This is the first book in the series. It is now completed.
Book 2- The Hunt for Parke is now out.
Note: Only Commander Tool Belt (the author) can edit this page. All others should merely comment.
I knew something wasn't right the moment my best friend showed up at the door with a pure black knife in her hand in the middle of the night. She looked so ragged that I thought she may be contemplating stabbing me.
"Kylie," I complained. "It's the middle of the night!"
Her light brown hair was ruffled and untidy. Her black knife gleamed in the moonlight. At her belt was a fanny pack, and a sheath for her knife, I guessed. Her grey eyes bore into me, then she blinked. I yelped.
Kylie's eyes turned pure blue- no Iris, nothing at all. Her entire eyeball was blue.
"We have to go," She told me.
"I promise I'll explain but right now, you have to come with me."
She didn't wait for me to answer. She just grabbed my wrist and yanked me out of the house then led me round.
"Kylie you are freaking me out," I complained. "Is this some type of game?"
"Hush!" was her response.
Before I go on, I must introduce myself. I'm Alex Hade. I look pretty old for 14, I've been told. I sport messy brown hair, much darker than Kylie's, and brown eyes.
Finally, Kylie turned to me. "Blink."
"Yeah, I was wondering. Why are your eyes blue? And where did you get a knife?"
"Alex, I promise I'll answer all your questions. But first blink. I need to make sure I'm right."
I did as she told me, and she sighed with relief.
"Thank goodness," She sighed.
She dug around in her pack, brought out a mirror and faced it my way.
My eyes were blue. It seemed impossible, some kind of trick, but it was unmistakable. My eyes had become like Kylie's, pure blue.
There were footsteps.
Kylie frowned. "That's them." She dug around some more and produced lipstick. She handed it to me.
I looked at her like she had gone crazy.
"Draw a circle on the ground. Quickly!"
It seemed crazy, but I did as she asked. When I looked up, Kylie had sheathed her knife and was throwing rocks...I take that back. She was summoning rocks from the earth. It sounded silly, even as I played it over in my head, but somehow I knew that was what she was doing. Her opponent was someone else whose eyes were pure red. He was standing in the middle of a tornado, which deflected all the rocks she had summoned.
Okay, I thought. Pure blue and red eyes. Strange powers. Why not?
"Kylie!" I started.
Her opponent looked at me and I froze. Kylie took the opportunity. She drew her knife and gutted him like a fish.
"More are on their way. Jump into the hole!" She ordered.
I looked at the hole I had drawn. It was now glowing. I took a tentative step into it, and suddenly, I was somewhere else. Kylie followed. I looked up, but the portal was already closing. I could hear the heaving and panting of someone running, which made no sense to me.
"Hurry!" Kylie ordered.
I ran. I had no idea why I was listening to Kylie, who sounded, looked and was doing things that indicated she had gone a bit crazy, but I listened anyway.
Notice my repetitive use of crazy. It really was the only perfect word to describe that night. It was very... crazy.
She turned and drew her knife. "Run a few blocks. Turn a corner. You'll see some steps going really high, and two people like me with blue eyes should be guarding it. Go up the stairs."
I hated it. But, again, I listened. I ran according to Kylie's directions, and got to the steps. Two people were guarding it, a boy and a girl about my age who were both Asian. The boy looked like a clown, the joker type, complete with a grin on his face. He had brown hair, though it was difficult to tell because of the darkness. He looked like he had been telling jokes while the girl rolled her eyes. She looked more in control, with short cropped black hair. In fact, everything about her was black. She wore black eyeliner, a black leather jacket and a black wrist protector on her right hand. She looked like a queen- Regal, beautiful and in control. Both had scabbards at their belts.
The girl regarded me. "You're the one?"
I shuffled awkwardly. "Um....I guess. I don't know."
"Course you don't," The boy spoke up. "We leave the explanactions till you're safe. Come on, up to Kar you go."
"But Kylie!" I exclaimed. I hadn't planned on an outburst, but it just happened. "You've got to help her! Look, I don't know what you guys are, but Kylie is out there battling probably some more red-eyed guys."
"Sagans," The girl said.
"I'll go." Jade ran off, drawing a pure black machete and swinging it as he ran.
"Let's go, Chosen One," The girl said. "There is much to explain."
We ascended the steps which were incredibly long. I could hear huffing and puffing behind me, so I knew Kylie and the Asian dude were safe.
We eventually reached a huge door. The Asian girl opened it, and I stepped in. I held my breath. It was the most beautiful city I'd ever seen.
Archs, columns and skyscrapers filled the scene. It was still a busy, bustling day. It was bright, which was wrong since back on earth it was dark. As we walked, I felt like an insignificant bug walking through a pride of Lions.
Kylie read my mind. "Kar has it's own sun. It doesn't follow the normal time as on earth."
"Kar? Where and what is Kar?"
"The city of the Kryptalites. Geographically speaking the entrance is in Oakland, California," Kylie replied.
"We are the clan of blue Vaurons," The asian girl explained.
"And you are?"
"Jess Wang. Child of Fire." She held out her left arm and pulled up her sleeve. Just above her wrist was an unmistakable sign- flames.
"Child of Fire?" I asked.
"We're all children of nature," The guy spoke up. "I'm Jade, by the way. I'm Jess' big brother."
A look of irritation flashed on Jess' face. "We're twins! We spawned at the exact same time, at the exact same place."
"Spawned?" I inquired.
"All Vaurons are spawned by one of four aspects of nature. Our parents took us in as fosters. I'm a child of earth," Kylie explained, holding out her arm for me to see the symbol of a leaf. "We- Jade, Jess, six others and I are guardians. Our job is to protect. We find Kryptalites and bring them to Kar. We also go on special missions- most of the time just four out of us."
"Wonderful," I replied. "And if you don't mind me asking- how is Fire an aspect of nature?"
Apparently this was a sore point for Jade. His face fell into a sort of pout. "Everyone asks that," he muttered. "Well, my friend, it just is! And arguably the coolest aspect of nature!"
I decided to let it rest and changed the subject. "So there are nine guardians?"
"Ten, actually," Jade spoke up. "You're the tenth. But you are the most important, somewhat the leader of the guardians. You're the chosen one."
I felt dizzy. "So what spawned me?"
Kylie seemed to find the question disturbing. "Hold out your left arm."
I glanced at my arm and gasped. It was bold, quite impossible to miss. But I'd never seen them. Etched just above my wrist was a lightening bolt.
"So, I'm a child of lightening," I stated.
Kylie nodded. "The only one in existence."
I was starting to warm to the idea. "So, I have powers over lightening?"
"Electricity, really," Jade answered.
I turned to look at Kylie, whose eyes were back to normal. "Can my eyes be normal now?"
"You'll get the hang of it," Jess assured me. "We turn our eyes blue before combat to distinguish ourselves. Also as a threat when coming across the other clans, just to let them know we're present."
"So all the clans are enemies?" I asked.
"Not particularly. There are seven clans in total, but three main ones. Us, the Kryptalites, our enemies, the Sagans..."
"The red ones," I interrupted.
"Indeed," Kylie continued. "The Kryptalites and Sagans are just natural enemies. Some huge dispute between our ancestors. The third main clan are the Cironites. The Cironites are usually peaceful. But they have a lot of influence, since they are the most populous clan. They are black."
"Black," I repeated. "They turn their eyes black?"
"Yes. But as I said, they are usually peaceful. But clans have to be careful not to make them mad, or they'll wipe them out."
"Wipe them out. Isn't that nice."
Jade laughed. "That's the basic translation of Vauron war. You go to war and kill them till not a single one's left. But there hasn't been a war in a long time."
We reached a blue building. It was small compared to most, but it had some significance round it.
Kylie turned. "Jade, take him to Marcus. Jess and I need to round up all the guardians."
Kylie and Jess ran off.
"Okay, we're going to meet Marcus," Jade told me, which seemed a little obvious.
"Yeah, I heard. Is he dangerous?"
"Um, no. He's the oldest person in Kar, he was meant to run it till the Chosen One got here."
"How old is he?"
"You sound like you don't like him much," I noticed.
Jade shuffled his feet. "You sound ready." He waved at the door. "Shall we?"
Before I could protest, Jade swung the door open.
The room was huge. The walls were filled with diamonds. A small lake was in the corner. Now and again there was a gust of wind. A fireplace warmed the hall. Through the middle was a table curved immaculately by oak.
At the very end on the table was a throne, that was crystal clear. A single cloud hovered above it and lightening crackled.
Aside from the throne, there were ten seats. The one at the opposite end of the throne was occupied. The occupant stood.
He was rugged, and stood about an inch over me. He had his sword held in front of him, which was a bit odd. The handle was golden, encrusted with rubies and pearls. The blade itself was steel. I didn't know how I knew, but I did. He seemed to realize I was gazing at the sword.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" He started. "Your friend, Kylie made it for me when I lost my old one."
I blinked with uncertainty. "Kylie made that?"
He laughed. "Kylie is an expert craftsman, only rivaled by Darren, perhaps. Even the other children of earth aren't as good as them. Kylie made the most beautiful blade in Kar for Sam."
I looked at Jade, whose hand rested on his own machete as if he wanted to bust out some moves. He nodded slightly.
I turned back to him. "Uh, you must be Marcus."
He sheathed his blade and extended his hand. "Marcus Deli, Child of Water. And you must be Alex. So I see that Kylie was right."
"Why are you sitting there when you could sit on the throne or on any other chair?"
"The throne is for you. The other seats are for the other guardians. This chair is mine." He patted the chair lovingly. "If anyone that wasn't the chosen one sat in your throne, they would be fried."
The door swung open and people trooped in. Marcus led me to my throne.
"Uh..what if I get fried?"
Marcus snorted. "You're the chosen one. It won't harm you."
Reluctantly, I sat.
Jade sat at my right hand, Kylie at my left. Jess was beside Jade. The others were complete strangers. By some mutual agreement, they started to introduce themselves.
The first one was huge and muscular, with dark roasted skin. A battle-axe was sheathed on his back. The only thing about him that compelled me not to whimper and beg for mercy was the broad grin on his face, which was a good thing. If this guy went around grumpy, he would've been as scary as Godzilla.
"Darren Cole," He started. "Child of earth."
The next one was a girl. She wore punk clothes, her ripped jeans looking old and faded. Her blonde hair had purple streaks in it. A sheathed sword was at her belt. The handle was crudely fashioned of emerald with pearls and diamonds. Straight away, I knew she was Sam.
"You must be Sam," I said.
Sam frowned and drew her sword. The blade was gold. "Have we met?"
"No! No, really," I yelped. I couldn't help it. Something about Sam told me she could and would gut me if she felt like it, chosen one or not.
"Marcus mentioned that you had the most beautiful weapon at camp, so looking at the hilt of your sword, I knew it was you."
Sam's eyes softened. "Kylie made Gutstabber. Anyway, yeah I'm Sam, Child of Water."
The names blurred. Ben. Jordan. Dani. Natalie. All the guardians of Krypta.
"Okay," I said. "And I'm Alex Hade, Child of um, lightening."
We all sat. The first question that popped into my head came out.
"Do I get a weapon?"
"Kylie or Darren can make you one," Dani Sanders, Child of Air piped up. She was a bubbly girl, her freckled face gentle, caring and optimistic. "They make the best weapons in camp. Darren made his battle-axe."
"Alex you already have a weapon," Marcus spoke up.
I shuffled nervously. "I do?"
Marcus called out, "Gohar, please."
From the cloud above me descended a satin pillow, one of those things people would put a crown on. When it landed in my lap, it wasn't a crown. It was a sword in a scabbard.
I took the scabbard and drew the blade. The handle was pure gold, no jewels, nothing at all. The blade itself looked like silver, but somehow within me I knew it wasn't silver.
"The blade is Gohan Platinum, a rare vauron metal. That is the only weapon in existence right now that is mined from Gohar," Marcus explained.
I looked at the scabbard. It was leather, bound in gold at both ends. The package was plainly beautiful.
"I like it." I sheathed Gohar and tried to attach the scabbard to my belt- until I realized I was still in my Pyjamas.
There was an awkward silence, but Jade shook them all with a blast of fire. Everyone jumped.
"Nice! But day is breaking. Alex should get some rest. Come on."
"Sure," Jordan Heath, Child of Air muttered. "We meet tomorrow after breakfast."
Everyone nodded in agreement and dispersed.
That night, I slept so peacefully that it surprised me.
I mean, good sleep is good, but after such a crazy day, I thought I wouldn't be able to sleep. But my fatigue took over and I slept like a log.
I woke up to sunlight streaming in to the room. I looked round my room.
When Jade was showing me the way, I had been expecting a cabin, a one roomed structure with bunks which smelled of sawdust.
Instead, Jade showed me the way to the Guardian house, where all the guardians lived. The house was made of greystone. Each of us had separate rooms. There were wardrobes which magically filled with your preference of clothes and in your size. The kitchen where we all had breakfast. No food you wanted wasn't present. There was a training room.
I jumped out of bed and had a shower. I changed into jeans and a shirt with a clean pair of sneaks, then I attached my scabbard to my jeans. I messed up my hair how I liked it, then walked out.
Everyone was up and about. Natalie Brown, Child of Air was sitting on an airball and racing around. Jess, wearing a clean replica of her clothes the previous day was fast toasting some bread with her hands which were on fire. Jade and Darren were laughing around. All had clean clothes on with their weapon at their belt, except for Darren with his battle-axe sheathed on his back.
"Hey, Alex," Natalie called as she continued spinning.
"Toast?" Jess asked.
"Sure." I grabbed a piece of toast, spread some butter it, and took a bite. "Where are the rest?"
Darren pointed at the gym. "Training."
