I had to admit something to myself: I never expected Sebastien De Lange, an eight year old boy, to be such a complex character. "Sometimes I wonder if I chose the right path …" he trailed off.
I searched my head for something that would comfort him, but I had gone completely blank. So I spoke the only words I could possibly think of.
"Your path has to be your own. You can't follow someone else's footsteps, or the path that has been laid out for you. You make your own path … that's why it is yours".
My eyes were fixed on his, reassuring.
"You'll make your own path right".
He exhaled, his breath sending the scent of fresh spearmint into the atmosphere. He concealed any further emotion, tightening a pistol in his belt with one hand.
I felt my eyes almost pop out of my head, and I instinctively grabbed the gun out of his grip. "You're eight years old", I felt like I was shrieking, although my volume was as average as his.
"So?" His tone was annoyingly smug again.
"You're not even in middle school yet - you can't be freely running around with a gun". The part that caused me to #### ## was the realisation that he completely was able to run around with a gun, not only because of the choice he made of his fate, but because he was probably trained to use a number of weapons, too.
"Actually, I can, Madame", he smirked, effortlessly twirling the gun in his fingers before swiftly sliding it back into his canvas belt.
I shook my head at the slightest, as if I could shake away all this confusing insanity along with it. "What world was Alexandra taken to, then?" I asked, returning to the main and most important part of the conversation.
Sebastien grinned faintly.
"Astria, Madame. The Land of Fire and Ash, Home to the Dragons and the Undead, the Place of Lost Souls and Memories, the Source of Death".
I grimaced. "Lovely".
* * *
I stared into the endless seas of mist, the fall below me that seemed never-ending. "Are you sure this is a good idea?" There was obvious doubt in my tone, since after everything I'd been told recently, I was now being convinced that jumping off a cliff would take me to my best friend. Either this insanity had decided to persist or Alexandra Evelyn was waiting for me in heaven, which seemed ironic since I would be jumping down.
"Positive, Madame. I know enough to be sure the fall leads to an opening portal".
Something else I didn't understand was why he continuously called me Madame, even though he knew my name was Anastasia Chase. Still, I was grateful, since it was an improvement from 'Chick' or 'Babe', as I had been called numerous times by the guys in my school. I suppose 'Madame' just seemed strange coming from an 8 year old boy.
"So, will we be teleported straight there?"
The conversation seemed to roll on so quickly from there.
"You'll be sent through a brief vortex to travel there. As long as you don't vomit along the way, you'll be fine. It only lasts a few seconds, anyway. Quick and easy".
"That's what my aunt said before I got my first leg wax".
"No. Quick and easy".
I deeply inhaled the fresh air, as if I was afraid it would be the last time I'd get the chance to.
"See you at the bottom?"
"I'm right behind you".
As satisfied as I would probably get, I spread my arms out as if they were wings, and jumped.
Except I didn't fly.
* * *
I wasn't the type of girl that usually screamed.
… And this was another happy occasion where I kept quiet.
I couldn't. I felt too sick to scream.
My stomach felt as if it was dropping straight out of me, and I was tumbling down through the mist, unable to even see what lied ahead of me, or in this case, below me.
The air suddenly caught me, and tore me into a vortex as ######### had said, with such force I thought my limbs were about to be ripped out of their sockets. It was different … worse than the original fall, since I was tumbling and turning and spinning in every direction through endless darkness.
My head spun, pounding and aching as the blood rushed through my veins, repeatedly changing direction like a confused mouse speeding back and forth through a maze.
Everything seemed to happen even faster, then.
I was blinded with a light, brighter than any I'd ever laid my eyes on. It was like staring at the sun, which is why I forced myself to squeeze my eyes shut; the light still glowed beneath my eyelids. Then it vanished - just like that - in a rapid flash, and I hit the ground, hard.
I stumbled to my feet, barely even noticing the blackened trees surrounding me.
"Se-" My voice was weak and mumbled at first, until I summoned the energy to fix it. "Sebastien!"
There was no response.
I cupped my hands around my mouth, shouting up through the open gap. "Sebastien!"
I inhaled the air deeply, but it was dusty and old, holding the scent of ash and blood. Stifling a cough, I took a step forward, staring up at the nothingness above me. There was a clouded sky, and that was all.
"By jolly, you hit a pigeon, m'boy! What's a young lad like you doin' dancin' through Portals, anyway?"
I arched a questioning eyebrow at the voice, placing my hands on my hips as I stepped back, watching for a sign of movement in the sky. "Hello? Anybody there?" My voice sounded strained and tired, which summed up how I felt quite exactly. I could feel my stomach rumbling with hunger and thirst, and a thick graze across my right arm, but the worst part was, I knew I'd be lost without Sebastien De Lange, who had led me here in the beginning.
