Chapter Eleven - One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
The guards pulled back their arrows and aimed as Elizabeth screamed. The guards never had a chance. A massive trail of fire flew across the top of one side of the building, destroying them. The other guards turned and aimed at the dragon and fired. They never hit their target as it dodged and burned anything in its path. People ran screaming, pushing into the guards on the ground in a panic to escape the terrible ordeal they were seeing. Rafael grabbed his sword and charged at Lucas. Zach met him halfway.
Their swords clashed and Zach and Rafael fought as Lucas turned and noticed the guards regrouping. One of the guards turned to Lucas and pulled back the arrow. Lucas threw a blue fireball down around himself and Elizabeth just as the arrow nearly hit its target. The arrow burned before it could touch them, the guard looking on in shock. Lucas threw a fireball in return, hitting the guard and sending him flying off the wall. Other guards jumped off the wall, avoiding the fire on both ends. The ones that stayed on were not as lucky as Lucas knocked them off with fireballs one by one. The dragon threw back its head and roared as it flew in the sky.
Rafael and Zach's fight continued and very quickly, Rafael grabbed the advantage. He kicked Zach, knocking him off guard and Zach fell on his back. As Rafael raised his sword to bring it down and finish the fight, Lucas was there with his sword, blocking the attack and fighting like never before. Their swords clashed in the middle of the battlefield, Rafael swinging his sword low, trying to cut Lucas's legs, but Lucas jumped and landed behind him. He kicked Rafael and used his telekinesis to throw him back. Rafael collided with some guards who had just arrived to assist and the group fell hard.
Lucas turned and noticed Elizabeth in hand to hand combat with some guards herself. She was leaping in the air, slashing and stabbing. He turned in the other direction and saw Zach doing the same. Rafael screamed and charged for Lucas who once again held out his sword in preparation. The sound of metal clashing filled the skies as their blades collided against one another.
Rafael began to move closer towards Lucas as he attacked, forcing Lucas to step back. Lucas realised that he was trying to corner him and he did his best to defend himself. As Rafael swung low, Lucas leapt, landing behind him, but Rafael had planned for that and spun around before Lucas could react, slamming his foot into Lucas's stomach. Lucas fell into a heap onto the ground, and as the sword flew down, Zach's sword caught his former leader's and pushed back up, causing Rafael to be caught off guard.
‘Kill them all!' screamed Rafael in anger, his face red with fury.
Zach and Lucas stood back to back as guards ran towards them on all ends. Their swords clashed with their attackers, blocking each attack and sending one back of their own. As Lucas clashed with his opponent, Zach smiled and asked, ‘Care to trade?'
As Zach leaned forward, Lucas rolled over his back, landing in his place, and the pair took on each other's opponents. Lucas jumped as the guard swung low, avoiding the blade connecting with his knees. Lucas slammed his sword down, catching the guard off guard and dispatching his enemy.
Zach's blade clashed with his opponents until finally Zach's sword sliced through the man's chest. The moment he fell, another was upon him and he was back in the fight.
Elizabeth smiled as the men ran towards her. Noticing a couple of buckets nearby, she smiled and ran towards them as the guards began to chase her. Creating water balls in her hands, she threw herself to her side, turning her body in midair and throwing the balls at her opponents. The first hit the guard in the front, sending him flying though one of the stalls of food nearby. The second hit the next man, knocking him into the other guards.
All of a sudden, Rafael looked up and yelled at his guards, ‘Retreat!'
The men ran faster than Lucas could have imagined, yet Rafael stayed and had a sinister look on his face. He pulled out a whistle and blew, yet strangely no noise seemed to have come out of it. Lucas thought to himself, it must be like a dog whistle. So, what is he calling?
He got his answer immediately as the sky suddenly turned black. The three allies looked up in horror as hundreds of black, smoke shaped humans descended into the town. People ran screaming as the dark smoke shapes floated down to the ground, grabbing humans from all directions and raising them into the air, possessing all the men, women and children of the town. As their mist bodies were absorbed into the humans and they descended slowly, they all looked up and Lucas noticed their eyes were black as night. They were no different from the possessed man Lucas and Elizabeth had seen before. All of their eyes had what looked like black mist pouring out, reaching high into the sky.
Rafael smiled darkly as he smirked. ‘Seems it is the three of you against the entire town of Stelipse.'
