Chapter Four - Some Magical Interference
Elizabeth and Lucas looked around them frantically, trying to find an escape route from the enclosed area. Somehow, the guards had moved around them and had surrounded them, slowly moving in closer. The sound of their footsteps echoed in the quiet, empty forest and the closer they moved, they louder they became until finally, Lucas realised they were only a few moments away.
The pair darted down to the ground, lying on their stomachs on the dirt as the guards moved closer.
‘Don't worry. I can fight them. I can control my powers,' Lucas whispered to Elizabeth.
‘No, you can't use your powers,' she said. ‘This is a forest. You can set fire to this place. It would kill us, setting a forest fire.' She looked around, assessing her location and situation. She didn't like feeling trapped, but as much as she tried, she realised that they were not going to be able to run.
‘I can control the heat,' he hissed at her.
‘We can't risk it,' she hissed in reply. ‘There is no choice. We have to fight them in hand to hand combat, or we hide.'
‘I don't know how to fight. It just kicks in when I need it to. We can take the chance.'
‘We can't risk it,' she repeated.
‘But we can risk me being able to kick start my fighting powers?'
‘Then we hide, Lucas.'
Lucas began to look around at his surroundings, trying to find the best hiding place in the area, until he finally noticed a giant wooden log covered by some large, overgrown bushes. He grabbed Elizabeth's hand and ran towards the log, pushing her into the opening.
‘Here, get in!' he whispered to her, sliding in after. They listened together as the guard groups finally approached each other.
‘Did you find the cause of the smoke?' one man asked, his voice cold and ruthless.
‘No,' answered another. ‘We did find these though.'
‘What strange clothes these are. Where did you find them?'
‘Next to the sea. There was no sign of anyone or anything. Their trail led into the forest. We haven't been able to find the trail since we came in.'
‘Spread out,' the first voice commanded. ‘Find whoever they are. They have my sword and I want it back.'
Lucas was confused. What sword? He looked at Elizabeth and noticed she had a guilty look on her face. He frowned as he realised what sword they were looking for: the one she brought back with her. He assumed it was another of her weapons and he had just not noticed it before.
‘What?' she whispered at his disappointed stare. ‘It wasn't theirs in the first place. It belonged to a friend of mine.'
‘Quiet,' Lucas hushed her. Everything had gone silent and he began to think to himself that the guards must have left. He didn't know whether to wait and chance it or not.
He waited a few minutes before he slowly slid closer to the entrance and listened. He couldn't hear anything outside, nor could he see anything moving either. He looked at Elizabeth, put his finger to his lips and indicated moving outside.
As soon as his head stuck out of the log, a massive hand grabbed his hair and yanked him out of his hiding spot. Elizabeth froze in horror and silence as Lucas was thrown onto the ground in front of his captors. The force of the fall winded him and he looked around, dazed, noticing six pairs of feet. One of the guards kicked him in the stomach, sending him back to the ground, the amulet falling out of his shirt. The guards all froze in horror as they stared down at the winded boy.
One of the guards stepped forward and Lucas immediately recognised him as the leader. He was a tall, muscular man, his shoulder length, slick black hair hanging down behind him. Lucas recognised his uniform immediately as those that belonged to the evil humans from his dreams, from the red, long sleeve shirts with gold buttons to the thick black pants and boots.
The leader guard looked furious, but as he noticed the amulet, his face dropped in shock and recognition. ‘Where did you get that?' he demanded, reaching out for it.
Before he could grab the amulet, Lucas spun himself vertically into the air, flipping over and landing on his feet. He swung his foot out, connecting with the guard and sending him flying. The other five guards surrounding him attacked in an instant. Before the first one's sword fell, Elizabeth was there with her new sword, blocking his attack. Lucas took her sword from her side satchel and defended himself from the second guard. As they fought back to back, the guards gained the advantage and surrounded the two of them. Elizabeth looked at Lucas and noticed the detail of the amulet for the first time. It was beautiful and she recognised the elfish writing immediately but did not understand what it said.
The leader guard slowly stepped forward, his cold, dead black eyes staring only at Lucas coldly as one of the other guards looked at him and asked, ‘Rafael, are you okay?'
