Prologue: The Beginning
The old woman, in her tattered pink robe and slippers, slowly sat down in the special rocking chair. The day had been long and rough. Capturing forbidden creatures was a long, laborious project that could take days. She had finally trapped the demons into the most horrible form she could think of.
Just as she hoped, a member of the DCA should appear tomorrow and take them away. She was done with this horrible world. No longer being a part of it, she could actually do things she had always wanted to do.
Outside thunder rolled across the sky, rain dumping like a bucket, but despite the loud noise, she could hear something else. Almost like a cry. From a child.
The woman stood, grabbing a flashlight from the shelf and her umbrella, and then made her way outside. The crying was louder now. It was definitely a child.
She found the little girl hiding against the porch, shielding herself from the rain. The poor girl looked lost and alone, with no one to claim her.
She knelt down next to the child and said, "Child, where are your parents?"
The poor creature looked up and at the woman, contemplating on whether to speak or not. She made her choice quickly. "I don't know."
She frowned and put a hand on the child's shoulder. "What's your name?"
The girl looked up at her with wide, brown eyes. "I don't….remember."
Chapter One: Introduction
It appeared to be a calm, peaceful day. The breeze was light, the sun shone brightly. White clouds looked like cotton balls, flowers blossomed in outrageous shades and colors, but the center of attention was the small Tutor house, surrounding by towering pines.
Purple and blue plants crowded in patches wherever the sun's yellow rays hit, making them glitter and sparkle. The most intriguing of it all was the man and boy, walking up a dirt path towards the home.
"I want you to remember, Kurt, that this isn't like the appointments with a fortune-teller. This is serious business." The man told the boy.
The boy, probably in his early teens, nodded, his black hair blown back by the sudden wind. As the two neared the front doors, the soft breeze started to pick up and the gates they passed through clanked and rattled.
The man reached up and lifted the metal knocker, banging three times. The response was slow; taking a long time, but suddenly there was a bang. Bolts and locks clicked, the front door opening. Half of a grimy face appeared, bloodshot eyes, wrinkly white skin. The man definitely looked old. "Arthur…" He mused, opening his door wider. "Come in please." He had a look. A look that said he knew something Kurt didn't.
The other man, Arthur, nudged Kurt inside, but kept a close eye on the old man. "No funny business."
The resounding cackle sounded evil and eerie, making the hairs on the back of Kurt's neck stand up. "I would never."
"Maurice, I mean it." Arthur warned.
"No, No…you're right." Maurice shrugged his shoulders, making him seem small and crippled. As he led them inside though, Kurt realized how grungy and ugly the house looked. Yellow-brown dirt and grime stuck in the corners, the once tan carpet now a bluish-black. Furniture was beaten up and worn down by years of abuse. A table stood broken in half, black goop sliding down the inclined plane. Draperies hung in tatters, strips of once beautiful patterns masked in the shadows of the boarded windows. Kurt felt a hot, humid breeze brush him, complete with a rotten egg delicacy. Kurt knew there was something weird about this old man, especially when he saw the staircase, covered in what appeared to be a green, slimy substance, the wood cracked in some places, with whole missing stairs here and there.
Arthur's firm grip on Kurt's shoulder broke him from his reverie.
"What can I do for you, Arthur?" Maurice clasped his hands together, sitting down in an old chair. Next to him a desk held countless stacks of yellowing paper and different oddities. The papers had dates that went back years and years.
Arthur stayed standing, keeping his expression indifferent. "I am told that you sell talismans and magical artifacts of the plenty here. I was also told that you have Lythseed in your possession."
The old man cackled some more. "Lythseed is what you seek?"
Arthur gave a tight nod.
"No. I cannot give it to you." Maurice's tone had that finality in it.
"What do you mean?" Arthur leaned over the desk, gripping the edges. "I understand your prices, and I have that money."
"From your organization." Maurice put in, he looked at Arthur curiously.
Arthur nodded, "Yes, but I don't see how this affects my deal with you."
