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The Story (Chapter 1-100)

December 5, 2014

Hi all, If you have been meaning to catch up on the beginning of The Story – but don’t have the time – Here is a combined Chapter 1 – 100

 

Chapter 1

So you want to know about my latest adventure do you? I have to wonder why you are so curious; after all, the last was scary enough. What? You were not unable to sleep from the disturbing images flashing through your mind? You are certainly a brave little thing aren’t you? Very well, I will tell you a story. As always it is up to you whether you believe it to be true, I will not argue the point. Are you comfortable? Have you water and a pillow, or a blanket, or bear to keep you safe and warm?

Then I will begin…

 

Chapter 2

As always it begins with the small mirror my great grand-nanna gave me before she died. I was only a little thing as you’ll remember and on the day she placed it into my hands she told me in her thin quivering voice I was the only one able to use it. Of course, this did not make sense to me at the time as I was only a little child. As you know, it was just before the start of my first adventure that I discovered how to use the mirror and no I will not tell you how so you can put those pleading eyes away. It is a dangerous thing my mirror and in the wrong hands it could prove disastrous.

On this particular day, I could see a great field through the mirror. Yes, not very interesting I agree, but a field it was. Grass yellowed from the sun and long as though not cut in many months, the sky through the mirror was blue and there was not a cloud in sight. All in all, a pretty picture but not a very exciting start to an adventure. I pressed my hand to the glass and closed my eyes. When I opened them I was standing in the middle of that field.

Straight away, I felt very warm and soon removed my windcheater. I looked around to see what I could not through the mirror. In the far distance were mountains. They looked purple and there were dark smudges moving slowly above them. I turned to see what was behind me. It was a forest of very tall trees.

Now don’t get impatient, have another drink of your water and settle down for it is a long story and if you want me to get through it you must sit quietly.

I thought for a moment about which way to walk. Should I go toward the trees or the mountains? Before I could make up my mind, a large shadow fell over me. It hid my own shadow and much of the dried grass around me. I looked up.

 

Chapter 3

I ran.

It is surprising how fast a person can run with sufficient motivation. I made for the trees as fast as my legs would take me. It wasn’t long before I was breathing heavily and my side ached. I didn’t stop, oh no. There was no way I was going to stop with a dragon on my tail. Yes, I was being chased by a dragon.

I know you must find it hard to believe but the brief glance up I had taken before I started to run was terrifying. The dragon had a large black nose, huge teeth that gleamed in the sunlight and its body was the size of an elephant. How something the size of an elephant could get off the ground I will never know. Giant black wings cast shadows all around me and as I ran I waited for the coming fire-ball to turn me into a giant running barbecue.

 

Chapter 4

“Wait stop,” I heard a squeaky voice call.

Honestly, would you stop running from a dragon simply because a little voice asked? Well me being me, I stopped and looked around. There was no one there.

Who had asked me to stop?

I looked up positive the dragon would be upon me. I found it had landed on the grass a short distance behind. It tilted its giant head to stare at me through one red eye.

No, it couldn’t have been…

“Please don’t be afraid,” the dragon said, opening its giant mouth to squeak again.

 

Chapter 5

Okay then, talking dragon, it was a first for me I admit, then again it was also the first dragon I had ever met, I guess I just assumed dragons were all scary fire-breathing, people-killers.

Apparently I was wrong.

What did he want you ask? What a silly question, honestly, just sit still and listen to the story or I will stop now and you can go to bed. No? Well a bit of shush then.

“What do you want?” I asked. I couldn’t tell if it was a him or a her. It did not have long hair or dress or carried a slingshot to tell me one way or the other.

The dragon huffed a breath and yes, it was fairly warm. I was worried about fire, I mean who wouldn’t be? But fortunately no gusts of flame blew my way and I could feel my heart beat slowing and my breathing started to even out.

“Well, I saw you appear and I wondered who and what you were… Are you a people-person?”

“Hmfff” I snorted, “What else would I be?”

“Yay, I have never met a people-person before. My name is Sarah.”

Hmmm, well that answered that question. A girl dragon.

 

Chapter 6

Well now what? I stared at Sarah, she stared at me and then we stared some more.

I wondered if it was a contest, this staring, or maybe it was just what dragons do. How was I supposed to know? I was just happy she didn’t want to eat me.

Sarah the dragon looked over her shoulder. “Um, we might want to go somewhere that is not here,” she said with a wobble in her still rather high-pitched voice.

That was going to get annoying fast. “Why?” I asked.

“Because of that giant dinosaur thing that likes to eat dragons and people-persons.” Sarah replied.

“What?” I looked up. I giant dark thing flew straight up from the mountain in the distance and if it was big in the distance I cannot imagine how big it was in person.

“Climb onto my back,” Sarah said and do you know what, I didn’t even think about it. I climbed onto her back. Yes, it was scaly but dry–for some reason I thought it would be slimy, but nope it was not. Some of her smaller scales scratched off in my hands, ew and then we were off.

 

Chapter 7

Okay so flying. You would think it would be exciting, like riding a rollercoaster that could travel sideways as well as up and down. It kinda was, but to tell you the truth it was also strangely boring. The wind was blowing into my eyes making them cry and sting, and my hands were cold where they were locked around the scaly knob I was using a grip. The scenery was the same all over. It felt like we had been flying for ages, of course in reality it was only about half an hour.

I was starting to get really tired and I was wondering how I could tell my Driver? Pilot? Captain? That I couldn’t hold on much longer when we started to fly down in large, loopy circles.

 

Chapter 8

That was when the second surprise since arriving hit me.

We landed in a shadowed clearing surrounded on all sides by the giant trees that only stretched all the way to space. I was greeted by three fairies that stood only as high as my shoulder. A little fairy man and two fairy ladies. The little man hovered at the side of the dragon, (I hadn’t gotten down yet,) and spoke in a odd vibrating low voice. “Welcome to The Clearing.”

Seriously I could hear the capitals letters in his voice. I looked around wondering how I was going to get down when the two lady fairies grabbed my arms. In the next minute I was flying again, well more like floating, until I bumped gently on the ground.

 

Chapter 9

I followed my new friends to the center of the clearing where they stopped and looked at me expectantly.

“What?” I asked.

The little man sighed and shook his head. “Perhaps she is not the one.”

“What?” I asked again, feeling put out. It was not as if I could read their minds. Clearly, they were waiting for me to do something but I didn’t know what it was.

I turned in a little circle. There was something under the grass. I couldn’t see what it was. As I completed a full turn, there was a loud click and the ground below me began to descend.

“She is,” the blond fairy lady said, nodding her head excitedly.

 

Chapter 10

I was moving into the earth on a platform only as wide as my stance. It was extremely disturbing. I have a fear of dark places and well, underground is about as dark as it gets. I kept looking over my shoulder for bugs and spiders. I know they were there, crawling around just out of my sight.

I looked up but all I could see was sunshine above me, so bright that when I looked down at my feet I couldn’t see a thing.

I wondered if I should call out. The instant I thought it, my ride stopped. I didn’t move. Well I couldn’t see could I? I didn’t know what I would be stepping on.

“Well, come on then.” The little fairy man appeared at my side.

“Whoa,” I said. Where had he come from? Last I saw, he was above ground and now he was standing beside me.

“We have places to be,” he said and grabbed my arm pulling me further into the dark.

 

Chapter 11

I must have looked like a crazy person. Well, if it hadn’t been so dark you would have seen me but I’m sure I looked like a crazy person. Of course knowing my luck, the fairy next to me possessed night vision and could see my eyes bugging out of my head in fear darting frantically but I could not see a single spec of light anywhere. I imagined giant spiders and giant snakes crawling around in the dark… Wait snakes don’t crawl… Seriously I’m never watching Harry Potter again. The hand on my arm, the only thing I could feel in this creepy place tugged me deeper into the dark.

“What is your problem?” The fairy whispered. He sounded cross, why would he be angry?

“I can’t see,” I whispered back.

“Oh, woops… Sorry bout that. Ma’loosh.”

The corridor lit up with a faint blue light.

“Holy crap!” I said.

 

Chapter 12

Holy crap indeed.

Okay yeah, today was not going to be my day.

In front of me, glowing faint blue in the cave? cavern? corridor? What do you call a giant underground tunnel? Anyway, there in front of me was a giant spider. And when I say giant, seriously it was bigger than my house. It had legs the size of tree trucks, a huge hairy body. Oh my god, I was either going to be sick or scream. I just hoped I wasn’t going to do both, ew. It stood in front of me and stared. I mean, I think it stared; it was hard to tell which direction it was actually looking in. I swallowed around the lump in my throat, yup, that was a lot of eyes.

I must have been shaking noticeably. The fairy tugged on my wrist again. “No time to hang about,” he said and dragged me forward.

“No, no, no, no, no.” I was muttering, pulling backward and digging my heels into the dirt to stop moving.

We stopped right in front of the spider.

“Help,” I whispered as I looked up and up and up.

 

Chapter 13

I dropped my head and contemplated grabbing my knees and screaming. So far today, in the space of a few hours, I had met and ridden a dragon, argued with fairies, walked down a long dark tunnel–underground, and now I was going to talk to a giant spider. Today had just not been my day.

“Um, hey there.” I said, lifting my head.

Those giant eyes blinked like a hundred tennis fans doing the Mexican wave. It started in the middle, each eye blinked a split second after the eye next to it. It was both cool and disturbing. The spider lowered its legs bending at jointed knee until it rested its belly on the ground.

Oh, silly me. I was talking to the spider when I should have been talking to the fairy sitting atop the spider.

Reclining in a glorious saddle sat a simply stunning fairy. A large emerald crown balanced upon his head, long limbs, silver wings that beat in time with the blink of the spider’s central eye and long black hair tied back in an elaborate ponytail. He held a long-wand like sceptre. “About time you got here,” he said, his voice echoed throughout the cavern.

I blinked.

“Um… sorry?” I said.

 

Chapter 14

I blinked again. Sorry what? “You were waiting for me?” I ask. How is this my life, really?

The fairy, with in his shiny, glinting, gorgeous crown climbed down off the spider. He hiked his leg over to slide down the spider’s body hanging from the top of the forward most leg to drop to the ground.

“Yes, we have been waiting for you. It was foretold by the Great Old Woman that a young, female human would arrive by dragonwing. She would be the one to find the Fire.”

“Me? Wait, what do you mean find the fire, there is a fire right over there.” I pointed past the fairy… King? The fairy’s nose turned toward the large blue flame that flickered behind the spider.

“Not that fire, the Fire… Sheesh, the old woman never said you were a simpleton.”

I shook my head. “Look, I am sorry but I just don’t know what you are talking about.” I was a little frustrated. I was also feeling plenty scared. “Please, I am sorry but who are you? Where am I? And what is the Fire?”

 

Chapter 15

“The Fire,” the fairy, Prince? announced imperiously, “Is our greatest treasure.”

Um, right. So the fairies had been told by some old lady, I would arrive to help them find their greatest treasure. Exactly how was I supposed to do that? I wondered it aloud. “Exactly how am I supposed to do that?”

The fairy next to me shook his head. Yikes, I had completely forgotten he was there.

“Really?” he whispered. “That is what you ask the Prince?”

I thought it was a perfectly decent question given the circumstances.

The Prince continued, “You will select your team of five from this great hall and you will leave through that Golden Doorway. You will only return when you have retrieved The Fire.” He gestured toward a great, golden, shiny doorway that looked painted onto the wall and then gestured toward the end of the hall and the numerous shadowy creatures gathered there.

I gulped. He could have given me a few more details. I mean really, “Go get the Fire.” That is my mission?

“Will it be dangerous?” I whispered to the fairy next to me.

“Yup, you bet.”

“I can choose my team from any of those in this hall?” I looked up at the Prince and asked loudly to clarify, “Four more–anyone in this hall?”

“Yes,” the Prince confirmed.

“Great,” I pointed to the fairy next to me. “That’s you buddy, number one.”

“Oh crap,” he said.

 

Chapter 16

I grinned at the fairy. He was not looking happy with me but hey, serves him right for being such a pain in the ass to me all day.

“Done,” the fairy Prince announced loudly. He also grinned at the fairy next to me.

Ha ha, I think he must annoy everyone.

“Who else will be named as a member of your team?”

Gee, it was like he wanted everyone in the room to know all about it, oh wait, yeah he probably did. I thought for a moment. I had no idea where we were going or how long it would take. I should probably think about who else might help me down here. I clearly had no idea.

“Um,” I turned to the fairy beside me. “Hey, what’s your name by the way?”

“Peter.” The fairy sighed.

“Really” I asked. Huh, he just didn’t look like a Peter. “What do you know about where we are going?”

He shrugged. “Nothing really, no one has ever come back before.”

“Say what now?” I stared at him. “Seriously?” I looked up at the Prince. “Um, Sarah the dragon who bought me here, I want her.”

“Done,” the fairy prince said.

“Really? Okay and then, um, your spider-traveler-horse thing.” I pointed to the spider the Prince had been sitting on. It blinked at me steadily–all eyes moving one after the other. It terrified the crap out of me so I figured it was probably a good thing to have around… maybe… honestly I had no idea what I was doing.

The Prince looked a little annoyed. He sighed loudly. “Fine–Done.”

I needed one more, but who?

 

Chapter 17

So I had four out of the five needed for my team of Finders… Searchers… mmm we should probably have a name. I turned to Peter. “What do you think of Fire Hunters?”

“What?” he growled.

“What should our team be called? I’m thinking Fire Hunters? Maybe Bella’s Searchers?” Oh yeah, did I even mention my name at the beginning of all of this? I don’t think I did. Well, my name is Bella–and no not like that book–well yeah, it’s kind of like that book but that’s not why my parents called me Bella. Bella Smith. Kinda lame isn’t it?

“Whatever,” Peter grumbled.

“Not helpful,” I muttered as a large door opened in the wall beside us. By large, I mean a freakin’ huge door. Sarah the dragon stood on the other side, her giant black wings were tucked tightly around her body. She squeaked, “You picked me? That is sooo cool, thank you. I haven’t been on an adventure in goodness knows how long.”

Well, at least someone was happy. The giant spider scuttled up on its eight hairy legs and squatted next to Sarah. “He doesn’t talk,” Sarah whispered in her high-pitched whisper.