"Poor pigeon never saw ya' comin' by the look a' it".
"Just #### ## and get me down from here".
"What's da' magic word, eh?"
"Abracadabra. Let me down".
"Always makes meh' happy to hear a young boy usin' his manners".
I couldn't help but grin.
* * *
Sebastien plummeted down from the clouds, gliding due to the shard of material below his feet. It sustained him in mid-air as he reached the rubble-covered ground, with no visible force or string holding him up.
"Is that -" I hesitated, ruffling the little dirt out of my hair. "A hover-board?" It was the only suggestion my exhausted mind could come up with at the moment, although with everything that had been going on recently, anything seemed possible.
"No. A Golden Dragon's scale, Madame".
I recognised the bitterness in his tone, and coming to the conclusion he wasn't in such a good mood at the moment, I didn't ask him any questions … well, except one.
"Who were you talking to up there?"
"May I ask who Zander Roven is?"
"An old, Mortal man".
I paused, placing my hands on my temples, as if I could gently rub away the aching dizziness.
"Does he have any powers - like you?" My voice sounded bored - a result of my exhaustion - despite the fact I was actually interested to claim all the information I could get.
"Enhanced Annoying Ability. No, he doesn't have any powers", Sebastien snapped, which wasn't a side to him I had witnessed till now. "He knows about the Worlds though - Judging from my personal knowledge, he is most likely from Mortalle".
"Your world. Earth".
"Right". I was never going to get used to that. "So where has he gone now?" So much for not asking him any questions …
"Away, which is where we're going".
I bit down on ## ###### lip, remembering my family. Strangely, I felt a little homesick, even though I wasn't close with my Mum, or especially my Dad.
"Crap!" I collapsed on my knees, my head resting in my hands. "My Mum! What am I going to tell her?"
I breathed in and out, unable to even contemplate how much she would yell at me when I finally returned home - If I did at all.
"Your Mum's been missing for two days".
* * *
It felt weird being empty-handed, without my backpack or my rucksack or a notebook. My arms were dangling to my sides at first, until I decided that for some reason, I felt more comfortable with my hands rested on my leather belt. I had concluded twenty minutes ago that my Mum had more secrets hidden than I thought she bore, and when Sebastien had informed me that my baby brother was now being cared for by his mistress, Madame De' Grace, I had been flooded with more guilt than I'd ever remembered feeling, because I had failed both my mother and Aaron.
Missing. How could my mother be missing, just like that?
The beginning of a scream escaped my lips as a hand was cupped over my mouth. I tried to bite away the steady hand, but it was covered by a black, leather glove, preventing me from doing so. "Let go of me!" I attempted to say, but it ended up coming out as a muffled trail of 'blah' beneath the leather. I was carelessly tossed to the ground, knocking my left side against the rubble and dirt. "What do you think you're doing?" I snarled, stumbling to my feet. My legs felt as if they were about to give up on me, and the speed at which I had climbed back up from the ground rewarded me with a dizzying head rush.
There were three figures in front of me: A boy around 17 years of age, with jet black hair and dark blue eyes, which contrasted sharply with his almost white and yet flawless skin. He was dressed entirely in black, with a leather jacket, canvas sneakers and jeans. There was a girl beside him, who appeared only slightly older, with her waist-length, raven black hair matching mine almost exactly. It was probably longer than waist-length, since it was tied up in a neat, high ponytail, which made my attempt at one seem extremely pathetic. But rather than my emerald green eyes, hers were a mix of amber and topaz - almost glowing against her clear, pale skin. She was wearing navy skinny jeans, and a black tank top, her lips curling up into a smirk. The boy behind her appeared about 16 (maybe a little older) with golden blonde hair and hard, hazel eyes. His skin was slightly tanner than that of the other boy's, and he was dressed in a black cloak. As a result, whatever he was wearing underneath, including footwear, was barely visible. It was hard to tell which of the boys had grabbed me, since both were wearing black, ##########, leather gloves, but I assumed it was the dark-haired one, since he was closest.
A look of shock crossed my face as the girl took a step forward and swiftly slapped me across the face; the sudden impact sent me tumbling back again. I reached my hand up to my cheek, rubbing the area where she had hit me.
"Genevieve. That's enough", the blonde boy said, his voice toned with warning.
She glared at him from the corner of her eye, showing she didn't appreciate his speech. "Do not tell me what to do, Demetri". There was obvious bitterness in her tone. "Believe me when I say I am bound by no law or promise to follow you; if you betray me, I will personally present you with the consequences".
"I said, that's enough, Genevieve", the blonde boy repeated himself, firmer and clearer this time.
"She has already seen us, Demetri. It is our task to keep ourselves hidden, and this Mortal hasn't been able to keep her mouth shut from the beginning. If you refuse to take care of this, I will".
* * *