Strange Worlds: Moments

He had never heard of the Cedarium before, and it sounded rather ominous when it was spoken out loud. But once they were away from the strange black building his mother assured him that it was nothing to be concerned about. It just meant they had to move–of course he didn’t want to move, he hated change. But he always seemed to be alone on that point. So he did his best not to think about it as he packed up all his things–and said goodbye to the scant few friends he had made in Steamford. And that was it, just like that he was in a moving van driving across Clunux.

It was a beautiful state, with forests, and lots of rivers and lakes. He had only seen deserts on TV, and even then they seemed like something that existed more in fiction then in real life. He had always loved green trees, and he liked water too–he was a particularly good swimmer for his age. Everyone complained that they were too close to Elvin territory, but all the political drama with the elves had happened before he was born, so he had no reason to worry about that. 

He stared out the window and the scenery as it flew by, daydreaming as he always did. They had managed to get Chain into a carrier that was sitting at his feet in the van. Cryptix couldn’t be loose in moving vehicles–or at least that’s what his mom had said. 

“Poem,” his mother said, he looked away from the window and twordes her, she didn’t look back at him though since she was busy driving the van. “I just wanted to tell you that you didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I know,” that was just the way Varis was. Understanding other people and how they felt was hard for him. Even with everything he had heard at the Government building he still didn’t fully understand why they were being forced to move, or why the women with the sword seemed so angry. But that was okay, because there were lots of things that he knew that his mom and the other adults could only dream of. 

“What kind of place is the Cedarium?” he asked looking back to the window again. 

“It’s a place for Linkers and their families to live–it’s–well–we’re just about there….” 

There was that strange word again–Linker–everyone had been really obsessed with saying that lately. He had gathered that he was somehow a Linker now, and people had started calling him that as soon as he jumped through the strange hole and into the other world beyond it. He had come back with Chain and everyone seemed really scared of the cat Cryptix, or at least nervous around it. And he didn’t really understand why. It did have a sharp looking, knife like bone tail, but it had never once tried to hurt anyone. 

As they kept driving he noticed something looming in the distance. At first it was nothing more than a shimmer on the horizon. Then he saw it, a city sitting inside of a glass dome, like a summer snow globe, glistening in the bright sunlight. Skyscrapers towered near the top of the globe. But as they got closer he could see many smaller buildings and houses scattered about as well.

“Is that–Cedarium?” he asked–even though he already knew the answer.   

They pulled up to the front gate, a simple building built only on the outside of the black dome. Then there was a fancy looking mechanical gate with all sorts of gears and chains on it, as though the city was being protected by added complexity. From the looks of it they would barely be able to get the moving truck though the gate. 

A man walked out of the building and up to the driver side window of the moving van. He had one of those strange swords that Poem had been seeing so much of lately. His mom twisted the handle to roll down the window. 

“Good afternoon Sir Hunter,” if the hunter was impressed by his mom’s level of politeness he didn’t show. 

“Do you have your documentation?” His mom nodded and reached into a folder that she had been careful to make sure she had, she had triple checked, and several times through their ride she had reached to the folder as though she was afraid it might have not been there anymore. She handed the whole folder to him, and the man looked it over carefully. 

“Where is the Cryptix?” he asked. 

His mom nodded to Poem and the boy grabbed the carrier by his feat to hand to his mom, and she handed it to the hunter. He looked into the box and a look of abject horror worked its way onto his face like a slow creeping realization. Poem rolled his eyes at the ridiculousness of a full grown man with a sword being afraid of a tiny cat. 

The man double checked the paper work quite a few more times before he seemed satisfied that everything was in order. He reluctantly handed the carrier back and his mom quickly handed it back to him. 

“Alright, there will be a car waiting for you on the other side of the gate,” the man explained. “Leave the moving truck here and we’ll move things to your new apartment. For now just take the Cryptix with you.”

