The Ire In Viremia

May 14, 2011
By KurlzBasheld PLATINUM, Abermain, Other
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KurlzBasheld PLATINUM, Abermain, Other
36 articles 0 photos 16 comments

Favorite Quote:
I like cheese.


Author's note: I had the idea at a sleepover with my friends.

Surrounded by the undesired thoughts, thick as fog… You’re unable to brush them away, but for a second you can forget their existence.
But swirls of agony always grasp the mind, demanding full attention. And as the hazy fingers of unbearable matter clings to the brain, it suddenly solidifies and becomes something that is impossible to ignore.
Because the truth can’t be shrugged off as we hope. The dispersed data has to link into information that is plain to see and we are forced to know that it is true. No matter how hard we try to hide under blankets of lies, squeezing our eyes shut, we only find that the mind has occupied a continuous notifying of what is actually real.
As much as I wanted to be ignorant, I am forever tormented, and the more I want to forget, the clearer the pain blazes.
I am infected by the truth.
I have no cure.
But I’ll never die. I’ll only wake up to realise, every day that she is...
And that’s worse than death.

The flowers fell silently onto the ebony coffin.
Zanza had tears flowing down her face, and she was holding back sobs that were threatening to burst out.
She should never have gotten involved with a human. Everyone knew it. They saw the disastrous end, and tried to stop her. But she loved him. She loved Bomont so much she was blinded by it, and could not see reason.
And now here she was, everyone’s predictions coming true. Bomont was dead. Zanza would never see him again.
Regal put an arm around her and squeezed; a half hug in a vain attempt at comfort.
Bomont’s parents had already said their farewells, and so had Zanza. The rest of us didn’t know him that well; we were here for Zanza, for she needed the support. She had a strong facade, but inside she was dying. And I knew for one, because I could read her every thought.
We stood there for a while as the dirt covered the coffin.
One hole was being filled, but the one in Zanza’s heart would be there forever.
She took one last look at the grave and straightened herself, wiping away the tears before stalking across to the black limo we were borrowing, and the rest of us followed, not saying a word. There was nothing to say.
...
‘I feel so bad,’ I whispered to Quex at the wake as we obtained yet another helping of chocolate cake. ‘Zanza feels horrible. I don’t think she will recover from this.’
Quex nodded. ‘She should never even have gone near him, let alone dated him.’
‘She couldn’t help falling for him,’ I added. ‘No one can help who they love.’
Quex looked at me, his green eyes piercing, but not like when he is cutting with lasers. ‘I know.’
We sat down, and I ate a big bite of cake.
I shook my head. ‘This is so depressing, I feel miserable and I only saw Bomont a couple of times, but Zanz was crazy about him. How is she going to handle this? She’s fragile, though she may not show it.’
Quex licked some chocolate frosting off a fork. ‘I know,’ he repeated. ‘She’s gutted from losing him, and no one can replace that missing part of her. Maybe the pain will heal over time, but never fully. There will always be a pang when she recalls him.’
I was slightly surprised by his words, but didn’t reveal it. Had Quex lost someone too? Or did he just know what it would feel like? I didn’t know, and I wasn’t going to ask any time soon. Pretty much never.
That also included mind-reading. There would be none of that in that section of his brain.
I gazed up at Zanza who was sitting with Abcde and Regal. Her eyes were sightless and glazed with the tears she refused to shed, and her up-turned nose was pink from crying.
I closed my eyes, hanging my head wishing she had never met Bomont, or at least he was some kind of mutant anomaly like us.
...
Yes, we were mutants. All of us.
Not Bomont though. He was human, and not strong like us, he could be more easily killed. And he had died in a car accident caused by some drunken idiots who got away. If it were one of us in there, we would have survived with only a few minor injuries, and Zanza wishes it had been her there instead.
We mutants don’t live in the world of regular and weak people, that’s why it was such a surprise for the two to meet. I guess it was fate, a cruel fate that left one dead and another broken-hearted.
We lived in another world, where everyone was something spectacular. It was beautiful and magical. Mystery was everywhere, creeping down the alleys at night and sneaking peeks behind closed curtains.
I loved this place. I loved being a freak and all the benefits that came with it. One being the powers.

Georgia Borvolo’s short blonde hair was shining like gold in the afternoon sun. Her eyes were a comfortable chocolate brown that just made her husband melt under her gaze. Her skin was smooth and creamy like the froth on a cup of coffee, which, by the way, she would kill to have one right now from having been up basically all night. Her lips were full and pink, turned up in a sad smile as she waved farewell to her husband as he drove off in a blue Ford Fiesta, heading to the school at which he worked at.
Her six-year-old daughter, Mervie, had her same fair coloured tresses that hung in perfect ponytails on each side, just as she had requested from her mother. She had also inherited Georgia’s eyes, which were even deeper then hers, and looked like orbs of Nutella. She had a toothy grin between red lips after drinking raspberry cordial all day, and she retained the whitest teeth you had ever seen; they were practically glowing as she beamed at her daddy.
He was leaving for work and would not be back in months when he could come back for the holidays. They would both miss him, but they would manage with just the two of them, while he would feel lost without his family, but they needed the money, so he worked. Georgia was lucky, in a way, because her job wasn’t so far from home, and it had a decent wage as well, so she could pay for someone to babysit her little angel.
Georgia flicked a strand of hair behind her ear, which poked out like a spike, which was usually what happened when you had elf blood in you.
Her husband had rounded the corner, and the roar of the car was fading into the distance.
She was just about to withdraw to her cool air-conditioned house and surprise Mervie by making a fresh batch of chocolate-chip cookies, when someone grabbed her forcefully and rammed a black bag over her head.
She was blind and disoriented by the suddenness, but she felt the man’s rough hands on her arms, leading her in a direction she wasn’t sure of.
She heard Mervie shrieking at her side, and she knew that her beloved daughter was receiving the same abuse, and it killed her inside.
The screams stopped abruptly as one of the goons hit the child unconscious and tears welled up in Georgia’s eyes at the thought of them hurting her baby. The tears soaked the bag and made her eyelashes sticky.
Anger soon replaced her fear and sorrow, and she lashed out at the men, kicking and flailing about, cursing and trying to bite through the course material. Anything to cause them damage, for she knew she could never win this fight, and doing anything was better than letting them take her away silently.
One of the men swore loudly as she managed to sink her teeth into his wrist, and kicked her in the back of her knee, making her sag in his arms.
She continued to fight, but he was much stronger, and overpowered her.
He soon got tired of her antics and she felt something hard smash into her head, and a pang of skull-splitting pain enveloped her mind before everything went black.
...
Mr Borvolo smiled to himself at the picture of his loving wife and daughter waving to him as he drove away.
He was always sad to leave them, but the picture of their last meeting kept him going. He stored it away in his mind for later reflection, and it was almost like a photo album in his head that he could flip through.
His phone beeped unexpectedly, and he picked it up.
He grinned when he saw the caller ID. It was Georgia, obviously missing him already.
He held the phone to his ear.
‘Hey Georgie, miss me?’ he sang into the receiver, his heart full.
‘Your wife and child are being held captive,’ a gravelly voice replied, getting straight to the point with not an ounce of delaying.
Arktik froze, smile wiped from his face, replaced with a horror-struck expression, mouth popped open, eyes wide and everything.
He recovered. ‘Who is this?’ he roared. ‘What have you done with my family?’
His heart was pumping in his chest and he wanted to kill whoever touched his precious Georgia and Mervie.
‘Mr Borvolo, if you want them to be safe, I suggest you shut up and listen.’
Arktik nodded, remembered he was on his phone and said, “yes”.
His voice was wavering with just that one word.
‘Good...’ The man said, then continued to tell him everything, and at the end of it, Arktik was shaking so badly he almost crashed.

I copied down some ingredients for the potion, memorizing them.
We were in “Science” class at M.A. High. Not that making potions and such is really normal science to the humans of the world, but in our world it is.
I couldn’t wait to actually make this one, because it was quite a famous one, a most popular potion, though it was quite complicated. This one made you invisible.
Denim was kind of bored while she wrote. She had argued with the teacher, asking her why she needed to make an invisibility potion, since she could already go invisible with more ease.
Mrs Likronc told her to shut her mouth and do her work like everyone else. She sees Denim’s point but she’s jealous, and I would know.
We had another class, P.E. where we played a game of tag, but super-fast. Zanza would have won, being swifter than anyone, but she was still in a trance of grief, and sidled near the edges of the field.
I became distracted watching her, and was tackled to the ground by Jimone. Trust me, it really hurt.
‘Ow!’ I yelled as I slammed to the ground, hitting my head. ‘Do you mind?’
‘Sorry, Kurlz, but you gotta be focused if you wanna win,’ he replied.
‘You don’t have to knock me over! Geez!’
Jimone shrugged. ‘You’re it.’
I took one last glance at my sorrowful friend, then bolted after Marn and Valish.
...
I walked to our group that sat in the small area that was cut-off from everyone else and had a few silver seats that we all could occupy.
Abcde and Regal were sitting next to Zanza, solemn looks on their faces.
I sat across from them, not speaking because no words came to mind.
Denim strode from a different pathway in her tight indigo jeans and pink tank top, her straight blonde hair in a ponytail swishing behind her, as though she was a dressed up stallion.
Valish was skipping behind her wearing some ebony shorts and an ivory skivvy, a black plait at the nape of her neck, tied with snow silk. She was a black and white film in a colourful world.
They seated themselves, each on either side of me, giving meaningful glances that were made to be inconspicuous. Not that it would matter, for Zanza was blinded by her watery view. They both were silent.
It felt like an age before I averted my heavy gaze to the boy with wavy grey hair and captivating fiery eyes.
I gave him a look, which he understood immediately, and he gave the slightest movement in his shoulders. Undetectable conversation.
Regal could summon the dead. Not bring a corpse back to life, or create a zombie or anything like that, but invoke ghosts. I wanted to know if he would do that for this situation. He couldn’t be sure what the right thing to do was. Or, he just didn’t want to see the plain truth. Leave it be, or let Zanza see her beloved one last time, just to have fresh blood weep from the hole in her heart.
I knew he wouldn’t bring the subject up, but he also wouldn’t refuse Zanza’s demand to bring Bomont back for a while. So, he would wait for her to ask, and he would obey. It was as though he was a slave to her will.
Not many people knew, but Regal loved Zanza, or at least had strong feelings for her that resembled love. I kept that secret because Regal was my friend, and I would never hurt him like that on purpose.
He stared at me a second longer and I saw the aching he felt that the one he loved was weeping for someone else.
Then he turned away his burning eyes to look at Zanza with tenderness and sympathy.
Regal held a shred of hope that she might pick him, but I knew she would never care for her friend more than what he already was, and kindling dreams would only break him.
‘I’m gonna get a sausage roll, anyone wanna come?’ I said, wanting to get out of there.
‘Yeah, I want some moth balls,’ Denim replied.
I stood up with her, gesturing Valish to follow.
She accompanied us, willing and grateful, and we walked slowly to the canteen.
‘Regal can’t do it,’ Valish announced. ‘It will only make it worse for her.’
I nodded. ‘But he will if she asks, of course.’
‘What?’ Denim asked confused.
I shook my head. ‘Don’t worry about it. Secret mind-reading business.’
‘Just tell me!’
‘When you can make me duplicate, I’ll let you mind-read.’
‘I can’t do that.’
‘I know.’
We arrived at the long line, and I sighed, wishing I could pause time and ease through my frozen schoolmates and suddenly appear to be at the front. Oh well. I made my way to the end of the line and waited for students to buy their tasty lunches. Finally, the file dwindled to a few teens, and I ordered my sausage roll and Denim’s chips.
‘Here you go,’ I handed her the goods and we started walking, not in the direction of our niche, not wanting to see Zanza in her horrible state and feeling overwhelmed with the smothering hush.
‘It’s so annoying when you do that,’ Denim complained, raising the conversation beforehand.
‘Yeah, it’s also annoying when you use x-ray vision to look through Jimone’s clothes.’
Denim was about to protest, but I stopped her.
‘And you know I know.’
She flushed, looking away, feeling embarrassed and flustered, so I could make vomiting gestures to Valish who laughed, nodding.
We found a seat and devoured our midday meal there. After my sausage roll I sculled a bottle of cool chocolate milk that sloshed in my stomach, then had a small packet of choc-bugs which I went fifty-fifty with Valish.
‘I loooove choc-bugs,’ I purled. ‘They are soooo good!’
‘Oh my gosh, I think these ones have a layer of caramel in them,’ Valish noticed, excited as she bit one in half.
‘Can I have some?’ Denim asked over an empty packet of moth balls.
‘Sure thing,’ I replied, passing the red packet to the half-alien.
We sat crunching away at the heavenly cocoa insects... mmm, yum...
Then my thoughts irritatingly strayed to Zanza. Why had she had to go out that exact night and explore the human world to meet Bomont? Why couldn’t she just stay put in her dormitory and stay out of love?
I blocked it out of my mind and to distract myself, I started talking again, jabbering away.
‘I wish it would rain. It’s so hot. Way too hot. Need some grey clouds and some downpour. A great deluge. And hail. Buckets of it. In fact, we need a whole freaking storm. You think you can do that Val?’
Valish stared at me, trying to pry my mind with spectre fingers, but I was skilled in the act of shutting mental doors, and could lock all my thoughts from her. As she could sometimes do to me. She stopped trying then replied.
‘Yeah, I guess.’
She stood and faced the sky, her face glowing with power and awe, her arms lifted up towards the heavens... and then the sky burst into rain.
She looked down, smiling at us. She didn’t have to make that big scene with the arms up high and the face full of wonder, but it was so damn funny when she did, so we forced her every time she performed a weather adjustment that didn’t have to be inconspicuous.
She sat back down with drenched hair, and the tresses that had ruffled out of her tie clung to her pale cheeks.
I inhaled the moist pristine of the rain and sighed contentedly.
‘Much better.’
...
For the next month Zanza was kept in the coma of grief. Blank stares with sightless eyes that welled up occasionally. She had had the movement of a chameleon dawdle rather than her usual cheetah dash. But the glaze dulled into the next month. And though she wasn’t herself completely, she still tried to enjoy her Bomont-less life.
Regal, Zanza and Abcde came round the corner one afternoon and I grabbed Regal’s arm and pulled him out of earshot. Zanza barely noticed and Abcde only gave a slight twinge of her eyebrows.
‘She hasn’t asked yet, has she?’ I asked.
He shook his head.
‘Well, if she ever does, don’t do it. You know you shouldn’t.’
He looked into my eyes.
He nodded, but I could see it was just a lie we both knew. Pointless. Afterwards, he turned to depart, but I stopped him again, hanging to his sleeve.
‘Regal,’ I said earnestly, pleading. ‘She’s fragile. If you do it, this whole thing will be repeated. Don’t do it.’
He seemed to actually consider this time, and that’s all I could hope for, but would it be enough? I dropped his arm and fell into step with him and we hurried to catch up with the others.
An idea sparked in my head as I sat, one that might help Zanza out of her doldrums.
I sent the message to Valish, who was next to me, via brain waves, wondering if we should carry it out or not.
Valish acted as though nothing had happened, being quite smooth about the brain bulletin, but sent me a message back, agreeing with the idea.
Then she looked up at me and smiled.
‘Friday?’ she mouthed silently.
I nodded once.
It was time to make party plans.
...
I was perched in a seat next to Valish and Denim, wearing a black top, a silver belt and navy jeans, smiling and sipping some of my home-made punch from my martini glass. It was orange juice, pink lemonade, ginger ale and frozen berries.
‘Where is Zanza?’ Denim asked, fiddling with her amethyst earrings, purple dress and denim jacket.
‘Over there,’ I pointed. ‘Looking quite happy I might say, and her mind proves it. Aren’t I great at making plans? Me and my awesome ideas.’
Valish rolled her eyes. ‘I can’t believe so many people came.’
‘Yeah,’ Denim said, vaguely, eyeing Jimone with lust in her bright blue eyes. Foul.
‘Please go and dance with him before I dropped-kick you, then vomit,’ I said to her.
Denim blushed, stood and walked over to Jimone in her high heels. He smiled at her and they started dancing.
She grinned at us, wiggling her eyebrows, ecstatic.
I exchanged a look with Valish, and we started laughing.
‘Come on, we should dance too,’ I said, setting my glass down and jumping to my feet, making my curls bounce.
Valish was reluctant, but got up anyway and we went on to the “dance floor” which was actually just our dorm.
We sidled next to Zanza, Abcde and Regal.
Zanza beamed at me.
‘This is such a good idea,’ her voice was raised over the speakers now pounding “Silence is Distance” from one of the Yves Klein Blue soundtrack I had.
I had put on two CD’s of their music, and when this one was done, the other would come on. There was also Radiohead, The Mess Hall, The Strokes, some other bands and some random songs I loved.
‘Yeah, I know,’ I leaned down and hugged her.
She danced next to Regal who appeared pleasantly surprised, inching closer.
I gave him a look that said “not long ago, her boyfriend died, so back up a bit, give her some time”.
Instead of backing up, he got closer still, giving me a lop-sided grin. I couldn’t help smiling back, but put some sarcasm into it.
Then someone tapped me on the shoulder and I whirled around.
It was Quex.
‘Hey, come to join the party?’
‘Yeah, nice one too,’ he said, then nodded at Zanza who was laughing. ‘She seems happy.’
‘That’s my aim.’
‘Wanna dance?’
I shrugged. ‘Sure, whatever.’
Valish stood next to me, gesturing to Zanza and Regal dancing with her pupils.
I rolled my eyes, shaking my head. ‘He won’t listen to me, stubborn little idiot.’
Quex looked confused.
‘Don’t worry about it,’ I waved him off.
‘Where’s Marn?’ Valish asked Quex.
‘I don’t know, I thought he was already here.’
‘Oh, never mind, found him,’ she hurried away to sit next to Marn who wasn’t really the dancing type either.
I was pretty confused by all the love in the air. Zanza loved Bomont who was dead, Regal loved Zanza, Denim liked Jimone, and I had recently found out that Valish had a thing for Marn, who liked her back, which I could tell by the way he smiled at her every time she came into view. It seemed only Quex, Abcde and I were not part of the love-fest. It settled me that they weren’t so annoying with all that.
Where was Abcde, anyway?
I spotted her, then motioning her to come over.
‘Hellooo,’ she greeted cheerily. ‘How are we all tonight?’
‘Just swell,’ I replied. ‘What about you?’
‘Great. The cheese platter is just delicious.’
‘Oh my gosh, I know. Sooo good. The Brie is fantastic with those crackers. It’s like, holy crap, yum!’
Quex laughed, then made me pirouette, my curly red hair almost whipping him in the face.
He rolled me into his arms. We were about the same height, but I had the upper hand.
‘What is with you and food?’
‘What is with you and food?’
‘Good point.’
I spun out of his arms, then stood beside Abcde and we did some crappy dance moves, because we are skilled at the art.
Quex stared at us, smiling, then joined in because he was pretty well trained by Abcde and myself at moving like a spastic.
For a long while I hung out with Quex and Abcde, eating, dancing, drinking and just going on about random stuff, laughing our heads off, unconcerned with our love-smitten friends. Who needs a boyfriend to have a freaking awesome time?
‘I’m feeling pretty light-headed,’ Abcde chuckled. ‘A bit crazy, do you know what I mean?’
‘Yeah, I think I’m getting the same impact as you are,’ I replied twirling next to her.
‘Maybe it’s from dancing too much,’ Quex suggested.
I laughed giddily. ‘Probably.’
‘I think I might fall over soon.’
‘I’ll catch you, no worries.’
‘Good on ya, you’re the best.’
‘He is not. I’m the best. Well, actually I’m not, but he definitely isn’t.’
‘Hey, shut up, I am so awesome!’
‘I agree with that statement,’ I elaborated, patting him on the head. ‘But you aren’t the best. Just really awesome.’
Quex grinned. ‘Why, thank you.’
‘You’re welcome.’
‘Does anyone else feel dizzy?’ Abcde asked, twinkling vaguely, her eyelids inching closer together.
‘I think we all established that we are quite dizzy from all the dancing, yeah?’
‘Oh right. I forgot.’
I grabbed her arms and spun around again.
‘This is fun!’ she giggled.
‘That is it,’ I agreed.
Abcde started to sing softly along with the music, and I laughed.
‘Wow, you’re fantastic!’
After a bit, I needed to go to the toilet, so I made my way through the throngs of people towards the bathroom.
That’s when I saw Zanza and Regal.
Zanza lifted her head and gazed at the boy, then she reached up and kissed him right on the lips.
If I still had my martini glass I would have dropped it and sprayed punch everywhere. I guess it was lucky I didn’t. I got that glass as a present.
Regal hugged her closer, kissing her more fiercely, obviously over the moon like some kind of nursery rhyme cow.
When they had finished locking lips, he finally noticed me with my wide eyes.
He just smiled like he did before, and started making-out with Zanza again.
I sent Regal a brain message which said “I am freaking going to kill you.”

‘I am freaking going to kill Regal!’
Valish looked at me, surprised by my sudden pronouncement.
‘What?’ she asked. ‘What did he do?’
‘Oh, he was just swapping saliva with Zanza. That’s all!’ I was so angry at him. ‘I can’t believe he would do that to her. Actually, sadly, I can, which may be even worse. That stupid freaking scum bag! I wish I could just slap that stupid smirk off his face!’
‘He did what?’
‘I know. He is unbelievable! She is just starting to heal a bit, and then he has to go and kiss her. They won’t last, he should know that.’
‘Who says they won’t?’
I gave her a look. ‘Val, you know that Zanza doesn’t like him any more than a friend.’
‘Maybe she changed her mind. People can fall for people they just saw as friends before.’
I just stared at her, shocked.
‘Fine,’ I said, shaking my head. ‘But if he does anything to hurt her, I will personally break his neck and gut him, then I will stuff him like a Christmas turkey.’
‘I’ll help with that.’
‘You can make the stuffing I suppose. It’s his guts blended with other ingredients.’
‘Yum, gut stuffing.’
‘Yeah, it sounds so delightful; we should eat him for our Christmas feast.’
Valish laughed and sighed.
That’s when we saw Regal walking by himself like a lost soul, contrary to last night. He had a glazed expression on his features, and I began to worry.
Valish and I strode up to him.
‘What’s wrong?’ I asked.
He gazed at me with sad eyes.
‘Zanza,’ he croaked.
Understanding dawned on my face as I received the clip of what happened before he could explain.
‘She said last night was a mistake and that she’s sorry for doing it,’ he continued without need.
I sighed, holding Regal in an embrace.
‘I’m sorry, but I warned you,’ I whispered.
He pulled away, not wanting to seem weak, and shrugged it off as though it was an old coat that became dirty and he didn’t like its presence anymore.
‘I’m fine,’ he said, steadying his voice.
I stared into his eyes. ‘We both know you’re not, so stop lying to me, I can always tell.’
‘I’m fine,’ he repeated with more force.
This time I nodded. I knew what he was doing, pretending he was okay until he was. A skill I sometimes used myself.
‘Well, when you feel like just being... not fine, I’ll be there.’
He thanked me in his mind, but on the outside he just started trudging to our little alcove.
Shrugging, Valish and I followed him.
‘I guess no Christmas feast,’ I said.
‘Yeah. Poor Regal.’
‘Freaking hell, why does he have to be like that? I told him. Zanza only kissed him because he was there for her and she has lost Bomont.’
We caught up with him, stopping the conversation as we entered out nook, both of us at his side.
‘So,’ I sang. ‘Watcha dooing?’
‘Nothing.’
‘How ya going?’
‘Fine.’
‘Had fun last night?’
‘Kurlz, just drop it!’
‘Drop what?’
‘You know what, stop talking about it. I’m fine and you are annoying so just shut up!’
I glared at him evenly. ‘Just ‘cause you can’t handle it. You don’t have to be such a jerk. And I didn’t mean the thing, I mean everything but that.’
He didn’t reply.
We arrived at the seats and he whispered, “leave it alone”, as if I was pushing the subject, then he sat next to Abcde.
Zanza was sitting a few centimetres away with her brother Quex and I decided to join them.
‘Hello Zanz, Quex,’ I greeted. ‘How was last night?’
She immediately thought of Regal.
‘Fine,’ she said tightly.
‘Pretty fun, good job,’ Quex complemented. ‘Should have more parties at your dorm.’
‘Yeah... Hey, Zanz, anything you wanna tell me?’
She got the hint that I knew and turned a shade of pink that was unnoticed by her brother.
I don’t like him. Well, not in that way. He is one of my best friends and I don’t want to ruin that. She messaged me through brain-waves.
I know. You shouldn’t have kissed him, he really liked you. I know that you didn’t mean to hurt him but he’s hurt.
I get it. I’m an idiot. I’ve probably lost my best friend. It’s gonna be awkward. And it’s all my fault.
Not entirely. I warned him, but he smirked and continued to try and catch you.
‘No,’ she replied out loud.
‘That took a long time to say,’ Quex noted. ‘I think you should raid her mind.’
‘Already raided, my friend.’
‘And?’
‘Wouldn’t you like to know?’
‘Yeah, but I guess I’m not being told anything.’
‘That’s right,’ Zanza put in, ‘so, shut your mouth before I shut it for you. Permanently.’
‘Anyway... Where’s Denim?’
‘With Jimone,’ Quex replied. ‘They’re getting cosy, huh?’
‘Cosy is an understatement,’ I muttered.
‘Actually. I’m right here.’
Denim appeared out of nowhere, making us jump.
‘Oh, hello there freak,’ I greeted. ‘’Sup?’
‘Eavesdropping, you know.’
‘Well, soon you won’t be the only one that can go invisible,’ I informed threateningly.
She tilted her head, confused. ‘Meaning?’
‘In Science we are making invisibility potions, remember?’
‘Oh, yeah... great fun.’
‘Oooh, looks like Denim has some competition in the disappearing department.’
She scowled, then vanished.
‘When you can do that, then there’ll be some competition. I can do this without sheep eyes and lizard tongues.’
Then I sensed she had left, but I couldn’t be sure.
‘They aren’t in the potion. Idiot.’
...
The walls of the school were approached. A dark figure strolled through the walls as though he was just in the park. How did he get in?
He paused, glancing behind him, waiting...
There was a roar and a huge army barged through the gates of the building. And a mountainous entity... burning things... screams of terror and agony... death...
Abcde sat bolt upright in her bed, gasping for breath, fear clutching at her with hunger.
It was all just a dream. Nothing more. Just a dream...
Abcde laid back into her cotton sheets, forcing her eyes closed. And though she had assured herself that it was only a dream, she couldn’t sleep until the sun was peeking through the curtains.
...
Abcde was wound with tension the next day. I tapped her shoulder when she hadn’t answered me, resulting in her screaming and falling over.
I was taken aback and gave her a quizzical stare.
She said she was fine (why was everyone saying that? I’m not an idiot, I’m a freaking mind-reader), but I made a note to search her mind later to find out this strange behaviour. Right now I was busy and didn’t have time to bombard her with questions.
‘Well, anyway, besides your spaz attack. I need you.’
‘Why?’ she asked suspiciously as though I was someone out to get her. Not like I was her friend or anything like that.
‘Just come with me.’
I led her to a corridor that was deserted.
‘You’re a cupid. Can you do reverse love spells?’
‘You mean, make someone fall out of love with someone?’ she raised an eyebrow.
‘Yeah.’
‘Why do you want someone to fall out of love?’
‘Because they had their heart kind of broken and are really upset.’
‘Zanza? You know I can’t do it human and alien cross ones, only both human or both-’
‘I know! It’s not for Zanza.’
‘Is it for you?’
‘I don’t like anyone! It’s for Regal. He likes Zanza.’
Abcde’s grey eyes grew wide.
‘Oh...’
‘Yeah, so can you?’
‘I suppose... Yeah, I could do that.’
‘Thanks,’ I sighed with relief. At least things will go back to “normal” a bit.
‘When?’
‘Later, we have class now.’
‘Ok, see ya.’
‘Bye, Abcde.’
And then we each left for our different rooms, and I felt a little lighter that I had taken off a weight from my heavy barbell.
...
I saw Abcde later at lunch for an old mind sweep.
It seemed to be a dream that she was so concerned about.
‘Why are you so jumpy about a dream?’ I asked, and she went red.
‘Stop reading my mind. It’s annoying,’ she said with not much hope.
‘Whatever, just spill.’
‘It doesn’t matter, I don’t really know myself, maybe because I thought it was real, and someone died, but I’m not really sure who it was anymore.’
I stared at her, knowing that she was telling the truth, that she was scared about it. I also knew I would receive no more information from her.
‘Well, I’m sorry about that and all. But, it was just a dream. You know it was, so please stop screaming at me when I call your name.’
‘Sure, I’ll just turn my paranoia to a minimal, yeah?’
‘Good, so are you gonna do some dark cupid stuff on the love-sick wizard?’
Abcde stared at me, an expression of embarrassment and longing on her face that made me edge into the world of her mind.
‘You like him!’
‘No I effing don’t.’
‘Oh, okay. Sure whatever. It’s not like I can read your mind or anything.’
Abcde blushed a shade of rose.
‘Argh. Don’t tell him though, or anyone else, serious, please.’
‘Don’t worry; your secret is safe with me... and Valish.’
‘What?’
‘Hey, I’m not gonna tell her, but she’ll probably find out.’
‘Yeah, well don’t hint anything for her to check, okay?’
‘Now, why would I do that?’
‘Because you have secret little mind-reading meetings. You’re both evil.’
I rolled my eyes.
‘Whatever. Just follow me.’
I took us to a narrow alleyway that peered at our alcove. We spotted Regal sitting a fair way away from Zanza. The tension was thick in the air and you could feel it from a distance.
‘Ok, go now, Ab,’ I whispered.
The girl furrowed her eyebrows.
‘What is it this time?’
‘Well... I don’t know. Forget it, I’ll do it now.’
Abcde fixed her eyes onto the boy, her eyes wide. Fluorescent pink was washing into her grey irises.
After a second, nothing big happened, but then the colour was lost from her eyes, and they faded to grey again.
‘Is it done?’ I asked.
‘Yes... but,’ she murmured. ‘I don’t know, but something is different. I don’t know what... something else happened...’
‘What? Did something go wrong?’
Abcde shook her head. ‘Never mind, it’s nothing. I just feel a bit strange.’
I gave her a concerned observation, but she shrugged it off and headed towards our group.
‘Hello,’ she greeted.
I didn’t say anything, sitting next to Quex and Valish silently.
‘Hey, Abcde!’ Regal replied, beaming like the sun after days of constant rain, brighter than any rainbow. ‘Sit next to me.’
Abcde and I shared a puzzled thought as our eyes met, then I turned away.
‘What’s wrong?’ Quex questioned. ‘You seem...’
‘No, nothing is. I’m fine. All’s good.’
Valish stared at me. I nodded and sent her an update.
Abcde has made Regal fall out of love with Zanza. But she said something weird happened, but didn’t know what, then said all was okay. And I’m confused. What if the spell is just temporary or something. Or what if he can never fall in love with anyone ever?
I don’t know, cupid is risky, I think. She might be able to fix any mistakes if they are shown, but how can you know if someone can never fall in love? What if it’s just that he will never meet someone he would love, and so we have no idea?
Crap. That would be my fault. If I wrecked his love life...
Don’t worry, that probably didn’t happen. Anyway, you were just thinking about him.
Argh, I’m a total idiot.
‘Can you both stop talking in your minds when I’m just here, thinking, “what the hell are they thinking?”’
‘Sorry Quex, but it’s easier. And you can’t know. Secret mind-reading business. If you can read minds, you can join, otherwise shut up.’
‘You’re nice, leaving me out of the conversation. Just stop talking about whatever and talk to me.’
‘Desperate for some attention, huh? I never thought you were the attention-seeking type.’
‘Shut up and talk to me.’
‘You do realize that is impossible. No, wait, it isn’t, ha ha.’
Sup? I said to Quex.
Nothing much, you?
Did you know that I like gherkins?
What the hell, no.
Well, I do. I don’t have many, but they are sooo good with cheese and crackers.
Yeah, I know.
Oh my gosh! Have I told you about the time when I was reading someone’s mind when they were having dirty thoughts about you?
What?!
Ha ha, and I was like ARGH! Oh my gosh, I have to tell Quex!
Who was it?
Wouldn’t you like to know?
I wiggled my eyebrows.
That’s kinda why I asked.
Whatever, don’t have to scream at me. My eardrums will burst, and I’ll be deaf so I’d have to talk like this all the time. How awkward would that be?
Very awkward, but I wasn’t yelling. Now, who was it?
I dunno, some random in a class. It was a guy.
‘What?!’
Everyone turned to stare at Quex and I cracked up, and then Valish did too.
Ha ha, I’m just kidding, it was a shemale. Fine, a girl. We don’t have any hermaphrodites in any of our classes. Anyway, don’t be so homophobic, it’s irrational. I’m pretty sure one of my friends is homosexual. He’s nice.
Geez, demented much?
No, Xavier is awesome.
I mean, why won’t you just tell me who liked me?
Meh, this is fun?
No.
It was Gabby. I informed.
Wow. That would have been awkward.
Yeah, I know. But you are thinking, oh my gosh, I should ask her out.
No I’m not. I don’t like her.
Ooooh, who do you like?
No one.
Ha ha, yeah I know.
You are so weird.
And yet you’re still my bestie.
I guess I like weird friends.
Because you don’t want to be the only one with a crazy mind.
You’re crazier.
Normal is boring. So thank ye kindly.
‘Quex! What the hell is wrong with you?!’ I screamed out loud. ‘You’re a freak! Get away from me!’
‘Oh my gosh, Quex!’ Valish played along after she caught on to what I was doing.
‘What?’ he looked confused.
I stood up and shook my head in disgust. ‘You’re a foul monster, how could you?’
Valish stalked off with me, leaving the group staring at Quex like there was something wrong with him, and he just sat there, puzzled.
When we were clear out of earshot, we started to double over with laughter.
‘What was with that?’ Valish asked when we had calmed a bit, but still chortling.
‘I don’t know. Random amusing stuff, because we’re so awesome,’ I replied. ‘Oh my gosh, their faces were all like “what the eff is going on here?” Priceless.’
I sighed.
‘I’m hungry, wanna get some burgers?’

I munched my burger, garnished with some curly fries for the extra crunch and flavour.
Valish had one with loads of sautéed bugs on it. Crispy and slimy.
‘Yum, I love insects!’
‘I hate them when there on my burger; I keep thinking they will wriggle in my mouth. I only trust them as chips, but they’re so cute I feel bad eating them.’
‘Yeah, me too sometimes. But they are tasty as.’
‘I know. Why couldn’t they taste like crap?’
‘Ha ha, that’d be gross.’
‘That’s my point.’
We arrived back at the alcove to meet the others.
‘What was the go with before, Kurlz?’ Quex asked.
‘I know. You are so feral, and have such foul thoughts.’
‘I didn’t think anything gross!’
‘Suuuure, whatever Quex.’
I sat next to Regal and Abcde.
‘What’s up?’
‘Nothing much,’ Abcde replied. ‘You?’
‘I got a burger,’ I notified, holding it up. ‘Wanna bite? It’s fantastic with these chips.’
‘Uh... no thanks.’
‘Yeah, I wouldn’t wanna give you some anyway. It’s too good for your mouth.’
I took another leisurely bite, slowly chewing the food, savouring the delicious flavour.
Regal had seemed a bit awkward. I wondered what was going on. It seemed to have been brought about by my appearance. Did he have a grudge against me or something?
I subtly crossed the threshold of his mind, filtering through the years of memory, sound and thought.
It was then that I came upon the fact that, just recently, Regal had fallen in love with Abcde. Very recently.
He’d got over Zanza fast, hadn’t he?
I groaned internally. Not another lovey-dovey situation. I was getting sick of it, this infectious bug. If anyone else fell in love this year I would kill them. If I fell in love, I would kill myself.
Abcde... did you know Regal is in love with you?
What? He is?
Yes. Does that have anything to do with you?
No!
Are you sure? Maybe even by accident? You can check this stuff right?
Yeah... I’ll check.
I waited for a minute before Abcde replied.
It seems that it was going to happen, but...
But what?
I have speeded up the process. That was what was wrong before.
So... he doesn’t love you against his will?
No. Just sooner than he would have. And, let’s face it, who wants to wait all that time? We’re gonna end up together anyway. I might have gotten over him by the time he was interested in me.
Fair enough, but don’t tell me all the details of your love-fest okay? I’m barely keeping my lunch with all this putrid atmosphere.
Abcde didn’t blush or even reply, but started talking animatedly to Regal again. More enthusiastically before.
I rolled my eyes and stood up, strolling over towards Quex, sitting next to him.
‘What is it?’ he asked.
‘Nothing,’ I muttered.
Quex and I were the only ones without the complicated and, quite frankly, annoying infatuation with someone else. What if he started fluttering eyes at someone? I would be the only sane person left in the group. Why couldn’t people just be friends? It was possible.
‘Is it Regal or Abcde?’
‘No, it’s everyone but us,’ I blurted.
‘Huh?’
I sighed. ‘Everyone is in the tangle of love, except us. We and our compos mentis heads and all. Maybe it’s a werewolf thing.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I’d tell you everything, but I believe I would be bashed up by everyone. Like a gang bash.’
Quex shrugged and didn’t press the subject which I was grateful for; I didn’t want to talk about it. But he seemed somewhat quiet afterwards, wondering what I meant.
‘Please stop raiding my mind,’ he said, vexed.
‘Fine.’
‘And I mean ever,’ he added to my surprise. ‘I want secrets you know. People deserve them.’
‘Why, are you trying to keep a secret? You know how curious I am about confidences. I hate when I don’t know them, and love when I do.’
‘I just... please just stop. For a while at least. I want to know that you aren’t skulking in my head, rummaging through all the things in there; all my stuff.’
I shrugged. ‘I’ll try,’ I said. ‘But I can’t promise.’
‘Promise,’ he said, his emerald eyes intense.
For some reason I thought I should, but would probably regret it later when I was insane with curiosity.
‘Promise,’ I relented.
‘Thanks you,’ he sighed with relief. ‘I can be at ease for now. Not always trying to block thoughts, you know?’
I was already regretting my words. Maybe just a peek later. Or maybe not.
‘Sure whatever. We can still talk in our minds right?’
‘Yeah, I just don’t want you to know what’s in my head all the freaking time.’
‘Okay, cool.’
Hey Quex. Why are you keeping secrets from me? Is it about me? You hate me! I knew it.
I don’t hate you, you’re my best friend.
Aw, how sweet. I think I might puke. Ha ha, just kidding, I have a strong stomach.
Whatever.
Now, are you keeping any secrets?
Well, duh.
And they are?
Obviously I am not going to tell you. I just made you promise not to read my mind so you couldn’t find them out!
Yeah I know. Are they about me.
I’m not saying.
Is it that you’re gay?
NO!
Oh my gosh! You have a crush on a guy in our group! Holy crap! I’m gonna tell everyone!
I AM NOT GAY!
Is it Regal? You get caught in his fiery eyes, huh?
I DON’T LIKE REGAL!
You seem a bit loud. Is it that you do like some guy? I always thought of you as the gay type.
For the last time, I’m not gay!
So... you’re staying in the closet?
No, I’m not.
Whatever, I know your gay.
Quex rolled his eyes, shaking his head.
I laughed softly to myself.
You have wet dreams about Marn, don’t you? You love the way he sits there quietly. You love the feel of his silky brown hair. You get lost in his sparkly amber eyes. Oooh!
Kurlz, if you don’t shut up, I will kill you.
Cool, thanks, I’ve been meaning to do that myself. Haven’t had the time for it you see.
Suicidal much.
Uh, yeah. That’s me all over. Haven’t you seen all the depressing posters in my dorm?
I thought you just thought they were cool.
Quex grinned. I smiled back.
‘What are you two talking about?’ Denim asked suddenly as she appeared from nowhere.
‘You know, when you do that, it makes me wish you were decapitated,’ I remarked.
To make it clear, I was angry with Denim at the time for saying I was embarrassing her in front of Jimone, and I was not just starting stuff. We’d both get over it afterwards, but how could she say that? As if Jimone cares! He’s known me longer than her, and he fine with my personality.
‘I could try that,’ she replied, her head disappearing.
‘How about you get lost, and mind your own business you dirty little scumbag?’ I suggested all but cheerily.
‘Shut up.’ Her face rematerialize.
‘At least I’m not a try-hard. Trying to fit it. What’s wrong with being different? Everyone here is a freak, and you don’t want me around because I’m “retarded”.’
Denim scowled.
‘Stop it. I hate it when you do that.’
‘Then go far away so I don’t have to hear all your disgusting thoughts about Jimone and all the other people you feel like taking to your dorm for a private tour.’
At this, Denim tried to strike me, but I was too quick, grabbing her arm and bending it behind her back.
‘Don’t you dare,’ I scolded. ‘Just because you know it’s true and you have no come back, doesn’t mean you have to resort to violence. You know you’ll never win.’
I let her go.
We had been silently fighting for a while. Now it was all out in the open.
She took one last death-stare at me, then stalked away, her straight blonde hair like a cape for her foul-minded head.
I sat down again.
‘What’s the go with that?’ Quex asked.
‘Denim is being a douche. She is always being silently hostile. I never know what her problem is, and I freaking hate it when she does that. Why am I friends with her?’
Quex shrugged. ‘Yeah, she is pretty annoying when she acts like this.’
I know. What the hell is wrong with her?
I wish we could drop kick her, but unfortunately, I don’t have great kicking skills.
Me too. I hate those faces she makes, like she’s talking to a retard the freaking spaz. I just want to burry my fist into her face, but I can control myself, unlike herself.
Just ignore her.
She’ll try and get everyone against me. She always does.
It never works. Everyone knows what she’s like, the manipulative little scum. It’s all good.
I’m so glad you feel the same way. Everyone else would be saying, just stop.
Quex nodded, looking disgusted in Denim’s direction, then laughing to shake of the bad mood. I knew he was really her friend, he was just doing this for me.
If she talks to you again, I will drop kick her.
Ha ha. Thanks, you’re the best.
You’re freaking welcome.
I laughed.

Denim. The only one of my friends I feel annoyed at basically fifty per cent of the time. I would never talk about any of my other friends like that. Just her, because she seemed constantly annoyed at everything that was not “her” type of normal.
‘Wanna go for a walk? Just in case you-know-who comes back.’
‘Sure.’
...
I roamed around my dorm, unable to sleep. There was no reason for it that I knew of, I was just wide awake.
I looked out the window to the dark night, cold, windy and clear. I leaned out for a second to catch the refreshing breeze, then shut the window and locked it.
I sat by the fire on a plush red chair, staring into the crackling flames, fixated as it caressed the wood and stone as though it was a lover.
Valish tip-toed into the room, and she sat near me on a fluffy chocolate lounge.
‘Hey, why are you up?’ she whispered the question as though anything louder would be wrong in the hush of night.
‘Can’t sleep,’ I murmured.
‘Why’s that?’
‘Dunno. Just can’t. Restless, I guess. Why are you up?’
‘Seeing what you’re up to. What happened with you and Denim today?’
‘That isn’t why I’m up. And I don’t know why she’s being a braticus, she was the one who hates being a freak and takes it out on me, so I don’t want to talk about it.’
Valish was quiet for a second.
‘So... how about Regal and Abcde, huh?’
‘Yeah, whatever,’ I muttered. I didn’t want to talk about that either. Valish was probably gonna get with Marn soon, the traitor.
‘What’s wrong?’
‘Nothing.’
She hesitated again. ‘Do you like Regal?’
That question made me gape at the witch in horror.
‘No! I do not like Regal! Why the hell would you think that?’
‘I don’t know. You didn’t like the idea of Regal and Zanza making out, and now you’re acting weird about him and Abcde having a thing for each other.’
‘Okay, first of all, you didn’t like the idea of the two making out either. The reason - because Zanza was fragile and wasn’t ready for another relationship. Now for the second part. I’m not acting weird, I’m just irritated that everyone is being stupid in love, it’s ridiculous! And you’re one of them!’
‘I am not!’ Valish cried, indignant.
‘I may not be able to read your mind that well, but I see the way you look at him and you’re always asking for him.’
‘I don’t always ask for Marn!’
‘Oh, how did you know I was talking about Marn then? I didn’t say his name.’
Valish’s cheeks flushed a light pink hue.
‘Why are you so angry about this?’
‘I’m not! You said I like Regal, and I’m just explaining why the hell I don’t. I’m not mad at you for liking Marn. You can like whoever. But I don’t have to be in love with someone too.’
‘Okay, I’m sorry for asking. I just thought maybe, and I wanted to know. Because you seem upset, and I can’t read your mind with that obstruction. You’ve practiced the mind-blocking so well; I bet no one could pry it open if you didn’t want them too.’
My lips tweaked a bit as I gazed back into the fire.
I blinked a few times and yawned.
‘I guess I’m tired after all.’
‘Must be all the yelling. ’Night.’
She eased from the lounge and waddled to her bedroom, fighting off sleep until she reached her comfy bed.
I sat curled in my chair for a second, then reluctantly got up and shambled to my room where I collapsed onto my four-poster, falling asleep immediately.
...
The next day is was sunny. Not my favourite weather at all. It was a nasty annoyance, belting with whips of hot rays. So, I decided I would ask Valish if she would alter the thrumming heat.
‘Can we have snow, please? We haven’t had that in a while,’ I suggested.
‘Hmm... yeah, I feel like some icy weather.’
She paused for a second, not bothering with the usually antics, then the first flakes of snow drifted to the ground, and after a while, the whole field was covered in it, pure white like an arctic fox taking its winter fur, so beautiful.
I snuggled into my soft green jacket, then ran across the ice land towards Jimone and Zanza who were playing some kind of ball game. Maybe soccer.
‘Hey,’ I greeted, my voice escaping with white puffs in the cold air. ‘Can we play too?’
‘Sure thing,’ Jimone said, throwing the ball to me.
I dropped it onto the ground and kicked it to Valish.
We took part in the match, which was soccer, and it warmed us up in the frigidness.
I scored a goal, so did Valish. Jimone and Zanza won of course, with five goals between them. Zanza had scored four, being a little lightning fast freak.
‘Why do I play these games with you? You’ll always win!’ I exasperated to Zanza.
‘Can’t help it, I was born like this,’ she shrugged then beamed, delighted with herself.
‘Whatever, where is someone with normal speed around here?’ I looked around. ‘Where is Quex, or Regal? Probably with Abcde. Anyway, who wants to make snow angels?’
‘Oooh! Yeah!’ Valish agreed excitedly.
We flopped down on our backs and started moving our legs and arms in the ice. My mind drifted to a poem I once sang when I was a little girl:
My snow-twined angel, my heaven’s ice.
With ubiquitous chill, with ghostly sigh.
Our pallid wings, we glide azure.
My snow-twined angel, our soul is pure.
I jumped up to admire my work.
‘That’s skill,’ I said, not that it was in any way special.
Jimone gazed at his, nodded, then abruptly grabbed a handful of snow and threw it at me, hitting me straight in the chest. ‘Snowball fight!’ he bellowed.
I fell to the ground, a puff of air erupting from my lips.
‘You idiot!’ I cried, rising to my feet, scooping some ice with me, moulding it into a ball and pegging it at the boy.
It caught him in the stomach and he swayed, stretching more than a normal human being should.
I laughed at him as he finally managed to catch his balance awkwardly with a whole lot of bending included, and chucked another globe of snow at his face.
He brushed the ice from his eyes, beaming, grabbing another. Before he could hurl it at me, Valish hit him with one right on the ear.
Zanza fell over laughing, and Jimone decided to aim the one in his hand at her instead.
She scowled at him, spooned some snow, then threw about a dozen spheres at him in barely two seconds.
I started running. It’s pretty hard when you’re almost doubled-over with hysterics, but I managed a sort of gallop.
Zanza got me, and I fell over, rolling into a pile of snow.
I stood up and started to sprint again while the others flogged each other with balls of ice.
Puffing, I reached the alcove where our entire group was.
‘Hey,’ I breathed, grinning and red in the face. ‘Snowball fight! Come join!’
...
I walked into the room my hair dripping with thawed ice.
Not only had our group joined, but pretty much all of our friends, and their friends, close or not, and began pelting freezing white spheres at one another. It was crazy.
At one point a boy had been ganged up on by a group of kids, and he was piled with snow.
He was a fire-wielder and had melted it coming out soaking and smiling. He had to use his fire to dry himself; otherwise the water would have frozen him after a while.
Zanza was ecstatic in her element, and she was so quick she was nothing more than a blur that was rarely hit. If anyone got her, they would cheer.
And the ice. She loved ice; she could form balls of it on her hand, which was one of her powers. She could also endure it, being able to stay in a snowdrift for a few days without getting chilly, let alone getting frostbite and even dying.
In fact, she would be perfect for climbing Mount Everest. Enduring the cold and being super-fast up the mountain.
I had only hit her with a ball once, and had hi-fived with Valish, roaring with excitement.
During this game, Denim and I had gotten over our little argument, and had slogged a random guy with ice.
I now slumped on the bed, feeling refreshed from the cool and rosy in the cheeks.
I bet this snowball fight would be talked about for a while.
It was dark and probably past midnight, but I couldn’t sleep. It was happening more often lately. At this rate, I would soon become nocturnal.
Shutting my eyes tight, I tried to get some rest, but sleep just wouldn’t come.
Opening my eyes again, I leaned up gazing around. I slid my leg off the bed and slipped off the sheets silently, tip-toeing down the stairs to the lounge room, as I like to call it, the area with the fire place.
I was still in my pyjamas and fuzzy slippers, not bothering to change my clothes, but I did replace my soft shoes for some well-worn joggers.
I inched the dorm door ajar and peeked out. No one was down the hall. I turned around to see if the girls had woken up and spotted me, and seeing as though they hadn’t, I edged out of the room without a scuffle or peep, and stalked down the corridor.
I located the boys’ dormitory and tapped on it, using our special knock so they would know that it was me or at least one of the people in our group. Tap, tap, tap, rat-a-tat, tap, rat-a-tat, tap.
I waited a minute, wondering if they were all asleep, and if I should just return to my dorm, then someone swung the door open and stared at me.
It was Quex.
‘What are you doing here?’ he asked, his eyes wide with surprise.
‘I was wondering if I could sell some cookies. Would you like some sir? They’re ten dollars each, good deal, huh?’
Quex smiled and rolled his eyes. ‘Come in.’
‘Little forward, but I’m up for it.’
I pushed passed him into the lime lounge room, and dropped down on a black velvet couch.
He gazed at me for a second; probably wondering what the hell I was doing here at two in the morning. What I was wondering was why was Quex up too.
He sat down beside me.
‘Is Jimone or Regal up?’
‘No. They were out at twelve.’
‘How come you’re awake?’
‘Can’t sleep, you?’
‘Same here. The others are sleeping too, so I came here hoping someone was up that I could talk to. Not that I really expected anyone to be.’
‘Well, you can talk to me, what did you want to talk about?’
‘I don’t know, stuff. Could you tell me a story?’
Quex laughed. ‘Sure, I guess. What story would you like me to tell you?’
‘Just make up some junk. Like fantasy crap or sci-fi.’
He shrugged. ‘Okay.’
I leaned back on the sofa and listened to Quex as he spun a strange tale about a girl with a pet dragon. It was a pretty weird story. The dragon burnt down a village by accident, how, neither of us knew, and the king ordered it to be killed. I thought he would have died in the fire, as well as his soldiers, but Quex informed me that by village he meant the crops in the village. I gave him a look which he promptly ignored and continued on. The dragon flew away, so the girl was put in gaol. Why she had to go, I didn’t understand. After a while the dragon came back and saved the girl, and they lived in a cave for the rest of their lives.
‘That was demented,’ I said when he finished.
‘You’re welcome,’ he replied sarcastically. ‘Why don’t you tell me one now?’
‘Nah, let’s just talk now.’
‘Whatever. How fun was today?’
‘Yeah, pretty spectacular,’ I yawned. ‘Even though it’s only been two or so hours of today so far.’
‘You tired now?’
‘No,’ I mumbled adding another yawn.
‘Sure you’re not. So you hit Zanza, well done. I didn’t catch her myself but I think Jimone did, or Regal. Did you see? Kurlz? You awake?’
I hadn’t heard the last part. I was asleep obviously.