Rafael rubbed his jaw and stepped toward Lucas who raised his sword to defend himself as Rafael took a sword from one of the other guards and advanced. Rafael attacked first and Lucas moved to defend. The clash of metal echoed across the forest. Neither was better than the other, and for every opening Lucas made, he was able to defend himself when Rafael attacked. Their swords clashed above them as the other guards watched in awe before they all realised that this would last a while. Each smiling darkly, they turned and moved towards Elizabeth.
‘No!' yelled Lucas in horror.
The guards ran towards her, but the first three never reached her. Three arrows flew out of the trees and hit the men dead on. The other two froze where they stood and Rafael and Lucas halted their own fight. Out of the dark, standing tall above the small hill behind the group, came three majestic creatures. They looked like men at first, or at least their top halves did. Their long black hair reached their waists, and Lucas noticed that in their hands they held their bows. On their backs laid the holders that carried their arrows for their weapons. Their bottom halves matched their hair. All three had black bottom halves with four legs that each ended in black horse's hooves. Lucas realised in awe that he was staring at centaurs.
‘Move away from the children,' the middle centaur commanded.
‘No harm shall come to them,' the one on the left spoke.
‘Leave our forest or face the fate of your companions,' the third added.
Rafael and the other two guards stared at them and Rafael threatened, ‘We shall go. This, however, is not over. You have broken the law by helping these outlaws. You will be punished for this.' As he finished his sentence, his own sword flew to the ground and nearly stabbed his feet. Elizabeth stared coldly at him.
‘The girl child has a good aim. We are better,' the middle centaur spoke, placing a new arrow in his bow and pulling back the string. ‘You shall not threaten us or the children. Tell your fake king the Lost Son has returned. He will be protected by all. The throne no longer belongs to Lord Barback.'
With that, the other two centaurs raised their bows and aimed at the three guards. The guards scooped up Lucas's clothes and ran as fast as they could, but as they passed Rafael, he just stood there, staring at Lucas for a few seconds before he too turned and ran into the darkness.
Lucas let out a sigh and turned with Elizabeth to face their saviors. The middle centaur, who seemed to be the leader, moved forwards to meet them. The other two followed, each moving in silence. As they finally reached him, they stopped and bowed to him, or bowed as best as they could. Their left arms rose to their right shoulders and their knees buckled as they lowered their bodies.
‘Our king has returned,' the middle centaur spoke.
Lucas looked confused. ‘Ah, I'm not your king.'
‘You are the rightful ruler of this land. The king rules over all, humans and creatures alike. We are at your service.'
‘King?' Elizabeth asked in confusion.
The centaurs ignored her and continued to remain still as Lucas stared at her, confused.
Turning back to the others, he spoke quietly, ‘Please … stand up. Don't bow.'
The three raised themselves up as one. From the distance, they had seemed the size of an average man but now up close, Lucas realised that they were taller than both himself and Elizabeth. They looked down and remained quiet, staring at only him.
‘Okay. This isn't awkward or anything,' Lucas mumbled under his breath.
They continued to stare at him, not moving or taking their eyes off him. He noticed the amulet hanging around his neck and he tucked it quickly back under his shirt.
‘Ah … what are all your names?' Lucas asked the silenced centaurs.
The middle centaur was the first to speak and replied, ‘My name is FieryTemper.'
‘Your name is FieryTemper?' Elizabeth asked with a curious smile.
‘Why? I mean, no offence, but weird name.'
‘What is your name, child?' he asked with the same curious smile.
‘How is the name Elizabeth not weird itself?' Lucas smiled as Elizabeth frowned.
FieryTemper smiled and continued, 'This is QuickRun,' as he nodded to the centaur on his left. He then nodded to the other centaur on his right. ‘And this is FastShot.'
Now with the danger passed, Lucas could see them more clearly. FieryTemper had a sterner look to him that made Lucas instantly recognise him as the leader. His dark black eyes showed no fear or threat in them, only kindness. FastShot looked more laid back, his own black eyes more curious than kind while QuickRun looked to Lucas like he was ready for more action. His brown eyes only watched the direction the guards ran to.
‘Ah … I'm Lucas,' Lucas replied.
‘You are King Fredrick.' QuickRun spoke, finally turning to face him.
‘King Fredrick? What are they talking about? You're not the Lost Son, or are you?' Elizabeth asked Lucas, turning to look at him, confused.
She didn't understand anything that was happening. All she had gathered so far was that the guards wanted to hurt them and take Lucas's amulet. Then the centaurs called him a king and the Lost Son. She knew the stories but she always assumed he would be older. What was going on?
