Welcome to the Magic Emporium! Savannah’s latest Quest brings her to the Fortress’s big shopping district, a place where humans and supernaturals mingle—and danger lurks in the shadows. This is the second chapter of the Paragons episode The Magic Emporium.

♣  Want to start the story from the beginning? Check out the Table of Contents for all the sample chapters.

Insider Tip 1: For anyone familiar with Sydney’s North Shore, the Magic Emporium is located in real-world Chatswood, right where the big malls are.

Insider Tip 2: The picture above was taken along the train line that still exists (with different station names) in the story’s post-Curse world. You’ll see Savannah hopping on the train quite a few times during the course of the series. Big thanks to my son for suggesting that I include Sydney’s trains as a form of transport in the Fortress!

Paragons 1.4.2

Book 1  ♣  Episode 4  ♣  Chapter 2

Will Savannah fare better in this Quest than in the last? Her future with the Knights depends on it! Chapter 2 of the Paragons Episode The Magic Emporium.

Chapter 2: Brotherhood

“Next stop, the Magic Emporium,” a cheerful female voice chimed through the train’s speaker system.

Kylie, who was seated directly to my right, nudged me. She was gawking at a glossy poster stuck to the wall, directly under the closest speaker. “Hey, check that out,” she giggled.

The poster’s colors were so blindingly bright, so distracting, that it took me a moment to realize why she was giggling. The advertisement featured an impossibly flexible contortionist dressed in a shimmering blue bodysuit, posing inside a glowing magic bubble. The words ‘Portia and the Circus of Dreams’ were written in big, flashing letters, along with a list of dates and locations throughout the Many Realms.

“I’ve actually seen her perform,” Eris told us. “She’s really talented.”

Eris was seated to my left side, her helmet completely covering her face. Kato would have approved of her discretion.

Knights wear helmets.

That’s what he’d told me. And even now, I could hear his words echoing inside my head.

“What’s so funny?” Eris asked me.

Blushing, I stopped chuckling. “Nothing,” I muttered.

Of course I wasn’t going to tell my mentor about the voices in my head. Especially the one that sounded just like Kato.

The train slowed, and we all stood up. I could already see the train platform through the glass doors.

“So, what’s this ‘Circus of Dreams’ all about?” Asher asked Eris.

“It’s a magic circus that tours the Many Realms,” replied our mentor. “The main attraction is a Dreamweaver named Portia, a very talented dancer and magician.”

“Dancer?” Bronte perked up. “I’d love to see that.”

“You’ll have to travel to another realm. The circus has never come to Gaia.”

“Why not?” Dutch asked, frowning.

Eris tapped the button to open the train doors. “In the grand scheme of the Many Realms, Gaia is too insignificant.”

“How many realms are there?” I asked.

“More than we know of.”

The doors opened, and we followed Eris down the stairs, onto the platform. A bright and shiny sign welcomed us to the Interchange. Two escalators loomed before us, each clearly marked. One led to the Black Obelisk, the other to the Magic Emporium. Eris took the Magic Emporium escalator, and we followed.

“What exactly is the Magic Emporium?” Asher asked.

“It’s the Fortress’s shopping district,” Bronte said immediately.

“People from all across the Many Realms come here to sell their magical wares,” Kylie added as we emerged from the underground level and entered the Magic Emporium.

The buildings were all so tall! And so clean. There were people everywhere, their arms weighed down with colorful shopping bags. At least half of those people weren’t even human. I could see it in the way they moved. The way they dressed. And the way their skin shimmered a little too much in the morning sun, like it was dusted with magic.

But not everything here was clean and shiny. There was graffiti too—and more than a few Remembrance Walls dedicated to pictures of loved ones claimed by the Curse. It seemed the Brotherhood of Earth was just as busy here as in Bayshore.

“Wow!” Asher exclaimed, his eyes wide. “It’s incredible!”

It really was. I’d never been so close to so many shops before. Bakeries and apothecaries, restaurants and blacksmiths. And above all, lots and lots of souvenir shops. And there weren’t just magic shops here. Many stores claimed to sell the ‘authentic Gaian experience’ to our visitors from the Many Realms.

“Don’t be fooled by these pretty potions and beguiling baubles!” A man in a scruffy brown robe stood across from a busy escalator, his voice cutting through the background chatter. “Don’t be tempted by sly spells and insidious incantations!” the Brother called out.

“You’re the only insidious thing here, old man!” someone shouted from an escalator.

It was a teenage girl with a bubblegum-pink ponytail and the matching clothes to go along with it. Her three friends—two boys and a girl—were dressed in exactly the same style.

The Brother didn’t counter her directly. Instead, he appealed to the crowd gathering around him. “Don’t buy into the Great Deception. Magic isn’t the solution to our problems.”

The escalator crowd was growing too. There were now ten teenagers.

“Magic will set you free!” one of them called out. He wore a t-shirt with a dragon printed on the front.

