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Destiny Calls

Chapter Text

Paul walked down the sidewalk, almost home from his morning walk and lost in the music in his earbuds, when instead of landing on the concrete, his foot kept falling into portals that he could only assume lead to another dimension. "Ah," He groaned, as it happened again.

Removing his foot from the portal, he continued down the sidewalk, just wanting to get home. He was just about a block away when it happened again, only this time, something reached through the portal and grabbed his foot. He rolled his eyes, grabbed a nearby pole for balance, and used his other foot to kick the hand away.

"Please, stop," He stated, speaking down into the portal. The hand let go and disappeared back into the portal. Paul finished his walk shortly after, opening his door, turning and locking it as he entered. He took off his shoes and set his phone and earbuds on the table, ignoring the dark figure with the staff in the corner of the room, surrounded by the shadows.

"You can't keep running from your destiny forever, Paul." It said. Paul pretended he didn't hear it. "You can't escape it. You must travel to Alacoria and fulfill the prophecy." He walked into his kitchen, opening his fridge and grabbing a water. "Paul." Paul headed back into his living room, sitting on his chair, turning on his tv and flipping through the channels. "Paul." He kept his attention focused on the tv.

The figure waved his hand and shut the tv off. Paul didn't act like anything was off, just pulled out his phone and began scrolling. "Paul, come on, man." The figure stepped out of the shadows, flinging himself on the couch, its back resting against the arm of the couch, it's black and white converse shoes nearly touching the other end, its staff laid across its body. It threw it's hood back to relive a boy with light tanned skin about twenty-six with short jet black hair swept over his forehead, nearly touching his electric blue eyes that seemed to pop out.

"Work with me here. We've known each other for practically our whole lives! Remember we used to play in the same sandbox together in the park! I'd let you play with the undead puppies!" He exclaimed. "That's gotta mean something!" Paul continued to scroll through his phone. "I know you can hear me!" He shouted.

"If you keep ignoring me, I'll make everything fly off all the shelves again! I'll cut the power again, too! Hack your bank account! Get you fired! I won't set your house on fire again though, that one was an accident. I really shouldn't wave this thing around." He said, picking up the staff and twisting it slightly in his hand. Paul still didn't look up. "Paul!" He groaned, throwing his head back, sliding down the couch. "You're killing me here, man!"

He grabbed his staff, holding it out to Paul, and it changed to a scythe, with a long black handle and a silver tip. "Just do it now, Paul. Seriously. It's better you than my father. And boy, will he be pissed when he finds out I've failed at the only thing assignment I've ever gotten. Especially, when it's the biggest thing in existence, you know? I mean, if you don't do this, the whole world will end and then they'll be nobody left alive for me to reap, and then I'll be out of a job, and I'll be the last of my kind. I'll go down in history as the reaper who let everyone die." He rambled.

Paul rolled his eyes, looking up towards the reaper draped across his couch. "This isn't your therapy session, Michael." Paul deadpanned.

"Ah! He speaks!" Michael exclaimed, sitting up, swinging his legs so that they were on the floor. He was holding his now again staff with two hands and looking at Paul with wide eyes.

"Well, you were never gonna shut up if I didn't," Paul responded.

"Aw, he's still the same as I remember!" Michael gushed. Paul rolled his eyes again.

"Will you get out of my house, now?" Paul asked.

"No! I've made more progress today than I did the last five years!"

"You mean when you practically tackled me to keep me from sending my applications, then set them on fire, and proceeded to reap the mailman, then burnt down the colleges to which I'd applied to?"

"Okay, so maybe it wasn't the brightest of times," Michael admitted.

"I had to go to college online because of you. Not to mention I kept having to spend $200 dollars on new laptops because you kept smashing them and throwing them out of my apartment window."

"I did not mean to hit that guy! That was a total accident!" Michael exclaimed, eyes wide.

Paul rolled his eyes once again. "I told you that I didn't want to be 'the link between both worlds. The savior of the human race.' I wanted to go to college, and get a job, live a normal life."

"And be an accountant?"

Paul gave him a look. "That was your fault. And the Alvernia school education system. I didn't have any many skills to transfer over to normal Peculiar jobs." He stated.

"Ah! So it's just like the American school system!" Michael shouted, pointing at Paul, grinning.

Paul sighed, standing up, "This conversation is over." He started to walk out of the room.

"Wait! Paul! Where you going!?" Michael tried to jump up and follow Paul but he tripped on his cloak and fell into the chair. Paul stopped walking, turning back around with his arms crossed to see Michael struggling to stand up. "Ah, stupid fucking cloak." Michael muttered under his breath, trying to untangle himself from it. "Why do I even have to wear this thing anyway if nobody can see me?"

"I've told you a million times you need to take it to Reagan and have him hem it. You're like ten inches shorter than your father, of course, it's going to be too long for you." Paul said.

"Yeah, well....." Michael trailed off. "Whatever, this thing's stupid anyway." He finally straightened his cloak.

"And you have to stop wearing jeans under the cloak, Michael, seriously. Nobody's gonna take the grim reaper seriously if he's wearing blue skinny jeans, converse, and a bright yellow gaming shirt."

"Well, what else am I supposed to wear?! Just the cloak? Nobody wants to see that, and I definitely don't wanna go around like that!"

Paul tilted his head and made a face, trying not to think about the mental picture Michael just painted. "Whatever. I have to go, I'm gonna be late for work." Paul turned and started walking down the hallway towards his bedroom.

"Paul, wait, come back!" Michael trailed after him, only stopping outside the bedroom door because Paul shut it in his face. "I mean you're gonna have to do it sometime! You can't spend your entire life ignoring your destiny and hoping it'll go away." Michael leaned against the door.

"I've done a pretty good job so far!" Paul shouted from inside the room.

"Sooner or later, you're going to have to travel to Alacoria! You have to fulfill your destiny! It's the entire reason you were born! You're the only one who can open a portal to the other world!"

"Really? Tell that to the twelve portals I stepped in this morning on my walk!"

Michael narrowed his eyes. "Twelve? They must be getting desperate. Nobody has heard anything from Alacoria in years. Who knows how bad it is over there?" Michael spoke more to himself than to Paul. The door opened and Michael fell back, landing on the floor.

"You never told me that." Paul frowned, standing above him. He now wore a suit, his undone tie hung around his neck.

Michael stood up. "Yeah. Last we heard the Idicore were slowly but surely advancing on Alacoria. Nobody was sure quite how long it would take for them to attack. Months or years." Michael said morbidly.

Paul was quiet for a second. "Well, Alacoria lasted this long without help, I'm sure they can manage." He said, passing Michael.

"Seriously? That's how you wanna be?" Michael asked. Paul continued down the hall.

Michael teleported to Paul's living room where he was putting on his shoes. "That's not right, Paul, and you know it. How can you act like that when-" Michael stopped himself.

Paul looked at him. "When what?" He asked.

Michael looked like he wanted to say something but decided against it. He hesitated for another moment before saying, "When there are people over there. Children. People who have dreams, just like you do."

Paul shook his head, finishing putting on his shoes.

"I know you still have dreams, Paul. And this," Michael gestured to Paul's house, "isn't it."

Paul stopped for a second. "I'm not going to Alacoria, Michael. You can drop it now." He finally decided on saying, heading towards the kitchen table to grab his phone and car keys. Michael snapped his fingers as Paul turned around.

"You forgot to do your tie." He stated. Paul looked down at his now perfectly done tie.

"You're distracting me." Paul said.

Now this time, Michael was the one to roll his eyes. "I'm not distracting you. You're running away." Paul ignored him, grabbing his messenger bag and sliding it onto shoulder before heading towards the door. "Guess nothing has changed." Michael muttered.

Paul stopped just before the door. He turned around, "What did you just say?"

Michael narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms. "You heard me. You have a habit of running away from things."

Paul's eyes widened in disbelief, "Excuse me?"

"You're always running away from things, Paul! You ran away from Alvernia, you ran away from your parents, you ran away from magic,  and you're running away now!" Michael yelled, uncrossing his arms.

"I'm running away?" Paul fumed.

"Yes, you are!"

"Well, fine!" Paul threw his messenger bag on the floor, next to the couch, "Let's go to Alacoria!"

"Well then, wait are you waiting for?" "Oh, no! If you want me to go to Alacoria so bad, then you're coming with me!"

"Fine! Let's go!"

"Alright! Let's go!"

Nobody said anything for a few minutes.

"I...I don't know how to get to Alacoria." Paul admitted.

"Neither do I." Michael muttered.

.............

Michael was draped across the couch once again, his staff now a pen he was twirling in his hand, and Paul was sitting in his chair. "I can't believe we walked all the way around town and not a single portal opened up," Michael mumbled into his cloak.

"People thought I was one of those crazy homeless people who talked to themselves."

"How many times do I have to say sorry!? I didn't mean to spill the custard on you!" Michael exclaimed.

Paul rolled his eyes again. Michael was slightly worried that if he kept doing it, they'd eventually just roll into the back of his brain.

"I don't understand. This morning I couldn't escape them and now they're nowhere to be found." Paul said.

Michael shrugged. "What do you want me to do about it?" He slipped the pen into his cloak.

"You're Death. Can't you just wave your hand and make a portal appear?"

"What part of 'you're the only one who can open a portal to the other world' did you not understand?" Michael asked.

It was silent for a few minutes.

"Well, I guess that settles it." Paul started to stand up.

"What do you mean?"

Paul sighed, "I mean we tried. Obviously, Alacoria doesn't want me to fulfill my destiny. What else can you do?" Paul shrugged. "Now I can go to work." Paul headed for the door.

Michael sat up, "Um, no. You can't. You agreed to go to Alacoria."

Paul stopped just before he reached the door. "Yeah, because you pissed me off." He turned towards Michael.

"You can't just back out now."

"Why not?" He questioned.

"Because...I said so."

Paul rolled his eyes again.

"I'll pull rank."

Paul gave him a look.

"I won't let you leave the house. I'll quarantine everyone! I'll kill your boss! Shut off your electricity!"

Paul sighed, "Alright, fine. I'll make you a deal. If you can get us to Alacoria, I'll go. I'll 'fulfill my destiny'."

"Alright. Okay! Deal!" Michael spit into his hand before holding it out.

Paul made a face of disgust. "Other hand." He stated.

Michael nodded, holding out his other hand. Paul shook it.

"Okay. Now....." Michael trailed off.

"You don't know how to get into Alacoria, do you?" Paul asked.

"Well, I did! The portals that followed you around like girls with those boy bands!"

"You didn't have a plan B? You've known about this your entire life and you didn't have a plan B?"

"Give me a break! I didn't think you'd actually say yes! I thought I had another thirty years!" Michael exclaimed. "Alright, just let me think....." He started pacing. "No, not there......no....definitely not that.......we probably won't survive that.......we'd survive that but we'd probably be missing some of our body parts......"

"Can I sit down or...."

"Ah!" Michael cried. "The caves of Sonila!"

"Sorry, the caves of whaty what?"

"The caves of Sonila! The veil between the worlds is thinnest there! If we get you there, then maybe a portal will open up!"

"Okay. Where are the caves of Sonila?"

"Kentucky."

"Joy for the world," Paul said sarcastically.

Michael tilted his head at him in a way that said 'really?'.

"Okay. Then what are you waiting for? Magic us there." Paul said.

Michael gave Paul a look. "Teleport, Paul. Teleport. I teleport."

"Whatever. Just snap your fingers." Michael rolled his eyes but raised his hand and snapped his fingers. Nothing happened.

"What did you do?" Paul asked.

Michael frowned, snapping his fingers again.

"Oh, come on. Is this like that time in middle school again? You tried to teleport us to California but ended up flooding New York? Or that time in we were ten and instead of sending us to Disneyland you flooded the school with chocolate? Or that other time where you-"

"Shut up, Paul." Michael said.

"Um, you shut up?" Paul suggested, slightly offended.

"No, I mean it." He mumbled, staring at his hands. He snapped his fingers once more. Then again. And again. Nothing happened. "No. This can't be."

Paul wasn't sure if Michael was talking to him. "What?" He asked, puzzled.

"The barrier. We must have underestimated the situation in Alacoria. That's why no new portals have popped up. Those this morning were the last desperate attempts for help."

"What are you talking about?" Paul asked. "The link between worlds. I-I....I think it's fading."

"What? Is that even possible?" Paul questioned.

"I don't know. It must be. Maybe...I think....." Michael snapped his fingers again. And then again. His car keys flew off the table.

"It's disappearing."

"What's disappearing?" Paul asked, desperately confused.

Michael looked at him with wide eyes, "Magic. Magic's disappearing."

Paul stepped back in shock.

"We have to get you to Alacoria. Now."

Chapter Text

"What the hell are you talking about, Michael? How can magic just disappear?" Paul asked, jogging after Michael who was almost to Paul's car. 

"Get in," Michael said, swinging the passenger door open before hurrying to the driver's side. Paul got in just as Michael floored the gas and they shot forward. 

"Holy shit! What are you doing?!" Paul cried out. 

"It's been a while since I drove a Peculiar vehicle!" Michael exclaimed. 

"Then let me drive!" 

"No, I've got it!" Michael threw the car in reverse, spun around, then took off down the street, swerving in and out of traffic. 

"Okay, couple of things, first off, if you keep driving like this I'm going to be sick," Paul said, trying not to focus on how the car kept dodging between the lanes. 

"Put your seatbelt on." Was the only thing Michael said. 

Paul shut his eyes as he fumbled for the seatbelt as Michael ran a red light and skidded onto the freeway ramp. "Was that really necessary?" Paul asked, looking at Michael when he finally decided to stick to one lane. There weren't many cars on the freeway, so they could speed without constantly switching lanes. 

"Yes, Paul. If I can't teleport us there then there's something seriously wrong. We have to get you to Alacoria as soon as possible. Otherwise...." Michael trailed off. 

"Otherwise what? What'll happen?" Paul asked. 

Michael sighed. "There's this legend, been passed down in my family for generations. As Alacoria and Alvernia are sister words, there's this link between them, and it's said if all magic, all good magic, has gone from one world....it'll soon disappear from the other." Michael glanced at Paul. 

"So, wait, you're saying that there's no more magic in Alacoria?" 

"Nobody knows! We haven't heard from them in years. The Idicore could've taken over by now, or Alacoria may have been able to hold out. That's why it was so important you go to Alacoria, Paul. So that something like this never happened." 

Paul glanced down at the car floor. "What happens if magic completely disappears from Alvernia?" Michael didn't say anything, just kept his eyes on the road. "Michael. What happens if magic completely disappears from Alvernia?" Paul repeated himself. 

"If magic completely disappears from Alvernia, then there's no going back. Once it disappears from both worlds we'll never get it back. Magic will cease to exist. And if there's no magic I'll........" Michael didn't finish his sentence. 

Paul looked at Michael, concern covering his features. "You'll what?" Paul asked hesitantly, not quite sure he wanted to know the answer.

"My entire essence is made up of magic. Of spirit. If magic no longer exists, more than likely I'll fade out from existence." 

"What?!" 

"No biggie. Just the grim reaper will no longer exist, causing chaos to break out and everybody to wreak havoc." Michael continued. 

"You'll die if we don't complete this mission?!" 

"You're missing the big point here, Paul. If I'm dead, then people can't be reaped. Sooner or later, they'll figure out that they can't die and everything will descend into complete chaos and I'll be forever known as 'The Reaper Who Destroyed the Universe and Fucked Everything Up Because He Didn't Know How To Do His Damn Job'. For the few years of sanity they'll have left." 

"How come you never told me?!" 

"Because it was a legend! Nobody knew if it was real or not! We had no proof of anything!" 

Paul groaned, pushing the palm of his hands into his eyes. "Okay, what do we need to do? What's the plan?" Paul asked, removing his hands and blinking. 

"We get you to the caves. Hopefully, there's enough magic left by then to get you to Alacoria. Then, once we're there.....well, we'll figure that out when we get there." Michael said. 

"What? That's a horrible plan!" Paul exclaimed. 

"Well, do you have a better idea?!" Michael quizzed. 

"No," Paul muttered, crossing his arms. 

"That's what I thought. Now, sit there, be quiet, and let me drive." 

"Whatever." Paul leaned back against the seat, frowning. 

Michael rolled his eyes. This wasn't going to be a fun trip.
..................
"We can't keep stopping. We've only been driving five hours." Michael said. 

"Well, it's a town. If we're really doing this, I'm not going to Alacoria in a suit." Paul said, getting out of the car. 

Michael rolled his eyes but opened the door anyway. 

"We'll just stop for some supplies and then we'll get back on the road." 

"Fine. But we should hurry." 

Paul went into the nearest store, Michael following him. The cashier was nowhere in sight, perhaps back in the storage room. Paul couldn't see many people in the store, just a young girl near the front, and two boys near the cashier. Paul headed towards the back of the store and started searching through a rack of jeans. 

"Oh, so you can wear jeans but I can't?" Michael said in a mocking tone. 

Paul rolled his eyes, "I'm not the grim reaper." The girl from the front of the store earlier looked at Paul weirdly. Paul forced a smile and a nod. The girl walked away. 

"Can you please, decloak, or something? People think I'm crazy." Paul said. 

"Sure." Michael took off his cloak. 

Paul sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose, "You know what I meant." 

Michael laughed, snapping his fingers. "Alright, fine, is this better?" He asked. 

"Yes. Thank you." Michael went to pick up his cloak. 

"You're not seriously going to walk around in that, are you?" Paul asked. 

"What happened to 'oh, you're the grim reaper, you're not supposed to go walking around in jeans'?" 

"I'm not in the mood for this." 

"Fine. Just trying to have a little fun before I teeter out of existence." Michael said, flicking a shirt on a nearby shelf. 

"Would you shut up, you're not going to die." Paul looked at him. 

"Hmm? You sure? Cause at the rate you're trying on clothes, all the magic will disappear before you've even picked an outfit." 

"It hasn't even been five minutes!" 

"Five minutes too long!" 

"Whatever, just go find some clothes. I'm not staring at that t-shirt the rest of the time." Michael rolled his eyes but started towards the t-shirt section. "I know you're not flipping me off!" Paul called after him. 

He could see Michael's finger from the other side of the store. "So immature." He muttered, flipping through the jeans again. 

"I heard that!" Michael yelled. 

Paul rolled his eyes. He was not looking forward to the rest of this trip. 

After Paul found an outfit to wear, he searched the store for Michael. He finally found him in the men's jacket section. 

"You're Death. You don't get cold. Let's go." Paul started heading towards the cashiers counter. 

"Hey, wait." Michael followed him with a frown. 

"Hi! Did you find everything okay?" The cashier asked, smiling brightly. 

Paul nodded, setting his clothes on the counter. Michael gave him a look as he set his outfit on the counter. 

"Did anyone help you today?" The cashier asked.

 Paul shook his head. The cashier scanned the outfits and Paul's shoes, taking off the sensors. Michael glanced at his watch. By the time they were done here, Alacoria would be completely destroyed. 

"Alright, your total today is $59.99, cash or credit?" 

"Credit," Paul answered, reaching into his pocket for his wallet. 

Paul's eyes widened as he felt his empty pockets. 

Oh, no. How did I forget to grab my wallet! 

Paul was about to freak out when Michael pulled a credit card out of seemingly nowhere and handed it to the cashier. The cashier swiped the card, finishing the transaction. He put their outfits in a bag and handed it back to them. 

"Have a good day." He smiled brightly. 

"You too." Paul nodded, taking the bag and heading towards the door. "Your staff can turn into a credit card?" He asked once they were out of the store. 

"What? No. It's my dad's. He'll be pissed, but maybe I could write it off as a business expense." 

Paul narrowed his eyes at that. "Come on. We can change in the McDonald's bathroom."

Michael rolled his eyes and snapped his fingers. Suddenly, they were both wearing the outfits they'd pick out. 

Paul wore a simple grey t-shirt with dark blue jeans and plain white sneakers. Michael wore a black shirt with black skinny jeans and the same converse tennis as before. Paul's suit and Michael's cloak and his clothes were now in the bag. 

"Hey, it worked!" Michael exclaimed. Paul rolled his eyes. 

"There you two are." A deep voice growled. 

Paul and Michael both turned towards a young girl standing in the middle of the road. She had both hands a ways away from her body, her fingers bent at odd angles. She was breathing heavily and was hunched over, just staring at them. 

"That's the girl who was in the shop earlier," Paul stated. 

"I don't think she's a girl, Paul," Michael said. 

At once the girl began to transform. She curled in on herself, her spine practically molding beneath the skin. Her skin began to bubble up from underneath, turning it a sick shade of blue. She grew huge fangs and her fingernails grew out, giving her claws. 

Paul screamed, dropping the bag. "Peristic!" He screeched. 

Michael bent down to quickly search the bag for his cloak, trying to find the pen. 

"Where's the fucking pen?!" Michael screamed. 

The Peristic started towards them, drool dribbling down its chin. 

"Hurry up, it's coming!" Paul screamed, tugging on Michael's shirt. 

"Found it!" Michael held out the pen as it transformed into a sword. 

The Peristic screeched as it leaped towards them. 

Paul screamed again, shielding himself behind Michael, who swung the sword at the Peristic. It hit it, cutting its arm and sending it into a parking meter, causing it to screech. 

"You just pissed it off! Hit it!" Paul shouted. 

"You wanna try?!" Michael yelled over his shoulder. 

The Peristic hissed, advancing towards them. Paul whimpered, tightening his grip on Michael's shirt. It slashed at them with its claws and Michael tried to jump back but tripped on Paul. 

"Ah!"

