Chapter Twelve - Unprepared
Lucas, Elizabeth, Celeste and Zach reached the end of the tunnel, and as they looked out over the horizon, they witnessed Barback and his army approaching. There has to be hundreds of each of the guards, goblins and dwarves, Lucas thought to himself. He turned around and looked at his small army. He had a small number of elves and Spirits but not as many as Barback had in humans and magical creatures. He had Celeste, Elizabeth and Zach. He had Honour and for a moment felt safe. Then he finally saw Dominance.
It was twice the size of Honour, its black scales shining in the sun. The black dragon landed near its master and it was then that he saw Lord Barback for the first time. It was the monster from his dreams, down to the same red robe and complete with his shiny silver sword hanging by his side. Lucas shuddered as he realised that his dream was slowly becoming reality.
Elizabeth walked up to him and squeezed his hand. ‘We'll survive,' she mumbled, ‘We'll win. We'll succeed.'
He turned to her and noticed she was not talking to him. She was talking to herself, reassuring herself everything will be fine. Unfamiliar fear covered her face. Honour landed behind him as Zach approached Lucas on his other side. Next to Elizabeth, Celeste stood by her side. Both she and Zach nodded at Lucas and Elizabeth dropped his hand.
Lucas turned around and looked at his army. Elves in battle armour filed in behind him. Spirits flew above them in silence. They had no bodies to possess, at least at the moment. There were some elves near the entrance, bows in their hands, and Lucas could not help but wish that the centaurs were here.
Lucas turned back and drew his sword as Lord Barback did the same. Both dragons roared and breathed fire in the air. As Lucas held out his sword in front of him, he yelled out, ‘For Bomcard!'
Zach turned, holding his own sword high above him and yelled in response, ‘For Bomcard!'
Lord Barback's army ran towards them as Lucas's army yelled back and ran to meet them. Swords clashed and bodies fell. The elves were taking no prisoners. They had permission to break the law and they were taking full advantage.
Celeste leapt into the air with Elizabeth grabbing her hand. As the two flew across the field, Elizabeth dropped right into the middle of the fight. She slashed away at the guards as they attacked. Celeste landed nearby, attacking without mercy.
Lucas ran halfway and was intercepted by some goblins and dwarves. The dwarves looked exactly like he had imagined. They just looked like little people with long beards that reached their waists. Their clothes were made from cotton, each wearing the same brown pants and light grey tops.
The goblins looked as hideous as he had imagined as well. They had long, pointy ears and noses and were as tall as the dwarves. They had different coloured skins, some green, some grey and even red. They were also faster than the dwarves. They swung their swords at Lucas, but he flung them back with his powers. Just as a goblin struck out his sword to connect with him, Lucas flew up into the air. As he flew above them, he shot fireballs down, connecting with his attackers, defeating them.
He turned to see Honour flying up into the sky and towards Dominance. Their claws cut into each other and they both roared in pain, fire flying across the sky as they screamed fury at each other.
Lucas looked down and found Lord Barback staring at him. He flew down and landed a few feet away from him. He held out his sword, but Lord Barback just laughed.
‘You believe you can defeat me?'
His chilling voice made Lucas flinch. It was so cold, so evil. He was confident he would win. Lucas was not but he knew he could not let Lord Barback see that and replied, ‘I believe I will.'
Lucas flew forward and their swords clashed. They fought, swords colliding as they both tried to defeat the other. Lucas was holding his own in their fight, but Lord Barback was better, parrying away his attacks.
All of a sudden, Lucas heard a horrible roar. Both he and Lord Barback looked up to see Honour fall out of the sky and land near some goblins, squashing many. He quickly turned to see Zach run towards his fallen dragon. Lord Barback took advantage of Lucas's distraction and kicked him in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him. He fell to the ground and as Lord Barback closed in, Lucas threw a fireball at him. Lord Barback spun in the air backwards but not quickly enough. The fireball connected with his hood, setting it alight, and Lord Barback ripped it off in frustration. As he slammed his robe off onto the ground, he turned to Lucas and he gasped.
Staring at him was the face of someone who looked exactly like he did, with only small details that were different: the face with the green eyes instead of blue; the messy, sandy blond hair; the large battle scar spreading across his face. He knew exactly who this man was without even having been told or seeing a picture. With his sword falling out of his hand, Lucas froze as he stared at the face of his dead father.
