My pulse pounded in my ears, drowning out any sound that I might have heard. Thørn left to explore the room the Eternian Academy had provided, I had fled into mine.
I didn’t know what the room looked like; I stumbled towards my cot and collapsed. I was drowning in a sea of conflicting emotions. I’d been trying to keep them hidden ever since I fought the thief, but I couldn’t hold them back any longer.
This was the first time I’d had a chance to take in the enormity of what had happened. When I’d left Karadan, it had been apocalyptic. I’d fled for my life. I’d been engaged in a battle with a criminal minutes after arriving on Archora, and then knocked out by an Eternian Academy device. I’d questioned Estra and then fought her, and then questioned Eternia and Quint.
The turmoil washed over me, sweeping aside my mental barriers. I was falling, drowning, spinning, flying. The Myriad was nothing, it didn’t matter. Karadan was gone. My world was dead.
Confusion, fury, misery, desolation, the emotions were pushed to the surface of my mind. I was being torn apart, ravaged.
I might have lain there for days, my chest heaving and my eyes squeezed shut. Time worked in a different way, stretching seconds for days, and hours being compressed into minutes. The final vision of my world was pressed against my eyes. A charred landscaping, a world on fire, splintering into millions of pieces like glass.
Quint was drumming his fingers on his desk as Thørn and I entered his cramped study. The walls were plastered with charts and diagrams, maps of cities and blueprints for devices and buildings. I recognized a few as alchemical recipes. Papers covered most of Quints desk, and pillars of papers stood in the corners. A few loose leaves of paper littered the floor.
The drumming of Quint’s fingers stopped and he stood to greet us. “Ah, good. You’re here,” he observed. “Have you reached a decision?”
“About?” Thørn asked, though I was quite sure he knew. He liked to skirt around questions, draw things out.
“The Academy’s proposal,” Quint said.
“You mean the one where Kyra asked us to join?”
“Yes, that one.”
“I’ve decided to accept it,” Thørn said, a bit resigned.
Quint smiled. “I’m glad you’ve come to that conclusion,” he said. “And you, Alsari?”
I paused. “I… have decided to join, as well,” I sighed. What I didn’t tell him was that I wasn’t joining because I wanted to. Joining the Eternian Academy was not much better than being locked in it’s dungeons. But I needed to know how much they knew about me, and how powerful they were. If I was to believe them, it would be hard to run from the Academy, even if I could escape this building.
“Wonderful!” Quint said, clapping his hands together. “You’re training will begin in half an hour. Down the hallway, two rights, can’t miss it.”
“Training?” I objected. “I’ve been traveling the Myriad for-” I caught myself. “For a long time. I don’t need your training.”
“Humor me,” Quint said. I turned to leave, but Quint stopped me. “Wait! Hold out your arms.”
I extended my arms. Each one still had the magic inhibiting manacles clamped on to them. Quint wrapped his fingers around them, and they fell away with a click. A whisper of a smile brushed across my face as my magic returned.
“How did you do that?” I asked. “Technomancy?” On Archora, as well as a few other worlds I’d visited, mages were only capable of using a specialized kind of magic, but Quint shook his head.
“Alchemy,” he said. “Did you know that everyone in the Myriad has a different fingerprint? We’ve recently developed technology that allows for us to use that to our advantage. The cuffs come off at the touch of either me or Kyra.”
I nodded my thanks. “I’ll see you in half an hour.”
Thørn and I strode down the stone hallway, and I felt like I was greeting an old friend. My gait was steadier, I was once again able to see past eyesight, feeling everything the stone touched. I allowed myself a tiny smile.
Thørn, however, was lost in thought. “Have you ever seen a world like this?” he asked.
“No two worlds are the same,” I told him, not really listening. I reached out to brush the granite walls, my fingers leaving tiny trails in the rock.
“No… But our technology,” Thørn clarified. “From what I saw in your mind… I didn’t see much, but it was nothing like what’s on Archora.”
The telepath was right. So much of this technology was beyond anything I’d seen before.
“What were those machines that captured us?” I asked.
“The Clockwork is what they’re called,” Thørn said. “They were created to do dangerous or tedious jobs. Now, they’re used for almost everything.”
“You’re right,” I said. “This world might be the most advanced in the Myriad… by centuries. I’ve heard this is a common place for alchemists to come, but I never realized how far ahead of the rest of the Myriad it was.”
Thørn’s eyes lost focus and he stopped walking. “I wish… I wish I could go,” he said. “Out into the Myriad. Beyond this world. I want to explore everything. I want to breath air on another world, see creatures in another universe, learn legends from beyond the horizon. I want to learn everything.”
Thørn turned to me, and his eyes sparkled with hope and wonder that I hadn’t felt in far too long. He reminded me of myself long ago.
“Some day,” I told him. “We’ll leave the Academy. Some day, you’ll see what it’s like. I promise you this, Thørn Feltrix, you’ll get your wish.”