When they arrived in Euro, celebrations began. It was all because Neil was back after three years of living off in the wilderness. Still, they had convinced him to come along, right? It could be a celebration of them as his friends too. Erik thought that would be great! Would his parents do the same thing when they got back to South Cape? He hoped so.
There were even fireworks exploding in the sky! Erik had heard of fireworks before, but they’d never been shown at home. According to his father, fireworks were a pain to acquire from traders. But Neil’s parents had plenty, big booms of color filling the night sky. Erik didn’t want to take his eyes away from the sky or else he’d miss something amazing. When he got back home, he’d have to convince his father that the fireworks were worth it.
It was late when the fireworks finally ended. However, Neil’s parents didn’t shoo them off to bed. That was one benefit of being an adventurer: nobody told you to go to bed or get up early or keep your room clean. Erik could do what he liked! Now if he could just get a weapon, he could help out Will even more. His ancestors were Vikings, great warriors of the sea! Erik was sure that he could defeat demons too. But despite being able to do what he liked, nobody would trust Erik with a weapon yet. Why? He was eleven years old! He could handle it.
Even if he could do what he wanted, it was important to be grateful. Back in the mansion, Erik followed Neil and his parents upstairs to thank them for a fun day. They hadn’t noticed him yet when they sat at a table in the hall. “I wanted to talk with you guys about the slave trades,” Neil said. “We shouldn’t be a part of that.”
“It’s called labor trade,” his mother said; there was something strange about her voice. “There’s nothing wrong with it. People want labor; labor gets things done. And we provide that labor.”
“It dehumanizes people,” Neil said, sounding tired. “They’re being taken from their homes and forced to work for no benefit. I’ve seen slaves beaten for trivial errors and driven to work every hour they are awake. What good comes of taking advantage of suffering to avoid work?”
While that was the sensible thing to think, Neil’s parents weren’t convinced. “The labor trade gives our city the prosperity it has today,” his father said. “The lives we have now wouldn’t be possible without the laborers. Besides, the comet is coming soon. The comet will bring its glorious light to bless us. When it does, we do not want to be laborers and earn the comet’s scorn. We want to be the comet’s chosen, to be blessed with even greater powers and happiness. Don’t worry. Join us and become greater than human.”
Erik felt a chill in his blood hearing that again. Meanwhile, Neil seemed dazed. “The comet… brings destruction…”
“Yeah, the comet’s no excuse!” Erik said, coming over and taking Neil’s arm. He shook it trying to jar him out of this. “There shouldn’t be any slaves! It’s wrong.”
“Quiet, boy,” Neil’s mother said, putting her hand on Erik’s head.
Erik was going to protest, but an incredible sleepiness came over him. “I will free all the slaves,” he muttered. “I will be a hero too.”
“Why?” one of the two asked him. Everything seemed foggy, especially Neil’s parents. “You aren’t a slave. None of your friends are slaves. Your comfortable noble life is only possible because of slaves taking care of the daily mundane tasks as well as the mind-numbing grueling work of farming, mining, and more. Without slaves, you will have to do everything for yourself and be unable to do anything greater. Do not drag us down.”
“But it’s wrong to force people to work and treat them like bugs,” Erik said, raising his hand. A large axe appeared for him to use. “I am a hero! I will save them!”
“You’re just rebelling against things that annoy you,” the foggy creature said. “Trying to act like a man when you’re just a boy who can’t look at the large picture. You will ruin our civilization acting out like this. The great comet will see fit to curse you with its light.”
“I won’t let it!” He swung the axe at the nearer fog spirit, cleaving it in two.
But it just reformed and cackled. “You’re no hero, boy. You’re a load, a tagalong who contributes nothing but trouble. You keep getting captured trying to do anything. Learn your place, boy, and go back home. That will be the best use of your time.”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about!” Erik tried attacking again.
He got swept aside by a powerful backhand from a figure covered entirely in a purple cloak. The slave trader then kicked him in the side. “Don’t steal other people’s property,” he snarled. “Why don’t you go back to your mommy and be a good boy?”