Lucas looked at her with a guilty look. Elizabeth turned away with a sad look on her face. Before he could say anything, FieryTemper spoke.
‘We must leave before they come back. I shall take the girl. King Fredrick -'
‘My name is Lucas.'
‘- you can ride with FastShot.'
With that, FieryTemper grabbed Elizabeth and pulled her up onto his back. She wrapped her arms around his waist as he rode off with QuickRun behind. FastShot went to Lucas and pulled him up onto his back. As soon as he was on, the centaur was off, Lucas barely having time to wrap his arms around his waist.
It was like nothing Lucas had ever experienced. He had ridden a horse before, but this was nothing like that. He grabbed FastShot's waist and held on as he ran through the forest. Lucas noticed how fast they were going only by how close the growing light seemed to be and how fast the trees flew by.
When they had finally reached the light, they slowed down and came to stop in a clearing surrounded by more tall green trees and one large rock wall that curved around from the beginning of the clearing all the way around. He saw that there were three cave entrances in the walls in the middle of the clearing, one on each side and one in the middle. As they arrived, Lucas noticed that there were more centaurs inside the small clearing. He couldn't count how many, young and old, men and women, different sizes and different colors. They were all so beautiful.
Smaller trees filled the area, providing shade from the sunlight that poured down from above. With no large trees apart from those that circled around the clearing, there was nothing here to block the oncoming sunlight. Lucas noticed immediately how warm it felt here compared to inside the forest. Butterflies flew into the air towards the sunlight and small coloured flowers that scattered the ground broke from their stems and flew into the air as the light breeze blew past them. Lucas realised the smell of lavender was stronger here than in the forest, but he could also smell the faint smell of sea breeze.
Elizabeth was standing near FieryTemper who was now talking to an older centaur who was sitting down at a small table. The older centaur had grey hair that fell to his waist, his fur also a grey colour. His tired eyes moved over to Lucas and just stared blankly at him. As Lucas approached, the centaurs one by one bowed as he passed them. He felt so nervous and uncomfortable; he didn't want this type of attention. He came here to destroy the amulet and save both Earth and Bomcard from this Barback man, but he never wanted to be king.
He reached the end of his walk and was now standing with Elizabeth, FieryTemper and FastShot. The older centaur rose up and smiled, ‘Greetings, my king. I am ElderOne. We have waited for your return since the rise of the evil Lord Barback two hundred years ago.'
‘How did you know who I was?' Lucas asked.
FieryTemper replied, ‘Your amulet. We recognised it immediately as that of the royal bloodline.'
‘We were hunting when we heard the guards,' FastShot spoke. ‘We followed them. We were not going to interfere, but then once we had seen the amulet on your neck, we made ourselves known. We have always been loyal to the royal bloodline.'
‘Humph. Story of my life,' Lucas mumbled.
‘I do not understand,' FastShot replied.
‘Oh, just that the only reason people … ‘interfere' in my life is when they realise who I am or am supposed to be.'
Elizabeth looked at him sadly with pain in her eyes. Lucas looked at her and added, ‘Except for you.'
She nodded at him slowly, the pain never leaving her face.
‘I'm sorry, Elizabeth. I was told not to tell anyone.'
‘This is not the place. We will talk later.'
Lucas looked at her as she turned and looked back at ElderOne.
‘Tonight, we shall rest and celebrate. Tomorrow, we shall talk,' ElderOne spoke.
‘The guards are -' Lucas started.
‘Our clearing is well hidden. No human can find our home.' FieryTemper smiled, giving
Lucas a sense of a safety and reassurance.
‘We will celebrate our king's return! My people! The king is home! The Lost Son has returned!' ElderOne yelled as he turned to his people. ‘All hail King Fredrick!'
‘My name is Lucas,' Lucas whispered to ElderOne.
‘My apologies,' he smiled at Lucas, turning back to his people and correcting, ‘All hail King Lucas of Bomcard!'
With a loud cheer, the centaurs' voices roared above the trees, the centaurs jumping and throwing their hands up in excitement. The younger ones hugged each other, the males cheered, the women cried.