"That deal was long forgotten. I no longer need the dragon Mir. You were a year late." Maurice stood and led Arthur and Kurt into the Kitchen. The kitchen didn't look like a kitchen. There was only one counter in the middle of the room, nothing against the bare walls except liquid stains and cobwebs. There was what looked like a sink in the counter, but it wasn't a sink. It was a big plastic bin with nothing in it except grime and other nasty things Kurt didn't want to see.
Arthur seemed to be confused, but walked inside. "You tell me why I can't have any Lythseed."
"As you wish." Maurice bent down and pulled out a bucket full of yellow rat bones, then dumped them into the sink. He put his long white fingers over the bin and closed his eyes. His lips moved silently, but Kurt didn't need to wait long before the chant became louder. All he could hear were syllables and noises. It sounded like another language.
Arthur put his arm in front of Kurt just as the sink exploded into green and gold flames. Through the flames he saw pictures. "Behold, Arthur Pentrum, the Lythseed lies in abundance." As Kurt and Arthur looked in, the pictures changed into a scene. Giant creatures stood, overlooking a valley from their place on a tall mountain. Behind one monster, two others were fighting with each other, trampling over blue and purple plants as they did. These plants covered the whole mountain.
"The Praguedikes are overrunning my mountain." Maurice announced anger in his voice. "They protect the Lythseed I seek."
Arthur looked up from the images, gold and green light highlighting his handsome features. "You are a wizard, Maurice, how could you let this happen?"
"A wizard with weak, unsatisfying powers, my dear Arthur, nothing strong enough to war off Praguedikes high on Lythseed chemicals."
Kurt looked at the Praguedikes carefully, watching two viciously rip each other apart. They all looked the same, Wolfe, alien like. They had humanoid torsos and gray fur all over. They hunched like predators poised to kill. Worst of all, their claws were huge and black, sharp as razor blades.
"So that stops you?" Arthur asked, his face becoming hard and scary.
"No." Maurice snapped, "I am still figuring it out."
"Well you better hurry." Arthur growled, pulling Kurt away from the fiery images.
"You doubt me Arthur?"
"You just said you were weak. I'll go somewhere else for it then." Arthur straightened up.
Maurice shook his old head slowly, laughing now. "I'll get you the Lythseed, in exchange for the boy."
"Never." Arthur said immediately. It was the first time that the old wizard actually regarded Kurt, and he felt cold.
"Then no Lythseed for you." Maurice started to grow, his hunched old back straightened out. Hair grew back on his scratchy bald scalp, and his skin turned pinker and smooth. He looked powerful, timeless. "I may have said my powers were unsatisfying, but I'm certainly not weak. I will gain more power. You will see." He flexed his fingers, sparks of magic jutted from his fingertips and bounced off the walls.
Arthur reached out for Kurt, just as a blast of white light hit him square in the chest.
"DAD!" Kurt yelled, running towards Arthur.
"I don't think so." His voice echoed unnaturally in the room as Maurice advanced on Kurt, ever so slowly gaining on him with every menacing stride.
* * *
Dreams like that never came so vividly to me before. It was like I was that little boy. Like it actually happened. I felt cold and tired, stretching my toes and fingers until I could finally wake up. Sun streamed in through the windows like golden liquid, signaling another day. I swung my legs off the bed, and froze when I saw who was at the door.
The old woman stood with her plump arms crossed over her chest, glaring at me with pale blue eyes. Her red cheeks and sunflower apron made her look like a grandmother. She may not be, but she was definitely old enough for it.
"Hi Aunt Choll…" I frowned, knowing she hated it when I slept in.
Aunt Choll sighed and said, "I've called you five times, no answer. You know I don't like it." She isn't actually my aunt. Aunt Choll is more like my adoptive guardian, mother if you will, who found me outside in the middle of the night, crying. I was only five or six when it happened, and because of my uncertainty, she claimed me to be six. I didn't know my own name, and I didn't know who, or where my parents were. So Aunt Choll took me in. Finally the dear old woman spoke, "Talia Thay. I want you to be fast. Quickly shower and go feed those pigs."
"Of course." I nodded once and yanked up my clothes from the floor, running out of the room to avoid her disapproving stare. As I got into the tiny hallway of our farmhouse, I relaxed. Usually she didn't stay mad at me for a long time, but she could make me feel derelict. A lot of the time I try to stay cheerful, cooperative, just so she'll stay in a good mood, but I mostly only get good food, and a place to sleep in return. When she is angry, or if I do something wrong, I go without dinner for two days. Getting only breakfast and lunch. Lunch doesn't even appear that often. So it's mostly breakfast.
