The Vathylite Realms
“The stories I write are reflections of the adventures I take in other realms. “
-Laura C. Cantu
Ambrosius Merlyn saw the end coming.
Among his many talents, Merlyn’s gift of prophecy was powerful and came naturally. It took no effort at all for him to see future events unfold within a crystal ball or inside a pool of water. He did not have to coax secrets from his scrying bones— they gave them up readily. Until this moment, his scrying bones had served as invaluable divinatory tools. Their warnings helped Merlyn avert disaster and ensure harmony upon and within the earth.
Had it not been for the bones’ willingness to give him accurate and timely information, Merlyn might not have ever been appointed as the Official High Seat of the Betwixter Council. He might never have befriended the magical creatures, then known as Lydons, who lived in the realm of Merlydon, or the angelic beings called Bellwethers who resided in the realm of Haventhrone. He might have continued to live in the mortal realm of Suntamor, oblivious to the magic all around him. How might his life have been different had he not believed in Faeries?
As the High Seat of the Betwixter Council, it was Merlyn’s job to ensure that all Betwixters performed their duties according to protocol. Some Betwixters delivered messages between the Lydons and the Bellwethers, others acted as emissaries to the human race, and still others — those gifted with magical abilities—aided Merlyn in clearing up misunderstandings, fixing magical mistakes, and controlling the many portals that acted as gateways between the three realms. In Merlyn’s estimation, the precarious portals were particularly pesky problems and needed special attention.
When a Betwixter could not perform his tasks, it was up to Merlyn to either offer up a solution or perform the duties himself. As a result, Merlyn often found himself working late nights, early mornings, and even weekends.
Because the vibratory frequencies between the Lydons and Bellwethers were utterly incompatible, rendering them unable to see or communicate with each other, it was up to the Betwixters to maintain harmony and cohesion among the three realms. Merlyn understood the importance of his position as High Seat of the Betwixter Council and it was what kept him going. Not a Betwixter existed that could take his place.
Merlyn’s mastery of magic, his deduction and reasoning skills, his talent for communication, not to mention his incredibly high intelligence, made him the perfect candidate for the post. Although the position came with many downsides, Merlyn had to admit there was one perk he certainly did not want to give up: the ability to live forever. Knowing that all Betwixters were blessed with unending life gave Merlyn hope that in time they could face any problem and come out on top. Sure, sometimes he felt as if he were a ringmaster in a three-ring circus, being forced to hold the reins tight and perform rigorous balancing acts. But the evidence of his success was in the smiles and happy eyes of all who crossed his path, and that made his job worthwhile.
Under his leadership, Merlyn was delighted to know that the Betwixters had successfully kept peace and harmony among the three realms for over five hundred years.
Unfortunately, that peace was not to last. One of the kingdoms within the Realm of Suntamor contained elements of uncertainty. Its inhabitants were known as the human race, of which Merlyn himself belonged. Regardless of being human, Merlyn could not understand how the rock kingdom, the plant kingdom, and even the animal kingdom willingly obeyed the laws of nature, but those of his kind refused to even hear the rhythms of Good Mother or the follow directives of their own Divine intelligence. Instead, humans cloaked their hearts in fear, which cut them off from the natural flow of life as well as the source of life.
When the majority of the human hearts tipped the scales from faith to doubt, humans began making decisions based on their feelings of powerlessness and greed instead of love, trust, and generosity. The Lydons and Bellwethers saw clearly how humans were destroying themselves but were powerless to change it; they began referring to Suntamor as the Realm of Veiled Wills.
Merlyn tossed his scrying bones across the ground and willed them to forecast a more pleasing future. The bones landed in the same pattern as they did a few days prior. It was a pattern he’d never studied in the ancient texts, which had been quite the challenge for him to figure out, yet after diligently trying, he decoded their message. Merlyn had never imagined his scrying bones, the knuckle bones of an old dragon he had once befriended named Agamemnon, would be capable of foretelling the coming of such great evil. It was an evil like none other, and Merlyn knew it could destroy the world.
He bowed his head and ran shaky fingers through his great gray beard. Oh, how he longed for his magic to be faulty. How he wished he had wasted his youth on girls and games, instead of studying the magical sciences. He should never have become an Betwixter or learned the secrets of the Lydons. If he had led his life like so many other young men, in pursuit of worldly possessions instead of becoming a master magician, he could at least pretend the error was within him, and the predictions of his dragon bones were faulty.
“Dear Agamemnon,” Merlyn said as he gathered the bones and placed them inside a leather pouch lined with silk. “May Good Mother be with us.”