Paul fell into a bush, the branches poking into his back. Michael fell backward, smacking his head on the concrete, causing a searing pain to explode throughout. His vision blurred and he couldn't move for a few seconds expect to gasp in pain. He lifted his hand and touched the wound gently. He winced and looked at his hand smeared with blood. 

Paul screamed, thrashing around in the bush, trying to get out as the Peristic advanced on him. 

Michael forced himself to get up and crawl towards the sword. 

"Michael!" Paul's sleeve was stuck on a branch and he couldn't get it free. All he could do was watch in terror as it raised its claw, ready to deliver its killing blow. Deciding he didn't want to watch the horrid creature kill him, Paul shut his eyes and prepared himself for the sharp sting of the Peristics claw. Only it never came. 

Paul opened one eye to see the sword sticking through its chest. It fell over, green liquid flowing from the wound, leaking onto the sidewalk. Michael pulled the sword out and wiped it clean on the Peristics shirt. 

Paul finally ripped his sleeve free and stood up. "Thanks." He said, stepping out of the bush and away from the body. 

"No problem." 

Just then, the Peristics wound gushed out globs of green mush as well as the liquid, catching Paul off guard. 

"Ugh! I hate Peristics!" Paul cringed. "But, wait," He said as if realizing something, "Peristics are native to the Western part of the country, what is one doing in New York? And what did it want with us?" 

"I don't know. But we shouldn't stick around to find out. It might be part of a pack." Michael answered, staring at the body. 

"Yeah, you're probably right." Paul agreed. "Whoa, holy shit, are you okay?" He asked, upon noticing Michael's bloody hand. 

Michael touched the back of his head again. The bleeding had already slowed tremendously, and it wasn't as tender as before. 

"I should be fine. It's already starting to heal. I can't die. At least I don't think so." Michael told him. 

"What?" Paul asked, slightly concerned, eyes wide. 

"Just get in the car. The cashier probably called the police. This is a small town. They should be here soon." 

Michael transformed the sword into a pen again and slipped it into his jean pocket, before starting towards the car. 

"Whoa, wait-" Paul started to call out, but stopped as he carefully walked around the body of the Peristic. "You're not gonna die, are you?!" He asked, jogging to reach Michael. 

"Just get in the car, Paul."

Chapter Text

The road was mostly dark, except for the few cars occasionally passing and the streetlights far in-between. It was a little past midnight and Michael had been driving for nearly six hours since their fight with the Peristic, only stopping at gas stations and truck stops for Paul to use the bathroom, fill up the car, and get some food. 

The only sound was the quiet rumble of the car as it drove along the road, the hushed music coming from the radio, and Paul's soft breathing from the passenger seat. He had lowered the back of the seat halfway, so that he wasn't sitting straight up, but wasn't lying all the way back. 

Michael yawned, trying to focus his attention on driving. It wasn't long before he couldn't keep his eyes open and slowly fell asleep. The car started drifting into the other lane, traveling straight towards the other car. 

The driver started honking its horn, once at first, then frantically. Both boys woke up, slightly confused at what was happening until they realized. Paul screamed as Michael grabbed the wheel and jerked it, causing them to swerve out of the path of the car and do multiple 360's. 

They both screamed as the car spun around and around, finally stopping on the side of the road. They sat in silence for a moment, catching their breath. 

"What the fuck, Michael?! You fell asleep?" Paul yelled. 

"I...Paul, it's getting worse." 

"What do you mean?" 

"I fell asleep. I usually don't need to sleep." Michael breathed. 

Paul wasn't sure what to say. "Let's just stop at a motel. We can both get some sleep and start driving some more in the morning." 

Michael hesitated. "I...alright." He didn't move. 

"Do you want me to drive?" Paul asked, concerned. 

"No. No, I've got it." Michael turned the car around so they were facing the right way, and continued down the road. 

............

"I'm so tired," Paul said, collapsing on the closest bed. Michael threw his cloak on the other bed before going to turn on the tv. 

"You're gonna watch tv?" He asked, opening his eyes and turning his head so he could see what Michael was doing. 

"Definitely not this." Michael snapped his fingers. 

The tv remained on a Spanish soap opera show. 

"Hey, you underestimate it. These soap operas can be really dramatic. I mean, half the time I can't understand a word they say but you can just feel the betrayal." Paul said, sitting up and swinging his body so he was facing the tv. 

Michael rolled his eyes, ignoring Paul and snapping his fingers. It was then Paul noticed the mini-fridge. 

"Ooh, I wonder if they have anything." He got up and crossed the room. "Ah! It's empty." Paul said disappointingly. 

"Could've told you that," Michael said from his spot on the edge of his bed. 

Paul was halfway back to his bed when Michael snapped his fingers. At once the tv changed to show a couple of arguing with orange sparks flying out of their hands, eyes a murky orange. Octaions. Paul's brain immediately thought. 

"I don't remember the last time I watched Alvernia tv," Paul said, stopping to look at the tv. Michael looked at him. "I used to watch it all the time, but then, I think, after a while, I just forgot about it." Paul continued mindlessly, drifting over to Michael and sitting down next to him. 

Paul watched the show, thinking about all the times when he was a kid that he and his parents would gather and sit in the living room and try to guess which type of magic they had. They'd sit there for hours, smiling and laughing without a care in the world. Paul couldn't remember the last time they did that. 

"I haven't spoken to my parents in seven years."

"Paul," Michael started but before he could say anything else the tv abruptly cut off, changing to show a girl standing in front of a castle that Paul hadn't seen in years. 

"All day, we have been getting reports of magic disappearing all over Alvernia. Magicians of all types have been having great decreases in magic, some disappearing altogether. The reaper family has told us that this is nothing to worry about. That once every six hundred years Alacoria and Alvernia drift apart, weakening the barrier. They say that this is temporary and should be resolved within a few days.

"However, many believe that this is the beginning of the prophecy and once magic disappears from both worlds, it will be gone forever...Magicians are advised to keep using magic as much as they can until the barrier between our sister world is once again strong. Creatures are using this vulnerable time to take advantage of us and our Peculiars allies, so magicians are urged to keep an eye out, for you and your neighbors. It seems that they are mostly attacking Peculiars and Pertilians.

Michael glanced at Paul.

"If your child shows symptoms of Pertilian magic, please call the hotline at the bottom of your screen.

The tv blanked out and suddenly it was back to the Peculiars Spanish soap opera. 

"I was right. Magic's disappearing. Not just from me but from everyone, everywhere. There's not even enough magic for the Alvernia channel to broadcast everywhere."

Paul stood up, crossing the room, not quite sure how to handle the news. "How long do we have?" He asked. 

"My guess? The way magic is disappearing?" Michael sighed, "Two days, max."

"What?!" 

"You have to remember though, Alacoria runs slightly slower than here. Every twelve hours here is a day there, so once we get there we should have four days to fix this before...." Michael didn't need to finish his sentence and Paul wasn't sure what he could say. 

"We should get some sleep." Paul finally decided to say, rubbing a hand over his face. Michael looked like he wanted to say something but couldn't force the words out of his mouth. 

"You're probably right." He finally forced himself to say. Paul nodded.

.................

Paul woke up sometime later to a loud car pulling into the motel parking lot. He groaned, turning on his side and looking at the clock on the nightstand table. 2:03am, the red numbers flashed. He rubbed his eyes, sitting up, and squinting. 

The motel room was almost completely dark, the only light coming from the clock and the moonlight shining through the blinds that they never closed. Michael was sound asleep, curled up, using his cloak as a blanket. 

Just then, a huge thump came from outside. Paul narrowed his eyes, getting up and walking over the window. He peered out, eyes searching for the source of the noise. After a few seconds of no movement, Paul was ready to give up and go back to bed, when all of a sudden he saw them. There were four men, looking in the car and...smelling them?

Paul made a face of disgust. 

What the fuck? 

One of them smelled Paul's car, then called the others over. It was then Paul realized that maybe they weren't human. Paul quickly crossed the room, setting a hand on Michael's arm to shake him awake. 

"Hey, wake up." Michael groaned, swatting his hand away. "Come on, get up," Paul said again, shaking him some more. 

"Go back to bed." He muttered, trying to push Paul's hand off him. 

"Someone's outside." Michael shot up, nearly smacking Paul in the head. "What? Why didn't you say that to begin with, Paul?" Michael got up, suddenly seeming wide awake as he crossed the room to where Paul stood only moments ago. 

"Please tell me it's not more Peristics. I can't handle any more of those." Paul said, desperately not wanting to fight more of those creatures. 

"No, they're not Peristics," Michael answered. "Oh, thank the heavens." "They're Kepsies." 

"What?! Kepsies?! The horrid flesh-eating gross ass monster looking things with big claws and terrifying wings?!" Paul screeched. 

"Those are the ones." 

Paul's widened and he put his hands on the side of his head as he tried not to freak out. 

"And why are you asking me, you know what Kepsies are," Michael said, narrowing his eyes as he turned around. 

"I was hoping I got my creature facts mixed up!"

Before Michael could say anything they heard a large growl from outside. Michael peeked out the blinds again, before turning back around, eyes wide. "There's one fact you forgot." 

Paul narrowed his eyes, waiting for Michael to tell him. 

"They have an excellent sense of smell." 

Paul's eyes widened. 

"We need to go. Right now."  Michael grabbed his cloak, quickly putting it on. "Out the bathroom window." 

They quickly headed towards the bathroom. 

"How are we going to fit out that?" Paul exclaimed, pointing at the tiny rectangle window near the ceiling. 

A loud growl was heard outside their hotel room door, moments before the door started shaking, hinges starting to come out of place. 

Paul nearly screamed, shutting the bathroom door and locking it. 

"We're about to find out," Michael said, eyes wide as he stepped on the toilet, opening the window before using his elbow to knock out the scream. "Give me a lift!" Michael grabbed the window. 

"Are you serious?" Paul asked, astounded. 

"Now is not the time to be arguing!" Michael hissed. 

Paul threw his hands up in the air but helped Michael up anyway. Once Michael was halfway out the window, he softly screeched. "Nope! Put me down!" He yelled. 

"No!" Paul yelled, "Just go!" 

Michael swung his leg over. A loud crash came from the motel room. 

"Fucking go!" Paul practically shoved Michael the rest of the way out the window. 

"Paul!" Michael screamed. 

Paul stepped up on the toilet, grabbing the windowsill, lifting himself up. 

The bathroom door started shaking, more than the motel room did. It wouldn't hold very long. 

Paul threw up his leg over just as he realized that the motel room was on the second floor and if he fell, it was twenty feet to the ground. He quietly whimpered before realizing maybe hitting the cement would be a better option than getting torn apart and eaten by Kepsies. 

He slowly lowered himself onto the tiny ledge. He looked at Michael who was about a foot away from him. He was holding onto the edge of the roof. 

"Come on," He hissed, eyes wide. 

Paul used one hand to reach up and grab the roof. Once he felt he had a good enough grip, he let go and grabbed the roof with his other hand. 

"Now move!" Michael whispered through his teeth. 

Paul reluctantly started slowly moving across. The ledge his feet were on was only about an inch wide so the only thing keeping him from falling was his grip on the roof. Paul mentally cursed himself for not going to the gym more often. 

He was about three feet away from the window when he felt someone grab his shirt, pulling him to the left. He was about to scream but before he could a hand was covering his mouth and he was looking into Michael's bright blue eyes and hey, he wasn't falling to his death. 

A loud smash came from the hotel bathroom and Michael shoved Paul against the wall, where neither of them would be seen. Michael still had his hand over his mouth and

Paul's eyes were starting to go wonky from staring into Michael's shining eyes. 

Really, how can someone's eyes be that blue? Paul wondered. 

Michael finally removed his hand and moved so they were side-by-side. Paul blinked rapidly, trying to get his eyes back in focus. He finally saw that they were in a little corner carved into the side of the building. If he turned his head towards Michael he could see some of the parking lot. 

"On three, we run," He whispered. 

"Where?" Paul whispered back. 

Michael rolled his eyes, "Just follow me." 

He looked back towards the parking lot. "One, two, three," Michael hauled himself over the railing that Paul hadn't even noticed. They both ran down the path, passing multiple rooms that Paul hoped were empty. They ran down the stairs and to the nearest car, a black Honda. 

"What are you doing?" Paul asked. "My car's over there." 

"Oh, that's cute, you thought we were taking your car." Michael said before using his elbow to smash the window. 

"Get in." 

With wide eyes, Paul ran around to the passenger seat. 

Michael was trying to hot wire the car. 

"What are you doing?" Paul exclaimed. 

"What the hell does it look like I'm doing?!" 

"You're not doing that right, move." Paul leaned over and shoved Michael's hands out of the way, grabbing the wires from him. 

"You know how to hot wire a car?!" Michael exclaimed. 

"I didn't have any money after I left Alvernia." Paul responded. 

"There they are!" Michael looked up to see the Kepsies on the second floor, heading towards them. 

"Hurry up! Paul, hurry up!" Michael started moving around in his seat. 

"Stop moving!" 

Michael almost kneed Paul in the head. 

"Paul! They're coming!" 

"I got it, go!" Paul leaned back just as the car roared to life. 

Michael threw the car in reverse, sending the car flying backward. 

"Go, go!" Paul held onto the handle above the passenger door as Michael floored it. 

They shot out of the parking lot, narrowly avoiding the Kepsies, and turned right. 

"Keep driving! They could follow us!" Paul said. 

"You act like I was going pull over and stop for burgers!"

Chapter Text

They finally arrived at the caves of Sonila just as the sun was peeking through the trees. 

"We'll have to go on foot from here. I can't exactly drive the car through the forest now, can I?" Michael said rhetorically. 

He slowed to a stop at the side of the road, turning the car off and throwing the keys over his shoulder.

"I have no choice but to do this, right?" Paul turned towards Michael. 

"Well, if you're completely fine with Alacoria being destroyed, magic disappearing forever, me dying, and the world descending into chaos, then sure, you don't have to," Michael said, giving Paul a pointed look. 

"No need for the sarcastic tone. You could've just said no." Paul muttered as they got out of the car. 

"Well, if you don't want sarcastic answers, don't ask stupid questions." 

Paul kept his mouth shut. 

He followed Michael through the trees, stepping over big branches that fell and trying not to trip on them. He tried not to stab himself with stray twigs, and avoid the low hanging branches that were in danger of smacking himself in the face, while simultaneously trying not to fall in another bush. 

"You didn't say we'd be walking through the forest." Paul complained. 

Michael rolled his eyes, "Oh, grow up. Can't you handle a little walk through your local forest?" 

"You know what? No, I can't because I live in the city, where there aren't any forests-ah!" Paul tripped on a log, flying forward. Pal wasn't quite sure how but instead of landing face-first in the dirt, Michael was holding him in his arms, looking surprised as he felt. He had one arm near Paul's shoulders and another around his waist. 

"Nope." Michael said before dropping Paul. 

"Ah!" Paul landed in a pile of leaves, a twig sitting threateningly close to his head. Michael stepped over Paul and continued walking. 

"Hey!" Paul whined, propping himself on his elbows, looking in the direction Michael walked. 

"Come on, we don't have all day!" He called from somewhere between the trees. 

Paul rolled his eyes. "Coming!" He yelled, before getting up and brushing the leaves off of him. 

I better go after him. Don't wanna get lost and then get eaten by a wild animal. 

Paul smiled to himself before realizing. "Hey, Michael, there's no bears in here, right?" He hurried in the direction of Michael's laugh.

.............

"Don't step in that," Michael said as they neared the cave. 

"Step in what?" Paul asked, slightly horrified at what Michael meant. 

"Just don't step anywhere I wouldn't step. And I wouldn't step by that big rock to the right of us." Was all he got in response. 

Paul made a face, shuffling closer to Michael, concerned that a bear was going to come out at any moment and eat them. 

"Geez, Paul, give me some space, any closer and you're going to be humping my leg." 

"I just don't want to get eaten." 

Michael rolled his eyes, "Relax. I'm the grim reaper. You won't die for as long as I don't want you too." 

They entered the cave, and Paul felt the cool air blowing right through the burgundy sweater they had stopped to steal from some campers they came across. 

"Yeah. That's right. You're right. I keep forgetting that, thanks." Paul felt himself relax a bit. 

Michael narrowed his eyes. "Did you mean that sarcastically or...." Michael trailed off, confused. 

"What? No, that was sincere." Paul answered. 

"Oh, okay." 

It was silent for about thirty seconds. 

"Hey, wait, what do you mean you keep forgetting that? Forgetting what? That I'm the grim reaper or the fact that you can't die unless I let you?" Michael questioned. 

"The fact that I can't die unless you let me, why on earth would I forget you're the grim reaper? I've known you since we were kids. What kind of person do you think I am?" Paul felt slightly offended. 

"Well, I was just askin'. No need to be like that." 

As they walked deeper and deeper into the cave it got darker and darker and Paul felt more frightened than he did completely exposed in the middle of a forest. "Uh, hey, any chance that you grabbed a flashlight back at those people's camp? I mean, I may be the guy of the prophecy, it doesn't mean I can see in the dark." 

Michael rolled his eyes again but pulled a flashlight out of his cloak. 

"You're lucky I did." He commented. 

He turned it on and within seconds and shining brightly, lighting up the cave walls and making Paul feel a lot better. 

"Okay, thanks, now I can actually see the potential danger coming at us." 

Michael resisted the urge to roll his eyes once more. 

"Hey, why did you put the cloak back on?" Paul asked. 

Michael made a face, wondering if Paul was actually serious. 

"Because I thought it was better than carrying it around everywhere. Why the hell won't you shut up?" 

"Hey! So I get chatty when I'm nervous, so what? Do you still talk to trees?" 

"No!" Michael exclaimed defensively. "But I can tell you still cling to me like a scared four-year-old with their mom." He added. 

It was only then Paul realized he had been holding onto the back of Michael's shirt. He quickly let go and crossed his arms. 

"Do not," he mumbled. 

"You literally have been gripping my shirt for the last ten minutes! You can't possibly make up an argument to defend that!" 

"Oh, really well-" Paul was thankfully interrupted by Michael's phone ringing. 

They stopped as Michael handed Paul the flashlight so he could dig his phone out of his cloak. 

"Hello?" 

"You get service down here? Who's your provider?" 

Michael ignored Paul. 

"Michael! Thank goodness you answered! It's Clara." 

"Clara? What is it? Are you okay?" 

"Who's Clara?" Paul asked. 

Michael turned away from him so he could hear Clara better. 

"Yeah, I'm fine, but I'm not so sure about everything else over here. It's a madhouse." 

"What's going on?" Michael asked. 

"Everybody's really worried. Magic is disappearing rapidly. The legend....

"I know. I'm with Paul at the caves of Sonila. We're trying to open a portal to Alacoria." 

"You're....you're with Paul?

Michael glanced back at Paul who had wandered a little way away and was making hand puppets on the cave wall and paying absolutely no attention. 

"Yeah." 

"How....how is it?

"If I'm being honest...I have no idea. It's weird. Little like Déjà vu." Michael answered, watching Paul. He shook his head, turning away, "That's not important right now, though. What's my family doing?" 

"Going crazy. They're running around trying to control the hysteria. I haven't even talked to Cole since this all started. It's just been insane.

"I know. We're trying to fix it." Michael said. 

He heard some background yelling, "I gotta go, but Michael, whatever you're doing, do it fast. I'll try and keep you updated if I find some time." 

"Alright." 

"And Michael?

"Yeah?" 

"Be safe. And hurry. For all our sakes." 

That was the last thing he heard Clara say before the phone clicked, signaling she had hung up. Michael slid the phone into his pocket, sighing. 

"Hey!" He called, getting Paul's attention. "If you're done acting like a five-year-old, do you think we could go?" 

Paul jogged over, smiling crookedly. "Sorry, I was trying to entertain myself while also distracting myself from the horrors of being down in a cave when monsters are after me." 

Michael rolled his eyes, "Whatever. Let's go." Michael continued on, grabbing the flashlight from Paul. 

Paul trotted after Michael, "So, uh, who's Clara?" Paul asked. 

"You really can't shut up, can you?" 

"Nope. Come on, tell me. Who is she?" 

"You know, frankly, I don't think it's any of your business." Michael said. "I mean, you pretended I didn't exist for the last seven years of your life. You actually ignored my existence yesterday morning." 

"I know but-" 

"No. No, Paul. You have no right to know about my life alright?" Michael snapped, starting to get annoyed. 

"You're right." Paul said. "And I'm sorry. It wasn't you I was ignoring. It was...all of it. The prophecy, everyone in the town, my parents....magic. I just.....I had never fit in there, not really. I was 'prophecy boy, the savior of the worlds'. Everyone wanted to be my friend because they knew if I succeed they'd be famous as well." 

Michael stopped, turning around to face Paul who was standing almost two feet. "What do you mean if?" He asked. 

Paul looked at him and shrugged, telling Michael he wasn't sure what he was talking about. 

"You said 'if I succeed'." 

Paul glanced at the cave floor, "You caught onto that, huh?" 

Paul's brown eyes seemed to shine in the dark, the light of the flashlight reflecting on them, causing his pupils to shrink and turn a slightly caramel color. Michael could practically see the realness in them, briefly wondering how long he'd been feeling like this. 

"You can't really blame me, though. Destined to save two worlds from chaos, big weight to carry." 

"Paul, are you....are you telling me you're scared? Is that why you've put off the quest for so long? Because you're afraid you'll fail?" 

"Wow, busting out the three words I've been avoiding my whole life. Fear, afraid, and fail. You got them all." Paul said, trying to sound lighthearted but failing miserably. "But, um, yeah. You pretty much summed it all up." 

