An unbelievably loud and imperceptible noise rang out silently across the vast nothingness. After it finished, deafening silence prevailed over the empty space once more, as had been so for uncountable eons.
In the empty nothingness, an invisible light faded away. No-one was there to see it, in the emptiness, and thus it was seen by the formless giants that inhabit this minute piece of space.
That noise again.
And time continues to stand still.
~~ Farkas PoV ~~
Rudely awoken from my deep, dreamless sleep by a sudden movement and loud noise, I feel a sense of confusion slowly replacing my grogginess.
‘Why am I moving? I was… I was in The Forest to get revenge on those Black Dagger bastards, then their so-called elites surrounded me, then… then what?’ (Farkas)
“Jeg vet at vi trenger a skynde men denne veien er i en forferdelig tilstand, synes det lite hensiktsmessig for vogner i det hele tatt lar alene denne typen fart!” (girl?)
“Veien er helt greit, Lys, det er bare at vi kommer raskere enn denne vognen er ment a ga. Det vil være ubehagelig, men minst vil vi fa til hovedstaden raskere.” (woman?)
‘…what? What the hell language is that?! I’m sure I know all the currently used languages, even a few dead ones, how do I not know this one? Where am I? Okay, calm down. First I should check my body and surroundings, as wherever I am it seems I’ve been captured.’ (Farkas)
Feeling for the mana in my body I quickly find it around a quarter full, recovering at a normal rate, and strangely not inhibited by anything.
‘Did these people find me after I passed out from mana exhaustion and not realise I’m a mage? But why did I pass out? I somehow don’t remember the fight, but I should have had more than enough mana to deal with the remaining mercs…’ (Farkas)
Spreading my mana out and through my veins to survey the state of my body, it seems I have no injuries nor am I being restrained by any magical or physical means. It’s almost as though I’m not a prisoner. Next, I push a fine mist of mana out in every direction to create an image in my mind of my surroundings, without needing to open my eyes and reveal to any potential guards that I’m awake. What I find disturbs me.
I’m indeed inside a carriage, but it seems to be quite the fancy one – if we were two or three thousand years in the past. It’s actually being pulled by horses instead of a magic engine, and there’s no suspension! No wonder the ride is so far from being comfortable. The carriage is flanked by a row of 10 mounted soldiers on each side, with a group of 5 horseback soldiers in front and another 5 to the rear behind a considerably less fancy carriage that probably holds supplies and/or foot soldiers. Not just the carriages, even the weapons and armour seem brand new and yet also ancient.
‘Iron! Iron armour! What’s wrong with these people?! Have they never heard of mithril? Or even steel? Even the mounted soldier leading the march is only wearing iron despite how this lot seem to be on an official or important journey!’ (Farkas)
After calming myself so that I don’t accidentally screw my face up in anger or shout out my frustrations, I focus on what my Mana Flash shows me of the carriage’s insides. I’m lying on the bench seat at the rear while a girl in a ridiculously frilly dress, a young woman with concealed weapons in a maid outfit, and another young woman wearing actual steel armour are sitting across from me. The maid seems fairly nervous, probably about having a strange man in the carriage with the important girl, while the girl herself seems… impatient? She’s likely either waiting for me to wake up or for this damned torture-carriage to stop moving. The armoured woman doesn’t really give anything away, though she’s calm and collected like a good commander should be, but also clearly on guard towards my “sleeping” self.
‘Hmm? They all have a reasonable level of mana for someone who has never trained as a mage, but there actually aren’t any mages. No enchantments or Magic Crystals either… Even common bandits could rip these idiots to shreds! *sigh* Still, I probably shouldn’t abruptly reveal that I’ve already woken up… best not to provoke them if I don’t need to.’ (Farkas)
“Vi bor vaere i stand til a se byen snart, Forst Prinsesse.” (maid?)
Taking that statement, that I’ll assume was a request to have some cookies ready for me when I awake, as a cue to “stir” as though just waking up I wiggle a bit before rather convincingly faking a yawn. Faking yawns is surprisingly difficult, you know? I really impressed myself with that one. Another wiggle and some stretching, and they’ve definitely noticed me. I sit up slowly and open my eyes after rubbing one of them, then slowly look at each of the three in front of me.