Lucas looked on in horror as townsfolk crept forward, walking towards them, grabbing any weapons they could find, from swords and knives to planks of wood. Once again, Elizabeth and Lucas, and now Zach, were backed into a corner. Sinister faces stared at them as they approached. Zach looked up and saw Honour flying ahead. He could not help them now. He might be able to sweep down, but they would not have enough time to hop on before they attacked. Elizabeth was staring at the innocent children who now looked like they could commit murder. An idea popped into her head and she turned to Lucas.
‘Show them. Show them the amulet.'
He turned to her in shock. ‘What? I … I can't. Are you crazy?'
‘What choice do we have?' She looked at him with pleading eyes. He realised she was right, that he really had no choice.
Rafael smiled and commanded, ‘Kill them.'
The possessed townsfolk screamed and charged at them. Before they reached them, Lucas took out the amulet and held it in the air, turning his head and closing his eyes, awaiting death. The townsfolk froze and Zach looked on in awe as Rafael looked on in anger. The townsfolk all stared at Lucas and none moved. Lucas, slowly opening his eyes, waved the amulet from one side to the other. The heads of the townsfolk followed whatever direction the amulet moved.
Elizabeth turned to Lucas and whispered, ‘Say something.'
Lucas cleared his throat. ‘Ahem. Ah … hi. My name is Lucas, or here in Bomcard, I am also known as Prince Fredrick. Just don't call me that … because I'm Lucas.' In union, all the townspeople fell on their knees and bowed their heads. Lucas looked on in awe, turning towards Elizabeth and smiling. ‘Good idea.'
She smiled at him in response and nodded. He turned back to the possessed townspeople and asked, ‘Please stand.' They all did as he asked at exactly the same time, each in perfect harmony with the others. He smiled. ‘Ah … jump.' They all did. Elizabeth hit his arm and he shrugged at her. ‘What? It might be my only chance to have a little fun.'
He turned to the possessed people and said, ‘Is one of you … I wish to speak to the leader.'
A small child, who did not look older than ten, stepped forward. Her straight golden hair blew past her in the wind, her black eyes fading into a kinder, sweet green that glistened in the sun like his emerald.
‘Hello, Prince Fredrick.'
‘Please, call me Lucas, remember?'
‘Hello, Prince Lucas.' She smiled at Lucas and he realised it was not the evil, creepy smile from before that the townspeople had all possessed. She nodded to Lucas and said, ‘My name is Celeste. I am the leader of the Spirits.'
‘Lucas,' Elizabeth whispered as she grabbed his arm. ‘The guards are all gone.'
Lucas looked around and noticed that she was right. Rafael and the others had disappeared.
Celeste smiled at him, never taking her gaze away. ‘Do not worry about those men. He is gone.'
‘Shouldn't you be going back too? I mean, I thought your people were trapped.'
‘We were never trapped,' she replied, her smile never leaving her pretty face. ‘We served Lord Barback until the rightful heir returned. You have, so now we serve you. First, flee. We shall meet up with you again. We will leave here and these people. Go now.'
In one sudden, swift movement, the townspeople threw their heads in the air in sync, their eyes flashing black then red. The spirits left their bodies in a bright light that beamed up through their mouths and into the air. The people all collapsed, unconscious, as Lucas, Elizabeth and Zach all stared around them in shock. What just happened, Lucas thought to himself.
Out of the corner of his eye, Lucas noticed a red shape moving towards them. Honour swooped down and landed on the wall, his neck stretching out. Zach pulled himself up and he leant down to hold out his hand to Lucas, but he shook his head.
‘I'll fly myself, thanks.'
‘You sure you can keep up?' Zach smiled.
Lucas eyed him suspiciously. ‘Can you?'
Elizabeth grabbed hold of Lucas around the waist. ‘I'm going with you.'
Lucas nodded and watched as Honour leapt into the air and Lucas followed his lead. The dragon flew ahead of Lucas, heading away from Stelipse. Lucas followed, able to keep up quite easily. He was holding his arms around Elizabeth's waist while she continued to hug him closer.
‘Hold on,' he mumbled to her. She nodded and held on tighter.
Over the land a human, mermaid, elf-human hybrid and a dragon flew. They had been flying for about ten minutes when Lucas all of a sudden stopped in the air.
‘Wait! We have to go back!'
Elizabeth looked at him in shock. ‘What is it?' she asked.
