Chapter Nine - A Secret Hideaway
Lucas and Elizabeth walked down the road to Stelipse in silence, staring at the scenery before them. Charles had dropped them off outside the Valley of the Giants earlier that morning and now the sun was high in the sky, causing Lucas to constantly cover his eyes from the blinding glare. There were no clouds in the sky and he looked at Elizabeth, noticing how tired and thirsty she looked. They had forgotten their water containers back in the giant's village and they were now both dehydrated. They walked slowly towards the town but stopped when they noticed a small wooden sign.
Walking up to it, they noticed the sign looked old and worn. A small picture of an arrow pointing forward made them lift their heads and notice a small stone path that led up a small mountain of rocks. Reading the sign, Elizabeth smiled.
‘It says there is a lake nearby. It's called Lake Spring.' She looked at him as she spoke. ‘We can get refreshment … and maybe stay the night there.'
Lucas nodded and followed her up the stone path. As the path came to its end, they stared out from the top of the rocks and noticed it had led to a small clearing. In the middle of the clearing was the large lake, its water crystal blue and reflective. Surrounding the lake were large trees, providing shelter from the scorching sun. Lucas looked around and noticed they were in a similar surrounding to the place he had arrived in Bomcard. Large stones were built high into the sky and surrounded the opening all the way around until both sides reached the stone path. Clean, dark green grass covered the ground, soft to touch and lie on.
Heading down the path, Elizabeth moved towards the lake and leaned down. Cupping her hands, she leaned in and drank, splashing water on her face after she was done. Lucas walked over slowly and did the same, accidentally splashing Elizabeth in the face.
‘Watch it, fire boy,’ she laughed as she splashed him back.
Lucas smiled and walked over to the shade under a large tree, dropping his sword. Elizabeth followed and sat down near Lucas, staring out at the lake in silence and with intensity. Lucas stared at her, confused.
‘What's wrong?' he asked when he noticed her sad face.
She looked at him. ‘It's the water. It reminds me of home.'
He looked at her, confused, before he turned to stare at the water. He turned back to her and asked, ‘Do you miss it? Home, I mean.'
‘It doesn't matter.' She turned back to the water.
‘Where are you from?'
She looked at him and frowned. ‘Somewhere far from here.'
He smiled at her. ‘What is it like? Being a mermaid?'
Confusion crept onto her face. ‘What do you mean?'
‘I mean … the freedom.' He stared out into the lake and went into his own thoughts. When he spoke, Elizabeth thought he sounded like he was asking himself rather than her. ‘Just to get away and not worry about anyone or anything. Just swim away and not worry about your problems. I always wanted that on Earth.' He looked at her. ‘Not the swim thing, but you know what I mean.'
She frowned at him and shook her head as she replied, ‘Lucas that is running away. Your problems will always be there when you come back.'
‘And if you don't come back?'
She looked at him angrily. ‘Then you would be a coward. Face your problems. Don't hide from them.'
He frowned at her. ‘Don't you think your father and brothers would be upset that you ran away from your problems? You are doing the same thing.'
She shook her head. ‘My father, Tristan, would be furious, but he won't come after me.'
Lucas looked at her, shocked, and asked, ‘Why not? Doesn't he care?'
Elizabeth smiled weakly and replied, ‘He is the king. He has more pressing issues to deal with than a runaway.'
‘Wow … so, you're a princess. What about your brothers?' he asked.
She looked at him and frowned. ‘They would obey whatever my father would command.'
‘Do they speak about your mother?'
‘She is dead, remember?'
He looked at her sadly. ‘I'm sorry. I didn't mean to … say anything … you know …' He frowned as he whispered to himself, ‘I knew that, idiot.'
She smiled and nodded. ‘Do not be hard on yourself, Lucas. I never knew her. She died when I was very young. I have seen pictures, but I do not remember her. My brothers do, so they tell me wonderful stories.'
Elizabeth laughed. ‘Yes.'
‘Who is the older one?'