* * *
Elizabeth slashed away at guards, dodging attacks from every angle. She could not believe that she was having this much fun even in a time like this. Her father had raised her to enjoy the fight.
She turned just in time to avoid a sword flying for her midsection. She swung around and the attacker missed her. She grabbed the man's arm and brought her knee up to it. He dropped the sword and she punched him in the face. As he fell back unconscious, she picked up his sword just as another guard had approached her. As her new opponent swung his sword down for the kill, she swung her new sword to defend herself. The swords clashed as they fought. He swung at her low and she back flipped to avoid being hit. As she landed, she launched herself forward, plunging her sword into the man's chest. He fell and she turned to see the carnage.
They were failing. Even with the elves and Spirits on their sides, they could not win. They wouldn't win.
Elizabeth looked around and noticed Celeste. The little girl body, now possessed by a deadly foe, moved so fast that everyone she struck down did not even realise it was a little girl attacking them. The black shapes of the spirits flew down and began to possess the falling bodies around their leader.
All of a sudden, Elizabeth heard Honour roar in pain. She turned in horror to see the red dragon fall out of the sky. Celeste ran over towards Elizabeth.
‘Are you harmed?' She looked at Elizabeth with a confused expression.
‘No,' she replied. Celeste threw a bow at her. She nodded to the person she just killed.
‘Then get started. Zach needs my assistance.' With that, she was off in the air, heading towards Zach who was running towards Honour's body.
Elizabeth turned and smiled as an elf ran towards her, her familiar arrow case in his hand.
Smiling, he passed it to her and replied, ‘Queen Martha thought you could use this.'
Elizabeth nodded and threw the case across her back, reached back and grabbed the arrows she had gained from the centaurs. She turned in time to see three bulky men running towards her. She loaded her bow and fired, hitting one in the middle. She loaded another and fired, realising she could not hit both men that remained. One would reach her before she could load another arrow. Just as the last one reached her, he raised his sword. She ducked under his legs and just as he turned to swing the sword down, an arrow pierced his chest. She turned around to see Martha standing at the cave entrance with her bow and behind her, more elves stood with their own bows. They aimed and fired and more guards, goblins and dwarves fell as arrows plummeted down on the battlefield.
As Elizabeth watched in awe, more of the black spirits descended into the bodies of the dead and took their new bodies into battle. The newly possessed human bodies, complete with the familiar black eyes with steam, attacked the goblins and dwarves.
Elizabeth grabbed her sword and ran back into battle with a smile.
* * *
Zach swung and stabbed his way through the crowd. His training as a guard was paying off. He was younger and faster than they were and in some ways, he was smarter too. He was dodging attacks from all over. He knew Honour was fighting for his life above and knew he should be with him.
A deafening cry roared over the battlefield. Zach looked up and noticed in horror that Honour was falling out of the sky, landing near a bunch of goblins. He knew that Honour was too far for him to reach before the goblins did, but he still ran. He had never run that fast or hard before. The next thing he knew, he felt like he was running so fast he was flying across the battlefield, and as he looked down, he finally realised he was. Celeste had grabbed him, flying faster towards Honour.
‘You can't do this alone. May I assist?' she asked with a smile.
‘Thanks,' he replied, smiling back.
Celeste dropped him before Honour and she landed next to him. Both pulled out their swords and Celeste stared oddly at his sword before staring at him, her mouth opening in shock. He turned to face her, confusion on his face and he moved uncomfortably. She turned back to the battle just as a goblin with a sword reached Zach and their swords clashed. The goblin, which was half the size of Zach, swung low. Zach could not fight the faster creature and moved back. He felt his back touch Honour and realised he was trapped. Either he would be harmed or Honour would, and he knew who he preferred.
He ran forward, prepared to die before his dragon. The fire moved faster and hit the goblin. Zach turned and saw Honour's head fall back down.
‘I am sorry. I have failed.'
‘No! You have not! You did well.' Zach knelt by Honour, his hands on the dragon's head.
‘I have failed and I am hurt. I … do not know if I shall live. You must leave me and defend yourself.'
‘I will not!'
‘It is not worth your life. For a dragon, the death of his master is worse than its own death. Do not let me watch you die. If it is my time, I accept it.'
