Nikki - The Child of Twilight
“This is obviously unexpected.” I muttered. Eran looked severe, but it was betrayed by his angelic features. The intense aura of innocence and purity screamed all over him. No wonder I fell for it. This boy was too charming for his own good. “I assume you’ve had adventures on that dark side.”
“No.” He quipped. And that surprised me all the more. His auburn and dirty blonde hair were long enough to give him bangs that danced before his emerald green eyes. “I have never been to Asphodel. When I heard the news that there was a young Necromancer here in Madburrow, I had to make a move right away.”
“And where did you hear this?” I questioned him right away. If this boy knew who I was, then a rumor had started to spread. And didn’t like it. “I’m not exactly out of the closet that I have a knack of summoning dead people. A boy that could talk to spirits sounded like the best recipe for a good beat up from bullies.”
“Relax.” Eran chided. Then he motioned me to follow him to a garden where the room’s door could still be seen. That way, if Father Declan comes out, he could see me right away. “Your secret is closely guarded. There aren’t many of your kind that comes out in the open. And exposing your ability to a lot of people means a bigger competition for them. No one wants that.”
“You seemed to be very aware of what’s happening to other dimensions. It was only a few days ago since I have discovered that I have this power.” I pointed out. Then I paused. A silent but powerful hesitation grabbed me by the throat. But I decided to go for it. “And I’m not sure who to trust.”
“That’s understandable. I don’t blame you for having many observers around. Your magic is demanded in these trying times.” Eran replied. Then he smiled at me and put a hand on my shoulder. “Which I why I sent Isis to you as soon as I could. Otherwise, you would be too guarded by Samael, and I won’t be able to help.”
That’s one surprise after another. Beyond that, I didn’t know what to expect next. Eran knew how I would react as if he was baiting me.
“So you know about them?” I asked. Eran just nodded. “Isis said he doesn’t know anything about those people. Yet you do. I find that inconsistent.”
“The creatures of Elefsier like Isis do not trifle in the affairs of mages and of mankind. I’m sure he mentioned that.” The boy retorted. As we both sat down each opposite each other, I noticed how he looked so at ease with laying down his cards so freely. “Only a few of them are interested. But in my opinion, it’s about time they meddle. The threat of the Black Sorceress is not yet over.”
“Samael had posed himself as my teacher. And I’m sure he killed the previous one.” I blurted. Then an image of Phineas and Otis inside the same room as that maniac just made me more worried. “I only managed to leave a clone of me, thanks to Isis. It was a wight under the disguise of an illusion curse. But that would alert him for sure.”
“I see.” Eran replied. “That was an aggressive move for the Black Sorceress. I think she’s getting desperate if that’s the case.”
“Looks like you do know about her.” I gasped. The agitation was evident in my voice. I wouldn’t forget how she forcefully controlled my body just by glaring at me and a few words. And who knows what kind of effect would that have on me. “I met her in Asphodel. She said she was sealed deep in Death.”
“That’s right. Even though her physical body has been destroyed, she can easily take on a physical form. Once her spirit has been released from the seals, that is. The seal is breakable, and this is only a setback for them.” Eran explained. His boyish face attempted to relay the dangers of what we were about to face but failed due to his serene features. “Her bindings are only temporary. And while it’s buying us some time, we need to look for ways to end her permanently.”
Then we stared at each other. Eye to eye.
“I just find this funny.” I ended up chuckling and shaking my head. “A kid younger than me is lecturing me about things I shouldn’t be involved with. Are you really just nine or ten years old?”
“Let’s just say I’m older than you.” He snickered. Even if Eran just sounded like an adult a few minutes prior, he seemed to be a kid at heart. I couldn’t imagine what he had to go through for him to mature so fast. But then I remembered that I was in the same predicament.
Isis appeared again by his foot and looked at me. But it said nothing. Oversized discs of amber eyes lazily observed me as I talked to Eran.
“I have a theory on how to kill her. And I need your help with it.” Eran said. His voice was as straightforward as possible. “I’ve also heard of rumors that a mage in Zidania managed to uncover her weakness. But we had no proof. And that mage perished at the hands of the Black Sorceress. So everyone is back to square one.”