Michael hesitated, not wanting to say the wrong thing. "Paul...you're not gonna fail. Destiny is a hell of a thing but it knows. It wouldn't have chosen you if you weren't capable of completing it." 

"That's the point of a prophecy. You might fail or you might succeed." Paul said. 

"Yeah, but that prophecy didn't count on you being who you are. Destiny didn't count on you being a great magician. It didn't count on you being as loyal and selfless as you are. And yeah, sure, maybe you've been a little selfish over the past years but you're here now. And to be honest, you didn't take much convincing. But still, I'd rather have you than...David." 

"Oh god, not David." Paul said, remembering David and his horrible personality. 

"Yeah." Michael breathed, nodding. "Be thankful the prophecy didn't choose someone who's ego was so infinitely high that he couldn't get his own head out of his ass for one second to think about what everything means." 

Paul softly chuckled, glancing at the floor before returning his gaze to Michael. "You know, you were the only one I could actually count on when I was younger. The only person I could actually tell wanted to be friends with me. You were kinda in the same boat as me." 

Paul partially smiled. "Guess you were right. Some things haven't changed." 

Michael wasn't completely sure what to say to that. What do you say when something like that happens? 

"We should get going. Can't waste any more time. Alacoria waits for no one. Not even me." Paul took the flashlight from Michael before slowly continuing down the path. 

"Yeah," Michael whispered, hearing the slightest echo of the cave walls before turning and following Paul.

................

Paul groaned, "How much longer?" 

"For the last time, we'll get there when we get there!" Michael rolled his eyes. 

"Hey, whoa, do you hear that?" Paul asked, stopping. 

"I can't hear anything over your loud mouth." 

"No, I'm serious, listen." Paul put a finger over Michael's lips. 

Michael gave him a death glare and was about to tell Paul to get his finger away from his mouth when he heard it too. He could faintly hear the roar of what sounded like rushing water. 

"Is that a...river?" Paul asked.

 Michael rolled his eyes. "It's not uncommon. Lots of caves have rivers in them. Haven't you ever seen a movie?" 

Paul raised his eyebrows, "You've watched a Peculiar movie?" 

"There's a lot of things you don't know about me, Paul," Michael said before continuing down the path. 

"Like what?" Paul asked in disbelief, jogging after him. 

They continued walking, eventually coming across a river. 

"Whoa. Wouldn't want to fall into that." 

Michael shone the flashlight onto the rushing water below. 

The water flowed from a crevasse in the cave wall, spilling onto the rocks below and flowing down, deep into the cave where Michael couldn't see. Paul was right, nobody wanted to fall into that. The current was strong, they'd be swept under in a matter of seconds. 

"We'd better keep moving. Who knows how far away we still are." Michael turned away, beckoning Paul to follow him. 

"You know you never told me why we have to go so deep. I mean we're already in the caves. Can't you just wack out your staff, say some magic words, and take us there?" Paul asked. 

Michael stopped, squeezing his eyes shut. "Paul, do we need to stop and think about what you just said? Because out of context...." 

"Really bad?" Paul asked.

"Let's just ignore everything you said." Michael continued to walk forward. "But seriously, didn't you ever take a History class?" 

"I took them. I just can't guarantee I paid attention." 

Michael rolled his eyes. 

"All Alvernia caves are protected by an outer layer. In case Peculiars ever wandered in, they wouldn't stumble upon them. We're in the outer layer now, but we should be close by. Alvernians weren't very fond of walking long distances." 

Paul snorted, "First time I can relate." 

"You go on daily walks." 

"Just because I go on daily walks doesn't mean I like trekking miles into a dark cave." 

"What, you think I enjoy this? That I normally explore caves alone to clear my head?" Michael said sarcastically. 

"I don't know. It's been a while since we talked." 

Michael elbowed an unsuspecting Paul in the ribs. 

"Ow!" Paul whined, rubbing his side. "I forgot you used to do that." He smiled slightly. 

Michael rolled his eyes again, "Only when you say something stupid." 

The pair continued walking, Paul rambling and Michael pretending he was listening. 

They could still hear the faint rush of the river behind them echoing off the cave walls in between Paul's loud voice. 

"Well, congratulations Paul, if there were any enemies within the next fifty miles, they know we're coming," Michael said. 

"I'm not that loud!" Paul exclaimed, his voice bouncing off the walls and echoing throughout the cave. 

"I'm sure the entire cave didn't hear you say that." 

Paul rolled his eyes but didn't say anything. 

They were silent for the next few minutes as they continued walking. 

Even Michael was starting to get silently bored. 

Paul sighed exasperatedly when the path split into two. "What do we do now?" Paul asked. 

"Well," Michael shone the flashlight down both paths, "We pick a tunnel and hope-" Michael abruptly stopped talking as he noticed something on the wall on the first tunnel. He narrowed his eyes, walking forward. 

"What is it?" Paul asked from behind him. 

Michael ran his hand over the symbol carved into the wall. 

There was an upside down triangle, a circle meeting all its endpoints. A dot was in the middle of the triangle that emitted three lines of equal length in different directions. One straight up, one to the left and one to the right, cutting the circle into three equal parts like a pie chart. Three ovals of the same size came from the endpoints of the lines. 

"Wow. That looks complicated to carve into a wall." Paul stated. 

"Paul, you dumbass. This is it." Michael turned towards him, "This is the cave of Sonila." 

Paul's face lit up, "You mean it? We're finally here? Halle-fucking-lujah!" He exclaimed. "It only took, what? A couple of hours?" 

Out of nowhere, a loud roar echoed throughout the cave, causing both boys' eyes to widen and back up, facing the darkness of the tunnel. 

"What the fuck was that?" Paul asked. 

Michael pointed the flashlight into the blackness as loud footsteps made their way towards them, shaking the entire cave. 

"You know what? I don't think I actually wanna know." Paul said shakily, panic rising in him as he stared at the same area the flashlight was lightning. 

"Well, looks like we're about to find out." Michael wavered. 

The first thing they saw was its foot. It was brown, and furry, with sharp claws, like a cat, if a cat was the size of a bear. As it stepped forward more and more of it was illuminated by the white light. 

Michael raised the flashlight to the monster's face as Paul and him cowered closely together. Its whole body was covered in dark fur, and it had a mane, like a lion. It had humongous sharp teeth like a wild saber-toothed tiger, and wide eyes like a cat, probably so it could see in the dark. The monster roared causing Paul and Michael to scream so loud it echoed for miles. 

"Kill it! Kill it!" Paul shrieked, clutching desperately to Michael's cloak. 

Michael practically threw the flashlight at Paul and started to fumble for the pen but he couldn't concentrate because Paul was screaming in his ear and shaking him and they were seconds away from being eaten and the big cat bear monster was very intimidating. 

"Where the fuck is it?!" Michael screeched. 

The monster roared again, before charging. Michael felt the pen tip in the last pocket he checked and his eyes widened as he brought it out. He was milliseconds away from transforming it when he was roughly shoved to the ground. 

He felt a weight on top of him and the coldness of the stones pressed to his cheek. Paul rolled off of him as the monster growled. 

"Oh, now you decide to help." Michael lunged towards the pen, grabbing it and transforming it into a sword. 

"Oh, sure, only you could banter while we're seconds away from death!" Paul exclaimed, trying to shrink into the cave wall. 

"I am Death!" Michael yelled, sliding on his knees across the stone, slashing at the monster's foot. It shrieked in agony and Michael nearly avoided getting stepped on. 

Michael ended up behind the monster, while it struggled to turn around, slamming itself into cave walls. It was dangerous and scary but huge, making it harder to turn around.

It was then Michael came to the realization. 

"I remember now!" Michael exclaimed, as the beast finally turned around. He slid under it, jabbing the sword upwards, hoping to hit a weak part in its body. 

"Well, please, for the love of Alvernia, tell me!" Paul screamed, grabbing the flashlight and holding it to his chest. 

The monster roared and cranked its head towards Paul who's eyes went wide and scrambled past it to Michael's side. 

"It's the Dojanima. It guards the cave to Sonila." 

"No shit!" Paul exclaimed. 

Michael shoved Paul up against the wall, narrowing avoiding the tail of the beast, littered with spikes. 

"Oh, great! It has a tail!" 

"Just stay here. If you die, the whole world will be screwed." Michael told Paul. 

Paul grabbed Michael by the cloak, bringing him so close that their noses were millimeters apart. 

The beast's tail slammed into the cave wall next to him. 

"You can't do this without me." Paul said, letting go. 

Michael ignored him. "Just stay here. I mean it, Paul!" 

Michael ran towards the beast, slicing at its underbelly. 

"Don't tell me what to do!" Paul yelled after him, picking up the flashlight. 

Michael continued to ignore him, trying to concentrate on the Dojanima and not getting killed. The beast roared, setting its sight on Michael. 

It slashed forward with one of its front paws and Michael jumped back to avoid getting hit.

While Michael was battling the Dojanima, Paul was trying to figure out a way to help him. 

Okay, no weapon. That's fine, that's fine...maybe distract it? Yell? Then it'll just attack me and Michael'll have to save me and it'll probably cause more harm than good. 

Paul ducked, curling into the wall to avoid getting hit by the beasts wild tail.

Michael cursed loudly as he was knocked backward, sword ways away, and the beast snarled as it advanced towards him. He was cornered and had nowhere to go. 

Oh, okay, not good, definitely not good! 

Paul desperately looked around for something he could use as a weapon. 

The sword was too far away to reach, but he could....Paul reached down, picking up a stone and throwing it at the Dojanima. 

It bounced off its skin harmlessly and landed on the ground. 

It advanced towards Michael who crawled backward to try and get away from it. 

Paul was running out of time. He had no weapon, no sense of defense, and he had to keep dodging the tail. 

There was no choice, no option.....except one. 

Paul looked down at his hands, trying to quickly decide. 

It had been so long, who knew if it would even work. 

He glanced at Michael who was trying to evade the Dojanima but couldn't. 

No, he had to do this. He wouldn't put his pride above Michael's life. 

He set the flashlight on top of a rock so he could see properly. 

He took a deep breath before swirling his hands, closing his eyes, and focusing. Trying to awake the part of him he hid away seven years ago. He willed it to form, to fill up the cracks inside. To travel through his blood and awaken. 

"Come on," He muttered, trying desperately. 

Then he felt it. 

A tiny spark. 

A feeling he nearly forgot. 

He almost lost concentration because of it. 

He willed it to grow, to spread throughout his body, to his fingertips. When he felt the warm heat in his hands he knew he had done it. 

Michael had his back pressed against the cave wall, cheek turned away from the horrid beast as it snarled, drool dripping from its mouth. Michael squeezed his eyes shut, waiting for his inevitable doom and just hoping somehow Paul would take it as his chance to run. 

But somehow his doom never came. 

He opened his eyes to see the Dojanima laying on the ground, with a hole burnt into his side. 

Michael turned his wide eyes towards Paul, who was breathing heavily. 

Purple flames were still reflected in his orbs, even as it disappeared from his hands. 

Michael wasn't sure what to say. A lot had happened within the past few minutes. 

Somehow the only thing to come out of Michael's mouth was "Holy shit."

Chapter Text

Michael stood up just as the flames in Paul's eyes faded. Paul let his hands fall down to his side as Michael stared at him. 

"Surprised that worked." Paul said. 

"You're a Pertilian. You're magic's more powerful than others. Last longer." Michael said slowly, still slightly in shock. 

"That makes sense." 

Michael stared at him a bit longer. "Paul, you just used..." 

"Yeah, I know. Well, I had to to save your life, right? Told you you couldn't do it without me." Paul tried to sound casual. Michael didn't say anything. "Fuck Michael, stop staring at me like that. I was going to have to use it eventually, so what's the big deal?" Paul asked, getting slightly defensive. 

That you used it of your own free will. That you actually used your magic. It matters a lot. Michael wanted to say. 

"Let's keep going, alright? Unless there's more angry creatures we need to worry about?" Paul grabbed the flashlight and trudged past Michael. Michael turned, watching Paul stare at the Dojanima who was so big it nearly blocked the path. 

He just used the one thing he spent seven years trying not to. He doesn't want to talk about it. Understandable. Ignore it? 

Michael shook his head, trying to get rid of his thoughts as he followed Paul. 

"We'll go around?" Paul asked, looking at Michael for confirmation. 

He nodded. 

Paul started towards the end of the cave wall, trying to step past it. Michael wanted to laugh at how ridiculous he looked. 

He rolled his eyes, "What the hell are you doing?" 

"I don't wanna touch it. It tried to eat me." Paul pressed his back against the wall and side stepped with his hands outstretched, touching the wall. 

"What am I watching you do right now?" 

Suddenly, the beast flinched and Paul shrieked, falling to the ground. Michael laughed, kicking the Dojanima's foot. "Don't be such a baby. It's just reflexes." 

"Yeah," Paul standing up and adjusting his sweater, "Sure." 

Michael laughed again. 

Michael just stepped over the beast, not repeating Paul's actions. He crossed his arms and looked at Paul, head tilted and a slightly amused look on his face. 

"Whatever," Paul pouted, "Let's just go." 

He turned and started down the cave. Michael laughed away and jogged after him. 

It was so easy to fall back in pattern with Paul. To pretend they were kids again and the only worry they had was whether or not they were going to complete an assignment on time and not how long they had left to live and what would happen if they failed. Michael knew he should talk to Paul about his magic, but Paul was always so defensive as a child, so stubborn that it pissed Michael off. If Paul didn't want somebody to know something, then that was it, you would just have to deal with it. 

Michael was his best friend, and even he sometimes had a hard time getting through Paul's walls. Most of the time it would lead to an argument. Sometimes they wouldn't talk for days. One of them would eventually apologize but then they'd never speak of the subject again. If Paul and Michael were continuing with the theme of nothing changing, they'd be right on track. 

Michael sighed. 

Why does everything in life have to be so difficult? 

"Whatcha think' about?" Paul asked, flicking the light to illuminate Michael for a second before turning it back on the path. 

"How do you know I'm thinking about something?" He questioned. 

"I've known you for practically my whole life. Whenever you're thinking about something you always do that thing where you exhale through your nose and your eyes narrow just slightly and you kinda look bored to anyone who glances at you but in reality you're actually thinking really hard about something." 

Michael was slightly surprised Paul actually paid attention to Michael's subconscious actions. "Fuck Paul, if I ever need somebody to write my biography I'll hit you up." Paul laughed. 

"I just pick up on certain things, you know?" He shrugged sheepishly, looking at the floor. Michael nodded, even though Paul couldn't see him. 

They continued to walk throughout the cave, eventually reaching an interchange in the cave. It split off into five sections. 

"Which way do we go?" Paul asked, flashing the light down one of the tunnels. 

"Nowhere." Michael responded. "I can feel in the air. The magic. This is where the veil is thinnest." 

As Michael mentioned it, Paul seemed to take notice of it. He could feel the power floating around. It was almost overwhelming. It had been years since Paul was surrounded by any kind of magic, but this was more powerful. 

Paul swayed slightly, "I think I feel kinda...drunk." 

Michael snapped his fingers in front of Paul's face, bringing him back to reality. "Focus. Use the power to your advantage." Michael said. 

"How am I supposed to do that?" Paul asked, looking at him weirdly. 

"Bend it to help you. You were taught how to do this when we were in school." 

"Bold of you to assume I went to school. And that class was optional." 

Michael rolled his eyes. 

"And if magic is thick here, why can't people just use this? There will still be magic here and we'll be fine." 

Michael set his hands on Paul's shoulders, his blue eyes boring into Paul's. "You ask too many questions. Now listen. We're lucky we stumbled upon it when we did. The magic only stays so long before it disappears." 

"You didn't tell me that." Michael ignored him and kept talking. 

"You have to concentrate now. Focus on opening the portal. Bend the magic to help you." 

Paul felt slightly sick, his stomach turning. "I feel like I'm gonna throw up." 

"Side effect. But the more you focus the quicker the feeling will go away." 

Paul's attention had turned to the rocks the light from the flashlight was illuminating. "Give me that." Michael took the flashlight and set it on a nearby rock before facing Paul again. "Now listen to me, can you listen to me?" Michael turned Paul's head to face him. 

"Yeah, sure?" Paul nodded. 

"Okay. Now, summon your magic. Just as you did before. Close your eyes." 

Paul did as he was told, even though he felt like he was going to fall over. He tried to summon his magic, tried to draw it from its source like Michael told him but he couldn't.

"It's not working." 

"Try harder. I don't think we have much time left." 

Paul tried to recreate the feeling he had earlier. The feeling he spent the first nineteen years of his life feeling. He forced himself to try and remember how his teachers taught him to summon his magic as a child. He forced his breathing to slow, for his mind to clear, to ignore his surroundings, and focus solely on creating his magic. It was then he felt it. A faint spark. He willed it to spread, to travel to the tips of his fingers. 

"I think I got it," Paul said, eyes still closed. 

"Good! Now, use the power floating through the air, make it become a part of your magic." 

Paul followed Michael's directions, drawing the magic in from the air, breathing evenly as he combined the magic with his own. He nodded once he felt that he had gotten it, not trusting himself to speak. 

"Okay, now picture Alacoria. Any part of it. Will the universe to create a doorway." 

"What?!" 

"Just do it! You may not have any idea what you're doing but your magic does. Let it guide you." Michael instructed. 

Paul didn't have any clue what to do and Michael's instructions weren't very helpful but he tried nevertheless. 

He tried to picture Alacoria, through the pictures he'd seen and the stories the adults would tell him of the beautiful world that awaited through the veil. As he was doing that, Paul felt a slight tug. He suddenly seemed to know what he was doing without knowing what he was doing. He was faintly aware of Michael gasping as the magic swirled around, seemingly having a mind of its own. 

Eventually the feeling faded and the magic dispersed. Paul let out a breath he wasn't aware he was holding. He slowly opened one eye, afraid to see what had happened. 

"Did it work?" He asked, feeling sober. 

Michael's mouth was slightly agape, and his bright blue eyes were reflecting a sort of golden light.

"Did it?" Paul asked again, opening the other eye. 

Michael didn't say anything, just turned Paul around to face the portal hovering above the ground, light shining in from it. 

He stared in amazement, not believing he had actually done it. The Alacoria trees were swaying in the wind, beautiful and full of green leaves, as healthy as could be. In the background you could faintly see the outline of the Alacoria castle, just partially though because the golden rim that was surrounding the portal cut off the very top. 

"Holy shit." Paul spoke.

"Yeah," Michael whispered. 

So this is really it. Alacoria. After I step through that portal there's no going back. Paul thought. 

"We shouldn't, uh, waste any time. You just ripped a whole in the fabric of the universe. Who knows how long it'll be open for. Come on." 

The duo headed towards the portal. 

"Do we just like, walk through? Jump?" Paul asked. 

Michael turned his head towards him. "We're gonna look pretty stupid if we're jumping into an alternate dimension." He stated. 

Paul just shrugged.

As suddenly as before a loud roar echoed throughout the cave, shaking it. 

"Oh, come on! Not another Dojanima!" Paul whined. 

"Well, let's not stick around to find out." 

Michael grabbed Paul by the arm and shoved him through the portal. Paul yelped, putting his hands out to brace himself. Instead of hitting the cold cave floor like he thought he would, his hands landed on broken twigs and leaves. A few seconds later Michael landed on his feet beside him and Paul heard a whoosh sound that could only have been the portal closing. 

Paul rolled on his back and stared at the blue sky, thankful it worked. He propped himself up on his elbows, and looked up at Michael. Realizing they were both okay and unharmed, Paul was pissed. 

"You...you-you, pushed me through the portal!" Paul sputtered. 

"Well, yeah." Michael said. 

"You asshole!" 

Michael frowned. 

Paul stood up. "We had no idea if that portal was working properly!" 

"It seemed to be." 

"I could've ended up anywhere! I could've died!" 

"Well, ya didn't." 

Paul wanted to pull his hair out. "I could've evaporated into mist! Literally, anything could've gone wrong!" 

"You done?" 

"No!" 

Michael waited for Paul to continue. 

"Yes!"  

"Okay. Well, I hear you. I understand that you're angry." 

"Stop using 'I feel' statements! I'm not ten!" Paul exclaimed. 

"Okay, well, then, be thankful you're alive, quit your whining, and let's go." Michael said. 

Paul opened his mouth, completely offended. 

Michael sighed, "We can stand here bickering all day, or we can get moving. I vote for the latter." 

Paul rolled his eyes. "Fine. Truce." Paul agreed. "Now, where do we go?" 

"To Alacoria, of course. We need to complete the prophecy." Michael responded. 

Well, it's not like he was never gonna find out. You need to just tell him. 

Paul nodded. "Okay..." Paul wanted to keep talking but he didn't know what to say. "So, you, know, now that we're actually here, in Alacoria, I should probably tell you..." Paul said sheepishly. 

Michael narrowed his eyes, "What?" 

"Well, uh," Paul cleared his throat, "Nobody ever actually, really ever, never ever ever, really ever," Paul stalled. 

"Spit it out, Paul!"

"Nobody ever really told me the prophecy!" Paul blurted. 

Michael just stared at Paul, unable to react. 

"What."

"Nobody, ever, actually told me the prophecy," Paul repeated, rubbing the back of his head. 

"Are you fucking kidding me?!" Michael exploded. "Nobody ever told you the prophecy?! What the fuck? Are you serious right now?! Like, actually, legit serious right now, Paul? You don't know the prophecy that dictated your entire life?!" Michael fumed, eyes wide. 

"Well, I know the gist of it! I'm the person destined to save Alacoria and Alvernia!" defended Paul. 

