Between the Pages

In a magical world, Between the Pages, lives Sebastian and his twin Edmond. That is, until Edmond decides to work against the Queen and disappears to join the Queens brother, and setting a curse over the country. Concerned for his brother (and the world), Sebastian sets of to search after him. But he needs help.

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4. III

“You look sick.”

Sebastian’s first comment when they arrived was neither flattering nor very helpful.

 And I feel like it too. The earth under her feet felt like a blessing, if not slightly unstable. How had they even come here? All she could remember was wind and goose bumps, although it still felt warm. And, while she couldn’t remember any looping’s, or any of that sort, she still felt like she had gotten of a particularly bad rollercoaster.

They were standing on a hill; behind them spread great forests, grey trees lined up obscuring further view. And then there was a door. Gleaming white wood, embellishments etched in the wood and curling around the golden handle. Words were burned in at the top, but the world before her eyes were still unable to focus, and she couldn’t make them out. The scent of parchment, old books and ink hung in the air, reminding her of distant memories she was sure she hadn’t lived.

“I hate rollercoasters.” She muttered and leaned against the door.

Someone, somewhere near her left ear, was laughing. Sebastian. He was straightening out wrinkles of his pants and generally seemed to have taken the ride a little better than her. The sun seemed different here, as if it had just risen.

Lina tried to refocus her eyes again and blinked several times. Something mist-like had collected in her eye, and made her surroundings seem like drawn with runny watercolour. He was still smirking at her, silently making fun of her.

“How do you know Danish anyway?”

“Oh, I don’t.” He looked up and looked at a pocket watch he had drawn from one of the pockets in his pants.

Lina shifted her weight on the other foot. “So a minute ago we were in Denmark…”

He shrugged. “If you say so.”

“…And now we’re… where exactly?”

“Between the Pages. And we’re speaking Libron.”

“Right.” Although she could see clearly now, the dizziness remained. She could hear the words he was saying, but only barely understood them. Whether that still was an after-effect from travelling, or just general confusion, she didn’t know.

He was looking at his watch again, an old-fashioned one, like the one you’d imagine the rabbit had in Alice in Wonderland.  

 Now that she could see clearly, she tentatively took a step forward, drawing closer to Sebastian. They were standing on a hill, viewing a huge city in front of them. Behind it she could see even more forest, and she spied mountains in the distance. From here out it looked like the city was surrounded by forest. The view was extraordinary, and Lina wished they had been up higher so she could see more.

“Is it always like this?” She looked over her shoulder at Sebastian. He was staring at something behind her, his eyes narrowing in the sun.

“This is the curse.”

It could have been a sad view, but it looked extraordinary, the way everything seemed to have been dipped in the finest shades of grey, softening out in the middle were the city laid. Like a painter not finished with the colouring, it spread out beneath them. Soaked in rich colours, and then greying out at the border to the forest, so gradually that you couldn’t place where the missing colours began.

 Lina hadn’t noticed it when they arrived first, but even the dry grass underneath her feet was a pale grey. It was definitely real grass, the way it tickled her skin and leaned just a little to the right because of the breeze. The sun stood high on the sky, a bright yellow orb on a blue canvas, apparently the only thing besides the city, that wasn’t affected.

Was this really it? Were they really in another world? At first she had tried to make herself believe that they hadn’t gone anywhere: That he had gassed her with some drug and they were in a park or a hill. But last she remembered there weren’t any mountains in Denmark and weren’t the grey scale trees the last proof she needed. Wherever she was, it wasn’t home.

 Sebastian took a step forward. His eyes were scanning the city, like a routine check.  

 “It looks even worse from up here.” He took a step back again.

He coughed. Or, Lina thought that it was him. Until a new voice appeared behind them. Lina turned towards the voice and noticed a girl, stepping forward from the trees that seemed to be the framework for the door. It was almost as if she came from behind the door. Lina wondered whether there was anything behind it, or if the forest just continued.

The girl looked like she easily could live in the forest, like an elf or some other mythical creature. Dark lashes framed intense amber eyes, and she, quite frankly, looked a bit scary. Although she looked younger than them, maybe 14.

“That took you long,” she said. She spoke the words like Sebastian, smooth and different, but lacking the warmth from his.

Sebastian looked at her and broke out a smile. “Yeah. First kid didn’t, uhm, seem fit.” He shrugged. “He was a bit young, and his mom came in and, uhm, threw me out.”

The girl sighed and rolled her eyes. “You better hope the kid wont remember your appearance, I’m purely doing this as a favour, and I don’t want any trouble.”