“Why would you do so much to kill her?” I retorted. My brows scrunched at the thought of how he was hoarding all the burden. Just to kill a mage who had been made almost immortal. “Aren’t there mages who are old and mature enough to handle the Black Sorceress? If she was a terrible person, then I’m sure there are many people out there who are willing to do whatever it takes to have her pay for her crimes. This is insane, Eran. We’re just kids. We won’t be able to do anything.”
“Simple.” The young boy quipped back. A low growl was being held back behind his throat. “She killed my parents. And I’ll do whatever it takes to finish her once and for all.”
My stomach fell to the ground as he said it. I remembered how even my mom was threatened by their lot. And suddenly, a furious rage ran up to my forehead. It roared and thrashed inside me. That was more than enough to understand why Eran was so motivated.
“I’m a mage like you, Nikki. And this gift to be powerful is also a responsibility for me.” Eran continued on. He looked at me with fierce eyes, and they were glossy with tears. “I’m also well-aware than I am young. But that shouldn’t stop me from making a difference. There was a saying that says: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. And I genuinely believe you’re a good person, Nikki.”
A loud roar of silence erupted between Eran and me.
“Looks like you’ve enjoyed Eran’s company.” A voice behind us spoke. It was Father Declan who walked up to us. Whatever he needed to clean in the other room was done. “Come along, Nikki. I’d love to hear how you ended up visiting this place.”
Eran and I looked at each other and decided to play along.
“It was nice to meet you.” I extended my hand. Then he took it firmly into his hand, so I used that chance to quickly cast a hex on him. The same hex that I used on the wight so I could communicate with him. It was then I whispered, “Gheirn vox il verbiden inguis.”
A marking appeared on his wrist, and a panicked look was written all over his face. Hopefully, Father Declan overlooked that from behind me. I turned around and followed the priest to his office.
What should I tell him? I sent a message to Eran through my hex. The boy felt surprised, and I could almost hear him gasp through that line of mental connection. Just speak your mind, and I’ll be able to listen.
How are you doing this? He asked. His voice shrieked in my head. And the tone was a form of demand. Behind Father Declan, I couldn’t help but shake my head. What have you placed on me? Release this magic right now!
Chill out, Eran. I replied in my head. I thought it was this priest that I came here for. So I asked if I could talk to him in his office. But now, I don’t know what to say to him. I wasn’t expecting that you were Isis’ benefactor.
I’m not amused. Eran echoed. Then there was a short silence. Talk to him about anything.
After that, I didn’t attempt to reply. Father Declan motioned me to sit on the chair by his desk. He sat promptly on the other side, eager to whatever conversation I was willing to offer. The priest sat silently, waiting for me to say something.
“If you’re an orphan, is it hard to find your actual parents?” I asked. The man’s brows were raised in a sly curiosity. But he kept himself silent. A question was brooding at the tip of his tongue. I looked back at him intently, yet the stillness fell upon us.
“That’s a hard question for such a young man.” He lamented. Then the priest leaned forward to study me. His eyes were transfixed on mine. A typical reaction towards any heterochromic individual. Nevertheless, he made no judgment on it. “I’d love to hear first what caused you to look for your real parents. It’s always something an orphan has to confront one way or another.”
“I’m no orphan.” I replied quickly. Anger was evident in my tone. Yet again, Father Declan made no criticisms on it. The priest leaned back, and his tensed shoulders went a bit more relaxed. “I live with my real mom. She raised me. And for that, I love her tremendously. What I want to talk about is my dad.”
“I see.” His voice felt sorry. “You have never met your dad, I assume.”
“No.” I stated. “It’s just funny that mom said he only met him once. Yet she keeps saying that they love each other very much. I just don’t get that part. If you love someone, why would you leave them? It doesn’t make any sense.”
“I’m really sorry to hear that it’s your current situation, Nikki. I really am.” Father Declan apologized. His eyes were a mix of compassion and pity. And it was a look I didn’t welcome. “I cannot speak on behalf of your dad. It’s something only he can answer. Now I see why you visited this place.”
“I don’t even know his full name. And I don’t even have an idea of where to start looking for him. Mom wouldn’t give any clues. She just says that I’m not old enough to understand yet.” I grumbled. My voice escalated, which caught him a bit of surprise. “But I want the answers. I want to show her that I’m ready. It’s just I have no idea how to prove it.”
