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Title: Free Realms: Vision of the Future

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    Kelvin64 is offline Master Gamer
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    Default Free Realms: Vision of the Future


    Story © Kelvin64. Free Realms © SOE. I don't own Free Realms, it belongs to SOE. This is merely fanfiction. Please don't steal story or take credit as your own.

    ~ Introduction ~

    Greetings, everyone! Kelvin here. I thought I'd repost an old Free Realms fanfiction of mine that I posted awhile back, since the old thread was closed 'cause it was old, and a lot of people probably haven't read it. I never finished it and probably never will, but it's still a cool story. I did a little bit of editing to make it easier to read. The story takes place in the future of Free Realms, where the Sacred Grove has changed dramatically. It's told in first-person by my character's great, great, great, great, great grandson. Or some amount of greats like that. And it's pretty long. Just to warn you, there's a cliffhanger that never got answered, but you can still read it. Hopefully you'll enjoy it! Maybe if enough people enjoy it I might update it sometime.

    ~Kelvin

    ~ Prologue: Inter-Time Message ~

    Spoiler: show
    THIS MESSAGE HAS BEEN SENT VIA INTER-TIME MESSENGER 9.0

    Hey there. I’m Kelvin, and I live in the world of Free Realms in the year 2311. If this thing is working properly, this message should be sent to my great, great, great, great, great, phew… grandfather, Kelvin I, whom I'm named after. And if this isn’t Kelvin, please send this message to Kelvin or anybody who may know him. So, anyways, if you are Kelvin, then hi! I’m your great, great, great, great, great, grandson! I’ve messaged you because I’d like to tell you about my life in the future of Free Realms. I want to tell you about everything I’ve done, so you may be prepared for… anything. Reading through my adventures, I hope I will inspire you to do great things, whether by choice or not. Anyways, enough words of greeting, granddad. Let’s get started.


    ~ Chapter One: The Worlds of
    Free Realms ~

    Spoiler: show
    Hello! I’m Kelvin! I live in a world called Free Realms in the year of 2311. As the stories tell, the Sacred Grove used to be a beautiful place in the wonderful world of Free Realms. The Sacred Grove was once full of different amazing areas, where you could explore the unique features that each place offered. This was your time. You lived in Free Realms when it used to be good. When it used to be an amazing world. Oh, how I envy you, for my time is far different than yours. You were free to explore the Realms as much as you liked. For me, that wasn’t the case. Now I’ll tell you how your world differs from mine.

    Let’s begin with Sanctuary.

    Sanctuary was once a beautiful land in the center of the Sacred Grove. The bustling city of Pixiewood was always full of shoppers, and the inner circle of Sanctuary held the magnificent World Tree, the Royal Palace in which a pixie named Queen Valerian ruled from within. But such beauty and tranquility, unfortunately, just cannot last forever. This is the story of how Sanctuary fell.

    It was a beautiful spring day in Sanctuary. A gentle breeze blew through the air, as shop goers peeked in windows and bought items in Sanctuary. Sanctuary was alive with people, color, sound, and more. There were plenty of humans, pixies, chugawugs, and even robgoblins to be seen for miles in the capitol of Free Realms. It seemed like all was well here in Sanctuary.

    That wasn’t the case.

    As the day went on, the skies slowly darkened… a wide blue sky filled with puffy white clouds was soon eaten up by a grey, overcast dullness. The skies slowly darkened, as the winds grew steadily stronger. The citizens of the Sacred Grove slowly began to drop what they were doing. They pointed out to each other the slowly darkening skies. It was an unusual sight. Such happenings did not normally occur here in Sanctuary.

    The winds grew stronger, and the skies grew darker. People paused and looked up to the sky… it wasn’t normal. Their instincts told them to leave… as soon as possible. Sanctuary wasn’t safe anymore.

    A low rumbling was heard in the distance, and everyone’s voices fell silent. It didn’t make any sense. A storm, brewing in Sanctuary? That wasn’t even possible! The magic that bound together the Sacred Grove kept horrible weather at bay, so that the citizens could enjoy the Realms in peace and harmony.

    But apparently, rules can be broken.

    The winds picked up, as the skies darkened further. The waters in the inner circle of Sanctuary became rougher, and thunder got louder and louder. A flash of lightning was seen. People began to panic in terror. The winds picked up so much that pixies, with their hollow bones and wind-catching wings, began to get blown away, so that they had to hold onto something. The doors of the Royal Palace burst open, and out came Queen Valerian. Her face looked old and worried in the darkness. She began to fly down to Pixiewood, her advisor and her royal guards following. As she flew on, she shouted to the citizens of Sanctuary, that Sanctuary was no longer safe, and they had to flee as quickly as possible.

    In a panic, everyone in Sanctuary began to run away from the capitol in terror. They crossed the bridge over the river south of Pixiewood, and ran and flew through Queensfields. Everyone ran a considerable distance away from Sanctuary. Once they reached the other end of Queensfields, they seemed to have escaped the worst of the storm and all bundled together under a large tree and stopped to look back at Sanctuary. And when they did, that’s when it happened…

    The storm boomed loudly with thunder as the skies lit up in a shower of powerful lightning. It looked like every single darkened storm cloud was being electrocuted. It became brightest in the center of the storm… which was strangely enough right above the Royal Palace…

    A gargantuan bolt of lightning appeared and began to descend from the sky. It seemed to move in slow motion as the citizens of Sanctuary watched it strike right into the center of the Royal Palace, the great World Tree. The bolt of lightning struck the World Tree hard, and the electricity was so bright that the citizens and travelers had to cover their eyes. The World Tree was blown to pieces in a magnificent show of electricity and lightning. Shards of the tree flew around in the wind and fell to the ground. The two largest remaining parts of the world tree were burning in blackness, tumbling over and crushing many of the buildings in Sanctuary… the ones the storm hadn’t already destroyed. Families watching this event cried and hugged their siblings, citizens and travelers broke into tears as well, because their capitol was now destroyed. Tears ran from Queen Valerian’s eyes. Her wings gave in and she fell to the ground, crying. Her city was now destroyed, gone… forever. There was no choice now but to move on. With the rest of the people who were in Sanctuary following, they left Sanctuary behind.

    Hundreds of years later, in my current time, Sanctuary lay abandoned and lifeless. All the lakes and streams had dried up, and most buildings were destroyed or broken, filthy and abandoned. The Pixiewood sign had fallen and crushed several buildings long ago. Every single crop in the Queensfields was dead, and the bixies were long gone. Memorial Caverns had caved in, and whatever was there probably isn’t there anymore. Some say the place is haunted, by spirits of those who didn’t make it, and if you go there, you might be seduced to join them. Many believe these stories are true, because anyone that has ever set foot in Sanctuary has never returned.

    And so it was that when Sanctuary fell, the rest of the Sacred Grove began to follow.

    Okay, now that we’ve got that over with… let’s move on to what happened to Seaside.

    Seaside was probably one of the places that changed most.

    It all began hundreds of years ago. When the World Tree in Sanctuary died, the residents of Seaside began to become very, very depressed. They lost care for their beaches and their houses. They allowed the beaches to be covered in trash, and allowed the waves to wash up onto the shore and carry the trash out to sea, polluting the waters. The waters became rougher and rougher as the years went on. Little did the residents of Seaside know that the healthiness of the water affected their land, too, just like the World Tree affected the Sacred Grove. Over the years, Seaside became more advanced in technology than any other Realm, and that wasn’t a good thing. The peaceful shorelines full of beautiful little beach huts, mansions, and boardwalks, were replaced with towering, silver, futuristic-looking skyscrapers. Peaceful beachgoers and happy, helpful residents were replaced with dangerous bandits, mischievous miscreants, and horrible creatures. The once not-so-peaceful cray, which you may know as large crablike creatures, were even less peaceful then they used to be. Over the years, their brains developed more and more. They became smart enough to get what they wanted. They learned to fuse themselves with Seaside’s technology. They turned themselves into half-robot, half-cray creatures. They were called Cyborg Cray. These creatures fused themselves with different technology, such as motorbikes, robots, and karts. They took over the once amazing sandstorm speedway and turned it into their own personal headquarters, and if you dared to enter, they’d have you over for dinner. And I really hope you know what I mean by that. The abandoned dojo in Seaside wasn’t so abandoned anymore. The spirits that were put to rest there weren’t so peaceful anymore. The spirits if dead ninjas rose from they’re grave to defend their dojo, for nobody was going to threaten, to their belief, the only peaceful area left in Seaside, even if they were good people. The remaining peaceful residents of Seaside couldn’t escape from their horrible home, for it would be dangerous for them to step out of their own front door. They couldn’t hide from gangs and bullies, bandits and robbers. Seaside was probably the most dangerous area in the Sacred Grove.

    So, what I just told you may have scared you a bit, and that’s fine, because it’s all downhill from here. At least, it is in my opinion.

    This is what Snowhill became in my time.