‘Arthur is by a year.' Lucas stared at her, confused, as she revealed, ‘Two annoying brothers. Being so closely born, the pair have always been inseparable.'
Lucas laughed as well. He smiled at her and said, ‘Double trouble.'
She nodded, smiling. ‘Arthur is the older and he is more like my father, but William is like me. Apparently, we take after our mother.'
‘I have no brothers or sisters,' Lucas mumbled. ‘But I had Linda, who is great. She's my adoptive mum. She was always there when I needed her, as a friend or a parent. She helped put me through school, helped with the school work when I was stuck, drove me around to people’s houses. She always was smiling, eager to help me with whatever problem I had, while also giving me the space I needed.'
She smiled. ‘She sounds lovely.'
‘She is,' Lucas replied in a frown, looking out at the lake and beginning to remember everyone he had left behind on Earth. He missed Tom, Lucy, Mr. Dawn and Linda. They were all his connections to being normal. Well, not Tom or Lucy anymore, he thought to himself.
Elizabeth looked at him and asked, ‘What did you mean before? About not wanting to be king, I mean.'
‘I mean exactly that,' he said quietly, not turning away from staring at the lake.
She stared at him sadly. ‘Lucas. If you are the Lost Son, it is your birthright to claim the throne. It belongs to you.'
He shrugged. ‘I don't care. I don't want it.'
She frowned, shaking her head. ‘I don't think you can choose.'
He turned to her and for a brief second, she thought his eyes had flashed a dark green. It reminded her immediately of the emerald on her necklace and his amulet. She shook her head as he replied, ‘Everyone has a choice. You said so yourself.' He stood up and walked over to the lake. Crossing his arms, he stared out over the water and noticed Elizabeth was standing next to him within seconds.
‘I'm sorry if I upset you.'
He smiled at her. ‘It's okay. It's just …' Staring back over the lake, his smile disappeared and was once again replaced with a frown. ‘My whole life, I was bullied and picked on for looking different. To find out that I am different, I mean really different, it is like the whole time, those bullies knew deep down. I mean, I know they couldn't have known, but it's just …'
He looked at her, sadness creeping across his face as tears formed in his eyes. ‘I have always wished to be like everyone. Be normal and have a family. No one ever wanted me for adoption. I went to school and people rejected me, and I went home and found the same. I wished for a family to call my own and my call was never answered.'
Elizabeth smiled kindly and warmly at him. ‘Family doesn't always mean the family you are given. Our true family is who we choose it to be.'
He smiled. ‘It's easy to say, but harder to believe.'
She nodded and replied, ‘Lucas, you have Linda, Tom and Lucy.'
She shrugged. ‘The way I see it, Linda is your mum, Tom and Lucy your brother and sister. You already have a family who love you.'
He smiled at her, nodded, and after a moment replied, ‘Thank you. I never thought of it like that.'
‘You're welcome.' She smiled. ‘Being king will be tough, but you will be able to do it. Just believe in yourself.'
‘I don't know how to. How can you when you feel your whole life has been against you?'
She smiled warmly as she replied, ‘I believe in you. A good king will listen to his people and put them first before all others.'
He smiled and looked at her. ‘What about you?'
She looked at him, confused, and asked, ‘What do you mean?'
‘You mentioned before you had a family? Why leave them?'
She frowned and looked out over the lake. ‘My family are not your normal family. My father is very strict. He raised me the same as my brothers, to be a fighter. I never had a chance to be myself. My brothers always treated me as one of them, not as a sister.'
He smiled sadly and nodded. ‘I always believed my parents were dead. It was the only way to deal with the fact that I was abandoned.'
‘There would have been other reasons why you were left behind.'
Lucas shook his head. ‘It was easier to believe them dead than the fact they didn't want me. When I found out that my mother was alive, a part of me was hurt. I know it was not her fault but it hurts knowing that all along, she was alive. I will be so happy when I see her.'
Elizabeth smiled. ‘It will be great.'