The maid is visibly scared of me and looking everywhere but in my direction. Why does someone like her have such vicious-looking concealed weapons? Is her fear an act? The knight is eyeing me with both interest and suspicion, while awkwardly trying to ready herself to stab me in this cramped space. Then I look at the frilly girl with her sparking eyes and everything comes back to me. The light, the monsters, and realising as I cast Niflheim, the area of effect ice magic, that the transportation spell in the girl’s pendant used my mana to power itself and I’m about to faint. Which I obviously did, and they decided to leave that town without waiting for me to wake up.
I unintentionally frown as I look at the necklace and for some reason the girl hides her chest while coming to verge of tears.
“Hva er du sa skuffet om?! De er fortsatt far storre!” (girl)
‘Yeah, no clue what she’s saying, but she’s clearly angry and upset. So why is the knight now smirking at me like this is funny? Guess I’d better say something and hope they can understand me…’ (Farkas)
~~ Lys PoV ~~
‘How humiliating! You’re laughing at this in your head aren’t you, Beskytte?! I don’t even need to look at your face! I know men usually like them big, but I’m only 14! Just you wait and see how big they are in a few years!’ (Lys)
“Fogalmam sincs, mirol beszelsz igy remelem ertheto szamomra, es maris beszelhetnek ezen a nyelven.” (future husband)
We all freeze after hearing him speak. I’m pretty good at languages, but his doesn’t remind me of a single one I’ve ever heard. No use asking Ivareta, she was trained as a maid not a diplomat, and Beskytte never was very bright so she’s out as well.
‘This is going to be a very awkward ride home at this rate…’ (Lys)
Just as I was thinking that the man stretched out a hand towards me, but Beskytte immediately had her blade at his throat. Except it just broke into two, half-way down the blade. The man is now looking at Beskytte with a calm face while she’s glaring at him in shock as much as anger, but I can tell she’s very nervous. It’s no surprise that I missed it, but I get the feeling that even she couldn’t see him move, not to mention the strength it takes to cleanly snap a steel claymore. I then proceed to chop Beskytte on the head, to let her know she’s in trouble for pointing her sword at our saviour, before pushing her arm down so the remainder of the blade isn’t pointing at our guest.
After I look back to him and nod he continues to slowly stretch his hands towards my head, clearly showing that he is holding nothing and moving slowly to try and seem unthreatening. Which might work if I hadn’t just witnessed him break Beksytte’s boyfriend. She’s probably going to cry later, and hate this guy for the rest of her life. That’s going to be annoying, I’m sure. Once he has a hand on each side of my head he closes his eyes, so I do the same, and moments later I feel a strange tingling sensation throughout my entire body.
[Can you understand me now?] (future husband)
I hear the man’s voice again, only this time I can understand him so I snap my eyes open before he finishes talking only to stare at his closed mouth as words continue to resound inside my head. I open my mouth to speak, and he smirks slightly as I close it again without a sound. My thoughts have all but stopped as my excitement takes over.
[Yes, I can, and I must say I am very glad that you are awake now. You’ve been asleep for nearly two days since you collapsed immediately after creating the ice, though there were over 200 monsters in the town and your ice stopped every single one of them so I suppose it’s no surprise that it took great effort.] (Lys)
[No, rather, if you’d provided the proper amount of mana to your summoning spell something like Niflheim wouldn’t be any trouble at all. In fact, why did you wait until those creatures were almost upon you before activating the talisman?] (Farkas)
‘Mana? Summoning spell? Niflheim? No trouble at all? Talisman?! I knew it! Magic really does exist, even in this world, and I was somehow able to use it! Wait, activating this “talisman” thing is what summoned him? Does that mean mother’s pendant is a magical artefact… which I activated? So, basically what he’s saying is…?’ (Lys)
“I CAN USE MAGIC?!” (Lys)
Beskytte and Ivareta both jumped, startled, at my sudden joyous outburst, before Ivareta goes back to looking nervous and Beskytte sternly begins questioning me.
“What are you on about, Lys? You’ve just been staring at each other for a minute or two and then you shout about magic? Explain, quickly, or I’ll use what’s left of Kjekk to cut his hands off for so casually touching the First Princess.” (Beskytte)
[Beskytte’s in a really bad mood… You shouldn’t have broken her sword, it was the closest thing she’s ever had to a boyfriend. I need to explain to her that we’re talking in our minds before she actually tries to attack you again.] (Lys)
[Sure thing. So the knight’s name is Beskytte, huh? I’m Farkas, by the way. Forgot to introduce myself at the beginning, sorry about that.] (Farkas/future husband)
[It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sir Farkas. My name is Lys av’Flamme Gnistenkrone, First Princess of Belyse.] (Lys)
Sir Farkas removes his hands from my head as I turn to face my Knight Commander.
