The Neophyte

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The Case of Dean Ryans

TRISTAN

When Nurse Hilda was busy attending to other students, I would check on Heidi from time to time.

She would be awake for some hours but the medication would put her to sleep for most of the day. I would come by when she allowed, otherwise I conducted training with the the Virtuosos.

During this time, Heidi and I began to bond. Her orphan life humbled me but she would have none of my pity since she did not want it. I learnt, from her stories, that Vicky was her only trusted friend. Our bond began in that week, exchanging stories of our childhood from two ends of the privilege poles. A small part of me, I confessed, grew fond of her.

She remained partially immobile in her right side—her arm and hip, but only for the time being. I assured her that she would regain enough strength once her recovery process was completed. I could tell that she was getting impatient, like she wanted to return to her home in the Worldly Realm.

“You know,” she said drowsily after taking her medication, “You’re not as intense and annoying as before.”

I smiled a little but she fell into a deep slumber right after.

I continued to hold classes although my heart was not at ease. The Ryans had had a hard life and Dean was the missing piece. Trouble settled in my dreams every night and somehow he was in the thick of it all.

One night, I summoned the portal to the Underworld. It had almost been a week since the council. Jessie and Wynona had not returned.

I peeked into the Lair on the other side of the portal. It was mostly darkness but there were candles and a lowly-illuminated chandelier. I stepped into it and the portal behind me closed. Silence enveloped me as soon as I stood in the middle of what was once the grand hall.

The Lair was still windowless and the cracked walls were left alone. Fragments of glass and other rubble crunched beneath my boots. I scanned the deserted Lair and my eyes landed on the spot where I jostled with the djinn while racing my way to Heidi.

A freezing gust of wind blew in and around the Lair like a metaphorical aftermath. I had never seen it so defeated and cold. Vampires who used to swarm the place were no longer in sight. Where was everyone?

“State your business,” a voice commanded from behind me.

I turned to see a figure cloaked in a large black hood. The face and identity remained unseen.

“I am Tristan Embers. I am looking for Wynona Wilkins and Jessie White,” I replied, one hand gripping my wand inside my coat.

The hooded figure moved slightly and then removed its hood. She was a Vampire with her fangs completely visible. Her defences were up. She was as tall as I was and her facial features were delicate, somewhat vulnerable. I was almost enamoured by her beauty.

“You were the one who brought Heidi to safety,” her tone softened immediately, almost a whisper. “Is she okay?”

“You must be her Vampire friend. Heidi is resting.” I looked around and lowered my voice, “What happened during the battle?”

Her red eyes darted around before gesturing to me to follow her. She took me to the dining room—where it all began. She extended a muscular arm and pulled a door open. I entered first and she followed after.

“We’ll be safe in here,” she removed the cloak and took a seat. “Sit with me and I will show you what happened after the battle.”

Show me?”

“My name is Vicky. I am Lord Voltaire’s right hand and I have the ability to see and show you visions of what was. You can trust me.”

I sat in front of her. I let her take my hands and she held her palms in mine. I closed my eyes and in no time, I was entranced as she entwined her memories into me. She then proceeded to narrate the events through telepathy:

The battle went on for another half an hour. I stood by Lord Voltaire as he unveiled his true shadow form. Every high-ranking Vampire had one. The shadow form is not something we would reveal unless necessary. He towered above everything, dark and menacing, watching out for something—or someone. His fangs barred and eyes black. I fought off the djinns that attempted to attack him.

I had a hunch that he was looking for Synto the Fallen. He had been fighting that dark being for centuries. Unfortunately, he saw instead what became the fall of the Lair.

Synto had come indeed but we could not catch a glimpse of his mortal form. Synto walked into the Lair, his Unholy aura a thick, dark veil around him. It was so dark that the earth quaked beneath him and the lights went out. It had a pair of golden yellow eyes that peered out of its dark mist. The djinns we were fighting possessed more strength than ever. They were strong and intelligent because he controlled them. No mortal can control djinns the way dark magic can.

Lord Voltaire garnered all his rage but I held his wrist. “Do not fall for it just yet, my lord, let it speak. See what it wants and maybe it can let us be.”

He snapped his head back to the dark being. It approached us, all with purpose like it was ready for some kind of negotiation. Lord Voltaire bent his long torso, ready to pounce, and growled.

“Speak! Or thou shalt find thyself beheaded in three seconds.”

The thing snickered. When it spoke, its voice was so distorted and the most ghastly sound came forth, “Thou hath not changed, Voltaire. Thou may be centuries old, but thou art young in mine eyes. Thou seest thy fate in these halls, but I come not to slay thee or thy children. I come for the mortal.”

Lord Voltaire tilted his head. “Which one? There are three of them and thou cannot win against any. They are the strongest Sages I have ever known. I warn thee.”

The thing laughed and the walls shook. “Only three, thou sayst? Thou may be the Lord of Vampires but thou art showing thy weakness through deceit. I speak not of the Sages, for they mean nothing to me.”

I froze, my eyes slowly darted to the black thing. It was all mist but there was a solid form moving within its black aura. Its golden eyes, which were fixated on Lord Voltaire, shifted to me.

“No,” I blurted a whisper. Lord Voltaire held me, his red eyes signalling to remain calm. He turned back to Synto, red eyes turning black once more.

“If thou art looking for a mortal who is not the three Sages, then why art thou here? My Lair is for the immortal and the occasional visits from the three most powerful Spellcasters.”