Merlyn tied the pouch with a long leather cord and laced it around his neck. He kissed the pouch, and mumbled, “My gratitude for your wisdom, old friend.” Then he tucked the bones under the front of his dark-purple robe and let the pouch hang as if it were a pendant on a necklace. He turned to his white stallion and said, “Belegon, We’d best be off. The battle is sure to have started without us.”
The horse neighed and stamped his feet.
“You’re right, dear friend. This day is one I hoped would never come.” Merlyn slung himself onto Belegon’s back and raced toward the closest portal he could think of.
Before Merlyn could reach the portal, he saw his greatest fears coming to life: shadowy clouds of smoke roiling up into the heavens. Lightning lashed down from the sky as if whipping the earth and caused mounds of Good Mother’s flesh to spray into the air. Merlyn’s heart choked with terror. Great emotional pains burst from his chest as Belegon carried him toward the already raging battle, and toward the Lydon, those faerie folk, elves, and gnomes who had fought with everything they had to fend off the intruders. But it seemed Merlyn was too late.
The Great Crystal, once whole and beautiful, lay split into two equal pieces on the quivering ground. The earth shook as if the Good Mother herself were being killed. Where once the Great Crystal was filled with brilliant white light, now one half was the deepest shade of black that Merlyn had ever encountered. It was not the black of any pigment he could think of, or even the black of darkness itself. It was something . . . blacker. Beside it sat the other crystal half. This half retained its white color, but did not shine as brightly as it once had. A tear dripped from Merlyn’s eye as Belegon galloped toward the two crystal halves. The old magician felt a sense of urgency to secure both halves of the crystal. He knew their reunification and purification was paramount in healing the world.
Chaos and terror ran rampant all around him. Faeries, elves, and gnomes thrashed and screamed, their bodies contorting and transforming into unspeakable shapes and forms. Countless Bellwethers fell from the sky and crashed onto the ground, their luster siphoned from them. Their blackened bodies were almost as dark as the damaged half of the Great Crystal. Some Betwixters and other humans engaged in the battle suffered atrocities just as great. They screamed as their bones snapped and reformed. Fur sprouted from their skin to cover their bodies. Others grew fangs as all the color drained from their complexions.
Belegon leapt over mounds of twisting bodies, and eventually reached his target. Merlyn directed an incantation at the white half of the crystal, sending it flying into the air so he could catch it with his now sweaty hands. The crystal slipped from his grip. Merlyn fumbled with it before finally securing it safely in his arms. As Merlyn steadied himself to repeat the procedure to recover the black half of the crystal, a bolt of lightning struck the earth, opening a great chasm that swallowed it whole.
Merlyn threw magic at the crystal with all his might and screamed, “Retrivuntome!”
His incantation failed. The crystal was gone, vanished into the earth.
Merlyn slumped on Belegon’s back and allowed himself to weep. He understood the magnitude of what had just happened. This was, perhaps, the saddest day in history.
It was quite a while before Merlyn realized that everything around him had gone silent and still. It was so quiet he could have heard a cricket chirp from a mile away. Merlyn squeezed Belegon’s reins and directed the stallion to rotate so that he could observe his surroundings. Tears blurred his vision, so he could only see that which was directly in front of him.
Deformed humans, Lydons and Bellwethers were strewn across the ground, their bodies as motionless as death. Those who were left unchanged stood as if frozen in place. They regarded Merlyn and seemed to be looking to him for direction.
Merlyn saw movement out of the corner of his eye. He held up his hand to discourage a brave faerie named Kearoth from approaching one of his deformed brethren. Merlyn knew that evil had seeded the twisted creatures’ hearts and transformed each of them into something that had never been seen before.
Kearoth ignored Merlyn’s warning and stepped toward a small burnt body. As the faerie stepped closer, the burnt body began to move. It swung its arms and wiggled its toes.
Kearoth continued his approach. “Let me help you, sister.”
Merlyn knew the faeries often addressed their closest friends as brother or sister; he watched a tear spill down Kearoth’s cheek.
The burnt body lifted its head and eyed Kearoth. Then it sniffed the air and bounded to its feet. Its movements were that of a feral beast. The other deformed bodies raised themselves to their feet and also began sniffing and moving their bodies in that same strange ways. Just in time, Merlyn chanted an incantation and placed a shield between Kearoth and the creature.
The creature charged the faerie, but rebounded off the invisible shield.
Kearoth leapt backward, gasping. The creature hissed and charged again. It repeated its attack over and over until Merlyn added an electrical quality to his shield that zapped the creature. Before long, all the unfortunate souls hissed, spit, growled, and eyed those who were left whole. They prowled around as if planning an attack. Then the creatures stopped and tilted their heads as if listening to something, but Merlyn could hear nothing.
