Chapter Ten - Stelipse and the Overexcited Tree
Lucas awoke the next morning to discover Elizabeth was no longer in her bed. He looked around the large room but could not see her anywhere. Charles was asleep on his bed, snoring so loudly that the table felt like it was moving.
Lucas rose from the bed and decided to go outside for fresh air. He floated down to the ground and headed towards the large door. Looking up at the gigantic obstacle above him, he thought to himself, how am I going to open it?
He stared at the door and tried to use his powers to turn the doorknob. With a sigh, he realised that he could not move the door at the same time. At least he could not just yet. He sighed and moved back to the table, flying back up to the top. As he landed, he noticed Elizabeth was back and staring directly at him. He frowned at her and asked, ‘Where were you?'
‘Sorry. I do not mean to sound … possessive or rude. I woke and you were gone.'
‘Didn't mean to worry you,' she smiled at him. ‘We need to prepare to leave. Depending on where we leave from, it's going to be quite a travel.'
Lucas looked at her, turning his head on the side and smiled. ‘Have you forgotten I can fly? We can cover more ground.'
‘True, but it's also dangerous. If we are seen, then that will be a problem.'
He looked at her and frowned. ‘What happened last night? Have you ever heard of something like that happening?'
She shook her head. ‘No, never. It felt so real, like we were there, physically. The fact we both remember it too … well, I am not entirely sure. Maybe I began the dream and you used your telepathy to tap in?'
He stared at her, concern in his eyes. ‘Do you think we should tell Charles?'
‘Maybe … I'm not sure. What do you think we should do?' she asked.
‘Hmmm,' Lucas mumbled. ‘Well, let's wait till Charles is awake. Take it from there.'
‘Fine with me.' She smiled at him, turning and sitting down on the edge of the bed. ‘I will miss this place though. The people here are very kind.'
‘Yeah, I will too. We need to continue though. I need to find the elves and my mother.' He looked at her, his eyes filled with curiosity. ‘Elizabeth?'
She looked up at him. ‘Yes?'
‘Ah … I was wondering. You know when I find the elves. What are you going to do?'
She looked at him, confused. ‘What do you mean?'
‘Well … I know that you don't … want to leave, but shouldn't you go back home, at least to make peace with your father?'
She thought carefully about how she would answer. ‘No. That is not the place for me. I am where I am supposed to be. You need help defeating Barback and I said I would help you.'
‘It is dangerous. I don't mind if …'
‘Drop it.' She smiled at him and continued, ‘I said I would help, and I will. You are my only friend, the only one I have ever had and you … you are so much more than that as well. My father and brothers have controlled my whole life and you have shown me I have a choice, at least in some areas. I control my life and I choose to follow you. To the death, if need be.'
Lucas smiled at her.
‘Good morning, my small friends.'
They both jumped and turned to see Charles sitting up in his bed. ‘Apart, you are both very strong but together, you will have the power to defeat Lord Barback.' He rose out of the bed and Lucas noticed what he was wearing. Gone were his clothes from yesterday, as the giant stood now in a large white dressing-gown, complete with his little white cap on his head.
‘Give me a few moments and we shall leave.'
‘Charles?' Lucas mumbled.
The giant looked down at Lucas, his friendly smile warming towards him. ‘Yes, little one?'
‘Where's your teddy bear?'
‘I do not have one.'
Lucas and Elizabeth laughed as Charles stared at them, confused. Smiling towards them, he burst into laughter with the pair. After a few moments, Lucas stopped laughing and looked up at Charles with seriousness filling his eyes.
‘Last night, both me and Elizabeth … I mean Elizabeth and me, well, we kind of had the same dream,' Lucas informed the giant. ‘We were at some lake and well, it felt real. Like real real. Do you think it was my telepathy?'
Charles looked at him, confused. ‘You both experienced the same dream? What happened?'
‘Nothing major,' Lucas replied quickly, shaking his head as he begun to blush. ‘We left here, and we were travelling to Stelipse, but we stopped at a lake for a break.'