He nodded and smiled at her. As she smiled seductively at him, she began to take a few steps back. Holding out her hands as if she was cupping something invisible and sticking out her left leg, leaning forward on her right, she smiled and said, ‘Now, Your Majesty. Shall we test how strong we believe you are?'
Lucas laughed and looked at her, shocked. ‘What?'
She smiled seductively at him, not moving, and spoke quietly. ‘Fight me. See if you can win.'
Lucas took a few steps back and stuck out his left hand in a fist. His left leg stretched forward as his leaned on his right leg as it slid back. His right hand clenched into a fist and he raised it behind him. The two stood in their fighting poses and stared at each other as the wind blew passed them. In his hand, Lucas created a fireball. Staring at Elizabeth, he noticed water from the lake fly into her open hands. She created two water balls and smiled. He smiled back.
‘We really going to do this?' he asked.
She continued to smile back at him. ‘I want to test your powers as well as test your limits. Besides,' she smiled seductively at him again, ‘I need the practice.'
He nodded and ran forwards at the same time she did. She threw her first ball as Lucas threw his. The balls collided and one evaporated the other. They reached each other and she leapt up, kicking him in the face. Falling backwards, he flipped over on his hand and smiled, rubbing his jaw. Moving faster than her, he struck out with his foot, connecting with her stomach and sending her to the ground.
He stopped and his smile faded. Looking at her, concerned, he moved towards her to help her. ‘I'm sorry. I didn't mean to -’
She ignored him and, leaning on her hands, kicked his feet from under him. Landing on his back, she was now sitting on top of him.
She smiled seductively at him again. She shook her head. ‘Never be lenient on your opponent because they won't be lenient on you.'
He rolled over and she fell off him. He was now on top of her and he smiled down at her. ‘I didn't. I don't want to hurt you.'
She smiled and replied, ‘Do not hold back. I have been through worse fights.'
She kicked him in the groin and he fell off her. She rolled away from him and leapt to her feet. Creating a water ball again, she threw it at him as he stood, hitting him in the chest and sending him flying back. Landing on the soft ground, he rolled to his feet and smiled at her.
Creating another fireball, he ran forward at the same moment she did. When she created another water ball and threw it at him, Lucas flung his ball down, blasting the ground and sending himself flying above her. Landing behind her, he turned around and swung out his leg, connecting with her arm and sending her flying towards the lake. As Elizabeth fell into the water, Lucas lost sight of her, created another ball and waited.
There was no movement in the lake as the water lay still. Lucas extinguished the fireball and moved slowly towards the water. Staring down into the lake, he could not see anything moving.
‘Elizabeth?' he whispered.
Before he could react, the surface erupted and a large water hand reached out of the lake and grabbed him. Curling itself into a large fist, Lucas felt himself being thrown around in the watery hand as it raised itself into the air. All of a sudden, Lucas felt himself flying downwards towards the ground. On impact, the water burst apart, spraying water all over the ground. Lucas lay on the ground winded and drenched, coughing up the water in his lungs.
Elizabeth jumped out of the water and flew down towards Lucas. As she moved down towards him, she swung out her hand into a fist. He rolled out of the way just as she hit the ground and he flung out his hand, sending her flying away from him. Standing and still coughing up water, Lucas stared at her as she ran towards him. He was still winded and could not move in time as she flung out her arm, backhand punching him.
Lucas fell to the ground and remained there, unmoving. Elizabeth sank into her fighting pose, waiting, but he did not move. Her smile faded and she stood, her face now showing shock and confusion. She ran towards him and leant down.
‘Lucas?' she whispered, reaching out to touch his shoulder.
Before she knew what happened and just before she touched his shoulder, he grabbed her arm and frightened her, sending her falling back. He stood up coughing, wiped the blood from his face and smiled at her. ‘That was interesting.'
She smiled as he held out his hand. ‘You faked it.'
He smiled as she grabbed his hand and he pulled her up. ‘You'll never know.'
