Chapter Eight – Three Two One
Eldrian awoke the next morning beneath decorated sheets stuffed with the softest feathers. The room, however small, was an exotic and beautiful sight to behold. Tapestries of landscapes foreign yet comforting hung from the walls, and various clay pots and sculptures of animals lined the room. He began to worry that a wrong move would cost him a fortune in damages. However, sunlight pierced through the drapes covering the window at the far end of the room and pushed him to get up and out of bed. He was by no means a morning person, but there was a lot of work to be done.
The Three offered him clothes to sleep in, but a wizard must always be prepared. He was dressed in black pajama pants. With a wave of his arms, discs of incorporeal energy manifested around him and drifted apart, leaving behind them an outfit—his arcane blue wizard clothes.
Today he was going to find and speak with Pachama. He wasn’t certain if he should believe Urco’s words from the night before, but the man seemed genuine. The promise of secrecy should be honoured nonetheless.
Determined, he made his way from the room and down the marble halls. He soon came to the exit where all three of the monks stood, overlooking the grand courtyard where citizens scurried about. The sun illuminated the emerald fields. When his eyes took in the sights once more, he started to wonder just how far this landscape went.
“Hey, guys,” Eldrian said as he approached them. “Just how big is your land anyway?”
When he moved beside them, they took a moment before turning their heads almost simultaneously towards the young wizard. It was Pachama that spoke. She gestured a hand through the air, pointing past the garden to distant trees and hills.
“Our world is much smaller than yours. We hide away here, preserving our secrets and our culture. This space covers only a few square miles. It is mostly farmland and homes. Beyond it, the forests and hills where many of the wildlife lives. We maintain a balance within this world. Along with our knowledge, we have been able to remain here for a long time.”
“Do you think you’ll ever come back to our Earth?”
“As long as your leaders continue to oppress that which they do not understand, or perhaps brutally control that which they do understand, we will always live here. Away from them.”
Eldrian nodded. “I understand that. Can I talk to you now, Pachama? I’d like to hang out more with all your people, and see all these places, but I do need to take care of business first.”
“Indeed. Let us go, Eldrian. Come. We will speak atop the temple.” She turned to her allies. “Continue on with your duties, my friends. It will not take us long. I can read the worry on your faces too easily.”
With that, the two of them moved back within the building. A spiral staircase wasn’t far from the entrance. It brought them up, and up, and up. They eventually arrived to a break into the sky, as they stepped onto the roof. It overlooked the entirety of the area. She brought the wizard to ledge. Eldrian took a deep breath, and took a long gaze over everything.
“Why do you help us?” Pachama asked after a moment of quiet.
“I like helping, and I don’t want to have some evil people running around taking power. We’ll all be in trouble if that happens. Plus, Lucy asked, and she’s my friend.”
“You are wise, and kind. I fear we do not deserve your aid.”
“Why? You’ve all been pretty good to me so far.”
A quiet sigh escaped her lips. “The relationships of the Three have only grown more complex over time. I fear the worst. I wish not to get into great detail, but know that Urco and Huanca are more prone to impulsiveness than they used to be. We do not have the privilege to be that way.”
Eldrian thought deeply. He wondered if she spoke of what Urco admitted before. He didn’t want to break the man in blue’s trust, even if any of them could be the traitor still. It was best to keep that part unspoken, perhaps.
He looked to her, and noticed her hands tighten. It wasn’t often the Three showed notable emotion.
She uttered, “Do not take much from here, and do not speak of this place to others. It has to remain here. Contained.”
“Yeah,” he said with a nod. “Sure. It’ll stay a secret.”
“Magic is dangerous. Never forget that. We may have a keen understanding of it, but I find it to be more trouble than it’s worth more often than not. Somebody with the power to destroy anything they wish… Demons are forces of death and chaos. A wizard can be no different if they can not control themselves. But where are my manners? You likely wish to ask me questions.”
“I’m not sure what to ask, really. How about… What made you start distrusting magic?”