So I had Peter the fairy, Sarah the dragon and the spider whom I had decided to call Fred because it was the least scary name I could think of and me, Bella Smith normal person. But I needed a fifth team member. I looked at Sarah, “Say… you don’t happen to know anyone who could help us?”

 

Chapter 18

“Actually I do,” Sarah said.

I was taken aback, seriously? “Seriously?” I asked.

“Yes, his name is Herman. He is very fast, very strong and very violent.”

Ah yeah, “Okay, um sure, can you introduce us?” I asked somewhat stupidly… I mean fast was good, strong was good but violent… I don’t know if that was such a good idea.

Sarah lowered her neck until it was rigid-straight and let out a loud bellow. The floor shook. I kid you not, that was how loud she was.

There was a groan from across the other side of the giant hall and then the rapid tapping of running feet. I peered into the dark distance and watched as a human-sized figure ran toward us. As he got closer I could make out more details.

Oh wow.

 

Chapter 19

A long-limbed man with short dark hair, green eyes and a cheeky smile stopped right in front of me.

“Really Sarah?” I whispered as I looked at him again. He had what looked like two swords strapped to his back and was wearing very tight pants. Hmmm nice.

The man bowed at Sarah and winked, yeah really, winked at me. “How can I serve?”

NICE!

Sarah swished her tail in my direction and squeaked. “This is Herman, the troll-hunter.”

I nodded. Troll-hunter? “Hi there,” I said. He nodded. I turned and waved at the Prince. “I have my fifth. Herman.”

Herman rolled his eyes and took a step closer. “Are you sure about this?” he asked in a deep voice.

My knees felt wobbly. “You betcha,” I replied.

The prince nodded loudly… really, his nod could actually be heard across the hall. With a loud crack the doorway painted into the cave wall split apart.

I gulped. Here we go.

 

Chapter 20

We stepped through into a strange place. Everything was… well… kinda purple. Seriously, there was a purple tint to the sky and the grass was lavender-colored. Even the leaves on the trees around us were a dark purple–almost blue but mostly purple.

“Harrumph.”

I stared at Peter.

The fairy stared back at me with a glare. “What?”

“Wow, what side of the bed did you get up on?”

He harrumphed again.

“So where are we?” I asked, looking around. Really it was extraordinarily purple.

Herman looked at me in surprise. “You don’t know where we’re going? You’re the Seeker.”

I sighed loudly and sat down on the lavender grass. Hmmm, it even smelt like lavender. “No idea.”

Both Herman and Peter looked sorta pissed.

Well you know what? It was not my fault, and that’s exactly what I told them, loudly.

Fred, the giant spider scuttled around us in a large circle, chittering wildly then took off toward a distant… huh… I hadn’t noticed that before. In the distance there was a large tower and Fred was headed straight for it.

I looked at Herman. Herman looked at Sarah, Sarah looked at Peter and Peter looked at me. We all stared for a moment.

“I guess we follow the spider,” I said and climbed tiredly to my feet.

 

Chapter 21

The tower loomed ahead.

Honest, it loomed.

As we grew closer, the tower it seemed to get darker and a little scarier. I looked at Sarah. “Can you fly up there and get a look in those top windows?”

Sarah nodded and flapped her giant black wings. I nearly blew over. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Herman who quickly caught me by the arms and held me up, I would have.

I shivered.

And no, I wasn’t cold. Herman’s hands were really warm. I could feel his breath against my neck. I shivered again.

Ahem.

With another flap of her giant wings, Sarah jumped into the air.

 

Chapter 22

Sarah peered through the window at the top of the tower.

The billowy, blue curtain breathed in and out with each beat of her wings. Through a gap in the curtain she could see a big wooden box. And no people.

A few more flaps and she returned to the ground to tell us what she had seen.

Herman’s eyes lit up when Sarah described the box.

Fred started to climb the corner of the tower. A line of sticky stuff trailed behind him. Ewwww, he was building a web in the corner of the tower.

“We’re going up aren’t we?” Peter complained, poking me in the arm.

I ignored him, “Sarah, do you mind taking us up?” I asked politely. I figured it was probably a good idea to always be polite to a dragon ten times bigger than I was.

“Sure,” she squeaked and got down onto her knees. It looked a bit painful so I climbed onto her back quickly.

Peter climbed after me and put his hands on my hips. I sighed, why couldn’t Herman have climbed up next? I watched the troll-hunter climb up onto Sarah’s foot, paw? And hang on tight. I sighed again.

And we were off.

 

Chapter 23

Sarah hovered outside the top window. We climbed off.

“Can you stay close?” I asked.

“Sure,” she replied and disappeared. I quickly looked out after her. Where’d she go? Sticking my head out of the window I could see her fly up and perch on the roof of the tower. “Cool.” I looked down wondering if Fred was going to climb up and join us, but he seemed happy sitting in his newly built web.

“Hey–so what do we do now?” Peter grumbled.

Hmmm, I looked around the room. Herman was already standing over the box.

I walked over to him. “Can you open it?”

He looked up. Wow, beautiful eyes. I kinda got lost for a moment.

Herman looked down and kicked the box. The lid flew open.

We all leaned over to look inside.

 

Chapter 24

The box was made of a black wood and it was really smooth and shiny. It felt cold when I touched it. Almost like touching water, it was so smooth under my fingertips. There was a gold band around the lip of the box and inside it was…

“Wow,” I whispered. I don’t know why I was whispering but it felt wrong to talk too loudly.

I looked at Herman who was standing on the other side of the box. His eyes gleamed in the low light creeping in from the window behind him.

“Wow,” he whispered back.

“Geez,” Peter sighed loudly and pushed past me. His fluttering wings flicked me in the face as he reached into the box…

 

Chapter 25

Inside was a stone.

It glowed a translucent yellow. No, it was more like a pale pastel yellow. I had a cardigan that color once but this was so much prettier, shining and sparkling in the sunlight. It was the size of a coin that had been squashed flat on one side.

I picked it up. It felt cold. As I held it in my hand it seemed to grow warmer.

There was a gold chain attached. I looked at it closely, I couldn’t see where the clasp connected with the stone at all. Weird. I couldn’t take my eyes of it.

“Pretty,” A whispered voice said into my ear. Herman stood right next to me.

“Whoa!” He was so close I startled and jumped away.

Herman’s green eye winked at me. “You should put it on.”

“Oh geeez, get a room will ya?” Wings flashed before my eyes as Peter whirled and stomped away in a huff.

Sheesh what was his problem? How embarrassing that he said that aloud! I felt hot and hoped my face was not all red and blotchy. “Stupid fairy.” I grumbled, turning away from the troll-hunter at my side.

I lifted the stone pendant and dropped the chain over my head. As soon as the stone rested against my chest there was a flash of light.

“Whoa!”

 

Chapter 26

I lifted my hand and wiggled my fingers in front on my eyes. Weird. They were fuzzy, like I wasn’t wearing my glasses. I held them up closer to my face… Oooo I could see through them.

I looked up and around the room. It was like I was looking through a filmy curtain, no it looked like everything had a glowy-filmy quality to it.

Wait, I can see through my hand?

I freaked out, yup, I sure did. I jumped up and down in a freak-out of epic proportions screaming and flinging my see-through hands around like a crazy person. Then I realized I couldn’t see the ground I was jumping on.

Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

 

Chapter 27

OMG. So I mentally hit myself over the back of my head and started to breathe again. I stopped jumping up and down and took a proper look around. I was still in the room and in the hazy, strange-looking distance I could see Herman looking around, frantically lifting things up and down. He lifted the chest high above his head to look under it and… wow he lifted it above his head? Okay, so Herman was really strong. He was calling out something… I couldn’t hear what he was saying. Fuzzy Peter was sitting on a wing-back chair in the corner and while part of my brain wondered where the chair had come from, the other part marveled at how beautiful his wings looked. Unlike everything else, Peter’s fairy wings were crisply clear and shimmered prettily. Wow.

Herman took a few steps toward me but was looking around as if he couldn’t see me. OMG I was invisible. OMG how cool!!

Before I started jumping up and down again I reached out to poke the hunter in the arm. My finger went straight through.

Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

 

Chapter 28

Okay this freaking out really needed to stop. I had to think sensibly. I looked at the finger that was poking inside Herman’s arm and withdrew it slowly.

OMG-osh, was I a ghost? I clutched at my shirt as my brain froze and my hand brushed against the pendant.

Oh ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

I rolled my eyes and pulled the pendant over my head. The haze lifted and I could see clearly again.

“Where were you?” Herman shouted and grabbed both of my arms. I bounced back and forth as he shook me hard. Suddenly, I was pulled out of his arms, spun around and my nose filled with gossamer wings as fairy arms hugged me tight.

“Um,” I stumbled.

Peter stopped hugging and jumped away as fast as he could manage, muttering to himself and wiping his hands on his shirt.

“I’m okay.” I said to both men. I tucked the pendant into my pocket feeling very much like Frodo. It was better than comparing myself to Gollum.

 

Chapter 29

A loud screech sounded outside and the entire tower seemed to shake with it.

I raced to the window and looked out. Sarah was flying in tight circles, diving toward a lot of figures running around in the darkening light. When did it start getting so dark outside? I squinted into the gloom.

“Oh no.” I gasped.

A body pushed next to me. Herman leaned over to see out of the window.

On the ground, our spider Fred was being attacked by a bunch of dark little creatures.

“Trolls.” Herman hissed angrily. “Stay here.” Pushing my head down, he leaned out of the window over me and whistled.

Sarah seemed to spin on one wing–which was awesomely cool to watch and came hurtling back toward us. Herman tugged me back and then took a running leap out of the window.

I raced to the ledge. Sarah caught him neatly on her back. She spun around and dived toward the ground. Balancing delicately on her scales, Herman pulled a giant sword from his back. Seriously? He was carrying a giant sword strapped to his back too? How had I not seen that? I’d seen the two smaller ones but this looked huge.

A flash streaked past my eyes. I was blown back into the tower again. WTF?

Peter dove out of the window beside me, his wings flittering back and forth, almost slapping me in the face as he passed. Again I ran back to the window and watched him catch something in mid-flight, a large knife held tightly in his hand. He flipped, spun and a dark shape fell to the ground below. I watched Peter fly down and join Sarah and Herman.

My heart leapt into my throat as I watch them attack the moving shapes. I was stuck up here. High up in the tower–where I was no good to anyone. I turned while they fought a pack of screaming trolls. There was a heavy wooden door that led to who knows where. I raced to it and reached for the handle.

 

Chapter 30

I realized as soon as I hit the stairs I might have made a mistake. Yup, I had definitely made a mistake.

Mistake 1: I had raced out the door to the little room at the top of the tower to join my team in battle. Yeah, seriously… battle. I mean what was I going to do? I have no fighting experience, no fighting skill for that matter and I thought I could help? Help a trained troll-hunter, a dragon and an armed fairy. I’m not sure how exactly I thought I was going to help them, but it was the only thought I had.

Mistake 2: I raced out the door to the little room at the top of the tower without looking outside first.

Mistake 3: I raced out the door to the little room at the top of the tower and let the door shut behind me.

I realized mistake 3 as soon as I heard the door snick shut. I flung my hand back but it was too late. The door sealed and disappeared straight back into the wooden frame as if it had never existed. I realized Mistake 2 when I realized the stairs I was standing on only lead up.

I was at the top of the tower and the stairs I was on led up.

Yup–I was screwed.

 

Chapter 31

The stairs went up. There was no other way to go and as I couldn’t turn back I went up.

Have you seen those Escher drawings where the stairs seem to lead somewhere but end up leading nowhere? That’s kind of what I felt as I went up and up and up. I was all alone and the stairway was cold. I really wished I had a jacket because my face and hands felt icy to the touch and my nose was starting to drip. I stopped climbing and fished around my pocket for a tissue. I blew my nose. The stairs were a grey stone color but they honestly didn’t feel like stone to stand on. I touched the wall with my frozen fingers and the wall felt warm.

Ewwww. I debated leaving my hand on the wall because my fingers were warming up at last but I didn’t know what was making the wall warm so I tucked my hands under my armpits instead. Wow, why didn’t I think of doing that before? There were stairs above my head… And it looked like they led downward.

Now I just had to figure out a way to get up there.

 

Chapter 32

I looked for a handhold, there had to be a way to climb up. My eye caught a shadow. It was in a very odd spot. I touched the darkness. Yes, I could get a really good grip on the stone. Standing in that one spot and looking up I could see more shadows stretching beyond it. I took a step back. Huh. I walked around my little spot by stepping back and to the side. At no other point could I see those marks in the stone wall. I stepped close again and touched the shadow; yup, it looked like this was going to be the way up.

I grabbed the handhold and then a second one. I could feel my heart thudding loudly in my ears and as I breathed, dust bounced back from the wall and into my face. Awesome. I coughed and squeezed my eyes shut, shaking my face from side to side. But the nasty stuff still got up my nose. In seconds I was sneezing loudly.

One, two, three. I could hear my sneezes echo around me. Taking a deep breath over my shoulder to breathe away from the wall, I started to climb.

Half way up, I could feel a strange tug on my arms. Another two handholds and the weirdest thing started to happen. My hair started to float up past my face and the sleeves on my arms floated as well. Another handhold and there was a sudden pressure on my whole body pulling me upward. Huh. If I was right, if I let go, I should fall toward the ceiling and the stairs which led down the other way.

If I let go….

 

Chapter 33

I did.

When I landed on the ceiling and looked around the stairs led down. I ran down them quickly. As I got closer to the ground, I hoped, I could hear the sounds of a battle. Thuds, cries, groans, moans and the snick-snick of metal striking metal all sounded horrific.

I paused. Was this really a good idea? I mean, I know I was desperate to help my team, my friends but what was I really going to do? Then I remembered… the pendant.

I pulled the shiny yellow stone out of my pocket. I looked at it for a moment and it looked back at me. It didn’t say anything, thank goodness, but I couldn’t help questioning my craziness at the thought I had believed the stone might talk back.

I couldn’t see anyone around me. I slipped the chain over my head and raced down the remaining stairs…

 

Chapter 34

So do you remember me telling you that the pendant makes me invisible?