    Ever since the fall of Sanctuary, the creatures that lived in Snowhill had started to become more dangerous than usual. The weather in Snowhill was starting to become colder, too. It was even starting to snow more and more often. A blizzard began to rage in Snowhill. At first, residents of the mountainside community assumed it was just a normal storm, and that it would pass in a few days’ time. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The weather became rougher as the days went on. Residents began to feel sick in the freezing weather. Temperatures were dropping below freezing. People in Snowhill began to leave the snowy community, in search of a warmer residential area. As the blizzard raged on, it eventually forced everyone in Snowhill to flee. As the years passed, the blizzard raged on, and it wasn’t just a blizzard. The weather patterns had become even stranger. There had been many earthquakes occurring only in Snowhill. As the snow piled up and earthquakes rained, even more mountains were created, completely burying and destroying the town of Snowhill. Anyone there would’ve died if they’d stayed, although, that wasn’t exactly the case. There were still two different kinds of creatures that remained in Snowhill. A long time ago, the ice trolls and the yetis used to be enemies. But times changed, and they eventually called truce. And to survive in the harsh weather, the creatures began to evolve to fit their environment’s standards. They both formed into one race: the ice yeti. The ice yetis looked sort of like normal yetis, except their skin was as white as snow, their eyes glowed bright blue, and they were about twenty times the size of any yeti. Their howl could cause half-a-dozen avalanches if it was full-blast. Their gigantic fists could pound anyone to pulp. They weren’t the friendliest guys. The other creature that lived in Snowhill in my time was sort of a gigantic human-shaped creature made entirely out of ice crystals. Don’t ask me how that came to be, I have no idea. All I know is that their ice crystals were as sharp as metallic blades, and could cut off the… I’m not gonna go there. Daredevils and fearless mountain climbers sometimes went to Snowhill in search of information, but it’s usually the same thing, if they ever come back. This information comes from people who made it back from Snowhill ALIVE. The most interesting thing that anyone’s ever reported is that the old Penguin Training Center somehow still remained on Snowhill, and penguins had been seen going in and out of it. Strange. The farm and soccer field south of Snowhill also turned into snowy mountains, and Snowhill pretty much turned into the mast dangerous mountain range ever. And that’s sort of what became of Snowhill.

    Keep reading, I promise it isn’t ALL bad.

    Wugachug used to be an all-year-round festival, full of happy partying chugawugs, large, fat, sort of human like creatures. That sounded a whole heck of a lot better then what it was now. Ever since Sanctuary died the chugawugs of Wugachug… heh… okay, this isn’t a happy story, but I just HAD to laugh at that part… anyways, the chugawugs there started to try and party away all their problems away. They drank sarsaparilla and partied night and day. Eventually… well, long story short, they just LOST it. Chugawugy go loony. Their festival sort of turned into a gigantic circus tent. Insane chugawugs watched as even more insane chugawugs entered the ring of the circus tent and did completely stupid things with no training, like fighting a bear, walking along a tight rope, riding a unicycle, juggling boulders (I mean, seriously?), flying with wings made out of feathers (Come on!), well, not really flying, and trying to unicycle along a tight rope while they’re juggling flaming bowling pins, balancing plates on sticks, and fighting bears, all at the same time. I mean, I’ve heard of multi-tasking, but that’s just ridiculous. People who’ve gone there just barely escaped from being pulled into the performances.

    The chugawugs there, unfortunately, lost their sanity.

    Now, that wasn’t as bad as the others, was it? So, the town lost its sanity, not as bad as Seaside. Sometimes I tried to compare bad things in my life with Seaside. I always made me feel better.

    Shrouded Glade was once a beautiful glade. Islands of green grass were connected by beautiful stone bridges. The druids lived in and cared for their glade with their extraordinary nature magic. But when the World Tree fell, they could sense something was wrong. They fled to the safety of the Druid Academy, and just in time, too. For, coming from Snowhill, was a very strong blizzard heading their way. The waters in the glade froze and the grass began to die. The islands, the bridges, and the Druid Academy, were completely coated with snow. The Druid Academy was buried in snow, all except for the roof. And people who pass by have sometimes said that they saw some smoke coming from the chimney of the glade. Rumor had it that the druids were still in there, teaching their nature magic to their children and grandchildren.

    Merry Vale was once a beautiful place, full of happy, cheerful people. In the center of Merry Vale was a stage, and in the center of the large stage was a beam of rainbow that shot into the sky. The Everainbow. The fairies of Merry Vale cared for their rainbow like it was a sacred treasure, but not for its beauty. After the fall of Sanctuary, the recipe for the fairy’s delicious cotton candy was stolen, and from whom, nobody knew. But ever since then, the people in Merry Vale started to become sad and depressed. They tried to escape the Vale, because they just knew something was wrong. And that’s when the fairies decided it was time to reveal the true form of their precious rainbow. The Everainbow was in disguise. Its true form was a black and purple vortex, which would pull people within its grasp into the dark magic within. The form of these people would change, and they would be turned into mindless zombies, forced to do the fairy’s bidding. Yeah, you heard me right. The fairies were evil. They used to turn people into zombies by putting them on a fake show, to be, supposedly, “Blessed” by the rainbow’s magic. Yeah, right. Being turned into a zombie is a real blessing.

    The Pixie Nursery was once a quiet little area in the northwest wilds, where peaceful pixies fished, talked, gardened, and fed their pets. But nearby was an area called the Floren Forest. An evil force from within was corrupting the Florens inside the forest. Florens were leaf creatures, made up entirely out of leaves. But when Sanctuary fell, the forces defending the pixie nursery fell too, and the pixie nursery grew into a dark forest full of corrupted evil Florens.

    Highroad Junction used to be the pit stop for adventurers. They’d stop there for a drink, a bite to eat, and maybe a new friend or two, whether person or puppy. But the area was soon covered in snow from Snowhill, since Snowhill was just north of Highroad. The area, sadly, became buried in piles of snow. The nearby Frost Ridge Speedway was no longer a speedway, but a bunch of snow piles.

    A nearby roadhouse was taken over by hooligans who escaped from the Tavern Cellar.

    Lakeshore may have been then only place in the Sacred Grove that barely changed. It was still the same small lakeside fishing village it was hundreds of years ago. Although fish numbers have declined, cruel fate just couldn’t seem to find a way to destroy Lakeshore.

    North of Lakeshore was the Free Realms zoo. Well, as the name implies, it used to be a zoo. But since the fall of Sanctuary, (I’m going to be saying “Since the fall of Sanctuary” a lot, because that’s why all of this happened) all of the animals escaped, and nobody went there anymore. Actually, the bears escaped around that area and their numbers increased, making most of the northeast wilds bear habitat.

    There was a camp of Robgoblins around the area, too. Robgoblins were these goblins that stole everything. …Yeah. But some robgoblin wizards escaped from a nearby cave and drove all the good (Or as good as robgoblins could get) robgoblins out of the area. Then robgoblin met bear, and… I’ll just skip that part. Now the robgoblin wizards have taken control of the camp. They liked to turn trespassers into pigs, and I know that for a fact, because one of my friends once came back from the camp as a pig. Some mages had to turn him back human again.

    Nearby, there was a village of Forest Trolls. Now, some of these trolls were good, and they lived in the village. But some of the trolls were bad, and they were the ones who got the big fort. A long time ago, the good trolls used to keep the bad trolls locked up in the Troll Fort, but the bad trolls used it to their advantage, and so began the war between good troll and bad troll.

    Okay, so we’ve done the northern wilds, now let’s do the southern ones.

    Greenwood Forest used to be a nice forest, where chugawug archers would keep evil thugawug bandits from taking over the forest. There was also a summer camp in the forest. But times changed. The thugawugs secretly learned the ways of the Greenwood Archer, and escaped from their prison using bows and arrows, and the Greenwood Archers began to try and fight them off. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Shadow Talon Ninjas had descended from Danger Peaks, and they wanted to claim the entire forest. They weren’t going to let bit fat chugawugs or thugawugs stop them. And that began the three-way war of Greenwood Forest, which never ended. The flying arrows and battles ripped apart the summer camp in Greenwood Forest, and it wasn’t a safe place to go, either. Once, when someone went there, they told everyone how arrows were flying everywhere like panicked birds. The person actually came back with an arrow through his… I don’t need to get into that…

    Ok, so Crossroads used to be a nice little pit stop for adventurers, just like Highroad Junction. There used to be an inn, a pet shop, and a brawling ring. Well, hooligans took over the Crossroads and turned it into their own entertainment stand. They forced the cook at the inn to make them food, and they forced any passerby into the battling ring with a troll named Gorgy. Now, don’t be fooled by Gorgy’s funny name. The hooligans trained him to hit anything that entered the brawling ring into a pulp. The dumb troll thought that’s what you were supposed to do in life. Crossroads was no longer a pit stop for adventurers.

    South of the crossroads was Wildwood Speedway. More hooligans had taken over the speedway. They used it mainly for demolition derby, though.

    West of the speedway was Farnum’s Farmstead. It used to be a quiet farm, where sheep would eat grass and fruits and veggies would be grown. Well, hooligans descended from a nearby mountainside and took over the entire farm. Poor farm.

    Oh yeah, long story short, Stillwater Crossing was abandoned, pretty much, and so was Thunder Falls Speedway.

    Now, you may have noticed I haven’t done Blackspore yet, right? If you have, then I’d say you’re pretty average. If you haven’t, then I’d say you should pay attention more.

    A long, long, long, LONG time ago, Blackspore Swamp was once filled with lush forests and fertile fields. Geomancers would care for the area like you’d care for your loved pet dog. Their gifts allowed them to tap into the magic that coursed through the earth, and with their power, they nurtured the land. The people of the region knew prosperity for many generations, but over the years the prosperity turned to greed. The geomancers began to take more from the earth than was necessary, causing a cataclysmic chain of events. Over the years, the land began to die. Vibrant landscapes were replaced by murky swampland. In time, their cities were devoured, and the utopia was lost. All that remained was death and decay.