‘We left Branchy.'
Zach and Honour had pulled back and landed on the ground. Lucas descended and landed next to them. ‘I have to go back. I left a friend back there.'
‘He is better off without you returning for him. Guards will be all over the place,' Zach informed him.
‘I'm not going to Stelipse. I'm going to the forest outside the town.'
‘Lucas,' Elizabeth whispered, her voice ignored by the arguing.
‘What are you talking about?' Zach looked at him angrily. ‘You can't go anywhere near that town.'
‘I won't leave him.'
Elizabeth turned sadly to Lucas, her eyes widened with shock and she whispered, ‘Lucas.' He turned to stare at her as she said, ‘I don't think there is a Stelipse anymore.'
Lucas and Zach turned in the direction she was looking. Black smoke hovered over the horizon and as Honour stared in the direction, he lowered his head in sadness.
‘It was another dragon. The town is laid to waste.'
Zach turned to interpret Honour's message, but Lucas beat him to the punch. ‘If the dragon only burned the town, there might be survivors.'
Zach looked at him, shocked. ‘You can hear Honour?'
‘Yes. Is that really his name?'
Honour looked at Zach then to Lucas. Zach turned to the dragon and said, ‘I thought only I could hear you.'
‘I thought only you could.'
‘I think it's because I'm a telepath.' Lucas shrugged as Elizabeth looked on, confused. Lucas shook his head and started running towards Stelipse. Elizabeth caught up to him and grabbed his arm. ‘You can't go back there.'
‘Branchy is out there. What if there are survivors? I cannot just leave. What if it was me trapped back there? What if it was you?'
With that, he was in the air and flying back towards the forest at an incredible speed. Elizabeth had never seen anything move that fast, not even the dragon.
Zach hopped onto Honour and held out his hand. ‘Come on! We better not let him go alone.'
She reached out and he pulled her up onto the dragon's back. Leaping into the air, they followed Lucas towards the forest.
* * *
Lucas walked slowly through the forest, the fallen branches of trees breaking under his feet and echoing in the dead silence. He turned in every direction looking for his friend, pushing away branches from trees to find the familiar face.
‘Branchy? It's me. I came back.'
Only dead silence replied as it filled the air. It was then that Lucas finally noticed him, his mouth falling open in shock.
Branchy's top half was on fire and some of his branches had been snapped off. Some bark was missing from his trunk and sap ran all down his body. His broken branches were scattered with his leaves on the ground below. To Lucas, it looked like the young tree had been tortured.
Lucas ran up to him, screaming the tree's name as the fire on his head continued to burn fast. Lucas leapt over a fallen log, running to his friend as he realised the fire would eventually engulf him completely.
‘No! Hold on!' Lucas screamed as he tried to control the fire, but he realised in horror that he could not. It was burning too fast and out of control and he knew that after it was done with Branchy, the fire would engulf the entire forest.
‘You cannot control a dragon's fire. It is far too powerful.'
Lucas turned as Elizabeth and Zach came running up from behind him. Elizabeth stopped in front of Branchy and closed her eyes, turning away in horror. Zach looked up and asked, ‘Honour, can you help him?'
The dragon landed on the ground and with a furious roar, Honour stretched out his large red wings and beat them continuously, blowing fast winds onto the flames. After the fire died, the group stared at Branchy in wait, but he still did not move. The Living Tree was badly burnt, his bark black and damaged, sap continuing to pour from his wounds.
Honour flew above him, reached down and grabbed the tree, pulling him up into the air. Lucas grabbed onto the roots as did Elizabeth and Zach. They held on as Honour flew above the trees, back towards the direction they were heading originally. As they flew over the ruins of Stelipse, Lucas saw the devastation the other dragon had created.
Anything that was still standing was burning. Fire was everywhere as the debris of fallen buildings lined the streets. Where there were no fallen buildings, there were dead bodies of the townspeople, scattered over all of Stelipse. Nothing moved down there. Not even the children were spared.
Lucas noticed the book stand where he had found his mother's book and saw that the stand was amazingly not destroyed. There was, however, a charred body leaning over the table as if to protect his books, its pointed triangle, soot covered glasses dangling from its nose. The two inns were no longer opposite looking. They had both been destroyed. Their roofs had collapsed and the walls had fallen in. Black smoke filled the air and the smell of burning bodies filled Lucas's nose.
