"I think we lost them." the boy said, trying to catch his breath. His cherry red hair stuck to the sweat on his forehead. He glanced over to her. "Are you alright?"
The girl looked up at him, nodding. "I'm alright. Just... exhausted." She dropped her maroon stained sword on the dirt ground, collapsing on the floor next to it. The boy lowered his blade as he sat next to her.
"Life has really got insane, huh?" she sighed as she leaned onto his shoulder. "Sometimes, I wish that we still had a normal life. If we hadn't found that thing or if I just didn't let my curiosity get the best of me..."
The boy nodded, "It's also partly my fault. I'm the one who suggested we read it." He smiled softly, tucking her caramel hair behind her ear. The sun was setting at the time and the sky was painted a beautiful orange. As they closed their eyes to get some rest, both of their minds wondered to the last normal day they had. The day it all began. When their life turned upside down.
"Stop talking or I will ask you to leave." The librarian glared at them. The two had turned their heads towards her. Despite the stern look upon her face, her voice was taut, and her dark brown eyes carried a certain feeling of fear and a slight hint of guilt, something Alistair couldn't quite decipher.
"Sorry, Mrs. Keathly." The boy quickly apologized, "We'll be quiet from now on."
She eyed the pair one more time before picking up her stack of books from the table and walked off. Everest sighed, burying her head into her arms, "We weren't that loud. I guess she really doesn't like us, huh?"
"Not that loud?" Alistair scoffed, "Our voices were the only thing you could hear in these empty halls." He pushed her long hair away from her face as she tilted her head to look at him. His chocolate-colored eyes gazed into her emerald ones.
Everest sighed. "I wanna sleep, but I'm stuck here looking at your annoying face."
Alistair tilted his head and brought his hands to cup his face, "What do you mean, Everest? You love seeing my beautiful face."
"Your face annoys me, Alistair." she replied in a sarcastic tone.
"Whatever you say~" He picked up a pen and poked her nose with it, "Now, we have a lot of research ahead of us. Let's get back to work, shall we?"
Everest nodded, then proceeded to go through the stack of books they had piled up on the table. While looking through the stack for the right one, she noticed a book they hadn't picked out earlier. It was worn and tattered, and binded with string along the spine.
"Hm? Al, since when was this here?" She asked as she began flipping through the yellow-stained pages. "Mrs. Keathly must've left it here from just now." Alistair glided his hand across the table and tilted the book in her hands, allowing him to read the title.
"Terra Incognita" he read. Everest closed the book slightly, with her finger locked in the page she paused at, observing the words Alistair just spoke. It was inscribed in a beautiful bold font on the black leather cover. She traced her fingers across the letters, pondering on them, letting it soak in.
Looking back at Alistair, she noticed he was going through his "My brain is thinking of something amazing so don't interrupt me" zone. With index fingers pressed against his forehead and eyebrows furrowed together, Alistair's nose twitched.
After a few seconds that felt like an eternity, Alistair's eyes shot open, and his hands clasped together as he lowered them. Everest brushed his fluffy hair aside so his eyes weren't blocked from her view.
"What wisdom shall cometh from thy mouth upon tis day, Sir Alistair Vantres?' she gazed at him with her jaw resting on her palm. She tilted her head, awaiting his response. As much as she liked to tease him, she knew something smart always comes out of him. Her best friend was highly knowledgeable.
"It means 'Unknown Land', Ev" a proud smile sat on his lips, but faded as the confused expression never left Everest's face. "The book title, I mean." he explained. Finally understanding, she nodded slowly, glancing back at the book in her hands.
"Terra incognita… Unknown land…" she mumbled, tracing her finger along the rim. Everest tilted her head back up to him, "What language is that?"
"Latin. I've been learning quite a bit." he replied while crossing his arms and leaning back in his chair. "It seems intriguing. Let's read it."
Everest frowned, "But we have to get our research done for the project…"
Smiling, Alistair leaned forward, "The assignment was on ancient civilizations, and Latin was the language of the Roman Empire, an ancient civilization."
