Chapter Twenty – Eyes From Afar
It had been a couple days since the group’s picnic in Peru. Since then, things had become relaxing and quiet, though eerily so, as they knew that somewhere near lurked a threat of unknown origin. They hadn’t heard from Lucy either. It was a time of impatient waiting for the most part, so in the mean time, Eldrian did what he usually did—wander about.
The boy made his way along one of the downtown streets. A cool, almost blinding layer of snow covered the land while a chill remained in the air, so he brought with him a coat and scarf to avoid becoming a wizard-cicle. He wondered how the rest of his friends were dealing with things. He was fully aware that in his short life he’d already experienced plenty of oddities, but for someone like Kevin, it could be overwhelming. All he could hope was that he’d adjust over time.
Eldrian wished to enjoy the day and pass some time, so he found an antique shop and stepped inside. The first thing he noticed was the welcoming warmth that greeted him upon entry. After that, the valuable knickknacks of all varieties up and down the shelves and tables, with only a few customers populating the room.
Behind the counter was an elderly man and he smiled as Eldrian entered, so the boy returned the gesture.
“Welcome,” the stranger said with surprising volume given his age. “If you need anything, just let me know. We have all sorts of curios, from geodes to insects to ancient carvings from civilizations that fell long ago.”
“That sounds fun. What’s that thing?” Eldrian pointed at the counter.
Under the glass was a jagged bone, and it was beside a number of other strange objects from colourful rocks to tiny skulls.
“That was something used for voodoo a long time ago by the Mayans. Do you believe that?”
He reached beneath the glass, and handed the fragment of bone for Eldrian to look over. The wizard took the offer. It did seem authentic.
“I might. Anything’s possible.”
“A relief to hear. People so rarely come to enjoy submerging themselves in another world. Whether it’s true or not, it doesn’t matter, because the fun is in the imagination. The fantasy. Does that make sense?”
“It does to me.”
He exhaled with a hint of sorrow. His gaze shifted to the right—to the only others in the room. It was a boy and girl both with short blonde hair, though the latter had her hair tired back into a ponytail. From what he could tell, they were similar enough to be twins, and likely close to Eldrian’s age.
“Those are my grandchildren. They help me out when they’re free, which is nice, but maybe this shop was a mistake. We make just barely enough to get by. There’s simply not enough customers coming in.”
“Do you advertise at all?”
“Not really, no. I don’t know enough about how to do that these days. I mean, I put an ad in the newspaper.”
Before any more could be said, the door opened again, and two men with thick sweaters made their way inside. The shopkeep seemed overjoyed to see more customers, and he greeted them almost immediately. Eldrian stepped aside.
The first thing that seemed off to Eldrian was the fact that one of the two strangers remained near the exit. It didn’t take long for his suspicions to grant warrant. Both of them, almost in unison, pulled pistols from their sweater front pockets and aimed them in his direction. It wasn’t only him. The two burglars threatened the twins and the elderly gentleman, and they practically screamed when they issued their commands.
“Get over by that table, and get on your knees. Now!”
Eldrian saw the faces around him grow as pale as the snow outside. He did as he was told, not wanting to cause further chaos, and he was soon kneeling beside the three others. The twins looked almost to tears.
“Take everything valuable you can find, and don’t forget the register,” muttered the man by the door.
“I know what I’m doing,” said the other. “Just watch them. If they try anything, you know what to do.”
“Please,” begged the shopkeep. “Take anything. Just don’t hurt my grandchildren.”
“Quiet!” barked the robber now rustling behind the counter.
Eldrian knew he had to do something.
Rising up in front of him was the jagged bone he had been investigating. He was confident it truly did not possess any magical powers, but with his own abilities, he caused it to levitate without a hint it was coming from him. Perhaps someone in adept magic eyes could have seen through this, but not a soul in the room possessed them but himself.
“What the hell?” cursed the thief. “Who’s doing that? Stop doing that!”
“I-I’m not!” lied Eldrian. “This place is filled with curious objects. We need to get out of here. I think you’re angering them.”
“Shut up,” he barked back, but quickly spun his eyes up around the top shelves near the ceiling.
Creepy dolls started to wiggle on their own (with a little help) as if they were possessed by angry spirits. A few fell off and rolled to a stop near the man’s feet. He stumbled back and slammed his rear into the edge of the counter, but he had no time even to grunt in pain. It shot him with a small electrical shock, and he hopped forwards and away.