‘There was nothing we could do, Lucas.'
He turned and saw Elizabeth looking at him with tears in her eyes.
‘That's not true,' he replied, turning back to the carnage. ‘We could have helped.'
‘We didn't even see the other dragon approach,' Zach frowned as he stared below at the carnage. ‘It moves quicker than Honour. We were gone no more than fifteen minutes. If we stayed here, we would be dead too.'
Lucas closed his eyes and they flew in silence for what felt like hours. When he did open his eyes, he noticed that the town was now behind him, the black smoke continuing to ascend into the air. Ahead of him, an open plain lay. There was no trees, no shelter. Large rocks were scattered around the plain, none resting next to another. It was then he noticed a small creek further ahead and he realised he could use it to help Branchy.
‘Honour, take us to the creek!' he yelled.
‘No. I shall take you to the elves.'
‘No! Take me to the creek!'
‘The elves will help your friend. They are better than a dirty creek. Trust me, young king.'
Lucas frowned, realising he would not win this argument, looked ahead and noticed that they were heading for a small forest past the creek. In the middle of the green forest, the trees nearly as tall as those back in Darkness Forest, he noticed a rock cave with an entrance passage. Outside the entrance, two long, pointy-eared guards stood in place. Standing in white metal chest plates, the men's swords were sitting in the ground, their hands resting on the hilts. Honour landed with Branchy and the teenagers fell off the roots. The guards ran straight up and aimed their weapons at Elizabeth.
‘Leave her! She is with me!' Lucas yelled at them.
‘On whose orders?' the one on the left demanded.
Lucas pulled out the amulet and let it fall in front of his shirt. The elves quickly fell on their knees, placing their arms across their shoulders, exactly as the centaurs did when Lucas had first met them.
‘Forgive us, my king,' the first man apologised.
‘Help my friend.'
‘She looks fine,' the second mumbled, disgust in his voice.
‘I meant, help the tree.'
The elves looked at each other before staring at Branchy. After a few moments silence, the first man answered, ‘Very well, my king.'
Honour scooped up Branchy on his back, which looked very silly and uncomfortable to Lucas. He followed one of the elves into the trees, Branchy weighing down the dragon.
‘I shall meet up with you soon.'
Lucas and Zach nodded.
The elf who first spoke walked up to Lucas. ‘Come. We have been expecting you.'
The three of them followed the elf as he walked into the cave. It was very dark and Lucas could hardly see anything, the air inside cold, making him shiver and his hair on his arms stick up. When they finally exited, Lucas had his first glimpse of the home of the elves.
They were in a valley made up of hundreds upon hundreds of trees, taller than the giants themselves were. In the tall green and brown leafed trees, wooden log houses and huts of those who lived there sat. Rope ladders and rope cords hung down from the houses, reaching down to the ground itself. Wooden planks stretched across each level, bridging the gap between houses. Every house was in one of the trees, all except for one.
The odd house sat at the bottom of the valley, all by itself. It looked like a little cottage with white marble brick walls and a red roof. Above the windowsill, a chime hung, blowing softly in the wind. Smoke poured out of the white stone chimney, but instead of being black, the smoke was white. It seemed out of place with the other huts in the trees and Lucas knew that someone important lived there.
The wooden door flew open and Lucas's mouth dropped. A familiar blonde-haired woman stepped out of the little house, followed by two men with sharp pointy ears. The moment she saw Lucas, the woman's mouth dropped too. Her light, crystal blue eyes filled with tears, her tired face lighting up into a smile. She dropped the basket of food she was carrying and ran to him. He pushed past his friends and met her halfway.
Mother and son ran to each other and grabbed the other in a hug. They fell down to the ground as Martha began crying. Elizabeth and Zach looked on and Zach noticed Elizabeth was crying as well.
‘My child! I cannot believe you are here!' Martha pulled herself back and placed her hands on Lucas's face. She smiled. ‘You look so much like your father!'
‘You look exactly how I pictured you! How I saw you in my dreams,' Lucas smiled back. ‘I have waited to meet you since Tom and Lucy told me you were alive.'
‘Tom and Lucy? Oh, Thomas and Lucinda. Are they well?'
‘They are well. They are back … home with my … foster mother.'
‘I'm sorry?' his mother asked, confused.
‘The woman who raised me,' he answered.