So the two of them got out of the truck, with only the carrier in tow. The hunter waved to someone in the building and in a moment the fears and chains started to move, and the gate slowly opened. It felt like they were being let into some sort of medieval castle. He half expected to see knights on the other side. But the people on the other side of the gate were just as ordinary as they were–whatever that meant.

There was a simple black car waiting for them on the other side. The driver held open the door for his mother, Poem just let himself into the car. After they were buckled in. The driver started the car and looked back at them through the rear view mirror. 

“I’ve been instructed to take you to the Albern apartments near the center of the dome,” the man didn’t wait for either of them to ask any questions before putting the car into drive and heading off.

As they drove he looked around trying to take in the strange domed city. But it wasn’t odd at all as far as cities go. They drove through outlying suburbs with cookie cutter houses, a river side area with medium sized buildings that were built between the Clunux river. And large ten story buildings clustered near the center of the city, almost as though the city was designed all at once. Then they passed all the tall buildings and onto the other part of the city where the Clunux river originated from High Gate Lake. And near that lake was a small apartment building that was their destination.     

The apartment building wasn’t much to look at. It was made of simple multicolored bricks. Four stories tall and ten windows across. There was a playground behind the building, and near the playground was two strange courts of some sort. They weren’t basketball courts, he could tell because there were no baskets anywhere to be seen, and they weren’t tennis courts since there wasn’t a net dividing the courts down the center. But there were no other kids out playing to give him some kind of hint as to what they were for. So all he could do was shrug and add it to the constantly growing list of things he didn’t understand. 

The building where they would apparently be living from that point on was connected to another building by an atrium, the second building had a fenced off playground that was somehow different from the one that was behind the building they would be staying at. It didn’t look like there was a way to get into that fenced off area either. 

“Why don’t you stay here and play with Chain for a little bit,” his mom said once the car had dropped them off. “I have a few things to take care of.”

“We can let her out of the carrier now?” he asked, looking up at her.
“Chain can wander around as much as she wants as long as the two of you are in the Cedarium dome,” she explained. 

So he set down the carrier and opened the door, the strange cat poked her head out cautiously at first. Then when it was clear that nothing was going to harm her, she jumped out all and once and started to sniff the grass nearby. 

“I’ll be back,” his mom said simply before heading into the building’s atrium. 

There were no other kids around, but he wasn’t really in the mood to play with other kids anyways. But he did notice something interesting. The strange courts that he had noticed earlier had a third sibling. And the third one was made out of sand. So he took off his shoes, and ran around in the sand with Chain. He didn’t really know why, but he liked the feeling of sand between his toes. 

He hummed to himself as Chain ran around burning off some of the extra energy that he had built up from being trapped in the carrier all day. He wasn’t really aware of time passing at all. And then something happened–another hole opened up near by where he was standing. He remembered the first hole he had jumped into, where he had met Chain. And he had no reason to think he wouldn’t be able to get back before his mom was done with whatever she was doing. 

So he jumped through–and on the other side of the strange hole in reality–was a strange multicolored beach. Red, green, orange, blue, purple indigo, and violet, those were the colors of the sand, formed in waves across the beach. Vividly colored crystals sprang up from the ground in hague columns all around the beach, and some of them even sprouted out of the red colored water that the beach led to. He had never seen anything quite like it, and few ever would. 

“What do you think, Chain?”
“Meow…” the cat monster said.

“Yeah, that sounds about right.” 

Cryptix swam around in the water, fins and frills of various kinds moved around just below the surface. There was a strange cat-like monster that was colored like a goldfish with the tail of a mermaid. A strange finned pixy monster that was barely a foot tall, strange mice with scales and gills. A turtle-like creature swam out of the water, and kept swimming–through the air. 

“Poem!” he wanted to stay, but he heard his mother calling from the other side of the hole that had stayed open behind him. And so he turned around and stepped back through to the normal world. 

Strange Worlds: Beginnings

Authors note: This is the updated part 1 of the Strange worlds saga. I have already posted most of this, but this is the updated and put together version.


