“Lillian,” began Emileigh, slipping her seatbelt across, “we hadn’t anticipated speaking to Easton so quickly. It’s taken me months to find him, but we have to be prepared before we approach him.”
“Take me to where you live,” commanded Lillian without looking up, “I want to meet everyone in your home. I want to hear that the stories are true. I need to know.”
“You know they aren’t stories,” Emileigh replied, crossly, “you know that.”
Lillian turned and stared at the girl. “How old are you?”
“How old are you?” Lillian demanded again.
Emileigh sighed. It was finally happening. “Six hundred and eighty-eight,” she replied, “Oledanick years.”
Lillian drew her hands to her face. She pulled down her visor and stared squarely into the reflection in its mirror. She felt six hundred. The stories weren’t stories. She’d known when she had a son – the look on her mother’s face – she knew. Returning the visor closed, and turning over the key, she quietly repeated, “take me to where you live.”
“Back towards Main,” Emileigh instructed. “We’ve got a small place set up in an apartment building. There are a few of us who live there and go to a bunch of different schools around town.”
“How many of these homes are set up?”
“Hundreds, maybe even thousands,” Emileigh replied without hesitating. “For hundreds of years, we have been setting up coalition hubs in every part of your world to look for the rightful heir to the throne. Every mission before mine has failed. Every child who was trained here has died here. None of us came with our parents. They are all behind in Oledanick, frozen in our villages.”
Lillian watched the road, and took a right onto Main. The sky began to fill with dark, ominous clouds, threatening to rain. She brushed back a loose strand of locks from her face, and thought deeply. Hundreds, maybe thousands. They’d been searching for her family. For her history. Her mother, Kathleen. Her grandmother, Donna. Her great-grandmother, Virginia. They were on a quest to find Princess Isabella’s daughter, Grace. The baby who was snuck out of Oledanick by the elder, Marick. The baby with the royal blood. The heir to the throne.
“Adrik still commands the Kingdom,” Emileigh continued. “I am allowed to go back and visit in secret to see my sisters and brothers. They don’t age, unless they come here. So I bring them for a few years, and I send them back.”
“How is this possible?” Lillian forced herself to ask, “this is magic. It’s … fables. A frozen kingdom. A stolen child. Ageless babies being sent here to grow and die.”
“It’s not just the babies, Lillian,” Emileigh stated. “Mothers are forced into your world to fulfill their natural pregnancies. There is no time in Oledanick. Once they’ve conceived, they must come here. And they do. And those selected, leave their babies with us to broaden the coalition. Don’t you see? We’re the children of the mothers who are farmed to give birth to the revolution!”
Her animation startled Lillian. It was too much. “Are we almost there?”
Emileigh looked through her window, and pointed a block away to a crumbling apartment building. “Up there,” she said.
The brakes squealed to a stop as Lillian pulled up in front of the complex. A transient shuffled past, pushing a shopping cart of belongings. Several streetlights were burnt out. Trash bags laid in heaps over edges of the sidewalks. Most houses were adorned with broken porch steps, or gated bars over windows. Lawns were streaked with rusty tricycles, discarded baseball bats, and toddler toys. For as far as Lillian could see in the dark, most of these units were home to families who barely managed to get by. In the distance, she heard shouting from inside.
Unfazed, Emiliegh fished out a key from her book bag and unlocked the front of the building door. “Let’s go,” she said firmly.
Lillian followed the girl into the foyer, reeking of musk and age-old cigarette smoke. The mailboxes featured rust, and stickers of information flaking off with time. Emileigh unlocked the second door. “We don’t have an elevator,” she motioned to the stairs.
Managing to nod, Lillian attempted to keep up to the teenager taking two stairs at a time to the third floor. At each level, she could see higher and higher the street below; the view becoming lighter and calmer – from a distance, this could be her street on the other side of town. It’s only up close that you begin to discover what’s really in front of you.
“What’s the weather going to be tomorrow,” barked a voice from inside Apartment 309.
“Looks like rain,” Emileigh called back, and waited.
The knob turned, and slowly the door swung open. Inside was a myriad of activity, mayhem, and magic.
Lillian’s eyes glowed, in spite of herself.