‘Shut up! You will not die! I will not let you! I will protect you to the death!' Zach stood up and turned to see Celeste nodding towards the approaching goblins.
‘To the death,' Zach repeated in a whisper.
‘To the death,' Celeste
* * *
Lucas stared at the body of the man who was once his father. He was exactly as his memory reminded him, down to the scar and even the battle armour. The face however, showed none of its warmth as it smiled an evil, cold smile at him and laughed.
‘What's wrong? Seen a ghost? Why don't you come over here, to your father?'
‘You're not my father,' Lucas replied, his voice shaking. He could not help his body shaking as much as his voice. His eyes began to flash between emerald green and his natural blue, but neither Lord Barback nor Lucas seemed to notice.
Lord Barback smiled. ‘No, I'm not. Quite useful little trick of mine, taking your father's body. He might have been a little old, but oh my … can he move.'
Lucas looked at him with hatred in his eyes. ‘I will kill you for this.'
Lord Barback laughed and took a step towards him, holding out his arms. Lucas looked down at the ground. ‘I would like to see you try that. You cannot. I am stronger than you in every way and once I am done with you, I think I might pay your mother a visit. It's been a while after all.'
Lucas clenched his fists so tight, blood began to ooze from where his fingernails cut into his skin. He looked up and Lord Barback noticed his eyes had stopped changing and finally decided on a colour. His eyes were now completely green and now his hair was flashing from blond to honey brown. Eventually, his hair settled on the honey brown and as he stared at Lord Barback, an odd smile appeared on his face.
Lucas moved faster than anyone saw and swung out a punch. He hit Lord Barback across the face, sending him flying across the battlefield into the crowd and sending many goblins and guards flying. He flew up into the air and then flew towards his opponent. Lord Barback was already up and in the air, flying towards Lucas and both swung out punches. Their punches collided and created a massive loud blast and force that pushed them both back. The force of the collision sent those nearby flying back as well. Everyone froze and looked up in the sky, too scared and fascinated to do anything.
Lucas stood floating in the air, never once stopping his face from smiling. Lord Barback stood across from him, staring at him coldly. Without a word, both flew towards the other.
Elizabeth looked up and finally noticed the change that happened to Lucas. Her mouth dropped open. She had never seen anything like this - it was very beautiful but also terrifying. She looked around and noticed everyone had stopped fighting. Lord Barback's army had started to retreat and she stared at them, confused. As she continued to try to piece together what was happening before her eyes, she did not notice Rafael approach from behind.
Zach and Celeste looked up at Lucas in shock as Honour lay unconscious behind them.
‘What happened to him?' Zach asked.
Celeste looked even more shocked than Zach. ‘I don't know. He seems … different.'
Zach looked at her. ‘What do you mean by different?'
She pointed at Lucas. ‘See how he moves, the way he throws his punches and dodges the attacks. That is not Lucas. That is not how he moves. Not the way he moved in Stelipse.'
Zach looked up at Lucas, terrified. ‘That is impossible. If that isn't Lucas, then who is it?'
Celeste turned to him, her face white with fear. ‘I am not sure. It may be another … personality.'
He turned to her. ‘What do you mean, personality?'
‘Lucas has always been torn over being who he is and being who we need him to be. Am I correct?'
‘Yeah, he has, from what Elizabeth told me.'
Celeste looked back at Lucas and her face was filled with pain and confusion. ‘What if that is Lucas, but another part of him he has been hiding, the part of him that accepts who he is.'
Zach looked at her and asked, ‘Does this mean he has changed for good?'
Celeste never took her eyes off Lucas. ‘I don't know.'
‘What about that punch thing?'
‘Well, Lucas uses telekinesis, correct? Well, so does Lord Barback. I believe when they threw their punches at each other, their power is behind it and not their strength. This creates the blast and sends them flying.'
Zach looked at her, white faced. ‘Isn't that dangerous?'
‘Very,' she whispered, staring up at the battle.
Lucas flew towards Lord Barback and swung out his leg. His kick connected with Lord Barback's stomach, sending him flying back. He recovered quickly and launched forward, throwing his fists out. Lucas blocked both punches and brought his knee up, connecting with Lord Barback's stomach again. He raised his arms, clenching his fists together, and brought them down on top of Lord Barback's head, sending him flying down towards the ground.