He couldn’t remember how old he was when he first saw the gates. Young enough to not realize how strange the holes that formed floating just above the ground really were. No, at first he thought that everyone could see them. But then he asked his mom what they were one day and she just gave him a confused look, like she didn’t understand. She really didn’t understand of course. But he didn’t know that, and adults had a strange tendency to keep secrets. It made perfect sense to him that she just didn’t want to tell him. 

So he decided that the next time he saw one of the strange holes form–he would jump through and figure out what was on the other side himself. And so that’s what he did, the next time he saw a hole, he jumped. 

He found his way back, of course, this would be a very short story if he hadn’t. But when he came back he had something with him. A strange black and white cat with a tail made of bone. And at the end of the tail that was built link by link, was a sharp-looking blade. As though someone had glued a knife to the end of the cat’s already odd tail. 

All adults knew what the creature was. That night his mother spent a lot of time talking on the phone. He listened while his new cat friend slept on his bed.

“I tried to scare it away but it wouldn’t leave, and then my son got angry at me,” then silence for a bit. “I know, it’s just, he’s so young. I don’t think it would be right.” Then more silence. “I know–I know. I’ll register him tomorrow, maybe someone at the government building will have some options for us.” She hung up the phone and let out a sigh. 

He didn’t really understand what the issue was. But his mother sat down on her chair and fell asleep before he could ask her. So with nothing else to do he curled up with his new monster friend under his blankets and fell asleep. 

When his mother woke him up instead of taking him to the school bus stop they got into a strange car with a driver that he didn’t recognize. They took the monster cat with them. He had decided to name the cat Chain after it’s chain-like bone tail. The little guy (he was fairly certain it was a guy–but he didn’t really know how to check) seemed to like the name, he responded to it as well without much difficulty. 

They made their way to a strange black building that was next to the courthouse. He only knew that it was the courthouse because he had seen a building like it on TV. And they lived in a small town anyways so not many places had that government building look. But the black building next to it was something else entirely–no windows and only one door. It was a fire hazard to be sure. And then the building stretched fairly far into the sky, it was probably the tallest building in the small town they lived in. 

“Mom, what kind of building is this?” he asked, unafraid of the answer, as always.  

“It’s the hunters guild,” the word guild seemed odd to him, he had only ever heard it used in video games. So he figured it was a work only used in fiction. But there it was, being used by his mom to describe the strange black windowless building they were about to walk into. 

He wasn’t really afraid–and a quick look down at his new friend chain revealed that he wasn’t either. The cat monster just sniffed the air with the same curious but unconcerned attitude that made cats seem cat-like.

But thinking back on it, he probably should have been more worried….  

The strange black building looked like an ordinary office building inside, with a tiled floor that had all kinds of strange pictures on it. His mother took him to an office somewhere near the center of the building. She told him to wait in a chair outside of an office somewhere in the center of the building and then went inside to talk to someone, leaving him alone with Chain.

The center of the building was a round room with offices lining the walls of the circular area. The tiled floor was decorated with some kind of picture. It was so large that he couldn’t tell what it was at first. So Chain and he got out of the chair and started to walk around the room.

The bottom of the picture, near where they had walked in from, had small green trees painted onto the floor. They looked small next to the rest of the picture as though they were trying to give a sense of scale. Then there were a bunch of small people standing above and around the trees. He could barely tell they were supposed to be people as there was almost no detail put into them at all. They were just slightly more detailed than stick figures. And for some reason, they all had black sticks that they were holding up and pointing up at something. 

Then the silver and gold paint that took up most of the floor was the last thing he looked at. It was so large, even depicted on the tile of the office that he had to stare at it for a moment before he could figure out what it was. It had silver and gold skin, a square jaw, horns, and red fire leaping out of its mouth.

“A dragon,” he said, finally realizing what it was. “But why are all these people pointing these black sticks at?”
“Meow,” was the only response that Chain gave, though she seemed to understand what he was saying. 

