Quest Of Six
I really don't know what I'm doing, but I think this is right XD
I flicked a stray piece of straw off of my shoulder as I picked myself up.
“Naughty boy, Midnight,” I grumbled affectionately to my stallion, who had just pushed me headfirst into the hay on the floor of his stall. Midnight Whisper whickered and pressed his head into my shoulder.
“Crysta, don’t tell me you were taken down by a horse again,” grinned Natalie, carefully leading Nemo out of his stall. I leaned against Midnight’s dark flank.
“So what if I was?” I asked, defiantly.
“Then it would be the sixth time this week, and it’s only Tuesday,” teased Sami, from where she was grooming Nevaro. The brown stallion snickered.
“Don’t you laugh at me, mister,” I told him, carefully sliding Midnight’s saddle onto his back. The dark stallion pawed the hay, impatient to be off. Natalie swung herself into Nemo’s saddle and stroked his neck. Sami dropped her brush and led Nevaro out into the morning sunlight.
“Come on!” she called. “Cass and Prim are coming!” Natalie flicked her reins and Nemo started forwards. I launched myself up onto Midnight’s back and he trotted out of the stable. Sure enough, Cass and Prim were there. Cass was yawning, sitting astride One More Rose, Prim laughing at a joke Natalie had just told, clinging to Amirite’s reins to stay aboard. We all jumped – Prim landed on the floor – as Ali skidded into our midst, riding Hybrid Eclipse, who snorted and stomped a hoof, his reins jingling. Ali stroked his mane.
“Shhhh, Hybrid, it’s ok,” she cooed soothingly to the horse. Cass blew a strand of red hair out of her face.
“What are we doing today?” she asked. “Can we hurry it up?” Ali looked up from petting Hybrid and grinned, her usual half-mad grin.
“I heard a legend about this diamond,” she sang happily.
“It’s called the Diamond of Invisibility,” I crossed my arms and sighed. This sounded a lot like one of Ali’s fairy tales. Cass looked doubtful.
“Are you sure this won’t be a wild chicken chase?” wondered Natalie. Prim giggled. Ali folded her own arms and fixed Natalie with a typical icy stare.
“This time it’s real,” she smirked. “Where do you think those invisible spiders keep coming from?”
“For once, Ali, I think you’re right,” smirked Sami. Natalie whooped, starling Nemo, who reared, whinnying, and she toppled off backwards. Prim fell off of Nevaro again with a fresh fit of the giggles. I slid off of Midnight to help her up, and she scrambled into Nevaro’s saddle, still fighting to control the giggles. I swung lightly back up onto Midnight’s back.
“Shall we go?” I asked. There was a general murmur of assent, and Ali grinned.
“Lead the way,” I smiled back. Ali turned Hybrid to face the east. She glanced back.
“Follow me!” she laughed, and flicked the reins. Hybrid took off at a fast trot, and we urged our horses after him, soon hitting a fast canter.
It wasn’t long before we reached a village. Ali reined Hybrid in, and we slowed to a walk. Midnight whickered. Ali looked back.
“Aww, you hungry?” she smiled. Midnight tossed his head, snorting. Ali fished in her backpack.
“Here you go, bud,” She tossed him a carrot, which he caught, happily crunching it up and whickering what sounded like a thanks. Ali beamed. Natalie looked half-puzzled, half-amused.
“Ali, you’re being crazy again,” she sighed, but there was a playful note in her voice. Ali turned, hitting Natalie with the dead eyes.
“You’ve seen nothing yet, Nat,” she purred. We slid off of our horses as a couple of villagers scurried towards us.
“Greetings, travellers,” called the one in the lead. Ali retreated into the midst of the multi-coloured horses and let us handle the situation.
“We welcome you to the Village of Silver Sands,” smiled the first villager. I glanced around. Sand was right. White sand was heaped around the houses, half-burying them. But I turned my attention to the villagers as Natalie spoke.
“We’re looking for something, could you help us?” she asked, returning the villagers’ smiles. The lead villager tilted her head.
“What is it you seek?” she answered.
“The Diamond of Invisibility,” Cass replied, half-laughing, trying not to catch Prim’s eyes.
“The temple is near, follow-” She stopped, staring past us. “Umm... Is she okay?” she wondered, and we followed her gaze. Ali had her arms wrapped around Hybrid’s neck, rubbing her face in his mane and mumbling nonsense. Cass snorted.
“Yeah. That’s just Ali being Ali,” she smirked. Prim sniggered, biting her lip. As the lead villager turned away from Ali, Prim lost all control and burst out into hysterical laughter. Ali looked up.
“What?” she asked, innocently, and went back to being… well, Ali.
The lead villager stared at Ali for a heartbeat longer, then seemed to shake herself.
“Follow me, I will take you to the temple entrance,” She whistled, and a silver stallion materialized at her side. The other villagers jumped, but we were unfazed, completely used to horses’ teleporting. She mounted gracefully, stroking the horse’s mane. We swung ourselves into our saddles, and nudged our horses into a trot, following the villager. Ali was swaying back and forth, performing a happy-dance to imaginary music. Sand flicked into our faces and clumped in our horses’ coats, and our hair. Sami released the reins with one hand to run her fingers through her tangled blonde hair. Sand puffed out from it in a cloud.
“I’ll never untangle this!” she growled irritably, shaking her hair back and picking the reins up again. We trotted along for what felt like hours, leaving a long line of hoof prints in the sand. Ali never stopped bouncing in her saddle, swaying to and fro like a branch in high wind.
I rolled my eyes at her antics as we started to climb a tall sand dune. Up ahead, I heard Cass gasp.
“It’s… real?” breathed Natalie. Midnight reached the crest of the dune and I saw it. Sitting like a glittering beetle in the sandy valley was a beautiful ice-blue temple, with a tall tower in the middle. Ali jumped off of Hybrid, shrieked with glee, and sat down in the sand.
“What are you doing, Ali?” asked Natalie.
“Taking the fast way!” sang Ali, and she pushed off from the top of the dune. She skidded all the way down, squealing with delight as she shot over the sand. Prim giggled, sliding of off Amirite and sinking down onto the sand.
“It’s fun!” called Ali, waving up at us. We laughed and slid down to join her. Ali was right, whizzing down a sand dune at breakneck speed was fun.
We picked ourselves up and brushed off most of the sand. At the top of the slope, Nemo slipped, stumbled into Hybrid, and they rolled all the way down the dune in a spinning ball of slender legs. They hit the bottom in a cloud of sand and Hybrid struggled to his hooves, snorting his distaste. Nemo wriggled around and stood up. Ali stroked Hybrid’s soft nose soothingly, brushing the sand off of his black coat. Hybrid pushed her over backwards with his nose.
“See, Nat, I’m not the only one that they push,” I grinned, helping Ali up. She shook herself like a dog and sprayed sand everywhere.
“Let’s go in!” she laughed, bouncing on the spot, and took off towards the temple entrance. Natalie pause to roll her eyes at me, and we raced after the disappearing figure of our crazy friend.
The temple felt cool and dark after the heat of the desert outside, and we blinked, waiting for our eyes to adjust to the semidarkness. Ali was first to head to the door. She gave it a gentle push, and it swung open. An ominous hiss sounded, and sure enough, out of the dark came a green shadow – a creeper. Like lightning, Sami unsheathed her diamond sword and cut the creeper down. It dissolved into a pile of dust, which Sami kicked at before leading the way into the passage. We followed, unsheathing our own swords, all but Ali, who morphed her backpack into her quiver and pulled out her bow, neatly nocking an arrow. We emerged into a seemingly bare room.
“Stop!” hissed Ali. We paused, looking at her as she stalked to the front of the group.
“Spiders,” she breathed. We looked at each other, puzzled.
“They’re invisible, but I can see their eyes and their outlines,” Natalie put a hand on Ali’s shoulder.
“There’s nothing there, Ali,” she murmured softly.
“Who’s the sharpshooter here?!” snapped Ali, shrugging her off. “Get back!” Natalie backed off, frightened by Ali’s tone.
Ali raised her bow and fired. A spider, invisibility gone, fell from the wall. Fifty more spiders appeared, all around the room. Ali hissed a curse and fired again. A spider exploded into dust. She whirled around and fired three arrows at once, hitting three spiders straight in the eyes. We huddled in the doorway as Ali leaped around, rolling, firing arrows, striking the spiders down, her blue hair whipping through the air. Finally she stood in a sea of black spider dust, her bow hanging at her side, panting. A spider suddenly reared up behind her, at least twice the size of the normal spiders. Ali cringed. I darted across the dusty floor and stabbed upwards into the spider’s hairy body, throwing it aside as it burst into a shower of dust.
“Nice save,” gasped Ali, exhausted from fighting the spiders. We looked towards the far wall, where a new door had opened.
Natalie led the way through, to a stone table set with jars, bottles and dishes of powders. She walked slowly over to it. Prim bounded over.
“I know what to do!” she grinned. “Look, there’s a pickaxe over there, and the door is made of obsidian. We’ve got to make a Haste Potion!” She danced a little on the spot, giggling. Then she started darting around the table, grabbing different jars and bottles, sprinkling powders into the cauldron standing beside the table. Then she lit a fire beneath it with a flint and steel and started to stir. The potion bubbled, and Prim corked the flask with a flourish. She offered it to Cass.
“Do you want to do it?” she asked, making the thick potion swirl in the bottle. Cass nodded and quickly drank the potion. She scooped up the pickaxe and smashed through the door in ten seconds flat.
We bundled through the door to find a series of jumps, hovering over a deep pit.
“Parkour!” groaned Natalie. I shrugged.
“We can do this,” I pointed out, jumping onto the first platform. I sized up the gap and leaped to the next one. Natalie sighed and followed, then Cass, and Ali, with Prim and Sami bringing up the rear. Ali nearly fell on the second jump, but Natalie, Cass and I caught her and pulled her safely onto the platform before leaping across the next gap. There was a ladder spiral near the end. We huddled on the platform before.
“I can’t do ladder jumps!” complained Prim. I sniggered from the bottom of the ladder.
“Let’s take the fast way! Jump across, Prim, and I’ll give you a leg up. You don’t have to do the ladder jump,” Prim made to jump but Cass stopped her.
“Let me go first, then I can pull you up at the top,” she smiled, before leaping over the gap. I linked my hands and crouched. Cass looked up before placing her foot.
“Ready?” I asked. She nodded, and I launched her upwards. She caught the top of the wall and hauled herself up onto the platform. Prim hopped over the gap, and I gave her a boost, Cass catching her by the shoulders and pulling her over the edge. Then Natalie jumped across, and I launched her to the top. Sami followed, and Ali was the last to be boosted up. I threw myself upwards and caught the bottom rung of the top bit of ladder. Cass and Natalie reached down and helped me pull myself up to the top of the pillar.
“Teamwork,” we smiled, all of us in sync, and laughed. Prim suddenly tipped back and fell over the edge. She yelped as she fell.
Cass and I dived. We managed to catch Prim by an ankle each, and she swung, upside-down, suspended over the pit. Straining from the effort, we slowly pulled Prim up and safely back onto the platform. Then we made the last leap to safety and continued along our way, deeper into the temple.
The final room was a great dome, glittering silver on all sides. The diamond – a gigantic clear one – was floating delicately over a white quartz plinth. Ali started forwards but Sami stopped her.
“Wait! There might be traps,” she warned. As if on cue, a girl drifted down from the ceiling, blonde hair drifting around her face, eyes closed. Ali tipped her head, blue hair swishing to the side. The girl opened her eyes, which were wide, long-lashed, and chocolate brown. The shimmering haze around her evaporated, revealing her outfit – a panda onesie. Prim sniggered. Then the sword materialized in the girl’s hand, and she stopped laughing.
“I am the Diamond Guardian,” sang the girl. Her voice was childlike, echoing around the room, sounding like three girls speaking at once. She narrowed her brown eyes.
“You are thieves!” she spat, and lunged. Ali whipped out her bow and fired, but the girl dodged the arrow and continued her charge. We drew our swords and retaliated, slashing at her, but she wove between all our blows and somehow disarmed us all. Except Ali, who threw her bow aside and pounced on the Guardian from behind. The Guardian toppled over, her sword skidding out of her hand. Ali sat on top of her, looking triumphant. The Guardian struggled.
“I give up!” she wailed, her voice no longer echoing. “Please don’t take it!”
Ali slipped off of her and helped her to stand. She stood awkwardly beside the blue-haired archer, shifting uncomfortably. Ali put a comforting arm around her shoulders.
“We won’t take the diamond if it matters so much to you,” she soothed.
“Can we just take a picture with it?” I asked. The Guardian nodded, and we headed over to the diamond. Cass pulled out her magic camera and held it out. It floated where she left it, and we stood grouped around the Diamond of Invisibility, including the Guardian in the photo.
“My real name is Sky,” she smiled when the photo was taken. Sami smiled back, and Natalie laughed.
“Well, Ali, you were right about the diamond,” grinned Cass.
“For once!” added Prim, collapsing into a fit of the giggles.
Ali, beaming at her photos, bounded out of the room, skipped across the parkour, past the potion, and positively danced through the spider dust. We emerged out into the desert, which was growing dark. Cass yawned.
“Is somebody sleepy?” teased Natalie.
“Um… guys? Uhh… feel free to come visit me whenever you like,” invited Sky, tentatively, as Cass glared at Natalie. I turned to smile at her.
“Thanks, Sky,” I answered. Then we whistled and called to our horses, which materialised beside us, and swung back into our saddles. Sky waved from the doorway as we rode back over the desert towards home.
As we led our horses into their stalls, the sun sank below the horizon and disappeared. I settled into my bed, yawning. What a day.
In her own bedroom, Ali pinned the photos of the diamond onto a corkboard, and closed the book on her bedside table. She curled up in her bed as the last light of the day glittered on the book’s title…
‘1000 Legends You Never Knew Were True’
I opened the front door to find Ali on the doorstep, with Cass right behind her.
“Prim’s gone!” she wailed. Sami and Natalie scrambled down the stairs looking panicked as Ali buried her face in my shoulder and sobbed.
I steered the howling Ali into a chair next to the kitchen table. Cass, Sami and Natalie followed, sitting down beside Ali and trying to calm her down.
“Prim’s gone!” screeched Ali, her eyes wide. “I can’t just CALM DOWN!” She howled and buried her face in her arms. Natalie patted her on the back awkwardly, murmuring nonsense words of comfort.
“Ali, come on. Do you know anything? Anything at all?” I asked, putting an arm around the distraught archer’s shoulders. Ali raised her head, tear shining on her cheeks, and she pushed a scrap of paper towards me. I looked down at it.
“If you want your friend back, you can follow these clues. Bring the book. You know which one,” I read. Ali sobbed harder than ever.
“I didn’t stop it happening!” she sniffled, taking several deep breaths to calm down. She snarled, sounding like wild lion.
“I’m going to kill whoever did this,” she growled. She grabbed the piece of paper and flipped it over. There was a clue written on the back. I studied it closely.
“You’d better start close to home… maybe it’s still warm there,” I read. “Hmm. Maybe it means in Prim’s room?”
Ali jumped up and raced to the door. We dashed after her, by the time we got outside she was swinging herself up onto her black gelding, Hybrid Eclipse. We summoned our horses and charged towards the house where Ali, Prim and Cass lived.
There, tucked under Prim’s pillow, was a second note.
“Why not head towards Lake Glacia in the north?” read Natalie. Ali was out of the door like a lightning bolt.