As Lord Barback landed, he flew back onto his feet just as Lucas landed where he had fallen, with his fist now connecting with the ground. The ground shook and cracked under the pressure and Lord Barback launched forward, leaping into the air and connecting his foot with the side of Lucas's head, sending him flying to the ground. The hit did not seem to hurt Lucas who jumped back up onto his feet and shot two fireballs at Lord Barback.
Lord Barback leaped into the air, flying through the gap between the two balls of fire. He landed and launched forward, punching Lucas with both fists, one after the other. Lucas grabbed both of his fists and squeezed them, forcing Lord Barback onto his knees. He kicked Lord Barback in the chest, releasing his hold at the same moment, his foot connecting and sending him flying back. Lord Barback landed on his knees and looked up. Blood oozed from his mouth and he spat some out. Red and black bruises covered his face. Lucas stood up straight, his mouth and face also bleeding and bruised.
‘Well, this is interesting!' Lord Barback called to Lucas, standing and smiling coldly. His evil eyes stared into Lucas's and never left. Lucas did not reply but started to smile at him again causing Lord Barback's own smile to fade.
‘You are pathetic,' Lucas spoke in an unusual cold voice.
‘How did you change? How are you doing this?' Lord Barback asked with curiosity.
Lucas smiled darkly. ‘I am stronger than you. You know that, don't you?'
Lord Barback stared at Lucas angrily, his face turning red with fury. ‘You are not stronger than me. You may have changed your appearance, but you are still that small scared boy I began to fight before.'
Lucas tilted his head. ‘I am not that same boy, because I am not Lucas.'
Lord Barback stared at him in confusion. ‘What do you mean?'
‘Lucas went … on a little trip. You are dealing with me now.'
‘It does not matter. As fun as this was, it is time to finish this. I want that amulet now.'
Lucas's hand flew to his chest and felt where the amulet still laid. He looked around and noticed that Lord Barback's army had now all retreated behind him. Dominance still flew in the air, circling above the battlefield. Lucas looked behind him from the corner of his eyes and saw that his group were behind him. He noticed Celeste and Zach moving towards him. The war had stopped. The victory had come down to Lord Barback and him. Lucas looked back at Lord Barback.
Lord Barback launched himself towards Lucas before he had time to see him move. He was struck hard and went flying to the ground. Lord Barback landed next to him and slammed his foot into Lucas's chest. He pushed down and Lucas yelled in pain.
Lord Barback reached down, ripped the amulet out from under his shirt and held it out, yelling, ‘We have the amulet!'
A mighty roar carried over the battlefield. Celeste, Zach and some elves and spirits ran towards the two. Lord Barback flew backwards into the air and landed above his army. Dominance flew downwards and roared as a massive fireball flew out of his mouth, creating a wall between Lord Barback's army and Lucas's own.
As the others ran to Lucas, they noticed his appearance had changed back to normal. His new honey brown hair was blond again as were his normal blue eyes. Celeste kneeled next to Lucas. ‘Are you all right?'
He looked at her, confused. Before he could reply, both Zach and Celeste grabbed one of his arms each and helped him up. Lucas turned to the flames and found it reached high into the air. It started to move towards the cave as it grew in size and he looked behind him, yelling to his army to retreat.
The elves and spirits ran back to the entrance while Zach ran towards Honour's unconscious body with Lucas and Celeste following him. Zach turned towards them. ‘We can't leave him.'
Lucas looked around. ‘We can't lift him ourselves. We can't do anything.'
‘My friends! Friend Lucas!'
The three of them turned around and noticed the familiar bouncing tree waving his branches from the entrance of the cave. Still badly hurt, Branchy limped over to them on his arms.
'Allow me to assist!'
The young Living Tree picked up the dragon by the chest and placed him on his back. He started to hop over towards the cave, dragging the rest of the dragon's body. Zach ran after him, but Celeste stopped when she noticed Lucas had not moved.
She looked at him in concern. ‘Lucas, what is wrong?'
He turned to her, white with shock. His face was full of fear and his voice shook as he asked her, ‘Where is Elizabeth?'
Celeste looked around as the last of the army entered the cave. Only Lucas and Celeste were outside. They looked past the flames and noticed Barback and his army had disappeared. They looked around and saw the dead bodies from the battle. Lucas ran down towards the carnage, Celeste screaming as she followed. As they both searched the bodies, the fire moved closer to them.
