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A Long Time Ago, in a Far-Away Place

A Long Time Ago, in a Far Away Place Gil was not Gil Trenton, though that was the mask he wore. He found it was easier that way. But he never lied to anyone, they just automatically thought that he was eccentric, or mad. It was probably for the best. It made it easier for him to do what he had to do. Better the loony bastard who thinks he’s a wizard than the weapon of mass-destruction that needs to be locked up. And not, he’s not mad. That’s just what he wants you to think. Gil Trenton was a fairly ordinary boy as far as boys are concerned. He liked to play and get dirty, his mum always fussed about taking a bath. He had an active imagination, always coming up with stories about wizards going on fantastic adventures and the like. And then he died. Well, maybe died wasn’t the right word exactly, subsumed was more accurate. It was painless, swift. The lad didn’t even know what was happening. He was still there somewhere, at least, little bits and pieces of him, in the back of Gil’s mind. It had happened seven years ago. Gil Trenton’s father was an archaeologist, and with a team made up of five doctors from all different countries, he had unearthed something hitherto unheard of in antiquity. In fact, it was still unheard of because the archaeologists had sworn each other to secrecy until they could be sure of exactly “it” was. That, of course, didn’t stop them from celebrating the find. They had commissioned a yacht on the coast near Blackpool for them and their families. And so, Gil’s mother and father and Gil had packed a bag each for the weekend and headed down to the coast. They wouldn’t depart from the docks until sunset, and so the families were left to mingle for most of the day. Gil liked the family from Africa. They were very nice and smiled easily. But the Russians scared him. Or at least, the extended family. There seemed to be a large contingency of stern men in black suits. One of the children, a blond, smarmy-looking kid with a pinched face saw Gil staring and stuck out his tongue. “Nikolai!” called a stern voice then, and the blond boy frowned and turned away. “Don’t mind him,” came a heavily-accented voice from behind him. “Niko is pain in pants.” Gil Trenton turned, and blinked once or twice. The girl before him looked like a fairy princess. She had long, blonde hair that flowed in the breeze, with blue eyes that mirrored the ocean in their depth. “He is cousin,” she explained in broken english as Gil Trenton kept staring at her like a loon. “I am Sonia.” “Sonia?” he repeated lamely.

Da!” she nodded. “Sonia Borozovna. Father is arc... ar...” “Archaeologist?” he finished for her. She nodded, and they both turned towards the Russians. In the middle, Gil Trenton’s father was laughing with a short, thin man with glasses. Sonia turned back to him. “Your father?” Da, uh yes.” “Is boring, the talking,” she pouted. Then, her eyes lit up. “Go looking?” Sonia pointed down the coast. “You want yo-you want t-to-to go.... exploring? W-with me?” She looked confused. “Ex... plore?” “Um...” he tried to think of how to explain. “Um, fi-find-finding things, looking ar-looking around... uh, I g-guess.” “,” Sonia played with the word. “Da! We go!” She took off down the docks, heading for the sandy beach that hugged the shore. “Wait!” Gil called, and had to run to keep up with her. He could barely string two words together he was so tongue-tied. Not that he could usually string two words together anyway. After a minute he caught up with her, wheezing slightly, and pulled his inhaler out of his pocket. He sighed, taking a breath through it. Well, if Sonia had any doubt that he was a total dork, that would be thrown right out the window. “Trouble breathing?” she asked, pantomime wheezing, to which he flushed and nodded. “Is bad,” she made a face. “Sometimes.” He shrugged. “The s-s-sand doesn’t re-doesn’t really help.” “We keep going?” she seemed concerned. “Yeah,” he said. “I-I-I’m alright.” They walked down the bank for a while in silence. It was peaceful here. The sand felt warm on his sandaled feet, and the waves rolled onto the beach lethargically. After a minute, Gil Trenton turned and saw that the people on the dock were now little more than specks on the horizon. “M-maybe we sh-we should h-head back,” he managed to spit out. “Soon,” she said. “Look first.” She smiled at him with that sun-shiny glow, then pointed a little ahead of them to a cave cut into the cliff-face. “We go in?”