Synto’s golden eyes narrowed and disappeared as unceremoniously as he had arrived. But that was when he sent ten more djinns to conclude the battle, each one as large as an elephant. They caused nothing but destruction to the architecture and tore the place apart. Synto did not come to bargain—he came to demand.

I opened my eyes. Vicky ended her vision there and let go of my hands. I could feel my throat close up. My thoughts flew to Heidi.

Vicky’s eyes were round and apologetic. “I immediately looked for Heidi after that. I met Jessie and he told me you had taken her back to The Academy. We fled the Lair afterwards and regrouped at a makeshift one in the Worldly Realm. We have no place here, not now. Not as long as Synto is walking about again.”

“Synto is controlling these djinns through dark magic,” I said, my voice low. A knot in my stomach tightened. “I know a Spellcaster who could cast dark magic, but that’s only a theory.”

Vicky’s head tilted.

“His name is Dean Ryans. He is a strong Spellcaster, almost as strong as a Sage. He and I were trained together by my grandfather.”

“He was a Voltaire recommendation too,” she said. “We need to warn them. I can take you to Lord Voltaire. Once Synto finds Heidi, he’s going to bring destruction to all the three realms...and who knows what he would do to her.”

* * *

Their ‘makeshift Lair’, as Vicky called it, was merely an abandoned mansion up on the other side of Orchidville, the highest peak of the hills overlooking the city centre.

Vines crept across its brick walls like dark veins. Overgrown grass in the lawn brushed our knees and the pathway leading to the front door was broken and cracked from the tree root that forced its way from beside the front porch. This mansion had been here for decades. Despite the thriving plants, there were no animals in sight, not even a cricket. The mansion had always been isolated from most other houses. It was no doubt that the Vampires had made this into their home.

“What were you doing at the Lair back in the Underworld?” I asked Vicky as we stood on the porch.

Vicky did not turn to me. She pulled out a key from her pocket and unlocked the door. “I was sent to question anyone who entered it. We were looking out for any suspicious activities. We believe that there were traitors among us who planted the seeds during the council. We thought they might return to do something there.”

“So you can sense if someone enters the Underworld?”

“No, but Lord Voltaire can. Only the King of the realm possesses that ability.”

We entered through the front door. Lord Voltaire, Wynona and Jessie were in the living room, or what used to be one. The place was clean—perhaps Jessie Scrubbiro’d the place—and there were no furniture. Our presence interrupted their deep conversation.

“Tristan!” Wynona got up and hugged me. “What brought you here?”

“Vicky did,” I replied. “I was at the Lair looking for you.”

Lord Voltaire turned to me, a grin broke across his face. Ever since Vicky’s vision, I could not un-see his shadow form and no amount of smiles from him could fix that.

“Is Heidi safe?” He asked, his voice riddled with concern.

I nodded. “Our nurse checks up on her from time to time. She was poisoned before by a djinn but that’s all been taken care of. She’s healthy now.”

“I have fortified the Magic Realm so Synto cannot pass through the portals. We’ll just have to make sure Heidi stays there,” Jessie said.

“What do we have on Synto?” I asked. Lord Voltaire’s red eyes flickered.

“Well,” he began, “We know that he is looking for our dear mortal, Heidi. I know Synto for all the centuries that I have been alive—mortal life included—that it is a cunning and vicious spirit being. It moves through the realities of mortal time and space to get to another realm. Jessie and I have locked our two realms so no djinn can even summon a portal.

“Synto’s dark history dates back to thousands of years—he is timeless. Because he is a spirit being, he needs a vessel to go about his deeds. Of course, he cannot embody a Vampire, otherwise we’d both be cancelled out—like two Unholy negatives. A mortal’s vessel is pure and innocent, as it is designed to be, so it is just right for Synto’s needs. Synto’s current vessel, I believe, belongs to a Spellcaster.”

Silence fell on all five of us. I turned to Jessie and Wynona who said nothing, heads hung in shame. A rogue Spellcaster was not something unusual—there were plenty of Spellcasters who abandoned the integrity of spellcasting and used magic for their misdeeds. But because we believed in the freedom of choice, we had no policy to stop them.

“Tell him about Heidi, Voltaire,” Vicky said, nodding towards me.

My thoughts paused. “Am I missing something?”

Lord Voltaire darted his eyes at me and then away. “Heidi is in grave danger. And I believe it was my fault.”

I waited for him to speak but absolute silence. So I added, “I think I know who Synto’s vessel might be. I believe it’s Dean Ryans, a former friend of mine. He’s a fellow Spellcaster and very powerful. I think he has discovered dark magic and is using the djinns to bend to his will.”

Lord Voltaire’s red eyes widened, “Dark magic? But that’s impossible!”

“It’s true,” Jesse chimed in, “Ryans attacked Tristan’s father with a dark magic spell which almost killed him. Even his spell summoned a large djinn that almost killed Tristan too.”

“One of ours, Marcus, was summoned to help them that night,” Vicky turned to Lord Voltaire. “I remember this story.”

“Well then he did not inform me of the dark magic,” Lord Voltaire said.

“I was planning to inform you myself during the council but plans changed,” I spoke. “Anyway, we think that he had somehow manifested the Unholy black aura and channeled it into his spells.”

Wynona shifted her weight and Jessie stood still, eyebrows furrowed. Vicky’s eyes darted from the window to us from time to time.

Lord Voltaire turned to me. “We are not sure why he is looking for Heidi, but whatever his purpose may be, we must not let him reach her before we do.”

I nodded and summoned the portal back to the Magic realm.

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