Flickering torches line the hall, illuminating the three shadows that creep through. A midnight-black sky camouflages the snowfall behind the paneled windows. Felix, Bayo, and Greon pass the hall in great haste, unseen by all. The gift of illusion is Greon’s. As a master of this power, Greon can will all eyes before him to see whatever he dares to imagine. In this case, he has made himself and his companions invisible. But he has overlooked one minor detail . . . their shadows.
Greon’s forehead wrinkles, his eyes shifting while his body shakes. Felix looks down at the pendant in his hand, which he’d enchanted to beam an amber blaze as it got closer to their treasure. There is no change in his contraption, and the veins in Felix’s neck throb with frustration.
The windows rattle from the storm, and Greon springs up at the sound. At once, his eyes fly to Bayo to see if he noticed his embarrassing moment, but Bayo is preoccupied.
Bayo examines the pendant from the corner of his hungry eyes for it is his treasure the three are after. In pursuit of this treasure for nearly a century, Bayo found that it had been hiding here in a neighboring kingdom. The moment he knew where it was, there was no time wasted in retrieving it.
“We’re nearly there,” whispers Felix.
“Hush now,” says Greon. “I cannot conceal sounds.”
“Hush thyself. I hear you quivering from over here,” Felix says.
Greon glares at Felix. “I would not be so distressed if your wretched footsteps were not booming in these halls!”
Felix turns to Bayo. “Isn’t it astonishing that the person whining about the noise is making all the racket?”
Greon’s enraged interjection cuts off as his face gives a great twist. A mighty wail, desperate to escape, is released in a mutter past his clenched jaw. Beside him, Felix fares the same. This is Bayo’s gift, the gift of anguish. He can will any victim to experience immense physical torment. Endurance, his people call it. This gift is superior to all, and Bayo, the master of this power, is also the master of his people.
Bayo stands before them and watches with heavy eyes as his companions are forced to their knees in the physical agony that he inflicts on them. With Felix’s loosening grip, the pendant falls with a clank. Bayo snags it from the sparkling stone floor.
“Are you children finished? Or shall Greon conjure the image of both your mothers?” Bayo says, leering toward the pair.
At that moment, a group of men approach the entrance behind them. On the other side of the door, a man stutters in hysteria, “Sh—shadows, sir! Walking about. I’ve never s—seen such a sight! Spirits walkin’ among us, sir!”
At once, Bayo stops using his power on his companions to listen in, and Greon and Felix slowly pull themselves to their feet.
“How many were there? What did they look like?” asks another man, his voice steady.
“There were three, sir,” the first voice says.
Bayo’s eyes widen in horror. “You imbecile!” he whispers, cursing Greon. Greon hastens to fix his mistake, but it is far too late for that. The three begin to run.
The guard then asks, “Which way did they go?”
“Through these doors!”
They freeze once more.
“Through the window!” Felix says frantically, recalling the swords that disable magic in this nation.
Bayo snaps his head to meet Felix’s eyes. “I’m not leaving without it!” he hisses with rage. He worked too hard to find it; the one weapon that could be used to invade their nation . . . and conquer the worlds.
The double door behind them crashes open with a bang. In the doorway stand five armed guards, peering through the hallway. But they see nothing. The guards walk through the corridor with waiting swords that ring in the proximity of any magic. Bayo, Greon, and Felix back away quietly until their backs are pressed against the white stone walls. The guards’ swords begin to buzz.
The cold of the stone sends shivers up their spines. Yet, Bayo’s hand grows warm. He looks down at the amulet in his palm; his face is illuminated with an amber glow. His heart skips a beat. It’s close! Bayo walks on despite the approaching guards, searching for a door, anything besides these endless halls. However, even around the bend, no exits appear.
Greon presses his back against the ice-cold window, his brow slick with sweat as he struggles to keep up his illusions while managing his panic. A guard passes by him, only an inch away, yet he notices nothing.
The guards then pass Felix, who stands across from Greon. He clutches the stone, trying to keep still and out of their way.
