Laurenar and I almost ran to the throne room. The queen was seated on her throne with her hands resting atop of the brown, leather-bound tome. The symbols on the front cover were not legible. She was guarded by two soldiers in silver armor, each of them holding halberds and gazing at the doors we had entered. It seemed to be the only entrance to the throne room. But as I had seen earlier, many of the rooms had hidden compartments and the throne room surely was not an exception. Queen Sophia was pleased to see us, but angry at what had been done to her fountain. Laurenar brought her up to speed, explaining the events of the explosion and chase in detail. I stood silently by his side. When he ended his report, Seraphina stepped into the throne room. She was holding a towel in der hand to dry her soaking wet garments.
The queen addressed her immediately: “Did you find anything of use?”
Seraphina shook her head.”Nothing but water in the courtyard. There seem to be faint traces of magic, but nothing substantial.”
Her body language showed her disappointment. The smile she wore most of the time had vanished and was replaced with a stern expression similar to Laurenar’s. She continued to dry herself while the queen on the other hand did not seem let down by the answer.
“Thank you both for your efforts tonight.” Her voice was sincere and full of gratitude. She then turned to me. “I’m very pleased you have not been harmed. After all, you were the target of today’s attacks.”
My jaw dropped. “Me? A target? How? Are you sure it wasn’t you?”
The queen chuckled. “There was a feast today. And yesterday. And three days ago. Perfect opportunities to wreck havoc or to use subtle measures to attack me. Why blow up the courtyard while I’m sitting here behind the thick walls of Lion’s Den? Why wait? No. It wasn’t me who was the target. On the other hand, you were not alone until Laurenar brought you to your room. You were supposed to sleep and rest. It was the perfect opportunity. Luckily, his plan failed on all levels. He wanted to use the explosion to hide and to make it seem as if he wanted to damage me. Being seen was not part of the plan at all. But he figured he could try to shoot you once he was discovered. Thankfully, Seraphina was by your side.”
Suddenly, I felt sick. Just a few hours ago I had been sitting on my bed, imagining my first day at university and trying to sleep. Now I really was not only in a far away city, but in a far away world and time. And the adventure had begun with somebody already trying to kill me. I wondered if my friends at university could say the same of their starting experience.
“But why?” I fought back the urge to vomit and stared at the queen.
The two soldiers suddenly strode towards the exit and left the four of us alone in the room. An uncomfortable silence followed. Sophia was looking at me, studying my face and body. Seraphina and Laurenar took their place by the side of their queen. She was weighing her words very carefully. I stood there deflated, my arms hanging by my side and my eyes gazing at the floor wondering if it would open up and take me back home. It didn’t. When the silence continued, I finally had seen enough of the floor and looked back at the queen. Her sapphire-blue eyes were still fixed on me and staring into them had a calming effect on me. Satisfied, she gave me an answer:
“You’re about to go on a long journey. These two will continue to be your guardians. Now my friends, what does that tell you about your adventure?”
I thought about her question for a second. What did I know about Illusio? What did I know about the world? Then I realized who exactly Seraphina and Laurenar were. While she didn’t sit on the council of the wizards leading the academy, she was portrayed as the most gifted sorceress of her age. It would only be a matter of time or personal preference until she would take her place among the powerful mentors. And Seraphina had introduced him to me as “Knight of Illusio” and “Protector of the Portal”. What I didn’t know was that this implied he was the only one. This also explained the respect and awe the other soldiers treated him with. And in my dream, he had been the commander of the army. Laurenar was the knight everyone aspired to be.
I sighed. “That nothing in the realm is more important than this journey.”
The queen gave me a broad smile, but I was sure I could see a hint of relief behind her openness. “Correct. We have an enemy we need to find and we need to beat. Without your help, our fight will go on forever. That is why we opened the portal to bring you here. Unfortunately, they now know you’re here while we do not know where exactly the journey will take you.”
“You brought me here?”
Before Sophia could answer, we heard the faint sound of another explosion and one of the men with halberds stormed into the room: “An explosion at the blacksmith’s shop. The trade is on fire!”
The queen looked at Laurenar and nodded: “Then we have even less time than anticipated. Your guardians will explain more on the first leg of your journey. Head down to the harbor and board the “Crimson Crocodile”, a smuggler’s ship specifically designed for our spies. Follow the coast to the west until you reach the Silver Lighthouse. There you’ll find some of the answers you’re looking for.”
She stood up and dropped the dressing gown she had been wearing to reveal midnight blue robes embroidered with silver. They were similar to the ones Seraphina was wearing and indicated proficiency with magic. A few quick steps later she had reached the door. Sophia turned to us and commanded:
“I have my city to save. You my world. Now leave!”
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