The sound of clicking shoes interrupted him, and he quickly returned to the chair his mother had told him to wait in. The pair of shoes that clicked down the hallways belonged to a woman with a large black purse, and a strange long knife sheathed at her left side. She was tall with long black hair and high heels. He didn’t really notice the suit she wore as he was too busy staring at the long knife that she so boldly wore openly.

She must not have noticed him at first because she started when she looked in his direction. Her hand went for her knife, but she didn’t draw it. Something seemed to occur to her and she stopped herself, she slowly withdrew her hand from her knife as he stared at her even more intently than before. 

“Excuse me, young man,” she said, the whole time she spoke her eyes were not on the boy but on Chain, that cat monster. “But what are you doing here?”

He shrugged nonchalantly. “Ask my mom, she’s in that office.” He pointed back to the office his mom was still in. He couldn’t hear anyone talking inside, but that didn’t mean anything. 

The woman stared at the office for a little bit, as though she was contemplating something. The boy didn’t really understand what the issue was but the woman decided to walk into the office, she didn’t knock or anything. 

And then there was a lot of yelling for a long time. There were three voices: one was his mom, one was the woman who just walked in, and one was a third womens voice who he didn’t recognize. 

“Why is there a Cryptcat here?” the women who just walked in yelled. 

“With all do respect commander,” that was the third voice he didn’t recognize. “This is the Linker registration process. And the last thing we want to do is scare people away so they don’t register.” 

“We don’t need to register them, we need to get rid of them.”

“That is my son you’re talking about,” his mom yelled. 

“Oh please, you can have another kid Linkers are not worth your anger.” 

“What was that,” his mom yelled. 

“Both of you sit down and shut up,” the third voice snapped. It must have been effective because silence fell for a bit. 

“Commander, by barging in here you’ve made this more complicated then this needs to be. This isn’t like the old days where you can point your blade at a Linker and threaten them. We promise that, if they register, and stay honest with us they can live their lives how they want. And she brought her son in here the day after he awakened no questions asked. And then you barge in here demanding—what exactly?”

There was an uncomfortable silence for a moment where nobody said anything. If the commander had something to say it wasn’t loud enough to hear through the door. 

“Now since you came barging in here, threatening him at the top of your lungs I’m going to have to move them as far away from you as I can—to Cedarium.”

Games, First

It was summer when he and his mother moved, so he didn’t have to deal with going to a new school right away. And when he did he wouldn’t have to deal with the added stress of being the ‘new kid.’ But he had to leave all his friends behind when he moved. He had so few friends back in his old town, and that was because he was so bad at making friends. He had always been a little strange compared to everyone else, and that made it hard for him to make friends.

As a result he didn’t have any good ideas about how to meet any of the other kids that lived in that building. And every apartment had a kid living there, apparently it was an apartment building for non linker parents who had linker children. So every door in that place was a potential friend. But he was terrible at making friends, so those doors remained a mystery. 

But he spent a lot of his time exploring the worlds beyond the holes, only he could see. And when he wasn’t he was either playing video games–or in his own world. So really even if he wasn’t terrible at making friends, it was still low on his to do list. 

Soon rumors started to spread about the new kid that would pace around the back of the building only to disappear somehow. And that wasn’t good. The children of building C-13 had rules. And one strange and oblivious kid wasn’t about to change that. 

The first kid to try and talk to him was a boy from the third floor named Cleb. His partner Cryptix was a round ball like monster with long ears and rubbery hands. It was called a Pon, and it used it’s odd elastic hands to create electric shocks. Cleb himself was a shorter kid with sandy blonde hair, that somehow got more blonde near the tips of his hair. His blue eyes didn’t stand out as much as some would expect them to. But he was fairly normal compared to some of the other Linker Children. 

