Chapter Twenty-Nine – A Whole New World
“Come, little one. Proceed farther. Do not be afraid, for I am only here to help you.”
The voice was of a woman’s, and it was calm, like words spoken from one’s own mother. It emitted a sense of warmth and safety despite it being so alien. However, it was unclear where it came from other than deeper into the woods. It was as if the gaps between the trees whispered—luring.
“Who are you?” asked the little girl. “I’m cold. It’s dark, and I’m scared.”
“Continue forwards and meet with me, and I will keep you warm and safe. I will return you to your home.”
The child stepped cautiously between the density of the forest, rubbing her hands up and down her goosebump-covered arms. A chilling breeze caused a shiver to travel down her spine. She was lost, and this stranger’s voice did sound trustworthy to her. There were few other options in her mind.
It wasn’t long before she broke into a clearing. Up ahead, the speaker stood still. It was a beautiful woman with long black hair and crystal blue eyes. Her skin was fair. It reminded the child of her mother, and she made her way over with arms ready for an embrace.
“Yes, child. Come closer,” it spoke.
They stood beside one another. Slowly, the stranger leaned down to the child with opening arms. The little girl saw into her eyes, and was mesmerized, so much so that it took her a few seconds to fully realize what happened next.
Like a snake, the woman’s jaw unhinged and stretched open to extend a smaller, disturbing, toothy mouth from within her throat. Her irises pinched and stretched to resemble that of a feline’s, and her teeth curved outwards like bloody claws. An almost deafening hiss sprayed the child with viscous saliva, and each of her encroaching hands distorted into what could be more accurately described as meat hooks. The sight petrified the child in place. Her eyes widened, and her skin turned the colour of snow.
The creature gagged. Upon closer inspection, a neon pink lasso was tightly bound around the creature’s throat. She saw a man behind it, yanking on the other end, and he even had a cowboy hat to match. He was dressed in a strange, blue outfit as well.
“Yeehaw!” Eldrian shouted.
While the creature tried to snap itself free, the child saw another man of similar age burst out of the brush with a shield in his left hand and a sword in his right. A metallic pang resonated out from the point of impact as Kevin’s Aegis of Light made direct contact with the monster’s face. The lasso disappeared into sparkles and the creature rolled to its side a distance from the child—groaning in pain.
It soon stood back up, and it brought down one of its hooks to smash against the sturdy magic shield. Kevin then slashed horizontally to the creature’s thin neck, lopping the head off and to the ground in a single movement.
“I got it!” Kevin said.
“Hold on,” replied Eldrian. “It’s still moving.”
He was right. Even without its head, it still wiggled and hissed. Somehow, it even seemed to know where Kevin was. So the ginger boy distanced himself and tried to prepare for anything. However, in the world of magic, it’s difficult to do that.
Like a gun, the wrist of the creature fired, sending its hook outwards at an incredible speed. It wrapped around Kevin’s neck, and yanked him forwards and face-first into attacking range of the beast.
Eldrian quickly slammed his hands to the soil beneath him. A fractal of glowing webs came from his hands and made their way around the ground, and shortly after, a wall of stone sprouted straight upwards directly between Kevin and his foe. The sudden impact sent the hook flying off the top of Kevin’s head, and the creature’s attack was met only with solid rock. It was then that the wizard was right behind it. With a push, a burst of force sent the monster slamming against the wall of stone as well.
“How do we beat something that can live without a head?” asked Kevin as he leapt out from behind the wall.
“Everything has a weakness,” shouted Eldrian. “We just need to spot it!”
“Wait… There. Look. There’s a glow in its chest. Do you see it?”
“I think so. That could be some kind of core.”
A painful screech came from the neck stub of the monster. Eldrian, however, looked as determined as always.
He flew clear over the earthen wall to land on the other side. Then, a window opened up. The wizard looked to have cleared a rectangular opening straight through the rock, and the two stared one another down—as best one can without a head.
Two shots. Both hooks came hurling straight towards Eldrian, and it seemed like they were going to make direct contact with him. But just then, the window wobbled like a fading mirage. The stone returned and trapped both of the out-stretched hands within the wall itself. It hissed and yanked on them, but couldn’t get either of them free.
Eldrian, then behind the monster, had both hands to his side with a spark of pale blue between his hands. It grew in length. Soon, the shape made itself clear as a lengthy icicle, sharp on both ends. Putting a foot forwards into the dirt, he lunged his arms forwards, and just like the monster, he send a projectile firing like a bullet. Ice Spear!
It moved frantically, but it was too late. The harpoon made of ice stapled the creature to the wall, bursting through its glowing center. It writhed for a moment before melting into a puddle of brown that slowly began dispersing into the soil.