ElderOne led Lucas and Elizabeth down the path, stopping at a group of female centaurs. There were three of them and each had a light brown fabric cloth, similar to that of Elizabeth's clothing that covered their breasts. One of the females had black hair both on her head and body, the second was a dark brunette, also both on her head and body. He spoke to the third female who had blonde hair that covered her front, her green emerald eyes warm and kind. Her bottom half was a beautiful blonde that matched her hair.
‘Leah, can you help the young girl get cleaned up.'
With that, Leah took Elizabeth's hand and led her away. Elizabeth did not even look back at Lucas as she disappeared with the female centaur.
Their next stop was to QuickRun, and ElderOne spoke, ‘QuickRun, help our king get ready for our feast. I shall send FastShot to assist you.' With that, he left to prepare for the gathering.
QuickRun led Lucas towards the small hole in the wall on the right. ‘This is where the men sleep and prepare. We shall clean you up here.'
As Lucas entered, he noticed how large the cavern looked. It was as large as the cavern he had slept in the night before, except this cavern had cloths covering the ground for beds. He looked back and wondered how he being here was endangering these beautiful creatures and how he would never let harm come to any of them.
As the centaurs prepared for their feast, Lucas stepped out, clean and recovered from his fight with the guards. He had gained a new shirt and instead of the peasant one Elizabeth had found for him, he now wore a dark brown shirt, wool stitched into the inside to keep his chest warm. He had to keep his pants as the centaurs had none since they did not need them.
He noticed in the middle of the field that there was now a large table with trays of fruit galore. He walked down and immediately realised that the table was so short he would have to sit on the grass ground. He didn't mind that as they went to all this trouble. Lucas then noticed that a group of centaurs sat near a large tree near the table. They started to play music as others laughed amongst themselves. Some were singing, others were bouncing around to the music.
‘Young one, what do you think of our home?'
Lucas turned and saw FieryTemper approaching, his warm smile on his face.
‘It is beautiful,' he replied as the centaur stopped beside him. ‘Can I ask you a q?'
‘A q, a question.'
He turned back to the three chambers he saw before, pointing as he asked, ‘What is in the middle chamber? I have been watching it and no one ever goes into it or near it. The males have one chamber, the females the other. So, what is in the third?'
‘We do not know. It is sealed. ElderOne asks us not to ask questions about it, so we agree.'
‘Can I ask you another question?'
Lucas turned to look at him as he asked, ‘Don't be offended, but why do some people have weird names and others don't?'
FieryTemper laughed. ‘Our names are not chosen for us. It is determined by how we act. Leah acts human - human emotions and reactions. It is fitting she has a human name. I have a fiery temper, thus my name. Lord Barback is more demon then human, thus a darker name in your eyes.'
‘Sorry, I didn't mean to be rude.'
‘You were not rude. You were curious.'
Lucas smiled and asked, ‘Are you and Leah related?'
FieryTemper turned to him and smiled, nodding slowly. ‘Excellent observation, young king. How did you discover this?'
‘Your eyes,' he replied with a smile. ‘You have different coloured eyes, but … the same. No one else here has the same type, but I can just tell. Also, the way you speak about her. You seem protective. I noticed you staring at her before and I thought that it was creepy until I worked it out.'
‘Very good, young king,' the centaur smiled.
Lucas turned back around and viewed the field and its occupants. ‘What is it about me that everyone thinks I am?'
‘I do not understand.'
Lucas turned to him, frowning. ‘Everyone says I'm some king. Like some kind of savior. I don't want to fight.'
‘You must do what you are destined to do. If it supposed to happen, it will.'
‘So you're saying I'm going to have to fight?'
FieryTemper looked at him and smiled. ‘You could stand there and let him stab you.'
Lucas smiled back. ‘You have a point.'
‘I always do.'
FieryTemper looked out over the valley. The small children ran around while the older centaurs danced to the music.
‘Do you all keep to yourselves? Magical folk, I mean. I have a sense that no one likes the others.'
FieryTemper looked at Lucas curiously. He took a moment to think of the answer before he spoke.
‘We always have. Before the First Great Battle we kept to ourselves. The goblins wanted our lands and we would not let them take it. A fight began between our species, and the king of that time interfered. He gave us our land and gave the goblins their home. When the king needed help, we gladly returned his gesture.
‘After the First Great Battle, the humans continued to be part of our lives until just before Lord Barback arrived. Some humans attacked and killed some of our tribe. When we brought this up with the king of that time, he did not act. He was a selfish man who had no interest in anything that did not benefit him. He wanted payment for any help and we refused.
