Chapter Thirty-Seven – Christmas Eve
Alchia gazed down at her wrist. “It just hit midnight. Let’s wrap this up. Face it, weirdo. There’s nothing you can do against two of us.”
In an instant, Eldrian was there no longer. He was at their right, and with the Staff of Lightning tightly squeezed within his grasp, he thrust out his free palm to emit a sparkling burst. Pure, crackling energy fired in the direction of the girls like a beam of lightning, illuminating the area in a flickering glow.
Poppet leapt forwards. She was hurt, but not at all out of energy. With two hands up, she created a ward of magic to absorb the bulk of Eldrian’s attack, but she knew it wouldn’t hold. She was thankfully only one half of a team, however, and Alchia immediately started a spell of her own. Two hands went up, and then thrust down against the frosted grass.
Coming from beneath the ward as well as Eldrian’s lightning strike was a small but growing wave of flames. It crawled along the ground, melting any snow and burning any grass in its wake, and as it neared the wizard, it burst up like an attacking shark. Bunsen Inferno!
Eldrian shot up into the air as scorching flames burst up from beneath his feet. His spell broke, and he wailed in pain. His sizzling body smacked back down against the charred earth with a thud. And when he stood up, he saw too late a strange cloud above him.
Poppet then fired her her puppet strings yet again towards Eldrian, and this time, they made direct contact with his legs. Not only did they wrap around them, but he felt tiny pricks against his skin, followed by the sensation of his energy being drained away.
“We’ve got him!” shouted Alchia. “Time to finish this guy off.”
She raised a single finger in the air, and she spun it about several times as the air above her sparkled. The previously mentioned cloud pulsated. First, the rain was slow, but it sped up over time to inch itself closer to a downpour. Eldrian wondered what her plan was at first, but then his skin began to burn. Acid Rain!
“This is our combo move, old man!” Poppet shouted.
“I’m not… old!” grunted Eldrian. “What do you even want with me? Whatever it is, I can’t die here. This staff was a gift from a friend, and it’s not going to fail me now.”
Roaring out with both pain and adrenaline, Eldrian slammed down the Staff of Lighting against the ground with all of his might. It glowed like the sun for only a moment—a flash—and sent out an explosive wave of electrical energy. It moved out in a sphere of crackling lightning, and not only broke the strings, but launched the two girls backwards. Shock Nova!
Protruding from the tip of his staff was a magical umbrella top. It stopped the acid rain, and allowed him to shield himself long enough to escape.
“Gah! Get him!” yelled Poppet.
Alchia rubbed her eyes. “He’s running at us!”
Eldrian bolted nimbly past the taller one, and the shorter, before reaching the trees. He moved almost like a dancer, weaving and spinning by the other wizards, but he seemingly didn’t touch them. Eldrian then rested back against one of the trunks and raised his free hand in the air. The umbrella disappeared, but he did something more.
Almost transparent wires around Alchia and Poppet contracted, and the two were yanked into each other tightly enough to squeeze their cheeks against one another. They crashed together, disorienting them both.
Poppet groaned. “He’s doing something else.”
“Block it, quick!” shouted Alchia.
Eldrian’s entire staff lit up with lightning power, and within his free left hand, there was a spark of absolute black. He moved both the staff and his hand around in an intricate dance, and both the light and the dark started to merge upon the middle, creating a rapidly sparking power of both electricity and shadow magic. Thrusting his staff forwards, a beam exploded forwards and towards them.
“Dark Lightning!” Eldrian shouted aloud.
One hand was raised by each of the girls to project a minor shield. Their eyes opened in fear, however, as they could see and feel the ward cracking under the weight of the spell. It shattered, and they detonated, launching over twenty meters backwards to tumble apart—smoking.
He breathed heavily. The entire night had taken a lot out of him, especially given how unplanned this battle had been. He saw the two struggle to stand a distance away, but to his fortune, neither looked able to hold up a fight any longer.
With hands out-stretched, he performed the same feat as before with a magic sigil now absorbing his staff away instead of summoning it to be. He let out a long exhale and rubbed his sore back.
That was when Eldrian heard a click. He felt cold steel wrap around one of his wrists.
Quickly, he spun around to see a tall man. One half of a pair of handcuffs dangled off Eldrian’s wrist, but it didn’t appear to be connected to anything else. It was tight, but not painful, so he hopped back to make an escape.
He moved to teleport, but didn’t budge.
The man, upon closer inspection, wasn’t nature. He carried himself in a foreign manner, like something he had only seen once before. Then he saw his pointed ears.
“You’re coming with us,” the elf spoke bluntly.
“What? Who the heck are you?” asked Eldrian.
“Grab him. Let’s get moving.”
He saw the two “sisters” begin inching towards him again. He furled a brow, and with a whip of his hand, he went to cast a spell. However, nothing happened. There wasn’t even a feeling of magic within himself in that moment. His skin went pale. Eldrian never felt something like this before. It was almost as if he wasn’t a wizard, just then, and he had no idea why. Then he looked down at the handcuffs with a wide, trembling gaze.
“Anti-magic cuffs,” Alchia said. “There’s nothing you can do now, weirdo.”
Eldrian tried to cast a spell. And another. And another. It still wouldn’t work. The three others surrounded him, and the strong hands of the elven man grabbed him by the scruff of his outfit. Everything went black after that.
Around noon, Kevin had invited Arlandria over to his apartment. It was decorated with stockings, Santa’s elves, tinsel, and of course, a fully filled Christmas tree with a rainbow of gifts beneath it. They had decided, as a group, to celebrate the holiday together at Kevin and Eldrian’s place, both to give Deena a break, but also to welcome a new beginning, especially given that most of them were wizards.
