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14.1 Interlude: The boy

# 1953 10 - 13 mins. 7

Another day. Another day in this stink of an island. But at least there was progress. Their mission was almost complete. They were almost done. And then they would be able to rest. Then there would be peace—a final end to the war that was all he had ever known.

The boy looked out from the ruined bell tower where he sat. He looked over the lands—the rolling hills, the distant towering cliffs, the sea shifting below him. Boring. The same view as any other day. Who likes grass and hills when you can have forests and mountains?

A rush of wind blew his shaggy hair. The boy didn't even flinch or turn to greet his companion.

"Anything interesting?" asked the visitor.

The boy shook his head as the visitor stepped forward and placed his hands on the cracked and moss-covered railing. Wikith stood in front of the boy looking down at the sea below them. It swayed and shifted, but it was nothing new. The boy still didn't know why Wikith like watching it so much.

"You can go. You're on—" Wikith started.

"Right. The West patrol," said the boy.

He groaned as he stood from his chair and began climbing down the ladder. It too was old and rickety, threatening to collapse every time he used it. He reached the main floor of the church. Pews were scattered about, shifted and out of line from the years of aging that this island had been through.

The boy climbed down more stairs until he was in utter darkness. He lifted his hands and a yellow glow formed on his palms. Then, with a push of his magic, blue bolts of static electricity began arcing from one hand to the other. The flashes lit the tunnel ahead of him for a split second at a time. Each flash revealed the cobwebs otherwise hidden in the darkness.

"Uck," he said, ducking his head just enough to avoid them. He pulled a hood up and continued walking with the blue sparks lighting his way. When he finally opened the door at the other end of it, the light hurt, forcing him to stand still with squinted eyes until he had adjusted to it.

He let out a sigh, looked at the rolling hills, and began walking the perimeter of the sea. Rocks jutted out, making formations that were at least kind of interesting. Maybe it was where Dwarves had once battled, or maybe it was just a strange natural formation. It still wasn't as cool as the forest though.

Colorful birds flew about, dancing in the air and chasing one another playfully. The sounds of the sea made the walk all the worse though. It droned on, drowning out any sounds from wildlife.

They always said to stay alert while on patrols, but there was never a point. No one ever came, and even if they did, they would never find the tunnels or get past the sea. It was dumb that he even had to patrol in the first place.

But, he had spoken up before and been punished for it. Plus, they needed to do this. Once Malcom had succeeded, there would be no more fighting, and the Elves could live in peace once again. They could finally put this war behind them and go back to whatever you do when you're not at war. Being awesome, or something like that.

The boy kicked a rock. The sea growled in response. The boy stopped moving and stared into the sea, nervous. It stared back at him, then after a moment, went back to it's shifting.

The boy breathed a sigh of relief and continued his walk. He heard a stone fall in the distance. It was likely one of the old rock formations finally giving in to gravity. Still, he had to check it out.

The boy ventured away from his route around the sea into the hills. There was a series of rocks sticking out of the ground that he always thought looked like a crown, positioned in a jagged circle formation. He peaked into the formation and looked around. Nothing there. He turned back to his route, but as he did, he heard the crunch of earth. He snapped his head back to look again and found an Elf. Not just any Elf, but an Elf of the Arcus. Yellow robes like his own flowed down, and the same medallion hung from both of their necks.

Why would they be out here? thought the boy. This is my patrol.

The boy looked closer and kind of recognized the Elf. It looked like Wikith, but not exactly. The long hair was the correct color, but the face looked wrong. The Elf's jaw wasn't square enough, and he didn't have the harsh eyes that the boy had grown used to.

"Wikith?" said the boy. "Why do you look like that?" The boy spoke softly to keep from alerting the sea to their presence. He took a quick glance back at the bell tower of the church that stood at the center of the sea. He could make out the yellow robes in the steeple, but couldn't tell which Elf sat atop the tower.

The Elf in front of him spoke. "Brendell, I found something. Come with me." The voice was wrong too. It sounded old, not as crisp as Wikith.

"Who are you?" asked Brendell.

"I'm Wikith," said the Elf. "Now stop questioning me and come help."

The Elf that claimed to be Wikith began to walk off, away from the sea and the church. It was further than they were supposed to go, even if they were in pursuit of an enemy.

The Elf stopped. "Don't make me angry," he said.

Brendell narrowed his eyes. Then he threw an arm to the air and pulled it down in front of him. In the same motion, a large bolt of lightning struck the ground in the middle of the stone crown formation.