“It’s one of you. It has to be… You, old man! It’s you, isn’t it? This is all a trick.”
The farther thief chimed in. “This is freaking me out, man. Let’s just leave.”
Suddenly, a shrunken head propelled itself from a nearby table, and slapped the burglar in the face. He practically screamed—somewhat like a girl—and began releasing his magazine in absolute terror. The gun, however, only clicked. It was jammed or something, because it wasn’t shooting!
Little did he know but not only was Eldrian simply throwing small objects around with his mind, but he had melted the insides of their guns over time to completely ruin them and prevent them from firing.
“This is whack. I’m out of here!” shouted the thief by the door.
Though he was by the door no longer. He bolted through it and disappeared, leaving behind his enraged but shaken friend. It only took a moment before he joined him in escaping. In one final act of humiliation, Eldrian caused the man to trip on a barely visible string. He planted his face firmly on the sidewalk before fleeing for real.
Everything returned to normal even quicker than it began, as if nothing had occurred at all. All the four of them could hear was the shouting of the men as they hurried as far from the shop as possible.
“That shop is freaky!” came one voice.
“It’s haunted!” came the other.
The noise of the escapees faded away. It left the group in a strange silence, and Eldrian knew all of them must have been stunned.
“I should get going,” whispered Eldrian. “Maybe this place really is haunted.”
The shopkeep looked flabbergasted. “I don’t know what happened.”
“Maybe you believed in the fantasy just hard enough.”
“Thank you… I don’t know what you did, but thank you.”
“I didn’t do anything,” Eldrian spoke as he rose up with the rest.
Before he could react, the girl wrapped her arms around him and squeezed him incredibly tight. He thought for a moment he was going to die, though to be honest, he would have died happy in such a way.
She kissed him on the cheek.
“I was so scared.”
“Uh. Well you know what they say about fear. It’s better than being dead.”
“Wow. That’s so deep~!”
“Yeah. Mm. Well, I should be going, like I said,” he uttered as he freed himself from the grapple.
“Feel free to come back any time,” the elder warmly stated.
“Of course. Good luck with the shop.”
He made his way outside, though barely so. Three young men passed through the door and into the store a split second after he departed. Eldrian decided to stick around for a moment longer, just to listen to what was happened—and to make sure there wasn’t another robbery.
“A bunch of thugs just ran from this place. They said something about it being super freaky,” spoke one of them.
“Wow. This place is cool. I didn’t even know about it!” Eldrian heard another speak.
The wizard seemed content. Things worked out after all. With hands kept toasty in his jacket pocket, he started searching for an alley to open a portal, just in case the chaos attracted unwanted hunters.
It didn’t take long for him to be far from view. It smelled beside the dumpster, but there were no eyes on him here. At least, he didn’t think there was. The sound of falling pebbles caused his attention to shift behind himself. The noise came from a handful of debris trickling down from the nearest rooftop, so he looked up, and all of this occurred in merely seconds.
The object he saw next was a shining ring of sharpened metal, but one small side looked to be a handle of sorts, so it was clearly a weapon. The disc of death would have hit him, he figured, if he didn’t notice in time. Instead, the metal ground a spark against the stone wall next to his head, so his eyes widened to the size of watermelons.
In that slow moment of time, he saw a single eye marked into the center, which extended down into the handle edge of the circle. They weren’t something he was used to. With the handle, they could clearly be wielded in a manner similar to a sword, but it flew through the air with ease as well.
“Dang it!” he heard a faint female voice utter.
It was instinct for him to raise up his hands and ready a warding barrier of magic, and thank goodness he did. A second disc slammed against the kinetic force he maintained in front of his body, like an expansive knight’s shield blocking an enemy strike.
A figure touched down ten feet from him. It was so light, he barely heard it, and it was a girl he had never seen before. She had incredibly dark skin, but her hair was vibrant red and tied back. Her clothes stuck out as well. He couldn’t recognize the style, but they seemed to come from another country’s culture for certain—no blue jeans there.
The discs moved on their own the moment she landed, and they flew towards her for an easy snatch with both of her hands. She held them by the center and lowered herself down, as if she was taking a martial arts stance, though Eldrian truly had never seen her in his life.