    There were still a few residents of Blackspore Swamp, and when Sanctuary fell, they were reminded of past events, of what had happened to their beautiful land. They realized that they didn’t like it, and they chose to do something about it. The last living geomancer was searched for and found, and approved of the plan for Blackspore to rise from the ashes. The geomancer helped nurture the earth around Blackspore Swamp, and over the generations, the swampland disappeared. Lush forests grew again where they had gone, and fertile fields sprouted where they had been lost. Restless spirits were put to rest. As the years went by, Blackspore was restored to its former glory. It became a land where birds chirped happily in the trees; a land where rays of sunlight peeked through the clouds. Blackspore became a beautiful region once more.

    We’re just about finished, but there’s one place left. One of the most magnificent areas left in Free Realms. My home region.

    Briarwood.



    ~ Chapter Two: A Normal Day in Briarwood ~

    Spoiler: show
    Okay, so I know you’re probably thinking that Briarwood is much too dangerous to live in, and if that’s not what you’re thinking, you’re probably smart and you know that Briarwood was one of the only safe places left. This is where my story begins.

    I was fourteen years old at the time, and I was a human. I was slightly tall for my age. I had messy dark brown hair. I always wore sunglasses to cover my eyes. Coming down from my shoulders to my lower legs was a long black leather coat. Just on my lower legs, you could see some pants coming down to cover skin that would’ve shown otherwise. The pants came right down to my black shoes. My skin was a middle shade of tan, and only visible on my face, hands and neck.

    I was walking down the path that led away from Briarwood, deciding to take a little peek at the rest of the Realms. When I reached the end of the path, I saw a few trees and some grass. A path led up to Thunder Falls Speedway, abandoned and dead silent. A bridge stretched high over a lake to get from the speedway to the rest of the Realms. I was tempted to go on, but I knew it wasn’t safe.

    I removed a flat, shiny, black rectangular object from a large pocket in the back of my jacket, like a backpack. The object was about the size of a large skateboard, but when I dropped it to the ground, it stopped in midair. It was my hoverboard. My shiny, black, flat hoverboard. I hopped on and pushed off down the path towards Briarwood. My hoverboard rose into the air and started to fly over the path.

    As I neared Briarwood, I came up on a tree of which was growing sideways out of the mountains that surrounded the path. It created an arch above the sidewalk. I ducked under the tree, and as I did, I noticed five vultures perched in the tree. But they weren’t normal vultures. Every feather on them was pitch black, and so was their skin. Their eyes glowed red. They always freaked me out a bit, but I knew that to me, they would do no harm. These vultures were genetically modified, trained to use their abilities to keep Briarwood safe. Say, there were some evil ninjas chasing you down the path into Briarwood. The vultures would let you through, but then they’d release a wave of sound or vibrations to the ninjas, knocking them far away from Briarwood, dazed and confused. These vultures kept Briarwood safe.

    The sun was peeking through the few clouds that surrounded it in the beautiful blue sky. I could see two large towers in the distance. They were part of a wall that separated two different areas of Briarwood. As I neared, a maze was revealed below me. I was flying over Thistlerow.

    A long time ago, when Briarwood was dangerous, Thistlerow was a confusing maze, in which the queen of Briarwood, Darkthorne, had grown to keep trespassers out of Briarwood, so they would not be hurt by the monsters living there.

    Darkthorne was doing as best a job as she could to clear Briarwood of its monsters, forever. As generations passed, Darkthorne passed down her task to her daughter, and her daughter did the same. And after hundreds of years, Briarwood had become completely rid of monsters. But once Briarwood had risen, the rest of the Realms had fallen, and everybody took refuge in the new safe haven that was Briarwood. Today, most of the good people left in Free Realms lived in Briarwood, which was ruled by Queen Darkthorne, the fifth.

    A maze that was once used to keep adventurers out was now a “Fun maze” as the little kids called it. Kids would play hide and seek, tag, and even a game called Phantom in the maze. As I passed over Thistlerow maze, kids played happily below me. I smiled.

    I made it over the hedge maze. I was close to the two large towers now, and I could see the wall they were attached to. But between them there was a gap, in which a path went through, which allowed people to get through the wall into the rest of Briarwood. I flew through this gap. I was in Bristlewood.

    Long ago, Bristlewood was a dangerous forest, full of monsters, man eating plants, giant spiders, and Darkthorne’s chugawug soldiers. The chugawugs were considered dangerous at the time because everybody thought that Darkthorne was evil, when it turned out, she was actually a good pixie, the sister of the queen of the realms, that would have never betrayed her sister, as so many would believe. If you know enough about our land and the history of Briarwood, you should understand this.

    Over the years, the monsters were cleared out of Bristlewood, and Bristlewood became a safe land. Most of the residents of Briarwood lived in Bristlewood. As I passed over Bristlewood, I smiled at the beautiful forest neighborhood. Since a handful of people lived in Bristlewood, there were many, many houses. There were entire neighborhoods spread across the forest grounds. Many acorn shaped houses along stone paths, where humans and pixies would take afternoon strolls. But it wasn’t just the floor of Bristlewood in which residents lived. The surrounding mountains were not bare. They were covered in many houses. Mountaintops and caps were connected by beautiful rope bridges, and countless homes covered the mountaintops, creating a beautiful mountaintop neighborhood. Although, the forest floor and the mountains still did not house enough room for the residents of Briarwood. Tree houses hung in many of the taller trees, with ladders or even spiral staircases leading up to them. But that wasn’t all.

    There were three walls in Briarwood Forest. The first wall separated Thistlerow Maze and Bristlewood Forest. I already passed this one, and I probably forgot to mention the countless windows and balconies in the towers and in the walls. They had sort of become apartment buildings. Once I had finally passed over Bristlewood, I flew through the gap in the wall that separated Bristlewood and Nettleseed, of which was also covered in windows and balconies.

    I finally arrived in Nettleseed.

    Long ago, Nettleseed used to be a large valley full of giant mushrooms, monsters, man eating plants, and spore zombies. Once Nettleseed had been cleared out and Free Realms had fallen, people began building shops there, or putting up tents, selling supplies or food. Over the years, Nettleseed filled up with more shops, more tents, more diners, and additional shops. It finally turned into the marketplace of Briarwood. It was like a gigantic outdoor mall, full of its many shops, tents, performers, boat rides, and such. There was a stream that ran under a bridge in Nettleseed, and you could row a canoe or another kind of boat under it, and into one of the larger surrounding lakes. There were even more shops up in the surrounding mountains, and there were docks built all over Nettleseed lake, including a pier full of dozens of shops and restaurants. There was even a mini boat harbor in the largest lake, where some small sailboats were docked and un-docked. Shoppers walked the paths of Nettleseed, purchasing things in the farmer’s market area or eating outside near some of the diners. It was quite the amazing shopping capitol of Briarwood, mainly because all of the shops somehow got pushed here. It really was an outdoor mall.

    I was coming up on Tanglewood Fort, the fort that used to protect Briarheart. I flew towards the last wall that separated Nettleseed and Briarheart. I headed toward the tower of the left. I spotted a balcony about 29 floors up. It was my apartment. My home.

    As I was flying towards the balcony, I realized that wasn’t the right balcony. I averted my course to a balcony slightly higher up, which this time, I was sure was mine. I landed on it and slid my hoverboard back into my pocket. I opened the sliding glass door.

    There was my cluttered living room.

    Well, it was actually quite large, but the coffee table and a large portion of the floor were covered in papers. The papers on the floor were carelessly pushed to the side, leaving plenty of room to walk, but still leaving a cluttered feeling in the room. The TV sat on an old stand, and the computer was right next to it, not even in an office space. Papers surrounded the computer monitor. There was a dining room next to the kitchen, which was open to the rest of the house.

    “Mom!” I shouted. “I’m home!”

    I heard a bit of scattering in the other room, like my mom had just dropped a few things she was carrying. That didn’t surprise me. I usually startled my mom when I came home. A lady with long brown hair and a few wrinkles on her face walked into the living room from the hallway. Her name was Kalian. Just, Kalian.

    By now you may be wondering what my surname is. The truth is, I don’t really know. It seemed my surname sort of disappeared over the years. Nobody really knew what it was. All of my friends and all of my enemies just called me Kelvin. Well, some of my enemies called me “That stupid kid with no last name.” but, mostly just Kelvin.

    My mom ran over to me and hugged me. She always did this when I got home. She just loved me. Me, her little boy. When I told her not to call me a little boy, she always said she didn’t know how I’d grown up so quickly. Well, it had taken a long time to grow up for me. I had no idea how she thought it was so “quick.”

    “Mom,” I said, trying to get out of the hug. “Let go of me!”

    “Sorry, Kelvin dear.” My mom said, allowing me to get out of the hug. “I was just worried that… maybe…”

    “Mom, Briarwood is safe.” I assured her. “You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

    Typical mom. Always worried some monster had gotten me, or that I’d gotten in a kart racing accident, or that the chugawug soldiers falsely accused me of a crime, or something like that. Despite her worries, I always came home in one piece.

    “So,” my mom began, “what did you do today?”

    I thought about telling her that I’d went to take a peek at the rest of the Realms for a minute, but I refrained from saying that. Instead I told her that I’d taken a walk. She looked at me suspiciously for a second, but then the expression faded away.

    “That’s nice honey.” She said. She walked into the kitchen and started to wash the dishes.

    I was relieved that she hadn’t asked further questions. If she knew that I’d been so close to the rest of the Realms, she’d ground me for a month. She really didn’t want me to get hurt. In her opinion, a step outside of Briarwood was suicide. You might as well jump off your hoverboard a couple hundred feet in the air. But I really longed to explore the rest of the Realms, no matter how dangerous they were. Even though Briarwood had plenty of things to do, it just got boring from time to time. I mean, how many times can you try and get lost in the maze?