‘Morning, Kurlz.’
My eyes flew open as my name was voiced in daybreak welcomes, and I was surprised by where I was.
I was still in the boys’ dorm. I had fallen asleep while talking, and hadn’t gotten up to go back to my bed.
Quex smiled down at me, holding a tray in front of him with breakfast on it, and the smell coming off it was incredibly mouth-watering. He made a gesture for me to take it.
‘Uh... thanks. Why’d you make me breakfast?’ I wondered, taking the tray form him, just in case he took it away on account of doubting his motive.
‘You’re my friend and a visitor. Bed in breakfast is essential here for those that stay overnight.’
‘Yeah, what a sleepover,’ I muttered, wondering who else had been welcomed with a platter in bed.
I looked at the food on my plate and smiled, delighted at the contents.
There was a dish holding waffles with ice-cream raspberries and maple syrup, there was sausages, bacon and eggs, toast with jam and butter, a bowl of cocoa pops and a cup of apple juice.
‘Wow,’ I murmured, eyeing the food hungrily as I realised just how starving I was.
I started digging in, scoffing the food like I hadn’t eaten in quite a long time.
After a while, when I had only the delicious stack of waffles left (which I had saved for last, because they are the best thing), I gazed up at Quex with a questioning look.
‘Bed in breakfast? More like feast in furniture, this is freaking amazing! Why did you make all of this?’
‘Because I’m fantastic. Plus Regal helped, being quite a cook himself. We just thought it would be nice to spoil you a tad.’
‘Regal helped?’
‘Yeah, when he found out you slept the night, he thought it was pretty funny, but whatever.’
‘Regal’s a jerk,’ I muttered, scowling at the image of him laughing his head off at me.
I continued to devour my waffles, savouring the melt-in-your-mouth taste as I chewed.
‘Thanks, Quex,’ I grinned as I finished. ‘That was probably the best breakfast I ever had. Or at least in the top five.’
‘You’re very welcome, would you like anything else?’
‘Well, aren’t you hospitable this morning? I’m actually not hungry, thanks, but I would like to go back to my dorm to change my clothes for the day.’
‘Okay, see ya later.’
‘Bye.’
I exited the room, hurrying down the hall until I reached my dormitory door.
I eased it open, hoping that I wouldn’t disturb anyone with my entrance.
When I slipped into the lounge room, I saw that Valish and Denim were sitting by the fire.
‘Hey,’ I greeted.
‘Where were you?’ Denim asked suspiciously. ‘We looked in your bed, and you weren’t there.’
‘I was at the guys’ dorm, hanging out with Quex at about two,’ I replied. Was this the start of some kind of interrogation?
‘Hanging with Quex? At two? In the morning?’ she demanded.
‘Uh... yeah.’
‘Why?’
‘Not that it really matters, but anyway. I couldn’t sleep, and all of you were, so I went to see if anyone of the guys were awake. Quex was, so we talked and he told me this really weird story. I guess being unable to sleep must be some kind of werewolf thing.’
‘Yeah, whatever,’ Denim rolled her eyes.
‘Uh huh, it was so cool, because Quex and Regal made me breakfast in bed. It was soooo good. You should stay the night there one time and receive the bounty. I’m not even joking, it was if there was a party in my mouth and grossness wasn’t invited.’
‘When is grossness ever invited to parties?’ Valish wondered out loud.
‘I dunno, orgies?’
‘Ew! That’s gross alright,’ she stated, a disgusted expression taking over her features.
‘Yeah, I know. Anyway, it was random. You should sleep over tonight,’ I winked at Denim. ‘Jimone’s there, he might be able to stay up if you’re there too, ha ha.’
She flushed red. ‘Whatever.’
‘Okay, so where are Abcde and Zanza? Probably still sleeping, the lazy freaks.’
‘Zanza already left for a walk, and yeah, Abcde is still in bed. Should wake up soon, we have something planned.’
‘Since when?’
‘Since then. Well, a few minutes ago.’
‘Is this supposed to be a surprise, or can I know without doing the whole mind thing?’
‘No mind thing required, it’s not a secret, we’re just gonna go down to the lake to swim. The pulie fish are gonna be swarming.’
‘Ah,’ I beamed. ‘Pulie fish, how I love thee.’
Pulie fish. They are fish that are colourful, quick and friendly. Except to their enemies, who they camouflage for, and use their swiftness to kill them, usual by decapitation. We were no enemy of these wonderful sea creatures, or well, river creatures. Me with my animal power thing, and even without, we don’t cause any threat to the lovable underwater rainbows.
‘So, when are we going?’
‘Soon, when Zanza gets the guys and Abcde wakes up.’
‘Have we got the picnic all ready, or am I here to help out with that task?’
‘Who said anything about a picnic?’
‘I did. Now, who’s gonna help me make some chow? If you’re not helping, you’re waking up her,’ I said pointing to Abcde’s room.
Valish stood up so fast it would make Zanza proud.
‘Me! I’ll help.’
Denim furrowed her brows, looking less than unhappy about the arrangement.
No one ever wants to wake up Abcde. She’s not a morning person. And that’s an understatement.
‘Have fun with the Morning Monster,’ I chirped. ‘What would you like on your sandwich?’
‘Surprise me.’
‘Okay, cat vomit it is. Ha ha, just kidding. The puke’s mine. You touch it, you die,’ I joked.
‘Um... on second thoughts, don’t surprise me. I’ll have what Val’s having.’
‘Insects for two, it is. Wise choice.’
Valish and I walked off to the kitchen, while Denim was wandering round in the lounge room, killing time, hoping Abcde might wake on her own accord.
‘So, we want sandwiches, fruit, butterfly and moth chips, slice and muffins. Anything else?’
Valish paused for a second, thinking.
‘Um... how about... cheese puffs!’
‘Yum! How could I forget that? Well done, let’s go make this thing.’
Valish decided to make choc-caramel slice and butterscotch cakes while I went on to make a range of different and delicious sandwiches and some flaky cheese puffs. The rest we had and would pack up when we were all done with the food preparation.
A while after I had made the puffs and Valish was onto the cakes, Abcde and Denim came into the kitchen. Abcde looked annoyed and tired, rubbing the sleep from her eyes and yawning. Denim seemed slightly ruffled and a tad disgruntled. I’m guessing she finally worked up enough courage to wake up the demon.
‘Morning,’ I greeted the tired-looking girl. ‘Ready for some picnic and river fun?’
‘Not really. I’m more ready to go back to bed.’
‘What about the pulie fish? You’ve got to be excited for them to be here, right?’
‘I guess,’ she yawned again.
‘Any of you want to help?’
‘S’pose so,’ Abcde said, walking over to me. I made a quick assessment and concluded that she was not going to be the best help around when she was practically sleep walking.
‘I think it best if you help Val,’ I said, shunning her to Valish’s side. ‘Denim can help me with the sandwiches.’
Valish gave me a sour look, and I shrugged, smiling.
So, we busily made food, Denim cutting cheese and other ingredients to put between bread while Valish tried her best to make sure Abcde didn’t ruin the cakes, or well, even go near them.
The end result was pretty spectacular, the table was covered in food, and now we had to pack it all away in one small picnic basket.
‘Shrinking spell?’ I turned to Valish.
‘Yeah,’ she nodded and flicked her wrists until everything was about half its former size, and we easily filled the wicker basket that Zanza had made with speedy fingers and given to me as a present last year.
‘All ready? Swimmers and everything?’ Valish called.
‘Yes,’ we chorused back, sounding like primary school kids. Not that we went to primary school as students, but we visited it when we were younger and curious about the human world. Oh, those defiant days.
I carried the container as we strode down the hall to the boys’ dormitory.
I knocked on the door, again using the special one we used, and Quex opened it.
He smiled at me, and then at the rest of the crew hoarding around. An eyebrow was raised as he gazed out our faces. Smiling, neutral, grumpy and tired.
‘Uh... hello,’ he said. ‘Wanna come in?’
‘No, do you wanna come out? We’re going to the river and we are inviting you and all that are in there.’
‘I’ll get them,’ he turned and was gone for a few seconds, then returned with Regal and Jimone at his side.
‘How was breakfast?’ Regal asked, smirking.
‘Delicious, thanks,’ I replied, ignoring him. ‘Hope you like the food I made you.’
‘I bet it’s satisfactory.’
‘Whatever, let’s go,’ I walked down the corridor, then paused next to Valish. ‘Will Zanza be there?’
‘That’s what she said, now come on, we’re blocking the hall,’ she replied, hurrying me.
‘No one comes down here, or hardly ever anyway.’
‘Except that creepy old zombie that sometimes wanders over here, bumping into walls. Gross.’
‘He’s harmless, and I don’t think he likes it here much either. He never wants to talk to me when I’m over here, only at the dining hall.’
The dining hall is where most people ate. We like going there if we can’t be bothered to make our own breakfast, lunch or tea, or if the dining hall has better food. I usually go there; I like the atmosphere and how it is decorated all the time, a different arrangement every day of the week. You should see it on Easter, the ceiling is drooping with shiny eggs, and rabbits roam around with baskets of chocolates, and the bowls for breakfast are made of Easter eggs cut in half. Halloween is fantastic; everywhere there is something spooky and the whole hall is dimly lit with the glow of ghosts. Christmas is tall brightly lit trees in every corner, and at the front, and you get a present on your plate before you eat, and a Santa Claus wanders around laughing and patting kids on the head. Magical place.
‘Yeah I know, I wonder what bothers him here,’ Valish pondered about this as we trooped to the lake where we found Zanza doing laps around the massive body of water.
‘Hey,’ she called, racing up to us, her beaming face flushed from running. ‘Ooh! You brought food!’
She opened the basket lid and peeked inside.
‘Yummy. Slice and cheese puffs,’ she murmured hungrily.
‘We can eat later,’ I informed. ‘It’s bad to eat before swimming.’ I snorted at this. As if I cared.
I was already in my swimmers, and jumped off into the cool water.
I was instantly refreshed, loving the cold and the fluency of the water on my skin. I dived deeper, exploring for pulies, hoping to see the flash of vivacity of one of those psychedelic fish.
I was granted with a vibrant rainbow light and the slimy texture of a pulie against my arm.
The fish swam in front of my face, and it almost seemed to smile at me, showing off its brightly coloured scales. I smiled back at him, then went up for breath, feeling jealous that Regal had gills, and I didn’t.
When I came to the surface I saw that everyone else, except Regal, who was swimming a bit away from me, was kicking back and looking like they were trying to get a tan.
‘Hey!’ I called. ‘Come in! The water’s fine and the pulies are here. Loads of schools.’
Almost everyone joined, except for Abcde, who seemed to want to catch up on a little sleep before she had some fun.
I shrugged as she lay there, then dipped my head under to look at the fish that were swarming around me, their skin tickling my legs. I patted one that was close to my hand, and it gazed at me with pretty green eyes, then blue, then red. They had opal irises, changing with the light and position they were in.
They floated slightly away, then performed a beautiful underwater dance, graceful and silent. After the show, I applauded, paddled up for air, then returned to my fishy friends.
The school then made a platform under me, and I held onto two pulies near the front as they pulled me along swiftly through the water, and it would have felt breathtaking if I had not been underwater. I put my head up, so I could inhale as they took me for a tour and I smiled at the rest of the group who weren’t even close to having their own fish boat.
For ages we cavorted with the fish, swimming and playing water games like Marco Polo. It seemed endlessly fun, though not ever enough to satisfy. Amusement that wouldn’t last for long.
I had just been submerged, beaming at the other great occupants of the river floor, when I went up for another gulp of oxygen. But this time, I did not go back under for another visit. This time I heard screams.
I shot a look at the direction of the shrieks, and saw Abcde by the tree in fits of uncontrollable screeching. She looked unharmed, but who knew what could be happening. She could be under a spell of some sort, being tortured.
Regal and Zanza were already out of the river, and the latter was by her side.
I stormed out of the water, wondering what the hell was going on, fear grasping me as I thought of the possibilities.
As I reached her side, the screams had subsided and now she was shaking, terror in her eyes, cold sweat gleaming on her forehead.
‘What’s wrong?’ I asked. ‘What’s going on?’
Abcde didn’t look at anyone, just muttering to herself.
Zanza was patting her head and staring at her with concern and curiosity.
Finally, Abcde raised her eyes to gaze into Zanza’s. There was a second of some sort of fear and then it was gone, lost from her mind, only a faded shadow beyond recall, and I couldn’t even catch what it was.
‘I... had a dream,’ she said shakily. ‘But I can’t remember what it was... it... no, I’ve forgotten.’
‘We should go,’ Regal murmured.
Everyone agreed, and Regal and Zanza carried Abcde back to her dorm effortlessly. The rest of us followed, edgy.
In bed I worried all night. There was a look in Abcde’s eyes, like something terrible was going to happen. And then it was erased from her memory, and even I couldn’t trace the forgotten thought. And that disturbed me more than I could handle. What could escape a mind-reader? What evil could delve into obscurity?
I tossed and turned, unable to sleep.
Finally, after about an hour of unbearable alertness, I rose quietly from my bed, just like last night and crossed the room, exiting mine and going into the lounge room.
I tip-toed passed Abcde’s room where Regal was staying the night just in case something happened, if she had another nightmare. The two were pretty much going out now, but not quite, though the two being in there together was something I didn’t want to think about.
I walked to the boy’s dorm, hoping Quex or Jimone were awake so I had some comfort.
Quex was the one to open the door again.
I smiled apologetically at my disturbance.
He rolled his eyes, gesturing, with a sweeping arm, for me to enter.
‘I’m sorry,’ I murmured. ‘I can’t sleep.’
‘Again. That’s ok, neither can I. Jimone seems okay, I couldn’t wake him if I slapped him in the face. Not that I have tried that. I might later, though.’
‘Okay... do you wanna go out?’
‘Huh?’ he looked a little surprised at this.
‘Do you?’
‘Want to go out?’
‘Yes.’
‘With you?’
‘Who else?’
‘Go out, as in date?’
‘What?’ Now I was the confused one. ‘I never said I wanted to date you. What the hell.’
‘Oh... so, go out... outside?’
‘Yes, as in a walk.’
Quex laughed. ‘That was awkward.’
‘Yeah, it was, now do you want to go outside for a walk or do you not want to?’
‘Right now? It’s like... one... ish.’
‘I know, and yes right now. It’s perfect, snowing.’
Quex shrugged, nodding. ‘Sure, why not? I don’t have anything else to do. Except sleep, but I’m not tired. Let’s go.’
We went out into the night, the cold wind whipping our faces, feeling like ice on my cheeks.
I morphed into a werewolf and Quex did the same.
We were at the Cliff. The one that cut down and fell to an endless black abyss.
Snow covered the peak, but my paws weren’t cold, and I loved the feel of the roaring blizzard. Fur ruffled and clung to by flakes.
‘Isn’t it great out here?’ I murmured, my voice ripping from my throat, but Quex could still catch what I said.
‘Yeah, it is. The best view ever. You can see all of M.A. High from up here.’
I hesitated.
‘I knew you didn’t hate Denim.’
‘Huh?’
‘I knew you didn’t really hate Denim,’ I repeated.
‘Yeah, I know. It’s just... I know people are supposed to say stuff like it’s okay, she’ll snap out of it, and stuff like that. But you already knew that, so why would I have to tell you?’
‘Yeah.’
‘She can be annoying sometimes, and I know you both will be friends again. But at that moment you don’t want to hear that stuff. I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do, it probably isn’t, but I knew that going on Denim’s side would be a bad idea.’
‘Well, thanks. It’s all fine.’
‘You’re welcome.’
We stood for a while, listening to the wind.
‘Did you see what her dream was?’ Quex asked, abruptly.
‘No... I don’t know why, but the whole thing disappeared without a remnant of ever being there.’
‘That’s strange... how is that possible?’
‘Maybe my power is just failing, or there is some dark magic that is blocking me, without me being aware. Or maybe it has been totally erased by someone or something.’
I gave a frustrated sigh.
Why did this have to be so alarming and irksome?
‘I might never know the cause of it all. And we might never know what the dream was. And that just makes it worse; not knowing.’
‘Yeah, I know,’ he smiled. ‘Keeping secrets from you is hard, and I suppose not being able to know one would be maddening.’
‘Yes, it is, thanks,’ I muttered, annoyed at this. ‘You know, you wouldn’t be able to tell if I entered your mind and find out what our little secret is.’
‘You promised.’ Suddenly serious.
‘You would never know if I broke it.’
He sighed. ‘Yeah I would.’
‘Hmm... ok, that’s making my day worse. Just tell me. Please? I won’t tell anyone. You can trust me, I’m very trustworthy.’
‘Sure, whatever, I’m still not gonna tell you.’
‘Uh huh, okay. Be like that.’
We were silent as I tried to not punch Quex, or read his mind to find out the hidden file in there, or both.
‘I think I might go back to my dorm now,’ I whispered after a while.
‘Why?’
‘I just want to. You may join if you like. It’s up to you to decide, but I’m going.’
I turned to go wondering if Quex would follow. He did.
‘Are you tired?’
‘No more than before, but I want to go back. You can have a snack with me at my place if you want to, or you can just go back to bed.’
‘Depends.’
‘On what?’
‘What snack are you having?’
‘Hmm... you know, whatever’s in the cupboard.’
‘Okay... do you even have any food left?’
‘Uh, yes, I do in fact. So shut up and eat some eggs, ‘cause that’s what I’m having.’
Quex shrugged. ‘Eggs it is.’

A few weeks past and Abcde continued to have the dreams. She would scream at night and Regal would comfort her, cradling her in his arms until she would fall back to sleep. In the morning she would have forgotten the whole thing, barely even recalling the waking up and shrieking that haunted me at night.
After a while, Regal finally decided to ask out Abcde, and of course she said yes; she had been waiting for him to “pop the question” since the cupid muddle. I remember the day when she came up to me, to tell me the good news.
‘Kurlz! Hey!’ she had called. ‘Guess what?’
‘What?’ I had replied, dull compared to her ecstasy.
‘Regal asked me out!’ she had gabbled with glee. ‘I can’t believe it! He asked me out!’
Can’t believe it?
‘I can, he’s been crushing on you for ages. And you knew that. And you were expecting it.’
She ignored the comment, and continued.
‘And, I said yes.’
‘Well, duh. You like him, too. Why would you say no?’
Again with the ignoring.
‘I’m just so happy,’ she sighed, and I rolled my eyes.
‘Good, I’m glad you are. I hope you two have a very nice life together. If he hurts you, I’ll stuff him, okay?’ She wouldn’t get the “stuffing” bit, but Valish would have if she were there. Damn.
She waved me off.
‘He won’t.’
‘Not that he has a choice,’ I muttered under my breath, but Abcde heard it, and scowled.
‘I’m gonna tell the others,’ she had informed, and skipped off to find Denim. At least she would be a bit more excited, especially since she hadn’t known about them liking each other.
Now, today the two lovebirds were wrapped in each other’s arms, smooching. I think I was almost sick.
‘Do you have to do that? All the time?’ I asked as they stopped for breath.
‘Why do you care?’ Regal retorted, orange eyes blazing.
‘Because I would like to keep my lunch inside of me for the present time.’
‘Sorry, we’ll keep it to a minimal,’ he smirked.
‘Sure you will,’ I muttered, averting my eyes as they went at it once again. Geez, it was worse than him and Zanza.
I saw Denim staring at them, fixated as they locked lips for the umpteenth time.
‘Um... are you alright?’ I asked, eyebrow raised as she quickly turned from them to me.
‘Yeah, I’m fine. Great. Perfect,’ she rambled out, blushing.
‘Oh, so why are you watching them make-out? It’s kind of disturbing,’ I informed.
‘Shut up,’ she mumbled, staring at her feet.
‘Whatever,’ I breathed, shaking my head.
A little later, Denim started watching again. I didn’t say anything, just looked at her. She was gazing from Regal and Abcde to Jimone, with wistfulness in her eyes.
I scooted next to Denim and leaned forward to whisper in her ear.
‘Are you gonna ask him out? Or are you just gonna sit there, watching people kiss, wishing it was you, while I’m grossed out by the whole affair?’
Denim again turned a bright red, then disappeared from view.
‘Damn you,’ I hissed. ‘Well, at least I don’t have to watch you be so foul.’
A second later, I sensed that she had left and I sighed to myself.
I needed to find one of the Jelcri kids. They were sane.
I eased up from the seat and shuffled down the alley, away from the group of freaks.
I soon met up with the two I was hoping for, trailing back from the canteen with bundles of food in their arms.
‘Hey!’ I called, traipsing up to them, smiling. ‘What ya got?’
‘A little this, a little that. Want some? We’ve got loads,’ Quex offered me a Cornetto.
‘Ooh! Don’t mind if I do.’ I grabbed the item and bit into it hungrily, then slowed my chewing to relish the crunchy waffle cone and the smooth ice-cream with bits of toffee and choc bits inside. Delicious.
‘Um, you’re welcome,’ Zanza said, looking at me like I was a nut as I stood there with my eyes closed, eating the Cornetto.
‘Yeah, thanks. Wanna hang out? We could do stuff!’
‘Wow, stuff. How could we refuse?’ Zanza rolled her eyes.
‘I know, it’s pretty freaking tempting. So, what do you want to do? Play soccer on the field?’
‘There are three of us.’
‘Oh yeah. Well, we can play handball or something. Actually, I don’t really like handball. Let’s not do that.’
‘Okay, so what do you want to do?’
‘Why don’t you think of something?’
‘Alright. How about Laser Tag?’
‘We have Laser Tag? Here? Since when?’ I stared at Quex, unbelieving.
‘Since... yeah we don’t have Laser Tag.’
‘Yeah, that’s right. We don’t. But we should, that would be so cool.’
‘It would. So, how about we play Death Tag?’
Death Tag was a game that was not that much different from regular tag. But in Death tag, if you were tipped, you were stunned and then paralysed until the next round. It wouldn’t be that long, since there would be only two people running and hiding.
‘Oh yeah,’ I grinned. ‘I bags being in. You two are going down!’
‘We’ll go when we finished this food,’ Zanza said.
‘Right, hurry up though.’
They scoffed down the food, and I even pitched in a bit. Afterwards, we marched to the field. It was overcast.
‘You have thirty seconds to get out of my sight, and if you aren’t hidden by then, well, it will just be easier for me,’ I laughed cruelly, acting the part of a sadistic madman. ‘Now scat, vermin!’
Zanza and Quex bolted; obviously Zanza was out of sight in a flash. It was gonna be impossible to catch her unless she wound up in a dead end, and even then it would be difficult.
After about twenty-nine seconds, I opened my eyes and began my search for the two foul beings.
Overall, an amusing activity.
I stunned Quex who was hiding in a tree, but I never ended up catching Zanza, who danced around, just to annoy me, and after running after her for twenty minutes, we had our next class; English.
We had to write a Narrative, and it was supposed to be about a mutant alien meeting a human.
A cinch, of course. I had myself encountered many humans, and had many different experiences with them. I could pick any one of them, but chose a meeting that had been pleasant, because most people would probably be writing a gore-fest. Not that they’re bad, but I didn’t want my story to be like everyone else's.
I finished with five minutes to spare, and decided to talk to Marn for a bit.
Hey, what’s up?
I’m working, Kurlz.
Cool. What’s your story about?
A mutant alien meets a human.
Really? Mine, too! Wow, we must have some kind of crazy connection, don’t you think?
No, I don’t.
Geez, what’s your problem?
I’m trying to finish my story. You may be done, but I’m still going, okay? So, just stop.
You’re no fun.
Whatever.
I folded my arms and stared at the clock. A minute passed and I was bored, so...
Hey, Marn. What’s ya doing?
I’m still writing.
Whoa! Still? You are slower than a snail.
Thanks, that means the world to me.
You’re welcome, I know your love of invertebrates, and being compared to them.
It’s a dream of mine to one day be a snail, or even a slug.
If you were a slug, you wouldn’t have protection. Ha ha, protection. Anyway, but if you were a snail, you’d have to carry your house around all the time.
That’s cool with me, I don’t go places much.
Alright, when I find some kind of morphing spell, or something, and learn it, I’ll let you know.
Thanks, you’re the best!
Yeah, I know.
The bell rang and I looked at Marn.
‘You done?’ I asked.
‘Yeah. Only just, though.’
‘I should read it later. See ya.’
‘See ya.’
I scampered out of our English class and met up with Denim and Jimone.
‘Hello, how was class?’
‘Boring,’ Denim replied. ‘As usual.’
‘Righto, good to know,’ I chirped, but feeling like I was interrupting something, I left.
It always seemed that Denim never really made the effort to be my friend. As though she didn’t care if I was or not. And she was always making weird expressions as if I was an idiot, a fool, an embarrassment. I didn’t care, obviously. She wasn’t my best friend. Valish, Abcde, Quex and Regal were.
So, I decided to find those people.
I saw Valish and Abcde together, and I was surprised to see that Regal was not glued to the latter, or even at her side.
‘Hi,’ I greeted. ‘How was class? Boring? As usual? Well, isn’t that just fine?’
‘It was okay, we had to write a story.’
‘About an alien meeting a human? Yeah, us too.’
‘That’s the one. Let’s go back to the dorm. I’m tired.’
‘Yeah, I want to, too,’ Abcde put in. ‘We should watch a movie.’
‘Yes! We could stay up all night, or most of it, watching movies and eating popcorn and drinking Fanta! Awesome party night.’
‘I’m up for it,’ Abcde said, enthusiastic. ‘What about you, Val?’
‘Sounds like a brilliant idea.’
‘Let’s roll,’ I murmured and we strutted to our dormitory. Quite stylishly, I might add.
...
The three of us huddled ourselves in thick warm blankets on my large bed as we watch film after film. The Lord of the Rings, The Ring, Hot Fuzz, The Orphan and loads of other ones.
We devoured a few buckets of buttery popcorn plus another of caramel, and guzzled down a two litre bottle of our choice of drink. I had an orange Fanta, Abcde had a blue Fanta and Valish had lemonade.
Denim had peeked in the door, but didn’t enter to my relief. I didn’t want her to join us, but I wouldn’t tell her to get lost either. Her face showed exclusion before she had shut the door. She hated not being invited to activities, and now she would stay up tonight, feeling alone and unwelcome. As though she didn’t matter. The way she seemed to try and make me feel.
It was pretty much a slumber party, and we fell asleep in my room while we were half way through The Day After Tomorrow, warm in the covers and blissful eyes closed.
In the morning the two other sleeping teens were laying in awkward positions on my four-poster. Abcde’s head was lying across my knees and Valish’s legs were on my back. Abcde was splayed across Valish’s stomach and she was snuggling into Ab’s waist. Awkward. Very awkward.
I eased them off me and slid off my bed with a soft thud. I made sure I hadn’t disturbed them, and crept into the kitchen.
I didn’t meet Denim or Zanza on the way. I was especially glad not to run into Denim. It would be more awkward than the sleeping position I was in this morning.
I swung the cupboard door wide and went in search of a box of cereal to my liking. I was soon given a glance of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and immediately grabbed it to pour myself a bowl. I got some milk out of the fridge and sloshed it over the flakes.
After a few seconds I had sat at the kitchen table and began shovelling the cereal into my mouth, crunching away at the lovely honey-covered stuff.
Finishing the whole thing in less than a minute, I decided to get dressed and head down to the hall for something else. Juice maybe, and possibly a stack of pancakes. Who knew what you would find at those dark round tables?
I shuffled into my room and saw that Valish had awoken, well, she was kind of still in the process, but she had her eyes open at least.
‘Hey, I’m going to the hall for breakfast. Wanna come with?’ I offered.
She looked at me sleepily and shrugged. ‘Sure, why not? I can’t be bothered to make breakfast, anyway.’
‘That’s what the hall is for. Also second breakfasts.’ Then I added with a whisper, ‘I’ve already had some cornflakes,’ and winked comically.
‘Coming, just need to get changed first, though,’ she murmured, tumbling off the bed and heading off for her bedroom.
I stood for a second staring at Abcde, wondering if I should wake her or not. Best not.
I moved to my wardrobe and selected a pair of faded jeans and a grey sleeved shirt, heading to my suite to get dressed.
When I got out, I strolled to the lounge room to find Valish almost falling asleep on the couch.
‘Morning. Again. You ready?’
‘Yep, let’s go.’
We trudged to the dining hall, me in high spirits of a sort, and Valish, I suppose, in a sleepy one.
Entering the hall, we saw that it was decorated.
Blue and green ribbons were flowing from the roof, and pictures of the pulies were swimming across the walls in honour of their arrival.
‘Nice,’ I admired, nodding in approval.
‘Yeah, lovely fish, let’s go get some chow. I’m suddenly starving.’
We sat at a random table and food appeared in front of us out of nowhere. It had exactly what we craved, though we did not know what that was at the time.
‘YUUUM!’ I exclaimed as a hearty breakfast evaporated onto my plate. It included sausages, bacon and eggs, tomato, mushrooms, pancakes with butter and maple syrup, toast and a cup of fresh orange juice. Fantastic.
Valish had pancakes with ice-cream on the side and a glass of chocolate milk. She had about four helpings of pancakes, eight cups of milk and sneaking some food off of my plate. Oh, how I was proud of her.
We left the hall, satisfied, and even full. I loved dining hall mornings. They were exquisite.
It was another free day, without any school work, to my relief. So, we strolled through the corridors of the school, not particularly looking for anything or anyone, but just enjoying a walk in the maze where we lived.
We passed a few people we knew such as Woebel Cinch and Merkly Lopim. They were two feline beings that were fond of each other from the very start of school, hitting off as friends before the first period of the first day. Maybe it was a cat thing, or the fact that they loved cat things. But after then they had been called the Siamese Twins. Not that they looked alike, but they were rarely seen without the other and they resembled Siamese cats, so the nickname stuck, and was clever in a way.
Anyway, the two of us had a little conversation with the Siamese Twins. And no, if you think because I’m sort of a dog, that the two hated me. Woebel was in my History class, and she was actually really nice. Genuinely nice. Not that fake crap that’s pathetic and annoying. I know when someone hates me, and they know it, too.
We also met Ghuv Metrop, the guy in most of my classes that was a player. It was gross how he hit on all the girls and they would actually flirt back. He wasn’t even good-looking. In fact, he was kind of ugly, but I guess that’s just my opinion. Once he tried something on me, because he does it on all the girls, and I told him if he did so much as look my way, I would break his neck and set the wolves on him. He never did it again. Needless to say, we didn’t say hello to him, but he sent a wink to Valish, and I made a puke face.
‘What a sleaze,’ Valish muttered.
I would have agreed, but it was then that I saw a person, a girl, I think, rushing away from a room in a hurry, vanishing from sight before I could catch a glimpse of who it might be. A whisper in the halls of a faded ghost.
I gave Valish a puzzled look, then stared back at the room the girl had exited.
Should we go in? I asked Val.
I guess we should check it out.
Hesitantly, we edged towards the slightly ajar door, hoping nothing deadly was lurking in the interior.
When we stood outside the room, I slowly pushed the door open and inched inside quietly.
It was a classroom, I think. I had never had a class in there, but it had a chalkboard so I assumed it had to be.
The chalkboard... There were words on the dark green, and when I read the message, that was written a hundred times, I gasped.
It read:
They are coming. No one is safe. Someone will die... Then war will begin...

‘They are coming? Who are they?’
The teachers were discussing the event of the message. Had it been a warning? Had it been a threat? Or had it merely been a prank? They were even wondering if it had been us! This conversation was going on for hours, and Valish and I had only sat listening to them argue about it. We were just the source of information, sucked dry and left to wait in the corner while the data was chewed over.
I couldn’t be bored; I was too scared for that. What if this was a prophecy? Would someone at this school die? Be killed? Or even a number of people. Maybe even one of my friends, or me. No one is safe...
I couldn’t imagine the whole event being a prank. The person running out of the room wasn’t giggling, wasn’t laughing. There was an ominous feeling from the beginning, a sweeping cloud of foreboding a pall through the air, and no one could trace the origin.
Valish looked blank and I wondered what she was thinking. Was she just as terrified? Did she believe that someone would die, too?
I tried to penetrate her mind, but it was solid, and I was too freaked to put more energy into trying to raid her. I was jittery and couldn’t think straight.
The teachers continued to converse about the mysterious event, and I hoped they would put at least a few defences up for the school. I would be up more than I usually was these days, and if there were no defences, then I probably would never go to sleep.
After another ten minutes the principal, Mrs Poltei sighed, shaking her head in her hands.
She turned to us with a tired and exasperated look on her face.
‘You may leave,’ she said. ‘But you mustn't tell anyone about what happened, okay? Not just yet, anyway. Not until we’ve decided what to do.’
Valish stood up, but I stayed put.
‘Excuse me?’ I said.
‘We’ll tell you when a decision has been made,’ she replied.
‘What’s there to decide? If it was a warning, then shouldn’t we protect the school? Lives are at stake, and waiting around is risking everyone’s lives!’ I was angrier with each syllable I spoke.
‘I know, but this could all be nonsense, and putting up protection spells takes time and energy.’
‘So what?’ I almost yelled. ‘Do not tell me you have been going on for hours about this to say that you think it is all a big prank. Do not tell me I have sat for hours, wasting my time to hear you say that this is nothing. Did you not hear me? Are you deaf? Did you not read the words repeated on the board? Lives are at risk! No one is safe, not even you! None of the spells you use to find out who wrote it have worked. No student at this school could pull that off. Any second this whole place could be under attack. People could be attacking right now! How can you risk that? People could be killed! And you don’t want to do anything, not one single thing, just willing to endanger the whole freaking school, because helping it tuckers you out?!’ I was fired up and red in the face.
Mrs. Poltei just stared at me, then told me to go back to my dormitory and not whisper a word about what I had seen.
Stuff that. People need to know. They are in danger and she doesn’t want me to tell anyone because it could cause a fuss. I wonder freaking why. It’s not like they could die or anything. It’s not like any second they could be stone cold with blood dripping from their mouth.
I was so irate; I stamped to my room, passing Abcde who was vigorously scrubbing her hands in the sink, and ignored the queries of Zanza. I fell on my bed and smothered a scream with my pillow.
I didn’t come out of my room for a long time and Valish had to tell them the whole thing, because of course we would tell our friends. Mrs Poltei couldn’t stop us, the foul beast.
When I did emerge from my bundle of fury and blankets I scoffed down six fried eggs, sunny side up, and sculled ten glasses of milk before I could speak to anyone. And I wasn’t pleased with what some had to say.
‘It was probably just a prank,’ Zanza said.
I glared at her. ‘So, you’re on Mrs Poltei’s side? We don’t deserve protection? Don’t need it?’
‘No, we would if there was something that was going to harm us.’
‘And you’re willing to risk it, too, huh? Just wake up in a war, and then you’ll be like, “Oh no! I should have done something!” You could die tomorrow! Doesn’t that bother you?’
‘It would if it were true. But, for now, to me, it’s nothing but someone pulling one on us.’
‘Whatever,’ I said, leaving the table. ‘I don’t want to hear more people tell me I’m paranoid or gullible for believing we all might die. Have a nice short life you lot, ‘cause they’re coming.’
With that, I went back to my room and slammed the door. Hard.
...
A week went by and M.A. High was still intact.
The people who believed the “Chalk” were Quex, Valish, Abcde and I. Marn, Regal and Denim were wary and the rest thought it was bull. Zanza and Jimone.
After a while this definition began to become a little fuzzy, but I was firm in my spot and would confront the principal about the safety of the school every freaking day. Obviously, she was none too pleased about this, but I continued to hassle her until she finally put up a few spells. It was no force-field dome, but I could live with it... for now.
Besides that, I started having fighting preparations, and so on, with Val and Ab. Quex, Regal and Marn would occasionally join, but that was about it. The others didn’t bother with it.
I was getting pretty good at it too, as well as my regular attendees, after a few weeks, and soon I was working with knives and the swords I could get my hands on. Or produce from my hands. Another power of mine.
Classes were a blur. Everyone’s gossiping and talk about minor scandals in the school seemed so small compared to everything that had come crashing down on me recently. It’s was actually absurd to me that people could still go on with their, uh... “normal” lives. They were oblivious to the truth that the teachers seemed content on veiling from them. It was outrageous.
One day, on a Saturday, we learnt a few sword skills from one of our friends. When we had asked him to teach us, he was confused, but agreed to educate, nonetheless.
Valish, Abcde and I practiced in the lounge room, swivelling and stabbing into the air. We had spells in place, so no one would receive injure by the blades. It was safer than fencing.
I slashed at Val’s face, missing her by an inch, and she turned and whacked me in the hip.
‘Ow!’ I said, annoyed, rubbing my side. ‘That hurt.’
‘Really?’
‘No,’ I grinned and caught her in the chest and she fell backwards.
‘Geez!’ she breathed, standing up and taking a stance, ready to fight. ‘What is wrong with you?’
I stepped forward.
‘A lot of things.’
Our swords clanged and we were even for a while, then I caught her off guard and stroke her with my blade.
Just then, Zanza walked into the room.
‘Fencing?’
I stood back from Valish. ‘Sorta. What do you want? Come to join?’
‘No, I don’t need to practice. I’m too quick for anyone to pull some fancy moves on me.’
‘You know, you’re not the only devilishly swift mutant in the world. Others could be twice as fast. Why don’t you think about that?’
Zanza stared at me, digesting this. There was a pause while none of us said anything, and did nothing.
‘Well, they aren’t coming anyway. So why bother?’ she finally said.
‘They are coming. And even if all that was a practical joke, one day your life will be in danger, and your speed won’t be able to save you. Not always.’
Zanza shrugged. ‘I doubt it. I’m not as paranoid as you are. Our world isn’t thriving with criminals.’
‘Not that you know,’ I said. ‘But, suit yourself. It’s not my fault what happens to you; I warned you. Just remember that when you’re facing death.’
‘Whatever,’ Zanza muttered darkly, and stormed off towards the exit and she sped away, disappearing in a blink of my eye.
Damn it! Bomont! How could I be so stupid? So insensitive? So horrible?
I slapped my forehead with the palm of my sword-less hand, thinking myself a fool. There was no point going after her, she was slick and quick. Like an oily cheetah.
I faced Valish again, not feeling up to the game.
She nodded understandingly, and I handed Abcde my blade and strode off to my room.
I circled my bed a few times, wondering what to do, and if I was brain-dead.
Later, I slunk out and dropped by the boys’ dormitory. Someone was bound to be there to chat with. I knocked several times, waited a bit, then knocked again. After a few seconds, someone answered the door.
It was Jimone. His hair was ruffled, unlike his usual slick quaff. He was looking quite pleased with himself.
I gave him a querying look and leaned to the side to peer behind his shoulder.
That was when I spotted Denim on the couch, her cheeks red, her blonde tresses in a mess. She had a flustered sort of expression, and I realised just what I had walked in on.
‘Oh, sorry,’ I said hurriedly. ‘Um... you two are... busy. Sorry to disturb you. Bye!’
Don’t you hate it when you walk into a room where people had just been making out? Yeah, I hate it, too. It’s awkward.
I trotted away as fast as I could, feeling my face go red. Denim must feel worse. Or else she had started sucking face with Jimone again. I wondered when they had got together. Just then? Probably. I hadn’t read anything before that suggested that the two had hooked up or anything.
I was so wrapped in the little embarrassing encounter that I didn’t notice someone walking my way, and ran straight into Zerlis Morgual.
‘Whooaa!’ he cried, backing up. ‘Kurlz, what?’
‘Sorry,’ I muttered. ‘Should have looked where I was going. Sorry.’
‘That’s okay. What’s up? Something on your mind?’ He was genuinely asking me, actually caring.
‘I’m fine. I just walked into something awkward.’
‘Oh... what was it?’
‘I went to someone’s dorm, and someone answered the door just after making out. Or during.’
‘Yeah, that would be awkward. Gonna say who they were, or is it a secret?’
‘Secret,’ I replied straight away. ‘If I told you, one of them would kill me, or at least, injure me permanently. Well, actually she would be the only one trying to get me, and she’s a weakling, for mutants anyway. I think the guy would be pretty proud of it.’
‘Course he would,’ Zerlis paused, then spoke again. ‘Wanna go down to the hall for some lunchin’?’
‘Sure, I have nothing else to do, and I don’t really want to hang with my friends at the moment.’
‘I’m not a friend? I’m offended!’ he said mockingly.
‘I mean the ones I usually hang around,’ I corrected, not that I really defined Zerlis as a friend, maybe just a distant pal; a guy to talk to.
We arrived at the hall, still decorated like it was when the pulies arrived.
I pretty much stuffed my face when we sat, but I suppose that’s exaggerating a tad.
‘You’re hungry,’ Zerlis noted. ‘So am I.’
‘I’m always hungry,’ I replied through a mouthful of key lime pie.
‘I see,’ he nodded, then spooned some more jelly into his mouth.
I scowled lightly, wondering if that was an insult or not. I shrugged, and continued to eat.
Soon, I finished my plates of deliciousness, and I rose from the table.
‘I better be off now,’ I said, wanting to get out of there immediately for some unknown reason. Maybe I just wanted to be somewhere else. Where, I didn’t know yet.
Zerlis stood up, too, and faced me. He was almost my height, but I was still taller. He stepped a pace closer to me, and I took one backwards.
‘You have custard on your chin,’ he remarked, eyeing me strangely.
Zerlis was a vampyre, right? I’m sure he was some kind of bloodsucker. Was he wanting to... suck my blood? I don’t think vampyres like werewolf blood, but you never know.
I wiped at my chin with my sleeve. ‘Uh... yeah, thanks I guess.’
I really wanted to get away from him now.
‘What are you doing?’ I asked, backing away.
‘Nothing, what are you talking about?’ Zerlis gave a confused look, shuffling forward. As if I didn’t notice.
‘I’m gonna go now,’ I stretched out. ‘I gotta go... over there,’ I pointed in a random direction.
‘Can I join you?’
‘Uh... no. Good bye.’ I spun around and strode out the hall and started back to my dorm.
‘Hey, wait up!’ he called, catching up to me.
He came up to my side, beaming with his eyes bright.
‘Okay, what are you doing? Why are you following me?’
‘Nothing. No reason.’
Oh, duh! Hello, mind-reading? Did I just forget that I have a power? Geez.
I sifted through his mind, and it wasn’t hard to find what I was looking for.
‘Oh, geez!’ I yelled. ‘Oh, gosh no!’
So, he did want to suck my blood. Ew! That is gross!
‘What?’
‘You are not getting one drop of my blood, got it? So just scat!’
Zerlis went red. ‘Sorry,’ he mumbled. ‘I haven’t sucked someone’s blood in ages! I’m just so thirsty, and I dunno, when I saw you... yours it just so nice, and smells delicious... sooo good-’
‘Okay! I get it! You’re so thirsty. I’m gonna go now. Chao! Au revoir. See ya later.’
I stalked off, a little disgusted, but of course I couldn’t blame him. He was what he was, and vampires drink blood. I know he was half vampyre as well, and they didn’t have the thirst of blood, but did drink occasionally, but whatever. If he wanted blood, he could have it, but I wasn’t gonna let him, or any other blood-craving monster, bite my neck. Not today, not ever.
I ended back in my dormitory, seeing Valish and Abcde fighting with fists and kicks.
‘Sup?’ I said, traipsing past them to my room, because that was the only place I felt like being at that exact moment. Nowhere else.
‘Hey,’ Abcde said, walking up to me. ‘What’s wrong? What happened?’
‘Huh? Nothing,’ I said. ‘Oh, yeah, except the part when Zerlis wanted to suck my blood, that’s all. Absolutely freaking nothing else.’
‘Ooh, that’s gross,’ she nodded. ‘That must really, really suck.’
‘Oh, ha ha. I get it. Not funny.’
Abcde laughed. ‘Yes it was.’
I had to admit, I smiled. ‘Yeah, I know.’
‘Totally. So, are you joining us for a fight? Or do you have to be somewhere?’
Yeah, I gotta be over there, wherever that is.

The man was gazing around the school, searching for something. What was he looking for? It was of utmost importance, but what? He went to a room, and a girl was there, her features blurred.
The man was annoyed that someone had dared to come inside, interrupting his search.
He scowled at her, and she stalked up to him. She didn’t move. She stood with determination, unafraid of what the man might do to her.
He slapped her down and grabbed for the object that the girl had been transfixed by only a few seconds ago, but she got up and swung in front of it. The man growled and unsheathed a sword before plunging it into the girl’s chest. She shrieked in pain...
Abcde woke up screaming.
...
‘What are these dreams about?’ I asked.
‘I, well... most of it I forget completely, but recently I have remembered blurred sections of it.’
‘And?’
‘There was a man, and a girl. She was screaming.’
I furrowed my brows. ‘Was the man screaming?’
‘No, he was... scowling, I think. Angry. I don’t think he liked the girl.’
‘Did he hurt her?’
‘I dunno. Can’t remember.’
I didn’t say anything, then Abcde spoke again.
‘Why am I having these dreams? When will they stop?’ she let her head fall into her hands and shook it. ‘Will they ever stop?’
She had tears welling up in her eyes now.
‘Kurlz, I’m scared. What am I gonna do?’
‘I don’t know,’ I said hesitantly. ‘I’m not sure if there is anything you can do at the moment. Just wait and maybe you’ll remember everything, or they’ll stop, and you won’t have to worry about it all anymore.’
She nodded, not really consoled by my words. Who would be? They weren’t very consoling.
I rose from the side of her bed and tiptoed to the door, switching the light off as I stood in the doorway.
‘Best get some rest, yeah? Goodnight, Ab.’
‘’Night,’ Abcde whispered, laying her head back down on her pillow.
I shut the door, and went back to bed, wondering what would happen to my friend.
...
I slurped some more of my multi-flavoured slushie. Freaking fantastic.
‘You seem to be enjoying that,’ Quex commented.
‘Shut up, of course I am,’ I replied. ‘Would you like some? I’ve got plenty.’
‘No thanks, I do have my own slushie, you know.’
‘Not bursting with flavour though, is it?’
‘Just raspberry, I guess.’
‘Yeah, just raspberry. When are you gonna get some grape into your life? Or lime?’
‘When I feel like grape or lime,’ he replied. ‘I’m in a blue sort of mood.’
‘Fair point,’ I slurped on my straw. ‘Hey, do you want some of my slushie? It’s delicious.’
‘You already asked me that,’ Quex pointed out. ‘And I already said no.’
‘Did you? Why? This stuff is so freaking tasty, you might die.’
‘I’d rather live today, thanks. Maybe some other time, when I don’t feel as optimistic.’
‘It won’t be the same then,’ I complained. ‘Geez. You’re so uptight. Just have a sip!’
‘I’m not uptight. Just ‘cause I won’t freaking have some of your slushie, and why do you want me to have a sip so badly? Did you poison it or something?’
‘Yeah, I totally poisoned it. You can see right? I am drinking it, meaning that there is, in fact, no harmful substance in this cup; otherwise I would not be drinking it. Sometimes you can be so stupid.’
‘Thanks,’ he rolled his eyes.
I took another sip. ‘Quex, want some of my slushie?’
‘You asked me that twice now.’
‘Really? This stuff must be giving me amnesia of something, because it is so freaking delicious! Want some?’
‘Oh, geez! Okay, I’ll have some of your freaking slushie if it’ll make you shut up.’
He took the cup from my hands and gulped down a big mouthful.
‘Wow, that is yum,’ he nodded appreciatively.
‘Yeah, I know. Now get your dirty mitts off my flavoursome ice!’
‘Okay, geez,’ he gave my cup back and I sucked it down happily. ‘Mmm, this is so good. Have you tried some?’
‘Hmm... I can’t remember, let me have a sip.’
‘Whoops, none left,’ I said, downing the rest. ‘Oh, damn, I make awesome slushie flavour mixes. So good.’
‘I agree entirely! They are like delicious and tasty! The best things I look for in food and icy drinks.’
‘Me too.’
We rounded a corner to our alcove to meet the rest of the group, separated into smaller groups, talking about different subjects that hinted the average.
‘Hello!’ I greeted, waving. ‘How is everyone this fine afternoon?’
‘Crap, you?’ Zanza answered.
‘Delightful! Not delightful that you feel like crap, but I feel delightful! I think I do feel like that. I did, didn’t I Quex?’
‘Yes, I think it was the ice drinks. They were frightfully yummy. Mmm... do you have any left.’
I eyed the bottom of the cup and frowned. ‘You drank the rest!’
‘Did I? Sorry! I must have been in some sort of trance or something like... a trance or something...’
‘What the hell is wrong with you two?’ Marn asked next to Valish, who was smiling. Why was she smiling? What was so funny?
‘Why are you laughing, Vally?’ I mumbled. ‘What are you doing?’
‘Um... what did you drink?’
‘Slushie! Ooh, we should get one!’
‘I’m in!’ Quex agreed enthusiastically. ‘Let’s go!’
‘What was in the slushie?’
‘Ice, flavouring, ice and something else... flavouring! That’s it! That’s the one.’
‘Oh, okay, let’s get you back to your dorms, you need some rest. Sleep this off.’
‘Sleeeeeep...’ I murmured, then I blacked out.
...
I blinked my eyes to some degree that would barely be classed as open.
‘What happened?’ I croaked, my voice hoarse.
‘You blacked out. After you went on your gibbering rampage,’ Valish’s voice burst through the dim.
‘She wasn’t that bad,’ Abcde said.
‘Yeah, I guess it was just a bit more insane than her usual self.’
‘Ha ha,’ I mumbled, trying to get up, but someone forced me down. ‘Let me up.’
‘You should really lie down.’
‘I’ve been doing that for the past... what?’
‘Four hours,’ Jimone informed. ‘I didn’t stick around for half of it.’
‘Of course you wouldn’t,’ I smiled. ‘Off kissing Denim, were you?’
‘No, but I’d like to have been.’ I sensed a grin in his voice.
‘Uh huh. Anyway, I’ve been sleeping for the past four hours, now please let me return back to the living and sitting.’
I lifted myself up, and this time, to my pleasure, no one stopped me.
‘So, what exactly was I saying?’
‘Stuff about a slushie. You seemed really keen on getting another one.’
‘Ooh! I should get one of those!’
‘No!’
‘Fine, whatever.’
My eyes roved around the room. Everyone was at my side... except Zanza. I didn’t even bother to ask where she was. It was as simple as she didn’t care about me. At least, not at the moment. And I couldn’t blame her either.
‘I was also talking crap, but I didn’t black out,’ Quex said.
I turned to him. ‘Was it the slushie that was making us act like that?’
‘That’s my guess.’
‘And, indeed, you are right.’
The voice had come from the doorway, and now someone else had entered with a vial in her hand. Zanza.
‘Huh? Why are you here?’ That sounded unwelcoming.
‘Um, to tell you what potion was in the slushie,’ she replied, obviously not offended by my comment, thank goodness.
‘There was a potion in my slushie?’ I yelled, astounded at this slice of information.
‘Yeah, there was. I was suspicious to begin with, so I decided to check it out. I was proved correct.’ She handed me a slip of paper.
I read the note.
‘Obliviance? The Forgetful potion?’ I stared in disbelief at Zanza’s scrawled writing. ‘Who put Obliviance in my slushie?’
‘I might have an answer to that,’ Valish put in.
‘And?’ I was impatient.
‘I think it might be the principal, or one of the teachers,’ she suggested.
‘Why them? Why would they want me to forget? Oh...’ And then it dawned on me.
‘Yeah,’ she nodded. ‘Because you saw the writing on the board, and they didn’t want you to tell anyone. They couldn’t trust you, so in goes the Obliviance and out goes the memory.’
‘Well, obviously it didn’t work, and also, you knew, and you would have told me again. Why didn’t they try and get you as well?’
‘I dunno. Because I didn’t get a slushie?’
‘Fair enough. Not everyone loves the cool refreshment of a nice slushie,’ I stared off into space, thinking of icy drinks. Damn, they were so good.
‘Hey! Kurlz! Stop thinking about slushies! You do realize what just happened because you had one, right?’
‘No, I forgot,’ I said sarcastically. ‘Having just had some Obliviance in ones drink can make one forget certain things that have occurred recently. Geez! Of course I remember, dimwit!’
‘It might not have been them. It could have just been a prank,’ Zanza said.
I gritted my teeth.
‘Well, you never know,’ I said, trying not to yell. ‘Maybe some things are more serious than you think, yeah?’
‘Maybe, but I doubt it. Highly.’
‘Sure you do. You find everything dubious, don’t you? Such as a certain chalky message.’
‘I find that unbelievable, because it’s not true. It’s some stupid alien trying to be funny, and failing miserably. Okay? That’s all.’
‘Not everything is just a prank. Not everything is just for fun. This is serious. Very serious.’
‘Let’s agree to disagree.’
‘How about we agree for you to, um... let’s say, shut your mouth. Okay? Does that sound good to you?’
‘No.’
‘Maybe we can find some other arrangement where you start seeing things for what they are.’
‘No.’
‘Stop saying no! And if you say no to that I will shut your mouth for you. Permanently.’
‘Oh, goody.’
‘You say that now, but when I have a red-hot poker to your lips, you’ll be like, “ARGH! Help me!” and I will say, “eat poker, scum!” and it will all be very amazing.’
‘What the eff.’
‘I thought you might say that.’
‘You thought correctly.’
‘You’re not saying much, are you?’
‘I s’pose not.’
‘That was pretty short, too.’
‘Is this conversation over?’
‘When you dance for me like I deserve. Too many people get credit for crap these days.’
Zanza rolled her eyes, and gave a smile, which I returned; glad there wasn’t anger between us. Good at resolving fights, huh?
‘See ya, Kurlz.’
‘Bye Zanz! See ya in hell, or something similar such as a crappy class or a bad movie, or at a liquorice shop, because I don’t care what people say, that stuff is foul.’
‘Yeah, it is. Buh-bye.’
She left and then it was just me and everyone else except Zanza Jelcri. I grinned.
‘Who wants to get a slushie?’
It’s evident to say, everyone in the room groaned.

