Fear not. Everything will be explained.
“For eons, the humans have co-existed with the Aetheric Plane, most without knowing of its existence. Long ago, humans who have contacted the plane accidentally or intentionally have been blessed, or cursed with power. This perspective will change; it matters which side of the fence you are sitting on.
“You are familiar with the term ‘magic’, right?” He continued even though I didn’t reply. “There was a dark time in history where all those who were suspected of this power were burned at the stake. Humans call this power ‘magic’, and these people ‘magicians’ or ‘witches’ and ‘wizards’. We call it glamor.”
“So, you’re saying that we aren’t human? You keep referring to them as humans and not ‘us’,” I spoke up when he paused for breath. It was weird to refer them as different. If we aren’t what are we then? Aliens?
“Yes, we are not. As compared to our powerless and short-lived kin, we are generally leaner and taller. The powers draw a wide line between the two races. Other than that, we have more stamina, physical endurance, a greater brain capacity but we are more susceptible to various mental disorders. And that’s great.” He winked. Mental disorders were great? I listened on.
“Centuries ago, we were driven out by the humans as they were fearful of us and our capabilities. We escaped to the Aetheric Realm, or the Aether, where we expanded the use of our powers. In this realm, we are only tied down by the lack of air-borne particles of glamor, which limits our strength. After the escape, we’ve only progressed, and when I mean progress, I’m not kidding. We have higher technology than those stuck in this realm.” A black-billed magpie flapped over to sit on his head.
“Oh, meet Maggie.” She blinked at me and tipped her head in semblance of a bow. “Aetherians and humans cannot procreate.” He coughed, reading my mind. I narrowed my eyes, blocking my thoughts. “You should do that more often.” He advised. Fuck. That was so cool. But creepy. “You’re extremely readable.” Lysander laughed.
“Moving on,” He pulled out a blank scroll from thin air, spreading it on the table. I stared at the spot, but couldn’t find anything wrong with it. “There are four Aetheric Courts.” The four palaces were slowly drawn on the paper at the four corners, then painted in. He tapped the northernmost palace, sitting on a mountain in the clouds. “Your place. Court of Steelthorne, in Acierus, the main city of the Aether. Our season is spring. We deal with all affairs of the Aether; the management of how the Aether runs, etcetera. The element is air, and our domain is the skies. We have a great forest in our backyard, full of the best ironwood trees, and we make shield and bows. Of course, the sacred animal is none other than Accipitrimorphae.”
“English, please.” I frowned. “Birds of prey.” He laughed.
“Next,” He tapped on the western palace. “The Court of Mithrios. The city and other smaller towns are near the mines, where machines are automated to collect the ores and refine them. Their mountains are rich with precious metals, gems and stones. They make the Aetherian Syls, as well as securing the Aetheric Vaults. Their season is summer, and their element is fire. They are famous for their blade-smithing skills, and their blades are as sharp and durable as can be. Their sacred animal is the phoenix.” Volcanoes were drawn between the western and the southern kingdom.
“Speaking about the Aetheric currency,” A gloved hand zipped over, carrying a wallet and placing it in front of Lysander. He took out three silver coins, one gold coin and four notes. “These,” He pointed at the three silver coins, “are 10, 20 and 50 leptae. Humans call them cents, pennies and dimes, I think. Anyway, these are the lowest denominations of Aetheric currency.”
I picked up the coins and studied them. Each leptae coin had its number printed neatly, along with a different flower. ‘The Aetherian Mint’ was etched onto the side of the coins, and intricate patterns unachievable by today’s technology was also etched onto the back.
“This is a drachma.” He passed me the golden coin. “It’s something like a dollar in our currency.” Similarly, the drachma had the intricate designs printed on the leptae coins. “These are Sylvan Notes, Syls for short. They come in denominations of fives, tens, fifties, hundreds, thousands, five thousand and ten thousand. Looks like I only have these four variations of notes with me. The thousands are pretty hard to find anyway.”
While I inspected the Syls, Lysander kept the coins. The five Syls note was a pleasant green, with Steelthorne’s ironwood printed at the back. 10 Syls had a blacksmith from Mithrios, and with a fiery red color. An icy mountain range of the Valkyries was printed on the back of the 50 Syls note. A few species of flora and fauna were shown on the back of the orange 100 Syls note. I passed them to Lysander when I was done looking at them.
“The thousand Syls note is yellow, and it has an image of the Great Sages printed on the back, reading the stars. Ten thousand Syls have the various royal crests printed on it.” Lysander recited. “Cool.” I nodded, “Back to the map?”
“Next.” He circled the southern castle with his index finger. “The Court of Prodigentia, the kingdom of nature, and their season is autumn. They have the greatest variety of species of flora and fauna. Arcadius oversees the food supply of the Aether, as they are experts in the field of agriculture and livestock rearing. Their domain is any form of natural land. All animals are their sacred animal, and their element is earth. These Incendian volcanoes erupt and fertilize the plains.” The volcanoes promptly erupted and showered down some black soot onto the fields of crops, which were right next to the volcanoes.
“And finally, The Court of Alysworth. The Winter Court.” He tapped the eastern palace. “The Crystalis, in the majestic town of Elysium, is the most beautiful palace in all of the Aether. Haha, who am I kidding. Everything there is beautiful. The women, the buildings, the scenery, the sirens. Heck, even the guys!” He laughed at my wide eyes. “Hey, I have a girlfriend by the way.” He chuckled. “There’s nothing wrong with being gay.” I blinked. Now I wanted to see this place.