I raced down the remaining stairs and burst out of the wooden door at the base of the tower into a world of madness.

There was noise and light everywhere. For a moment I was blinded.

A loud flap above me and a great gust of wind had me ducking fast. Sarah’s wings beat at the air as she dipped and turned overhead. There was no one on her back so I looked around frantically for Herman or Peter. I couldn’t see them through the huddle of trolls.

Wow, okay yeah, trolls smell bad. Maybe I should be nicer about that, but it was a really rotten smell. I couldn’t breathe. I covered my nose with one hand and crept along the wall of the tower trying to keep out of reach of the raging battle. It was like a big ball of movement and every so often I could see arms grasping and grabbing or legs kicking out at the closest body.

A screech sounded and Sarah dove toward the huddle. She opened her mouth and wow…. okay yes, she can breathe fire. I couldn’t remember if she had done that earlier but I felt a wave of hot air swell against the wall where I hid. I ducked. I probably didn’t need to but I did anyway and saw footsteps in the mud next to my feet. The footsteps led away from the battle. One print seemed deeper than the one next to it and was a bit blurry. I didn’t know what that meant but I could see a wet patch near one of the prints. I leaned closer. Oh my goodness, that was blood.

 

Chapter 35

I followed the bloody footprints behind the tower. In the strange yellowy color the pendant turned the world the blood was shiny and glittery. It was a pretty easy trail to follow.

A few steps out of sight of the battle, I heard a deep breath, a sob and then another deep breath. There in the grass was something pale… Was that a…? It was an arm. The arm was attached to a troll and he was bleeding, a lot. Manky hair draped down covering its face. And its clothes were covered in mud, dirt and more blood. The blood was coming from its arm.

I bounced from one foot to the other. What should I do? Peter, Sarah and Herman were fighting these things so I probably shouldn’t help this one, but it looked like it was in so much pain. I dithered for another minute but the whimpering noises were kinda annoying. With a huff, I pulled off the pendant.

The troll jerked back and wailed when he saw me.

I held both hands outstretched… “Wait… wait… shhhhh.”

He stared at me but the noises stopped so he must have understood what I was saying.

He blinked.

I blinked.

I took a step forward. He started to scream.

 

Chapter 36

So that happened.

My great plan to help in the battle at the base of the tower ended up with me locating an injured troll who must have escaped an started to scream as soon as I stepped closer to help.

A loud thud behind me and the sudden swoosh of eight giant legs swung over the top of my head.

I ducked and tried not to scream because, you know, giant spider climbing over the top of me. But apart from the creepy feeling of legs crawling on my skin that was going to stay with me FOREVER, I was okay. Fred had come to my rescue. He hovered over the screaming troll. The troll’s screams petered out on a gasp of air as the troll stared in horror at the monstrosity standing over him.

For a moment no one moved.

The troll was silent. Of course Fred was silent and I was just frozen, watching them both.

Fred squirted something from his legs and the next thing I knew, the troll was wrapped up in a giant knot of web. Fred scooped up the webbed troll with two legs and scuttled back around the side of the tower.

I was not sure I wanted to know what Fred was going to do with that troll.

I slumped to the ground.

Then I saw the glint in the flattened grass…

 

Chapter 37

I crept forward.

So Fred the spider had disappeared with the trussed up troll leaving me here crouching in the grass staring at the smooshed green grass the troll had been lying on. Something he left behind had caught my eye.

I dropped to my knees and leaned my face down as close to the object as possible. Ewww trolls leave their icky smell behind them. I gagged. Covering my nose with my hand, I reached out and picked the shiny thing up.

It was a little stone about the size of my little finger nail. It was illuminated from the inside like a little flame was inside. When I cupped it in my hand, it glowed and the skin around my palm was shiny.

Cool.

I tucked the little stone into my pocket. I’m not sure why I kept it. Something made me I guess or maybe I didn’t realize I had kept it, I don’t know… but it ended up proving very useful… I don’t want to tell you too much, we haven’t gotten to that part of the story yet.

“Hey kid.” I heard Herman call out. I turned my head and saw the hunter leaning against the tower wall.

I huffed to myself. Kid? Really? He was calling me kid?

I climbed to my feet. “So fighting’s over huh?”

 

Chapter 38

We gathered at the base of the tower. There were troll bodies everywhere. I was doing my best to ignore them. Herman was leaning against the stone wall wiping his darkened blade against a rag. Peter hovered over the bodies sprinkling them with blue powder, as the powder landed the bodies dissolved, melting into the grass.

Huh.

Fred was weaving again, repairing the damage done to his web when the fighting broke out. And Sarah landed with dainty feet close by, far enough away that when she shook out her wings all I could feel was a faint breeze against my skin.

They all looked at me.

“So now what?” Herman asked.

Good question. I thought about the mission. We were looking for something called “The Fire.” I had thought the tower would be the place to find it. But all we had found was the pendant in my pocket that turned me invisible, lots of trolls and a strange little stone–also in my pocket. Funny, I had almost forgotten about the stone for a second there. I put my hand into my pocket and rolled the stone between my fingers. It was soothing just touching it. I forced myself to let go, it would be safe in my pocket and looked around at my ragtag band of warriors. “I guess we keep moving.” I picked a direction and pointed. “That way.”

 

Chapter 39

“That way,” ended up toward the forest.

In a smart move by Herman, we piled our gear onto Fred’s back. He lumbered along beside us with all of our backpacks and food swaying slowly from side to side. He reminded me of a giant elephant… only with eight legs.

Peter walked beside me, a little too close and it was starting to get on my nerves because he pressed his arm against mine with each step. Naturally, Herman was all the way over on the other side of Fred. I would have preferred it the other way around.

Sarah flew high overhead. Her black wings gleamed in the bright sunshine. She seemed happy, swooping and climbing and turning giant barrel rolls in the sky. She must love being outside, I wondered how she coped with living in those underground caverns.

Although I had no idea where we were going, I was aiming for a huge tree in the distance. And my little band of followers followed my lead. It was kinda scary to think. I could barely find my street back home and here I was leading an epic quest.

I turned left as Sarah flew off overhead. My pocket started to vibrate.

Wha? I reached in and felt for the buzz. It was the stone. In my confusion, I stepped to my right and glanced down at my pocket. The vibration stopped. Huh. I stepped left again. The stone started to dance in my palm. I turned right. It stopped.

Hmmmm.

“Stop!” I called to the gang. Herman and Peter stopped. Fred just kept lumbering forward and Sarah wheeled around to sort of hover above us. “We need to go that way,” I said, pointing to the left.

 

Chapter 40

Heading left led us deep into the forest. I keep moving in the direction of the buzzing from my pocket but as the forest grew darker, Herman called for us to stop for the night.

Within moments a little campsite was set up. Where had all this stuff come from? I looked around at the large tent with its three little sleeping bags. Hmmm sharing? Awesome. I hoped Peter was not the sort of fairy to get handsy and kind of hoped Herman was.

Sarah lit our fire with a puff of breath and settled down to lie alongside our tent. She breathed out heavily. I watched her giant sides moving back and forth. Well at least her presence would block any cold breeze that might try and freeze us during the night.

Climbing back and forth, Fred quickly spun himself a large web in the trees above us. I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of the giant spider sitting in a web over our heads all night, but again, I was sure would keep other creepy-crawlers away.

Herman pulled a large number of pots from somewhere and soon there was a great smell coming from them. I was so hungry, I could have eaten a whole pot of whatever it was all by myself. As it was, I did a pretty decent job of it and in the end there was not a lot leftover.

It grew dark quickly. I struggled to keep my eyes open and in the end I just told them all I was tired and climbed into my sleeping bag.

 

Chapter 41

My nose tickled.

I swiped at it and rolled over.

My ear tickled. “Wha?” I grunted and flicked my hand over my ear.

“Ouch!”

I opened my eyes and stared up into Peter’s golden gaze.

“Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” I yelled and jumped backward. As I was still in my sleeping bag, I rolled awkwardly until I hit the tent wall. Tent? Sleeping bag? fairy? I was in another world on a quest for something called, “The Fire,” and was sharing a tent with Herman and Peter. Peter stared at me in shock.

“What?”

“What?” I snapped back, “What were you doing?”

“Waking you up.” he yelled. “Breakfast is ready and you sleep like you’re dead.” He stomped from the tent.

Yarghh, I scrubbed at my face. Brand new day, huh?

 

Chapter 42

Well, breakfast was amazing. I mean Herman cooked it, so yeah, amazing. Just smelling the bacon and bread–wow how on earth had he make fresh bread? It was really yummy.

After I stopped groaning and actually cleaned my plate, I figured it was time for another sleep but Peter and Herman grabbed my arms and stopped me as I tried to return to the tent. They dragged me back to my little log seat.

“Fine.” I grumped and refused to move while they packed up our little campsite.

While they were cleaning and digging and packing I pulled the stone from my pocket. It just looked like a stone. Where the pendant looked like a pretty piece of jewelry, the stone looked like a lump of stone and yet when I held in in my clenched fist and moved from side to side there was a feeling of warmth and a vibration from it. Sooooooo Weird.

Above us, Sarah wheeled around in abandon, clearly enjoying the early morning sunshine and Fred was eating a … ick… I think it was a moth? A fly maybe… It looked disgusting.

“Ready?” Peter squeaked beside me.

I jumped high and shook my head at him, “Sheesh, scare a girl why don’t ya?” He just grinned.

“That way.” I pointed. The direction I pointed led to a dark overgrown path topped with creepy tree branches stretching out like fingers.

Eeep!

 

Chapter 43

The team was talking softly behind me. I had walked out ahead of them to get a little peace. Sarah plodded with Herman and Peter, and Fred skittered along behind us all. They were talking about their last troll hunt. Given it had been yesterday, I was finding the conversation a little tedious so walked out ahead of them to travel alone along the overgrown path.

I probably should have let Herman go first, he could have been clearing the path for us. Or let Sarah push through with her much larger body but I was actually enjoying myself. The stone in my pocket vibrated almost constantly now so I figured either we were heading the right direction or we were heading toward something incredibly dangerous. Hopefully my luck was the good kind today. My arms were covered in scratches and streaks of dirt because I was pushing my way through broken branches. I contemplated stopping for some water when I heard it.

A loud screech filled the air above me. I looked up, my eyes widened but I couldn’t see anything in the trees.

Oh oh, what was that?

The screech became a long cry that stopped in a hiccup.

Oh no.

 

Chapter 44

Something grabbed me around the waist and hoisted me up into the air. At first I thought it was Sarah, but the fingers…claws? wrapped tight around my body were a dark grey not black. I struggled in its grip but honestly I didn’t struggle too hard. We were high off the ground and I didn’t want to fall.

I heard the sound of running feet and a few shouts. I think I heard Peter call my name but I was already high in the air and rising steadily. I looked above me but all I could see was a blood-red chest, deeply muscled and expanding and contracting with every breath. I grabbed at the foot/fingers holding me tight, thankful the great claws were retracted because they sure looked sharp. A gust of air beat against me and I realized it was coming from the giant red wings as we rose higher and higher into the sky.

I heard a familiar cry and looked down past my feet. Oh wait was that… I could see Sarah, her beautiful black wings flapping madly, racing to catch up. Herman and Peter were on her back. Peter’s wings looked as though they were flapping too, like he was trying to help Sarah reach me quicker. It didn’t look like it was doing much good.

The giant red dragon carried me further away, faster than they could follow.

Where was it taking me?

 

Chapter 45

It wasn’t long before the giant red dragon lost Sarah. When I could no longer see her, its giant wings twisted and we headed down fast. The mountain rose quickly around us and the dark speck that looked like a smudge of dirt quickly grew into a large cave mouth. We flew right into it.

Dark fell instantly. I could hear the dragon breathing rapidly above me, its giant wings still able to flap within the cave. It must have been a massive cave if he could still fly. Its claws gripped me tightly squeezing my chest. I couldn’t breathe.

And then it let me go.

I screeched as I flew through the air unable to see where I was going. I braced myself for a painful landing but hit something soft and spongy instead. I rolled over and over stopping with my face pressed against the ground. I could smell dirt beneath my nose and the ground felt cold against my skin. My body was lying at an angle with my feet above my head. Where was I? I couldn’t see a thing. I could feel myself shaking from the flight and the landing. I just wanted to curl up into a ball and cry.

I heard the sound of a match striking against stone and suddenly I could see.

 

Chapter 46

I was lying head-down smooshed into the ground in a dark cave. A great start to my day let me tell you. Of course, the trip here was pretty traumatic. Gripped tight in the claws of the giant, red, mean-tempered dragon I was flown away from my teammates into a cave and dropped onto a giant pile of dirt, face-first.

So my day had started bad, gotten worse and now, now I was staring up into the match-light held between the fingers of… of…. Wow, okay I was not expecting that.

I was staring at a man, a tall man, well more of a boy really, a boy-man maybe, oh heck I can’t explain it but I don’t think he was much older than me. And he was HOT! I mean, you know reasonably attractive, for a bad guy. I assumed he was a bad guy because how many people commanded giant, red, mean-tempered dragons to snatch girls up out of the forest? Hardly sounds like the sort of thing a NICE guy would get up to right? So I was going with bad guy. But for a bad guy, he was really HOT! Dark hair, long enough to get into his eyes, covered one eye actually, given the way he was standing. Dark eyes, well the one I could see was, with really dark eye lashes. He looked pretty fit too. Strong arm muscles, wow and his forearms were… Okay you know what? Enough of this.

“Who are you?” I demanded, “And why am I here?”

He laughed.

Yeah… it was sexy, okay? Shutup.

The match light burned down to his fingertips and he waved it out. We were plunged into darkness once more. His voice enveloped me, “You are here because I want you here.”

 

Chapter 47

“You are here because I want you here.”

Okay yeah, I thought it was creepy too and kinda sexy but mostly creepy.

It was dark. So dark, I couldn’t even see my hand when I waved it in front of my face, at least I think that’s what I did–It was dark.

I spun around in a tight circle. I didn’t know where he was any more or where I was. All I knew was that his voice was soft, warm and surrounded me out of the darkness, the words whispered into my ear. I raised my hand to my ear and flapped it around just in case he was standing right there. My hand met empty air. I felt a little silly and hoped he couldn’t see me.

