CHAPTER FOUR

Was It Just A Dream?

 

Damien smashed his hand against his alarm. He felt as if he had just fallen asleep, but he hadn’t really slept too well last night. His dream had been so real that he could have sworn it hadn’t been a dream at all. He stared at the surrounding room. His books sat stacked on the shelves, his clothes hamper lay overfilled beside his nearly empty dresser, and all his pictures stood as they always had on his paper-cluttered desk – everything was exactly as he had left it.

Damien stood up and threw off the covers. He kind of wished it hadn’t been a dream. Wished he could go back to Demiria. Everything there had seemed so vivid, so magical, so… perfect.

Damien got up and checked his reflection in the mirror. He yanked open the drawer, grabbed the first shirt he could find, and pulled it over his head. He stretched out his arms and headed to the window to raise his blinds.

BANG… BANG! Damien jumped. The only person who knocked this early in the morning on their apartment door was the landlord, Jim. He was early though, the end of the month was still a few days away.

BANG… BANG! Usually it was his father, who answered the door, especially to talk to Jim. Damien grabbed a pair of pants and slipped them on as another pair of knocks sounded at the door. His father must have left early for work today. It wouldn’t be the first time Damien awoke to an empty home.

More knocks. Jim was seriously inpatient. Could he really not wait 2 minutes? Damien glanced in the mirror at his hair. It often amazed him how straight it could be in the morning. With one last look in the mirror Damien pushed open his bedroom door, headed down the tiny hallway past the kitchen, and towards the front entrance. The metal of the knob was surprisingly cool to the touch. It was almost as if the coolness of the handle was actually moving through his body. Damien pushed the thought from his mind. Between the dream about some world with magical creatures in the clouds, and now this, he really needed to get to bed at an earlier hour.

To Damien’s surprise it wasn’t Jim’s face at the door, but two boys who appeared to be about Damien’s age. They were both wearing jeans and dress shirts with a sweater vest on top. The vest depicted the logo of a dragon and a minotaur engaged in a fierce battle. At first glance they reminded Damien of his least favorite classmate Jeff and Jeff’s equally annoying best friend Tom. Only these two were smaller and had identical shoulder length brown hair. In fact the only difference between the two boys standing at his door was the color of their eyes.

“Hey there, you must be the new kid. My name is Gabe, and this is Balatro.”

Damien stared past them. The endless apartment doors that usually greeted him were gone, and in their place were houses similar to those he had seen in the town Alexia had brought him to. Damien peered cautiously out the door and glanced to either side. Houses lined the street on both sides of a thin stone path. Each house looked the same as the one next to it. Bricks stacked up to the thatched roofs, and smoke billowed from the chimneys of a few. There were no cars on the street, only children playing, and the occasional grownup going for a stroll.

“You look a little confused there, kid. What’s your name?”

As much as he wanted to respond, Damien couldn’t find the words to speak. His mind was too preoccupied with trying to figure out what was going on.

“If I didn’t know any better I’d say this creep was a maleic,” Gabe said, nudging his friend.

Balatro sniggered. “Sure seems that way,”

Damien had awoken in his bedroom. It made no sense that this was real. He wanted to know what was going on, but he remembered what the Dean had told him – ‘never let on that you’re not from here’. “Sorry, I’m Damien,” he said, breaking the silence.

Gabe eyed Damien. “Seems a little strange, hey,”

Damien’s heart dropped.

“What do you mean?”

“Well all these whispers around of the darkness rising up. They even took to reopening these residence buildings closed since the first Great War for kids from outside Fidelia to stay. Said it was easier, but my guess is they were scared he’d find a way in if people came and left at will. And then all of a sudden two weeks into school you just happen to show up. Where you been?”

It was becoming clear that keeping his secret was not going to be as easy as it had sounded. He had no idea what to say. If he lied Gabe was sure to see through it, and if he told him the truth his secret would be out. Although Alexia did say that no cherub has been able to pass through to Earth. So maybe.

“I’m from Earth,” Damien said. It was a long shot, but the truth was so farfetched it could be taken as a joke.

“Right,” Gabe laughed. “I still don’t trust you, but you got a sense of humor, and I respect that.”

“Thanks,” Damien replied.

Gabe raised his index finger to his cheek, and tapped it as he gazed at Damien’s attire. “I got my eye on you, Damien,” He pointed to his eyes, and then to Damien before he turned, and headed down the street with Balatro in tow.

Damien closed the door. He stared behind him at his apartment. It was still the same as it had been in New York. Desperate to find an answer Damien ran to his father’s room and flung open the door. Inside his father’s bed was neatly tucked, and his books stacked against the back shelf. He ran to the window and threw open the blinds. Instead of the bustling streets of New York a forest greeted his eyes.

Damien eyed the phone by his father’s bed. He picked it up in hopes of calling his father. Silence greeted him.

He couldn’t deny it any longer. Even though he stood in this place that felt, and looked so much like home, he was nowhere near it. And if this was real then he needed to find the Dean. He was the only one Damien could safely ask about what was going on.

