Chapter 23:

Chapter 23: New Margilia

Guardians of Dawn: Volume 1

Sarah stood at the edge of the Memorial Ring and gazed upon the horizon stretching out before her eyes.Bookmark here

13 years ago the capital city Margilia stood in this chasm. Bookmark here

But then the Cataclysm struck.Bookmark here

No one knew what it was. A misfire of a spell? A Naturia’s awakening? Secret doomsday weapons, alien invaders, there were as many crazy theories as there were stars in the sky, but the only thing that was certain was that a wave of destruction had decimated everything in a 50 mile radius of the city.Bookmark here

The death toll was catastrophic.Bookmark here

“It’s so quiet.”Bookmark here

Kanone Hearthome walked up beside Sarah, his gray coat billowing in the wind. Tall, dark, and handsome, Matt’s brother had won the hearts of teen girls the world over with his charming smile. But he wasn’t smiling now.Bookmark here

“It’s peaceful,” she agreed, staring out at the empty expanse before her eyes. “Like coming home.”Bookmark here

“Like coming home,” Kanone echoed.Bookmark here

Sarah’s life began with the Cataclysm. She’d awoken in the rubble with no memories of anything that came before. No parents, no home, just a teenage girl alone in a ruined world.Bookmark here

“Do you ever miss those days?”Bookmark here

“What? Are you crazy?”Bookmark here

It was a stupid question. The Cataclysm and its aftermath were a global tragedy. But she couldn’t help how she felt, even after all this time.Bookmark here

13 years had passed. The rubble was long gone. The revealed orica deposits were being mined. The capital had been rebuilt. People had moved on. But not Sarah. Bookmark here

“I found myself in that hell,” Sarah mused. “I guess part of me will always be down there.”Bookmark here

Kanone sighed. “Well, the part of you up here has a meeting with his majesty today. And if she wants to be on time, perhaps she should make her way to the Dolmen Gate.”Bookmark here

Sarah waved her hand and created a portal over the abyss.Bookmark here

“I can make one myself.”Bookmark here

Kanone shrugged. He walked towards the stone gate in the distance, revealing the crest of the Dragon Corps emblazoned on his back. A long blue fang crossed over by a smaller one.Bookmark here

Unless you went by the name Sarah Dawn, entrance to New Margilia could only be done through the Dolmen Gates, four portals connecting the city to the rest of the world.Bookmark here

With a snap of her fingers she was there.Bookmark here

Sarah couldn’t remember what the original capital city had looked like, but she had heard that the new one was created in its predecessor’s image. Countless mages and engineers from across the country had worked to rebuild it, sinking vast resources into the construction of the capital upon the ground it once stood. It floated above the crater on an island embedded with Hover Orica, a memorial to what was lost.Bookmark here

She never failed to be surprised by how much the capital resembled any other city. It was larger than most, sure, and nearly as populous as Margilia had once been, but just walking the city’s streets you would never be able to tell that there was nothing beneath your feet.Bookmark here

The royal palace stood proudly in the distance. She was right on time.Bookmark here

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In the storybooks, the conference rooms of kings were gaudy, ostentatious things. But King Alexander Gareth’s was more like a company’s boardroom, with a long table and everything. The king himself wore a finely tailored suit, his neatly trimmed beard and graying hair creating the image of both a dignified ruler and a CEO.Bookmark here

An audience with the king was a rare privilege. Just six of the guilds in Autoria were called to send representatives, and their banners hung across the walls.Bookmark here

The brown tree on green of the Goethan Commune. Bookmark here

The white and red hammer and anvil of the Ballon Union. Bookmark here

Rachlace’s multicolored magical fires.Bookmark here

House Volstgalph’s black eye upon a field of gold.Bookmark here

These flags stood proudly beside the Guardians and the Dragon Corps, a recognition of their status among the greatest guilds of the kingdom.Bookmark here

“I appreciate your promptness in responding to my summons,” King Alexander began, clearing his throat. “I recognize that it may have been difficult given such short notice.”Bookmark here

It was a pointed acknowledgment of the one empty chair in the room. House Volstgalph’s representative was yet to arrive.Bookmark here

“Knowing the Volstgalph, they might find it unnecessary to attend in person.” The thoughtful voice belonged to Kyte, the Guild Master of Rachlace. Like all from his guild Kyte was a master of magic, radiating mana like a human orica. He looked young but his eyes were old, and as blue as the symbols on the side of his face.Bookmark here

Sarah smirked at the man’s comment, and Kanone laughed outright. Bookmark here

Kyte was alluding to House Volstgalph’s specialization among the guilds. Known as a “spy guild” by its detractors, the mysterious organization was renowned for being a broker of knowledge and information, and was famous for its secrecy. Even Miraj, their supposed leader, was a mystery; no one had seen the man’s face.Bookmark here

“Jokes aside, ignoring a royal summons like this is disrespectful!” Nallia, the Guild Master of the Ballon Union, snapped. Known for her explosive temper, Nallia the Soulforger put a quick end to the levity of her other Guild Masters. She had the red eyes and white hair of all Celians, and her pale skin didn’t betray a single wrinkle of her many years.Bookmark here