“What?” I said somewhat dumbly.

Really, I couldn’t have sounded more like a moron if I had tried. 

There was a click–it sounded like someone snapping his fingers and there was the match light again. I could see. I looked closely at the hand held only inches from my face. There was no match. He was holding the flame in his fingers.

Argh. I jumped back startled. “Oh my gosh,” I said. “You… You’re the one we’ve been looking for. You’re The Fire?”

The light went out again.

“Found me.”

 

Chapter 48

Oh oh.

If you can remember way, way back to the beginning of my little adventure I was tasked with finding the mysterious Fire. At that time, I had no idea The Fire was a person… let alone a bad person.

Oh come on, he has to be a bad guy… I was kidnapped, flown away and trapped in a dark LAIR….

Of course he was a bad guy. What good guy does that, huh?

I was waiting for him to light his fingers again, but the cave stayed dark.

“Hello…” I called.

“Hi there,” he whispered. His voice came from right beside me.

“Arghhhh!” I jumped about a foot in the air. A hand touched my shoulder. I gulped–loudly.

“Well, you have me. Whatever will you do with me?” he whispered.

I had the awful feeling he was not the one caught in this scenario.

I turned toward where I thought he was standing. “You need to come back to the fairy cavern with me.” I said strongly, even though I was quaking inside.

His laugh was a caress against my skin. “Why?”

 

Chapter 49

I was standing in the dark, in a cave and “The Fire” was here with me, sneaking around in the dark and freaking me out.

Somehow, I had to convince him to come back to the fairy prince with me. Oh yeah, Easy.

I had a brief thought as to where my team was. But as they were not here and therefore could not help me, I pushed it away.

“Look,” I said into the dark. “The fairy price tasked me with bringing you back. I don’t know why and I don’t know what for. Ultimately it is up to you if you go but he can’t exactly make you stay right? Without locking you up, so come with me and if you don’t want to stay, then leave.” I waited.

Did I mention I really hated the dark?

It was really dark.

His voice rose up in front of me.

“I like it here. My brother, and yes I am sure he didn’t tell you that, my brother sent me away. Why should I return just because he sent a pretty girl to come collect me?”

I sighed. Men… soooo emotional.

“Look, who knows? He certainly didn’t tell me why he wanted you, only that he did. That’s a pretty big step don’t you think, making it obvious to his whole kingdom that he NEEDS you? Surely that perks your interest enough to want to come with me?”

There was silence after I stopped talking. I waited.

 

Chapter 50

The silence was getting on my nerves. It was dark. I couldn’t see The Fire but I knew he was here somewhere, hopefully listening to me but probably not. I wish I knew what game he was playing.

I’m not saying anything else. A little voice in the back of my head was screaming at me… “Don’t play his game. He’s trying to get you to freak out.” But honestly every part of me was tingling.

A light blinked on. Not the little glow of fire he lit with his fingers, this was a large overhead light. And this time it stayed on.

Wow. I looked around the cave. It was like a workshop, like a wizard’s workshop. There were bottles and jars filled with colored liquids all over the place. Shelf after shelf was filled with books and jars. Glass shone off every surface. It was a little bit magical. The Fire stood in the middle of the cave, watching me. There was an odd expression on his face.

“Okay,” he said.

There was a commotion from the mouth of the cave, the sound of running feet and a flap of wings.

I turned and gasped.

 

Chapter 51

Herman ran toward us, a sword gripped tight in each hand and a furious look on his face.

Peter was beside him, wings fluttering at full speed. He also held a sword.

I stepped forward and raised my hands. At the time, I didn’t realize I actually stepped in front of The Fire but as Herman and Peter skidded to a halt only inches from my outstretched palm, I realized I might have made a mistake.

“What are you doing” Herman hissed, flicking his head to get his hair out of his eyes. It was a pretty horrible glare he was wielding and it was pointed straight at me.

“Just stop.” I said. I could feel my hand tremble and quickly dropped it. “He’s agreed to come back with us.”

“What? Who the hell is he?”

I quickly explained. The Fire stood behind me, he hadn’t said a thing but Herman glared at him over my shoulder so I assumed he was pulling faces or something. Herman said Sarah and Fred were waiting outside and we should go because they were probably getting anxious. Well, I imagined Sarah was. I’m still not entirely sure if Fred had any idea what we were actually doing.

I touched Herman’s hand and he lowered the sword. The other was pointed past me and hadn’t dropped an inch. Wow Herman was really strong.

Herman growled and finally stomped away. Peter shook his head and followed him. What was their problem?

I looked over my shoulder. The Fire stood relaxed with his arms crossed and he had a big smile on his face. It really lit up his eyes. He raised an eyebrow at me.

“Let’s go.” I sighed.

 

Chapter 52

That night we camped in the middle of a large field. We had found The Fire. Yay! Okay that was a sarcastic yay but you know what, I was tired, cold, hungry and a little sick of walking, thank you very much. Our group of five was now seven, because The Fire’s dragon, the giant red scary dragon who kidnapped me, followed us when we left the cave. I was currently sitting on a log as far away from him as I could manage. The Fire hadn’t called him anything, so I don’t know if he had a name. I was scared to death of him, so I really didn’t plan talking to him. The Fire was sitting close to the red dragon next to the large campfire.

Sarah lay next to Herman and Fred on the other side, her nose turned away from the red dragon who stared at her intently. Peter sat halfway between me and the rest of my team. He was writing something onto a thin piece of paper–I think that was what he was doing–either way he had his back to me.

No one talked.

It was very quiet and awkward as hell. I really hoped this is not how the rest of the trip would be.

Herman held a pot of something over the campfire and it smelled great.

My log was uncomfortable and I was cold, but I wasn’t moving any closer to the campfire if I could help it. I rubbed at my eyes tiredly and heard a thunk as something fell out of my pocket. It was the stone. Hmmm, it just sat there on the ground. It no longer vibrated and when I poked my finger at it, it was cold. Hmmm. Weird. I had a strong urge to hide it and quickly shoved it deep into my pocket again. I looked up, no one had seen me. I was relieved and part of me wondered why.

 

Chapter 53

I wrapped my arms around myself as cold wind seemed to sneak its way into every gap in my clothes. Fred climbed to his feet and scurried over us to start building a web. I watched him spin for a little while, feeling myself drift. It was really kind of beautiful in a very, very, creepy way.

A fluttering caught my attention and I turned as Peter sat on the log next to me. I shuffled over a little. Did he need to sit that close, really?

“So,” he said. I stared at him and blinked slowly. In the distance, I could see Herman look our way, Sarah’s eye also turned in our direction. Oh, it was an intervention. The Fire stood staring into the dark woods beyond our camp. Peter cleared his throat and began again, “So, what’s the plan here? We just take this guy back with us?”

I blinked slowly at Peter again. His wings fluttered and wrapped over his shoulder. It looked like they were trying to keep him warm. I looked at The Fire. He was staring back at me. I guess everyone was interested in this conversation.

“Yup.” Yes, this late at night I was soooo eloquent.

Peter put his hand onto the log near my leg.  I looked at it oddly. “Did he do anything to you? Make you eat anything?”

“What?”

 

Chapter 54

I asked again, “What?” I was dumbfounded. Was Peter asking what I think he was asking?

Peter pulled his hand back but looked me in the eye. “Did. He. Do. Anything. To. You?”

Really, slow speech was necessary to make me understand? “Yes,” I said, “I heard you. I just didn’t understand you. I am not under the influence nor have I drunk a magic potion. I have not been be-spelled or anything like that. I am not being blackmailed or coerced in any way. I said, “Come with us,” and he said, “Okay”.”

Now Peter was the one who looked like he didn’t understand.

“Look,” I said putting a hand on his shoulder. I could feel the tremor of his wings as they fluttered rapidly behind him. “I have no idea what is going on here. Honestly. The guy gets his giant dragon to kidnap me and then, when he has me, he says he’ll come back with us. I do believe he is playing at something, I just don’t know what.”

 

Chapter 55

Herman called us over at that point, “Soup’s up.” He stood over the pot stirring rapidly. My stomach growled in the quiet of the forest and all eyes leapt to mine. I laughed nervously and clasped a hand over my stomach.

Oh thank god. I patted Peter’s knee. “Let’s stress about it when we need to, huh?” I hurried to Herman and took the bowl he held out. A giant spoonful of the soup splashed into it and I returned to my log. Peter didn’t follow. He went to talk to Sarah. I watched them as took my first mouthful.

Oh My God, the soup was really good. I waved my spoon at Herman. He gestured back and dished out the rest.

“What was the fairy asking you?” The Fire’s voice came from my elbow.

Argh.

I jumped. I know I jumped because what was left in my bowl landed on the dirt between my feet. All that amazing soup soaked into the ground before my very eyes.

“Listen, mate,” I snapped. “That was not cool.”

In the darkness I saw a glint of his teeth. “Was he warning you about me?”

“Does he need to?”

Teeth glinted again. “They are scared of me, I can sense it. But you, you aren’t scared. Why?”

I wasn’t sure how to answer him.

 

Chapter 56

Okay you know what? I was getting sick of this. “Hey, enough with the interrogation, I honestly don’t care anymore. I was told to find The Fire and take a team to do it. I asked you to come back with us and you said yes. Seems to me, the Prince could have just asked you to come back–so did he ask? What is your game?”

He smiled. I couldn’t see it but I knew he was smiling. I could feel it. “You are quite different.”

“Yeah well, I’m not from around here.”

“Clearly. To answer your question, I was asked. I said no.”

“So why…”

“I don’t actually have to explain anything to you,” he said. I could hear the smirk in his voice.

“Fine. I’m going to bed.” I grumped and stomped to my tent. What had started out as fun was just not that fun anymore. The stone in my pocket burned and I gasped, pulling it out quickly. I stared in surprise. The stone glowed hot, not hot enough to drop but still pretty hot.

“What is that?”

I looked up to find all eyes on me again.

“Well isn’t that interesting,” said The Fire. He grabbed my wrist and held the stone out in front of us. It glowed brighter as soon as he touched me.

 

Chapter 57

Very quickly everyone was standing around me. Well, all except the two dragons–who watched me, and Fred who quickly spun a web over our heads and hovered above us to look down.

The Fire lifted his hand from my arm and the stone lost its glow. Very slowly, he moved it back and the glow grew brighter.

“Interesting,” was all he said.

Herman tugged me away from The Fire and pushed me behind him, Peter moved up beside me. His hands gripped his sword hilt.

“Ah, guys.” I said, they pushed me back – Peter even shushed me.

Seriously?

“What did you do?” Herman demanded.

The Fire stared impassively at him.

Peter’s wings fluttered angrily, nearly smacking me the in face. I stepped back.

“Excuse me?” There was no response as the three men squared up against one another. Herman stroked one finger along the sharp edge of his knife.

“Excuse me?” I shrieked. Fred squealed at the sound and darted up disappearing in the darkness. The two dragons winced and turned their heads away.

All three men turned on me with sour expressions.

“WHAT?” they shouted.

 

Chapter 58

I looked at their faces. “It’s just a stone–I found it at the tower. I thought it was just a stone.” I looked up at The Fire, he looked back. “Is it yours?”

“No, I have not seen it before.”

I looked at the stone in my palm, glowing brightly. He had managed to touch my arm again. “Do you want it?” I asked. The thought of giving it away caused an ache in my chest and I hoped he would say no.

“No.”

I sighed happily and he let go of my arm. I knew, he knew I hadn’t wanted to give it away.

I looked around. “It’s just a stone.” I said but they all looked sceptical.

Herman threw some water on the campfire. “We should get some sleep… it’s a long trip in the morning.”

The two dragons settled in close to the smoking campfire. I could hear Fred scuttling around in the trees above, which curled the hair on the back of my neck. Honest, I was trying to think of him as a friend but seriously, he gave me the creeps. I imagined all those eyes staring down at us and shivered. Peter settled down next to the log outside my tent. My tent? Oh yay, I get one to myself this time. I looked around… wait… Herman sat staring into the darkness. I guessed he was going to take first watch. I entered my tent and jumped.

The Fire was sitting on my bed.

“Ahem… My tent.” I said as snarkily as I could manage.

He smiled at me in the darkness. “I thought you could do with some…”

“Don’t even finish that sentence, buddy.” I snapped and pointed to the door. “Out!”

He brushed past me, a little too close for comfort. He chuckled as he left.

Before I went to sleep I stared down at the stone. It was dark and still, lying in the middle of my palm.

 

Chapter 59

I was cold–freezing, I could feel my jaw tremble and pressed my hands to my face to stop it. So cold and so dark, my fingers felt icy against my skin. A voice called out of the darkness but I couldn’t hear what it said. I turned my head one way and then the other, the voice was slightly louder from the right. I turned and shuffled my feet in that direction. With each hesitant step, the voice grow louder, clearer.

“Hello?” I called out.

The voice fell silent and I froze. Should I keep moving? All I could hear was my own ragged breathing and my teeth chattering. Definitely keep moving–at least then I wouldn’t be so damned cold.

“Hello?” I called again.

“Don’t let the fire go out.” I heard the voice, suddenly clear, say.

I jolted awake, staring at the wall of my tent. My blankets had come off during the night. All I could hear was that voice in my head. “Don’t let the fire go out.” What a strange dream.

“Come on–get up.” A booted foot nearly hit me through the tent wall.

“Yeah, I’m coming.” I yawned but in my head, the voice repeated again. “Don’t let the fire go out.”

 

Chapter 60

We spent all of the next day walking back. It was a long walk. Fred scurried ahead. Several times I thought we might have lost him only to have him reappear suddenly out of the shadows… scared me bloody stupid each time he did it. The two dragons flew overhead. Sarah flew several metres higher than the red dragon. They circled in opposite directions. It was a little mesmerizing. For the first few hours no one spoke. Herman was out front, “scouting.” I think he just didn’t want to walk with the rest of us. Peter stayed three steps behind me and I could feel his gaze burning a hole into the center of my back. The Fire walked about eight steps ahead of me. Seriously, it was like he was counting because every time I slowed down so did he, when I walked faster, he did as well. It was unnerving.

At several points throughout the day I wanted to start shouting or singing or talking… anything, about movies or books, just something to break the silence. I didn’t though. I was really impressed with my own restraint.