By the time Damien re-entered the streets they were even more crowded than before. Even with the droves of people, or cherubs, very few were older than him. There were a few adults walking up and down the street, but they walked alone and seemed content to just observe the scene around them. Damien reached the end of the street and watched as two minotaurs identical to the ones he had seen last night eyed a group of nearby girls skipping past them. The girls turned back towards the minotaurs and giggled wildly.

The vacant stares of the minotaurs met with Damien’s as he passed, but neither made a move to stop him. A side street shot off in both directions, and the road in front ran for only half of a block before it twisted from view. It seemed tracking down the Dean was going to be harder than Damien had realized.

“Excuse me. Do you know where Dean Inzageal’s office is?” Damien asked a lady who was walking by with her two kids.

The lady gave Damien a dirty look and continued on without a word.

“People aren’t going to trust you if you go around asking questions that every cherub knows the answer to.”

Damien turned to see the last person he wanted to see coming up behind him. “It’s Gabe right. I didn’t mean to offend anybody, I just got in late last night, and forgot where the Dean said his office was.”

Gabe raised his right eyebrow. “Right. Well listen why don’t you come with us we’ll show you to his office. Heading that way anyways, Earth studies class starts soon, and I have no interest in being late for one of Restenta’s classes.

“Earth studies?” Damien asked.

“Yeah, you didn’t have that where you went to school?”

Damien doubted he could do a better job of backing himself into a corner if he was trying. Everything he said seemed to make Gabe question him more and more.

“Uh yeah, we had it. I just didn’t think it was a problem missing it. That class is the easiest.”

“I wouldn’t say easiest. Magical aura in first year is a thousand times easier. It’s not the class though it’s the teacher. Restenta’s the guy who runs the residence area,” Gabe pointed to the street where Damien had just come from before continuing. “I don’t know if I can blame him, dealing with kids without their parents being here, but he’s kind of strict.”

“Kind of,” Baltro laughed.

“Yeah, okay. He is the last person you want to cross here. If I can give you some advice don’t get on his bad side.”

“Thanks,” Damien replied.

Gabe led the way down a flight of stairs, and into a giant square, filled with tents, and thousands of people.”

“What’s this?” Damien asked, before he could stop himself.

“It’s Fidelia’s centrum. Let me guess, this mystical place you came from before didn’t have this either?”

“Just not this big,” Damien replied.

“Most of the older cherubs who go to Fidelia Percium come here for lunch, but its pretty pricy if you don’t have a job. The Cafe in the school’s your best bet for a cheap meal.”

“Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it. Now look, school is just down this street, big building on the right, and the offices of all the administrators, and professors is on the left. Ignore the sign on the door. It’s just for non-students. You’ll be waiting all day if you follow it. Just head through the door and catch the transport chamber in the back left to the Dean’s office.”

The school put Damien’s old school to utter shame. It looked like a palace, with a tower on each outer corner, and a two-story brick wall surrounding the building on the inside. From where he stood, Damien could only make out the peak of the fortress inside the walls. It felt like a castle, or a church, or a government office. Really any place of royalty – not a school.

Snapping back to reality Damien went to thank Gabe for his direction, only he was nowhere to be seen. “Another strike in the what’s this guys problem column,” Damien muttered to himself, as he walked towards the Administration Building.

The Administration Building was impressive in its own right. It didn’t have any fancy turrets, or walls surrounding it, but it did tower above everything else around it. At its apex was a large clock face that read out the time. 8:57. Damien remembered what the Dean had said to him, class starts at nine. He was going to be late. Although it really wasn’t his fault, the Dean couldn’t have expected him to find his way on his own to the school, this town was massive, and its roads were more of a maze than anything else.

Damien admired the massive marble pillars that supported an overhang leading towards the building. A garden lined either side, filled with flowers whose petals came in every color imaginable. The wooden doors were etched with the same logo that Damien had seen on Gabe’s sweater. Everything in this place was built with such precision and detail. Damien pushed open the wooden door so preoccupied by his surroundings that he didn’t even see the sign beside the door that read No entry for students without administrative escort.

Two steps inside the door Damien ran smack into a very large, and very angry looking cherub.

“Sorry I didn’t see you there?” Damien gasped, as he caught his breath.

The cherub grunted. “What are you doing in here by yourself?”

“I was just going to see the Dean,” Damien replied.

The veins in the cherubs overly muscular arms bulged in time with the ones on his forehead. “The sign says no entry without administrative escort, and I don’t see your escort.”

Damien’s stomach turned. He had completely missed the sign when he was coming in. Only Gabe had told him to ignore it. Maybe he wasn’t being nice after all.

“Sorry,” Damien muttered.

“Imagine my anger, when one of my students informed me that the newest addition to my class was not only skipping, but trespassing in the administrative building as well.”

“Which means you’re Restenta?”

“I am. The student who came forth was concerned that the strange boy who showed up two months late to the start of the school year, unannounced was snooping off on his own. Especially amongst the whispers that Electus is near.”

“You think I’m Electus?”

“All I know is that the Senate has denied any rumors of the return of this darkness, yet they’ve closed off our walls, and won’t let any townsfolk leave the fortified city without escort from a member of the Senate or his army. Dean Inzageal trusts you, so I trust you, but if you give people reason they will turn on you in times like this.”