I walked in to the gym. Sam was working the punching bag. Jordan was sitting on an airball, meditating. Dani was on the exercise bicycle, and Kylie and Ben were sparring in the middle of the floor, Kylie feinting and stabbing with her knife, while Ben slashed and whirled with his sword. Ben was clearly having some trouble. His sword was black- the hilt, handle, blade, everything.
Kylie stabbed powerfully, and Ben barely deflected it. At that moment that he was off balance, Kylie swept out her leg and took him out. Ben groaned.
"That has got to hurt," I said.
Kylie helped Ben up.
"When are we seeing Marcus?"
"He'll send for us when he's ready," Kylie replied.
I looked at her knife. "Why is the blade black?"
"Euphomy," She answered. "Rare black metal used to make weapons. Jade's machete, Ben and Dan's swords are also Euphomic."
I drew Gohar. "So when do I learn to fight?"
"It's in your blood as a Vauron," She responded. "You just train to get better."
"Yo, guys!" Jade yelled. "Marcus is ready!"
Sam was the only person who hadn't eaten. She grabbed a ham and cheese sandwich from the fridge. She wore army boots with a fresh pair of ripped jeans and a t-shirt.
We arrived at the hall. I took my place at the head of the table.
"Okay," Marcus started. He drew his sword and plunked it on the table in front of him. "Straight to matters."
"The main matter being that the Sagans know Alex has arrived safely," Dani said.
Kylie nodded. "Meaning they know now that we are at full strength."
"They won't attack, would they?" I asked.
"Not now," Jess answered. "If they are planning on attacking, it would take them years to put the plan into play."
"But we're at a loss as of now if they find the coin," Jordan said. "We need to find it fast."
"What coin?" I inquired. I couldn't help sounding hopelessly naive, but I was new afterall.
"Every clan has a life-tier," Marcus explained. "A powerful artifact or even the life-force of something or someone that anchors a clan. Once the life-force of a clan is destroyed...."
"The clan is vulnerable," I guessed.
"And ours is this coin, but it's missing." Gears started turning in my head. "Which means if the Sagans want to destroy us they just need to find the coin. We need to find it fast."
"That can be difficult," Sam warned. "If it is in the custody of someone, getting it back can be tricky. They would want a favour in return, and we may not be able to give it. Assuming it's not, the coin of life is powerful. It would attract all sorts of monsters, not to mention the Sagans who I'm sure are already looking for it. We are at a huge disadvantage."
"Thanks for reminding us," Ben grumbled.
Sam raised her hands. "I state only facts. Sue me."
"Unfortunately, Sam's right," Darren said. "We're wasting time and getting further behind for every minute we spend here. I think we should get on the Bo and leave immediately. We can make plans onboard."
"Agreed," Jade said.
"All of you would have to go," Marcus stated grudgingly. "This is huge and dangerous. Full ten man strength required."
Subconciously, I started throwing off sparks. "Hold on. I can't just jump into battle. I've barely even mastered my powers!"
"It would come to you naturally," Natalie promised. "I agree with Darren. We've got to go. We're wasting time."
Everyone looked at me.
"Your decision rules. What do you think?" Marcus asked.
I looked at Kylie. She nodded encouragingly.
I really didn't want to leave so immediately. I was sure I was just going to get myself killed or slow down the group. Maybe both.
But Darren had a point. If we had any hope of retrieving it, it was in the time. We were already behind. If we got any further behind, we were decreasing our chances.
"Sure," I decided. "Let's boogie."
Little preparation was needed. Everything including food and drinks not to mention our rooms with magical wardrobes were onboard, so we walked straight from the hall to the location of the ship.
When we got there, I inhaled sharply. "Wow."
Jade laughed. "I have to say, I'd forgotten how beautiful it was."
The Bo was massive. It was slightly like a shuttle plane, but much much bigger. The cockpit was at the very head of the ship. After that was the lounge, the lunch hall (Kylie says it's a mess hall not a lunch hall) then a massive balcony rimmed with a fence, in case anyone needed to get fresh air. Much higher up was an even huger terrace. From what I could see, the ship could also be steered from the terrace, with a dashboard including a bunch of buttons and a steering joystick, unlike the cockpit which had a proper steering wheel. Then was the rooms. At the tail end were two massive letters 'BO'.
"Why was it called Bo?" I asked.
"I dunno," Jordan answered. "Ask Kylie and Darren."
I turned to them in amazement. "You two built that?"
"We had some help from the other children of earth," Darren admitted.
"He's just being modest," Kylie said. "He did most of the work in fact."
"I only did the cockpit and the lounge! You did the rooms and some of the mess!"
"Guys," Sam interrupted. "So sorry to interrupt your modesty session, but we're on a race against time."
"She's right," Jordan agreed. "Let's get going."
We entered the cockpit.
Darren and Kylie went to the head of the cockpit. Darren took the wheel.
"Seatbelts on please." He flipped some switches and turned a lever. The engine roared.
I shuffled my feet. "Do we have to sit? And buckle our seatbelts?"
Kylie nodded. "Yes. You'll be glad."
Reluctantly I sat and put on my seatbelt.
Darren turned and smiled. "Engine is ready! Everyone hold on!"
"I hate this part," Jess grumbled.
At first it was okay. We slowly levitated off the ground. Then Darren gunned the engine and we shot towards the sky.
My stomach churned. We were almost completely vertical. Clouds and ice zoomed past the window as we ascended.
I looked back. Jade looked pale. Natalie was trying desperately not to slip out of her seat. Jordan looked like he was trying to keep his breakfast. Ben's eyes jiggled in their sockets. Only Sam was unaffected. She rolled her eyes like we were all making a fuss out of nothing.
I didn't know what to make of that girl. She was as tough as iron, hard as rock, but she seemed to be hiding terrible bitterness and sadness on the inside. I'd have to question Kylie about her later.
Everything went still. We levelled out, and Darren flipped a switch. He turned back and grinned.
"That was awesome!"
"Yep," Jordan muttered weakly. "So awesome."
"I've put the ship on auto pilot, but it's awaiting directions," Darren frowned. "Assuming we, um, know where we're going."
There was a silence.
"This was the plan," I said. "We were meant to plan on board."
Natalie unclipped her seatbelt. "Then lets go plan. My mind could use doing something constructive."
We bundled into the lunch- sorry- mess hall. I sat at the head. Again, Jade sat at my right with Kylie at my left.
"How do we find the coin?" I asked.
"I don't know," Jade answered. He looked at every one else. "But it has to be near our sphere of influence right? It has to at least be somewhere in North America."
Sam grunted. "North America is huge. That is minor help."
Dani scowled. "Well thanks, Miss Optimist."
Sam raised her hands in a placating gesture. "Again, I only speak facts."
"Unfortunately, Sam is right again," Kylie spoke up. "We need a goal, and we need it fast. North America doesn't qualify."
"We should seek advice," I suggested.
Everyone stared at me. I was suddenly self-conscious.
"What? That's how all missions start, isn't it? Look for information?"
Ben exhaled. "He's got a point."
Jordan nodded. "In that case, we could seek out one of the wise men."
"Whichever is closest is best," Natalie agreed. "How do we know that? Which one is closest, I mean?"
"Whoa, time out," Sam made the time out gesture. "You're missing something. The wise men are unpredictable. They could give us information or refuse. Or even kill us. Or refuse then kill us."
"Sam's got a point," Darren agreed. "The wise men are usually a last resort for information. We should try other things first."
"Who are the wise men?" I inquired.
"Nordeus, Blasphemus and Darius. They know everything in this world, Vauron and human," Kylie replied.
"Yep. He is known for his craftiness. He can destroy people by giving them false information that would mislead them. It's where we get the word Blasphemy."
"Were we get the word? I thought...."
"The Vauron world has always been a vital part of civilazation," Jade spoke up. "Just that no one realises. Blasphemus is a living representation of Blasphemy- messing around with important information and deliberately making silly claims. But naturally, he is the wisest of the three."
I shrugged. "Sounds like Darren and Sam have a point to me."
"Except that we're on a time race," Jess intervened. "We may not have time to try other things. Risking it is our best shot."
She'd been so quiet, I'd nearly forgot she was there. Her eyes glittered with intelligence and regality.
Ben sighed. "I hate to say it, but Jess is right. We don't have time to experiment."
Everyone looked at me.
I sighed. "How do we find any of the wise men?"
"Oh, they're never far," Kylie answered. "They are located so well that no matter where you are one is within range."
Darren pressed a button at the side of his chair. In the middle of the table a map flickered into being.
"We're right over Ceder city in Utah," Darren announced. He looked at Kylie. "Who would be closest geographically?"
"We could go for Nordeus in Idaho," Kylie suggested.
"Or Blasphemus in Colorado," Natalie added.
"Please," I begged. "Not Blasphemus. I don't like the sound of that guy."
Jade mulled it over. "If we go for Nordeus we should get there in about three hours. If we go for Blasphemus however.... about one hour thirty minutes maximum."
"And we're under a time limit," Dani reminded everyone.
Everyone soaked that information in.
Jade shook his head. "I don't like it."
"Neither do I," Darren agreed. "We either go for the longer route which would lessen our chances, or go for the guy who is least likely to give us information and most likely to kill us."
"We have to," Natalie countered. "Everything is about time. It's because of time we're even trying the wise men."
Jordan exhaled. "Natalie's right. Time is our most essential tool on this mission, and we don't have a lot of it."
Once again, everyone looked at me.
I stood and smiled. "Well, Blasphemus it is."
I spent the time in my room, thinking 'This is crazy'.
I hadn't really thought about it yet. But I did have to admit, it explained a lot. It explained quite a lot.
It explained the time I was seven and I was struck by lightening, but totally unaffected. In fact, I could have sworn that a surge of strength coursed through me when the lightening struck. Doctors examined me for weeks, trying to understand how a mere seven year old had survived such a strike unscathed. But they found nothing.
It explained the time when I was eight and on my way to my grandmother's funeral, kidnappers ambushed the car. They tried to grab me, but once they touched me electricity surged from my skin, into theirs, and they died. For years my parents wondered, and doctors demanded explanations. But nothing surfaced. No reason was put in place. I was just a special kid.
Nothing happened for another two years, when my parents died. We were driving up to camp, when the car crashed, vaulted into the air and slammed back down. My parents died instantly. I survived without a bruise.
It all made sense to me now- as a Child of Lightening, I probably couldn't die in any vehicle that ran on electricity of some sort. Immune to car and plane crashes. Wonderful, if my parents hadn't died.
But I was a Child of Lightening. Lightening, electricity, was my dad, or mum, whatever. Maybe I had spawned next to their house and they snatched me of their lawn to take care of me. Nice chaps.
And now here I was without any fighting training, charging in to see Blasphemus, a wise man who could apparently give us information that might destroy us. Peachy. Kylie insisted that it's in my blood and I should just tap into my instinct, but it doesn't feel that way. Gohar still felt awkward strapped in it's scabbard on my jeans.
Finally, there was a knock at the door. Jade poked his head in. "Fifteen minutes out. We're gathering in the mess."
He studied me. "What you thinking?"
"I dunno. I just thinking........"
"This is unbelievable?" He interrupted.
"But you must have had a rocky past, right? Doctors? Scientists? Electric accidents?"
I stared at him. "How did you know?"
He sighed. "Happens to all of us. My sister and I? We grew up in exile. We spawned in China, but we ran away to the US when we were six. Marcus himself brought us to Kar."
"Grew up in exile?"
"Yep. We were called freaks. Whenever we got angry, things caught fire. Our school burned down once. And we got angry a lot because of the bullying. We weren't welcome even at home. So we ran away when we were six. We got on a cargo ship as stowaways and reached the US. When we were nine, Marcus found us at our foster home and took as to Kar." He sighed again.
His grin came back to his face. "It's alright. It wasn't your fault. Now, let's go."
Everyone was already in the mess. Sam's sword was drawn, across her lap as if she was ready to leap into action at anytime. Darren's battle-axe was on the table. Jordan and Natalie were sitting on air balls and meditating. Ben and Dani were looking over the map, and Jess and Kylie were chatting casually. Jess had her arms engulfed with flames. When she noticed Jade, she spit fire in his face. It didn't leave even a tiny burn or bruise. Dani noticed us and tapped Jordan and Natalie. They opened their eyes.
Sam plunked Gutstabber on the table. "What's the plan?"
"Go in, get information by whatever sensible means, and get out," Natalie proposed.
"How do we know if Blasphemus tells us the wrong thing?" Dani asked.
"You make him swear. He can't swear if he's lying, something that bound him centuries ago. If he swears falsely, he'll disentegrate," Kylie replied. "Next off- who's going?"
"About four people," Ben proposed. "The rest stay back as emergency backup."
"Agreed," Darren said.
"We should send people intimidating," Jordan suggested. "It might discourage Blasphemus from lying."
"Sure," Jade piped up. "I vote Jess."
There was no argument. With her leather jacket, eyeliner, and wrist protector, all black no less, and the look in her face that had the dangerous vibe, when it came to intimidating, you couldn't do much better than Jess.
But I knew someone who was. She didn't look or wear clothes that were as intimidating as Jess, but her look, and character was probably the scariest I had ever seen. I bet she made a bad enemy.
I turned to Sam. "I vote Sam."
Everyone nodded approvingly. Sam shrugged like it was only appropriate.
"Ben should go too," Kylie continued. "Which brings us to the last person."
"That's easy," Natalie answered. She looked at me. "Alex."
I thought I must have misheard. "Me? How am I intimidating? I started this life yesterday!"
"Maybe not you as in your personality," Darren intervened. "But your title is. Once Blasphemus realises he has the Chosen One in front of him, he is bound to be a bit more careful."
Everyone looked at me expectantly.
I realised my word was the final. I could say I wasn't going and nominate someone else to do it. I was quite tempted to. I wasn't keen on jumping the gun, which I thought I was since I wasn't ready.
But the others actually sounded sensible. They had all been doing this much longer than I had. Maybe they knew what they were doing. Maybe.