Martha looked upset. ‘Oh, my Fredrick. I am so sorry.'
‘I'm not Fredrick. I mean I am … To everyone here, that's my name. It's just … my name is Lucas.'
Martha smiled warmly at him. ‘My dear Lucas.' She started to cry once more as she grabbed him into a hug again.
* * *
Lucy was pacing the lounge room, anxious being home alone. She was waiting for Tom to return. She had been gone for five days, searching anywhere and everywhere for word on Lucas or how to get back. It had been seven days since he left. It was hard not knowing how he was going. With no way to contact Bomcard and no word from him, Lucy was very nervous. She did not like not knowing what was happening. Was he dead? Was he captured? Had he succeeded? So many questions ran through her mind.
Since Lucas's departure, Tom and Lucy had moved in with Linda. They had moved into one of the rooms left empty. As far as Linda knew, Lucas was missing. The house had been trashed and the police called. Lucas was now officially a missing person. The moment Tom and Lucy had “arrived” at the crime scene, Linda had been hysterical. After a few days, she asked them to move in with her when they claimed that their parents had left town for a few days. That way, when news finally arrived about Lucas, she knew where they all would be.
Lucy knew Tom was out watching a show – it was his way of keeping his mind of Lucas and how helpless they are. Lucy herself did not like theatre productions. She had always been a movie person herself. She and Tom had always talked about heading over to Hollywood if Lucas turned out to be human. Without him needing them, they could live their own lives. Tom had always joked that the movie industry would not be big enough for them. She had replied that anyone with a brain would not hire him to sing or dance.
They had never acted like this in Bomcard; Earth had changed them for the better. The music, lights, people and much more all contributed to their new outlook on life. They no longer had interest in fighting and conflicts. They would fight if called upon, but they no longer lived for the battle. She realised they were slowly becoming … human, picking up human traits, likes and dislikes. She wondered if Lucas was feeling the same in Bomcard. Was he adjusting? Was he feeling like he belonged there as much as she realised that Tom and herself belonged on Earth?
The front door slammed closed and Lucy looked up, her mouth dropping in shock. Tom was standing there except he looked ... different. He was wearing a black T-shirt from the musical Wicked with his jean pants. His new baseball cap had the word ‘Hairspray' printed on. He had posters under one arm and in the other he was holding at least five other bags with other souvenirs in them. Lucy could not hold it in and she burst into hysterics.
Tom looked at her with a huge smile on his face. ‘Lucy, you should have come! It was awesome! Look at all these things I got!' He walked over to the couch, putting his stuff down and opening bags, pulling out his new possessions.
The sound of the front door closing again caught their attention and they turned as Linda walked in, smiling.
‘Hi guys,’ she smiled weakly. Looking at Tom, she asked, ‘What happened to you?’
Lucy turned to Tom and asked, ‘Yeah, what happened? I thought you were going to only buy one thing?'
Tom looked at her and rolled his eyes. ‘I did. One thing from each play I saw plus others I walked past, but I think there was just one I didn't get to see.'
Lucy laughed. ‘I've been gone for five days. Please tell me you didn't spend all our money.'
Tom turned to her and leaned in. With a big smile on his face, he whispered softly, ‘Remember all that gold we brought over from Bomcard?'
‘Sure. It was only that small amount,' she replied, also in a whisper.
‘You will never believe how much we got for it when we traded it in! We are rich! Well, not entirely rich, but enough that I could go out and see what I wanted to!'
Lucy, still smiling, shook her head in disbelief as Linda turned to her and asked, ‘Any news yet?'
Lucy looked at her and frowned. ‘No word on Lucas.'
Linda looked confused. ‘What exactly did you do?'
‘Well, see, my father knows some private investigators. I went to visit him to see if he could help us out. He’s…on the case. No word yet though but he will let us know the moment he does.'
Linda frowned, tears forming in her eyes. ‘I hope he's okay. This not knowing – it’s killing me.'
Tom frowned as he placed a hand on her shoulder. ‘No news can be good news sometimes. I generally feel he is ok. I can’t explain it.' Turning to Lucy, he asked, 'What do you think?'
Lucy turned to him, pushing up her glasses. ‘I think you’re right. No news can be good news. I don’t like it however. I feel lost without knowing where he is.'
‘Any word on that other problem?’ Tom asked in curiosity.
‘What problem?’ Linda asked in curiosity.