“I just wanted to see the Dean, I had some questions.”

“Well lucky for you, you can see him right before he gives you griffin duty for trespassing!”

Before Damien had a chance to respond Professor Restenta grabbed Damien by his collar and started to drag him down the hall.

 

Here is chapter three of Demiria – A Clouded World! Don’t forget to share with the world if you are enjoying the novel so far! There are many great adventures that await Damien in the coming weeks…

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Chapter 1 and Chapter 2

CHAPTER THREE

The Great City of Fidelia

The validation of his mother’s death weighed heavy on Damien’s mind as he settled into  the carriage.

“Do you have the rest of the letter from my mom for me?” Damien asked.

The Monarch shook his head, “I’m sorry, Damien, all that your mother gave me was the letter I gave to Alexia.”

“Oh.”

A silence filled the air, as the carriage bounced along the rocky road. Damien glanced at Alexia. She stared silently out the window. She had been so full of words before, but beside the Monarch she sat silent. Damien moved his gaze to the window as well. Dust blew up from the dirt road as the city of Pailioga disappeared in the distance. “Sir?”

“Yes, Damien.”

Damien turned to the Monarch. “Why did you bring me here? My mother’s dead, and this Electus what if he finds out that I’m her son. Won’t he come after me?”

The Monarch tapped his index finger on his lap. It seemed that he knew the words he needed to say, but was unsure of how to form them. “We believe he knows something. Something that your mother must have realized. We can only assume that it has to do with your gift, your ability to travel between our worlds. Whatever is down there, whatever he wants, one thing is clear. He will not stop until he finds a way to get there and if he does it will spell the end for both Earth and Demiria.”

“If I’m the only person who can travel to Earth and that is what he wants, wouldn’t it be safer if I never came?”

“Electus is a master of the Dream World. From what we know he can control his every move when inside it. This must be what your mother had feared, she knew it was only a matter of time before he found you and lured you here. So she made sure when the time was right Alexia found you first.” The Monarch paused as the carriage came to a halt. “Everything your mother said would happen has come true – she knew this day would come.”

Damien tried to speak, but was cut short before he could utter a word.

“We are short on time, please, the Dean can answer any questions you still have. I know you have taken in a lot, but I must ask for your absolute secrecy in all I have told you. There are whispers in the streets of Electus’ rising, but we have kept hidden how imminent the danger really is. It is better if the people don’t know. Pay no more thought to it.”

The door to the carriage opened and Damien followed as the Monarch disembarked from the carriage. A massive stonewall stood before them. It ran for miles on each side and in the middle sat a small door that looked minuscule compared to the ten stories of rock that encompassed it. “Welcome to the great fortified city of Fidelia!” the Monarch gleamed.

Standing near the door were two ferocious looking beasts. They watched Damien closely as he approached. The fur on their bull like heads rustled in the wind. Their muscular arms held axes, which paled in comparison to the massive horns atop their heads. Chains ran from the wall and clasped tightly to their hoofed feet. Despite their terrifying demeanour Damien felt sadness for these creatures as he looked into their eyes.

“Are those what I think they are?”

The Monarch patted one of the beasts on its snout. “These are the minotaur guards, they protect the entrance to Fidelia.”

“Why are they chained? Are they dangerous?”

“No. Not anymore. During the Great War they were defenders of the evil Azareal, but upon his defeat they swore their allegiance to Abdiel and whoever sits on the throne of the senate. So as long as you stay true to what’s right, they will cause you no harm. Now Alexia and I must get back to the senate. It has been a pleasure to meet you, Damien. As much as I wish to see you to your place of rest, I think it best if I wait out here. The sight of me unnerves people these days. Alexia will show you through the tunnel and on the other side you will meet Dean Inzageal.”

The Monarch held out his hand and shook Damien’s goodbye before taking his leave.

Damien followed Alexia towards the small wooden door. A tiny waterfall poured from the stone beside. Alexia walked towards it and placed her hand underneath.

“What are you doing that for?” Damien asked.

“The mystical waters can reach deep into a cherub’s aura. The water can sense ones true nature, and will turn to red if a cherub wishes harm to the senate. All who require entry into Fidelia must pass their hand underneath to prove where their aura lies.”

“And if it turns red?”

“If the water turns red, the minotaurs you see beside you will no longer stand idly by. Instead they will make known their true power.”

Damien placed his hand underneath the water. He knew that he had no ill intentions, but his heart still raced, as his hand hit the water. Despite his worry and self-doubt the water stayed clear. Relieved that he didn’t have to experience the true might of a minotaur Damien followed Alexia into a dimly lit stone tunnel.

The damp air inside the tunnel bore a cool, musky atmosphere and Damien could feel goosebumps prickle up his arm as he entered. The cobbled floor responded to his every step with a faint click that echoed across the walls as if it had suddenly come to life. Each torch beckoned Damien forward inviting him to join them as he neared the city.

Damien ran his hand along the wall – the cool of the rocks spread through his body from his fingertips, causing a shiver to run up his spine. Touching the rock seemed so real – so vivid. His fingers took in every bump and groove in the rocks, no matter how small.