Celeste grabbed Lucas's arm and yelled, ‘We have to go!' Lucas started coughing from the black smoke moving closer towards them, shaking his head. She grabbed his arm tighter. ‘It was not a request.'
The pair ran back towards the cave and as they reached the entrance, they turned to see the flames continuing to move towards them. Lucas turned to Celeste and asked, ‘What do we do? How do we stop this?'
Celeste turned to Lucas and frowned. ‘I do not know. Only dragons can control their fire.' Lucas turned to the flames. They were almost upon them. Celeste started coughing and reached out for his arm. ‘We have to go inside.'
Lucas did not move. As he stared out at the flames, his hair once again changed to honey brown and his eyes were emerald green. He held out his hand towards the fire. Celeste turned and saw the flames starting to move back. No, she thought. Not move back, but shrink. Lucas was extinguishing the flames. The black smoke faded and eventually the flames disappeared. His hair and eyes once again returned to normal as he stumbled and fell. Celeste grabbed him as he landed, taking a hold of his arm.
‘Help me!' she yelled into the cave.
Nicholas and Zach ran out in an instant, running over to Lucas and Celeste and grabbing a hold of Lucas on each side and helping him into the cave.
They entered the valley and discovered the aftermath of the war. Dead bodies had been carried in and were covered with sheets. Spirits floated in the trees, moaning and crying. Wives and children cried over their dead husbands and fathers. The injured lay nearby, bandages already having been wrapped around some of them. Some had burns while others had worse injuries.
Honour and Branchy sat under the tree next to Martha's house. Martha was with them, tending to Honour, who was not moving. Branchy was trying to help, wetting his leaves and brushing them over Honour's head. Blood oozed out of the claw marks in his sides and on his face.
Many turned up to Lucas and continued to cry. He looked around and saw all the pain and damage the war had caused and in that moment, he blamed himself.
‘If I hadn't come back …'
Celeste, Nicholas and Zach looked at him, all with confused looks. Zach spoke first. ‘What do you mean?'
‘This wouldn't have happened … he wouldn't have …' Lucas turned away, tears in his eyes.
‘Why did I do this? I know I should have stayed on Earth.'
Zach grabbed him by the shoulders and turned him around. ‘Pull yourself together. You did not do this. It is not your fault.'
‘Barback has the amulet, Elizabeth is missing, elves are dead and Honour is badly hurt. He could die. Branchy too.'
Celeste walked up to him and slapped him. Zach and Nicholas looked at her, shocked.
'Well, that escalated fast,' Zach mumbled to Nicholas.
Celeste ignored the other two as she stared at Lucas and said, ‘Get over it - move on. This would have happened eventually. If you hadn't returned, we would all be dead in the fire.'
‘The amulet -’
‘Yes, that is a great misfortune. However, Barback would have found a way into your world. He would have killed you and taken the amulet. Prophets foresaw it. Either way, he would have stolen the amulet. This way, you live and fight another day. We can always get the amulet back.'
‘Elizabeth …' Lucas whispered, shaking. His head sank, his hair covering his face.
‘She is not dead.'
Lucas turned to her, confused and with tears in his eyes still. ‘How do you know?'
Celeste looked up and Lucas, Zach and Nicholas did so too. The floating spirits circled above the home of the elves as she spoke softly. ‘Up there crying are the souls of those killed today. They are lost and confused. To you, they are shapes and black forms. I can see them clearly. Their faces and bodies. She is not up there. I can only guess that Lord Barback took her.'
‘Why?' Zach asked.
She turned to him. ‘That is for another time. We must assist those who need help and regroup.'
As Celeste and Nicholas headed down to help, Zach grabbed hold of Lucas's arm.
‘Here,' Zach mumbled. He passed Lucas his sword that he thought he had lost for good. The jewels were all still there and the blade did not even look like it had been used. It looked brand new. Zach smiled at him. ‘I got your back.'
‘Thanks,' Lucas smiled back. The two boys headed down into the crowd, stopping at those who needed their help.
* * *
Night-time had fallen. The injured had fallen asleep, the dead moved to another location in the village, away from prying eyes. Sitting outside Martha's hut, Lucas drank the hot tea his mother had made him. It had made him feel better, and most of his bruises had already strangely started to disappear or had vanished altogether.