I swallowed. "Sure. Let's go see Blasphemus."
Kylie handed out earpieces, and the four of us were on our way.
None of us were children of air, (who could apparently fly) so the Bo went as close as possible to the ground without landing and we shimmied down a rope. We had landed at a public park.
Ben rubbed his hands. "Is it meant to be this cold in Colorado at this time of year?"
I inhaled for warmth. Sam seemed unaffected. Neither did Jess, who explained her tolerance for cold temperatures due to her fiery nature.
"Guys, make it quick," Jordan urged into my earpiece. "I've got a bad feeling."
We strolled through the park, trying to look casual, even though we all had scabbards at our waists.
"So this Blasphemus," I asked. "How do we know it's him?"
"You would," Darren clarified, which wasn't very clear. "He'll seem ......different."
We kept walking. Sometimes people would look at me straight in the eye and I was sure they would notice Gohar, but they turned away without stifling a scream.
Finally, Sam stopped. "This isn't good."
"What?" I looked around trying to pinpoint what Sam was talking about.
"Oh, no, no, no," Ben muttered. "Guys we have a problem. All three of them are here."
"What does that mean?" I asked.
"Sometimes all three of the wise men gather in one place when they feel they're influence being called upon by two or more clans at once," Jess explained. "If they have gathered here, then another party can't be far."
"Which is bad," Jordan spoke up. "Hurry."
Sam, Ben and Jess changed direction and I finally saw the wise men.
They were sitting on benches in front of a fountain. The one in the middle held a walking stick. He wore sunglasses, and appeared to be sleeping. A dog sat in front of him, licking his lips as if imagining us as pot roast. The one on his right had skin covering his eye sockets, while the one on his left had no ears, which seemed riot since the one in the middle had ears and appeared to have eyes behind his sunglasses. They all wore rich suits, and looked like noble wealthy men. The ones on the left and right appeared to be arguing.
"Come on, Nordeus! It's a simple trade, my ears for your eyes!" The one on the right whined.
Nordeus snorted. "I can read your lips, Darius! I have a better deal- you just give me your ears."
"Stop it you two," The one in the middle said. He took of his sunglasses revealing closed eyes. "We have company."
Nordeus and Darius turned as if noticing us for the first time. I looked at Jess. She nodded slightly.
I looked back at the one in the middle. "Um, you are Blasphemus?"
Blasphemus smiled. "It's an honour, chosen one! Ben Wilde, Child of Water and who do we have here? Child of Fire? Asian?"
"Jess Wang," Jess said.
"Hmmm. And...my oh my, is that Sam? Nice to see you again, Sam- figuratively speaking. And Ben I hope you'll pardon me for last time...."
I glanced at Ben. His fists were clenched. But he forced himself to smile. "No problem, Blasphemus."
"Oh sure. I really could have decided to kill you anyway, so simply refusing to give you information was a bargain, I guess." He grinned. "But anyway! What brings you by?"
All this he said with his eyes closed, which I found creepy. Bad enough to have an unreliable wise man who could kill you. An unreliable wise man who could kill you without opening his eyes was just mortifying.
"We're looking for very exclusive information," I started. "The location of the Coin of Life."
"Ha!" Nordeus and Darius exclaimed. They both had creepy smiles on their faces.
"And on what basis should we give you this information?" Blasphemus inquired. "What's our payment?"
Ben growled. "No payment is part of this proposal."
Blasphemus shrugged. "I see- again figuratively speaking. Well, we could just let the Sagans catch up and you guys would have to face off. In the best interest of most especially the chosen one who has no training what so ever, I advice you pay up and leave."
"Don't listen to him, Alex," Sam warned. "He's playing into your fear."
Jess drew her weapon- a Wasabi Katana that was about half a foot longer than Gohar. "And what if we don't pay?"
"Well the leader of the Sagans would kill Alex obviously," Blasphemus mused. "In fact, I imagine he would quite enjoy that. And the rest of you would be taken back to Jarba and enslaved."
Ben yelled and drew his sword. "Why does everything have to benefit you? Why can't you do something out of the kindness of your heart?"
"The kindness of my heart..." Blasphemus seemed more amused than offended. "Why, I have a heart of gold! The only thing my heart of gold requires to show it's glow is something in return. It's really simple."
I realised we didn't have time. The Sagans would be here any minute. Before I could speak up, Sam did.
"We're not paying Blasphemus. Take it or leave it."
"Nice try, Sam," Blasphemus said. "But you've forgotten you're the ones on the backfoot. If I don't tell you this information, your loss! If I do, we both gain. It seems fair to me."
I looked at Ben. "We're running out of time."
"You most certainly are," Said a voice.
Blasphemus had done it. He had talked us into what he wanted without a single word. He had talked to us long enough for the Sagans to arrive.
And I recognised the voice.
I looked towards the voice that had tortured me for years and made life even more unpleasant.
His brown hair was slicked over to one side as I remembered, His eyes still had that amused look like he did when he demanded for my lunch money. His mouth still had an evil grin crafted on his face. At his belt was a sword, the handle decorated with jewels. His belt had a strange buckle, emblazoned with a dragon.
'Why did I hate him so much?' You may ask.
Simple. Eric Daley was an evil, smelly mutt whose only goal in life was to make my life suck as much as posssible. And believe it or not, he achieved that goal.
"Eric Daley," I muttered. "What do you want?"
Eric managed to grin even more evilly. "Alex Hade, I'm flattered! You remembered my name! As to what I want, that's simple. I'm looking for the same information you are, and you know it. Killing you would be a wonderful bonus, though. I'd love that."
"Told you," Blasphemus snickered.
"Guys we're on our way," Kylie said. My hopes soared. With the rest of the guardians we could actually take down Eric and his party.
About seven others were with Eric. One of them apart from Eric I also recognised.
I looked at Blasphemus. "So how does this go?"
He spread his hands. "Easy! Fight, and whoever is worthy of the information would get it."
"And how are we supposed to trust you?" Eric asked. I suppose even mutts were cautious about lying, deceitful men who always kept their eyes closed.
"Ha! You don't have a choice!" Nordeus responded. "Blasphemus can't see. I will watch however to make sure no injustice is done."
"He can't see?" I inquired.
Eric snorted. "Of course. What did you think? He was just closing his eyes?"
That was exactly what I thought, but I digress. I searched my mind for another delay strategy. I looked at Jess and she got it. We couldn't start the fight before the others got here. We'd by slaughtered.
"So...." Jess ventured. "I see your other searches came to no avail."
TJ Collins, Eric's right hand man, spoke up. "We merely expected them to. We just tried them because this is a last resort. No one wants to deal with the Wise Men if they don't have to."
"We're right here," Darius grumbled.
"And so are we," Darren replied, swinging his battle-axe. "Let's take down these goons."
I was so stunned it took me a while to understand what was going on. It took me a few seconds to realise that Darren was indeed standing beside me swinging his axe and that I hadn't heard his voice from the earpiece. The rest arrived- Natalie, Jordan, Kylie, Jade and Dani. They all had their weapons drawn and had murderous looks on their faces, but that didn't faze Eric. He laughed.
"Oh, wow!" He remarked, clapping mockingly. "All ten of the guardians all gathered to fight. This is sweet."
He whistled and about ten more sagans started to make their way towards us. They all had murderous looks on their faces, with pure red eyes gazing at us. They came out from bushes, behind hot dog carts and so on.
Jordan sighed. "Wonderful."
"Indeed," Eric agreed. "Without much further ado- attack!"
We charged at each other.
Blasphemus had a satisfied grin on his face. Nordeus was grumbling to himself. "Oooh, that must hurt. Ouch. Pointy, dangerous, swords." Darius was whittling a stick like he didn't care, which made no sense because he had no eyes.
I drew Gohar and tried to let my instinct take over. I tried to blank my mind, but the thing is once you try to blank out, you never do. It just gets harder. And then a Sagan charged me.
My body froze, but my brain had other ideas. I jabbed, sidestepped, rolled, slashed and stabbed. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I do know I gutted him in the end.
I looked round for my friends. Jade was fighting with a Child of Air. He summoned fire in his hands and kept shooting. Jess was about ten feet from him fighting with her katana. Jordan and Natalie fought as a team, either ploughing down the enemy with strong winds or stabbing them with their swords. Dani was going one on one with a Child of Water and she looked calm and at ease. Darren, Sam and Kylie were the most impressive though. They were all isolated at different parts of the battle field, taking on almost five at a time. Sam swung Gutstabber like she'd been spawned for battle. She stabbed one in front of her, then drove a powerful backheel into the crotch of another behind her. The rest skittered uncertainly. Darren slashed his battle-axe mightily, his muscles rippling. Once, his biceps literally bulged into a watermelon, and when he swung his axe he took off two heads at once. Kylie was holding her own even surrounded by about seven. Then I heard a laugh.
Eric mimed a clap. "Wow! Your skill makes me tremble!"
He drew his weapon, a strangely fashioned sword with a handle and hilt adorned with jewels, and approached me.
"The Chosen One," He taunted me. "What a joke. You'll never live up to that name- you'll disappoint all expectations. That's what you usually do."
I wanted to charge him, but my naive fighting wasn't going to do much good against Eric, and he knew it.
Nevertheless, I put on a brave face. "You're going to pack your troops and get out of here."
"Ha," He replied. I guess I didn't sound very convincing. I probably even failed on the brave face.
Eric held out his sword. "I'd like you to meet Ripper the Iron kopis. He would be the weapon in my hands when I kill you."
"Fat chance," I replied, though my thoughts said otherwise.
"You can't fool me with your fake bravado," He said simply. "You're quaking in your boots just like you did at school for three years."
Something in me snapped. I could endure most things I had gone through again. I could feel the doctor's needles taking my blood samples hundreds of time over. I could break my arm falling off the monkey bars again. I could even feel afresh the pain of losing my parents tenfold over.
But I would never ever again let Eric Daley make me feel less than a human being. Technically, I was even more than a human being. I was a Vauron, a Kryptalite. And I was the Chosen One.
I charged him.
Eric was so surprised, he barely had time to defend himself. He rose his free hand and a wall of earth blocked my path. Immediately, I yelled and a bolt of electricity arced out of my fingers, straight through Gohar and obliterated the wall into pieces. If Eric was surprised before, he was thoroughly shocked now.
He rose his kopis to defend himself. Immediately Gohar and Ripper made contact, there was surge of electricity through my body and Eric flew back.
I stepped towards him. Lightening streaked from the sky all around me. I realised I was encased in a miniature storm. Wind slapped against my face. I could feel little droplets of water, like rain.
I faced Eric down. "I am Alex Hade, Child of Lightening, Chosen One of Krypta. Leave or be destroyed."
The words flowed from me like I had been spawned to say those lines.
For a moment, Eric looked genuinely afraid. Then he got his expression under control.
"I can't be killed, you know," He said in a silky tone. "As long as I am wearing the Davesh, I am invulnerable."
My confidence wavered. Too late, I realised his trick. He lunged at me and pressed me back. Lightening forced him to jump back, giving me time to recover. When he charged again, I swept out Gohar in a perfect arc and met Ripper with a clang. The earth rippled where I was standing. I leapt forward just as the ground there collapsed into a hole leading to darkness. As I leapt, I slashed Gohar at Eric's face, leaving a thin line of blood. Immediately, a red surge from his waist went up, onto his forehead, and the injury disappeared.
Eric smiled at me. "I told you I was invulnerable."
"Alex!" Kylie shouted. "The buckle!"
My eyes rested on the belt buckle. It was glowing red and humming with power. I immediately knew it was the Davesh.
Suddenly, Blasphemus yelled something. All the Sagans disappeared.
I know you're thinking 'Well, that's an abrupt ending to a battle.' and I agree. But that's exactly what happened.
Sam glared at Blasphemus. "You told them, didn't you?"
He smiled. "Not directly."
"What did you tell them?" I asked.
"That is none of your business," Nordeus replied. "As for you guys... well, we are hardly in the mood for giving any information, much less such an important piece of it."
Darren snorted. "But?"
"But," Darius continued. "We will tell you this. Go to the windy city. You'll find more answers there."
Ben growled. "Swear that you're not lying."
"I swear," Blasphemus said obligingly. "We'd better get going. Though I feel this won't be the last time we meet, guardians."
"What do you mean?" Dani asked.
None of them provided an answer. They all glowed green and disappeared.
"I hate Blasphemus," Sam growled. She plunked Gutstabber down on the table. "He's a no good scoundrel. We shouldn't listen to him."
"He swore," Jade reminded her. "I think we should be clear."
She continued grumbling. I looked at Kylie, who was trying to give out a strong 'Don't ask her about it' vibe.
Too late. Dani, who was way too bubbly to leave someone in their anger asked. "What did Blasphemus do to you anyway?"
Sam glared at her. "None of your business."
Dani looked surprised. "Alright. I was just..."
"I said none of your business."
She didn't shout. Her voice was level and dangerous as if any moment she could swipe Gutstabber off the table and stab one of our guts. Left to me, I would have let the matter go. But before I could say so, Natalie spoke up.
"Take it down a few notches," Natalie told her.
"A few thousand notches," Jade grumbled.
"You do not tell me what to do," Sam replied.
Was it just me or was her hand creeping towards her sword?
"Certainly not," Darren agreed placatingly. "But maybe you're a bit wound up. What about a joke? Jade and I know a couple."
Sam said nothing, and Darren shrugged as if 'Oh well. At least I tried.'
"We should focus," Kylie mumbled. "The wise men said we should go to the windy city?"
"Chicago," I agreed.
"Chicago is huge," Ben reminded us. "They didn't tell us where."
"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it," I decided. "For now we should all rest and eat. We'll plan over dinner tonight then arrive at Chicago tomorrow morning."
We dispersed. Jordan and Natalie went off laughing. Ben opted to meditate in his room. I could see Dani and Darren on the balcony, while Sam had gone to train. That left Kylie, Jess, Jade and I in the mess.