"You never thought to ask anyone?!" Michael exclaimed. 

"Well, I was going to! But then I thought it wasn't the right time, so I didn't. And then I got older and older, and at that point it was just embarrassing that I didn't know it!" 

"Oh my god, this can't be real," Michael turned and walked a ways away before turning back, completely dumbfounded. "You can't be serious. You legit can't be serious right now, Paul!" He yelled. 

"Well, it's okay, you can just tell me!" 

Michael threw his hands in the air, "I can't believe this is happening! Fuck Paul, you have to get your shit in order!" He ran a hand through his hair. 

Paul didn't say anything, just silently felt bad as Michael freaked out. 

"Okay, okay, alright," Michael stopped, closing his eyes and putting his hands out in a manner that Paul assumed meant to calm down. 

"This isn't as bad as I'm making it out to be." He pinched the bridge of his nose. He took a breath and shook his head before turning to Paul. 

"Yeah, it's not that bad." Paul laughed nervously, "All you have to do is tell me the prophecy and I'll be all caught up." 

Michael rolled his eyes, "Prophecies aren't straight forward, Paul. Sometimes it can take years, decades, even to crack them." 

"Well, we can just discuss it on the way," Paul suggested. 

Michael sighed. "Alright, okay, so...." He trailed off. 

He didn't say anything for a few seconds, and Paul just watched as Michael's eyes widened and clenched his fist. 

"Are you fucking kidding me?!" He yelled at the sky. "Fuck you, Alvernia, you did such a great job securing your future!" 

Paul stared, confused. 

Michael huffed, crossing his arms, frowning. 

"What is it?" Paul asked, concerned. 

Michael kicked a rock, mumbling something under his breath. 

"What?" 

"I don't know the prophecy, either!" 

Paul's eyes widened in surprise and Michael kicked a tree.

Chapter Text

About twenty minutes later both boys were sitting on a log, mulling over the fact that they had no clue what to do next. 

"So, are we just, two guys sitting on a log in the woods of another dimension now, or....." 

"Paul, shut up," Michael said. 

Paul nodded. "That's fair. But technically, really, Alvernia should've done a hell of a lot better at making sure we were prepared." 

Michael put his head in his hands and sobbed. 

Paul set a comforting hand on Michael's back, near his shoulder, "But look on the bright side, you got me to Alacoria!" 

Michael didn't say anything. 

"We still have a plan! We can head to Alacoria, meet with the King, and learn the prophecy." Paul continued. 

"In case you've forgotten Paul, Alacoria is surrounded by the Idicore," Michael mumbled into his hands. 

"Oh, right," Paul said dejectedly. 

Michael stood up and turned to face Paul. "But I know where we need to go. It's complicated but I know someone who should be able to help us." He said. 

"You know someone in Alacoria?" 

"I personally don't but she's been an ally of my family for generations. There's no reason I should be any different. And you're prophecy boy, so I don't see a problem." 

"Great!" Paul stood up, "Where to?" 

"The mountains of Sajonia." 

Paul's eyes nearly popped out of his head, "What?! The mountains of Sajonia?" 

"That's what I said." 

"Your person lives in a mountain? Who are they, someone who sprouts prophecies for a livin'?" Paul exclaimed. 

Michael rolled his eyes, "No, she doesn't live in the mountains. She lives on the mountain." 

Paul stared cluelessly. 

"You'll see when we get there." 

"Okay, well then, let's go. Which way?" Paul asked. 

"In the direction of the huge mountains," Michael said obviously. 

Paul narrowed his eyes, "Which way is that?" 

Michael rolled his eyes, turning Paul around. In the distance, he could faintly see the outline of two gigantic mountains disappearing into the clouds. 

"Oh." 

"Yeah." Michael patted him on his back. "We better get going if we wanna find someplace before dark." 

He started towards the trees. 

"Wait, we have to walk all that way?" Paul asked, eyes wide. 

Michael just laughed. 

"Michael? Michael, answer me! Michael!" Paul jogged after him.

...............

"Why didn't we bring any supplies? This is horrible." Paul whined, forcing his feet to put one foot in front of the other. 

"Well, you could've said something before we came here." Michael pointed out. 

"Well, I was going to, but then we got attacked by that Peculiar and it slipped my mind. Can you blame me?" 

"I thought I was." Michael narrowed his eyes. 

Paul punched Michael in the shoulder. 

He laughed, "We should be at a village soon." 

"Ugh, god, I hope so." Paul sighed. "So you never told me who exactly we're going to see." 

"Her name is Elyria." 

"Elyria?!" Paul exclaimed, stopping. "The goddess of Pitalo magic?" 

"Oh, so you know that one," Michael said, continuing to walk. 

"Hey, wait!" Paul stumbled over the fallen branches to catch up with Michael, "You didn't tell me that!" 

"Well, now you know." 

Paul scoffed, rolling his eyes. 

The duo continued walking, carrying on for about another hour before Paul spotted something. 

"Hey," Paul stood on top of a rock and pointed to the left, towards the sky. "Is that smoke?" 

Michael looked to where Paul was pointing as sure enough saw smoke rising into the sky. "Good eye! Told you we'd stumble across a town sooner or later!" 

Michael headed towards the general direction the smoke was in. It wasn't long before they reached the town. 

"Finally, I'm so hungry. And thirsty. And tired. You're really mean." Paul said as they broke into a clearing, the town only about a hundred yards away. 

Before Michael could say anything he caught a glimpse of silver as two men rounded a house. "Get down!" 

Michael grabbed Paul and pulled him behind a log. 

"What is it?" Paul asked, looking at him. 

"It's some of Carlana's men," Michael answered, eyes following the pair of knights. 

"Carlana? The neighboring kingdom?" 

Michael nodded. "The Idicore weren't the only ones who wanted Alacoria's kingdom. I remember overhearing my parents talking. Apparently, Carlana had plans to overthrow Alacoria but then the Idicore showed up and the barrier shut. 

"From the looks of it, Carlana took advantage of it and started taking over outlanding villages. We have to be careful. We can't be seen." 

Paul nodded, "Alright." 

Michael watched the two knights disappear behind a house. He hesitated, shaking his head. 

"You know what, no. It's too dangerous. You can't risk getting caught. I'll go. You stay here." Michael instructed. 

"What? No." Paul said, shaking his head. 

"Head a little bit into the woods. If I don't come back, head towards the mountains. You can't miss Elyria. She'll tell you what to do. I might meet you there, I might not. Whatever way it is, head to Alacoria." 

Michael fished his cell phone out of his pocket and gave it to Paul. "If you're ever confused, call Clara. Hopefully, you'll get through and she can help." 

Michael glanced towards the village. 

"Whoa, okay, slow down! I'm going with you." Paul exclaimed. 

"No, you're not," Michael said firmly. 

"Yes, I am. You think I'm going to let you go into that village alone, unarmed?" 

Michael opened his mouth to defend that he wasn't unarmed, he had his staff, but Paul stopped him before he could. 

"I don't wanna hear it! If you get caught I'll have to rescue your ass because I'm sure as hell not leaving without you! Besides, I can't, in any way, shape, or form, make it to Alacoria or even Elyria's by myself! 

"I'll get eaten, or starve to death! I'd probably end up in Antarctica and that's not even in this world! So I'm coming with you! And you can't stop me!" Paul ranted, breathing heavily. 

Michael waited a few seconds. "You done?" 

Paul nodded. 

"Okay, now, can you be a grown-up and let me go without throwing a tantrum?" Michael asked, teeth gritted. 

Paul breathed out through his nose, pissed. "You know what?" 

Paul stood up, walking into plain sight. He waved his hands, "Hey! We're over here! Magicians! Over here!" He cupped his hands around his mouth to amplify his voice, "Over here!" 

Michael yanked Paul down to the ground, putting a hand over his mouth. "What the hell is wrong with you?" Michael hissed. 

Paul licked Michael's hand, causing him to make a face of disgust and pull his hand back. 

"If you go alone, you'll be caught so might as well catch us right now." Paul retorted. 

Michael wiped his hand on Paul's jacket. "You're such a fucking child. Your dumbass just put the guards on alert." 

"Well, they're going to come investigate. Looks like you'll have to take me with you." 

"Ugh," Michael groaned. "You will do anything to get your way, won't you? Learn to grow up." Michael snapped.

Paul just glared at him. 

Michael sighed angrily, "Fine. But stay close." 

They snuck back into the edge of the woods, walking around to get to the village. 

"Alright. Now don't do anything to draw attention to us." Michael said, peeking out from behind a house. 

"Oh, I would never do that." Paul said sarcastically. 

"Fuck you," Michael spit. 

"You wish." Paul replied snarkily. 

Michael resisted the urge to punch Paul in the face. 

"Just follow me." Michael muttered, teeth gritted. 

Paul rolled his eyes. 

Michael threw his hood up before starting at a reasonable walking pace. 

Paul looked around at all the houses. They were so different from modern days, wood instead of stone, small, one-room houses, instead of the normal-sized two-bedroom homes. 

It reminded Paul of all those medieval tv shows, and in a way it was. Magic, castles, kingdoms, villages, knights. 

"Stay low-key." Michael said, just loud enough for Paul to hear. 

He nodded, although he wasn't quite sure Michael saw him. 

There were enough people out that they could blend in, but the sun was starting to set and the villagers were starting to head home. 

They stopped by a couple of venders, getting food, supplies, packs, paying in silver coins which Paul recognized as Pratas. 

He also briefly wondered where Michael got the money, but he figured it wasn't important. 

Paul stood in the background, wandering around, not doing anything to draw attention to himself. That was until two knights rounded the corner. 

Oh, shit.

Paul quickly turned back around, heading back towards Michael, hoping that the guards didn't see him. 

"Hey," Paul leaned in, "Guards." 

Michael's eyes widened as he grabbed Paul's arm, hurrying him down the road. 

The crowd was thinning now, but the sun was almost set. 

"If we make it to the woods, we can lose them in the dark." Michael said. 

Paul glanced behind him and saw both guards heading towards them. 

"Yeah, well, they're following us." 

Michael cursed softly, "Okay. I have a plan," He breathed, eyes darting around. 

"Well, you better explain it quickly." Paul mumbled. 

"Just follow me. We're gonna run around and into the woods." 

Paul nodded, but he realized Michael couldn't see him so he said, "Okay." 

"On three we run." 

Paul briefly wondered how far away the knights were but he didn't want to look behind him to find out. 

"One, two," Speak faster! 

"Three!" 

The pair took off running, cutting behind a house. 

Paul heard the guards shout something before presumably chasing after them. 

They dashed in between houses and ran through backyards, trying desperately to lose them. 

"How are they running so fast with all that armor on?!" Paul yelled. 

Michael didn't answer, just yanked him into a garden. 

"Jump!" Michael shouted. 

The duo launched themselves over the wooden fence. 

Paul hoped this is where they would gain an advantage on the knights, as he figured they would get caught in the shrubs or have trouble jumping over the fence in armor. 

Michael pushed Paul in front of him and behind a house until they were at the edge, underneath a tree. 

Paul pressed his back against the house, trying his hardest to blend in, even though his clothes were three shades darker than the house. 

It was mostly dark now, the last few beams of sunlight streaming through the trees, casting a dim glow. 

The only sound Paul heard was the harshness of Michael's breathing, the crunching of the leaves under the knight's feet, and the clanking of their armor. 

They stopped on the opposite side of the house. If they stepped forward they would most definitely be seen. 

"This way! I saw them!" One of them shouted, heading away from the pair. 

Nobody spoke for a few minutes, wanting to make sure they were both gone and no more were coming. 

Michael leaned his head back against the cool wood and let out a sigh of relief, starting to catch his breath. 

Paul felt like he should say something but he was still slightly scared that someone would find them. 

Luckily for him, Michael was the first to speak. 

"We need to go. We'll keep a low profile. Sneak through people's gardens. Whatever you do, just stay low." He told him. 

Paul nodded. 

They waited a few more minutes before they started crouching alongside the back of houses and ducking under windows. It wasn't long before they were safely back in the forest. 

After they were sure they weren't being followed Michael started to make Paul pick up sticks to start a fire. 

"Why couldn't you gather firewood?" Paul asked, leaning down to pick up a fairly sized stick. 

"Because. I'm the one with the most information and basic knowledge. That makes me the leader. And well, leaders don't usually pick up sticks. They have servants for that." Michael explained. 

"Hey!" Paul protested, throwing one of the twigs in his hand at Michel's back. "I'm not a servant! I'm prophecy boy! The guy who's gonna save both worlds!" 

Michael rolled his eyes. "Please, without my help, you wouldn't have gotten anywhere near Alacoria. Let alone in it." 

Paul was affronted. "How dare you?" Paul dropped the firewood, pointing a finger at Michael. 

Michael rolled his eyes, choosing to ignore Paul. 

"Wha-" Paul gaped, wondering why Michael was ignoring him. 

Michael laughed, "Just come on. A little father and then it should be safe." 

Paul groaned, before looking down at the pile of sticks. 

It was getting darker every moment and Paul, unfortunately, didn't have night vision. 

"Hey, does your-" He looked up and was nearly blinded by a white light. 

He squinted out of reflex and put his hand up. Michael lowered the flashlight beam so it was illuminating the lower half of Paul's body. 

"Yes, it does. Now hurry up. I'm freezing. And hungry." 

Paul rolled his eyes, but leaned down and picked up the pile of sticks anyway. " 'Hurry up' 'I'm freezing'." Paul mocked, mumbling the words under his breath. 

He earned a stick thrown at his waist. "Ah!" 

He tried to shield himself with the sticks. 

Michael laughed, "Sorry. I thought it'd be a good one to add to the pile." 

Paul shook his head but continued towards the beam of light anyway.

Chapter Text

Not long after Michael had figured that it was a safe enough distance away from the village and that they would be hidden by the hill nearby. 

Paul dumped all the sticks in a pile.

"Okay! I did it!" He exclaimed, catching his breath. 

"I don't see a fire." Michael said. 

Paul's shoulders slumped and he gave Michael a dumbfounded look. Michael gestured to the sticks. Paul rolled his eyes but sat down on the ground anyways. 

"And how do you get that out of breath from picking up sticks?" Michael questioned. He dodged the stick thrown at him. 

Paul stared at the pile for a moment, not moving. 

"What are you doing?" Michael asked, sitting down on a log, flashlight in his lap. 

"I don't know how to start a fire." 

Michael shrugged. "Neither do I. Why do you think I had you do it?" 

Paul sighed. "Then how are we supposed to start a fire?!" He asked, exasperated. 

Michael shrugged again. 

Paul rolled his eyes, exhaling harshly. He squinted at the sticks like they were going to give him an idea on how to start a fire. Suddenly, as if it worked, Paul got an idea. "Hey, wait, do you think I could use magic?" He asked. 

"Was wondering how long it would take you to catch on." Michael answered. 

"I can? Then why didn't you tell me?" Paul exclaimed. 

"Can't do everything for you, Paul. You'd never learn that way." 

Paul rolled his eyes again but positioned his hands over the floor. Before he summoned his magic, he let his hands fall into his lap and he turned his head towards Michael. "But why?" 

Michael rolled his eyes, not in the mood, but answered anyway because he figured it was the fastest way to make Paul shut up. "All good magic has been erased, which is why all good magic is disappearing from Alvernia. There's still dark, forbidden magic here. Dark magicians in our world should still be able to use magic. But that's in our world. Remember our history lessons in middle school?"

"I don't remember anything I learned in middle school," Paul said. 

"Alacoria brought magic into Alvernia. All magicians are descended from Alacorians. Alacoria is the home of magicians, Alvernia, the Peculiars. Alacoria has a much stronger connection to magic than our world could ever have. It helps that you're always a Pertilian. We're safe, at least until the very last drop of magic disappears from Alvernia." Michael explained. 

"Okay, I think I'm starting to remember. But how will we know when magic disappears from Alvernia?" 

Michael just looked at Paul. "I'll cease to exist." 

Paul's mouth took the shape of an 'o'. "Right," He said, dragging out the 'i'. "We would kinda notice that." 

"You mean you would notice that. I'd be dead." Michael repeated, still giving Paul a look.

Paul nodded. 

"Whatever, Paul, just start the fire so we can eat and then go to bed. Who knows what time it is?" Michael rubbed his eyes. 

"Aww, is baby tired?" Paul teased. 

Michael glared at him. "Keep talking and the first thing I'll be cooking on that fire is you." 

"Ooh, I'm so scared." Paul taunted, smiling, putting his hands up and waving his fingers. 

"Light the fire, Fuller." 

"Wow, pulling out the last names." 

Michael moved to get up and Paul laughed, "I'm just joking." He smiled. 

Michael let out a breath of annoyance. 

Still smiling, Paul positioned his hands over the pile, closing his eyes. He tried to recreate the feeling of the magic coursing through his veins and found it incredibly easy. So much it actually shot out of his hands and Paul fell backward with a yelp. 

"That was impressive." Michael commented sarcastically, turning off the flashlight. 

Paul sat up, "That was incredibly easy!" 

"We didn't have that entire discussion for nothing, Paul." Michael finally took the pack off of his shoulder. "Also, practice makes perfect." He added, opening the pack. 

Paul rolled his eyes. "What did you get?" 

"Well, if we weren't dilly-dallying around, you would know." Michael said, sifting through the pack. 

Paul just gave Michael a look. 

"I got food for a couple of days, some water, and rope." 

"That's it?" Paul asked, wondering why Michael didn't get more supplies. 

"Well, I got what I could before the guards caught your trail." 

Paul opened his mouth to defend himself but Michael spoke first. 

"Which reminds me,"  Michael stood up, dropping the pack and heading over towards Paul who stood up. "I took these while you were busy frolicking through the field." He held up what looked like time period-appropriate clothing. 

Paul immediately felt like he was back in middle school again. "How many times have I told you?! Just because you can steal something doesn't mean you should!" He exclaimed. 

'We needed the clothes. We can't exactly go walking around in jeans, now can we? You saw what just happened." 

"Then why'd we buy the clothes we're wearing?" Paul asked, confused. 

"Because you threw a fit, Mr. I'm-not-going-to-Alacoria-in-a-suit. Now shut up and change." Michael shoved the clothes at Paul. 

Paul rolled his eyes, turning around. He removed his t-shirt and discarded it on the forest floor. He grabbed the more time appealing shirt and slipped it on. It was uncomfortable material and the sleeves were slightly too short but otherwise it was okay. Paul started to unbutton his jeans, throwing them next to his shirt. He grabbed the pants Michael bought for him and shimmied into them. They surprisingly seemed to fit okay, although the material was scratchy. He would have to deal though. 

As Paul turned around his foot got stuck on a branch and he tripped, falling on top of Michael, both of them tumbling to the ground. 

"The fuck, Paul?" Michael made a face. "Get off of me," Michael said, pushing Paul off of him. 

"Ow!" Paul landed on a stick. 

Michael got up, dusting the dirt off of his clothes. "Watch where you're going, jeez." Michael headed back towards the pack. 

Paul frowned, moving the stick that was stabbing him in the back. 

He threw it a ways away. 

"Paul!" 

His eyes widened as he realized and scrambled off the ground before Michael trampled him.

................

After Michael chased Paul around the campsite for a while, they sat down and ate some of the food Michael bought. 

"Ugh, I'm so full." Paul groaned, leaning back on the palm of his hands. 

Michael rolled his eyes, "Of course you are." 

Paul narrowed his eyes, cocking his head to the side, "What's that supposed to mean?" 

Michael shook his head, dismissing the comment. 

Paul playfully threw a stick at Michael's leg, smiling. 

Michael just picked it up, throwing it into the fire. 

Both boys sat quietly, staring at the fire crackling, flames flickering in the dark. 

A thought suddenly popped into Paul's head. "There's no bears out here, right?" He asked, smile fading, looking at Michael.

Michael gave him a look. "What is it with you and bears? You keep-" He stopped mid-sentence, mouth open wide. "Is it because of what happened in middle school?!" He nearly screamed.

Paul turned bright red, the memory he repressed for most of his life coming back to him. 

"It is!" Michael exclaimed. 

"Shut up." Paul threw another stick at him. 

"Who could forget?! You were all anybody talked about for a year! Anytime somebody came up and roared next to you, you screamed and hid in the bathroom!" Michael shouted. 

Paul turned redder if that was even possible. "No!" Was his only defense. 

"No, I remember! There was that one time you got so scared nobody could get you out! The teachers tried, the principal, even your parents! I had to drag you out of there!" Michael recalled. 

"No! No, you didn't, that didn't happen!" Paul denied. 

"Oh! And that other time where you literally would not leave your treehouse! You wouldn't let anybody in! Your mom had to send me up with food, sleeping bags, and flashlights! We spent the night making hand puppets on the wall with our stuffed animals as our audience."  Michael lowered his voice when he spoke his last sentence, softly remembering the memories he shared with Paul when they were younger. 

All the playdates, teachers, assignments, magical gatherings, school dances. 

It all seemed so easy back then. 

No completed quests where one of them might not live. Just stupid magical exams you spent hours studying for. 

Sometimes Michael missed them. 

Missed not having a care in the world. 

Missed the annoying kids in their classes. 

Sometimes he missed his best friend.

Sometimes he wished he could go back, soak up all the feelings and tell himself to cherish these times because eventually they'd be gone and you'd never get them back. 

But he couldn't. 

He was stuck in the present. 

He was stuck in the forest, not knowing where he stood with Paul. 

He was stuck and it didn't matter what he wanted because it was never going to happen. 

Michael missed his chance and he regretted it every day. 