Sitting with him were Celeste, Nicholas, Zach and Martha. Opposite them, Honour slept, having awoken previously before falling asleep. Branchy sat next to him, concern in his eyes over his new friend. Lucas stood up and sat next to Honour as Nicholas stood up and sat next to Branchy, forming a circle.
Lucas looked at the group and asked, 'What do we do now?'
Celeste turned to him and replied, ‘It is time for you to gather everyone.'
‘I need to find Elizabeth.'
Celeste turned back to Lucas and shook her head. ‘That is not important at the moment.'
Lucas stood up, shaking in fury. ‘How could you say that? She … it is important!' He was red in the face with anger.
Celeste stood up as well, standing her ground, unafraid of his burst of anger. ‘She will not be harmed. She is the princess of the merpeople. She will be used to trap her father or to ensure they stay out of Barback's way. Either way, he will need her alive for now.'
Lucas stopped shaking. Celeste continued when he had calmed down. ‘We will get her back, Lucas. Trust me in helping you make your decisions. We will save her.'
Lucas nodded and sat down, Martha staring at him with pain in her eyes, resting her hand on his.
Celeste sat down as well and turned back to the group. She looked at them all, one at a time and said, ‘All magical species must be brought together once again, like in the First War. We will need everyone's help.'
They all nodded. Martha turned to Lucas and said, ‘We already know the centaurs and fairies. We can start there. Talk to them.'
Lucas nodded. He turned towards Celeste and asked, ‘Do you think it's possible for you to find more spirits? To help us fight?'
Celeste turned her gaze to Lucas. She was silent for a moment before she answered, ‘Yes; however, as spirits, we cannot physically harm anything. That is why we possess bodies. If they are dead bodies, they have to be recently deceased. It keeps them from decaying and falling apart. We will need to find some. It will take time.'
‘I don't know if we have time,' Lucas replied.
‘Not all of us will be with you to fight either.'
‘What do you mean?' Lucas asked angrily.
‘Do not assume it is because we cannot or will not. What I mean to say is, not all of us will fight in the same location. During the battle, many spirits were fighting those who recently died and tried to repossess their bodies. It is known as a battle on the spiritual level. This will happen again when we fight Lord Barback. I thought you should know.'
‘Okay …' Lucas nodded and whispered quietly. He turned around, staring outside the circle. The village was quiet now. Those who were still in pain had fallen asleep or passed out from their injuries. ‘I just wish we had more time.'
‘We have plenty of time if you have the book.'
Lucas and the others turned and looked at Celeste. She met Lucas's stare and continued, ‘The Grimlore. It is the book of elfin spells.' She turned and pointed to Martha. ‘It is her book. The princess of the elves keeps it safe.'
Martha shook her head. ‘I hid it in a village years ago to protect it. The village was destroyed and the book lost.'
‘No, it wasn't.'
They all now turned to look at Lucas in shock. He stood up, ran into Martha's house and returned with a small bag. He opened it and pulled out the dusty, old book he had stolen from the creepy bookseller. He handed it to Martha and her face lit up.
‘That is my book! You found it! Where was it?'
Lucas frowned. ‘In Stelipse before … before it was destroyed. I found it.'
Celeste looked at him curiously and asked, ‘How did you acquire it?'
Lucas looked down to the ground, unable to look his mother in the face. ‘I used my telepathy to make the man believe I traded him my sword. It was the only way to retrieve your book. I'm sorry, but he was unreasonable.'
Martha smiled. ‘Thank you for my book, but I am disappointed.'
Lucas looked up at her and saw her frowning.
‘Lucas, what you did was wrong. Your powers are not to be used for personal gain. However, if it is the book dealer in Stelipse I am thinking that you met, then yes, you had no choice. He would never part with an item without something valuable to you in return.'
‘My sword. I was given the sword by the centaurs. He said it belonged to a selfless king. I don't deserve it.' He threw the sword to the ground.
Martha slowly rose and picked it up. She walked over to him and held it out to him. ‘Lucas, have you ever heard stories of the same paths leading to different outcomes?'
He looked up at her. ‘No, I don't think so.'