Jade beat me to the question. He looked at Kylie. "What happened with Sam?"
Kylie hung her head as if she'd been expecting it. "She had a bad past. It's a long story."
"We've got loads of time," I encouraged her.
Kylie sighed. "Well, Sam was never taken in."
Jess blinked. "What do you mean?"
"After she was spawned in Los Angeles, no one took her in. She lived on the streets for 8 years and gave herself the name Sam. Same as Marcus actually, though he gave himself a surname. To survive she pick-pocketed. She often had to fight her way out of tough situations, and she discovered she had powers over water."
I looked at Kylie comprehensively. I could tell she was pondering whether or not to continue. "Go on."
Kylie sighed. "She left Los Angeles when she was eight in an effort to find where she belonged. In that year, she was raped thrice."
Jess gasped. Jade's eyes widened. I myself felt a surge of compassion for her. "How?"
"On her way, a man kidnapped her and kept her for two months. No one parented or cared about Sam, so no one paid ransom. He raped her thrice, after which she got round to escaping. She eventually found her way to Kar when she was 9," Kylie finished.
A tear glistened on Jess' cheek. Jade's grin had gone and had a look of horror. I guess after their hardships they were empathetic.
But Sam's story was ten times worse than just running away. Rape was an event that caused girls and boys years of trauma. Sam hadn't told anyone but Kylie. She hadn't even gone to a psychologist. She had kept it to herself and tried to act strong about it. For the fact that she hadn't gone mad, Sam was incredibly strong mentally.
One thing still troubled me. "What did Blasphemus do?"
Kylie shrugged. "That information, I don't know. She didn't tell me."
Jess wiped her eyes. "The poor girl. No wonder she's the way she is."
Jade nodded. I had no doubt that sooner than later his impish grin would return to his face, but for now he was thoroughly shaken.
Kylie shrugged again then made an attempt to smile. It came off as more of a painful wince, but 100 percent for effort I guess. "We should get some rest. I'm off to the lounge."
"We'll come," Jess agreed, speaking for Jade as well. "Alex?"
I thought about it. "You guys go ahead. I think I'll just have a nap."
I watched them walk off.
This time was way different.
I mean, the last time I slept, it seemed like I'd only closed my eyes for ten minutes then I woke up to sunlight. But this time, I dreamed.
I enjoyed dreaming, usually. I loved the idea that my body could rest while my soul could take a fictional trip anywhere in the world, sometimes even in a fantasy.
But this time was weird. Usually when I dream I know it's fake. I know it's just a train of thoughts in my head being put in pictures. But this time, it felt very real- as if this had happened somewhere in the world and the scene had somehow transferred into my brain.
A man stood before me. His back was turned so I couldn't see his face. He wore a blue cloak, and in his hand was a staff topped by an orb radiating green light. Someone entered, who was clearly a servant of his.
"Yes?" He began. His voice was deep but had a rasp to it that indicated great age.
"The guardians are on their way to Chicago," The servant answered.
"Excellent," He marveled. "And the Sagans?"
"Blasphemus has sent them halfway round the world," The servant answered.
"And our little trick?"
"It is all coming together," The servant promised.
"Good," He said. "Mark my words, very soon the Sagans and the Kryptalites would perish, and my clan would rule!"
The servant shuffled weight. "Sir, the Cironites?"
"Imbecile! The Cironites do not fight. And if they try to interfer, they too would be destroyed."
"As you say, Master."
"One last thing." He looked up, his back still turned. "The Chosen One. How are we advancing?"
"He'll be here soon enough, master. He'll be forced."
I wanted to scream at this horrid man that I'd never come to him no matter what. Just then, a familiar voice said "Alex."
I woke up and blinked. Kylie was smiling at me. I rubbed my eyes. "Dinner?"
She nodded. "Sleep okay?"
I looked at her long enough and she knew the answer. After so many years, we could read each other easily.
She sighed. "Come on. The others would want to hear it."
When I recounted my dream for the others, things weren't pretty.
Just as I finished, the floor at Sam's feet exploded and water gushed from it like a fountain. Everyone looked at her as she got up and paced. When she stopped, she spoke.
"We shouldn't do this."
"Why?" Natalie asked. "It doesn't seem like Blasphemus was in league with these people."
"Sam's got a point," Jade protested. He had dropped his chopsticks and was looking quite alarmed. "The man said it was excellent that we were on our way to Chicago, yet he wants us destroyed. Perhaps Blasphemus swore, but what if this man is manipulating him?"
"Perhaps," Jess started. "But we're racing time. We can't afford to try anything other than we've been advised." She looked at Kylie for support.
Kylie sighed. "Both sides of the argument make sense to me."
Darren sighed. "I think we should. It's not like we know what we're doing anyway. Following orders is our best bet."
"It depends on Alex," Dani announced abruptly. She looked at me almost in pity. "He's leader."
I forced myself to face all of them. My Chicken Panini all of a sudden tasted like dust. I couldn't do this- make such a vital decision that could stabilise or destroy this mission.
But I knew someone who could. Cool headed under pressure, and probably the smartest person I knew. If she didn't know what to do, then we were most likely doomed.
I turned to Kylie. "What do you think?"
Kylie picked at her spaghetti. "I don't know, Alex. As I said, both sides make sense. Blasphemus may have been manipulated, and considering who I think this man is, it is even more likely."
Jordan sat forward, as if all of a sudden the conversation was interesting. "Who?"
Kylie chewed her lip. "Geron."
"Hold it there, Kylie," Natalie said, waving her arms. She looked genuinely shaken. "I'm usually a fan of your ideas and plans but this guy being Geron seems a bit unlikely to me."
Darren shook his head. "Not at all. I was having suspicions as well, and is Kylie thinks so too, then it probably is."
Sam nodded. "Blue cloak. Staff with glowing green orb. Does sound like Geron."
"Who is Geron?"
"The most ancient and arguably most powerful sorcerer in the world," Jess explained. "He's the patron of the Geronites, the clan of Green Vaurons."
Kylie nodded. "The last time Geron was seen, he led the Geronites against the Duong dynasty of China. That didn't sit well with Merlin. Merlin made a pact with Geron that if he defeated him in one on one combat that he would have to leave the Duongs alone."
"Merlin," I repeated. "Isn't that the King Arthur dude?"
"As Kylie said earlier," Natalie explained. "We're a vital part of civilization."
"Anyway, Merlin defeated him," Kylie continued. "It was humiliating- someone so young defeating Geron. Many think he's going out of touch, but if he can somehow destroy Krypta and Saga and make Geron rule- then that would change everything."
"Did you just call Merlin young? King Arthur was at least a hundred thousand years ago."
"Exactly," Darren agreed. "Still a baby in Geron's eyes. Geron has been around as long as earth, man. He's ancient."
"And he usually doesn't fail, right?" Ben inquired. "He's spells and plots and plans usually succeed?"
"Unfortunately, yes," Dani answered. "If Geron is plotting against us we're going to have to be on our guard, watching for pitfalls and potholes."
"Which is why we shouldn't risk this," Sam quipped. She looked at me. "Alex, I'll respect whatever decision you make but before you make such a turning point choice, I just thought you needed to know the dangers."
"And there are a lot," Jade agreed.
I sighed and mulled it over. As Kylie said both sides made sense. But one side made more sense to me.
"We'll go," I decided. "We would have to be on our top guard. From what it looks like, Geron isn't in Chicago, but there are other things we could be going to meet."
"At least we have one less worry for now," Natalie optimised. "Geron's servant said the Sagans were sent halfway round the world."
"That's the spirit," Jade declared. "We should all rest. We arrive in the morning."
I slept peacefully this time, which left me uneasy. Like, if my sleep mode was just on and off how was I meant to brace myself? I couldn't just drop in on something happening without being ready.
When I woke up there was someone standing in my doorway.
I rubbed my eyes. "Darren?"
He tilted his head as if he was trying to see things from my angle. "I was just about to wake you up."
I sat up. "Chicago?"
He nodded. "I set course during the night. We're fifteen minutes out."
I got up and started heading for the shower, when I realised Darren was still there.
I turned to face him. "Anything else?"
He sighed. "Just take it easy, Alex. Even if anything happens it's not your fault."
I turned away.
Before I could reply, I heard the door shut and he was gone.
I had a hot shower then put on fresh jeans, a white t-shirt with a black windbreaker over it. I strapped Gohar to my jeans and headed out.
Breakfast was in full swing. Sam had apparently pulled a prank on Jordan by changing the temperature of his water from ice cold to scalding hot, but he didn't get mad. He simply asked Ben, the other Child of Water handy to change it back, which he did. I think he, like the rest of us were just relieved that Sam was in the joking mood.
Natalie and Dani were chatting casually at the back of the room, each with a plate of bacon on toast. Kylie, Jess, Darren and Jade were looking over a map.
I served myself some scrambled eggs with bacon and bread and went over to see the map. "What are we looking at?"
"It's a map of Chicago," Jess answered bluntly.
"Gee, I never would have known. Oh, the map title says 'Chicago'. Didn't see that."
Jade grinned. "I love this guy."
"We're trying to come up with routes to follow," Kylie intervened. She lowered her voice. "We've all got to split up. That's the only way. We'll go in twos and try to cover as much ground as possible."
"The more ground we cover the more likely we are to find something," Darren agreed.
I realised that these four thought our job was impossible. That would explain. They didn't believe we had a shot but had seperated themselves and tried to give us a chance in order not to dampen the others spirits. Even Darren and Jade, despite their grins and smiles were doubtful.
I decided to help. "Well, why don't we group?"
Jess took interest. "What do you mean?"
"Instead of working out exact routes, why don't we just share out areas of Chicago? It's easier and faster."
Kylie nodded. "That might work."
Jade blew fire, and the others looked at us. He smiled. "Y'all go get ready and we meet at the rope point in five minutes."
While the others left to prepare, I finished off my breakfast then thought. I'd tried to avoid thinking too much, since whenever I did my brain seemed to remind me that I had no idea what I was doing, and that I'd get myself killed.
I'd done quite well with Eric. I'd at least prevented getting killed, and made Eric think I was no soft cookie. It was however only a matter of time till he found out otherwise and killed me.
Bad Alex, I scolded myself. Don't think about getting killed. You'll survive. You're the chosen one.
Sure. I still thought that this must be some sort of mistake.
Except for my powers. During the battle with Eric I nearly skewered him with electricity. Nowadays, whenever I got anxious, I started throwing off sparks. I'd even touched Kylie's arm once and mistakenly given her a static shock. Those were signs that this wasn't a mistake. That was bad news.
"Alex, we're ready," Dani called. She looked worried. Her hand rested on the handle of her sword.
I rose and made my way to the rope point. Darren was sharpening his axe. When he finished he strapped it to his back. Jordan was holding his spear in his hands as if he was ready to gut anyone. Natalie was able to calm him down however so sheathed it unto his back, like Darren. Her own silver sword was in it's sheath, at her waist.
I cleared my throat. "Alright guys. We're going to take groups. Let's get in twos."
Jordan and Natalie didn't move. Sam and Darren got each other. Dani and Ben went together, leaving the twins, then Kylie and I. I left the actual grouping to Kylie.
"Darren and Ben take the inner city. Sam and Dani scout public buildings. Jordan and Natalie check the outskirts and country for anything suspicious approaching. Jess, Jade, Alex and I would just be downtown," Kylie ordered. "You've all got your earpieces. Each group should take a backpack."
"Done," Darren said, grabbing a pack. I took one. It was so light that I thought it was empty, until I looked inside and it was full, which made no sense, but not that me or my back were complaining. I slung it unto my shoulders.
"Good scouting guys," I announced. "We'll rendezvous back here in an hour. Turn off your pieces so we don't have to hear each other, but turn them on and talk if you notice something important."
Jordan and Natalie didn't need the rope. They both nodded and did an identical dive off the balcony. For a moment I watched them fall, then the wind supported them and they floated safely to the ground. Smiling, Dani followed suit. Ben shimmied down the rope to meet his partner.
I turned to Kylie, Jade and Jess. "You ready?"
"Born ready," Jade answered. "Let's do this."
Well, at first it wasn't too bad. We spent the hour walking round, scouring with our eyes for the slightest sign of trouble, but we found nothing. We must have covered every blade of grass and slab of cement in downtown Chicago, but we kept going.
"How long have we been doing this?" Jade asked.
I shrugged. Kylie looked at her wrists to find out that she wasn't wearing her watch. We all looked at Jess. She was wearing her usual black leather jacket with black jeans and black eyeliner and her black scabbard for her katana was at her waist, but was listening to music with white headphones, which must have been the first time I had ever seen something on her that wasn't black. She shook her head.
"Great," Jade muttered. "We don't have a time piece. How do we know if an hour has passed or not?"
"Let's do fifteen more minutes," Kylie advised. "Then we go back to the ship."
Jess gave a thumbs up. How she could hear us with her music booming, I don't know. Maybe she was lip-reading.
I didn't understand how she was so calm. She just walked along, listening to her music, hardly saying a word. Yet I knew she wasn't particularly quiet. She was just calm.
But she wasn't completely at ease. I knew that if anything happens she was ready to draw her katana and gut someone in the blink of an eye. Her eyes flashed imperiously, as if 'Test me and I would beat you up.'
She just seemed so right, as if all Children were meant to be this mature, and the rest of us were all scums. Aside from maturity, she obviously made a dangerous enemy. As far as Children of Fire went, you couldn't do better than Jess- dangerous, difficult to approach and scary beyond comprehension. She represented her parent element identically.
And someone said I was intimidating. Ha. When there were people like Sam and Jess to mess with. Compared to them, I was as intimidating as a puppy.
As we walked along the Burnham harbor, my thoughts wandered.
