Kali drove them in her van. She had a Mercedes as well, but since no one else had a licence, she had to drive everyone in situations like this. Nixion did not find it amusing, instead he found it annoying. He never liked sitting in cars and definitely not long trips such as this; they pissed him off. Everything pissed him off. Technically, Mahogany was old enough to get a licence, but she kept failing the driver’s test. Each time the topic was bought up all she did was mumble something about drag racing and then diverted the conversation to exotic foods. It was a long drive and with each red light they stopped at Nixion groaned in a bored tone and attempted to fight the urge to push Kali out of the driver’s seat and stamp on the gas. He managed to remain patient enough to last the journey but one they arrived, Nixion did not feel any better. No one had told him the destination, admittedly he had not asked, but Nixion had expected it to be almost anything but the Australian Sanctuary. Nixion’s face collapsed into a glare and consumed his expression and mood. This was the place he had almost died. Should Nixion have had a different attitude, perhaps he would have admitted that he had also attempted to murder the Grand Mages while in there, but he didn’t and still hated the place. To add to his misfortune, this was also where his old house was, near to where he was kidnapped. Nixion repressed a shudder and continued glaring as memories flooded his mind, the barricade holding them back collapsing suddenly and violently against his will…
Nixion was ten and his name wasn’t Nixion. Aiden was ten and he had no troubles in the world other than lack of sleep and a slowly growing homework load that waited for him on his bedroom table. He was very much dreading the time when he arrived home in a few minutes and would be forced with having to complete some of it before he could submerge into blissful sleep. And then of course there would be school again. Aiden did not like school much, but he continued going every day anyway. In the back of his mind a stray thought always told him that his life should be so much more, would be so much more, if only he would let it. The bag on his back was heavy and Aiden dragged his eyes up from the footpath below him to look at his surroundings. Small shops were lined up beside Aiden and across the road from him. In front of him was a black car that was parked with windows dark, obscuring whoever may be sitting in it. He continued walking and out of the corner of his eye saw two men wearing black open the doors of the car as he passed it.
One of the men was slightly smaller and hunched over and wore a top hat Aiden had seen magicians wear. The other had a leaner and larger build, his expression making Aiden feel uneasy. He continued walking and strained his ears to hear the two men’s conversation.
“And you’re sure you can do this?” the hunched over man asked with a thin and raspy voice.
“He’s a kid,” the large of the men replied dismissively. Aiden’s heart leaped but did not change his pace. “How hard can it be? I want my payment now.” There was a short pause and Aiden turned his head slightly in time to see the large man ticking away a large envelope stuffed with what he guessed was cash. “Thank you.” The man said and begun walking towards Aiden. He was seriously scared now and he wondered vaguely why his knees were now knocking together each time he took a new step. He could hear the man getting closer…and then Aiden ran. Next second, however, he was on the ground, the large man on top of him
“L-leave me al-alone.” Aiden trembled in a gasp. The man smirked.
“Sorry,” he said. “Can’t do that. Don’t worry though; it’ll only be a year, as far as I hear.” And then a cloth was clamped over his mouth. With a breath, Aiden’s vision suddenly grew blurry and the faint voice in the back of his head said “chloroform” in a knowing tone before Aiden passed out.
“Nixion,” someone said. A hand was gripping his arm painfully tight. He was bought back to the present abruptly and he realized they were in an old, dirty canteen of an abandoned school; the entrance to the Sanctuary. The staircase leading down into it was already revealed so someone had already presented valid magic to the tile on the ground. He scowled. Mist scowled back at him.
“And we just had to come here?” Nixion asked him, disgusted. “Sometimes I think you’re trying to get me killed.” Mist gave him a look.
“We need the Sanctuary’s resources.” He told Nixion. “And I’m obligated under Sanctuary regulations to inform the Elders of something of this magnitude.”
“Which,” Nixion continued. “Brings me to my second thing to complain about. Why am I even here? Why do I have to help you?”
“Again.” Nixion added.
“What?” Mist asked him.
“Help you again.” Nixion continued. Mist rolled his eyes and spoke again.
“Look, okay? I know you don’t like the Sanctuary much-.”
“Much? MUCH?” Nixion roared. “Last time I was here, they tried to kill me! You’re damn well right I don’t like the Sanctuary much!”
Thomas stepped forward
“Shut up, both of you. The door’s open, and we’re going inside.” He glared at Nixion as if daring him to disagree. Nixion glared right back at him.
They probably would have continued to glower at each other for a couple of more hours, but Kali got impatient and walked forwards down the staircase.
“Come on,” she called after them.
Thomas took an extra five seconds to stare at Nixion, and then he followed her, Mahogany close behind. Nixion looked around and realised that only he and Mist was left. They looked at each other for half a second before Nixion hurried after the rest of the group; almost being killed was one thing, being left alone with Mist was a whole different level of torture.