“It’s so pretty in here,” Arlandria commented.
“Thanks. I always loved Christmas, so I went a little crazy with decorations this year. And we got everyone’s presents under the tree already. This is exciting! It’s like we’re a family already. And Santa Clause will be here tonight.”
“Oh, wow. I forgot you don’t know what Christmas is. It’s a holiday where you give presents, decorate a pine tree, and Santa brings presents the night before. Well, not really. He’s just a story for kids.”
Arlandria laughed. “I like stories.”
“Well, Santa is a chubby man in red who lived in the North Pole, and little elves make toys for him to deliver to all the good boys and girls come the night before Christmas.”
Kevin picked up one of the tiny stuffed elves from a table. “Well, these kind of elves.”
“I don’t think I’ve seen an elf wear something like that,” she said with a chuckle.
“A lot of people just like the holiday because of the energy it brings. Everyone’s ready to celebrate.”
“I can feel it. It feels… comfortable. It’s cold, but I feel warm. Thank you for inviting me even though we haven’t known each other for long. So the actual day is tomorrow, yes?”
“That’s right,” Kevin said with a nod. “Us, Eldrian, Deena, Renatta, and Daveon will all come here tomorrow morning to open presents. It’ll be awesome. I wonder what kind of things wizards give other wizards. Magic wands? Uh. Skulls?”
“I hope not. I don’t like skulls.”
Kevin hopped back onto the sofa and sighed as he let himself sink backwards. He motioned a hand over, and cautiously, Arlandria made her way to carefully sit down beside him.
“Hey. Can I ask you something?” Kevin spoke up.
“Of course, Kevin.” She smiled.
“Elves. So, like, what are they? Is that a rude question? I mean like, you said elves are all about order and light, and demons are kind of about chaos and dark, but I’m still confused. Do you have weird abilities like the demons we fought?”
“You fought demons, hm? My understanding is that demons are born with a variety of odd, seemingly random innate powers. No, elves are not like that. We aren’t wizards either. Elves, however, have the keenest senses. Our magic eyes are the sharpest.”
“So you can see through illusions really well, I guess?”
“I see,” Kevin replied. “So that’s four things with magic eyes. I wish I had those. It would make things a heck of a lot easier.”
“If you’ve travelled with wizards for this long, you must be talented.”
The boy lowered his head with a shy smile. He nodded, but also shrugged.
“Maybe,” he muttered. “So what else can elves do?”
“What they’re able to do mostly boils down to two things. Ward, and heal.”
“Yes. Elves possess natural healing magic.”
“So if I cut my hand, you can just heal it up?”
“Please don’t do that.”
From Kevin’s pocket came a vibrating.
“Oh my. You have those here too?” Arlandria asked.
“What?” He pulled his phone from his pocket. “Cellphones?”
“Wh-What did you think it was?”
“It doesn’t matter right now. The screen says Eldrian. Perhaps it’s important.”
“Right. Uh, hello?”
Kevin answered the phone. Unlike usual, there was no immediate answer—no goofy greeting or anything like it. There was dead air for a lengthy moment, and then an airy, deep voice. It wasn’t Eldrian’s for certain.
“Greetings. Is this Kevin?” came the slow, foreign voice.
“Yes. Who is this?” responded Kevin.
“Eldrian’s friend. We ran into each other last night. He can’t talk right now, so I borrowed his phone.”
“We had to help him use it!” yelled a high-pitched female’s voice in the background.
“Quiet,” he grunted. “Listen, Kevin. I assume you’re a wizard too, or something close. Bring all your magic buddies. I need answers. And if you try anything at all, Eldrian dies. I know the Blade of Shadows is somewhere in this city, and I’ll be damned if not a single wizard here has heard a thing. It’s impossible.”
Kevin looked up at Arlandria, having remembered her mention that sword before, but when he saw her, she looked as white as Deena—or a ghost. She was trembling in place. Her mouth was dry, so not a word came out.
“Are you okay?” Kevin whispered.
The voice said, “Who else is there? I hear something else. Someone breathing heavily. Panicked. A woman. Is that another damned wizard?”
“Wrong on both accounts!” shouted Kevin.
Arlandria whimpered. “Why are you calling us?”
This time, the voice chuckled, sounding almost amused. “Arlandria. Is that you? So you did survive after all. This might not be so bad. Maybe you’ve heard something about the Blade by now. All you need to do is tell me, Arlandria. Is that so hard? Do you want someone to die that badly?”
“You know him?” asked Kevin.
She nodded, albeit hesitantly.
“I’ll text you where we’ll meet. Did I say that right? Text? We’ll meet there, and you’ll tell me everything you know about the Blade,” the voice, Tyreth, said.
“You got it,” whispered Alchia. “Good job.”
“You have one hour. And you better come too, Arlandria.” he said once more before hanging up.
Noah Jackson sat back on the chair in front of his deck. He toyed with a pen as he held his phone up against his ear with the other hand, and a strange smile remained stretched over his face. For the moment, he was nodding along to a voice on the other side, but he finally let out a short chortle.
“That’s right. In the distance, three wizards,” he said. “A dark skinned older girl with purple hair, styled to to the side. A tiny girl with long blonde hair. Someone with their face obscured by shadow, wearing a dark blue hood. They were using—Yeah. I know. Calm down, yeah? I’ll definitely bring all of them in. You can count on that, just like always.”
Come back next week for Chapter Thirty-Eight – How the Elf Stole Christmas!