One day Cleb looked out of his third story home and saw Poem wandering around near the playground. That didn’t happen very often, Poem spent most of his time on the side of the yard without the playground on it. That was because the strange portals tended to form on the other side of the yard, where there were more trees, and less metal.

Of course Cleb didn’t know that, all he knew was that he and the other kids in the building had been trying to figure out how to talk to the kid without scaring him off. So of course Clep shouted from his open window. 

“Hay new kid!” Poem looked around in a panic trying to figure out who had just yelled. Finally he looked up to see Cleb sticking his head out the window. “Stay right there new kid. I’ll be right down.” Poem half expected him to jump out the window. But instead he disappeared back into the building and Poem heard the sound of a door opening and closing. 

Poem actually was tempted to run away. But it was just one kid and besides if he didn’t like him he could always flee later.


Authors note: This is part of an ongoing story I’m working on called strange worlds. Check out the link bellow to read from the start.
https://wanderingpoems.blog/cryptix-worlds/

Gates, Hidden.

He had never heard of the Cedarium before, and it sounded rather ominous when it was spoken out-loud. But once they were away from the strange black building his mother assured him that it was nothing to be concerned about. It just meant they had to move–of course he didn’t want to move, he hated change. But he always seemed to be alone on that point. So he did his best not to think about it as he packed up all his things–and said goodbye to the scant few friends he had made in Steamford. And that was it, just like that he was in a moving van driving across Clunux.

It was a beautiful state, with forests, and lots of rivers and lakes. He had only seen deserts on TV, and even then they seemed like something that existed more in fiction then in real life. He had always loved green trees, and he liked water too–he was a particularly good swimmer for his age. Everyone complained that they were too close to Elvin territory, but all the political drama with the elves had happened before he was born, so he had no reason to worry about that. 

He stared out the window and the scenery as it flew by, daydreaming as he always did. They had managed to get Chain into a carrier that was sitting at his feet in the van. Cryptix couldn’t be loose in moving vehicles–or at least that’s what his mom had said. 

“Poem,” his mother said, he looked away from the window and twordes her, she didn’t look back at him though since she was busy driving the van. “I just wanted to tell you that you didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I know,” that was just the way Varis was. Understanding other people and how they felt was hard for him. Even with everything he had heard at the Government building he still didn’t fully understand why they were being forced to move, or why the women with the sword seemed so angry. But that was okay, because there were lots of things that he knew that his mom and the other adults could only dream of. 

“What kind of place is the Cedarium?” he asked looking back to the window again. 

“It’s a place for Linkers and their families to live–it’s–well–we’re just about there….” 

There was that strange word again–Linker–everyone had been really obsessed with saying that lately. He had gathered that he was somehow a Linker now, and people had started calling him that as soon as he jumped through the strange hole and into the other world beyond it. He had come back with Chain and everyone seemed really scared of the cat Cryptix, or at least nervous around it. And he didn’t really understand why. It did have a sharp looking, knife like bone tail, but it had never once tried to hurt anyone. 

As the kept driving he noticed something looming in the distance. At first it was nothing more than a shimmer on the horizon. Then he saw it, a city sitting inside of a glass dome, like a summer snow globe, glistening in the bright sunlight. Skyscrapers towered near the top of the globe. But as they got closer he could see many smaller buildings and houses scattered about as well. 

“Is that–the Cedarium?” he asked–even though he already knew the answer.

-To be continued


If you are interested in reading from the beginning, follow this link: https://wanderingpoems.blog/cryptix-worlds/

The Castle and the Lab

The world shook, and she was forced awake as she fell from her oversized bed. Her pet twin tail was already awake and looking around with panicked scared eyes. Its blue and white fur stood on end and its cat-like ears laid flat on his head. It’s two long tails stuck straight up in the air.  

She was still half asleep and couldn’t even focus enough to wonder what was going on. She grabbed at her bed in a blind panic, trying to climb back up as though the bed could protect her. She tried to call for help, but no sound came out of her mouth. Her pet twin tail jumped into her lap and opened its mouth as though it were hissing. But the sound didn’t form.  