Prim slowly opened her eyes. Something was rattling in the most annoying way possible. She rolled over under the thin blanket and fell onto a cold, hard floor, instantly jerking awake. She sprang up, finding herself trapped in an oversized birdcage, with someone trailing the tip of a diamond sword across the bars, making the rattling sound.
“Finally,” grumbled a distinctly feminine voice. Prim paced the cage like a tiger in a zoo, then rattled the bars.
“You woke up. I was beginning to think I had a dead one,” The voice sounded amused. Prim turned her head, having pinpointed the location of the speaker – in the shadows to her right.
“Who are you?” she asked. There was a laugh in the dark.
“I am the one and only Mystic Fluffycorn, but you may call me Fluffy,” replied the voice.
“Fluffy?” asked Prim, half-amused, and half disgusted by the strange name choice. Fluffy stepped out of the shadows, revealing herself to be a young girl, with long brown hair, and brown eyes glittering behind a black mask. She flicked a stray hair out of her face and smiled. Prim pushed off of the bars and started pacing like a caged tiger. Fluffy’s smile widened.
“You are my ticket to fortune,” she purred, closing her eyes.
“What?” asked Prim, utterly bemused. Fluffy came right up to the bars and caught Prim’s wrists, pulling her close.
“Your little friend Ali has something I want,” she whispered. Then she blew sharply in Prim’s face and let go, laughing.
“Ali is gonna kill you,” growled Prim.
Ali skidded out onto the lake, still riding Hybrid. Written in the snow was the next clue.
“It is too cold, let’s head for the heat,” Sami read, and Ali wheeled Hybrid around, racing off towards the Desert of Silver Sands.
She stopped in a shower of sand and jumped off of Hybrid’s back. There was no clue anywhere. Ali growled in frustration and turned a circle.
“Shhhh, Ali. Calm down, it’s okay,” soothed Natalie. Big mistake. Ali rounded on her, hands curling into fists. She was shaking from fury. There was a kind of fire dancing hungrily in her blue eyes.
“My best friend is gone. She’s like my little sister, and she’s gone, Nat. It’s my fault. This. Is. Not. OKAY!” Her voice rose to a wild shriek, her backpack morphing into a quiver. She drew her bow and fired randomly, her arrow hitting a creeper that was a few hundred feet away square between the eyes. Then she turned her bow on us. We backed away, seeing the explosive arrow she had nocked in it. The arrow buried itself at our feet and exploded, hurling us into the air in a shower of sand as Ali threw her bow away in temper. We stayed down, crouched on the sand, and Ali screeched, incoherent with rage, and dived headlong onto the ground, pummelling the sand with her fists, kicking up a storm, still screaming non-stop, rolling across the ground. Finally, she lay flat out on her back, her chest heaving, exhausted. Slowly, she sat up.
“I’m fine,” she gasped, shaking sand out of her hair. We glanced at each other, silently questioning the sanity of our friend.
“Seriously, I’m okay now. Just needed to… let off some steam,” Ali sighed in apparent relief and stood up. She skipped over to where we were crouched and pulled us up one-by-one. Then she saw the clue, etched onto a flat stone.
“This is the last one, I promise. I’ll be waiting for you in the diamond mines of your precious home. Come and find us, if you dare, and give me my book,” read Ali. The fire of her tantrum appeared in her eyes, and she hurled the stone away, spitting in fury, before dashing back to Hybrid Eclipse and swinging herself into the saddle.
“Let’s go get Prim back,” she growled, and nudged Hybrid with her heels, flicking the reins. He reared and took off at full gallop, with the rest of us scrambling to catch up.
Prim, lying uncomfortably on the hard bed in her cage, looked up as she heard hooves coming down the passage. Moments later, Ali and Hybrid appeared in a long skid, spraying pebbles into the air. Fluffy stepped out of the shadows with a laugh.
“Ah, Ali. At last. Did you enjoy the… game?” she smirked. Ali slid off of Hybrid with a growl.
“Do I look like I enjoyed it?” she snapped. Fluffy arched a brown eyebrow.
“Tch, always so rude,” she reprimanded.
“Rude?” snarled Ali. “Rude? You kidnap my best friend, demand to take my most treasured possession, and you call me rude?” She unsheathed her sword. Fluffy eyed it nervously as Ali stalked towards her.
“Now then, Fluffy, we can do this the hard way, or the easy way. Which will you pick?” A truly evil smile spread across Ali’s face.
“I’ve waited a long time for this. Now, either you let her go, or I kill you. Actually, I think I’ll kill you anyway,” She licked her lips, almost like a dragon, as she advanced slowly on the trembling Fluffy, who whimpered as Ali raised her sword.
“Ali… no…” whispered Prim, from her cage. Suddenly Fluffy threw a set of keys into Ali’s face and fled while she was distracted. Ali fumbled with the keys and released Prim from the cage, sweeping her almost-sister into a hug.
“Ali, you’re squashing me…” complained Prim, but she nuzzled her face into Ali’s hair. Ali lifted Prim neatly onto Hybrid’s saddle, swung herself up onto the strong black gelding’s back, and rode like a rocket out of the mines, Prim clinging on in front of her.
There was a small cheer from the mine entrance as the pair appeared, and we headed home, where Ali trailed after Prim, refusing to leave her even for a moment.
“Ali, it’s bedtime!” complained Prim. Ali folded her arms.
“I am never losing you again,” she retorted.
It took us three weeks to persuade Ali to let Prim out of her sight for more than two minutes. What can I say? It’s Ali being Ali – adorable insanity hiding a dark and protective warrior. Don’t mess with her.
QOS -- The Lightning Quartz
Ali skipped into the stable, half-dragging a resigned-looking Prim. She bounced on the spot, giggling happily.
“What is it this time?” sighed Sami, but her eyes were glittering expectantly. Ali released Prim for a moment to do a twirl, then caught her again.
“The Lightning Quartz!” she announced proudly, as Natalie came out of Hailey’s stall holding a brush. Sami picked up Nevaro’s saddle and started to wash it.
“Isn’t quartz only found in the Nether?” she asked, flicking a stray hair off of her face. Ali nodded, her eyes shining.
“I FOUND US A PORTAL AND EVERYTHING!” she suddenly yelled, dancing impatiently on the spot.
“Let’s GO!” She dashed out of the barn, dragging Prim behind her. Natalie rolled her eyes and we followed. Cass was waiting outside, stroking One More Rose’s neck. Ali watched Prim swing herself up into the saddle, then leaped gracefully up onto Hybrid Eclipse. I led Midnight Whisper out into the sun, closely followed by Natalie and Sami, the latter already riding Nevaro, ducking to avoid the doorway.
Natalie pulled herself up onto Nemo and Ali flicked Hybrid’s reins. The strong black gelding chose to rear up before setting off, churning the air with his white-socked forelegs and shaking his mane, then set off at a canter, leaving a small dust cloud spiralling behind him. We all exchanged a glance before chasing after Ali.
The purple depths of the portal glittered mysteriously as we stood before it, staring into the swirling sheet.
“Is this safe?” asked Natalie, studying the portal closely. Ali sniggered. Sami turned to fix the blue-haired archer with a piercing, ice-blue stare.
“I have no idea what it’s like,” giggled Ali. “It’s new for everyone!” She took three steps forwards, and before we could stop her, dived headlong through the portal. Cass folded her arms.
“Typical,” she growled, and threw herself after Ali. Prim shrugged and stepped through the barrier, with Natalie close behind.
“After you,” I smirked, gesturing towards the portal. Sami rolled her eyes at me and vanished through the swirling curtain of magic. I cast a look around and followed.
It was like stepping through a cascade of icy water. Freezing cold enveloped me, and I staggered out of the portal on the other side, my head spinning. Ali was waiting. She caught me before I could fall, and I saw that she was the only one not collapsed in a heap. Sami was sitting with her head in her hands, Natalie was wandering in dazed circles nearby, Cass was curled into a ball, rocking silently to and fro, and Prim was sprawled out across the rocky red floor. I shook the last bit of nausea away, and helped Ali pull the others to their feet. Disorientated by the portal, they blinked around at the dark red stone, the fiery river of lava nearby, and the fires burning here and there.
“Need some help?” came a voice behind us. Ali jumped and Prim fell back onto the ground, having suddenly lost the support of Ali’s shoulder. Leaning nonchalantly on the portal frame was a girl. Her blue shirt was soot-stained, her brown hair tangled, but her eyes shone through the smoky air, a bright, electric blue. She shook her hair back.
“You’re from the Overworld, aren’t you?” she smiled. Ali nodded.
“We’re looking for-” she began, but the girl cut her off.
“The Lightning Quartz. That’s what you’re all looking for. The name’s April, and I can show you where it is – if you can help me first,”
April summoned her horse with a whistle, and swung herself up into the saddle. We imitated her, and she took off at a gallop with us riding in her wake.
She skidded to a stop in a shower of red pebbles outside a ramshackle stone house. She bundled us all inside and slid six bolts into place across the door. She sank onto a battered old chair and looked at us. Ali looked out of the window.
“Ah, is the army of evil mobs normal?” she asked, curiously, her backpack morphing slowly into her quiver.
“Yes, that’s my problem,” sighed April. “They’re hunting me,” Ali turned away from the window, smiling hungrily.
“We’ll take care of them,” she promised, her eyes glittering. April stared at her.
“Really? You can fight that?” She pointed out of the window and we all looked. Advancing slowly on the house was a horde of mobs – ghasts, skeletons, zombie pigmen, wither skeletons… all the mobs of the Nether. Ali pulled out her bow.
“This is going to be fun,” she laughed. Glancing at her, I spotted the trademark Ali battle face – eyes half closed, grinning like a Cheshire Cat. April looked nervous, and I put and arm around her shoulders.
“We’ll teach you a few moves first,” I pointed out, and she half-smiled.
We pushed all the furniture to one side of the single room, and gathered in the centre.
“Okay, April, you can leave most of the mobs to us, but you need to defend yourself. It a ghast – the white ones – tries to fireball you, hit it back with your sword. Okay, Nat, throw the ball,” Natalie tossed the ball we were using for practice towards April, who smashed it away with her sword. Sami ducked it neatly and grinned.
“Nice one!” she complimented, and April blushed. We practiced dodging arrows, blocking fireballs, and fighting techniques for five minutes, then climbed a ladder out onto the roof. Ali crouched at the edge and aimed her bow, nocking an explosive arrow. She fired, the arrow landing square on target, lodged in the ribcage of a wither skeleton, before exploding, shattering every skeleton in a ten-foot radius into a pile of bones, which crumbled into dust. A ghast spat a fireball at April, who deftly smacked it back, hitting the culprit between its glowing red eyes with its own fireball.
“Returned to sender!” she laughed gleefully, ducking an arrow, and she leaped off of the roof. Cass dived after her, and together they slashed their way through a troop of zombie pigmen, neatly dodging the retaliation of the angry mobs. Prim sprang off of the roof and started fighting, cutting down the advancing mobs.
I ducked a couple of arrows, returned a fireball and somersaulted down into the fray, landing beside Prim, just in time to cut a skeleton in half as it aimed an arrow at Ali. Sami and Natalie were fighting side-by-side, kicking their way through growing piles of zombie-pigman-dust.
April whirled around in circles.
“Where’s the rest of them?” she demanded. Ali did a neat backflip off of the roof and gestured at the ground in answer. Mounds of monster dust lay all over the floor, hiding the red stone from view in swirls of multi-coloured grains.
“We did it,” Sami smiled. “They’re all gone,” April stared around at what was left of the army, and launched into a celebratory dance. Natalie laughed.
“Can you take us to the Lightning Fortress now?” asked Ali. I shook monster dust out of my hair and looked hopefully at April. She paused in her dance, beamed at Ali, and nodded. Ali flashed a typical half-mad grin, and skipped on the spot. We summoned our horses from the makeshift stable and swung ourselves into the saddles.
“Follow me!” sang April, and flicked the reins. Her horse whinnied and took off. It felt like a long time, galloping along past endless red stone, fire and lava, Ali shooting the occasional ghast in the face, until finally we saw, cream-white through the smoky haze, an enormous fortress, electricity playing around the four towers, jumping between the four poles of metal, and a white shape – quartz in the shape of a lightning bolt.
“There it is,” breathed Ali. “The Lightning Quartz,”
Prim giggled softly.
“How many traps do you think there’ll be?” she grinned. Ali turned, eyes shining expectantly.
“Let’s go find out!”
We stepped through the door into the cool, dark entrance hall. Ali scampered around the room and found a concealed door in the wall. She pushed it open and we moved forwards to the next room.
“Parkour,” growled Cass. We leaped across the room – Ali made an incredible save when April almost fell, and we got across to the other side safely. We stepped out into a large, empty room. There was a trapdoor in the ceiling.
“How do we get up there?” wondered Prim. I tilted my head, considering. Then, in a shadowy corner, I spotted a long coil of rope. I darted across and scooped it up, then raced back and snagged an arrow from Ali’s quiver.
“Hey!” yelped Ali, jumping away as I looped the rope around the arrow and tied it. I held it out.
“Shoot the ceiling,” I explained. Ali grinned and nocked the arrow neatly in her bow. She shot the ceiling right beside the trapdoor. The rope soared up with it and hung to the floor. I gave it an experimental tug.
“Perfect!” I smiled, and started to climb. I shoved the trapdoor open and hauled myself through.
“Come on!” I called. “One at a time, though,” Far below, Cass nodded and started to climb. I helped her through the trapdoor and Prim started up the rope after her. Soon enough, everyone had made it to the top. We closed the trapdoor and turned to face the room.
Eight red eyes glowed in the dark, and a spider stepped into the light. Prim screamed and toppled backwards into Ali’s chest. The spider was as big as a barn. Ali gently pushed Prim back onto her feet and took aim. I saw the green flights on the arrow.
“Poison?” I whispered. The huge spider didn’t appear to have seen us yet, though its ugly head was swinging back and forth, searching the room for the source of Prim’s scream. Ali took careful aim. She fired. There was a collective gasp. The arrow had missed. Ali cursed quietly and pulled a new arrow from her quiver. It had orange flights – explosive. The spider turned its head. Natalie spat her own curse. It had seen us. The spider let out a terrible roar. Ali loosed the arrow. It flew neatly through the air. The spider caught it in its mandibles and swallowed. Ali smirked. There was a muffled explosion, the spider’s body glowing orange, and the beast rolled over, dead. Ali punched the air in celebration, as a door slid open. We stepped carefully around the tangle of hairy legs and into the next room. The door slammed closed. April whirled on the spot. There was a small gurgling noise. Water stared to pour into the room from an inlet near the floor.
“I can’t swim!” yelped April, as the water started to creep higher. Natalie splashed over to her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. Sami took half a step backwards and fell over me. She managed to stay upright, but only just.
“What are you doing down there?” she asked. By way of answer, I flicked the silvery tail in place of my legs. Ali was staring.
“You’re a mermaid!” she gasped. I raised an eyebrow.
“I know that, Ali. Always have been. I tell you, it makes showers tricky, losing my legs every time I hit water,” Ali laughed, despite the cold water lapping around her waist. It continued to creep upwards, reaching everyone’s shoulders. April looked panicky. I flicked my tail and swam across to her.
“I’ll hold you up, April. It’s okay,” Gently, I wrapped my arms around her. The water rose up to her chin. Prim and the others pushed off, treading water easily. I started to churn the water with my tail, keeping April’s head and shoulders above the water. The water was nearing the ceiling now, with no sign of stopping.
