not to mention the dying vegetation.
So what’s causing it?
A scowl slips onto his lips as he abruptly shakes all thoughts from his head. Thinking of these things are doing him no good. For now, it would be in everyone’s best interests if he focused on the situation that brought them here to begin with.
And speaking of which…
A prickling sensation tickles the back of his mind.
Someone is poking around where they shouldn’t.
Rather than wasting time swimming through the corridors, Calder gives a wave of his hand with a trail of green mist.
A bright light engulfs his being before his surroundings change to those of a dimly lit chamber immersed in silence.
A radiant light draws his focus to the orb glowing above a canopy clam. Within the bed, Serena lies undisturbed by the world around her.
Her body is encased in a protective layer of magic—barely visible to the eye were it not for the magic particles fading in and out of existence.
But Calder’s gaze hardens; a sharpened glare trained on an unwanted intruder.
“My, my. What ever brings the illustrious Lord Sotirios Floriadis to this wing of the palace?” His voice is dripping with a sickeningly sweet tone that also conveys the acidity in which he means to speak. But there’s no point in offending foreign nobles in a place where he holds no influence.
A fair smile overtakes Lord Sotirios’s lovely features. He puts some distance between him and Serena, but never does his eyes stray from her face for too long.
“Naught much. I simply found myself in this area of the palace and thought to gain a more meticulous appraisal of the human girl in our midst.”
His smiles hardly reaches those ruby-colored eyes, and his off-putting smile somewhat sets Calder on edge.
Again with the games. Everything has to be a game for these people as though they’ll simply die from the boredom of a normal conversation!
Calder clears his throat and sighs. “Yes, well. I must ask that you refrain from future visits.” Calder smirks. “It is imperative that I keep her free of as many unknown elements as possible.”
For a brief second, Lord Sotirios’s brow twitches.
If the lordling wishes to play a game of words, then Calder shall comply for no other reason than to quicken the rate at which he’ll be rid of him.
Lord Sotirios swiftly recovers and gives a dubious nod of his head. “I shall take my leave then. ’Twould seem that my presence has soured the atmosphere.” And with that, he finally leaves the room.
Calder breathes a heavy sigh as he slumps over into a nearby chair made of marbled coral.
He glances at the spell that has materialized in his hand—a single will for it to appear being all it took. A simple spell, yet complex in such intricate ways.
Some of the ingredients are relatively simple to acquire—ingredients that couldn’t have been found without Vilmaris’s extensive knowledge of the realm of dreams.
But while some of the ingredients are easier to obtain than others, there’s yet one ingredient that shall prove more difficult than the others.
And it most certainly isn’t the blood of Poseidon’s descendants.
Her sobbing persists in this endless darkness. Yet there are no more tears left to cry, no more screams left to make.
Even though her throat still feels fine, there is nothing that escapes it when she makes to scream out into this world of spiraling images and disembodied voices.
Here in this world where time and space blends together. She no longer recalls who she is—or who she was for that matter.
And yet somehow, she’s experiencing this painful agony within this dismal world of darkness and undiscernible memories. But it’s not hers’.
Nor are these tears for that matter.
So to whom does this all belong? Who in this bleak place is gripped by such torment that they have seen no other recourse than to pass it on to her?
Over and over, she blacks out and loses time. If one can even lose it in such a place.
Feelings that aren’t her own flood her every now and again.
And then she hears’ the sobbing. Sobbing that she once thought had been coming from her.
Yet it’s not. However, it surrounds her to constantly remind her of the pain that exists in this plane of existence. And what a pitiful existence it is. Suspended upon a plain of forgotten memories that torments it’s prisoners with a cacophony of voices that would drive any sane person to madness.
And abruptly, everything falls silent.
Must be around that time then. The time where silence reigns, but it’s no better than the noise.
It grows significantly darker and everything is so frighteningly still.
What reason is there for her to be here? And who is crying? It’s the only sound to permeate the otherwise stillness of this place.
Suddenly, things begin to click into place.
Now she remembers. She’s trapped here, always have been. And that crying is most certainly not her own.
That’s right. Within this darkness dwells a child in fear of her own mind after being trapped here and dragged around for so long.
And as for herself, she’s little more than a specter clinging to a fleeting existence in this girl’s mind.
Always forgetting, and remembering just the same. Such is her existence in this place for the entire time young Serena has been trapped here.
But she still cannot reach her.
So much fear exists here that approaching her is impossible. Save for this moment that she’s been eagerly anticipating.
It took some time to memorize the annoyances of this plane in between her temporary losses of memory. Thankfully, her efforts weren’t for naught.
Maybe now, her voice can reach Serena.
“Be at peace, young one. I would have words with you.” She finds that she’s able to approach Serena now. Her body finally coming into view for this brief interval of time.
Serena looks up, eyes vacant and expression blank.
Her face isn’t one streaked with tears despite the intense sobs from moments before. It seems that they had dried up sometime ago and yet her heart still wishes to lament this fate of hers’.
“What do you want?” she asks with a croak in her voice.
She summons forth a small semblance of light to radiate at least the spot they sit in. Briefly does the seafoam green of her scales gleam in the light, catching Serena’s attention.
But she seems to hold no desire to comment on the woman’s tail and her lack thereof.
“You know as well as I that sitting here and weeping will do you no good.”
Serena scoffs. “And what do you suppose I do? There is no escape and I am constantly tormented by images and voices!”
The woman smiles softly, tentatively reaching a hand out for Serena’s hair. A pure blonde that shines as brightly as her own blinding white hair.
She runs a soothing hand over Serena’s head, momentarily surprised that she’s allowed to make contact now.
“True, there is no way to escape without outside assistance, but there are other things you can do in the meantime.”
Serena finally meets the gaze of this mysterious woman. Her eyes the color of seafoam green.
The mermaid looks around at the calm that surrounds them. The images move about at a leisure pace, but they still remain undiscernible.
“Are you not curious about these strange memories of yours?”
Serena looks around. “I’ve not really given them much thought,” she mutters quietly as she stands up. “What are they?”
The mermaid reaches out to touch a memory that draws near, but it moves just out of reach when she does. “They are forgotten memories. Such things are cast to this part of your mind where you need not ever recall them again. As such, this place is dark and the voices that torment you are of your own making.”
Serena furrows her brow. “How are they of my own making? Why would I even wish to make such things in the first place?”
“You most likely made them without realizing it. Your negative emotions can strongly impact the environment here. As a result, they amplified your darkest thoughts and gave them life.”
“And how do I undo that?”
The mermaid smiles as she turns back to Serena.
“We need only try and uncover the secrets concealed within your mind. And in doing so, you must gain control over your emotions once more. Only then will this torment cease.”
Serena frowns as she looks back out to the landscape. “What must I do?”
The mermaid looks out around her. Already she can feel the place resetting itself for another round of madness.
“First you must stop blaming yourself for past occurrences. If you do not then the madness will continue.”
Now Serena scowls. “How would you know of my thoughts and who are you anyway? And why are you in my head?”
The mermaid thinks for a moment only to find a blankness when faced with the question. “I cannot say that which I do not know. I only know that I am here to assist you.”
Serena remains silent for a moment, chews her bottom lip, then sighs. “Fine, fine. What do I have to do first?”
They both turn to the vastness as the images begin to speed up once more. The echoing of disembodied voices begin their steady ascent from quiet to loud.
“How did you deal with your emotions growing up?”
Serena doesn’t seem to even need to think about the answer. “I put them in a box and locked them away.”
The mermaid smiles. “Not the best solution, but it’ll do for now.” She spread her hands as a glowing white box appears between them. “Let us begin…”