“How much family do you have?!”
Rethik merely shrugged at this. “Dunno. Lost count.”
Liam slapped his hand to his face.
“That’s it. I want to go home.” He mumbled.
Rethik choked on his bread. They were eating around Gretel’s table.
“What? Why did you drag me with, then?” He managed to splutter while coughing violently with tears streaming down the sides of his face.
“Maybe you should swallow first.” Liam wryly suggested, and hit him on the back. “And before you get your beard into a twist, I was joking. ‘Course we’re going to continue our journey of enlightment.”
Rethik let loose a satisfied burp. “Then what are we waiting for? Let’s go!” he said, jumping up from the table.
“You, as usual.” came the swift reply.
Liam felt sick.
Why did Rethik do that to him?
He choked when the hippogriff gave a sickening lurch, and turned a little greener.
Without thinking, Rethik had done a few loop-de-loops with Syth, just as he always liked to do when he was happy. Unfortunately, Liam’s stomach was already not so good with heights, so going upside-down in their current height had been a nasty experience.
“Sorry, sorry!” Liam had by now lost track of how many times his red headed friend had said sorry to him.
Sighing, he tried to figure out where they now were, but the landscape was unfamiliar. Sickness crept up Liam’s throat as he looked down. Stifling it, he said hoarsely “Can’t we go lower down? Being up here-“ he choked. “-is killing me.”
Rethik looked worriedly at his friend, and obliged.
“Urgh. Do you feel that, Liam?”
“Yes, of course I do.”
They were passing over the ruins of a castle, which seemed to give an air of menace and death. This did not help Liam’s condition, and he felt sicker than ever.
Suddenly, they heard a yell.
Coming from the castle.
The two riders exchanged one look, and the hippogriff dived. Awkwardly they landed near a broken section of wall, from where the yell had seemed to come from. Dismounting, Rethik nudged Liam.
“It might be a trap. You know how some magical creatures like to catch their prey.”
“I know,” Liam murmured. “But what if someone’s in trouble?”
Rethik punched Liam lightly. “I’ve got your back, Magesword. You know I do.”
“Good to know.”
Liam peered into the foreboding darkness while Rethik sent Syth of to hunt.
“Spooky, eh?” was Rethik’s comment as the two descended into the castle. Liam’s eyes flashed gold, and a small ball of blue light flickered to life, and floated in front of them as they moved forward.
Boom. The sound echoed through the halls, and Liam shuddered. Maybe they should have skipped this party. He was about to suggest going back when he felt a familiar feeling. Rethik felt it too.
The presence of a fellow magic-user.
Both people started running towards where the feeling was strongest, dashing and weaving through empty corridors. As they turned a corner, Liam saw it, and grabbed Rethik just as he was about the rush round the corner, and mouthed “Wait”
Cautiously, they peered round the wall.
Before them, with its back turned, stood a monster that Liam recognized all too well; a lamia.
A beautiful autumn’s day.
Sunlight dapples through the colorful leaves that still remain in the trees. The sounds of laughter echoes through the air.
They’re on a hunt for conkers, as this is the best time of year to go looking for them. Blayze is there, a young cheerful boy. He has leaves in his hair. Liam thinks it looks funny, and laughs in a high-pitched voice.
Rethik is there too.
His big brother has brought him along to play. Even back then, Rethik had the same facial features; big hazel eyes, and a mass of curly red hair. With his fingers in his mouth, he looks like any other little six-year-old. His brother is in contrast to him very tall, a giant in Liam’s five -year-old eyes, with long curly red hair. Rethik and his brother are holding hands.
Growing bored, Liam suddenly spots something, lying at the foot of a tree. It looks like a lump in rags, but it turns out to be, on closer inspection, a girl. When she lifts her face and looks at Liam, she screams. Liam, wide-eyed, just stares at her, horrified. A strange feeling is building in his stomach, but he’s too young to understand what it means.
“Liam! Why did you frighten her like that?”
Rethik’s big brother yells at him, and Liam struggles to hold back the tears pricking in his eyes. The brother is now crouching by the girl’s side, and shoots a glare at Liam before saying to the girl in a soothing voice “Hey, it’s all right. You’re safe now.”
The girl looks up at him, and flashes a smile. “Yes, you’re safe now.” She purrs just before leaning in and kissing him.
Liam watches as the body of Rethik’s brother slips out of the girl’s hands and onto the ground, lifeless. Rethik starts to cry, while Blayze looks dumbstruck at the girl. She then turns to Liam, smiling in a sickly sweet way. Liam just stares at the brother’s body, unable to move. Somewhere a horn sounds, followed by horses’ hooves pounding on the leaf-covered forest floor…
Liam snapped back to the present, just as the lamia snarled something that he missed.
Rethik was frantically shaking his arm, whimpering, and his face deathly pale.
Liam clenched his hands into fists.
He would never forget that day in the forest, the day Rethik watched his older brother die. Every single lamia in existence would pay for the crime that had been committed that day, Liam thought darkly, the magic in him swirling like a tornado about to touch down, a spell on the tip of his tongue, ready to be unleashed.
Time seemed to slow down.
Liam could not recall what happened in that moment that followed. A heavy blanket of silence smothered all sound. His eyesight became briefly tinged with gold, and he watched as the lamia exploded like a piñata. A distant voice screamed “LIAM!!” Feeling himself being yanked back into their hiding place, Liam’s ears popped, and the sound of running footsteps reached his ears.
“Arthur!” a woman’s voice sounded, followed by a man’s, but neither Liam nor Rethik were listening anymore, as they had already taken off.
“Don’t you ever, ever-“ Rethik caught his breath. “-ever make me do something like that again!”
Liam could see in the sunlight that his friend was trembling, and hung his head, ashamed of himself.
“Come on, let’s get away from this god-forsaken place.” The Rider muttered, using his silent Rider whistle to call Syth.
Liam said nothing, too embarrassed to say anything and deep in his thoughts. Who had that other magic-user been? Magic was often frowned upon in these parts.
What on earth had he been doing there?