‘About my parents,’ Tom interrupted quickly.
‘Tom’s parents bailed,’ Lucy lied, turning to face him as she tucked away a strain of hair.
‘Just before Lucas vanished. Tom was living with me.’
‘What? Do you think they could be involved?’ Linda asked in shock.
Lucy looked at her sadly as she replied, ‘No. From what I heard, no one knows exactly what went down here. There were no bodies, no blood. The private investigator said it was more likely Lucas ran away from home. He checked out Tom’s parents when I told him they left. He checked it out – their alibis are solid.'
Linda looked at her in pain. ‘This is killing me.'
‘We know,’ Tom replied, placing his hand on her shoulder again. She smiled weakly, slowly making her way to the kitchen. Tom looked at Lucy and asked, ‘You okay?’
Lucy looked at him, her eyebrows rising. ‘What did you do to the body?'
‘All you need to know is it’s gone. Its better them thinking he ran away, then him being dead.'
‘It would work to his advantage,’ Lucy slowly nodded in agreement. ‘I don’t like this Tom. I don’t like not knowing where he is or how he is going. This is killing me as well. And to lie to Linda as well?'
Tom nodded, frowning. ‘I know, but we have too.'
The pair stood together in silence, fear in their eyes. Tom grabbed Lucy in a hug as she softly began to cry in his arms. After a few moments, Lucy headed over to the window and stared out. She could only hope that Lucas was still alive and he could hold a little longer until they get there.
* * *
Lucas and Martha walked around the elfin village. They had been filling each other in on the past sixteen years of stories from childhood, to school and even his battles with David. Lucas discovered that Martha had lived with the elves after his disappearance. Her father Jacob had died a few years ago in a battle with some Stalkers that had been discovered to still exist. He had managed to destroy them, but it cost him his life. Martha had become Queen of the Elves and now that Lucas had returned, she claimed her role as queen was over.
‘Now that you have returned, you will take your rightful place. You are King of the Elves,' she told him.
‘I don't understand,' Lucas replied. ‘You are still alive, so shouldn't you still be the queen?'
‘No,' she replied with her warm smile. ‘When the king dies, their first son becomes king. If he has no son, his daughter will become queen. If she has younger brothers, they will be king before she is queen. However, if she has no siblings and has children, if she has a son, he will replace her and become king once he comes of age at fifteen. You are now sixteen, thus my role is complete and you are king.'
‘I don't want to be king …'
She looked at him with sad eyes. ‘It is a daunting task, but it is your birthright. If you had lived in Bomcard and not on Earth, you would still be king now. I can guide you and help you, but you are the one the other elves will listen to, and not just the elves. Remember, the elves are rulers of all magical species. You are now king of them all as well as King of Bomcard. That is from your father's side of the family.'
He looked at her, shocked. ‘So … I'm king of … everything?'
She smiled warmly. ‘Yes. I did say it was daunting.'
‘I don't want to be king,' Lucas repeated, staring down and avoiding her kind eyes. ‘I just … want to be normal. Live my life the way a kid my age is supposed to live it. Not having to make battle strategies or learning how to fight. Not killing monsters and humans to survive.'
Martha frowned. ‘If I could lift you of this burden, I would have already. I do not wish this upon you. When you left, a part of me wished you would not return because I knew this would await you. In my heart, my sole wish was that you would live your life happy and free. You can do this, and I will be by your side every step of the way. If you need help, just ask.'
After a brief moment, Martha smiled and said, ‘You seem to want to ask me a question. You can.'
‘Why do some people call me a prince and others a king?' Lucas asked her, curiosity in his voice.
‘Many already consider you the king,' Martha replied warmly. 'Some do not believe you have earned that title. One day, everyone will see you as their king, however until then, many will still believe you only a prince.'
Lucas smiled and nodded. They continued to walk through the village, waving at the younger elves who waved at him. He had met some of the older elves, including the leader of the elfin army, Nicholas.
Nicholas was a very scary elf. He was built like a body builder but was faster than anyone Lucas had seen. He had scars all across his arms, each one with a different story. Nicholas had proudly shown them to Lucas upon their first meeting. He also introduced Lucas to the other soldiers, all who were honoured to meet him. Some elves, like his army, were happy to see their new king; some were not.