The silence boomed again in the room.
“I’m sure your mom means well.” He explained. His eyes were filled with ease amid my uproar. “I don’t want to paint myself as a bad person here, Nikki. But you have to trust your mom for this one. I’ll put this bluntly, you will just end up being more confused if you are given the answers that you want.”
“You don’t understand!” I snapped back. My fingers were trembling on my knees. And my eyes were spitting daggers at him. Yet no retaliation came from the priest. “No one does.”
“Then let me ask you something.” He replied calmly. “Why do you want to see your dad so bad?”
I fell quiet. It was mostly connected to my ability to see and summon the dead. And it’s something I cannot tell him. Father Declan shouldn’t know. An excuse was what I needed that very moment. Though I couldn’t find any.
“It’s very personal.” It was all I could muster. But the priest seemed content with my useless answer. He looked peaceful in his seat. “No offense, but I couldn’t trust you with everything. I’ve only met you now.”
“None taken.” He smiled.
“I’m sorry for the sudden intrusion. And my behavior. My mom would have snapped at me if she saw me raising my voice at someone.” I apologized and stood up. “Surely, you are a very busy person. I think I need to go now.”
Father Declan also stood up, and we walked towards the door. He opened it for me, and we walked through the hallways. Both of us were quiet after I made a scene in front of him. I was angry, yet I couldn’t take out on him.
“I can find my way outside from here.” I said. But I made no effort to look at him in the eye. My head bowed in shame for taking it out on him. Father Declan seemed to be a decent person. “Thank you so much for your time.”
I wanted him to stop me. He didn’t. “You are always welcome here, Nikki. I’d love to have more personal talks with you. It was nice to meet you.”
“Thank you, Father Declan.” It was all I could say. “Nice to meet you, too.”
I quickly left the orphanage and went on the first bus back to the center of Madburrow. Then I sent a message through the hex place on Eran’s wrist. I’ll be back for you. You still have a lot of explaining to do.
There was no response.
My ride back was not eventful, and even Isis was nowhere to be found. I snuck into the school through Asphodel, and I commanded my wight to take a bathroom break. Then I dragged it into the other realm by pulling it with me. It was out of a hunch based on Isis’t theory about my ability. I think it was how Eran was planning to go to Asphodel. No wonder why he needed me.
I switched myself with my replica and returned to my classroom. Phineas was in another class, and Otis was just being a goof beside. Thankfully, it wasn’t Samael who was teaching at my arrival. So far, no one noticed the quick swapping of bodies. None of my classmates knew that they were with a corpse a few minutes before I came.
“Did you take a dump?” Otis whispered. He was obviously holding back a snicker. “You’ve been farting all day. It smelled like a dead cat. Now everyone’s mad at you.”
“Yeah, sorry.” I replied. My cheeks felt warm from blushing. That’s going to be hard to explain if I smelled like a dead corpse. I guess the illusion curse can’t cover up a wight’s pungent smell. No idea why I didn’t notice that the night before. “I’m all okay now.”
“Are you sure?” He whispered back again. Otis was crazy determined to snoop into my business all of a sudden. “Phineas was kind of worried. It’s almost dismissal, and he’d love to ask a lot of questions then.”
“Mr. Ellison and Mr. Chase, would you like to share your thoughts with the rest of the class?” Our math teacher caught our attention. Neither of us replied. Everyone looked at us. And the inspection was more fixated on me for smelling like a dead cat. I slowly slumped my head, downwards in guilt. While Mrs. Yamamoto gloated for shaming us. “Now, please do be quiet.”
I just sighed and focused on my class. Otis just snickered beside me, which annoyed me all the more. Sometimes, his ability to be a major airhead can be such a drag for Phineas and me.
The rest of the flew by, and as expected, Phineas was eager to ask how I was.
“I’d love to be absent if I was in your shoes. I mean, you weren’t feeling good, to begin with. That’s a good excuse.” He said as we walked towards the locker area. Otis was just whistling a familiar tune absent-mindedly. “Plus, you didn’t have to torture us with your farts. The smell was awful. What on earth did you eat last night?”