“Hush, Beskytte. It’s your own fault Kjekk was broken for pointing it at Sir Farkas, our saviour, so suddenly. Even I can see that his incredible body is one forged of combat, so you should have known he wouldn’t react well to an unprovoked attack. As for staring at him, he’s using magic to allow us to talk in our minds in such a way that we can understand each other. Now, will you suppress your foul mood while in front of such an esteemed and powerful guest or are you actually trying to bring shame to the royal family through me, the First Princess?” (Lys)
“YAHAHAHAHA SHE NAMED HER SWORD ‘HANDSOME’?! Oh, that’s golden! *ahem* I thank you for your compliment, First Princess. I am most glad that a beautiful girl such as yourself does not find this lowly mage’s body unsightly. You also need not worry about your knight bringing shame to you or your family, I shall not hold her actions against you. It is her duty to doubt and protect, after all.” (Farkas)
I nearly jump out of my skin as he starts laughing out loud. For some reason I can understand his words, even though he’s talking out loud and no longer touching my head. Then the meaning of his words sink in and I blush furiously when I realise he had also understood my words when I accidentally let slip that I find him attractive.
‘Oh gods, Beskytte is never going to stop teasing me about this either!’ (Lys)
Or so I thought, but as I peek at her from between my fingers she’s looking back and forth between Farkas and I with a confused expression. Gaining a little courage, I get her attention.
“What’s the matter, Beskytte?” (Lys)
“Well, it seemed like you were both talking out loud and properly understanding each other, despite the fact he’s still not speaking in our language.” (Beskytte)
With Beskytte not making any sense I quickly recover my composure and grab onto this topic with all my might, lest they begin teasing me again!
“What are you saying? Sir Farkas clearly just spoke in Common Belysian, as you and I are doing now.” (Lys)
“Forgive me for interrupting, First Princess, but I can explain. Rather than merely communicating with you telepathically, I was setting up a connection of sorts between our minds. Nothing invasive I assure you. I cannot read your thoughts and you cannot read mine, nor can we communicate telepathically. The connection simply allows you to understand my words, and I to understand your words. I do not know your language so your knight’s words are still foreign to me, as mine will be to her.” (Farkas)
‘Doesn’t this mean that Beskytte didn’t hear him insult the name of her sword? Thank goodness, that would have made a bad situation even worse. Hopefully her confusion will have distracted her from my slip of the tongue… wait, didn’t Sir Farkas say I was beautiful back then?!’ (Lys)
Coughing lightly to prevent another blush, I pass the explanation onto Beskytte as much as I understand it myself.
“Thank you Sir Farkas. It seems, Beskytte, that Sir Farkas’ magic has made it so that we two can understand each other, so that he may at least be capable of minimal communication with us until he learns our language properly.” (Lys)
“On the topic of learning your language properly, First Princess, am I correct in assuming that none of the servants or soldiers you have brought in this convoy are disposable, and that we are heading to the capital?” (Farkas)
“Eh? C-certainly none of them are disposable, they are the minimum amount of personal staff I bring with me whenever I leave the capital, which we are indeed returning to currently. Why do you ask such a thing?” (Lys)
“Well even before you introduced yourself it was obvious you were important, and that these two were the heads of their respective professions within your employ, so I thought it best not to touch them. If none of the others are disposable either, though, then it seems I’ll have to wait until we reach our destination before I can rip your language out of someone’s mind.” (Farkas)
I’m starting to get nervous now. Nothing about his demeanor or his voice have changed, and the look in his eyes is the same as ever, but it almost seems like I’m talking to a completely different man. Is he really the kind of person who can see others as disposable…?
“This talk of disposable staff and ripping language out of the mind, may I ask what you mean exactly? The people of this world have lost their magic long ago, so such things are alien to us, I’m afraid.” (Lys)
I try my best to hold my composure as I wait for an answer I desperately don’t want to hear. Not from him.
“Lost their magic? That’s very odd… Sorry, that surprised me. As for you question, there is no magic I know of that can duplicate the knowledge of another. I know how to extract or manipulate knowledge and memories, but not duplicate. Unlike manipulating the mind, when one extracts knowledge from a person no amount of skill can prevent the process from causing damage. If the person did live afterwards, their knowledge of language would be gone so they’d be completely unable to communicate at any level beyond sharing emotions telepathically. However, with something as important as a person’s first language the damage to the mind is very painful and also entirely lethal.” (Farkas)
I can’t hide it any more. I’m scared. Not of Sir Farkas himself, but of his world and his people. No, I’m not scared of Sir Farkas, I never could be. But I do feel sorry for him, to have lived in such a harsh society that any individual could be considered disposable. From the look on his and Beskytte’s faces it would seem I’ve failed miserably at holding back my tears.
