Of all the realms, to be stuck in, Earth was the most cruel. Between the pollution, the politics, and the Americans, it was almost unlivable- not that it didn’t have it’s moments, though. Some of the things in this realm that we didn’t have back home were rather enjoyable. My best friend, Avalon, was particularly fond of the pizza delivery service, while I, personally, liked the online shopping.
The two of us had been on Earth for over ten months now, and my stomach turned every time I thought of what may have changed back home. The one thing I did know, is that they were safe.
Avalon is royalty, next in line for the throne of Ourea, a kingdom in the realm of Themis. Her mother, Queen Rubiaceae, will have searched through dozens of realms already looking for the two of us, but of course, not Earth. That is the last place they would check, for whoever would want to go there? No one from Themis, and especially not royalty. There were at least thirty other places I would rather be, which makes this the right choice. Queen Rubi would never think her daughter would stoop to the level of Earth.
The only company the two of us had from home was Avalon’s fluffy white cat, Theseus - the thing was high maintenance and not a big fan of other-realmers of any kind, especially Earth Walkers. Avalon wouldn’t leave him behind, though, despite my very logical reasoning as to why we should.
I was getting groceries from one of the local stores close to our apartment. Avalon and I lived right next to and attended a college campus in order to blend in more easily with the humans. We were the right age for higher education, I was four months her senior, both of us freshly twenty years old. Avalon stayed at the apartment for the most part, except for classes and the occasional party. It wasn’t so much for safety reasons, for no Earth Walker would ever be able to harm us, and there was no one from any other realm looking for us here, it was simply because she disliked Earth nearly as much as I did.
My least favorite part of Earth was how ugly everything was. Cities were completely terrible, so much garbage and unsightly metal buildings, not to mention how horrendously humans dressed. I never thought I would miss my corsets this much, and I longed for the majestic mountains and lush greens of Ourea. Even their grocery stores were ugly, the combination of cheap tile, thin steel shelves, and fluorescent lights should be a crime. But it was no matter, it was life for now.
Ten months ago, the protective shields, barriers, and spells cast around Ourea were somehow breached, and the Kingdom was attacked by an Ancient and powerful Fire Daemon. It was a rare occurrence, and though we were prepared for it, the attack still took us by surprise.
Something that family and close friends of the royals knew from the start, was that Avalon was different. She seemed to attract all kinds of Daemons, so much so, that from infancy, she had her own Lares detail.
The Lares weren’t like us, not as magically powerful, but much physically stronger. They were bred to fight and protect. They were our guardians, and the Royals were granted the best of the best.
I was raised by Lares. I never knew my parents, for I was found as a baby among the rubble of a war that the people of Ourea had barely won. On the other side of the mountain range surrounding Ourea was a village by the name of Pythia. Few natives survived the massacre about two decades ago, me, by some miracle, being one of them. When I was found, I was put in the care of a kind and renowned Lares family of Ourea. Though I was brought up by Lares, I went to school in the Kingdom, as I would have even if I did still reside in Pythia. Moirai Academy was attended by Lares as well as those like Avalon and I, Nymphs.
Nymph is often not a strong enough word when describing our powers to humans. In Earth Walker culture, we are most similar to witches, but there is god and goddess blood in our veins. The Royals are those most closely related to them.
My family tree is unknown, but I have always had a natural gift with my magic. There was no one who could over power me in school, not that anyone would dare to try. It would be foolish to mess with even the company of Royals.
The only person to ever pick a fight with me was my brother, Kelvhan, the biological son of my adoptive parents. But I suppose, with Kel, there was always Reinom and Hayze. The three of them had been best friends since they got their first training swords, so around 9 months old. Though I loved my brother, and had always been close to Hayze, I’ve never even liked Rein. We’ve never gotten along, and avoided each other as best we could, though I know that eventually, I will have to grow to tolerate him, not for my brother’s sake, but for Avalon’s. It was no secret that Kel, Rein, and Hayze were some of the best Lares that Moirai Academy had ever seen, and in any other situation, it would be a big deal to see who would be tasked with the Princess, but due to our strange circumstance, it has always been known that Kel would be assigned to protect me, we’re family. That left Hayze and Rein with Avalon, an unfortunate deal for her. Rein was insufferable.