    I decided that I’d sit down and watch TV. I sat on the couch and searched for the remote. I found it hidden under a piece of paper that read “Visit the Briarwood Lagoon today! Catch many different varieties of fish!” I pressed the power button on the remote and the TV turned on.

    FRNN was on, the Free Realms News Network. The newsman was speaking into a microphone with a picture of a bunch of snowy mountains behind him. “…Another explorer lost in Snowhill today,” he was saying, “hopefully they haven’t… you know… yet, their family is very worried.”

    I knew what the newsman meant. He was trying to refrain from saying that the explorer might’ve died. I really didn’t want to watch depressing news, so I changed the channel.

    There was a commercial for Blackspore cheese playing. There were cows dancing around Blackspore swamp happily. “Tasty milk comes from happy cows,” the narrator said, “and happy cows come from Blackspore Swamp. Real Blackspore cheese!”

    I changed the channel once again. A pop singer was singing a song on a stage in front of hundreds of cheering fans. I didn’t really like the pop star much, so again I changed the channel.

    There were two pixies chasing each other around a park. “How can you run so fast?” one of the pixies asked.

    The one being chased said, “I’m not running, I’m flying!” I heard a fake crowd laughing as I changed the channel. That was just some bad comedy show.

    I continued flipping the channels, until I finally decided there was nothing on TV. I stood up and walked into the kitchen.

    “Mom,” I said to my mom, who was washing the dishes. “I’m gonna go check on The Speedinator, okay?”

    “Sure, honey.” My mom said. “Just be careful!”

    I grinned. “Bye mom!” I called. I slid open the sliding glass door in the living room and jumped off of the balcony.

    Yes, I just jumped off the balcony.

    I did this a lot. Since my apartment was pretty high up, if I jumped off the balcony, I had just enough time to take my hoverboard out of my back pocket and use it to fly normally. It was pretty thrilling. Although, sometimes I messed it up a little, like this time.

    I was trying to get my hoverboard out of my pocket, but I couldn’t. I was still just falling. I continued falling and struggling to get my hoverboard out of my large back pocket. Finally, I managed to get it out. I hopped on and flew back upwards just when I was about to run into a tent that’s sign read “Whistles of all sizes! For your dogs, cats, owls, spiders, dragons, pigs, and other varieties of pets!”

    I started to move forward through the air. I began to fly over Nettleseed once more.

    ***

    Now, if you recall, a few moments ago I said that I was going to check on The Speedinator. And what was The Speedinator, you may ask? Allow me to explain.

    I was a kart racer. Yeah, that’s right. I raced other people’s karts along the Tangletrack Speedway. I just did it for fun, not to win or anything. People only raced in Tangletrack for entertainment and fun. There wasn’t much competing, and there were no prizes. The racers just did it because they loved the thrill of racing on the track. That’s precisely the reason I did it.

    Anyways, the dwarves at Tangletrack were building me a new kart. I was one of the best drivers Tangletrack had ever seen, and everyone there usually treated me with much respect. This kart was called The Speedinator. It would be one of the fastest karts ever. And karts were pretty fast in my time. You wouldn’t believe how much kart technology had advanced.



    I was flying over Nettleseed. The hustle and bustle of the marketplace was pretty loud. Shoppers walked quickly along the paths, some of them holding bags of purchased items. There were tents and stores everywhere. There were a few people in boats floating along the river, and there were a few floating shops on the river, too. I flew through the large archway that went through the large wall and I entered Bristlewood.

    Such a beautiful place, Bristlewood. The sun had come out in Briarwood, sparkling beams of light peeking through the shade of the trees. There were kids playing ball, people walking their dogs, people just taking strolls and people sitting on the grass, telling stories of what old Free Realms was like. It was such a nice day in Briarwood.

    The day was so nice that I decided to swing by Brambleback Farm, a farm perched on a hill in the center of Bristlewood. I flew over the farm and slowed down. I waved to Farmer Brambleback, the chugawug farmer, and he waved back.

    “Brambleback, how’s it going?” I shouted as I passed.

    “Good!” shouted the chugawug. “A few gophers have popped up here and there, but other than that the farm’s fine!”

    “Good!” I shouted. I started to drift away from the farm. “Goodbye Farmer Brambleback!” I shouted, flying away.”

    “Goodbye Kelvin!” Brambleback called.

    I started to fly right above the trees in Bristlewood. I was heading towards Tangletrack Speedway. A few people called to me as I passed over their heads.

    “Hey, Kelvin!”

    “How’s it going, Kel?”

    “Kelvin dude!”

    “Hey!” I said as I passed over the trees. Most of the people that called to me were racing fans. I was pretty popular in that section.

    I saw the Tangletrack Speedway in the distance. I rushed over the trees and landed in the front. There was a large archway that entered onto the speedway. There were no karts racing around at the moment. I landed near a kart that was sitting on a working station. A dwarf was working on the kart’s engine, his head hidden beneath the hood. The dwarf seemed to be finished with his work. He raised his head out of the engine and slammed the hood shut. The dwarf’s face was covered in black stains from working on the kart. I recognized him. The dwarf’s name was Brickmetal, and he was one of the dwarves that were working on The Speedinator. He had a long black beard that reached his toes, and the hair almost completely covered his face. He looked almost like he was a furry dwarf. When he saw me, he greeted me happily.

    “Kelvin!” Brickmetal said with a strong accent. He gestured his hand toward the kart he was working on. The kart was black with blue fire painted rushing along its sides. “What do you think?”

    I was momentarily confused. He was pointing towards the kart, but I didn’t recognize the kart at all. Then it hit me.

    “Is that… the…?” I began to ask.

    “…Speedinator!” Brickmetal said happily. “Yes, Kelvin my boy!”

    My mouth fell open. I hadn’t seen The Speedinator for a few days, but last time I saw it, it was missing a door and it was only half painted black. The rest of it was just silver metal. Now, it was completely black with blue fire. It had both its doors, and even a very stylish windshield. It looked epic.

    “I think it is ready for test drive!” Brickmetal said.

    My mouth fell open once again.


    ~ Chapter Three: Test Driving The Speedinator ~

    Spoiler: show
    I followed Brickmetal eagerly toward the Tangletrack Speedway. Brickmetal may have been a small dwarf, but he had a lot of strength. He was pushing The Speedinator along towards the large archway entrance to Tangletrack Speedway. We arrived at the small gate that separated the Racetrack from Bristlewood.

    “I’ll get it.” I said. I took a key out of my pocket and eagerly inserted it into the keyhole in the gate.

    The gate swung open. I let Brickmetal and The Speedinator in before me, and then I followed. I was so excited, but I was trying really hard not to show it. I had a feeling Brickmetal knew exactly how I felt, though.

    Brickmetal pushed The Speedinator onto the racetrack. The racetrack was a long winding road, with rails made of briar vines on either side. The track led into a vast forest. In the distance, I could see the sunlight peeking through the forest trees.

    There was another kart behind The Speedinator on the racetrack. This kart was silver with a blue #1 painted on the side.

    “Brickmetal?” I asked. I pointed to the extra kart. “What’s that kart for?”

    “Ah, yes, Kelvin my boy,” Brickmetal said, “I’ll be following you in this kart. If anything goes wrong, this will be your ride home.”

    Brickmetal stepped into the silver kart.

    “Ah, okay.” I said.

    I opened the door to The Speedinator. I climbed into the driver’s seat and realized something: I didn’t have the car keys. As if reading my mind, some kart keys with a little keychain that read THE SPEEDINATOR on it fell from the sky. I picked them up and turned by head around. Brickmetal gave me a thumbs up. I knew he’d thrown it.

    I inserted the key into the startup lock, and the engine rumbled to life. The digital speedometer lit up with an awesome blue backlight. The radio automatically turned on, playing my favorite music. All of the other cool things in the kart turned on. I grinned. It was time for a test drive.

    I shifted the gear out of park mode and into drive. I put both hands on the steering wheel and pushed down on the gas pedal.

    Without even the slightest hesitation or slowness, The Speedinator instantly went from 0 MPH to 100. And it just kept increasing and increasing. It was such superb technology. It was such amazing speed. In less than a minute, I was zooming up to 200 MPH! Everything around me was a blur, but I was experienced enough to know how to maneuver the kart perfectly. When I used the steering wheel to turn, the kart instantly turned on my command. It didn’t drift. It didn’t turn two slowly. It turned just exactly to my commands. It was perfect. It was spiraling out of control.

    The speedometer was flashing from 0 to 789 and back again, but I was rapidly increasing speed. The steering wheel had a mind of its own. It was spinning and twirling like a ballerina that’s had too many energy drinks. The radio was changing stations by itself. I had completely lost control of the entire kart. I searched frantically for some way to stop it. I tried to yank the keys out of the startup lock, but they were jammed inside. I took my foot of the gas pedal, but the kart continued going forward. I pushed down the break with all my might, but I just seemed to go even faster. I was completely panicked. In my freakish state, I accidently pressed a red button that read as follows: Eject Driver’s Seat. Luckily, it was just what I needed. And it was just in time.

    A bunch of compressed air busted out from beneath the driver’s seat, sending the seat flying into the sky. I was pretty lucky that there weren’t too many branches in my way as I ascended, but if my mouth had been open I would’ve gotten to eat a bunch of leaves. The seat flew high above the treetops and into the sky. I was completely freaked out.

    I was about 200 feet above the ground, and getting higher still. I saw an eagle fly underneath me. That was NOT a good sign. Finally, when the treetops looked like a little set of toys, they started to become bigger.

    I was falling.