‘Ah, that is quite interesting,' Charles mumbled, scratching his face. ‘It is possible that your telepathy powers allowed you to enter Elizabeth's dream, or at least pull her into your own. Your telepathy lets you enter other's minds, so I cannot see why it does not work with dreams.'
‘Ah, excuse me, Charles? Where were you dropping us off?' Elizabeth asked, eager and succeeding in changing the topic.
‘Just near where I found you,' he replied. ‘You will only be a few hours out from Stelipse. There, find a young man named Zachary. He will help you continue your journey.'
The next ten minutes passed by quickly. They packed up and cleaned the house as best as two small humans in a giant's house could. When they had finally finished, Charles held out his hand and Lucas and Elizabeth jumped into it. Charles carried them outside and walked over to the now empty table where Marybeth and Donald were sitting in silence. Marybeth was smiling towards them, while Donald was not even paying attention, lost in his own world as usual.
‘Charles? Can I ask you something?' Charles looked down and noticed Lucas looking up at him. ‘It is sort of a private question. I do not want Elizabeth to hear.'
‘Why does everyone get so angry when people of two different species fall in love?'
Charles looked down at Lucas. As they reached the table, Charles took his familiar seat. He placed his hand down and Elizabeth hopped off. She noticed Lucas and Charles were both quiet. She thought it was odd they were both silent; however, a small part of her knew they were communicating. She walked over to Marybeth and started talking to her. Lucas, however, continued his conversation with Charles.
‘I do not quite understand. Why can't I be with Elizabeth?'
Charles frowned as he replied. ‘It is because of the bitterness between cultures. When two different species populate together, there is a fifty-fifty chance on which species it will become. Take both Elizabeth and your species. The elves worry if the merpeople populate with humans and produce more of their kind, then they might try to overthrow them. The merpeople do not believe the elves should be the ones who rule; they believe they should. They worry if the elves populate too much, they might try to enforce their rules on them or even try to exterminate them.'
‘I don't … why would they believe that?'
‘Lies spread through the ages. They no longer talk or communicate with each other. No elf is allowed in the merpeople's kingdom and no merperson can enter the elves' home. Death is punishment.'
Lucas frowned. ‘So that is why Elizabeth is so upset. Can I change the law?'
Charles looked at him, confused. ‘I do not understand.'
‘If I am the king, this Lost Son, I thought I was supposed to be like, in charge of everyone. Doesn't that mean I can change the law if I see fit?'
‘Lucas, you are not in charge of anyone. Do not act like the kings before you.' Lucas flinched at the harsh tone in Charles's voice. ‘Everyone is equal. You will meet new creatures and you must not be like the kings of old. Make them your equal.'
‘I am sorry, Charles. It came out wrong.'
‘Then repeat your question.'
‘I am king, right? Therefore, by being king of Bomcard, I can change laws I see as unnecessary. I can change the law about species, if I believe that it makes us... unequal.'
Charles looked at him. ‘You can; however, it does not mean that they will allow the law to pass. There is a council, your council, which you must speak to first.'
‘I have a council?'
‘Yes. The council was created with one creature from every species. You place your topic forward and you all debate. You have final say, but I do warn you. Listen to the others. Before the Second War, there was talk of an uprising.'
‘I do not wish to be king, Charles,' Lucas told him.
‘I do not understand.' He looked at Lucas with a confused expression.
‘I want to be normal. To do normal things and … fall in love with whoever I want to. I can't lead anyone. If I don't want to fight myself, how can I convince others to join me?'
Charles smiled. ‘It is normal to have doubts, to have fears and concern.'
‘It's more than that, Charles,’ Lucas sighed, feeling his heart breaking again. ‘I don't like being the different one out of a group. I always have been. I can't be a king. I don't know how to. Yet, I know I have to be. I know I have to step up and be the one everyone turns to. I just don't know if I can be who they want me to be.'
‘Lucas, you only need to believe in yourself and you will discover the power in you to save us, and in time, you will be confident in claiming your title as King of Bomcard.'