A spark of excitement snaked its way onto her face, immediately opening the book on the table. She waved her hand, gesturing for Alistair to sit next to her, to which he gladly complied. The duo leaned in, examining the text together.
The pages were filled with ink smudges, coffee stains, and torn edges. Every word was handwritten, and there were little drawings alongside some paragraphs. The book contained tales of a strange land with magic, potions, and magical creatures. As they went on through the book, Everest noticed an odd sketch of what seemed to be a monster of somesort.
"Do you think it's the Mortem Beast mentioned in the tale?" she smiled, "The drawing doesn't do it justice. The tale described it way scarier than this."
"Yeah. This looks like Yoda, but goth." Alistair laughed.
Everest elbowed him "Pfffftttt Goth Yoda? What the heck, Alistair!"
They started laughing and making all sorts of ridiculous comparisons, and soon, they became a little too loud. Before they knew it, the book was snatched out of their hands.
"Mrs. Keathly!" Everest exclaimed. She looked up to see the deathly stare of the librarian, and if looks could kill, she'd already be dead. After being thrown across a room and beaten with a bat, that is.
"How many chances have I given you both?" the woman scowled at them, "I believe you've had one too many opportunities to redeem yourselves."
Their faces were torn with desperation, "Please, Mrs. Keathly! We'll go to the back of the library if you want. Please let us stay!" Everest begged. Mrs. Keathly's sour aura softened slightly as she let out a big sigh.
"This is the last time, you hear me? One more time and you're out." she stated firmly before handing the book back to Everest. With one final glare, she stomped off, baffled that she had, once again, let them off the hook without kicking them from the library.
A sigh of relief escaped from their mouths as they let themselves breathe normally again. Alistair chuckled softly "We didn't get banned this time."
Everest giggled "I think she's scarier than the Mortem Beast, don't you think?" They started to laugh again, but swiftly slammed their hands onto each other's mouths to shut the other up.
"Oh, I just realized something, Ev." Alistair said once Everest had removed her hand from his face. She tilted her head, waiting for him to continue. "It's about the Mortem Beast…"
"What about it?" she whispered, eyes glistening with excitement.
Alistair thought carefully, as if making sure his mind was telling him the truth, then finally revealed, "Mortem is a Latin word… And it means death."
"Death? So it's the Death Beast?" she concluded. Alistair nodded as he added, "It's not a surprise. Considering how it was described that death followed wherever it went."
They decided to skim through the next few pages, stopping to look at the drawings of the creatures. Just as they were about to put down the book and return to their original project, Everest flipped to something that caught her eye.
"A- Alistair… Th- this is not what I think it is.... Right?" she turned to him with eyes that shone with fear. He gently rubbed her shoulder and took the book to see what had scared her this badly. Upon seeing the page, his face flushed with the same fear as hers.
The text on the page was written over by a shaky handwriting. The ink was a dark crimson, if it even was ink. And it wasn't. It was blood. The texture, the color, and the smell confirmed it. And in this blood, a messege was written, "They all are real. ALL of them. Quia statim finis."
"W- what?" The book dropped out of his hand, landing on the table. He wrapped his arms Everest, trying to keep composed so he could comfort her. "Hey. it's okay, Ev. It's okay." Alistair lightly caressed her head as she stood frozen in shock.
"Why do you have this?" a cold voice called out. He turned around to see Mrs. Keathly holding the Terra Incognita. Letting go of Everest, he walked to the librarian, whose eyes burned with fury. Previously when she snatched the book out of his hands, she hadn't noticed that it was this book.
"You probably left it here earlier. We found it, and it looked interesting, so we wanted to read it." Alistair tried to explain and calm the fire raging in her, but that only seemed to make it worse.
"If you knew it was mine, you shouldn't have touched it." Mrs. Keathly said sternly "As you can see, unlike every library book, this doesn't have a label, because it isn't a library book. It is mine, and I'd prefer if no one took it."