“April, can you kick your legs?” I asked. She started to kick, beating the water. Tentatively, she copied Natalie, who was nearby, and managed to tread water. I let her go and swam back a little.
“I’m going to see if I can shut the water off,” I explained, and dived. After so long above the water, it was a relief to feel the water flowing around me, filtering through my gills. I swam down and found a tiny wheel beside the inlet. No-one, not even a trained diver, could stay under long enough to reach it. I turned the wheel and the water stopped flowing into the room. Quickly, I beat my tail against the water and shot up like a cork. Prim squealed as I broke the surface.
“The water’s turned off. I’m going to find an exit!”
I plunged under again. There was a door set into the wall. I pushed it. It didn’t move. Gripping the handle, I tilted and flicked my tail. The door shot open and I was catapulted back through the water. There was a rumbling sound as all the water in the room cascaded out into the next chamber, swirling into a vortex, dragging six soggy girls and one mermaid through the door. We rolled across the floor, absolutely soaked. The puddles on the floor kept me trapped as a mermaid. I looked pointedly at Sami.
“What?” she asked. I smirked.
“Don’t play daft, Sami,” Sami tilted her head, puzzled.
“You can summon wind,” I pointed out. Sami gaped.
“How did you…” she asked, trailing away in confusion.
“You went in the shower, then into your room, and came out perfectly dry. At the same time, I was on the other side of my door, using the only hairdryer in the house to dry my tail. You know my door is made of one-way glass, don’t you?” Sami shook her head, and I laughed.
“Come on, Sam. Dry us off, or I’ll be a fish for hours,” I grinned. Sami rolled her eyes, but then opened her palms towards the rest of us, radiating a soft, warm breeze, drying us all within minutes. Natalie looked around.
“What now?” she asked.
Ali pointed up. Suspended high over our head on four cables was The Lightning Quartz. Four towers rose on each corner of the courtyard we had rolled into. Natalie rolled her eyes at Ali’s enthusiasm.
“How are we going to get it down?” she asked, teasingly. Cass was standing by the wall.
“I’ll get it,” she called, examining the wall. Ali looked around.
“You have some kind of crazy secret, too?” she smirked, but Cass nodded. Ali opened her mouth to say something, but Cass forestalled her.
“Shhhh, Ali. Just let me fetch it,” She placed a foot against the wall, and we watched. Cass leaned her weight onto her first foot, and started to walk. She walked straight up the wall as easily as walking along a pavement. We stared, amazed, as she reached the cables suspending the quartz, and started to balance along it. Upside-down. She scooped the quartz up and headed back to the side. Then she slid down the wall like she was riding a skateboard, springing lightly onto her feet. There was an ominous rumble, and the towers started to collapse. To everyone’s surprise, it was Prim, not Ali, who sprang into action. Fast as a cat, Prim rounded everyone up into a huddle and threw out her arms. A glittering pink bubble expanded around us, deflecting all of the falling rubble. Safe under the glittering force field, everyone looked at Ali. She folded her arms and rolled her blue eyes.
“Of course I have a power. I can understand horses. Duh?!” she teased. In a heartbeat, everyone’s gaze switched to Natalie. Natalie sighed and flicked her hand, which burst into flames. She shaped the flames neatly into a shimmering heart, then clenched her fist, extinguishing the fire in a puff of smoke.
“I think we’re safe,” mused Prim, and she let the force field drop. April smiled mysteriously. She watched us all, slowly backing away.
“Here, I’ll send you home,” She waved a hand, and the terrible freezing dizziness crashed over us. As we faded from the Nether, we heard her distant voice.
“Thank you for helping me!”
We landed with a thud, in Ali, Cass and Prim’s back garden. Hybrid Eclipse snickered from where he was standing, beside Nemo, Midnight Whisper, One More Rose, Nevaro, and Amirite. Ali looked around. The sun was sinking into the horizon.
“Goodnight, you three,” she smiled at Natalie, Sami and I, as we swung ourselves onto our horses and headed for home.
Quest Of Six: Mystic Powers
Natalie took a slurp of coffee and yawned. Sami emerged from the cupboard holding a box of cereal, and I took another bite of toast. Quite suddenly, Ali exploded into the house, storming into the kitchen with a face like thunder. Close behind were Prim and Cass. Ali thumped down into a chair, and I only just managed to catch my last fried egg as it somersaulted off of my plate.
“Look at this!” snarled Ali. She was holding a note, similar to the note Fluffy had left when she kidnapped Prim. I looked down at it. Neat handwriting was traced across the paper, and Natalie read it aloud.
“I know you have the Book, Ali. You will bring it for me at noon, or I will hunt down your friends, and then you. Meet me beside North Valley, or else,” Natalie looked up at the clock.
“It’s nine ‘o’ clock,” she mused. Ali growled.
“I’ll teach her a lesson,” The fire of battle kindled in her eyes. “No-one threatens my friends,” She crushed her the letter in her fist.
We stood in a line, waiting. A horse appeared at the top of the valley and charged down the hillside. Riding it was a young woman – a similar age to us, wearing a white dress that glittered with golden embroidery, and a golden crown. She smirked when she saw us – particularly Ali, glaring at her with fists clenched, half-baring her teeth.
“Who are you?” snarled Ali. The woman laughed.
“Kaysey The Great, but why waste time with introductions? Give me the Book,” Ali pretended to rummage in her backpack then pulled back empty handed.
“Woops, I must have left it at home. Or maybe I was never going to give it to you in the first place,” She glared across the gap between us and Kaysey. Kaysey showed her teeth.
“Fine,” she snarled. She waved her arm in an arc, and a wall of water exploded from nowhere, forming six bubbles, one around each of us, all floating with our heads above water. I concentrated hard on the water, having discovered that I could stay dry if I wanted to last week. Ali thrashed in her bubble. Kaysey smirked.
“Give me the Book, or your friends drown,” she threatened. Ali glared at her. We dropped under the water. I screwed up my face in concentration, holding the water away from my friends’ faces, giving them a pocket of air to breathe. I heard Prim’s voice in my head, panicking.
“No! No! No! It can’t end like this!!” I concentrated harder, widening the air bubbles, and aimed a thought at Prim.
“Shhhh, Prim. I won’t let you drown. Mermaid, remember? Just breathe,” Prim finally took a breath, gratefully gulping the air in her bubble. Cass’s voice cut in.
“Wait. We’re underwater… how are you communicating?” I saw her amber eyes widen.
“We’re reading each other’s thoughts!” yelped Sami’s voice.
“Cool!” I thought. I spotted Ali, still above the water, staring at us in horror.
“Ali!” I called, through my thoughts. Ali jumped.
“It’s okay! We won’t drown, I worked out how to stay dry if I want to. We’re fine. Don’t give her that book!” Ali’s blue gaze pierced through the water and she gave a tiny nod.
“Seriously, how are we reading each other’s thoughts?” wondered Cass.
“I’m telepathic,” grumbled Natalie’s voice, sounding bored.
“Nat? Really?” gasped Sami.
“Mm-hmm,” Natalie yawned, and rolled her eyes.
“I didn’t get enough coffee this morning,” she complained. Kaysey screeched something, indistinct through the water, and we were suddenly hurled backwards. Sami managed to catch us all with a well-placed blast of warm air, before we landed in crumpled heaps, coughing, winded.
Back in the house where Sami, Natalie and I live, we huddled around the kitchen table, everyone wrapped in a warm blanket, chilled from the cold water and the wind. Ali thumped her book down on the table. She flipped it open to the very back page, where an image of a woman with wide, feathery wings was printed. The caption explained that she was Kat the Great and Powerful, the immortal sorceress, a living legend. Described as wise, benevolent and a master of magical art, we agreed, if we could find her, she would help us. We stepped out of the home, summoned our horses and rode south, towards where she was rumoured to live. We skidded to a stop beside a large farm, outside a paddock full of glossy-coated horses. The only person around was a woman, quietly grooming a strong chestnut cart-horse.
She turned to look at us. Her checked pink shirt was covered by denim overalls, and the horse put its head on her shoulder, watching us. She smiled and walked over, the horse turning back to nibble at the lush grass.
“Hi,” she smiled. “I would suppose you’re looking for Kat?” Natalie cocked her head curiously, but Ali nodded.
“Do you know where she is?” she asked eagerly. The woman looked around absently.
“Hmmm… I last saw her talking to six strangers who arrived on six gorgeous horses,” she mused. Ali glanced around. There was no-one nearby.
“Think,” smiled the woman. Ali looked puzzled. Cass raised an eyebrow.
“There is no way. You can’t be Kat the Great and Powerful,” she challenged. The woman turned to face Cass. She was still smiling.
“Really?” she asked. Cass flicked a strand of red hair out of her face and didn’t answer. There was a sudden, blinding flash of fiery light. When the dizzying spots of light faded from our vision, we saw that the woman had changed. Her simple outfit was replaced by a long white robe. She shook back her brown hair and stretched out two beautiful wings, the feathers rippling, brightly coloured with all the shades of a dancing flame. A truly gorgeous bird swooped down and nestled on her shoulder, starting to groom its red-and-gold plumage. Cass’s amber eyes were as round as saucers.
“Sorry,” she muttered. Kat laughed.
“I prefer not to walk around like this. People tend to be… overwhelmed. She tipped her head and looked pointedly at Ali, who was gasping like a fish out of water, amazed.
Kat smiled and Ali finally regained control.
“Kat… we need your help,” she sighed, Kat’s brow furrowed.
“Someone is trying to steal this,” She pulled out the book. Kat nodded.
“That book is the only one of its kind. It is very valuable. In fact, I wrote it, all but the final page, which was added by a student of mine,” she sighed softly. “Kaysey is after the Book again, isn’t she?” Ali jumped.
“How did you…” Kat placed a hand gently on Ali’s shoulder.
“I taught Kaysey the ways of sorcery. Many times, she tried to steal the Book from me. If all of these items can be found, the possessor will master the art of magic, becoming unstoppable. Kaysey is looking to take my place as Phoenix Sorceress, thus gaining my wings and magical powers. She will try to conquer the world, destroying peace forever. Suddenly a series of images flashed in my mind, a flow of memories across a telepathic link – Kat as a child, learning magic from a woman who looked just like her, the golden wings extending from her back. The same woman, crouched in a heap on the floor, trembling with a dark figure reaching for the golden pendant on her neck. She pulled the necklace away and threw it towards the young Kat, who caught it and fled as the woman – her mother – screamed. With trembling hands, Kat fastened the chain around her neck. Wings erupted from her shoulder blades. The shadowy figure burst out of a door, and with a scream of fury, Kat threw herself to meet him. Suddenly the images vanished. Kat was looking at Natalie, half impressed, half annoyed.
“You are telepathic,” mused the sorceress. “It is somewhat rude to pry into others’ memories, Natalie,” Natalie stared.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, ashamed. Kat smiled.
“It was my fault as much as yours. I let my memories carry me away,” she explained, gently. She tilted her head to the side.
“I cannot help you. You are strong enough if you look to your hearts and stand together,” She fluttered her wings, then turned and flapped away. Ali folded her arms.
“Well, that was helpful,” she grumbled. Prim turned to look at Ali.
“I think she’s right. We can beat her. We have the one weapon she doesn’t. Friendship. It gives us a reason to fight, to defend each other. Also, Ali, I’m betting she won’t turn into a dragon when she’s angry,”
We returned to the valley at noon the day after, knowing that Kaysey would be there after the threat she had screamed at Ali. Prim sidled away from the blue-haired archer and beckoned us over.
“Don’t tell Ali, but I’m going to fake dying so she’ll transform,” she whispered. Ali glanced around and we scrambled back into a line. Ali shrugged and turned away, scanning the valley. As before, Kaysey appeared on her horse and galloped down.
“You will give me the Book!” she snarled. “Or I will kill every one of you!” She stared down at Ali.
“Never.” growled the blue-haired archer. Kaysey roared in rage and flicked her hand. Prim was hurled backwards through the air and landed with a thud. She didn’t move, evidently already playing dead. Sami rushed over to her and crouched. Ali watched her. Sami looked up, her eyes wide, and slowly shook her head. Ali screamed in rage and exploded out of her skin. Kaysey cowered back on her horse as a gigantic blue dragon expanded from Ali and roared, spitting jets of flame into the air. Natalie added her own flames, blasting jets at the ground beside Kaysey’s horse, spooking the stallion so that he bucked his mistress off and bolted. I realised, slowly, that if I could keep the water off of things, I could control it, and lifted a long ribbon of water out of the stream, dropping the torrent onto Kaysey’s head, knocking her crown off. Sami twisted her hands, forming a spinning tornado, and she pushed it towards Kaysey as a pink force-field inflated itself around us, protecting us from the howling wind, which scooped Kaysey up and twirled away, carrying her out of the valley after her stallion. Ali the dragon collapsed back to normal, and passed out on the grass. Prim sprang up, unhurt, and bounded over to her friend, gently shaking her awake.
“Prim?” murmured Ali. “Am I dead?” Prim shook her head.
“No, Ali, you’re fine. Everyone’s fine,” Ali’s eyes rolled and she passed out again. Sami gently lifted her in a swirl of wind and we set off for home, our horses trotting nonchalantly behind us.
No-one expected it. It was only a week after the Kaysey incident, and we had decided that we would have no more trouble for a while. Of course, something went wrong. Sami, Natalie and I rode over to Ali, Prim and Cass’ house, and the six of us set off on a quiet walk, heading for the woods. We stepped into the dark trees, and chaos suddenly reigned. Ali had trodden on a hidden tripwire, and a trap had sprung. A weighted net dropped suddenly over Ali’s head and knocked her onto the floor. Ropes shot out of some hiding place and wrapped tightly around Prim, making her topple backwards. A concealed net swept Natalie up into the air, and a cage of branches fell around Sami. I stood, confused, amidst my trapped friends, when something hit me on the head and I passed out. I woke up to find everyone else half-asleep, curled in a heap around me. I shook them awake, and we looked around, taking in the metal bars. We were in a cage. Somebody walked up to the bars. It was a young man, dark-haired, with brown eyes, and wearing a grey suit. Ali hissed at him and arched herself protectively around Prim. He smirked. Natalie shot a fireball at him, which he only just dodged, the smirk slipping for a moment. Sami blasted him with a jet of cold wind, making him stumble back, and Prim snarled viciously. Puzzlement crossed his face for a moment.
“Where’d the redhead go?” he wondered. We looked at each other and realised that, sure enough, Cass was gone. A tiny movement, high on the wall in the shadows, alerted us to her presence as she quietly slipped her spotted hoodie off, revealing her white t-shirt. She pounced, flinging herself down from the wall, dropping the hoodie over the man’s head, clawing at his suit to find the cage keys. I looked up and nearly laughed. The cage had no roof. No wonder Cass had escaped. The man thrashed about on the floor as Cass scrabbled at his pockets, his face covered by her hoodie, and tugged out a spray bottle. He clawed the hoodie off his face as Cass rolled off of him, the keys in her hand. Our captor scrambled to his feet, throwing the hoodie aside, and blasted Cass in the face. Her amber eyes rolled upwards as she collapsed in a crumpled heap. The man turned to us, flicking dust off of his shoulder.
“How rude. Allow me to introduce myself,” he smiled at us. Ali growled.
“I am Taho, and I collect rare creatures. An elf, a fire fairy, a wind nymph, a guardianne, and… whatever she is are valuable additions to my collection,” he nudged Cass’s limp form with a foot, and turned to look at me. “But a real mermaid… the crowning glory. Now, sleep,” He raised the spray bottle and blasted us. Sleep crashed over us all like a thick black blanket.