The little girl returned home, safe and sound, not long after that event. She was confused, but eagerly excited. The two men told her to keep everything that happened a secret, and to honour her saviours, she abided. That didn’t stop her from dreaming, however. Much to her mother’s confusion, ever since that night, it was like her imagination awakened. Whenever she had her crayons she kept drawing this original character of hers, dressed in blue with short brown hair, shooting lasers from his hands.
“You two got a place almost two weeks ago, and you’ve already dealt with two demons? I thought you moved to get a fresh start where people aren’t aware you’re there,” came the voice of Deena from Eldrian’s phone.
It was sitting on the counter while him and Kevin sorted out the groceries they had just finished bringing home. It took some convincing, but Kevin appeased his parents enough to drop out of the university he was at back home and move out with Eldrian to the big city. Luckily, they were sympathetic. He never was truly happy where he was, and in Edmonton, there’s an even larger place for schooling, which made them feel better.
They didn’t find a place in the center of Edmonton, either. They lived around the borders of the city, as it was still their goal to not become roped in with something that could alert the authorities to Eldrian’s technically illegal existence.
“Lucy gave us a job. That demon endangered lives,” Eldrian answered.
Deena sighed. “Whatever. Just don’t get me caught along with you.”
“You sound so far away, and I hear a lot of noise. What are you doing?”
“Is that more important than checking up on your two best buddies?”
“I have my priorities.”
“All right. Well, we’ll talk to you later, Deena.”
“Try not to die.”
He ended the call and tucked away his phone. With a sigh, he leaned back on the edge of the apartment’s kitchen counter and thought silently for a moment.
“I wish I could do more good. Hiding is annoying,” he finally said.
Kevin shrugged. “I agree, but I don’t know how to help you.”
“Actually, there is something you can do for me. Keep a secret.”
“Well, I already do that anyway, so why not?”
“Maybe I could work on being a little sneakier, and help people in secret. You know, like a vigilante, but cooler because I’m a wizard.”
“Oh. I don’t know about that. What if you get caught?”
“What if people like that little girl get caught? I feel like I need to do something. Without magic eyes, people would never even figure it out either. Come on, Kev. I’ll even show you something neat. Even neater than a magic lasso.”
“Then follow me, my friend! There’s more than one reason why I suggested Edmonton. To a wizard, the world is even more connected than the internet makes it. We can open doors anywhere we can link to, and this can create all sorts of networks. I’ll show you what I mean.”
They locked up, and the two of them proceeded on a walk deeper into the city. Unlike the quaintness of Grand Prairie, this place had gigantic buildings, and it looked as if it went on for ages in every direction. Kevin had only visited here a few times in the past, and never for long amounts of time.
“This way,” Eldrian whispered as the two made their way down an alley.
“Are you taking me to buy drugs?” Kevin asked.
“No! Look. There’s an entrance around here somewhere.”
He felt his hands around the stone wall. After a moment, he knocked his knuckles eight times. Waited. Waited again. Eight more times. One time. Three times. Finally, five times. The bricks of the wall pulled themselves open into a doorway, and Eldrian waved him inside. The sounds of grinding rocks followed the closing of the passage behind them. Before Kevin, however, was what he didn’t expect. A bar.
This was no ordinary pub, however. It did have a tiled floor, cushioned seats, stools, and everything else one would have, but it was filled with the oddest characters he had ever seen. It was almost too much to take in. To name a couple, he saw a giant woman with her back end resembling a scorpion taking up most of the corner, and a two-headed monster with no eyes sitting a table. Some figures were more human, but they were garbed in a manner similar to Eldrian—flamboyant, bright, colourful, archaic.
“What the hell is this place, Eldrian?” Kevin asked quietly.
“The Bliss Abyss. It’s a demon-owned tavern you can enter from several places around the world. And Hell. So, you weren’t far off.”
“So what are we doing here?”
“It’s a good place to meet people you can’t just call on the phone.”
Both took up a stool in front of the counter. Behind it was a man with the horns of a ram. He had reddish brown, braided hair, and a goatee. With a friendly smile, he was simply cleaning out a glass with a cloth, and he greeted the two of them.
“Well, hello there again, Eldrian. Who’s this you brought today?” the demon asked.
“That’s Kevin. He’s a great friend of mine. Kev, this is Pil. He runs this place.”
Pil chuckled warmly. “Kevin. You look unnerved.”
“I’m uh… new to places like this,” he muttered in response.
