IV

When In Iziser had teleported off, he immediately found himself in the comfort (no matter how much comfort it actually provided) of his bedroom. The young monarch had it littered with scientific items: a picture of the periodic table of quantum particles, numerous histograms, and a few philosophical quotes. The wardrobe was filled with very specific attire, including a white military uniform, a pair of cargo shorts and a red flannel, and a dark, blue military uniform, among various other, less significant outfits. 

He flopped down on the sheets. It had been too hot, so he’d removed the blanket that normally occupied the bed in the winter. He rolled over, heaving a long, heavy sigh. 

Life had been happening too fast for him. One day, he was just trying to live out the final days as monarch-to-be before being thrust into a ceremonial role for nearly the rest of his life, and the next he’d been thrust into this highly theoretical role as Hero of Cognition. Now he had to take care of a Guardian, manage his abilities, and juggle his duties as Monarch of Zeneste. 

The weight of it all grew around his heart like a lead ball a fisherman attached to the end of a fishing line. It stunk. There was no escaping from his fate, because somebody had to do it, and that somebody had to be him.  

A depressing reality, sure, but it was somewhat relieving in the sense that he could continue his studies under a more formal guise; he would have nearly infinite knowledge at the tips of his fingers, more or less. And, he wouldn’t have to worry about trying to find a home, or a school, or somewhere to go, he supposed.

He stared up at the ceiling dumbly. Its ancient, planked surface had many cracks–he should probably mention that to Lozerief–but the nooks and crannies kept his attention while the gears spun in his mind. 

That was true for about thirty minutes, at which point, a knock came at his door.

“Who is it?” Iziser groaned.

“Miss Pejemer,” Lozerief answered.

“Tell her I said leave me alone,” Iziser moaned. 

The door opened anyways, and Iziser rolled his head over to view Pejemer, who ducked through the door and sat down in a chair. “I’m really only here to help you,” Pejemer explained. “I just want you to trust me.”

“And I don’t want to trust you,” the to-be monarch whined. “Why do you have to be here, anyways?”

“I’m here to keep you safe from the dangers that present themselves after becoming a realized Hero.” Pejemer crossed one leg over the other, drumming her fingers against her knees.

“You’re an idiot,” Iziser muttered, sitting up to face her. “You say all that, but I bet you can’t begin to explain any of it.”

“It means you’ve unlocked all of your abilities,” Pejemer explained. “It means you’ve been deemed worthy enough that the universe has gifted you the full array of abilities you were always destined to have.”

“Ugh, destiny,” Iziser groaned. “If I have to hear that word one more time I’ll be damned.”

“No you won’t,” Pejemer replied cluelessly.

“Figure of speech, moron,” Iziser grumbled. “And, even if I’ve somehow unlocked this full set of abilities, why now? Why not earlier when I needed them most? Why not later when I would’ve needed them more?”

“There’s simply no better time than the present,” Pejemer replied with a shrug. 

“Sure there is!” Iziser protested. “Like, how about when my dad fucking died in the hospital? Why didn’t they show up then? Or, how about when I was abandoned by my mom as a child? I don’t even know who she is! Wouldn’t then have been better?”

“No, frankly,” Pejemer responded, a look of empathy painting her face. “But clearly the only thing to protect you from–” She responded as she grew closer, leaning into him “–is yourself.” She touched a finger to his sternum, feeling his heart.

There were no words to describe the weird, new emotions Iziser felt: confused, upset, violated, calmed, relieved, and joyful wouldn’t do the trick. None of them were serious enough. And, whatever the case, he was seriously considering getting better palace guards.

“I think you know it’s true,” Pejemer added quietly, her hand drawing itself back beside her waist. “I think you’re just stubborn.”

“I think I have valid points in that I really shouldn’t trust you,” Iziser grumbled. “I’ve known you for about a day, and you traipse up in here telling me you’re practically my mother?”

“I never said that. We’re not biologically related.”

“Figure of speech, moron.” Izi sighed. “Point is: I shouldn’t trust you. I can’t.”

“Sure you can. You trust Miss Lozerief enough.” Pejemer shrugged, uncrossing her legs and crossing them at the ankles. 

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“That’s different! I’ve known her for years!” Iziser protested.

“Hmm. You’re right. I suppose that’s true,” Pejemer responded. “But, then why would I be here to hurt you?”

Iziser sighed. “You wouldn’t. You’re just a freeloader.”

“And if that were the case then why haven’t I eaten?”

“You didn’t eat?” Iziser was shocked. “No.” He shook his head. “Look, okay? Go to the kitchen, and I’ll be there and make you food. Probably leftover pizza because that’s what we have.”

Pejemer smiled. “I’ll be down there,” She responded, leaving the room.

Iziser teleported to the kitchen, where he quickly pulled out a square pizza from the refrigerator, and settled it in the microwave, pressing the appropriate buttons. He had been leaning up against the counter when Pejemer arrived, stepping into the room in graceful, agile steps.

“You look like you have every motion planned,” He critiqued. 

“I know where I’m going,” Pejemer responded.

“Same thing,” Iziser protested.

Pejemer shrugged. “Well, tell me what you’re willing to tell me about yourself, and I’ll do the same in return.”

Iziser frowned. “You first. You’re in my house.”

“Fair point,” Pejemer agreed with a chuckle. “I lived in Ytos for most of my life, living at peace with the snow. My parents were ice cutters, and had sold ice for thousands of years–”

“Hang on,” Iziser interrupted. “You mean generations.”

“No, thousands of years. I’m nearly twelve hundred years old.” She chuckled.

Iziser’s jaw dropped. “Now you’re totally lying.”

“All Guardians are ancient,” Pejemer explained. “How old do you think Asaqua was in the Epic of the Hero of Life?”

“Didn’t all the texts say like… four thousand?” Iziser asked.

Pejemer nodded. “Indeed, there is no Guardian yet who is older than her, nor younger than you.” 

“Okay… continue.” Iziser nodded. 

“And they both died when I was nearly five hundred. Try as I might, I could never find another person like myself.” She motioned to her body and horns. “There simply wasn’t one in existence. I spent most of my time potato farming in Northern Ytos, then, but I later joined the military for the Odapirian wars. I flew one of the first planes in existence.” 

“Mhm. Proof?” Iziser frowned.

Pejemer pulled out a photograph of herself in a small, primitive, winged craft. The paper itself looked as though it were nearly one hundred years old.

“Fair point.” Iziser shrugged. “And you’re here purely on instinct?” 

Pejemer nodded. “I am. It’s very weird to describe.”

Iziser blinked. “Something else… do you have any magic? What’s your magic type?”

“I don’t have one,” Pejemer responded. “I am not Gifted.”

“Gifted?” He tilted his head.

“Do you recall how Lozerief explained that, before her time, there were only certain people who could become magicians?”

Iziser nodded. 

“In that time, the Gift had not become widespread,” Pejemer explained. “But, I am not sure why.”

“Okay, and what exactly is the Gift?” Iziser asked.

“Magic,” Pejemer answered. “The Gift was magic.”