I felt inferior within the guardians. I had hoped that I'd make a name for myself, but I was beaten everywhere I turned. Darren, Sam and Kylie were the best at combat. Everyone's powers were better than mine. It seemed that I was carrying my title as a sort of joke or name-tag, as if that was my only claim to a place within them.
"What are you thinking?" Kylie asked.
I'd forgotten she was there. I had to be careful what to think around Kylie. She was quick to understand what was going on, and though I liked consulting in her, she always said the blatant truth- and trust me, it most likely would not be what you want to hear.
"A lot," I answered. I looked around. "Where did Jade and Jess go?"
"They're right behind us," Kylie replied. I looked back, and they were there, though not within earshot.
I looked at Kylie and she raised an eyebrow- a sign that she wasn't satisfied with my answer. I'd been hoping 'A lot' would cut it. No such luck.
I sighed. "I just feel so out of place, you know? All of you guys are better than me. I feel like I shouldn't be a guardian. I feel that me being the Chosen One is some sort of mistake. Maybe it's actually meant to be you, or Jess, or Darren, or Sam...."
I was cut short by Kylie's grin. "Why are you smiling?"
"Because I know you," She replied simply. "Inferiority is a feeling that you get often. But in your case, it makes you stronger, makes you want to prove a point. Sometimes it makes you difficult and strong-headed......"
"Difficult and Strong-headed?"
"But it's largely a good thing. It pushes you to your limit. And if you're always at your best Alex..... well, the guardians can't go wrong."
"Sure they can," Someone said.
I drew Gohar. Kylie unsheathed her knife. Jess put her headphones round her neck and blew fire. Jade drew his machete.
I identified the person who spoke. I contemplated charging him, but thought maybe avoiding a fight would be best. Kylie followed my train of thought, and we turned in the opposite direction. Other people were closing in. Jess blew more fire.
We had walked straight into an ambush.
I looked at the boy who appeared to be leader. He didn't look very threatening. He was slender, with brown hair and eyes and about two inches shorter than me. He had a mature face that indicated a year or two between us. He was fifteen, sixteen? I didn't know. All I knew was that he had led a party to ambush us.
"Alex Hade," He started. He said it like an incantation that indicated bad things, as if my name was the worst insult he could think of. "You don't know how many years the world has been waiting for you to blossom. Now the time is ripe to kill you."
"Tempting," I answered. "But no thanks. Who are you?"
He blinked, and his eyes turned solid, light green. The sight was a little unnerving. "I am Lucas Perez, leader of the Geronites. And I would like to kill you. A lot of people do. Just ask Eric Daley, that upstart, or Xsypios."
"Never mind. My point is, that the Geronites must rule. And how Geron has worked that out is that we must take out the major clans, so we can easily overpower the rest."
"Nice little plan," I assured him. "I'm just not sure it's going to work."
His nostrils flared. "Geron never fails!"
"Really?" I questioned. "Cause I heard this tale of him and Merlin....."
"Enough!" He shouted. He took a deep breath. "You can ask Geron all your questions. Chain them up."
"We're not alone," Jade spoke up. "There are others who will rescue us."
"You mean them?" Lucas pointed to his right where after some shuffling, Dani, Ben, Jordan and Natalie appeared, all in chains.
I noticed the absence of Darren and Sam. I almost felt sorry for whoever tried to capture them. They must have had a hard time.
But that meant they knew there was trouble. Meaning they should be on their way. Jade, Jess, Kylie and I couldn't take all of the Geronites at once, especially since the others were chained. With Darren and Sam the six of us might have a shot.
Lucas wasn't waiting. "Chain them up."
A few made way towards Jess, who shot them with fire. When a Child of Fire who wasn't affected kept approaching, Kylie stamped her foot, the earth rippled towards him, and he subsequently fell. That caused a bit of discomfort. I seized the oppurtunity.
"So where's Geron himself?" I asked. "Why didn't the coward come to capture us himself?"
"Geron has no time for you," Lucas responded.
"What does he have time for? Losing duels?"
Jade grinned. "Good one."
"Couldn't have said it better myself," Jess chimed in.
Lucas snarled. "Geron will turn you into a palm tree."
"A palm tree?" I inquired.
"Long story," Kylie answered.
"Enough talk," Lucas griped. He looked at his fighters. "Chain them up. Now."
Jade backed up skittishly. Natalie screamed. I was about to go into full on panic mode when Burnham harbor erupted. The water slapped some Geronites away and pulled some into the water. Many drowned. Sam came up, riding the water and grinning. She flipped onto the land and drew Gutstabber.
"What did I miss?" She asked.
"Not much," Jess responded. "Just all of us about being captured."
The ground rumbled. Darren popped out and smiled.
"Hey," He said casually, slipping his axe of his back. "How's it going?"
"Sorry to interrupt your little reunion," Lucas spoke up. "But we're not finished."
Despite the colossal damage Sam had done, we were still outnumbered by a lot. I didn't care though. I was ready to fight.
"How did you not drown?" I asked. "Not that I'm complaining. I wanted to have the pleasure of killing you myself."
He mimed a clap. "Smart talk, eh? As for drowning.... well, sorry to disappoint you, but that's not possible."
"He's a Child of Water," Sam said.
"Indeed," Lucas agreed. "You're quite good, Sam. You have some skill. Controlling the whole of Burnham harbor? I'm thoroughly impressed. It's a pity I'd have to kill you."
"You're welcome to try," She replied. "I doubt that you would succeed."
With snarls and some confused Geronites who laughed, the enemy advanced. I willed my eyes blue.
Darren stamped his foot and a fissure grew in the ground. Vines grew from it and started strangling the enemy. A few suffocated and died. Kylie engaged a Child of Fire with her knife. Jess drew her katana and attacked with Jade in a blur of Iron, Euphomy and fire. Sam was probably the most impressive though. She stood right in front of the harbor, waves battering her opponents while she wielded Gutstabber in the fashion of stabbing guts.
I myself felt for once, confident. I brandished Gohar and slashed, stabbed, and whirled. Occasionally I thrust my hand at someone's chest and gave them a nasty electrical surge, powerful enough to stop the heart. I spotted Lucas trying to go for Sam. Sam already had a lot of people to deal with, and goodness knows how long she could keep the harbor boiling. Besides, the water wasn't going to affect Lucas, and no doubt he was quite good. So I did maybe the dumbest thing possible. I stopped him.
"You said you wanted to kill me," I reminded him. I spun Gohar. "Come and get it."
Lucas smiled. He drew his own weapon- a katana similar to Jess' but his was pure gold. The handle was bound in holed leather so you could see the gold beneath it. The blade and hilt sported gold as well.
He charged. As he was charging, a look of slight annoyance came to his face.
"Curse her," He muttered. He glared at Sam.
I understood what was going on immediately. Lucas was trying to control the harbor, and use it against me in combat, but the whole harbor was under Sam's complete control. She kept him from being able to use it.
Well, I must give Lucas credit because he still attacked.
He stabbed at me with his katana. I parried the blade away, then jabbed towards his stomach. He parried then thrust. I swung Gohar and met the golden katana with a satisfying clang.
Lucas snarled. "I wasn't told you were this good. You're meant to be a beginner."
"Maybe I am," I responded. "But I don't fight like one, do I?"
Electricity surged through my arm, into Gohar, into his katana and then into his body. He screamed and crumpled.
Lucas winced in pain, and struggled to get up. I jabbed Gohar's golden hilt into his head. He staggered, but stayed on his feet. He had a bleeding cut now.
Despite his obvious pain, he was still smart-mouthed and strong-headed. He reminded me of Eric Daley.
"Enough," He growled. "I will kill you now."
He limped towards me. In his state, I wasn't going to need Gohar, so I sheathed the blade.
When he got within arm's reach, I punched him. He limped back and winced.
I looked straight into his eyes and I saw his fear. He feared failure. He feared shame. He feared for his life.
He feared me.
That, for me was a revelation. I had never had someone scared of me. I was usually the one scared.
My anger subsided. I walked up to him. With every step I took nearer to him, he managed to cower lower and lower, till he was literally on the ground.
Maybe what I did next was dumb. Maybe it was a huge risk. Maybe I should have just finished him off right there.
"Take your troops and get out of here," I ordered him. "And you are going to tell Geron that the Kryptalites are not people to mess with, and that you think the Geronites should stand down."
"And why would I do that?" Despite his fears and state, he still managed to sound cocky.
"Think twice. I could kill you right now with one strike."
That silenced him.
Reluctantly, he sheathed his blade and struggled his way up. "Why are you doing this?"
"There is only war," I told him. "When there is no way of peace, or when the ways of peace have been ignored. I don't like you very much, and would have been rather thrilled at the prospect of killing you. But, I'm trying to make peace."
He nodded and winced at the effort. He turned around and yelled something in some foreign language. The Geronites all dissolved- literally. Some dissolved into a breeze. Some dissolved into a pile of rocks. Some dissolved into a pillar of flame. Lucas himself dissolved into a puddle of water.
I stared in awe. "Can we do that?"
"Yes," Jordan answered. "It's a vauron way of teleportation. All vaurons can do it, but if you master it, you can even use it in combat."
Straight away, I decided that once we got back to Kar, I was going to master it. It would be cool if I could teleport around in combat.
Only Sam was uneasy. "Why did they retreat?"
"I uh, made a deal with Lucas," I answered. I gave them the details of my fight with Lucas.
"You made a deal?" Natalie sputtered.
"I'm trying to make peace here," I protested. "I'm trying to avert a war."
"Alex, if there is a war, it'll take a while to come around," Jess pointed out. "Three years at least. It needs to develop."
"Why do we need to let it develop?" I demanded. I looked round at all of them. "Don't you guys see? Why can't we avoid the development and end the war here before it's too late?"
"Because making peace isn't the vauron way," Dani replied calmly. "It's just not us."
"Let me get this straight." Sam had been silent since she asked the initial question. "You had a chance to kill Lucas Perez, and you're trying to make peace?"
"Well he wasn't particularly a threat," I responded. "I can kill him anytime if he doesn't keep to his word."
"Wasn't a threat?" Natalie sputtered. "Lucas Perez wasn't a threat?"
"Are you sure this is the same Lucas Perez we're talking about?" Darren added. "I mean, I know he's short, but he's ridiculously skilled. I came across him about a year back, up in Kansas. He gave me two black eyes and nine bruises."
Everyone looked at me strangely.
My ears felt hot. "Guys, that's what happened. Seriously."
Jade nodded. "He's not lying. I saw Lucas before he teleported. He looked seriously beat up."
"That means..." Kylie trailed off. "That means..."
"He can't be that good already," Sam gasped. "That'll make him better than Darren in combat! That would make him better than me!"
"He is the Chosen One," Jess reminded everyone. "He beats all odds. Nothing is impossible with him."
Everyone gaped at me.
I felt self-conscious. "Is there a problem?"
"No," Kylie responded. "An advantage. After barely, if any training at all, you're probably the best fighter in Krypta."
Well, I didn't feel very powerful.
I still felt inferior, but the fact was there for everyone.
With no training at all, I had defeated one of the best fighters in the world with little effort. The same person who had defeated Darren. Darren was good. Darren was really good. But apparently, I was better.
That made me part of an elite group in Krypta. Darren, Sam, Kylie, Marcus- and now I was part of them. I was part of the best fighters.
It only made me want to get better. It made me want to expand on this ability I had. I was still determined to master teleportation.
Once we got back to the ship, we held a council.
"I told you we shouldn't listen to Blasphemus," Sam reminded us. "We found zero information."
"And were ambushed," Dani added. "That seals it. The wise men are in league with the Geronites. We can't trust them for information."
"This is bad," Jade said. "That means Blasphemus has told the Geronites where the coin is and are going to get it now. They'll destroy it, then destroy us."
"Then go after the Tree of Sagan so they can destroy them too," Darren continued.
"We've got to stop them," Sam said. She sounded more worried and doubtful than forceful and determined. "I mean I couldn't care less about the Sagans, but for us, for Krypta...."
"She's right," Natalie agreed. "We need to counter them."
"Sure we do," I met all their eyes. "But let's take it one matter at a time. We're the Guardians. Our priority always is the safety of the clan, to which the immediate threat is the absentia of that coin. We cannot make any plot to destroy the Geronites until we have safe custody of the Coin of Life, and there is no immediate threat to the clan."
I guess I did a good job of sounding commanding and sensible and like I knew what I was doing. Everyone listened.
"I agree with Alex," Kylie said. "We can't go after them till we ourselves are backed up. It's like having a deliberate car crash without insurance."
But something wasn't sitting well with my brain. Everything turned and churned in my head- and it became clearer and clearer to me Geron's plan.
"We have a bit of time actually," I announced.
Everyone stared at me.
"Why?" Ben asked.
"Because when Geron gets the Coin of Life he's not going to destroy it," I continued. "He's going to use it as a trade chip."
"Trade it for what?" Sam asked curiously.
"He's going to use it as a trade chip for me," I answered.
There was a dead silence.
Darren exhaled. "He's right. I just feel it. He's going to keep it, wait for us to come get it, and then try and negotiate for Alex. If we don't, he'll take him by force."
Natalie shook her head in dismay. "But we can't give up Alex. If we give him Alex he's still not going to give us the coin."
"Even if he does, we'll be right back where we started," Jordan agreed. "Alex and the Coin hold about the same amount of power, right?"
"Right," Darren answered. "But we need both of them. We can't do without any one of them."
"Negotiation is not the answer," Kylie decided. "Geron has us in a proper jam."
"Which is right where he wants us," Jade muttered.
"We'll take it by force," I announced.
Everyone looked at me with that doubtful look, almost scornful. But I was confident in what I was saying.
"We'll take it by force," I repeated. "And no matter how long it takes, or how difficult it is, we are going to destroy the Geronites."
"Sounds like a plan," Ben started. "But what do we do now?"