“What’s that ringing? There is nothing here,” says a guard, staring at his pulsating sword.
The superior of the royal guards answers, “Ah, it’s The Eyes.”
Bayo’s lips curl into a smirk as he begins to pat the wall silently. It’s here . . . somewhere. The swords are nearly brushing against his back. If they were to touch him, he would be temporarily cleaned of all magic, including his power of Endurance. Long enough to be killed. But Bayo keeps on. He knows there is something here, a trick to the wall that hides his prize behind the stone. He continues down the hall silently, all the while patting the shimmering stone with the warm pendant in his hand. Finally, at the end of the corridor, his hand falls through the wall.
“Calling five guards on Lorain’s Day!” scoffs the superior of the royal guards. “As a witness to shadows in the night! Go home, men. There is nothing here.” With that command, the guards exit with a slight murmur.
Felix and Greon peer around the bend in search of Bayo, but he is nowhere in sight. They come to a dead-end, utterly dumbfounded.
“What on Malphora?” mutters Felix as he holds out his arm to touch the wall at the end of the corridor. His arm passes through it completely and without feeling. He and Greon share an astonished look. Neither has experienced such magic before. They both walk through.
The air beyond the corridor is warm and inviting, unlike the brisk winter they left behind. They stand on black earth lined with magnificent rock structures below a brilliant sky with stars and constellations they have never seen before. In the distance are strange planets so large they seem to be a short flight away. At the horizon, a blazing orange sky fades into pink, then blues and purples. There are no clouds, and the air is entirely still. A gentle hum echoes through this strange world. Although Felix and Greon stand here for only a moment, it is evident this mystical place is alive.
In the distance, they see Bayo’s figure approaching a great white light in the center of this strange world. Once Bayo is close, the objects emitting the dazzling light emerge. They are three glassy orbs, each the size of a palm, floating several feet from the ground. They spin slowly and continuously, as if they were in one another’s orbit. Each orb represents an existing world. Through their glass-like forms, one can make out the world within.
The Mythical Three Eyes.
Bayo beholds the orbs in their beauty, his arms extending out to touch what he has so long searched for. This is Bayo’s treasure.
Felix and Greon stand behind him. The strange world echoes with Bayo’s chuckle. Sound moves differently here—more slowly and in clear waves.
“I’ve crossed the ends of the earth, and finally, I’ve found you,” he whispers, a rapturous grin on his face. Bayo touches one with the palm of his hand, and it feels as though the world stops.
The magnificent starry sky turns black. The orbs’ light lessens altogether, and their rotations pause. All is still for a moment until the rocky earth beneath them begins to tremble.
Felix shouts to Bayo, “We must leave!” He and Greon turn around, but the expanse of land looks all the same, obscuring the way from which they had come.
“Do not fear, friends,” Bayo calls. “Come closer. These orbs are our salvation. See here, Malphora, our world, bountiful and beautiful in every way.”
Malphora is most commonly known as the realm of the humans, though it is also home to the extraordinary, as they call themselves. Although both humans and the extraordinary share Malphora, the ancients of all the extraordinary nations created a divide between the two regions of the world to protect their people. To accomplish such a feat, they used the oldest magic in existence: The Three Eyes and the oldest Tree in Malphora. Thousands of years passed, and neither humans nor the extraordinary could pass through the divide between worlds unless they had the orbs or the location of the oldest tree.
Bayo touches the orb of Malphora and chortles as the air before them rips open in a long gash. A portal. Through the gash is an image of a pristine beach with waters so clear the sand beneath is visible. Rays of sunlight pour through it and into the now black world Bayo stands in. Cooing birds and crashing waves seem only a step away.
“The human divide,” Bayo mumbles.
Without a moment’s hesitation or fear, Bayo stuffs the orbs into a large sack and throws it over his shoulder. The earth begins to quake beneath their feet. And yet the portal remains open.
Greon and Felix jump through the gash, and Bayo follows before the portal closes. As soon as they’ve gone, the earth they had stood on but a moment ago falls into oblivion.