He had been given the dragon blood to protect, to fight. All his
teachers had told him so for as long as he could remember. Few
possessed the Blood, fewer still could master the Ability. He was one
of the few, one of the mere handful existing within the neighboring
Layan kingdoms of Cille and Shusoran. But he was used to being one of
few. Lyle Ra Mira was royalty, the crown prince of Shusoran.
Dragon Knight they called him, called all those of the Blood. This
Blood was rarer than kings, fortunately found only in Layan lands. The
thought of Orakians controlling the power of the dragons made Lyle's
blood writhe in cold discomfort. Any thought of Laya's hatred
foes could rile him, much more so now that Maia was missing.
"She was too curious for her own good," lamented the king of Cille, her
Maia had seen activity in the ocean, the appearance of machines out
above the water, and went to get a better look. Machines meant only one
thing. Orakian activity. All eyes turned towards the kingdom of Agoe,
the only stronghold for Orakio lovers in the entire sphere of Aquata.
Shusoran and Cille had warred with Agoe for almost a thousand years,
ever since the fateful climax of the Layan-Orakian War that ended in
both Laya and Orakio disappearing, never to be seen again. However they
no longer fought like beasts, pitting human life against human life.
Now the Orakians used machines and the Layans monsters to fight their
battles. But still, the Dragon Knights remained, and this Dragon Knight
did not care if the enemies he faced were of metal rather than flesh and
Maia vanished in the storm that wracked the coast the moment she stepped
outside the city's protective walls. Visibility reduced to zero, and
when the storm began to weaken no one in Cille could find her. The king
of Cille came to Lyle, his nephew, to ask him to find her. For Maia, who
had been his childhood friend and confident, Lyle was more than
The storm still raged, and Lyle was soaked despite the protection of his
cape. He barely noticed though, being beyond such a trivial feeling.
He had scoured the entire island consisting of Shusoran and Agoe,
crossed the land bridge to Cille's own small island, but found nothing.
Maia... Days melded into weeks, and the leaders of both Layan countries
felt her loss. Many thought she might have died in the storm. Lyle
refused to believe them. He told his family to keep hope and continued
to hunt for her, sailing as far away as the distant mainland.
Maia. He wanted to see her smile, hear her laugh. She could not be
dead so easily. Why had the storm kicked up so suddenly and without
warning? None of the meteorological records spoke of anything like
Only one town on the mainland, Rysel, survived the ancient war of
centuries past, and its inhabitants had declared themselves neutral in
regards to the Layan-Orakian squabbling. Rysel's tradition of
neutrality rose not from open disgust of either side, as one might
expect, but claimed the need to serve the well being of all people.
People of both followings were free to visit Rysel, and the town
enforced a strict policy of no fighting within its borders. Small
though Rysel was, it formed the core of Aquata's artistic culture, and
the few Orakians and Layans that journeyed off their islands appreciated
Lyle had only been here twice before, both times for the storytelling
festival held each spring, but he had garnered a friend during his last
stay. He went to this friend now. His friend was a young man like
himself, though most of the resemblance ended there. Benth was a
commoner of the merchant class, by no means a worthy companion of a
prince, but he knew more than most, and if anyone could tell Lyle how
Maia could have vanished, it would be him.
He listened to Lyle's story, then told him of the impossible. He told
him of other spheres, other worlds. Benth and his sister had both
crossed to the other side of the unscalable mountains. They had told no
one outside their family, but Benth maintained that what he did was
truth, and invited Lyle to examine the Orakian ruins to the south.
"There is a secret to them if you look in the basements; an escape route
in times of war. It took us beyond the cliffs to a world of sand. This
is how Maia may have left Aquata." Benth then looked at Lyle shrewdly.
"I warn you though, the other world is easy to get lost in. Take plenty
of supplies with you, for if you wish to comb the entire desert you will
be at it for weeks."
Time. The longer he took the less he cared what others thought. He
found he could barely laugh or cry without her. In his city he was
famed for his humor and spontaneity. Now he lapsed into the hunter;
grim and brooding. He thanked his friend and made haste to the ruins.
Another month, another two--it didn't matter so long as he found Maia in
The mainland itself was not large, only called that because it was not
surrounded on all sides by water. Part of it lined the unscalable walls
of their sphere, Aquata. Many people wondered what was past them. Lyle
had too, but now, faced with the dwindling locations in which to find
Maia, he would find out.
Lyle entered the ruins, found a passage leading into a maze of clear
sheets harder than glass and beams of metal, all suspended within what
appeared to be a gigantic cylindrical structure. Strange and aweful
though it was, he passed through with resolution. Wild beasts, perhaps
creatures left over from Laya and Orakio's war, roamed the twisting
paths like ethereal sentries; sometimes there, sometimes not. One dared
to attack him, but he smote it so sharply on the head with his staff
that one glare at the others drove them away. Dragonfire burned in
Lyle's eyes, and from days of old these beasts knew to avoid it.
He passed from darkness into the hot sun and knew that he had found the
world of which Benth had spoken. He prowled the sands for many cycles,
watching the day turn to night so many times he no longer bothered to
count. The Dragon Knight discovered many things about this world that
made it different from his own, but there was no Maia. The one town in
all the desert had never seen such a woman since the days of the
Layan-Orakian War. Lyle thought that strange until he realized that
nearly the entire population was composed of cyborgs and robots. For a
terrifying moment he thought they might recognize him as a Layan, but
they did not and went about their business no differently than they had
before he approached them.
