Scheherazade sat suspended in the air, staring blankly at the pages of her tome, 1001 Nights. Its pages had only become increasingly difficult to decipher as of late. Even previously recorded passages were no longer properly legible. Words shifted and twisted about like silt carried down a river. Occasionally strange images formed, hands that seemed to push against the bonds of the page as if to escape, only to fall to pieces moments later. Sighing, the wanderer brushed aside a strand of auburn hair that had fallen in front of her eyes.
Long had Scheherazade watched over the progress of time, the order of chapters in the story. She had not counted on this, and although she did her best to hide it, she was scared. The corruption of the time line grew worse and worse, and more cracks began to form. Scheherazade turned her eyes away from the pages of her book, not willing to gaze upon its prophetic madness any further. She gazed for a moment at the shimmering magical walls that maintained the pocket dimension she had called home for so long now. She thought back to when she was first brought here. It had seemed such a strange and unnatural place, inhospitable and cold. But over time, it had become a home. A home for those who had lost everything and swore to protect all that remained. The wanderer sighed again.
“Reflect, Refrain” Scheherazade said, calling out to the peculiar twins. “There’s something I need to ask of you two.”
“What is it?”
“What could it be?”
The two strange forms flickered into sight as they spoke, gliding through the space in the cube towards the one who called them. They cocked their heads in opposite directions, but with an equal amount of curiosity. Scheherazade greeted them with a placid smile.
“I would like you two to summon Adelbert. I fear we have need of his strength.” With a wave of her hand, Scheherazade conjured a letter addressed to the one called Adelbert, a report of the current situation contained within the heavy parchment of the envelope.
“Understood, we’ll depart immediately.”
“No we need to prepare before we go.”
Dismissing the two with a gentle nod and wave of her hand, Reflect and Refrain flitted out of the network of arcane cubes passing into the gap at the center of the pocket dimension before disappearing altogether. With that handled, Scheherazade got to work preparing a few of her own things for a journey, conjuring a few spellbooks and various other effects. She couldn’t sit here any longer. Pouring over her tome was doing nothing to solve the problem and only serving to trouble her further. No longer. It was time for her to venture unto the breach once again. It was time to return to the world of Grimm and his kingdom. Re-Earth, her constituents had taken to calling it, though the denizens of that world had no official name for their planet.
“It’s unusual to see you heading out.” A small, but confident voice called out to Scheherazade just as she was about to leave the safety of the space where none should exist. Scheherazade turned, surprised to hear a voice she was unfamiliar with. The small frame of a young girl veiled in darkness greeted her eyes. Though the girl was only a few feet from her, she strained her eyes to get a proper look at her for a moment. In that instant she could swear she saw a distortion similar to that which troubled her tome as of late. Was it just her mind playing tricks on her from staring at 1001 Nights for too long? This girl was clearly the new recruit Wukong had been talking about previously.
“Yes, my 1001 Nights is no longer reliable and I must see the progress of events with my own eyes.”
“Do you think you can stop it?” The girl said without hesitation.
“Its not a question of if I can. I must. So I will.”
“You sound pretty determined, but you don’t sound very confident.” the shadowy girl sneered.
“Thankfully you seem to have enough confidence for the both of us.” Scheherazade smiled warmly. “We’re all counting on you to lend your support.”
“If it's for the safety of the world, I will do it.”
“Not our safety?” Scheherazade inquired. The girl veiled in shadow motioned as if to respond, but Scheherazade interrupted. “I was only joking. I’ve got to be going now, please watch for Reflect and Refrain while I am gone.”
“Fieth...please be safe.” Zero whispered to herself, praying for the elf’s safe return. Only a few minutes had passed since Fiethsing had suddenly excused herself from the meeting in the war room of the Light Palace, but Zero had never felt such an agonizingly slow passage of time in all her long life. It’s not that Fiethsing hadn’t done this before, quite the opposite actually. She snuck away from any sort of work or formal occasion so often it’d be easier to count the few number of times Zero had successfully forced the woman to stay than the times the sage of wind had slipped away.
But this was different.
Zero couldn’t get that look in Fiethsing’s eyes out of her mind. She had played it off as though nothing was wrong, but despite her best efforts, Zero still saw the fear in her eyes. Zero knew that look very well.
The fear of losing what was most precious.
The others, though startled by Fiethsing’s sudden exit, had resumed discussing defense strategies and evacuation plans for the people and fairy tales of the Light Palace. Zero found herself with little to contribute, too distracted, too worried.
“This world...” A small grim smile on her face. “This world seems to endlessly fall victim to calamity.” Her words caught the attention of Lumia, Grimm, and Pandora, interrupting their conversation.