Alistair frantically tried to apologize "I'm sorry, Mrs. Keathly. We hadn't realized it wa-"
"Enough. Out with the both of you." she cut him off. "Now. Before I have to drag you out." She spun around and returned to her desk with the book in her hand.
Alistair sighed and went back to Everest. She had remained spaced-out the whole time. He gently shook her, "Ev? Come on, we gotta go. Everest Avian?"
"Huh?" she stared blankly into his eyes as she snapped out of the void she was in. He smiled softly and cupped her cheeks, "Let's go, Ev. We finally got kicked.
Alistair took her hand and led her out of the building, as she was only half out of the void. Once they walked for a few blocks, he stopped and pulled Everest into his arms, slowly caressing her hair. After a while, her arms went from her side to wrapped around his waist.
"What does it mean, Alistair?" she finally spoke. Everest pulled herself from his embrace enough to look him in the eye. With the fear gone from her emerald orbs, a new found curiosity overtook it. "That last sentence. It was in Latin. What does it mean?
Alistair gazed into her eyes, pondering on what her reaction might be if she knew. It might either make her even more terrified or make her do something absolutely insane. At last, he decided to confess, "Know the end is near." His voice shaking as he spoke, "The message was 'They're all real, know the end is near.'"
"Alistair... Do you-" Everest paused, "Do you think this is real?"
She locked eyes with him, his soft stare gave her the answer she needed. Pulling away from his arms, her face crossed with determination, "Tonight. We're going to get to the bottom of this."
"No, Everest." Alistair's eyes drowned in uncertainty. "It's too dangerous."
"They're real and the world will end if we don't do anything. I'm going to the library tonight and I'm going to figure this out, with or without you." she stated firmly, and with that, she trudged off, leaving Alistair more uneasy than he ever had been.
That night, at 2am, Everest snuck outside the library, wearing a black hoodie and black pants with a black hat. She crawled to the back and found a small window. By some miracle, she climbed in without breaking anything. She turned on her flashlight and walked toward the front desk, where Mrs. Keathly most likely stored the book.
As she was about to open the drawer, a loud crash came from across the room. Everest swiftly turned off the flashlight, ducking under the desk. She could hear the footsteps nearing. Her heart was racing. What would happen if she was caught? Her hands were shaking and she was struggling to control her breathing.
A pair of feet stood in front of her. The figure carefully crouched down to her level. She was clumped up in a corner under the desk, hiding her face under her hood. A bright light shone into her eyes and a voice finally spoke, "Everest?"
Everest shot her hands up, blocking the light that blinded her, though she needn't see who it was to know them. It was a voice she was familiar with. "Stop shining that in my eyes! I'm about to go blind, Alistair!" she cried.
"Oh, right." he lowered his flashlight. She swiped her hair out of her face and pushed Alistair aside, climbing out from under the table. She stood up and smiled at him, "So, you decided to come after all."
He nodded as he bent down to the drawer, pulling it open. Inside layed a few books with similar covers to the Terra Incognita. They were all tattered and worn out. Digging through the pile, he retrieved the book they came for. Everest reached her hand out and Alistair placed the book in her palms, "What now?"
"I don't know... But," she pointed to the book at the top of the drawer. "That book looks most similar to this one. Should we check that out, too?"
Alistair reached out for the book, flipping the page. "It's a journal." he said as he scanned the text. "Of an alchemist, I believe."
"An alchemist? Let me see." Everest squeezed next to him, studying the pages. "It says here there's a door to the Terra Incognita..."
"...And it's unlocked by the Keeper's Key and the blood of the innocent." he continued. Spinning his head towards Everest, they could read the other's thoughts just by looking into their eyes. Both of them were thinking the same thing.
"Let's find the key."
"Hey, wake up!"
Everest was dragged out of her sleep. Her green eyes opened slowly as she stretched her arms. The sky was dark now and night had fallen. "We have to go before we're found. We've been here too long."
"Hm okay..." she picked up her weapon and stood up, still extremely exhausted from everything that's happened since the library. "We've got to find somewhere safe before the beasts awaken."