After that eventful afternoon, I rested a bit more, just because I like to sleep, and for no other reason besides that.
When I woke up, I decided I might go for a walk, being a bit stiff from sleeping all day. I saw Quex and waved, and he waved back, jogging to my side.
‘What was the go with before? Serious, that was messed up,’ Quex commented.
‘Yeah, I agree. Those teachers don’t know when to stop. They’re out of control.’ I nodded.
‘Better kick their butts. Although, that may lead to a suspension of some kind. We might even be kicked out of this school forever, then where would we learn our lovely tricks and such?’
‘Well, by the sounds of that chalkboard message, I don’t think it will matter if we are kicked out M.A. High or not. It may be destroyed for all we know. Maybe that’s going a bit far, but it could be shut down ‘cause of people dying and the teachers did scarcely a thing to prevent the occurrence.’
Quex hesitated for a second, then spoke again.
‘What if the warning or threat or whatever it was, doesn’t come true? It might not have been a prank, but the future could have changed. It always does. I think. By knowing the future, wouldn’t you be able to have the power to change it?’
‘Probably,’ I agreed. ‘But what would change it? The teachers are doing close to nothing. Do you think they will stop at a few charms? I think they would actually be expecting more than that, and are most likely extremely powerful.’
‘Yeah, I guess so. But maybe... maybe it won’t happen anyway. It just... won’t.’
‘Are you on their side?’ I asked suspiciously.
‘No, just thinking of possibilities, that’s all. I still think we should train and stuff, because if they come, they might come in handy. And if they don’t come, one day it still might be useful, as you said before.’
‘Yep, good to know you agree, and aren’t being a total idiot such as Zanza. Sorry, your sister.’
‘No worries, she is being an idiot. I don’t get why she wouldn’t think death could find her. Especially after you know what.’
‘I do know what. I hope that makes her see some sense, and that she’ll come around. And Jimone, too. I don’t see what his problem is, like he’s some big macho man, but just a moron, that’s arrogant and pig-headed.’
‘He can be like that sometimes. A bit of a sexist sometimes, too.’
‘I have no idea why Denim would want to go out with him. Geez, she’s so thick sometimes, basing everything on looks and jazz. He’s not even that good-looking, anyway.’
‘Since when did they start dating?’ Quex wondered.
‘Oh, I forgot I didn’t tell you. Or anyone for that matter. Well, I was looking for someone to talk to the other day, so I went to your dorm-’
‘To talk to me?’
‘Actually, any of the guys that would be there. You, Jimone, Marn or Regal, but I guess, I would rather talk to you, or Regal. Anyway, I’ll continue now. I knocked on the door, and Jimone answered the door, looking quite ruffled up. I spied behind him, and saw Denim, looking messed up, too. Jimone had a stupid grin on his face, and Denim was embarrassed. It wasn’t that hard to realise that I’d walked into something awkward.’
‘Oh, that would have been pleasant for all involved,’ Quex grinned.
‘The only one there that didn’t think the whole event was uncomfortable was Jimone. A bit smug with himself, even.’
‘Yeah, he would be.’
‘Anyway, that day was so disturbing. After that, I ran into Zerlis, and he wanted to fill a glass with my blood and sip it over a nice meal. My flesh cooked, possibly.’
‘That sounds gross,’ Quex commented, wrinkling his nose in distaste.
‘I think Denim threw up when I told her,’ I laughed. ‘It was so foul.’
‘I’m glad I wasn’t there at the time, but I guess it would have been amusing to watch all the same.’
‘Yeah, but when I laughed at her, she hit me! Ha ha. Won’t be telling her about people’s bloodlust for me next time it happens. Which I hope it doesn’t. That would be awkward.’
‘If Zerlis lays one hand, or fang, on you, I’ll beat him senseless. Okay?’
‘I think I can handle Zerlis. But thanks for the generous offer. I might even take you up on it. After I’m through with him, of course.’
‘It would be my pleasure. The guy gets kind of on my nerves. You know?’
‘It’s not a werewolf verses vampire thing is it? That would just be so stupid, and annoying.’
‘No, that is not the reason. I have vampire friends. My sister is a vampyre, so is my dad, and I don’t hate them. I’m not that old-fashioned.’
‘Good to know. Anyway, he’s not that bad. He’s fine. He’s half vampire, of course he’s gonna get hungry from time to time. Who am I to judge? Plus, my blood is just so good, how could he resist its’ full-on fragrance?’
‘Oh, ha ha. I bet you have all the vampires swarming for you at feeding time. I bet you have to fight off everyone with a stake and garlic.’
‘That is, if any of those things actually worked in real life. This isn’t some stupid, old TV show.’
‘Yeah, humans can be such idiot sometimes. What the hell is vegetables and wood gonna do?’
‘Yeah. They sure can be. Making up crazy and absurd myths so they can feel some comfort when they lay awake at night, freaking out that they might die.’
‘Ha ha, normal humans are so weird. Glad I’m not one. That would be boring.’
‘I agree thoroughly. Sickeningly boring,’ I said, making a vomiting motion. A lot of it.
Quex grinned, almost laughing.
‘Imagine if we lost all our powers? Damn that would suck. I would hate that. But, at least I’d still be able to turn into a dog whenever I wanted to.’
‘There’s that. Heaps fun. We should do that now! And go for a run. That would be awesome.’
‘Are you sure? You were recently given a Forgetful potion in your- never mind.’
I smiled. Of course he wouldn’t bring up the slushies, afraid I might ramble on about getting another one. I shook my head, breathing amusement.
‘You had some of mine, too. So, if you’re up for it, so am I. And it’s not like it was some deadly concoction. Just Obliviance. And a weak batch at that. I didn’t even forget a tad of what I was supposed to forget. Whoever gave it to me is obviously failing in potions.’
‘Well, that rules out the potion teacher, Mrs Svarkle.’
‘I guess it does. Anyway, do you want to go, or are you still feeling like a poor weak puss?’
‘I don’t feel weak, or poor, or like a cat. So, I guess I am totally up for it, if you are.’
‘I think it’s obvious that I am.’
I ripped into my wolf form, stared back at him, grinning, then turned forward and bolted faster than any vampire, except Zanza, that speedy devil.
Quex was soon galloping effortlessly at my side, keeping up to my fast leaps.
‘This is fun, good choice,’ he remarked as we rounded the lake near where Abcde had had the second nightmare that continued with a long series of fitful night sleeps.
‘I know, I just have the best ideas of what to do when everything is just boring.’
‘Talking to me is boring?’ he said with mock disbelief. ‘I’m hurt.’
‘No, I actually find you an interesting person, or mutant dog, to talk to. Not boring at all, but you see what I’m saying, right?’
‘Yeah, I get ya. I was just kidding,’ he winked. ‘You’re pretty fascinating yourself.’
‘Oh, thank you so much, that just means the world to me,’ I said with fake wide eyes.
‘I do give the best compliments around. I’m so nice, that’s why I have so many friends, awesome ones, too.’
‘Which includes me, and I agree, I am fantastically grand. Ha ha, joking, I’m average.’
‘Average, as in... toe size?’
‘That’s the most abnormal thing about me!’
Quex rolled his eyes, which is exceptionally amusing when a great big wolf is doing it.
We stopped at the Cliff, and looked out at the endless blue that faded into mountains and clouds, looking ridiculously amazing. Eternal drifting of hues and textures.
‘This place never gets old,’ I murmured. ‘I don’t care what people say, this is spectacular.’
‘Yeah... perfect...’ Quex whispered, staring off into nothing, and I wanted to read his mind, to know what he was thinking, but I wouldn’t break the promise I had made him.
‘When can I read your mind again? This is so annoying you know?’ I said. ‘As in, really annoying.’
‘No, not yet. I’m liking the privacy. It’s nice. I feel at peace without the invasion of someone going “oh, that’s interesting, I didn’t know you had diarrhoea!” and stuff like that.’
‘You had diarrhoea? I didn’t need to know that!’ I made a repugnant face. ‘Foul.’
‘Shut up, I was just giving an example, geez! I never had diarrhoea.’
‘Really? I thought everyone had it at least once in their lifetime,’ I pondered.
‘Uh huh, I’m just gonna shut up now.’
‘That’s sounds like a grand idea. Very smart of you.’
Quex didn’t seem too thrilled about my compliment. I couldn’t imagine why.
Hey, so does shutting up include not being able to speak via mind?
No, I guess not.
Good, that’s absolutely fantastic. So...
Yes?
I think I need to ask you something.
And that question would be?
Okay. If they do come. If the board was honest. If everyone is in danger. I need to know you’ll be there when everything is falling apart.
Of course-
No. Really think about. Look deep into yourself, and find the answer. Not you think you will, not that you’re almost positive. I need you to know.
Quex paused as he thought about. Viewing all that he thought. He gazed into the depths of the valley, unable to see the bottom that lay there, silent as death...
‘I will,’ he whispered, almost inaudible. He looked up to me, eyes determined. ‘I will,’ he repeated, but this time, louder and with more force.
I nodded, thankful; knowing that deep down, it was all true. That in the end, when everything was at its worst, I could count on Quex to be there.
I could always count on him.
...
After the run with Quex, I felt quiet, still. Not so much peaceful, but a thoughtful muse.
He led us to the alcove where I found everyone sitting, chatting, going on as normal.
Quex sat down next to Regal and Valish, but I stood, gazing at my friends. Valish gave a puzzled look, tilting her head and eyebrows furrowed, trying to pry my mind in vain with invisible fingers.
‘What is it?’ she asked after giving up the useless feat. ‘What’s wrong?’
‘I need to know,’ my throat felt dry, so I swallowed. ‘I need to know who will stand at my side.’
‘What?’
There was a general look of confusion on everyone’s faces.
‘When something bad happens, even if it is not the message on the board, but any danger, I need to know who will fight at my side.’
No one spoke for a while, surprised by my words and their abruptness.
The first person to stand was Abcde. She didn’t move, then she marched to my side and faced me.
‘I will.’
She turned to the others, daring them to not give an oath to stand.
Quex moved to my side, not that it was necessary, I already knew he would be there. Then Valish was next, followed by Regal and Marn, all pronouncing their will.
I gazed at Denim, Jimone and Zanza.
Denim was rubbing her arm, nervous and going a bit red. Would she stand?
She didn’t move, and didn’t look at me, unable to gaze into my eyes, knowing her answer would be no. She wouldn’t.
Jimone curled his fingers with Denim, comforting her and unwilling himself.
Of course Zanza sat poised and shameless that she actually was immensely against the whole idea that something would ever happen.
‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘I would do the same for you all.’
I knew it had a double meaning, and I hope it really got them. I hope it hurt.

Fighting by fist and swords were over, we wouldn’t waste time on them, they were only practiced in case our powers were failing, or else useless in battle. Now it was time to enhance our strengths, me and the people that were standing with me through thick and thin. Not that anyone knew that’s why they were here.
It was night time and we sat in my dorm in a huddle, the fire flicking shadows around us as we sat in the dimness. Everyone was wondering what I was going to say, and I think I was a bit lost for the right words, and a tad jumbled up as everyone looked at me expectantly.
‘You are all probably wondering why I brought you all here tonight,’ I said awkwardly. Damn, I had never been good at speeches. Why could I say whatever, whenever to my friends, but when it comes to saying something of importance, I fail? Damn me. ‘Well, like everything else we’ve done, we also have to strengthen our abilities.’
I rubbed my shoulder as they gazed at me, not saying anything, and I wished someone would say something. I was no good at serious talks like these, I should really practice. Maybe in the mirror or something. Would that work? I don’t think so, because the only audience is my reflection and I don’t give a crap what she thinks.
‘Okay, when I come around the circle, I want you to state your name, your power and how you think you can improve all of them, or just one. Alright, I’ll go first.
‘Hello, my name is Kurlz Basheld and my powers include mind-reading, super hearing and night-vision, animaux, which by the way, I do not control animals. I can speak with them and we have a connection. Okay, continuing, also, I can shoot things from my hands.
‘Of course we all know how to elevate these powers by practicing, but I intend to have targets set up that I have to find, than shoot with spikes, or such, from my hands to obliterate the thing.
‘Night-vision, I could go out at night more often. And to help with the latter and hearing, we could play a sort of game that I have to find you at night using my vision, like hide-and-seek I suppose. And hearing, I will be blind-folded.
‘With my mind-reading, I could practice more with Miss Mauvore, and play a few games with Valish.
‘Animaux is less of a power, and more of who you are, so I guess I really can’t do anything with that. Unless I get a pet or something.
‘Okay, now you Valish,’ I finished; exhaling, glad my turn was over.
‘Wow, that was long,’ she joked. ‘Well, my name is Valish Maraldi, I am an Elementos,’ which is someone who can control the elements of fire, water, earth and wind; ‘I can mind-read, mimic and can control the weather.
‘To increase the powers I have, I can do them more often and exercise them with people that also have these abilities, especially those with more advanced ones. Um... that’s all I got,’ she said, giving an awkward ending.
‘Very good,’ I praised. ‘How about you Regal?’
‘My name is Regal Monistry and I can summon the dead and breathe underwater. I can enhance these powers by summoning ghosts more often,’ he gave a wry smile as he said this, and I scowled at him, then almost laughed. ‘And go to the beach more often.’
‘Great, Regal, thanks for all that. Now you Marn.’
Marn looked up at me, thinking and not saying anything. He didn’t do a thing for a whole minute. I don’t know why I waited that long.
‘Marn?’
He sighed. ‘I’m Marn Darlinie and I can levitate and teleport things to other places. I can become better by levitating more often and trying to scare you by popping random things next to you.’
I smiled. ‘That’s the spirit. Quex?’
‘Hello everyone, I know you don’t know me very well, so I’m gonna tell you a bit about myself. I am Quex Jelcri and I like cake. My favourite colour is blue and-’
‘Quex! That’s not what I meant, however funny it is.’
He roved his eyes and continued. ‘I am a melric,’ someone able to turn things into other objects, but not people, ‘and I could be better at it. I also have laser sight.’
He stopped and demonstrated, fixing his eyes on a charred piece of wood in the fireplace, and cutting it in half with the bright green lasers that zapped from him.
‘Thank you for that fine, uh, show.’
‘You’re welcome. So, how I help these powers is by turning things into small stones which I place very far away, concentrate and try and destroy the rock with my sight. Kill two birds with one stone, yeah?’
‘Very good, well done,’ I said, sort of impressed. I turned to the last member and smiled. ‘What about you Abcde?’
‘Oh, hello, my name is Abcde Edcba,’ she said brightly. ‘I am a climber, I am good at climbing. I am also a cupid. To make these skills better, I can climb the school and try and make people fall in love from a great distance. How’s that for two for one?’ She stuck her tongue out at Quex who shook his head, and I laughed.
‘Good, you’ve learnt from the previous person. Good on you.’
‘Thanks,’ she beamed.
‘Well, that was great everyone, thank you for coming to this meeting. You all may leave now, and tomorrow we will begin our training. Whoa, sounds like fun, huh?’
‘I’m practically wetting myself with excitement,’ Marn said without the slightest hint of his word’s intentions.
‘Well, in that case, please escort yourself to the bathroom. My dorm is not a toilet, good bye.’
Everyone started getting up, and satisfied, I turned on my heels and stalked to my bedroom. I fell onto my four-poster and gave sleep a great big hug.
...
Sun peeked through my curtains, shy but curious, sneaking its way onto my pillow and tentatively tickling my nose, then pried open my eyes with its heated rays, forcing me to wake.
I yawned, stretching my limbs to all sides of my bed, not wanting to be disturbed from my slumber.
The blankets were so warm and comforting and I felt content to lie there when everything was busying on. It seemed that nothing mattered any more. The message meant nothing. It was a far off dream that had diminished in the morning haze. It was morning now, and it had gone, faded from reality. This was all that was real; me and my luxurious four-poster.
Then it dawned on me that it was a school day, and I sat bolt upright and hurried around the room, pulling on clothes and brushing my tangled hair into the best ponytail I could manage at the present time.
I rushed out of my room, looking rather dishevelled, I bet, but I didn’t really care in the slightest.
Abcde was munching on a piece of toast, wearing a clean purple tank top and black shorts. She gazed at me, a bit puzzled at my messy look.
‘Morning,’ she said, smiling a tad.
‘Morning,’ I returned, grabbing any cereal, which happened to be Coco Pops and sat down to a bowl of chocolaty goodness, right next to Abcde.
‘You aren’t late, you know,’ she informed, gazing at the watch on her wrist with a sort of fondness. Regal had given it to her. ‘We still have about half an hour before period one.’
‘Oh, that’s just swell, isn’t it?’ I muttered, spooning pile after pile of Coco Pops into my mouth, munching and enjoying the sound of the loud crunch in my ears. ‘I could have gone to the dining hall for breakfast. They probably had a huge bowl with four sections and different cereals in each one. That would be so cool and delicious.’
‘Holy crap, that would,’ Abcde agreed. ‘But I doubt they’d have that.’
‘But they know what you’re craving and give it to you,’ I argued. ‘Hmm... maybe they would need to make the bowl first, I’ve never seen a four-sectioned bowl before.’
‘Neither, but a good idea anyway.’
I finished off my Coco Pops and went back to my room, to tidy things up a bit before I left for Art, which was going to be exceedingly enjoyable.
I walked to class with Regal and Marn at my side. I was lucky to have at least one friend in all of my classes, which made things better when everything else sucked. But in Art it usually never was miserable, and I had two friends. Score!
We sat down; I was at Regal’s right and Marn on his other side.
After the teacher explained what we were doing, we got started on our still life; drawing a bunch of random objects on a table including an old clock, a pot of quills and a fake skull of a brequal.
A brequal, by the way, is a “mythical” creature that resembles a monkey and a pip dragon. It is highly dangerous, and rather stunning with the shimmering scales of the pip side of it. It can fly, breathe fire and can do what you do. A mimic like a monkey, or Valish.
My drawing was sketchy and okay, I guess. I’m better at drawing photos I see. Marn was actually really good, and I gave him a hi-five for his wonderful work. Regal didn’t seem so pleased, staring at mine and Marn’s drawing, then back at his, furrowing his brows, then looking again.
‘What about mine?’ he said, a little hopeless. ‘Is it worth a hi-five?’
I stared at his work, then Marn, who was nice enough to try and stifle his grin. I decided that it was good. In a different sort of way, and what is wrong with that in Art?
‘It’s very good,’ I said, pretty convincingly, now that I had seen more into it. ‘It’s very abstract, and that’s great. Abstract is awesome.’
Regal frowned, not impressed by my compliments, thinking, possibly that I was actually insulting him.
‘Shut up,’ he said defensively. ‘There’s nothing wrong with my drawing.’
‘I know! It’s awesome! Abstract is really good. I never said it was bad,’ I argued. ‘Just trust me when I say, “that drawing is so awesome, can I buy it please? No, wait, I have no money. Better steal it,” okay?’
Regal gave a sort of grin, went back to his work, and I congratulated myself. It might even turn out that Regal had the best drawing in the class, and it would have been awkward if I said his was bad. Because it wasn’t. Geez, don’t you get art?
It still turned out that Marn had the best in the class.
Next, I had History. Telling me all I had to know about my ancestors and such, and all the wars we’d been through, and the human contact we’d had, and how they were all awful and evil.
I didn’t agree that all of them were awful. Some of them were. Some of them were hideously bad, and vile like the scum of the Earth. I had seen them, seen what they’ve done to their home, and despised them because they just wouldn’t get passed everything and try to fix it. Money grabbers and pompous a-holes.
Anyway, some of them, however, were actually truly spectacular. They were wonderful, intelligent, and created ways to save their planet. They grew beautiful plants and wrote poetry that melted the heart and spun it on a silken journey to some far off land. There were people that found out the secrets of the world and thought it was awe-inspiring and wanted to reserve it. People who cared for good books and animals and starving children. They saw the world riddled with decay and misery and sought out to rescue it and saw a brighter future that would dawn a soft yellow. These were the real humans.
Besides my ramblings in my mind of my point of view, class was somewhat duller than usual. Maybe it was my craving to hurry up with my training. Maybe it was the thought that something was coming. I couldn’t be sure at the moment; could not be sure of scarcely a thing.
I sat straight and alert when it was break time. I was bursting with energy, but managed to control it and stayed still and silent.
‘What’s up?’
I turned to see Valish sitting beside me, and a look of curiosity on her small features.
‘I want to start the training. Now,’ I said to her.
‘Now? As in right now?’
‘Yes. They are coming. Can’t you feel it? I’ve been feeling it for days, and I just can’t shirk it.’ I realised what I was saying, and knew it was true, besides the fact I had never placed the feeling before, let alone speak it out loud. ‘I haven’t told anyone, but I sense their presence is thickening.’
‘Are you sure?’ Valish was politely sceptical. ‘Maybe it’s just nerves.’
‘You might be right, but I don’t think so. I think it’s something big. Really big.’
Valish paused thinking. ‘You may be on to something, Kurlz. And I’m sticking with you, so if you want to start training now, I’m with you.’
I smiled. ‘Thanks.’ I was grateful to have a friend like her around.
...
I started off with playing mind games with Valish. She would keep a secret deep down, hidden in her brain, and I would have to pry open the shell ajar and extract the confidential. I even tried to control some stuff with just my thoughts, but it was difficult and I only managed to move a pin a centimetre across the desk, which really wouldn’t help in a fight. Imagine me just sitting there trying to move a needle while a killer tries to chop my head off! Ha ha, oh that would be amusing to the eyes.
Everyone else was doing their own thing. We were all out in the court yard where rarely a soul was found to walk there, and that’s where we would train in privacy.
Quex was, with his eyes, shooting stones he had just created with great skill.
Abcde was climbing walls and making people fall in love. I didn’t really like the idea, and made sure she reversed the spell afterwards (and try and not make them fall for her), but I guess that might help. If she made someone on their team fall in love with someone on our team, then they wouldn’t kill our person, right? So if she made everyone fall in love with her, she was protected, correct?
Regal was summoning ghosts; ones we didn’t know, and made them try and kill some dummies he had got Quex to make for him from my smelly sock. He was also seeing if he could summon them underwater, which kind of worked.
Marn was levitating, and was getting higher the longer he sat in the lotus position, and started to teleport random objects to him, then away while he was still up there. That could come in handy. Making weapons come to you.
Later, Valish got started on controlling the elements, flinging fire and crashing water. Onto unsuspecting killers would be just great, wouldn’t it? She was really good with water, having two powers that related to it. Element and weather.
When Val went to do her thing, I started to shoot things with my hands, and gain animals on my side and make them attack a certain thing.
It was all quite amazing, and I was so proud of their progress in just one afternoon.
At the end of the arduous evening, when the sun was setting and darkness was pouring over the castle, everyone was sweating and breathing had from long work, and thankfully retreated to their dorms. There they would collapse and be asleep before they were actually on the bed. They wouldn’t bother with blankets or pyjamas, I knew that.
Me, however, did not fall back to the comfort of my cushy four-poster, but sat on the roof of the school, staring off into the moon, its full white beauty beckoning me to my wolf form. But I resisted and felt the cool rush of the wind whispering around me, promising me sleep that I would not take.
I stood up, my fingers tingling and my eyes closed as the wind grew fiercer, whipping my clothes and hair.
I felt the power surging through my limbs, and a whistle escaped my lips.
A soft shrill returned to my ears, but I did not open my eyes. I stayed perfectly poised as I heard the graceful swoops of the creature I had been calling.
Still with eyes shut, I fell forward off the turret, faith filling my heart and lungs.
I landed on the lush furred back... of a griffin, feeling its strong muscles working as it hovered in the air. I held onto its feathery neck, and it burst into full speed and swirled around the castle like there was nothing easier.
This is when I opened my eyes, gazing at the black fur and feathers of the magnificent creature, darker than the night, and more silent. She was the vacant dusk, a lone shadow.
It seemed like hours that I enjoyed her company, and when I went back to my dorm, the parting was dream-like and I couldn’t fully remember the farewell, or where exactly I had dismounted it.
All I knew was that I had been flying with her, and there was no way I could forget.
I smiled, and eased the ebony feather under my pillow and drifted off to dreams with my Night Griffin.

Mr Arktik Borvolo glanced behind him nervously, checking to make sure no one was coming, that no one could see him, or catch him in the act of what he was about to do.
As soon as he was reasonably content that not one soul was about to jump in front of him, screaming boo and flailing their arms about, he shakily grabbed the brass handle, turned it deliberately, and even more slowly, cracked open the door.
Nobody was there, and Arktik breathed a huge sigh of relief and proceeded to enter the room, feeling paranoid with every step he took.
Arktik was a fairly young man, not in his twenties or anything, but in his mid-thirties, which was scraping the youth bucket. He had a head of thick jet black hair (with scarcely the inkling of a grey sprout) that he continuously swept back from his forehead with long worn fingers, making the hair stick to his sweaty scalp.
His eyes were flicking from every possible surface in the room, quick and sharp like a shark. The eyes were the colour of the sky when it has almost touched sunset, or of dawn. A soft, hazy fawn, mixed with yellow. They were large eyes, bulbous, and it seemed that they were almost bulging all the time. Right now, with him fearful, it looked as though they might fall out of his very sockets and roll on the floor before he picked them up. In fact, it was surprising that it had not happened already.
Arktik licked his dry lips with a dry tongue, not really helping the situation of the drought in his mouth at all. They just scraped along each other, nearing the sound of sandpaper against a metal scour. Not very pleasant to hear or feel.
His pale face was about the opposite of his mouth, practically gushing with perspiration that was definitely not from the room, because it was quite cool in there, nearing a chill. It was purely from fear of being caught. He dabbed himself with a cloth to remove the moisture, but he would just have another river flood from his forehead, down to his neck.
Arktik was almost constricting with terror. What if they saw him here? What would he say? What would they do? There would be no words to explain neither his presence, nor his actions if they came in at the exact time he carried out his orders. He closed his eyes, trying to shunt the thoughts that seeped into his head.
He was pathetic. Truly and utterly pathetic. He was just a simple pawn in a plan that was not his. Someone else was controlling him. Someone with greater power and many more players than Arktik liked to think about. He knew what he was doing. Knew it was bad. But how could he not do it? How could he not when if he defied, his life would turn to decay right before his eyes?
It was Terium Vorgal that was behind it all. The master of the whole devilish feat. The one who would crush Arktik’s family and indeed, Arktik himself, if he did not do as he was demanded to do. It was Terium that planned to attack the school, to destroy it and all those who dwelled in there. Every disgusting creature that taught there or learnt there. It was all Terium, and he needed Arktik to destroy the forces that were held up against on-coming attackers. That was what Arktik was for. Nothing more.
And when he was done ripping down the school’s safety and leaving it to vulnerability, that’s when Terium would come. Him and his army.
Arktik hurriedly checked the room, flipping things over, up-ending draws, and scurrying through large cupboard, but it was useless.
He wasn’t in the right room.
How many times had he searched rooms in the castle to find nothing? Countless times. So many times he had gotten the wrong place, and had to start over again.
Find another room, enter it, search. Over and over. And each time he entered a new one, he was breathless with fear, with a stomach that he thought might actually melt inside him. He actually thought his head might explode, or his brain would leak from his ears, and he would fall to the floor in a heap and break down, rocking back and forth. He thought he might go insane if he didn’t find where the object was held. If he didn’t hurry, his family could be dead, and Arktik would have sleepless nights, hearing the tortured screams of his wife and children before they were put out of their misery.
Before Arktik left the room, he put everything back in place with a shaky flick of his wrist, making things fly back a bit clumsily, and a book actually hit his leg, making him stumble as the tome found its place on the shelf, and settled in between two other volumes.
Arktik scowled, then turned, leaving the place, and not looking back.
He had to unearth the Aegis Sphere before it was too late. Terium would not be pleased.
...
Terium was not pleased. Arktik Borvolo had failed him once again, and had looked pathetic whilst doing it. Another room down, how many left to go?
His attempts at giving Obliviance to a student had failed, also. The message that was written could ruin his entire plans, and those children knew about it, and they couldn’t believe it was nothing. That particular girl knew. How could she know?
He held the brim of his perfectly straight nose with his translucent finger and thumb, preventing him from hitting someone or roaring his rage.
When would that blasted man find the sphere? How long did it take to find one small orb and bring it in?
Terium really should have thought about who he was recruiting, and picked someone that was not so drooling and terror-stricken. Not someone as proud and powerful such as Agatha Poltei, but someone such as Neonie Faranth. She was intelligent enough to find what he needed, and would bend to his will if he had the right leverage.
But it was too late to go back on it all now. He had to stick with Borvolo.
He sighed, and combed his chestnut hair that shone dimly in the light of the computer screen, waving beautifully over his pale features. He was almost completely white, except for his blood-red lips and amber eyes. He would be considered handsome if his face wasn’t contorted with overwhelming loathing and spite. Terium was nineteen, grazing against twenty a little tentatively, and was already lined with the hate he felt for M.A. High. That’s why it had to be destroyed.
It was at M.A. High that Terium was formed into a horrid monster. Not a mutant, he had been born like that, and he was fine, actually happy that he was. The shadows. That’s what burned him into beast. Those ink silhouettes that had tortured him at night, and no one had done anything to stop them. Not one. They didn’t believe him, for there were no traces of magic. No scars or bruises to mark the pain that had engulfed him. He didn’t need cuts. He didn’t know how those things had almost killed him, and it didn’t matter anymore. Everyone hated him, cruel and vile; well they were going to pay for it. Them and everyone else in that foul castle.
Terium wanted revenge, and he was going to get it.

The next day I thought what had happened at the top of the school was only a dream as I assumed I would have. But, luckily, I had the silky feather I had taken to always remember. I picked it up from under my pillow, and slipped it into the pocket, and whenever I felt doubt about what occurred, I would reach in and stroke it gently.
In class I sat next to Valish, and I pondered for half the period if I should mention the whole thing to her, or keep it a secret just to myself, and enjoy the trance-like beauty it held about me.
I finally, with some reluctance, decided I would tell her why I had stayed at the court yard that night, and not returned to my dormitory until it was passing midnight and I was in another realm of my mind.
‘Hey...’ I began. ‘You know last night?’
‘Yeah,’ she beamed. ‘That was absolutely great! Think of all the things we could achieve by doing these lessons. We could do amazing things. One day I could make the sky hold all the weathers at once!’
‘Wow!’ I said, excitement dripping into my tones. The thought of it was crazy and awe-inspiring. The colour and the sound would be nothing ever seen before. It would be enchantingly fanatical. A shining sun, rushing rain, a whispering of wind on the fresh snowdrifts, lightning and thundering hail. ‘That would be so cool. But that was not what I was referring to.’
‘What were you referring to then?’ she was intrigued and puzzled. What could be as interesting as the heavens in a maelstrom of climate?
‘After everyone left and I stayed behind.’
‘Yeah, why was that?’
‘I don’t know. I felt like I should, like there was something I should do.’
‘And what happened?’
Valish scooted a bit closer so she could hear more clearly as I whispered.
‘I... I flew on a Night Griffin.’
Her eyes grew wide and her mouth popped opened with an amusing puckering sound, though it did not fall as wide so as her bottom jaw would hit the desk. Damn, that would have been funny.
‘You what?’ she said so loudly that it drew eyes from all the class. ‘Sorry,’ she said, embarrassed, and looked back at me, with awe. ‘Are you serious?’
‘Dead serious. It was insane, but not at the time. In the moment I was with her, it was peaceful.’
‘But, no one has ever flown on a Night Griffin. I mean never ever. Not ever has anyone ever flown on a Night Griffin. Ever!’
‘Okay, I get it. No one has ever flown on a Night Griffin before,’ I said, smiling at her disbelief. ‘Now, I have. I guess it’s the Animaux in me.’
Valish then looked at me critically.
‘Are you just kidding with me? Because it seems very unlikely, and no one has-’
‘-ever flown a Night Griffin. I know that. Why don’t you just repeat it another hundred times?’ I interrupted.
‘Sorry, but do you have any proof?’
‘Actually,’ I said, smiling, digging my hand in my pocket and pulling the feather out. ‘I do.’
I handed Valish the object, and she stared at it in wonder, amazed.
‘Wow,’ she whispered. ‘You really flew one, huh? That’s amazing.’
‘Yeah, and it isn’t just proof that it is so useful for,’ I added, taking it back from a reluctant Valish.
‘Meaning?’
‘I read up a bit about Night Griffins this morning, and I was fascinated to find that it’s fur and feathers have protection properties about them.’
I twiddled the item between my forefinger and thumb, examining its pure, flawless black.
‘Really?’
‘Yes. And they act as a sort of armour around the griffins, like metal plates, or something.’
‘Whoa. That’s big. Are you going to tell the others?’
I stopped fiddling with the feather and stared at Valish, mulling her query over.
‘I don’t know,’ I finally decided. ‘Maybe, maybe not. I’m sure I won’t tell Zanza and her troops, but possibly the others. I’ll tell Quex, maybe Abcde and Regal. Not sure about telling Marn, though.’
‘What’s wrong with Marn?’ Valish scowled.
‘Oh, sorry, I forgot you two were an item nowadays. I’m still not telling him.’
Valish continued to scowl.
‘Why are you making an angry face?’
She didn’t reply, and didn’t change her expression.
‘Um... sorry?’
She smiled sarcastically. ‘Of course! That’s just fine that you don’t trust your friend, my boyfriend.’
‘I do,’ I said defiantly.
‘So, tell him.’
‘Why, it doesn’t even matter. I just don’t want the word to get around. Rumours, ya know?’
‘You think Marn, Marn, is going to spread rumours about you? As in talk to random people. Are we talking about the same guy here? Marn, remember?’
I laughed. ‘Yes, I see your point. Marn isn’t the talkative type. I suppose I can tell him, too.’
‘Good, that’s great.’
‘I’m kind of regretting telling you about it, actually,’ I disagreed.
She shrugged. ‘Meh, I don’t care. I know now. And that griffin may help in the future.’
‘Indeed. If I ever see her again, that is.’
‘Of course.’
‘More practice this afternoon?’ I asked her, changing the subject.
‘Obviously.’
...
When we had all congressed into the courtyard, I decided to spill about my night experience to everyone, and most of the reactions were awe and disbelief. Impressed all round when I gave the non-believers their proof of a single black feather from the moonless creature.
‘Wow!’
‘Whoa!’
‘No freaking way!’
‘Awesome!’
‘Yeah, I know, it’s pretty spectacular, and you probably worship me now,’ I sighed. ‘Guess I’m gonna have to live with you all grovelling at my feet.’
‘Ha ha,’ Regal said scathingly. ‘Like I would kiss your dirty shoes.’
‘I never said anything about my clean boots being kissed, so what are you on about?’
‘Don’t worry about him, your Majesty. He is a total douche bag, and should be treated accordingly.’
‘Too right, Abcde. Send him to the gallows. I want him hung, drawn and quartered.’ I gagged at this. ‘Does anyone know how gross and painful that would actually be? Geez, some people are horrific!’
‘Yeah I know. No wonder most of our kind want them wiped out.’
‘I see their point, but I’m pretty sure that that punishment no longer occurs,’ I said
‘Are we here to talk about medieval punishments and opinions of aliens about the human race, or are we here to train?’ Marn asked.
‘Both, I guess. Now that we’ve done the first part, we can move onto the latter! Away and train my pretties!’
We moved off to our sections of the courtyard and began to practice our powers, lengthening our skills. The thought of this made me smile as I moved off to my own area. They were on my side and believed in what I did too. They were actually taking heed to my word and co-operating.
I walked up to a rock and turned it over, scrutinising the smooth surface, and stroking it.
When I was satisfied with the object, I threw back my arm and whipped it forward, hurling the stone high into the air so that it was just a speck in the sky, though I could still see its features with great detail
I struck my hand out in front of me, seeing the rock and calculating the velocity at which it was dropping, aiming at the place where it would be, and let one single bullet tear from my finger and it rocketed towards the stone with astounding speed and silence.
I stared at the place I had shot, and grinned when I realised that it was a perfect hit, and shards of cracked grey stone fell from the sky.
Grinning, I looked for something else to shoot, watching the others do their thing while I did a vague search for my next target.
Valish was grasping air and throwing it around, blasting it into slabs of wood that looked like they exploded, sending splinters flying.
Marn was almost flying by the looks of things, levitating so high, but he was still in the meditation position, and hadn’t yet been able to get out of it.
Quex had changed a log into a sword and was slashing it against a dummy.
Regal was swimming in the pond, and I couldn’t see much of what he was doing.
Abcde was climbing through the trees so fast it was incredible, then she would fling herself from the limbs of that tree to the branch of another. I saw her standing out, literally, on a limb and do a back flip off it. I cried out, thinking she would plummet to her death, but she stuck out her arms and caught onto a branch, and then nimbly swung herself on top of the wood.
She sensed me watching her, and turned to look at me. She gave an impish smile and continued to do death stunts, just to show off, or scare me senseless, either way, she was being an annoying little brat.
I threw a glare at her that said, “well, yes you can climb better than an acrobatic monkey, but I can shoot you down with my gun hands”. I don’t know if she got the whole message, maybe I should have sent it through brain waves, but I’m pretty sure she got the gist, but laughed all the more for it.
I shook my head. Damn, she was lucky she could climb like that. It was insane. I wish I could do brilliant acts like that, or, better yet, fly (well, almost fly, it was still levitating at the moment) like Marn could. Griffins were fun to soar with, but it wasn’t the same as you being the one to lift yourself up in the air, have total control on the situation. Feel free, be the wind, surf the currents and swim in the wind.
A wild thought entered my mind as I craved the power of flight. Could it work? It was crazy, and probably unlikely, but wasn’t it worth giving a shot? What was the risk of just trying it out? None. No problem at all. If anything, it was a gain if it was succeeded. And if it didn’t work? Well, it wouldn’t be the end of everything, just my flying abilities.
I stared at my hands, my heart filling with a thudding passion, a need to do this. I felt adrenaline coursing through my fingers, buzzing my fingertips, making me shudder.
I placed my hands palm done and shut my eyes, thinking, and breathing evenly.
Air shot from my palms like a ferocious gale from a tornado, hitting the pavement so hard and with much velocity, that I was flipped onto my back with a painful thud.
Blinking, I stood up, brushing the dirt from my pants and rubbing my sore spine. Damn, that really hurt. I stretched and stared at my hands in annoyance.
I sighed, and checked that no one had seen my random and sudden fall. Satisfied that only I knew about the incident, I returned to my spot.
This was going to be harder than I’d first planned it would be. This would take more time and effort. More patience and calm tranquillity. Or something of the sort.
I splayed my hands to the ground and inhaled deeply. I exhaled and breathed in again. I repeated this another five times, until I felt strong and cool.
I let a small breeze wisp away from my fingertips, feeling the air swirl around them, tickling them with its slight and fragile touch.
After a while I let the wind grow steadily stronger, becoming more of a gust. It whipped the light brown soil on the stone, creating a sort of dirt twister on the ground.
Still calmly, I fed the gust, and it was changing into something more fierce and bold. I steadied my breathing, trying not to be too excited, willing the cool to engulf all my senses.
With great joy, I felt my feet lift off the ground and I hovered there for a second, then I touched back down, a wide grin splitting my face in two.
I silently congratulated myself, and did a gleeful dance just for me. This was ecstatic news.
Once I had finished my private celebration, I decided to get more height to my lift-off.
I followed the steps again, careful not to have my heart beat like crazy. This time, I got an arm’s length in the air, and actually moved forward half a metre.
I practiced this all afternoon; completely lost from my mind was shooting rocks with bullets. At the end of the day I was puffed and out of breath, exhausted from all the “flying” I had done. I was sweaty and couldn’t lift an inch off the ground today if I had to.
I told Valish and Marn the news about my skill, and they were thrilled. It was them that I informed because they both could somewhat fly; Marn with his levitation and Valish with her air element, that she pushed to lift her from the floor, and be able to move in the sky. I was now part of the “flying” group of us mutant kids, and I grinned widely at the thought.
Like the day before, everyone went to their sleeping quarters, while I stayed out for a while to enjoy the night, and try to make my night-vision even better than it already was.
I wondered if I should call for the griffin, or if she would even show up to meet me again. Would she even be the same one if a griffin came? Who knew?
I paused, feeling strange without doing anything. Should I do it? Should I make the creature come to my side and fly me away?
My feet moved me to the small feeble garden that tried and failed to bring colour to the adequate courtyard; large but not striking in its’ hue. It was fine as it was, though I was surprised that Miss Harns had not brightened it, her and her luminous green thumbs. As I moved, I sensed my mind swirling, and I let out a sound that was strange and new to me. Something I’ve heard before, but more pronounced and forceful.
In a few seconds I saw the black beauty leap gracefully to my side, and I was stunned by its immensity and sleekness, her forever night.
Her eyes were like ashes that were still hot, burning dully. She looked right into my very soul, and there was a connection between us that I couldn’t quite word at time. It was wordless, and it made it even more wonderful and bewildering just for that.
The griffin was a proud hawk-like bird for the first half, her bird claws scraping the ground as she circled me. Its lioness bottom fifty per cent was strong and stealthy, her tail flicking from side to side, sweeping the dirt up with her perfect black brush.
She stopped circling me and stood right in front of me, eyes blazing darkly. She towered over me, an edifice, and if she wanted to, she could tear me apart easily. But, strangely, I was not afraid of her. I felt safe. We were equals, and we both knew it.
‘Hop on my back,’ the griffin said.
I blinked, surprised by the womanly voice.
‘What? You can speak?’
‘Yes.’
I hesitated, then I climbed onto the animals back and secured myself on top. It felt strangely right to sit atop.
She took off faster than I had expected, slashing the sky like a sharp blade.
I held on tighter, pressing my face against the feathery neck of the griffin. She was so soft and warm, I could sleep just right there if not for the rush.
‘How are you, Kurlz?’ she asked.
I didn’t question how she knew my name, I didn’t think I would get a straight response.
‘This is amazing,’ I replied. ‘This is just something I can’t explain.’
‘I’m glad to hear that you are enjoying yourself.’
I nodded.
We were both silent for a while, silent, then...
‘What do you call yourself?’ I asked, curious.
Her voice spilled like nectar into a speechless pool as she rolled out her name.
‘Hyenthis.’

Terium had an idea. It was possibly a ridiculous idea, but indeed it could flourish with great results, and make the whole plan quicken and the school be destroyed in a shorter amount of time. Well, at least the lead up to it would. He wanted everyone to suffer as long as possible before their life was ended completely. Savour the taste of shed blood on the blades of the victorious, to revel in the dead, to bathe in their lifeless flesh.
The idea had come as a sudden thought, whispering into his mind like an untold secret, finally letting slip the truth by a child with loose lips.
It wasn’t a plan that could hurry up the formation of troops. There was no way around the slow and tedious task of creating his monstrous army. This annoyed him greatly, sending him into fits of frustration when he realised that they weren’t ready yet. And the longer it took, the more time M.A. High had time to discover their hideous fate.
This idea was nothing like that. It was just a small one, to him anyway. But it may ruin the life of Arktik Borvolo; make him fester in his own skin. And, quite frankly, Terium didn’t give a damn about him. He was a robot, a tool that could easily be replaced by a more efficient one. He set the task and Borvolo completed them, though clumsily and not very well or thorough, it was true. It was because of his insufficiency that Terium had to perform the idea he had thought of. If he didn’t, who knew how long the bumbling fool would take to find that horrid sphere and destroy it. It was as though he was purposely taking his time, as though he had his only little scheme, but who could plot against Terium? And by the looks of things, Terium may be waiting another few months, and he just wasn’t that patient.
Terium was going to create a potion to give to Arktik, and he was going to drink it. He would, otherwise his family would die, and he would film it, then when Arktik had finally brought him the Aegis Sphere, he would show it to him, to show he had done everything for nothing. Then he would watch the destruction he caused than die himself. Terium liked to display horror to people before they died. Churned misery in them, tensed their fears as they wondered if they would come to the same brutal end. Arktik would die either way. He was overdue for the trash already, as though the machine he had bought had been broken before purchase. He needed a brew to fix his injuries.
The potion was a rare and arduous one to make, the ingredients difficult to find and to get your hands on. It included the fur of a deruis, the blood of a moon monkey and the eye of an all-seer.
This mixture of ingredients created something that boiled a purplish mauve colour, and made the drinker be under the control of the person who gave a part of himself. Because of this, Terium would have to put a strand of his hair in the foul concoction. And with the eye of an all-seer, it made it so Terium could view what Borvolo was doing, and could direct him in the right path.
Terium marvelled at his brilliance, smiling and stroking his chin and its imaginary beard. Terium had always wanted a beard, maybe even just a small goatee, but something that he could fiddle with at a time like this.
Borvolo would be receiving the package soon, and when he did, he would no longer be himself.
...
Arktik received the package on a Saturday afternoon. He had been somewhat settled, or at least more than usual, but when he was handed that brown box, he started to sweat like someone who had run a mile in the Sahara.
He had been sitting at the teachers’ lounge, making dull conversation with Mrs Nesc, one of his fellow Science teachers’.
‘Arktik,’ Neonie Faranth had called, walking over with a proud grace. ‘You’ve got some mail here.’
She handed it to him, and waited, possibly to see what he had gotten, maybe to hear a thank you.
‘Uh...’ he muttered. ‘Thank you.’
Neonie continued to stand there, but when she saw that he was not going to open the box any time soon, she gave a diminutive frown that was barely noticed, then fixed her face with a bright smile meant for Arktik, but she was still staring at the fawn object in his hands.
‘You’re very welcome,’ she chirped, then strode away, a bit put out.
Mr Nesc looked at Arktik and then at his mail.
‘Well, are you going to open that or not?’ he asked, expecting the answer to be yes.
‘Uh... of course,’ Arktik said. ‘I’ll be back soon, after I see what it is.’
Mr Nesc was a bit surprised, but quickly recovered and nodded. No one ever received secret gifts.
‘Okay, I’ll talk to you later, then.’
Arktik gave a weak smile that vanished as soon as he turned around, and started briskly walking to his sleeping quarters.
When he fell on the bed, he almost began hyperventilating, breathing so hard and fast, as if he hadn’t had a breath in the past ten years or so.
Sweat broke out on his brow and he slicked his hair back with the sickly moisture, his very own home-made hair gel. How natural.
He fingered the package; afraid it might blow up in his face, or kill him with some intelligent machinery. His hands shook as he examined the paper covering, careful as he lifted and tilted it so as not to disturb the horrible creature that would bite his head off, or worse, save it for last.
After another few minutes of excruciating scrutiny, he decided he should finally open the mail that Terium had sent him.
He could hardly tear the wrapping encapsulating it, his fingers were so tense and quavering.
When he finally peeled the outer shell of the package, he discovered a minute bottle of some kind of potion; it was swirling and a dark sort of plum liquid. He didn’t know what it was; he was never good at potions, which explained his Obliviance failure.
It looked just fine, not nice by any means, all right by appearance, but not everything was as it seemed. If it was from Terium, it was horrid. There would be nothing added to that sentence, because there was nothing nice about the man. He was abhorrent, vile, and a friendless character that had no heart to be dark. He was simply soulless.
‘What am I supposed to do with this?’ he murmured to himself.
To answer his question, he found an ecru piece of sturdy paper with words that danced elegantly on it with raven ink:
I think you will find it in your best interest to drink this potion.
His hand writing was beautiful, and his words would seem to be ones of good health, sending a potion to help with his well-being.
Of course it was nothing of the like. It was something evil he had spun into liquid, and if he did not swallow it, it would not be difficult to kill a few people to destroy Arktik.
He stared at it, then threw the cardboard in the bin, and stalked out of the room with the bottle in his pocket, and out into the corridor, not passing anyone.
But, the halls weren’t completely void of people, and he bumped into a tall tanned boy.
Arktik looked up to see Jimone Chapikyl staring at him.
‘Sorry,’ the teacher mumbled under his breath, went to keep walking, then stopped.
He had an idea. A most wonderful and horrible idea.
He grabbed Jimone’s shoulder, trying to wipe the wonder off his face, and form a calm and authoritative expression.
‘Mr Chapikyl,’ he said. ‘I believe you should come with me. We need to talk.’
‘What? I haven’t done anything.’
‘I know, I just want a little chat.’
Jimone paused, then agreed to go with him, following him to a nearby classroom with a sink and cups. An art room.
Arktik poured the boy a mug of water, as well as for himself, as Jimone sat down, waiting for some sort of lecture he was bound to hear.
‘Do you know why you are here Mr Chapikyl?’ Arktik questioned.
‘No.’
‘Well, you see those pictures up there?’ he continued, pointing behind Jimone so he would have to turn around to look at them.
He craned his neck and glance at the paintings, and as he did so, Arktik slipped a few drops of the potion into the boys drink and slid it closer to him.
‘Yeah, what about them?’
‘Well, your art teacher told me that everyone in her class has a painting up there. Except you.’
‘So?’
‘Well, it’s a little concerning, you see. Why do you have a class that you chose, yet you don’t enjoy it?’ Arktik looked down at the cup. ‘Please, have a drink,’ he said, gesturing with his hands for him to consume the clear beverage, purple vanishing into the pellucid.
Jimone shrugged, picked up the cup and chugged the whole thing in one go to Arktik’s great delight.
‘I don’t know. I just do, it doesn’t matter really does it?’
Arktik was looking for any signs that Jimone would keel over and die. None at the moment.
He sighed. ‘You should find another class that interests you, but if I can’t persuade you, then I can’t. You may go now.’
Jimone stood up and left feeling the whole meeting was a waste of time, though shorter than he had thought it would be which was just fine with him.
When he was gone, Arktik stared at the deep plum mixture.
It sure wasn’t poison, or at least, not a fast-working one.
He opened the lid again and swigged the whole potion down in a few mouthfuls. It didn’t really taste like anything, which was an improvement than the taste of bile that constantly rose in his throat as he thought of everything he was doing.
He waited a minute, then felt a tingling.
...
Jimone was not feeling well. He felt sick and shivery all over. He didn’t know what had brought it all on, and he didn’t really care at the moment. All he knew was the pain and delusion he couldn’t escape.
He tripped onto his bed and had a small spasm attack rippling through his muscle and skin as though he was the ocean in a storm. Then he fell asleep.
When he woke up, his eyes were red-rimmed like he’d been crying and tendrils of blood vessels were snaking across his eyeballs, drinking out the colour of his irises.
He was scarcely Jimone anymore.
He was Terium.