Suddenly, the mangled Lydons began leaping into the chasms of the earth, the humanoid creatures fled for the outlying countryside, and the blackened Bellwethers launched themselves into the massive dark clouds that blocked out the sun.
Just as the scrying bones had foretold, the end had come. With the breaking of the Great Crystal came imbalance and disorder. Where once there had been harmony, there would now be discord.
Merlyn dismounted his horse and knelt so that his forehead pressed against the ground. “Oh Good Mother. Good Mother, forgive us.”
Good Mother did not answer.
Merlyn let his tears pour onto the earth. His tears served as his heartfelt offering. “Good Mother, forgive me.”
Again, no answer.
A small, soft hand caressed the back of his head. Merlyn looked up to see Kearoth standing before him. The small faerie stood roughly the height of three apples stacked one atop of the other. With Merlyn’s face so close to the ground, Kearoth could look him directly in the eyes.
“Do not take the blame for this, my brother. This is not your doing.”
Merlyn beseeched the small faerie. “But this is my fault. Don’t you see? My race did this.” He gestured to the devastation around him.
Kearoth tried to comfort Merlyn by caressing his cheek. “You, trusted companion, are not your race. Do not let their deeds tarnish your unblemished soul.”
Merlyn shook his head and covered his eyes with his hand. He muttered, “But I am not blameless. I am as they are.” He dropped his hand and looked straight into Kearoth’s gaze. “Don’t you see?” Merlyn’s eyes were weary and his voice was hoarse when he explained, “I am no more able to separate myself from my race than a drop of water is able to claim it is not of the ocean. Eventually that drop of water must find itself reunited with the sea. We of man are the same. The essence that flows through the heart of one flows through the hearts of all.”
Kearoth began to speak but stopped. Something had caught the faerie’s attention. He glanced over Merlyn’s shoulder and grimaced. Merlyn could see the faerie was shaken when his hands began to tremble and tears swelled in his eyes. Kearoth quickly straightened his back, adjusted his jacket, and blinked back his tears. Sadness seemed to fill him to the brim.
“Forgive me, brother. I must turn my attention elsewhere.” Kearoth kissed Merlyn’s forehead.
Merlyn bowed his head but remained in his prone position. It felt good to have his hands and chest pressed against the surface of the earth.
Kearoth patted Merlyn’s head, then turned around. “My fellow Lydons, with the utmost respect and humility, I ask you to join me.”
Several elves, gnomes, faeries, and other magical creatures gathered around.
Kearoth pointed over Merlyn’s shoulder.
Merlyn lifted his upper body from the ground so that he rested on his knees. He wiped the tears from his eyes, and then turned to find a miniature lifeless body draped across a jagged rock.
Kearoth dropped his hand. “Good Mother has taken our king. No longer can we turn to Aruontis the Wise for guidance or counsel.”
Most of the Lydons must have already known of the faerie king’s death because not one of them blinked or twitched a muscle.
Kearoth cleared his throat and pointed toward a deep chasm that scarred the terrain. “It is with great regret that I announce the faerie queen, too, is no longer.”
This time a few Lydons gasped. They must not have recognized the faerie Kearoth had approached earlier. Others remained motionless. One young female faerie began to cry.
Kearoth’s wings and shoulders slumped. Merlyn thought he’d never seen such defeat.
The faerie’s voice threatened to break when he declared, “I, the Appointer of Titles, move to elect a new Leader of the Faeries here and now.”
Gasps erupted from the onlookers.
A moderately tall elf named Isaac stepped forward, his eyebrows furled. “I hope you do not take offense to my suggestion, for I am not a faerie, nor do I have authority in your courts. However, do you not think it wise to put off this momentous decision until confusion has cleared and hearts are whole?”
Kearoth bowed his head and seemed to struggle in formulating his response.
Merlyn wondered why Kearoth would use his powers as Appointer of Titles to force a decision at this particular time and place. Then he suddenly, and almost magically understood.
To Kearoth, he said, “May I?”
Kearoth nodded in a daze.
Merlyn explained, “I fear to say that it is my belief that hearts my never be whole. While I believe your reasoning is sound, Isaac Elvolon, there are other angles that must be considered. It is true that we are gathered here under the most grave of circumstances. Our loved ones are gone, the realms are unraveling, and the purity of our races has been destroyed. We are all, understandably, in a state of shock.”
