The Embers had sold their mansion and bought a house in another suburban neighbourhood. Due to the danger that posed at their previous home, Tristan and his father agreed to purchase a new property that was smaller and easier to protect in case there were any other hidden symbols of Reku or other dark things.
The new house was much less grand. It was a typical suburban two-story brick house with a front lawn and a backyard. Unlike the mansion which was surrounded by gold-painted steel gates, the suburban house shared wooden picket fences with its neighbours on both sides. I couldn’t help but think of it as a retirement home.
Robert needed help moving some boxes into the house. Among all the wealthy Sages and hundred-year-old Vampires, I finally found a friend in a fellow “below-average townsfolk”. Robert was a middle-aged man with a greying beard who grew up in the poorer part of Orchidville which happened to be near the Lucky Orphans orphanage. He had no mother and his father held two jobs to feed his seven siblings before he moved out to be a Spellcaster.
As I was lifting the boxes, a mover truck pulled up to the driveway next door. A couple of men emerged from the vehicle and unloaded their boxes.
“Looks like you’re getting new neighbours,” I said to Robert.
He glanced over the fence. “They look like Spellcasters.”
The two men pulled out their wands and teleported from one spot to another, bringing their boxes with them. One of them cast the Herbio spell onto the bald front lawn. Green grass and yellow flowers sprouted in an instant.
My cellphone rang, startling me a little for some reason. I glanced at the caller before answering.
“Hello, Heidi. How’s everything there?” He asked, half whispering.
“Everything’s okay. Your parents have new neighbours so far, a couple of Spellcasters.”
A brief pause. Then he continued, “Good to hear. How are you?”
I pinned the cell phone between my ear and shoulder as I continued to lift the boxes. “I’m okay. Robert and I are really bonding over these boxes.”
A short chuckle. “All right then, just call me if there is anything.”
“Sure. How’s the fancy tea party going?”
“It’s brunch,” he corrected with a smile in his voice. “We’re starting it soon since every guest has arrived.”
I dropped the box of gardening tools next to the fence. “Okay then, I’ll see you afterwards.”
We said our goodbyes and I ended the call. When I looked up, one of the neighbours cast Scrubbiro and the dried leaves were cleaned up at once.
“You all right with the boxes?” Robert asked, putting away the last load of his pile.
“Yeah, but I think there are more over there,” I replied, nodding to four cardboard boxes sitting in the corner of the front yard.
I was carrying one and putting it down in the living room inside the house when a figure appeared in the middle of the kitchen. He stood still, hazel eyes following me. I had never seen him before.
“Let me guess,” I said flatly. “Dark Vampire? Oh, wait, a djinn in disguise?”
The man had short black hair, side-parted with a white shit tucked into a pair of ’90s acid-wash jeans. His arms hung loosely at his sides, smiling like he knew me. I wrapped my fingers around my wand in my back pocket.
“I’m none of those things.” His voice was low and sad.
“You’re trespassing,” I pulled out my wand.
The man stepped forward, unafraid. “You’ve grown up so much, Heidi. You have your mother’s face.”
I frowned. “Who are you?”
“My daughter doesn’t remember who that jacket belongs to,” he smiled.
It felt like the world stopped and I was thrown into the past. How did I not recognise the clothes that I last saw him in before the fatal car accident? My memories felt hazy.
I almost dropped my wand. I moved closer to him, eyes fixated on his and the familiar creases around them. He held out his arms like he was waiting for a hug, the way he always did when I was a child.
“You have a great gift, Heidi, why don’t you return it?”
I stopped in my tracks. His tone remained amiable but somewhere inside, an alarm went off in me.
“I don’t under—“
“Delirium!” A voice from behind cried and my father immediately went into a frenzy.
I turned to see Robert pointing his wand and yanking my arm to him, eyes still glaring at my father who began screaming and covering his ears with his hands.
I wasn’t sure why but I found myself begging. “Robert, make it stop! Robert, you’re hurting him!”
Robert had a killer look on his face, one arm holding me back as he stood in front of me. My father, or whatever it was, fell to his knees when Robert approached him to slice his head off with an axe. Black blood sputtered from the decapitated neck as Robert kicked the body to the side.
“That’s not your father anymore, Heidi. She sent him here to toy with your mind,” he said, turning to me. His voice was curt.
“Who did?” I asked, eyes still glued to the body.
Robert wiped the garden axe with a cloth. “The Necromancer. Sir Tristan warned me about her.”
I couldn’t form the sentences in my head. I took a deep breath and composed myself. “I guess we better be vigilant from here on out.”
Robert bustled about to clean up the blood and the body. “I agree. I have a feeling this won’t be the last one.”
I headed out of the house for some fresh air. Dark clouds formed above the suburban streets. The two neighbours were quiet.
I was beginning to feel goosebumps. It felt like there was static in the air as the neighbourhood was devoured in silence. Dry leaves flew about on the ground, whirling in soft winds. The boxes at the corner of the front yard still sat there, waiting to be picked up. No cars drove past, no animals roaming about. The midday sun was completely obscured by thick clouds, threatening a heavy downpour. It was like a deep breath before the plunge.
“Something is definitely coming.”