Every day we trained to the point of collapsing. And every night I flew on Hyenthis, my new friend that whispered the world to me in hues I had never seen, never felt, never had the chance to paint with. She stained the page with the colours she evoked and sailed me into her blooming canvas.
I didn’t bother with telling anyone that the Night Griffin could talk. It didn’t seem relevant. To them, anyway. It was just our own secret bond, gliding the heights that even oxygen could not reach. It was just us two in our own world, looking out onto a mystical land that I could not think that someone wanted to destroy.
My “flying” skills (I still couldn’t think that without adding in the quotation marks) were improving, and I felt that one day I could fly beside Hyenthis and not just on her back, holding on and letting her to all the hard work. I could be an artist, too.
I was always thinking about the afternoons when we would train, and when we did, I was focused mostly on trying to get higher into the air. Of course I wasn’t close to the height that Valish and Marn got to, but I was getting a few metres off the ground, which I believed was fair enough.
Besides my lift-off, my hands were becoming faster in response at what I wanted them to do, and the range of things I could shoot out of them was becoming more wide. One day I might even be able to shoot rats out of my palms, not that I would, that would seem cruel. My accuracy was greater than it once was, and I wouldn’t have to aim, just point, and it would be almost definitely correct.
My mind was also becoming stronger, almost feeling the brain grow. The other day, I managed to shift a small toy bear two feet. And the more I practiced, the less it drained me at the end of the day, until I was barely breaking a sweat. Sifting through people’s minds was becoming clearer, and the pictures were slightly more vivid, the voices were more articulate. My old movies had gotten an up-grade over time.
My night vision was enhancing because of my trips with Hyenthis, and I wondered how close I was to her sight. Probably not even half, but still well enough to see things when there was absolutely no light, just pitch black and moonless seas.
I knew everyone else was going well with their afternoons. I could tell, without needing to mind-read. They had broad smiles on their faces whenever they accomplished a new feat they had set out to do that day, and the reward of reaching that goal was profound.
Our little group was tightly knit, and it was only after another week that I noticed how distant we, or at least I, was from the rest of our circle. I barely saw any of the three, and I didn’t really speak to them when I did glimpse them. Our friendship was fading, and I didn’t like it at all. I didn’t care if they wouldn’t fight with me, they were still my friends, and I still loved them. I had known them for most of my life, and how could I let it slip away just because they would not pick up a sword?
And, yet, how could I make things better? How could I fully repair the blow, when it was practically only me that wanted to fix things? We didn’t hate each other, we were all just too stubborn to make the first step to becoming closer again, too proud to show what we were feeling, despite the fact that I knew about everything, and that they sensed I was aware. No one could say the words out loud.
And I realised how far we had drifted from one another when I saw a fight occurring without either of them noticing. Would I not have heard the struggles if we were more entwined?
It had happened so quickly, but the memory was still burned inside my brain.
It was a sunny morning, edging to the afternoon and everyone had gone for a walk to the lake again for a nice swim minus the picnic. The pulies had already left, stealing the rainbows from the rain, but it would still be fun. I, however, decided to stay in my bedroom and do a little reading.
It was after a while I came to the understanding that everyone was not at the lake. I had heard voices in the lounge room, and I went to investigate.
I eased my door open, careful so they would not hear me and find out I was eavesdropping. I tiptoed along the short windy hall and peeked out behind the corner.
Denim and Jimone were standing quite rigidly, and not next to each other either, unlike their usual close proximity, where they were conjoined at the lips, arms tangled like roots.
‘Jimone, I can’t stand this,’ Denim said, her face showing she was irked.
‘What, it’s not like we aren’t friends. You know that, they know that, it’s just a little rough patch. We’ll get through it once they get their heads straight and realise they are total idiots.’ He had a furrowed brow, obviously annoyed at Denim, for a reason I wasn’t too sure of at the moment. And he seemed to be getting angrier as the conversation progressed.
‘Well,’ Denim paused, reluctant to spill the truth of what she actually felt. ‘That’s the thing. I’m not so positive that they are idiots.’
Jimone stared at her, disbelieving.
‘So... you think that we will all die?’ his voice showed that of someone trying to get around what another was implying, and not liking it one bit.
I shook my head. He was simplifying something down too far, thoughtless of the bigger picture, more extensive that what he imagined. He butchered poems into lacklustre phrases. He was concluding it into ridiculousness, diminishing it with his small, unseeing mind.
‘When you put it like that...’ The girl shifted her weight, uncomfortable and fidgety. She never was one to inform what was going on in her head. ‘... of course it sounds stupid. But you’ve got to think about it more. You’re over-looking it.’
‘So, you’re accusing me of being dull-sighted?’
‘See, there you go again. Turning information into something more compact, when it shouldn’t be. You’re jumping to conclusions, only hearing bits and voicing them as idiotic questions of my belief.’ She saw what I did, too.
Her tone was gaining strength as she continued her speech, a look of defiance on her lightly tanned face.
‘I wouldn’t have to if you didn’t believe in something so... impossible.’
‘Impossible? How is it impossible? You think it’s all just a prank, just a little joke to get everyone freaked out?’
Jimone nodded with a smugly superior smile. ‘Yes, I do. Because that’s all it is.’
‘Well, no one’s getting freaked out!’ she almost shrieked. ‘Because no one knows. Which completely defies the point of the joke. No one is thick enough to think that everyone would find out if the teachers discovered it. They wouldn’t leak that out.’
Jimone sighed with frustration. ‘This is no stupid fore-seeing crap that Kurlz seems to think it is.’ I froze at the sound of my name, but continued to listen as he continued. ‘She’s being unreasonable.’
Denim contorted with rage, and her voice seethed with it as she responded. ‘Don’t say that about Kurlz! She is not being unreasonable; she’s being smart about all this. Even if we aren’t gonna be attacked. She’s preparing them for the future when we are no longer protected by the school’s forces, and we’re missing out on that opportunity. They’re becoming stronger, while we waste away.’
‘Nothing is going to happen!’ Jimone bellowed louder than I expected.
‘How do you know? Can you see the future? No! You have no idea! You’re being ignorant, like we’re going to be safe for all our life, that no one will harm us.’
The boy fumed, and I could see he was restraining himself from hitting something.
I swear, if he put even one finger on her, I would take him down, give him no mercy. I would get all my animal friends on him and shoot at him with non-stop bullets out of hands. Both of them.
‘You are being brain-washed! Is it Kurlz? Or Valish? Have they been messing with your mind?’
I scowled.
‘I don’t need them to fiddle with my thoughts to recognise the facts. And don’t you think that if they got me, wouldn’t they have gotten you too? And Zanza?’
‘Maybe because we have stronger wills than you do,’ he smirked spitefully. ‘I saw your unwillingness when Kurlz made that announcement. So, why didn’t you put your hand up? Why wouldn’t you stand by her? Huh?’
Denim hesitated. ‘I don’t know. I wasn’t sure. I had to think, and now I have. And now I know that when it comes down to it all, I would fight with her.’
I smiled to myself. I knew it, deep down, I had known. Denim would always be there, she just wasn’t as quick to realise that.
‘You would fight with her, of course you would. The truth is, you don’t need to, and it’s stupid to even suggest the whole damn thing.’
His eyes were bloodshot, and his voice hoarse. It suddenly struck me that he appeared to be possessed.
This thought was like a massive blow, my eyes bulging at the possibility. What if Jimone was possessed? Was someone taking control of his body, his mind?
As I came used to the idea, I decided it wasn’t that believable, no matter what his appearance may be. It was probably just that he simply did not believe, and he was tired, and there was nothing more to it.
‘So, I guess it isn’t stupid to say that nothing bad will ever happen to us. At least a big enough one worth knowing some moves. Is that what you’re saying?’
‘We are going to be trained when we’re older. At the moment, nothing is going to harm us.’
‘We’re older now. We need to learn now. Because it’s all happening now.’
‘No, it’s not! Are you so paranoid that you think that danger is behind every corner?’
‘I don’t think that. But I do think someone is coming, and if we do nothing, what’s to stop them from killing us all?’
Jimone almost screamed.
‘Is this not getting through your thick head? No one is coming! Why would they tell us?’
‘Who said anything about them writing the message? Of course it wasn’t them! Why the hell would they get in just to write that, and then not attack until weeks later? It doesn’t make sense! And obviously they wouldn’t inform the whole school, then we could do something to stop it! It’s someone warning us!’
Jimone came closer to her, almost insanity in his bright green eyes.
I tensed up, ready to barge in at any second, to take him down before he could touch her. Luckily, I didn’t have to.
‘No one is warning us. We aren’t in danger. The Aegis Sphere will protect us.’
The Aegis Sphere? The name rang a bell inside my head, and I searched the source of its ring. I couldn’t find it.
‘Igis? What’s that?’ Denim’s eyebrows fixed in confusion.
‘It isn’t Igis, it’s Aegis, and it is something very valuable you don’t need to know about, so shut your trap, got it?’
Denim stared at Jimone in astonishment, and I felt like hitting him.
‘I can’t believe it,’ she whispered. ‘What did I ever see in you?’
‘Aw... what’s that supposed to mean, babe?’ he said tauntingly. ‘Don’t you wanna be my girlfriend anymore? Don’t you wanna fool around a bit?’ He came closer, trying to grab her.
‘No,’ she cried, pulling away. ‘I don’t!’
She stormed off, slamming the dorm door behind her, leaving Jimone chuckling evilly.
‘La da di,’ he hummed to himself, a spring in his step as he too left the dormitory.
There was silence as it was only me in the room, and I didn’t know what to do. I felt like the lone survivor of a storm, and the hush marked the dead.
What had come over Jimone? Why was he acting like such a disgusting and foul monster?
I didn’t know what to think as I ambled to my bedroom, flopping onto my lovely silk-blue four-poster.
All I knew was Denim was on my side.

I stared at the fluffy speck on my pillow.
My eyes narrowed.
‘You are going down,’ I whispered to it.
I reached out and tried to flick it off, but I failed, and it only went a centimetre from where it had been before, sticking to the fabric with its clingy fibres.
My brow strung together in annoyance.
‘Damn,’ I breathed.
I scooted closer to it, sliding along the blankets on my stomach.
I tried to get rid of it again, but came up with the same irritating result.
Why was it so determined to stay on the blanket? Was it adhering to the false sense of security?
I was entranced by the minuscule, clinging to the deceitful peace like the fuzz on my covers. It hugged at the mild comfort that lied and said everything was fine, everything would be okay in the end. What a spinner of false thread.
Once again, I snapped at the lint, and this time, it flew into the air.
It was frantic, scared to be released from its anchor.
I stared up as it swirled around in the air, floating around, bewitching me with its unsettled twirls and absurd ups and downs and all around.
‘You’re pretty fantastic,’ I murmured to console it, as it sank awfully close to my nose, suspended near the top of it, doing erratic flips in the spouts of my escaping breath.
Soon, I was singing faintly to the tiny particle, making up a song, unsure of the words I was whispering. They were mostly random strings of sentences flung together to ensure the lint accepted its’ fate, and it did, but after a while I gave up on lyrics and gave humming a venture.
My droning was making me slip off, and I didn’t know where the brave lint flew off to, nearing slumber where random pictures and clips were waving in my mind, and I would have greeted it happily.
But, I didn’t. I blinked my eyes open with determination, got up off the bed and walked out of my room.
No one was in the dorm yet, still just me.
I strode to the door, and flung it open, storming out and traipsing quickly down the empty hall.
I kept looking from side to side, hoping to catch a glance of Jimone. He had to be somewhere, and I was going to give it to him.
It took a while before I noticed his sleek light hazel hair glinting in the ceiling light, and I thought vaguely that he should skimp on the gel.
He turned around to grin at me, hiding the surprise he felt very well.
‘Hey, Kurlz, how are ya?’ he managed to sound cheery.
‘Not very well, actually,’ I replied, agitated and screwing up my eyes to give him a death stare.
‘What’s wrong?’ his voice was not filled with concern as a friend should, but of a little urgency.
I tried to pick his brain, but there seemed to be a sort of barrier holding up the one part I wanted to get at and read.
‘You.’
Jimone paused.
‘Oh,’ is all he said.
‘Yes, oh,’ I nodded. ‘I overheard you and Denim talking, well, arguing. She’s none too happy with you, either.’
The boy smirked.
‘Been eavesdropping, have you? I’m not surprised you sneaky little wretch.’
‘Yes, I was eavesdropping, and I’m glad I did,’ unashamed of it. ‘You aren’t yourself.’
Jimone’s eyes went wide, then turned to slits and grabbed my arm.
‘You better not get in my way,’ he hissed, fangs bared and his face uncomfortably close to mine. ‘Because, I promise, if you do, I will hurt you.’
I snatched my arm away from him, but did not step back; would not show fear.
‘If you touch me, or Denim, you will be the one that will be hurt. And it won’t just be a throbbing sting, it will be real agony.’
He sneered.
‘You? Hurt me?’ he scoffed. ‘You, weak and pathetic?’ He leaned in once again, almost touching me, his unpleasant breath hot on my cheek and his canines dangerously close to my neck. ‘You have no idea what I’m capable of.’
He straightened himself, put on a quick smiling facade, though it didn’t quite hide his cruel intent, and marched away, leaving me boiling with fury, spitting with steam.
I muffled my scream of frustration in my hands, then tried to compose myself before I decided to join the others where I would most likely find Denim, and be able to talk to her about her most-recently-turned-evil-ex-boyfriend.
Walking down halls and stairs, I exited the building, thinking about the conversation with Jimone.
He was threatening me, and he had never done anything like that before, he barely yelled. Now he was trying to be menacing. It didn’t make sense. What had come over him?
Was he... possessed?
The thought stirred in my brain again. What if I had been right about before? What if he was really being controlled by a demon or something?
It was possible. Signs pointed in its direction, declaring that he was not Jimone anymore. Firstly; his red eyes. Secondly; his horrible behaviour. Thirdly, when I had said that he wasn’t himself, he started his threats. And fourthly, his mind was blocked, and that had never happened before, his mind was probably the easiest to pick. It made a lot of sense. All, except one detail. Who would want to possess Jimone?
A distant possibility was edging into my head, trying to make itself known and make everything click, completing the puzzle that was puzzling me.
But I couldn’t grasp it, and the harder I tried, the more it crept back into the shadows, hiding the truth, and clouding me in vexation.
I shook my head. I would think about this later, but at the moment, my priority was finding Denim and discussing what I had seen, needing to know if she was alright.
When I arrived at the lake, everyone was splashing around in the water.
Abcde, Quex and Zanza were doing flips into the liquid at crazily high heights. Marn was doing long laps with Valish, and Regal was busy not breathing under the surface.
But no Denim.
I didn’t bother asking if any of them had seen her, it was stupid that I would think she had even come here. In a time of distress, she never ran to her friends, which was irritating, but she went to somewhere secluded so she could mull things over, or cry until she was ready.
So, I ran back into the building sprinting desperately through the corridors, one conclusion spinning and crashing, my chest pounding as my heart beat on it mercilessly.
Could Jimone, or whoever he was, be after her? Was he looking for her, not done with the fight? Was he going to... kill her?
I stretched my mind out, grabbing at thoughts but not finding Denim’s. Where was she? Where would Denim go if she was upset?
A notion came to me, and I careered passed startled mutants, ignoring their surprised looks. I was headed to the “Bawling Basement” as it was come to be known around our group. If someone was upset and needed some alone time, they would go there. Denim was pretty much the only one who visited, but I’m sure some others went there, too.
I zipped down the dark stairway, almost flying down to the bottom, hoping I would find Denim there, and not Jimone.
Falling over my feet when I reached the foot of the stairs, I stumbled a bit, then regained my balance just as quick, and inspected my surroundings.
I had never come here much, being off limits for one, and I only, on a few occasions, went when I was searching for Denim after we had had an argument or something. I had never come down here to cry myself.
It was dark, but unlike it would to non-mutated people, this did not hinder me in the slightest, and because of my nights with Hyenthis, my sight was perfectly grand in the pitch.
The room was void of anything that would usually occupy a regular dwelling. There were no desks or paintings and definitely no windows. All there was were doors. Drab and foreboding. I counted about ten all up.
Which was the one that Denim typically went to? Where was her crying room? Which held her years of tears pooled on the stone? I was sure it was somewhere on the middle right side.
I walked up to the eighth entrance and pressed my ear to it, hoping I might hear the quiet sobs of Denim.
I entered about three rooms before I got the right one, opening the sixth door and barging in.
My eyes almost fell out of their sockets when I saw the savagery what lay inside.
Denim was pressed against the wall, tears staining her cheeks, and she was gasping for air, trying to escape the excruciating torture. Her eyes were wide and staring and they fell onto me when I entered.
Jimone was holding her up, his face hidden, leaning against Denim’s throat.
He looked up at me and I gasped. His fangs were protruding from him lips and carmine blood dripped from his mouth, a crazed look in his eyes.
He licked his lips, dropped Denim and she crumpled to the floor, unconscious and bleeding copiously.
I was breathing heavy, my gaze flipping from Denim’s immobile body to Jimone’s very mobile one that was now approaching me. He was a tiger, and I was the delicious defenceless deer.
This was not like before. It had been just threats before. Now he had tasted blood, and he wanted more of it, more of my blood. He would kill me if he got the chance. He was not a vampyre, but a vampire.
I felt a dim reminiscence of the time Zerlis had wanted to suck my blood. But he resisted, and apologized for it, feeling like a fool for wanting to. This was not the same. This was a full on, out of control, possibly possessed vampire that would not stop until I was a bag of skin, and it was bursting with my blood.
I needed something to hold onto. I needed to grip to something solid. I couldn’t take the hovering, but that’s all I could do.
I was slowly backing away from him, considering my options. There didn’t seem to be a whole lot that I could do. I could fight him or run away. Both would probably end in death, but I suppose I would take the braver and more noble option number one.
I stood my ground, narrowing my eyes, with no doubt in my mind that this was not Jimone. He was possessed, or something of the sort. Bewitched, enchanted.
‘Come on,’ I dared. ‘Come and get me. Come and have a go.’
Jimone hissed, spraying flecks of blood onto me.
I wiped it off in disgust.
‘Say it, don’t spray it,’ I muttered under my breath, making a face. That was such a dumb thing to say.
He lunged for me and I rolled to the side, barely missing his hit. I jumped up, fists at the ready and sent a pelt of bullets his way before he had even turned to look at me again. A few hit him, and I was pretty pleased, but them he glanced at his stomach and smiled.
I stared in shocked awe as I witnessed the abdomen of the vampire swallow the bullets and the wounds, guzzling up the blood with a sickening slurping sound that made me shudder in revulsion.


‘That is so gross,’ I said, though it was lost on the boy who was clearly deranged. ‘Really sick. I mean, how do you even do that?’
Jimone said nothing and ran at me with unquenchable thirst ripping through his body, I jabbed him quickly in the throat, making him gag and gurgle on his craving. Then he recovered and scratched at my neck, but only grazed my shoulder instead. Lines of blood trickled from the four parallel cuts and that made Jimone go crazy, smelling my fresh blood and going even more into frenzy.
He went for another dive, falling short, but managing to trip me over and land on my hands, scraping them on the rough stone.
I spun onto my back, seeing him coming at me again, and cursed. He was on me before I could even slide a centimetre away, and his teeth were gnashing right in front of my face, trying to bite it off, chew on my features until I was a indiscernible pile of mauled flesh.
I was panicking as I pushed at him, but only succeeded in keeping his fangs from ripping my throat out, which was something I guess. His red-stained saliva was dribbling onto me, and I groaned in distaste.
I head-butted him, but it was as helpful as if I had tickled him with a feather, and he went on with his biting, impervious to the blow.
My hand slipped out from under his chest and flames flickered into my palm, eating through his clothes and burning his skin. He shrieked and leapt off of me, and I quickly sprung to my feet, getting ready for the next attack.
So, the vamp didn’t like fire, huh? I grinned at my hands for a second. I didn’t know I could conjure flames in them. I could never be cocooned in fire like Valish, but I was happy with just shooting it, preferably at those trying to kill me.
I blasted some balls of flickering crimson at him, and watched with glee as it took effect on him, igniting his skin and turning it to blisters.
Jimone was screaming in agony, trying to put the fire out, hitting at his scorched flesh and howling as he did.
‘I told you,’ I taunted. ‘I told you that if you touched her you would suffer and squirm in torment.’
I came closer, continuing the stream of flames.
‘How dare you touch her,’ I murmured, utter loathing in every syllable. ‘You hideous, barbaric beast! I could kill you, but I won’t.’
I stopped the fire and kneeled down next to him, rolling on the floor and smoke rising from his charred body. I hated the person, but it was not Jimone, I knew it, and I needed to save what was left of him.
I looked into his tortured eyes. ‘I know you’re in there Jimone,’ I whispered, pleading for him to come out. ‘I know you’re in there. Come back to the surface. I need you, the real you.’
His eyes appeared to show some spark of recognition, and I thought he was coming back from the depths of whatever domain he had drifted into, that his enchantment had fallen away, shirked like a blood-stained cloak, and I almost smiled.
Then he grabbed for me, the flicker totally gone, replaced by pure bloodlust and vehemence, teeth bared, sharp and hissing crimson.
I almost sighed in disappointment, then punched him mercilessly, right in the face, breaking his nose.
He cried out, blood gushing from his nostrils and pooling into his mouth, creating a morbid lake, and he actually drank some before he fell unconscious, still bleeding profusely, onto the ground this time, looking a mess.
I climbed up and stared at the repulsive creature.
‘That is so gross.’
...
I ran to Denim’s side and looked her over. The only physical damage was the bite on her neck, but Jimone had almost siphoned her out. The emotional damage was probably worse. She had been attacked by her boyfriend, who was possessed. How could she look at him ever again? Ever love him again? Get passed the fact that it was not actually him, forgive and get the thought of him, sucking her blood, out of her head. The memory of him trying to kill her.
I tore the rim off of my shirt that was slightly dirty from falling onto the grimy floor. I bundled it up then pressed it against the wound, staunching the blood.
After a while, she began to come round and blinked up at me woozily.
‘Kurlz...’ she croaked weakly. ‘What... happened...?’
I shook my head, fighting back tears, and achieving a watery smile.
‘Just rest now, you’re hurt,’ I whispered.
‘Tell... me...’ she demanded.
‘I’ll tell you everything, but right now I’m not going to bother you with boring details, okay?’
Denim groaned. ‘Okay,’ she wheezed, then her head lolled and she closed her eyes.
She looked horrid and relatively drained, with perspiration making her face shine dimly in the little light that found its way through the shadows.
Jimone looked even more awful, practically dead. His body was scorched to a red raw blistering. His nose was easing up on the flow, and it was crusting over on his top lip. His breathing was slow and rasping.
What was I going to do? How was I going to care for Denim? At least Jimone had not injected his venom into her, leaving it stored in his fangs, to eat not to change. And what about the other moribund mutant? What was I going to do with him?
I groaned internally, feeling
How did I end up with two unconscious freaks?

Terium was partially stuck in Jimone’s burnt body. He was divided into three ways, his own self, Borvolo and the charred freak, a burnt roast that was thrown away.
How did that wretched girl know it was him? Or at least, not Jimone? That red-headed nuisance had gotten in the way and almost killed her friend in the process.
Kurlz Basheld...
He would remember that name, and decided he would kill her personally, savouring her death as life slipped from her and she begged for him to stop, screaming and crying. But he wouldn’t let her live, he would smile and finish her off, then the rest of the school. Or the other way around. It didn’t matter.
That girl had burnt him, or his occupant, badly. She would pay.
He had felt the pain, but not as bad, only an acute stinging in his brain. He had cursed Borvolo. That man was so weak; he had to test the potion on an unsuspecting student before he drank the rest. He was weak and pathetic. Now he had Terium’s mind, and would do as Terium bid.
But, there was one consolation to Borvolo’s failing. But he would never know, and would definitely not be rewarded for it either.
This phenomenon made Terium’s heart jolt, and beat with anticipation. He had sensed the object as soon as Jimone came down the steps. The glow, the power.
He had left the useless body of Jimone, and was concentrating on Borvolo now. He willed him to the basement of the school, and Arktik did so. A robot...
There was a sneer on his face that reflected Terium’s, and he strode down the stone steps to where he would find something of great importance.
Borvolo stood in front of the third door, illuminated by corruption, and reached for the handle...

Zanza had been aiming for an insanely high jump when she saw Kurlz come out of the building and stare at them for a minute, her eyes searching. When she looked us all over, her face harboured surprise and she ran back inside the doors.
Zanza halted, and forgot about diving in, leaning on the trunk of the tree and gazing out, perplexed.
‘Hey, are you jumping down or what?’ Quex called from below.
‘Yeah, are you scared?’ Abcde teased.
The girl on the limb laughed.
‘Yes, I’m totally scared of this unbelievable height,’ she replied. ‘How could I even think to jump? I must be suicidal or something.’
Quex rolled his eyes, and smiled at his sister.
‘Just hurry up,’ he said.
‘Whatever.’
Zanza walked forward on the branch, then bent down and sprang off of it, putting her arms out, making her body into a graceful arc.
She hit the water with hardly a splash, and curved upwards, breaking the surface and grinning. A plunge that would make any high diver humbled.
‘That was great,’ she twinkled.
‘Alright, well done, now it’s my turn.’
Abcde hurried up the tree, faster than a monkey, agile and flexible.
As she went to leap off, Zanza started swimming to the edge and hopped out.
‘What, do you think I’m gonna fall on you?’
‘No, I just need to go somewhere,’ Zanza replied, drying her hair with a multi-coloured towel, then wrapping it around her waist.
‘Whatever, see ya later, Zanz,’ then she dived into the water smoothly.
Zanza pulled on a tank top and some navy shorts, kicking on her thongs and raced towards the school entrance.
She headed in the direction which she had heard Kurlz going in, sprinting through crowds of people. She skipped down the steps to the basement and looked at all the doors.
Kurlz never came here to weep, so why had she come? Which one had she gone into? She couldn’t tell, and there was no way of knowing.
She reached out for the first door, wrenching it open to find a room emptier than the main she had just left. She closed the door and went to number two. Nothing again.
Then, Zanza opened the third door and her eyes went wide, glistening in the newfound light. Inside was an orb, radiating a dark shadowy emerald. She stepped inside, shutting the door behind her. She edged nearer, compelled to the sphere. It was calling to her, telling her to hold it.
Zanza...
Whispers of a sanctuary, a refuge in a world of decayed darkness filled her. An oasis in the burning desert. An island in a stormy sea. It was strong arms around you as you cried. It was peace, warmth, home.
Zanza was now only a foot from the swirling object. It was growing ever stronger, ignited by its’ own brightness. It was going from a shady sea to a grassy jade and more brilliant each second. It was emitting rays of lustrous light, reaching for her with lime tendrils. Smooth fingers to take hold of, to whisk you away to its’ eternal shelter.
She was held captivated by it, being held gently but firm enough to keep her fixed. It was impossible to avert her gaze from the vivid blazing orb.
Her hands were almost upon the globe, and it hissed in delight for her to come nearer, to hold it and let it feel the touch of her soft palms. And it was so close to having it’s wish fulfilled, shrilling with the propinquity of the girls’ fingertips.
Zanza’s breath was coming in short gasps, her hands shaking in anticipation, her eyes wide with wonderment.
Should she touch it? Should she close the tiny gap between them?
She could already feel the tendrils licking her hands, in rapture of her warmth. They were so cool, like the sinuousness of the lake forming into the tentacles of the baby octopuses it held.
Zanza would do it. She would touch it, and she would feel her heart burst. It would be a magical experience, and her own little secret. No one would know about it, only her and her roof in the rain.
She was about to do it...
Then, the door was wrenched open and a tall man stepped inside.
Zanza whirled around, furious that someone had interrupted her, and stopped her from grasping the orb. Anger was boiling heatedly in her chest, and her face contorted with the rage she felt.
She strode up to the man, determination coursing through her, and she was intent on damaging the man, or even killing him if she had to. What had come over her?
Zanza went for a quick punch, which she thought would knock him out, but he dodged, grabbed her in a lock and pressed something cold onto her neck. She suddenly felt strange, weaker, perhaps.
He pushed her away and she sprawled onto the moist and filthy floor, smearing muck all across her swimmer top and board-shorts, and on some of her skin, too. Her towel had dropped sometime during her trance.
The man was heading towards the sphere, glee in his yellow eyes.
She hauled herself from the ground and grabbed the man’s coat and pulled. It was like she had done nothing at all, and didn’t even spare her notice.
Zanza snarled and swerved in front of him, blocking his entrance to the orb.
His face flashed with annoyance and he whipped out a blade that had been hidden in the folds of his cloak.
The girl was surprised, her eyes showing it too, but she couldn’t stop the inevitability. She was going to die. She thought of running, but her powers were lost for some unknown reason. Her legs felt like lead.
The door opened and a red-headed figure walked into view of the scene.
The man took no heed and plunged the sword deep into Zanza’s chest, and she screamed in pain.
He grinned evilly, a distorted smile, and twisted the weapon into her heart. She shrieked in pure agony, and crumpled to the floor in a heap.
Zanza was dead.
...
Arktik walked into the room and saw the girl
What was she doing here? No one was supposed to be down here, it was off limits.
She tried to fight him away, but he inserted the metal irae onto her neck. It was an object that sucked the powers from a person, and only when the device was removed, the powers would return.
He was so close to getting the Aegis Sphere, destroying it and leaving the school defenceless, ready for the attack of Terium’s army.
But the girl swung in front of him, and was actually protecting the globe. Stupid. What an idiotic thing to try and do.
Who was this annoying teenager? He had seen her before. What was her name again? Zazahu? Zanba? No... It was Zanza. That was it. He had taught her in class a few times when her regular science teacher had been sick.
Well, now Zanza was going to die.
He raised his sword and stabbed it into her heart, rotating it so she’d feel the pain more acutely.
She fell, dead.
Now to get the Aegis Sphere...
...
Abcde’s eyes went sightless, and she was blocked from all the things happening around her. It was as though her senses were shunned from her outer self.
Her world went black and she was... dreaming?
In the pitch, there came forth a dull light that was coming to be more luminous as she stared. Could you call it staring? Abcde wasn’t sure.
The shining thing was an orb. A brilliant green orb. And there was a black-haired girl there, gazing at it. This seemed very familiar... but distant, like another life.
The girl was about to touch it, but a man walked in, there was a struggle and he tried to grab the object, but the girl veered in front of him, shielding it.
It was then that her face came full into view, though distorted by her mean expression. It was Zanza. What was going on? Why was she there? Why was she in the dream?
The man revealed a sword and shocked Zanza. Then the blade was thrust into her chest and she fell to the ground, screaming, then... dead.
Abcde opened her eyes and screeched. She remembered it all now. And she remembered that this was what she had been dreaming before, except now she did not forget. Why did she not forget?
‘Abcde, what’s wrong?’ Quex asked, grabbing her, looking concerned. ‘Abcde! What happened?’
‘I saw...’ she whispered. ‘I saw...’
How could she tell Quex?
Regal was at her side now, cradling her and looking into her eyes. ‘What did you see?’
‘Zanza... she’s dead.’

Nothing was real at that moment in time. It was all fuzzy, like sleep was attempting to draw me into its’ soft embrace, but I was resisting. It was shaky, as though you had been laying down for an age, and then risen up too fast, and your head spins. It was a bug, squirming into your stomach making you heave. It was like someone had kissed your lover in front of you, jolting your heart. It was like the sudden awareness that something horrible had happened, and you didn’t know what to do. It was all that and more. It was watching your friend die.
I had heard other footsteps outside, and when I had fixed the cloth to Denim I went to investigate. I had walked into the third room, not really expecting much.
And then I saw it. That man had sunk his broadsword into Zanza with no trouble.
He turned away from her, then set out for the... the glowing orb I had just noticed.
The feeling of fuzziness was shirked, and strode up to the man with raw determination and set his cloak ablaze.
He shouted and swerved to look at me, and I gasped. He was a science teacher at this school. He had actually been a substitute on a few occasions. I had seen him walking down halls, and I had said hello to him, he had smiled back at me...
For a second my brain searched his, for I had to, but I couldn’t see much. It was hazed and blocked like Jimone’s had been. But I discovered it was he who was the one who gave me the Obliviance. But why? What was he plotting?
Mr Borvolo. Murderer.
Before my shock had passed, my mind cleared of his, he went to slash my stomach open, but I jumped backwards.
He hissed and came forward, but I weaved around him and hit him in the spine. He yelped and plummeted for the ground, but kept his feet, spinning again to face me, waving the bloodied blade.
I sent a burst of wind at him, and he stumbled backwards, falling on his rear.
I put out my hand and a blade of my own emerged from my palm, something I had never done before, but feeling so right. It eased from my skin, and when it fell into my hand not a mark was shown that it had come from there, not a single drop of blood.
Borvolo got up quickly and ran with his sword heading for my heart.
Our weapons met, clanging with the force from Borvolo’s side. He retreated than struck again, but I blocked it, swerved it off my own and when for my own attack. It missed, though barely.
We battled for a short while, and we even thrust a few cuts in. Nothing much, just ones to slice the surface open. It riled me up, craving chunks of flesh from his body, broken bones, decapitation...
Then, he tripped me, and I fell with a cry onto my back, my sword ripping from my grip and clattering to the stone.
I looked up at my opponent in terror, waiting for the death that Zanza had been given.
Borvolo raised the blade over his head and went to swing, and the tip almost stabbed my belly, but he stopped.
He look confused, eyes glazed over, then nodded as though agreeing with someone and sheathed his sword.
He leaned down and grabbed my neck and felt a silken chill there, but it wasn’t his fingers. They were warm and rough with sores. It was something else. And afterwards I felt sort of feeble and ordinary. Shrunken from my potential, like a tsantsa.
He dragged me out of the room with the sphere in the crook of his other arm, and I struggled, hitting his arm and legs, kicking uselessly, anaemically.
I tried to shoot something from my hands, but nothing happened, I couldn’t feel a thing. I endeavoured to read his mind, but I couldn’t. My brain was clouded and small.
What was wrong? Why wasn’t this working? It always worked!
I thought my lids would well up in panic, in terror of my loss. Zanza, my powers... I felt like I was being erased from the world. An artist had bored of my image, painted over it with a villain, a disease.
‘Stop fighting you dull-witted girl!’ Borvolo roared. ‘I won’t tolerate it.’
I boiled.
‘How dare you,’ I screeched. ‘How could you? You killed Zanza!’
‘And you’ll be killed later,’ he jeered.
‘Why didn’t you kill me now? What stopped you? Why kill me later?’
‘I’m not the one to do it.’
Then he hit me brutally in the head and I barely had time to experience the pain before I blacked out, and my tortured thoughts would evolve into nightmares as I slept.
...
My eyes winked ajar, and studied my surroundings through the slits I had wafered in my lids.
I appeared to be in a room, not unlike the basement I had just been in. Fighting a man... who had killed... Zanza. She was... dead.
A tear trickled down the side of my face, blurring my vision of the place. I blinked it away, yearning numbed sleep, and took another gander at my new environment.
It was rather dim, and overall dank, with a foul smelling aroma about it. I think it was decay and death. Evil lingering in through the doors?
I wondered if I should sit up, or lay down, pretending I was asleep in case someone would hit me if I woke.
For a while, I lay there, and didn’t really hear anyone, so I leaned forward. I shook my head to rid the dizziness that was attempting to overrule me, and stood up, trembling just a little bit as my legs straightened.
I squinted, and afterwards, I was speechless.
I squinted? I needed to squint to see? Me? Why did I need to squint all of a sudden? My eyesight was perfect in the darkness, but now...
I barricaded the sudden questions and fear that were bubbling inside me, asking me why my powers were refusing to function, even though I knew, deep down, they were gone. Where could I find their suspended matter? Besides rejecting the truth, I started to wander in the room.
There was a barred door in the distance and I discerned that I was now a prisoner of some nefarious person, for some reason that was unknown to myself, so the whole point was sort of lost on me.
I kept ambling around my cell, and discovered that it was actually bigger than I had expected. Which was fairly stupid. What if one of the captives was digging a tunnel in one of the nooks? And what if they like all the room? Wouldn’t someone want them to suffer to the extent of suffering? Well, at least I had space, so their mistakes were just fine by me.
After that little thought, I heard a muffled sobbing coming from a corner of the room.
I treaded hesitantly towards the weeping.
‘Who’s there?’ I called, making my voice strong.
‘What...? Who are you?’ the voice replied. It was a little girl by the sound of it.
I stepped closer.
‘My name is Kurlz Basheld,’ I offered.
‘Are you here to kill me?’ she asked, and it broke my heart to hear such sorrow, yet such acceptance in her voice.
‘No,’ I whispered. ‘Why would I do that?’
‘I don’t know.’
Then I saw her. She was so young, I’d say around six or seven, and had a dirty face with tracks of tears running down them. Her blonde curls were filthy and in a mess. Her lips her full and her eyes were big and brown. And she was so thin, it was scary.
‘Why are you here?’ I asked, crouching beside her.
‘I don’t know.’
‘Who brought you here?’
‘I don’t know. Some bad men, I think.’
I nodded.
‘When were you brought here?’
‘A few months ago, maybe.’
Months?
‘Me and my mum.’
‘Your mum? Where is she now?’
‘I don’t know,’ the girl mumbled, almost crying again. ‘I don’t know where they took her.’
I sat next down and put my arm around her comfortingly.
‘Who brought you here?’ she asked.
‘A man,’ I replied. ‘M. Borvolo.’
‘Borvolo? But... but that’s my name,’ she stared at me, confused.
I was more than a little shocked.
‘Your name is Borvolo?’
‘Yes, Mervette Borvolo. Mervie.’
‘Well... I...’ I didn’t know what to say. Had it been one of her relatives, or even her father that killed Zanza?
‘Why did my daddy bring you here?’ So it was her dad.
‘I don’t know.’ How could I reassure her? Her father was evil, a murderer. ‘Did he bring you here?’
‘No, daddy was leaving for the school, then mummy and I were taken.’
What was Borvolo up to? Why had he killed Zanza?
I flinched at the memory.
Was he working for someone? Or were people working for him?
I didn’t know, I doubt I would ever find out being cooped up in the cell for I don’t know how long.
‘Kurlz?’
‘Yes?’
‘Will you stay with me?’ she asked softly, eyes like orbs, pleading.
I paused, then nodded. ‘Of course I’ll stay with you.’
Mervie smiled.
‘Thanks.’
She leaned on my shoulder, and closed her eyes.
I hugged her near to me and stared at nothing into the dim of the cell, wondering what the hell was going on.
...
A male came to the door, and knocked on the bars with a metal bowl.
‘Come and get your scraps, scum!’ he hollered.
I scowled, then turned to Mervie.
‘You stay here, alright? I’ll go get the food and be right back, I promise.’
She stared at me, then nodded and I ran to the cell door.
‘Hello there,’ he grinned. ‘Haven’t seen you before. What are you doing here?’
He was tall with some brawn as well as a troll-like face, no hair and had a mouthful of jagged beige teeth. His skin was khaki green.
‘I’m on holiday, can I have dinner now?’
The troll laughed.
‘Sure thing, sweetheart.’
He pushed the bowl straight through the metal bars of the door.
I stared in surprise.
He chuckled. ‘Impressed are you? I can do a lot of stuff like that.’
He pushed his arm through and grabbed my wrist.
I felt a huge impulse to shake it off and screech, but I didn’t and plunged through the poles, still attached to him.
Now he was the shocked one, his black eyes wide.
‘Well, no one has ever done that before,’ he said.
I grinned, then went for a punch.
I guess I shouldn’t have because he grabbed my hand and almost crushed it. I yelped and fell to my knees.
‘That’s probably why they don’t do it,’ I muttered.
‘Yeah, most likely. They don’t want to be killed, but most of them do anyway,’ he laughed.
‘You seem to like that idea, don’t you? A few nice deaths to get you going, right? You like to see them hurt badly, you sick freak.’
He stopped laughing, and growled, and his face came up to mine, his foul breath invading my nostrils.
‘I wouldn’t say that if I were you.’
‘I daresay you would, because then you would be insulting yourself. Do you ever brush your teeth?’
The troll frowned.
‘Yes.’
A sudden idea came to me, and I wondered if I could manage it after what I had done, if he would even believe me.
I acted on my urge.
‘That’s why they’re oh so sparkly white? You should smile more often to show off those pearly canines.’
I winked.
He seemed a little confused, his almost monobrow mashing together.
‘Your arms are really big. Do you work out?’
He looked at his arms and grinned.
‘No.’
‘I bet you do. Come on, you can tell me.’
‘Maybe just a bit.’
‘I knew it! Damn. And did you purposely shave your skull so it looks like shiny bowling ball? Because I like it. It suits you.’
His grin grew wider.
‘Thank you.’
‘No problem, anything for my pal here. Quite a handsome pal I might say. What’s your name by the way?’
The troll just loved that. ‘Ruk,’ he replied.
‘Really? Ruk, oh, I love that name. I could marry someone with a name like that. How old are you?’
‘Seventeen.’
‘Really? I would have thought you to be older, with your muscles and stubble and all.’
‘Well, I suppose you better get back.’
‘Oh, yes, I suppose I do,’ pretending to feel disappointed that our conversation had to be cut short. Not short enough, I’d say.
He pushed me into the cell and let go.
‘Come any time you like,’ I called. ‘Any time. I’ll be here waiting for you. Don’t send anyone else, except you, okay?’
The male grunted and kept walking.
I walked up to Mervie and made a vomiting face and she giggled to my delight.
‘Geez, he’s more than a little dull, isn’t he?’
She nodded and I passed her the bowl of stale bread. She ate hungrily, scoffing into it like a starving person, which she probably was. In fact, she ate the whole lot.
‘Oh no!’ she cried. ‘I’m so sorry, Kurlz, really! I didn’t mean- I’m just so hungry.’
I waved it off. ‘When I’m done with Ruk, I think we will be getting a lot more food than usual.’
...
I was right in thinking that our “room service” would increase because of my little show, and Mervie confirmed it.
‘Wow, he’s a bit more generous since you came here,’ she said.
I shrugged. ‘I do what I must.’
One time he even brought us something nice to eat.
He had kept glancing everywhere.
Then, he shoved a slice of cake into my palms. Chocolate cake. Delicious.
‘Ruk!’ I cried, my eyes wide. ‘Where’d you get this?’
‘I got it from the kitchen,’ he replied. ‘If I get caught, I’ll be punished.’ He said it as though it was some big thing that needed rewarding.
‘Oh, you’re so brave. Thank you!’ I leaned forward and pecked him on the cheek, wishing I hadn’t, making me think of how many times he washed that cheek. I felt like shuddering.
His olive face took on a hue of bright pink, and he smiled like an idiot.
Then he closed his eyes and puckered his lips, ready for me to lay one on.
I almost puked, and glad he couldn’t see me fighting back disgusted faces.
I didn’t know what to do, so I just lay two of my fingers on his mouth and pushed him back.
‘Not now,’ I murmured. ‘But soon.’
He left, his gait of someone who was pretty dizzy. I managed to keep my lunch.
I walked up to Mervie.
‘Hey, sweetie!’ I beamed. ‘Guess what I got?’
I showed the cake and she squealed in delight.
‘Cake! How did you get cake? Cake!’
‘Chocolate cake.’
‘Did your boyfriend get it for you?’
‘Ruk is not my boyfriend, okay?’ I informed. Ew.
Mervie shrugged.
I bisected the cake and handed her the bigger half, and she gobbled it down in a rush.
‘Geez,’ I said. ‘You’re a hungry monster.’
‘If Ruk isn’t your boyfriend, why does he have dreamy eyes for you, and you kissed him on the cheek?’
I sighed. ‘Just eat your cake, and don’t complain, okay? If I didn’t do that, you wouldn’t be eating like this.’
‘Alright.’
I bite into my part, and was greeted with the moist chocolaty goodness.
It was true; I did feel a bit like Abcde with her cupid powers. But the thing is, Ruk wasn’t besotted with me, he was in love with the idea that someone had finally showed some interest in him. Not many people would, I assure you.
Anyway, I needed to do this. Ruk was my ticket out of here, and I would take Mervie with me. She was a sweet little girl and she had to get out of this dump more than I did.
Just another week or so, and Ruk would let me out for a stroll, and I would run off. Mervie would be there, too, because I would ask, and he couldn’t deny. Or some other, better plan.
‘So, Mervie, how old are you?’ I mumbled around mushed up food.
She looked up at the ceiling, concentrating. ‘I was six when I came in here. But I think I turned seven.’
How horrible would it be to spend your birthday in a prison cell? At that age, you should be with your family, blowing out candles and receiving gifts. You should be having parties with your friends, playing pass-the-parcel and piñata, smashing it to ribbons of cardboard and coloured paper and rushing for the goodies inside.
‘Well, Mervie,’ I said, holding up my portion. ‘I dedicate this cake to you. Happy birthday, Merve, you’re a great kid. May your next birthday be better.’
And then I proceeded to sing the “Happy Birthday” song and she clapped along with glee and pretended to blow out imaginary fire.
She beamed up at me, and I hugged her, my heart filling to the top. We were both traces of lint, clinging to the comforting covers, that told us everything was going to be okay, that in the end we would be free, happy, and I didn’t care if they were lies or not. She was my blanket, and I was hers, bound by mutual need, afraid to drift in the vast air all alone.

Ruk gazed at me with fondness.
‘Ruk, how are you?’ I asked.
The troll-man stretched his mouth into what I guessed was supposed to be a smile.
‘I’m just fine, what about you, my dear?’
It was easy now to hide my distaste, and I was slipping into my other self just fine. It was an item of clothing I could put on and take off.
‘Well, actually, I’m not doing so fine, actually.’
Ruk looked devastated at my statement, his face crumpling into a sagging frown.
‘What’s wrong?’
‘It’s just...’ I started. ‘Oh, never mind. It doesn’t matter, I suppose.’
‘No!’ he yelled, shocking me. ‘If you are upset, I must know what it is!’
‘Well, you know I love you, right?’
He grinned. ‘Yes, I know.’
‘But... I miss freedom, you know?’
Ruk scowled.
‘I can’t let you go.’
‘Yes, yes I know. But what about a walk? Just a little stroll around and no one knows?’
‘I can’t let you go, Kurlz. You know that. They’ll catch you, and we’ll both be dead meat.’
I sighed, turning away, forming my features into a sad arrangement.
‘You’re right,’ I nodded, stepping away from the bars. ‘Of course you’re right.’
He grabbed for my arm, spinning me towards him, and I actually accomplished tears. Damn, I was good.
Ruk was really distressed at this, and brought me close for a big bone-crushing bear hug. It was extremely uncomfortable, especially since I was half-in half-out of the cell.
I stifled my squeal by squashing my face into his smelly shoulder, and sobbed lightly.
‘Kurlz...’ he murmured softly, almost... tenderly? ‘You know you can’t. You can’t die, I just won’t let you.’
‘I know, I know,’ I whispered. ‘Never mind. Pretend I never asked.’
I broke from his embrace and hid my face. He looked he was about to reach for me again, but stopped himself, putting his arms back to his sides.
‘I want to,’ he said. ‘I really do. You know I do, but I love you too much to let you die.’
‘I get it. I know that I’m locked up in here forever. Until they send someone to take me, and kill me.’
Ruk was angry.
‘I won’t let them touch you.’
‘They will, you can’t stop it either, no doubt about it.’
‘They won’t.’
He turned and left, and I slipped off my facade.
‘Freaking hell,’ I muttered under my breath. ‘This is harder than I thought it would be.’
‘What is?’ Mervie asked, suddenly at my knee.
I studied her, wondering if I should spill about my plan.
‘I’m trying to... do something that involves some sort of escaping... for the both of us, and getting out of a place that is here,’ I managed with difficulty.
‘You’re planning an escape?’ she cried, her eyes bright. ‘We’re getting out of here?’
‘That’s the thing... it’s a bit more difficult than I’d first planned. Ruk is determined that I don’t die, you see.’
‘Oh.’
‘Yeah... well, I got food. Here you go.’
I handed her a sandwich and she bit into it eagerly, munching it with contentment.
‘Yum, huh?’
‘Very,’ she murmured through bites.
I ruffled her blonde locks and ate my own bread with spread. Peanut butter today, what a luxury.
‘So, what is your plan to get us out?’
‘We might not get out. I don’t want to get your hopes up, just so you can have it taken over with some more misery. So, we are not escaping.’
‘Okay.’
‘Good. Now, are you up for a game of noughts and crosses? I sure am.’
‘That sounds like fun.’
She dropped to the ground and scraped up a game, her finger trailing through the grime. Then she drew an “X” in the centre. I sat beside her, drawing a circle in the top left corner. She went underneath mine. I sketched on the middle right, and she went below her second go. I put a circle in the top right corner, and I smiled, leaning back.
She frowned, folding her arms.
‘Your turn.’
She unfolded her arms and went for the top middle, and I won by drawing in the right bottom box and drew a line right through my three rings.
‘Woo!’ I cried, raising my arms. ‘Beat that.’
Mervie huffed. ‘Another game.’
‘Sure thing, I’m still gonna kick your butt.’
We had another few games where I proceeded in my fore-telling, but she actually won a game, and she shrieked with delight, and gloated as though I hadn’t been the one to win every single match beforehand.
I rolled my eyes as she poked her tongue out at me and did a little victory dance.
After that, I beat her once more, and she wasn’t so elated, and informed me that she was bored of the game.
A little later, Mervie yawned.
‘Tired?’ I asked, stroking her hair back from her forehead.
She blinked sleepily. ‘Just a bit.’
I nodded.
‘I think it’s time you went to bed.’
‘No, not yet.’
I picked her up and carried her to our little nook; placing her onto a pile of ragged blankets I had begged Ruk to get us. I pulled a blanket up to her chin and kissed her hairline.
I went to stand up, but Mervie clutched my hand, and pulled on it lightly, so I perched myself beside her, getting comfy in the rags.
She leaned on my arm, snuggling into it.
‘I’m glad you’re here,’ she whispered.
I didn’t reply, thinking about what she had said. If I wasn’t here I would be at school, with my friends. We would be okay and training. I wouldn’t be locked up, having to hit on a guy that smelt like he barely bathed, and when he did, the water had fish guts in it.
I also would not have met Mervie, a sweet and intelligent child. And I loved Mervie.
‘I’m glad that I met you,’ I decided on. That summed it all up, just nicely. I fell asleep with my solace.
...
I woke up to Mervie in my embrace. I eased her off and jostled up, rubbing my eyes and stumbling slightly as I ambled to the cell doors.
‘Kurlz!’
I jumped at the sound of my name and saw Ruk standing at the bars, leaning against them.
‘Ruk! What are you doing here?’ I said, stepping forward. ‘You never come this early.’
‘I just wanted to see you,’ he shrugged, his smile a little bashfully.
I grinned at him, then tilted towards him, to give him a hug, and he didn’t stink so bad. Had he been bathing in clean water? For me?
He hugged back, sort of rocking me.
I felt my eyes closing, and I sank into his arms, letting myself be swayed.
I realised what I was doing, and pulled away from him, a little too abruptly. Yearning for reassurance, I actually sought for it in a troll.
‘What’s wrong?’ he asked.
‘Oh... nothing,’ I mumbled.
He opened his arms waiting for me to embrace him. I didn’t.
He frowned.
‘I’m just tired,’ I lied.
Ruk stepped into the cell and walked to the wall.
‘What?’ I said.
‘I shouldn’t be here,’ he said.
‘I know.’
‘I don’t usually shower, but I did for you. I used soap and fresh water. I brushed my teeth and washed my clothes.’
‘Oh, I thought you were reeking particularly less gross today,’ I informed.
‘You’re not getting it Kurlz.’
‘Not getting what?’
‘That I’m doing it all for you! Everything I do. The extra food, the extra water. I spend so much time here; the others are questioning my business when I’m visiting.’
I didn’t reply.
‘They’re getting suspicious.’
‘Then don’t come.’
‘I don’t want to not come! I want to be with you! You just don’t seem to appreciate the fact that I’m sacrificing a lot for you.’
I bit my lip. He had been gruff when I first met him, a usual prison guard, now he was being all sentimental. I guess I had softened him over the weeks. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.
‘I’m sorry. But I’m a little put off by the fact that I’m stuck here forever.’
Ruk stepped forward, and grabbed my arms.
‘I want to let you out. I would have you free if I could. But I can’t. You’ll die!’
‘I can take care of myself,’ I pulled away from him. ‘I can handle things, and it is insulting that you think I’m some fragile little girl or something.’
He sighed impatiently.
‘I know you aren’t a fragile little girl. It’s just that they are more powerful than you are.’
‘Fine, I get it. Thanks for making my life here more bearable, I won’t be so inattentive to your giving’s in the future. Happy now?’
‘Not quite.’
He pulled me close and mashed his lips onto mine, and it took everything I have not to pull away and puke out my guts and become a sloppy sack of skin. I almost laughed at the idea, but then remembered I was being disgusted.
I pushed him away.
‘What was that for?’
‘Huh?’
‘Your breath is rank!’
Ruk glowered.
‘I brushed my teeth.’
‘Once, I bet. Your breath still isn’t anything close to minty, you know.’
‘I’m sorry my foulness disgusts you,’ he said sarcastically.