Paul nodded from across the fire as if he could read Michael's thoughts. 

"It's weird, I..." Paul spoke first. Michael turned his attention from the fire to Paul. "I can't remember the last time we hung out like this." 

"I can," Michael stated, memory clear in his mind. 

Paul turned red again, ducking his head. "Did that count though?" He asked, a hint of a smile on his face. 

"I thought it did." Michael said, but then he sighed, "But what do I know?" 

Paul stared at him, mouth open the tiniest bit, accompanied with a look on his face that Michael couldn't quite put his finger on. It looked somewhere between a cross of

confusion and hurt, but Michael dismissed it as his imagination.

"It's getting late," Michael said, "You should get some sleep. I'll take first watch." 

Paul didn't say anything for a few seconds, trying to get his brain to catch up. "No!" He exclaimed. 

Michael gave him a weird look. 

"I just mean," Paul tried to pretend he didn't just shout, "I slept in the car and in the motel. I got more sleep. I'll take first watch." 

Michael wanted to protest but he didn't think he was going to get anywhere by bickering so he kept his mouth shut. 

He nodded, "Alright." Michael looked like he wanted to say something else but instead he settled for a "Goodnight, Paul." 

He laid his head on the pack, wrapping himself up in his cloak and turning on his side, away from the fire, facing towards the dark forest. 

"Goodnight, Michael," Paul whispered, not sure if Michael heard him or not.

..............

Paul woke up to a hand clamped over his mouth. 

He struggled for a moment before Michael came into view. He had a finger over his mouth, a gesture to tell Paul to be quiet. 

Paul narrowed his eyes as Michael removed his hand. 

He sat up and Michael pointed to the trees in multiple directions. Paul immediately understood. They were being watched, most likely about to be ambushed. 

He quickly stood up but was suddenly knocked down again by Michael, narrowing missing the arrow that hit the tree behind him. 

Then before Paul knew it he was being hauled up by Michael, and a knight along with two people in robes entered their campsite. 

Michael had his staff in hand as he turned his attention to the attackers. Paul noticed two more knights come from behind them. 

He spun around so that his back was to Michael's, both of the duo's eyes trained on the enemies. 

"An ambush, nice way to wake up," Paul said, summoning his magic. 

"Sorry, bed in breakfast wasn't an option." Michael changed his staff into a sword. 

"Would've settled for something less," Paul added, ducking to dodge another arrow. 

"So, whattda say? Just like old times?" Michael asked, swinging at an advancing knight. 

Paul smiled, "Wouldn't have it any other way." 

With purple flames reflected in Paul's eyes, the warm heat hovering above his hands, and a sword in Michael's, they were all to quick to fall back into a pattern, to have each other's backs as if no time had passed at all.

So with magic lending a hand and one another by their sides, they attacked with no prospect of losing.

Chapter Text

Michael took the knight, slashing at the his chain mail. Paul immediately started firing his magic at the approaching knights, memories and training suddenly flooding back to him, remembering everything he learned in practice battles.

While Michael battled one on one with the knight on his side and Paul was preoccupied with the other two soldiers, the wizards stood apart, side by side. 

Their hands were about an inch apart, dark red and black magic swirled together in a powerful sphere as they mumbled spells under their breath in sync. 

Michael finally won his battle with the enemy and he noticed the wizards in the background. He quickly stabbed an approaching soldier in the back just as Paul finished off the other knights, and pulled Paul behind a log seconds before a dark blast slammed into the tree, charring it, like it was recently on fire.

"Oh, shit! I didn't even notice!" Paul shouted.

"Yeah, you're welcome." Michael said sarcastically.  

"How do we defeat them?" Paul asked. 

Another blast hit right between them, hitting the trunk of a tree. It started crackling and before anyone knew it it was falling towards the right, slumping against the other trees.

As if a lightbulb was switched on over his head, Michael got an idea. He grabbed Paul shirt and pulled him close, Paul slightly distracted at how close Michael was. 

"I got it! We make a tree fall on them. I'll run around and distract them while you use your magic to make the tree fall!" Michael exclaimed, eyes wide, shaking him slightly.

Paul just nodded.

"Ready? Go!" Michael took off and Paul narrowly missed getting blasted in the head.

Paul heard Michael shout and snuck around to the end of the log, peering over. Michael was dashing through the trees, both wizards were focused on him. 

Not very good technique, Paul thought.

He darted into the woods, using the bushes and trees to cover himself as he searched for the perfect tree to have fall on the wizards, wanting to make sure it was going to fall on both of them.

He finally found one and squatted down near the trunk in order not to be seen. He racked his brain for a spell or anything to help him. 

A memory suddenly popped into his head. 

Michael and him were hanging out in the back of the school. It was near summer so they had shed their uniform jackets and were just wearing a white button up. Michael had unbuttoned most of the top buttons, his jacket slung over his shoulder as he leaned against the tan brick wall. "I don't even know why we need a spell to knock over a tree. It's not like we're ever gonna be trapped in a forest surrounded by dark wizards." He huffed.

Paul narrowed his eyes, wondering how true that statement would become. Was Paul's memory off and he just replaced what Michael said with what was happening? Paul shook his head, it didn't matter.

Paul just placed his right palm against the tree. "Cadere." He whispered.

He could feel the tree rotting inside and as soon as he lifted his hand the tree fell. 

The dark wizards only had time to look up before they were crushed. Paul winced, making a face slightly.

"Took you long enough." 

Paul looked up to see Michael standing in the middle of the clearing.

"Well, excuse me, you sprung a plan on me and didn't even give me time to think." Paul retorted, stepping over a few branches and heading towards Michael.

"How'd they find us?" He asked.

Michael wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, "Must've followed us." He pushed a knight onto his back with his foot and cursed. 

"What?" Paul asked. 

"I thought the symbol looked familiar." He said, turning towards Paul. 

Paul narrowed his eyes in confusion, not understanding. 

"That symbol right there," Michael pointed at the knights chest. 

A blue circle was printed on the armor near the top of the right shoulder. It had two swords crossing each other, as if they were in battle. A black crow was in the middle of them, wings spread slightly. 

"It's Carlana's. These are all Carlana's men." Michael gestured around at the nights. "The magicians, well, either he paid them or they work for Carlana's king. But the fact that they found us, it confirms my worst fear." He continued. 

"What?" Paul asked again. 

"That they know we're here. They obviously know you're the person the prophecy talked about, which isn't good."

"Why?"

Michael rolled his eyes, not wanting to explain everything. "Do I have to spell it out for you? If you save Alacoria from the Idicore, magic will be restored and Carlana won't be able to take over. You're the only thing standing in their way."

"You're here too!" Paul exclaimed, eyes wide. 

"Are you fucking kidding me, Paul? Did you hear anything I just said?! Carlana knows we're here! Everybody is going to be looking for us now! Villagers, Carlana's men, stray magicians! We're fucked!" 

"Okay, fine, I get it, stop screaming!" Paul yelled. 

Michael opened his mouth to say something but they heard a branch snap in the woods. 

Both boys' heads immediately snapped towards the sound. 

Paul barely had time to think, Archer, before Michael was pulling him out of the way of a flying arrow and behind a log. 

"Why does that keep happening?!" Paul pressed his back against the log. 

"It's the same person as before!" Michael exclaimed, dodging an arrow. 

"They seem to have a lot more arrows!" Paul dodged an arrow. 

Michael tried to quickly think of a plan. He squeezed his eyes shut, but nothing was coming to mind. 

"I got nothing!" He said as an arrow whizzed past his head. 

Paul groaned, "I do. But it involves fire."

"What?! No! No way! We're in a forest! It's a terrible idea!" Michael objected. 

"Well, it's the only one we've got!"

Michael's eyes widened as Paul proceeded to tell him the plan. 

"You're crazy!"

"Haven't you heard? Crazy is the new sane. Go!" Paul pushed himself off the log, dashing for a nearby tree. 

"What are you doing?!" Michael screamed. 

"Just follow the plan!" Paul disappeared into the bushes before Michael could say anything else. 

Michael groaned. "If we die, it's your fault." He said before yelling, "I surrender!"

The arrows slowly came to a stop. 

Wanting to make sure the archer wasn't going to shoot him as soon as he stepped out he added, "I invoke Law 23!"

Michael was glad that he took that Alacoria history class, even if it was boring. He heard Ms. Pentson's voice in his head, By invoking Law 23, your enemies cannot harm you. They must bring you to have an audience with their monarch, who will then make the decision. 

He slowly stood up, moving into view. He didn't want to dig an arrow out of his body-even if it would heal-so he stayed on guard, ready to dive back behind the log if an arrow should appear. 

The forest was eerily quiet, perhaps too quiet for Michael. 

There wasn't a single animal sound, leaves crunching, no wind howling, the sound of armor clanking together, or the soft footsteps of an approaching enemy. 

It was suspicious to Michael, and suddenly he realized just as Paul and the archer came rolling down the hill, tangled together in a mess of limbs. There was no bow in sight and the arrows were all over the ground. Michael figured that Paul had knocked the bow out of the archers hand. 

Paul and said archer were throwing punches. Well, the archer was throwing punches. Paul was taking them. 

He held his arms in front of his face as defense. "Hey, help!" He exclaimed. 

Michael rolled his eyes, picking up his sword and holding it to the archers neck. "I suggest you stop."

The archer leaned back, stopping. Through a mess of brown hair that was too long, Michael saw hazel eyes glance at him before leaping for the sword. 

Michael parried the move easily, hitting the hilt of the sword on the archers head, knocking him unconscious. 

He transformed his sword into a pen and tucked it into one of his pockets. 

"Hey," Paul spoke, out of breath. "I didn't even have to use the fire!" He exclaimed, eyes shining, a smile plastered on his face as he got up, brushing some of the dirt off his clothes. 

"Congratulations," Michael said sarcastically. Then it crossed his mind. "No, I'm actually thankful that fire wasn't involved. I mean, we definitely do not want a repeat of seventh grade."

Paul winced at the memory. "My parents had to pay for the shed. It was surprisingly expensive for being so old." He said. 

Michael shook his head, "We should go. Who knows if more are on their way." He grabbed the pack. 

"The sooner, the better. I miss Wi-Fi. And my iPhone." Paul said. 

Michael rolled his eyes at him. "Let's just go."

.................

"Ugh," Paul groaned, forcing his feet to keep moving. "How do people live like this? We've been walking for so long." He whined. 

"Well, it wouldn't have taken so long if you hadn't stopped to cry into my shoulder," Michael added. 

"Excuse me if I'm not used to walking miles through a forest or a dark cave!" Paul exclaimed. "And-" He tripped on a log, flying forward. 

"Oh, come on." Michael stopped. 

Paul moved onto his knees, looking up at the huge mountain in front of him that seemed to stretch miles into the sky. Was that there a minute ago? Paul stood up, mouth open slightly. 

"Did I mention that we were here?"

Paul turned towards Michael, who had his arms crossed. 

"No. You didn't." Paul said. 

"Well, we're at the mountains of Sajonia."

Paul resisted the urge to punch Michael. "Thanks. I'd hadn't picked up on that yet." 

The duo continued up the mountain, feeling the drop in temperature with every step they took. As they continued the green ground disappeared, slowly replaced by tiny flecks of white powdery snow. 

Paul exhaled, rubbing the sides of his thin shirt. "It's cold." He breathed. 

"We're surrounded by snow. Of course, it's going to be cold." Michael said. 

Paul rolled his eyes, "How are you not cold?"

"For your information, I am, but I'm not a whiny baby like you are. But if it really bothers you, summon your magic. Use it as heat. You could also melt some snow, make it easier for us to walk." Michael said. 

Paul shook his head but closed his eyes and tried to summon his magic while also trying to keep walking. "I can't do it and walk at the same time. We need to stop."

Michael rolled his eyes, taking a few more steps before stopping. He turned towards Paul, hands in his cloak pockets as he watched Paul close his eyes and summon his magic. 

Before he knew it a ball of purple fire was hovering about Paul's hand. 

"Better?" He asked. 

Paul frowned at him. "Yes, actually."

Michael shook his head, "Can we go now?"

Paul rolled his eyes but started to walk anyway. "I don't know why-"

Paul never got to finish his sentence because he tripped on thin air and fell into Michael. Michael fell on his back, landing on snow like he thought he would, but instead of staring at the blue sky, he saw the rim of a house. 

He narrowed his eyes, looking around. 

From what he could see from where he was laying they had landed in front of a house. Paul was on his stomach next to him, his hand draped across Michael's stomach. Michael pushed Paul's hand off of him and stood up. 

Paul voiced Michael's thoughts, "How'd that happen?" Paul pushed himself onto his knees. 

"I'm not sure," Michael responded. 

Now getting a clearer look, he saw that house was the wrong word for it. It was more like a mansion. It was huge in size, stretching for miles in both directions. It seemed to be four, five stories tall at the least. The house was brown and seemed like it was made out of wood, but it clearly wasn't. It was an interesting shade of brown too. Michael didn't care too much for the color, but it seemed right for this house. It had many windows, spaced evenly out. 

Michael couldn't see inside though because of the plum-colored curtains. There were two big double big enough for a giant to fit through. They were a darker brown than the house itself and were carved with swirling designs. 

Paul stood up, mouth agape. "It's like a giant ice palace but not ice!"

Michael sighed. "Wow. That's probably the most brilliant thing you've ever said, Paul." Michael said, voice practically dripping with sarcasm. 

Paul frowned at him. "Is this Elyria's place?" He asked anyway, turning his head towards the mansion. 

"It must be." He answered. 

They both stared at the manor, not quite sure what to say. "Should we go in?" Paul suggested. 

Michael shrugged. "Well, that's the whole point of coming up here." 

Paul didn't move. Michael rolled his eyes, stepping forward and knocking twice. 

Nothing happened for a second, but then the doors slowly opened, and Michael felt a slight tug, as if the manor itself was beckoning him to come inside. Michael walked inside slowly, cautiously, peering down the long hallways, watching closely. Paul followed, walking in and not particularly thinking about being attacked. 

Michael noticed and threw his hands up in the air in exasperation and rolled his eyes. 

Can't protect this guy for shit. 

The doors behind them slowly closed and clicked, signaling that it locked. 

"Holy fuck," Paul said in amazement, looking around the mansion, not noticing the doors. 

"Yeah, I know," Michael agreed, looking up towards the tall ceilings. 

He had to say it was a very nice mansion. The ceiling was high above them, almost as if they were in a theater. It split into three long hallways. They all looked identical. There were different colored lamps shining on the burgundy-colored walls that had paneling on the lower half, paintings of random people hung on the wall. 

There were brown side tables pushed to the side, complete with a runner and some pictures in golden frames, along with flowers in vases. The hardwood floor was covered with a red and golden mixed together, swirled in designs Michael couldn't make out.

"But we have to be careful," Michael turned his attention off of the décor and to the long hallways. "She's very powerful. Rumor has it that these hallways are so long and look so much alike that people who come seeking her wisdom are trapped for weeks at a time. Sometimes she'll let them out if she takes pity on them but most of them die here.

"Cursed to spend the rest of entirety roaming the castle, looking for a way out." Michael said. 

"What?" Paul asked, eyes wide, head snapping to look at Michael. 

"It's built like a maze. Tons of people die here." He answered, figuring Paul wasnt paying attention. 

"You didn't tell me that!" Paul exclaimed. 

"I didn't think it was that important." Michael shrugged. 

"How is that not important?!"

"Because like I said earlier, Elyria's been a family friend of mine for decades. She'll talk to us. We just have to find her."

"I don't wanna die!" Paul exclaimed. 

"Just come on." Michael grabbed Paul's sleeve and dragged him down the right hallway.

................

The pair wandered around for a bit, turning left and right, looking closely for any sign that could lead them to Elyria. 

Paul groaned. "We've been walking forever. That's literally all we've been doing. Can't we at least stop and rest?" He asked, frowning. 

"You complain a lot. Please shut up."

"Fuck off," Paul said. 

"Is that the only insult you have?" Michael questioned, unfazed. 

"No!" Paul defended. 

Michael rolled his eyes. 

"I have tons of insults!" Paul kept talking but Michael stopped paying attention. 

They continued down the hall, Paul rambling in Michael's ear. He was just about to tell Paul to be quiet when he heard something. Michael stopped suddenly, Paul almost crashing into him. 

"Why'd you stop?" He asked, making a face. 

"Shut up," Michael instructed, listening closely. 

"You stopped to tell me to be quiet?" Paul was affronted. 

"Be quiet," Michael continued to listen. 

"What if I don't want to?" Paul was about to keep talking when Michael snapped. 

"Paul, I mean it, shut up!"

Paul didn't know what to say. He was about to ask what was wrong when he realized that Michael was listening for something and kept his mouth closed. 

A few moments later Michael heard it again. A faint whistling of air. He narrowed his eyes, looking towards the table. 

"Help me move this," Michael said. 

Paul and Michael each grabbed an end of the table and moved it to the other side of the hallway. Michael bent down, feeling alone the paneling. It was then he felt the cool air brush against the tips of his fingers. He pressed in and sure enough, there was a click. 

Michael backed up next to Paul as part of the wall slowly opened. Air rushed out, creating a slight breeze. It was mostly dark so they couldn't see much but from what they could see from the light there was a set of stairs that led down. 

"Whoa," Paul said in disbelief. 

Michael nodded, "Yeah." Michael took his staff out of his pocket and transformed it from a pen to a flashlight. He clicked it on as both boys stepped forward to get a better look. 

A set of stone steps lead down farther than the flashlight illuminated. The walls looked like the walls of a basement, plain concrete. 

"You first," Paul spoke. 

Michael gave him a look. 

"What?" He asked, shrugging. 

Michael rolled his eyes at Paul but stepped down anyway, Paul following him. 

A few steps in Paul felt the chill, the cold creeping along his spine and under his clothes. 

Then, as quickly as it opened, the door closed, sliding back into place with the wall, leaving the flashlight as their only source of light. 

"Oh, great." Paul breathed.

............

"It's so cold!" Paul exclaimed. 

Michael sighed, "That is the twentieth time you've said that in the last half an hour, Paul."

"Well, it's not my fault! And seriously how deep does this staircase go?"

Michael resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "I don't know, Paul. We'll just have to find out."

"But I just don't understand why there wasn't a sign or something letting you know what you're getting yourself into. Like 'Beware: Two hours of walking down a flight of stairs'. Seriously. I'm not even joking. I wouldn't have started if I had known-ah!" Paul tripped, flying forward into Michael, causing both of them to go tumbling down the stairs. 

Michael landed on his back, Paul on top of him, eyes wide. Michael's eyes widened slightly as if he realized something. "Oh, hell no." And he shoved Paul off of him and got up. 

Paul laid on the floor, slightly offended, and hurting. "Ow. I didn't just fall down the fucking stairs, you had to throw me off of you too!" He exclaimed. 

"Stop being such a big baby and get up." Michael rubbed his elbow, picking up the flashlight. 

"Excuse me, I don't have your super healing powers. My everything hurts right now." Paul could definitely tell he bruised most of his body. He was just surprised he didn't crack his head open. 

Michael rolled his eyes, leaning down, placing a hand on Paul's shoulder. 

He winced at first, but once Michael let go he felt as if he hadn't just fallen down a flight of stairs. Paul felt rejuvenated and better than he had in days. 

"Whoa," He propped himself up on his elbows, "What'd you do?" 

"I healed you. What'd you think I did?" Michael asked, pretending to look around the room they landed in, facing away from Paul. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying not to focus on the pain in his ankle. 

Paul wasn't aware that because Michael healed him, he emptied Michael's limited healing powers. Michael would have to pretend he was okay until his body would create the magic to heal him. Goodness knows, if Paul found it, Michael would never hear the end of it.

Asshole better be thankful, Michael thought, actually taking to looking around the room. 

It was a medium-sized basement room, completely empty. The only thing Michael could see was a staircase on the other end. 

"Oh come on, now we have to go up the stairs?" Paul exclaimed. 

Michael jumped slightly, not knowing Paul was behind him. "Fuck Paul, a little warning next time?" 

"Sorry," Paul apologized, coming up to stand next to Michael. He sighed. "I just really hate stairs."

The duo only walked up the staircase for about a quarter of an hour before they came across a door. 

"Thank fuck!" Paul exclaimed, swinging the door open. 

Michael squinted at the sudden change in lighting. He tried to hide his slight limp as he joined Paul in the room. 

"Fucking hell," Paul swore as he cranked his neck to get a good look. 

Michael's eyes widened as he realized just how big Elyria's mansion was. 

The ceiling was just as high as before but instead of hallways they were now in a humongous room, big enough to host an old fashioned ball in. 

In the very middle of the room was a ginormous chandelier, the crystals reflecting the light hitting it from all directions, making it hard to look directly. There were velvet crimson couches placed around the room, complete with the tables and decorations they saw earlier placed perfectly in the exact right spot. 

On the wall Paul and Michael were facing, stood a grand staircase, a red carpet rolled down the steps, as if a person of royalty was about to descend. The railing was a walnut color, shined with a gloss of sort that made light reflect off of them. The staircase led to a two hallways, one going right and one going left. Two more hallways going the same directions were directly underneath them.

They were so amazed they didn't even notice the door closing and locking back into place, nor the high heels clicking on the wooden floor.

Chapter Text

"Well, took you boys long enough." A voice said, walking into their view. 

Michael and Paul's attention was drawn to the woman at the top of the stairs. 