As I got to the bathroom, I showered quickly, putting my long blond hair into a wet bun and slipping on a baggy white tee shirt and cut off jeans. Paint splatters were all over them, along with dirt and grime from countless hours in the fields and around the pigs and cows. But after a while, you don't mind. Not as long as you have a trusty dog next to you.
I skipped the stairs two at a time while going down, something I've practiced for a long time, and moved towards the kitchen, where my cold breakfast was left on the counter. I shoved it down and drank a full glass of water, without tasting any of it, and picked up a bucket.
This was my handy pig feeding bucket. Complete with green and brown slop stuck to the insides from years of use. I set it under the sink and flipped on the faucet, cold water bursting out. I leaned against the counter while it filled, lost in thought.
I trailed back to my dream, thinking about the scary feeling and the bright colors. I could remember this so well, almost as if it were a memory rather than a dream. It was peculiar, because usually my dreams consisted of being a princess, taken to the ball, or about foods I never got to eat. My imagination wasn't that wild. Especially to make up wizards and magical plants. Lie something. Ly….Lyth? Something with seed in it? I couldn't remember. I doubted it was important too, because it was only a dream. Maybe I finally got my wish, my own entertainment other than the broken TV downstairs. I didn't even get to watch that often.
I was still very curious though, after turning off the water and hauling the bucket out of the sink. Choll waited for me at the front door, holding out another bucket full of thick, brown pig slop. I took that with my other arm, and hauled both full buckets outside to the pigs. Once outside, I crouched down over the water and started to pour tiny bits of bleach. Choll had told me long ago to do this to their water. I had no idea why, because it was pure, clean water. But I wasn't about to question Aunt Choll's odd ways of doing things. So I just did as she said and mixed the bleach. I stood up, needing to wait for an hour before giving it too the pigs.
As I stood, and did a double take. Because here by the horse pen, was a tall figure dressed in a white tee shirt and jeans. He looked like a normal person! Who would trespass on a farm? I rolled up my big sleeves slightly and stomped over to the man. "Excuse me!"
"Huh?" the tall man turned to look at me, "Oh sorry miss."
"Yeah, you'll be sorry if my aunt sees you here. You better leave." I folded my arms, and he merely smiled. "What?" I asked angrily.
"I think that won't be a problem, trust me."
I frowned. "It will when she gets out her gun, so you better leave…NOW."
The man put a hand on my shoulder, and I stepped away. He had the most handsome face I had ever seen. Brilliant blue eyes, luscious blond hair. He had wide shoulders with lean muscles, not too buff, but not too weak either. His teeth were white and perfect, everything a girl would want. He had somewhat of a stubble along his chin too. Looking very manly.
"Don't worry, I've seen her before, she knows me though. Trust me. I was saying hello to Buttercup over there." He pointed at the creamy yellow horse in the back of the pen. It sort of scared me that he knew my horse's name, seeing how Choll's horse, Tin'Lee, was the only one who liked to be outside during the day. Not Buttercup.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"My name's Carter." He smiled sweetly, and reached for my bucket I had carried with me.
I yanked it away, spilling water all over myself. "UGH!"
Carter laughed and started walking to the tall farm house, where Aunt Choll emerged, dumbfounded surprise on her face. She looked like she knew him, but she seemed like she didn't think he was coming today. If she did know he was coming, she would have told me to clean the house for guests.
"Carter!" She exclaimed.
"Hello Choll." Carter smiled wide, pulling her into an awkward hug, since she was so short and stout. Choll whispered something to him, something I couldn't catch, and he said something back, just as soft. I became suspicious, wondering what they were saying that couldn't be said in front of me.
"Tali…go feed the pigs." Choll finally said after a minute, "NOW."
"Okay, okay." I scowled into the dirt and turned to refill my bucket again. As I walked I tried to listen to what they were saying.
"That's not good. I wasn't prepared, I mean, I have the room." Aunt Choll was saying.