‘Don’t worry, I forgive you. Next time, just don’t kiss me unless I say you can.’
‘Geez, you’re making this difficult.’
‘What?’
‘Being with you.’
‘Then dump me,’ I suggested.
‘I don’t want to dump you! I love you, you mean everything to me!’
‘No I don’t. You just met me.’
‘So?’
‘You’ll get over me when I die.’
‘You’re not going to die.’
I paused.
‘You wanna know something?’
‘What?’
‘The man who knocked me out before I came here was about to kill me, but he stopped. Do you wanna know what he told me when I asked why he didn’t?’
‘What?’
‘Someone else was supposed to end my life.’
Ruk flinched.
‘So the longer I stay here, the closer my death is. I would rather die knowing I tried to get out of this hell hole, than linger in the dark, waiting for my execution.’
Ruk paused.
‘I’ll get you out.’
‘What?’ I hadn’t been expecting that.
‘Tomorrow night, you’re out of here.’
I looked at him, then smiled.
‘Really? Mervie, too?’
‘Mervie?’ he said, puzzled.
‘The girl in my cell. I can’t leave her.’
He paused.
‘Okay. For you.’ He looked like he’d rather shoot himself than save Mervie, but I didn’t care.
‘Serious?’
‘Yes. You’re going home.’
...
I could barely contain my excitement. My skin was practically buzzing like a swarm of bees, my blood streaming faster than bullets through my veins, my stomach churned and my heart was pounding.
I was smiling all over and almost skipping as I walked over to Mervie, who was now fully awake.
She seemed to notice a change in me.
‘Why are you so happy? Is it because your boyfriend kissed you?’
My smiled dropped, and I glared at her.
‘One, he’s not my boyfriend, and two, why would I be happy that he kissed me? His breath is foul, and I don’t like him.’
‘So, why are you so happy?’
‘Because, we might be getting out tomorrow night.’
‘Really? We’re being freed?’
‘Ruk is gonna try and bust us out of here. Did you hear that? Try.’
‘Okay.’
‘Good, so are we all packed?’
Mervie didn’t reply.
‘Right. We don’t have anything to pack. Good point, very smart of you,’ I patted her on the head.
‘Did Ruk bring breakfast?’
‘Uh... not exactly.’
‘Why not?’
‘Well, you see, he’s bringing breakfast later. He just came here to visit me.’
She gazed up at me and smiled.
‘Ha ha, well, why don’t you go back to sleep until the meal has arrived, huh?’ I pushed her along to our little niche, making sure she settled into the covers.
‘I’m not tired, you know. I’m wide, wide awake.’
‘I can see that,’ I muttered, irritated. I didn’t need her annoying me about Ruk. ‘Just lay down, close your eyes and do not speak. Sound good?’
‘Not really.’
‘I don’t care, get into bed.’
Mervie pouted. ‘I don’t want to.’
‘Well, if you don’t mind, I’ll be over there,’ I said, gesturing with my head in some random direction, then started heading that way.
‘Hey!’ she cried, grabbing my arm. ‘You said you’d stay with me!’
‘Ah, yes, I did. The thing is, you are not really helping at the moment, and I’m sure you are going to be pestering me with awkward questions.’
‘I won’t. I promise.’
I pretended to think about it, stroking my chin.
‘Alright then. But, if you do, I’m gonna hang out with Ruk, because that would be better than listening to you.’
‘Yeah, okay.’
I lowered myself onto the blankets and Mervie sat in my lap, looking at me.
‘Tell me a story.’
‘Um... okay. A story.’
Then I proceeded to twist a tale for her, and it was obviously quite amusing. All I can say is that it was better than Quex’s.
...
It was night time and I was fitful with anticipation.
Would we make it? Could we get out of here? Or would we get caught, and probably die?
I didn’t know any of the answers to these questions, and the only way they would be answered was if I went through with the whole escaping scheme. I could manage that. Right?
‘Kurlz?’ Ruk whispered, startling me. ‘Are you ready?’
‘Not really, but let’s do this thing anyway.’
‘That girl is with you too?’
‘I’m right here,’ Mervie replied, hopping up and down to make herself seen. ‘Can we get out of here now? This is really boring.’
Ruk scowled at her, then looked back at me.
‘Are you sure you want her to come? We could just leave her if you wanted.’
‘I want her to come, and she’s coming.’
Ruk sighed. ‘Fine. She can come.’
‘Anyway, how are we getting out of this place? I must ask.’
‘Well, I told one of my chiefs that I’m taking you out for a tour of the gore fest.’
‘Oh, how lovely. Very romantic.’
‘Yeah, anyway, I don’t have keys to the outside or anything, but that’s because of my power. Anyway, so I let you out with the walking through walls thing, and you both will have to run. Seriously, you will have to bolt. If you feel like stopping; don’t. Because if you stop; you die. Is that clear?’
‘I don’t think you could be any more blatant,’ I informed.
‘Good. Are you a fast runner?’
‘I’m okay.’
‘Well, do better than your best, got it? Don’t stop, don’t even think about it. Even if you are on the verge of collapsing, do not stop ru-’
‘I get it!’ I interrupted. ‘Run. Don’t stop. Stopping equals death.’
Ruk finally seemed satisfied by this and his shoulders relaxed.
‘Good, good. Now, if we meet anyone while we are going in the wrong direction, I’ll make up a lie. We all good on this plan?’ He looked at both of us.
‘It’s not really a plan, is it?’ I said. ‘It really is a truly bad one, you do realise that?’
‘Well, it’s the best I got.’
‘Your best? Fantastic,’ I mumbled, very unenthusiastically.
...
I was in the middle of Mervie and Ruk.
I was holding Mervie’s hand and pulling her along with me. Ruk was on my right trying unsuccessfully to try and hold my hand, which was kind of awkward. When he asked why I refused him, I came up with a convincing lie and said, “if someone sees us holding hands, we’re dead”. That was true, but the real reason was because I didn’t want his dirty mitts touching me, but he nodded and turned away, believing me.
A troll, much larger than Ruk, walked towards us. He was tall, towering over me and I felt minuscule in his shadow. Mervie must feel so abundantly worse. My heart beat when I saw him, and I thought he was going to rip my throat out and start munching on it, but he just glared. He gave Ruk a nod, and Ruk did the same and snarled at me.
‘What was that for?’ when the troll was out of sight.
‘What was what for?’
‘You snarled at me.’
‘Oh, right. I did. That’s because, I want it to be more believable that I hate your guts and all.’
‘That sounds lovely,’ I muttered. ‘You know just what to say to make me feel better.’
He smiled at me. ‘I’m glad.’ There was no joke in his voice.
Ruk obviously didn’t understand what sarcasm was. He was pretty dull all through, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.
‘Yep, and you’re absolutely gorgeous this evening,’ I added just for fun.
‘Aw... you’re the best,’ he said, and went to give me a hug, but then another troll turned a corner and headed our way, so he quickly covered up the gesture by growling in my face, making his features warp into a more hideous facade and bellowed, ‘If you don’t shut your trap, scum, I’ll beat you senseless!’
The man passing roared with enjoyment, and patted Ruk on the back with much force.
‘You tell her, Ruk!’ he yelled, and strode along, still rumbling loudly. He might have been saying something, but I couldn’t tell.
‘Geez, again with the yelling in my face,’ I muttered.
‘Sorry, you know I don’t mean it,’ Ruk apologized.
‘Sure you don’t. What I think is, you’re just letting off some of your annoyance at me, and pretending it’s for my sake,’ I shook my head. ‘That’s low.’
Ruk scowled, which was pretty good timing as a group of troll creatures trudged passed.
‘Where is everyone going?’ I asked, turning to look at the backs of them.
‘There’s something special going on,’ he shrugged.
‘Is that why you thought the breakout would be good tonight?’
‘Uh... yeah...’
I rolled my eyes.
Ruk continued.
‘I wasn’t invited of course, being a prison guard isn’t worth much around here, I suppose. Even though I keep crazed lunatics locked up and everyone safe.’
I stared at him sceptically, and he looked down, possibly even blushing.
‘Alright, I only guard prisoners that are not dangerous,’ he admitted. ‘But, I will.’
I continued to look at him, waiting.
‘Okay, we don’t have crazed lunatics. And even if we did, and they got out, they would be the ones in danger.’
I nodded, satisfied.
‘You didn’t have to make my job sound so pathetic,’ he grumbled.
‘I didn’t say anything, you did. But your job is pathetic, by the way. I just thought I would mention that, because honesty is the best policy,’ I paused, while Ruk said something unintelligible. ‘I actually don’t believe that, because other things are much more important, such as saving people or at least not killing them, if they are good and all, and sometimes it is better to lie.’
‘So, you’re a liar?’ he said.
‘I like to call it misleading, or even joking without the other person aware of the jest. It sounds so much better than a liar, don’t you think?’
‘I have no problem with lying. I lied for you, to keep you safe. But besides that, I’m usually deceptive anyway. I was just hoping we had something in common.’
‘Yes, well, that’s great and all, but shall we forget about that conversation. Perhaps rewind. Then we can start over again at the last bit where you weren’t invited to this “something special”?’
Ruk made a face at the reminder of him being excluded, but continued anyway.
‘The special thing, well I don’t know what it’s about. No one tells me anything. I didn’t even know you were put in my cell until you were asking for dinner.’
‘Oh, yes, our first meeting. What a time that was. Absolutely spectacular.’
Ruk took on a wistful look. ‘Yeah, it was, wasn’t it?’
‘Not really, I was joking. That was a horrible day, because I got stuck in a dank cell.’
‘By joking you mean...?’
‘Lying, yes.’
Ruk inclined his head, not looking too pleased.
‘Don’t get all huffy just because I hate being kept prisoner. It’s nothing personal.’
‘Okay, I get it, I’m fine.’
‘As you should be.’
Mervie had been quiet up until this point.
‘Are we almost there?’ she chirped. ‘This place is smelly.’
Ruk glared at her and I almost blurted out, “try having troll-boy kissing you”, but shut my mouth and kept silent, though it would have been amusing to see Ruk’s reaction to my jibe.
‘Yes, we are almost there,’ Ruk replied finally, as we rounded a corner just as bare as the hall we had been walking down.
Bare. That’s all everything had been in a long time, I was ready for a cluttered room filled with knick-knacks and intricate details of the person that lived there.
‘But, until then, please do shut up.’
‘Whoa!’ I said, holding up my hands. ‘You’re using please now? When did that happen?’
‘Just then.’
‘I’m a good influence on you, then. Despite the fact I have never said please in front of you. That I can remember, anyway.’
‘You’re not that angelic, you know?’
‘Did I say anything about angelic? I was merely stating that I am better than you, and that’s starting to rub off a bit.’
‘Thanks.’
So, Ruk could use sarcasm, but he didn’t get it when people were using it on him. He obviously needed a little guidance in that area. Too bad there would be no time for that, since I was getting out of there soon. Or dying. Most likely dying with Ruk’s horrible planning skills.
The thought didn’t really comfort me, but I would die if I didn’t try and get out of here. I knew that, I saw reason in that, but that didn’t change the fact that I was still damn scared.
We arrived at yet another corner, but instead of rounding it, Ruk stop, and put out his arm so Mervie and I would do the same.
‘What is it?’ I whispered, frightened of what had made Ruk pause.
He turned to look at me. ‘Okay,’ he breathed. ‘We have arrived at the exit.’
‘So... why are we just standing here?’ I raised both eyebrows.
‘Well, there are two very brawny gate guards at the door, so maybe it would be best if we came up with something.’
‘Of course there are guards!’ I hissed. ‘They wouldn’t leave it unprotected. What kind of idiot would think there wouldn’t be guards?’
Ruk mumbled. ‘I hoped, that’s all.’
I sighed. ‘Did you come up with anything that involved getting passed something as likely as this? Or did you think you might get lucky, and your master was an imbecile?’
He did reply for a second, thinking.
‘I can try and walk through this wall,’ he tapped the stone, as though testing it.
‘Have you ever gone through something so thick?’ Something akin to your thick head, I wanted to add.
‘No, but I can try.’
‘Why don’t you distract the guards instead?’
‘And how do you suggest I do that?’ His face held boredom.
‘Okay, I don’t know. But if your test to go through the wall doesn’t work, then we’ll have to figure out a way to do that.’
Ruk nodded, and faced the wall. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and stepped into the stone.
It was quite strange to see someone just walk into solid rock like that, but I didn’t make a sound as he disappeared, just waited.
He burst out, gasping for breath like he’d been running for hours.
‘That’s... that’s really hard, that is,’ he puffed.
‘What is? Walking through it, or the rock?’
‘Both.’
‘Can you take Mervie and me through it?’
‘I don’t know. I might leave you half-way through, and you could be crushed.’
I mulled it over.
‘I don’t particularly like the thought of being flattened in there.’
‘Neither do I. But the kid...’ he glanced at her.
I frowned. ‘Don’t you dare finish that sentence, unless you’re saying “is awesome”, got it?’
‘Whatever. So, what are we gonna do?’
‘Just give me a minute, and I’ll come up with something brilliant, alright?’
I leaned against the wall, drumming on my forehead with my eyes squeezed shut.
My mind was straining, contemplating what we could do to get passed those guards.
Invisibility? No. It would take a while to make the potion, and we didn’t have the time. Plus, they didn’t have the ingredients.
Fight?
I stole a glance behind the edge to catch a glimpse of them.
No. Definitely no. They were far too big and muscular. We would get beat to a bloody mess, or they would just subdue us and raise the alarm.
But... what if...?
‘Ruk,’ I said calmly, trying not to show my excitement. ‘Do you know either of those watchmen?’
He screwed up his face and considered.
‘I know the bigger fellow. His name is Porg, no Prot, Plo-Polt, Port... Portly! That’s it. His name is Portly.’
‘Portly? Oh, how suitable.’
‘Why do you need to know his name?’
‘I don’t, you do.’
‘Do you have a plan?’
I smiled modestly. ‘I might have.’
‘Tell me.’
Then, I proceeded to tell him everything. Down to the “what if’s” and all. It wasn’t great, and I silently apologized for insulting Ruk for his bad schemes, but it was all I could think of, and so that would be what we would do. If it failed, we died. If we succeeded, there was a good chance we might die anyway.
...
Ruk straightened his back, puffed out his chest, lifted his head high and put on a glare to finish off the look. He held himself in a very straight and powerful stance, trying to show off some authority which he didn’t have.
I nodded in approval, and ushered him to go, and he marched round the bend and stalked down the hall to meet the two guards.
I was hidden with Mervie, in a little niche of darkness carved into the wall, listening to Ruk’s conversation, praying he did not falter.
‘Portly!’ he yelled. ‘You are required at the meeting! Immediately.’
There was a short pause.
‘Why am I required?’ His voice was like an earthquake, like rocks being thrown at each other, being grated up.
I panicked. I hadn’t thought of a reason for the troll to be at the special event. Idiot, idiot!
But Ruk didn’t even waver, but continued strongly, and I sighed with relief. At least he was quick on his toes.
‘Does it look like I stopped to ask? I have no business in the matter. I did not question orders, and neither should you. Now, get to it!’
For a second I thought that Ruk was going to get pummelled for mouthing the guard off, but I was surprised at the response.
‘Of course, Ruk. But, who will take my place?’
‘Me!’
‘You?’ Surprised.
‘Yes, me. Who else do you think is more qualified for the job? Now, go before I have to clobber you into leaving!’
‘Yes, alright.’
I waited a few seconds, then Portly walked passed, some confusion and bewilderment on his face and I shrunk further into the crevice.
Right now Ruk would be taking his position at the gate, and I would soon have to go over there, and see what happened.
‘Can you believe it?’ the other troll asked. ‘We are stuck here and Portly gets to go to the special meeting. Why does he get to go? Why is he so important? We have the exact same job. I’m probably even better at it than he is.’
‘Yeah, yeah. Just do what you’re meant to, okay?’
‘Don’t act all high and mighty!’ the other roared, angrily. ‘You’ve been only guarding that stupid cell of kids for years. And I protect the whole freaking castle.’
‘And yet, you weren’t invited to the gathering, were you? So, I’d just get back in line if I were you.’
I silently sent Ruk a message to ease up on the insults so he wouldn’t be walloped before I had a chance to make my entrance. Of course, with my lack of powers coursing through me, it probably didn’t work, and I just had to hope that Ruk used his common sense. If he had any, that is.
‘Don’t tell me what to do, Ruk!’
‘Please shut up, Ruk. Please, please, please, please...’ I whispered to myself over and over again.
‘Fine by me. I’m just saying, we have a job, and I intend to do it. That’s probably why I am being promoted.’
‘You’re... you’re being promoted?’
‘Yes, and so is Portly. You are, however, staying in the exact same place.’
I could tell from the silence that the other was scowling, possibly trying to control his anger, and not hit Ruk.
‘I will get a promotion. They’ll see how good I’ve done, and I’ll be shooting right up.’
‘That’s the spirit. Aim high.’
Now do I go? Is this where I go? Do I? Do I?
I decided I would go, and crept out of my hiding spot and was about to round the bend, when I ran straight into Portly.
He glared at me, and I stared back, terrified.
This was not how the plan was supposed to go. This was wrong. All wrong.
He grabbed me by the arm and I thought it might break, crying out in pain.
Ruk gasped and came running and his eyes grew wide with shock as he saw me and Portly.
‘I was just going to give you this,’ he informed, holding up his sharp and jagged axe. ‘And then I saw this girl.’
I didn’t know what to do. I was going to die, I could feel it, creeping into me.
‘Guess I still need it,’ he raised his axe high and went for the kill, but Ruk stopped him, grabbing his arm and yanking it down.
‘Are you crazy?’ Ruk shouted in his face. ‘This was one of my prisoners! She is meant to be executed by him.’
Portly stared at me, almost fearful.
‘You mean... Terium?’
Ruk nodded solemnly, and I wondered who the hell Terium was.
‘I almost killed her!’
‘And then you would have paid the price. You’re lucky I was here to stop you. Now, hand her over, and I’ll deal with her.’
Portly went to hand me over, then stopped.
‘Better raise the alarm, just in case,’ he went to his wrist and went to press a red button.
‘NO!’ Ruk flew to the mechanism, but it was too late. Portly had pushed the icon and it started flashing brightly.
Sirens started to whine, shrilling in my ears. I tried to block out the sound, but it was pounding in my head and I fell to my knees.
‘What’s wrong with you Ruk?’ Portly asked. ‘Why did you try to stop me? She’s probably dangerous. We need back up.’
Ruk was going red, and his muscles were bulging hugely. Growing?
‘Uh... Ruk?’
Ruk boomed, then seized Portly’s head and rammed it into the stone wall.
Portly didn’t even have time to react, no time to call out in fear. He was thrust into the wall, his head lodged into it, and when Ruk removed his arm, blood burst out at his neck, covering his body that had suddenly went limp.
I grimaced in disgust.
‘You have quite a temper,’ I informed Ruk.
It was then that the other troll had come running, and yelled in surprise.
‘What the hell happened here?’
He caught a glimpse of Ruk’s furious expression, and backed away, then started to run back where he had come, screaming.
Ruk roared and followed, charging after his next victim with a kind of eager rage.
I followed him, just in time to witness the gruesome attack.
This time he had not plunged him in head first, but most of his body. His legs stuck out, broken and at horribly odd angles, the skin split along its length. His hands were splintered from the impact. The head had gaping eyes, staring sightlessly, and it looked as though he were crying blood. The back of his skull had erupted and a bit of... brain, maybe, was sticking out, along with shards of his cranium. His mouth was cascading with crimson, teeth and a tongue. He was fountaining blood, oozing and spraying.
I kept down my measly dinner, and averted my eyes from the grisly scene.
Ruk turned to me, and there was still a burning urge to kill in his eyes.
I was filled with terror as he looked at me, knowing he would do the same to me if he could. He was out of control, high on murder.
‘Ruk,’ I whispered, despite the shriek of the alarm. ‘It’s me, Kurlz. We need to get out of here. People are coming. They’ll kill us both.’
He glared at me, then a hint of recognition was lit and his breathing slowed his expression softening, and his muscles receded to their normal size. He looked exhausted, and I thought he might faint, but he kept his balance and stumbled towards me, taking me in an embrace, that was more welcomed than throwing me into the wall.
‘Mervie!’ I called, still holding Ruk. ‘Hurry! Now!’
Mervie hurried to my side, and I hid her view of the dead troll, putting a hand over her eyes.
I pushed Ruk off, and stared at him. I heard feet rumbling down the corridors now, and yelling. They were close, we had to get out now.
‘Ruk. We have to go,’ my voice was urgent.
He gazed at me.
‘Ruk! We have to go! NOW!’
It got his attention, and he looked around, his eyesight seemed as though to clear.
‘What... what...?’
‘We are going to die if you do not get us out.’
Ruk took hold of my arm.
‘What’s going on?’
‘The alarm has been raised. If we don’t go now, we’ll all die. Do you understand? Can you hear me? We’re about to die!’
‘They’re coming!’ he yelled, frightened. ‘They’re going to kill us!’
I pushed him onto the steel gate.
‘GET US OUT, NOW!’ I screamed.
Ruk was wide-eyed.
‘NOW! NOW! NOW!’
I heard them. They were about to come around the corner, and when they did, they would have us, and I would be captured again. I would be killed. And so would my sweet Mervie.
I needed fire in my hand, or a sword. I needed something. Anything.
I tried, but nothing came, and the back of my neck pierced with a freezing coldness. I hissed, slapped the nape of neck and pulled something icy off of it which brought a painful throb. I stared at it. It was gold with a red gem on it. It was glinting, but the flashes were becoming less frequent, then they ended. I suddenly felt a surge of power and it felt good. I knew this was the thing that had been keeping my power from me. I shoved it into my pocket, saving it for later, it might come in handy.
‘There they are!’ someone shouted, and they came after us, bolting down the hall.
I whirled to meet them, buzzing with my newly returned abilities, fury fuelling me. My hands splayed and they were outstretched towards my onrushing attackers.
I gave out a breathy snarl and jets of continuous flames exploded from my palms, blazing the trolls, making them catch on fire. I did not stop, not even as I saw them shriek and crumple over. Not even as they lay dead, charred and ash-ridden. It was magic; it was death in my control.
Finally, I halted, and hissed. My hands were hot and sweaty and I wiped them on my grimy shirt and faced Ruk.
‘Get. Us. Out. Now,’ I whispered menacingly.
Ruk nodded, then all three of us slipped through the door and started to run as more groups of trolls hastened after us.

Terium was ready. He was not one bit nervous, not one bit hesitant. He was completely and utterly in control. There was nothing that could douse his composure.
His brunette tresses were bouncing lightly as he swept the elegant halls that were for him especially. No trolls roamed his halls. No stains marked his domain; no imperfections could scar his pristine.
He did not pass a soul, but if he had, they would have been stared down by his terrible gaze, and they would shrink back and avert their eyes, despite their brawn and mammoth size. No one would match him; they would fall in line and shut up. Just as Terium liked it.
When he entered the room, everyone turned in their chairs, or craned their neck to try and get full view of the figure that had just entered. There had been a babble of chit-chat in the room when he arrived, and now it had suddenly ceased into hushed regard. A desirable entrance which had everyone with sealed lips in reverence.
He gave the congregation a superior glance, then, with his nose high in the air, he floated down the aisle. He held his cape in close, so it would not snag on a chair and ruin his gracious gait; to not crouch over and fiddle with the fabric until it yielded and he would have to straighten himself, even though the effect had already been marred. It was also so that nothing would touch the filth of the trolls, or any other creature that sat in the pews. He liked his clothing uncontaminated.
Terium reached the platform, skipped up, and swung his cape, letting it ripple to his side melodramatically. He faced his crowd, leaning over the lectern and gripping the sides, his sharp nails digging into the black walnut wood.
‘Greetings,’ he addressed into the microphone, his voice as satiny as the cloak he was enfolded in. ‘A few of you may know the reason why I am bringing you here for this gathering. For others this will come as a surprise that I hope you find as delightful as I do.’
No one spoke, and Terium smiled lightly.
‘And so, I’m sure you would like me to get to the point of it all, and so I shall. As all of you know, I am creating an army far greater than anyone has seen in centuries. Thousands are going to go to war. And you all know that this army is for the benefit of a particular school that I resent; The School for Mutants and Anomalies,’ his voice seethed with abhorrence as he spoke the name of the school, and he willed himself to calm.
A few murmured in agreement to his hate.
‘In fact, my army is almost ready. And when it is completed, we can march. For I have come into the possession of their Aegis Sphere!’ Terium produced the orb from his cloak and lifted it high above his head as though he was a triumphant winner of a rare trophy.
There was a great buzzing as people discussed this great outcome.
‘And you are all probably wondering how I came to receive this magnificent piece of advantage. It is my great honour to say that my own assistant, Arktik Borvolo, obtained it!’ Terium gave a grin, setting down the orb on the lectern. ‘So, I would like Mr Borvolo to come up here and be rewarded with your appreciative applause.’
Arktik hesitated. He was the real Arktik, and remembered everything he had done as Terium. It was horrific. Now he was starting to sweat, his fingers fidgeting with the hem of his dirty vest.
Terium hid his displeasure at the man refusing his hinted demand. So, he decided to cover it up with a little put on humour.
‘Ah... it seems as though Mr Borvolo has come down with some stage fright. But, I would very much like it if you came up now.’
Arktik caught the clue this time, and edged up onto the stage and gave a rigid bow as far away as he could from Terium. The audience clapped in rhythm, then Arktik quickly exited the platform and took a seat, his eyes a tad glazed.
‘Thank you, Borvolo. You have done a great deal into helping me destroy the school.’
Arktik almost broke down there and then. He could feel tears in his eyes and his body just wanted to keel over into a outburst of sobbing. But he summed up his self-control and sat, slightly rocking back and forth.
‘As you can see, the Aegis Sphere is still well intact, meaning it is still working and protecting that wretched place. This has a simple explanation as to why. You see, when the sphere is destroyed, the principal is full well of it, and will be trying to get hold of another one before they can be attacked. And we may not be ready when they have another. And of course, the place of hiding for it will be improved so much, so that it doesn’t happen again. Security would be tight, and it would be hard to get at it again. And, in addition, they would be aware that someone is trying to attack them. And that would be very unfortunate. So, the sphere will only be destroyed when we are almost on the gates of the school. Then, we will have surprise on our hands and they will all be scrambling around, the principal running for the area where it should be. Then we can breach the walls and burn it to the ground.’
They all cheered, and then Terium yelled out words of demolishment, and the others chanted them after him.
‘We will burn! We will kill! We will annihilate! We will blow up! We will shatter! We will erupt! We will explode!’
The assembly stamped their feet and howled.
‘We will reduce it to ashes! Nothing and no one will survive! Death, death, death!’
Terium leered. ‘We will be victorious!’
Arkitk hid in the turmoil of roars, feeling like he might collapse. What had he done? He had given the safety of thousands of people into the hands of a vindictive murderer. Terium would crush it into his fist, clawing at it with his talons. Everyone would die, and he had helped significantly.
‘They will d-!’
Terium was cut off by a sudden shrilling of an alarm. A prisoner was trying to escape the castle.
His face boiled red, and he screamed.
No! This was not supposed to happen!
And then it dawned on him. It was that red-headed girl. He knew it.
‘Guards! Get them! Get them!’ he ordered, then left the room himself.
He had been saving the girl for later, like the best morsel on a plate of goods, he had thought about killing the school, letting her see the destruction, then murder her afterwards. But now... He would get her earlier than expected. Today was the day she died.

I was practically dragging Ruk from the enormous grey castle when he let us slip through the gate and into the night air. I didn’t even have time to register and despise the prison, for my focus was Ruk. He was still rather disconcerted from his paroxysm. I was still trying to shun the images of the recently deceased trolls from my head, despite the fact that they were as good as branded into my retinas, and every time I blinked I saw them. A slide show with every flicker of my lids. Click, click, click...
I ran, knowing they were behind us. They wouldn’t stop. They would just keep coming, legs almost rupturing with muscle. My own legs screamed for me to stop, but I didn’t. Stopping equals death. You stop, you die. That was burnt in my head as much as the deformed figures of those ogres.
‘Ruk!’ I screamed in his ear. ‘Move! I can’t keep pulling you along!’
He quickened his pace, but not enough.
‘MOVE YOUR FREAKING BUTT!’ I screeched.
He stared at me, and I wanted to hit him. I wanted to release my fear, my anger, but it was my only fuel to keep going.
‘RUN!’
Ruk started pumping his legs, and I was the one who had to keep up with him, Mervie clinging to me in terror.
Arrows were streaming passed us and they whistled in my ear as they missed. But soon they would hit, and they would plunge into my soft flesh. No doubt about it.
I was puffing, my breath loud and gasping. I was becoming exhausted, but I couldn’t halt.
‘You stop, you die,’ I chorused to myself. ‘You stop, you die. You stop... you die.’
Ruk pushed me in front of him, protecting me. It vaguely entered my mind that I was grateful, yet I didn’t want him to get hurt. Infliction affecting both of us; a disease.
We were sprinting. And then... Ruk collapsed.
I stared in disbelief at the arrow sticking out from his shoulder.
No... he couldn’t be hit. He couldn’t die. This was impossible. A lie. But... it wasn’t. It was plainly true; I just didn’t want to believe the evident.
And then the realisation hit me like I’d also been shot, and I was surprised to see no blooming roses igniting my skin. He was... he was my friend. I didn’t love him in the way he thought, but over the time, his company had become comforting. He was willing to risk his life so I could live. He visited often, gave me food that could get him into trouble, and asked for nothing in return. I was aware now of the truth, and it made this whole thing so much worse.
Hot tears leaked from my eyes and I cried out.
I swivelled around and charge blindly at the killers, common sense an absurd notion. My human formed ripped apart, shredded like Christmas wrapping, and I burst out as an immense wolf and howled. I felt like the demise of all, I was murder, I was death.
The trolls stopped for a second, but I did no such thing, and pummelled right through them.
I bite into one’s throat and tore it out, spitting it out immediately whilst clawing at another’s eyes. I crushed his head with my paw as he feel, and his skull shattered underneath, his blood drenching my foot before I slammed it into a troll’s stomach and he retched. I leaped onto his back and it gave a satisfactory crack. My teeth enclosed a fat head and I mangled it as I chomped my jaw close, one of my lower canines gauging out an eye, popping it out like ice from its’ tray.
Their screams of pain and fear as I slaughtered them relentlessly, was like an addictive melody.
One of them tried to run off, but I chased him and shut my muzzle around his neck, then crunched down hard and wrenched his head off, flinging it back into the group of survivors.
Most of them were now dead, and the rest were severely injured and did not get back up, hoping they would not be noticed in the debris of dead.
I bounded to Ruk’s side and stared at him, my chest pounding. Was he alive?
He blinked and clutched at me with his eyes.
‘Kurlz...’ he croaked. ‘Good bye...’
Anger came over me.
‘You are not going to die!’ I hissed. ‘You’ve been hit by an arrow in the shoulder. Not the heart, now get up before I kill you.’
He didn’t move.
I growled, then grabbed the back of his shirt and swung him onto my back.
‘Hang on,’ I commanded, and he obeyed to my relief.
I turned to Mervie who had gone pale.
‘Get on.’
She looked at me frightened, and I wondered what she had made of me now, seeing me kill those trolls. I must look like a monster. I was scared she may never look at me the same way, as her haven in the deathly fog that had shrouded us both. Had I become the menace in the mist?
My face softened, and I stepped forward.
‘Mervie, it’s still me. I’m still Kurlz; I’m not going to hurt you, okay? We’re friends, remember? I’m trying to help you, to save you.’
She didn’t reply.
‘Mervie, I know that looked bad. But if I hadn’t done that, we could be dead right now. Now, please, get on.’
She nodded silently after a pause, then grabbed my fur and clambered onto my neck, gripping onto my scruff.
‘You on tight?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ her voice was quiet.
‘Good.’
And I started running.
...
Running. The steady rhythm of my drum. My only ease, the only thing that felt real. My paws thudded on the ground, so stable, so sure. My existence was that sound, the feel of that unwavering beat.
But my legs were weary after a few hours and we needed shelter. The land seemed so barren, and I wondered if we would ever find anywhere to take refuge for the night.
Mervie was shivering and pressed herself into my thick fur, trying to get warm. And Ruk was loosening his grip, and soon he would be slipping off. He was dying and I didn’t know how to save him. His blood had wet my pelt, but I could tell that the flow was stopping. But he needed medical attention, and very soon.
‘Mervie, are you okay?’ I whispered.
She nodded into my fur, but I didn’t believe her. She was not okay. She was scarred from all the death and being locked up in that cell. But at least she was alive, and that was all I could ask for at the moment.
I was certain that I had lost any trolls that had been after us, and that consoled me, but not that much. I still had the worry of the two people on my back, foolishly depending on me.
And then my wonderful vision blessed my eyes with the sight of a cave up ahead. I pretty much burst with relief, and I became dizzy with it, almost swaying.
I altered my direction slightly to be running straight for our place of sleep for the night.
‘Mervie,’ I whispered.
‘What is it?’
‘I found shelter,’ I informed brightly.
‘Really?’ her voice perked up immensely.
‘Yes. Can you see that cave up ahead?’
She squinted, searching for it.
‘Uh... no.’
‘I wouldn’t think so,’ I replied. ‘My eyesight is better than yours.’
‘Hey!’
‘But it’s true. I’m just saying. It’s one of my powers. It’s got nothing to do with your rubbish eyes.’
‘My eyes aren’t rubbish!’
‘Yes, of course they aren’t. They are a beautiful chocolate colour.’
‘Thanks. I got them from my mother.’
She suddenly became quiet after this, and I didn’t know what to say, so we were silent for a minute.
‘I’m sure your mum is fine,’ I finally said.
‘How can you be sure?’
‘I can’t, but you just have to believe, okay? You’ve got to have faith.’
‘You said never to get my hopes up,’ Mervie pointed out.
‘I said don’t get your hopes up about getting out of the cell,’ I corrected. ‘There is a difference, you know.’
‘What difference?’
‘You can’t lose confidence with your family. But with me, it’s just fine. You have expectations from them, that you can’t have with me. That’s the difference.’
Mervie nodded. ‘Okay.’
‘Good.’
‘But, you did get me us out of there,’ she said.
‘Yes, I did.’
‘So, I do believe in you.’
‘You shouldn’t put your trust in me just yet,’ I warned.
‘Why not?’
‘You still may be disappointed.’
‘How?’
‘We still haven’t survived yet. Getting out of there was just part one. The much bigger part, but still only the first bit. We still have to get back to the school. I need to tell them about what happened, and what is going to happen. You can come with me.’
‘Okay.’
‘Actually... maybe you shouldn’t,’ I changed my mind. ‘The school is in danger, and I just got you out of that.’
‘Not fully out of danger.’
‘Yeah, I know.’
‘Anyway, where would I go?’
‘Do you have relatives that you can live with?’
She paused, thinking.
‘I don’t know. Maybe.’
‘That’s helpful,’ I muttered. ‘Well, we’ll see what happens when we get there, okay?’
‘Okay.’
‘If we get there,’ I righted.
‘Yep. If.’
I smiled.
‘So if we get out of this, and if we get back to M.A. High, and if you have relatives, and if we can find them, and if they aren’t crazy, and if I can handle letting you go, then you can go off with them until this all blows over. If it does,’ I joked.
‘That’s a lot of ifs,’ Mervie remarked.
‘Yes, that is a lot. So, we don’t really have much hope. And that’s why you should not have faith in me.’
Mervie sighed.
‘But I still do.’
‘Yeah. I knew you would say that. I just hoped that you wouldn’t. Because you are gonna be in for a real let-down.’
Mervie shrugged. ‘I’ve lived through worse.’
I nodded, unable to say the words that popped into my head.
But you might not live through this.
I stayed silent, and I noticed that Mervie was less rigid than before, having relaxed a little. I couldn’t afford the pleasure of unwinding. I had to stay focused and alert.
The cave was so close now, just half a mile now, and soon I could try and help Ruk, and then sleep. Finally.
My knees almost buckled from under me when I reached the mouth of the cave, but I didn’t, luckily. I arched my neck and viewed my sleeping quarters for the night. It was a small hole sort of thing, but it tunnelled very far, as I could tell, into the ground. It sure would be fun to explore, but at the current situation, spelunking probably wasn’t the best thing to be doing at the moment.
‘Merve, time to get down,’ I whispered.
She roused herself and looked at her new surroundings.
‘Oh, this cave,’ she murmured, and I smiled.
‘Yes.’
She hesitantly slid off, then stumbled, and I grabbed her with my paw. She was a little shaky from not having used her legs in a few hours, so I steadied her.
‘You good?’
‘Yeah, I’m fine,’ she said, and sat down.
‘You gonna go to sleep now?’ I asked.
‘Not just yet.’
‘Uh huh,’ I nodded.
Now. How do I get Ruk off me?
‘Ruk?’
He moaned.
‘I’m gonna need your help for this.’
He gave a slight inclination of his head.
‘Alright, just ease your feet off my back, but keep your arms around my waist.’
Agonizingly slow, he did as I asked.
‘Okay,’ I said, when both of his feet had reached the ground. ‘Now, I’m gonna turn back into a human, so just hold on while I do that.’
I formed into a human and encircled Ruk’s wrists with my fingers, then guided him onto the stone floor, and he lay on his back, his head to one side.
Okay. How do I get this arrow out of his back?
I started to panic, having no idea what the hell to do. But then I willed myself to calm and close my eyes.
I learnt this in school. I knew it. They told us how to get arrows out.
I reached for the information but it was a little bit more difficult to get than I’d thought. I pushed and pushed until I remembered that one Health class I had attended.
If it was really deep, push it through to the other side of the body. If it wasn’t that far in, you had to very, very gently pull it out.
I examined the injury. It was about a few inches into the flesh. It probably wasn’t that deep because of his thick skin. I could pull it out. I sighed with relief. I don’t think I could handle stabbing the arrow further into him.
‘Ruk,’ I tapped him on the side of the head.
He moaned.
‘I’m gonna get the arrow out now. It might hurt a little, okay, it will hurt a lot. An arrow is in your back, it’s not gonna be a like a thorn in your foot. It’s gonna be painful, and it’s gonna take a while.’
Ruk groaned in protestation.
‘Yeah, maybe that wasn’t the most sympathetic thing to say. But I’m being honest with you, so you can brace yourself.’
He gurgled.
‘Don’t be a wuss. You need to get that arrow out now, and I’m the only one who can do it, so shut up.’
I breathed deeply and hung onto the arrow. I edged it slightly up and Ruk cried out.
‘I thought I told you to shut up.’
I took it in my hands again and slowly started to draw it out, hesitant and as tenderly as I could possibly be. It seemed endless, I didn’t even know how long I sat there trying to get the weapon out, but finally it came clear... and blood started to gushed out.
‘Oh great,’ I muttered, tearing a piece off of my shirt like I had for Denim, it was actually the same shirt, then bundled it up and pressed it against the wound. I got another longer strip and used it to tie the wad onto his body. My shirt had once been a quite long one, but now it was stretching at my stomach, threatening to show it.
I wiped my hands on my jeans and stood up.
‘Um... I guess that’s it,’ I said. ‘Get well, Ruk. I’m sure you will, but, yeah, I just wanted to say it.’
I pat his head resulting with a purr from the troll, then I flopped myself alongside Mervie and closed my eyes, enduring the weight of the day on my shoulders and I felt suddenly completely drained of any strength, I could barely reply when Mervie spoke to me.
‘You’re tired,’ she stated.
‘Indeed I am.’
She waited.
‘Thank you.’
‘Uh... for being tired?’ I wondered.
‘No, for saving me.’
‘Oh, that. Anytime I guess. But I would prefer if you didn’t need saving in the future. That would really be helpful. I’m just saying, I would if I had to.’
‘You didn’t have to,’ Mervie said. ‘You could have left me in the cell, and gone off with your boyfriend and I would not have delayed you.’
‘For the last time...’ then I realised Ruk was probably listening. ‘Don’t mention it,’ I ended lamely. ‘I couldn’t let you stay there. You’re my friend, my little sister, okay? I look out for you.’
I opened my eyes a tad and saw Mervie fidgeting with a stray string on her jacket.
‘I’ve never had a sister before,’ she whispered.
I finally understood that this was a big deal to her. Someone she wasn’t related to was showing interest in her, cared for her, and loved her.
I put my arm around her and gave her a little hug.
‘Neither have I,’ I informed. ‘Now I do, and she’s pretty fantastic.’
She raised her head and beamed at me.
‘Thanks.’ And she hugged me tightly.
‘You’re welcome, Merve.’
Then I closed my eyes and drifted off.