Disgruntled and depressed, he returned to Aquata, his world, his
sphere, and found a land sprinkled with the first signs of
frost. The air pressed thick and damp against his lungs. Something
struck him lightly against the head and he looked at the ground stupidly
to see a small chunk of ice. Another hit him and bounced to the
ground. What was going on? Had the storm become so bad since he had
left? He had never seen ice fall from the skies before, and the thought
disturbed him. More importantly, he did not want to be caught
underneath one if the chunks became any larger.
Lyle hurried to Rysel for shelter, holding an arm in front of his head
like a visor as he ran. Other worlds, other spheres. Other
spheres. More than one? Benth only described one other world,
but were there more? He winced as a ball of ice rapped the top of his
head, but he had to find out now.
He leaped in the air, feeling the Blood course through his body as the
touch of the wind enveloped him. Great bronze wings emerged from his
human back and the Dragon Knight, Lyle Ra Mira, soared through the storm
towards the western mountains. He beat his wings, rising higher towards
the clouds and ignoring the pain of the small pellets of ice. The rocky
cliffs loomed before him, stark and formidable. He had passed below
them. Could he above?
Lyle sailed out from under the clouds, which held back towards the
center of the world by some odd force. Starlight shone above the rim of
the mountains and he climbed. He alighted on the edge and gaped at what
he saw before him.
Worlds. Spheres. He could not see much, but there was another
land just west of here, and another to the southwest, the desert land of
Aridia. Lyle walked forward until his head hit a walled surface he
could not see. He pressed his hands against it--it was like a
window--and looked out at the stars in space. Something was wrong
here. He had been taught that above the sky was the empty space dotted
with stars. There was nothing about this glass, this...
Lyle looked down and discovered a long metal tube passed from this world
to the next, which was as green and fruitful as Aquata was before the
storm. He felt his knees grow weak as he thought back to the strange
mess of clear sheets harder than glass and the metal maze within a
monstrous cylinder. That... He passed through that on his journey.
They connected the worlds.
He scanned the countryside along where the tube adjoined the metal
surface lining the outside of Aquata, fervently wishing to miss nothing
as he strove to lessen the thoughts in his mind. Surely the tubes had
been an Orakian invention. They smacked of technology. But if the
Orakians wielded the power to bind worlds together, how then had Laya
fought them to a standstill? Such power did not exist now. The
simpering Orakians in Agoe did not possess it. They had to watch as
generations ago his ancestors fought for land off of Cille's coast and
founded the kingdom of Shusoran.
All Lyle could find was a cave, but it was an intriguing one. There was
a metal panel embedded in the rock beside it, but it had been broken,
hanging limping from its mooring by a single loose screw. The circuitry
inside was mashed, probably by a monster. Interestingly enough to Lyle,
he sensed the residue of magic in its making. Stranger and stranger his
world became, and yet no Maia.
He entered the cave, dismissing his wings from his body with a thought.
Thin tendrils of broken magic waved about him like ribbons in the wind.
They came from the sealing magic? A flight of stairs awaited him and he
descended into another maze in another cylinder. This time when he
emerged, however, the world was warm without being uncomfortably hot,
and the grass was green and healthy. What wild beasts he saw were small
and harmless; mostly. He spotted a pair of male chirpers intently
battling it out with their gra techniques, and that would earn him a few
Another world. How many more weeks would pass before he could find
Lyle searched, choosing to learn more than anything else, and he was
pleased with his discretion. Orakians were everywhere; ignorant idiots
who haven't seen a Layan in a thousand years. They had grown soft and
he cared little for their personal affairs, until he eventually heard of
a wedding, a wedding between an Orakian prince and a beautiful
blue-haired woman he discovered on the beach. She had lost her memory,
everything save her name, and no one knew who she was, save him.
Maia. Lyle could feel her touch on his shoulder as if she would
smile at him the moment he turned to face her. He was supposed to
protect her. She knew him better than anyone and he knew her.
Days, spent in planning. Lyle learned the details of the wedding, the
time and date. He checked the cave and discovered he could not reenter
from this side, but the theft of a certain Sapphire would allow him to
do so. He plotted and stalked, mind slinking like some predatory
The day of the wedding he entered the Orakian castle, climbed up on the
roof, and padded his way over the audience hall of the king. The
ceiling of the hall was made of glass, peaked to form a sort of
steeple. Lyle knelt and peered down into the chamber, eying the
numerous soldiers, the king and queen, and the many, many guests. It
was crowded, and he wouldn't dare such a thing among an equal number of
Layans. But these were Orakians. They shunned magic, and they had not
seen a Layan in a thousand years.
The wedding bells rang, heralding the arrival of the bride and groom,
and he saw her. He looked down into the Orakian castle, livid with rage
as he saw Maia, so pale, as fragile as a paper doll in her wedding
"Maia," he croaked, his voice rising with longing.
He could not let her marry this Orakian prince. He could not let her do
such a thing without knowing who she truly was. Lyle felt the Blood
pulse within him, driving him towards the complete change of mind and
body. The ancient warriors who fought against the Dragon Knights feared
them for their magic and their prowess in battle. Many believed it was
the anger of the knight that triggered the transformation, but it was
not. It was the desire to protect. It was love.
He did not fight the power within him, but gave in to the
Lyle reached out with bronze limbs, formed from his own arms, now tough
and thick like leather, and crashed through the glass windows of the
ceiling of the Orakian castle. He landed mightily, forcing back
soldiers and prince alike with the beat of his scaled wings. His
whiplike tail slapped the ground and he roared. Lyle the Dragon wrapped
his long talons about his love, eyeing those around him with a
protective greed. He snorted once, raising his head as he called out in
"Filthy Orakians! Maia will not be yours!"