The Neophyte

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The Morning After

JESSIE

The djinns were retreating, to our surprise. Voltaire and I had fought back as much as we could. A thought came across my mind that Synto was dead but Voltaire thought otherwise.

“Do not trust the hope,” he warned as if he read my mind. Perhaps he thought about it too.

In a few minutes, we saw Wynona appear on the ground level of the building with Tristan hanging onto her shoulder. He did not look well—and there was no sign of Heidi and Vicky.

“We’ll explain at the Lair,” Wynona said before we were transported back.

At the Lair, Tristan asked to be excused for a while before returning to tell us exactly what happened. Before he did, Wynona broke the news.

“Vicky died saving Heidi,” was all she could say. Voltaire was in deep despair.

He sighed to himself. I had known Voltaire for a long time and knew enough that he would not lose his spirits. Vicky was the love of his life even though he had lost plenty throughout the centuries. He had learned to accept what happened and honoured her instead.

“Then this next plan will be justice for all those that have fallen,” he spoke, voice thin and weary.

Wynona darted her violet eyes from Voltaire to me. “There’s also one more thing but we’ll wait for Tristan—“

“I’m here,” Tristan walked into the living room, straightening his red coat. He always dressed exceptionally well, although there was pain in his eyes.

“Are you all right, Tristan?” Voltaire asked, looking up from deep thought.

We were all seated in dated lounge chairs that were donated by Wynona’s parents. Tristan nodded, his silent, slight nod. He was hiding his thoughts.

I eyed the scars on his face. Wynona said the glass had shattered and it was telling. Tristan sat on an armchair and his gaze fell on the floor. Wynona shifted in her seat.

“Where do I begin?” He asked, breaking the silence. Wynona and I bore our gaze onto Voltaire.

“When you first found Heidi at the orphanage,” he replied. His red eyes levelled with Tristan’s.

A slight flinch at her name. It was so subtle that it might have slipped from Wynona’s and Voltaire’s sight but not mine. I knew this boy like my own son. He placed his forearms onto the armrest and let his long fingers dangle at the edge. He bent one leg and straightened the other, knees apart. His body was relaxed but tense above the shoulders. His ruby eyes glowed.

“Vicky and I decided to split up and make sure Heidi could escape. We fought as many djinns as we could although we knew we needed backup. I found Heidi in the bedroom of the second floor,” he paused. He blinked twice each time he said her name. Like he was holding back tears.

Voltaire inhaled deeply. “What happened to Vicky? How did she...pass?”

Tristan’s eyes darted quickly from the floor to Voltaire, and then to the rest of us. He didn’t know either.

Silence fell. Then Wynona spoke, “She died saving Heidi before Heidi decided to go with Synto. It was a way to save us, to save Tristan. I tried to snap her out of it but...she turned a deaf ear.”

Tristan stared at her, dumbfounded.

“We lost a good soldier,” she added.

“We need a plan,” I interjected. “Every second counts. From what I have gathered, Synto has been influencing many Vampires to work for him. He’s building an army. We must fight back.”

Voltaire nodded, “I agree. I will summon the rest of my elite. We will council then.”

He stood up and tapped on Tristan’s shoulder, “In the meantime, you need rest.”

* * *

It was just Tristan and I in the room as we had to share one with separate beds. Voltaire took another with one queen-sized bed while Wynona took the master bedroom.

“Do you feel responsible, Tristan?” I asked as he sat in his bed.

“I feel like I have failed her. I lost sight of her once and now she is gone.”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself, Tristan. She did all she could to save us. And you did all you could to save her.”

“It was stupid of her to make such a decision.” He rose from the bed and turned to me.

“Grief is in her nature. She lost someone dear to her whom she saw as family. That is hard to bear.”

Tristan took a deep breath. After all, he was a young Sage and had a lot to learn.

“Are we not her family?” He asked. I was slightly taken aback. I thought about the question for a minute before I realised what he meant.

“We are,” I said carefully, “But I believe you mean if you meant anything to her enough for her not to sacrifice herself.”

He nodded, his face vulnerable and open. So I continued.

“The very fact that you mean a lot to her is why she did what she did. You could have died, Tristan. The responsibility of a Sage is to guide the Spellcasters, but there is only so much that we can control. Synto is far beyond our means, let alone a Neophyte’s.”

“Well, she used none of her magic,” he said, his tone returning to reason. A little bit of his normal self was starting to surface.

“Her instincts are her combat skills—she did grow up being taught by an elite Vampire. She is stubborn as well, which makes you both rather compatible,” I said.

His ruby eyes bore on me like he was trying to read me. I returned a smile.

“I’ve seen how close you have gotten with her and listened to the way you speak of her. I’ve known you since you were a child and I can tell when you are in love.”

“I never saw it coming,” he shook his head, as if to himself. “She’s a little ill-mannered but I grew fond of her easily.”

“Your idea of love is naive, Tristan Embers. You would not have judged her manners if you knew better. I have always found her rather charming in a...goofy way.”

He laughed, “I’m glad I have you to confide in. I hadn’t realised my feelings got in the way of reason this past week.”

Then he paused like an epiphany struck him. “I just got it.”

“Got what?”

Tristan started pacing the room. “My spell was blocked because of Heidi. Synto wanted her for his own use, and he didn’t intentionally block me. There was something else that was causing my energy to misalign and fail!”

“You mean—“

“Something on her so whoever stands near her will not be able to cast their spells. Like a ring, or, or a pendant.”

“She wears no such accessory,” I said.

Tristan halted. Then he turned to me, ruby eyes wild. “Her choker! I knew it looked slightly odd. I have never seen it on her until just now.”

“You’re saying the choker is a magic repellent?”

“It’s a guess,” he said and then his tone returned to reason. “But I’m willing to take a chance on it.”

* * *

Lord Voltaire was out gathering his Vampires. Wynona went to get us breakfast while I pored over the map of the Worldly Realm on the dining table. Tristan climbed down the stairs.

“How was your sleep?” I asked as he straightened his black turtleneck.

The floorboards squeaked beneath his boots as he hung his red coat over his right forearm. His ruby eyes immediately bore on the map.

“Not the kindest of dreams,” he replied nonchalantly and then levelled his gaze on me. “Are we strategising?”

“Voltaire plans to start a war. I’m looking for a location to recce.”

“I’ll go,” he said, donning his red coat. “Anything to keep me moving.”

“Well then you’ll need this map. I’ve marked out every potential coordinate where the war could take place that does not disturb any civilisation.”

He nodded and received the map. His face was as grim as I’d ever seen.

I placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. “We’re doing all that we can to save her.”

His expression remained unchanged.

When Wynona returned, Tristan nodded towards her and disappeared through the door.

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