“Ah. A newbie. There’s nothing to be afraid of. The crowds we get typically aren’t big or wild, and if something goes wrong, I’ll deal with it, or my helper Kribba,” Pil said as he gestured his head.
Near the opposite wall was a tiny creature, red, but muscular, sporting even thicker horns than Pil. He carried a mop and a bucket, and was at that time cleaning up a spill.
“And if things get too bad, there’s a place for fighting downstairs,” Pil added. “The Doom Tomb.”
Eldrian spoke up. “I’m actually looking for someone. Have you seen Marionette?”
“You’re getting a new outfit, hm?” asked Pil.
“Something like that.”
“Well, as you probably know, she doesn’t like being found. But that’s probably why you’re here. I might be able to figure something out. Do you need anything in the meantime?”
Kevin looked to his left. Beside him was the half-scorpion, and he jumped a little in his seat, having not noticed at first. Now that he was able to see the horrifying creature this close, he noticed first that she was unclothed from the scorpion parts upwards, but tiny scorpions also skittered their way around her body and the floor surrounding her legs. In her arm she held a drink that looked as viscous as mud, and it was glowing purple.
“N-Nothing for me,” Kevin whispered.
“Me neither,” Eldrian said. “I don’t really like drinking. It makes it harder to think. I know what we can do in the meantime, Kev. Why don’t we check out the Tomb? Maybe someone’s fighting down there, or will be.”
The wizard hopped up from his seat. Kevin, seeming to be eager to get away from the woman beside him, followed suit, but they were halted as they came closer to the basement door. Not in a rude manner, but a man still gestured their attention.
His hair was jet black, and even though he looked young, his body was muscular enough to grate cheese on his abs. He wore no shirt, but did have trousers, shoes, and bracers, and they all seemed to have a theme. They looked to be covered in traditional Native American patterns and shapes, and his skin was of a darker tone.
“You said you were going to head downstairs?” he asked.
Eldrian nodded. “Yeah. This is Kevin, and I’m Eldrian. Good to meet you.”
“Ouray Kahawaion. I’m afraid nobody is fighting at the moment. I would know. I’ve been looking for somebody worthy to spar with for a long time. I’m a wizard.”
“I thought all wizards were scrawny,” spoke Kevin.
Eldrian deadpanned over to him. “Everyone is different.”
“If you wished to fight me, I would be overjoyed.”
“Hey, I’ll give it a shot. Come watch two wizards fight, Kev. That’ll be a great way to pass the time!”
“Sounds good to me.”
They followed Ouray to the door. He pulled it open, and the three proceeded down a set of stairs. It soon came to yet another door that led into a gigantic cubicle room composed entirely of stone blocks. The man they followed seemed overly focused. He said nothing more, and simply stepped over to the opposite side before turning and staring at Eldrian—eyes locked.
“Are you sure about this?” Kevin asked.
“It’ll be fine. Just stay far back, just in case things get heated.”
“Are you ready?” boomed Ouray’s voice. “Perhaps your friend should say when to begin.”
Kevin, hiding near the corner, cupped his hands around his mouth and took a deep inhale. “Uh. All right. Go!”
“I’ll—“ Eldrian began, but Ouray acted quickly.
The man swiftly jerked his arms in a strategic motion. It was obvious he knew some form of martial arts. However, this was more than a fighting move. Each word he spoke was perfect with the rhythm of his arms and legs, so much so that Eldrian barely noticed the effect of the cause.
In the blink of an eye a shadow had came up Ouray’s body to swallow him whole. He was then directly behind Eldrian. He drove a strong punch to his back, causing Eldrian to fall forwards and grit his teeth in pain. Those muscles were definitely not an illusion.
Eldrian was no newbie to magic. He spun around, and brought both of his hands together with forward palms. He had little time, so he sent out a breath of flames to begin.
“Hah-nu-nah!” Ouray yelled as he moved perfectly with the beat.
A spectral turtle covered the man, and fully blocked the damage of the fire as if its shield was made of solid iron. The animal itself was towering, like he was conjuring the literal spirits of gods to aid him.
“Ya-o-gah!” he shouted once again.
This time, his fists came together, and crashed forward a few feet from Eldrian. They didn’t look at first to have made contact, but then Eldrian saw the hulking spirit of a bear lunging towards him. The air seemed to shatter, and this spell was incredibly quick. It all happened in an instant. The force not only knocked Eldrian back, but pushed him against the ground onto his back.
Ouray slid on his shoes over to his right, and pulled back into a defensive stance while Eldrian pulled himself back to his feet.
“Maybe this guy is a little stronger than I expected,” Eldrian muttered.
Stay tuned for Chapter Thirty – The Dark Mage Rises!