She laughed. ‘How did you like my powers?'
He nodded. ‘Like I said, it was interesting. I don't like drowning, however.'
She frowned. ‘Yeah, sorry about that.'
Laughing, he moved over to where they had sat. Reaching down and grabbing both their swords, he walked back to her and smiled. ‘So, you can beat me in hand to hand … for now at least. Let's see how you fare in sword play.'
She raised an eyebrow. ‘Have you ever used a sword?'
He laughed. ‘No way. Well, except that time in Darkness Forest and the harpies. Everything else comes to me naturally. Let's see if this does as well.'
She nodded and grabbed her sword as he held it out. Holding his out in front of him, she smiled and did the same. They began to circle each other, swords raised towards each other.
As Lucas moved forward, Elizabeth dived to her side, his sword slamming into the ground. She swung her sword, but he had already recovered, swinging his sword to meet hers. Both jumping back, they stared at each other before they ran forward.
Their blades clashed several times and both jumped back. Lucas ran forward and struck out his sword towards her. Elizabeth, stepping back with her right foot and hitting his sword away from her, kicked Lucas and knocked him off guard. She swung out with her foot again and he fell backwards. Recovering quickly, Lucas dived to his side as Elizabeth attacked. Raising his sword and stepping back, Lucas blocked her strike. She swung again and for a second time, Lucas blocked the attack.
‘This is even more interesting,' he smiled as he stared at her.
She smiled in return and their swords clashed in the air again. As they attacked and parried each other's strikes, Lucas realised they were equally matched. Both jumping back, they stood staring at each other, swords raised. They both leapt into the air, spinning in a circle as their swords hit one another. As he landed, Lucas swung his sword above him, but Elizabeth did the same, their swords clashing. Elizabeth swung low towards his legs, spinning down into a crouched position. Lucas leapt above the sword and swung down as she raised hers.
Elizabeth rolled to her side as Lucas leapt back and moved in closer. Lucas swung his sword above him as Elizabeth did the same. As he moved his sword lower to attack, she did as well. He jumped into the air, spinning into a circle, and kicked her, sending her falling back. She leapt to her feet, smiling and wiping away the blood from her mouth and ran forward.
Swinging her sword left and right above her, Lucas meeting every strike, Elizabeth began to force Lucas to move back. As their swords clashed, Lucas stuck out his hand, sending her flying. As she bounced on her hand and back onto her feet, she created a water ball and threw it. Lucas knocked it aside with his telekinesis and ran towards her. They both leapt into the air, their swords clashing as they landed where the other stood.
Turning, Lucas swung his sword towards Elizabeth. Parrying his sword, Elizabeth grabbed the advantage again. Smiling, Lucas stepped back as her sword came crushing down. Kicking her in the stomach, he sent her to the ground. Leaping into the air, he landed above her, his sword aiming down towards her chest. She looked up and he continued to smile.
‘Looks like we are even,' he laughed, stepping back.
Laughing, she stood up and smiled back. ‘Looks like it.'
They walked over to the large tree from before and throwing their weapons down, they both sat down. Lucas was soaked, so he sat out further in the sun, lying down and letting his clothes dry. Even though she was drenched, Elizabeth moved towards the shaded area and sat down.
‘This is beautiful,' Elizabeth spoke softly. She looked at Lucas who now had his eyes closed.
‘What is this place?'
He smiled. ‘I don't know but … it feels …'
‘Like it's ours?' she asked.
He nodded and sat up. He stared at her and whispered, ‘I don't know how, but a part of me doesn't believe this could be happening.'
‘What do you mean?' she asked, staring at him, confused.
‘Well, it's just, it feels … right.' He smiled at her and she returned his gesture. She stood up, walked over to him and held out her hand.
‘Want to see my world?' she smiled.
He tilted his head and looked at her, confused. ‘Wait, what?'
