ELEVEN

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We sat down in a circle, munching silently on a plate of beans we're all sharing, Stan's question still weighing heavily on our minds.

"Okay, is someone going to say something or should I?", said Kendra all of a sudden as she dropped the spoon none too nicely into the plate.

"You already did", replied Stan, getting up to seat in a better position- Is it just me or is he trying to be funny at this crucial time?

"It's about time we got ourselves back to the matter at hand", said Francesca and we all got up and started getting ready for the plan, Francesca always have one.

"So, where do we begin?", asked Victoria.

"Not we", she replied as she shared a look with Oliver, "Just Troy".

"What are you talking about?", I asked, I know that look they just shared and it always preceeds them telling me to do something while trusting them blindly.

"We realized that we'll need backup and a lot of them if we are going stand a real chance of winning this war against Trichloris and his disciples", explained Oliver.

"And?"

"You have to sneak into Firewalt to get the key that can open the metapore and you have to do this alone".

"No, he won't", said Victoria as she stood protectively in front of me as if they were going to physically throw me there, "He just recovered from an injury and it will unfair of you to throw him back in there again, especially because Trichloris wants him dead. Besides, why does he have to go in alone?"

"More importantly, why does it have to be him?", muttered Stan but I pretended not to hear the undertone.

"Because he's the only one who can", replied Francesca calmly as if we're discussing the weather.

"What the hell does that even mean?", shouted Victoria as she raised herself to meet Francesca's eyes head-on but I pulled her back before things starts to get out of control.

"Calm down Vic", I said, leading her to take a seat on the bed before turning back to Francesca, "You have to be open with me or it'll be hard for me to help".

"The thing is, you're the only one we know that stands a chance against Trichloris", said Oliver before Francesca could answer.

"But we've also made sure that nothing can go wrong with this thing", added Francesca before I could reply, "Besides, you're also the only one here who knows Firewalt best aside from Oliver and I and it would be a little hard for us to impersonate a student at this stage of our lives". Well, I have to admit that Francesca's right, I know Firewalt as best as they do and even though it is possible for Oliver and Francesca to cast an age reversal spell for the impersonation, it consumes a lot of energy to maintain and who knows the other effects it might have on them.

"I'm in", I said after thinking about it for a while- or pretending to- but Vic protested again.

"I know Firewalt better than he does and I'm most likely the most of powerful of us here", she said, "Why can't I go?"

"It has to be Troy", Francesca replied with an air of finality and we knew there's no going back on it, I'm going back to Firewalt, "Now to get started".

She led us to the next room which turned out to be like some sort of library, only it is filled with many magic stuffs instead of books- Seriously, who owns this place?

"Have this", she said as she handed me a parchment, "It'll lead you to where the key is".

"But it's blank", I replied, raising it in front of her face so she could see- Is Francesca trying to mess with me or what?

"For now", she replied with a smirk which I would have laughed at if we weren't in such a big dilemma. She collected the parchment from me before swiping a pin out of thin air and pricking herself as she casted a spell in rapid fire Latin. Immediately her blood touched the parchment, it turned into different colours and shapes, forming a kind of two-dimensional virtual map of what I think is the entire grounds of Firewalt. There are dotted lines on the map which I think is the path that will lead me to the key.

"The map will change as you get closer to the key so don't worry about getting lost", she said as she handed it back, "I've bound it to you so it will work in your hands and your hands alone so don't worry about losing it". I couldn't help but feel hurt that she would think I would lose the map- Francesca might be all about forgiving but she's definitely not about forgetting.

"There's still a little problem", I said before we left the room, "I know what I'm looking for isn't a 'key' in the physical sense of the word so how would I recognize it?"

"It recognizes you and that's all that matters", she replied without giving me even a single clue as to what the hell she's talking about.

"Now, to your disguise", said Oliver as we got out of the 'weapons' room and grabbed my cloak off me and started sprinkling a dusty substance on it before I could even get a word of protest out. He dusted the cloak after a while and immediately it changed into the nightmare black one of the archwizards, even to the material type, "The disguise will hold as long as you want it and there's a cloud spell covering it so no one will know it's fake, not even Trichloris"- Good one, Dad.

"It looks like I'm all set", I said as I collected the cloak from Oliver.

"Tonight, we rest. Tomorrow, we take the first steps to winning this war", said Francesca before taking my hands and I saw the friend I was waiting for return. She gave me a quick smile and opened her mouth to say something but cut it out in the last second. If I didn't know better, I would say the dragon lady's worried about me- It's really hard to follow this woman's feelings.

"Don't worry Troy, nothing will go wrong", said Oliver, patting me in the back. He shared another one of those 'It's the only way' look with Francesca and I felt the urge to shout "What in the world are you keeping from me?" at them but held my peace, I have other things to worry about. Tomorrow, I'm walking into Trichloris' den without my friends and I know it seems kinda farfetched to be thinking this especially after all the things Oliver and Francesca did to help me but I can't help but feel that I'm destined to fail and, believe me, I'm not just talking about tomorrow.

"Nothing will go wrong", I said out loud. I hope like hell so.

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