While Lucas was talking to Charles, Elizabeth was having her own in-depth conversation with Marybeth.
‘Marybeth, do you believe two people of different species can be together?'
The giant smiled at Elizabeth. ‘If it is true love, it should not matter who or what they are. You do know the stories of meeting your true love?'
‘Yes, it has been known to happen, but only with those who are truly destined to be together,' Marybeth replied. Leaning in closer, she began. ‘See, in our lives, we meet and fall in love with different people. Everyone has that one person that they are destined to be with; however, not everyone is lucky enough to ever find that person. What I mean is, you can fall in love with the love of your life, the person you always imagined being with, or you can fall in love with your true love, who may be the exact opposite of who you dreamed of. You may be better off with the love of your life than your true love.
‘What the stories always state is that upon discovering the identity of your true love, both of your bodies will be surrounded by an aura. The auras will then clash and blend together. It will not happen immediately. In one story, the pair did not discover this until their final moments in life.
‘Another story is love at first sight. It has been known to happen, where one or both parties have fallen in love with the other upon first glance. It has taken them a minute, a day, a week and so forth to realise, but when they do, they discover they have loved that other person since their first glance.'
Elizabeth looked at her and smiled. ‘That is confusing.'
Marybeth returned the smile. ‘Love is, but believe me you will know it when it happens.'
‘So, what is the significance of the aura?' Elizabeth asked her.
‘Nothing, really.' Marybeth smiled. ‘It has no purpose other than to tell the lovers and any witnesses that they truly belong together. In some cultures, where royalty and lower class civilians have fallen in love, it was used to prove they could be in a relationship.'
‘Yeah, we had that back home,' Elizabeth mumbled in disappointment. ‘You could only marry into certain classes. It is why I was involved in an arranged marriage.'
Marybeth nodded and turned in the direction where Lucas and Charles were having their telepathic conversation. ‘I assume all this talk is of you and Lucas.'
Elizabeth nodded, her face turning red from embarrassment. ‘Is it that obvious?'
‘Our ears are bigger than yours. We can hear further. I heard your conversation.'
Elizabeth looked at her in shock.
‘Do not fret. The boys did not hear. My hearing is better than theirs.'
‘Good.' She turned and looked in Lucas's direction. Turning back to Marybeth, she asked,
‘How did you and Charles end up together?'
Marybeth stared in Charles's direction with a painful glance. ‘Technically, we are not together. However, when we have to, we turn to the other for support and guidance.' Staring down at Elizabeth, she asked with a smile, ‘Is it that obvious?'
‘I see the way you two look at each other.' Elizabeth smiled. ‘You should tell him.'
‘He knows, as I do. When the time is right, we will be together; the same as you and Lucas.'
‘How can two people be together when their species forbid it?' Elizabeth sighed.
‘I do not know the answer to that one. The better question is, is it worth finding out?'
Elizabeth looked up and noticed Lucas walking over. ‘I think we need to head off.'
‘It is time for our friends to leave.' Charles's voice bellowed over the valley. Donald turned to look at them and nodded.
Marybeth smiled at them as she leaned down. ‘Farewell, my small friends. You are always welcome here.'
‘Yes, they are,' Charles said warmly. ‘We need to leave now.'
With that, Charles held out his hand. The pair leaped onto his hand as he began to walk away with them. Lucas and Elizabeth looked back and waved at their new friends, both yelling out to the giants, ‘Bye! Thank you!'
Marybeth waved back sadly as Donald nodded. Charles walked back up the cliff and up out of the mirage sky. As Charles walked over to where he found them, they expected him to let them down. He did not, however. He continued to walk further ahead and stopped after walking for five minutes when he noticed a small forest nearby. Heading over, he moved behind some trees, half the size of the giant himself, and froze. Staring ahead of him, Lucas and Elizabeth turned in the direction he was looking before he slowly walked a few more feet ahead and placed the pair down. They stared ahead and could just see the outskirts of a town.