So far, however, we were successfully avoiding him, being on Earth and all. After the attack on Ourea, Avalon was racked with guilt, knowing she was the reason an Ancient One was drawn to the Kingdom. She told me of her plans to run away, and of course, I couldn’t let her go alone. In all fairness, she would never survive without me. Being raised by Lares, I was a lot tougher than the rest of the Nymphs were allowed to be, not to mention, Earth was my idea. One I hated, but I knew it was our best bet. 10 months of success was no easy feat.
I was so lost in thought that I nearly walked right past my building with all of the groceries. Another one of Earth’s pros were the elevators, if I couldn’t do magic, it was the least they could do.
It wasn’t that our magic didn’t work in this realm, it was that we had to be very careful about when and if we used it. The more magic we did, the bigger the possibility we could attract unwanted attention.
“Took you long enough, Thiosa.” Avalon teased, drawing out my full name obnoxiously as I stepped into our apartment. “Are you in for the rest of the night?” She asked as I set all of the bags on our counter.
“Almost. I’ve just gotta run over to Adam’s and drop off the tools I borrowed when we put together the bookshelf.” I said.
Adam and Carter lived in the building next to ours, they were some of the only Earth Walker friends we had made since being here. Avalon and I knew them from class as well as running into them around our buildings, the two of them were very nice and always willing to lend a hand.
“Why does he need the tools now?”
“He wants to put together their new TV stand.” I answered with a shrug.
“Mmm.” Avalon hummed, a suggestive smile on her face. “I’m sure it’s definitely not an excuse to see you.”
I rolled my eyes. “Put the groceries away, Princess. I’ll be right back.”
She put her hands up in mock surrender and began emptying the bags, the same smirk still on her face.
After grabbing Adam’s tool bag, I made my way back into the elevator and exited the building.
The air outside was different from just minutes ago when I had arrived. There was a stillness about it that just didn’t seem natural. I tried shaking off the feeling, and hurried towards Adam’s building.
He buzzed me up immediately, and I scurried inside, not wanting to spend any extra seconds in the street.
“Hey, Thio.” He smiled as he let me into his apartment.
“Hey, thanks again for the tools.” I handed him his bag. “We owe you one.”
“Don’t worry about it.” He shrugged. “Are you busy tonight? Carter’s at work, and I’m sure you’d be a lot better than me at putting this thing together.” Adam smiled shyly. “Afterwards we could go get dinner or something. My treat.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” I frowned apologetically. “I can’t tonight, Avalon’s waiting for me, we had plans.”
Maybe she was right about his little crush on me. No matter, I had no business getting close with an Earth Walker.
“No biggie.” Adam smiled in reassurance that his feelings weren’t hurt. “Some other time.”
I nodded. “Definitely. I’d better get back, but I’ll see you later.”
“Do you want me to walk you back? It’s dark out.” Adam offered.
I laughed lightly. “I think I can make it to the building next door, but thank you.”
Adam grinned sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck. “Alright. See you, Thio.”
With one last goodbye, I left, making my way back down into the lobby before once again being met with the strange energy outside in downtown Seattle. I clutched the gemstone around my neck habitually. We didn’t have magic wands, but we did have powerful amulets, each one specially suited for its user.
“And what are you going to do with that?” Came a horrifyingly familiar voice from across the street.
I turned to be met with the last person I would have expected to see. Rein. A million thoughts flashed across my brain. What the hell is he doing on Earth?
“Surprised to see me?” He asked, crossing the street. “To be fair, I’m rather surprised to see you too, Thio. Why Earth, of all places? This realm is abominable.”
“That’s exactly it’s appeal.” I mumbled. “I never thought the Queen would think to send anyone here for us. At least she wasn’t seriously considering the possibility, or she never would have sent you.”
Rein just laughed. “You two caused quite the uproar, and god is it going to feel good being the one to bring you back home.” He was standing in front of me now, looking me over carefully, his eyes held something strange beyond the cocky front. Was it relief? Concern? He was probably just planning out whatever epic tale he was going to tell once he got back to Ourea, though the most exciting thing that happened to him on this trip was probably getting skipped in line at Starbucks.