'When the Second Great Battle began, we were called to arms. We fought to stop Lord Barback's rise, but we failed. We tried to help, but after that, we told the king we would never serve him or his descendants again until a selfless king took the throne.'
‘I was never told that.' Lucas looked at him, upset over his descendant’s actions.
‘Only the centaurs and the king knew. Everyone has a reason, King Lucas. You need only to ask.'
‘So how did you know? Why did you help me?'
‘The way you would have sacrificed yourself to protect the girl. The selfish king didn't even fight in the Second Great Battle. You were willing to die to save her. If you moved to do so, the guard you were fighting would have slain you instantly. You are the selfless king of legend, the Lost Son. We shall defend you and are at your call.'
‘One last thing. Why does everyone call Barback Lord Barback? I mean, if I'm king and all, why is he a lord?'
‘Many call him Lord Barback out of fear, in some cases out of respect. Everyone has the reason to call him Lord. You need only to ask.'
Lucas and FieryTemper turned and noticed Elizabeth heading towards him, wearing a long black dress robe. Guess they didn't like her other clothes either, Lucas smiled to himself. He looked behind her at the entrance of the cave of the male chambers and noticed ElderOne coming out, followed by QuickRun and FastShot. Lucas turned and noticed FieryTemper had disappeared but knew he was somewhere near. Lucas thought that FieryTemper had the same thoughts he did. Maybe now was not the best time to have a feast. Elizabeth walked up to him, as clean and recovered as Lucas was.
‘Can we talk?' Elizabeth asked him politely.
They started to walk around the field, alone and in silence. After a few moments, she made the first move.
‘Nice clothes,' she smiled kindly at him.
‘Thanks. You too.'
‘Why didn't you mention that you are a king?' she asked, staring at him.
‘I kind of didn't trust you - no offence. I mean, I really appreciate you helping me, but I don't really know you. For all I knew, you were working with Barback,' he replied. ‘I trust you now.' He looked at her and smiled warmly.
‘Well … that makes sense. At least you're honest, so I will be too. I didn't trust you either. I thought my father sent you.' She looked at him with a sad look.
‘Why did you run away?' he asked.
‘He wanted me to get married. I don't and have never loved the man. It was an arranged marriage. I will marry the man I love, not some stranger.'
‘Aren't you a little young to be getting married?'
‘No. Sixteen is the usual age.'
Lucas laughed. ‘Not where I'm from.'
‘Where is that?' Elizabeth asked.
They had reached the table in the middle of the field. Lucas sat on the soft ground at one end of the table as Elizabeth took a seat next to him. He looked around and finally turned to her when he was sure no one was listening.
‘I come from the world we call Earth. Where I come from, everything I see here, that I can do here, it is all make-believe. This only happens in what we call movies and stories.'
‘Movies? What are they?'
‘It's when people … well, pretend to be others. They act out past events or make up new stories. Scary stories, funny ones. Dancing ones …'
‘Dancing? Do you know how to?' she asked him in excitement.
‘Ah … a little.'
‘Tell me about where you're from.'
‘Well, I live in New York City. It's sort of like a kingdom, just it's ruled by a man called a president, not a king. They have buildings as tall as the skies, taller than the trees here. They have lights and colors galore, they have music and movies and food. It's also very crowded with tourists and locals.'
‘What are tourists?' she asked in confusion.
‘Like me. Visitors to somewhere they don't live. Sort of like they are visiting for a short time until they return to where they belong.'
‘So, you're a tourist here? Are you returning back to this … Earth?' she asked, staring at him.
‘I don't know,' he shrugged. The thought of returning had not crossed his mind as of yet. He was more worried about being killed instead of how he would return home.
‘Tell me more,' Elizabeth asked in curiosity.
‘Well, you should try the food there. There is this ice-cream stand that makes the best ice-creams in New York and there are hot dogs and hamburgers and … Linda.' Lucas frowned as he began to remember the people he had left behind.
‘Who is Linda?'
‘Linda is my adoptive mom. She raised me from when I was a baby. She's back home with Tom and Lucy.'
‘Maybe I should start from the beginning.'
Smiling, Lucas told Elizabeth everything, from his troubled home life to his meeting with her. She leaned in closer as she gasped, frowned, became angry, became upset and smiled at the stories of his life. He told her everything about Tom and Lucy and stopped.