    I felt the wind rushing through my hair as I descended from the blue sky. I noticed a button on the right arm of the driver’s seat. RELEASE PARACHUTE. In a state of complete panic, I pressed the button. The back of the driver’s seat fell open, and a parachute was released out of the compartment. The parachute caught the breeze, and the speed of my fall faded, until I was descending slowly to the ground. Or at least the treetops.

    The driver’s seat made it through the branches and leaves just fine, although it was a little hard for me to avoid getting scratched occasionally. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the same case with the parachute. Once I had made it below the treetops, and I was still slowly getting closer to the ground, I stopped in midair. I searched around from the problem and saw it: the parachute was stuck in the branches of the tree. I was stuck.

    I could’ve jumped down from the driver’s seat and onto the solid cement road, but I would’ve broken something, most likely my leg.

    “HELP!” I cried into the woods. “HELP ME! I’M STUCK IN A TREE, AND I’M NOT A CAT!”

    My words echoed on and off of the cement and the trees. In the distance in the dark forest, I saw two bright lights getting bigger and bigger, closer and closer. It was Brickmetal and his silver #1 kart. He’d come to my rescue.

    The kart came to a stop below me, and Brickmetal looked up at me sadly.

    “Aye.” He stated. “I’m taking a little guess here, m’boy, but I assume the test drive didn’t go so well?”

    I shook my head, disappointed, but also quite shaken. “Now can you help me get out of this tree?” I asked.

    Brickmetal nodded glumly. He stepped out of the kart and opened the trunk in the back. He set a large metal ladder on the ground below me, and then he got out some scissors. He stretched out the ladder to full size. It was right below my seat.

    Brickmetal held the ladder in place and told me to climb down. I unbuckled my seat belt and climbed down from the driver’s seat. Once I was at the bottom, Brickmetal told me to hold onto the ladder. He climbed up the rods of the ladder with the scissors in his hand. When he arrived at the top, he cut the driver’s seat loose from the parachute. The seat fell to the ground with a crash.

    He climbed back down and put the ladder and the scissors back into the trunk, and he put the driver’s seat into the back seat of the kart.

    “The maids will be here later to retrieve the parachute.” Brickmetal said.

    The maids were sort of like a pit crew, for the racetrack, not the karts. They’d come and clean up lost tires, springs, hubcaps, and other things that might’ve come from a kart during a race. For example, they were going to clean up the parachute.

    “Let us go see if we can find The Speedinator.” Brickmetal said.

    I’d almost forgotten about The Speedinator. The fright of being launched a hundred feet in the air can really make you lose track of your thoughts. We both got into the car and started to drive along the racetrack.

    As we drove through the forest of trees, vines, and briar plants, Brickmetal asked me what had happened. I told him everything. The speedometer, the steering wheel, and how I’d completely lost control.

    “Hmpf.” went Brickmetal. “I guess I still have to work on the kinks. I thought I’d done it. Well, I get more time working on kart, then!”

    He was trying to hide it, but I knew Brickmetal was as disappointed as I was that The Speedinator had failed its first test drive. I tried to cheer him up by saying that when it was working, it was amazing.

    “It is okay.” Brickmetal assured me. “I am not disappointed.”

    “I didn’t say anything about you being disappointed.” I stated clearly.

    “Uh… there it is!” Brickmetal pointed to something.

    “Who, what, where, how, why?” I went, looking around myself, confused. I realized Brickmetal had pulled the kart over to the side of the road. He was pointing toward a small body of water. The body of water looked very dirty, and it was reflecting the color of the trees above it, so it was hardly blue. But there, sticking out in the center of the pond… was The Speedinator.

    We both stepped out of Brickmetal’s kart and inched toward the pond. It was just a small body of water. It wasn’t very deep. It was about shallow enough to go up to my knees, but it would be up to Brickmetal’s shoulders. He was a dwarf, after all.

    There was a frog on a lily pad. The frog hopped away the moment we stepped into the water. We inched toward The Speedinator. Since it was in the center of the pond, it was the deepest. The water was up to my upper leg, but up to Brickmetal’s neck. Luckily, the water didn’t affect Brickmetal’s strength. He and I were still able to pull the kart out of the water. Once it was completely out of the water, we were alarmed at its state.

    Well, first of all, it was missing a door again. Second, it was a little bit damaged here and there, crumbled sort of like a piece of paper, but I knew that would be one of the easiest things for Brickmetal to fix. We attached the kart to the little hook on the back of Brickmetal’s kart, and got back into his kart again. As we drove back towards Bristlewood, The Speedinator trailed behind us.

    “So, kid,” Brickmetal said, “you okay? You know… no broken bones or… anything?”

    A sudden realization passed across my mind. What was my mom going to when she found out what had happened? I’d be better off not telling her. I’d just tell her that… somebody else had test driven The Speedinator and it had failed. Yeah. That would work.

    “Hello?” asked Brickmetal. I’d almost forgotten what he’d asked me.

    “No.” I blurted out. “No broken bones or- or anything.”

    “Good.” Brickmetal said.

    We were both silent for the rest of the ride. When we arrived back at Bristlewood, Brickmetal took The Speedinator back into the workshop, and I bode him goodbye. I started walking down the path towards home. I didn’t feel like flying on my hoverboard. As I was walking, I was suddenly alarmed to see my mother’s face staring at me angrily. She was standing right in front of me.

    “Where have you been?” she asked.

    “Oh.” I said. I hadn’t realized how long I’d taken. I only said I was going to check on The Speedinator. She didn’t know I took it on a test drive. What was my story again?

    “A dwarf…” I said, suddenly remembering my story. “A dwarf tested out The Speedinator… took it for a test drive. But it didn’t work. He- he lost control, and- and it crashed.

    “Oh.” My mother’s expression saddened. “Is he ok, I have a first aid kit right here if he—“

    “NO!” I blurted out. My mother looked at me skeptically. “Um… he’s just, fine! He’s fine, totally ok, not hurt, broken bones, no anything, he- he’s fine.”

    My mom glared at me for a minute. I was afraid she was able to tell that I was lying. Sometimes she could do that. It was sort of creepy. But her expression lightened, and I stopped holding my breath.

    “Okay.” My mom said. “Are you going to come home, then, or—“

    “I’ll go to Bryan’s house!” I said. Bryan was my best friend, and he’d been dying to hear something new about The Speedinator lately.

    “Okay, see you later then.” My mom said, turning away and walking back towards Nettleseed.

    As my mom strolled back home, I hopped on my hoverboard eagerly and started to fly towards the mountains. Bryan lived in one of the houses high in the mountains. I flew over the treetops to the western mountains in Bristlewood.

    There were paths, bridges, and houses everywhere in the mountains. Bryan lived up on a tall mountaintop. I spotted his house as I was flying above the mountains. It was a large mountaintop, with some paths leading back down to the rest of the mountains. There were two large mountains, connected by a large rope bridge. Bryan lived on the left mountaintop. He lived in a large, purple, acorn-shaped house, like most of the houses in Briarwood. There were a few other houses on the mountaintop and the sides of the mountain, too, but Bryan’s was right at the top.

    I landed in his front yard garden and looked back towards Briarwood. There were two reasons I envied Bryan’s house. One, his house was much larger than mine, and two, he had the most spectacular view of Briarwood. To the right of my view was the Thistlerow maze, where kids liked to try and get lost. In front of me was Bristlewood, a vast forest full of trees, houses, humans, pixies, and elevated in the center, Brambleback Farm. On the side of Bristlewood opposite me were more mountains, with paths, houses and bridges. To the left of Bristlewood Forest was Nettleseed, the bustling marketplace filled with consumers, shops, restaurants, tents, and all of that. Further to the left of Nettleseed was Tanglewood Fort. And further behind Tanglewood, out in the distance, sticking up like a little piece of broccoli, was the Briarheart palace. And above all this, the sun’s rays shone magnificently through many clouds, sending glistening sunlight through the vast blue sky to the ground. The three large walls in Briarwood cast magnificent large shadows on parts of Briarwood. One could only imagine the gigantic shadow of Briarheart Palace, the magnificent, towering tree. This spot was a painter’s paradise. I could’ve sat there and stared at its beauty all day, but a familiar voice took me back to my senses.

    “Kelvin?”

    I turned around. There stood a fifteen year old guy. His wavy blond hair was pushed backwards, giving it a windblown affect. His eyes were hidden behind pitch-black sunglasses. In the center of his blue T-shirt was a picture of a tire engulfed in blue flames. He wore black pants that came down to his shoes. His name was Bryan Shores, and he was my best friend.

    “Hey, Bryan!” I greeted him. “You’ll never guess what happened!”

    “You learned to control tornados!” Bryan blurted out. I had almost forgotten about that. When I asked him to guess what happened, he’d always guess the strangest things.

    “Um… no.” I said.

    “You ate a tomato that let you love if you’re lit on fire?”

    “Try again…” I laughed.

    “Lady Darkthorne gave you a task?”

    “Now I admit, that would be cool, but no, try again.”

    “Look!” Bryan pointed behind me. I turned around.

    For a moment I didn’t see anything, and I just thought Bryan was pulling my leg. But then I saw it. Coming from Briarheart Palace was a small spaceship. It wasn’t a normal spaceship, you know, big and tall and going up into the sky. It was more of a sky ship. And it wasn’t going up. It was actually heading towards Bristlewood. The ship had a pod in the middle where the driver was, and coming from either side of the pod were two wings with rocket boosters at each of their ends, pushing the ship forward along with a rocket coming from the back of the pod. The front of a pod had a large window, and the back had a rocket booster. The spaceship was silver. The spaceship flew right over Nettleseed and Bristlewood, attracting a lot of attention. Crowds that were previously loud and talkative fell silent. It flew over the wall that separated Bristlewood and Thistlerow and soared away from Briarwood altogether. I knew what the ship was. Every so often, Darkthorne would send some volunteer adventurers to go out into the rest of Free Realms and risk their lives for information. They’d always use these same little pod ships, like the one that just flew off. Once the ship disappeared over the horizon, the crowds below began talking and conversing each other once more.