I blinked sleepily, feeling the cool embrace of water all around me. I glanced down and saw my tail, silvery-blue in the water, and swam smoothly forwards. I stopped short with a thump and hissed a curse. I was in a tank. Peering out with my palms against the glass, I saw my friends in various cages around the room, all looking bored. Ali was curled in a ball, sulking in the back corner of her cage. Cass was sitting up-side down on the roof of her tank, eyes closed. Prim was circling restlessly. Natalie appeared asleep, though I could tell she was waiting for a chance to pounce by the tension in her body. I directed my thoughts towards her.
“Nat!” She flinched.
“What?” she thought back.
“Look at Ali’s cage. If she transforms, it’ll smash, and then she can let us out,” Natalie’s interests spiked.
“How can we do that?” she wondered.
“We need to make her angry,” I thumped my tail irritably on the glass, just as Taho came in. I swam upwards, to find that my tank simply had a net over the top. I floated on the surface, glaring down at Taho as he surveyed us all. Natalie stayed still, faking sleep. Taho went into a long, gloating speech, which none of us listened to.
Natalie pounced. A blaze of fire wrapped around Taho, and he panicked.
“Let us out,” she growled, the fire still streaming from her palms. Taho stumbled over to her cage and fumbled in his pockets. Then he whipped out that darn spray bottle and blasted her with it. Natalie keeled over, the fire vanishing as she fell into a real sleep. I cursed to myself as Taho smirked and left us alone again.
I wondered if I could break the glass of my tank; mermaids’ tails are very strong. I hurled myself against the glass time after time, and put a tiny crack in the thick, clear wall. When Natalie woke up, we discussed escape plans – telepathically, of course, and made attempts to escape. It was Cass who thought of an idea.
“I think I know what to do,” she mused, across the link Natalie had provided as usual.
“Taho has no idea what I am, but I know. I’m what’s called a Kameleon, or a Kameleonne, in my case. We can do all the stick-to-walls-and-ceiling bit, you know that, but we can also do this,” She pulled her hood up and tucked her arms in. For a moment we stared at the place where she was… or she had been, just a second ago. Cass had vanished. Then she reappeared, pushing her hood down.
“We can camouflage ourselves,” she grinned at us. An idea popped into my head. Cass nodded at me, and I knew they had all seen it – the perks of telepathy. Cass could camouflage herself when Taho next arrived, and make him think she had escaped. Then he would open the tank door and she could sneak out, taking the keys at the same time.
The plan almost worked. Cass was halfway out of the door when she brushed against Taho. He whipped around and – somehow, caught Cass’s hoodie. Her hood slipped down, and she became visible again. A number of hissed curses whispered around the room as Taho dragged Cass back into the tank and slammed the door in her face.
Everyone was asleep, except me and Natalie. The lights were turned off, but I could see two blue eyes shining in the dark.
“We really need to make Ali mad,” I grumbled, beating my tail against the cracked bit of glass.
“The question is, how?” replied Natalie. I turned a backflip in the water and sighed. Then a thought hit me like a bolt of lightning.
“What if you pretended to hear him coming, and thinking of selling Prim to someone? That’d probably do it,” I wondered. Natalie considered for a moment.
“I could say he was thinking of selling Prim to Fluffy?” she mused
“Fluffy or Kaysey, whichever,” I replied, arching an eyebrow.
“When she wakes up?” she asked. I nodded, knowing she could see me. We settled on our… ‘beds’ and drifted off to sleep.
We were all awoken by the lights flipping on. Footsteps sounded outside, and I heard Natalie’s voice, sharp with panic.
“Oh no. No. This cannot be happening,” Ali sat up faster than lightning striking a tree.
“What?” she demanded. Natalie turned to look at Prim.
“He wants to sell Prim… to Kaysey.” She spat the last word with a snarl. Prim hissed and pressed herself back into the corner. Ali started to tremble.
“We’ll never see her again… she’ll be Kaysey’s pet!” growled Cass, apparently catching on. Ali’s trembling became more violent.
Taho came into view and Ali exploded out of her skin.
Her cage burst open as a gigantic cyan dragon expanded from her, roaring and stomping her feet. Taho’s terrified shriek was lost is the crackling roar of white-hot fire, dancing in waves of surging blue death. He fled back down the corridor and Ali ripped the tanks and cages open with her claws. Then she scooped us up; me Sami, Cass, Natalie and Prim, and placed us delicately between the spines on her broad blue back. She clawed her way out of the secret room, and unfurled her wings in the morning sunlight, before flapping strongly away, carrying us home. It took very little time for me to regain two legs, but Ali couldn’t carry on forever. She started to tremble, and suddenly we were no longer riding a dragon, but falling headlong towards the ground, the unconscious Ali having transformed back into a human. Sami twisted in mid-air, and our terrifying plummet slowed to a gentle glide. The warm breeze carried us along and we landed lightly on our feet at home. Ali floated in mid-air, carried by winds, still completely out of it. Prim and Cass summoned their horses, and Sami gently manoeuvred Ali onto Amirite, draped over his neck in front of Prim, and they headed for their own home.
“I guess that proved one thing,” smiled Sami.
“Trouble will always come to us?” suggested Natalie, and we all laughed, heading into our house for what would hopefully be a nice, quiet day.
Sami, Natalie and I stood on the doorstep, arms full of presents, wrapped in bright paper and all bearing the same name. It was Cass’s birthday, and we were supposed to be celebrating with a party at the house she shared with Prim and Ali. I tapped on the door. No answering voice called back. No footsteps announced the arrival of someone to open the door. Instead, I heard the faint sound of Cass’s voice, raised in anger. I exchanged a glance with the other two and nudged the door. It opened, revealing a frightened-looking Prim. She placed a finger to her lips and jerked her head back. The voices of Ali and Cass, lifted in furious argument, were much clearer now.
“You don’t even CARE, do you!” screeched Cass.
“How can you say that, Cass?!” yowled Ali. We crept down the hallway, and saw Ali and Cass in the living-room, a few meters apart, glaring at each other. Ali looked somewhat shocked. Cass’s eyes were sparkling with tears, and she wore an expression of deep hurt.
“You don’t care! You don’t! It’s my BIRTHDAY, Ali. MY BIRTHDAY!” Her voice rose, Prim and Sami cringed.
“All you care about is those stupid quests! Not your friends! NOT EVEN YOUR FRIENDS’ BIRTHDAYS! THE ONE DAY THAT’S SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT ME AND YOU WANT TO DRAG US ALL OFF TO FIND SOME OTHER DRATTED THING! I HATE YOU!” Her voice broke slightly on the last word, and there was silence. The kind of silence that billows, expanding out from its origin like a hurricane. A silence that deafens all who hear it. Ringing, echoing silence. A single tear slipped down Cass’s cheek. Another chased it, dripping off of her chin. She cast a last, heartbroken look at the blue-haired archer, and fled. Natalie tried to stop her, but Cass gave her a hard shove to the chest that sent her stumbling backwards into Sami. Cass’s footsteps, and her sobs, faded slowly as she darted out of the front door and fled. Ali appeared at my shoulder. She was crying too, albeit silently.
“Cass…” she whispered. Her voice was thick, choked with tears, as another droplet left a shining track across her pale face.
I ran. Pushing myself faster, the wind stinging my eyes, whipping the tears from my cheeks. I shouldn’t have screamed at Ali. The thought resounded around my mind, making it impossible to navigate. I was just running, blindly avoiding trees. I forced myself to slow down, finding that the vicious, boiling anger was fading, finally feeling the force of my own sobs as they shook my shoulders. I buried my face in my hands as a kind of internal war broke out in my head.
You can’t go back.
You need to apologise to Ali.
She doesn’t deserve an apology.
Yes she does.
Run. Move. Get away from them.
Go back to your friends.
Are they your friends?
My hands shifted from hiding my tears to clutching at my head, fighting to control the two enemy voices.
Answer me. Are they your friends? Snarled the more aggressive of the two, I could see it, a small figure in black, with hair of an even brighter red than my own.
Yes… the voice of this one was dressed in white, blonde, and looked a little like Sami and Prim mixed together. It was hesitant in answering, a tentative half-question.
Run. Go now. They are coming. My blonde voice out up no fight, and I obeyed instinctively, darting away between the trees, deeper into the forest. I leaped behind a large rock and pulled up my hood, blending into the green of the forest as I heard five familiar voices. Thank goodness Zoe wasn’t with Sami, or she’d smell me at once.
I crouched a little lower as the voices came closer. Sami led the way out of the trees, looking around.
“Cass? Are you there?” she called, her voice echoing through the forest. She sounded heartbroken.
No. You’re the one who’s heartbroken. Not them. Don’t answer. The little black voice growled. I decided from now on, that one was ‘demon’ and the other was ‘angel’.
Go to them! Angel suddenly piped up.
NO! snapped Demon. I watched the group pass, looking all around for me. Ali had salty tear-tracks staining her face. I curled my lip.
Why was she so upset?
We followed Sami through the trees. Occasionally the blonde wind nymph would float up through the trees and look around, or else call for her lost friend. Once, I thought I saw Cass, hiding behind a rock, but when I looked back, there was nothing there.
“We could ask Sky to help us look,” suggested Ali, quietly. Sami nodded. Ali suddenly turned and glared into the trees.
“Come to try and steal Prim again, Fluffy?!” she snarled. A young, brown-haired woman appeared from the trees and moved hesitantly towards us.
“I was going to ask if you wanted… a little extra help?” she asked, nervously eyeing Ali’s hand, which had twitched up to rest on the curve of her bow. Prim put a gentle hand on Ali’s shoulder. Ali half-smiled and relaxed. Fluffy sighed softly in relief and moved to join the group as we summoned our horses – Fluffy had to borrow Golden Sunrise, one of my stallions – and headed for the Temple Of Invisibility. We arrived to find that Sky was sitting on a ledge outside, apparently sunbathing. Sami launched herself up with a well-placed gust of wind, and Sky opened her eyes. The two shared a quick word, Sky nodded, and together they jumped back down onto the sand.
Natalie summoned Hailey, and Sky swung herself onto the white mare’s back, before we took off at a canter, Sami leading the way, back towards the forest.
I crouched, hidden behind the rock. For one moment, Crysta stared right at me, but she turned away. I pushed my hood down as they disappeared with Fluffy, who had appeared moments before.
Keep moving. They’ll come back. muttered Demon.
Follow them! Go home! whined Angel. I curled into a ball and tried to ignore them both. I wanted to go home, but at the same time, I wanted to avoid Ali. So I did the next-best thing. I walked up a tree and huddled among the branches, up-side down. It helps me think.
You miss them already.
No you don’t.
You love them like family, don’t you?
Yes… A third voice had popped into the argument, I saw her clearly, a miniature version of myself. The mini-me walked across the darkness of my mind’s eye and gently pushed Angel and Demon apart.
I love them like my sisters. she told the battling thoughts.
Sometimes they make us angry, it’s true. All we need is some time to cool off. We’ll stay here, and wait for them to find us.
But- protested Demon.
We’ll stay here. reinforced the mini-me. I hung upside-down, knees hooked over a branch, and waited. They’d be back sooner or later.
We must have started in the wrong direction, but with the help of Zoe’s sensitive dragon nose we finally found ourselves back in the clearing where I thought I saw Cass behind a rock. Zoe pointed with her nose.
“There,” she murmured. Sure enough, there was Cass, hanging up-side down from a branch, her amber eyes closed.
“Cass?” called Ali. Cass’s eyes snapped open and she fixed Ali with a piercing stare.
“Cass… I’m sorry,” apologised the blue-haired archer, blue eyes locked on Cass’s.
“I do care about you… I just… the thing I wanted to find…” Cass narrowed her eyes.
“I wanted to make the adventure the best we’ve ever had for your birthday. In fact… there wasn’t an Idol of Riches at all… I set up a treasure hunt for your birthday, with your present at the end… I never wanted to upset you…” Cass stared for a moment and then dropped, head-first, towards the forest floor. Ali dived forwards and caught her, flipping her neatly onto her feet. Cass smiled.
“You really do care,” she murmured, her voice low and almost musical. Then she burst into tears, threw her arms around Ali and hugged her, hard.
“Cass… you’re… squashing me!” gasped Ali. Cass just sobbed into Ali’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry Ali!” she howled. “I was being stupid, insensitive. It was ME that didn’t care, me that was being horrible. I’m sorry!”
Ali’s gently pushed Cass back, holding onto her shoulders.
“I should have realised…” she smiled. “I love you all like sisters. You’re my family. Of course I care,” Cass sniffled, and suddenly they pounced on everyone else, dragging us all into one big group hug. We broke apart, giggling.
"Is it to late to hunt down a birthday present?" asked Cass, her amber eyes glittering mischievously.
The Silver Mare
This one is a bit.. pathetic. Sorta got writer's block halfway though and then... well. You have been warned XD
Midnight whickered somewhat irritably as I tightened the last buckle on Lightning Dust’s bridle. Natalie laughed as she swung herself neatly into Nemo’s saddle.
“Someone isn’t impressed,” she grinned. I rolled my eyes and led Lightning out of her stall.
“Someone is also sleepy. He woke me up a two ‘o’ clock by fussing and kicking the wall,” I pointed out, hiding a yawn.
The sound of thundering hooves announced to arrival of Prim, Cass and Ali. Natalie headed out to meet them and Sami followed her.
Zoe leaped lightly down off of the roof. She shrank to the size of a cat and fluttered delicately up onto Sami’s shoulder. Ali was grinning at us, grinning in a way that obviously meant she had found something else to chase after. Natalie folded her arms.
“What is it this time?” she sighed, though her blue eyes were glittering hopefully. Ali bounced excitedly.
“There’s a place called the Valley Of Horses… supposedly the home of a mare faster than the wind, that leaps as though she can fly,” she grinned. Hybrid Eclipse butted her with his head and whickered. Ali stroked his nose comfortingly, nuzzling her face into his mane.
“Supposedly, all horses come from the Valley, and only a horse can find the entrance. We swung ourselves up onto our horses and set off. After several minutes of riding, we stopped in a field so that Ali could consult her book. A cacophony of soft hissing broke out around us. We were surrounded be creepers. We scrambled back away from them, only to run into the side of a long, low building. Ali reached for her bow, but too late. The creepers exploded.
We were blasted backwards through the wall and crashed in a shower of debris and screams. Slowly, shaking dust out of my hair, I stood up. Morgan, someone I had seen before around town, was staring at us, dust covering her white dress, clutching at a bunch of flowers. Standing next to her was Darren, equally dusty in a light blue suit. For a moment, we stared at them and they stared back. Then realisation hit. The two were supposed to be getting married.
“Uh… sorry, you two,” I apologized. “We… had a bit of an argument with several creepers,”
Quickly, we backed out of the hole we had just created, and re-mounted our horses. Prim spotted a bit of cake on her shoulder, scooped it off and tasted it.
“Mmm, that’s nice. Lucky I only clipped it, it’s still intact… mostly,”
Ali stroked Hybrid’s neck.
“Lead the way, boy,” she instructed. Hybrid reared, pummelling the air with his socked forelegs, and whinnied. Our horses whickered in reply and they took off with us clinging to their backs. We rode through an icy tundra where the freezing wind snatched at our hair, trying to unseat us. We charged across the shifting sands of a blisteringly hot desert, crouched low to our horses. We wove at lightning speed between the close-growing trees of a pine forest, eyes half-closed and heads bent to avoid low branches.
