The Neophyte

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The Djinn

HEIDI

Vicky was scrubbing the toilet when I stepped out of the portal. I knew she feel my pulse—she could always feel when I was nearby. She dropped the toilet brush when she noticed me standing in the middle of the apartment. There was something amusing about seeing a muscular elite Vampire bent over the toilet and scrubbing off dirt and grime with a pair of pink rubber gloves.

“You’re back!” Was all that came out of her.

From a distance, a long, loud meeeooowww interrupted my thoughts. Butters ran to my feet and purred loudly. He sniffed and licked my jeans and shoes, reached his paws upwards. I picked him up and gave quick, motherly kisses before putting him back down. He went off to continue minding his business.

Then I sighed, a low, long sigh. I moved to the small, worn-out leather sofa and threw myself on it. Vicky hovered over me, her red eyes wide with worry.

“You’re back earlier than you said you would be. And your aura is telling me that it’s not for a good reason.”

“Could you just read my aura or look at my memories? I’m too tired and frankly a little too embarrassed to explain my misdemeanour.”

Vicky sat herself on the coffee table facing me. She scanned my slumped shoulders as I leaned my head back. She told me that my aura was dim and weakly pulsating. She then held my palm and closed her eyes, reaching into my memories. Years ago I had learnt that this ability was gifted to her when she gave in to Vampirism. It allowed her to extend her supernatural abilities to emotions and the spiritual being.

Vicky sucked in her breath when she finished, “Yikes, Heidi. After eight weeks, just like that?” Then she opened her eyes and grinned, “So, Tristan, huh?”

I snapped my head up and widened my eyes at her. What?

She could not hide her smile. “He’s attractive.”

I felt my face warm but kept my cool. I knew she could read me anyway but whatever. “He suspended me, Vick. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Yeah, and for just reasons.”

“I know, I screwed up.”

Vicky got up and picked up her brush to resume cleaning the bathroom. I knew I had to shake off my frustration with myself—and Tristan, maybe. “I’m going to the park. I want to practise my magic there.”

“Want me to go with you? It’s almost sun down,” offered Vicky. “Besides, I want to see this magic stuff.”

* * *

We arrived at the park by the time the sun was fully set. I knew a spot that was secluded and I began my practice there.

Vicky sat herself on a large boulder and watched. I practised Practical and Mischief magic spells, casting and warping reality and reverting them to their worldly state. I could feel my aura glow, like an expansion of my spirit surrounding me. I would glance at Vicky from time to time, and I had never seen such a bewildered expression on her pale face. Then she pursed her lips.

“You aura is so...strong. Even the birds and squirrels are watching you.”

I snapped out of my focus for a moment and looked around us. Hummingbirds on trees and squirrels poked their heads out of their hiding holes with acorns in their mouths. They had become my involuntary audience. I smiled and got back into concentration.

“The only kind of magic that I cannot practise on is Untamed magic. I haven’t begun my training for that yet and it’s frustrating me.”

It was as if I jinxed it—I attempted to cast another Mischief spell but it backfired. It burst upon contact with my fingertips and I quickly retracted my arm. Pain shot through for a millisecond.

Ow! I don’t get it!” I grumbled.

Vicky looked thoughtful and moved closer. She held my wrists and bore her red eyes on me, “Clear your mind. I noticed that your aura dissipated when you got frustrated.”

I paused for a moment then closed my eyes and breathed. Vicky released my wrists and went back to her boulder.

One...two...three...breathe. I opened my eyes and felt the current surge through me, but this time, from my lungs. It was the same feeling I had back in The Academy with Wynona. My heart began to hammer against my chest. My frustration was churned and channeled into my spell from my lungs and diaphragm.

“Whoa, Heidi, your aura’s completely red.”

I shifted my weight and clenched my wand. Do not lose focus.

“Heidi…?”

I shut my eyes and counted my breathing. Inhale, two, three four...exhale, two, three, four.

