The Neophyte

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The Lucky Orphan

HEIDI

I was finally alone after a full week.

I awoke in the middle of the night, perturbed by the recurring nightmares. My head spun; a side effect of the painkiller. Or maybe the poison had secretly made its way to my brain. Nurse Hilda only checked up on me in the mornings, between nine and ten o’clock. Tristan, however, had been taking the time to give me ‘surprise visits’.

There was a tinge of guilt in me that I had to deceive him.

I tossed aside the blanket and sat on the edge of the bed. The headache made my head heavy and neck stiff. His voice still rang in my ear.

We can talk about your visions.

I pushed myself off the bed and the room tilted. I steadied myself onto the bedpost. I shut my eyes and breathed. No amount of healing spell could get rid of the migraine and dizziness.

I remembered my nightmare. It was the same thing—hung by the limbs with Vampires underneath me. But the last one was a little different. As I hung hopelessly, a man appeared. The Vampires were gone at this point, vanished somehow, and he spoke in that same voice from Nurse Hilda’s office. He had bright-red hair, green eyes and very pale skin. He looked human—more human than human—and his voice thick with concern.

I could not speak. He moved closer and freed me. There was an aura of caution but wanting. A push and a pull.

“Follow me when you are ready. You know where to find me,” he spoke before fading away. I woke up right after.

When the room stopped tilting, I garnered enough strength to grab my things and soon I was out the door. I borrowed Wynona’s grey beanie and put on my lucky leather jacket. Lucky because it was my father’s that my grandmother had kept all these years. I put on my combat boots, grabbed my wand and I was out the door.

I had not learned to summon a portal just yet so I needed to get to the one at the Gardens in front of the HQ. It would be tricky since it would be in plain sight so I planned to sneak in and out, making sure that I would be unseen. Easy-peasy, right?

I lowered the beanie and lifted the collar of my jacket. I lifted my boots as much as I could and landed on my heels. That way, it would make less noise. My heart raced as I made my way out of the HQ and towards the portal.

The stars above were gazing down. If anyone asked, I would tell them that I needed to feed my cat. If Tristan asked…

...well, I actually missed my cat.

Success, I thought, as I got close to the portal. Without looking back, I stepped into it and I was finally back in the Worldly Realm. A cold breeze rushed past me. The portal brought me to the park near my apartment where I had the encounter with the djinn that poisoned me. Immediately, I was on high alert.

I made my way out of the park and onto the streets. People walked about, families and friends making their way home from restaurants and movie theatres. I glanced at my watch; half past nine. I zipped up my jacket and kept my head down, in case Vicky sensed where I was.

Tucked away towards the outskirts of the town centre, I finally reached the old Lucky Orphans orphanage. I had to flag a cab to get there. When I stepped out of the vehicle, the familiar sight greeted me in its quietness and deserted state—the orphanage had relocated to the city but the building remained. It still looked the way it did when I lived there; a tacky-coloured cement-building with its name still displayed on a wooden signboard.

The door was unlocked. I entered the building, keeping my eyes peeled for any sign of anyone. Nothing. Maybe I was too early or maybe—

“I have not seen you in so long,” a voice materialised from my left where the staircase was.

There was a movement in the shadow and then it stopped. It was tall, like Tristan, but it had a pair of eyes with glowing golden irises.

“You know, if you showed yourself, it would be more comforting,” I said, remaining nonchalant.

The shadow stepped into the moonlight that shone through the window. He wore a black coat and had red hair. His skin was pale but not like a Vampire. He looked definitely human, with the exception of his eyes. He was smiling.

“Who are you?”

“It’s nice to finally meet you in person, Heidi. My name is Dean. My father was a good friend of yours.”

My thoughts halted. “My father has been dead a long time.”

“So is mine,” he replied. His voice was velvety and low. I had to step closer to really listen carefully. There was nothing menacing about him—he had no aura—just human.

“So what’s with the secret meeting, Dean?” I asked, getting bored.

If he was some creep that just wanted to trap me then I had my wand and combat boots ready to kick his ‘behind’.

Dean took a few steps back and sat on the second step of the staircase. He had loafers on—somehow to my surprise—and lifted one leg onto one step higher than the other. He rested his elbow on the higher knee. There was something about him that was unnaturally calm, like he had a cleverly hidden plot. I pretended to remain nonchalant when really, I was on high alert.

“Well,” he spoke casually in his Abercrombie-model pose, “I am an orphan, just like you. My parents died because they were caught in a magical crossfire. For me, it was my grandmother who made a deal with djinns. For you, your grandfather.”

I scoffed, “And where did you get that lie from? Orphans Weekly?