‘What is it?' she asked him, confused.
‘You know how I did that stuff. You could too. Does that mean you're like me?'
‘What do you mean?'
‘Elf. Or part.'
‘You're part elf?' she asked him in shock.
He looked at her confused. ‘Yeah, why?'
‘Nothing … I just … was shocked. So, where do you think your mother is?' She changed the subject quickly, hoping that it would distract him. Her distraction worked.
‘I don't know,' he sighed. ‘This is a big world, and I have no idea where to look.'
‘You'll find her,' Elizabeth smiled in reply. She turned to look at the musicians under the tree.
‘I haven't ever been a part of this world.'
‘Well, you're not a centaur.'
‘That's not what I meant,' she smiled, turning towards him. ‘I mean how I have never been around such human stuff. Like the food.' She stared at the fruit on the table then looked back at him. ‘The peace.' She turned back to the musicians. ‘Or even this.'
‘The feast and music?'
‘You,' she replied, looking at him. ‘I have never been this comfortable with someone.'
‘I know what you mean,' he replied softly, turning to look back at her. ‘I trust you with my life. I don't understand why I can trust you so much. It's like I know I can depend on you my whole life. I only met you yesterday, but it feels like you have always been at my side.'
‘I do understand. That is how I am feeling now.'
‘Besides, you're not as annoying as yesterday.'
‘Shut up,' she laughed and pushed him.
‘True story,' he laughed back. She turned back to the music and Lucas frowned as he stared at the centaurs. ‘Why do you think that is?'
She turned to face him and shrugged in silence before she replied. 'I am not sure. I have never experienced it myself or even heard of it before. It just seems that … well, like you said, it feels like I have known you my whole life. I knew immediately that I was supposed to help you with whatever you need me to, and I will.'
She smiled and turned back to watch the festivities. Lucas watched Elizabeth in silence with a smile on his face as she continued to watch the dancing centaurs.
‘I dreamed of you.'
She turned to him and stared at him in shock, a small smile on her face. ‘I'm sorry?'
‘Well, Tom and Lucy said my dreams could possibly be premonitions. There was one dream I had a few times. Everything in my world was being destroyed. There was a massive battle and you were there. You ran over to me and saved my life.'
She smiled at him. ‘Premonitions are usually connected with telepathy in our world.'
He frowned as he looked over to the centaurs. She looked at him and asked, ‘Did I say something wrong?'
He shook his head. ‘No, you didn't. I just … I don't want to be this king everyone thinks I am.'
She stared at him, confused. ‘I don't understand.'
‘Well, I want to be normal. I don't want to be able to create fireballs and have premonitions. I mean, it is cool to do so, but I do not want to fight. I want to do normal kid stuff, but I can't. I have always been normal, but people have always treated me differently. Then I find out I am from another world and I am supposed to be a king. How can I? I have no idea what I am doing.'
‘You can do whatever you want, Lucas,' she smiled. ‘No one tells you what you can and cannot do. It is why I left home. Besides, no one really knows how to be a king, but you will figure it out.'
‘It is destined that I will fight.'
‘Then I will fight by your side,' she smiled warmly at him.
‘Thanks,' he replied with a smile. ‘I just want to be able to live normally, like a normal kid. You know, experience normal things. Have friends, fall in love, finish school, find a career and … I don't know. Maybe do something -'
He shook his head, stood up and walked over to her. He held out his hand to her as she looked up at him, confused.
‘- like this. Dance with me.'
‘I don't know how.'
‘Like I do,' he replied, rolling his eyes.
She laughed and took his hand, standing to her feet. He walked them over to the group and as everyone watched, he placed his hand on her hip. ‘Now, I think you place your hand on the back of my shoulder, like this.' He moved her hand to his shoulder before taking her other hand in his and they started moving. Elizabeth looked at her feet and watched how he moved.
‘Ow,' he mumbled as she stepped on his foot.
‘It's okay. Ow.'
She tried to follow, but he raised her head up with his eyes. ‘Don't think. Don't look. Just go with the beat.' Lucas twirled her around and brought her back to him with his usual warm smile. ‘Pretty nifty, huh? I've always wanted to try that.'