Cracks started to appear along the wall and her books and toys started to fly off the shelves. But the chaotic destruction was completely soundless.  

The door to her room flew open and her dad rushed in. He seemed to be trying to shout something at her but she couldn’t hear what it was. And then she noticed—her dad was slowly falling apart. Bit by bit he was turning to dust. He probably would have fallen to the ground already if it wasn’t for his staff.  

The beautifully carved redwood staff with a metal ring stuck to the top. It was her dad’s magic staff. She had tried to borrow it a few times. But he had caught her every time. The staff only kept him upright for a few short moments before the combination of the shaking room and his disintegrating body caused him to fall helplessly on the floor near his daughter.  

Despite everything, he smiled at his child reassuringly. And placed his staff gently in her hands. When the staff left his hands, his body started to fall apart even faster. He said something—but she still couldn’t hear, and then he touched her face one last time before turning to dust.  

Then the cracks in the wall started to form fissures. The room was splitting in half somehow, and the side she was on drifted away from the rest of her home. She could see the rest of the castle she had lived in all her life slowly crumbling to dust. Even the ground underneath it seemed to begin crumbling away to nothing….  

She opened her eyes. The same dream, she had dreamed about it every night since it had happened. Her dad’s staff was laying on the bed next to her. She was still in her room, but it was split in half with the open side facing out into the world. When she woke up half of her family home, half of the castle she had grown up in, was gone.  

Her families castle had been built into and through a mountain that sat on a sort of peninsula that extended out into the ocean—or had anyways. The other side of the mountain was a wild forested area that was filled with wild Cryptix, dangerous monsters with a strong connection to magic. Of course, her pet twin tail—or rather her familiar—was a Cryptix as well. That was important for some reason…. 

She had wandered around the half of the castle that was still intact. But she was the only person there. All the servants, and staff, and the advisors were all gone. The empty castle felt lonely even though there was only half as much castle. Luckily the kitchen was on the side of the castle that survived, unfortunately, the generator had been on the other side. All the refrigerated food had gone bad within a few days. Or at least she thought it had been a few days, she had been stuck in a daze and couldn’t even tell how many days it had been.  

She looked over at her staff that she had been clenching since her dad had given it to her. The staff was the sign of her dads’ power, the power of the Philosopher King. Whoever rightfully held the staff ruled the lands of Lomus.  

 So that means what exactly? she thought as she squinted at the staff. She hadn’t been able to think clearly since the castle had been torn in half. And then all at once, her dad’s words came rushing back to her. She clenched the staff and jumped to her feet panicking like someone who had overslept. 

Of course, with my dad gone that means I’m the Queen now. And dad always said a ruler never lazes around when there’s work to be done.  

“Dual, we’re going,” the twin tail was lazing around on her bed with the same distant look that she had just moments before.  

“Meow?” it asked confused. 

“I’m the Queen now, and you’re my familiar, we can’t just sit around all day.” 

Suddenly the fog cleared from the monster’s eyes and it jumped onto its four feet. “Meow!” It seemed to understand.  

“Come, let us go survey the damage to the kingdom.”  

She ran out of her bisected room and down the stairs to the lower floors. And then she stopped for a moment and realized that she was still wearing her pajamas—no queen could be seen walking around in her PJs.  

She ran back up the stairs as quickly as she could and back into her room looking for something appropriately royal to wear. After a few moments, she settled on a black and red robe and a pair of red pants. Her dad always seemed to have his royal robe on even when sleeping. She figured she probably wouldn’t go that far. She even put Duel’s collar on. It had a lovely golden crown ornament hanging off of the black studded leather.  

Once dressed she dashed down the stairs once more and onto the castle’s main floor. Her faithful familiar followed her, easily keeping up. The dark castle made it hard to see, the generator was gone and so none of the lights were on. They had converted from simple torches hundreds of years before. But her ancestors had wanted to keep the medieval aesthetic, so they hid the electronic lights along the edges of the ceiling.  