“Are you ready?” Alexia’s words echoed softly, whispering their way through the still air and snapping Damien back to reality.

Damien had been so focused on the surrounding tunnel he hadn’t even noticed they had reached its end. He looked up at Alexia and nodded. A calm radiated around him as Alexia’s lips formed a smile on her face.

“I will leave you here. Dean Inzageal will be waiting on the other side.”

“You’re not coming in either?” Damien asked.

“I’m afraid that even though I am not as known as the Monarch, some still know my face. These are scary times for the Demirian people, Damien. They worry the senate is hiding things from them, and even me being seen here will turn heads. Don’t worry though, you are in good hands.”

“But Alexia, aren’t you hiding the seriousness of all this from them?”

“None can enter these walls without passing their hands beneath the mystical waters, and none can leave without escort or permission from a member of the senate or the army. The people of Fidelia are safe here. The truth would only bring unjust worry.”

Even though he wasn’t a hundred percent convinced that the Monarch and Alexia knew what was best he offered no objection. “I won’t repeat what has been told to me. I promise.”

Alexia smiled. “You are wise to do so, Damien, and remember your secret must be kept hidden. Only Dean Inzageal should know that you came from Earth.”

With a final wave goodbye Alexia pushed open the door and motioned for Damien to pass through. The sun’s brilliant rays replaced the dim cool musk of the tunnel. They beat down upon Damien and his body absorbed the heat of the autumn day once more.

Before him was an endless tree-lined path. Cobbled stones were exchanged for marble slabs separating the thick shrubbery on either side. If it weren’t for a gentle breeze causing the leaves to shimmer in the afternoon light, Damien would have thought somebody had painted a portrait and stuck it outside the tunnel door. Every color here was multiplied, every sound clearer, every breath easier.

“Welcome to Fidelia!” a voice boomed, causing Damien to look up from his trance. Again Damien had been so preoccupied by the world around him he hadn’t even noticed the man approach.

“My name is Dean Inzageal, I am the head of Fidelia Percium, and you must be Damien.”

Damien nodded.

“Well, come along now, we don’t have all day,” the Dean said. He turned on the spot and strode off at an impressive rate for a man of his stature.

“Okay.” Damien replied. He turned around to say goodbye to Alexia, but she was already gone.

“Come on Damien! It is getting late, not much more than an hour to sundown. We must get you settled in before curfew, we don’t want you causing trouble on your first night here,” the Dean called.

The endless lane of trees passed by Damien in what felt like only a few seconds even though he had probably walked for over twenty minutes. Before he knew it, he was standing at the edge of the forested path staring at a giant marble staircase that ascended towards a stone tower. Massive golden pillars shot upwards, each bearing the immense weight of the archway above them.

Damien looked up and noticed carvings engraved into the archway. From what he could tell it seemed to be some type of battle scene. In it he could make out dragons, minotaurs, and some other creatures he remembered from books and television.

“Dean?” Damien called out.

Dean Inzageal stopped and turned to Damien with a smile. “Yes?”

“What’s this place, and what’s depicted on the archway?” Damien asked.

The Dean stared back at Damien. He moved in close, his once chipper booming voice dropped to a whisper. “You must be careful with your questions. If you go around asking silly things such as these it will only be a matter of time before your secret is found out, and if he knows, he won’t stop until he finds you!”

Damien’s heart dropped to his stomach and for the first time since he had come to this magical place he felt… fear. He knew he shouldn’t ask. Yet he had to know more. “Do you mean Ele -”

“This is not the time nor place, it will all be answered for you in due time. This building is the entrance fort. It was used as a second line of defense during the Great War in case any enemies got through the walls. And the archway you refer to is called a frieze. Its etchings depict the final hours of the war. Now we really must get you to the residence building before curfew!”

The Dean smiled and quickly returned to his previous chipper state sweeping up the last few steps. At the top the Dean paused and held his hands high above his head. He tilted his head back and closed his eyes. Damien stared in disbelief at the giant marble doors as they gave a loud rumble and began to open inwards.

“Impressive!” Damien said.

“It is just magic. Here it is not impressive. Remember that.”

“Sorry,” Damien mumbled. He lowered his gaze and shuffled up the final few steps and through the door.

On the other side was a massive hall. The far side bore a statue nestled between groups of benches. Plants and flowers filled the left and back walls while another set of golden pillars rose towards the intricate stained glass roof above him.

“This is amazing,” Damien gasped.

“This, my son, is your first step from young Afrielian cherub towards becoming an Abdielian!”

“What’s a” – Damien started.

“In time all will become clear, I promise you. You look rather tired. Do you think you will make it to the residence buildings? I am certain you have had quite the day.”

“I’m okay,” Damien replied.

Then, as if the Dean’s words had placed a spell upon him, it hit. Exhaustion. His mind had finally caught up with his body and was begging him to stop. It urged his legs to crumble, his eyes to close, and his heart to slow – it yearned for sleep.

There was something really strange about this place. It was like Damien could feel everything they wanted him to feel. When the fear had struck he felt it not in a guilty way, like when he accidentally broke his dad’s favorite mug and tried to superglue it together. The fear was different, foreign even, as if the fear wasn’t even his own.