    I turned back towards Bryan. “I hope they’re okay.” I said.

    “Me too.” Bryan said.

    I imagined how I would feel, flying toward the rest of dangerous Free Realms with a few other people to help me, risking my life. Actually, I thought it would be pretty cool, being able to go and explore the Realms and find information. Better than being locked up in Briarwood, that’s for sure.

    “So,” Bryan’s voice startled me. “What was this thing you wanted to tell me?”

    “Oh, yeah!” I said. I’d almost forgotten. “I test drove The Speedinator!”

    “NO WAY!”

    ~ Chapter Four: An Unusual Invitation ~

    Spoiler: show
    “We have to find Zoey and Suzie!” Bryan said.

    I’d almost forgotten about them. Zoey Clarkson and Suzie Darkmoon were two of my other friends. They’d also love to know what happened when I test drove The Speedinator.

    “Let’s go to their place!” I said.

    Yes, they lived in the same house, but Zoey and Suzie weren’t sisters, they were best friends since they were little. And when Suzie lost her family to a task given by Lady Darkthorne, Zoey’s family took her under their wing. They’d been living together ever since.

    Bryan approved of going over to Zoey and Suzie’s house. He got out his hoverboard and we both flew off of the mountain.

    I led the way towards Zoey and Suzie’s house, which was buried under many trees in Bristlewood Forest. We landed in a sunny opening between a few trees, right in front of Zoey and Suzie’s acorn-shaped house. They didn’t have much of a view from their place, unlike Bryan did from his house. Their view was of a lot of trees and a few people running around in the fresh air. We both pocketed our hoverboards and knocked on Zoey and Suzie’s front door. Zoey’s mom answered the door.

    “Oh, hello, boys.” She said. “I think Zoey and Suzie are at The Snarling Hedges.”

    Bryan and I nodded, thanking Mrs. Clarkson for her help. She wished us good luck, closing the door behind her. Bryan and I mounted our hoverboards and sped off to The Snarling Hedges.

    A long time ago, this area of the maze was closed off, too dangerous to traverse. But now, it was actually a peaceful park area. Me and Bryan flew through the gap in the Thistlerow wall and flew over the hedge maze. We flew over the open gate in the maze that read “Snarling Hedges Park.” We rushed over the rest of the hedges and landed in the park.

    It was a large and beautiful area, surrounded by a few mountains. There were kids running around along the green grass all throughout the park area. There was a large abyss with a large cave on the other side. A rope bridge linked the park and the cave together. In the distance, you could see some more hedge mazes. Birds chirped contently in the trees. At the edge of the abyss, looking down into its depths, were none other than Zoey Clarkson and Suzie Darkmoon. Bryan and I began to walk over to them. As we neared, their voices became clearer.

    “Do you think there’s anything down there?” Suzie asked Zoey.

    “Water, maybe.” Zoey said. “And some rocks.”

    “Wait,” Suzie said, as Bryan and I walked closer. “What if Lady Darkthorne pushed all of the monsters in Briarwood into this huge ditch? Maybe that’s why they’re all gone?”

    “Likely theory.” Bryan said, causing both Zoey and Suzie to jump, just nearly falling into the abyss.

    “DON’T SNEAK UP ON US LIKE THAT!!!” Suzie yelled, taking Bryan by his neck.

    “Get… off of… me…” Bryan choked.

    Suzie let go.

    Well, Suzie Darkmoon was probably one of the most threatening pixies you’d ever meet. She was plenty nice if you were too, but you really wouldn’t want her as your enemy. Dark sunglasses hid her eyes. (Just so you know, most of my friends never take off their sunglasses.) Her hot pink hair was tied in a ponytail behind her head. She wore a completely black leather outfit. Her long button-down shirt was black leather, her pants were black leather, and her gloves were black leather. She wore large black boots. I’m pretty sure that the soles of her boots were full of spikes, and the spikes would appear on the bottom of her boots whenever she desired, so that she could death-kick enemies, or walk up a wall. Somehow, she concealed a large blade in her sleeve, although I never saw a pocket or any sort of thing there, ever. Suzie’s large black and purple pixie wings reflected her style.

    “Say you’re sorry.” Zoey said to Suzie. Suzie sort of developed this personality because of her horrible past, but Zoey was always trying to be a better influence on her.

    Zoey was a human, but she wore similar clothes to Suzie, too. She wore Goth Goggles with those dark purple lenses. Her hair was very dark brown, so much so that it was often mistaken for black. She had it tied in two pigtails, or whatever you call them, each one resting on her shoulders. She wore a black Goth Coat, black pants, and black shoes. She didn’t wear any gloves, though. These two were usually inseparable.

    “I won’t say I’m sorry.” Suzie said.

    “Ah ha,” Bryan said, “But you just said it…”

    “DO YOU WANT ME TO—” Suzie began to threaten Bryan, but Zoey stopped her.

    “Suzie?” Zoey said.

    “Sorry, sorry.” Suzie said. “I just… have anger issues… sometimes…”

    “Sometimes?” Bryan asked.

    Suzie snarled, and Bryan refrained from messing with her. The two didn’t always get along.

    I suddenly remembered why we were here in the first place. “Guys!” I said.

    Bryan, Zoey, and Suzie all said “What?” at the same time.

    “Don’t you remember?” I asked Bryan. “I test drove The Speedinator!”

    Bryan’s “Oh, right!” was barely heard over Zoey and Suzie’s “SHUT UP!”

    “Yeah!” I said.

    I told them everything. When I told them how cool The Speedinator looked, they all said “Wow.” When I told them how easily it was controlled, they all said “Whoa.” and when I told them how it spiraled out of control, they all went “What!?” I told them the rest of the story. How I was ejected and stuck in a tree, how we found The Speedinator in the middle of a pond, and all of that stuff. When I finally finished, all three of them were speechless.

    “Darn.” Suzie said. “I really wanted to ride in that thing.”

    “Yeah.” I said. “I was so hoping that I could finally use it.”

    “Well,” Bryan said, “if the kart went all crazy like that, I guess you can’t really use it.”

    We spent the next few hours laying in the grass of Snarling Hedges Park, talking about The Speedinator, the shapes of clouds, and the possibility that Lady Darkthorne really had pushed all the monsters in Briarwood into the abyss.

    “I mean,” Suzie said, “nobody really knows how deep that thing is, I mean it could be possible…?”

    “I don’t think so,” I said, “Lady Darkthorne wouldn’t have done something so foolish. It would’ve been easy for the monsters to get back out.”

    “Maybe…” Suzie said. “Maybe it’s an endless abyss! The monsters could still be falling now!”

    “I doubt it.” I said.

    We continued debating the pointless topic, until Zoey finally changed the subject to Bruce’s concert next Friday night. Bruce was a rock star in Free Realms.

    “He’s playing on the Nettleseed stage at eight, I think!” Zoey said excitedly.

    “Wasn’t his great, great, great something grandfather a rock star too?” Suzie said.

    I believed this was true, but I didn’t really want to talk about Bruce. Bryan and I remained quiet as Zoey and Suzie chattered about Bruce. Bryan and I closed our eyes and just relaxed. Zoey and Suzie sort of winded down their conversation about Bruce. I suspected they closed their eyes, too. And then, the sun inexplicably disappeared.

    We all opened our eyes. Standing above us, shadowing our spot from the sun, was the silhouette of a chugawug soldier.

    “Uh… hi…?” I said, trying to be friendly.

    “Message for… uh…” the chugawug soldier began to say. He picked up an envelope and read our names out loud. “…Bryan… Bryan Shores… Zoey Clarkson… uh, Suzie Darkmoon… and, uh, Kelvin… from Briarheart Palace.”

    The chugawug soldier handed the letter to me. I stared at it, flabbergasted. Whenever I usually got mail, I got it in the mailbox. Bryan, Zoey, and Suzie looked over my shoulders. Written on the front of the letter were the names of me and my friends in fancy handwriting. When we looked back up, the chugawug soldier had gone.

    I opened the letter. It read as follows.

    Dear Kelvin, Bryan, Zoey, and Suzie,

    I hope you are getting this message. Chugawug Soldiers aren’t always the most reliable messengers.

    I would be delighted if the four of you would join me in Briarheart Palace for tea. Please arrive at the front doors at 6:00 pm, this Saturday, no later. Give the chugawug guard this letter, and he will allow you inside. If you do not show up, you will be fetched by one of my soldiers on my command.

    Yours Sincerely,

    - Queen Darkthorne

    Briarheart Palace

    The letter dropped out of my hands. I turned my head towards Bryan, Zoey, and Suzie. They were speechless. Lady Darkthorne had chosen us, out of all others, to join her in her palace…. for tea. Tea, of all things. Tea.

    “So…” I began. “…Should we go?”

    “Are you sane!?” Zoey demanded. “Of course we’re going! Why would anyone refuse an invitation from the queen?”

    “It’s just that…” I said, confused. “…Why us?”

    “And why does that matter?” Zoey asked. “We were invited! Why shouldn’t we go?”

    “Kelvin sort of has a point.” Suzie said. “I mean… we’ve never even met Lady Darkthorne. Why would she all of the sudden pick US to go to her palace?”

    “What say you, Bryan?” Zoey asked Bryan.

    “Uh…” He said.