Finally we skidded to a stop, facing two towering mountains that obscured the sky. Slowly, we slid off of our horses.
“Is this the place?” wondered Ali. Hybrid whickered and nudged her with his head. She turned, eyes shining, and then froze.
“Oh, no,” she gasped. There was a sudden explosion. Three creepers had appeared behind Natalie. She was hurled into the air and crashed, hard into a rock.
“Nat!” yelped Sami, and scrambled over. I darted across and crouched next to Natalie, carefully lifting her shoulders. Her head lolled limply from side to side, and she felt like a sack of potatoes, heavy, limp, and lifeless.
“Natalie! Natalie, wake up! Nat!” hissed Sami. I gave her a little shake.
“C’mon, Natalie… wake up…” She didn’t move.
“I… I don’t think she’s breathing…” I murmured, feeling my eyes prickling. I shifted slightly, Natalie’s limp shoulders still resting across my lap, and looked up. Four pale and shocked faces stared back.
“She’s not… she can’t be…” whispered Cass, tears welling in her eyes.
“Natalie? Nat, c’mon… wake up,” I murmured, shaking her again.
“I think… she’s… dead,” My voice trembled and broke on the last word, and tears, swift and silent, started to flow down my face. I looked up as the other’s settled around Natalie’s limp form, and a stray tear dripped onto Natalie’s cheek. I wrapped a comforting arm around Sami’s shoulders, and we hunched together, sharing a grief beyond words.
It felt like an eternity that we crouched there, around the limp body, when Natalie’s fingertips twitched. I stared at her hand. For one quivering, silent moment she lay perfectly still, then suddenly she gasped, her chest arching, and her blue eyes snapped open.
“Nat!” I squealed, and dragged her up into a hug.
“You’re squashing me…” she grumbled, but I just hugged harder.
“Don’t you DARE do that again!” I growled, my voice somewhat muffled by her hair. She gently pushed me off.
“I’m fine. Calm down,” Nemo pushed is nose into the group and snuffled at Natalie’s hair. We closed back around her on a big group hug, all sniffling. Slowly, everyone climbed to their feet, and we looked up. Hybrid Eclipse was standing nearby looking amused, pulling back a curtain of leaves with his muzzle. There was a tunnel behind it, a tunnel which led to a glittering valley of green. The Valley of Horses. Ali stared in amazement, and slowly moved towards it. We followed, hesitantly wondering if this was real.
We brushed through the leafy curtain and stared. Horses, every colour, old mares and young foals, some with wings and some with long, glittering horns, all living together. In a whirl of grey and a puff of dust, a beautiful silver mare galloped over and skidded to a stop.
She dipped her beautiful head and allowed Ali to stroke her mane.
“I have not seen humans here for a long time,” whickered the horse.
“Not since the lady Tyshow asked me to send horses through the tunnel and into the world,” She snuffled at Hybrid Eclipse’s flank, and snickered. Hybrid made a strange noise like a growl and Ali hissed.
“Rude!” she growled. The silver mare turned to stare at her.
“I apologize, lady. I take it you raised this young one?” she whickered. Ali nodded. The mare tossed her head.
“By way of apology, I offer you a ride,” she whinnied, crouching. Ali stared in awe.
“R-really?” she stuttered, seeming nervous. The mare nodded and Ali swung herself up onto her grey back, clinging to the mare’s smooth neck as she reared and shot off in a cloud of dust. Ali whooped in delight as the mare leaped, flying high into the air and landing lightly. Something damp touched my hand and I jumped, looking up to see a curious pegasus sniffing me. It nudged me with its handsome head and bent its forelegs, inviting me to get on. Cautiously, I slid onto its back, just behind the wings, and wound my hands into its silky mane. I saw the others, sitting astride their own pegasi, and the five horses took off as one. Prim yelped in alarm as the ground shot away from us, but I could hear Natalie and Cass shrieking with glee behind me. The v-shaped pegasus formation swooped around the valley and touched down lightly as Ali slid off of the mare, who dipped her head.
“I hope you will visit me again, lady Ali,” whickered the mare.
“You are an amusing companion to ride with,” Ali smiled and stroked the mare’s nose.
“We’ll come back and visit as often as we can, Comet,” she promised. The mare snickered, and we set off for home before it got too dark to see.
The flames were mesmerising, jumping over the logs propped in the circle of stones. I could hear animals scuffling, Natalie digging in the camping kit. She made a sound of triumph and pulled her head out, a pack of wood skewers in one hand, and a bag of fluffy, extra-large marshmallows in the other. Prim’s green eyes glittered hungrily in the dancing, flickering light, and she licked her lips. Natalie grinned and handed out the skewers – Ali and Prim instantly started a playful mock-swordfight – and then opened the bag of marshmallows, placing it so that everyone could reach. I speared a marshmallow and dipped it into the crackling warmth of the fire. Cass tilted her head back.
“Is it weird that some people say everything is written in the stars? That somewhere, up there, is the path of our destinies?” she mused. Ali snorted.
“If it is, whoever wrote it is a jerk,” she growled, breaking off her skewer fight and pulling Prim into a protective hug – the smaller teen squeaked in surprise, then nestled against Ali’s chest.
“They’re mean,” she agreed.
“So… what was written up there… about you guys?” asked Sami, curiously. Ali growled, and Prim shivered. I glanced at Natalie, who looked back doubtfully. Things had happened. Things that we had agreed, long ago, should stay buried in the past. I looked around at my friends, pulling my now-toasted marshmallow out of the fire and nibbling at it. Cass and Sami were watching one another, and Ali and Prim were huddled protectively around each other, rocking slightly. From the looks on every face, things had happened to them too.
I sighed, trying and failing not to remember what had happened to me and Natalie all those years ago. Sami turned her head. Her eyes were gleaming hopefully. Natalie’s hand brushed mine.
“Tell them… I can’t…” she whispered. I nodded, took a deep breath, and started to speak.
“We… we’ve known each other since we were… five, was it? Yes. I was five, Nat was six. We were in the same school. Then, when we were… 10 and 11, we were on a trip with our class… abroad. But… on the way home…” I bit my lip, glancing at Natalie. Even thinking of it was painful. I saw that her eyes were sparkling with tears already. She nodded wordlessly, her eyes telling me to continue. I took a deep breath.
“On our way home… both engines exploded. We only survived because the plane fell into the sea. Most people had stopped breathing…” I felt the tears brimming in my eyes, and spotted a stray tear rolling slowly over Natalie’s cheek. Her sister had been on that plane. I took another deep breath, feeling myself shuddering, the salty droplets in my eyes escaping and sliding down my face.
“Natalie was still alive… unconscious, but alive. I was a mermaid, and we were trapped in a plane, slowly sinking. I… I did the first thing I could think of – grabbed Nat, smashed a window with my tail and swam to the surface…” My voice broke. There was one last thing. Something I had never told anyone. Natalie turned her head, slowly, crying openly now. I stared back, our blue eyes meeting.
“I tried to rescue her, Nat. I tried…” My breath caught. I had been too late to save Natalie’s sister. I was too late to save the only other person on that plane who hadn’t been killed by the smoke or the heat of the roaring flames. The guilt washed over me again, strong as when I looked into Nat’s eyes, seven years ago, and told her that her sister was dead. I stared into the campfire, still crying. Natalie sniffled quietly beside me, and I hugged her.
“We’ll always have each other,” I promised in a whisper. Natalie nodded.
“You are like a sister to me now,” she replied, equally quietly. I smiled into her hair and sniffled. We broke apart, wiping the tears off of our faces, and looked back at the others. Ali was clutching Prim even tighter to her chest, and Sami looked horror-struck. Cass’s amber eyes were closed, and her eyelashes were damp.
Natalie snuffled quietly, and Cass looked up. She glanced nervously at Sami and tilted her head up to the stars, amber eyes fixing on a floating cloud. Sami sighed quietly.
“I lost my family three years ago,” she murmured, her voice only just louder than the crackle of the flames.
“They… they got stuck inside a cloud, and the cloud got dragged away by the wind. I was in a tree at that point… hearing them crying out…” Her voice trailed away miserably, and Cass gave her a comforting one-armed hug.
“I ran away from home when I was fourteen, two years before I met Sami,” she began, her other hand fiddling with the hole ripped into the knee of her jeans.
“I heard her crying, and climbed the tree to investigate… after then, we looked after each other. Not like sisters, but maybe cousins,” Sami elbowed Cass playfully in the ribs.
“Sometimes I think I was more like your mother, you kept being reckless,” she teased.
“You were more reckless than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Cass snorted and ruffled Sami’s hair. The each speared a second marshmallow and started toasting it. I rolled my eyes at their playful antics, knowing they only wanted to cheer Natalie up. Then I jumped – my marshmallow was almost burnt. I pulled it out and tugged off the outer layer with my teeth, before lowering the rest into the fire again. Four faces turned slowly in Ali and Prim’s direction. Ali hugged Prim harder, and Prim squeaked and wriggled a little.
“Your turn, Ali,” pointed out Cass. Ali shook her head.
“No way. No. I don’t want to talk about it,” she growled, resting her chin on the top of Prim’s head and narrowing her blue eyes.
Prim twisted and wormed her way free.
“Tell them, Ali,” she whispered.
“I was an orphan from four years old. My dad left before I was born and mum caught some kind of disease. No-one found me, hiding out in mum’s house, slowly nibbling through the food we had left. When there was no more food in the house, people had realised they didn’t see my mother anymore. They came looking, so I ran for it. I lived on my own for five years, among the rubbish bags in the alley behind Tyshow’s house…” she trailed away, remembering.
“One day I wandered out of my hiding-place and came across someone small crying behind a dustbin. She told me that her parents had been in an accident involving a horse-drawn cart, and that she couldn’t find them. I knew at once where her parents were,” Ali leaned back, looking up at the stars. Prim nestled into the older girl’s side and sniffled quietly. Ali made a strange kind of purring noise and continued with her story.
“It was Prim. Lost and alone, her parents far away where no-one can call them home…. She was cold, hungry, and tired, just six years old…” Ali nuzzled her face into Prim’s hair.
“Ali pretty much adopted me,” sniffled Prim, wiping a stray tear off of her face.
“We’ve looked after each other ever since…” Her voice trailed off and she nestled back into Ali’s arms, hiding her face.
Natalie’s arm tightened slightly around my shoulders. I turned my head to see tears skidding across her cheeks.
“I think we should remember these stories… but let them be the past. We should think about now. Look where we came from – three pairs of lost girls. But look where we are now – the six of us. We’re a family,” I murmured, drawing faint smiles from the rest of them.
“Cass can be mom!” squealed Sami playfully, ruffling Cass’s red hair, and Ali laughed, still cuddling Prim. Cass ducked out from Sami’s attacking hand, giggling. Prim yawned, tried and failed to hide it, and sniggered. Cass rolled her eyes.
“Well, if I ‘mom’… it’s bedtime, you lot!” she half-growled playfully.
“But I’m not sleepy!” I whined.
“Bed!” ordered Cass.
“Aw… Just five more minutes? Please mom?” Cass glared at me, but she was smirking.
“Crysta. Bed. Now.” I pulled a face, and crawled grumpily into the tent Nat and I were sharing before bursting into uncontrollable giggles, hearing five other voices join in.
Not one of us had a happy past. No-one knows their future. All we can do is live in the moment, and if you lose your family, find yourself a new family, a family you choose.
Just like my friends. My sisters.
-Twisted Games- *HALLOWEEN SPECIAL*
This is a HALLOWEEN SPECIAL. That means it is DARKER than usual, and very creepy. It gets worse the more you read, including deaths. You have been warned...
I blinked slowly in the half-light. Turning my head, I saw Ali’s blue hair spread over Sami’s shoulders. Instantly wide awake, I looked around, panicking. Natalie was sprawled over me, her sleeping form stopping me from sitting up. Prim was nestled against my side, and Ali’s hips were tucked somewhat awkwardly under my shoulders. They were all asleep. Asleep? Or were they… could they be? No. No way. They couldn’t be dead. No. I could feel their intertwined bodies shifting with soft, sleepy breathing. I looked around, seeing iron bars and stone walls all around me. Natalie raised her head, and looked at me. Then her head turned slowly, taking in our prison. She yelped suddenly, and sprang upright. I sat up.
“Where are we?” she whispered, reaching out to shake Cass awake. I poked Prim gently to wake her up, and nudged Sami out of her doze. Ali rolled onto the floor and woke herself up.
Someone shifted in the shadows outside our cage, and I heard a soft, familiar voice.
“Ah, you’re all awake,”
“You!!” screeched Ali. Fluffy padded quietly out of the darkness.
“Me,” she replied, smirking, and pressed a button.
The floor vanished.
We shot downwards at lightning speed, whizzing along a cold, dark chute. Suddenly I found the others whipped away from me. I skidded through cold darkness, completely isolated, confused, and frightened. A faint, high pitched screaming was coming from somewhere nearby – Prim.
I crashed, hard, onto solid wood. Looking around, I found that I was in a glass box, with the others lined up alongside me, separated by the clear walls. Prim looked terrified. Cass and Ali were watching the others, calculating, Sami was staring out in shock, and Natalie was biting her lip nervously. I glanced out, following Sami’s stare, and gasped. A giant board, like a game of snakes-and-ladders, was on the other side of the glass. Fluffy was standing on a platform nearby.
“I’d like to play a few… games,” she smirked.
“First up – a little game I like to call Death Drop. Watch,” She pointed out, where a mannequin stood on a square. We looked, and gasped. The mannequin was dressed in clothing similar to Ali’s favourite outfit, a blue wig sitting lopsidedly on its head. A sword was sticking out of its back. Fluffy flicked a switch, and the mannequin dropped into a hidden pit. The doors of our boxes opened. Fluffy grinned down at us, pointing at Prim.
“You first,” she purred.
Tentatively, Prim picked up the giant dice on the chequered start square, and threw it. A six. Slowly, Prim walked out across the squares, moving six places. A villager scuttled out onto the board, picked up the dice, and carried it back.
“Your turn, Sami,” cooed Fluffy. Sami shot the evil villainess a death glare before throwing the dice. It rolled lazily along and landed on four. Sami stalked onto the fourth square, pulling a supreme expression of bored indifference, although she was trembling slightly. Next it was Ali’s turn. She rolled a six and almost sprinted over to Prim, hugging her tight. Natalie followed, staying safe with a three. Cass joined her a moment later, and then it was my turn. Heart thudding, I lifted the dice and threw it. Four. I sighed in relief and walked over to Sami, noting with some discomfort Fluffy’s expression of amusement. Prim rolled the dice. It bounced a few times before settling on a three. Prim walked forwards hesitantly, and stopped on square three. With a creak, the trapdoor opened. Prim dropped with a shriek and vanished from sight.
“PRIM!!!” screamed Ali. She tried to run to the gaping hole, but she couldn’t leave her square – walls of glass had slid up, blocking her way. Ali hurled herself repeatedly into them, screeching in incoherent rage. The trapdoor swung shut with a click. Ali screamed Prim’s name one last time, and sank into a crumpled heap, sobbing.
Sami rolled a three. As she passed Ali, she stroked her blue hair comfortingly. Ali sniffled and stood up, slowly. She rolled a four, and stumbled along four squares.
Somehow, incredibly, we made it through the rest of the game without anyone else falling. We were taken back to our cage and left alone in the semidarkness, huddled together in the furthest corner.
It felt like an eternity, but as we were drifting off to sleep, Fluffy appeared with something slung across her shoulders.