The five of them looked like a very odd group walking through the Sanctuary. Kali had her hands in front of her and seemed to be testing how fast she could alter her fingers into knives and back. Mahogany used the air to lift her off the ground and suspend her in the air every few seconds before dropping back to the ground and repeating the process. Thomas had yanked a long rusted pipe from the canteen on his way in and was now folding it into an origami crane after having flattened it out to a simple piece of square steel. Mist was humming a metal tune and Nixion was humming a different metal tune. Both kept set expressions but the two were trying to become louder than the other making it sound like a cow giving birth whenever notes clashed. Nixion had to admit, it sounded horrible, but continued at it, not giving up a chance to annoy Mist.
Mist pushed open the door and stepped into a large circular room lit with flames on torches hung on the walls. The entire place was built with huge creamy coloured bricks that gave the whole thing an ancient castle feeling. The Administrator turned to them and hurried forwards as the two stopped humming and Nixion’s glare leaped back to his face.
“Um…” the Administrator said in a voice that indicated a struggle. He closed his eyes, opened them again, and pointed at Mist. “Zathract,” he said before moving his finger to Mahogany. “Ms Reen, Kali and…Uh…” he closed his eyes again and with one hand pointed at Thomas, the other hitting his head hard. The Administrators eyes flew open. “David!” he said with a huge smile. “That’s right, David!”
“Uh, no,” Thomas said frowning. “My name’s-”
“Wonderful!” the Administrator said, not hearing Thomas speaking. “It’s the first time I’ve got everyone in a group large than two!”
Nixion frowned too.
“Do I not exist?” he asked. “Oh, don’t get me wrong though, I don’t want to be here. I was perfectly content ripping a punching bag to shreds, but apparently I have to come to the damn Sanctuary, my potential death place. I would at least like to be recognized for sacrificing precious moments of my life.”
The Administrator glared at Nixion.
“I don’t like you.” He said, not smiling anymore.
“I don’t like you either, honestly.” Nixion replied. “I hate this place. I hate Mist too.”
“Cheers.” Zathract said quickly.
“You almost killed me.” The Administrator said quietly. Nixion shrugged.
“I distinctly remember slicing your throat, actually.” He said casually.
“Yes, you killed my twin brother.”
“I’m deeply sorry.”
“No you’re not!” the Administrator snarled.
“Couldn’t be closer to the truth.” Nixion agreed.
“We request an audience with the Elder Council.” Mist said before the Administrator could continue the argument.
“Of course.” He said, back to his cheery mood. “Do you have an appointment?”
“No.” Mist replied.
“I shall inform them and be back when they have time to see you.” He said and bustled off.
“Come on then…” Mist sighed and trudged off to a door close by, everyone else following him. The door had the words “Waiting Room” etched into it and a memory of him blasting the door down forced its way back into Nixion’s mind. He sat down in a comfortable chair in the next room while the others sat around him.
“Do you think we’ll be waiting long?” Kali asked.
“Last time we were all here we were fighting Nix who ended up killing a quarter of the staff.” Mist replied.
Nixion frowned. “I could’ve sworn that there were more.” He said slowly.
Mist ignored the interruption. “Yes, I think we’ll be waiting long.”
They sat around in the waiting room for an hour before the Administrator finally came to see them again. In the time that had elapsed Nixion entertained himself by complaining about the Sanctuary which annoyed Mist, Mahogany and Kali, they’re expressions and retorts of which kept him amused for the most part. At his word, everyone stood up and followed the Administrator out of the room, Nixion lagging behind long enough to annoy Kali again which bought another smirk to his face. They stepped through a large door while the Administrator stayed behind and found themselves in a huge room with the three Elders sitting high above them on chairs concealed from their sight by rounded cylinder material that curved around each of them. The Grand Mage’s eyebrows rose slightly at the sight of the group.
“Zathract Mist,” he said. “And accomplices I have not seen since battling the menace behind you.”
“You’re sounding very impressive today, Grand Mage.” Mist said cheerfully. The Grand Mage sighed.
“Yes, apparently I’m supposed to at least pretend to sound what they call “professional” one a week.” He informed Mist.
“Indeed. So, what brings you here? And why have you bought a criminal along with you?” his eyes narrowed in on Nxion and for some reason, Mist didn’t speak. All three of the Elders were looking at him intently now. “I remember you…” the Grand Mage said softly. Seeing his chance, Nixion slowly raised a hand, his glare still on his face and the Grand Mage’s eyes widened as his hand extended a palm towards him.
“Hi,” he said brightly, glare vanishing and palm snapping into a cheerful wave. At the flick the Grand Mage ducked quickly behind the cylinder, the Elder on the right curled into a ball trying to hide himself and the other had attempted to hide behind a fork.
“What is he doing here?” the Grand Mage asked as he sat back up and his college discarded the fork. Nixion grinned again on the inside as the memory of his machete to the Grand Mage’s throat flashed into his mind. He was assuming they hadn’t forgotten the incident either. Mist glanced around at him, scowled, before turning back to the Elders.