    “That’s an insightful opinion.” Suzie said. “‘Uh…’, real smart.”

    “Well…” Bryan said. “It’s not like we really have a choice.”

    “Exactly!” Zoey said, smiling. “We’re going!”

    “Wait.” I said. A thought had just crossed my mind. “What about my mom?”

    “Our parents are gonna freak!” Zoey said excitedly.

    “And Kelvin’s is going to freak the most.” Bryan said.

    Zoey’s face dropped. “Oh. Yeah.”

    What was my mom going to say when she found out what had happened? We all decided to go tell our moms what had happened. While trying to decide who would get the letter, the letter instantly copied itself into four letters, one for each of us.

    “Wicked sort of magic…” Bryan said, taking a letter.

    “Weird…” I said.

    We all boarded our hoverboards, (Yes, we all have hoverboards,) and sped away from The Snarling Hedges Park.

    ***

    As we flew, I wasn’t really sure how I should feel. Most people would jump at the chance to meet Lady Darkthorne, but something inside me, a little nagging thing, like a teacher in my stomach, said there was something that just wasn’t right about this. Why would Lady Darkthorne invite total strangers into her palace for tea? I mean, what was the point of that?

    Once we made it to Bristlewood, we all went our separate ways. I headed towards Nettleseed. I flew over the shopping plaza and headed towards the last tower on the left. I landed on my balcony and slid open the sliding glass door.

    My mom was watching the Free Realms News Network on TV. When I entered, she looked up at me and turned away from the TV.

    “Mom, I’ve gotta show you something.” I said.

    My mom looked at me intriguingly. I sat down on the chair next to her and handed her the letter. She read it out loud.

    “…by one of my soldiers on my command. Yours Sincerely, Queen Darkthorne - Briarheart Palace.” She read, finishing the letter. She looked up at me and voiced my own thought. “Why would Lady Darkthorne invite YOU and your friends to tea? I mean, you and your friends are very nice people, but- but she doesn’t even know you!”

    I shrugged and waited for a response.

    “Well,” my mom continued, “I guess you really don’t have a choice. I hope nobody’s wrongly accused you of a crime…”

    “Mom, nobody’s wrongly accused me of a crime!” I said, laughing. “She’s just invited me and my friends… to tea… for some reason.”

    My mom nodded. “Did you tell them?” she asked.

    “Yeah,” I said. “The chugawug soldier gave us all one letter, but it split into four… and…”

    “Oh…” my mom said. “Okay, dear. Just be careful.”

    I nodded and turned away. I went back onto the balcony and hopped on my hoverboard. “I’m gonna go find them.” I said, before I began to fly back towards Bristlewood.

    ***

    I ran into Bryan, Zoey, and Suzie above Brambleback Farm. And by ran into, I mean all four of us actually crashed our hoverboards in midair at the same point, and then fell from the sky, screaming. Luckily, we landed on one of Brambleback’s soft dirt crops, although I wasn’t sure what he would say about it.

    “What did your parents say?” we all blurted out at the same time.

    We all tried to respond at the same time, too, but me and Bryan let Zoey and Suzie go first.

    “Our mom, just, freaked out!” Zoey said excitedly. “She really, really, REALLY wanted to go with us but it didn’t say anything about the parents! She was so disappointed!” Zoey laughed.

    “Yeah…” went Suzie. “…What hyper-girl here said.”

    “’Kay.” I said. “My mom said that I had to go, because I really didn’t have a choice, but she’s wondering why we were invited, too.”

    The others nodded, and then we all looked at Bryan.

    “My parents say they don’t care.” He said.

    “Typical.” I said, and Bryan nodded. Bryan’s parents never really cared about their one and only son. They usually treated him like he was some creature that they were forced to take care of.

    “So, then we’re all going.” Suzie said.

    “We would’ve been going anyway.” I said.

    “When’s Saturday?” Zoey asked eagerly.

    Well, it was Friday. Wait a second. Friday? That meant tomorrow was Saturday.

    “Tomorrow.” I said.

    “Oh my gosh.” Bryan said. “He’s right.”

    Zoey fainted. I tried to stifle my laugh, but after seeing the others snickering, I decided to join in. Although, I thought Zoey was taking the invitation too… I don’t know… lightly? There was a reason Darkthorne had invited us, and I had to know what it was. Unfortunately, I wasn’t any closer to finding out why she invited us than I was to saving the entire Sacred Grove.

    ***

    That night, I didn’t sleep. I spent all my time tossing and turning. I couldn’t get the feeling out of me. I knew there was something wrong. There had to be.

    I must’ve fallen asleep eventually, because I remember having a bunch of strange dreams. Most of them were a blur. Either I just couldn’t remember them, or they didn’t make enough sense for my conscious mind to comprehend.

    I woke up at noon. I had slept very, very late. I usually fell asleep around 10:00 and woke at about 8:00. I had no idea when I’d fallen asleep, or how. But I knew one thing for sure.

    Today was the big day.


    ~ Chapter Five: Briarheart Palace ~

    Spoiler: show
    I got dressed and ate some brunch. I brushed my teeth and hair (But not with the same brush). I decided I’d contact my friends via hoverboard. In the future, hoverboards were used for a variety of things, other than just hovering. You could use them to, first of all, fly places. You could also contact your friend’s hoverboards using a video chat app, plus, you could do a variety of other things, depending on different apps you could by for your hoverboard. They’re sort of like smart phones, but they’re not. They’re smart hoverboards. I got out my hoverboard from the closet, where I always kept it safe in my hoverboard case at night. My hoverboard was like a flat piece of black plastic. It was flat, black, and shiny. Except that it always floated a few inches above the ground. You could control it while you were flying, but I’m not sure how. I just did it. I pressed a little red button on the thin side of my hoverboard, and the black surface became a screen. The hoverboard adjusted itself so that it was floating in front of me like a computer screen. I clicked on the video chat app on the touch screen hoverboard surface. I began a four way call with Bryan Shores, Zoey Clarkson, and Suzie Darkmoon. I assumed they were awake already.

    With this hoverboard technology, their hoverboards should have been ringing like phones. On my end, the hoverboard played a short little ringing tone, to tell me that my friend’s hoverboards were ringing. It was Bryan who answered first. His face appeared on my hoverboard’s screen.

    “Hey, Kelvin!” he greeted me. “You excited about today?”

    “Uh…”

    “Yeah, I know you might be a little nervous, but it’ll be fine.” Bryan assured me. He grinned.

    It didn’t make me feel any better.

    Zoey answered next. As soon as her face popped up, I heard a loud squeal. I assumed that must’ve been Zoey.

    “Oh my gosh, it’s today already!” she screamed, babbling very, very fast. “Oh, my gosh, what should I wear, what should I eat, how should I style my hair? Maybe I should tie it back in a ponytail, oh wait, that’s what Suzie does, I don’t want the queen to think I’m a copy cat! What should my greeting be? I’m thinking I’ll bow and then say ‘Hello Madame Darkthorne!’ Wait! Is that too predictable!? Maybe I should go with something else, like I know! ‘Yo, wassup Madame D? You ready to take this tea to the top!’ No, I don’t think that’s it, I’m not that good with street, and anyways it might make me sound like a poor person in front of the queen! I don’t know, maybe—”

    “STOP!!!” It was the voice of Suzie Darkmoon. She had answered the call. Her face had appeared on the surface of my hoverboard. Judging by what was behind her, she and Zoey were in the same room. “By Darkthorne, Zoey, how many energy drinks have you had today?”

    “NONE!!!” Zoey said, smiling. She began to babble faster still. “Maybe I should have an energy drink though, so I can be all cool and energetic in front of the queen, maybe she’ll think I’m an athlete or something! Oh my gosh—”

    “STOP TALKING!” Suzie screamed.

    Zoey ducked out from her little window in my hoverboard, and for a moment I was confused. Then she popped up in Suzie’s window.

    “Hey look!” she said. “I moved from one window to another!” she disappeared from Suzie’s window and popped back into her own, and then she went back to Suzie’s window. She kept doing this a few times while saying, “Now I’m here, and now I’m there!” She even disappeared from both windows, and I saw a Zoey hand in one window and a Zoey hand in another.

    It took awhile for us to calm Zoey down, so I’m just going to skip the rest of the hyper antics, even though some of them are quite amusing. I’d never seen her so excited like this. I mean, she usually got excited when there were famous people around, like Jordan Cloo, the famous cook, great, great, great, great grandson of cooking legend Bordon Cloo, or when Bruce was performing on Nettleseed Stage. But she’d never been like this. For her, meeting the queen of Briarwood was a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

    Once we finally calmed Zoey down, we decided to come up with a plan.

    “Okay.” I said. “So we meet at Tanglewood Fort at 5:00pm. We’ll hand the chugawug there the letter if he doesn’t let us through, even though Darkthorne just said palace guard in the letter.”

    “Wait.” Bryan said. “We have four letters. Which one do we show him?”

    “Maybe if we put all four of them on top of each other,” I said, “they’ll all become one again.”

    Suzie shrugged. “It’s worth a try.” She said.

    Zoey nodded with an overjoyed look on her face, trying to hold in her excitement.

    “Anyways...” I said. “Then, we’ll go through the fort and into Briarheart. The Palace shouldn’t be too hard to find.”

    Zoey squealed when I said “The Palace.”

    “Continuing…” I went on. “We’ll hand the palace guard the letter and go inside. Once inside, we should be respectful to Lady Darkthorne.”

    Zoey squealed again.

    I cleared my throat. “Anyone got anything to add?” I asked.

    Everyone shook their heads.

    “Sounds like a plan.” Bryan said.

