It had been weeks since Rhys was last in the lab. Ever since the locket had gone missing three months ago, he felt no need to continue his experiments. Why would he waste his time on experiments that wouldn’t work until he had the locket?
He figured he would at least try something though. Once he got the locket back, he’d have to know what to do with it. So he had found an old locket lying around – it must have belonged to his mother or some other strange relative – that he was using to experiment on.
The locket sat on the table in front of him, one of only three tables in the entire room. Although he referred to it as his lab, the room was nothing more than a windowless basement with tables. It didn’t resemble a lab in any way. He didn’t even have any equipment with him; no tools that could help him contain the magic.
Not that Agathi had much for him to take with him, really. When he fled the world, he took his equipment with him. All he had left was a few jars coated with a containment spell to store magic and a tiny magnifying glass. Rhys had lost the rest of his materials somewhere along the way.
But it didn’t matter anyway. The lab was going to be however he wanted it to be. The real goal was to prepare for a grand attack on all those who did him wrong. In the end it wouldn’t matter if he had a fancy lab with shiny equipment and plenty of space. As long as he had the leaders of each world bowing at the knee before him, it would be an accomplishment.
Rhys focused on the locket in front of him. It was a copper color rather than the shiny silver of the real one. He knew that this locket wouldn’t do anything, that the magic would just come right back out and bury itself in his body, but he had been able to get it to stay on occasion.
This time though, nothing happened. He closed his eyes, willing the power of the seers, the power to predict the future, into the locket below. A sigh escaped his lips as the magic detached itself from him and buried itself deep inside the locket. The heat of the magic was unmistakable as it left his body.
When he opened his eyes, he saw the locket shuddering, a deep red light pouring out from between each side of the oval piece of jewelry. He knew that it was childish to do so, but he crossed his fingers and hoped that the spell would work.
Just a short time later however, the locket shook violently and was flung open, dispelling the magic and sending it back into his body. It hadn’t stayed in the locket for more than a few seconds.
Rhys let out a frustrated scream and, in one huge motion, threw the locket across the room. It slammed into the wall next to the stairs and broke in half sending both pieces clattering to the floor.
Out of the corner of his eye, Rhys saw a man standing at the bottom of the steps, just inside the room. Rhys’s lips curled up to form a perfect smirk.
“You’re just the man I wanted to see.” He said, walking around the table and towards the wall to retrieve the locket. Picking it up from the floor, he held each part in both hands and thought of the piece of jewelry being back in once piece. It didn’t take long for the pieces to return to their original place.
“Really? And why’s that?” the man asked as he followed Rhys back across the room. “Need someone to cry with ‘cause you lost the real locket?”
Rhys slammed the copper locket on to the table and glared at the man. “No, Aidan. I need your help to get to your sister.”
“Oh,” Aidan said, his gaze shifting to the floor. “I didn’t think you’d ever actually need me.”
Rhys laughed. “You should know me better than that. Why would I bother keeping you here if I wasn’t going to use you?”
“You use me,” Aidan argued, looking up. “I take care of the place while you’re gone.”
“That’s not what I mean,” Rhys responded, waving his hand dismissively. He returned his focus to the locket. He stared at it, as if the answer to all his struggles would just pop into his mind.
It had all stumped him for too long. The real locket was strong enough to hold the magic, but only some of it. There was so much magic bundled up inside of him that he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to use enough to stay sane. At some point he was sure he’d go crazy from all of the magic demanding his time. If only he could figure out how to keep the powers inside of the locket, then he wouldn’t be as strong; maybe he’d actually be able to deal with the powers.
“What ever happened to you two?” Aidan asked suddenly.
Rhys hesitated. He knew exactly who Aidan was referring to. And he was in no mood to talk about it.
“Nothing,” he responded, shrugging. “She went one way, I went another.”
“But you two were always so close.” Aidan said, leaning back against the plain white wall. Rhys looked at him curiously, making him chuckle. “Don’t think I didn’t notice. My parents might have been oblivious to it all, but I knew you two were always hanging out. I knew that you were always over. Any kid that would go to that much effort to travel to another world had to have had a good reason.”
Rhys pursed his lips. “We’re not having this conversation right now. Let’s focus on what I need you and Niro to do.”
Aidan shook his head. “I still can’t believe you brought that guy in. He’s weak. Doesn’t surprised me that Akia was able to get away from him so easily.”
“Niro has proven himself in the past. It’s a shame that his skills aren’t what they used to be. None the less, he’s useful. And we need him. We need you.”
“Whatever,” Aidan snapped. “Just keep in mind that I’m only here because you won’t let me go. Akia is still my sister. Vertfay is still my home. If you weren’t holding my mother hostage, I wouldn’t be here.”