Dean’s face broke into a wide grin and looked down. He chuckled, “I knew you wouldn’t know about your family history. My father and yours were close. They would confide in each other—they were colleagues then—and exchanged stories of how the djinns would destroy their marriage and family ties. Tell me, Heidi, how much do you know about your grandfather?”

I stayed silent. Somehow I was ready to leave. I should have but my legs would not obey.

“He used djinns to help make his life better. He was a poor man but he suddenly had the money to buy a house and plan a wedding. After he married your grandmother and had your father, he decided that he did not need the djinns anymore.

“You see Heidi, you can’t just discard djinns like they’re objects. But your grandfather grew desperate and decided to dispose of them in the forest by the foot of the hills. They decided to take him with them, so he disappeared. Soon after, they return to the house to take revenge on the people he loved. Your parents’ fate came earlier than your grandmother’s, but it happened nonetheless.”

Bull,” I muttered.

Dean shrugged. “Believe or don’t, that’s your choice. But don’t say I wasn’t being honest.”

A movement behind him in the shadow. My eyes followed it but it was too dark to be sure. When it disappeared I looked back at him.

“And you?” I retorted, the current in my lungs heating up, “What’s your story with me? My family’s dark history is not my story.”

The corner of his lips upturned. “But you are your grandfather’s granddaughter—his blood flows through you. You may have befriended a Vampire but why do you think she chose to stick to you? To take care of you? Vampires don’t think about anyone else but their own kingdom. They don’t trust you.”

I stared at him wordlessly. The shadow behind him moved again, this time it scurried behind me. I could feel goosebumps at the back of my neck.

“From an orphan to a fellow orphan,” he continued and stood up. “You have no family, no matter what they want you to think. The three Sages? You’re just a tool for their ego. Spellcasting becomes useless if you don’t utilise it for something bigger than yourself.”

“You sound like you’ve been trained by them personally,” I remarked. Then it clicked. “You must be the other Lord Voltaire recommendation.”

He smiled. “You’re intelligent, Heidi, you always figure it out. Didn’t you master the basics of Practical and Mischief magic? You did so effortlessly. Your Untamed magic training is hindered because of the Sage, not you.”

“It’s complicated,” I defended. “Tristan had other things to take care of.”

“I can teach you, Heidi. I was trained by his grandfather, Sir William Embers himself. I trained side by side with Tristan. What he can do, in fact, I can do better.”

He was getting excited as his golden eyes glowed a shade brighter than before. I frowned and took a step back, “I don’t trust you.”

“And you trust him?” His voice went an octave higher at the last word. “Come on, Heidi! We are alike. We are highly-driven by motivation. We are the products of what life has thrown at us and we hone our strengths by fighting back. We don’t back down from opportunities. What does he know about hardship? A rich, undeserving grandson of a once-respected Sage!”

His dark aura began to pulsate. I had not noticed it before, I thought it was just his shadow the whole time. I readied my stance to defend.

“Your aura…” my voice trailed before I paused. Then it all hit me. “You killed your family for your powers, didn’t you?”

“A sacrifice I had to make!” He raised his voice. Then he inhaled, with one corner of his lips curled skywards in a crooked smile. His golden yellow eyes slowly turned black. “Besides, my vessel is only temporary. I have found another that is...stronger.”

“You’re sick...you’re an orphan by choice.”

He pursed his lips, “I prefer a lucky orphan. You know, because at least I know who my parents were.”

I gritted my teeth. “And what does all this have to do with me?”

“I can show you so much more than anyone ever could, Heidi. More than the three useless Sages, more than the King of the Void himself. You have no idea how lucky you are to have a vessel like yours. Join me, Heidi.”

I resisted pulling out my wand. I took a deep breath and flicked some hair away from my eyes impatiently. I was ready to kick that smug look off his face. “I reject your offer.”

“Okay,” he said and laughed. “Oh, and one more thing, Heidi, I forgot to mention.”

Dean took a few steps closer until he was inches away from my face. I had to stretch my neck just to maintain my gaze.

In a split-second, he grabbed my wrist but I was able to reverse. Then I kneed him in the groin and turned on my heels to head for the door. I could hear him groan behind me as my heart raced.

I had not gotten too far when I was knocked backwards by an unseen force. When I landed, a djinn got hold of me and we locked eyes for a split second before I kneed it off me. After twenty-eight years, I wondered, would they get hurt in the groin? Do they even have a groin?

Either way, the djinn rolled off and I pushed myself off the floor. I pulled out my wand and waved at it, “Delirium!

The djinn dematerialised. From behind where Dean was, I heard him yell, “Get her!”