“I have a present for you, Ali,” she taunted, and threw Prim’s limp body into the cage. Ali pounced on Prim and brushed the brown hair off of her face. Prim shifted slightly. She was unconscious, but still breathing. A long cut marred her innocent features, just missing her right eye.
Ali shook Prim somewhat roughly, and I placed a hand on the blue-haired archer’s shoulder to calm her as the younger girl stirred and opened her green eyes.
“What did she do to you!” demanded Ali, squashing Prim to her chest. Prim gasped and scrabbled at Ali’s shoulders, wincing in pain. Ali held her at arm’s length and shifted aside the bottom of her pink t-shirt. Black and purple bruising was blossoming across Prim’s ribcage, each bruise perfectly the shape of a boot print. Ali snarled as Prim bit her lip, tears welling in her eyes.
“What did that – that – that evil creature do to you?!” snarled Ali, her voice dropping to a deadly whisper. In the half light, her hair looked midnight-black, and her eyes a vivid indigo. Prim shook her head violently, eyes wide at even the memories of what Fluffy had done. I punched the wall in blind fury, succeeding only in making a lovely cracking sound from my knuckles.
It must have been late, but the semidarkness was disorientating. All we knew was that we were tired, and so we curled together in a heap and dozed off.
I woke up at the bottom of a glass tower, within its walls. Up the back wall was a set of hand-holds, and the floor seemed soft. Looking around, I saw Cass, Sami, Ali and Nat in similar towers, but no Prim. Then I spotted her – dangling in mid-air by a harness, swinging dangerously over a pit of lava.
Fluffy was perched on the edge of a platform just behind Prim, next to a large timer. She pointed to a knife, aimed at Prim’s suspending rope.
“In one hour, that knife will cut the rope. If the rope is cut, Prim will fall and burn to a tiny little crisp,” smirked Fluffy, looking smugly over at the dangling Prim, who glared and spat in Fluffy’s general direction.
“All you have to do to save her is climb to the top of your tower and hold down the pressure plates – all of them at once. As I said, you have one hour. Start climbing,” She leaned over and flicked a switch. The timer started its’ deadly countdown.
I threw myself at the wall and started to haul myself up, but it wasn’t easy. The handholds were slippery, and I almost fell twice. I caught sight of Cass, walking easily up the wall, and Fluffy’s shocked face with a smirk. One up for us. Then I lost my grip and almost fell, clinging on by the tips of my fingers. I dragged myself onto the platform and slammed most of my weight onto the pressure plate. Ali and Cass were already at the top, Natalie had just made it, and Sami had remembered she could fly and was shooting up like a blonde rocket. As Sami pounced on her plate, the rope holding Prim was suddenly yanked upwards. Dragging her back through a hole in the ceiling and out of sight. Ali screamed in frustration and leaped, catching the knife arm, swinging around it like a gymnast, and flinging herself up through the hole after Prim.
Neither of them reappeared in the cage until the next morning, when Fluffy appeared, Prim slung over her back, and dragging a struggling Ali by her hair. Ali yowled and twisted madly, kicking out as Fluffy shoved her unceremoniously through the door and tossed Prim in after her. Ali wrapped herself around Prim’s shaking body and hissed at us all, retreating into a dark corner. Her blue eyes were wide, frightened, and she didn’t seem to recognise anyone but Prim. Fluffy smirked.
“Don’t worry, girls. Just one more game, and I’ll let you go... promise,” she purred, and walked away. Ali hissed faintly and nestled her face into Prim’s hair.
They fell asleep like that, Prim tucked into the sheltering curve of Ali’s body, and the rest of us sat close together, trying to stay calm, all through that day, until we too drifted off to sleep, curling up together on the cold stone floor.
We were awoken somewhat rudely by Fluffy, kicking the bars and making an awful racket. Cass sat up, yelled at Fluffy – something that made Natalie and I quickly put our hands over Prim and Sami’s ears. Fluffy growled something back and then smiled.
“One last game, girls,” she smirked, and pulled a lever. We fell, twisting uncontrollably, and landed, hard in six glass pods – well, I assume we all did. Once again, we were separated along the chute.
Fluffy’s voice rang out over a speaker, and I saw Ali cringe at the sound, before a strange kind of coloured smoke filled my pod, obscuring all vision. A strange kind of adrenaline surged through me. I wanted something. Any sort of object, just something I could rip apart. Fluffy would be a good thing to break. To destroy. The smoke cleared. I scanned the arena laid out before me, spotting every weapon – knives, swords, nets, axes… and found myself picturing Fluffy, sprawled on the ground… possibly in a few pieces, with a sword through her chest. I turned my head and saw Ali. Her hair and eyes were dark with fury, and she was hurling herself at the walls of her pod, straining to reach the sword.
“Well then, girls. Here we are. My last game. All you have to do… is be the last one alive. Then I’ll let that person free. Everyone else… will die,” purred Fluffy’s voice, and the pods released. Ali shot forwards like a cheetah, snatching up the sword. I dived for a rucksack just outside my pod, and dived into the concealment of the trees that formed the edge of the arena. Watching through the leaves, I saw Ali charge.
Sami had no time to move. Ali’s sword pierced her ribcage before she had time to realise what had happened. She crumpled into a lifeless heap, redness staining her shirt. I screamed from where I was in the tree, unable to believe it. Ali has just- just – murdered Sami! Killed her as though she were a pig – one that would soon meet vegetables and a plate. The blue-haired archer’s head whipped around, staring into the trees for the source of my scream. Luckily, she was distracted by a furious Cass pouncing on her from behind, wrestling her to the floor. But not for long. Ali twisted, and I saw the sword point emerge through Cass’s back. The Kameleonne gasped in pain and Ali shoved her away, leaving her writhing in pain, until she went limp, sprawled out beside Sami. Ali paced in a circle, her sword dripping red, eyes scanning for a new target. Natalie made a dash for a first-aid kit, and Ali saw her. I closed my eyes, but couldn’t block Natalie’s piercing shriek of agony ripping into my ears. A tiny whimper, and I opened my eyes to see Natalie pinned to the ground, Ali’s sword stuck through her body. Her eyes were open, but glassy. I felt it. My eyes prickled. After so many years… after we survived a plane crash… the girl I had loved like and older sister was dead. I sobbed into my palms as Ali walked triumphantly away from Nat’s limp form. Trying to be silent, I crawled through the bushes to Natalie’s side, and gently slid her blue eyes closed. Ali’s head turned, and I ran without thinking twice. I knew I was a faster runner than Ali. She wouldn’t catch me, particularly as she was carrying a heavy sword. But then I heard the squeal. Prim’s squeal. I raced towards it to see Ali stalking a terrified Prim.
“Ali! Ali, it’s me! Ali! Please, don’t do this! Ali!” begged Prim, tears flowing down her cheeks. Ali raised her sword. I looked away. I didn’t want to see Prim die. Her final scream rang around the arena, and, too late, I realised that I had no cover. For a second I stared into Ali’s eyes. Then, she started to stalk me.
I just stared at her. Watched her coming closer. I felt like a statue. Prim… the one person, above all, who Ali would defend to her final breath. But she was dead. Prim was dead. Sami was dead. Cass and Natalie were dead. There was only me and Ali. Me, and a vicious killer. My attention sharpened. Ali was right in front of me. I felt the tears sliding down my face, and she raised her sword.
I felt the cold tip pierce my chest. An icy wave of pain ripped through me, and I felt the warm wetness of my own blood soaking through my shirt. I fell back with a thump, and saw Ali standing over me. She was wearing a triumphant smile. Darkness started creeping over my vision. The world was fading. It was over. I was dying.
I sat bolt upright, accidentally head-butting Natalie. I was in my room, at home, tangled in my blankets, covered in a cold sweat mingling with tears on my cheeks.
“Natalie!” I gasped, and hugged her. She hesitated for a moment, then hugged me back, rocking gently, and I sobbed into her shoulder.
“Ali, Ali killed you! You died! I suppose I’m dead now too…” I sniffled, hiccupping halfway through my sentence. Natalie gently pushed me off, stroking my hair off of my forehead.
“Shhhh, Crysta. We’re all fine. It was just a dream,” she soothed. I stared at her.
“I was… dreaming?” I asked. She nodded.
“So… no-one’s dead?” Nat shook her head, gently. I sighed. Natalie gently turned me to face the same way as her, letting me lean against her chest.
“It must have been a bad nightmare,” she murmured. You were thrashing around all over the place, screaming. I shifted to look up at her.
“It was awful” I replied. Natalie chuckled.
“I suppose Halloween does give you strange nightmares…” she smiled at me. I snorted softly and snuggled closer.
“Happy Halloween,” I teased.
I leaned back on my elbows, stretching out on the soft sand. Prim was building an enormous sandcastle nearby, helped by Sami and a thoroughly over-excited Ali. Natalie was sunbathing on a flat rock, and Cass was climbing on the huge rocky wall behind us. Zoe was stretching her delicate wings in the sun, basking, catlike, on a rock close to Natalie.
Prim sat back on her knees and stretched, her back arching.
“Shall we go for a swim?” she asked, and Ali bounced to her feet, nodding excitedly. I rolled my eyes, but jumped up too.
“Why not,” I smiled, shrugging. Cass somersaulted down from the rocks, and Natalie rolled off of her rock. Zoe fluttered onto the sand, purring. Sami looked up, and Cass pulled her to her feet.
“Last one in is a mouldy potato!” I shrieked, and sprinted towards the water. Zoe went arrowing past me, wings tucked in close. I ran along a spur of rocks and dived into warm, deep water, my legs instantly replaced by my silvery-blue tail. The others leaped in after me, splashing down with wild enthusiasm.
There was a shower of glittering silver sparks, and instead of one mermaid, there was suddenly six of us, bobbing in the water, swishing our long tails. I flicked my tail, circling the others.
“Well, this is weird,” I mused. A golden head broke the surface – Zoe has somehow turned into a dolphin. I stroked her nose gently, and swam back to look at the others. Prim was looking nervous, a pink tail swirling in the water. Ali placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder, a pale blue tail keeping her afloat. Prim smiled. Cass was staring at her own red tail, and Sami was swimming small circles around her. Natalie was bobbing at my shoulder, looking worried.
“I suppose the best thing to do would be to explore! I’ve always wanted to show you the sea floor!” I grinned, and dived.
The others dived after me, and we powered through the water. I noticed that I was much faster than the others, and paused and looked back. They were moving confidently, but I saw that their tail flukes were much smaller than mine, and that the transition between their tails and their torsos was far more defined. I supposed it was the difference between a true mermaid and magically transformed humans – well, at least, not mermaids. I flicked my tail and glided deeper, the others following. We glided around reefs of coral, wove between shoals of glittering fish, and played chase among beds of twisting seaweed. I leaned my elbows on to edge of a coral and looked out through the water. The others floated up beside me and followed my gaze. Something golden-yellow, something shimmering, marred the silvery horizon.
“What’s that?” asked Prim.
“Let’s go find out!” grinned Ali, and launched herself over the coral, closely pursued by Sami and Prim. Cass hesitated, then chased her best friend. I grinned at Natalie, and we swam off in a group, leaving a long trail of bubbles.
We swam on, deeper into the water, following the source of the misty golden glow. I turned a delicate loop in the water, laughing as Cass attempted the manoeuvre and disappeared, headfirst, into a bed of seaweed. I helped her out and we continued along our way.
The golden glow slowly grew as we approached, until it solidified into a truly breath-taking sight.
Buildings of pearly-white stone, with glittering coral roofs, surrounded a glowing castle. Merpeople swam between the buildings, pausing to greet each other before swimming on. Some carried shopping bags, others were trailing pet fish on leashes, and I even spotted one riding in a dolphin-drawn cart. I heard five gasps beside me and one soft whistle. The others were clearly stunned.
A horn sounded within the gleaming city. Merpeople started to gather in the square, looking up at a raised platform. Two merpeople, a man and a woman, swam gracefully onto the platform. Both had soft brown hair floating in clouds. The woman had piercingly green eyes, where the man had ice-blue. They were vaguely familiar to me…
It hit me. I realised exactly who they were. My head span out of control, the world whirling around me, everything going fuzzy…
My eyelids felt heavy. I struggled to open them and saw Natalie, her gills fluttering, hair swirling around her face, looking concerned. I was sprawled on the sandy sea floor, the others floating around me. I tried to sit up, but dizziness clawed at me, dragging my shoulders back to the sand. Natalie slipped her arm behind me and pushed me upright. I put a hand to my forehead.
“Are you ok?” asked Natalie, as I flicked my tail and swam upwards.
“I’m fine… I just…” I tried to explain, but I couldn’t find the words. Suddenly, Ali growled and Prim squeaked in surprise. We were surrounded. Merpeople wearing armour and carrying shark-tooth spears were floating on all sides.
“Come with us,” ordered one of them, and they started to move, shepherding us along. We swam unwillingly, avoiding the sharp points aimed towards us.
We were directed into the city, still surrounded, straight towards the palace entrance. The doors swung smoothly open, and the merpeople herded us inside. I looked towards the end of the room and saw those two familiar merpeople sitting on intricate coral thrones. I ducked my head. Would they recognise me?
They glided over to us, circling. I kept my head down. My heart was thudding painfully. The woman’s voice sounded in my ears, cool and musical. Achingly familiar.
“Who are you?” she asked. I felt the others share a look, full of unspoken words. Then the man spoke. His voice was soft, and it too was familiar.
“Is that who I think…” he murmured. I felt the stare, the point. I felt the woman swim forwards, parting the group. A soft hand brushed my cheek, lifted my chin, and I looked into familiar green eyes, precisely the same shape as my own. She gasped. Her husband glided forwards, hesitantly. He stared into my face, recognising the colour of my eyes, the tone of my hair, and the shape of my face. Little details here and there that made me… me. Crysta. Their daughter. My mother smiled and pulled me to her chest, hugging me tightly. My father’s arms slid around us both, uniting us. I could feel the love from them, the rush of relief and joy that my parents felt, and the confusion pulsing from my friends like a burning heat. Gently, I pushed my parents off and turned to smile at my friends.
“Girls, these are my parents,” I explained. Natalie relaxed, her eyes scanning their faces, recognising them. The others’ expressions softened slightly, and I felt an impatient tug on my fingertips.
“Come,” murmured my mother, before leading me away from my friends.
She led me through the palace, but I kept looking back. I saw the servants herding my friends towards another room. It made me uneasy.
I was provided with everything. Anything I could want. My parents showered me with all kinds of trinkets, gifts. I felt strange. This felt like the place I should be. But… I didn’t want to stay. I wanted to go back to the land. Sitting on my bed, I stared at the ceiling. A trapped feeling swelled in my chest. I wanted to go home. Right now. I pushed the door open and swam as fast as I could through the hallways, remembering the way, following an invisible trail to my friends. I wrenched open a door and they burst out of it. We raced through the palace. I wanted to go faster. Grabbing Natalie’s hand and Prim’s arm, I sped up. In turn, they grabbed Ali and Sami, and Sami caught hold of Cass. I dragged them all along, powering through the water. I burst out of the palace, streaking through the city. A shout made me glance back. At least twenty guards were swimming after us, spears raised.
“Princess!” one of them yelled. “You must come back!”
I ignored them and continued to speed through the water, following some kind of invisible path, heading back home. I felt something tug on my tail.
“Keep swimming!” I screeched, twisting around to land a punch on the guard’s nose. He howled and fell back, but they were everywhere, surrounding me. They caught me gently by the arms and started tugging me back.
“Your parents are worried about you,” one of them soothed. I glared at her and struggled to pull myself free.