‘Up ahead is Stelipse. I took you further than I should have, but I had no choice. Time is running out.' Charles looked at them with his kind blue eyes. ‘I will miss you, my little friends.'
Elizabeth looked up at him and smiled. ‘Thank you for everything.'
‘You are quite welcome.'
‘Yeah, thank you, Charles,' Lucas spoke sadly. ‘And thanks for teaching me to control my powers.'
‘You are also welcome and don't either of you forget you are always welcome in our land. Do not be afraid to step through the veil.' He looked at the town. ‘Now, head in there and look for a young man named Zachary. He will take you onto the next part of your journey. Until we meet again.' He nodded at them and then slowly faded away into the trees. They stood there and watched him leave in silence until they could not see him anymore.
Lucas turned and looked at the town nearby. This Zachary man was in there and he knew where his mother was. It was time for him to meet her and the other elves. He started walking out of the trees, but something grabbed him and pulled him back. He thought it was Elizabeth until he turned and found she had disappeared.
The forest was filled with dead silence. Turning around in a circle, he began to feel the panic overwhelm him as he realised he was alone. The sound of a branch breaking behind him made him turn in fear as the silence began to play on his mind. All of a sudden, a branch reached out and grabbed his leg, raising him high into the air. He watched in horror as the ground flew away from him, his body moving higher into the dark trees.
‘Let me go! What the hell?!' he screamed as he dangled upside down from the tops. He struggled to get out of the branch's grasp as it moved him closer to its trunk. As soon as he was right in front of the trunk, Lucas noticed that surprisingly, it had a human looking face shaped into it. It had long, black, hollow holes for eyes and a large crack from one side to the other that split into a smile.
‘Well, well, well. And what do we have here?'
Lucas looked at it, terrified. He did not know how to act. This was a talking tree! Why would Charles drop them off here? He then remembered what they were talking about before.
‘Everyone is equal. You will meet new creatures and you must not be like the kings of old. Make them your equal.' He dropped us here on purpose, Lucas thought.
‘Put me down now!' Lucas yelled at the tree.
‘Or what?' The tree laughed. ‘You'll wave your hands around until I do? Ha, ha, ha.'
‘Where is Elizabeth?'
‘The girl? Oh, she's … hanging around.'
On cue, Elizabeth came screaming down from the sky and landed next to him. The sudden jolt of the stop made her stop screaming in shock. It was not long before she found her voice.
‘Let me go this instant! You could have killed me!'
‘Oh, we have discussed this already,' the tree smiled. ‘I think I'll let you hang around for a bit. No one ever bothers to stop by for a chat.'
The next moment happened faster than Lucas thought it did. As the tree turned Lucas in his branch arm, spinning him around and around in circles, his amulet fell out of his shirt and the moment the tree saw it, it started to panic.
‘What did I do? I … I didn't mean … Why am I alone? I don't know what to do.'
‘What do you mean?'
‘You're the king. I didn't mean to …'
That was when Lucas realised that there was only one Living Tree. ‘You're alone? Where are your friends?'
‘I don't have any.'
‘Well, I'm not surprised if you treat people like this!' Elizabeth yelled at him. ‘Unhand us this instant!'
Surprisingly, the Living Tree obeyed and dropped them, the pair falling to the ground and landing with a hard thump. Elizabeth leaped to her feet in an instant and she grabbed Lucas in a move to pull him up. ‘Come on!'
‘No.' She looked at him in shock as he turned to her and repeated, ‘No.'
He turned to the tree and noticed that it looked like it was crying. Its branches were swinging out everyone and both Elizabeth and Lucas had to duck to avoid contact as the tree cried, ‘Everyone hates me! I didn't mean to upset anyone.'
‘It's okay. We are fine. Please stop crying.' The tree roared on for a few more moments before it finally stopped. Lucas stared at the Living Tree, his eyes filled with kindness and forgiveness. ‘Where are the others of your kind?'
‘I don't know,' the tree whimpered. ‘I wandered off one day from my group. I became lost and ended up here. I was too scared to leave. Humans kill us trees, living or not.'