“Is it that obvious that something happened? I must be losing my touch. All right, Eldrian. You are correct. Something did happen to me. It happened over five hundred years ago.”
“You’re that old?” He widened his eyes.
“That is rather rude to say to a woman.” She smiled. “Yes. The three of us, though did not join at the same time, all became the eventual Three roughly five hundred years ago, near the fall of our empire. It was around then that we took drinks from the Immortality Panacea. It was enough just for us.”
“You’re immortal then. Is that right?”
“Not quite. Because we all took from the Panacea, none of us are truly immortal. If I had to guess, I would say we likely only have a few hundred years remaining at the most. Now, back to my story. Like I said, this happened when I was a little girl, far before the fall of our empire. I was about eight years old…”
“Did you have hair back then?”
“Hair. I assume you shaved your head when you became a monk. I want to know what hair colour to imagine for this story.”
“Is that so important?”
“Yes! Stories need to have imagery or I can’t picture it properly in my head.”
She nodded. “I had long blonde hair at the time, past my shoulders. I often wore a red ribbon on the top of my head. My family and I lived far from the center of the empire where we worked a farm. It was me, my mother, my father, and three brothers. I mostly tended to animals and learned to cook, and to weave. Life was regular. Boring, but peaceful, and relaxing. It was rough at times, especially when my brothers teased me, but my dad always told me to listen to the wind. He said it always put him at ease, hearing the quiet, whistling noise of the moving air. It was always there. It was comforting.”
After a strange pause, she continued. “Everything was alight. Our home was burning, as were the fields. I heard the desperate cries of our chickens and cattle. Demons came, and they destroyed everything… Everyone. The air was filled with black smoke. The flames were not red, no. Some were green, others purple. Much of it was black, but looking back, I am uncertain how much was true or not through my young terrified eyes. Dark magic had completely demolished everything I knew. I still remember the next day. I had escaped, and ended up deep into the empire on my own. The problem had been eliminated. I was alone, however. I sat on a roof top, listening for the wind… I could not hear it.”
They stood there for a few minutes. He looked to her. She had moisture within and beneath her eyes, but she refused to look towards him. She shook her head. With both hands, she rubbed dry her face and smiled, clearing her throat.
“I apologize,” she finally muttered. “Leaders should not show this much of themselves so openly.”
“Who made that rule?” he replied quickly.
“Nevermind what I say. Take it closely that magic can be a danger as well.”
“One more question, Pachama. Sorry to pry. You’ve told me a lot, so I’ll say just one more thing and then go on with my day. If you could remove magic completely without harming others… You just press a button, and suddenly there’s no more magic. Would you do that?”
“Yes. Without question.”
He nodded once more. “I understand. Do you mind if I hang out in the garden for awhile?”
“You may. I will remain up here for some time.”
“Goodbye for now then, Pachama.”
“And good luck to you, Eldrian.”
He hopped to the ledge, and leapt off without a care. It seemed that he had already been improving since he first reunited with Kevin a few days ago. The other wizards here have had much to say. Though it wasn’t perfect, the wizard floated back down to land his shoes against the plush green field.
That was two of the Three spoken to, and now he had just one left. The man in red would have to wait until tomorrow, however. In the meantime, Eldrian practised his magic, and spoke to the locals as he did before.
“Where are we?” spoke the hairless man. He was tall and thick, and still mentally exhausted by what he experienced just a few days back. He thought deeply about the masked man that took down him and both his friends without issue.
The room was dark. However, he wasn’t alone. Beside him was his lanky, spindly companion, who somehow still had the twisted grin he always had drawn across his face. And even though he was quiet, the third was there—short, emotionless. Though, none of them took the loss very well. They were bothered still.
Even though it was dark, they could plainly see its dungeon-like appearance. It was likely somebody’s basement. A single light bulb provided the small glow that showed each other and the unknown figure standing in front of them.
“I just woke up like this,” spoke the skinny man. “Hehe. It’s spooky in here.”
“Everything’s been kind of a blur since that man attacked us… Did that really happen? It feels like a dream. Or a nightmare,” said the bald man.