Nicholas had told him that those who were not happy were only so because they knew he would bring war upon them. Lucas had informed Nicholas he did not want to drag them into war, but he had replied that it did not matter. They would follow him, even if they did not want to.
Lucas and Martha were now standing on the platform that stretched from the two top guard posts. They looked down on the town and Lucas noticed Elizabeth tending to Branchy.
The Living Tree would be fine. He was still in shock from the torture that he had endured. They had discovered that Rafael had been the one that carried out the torture, and Branchy revealed only what he knew: that Lucas was in town looking for a man. They had left him for dead and headed back to Barback. They had only discovered Branchy because he had come out of the forest looking for Lucas and fled when he saw the guards. They gave chase and the rest is … painful, Lucas thought. He had never wanted this to happen.
Elizabeth had not left his side. She felt bad from being rude to him earlier and now refused to allow anyone to harm her new friend. Neither had Zachary, who helped her clean his cuts and break off the dead branches. Zach's dragon companion, Honour, lay behind Branchy protectively. He looked up at Lucas, his head tilting to its side.
‘Are you okay, King Lucas?'
Lucas shook his head. ‘No. I did not want … I should have been there, to protect Branchy, to protect Stelipse.'
‘You did what you could. We had no choice. If we remained in the town, we would also be dead.'
‘We should have stayed. You can take on that dragon.'
Honour shook his head. ‘Not at the moment. I only woke up from my enchanted sleep a few days ago. I will need a least another day or more to be at full strength. I would have perished very quickly.'
Lucas hung his head in disappointment. He felt Martha's hand on his. ‘You couldn't do anything. Honour is right.'
Lucas turned to her in shock and asked, ‘You can read minds?'
She smiled at him as she replied, ‘You had to inherit it from somewhere, right?'
Lucas smiled. ‘What else did I inherit from you?'
‘My telepathy and I also have limited telekinesis. Your fire ability is from your grandfather. Oh, also my eyes. Your father's look, but my eyes...and hair.'
Lucas frowned. ‘I just wish I could have done something.'
‘Lucas, you could not. You risked your life, but more importantly, you did not know what would happen.'
‘Lucas, you may want to come down here. It seems we have visitors,’ Elizabeth’s voice called out softly in his mind.
Lucas and Martha looked down but did not see anyone; however, Elizabeth and Zach did. As they reached the others, Lucas turned, shocked to see who was waiting for him. The little girl from Stelipse was there, her eyes once again green and human looking, yet she had the same dark smile on her face from their first encounter.
‘Hello, Your Majesty,' the little girl greeted, ‘So, this is where you fled to. Interesting.'
Celeste walked forward and from behind her, black human shadows followed. The Spirits floated above her and when she stopped, they surrounded her, protecting her in case of danger. The elves looked on in horror at the visitors to their peaceful home, the little children running to their parents for protection.
Lucas walked up to her and asked in disgust, ‘Celeste? How could you … how could you still have this … child? What happened to her people … was ... was …' He could not control himself and his voice began to shake with anger and disgust.
‘A terrible fate,' Celeste finished. ‘All those people are now part of our people.'
‘But the child you are using …'
‘It is only her body. I no longer possess her, King Lucas. She perished in the town, killed by a guard. I am using her body.'
Lucas turned white in the face and started shaking with anger. Elizabeth walked up and grabbed his hand. ‘Breathe,' she whispered. ‘She died. She is not in there with her.'
Lucas turned to Celeste and said, ‘You cannot do this. You cannot possess her.'
‘Would you rather we possess the living?' she replied. ‘We do not do this by choice. We cannot move on. We have no choice if we wish to help you. Is it better possessing a dead, useful body or possessing a living person who would continue to fight you for control? People in this world, when they die, they become us. Until then, they will fight for control of their own body. We have their memories now. The little girl felt no pain. We did try to save them.'
‘You did?' Lucas stopped shaking.
‘Yes.' Celeste looked at him sadly. ‘We did try. They were innocents. We knew it was what you would want. We arrived too late. We could only witness the ending of the event and the aftermath.'
Lucas nodded sadly. ‘Very well, but why are you here?'
Celeste smiled. ‘Lord Barback is spreading the word that you and the elves destroyed Stelipse. We have come to warn you, and aid you in battle.'
‘What battle? We are not even close to one.'
Celeste frowned. ‘We are, I am afraid. Lord Barback knows your location. That is how we could find you. We followed him.'