"We wait for now," I declared. "We'll wait and see if Lucas keeps to his word. If he doesn't, or for whatever reason the Geronites keep coming after us, then we'll move."
Everyone nodded and mumbled their agreement then dispersed.
Of course, I dreamed.
I was almost expecting it. As soon as I drifted to sleep, my mind lurked around in the depth of memories and visions. Soon, a scene came into view.
It was a different place than before. Here, it was a vast room, dressed with emeralds and pearls, so the room almost glowed. There were wide windows which revealed snow outside.
Looking out from one of the windows was Geron. He wore his usual blue cloak, and his staff with the glowing green orb was in is hand. There were sounds of footsteps, and into the scene entered Lucas Perez, along with a few others.
"Perez," Geron muttered. "This better be good news."
"Yes Lord. Well..... no lord." Lucas answered. He shuffled his feet and rested a hand on his golden katana, as if he might need it.
Geron turned. The cloak still hid his face, but I could see wasps of white hair. "What do you mean no?"
"Well, no. The excursion to destroy the Chosen One failed sir."
The orb on Geron's staff flared, though Geron seemed to remain calm. "In other words, a beginner defeated you."
Lucas' face fell. "There's something about that boy lord. He's too....powerful. He's not one to mess with Lord. I think we should stand down."
"Stand down," Geron repeated. "What a funny phrase." The orb on his staff glowed even brighter and Lucas shrieked with pain, sinking to one knee.
Geron approached him. "What has become of you, Perez? You want to surrender to the Kryptalites?"
"Not surrender. Maybe just.... um, not attack?"
"Because the Chosen One, you say, is very powerful."
"Toughen up, Perez! We need to capture Hade by force. If we try and use him as a bargaining chip, the Guardians will never go for it."
"I'll think of something, Lord."
"No you would not, foolish boy. It's my plans we follow, is it not? If you can't execute my plans what hope do you have of executing yours?"
"A fair chance lord," Lucas replied.
Geron stroked his chin. "A fair chance." Once again the orb glowed brighter. Lucas winced and his other knee hit the ground.
"Well, let's truly test how powerful he is. Isolate him from the rest of the guardians, then take him down," Geron ordered.
"And how do we do that lord?" Lucas asked.
"You come up with the plan for that, I don't really care. Just bring me that boy!"
Lucas got up and was about to leave when Geron called him. "And Perez?"
He turned, almost as if he knew what the sorcerer was going to say.
"Do not fail me. I don't like being failed. Fail again, and you know what that will mean."
Lucas nodded then exited, and the scene dissolved into darkness.
I woke up to an alarm, and in this life that is not want you want to wake up to.
It had been Sam's turn to take watch, and at first I wondered if she was still in a jovial mood, and just pulling everyone's legs. I could just calmly walk out at my own pace, shake my head at Sam, and then settle back in bed to continue my doze.
The shouting shook me out of my pleasant thoughts.
I grabbed Gohar and charged out of my room. Jade, whose room was beside mine, burst out at the same time. He had his machete in his hand.
"What's going on?" He yelled.
"I don't know!" I yelled back.
Darren barged out of his own room, axe in hand. He ran towards the terrace. Jade and I followed.
As we got there, Jade inhaled. "God, no." His voice sounded weak.
"What's wrong?" I asked, charging in.
And then I heard the roar.
Think of the fiercest roar you have ever heard in your life. That's something like what I heard, only multiplied by a thousand. It seemed as if I had just strolled into a safari, and 1000 untamed lions wanted to tear me apart.
I turned slowly towards the sound.
It was the scariest beast I had ever seen, bar none. It's height alone was intimidating. It stood at least thirty feet above me. I was impressed that the Bo was holding up against it's weight. His skin was a mind-numbing cross between dark green and pure black. He possessed leathery bat wings, only much, much bigger. Spikes crowned his head, and ran down his back. His eyes were glowing. Literally. They glowed bright green with danger. When he roared, he bared black teeth, sharp as razors.
My body was frozen. Sam was beside me, staring at the beast in awe.
"Xsypios," She muttered.
The dragon roared at the sound of his name.
Darren charged. The dragon looked down at him and swiped him away with a claw. He crashed into the dashboard. Sam followed suit, swinging Gutstabber and yelling. Jade blew and blasted fire at the dragon. Xsypios responded with his own flame. Jade quickly created a protective fire shield around Sam.
The others had all arrived now. Kylie, Jess, Ben all charged. Dani, Jordan and Natalie flew, zipping round the creature. They occasionally swooped in, but were repelled back with Xsypios' fire.
I myself stabbed and slashed. My body crackled with electricity.
It was hopeless. Xsypios was too good.
Part of the reason why it was so difficult was because our miserly weapons didn't seem to do any harm. Every time I sunk Gohar into his leathery skin, it didn't do any damage. Once I withdrew my weapon the wound started closing and if you looked at the same spot five minutes later it was gone.
As I fought, my mind raced for weaknesses, legends, myths- anything useful on how to defeat this monster.
While my mind raced, the battle raged on.
Darren was busying himself with hacking his axe at Xsypios' right front-leg. He managed to make quite a nasty gash, but Xsypios was weary of him now. He bent his head and flicked him away.
Kylie was on the back of the monster, stabbing him in the neck repeatedly. She rode on his shoulders like a champion rodeo cowgirl and managed to keep her balance despite the bobbing and shaking. Jade was swinging away with his machete at his left hind leg. He was forced to leap around while doing it, as the leg kept lifting and crashing down, in an attempt to stomp him. Jess was along side him, wielding her katana, which was on fire. Her arms were coated in flame. Dani, Jordan and Natalie were flying around, trying to get a clear oppurtunity to swoop in. Xsypios was aware of them however. His tail swished up, slapping Dani out of the air. She spiralled downwards before crashing fatally into the already damaged dashboard. I winced.
Xsypios wasn't done with them though. His tail then grabbed Natalie. It also made an attempt on Jordan, but Jordan veered out of reach sharply before repelling the tail with a blast of wind. It however kept hold of Natalie. Sam and Ben were working together, countering his blasts of fire with blasts of water.
But it wasn't enough. We were two men down, and about to get overwhelmed.
Slowly, a crazy plan started formulating in my head.
"Kylie!" I yelled.
She looked at me, and nearly slipped off his shoulders. She regained her balance.
"Distract him! I need to enter his mouth!"
"I need to enter his mouth!"
Kylie looked at me with disbelief. Darren, who apparently heard my plan, looked at me like I had a screw loose. I guess even for a Vauron I was a bit crazy.
Kylie and Darren had a silent conversation. Eventually, Darren shrugged. "Go for it,' he said. "I'll cover you."
Kylie started climbing his neck. Her nimble footing saved her countless times. Darren ran around like a mad man, basically making a nuisance of himself.
I dashed up his hind leg and started climbing his back, using the spikes as footholds. When I was at an able height, I leaped onto his tail. I climbed the tail till I found the thinnest part, then I swung Gohar and cut it off clean. There was an ooze of blood. Natalie was free of her bond and falling, but Jordan swooped in and caught her, before giving me a thumbs up, then zooming up again.
Xsypios roared. He shook what was left of his tail, trying to throw me off, but I jumped back onto his neck. I was about to start climbing when I heard a shrill scream. Xsypios had managed to throw Kylie clear. She tried to tuck and roll, but she was disoriented. She only managed to smash into the ground hard on her left shoulder, which made her shout with pain. I immediately knew it was either dislocated or broken.
That discouraged me to take on the task of climbing the monster's neck, but I went ahead anyway. I climbed steadily, spike after spike, until I was crouching on the monsters head. I looked behind me, straight into his eyes. It roared even more angrily, and started shaking his head perilously, trying to shake me off. I clung on for dear life, then in a smooth motion, swung unto his nose, then rolled into his mouth.
It was by far the most disgusting thing I had ever done. Dragon saliva drowned me for just a moment, and I realised what was going on. He was trying to swallow me.
I stuck out my hand against the roof of Xsypios' mouth. I tried to move forward, but his tongue wrapped around me, pushing me towards his throat. I was ten metres away from his gullet.
I struggled to draw Gohar. Then I chopped off his tongue. I fell free to the bottom of his mouth, still clutching Gohar. Xsypios spat out his tongue. Blood was filling the cave that was the dragon's mouth.
I was struggling to stay afloat. Xsypios refused to swallow the blood, in an effort to drown me in it.
I looked upward for what I'd learnt, desperately hoping I was right.
I was rewarded with a hole right in the middle of the roof of his mouth. Wasting no time, I stuck Gohar into it.
For a dreadful moment, Xsypios was still. Then he started shrinking into the most indefinite shape. I squeezed out of his mouth just in time.
We all watched dumbfounded until a black chain with one of Xsypios' teeth landed in my palm. I was sure his teeth were much bigger, about my size, but this was obviously shrunken.
I studied it. It still had a bit of gum around the end, but when I touched it tentatively, it was dry.
"This," I said. "Is the most unwanted spoil of war ever."
Jade grunted. "All that trouble for a tooth."
"Keep it," Darren urged me. "You earned it. Dragon teeth are usually quite resourceful."
"How?" I asked.
He shrugged. "I don't know. They usually just are."
I was feeling quite good. I remembered Lucas saying that Xsypios would love to kill me. I hadn't just killed him, I had made a statement to whoever else might be after me. You want to kill me? Take your best shot.
Kylie's groan shook me out of my stupor. I felt bad. How could I just forget her? I also remembered Dani then. Jade dug out her unconscious body from under the damaged dashboard.
Darren draped Kylie over his shoulders, while Jade and Jordan carried Dani between them and we headed towards the infirmary.
The rest of the night was a blur. We took care of all the injuries. Darren, Sam and Natalie did most of the work, both major sprains and twists and minor cuts and bleeds. I myself had managed to escape the whole battle with just a small cut on my arm. Darren, amazingly, was unscathed, especially impossible after his crash into the dashboard.
Eventually, Dani came back to consciousness, and recovered well. She ended up using the spare crutches at the back of the infirmary. Sam gave both her and Kylie some sap to speed up the recovery, but it was apparently still going to take weeks. Sam made a makeshift cast for Kylie, who as I predicted had a dislocated shoulder.
"How can you do all this?" I asked.
"I roamed the streets for ten years," She reminded me. "I'm quite skilled at a lot of these stuff."
I left it at that.
Afterwards, we proceeded to make plans over breakfast. Dani was still getting used to her crutches, and needed help, which Darren provided.
I filled my plate with eggs, bacon and ham. Everyone else filled their plates with their preference of food. I took my place at the head of the table.
"What now?" Sam asked first. She was munching on a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich, her army boots on the table in front of her, her jeans ripped as usual. Gutstabber gleamed at her waist.
"We've got to have a plan," Jordan added. "We won't be doing ourselves any favors if we just rumble on as it goes."
"It depends on Lucas," Kylie reminded everyone. Despite her arm and obvious pain, she still managed to sound in control. She looked at me. "Did he honor his part of the deal?"
I sighed. "He did. But Geron didn't take kindly to it." I told them about my dream.
Jade winced. "Remind me how I saw this coming?"
Ben shook his head as if he was trying to shake out his understanding. "So the Geronites want to isolate you and take you down? How would that even happen?"
"We don't know," Jess confirmed. "But I say we never send Alex anywhere alone."
"Agreed," Darren muttered. "In the meantime, we have to keep moving."
"I may know somewhere to check," Jess spoke up. "I saw a place in my dreams. I don't know- it seemed to beckon my presence. It looked like an abandoned mansion, something of the sort. I think we could try it out for information."
"Nice plan," Natalie agreed. "Except you don't know where this haunted house is?"
Jess shrugged. "As I said, it seemed to beckon to me. I.....I think the house itself would show itself to me. It wanted me to come."
Jade whistled. "Feisty! Have fun checking out abandoned mansions. I have.....training to do."
I narrowed my eyes. Jade had been going missing for long hours on the ship, locked in his room. Nowadays, he was either in his room or in the gym, training. I suspected there was more, but before I could speak Darren did.
"Who's going then? I'm not going anywhere today. Xsypios left all kinds of damage and they have to be fixed if we're going anywhere fast. Kylie can help."
"Dani has to rest," Kylie continued.
"Natalie and I could try communicating with the local air spirits," Jordan offered. "Maybe ask them to watch our backs."
"Which leaves four of us," Sam stated. "Jess, Alex, Ben and I. Jess how do you feel about that mansion?"
Jess stood and smiled. "Let's get going. We have an abandoned mansion that wants to find us."
Of all the places in the world to drop into, we came into the woods. Jess felt like it was appropriate, since the mansion was overgrown with moss and vines when she saw it.
We trod around aimlessly while Jess led the way. I would have thought she was doing absolute nonsense, but she actually seemed to know where she was going. Sort of.
Ben walked along not really focusing. He shouldered a backpack. His Euphomic sword was sheathed at his belt. It was curved, like one of those pirate swords on TV. He wore a simple blue t-shirt with black jeans. He had an intense look on his face, as if he was deciding who to kill first.
Sam was pulling water out of the trees and freezing it so it fell to the ground with a clunk. Gutstabber hung at her waist through a loop. It's emerald hilt shone. The gold blade shimmered. The handle, leather bound in gold with emeralds at the top glittered. The blade was truly beautiful. Kylie must have poured a lot of time and effort into the project.
I was still distracted, so I didn't notice Jess had stopped until I bumped into her. She didn't notice, as she was to busy staring ahead of her.
"Here we are," She announced.
I looked at what she was so fascinated with.
It was smaller than some mansions I'd seen, but it was still fairly large. It looked more like a big beach-house than a mansion.
Jess had described it in spectacular detail. The house was overgrown with vines and moss. I regretted not having Darren or Kylie to clear away the plants. The walls may have been white, but now they were speckled with brown and green. The windows were covered with scum.
Every few minutes the house shuddered as if it was having a fit.
Ben swallowed. "Looks fun."