The woman had wavy brown hair that fell a little ways past her shoulders and brown eyes that shone like honey when held up to the sunlight. She radiated beauty and vibrancy. A slim red dress hugged her body and was slit down the left leg, accompanied by black high heels that strapped around at the ankle, a simple gold necklace, and a set of golden bracelets on her right wrist. She had a glass of champagne dangling from her hand as she fabulously descended the staircase. 

"I've been waiting for your arrival." She smiled, reaching the floor and making her way towards them. "In case you haven't figured it out yet, I'm Elyria." She introduced, voice smooth like melted chocolate. "I'm assuming you're Paul." She held out her hand. 

Paul shook it, feeling shocked, confused and surprised all at the same time. She looked at Michael. "I'd recognize that cloak anywhere, Michael Newman." Michael seemed to shake himself out of his trance as he shook her hand. 

"Elyria. I hope you don't mind us coming here." He said. 

"Oh, not at all, Michael. The only thing I mind is the fact that it took you two so long." She said, making her way to the couch. "But it's understandable," She sat on the arm, legs crossed, looking at them with a curious look on her face, "I mean, heaven knows what you two get up to. Especially alone...in the woods." She suggested, smirking. 

Paul narrowed his eyes, not quite knowing what she was referring to. Michael glanced away, knowing exactly what Elyria was referring to. 

She sighed, rolling her eyes, "But..that's not what you came to talk about, is it? You want information and only information." 

"How do you know about that?" Paul asked. 

"Oh, honey, I know about everything. I'm a goddess, it's our job." She cocked her hand to the side, nearly spilling the champagne. "But before we get to that, why don't we sit down! Have a drink, talk." She offered, smiling. 

"Uh," Paul glanced at Michael, "We'd love to but we really don't have the time." He said. 

Elyria's smile dropped and she rolled her eyes. She moved her left shoulder up and glanced to the right. "Of course. You just want the prophecy. It's all anyone wants, nowadays. Just information. That's all they come here for. 'Elyria, oh, Elyria, please, does my love love me back? Is my magic going to grow stronger?'!

"They never ask how I'm doing! They never ask how my day's been, how my magic is, how it's been living in this manor all alone!" She exclaimed, throwing her hands up. "It gets lonely you know. It's not like I have anyone to comfort me...or talk to. I can only play dress up so much." She gestured to her dress, before dropping her hand across her legs, taking a sip of champagne. 

Paul and Michael shared a look. 'Let me handle it' He mouthed, before turning towards Elyria who was glancing at a nearby portrait. "Um, Elyria, you know, that Paul and I would love to stay but we're on a very time-sensitive quest. But...when we complete the quest and restore balance to the worlds, then we could come back. I'm sure everyone in Alvernia would love to come and visit. Especially the children. They've never seen Alacoria. They could learn from you." Michael said. 

Elyria looked at Michael, mulling over the thought. "I suppose I could teach the children a little something about magic. We could have sleepovers and slid down the staircase on the guest mattresses." She said, thinking about it. 

"But that can't happen if we don't know the prophecy," Michael added, feeling like it was a good time to cut in. 

Elyria rolled her eyes, taking a sip. She sighed, "Fine. But...before I do, I wanna talk to you. Alone." 

Paul glanced at Michael, confusion filling his face. "Why?" He asked Elyria. 

"That's none of your business, Paul." She said. 

"But I think it is. We don't know who you are. You could be planning to separate us so you can attack us." 

"Honey, if I wanted to attack you both I wouldn't need to separate you," Elyria said. 

"Still. Maybe you want us to let our guard down. We have no reason to trust you-" 

"Paul." Michael interrupted. 

Paul looked at him. 

Michael gave him a look that said, 'Calm down'. 

Paul opened and closed his mouth but didn't say anything. Michael glanced at Elyria before pulling Paul aside where she couldn't hear them. She rolled her eyes once again and took a sip. 

"Elyria has no reason to harm us but if you keep talking she just might." Michael whispered. Paul opened his mouth to say something but before he could Michael did, "She's been an ally of my family for generations, okay? We can trust her. She wouldn't harm us unless we gave her a really good reason." 

Paul swallowed, glancing towards her, Adam's apple bobbing. "But-" 

"No buts. I'm gonna talk to her. I have no idea while you're making such a big deal out of this. Stop." Michael said. 

Paul exhaled through his nose. "Fine," He agreed, gritting his teeth. 

"Okay, then." Michael turned to go. 

"Wait-" Paul grabbed his sleeve and Michael looked at him with his bright eyes. 

Fuck, they're always so blue. Paul thought. 

"What if you need help? We need a signal." 

Michael rolled his eyes, "How 'bout the signal is me screaming 'Help me'?" 

"No, something lowkey. Something you wouldn't say in a normal conversation." 

Michael narrowed his eyes. "What, are you gonna listen at the door with a cup? What are you on about?" Michael questioned. 

"Just bear with me." Paul said, gripping Michael's sleeve a bit tighter. 

Michael sighed, "Apricots. That'll be our signal." 

"Apricots." Paul smiled, "Alright." 

"Can you let go of my sleeve now?" Michael asked. 

"Oh!" Paul let go as if he only just remembered he was still holding on, "Yeah." 

Michael shook his head, a hint of a smile on his face. "You really amaze me sometimes, Paul." He said. 

Before Paul could say anything Michael turned, heading towards Elyria.

Elyria smiled at him as Michael made his way over to her. "The kitchen is the first door on the left!" Elyria called over her shoulder, pointing in the general direction of the door.

Paul nodded, looking at them before heading over to the door. Elyria and Michael watched as he did. 

Paul reached for the doorknob, hand touching the cold metal. He cast one last look at Michael before reluctantly pushing the door open and heading into the kitchen. 

Michael turned towards Elyria. "What do you want to tell me?" He asked, trying to keep his voice friendly enough. 

Elyria grinned. "Well, first off," She walked over to him and set a hand on his shoulder. At once he felt a warm sensation spread through his body all the way down to his toes. "I thought I'd fix that ankle for you." 

Michael moved his ankle around, flexing it, not feeling any pain. "How...how did you know?" He breathed out. 

Elyria just shook her head. "A Goddess never reveals her secrets." She whispered, leaning in close, before turning around and sitting back on the arm of the chair. "But as for why I wanted to talk to you alone, I think you already know that." She said, crossing her arms. 

Michael narrowed his eyes, shaking his head, trying to think of a reason why Elyria would want to meet with him. "I...I don't," Michael trailed off, having no clue. 

Elyria sighed, rolling her eyes and taking a sip of her champagne. "Of course you don't know. That's just like your family. That's the one common trait you all share. You're all as oblivious as a pack of Chimbas." 

Michael looked at her weirdly, "I-I-" 

"I swore on the heavens above if you say you don't understand we're never going to get anywhere." 

Michael didn't say anything. 

"Did you think it was an accident that Paul just happened to be clumsy enough for him to fall onto you how many times? Honey, even Coincidence herself couldn't compete with that. It was me. I helped you out some. Just like the ledge on the motel." 

Michael's eyes widened, "How did you know about the Peristics?" 

Elyria rolled her eyes, ignoring him. 

"Michael, sweetheart, don't you get it? I've lended a helping hand but I can't do all the work for you two. Otherwise where would that lead you?" 

Michael's mouth hung open slightly. No. She can't-why would she be talking about that? "What? I-I...I don't get what you're trying to say." He fumbled for the words. 

Elyria rolled her eyes, "For gods sake do I have to spell it out for you? He's in love with you!" 

Michael's mouth went dry and he momentarily forgot how to breath. He wasn't quite sure what to say, how to react. Without thinking, he opened his mouth and the words tumbled out, "You're lying." 

Elyria shook her head, "Michael, honey, I can't make this shit up. You two are the perfect love story." 

Michael tried to get his thoughts in order, tried to produce a coherent sentence, anything to get his mind working again but all he could do was listen to Elyria. 

"I mean, you two...you would make the most brilliant love story. You would be unstoppable! Just like you were in high school." She made a slight face, "I mean sure, it ended a little...well, like a category five hurricane. But ignoring that part, everything else was fire!" She exclaimed. 

"You two fit together. Just like puzzle pieces. You weren't complete without one another. You were best friends." 

Michael finally seemed to regain some sense to start talking again. "You're crazy. Insane. We're-we're not...in love." 

Elyria made a face and held out her hands, "Well, of course you are." 

"No, we're not." Michael said, "You don't know anything about us. About me." 

"But I do. And you are! You don't see it but I do. I see the way he cares about you. The way you care about him. Like you've always done. You've always been in love with him, Michael. It's another family trait. Your father dated your mother when they were young, they fell in love. He fell in love young and hard. Just like you did." 

Michael glanced away, swallowing thickly, memories slowly rising. 

"You two are meant to be together. It's just...destiny." 

"High school was a long time ago," He breathed, pushing the memories back. 

"It isn't like that anymore. Life isn't like that anymore. Not matter how much I wish it was. Paul and I-we...we don't feel like that anymore. So please, stop...whatever you were doing." He told her, not sure what to do. 

"But don't you see it, Michael? You do. He does. I know he does!" Elyria tried. 

"And how do you know?" Michael snapped. 

"Because I'm the Goddess of Pitalo magic! I know these things! Which is why I know you're still in love with him!" 

"I was never in love with him." 

"Liar!" Elyria called. "You totally were. You two were the cutest couple for miles!" 

Michael felt a growing headache behind his eyes, and all he wanted was this conversation to be over with. "It doesn't matter what I feel. It doesn't matter if I love him or not. It's not going to change anything. Nothing is going to change." 

"But you're blinded by your thoughts, Michael! Why do you think this is happening? Why do you the quest called for you two?" 

Michael snapped his head up at that. "What?" He asked in disbelief. 

"It knows! It knows what you two are capable of together. So call it what you will...fate, destiny, coincidence, chance. At the end of the day it isn't going to chance anything. You two will still be the story of the decade. See no matter what happens, a millennium from now they're still going to talk about the two men that saved the world. 

"Now what they tell...well, that all depends on you. You say you don't love him. I say you're lying. I say he loves you, maybe even a little bit more than you love him. But it doesn't matter what I say or tell you. You're still going to do whatever you want. Thing is, Michael, I want you to think about the future. How do you want your story to be told? Because that.....that changes everything." 

Michael didn't say anything-couldn't say anything. Couldn't get the gears in his brain working again, couldn't produce sound, or even a string a few words together for a coherent thought. 

Elyria deemed the conversation to be over as she called Paul back in. "Paul, you can come back in now!" 

But much like Michael Paul couldn't move. He was frozen solid. All the muscles in his body were stiff. He hadn't meant to eavesdrop. He hadn't meant to hear anything. He just wanted to know if Michael said the code word. He was curious. He just wanted an idea of what they were talking about but after he started listening he didn't have it in him to pull away. 

He gripped the doorknob, Is that really how Michael feels? 

"Paul! We're waiting!" Elyria called again. 

Paul forced his body to start moving again, forced himself to act like nothing happened as he entered the room. Michael turned away from him, swallowing, presuming trying to do the same thing Paul was and act normal and not like Michael just admitted that he's been in love with his best friend for most of his life. 

"Sit down." Elyria gestured to the couch, getting up. Michael and Paul did as they were told. Elyria set her empty glass on a nearby side table. When had she finished it? She walked back over and stood in front of them. "Okay, so you two want the prophecy." 

Michael nodded. 

"But before I give you that. You need to know the history of both Alacoria and Alvernia. It was twenty-seven years ago that the Idicore started to surround Alacoria. You two were nothing more than tiny little eggs in your mother's womb." 

Paul and Michael both narrowed their eyes and Elyria's peculiar choice of wording. 

"The worlds lived in perfect harmony. Trading, training, schooling Alvernians that were greatly gifted with magic in the castle. You could go between worlds as you pleased, you only had to call the nearest Telian to open the portal." 

"But Telians are rare." Paul finally regained the ability to speak. 

"Now they are. Back then, things were different. More Telians were born." Michael answered, not looking at Paul. 

Elyria nodded. "That's right. So many things have changed. The day the portal closed was one none of us will ever forget. It's one the magicians will speak about for centuries to come and the hardships of living in our time, cut off from our other half. Families were separated, knights slaughtered, even the princess went missing." 

"But we know this already so why are you telling us?" Paul rudely interrupted. 

"Well Paul, how was I supposed to know that? I'd assume that you would know the prophecy that was given to you at birth, but sometimes we're wrong. And for your information, any story starts with a good beginning so sit down and listen to what I have to say." Elyria snapped. 

Paul closed his mouth and leaned back. 

Michael would've laughed if he wasn't afraid that he'd get smited for it. 

"Now," Elyria cleared her throat and smoothed her dress down. "As I was saying," She shot Paul a pointed glare, "It was a normal enough day, until the king of Alacoria received an urgent message...."

Chapter Text

“King Althalos! An urgent message from one of the troops stationed on the borders!” A boy with dirty blond hair and ragged clothes burst into the throne room, catching the attention of King Edward Althalos and the knights standing guard in the room.

The King sat up in his throne, slightly alarmed.

The messenger stopped a ways before the king, bowing, “Forgive me for the intrusion, Your Majesty.”

“Rise.” Edward commanded, “Bring me the message.”

The messenger stood up and approached the King, handing him the message before stepping back. Edward broke the red Alacorian seal-a red fox with two hands shaking in the background-and opened the letter with urgency.

My King I fear we have a problem. The Idicore are quickly approaching. We now know of their plans to take over Alacoria, enslave all of our people, get rid of magic, and travel to our sister world to rule over the Peculiars and urge you to act.

I am sending this letter with our best messenger, so you can best prepare for the upcoming attack. They are coming soon, your Majesty. We will try to hold them off as best we can, but I urge you to protect Alacoria. Do not send your knights out here, my men and I know that there will be none of us to greet you. My King, I know you have no desire to do the unspeakable but I fear you must. Whatever you do, Althalos, I beg you, do it fast.

Your loyal soldier to the end, Sir Benjamin White.

The King folded the message in half, in shock, not sure how to act.

He quickly gained his composure again. He was the king of Alacoria, he couldn’t, would not, give up.

“You were there. What is it like?” Edward questioned.

“The truth, Your Majesty?” The boy inquired.

The King nodded.

The messenger breathed out harshly through his nose before speaking. “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen. The Idicore, they...they’re powerful creatures. Smart. They outwitted almost all of our allies. It was like they had a plan...and their strength….their strength is indescribable. I saw one soldier get picked up by one of the beasts tail and thrown across the field. They are unfightable, Your Majesty. They greatly overpower us. And I fear for Alacoria’s safety.”

The King took a breath before glancing up. “You are dismissed.”

The messenger boy bowed before quickly leaving the throne room. The King stared at the letter in his hand, pondering over the boy's words, thinking of the best thing to do to protect his kingdom.

“What would you like us to do, my king?” A nearby knight stepped forward and asked.

“Get my wife.”

………….

“What do you think we should do?” The Queen asked.

The throne room was now empty of guards and it was just Edward and his wife.

“I called you in here to ask you just that, Ezra.”

The Queen paced back and forth in front of the thrones. “Let me see the letter.”

The King handed her the letter. She unfolded it and quickly read it. She thought for a moment. “I think we should get everyone to the castle. The villagers should be safe within the castle walls. We can have our guards stationed outside and throughout. That’s our best defense strategy.”

Edward shook his head, “I do not want to alarm the villagers. Having them all head to castle will do exactly that.”

Ezra sighed. “Do you have a better idea?” She questioned, hands folded, spine straight, head tilted, hair curled.

Edward stared at her. “We leave the villagers in their houses but send knights out to guard key entrances into the castle. We station guards on the top of the castle. If the Idicore do prove to be a risk, then we follow your plan.” He stood up, turning around, going to face the windows.

The Queen was greatly affronted. “Did you read the same letter I did? We are no match for the Idicore! We need to send help!”

“No!” The King shouted, side facing his Queen. “We follow my plan. Now proceed to your chambers.”

Ezra shook her head in disbelief and angry towards her husband. She could feel the blood boiling in her veins, threatening to spill over. If they followed Edward’s plans they surely would not have a kingdom left to protect. Still, she was a Queen. She could not lose her composer. So she swallowed the angry growing inside, and forced herself to speak.

“Very well. But just know, you doomed our kingdom.” She turned on her heels and marched to the doors.

…………..

“Your Majesty!” A servant burst into the Queen’s chambers.

The Queen's head darted up from where she was standing, next to her bed.

"You must come with me!" He rushed over to her closet, throwing open the door, and grabbing a cloak. "Here," he hurried to the Queen's side, "Put this on. We will have a better chance at making it if you are disguised as common folk."

The Queen quickly did as she was advised. “What is happening?” She asked.

“I’ve no time to explain. We must go now, my Queen.”

Ezra understood the urgency of the situation and allowed the servant to lead her out into the corridors.

Knights ran past her, armed with spears, crossbows, and swords. She heard distant screams and cries and shouts. Bangs and calls of Fire! rang out. Panic flared in Ezra.

Were the Idicore at Alacoria already? It wasn’t possible. The sound of a catapult launching stirred something in the Queen.

"What is happening?!" She questioned again, this time coming out as a demand.

The servant noticed the Queen’s tone and answered her, "Alacoria is under attack by the Idicore!"

They both cowered as something hit the side of the castle, causing dust to fall and the walls to shake.

"We have to meet your husband in the throne room! There are guards there!”

The throne room? Why are we going to the throne room?

As the servant spoke an answer to her question, Ezra had realized she’d spoken out loud.

“Those are my orders, Your Majesty.”

They were silent as they made their way deeper into the castle, the servant stopping every time there was a corner and peering out to make sure it was safe.

They burst into the throne room, catching the attention of the guards and the King. The servant who escorted Ezra was quickly dismissed to go find his family and two knights closed and locked the double doors.

“We’re under attack.” The Queen spoke. It wasn’t a question though, it was a statement. As she stared at her husband, she knew he knew exactly what Ezra meant.

“Yes, my Queen.” One of the head knights spoke.

“Where is the Princess?” The King inquired, avoiding his wife’s gaze, turning towards the same knight who answered the Queen’s question.

“She is nowhere to be found.” The knight said.

“She’s not in the castle?” The Queen stepped forward. “Good. She got away.”

Nobody else dared suggested otherwise.

With the matter of the Princess seemingly settled, Ezra changed the subject to the villagers, "Why aren't we trying to get our people out?"

"The castle is surrounded. There is no possible way to get any group out." Edward answered.

“So? That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.” The Queen stepped forward, wanting to fight to protect her people.

“There is no way!” The King raised his voice and Ezra recoiled. “They are everywhere. On the roof, in the village, probably in the castle as well.” Edward spoke again, softer this time.

Ezra knew Edward would never admit that she was right out loud, not even on his deathbed. Just implying the fact that his wife knew not to underestimate the Idicore was certainly an event to remember.

The room stood frozen, all of them knowing exactly what the king was about to order.

What had to be done.

Nobody wanted to speak up.

Saying it out loud would make the situation more real-almost too real.

What would happen once they did? How would this affect future generations? The worlds? There would be no way to know the effects it would have on everything.

Ezra looked at her husband, breathing in deeply. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she straightened her back and spoke the words she most dreaded, “You must do it.”

Edward sighed, before nodding, “You heard her.” He turned to his guards, “Fetch the Telians.”

………………….

“So the King ordered the Telians to seal up the portal in order to protect the Peculiars and Alvernians. He then split them up, sent them off in different directions, so nobody could force them to open up the portal so they couldn’t invade our sister world.”

They sat there for a few seconds, absorbing and processing the information.

Paul was the first to speak, “But wait...if Telians were the only ones who could open the portal, how can I?”

“Things changed. Nobody knows how the veil works anymore. It’s been so long. Too long.” Elyria answered.

“How’d you know what was on the letter?” Michael questioned, changing the subject.

Elyria smiled sadly, “Was wondering when you would ask.”

Out of seemingly nowhere Elyria removed a yellowing paper with Alacoria’s crest on it. “Ezra knew her husband was wrong. She sent me the letter before the kingdom was locked down.” She handed Michael the aging paper.

He opened the letter, Paul looking over his shoulder, close enough so Michael could feel his gaze but not close enough to feel the slightest whisper of his breath against his neck. Sure enough the neat cursive handwriting of Sir Benjamin White filled the page.

The last thing the noble knight ever wrote was in Michael’s hand. The reason he gave his life, his vow to protect his kingdom. He was one of the reasons Michael was sitting on Elyria’s couch. He felt strangely connected to him. To every soldier and wizard who gave their life to protect their sister world.

“The prophecy.”

Michael looked up and the sound of Paul’s voice, folding the letter up and holding it gently in his hand.

Elyria nodded. “I suppose I did promise you that, huh?” She teased. She pulled another paper out of thin air. “I wrote it down for you, figure it’d be easier than remembering it.”

She handed it to Paul. He looked down at it.

This is it. The prophecy I’ve been avoiding my entire life. The enormous power it has, sitting in my hand. All I have to do is open it.

Paul glanced up at Michael to find electric blue eyes staring at him.

Paul’s only ever had two constants in his life. The prophecy that’s been with him since birth and…..Michael. He had known Michael all his life, they had been best friends, but then Paul left and everything changed. Michael was still there though. Following him around like a pesky little annoying bug that won’t go away.

There wasn’t really a time in his life where Michael wasn’t there. Sure, Paul did ignore him for the better part of five years but that didn’t Michael wasn’t there, pouting on his couch and spilling soda on him and setting his office building on fire.

That’s what gave Paul the push to open the paper.

No matter the prophecy Michael was still going to be by his side through it all. He was still going to be there, shoving elbows into his side, glaring at him, shutting off his electricity, and staring at him with his beautiful blue eyes.