I was going crazy.

We hit the tower at sundown.

 

Chapter 61

The plan was we would stay the night in the tower and head out at first light. OMG I am soooo over these early mornings!

To be perfectly honest, I was a little uncomfortable about staying in the tower, given the strange happenings last time. And of course this was where we were attacked so I think it was perfectly reasonable to voice my reservations.

Apparently, I was a wuss.

“I’m sorry?” I stared at Herman.

He shrugged his shoulders. “Yeah, well, look around–no trolls, no goblins, no enemies of any kind. I think you’re fine.”

“A wuss?” I repeated. Seriously?

He grinned and shrugged.

Ass.

The Fire sidled up beside me. Oh yeah, that was getting old. “Let me guess,” I snapped, “You’ll stay with me to protect me, right?”

“Bad time of the month?” he asked softly, running his hand along my arm.

“Oh My God” I screamed. I shook off his arm and stomped into the tower, slamming the wooden door behind me.

 

Chapter 62

The front hall of the tower was somewhere I had not explored before. The upper tower sure, but I had run through so fast on my way out last time I had not really had a chance to look around. Having slammed the heavy wooden door behind me, okay I couldn’t actually slam it, but I did lean against it and push it closed with my shoulder. I looked around. The main floor was very large–the entire width of the tower. Stairs hugged the wall circling up until they disappeared into the floor above. The floor was cobbled with large stones. I could vaguely hear the sound of voices but as I moved away from the door, they faded into silence. On the other side of the empty room there was a dark shadow. As I walked, I realized it was a void in the floor.

I crept forward. There were dirt steps cut into the void.

Standing over the steps, I peered into the darkness.

Then I heard it.

A voice, faint in the distance, singing.

Curious. I was alone in the tower. At least as far as my friends outside were concerned.

Well–I had been.

I headed down into the darkness.

 

Chapter 63

The voice, soft as it was, grew louder the further I moved into the darkness.  Wait, what? What was I thinking? Am I stupid? I’ve watched enough horror movies to know this was ridiculous. Who goes down into the dark without a torch, alone, knowing that no one knows where you are? Sheesh the number of times I have shouted at the TV over the heroine doing just that and here I am doing it myself. I spun on the steps to climb back out. My shoe scraped dirt and hit a rock.

I fell.

I reached out to grab hold of something, anything. I hit step after step and then…

All was dark.

 

Chapter 64

I rolled over and kept my eyes squeezed shut. I was warm and comfortable. I did not want to wake up. I could feel the spark above my right eye that said a headache was coming and I should really drag myself out of bed to swallow a migraine tablet but hey if it was early enough I could then roll back onto the pillow and let it take effect. I opened one eye to look up at the alarm clock.

Wait… no clock.

I opened both eyes.

No clock, no bed… I could see, barely. There was a dim light above my head that emanated from a crack in the stone. Crap… that’s right I’m in the tower. I racked my brain for the last thing I could remember but it was all a blur. I remembered being angry… steaming, but I couldn’t think of why. And stairs. I remembered walking down dirt or stone stairs. The back of my head ached with all this thinking. I touched the back of my head, OW!

Okay. I had fallen.

“Hi,” a voice came out of the darkness, this seemed remarkably familiar.

I climbed to my feet. I was standing on a giant soft mattress-like sponge.  Where had the voice come from? I peered into the dark. Was that water? I was surrounded on all sides by water and the voice came from the water’s edge.

I knelt down. “Um, Hello?” The voice sounded nice enough. Feminine, kind of low and soft. There was a splash near my hand.

“Hi.”

I couldn’t make out a lot in the darkness, but as I knelt next to the edge I could see a faint glow coming from beneath the water. There was another splash and something scaly touched my hand.

Argh!

I jumped back nearly falling off the other side of the small spongy stone. Okay, yup–that was a tail.

“Woops, sorry,” the voice giggled.

“No, I was just startled. I’m sorry, it’s just very dark in here.” I apologized. I felt my face heat but thankfully in the darkness the mermaid wouldn’t see my shame. I moved back to the water’s edge.

“I saw you fall. I wanted to make sure you were okay,” she said.

Now that my eyes were adjusting I could make out more of her appearance. She had long hair and was wearing a tank top in a darkish color. I was pretty relieved by that let me tell you. If she had just been wearing shells or a little bra top I would have felt really awkward. From what I could see–she was stacked. She seemed to be leaning or floating at the water’s edge.

I rubbed the back of my head. “A bit sore but nothing seems to be broken,” I said. I looked around but really couldn’t see a lot in the darkness. “Where are we?”

“My home,” she said with a sigh, “And my prison.”

 

Chapter 65

“What?” I was shocked.

“Yes. We are at the bottom of the tower, long ago it used to be an underground well. There is no way out except for the way you came in and well,” she flipped her tail. “As you found out, there is a giant gap between that bottom step and where you landed. I guess that means you are trapped now as well.”

I heard another splash as I sat down on the soft pad. “Trapped?” I echoed the words but they didn’t sink in, it was like there was nothing for them to latch onto. “Wait, how did you get here?”

I felt more than saw her rest her arms against the shore. “I don’t know,” she sighed, “I have been here a long time, as long as I can remember.”

“But what do you eat?”

She giggled, “Oh, there are fish.”

I gagged at the thought. I hoped she didn’t see my reaction.

“So what do you do all day?”

“I sing.”  She giggled again and her voice was so musical I felt I could listen to it all day.

“Well, I have friends,” I gulped–at least I hoped that was what they were. “They’ll come looking for me soon. And we’ll get you out of here.”

I felt a warm hand press my arm. “Really?”

“Really.” I confirmed.

A flickering light appeared above us. The Fire stood on the last stair, a flame held aloft in his hand. “Hey,” he called, “Are you busy?”

 

Chapter 66

I rolled my eyes. Sure, it lost effectiveness in the dark but at least I knew I had expressed my irritation with his comment even though he didn’t. The mermaid must have good eye sight. She giggled.

“Yes dear,” I called. “Can you perhaps come back after tea?”

“What?”

I sighed. “Never mind. Hey, I’m stuck down here. Oh and I found a new friend, her name is…” I looked over my shoulder and raised a brow.

“Maddie.”

“Maddie the mermaid.” I called up and then paused. I looked at Maddie, “Really?”

She giggled again. “I’m glad to have met you,” she said with a laugh in her voice. “You’re funny.”

Story of my life. Looking up I saw The Fire nod his head and the flame disappeared. I assumed he left to tell the others.

“I’ve read stories about mermaids.” I said in a soft voice. I didn’t want to upset her but if I was to get her out of here, I needed information. “Do you have legs when you’re dry or on land?”

“Yes, what stories?”

“Um, just ones that my mum read to me when I was little. Can you come up here with me and dry off a little? Do you even have clothes?”

“Be right back.” She replied and with a splash, disappeared.

I sat down on the damp, spongy ground and tapped my foot. Was this a good idea? I guessed even bad ideas hadn’t stopped me of late. This was a good as any of the others I had made. And yet–in the dark–the back of my neck crawled.

 

Chapter 67

I was sitting in the dark waiting for Maddie when a thump landed beside me. I darted to my feet. What the hell? A hand slapped over my mouth stopping me from saying the words out loud and I struggled frantically until a voice whispered in my ear.

“Be quiet.”

Herman. Phew, but wow, strong arms, I mean I had guessed, but wow. He held me tightly, one hand over my mouth, the other was wrapped around my waist. I wanted to relax against him but held my ground.

Yes, I’m an idiot.

I stopped struggling and held still. He breathed deeply next to my ear for a long moment and then let me go.

“Where?” He hissed.

I couldn’t see him but knew he was standing only inches in front of me. “Underwater. Getting her things. She’s coming with us.”

I felt more than saw him shake his head. “Bad idea.”

“She’s been trapped down here for years. I am not leaving her behind.”

“You can’t trust them,” he hissed back.

“Wha—”

“Their words are dangerous. They cannot tell the truth. Everything is a game to them.”

“Oh yes, and like you guys are perfectly normal and nice in your time off, right?” Gee he was pissing me off. Maddie seemed nice. I hadn’t felt any creepy vibes or anything and this meeting seemed fated. I couldn’t help but think there was something important about Maddie and anyway this place was awful.  I couldn’t leave her here even if she was a liar.

A splash alerted us to her return.

“Oh hey,” she called out of the darkness. “Someone new, hello!”

 

Chapter 68

Maddie came forward and pressed a damp hand against Herman’s arm. Huh, well that was fast. It didn’t take long for her legs to form once she dried off. There had been some disconcerting sounds for a few minutes.

I stared at the slender fingers caressing Herman’s arm. Well excuse me! Bit forward wasn’t she? I was feeling an irrational need to throw her hand off him, weird.  But when Herman shrugged her off moments later I felt remarkably pleased.

What? It was a little fresh that’s all.

“So,” I interrupted the epic staring contest now playing out in front of me by pointing to the broken-off stairs. How do we get up there?

“You’re not gonna like it.” Herman grumped.

“What do you mean?”

He pointed. Fire sparked above to highlight the figure standing at the lip of the stairs. It was The Fire and beside him was…

“Peter?” I groaned as the fairy launched himself over the edge. Herman was right, I was not happy about Peter carrying us up. Honestly I did not want him touching me. “Great,” I muttered as he landed. He stretched out his hands. They were clammy. He wrapped his arms around me and we took off.

Ewww!

 

Chapter 69

Peter returned twice, first to bring Maddie up and then Herman. It was interesting to watch the others when we emerged from the tower. Herman walked between me and Maddie but kept gesturing for Maddie to walk ahead of us following Peter. Sarah took flight the second we hit the grass. She flew above, flapping her giant wings gracefully. I watched her for a moment with a smile before I realized she was looking odd, her eyes were wide, the nostrils flared–she looked frightened.

As we drew closer to the camp site, the giant red dragon took off as well. Fred took one look a Maddie and scuttled into the tree line, which was like a mile away. Peter’s wings kept twitching. It was something I hadn’t seen him do before.

My eyes automatically fell on The Fire where he stood in the center of the camp site. He was staring at us as we approached. His eyes flicked over me. It made me feel like looking down to check that I didn’t have a button open. When I looked back up, he was staring at Maddie.

Maddie stopped walking. I nearly walked into her but Herman grabbed my arm to stop me before I touched her. Maddie stared at The Fire.

The Fire didn’t move.

I looked around, “Um, excuse me? What is going on here?” No one answered. No one even looked at me. Wow, really… nothing? I pulled away from Herman, stepped around Maddie and Peter and stomped toward my tent. As I drew close, The Fire turned and followed me. I stopped at the flap. “Where do you think you are going buddy?” I snapped. Over his shoulder I could see Maddie and Peter walk into the camp. Peter pointed Maddie toward his tent and then sat down outside of it. Almost like–like he was guarding the door.

Herman stood at the entrance of our circle of tents. He stared off into the distance watching the dragons fly high above. He hand rested near his sheathed knife.

The Fire touched my shoulder. “Where did you find her?”

I looked at him with squinted eyes. “She was trapped at the bottom of a well in the basement of the tower. She’s coming with us.”

“Why?”

“Why what, what are you asking?”

He leaned closer and whispered into my ear, “Do not trust what she tells you.”

“And I can trust you?” I countered.

He looked surprised, “Of course you can.” He stepped closer until all I could see was his wide shoulders.  I looked up, straight at his chin. I would have stepped back but I was standing so close to my tent I would have stumbled on the material and probably fallen on him.

“You don’t trust me?” he asked softly.

I opened my mouth to reply.

 

Chapter 70

I stared, “Actually no, not really.”

He paused. A strange expression crossed his face, I wasn’t sure what to make of it.

“Sorry,” I shrugged when he didn’t speak again.

He let go of my arm and stepped back. “Just be careful of her.”

I nodded, not really sure what else I could do. I entered my tent.

I was lying on my bed a few minutes later just staring up at the slowly moving material in the dark when there was a slap on the tent flap. “Yeah?” I called.

“Hi.” Maddie stuck her head in. “Can I come in.”

“Sure.” I sat up and tugged my sleeping bag higher, it was starting to get chilly.  Maddie sat cross-legged on the end on my cot.

I gestured with a hand still in my sleeping bag, “Does it hurt to sit like that?”

She shook her head.  “No, on land, when I have legs… I have legs. So I can sit like anyone else. It’s cool.”

I nodded.  She had come in for a reason. I figured I would wait until she said what she came to say.

It was quiet.

She flipped her hair over her shoulder and began to run her hands through its length, tugging at knots as she went. I just watched her, quietly waiting.

“So,” she said.

I nodded, “Yeah?”

She leaned forward then, her hair forgotten, “I need to…”

 

Chapter 71

The flap of my tent was thrust open. Herman stood in the doorway. Peter was just behind him and The Fire close behind. They looked around my tent carefully.

“Hey, having a party? Can we join you?”

“Wha?  I thought we were meant to be sleeping now.” I snapped. “Go away.” Why would they want to come into my tent now? Herman had been so insistent earlier that we should all have an early night.

Maddie sat back, her nose scrunched. She seemed annoyed. “I should go.”

The boys trailed after Maddie as she left. And I was left sitting on my cot staring at the door.

What was that all about?

 

Chapter 72

We made good time the next morning. Within minutes of waking the entire camp was dismantled and Fred–once he had been tracked down and dragged back to the campsite–was loaded up. We headed out an hour after sunrise.

We had walked for three hours when I glanced at my watch. My watch was one of those ones that had the number of the date on the side. Thinking about the calendar back home, I started to swear… loudly.

“What?” Herman snapped as the whole group stopped to stare at me.

“I am missing Easter… We have got to get a move on.” I grumbled and swore to myself for the next hour. All those chocolate bunnies I’d be missing out on. I was really over this whole mission now.

So clearly I was distracted, right? The ground fell out from under my feet.  I screamed…

 

Chapter 73

I fell.

I was jerked to a halt by a hand at my neck. I hung, staring at the empty abyss beneath my swinging feet and stifled a scream. I couldn’t see who was holding me but the idea that I was being held safe only by the strength of my shirt collar was extremely disconcerting.

I dangled.