"I don't like that shuddering," I agreed.
Sam walked up to the door and peered through the hole. "It's clear. No one in sight."
"In sight," Ben repeated. "I have a bad feeling about this."
Jess tried the handle. It was unlocked. She looked back. Sam had Gutstabber drawn, ready for action. Ben was clutching his sword such that his knuckles were white. I drew Gohar.
Jess unsheathed her katana and swung the door open.
We sidled in silently. The house went in two completely different directions.
Ben squeaked. "Please don't tell me we're splitting up."
"It'll be faster," Jess argued.
They both looked at me. I sighed. "Sure. Let's split up."
"In twos," Sam advised. "Jess and I go right. You guys go left."
Ben rummaged through his backpack and produced earpieces. We all put them on, then went our different ways.
I didn't know how to act. Of all the people on the ship, Ben seemed to be the one I hung out with the least. It showed in him too. He awkwardly walked along, not knowing how to acknowledge my presence.
The corridors were wide, such that we were able to walk shoulder to shoulder. There were rooms everywhere. I walked into one. Bones littered the floor. There was a dried stain on the wall that looked very much like blood.
Ben swallowed. "I suppose these were previous visitors."
"What?" Came Sam's voice over the earpiece.
"Um yeah." I stuttered. "We sort of came across a room full of bones."
"What?" Jess yelped.
At that moment there was a hum in the corridor.
I turned round swinging Gohar blindly. No one was there.
I swallowed. "Guys we should speed this up."
"Really," Ben agreed.
We checked out another room. Then another. They were all full of bones and other weird items like dolls and stained shirts.
"People," I murmured. "These are all collectibles of people."
Ben winced. "Let's try not to become part of the collection."
"That I agree with."
We moved on. I didn't realise how far we'd come until we bumped into Jess and Sam.
"Thank goodness," Jess said. "We should leave."
"Not quite yet," Sam protested. "Jess you said like you felt this place was beckoning your presence."
"Yes," Jess answered. "But clearly there are no answers here. We should go. I have a weird feeling."
"Just wait," Sam insisted. "A mansion. Full of bones. Calls people in. Isn't there a story about that?"
I was clueless, but Ben nodded thoughtfully. "She's right. But if we're thinking of the same guy, we have to go right now."
"If we go back what happens?" Sam argued. "It will be a ridiculous waste of time. We have a chance to get information. It's a matter of taking the risk."
"Who are we talking about?" I asked.
"You don't know me?" Someone said. "Well that's a pity. I know a lot about you, Chosen One.
I realised I had sheathed Gohar. I drew my platinum blade and faced the person who spoke.
You know, one must be careful as to how they picture things. When you think of men who inhabit abandoned mansions that are full of bones and then sneaks up on you while having a conversation, you naturally expect some ugly, yellow toothed man with white hair that was nearly falling out. That was anything but the case.
His hair was far from falling out, and it was black. He wore a black leather jacket, on top of a casual white t-shirt. For bottoms, he wore jeans. He could have passed for a regular high school student.
The only thing that hinted 'Danger!' was the fact that he held a club, the handle bound in leather while the club itself was wooden.
"Who are you?" I asked.
Sam stepped forward, Gutstabber in her hand. "Argum."
I looked at him. "Lovely name."
"Thank you," He said. "Likewise for you. Alex Hade has a nice ring to it. Hopefully someone else in the future bears that name."
"I was planning on calling my son that," I told him. "But clearly you doubt that will happen. I'm not getting out of here alive, am I?"
"Well that depends!" He grinned and spread his arms. "The deal is simple. I take your friends captive. We fight. If you win, I release your friends and give you information you seek. If I win, I take all of you captive, and I will get paid to send all of you to an early demise."
"What if I kill you in combat?" I asked.
He laughed. "Then what will that gain you? You'll get no information out of a dead man."
I mulled it over. Clearly no one had ever managed to defeat him. It was a risky gamble that could result in the death of the four of us. But it could also end in getting valuable information for our journey.
I smiled. "Why not? Let's rumble."
Argum clicked his fingers and Sam yelped. Gutstabber disappeared. Jess gasped as her katana also disappeared. Ropes flew out of nowhere and tied their arms.
Argum smiled. "I'm a child of air. With practice, I can dissolve any object."
"And bring it back?" Sam asked. "That's my favourite sword. I'd like it back once Alex is done beating you up."
Argum shrugged. "Sometimes I can bring them back, sometimes not. It depends."
Sam looked unsatisfied but stayed silent.
Argum charged, wielding his club. I blocked then parried. He swung it at my legs, and before I could follow, I was on my back, looking up at the cieling.
Argum strolled over, making a tisk tisk sound. "It's a pity. I heard you were better than this."
"I thought so too," I answered. "But I'm just getting warmed up."
I swung out a lag, and Argum hit the floor. I leapt up and brought my blade down towards his chest. He met Gohar with his club and then thrust. I jumped back.
I suspected that we were losing valuable time. Lucas' party could be on their way to find me, and here I was battling an ancient but incredibly young looking caveman.
I yelled and leaped towards him. The air turned metallic. The cieling ripped open as electicty surged through me and into Gohar. I stabbed at his arm and he yelled in pain, dropping his club in the process. He tried to summon air to bring the club back, but I picked it up and held Gohar at his eyes.
"Information. Now," I told him.
"Fine," He snapped. "What do you want to know.?"
"Where is the Coin of Life?" I asked.
"Oh that's easy," He chided. "I doubt that's important though. The Sagans are already nearly there. Geronites too. It would be interesting, seeing all three clans go at it. The Sagans don't really want it though. Eric Daley just wants it to lure you to him so he can kill you."
"Where is it?" I asked.
"In Paris," He said. "When it went missing, an artefact that important, it went against western civilazation because of how old it is. It was drawn to the most powerful and old museum in Europe."
I thought about it. Powerful, old museum in Paris.
"The Louvre," I said. "It's in the Louvre."
"C'est vrai," Argum said.
"My friends," I prompted him.
The ropes flew of their hands.
"And their weapons?"
Jess' katana reappeared along with Gutstabber and Ben's black sword.
"Alright," I said. "We're free to go?"
"Well of course not," Argum said. He smiled. "Did you really think I would let you go? I could make a fortune out of you four. Especially you Alex."
"You know," I said. "I knew you'll say that."
I concentrated. Electricty surged from my palm into a coil of electrical rope. He struggled pointlessly as I tied him down to the banister of the stairs.
"You can't just leave me here," He grinned. "I'll get free eventually."
"I wouldn't bet on it," I replied. I placed my hand against the wall, and felt all the electrical wires running through the house. I felt for the main one, and burst it.
There was an explosion, and a fire started. I threw his club into the fire, making it roar. Smoke started to fill the house.
"Please," Argum pleaded, coughing. "You can't kill me."
I strolled over to him. "Your body will never be found. It will burn to ashes."
I stabbed him in the chest.
When we got back to the ship, Jess narrated the story. I could feel all eyes on me when Jess described how I beat Argum quite easily, created a rope out of electricity, started a fire, and killed a man who had lived for hundreds of years.
I myself was buzzing. Creating things? Since when could I do that? Since when was I so fluent with my powers? I felt like I was growing too powerful way too fast and sooner or later it will haunt me.
"Well, the good news is we know where the coin is," Kylie said.
I nodded. "We have to hurry. The Geronites and Sagans are already heading there now."
Dani groaned. "And I still can't fight. What a terrible time to get injured."
"You're useful here on the ship," I assured her. "You and Kylie could warn us about anything weird going on outside."
"Yeah," Jade chimed in. "Like let me know if you see any flying pigs. I've always wanted to see pigs fly. Or if you see any horses fighting."
Jess elbowed her brother. "Or any useful things, like Sagans advancing."
"Or Geronites," Natalie added. "Or any other clan after the coin."
Darren nodded thoughtfully. "There could be more clans wanting that coin, but the Sagans and Geronites are our biggest worry now."
I looked at Kylie. She was oddly quiet, and she had a blank look on her face, like she wasn't even registering what we were saying. I knew that look all too well. She sensed trouble.
"Kylie," I called. "What are you thinking?"
Kylie shook her head. "Something isn't right."
Ben raised his eyebrows. "Something like..."
"I knew it!" Jade announced. "Pigs can fly!"
Jess knocked his head with a fiery hand. Jade absently patted down the flames in his hair.
"Kylie," Jordan asked. "What do you mean?"
"Three clans going for one of the most powerful artefacts in the world, all heading for one place, a big museum. We think the Sagans and Geronites might be there already, but we haven't heard anything," Kylie explained.
Natalie nodded thoughtfully. "She has a point. If the Sagans and Geronites were there already, we would have heard something. Marcus would have contacted us. There would be risk of a vauron war at hand. Civilian lives would be lost."
"There would be carnage," I summed up. "And we should have heard of it. Okay, so Kylie what are you suggesting?"
"Think about it," Kylie continued. "If you were a clan looking for the coin of life but you didn't know where it was, what would you do?"
"I'll follow a clan who knows," Jade answered. "Keep my distance so they don't know. Then when they get there, go in and take it."
"But both the Geronites and the Sagans know," I said.
"We don't know that," Jess reminded me. "We know the Geronites know, but whatever the wise men told the Sagans could have been false. Since the wise men are in league with the Geronites, probably."
"So if the Sagans are following us, what about the Geronites?" I asked.
"Already there," Ben guessed. "We need to hurry."
"We need to get the Sagans of our backs," Kylie countered. "We could do without fighting two clans at once. They'll probably join forces and we'll be the subject of a massacre."
There was a silence as that happy thought sunk in.
Natalie sighed. "What's your plan?"
"A relatively simple one," Kylie said. "We speed up the ship till we are sure we are out of the Sagan's sight, then you guys exit the ship when we're right above the Louvre. The Sagans wouldn't know you have left. Dani can I can lead them in a merry go round."
"Bad idea," Sam interrupted. "What if they get impatient and swarm the ship? You two can't fight. Not with those injuries. They'll get unnecessary leverage."
"It's a risk," Kylie admitted. "But one we have to take. We will still have the main ship-line connected to your earpieces. When you guys have finished business at the Louvre call us in. By then, the Sagans would be hopelessly lost."
I sighed. "Kylie that risk..."
I saw the look in Kylie's eyes. She was scared. She was trying to be brave for the sake of our mission.
"I know," She answered. "But we have to. It's our best shot."
There was no arguement.
I stood and tried for a winning smile. "Let's get ready then."
So much for bravely approaching the Louvre. I spent most of the time screaming.
Kylie had been convinced that anytime spent in stopping the ship could prove vital, so all she did was open up the bottom hatch and we all had to jump out with the ship travelling at high velocity.
I spiralled in the wind, sure that sooner or later, I will crash into the floor and make the world's first ever Alex Hade pancake.
I looked to my side. Jordan and Natalie were flying down perfectly, with their arms tucked in and their faces facing downwards. Darren had managed to control the earth even from this height and simply ran down on stairs made of earth. Ben and Sam were flailing like me. Jess was trying to create a large surface area to slow her fall. Jade had set himself on fire in hope that maybe like the human torch, he could fly. The answer was negative.
Just before we all made the most disgusting Kryptalite mash, a gust of wind cushioned our fall and we floated safely to the ground.
"You're welcome," Jordan said.
I looked round. We were in the compound of the Louvre. I could see it's glassy pyramid walls in the near distance.
I looked up and realized the sun was setting. I hadn't noticed how late it was. The sky was turning a shade of red, that made me think about the Sagans.
"Kylie did it work?" I asked.
"I think so," Her voice replied. "I can see a fleet of jets in the ship radar. I'm putting the ship on maximum acceleration now."
"That's on less clan to worry about," Darren optimised.
"Let's split up in two groups," I suggested. "That way we cover more ground but are way more secure."
Jade, Jess, Sam and Darren made up a group. Ben, Natalie, Jordan and I made up the second group.
We approached the Louvre and slipped in. There were metal detectors, but for some reason they didn't detect our weapons. Money had already been collected at the entrance, I suppose, so we didn't have to worry about paying.
"Okay," I looked round at everyone. "Darren's group go right. We'll go left. If anyone sees the Geronites, give a heads up."
We split up. Natalie swirled air in her hands, her gleaming silver sword at her belt. Jordan inspected the corners and potted plants, while Ben and I inspected the artefacts.
At a point we reached a room called the Napoleon III apartments. We glided in along with a tour group and inspected.
"Guys," Natalie called.
We went over to see what she was looking at.
She was pointing at the fireplace. Right in the middle was a coin.
I had never seen a coin like it. Despite being in the middle of ashes, it had a silvery glow. I picked it and studied. One side had golden butterflies and braidings, while the other had the face of a man and the date 1854. It was blue with delicate golden rims.
"Guys I think we found it," I said over the earpiece. "We're in the Napoleon apartments."
"Copy that," Darren said. "We're on our way."
Sam, Jade, Jess and Darren came in moments later. Jess inspected it with fascination.
"It's beautiful," She murmured. She cleared her throat. "We need to leave anyway. We have the coin right? What are we waiting for?"
It was a good question. Everyone seemed relieved and at ease- except Sam.
"Sam," I called. "What's on your mind?"
"Pass the coin," She ordered.
Jess gave it to her.
We all watched Sam as she studied the coin. She ran her fingers along the rim, peered closely at it, and then flipped it and let it land in her palm. It came up tails.
"I knew it," Sam declared. "This isn't the real coin."
A shiver ran down my spine.
"What do you mean this isn't the real coin?" Natalie demanded.
Sam wagged her finger like she cautioning a dog. "It isn't. The date on the coin says 1854. Napoleon died in 1821. The coin was made in the very early days of Krypta, in the days of our patron, Napoleon."
I felt a headache coming on. "You're saying Napoleon was a Kryptalite?"
"She's right," Kylie said in my earpiece. "Napoleon is one of the founding fathers of our clan."