A faerie Merlyn recognized as being from the royal court began to speak, but Merlyn motioned for silence. “I understand that most of your Faerie Court is absent, but do not doubt that they know what has happened here today. The very fabric of our existence bears the scars. And I’m sure we all appreciate that it is impossible to consider all things in present circumstances. But I agree with Kearoth. There is no better time than the present to choose a leader for the Faeries. The new faerie leader, king or queen, needs to have witnessed this atrocity, and the leader must be chosen from those among the faeries who fought in this battle, so that each fae who looks upon the leader will remember. The decision should be made in this time and in this place to commemorate the day the world broke. Let no one forget it.”
Focusing this way, on the matters at hand, helped Merlyn overlook the fact that Good Mother had chosen to ignore his pleas for forgiveness.
Kearoth turned to face the elves who were gathered in a small group. “Who among you do you elect to vote on behalf of your elven queen?”
Merlyn was pleased that Kearoth was keeping to the old treaties between the kingdoms and allowing the elves their say.
The elves mumbled to themselves, and then a female with wavy blonde hair stepped forward. “I, Elliana Elvolon, shall vote and speak on behalf of the Queen of the Elves.”
Kearoth nodded in agreement. “Then we shall put it to a vote. Which brave souls will step forward and claim the throne of Faerie?”
Not one faerie stepped forward. Instead, they began chanting. Merlyn did not understand what they were saying at first, but the louder and more adamant they got, the clearer their words became.
“Kearoth, Kearoth, Kearoth!” Their voices rang through the air in unison.
Kearoth was shocked. He shook his head and waved his hands. “No, no, no. You are surely mistaken. You do not wish to elect me as your king. Don’t you want a queen, as days of old? I am but a humble servant.”
The faeries continued to chant, and the gnomes joined in.
Elliana spoke up this time. “It seems, dear faerie king, you have a new title.”
Kearoth, dazed, stumbled backward and landed on Merlyn’s knee.
Merlyn’s smile was genuine as he watched his friend. His reprieve was brief, however, because a Guardian Bellwether named Sereptimum approached.
Merlyn looked up at the magnificent angelic being and thought he had never seen anything more beautiful.
Sereptimum announced, “We are closing the portals and withdrawing our magic from Suntamor. No man, other than you, shall enter Haventhrone henceforth.” The Bellwether patted Merlyn’s shoulder and looked up at the great black cloud.
Merlyn examined Sereptimum’s wings. They had changed from white to black and red. “How did this happen?” Merlyn asked.
Sereptimum extended his iridescent black-red wings to their fullest and answered, “I know not. But we must not waste time. We have yet another enemy to defeat. So be it.” Sereptimum’s mouth hardened before he kicked off from the ground and flew toward the sun, which peeked through the dark clouds. His brethren followed his lead.
Kearoth looked at Merlyn. “I trust that was a message from our Bellwether friends?”
Merlyn nodded. “Yes, they have decided to forbid all men, other than myself, from entering Haventhrone.”
Kearoth considered the news carefully. Then he climbed up Merlyn’s knee and stood atop his thigh. “From this moment on, I propose we strike the name of Merlydon from our hearts and minds. The realm of Merlydon we knew and loved no longer exists. Hence forth, the realm shall be called Faeyelwen, and the Lydons shall be known as the fae. Additionally, like the Bellwethers, we too shall close the portals connected with Suntamor. The Betwixter Council shall be disbanded, and humans shall never enter Faeyelwen again.”
Merlyn’s heart sank. Yet he knew it was for the best. Mankind was too greedy and destructive to be trusted with the keys to Faeyelwen.
Kearoth focused on Elliana. “What say you, speaker on behalf of the Queen of Elves?”
Elliana flashed a pitiful expression towards Merlyn, then turned to discuss the proposal with her fellow elves. When the mumbling died down, she stepped forward. “We accept your proposal. May Faeyelwen know harmony and peace in all things.”
Kearoth bowed and turned toward the gnomes. The gnomes did not have a queen or king, so he had no one in particular to ask. Their society was just not set up for order.
All three gnomes raised their hands above their heads and grunted.
Kearoth took that as consent. Lastly, Kearoth turned toward Merlyn. “What say you, former High Seat of the Betwixter Council?”
Merlyn was surprised to have a say in the proceedings. His order had been disbanded, and he was no longer allowed in Faeyelwen.
“You would truly consider my vote?” Merlyn’s heart was touched. He blinked back tears.
Kearoth fluttered his wings until he was face-to-face with Merlyn. “Although you say you are of the human race, I still say you are only among them, and not of them. Therefore, I say unto you, with full authority and sincerity, you are always welcome in my courts and in my home, brother.”
All the fae clapped and cheered for Merlyn. As he looked around at each of their innocent and precious faces, he made a vow. From that moment on, he had one, and only one task. If it took until his dying breath, he swore that he would reunite the Great Crystal.