“You must come back!” insisted another. The silvery-blue fluke of Ali’s tail whipped down and smacked him full across the face, making him release me. I beat my tail harder against the water, struggling to break free. Prim tugged another off of me, and Natalie punched one into unconsciousness, then stared in amazement at her fist.
I laughed, ripping myself free of the other guards, and we swam at top speed up to the surface and jumped out. Sami caught us with a gust of warm air, and we floated down onto the soft sand of Misty Cove, all human again. I sighed.
“Why are my parent so possessive?” I wondered aloud. Natalie smirked.
“I don’t know, but I certainly know that I don’t want to share,”
White Terrors – Natalie’s POV
My alarm clock was beeping. More annoyingly than usual. The only real thought in my brain was 'Coffee...'
I opened my eyes.
Wait a second... my bedroom ceiling was NOT white. And my bed was normally much more comfortable. I turned my head, slowly, and felt something stuck to my face. I reached up to brush it away and realised that my left hand was wrapped in bandage. I held it out and spotted the thin tube leading from an IV needle sticking into the back of my hand. I turned my head the other way and saw the outline of a monitor, wires leading from it towards me. I realised where I was. My head spun and I flopped back onto the pillow with a soft ‘flump’.
My eyelids felt like lead, but I forced them open and remembered where I was. My heart started going faster, speeding up the beeping on that stupid heart monitor. I snarled, pulling the wires off of my chest, pulling the tube out of the IV, even though the needle stayed embedded in the back of my hand. I yanked the oxygen-thing off of my face and hurled myself at the door. Amazingly, it was unlocked, but as I wrenched it open and pelted down the corridor outside, someone rushed around the corner, evidently alerted by the monotonous bleep emitted by the disconnected heart monitor. I skidded to a stop and fled in the other direction.
I don’t remember the chase. I don’t remember anything until I woke up, back in my bed, all the wires and tubes reconnected, and Crysta glaring at me from the corner.
“What did you do that for?” she growled. I blinked. Crysta arched one brown eyebrow.
“You’re ill, Nat. And you have to stay put,” she told me. I blinked stupidly, not taking in a word. My gaze flicked to the door.
“Don’t. You. Dare.” hissed Crysta. I dived, everything yanking free of me, and I half-leaped, half-flew across the room, ripped the door open and fled. I heard Crysta snarling a curse under her breath, and her light footsteps powering after me. I pushed myself to run faster, even though I knew she would catch me. Not only was she the fastest of us, I was slightly unsteady on my feet, and rubbish at sprinting. Her steps were right behind me, I could hear her breathing. Gentle arms wrapped around my chest and tugged me to a halt. I writhed, thrashing and kicking madly. Crysta sank with me onto the floor, pinning me to her chest.
“Shhh-hssh-shh,” she murmured, soothingly, but I wasn’t listening, too busy trying to pull myself free. I rolled out of her grip, heat rushing to my fingertips, igniting two little balls of flame in my hands.
“Natalie…” began Crysta. Two doctors skidded around the corner behind her and I shot a torrent of fire at them, missing Crysta’s face by less than a foot. She screeched like the flames had hit her and crumpled into a heap.
‘Woops,’ I thought, remembering that my best friend was actually a mermaid. One of the doctors rushed to her and crouched. I didn’t like him being so close to her, but I also didn’t want to hurt Crysta more. People moved around me, but I ignored them, still watching Crysta, sprawled on the floor. A hand fastened around my wrist. I growled in warning but didn’t fight back. Then something cold hit the back of my hand, and I realised what they were doing. I twisted, yowling, and kicked out, bowling several nurses over, but whatever sedative they had just given me acted fast. My head spun, waves of blackness lapping at me, trying to drag me under and drown me in the depths of sleep. An enormous wave of dizziness washed over my head, dragging my eyelids shut and knocking me into blissful unconsciousness.
I opened my eyes, back in my room. This time, I turned my head to see Crysta, apparently asleep in the bed next to me. She too was connected to an IV and a heart monitor. Guilt burst in my ribcage, clawing to get out. That was my fault. I tried to get up, but found something stopping me. A thick strap was wrapped over my hips, the buckle just out of reach. I snarled in frustration and clawed at it, trying to wriggle free. Crysta suddenly gasped, arching off of her bed. She rolled and landed couched on the floor like some kind of feral cat, snapping all of her connections loose. A shrill alarm sounded somewhere, and she panicked, scrambling to her feet, rebounding off of my bed, and pelting out of the open door. I stared after her for a moment, then saw that her collision had knocked the buckle into my reach. I ripped it free and chased after her, fear causing adrenaline to shoot through my limbs, and I kept pace with her as we fled from the twenty-or-so doctors pursuing us through the hospital corridors. Crysta stumbled suddenly and rolled onto the floor. I pulled her to her feet and half-carried, half-dragged her into a safe-looking corner, where she crouched behind me as I pressed backwards, my fingertips bursting into flames. The doctors hemmed us in, and I shot jets of flames at any who dared advance. Crysta, crouched behind me, was growling like some kind of wild beast, a low and threatening sound. One of the doctors inched forwards, palms open to show he meant no harm. I snarled and blasted the floor at his feet with fire. He jumped back, as another tried to creep forwards. I watched her, slightly less afraid of her than of him. Something about her face reminded me of Prim. Then she lunged towards Crysta, trying to catch her, and I aimed so close to her that she screamed in fright. I snickered distastefully to myself. Did they think I was that stupid? Did they think Crysta was some kind of prisoner? Didn’t they realise I was defending my sister from them? I realised I was muttering to myself, and that Crysta had heard me. She leaned onto my legs and hissed like a feral cat at the closest doctors, sounding so malevolent that they scrambled backwards.
Running footsteps came around the corner, and I saw Ali’s blue hair bobbing over everyone’s heads. She pushed the doctors aside and looked at me. I glared back, refusing to trust anyone.
Suddenly, I realised Cass was gone. I looked up just in time for her to land on my back, knocking me to the floor. Through the whirl of red hair, I saw Crysta hiss and flee, knocking several of the hospital staff flying. Ali sprinted after her and full tilt, and I knew we were both caught. There was no way an unsteady half-burnt Crysta could outrun an unburdened and perfectly healthy Ali. Cass arranged herself to sit on my lower back, effectively pinning me under her.
I hissed in frustration, wishing I was as strong as Crysta or Ali. I twisted my body, pushing upwards with my hands on the cold floor, and then spotted the syringe in a nurse’s hand. I growled, tucking my left hand under my body. They tried to prise it out, Cass lifting my shoulders up, and it was tugged forwards despite my best efforts. The syringe tip was pressed into the IV sticking out of my hand, and the coldness of the sedative seeped into my veins. I was unconscious before my head hit the floor.
I hardly remember the next week we spent in there, doctors coming and going, visits from Cass, Ali, Sami and Prim. Some kind of mild sedative had been mixed into whatever medicine was in the IV drip, which made me dizzy and half-asleep most of the time. Crysta seemed similarly drowsy, and I assumed the same had been done to her.
We were discharged – finally – at the end of the week. Walking with Sami to where Hailey and Artistic Sunset stood waiting with the cart, I thought absently of my fish, Peter. He would probably have missed me.
“Yes Nat, what’s wrong?”
“You better have been feeding Peter”
“Sami….” I growled.
“Well… I... I sort of… forgot you had a fish,”
I jumped into the cart, dragging the other in, scooped up the reins and yanked them a little harder that I should have, but it didn’t matter to me – I had to get back to Peter.
Bursting through the front door, I sprinted to the kitchen. There was Peter, bobbing happily in his tank, perhaps a little thinner than usual but still in perfect health.
“Thank goodness you're a little hoarder,” I sighed, remembering his bad habit of hiding half of his daily food for later.
Feral – Sami’s POV
I rolled over in my bed, only half awake. A sudden series of thumps jerked me out of semi-consciousness. That sounded suspiciously like Natalie falling down the stairs. I swung myself out of bed and peered down the stairs. No heap of purple pyjamas. I pushed Natalie’s door open. She was still curled up in bed, fast asleep.
I half-stumbled, half-fell down the stairs. The thumping was coming from… Crysta’s room? It sounded like she was trying to wrestle with twelve zombies – something heavy kept hitting the walls, and I could hear a soft growling. Tentatively, I opened the door, and Crysta shot out of it, still in her sky-blue pajamas, and skidded towards the kitchen, snarling. I followed her, and saw that she was crouched beside the garage door. She hissed at me and darted across the room, knocking me out of the way and scrabbling at the door to the little room next to the kitchen. She shoved it open and charged at the back door, almost ripping it off of its hinges, and pelted towards Cass’s house. I arrived just in time to see her knock Ali away from Hybrid Eclipse, swing herself into his saddle, and take off.
“What on earth?” asked Ali, looking at me.
“No idea,” I replied, and whistled to summon Nevaro, just as Natalie appeared, looking sleepy, riding Nemo, with a travel-cup of coffee clutched in her hands. Her blue eyes scanned our faces, and she looked after Crysta, who was rapidly vanishing into the distance.
“Crysta? Wait, what? Oh no!” she muttered to herself, seeming to snap awake. She whistled and Hailey appeared at her side.
Ali smiled gratefully and swung herself up into the saddle. We flicked the reins as one and charged after Crysta.
I can certainly say that, for a heart-beat, the scene was somewhat funny. Jordy, Mira, Hope and Leo were stood close together, staring up at Crysta, who was perching on top of the sheriff’s, back arched, hissing down at them.
“Do you mind telling me what on earth is going on here!?” snapped Jordy, pointing furiously up at Crysta, who snarled.
Natalie half-slid, half-toppled off of Nemo, staring up at her best friend.
“I really don’t know, but I think it might have something to do with being in a hospital for the last week…” mused Natalie. Jordy made as if to slap her, but Hope caught her hand.
“Maybe we should focus on getting her down?” she asked. Crysta growled like a wild dog and narrowed her eyes. I looked up at her and she stared back. It was as if she was a feral cat locked in a human body. She didn’t seem to recognise any of us.
A furious tussling broke out behind me and Ali yelped.
“Hey! Get off, that’s mine!” I turned to see Jordy wrestling Ali’s bow and quiver off of her, and digging through the arrows. Triumphantly she tugged out one with silvery-blue flights and dumped the quiver on the ground.
“Jordy… what are you doing?” asked the blue haired archer, trying to dodge past Mira and Hope, who were blocking her way.
“I’m going to try and hit her with this,” growled Jordy, carefully aiming Ali’s bow at Crysta, then firing. Mira flicked a bit of brown hair out of her face and looked up to see the arrow hit Crysta in the side. Ali snarled.
“That wasn’t what you thought it was,” she hissed, furious.
Crysta was twitching madly, shaking her head like a damp dog. She howled like a werewolf and leaped across a huge gap onto the horse statue.
“You just hit her with an arrow that makes you jump higher,” explained Ali in a deadly whisper. Jordy blushed slightly and Leo rolled her eyes.
“Sometimes, Jordy, you just don’t think, do you?” she teased.
“Oh, shush,” growled Jordy, her blush deepening. Crysta hissed at us from where she perched on the horse statue rearing in the square.
“Well, how do you think we should catch her?” asked Jordy. Ali shrugged. I tilted my head. I lifted my hands up and a swirl of wind scooped Crysta up and set her lightly on her feet. She hissed and tried to flee, but Ali and Jordy pounced. Catching her by an arm each, they managed to keep her still, even though she writhed and kicked, hissing and spitting like a feral cat. She threw herself backwards, slamming her wrists together. Jordy and Ali were dragged inwards. Their heads knocked together and both stumbled, releasing Crysta’s arms. She took off, and Prim jumped into her way. Crysta ran her over and continued running. Prim rolled onto her front and blasted a force field around Crysta. She pelted into the wall and bounced off, hissing. Natalie advanced slowly, and Prim created a neat hole for her to pass through, and Natalie circled slowly. Crysta was crouched in the centre of the force field, growling. Natalie was talking to her, too quietly to hear from where we stood, and, at long last, Crysta straightened up. She still looked wary, thought she had allowed Nat to get a little closer. Finally, she pounced on Natalie, almost squashing her in a soft hug. Prim let the force-field drop, smiling.
Natalie walked over, guiding Crysta. She glanced sideways and then sighed.
“It was something to do with the hospital,” explained Natalie.
“She reacted to something they gave her,”
Crysta half-smiled, hunching her shoulders.
“Sorry,” she apologized.
Jordy flicked a hair out of her face and said nothing. Leo arched an eyebrow and shooed her back onto her horse and out of the square, gracefully mounting her own horse and riding away. Mira and Hope smiled at us, waved, and left. Crysta shook her hair, turning it into something like a fluffy brown tornado, and then flicked it off of her face. She whistled, summoning Lightning Dust. Swinging herself up into the saddle, she flashed us all a cheeky grin.
“Race ya home!” she yowled excitedly, and took off. We exchanged half-amused looks, and then Ali gave a predatory grin, leaped onto Hybrid Eclipse, and shot after Crysta.
Don’t Cry – Cass’s POV
Prim squealed delightedly as another bolt of white lightning flickered past the window. I folded my legs closer to my body, up-side down on the ceiling, as my five best friends clustered around the living-room window, watching the storm. For a heartbeat, I closed my amber eyes. There was a flash of purple lightning, so bright that I saw it through my closed eyelids, and Sami screamed. I opened my eyes and looked down to see five heaps of clothes steaming on the floor. I dropped off of the ceiling, landing lightly behind the heap containing white jeans and an orange top – what was left of Sami. My eyes pricked, but then…
The heap moved. Tentatively, I crouched down, and poked it. The heap squeaked, and out of it emerged a tufty curl of blonde hair. Carefully, I picked up the t-shirt, and… a small toddler in a bright orange onesie rolled out of it, giggling. The other four heaps of clothes wiggled too, revealing four more toddlers – one with fluffy blue hair and a light-blue onesie, one with dark brown curls and a pink onesie, and two that were almost indistinguishable, with light brown hair and blue eyes. One was wearing a minty-coloured onesie, and the other was in white. The orange tot waved her chubby fists at me, giggling. For a second, I stared, stupidly. Then something clicked.
“Sami?” I asked. The toddler clapped her little hands. I scooped her up, and she patted my face. The little blue-haired toddler crawled across the floor and hugged my leg. I guessed that it was Ali. The two that looked similar had started a game of patty-cake, waving their hands and giggling at each other. The tot in pink wobbled to her feet and tottered across the room, laughing delightedly. There was a sudden, sharp tug on my hair.
“Ouch! Sami!” I yelped. Sami blinked up at me, eyes widening. Her lip trembled. I realised my mistake.
“No, no, no! Don’t cry, Sami! Don’t-” My sentence was cut off as she howled.
I hugged her close, stroking her fluffy hair and murmuring words of comfort. She clung to my shoulders and sobbed, and I slowly knelt down, avoiding Ali’s tiny fingers. Sami slid onto my lap and rubbed her knuckles into her eyes. She sneezed, and a long slug of green shot out of her nose. I grabbed a bit of tissue and wiped it clean, and she gurgled merrily.
The mint-clad toddler crawled past me, and I looked up to see that none of them were in the room anymore. There was a crash from the kitchen. Panicking, I jumped up, sweeping Sami onto my hip, and ran to investigate. Ali, Sami, Natalie, and Crysta were sitting it a cupboard, munching their way happily through a packet of chocolate-chip cookies. Ali chomped on a cookie and giggled. Either Crysta or Natalie – I couldn’t tell the difference – rolled out of the cupboard. I stood up and got myself a glass of water. The toddler played absently with the zipper on her mint onesie and then crawled onto my lap and poked my glass of water. A couple of drops hopped over the edge and landed on her head. For half a second, we looked at each other, then she flopped off of my knee, her tiny legs now a silvery-blue fish tail. I picked her up.