“Magic is what got us here in the first place,” said the Brother. “Magic has brought nothing but pain to the people of Earth.”

The Brothers always referred to Gaia by its old, pre-Curse name: Earth.

“That’s not true,” the pink girl told everyone here. “Magic is good. It gave you the Knights.”

Many people in the audience nodded in agreement.

“Magic gave us the Curse,” the Brother reminded the crowd, trying to draw them back into his narrative. “And it is stripping away our humanity, piece by piece, day by day. Until there will be nothing left of us. Magic turned the Cursed Ones into mindless savages, but it did something far worse to the rest of us: it turned us into mindless consumers, all too eager to sell our souls for the latest trendy trinket.”

The pink girl and her friends laughed at him. “Run along, old man. No one’s buying your sermon today.”

That wasn’t entirely true. A number of people were looking at the Brother like they wanted to hear more.

He must have picked up on that too. “Don’t despair, my friends.” He started weaving through the crowd, handing out pamphlets. “You are not alone. We must stick together. Help one another. Love one another. Fight for one another.”

A lot of people were nodding along to his words.

“The Brotherhood of Earth welcomes you all,” he said. “Those who have lost their siblings and spouses to the Curse. Those who have lost their parents and grandparents to hunger and disease. Those who have lost their children to the Choosing. And those who have seen their freedoms stripped away by a totalitarian regime.”

That last sentence must have crossed an invisible Government line because suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, the Watchers swooped in to escort the Brother off the promenade.

“What are they going to do to him?” I asked Eris.

“Nothing, most likely,” she replied. “People love the Brothers—perhaps even more than they love the Knights. The Brothers take care of the sick and the neglected. We fight the Curse, but they clean up the wreckage of humanity that the Curse left behind. So when it comes to reacting to the Brothers, the Government has to be very, very careful. Or else they could have a full-scale uprising on their hands.”

“I had no idea things between the Government and the Brotherhood were so tense,” I said.

“Few people do,” Eris said as the team rode another escalator up to the street above. “And the Government works hard to keep it that way.”

More malls waited for us up here. Like the Castle with its many castles, the Emporium was a mall of many malls. Indoor malls. Outdoor malls. And malls that were a bit of both. Everywhere I looked, buildings covered in bright electronic display panels flashed through advertisements.

Preorder your baby dragon today!

Everlasting flames for sale!

50% off last year’s celestial globes!

The streets were packed with people flitting in and out of the buildings, toting large bags and loading heavy crates into unicorn-drawn carriages.

“This place is sick!” Dutch said, grinning in a rare show of enthusiasm.

“Cool,” Asher agreed. His eyes were darting around, drinking in so much so fast that I was surprised he could still walk straight.

I hopped out of the way of a frazzled-looking woman taking her pet duck for a walk on a leash.

“Here’s your money. You’ll need it to complete your Quest.” Eris handed Bronte a small velvet pouch.

Bronte opened it and poured two small iridescent marbles into the palm of her hand. I guess that was the money.

“Where will we find Miss Christie’s shop?” Asher asked as Bronte returned the marbles to the pouch and looped the pouch’s chain over her neck.

“That’s up to you to figure out,” said Eris.

I headed over to a huge map of the Magical Emporium. They were all over the place, and I could see why. It would be very easy to get lost here.

“Found it,” I said as my teammates joined me at the map. Then I continued walking down the main road. “This way. We can get there faster if we cut through this mall.”

A young, muscular man with an unusual sense of fashion—and no sense of direction—cut in front of me, nearly knocking me backward.

“Hey, watch where you’re going, girl!” he shouted at me before storming off, closely trailed by six men with even bigger muscles.

They sure were in a rush.

“Is everyone here so rude?” I muttered.

“Not everyone, but the place does attract all sorts of people,” replied Eris. “How would you describe the man who shouted at you?”

“Arrogant, mean, and loves to run into strangers and then blame them for it.”

She chuckled. “I mean, what did he look like?”

“You saw him too.” I narrowed my eyes at her. “Is this some kind of test?”

“I want to know what you’re thinking, not just see what you’re seeing.”

“Ok, so that’s a ‘yes’ on the test.” I chewed on her question a little, trying to figure out exactly what she wanted. Maybe I could nab a few Merit points while I was at it. “I’m thinking that guy and his six buddies all look like they spend half their lives lifting weights in the gym. And they’d totally overload a metal detector.”

Eris didn’t comment.

“Because they’re all so big, buff, and carrying lots of weapons,” I explained.

Actually, ‘lots of weapons’ was a major understatement. The men wore big swords and so many knives strapped to them, their bodies were probably magnetic.

“So, I’m guessing they’re soldiers.”

I considered the rude man’s six companions. They were wearing dark t-shirts, camouflage pants, and combat boots.

“They would prefer the term ‘warriors’,” Eris said. “Congratulations, you’ve just become the lucky winner of a close encounter with a vampire prince and his entourage of vampire body guards.”