~~ Farkas PoV ~~
‘Oh shit. What’s happening? Let alone nobility, she’s a royal! I’d understand if she was a sheltered princess kept locked inside, but she’s allowed to leave the palace and see the world. How can she have no idea about the value of people?’ (Farkas)
I endure Beskytte’s glare as she comforts a sobbing First Princess while I try to make sense of this situation. I guessed from their strange language and apparent level of technology that this kingdom is considerably isolationist in nature, though how they are maintaining that is a mystery as any normal nation would barely need a force of a tenth of that which Belyse could muster to annihilate them. Maybe they aren’t as discriminatory between the castes as the rest of the world?
‘Now that I look at them again, these three look a bit odd but I can’t put my finger on why. They look like anyone else, except for their round pupils and lack of horns… Wait a second! Round pupils?! No horns?! What the hell is going on in this kingdom?!’ (Farkas)
As I begin to panic, thoughts going around and around in my head with no end in sight, it seems the girl has recovered herself and is explaining our conversation to her knight. I barely notice as she turns to me with a determined yet sympathetic look on her face, but my thoughts freeze completely when she finishes speaking.
“I’m sorry, Sir Farkas, I simply had never thought that Draconian society could be so different from our own, and I wasn’t prepared to learn how little life is valued on your world. While some kingdoms may be similarly cruel to the weak and poor, we humans generally practice considerably less discrimination, it would seem. Especially in Belyse, everyone has the opportunity to advance themselves. My uncle Bror, for example, whose mansion we were at when the monsters attacked. Three generations ago his family were common farmers until one son joined the military and performed most admirably, paving the way for his family to become an influential military house now among the High Nobility. Even slaves must be treated with a certain level of decency.” (Lys)
‘Humans. She said humans. I wasn’t just summoned to unknown continent, but another world!? I thought that crap about other gods and races and worlds was esoteric bullshit to control the peasants! This is not good. How do I get back? Wait… get back? Why do I even want to go back? It’s certainly my home, but… Did I ever like it? I don’t think that I did.’ (Farkas)
After taking a moment to calm my thoughts and letting out a deep breath, I look over these people again.
‘Humans. One of the other sentient races, children of the Human God, who was actually a goddess if I remember the stories right. A physically average race excelling in no particular magic system, but better at adapting to all situations than any other, was it?’ (Farkas)
I feel a sense of excitement towards spending time in this world, as I bow and reply to the patiently waiting First Princess.
“I apologise for shocking you, First Princess. As I was out from mana exhaustion I wasn’t quite at my best even after resting for so long, and somehow didn’t notice your eyes or lack of horns. I thought I had been transported to some location on my own world, and did not anticipate that your society would be so different. If the kingdom of Belyse is even a fraction as kind to its people as you claim then it is certainly a wonderful kingdom. I am used to the cruelty of my own race, but I have never agreed with it. As an orphan I had one of the worst possible beginnings in Draconian society, and only my potential for magic allowed me to rise above such treatment myself. I would very much like to see a nation where the commoners are actually happy. But I can’t say the prospect of having to learn your language the long way is as appealing.” (Farkas)
A number of emotions rippled across her slightly too white skin as I spoke, and her jewel-like eyes never broke contact with my own. Her surprise at my bow and mention of overlooking the fact they’re human; joy at hearing how I am not actually as cold-hearted as the request I made, and the compliment to her own kingdom; sadness as I mention my childhood and the unspoken struggles before I learnt magic; and a stifled laugh at my last statement. I seem to have successfully lightened the mood somewhat.
We continued to chat about minor things, really just her curiosity about magic and mine towards her nation, until we arrived at the edge of a large, lush valley with a lake at the bottom. Around the southern and eastern edges of the lake spreads a town, to the northern shores is what seems to be an industrial area along with a river leading out of the valley, and to the west looks like another town all by itself. Seeing my interest, Beskytte informs me that the western buildings make up the military district. In the center of the lake is an island which you can probably guess is the location of the Belysian palace, with four bridges leading to it from the shores – one for each cardinal direction. As we approach the eastern bridge, the sun dips behind the hills that mostly surround us.