“Hold on.” A voice grunted and another hand appeared. I reached up and clasped the hand waving in front of my face. I was pulled up and as soon as I could, I grabbed at the edge of the hole and helped pull myself over the edge. I lay panting and gasping, staring up at the sky above and relished the feel of solid ground beneath my back. The Fire lay next to me still gripping my hand. Herman and Peter were holding onto his feet. I looked up. Maddie lay on my other side. Her hand still gripped my shirt.

What? Maddie had stopped my fall?

“Thank you.” I whispered to both of my saviours. Maddie smiled warmly. “Had to save you back. Now we’re even.” She giggled. I looked at The Fire. He shrugged.

It was a while before I was ready to stand. It was a lot longer before we started to walk again. After a while, I noticed I still had hold of The Fire’s hand.

 

Chapter 74

It was close to midday and I was getting hungry. I had stopped holding The Fire’s hand a little while ago–I’m not sure why I had been holding it, so odd, and walked alone in the middle of the group. Herman had gone on ahead with the two dragons. Fred was behind us, I could hear him scuttling around. Maddie walked behind me with Peter and The Fire only a step behind her.

I imagined we were such an odd group as we walked. Mind you, I could also image that any bad guys or thugs or trolls would think twice about attacking us.

“Hi there,” Maddie said, coming up to walk beside me.

“Hey.”

So I wasn’t chatty today–sue me, I mean–This morning had been kinda rough all right? And then falling in the hole… well yeah, I just wasn’t feeling too chatty.

“Did I say thanks before? For helping me out and letting me come with you? I really hope I did but if I didn’t, I really want to say thank you, so thank you. Cool? I knew you would be cool. It’s hot out here isn’t it? I am not used to hot weather, well any kind of weather. I like it, the sun I mean, though it is a bit hot. So I was wondering, where are we going? I am happy to come along, don’t get me wrong, I honestly have nowhere else to be today–or any day really, what day is this? I have no idea. Being trapped in a deep well will do that to you, you know, make you forget the day and all that. Wow, am I hungry, are you hungry? I sure am hungry, I haven’t eaten anything in such an age. Well, sure this morning but that was breakfast and breakfast was aggggeeesss ago don’t you think?”

Oh My God… She could really talk couldn’t she?

“I think we’ll be stopping soon.” I said quickly. If I let her keep talking I was afraid she wouldn’t stop. “It’s a Wednesday I think, but I’m not too sure either. And we are heading back to the Prince’s cavern.”

Maddie stopped abruptly. “The Prince?”

I looked at her. That was an odd reaction, she just stopped dead and I walked three more steps before I realized she wasn’t beside me. I turned around. “Yeeeess.”

 

Chapter 75

Maddie looked shocked.

“Why?” I asked, touching her arm. Yeah I know, I am not exactly one for comforting others but she just looked like she’d been hit with a very large piece of wood.

Herman came stomping back down the path toward up. “What’s the hold-up ladies?” he snarled, waving his arms around in a dramatic fashion.

And that was the moment they attacked.

Cries came from all around us. I heard Peter shout a warning as Herman pulled his blades from his back. I was pushed back and then screamed as I was flung high into the air.

I had no idea what was happening. The air was filled with screams and shouting along with the clash of steel. When the world stopped moving, I realized I was sitting on Fred’s back and Fred was running as fast as his eight legs could go. Very quickly we lost sight of the attack.

I breathed deeply and clutched hard to Fred’s hairy back. I was alone.

 

Chapter 76

We ran for a long time.

I don’t know if you’ve ever ridden a giant spider at a full run but let me tell you the feeling is not a pleasant one. Eight legs moving in rapid succession meant I was bounced around like a–well–I can’t even tell you what it is like because I don’t think anyone has ever experienced it before. Either way, I was sore all over after only half an hour… and we ran for a lot longer than that.

It was only when I saw the cavern entrance that I realized Fred had brought me all the way back to the start of our mission. I was alone. I had returned without the purpose of our mission. Crap!

I tried to stop Fred now that he had slowed to a walk but he kept moving forward. Home was in sight and I had the feeling nothing was going to stop him until he reached his web.

I had to think of something to tell the Prince.

 

Chapter 77

Within moments we were surrounded by fairy police… seriously fairy police, police with wings, it was kinda cool. What would our world would be like if all the police had wings? Chase scenes would be far more interesting to watch.

I was asked to remove myself from Fred. Which I did rather awkwardly. After all, Fred is huge and I am very little. It wasn’t like dismounting from a horse… more like stumbling down the side of a hairy volcano, once I hit the downward angle, it was an ungainly run down his leg to land in a heap on the ground. I swear Fred was laughing at me, couldn’t really tell but his mandibles were clacking loudly.

I was then “escorted” to the main royal chamber.

Now remember, I have been sleeping in tents for the past few days, flown a dragon, fallen down a well and a giant sinkhole. I was in a battle and so on and on… I imagined I didn’t look–or smell my best.

I did ask if I could pop away to have a bath or at least stand under a waterfall or something equivalent but no, I was basically frogmarched into the main chamber and pushed into a plush arm chair.

Well sue me if I groaned really loudly at that… it had been ages since I’d sat on anything soft. It was heavenly.

An approaching flutter warned me of the Prince’s approach. I climbed out of the armchair. The Prince entered with a great flurry of movement. He stopped directly in front of me. “You have failed.”

 

Chapter 78

I was stunned, genuinely stunned. How could he say that? Oh wait, of course he could say that. He had no idea I found The Fire.

“But I found The Fire.” I insisted.

The Prince looked at me sadly then around the room with obvious exaggeration. “I do not see him.”

I couldn’t believe it. Really? He was going to be like that? I looked at him, “I did. He was returning with us when we were attacked.”

“And you left him behind?”

“No!” I glared at the Prince, “We were attacked. I was thrown onto Fred and Fred left. I couldn’t stop him.”

The Prince shook his head. “And I am to believe this account? That you were forced to leave and you did not just run away?”

“What?” I gasped in outrage.

He shook his head. “If you speak the truth, then they will return. Until then you will be locked in the dungeon. I only hope for your sake your team return as promised.”

I was quickly surrounded by guards. I hope they return too…

 

Chapter 79

So I’d been down in this dungeon for a day or so. At least they fed me. And it was mostly warm. All in all, apart from the bars, I was reasonable comfortable. I wondered what happened to the others? I hoped they were safe. I had no idea who’d attacked us and why but at least I had a bed and had actually gotten a decent amount of sleep.

No, I was bored.

My cell was located at the bottom of a long dark tunnel. My guard was another fairy–he hadn’t told me his name but he seemed nice enough. Didn’t yell at me or call me names or anything, and brought me my meals pretty regular-like. No chocolate though–a clear indication that I was in a prison.

I paced back and forth this morning. I was feeling antsy and not sure why. I didn’t want to lie down or sit which just left standing or walking. So I chose to walk.

Up and down

Up and down.

There was a loud tap tap of footsteps approaching. I stopped at the edge of my cell and looked out. It was my guard and he was marching someone down the tunnel.

Herman! I was about to call out when he caught my eye and shook his head. Curious, I stayed quiet. The guard put Herman into the cell next to mine. I waited until he left before I said, “What are you doing down here?”

“Breaking you out,” he answered. Within seconds his cell was open and he was fiddling with the lock on my door.

 

Chapter 80

I was hiding in a cupboard.

I know it sounds ridiculous but yes, right now I was hiding in a cupboard. Squished right up against Herman.

Okayyyyyyyyyyy, it was not awful by any means.  And have I mentioned Herman smells really nice? I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned that before but yes, verrrrrrrrrrrrry nice. Ahem.

“Shhhhhhhhh,” he snarled softly right into my ear.

Was I making noise? Oh goodness I hoped I wasn’t making happy noises.

I pressed my lips tightly together and turned my head. It put my ear right next to the door. Course it put my other ear against someone’s chest and oh dear was it really hot in here? I couldn’t hear anything moving outside. “What are we waiting for?”

“The others were right behind me. I said I’d get you out and meet them upstairs.  Didn’t realize you’d have so many guards watching you, what did you do?”

I sighed loudly, “Apparently I lied to the Prince.  He was expecting all of you to return with me, and surprise, surprise, I returned without you all. He thinks I left you all to die or something.” I turned to face Herman hurriedly, in the dark I couldn’t see his face but I felt like I had to be looking at him for this, “You know I didn’t right? I would never leave you guys.”

Herman touched my face. “We know,” he said softly.

It felt like a huge weight was lifted off me the minute he said those words. Then it struck me, “Where are the others? Are they all okay. You sent ME away.”

“Honey, you can’t fight worth shit.  It was safer you not being there. The rest of us could concentrate on fighting without worrying about you.”

Oh, well that made me feel sort of happy and pissed at the same time.  “Didn’t think I could look after myself?”

“Babe, I just broke you out of prison.”

Good point.  “So now what?”

“We wait.”

 

Chapter 81

So we waited…

And waited…

And waited…

I fell asleep.

Oh stop laughing, it was dark, quiet and I felt safe knowing Herman was here and well, I closed my eyes for a second and the next thing I knew Herman was shaking me awake. “Wha?”

I think I’d been drooling–my jaw was tacky and I rubbed at it embarrassed while Herman glared–I assumed he glared–it was still dark.

“Time to go,” he said and pushed me aside to slip out of the cupboard.

Once the door was open, I could hear it too. A whistle, high-pitched and curiously in tune.

Herman headed left. I followed him. At the corner we were pulled into a secret door–cool. I said as much.

Maddie grinned at me and then pointed to The Fire.  “”He found it.”

I looked at The Fire carefully. Found it, I wondered, or already knew it was here? He was looking over my shoulder so I could look at him without being watched. He turned and caught my eye. He smiled gently and raised a finger to his lips. Interesting, he knew I suspected something. I looked at both Maddie and Herman, they didn’t seem to have seen our communication.

It looked like The Fire had dressed with care today. His black outfit was snug and fitting. Hair brushed and pulled to the side, face groomed but dusted with a dark shadow. He looked good. Herman looked like usual and Maddie was dressed in a pretty dress. It showed off her long, long, long legs. I looked down at myself and sighed sadly. Then I realized what was missing.

“Where’s Peter?”

 

Chapter 82

Apparently Peter was stalling fairy security. His dad was the chief… Who knew?

From our hidden vantage point, we had a pretty decent view of the security office. Peter was talking rapidly, I don’t think I have ever heard him talk so much actually. I had to press my hands over my mouth to stop laughter exploding out. He was doing a great job. His poor dad looked completely befuddled.

Finally the Chief shrugged his son off and stormed from the office. After a beat, Herman swung the hidden door open and we climbed out.

“Seriously? The hidden tunnel exits into the security office? That seems to defeat the purpose of an escape doesn’t it?”

The Fire tapped my shoulder. “The tunnels were here first,” he said. How did he know that? He stared back at me, his dark eyes gleamed mysteriously. I looked away first.

With Peter leading the way, we snuck from the office and headed for the surface. I could tell we were close when I recognized the tunnel we were in.

“Well, this is interesting.” A voice from ahead stopped us mid-stride.

The fairy Prince stood in the middle of the corridor. He was flanked by his security officers; Peter’s dad was one of them. The Chief was shaking his head sadly.

The Prince continued, “You now add breaking out of prison to your list of criminal behavior?” he said looking at me.

Before I could speak, The Fire stepped in front of me. “Hello brother.”

 

Chapter 83

“Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?” Okay – yes it was not the wittiest response I might have made but seriously? I figured I would need, like a week to deal with a revelation like that. He had been telling the truth back in the cave. I turned to look at The Fire and he rolled his eyes at me, yes rolled his eyes.

“Later.” He hissed.

Well, excuse me! I glared back and turned to the Prince. He was looking from The Fire to me and back again as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

I wanted to snap out, “I told you so,” but right at this moment I wasn’t sure how this was going to play out.

The Prince sent me on a mission to bring back The Fire, well, clearly I had done that. Now I wanted to know what he wanted The Fire for?

 

Chapter 84

This was an interesting situation.

Let me try to describe it. I stood in the middle of a dark tunnel located somewhere in the underground kingdom of this… did I ever really explain where I was? I digress. I was standing in the middle of the darkish tunnel facing off with the fairy Prince–who gave me the job in the first place might I add–and his huge team of security fairies. I was surrounded by half of my team. Herman the troll-hunter, Peter the fairy, Maddie the mermaid who we picked up along the way and The Fire… the man we had been tasked to find. And here is the kicker, seriously… this is the really freaky part of this story… The Fire… is the fairy Prince’s brother.

I know right?

Which makes him, a fairy prince too I guess.

Anyway, right now The Fire was glaring at his brother. And the fairy Prince was glaring at me.

“Um, excuse me–but wasn’t the whole mission to bring The Fire, I mean, your brother back? Well here he is, mission accomplished. Are you planning to arrest me again?”

The rudest thing was–they all ignored me.

“Brother,” said The Fire.

“Brother,” said the Prince.

Maddie crept over to me, “Would it be rude, do you think, if we went off for coffee and just left them here?”

I laughed and clasped a hand over my mouth. But it was too late–the brothers were glaring at me again.

“Who is it you are talking to?” The Prince demanded.

Maddie stepped forward.

The Prince paled and took a step back, “Maddie?”

 

Chapter 85

As the Prince stepped back weapons rose in our direction all pointed at the girl who stood next to me.

“Holy crap, it’s like they think you murdered someone.” I whispered.

There was a suspicious silence beside me. I looked at the girl.

She shrugged, “I have, I did, I mean, yeah.” She smiled.

I took a step back, “What?”

“Yeah, it’s my job, I’m an assassin.”

I was shocked, “How can a mermaid be an assassin?”

“How could I not? Come on, are we talking about job equality here? Just because I’m a mermaid doesn’t mean I can’t make a good assassin.”

“Oh well, no. Sure,” I stuttered. Really? She was a killer? But she was so nice. I guess now I knew why everyone treated her so distantly. Why wouldn’t they just tell me?

“Wait, how does the Prince know you’re an assassin?”

“Oh well, yeah, see he hired me to kill his brother.” She said. I think she was making sure the Prince and all the fairy security could hear her.

The Fire turned very slowly and looked at the mermaid.