But she had her dad’s staff, and that gave her the power to solve a lot of problems. She focused her energy into the staff and tapped the ring at the top. The staff lit up like a flashlight, casting shadows that danced along the floor and walls of the castle.  

“Meow?”  

“I’m the Queen now Dual; I have to find out what happened to my kingdom.”  

What she had seen when the castle split in half made no sense. She had to figure out what had happened. Her dad had tried to tell her something before—before—before. But she couldn’t hear him—or couldn’t remember. She wasn’t sure…. 

It’s my responsibility now, I’m in charge. So, I have to do everything I can to fix it, she thought.  

She had an idea of where to start. Before—the thing happened. Her dad had been spending a lot of time in the magic lab hidden under the castle. She hadn’t been allowed in that lab, though her dad never told her why. She figured the lab was the first place to check—it had nothing to do with the fact that there wasn’t anybody to stop her and she was curious.  

She walked down the hallway by the light of her staff. And came to the heavy wooden doorway with the sign that read “forbidden, authorized personal only.” The door was made out of a special kind of wood called dusk wood that was supposed to keep magical energies from passing through. She understood that she was actually really knowledgeable about magic. Her tutors were always impressed with how quickly she picked up new information—especially since magic was not an intuitive subject.  

“Alright Dual, we’ll have to be careful once we go here. You’re not going to be able to teleport in there.”  

“Meow?” Dual looked at the door confused. And then he disappeared with a flash of light and a strange vibrating sound. Then there was a loud bang as Dual reappeared comically pressed up against the dusk wood door.  

“Why do you do these things?” she asked her familiar after it had peeled its self-off the door. She shook her head and pushed the heavy door open, she had to lean into the door with her whole body to get it to open since she wasn’t strong enough to open it like she would an ordinary door.  

The door opened onto a long stairway that extended down into the depths of the castle. She had spent a lot of time coming up with ways to sneak down there in the middle of the night. But she had never been able to pull it off. She shook loose the thoughts in her head; it didn’t matter at that point. She was going to see what was in the lab very soon anyway, no point in getting lost in her past shenanigans.  

She started walking down the stairs. She was expecting dust and spider webs littering the stairwell like a haunted house. But the stairs were almost too clean, sterile, it was part of a lab after all.  

When she reached the bottom, she gasped, the castle had split perfectly in half, exactly halfway through the lab. Tables were cut in half, teetering on the edge. Beakers and other lab tools that sat at the edge were also cut in an unnaturally perfect way. The lab opened up into a cave system of some sort. The strange circular pattern of the caves made it look like something had tunneled out of the lab and deep into the earth.  

Human-sized glass cylinders ran along the left side of the room, specimens floated in some sort of green fluid in each of the cylinders–different types of Cryptix. A strange black and green bird with a long tail, a crow with a unicorn horn, a rodent with pine needles sticking out of it’s back, a tiny lizard with pixie wings. All with their eyes closed and unmoving save for the bob and sway of the liquid. 

“Let’s see,” she said looking at all the different monsters. “That one’s a pixdragonia, that’s a cronacorn, and that’s a pinmartin. But what’s this one?” She couldn’t figure out what species the weird black and green bird was. She looked to her familiar for guidance–but he was trying to bat at the pixdragonia through the glass as it flouted around in the strange green liquid. She sighed and went back to examining the lab. 

There were scalpels for cutting things, and syringes for injecting things. Thermometers, beakers, goggles, forceps, and crystals scattered here and there. 

It’s a Cryptix lab, she thought with some surprise. I thought there would be some big cool magic thing down here. 

There was one odd thing she couldn’t figure out right away. In the middle of the room there was another glass cylinder, but that one had been bisected with the rest of the room. And there was no sign of the Cryptix that had been in there. She found it strange that all the other monsters had been in tubes along the side of the wall, but there had apparently been just one at what would have been the exact center of the room. 