‘Who are you?’
My eyes flew open and I screamed.
The goblin in front of me screamed.
Mervie woke up and started to yelp.
Ruk stayed unconscious.
‘Who are you?’
‘Ah... Grilph... who are you?’
I calmed down, and stared at the creature. He was thin and a lacklustre aqua colour, his head abnormally large, as were his great grey eyes. His nose was extensive and crooked. His dark lips were thin and cracked. Small pointed ears poked from his head that possessed no hair. His long fingers and toes, which held nails that were sharp and dirty, were flexing. He was gripping a stick with gouge marks in it. He dropped it when he saw me staring at it fixedly.
‘Um... hello Grilph, I’m Kurlz. What are you doing here?’
Grilph scowled. ‘I live here!’ he said, indignant. ‘What I want to know is; what are you doing in my home?’
‘Your home?’ I cast an eye over the place. ‘You live here? In a cave?’
‘Yes!’
‘Not very homey, is it?’
Grilph fumed.
‘Why are you here?’ he yelled.
‘Taking shelter, how about you?’
‘I’m here, because this is where I live!’
‘Oh, I thought you were joking about that. Sorry.’
‘Get out!’
‘But-!’
‘I said, get out!’
‘Okay, I’m sorry I said your house sucks. Actually, I didn’t say that, but I thought it. But that’s only because it reeks of something foul, that’s all.’
Grilph snarled, and went to claw at me.
‘Wait! Stop that!’ I batted away his hand. ‘I’m sorry I came into your humble abode without asking your permission. That was wrong of me. But, I didn’t know it was a home. And I needed shelter, because my friend is hurt,’ I gestured to the immobile troll. Blood soaked the cloth that was strapped to him.
Grilph stared at me like I was crazy.
‘What?’
He didn’t say anything.
‘Grilph?’
‘What happened to him?’ he asked.
‘He was shot by an arrow.’
‘An arrow?’ I nodded. ‘Who shot him?’
‘A troll. One of the guards at the castle in that general direction.’ I indicated where we had come from.
His eyes went wide, and his mouth dropped open, revealing tiny razor teeth, like a young cat’s.
‘Terium’s castle?’
Terium. There was that name again. I had heard it when Ruk was saving my life. Apparently he was supposed to execute me, and Portly released me in fear.
This Terium didn’t seem very popular, though well-known.
‘That’s the one.’
‘Why were you there? How did you escape? You should be dead!’
‘Thanks. That’s really nice.’
‘I’m serious. No one ever gets out of there. They die. Horribly,’ his tone matched his words, but he looked so funny, I had to hold back laughter.
‘Uh huh.’
‘Why are you laughing?’
‘I’m not.’
‘You giggled,’ he accused.
‘No I didn’t.’
‘You did.’
I shook my head.
‘Nope.’
Grilph sighed. ‘Fine, have it your way.’
‘Alright.’
‘So, how did you get out of there?’
‘I walked through the gate,’ I replied, thinking about how I literally walked through it.
‘Just like that?’ he raised an eyebrow, dubious.
‘Well, no, not just like that,’ I replied. ‘I thought that it was obvious that there was a lot more to it.’
‘Such as?’
‘A few trolls died.’
‘How many?’
‘I don’t know, I didn’t stop to count.’
‘Did you kill them?’
‘Some of them, yes.’
Grilph stared at me in... awe?
‘Did you fight Terium?’
‘No, never met him in my life.’
‘Oh,’ he seemed disappointed, like it would have been good gossip for him and his goblin friends to talk about. I wondered if he had any friends.
‘Sorry that my escape isn’t as spectacular as you’d hope,’ I said sarcastically.
‘Don’t worry, it’s still very impressive.’
I sighed. Did none of these strange creatures get sarcasm?
‘Well, that’s reassuring.’
‘Yes, yes.’
He paused and thought. Then his grey eyes bulged.
‘Did you lead them here?’ he shrieked.
I stood back, alarmed.
‘Uh... if I did, we would be dead.’
‘So...’
‘You should take that as a no, due to the fact that you are talking to me right now.’
‘You could be a zombie,’ he mentioned.
‘Do you really think they would turn us into zombies and just leave us here? Really?’
‘No, I guess not.’
‘So, to make my answer as blunt as I can, no, I did not lead the trolls to your lair.’
Grilph tilted his head and his brow wrinkled into what looked like waves on the sea at sundown.
‘Lair?’
‘Fine, home,’ I rolled my eyes.
‘Well, yes, that’s very good and all. Escaping from death and not bringing the killers with you. But that still doesn’t change the fact that you broke into my home-’
‘Broke?’ I said in disbelief. ‘I didn’t break. For one, there’s no door or windows. I just strolled in.’
‘You came into my home without permission!’
‘I thought we were passed that. What with my splendid story about my exit. And how I killed all those trolls.’ I lay a hint in there, not that I would ever follow through with it.
‘Um... well, ah...’ Grilph got very nervous at this point, and a sparkle of sweat sparkled at his forehead. ‘Yes, we are passed that, but I’d feel so much better if you left.’
‘What? I have nowhere to go, and Ruk needs to rest! Please, let us stay.’
Grilph scuffed his bare feet on the dusty ground, kicking the twig he had released, and didn’t say anything.
‘Grilph?’
‘Okay... but only because if I don’t, you’ll kill me. And when he gets better,’ he pointed to Ruk, ‘you have to leave. You got that?’
‘Yes, sir!’ I saluted mockingly.
Grilph waved me off.
‘No need for razzing, young lady.’
‘Young lady?’ I raised an eyebrow.
‘Yes. You’re young and a lady of some sort, anyway.’
‘No one calls me that.’
‘Well, I just did. Old people use that sometimes.’
‘Old?’
‘Yes, I’m old. Much older than you would think from my appearance. I look quite youthful for a few centuries, don’t you agree?’
He smiled, his cheeks and forehead wrinkling like slept-in sheets.
‘Ah... if you don’t smile,’ I replied.
He frowned immediately.
‘You should respect your elders,’ he muttered.
‘Well, you’re not my elder. You’re old, I’m not saying you’re not or anything,’ Grilph didn’t appreciate that, but I ignored him. ‘But, you see, you are a goblin, and I am a werewolf, or part of that family. So, you’re not even in my species, you see?’
Grilph glared, and I looked around awkwardly.
‘Um... anyway...’ I coughed nervously.
He kept silent.
‘Well, uh... how about we take no notice of each other, eh?’ I suggested.
‘And leave you to your business in my -’
‘Home?’ I ended. ‘I suppose not. Should we have a nice little chat instead? Tell me about your old-man adventures.’
‘I don’t think I like you,’ Grilph informed, unnecessarily.
‘Really? I thought so. I could kind of tell by the way you shoot me daggers, and tell me to leave.’
‘Maybe I should ignore you.’
‘That’s a great idea, but I think you stole it from something earlier I said. That’s probably why I think it’s so excellent,’ I grinned, which he returned with a bigger scowl.
‘Wipe that smirk off your face.’
‘What smirk? I’m smiling. You should do it more often. Oh, no wait, didn’t I tell you not to before, because is made you look old or weird or something.’
‘Yes. Yes, you did.’
I nodded.
‘Who is she?’ he indicated to the girl who was hiding behind my legs.
‘That’s Mervie,’ I replied brightly, patting her slightly matted hair.
‘Was she in the castle, too?’
‘Uh huh.’
He stared.
‘Well... this is kind of awkward,’ I said.
Grilph spun on his heel and trailed down the tunnel, without another word or signal that the conversation was over. That was weird.
‘He’s a little strange, isn’t he?’ Mervie pronounced.
‘Indeed.’
‘Can we have breakfast?’
That made me halt. What was I going to do about food? There didn’t seem to be a damn thing to eat in a two mile perimeter. But that was probably exaggerating, not by that much though. Water was pretty sparse by my judgment, as well.
‘Um... excuse me for a second, okay?’ I tapped her on the head, then cautiously followed the path Grilph had taken down the passageway.
It was getting darker as I walked, but that was not a problem. What the worry was that the ground was getting slippery with moisture and I had to watch my step, or I would fall and slide down the gradual slope. And who knew what I might tumble into then?
‘Grilph?’ I called warily.
Two orbs flashed at me, then they turned to slits.
‘I thought we were ignoring each other,’ he scorned.
‘Really? Oh, yes.’
‘You’re not allowed down here.’
‘You never said that, you just left without telling me our little chat was finished. And you especially did not tell me that I could not come down here.’
‘What do you want?’
I was about to ask him where I could fine food, but, ‘are you invisible?’ came out instead.
‘What?’
‘Because, I have night-vision, but I can only see your eyes. Why is that?’
If I could see his mouth, I would probably see it curling into a smug smile.
‘No, but my skin can melt into the darkness so well that not even Night-Seers, such as yourself, can see me,’ he said conceitedly.
‘Well, good on you. Anyway, where can I find food?’
Grilph seemed a little disappointed at my abrupt change of subject, thoroughly wanting to gloat some more about his abilities, and confounding my sight.
‘I expect you want me to go foraging for you? Is that it?’ he muttered darkly.
‘No, I want to know where I can find food. That is what I asked.’
He acted as though I had been silent. ‘I’ll just be back with something, okay? Don’t have to badger me about it,’ he said and flittered off before I could stop him.
‘I didn’t ask you to,’ I said. To myself of course, because no one else was around to hear it.
I waited a minute, drumming my fingers on my waist as I did so.
What was his problem? He was thinking I was expecting him to become my slave or something. Maybe he was being all “accommodating” because he thought I was a killer.
Was I a killer? The thought, or even revelation, popped in my head, taking me aback. I had never killed anyone before. But I mercilessly slaughtered those trolls as though I had been doing it for years. I knew I had to save the school, but was it really worth it? What if they didn’t deserve to die? What if they were like Ruk, and okay if you reached deep enough into their being? Should I have let them live, and be killed myself? Is that what I deserved? Was I meant to... die?
Grilph’s eyes popped up in front of me, and I almost jumped.
‘Here you are,’ he offered.
He lifted his hands, not that I could see them, and in them was a pile of nuts and dried berries.
‘Um... thank you,’ I said, not taking them.
He waved it in my face, his eyes narrowing.
‘Take them!’
‘Oh, alright.’
I put my cupped hands out, and Grilph poured the edibles into them. I took a whiff and they smelt sweet and nutty, it was such a lovely aroma. It was like the fresh perfume of forest delights. I thought that, being in the cave, they would have lost their fragrance. But, they were better than anything I had the pleasure of smelling in quite a while. Not that it was saying much, living in that reeking cell, but besides that, it was surprisingly stimulating.
‘Wow, they smell good,’ I summed up.
‘Yes, I know.’ He stood there, as though waiting for something.
‘Did I say thanks?’ I wondered.
‘You did.’
‘Oh, right.’
What was he waiting for? I just gazed around, trying to miss his eyes, feeling somewhat edgy. And he was just waiting, staring.
‘Well, uh...’ I began.
‘Aren’t you going to try some?’ Grilph asked, as though there was something wrong with me, and I finally understood the pause.
I tilted my head down to look at the food. My hands were filled to the brim with it.
‘You see, my hands are kind of full,’ I explained.
‘I do see.’
‘So you understand why I’m not going to eat it right now?’
‘Why not? Eat with your mouth.’
‘Oh... I see our misunderstanding now,’ I nodded, feeling a little stupid. ‘I’m not the only one who will be enjoying this. Ruk and Mervie will be joining me, and I doubt they would like me slobbering all over it.’
‘Only that for the three of you? I was expecting to get more for them.’
‘Well then, why don’t you? I came here because Mervie wanted to know when we were going to eat. So, really, do you mind getting some more?’
‘Just eat some!’ Grilph demanded.
‘Why?’
‘You’ll see.’
‘You poisoned it?’
‘No!’
Grilph looked offended that I had even suggested the thought. Though I found it quite reasonable.
I didn’t say anything, then smelled it again. It was just as heavenly as before, and I sighed in contentment. Then, slowly, I took a mouthful from the pile and chewed.
It was amazing. My eyes had gone wide with wonderment, and my taste buds were going wild. The mellow of the nuts danced a leisurely waltz, and then the zing of the berries cut through the room with some salsa moves. Even when I swallowed, the rush went through me, and then I was instantly invigorated, feeling a pleasant buzz throughout me as the food continued to caper.
‘Oh.’
The whole thing left me practically speechless. Could I really only manage “oh”?
‘Good, huh?’ he winked.
I nodded.
‘I’ll go get some more,’ he told me, then trotted off again.
‘That’s... that’s really something,’ I murmured to myself. ‘Really something.’
Grilph returned with even more of the mixture.
‘I’ll take this to them, shall I?’
‘Yes, you do that.’
I followed him as he handed the two their provisions, and he watched, delighted at the reactions. Mervie had almost exploded and could have zipped around the cave a couple hundred times. Ruk had a spasm attack, and spilt a bit of the nuts (which Grilph gave a small scowl to) and then gave a loud exclamation of how freaking fantastic they were.
‘What is it?’ I wondered.
‘I’m not going to tell you,’ Grilph notified. ‘Nor am I going to inform you of the whereabouts of either of them. They are mine, are we clear?’
‘Yes.’
Although he wouldn’t tell us anything much about it, he offered that we could have as much as we wanted over the course of our stay. And, despite the fact that I would never get tired of the delicious treats, I hope we wouldn’t have to stay here much longer. I was eager to depart.
...
Both Ruk and Mervie were sound asleep, hopefully dreaming pleasantly, though it would be more likely that they would be having nightmares. Grilph and I, however, were awake.
It was dark, and there was no fire to busy myself with, or to roast non-existent marshmellows over, so only his eyes were viewed as we sat. We were silent for a moment, but then I spoke.
‘Grilph, have you ever heard of M.A. High?’ I asked.
What I was hoping for was that he might know where it is and point us in the right direction. My hope was only just a sliver, but it was still there.
‘M.A. High? No, no I have not,’ he shook his head, and I was filled with disappointment despite my little faith. ‘Why do you ask?’
‘I was just wondering, because... that’s where I’m heading.’
Grilph coughed.
‘And are these two coming with you? Do they even go to that school?’
‘They are coming with me, but they don’t go to M.A. High. I met both of them in the castle and have befriended them during the course of my... visit.’ I spat the last word out morosely.
‘And what will they do once you arrive there? Neither looks the right age to be going to high school. Too young, too old.’
Why was I talking about this with him? It was none of his business. But, I told him anyway.
‘I don’t know where they’ll go, but they aren’t staying at that school, I won’t allow it.’
‘And, why is that?’
I leaned forward, glancing either side of myself, and whispered as though someone would be listening in on us.
‘The school is about to be attacked,’ I apprised Grilph. ‘Someone is coming.’
‘Who?’
I shrugged and reclined. ‘I don’t know, but I’m sure that my teacher is in on it.’
‘Your teacher is plotting to ruin the school?’ I could just feel one of his eyebrows arching in disbelief as he said the words.
‘Not plotting, I just think that he was brought into it all somehow.’
Thoughts of Mr Borvolo seeped into my head, and I was stricken with loathing. That hellish man. That murderer. He was probably strutting though the school like he owned the place, killing more students. Just like Zanza.
I shut the thought out. I hadn’t thought about what had happened in the “Bawling Basement” since the day it occurred, and it was going to stay like that. I had determined that Zanza was not, in fact, dead at all. She was stronger than that. And though, at first, I had thought that it had struck her heart, I was wrong. It was askew. And when I had left, someone had come to save her, Denim and Jimone, and they would all be safe. Denim might not have forgiven Jimone yet, but she was almost there. Yeah. Right. That was totally believable.
‘Anyway, I need to go back and warn them,’ I continued after a while.
Grilph leaned back and munched away on something. Probably a nut by the sounds of it.
‘Did you know, I heard rumours that Terium is...? Never mind.’ he murmured, more to himself than to me.
‘How would you find out about rumours?’ I asked, not really caring about what he had to say about Terium, tough it seemed Grilph had wanted me to ask him to continue. I was sick of the man, Terium, already, and I hadn’t even met him yet.
‘I have my ways,’ he replied, disgruntled. ‘Anyway, it’s unimportant.’
I sighed. Grilph didn’t know about M.A. High. Where would I go? I had no idea of the direction I needed to be heading in, and Mervie would be counting on me to get us out of this despite my efforts for her not to be so trusting in me.
‘So, you haven’t heard of Moviant?’ I said, feeling consumed by the situation.
‘Moviant? Yes, I’ve heard of that place.’
‘What?’ my voice shrilled with surprise, and my back straightened with a spring that it almost hurt.
‘Yes, why do you need to know that?’
‘Because M.A. High is in Moviant!’
Could it be true? Was there a chance that Grilph could help me at all?
‘Well, you should have said that in the first place.’
‘So... you know where it is?’
‘Yes, I do.’
‘And can you direct me?’
‘You know Trosin?’ Grilph asked.
‘Yeah, it’s not too far from Moviant.’
Grilph clapped his hands together and laughed.
‘Excellent!’ he cried. ‘I’ll take you there when Ruk is well enough.’
I stiffened.
‘What?’
‘I’ll take you through the caves to Trosin.’
‘What?’
His orby eyes tilted and grew tight.
‘Is your hearing faulty?’
‘No, my ears are just fine. What I mean to say is, you are taking us there? No routes, no map? You’ll be our... guide?’
‘Well, I can’t have you scampering off in my caves, now can I? You’d probably get lost anyway, and more than likely die and I would find you all rotting and making my home stink of decaying creatures. That would be horrible!’
I rolled my eyes. ‘I’m sorry our deaths would be such a reeking dread for you.’
‘That’s alright, we needn’t worry about that, because I’m joining you, and your life expectancy will shoot right up,’ Grilph smiled, and I could tell by the crinkling of his spheres.
‘Well, I guess I shouldn’t complain. I got a way home, and a guide. Should be great.’
He nodded. ‘Yes, I do enjoy a little bit of spelunking.’
...
Ruk recovered surprisingly quickly, his large gushing wound was nothing but a scar that looked a few weeks older than it should.
Now Grilph would lead us through the tunnels of the cave, steering us towards Trosin. I hope this would not be deadly, I was a little sick of it all at the moment.
I was worried. For Ruk because he had recently healed and was still a tad stiff. I was especially anxious about Mervie. She was only seven and her spelunking skills were remarkably limited. If she so much as slipped one inch, I’d freak out. My sisterly instincts were kicking in. Was I fretful for Grilph? No, not really. Not because I didn’t like the grandpa figure, but because this was his “home” and was a spelunker at heart, having the prowess for it, and was quite similar to a monkey. And what about me? I didn’t really have time for that; I didn’t matter at the moment, so why bother?
We headed off, and after five minutes we came to a vertical fissure that stretched off into the abyss with ragged rocks ripping through the wall like overly large needles. We were going into the core of a pin-cushion. That’s when my legs got a little shaky.
‘You don’t have any equipment, right?’ I asked again.
‘Still no,’ Grilph sighed, stepping onto one of the stalactite-like stones and began to climb down.
‘Just making sure.’
I breathed, and as I did so, I remembered I had powers (silly me for forgetting) that could prevent death, and immediately felt at ease. For my well-being, anyway.
I followed Grilph, Mervie coming after me, and lastly was Ruk. I wondered if the order was particularly a good idea. If Ruk fell, he would bring everyone with him with his big bulk. We would be ripped to shreds by those razor stones. But, it was too late for logic now, and so I just had to fervently hope that Ruk kept his footing on the slippery death spikes.
Grilph was negligently shooting down. He was oblivious to the fact that if he made a single false move, he could fall to his death. I’m sure I was overreacting, and that he did have some sense, but that thought came before he flung himself off a ridge and dropped two metres. At that point I almost gasped, but I kept my head. This was Grilph. He was an expert in cave exploration, and far more dexterous than an acrobat mixed with an aerialist spider monkey. They probably didn’t exist, but that didn’t matter.
‘You make this look like a cinch,’ I called below me.
‘That’s because it is,’ Grilph replied, sounding rather distant and echoic. ‘Would you please hurry up? I’m an old man and I’m beating you! Imagine me in my younger years. You wouldn’t be able to hear my voice I’d be so far!’
‘Well, I’ve got good hearing, so it’s not the problem right now.’
Grilph laughed, a kid at an amusement park.
‘Just hurry!’
‘I intend to not fall, in which case I have to be a little more careful than you.’
‘You’re not going to fall,’ he scoffed.
‘If you did, I would catch you if I was underneath,’ Ruk put in, rather fruitlessly.
I sighed, and ignored Ruk.
‘How do you know I won’t fall?’ I muttered.
‘I don’t. It’s actually possible that you might.’
I gritted my teeth and would have hit him if he wasn’t so out of reach, because he was half primate.
‘You’re not that good at reassuring, are you?’
Grilph chuckled, making me feel like giving him a good boot in the head. ‘No, I suppose I’m not.’
‘Just a little tip. Never try and put someone’s mind at rest, you’ll just send them into a panic attack.’
He paused. ‘Are you having a panic attack?’ He actually sounded worried.
‘Ha, no. I’m fine. I’m a mite surprised that you’re showing some concern. I could even be disconcerted.’
‘It would not be best if you had a panic attack here. That’s all I’m saying.’
‘Sure, I just think you enjoy my company. How sweet,’ I joked.
‘Can we drop it now?’
I flinched at the bad choice of words.
‘Yes we can.’
Powers, I reminded myself, and I was flushed with comfort just at that one word.
We didn’t speak, and the stones were getting slimier and harder to get a grip on.
Mervie cried out, and my heart clenched.
‘Are you okay?’ I called.
‘Fine!’ she replied, and I heard her muffled steps again and went back to climbing down.
We were more than wary as we went from ledge to ledge, taking about a minute, more or less, to get from one to the other. It was excruciatingly slow, with the same monotonous mind-numbing method. I would never complain about boring classes again. Well, maybe that was an exaggeration, but you get the picture.
It was so dark. Thick with pitch, and I felt sorry for Mervie and Ruk who didn’t have any night-vision powers that I knew of. I prayed to see the light again. A sliver of shine to break the weary dull.
Hushed footsteps and continuous breathing that sometimes caught when there was a slight mess-up. Whenever it was me that slipped, I would impale the wall with diamond pillars that plunged from my hands onto either side of me. It only transpired a few times, and I regretted it afterwards as a shower of rubble spat at me face, cutting my cheeks. It also made the area worse for Mervie and Ruk to work through, though they did not protest or grumble, but I still felt selfish for doing it, so I only caused the event twice and lowered myself ever more steadily. My footsteps setting a slow tempo, like a lento.
‘How much longer?’ I dared to asked, afraid of what the answer might be.
‘It won’t take days, if that’s what you wanted to know,’ Grilph hollered.
‘Well, that’s a relief,’ I murmured. I was hoping more for another few seconds, but I could handle less than a day. Couldn’t I?
Hours passed, dragging like sloths encountered with a towering wall it had to cross. My muscles ached from the tiresome toil, and I felt like I just might drift off. My eyes were fluttering like butterflies in a trap, and I tried with all my will to force them fully open.
‘Grilph...’ I croaked. ‘Are... are we...?’
‘Soon,’ he called.
I groaned and continued against my cramping arms.
‘Grilph...’
‘Keep going.’
‘Please... I have to stop... Grilph...’
‘Persevere.’
I clawed the stone weakly, wanting to pass out, my eyes closing.
‘You can make it, Kurlz.’
I sprang awake. His voice was so close, it was shocking. Why was he stopping?
‘Grilph? What...?’
‘Come on.’
I pressed on another few metres and then my feet touched something wide and flat. Was it...? Could it really be?
I put both feet flat on the ground, and I was giddy with relief, I thought I might faint.
‘We... we made it!’ I rasped happily. ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it’s over!’
I feel to my knees and then splayed out on the ground and went to sleep...
I jolted awake.
‘Ow!’ I yelled.
‘Sorry!’ Mervie apologized. ‘I didn’t know you were there, so I just jumped onto your back. Sorry.’
I scuffled up and wiped the grunge from my shirt, and it made no difference at all.
‘That’s okay,’ I said.
‘Good, I’m gonna have a nap now,’ she informed, then unexpectedly fell on the floor.
‘Geez, was I like that too?’ I asked Grilph.
‘Well, you weren’t as bad,’ he offered.
I grabbed Mervie and hauled her into my arms, putting hers around my neck for support.
A second later, Ruk stumbled out, and buckled over.
‘Wow,’ Grilph murmured. ‘He’s worse than you two.’
I rolled my eyes.
‘Just let them rest. They’re tired. Actually, I could go for a sleep myself.’
The goblin huffed a sigh. ‘Have it your way. I’ll keep watch for any bogeymen. No need to fret.’
‘Ha!’ I scoffed. ‘As if the bogeyman hangs out here!’
And then I slid to the floor and fell asleep with Mervie still in my embrace.

The untameable shadows of the cave lurked;
Fresh blood is all it truly yearned;
Its silken body as dismal as coal;
In the bitter waters where it lolls;
Eyes of fiery embers spark on its features;
It preyed on unsuspecting creatures;
Fangs dripped like stalactites;
Alabaster countering night;
Attempts to master are to no avail;
As doubtlessly as you shall fail;
For it was made to kill with skills of sly and strength;
Bloodshed acts that end no lengths;
It lurks in the shadows;
Where it perishes foes.

I was unaware of how long I dozed for; it was still as dark when I woke up as it was when I had been wrought with weariness as I emerged from the pin-cushion.
Mervie was slumped in my lap, her little calves dangling over my legs, her head lolling at my knee.
‘You’re finally up!’ Grilph cried in gratitude, skipping to my side.
‘How long was I out?’ I mumbled, wiping my lids and the amber sleep that was lodged in the corners of them.
‘I don’t have a watch, do I?’ he replied. ‘Now wake that girl up, and I’ll stir the troll.’
He moved off towards Ruk and knocked on his head like a door.
‘Wake up!’ he yelled.
Ruk growled and broke through his dreams to come back to the reality of a goblin hammering his skull. What a pleasant way to wake.
I rolled my eyes and gently rocked Mervie.
‘Merve, time to get up,’ I whispered.
She stirred and burbled.
‘What... where are we?’
‘In a cave, soon to be on our way to Trosin.’
‘Okay.’
She slid off my thighs and rubbed her whole face, her shoulders sagging.
‘My arms hurt,’ she said matter-of-factly. Not even a hint of a whine. Just a statement.
‘So do mine,’ I nodded. ‘I bet it’s all that down climbing we did before.’
‘Yeah, me too.’
Grilph appeared with a grousing Ruk.
‘You two are ready, I see. Off we go then,’ he spun and started marching down the passageway I hadn’t noticed when I first arrived at the bottom.
I strode after him, holding Mervie’s hand. Ruk was behind me and fiddled with a strand of my hair. It was true I like it when people played with my locks, but it was somewhat disturbing since it was Ruk. The pleasure overruled the grotesque.
‘And how far is it until we reach Trosin?’ I inquired.
‘I can’t really remember, you know? I haven’t been down this way in decades.’
‘Decades? I haven’t even reached one of those,’ Mervie included.
‘So... it could be weeks?’
‘I don’t think so. It’s most likely a few days. A week, I think,’ Grilph nodded to himself. ‘Yes. but if you all keep being so leisurely, it might take longer. So, that’s a hint to hurry up a bit.’
‘Sure, whatever.’
I rolled my eyes, but quickened my pace.
Ruk grabbed my arm and shocked me with its’ rough suddenness.
I gyrated and dropped Mervie’s hand. She paused, then skipped off next to Grilph and started up a conversation that would surely delight the old man.
‘What is it?’ I asked, voice lowered.
‘I haven’t had a chance to talk to you, just you, since I broke you out of that cell,’ Ruk replied, sad at the thought.
‘Well, now isn’t really the time for a tête-à-tête.’
I really didn’t want to have this chat. I couldn’t handle it at the moment. I didn’t want to hurt him right now, or play along with my game.
‘I think it is,’ he insisted.
‘Why? We have something to do at the present. I need to get back to Moviant, to my friends. They need me, and so does everyone else at that damned school. Okay? Now, just keep walking.’
I tried to release myself, but Ruk held his grip.
‘Let go,’ I hissed.
‘No,’ he dismissed, just as determined.
I sighed. It would take longer to argue, so I guess I would just have to hear him out, and avoid anything... unpleasant.
‘Okay... what do you want?’ I asked, unenthusiastically.
He stared at me, and I evaded his eyes.
‘I wanted to thank you,’ he murmured.
‘Uh... for what, exactly?’
He tilted his head, bemused.
‘For... for saving me. What else?’
‘Oh, that. I forgot about that. But, okay, that’s alright. I needed to save you. We’re friends,’ I smiled.
Ruk frowned. For what?
‘Friends?’
Damn! I cringed, internally, thank goodness. That had slipped out. What was I gonna do? Come out with the truth, right? No.
‘Yeah... as in girlfriend boyfriend,’ I saved it, and I praised myself silently.
He grinned. ‘Right, yeah.’
I nodded charily. ‘Is that all?’
‘Not quite,’ he breathed, tipping in my direction, eyes slipping to slits.
I panicked. No! Not again.
I fumbled with my thoughts, not knowing what to do. I flicked my head from side to side, and in the process, accidentally whacked his.
‘Ow!’ he exclaimed, rubbing his crown.
‘Sorry,’ I apologized, achieving a sheepish smile. ‘I guess I’m a tad clumsy.’
Ruk straightened himself and exhaled.
‘Yep. Sure. Let’s go.’

He walked off, hurrying after the others while I breathed relief. Escape once again.
...
The monster slouched in the muck it called its’ bed, loving the feel of cold filth on its scales.
Ah... it hissed to itself. This is what I live for...
Her fiery eyes glanced a scuttling creature, and her face spilt into what some would hardly recognize as a grin. An exceedingly malicious one at that.
She sprang in less than a second and snatched the quarry up with her fangs and chewed. Gulping loudly, she slithered down into her slimy water.
Her life was peace. A haunting one. Lazing in filth for years, snatching rats and other snacks for the dark. She loved it, the gloom. It made her feel at home... home with all her siblings in the dark...
Suddenly, she pricked her ears.
Do I hear prey?
...
‘Can I have a piggy back?’
Grilph sighed in exasperation.
Mervie had been asking for a ride six times in the last two minutes, and Grilph was starting to feel the pressure. I was impressed by her persistence.
‘No. Again, no. The next time you ask, it will still be a no. And when you undoubtedly ask again, I shall still be disappointing you with the result that you cannot, never ever, under any circumstances, even in your wildest dreams, have a piggy back from me.’
‘Okay,’ she shrugged, unperturbed.
‘Ah, good.’
I smiled, and counted to twenty, and, sure enough, I was proved correct.
‘Can I have a piggy back?’
‘NO!’ Grilph cracked.
‘Okay,’ she turned to Ruk. ‘Can I have a piggy back?’
He glanced at me, and I raised an eyebrow.
‘Um... sure.’
Mervie squealed with glee, and scrambled onto Ruk’s back, curling her thin arms around his throat.
I stifled a snigger, and Ruk held his tongue.
I made my way beside him, and casually started a conversation.
‘Wow. You’re so sweet, giving Merve a piggy back. You must be great with kids. Do you babysit often?’ I taunted.
‘Shut up, Kurlz,’ he said, quite straightforward.
‘Nah, it’s too fun.’
‘Why did I say yes?’
‘I really don’t know. You didn’t have to. I would have said yes if she asked, but...’ I ended, unfinished, letting him think about what an idiot he had been.
‘Would you have?’ Mervie chimed in.
‘Uh huh. Why wouldn’t I?’
‘Hmm... I never thought about it...’ she stared off into space, pondering.
Ruk leaned sidewards. ‘Will you take her?’ he asked desperately.
I shook my head. ‘No way. This is so amusing. You, troll guy with a kid on your shoulders. Priceless!’
I let myself laugh this time.
Ruk began to say something, most likely trying to be nasty and I would just be amused by it, not a mite offended, but Mervie beat him too it.
‘What’s so funny?’ she wondered.
‘Nothing.’ I ruffled her already messy hair, and she didn’t even attempt to adjust it.
Ruk’s eyes skimmed to view Mervie’s face, then averted to observe me, and smiled, and I reciprocated.
He coiled a muscly limb around my shoulders and toyed with a stray ringlet, and I strived not to reflect on what that conveyed to him. I loved people playing with my hair. It was so relaxing, it didn’t matter who did it.
I tilted towards him, just when Grilph twisted his head to look at us. He muttered something to himself, and I inconspicuously
righted myself.
There was now a bend in the tunnel and Grilph rounded it... Abruptly, he let out a blood-curdling scream.
...
Fear gripped me with frozen talons, piercing my heart and thieving its warmth. And for one second I was transfixed with stupefaction. This moment would haunt me eternally.
Then I was bolting forward, legs pounding as I careened the corner and was locked up again by horror.
This was not what I was actually seeing. My eyes were failing me. I was hallucinating from lack of light sleep, and my nightmares had embodied themselves into a gruesome monster of the gloom. It was a formation of shadows that flowed into an essence that lurked.
I couldn’t help myself, as I screamed. Fear was boiling passed reason, and I let my lungs release its air in a mighty burst of terror.
The creature, sleek as a starless night on a lonesome sea, swung it’s large head to view me, with blazing eyes that ignited knowledge in myself that I was the new, soon to be victim.
Grilph was hanging lifelessly from the powerful jaws of the beast. Marks of fangs were ragged all over his body, and he surged with blood from his ribboned skin.
It flopped the goblin into the back of its throat, and gulped him down. And just like that, Grilph was gone. It didn’t seem real that he had disappeared. There was no pause for dramatics as I thought there’d be. No death I had witnessed had been like that. Someone was there, and they weren’t and it was all just fabrication of my musings.
No pause. The serpentine demon struck, aiming slavering fangs at me that I should not have eluded, but did, and it clenched on air that reeked of its own flesh.
It hissed ferociously as Ruk burst onto the scene, with Mervie clasping on.
‘Get her out of here!’ I bellowed at Ruk, and he obeyed, tossing her out of sight.
I forged a blade from my palm and swung it at the head of the beast, missing completely. It roared, outraged that someone would fight back against it as though anyone had a chance. I produced another sword and flung it at Ruk, who caught it, steadying it in his hand, and prepared for attack.
The snake glared at both of us, then snapped at Ruk, but he cut its lip, and blood dripped onto its fangs, mingling with the crimson of left of Grilph. It licked its wound, and leered.
I filled with anger and darted forward, sword high, ready to pierce its neck. The serpent bit down onto my weapon, and swung it up, with me still holding the hilt, and I hurtled through the air and landed on its head, then slid onto the nape digging my fingers into its scales.
It paused, confused, then began to shake it’s head violently, and I felt my whole body being jangled. In the rough quakes of the brute, I managed to stab my sword into its neck a few inches. It howled, and I slipped down the body, slicing as I did so, creating a stream of scarlet, making it cry louder.
It turned on me, and I fumbled with my blade, and fell off its back, sprawling on the ground. It slammed its face, but only achieved in tearing my already ragged shirt.
Ruk ran with his sword and tried to bat the snake away, but it brushed him aside and he slumped to the ground. He was inching upwards, striving to get up and help.
During this, I had rose from the ground and had swung a hit at the beast, and sliced at its shoulder.
It faced me and its mangled features contorted in loathing for my fight.
I poised the sword in my hand, pointing it at the snake, feet steady on the floor.
‘Come on,’ I whispered.
It swerved its large cranium from side to side and I mirrored the actions with my blade.
It struck again, I hacked at its neck, and it screeched, making my eardrums almost burst. I was almost shattering like glass.
Then, I began to run. I shot off, hoping that it would follow me, and not go for Ruk. I was filled with relief as it slithered swiftly after my figure, striking at intervals.
There was a narrower passage breaking off the main one, and I careened into it, and suddenly tumbled into freezing water, teeming with slime.
I held back a cry of disgust and dipped low into the frosty liquid, hoping it would prove a successful hiding spot. I heard the serpent slither into the water and I was strangled by an overwhelming panic. It was as though I was in the ocean, and a great white shark sliced the crystal sea, toying with me sadistically before it killed.
I pressed my back against a wall, making my breathing as inaudible as I could, hoping it wouldn’t detect the thrumming of my heart, or smell the flavour of my skin.
And then it lifted its heard from the murk, and it was cackling cruelly.
It was at that moment that everything came flooding in, and my thoughts burst into all the life that I had purposely blocked throughout leaving it. Because I knew, if I thought about it all, I would break down into tears. I wouldn’t be strong enough to go through everything, and I had to be, I needed to forget all of them. But now they were back, filling my head with memories that I wish I was living now. The ones that were lost from view. Pictures fallen in the mud, films played in the mist, laughter choked by violin screams.
Quex, Valish, Abcde, Denim, Marn, Jimone... Zanza...
Childhood... movie nights, heads fallen off with guffaws and giggles. Christmas and birthdays. Ridiculous presents that I loved and kept until this day. Skiing and falling with Zanza, snow flushing our faces red, lacing with our delight. Canoeing with Marn and Jimone, rush of churning water. Listening to Denim blathering about guys in a dreamy way, leaning of the side of her bed. Valish and Abcde in P.E., running at Frisbees that hurtled through the air like hawks. Hiking with Quex, encompassed by millions of trees and their sighs.
Abcde and Quex, dancing like morons with me. Entrusting secrets with Valish. Denim dressing up for Jimone. For the guy that was rough in tag. Talking with Marn in English about the most random things.
The effort they put in for our training. Having snowball fights, running to cliffs as wolves, swimming in lakes of pulies.
Jimone sucking the life from Denim... Zanza being stabbed by Mr Borvolo...
A drop oozed from my eye as I realized I would never see them again. They would never know what I did to get back to them. Never know the hardship. Never knew what had happened to me. I would just be gone... I would never be able to say good-bye.
Everything would be lost as I submerged to my tomb, decaying with the filth.
I opened my eyes to face my killer, not letting it have the satisfaction of my tears. I stared at it with a brave face, and was ready for it to kill me. Ready to let everything go in that one instant.
It reared its head back and prepared itself to lunge...
Abruptly, its mouth gaped wide and a horrific spine-tingling shriek escaped it. It swayed dangerously, and then collapsed with a thunderous splash into the water, and lay dead.
I stared in disbelief, eyes wide, and breathing hard.
Then, I glimpsed the sword I had thrown Ruk, lodged into the beast’s skull before it sank into the muck where it would lie forever. But it was not Ruk wading in the gunk... It was Mervie. She had dirt all over her, and blood on her front. Her hair was thick with mud, and she was smiling.
‘Hello,’ she cheeped.

I gave Mervie a big hug, still trying to swallow the fact that I was alive, and that Mervie had saved me by killing the monster. It was incredibly false.
‘You brilliant girl!’ I whispered in her ear as I squeezed her tightly. ‘You stupid, brilliant girl!’
‘You’re crushing me,’ she informed.
I didn’t even loosen my grip. ‘Sorry.’
Ruk came up now, looking bewildered, and I finally let go of Mervie.
‘What... what happened?’ he asked.
‘Mervie saved me. Now I owe her.’
‘Oh... right. Wow. I guess I owe her, too.’
‘Sure do,’ I nodded.
I lifted Mervie into my arms and squelched threw the thick mess.
Ruk took her from my hands as I reached the ledge, then helped me out.
‘Grilph is dead.’
Ruk nodded.
‘Where are we supposed to go?’ I continued. ‘We was our hope, and now he’s gone. Our guide is dead.’ And besides all that, I miss him.
Ruk nodded again. ‘We’ll get through it.’
‘How?’
‘Because we survived that,’ he gestured to the sinking figure of the snake with disgust.
‘Well... yes we did. But killing isn’t really going to help us with our sense of direction, is it?’
‘I suppose... But, I... hmm...’ Ruk pondered this while I turned to Mervie who was tugging at my ridiculously cropped shirt. When, well if, we got back to Moviant, I really needed to change my outfit.
‘What is it?’ I asked.
She stopped tugging, but still held on. ‘When you and Ruk were having that private talk,’ I clenched my teeth at this, ‘I chatted with Grilph. I asked him where we were heading, and he said the main tunnel. I asked, any twists or turns, and he said that there was only one fork that we had to take the right of, otherwise we’d end up in Kirsk, which he thought was very amusing.’
I stared.
‘Kurlz?’
‘Where is this fork?’ I demanded.
‘I asked the same question. He said it was indicated by a symbol that looked like a trident. So... is this helpful at all?’
I smiled, impossible ease, making me delirious. ‘Yes, Merve, it is very helpful.’
...
Light surged in a torrent, hitting me like a giant fist, and I had to shield my eyes as they adjusted. It was amazingly dazzling after days of permanent night.
‘Wow!’ I exclaimed. ‘That is damn bright!’
‘Ah! My eyes are burning!’ Ruk cried.
‘I can’t see!’ Mervie put in.
After a minute, most likely more, we had gotten used to the sunlight, and we emerged from the end of the cave, now thankful for the rays, despite the fact that they had earlier seared our retinas.
‘Where are we?’ Ruk murmured.
I stared at him in disbelief, for once, seeing him in a stunningly bright setting. Weird.
‘Really?’ I said. ‘Are you really asking that question? Have you not been listening to anything anyone has said for the past few days?’
Ruk may have blushed, I wasn’t sure.
‘Well, we’re in Trosin.’
It was a stunning place, I must say. The hills flowed over one another, fresh green spilling over them, comfortable and careless in their beauty. Wild flowers of lustrous rainbow hue speckled the slopes wonderfully, and trees spouted loftily in the meadow. The leaves were dark, a fountain of green water on the trunks.
In the distance were tall and short buildings, heedless of the wind which affected the land here. Here it was all nature, breathing with the wind, rolling with it, dancing with the tune the breeze had set.
I had visited this part of Trosin a number of times, I had even been born in the tiny city, and childhood reminisces floated across the grass. The cave I had come through, I realised, was the one we would dare each other to enter, but never would, which was the smartest thing we ever did. I remembered one particular oak that was larger than the rest, and I had always climbed it. I had called her Árvore, and sometimes even slept in her limbs as though in a mother’s embrace, catching glimpses of starry nights through the pronged foliage. I had thought of her as one of my best friends, and would whisper her secrets that no one else had ever heard before, and she had kept them, locked in the ring of her wood.
I turned to Ruk and Mervie.
‘Welcome to Trosin,’ I greeted, a broad smile etched on my lips.
‘I like it,’ Mervie decided. ‘Do you live here?’
‘No, but I was born somewhere around the city part. Some of my relatives live here, too. I could visit them.’ I nodded to myself. ‘I haven’t seen them in years.’
Ruk eyed me curiously.
‘Not a long visit,’ I said defensively. ‘You know, just pop by, say hello, give a few hugs, and then be on the road again before my stop by really sinks in.’
‘Alright...’
‘Don’t you want to meet them?’ I wondered.
‘It might be awkward. Hello. I’m Ruk, Kurlz boyfriend,’ I barely flinched, ‘I met her in a cell. Yes, she was in gaol. I broke her out, and we both killed some trolls. We’re on the run from Terium now. Anyway, how are you?’
I raised an eyebrow.
‘Why would you feel the sudden compulsion to say all that? Really?’
He shrugged. ‘Slip of the tongue?’
‘Shall I cut it off for you, so you don’t go blabbing? Will that help?’
Ruk tried to be discreet about placing a hand over his mouth, but it was quite noticeable.
‘Alright, now that we’ve got that settled. We are going to see my Auntie and Uncle, okay? Oh, and I might even be able to get a lift from them back to Moviant! That would be very convenient. So it probably won’t happen. Ready?’
‘Yes!’ Mervie piped up.
I looked at her, a hitch in my plan.
‘Uh... how am I going to explain the kid?’
Ruk scratched his head, which did no service to my new problem.
‘Well, she... oh... um, well, you could, no...’ he floundered. ‘Oh! No wait... I’m a troll...’
I ignored him, and gave thought.
‘You babysit her, alright?’ I told Ruk, remembering my taunts of him giving her a piggy back. ‘She lives in Trosin, and you live closest to Trosin, but in Moviant. Clear?’
‘Sure thing.’
‘Good. We are all out for the day and I decided to drop by for a small chat. We see if we can get a ride, if not, we leave and head for my school.’
‘Anything else?’
‘Yes. I want to say hello to Árvore before we go to the city. I’ve missed her.’
‘Who’s that?’
‘She’s my friend. A tree friend.’
‘A tree? As in a tree?’
‘Yes, a tree, do you have a problem with that?’ I dared him to challenge me.
‘No, not at all,’ he saved, waving his hands about.
‘Good,’ I finalized, the tension slipping off immediately.
I began to stroll in the general area of where I recalled Árvore being, and the rest followed.
‘So... where is this tree?’ Ruk asked casually.
‘You’ll see when you get there, won’t you?’
‘I guess.’
We were silent after that, and wandered around without a word to echo in the whispers of the leaves.
My brow was gradually crinkling as I searched with no results. Where was Árvore? She had to be around somewhere. But... she wasn’t.
‘Um... are we going somewhere in particular to see this tree?’ Ruk asked.
‘Yes, she can’t move,’ I blurted. Could she?
‘I didn’t say she could. All I’m saying is that we are rambling without a clear destination. Could you fix that?’
‘Excuse me, but I haven’t been here in years. If you expect me to summon every recollection I have of this place, I’m sorry to dash your hopes, but I just can’t execute that feat. Now, if you would like to shut the hell up, I may be able to conjure the memory of the tree, and then we won’t have us just standing here having me yell at you for being an impatient and malodorous, freaking troll!’
Ruk shut his mouth, his eyes wide, and it was clear he was somewhat taken aback.
I exhaled, then produced a smiled.
‘Alright now. Let me think.’
I waited for something, and then found it.
‘Oh, great!’ I sang. ‘This way!’
I skipped along the green in an almost straight path, and kept my eye open for the largest tree.
And then my eyes were greeted with the sight of a towering oak, flushed with vegetation on her branches.
I faced the others, and beamed. ‘Ruk, Mervie, this is Árvore,’ I gestured with a flourish of my hands.
‘Nice to meet you,’ Mervie twittered. ‘I must say, you look very lovely.’
‘Uh... hi,’ Ruk mumbled.
I ran and leapt lithely into the branches of my old friend, skipping from limb to limb, familiar with her structure despite the years in which I had never visited. I was at home as Grilph had been in his cave. I shunned the sadness of his memory, embracing those of my tree.
‘Come on up! And Ruk, help Merve up!’
I hugged the trunk tightly, feeling the bark scrape my arms, but not caring.
‘Missed me?’ I whispered, and I heard a breezy creak of a reply that sounded like a yes. ‘Any news for me?’
Apparently not.
A few seconds later, Ruk and Mervie joined me, and sat on a branch. I lay down on an adjacent one, feeling memories slither into my mind.
Charlae... a boy I had befriended at six. I had met him in Trosin while visiting my relatives and we had come to this field on a sunny day. He had leaned out of a thin limb, and it snapped. He had fallen quite far, and broke his ring finger. He didn’t seem to mind, being a natural healer, and it fixed up in an hour, and we started climbing again though he didn’t end up going very far out on the branches anymore. I wonder where Charlae is now.
Valish, Quex and Denim had come with me to Trosin when I turned ten, and we camped out near Árvore for a while. We had had a fire that was kept away from her, and we roasted marshmellows, or well, charred them, and made s’mores that were delicious, drooling with pink goo. Damper that was usually burnt on the outside, raw on the inside, which we ate anyway. We had told scary stories that made Denim freak out and hide in the tent. We decided that we were obligated to terrify her further by pretending to be ghosts and stuff, and rattle her around a bit. She loved that. But besides being terrible friends, we had loads of fun.
One time I had come here alone. It had actually been the first time, and it was when my cat, Maneshka, had died, and I climbed this tree to get away from everyone else. I was about four, and I cried and hugged Árvore. And she understood the sorrow I was bearing, and whispered compassionate purls that were of another language, but I had fathomed it, the leaves had stroked my back like a comforting hand. And that was when we had become friends.
I smiled at that. Funny I could remember our first meeting when I had been so young.
I had spent that night there... She lulled me with a berceuse. The sky was my blanket, the moon was my nightlight, and the stars were the fireflies I viewed from my window. It had been magical...
‘Kurlz?’ I was knocked from my reverie, and turned to the person who had called me. It was Mervie.
‘Yes?’ I replied.
‘I think... can Árvore speak?’
I stared at her.
‘What?’
‘I feel... like she’s saying something to me, but not the same speech. Do you know what I mean?’
I smiled and nodded.
‘Come here,’ I whispered. ‘And I shall tell you something very special about her.’
Mervie slipped onto my lap, leaned her face close to mine and waited patiently for me, her brown eyes eager.
‘When I was young, I met Árvore,’ I started. ‘She was a little less big than she is now, but still hugely immense. Anyway, I heard her too. She had a different dialect, but similar, sort of... It was decipherable for our ears. We can understand what she means, maybe because I was young when we met, and you are young now. It’s hard to explain properly... the feeling of conversing with her. It’s different... a sort of awareness in our minds of what is meant... the only thing I’ve ever had close to it was... reading minds when I’m sleepy. Is that how you feel?’
Mervie paused, and I wondered if she got anything I had just said.
‘I think I know what you mean. I feel the same way, not that I can read minds. That’s cool.’
‘Yeah,’ I agreed. ‘It’s really cool.’
She smiled. ‘So, Ruk can’t hear her?’
I looked up at him, then back to Mervie. ‘I don’t know. Youth is just a theory. I might be able to find out if I raid his mind. I haven’t done it in a while.’
‘Okay.’
I averted my gaze and searched for Ruk’s thoughts. I found him.
He was thinking why the hell we were here, and why weren’t we going to Moviant already. As I went deeper I saw that he didn’t want to meet my relatives, but I already knew that, so it was no news to me. I saw a clip of when he had kissed me. Ugh, his breath was horrible. But then I felt what he felt, and he had really been upset about me rejecting him. More than he showed. I saw that he actually cared about me, and was terrified the times when I had almost died. He enjoyed the visits to the cell, and ignored the other trolls. I saw his fit of rage and when he had killed those guards. When I had yelled at him, then burnt the group of ogres, and how he had felt awe of me. How he had been shot by the arrow, and the gratitude he had when I saved him. That he thought he was an idiot when I yelled at him, and he tried not to do badly again... And then I saw things I had not even been aware of. He had stared at me a lot, and had wistful thoughts. I saw dreams of us together, and his yearning heart. I saw a path where we ended up with each other. I saw a whole world he conjured in his mind of us two. Years went past and wonderful occasions. Birthdays and Christmas. Presents and trees, with cakes and roasts. I saw everything... everything he wanted... everything he would never have. It was nothing I wanted, or ever would.
He glanced me staring at him and smiled, and I knew he liked me looking at him. I smiled back, but it wasn’t the same. It was filled with knowing. I could never be his; I didn’t want to.
‘Well?’ Mervie urged. ‘What did you see?’
I kept my gaze on Ruk, and didn’t reply for a few seconds.
‘Nothing,’ I finally managed. ‘I saw nothing.’
...
We left the field soon after, and I had said farewell to Árvore, sad to leave her, possibly never to visit her again. We had trekked across the grass with the lovely aroma of flowers entering our nostrils, tickling our senses. They flicked across our ankles with soft thuds that were pleasant to feel and to listen to.
It was darkening as we reached the city, and people were returning from their shopping, shuffling with bags of groceries and heading for their houses. It was then that I realised I didn’t know what day it was. I was guessing it was a Thursday, because lots of people shopped on that day.
Ah, food shopping. How I wish I could just walk into a store and buy whatever I wanted. Cheese covered in shiny plastic, crackers, thin and thick, jams to smear onto the stack. Doughnuts, soft with raspberry filling, crusted with a glaze. Cold chocolate ice cream, melting in the tub as you scoop it into your mouth on your way home.
We walked down familiar streets, occasionally passing someone I knew, but I did not give polite greetings of recognition, and kept to myself. Where did Nari and Gregon Basheld live? I would remember soon.
I witnessed a medium house with a dark door and a small garden out the front. There was a sign that scribed Basheld delicately into the metal. That must be their house, unless my mind had completely messed up the picture of their home, and there were other Basheld’s in this city. I doubted it.
‘This is my Aunt and Uncle’s place,’ I informed. ‘Nari and Gregon. Be nice; do not tell them anything about our journey. Alright?’
I turned to walk up the path, but hesitated and swung back to look at them.
‘Don’t mention dwarves, okay?’ I advised. ‘Just... just don’t, okay?’
They nodded, and I was satisfied, walked up to the door and knocked loudly.
There was a pause, then the door flew open and Gregon stood there.
Gregon was a tallish man from my father’s side, who had red hair when he was younger, but it was turning browner with age. He had a squarish head, smallish hazel eyes, an overly large nose and great teeth between thin lips. He had a bit of a paunch, but it was barely noticeable under such an ugly thick sweater which he wore constantly, even now. It was a dark green blue colour with yellow zigzags across the chest. His pants were tanned hues that were long enough to hide his loafers.
He beamed when he saw me, but frowned when he caught sight of Ruk and Mervie.
‘Hello,’ I greeted.
He just stood there for a minute, staring. I could tell this was going to be an awkward visit, and I questioned my decision to come here.
‘Gregon, who is it darling?’ I heard Nari approaching, and hoped she would break the tension.
She saw all of us, and her mouth went into an “O” shape. Nari had always been beautiful. Her mahogany hair was in a long ponytail, and her fringe drooped over big slanted eyes that were either black or close to it. Her skin was tanner than Gregon’s pants, her nose perfectly straight and normal sized, and her lips were full and pink. She was wearing a lovely black blouse and jeans.
‘Hi,’ I said to her.
‘Kurlz?’ she said at last. ‘What’re you doing here? Who are they?’
‘That’s Ruk and Mervie,’ I indicated to both. ‘And I’m here because I was in the neighbourhood. Literally, I’m not just saying that.’
‘Oh... well, would you like to come in?’ she offered.
‘Just for a bit. I’m not here specifically to see you both, I’m not supposed to be here at all, so it has to be quick.’
She nodded, and let us all come inside.
We walked into the lounge room that was packed with bookcases and DVD stacks. A large plasma screen stretched out, calling for everyone’s eye. A few sofa’s positioned themselves to face the TV, plush and expensive. A coffee table with no coffee sat in between them all, which was probably not that cheap either. It held a few knick-knacks and objects; a snow globe that Nari was fond of, three used candles, a dirty bowl, some coins and a book by Orson Scott Card. Haven’t I read that book?
I reveled in the swarming of objects. Everything in the past few weeks had been bare. A home stripped of its former owners, left to decay. I needed dishes with lettuce stuck to the bottom. I needed cleaned trinkets and old books with a dusty smell when you stuck your nose into their pages. I needed someone’s life strewn in a room, and plastered on the walls. A home.
I sat down on a couch without being asked and everyone else followed my lead.
I recalled sleeping, a number of times, on this couch when I was supposed to go in the spare room. I had stayed up late watching movies, including horror ones, with one of my friends, and then fallen asleep. I remembered playing Monopoly on the floor with Valish, Quex and Denim and I had won the first round, and then failed terribly on the other ones. I remembered Nari telling me a story in this room, and the snow globe had been a prop in it, fake snow in fake world that was so small and fragile. Trosin sure was bringing back a lot of reminisces.
‘So... why are you in Trosin?’ Nari asked.
‘For some reason,’ I replied. Maybe I should have gone over this a bit.
‘Oh... right.’
‘You haven’t been here in years,’ Gregon put in.
I nodded. ‘I know. I would think that hugs are in order, but you both don’t seem that happy to see me. Have I interrupted something?’
‘No, no!’ Nari insisted.
‘Well, we were going to go out.’ And I thought, with those clothes? But then I remembered I hated fashion. Still a bad sweater, though.
Nari scowled at him, then smiled at me.
‘Sorry Kurlz. This is all just a little unexpected,’ she stood up. ‘Hugs?’
I got up, and gave her a hug, and then one to Gregon.
‘So, who are your friends?’ he asked.
‘Well, Ruk is my... boyfriend, and Mervie is babysat by him. They wanted to meet you.’
Ruk fidgeted nervously.
‘Hello,’ Gregon greeted them both.
‘Nice to meet you,’ Mervie replied politely.
‘Dwarves!’ Ruk blurted.
I shut my eyes and shook my head as my relatives gave him strange looks.
‘He’s tense, don’t worry about him.’
Nari nodded.
Gregon grinned. ‘So, you saw my dwarf statue?’
No, I begged. No! Not this again.
Nari seemed exasperated too.
‘Gregon,’ she sighed. ‘No one wants to know about how much it “costs” or how you got it. It’s an ugly little statue. No one likes it.’
‘For the last time, it’s not worthless, and I’m not getting rid of it.’
I did not want to hear this argument again, and for another repetition, I gave Ruk a death stare in which he gave an apologetic waver of a smile.
‘Excuse me,’ I interjected before they could get into it further. ‘But since I haven’t seen you in years, would you mind not fighting about the ugly dwarf?’
‘It’s not ugly,’ Gregon huffed.
I glared.
‘She’s right,’ Nari nodded. ‘I can’t believe we are doing this when Kurlz and her friends are here. I’m so sorry, please forgive us for being so rude.’
‘It’s fine,’ Mervie said.
‘Thank you.’
She raised herself from the lounge and swept to the kitchen, which was very costly looking.
‘Would anyone like anything to eat? Milk and cookies? Cake?’
My eyes bulged. Food... When was the last time I had sat down on something comfortable, and eaten? I couldn’t remember.
‘Both?’
Nari poked her head round the corner, and smiled.
‘You hungry?’
I nodded enthusiastically.
‘You have no idea.’
‘Alright.’
A few minutes later, she returned with a platter stacked with cookies of all sorts. There was choc-chip, white chocolate and macadamia, ANZAC biscuits, Scotch fingers, Oreos, shortbread creams, Kingstons and so much more. There was also a mountain of cakes next to them. Chocolate cake, carrot cake, ones with lemon icing, marbles, ones with nuts in them and extra. There was five tall glasses of milk and a jug adjacent to the variety of cakes.
I smiled. This was going to be delicious.
‘Wow,’ I said. ‘You know how to cater.’
Nari smiled.
‘Enjoy.’
I grabbed about five cookies and two cakes, managing to get hold of the glass of milk as well. Ruk got four cookies and three cakes plus his glass, and Mervie took five cakes and a cookie which she tossed into her drink.
‘Do you want a plate, Kurlz?’ Nari asked, a grin in her voice.
‘That would be convenient,’ I mumbled through chocolate chips. ‘Mmm, these are good. Did you make them?’
‘Sure did,’ Nari answered, then handed me a china plate.
Ooh, fancy, I thought to myself.
‘So, how’s school been?’
I stopped abruptly through munching on two biscuits at the same time.
‘Ahh...’
‘I’m guessing not so well if you aren’t there now. I know it’s during school, I’m not dim,’ she gave me a knowing look.
I grinned delicately, and reluctantly placed the food I’d been holding onto the china.
‘Auntie Nari,’ I began, staring right into her eyes. ‘If I told you everything I’ve been doing this past month or two, I really don’t think you’d believe me.’
She eyed me suspiciously.
‘You’re not one to do bad things, Kurlz.’
‘I haven’t been doing bad things,’ I clarified. ‘They’re just a bit extreme.’ But then I remembered I killed some trolls. I didn’t add that.
‘You usually are, so why don’t you try me?’
‘I’d rather not. And I don’t want to get into a discussion of this, because it well end up as a lecture, and I still won’t tell you, then I’d end up leaving and I don’t want there to be tension between us when I might not ever see you again.’
Both Nari and Gregon’s eyes bulged comically.
‘What? What do you mean we won’t see you again?’ Gregon demanded.
‘What’s going on Kurlz?’
‘Calm down,’ I soothed. ‘I’m just a bit more aware of death these days.’ That didn’t really console them. I tried again. ‘I know that one day you could be alive, and the next, dead. That’s all. And if I die, I want our last meeting to be happy.’ I smiled. ‘So, tell me, how have you been doing these past few years?’
Gregon sighed.
‘You’re growing up,’ he murmured. ‘I remember when you were a tiny baby. All small and wriggly. Trying to go off and what not. Now you’re so tall! And you’re even more adventurous than ever. Will you ever just be in one place?’
‘Sure,’ I said. ‘I can stay in one spot for hours. I just think while I sit.’
‘Oh... okay.’
‘Now, please tell me something before I go. Otherwise this would just have been a waste. Well, no, at least I would have got to see you again. But, you know.’
Gregon nodded.
‘Well, the other month we decided to get a dog.’
‘Seriously? Where is it?’
‘No, no!’ he waved off my excitement. ‘We haven’t got it yet. In a week or two. We’re getting a husky.’
‘A husky? I love huskies!’
‘You can see it when you come over later.’
My heart fell a bit. That “when” should be replaced by an “if”. Everything was if’s nowadays, and I was thoroughly sick of it.
I didn’t show my emotion, but replied, ‘I will’.
‘So, why are you putting off the whole dog thing?’ I wondered.
‘Well,’ Nari blushed through a magnetic curl of the lips. ‘Tasia needs to get a little more use to her new home.’
I tilted my head.
‘Who’s Tasia?’
‘Follow me,’ she whispered, and rose, gliding off to a long corridor.
I saw pictures of Gregon and Nari were fitted on the wall, and their family. I saw photos of my close circle and myself. I looked about eight, and had ringlets pouring over my face.
‘Shh...’ Nari whispered, a slim finger over her pursed lips, and then lead us into a dark room with a blue nightlight in the far corner.
We tip-toed to an object, anticipation gripping me, and looked over the rim... and that’s when I saw her. She was beautiful...
Tasia lay in the crib, fast asleep. She had a tuft of auburn hair on her pale brown skin. Her eyelashes were so long and her hands were tiny. She gurgled softly. And when I stroked her lids, they cracked open to gaze at me; she had dark green eyes. She didn’t cry, and soon went back to sleep.
I immediately fell in love with her. She was gorgeous, she was minuscule... my cousin.