“He was proven innocent of all charges. He has every right to be here.” Mist said, though also gave a hint of dislike towards Nixion.
“That is true,” the Grand Mage said, “But it doesn’t give him a right to greet us in such a manner.”
“What, waving?” Nixion asked incredulously.
“Waving, indeed.” The Grand Mage nodded.
“I’ll…try not to do it in the future.” Nixon said uncertainly.
“That’s all I ask.”
“Grand Mage,” the Elder on the left spoke up. “Requesting permission to arm myself with a shield wider than a fork.”
“Permission granted.” The Grand Mage said and slammed a pen onto the table in front of him like a mallet, shattering it upon impact. The Grand Mage swiped the bits of plastic pen away from him and continued talking to Mist.
“So, why are you here then?”
“As you know, there is a serious problem slowly rising in the country.” Mist said, finally getting to business and Nixion begun paying attention.
“Is this about Home Mart not selling the milky cheese anymore?” the Grande Mage asked.
“No,” Mist said. But that’s dreadful too. This is about a secret organization of Sorcerers called…” he hesitated.
“I’m sure I can handle the name.” the Grand Mage assured him.
“I’m not sure you can, actually.” Mist replied slowly. “It’s a terrifying title.”
“Alliteration.” Mahogany said suddenly in a sing-song voice.
“State it, none the less.” The Grand Mage continued.
“They’re called…Super Happy Fun Time Turtle-”
“Wait, what?” one of the Elders asked.
“Sorry, that was the movie Nix was watching last night.”
He scowled at Mist.
“No, I’m serious now. They’re called “Lvin’ Evil More Often Than Not. Or L.E.M.O.N. for short.”
“But there’s a T in there.” The Grand Mage frowned. “Shouldn’t it be L.E.M.O.T.N?”
“Well, there not very good spellers…”
“I swear,” the Grand Mage said, “Just state the damn-”
“No, no, they’re Lemon-Cheese-”
“For god’s sake, just-!”
“The Remaining,” Mist said, banishing the grin from his face. “They’re called the Remaining.”
“Right,” the Grand Mage said, his face turning a little less red. “And what do we know about them?”
“Almost nothing,” Mist admitted. “I’ve been investigating odd cases now and then, and I began to notice a pattern. Jail breaks, murders, theft, kidnappings.”
Nixion stomach lurched at the last word, but he didn’t say anything.
“What pattern relates to these things?” the Grand Mage asked.
“Certain people disappearing, certain people being sighted, certain people escaping, you know.” Mist said casually.
“Ah, yeah.” The Grand Mage replied. “Anything other than people?”
“All the things happened to people involved in the war. The kidnappings and murders were done to old war time leaders, the thefts were done on old war weapons, and the jail breaks were done on old war buddies from the other side.”
“So these guys are focused on the War.” The Grand Mage said. “Joy.”
One of the Elders leant forward. “And for how long have these crimes been going on.
“Over the last eighty years.”
Everyone looked at Mist and said nothing. Nixion knew why they were looking so worried. Over eighty years, the Remaining would have had plenty of time to get allies, kill enemies’, and have a huge, deadly plan, ready and set to go any time.
“Why weren’t we alerted sooner?!” the Grand Mage asked, his eyes wide.
“Because I only noticed them when I started investigating the break-out of Charles Hamond.” Mist replied, his eyes narrowing.
Charles Hamond, warlock on the side battling alongside Mevolent, was in charge of defeating the Australian Sanctuary in the war. He had been feared, and still was, all over Australia. No one ever knew how Mevolent’s men managed to convince the warlock to join forces with them during the war, but it happened and Charles was one of the small number of warlocks who ever joined a side.
The Grand Mage took a deep breath. “Alright. You, again, have all of the Sanctuary’s resources during this crisis.”
“Thanks very much.” Mist said gruffly.
“Just fix it.” The Grand Mage said in a tired voice as they walked for the door.
“Have I ever let you down before?”
“Oh,” Mist muttered. “Yes…that one time.” They exited the building and only talked again when they were walking away from the canteen and travelling in the school.
“Alright, if we have to solve this, then we’ll need help.” Mist had taken the tone of authority. Nixion didn’t like this.
“I know a few people,” Kali said. “They might help us.”
“Alright, Kali, Thomas and Mahogany, you go as a group,” Mist said. “Get as many people as you can that you know can be trusted and I’ll go with Nix to get some others.”
Nixion looked at him. “What?” he asked pissed again.
“I’m not happy with it either,” Mist said. “Me, you.” He shook his head. “No.”
“I don’t want to go with you.”
“You have no choice.”
“I hate you right now.”
“It’s almost like we have a telepathic link that makes us feel the same way.” Mist said as they strode away from the three walking in the opposite direction. Nixion glowered.