The first I can recall was my third. My pinata caught on fire, burned all the sweet diabetes-inducing candy.
The next disaster came three years later. The clown said something I didn’t agree with, his bright rainbow wig charred to black. My tenth birthday had a bouncy house, it deflated. Melted rubber.
One way or another, fire always ruined my party. I lost interest in them at the tender age of 10 when I should have at 31, like everyone else.
My thirteenth year, I agreed to break my policy and invited my whole class to my dad’s bowling alley. Only half showed up, it was a lot more than I expected. I’ve never been popular, I always felt like I was different. Unfortunately, everyone in my school felt so too.
But this party was going to change all that, at least that’s what I thought. It started well. We were bowling, eating pizza, listening to music. All the fun stuff. Then, the incident happened.
The moment was so prominent yet I can only remember fragments of it. I was sad, I can’t really remember why. I saw my cake and felt an overwhelming amount of emotions. I stared at the candles, hard. Before I knew it, they became lit. I gasped, unsure of how I did that. The flames on my candle grew and all I could see was red. I remember feeling in control and safe. I wasn’t scared, the fire wasn’t going to hurt me, it felt comforting. Then the world turned black.
I woke up in my bed. My dad was perched at the foot, staring at me.
“Dad,” I called out groggily.
He rushed up from his spot and took my hand in his. “Cassie, are you alright? How do you feel?”
He tried to hug me but I groaned and pushed him off. “I’m fine. Why are you in my room? Were you watching me sleep?”
His eyes were wide. “You were asleep for three days.” I huffed and tried to stand up but he pushed me gently back down. “Don’t move. I’ll get your mother, she’ll explain better.”
“Can you stop being so dramatic. If I was asleep for three days, I’d know.” I picked my phone up from my bedside table and unlocked it. There were so many texts from my friends and classmates asking if I was okay. My dad snatched the phone from me.
“It’s best if you don’t look at your phone before finding out what happened.” He left me alone in my room.
He came back a few seconds later with my mother. She sighed audibly when she saw me and ran up to my bed at the far end of the room. “Mija, I’m so glad you’re alright.” She engulfed me in a hug. “How do you feel?” She placed her hand on my forehead.
“Mom, what’s going on? You’re scaring me.” I felt my heartbeat quicken.
“What’s the last thing you remember?” My dad asked. “Do you remember what happened before you fainted at your party?”
“My party,” I mumbled. A sharp pain pierced my skull as memories of what happened came back in bits. “I think there was a fire, I’m not sure. I can’t remember.”
They shared a concerned look. “Sweetie, there’s something we need to tell you.” My mom started.
“Then tell me, what’s going on?” I demanded impatiently. “What’s wrong with me?”
They shared more concerned looks. Before any of us could utter another word, a man I’ve never met burst into my room. He had light brown eyes like mine and dark brown hair. He was also really tall, his head was only a few inches from the door jamb.
“Sebastian. We agreed that we were going to tell her, get out. We’ll call you when we’re done.” My dad said, looking very pissed.
The man ignored him completely and focused on me. “Hello, Cassandra.” He sounded out of breath. “Told you she’ll wake up.”
It’s been two years since that pivotal day, the day that changed my life. I found out that the person I thought was my dad was actually my stepdad. And my biological father was the stranger who came into my room.
He asked me to call him Seb, even though that wasn’t his real name. His real name is Matteo Sebastian Harington, Infante of Aldean. His sister is the Queen of Aldean and me, his daughter is the granddaughter of the late King. I started laughing at that point, my parents were definitely playing pranks on me.
To make the matter even more ridiculous, he told me that Aldean was in a different dimension. A world filled with magical beings; elementals and special combatants. My brain was fuzzy at that point. I didn’t believe him till he showcased some of his powers.
I yelped when I saw the fire in his hands. He laughed. “And this is just the beginning. You’ll learn far more when you attend Brimstone, it’s a Preparatory school.”
“Sebastian.” My mom said sternly. “We haven’t decided on anything. She just woke up.”