“Yeah,” He continued with a twinkle in his eye, “All descendants of Valkyrian blood are great warriors, which means that those who aren’t accepted into the Royal Valkyrian Guard are accepted into the Royal Guards of the other Courts. They have the best steeds in the land, priced in the hundreds of thousands. Their element is water and ice; their domain is the sea and the Abyss. Their sacred animal is the frostprey and the pegasus. We’ll continue during lunch.” He yawned and continued reading the papers.
“Okay. I’m going to take a walk around the manor, if you don’t mind.” His head shot up. “Manor? Pfft. This place is tiny.” He rolled his eyes. I rolled my eyes, stretching, “If you say so.” I rose to my feet. “Your wounds should have healed by now.” He said. I stopped mid-stretch. “Oh.” I said with realization. “Thanks?”
He laughed, then looked back down at the papers. I set off to explore the first floor. The kitchen took up the back of the level, followed by the dining room, then the living room. A large bookshelf lined the wall behind us, on both sides.
I went up the stairs to the mezzanine. “That’s my room, by the way.” He said without looking up. “Right at the stairs?” I looked down to see him nod. The second door led to my room, so I decided to push open the third door at the end of the corridor. It was another room, like mine, but it had a black wallpaper with silver, Caribbean green and icy blue damask designs. I entered the walk-in cupboard to find dresses of all types, and several dress shirts, vests and pants for ladies. The bottom shelf had a variety of covered shoes.
“Is this your girlfriend’s room?” I shouted. “NO.” He yelled back, “IT’S YOURS.” I sighed, “Seriously? How do you expect me to fit into these?” I pulled out a pair of ladies’ pants, the end not even reaching my ankles. He shouted again, “THAT PERSON IS COMING SOON; YOU’LL SEE FOR YOURSELF.” I exited the room. “Alright. You can stop shouting now.”
“ALRIGHT.” He yelled, “Heh. Just messing with you, pardner.” I rolled my eyes and went into the toilet at the end of the corridor, next to the third door, since there were no other rooms to check out. I closed the door and took off my bandages, turning around to see that most of them have scabbed over already.
Some had fallen out, showing a darker patch of new skin. So, this was the healing power of ambrosia. If it could so this, could it heal old scars?
I buttoned up my shirt and walked out to see a pair of floating gloves waiting for the stained rolls of cloths in my hand. “Oh, thanks.” I murmured. It is my pleasure, your Majesty, the gloves signed. An old friend had taught me sign language as a kid for fun, and I guess it just came in handy. The gloves sped over to the laundry area in the kitchen.
I slid down the mahogany banister of the staircase and landed on the deep red carpet. “Well enough to polish the banister for me, aren’t you?” I stopped mid-slide, halting my progress with my hands. He laughed at me. “Don’t worry. Our little helping hands are extremely immaculate. My, if there was an actual patch of soot on your shirt.” He reassured.
“Sorry,” I said, leaping off the bannister and sitting down at my seat. Maggie hopped onto my shoulder and sat in the gap between my neck and my shirt collar, trying to get warm. Birds liked me, but they never sat on my shoulder or head before. Maggie was surprisingly fluffy for a bird.
“It’s alright. I won’t bite.” He winked. I breathed a sigh of relief. Thankfully he wasn’t actually mad. “It’s almost noon. And I’m ravished.” Lysander whined. My stomach answered for me. “The ambrosia takes up loads of energy to heal, so you should be hungry.”
Food was served to us by the gloves again. A plate of piping hot linguine was laid out in front of us, piled with a generous number of clams. “Ah, great. Seafood linguine in seasoned tomato puree.” He pointed out. Another pair of gloves laid down a few squares of Kleenexes and cutlery. The first pair returned with thick clam chowder.
I almost melted in my seat with delight, from the scalded tongue or the taste of the food, I couldn’t decide. “Mm!” I said with my mouth closed. “What?” He asked, eyebrow arching. Since my mouth was full of food, I could only give him a thumb’s up. “Oh dear,” He frowned, suddenly looking concerned. “I should have gotten you earlier, but that would mean that I would turn into a pile of ashes. Unfortunately, the Great Sages set a cumbersome charm on you that could only be broken on your eighteenth birthday. They like cliché stuff, I know.”
I nodded, suddenly remembering something. “Yeah, I read that in a letter I got when I was five. I’m glad you did get me though. If not, I would have been stuck in that hellhole for the rest of my life.” I sighed.
“Yeah, I know.” He continued eating, not meeting my eyes. “It’s not anyone’s fault. I assume you couldn’t do anything about it. How did you find me though?” The rest, though unspoken, was understood perfectly. “Imogen sent a letter stating that she would hand you over to ‘someone trustworthy’,” He spat the words out. “And that person was supposedly one of the Aetherians that she got to know growing up. So, I guess I just tracked him based on his personal information. Somehow, he managed to hack files to state that he was your legal guardian and claimed you when you were seven. He enchanted his manor so that tracking devices and any sources of glamor. You know the rest.”
“It’s a daily re-application of the anti-glamor charm. Yesterday, he forgot to do so, and I snuck in. I told the human police of this world, but they don’t know who was the kid that was being abused. He’s been sentenced to a lifetime of prison. But he has the bragging rights of making the headlines, I guess.”
It was great that he was in prison. But that wasn’t enough. I didn’t care to keep my greed for revenge in check. Because I thought that he deserved to be chained to a rock have his guts eaten out by eagles.
Every. Single. Day.