“Can you please shut it?” I groaned. But he was more than amused at how annoyed I was. “Plus, you’re one of the smartest kids around. I can’t believe I’d hear something from you about slacking off. That’s not like you.”
“I have my lazy days.” Phineas quipped. Then his eyes darted off slowly to our other friend. “Otis is pretty consistent with his lazy days, though. His streak could go for weeks.”
“I could teach you how if you want to.” My other friend beamed. Both of them were teaming up on me, and I just wanted to go back home. At the back of my head, I was wondering what Eran was doing. “It’s not that easy to be lazy all the time. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll get better.”
“See? He’s even proud of it.” Phineas chuckled. His high pitch of a voice caught Mr. Evans’ attention, who was passing by. He was also known as Samael, son of the Black Sorceress.
He approached us with both of his brows raised up. His mouth curled into a sinister smile. Not sure if Phineas found that creepy. “Hello there, my dear students. And of course, Mr. Ellison. It seems that you’ve returned to being normal.”
“Maybe you’re just seeing things, Mr. Cain.” I replied. All of my efforts were focused on holding myself back to not snarl at him. “I’ve always been normal.”
“Perhaps you should be more invested in being beyond that. Being normal is such a boring thing.” He said with a dry tone. “Now, please excuse me, I must attend another meeting that is not boring at all.”
He walked sternly out of our way, with his eyes glaring so dimly at me.
“I swear, he’s the most creepy teacher that had ever walked on these halls.” I stated. But in the back of my head, I already knew that he knew. His glare before he left said it all. “That guy should be fired or something.”
“Well, he’s pretty eccentric. I don’t think much of our other teachers are on good terms with him either.” Phineas replied dismissively. “But I kind of like him. He just keeps everything to himself. And is good at vanishing without a trace, too.”
“Why are you even my best friend?” I groaned. But regarding my friend’s side comment about vanishing, it was only I who could explain. Sadly, neither Phineas nor Otis would get it. I didn’t want them to get involved in my problems against Samael. That would be bad. “Let’s just all go home. I need to rest.”
The bus arrived, and the three of us sat at the back of the vehicle. I was sitting by the window when a familiar voice entered my head. Nikki, can you hear me?
Eran? I thought. It was weird that he tried to communicate with me through the hex again. The last time I saw him was that he was trying to get rid of it. I tried to say goodbye through the hex. But you were not responding. What happened?
Nothing. He replied. His voice in my head sounded mad. I even felt it in my chest as his thought pressed into mine. I just don’t like the fact that you’re talking to me by invading my thoughts. It’s something I don’t like.
So what’s our next plan? I asked. Then I paused, waiting for his reply. But he didn’t, so I pushed further. You said you have a theory. And you said that you need my help. So spit it out. You mentioned that you need to be in Asphodel for it.
I’ll come for you tonight. He replied. His voice firm and decided. I don’t think I would be able to sway him. So don’t go to sleep right away. Then we can plan how we can prepare ourselves.
How? Can you trace me back through the hex? I asked some more. The worry in my voice was unmistakable. If he can, then I need to be very considerate in using that hex on people. Leaving a trail would be a mistake. You’re quite far from here.
I don’t have a problem with traveling or moving around. Don’t worry. He assured me. But it wasn’t compelling. I know where you are, thanks to Isis. That cat is very good at tracking people. I actually sent that tiny beast to you without knowing where to actually find you.
Okay. I’m good with that. I sighed. But that caught Otis’ attention beside me, and just wondered what I was going through. Little did he know that I’d be involved with some weird stuff in a few hours. What are we going to be after anyway? Give me an idea, at least. It’s not fair if you’re just going to keep me in the dark.
I felt the nervousness of Eran’s mind coming from the other side. It felt like it was dancing on the tip of my brain. My breathing shifted as more of Eran was exposed to me. The hex that I used on him had empathic capabilities, which was the only hypothesis I could conclude.
This is the only way I could think of. It’s a weapon that was long-hidden away because of its powers. Only a few know about the existence of this thing. It was only through a reliable source that I was able to confirm it’s current resting place. He finally replied. And it just made me curious about what he was talking about. We’re going to steal the Necronomicon.