“Zero?” Lumia started, moving beside her and placing a hand on her shoulder. “Are you alright?”
Zero, startled that the others had heard what she said, looked up to the three. Grimm flashed her a wide smile and a thumbs up, and Pandora stifled a giggle at her husband.
“I am your king, but I am, we are also your friends, Zero. If you are troubled, we would hear it.” said Grimm, his gentle voice wafting through his beard.
“Thank, thank you all, truly.” Zero began. “I-” Zero’s words were cut off as a power booming sound echoed throughout the land, shaking the earth and stone beneath their feet. A powerful blast of air followed the sound, shaking the trees so harshly, it was audible even from the war room.
“What in the world?” Pandora exclaimed.
“Fieth!!” Zero shouted, no longer able to contain her fear. She rushed into the hall to look from the window where Fiethsing had jumped. In the distance, near the edge of the forest, a great spire of smoke crept up toward the sky expanding out at the top like an open parasol. For a moment Zero found herself unable to move. For a moment there was nothing. Even the pain from where Valentina had injured her arm seemed to evaporate as all was consumed by the awful twisting sensation in her stomach.
“Miss Zero!” Charlotte can running down the hall from another corridor, nearly tripping over her own feet. “Come quickly! I-it’s Kaguya!” Without a word, Zero turned and hurried with Charlotte back down to the first floor to the throne room of the Light Palace. There, at the great alabaster doors of the open throne hall, Kaguya lied collapsed on the floor. She was sobbing uncontrollably, her arms wrapped around herself, clutching something to her chest. Zero and Charlotte hurried to her side trying to help her up, but the girl squirmed and flailed, refusing to be lifted from her spot on the polished floor, now stained with the girl’s tears.
“Kaguya, what happened?” Zero’s voice shook.
“Auntie...Auntie Fiethsing….” Kaguya managed between sobs. “Auntie Fiethsing...a-and this strange guy...weird magic...really dangerous and...its my fault, it’s all my fault.” Kaguya’s breathing was uneven, she barely even seemed to acknowledge the things around her, her eyes now red as tears continued to flow.
“Kaguya, you need to calm down and tell us what happened. Who was she fighting?” Zero could feel her heart pounding in her ears.
“I-I don’t know. He was...he was like Altea. He was Altea, but he was a person. He was like a nightmare with nothing in his eyes.” Kaguya’s breathing slowly began to even out. “He used strange magic I’ve never seen before. We have to go back! We have to help her!”
“What did Fieth say?” Zero said, still doing her best to not to tremble.
“Sh-she said to run away, to run back here.”
“Okay.” Zero sighed for a moment as she collected her thoughts. “Kaguya, you need to stay here. I will go get Fieth.” the sage stretched her arm. Thanks to Pandora’s healing magic it seemed as though it wouldn’t hold her back too much in a fight, even if it did still ache a bit. That Valentina character was not to be underestimated, but she would have to be dealt with later.
“It’s too late for your elf friend. She’s been erased.” The confident voice of a young man addressed Zero, Kaguya, and Charlotte. He leaned casually against the half open door of the throne room. When zero looked at him he smiled a wide, wicked grin. His eyes shone red like the blood moon and his hair was a pale white. Pale...white...a young man...something about this boy seemed very familiar to Zero, as though he was an old acquaintance from a dream she had long ago, but she was sure she’d never met him. Regardless, he seemed to know something about Fiethsing.
“Who are you?” Zero spat. “If you know something, you’d best tell us now...” Zero conjured her sword, its magical blade igniting in azure fury. “Or I will watch the blood drain from your body.” Though her words remained tough, her hand shook as it clenched her blade. He said Fiethsing was gone, dead. Impossible. Surely she wouldn’t die. There was no way...she’d leave Zero all alone...right?
“She fell to the ancient power of mana. The magic of the old ways. It’s faster and more powerful than most other magic.”
“I don’t need a history lesson, brat.” Zero raised her sword such that the tip was now pointed at the white-haired young man. “Tell us who you are.”
“That’s!” Charlotte exclaimed suddenly. “Gill Lapis!” As the sound of the name reached Zero’s ears her body moved before her mind did. She did not think, she did not have time to. That was the name of the one who had destroyed the other world, Charlotte’s world. The world Alice had failed to protect. The world that the strange girl Pricia had come from possessed by Valentina. This was a monster leaning on the door of her home, who was telling her that Fiethsing was dead, and Zero knew only one way to deal with monsters. In a flash she was upon him, and swung her blade down cleave him in two.