“I got this,” I held my hand up, signalling to not stop me when she tried to move closer. The fire in my lungs formed but I put all my energy and aura into controlling its motions and pulse. Through all of this, I recalled Jessie’s words.

“Remember the alignment of your energies. They form structure to allow control of the flow. The fluidity of your aura shifts in and out, but only under your command.”

I opened my eyes and the current from my lungs flowed out through my fingertips. It shot out of my wand and, two metres before me, a flame materialised. Vicky gasped, her eyes wide in horror.

“Heidi! The fire!”

I snapped back into reality. A fire had formed on a grass patch. I stared at it, a recollection of the tree that burnt at The Academy. But unlike that, the flame in front of us at that moment was small. And controlled.

With supernatural speed, Vicky stomped on the flames and kicked some soil into it. When they were put out, she sighed.

“You could’ve burned the whole park, Heidi! What were you—“

“Vicky! I did it! I finally controlled the current and the flames were small, Vick! They didn’t burn the tree down like at The Academy!”

She shook her head. “Well, let’s not do that, okay? That seemed dangerous.”

“You don’t understand, Vick. That was an Untamed magic spell. That wasn’t easy control. Untamed magic takes a lot of discipline, one that I didn’t have back in The Academy.” Then I laughed, “I understand it now. I’ll need to practise more.”

Vicky looked around. Her red eyes glimmered in the dark as she scanned the park. Anxiety flashed across her face as the park got quiet that evening. It was only a quarter before eight.

“Heidi, I think we need to go. Something doesn’t feel right. The air is too still,” she muttered, tugging my arm.

The birds and squirrels had gone into hiding. That was when I felt the hair at the back of my neck stand.

“You feel that too?” Vicky asked, her red eyes beginning to glow.

“My mortal instincts are kicking in pretty fast, yeah.”

I recognised the tell-tale signs; goosebumps on the neck and arms, heart pounding and the temperature got cold all of a sudden.

Djinns. And I loathed them.

Vicky hissed, disrupting the silence. I turned to see her snarling at something behind the tree. Her teeth were bare and she was in her shadow form. Before being a Spellcaster, I could never witness these djinns whenever I pleased—no mortal could. They could slip in and out of mortal sight easily due to their deathly realm being interwoven with the Worldly realm. And even when they would reveal themselves, these cunning things could influence our minds to trick us into seeing them as humanlike or even more beautiful.

As a Spellcaster, however, my spiritual connection became stronger and more expandable. I was able to push certain mortal boundaries through controlling my aura and aligning my energies.

And on that evening, right in the seclusion of the corner of the park, I finally saw a djinn in its true form—hideous and completely inhuman. It hung on the tree branch nearby, its black eyes scrutinising. Vicky’s red Vampire eyes could see it clear as day, but my mortal eyes could only make out its silhouette. It shifted and stared, gnarly black limbs moving in utter silence.

“Now, now, Vampire. Don’t get all unholy on me,” the thing let out a deep-throated chuckle. It was wet, hoarse and absolutely ghastly to listen to. I held back from hurling.

“You have no place here,” Vicky growled. Her black aura morphed and shifted to red, and then back to black.

“Don’t I?” The djinn stopped moving. It remained closely and carefully in the shadows of the tree. Its claws dug into the bark. I gripped onto my wand and it snapped its head towards me.

“You don’t like us,” it hissed. It revealed its long tongue and snapped back into its mortifying mouth. “Oh, Danielson, if you could learn the truth about these Vampires, you would not be so friendly.”

I did not budge. Djinns lied a lot.

“It takes a lot to shake my faith,” I said. I admit, it took a lot to hide the shakiness in my voice.

“Yes, I’m sure it does,” the thing hissed. “But you mortals are weak. You need us. We can keep shaking you until you break. And who knows what this Vampire knows? She won’t tell you the truth, anyway. When mortals fall and darkness reigns, may Synto the Fallen arise again.”