That’s how Paul found himself unfolding the paper and looking down at the words sprawled out on the page.

" The first risen shall be chosen,

Accompanied by his companion,

Travel through the dark to reach the clouds,

Escape the cold hand of an enemy,

Reach the center of all and release the prisoners',

Face the faceless truth,

Only then shall the ancients be defeated and the worlds be set free, "

“That’s it?” Paul questioned, a confused look on his face as he glanced up at Elyria who nodded.

“That’s the prophecy your entire life revolves around. It’s not very good. I’ve definitely heard better. But it did come from The Great Three so it is a true prophecy. Probably training a new assistant.” Elyria said.

“Wait, companion? Companion?” Michael asked, grabbing the paper, feeling offended at the fact of being called a ‘companion’. “I’m not a dog!” He exclaimed.

Paul held in a laugh, smiling softly. “Finally someone one said it.”

Michael glared at him.

Elyria rolled her eyes, going to pour a drink. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” She mumbled, downing the champagne, back facing them. She had to get them out of her house before she shoved both of them together by the back of their heads.

“Alright, you two need to get out now. I’m bored. Go save the world so I can get to fix the house for the little magicians.” She turned back around towards them. “There’s a little town not too far away from the base of the mountain. It’s on the way to Alacoria, you should be able to stop and steal some supplies, it’s late enough. Just remember, head west.” She instructed them.

Paul stood up, suddenly remembering they were on a time sensitive mission. Michael followed Paul’s actions.

“Thank you, Elyria. Really, for everything.” Michael said.

Elyria rolled her eyes. “Well, it’s not like I really had a choice.” She said.

Paul repressed a laugh.

“Let me walk you boys out.”

She led them down a hallway to a set of double doors.

“Whoa wait-” Paul glanced around.

Elyria laughed as the doors opened, ”Magic, honey. It does wonderful things.”

They were plunged into a slightly uncomfortable silence, Elyria just amazed at how awkward they both seemed.

Michael looked towards Paul and tried to discreetly point his head towards Elyria. Paul starred confused for a few seconds before realization spread across his face.

“Oh! Thank you, Elyria. For the prophecy….and the story. No offense, amazing as your house looks, I kind of don’t wanna ever come back here.” He said.

Michael gave him a look that said, ‘ Why would you say that, Paul? You’re a fucking dumbass ’.

Elyria just leaned as she leaned against the door to Michael’s right, “The feeling is mutual.”

Paul just smiled and nodded before leaving. “Again, thank you, Elyria.” Michael said.

“You’re welcome. Just remember our little deal.”

Michael smiled, “Of course.” He went to step forward before remembering what he had in his hand. “Oh, here.” Michael turned and held out the letter from the knight for Elyria to take.

“Keep it.” She spoke.

“Really? Are you sure?” Michael asked, tilting his head slightly.

She nodded, “I’m sure, Michael Newman. I’ve done all I can. This letter and this prophecy is now on both of your shoulders.”

Michael nodded, smiling at her as he stepped out of her mansion. He turned to follow Paul as the doors closed.

“And Michael?” He glanced back around at her.

She had her arms crossed over her chest as she spoke, “Don’t disappoint me.”

And that was last thing Michael heard her say before the doors closed, knowing she wasn’t talking about the prophecy.

“I’ll try not too.” He whispered to no one, staring at the wooden doors.

He tucked the letter safely into his cloak before walking in the direction Paul was standing, feeling like it wasn’t going to be a very long time before they saw her again.

 

Chapter Text

“She was very informative.” Paul said as they started down the mountain.

“You’re an idiot.” Michael said.

Paul just smiled at him.

Now that they were alone again Michael’s mind drifted back to his conversation with Elyria and the last words she spoke to him. “ Don’t disappoint me.” He knew exactly what she meant.

He glanced through his eyelashes at Paul who was looking all around at the trees and snow.

Was what Elyria said really true? Did Paul really feel that way about him? No, no, Michael had to put it from his head. She just wants me to think that. He doesn’t like me, let alone love me.…...no, just no. Shut up. Stop thinking about it.

“There you go, thinking again.” Paul spoke up.

It was then Michael noticed Paul was staring at him. Looking at him with his soft dark brown eyes and thick eyelashes and that look on his face that made Michael want to- Fuck, maybe Elyria was right. I need to get a grip.

“Yeah, well, one of us has too.”

Paul looked affronted, “How dare you?”

Michael smiled at the ground.

“Seriously though, something’s bothering you. What is it?” He asked, seeming concerned.

“Nothing.” Michael blurted.

“Okay, yeah, I believe that.” Paul said sarcastically. “Come on, what’s bothering you? Was it something Elyria said?” Paul bumped Michael’s shoulder, trying to get him to talk.

“It’s nothing, really.” Michael insisted.

“I can tell you’re lying, you know.” Michael sighed, focusing his attention on the trees to his right. “You were the only one who ever could.”

What am I doing? Michael thought.

“That’s the perks of being a good liar. You can fool anyone.” Paul added.

“Expect you.”

Paul smiled, “Expect me. Which is just because everyone else is irresistible to your charm.”

Michael laughed, “Now who’s the liar?”

“You got me there.”

Michael looked at Paul. Wait…  

Paul just smiled at the ground, cheeks tinted pink, whether it was from the weather or not, Michael didn’t know. Just as Michael opened his mouth to say something, it seemed as an invisible hand pushed him forward and he lost his footing.

He and Paul both tumbled down the hill, screams muffled by the snow. Michael’s world was spinning in all directions as he rolled down the hill, snow sticking to his eyelashes, making it hard to see. Paul was blinding trying to grab anything so he could slow his fall but there was nothing but snow so he settled for screaming, accidentally swallowing some snow.. There was nothing either of them could do but wait until they stopped rolling. Eventually the snow melted away and the trees came back. Leaves stuck to them as they both tried to grab onto a tree branch, stray twigs, anything. All Paul could see was green as he desperately tried to protect his face. He tried his best to hold in a sob as he closed his eyes, trying not to throw up.

Paul finally managed to roll himself to a stop but then Michael plowed into him and sent both of them rolling a bit more. They finally rolled to a stop a few seconds later, a sharp stick centimeters away from Paul’s eyes. He slowly leaned away and staggered to his feet.

“How are we not dead?!” He exclaimed, legs feeling like jelly.

“I’m not sure,” Michael spoke, eyes wide, as he stood up, shaking.

“I’m gonna be sick.” Paul said, resting his hands on his knees, feeling his stomach turn.

Michael reached over and set a hand on Paul’s shoulder, both healing him and using him to steady himself.

At once, the world stilled and the nausea disappeared and instead of feeling like he just rolled halfway down a mountain, he felt like he had just run a marathon. “Thanks. I feel better now.” Paul stood up straight, chest heaving, wiping his eyes.

“I don’t.” Michael mumbled, abnormally pale, melted snow sticking to his clothes, hair damp. He squeezed his eyes shut before turning around and promptly throwing up in the bushes.

“Shit, are you okay?” Paul asked, eyes wide.

Michael flipped him off.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, an old healing spell came to mind. He set one hand on Michael’s back and another on his arm, whispering the spell. Purple flames were briefly reflected in Paul’s eyes as a calm warmth slowly spread from Paul’s fingertips throughout Michael, making the nausea go away and the dizziness stop. Michael sat on the ground, trying to catch his breath.

“Better now?” Paul asked after a few minutes.

Michael nodded, “Thanks.”

Paul smiled at him, “No problem. It’s pretty late. Do you just wanna stop and rest?”

Michael shook his head, “No. We go to the town, steal some supplies since ours are all over the side of the mountain, maybe grab some horses. If we get going now, we can get a few hours sleep in before we have to get moving.” Michael made to get up.

Paul was quick to stop him, “Whoa, now?”

Michael gave him a look, “Um, yes.” He started to get up again.

“How ‘bout you just stay here, rest a few minutes more and I’ll go see if I can salvage some supplies?” Paul suggested.

“Paul, I’m fine.” Michael said.

“I know you are! We just rolled down a mountain though, I think we should rest for a few minutes."

Michael would’ve rolled his eyes if he wasn’t worried he’d throw up again. Figuring it was better to just agree with Paul than argue, he sighed and said, “Fine. Five minutes. And then we’re gone.”

Paul broke into a smile, “Great! I’ll be back.”

Paul pecked Michael on the cheek before quickly going to check to see if there was any supplies left to find.

Michael’s mouth was agape and his eyes wide as he slowly lifted his hand to where Paul had pressed his lips. Perhaps Michael should stop healing Paul with his magic, obviously he’d overdosed or something. Michael just shook his head slightly as he pinched the bridge of his nose. Life was just too complicated sometimes.

…………………

About an hour and a half later Paul and Michael slowly crept into the sleeping town.

“This is ridiculous.” Paul said, feeling pretty stupid crawling around on the ground behind Michael when nobody in the town knew they were in the town.

“Be quiet!” Michael shushed.

“Everybody’s sleeping!” Paul whisper shouted.

“Until they hear your loud mouth!” Michael whispered back.

Paul rolled his eyes.

So far they had stolen some food, some water, and a bag to carry it all. Paul wasn’t exactly sure where Michael was leading him-or how he knew where he was going. To another shop or out of the town, it was a mystery to him.

When Michael turned the corner and stood up, Paul couldn’t exactly say he wasn’t surprised.

He just stayed on the ground, frozen, mouth slightly open as Michael brought a horse out from its stall.

He finally snapped himself out of his daze and stood up, brushing the dirt off of his knees and hands.

“I don’t know how to ride a horse!” Paul exclaimed.

“Well, you better figure it out,” Michael said as he handed Paul the reins.

“But-why don’t we-” Paul stopped himself.

“What?” Michael asked, looking at him, blue eyes seeming to sparkle in the dark.

Paul hesitated. Why don’t we ride together?

Michael rolled his eyes, seemingly reading his mind. “Can’t you just deal with it?”

“I don’t wanna get thrown off.”

It’s not that hard.” Michael said.

“Please?” Paul pleaded, tilting his head slightly.

Michael groaned. “ Fine .” He didn’t sound like he was fine with it. “But there’s no guarantee I won’t shove you off.” Michael swung his leg over the side of the horse, sitting on the saddle.

Paul furrowed his eyebrows in confusion, “Accidently, though, right?”

“No.”

“You could’ve lied.” Paul mumbled under his breath.

“You could’ve came to Alacoria by yourself. We can’t always get what we want, Paul.”

“Nuh uh, the prophecy called for two!” Paul retorted.

“Shut up! You’re gonna wake half the town. Just get on the fucking horse! We’re wasting time, sitting here arguing.”

Paul rolled his eyes but did as Michael said and got on the horse.

Paul hesitantly set his hands on Michael’s waist.

Michael rolled his eyes again, “You’re gonna fall off.”

“Well, I don’t know, I’ve never ridden a horse before.”

Michael sighed, “This is gonna be a long quest.”

 

Chapter Text

“You know, you’re really not my favorite person today.” Michael sighed.

They were currently in the middle of the forest, heading towards Alacoria. They had stopped about an hour before dawn broke, when they figured they were far enough from the town not to get caught when people awoke to find they had been robbed. They had eaten, fed the horse, and slept for a few hours before Michael insisted they’d leave. ‘It’s a time sensitive quest, Paul ’ Michael had said when Paul begged for another hour.

Paul frowned, “I’m not your favorite person on any day.”

Michael nodded, “True.”

The horse neighed.

“See, it agrees with me.” Michael said.

Paul rolled his eyes. “How much longer?” He asked after a few minutes.

“Oh, Gods, please not this again.” Michael groaned.

“What? Don’t like the sound of my pretty voice?” Paul asked.

“If by pretty you mean pretty ugly then sure.”

Paul furrowed his eyebrows, “How can my voice be pretty ugly?”

“Can’t we just have one moment of silence?! Please?! For the love of Alvernia!” Michael exclaimed, just as they entered a small clearing.

Paul grinned, “No, sorry, can’t do that.”

Michael resisted the urge to push Paul off of the horse. “Paul, I swear, if you open your mouth one more time I’ll-”

The bushes rustled. Michael immediately stopped the horse, on high alert, hand moving to his coat pocket where his staff laid disguised

“Any chance that could’ve been a badger?” Paul whispered.

Michael slid off the horse and transformed his staff from a pen to a sword.

“I mean we are in a forest. There’s going to be animals.” Paul kept talking, trying to convince himself they weren’t going to be attacked again. It was not working.

The bushes rustled again. And again and again. Whatever it was, it was coming. And fast.

“Oh, god.” Paul held onto the reins tighter, while Michael aimed his sword in the direction of the hidden enemy.

The bushes rustled again and out came a harmless, white bunny.

Michael sighed out of relief, lowering his sword.

“Aw, it’s so cute.” Paul said, tilting his head at the bunny. The bunny suddenly turned and ran back the way it came, seemingly frightened by something. “What? Why’d you leave?” Paul asked.

Michael rolled his eyes.

They were both unaware of the growing shadow behind him.

“Hey, why’d it get dark all of a sudden?” Paul asked.

As he and Michael both turned around they got their answer.

A ten foot tall purple troll with green snot dripping out of its nose and onto the ground stood before them. Its clothes were in shambles, barely held together by the last of its thread. It wore brown tattered shorts that stopped just above what looked like its knees. It wore a matching shirt, open in the front but no sleeves. It had a giant axe in its hand.

Paul screamed and everything happened at once.

The troll roared, slashing its axe at Michael who dropped to the ground.

The horse got spooked and took off. Paul wasn’t prepared and tumbled to the ground, landing on his elbow, hearing a sickening crack. He screamed out in pain.

The troll turned its attention to Paul sprawled out on the ground, and Michael scrambled up, running over to the other end of the clearing.

“Hey, hey!” Michael screamed, trying to get its attention. He had no idea or plan to defeat the ten foot troll with a thirty-eight inch sword but he knew he had to keep it distracted long enough for Paul to say a healing spell.

The troll crossed the clearing in one tiny step and Michael instantly regretted every choice he ever made.

“Any chance we could talk about this?” Michael tried, not having any clue what to do. The troll grunted and swung his axe into the tree Michael was standing next to before he could even blink. “I guess that’s a no, then?” Michael squeaked out.

The troll roared at him, showing Michael a great view of the inside of his mouth. The troll was seconds away from brutally axe murdering Michael but the only thing he could say was, “You really need some breath mints.”

Paul laughed from across the clearing, turning the monster’s gaze to him.

He was standing now, his hand-glowing purple-was holding his broken arm, which was in the process of healing. His face went white when he realized he had attracted the attention of the monster. “Uh-oh.” Paul stood frozen, wide eyed, as the troll loomed over him, growling, the sound seeming to echo throughout its whole body. Green goop slowly dripped from the creature's nose and fell onto the grass. Paul fought back the urge to throw up.

Michael tried to think of a plan to distract the troll before Paul became troll lunch. His mind could only settle on one option.

“Paul, you better be thankful, you dick.” Michael mumbled under his breath before lifting his sword and stabbing the troll right in the foot. It roared, failing its arms, axe flying widely.

Michael narrowly avoided being stepped on as he ran to Paul, who got knocked to his feet. “Are you alright?” He asked, hauling him up, being careful of his arm.

They quickly backed up into the momentarily safety of the trees.

“Yeah, I think so.” Paul answered. “It’s a little sore, but I don’t think it’s broken anymore. Magic, right? Kind of forgot how useful it can be.”

“Okay, good, just stay here.” Michael ran back out into the clearing.

“Why do you always say that?!” Paul yelled after him. He wasn’t sure if Michael heard him or not.

Since the foot of the troll was pretty much all he could reach, Michael decided to focus his attacks there. He cut off one of its three toes. The troll roared and swung his axe. He caught Michael with the back of the handle and sent him flying into some bushes.

Paul used the time to run in, press a hand against the troll's ankle, and said a spell to make the troll fall to his side, the boom echoing throughout the forest.

Michael managed to roll out of the bushes, leaves stuck in his hair. He quickly assessed the situation and dashed for his sword. He swiped it up from the ground. Before he could stab the troll with it, it hit Michael with the back of its hand and sent him flying.

Paul mumbled a summoning spell, causing the sword to fly to his hand. He ran around the troll and stabbed it in its heart, the only sure way to kill a troll.

The troll roared and flared for a few seconds, almost hitting Paul, before it went still. Paul removed the sword from the monster before it started changing color.

It’s skin slowly turned to gray and it curled into itself and shrunk, slowly becoming stone. It turned into a big, solid rock, about one half of the original size of the troll.

Paul dragged himself over and collapsed onto the ground, next to Michael. They both laid there, chest heaving, out of breath.

“I hate trolls.” Michael breathed after a minute.

“I thought they were extinct.” Paul admitted.

Michael laughed but it was cut short by multiple swords being placed over their heads and necks.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Paul sighed.

…………...

“Didn’t know battling a troll was so noisy.” Michael muttered, frowning, arms crossed over his chest.

They both sat in a movable cage, attached to the back of a wagon, moving down the cobble road. They were surrounded by knights on horses, with very sharp swords as Paul had found out. The knights had taken all their supplies-what they had left. Michael and Paul could only infer they were taking them back to see Carlana’s king.

“Yeah, they showed up after the hard part.” Paul added, raising his voice slightly, turning his head to the nearby knights so they would hear him. He had his right arm cradled in his lap, letting it rest.

Michael didn’t say anything, just pouted in the corner of the cage.

Paul wanted to break the silence, but he wasn’t quite sure how.

It didn’t help that they weren’t alone. If they were alone, maybe he’d make Michael laugh, or maybe he wouldn’t need to make Michael laugh because they’d be too busy bickering about how it was Paul’s fault the horse ran off when the troll attacked.

But unfortunately, they weren’t alone. They were surrounded by knights who probably wouldn’t hesitate to finish them off if given the order.

Paul wondered how he got into this situation. Not just the prisoners-in-a-cage situation but all of it. His whole life. How he got into this whole Alacoria situation. The situation with Michael.

He didn’t know where he stood-on any of it.

Why did he wait so long to go to Alacoria?

Why didn’t he just get the quest over and done with?

Why did he leave Alvernia?

Why did he uproot his entire life?

Why did he stop talking to Michael?

Why?

Why?

Why?

Paul was afraid he’d never know the answer.

And now they were on their way to Carlana, which, Paul predicted, would probably be the last place he’d see because as soon as the king would see him, he’d immediately order both of their executions.

They suddenly rode over a bump, knocking away Paul’s thoughts.

“I wonder what’s gonna happen to us.” Paul spoke, wanting to fill the silence, just so he wouldn’t end up thinking again.

“Well, looks like we’re about to find out.” Michael said.

They both peered out of the cage to see the high castle walls of Carlana come into view as they rode out of the forest.

……….

Once Paul and Michael were inside the kingdom, they were escorted by the guards to the throne room. There was a line of knights on both sides of the room, and Paul and Michael who shoved into the middle of the room. Carlana’s king was settled in his throne, looking intimidating and evil.

“You are before a Monarch, kneel.” One of the knights by their side spoke. Neither Paul or Michael kneeled.

“Kneel.” The knight commanded again. They did not move. They would not kneel for a corrupt and disloyal Monarch.

It was clear the knight was not playing around. He nodded to the two knights standing behind them and suddenly they were both roughly shoved down to their knees. The knight behind Paul knew about his arm, and dug his fingers into the bone. Paul bit the inside of his cheek so hard that it drew blood, but he refused to scream. He would not give any of the people in the room any satisfaction.

“You may rise.” The king spoke from his throne.

The knights released their hold on the duo and let them stand up. Michael shot a glare at the knight behind Paul.

“Well, well, well, such a nice surprise. Paul Fuller and Michael Newman, at the foot of my throne. Never thought I’d have the pleasure.” He spoke slow, an ulterior motive behind his words. “In case you haven’t heard of me, my name is Monarch Emerson Whiterson, Ruler of the Carlana Kingdom.”

“Emerson? I thought your name was Anton?” Paul couldn’t help but blurt out. Michael just stood there, preparing for his doom.

“It’s been fifty-four years, Paul. Times change. Rulers change.”

Fifty-four years?! Fifty-four years! How could that- Paul stopped mid thought. The time difference. Of course, it’s only been twenty-seven in our world but-

“Ah, yes, but don’t look too shocked, Paul. Monarchs have to die sometime.”

Michael figured they were going to live, roughly, around an hour if Paul didn’t open his mouth again. Ten minutes if he did.

“So you’re the new king now?” Paul questioned.

“The Monarch does not bend to your silly mortal pronouns!” One of the knights close by shouted, pounding the dull part of his spear into the floor, the sound echoing throughout the room.

Michael prepared to kneel so the knight behind him could cut off his head.

“Ease, Euan.” The Monarch raised their hand and Euan fell back into place. “As, Euan said, I do not, in such ways, bend to the forced normativity of pronouns. I am not a king nor queen-I am simply a Monarch.”

“Okay, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re about to behead us.” Michael finally opened his mouth.

“Ah, that is true.” Emerson spoke, as if they only remembered.

“What? I would’ve suggested a guillotine or perhaps burning at the stake.” Paul said.

“We’re not witches in the sixteenth century, Paul.” Michael said.

“But we do have magic.” Paul added.

Michael rolled his eyes.

The Monarch cleared their throat, drawing attention back to them. “There’s a price on your head, Paul.” Emerson said.

“Of course there is.” Paul wasn’t surprised.

“The Idicore are smart creatures, you know. If you joined forces, we’d be unstoppable! With you, Paul, we’d gain the loyalty of the Alacorians. Something neither the Idicore or I can do.” They said.