They continued to move back and forth, their steps slowly becoming more natural and graceful. They danced in silence as more centaurs moved around to watch them. Lucas and Elizabeth moved around in a circle, her black robe twirling in the air as they moved. The centaurs watched in awe and slowly, some even decided to join in.
‘See, you can dance,' Lucas said, looking at her. ‘I mean, you're not exactly that difficult like I thought you would be.'
She stared at him and laughed. ‘Sorry, Your Majesty. I didn't mean to be such a burden.'
‘You're forgiven.' He smiled in reply. He turned and noticed the centaurs had begun to mimic their dance movements. ‘Look at them.'
She smiled as the centaurs finally discovered how to move in the same way as the pair, unaware of their previous inexperienced history of dancing like humans. ‘It is beautiful.'
Lucas nodded as they continued to move around, his eyes only focused on her. ‘Yeah, it is.'
The pair stopped immediately and dropped their hands, moving quickly apart and looking extremely guilty. ElderOne stood in front of them with QuickRun, FastShot, FieryTemper and Leah, all carrying the same facial expression - fear.
‘We must talk. I'm afraid things may have gotten out of hand,' ElderOne spoke, turning away from the music and leading the way to the table. The others all followed and Lucas and Elizabeth sat down around the small table, staring at ElderOne with curiosity.
‘What's wrong?' Lucas asked, looking concerned. He didn't like ElderOne's tone or the fact that FastShot looked nervous. FieryTemper looked around, making sure no one else was listening as Leah sat next to Elizabeth with worry in her eyes.
ElderOne looked at Lucas with a face of worry as he spoke. ‘I have recently discovered that the guards that FastShot, FieryTemper and QuickRun allowed to escape have now reached the palace where Lord Barback resides.'
‘How did they get there so quickly?' Elizabeth asked in confusion.
‘Magic, we assume. We also learned that he has your belongings you brought from your other world.'
Lucas and Elizabeth looked at each other, confused. It took Lucas a minute to work out what he had lost. Turning back to ElderOne, he asked, ‘My clothes? What does that have to do with anything? They are just clothes.'
‘No, they are not. They are proof of your return. Your clothes are unlike anything in this land. I told you that,' Elizabeth said, looking at him in fear. ‘That is why I found you new clothes, so that you wouldn't be recognised. When the guards took them in the forest, we should have stopped them. We should have realised what they were going to do with them.'
‘Lord Barback has always believed that you were sent to another world when the leader of his guards, Rafael, witnessed your disappearance,' ElderOne said. ‘He knew you would return, so he waited for a sign, no matter how small. Your clothing is different from ours, different enough to have him realise you had finally returned.'
‘How do you know this?' Lucas asked him with curiosity.
‘I told him,' Leah replied. Lucas turned to her as soon as she spoke, watching her closely. Her kind eyes stared back at him, analysing him in the same way FieryTemper did at their first meeting. ‘I have spies in Lord Barback's palace.'
‘You have spies?'
‘Yes. I work with the fairies to spy on Lord Barback, to ensure both our species' survival. They have reported that you are in danger. Lord Barback knows of your existence and that is something that we all hoped would not happen so fast. You cannot hide here and we can no longer stay.'
Elizabeth looked at her, confused. ‘Why do you have to leave?'
‘When the guards told of us defending you here in the forest, he ordered the forest burnt to the ground. We have no choice but to leave immediately. You, however, cannot come with us, either of you.'
‘Why not?' Elizabeth and Lucas asked at the same time.
‘It is not your destiny to go into hiding with us,' replied ElderOne.
‘You two are our only hope,' QuickRun spoke. ‘You must fulfil your mission. We shall meet up with you again.'
‘We do not have long,' FastShot added. ‘We ourselves must leave immediately. It will only take us a few minutes. We will ensure you get to the end of the forest safely. From there, for this part of your journey, you two must be alone.'
‘Elizabeth has no reason to stay with me if I am placing her in danger,' Lucas said.
‘What are you talking about? I'm not leaving you,' she replied. ‘I will help you find your mother and be safe. After that … well, we shall see.' She looked at him and smiled and he couldn't help smiling back. He was glad she had said that. He couldn't imagine trying to find his place in this world without help from her. He also couldn't imagine not knowing where she was, or if she was in danger herself. It was a little annoying.
He turned back to ElderOne. ‘Okay. When do we leave?'
