CHAPTER FOUR: REALM (3/4)

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Sol stared at the tree trunk with wide eyes, still trying to process what had just happened.

"Let's go," said Goone. "I've got a long day ahead of me once we get to the Citadel." Goone walked away, leaving a bewildered Sol to follow him downhill into the forest of arches.

"The Citadel?" Sol said.

"It's where the Elders live," replied Goone. "A race of ancient Elves. They rule all of the Five Lands, which is another way of saying they rule the entire world. Pan Magal was an Elder."

"That man was an elf?"

"One of the oldest."

"How old was he?"

"Old."

The ground began to steepen as the two men continued down the side of the mountain, and trees as tall as Manhattan buildings were soon towering above them, filtering out the bright orange moonlight. To aid them in the darkness, thousands of little glowing bugs lit their way, clinging to the trees and dancing in the shallow grass. Sol, who was barefooted, stepped carefully in case he wandered across a twig or a sharp stone, but he never did.

"Are you a Wizard?" Sol asked.

"Almost," said Goone. "I'm a Warlock."

"What's the difference?"

"Not much, though Warlocks are more combat focused. Sure, some Wizards can fight, but they can't fight. If you're fighting a war, then you want a War-lock."

The path soon broke free of the trees and Sol found himself gazing at an enormous wall in the distance made of white stone. Its ends—if it had any—extended far out to the sides where they were swallowed up by the trees.

"Is the Citadel on the other side of that wall?" Sol asked.

"The Citadel is the wall. It circles the top of the mountain and protects the Kirina from outsiders."

"It's huge..."

"It is, and there are a lot of people who aren't going to be too happy to see me escorting a human around it. Thinking about it, maybe it would be better if I..." As if to finish his thought, Goone removed the red stick from his sleeve and pointed it at Sol's feet.

"What are you doing?" Sol asked.

"Giving you a disguise." Goone flicked his wrist and Sol felt a pressure in his feet like his blood was bubbling up under his skin. He looked down and saw his skin turning an ugly shade of green. His toes were swelling up, too, as were his nails which became long and thick.

"What the hell you doing to me?!" Sol yelled.

"Making you look like an Orc," said Goone.

"Well stop!"

"It's just to get you inside. I can't take you in there looking like that; we'll get stopped before we reach the gate."

"I don't care! Change my feet back!"

"I will later, now hold still." Goone raised his wand and gave another flick, and Sol felt the same pressure from his feet now building in his hands. He held them up and was horrified to see his fingers bloating and changing colour. The white ring was having to expand further to make room.

"Stop!" Sol shouted.

"Nearly done, just got to do your face next."

Sol pointed a malformed finger at Goone's face. "If you do anything to my face, I'll rip your damned head off!"

"Alright, alright, not the face." Goone put his wand away and removed his hat. He gave it a quick shake and it transformed into a large black hood. His tossed it to Sol who caught it clumsily. "Put that on."

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