When he was with Alexia he felt safer than he ever had before. Yet when the Dean warned him to be cautious of his words it felt as though all the evil in the world was about to enclose upon him. Now at the Dean’s will Damien was overcome with exhaustion. Maybe he was overreacting. After all it wasn’t possible for somebody to control you with the tone of their voice. Then again yesterday he was sleeping in his bed and none of this was possible, it was all a bunch of folklore and dreams.

Damien had so many questions, and needed so many answers. He tried to call out to the Dean, tried to ask, but the exhaustion took over and the bright and colorful world around him was replaced by darkness.

 

Come back next Sunday for Chapter 4 – Was it Just a Dream

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You can read chapter one here Demiria – A Clouded World

CHAPTER TWO

A Warm Welcome To A New World

The sun beat down upon Damien’s face as he awoke. He gasped for breath, spitting seawater onto the sand that surrounded him. Even with all the sun’s warmth a slight chill ran through him. He stared up at the cloudless sky and let the sand slip through his fingers. He was thankful to be outside the strange room, but something felt off. The forecast had been for overcast all weekend and the familiar sounds of New York were gone. There were no cars, no people, just the silent lapping of the water against the shore.

It took most of Damien’s remaining strength to push himself into a seated position. Once upright he looked out at a massive body of water. Its waves crashed against the sandy shore where he sat before they were sucked back into the water that stretched out as far as he could see.

“Where am I?” Damien wondered aloud. The last thing he remembered before he lost consciousness was swimming through the opening in the trap door.

It seemed impossible that he could have just washed up onto a nearby island. Especially considering there was no sign of New York in the distance. He looked around for a landmark to pinpoint his location, but there were no buildings, towers, or parks. In fact all that surrounded Damien was a distant forest, which curved around and met up with the ocean on either side.

Damien inched closer to the water’s edge and let his eyes drift towards its shimmering surface.

“It can’t be!” Damien stared into the waters depths. With strained eyes he tried to make out what he couldn’t believe to be real. At the bottom of the ocean there were buildings.

As Damien peered deeper, he made out more faint objects. Grass, parks, and even the Statue of Liberty-

Damien gasped. “Is that New York?”

“Yes, Damien, that down there is your Earth,” a gentle voice spoke from behind him.

Damien jumped to his feet and stared in shock at the young woman who had appeared out of nowhere.

“Who are you? Why is New York underwater?” Damien asked. He tried to regain his composure. “Is this some sort of time travel?… Am I -”

The lady smiled. Her dark hair rustled with the gentle breeze that blew along the shore. “I am Alexia, your Earth is fine, and last I checked you didn’t travel through time!”

“You’re the woman from my dreams. The one who led me here, right?” Damien asked, recognizing the elegant woman who stood before him. “Do I know you?”

“No,” she smiled. “But I know you.”

“How is that possible?” Damien stammered. His heart raced, her hair might not have been blonde, but she matched the beauty his father had described, and something about her seemed familiar, beyond the fact she haunted his dreams.

“Mom?”

Alexia’s smile faded from her face. Her long white dress stood still as if Damien’s words had stopped time itself.

“Your mother is gone, Damien, I am your guardian. Your mother left me the honor of bringing you to Demiria when the time was right.”

“Demiria? Is that what this island is called?”

“Yes, Demiria, it is no island though. Demiria is the land we call home! It is the place where your mother grew up before she,” Alexia paused. “Before she left.”

“I don’t understand,” Damien stuttered.

“Before you were born, your mother grew up here in Demiria. One day she embarked on a mission to visit Earth, but while there she had a son,” Alexia paused and unsuccessfully tried to place her hand on Damien’s shoulder. “You’re a Cherub. Damien, just as your mother was before you.”

“Cherub? Are you sure I didn’t time travel? Last I checked New York wasn’t underwater!”

“Cherubs are the intelligent race of Demiria, we are the ‘humans’ here. Your New York is not underwater, it just seems that way through our mystical waters. You see, the barrier between our world and yours lies somewhere within them. Our waters are your skies.”

“No. I must have hit my head or something. This is a dream right?”

“Does it feel like a dream?”

The lady had a point. “No I suppose not.”

Alexia opened her hand and within a few seconds she clasped a letter within her delicate grip. She held the letter for Damien to take.

Damien’s eyes widened. “Did you just?”

“It’s from your mother.”

The questions were still burning in Damien’s mind, but the mention of his mother’s name was enough to calm the flames.

He snatched the letter from Alexia and unravelled the parchment.

Damien,

If you are reading this the time has finally come for you to hear the truth. I know right now things may be overwhelming for you and I apologize for putting you through this, but if you are here dark times are upon the Cherubian people. Everything is in place for you – Alexia has brought you here and will guide you to where you need to be. I love you so much, Damien, you mean everything to me and I wish I could be there, as you grow up and become the amazing Cherub I know you will be. If only I had more time with you. There is so much I want to share, so much I want to say, but fate made other plans for me and now I fear

Damien flipped the page, but it was empty. “Where is the rest of it?” he demanded.

Alexia shook her head. “I don’t know Damien, this was all I was given. Maybe the Monarch has the rest.”