"Okay," Darren began. He sounded impatient, like that was enough impossible facts for the day. "So if the coin was constructed in Napoleon's time, way before his death..."
"Then the coin shouldn't say 1854," Sam concluded. "I thought I was being paranoid..."
"Me too," Jade agreed.
Sam glared at him. "And then I flipped the coin. And it came up tails."
"And?" Ben inquired.
"She's got a point," Dani said now. "The Coin of Life never lands on tails. This is common knowledge."
Jordan shook his head like he was coming out of a trance. "So if this isn't the coin, where is the real coin?"
"Good question," A familiar voice said.
I drew Gohar and turned.
It was all we could do to stop Sam attacking.
When she saw Blasphemus, she drew Gutstabber and would probably have stabbed his guts if we hadn't all intervened.
"Ooooh," Blasphemus exclaimed. "Someone woke on the wrong side of the bed."
I myself felt a wave of rage. "You swore that you weren't lying, yet you were. Doesn't that mean you should have disentegrated into ashes or something?"
Blasphemus laughed. "I didn't lie. You all don't understand how the swear thing goes. It technically wasn't a lie. You found information. Just not the information you wanted. There's a difference."
"Let's cut the crap," Sam started. Darren had released her from his grip and she had Gutstabber drawn. She stepped towards Blasphemus. "Tell us where the coin is and maybe I'll let you go alive."
"Ooooh," Blasphemus taunted. "I'm immortal. So good luck with that. You can weaken me and make sure you never see me again in the next 20 years, but alive? I'll always be alive."
"I'll be glad to do that," I threatened. "Just ask your buddy Argum. And he looked way more threatening than you."
Blasphemus sighed. "Oh yes I heard. The mighty Alex Hade finally finished Argum. Argum wasn't an immortale. Oh no. He was a kapors, an immortal until slain. I and my brothers are immortales. Come rain or shine, we live on."
Blasphemus' dog barked as if it liked that.
"Your dog is an immortale too?" I asked.
"Yes, yes. His name is Sandy."
"Where is the coin?" I demanded.
Blasphemus shrugged. "With Geron. He would have destroyed it by now if he didn't want you. He'll try and lure you to his side with the coin."
"More or less try to bargain, and then not keep the bargain," Jess countered.
He shrugged again. "Most likely. Though he doesn't think you'll go for it, his general, Lucas Perez, is slow to go after Alex Hade."
"Glad we cleared that right up," Jade started. "Where is Geron?"
Blasphemus smiled. "Why, he's right here in the Louvre. He'll be on his way soon. My, this is the most entertainment I've had in centuries!"
"Oh like aside all your criminal activity?" Sam quipped.
Blasphemus laughed again. "Oh Sam. You always were amusing. You were fun, not as much fun as I am having right now though. But you were enjoyable."
"She was enjoyable?" Jade asked. "Making her sound like a pizza from the drive thru."
"Far from it Wang," Blasphemus replied. "But we did order a pizza once. Well I did. She refused to eat any of it."
"What are you talking about?" Natalie inquired.
I looked at Sam, and everything started falling into place in my brain. I looked at Jess and I knew she had figured it out as well.
I looked back at Blasphemus. "You're a monster."
He smiled. "Aww, you compliment me. Thank you."
Jade came around. "It was you. Wasn't it?"
"Him that did what?" Jordan asked.
Blasphemus coughed. "Not sure if this is the best place to bring it up but yes, Jade Wang, it was me that raped your friend."
There was stone dead silence. Sam looked up with tears in her eyes, half sad, half angry. Natalie's jaw could've have hit the floor.
It would have been much better if we had more time to react. Unfortunately, Geron arrived. The moment he walked through the door, I knew it was him.
His blue cloak was the same from my dreams, his face hidden, except for a few strands of white hair. His staff was in his hand, with the green orb on top glowing.
He had a small party with him of about 50 men, including Lucas. I caught his eye and Lucas shrugged like 'I tried my best.'
"Blasphemus," Geron called. "You are much appreciated for your services. We shall call if we need you."
Blasphemus smiled. "It was an honor." He gave one more smile to Sam, and then glowed green and disappeared.
Geron regarded me. I couldn't tell if he was smiling or not because of the darkness in the hood of his cloak.
"Alex Hade," Geron started. "We finally meet."
"Yeah," I replied. "Wish it was under better circumstances in which I wouldn't have to beat you up."
Geron snarled. "You have a loud mouth, Hade. Besides, I was hoping to avoid a fight. I would hate to see so many civilians die just because of your stubbornness."
"What do you want?" I asked.
"Simple," He said. He produced a small box, like that holding a proposal ring. When he opened it, a coin, identical to the one we picked before, lay inside.
"You surrender," He ordered. "We leave you friends alone and give them the coin of Life."
"How do we know that's the real coin of Life?" Jade asked.
"I swear on my honor," Geron answered. "Watch." He flipped it. When it landed in his palm it was on heads.
"Even if it is real," I started. "Did you really expect us to go for that bargain?"
"In all honesty no," He replied. "But Perez's reluctance to go after you..." He gave Lucas what I presume was a dirty look. "Has forced me to this action."
I tried to sound commanding. "Hand over the coin Geron. Last Chance."
"Huh," He snorted. "I guess you don't care about Civilian lives after all."
I didn't back down.
Geron snarled. "Okay. I've run out of patience. Attack!"
All hell broke loose.
Jordan lifted off into the air wielding his spear. Sam yelled and a nearby fountain exploded, all the water swirling towards her. Natalie drew her silver sword and leaped into battle. Darren stretched out his hand towards a series of potted plants. They began to twist and move, obeying Darren's will. At a point Ben had been thrown towards the glass walls of the Louvre, and a vine from Darren caught him. Jade's arms were on fire along with his machete. Jess had taken on Lucas, but it wasn't going well. She had a cut on her cheek. Her nose was bleeding. Sam charged in to help her. I realised their eyes had turned blue. I did likewise.
The fighting spilled across the Napoleon apartment and into the corridors.
Geron and I stood in the centre of it all, battling sword to staff. Geron spun and struck. I stepped in and kicked him. He staggered. At a point Gerons orb glowed bright, and he lifted it to strike. I yelled. Electricity surged through me and into Gohar and I met the strike.
There was an explosion of green and blue as Gohar and the staff met. The power arced out and hit a civilian who was running and screaming. She crumpled. Another hit the cieling, which groaned. Another hit an antique bust of Napoleon, which exploded into shards. We were tearing the Louvre apart.
Eventually the power of the two weapons was too much. There was another explosion, much bigger, and we both flew apart.
That didn't deter any of us. We charged.
Geron shot a streak of green energy from his staff. I didn't even think about it. I deflected it, and it hit the chandelier, which creaked and tilted.
We continued fighting. I spun and kicked. Geron caught my leg and threw me up. I crashed into the ceiling then fell back down to the ground. Geron advanced. I did the first thing that came to mind, and threw Gohar. Geron deflected it.
I struggled to my feet. Geron didn't even look wound.
"Ready to surrender, Hade?" He taunted. "Or else you suffer more pain. Let's face it. You can't defeat me."
"We'll see," I managed.
He shrugged. "Okay. That leaves me another prize to collect."
He reached out towards my neck for the Xsypios' tooth. I had absolutely forgotten about it. It was pretty useless to me, but I didn't want Geron to have it. I took it off my neck, chain and all, and through it on the ground behind me.
Geron turned pale and hissed. "Curse you, Alex Hade."
I didn't know what he was talking about.
The ground rumbled, and I turned. Everyone stopped fighting.
Black bones rose out of the earth and started to assemble. It took no more than five seconds, but it seemed to happen in slow motion.
It was the most bony animal I had ever seen. The only flesh on it was on the wings. The head was constructed of bones. Spikes popped up on it's body in no order. It was bizzare. It blew fire in triumph.
It's dark eyes regarded me. I realised this beast had been summoned from the tooth of Xsypios. It was waiting for orders. From me.
"Attack him," I blurted out, pointing at Geron.
He jumped into action. Fighting resumed like nothing weird had happened.
The beast attacked Geron. Geron shot him with his staff, but the beast, apparently quite a smart one, shielded himself with his wings, which I guess were indestructible.
I retrieved Gohar and took a moment to see how my friends were doing.
Darren and his plants were busy beating up some poor child of fire, whose head was bleeding. Darren hit him with the butt of his axe. A group of angry leaves were punching his stomach. He could barely defend himself.
Sam was dominating a group. She stood surrounded by about five guys, but was destroying them. She stepped into one's strike then drop kicked him into another. They both went flying.
Ben was swordfighting with a Child of Earth. Alongside him were Jade and Jess, who were pummeling and burning some Geronite to death.
Natalie and Jordan were working together against another Geronite duo.
I faced my own business. Geron, for once, looked genuinely shaken. I charged in and hit him with the hilt of my sword. Geron staggered. My fellow beast in combat swiped at him. Geron crumpled.
I lifted Gohar for the strike before Geron could recover, until he said something that changed everything.
"Seems like we have come full circle," Geron managed. "You know, you killing the guy who killed your parents."
Geron looked at me. "I knew about you even before you were born. I rigged your car with magic. Only you survived. I also sent your grandmother a nice magical illlness- no doctor in the world could have cured it."
I closed my eyes. I thought of my grandmother, when I was told she had died. I thought about being in that car as it flipped and rolled, that helpless feeling. I opened my eyes. A tear streaked down my cheek.
"Yes," Geron continued. "You were powerless to stop me then, and you are powerless to stop me now."
I wanted to attack Geron. I remembered what was going on. Too late, I realised his trick.
The orb on his staff glowed. He rose his staff to strike. My mind was addled. It would have been the end if not for my new pet dragon. He blocked the strike with his tail and snapped at the sorcerer.
Geron roared, holding his side. That snapped me back to reality. We attacked alternatively, my dragon and I. I swiped at him with the flat of my blade. He blocked it with his staff, but he coulodn't block the dragon's tail from whopping him on the head. He crumpled.
"Give it up, Geron," I demanded. "Give me the coin if you wish to live."
He looked at me. Then he got an evil look in his eye. He produced a small green sphere, no larger than a tennis ball. He threw it before I even realised what it was.
"Goodbye, Alex Hade," He said. He jumped out, straight through the glass, and flew away.
"Evacuate!" I yelled. The bomb was starting to smoke.
Sam jumped straight through the glass walls. Jordan and Natalie flew away. Civilians screamed. The Geronites dispersed.
I climbed onto my dragon's back. He ran straight into the glass, and flew away.
I didn't feel the explosion, but I heard it.
The museum that had stood for so many years, along with the surrounding buildings, were blown into oblivion.
Glass littered the compound. The walls were blackened and broken in some places. French authorities went to work pulling out bodies from the carnage. One of them was Lucas. He hadn't escaped the blast. That's about how much I watched before I got thoroughly depressed and called Kylie to bring the ship round.
"What about Tooth Beast over here?" Jade brought up. "Your new pet?"
I nodded. "He was summoned from the tooth of Xsypios." I regarded him. "I'll call him Randy."
Randy seemed satisfied with his name.
On command, he shrank back into a tooth on a chain, which I put round my neck.
Sam banged the table. "All that work to get the coin. And Geron still has it."
I looked away. When I looked back, I noticed Natalie staring at me, but she said nothing.
The mood on the Bo was depressing. Jade and Darren tried to lift everyone's spirits, but to no avail.
Later that night, I lay on my bed thinking the day through. It was already about midnight. It seemed like years since we had been in that abandoned mansion, while it was just that morning.
There was a knock on my door.
I opened it. It was Natalie. I was taken aback. She was one of the least likely people I expected to pay me a visit.
"Hi," I managed.
"Hey, Alex," She replied. "Can I come in?"
I opened the door wider. "Sure." She entered and closed the door.
I sat on my bed. She remained standing.
"What can I do for you?" I asked.
She tilted her head. "What happened with Geron?"
I sighed. "What about him?"
"I saw you," She started. "You had him. But you hesitated to land the killing blow."
"Would it have made a difference?" I asked. "Isn't he immortal?"
Natalie chuckled. "No. Geron, like Merlin, uses spells to elongate his life. If you had killed him before he had time to do that, he would have stayed dead."
"Bummer," I said. "Guess I was too slow."
"Alex I'm serious," She responded.
I sighed. There was a willing silence, like she was waiting. This girl never gave up.
I sighed again. "He killed my parents. And my grandmother."
Natalie kept quiet. I guess she was measuring my mood, trying to think of what to say.
"I'm so sorry," She finally stated.
"Yeah, well, it wasn't your fault."
"How did they die?"
"My grandmother suddenly fell ill one day," I replied. "She died the next day."
"And your parents?"
"In a car accident."
There was a prolonged silence.
"There's always next time," She reminded me. "Geron will get what he deserves."
With that, she left.
I had slept off when there was another knock on my door.
"Who is it?" I mumbled.
"Kylie," She answered. "Open up."
I opened the door.
I really didn't know what Kylie wanted. She looked bedraggled like she hadn't had much luck sleeping either.
"You have got to stop this," She started.
"Stop what?" I asked, falling back into my bed. Kylie sat beside me.
"I can sense when you're feeling the blues," She replied. "What happened?"
I told her the news about my parents. I sighed. "And we didn't even get the coin," I continued. "Civilians lost their lives. We destroyed basically the whole compound, to no avail."
Kylie nodded. "That is true."
I glared at her. "Not helping!"
Kylie shrugged. "It is true."
"How do we know Geron hasn't destroyed the coin already?" I muttered.
Kylie sighed. "He might have. But it's a gamble we must take."
She got up to leave. "We may have made a mistake at the Louvre. But mistakes are part of success. And it isn't your fault."
I watched her leave.
Make sure you read the sequel!
Don't stop here! Read the second book in the series- The Hunt for Parke, now out!