As soon as the words left her mouth, people flew into panic. Elves, who were listening into the conversation, grabbed their young, screaming and running to pack belongings. Panic spread fast. Martha tried calming people down as did Elizabeth, to no avail.
Nicholas came running in from the entrance of the valley and ran up to Lucas, yelling, ‘My king! It is true! On the horizon!'
‘What?' Lucas asked nervously.
‘Sir, there are hundreds of guards and not just humans.'
‘What do you mean?'
‘Sir, he has the goblins and dwarfs with him.'
Lucas turned to Celeste, anger in his voice. ‘Did you lead them here?'
She shook her head. ‘I followed them, not the other way around. I said that. I have no reason to lie.'
Zach walked up to Nicholas and asked, ‘How did he find our location, if Celeste is telling us the truth?'
‘I do not know,' Nicholas replied. He turned back to Lucas and added, ‘Lord Barback is also with them.'
Elizabeth looked at Lucas and said, ‘We're not ready. We can't fight!'
Lucas noticed Zach looking around nervously. He turned back to Elizabeth and whispered,
‘They won't help us. You can't attack humans. It's only three of us and Honour.'
Lucas looked at her and around him. Everyone was panicking except Celeste and Martha, the only ones who stared at him completely calm. Lucas flew up to the top two guard towers. He stared down at the people and yelled, ‘Enough!'
Everyone froze in place. They all looked up at him as he stared down at them. Elizabeth could not be sure, but as she continued to stare at him, she thought she noticed his eyes change colour. They were the same green colour as the emerald on her necklace, the same green she thought she had seen before in his eyes.
‘I am as terrified as you are!' Lucas yelled to those below. ‘I don't wish to fight. If it was my choice, I would flee too until we are ready. When I lived on Earth, I was in numerous fights. I was bullied and attacked, and I never won because I was never ready to fight. Then one day I was. I stood my ground and I won.' Lucas looked around as he spoke, his voice echoing over the village.
He looked down and continued. ‘I do not know if today is our day to be ready to stand our ground and claim victory. We have no choice; we cannot run. I am King Lucas of Bomcard. I am king of the elves. I am king of magical creatures. I am king of the humans. I will not run. I will not flee. I promised to myself when I came to Bomcard not to allow anyone to destroy it. I am here to change destiny. First, it is time for a change in law.'
Everyone looked up at him, confused.
‘No longer are magical creatures forbidden to touch humans. If it is in self-defense, if it is to protect, then it will be allowed. You cannot stand by and allow evil humans to harm you. You must protect yourself instead of fleeing.'
Everyone's mouths dropped open.
‘We shall stand together - elves, humans, spirits, mermaids, dragons and trees. We will defend the best we can. We will fight the best we can.
‘I do not wish this on anyone. I will not ask you to remain. I will not ask you to risk your lives for me. I will ask that you will stay if you wish to, if you want to. Everyone else, flee now. I will fight for all of you, even if no one remains behind.'
Lucas floated down to the bottom of the village. Elizabeth shook her head. She must have been imagining his eyes. Maybe it was the light, she thought as both she and Zach walked up to him.
‘We're staying.' Elizabeth smiled as she informed him of their decision.
‘Till the death,' Zach added.
‘Till the death,’ a soft voice agreed. Lucas turned and nodded to Honour.
Martha walked up to him with Nicholas and said, ‘Lucas, I shall take those who wish to leave to safety. I will try to contact the centaurs to assist. I do not know if I will succeed or if they will arrive in time.'
‘Can you take Branchy with you? I know it’s silly …'
‘It is not. I shall.'
‘Thank you.' He looked at her sadly and they hugged each other. ‘It feels like I only just got you back.'
‘I will see you again, my son.' She broke away from him and with tears in her eyes, turned and ran into the crowd.
Nicholas looked at him and said, ‘The army is staying.'
Lucas nodded. ‘Let's not let them in here. People will still be attempting to leave.'
Nicholas nodded in agreement. ‘We shall meet you at the entrance, my king.' With that he was off, other elves following his lead and heading to grab weapons.
‘We shall assist as well,' Celeste smiled, turning to Lucas.
And with that, Elizabeth, Zachary, Celeste and Lucas turned and ran after Nicholas and the elves. Honour roared and flew into the air, the Spirits flying with him and all around them while the elves continued to panic and flee.