“Monarch?”

“Yes, the Monarch. He holds the position of highest power in Demiria. He is also the one who sent your mother on the mission to Earth.”

“Oh,” Damien nodded silently.

“Shall we go see him?”

Damien shrugged his shoulders. “Not like I have a choice. And if he has the letter.”

This time Damien allowed Alexia to place her hand upon his shoulder. She offered a reassuring smile before turning towards the forest.

Part of Damien still didn’t trust that this was real, but the trees that loomed around him, the warmth of the sun, and the sweet summer smell begged him to think otherwise.

Here he was, following his supposed guardian towards a forest in some place that loomed in the clouds. There had to be an explanation, some piece of information he had missed.

“I know it’s hard for you to believe,” Alexia said. “Trust me. When the senate found out that the world we saw through the mystical waters existed and wasn’t just an illusion the waters had created, we felt the same way. Cherubs have been trying to reach the world below for as long as history can remember. Your world is one of the biggest mysteries to the Cherubian people. We searched for years to find the answers, to find out if your world was real, why it sat so close, and yet so unattainable.”

“So my mother wasn’t the first whatever you are called to make it through to Earth?”

“Your mother was the first known Cherub or Demirian Beast to make it through to your world, yes. But she was not the first to try. Many Cherubs lost their lives as they attempted to swim to the alluring world that lay in wait at the depth of the mystical waters.”

“Beasts? You mean like tigers?”

“No, I have heard of these tigers you speak of. I suppose it is the same idea. Demirian Beasts are what we Cherubians call the beings of Demiria that are not of Cherubian aura. I believe there are some you may know of. Let me think. Are you familiar with dragons?”

“Giant, winged, fire breathing, mythical. Yeah I know of them.”

Alexia covered her mouth to try and mask her laughter. “Big, yes. And most fly and breath fire. But did you ever wonder why you’ve heard of so many creatures that aren’t ‘real’?”

“Not really, people dream them up. Seems obvious.”

“Well that much is true. But the reason they are dreamed up is because some Demirian Beasts possess the ability to travel to the dream world. Some with more control over their actions than a Cherub could ever hope to have.”

“Right. And I suppose unicorns pull horse drawn carriages too?”

“Why that would be silly,” Alexia winked.

Alexia continued on her path through the forest. Soon the sun began to lose its power as it vanished beneath the thick cover of trees that lined the forest’s path. Alexia paused and waited for Damien to catch up. “It’s getting dark.”

“And I suppose you can create a lantern like that letter?”

“Better.”

Alexia opened her palms for Damien to see. He stared in disbelief while her hands became engulfed in a fiery red glow.

“Okay, that’s cool. Can I do that?”

“Of course. Every Cherub can create magic, it is something that is built deep within your aura, but it is something that must be learned and taught. It starts with a glow,” The fire vanished from Alexia’s hands and a faint light took its place. “And then it becomes light. And. Fire!” Once more Alexia’s hands erupted in flames.

“Can you show me how?” Damien asked.

Alexia shook her head. “Now is not the time, Damien, we have delayed enough already. You will learn everything you need to know when we reach the great-fortified city of Fidelia. Now quell your questions. Oh and stay close. These forests are dangerous places, especially for somebody as new to Demiria as you.”

Damien barely took his eyes away from his hands as they made their way through the forest. “This is amazing.”

He flung his hand open hoping something would happen, but his dry cracked skin was all that greeted him. “Worth a shot.”

“Pardon,” Alexia said.

“Nothing,” Damien smiled. “Just taking it in.”

On the other edge of the forest hundreds of cottages lay strewn across a massive plain. They seemed older and their moss-covered exteriors rose no more than a story above the rocky ground.

“See I told you, time travel? This looks nothing like New York.”

“Because it’s not. This is the town of Pailioga. It is where we will meet with the Monarch. He should be just around the corner,” Alexia led them onto a small dirt path that ran through the middle of the town before continuing. “How you came here and who you are may be the greatest and most valuable secret in all Demirian history. You cannot trust anybody, the Monarch knows who you are, but even he may not know how you got here, or where you entered our world. Understood?”

“Yeah,” He didn’t think it would be a problem. He had no idea where he was, no idea how he got here, or even how to get back.

“Damien Vesey, do my eyes deceive me. Welcome to Demiria, I am the Monarch. James Harold III, and might I say it is a pleasure to finally meet you!”

Damien barely heard the Monarch. His focus was instead fixed upon the sight behind. “No way. Is that?” Damien turned to Alexia, “but you said.”

Alexia laughed. “Sometimes you need to see things for yourself.”

The Monarch followed Damien’s gaze, and he too began to chuckle. “That’s right! You don’t get to see a lot of these on Earth do you?” The Monarch pointed to the two unicorns that stood behind him poised to pull the carriage they were attached to. “The one on the left is Theoderic and on the right Eleanor. Go ahead. Pet them if you like, they are harmless.”

Damien walked towards the two unicorns. Their beauty and grace was unlike anything he had ever seen. It reminded him of the show horses on television only these horses had a two-foot horn protruding from their foreheads.