Eris’s tone told me she thought I was anything but lucky.

“There are vampires? Like for real?” I asked. “How can I not know that?”

“The Government tries to hide as much about the Many Realms and its inhabitants as they possibly can. So people don’t panic.”

“Those vampires were rude, but they didn’t look like scary monsters at all,” I said. “Actually, they looked pretty normal.”

“Vampires only look monstrous if they allow their lust for blood to get out of control.”


“There are consequences when you don’t control your magic, when you allow it to control you instead.” Eris waved us in closer. “And that goes for all magic, guys. Not just vampire magic.”

“I’ll remember that,” Bronte said immediately.

From the eager look on her face, she was already composing an essay about this Discovery Quest inside her head. No wonder she was at the top of the Scoreboard.

A chorus of whinnying drew my attention to the street. But I didn’t find a horse there. I found a pegasus. No, make that three pegasi. Two more had just landed beside the first, and together they charged down the cobbled road toward a pair of very large bulls.

“Animal fighting?” Horror was etched into Kylie’s face. “Are the Many Realms really into that kind of thing?”

“They’re not beasts,” I whispered. I turned to take a final look at them before we entered a large multi-story building. Human forms lurked beneath all that beast magic. “They’re men.”

“Metamorphs, actually,” Eris told me as we ascended the stairs into the indoor mall.

“Metamorphs? As in, people who use magic to change their physical appearance?” Bronte said eagerly. “Some Metamorphs turn into beasts. Some turn into other people. And some turn into human-beast hybrid forms like mermaids or centaurs.”

Asher snorted. “Wow, what people say about you is true, Vance. You really are a walking encyclopedia.”

Bronte didn’t look offended; in fact, she looked proud. And she had every right to be. She obviously studied even more than I did.

“And these Metamorphs…they like to fight?” I asked.

“From the absence of war cries, they don’t appear to be actually fighting. I think they’re just letting off some steam,” Eris commented.

“Do Metamorph Knights also need to let off steam?” Kylie wondered.

“Yeah, they do,” Eris said. “Metamorph Knights get their magic from the spirits rather than being born with it like natural Metamorphs, but both groups share the same kinds of abilities—and the same charming behavior.”

It was Dutch who asked the question we all must have been thinking. Or at least I was.

“You don’t get along with the Metamorph Knights, do you?”

“They’re ok. Most of the time,” Eris added. “But Nymphs don’t have much in common with Metamorphs. It’s hard to find common ground with people who consider things like armwrestling and pushup contests to be the definition of a good time.”

Bronte and Kylie nodded in agreement. The boys looked less convinced. Maybe they liked pushups and armwrestling.

Eris turned toward me. “I’m surprised you could see past the Metamorphs’ beast forms to the men inside.”

“You shouldn’t be,” Asher told her. “Everyone knows Winters is a freak.” He flashed me a lopsided grin. “That’s why we like her so much. Right, guys?”

My teammates all nodded—except for Dutch. His body was stiff and his lips pressed tightly together.

“Dude, you’re missing out on some serious team love here.” Asher grabbed him and pushed him up close to me, so close that we nearly bumped heads. “Come on. Tell Winters you love her.”

Dutch tried to push him away, but Asher was quite wily. He held him in place. Eventually, Dutch gave up on escape and stopped struggling.

“I wish her score wasn’t dragging down the team average.” Dutch pointedly looked away from me when he said that, which surprised me. Usually, he was so direct. “At this rate, we’re never going to beat Team Victory.”

“Team Victory?” I asked.

“That’s Rhett’s team.”

Of course it was.

“I wish…”

“What do you wish?” I asked him.

Dutch finally met my eyes. “I wish we’d gotten your brother instead of you.”

Bronte sighed. “So do I.” As soon as she said the words, her hands jumped to her mouth, covering it. “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I said that.”

Eris waved her armored hand in front of her helmet. “There’s something in the air. Some kind of magic. It’s bringing out the truth in people. Come on, we should get moving. In the wrong hands, the truth can be a dangerous weapon.”

“How right you are, young Knight,” said a rough, deep voice.

There was a flash of magic, and then a sword was suddenly in Eris’s hand, the blade’s tip just millimeters from a man’s throat.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” The man’s face was obscured beneath a helmet that looked like some kind of gas mask. “If you hurt me, then I hurt them.”

More people in gas masks were scattered throughout the mall’s entrance hall. Fifteen of them that I could see. I could hear even more of them, deeper inside the mall. The masked strangers blocked the doors, the windows, the stairs. And they had already taken hostages.

Eris lowered her sword. “What do you want?” she growled.

The masked assailant reached toward her and popped the release to her helmet’s visor, revealing her flushed face. “Oh, it’s quite simple, actually. You’re going to hand over all your pretty magic weapons, armor, and other knickknacks.” He flicked his armored hand against her shoulder guard. “Or I’m going to start hurting people.”

Copyright © Ella Summers

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