“People are not property,” Erik complained, trying to keep from crying. Heroes didn’t cry. Where was his axe? He could stop this right now instead of waiting on Will.
“They’re not people; they’re barbarians. They have no civilization. They should be grateful we’re making use of them.”
“That’s not right!” He found the axe and attacked the slave trader. The cloak got torn apart but nothing was inside.
Nothing but one of the weird fog beings. “You will soon be an evolved being too; you will be a god. And then all those below you will be like slaves. If you try to save the slaves, they will want to be gods too. Then you won’t be special and have to work hard for your entire life. Accept the glory of the comet; stop your friend from seeking its destruction.”
“No, the comet is bad!” Erik said, attacking again. “Will says so! We’re going to stop it!”
“You will do nothing once again.”
While he did his best to prove that he was a hero, Erik wasn’t able to do anything about the Moon Tribe spirit (that’s what the others called these things, right?). It reformed itself into the male vampire. “The comet gave us immortality,” he said. “It gave us powers beyond your reach. You are just an ordinary boy with ordinary powers and ordinary knowledge, perhaps even lacking in those traits.”
“Your power gets destroyed just by sunlight and clean water,” Erik countered. “And you’re just as bad as the slave traders! You just use people and give nothing back. I will defeat you too!”
“We are never defeated,” he said, waving a hand and causing everything to go white. “Be alone; that is the most you deserve.”
It was cold and damp; the fog filled Erik’s mind. He tried to cut through it with the axe, but wasn’t able to do anything. Before long, the silence grew heavy and reminded him that he was alone. No… it was just like when they’d arrived in the vampires’ palace. No matter how far he ran, he would find no one. He would remain cold and alone forever!
“No!” Erik’s arms were weak, but he threw all his energy into slicing through the fog once again.
And it split away in two before shattering to nothing.
Then he was falling slowly, floating down like a leaf. The axe dropped like a rock from his hand. Erik tried to grab it back, but it was far out of reach. No, that was how he was going to defeat demons! That was how he’d be a hero!
“Erik? Good morning, Erik.”
He blinked, or maybe he opened his eyes. Either way, he found himself in bed with Will trying to wake him up. “Good morning,” he replied, rubbing his eyes.
Will smiled, seemingly in relief. “Ah good, I wasn’t sure if you’d wake up. You were influenced by some power; I didn’t know what to do.”
Sitting up, Erik realized what was going on. “Oh, it was those creepy Moon Tribe ghosts! They were telling me that I was useless and that the comet was going to curse me for trying to help the slaves.”
“You’re not useless,” Will said. “I’m glad you could come along and see the world. But if you’re being bothered by the Moon Tribe, we should figure out why.”
“It’s cause something weird is going on with Neil’s parents,” Erik said. “I was gonna thank them for the fireworks last night and heard them talking with Neil about the slave trade. And he sounded like he was falling asleep or something while they were talking about the glory of the comet coming to give them power as long as they proved their worthiness by selling slaves. It was nuts! So I went to tell them that was bad and his mom did something weird that put me in a dream. But I fought my way out!”
Will nodded. “Good work doing that. But what do we do about Neil’s parents now? I noticed they weren’t human, but I couldn’t see them clearly. Being Moon Tribe spirits makes sense. If we do something about them, Neil should go back to normal. I did hear something interesting yesterday, about the tears of a spirit being able to reveal the true form of spirits. They have something called tearpots here, and a special tearpot with the tears of a spirit is said to be in a place nearby.”
“That should work,” Erik said, then got out of bed. “Man, I wish I still had that axe. I want to go on a real adventure with you.”
After a moment, Will said, “If you had an axe to fight demons with, maybe. But there is something important you could do with Kara. Go get Neil to show you two around the city. If his parents were replaced with Moon Tribe spirits, then we don’t want to leave Neil alone with them for long. They might cause him to be replaced with one of them too.”
“Okay, you can trust him with us!” he said.
It wasn’t a real adventure, but it’d be exploring around this amazing huge city. That’d be fine for now. And someday, when Erik could get an axe, he could fight demons and be a real hero too.