“Hey,” Damien whispered. He reached out his hand and stroked the nearest unicorn. It turned its head towards Damien and shook it lightly. The unicorn’s dark and glistening eye now stared at Damien causing him to take in his reflection for the first time since he had come to Demiria. Beneath his eyes the bags that usually loomed seemed lighter, but aside from that he looked the same as he had on Earth.

The unicorn’s fur was the softest thing Damien had ever touched. It was as if Damien’s whole body could feel every soft and delicate hair.

Damien smiled. As both his hands entwined the fur, his mind finally admitted it… one hundred percent, no doubts, or questions. Nothing had ever felt more real. “This really isn’t a dream,” he whispered.

The Monarch grabbed Damien’s arm, as if he had just won some grand prize. “Of course this is no dream, Damien, this is Demiria!”

Damien turned and truly looked at the man for the first time. He was tall. His hair lay neatly cut atop his head, and on his body he wore a white robe accented with golden leaves like that of a Roman Caesar. Damien saw why this Cherub ruled Demiria. He reminded Damien of how his father used to be – confident, proud, and full of life. For a moment the excitement of the world faded as Damien wondered if he would ever see him again. Only as he stared at the Monarch he realized he hadn’t really seen his father in years.

“You knew my mother?” Maybe if he learned more about why he was here, he could figure out how to get home, or better yet how to bring his father here.

“Indeed, I did. She was one of the most amazing cherubs I have ever met. She sacrificed so much for Demiria, and for the Cherubian people who live here.”

“Is… is she alive here? In Demiria?” Damien asked. He knew the Monarch’s response would be the same as Alexia’s, but a small part of him hoped that his wish to see her again had come true.

“After giving birth to you she wrote me a letter saying that something had gone terribly wrong while she was on Earth. Something horrible happened down there and she warned me of a darkness that was about to fall upon Demiria. She spoke of you. Quite highly I might add. And then said when the time was right Alexia would appear to guide you. That was the last I heard from her, but the darkness she spoke of is growing. A dark Cherub named Electus rose from the mountains of Teridoria. He murdered a pair of helpless travelers, and…” the Monarch trailed off.

“And what?”

“And we must get you to the fortified city, it is the safest city in Demiria. Dean Inzageal has been trusted friend since my inception. He will look after you when you are there, and at his school Fidelia Percium you will learn all you need to know about the ways of the Cherubian people.”

 

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6 years ago Demiria came to life on a trip around the English country side. Demiria is a realm hidden in Earth’s skies where the creatures we thought lived only in legend come to life. The waters of Demiria provide a looking glass to our world, but the only contact they can make is by visiting us in our dreams. Come back every Sunday as we release another chapter of Demiria – A Clouded World!

 – Stopde

CHAPTER ONE

Trapped

Damien inched closer to the brass replica of the Statue of Liberty’s face. Despite the fact that somewhere further along his teacher was no doubt wondering where he had gone off to, Damien couldn’t tear himself from this particular exhibit. Something about the face called to him, begged him to wait no matter how many people pushed in front.

 Soon a group of tourists shoved Damien aside before taking off as quick as they had come. Like a colony of bees they swarmed from exhibit to exhibit stopping only to take a picture or two. Only one other person stayed back to enjoy the beauty of the artwork. A woman stood so close to the exhibit that Damien could almost make out the reflection of her face against the metal.

How strange that he hadn’t seen her standing there before the group of tourists had barged through. It was as if she had appeared from thin air.

Damien turned his gaze to the ground and moved closer. “Pretty cool, huh?”

 The woman said nothing causing Damien to look up. A shiver slithered down his spine, as he caught a clear glimpse of her in the freshly polished brass. Even though it was distorted she seemed so familiar.

 “Do I know you?”

 Again. Nothing. Damien stared entranced by the woman’s hazel eyes reflecting against the exhibit. Unblinking.

 “Are you okay?”

 Noticing Damien’s gaze fixed upon her, the woman unclasped her tightly woven hands and let her fingertips graze the lips of the face.

 Damien gasped. “What are you doing? You can’t touch that!”

 The woman turned her head and smiled at Damien before shoving her hand right through the metal.

Damien wanted to speak, but his mouth refused as the rest of the woman’s body followed her hand through. He had seen this woman before. For weeks she had haunted his dreams. Hovering in the darkness, trying to talk to him – only no words ever came.

 Damien turned to the hall that had been crawling with people mere moments ago. It was now silent and empty. Not a single person in sight.

 There was no way anybody would believe what he had seen. He wasn’t even sure whether or not he did. So instead of trying to find somebody to tell, he moved forward, held out his hand, and poked the face himself. Like any other piece of metal, it was rock hard. Either this woman was a ghost, or he had gone crazy.

 Damien tried to think of a logical explanation, after all ghosts weren’t real.

“Maybe I should test the metal one more time just to be sure,” Damien said to himself. He swung his open palm towards the face. “See it’s –

 “Ugh,” Damien grunted. He peered down to where his hand should be. The color drained from his face. His left hand was stuck inside the metal.