He wanted to say that they should go back instead. There could be anything in that cave. It could be flooded, or collapse, or any number of things. But as he glanced at her face, Gil Trenton knew that he would not be able to say no. She seemed so excited and curious, and he didn’t want to see that glow leave her face. “A-al... alright,” he sighed. “L-let’s g-let’s go s-see.” Sonia laughed and ran a little ahead, before waiting for him to catch up. The mouth of the cave sat in front of them, smug like some beast who knows a mean is about to walk right in its mouth. Gil Trenton hesitated for a second. He had this strange feeling that he couldn’t quite place his finger on, like walking over his own grave. But he followed Sonia into the cool and dark, and jumped at the plops of water from the ceiling. Sonia walked a little ways ahead of him, into the dark. “W-wait!” he said. “We don-ww-we don’t have an-any light.” “Light is ahead,” Sonia said. “Hurry up, silly.” He hurried, finally catching up with her. Bus just as he did, there was a rumble above him. Gil Trenton nearly squeaked, and grabbed Sonia’s arm. “We sho-should, we should g-gggo back.” “Oh, we will be okay,” Sonia waved him off. “No-no really,” Gil said. “This cou-could be, this could be da-dangerous.” At that moment, the whole cave began to rumble; small rocks fell on their heads. In a panic, Sonia ran one way, and Gil Trenton ran the other. He was knocked to the ground as a huge wall of stone fell between. He couldn’t breathe. He wheezed, scrambling for his inhaler. After a puff or two he was able to sit up and call. “S-S-Sonia? Are you-are you alright?” There was a brief moment of silence in which Gil Trenton feared the worst, but then there was a cough. “Am okay. You... you are stuck though.” Looking around, it was true. Sonia was on the side that they had come, and he was where they had been going. Surprisingly enough, he felt calm. Eerily calm. “You said the-there was, there was light up a-ahead?” Da! “Stay there!” he called. “I-I’m gonna see if I-if I can find the-the-the way out.” “You be okay?” she asked. “I-I-I’ll be fine, I, uh, I think.” He took another puff from the inhaler, and began walking. The cave seemed a lot bigger now that he was alone. But as he squinted in the darkness, he realized that Sonia was right, there was light up ahead. He began to run, despite his slight wheezing. Then he entered a wide chamber and realized that the light was simply a hole in the ceiling, far too high to ever reach. With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, he almost turned around. But then his eyes fell to the middle of the chamber, and there, lodged firmly in the rock on the floor, was a sword. Maybe it was his active imagination, maybe it was sheer curiosity. Whatever it was, Gil Trenton found himself pulled to that sword. He approached it warily, wondering just how it’d gotten there. It was large, and oddly black, it didn’t even shine in the light. His hand hovered an inch away, but he pulled it back as he heard something. Whispering. Was someone else here? He glanced back and forth, but there was no one there. Yet he could only hesitate for a split second, because then his hand was drawn to the hilt of that blade like a magnet. Gil Trenton struggled with himself for a moment, only a moment, before his hand made contact. There was a bright, blue light, and Gil was blown almost clear across the chamber. He lay there, wheezing. His mind moved at a million miles a minute. He remembered. He remembered the darkness, the never-ending oblivion, there in the pitch black with Muirne and it. He remembered walking through a cave with a blonde girl. His sister begged him not to kill her, he reached for his inhaler. Who was he? Gil. Trenton? The All-Knowing? He clawed at the burning in his right eye as his mind nearly exploded. And then, Gil Trenton dissolved. Gilveidan was stronger by far. There were still little bits of him left. Memories and thoughts crackled across the edge of his mind, leftover static. He shook his head, trying to clear it. It helped a little, but not entirely. Maybe it would never completely go away. Gilveidan sat up, a little too quickly. What had happened? He’d been there, in the darkness, fighting for his sanity against the ultimate madness of the Truth, for so, so long. And then he’d seen something, a boy reaching out his hand, and he’d teared through the blackness, grabbed the hand and pulled. And now he was here. He looked down at his hands. Those were not his hands. They were small, and young. The boy’s hands. Gil Trenton, his name had been Gil Trenton. But wait a moment. He stood up, wheezing a little. This body was weak, so fragile. That didn’t matter. Where was Muirne? If he had escaped, then she should be here as well. “Gil?” asked a voice from behind him. “What was noise?” That’s right, the Russian girl, Sonia. He was surprised to find himself aware of what a Russian was, though he’d never heard of such a thing before. As if in response to her voice, a bluish mist began to rise from the sword. Muirne. Gilveidan nodded. As this boy, this Gil Trenton could act as a vessel in which he could reside, so too was that girl for Muirne. He needed to get to her, and quickly, for behind the blue mist something darker was rising, something was coming. Gilveidan began to run back down the tunnel, hoping to lead Muirne back to the girl before the Truth overtook him. But this body was sickly, and small. Given time, he could probably cure the deficiency in its lungs, but time was a thing he didn’t currently possess. One question remained that could make or break his escape: could this body use magic? He closed his eyes, focusing on the fallen wall of rock that was fast approaching in his mind, staring through it to the other side. Move. Sonia gasped as he appeared beside her, and grabbed her hand. Above them the blue mist had seeped through the cracks in the rock, but something was wrong. It hovered around the girl’s head, yet it couldn’t seem to find a way in. Looking confused, Sonia didn’t seem to notice it. She was too busy staring at him. “I do not understand. You suddenly... uh.... poof? And your eye...” It was true, his right eye was pounding, as if he'd just been punched. But that didn’t matter right now. The Truth was snaking through the rocks directly above their heads. “We need to run,” he pulled on her hand, and together they ran, scrambling over rocks and edges. It was difficult to adjust to this body. Its legs were too short, its muscles weak. But he kept running. There, up ahead: light, the end of the cave. Maybe it would just keep chasing them, but maybe... just maybe... They burst from the mouth of the cave, and ran a short way down the beach. Gil turned, calling fire to his hand. But the Truth did not follow. It tentatively stretched towards the light and squeaked, shrinking away. It too had been weakened by its imprisonment.