“Pardon me.”Bookmark here

The calm words of the Goethan Commune’s representative helped soothe the tension. Sarah didn’t recognize him; he wore the Commune’s traditional white robes and placid smile, and his stringy brown hair emphasized his youthfulness. His green eyes twinkled as he addressed the others.Bookmark here

“I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for my own presence here. Being in the company of so many Guild Masters, I find myself woefully unremarkable in comparison. But alas, her holiness cannot leave the Sacred Grove, and so I find myself here in her stead.”Bookmark here

“No apologies necessary. While I appreciate the presence of the other Guild Masters, I only asked that informed representatives attend.” King Alexander gave a gregarious smile to the young man. “You will do just fine, mister…?”Bookmark here

“You may call me Basil. And I appreciate his majesty’s understanding in this matter!”Bookmark here

“So do I!”Bookmark here

Everyone’s heads turned to the door to see the owner of the new voice. Bookmark here

If this girl was the representative for House Volstgalph, then color Sarah surprised. She was the complete opposite of the silent and mysterious Miraj and his dark armor.Bookmark here

Everything about this girl was loud. Her hair was loud, dyed bright pink and tied up in long pigtails. Her clothes were loud, a dress of frills and lace and dark leather. And her body was loud, specifically her large chest and a figure that even the voluptuous Sarah thought was excessive.Bookmark here

But the loudest part of her was her pretty face, her dark blue eyes seizing command of the room and her bold smirk goading someone to say something in response. She turned to the king and lifted the hem of her dress in a curtsy.Bookmark here

“Your majesty, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you. House Volstgalph sends their regards. My name is Luna Lugh, but you may refer to me as Lulu.”Bookmark here

She flounced to her seat and immediately took out her phone, completely ignoring the others. Everyone was shocked by the act of flagrant disrespect towards the king.Bookmark here

To his credit, King Alexander was exceedingly polite.Bookmark here

“Excuse me young lady. But this is an important meeting. Please put your phone away.”Bookmark here

Lulu glanced up from her phone. “Wait, you’re talking to me?”Bookmark here

The king nodded.Bookmark here

She sighed and rolled her eyes, sliding the phone into her revealed cleavage in an exaggerated gesture that made everyone uncomfortable.Bookmark here

King Alexander cleared his throat again.Bookmark here

“Now that we’ve dispensed with introductions, let’s begin. The reason I’ve called you here is because you six represent the interests of the greatest guilds in the nation, and this is a situation that requires serious consideration. If what Miss Dawn has told me is the truth, then we may have a problem on our hands. Miss Dawn?”Bookmark here

Sarah hadn’t expected to be put on the spot so fast. “Yes. Well. As his majesty was saying, this is a serious situation. Over the past two weeks, members of my guild reported encounters with Emergents that behaved in unusual ways, and displayed abilities that don’t coincide with what little we know about them.”Bookmark here

“That’s right, you sent out that message, what was it again? About an Emergent that could change its shape? It grew bigger when your guild members fought against it, and nearly overpowered them?” Nallia asked. “That’s… a little dramatic, don’t you think?”Bookmark here

“I know I’ve never heard of anything like that,” Kyte agreed. “Kanone here has more experience fighting Emergents than anyone, have you ever seen one of them suddenly double in size before?”Bookmark here

Kanone stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Not in my experience, no. Emergents aren’t like regular animals after all. They don’t grow or age. I’ve never known one to behave that way.”Bookmark here

“See? Ridiculous,” Nallia scoffed, shaking her head.Bookmark here

“However… I’ve never known Sarah to be a liar, either.”Bookmark here

The sternness in his voice brought the room to silence.Bookmark here

“I don’t think anyone is suggesting that Miss Dawn is lying,” Basil said, trying to soothe the tense atmosphere. He gave her a warm smile. “Guild Master, did you see that Emergent with your own eyes?”Bookmark here

“…No,” she admitted.Bookmark here

“Well. Then perhaps this is just one large misunderstanding!” The laughed, sighing in relief. “Emergents are intimidating, after all. Maybe a few of your guild members just got frightened and thought they saw the Emergents grow!”Bookmark here

The other representatives laughed, and Sarah’s face heated up. She was outraged. They were laughing at her guild! At Matt and Ryan and Serena and Emi, pretending like they were a bunch of scared kids who couldn’t think straight! Even Kanone, Matt’s own brother, her close friend, was sharing in the joke! She clenched her jaw to keep from cursing them all out.Bookmark here

They were right, of course. Sarah hadn’t actually seen the Emergent with her own eyes. But she trusted her family completely. None of them would have made a mistake like this. And besides, even if the things they were assuming were true, that didn’t mean-Bookmark here

“Excuse me.”Bookmark here

Sarah glanced across the table at Lulu. She was the only one who hadn’t laughed. But from the look on her face, it seemed she was laughing at a private joke of her own.Bookmark here

“What Sarah here said may be a little hard to believe, I’ll admit. But that doesn’t mean she’s wrong. And even if the giant Emergent may have just been an overreaction on the part of some inexperienced guild members… what about the other one?”Bookmark here

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