‘My name is Lucas.' He pointed to himself before pointing to Elizabeth. ‘And this is Elizabeth. What is your name?'
‘I don't have a name.'
‘Everyone has a name.'
The tree looked like it was thinking as a branch reached down and touched his face. Its eyes flew up and it seemed to look up in thought. ‘I cannot think of one. I was never named when I got lost.'
‘How about we give you a name?'
Lucas turned to Elizabeth and smiled. She slowly returned his gesture and walked slowly up to him. She turned to the tree and asked, ‘How about … Branchy?'
‘Branchy?' Lucas looked at her with a confused, dumbfounded look.
Elizabeth shrugged and replied, ‘It is how we met, with a lot of branches.'
‘Oh! Oh! I love it! I'm Branchy!' The tree threw its arm branches up and waved. ‘Thank you!'
Lucas and Elizabeth both smiled.
‘Well, we better start heading off,' Lucas spoke kindly.
Branchy slammed his branches down on the ground and pushed with all his might. As the pair watched in shock as the ground shook, the tree's roots flew out and he started jumping up and down in excitement. The ground was shaking worse than when the giants ran with them, little tremors making Lucas and Elizabeth attempt to prevent landing on the ground.
‘Whoa! Branchy, stop!' Lucas yelled, falling onto his backside.
He stopped jumping and looked down at them. ‘Where are we going?' Branchy looked at them excitedly. Lucas looked at him, terrified.
‘We are heading to Stelipse.'
Elizabeth turned to him and whispered, ‘Don't tell him that! He'll want to come!'
Lucas looked at her and whispered back, ‘I won't lie to him. Elizabeth, he is like a kid. If I don't tell him, he'll just follow us.' He turned back to Branchy. ‘We are heading to Stelipse to look for a friend.'
‘I can help! I'll come with you!' Branchy looked excitedly at them. ‘Please let me come!'
‘Branchy, you can't come with us into town,' Elizabeth said to him, smiling at Lucas as she passed him and placed her hand on the tree's trunk. ‘People would panic if they saw you.'
‘I can pretend to be a normal tree!' He stretched out his branches to the sky and closed his eyes. His mouth also shut, his branches swaying gently in the breeze and they both realised in awe that he looked exactly like a normal, everyday tree. After a moment, his eyes flew open and he cracked a big smile. ‘See?'
‘That was good … but you moved.' Elizabeth smiled sadly at him.
Lucas looked at him and smiled. ‘Branchy, why don't you wait here. I will come back to see you. I promise.'
Branchy looked at him and smiled. ‘Oh, yes please! I have never had friends before. I don't want to lose you.'
Lucas smiled at him. ‘Branchy, we won't stop being friends if we are not here with you.'
Branchy laughed. ‘Really? Friends forever! Friends forever!'
Lucas laughed and Elizabeth could not help but laugh too. The three laughed together until Branchy sat down, shaking the ground again. He looked at them and asked, ‘Can I meet your friend?'
Lucas looked at Elizabeth and turned to Branchy, replying, ‘We shall see how our meeting goes. We don't know if he will … be up for it?'
Branchy looked at him, confused and hurt. ‘He won't want to see me?'
‘We may have a task for him. He might not be able to meet you just yet.'
Branchy smiled. ‘Oh … okay!'
‘Branchy, stay here and we'll come back, okay?' Lucas smiled at him.
Branchy nodded and Elizabeth and Lucas turned, heading out of the small forest. As they walked, Elizabeth turned to Lucas and said, ‘I'm sorry about before. About Branchy, I mean.'
‘It's okay. It's weird, but he seems …'
Lucas looked at her and nodded.
‘I grew up being taught to keep to my own species,' Elizabeth sighed sadly. ‘You are helping me break those boundaries. I like it.' She turned and smiled as he did the same.
They exited the forest and found the rocky path that led towards the town. They walked along until they finally arrived at the large stone wall that circled the town. It was higher than most gates and Lucas realised it was as tall as the table back in Charles's house. Approaching the gate, he felt for his amulet and sighed.