To make things more difficult, the bottom half of her face was covered by a dark red cloth. Immediately he thought this was some kind of assassin sent after him. It definitely wasn’t a spellbreaker, however, or he’d probably be dead.
Not only did both of her weapons share the same mark, but her actual eyes were completely off. Where he thought he’d see coloured irises, he saw black spirals, like something one would find in a cartoon.
“What the heck?” shouted Eldrian, terse.
The stranger didn’t answer, at least not with words. Her response involved plenty more pain. With one hand she whipped the circular blade in Eldrian’s direction, but luckily, he was able to dive to the side and out of the way. Immediately he realised it was a trick. The woman was immediately up to him with the other gripped as a melee strike. It slashed him across the outside of his left arm, causing a spray of blood to cover the alley wall. Eldrian cried out in pain as he squeezed one hand over the leaking flesh.
It didn’t stop there, as the girl formed a combination attack of blows. Next, she thrusted forward her foot into his chest, and on contact, a burst of fire caught aflame his shirt. Eldrian fell to his back, bloody and burned, and let out a lengthy groan.
“You’re a wizard,” he muttered.
She leapt into the air, and like a pouncing tiger, she brought down her one weapon to strike Eldrian directly in his chest. His eyes met her twisted, spinning glare, but the moment of impact was met with her metal slamming painfully against concrete.
The wizard teleported quickly, like the blink of an eye, through and behind the girl, and he floated there in midair for only a moment—enough to retaliate. His palm stretched out and nearly touched her back. Push.
A crushing blow of force came from his hand to shatter the alley beneath the girl. She coughed in pain as she was squished between his spell and the ground, but she pulled herself together and rolled to the side, and she stood once more.
She saw something next that she didn’t expect. Eldrian had thrown a dagger in her direction.
“Take that!” Eldrian shouted.
The girl squinted her eyes, and like swatting a fly, she brought up her weapon to parry the weakly thrown strike to the side. Perhaps her magic eyes weren’t powerful enough, or more likely, she was tricked into paying only a sliver of attention to the attack. Either way, it wasn’t until the final moment that she noticed her mistake. The dagger was only an illusion. On contact, it showed its true form, which was a small bolt of electricity, and her weapon was metal.
A current surged up her arm and burst the weapon from her hands. Gripping her fingers, she knelt on one leg and growled under her heavy breaths.
By the time she looked back up, she only saw the last second of a door closing where there was none before, and said door vanished as if it never had been. Eldrian had escaped. Given the timing, she decided he won, as if he attacked in that moment, she may not have been able to stop it. But what happened was only a single battle—hardly even that. It was an introduction.
Her body ached, and still the spiralling shapes existed in place of her proper eyes. Something still shone through that was human. That was difficult, but she felt proud of herself. At least, enough to reward her self.
So, the girl reached into a woven bag at her side and began to dig around, and eventually pulled out a glazed donut. She then began to eat. It was very tasty.
“What do you mean you were attacked by an assassin today?” hollered Deena despite the two being merely a few feet apart.
“I didn’t die at least,” Eldrian muttered.
“Look at you! Oh my god, you’ve barely bandaged yourself up. I can see your sleeve soaked in blood. Do you even know how to bandage yourself? You’re going to die if you don’t, you stupid boy. Come here. I’ll wrap it up, this one time.”
He sat there on a chair in her bathroom as she applied medicine and bandages to the deep cut on his arm. It didn’t sever anything crucial nor was it large, but it had been bleeding quite a bit. All he covered it with was a tied cloth until then.
“Thanks, Deena. Don’t worry. I’ll figure out what’s going on.”
“You keep saying that, but here we are. The fact of the matter is that you put things into motion all the time it seems, but you need to realize that you’ve gathered strong personalities that aren’t going to sit around. We’ll figure out what’s going on.”
“Right. I know. Wow. That’s not something I expected you to say of all people.”
“Why?” she growled as she tied the bandage a little tighter than he wished.
“Ow. No reason. Seriously though. Thank you. I know people were freaked out by you at first, with your white hair and red eyes and all that, but I think it’s awesome. And adorable. Your home makes a pretty handy safe house too!” He laughed.
Deena puffed out a cheek in detest. She looked up to him as she rummaged her medical supplies back into a box, and a tint of colour come to her face. A smile came as well, but it was brief, and Eldrian never did find out.
Stay tuned next time for Chapter Twenty-One – Out of Mind!