The false Wikith jumped back in fear. Then someone else stepped out from behind the pillar wearing a hood. He carried a bow in one hand and an arrow in the other.

"Brendell," said the hooded person. The hood came down. "It's me, Lolan."

Brendell stared at Lolan confused. He knew him. There was something there—a connection. Lolan was once his cousin, his brother. But no. Not anymore. Lolan was an outsider, and that made him the enemy.

He froze for longer than he should have, struggling with his thoughts, but then the sea roared behind him. It was time to get out.

Brendell wasn't sure how to respond, but the word 'Run' escaped his mouth without his full intention of saying it. He turned and saw the sea rushing toward them. Then, with a burst of yellow energy, he launched himself back in the direction of the tunnel. The gust of wind was powerful and rough. He flew up in the air and landed about a stone's throw from where he previously stood. He tried to ease into the landing, but he was still new to this technique. He hit the ground and pain ripped through his knees and calves as he tried to roll out of the impact. Instead, he tumbled and landed in a heap, covered in dust.

What had he just seen? Was that really Lolan? And why was there a fake Wikith? What was happening to his mind? Brendell struggled to his feet and clambered away from the crown. He looked back over his shoulder hoping to see what had become of Lolan and the other strange Elf. The sea swarmed the area now. If they didn't run when he told them too, they might not have made it out. Should he go back?

A rush of wind made him look to the sky. Wikith, the real Wikith, was flying above the sea toward him. Brendell continued running. He spotted a rock outcropping where the sea would have trouble reaching its top. He climbed up the rock face and Wikith directed the wind to land him by Brendell's side.

"What is it?" asked Wikith.

"I don't know. It was someone that looked like you," said Brendell. "And then—" Brendell wanted to tell Wikith that he saw Lolan as well, but something stopped him. For some reason, he couldn't do it.

"Then what?" asked Wikith, clearly annoyed at the delay.

"Then I signaled for you," said Brendell.

Wikith scoffed at the obvious information. Then a gust of wind blasted him into the air in the direction of the crown. The sea still wandered the area, and somewhere at Brendell's core, he felt fear for the people that he had encountered in that area.

Wikith flew around the area, looking for anything out of the ordinary. He hadn't found anything yet or he would have already blown it to oblivion. The sea clambered after him as he flew from one place to another, but he floated safely above it with his magic.

Brendell climbed back down the stone perch from where he watched. He was curious. He needed to destroy any intruders, but he also wanted to know more about them first. Why were they here? Why did he feel this way about them?

He wandered further from the sea to where smaller trees and shrubs grew among the valley. He heard something in the distance and snuck closer. He hid behind the thin trunk of a tree and peaked out. There were Elves. But there were Humans too. They were intermixed. Then there was a Dwarf, and another. Then a Gnome, and finally, his brother.

"Stop or I'll kill you," said Brendell quietly enough that he hoped only Lolan would be able to hear.

Lolan stopped with his back turned to Brendell and put his hands up. "We want to help you. We want to get you out of this mess."

"I'm doing what this world needs," said Brendell. "When we're done, the Elves—" Brendell stopped. The words sounded hollow in his own mouth. "The Elves will finally be safe," he finished.

Lolan slowly turned to face Brendell and his thoughts spun around his head like the storm that kept Wikith aloft.

"We want everyone to be safe," said Lolan. "We're better than constantly fighting. We're better than destroying the world to keep a few safe."

"You're wrong," Brendell growled. "You've always been wrong. Elves need to protect each other." His brain hurt. Why was it so hard to explain all of a sudden. "You're not an Elf. So give me one good reason I shouldn't kill you."

"Because we're family," said Lolan. "We grew up together. We fought like brothers—"

"Stop!" shouted Brendell. The yellow energy began to build in his hands as he readied his attack, but he hesitated to release it. He stared into Lolan's eyes. They were sympathetic—compassionate. Why? How could someone with that much hurt still care?

Then a gust of wind blew Brendell's shaggy hair and a yellow blur flew through his peripheral. No! he thought, and his hands went up instinctively. But before he could block the bolt that Wikith was preparing, there was a burst of flame from where Lolan stood. It shot into the air in a plume. Brendell could feel the heat from the distance, but he imagined Wikith felt it even more where he flew. When the fire died back out, Lolan was gone.

"Where'd he go?" asked Wikith.

"I..." said Brendell. "I don't know."

"Agggh," Wikith growled. "That was him. That was the half-breed. Disgusting."

Brendell looked down at the ground and said, "Yeah." Though he wasn't sure he meant it.

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