He looked at Elizabeth and said, ‘This is not a good idea to have around my neck.'
‘The amulet,' he replied. ‘It keeps falling out.'
‘We have no choice. We have no bags to store it in and the safest place is with you. We just have to be careful.' Elizabeth looked up at the gate.
As Lucas turned to look how far back the town stretched, he realised that he could not see the ending of the forever stretching stone wall. This town was gigantic! How were they supposed to find this Zachary man in a town this big?
The gate was made of two wooden doors that were as large as Charles was himself, reaching higher past the top of the stone wall. Two towers sat on each side of the door, each with what Lucas believed to be a guard's post at the top, but minus the guards. Elizabeth knocked and on the left door, a small piece of wood slid down and an old, worn face popped out.
Elizabeth looked up at the man and said, ‘We are travellers seeking refuge and food.'
‘What business do you have here?' the man asked with curiosity.
‘Our business is our own. We will not cause trouble,' she replied.
The man nodded and the wood flew back into place. With a loud creak the two doors opened and Lucas caught his first look at the wonder of Stelipse. He gasped at how much larger it was inside.
It looked exactly like a market. Aisles and aisles of stalls filled the streets, stretching as far back as the eye could see. Little double storey stone homes filled the area behind the stalls and two larger building sat across the road from each other at the front of the town. Carts with horses rode by, as did wagons similar to the one they saw a few days ago, but they could not move through the busy, packed streets. The most interesting thing he noticed was how this looked to him like the old-time markets he used to see in movies and read about in books.
As the pair walked down the packed streets, Lucas noticed a small stand from the corner of his eye and, walking over to it, he found books upon books scattered across the table. Not like the books he had back home, though, he did notice. They were only coloured blue, red, and green. He looked at the man behind the stand and noticed he was staring right at him and Lucas was instantly reminded of Mr. Dawn. He had light grey hair that was turning white and his odd glasses made him stand out of the crowd even more. His upside down triangle glasses pointed down towards his large, crooked nose and as the man smiled, Lucas saw how oddly white his teeth were. Not white like someone who brushed all the time but white as in bleached white.
‘Hello, my son,' the man greeted, his cold, flat voice sending chills up Lucas's spine. ‘What can I help you with? After a book with some adventure and romance?' He grabbed a blue book. ‘Or what about one with horrors and mysteries?' He placed the blue book down and grabbed a red one.
It was then that Lucas noticed a strange brown book he had not seen on the stand before. It had a rough covering and looked no bigger than a folder. Lucas gasped as he noticed something that made his skin crawl. On the front cover was a seal, a circular seal that bore familiar signs, a seal that looked like his amulet could fit into and unlock. The moment Lucas's eyes fell onto the book, he felt a strange sense of recognition. He grabbed the brown book, but the man snatched it out of his hands. The smile was gone, replaced by a hideous snarl.
‘This is not for sale.'
‘I'm … sorry,' Lucas mumbled. ‘I just … it seemed … what is it?'
The man stared at him suspiciously, but he answered, ‘An ancient book. It was said to belong to the Princess of the Elves long ago. Its pages are filled with spells and stories. No one has ever been able to open it.'
Elizabeth looked over and walked to where Lucas had disappeared to.
‘Lucas, what are you doing?'
He turned and whispered to her, ‘Look at the book in his hand.'
She turned and her eyes widened with shock. Her face quickly fell and she turned to the man and asked, ‘How much for the book in your hand?'
‘I told your friend it is not for sale.'
She stared at him coldly. ‘What do you want for it?'
‘Why do you want it so bad?' the man asked as he returned the cold stare. They stared at each other for what felt like ages.
‘Lucas? Can you hear me?'
Lucas flashed his eyes quickly in her direction but never moved any other part of his body. ‘I can.'
‘The book has a seal. It looks like your amulet can open it.'
‘He said it belonged to the Princess of the Elves. My mother's father was the elder. The book belongs to her.'