“What? You want me to join your side? The side that will literally end the world? You realize what you’re doing right? Erasing good magic? Destroying the worlds? Eventually ending in chaos and destruction?” Paul asked, not believing what he was hearing.

The Monarch did not say anything.

A thought occurred to Michael and he spoke up, “Unless….that’s what they want.”

Paul turned towards him, surprised.

Emerson's attitude changed almost immediately. They sat up straight and started ordering the guards, “Take them to the dungeon. Do not release them until the Idicore get here.” They stood up and started to head for a door in the corner of the room.

The knights started hauling Paul and Michael out of the door before either of them could even open their mouth to protest.

 

Chapter Text

Paul and Michael were roughly thrown into one of many cells. The knights closed and locked the door, before heading out of the door they came through. Michael faintly heard one of them order two knights to stand guard to make sure they didn’t escape.

They both just stared at the prison wall, not sure what to do next. Paul was the first to speak.

“Well, this is a nice change of scenery.”

“It’s a prison cell.”

“I was being sarcastic.”

Michael just sighed, trudged over to the cobblestone wall where the bars connected to it, and slid down to the floor.

Paul started wandering around the tiny cell, which was really him taking three steps in every direction. He stopped, back facing Michael, looking at something in the corner. “Ugh!” Paul made a face, “it's like a wrinkled pickle decided to curl up and die!"

Michael would've laughed if it weren't for the situation they were in.

Finally Paul sat next to Michael. “Now what?” He asked, turning towards him.

“Use your magic and bust us out?” Michael said flatly.

“That’s a great idea!” Paul jumped up, turning towards the little window in the cell.

“No, wait, it’s-” Before Michael could warn him Paul muttered a spell, intending to make the bars disappear. It backfired, sending sparks everywhere. Paul fell onto his back with a yelp. “Warded.” Michael finished, defeated.

“Then why’d you suggest it?” Paul asked, strained, rolling onto his side to face Michael.

“I was being sarcastic! I didn’t think you’d actually try it! We’re all magicians Paul, you think there wouldn’t be any warding against any spells! Everyone would be escaping if there wasn’t!” Michael exclaimed.

“Yeah, I got that now.” Paul continued to lay on the floor.

Michael rolled his eyes, leaning his head back against the wall.

There wasn’t much they could do in the cell so they spent their time trying to strategize, racking their brains for a way to escape. Michael suggested a spell that would maybe help them escape but it would cause Paul to lose all of his hair. Paul immediately turned it down. Michael didn’t suggest it again.

“Oh, sorry, I don’t know a lot of ways to get out of a magical warded cell.” Paul said sarcastically. He had sat down on the wall opposite the bars, while Michael had stayed in his original position.

“Oh, why not?” Michael teased.

"Maybe because I lived in the city where we didn’t have magical warded cells."

Michael narrowed his eyes, tilting his head to the right and smiling slightly.

"What?" Paul asked.

"You said 'I lived in the city'. Past tense. You previously lived in the city."

"W-what? No, I didn’t.” Paul weakly defended himself.

Michael had an inner conflict with himself about whether or not to say something but he said it anyway, "Maybe you should....keep it past tense."

Paul looked up at him, confusion and shock mixed with something else Michael couldn’t tell etched onto his face.

Big red letters that spelled ‘ BAD IDEA’ started flashing in Michael’s head.

“What?” Paul voiced his confusion.

“I-nothing.” Michael tried to dismiss it.

“No. What did you mean?” Paul pushed, wanting to know what Michael had meant.

“Nothing, forget it.” Michael shook his head.

“No, tell me.” Paul demanded.

"Fine, you wanna know? I think....I think you should come back to Alvernia, Paul."

Paul opened his might to say something but nothing came out.

"It's been, what? Seven years? You can't tell me you don't miss it. You grew up there. We...." Michael hesitated, and Paul looked at him with his brown eyes. Michael said it anyway, "We met there. We went to school together there."

Paul glanced at his shoes, not sure what to say or do. He sighed, "I....I don't know, Michael."

"The only reason you left Alvernia is because of the prophecy. Once it's finished you could come back home and-"

"The prophecy wasn't the only reason I left Alvernia." Paul interrupted, a slight tinge of anger in his voice.

"Then why did you?"

"I don't wanna talk about it." Paul turned his body away from Michael, facing towards the wall.

Michael scooted along the wall to the corner next to Paul. He gently pushed his foot against Paul’s foot, trying to get him to look at him. To talk to him.

When Paul didn’t respond, Michael exhaled softly before speaking. "I think.....I think everybody pushed it on you. I think they pushed it on you so much, and you didn't want it, that you had no choice but to leave."

"Yeah, but unfortunately one of them followed me." Paul turned his head around, flashing Michael a ghost of a forced smile.

"I know....I'm sorry about that." Michael truly was sorry.

"Don't be. It wasn't your fault. Your parents pushed you just as much as everyone pushed me. You didn't have a choice either." Paul said, soft sunbeams of the dying sun streaming in behind him.

"I guess you're right." Michael thought back to his parents and how they acted when he was younger-how they still acted.

They were always so demanding, telling Michael what to do, what not to do, how to act, what to never do in front of others. They always told him they had a reputation to uphold and to never do anything to damage that. His parents were so difficult, and it only seemed to occur to Michael that he hadn’t seen them in a while.

As if Paul was reading Michael’s thoughts, he spoke up, “Hey, remember that time where we skipped exam day at school? We stole your dad’s Camaro, went to the beach, got custard.”

Michael smiled at the memory, “I got grounded for weeks.”

“We had to take summer school.” Paul added.

“Didn’t we skip most of that anyway?” Michael questioned.

Paul nodded, “Yeah. Yeah, we did.”

A door slammed somewhere in the distance and it seemed to bring Paul and Michael back down to earth. Their smiles slowly disappeared, replaced with longing for the past and the simpler times.

“We’re screwed, aren’t we?” Paul asked Michael.

He sighed. “I think so.” 

……….

Michael rubbed his eyes as he sat up in the dark cell, the only light coming through the small window near the top of the cell. He yawned, feeling the soft fabric of his cloak between his fingers. Paul had refused to sleep on the cold prison cell floor and complained about Michael having his cloak so they ended up sharing it. Exhaustion must’ve caught up with them because soon after they laid down(what else was there to do?)they both fell asleep.

It was quiet-no guards softly muttering through the door, no clinking of armor or soft footsteps of the maids. Just Paul’s soft breathing and the dull sound of an owl hooting into the night.

Michael couldn’t practically see a whole lot in the dark, which was highly unusual for him. He was losing his magic, his powers.

Michael’s hand slipped and he hit his head on the cave floor. He hissed-quietly though, as to not wake Paul.

“What the fu-” Michael lifted his hand up and he almost threw up. His hand was almost the color of the moonlight streaming in behind him. It was nearly transparent-as if he was a ghost slowly fading away. He clutched his wrist to his chest, his worst fear confirmed. If the prophecy wasn’t completed soon, Michael would cease to exist.

He closed his eyes, setting his hand down, trying to grab for anything, trying to feel the cold floor, his cloak, anything.

As if your hand had fallen asleep and you were shaking it to regain blood flow, feeling slowly came back into Michael’s hand and he let out a sigh of relief once he felt the cold cell floor.

Time was running out. Pretty soon, everything would descend into chaos but Michael wouldn’t be there to fix it. He forced himself to calm down, panicking wasn’t going to help. They needed a way out of the cell, Alacoria was only about half of a day's walk if they pushed it. They could make it. They could fix everything. If only they could get out of Carlana.

It was then something shone and caught Michael’s eyes. It was laying just outside the cell, as if someone had dropped them. Michael scrambled forward and reached for the object.

It was dark in the hallway and he couldn’t make it out from his spot on the floor but if he grabbed it…..Michael’s fingers brushed against the very edge of the cold metal. Where they…..no, they couldn’t be. Michael reached farther, pushing his face against the cold bars, trying a little bit harder. Finally he scooted it close enough so that he could grab it inbetween his two fingers.

He pulled it through the cell and got up, bringing them to the light of the moon.

A set of keys.

One of the guards must have done a lap and they accidentally came loose from his belt.

Michael quickly crossed the cell, trying each key in the lock. He didn’t want to wake Paul if none of the keys worked. He got down to the last key.

Please, Gods, please.

Michael turned the key in the lock and pushed open the door. Surprisingly it swung open and Michael had to jump forward before it slammed against the wall.

Michael dashed over to Paul, roughly shoving him awake. “Let’s go!” He whisper shouted, pulling his cloak out from underneath Paul who rolled onto the floor.

“Ow! What are you-” Michael cut Paul off before the guards heard them.

“Shut up! Look!” Michael pointed his finger towards the door.

Paul’s brown eyes widened and he opened his mouth to say something but Michael made a motion telling him not to. Michael turned towards the door but Paul caught his arm.

"Trap ?” He mouthed?

Michael had to admit that the thought had not crossed his mind. While it could be a trap, they really didn’t have much else of a choice.

Michael shrugged in response. Paul nodded, getting up while Michael slipped his cloak on(after shaking it out first).

They both crept out of the jail cell, on watch. Paul made to the left-he noticed the hallway stretched out, a door at the very end of it-but Michael stopped him.

He held his palm up and tapped it twice. Paul understood, conjuring a flame so they could see. Everything was cast in a deep purple shade. Paul followed Michael, holding out his hand as Michael searched all the walls.

He spotted a rack attached to the wall where their supplies were held.

He quickly grabbed the bag, but the only thing inside was his staff in the form of a pen. They probably thought it was worthless and unimportant. He grabbed his staff, throwing the bag on the floor before ushering Paul down the hallway. Why carry a bag if you didn’t have any supplies to put in it?

They hurried along the corridor. They both knew that most of the castle was sleeping and would probably believe that it was highly unlikely that Paul and Michael would escape. If they believed that they were both in the cell, they wouldn’t be looking for them anymore and they could slip out undetected.

Once they reached the door Paul pressed his ear against it, listening for footsteps or any sign that somebody was around. When he nodded in confirmation, Michael cracked it open, carefully peering out. They cautiously ran down the corridors, trying to be as quiet as possible.

Michael tried to think about the way they were brought in but then Paul tapped his shoulder, getting his attention. Paul mumbled a spell that Michael couldn’t make out and then his eyes flashed purple and he took off down the corridor. They ran down, Paul seeming lost in concentration, and Michael keeping an eye out for guards.

Surprisingly there didn’t seem to be many on patrol.

Michael figured it was because they had the protection of Idicore and there were no enemies capable of attacking.

Paul stopped at a door, warily opening it. Once he cleared it, he shoved Michael through it, softly closing it behind them.

Michael looked around-they were outside, on the very edge of Carlana. All they had to do was run into the forest and they’d be set.

“Wow. Carlana has some shit security.” Paul spoke.

Michael rolled his eyes, knowing it was true. “Let’s just go before they catch on.”

“Oh, God, more running?” Paul breathed out.

Michael tapped Paul’s arm and they took off towards the trees.

Chapter Text

“How come we always lose all of our supplies? I’m starving.” Paul asked as they trudged throwing the forest.

“Please, please, please, shut up, I’m begging you.” Michael groaned.

Paul had been talking nonstop and Michael was about to use whatever magic he could muster in order to shut Paul the hell up.

“I don’t see you on your knees.”

Michael narrowed his eyes, wondering in what context Paul meant that.

“I didn’t mean for that to sound so suggestive.” Paul said once he realized what it sounded.

“I wasn’t aware there was a way that it didn’t sound suggestive.” Michael held back a branch as he stepped through a gap in between the trees.

Paul went to follow him as Michael let go of the branch and it smacked him in the face. “Ow!” Paul exclaimed. Paul tried to smack the tree branch at the same time Michael turned around to see what happened and Paul accidentally smacked him in the face.

“Ow! Paul, what the fuck!” Michael held his hand up to his cheek.

“Shit, sorry!” Michael punched Paul in the arm.

“That hurt!” Paul whined.

“You smacked me!”

“I didn’t mean to!”

“Ugh!” Michael threw his hands up in the arm, turning on his heel and walking away.

“I didn’t mean to!” Paul yelled, starting after him, still rubbing his arm.

They both pouted a little bit but then Paul started talking again because you can’t go ten seconds without opening your mouth, now can you Paul?

“Gods, if you're gonna talk, can we at least talk about something important?! Like, I don’t know the prophecy?!” Michael exclaimed.

“Fine. Why do you wanna talk about the prophecy?” Paul crossed his arms.

“Wow, I don’t know maybe because we’re running out of time? Pretty soon magic will disappear, I’ll die, and both of the worlds will descend into chaos!” Michael threw his hands in the air.

“Okay, fine, geez.” Paul put his hands up in defense.

“Do you have the paper Elyria have you?”

For a second Michael thought Paul was talking about the letter from Sir Benjamin and wondered why but then he realized that he was talking about the piece of paper with the prophecy on.

“Oh,” Michael dug around in his pockets. He felt paper brush against his thumb, “Here!” He removed it, unfolding it and trying to smooth it out a little. “Okay…. The first risen shall be chosen, Accompanied by his companion . That one’s easy. It’s obviously you and me. And if it wasn’t, we’re already here so that would suck. Number two, Travel through the dark to reach the clouds. Obviously, metaphorically. Traveling through a dark space to get to light…” Michael trailed off in thought.

“I dunno. The cave was pretty dark.”

Michael spun around. “The cave! That’s it! That was the first obstacle!” He exclaimed.

“Traveling through a cave is worthy enough to make it into a line in a prophecy?” Paul asked, slightly confused.

“No,” Michael waved his hands, “The Dojanima! That was the first task!”

“Yeah, that thing was pretty terrifying.” Paul nodded his head.

Michael turned and started walking forward again, Paul by his side.

“We have to think of the lines of the prophecy as stages, like in a video game.”

“You play video games?!” Paul was more surprised by that than anything about the prophecy.

Escape the cold hand of an enemy. Well, we have a lot of enemies. That could mean any one of them.” Michael said.

They both thought for a minute before Paul spoke, “Well, Carlana is our biggest enemy. They hold the most power. The troll was scary but I don't think he and his troll family could destroy both worlds.”

Michael nodded, “Escaping could mean our escape from Carlana's cell.”

Paul nodded once again.

Reach the center and release the prisoners ...The prisoners are most likely Alacoria, but it could also mean everyone here in this world. I mean, we still don’t know how magic disappeared. All the villagers here are magicians….so why aren’t they using magic?” Michael looked to his right to get Paul’s opinion but he was no longer by his side.

He turned around and saw that Paul stood about five feet away from him.

“Why’d you stop?” Michael asked.

“I have to pee.” Paul said.

Michael rolled his eyes, “Sure. It’s not like we were in the middle of discussing the fate of not one, but two worlds.”

“Well, I can’t hold it anymore!” Paul defended.

“Whatever, just hurry up!” Paul disappeared between the trees and Michael wondered how he ever fell in love with that idiot.

He went to run his hand through his hair but he stopped. It was happening again. Michael quickly glanced around, making sure Paul didn’t see what was happening.

Michael used his right hand to push up his sleeve. Before it was just his hand, stopping at his wrist, but this time it almost went all the way up to his elbow. The lower part of his arm was so see through, he could see the forest floor through it. Michael forced himself to breathe, hoping, praying that Paul stayed away just a little while longer.

After what seemed like eternity, his arm slowly became solid, just as twigs snapped, signaling Paul’s return.

“What?” Paul asked, narrowing his eyes, noticing Michael’s change in demeanor.

“Nothing.” Michael hid his arm behind his side as inconspicuous as possible. “Let’s just go. We’ve wasted enough time as it is.” Michael started forward and Paul reluctantly following.

 

Chapter Text

“Okay, we need a plan,” Michael started.

“Yes, sir!” Paul deepened his voice and held up his hand in attention.

Michael slowly turned his head to look at Paul, completely unamused. Paul bowed his head in shame.

“You done?” Michael asked softly.

Paul nodded.

“Okay, as I said we need a plan. Problem is, we’re not sure what the state of things is. If only we could talk to someone in a nearby village…” Michael mumbled the last sentence, talking more to himself than to Paul.

“Have any friends here that I’m not currently aware of?” Paul teased.

Michael ignored him.

“We’ve been walking for a while. Think we’re anywhere near Alacoria? Actually surprised we haven’t run into monsters or people trying to kill us!” Paul exclaimed.

As if on cue, a deep growl came from behind the duo.

They both immediately stopped.

Michael looked up to Paul, giving him a look that said, Really? You just had to say that, huh?

Paul shrugged his shoulders, Sorry.

Michael rolled his eyes and they silently made an agreement to turn around slowly after three seconds.

The monster growled again, digging its paw into the dirt. It looked like a normal giant dog-four paws, drool hanging from its mouth, teeth bared-but Paul and Michael both knew better. It was a Biobuil, a big creature with poison laced into its teeth, if you got bit, you’d die, there was no cure, no spell. It could grow into a size of a bear, this one must’ve been a baby.

If this one is a baby, then where are the parents? Paul thought, swallowing thickly. He tried to remember a healing spell or a defense spell, maybe a spell to physically put a bubble around them? Paul was getting slightly worried as he saw Michael slowly moving for his staff. He’d had years of learning and studying, why is it he couldn’t remember anything?

The Biobuil was now growling louder and getting ready to charge.

Perhaps Paul could distract it enough for both of them to climb a tree or get out of reach? Paul was about to form a plan but then Michael threw a rock at it and took off towards the right-the opposite direction of where Paul was.

The Biobuil instantly took off after him and Paul was frozen for a second.

Why would he do that? Does he have a plan? WHAT

Paul’s body seemed to be ahead of his mind and he took off after them.

He followed the sounds of barking and distant curses to see Michael scrambling up a tree, sword in hand. The Biobuil was on its hind legs and was trying to climb the tree to get to Michael.

“This was a terrible plan!” Michael screamed, feet sliding against the bark, inches away from the Biobuil’s dripping mouth.

Paul followed Michael’s lead, climbing a tree and whistling, trying to draw attention to him. It worked and the Biobuil immediately pounced over to Paul.

“Paul, you dumbass, what the hell are you doing?!” Michael yelled.

“Trying to save you!” Paul was nervous at how close the Biobuil was getting and moved up a branch.

“Well, now we’re both stuck, you idiot!”

“I was trying to help!”

Michael groaned in frustration, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“But I don’t have a plan so do something!” Paul shouted.

“What?! Why me?” Michael turned his head towards Paul.

“You have the sword!” 

“You have magic!” Michael pointed out.

“Oh,” Paul seemed to have temporarily forgotten that fact, “Right.” He held out his hands to the Biobuil but realized he still didn’t have a spell. He looked back up at Michael, “What spell should I use?” He asked.

Michael's eyes widened, wondering how Paul survived all those years, “Rivertia!”

Paul nodded, positioning his hands again. Another question popped into Paul’s head and he opened his mouth to ask it but Michael interrupted him.

“For fucks sake, Paul, now is not the time!” Michael screeched and Paul figured he’d better ask it later.

He positioned his hands again, fully intending to actually cast the spell this time but before he could he heard a snap and all of a sudden he was falling. He fell towards the ground and Paul tried to brace himself for death but then his foot got tangled in some vines and he stopped abruptly, “Ah!”

He heard Michael yell something and was he jumping out of the tree, that is a horrible idea- Paul’s attention was drawn to the Biobuil who was now jumping, trying to bite Paul. His head was inches away from the Biobuil’s. Paul screamed and tried to reach for something to grab onto, anything.

Paul isn’t exactly sure what happened, all he knew was that Michael somehow killed the Biobuil and then he was falling onto the hard ground onto something soft-like a human body.

“Ow, you dick!” Michael cursed into his ear. “You fell on me!” Michael pushed Paul off of him onto the ground.

“Ow, that hurt!” Paul pushed himself off of the ground.

“You fucking fell on me! Do you know how heavy you are?” Michael stood up, not bothering to offer Paul a hand.

“I’m not that heavy!” Paul defended, getting up.

Michael rolled his eyes, “We don’t have time to bicker, we have to go. I’m not sure how much longer I-we have left.” It was a subtle mess-up and Michael hoped that Paul didn’t notice. Fortunately, he didn’t.

“You’re right. Which ways Alacoria? My sense of direction got a little screwed up when I was chased by a Biobuil and fell out of a tree.” Paul looked at Michael who rolled his eyes again.

“That way.” Michael pointed over his shoulder.

Paul nodded, looking towards the still body of the Biobuil, “Good thing its parents aren’t here.” As if Paul’s words acted like a beacon or a really fast summoning spell, he saw Michael’s face go white and slowly reach down to grab the sword.

“I fucking swear Paul, every time you open your mouth it’s  like a bad omen!” Michael shifted the sword in his hand.

Paul did not want to turn around.

Michael’s eyes slowly went wide and Paul felt something nudge against the back of his knee and his stomach dropped.

“Paul, don’t move.” Michael said softly, trying to quickly think of a plan where both of them could get out alive.

“I wasn’t going to.” Paul tried to sound lighthearted but he was genuinely afraid. There was no cure for the Biobuil’s bite and one wrong move, or even a move from Paul and he’d be poisoned.

He remembered when he was about six, Michael and him snuck into a corridor in the main building where they were forbidden to go. It had been the medical wing and a magician had been infected with a Biobuil bite. He remembered the horrible sight of the man twisting on the stretcher, green veins visible through his skin, foam bubbling out of his mouth, the near black eyes.

They never went anywhere they weren’t supposed to again.

It was an incredibly painful way to die and Paul did not want to endure that.

He felt drool drip down his pant leg.

They had no idea how to get out of the situation.

But that’s when it happened.