“Wha—” Sonia began, staring into the darkened maw. For a second she blinked, not quite able to believe what she was seeing, before she turned back to Gil and nearly screamed. “Fire! Fire!” “Oh,” he put out the flames. “My apologies for frightening you.” She didn’t say anything for a minute, just stared at him oddly. “Who are you?” she asked. “What are you talking about?” Gil tried to keep his face impassive. “You are... different.” It wasn’t a question. “Eye is yellow,” she pointed to his right eye. “Um...” she narrowed her eyes, trying to think of the word, then gestured instead by straightening her back. “My posture?” he asked, and she nodded. “And no, uh, -n-n-no, n-“ “Stuttering?” Da! What happened?” “In the cave?” She nodded. “What was black, uh, poof?” How could he possibly explain all this to a ten-year-old girl, one with limited knowledge of english to boot? To be fair, he had Gil Trenton’s dissolving conscious to thank for that particular language, for otherwise he’d be even more lost than she was. “I... I don’t know.” It wasn’t exactly a lie. He had no idea how he’d come to possess the body of a sickly British boy. Sonia clearly didn’t believe him, but Gil didn’t really care, because he couldn’t help but notice at that moment the small, pale blue cloud that now swirled around her, as if trying to find a way in. It was Muirne. He could hear her. This girl was meant to be a vessel for her, but for some reason, she couldn’t get in as he had. “What?” Sonia asked, noticing that he was staring at her. Clearly she didn’t know what had happened. Gil opened his mouth to address Muirne, in case she could hear him, but the two children then glanced down the beach as two adults called to them in both English and Russian. “Gil!” Gil Trenton’s mother called. “We’re about to set off!” Sonia looked concerned, but they ran back along the beach towards the dock, upon which a large yacht waited, bobbing slightly in the waves. Gil pushed a piece of hair over his right eye, hoping it would cover the yellow. The two were briefly separated by their parental units as the whole group prepared to embark, but Gil still looked over to Sonia, and the blue glow that surrounded her, the one that it seemed no one else could see. “Were you playing with that little Russian girl?” Gil Trenton’s mother asked. Uh oh, this wasn’t good. Through the shattered thoughts still surfacing in his mind, he understood how Gil Trenton had talked. To what extent he could replicate it though, he wasn’t sure. All he could do was talk as little as possible and try to muddle through. So he nodded. “She’s cute.” “M-mum!” he tried at a word, and she didn’t seem to see anything amiss, just laughed and hugged him. If he was stuck here, in this body, for the foreseeable future, he’d have to figure something out. For now though, all he focused on was getting through the night. After the party had been herded onto the yacht, the engine came to life with a gentle purr, and they glided off into the water. It was terribly noisy, with lots of itty-bits of bite-sized hors d’oeuvres and a near endless supply of champagne to keep the adults talking. Gil didn’t like it. Noise had always overwhelmed him. So he tried to focus on the sunset dipping over the water instead, and thought. Why was he here? At this time, at this place? Others had touched the sword since their souls had been sealed inside it, so why had this particular boy been able to free him? And this brought a terrible thought to his mind. If he as free, then the Truth was as well. It might be stuck in that cave for now, but sooner or later someone was going to come along and let it out, worst case scenario: on purpose. But he couldn’t stand against the Truth on his own. He was too akin to it, he needed a light to keep it from spreading. He needed Muirne. There was no way they would be able to return to the sword in one piece, not with the bodies of children anyway, now without an immense amount of power. But he had never heard of something like this before, ever. He didn’t know the rules. He needed to do research. But here he was on a yacht in the ocean. Gil, for the first time in his life, was at an utter loss of what to do. “Ocean is pretty, da?” Sonia poked him on the shoulder, and Gil jumped. “Ah, yes,” he nodded, then opened and closed his mouth several times as he tried to figure out what to say. “Sonia,” he began finally. “Back there, in the cave, did you feel anything... strange?” She tilted her head. “Strange? Hmm...” Gil waited with baited breath.

“For just one second,” she said, “something was in corner of eye. Something blue.” Heart jumping, Gil’s eyes widened. “Something blue? Like a mist? Or a shape?” “Was probably just imagination.” “No, no, I don’t think it—” But he stopped as Sonia’s eyes widened and she pointed out to the ocean. There was something in her eyes then. Something that reminded him so drastically of her. By now the sun had dipped below the water, which until a second ago had stretched black and empty forever. But now, as he followed her gaze, Gil saw light under the surface, green and blue, and purple. They were unmistakable: the lights of Atlantis. So it had sank, the whole continent was gone. All the knowledge, all the magic, gone. No wonder his power felt weak. They had done this, it wasn’t narcissism, he was just somehow sure. It was all gone. All that was left was himself, and Muirne. He would get her back, no matter how long it took, no matter if he killed himself in the attempt. He needed her to seal the Truth, but not just that, he realized with a start, glancing over at Sonia. He needed her. He loved her.

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