“We’re ready to begin,” a man with a headset and a clipboard popped into the room before the castle balcony to notify Emily of their status.
“Well, I’m not!” Emily responded anxiously. “Just get yourselves ready, and when I come out, start filming.”
The producer obliged, “Yes, your highness.”
As he left, Emily watched the door nervously. She began wringing her hands and pacing the room. After a minute or so, she heard the door open again and looked up hopefully. To her relief, it was Stephen! She walked up to him and eagerly queried, “Did you find him?”
Stephen’s gut wrenched just knowing he had to disappoint her. “We searched everywhere, and we came up empty. There’s not even a hint of where he might’ve moved everyone! We even checked the social media pages of known members of Alexander’s Dreamers, and we got nothing.”
Emily frowned to hear that news. Stephen could tell she gained some optimism about the situation prior to this, and now the bitterness of this reality set in for her. She sighed, “I really wish we could have found him that I didn’t have to do this!”
“Sorry!” Stephen apologized. “We did our best!”
“I know you did. Don’t beat yourself up over it!” Emily sympathetically gave him a pat on the back.
Stephen grinned as he half joked, “You know I will!” Emily shook her head, gave him a kiss, and took a deep breath before she ventured onto the balcony.
The crowd cheered as Emily approached the edge of the balcony, and Emily didn’t seem to relish it that day. As Hugo joined them, Stephen couldn’t see Emily’s face, but he could tell as she did a spell to herself that she didn’t look forward to letting down her adoring supporters. Once everyone quieted down, Emily’s voice boomed across the area as she spoke, “My fellow Amouraqians, I’m afraid I have to tell you something unpleasant. Someone on the island is masquerading as Xavier Ryder.”
The crowd murmured amongst each other in shock of this information, and as Xavier watched the scene from a bubbling cauldron, he reacted vehemently, “No, no, no! She knows that’s not true! She-!”
He cut himself off as Emily continued to speak, “It has come to my attention that he or she, whoever they really are, has fooled a number of people into believing that, somehow, he got brought back to life. Nothing on Earth can bring him back, so beware of buying into that lie!”
“She‘s the one lying right now!” Xavier shrieked. “I know Slentersel must have told her that-!”
“It has also come to my attention…” Emily went on, “… that this fraud is training people in combat. Citizens of Amouraq, you have the fundamental right to gather as you please, and what you believe is up to you! You may even train in self defense, but you do not have the right to attack or harm anyone in this country! If your militia chooses that path, I’ll have no choice but to declare civil war!” The people watching fell completely silent from the sheer seriousness of the moment. “You’ve been warned!” Emily chanted another spell to undo the volume of her speech, and as Hugo and Stephen escorted her off the balcony, dozens of questions flew in their direction, but the three of them did not engage with anyone else as they went inside.
After Xavier watched them go back inside of the castle, their image faded from his view. Xavier mockingly imitated Emily, “You do not have the right to to attack or harm anyone in this country!” He abruptly stood up and shouted, “Well, guess what, queen! I’m not in your country!” He marched out the door and walked down the hall of what looked like an abandoned warehouse. He burst into another room without warning, which caused Simeon, Blythe, and a couple of others to jump in surprise. “Let’s go!”
“Right now?” Simeon questioned. When Xavier glared at him, he hastily corrected himself, “Yes, right now! We’re ready, your majesty!” Everyone in the room sprang up and followed Xavier out.
A parliament member remarked incredulously, “He’s back? He got brought back to life?”
Another parliament member asked skeptically, “You got that information from an alien?”
“I know, it’s hard to believe!” Emily answered her. “That’s why I’ll let you see the evidence for yourself! Slentersel, you can come in now!” A man that resemlbed Hugo walked into the room, which naturally startled everyone since Hugo was already standing before them. Emily chanted, “Avero consimulo!” Smoke surrounded the Hugo who had just entered, and once the smoke cleared, everyone could see Slentersel in his alien form! They all gasped, and Emily addressed the parliament, “Please don’t be alarmed! This one is harmless!”
“This one?” a different paliament member reacted. “There’s more of them out there?”