Elizabeth turned to the man. ‘Where did you get that book?'
‘I found it in a burning village years ago.'
‘How much for the book?' she asked again.
‘It is not for sale … unless …'
‘Yes?' they both replied.
‘I want his sword.' He pointed at Lucas and the sword that was by side.
Lucas looked at him, shocked, and replied, ‘No way. You're not having this.'
‘Maybe he can.' He turned to Elizabeth in shock. She shrugged as she reminded him, ‘You have telepathy. You can place images in people's minds as much as you can thoughts. Maybe, we can deceive him.'
‘I do not want to do that.'
‘Neither do I and it is something I wish I did not have to ask you to do. We do not have a choice, however. This man will not sell us the book and we cannot steal it. The book is now in his attention.'
She turned to the man and said, ‘Very well, but throw in a bag to carry it in and we have a deal.'
He smiled, his bleached white teeth shining bright. ‘Very well.'
The moment his back was turned, Elizabeth leaned down and took out her knife she kept near her ankle. As the man fiddled with the items, Lucas turned to the knife Elizabeth was holding. He imagined seeing himself from the man's point of view and he saw Elizabeth holding the sword. He saw that there was no sword by his waist. He stared at the man.
Elizabeth held out the knife as the man turned. Lucas stared into the man's eyes. See what I want you to see, he thought. The man looked at Lucas for a brief moment, his gaze blank and neutral as they stared into each other's eyes before he turned to Elizabeth and stared down at the small knife in her hand.
‘It is magnificent!'
It worked. Lucas turned and smiled at Elizabeth. She returned his gesture and as she held out her hand, the man passed her the bag. It was made from wolf skin, tied together with thick brown string, and quite heavy. Before she gave him the fake sword, she threw the bag at Lucas.
‘Check it,' was all she said.
He opened it and found the book was in there. ‘It's here.'
She handed the knife to the man and as he continued to bask in its beauty, she stared at Lucas and spoke in his mind, ‘Lucas, let's leave now.'
They turned and moved quickly through the crowd, continuing to walk until they reached one of the tall buildings Lucas had seen upon their first entrance to Stelipse. They entered the stone building on the right and shut the door behind them. They seemed to be in an inn, which also seemed to be a pub of sorts. Men and women were dancing around the tables, drinking and laughing, waitresses walked across the room with wooden trays in their hands, drinks and food piled high. It was very loud inside, the music roaring and deafening.
Wooden floorboards covered the ground and white marble stone was decorating the wall. Along the sides, table booths sat from one end to the other. A massive bar was in the middle and a kind-hearted man standing behind it. Elizabeth noticed an empty booth and dragged Lucas around. As they sat, he noticed that it was quieter near the booths than anywhere near the dance floor. Good, he thought to himself. I won't have to yell.
Elizabeth turned to him and said, ‘That was very lucky.'
‘I can't believe I did that,' Lucas mumbled. ‘How long before he realizes?'
‘Not that long.' Elizabeth sighed. ‘I am sorry, Lucas. It was the only way. We need to leave here fast. He will alert the guards when he realizes we used magic. Most likely, he will think we are elves.'
‘Thank you for helping me get the book.'
‘It is your mother's. It did not belong to him.' She smiled at him. ‘Come on. We'll ask the inn owner if he has seen this Zachary guy.'
As they dodged the drunken patrons, many still singing, dancing and laughing about their younger days, Lucas and Elizabeth reached the bar and moved towards the man behind it. The noise was very loud here, louder than at the back near the stalls. The man seemed very friendly, but as Lucas now knew, looks could be deceiving.
‘Excuse me!' Lucas yelled over the noise. ‘I'm searching for a man!'
‘What man?!' the barman yelled back.
‘I only know his name is Zachary. He is friends with a man named Charles.'
The man looked around his bar before turning back to Lucas and replying, ‘Sorry, kid. No one here by that name. At the moment, it is only my regulars. Try the bar across the road.'