‘You will leave now. FastShot and QuickRun shall take you to the end. They will meet us further ahead as we shall leave not long after you.' He stood to his feet and they all followed. ElderOne walked to Lucas and Elizabeth and put one hand on each of their shoulders.
‘Young ones. Your journey is a long and dangerous one. Do not assume that this ends with Lord Barback. Whispers on the wind speak that more darkness is on the horizon. Be safe and stick together. You will be stronger as one. Until we meet again, young ones, farewell.' With that, he turned and left as FieryTemper and Leah came up next.
‘Come with us. We shall gather your clothes.'
‘I like my new clothes. Mind if I keep the shirt?' Lucas asked. They both nodded and after Elizabeth had changed back, FieryTemper and Leah walked them to the entrance of the field where FastShot and QuickRun were waiting.
‘Good luck. We shall meet again,' FieryTemper said with a slight nod. Lucas smiled and nodded in return.
‘Take care and be safe,' Leah spoke, hugging Elizabeth who hugged her back. As they headed to the other two centaurs, a voice called out.
They both turned to see FieryTemper coming up to them, handing Lucas an old, worn brown belt, a large sword resting in the holder on its side. Lucas took out the sword and smiled as he took in the beautiful marvel that was before him.
The hilt had a golden base with three stones on each side, in the same order he had come to recognise. Diamond, ruby and emerald, exactly like his amulet. The cross guard of the sword was solid gold, sticking out horizontally with a large ruby on each of the tips. The pommel was solid gold like the cross guard, shining brightly in the dark light.
As he raised it, he found that the blade somehow looked like it had never seen a glimpse of battle, although Lucas could sense its ancient history. There were no scratches or damage and it shined in the light, feeling light in his hands, the same way his amulet did around his neck. He ran his hand across the blade and felt a warm sensation inside him. This was his - it belonged to him. He could feel it.
‘Wow,' Elizabeth murmured, staring at it in awe.
‘The sword is yours. When the king disappeared after the Second Battle, we took the sword and said we would only give it back to the rightful, selfless king. It is yours.'
‘Thank you,' Lucas whispered, placing the sword back into its holder and placing the belt across his waist.
FieryTemper shook Lucas's hand and walked back towards Leah. The siblings waved and then left to follow ElderOne, and the two humans were alone with QuickRun and FastShot.
‘We need to leave,' FastShot spoke. He grabbed Lucas and once again helped him onto his back. QuickRun did the same with Elizabeth and then they were off. The same feeling of flying came back to Lucas, but this time the journey seemed shorter. They got to the end of the forest and they were helped off the centaurs' backs. Lucas and Elizabeth turned to their new friends and looked at them with sadness and concern.
‘Will you be all right?' Elizabeth asked them.
‘Do not worry, child,' FastShot spoke reassuringly. ‘We shall be fine. Here, take this.' He handed her his pack of arrows. ‘Your arrows were damaged. These are my special weapons. One shot in the right spot is instant death. You will need these. Take this sword as well for protection.' He passed her a silver sword, its blade long and thin, and she smiled as she waved it above her. The cross guard and hilt, also made from the same silver as the blade, shone in the darkness of the forest.
‘It feels light.'
‘It is from one of the guards we had defeated in battle,' FastShot replied. ‘It has been enchanted.
‘Take care, young ones. We shall meet again,' QuickRun said, and with that he and FastShot were off, flying back into the forest and disappearing into the darkness.
With his new sword safely by his side, Lucas turned to stare at where the centaurs had left them. They were once again in a field but this time a long stone road stretched out in front of him. Further up ahead, he noticed a wooden sign standing on its small wooden leg. He walked over to it and read the fading words.
‘Stelipse' it said, pointing to the right. Pointing to the left, it revealed, ‘Darkness Forest. Warning! Danger beyond your imagination lies ahead. Turn back now!' Lucas looked at it and snorted.
He turned back to Elizabeth. ‘Guess we're going to Stelipse.'
Elizabeth walked over to where he stood and read the sign. She also snorted when she read it. ‘Dangerous? Well, duh! I guess Barback really didn't want anyone to go in there. Wonder why?'
‘Who knows? We better get a move on. We wouldn't want to be around here to have a rematch with those harpies or guards.'
Elizabeth started down the path, but Lucas turned around. He looked back into the forest, wondering why Barback was interested in keeping people out of the forest.