“What?” he hissed.

 

Chapter 86

Mmmmm okay quick recap.

Maddie–mermaid assassin. Not that she murders mermaids–she IS a mermaid AND an assassin.

The Fire–the fairy Prince’s BROTHER

The fairy Prince–Um okay that’s self-explanatory

Herman–troll-hunter and awesome chef

Peter–fairy and security

And me… um well me. Bella Smith, Human.

So we, (me, the Fire, Herman, Maddie and Peter) faced off against the fairy Prince and all of his security fairies.

Wait… Wait… I turned to Maddie, “Assassin–hired to kill The Fire? How did you end up in the well?”

Maddie looked sheepish,“It didn’t go so well?” She looked over my shoulder at The Fire. He grinned.

Really? I swallowed a laugh, “The Fire put you in the well?” I asked. I turned on The Fire then, “Why didn’t you tell me ANY of this?” I gestured broadly around the cave corridor.

“I didn’t want to alarm you?”

Arghhhhhhhhhhhhh Men! I put my hands on my hips and completely freakin’ lost it. “You guys are all NUTS! Seriously? I am so over this. Family politics, runaways and assassins who are no good at assassinating? I did what you asked me to do. I found the guy and brought him back. I am done. Seriously done. I am now going home and don’t even THINK of stopping me.” I was screaming by the end of my speech.

Everyone took a step back and I stomped away. No one stopped me.

 

Chapter 87

I made it to the mouth of the cave.

I looked up at a scurry of feet to find Fred behind me. I took a step forward. Fred took a step forward–all eight feet. I looked up at him, “Whatcha doing Fred?”

Well, yeah, I knew he couldn’t answer me. It’s kinda why I asked.  I held up a hand, “Stay here.”

He looked sad. All hundred eyes reflected my image, so maybe it was me who felt… Nope, I was leaving. The fairy drama could sort itself out.

I took another step.

This time there was a flap of wings. I didn’t want to turn around. Honest I didn’t. I knew I would see Fred standing behind me and behind him I would see two dragons.

“What?” I asked them all

Sarah took a step forward, folding her wings tightly to squish forward in the small corridor. “Where are you going?” she squawked, her hot breath nearly bowled me over in the small space.

“Home.” I grumped and started walking again.

“They’ll need your help.”

“Okay, wait, wait just a minute. No they don’t. I was conscripted into this little team of crazy to do a job, job done. I am outta here.” I stomped away.

This time when I stopped, it was all me.

“Shit.”

 

Chapter 88

I made it back to the corridor just in time, “Stop!” I screamed.

Everyone froze. It was a funny tableau to behold.

Peter hovered above the front guards– his arms outstretched, holding his sword pointed down ready to attack. Herman held two knives around the fairy Prince’s neck. Maddie was surrounded by fallen fairy security guards–she was the only one standing–her body paused in its elaborate karate pose. And The Fire was holding a handful of flames in front of his face and his lips pursed, like he was planning to blow the flames over everyone.

I raised my hands. Behind me I could hear a chittering sound. It appeared Fred had decided to join me in this foolish endeavor.

The Fire straightened and the flames in this hand dissipated. “What are you doing back here? Thought you were going home?”

“Running away.” Herman grunted

Really? Really? How rude. Herman hadn’t moved his knives from around the Prince’s neck. “Okay look, everyone just back up.” I ordered and to my surprise they did. Herman took a few steps back but kept his knives out. Peter lowered to the ground and tucked his wings and sword away, and Maddie stepped over the fallen guards to return to my side. The Prince rose to his full height and glared at me.

“Now what?”

Now what indeed?

 

Chapter 89

“Okay” I said, “let’s all just take a step back and calm down.” I raised my hands and walked until I was standing between the two groups. “Okay, Now, your Royalness sir. Can we go somewhere to talk, just you, me and The Fire?” I held up my hands as Herman and Maddie opened their mouths to object, “Hush.” I glared at them. “Where are we going to go, honestly? Now get a sandwich or something.” I gestured toward the Prince’s guards, “You too.”

There was a moment of silence. Everyone just looked at each other.

“At least one of us…”

I cut in, “No, just no. If one of your people stays then one of my people will have to stay and I only have three people plus a spider so, no. No hangers on.”

The Prince sighed, “Go,” he ordered. As one, his guards drifted away. He looked at me, “This is your show…”

Oh my god, grumpy moody men would be the death of me. “Do you have somewhere we can go to sit down? Maybe with some food?”

 

Chapter 90

If you can believe it, moments later we were sitting in a beautifully furnished sitting room, with coffee and cake. The chairs were arranged in a triangle with myself, the Prince and The Fire at each corner. No one spoke for a long time.

The cake was good.

And the coffee was spectacular; really I was reaching for a top up when the Prince spoke. “I need your help.”

I looked up expecting the Prince to be staring at me but instead he was staring at his brother.

Sitting opposite them I could see their similarities. Both men had dark hair and dark eyes. Their ears were the same, as was the little dimple slightly left of their chin.

The Fire shrugged. “Why should I help you, you tried to have me killed and when Maddie failed, you exiled me to the other side of the island and left me for dead. Why should I help you?”

The Prince leaned back in his chair. His eyes focused on a spot on the ceiling. When he didn’t look away I glanced up. I couldn’t see anything there that would keep his attention so I figured he just didn’t want to look at either of us. He opened his mouth.

“If you don’t help me, us, we are all going to die.”

The stone in my pocket started to vibrate.

 

Chapter 91

“What?” I couldn’t help the question slipping out.

Both men eyed me curiously.

I pulled the stone from my pocket. It was doing a wild dance in my palm. How weird. It hadn’t done anything like this since I met The Fire.

“The stone has done something?” The Fire asked.

I looked at him in surprise, Oh yeah, that’s right, he knew about the stone, I’d told him all about it back at the tent… Gee that felt like months ago. “Yes,” I said. “It just started vibrating.”

The Prince looked surprised. “What is that? Can I see?”

I was strangely reluctant to hand it over but he was looking at my hand so strangely I did as he asked. As soon as the stone touched his hand the vibration stopped.

“Huh?” we all said. Well… We all said a version of “huh?” Technically, I was the only one who actually said the word, “Huh?” but we basically all made the same sound, so whatever.

The Prince handed the stone back. As soon as it touched my skin it started to vibrate again. “Huh?”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t know.” It was odd, but the last time the stone did something like this, it led me to the tower. Perhaps? I stood up and turned in a wide circle. When I was facing the door, the vibration grew stronger. “I think it wants me to go this way.” I said.

 

Chapter 92

I started walking. It still amazed me how large this entire cavern system was. Why did this fairy kingdom live so far underground? Clearly, I still had a lot of questions as to what was going on here. I vaguely wondered what was going on at home. I hadn’t thought about home in a long time but for a moment–while tramping along this long, dark, rock-walled corridor–I allowed myself a moment to think about my parents, sister and brother. I wondered what day it was? I wondered a bunch of things. The stone in my hand stopped vibrating–right in the middle of the corridor. I turned on one foot and realized The Fire was behind me. I looked behind him, the Prince was nowhere to be seen.

At the raise of my eyebrow raise he shrugged, “Said he had important stuff to do.”

Huh, how rude, I was here at his behest after all.

“Why’d you stop?” he asked sidling up beside me. I could feel the heat of his body warm my entire side.

“The stone did.”

“What does that mean?”

I looked at him with as bland a look as I could manage. “How do I know?”

“It’s your stone.”

I turned away rolling my eyes. Freakin’ genius. I rubbed at the stone. Nothing. I tilted it and raised it to my eyes. Nothing. Not a twitch. I couldn’t really see that well in the dim light cast by the fire ensconces but I could see enough to see the stone looked like a stone. Wonderful. So why had it bought me here?

“So, why did it bring me here?” I asked aloud.

 

Chapter 93

As I said the words, there was a loud crack from the wall. The Fire was at my side in an instant shielding me with one arm. I pushed him off, “Do you mind? Geez.” I would have glared at him some more but I was stunned into silence. I know right? Me silent? What I was looking at could only achieve that reaction.

The wall opened right in front of me. It was dark beyond, dark and scary. The Fire lit a hand, a little flame danced on the top of his palm. He held it toward the doorway. It flickered in the breeze from the tunnel. He looked back at me and raised a brow. “Okay fine,” I grumbled, “So you are good for some things.”

He grinned wickedly and for a second I felt warm all over. Jerk.

“So I’m guessing this means we go in?”

“After you,” he offered.

I looked at him, then at his hand and back at his face.

He looked at the fire, “Oh,” he shrugged and led the way into the tunnel.

The rock wall slammed shut behind us…

 

Chapter 94

I was growing to like dark rooms. Honestly, I’ve been in so many over the past few days it was beginning to feel like home away from home. Admittedly, you could do anything in a dark room, look scared, horrified or leer and the object of your focus would have no idea you were doing it… well… unless they have night vision in which case I would have been totally screwed but I didn’t think The Fire did so I took the chance and leered.

He was a few steps ahead of me, holding the small flame to light the way, which meant I was walking behind him. NICE.

“There,” he said at last.

I moved up reluctantly, “What?”

He pointed. I followed the direction of his hand. “Huh?” I was surprised, “Is that what I think it is?”

 

Chapter 95

We were looking at a glass box. Inside was a flickering light. It was a flame, a flame flickering at the same speed as the flame in the middle of The Fire’s palm. As The Fire raised his own flame, the flame in the box grew larger. It was like it was trying to communicate.

“Can we get it out?” I asked. It was sort of cute the way it was dancing back and forth within its glass cage. I wondered a few things like, Who had put this little flame in a glass case? And how was the flame still lit? Air must be getting into the box somehow but what was feeding it? And why was there a flame in a glass box hidden in a cave in the wall of the palace?

“That’s not a fire.” The Fire said peering over his shoulder at me.

“What?” I was confused. “What are you talking about? I don’t understand? Look at it. It’s a flame… isn’t it?”

The Fire looked at me. He was very serious. The flame in his hand extinguished with a sigh and the smell of smoke surrounded us in the little room. He took my shoulders in his hands and turned me away from the glass box. “I know fire, it’s not fire it’s a memory.”

“A what?”

“A memory. We can’t let it out.”

“Why not?” Something was dragging me back to look at it. I tried to turn but The Fire wouldn’t let go of my shoulders. I looked up into his eyes and could see the little flame in the box reflected in his eyes. It looked so sad. I wanted to let it out.

“It’s dangerous,” he said.

I wondered how a little flame could be dangerous.

 

Chapter 96

I really, really wanted to touch it–which I know is a silly idea right? I mean, even I know that flames can burn, but a little part of me, the part not obsessed with chocolate/coffee and all things TV. Yeah to that really was the TINY part of my mind, darted back to the very beginning of this strange caper. I was brought here to find The Fire.

Well, I found a man/fairy named The Fire, currently standing in front of me, holding onto my shoulders tightly and staring into my eyes, but maybe, maybe it was this flame I was supposed to find.

The stone in my pocket was vibrating like CRAZY, suggesting I had finally gotten something right, and I’m sorry but how rude–a stone was judging me? Sheesh.

I focused on The Fire’s eyes and the reflected flame dancing in the glass box. He saw my decision the instant before I turned.

 

Chapter 97

I lifted the glass case. The flame within flickered alarmingly. If it went out I was going to feel like a real idiot! The Fire grabbed my shoulders and pulled me back into the corridor. “No wait!” I cried, pulling angrily against his grip.

The flame flickered rapidly like a wind had whipped up from somewhere. It had–the wind brushed past, sending my hair flying around my face. My vision was obscured for only a second but when I pulled the strands from my eyes the flame had grown in height, reaching up to lick along the roof of its prison. Heat washed against me as I stood frozen. The flame hovered for a moment and then with a gust of air, flashed bright. When I could see again a man stood where the flame had been.

I pulled away from The Fire’s slack grip. “It’s you.”

He shook his head, wide eyes hadn’t turned from the man in front of us.

“No, it’s my twin,” he said. His voice was so soft I almost didn’t hear him.

“What?” I gasped.

“Hello brother.” The man said. His voice was almost identical to the man behind me. Almost. It was colder. My skin turned to ice and I took a step back without meaning too.

 

Chapter 98

He was HOT.

Okay, sure he was a Flame turned into a man so yeah I guess hot applied in several different ways. The Fire was glaring at his brother. The two men looked identical…Wai… ahem. Yes well I believe it’s already been established I think The Fire is a yummy piece of hotness but looking at both I have to be honest, my thoughts might have gone to a place it probably shouldn’t have, given this story is PG. Wow.

I hoped The Fire had no idea what I was thinking. Awkward!

The Flame stepped forward and took my hand. “Thank you for freeing me.” His voice whispered across my skin like a caress.

Oh My God! I supressed a shiver and glanced at The Fire–Yup, still glaring. I faced The Flame, “Um, yes, sure no problem, really. But can I just ask you a little question?” I had raised my fingers holding them a tiny bit apart. The Flame watched me carefully.

“Certainly.”

I closed my eyes. Wow… “Right well. Little question, why were you being held prisoner?”

He didn’t answer for a moment and then sighed loudly, “Because I’m dangerous.”

My look to The Fire confirmed my fear. He nodded and whispered, “He is.”

“A bad dangerous?” I dreaded the answer.

“Yes.”

 

Chapter 99

Right so I was standing between Hot and Hotter, ahem, I mean, The Fire and The Flame. Two brothers who seemed really angry with one another. I wanted to slip to the side and crawl along the wall until I was out of the firing line. I also wanted to climb on both of them. In reality, I stood still and waited to see what was going to happen next.

Apparently nothing.

I grumbled, “Okay, well now that we have established that you are bad,” I pointed at The Flame and then looked at The Fire behind me, “And you… Well I don’t actually know what you are, given you kidnapped me with a dragon a few days ago, whatever. Right now, we need to figure out what we are doing here and why the fairy PRINCE hired me to bring you to him.” My voice squeaked on the last word as my breath ran out. I gulped a giant breath of air to get my lungs working again.

The Fire sighed and put his hands on my shoulders, my heart leapt until he moved me aside and walked to his brother. Well excuse you.

“She’s got a point. I was exiled, you were imprisoned, so what does he want with us now?”