She smiled and reached up. Taking off her amulet and kneeling down, she placed it over his head. ‘In our world, merpeople can breathe perfectly underwater. The necklaces we wear are magical. We can give them to surface dwellers, as we call all of you above the water. With this, you can breathe underwater.'
He grabbed her arms as she lowered them. They stared into each other's eyes and began to lean in. It was silent, and as his lips moved closer to hers, almost touching, they stopped themselves and she leant back. Smiling, she stood up and held out her hand.
‘Trust me,' she whispered.
Grabbing her hand, Lucas smiled at her and followed her as she moved closer to the lake. Walking into the water, she dived in and he realised he could not see her anymore. He began to follow her until he was in waist deep and he turned around in circles, looking for any sign of her.
‘Elizabeth?!' he called.
Her head rose slowly out of the water in front of him. Smiling, she replied, ‘You have to go under for it to work.'
‘Is it deep?' he asked.
She smiled, rolling her eyes. ‘Yes, really deep. Quit being a baby.'
‘Shut up,' he replied with a smile.
Moving further in, he could feel himself beginning to sink deeper until he was fully submerged and was amazed to discover he could see as clearly as he could above water. It was as if he was wearing water goggles and could see everything in clear detail. He gasped in awe as he finally caught a glimpse of Elizabeth. Her top half looked exactly the same, except now her feet were gone. She had a beautiful purple tail, her scales shining in the crystal blue water. Her tail, which began at her waist, had two light purple fins that were moving back and forth in the water. She smiled at him.
‘Lucas? You okay?' He looked at her, shocked, and she tapped her head. ‘We communicate telepathically in the water. As long as you wear my amulet, we can hear each other, and the fact you are a telepath would help as well.'
Lucas nodded. He opened his mouth to respond and froze. He had thought that the moment he did, water would begin to flow inside him, but he was shocked to discover that this was not the case. It was as if a small invisible air bubble was blocking the water from entering his mouth. He tried to talk, but no sound came out. He stared at Elizabeth and began to talk to her in the same way he did back in the giant's village.
‘This is amazing. I feel like … I can breathe.'
She smiled and moved closer to him. Holding out her hand, she leaned in towards him and asked, ‘Ready to see my world?'
He nodded and she swam backwards, pulling him along. She turned and swam deeper into the water, her hand never leaving his, guiding him down towards the bottom of the lake. They passed a school of fish that Lucas immediately believed to be goldfish, but as he stared at them, their orange scales changed to green. In the next instant, they changed to red before turning blue.
‘What are they?' he asked.
She smiled. ‘We call them Multis. They change the colour of their scales to blend into their environments. When they are not in any danger, they change for the fun of it.'
He smiled and held out his hand. The Multis swam around his arm and moved around his whole body. They tickled him and many moved towards Elizabeth as well. As they swam over them, Lucas watched as one by one they left both Elizabeth and him and swam away. Elizabeth took his hand again and swam further down.
They passed more Multis before it began to grow darker. Elizabeth pointed towards something passing above, and letting go of his hand, she swam up towards it. Swimming upwards towards the dark shape, Lucas realised it looked like a dolphin. It had the same fins and tail, including the fin on its back. Its face, however, did not look like the dolphins he knew.
On its flat, circular face there were little black ovals as eyes, which reminded Lucas of little black stones. A large line stretched from its top left to its top right in a semicircle and as he swam closer, the lines parted to reveal it was the creature's mouth. Hundreds of sharp teeth in two rows hung out as it smiled. Elizabeth grabbed its top fin and it swam down towards Lucas.
Paralyzed with fear, Lucas watched as it swam towards him. The creature stopped in front of him and smiled. The pure white teeth shone brightly in the water and Lucas could not help but smile back.
‘This is a Terrfish,' Elizabeth explained.
‘It looks like … something from my world,' he replied. He smiled at it, holding out his hand.
He patted its head and it swam around him. Elizabeth let go and swam next to Lucas as the Terrfish disappeared.
Lucas looked at Elizabeth and smiled. She smiled back and looked at him deviously.