"Oh don't worry, I brought my things, and you've got your things. It will work out, Chollora." Carter promised.
What Room was he getting? I asked myself sourly. Surely not my room. I wouldn't allow it! Where would I sleep?! I picked up the bucket and brought it over to the faucet in the kitchen again, filling it up with the cold water once more. This was a long process. I brought it back around the barn and poured the flakes in. Somehow I felt envy. Aunt Choll couldn't possibly like this random boy and hate me! Angrily I grabbed a stick and started stirring the slop. It was like making the dry flaked Mashed potatoes except a hundred times worse and with a horrible smell. I threw it in the pig pen angrily. Choll wouldn't look at the pig pen tonight I guessed.
I wiped my hands off on the grimy towel that was usually left out in the barn, and set the bucket down. I petted the two cows we owned, and then continued back to the house. I wanted to know more about this Person. Who gave him the right to just come in and make Choll happy? Was I jealous? Heck no! Was I a bit angry? Heck yes!
I opened the door and put on my usual mask, a bored face. Carter was already sitting at the table, making his stupid self at home. I regretted being nice to him for one second. He smiled at me, and I sneered at him.
"Talia! That was NOT nice." Choll had caught the action.
"I'm sorry." I apologized, not really sorry.
"Tell him that." Aunt Choll said stiffly.
I sighed and turned to Carter. "I am terribly sorry for that, will you forgive me?"
Carter laughed. "Yeah sure."
I gritted my teeth, and retreated straight for my room.
* * *
Dinner was terrible that night. When I say terrible, I mean horrible. The usual dinner session with me and Choll is sitting around the broken TV and watching fuzzy soap operas until her warm, delicious dinner was all gone. Then we'd feed leftovers to my dog and add it to the pigs' slop in the morning. After that we'd both go straight to bed and repeat our routine the next day.
Today, with Carter here, it was more of a formal setting, nothing comfortable or familiar. We actually sat at the table, with plates, forks, knives and glasses. The dinner was set out in front of us casually with a light overhead to illuminate the evening. Carter sat at the head of the table, making desirable jokes with that handsome, yet frustrating charm of his, and Choll let him have seconds. Then thirds. I didn't get to have seconds or thirds. I got one serving, then was sent away to clean the dishes.
During my laborious work at cleaning the kitchen, I caught Choll telling Carter that he could have my bedroom. Guess what that meant for me? I have to sleep in the basement until he leaves. The basement isn't fun. It's always cold and dark down there. There isn't carpeting, and it's not finished. But CARTER doesn't know that. If he did, he'd probably act all gentleman like and want it instead. But he doesn't know the worst of it. In the basement, there are rats, and normally, I'm not scared of rats, except that Aunt Choll decided to be lazy and never called in pest control. The basement is covered with Rat crap and disease.
I protested many times, hoping that maybe she'd just let me sleep in the living room, but Choll was in too much a good mood to let my misery pass.
"No. My living room will be trashed with your sloppy side." She said sternly.
I wasn't messy at all; on the contrary, Carter's room took five seconds to prepare.
"I'd very much rather sleep with the pigs." I said angrily.
"Done." Choll just led me into a trap.
"Wait…no!" I protested again, but this time she brought out the lecture.
"My house, my rules. If you live here, you abide here." With that, she left. Carter just stared at me guiltily, then shrugged and pointed at his bags.
"After you madam." He bowed mockingly, and gave me two of his suitcases. So I was forced to lead him upstairs to MY ROOM and watch him get settled in. I made sure to move some personal items of mine and then grab my own clothes, slumping downstairs and towards the barn outside.
I looked back at the tall farmhouse where I could hear 'Aunt' Choll laughing. Carter told her a joke huh? EW. I already hated them both.
You may wonder why I haven't run away yet. It's not that easy. Being abandoned by your parents hurts, and it's hard to get over. As long as you have a roof under your head and some food, you'd be glad anywhere. EVEN under Chollora's roof.
I reluctantly set out my blankets in the barn that night, on top of a bundle of hay. Choll didn't keep track of the hay, as long as the horses had something, I was good to go. Slowly, I fell asleep to the low breathing of the animals.