She turned around and Sebastian leaned over to Lina.

 “This is Julia by the way. She’s… nicer when you get to know her.” He whispered while Julia locked the door with the golden key that had been dangling around her neck. It was so small and dainty that Lina had assumed it was nothing more than a pretty toy when she first noticed it.

“You guard the door?”

Julia turned around and tilted her head. “Yes.” Lina could feel her eyes measuring her up and down. Her cape was the same white as the door, glowing in contrast to her skin, and Lina wondered if it was part of a uniform.

“You two should go now.” She looked at Lina. “I’ll open the door when you come back again.” She made a dramatic turn, causing her cape and dress to twirl. “If you come back.”

“Kinda mean,” Lina said when Julia was well past the trees. Sebastian didn’t say anything but smiled in a way that led Lina to believe that Julia could be much meaner if she wanted to.

“She’s OK, just a little pissed lately.” He shrugged. “A lot of people are.”

He nodded in the direction of a path that led down.

“We’ve got a little to walk, so we might as well leave now.”

They were walking in the shadows of the trees and Lina couldn’t take her eyes off the branches and leaves, all drenched from colour. What she had first taken as a very impressive forest, the grey gleaming silver in the sunlight, was now a very sad forest, looking like something from a Grimm fairy-tale.

 “Why is this so important to you?”

 Sebastian almost stopped mid-track. His eyebrows sunk into his eyes.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, it’s just… Why is it your responsibility?”

 “People are dying and I can stop it. How is that not my responsibility?”  

“Either your more honourable than me, or more ridiculous."

He laughed, but Lina still shook her head. “The Queen must have an army, right? Is it just me or would telling here where to find this evil person-slash-curse maker be a lot less trouble for you?”

 “That would be a wonderful idea, if it didn’t mean condemning my brother to death.” He turned his head to look at her. “You know, I don’t always necessarily enjoy my brother, but that doesn’t mean I want him to die.”

 Lina didn’t know how to answer to that. They were halfway down when Lina spoke again.

“What… about me?”

 “What about you?”

 “The… disease. Could it affect me?”

 He met her gaze and Lina tried to find any hint of fear or concern in them.

 “I don't know,” he finally answered. “Maybe, people from the outside very seldom come here, so I really don’t know. Also, I should add…”

 Lina raised an eyebrow, afraid of what he was going to say next. Could it possibly be worse than the fact that there was a chance of her dying just because she wanted to Oh by the way, I don’t know how to get you home. The thought hadn’t occurred to her before, but once it was in her head, she couldn’t let it go. “Yes?”

 “It’s not a disease, but a curse.”

 Lina sighed with relief. She mulled the words in her head, then nodded slowly. “Sure. Why not.”

 “So you’ll join me?” The words tumbled out casually, but she sensed a certain plea in them.

 It had never occurred to her that she could say no. It seemed absurd. Cool magic trick, but I gotta go, mom’s prepared dinner.

She felt like she had when he first asked her to come with him. If she left now, she would be regretting it the rest of her life. And even if she asked for a tour of the city before she left… She’d feel awful leaving him. Would the fact that she put herself in danger be worth it? Sebastian had made it clear that there was (in his words) “a slight maybe-possibility of dying –but hey, don’t worry”. Even though he acted like it, Lina felt like he didn’t know much more of what would be expecting them than she did.

If she left, would he travel to another place in the world and find a new person to go with him? If she left, would she ever hear how it ended? Whether he managed to save everyone, or if he died. She couldn’t leave now. That would be like stopping a movie halfway through. Like leaving a book, just when you get to the good part.

She didn’t share his righteousness, that was sure, but she did share some want for adventure. And honestly, it wasn’t like anyone was going to come knocking up her door soon with a chance like that.

It didn’t matter that it shouldn’t actually be possible for her. This was an adventure, and you don’t just say no to adventures.

 “Yeah, sure.”

She shrugged in attempt to make it sound more casual. It was partly to sound a bit cooler, and partly to not reveal how she was as nervous as she had ever been. “Whatever, it’s not like I have anything better to do tomorrow.”

 Sebastian started laughing. He had such a rich way of laughing too, Lina couldn’t help but smile.

“Wonderful! Amazing!”

 He picked up the pace, and Lina had to almost run to keep up with him. Her mood was picking up, and instead of doubt and worry, excitement filled her every step, surrounding her in an invincible bubble. She put the blame on Sebastian, who, after asking three times again whether she was really, really sure, begun talking about how he was going to show her the city.

“Trust me, you’ll love it.”

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