‘Want to see a nifty trick?' she asked.
He smiled and nodded, so she swam upwards towards the surface. He tried to follow, but she was too fast. Breaking out onto the surface of the lake and breathing in fresh air, he looked around. He could not see her anywhere.
He turned and noticed Elizabeth leaping high out of the water and into the air. Her scales shone brightly in the sky as she back flipped into the water. He looked down and saw her swim fast past him and once again, she leapt out of the water, though this time towards the ground. As she fell, her fins seemed to shrink into her tail. When they were gone, her tail split into two pair of purple legs. She landed on her feet and turned to him, waving, her human legs and skin colour now clearly visible.
Unable to control himself, he smiled and waved back. Elizabeth ran back towards the water and leapt high once again into the air. He had never seen her leap that high before. Actually, he had never seen anyone leap that high in general. This time as she fell towards the water, her feet fused together and changed into her purple tail in the opposite way they turned into feet previously. The two fins grew out of the bottom of her tail and she landed in the water, arms outstretched.
Popping her head above the surface, she smiled at Lucas. ‘How was that?'
He smiled, holding up both hands. ‘Perfect ten.' She laughed and he looked at her, amazed.
‘That was incredible. I have never seen anything like that before. How did you leap that high?'
She shrugged. ‘When we transform, we can leap that high. When we fight, we can use that leaping ability, but we need to be careful we don't transform on land.'
He looked at her, confused. ‘What would happen?'
She frowned at him. ‘Well, if we were say on a beach or over there where water was nearby, then nothing. If we were in the middle of a battle, you can imagine.'
He smiled and nodded. ‘The mermaids I hear about can never do that! It's so amazing!'
‘What do your mermaids do?' she asked him, staring at him, confused.
He shrugged. ‘Well, they usually only stay in their mermaid form in stories. Some stories have them able to turn into humans, but usually if they get wet, they transform back. Sometimes, they continuously need water to survive above the surface.'
Elizabeth smiled. ‘We do not need water above the water. Nor do we transform back into our mer-form if we are wet. Only when we wish so do we.'
Lucas moved in closer to her and they were now face to face. He smiled at her. ‘I cannot wait to show you my world.'
She smiled at him. ‘I wish to see it so much.'
‘The water there is so beautiful,' he whispered. ‘Not like here but still nice. The ocean is so large you can swim for years to get from one end to another.'
She looked at him longingly. ‘It sounds lovely. I wish I could go there.'
He nodded at her. ‘I will take you there. I promise.' He leaned in closer to her and as she leaned in as well, their eyes closed and as their lips were almost touching, he felt a weird sensation pass through him. He could not feel the water anymore and when he opened his eyes, he realised he was in his small bed in Charles's room.
He sat up and looked around. He had been dreaming, or so he thought. He looked down, felt his clothes and realised they were dry. He looked at Elizabeth and she stared at him, smiling.
‘What happened?' he asked.
She shook her head. ‘I don't know. One of us was dreaming and somehow we … I think we went into the other's dream.'
‘It felt so real,' he said, pulling at his dry clothes. ‘I expected us to be … wet and stuff.'
She sat up and looked down at the blankets. ‘I think it was, to an extent. I mean, we both experienced it.' She looked over at Charles and saw he was still asleep in the large bed in the gigantic house. ‘Maybe we should ask Charles in the morning. Try to get some sleep.'
Lucas nodded and lay down. He looked at Elizabeth and whispered, ‘Elizabeth?'
‘Yes, Lucas?' she whispered back.
‘Maybe we don't tell him. Not yet.'
She turned her head to look at him and she looked confused. ‘What do you mean?'
He smiled at her. ‘It was nice having something … of ours, I mean. Something just between us.'
She smiled back at him, ‘Our little retreat.'
He nodded. ‘We can always meet the other there.'
She smiled back weakly and closed her eyes. ‘Yes …' She fell asleep as Lucas watched her and, closing his eyes, he fell asleep as well.