“Hehe. Seemed pretty real to me.”
“What are your names?” spoke a female’s voice. It was the stranger before them.
The woman looked to be in her late twenties. Her hair was brown, and reached past her shoulders. Although her older appearance was obvious, and she seemed rather muscular and tough, she had a beauty about her. Within her hand was an ornate white mace trimmed with gold. It looked like something lifted straight from an RPG, yet there was no platekini barely covering her body. She had regular clothing—blue jeans, and a plain red t-shirt.
“Why should we tell ya, lady?” snorted the bald thug. “We don’t know ya.”
“My name is Asta Ahlgren. Now, speak your names, please,” she said once more.
She spoke with a gentle Swedish accent. The voice itself was tough, but spoken softly. It was obvious that her voice had the potential to amplify far past the current tone. Not only that, but her presence intimidated them. She was nearly as tall as the larger of he thugs, and her piercing stare never faltered.
“Ron,” muttered the baldy.
“Hehe. Call me Xeno, lady.”
Ron spoke up again and added, “This shorter fellow’s called Dylan. He doesn’t speak much.”
A sound startled them. It was the rising of a man towering above the rest. Just as before, he had no shirt, and was so incredibly muscular that even his muscles may have been muscular. His body loomed over them, but instead of running in fear, the three thugs scurried around him and gave him a hug.
“Boss-man! It was awful,” cried Ron. “Were were beat by… I don’t even know what.”
“Hehe. Yeah. It was terrible!” muttered Xeno.
“I’ll kill him!” screamed Dylan.
Interrupting the reunion, the woman continued. “You wish to have revenge on Eldrian, the wizard boy. This is obvious. What if I said I could help you with that? He’s no longer alone, and that’s a problem. However, I have something that could grant you all incredible power. Five doses left of the Elixir of Strength. Drink it, and you will change. There’s no telling what will actually happen once you take from the Elixir. You may die. You may grow twice your size. You may fire lasers from your eyes. There’s only one way to know for certain, and I will not force you to take it.”
The four thugs looked between each other.
“What is she talking about?” asked Ron.
“I don’t know,” replied Xeno as he looked to her. “Hehe. Wizards? Elixirs? I don’t know what you’re talking about, but yeah. Of course we want revenge. Is this some sort of steroid?”
“It’s something far beyond your normal comprehension. But sure. We can call it a steroid. One of ultimate, dark magical powers. A steroid of limitless offensive force! Cower in fear, if you don’t understand the powers one might obtain from such an ancient mystic relic.”
“Uh. All right,” muttered Ron quietly.
Bursting through the group came their leader. His eyes glared down at the woman, and with little to no expression on his face, he out-stretched his hand and spoke plainly.
“I accept,” came a booming deep voice.
“Good. I have enough left for the four of you, with a dose left over,” spoke Asta.
From a pouch she pulled a sinister vial. The fluid inside was thick and purple, while the glass itself was covered in spiralling black vines. When she twisted off the lid, a plume of smoke poofed up and into the air in the shape of a skull. The lid itself was also the cup. She poured a small amount and offered the lid towards the hulking hands of the boss.
He took the shot.
There was no effect for a moment, but suddenly, he gripped his hands to his throat. His eyes bulged, and veins grew thick all over his body. Barely a breath could escape his throat. The man, once strong, dropped weakly to his knees as his skin turned pale. It only lasted a minute. Their boss collapsed to the ground with blood trickling out from his unmoving lips.
“Boss-man!” shouted Ron. “What happened?”
“It rejected him,” Asta said bluntly. She sighed, and shut her eyes for a moment. “I apologize. At times, people are unable to handle the Elixir. If you don’t wish to—“
“Give me that! Hehe,” snickered Xeno. “I’m strong enough.”
“As you wish.”
Once more, she administered a dosage to one of the thugs. The first, the second, and the third consumed the Elixir of Strength, and unlike their boss lying lifelessly on the cold, stone floor, they choked only for a moment before opening their eyes.
Stay tuned for Chapter Nine – One on the Inside!