The parliament members scrutinized each other, wondering if any of their colleagues were actually aliens in disguise, so Slentersel clarified, “They’re with Xavier, wherever his is. He duped our colony into taking his side, but I saw evidence that contradicted what he claimed otherwise. When I confronted him about it, he tried to kill me and an innocent child who happened to stumble upon the scene. I came to help you in any way I can.”
One parliament member eyed Slentersel suspiciously, “And what do you stand to gain from helping our kind?”
“A clear conscious,” Slentersel replied. “I came to this planet because I believed a lot of lives were at stake. I wasn’t wrong! If Xavier carries out his plans, countless lives will get lost!”
“So, do you have a clue where Xavier might be right now?” Hugo inquired to Slentersel.
Slentersel hung his head and replied, “I’m afraid not. He didn’t give out any specific locations in case of leaks, but I can tell you that he has many people who’ve worked with law enforcement in some way, shape, or form, so he has a bit of an idea of your tactics and how to get around them. I can also tell you that my race has magic far more potent than yours, but we’re not without our weaknesses. For example, we have a violently strong allergy to steel.”
Emily pointed out to a certain parliament member, “That’s why those objects went missing from your district.”
That parliament member member seemed to find this information interesting, but it didn’t seem to give him a lot of comfort. “My district is closest to the Hidden Forest where you said that his previous hideout had been situated, so I guess it makes sense that his followers would want to keep your fellow aliens safe. I’m a bit confused as to why we’re being given this knowledge though. It’s fascinating, but why did you choose to declassify it for us?”
Emily explained, “A few reasons. For one, you need to know the truth of the current circumstances at home because it affects our budget and authorizations. We’ll need different resources to fight these aliens than we would if we were simply up against regular sorcerers and sorceresses. Second, if the general public catches wind of these aliens’ existence, you’ll have to help us steer their reasoning to something else. Just as we keep the existence of magic secret from coses, we need to hide the aliens’ secret as well. If non-magical people know the real facts, it would open up a world of trouble! Our own kind fights for power, let’s not endanger anyone else if we can help it! Lastly, I talked with my fiance, who heads the ICI, and since we weren’t able to find any trace of Xavier in Amouraq, his team believes he may have fled the country.”
“He fled the country?” a parliament echoed dismally. “Then we have a whole world to search! This could take days or even weeks! Plus, we’d have to enlist the help of cose governments. How are we supposed to tell them just how serious the situation is without revealing that magic and aliens are involved?”
“The same way we always do,” Emily asserted, “by saying that people with highly advanced weapons are loose in their country. That’s not even really a lie, Xavier has completely weaponized magic! We will have to warn our allies about this issue, but we’ll also have ask for their help. Xavier’s numbers are growing, and ours are not. We need to fix that.”
A parliament member, who seemed highly reluctant to accept that approach, objected, “I don’t think it’s such a good idea to call upon cose troops. They’d not only be up against our magic but also more potent magic from another planet! How do you expect them to survive?”
Emily rejoindered, “The same way Agent Knight has this whole time! Skills don’t always win battles, cleverness does! We can outsmart them without using any magic! We can’t do this alone! We’re a normally neutral country about to engage in warfare, so we need advice on strategy! Especially since Xavier has some idea of the ones we already use! We need something new, and they can provide us with that!”
“Absolutely!” Hugo agreed. “I’m sure there’s various things we can do to outsmart our enemies. Off the top of my head, I would think infusing combat uniforms with steel would ward off some of our adversaries.” The parliament members nodded and concurred with his idea. “If we put our heads together, we can come up with more methods to keep our troops and our allies safe. Or at least as safe as we’ll get during this crisis! This is a dark chapter in our nation’s history, so we simply must deploy every resource we have available to put an end to it!”
“I guess you’re right,” a parliament member acknowledged. “But before we talk to our allies, is there any way we could narrow down the possibilities of Xavier’s location?”
Stephen, as if on cue, entered the room at this exact instance. With a grim look on his face, he announced, “I can help with that! I know where he went, and I’m afraid it’s not good news…”