“So, you’re Crysta,” I decided, as she flicked her tail and giggled.
I set her down and she wiggled off like a caterpillar, fluttering her silver fins. Natalie yawned from in the cupboard, and Ali rubbed her eyes sleepily. Carefully, I gathered them up in my arms and tried to get them to settle down on the sofa. They blinked at me sleepily, arranged in a line. Natalie’s blue eyes were just starting to close… when someone hammered loudly on the door. Crysta dived off of the sofa in panic and latched onto my leg. Ali jumped onto my back, and Sami scrambled over to press herself against me. I stood up carefully, perching Sami on my hip, and speed-shuffled towards the front door, where someone was still knocking furiously, determined to come in. Natalie crawled after me, giggling, and Sami snuffled into my hair. I wrenched the door open, stopping Natalie from going outside with my foot, and came face to face with… Fluffy? She had ditched the mask and the black, now opting for ripped grey jeans and a long-sleeved shirt in a dark indigo. Her brown hair was plastered to her face, which, in absence of the mask and her smirk, was quite pretty in an innocent sort of way – a bit like Prim. She was shivering and soaked to the skin, and wearing a look of shock at seeing me – someone she knew to be Ali’s friend. Her teeth were chattering slightly.
“C-c-can I come in? Please? It’s f-f-freezing out here,” she asked. The wind was biting my face, and she certainly looked frozen. Suddenly Prim toddled past my leg, balancing upright, and out into the rain. Fluffy bobbed down and picked her up. Prim stared at her for two seconds, then swung her little fist at Fluffy’s face. Fluffy’s head snapped sideways and she yelped. Prim wiggled her legs ineffectively and then gave up, sitting quietly in Fluffy’s arms. I shuffled aside and Fluffy hurried gratefully into the warmth, her brown eyes now seeking out each toddler clinging to me. She bent and carefully set Prim down, then peeled Crysta off of my leg. Crysta looked at Fluffy, eyes scanning her face, and then she threw the most violent tantrum I’ve ever seen. Kicking and screaming, punching every inch of Fluffy she could reach, she flailed herself free and crawled away at top speed. Natalie crawled after her and wrapped herself protectively around the screaming tot. Crysta snuffled, comforted by her best friend, and they watched Fluffy like two tiny owls, brown hair surrounding two wide-eyed faces. Fluffy spotted Ali, glaring at her from over my shoulder, and then glanced down as Prim crashed into her leg.
“Uhh… What happened here?” she asked, curiously.
“Honestly? I have no idea,” I replied. Ali suddenly released her hold and somehow slid all the way down my back, landing neatly on the floor, and crawled off towards the living room. I set about making Fluffy a cup of hot chocolate to warm her up, and had just handed her the hot mug topped with cream and one of Prim’s favourite marshmallows, when I heard a strange, high pitched noise.
It turned out to be Ali.
“Squee!” sang the little toddler. “Squee, squee, squeeee!” she giggled. Prim was giggling too, clapping her little hands.
“Squee!!” yelled Ali. “Squeeee!!” I put my hands over my ears, but I could still hear her, squee-ing over and over again, until my patience snapped.
“SQUEEEE!” I bellowed, whipping around to face her. Ali stared at me, eyes wide. For a second, I thought she was about to cry – but then she just burst out into giggles. A small growling noise interrupted her laughter. She looked down. Her belly rumbled again. Fluffy swept her up onto her hip.
“Aw, are you hungry?” she smiled, and Ali blinked cutely before nodding. Prim, sitting on the floor, patted my leg and pointed insistently to her mouth. I sighed and looked at Fluffy.
“Guess we’d better feed them,” I pointed out. Fluffy nodded and padded into the kitchen, completely unaffected by Ali nuzzling the side of her face, afraid of a sudden flash of lightning. Fluffy plonked Ali on a chair and told her to sit still, before opening one of the cupboards and pulling out potatoes, carrots, and peas. Ali wiggled impatiently. Fluffy quickly handed her a biscuit and she chomped happily on it, dribbling. Fluffy glanced over her shoulder.
“Can you tell me where the saucepans are?” she asked. I nodded and fished a couple out. In one swift movement, Fluffy tipped the potatoes and the peas into two of the saucepans, topped them up with water, and set them to boil. Then she tossed a carrot at me and dug out two cheese-graters. She beckoned me over, and started shredding her carrot into pieces. When both of the carrots were merely shreds, she took out five plastic plates and divided the grated carrot between them. Then she took both saucepans off of the cooker, turned the heat off, and pushed the peas towards me.
“We need to mash them up so they can eat them,” she explained. I pulled out two mashers and we both started turning our vegetables into pulp. When no lumps were left, Fluffy split them equally onto the plates.
“Now all we have to do… is find the toddlers,” I sighed. Natalie wasn’t hard to find. She was sitting with Crysta, who was cuddling her while she screamed. I spotted them from across the room, but pointedly aimed for Sami, who was chasing a dancing spot of light. I scooped her into my arms and carried her back into the kitchen. Fluffy lifted the screaming Natalie, making soft, soothing noises. As soon as Natalie was gone, however, Crysta started wailing too. Fluffy shifted Natalie into one arm and knelt next to Crysta. She pulled the other screaming toddler into her arms and carefully stood up, holding them both close and making quiet shushing noises. They sniffled and hiccupped into silence and Fluffy set them down side-by-side on a chair. Crysta tipped her head like a puppy, and Natalie brightened suddenly. Ali wailed hungrily and pounded her tiny fists on the table. Fluffy looked at me.
“I think we should feed Ali and Prim first,” she grinned. Prim was staring eagerly at the two plates in Fluffy’s hands. Setting the two plates just out of the toddlers’ reach, she turned to me.
“Do you want to feed Prim or Ali?” she asked. I shrugged. Ali patted her hand and pointed imperiously at me. Fluffy laughed.
“Guess that’s our answer,” I picked up the little plastic spoon Fluffy was holding out, and scooped up the first morsel of potato. Ali opened her mouth hungrily and I tipped the potato in. She chewed it ineffectually and gulped. I continued to feed her, spoonful by spoonful, until her plate was clean. Fluffy had somehow had more success with Prim and was already feeding Natalie. I offered Sami the first spoon of her meal, and she ate hungrily, licking her little lips afterwards. Fluffy was now trying to feed Crysta – who did not appreciate it. She was dodging the spoon, hissing when it came near her. Fluffy waved the spoon enticingly and Crysta’s blue eyes fixed on it, mesmerized. Fluffy moved the spoon close, and Crysta licked the potato off of the end. She licked her lips, then thumped the table with her fists and opened her mouth for more. Fluffy offered her the next spoonful, and had soon finished her meal.
Ali hiccupped slightly, and Fluffy scooped her up. I carried Sami and Prim and settled them together on the sofa, sitting beside them. Fluffy placed Natalie and Crysta on the floor in a heap of cushions and went to fetch Ali. As she reappeared carrying the blue-haired tot, a blinding flash of electric-pink lightning lit the room, accompanied by Fluffy’s surprised yelp and a thud. When the black spots faded from my vision, I saw Ali, fully grown again, sitting on Fluffy’s hips.
“You!” she hissed. Crysta squealed and scrambled into a corner. Natalie hurried after her and half-crouched, protectively. Fluffy struggled pointlessly, pinned under Ali’s weight. Ali, without her bow or sword, caught Fluffy by the throat. Fluffy choked, struggling for breath. I dived off of the sofa and dragged her off.
“Ali, no!” I scolded. She writhed in my grip, kicking and twisting. Prim was trembling on the sofa with Sami hunched beside her.
“Ali, stop it!” I bellowed. Surprised, she went limp in my arms. I nearly dropped her. Sinking to my knees, I arranged myself so that I could hold Ali back if necessary. A low growl rumbled from her.
“What is she doing here?” she hissed. Fluffy shifted into a sitting position, brown eyes locked on Ali’s. She looked oddly like a frightened rabbit. I sighed.
“It’s a long story…”
With Fluffy’s help, I managed to explain – the lightning, the transforming, and all the escapades with Crysta or Natalie screaming their faces off.
Crysta was still watching Fluffy as though she was likely to bite at any moment, but Prim and Sami had relaxed. Ali was keeping one eye on Fluffy. I sighed to myself.
Maybe it would take a while for them to trust her.
The Puzzle Of The Presents – Christmas Special
Through the darkness of the night, the white snow glittered in between the trees. Specks of coloured light danced in the breeze as baubles on the tree bobbed on its prickly branches, gleaming like fairies in the silvery moonlight.
A dark shape flitted past the presents piled under the tree. They surveyed to presents with an evil smirk playing on their dark face. Their eyes darted between the presents, seeking out the ones addressed to them, and then they bent to change the tags on every present but their own.
I opened my eyes slowly, a slight smile curling my lips. Christmas Day. At last, at long last. I rolled out of bed and skipped loudly down the hallway into the kitchen. Of course, I can move as silently as a ninja, but when it’s Christmas… waking my almost-sisters comes above stealth. I started making Christmas breakfast – bacon, fried eggs, beans, and hot toast. I heard sleepy movements from upstairs. Holding a jar of marmalade in one hand, and the bread knife in the other, I poked my head into the hallway.
“Sami!! Nat!! Breakfast!!!” I bellowed, and heard the unmistakeable sound of Natalie falling out of her bed.
They shuffled sleepily into the kitchen, leaning on each other and yawning. I pulled a chair away from the table and steered them both into a chair each, before offering Natalie her morning pot of coffee, and setting a steaming, cream-and-marshmallow-topped hot chocolate in front of Sami, placing the other beside my plate and flopping into my chair, hungrily chomping on my bacon while Sami licked the cream off of her hot chocolate, and Natalie chewed happily on a fried egg. When the plates were empty - and Nat was fully awake – she scooped up the dishes and slid them into the sink. Sami looked at me.
“Can’t we leave it ‘till later? You know we’ve got the annual Christmas Feast later – they don’t need washing right now, do they?” she pleaded hopefully. I snorted, half-amused, half scornful. Anything to get out of doing her job - drying and putting away the pots, which she shared with Natalie, alternating between washing and drying every day. I folded my arms.
“Nope!” Sami groaned and hauled herself miserably to her feet, collecting a tea-towel and helping Natalie clear up.
About half an hour later, we stood together, bundled in fluffy coats and scarves, wind nipping at our faces. Sami kicked idly at a small snowdrift, and then – finally – Ali, Prim and Cass arrived. Together, we wound our way along the trail of flattened snow to the Christmas tree, and settled around it. The morning light glittered on the baubles and threw spots of dancing colour on the snow. I blinked eagerly and scooped up the first present – wrapped in golden paper and addressed to Cass… which turned out to be a palette of make-up. Cass never wears make-up. Ever. We stared confusedly at it, and then I threw a squishy silver package to Ali… but when she ripped the wrapper off it was a bright pink dress. Ali held it up, nose wrinkled.
“Who sent this?” she wondered. Anyone who knows Ali would never give her something like that – she doesn’t wear dresses, or like the colour pink (much).
The next parcel, addressed to me, was even more confusing. A very, very familiar mug was sitting in my hands – lilac with indigo spots, a little bigger than usual. This was Natalie’s new mug – from me! I passed it over to her, turning my head to look accusingly at Fluffy, my brain slowly putting two and two together. Cass had a gift more suited to Sami. Ali was holding something Prim would love to bits. I had a mug meant for Natalie’s morning coffee. And there was Fluffy, grinning eagerly as she ripped off the wrapping paper and pulled out a pretty little bracelet with a black fleur-de-lis swinging from the silver chain. I recognised it instantly – the present I had bought for her a couple of days ago. I narrowed my eyes slightly, arching a curious brow towards her. She had fastened the bracelet around her wrist and was admiring it, when she caught the look on my face.
“What’s up?” she asked. I tilted my head.
“How come only you have the right present, Fluffy?” I asked. A blush – very faint, but definitely there – crept across her snow-bitten face. I folded my arms.
“Fluffy, what did you do?” I asked, half amused. Fluffy rolled her dark brown eyes.
“Nothing…” she sang, innocently. I raised a brow.
“Fine. I switched all the tags,” she grinned mischievously.
“Fluffy!!” chorused the other five, exasperatedly. Fluffy tipped a cheeky wink and laughed. Ali snickered something – in Horse. I didn’t know what she meant, but I could tell it wasn’t flattering. We ripped the rest of the presents open, using teamwork to figure out which was which. When we had sorted them all out, we headed home, to change into our Christmas Feast outfits, re-brush our hair, and put a little bit of make-up on. Sami accidentally went a little overboard with her makeup, and I helped her re-do it.
The square looked like something out of a fairy-tale when we arrived: giant presents, fluffy white snow, oversized candy canes, the whole thing. Even the horse statue had a giant wreath of paper roses around its gleaming white neck. People were already there, gliding around on the glittering ice. I spotted a couple of half-known faces – Jordy whizzing around like a pro, one-legged, while Morgan and Darren were wobbling like a couple of young deer. Hope was down, sliding along on her back and chased by a giggling Mira. I caught sight of Tyshow laughing, with Calla clinging around her neck and struggling to stay upright. A flurry of flying snow indicated Tibby falling spectacularly and penguin-sliding across the ice on his front. Prim whooped delightedly and dragged Ali out onto the ice, the pair of them skidding around and then being wiped out by Jordy and ending up in a tangled heap. I skated across to help them get up, and Natalie glided after me. Sami and Cass came whirling onto the ice in a boat shortly after, giggling like hyenas. We played around on the ice, chasing each other, hanging on to the back of Cass’ boat in a long conga-line, a twisting snake of giggling skaters.
When we sat down in our places, looking eagerly at the food, all chaos broke loose. Mira, Hope, Tibby and Calla all scooped up the snow and started snowballing everyone. Morgan, Tyshow, Darren and Jordy retaliated, snow flying everywhere. Everyone was quick to pick a side and join in. I saw Tyshow knocked over by a snowball to the face. Jordy taking careful aim at Mira. Calla shaking snow out of her har, laughing. Darren and Tibby throwing snowballs at each other like they were at war. Everyone giggling, covered in snow. Finally, it died down. I flicked my tail impatiently – a well-aimed volley of snowballs from Hope had soaked me through. Natalie helped me to wriggle back onto my chair, and we settled down to eat… until a flying blob of mashed potato landed on Fluffy’s face. She looked up to see Tyshow grinning at her mischievously, holding her spoon like a catapult. Fluffy smirked and threw a bit of sausage across the table back at her. It bounced off of her nose and hit Ali.
“Hey!” she protested, lobbing a Brussel sprout, which landed on Calla’s head. She retaliated with a well-aimed jam tart that shattered on Jordy’s shoulder, and within minutes the food fight was in full swing.
Only when Calla and Morgan poured lukewarm gravy over Tyshow’s head did she finally yell at everyone to... ahem... ‘knock it off, you idiots!’
Everyone settled back in their chairs and the presents were passed around. Luckily Fluffy hadn’t been switching the tags. Everyone ended up clutching something, eyes shining in glee. Full and warm and sleepy, we swung ourselves onto our horses and headed off for home.
Merry Christmas everyone!! Hope you all have a wonderful holiday and get lots of prezzies 😀
Love, Crysta xxx