She smiled at him. ‘Here, we call it the Bridge Effect. Take for instance you head into a town. As you walk in, a ball rolls to your feet. You stop and pick it up and pass it back to the children who were playing with it. You continue walking and notice the tavern you were about to enter collapses.
‘But what if you didn't stop and pass the children back the ball? What if you ignored it and continued on your journey. You would have gone straight to the tavern and been inside when it collapsed. You would be dead.'
Lucas looked at her strangely. ‘What does this have to do with the book?'
‘The book is a valuable item. Lord Barback did not know it was there. In here are the spells and stories of generations, including how to free Lucifer without the amulet and how to travel between worlds. Lord Barback would have found a way to free Lucifer. With this book, we can hopefully trap him again if he is released.
‘What the story is telling you is that by trading your sword for the book, your fight that day may have ended differently. Without your sword, you may have been killed in Stelipse or it might have occurred today. Everything happens for a reason. Do not doubt yourself. You did what you had to do. It was not a selfish choice. It was a strategic choice to ensure your survival.'
Lucas smiled at her. Nicholas cleared his throat. ‘I do not mean to interrupt, but we should get back to the matter at hand.'
Celeste nodded. ‘As I was saying beforehand, with the spell book in our hands, it might buy us time as he searches for a way to free Lucifer. He does not know the tomb's location either.'
‘I thought he did,' Lucas replied.
Martha shook her head. ‘We all believed he did, but the fairies discovered he has an idea but not the exact location. We still have time.'
Zach nodded. ‘He had us guards search everywhere for it. We could never find it. He believed only the centaurs knew, but he could never catch one.'
Lucas turned to Celeste. ‘We need to find them before Barback does.'
She frowned. ‘We don't know where they are.'
Lucas smiled. ‘I know someone who will.' They all looked at him, puzzled as he continued,
‘The giants. They helped me before and they will help me again. They can find the centaurs and the fairies.'
Zach smiled. ‘Do you think the giants will help us?'
Lucas frowned in response. ‘In battle, I don't believe so. They will not fight unless the Evil Giants are released.'
‘Evil Giants?' Zach asked in confusion.
‘The giants who are not so friendly.' Lucas sighed. ‘They tried to kill the other giants and enslave the world … more or less. The Good Giants won't fight unless the Evil Giants do.'
Celeste turned to him. ‘They will when Lucifer is free.'
Lucas nodded. ‘I will talk to Charles. I might be able to gain his help, but I will not place any hopes on it.' He turned to Branchy and smiled. ‘Branchy? I need to ask you a favour.'
Branchy turned to him excitedly. ‘Yes! Oh, yes, my friend! What can I help you with? It will be an honour … I mean … not like the dragon Honour. I'm not a dragon. I mean it will be a privilege … yeah, that makes more sense …'
They all laughed as Lucas smiled and said, ‘Branchy. It is okay. I need you to find your people for me.'
‘What do you mean by "my people"? You mean other trees?'
He nodded. ‘Yes. I need you to find them. Talk to them for me. We will need their help.'
Branchy started jumping up and down. ‘Oh, yes! Yes, I will! It is an -'
‘Honour, we know.'
Zach and Lucas turned to the dragon to see his head turn to face them. Lucas nodded at him and Zach stood up, walked over and placed his hand on his head.
‘How do you feel?'
‘Never felt better before now, master, and it seems I owe thanks to my new protector.' Honour nodded at Branchy, who once again started jumping up and down excitedly. ‘It is okay, young tree. My debt to you is eternal.'
‘No debt! Just friends! Forever!' Branchy could not contain his excitement. They all laughed again.
Zach smiled and asked, ‘You understand him?'
‘Yes! We trees can communicate telepathically! It is very useful when we make fun of you humans!'
Lucas turned to Celeste and asked, ‘I also need you to run an errand, if it is possible?'
Celeste nodded. ‘You do not need to ask. I will do what you need.'
Lucas frowned and stared up into the sky. ‘I need you to find the harpies for me.'
Everyone's face dropped. Nicholas, voice shaking, asked Lucas, ‘The harpies? But … you cannot be …'
‘Serious,' Lucas finished, eyeing Nicholas. ‘I am. The harpies are deadly foes. It is better they are on our side than against us.'
He nodded. ‘Very well, sir.' Lucas smiled at him and Nicholas did not like the way he did.
‘Ah … why are you looking at me like that?'
‘You have a different job.'