More djinns came out of the shadows. They lunged towards me but I evaded every one of them. Then a large djinn loomed over me and caught me in its grasp. I could not get out of this one.

Dean recovered and stood in front of me. His eyes were pitch-black and black aura pulsated like a frantic heartbeat. “You didn’t think I’d let you off without making you keep my secret, did you?”

With his inhuman super strength, he pinned my wrists to my back before a djinn forced a choker onto my neck.

Yes, a choker. Like the accessory.

I pulled at it to come off but it tightened and strangled me. I let go and it stopped.

“What did you—”

“You resisted so I had to do it the hard way. You see, that is an anti-magic choker that I specifically designed for you. It’s not an odd look at all, so no one will be suspicious of an added accessory.” His yellow eyes were glowing, voice shifting into something less human.

“So you will do as I command you, when the time comes. Oh, and if you told anyone, it will snap your head right off your pretty shoulders.”

I didn’t waste any more time. I bent my torso slightly and charged after him. We both crashed through the wooden walls of the living area and into the old kitchen. In the seconds when he was still in shock, I got up and made for the door. Unfortunately, those seconds did not last. A djinn shut the door and I was trapped once again. This time, Dean was angrier than ever.

He loomed over me, his black aura taking over him. He looked less human and more...otherworldly. Eventually he was engulfed in a thick black mist.

Arsonion!” I cried out, waving my wand towards him.

Without flinching, his blackness swallowed my magic. I stood there, stunned at what I just witnessed. This couldn’t be.

“That choker makes your magic weak, Neophyte!” He growled and the floor shook. “Once it blocks your aura completely, you are no match for what’s to come unless you join me.”

A howl in the distance.

More djinns appeared from the windows and made their way in. My heart was racing. I knew I was trapped but I didn’t expect to be outnumbered by this many. If I were being honest, I was ready to die there.

Dean was radiating heat at this point. I moved to the corner of the old kitchen and readied my stance. Two djinns crashed through the window and headed straight for me. I countered their moves and fought them off. Thank goodness for the years of training with Vicky.

Vicky. I thought about her, hoping she could hear me somehow. Was she still at the Underworld? I hope she survived the battle…

Another djinn grabbed me from behind. Its claws dug into my skin. I reversed, kneed it and kicked its head. Then another massive djinn squeezed its way through the door. It was as tall as the ceiling and twice the size of a car, if that made any sense.

How the hell was I going to fight off that one?

It came straight for me and in the next second, I waved my wand towards the wooden flooring. “Arsonion!

A spark formed. I chanted again and nothing. I knew what I had to do. I needed a distraction. I gathered all my energy and felt for my aura. Instead of summoning a spell, I loosened my muscles and fought more nimbly than before. Being a Spellcaster could not help me much but I had to save myself. I cleared my mind and tried to cast Arsonion again.

This time, without my wand, I felt the current run from my lungs to my fingertips. I let the current flow through every gap of my muscles and bones. I pointed my fingers towards the wooden walls. I cast the spell as the current shot outwards and onto it. The blue flames were large enough that it caught fire immediately. I spent every last energy I had on that spell before the anti-magic choker drained me completely.

Bewildered, Dean let out a roar. The fire began to spread fast and licked every wooden flooring and other walls. As he and the djinns were distracted, I escaped the kitchen and found an opening that led into the staircase. I could hear the djinns roar behind me. My heart was racing and the adrenaline was pumping through me, helping me run as fast as I could. I took two steps at a time until I reached the third storey. It was subconscious, but I felt like I knew where my body was taking me.

I ran straight for a familiar room where I spent my remaining childhood and teenage years. I shut the door behind me. Fire crackled and burned the rest of the house. The smoke was getting thick and I was finally exhausted. I opened one of the windows and looked out. Djinns coming towards the orphanage from the woods behind the building. I had to find a way to make it out alive.

They banged the door and it rattled. They had found me. Their roars were so loud and wild like untamed animals.

I looked out the window again. There was a drain pipe that ran down from the roof. I lifted my boots and stepped onto the ledge. Carefully, I stretched out an arm towards the drainpipe. If I could just get a hold of it—

A strong force yanked me back into the room. I stumbled backwards and landed right on top of something. Or someone.

“Don’t scream,” he whispered. “Just hold still.”

I knew that voice instantly but I needed to take a good look just in case. A pair of ruby-red eyes stared back at me, some of his brown hair in his eyebrows. That face was all too familiar in a surprisingly good way.

Without wasting another second, Tristan muttered, “Homewordial Transportatus!

Nothing. We stared at each other in the dark, stumped and confused.

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