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TS05: Astral Travel

Three days later, Jove ran home from school. Well, more of a fast walk or a slow jog. Jove had never run the three miles from school before, and his body protested after only a few hundred feet. Still, he made it home in under twenty-five minutes, which was an indication of how excited he was. Today was the day, his first trip into the realm of magic.

At home, it only took him three minutes to get his suitcase and be prepared for his trip. Another minute and he had his suitcase in the backyard. Between gasps for breath he called, “Mom, Dad, I’m ready to go.”

A bear in red robes vaulted the backyard fence. Spotting the fox, he took time to catch his breath. “Jove, how did you get out of school without my wards going off?”

“Sorry Mr. Southey, I wasn’t thinking.” He blushed, and settled into one of the chairs on the back porch.

“I told you, just call me South.” He walked over to the furniture, and sat nearby. “Seriously though, I’m here to protect you. We’re on the same side. I know you’ve seen stories where the protector is completely overreacting, but I haven’t done that. I just need to know where you are. I’m sure you’re safe at this point, but in case we missed something, I’m here.”

Jove nodded. In a few minutes his parents had locked the house, and were getting settled with a few small pieces of luggage.

South stood up, “As Azarias mentioned, Atlantis is in what we call the astral realm. To get there, I’ll be cutting a portal open. Now, it can’t hurt you, if it closes while you’re going through it, you’ll just get spit out on one side or the other. The astral realm feels a little different than this one, but you get used to it. Then, it’s a matter of a wind walk for you, and dragon ride for Jove. You’ll be there in maybe thirty minutes, and the dragon should take about two hours.”

Jove’s father snorted, “Why don’t we just teleport there?”

South drew a curved scimitar. “You’ve been watching too many fantasy movies. There’s no such thing as teleportation.” The blade cut through the air, leaving a tear that opened into a glowing doorway. Through the doorway was a green field, quite unlike the backyard that surrounded it. “This just removes the barrier between our worlds. It’s technically the same place.”

Jove’s father picked up two of the bags and was the first to pass through. Jove’s mother followed with her small handbag. South picked up the one remaining bag, “Jove, you should go next. Just in case you collapse the portal, I can always open another one.”

Jove nodded and stepped through the portal. There was no jolt or transition. It was no different from taking any other step. One moment he was in his backyard, and the next he was in a field. His breath though, that felt different, the air was alive. It filled his lungs with energy that flowed through his chest and limbs. He gasped, “Wow, that’s… Does everyone feel this?”

Jove’s father laughed, “I definitely feel something. Is this normal?”

South stepped through the portal and let it close. “Your body is switching from absorbing oxygen to drawing energy from the element of air. You get used to it, although it does give a bit of a high initially.” He settled onto the ground, “Azarias will be here soon. He’ll fly you and the luggage to the school, and I’ll take Jove. With what’s occurred, we figured a slower less magical method would be best.”

Mr. Astrom looked at South. “You didn’t mention it before, but you’re the dragon. Right?”

The bear nodded and blushed, “Yeah. It’s not uncommon for fire mages to have a dragon mythic form. There are a number of theories about why people adopt different mythic forms. It’s related to species, but not entirely. And it normally takes a few months of exposure to the astral realm and proper training before it becomes possible to assume a mythic form. So, you don’t have to worry about suddenly changing while you’re here.”

A few minutes later a blue and yellow sphere became visible over the horizon. It approached rapidly, a shell around a rainbow winged serpent. It arrived in under a minute, and the shell around Raphael vanished as he touched down nearby. “Good to see everyone is here. Did South mention the travel arrangements?”

“Yes,” Jove’s father said. “I guess there was some concern about Jove turning that bubble of yours off?”

“It was easier to make sure South had a few backups than to make sure we had enough failsafes for everyone.” Raphael smiled, “I suspect that whatever Jove did to the other dragon takes a conscious effort. Even then, South has his swords, his belt, and his grimoire. If something happens, South will make sure Jove is okay.”

Mr. Astrom asked Jove, “You ready son?”

“Yes Dad.” Jove tried very hard not to roll his eyes. “See you in a bit.”

Raphael took a deep breath and let it out in short whispers. That same yellow energy shell formed around him, Jove’s parents, and their luggage. In a moment, they were all lifted off the ground. Raphael waved, “See you there.” And with that, the shell shot into the air and sped away.

South gave a short howl and rapidly grew into a large red-scaled dragon. He was slightly smaller than the first dragon Jove had seen, with a crimson mane on his head, and a riding harness that seemed to appear as South’s red robes faded. He stretched, “I can’t believe Raph talked me into wearing this ridiculous saddle.” He laid on the ground, “Come on, let’s get this over with.”

Jove sat there slack jawed for a moment. Had you asked him earlier in the week if this was possible, he would have said no and he would have been angry at you for making fun of his lifelong wishes. He shook himself out of his sense of awe, and climbed up the saddle straps into the seat.

South sat up slowly. He turned his head back, “All you have to do is hold on. And if you can keep yourself calm, I can use some speed magics to get us there faster.” He paused, and noticed that Jove was shaking. “Are you going to be okay with this?”

Jove nodded, “I’ve wanted, I mean, I’m riding a dragon. I can only guess you felt the same when you found you could become one.”

South laughed, “Yes, yes. It was a rush.” He shook his head, “You know, you’re going to start college soon. You may want to put those childish impulses aside.” He laughed again, “You’ll need them for when you’re studying to be a magus.” With that, he flapped his wings and was airborne.

Jove held his breath as the wind whipped past him. The ground pulled away, as South flew higher. Jove held tightly to South’s mane, and glanced at the world. Fields and forests spread out as far as he could see, with the occasional village or castle breaking the landscape.

After a few minutes of climbing, South shouted, “Okay, hold on, I’m going to try to get us there faster.”

Jove clutched the dragon’s mane. It would be nice to get there faster. He just needed to keep his thoughts positive, accept that the magic would work.

South shouted, “Fire burn, sparks fly, lightning strikes. I call forth Velocity, the essence of speed, to shorten my journey.” With that, a crimson energy shot from South’s mouth and wrapped around the two of them. The ground blurred and they shot forward.

Jove forced his eyes to stay open. He watched the scenery move as they flew, and after a minute or so, his heart calmed, and the thrill of the motion filled his heart. He tried to catch glimpses of what they passed as South flew low and then high, then low again. South, to his credit, only did one barrel roll in his excitement. Jove had always hated flying on airplanes, but somehow this was only exhilaration.

An hour later, a larger castle, several miles in length took shape on the horizon. A central round tower, perhaps as wide as a football stadium was flanked by three sets of large defensive walls. The first hugged around the tower, while the other two wound around the large hill the castle was built on in a large rectangle. Huge, multi-story buildings connected the walls, interspaced with patches of fields.

South let the crimson energy fade, slowing down for the approach, and landed on the flat center of the large tower. He settled onto his stomach to allow Jove to climb down.

Jove dropped onto the stone floor. When South has assumed his bear form again, Jove said, “I thought the trip was going to take longer. Was that two and a half hours?”

South shook his head, “No, we got here in an hour. We made good time, and you managed not to disrupt the spell.”

“I suppose we should find my parents.”

The bear shook his head, “They’re not expecting us for an hour. Why don’t I show you a few classes or the food court? Or… we can pick up your grimoire at the book store.”

“My grimoire.” Jove smiled, unable to contain the hope in that phrase. “Let’s get my grimoire.”

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