“Don’t listen to it, Heidi,” Vicky warned. Her fangs were full and exposed.

“Yes, Heidi, don’t listen to me. Don’t listen to the sound of this truth-telling being. Whereas your Vampire friend knows more than you know but is keeping you in the dark!”

At that last word, it lunged itself towards me. It happened in a mere second that I had not had the reflexes quick enough to overcome its speed or strength. In the next second, I was on the ground as its claws dug into my flesh. I yelped, but right before I could cast a spell, Vicky threw herself with a salted dagger and aimed at its throat. She slit its jugular and decapitated it. I shoved its lifeless body to the side as it shrank into dust. I coughed and lifted my hand onto my shoulder. I could feel its claw marks.

“I was doing fine,” I said, getting up. Vicky’s eyes were still glowering as she scanned the area. No animals were in sight—they had fled from the undeadly being.

“Come on, we have to go,” she pulled my arm and we left the park.

Back at the apartment, Vicky bandaged my shoulder where the djinn left its ‘souvenir’. Lord Voltaire was already there—he’d arrived a minute after Vicky called him about the incident.

“Any idea who Synto the Fallen is?” I asked, eyeing on the Vampire King. Butters rubbed its head on my stomach as he lazed on my laps.

Lord Voltaire looked visibly perturbed but remained composed. “Synto is not exactly a person. It is a dark being of malice and evil. It is the leader of the djinns.

My head was spinning. “Okay whoa, leader? What does it look like?”

Lord Voltaire leaned against the doorway of the main entrance. His blond hair was tied, not a hair out of place. His red eyes fell on the floor and he stayed in thought for a moment before they flickered to me.

“Synto uses a vessel as a way to spread its malice. It would appoint someone to be the leader of the djinns to lead them into eternal domination. But this ‘someone’ is always a mortal, Spellcaster included. When he dies, another replaces—and this happens often until it finds the right vessel. It’s very rare that a mortal’s biological vessel can withstand the evil powers of Synto. So Synto becomes whoever that leads them.”

I stayed silent, processing.

“I have summoned the Grand Masters and the three Sages for council on this matter. There is no time to lose. However, we will not utter a word about Synto, for his name shall not be uttered in the Underworld. There is malice afoot, and I do not put my whole trust in anyone at this moment.”

“You’re all set,” Vicky patted my shoulder lightly. I put on jacket.

She turned to Lord Voltaire, “We’ll need to go to the council, pronto.”

He nodded, “You two ladies will come with me.” Then he turned to me and added, “I’m more concerned for Vicky but I know she would not part from you at this moment.”

* * *

The Vampire Lair was filled with Vampires of the different ranks. The Fledglings and Minors huddled near the entrance while the higher ranks like the Primes, Masters and Grand Masters gathered at the center, underneath a grand chandelier.

We shouldered our way through the sea of anxious, pale faces. I could feel their underworldly auras—some red, some black. Vicky had mentioned once that their auras were Unholy black by default, but they could also shift to the hue of Untamed red. And right on cue, my sight befell a familiar face with his red coat and dark curly hair.

Speak of the devil.

He stood tall and unwavering among the nervous immortal bodies. Beside him were Jessie and Wynona. He had his back on me while the other two Sages were deep in conversation. Their eyes darted around the dining hall, as if they were on a lookout. Or merely gossiping. For some reason, I involuntarily ducked when Tristan turned and landed his gaze in my direction.

“Good grief, is every Vampire here?” Vicky wondered aloud, cutting my thoughts.

“They must have received word regarding the council. They are looking for comfort and reassurance,” Lord Voltaire responded, “even though it was not meant to be for them.”

After shaking hands and receiving bows by some Grand Masters, he took Vicky’s hand and spoke in a low voice, “I will take us to the dining room. This hall is too public for such matters.”

He led us into a smaller, guarded room where only the high ranks were permitted to enter.

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