They headed out of the bar and went into the stone building opposite. The moment the pair entered, they froze in shock. Inside, it was exactly the same as the previous building, except everything was backwards. The floor was marble and the walls were wooden. The stalls were on the opposite side and behind the bar was a woman, cleaning the top. The one major difference that they both noticed immediately was that there was no noise in here at all. Lucas looked at Elizabeth with a confused look.
‘Okay. Weird much,' he mumbled and walked over to the woman behind the bar. ‘Excuse me, miss. I am looking for a man named Zachary. He knows a friend of mine named Charles.'
Taking a look around the bar, she turned back to Lucas and frowned, ‘Sorry, love, haven't heard of him and everyone in here are my locals.'
As they walked outside, Lucas turned to Elizabeth and asked, ‘Is there anywhere else he may be?'
‘No. These bars are the most popular places.'
‘There they are!'
They both turned and frowned in union as the book man came running at them, four red guards at his feet. Elizabeth and Lucas both looked at each other as Elizabeth grabbed his arm and made for the escape, but they realised that the crowds had passed. At least eight guards now surrounded them and they were trapped.
One of the guards, obviously the leader, stepped forward. ‘This man claims you used magic to steal his book.'
‘We did no such thing,' Elizabeth laughed at him. ‘He asked for my knife and he got it.'
‘I did not! I wanted his sword.'
The guards turned and looked at Lucas's sword still by his side in its holder. The leader guard's mouth dropped when he saw the gems on the sword's hilt. ‘It's you.' All of the guards drew their swords as the guard yelled, ‘Kill the boy! Take the girl and retrieve the amulet!'
The guards charged as one. Lucas grabbed onto Elizabeth and flew straight up into the sky. People around them gasped and pointed as the guards froze in their steps. Lucas flew across Stelipse as people pointed, screamed and cheered and after flying across the entire town, he finally landed on the other side. He let go of Elizabeth, turned to her and said, ‘We have to find Zachary.'
‘We need to leave, Lucas.'
She turned and started moving through the crowd that was forming around her. Before they could get anywhere, the guards had reached them. They were fast, Lucas thought. Lucas and Elizabeth stepped back and felt their backs press against a wall. He drew his sword to the shock of Elizabeth.
‘Lucas! What are you doing?!'
‘I'm not running anymore.' In his right hand, he held his sword while with his left, he created an orange fireball. As he looked up, his eyes turned the familiar burning red Elizabeth had come to recognize. ‘This should be interesting.'
That was when Lucas noticed the bow and arrows. Around him on top of the wall, guards were surrounding them, aiming down at them with their weapons. Elizabeth looked at Lucas, terrified. She pulled out her sword. ‘We can't stop them all.'
Lucas frowned as he realised she was right. He could not count how many guards had now appeared. The first eight guards were there, but now reinforcements had arrived and Lucas lost count after fifteen.
‘Well, well, well. We meet again.'
Lucas turned and recognised Rafael walking out of the crowd. The leader of the guards walked over to the front of his men and smiled. ‘I knew you would be here, but I didn't think you would make it this easy.' His smile faded as he instructed, ‘Give me the amulet and the girl lives. You, on the other hand, will die either way.'
‘Not today he won't!'
A new voice yelled over the crowd and a dark shadow descended in Stelipse. A gigantic, horrific roar filled the air, causing Lucas and the screaming crowd of spectators to look up and gasp as a red dragon flew above them. The dragon descended low enough for a black clothed young man to jump from the dragon's back and land in front of Lucas. Their new ally had serious dark black eyes and his black hair was cut short to show his clean face.
The young man smiled warmly and nodded to Lucas. ‘Your Majesty, so sorry about the delay. I believe you were looking for me.'
‘Huh?' Lucas mumbled in confusion.
‘I am the Dragon Master.'
‘You,' Rafael hissed as he looked at the young man, hatred in his eyes. ‘You traitor. It is your head for this boy.'
Zach stared at him and smirked. ‘You can try.'
Rafael looked at him coldly before answering, ‘Fire when ready.'