A little disappointed that she hadn’t found a cool magic weapon she sat down on a chair to think. There were no notes or books of any kind in the lab that might help her figure out what they had been doing. Her dad was a meticulous note-taker, so that was odd. But his notes could have been on the other side of the lab when ‘it’ happened. Some of the crystals might have been knowledge crystals, but she doubted any Elementalist or wizard worth their salt would just leave knowledge crystals laying around. She searched her brain for one of her dad’s lectures. He knew everything about magic, so there had to be some reason. 

“Magic is divided into three categories,” she said mimicking her dad’s stern lecture voice. “Magic from above, drawn from the stars is called elementalism. Magic from below, drawn from the Aeon sea, is called wild magic, and magic drawn from Cryptix is called Auramancy.” She giggled, amused at how accurate her mimicry was. 

“Oh,” she said in her own voice. “So then if this is a magic lab with Cryptix in it, then they must have been studying Auramancy.” 

“That’s right,” she said in her dad’s voice again. “Auramancy is the weakest form of magic, however, Cryptix are plentiful so it’s the most common type of magic.” 

Magic users all had different gifts. When she first started using magic, Dual had appeared seemingly out of nowhere to help her cast her spells. She remembered that her dad had frowned since that meant she was an Auramancer, and he didn’t seem to like the art. He didn’t even have a familiar of his own. Of course, she was the daughter of the Philosopher King, so just a few weeks after Dual appeared she also learned elementalism.

“People who can use two kinds of magic get special titles. Since you can use both Auramancy and Elementalism what does that make you Sylvy,” she said in her dad’s voice. 

“Ouhh, ouhh,” she said waving her hand in the air as though there was actually someone else he could pick on. “Someone who uses both elementalism and Auramancy is called a wizard.” She really liked the title even if her dad seemed disappointed about it sometimes. 

In her mind, she was now sitting in a classroom with her dad drawing complex diagrams on the chalkboard. It was halfway between memory and something she was imagining. She wasn’t sure if her dad had ever given her a lecture exactly like that one. But it didn’t seem to matter. 

“Exactly, and someone like me who can use both elementalism and wild magic is called a…” 

“A thhuu–a thhuu–thhuutmaterg,” she said struggling over the complicated word. 

“A Thaumaturge, you had the right word in your head so I’ll count it as a right answer.” Her dad said with a wink. 

“Now someone who can use all three kinds of magic is called an Archmage, but there hasn’t been someone like that since the first Philosopher King way back at the founding of our kingdom…” 

“Dad you missed one,” she said interrupting him mid-lecture. But her dad just looked at her confused. 

“What’s the special title someone gets if they can use both wild magic and Auramancy?”

“Oh–someone like that hasn’t existed in thousands of years. But it is said that the shamans of old could use both Auramancy and Wild Magic.” 

She opened her eyes, trying to clear away the rest of the strange fantasy from her mind. She had everything she needed. The strange secret lab was an Auramancy lab. They were researching the innate magical powers of Cryptix. Her dad had taken a special interest in that project, which seemed odd to her. He didn’t seem to like Auramancy that much. Why would he be so interested in Cryptix research? 

Then again, she thought. Maybe they weren’t researching Auramancy. She had a lot of different magic tutors, but all of them agreed that Auramancy can’t be forced, the power of a Cryptix can only be drawn upon when the monster consents. 

She starred at the monsters suspended helplessly in the cylinders for a few moments. Is there a kind of magic that can draw power from monsters forcefully. If there is that would be horrible. Her teachers had always said that humans and monsters needed to work together. Well except for her dad–what had he said? She couldn’t remember for some reason. 

But–for some reason, she didn’t really understand, it didn’t seem right to keep those Cryptix sealed in those class cylinders. So she walked over to the release valves, and one by one began to open them. The valves hissed and protested as the liquid started to drain out….