Part Four

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Kory Williams had been his best friend since primary school. They met in grade five when Eli was new to the school. They had bonded over video games and had stuck together ever since. They had had other friends of course, but while some left and others joined Eli and Kory never parted. That wasn't to say they didn't fight, of course, they did. Sometimes those fights would be so bad they wouldn't talk to each other for weeks, but they always made up.

About six months ago, Kory's mother got a job, a really good job, far away from the town he and Eli lived in. Eli had seen him once since the move, during the school holidays, but it hadn't been for long. He missed his friend and had found that hanging around with his other friends wasn't as fun.

It was so strange, seeing a person he missed so dearly standing in front of him with no idea who he was. Despite all their similarities, everything Korian did was so different from Kory, even the way he walked and held himself. Kory was shy around strangers, but this man was so confident, as if he knew no one could face up to him. It was surprisingly intimidating.

He sat at yet another table having yet another confusing conversation that he could barely understand. Korian was saying things in whatever language they spoke in Arumni, Amos struggling to translate words into English. He obviously didn't know much, giving up at times just because he didn't know the word.

The pair explained that just as the people in Arumni seemed to be the exact opposite of their counterparts on Earth, the world was the opposite too. For one thing, there was magic. Korian said it flowed through everything, it's what kept the land alive, what kept the people alive.

All the people of Arumni could draw upon the magic to a certain degree, allowing them to do simple things like gain strength or flexibility, or even make a meal taste just that little bit better. There were people, known only as Mages, who could wield such magic with much more power than others. They drained it from the land and bent it to their will, allowing them to do unimaginable things. Amos told the story of how Korian once lifted a fallen tree off a man with the help of the land's magic.

As a Mage himself, Korian explained that it was meant to used in a cycle. Any magic taken from the land must be returned, otherwise, the land would begin to wilt. That made Eli stop, thinking back to the dead forest he had traversed two days beforehand. He questioned it, wondering why the land was so ill.

Amos and Korian shared a glance, the former rubbing his hands together in what looked to be worry. Eyebrows furrowing, Eli looked between the two, trying to get an answer out of them. The answer he was eventually given made him wish he had never asked in the first place.

A powerful Mage, one much more powerful than Korian or any other Mage in the realm, had taken control. He was draining to magic from the whole realm, bit by bit, and never once returning it. The Mage had desired to become stronger and stronger, the force of the magic having corrupted him until he had become undefeatable. The land was dying as a result, the death spreading outwards, the castle the Mage lived in becoming the epicentre.

The Mage was Eli, or at least, his Arumni counterpart. He felt the colour drain from his face at the information. A man with his face was destroying an entire world, killing people, trying to kill him. Eli's mind was filled with images of his own face in the mirror, realising then that it must have been the Mage version of himself. It explained the reaction the people in the village had had when they saw him, a man who looked like the Mage that was destroying the world. He would have run away too.

He ran one hand through his hair and down his face, the other playing with the edge of his tunic. Once again he wanted to vomit, the overload of information making him feel nauseous. They let him have a few minutes to wrap his head around everything. Amos gave him a flask of water, most of which he gulped down as soon as he got a hold of it.

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