I didn’t ask for a lift back to Moviant, I didn’t think it right. They had a life, a baby, a family. And though I was related, I wasn’t in the tight knit group, and I didn’t want to disturb their precious web. My extraordinarily flawed life was too much to converge with their fragile perfection.
I left soon after seeing my lovely cousin; feeling dejected knowing I wouldn’t see her grow up into a Nari look-alike. She would never know who I was. She had only seen me a second, half asleep in the dark at about two weeks of age. I doubted she would remember me from that. But, she would see pictures of me on the walls and might feel some unknown connection. She wouldn’t understand it, but I would.
I was quiet as we trudged to the bus stop, and the others were smart enough not to say anything. I wanted to think, despite the grief it gave me. I kept deep meaningful thoughts locked up for a while, and I needed to bring it up a bit.
We waited eleven minutes for the next vehicle, and hopped on without vivaciousness. I dug in my pocket and pulled out some cash that was a bit off the amount I had to pay, but he didn’t grudge about it, and let us take a seat. I didn’t even notice the few people that were traveling at this time of night.
I stared out the window, letting the world flash passed me. Time speeding past relentlessly.
My eyes were drifting close as the hum and rock of the bus lulled me. And, then suddenly, I was fully awake. Had I actually seen that? A man in the window?
I shook my head. I was tired.
‘Hello, Kurlz.’
I whirled around painfully, and saw who it was that had spoken my name.
He was tall and was not that much older than I was, with chestnut hair swaying over his skull. Pale skin dripped from his hairline and merged into spiteful features. I had no idea who he was.
‘Hello,’ I replied. ‘Do I know you?’
‘You do now,’ he leered.
‘Really? Because, to me, you’re still a stranger.’ Who was this guy?
He leaned right up to me, his fragrant breath spilling over me, though I did not find it one bit pleasant.
‘Don’t try and fool me Miss Basheld. We both know what’s going on here. I know you know.’
I caught a glimpse of Ruk, and his eyes were popping out of his head, and seemed to be paralysed. That wasn’t good.
‘Can you cut the crap, please? Who are you and what the hell do you want?’
‘I am Terium, and I want you dead.’
I looked at him as if he was crazy. Was this seriously Terium? As in the guy that wanted to kill me?
I didn’t know him. But he was the one that had me locked up, ready for the slaughter. Because of this man I had been through all that misery, the pain the death... And I hated him.
‘Sorry to inform you, Teri, but your wish is to be delayed a bit. I have things to do, and I don’t need your crap making things more difficult.
Terium’s face contorted even more with rage.
‘Don’t you dare call me that!’
‘Sorry Teri, but I don’t think you can be daring me not to do anything.’ I stood up, and he passed me a few inches. ‘If you want me dead, try it. We’ll see who gets out of this alive.’
Terium stepped forward, and Ruk swerved between us with a snarl in the creep’s direction.
‘Don’t you dare touch her!’
‘Ruk? Traitor!’ he spat. ‘You killed your own. And for what? This scum?’
‘She’s not the scum here.’
‘So, are you the scum?’
‘No. You are.’
I tapped Ruk on the shoulder.
‘Excuse me, but this is between me and the psycho. I can handle this.’
Ruk didn’t move, and so I sighed and shoved him aside.
I didn’t even say a word before I grabbed Terium by the neck and threw him to the ground. I kicked him before he could get up, and planted a foot forcefully on his chest. I was sick of people and things trying to kill me, and I was not in the mood to talk.
‘What do you want?’ I hissed. ‘Why do you want me dead, when I don’t even know you?’
Terium spat out blood.
‘I think I should stick with the other plan I had. You deserve to watch it all fall,’ he smirked.
‘What fall?’ I wondered.
‘If you think hard enough, I think you might figure it out. You’re smart enough.’
‘Tell me, or I’ll kill you,’ I said, my foot moving towards his throat.
‘I don’t think you want to do that.’
I heard a scream and spun. Mervie was in a choke hold, held by a wiry man with a knife. Ruk was out cold on the ground.
‘Let her go.’
He laughed and pressed his blade to Mervie’s neck.
I turned back to Terium.
‘What do you want?’
‘I told you before. You dead.’
‘Tell him to let her go.’
‘Let me up first, and then we might be able to make a deal.’
I stared, and for a few seconds, nothing happened, then I reluctantly removed my boot from his torso.
He wiped the dirt from him as he stood up.
‘Sit,’ he offered.
I sat and waited.
‘Did you know that I have already made someone do some dirty work for me because I had her as a hostage? He got that sphere, you know the one. The Aegis Sphere.’
Comprehension dawned on me, but I didn’t show it, nor did I reply. That sphere kept the school safe. Was he the one...? Was he the...? Was the message about... about him?
‘You know him, don’t you?’ he whispered, leaning in.
I kept silent.
‘Mr Borvolo...’ he stretched the word out.
‘Dad?’ Mervie cried. ‘Where is he?’
‘Shut up,’ the thin man said.
‘I can make you do whatever I want if I have her.’
From the corner of my eye, I could see Ruk stirring, and I hoped he would not draw attention to himself.
‘No you can’t,’ I snarled.
Terium seized my hair and pulled my head back.
‘Oh, I think I can.’
‘What do you need done?’
‘I need you to keep your mouth shut about us. You need to make sure no one knows the sphere is gone. If you don’t do as I tell you, she dies. Got that?’
I nodded, though it hurt.
‘Good, now-’
Suddenly, the wiry man collapsed, and Mervie scrambled out from under him, and ran to my side.
Terium’s eyes went wide as he saw Ruk standing over him, rage was making the troll convulse.
‘Teri,’ I said, pushing him away, and he stumbled. ‘We seem to have the upper hand.’
Ruk stalked forward.
Terium glared at me.
‘I guess I never really came here to kill you. Just warn.’
‘About?’
He smiled evilly. ‘I am the one you’ve been worrying about. The undoing of the place you love. Me.’
So, it was him.
‘You will watch your world crumble. Everyone will die, and you will be in the midst of it.’
Then he gathered his cloak, bent his knees, flung himself upwards and he smashed through the bus roof to soar through the air, out of sight in seconds.
Ruk calmed himself and looked at me with my arms around Mervie.
‘That was close,’ he breathed.
‘Yeah,’ I concurred. ‘Very close. Good on you for saving us. Now that we are all safe... for now, I think we are at least, we should get off this bus.’
‘Seriously?’ Ruk groaned.
‘Yes, seriously. I’m not waiting for Terium to come back with a whole pack of his scum bag assassins. Let’s go.’
The bus trundled to a stop and we all trooped down the walkway.
I glared at the bus driver.
‘Thanks for all your help,’ I muttered.
He gave a disgusting grin.
‘Not my business,’ he wheezed through rotten teeth. ‘And, besides, you were short a dollar.’
I gave a wry smile.
‘Have fun explaining the hole in the roof,’ I mocked, then bounced off the bus, and waved.
The bus driver had turned in his seat to look at the gaping aperture. He gawked.
I laughed, and we all headed for school as the driver was reduced to tears.
...
I could see the silhouette of M.A. High in the distance, the sun was out of sight completely, but it gave off a tinge of colour to outline the castle. Magnificent job.
‘That’s your school?’ Ruk asked.
‘Yes.’
‘It’s a freaking castle,’ he enthused.
‘Really? I hadn’t noticed after four years of practically living there. Anyway, it has to be bog to fit thousands of students in there.’
Ruk didn’t answer.
‘Wow,’ Mervie murmured. ‘This is gonna be my high school.’
I inclined my head, unable to think of a response.
‘It’s so cool,’ she went on.
‘Yes, it is.’
‘I never went to high school,’ Ruk imparted.
I really hadn’t thought about Ruk’s past life, let alone his education or what school he had or hadn’t been to. These were details I didn’t need, but they were not harmful to have.
‘Neither of you can come in there, ever,’ I dropped the bombshell.
There was a long silence.
‘What?’
‘Ruk I want you to take Mervie somewhere safe, and do not go near here, okay? Keep her safe.’
‘Kurlz, what’s going on?’
The only way he would leave me be, is if I broke his heart. That was all I could do to save them both; to hurt a friend.
‘It’s over,’ I said.
‘What? I don’t understand.’
I looked straight into Ruk’s eyes, and willed him to believe.
‘We are over. I don’t need you anymore. I have to go back to school, get on with my life.’ I had never broken up with someone before. ‘Just go.’
Ruk stared at me, looked like he was about to argue, but then grabbed Mervie’s hand.
‘If that’s what you want.’
I nodded, and knelt down to talk to Mervie. She had tears in her eyes.
‘I love you,’ I whispered. ‘Be strong, be safe, and do not come to M.A. High.’
She blinked.
‘Okay?’
She nodded slowly.
‘Okay.’
I stood up.
‘Ruk,’ I said. ‘You’re the best troll I have ever met. Don’t become savage, please?’
He didn’t say anything, not looking me in the eye.
I leaned forward and gave him a hug.
‘Goodbye,’ I breathed in his ear.
I rocked back, and stared at them both. Depressed. I would miss them so much, so dearly.
‘I’ll never forget either of you.’
Ruk tugged on Mervie’s hand, and she gave a little sob, but followed him into the night.
I kept my feet on the ground and watched them drift away into the trees.
I hugged my chest and respired. Then I pulled myself together, turned on my heel and marched up to the gates.
I was the lint, loosening from my sheets, because I needed to let go. I needed to enter the void space and accept my fate. I didn’t know where I would be taken, and it didn’t matter.
I obstructed my crying, but I let one tear fall. It splattered on the ground without my knowledge as I left the covers behind

The doors opened for me and I entered. No one would notice my appearance because they didn’t throw alarms about when a student or teacher went in or out of the school. But, with the Aegis Sphere missing, I doubted that it would have sprung bells into action if I wasn’t a pupil.
I gazed around, feeling familiar comfort wash over me as I was surrounded by the tall walls of M.A. High. The golden swirling patterns etching the ceiling. The ridiculously high bookshelves that reached the top, stacked with tomes that hardly fit. Ladders that seemed they would fall over if you climbed them were positioned beside each one, and though they looked dangerous, they were first-class; best wooden ladders ever.
Paintings of people that I had no idea of who they were, sat in flaxen frames, forever staring down at passer-by’s. I’m sure they were principals of some sort, but I couldn’t be sure.
The wallpaper was an old-fashioned sort, though it showed no wearing after decades. Spells of course. But, they were actually quite nice.
I scuffed the linoleum floor as I walked. It was not that dark, candles lighting my way with their subtle light, and I did not disturb the silence that enveloped me.
I made my way through the corridors, not meeting anyone on my way as I headed for my old dormitory.
My hands stroked the velvet lining of the banister as I trooped up the stairs, and then I stood in front of my dorm door.
My breathing had become heavier as I stared. Could I do it? Just, waltz in?
I grabbed the handle and turned it hesitantly.
Then I edged it open, and stepped inside...
I hadn’t been in this room since... since Denim was fighting with Jimone. I hadn’t seen the trinkets we had laid out, the photo’s the others had put up, the paintings we put on the walls, the fire flickering welcomingly...
But no one was there. Why was no one here?
I looked around, making sure nobody was hiding behind the kitchen counter or the lounges.
No one. Where’d they all go?
I sighed, and fell on the chocolate sofa. It was so soft that I melted into it. I hadn’t sat on this couch for so long, it felt like forever. It just soothed my aching bones. I slept for a few hours, indulging in the pleasure of softness.
I didn’t want to get up, it was hardly light again, didn’t want to leave the comfort of its luxuriousness, but I was suddenly ravenous.
I sluggishly got up and shuffled to the kitchen, opened the fridge and gazed inside.
‘Hmm...’ I mused. ‘I think I’ll have a sandwich.’
I got out cheese, ham, tomatoes, lettuce, chicken, olives, gherkins as well as seeded mustard, and placed them on the counter. I scrambled in the cupboard for some bread and chucked that on the countertop too.
I slapped my hands together, and started on my work. Bread, cheese, ham, lettuce, bread, cheese, chicken, tomato, bread, cheese, ham, gherkins, mustard, olives... and bread.
I smiled satisfied at my job, and picked up my mega sandwich. I bite into, chewed and sighed. Damn, that was good food.
Suddenly, I heard someone scream.
I looked up and saw Abcde with a tear-stained face, screaming. I hadn’t seen her in ages, and I was happy to see her, just not looking like that.
My sandwich slipped from my fingers and splattered on the counter. Ruined. Dammit.
I grinned sheepishly at Abcde.
‘Sorry, I’ll clean that up.’
She gave another shriek and stabbed a finger in my direction.
I turned to look behind me. Nothing was there.
‘What is it?’
She grabbed a pillow from the couch and pegged it at me. It hit me on the head.
‘What was that for?’
‘You’re dead!’ she screeched. ‘You’re not here! You’re dead! You’re dead!’
She picked up another object, a book, and hurled it at me. I swerved, missing it.
‘Hey!’ I shouted. ‘Stop that!’
She continued to scream, and she was becoming hoarse.
‘Shut the hell up!’ I yelled. ‘Please, it’s annoying.’
Abcde ignored my request and chucked a glass at me.
I managed to catch it and place it next to my fragmented sandwich.
‘Are you insane?’ I said. ‘You don’t throw glass cups around, idiot!’
‘You’re dead!’
‘You keep saying that, but I’m here, unzombiefied. Now please stop throwing items at me. It’s thoroughly irritating.’
I came towards her, and she stared at me with horrified eyes, backing into a corner.
‘Stay away,’ she warned.
I grabbed both her arms.
‘Abcde, it’s me, Kurlz. I’m not dead, I’m alive, and I’m here,’ I soothed.
She paused... then something dawned in the course of three minutes of aching silence.
‘Kurlz!’ she shrieked, in joy this time.
She jumped, and hugged me tightly with her skinny arms.
‘Kurlz! You’re back! You’re back!’
For another minute she shouted in jubilation, and I laughed at her glee.
‘What happened?’ she demanded. ‘Where did you go?’
‘Abcde, sit,’ I said. ‘I need to tell you a lot of things, and it is really important. Do not interrupt.’
She sat, and waited.
‘I was captured by Mr Borvolo-’
‘Mr Borvolo? The Science teacher?’ Abcde interrupted.
‘What did I just say? Please shut up as I tell you the story, okay?’
‘Sorry.’
‘Alright. Yes, I was captured by the teacher and I woke up in a cell...’
And so I told her the story. A great deal of it, anyway. I had to define the most important point of Terium coming to destroy M.A. High.
‘Terium? Who’s that?’
‘Some guy. But we have to warn the school. He’s coming, and it’s going to be soon, because he knows that I’m going to tell everyone what he’s going to do.’
‘What if the teachers don’t believe you? Or what if they are evil like Mr Borvolo?’
‘Mr Borvolo was blackmailed into doing it. His daughter would have been killed if he didn’t help.’
‘Oh...’
‘He’s still horrible.’
‘Yeah...’
‘Before we inform Mrs Poltei, tell me what has been going on at school.’
Abcde looked at me.
‘Everyone thought you were dead,’ she whispered. ‘You just disappeared, and no one knew where you had gone. All of us were so upset. Denim and Valish locked themselves in their rooms; Regal and Marn were always quiet. Quex was devastated, and so was I.’
I nodded.
‘Where’s Zanza?’ I cut to it.
‘She’s... she’s not with you?’
My heart clenched.
‘No.’
‘She’s... gone too.’
I closed my eyes, hoping they would not start bursting with tears. I couldn’t handle that.
‘She’s dead,’ I whispered.
‘What?’
I opened my lids and stared at Abcde.
‘Borvolo killed her.’
I knew it, I always had. I just veiled it. But it was absolutely true, without a doubt.
Her eyes went wide.
‘I dreamt... Kurlz, do you remember those dreams I kept having?’
‘Yes.’
She implored me to believe.
‘It was of Borvolo killing Zanza. I saw it. The day you were gone. I saw it, and I knew she was dead. I just didn’t know where, and I didn’t know what happened to you either.’
I gulped, taking it all in. Wow. That was big. A new power had emerged.
Abcde started to cry and I patted her on the back.
‘Kurlz,’ she whispered. ‘It was me.’
I looked at her, confused. ‘What was you?’
‘I wrote the message on the chalkboard.’
My mind froze. I didn’t know what to say, not even what to think. I was numb.
‘I didn’t know it was me, I just had white powder on my hands the day you told us about the message. And then I remembered a few weeks ago. It all came back. I was in a trance when I did it.’
A memory floated into my head. When I had come back from listening to the teachers talk, Abcde was in the kitchen, scrubbing her hands. Hands covered in chalk.
I was quiet for a while. I finally spoke.
‘Come on, we have to go to Mrs Poltei.’
...
Mrs Poltei had been quite surprised when she saw me. But when we had all gotten over the fact that I wasn’t dead, she nodded as I repeated my tale, in lesser detail, to her, not asking questions or giving exclamations, and I wondered if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
She was silent when I finished, then rose from her chair, gliding to a wall.
‘Mrs Poltei?’
‘Kurlz... we all thought you were dead, and it is such a relief that you are not. You are a great student, hardworking and smart.’ She looked at me. ‘You’re also a good person, and not a liar. But, I’m wondering, maybe you had hallucinations.’
‘What?’
‘Maybe it was from the torment of your captors. They killed one of your friends right in front of you.’
‘It was Mr Borvolo.’ My teeth were clenched.
The principal nodded.
‘That may actually be true. He has gone missing too.’
‘It is true. And I can prove that it is true,’ I insisted.
Mrs Poltei pricked her ears.
‘How?’
I faced her.
‘He has the Aegis Sphere. He gave it to Terium.’
To my satisfaction, she gaped and her eyes bugged with the threat of falling out.
‘The Aegis Sphere? Terium?’
I nodded.
She composed herself.
‘That is impossible.’
‘Oh, really?’ I replied. ‘Why don’t you go to the third door of the basement and check it out?’
Mrs Poltei stopped.
‘I’m the only one who knows what and where the Aegis Sphere is. How did you know it’s there?’
‘That it was there.’
‘It still is. I would know if it was destroyed.
‘What about just stolen?’
A pause.
‘Check,’ I grated the word from my mouth as though I was crunching on a hard lolly.
She hurried from the room, Abcde and I following her.
I lazily fiddled with a lock of my hair, ready for the principal to find out the school was unprotected and that we would be going under attack soon. The knowledge I had had for so many months.
We passed the dining hall, and I halted. My photo was up on the wall. And Zanza’s. What the hell...
‘Uh... excuse me,’ I called. ‘What is this?’
I stabbed at the pictures.
Mrs Poltei frowned.
‘You can read, right?’
‘Oh, there are words. Sorry.’
I skated over the letters, and furrowed my brow
It read:
In Memory of Kurlz Basheld and Zanza Jelcri.
They shall forever be remembered.
They’d given us a plaque? Oh, how fancy!
‘I’m not dead,’ I enlightened.
‘Yes, well, we know that now.’
‘You didn’t even bother to look.’
‘We did.’
‘Obviously not everywhere.’
‘Obviously.’
The three of us moved away from the dining hall, and I delved into thought.
We skimmed down the stairs and entered the “Bawling Basement”.
If they didn’t know that the orb was gone... and Borvolo only took me and the Aegis Sphere... oh... no.
The door was swung open and I held my nose as Mrs Poltei and Abcde got the full impact of the stench.
Abcde screamed continuously for the second time that morning and the principal gasped and gaped. I stared in profound horror, trying not to break down.
Zanza lay dead and rotting on the ground, decaying flesh hanging from her bones. She lay in a patch of crusted blood and was slumped in an awkward position. Her eyes festered in their sockets.
And the Aegis Sphere was gone.
I felt like crying. I couldn’t breathe. The air was clogged with the smell of decomposing flesh. The flesh of my murdered friend.
I let my hand fall to hug myself, and the fetor punched me in the nose and I gagged.
I have a strong stomach, I’ve said it before. But, with that image, and that smell, and the fact that one of my best friends was decaying on the ground... I puked on the floor, and gushed out a torrent of tears that Abcde had beat me both to.
Zanza was really dead, and there was no denying it.
...
Mrs Poltei had no idea what to say. But after a minute, she ushered us away and up the stairs. I heard her flip out her mobile and dial a number. She gasped some orders into the phone.
Abcde was weeping relentlessly, and I had to help her up the stairs to find a seat somewhere. I spotted one and sat her down onto it.
Her head fell on my shoulder, her arms flung around me she convulsed in howls, soaking my horrid top.
I sobbed uncontrollably.
How could Zanza be dead? How could she be rotting away in some room, and no one had bothered to look there? It showed such lack of respect and condolence, it was disgusting. How could that monster do such a horrendous, heinous thing?
Wrath swirled in the midst of my tears. I wanted revenge. I wanted Borvolo’s head on a pike. I wanted it to stick in the sewer. I wanted him to feel and see where he was. To know he was slowly deteriorating into the muck he lived in. I wanted to kill him, because nothing was a good enough reason to do what he did. That murderer was going to die.

I glimpsed someone running past us and down into the basement to join Mrs Poltei.
My emotions were going berserk, and I had to get them under control. I needed to be strong. So, pushing the image of Zanza’s corpse to the back of my mind (which I was becoming very good at doing, the part about putting it to the back of my head, not particularly Zanza), I sucked back my weeping and righted my spine, lightly nudging Abcde to get her to do the same.
‘Abcde,’ I whispered. ‘Please.’
She observed me through tears, and sniffled.
‘She’s dead, Kurlz,’ she croaked.
‘I know. But we can’t think about that now. We have to find the others. Where are they?’
‘Locked in their rooms.’
‘Come on, you can’t stay here,’ I lifted Abcde to her feet, letting her arm wind around my shoulder, and walked to our dorm.
In the dormitory, I eased Abcde off me, and strode to Valish’s door. I bashed on it, was returned with nothing so I battered at the wood again.
‘Open up!’ I yelled.
I heard kvetching in the room, and then someone stub their toe.
The door creaked open, badly needing oil, and Valish came out.
‘What the hell do you want?’ she mumbled, not looking at me.
‘I don’t know, a welcome back?’
Valish froze, and prolonged her head to lift up and see my face. She goggled and rubbed her eyes.
‘Am I having hallucinations? That would be really bad. I hate it when I lose my mind.’
‘Me too,’ I agreed. ‘But this is not a hallucination, delusion, illusion, vision, mirage or a dream. And I’m not dead, a zombie, an apparition or a figment of your imagination. I’m one hundred precent real, alive and breathing, guaranteed.’
She stared, then hugged me.
‘I thought you were gone forever.’
‘Yeah, me too.’
I eased her off me.
‘Before I say anything else, I need to group the others together, alright? I need to tell you all something.’
She agreed, and I proceeded to tell the others that I was, in fact, alive. It was getting quite tedious. All their reactions were denial, disbelief, wonder, a variation of them, or a mixture.
As I arrived at Jimone’s room, I was nervous. Was he still sick or possessed? Was he still deformed from the flame I had sent him through?
He opened the door and looked at me with wonder, with no scars I could see.
‘Whoa... am I being haunted?’ he murmured.
I rolled my eyes.
‘No, it really is me.’
‘Serious?’
‘Yes.’
I wondered if I could slip in some “are you possessed” conversation.
I hesitated, finding the words.
‘Are you...?’ is what I ended up with.
He stared at me with grieving eyes.
‘Kurlz, I’m so sorry.’
I became aware that I still thought that he was evil, and I really needed to break through that.
‘So... I need to know that... that it wasn’t you who did that,’ I whispered.
‘Kurlz, you know it wasn’t me. I was sick. I felt like someone was trying to get in control, and then my whole mind was lost to this whole other being. Believe me.’
I nodded.
‘I already knew it wasn’t you.’
Jimone sighed with relief.
‘Thank you. So much. I knew you couldn’t think I would do that... horrid monstrous thing to Denim, I just couldn’t.’
He shook his head.
‘That was really heavy. I’m telling ya. It took me a while to come round, but I did.’
I paused.
‘How did Denim take it?’ I asked.
‘Kurlz, I almost killed her.’
‘Not you, remember.’
‘Yeah,’ he murmured. ‘Not me. It wasn’t me. It was not my fault.’
‘So, you aren’t together?’
Jimone exhaled deeply.
‘She still can’t look me in the eye, and it is killing me. When you and Zanza,’ I flinched, ‘left, she was so upset. I should have been there for her, but I couldn’t.’
‘I know that you will both work it out. But now I must talk to you and the rest. Go to the lounge room, and I’ll get Quex, okay?’
He dipped his head, and started towards the sitting area, stopped, then gave me a big bear hug.
‘Whoa!’
‘It’s good to have you back, Kurlz,’ he said, real emotion in his voice.
‘I’m glad to hear that you cared,’ I replied, then stepped away from him.
He left, and I made my way to Quex’s room.
When I reached Quex’s door, I knocked and waited patiently for his answer.
He opened the door.
Quex really looked like a dead man. The loss of his sister must of killed him. I wondered what his parents must be feeling, and sympathy washed through me along with sorrow that I quickly locked back in the “don’t go there” chest.
‘Quex?’
He looked up at me.
I didn’t know what to say. So I got straight to the point.
‘I need to talk to you all,’ I said. ‘Can you come into the lounge room for a minute?’
‘Kurlz?’
‘Yes?’
‘You’re... alive.’
‘As everyone keeps telling me.’
‘But... I thought...’ his voice cracked.
‘I was dead?’ I finished shortly. ‘I know.’
I waited for the information to sink in.
Suddenly Quex swung his arms around me and planted a kiss on my lips, zapping my brain.
He pulled away and I stared at him for a few seconds.
I was rushed with some emotion that I didn’t know the name of, and I didn’t have time to ponder about it either.
‘Well... that was unexpected,’ I strained the words from my tingling mouth.
‘Yeah...’
There was a pause. At least it was better than “your breath is rank!” which I had said to the last guy that had kissed me. Probably because Quex’s breath was actually sweet-smelling after frequent brushing of the teeth.
‘Anyway, as I was saying, we need you in the lounge room, ‘I mumbled awkwardly.
‘Right.’
He moved passed me and entered the guy’s dorm sitting area. I followed him.
I stroked my lips and thought about what was behind the whole kiss.
Had Quex done it because he liked me. Because, deep down, we weren’t just friends. What if we were actually more?
Or what if he was just really glad to see me, and it the spur of the moment he expressed his feeling of relief in a totally non-romantic sort of way? And maybe he might have actually been going for the cheek, but missed.
I think I would land on the latter for now, and would not jump to any conclusions. But the truth is, I really didn’t know, and I really didn’t have the time to read Quex’s mind right now for a stupid little thing like a kiss. I was better than that, than to think of guys in this crucial moment, so I dropped the thought, pushing it to the back of mind like I did to everything else.
When I arrived in there, everyone was seated and waiting.
‘Well... I’ll start from the start, shall I?’ I began and pursued it with the rest of my story for the third tiresome time that morning.
‘And so...’ I ended lamely.
I gave a space of silence to let them register the whole case of events.
It seemed as though someone was about to speak, but the hush extended into a quite lengthy quietude. I needed to break this pounding still.
I opened my mouth... and then I was rocked to my knees by an unexpected explosion of a quake.

Terium beamed with horrid glee at his vast army; holding thousands on the rotten earth. It waved rarely as a group of individuals in the pack moved or shifted in their usually steady stance. They were plated with armour that was thick, but light so they could carry it as they fought. Which they would be doing in the short future.
You see, after the little disagreement on a certain squalid motor coach, which occupied an unpleasant girl and her friends, Terium decided that it was time to spring the attack on the school as soon as the morning. Because as soon as that brat got back to her precious educational castle, she would be spouting the word to everyone like a disease, and then they would be ready for his armed force. Well, not totally ready, though somewhat aware. But before they understood their danger and prepared to flee or protect, they would scamper around like chickens being chased by a dog. As he had thought before, it was perfect to have them frenzied fools.
He roared out to his army, and it bellowed back in a booming upsurge, despite the fact they had no idea why they were doing any yelling at all.
‘We go to war!’ Terium shouted to them, and they stamped in murderous mirth. ‘Today we set that hell on fire and watch it burn! Today we kill!’
They just adored every vindictive word that came out of his rosy lips. They prayed that he would go into detail, craving malign remarks of encouragement.
Terium was so full with exhilaration at his army’s enthusiasm. They would not fail him, they would not be traitors, but fight at his side to the very end, if they lived, they would be rewarded, if they died, so be it. Terium wouldn’t waste his time on dead people and trolls. It was such a useless thing to do, possessing no point at all. People at funerals were idiots, and he despised those that went to them.
‘To the gates!’ Terium mandated.
He swept from the balcony and swooped down the stairs, the loud stamping of his army’s procession thrumming in his ears pleasantly.
Terium’s thoughts dwelled into the prison of Georgia and Arktik Borvolo. Oh, such a sweet couple. Forever in their dungeons, scraggly trolls feeding them filth. They would never be released. Those two were his to do what he will. It would be exquisitely fun. A conversation entered him mind...
Terium threw Arktik in with Georgia, thinning with lack of food, passed out in the corner of shadowed filth.
‘Let her go!’ he had cried. ‘Let her go, and kill me instead!’
Terium leered, and leaned forward.
‘Oh, but I am going to kill you. Slowly and painfully...’
‘But, you promised!’ Arktik shrieked. ‘You promised you would let them go!’
Terium felt like screaming with laughter.
‘You idiot. Never trust anyone like me, Mr Borvolo. Our kind has a habit of breaking our promises, and murdering.’
The pale figure swept out of the rank cell, slamming the barred door shut.
He left with the echoing howls of Arktik.
‘You promised!’
It filled Terium with such profound joy...
As he strode down a hall, he slipped his fingers into a pocket and fondled a key which he withdrew from the soft pouch and held firmly in his hand, his tendons protruding.
Terium’s dark heart was thudding with excitement. He was finally going to free something he had been urging to release ever since he had attained it. This was the time, and he would exult in every second of it.
He arrived at a very large door that towered over him mightily and threatened to fall over and crush his skeletal form. He slid the silver key into the lock. It gave a fulfilling click, and the portal groaned open from lack of care and use.
‘Come out, my beauty,’ his whispers caressing each syllable, luring the monster from its prison.
There was a reverberating stomping, and Terium grinned in thrill.
‘That’s right, lovely, it’s time to come out. You are free. And you know what you want to do?’
The giant bent over to exit the room and straightened itself, its head scraping the roof, its fuzzy hair flattening. It was fifteen metres tall, and it hadn’t even stopped growing yet.
It bellowed vehemently.
‘I want to kill!’
Terium approved greatly.
‘Yes you do. And you may just get your chance. We have to go now, though. I need you for a little job.’
‘Kill!’
‘Yes, all in due time, my beauty.’
The giant growled.
‘Come. You just have to come with me now, and then we’ll see what you can do.’
The giant considered, then nodded.
‘Take me,’ she demanded.
Terium’s face split in happiness.
He turned on his heel, swishing his cloak on the floor, and paraded the entrance hall with the giant slowly slogging afterwards.
When he reached the double doors of the castle mouth, Terium stopped and gazed up at the behemoth.
‘Giantess!’ he called up. ‘Please escort me to the front of the procession.’
She lowered her hand, which was the size of a medium pool, and Terium clambered on with as much dignity as her could muster, then stood up straight, righting his cloak around him. Giantess raised her arm and crashed out the front entrance to view Terium’s army stamping their way along the vast void of land.
‘Now, if you can go around,’ Terium said. ‘And get to the front that would be great. And try not to step anyone, because that would be really unhelpful.’
Giantess obeyed, and circled the marching people, and started shuffling along at the front. She might have squashed a troll or two, but that would be just fine if he had her on his side. The trolls in the group were none too pleased though, especially the ones that were flattened.
‘That wasn’t too bad,’ Terium complemented.
Giantess didn’t reply, not giving a damn if she stood on a few insignificant soldiers or not.
It would take a few hours to get to the school, and by then the sun would have floated into sight, and cast a little light on the whole scene. As it was now, the dead of night, Terium felt as though he should sleep, though he wouldn’t dare do that in front of his troops. What would he look like?
Besides, he hardly wanted to sleep. He was too pumped up, ready for the kill, and he wouldn’t have cotton threads weaving away at his eyes, making him slow and sluggish. He needed to be alert and as sharp as the sword he carried.
Another big reason why he couldn’t rest was because, if he did, he might fall off Giantess’s hand and she would almost definitely crush him with her van-proportioned feet. It was the most important reason of all, in fact, the distinction between living and dying, trampled over by his army that would have no one to instruct them.
So, Terium stared off into the dark, and thought of all the ways he could kill the people at the School for Marred and Abhorrent, and relished in all the details. He clung to his blade and hissed.
This was perfect.
Terium skimmed his nails across the Aegis Sphere and felt as though he could pierce it. But that would have to wait. He couldn’t be impatient with that, or could he? Everyone probably knew already, anyway. But what if they didn’t? What if the principal thought she was delusional, a liar? It didn’t matter either way, because Terium was not going to destroy the sphere until he saw the boundaries of his hatred.
They were all going to die, they would pay for the horror he had suffered for all his high school years. The taunting cackles of evil that echoed in his ears as he tried to drown them out with his sleep. The void corridors, not so vacant. Alone, but always someone there, watching, inflicting hell upon him. The permanent torture... it would all fall on them.
...
The knife of sun cut onto the ground, lighting the world of night, and breaking into day with sharp rays.
Terium stood on the hand of a giant, steadying himself on the large thumb with one hand while the other played across his hilt and to the orb a number of times, halting on one of them for a long time, then repeating it over again.
The castle was in front of him, and his emotions were confused, something Terium despised. Was he feeling excitement, terror, overwhelmed? It didn’t matter. He was ready, and he had been ever since he had left that wretched place almost a year ago. One year, and the pain still as fresh as the blood on a scar.
This was the time...
Terium tapped the giant on the thumb, and she looked at him.
‘You may put me down now,’ he told her, and she did so, Terium leaping off.
He faced the immense gate and smiled. It was not a pleasant turning of the lips.
Terium reached into the folds of his cloak and the Aegis Sphere emerged along with his sword. He pointed the tip of the blade at the orb that he had placed on the dewed grass, feeling the realisation that it was all coming true, tingles in his fingers like insects revelling in his skin.
He plunged the sharp metal into the object and it shrieked, chilling his blood. It was strange that an object that possessed such power could fall victim to sharpened metal. After all it did protecting the school, it could not fight for itself. Bright jade light spurted from the crack and Terium shielded his eyes from the searing shine. The orb continued to scream and hiss, the fissure becoming longer and wider, the radiance cascading out, lost of any control it had obtained in its vitreous form. The screeches were becoming more high-pitched, and Terium had to press his hands over his ears, and squeeze his eyes shut to prevent his senses being eradicated. The sphere gave one final shriek, and exploded with a burst like the sun itself had finally given up on the world and detonated, shards of orb flecking Terium, marking his fair face.
He eased his hands away from the sides of his head and stared. There was a patch of black where the Aegis Sphere had been, shattered glass littering the circle of ash.
And it was gone. Finally. The school was unprotected at last, after years their walls were as bare as naked flesh. Exposed and vulnerable in the morning sheen.
Terium smiled, and walked right through the door...
He entered the grounds that he had not tread on since the year before. And right now, no one was around. It was completely deserted.
He turned, and gestured for his army to follow him.
‘Now!’ he yelled, and his army spilled into the gates and roared.
Giantess broke through the bulwark, smashing it to pieces, flinging debris everywhere, and clouding the area with dust for a time where everything was grey and brown powder. She picked Terium up and went around the back as he had requested, to come in later if need be. He required her for something else at the moment, and he needed to be there when she did it.
Groups of soldiers ignited flames on the grass and trees, rage ate at them hungrily, other warriors threw bombs of fire on the walls, and they erupted everything into a red haze.
There were cries of realisation that something was amiss, and in minutes people streamed into the field, and horror-struck faces flooded them like the mist of fire.
Terium glared at them, pleasure at their shocked terror as he peeked behind the troll.
But where, in the tangle of bodies, was that girl?

I was overwhelmed by the sudden knowledge that Terium had come without warning, and he had sprung attack already, and I had told no one else of the fight that was to come. I was too late to alert. I was floundering in a storm that I had only recently discovered I was encompassed by. Thunder was howling and I had nothing to latch on to.
I swung out of the room, and ran at full speed to the front of the castle, and dimly heard the others following me. Lost in a hurricane. I needed to be there now. If anyone went out that door, there was hardly a doubt that they would perish in the lightning, and we needed warriors to fight this war.
‘Kurlz, what the hell is going on?’ Denim screamed into my ear.
‘What was that?’
‘What the hell is going on?’
‘Kurlz!’
I merged eight sword out of my palm, and chucked seven of them to each of my bewildered friends, keeping the last one for myself.
‘Why won’t you answer me, Kurlz?’
‘Kurlz?’
‘Did you not listen to my story?’ I shrieked back over the cacophony of perplexed and fearful students as well as teachers running about.
‘What?’
‘There’s a war!’ I yelled. ‘They snuck right up on us, and they going full out on us. Do you understand?’
There was a silence from them where they swallowed this information, as pleasant as poison, and tried to prepare themselves.
Oh gosh, oh gosh, oh gosh, was pretty much all I got from Denim.
I am going to die. Right now in this moment.
This is not happening, I’m dreaming. Yes... that’s why Kurlz is here! Abcde thought, rewinding to the idea that I was just a figment in her sleep visions.
I sighed. This was going to be hard for them to stomach, but they needed to, and now.
Please keep me safe, please don’t let me die... please, please, please...
No!
‘To everyone that thinks their minds are not being monitored,’ I said. ‘Please stop going on about how you hope you won’t die, etcetera. Oh, and Abcde, I thought we were passed the fact I’m real.’
‘Sorry, Kurlz,’ she mumbled.
‘Yes, I’m sure you are,’ I replied as we skidded to a halt as a throng of various beings clotted the vestibule.
‘Oh, crap,’ I muttered.
I turned to Marn.
‘Can you transport people?’ I inquired desperately.
He stuttered, spotlight on him.
‘I, uh...’
‘Spit it out!’
‘I don’t know, I’ve never tried it before.’
I considered, then shrugged.
‘That’s good enough for me,’ I answered, thrusting my arm out.
He stared at it.
‘Transport me, you idiot!’
‘No! I can’t do that!’
I grabbed his elbow.
‘We freaking don’t have time!’ I hissed at him. ‘Transport me now!’
Marn hesitated, then squeezed his eyes shut and I was suddenly surrounded by darkness.
I had hardly a time to react to the pitch and drift, because in another section of a second I was standing out the front of the congregation.
I staggered back, astounded by the abundance in which the army had come in. It was an enormous wave of armoured creatures casting the castle into chaos.
What they did not think of, was that, because of the fire and smoke, the people were partially shrouded by it, and had some time for me to back them up. Why had Terium not thought of that? What was he doing?
I raised my arms in front of the crowd and yelled.
They did not take notice.
I silently fumed, then tried again with no such luck.
‘HEY!’ I bellowed, and this time they turned their heads to me.
Good, I thought.
‘EVERYONE MOVE BACK!’ I screamed. ‘MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!’ I felt as though my lungs my burst, or my throat would swallow my voice.
In a painfully slow manner, they backed up, and I exclaimed with relief.
I went back with them.
‘Get weapons!’ I roared. ‘Prepare for war!’
I found my group of friends.
‘We need to go out there,’ I told them.
‘What, just us?’ Marn’s eyes bugged.
‘Denim, how many of yourself can you clone?’
‘Uh... about twenty, twenty-one, maybe,’ she stammered.
‘Good. Do it now, and give your doubles some swords to work with too, okay?’
She agreed.
I forced a bow and arrow out my hands and slung my sword to my side.
‘Valish, use the fire against them, okay? Get it away from the walls and turn it on them.’
‘Yes.’
‘Okay, are we ready?’
‘No,’ Marn muttered.
‘Good, let’s go.’
I bolted for the door and plunged through the doors and into the smoke-filled air.
I coughed once, my eyes watery, then I set my arrow into place on the bow and sent it flying into the bunch of evil soldiers.
I heard it propel into someone, and they fell down to my satisfaction.
Adrenaline coursed through my veins, setting them on fire as if my blood was oil, my rage was the spark.
To take its place, I thrust another arrow from my hand, and it slid into position, exactly where the previous had been. I launched it again, and then repeated procedure, creating a rhythm I easily adapted to, though not always with the same outcome.
Beside me, I saw Valish whipping the fire around, her body and arms convulsing with the effort to control so much conflagration. She flung balls of brilliant orange at people who burst into flames and started screaming, batting at the licking blaze.
Marn was somewhere overhead teleporting large stones from a place that was unknown to me, and let them fall and crush anyone unfortunate to be under him at that moment.
Denim had cloned herself and had all twenty-one of her turn invisible, so I didn’t know what hell she was creating, though I hoped it was very damaging.
Quex was using his laser sight to zap at the on-coming killers, and managed to get a few on the ground. They might even be dead, which is all I wanted.
And where was Jimone? Oh, there he was. He was stretching up high and leaning his arm down to occasionally swing the blade I had made him, into the people and trolls.
Abcde had climbed a wall and now pounced on an unsuspecting ogre, and started slashing at him fiercely, cutting at his metal plates, trying to find purchase to his skin.
It all sounded as though we were going great, killing them off as though they were just dummies, ready to have their thread slashed, and that we were killing them by the hundreds, but we weren’t. It was truly difficult, and I felt exhausted just a minute into battle. I was worn, and I needed a big long rest for about a week. But if I succumbed to weakness, I would die. You stop, you die.
I was already faltering and a burly man had come up to me and started to swing a mighty axe in my direction. I stepped to one side, dodging it, then blocked another shot with my sword. He leaned down on his weapon, eyes shining, and my arms ached with the effort of just trying not to let him get any closer to my neck.
I seemed in a very bad situation, and I thought wildly of what to do. A sudden thought came to me, and I kicked hard at the man’s knee.
He grunted, and spun off of me, and I stabbed the sword into him through his metal plates, at the armpit. He staggered, but did not fall, and managed to escape from my sight.
I saw that the wave of soldiers were coming forward, and that the eight of us had no chance of keeping them back, and if nothing happened soon, we all would die, or have to flee. Neither of those options seemed very appealing to me.
‘We need everyone,’ I muttered to myself.
I turned to Valish.
‘Can you hold them off for a while? I need to get more fighters on our side.’
She nodded, sweat dripping from her brow, hot from her own fire, and raised a mighty wall of flames across Terium’s army, but we were the ones imprisoned; hemmed in by spite and keen steel.
I backed up into the school and saw the scatters of people with no clue what to do. A rumble of wild thoughts.
‘Hey!’ I yelled. ‘Get a weapon and start fighting!’
I splayed my hands to the floor and sent out a stream of maybe a hundred swords onto the ground, making my arms ache with the effort. I felt drained. I groaned with the effort. How could I release so many weapons and still not be making enough?
Denim skidded to my side, no longer invisible.
‘That’s not enough,’ she puffed. ‘We need more.’
‘I can’t. I haven’t got any more.’
She sighed, stretching her limbs, concentrating.
I waited. And then... the bundle of weapons bubble and expand. She duplicated them, and still is. She continues to make them grow, fierce and wild. How many are there? A thousand? Five thousand? More?
She moaned and her arms fell beside her.
‘Grab a weapon, and get to it!’ I roared.
I ran back to the battle, seeing that the students were grabbing for the weapons I had made, the ones Denim cloned.
A few seconds later, our warriors gushed from the front doors, yelling war cries, as if they were ready for the fight. As if they had known... They had been oblivious to every clue, every whisper. They were not ready. They had been caught off guard, and thrown into a battle that they had no idea was brewing, and who the chef of the poisonous mixture was.
That’s right, get into the spirit. Shout your cries as fearless as the ignorant.
Valish split the fire so that everyone could find purchase to a kill.
A troll came running up at me with a broadsword and I blocked it heavily. With my other hand I sent a jet of flame at his face, and he doubled over in pain.
I cracked down on his head with a strong foot, and he fell flat on his face. To finish the job, I thrust the blade between his armour, leaving it there, and went to find someone else to fight.
I saw a girl, much younger than me, trying to deflect lunges, and looking terrified.
I slid a knife from my palm, snuck up behind him and stabbed it into his trachea and yanked it downwards without a thought, opening a gash in his throat. He gasped for air, but it just went out of his neck hole and he collapsed.
The girl gaped at me, silenced.
‘You’re welcome,’ I said, then moved off.
Someone jabbed at me, but I barely dodged and staggered to the side, and she took the upper hand, swiping at me with a Corinthian war sword and slashing at my bare stomach and making it bleed.
I hissed and lunged for her.
She parried it and I returned it with a sharp riposte but she blocked it again. I was starting to worry if this woman was going to finish me off.
‘You’re much better than I am,’ I informed her.
‘That’s not hard to beat.’
I gave a “fair enough” face and feinted at her legs, but went for her shoulder, but she saw it and swung her sword up high to stave it off.
I sighed.
‘Give it up, girl,’ she hissed.
I couldn’t beat her with fair swords, so I cheated and flung the knife I had used to kill the previous troll, and she grabbed it before it could impale her throat, too.
She smiled cruelly and swung her blade at me, almost slitting me, but I fell to the ground. She went to kill, but then she stopped, yelled out, and fell to the ground.
I looked at the woman, who now had a blade in her back, then got up, surprised. The girl I had just saved was standing over her, looking shocked at what she had done.
I smiled at her.
‘Thanks,’ I said, patting her on the shoulder.
As I saw it, the army had the advantage of surprise, skill in swords, size and shielding. But with armour comes a dampening of your power which made them lose their magical abilities, so without our metal plates we had one point in that area. We also knew the details of the land, and might be able to use that to our benefit. That’s pretty much all we had. Not many of us were good with blades, in fact, some had never picked one up before, but that was just the new year’s. The little ones being slaughtered for veal.
I saw a troll kill about thirty people in the course of a few minutes, and decided I would try to take him out.
I scorched his armour with a ball of flame, and he turned around from fighting a teacher I vaguely recognized.
He glared at me, punched the teacher, who immediately fell unconscious, and turned to me.
I readied my sword in front of him, and he guffawed thunderously, reminding me of an evil and disgusting Santa Claus. The kind of Father Christmas that, instead of giving you coal, would dig a knife into your heart and eat you for his cookies and milk. After bellowing, he lunged at me and punched me hard, right in the face.
Oh, gosh, I can’t believe how much that hurt. I saw flashing lights, and I thought I might go down, but I came back up. I would not give up like that, not after everything. I would not be beaten by a single hit to the face, no way.
My nose was dribbling blood, and I spat it away from my mouth. I didn’t have to react further than that, because he grabbed my shoulders and head-butted me, pulling me deeper into dizziness. Soon he would finish me off with his sword, I could feel it.
I blinked, fell to the ground and scrambled on the dirt.
He picked up his sword and went to thrust it into my chest, but I managed to pick up my own blade, and block it just in time. But I was weak with light-headedness and the tip of his weapon dipped at my collarbone, and I oozed out blood to my attackers satisfaction.
I kicked at his feet, but he stomped on one, and I thought it broke with how much agony it brought.
I cried out, trying to get my foot away from him, but he twisted it harder into the dirt and I moaned in fresh pain.
My head lolled to one side, and everything went blurry.
No, I thought. No, not like this.
The world was slipping from me, and there was nothing I could do to cling it back to me...
An idea burst into my head, and a sudden hope sparked inside be, fiercer than the ones I conjured with my hands.
I stared at the troll and grinned. He looked confused, but then fixed his kill face back on, pressing the sword from my clavicle to my throat, so he could cease my breath that floated from my curved lips.
I growled, then shredded my skin like old paper, crashing into my wolf form.
He backpedalled, to my delight, and I leapt forward.
Before he could run, I grabbed snatched his throat with my teeth and mangled his windpipe. Ever since killing a troll by this, I have always loved the feel of cartilage beneath my teeth, and crushing it. He wheezed, but I had no time for satisfaction, because someone else had bounded onto my back and was thrusting a dagger as ruthlessly and fast as they could.
I roared in suffering, and tried to claw them off, but I couldn’t, they just clung on for dear life as they tried to take mine away.
Blood seeped through my fur, warm and wet, yet I hardly registered it with someone digging a hole in me as if to find some buried treasure.
I needed to get them off, and right now or they would kill me, and I had just escaped death a second ago.
I lifted onto my hind legs and backed towards a wall, slamming them into it as forcefully as I could achieve. They didn’t come off, though they paused for a second as they yelled, and now another attacker had come at my legs and was cutting at them.
I yelped and tried to stamp my feet onto their backs, but they rolled out of the way and continued.
I saw a floating sword and called out.
‘Denim!’ I cried. ‘Help!’
The blade turned in my direction and then began to charge at the nimble beast at my calves.
She stabbed him at the armpit and he cried and whirled about to find that the only thing there was a hovering weapon dripping with his blood. He managed a gaping look of surprise before he was beheaded, his uselessly armoured head falling and clanging as it went to roll on the earth.
I didn’t have time to thank her; I didn’t have time to be thankful; I had to deal with the monster on my back.
I was feeling faint, I couldn’t be feeling that at a time like this, not when I could die so soon.
I thought of something through the haze and fell right onto my back. The soldier roared and when I got back up, he did not. I would have smiled, but there was a yawning wound around my shoulder, and so my attention was focused upon that instead.
Staggering, I finished him off, ripped of some of the shirt he wore under his armour and bandaged up my bleeding back, then throwing myself back into battle.
I clawed at someone’s back, and they swung their blade at my paw, drawing a line of blood on my oncoming palm. I batted him down, but then I was surrounded by four armoured trolls, all trying to bring about my death. There was so many, they could afford to group together. They all jumped on top of me, pinning me to the ground. If I hadn’t been so weak, I may have been able to beat them off, but I was. Breath left my lungs.
And now I wasn’t sure if I would make it, for no one was around to save me this time, they were struggling themselves. After all the near death in such a short time, how could I continue in this absolute pain? This mass of merciless murder?
My mind suddenly flashed to Quex kissing me. Would I never know how I felt about it? How he felt about it? To die before I ever loved someone? What if it was him? What did loving someone even feel like? What did love feel like?
I might never know what it felt like, but knowing I would never see Quex again made a tear escape my furry lids, and my heart clenched tightly. How could I never see him again? He was my best friend. I loved him, in at least one way. How could this really be my death after everything I had been through? Had practicing for battle been a waste? Had escaping Terium’s castle meant nothing? Had Mervie saving me from that serpentine beast been for nothing? Had killing all those beings concluded to nothing but a dint in the mass that was surely going to conquer? Was everything I had ever done lost of purpose?
No... I could not let this happen. I would not let this happen.
Anger boiled in me.
Mustering every ounce of strength as I could, I pushed up. Fury fired me, and I ignored all the pain, all I kept in my mind was the hate I felt for Terium and his hideous followers and formed it into a something with a shape, and used it to get up off the ground. My loathing was my ladder to life.
I let free a stentorian roll of thunder from my chest, grasping warriors from my back and flinging them away from me. They did not give up so easily, charging at me, though I dodged and hit them.
And I continued to fight. I fought until I could no longer continue, yet sill I battled, even when I was breathless and weak, I fought.
And I fought.
And I fought...
I leaned against a wall, cradling a damaged arm, panting uncontrollably. Each breath as worthless as the last, and still my lungs ached for air, for rest, and always they were never quenched of their need.
How was it possible to keep this up? Would there ever be a conclusion to this war? Or would we battle forever? No, I could barely last even another second of this.
I needed help. I needed help so badly, or I would fall, and I doubt I would ever get back up.
I squeezed my eyes closed
‘Please,’ I whispered, though the murmurs barely sounded like words on my lips. ‘I need help. Please...’
My dragging breath slowed, and returned to a usual puffing, as though I had just had a nice run. I scoffed at the idea, though it sounded just like another heavy breath escaping my lungs.
And through it all, I felt a sudden tingle...
My eyes were drawn to the sky, to view a speck of black in the blue. What was that? Could it be...? No... I was seeing things in my haze of pain.
And then my ears were gifted with the sound of trilling beauty, piercing and filling me with new warmth. A hope. Hope glided on the seething wind, manoeuvring with the current, as though taken by a river.
I almost exclaimed with joy as my heart swelled at the sight of Hyenthis soaring in the blue, her feathers lambent by light. She blocked out the sun, and she was silhouetted in gold. She was beautiful, a moon in an eclipse, and she had come to aid.
My Hyenthis.
My hope.
She swooped down, her claws etching lines in the dirt as she landed. I quickly climbed atop her, after morphing into my human form, despite my aching. A troll hastened in our direction, but before his blade could find place in Hyenthis’s side, she grabbed his arm with her strong beak, and snapped down. He dropped his sword, and Hyenthis took the chance to fling herself into the air, and I held on tight to her silken feathers.
I leaned forward near the protruding plumage at her ear region.
‘Fly,’ I whispered. ‘Fly above all the screams of battle.’
‘You called,’ she said, aiming for the clouds.
‘I did?’ I asked, confused.
‘You did. You said you needed help. You needed me. So I came.’
I hugged her.
‘Thank you. So much.’
I inclined, and looked out over the war. It was terrible. So much dead lay on the earth. So many students. How many did I know? All of them?
My eyes averted to the demolished barricade, and what rested before the rubble, and I clenched my stomach into a hard ball... There were thousands more soldiers than I had ever thought there to be, and they were just waiting to come into the school gates. Waiting for their own to die so they could fill in for their fellow combatants.
We could never win this war. It was impossible. How could we beat thousands of skilled humans and trolls? Our school would perish under their feet, and they would trample the turrets of the castle as though it was nothing but sand.
I produced a bow and arrow from my hands and shot at the advancing assailers.
If we were going to lose, at least I would kill as many damn people as I could. Arrow after arrow emitted from my palm, flying, killing, missing.
Hyenthis swerved, and my view went around to the back of the school, down the courtyard and across the field near the Cliff.
My eyes bulged as I saw what was standing there. I dropped my bow and it clattered into the crowd below. Fear ripped through me. This was worse than the continuous troops.
I tried to pull myself together.
Was it even possible that this was happening?
That there was an effing giant at the Cliff?
An effing giant?
I gripped at Hyenthis’s neck feathers, and shook my head.
‘Can you see that?’ I uttered to her.
The griffin nodded and I could feel she had stiffened, although not as much as I had.
‘How did Terium manage to get a giant on his side?’ I wondered out loud.
‘Is it his?’
‘Of course,’ I replied. ‘What are the chances of Terium attacking and a giant coming at the same time, and it being a coincidence? It’s highly unlikely.’
‘Then why is it over there, and not killing?’
‘Exactly what I was thinking, though I’m not ungrateful that he hasn’t set it on us. We could have been wiped out before we realised we had an army on our grounds. Why is the giant over there?’
My eyes furrowed.
‘Why would he send it there? Why not kill us as soon as he possibly could?’
As soon as I said it, I knew the answer.
‘He wants us in torment before we die,’ I whispered. ‘He’s... torturing us. Just like he was...’
Hyenthis did not reply.
I blinked.
‘But, what is the giant doing? It’s doing something.’
I tried desperately to perceive what the monster was doing, but it was too far, and the sun was streaking into my eyes. The movement of flight didn’t help in the dilemma either.