The man sighed. “I don’t think it requires much discussion.”
And it didn’t, I was inherently dangerous and needed to keep my powers in check. I was supposed to leave for the other dimension, Illyria when I was fifteen and attend Brimstone. It’s a five-year school that will prepare me for a life in Illyria but will impart me with zero skills for the real world.
I didn’t want to leave, unfortunately, it wasn’t my choice. My parents were scared after that incident and worried I’ll hurt myself, they decided that was the best place for me.
Over the next two years, Seb made a habit of visiting me at least once a month and telling me more about Illyria. He showed me pictures on his phone. Illyria had everything this dimension had, but better. Instead of technology and electricity, they powered everything using magic. Cars, gadgets, their buildings.
They have news outlets and social media. I couldn’t believe a whole other world existed. “Why does your dimension have magic and this one doesn’t?” I asked on his second visit.
He leaned forward on the blue sofa he was settled on and said. “Originally, they both did. But humans here constantly abused theirs. Powerful elementals caused great fires, earthquakes, tsunamis and floods. And combatants used their hyper reflexes to tip the scales of war. They were punished and their magic was taken away”
“Who took it away?”
“The being that created all the worlds, that entity decides who gets magic and who doesn’t.”
“What do you mean by magic, what powers specifically? Can you cast spells, disappear...”
He laughed softly. “No, most of our magic is based on the four elements. Some people specialize in creating potions though.”
“So you’re not that powerful.”
“People have been creative over the years with their powers, their legacies are thought at schools all over Illyria.”
Sebastian dodged questions about his family, which for obvious reasons, I found strange.
He did eventually tell me about them and they sounded nice. Turns out he was sugarcoating it and they’re actually terrible people. There’s his wife, who wasn’t happy to hear about the child he had while they were married. She followed him on one of his visits and was frosty the whole time. It got so bad, my mom announced out of nowhere that she had groceries to run and left the house.
Her name is Lilian and she’s the director of Brimstone, a job she holds very dear. The only other member of his family I’ve met is his sister, Queen Freya. He didn’t want her to come but she insisted on meeting me.
“So this is her.” She said when she saw me. “We truly are ruined.” The Queen was not happy to see me. “Is she going to take part in the election?”
“Of course she won’t.” Was Sebastian’s resonse. “You don’t even have to tell the council about her.”
His sister glared at him. “Of course I do. We’ve hidden her long enough, it’s time they knew. They’ll want to know if she’ll pledge her allegiance.”
Seb glanced at me and offered a reassuring smile. “I doubt she’s interested in that. She just wants to learn how to control her powers.”
The Queen massaged her forehead. “Powers that are completely wasted on her.” She shook her head at me.
I didn’t ask for these powers, neither do I want them. “The election and pledging my allegiance. What do they mean?” I couldn’t help but ask. Sebastian had been hiding things from me, if he won’t give me answers maybe his sister will. “Your majesty.” I added as a show of respect, I tried to bow but stopped mid pose. I didn’t know if I was doing it right.
She stared at me quizically. “Just call her Aunt Freya.” Sebastian offered. His sister was appalled but didn’t protest. “And those aren’t things you need to worry about.”
‘Aunt Freya’ laughed. “For your sake, stay out of it. Seb, if you have any interest in taking care of this girl, I suggest you steer her away from there.”
Sebastian sighed. “Like I said, Frey. I doubt she’ll be interested.”
“Interested in what? If you’re sending me to your world at least tell me what I should expect.” And they did. And all interest I had in going flew out the window.
Turns out their system of monarchy is different. Two hundred and fifty years ago, Aldeans revolted, saying they wanted a decision on who their ruler will be. So the direct royals born with the fryma e dragoit (translated to English means Dragon’s breath) will pledge their allegiance to the crown. It is a formal and very important annual tradition in the country.
It is especially important for direct descendants because they submit to the laws of the land. Taking the pledge meant they became eligible to run for future monarch, the pledge will keep them from rebelling if they lose. Like Seb said, not something I’ll be interested in.