The Flame raised his head to contemplate the ceiling. Looking back down, he said, “No idea. But I’m over it. Let’s just get out of here.” Clapping a hand on his brother shoulder they headed down the corridor side by side.

They left me behind.

 

Chapter 100

They. Left. Me. Behind. Taking their little flame lights with them. I stared around the dark cavern/prison with a shocked expression on my face, I know it was a shocked expression, it was the one where your eyebrows are in your hair and your mouth has dropped wide open, I could feel my tongue drying out, that’s how wide my mouth was. Well, I wasn’t going to just sit around and wait for them to come back…

I sat down.

Then again, it would be pretty silly to walk around a dark cavern by myself with no light to see where I was going. Knowing myself, I’d likely stub my toe on something and plant face-first on the ground… and then Herman or The Fire or even The Flame would find me. Come on, you know it has happened to me before so I’m not ruling out the possibility.

I pressed my hands to the ground and stretched my legs out in front of me, I couldn’t see my feet but I wiggled them anyway. I wonder how long it would be before someone came looking for me.

I felt like whistling. It was quiet now that the two guys had left. I wasn’t scared, gosh no, but it was awfully dark… and quiet…

I jumped to my feet. Okay enough of this silliness. I did not need a bunch of MEN thinking they would have to rescue me because I was helpless. I shuffled my feet and stretched my arms out, wildly swinging them around so I didn’t run into a wall and break my nose.

“Now what are you doing here all by yourself, in the dark?” A voice whispered softly into my ear.

I screamed.

 

Chapter 101

Maddie appeared at my side so abruptly I fell back onto my butt. I could see her which meant, yup, she was holding a small light in her hands. She must have covered it to sneak up on me like that and I had to wonder why she would do that to me.

“Um, hey.” I sputtered climbing back to my feet. She was being really creepy – just staring at me and with only a small light in her hand her face was cast in shadow, I couldn’t really make out an expression. “How did you find me?” I asked.

She smiled at me then, and the light grew brighter. I couldn’t see what she was holding but it wasn’t a flame it was more like a glowing ball. “Technically, I wasn’t looking for you.” She came really close and for a minute I thought she was going to grab onto me but instead she pushed me out of the way to look at the empty glass case. She spun around, “Where did he go?”

“What? Who?”

She shouted, “Where is the Flame?”

I flinched, was this time to get out of here? I took a deep breath, “I let him go.”

“What!!!!” She screamed.

 

Chapter 102

So Maddie was basically shouting in my face. I wasn’t sure what I had done to make her so angry, but she certainly was so I took a quick step back. “Um, Maddie?”

“You let him go?” He voice dropped. Now it was this quiet whisper and to be honest, that scared the begeezus out of me more than the shouting.  I have this uncle right who is always shouting at stuff, the football, tennis, trains, and business managers – even golf. And I am not even sure how you get angry at golf. Anyway, he is way scarier when he is quiet. Maddie was like him. I took another step back.

“Yeassssssss.” I answered. I was kind of trapped here. Without a light I wouldn’t be able to see to walk out of here. And Maddie had one. Looking at her red face I was wondering if Herman had been right about her all along. Maddie seemed really dangerous right now.

She took a giant breath in and her face relaxed. “Well, that’s fine, that’s fine. You don’t happen to know where he went do you?”

Did I tell her he went off with the Fire? I’m thinking not. “Oh well, he went that way.” I pointed down the corridor and really, it was kind of obvious, there was only one way out after all.

“Well lets go then sweetie.” She said gesturing for me to lead the way.

I really did not want her behind me right now. “Oh, well you have the light.” I said smiling as nicely as I could. “I would just trip over if I went first. Human remember, my eyes are just awful in the dark.”

“Of course.” She said and stepping up to me. She held out her hand. “Why don’t you hold on to me then.”

Oh boy!

 

Chapter 103

We had taken only a few steps before Maddie stopped. I ploughed into her before I was realized what was happening. I bounced backward and as soon as I found my footing in the dark I asked, “What’s wrong?”

I sensed more than saw her turn to me. “You didn’t say why you let him out?”

“Who?” I asked playing dumb. I know, I know, playing dumb is not a good look but whatever keeps the psychopath from focusing right?

I felt her tap my wrist, “Really dearie? Playing dumb does not suit you.”

Darn – busted! I decided to call her on it, “Why are you being so weird?”

She was quiet for a moment and pulled me forward in the dark to get us walking again. I was sure the passageway hadn’t been this long earlier but it felt like we had been walking for ages.

“I guess it is time for me to tell you the truth,” she said at last.

This time I was the one to stop. She walked a few more steps before she realized I was no longer holding onto her. “Well?”

She took a deep breath.

 

Chapter 104

Before Maddie had a chance to speak the wall next to me exploded.

I have no idea what happened next but there had been an almighty BANG and in the next minute I was pushing cold hard stuff off me and choking on powder and dust. I was coughing and breathing harshly struggling to get air into my lungs. Things were still falling on me – I raised a hand to protect my eyes and just lay there for a moment waiting for the world to stop ending. My ears were ringing, I couldn’t see anything but drifting dust particles and… wait a minute… I could see.

The corridor was no longer in darkness. As the dust cleared I could see a massive hole in the wall I had been standing beside. I was lying on the ground a few feet back. Everything was sore – I figure I must have been blown back by the blast.

“Maddie?” I called still coughing.

I could hear no response. I couldn’t hear much of anything actually. “Maddie!” I called again. Looking at the debris around me I wondered if she was under something. I climbed unsteadily to my feet. I was going to have to start looking under the broken walls and rocks. At no point did it occur to me to worry about WHO had blown in the wall…

I should have…

 

Chapter 105

I looked at the hole in the wall which was swirling with dust obscuring the figure standing in the middle. All I could see was an outline. An outline that almost filled the hole… with massive shoulders and arms that were like… you know what, I can’t even describe what they were like – they were just huge!

The dust started to clear and I backed away in a hurry crouching down behind a part of the wall that had crumbled into a mound of rock rubble.

The shape was huge!

I crouched, breathing as shallowly as I could so I couldn’t be heard over the still crumbling walls. I heard a snort and the ground trembled. My hair blew over my face and I had to hold on tightly not to get blown over by the giant gust of stinky-breath that blew through the small corridor like a gale. I peeked very carefully around my hiding place. Oh My God…

 

Chapter 106

Okay the first thing I had to ask myself was, how the heck had an ogre been able to get down here in the first place because seriously these tunnels were not exactly built for ogres you know what I’m saying? But the second thing was where on earth would I run to in order to escape it – because it was HUGE! It would only take a few steps to trample me. And I just can’t run that fast!

So far it hadn’t seen me. I crouched low behind my little barricade of stones and dust and held my breath.

I could hear it searching. The loud snuffles from its nose said it was trying to smell me out. It grunted and snorted. (Ah, hello… gross much?) There was a thump from the place where it stood. I had no idea what was going on but I didn’t dare peek over the stone pile to check.

Another thump…

Oh gosh. My heart was somewhere in my throat and I had the sudden urge to hurl. I clapped a hand over my mouth to stop my whimpers.

“FOUND YOUUUUUUUUUU.”

 

Chapter 107

Oh Holy Crap!

I was breathing so hard by this point I thought I was going to pass out. I looked up, and up and up, and up… WOW he was huge! I gulped, swallowing about a mile of dust and dirt and little stones but none of that mattered at the moment. I was slipping into shock I think. All I could do was stare.

“Hi!” he breathed. I was nearly blown over by the air blowing out of his mouth.

“Um, Hi?” Was that…. I think that was… a smile?

OMG the ogre was smiling at me.

“Hi-i-i-i-i-!”

“Hi.” I said again.

Okay this was soooooooooo weird.

“Did you find… oh hey, there you are.”

From between the ogre’s legs Herman popped his head up and grinned. “We’ve been looking for you for ages.”

Seriously? Seriously… the ogre was a good guy?

“Are you serious?” I screamed. “I nearly had a heart attack! I nearly peed myself… What the freaking…. Seriously?”

I sat down suddenly, unable to stay standing upright and put my head between my legs to breathe, just breathing, in and out in and out. I heard the ogre lumber to the side of the corridor and felt more than saw Herman kneel down beside me.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

I just kept breathing.

 

Chapter 108

A few minutes later – or maybe it was hours I’m not too sure, either way a little while later I was sitting in a little room on a soft squishy couch chair and holding a cup of hot tea. Herman sat across from me holding a bottle of spray and some bandage. He was spraying my various cuts and checking me over for damage. “I told you I’m fine.” I complained for the umpteenth time.

“Let me check anyway. It’ll make me feel better,” he snapped back.

I sighed loudly but held out my other arm.

“So you said…’ he prompted.

Oh yeah, I had been telling him about what happened in the tunnel. I keep forgetting, Herman said he thought I might have been hit on the head when the wall came down, at least that’s what I thought he’d said, I sort of can’t remember that either.

“Did I meet an Ogre?”

Herman sighed, “Yup… concussion.”

I looked round, “Who are you talking to?” I was sure there was no one in the room with us.

“I’m staying with you tonight.” Herman said taking my hands in both of his.

They were warm and gentle and… “Say what now…?”

 

Chapter 109

Well can I just say that was anti-climatic?

Herman snores… like really really really snores… loudly.

I’m not sure how I missed that when we were on the initial search for the Fire and camping, to be fair I did have a huge tent. But I am guessing having concussion and having a freight train next to you all night is NOT going to help. I felt like a zombie the next morning.

According to Herman I also looked like one.

When I stumbled out of the bedroom I took one look at who was on the couch and screamed.

“HELLOOOOOOOO”

There was an Ogre sitting on my couch.

 

Chapter 110

So yes, there was an ogre sitting on my couch. And yes, it is EXACTLY as you would imagine it. A sweaty, grey-skinned, hairless giant squashing the little, orange two-seater to the floor, seriously the cushions – what was visible of them – was flattened and the base of the couch was kissing the carpet. He had turned his giant head toward me as I entered the room and was now watching me with the kind of expression you would find on a six week old puppy – eyes wide, tongue out, whole body shaking.

“Ahhhh hello?” I answered him.

“Can we play now?” he asked stumbling to his feet.

Ahhh wha? I was sure I had things to do, like hunting down the Fire and the Flame – brothers – I was still wrapping my head around that. And then there was Maddie – I still didn’t know what to make of her. And the Ogre wanted to play?

“Sure.” I shrugged, if you can’t beat them…

 

Chapter 111

We spent two hours playing, well… he was playing, I was madly trying to avoid the giant rocks he was rolling at me. He thought it was hilarious. I was terrified.

“Enjoying yourself?”

I looked at Herman with the strongest “are you kidding me” look I could conjure this early in the morning with no coffee, “Wanna play?”

“Yes, yes, yes.” The Ogre giggled.

Yeaha… he giggles… I know, I know – ruins your whole view of ogres you know what I’m saying?

“We have work to do.” Herman grunted and then he did the most wonderful, sweet, loving thing a man could ever do. He held out a hot cup of coffee

Did I mention I loved this man?

I slammed the coffee back and felt myself at last being to wake up. I waved to Tommy – yes the ogre’s name is Tommy and followed Herman out into the tunnels. “What’s first?” I asked.

“We find Peter.” He replied

Wait… Peter was missing?

 

Chapter 112

“When did you realize Peter was missing?” I asked staring into the empty coffee cup in my hand. Maybe if I stared hard enough it would magically refill itself? The cup was plucked from my hand and replaced with a hot steaming mug, “I love you.” I said to the coffee. Fortunately it didn’t answer but I did hear Herman chuckling behind me somewhere.

I ignored him like a caffeine withdrawn adult and slurped loudly.

“Yesterday.”

“Yesterday?” I did look up at that, “And we are only looking for him today?”

“Well, it is Peter.”

Hmmm good point. I shook my head. No not good point, Peter might be a pain in the ass but he is still a team member. I must have said that out loud because Herman huffed softly and nodded.

“Yup, so let’s go.”

In a matter of moments we had rounded up Fred the giant spider and alerted Sarah ( well we couldn’t exactly call the dragon into the cave but she said she would keep a lookout from up above.)

So… Maddie seemed slightly evil. The Fire was probably evil and The Flame was most definitely evil, And Peter was missing…. What else could go wrong?

I sooooo wished I hadn’t said that…

 

Chapter 113

Everyone was waiting for me. Well by everyone I mean Herman was looking at me, and Fred the giant spider was looming over us both. It was extremely disconcerting. It was also not a good start.

“Well?”

“Well what, I don’t know. Why is it my job?” I was feeling snappy.

“You’re the leader?”

“You asked that as if it is a question. Look, Herman. You said Peter is missing? Let’s start there. How do you know he is missing? Maybe he went for a swim or shopping or for coffee?”

“Really? You think he went swimming?”

Herman was giving me a long stare. I didn’t think that was really fair because I didn’t know where Peter was… He’s a fairy not a student. I wasn’t responsible for him. I think… I sighed really loudly, to make it clear I was feeling really put upon… “Well, how do we know he is missing?”

“I can’t find him.”

“Right, well obviously that says it all.”

Again Herman gave me a look. Good point. “Okay fine. Where was he last?”

“His room.”

“That’s where we start… wait… This is going to sound really dumb but…. Fred?”

Fred loomed loomier. I think he was listening.

“Fred? Find Peter.”

Fred stared…

Fred stared some more…

“Go on.” I gestured waving my hands, “Find Peter.”

Fred took off.

“Huh.” Herman looked and me. We both shrugged and took off after Fred.

To Be Continued…

 

 

 

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From → The Story

15 Comments
  1. thesewordsiwrite2012 permalink

    This is quite an epic read when put together.

    • I know, crazy isn’t it? But I’m actually impressed by how well it holds together since each chapter was written separately. 🙂

  2. You should make a book out of this story, just saying…

    • Crazy long isn’t it? I had no idea until I put it all together. Should have cartoon pictures too don’t you think?

      • I think fairy tale type drawings would be perfect! You should really look into having it made into a book. Its a fabulous story 🙂

      • Sweet thanks, what I would love is an animated book. 🙂 at least down the track

      • That would be way cool 🙂

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  8. The Story – Chapter 171 | Rambles, writing and amusing musings

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