Pausing, I wondered if I should do what was in my mind.
Should I?
Yes.
‘Take us to it,’ I ordered, ignoring the fact that it may look like I was fleeing the fight like a coward. And that was hard to deal with.
‘Are you sure?’ Hyenthis, anxiousness in her lovely warbling voice.
‘As sure as I can be at the present. Now, fly.’
Hyenthis beat her large wings and streaked the ether. The sun was baking my back as I leaned onto her shoulders, blinking at the sudden bursting rush of air thrashing my face.
What did I plan to do? Was there, in fact, anything that I could do? How could I go up against a fifty foot high giant? I would be dead in seconds, and it would barely notice.
I started to breathe heavy, fear clutching at me like a needy child, begging for attention at the wrong time. This was impossible. How could I do this? I couldn’t.
But I had to.
Hyenthis halted when we were only twenty metres away, hidden by the stretch of tree limbs, forever yearning for an embrace.
I peered at the mass of monster and then was shocked by another revelation.
‘Terium!’ I hissed darkly.
The fiend was crouching on the giant’s shoulder, clutching at the greasy strands of hair for support as he scrutinized what his big helper was doing.
What was it doing?
It was at that moment that I discerned a murmuring of the beast. I tried to fathom the words, but they seemed to be in a foreign language. It was the voice that formed the giant into a woman. It was still rough, stroking its song with sandpaper, but there was a hint of feminineness in it that informed me of the gender. If I had not heard it murmur, I would be oblivious to its sex.
The giantess was also moving her hands in jolting gestures, but over the time I watched, they became more fluid and rhythmic. Terium was encouraging her the whole way, unaware that Hyenthis and I were watching.
After another minute of listening, I distinguished the sound as... summoning. But of what? What unholy things could he want to bring from the depths?
I didn’t know, I didn’t want to know. All I was grasping was that I had to stop him from doing it.
‘What do we do?’ I fizzed through breath.
‘Kurlz...’ she began, sighing. ‘Just hang on, okay?’
‘Wha-’ is all I got out before Hyenthis catapulted herself at the giantess’s head, pinning me to her neck.
Her claws sunk into the scabbed scalp and raked along it until she almost reached the occipital bone.
The giantess was ripped from concentration and she yelled, grabbing for the tufts of her hair that were sticking to her cranium with oozing blood. Hyenthis had already rocketed backwards before filthy stubby fingers could grip her.
Terium swivelled around as the giantess swung her big hairy arms at us, moaning with pain.
‘YOU!’ Terium shrieked as he spotted me atop my griffin. ‘You sneaky little worm! You nuisance! You scum of the earth!’
His fit of rage was something amusing to watch. His pale face flushed red as he cursed me over and over, spittle was flying from his mouth and his already twisted features warped into a tumult of loathing and utmost ire. His fingers curled frequently into fists that he yearned to ram in my direction. I thought his taut body might actually convulse into continuous spasms, but he continued to stand and cuss.
It was half a minute later that I remembered that I hated this man, and eased out from my hand, a bow and arrow and propelled the latter toward his chest.
He immediately dropped flat on the monster’s shoulder, scrambling to get out of shooting range.
Hyenthis circled and attempted to get back into view so I could make another shot. The giant followed her as she did, and Terium crouched near the back of her head.
‘You coward,’ I hissed spitefully. ‘You wretched sadistic coward.’
‘Shut your filthy mouth!’ Terium roared. ‘How dare you call me a coward?! How dare you interrupt me, you squalid fool! You will pay!’
I dug my nails into the wood of the bow, causing slight indentations, and stared down my enemy. My jaw was set, my eyes narrowed and glaring, my whole face was hard.
I emerged another arrow from my palm, and shot it at the giant’s neck, close to where Terium shrank into the strings of a mop.
The giantess cried and slapped at the arrow spearing into her flesh. She clapped at Terium who called out and fell a metre, bumping and skidding across the scarred back, before clinging to the top of the giant’s top, which was worse than mine.
For a fleeting moment, there was uncontrolled terror on Terium’s face, not from falling; he would survive that, but what if the giant stepped back? That was what he was afraid of. In that second, he thought he might die, and that scared the hell out of him. But then he gained composure, and clambered up onto the giantess’s other shoulder. He was breathing hard and fast as he shot me evil eyes.
‘I will kill you,’ he threatened.
I looked him straight in his demonic gaze, and conjured one just, or even crueler. And with a strong voice, bursting with despise, I said:
‘I may die today, but you will never get the satisfaction of my blood on your hands.’
Terium leered.
‘But you will die.’
The giant was still flailing, and Hyenthis flew just out of reach.
‘Just not before I kill you!’ I called, and hurled arrows in his direction, only digging into the giant and making her claw at me.
‘Giantess!’ Terium yelled. ‘Calm! Calm! I said calm!’
He stroked her throat, but it didn’t help. The giant was being stung as though by bees, and those bees were filled with fury that someone had disturbed their nest. I was filled with fury.
‘Stop it!’ Terium screeched at me as though I was another subject to obey him. ‘Stop shooting at her! STOP IT!’ His voice would soon become hoarse if he kept it up, and that would be just fine with me.
I glared. ‘Do you really think that I am going to do what you tell me to?’ I asked menacingly quiet. ‘Do you really freaking think I would obey your effing orders?’
Terium didn’t answer but fumed instead.
‘Get her!’ Terium commanded Giantess. ‘Get that filthy wretch and her pet fowl.’
‘I am not a fowl!’ Hyenthis whispered indignantly. ‘I am the most magnificent griffin.’
‘Yes, you are,’ I agreed, stroking her feathers lightly on the peak of her head, with affection, then returning my hate-filled gaze at the pallid creature.
He was still calling on his beast to slaughter me and Hyenthis, still screaming, still spitting, still hiding from view.
Giantess, as I came to know her very imaginative name, was beginning to swing her heavy hands at us, and roaring. One of her knuckles brushed Hyenthis, and she went spinning through the air like a football. I hung on for my life, trying not to get dizzy as I revolved over and over again. And all I could think for that time was: we had only been brushed.
Hyenthis gained control, but I still ended up being light-headed and feeling more out-matched than ever. What was I doing, going up against an effing giant mastered by a barbaric villain? Had I been giddy prior to the whirling, or after? Because only now did things make more sense. Now I saw how idiotic I was being. More so than usual, at least.
My eyes started to see the world in a less shaking view and what was I greeted with? Terium leering at me.
‘Give it up, girl,’ he spat. ‘You can’t win.’
‘I know,’ I said, unperturbed. I had already accepted that fact when I saw his stretching army. ‘I just want you dead first. I thought that this was clear before. I’m gonna die, but I want you to first.’
Terium snickered.
‘You can’t kill me...’ he informed, caressing the fuzzy hairs on the nape of the giant’s neck. ‘Ever.’
I didn’t yield to his ominous purrs, I wasn’t intimidated. What was there to be afraid of?
‘We’ll see,’ I said.
Then I leaned closer to Hyenthis’s ear.
‘Are you alright?’ I whispered.
She paused, nodded, and did not utter a word, nor a sound.
I didn’t push for any more information, because I had no time and I doubted she wanted to talk about it.
Thinking, I gazed at my opponents. Well, I knew I couldn’t beat the giant. That was impossible. But there might be a sliver of chance I could kill Terium. If I could get him away from his damned precious Giantess, I had a shot at his death, but otherwise there was no way around those large limbs.
‘Any ideas?’ I inquired of the night griffin.
‘Zilch. You?’
‘None that are helpful in any way,’ I muttered grimly.
‘Well, we can’t just keep hovering here,’ Hyenthis pointed out.
‘I know that. I just need to think. I need a plan.’
Giantess swung at us, coaxed by her puppeteer.
‘There’s no time for thinking,’ she said. ‘No time for plans.’
‘If there’s no time for that, then we might as well give up now,’ I told her. ‘Because we won’t be able to achieve anything without a strategy.’
‘We’re not going to win.’
‘We all know that. I get it, I truly do. I just don’t want to die like an idiot.’
I wanted her to joke with me. To say, “but you are and always will be an idiot”. I craved some comfort that this wouldn’t be so horrible. A little speck of humour to ease some tension that was tightening my stomach. I knew what would happen, but did it have to be so horrible?
‘You won’t, you’ll die a hero,’ Hyenthis reassured. Well, it wasn’t comical, and it didn’t relieve my abdomen of its tautness, but at least I felt braver.
This was the end...
This time I didn’t think about Quex and the others. I would have to deal with not living to see everything I wanted to, because life was inconceivable beyond war. This wasn’t dying in the hordes of trolls and people. To be piled along with the rest of the dead. I would die trying to kill the commander of this army. To spill his blood on the grass of this land, and claim some sector of triumph before I rested next to him.
For a second I allowed myself to squeeze my eyes shut, and wish for miracle that I knew would never come.
My lips parted and some murmurings and snarls echoed through them.
‘What was that?’ Hyenthis asked.
My eyes flipped open, and I was surprised at myself.
‘Nothing,’ I said.
Giantess reached for Hyenthis’s legs.
‘Fly, fight... fall,’ I breathed, and she shot towards the monster.
...
The creature raised his head.
What was it that he had just heard? A calling? An echoing?
He heaved to his feet and edged towards the cave entrance. Had it been his imagination? A dream?
What it really had been was a whispering on the wind, a breath stolen by the breeze, and carried to his cave, to his ears.
Why did he feel compelled to follow it? It was as though it was meant for him, and that he needed to go to the owner of the whispers.
And, as though caught on a scent, he took to the air, spreading his large wings and soared, chasing the murmurs of a lost hope.
...
‘I can’t believe it,’ Ruk muttered for the tenth time. ‘How could she abandon us like that?’
Mervie didn’t reply, she hadn’t for the last five times, but kicked a stone into the bushes, staring at the ground, feeling lost and hurt. She felt like crying, like screaming. She felt like having a useless tantrum.
But she didn’t. It wouldn’t help, and then her only companion would leave her because she was being difficult. Ruk was all she had left, and yet, she still felt alone.
Where was Kurlz? Was she happy? Was she with her friends? Was she laughing at Mervie and Ruk?
Had she been using them all along?
She didn’t know, but she hoped that it wasn’t that.
Mervie wiped her face, tear-stained and dirty. When was the last time she had had a wash? She couldn’t remember. It might have been when she was six. She needed a real proper clean. She should have got one at Gregon’s place, but the thought slipped everyone’s mind, like desperately needed soap, sliding through her fingers.
‘Where are we going?’ she asked quietly.
‘I don’t know,’ Ruk replied impatiently. ‘Does it look like I have any idea?’
‘No,’ Mervie said, turning away.
Ruk stared at her small shoulders and sighed. He stopped, bent down and turned her to him.
‘I’m sorry, okay?’ he apologized. ‘I’m just angry at Kurlz, you know?’
She nodded.
‘I cannot believe that she ditched us.’
She nodded.
‘You miss her?’ he uttered.
Mervie didn’t reply, nor nod, and tried very hard not to cry.
Ruk understood.
‘Me too.’
He lifted her onto his shoulders, and she hugged his head.
‘Come on, I don’t know where we’re going, but I’m sure we’ll f...’ his words stuck in his throat and he gaped.
Mervie leaned over to gaze at his face.
‘What is it, Ruk?’
He blinked and backed up slowly, unable to pass words from his tongue.
Mervie looked up to where Ruk was gawking, and her own mouth fell wide.
‘Oh... my... gosh.’

Hyenthis’s talons lacerated the hand that was constantly trying to grab her, to kill her.
Giantess screamed and pulled her hand back quickly, licking her wound and sucking the blood.
She grasped with her other hand; the other still firm between her teeth, but Hyenthis was too quick. I couldn’t help but feel pride for my feathery friend; she was doing so well, my heart swelled, a sponge soaked with water.
Giantess cursed loudly in frustration, yanking her hand free of her mouth and leaping up to catch Hyenthis.
It went all too fast.
Giantess gripped unto Hyenthis’s hind legs and squeezed hard. A horrendous cry of pain that was a mixed between a neigh and a squawk, and it almost pierced my ears.
A grin spread across the beast’s face, making it even more hideous than it originally was. I wanted to wipe the expression of her ugly face, I wanted her to die.
Giantess dragged Hyenthis towards her, and she vainly flapped her wings, braying and cawing. I wanted to comfort her, but I couldn’t.
I was brought to eye level with Giantess who laughed in my face, her foul breath drenching me, sloshing down my throat and making me gag.
She got her unwounded hand and went to pick me of my ride.
‘Wait!’ Terium yelled.
Giantess stared at her shoulder.
‘She’s mine. Remember?’ he said.
The giant didn’t want to give me up to him, feeling a deep desire to kill me herself, but she surrendered her prize to her master, pulling me towards him, but not before giving my arms a pinch, and almost breaking them.
I stared at Hyenthis, panting, and she looked at me as though to say good bye.
Giantess brought her hand back with the night griffin in it and flung the dark body at the school. I saw the body smash on the roof and crumple, sliding onto the ground where she was lost to sight behind a wall.
I gasped.
A crumpling feeling lapped over my head, submerging me in a world I didn’t want to be in.
How could Hyenthis be dead?
My saviour. My flying steed. My Night Griffin. My Hyenthis.
I hate tearing up, especially in front of my enemies, so I forced my sobs back down inside and faced the evil man.
I knew I wouldn’t win. If Terium couldn’t beat me, he’d get Giantess to finish me. He had no way of losing, and he knew it.
Rising from my crouch, I looked at him.
I stayed standing for a while, not moving.
Terium brandished his blade.
I faintly heard a whistling noise, and a familiar tingling I felt a long time ago. I had an urge.
‘Come on,’ Terium taunted. ‘Fight. Fight me.’
I slipped a sword from my palm and pointed it at him.
‘That’s right,’ he nodded. ‘Now come a bit closer.’
The point of the weapon declined, and then I threw it to the side.
Terium was utterly surprised. But he was gaping when I followed my urge.
My body rocketed down as I flew myself off the giant’s shoulder. My eyes were closed and the wind rushed in my ears. It was amazing; the feeling you get from falling...
And then ascending?
My lids burst open as I felt scales beneath my fingertips.
Blood red seeped around my hands. Plates of impenetrable ruby underneath me.
I clung tighter to my “saving” cerise, not looking at what I suspected it to be. I tried to keep myself ignorant, but how could I be? Terium had succeeded in summoning, and what he had summoned was deadlier than twenty stupid giants.
‘Kurlz!’
I stiffened. Had I actually heard that? Was it actually the person I thought had said that? Maybe my near death experiences had brought me to insanity. Finally.
‘Kurlz!’
Again with the voice. Would my head never shut up?
‘KURLZ!’
A hand gripped my shoulder and pushed me upwards to face them.
It was Ruk.
‘Ruk?’ I exclaimed. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘What about me?’ Mervie piped up, leaning into view. She was sitting in front of Ruk.
‘What are both of you doing here?’
‘You mean, what are we both doing here, on a dragon?!’
I stared.
‘Yes!’
How the hell did Ruk and Mervie acquire an effing dragon?
‘Well, he found us, asked some questions. He took us, and followed some voice, which apparently came from you.’
‘That’s a very short version,’ Mervie said.
‘Yes, well, we don’t have time for elaboration at the moment, as you can see,’ I pointed out.
‘Is this why you didn’t want us to come to school with you?’
‘Yes, thanks for not taking my advice. And thanks for the dragon. He’s helpful.’
‘You’re welcome,’ said a smooth voice.
I leaned down to look at the dragon’s face.
It was a beautiful crimson colour, with grey horns ripping through his scalp.
His eyes were a fair yellow, slitted with black pupils that were constantly flitting from side to side.
At the end of a long snout ended two nostrils flaring, and his mouth occupied a set of ivory teeth.
‘Ah... hello... what’s your name?’ I greeted.
‘Exulan. Nice to meet you. You called me.’
‘I did? I’m calling a lot of creatures today. Must be because I’m in need of a lot of help.’
‘So, how can I be of help?’
I looked up at the giant that was now chasing us. I could just see Terium’s tiny red head fuming.
‘Kill a giant?’
Exulan pointed his eyes to Giantess.
‘That one?’
‘Yes. Can you do it?’
‘I’ll try,’ he offered.
‘And an army,’ I added.
He paused.
‘How big?’
‘Really big.’
He sighed.
‘I don’t know.’
‘Please,’ I pleaded. I needed him. He was our only chance.
‘I’ll try. Which one first?’
I thought. Not for long though.
‘The army. People are dying every second, they need to be taken down.’
‘But won’t the giant follow?’ Exulan thought, steering towards the school.
I shook my head.
‘Terium is doing something with the giant. He’s summoning. He’ll do that instead.’
‘How do you know?’
‘I don’t.’
Exulan chuckled.
‘That’s fine with me,’ he said.
We soared over Terium’s army, and to my predictions, Terium and his giant paused, and reluctantly went back to the cliff. Had I made the right decision? Was killing the army first the best idea? What if what Giantess was invoking was worse than anything a horde of blades could do?
Well, I couldn’t change my mind. I couldn’t toss and turn between choices and having both of the evils conquer while I query about what is worse. I needed to be definite, though it was hard, so I shut my mouth and let Exulan go for the battle.
He landed on a turret of the school, and opened his mouth wide, smoke drifting from it.
‘Wait!’ I halted, and Exulan sucked back a flame.
‘What?’ he coughed.
‘You could burn someone on our side this close to them.’
‘Well, what do you suggest I do?’
‘Go out behind the walls, and kill the army that marches to it,’ I said.
Exulan nodded, jumped up and hovered over.
People down below stopped for a second and gawked at the magnificent dragon above them. What an incredible sight it must have been, and what an advantage one would have if they recovered from shock first. Hopefully they would be on our side.
When Exulan was over the wall, the warriors began to shoot arrows at him. It was like the rush of deadly rain in a upside-down world. But, fortunately, the dragon seemed unaffected by the stings, and only elevated his head a little, and raised the bottom of his eyelids.
‘Doesn’t it hurt you?’ I asked unnecessarily.
‘No, my scales protect me quite well, and their arrows are quite pathetic,’ he replied.
‘Lucky,’ I murmured, though I thought that the arrows weren’t quite so pathetic when they were plunging into someones heart.
Exulan didn’t make a move, besides his continuous flapping of his wings.
‘What are you waiting for?’ I asked.
‘Only your command,’ he said.
‘Oh... alright... Fire?’ I said, and Exulan let forth a jet of ferocious flame onto the army.
Some caught on fire, some were scorched, some died and some lived to fling arrows that were wasted on the dragon.
The heat was so unbearable that I backed up on Exulan’s back, as did Ruk, and Mervie even crawled behind him, and I shielded my eyes and face. It was a blast of flaring hotness in a wave that engulfed me, making me sweat and wish for snow.
Ah... snow...
Would I ever see that miracle of falling shaves of ice again? The cool, the biting, the beauty. I doubted it. But you have to have hope, and I hoped for a life with snow.
Was Valish even alive to bring me the arctic chill?
I couldn’t think about that. Valish could not die. I could die, but not her, not anybody else I cared about. They lost me once, they could do it again.
I removed my arm from my face and let the waves bake my skin as Exulan pelted the army with red and gold. There were screams of pain and terror as they became aware just how much they were in trouble. They were up against a dragon with superior armour to their feeble metal plates. How could their blades help at a time like this? They were not close enough to pierce flesh with sharpened weapons and swift shafts. They needed more, but they had nothing else. They were doomed the second Exulan arrived.
‘We might actually win this,’ I whispered, but then I remembered Terium and Giantess and shut my mouth.
He could still summon his terrors yet, while Exulan was destroying his forces. And what would he unleash that was worse than a giant? Not a dragon, surely, but what could be more terrible than even that? What could be more ruinous, more fierce, more impenetrable than a fire-breathing, scale-armoured, extravagant beast?
Chills slithered down my spine, chills not of snow, but those reminding me that this was more egregious than troll warriors and their swords.
Tension grew in my shoulders as my head roved with imaginings of abominable things, and my face was blasted with heat. And with the two combined, I became quite dizzy and clutched at Exulan’s scales, shutting my eyes.
‘Are you alright?’ Ruk asked softly, his hand on my hair.
I looked up.
‘Yes, I’m fine,’ I lied, hoping he wouldn’t see through me.
He did.
‘Everything will be okay,’ he murmured... tenderly? Maybe, I didn’t care.
‘Thanks,’ I replied, almost inaudibly. ‘But I don’t think it will.’
Ruk stared at me.
‘We’ve got to hope it will.’
Hope.
There it was again.
Well... what to do?
I decided to enter Ruk’s mind, and see what he was thinking, because his words were caring and that was not okay.
Oh... that’s not good.
How could he be thinking that? Now?
Imagining what our future would hold after all this. A life together, and kids. Kids? Was he serious? Ew, yuck, no. No way. The thing that comes before pregnancy. I wasn’t into interspecies relationships. That was wrong. So wrong.
Could I really break his heart a second time? Well, of course, I had to, it would just be hard.
I shook my head, not just to rid the thought of hurting Ruk, but to wring out his thoughts that were disturbing me deeply.
Instead, I decided to do something, opposed to retching at a certain troll’s musings.
‘Exulan, can you put me down somewhere? To fight?’ I asked.
‘No,’ he replied through surges of fire.
‘Why not?’
‘It’s dangerous. I’m not letting you go down there.’
‘I was in there before you arrived, and I did just fine,’ I retorted.
‘Oh, really? What about that hole in your back? I’m sure that’s just fine too.’
I lightly touched my wounded shoulder area and winced, frowning at myself and Exulan.
‘It’s better than what other people had to go through. At least I didn’t die.’
‘And I’m going to make sure you don’t die at the moment by not letting you back into that war so you can get yet another hole in your other shoulder, or even die. You’re staying with me and you’re staying safe.’
I huffed.
‘Why do you even care?’
‘Why don’t you?’
I ignored that stupid question. It wasn’t worth a reply. And arguing meant less fire, and less fire meant more of Terium’s warriors and that meant that more students and teachers would die. And some of them could be my friends.
So, ground work couldn’t be done, and arrows would probably be useless with all the quick movement and heat that would most likely burn before it came close to someone, so what was there to do?
I couldn’t just sit here, doing nothing, but that seemed to be the only option. That really killed me inside.
All I could do was cling to Exulan, and pray he killed as many warriors as he could before Terium summoned whatever he was trying to bring to him.
But... was that all?
I thought and thought.
And then... idea.
I tapped on Mervie and Ruk’s shoulders.
‘Hey,’ I whispered. ‘I’ll see you later.’
‘But, I thought you were staying. Exulan won’t let you leave. I heard him.’
‘Oh, right, yes well,’ I shrugged. ‘See ya... Or not.’
A rope slid from my palm with a jet black grappling hook on the end of it. I vaguely thought that this would have made spelunking in the caves a hell of a lot easier, and I blamed myself for being such an idiot for not thinking of it then.
I continued to trail out more rope until there was a high pile of it slumped on the dragon’s rump. Then I swirled around the hook and launched it as hard as I could at the roof of my school and tugged lightly to make sure it was secure. Nothing a normal human could do, especially with a bad shoulder.
‘Kurlz! What are you doing?’
‘Bye,’ I said cheerily, and jumped off Exulan’s tail before anyone could do anything else.
I heard Ruk yelling my name as I left his side.
I swung through the air, feeling vulnerable to arrows and like a girl version of Spiderman with a lousy costume. Why did everything have to come back to my, now navel-high, dirty shirt?
As I swung through the air, my legs gliding over heads, I pulled on the rope, my hands sucking it in. I had only discovered the trick a short while ago, and it only worked on things that I myself had created. Nonetheless, it was amazing, and really helped in this situation, otherwise I would be ramming into the crowd of trolls and being killed.
I rose higher as my palm sucked, hauling me up and above the battle, passed the broken wall and into my side of war, with all of my fellow students and teachers, dead or alive.
The heel of my boots prodded the ground, and then kicked in, skidding the dirt and grass, and I had to use my rope to stop me from falling flat on my face. I let go of the line and stumbled forward, retching a sword from my hand as I did and clanging blades with a beefed up woman. Her muscles bulged, and she was quick on her feet.
Why did I have to fight a soldier that was too much for me?
I panted, trying my best not to let her kill me, though she had a go at my bare stomach a few times and let blood drip from the trail of wounds. And I never got one move in, and only succeeded in not being decapitated, or being liable to other variants of slaughter.
I swung at her blade, and I had one second to back up away from my opponent.
‘Come here you little scoundrel,’ she said with a thick Russian accent that was pleasing to my ears. But despite her lovely foreign voice, I didn’t obey her because I would probably never win that battle, and I didn’t have time to not kill.
I bolted to someone who looked less likely to kill me in seconds and brandished my sword in from of him.
‘Hello,’ he said with a raspy voice, his eyes deadly.
I didn’t reply, I didn’t feel like making chit-chat with someone I might be murdering soon, and just slashed at him.
He jumped nimbly back and then we crossed blades, clanging them together.
I feinted, and he didn’t realise until my sword was at his throat and slitting it open. He gurgled, and fell on a dead body. I didn’t see who it was.
So many perished riddled the front of the school, and it sickened me. Death hung in the air like a thick fog. You breathed it in and choked on it. It became a part of you. The scent of an odious eternal rest.
I fought while I saw blasts of vermillion in the distance, killing those I wanted so bad to be dead.
I couldn’t let tension grip me, I ignored every doubt and fear in my head, I banished it all, and just fought. Dead, dead, dying...
‘Kurlz!’ it was Regal who had called my name.
I turned to the sound of his voice and gasped.
He looked awful. His grey hair was messy and clinging to his head with blood which I hoped wasn’t his. Red washed his clothes and he had shabby bandages on his arms. His fiery eyes were fearful, but surprise took their place for a second when we saw each other. I wondered if I looked as bad as he did. Maybe worse.
‘Regal!’ I said, smiling. ‘Are you okay?’
‘Yes, fine, besides the fact that my powers are useless to me here, and I only have my sword fighting skills, which aren’t that great.’
‘Well, at least you’re alive,’ I said gratefully.
‘There is that,’ he nodded.
A troll came up behind him, I gasped and rushed forward, stabbing him in the neck.
Regal’s eyes went wide, and backed away from his attacker I had just killed.
‘Thanks,’ he breathed.
‘You’re welcome. I would rather you be alive.’ Don’t want another dead friend.
I flinched.
‘Watch out next time,’ I told him. ‘I don’t want you to get yourself killed because you wanted a chat during war. Bye.’
I skated off without another word from either of us, finding someone else to battle.
Time passed. How long had it been? Ten, twenty minutes? Longer, shorter? I couldn’t be sure. I just survived in the time that it took for Exulan to return and pick me up.
His front claws were clasped around my waist, not too tight, so that I could clamber up onto his back in front of Ruk.
‘Uh, hi,’ I muttered quietly.
Exulan nodded, not saying a word.
‘You’re an idiot,’ Ruk notified me. ‘You could have been killed.’
‘I could have, but I wasn’t, so you can shut up now.’
‘But you could have-’
‘But I didn’t,’ I said more forcefully. ‘Stop thinking about all the bad things that could have happened. Just. Shut. Up.’
Ruk hung his head in his hands.
‘That was reckless of you,’ Exulan told me.
‘I know.’
‘Well, I’m glad you are alive.’
I paused.
‘Is all the army dead?’ I asked, dreading the answer.
He shook his head. ‘No,’ he replied. ‘Not all of them, at least. I did what I could, and now I am out of flame. Your school can make it through what is left, I hope. They have a much better chance now...’
‘But they still might lose?’
Exulan didn’t respond, and he didn’t have to. They might, they might not. There was no knowing, there was only complete uncertainty about the whole situation.
‘To Terium,’ I murmured, hugging tight at Exulan’s nape. My arms couldn’t have touched each other if they had been twice as long.
He obeyed, splitting the sky and hurling himself to the back of the school, towards Giantess.
Terium saw us, and his face warped into anger and terror.
He made the giant move, and Exulan hurtled past, then whirled back.
The latter sat on the ground and faced the beasts in front of him. His eyes turned to slits as he stared his opponent down, and smoke threaded away from his nostrils.
‘Get off my back,’ he ordered from the corner of his lips. His voice held no arguing, and all three of us slid off him.
Exulan raised his hind legs and opened his wide wings, making him look exceedingly bigger.
It was at that moment that I noticed his underbelly was of purest gold. It shimmered, hurting my eyes, but I couldn’t look away from the most beautiful scales I had ever seen. It was mesmerizing.
‘Kurlz,’ Ruk said, tugging at my sleeve. ‘Get away.’ He pulled me far, so that we were all out of the dragon’s way.
Terium eyed us, whispered in Giantess’s ear, and she put him down gently. He ran from sight, the coward.
This was war against dragon and giant.
Exulan struck first, crunching his jaw down onto the giant’s arm. She howled, and thumped the overly large lizard on the head, so he released.
Giantess grabbed one of Exulan’s wings as he was about to jump up, and tried to break it. The dragon burst his last fire at her and she jumped back, making the earth quake. Her face of ashes scowled, and she ran at Exulan, hammering him to the ground with her force.
Exulan clawed at her face and stomach, she writhed but did not let go, instead squeezing tighter. Exulan lifted his mouth, opening it wide and chomped down on Giantess’s head, digging his fangs into her chin and the back of her neck.
It was an amazing sight. I had never figured out who would win out of these two creatures, but I couldn’t stay to see the winner. Terium was running in the forest by the Cliff, and he was going to get away if no one stopped him.
I dashed away with Ruk and Mervie calling my name, but I couldn’t reply, could not halt for one second, for every one counted in the chase for Terium.
I hit the woods, swerving around trees, my face splattering with leaves that I took no heed to. I needed to get him.
Suddenly, something smacked me hard in the back, crashing me to the ground, and holding on. I fell onto a rock and it dug into my stomach. I cleared my disconcerted mind and washed away all the dizziness.
‘Hello, Kurlz...’ a man whispered in my ear, his hissing breath making my neck hairs stand up as a tingle of goosebumps spread across my body.
‘Get the hell off me,’ I said through gritted teeth.
Terium laughed.
‘You think you can just come here and ruin everything? You little brat!’ he spat. ‘So young and stupid, you think you can win everything. Win against me.’
His claws bit into my arms that were pinned underneath me. I tried to wiggle them loose, but Terium didn’t allow it.
‘Let me tell you this,’ he said. ‘You never had a chance. You were always going to die. I was always going to kill you... I will win this war, and you will lose everything you hold dear, including your life.’
I struggled vainly under his cloaked body, but for such a slender man, he kept me down.
‘You can’t win,’ I croaked, my breath crackling through my throat. ‘You’re army is almost shattered, and your giant will be slaughtered on the peak of the Cliff before my body drains of vitality. My demise will grant you nothing in return but a seconds quench of hate in your loathsome desires. You will lose your war and your existence on the soil you despise, or recoil into the gloom and be forever hunted.’
Terium crushed my arms.
‘Everyone will die, Kurlz. The dead can’t pursue me,’ he leered. ‘Now, I will quench another desire of mine...’
He leaned towards my neck, and I stiffened.
‘You’re not a zombie or a vampire,’ I said, unsure if it was true or not.
‘I know, I’m just a mutant,’ he nodded. ‘But that doesn’t mean flesh and blood won’t taste as sweet.’
I growled. ‘You sick cannibal.’
Terium pressed his normal, non-fang teeth onto my throat.
‘Living with flesh-eating zombies most of your life can make you curious why they’re so thrilled about eating people,’ Terium told me, then added. ‘This will probably hurt a lot. There were always lots of screaming when dinner was served.’
He went to bite...
‘Wait!’ I cried.
Terium, surprisingly stopped.
‘What is it? Want a cliché? Want me to ask what your last words are before you die? Well, you won’t get them.’
‘I just want to know what that big oaf was invoking,’ I groaned.
Terium grinned evilly.
‘The things that haunted me and no one thought was real. The things that will haunt everyone.’
My eyes bulged.
‘The evil spirits...’
‘I knew it,’ I muttered. ‘You vile creature!’
‘Now that I answered your question, which was quite enjoyable answering, I can kill you.’
Without another pause, he opened his mouth and bit down into my throat.
The pain was excruciating.
I cried out, I screamed so loud it rung in my ears.
‘Shut up!’ Terium shouted, splattering my own blood mingled with his saliva across my cheek. ‘Shut up!’ He put one of his hands over my mouth to cease my vehement agony.
That was probably the worse choice he had made.
I lifted my arm and cuffed him on his back, protruding spikes from me into him.
He cursed, and struggled to get control of me again, but I wouldn’t go back into my corner, not to where I was trapped and being eaten alive.
My hand flared up in fire and burnt a nice hole in his cloak and singeing his pale skin to a blistering red patch. His clothes were caught by the flame and ate away at it, delighting in their ebony treat.
Terium thrashed at the crimson light, rolling off me. I gasped for air and staggered, somewhat, to my feet.
I slid a sword into my fingers...
‘No!’ he screamed. ‘You can’t!’
When you look into someone’s eyes that you loathe, and know you’re about to kill them, how do you feel?
Do you feel guilty? Or pity? Is it sorrow, anger, triumph or happiness?
You probably don’t know the emotion. You’ve never killed anyone, which is a good thing. So, I’ll just tell you what I felt.
When I slaughtered this man, I did not feel culpable. No pity, no sorrow, anger, triumph or happiness.
I felt that finally everything would be over... but it wasn’t...
I gripped the hilt and lunged the blade deep into Terium. I stabbed at him, over and over, blood oozed from his front and burnt face.
Smoke rose in wisps around Terium’s disheveled and gory body. I dropped my blade that dripped with Terium’s ghoulish blood, and stepped forward. Déjà vu...
It reminded me so chillingly like when I had ruined Jimone’s body, that I shivered.
Was he really dead? I kicked his side, and he didn’t move. Dead.
I thought that when I had finally killed Terium I would find some great denouement. But I didn’t. Where was it? I felt like I was drifting off the end of a path, and nothing was there. Where was the big finale? The fireworks? The cheering? There was nothing. And that’s all it would ever be. A soulless silence in the woods. Nothing.
Sighing, and feeling shaken, I stumbled away from him, not wanting to look at him a second longer. I couldn’t stand to be in his revolting presence.
I ripped yet another cloth from my shirt and pressed it to my bleeding neck, and continued on.
But then... what was that sound? A slithering hiss whispering through the trees and behind me. I whirled around to see what it was, and saw something... A shadow slunk it’s way to Terium and stole into his mouth quickly, and then it was gone, without a trace.
I blinked.
Had I actually seen that happening?
I walked up to Terium and stared into his face. He didn’t seem any different.
His eyes flashed open, and I cried out in shock, stumbling back. Terium’s orbs were an inferno of ruby, glaring at me with pitch pupils.
‘Hello again, Kurlz,’ he rasped, his breath rattling. ‘Thought you’d got rid of me, eh?’ he grinned and bared inky slime drooling from his teeth that rotted in his gums. Then he snarled with ferocity. ‘You stupid child!’ he screamed, raising his dead body from the earth. ‘You can’t kill me,’ he licked his lips and came towards me.
‘What are you?’ I hissed, horrified.
‘I’m one of them now.’ I didn’t like the way he said “them”.
‘Who are they?’
‘We are the darkness, the shadows, the gloom...’ he laughed hysterically, spitting black ooze.
I shook my head.
Terium nodded, and then recited a chilling poem:


‘The gloom, akin to raven wings;
A velvet black, these shadows ring.
Where lingering in ink ravines;
The calling of the darkness seeks.
And all are lost to the sighing sound;
Of sinister soughs beneath the ground.
The glowing eyes of purest red;
The blood-thirsty hunger of the dead.
The figures flow like gloomy mists;
Their whispers echo an evil hiss.
Those who can will run and hide;
But they are ignorant; for they all die.
And in the mysterious caves where they dwell;
Are heard the screams of darkest hell.’

A tingle spread through me.
‘You’ve met one of our kind,’ Terium told me. ‘Don’t you remember?’
For a second I went blank, and then Terium’s red eyes were blazing on something else’s features.
‘No...’ I breathed.
Terium nodded. ‘Oh yes. You met her in the caves.’
A memory flickered.
‘She is one of us. Bonded so firmly with her vessel that she dies with it. She is one of us,’ he repeated. ‘One of the Gloom.’
‘The serpent,’ I uttered, remembering the beast. She had killed Grilph.
‘Yes, you remember. It’s the eyes, isn’t it?’
I snarled. ‘How can I forget such a monstrous being?’
‘Oh, why, thank you!’ Terium said mockingly. ‘The rest would love to hear such compliments.’
‘And, where are the rest?’ I inquired.
‘Well, because of your dreadful dragon friend, the giant could only summon one of us. Me. But once she butchers that lizard, she will call all my siblings to the surface, because she was so lousy at trying the first time.’
‘Giantess will never defeat Exulan.’
‘She won’t?’ Terium tilted his head. ‘How do you know? You know nothing of the powers that giant possesses. She brought me, and she’ll bring us all to rid your cursed land of its people.’
‘She won’t. Exulan is strong, and will bring Giantess down.’ Despite my willful words, I was not as sure now.
Terium leered. ‘You’re losing your confidence in your big friend, Kurlz.’
‘Shut up!’ I screamed.
Terium shrugged. ‘Fine by me. I was wondering when this fight was going to get started.’
He launched himself at me, his mouth opening wider than normal, it was stretching the size of my head. His teeth grew and spiked, turning to needles threaded with black, and his tongue pointed and elongated, writhing between his strained lips.
The Terium Gloom shoved me up against a tree, and his seared fleshy face came too close to mine. He seemed to be melting right in front of me, being burnt by his lit irises.
His foul breath crashed over me, and his slippery tongue stuck out in my direction. His crazed face was insanely seeking to destroy me.
I tried to push him away, but his tongue licked my cheek. I moaned, disgusted that the greasy worm had touched me.
‘You monster!’ I grumbled through my clenched mouth.
‘Yes,’ Terium agreed. ‘Yes...’
My hands spat daggers into his chest.
Terium paused, looked down at his new wounds and smiled, and then he threw his head back and cackled.
He stepped backwards, took hold of both daggers and wrenched them from his body without a single wince.
He studied one of the weapons.
‘Hmm...’ he murmured.
Then Terium opened up his jaws and forced the blade into his gullet. He swiftly gulped it down and it poked out of his oesophagus, piercing through his trachea, and emerging from the skin.
I gagged.
‘Ahhh...’ Terium prattled through his ruined wind-pipe. ‘It feels so good.’
He grabbed the end of it, and it dug into his hand as he gruesomely pulled it. The hilt got stuck, and Terium had to yank it out hard, and I could hear the sickening crackle of his pipes before a gaping blood hole gurgled in his gorge.
Ichor dribble from his grey lips, mixing with the ink muck.
I didn’t even tell him how repugnant he was, knowing he would laugh it off, thinking it was twisted flattery. All I did was run.
Terium burbled and wheezed behind me.
‘Come here, Kurlz! You know you can’t get away from me.’ His voice was grinding gravel, slathered with sludge.
I sprinted.
Breathed.
Ran.
How could I beat this creature? It’s body was dead. All it was, was a spirit inhabiting Terium, and he couldn’t be killed. It was the Gloom, and it was forever living, forever dead...
Little did I know that I was running right in the direction of a section of the Cliff.
I skidded to a stop, almost toppling into the infinite chasm. Stones tumbled over, clattering at the side. I turned around to face Terium.
Terium brought up one of the daggers and waved it around.
‘You’re trapped,’ he said.
I didn’t reply.
He came forward, and I could not go back. He was going to send me down into the depths...
I thought. What could I do? How could I save myself, get away from this impossible monster? I was rewarded by an idea.
I splayed my hands to the ground, and shot out a gust that lifted me high above him. His weapon had been raised, ready to strike down. I was behind him, and booted his head in the air, kicking him forwards, and he fell to his knees, now the one edging off the cliff, flipping so he could look at me. I stumbled back to my feet.
‘Sneaky brat!’
He slashed at my legs, but I swatted his weapon away.
I took hold of his shoulders and pushed. He leaned back, but did not go ever the rim.
I groaned with the effort.
‘You can’t kill me, Kurlz!’ Terium yelled, his mutated face near to mine. His tongue licked me again. ‘I’m already dead...’
I screamed and shoved Terium so hard he keeled and fell...
I stopped on my knees, breathing. Finally, I got up and kicked dirt into the abyss.
I turned...
A hand grabbed at my ankle and ripped it down to the void. I cried out as only my fingers clutched the shaky earth of the fringe, trying desperately to get up.
Terium hissed under me.
‘You can’t get rid of me! I told you I couldn’t be killed. I’ll live forever, and you will rot... rot with me.’
I struggled, and moaned out words. ‘I won’t rot with you. I won’t die in your wretched world.’
I kicked out, unrelenting into Terium’s face, and I heard his neck crack.
Another kick...
Another...
Terium’s fingers tore from my ankle and he fell. The body plummeted into the darkness, dwindling into the shadows where it lay for so long, and would rest there eternally.
I can’t be killed... I will live forever...
Terium and the Gloom were gone. Finally. Forever...
...
Exulan clawed at Giantess’s back, drawing blood. He bit into her flesh and snapped her spine in half with his incredibly powerful jaws.
Giantess shrieked. A strange sound from a booming giant.
Exulan had stopped the striving of the giant’s legs, and now they lay down useless.
He grabbed the nape of her neck and crushed it, stilling her arms.
At last, his mouth eased over her head and he pushed down. It took a few seconds, but Exulan had succeeded in crushing Giantess’s skull. It was a terrible sound, and it rang in his head.
He had fuel in him, and he was ready for fire, erupting it from his mouth and burnt the dead giant.
Exulan eyed his kill with a calm that was unsettling. He watched his flames flicker on the flesh. Smoke rose... But what was that?
Part of the smoke seemed to flutter to Exulan.
He didn’t move, and the moaning smoke eased into his nostrils. He shook his head and coughed.
There was something strange in him. There was an evil murmuring, and a grasping that tried to take his own will away.
Exulan suppressed the feeling, and it was shunned to a place where it would dwell, imprisoned, until it burst from its chains.
Exulan watched the flames.
...
I limped back to find Ruk and Mervie calling for me, just inside the forest border.
When Ruk saw me, he ran and hugged me terribly tight.
‘That’s enough now,’ I told him, prying his fingers off me.
‘Kurlz!’ he screamed. ‘Why did you do that? What happened? Are you okay? Where is Terium?’
I sighed. ‘I needed to kill him, I did, I’m fine, and he’s gone.’ I exhaled, then asked my own question. ‘Where is Exulan?’
Ruk led me out while Mervie hugged at my leg, making it even more difficult to walk, but I let her cling on.
Exulan was sitting next to a burning pile of giant that was emitting a terrible aroma.
‘Exulan?’ I touched his leg.
He turned to me.
‘You’re alright,’ he stated.
I nodded. ‘I am.’
There was something different about Exulan, but I didn’t know what it was. I ignored it, and didn’t think about the feeling again.
‘Is the war...?’ I asked.
Exulan bowed his head.
‘It is over,’ he murmured softly. He peered at me. ‘We have won.’

I ran to the wall where I had last saw Hyenthis. I needed to see her, even if she was dead.
I pushed through thorns and scraggly bushes, and climbed over a crumbling wall, skidding onto stone pavement.
And there she was. Black and red like crusted lava.
My knees buckled, and I fell to her side, arms clasping around her neck that was still warm. She was so soft, nothing could compare to her feathers. Nothing could compare to her.
Ragged sobs scraped through my chest, making me heave with tears.
But I was not the only one, rasping with breath.
I looked down at Hyenthis.
‘Kurlz...’ her honey voice had been scoured with toast, but I loved it.
‘Hyenthis? You’re alive,’ I whispered.
‘Griffin feathers. Like armour.’
I laughed through shining eyes.
She wheezed and her lids fluttered, making my heart do the same.
‘Don’t go!’ I commanded. ‘Don’t leave me. I need you!’
‘I always thought of you as my greatest friend,’ she whispered.
‘Hyenthis! Don’t say that. You won’t die, we can still save you! Don’t go, don’t go!’
‘I just wanted to see you one last time before I...’ she didn’t finish.
I was drifting off the end of a path, just like her words. There was nothing there, and there never would be. Nothing ever had a great conclusion. There was only a soulless silence in my empty heart.
...
My heart. It pound when I saw them. Blood-stained and tattered, but alive.
I was filled with some hope, and I needed that. Their faces gave me faith in a world that I had thought would always fail me.
My bleeding heart, my empty chasm. It beat afresh, when I saw them. When I saw him.

A funeral. A funeral for all of those that had died in the war. The students, the teachers... So many thousands dead, and so many to watch and suffer heartbreak.
Coffins littered the area of the school cemetery. Shiny black boxes with fresh new flowers. The flowers would wilt, the boxes would mar, and the bodies in them would rot.
There was no time to celebrate the victory of a won war. How can you linger in triumph when you’ve lost so much? Colleagues, friends, family... Knowing you had never killed... All gone.
Tears stained the cheeks of the mourning, an endless trail of grief.
Zerlis Morgual had been killed. His friends gathered at his grave.
Merkly Lopim had died. Woebel Cinch was wretched with aching sobs. The Siamese Twins were no more. They had finally been separated by death.
Ash had fallen on the face of the world. Our world.
Our melancholy would only reach the enchanted public...
I was surrounded by my friends, with even Mervie and Ruk at the sidelines. Valish, Abcde, Denim, Regal, Jimone, Marn, Quex... Zanza...
She lay in the shiny black box with her fresh new flowers. She was decayed before she went down into the earth.
Black clothes, weeping pain, anguished hearts.
What words to say at a time like this? To voice all the good times? To spill the body of its lamenting soul?
I couldn’t quite speak at the moment; afraid I might crack into unrelenting sobs, break down and curl up, to dream that it never happened.
I stared at the script etched into the white marble gravestone:
Zanza Jelcri
Let her rest forever in heaven’s peace.
Forever...
I let a tear fall, a drop in my ocean of sorrow.
‘Zanza...’ I managed to whisper.
I gazed at the bouquet of crimson carnations I hugged tightly to my chest. I let it fall...
We were here for Zanza... but this time it was not to comfort her. It was to farewell her.
The flowers fell silently onto the ebony coffin...

The earth was as cold as death leaking out of the darkness…
A bitter grave for the dead. A suited dwelling for the gloom…
The host lay in the frozen soil, entombed by the shadows. Blind abyss, voiceless night…
Its passing brought a triumph to the world. Its demise was the victory of the living.
Without him, there could be a future of light. No decay piercing existence. A day with no gloom…
The host was motionless; freezing into the world it was no longer a part of.
Death… everyone greets it one day…
The gloom’s blood red eyes flashed open, and he rasped.
But the dead cannot die…



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on Jun. 3 2011 at 11:55 pm
KurlzBasheld PLATINUM, Abermain, Other
36 articles 0 photos 16 comments

Favorite Quote:
I like cheese.

haha, thanks very much! :D

HEY HEY HEY! said...
on Jun. 3 2011 at 7:30 am
this is absolutely brilliant! I love it! :D


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