“Yeah, yeah, I ruined your family. I know already.” Rhys rolled his eyes. “You might not be all too keen about helping me, but I think you’re going to like what I want you to do.”
“Oh yeah? What’s that?”
“I’m letting you go.”
Aidan’s jaw dropped in surprise. “You’re letting me – what kind of sick joke is this?”
“No joke,” Rhys responded plainly. “I want you in Lightport to occupy Akia. I don’t want her in my way when I attack tomorrow night.”
Aidan stared at him, the surprise still etched across his face. “Attack Lightport? You can’t do that. Their barrier spell is too strong.”
“Why is it that everyone underestimates me?” Rhys snapped. “I can get past the barrier spell. Just keep Akia occupied so she won’t screw any of it up. And don’t get any ideas about switching sides on me. I won’t hesitate to kill your mother.
“A Warrior will escort you out. I assume you know your way to Lightport; it’s just passed the city that you used to call home after all. Get it done. I’ll see you in thirty-six hours.”
With that, he turned back to focus on the locket, not even bothering to watch Aidan leave.
“Why are you waiting to attack? Why not attack now?
The question caught Rhys off guard. He didn’t expect Aidan to suggest anything that would support his plans.
He turned to face Aidan. “My reasons and decisions are my own. And I can promise you that they are the right ones. Just get the job done.”
“What about my mother?” Aidan asked, his voice soft. “I can’t trust you to keep her alive.”
Rhys narrowed his eyes. “She will be alive when you return; only if you return. If you don’t come back for her, she’ll be dead. And if I double cross you and kill your mother, you are free to take my own life.”
“That won’t help the pain.”
“That’s your deal. Take it or leave it.”
Aidan shifted from one foot to the other. “You’re not giving me much choice, are you?”
“Of course not.” A smirk crept its way across Rhys’s lips. He had Aidan; he knew it.
Aidan narrowed his eyes, looking like he might actually have a comeback. But his gaze soon softened. He let out a sigh and headed toward the stairs.
Rhys turned back to the table, not even bothering to watch Aidan leave. He had more pressing matters at hand then to worry about Aidan any longer. Aidan was going to get the job done, Rhys knew it. The consequences were too grand for him to risk.
Rhys stared at the locket in front of him, deciding what to try next. A containment spell wouldn’t work; it wasn’t powerful enough. There had to be a spell that was powerful enough to contain all magic. Magic had boundaries. It wasn’t all powerful. If he could just find its weakness, he’d be able to capture it.
Sighing, he pushed away from the table and headed to the stairs. He would have to try again tomorrow. The more pressing matter at hand was how he was how he was going to get Akia out of Lightport. He had a plan, as he always did, but it was far from perfect.
When he reached the bottom step of the stairs, he paused. There was a small piece of white paper on the second step. Curious, he reached down and picked it up. He realized what it was the second he flipped it over.
He stalked up the rest of the stairs and made his way through his office. Fuming, he pushed through the door and into the hallway. Aidan was standing there, his arms crossed, as if he was waiting for Rhys to arrive.
Not being able to contain his rage any longer, Rhys grabbed Aidan’s shoulders and threw him back against the wall. He let out a small grunt of pain, but stopped short as Rhys drew a dagger and held it against his throat.
“Why?” Rhys said through clenched teeth, his voice wavering. “Why would you leave this for me to find?”
“Figured you’d want a reminder of who you are,” Aidan responded, oddly comfortable with the position he was in. It only fueled Rhys’s rage. “Or were, really. This whole thing about controlling all the powers and ruining the lives of these people? It’s stupid, Rhys. A fool’s agenda.”
Rhys made a growling noise in the back of his throat. “You don’t care about these people. All you care about is your sister. Keeping your family alive is your only concern.”
“That’s one, yes. But I do care about the people out there. What you’re doing is stupid and selfish. Give it up.”
Rhys pressed the blade into his neck harder, grinning as Aidan’s face turned from content to fear. “You’re right, I am selfish. I don’t give a damn about your sister. She’s in my way and I need to get rid of her. I don’t care about our past. That was the past. This is the present. And the future is looking pretty good to me. So get your job done and stop trying to change my mind.”
He withdrew the dagger from Aidan's throat, content to see blood running down his neck.
Aidan raised a hand to his neck, touching the spot where the dagger had pierced him. “I will do my job,” he said almost robotically. “Just keep my mother alive.”
Rhys took the piece of paper he had been holding and ripped it clean down the middle, letting the two pieces fall to the ground. “Get it done.”
Without another word, he turned and stalked back into his office, stepping on the pieces of the picture of him and Akia as kids on his way.
For the LMS contest. Word count: 2,061