“What’s it going to take for you to pretend that you never saw me?” I asked lowly.
“Not happening, sweetheart. Now where’s the Princess?”
“Rein.” I all but pleaded. “You have to know that there’s a reason we left, a reason we’ve been on Earth for ten months. It’s not safe for everyone else if Avalon returns.”
“Then why did you need to go?” He asked harshly. “You think it’s safer being out of the realm, just the two of you without any means of protection? You thought it was safe to strand yourself with a literal danger magnet?”
“Well guess how many times we’ve been attacked in the last ten months? Daemons don’t come here.” I shot back, angrily.
“You got lucky, if any Daemon had sensed you here, both of you would have been done for.” He laughed coldly.
“It wasn’t luck. We haven’t used any magic since we got to this realm.”
“And you think this doesn’t leave a trace?” Rein picked up my necklace, before letting it drop back to my chest. “Or whatever little persuasion tricks you used in order to blend in?”
“Obviously not a very strong one.” I glared, stepping back from him.
He let out another bitter laugh. “The only reason you and Avalon are still alive is because you got lucky. You won’t stay that way forever. You need to come home where you can be adequately protected.”
“And that worked so well last time.” I crossed my arms. “Why do you even care?”
“We both know that the Princess will eventually be my responsibility.”
“So why are you yelling at me? I’m not.”
Before I could respond, the door to Adam’s building opened up, and Adam came out, looking between Rein and I, concerned.
“Hey Thio, I heard yelling and saw you out the window. Is everything okay?” He asked me, looking uneasily at Rein.
“Yeah, I’m fine. It’s okay, unfortunately I know him.” I said. “Thanks for checking in on me, though.”
Adam nodded, giving Rein one last warning look before going back inside.
“So you’re slumming it with Earth Walkers now?” Rein asked.
“Fuck you. It’s none of your business. Now why don’t you just go home and pretend you never saw me.”
“You know I can’t do that.”
“You can try.” I mumbled.
“Cut it out.” Rein said shortly. “Where’s Avalon? I don’t want to be on Earth any longer than necessary.”
I let out a short laugh. “If you think I’m being difficult, just wait until you try and take Avalon home.”
She may not be as confrontational as me, but she’s been known to dig her heels in.
Rein sighed. “You had to have known someone would find you eventually, and I highly doubt you want to hide out on Earth forever.”
I saw in his face that he was done fighting, which is rare, usually the two of us can’t stop fighting until Kel comes in and breaks it up. The look on his face is what made me stop fighting too. I just wordlessly walked up to my building, allowing him to follow.
“Damn, did you and Adam have a quickie, you were over there forever.” Avalon called from her bedroom as I shut the door behind Rein. “I knew he had a thing for you, but I didn’t think you’d actually go for it, I mean, aren’t Earth Walkers a little smaller than we’re used to, or did Kel just make that up as a joke?”
Rein smirked next to me. “Not a joke.” He muttered into my ear.
I elbowed him swiftly in the ribs just as Avalon came out of her room. Her face dropped instantly. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Come on Avalon, you knew it was only a matter of time.” Rein sighed.
“I’m not going home. It’s too dangerous for everyone else if I’m there.”
It was times like this, I was reminded of how powerful Avalon could be. She stood there with her blonde hair framing the side of her face like a shield, and hands crossed over her chest defiantly. Her light eyes were hard and unwavering, and I could feel the magic rolling off of her in waves.
“But you’re totally fine putting your best friend in danger?” He asked, angrily.
“I didn’t ask her to come, she insisted.”
“She’s still here.”
“I’m not completely useless, you know. I’m the most powerful nymph in the academy.” I defended myself
“Powerful enough to take on a Daemon by yourself?” He asked.
“Powerful enough to take you on by myself.” I threatened.
“Come on, Thio. It’s over, even if you don’t come back with me, I’ll have to tell the Queen I found you.”
“And we’ll be long gone.” Avalon promised. “So why don’t you get going?”
“I didn’t want to have to do this.” Rein sighed, reaching down into his pocket.
And then everything went black.
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