However, Lapis raised his hand and the sword was met by a thin, shimmering, purple barrier. Zero struggled to break the barrier, and as it began to crack, Laps shattered it with a small amount of force to push Zero back. The woman nimbly landed on her feet, magic saber still ignited and clutched in her hand.
“Tch” Lapis clicked his tongue. “That attitude is going to get you killed. The one that killed your elf friend was Alhama’at, the master of Altea. I admit I didn’t expect him to seek one of your group out.” Lapis straightened up, taking a more serious position as he continued. “Alhama’at is a danger to all of us. He he has knowledge of secrets that no one else has, and it makes him too powerful for any force to handle alone. However, an alliance between us, a joint attack from light and dark, has a chance.”
“You’re suggesting that we work together.” Zero did not lower her guard.
“Something like that. What I really need is for you to buy me time to complete a ritual. If I start it, Alhama’at will notice and come to stop me.”
“You mean you’re going to destroy this world like you did with mine, don’t you?” Charlotte said, practically crying.
“No.” Lapis answered frankly, smiling at Charlotte’s words. “But there’s no guarantee that this world will survive.”
“If...if we help you...” Charlotte started, still clearly scared of Lapis. “Will you restore my home?”
“No.” Lapis said, chuckling. “I have no desire to sacrifice power, or do the impossible and rewind time.”
“Rewinding time...impossible?” Zero’s ears perked up at Lapis words. She knew them to be false, but it seemed as though he believed them. It did not matter. The less he knew, the better. Lapis was dangerous enough already.
“Don’t listen to a thing this guy says!!” A voice cried out from atop the stairs of the throne room. The figure of a girl wreathed in embers leapt down, great crimson wings spreading out and carrying her down to land next to Charlotte.
“S-sister!” Charlotte exclaimed.
“Wha?!” Pricia said, suddenly caught off guard by Charlotte’s words.
“Oh...I...sorry.” Charlotte pulled away. “For a moment...you looked like...someone else.”
“It’s...Pricia, right? Are you sure you’ve recovered alright?” Zero asked.
“Hehe, don’t worry about me. I’m not exactly sure what happened when I was Valentina, but I feel stronger than ever lately, like the power from all the worlds there are is with me.”
“You have awoken to the powers of a wanderer. Heh, not bad.” Lapis said coolly.
“Where’s Valentina?” Pricia demanded. “I know she’s still alive. She needs to pay for what she’s done...and so do you.” Pricia turned her eyes to Lapis, growling.
“Fighting me won't get you anywhere. As I said, we’ll need to help each other to live through this. As for that treacherous demon, I imagine she’ll show her face eventually. She doesn’t seem to like being off the stage for very long. Alright, I’ve wasted enough time on you. If you don’t all want to die to Alhama’at, you’re going to need to rescue the Alabaster Dragon Princess he’s keeping captive. He couldn’t keep her on Altea. She’s trapped here, on this planet.”
“And how do we find her? We don’t have time to dig up the entire kingdom.” Zero was losing patience.
“Ask the one who’s holding that stone you found in the northern mountains. It’s power is her power.” Lapis turned to leave.
“Millium...” Zero whispered.
“Hey, wait! You didn’t tell me where Valentina is!” Pricia dashed after the Primogentitor.
“Si-Pricia! Wait!” Charlotte called out to her fellow Attoractian, but the daughter of Sissei wasn’t interested in hesitation. Speeding past the enormous immaculate doors of the Light Palace, Pricia saw Lapis mounting a black drake as it leapt into the sky.
“Oh no you don’t!” With only a moment of effort, the crimson wings that carried Pricia down the steps before burst forth in a radiant glory, carrying her high into the air.
Back in the Light Palace, Zero and Charlotte were helping Kaguya back onto her feet, her sobbing finally under control. “What are we going to do now?” Charlotte asked.
“I still need to go after Fieth, and we need to tell Millium about this...dragon princess.” Zero answered.
“Do you think we can trust him to help us?” Charlotte looked skeptical and worried.
“No I don't.” Zero answered flatly. “But we can trust him to help himself, and for now, what he wants happens to overlap with what we need. But Millium isn’t going alone. I was hoping you and Lunya would go.”
“Actually...Miss Zero...if it’s alright with you, I’d like to accompany you!” Charlotte bowed her head. “Kaguya is my first friend and this is important to her!”
“Charlotte...” Kaguya managed, grateful for her friend’s compassion.
“Alright, then. Kaguya, I’ll leave it to you to tell Millium and the others about the new plan. We’re going to find out what happened to Fieth.”
-Lore written by Rajadeem the Seer, Last of His Order