 There was no need to panic. One of his friends had told him about situations like this. He was hazy on the details, and was pretty sure the chances were almost non-existent, but in rare cases one could pass through solid matter. Or it could have been that nothing could pass through solid matter, he wasn’t sure. Either way Damien decided to go with the fact that he was a rare case, an exception to the laws of science. With a sharp tug he attempted to pull his hand free. No luck. The metal refused to give an inch. It seemed that the harder he pulled the harder it pulled back.

 “Seriously?” Damien muttered. He debated yelling for help, except he was sure the security guards wouldn’t take to kindly to seeing a young boy with his hand lodged into one of their exhibits. And a call from an irate security guard would undoubtedly make his father overreact. It wasn’t as if the field trip to the Statue of Liberty was something Damien even wanted to do. He had faked being sick, but his father forced him out the doorway. “It’s your eighth grade graduation trip, you can’t miss it,” his father had said. So really it was just as much his father’s fault that he had somehow gotten his hand stuck in the exhibit as his. Still he was sure that when they brought in the fire department to cut his hand out he would not only become the brunt of every joke at school, but would be paying out allowances to his father for the rest of his life.

 Frustrated, Damien attempted to pry his hand free. As he pushed his right hand up against the face, the metal gave way once more, forcing Damien deeper into its unwavering grasp.

 Logic started to fail him, and an explanation seemed more impossible with each passing moment. Perhaps now was the time to abandon reason and panic.

 “Hello? Something is wrong with your exhibit!” Damien called, but only his echo responded.

 “Great. This place is packed when I want it to be empty and empty when I want it packed.”

 Damien shook his head. Since pulling back wasn’t an option, he tried to push his left hand deeper instead. With relative ease his left arm disappeared into the face.

 “This is ridiculous! If I’m on a T.V show you got me good.”

 Damien waited, but again just his echo responded.

 With nobody around, it seemed that he had only one choice. If he couldn’t get out, maybe he too like the woman could go through. With a deep breath Damien pulled his entire body through the face. On the other side Damien found himself in a strange darkened hall with a single door at the other end. Careful to keep his balance in the darkness, he walked towards it. It took a few tries to find the handle in the dark, but eventually he was able to maneuver the door open.

 On the other side was a room no bigger than the apartment he called home. The stench of salt water filled the nearby air, and on the far side a small beaten down set of stairs ran towards a hole in the ceiling.

 SLAM!

 Damien turned around to find that the door, which he had hoped hadn’t locked behind him had disappeared. In its place were slabs of algae covered stone.

 “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Damien cried. He ran towards the wall and smashed his palm against the stone. “What’s happening?”

 By now the shock had worn off and Damien’s emotions began to race. For the first time, supernatural forces seemed like the logical answer. If the lady was real though, what did she want with him? Aside from admitting that he had gone mad, the most plausible answer that Damien could come to was that she had brought him here to tell him something.

 Nearby the faint sound of dripping water sounded against the stone floor. It filled the empty room with a gentle thud in time to the beat of Damien’s racing heart. Damien tried to yell for help again, but no matter how loud he yelled nobody seemed to hear. He called for his classmates, called for his teacher. Nothing. It didn’t surprise him though – the wall was too thick. Even when he pressed his ear tight against it the sounds of the museum’s visitors evaded him.

  Wherever Damien was, nobody was coming back for him. He needed to find a way out of this by himself, and the stairs he had seen when he first entered were his only chance.

 With bated breath, he walked towards the staircase. His body began to shiver from the mixture of fear and the cool mist that floated through the room.

 “Where are you?” Damien yelled. He followed the winding staircase upwards. Cautiously he tried each step to make sure the rotting wood could support his weight. Despite their ragged exterior, most of the boards seemed quite secure and didn’t offer him much more than an eerie creak as he moved between them.

 Glancing upwards, Damien saw a dim light coming from a room at the top of the staircase. As he neared the top step another thought crossed his mind. A man had appeared in his earlier night’s dream only to drive a blade through the woman’s heart. And if she was real, it seemed logical that he was too.

The knot in Damien’s stomach twisted so tight that he could barely climb the final steps that led to a small empty room.

 Damien screamed for help again even though he knew it didn’t matter. He had covered every inch of this strange room. Nobody was here. Not even the mysterious lady who had led him inside. Dejected, Damien leaned against the wall and stared up at the ceiling. Dangling a few feet above him was a small rope, hanging from a trap door.

 He couldn’t believe it. Luck finally favored him. It was a door, which meant that maybe – just maybe he had stumbled upon the way out. Damien took in a deep breath, and grabbed the rope. The door groaned momentarily before giving way beneath Damien’s weight.

 “Nooo!” Damien screamed. Water crashed down through the opening above, knocking him from his feet. It was as if the door had somehow opened underneath the Atlantic and the entire ocean was now trying to squeeze through it and into the tiny room. Desperate to stop the flow, Damien regained his balance and attempted to push the door shut. It was no use. The water was just too strong.

 “Help!” Damien screamed. The water began to fill the room below, clawing its way up the stairs. He flattened himself against the nearby wall. It was all he could do to try and stop himself from being thrown down the stairs by the current. Without a doubt the room would soon fill with water and he would have no choice, but to swim up through the trap door. Damien took a deep breath and prepared for whatever terrors lay ahead.