    ***

    I spent the rest of the day with a horrible stomach ache caused by stress. I tried to take my mind off things by watching comedy shows on television. It really didn’t work. You often get tired of hearing stupid comedy jokes.

    “Did you do your homework?” The pixie mom asked on TV.

    “Yes…” said the little pixie kid nervously. A fake crowd filled with fake laughter.

    My mom offered me something to eat quite a few times, but I wasn’t hungry. I didn’t move until two minutes to five.

    “You sure you can make it there on time?” my mom asked nervously. She kept trying to be supportive and upbeat about the situation, but she was like me. She needed to know what the purpose of this was.

    “I’ll make it, mom.” I said. I boarded my hoverboard and flew off the balcony.

    It only took me one minute to get down from the tower I lived in to the entrance to Tanglewood Fort. All around me was the busy shopping plaza of Nettleseed, active with happy and cheerful shoppers, chatting about the newest trend or Bruce’s concert. Their happiness mocked my nervousness.

    It was a few minutes before Bryan, Zoey and Suzie showed up at Tanglewood Fort on their hoverboards. They dismounted them.

    “Let’s go.” I said. My stomach felt really terrible now.

    The others nodded, all except for Zoey, who screamed “OKAY!” excitedly. We walked up to the entrance of Tanglewood Fort. A chugawug guard was sitting behind a ticket booth next to the entrance. The sign on the ticket booth read: “Tanglewood Fort, the most popular tourist attraction in Nettleseed!”

    We walked up to the chugawug soldier. He had an extremely bored look on his face, like this was the last job he ever wanted.

    “Hello. Would you like to see Tanglewood Fort, the most popular tourist attraction in Nettleseed.” The chugawug said with an extremely bored tone of voice. “An afternoon pass is fifty coins; a full day pass is a hundred coins, and a two-day pass is a hundred-and-fifty coins, the best deal. Also, we now offer a family pass for large families. Also we have—”

    “We don’t need any of that stuff.” Suzie said. “Guys, get the letters.”

    We took out our four letters from our pockets and squished them together. As predicted, it fused back into one letter. Suzie handed the chugawug the letter. He read it intently. His bored eyes opened wide. A nervous look came upon him.

    “Signed by… L- L- Lady Darkthorne.” He shuddered. He handed the letter back to us. He got up from behind the ticket booth and walked over to the large gate of Tanglewood Fort. He pushed it open. “Enter.” He said. “And good luck.” He bowed to us.

    I was sort of confused. It seemed Bryan and Suzie were too, but Zoey just went “Eeeeee!!!”

    We entered the gate to Tanglewood Fort. Inside, there were a few tents in a camp area. There were some chugawugs asleep in the tents. There were some chugawug soldiers standing at lookout posts around Tanglewood Fort. We walked up a path that went up a small incline inside the fort. We passed an area full of old cages. A tourist group was gathered around an old cooking oven, and a tour guide was telling the tourists about the old oven.

    “…He used to be the chef in Tanglewood,” The tour guide was saying as we passed, “he’d cook meals for the soldiers, the lookouts, the archers, and the Commander. Today, we remember him with this memorabilia…”

    We continued up a steeper incline than the first. And old lady was reading a plaque to an old man. “And the chug used to drop boulders down this hill to keep out trespassers. Doesn’t that sound a little violent to you, honey?”

    We passed a little house with an anvil in front. It looked like it used to belong to a Blacksmith. When we passed a little plaque, I figured out I was right. The large top line read “Hut of Blacksmith Blix” on the plaque. We continued walking. We passed another little camp with a few tents and campfires. Finally, we made it to the back gate of Tanglewood Fort. We pushed it open and closed it behind us.

    We were standing in a small grassy area between Tanglewood Fort and a large mountain with a cave through it. There was a sign to my right that was pointing down a different path. The sign read: “Croaking Vale Nature preserve – Where happy frogs croak!”

    There was a guard’s post set in front of the cave. It was another little booth, except it was a bit larger this time, and it had one door on either side of it. One of the doors read ENTER and the other read EXIT. We walked up to the chugawug guard who was standing at the guard post.

    “Hi.” I said to him.

    “The nature preserve is over there.” The chugawug said, pointing to my right.

    “No,” I said. “We’re here to see the queen?”

    The chugawug laughed out loud, so much so that he nearly toppled over. Once he regained balance, he was tearing up from laughter. “Oh…!” he went, wiping away his tears of laughter. “I haven’t had a good laugh in years! You really think you can see the queen!?”

    “Um, yes, because—”

    The chugawug soldier laughed out loud again. “You can only get in to see the queen if you have a permission slip or a letter from Lady Darkthorne! You can’t—”

    I handed him the letter. His expression dropped. He read every word intently. “Oh.” He said. “Um… sorry… Would you mind… not mentioning this to Lady Darkthorne?” he handed the letter back to me and pushed a button. The door that read ENTER popped open.

    “I dunno.” I said with a sly face. I led my friends through the entrance door.

    “And talk to Captain Chugug once you get there!” the chugawug shouted after us. His voice echoed off the cave walls as we entered the cavern.

    “Okay!” Zoey shouted back, the cave walls repeating her word.

    “Why do we have to go into this cave?” Bryan asked me. “The Palace isn’t underground; I can see it from my house.”

    “I think this cave just leads to the palace.” I said.

    Bryan nodded. I could tell he was nervous, too. The only person who wasn’t nervous was Zoey, who was trying ever so lightly to stifle her joyous giggle.

    When we finally made it through the cave, Briarheart was revealed to us, and my breath was taken away.

    There were large wooden guard posts dotted in various places around Briarheart. Briarheart was completely surrounded with large mountains. Atop these many mountains were many beautiful and extravagant mansions, homes of those in the royal family or those closest to Lady Darkthorne. In the center of these many mountains was the green, grassy area of Briarheart. A path led up underneath a bunch of gigantic arches formed by huge briar vines. These briar vines rose up from a beautiful stream, or moat, that encircled the center of attention with beautiful, gleaming blue water. And what was the center of attention, you may ask? None other than…

    Briarheart Palace.

    Briarheart Palace was the largest tree to ever be grown in the Sacred Grove. Its size would be matched by the great tree of Sanctuary, but that tree was destroyed hundreds of years ago. Briarheart Palace had grown a lot in those past hundred years, too. It rose over a mile above the surrounding mountains, casting a large shadow over one side of mountains. There were some briar vines wrapped around the base of the tree, but they didn’t go all the way up. The tree was so high, in fact, that its branches rose high above some low hanging clouds, up into the endless blue sky. It was many people’s belief, that, because the Sanctuary Tree and the Briarheart Tree were born from the same seed, that’s why Briarwood was safe from the tidal wave of negative energy when Sanctuary fell. That’s why Briarwood was alive with beauty. That’s why it was the safe haven.

    Me, Bryan, Zoey, and Suzie walked up the path towards Briarheart Palace. All of my worried feelings had been blown away by the beauty of the Palace. Chugawug guards eyed us from the guard posts standing aside the path. The grass around our path turned to water, until our path was surrounded by short strips of grass and peaceful blue waters. The path was at a slightly steep incline as we walked, so that the water slowly became lower and lower below us. We walked underneath the large briar archways that led right up to, none other than, the large front doors of Briarheart Palace. Standing just in front of these gigantic doors was a chugawug guard. It had almost slipped my mind that we were told to look for someone named Captain Chugug. I decided it was worth a try.

    We walked up to the chugawug guard. He eyed us suspiciously.

    “Hello…” I said. “Are you Captain Chugug?”

    “The one and only Captain Chugug the fifth.” The chugawug said. “And who are you?”

    “I’m Kelvin.” I said.

    “Bryan.”

    “Suzie.”

    “I’M ZOEY!!!”

    I barely stifled my laugh at Zoey’s introduction.

    “Show me proof.” Captain Chugug said.

    I handed him the letter. He took it in his large chugawug hands and took in every printed word. He handed it back to me.

    “We’ve been… expecting you.” Captain Chugug said. “Follow me into the palace.”

    Captain Chugug turned around and faced the large palace doors. The doors began to slowly swing open, as if he was magically controlling them with his eyes. They made loud creaking sounds. A long hallway was revealed within, and we all followed Captain Chugug inside.

    As we stepped inside, the large doors swung closed behind us with a loud slam. I turned back towards the hallway.

    It. Was. Amazing!

    A long purple carpet ran down the shiny black floor. The walls were lined with torches, of which were lit with flickering purple fire, giving the corridor a beautiful purple glow. There were three doors visible on the hallway. There was one on the right wall, with amazing artful designs on it, purple torches hanging on the wall on either side of the door. Another door on the left wall mirrored the one on the right. And down at the end of the hallway, right where the purple carpet came to a stop, was a large door covered with the most amazing designs. A pure gold sign hung on the wall above it, reflecting the flickering purple flames. The sign read two simple words: Throne Room.

    We followed Captain Chugug down the long corridor. At last, we came to a stop at the end of the hall, at the door to the Throne Room.

    “Enter.” Captain Chugug said, getting out of the way and gesturing towards the door.

    “Aren’t you coming?” Bryan asked.

    “I am not allowed in unless I receive a summons or an urgent message.” Captain Chugug said sadly.

    “Shame.” said Bryan with a twinge of sympathy.

    The others allowed me to go first, which I wasn’t exactly thrilled about. But I took my hand and slowly touched the doorknob.

    “Go on.” Captain Chugug said.

    I grabbed the doorknob gently and began to turn it. I heard a small click come from within the mechanics of the door. I tried to pull it, but it wouldn’t open. I tried to push it, and it slowly started to creak outward. The door was opening. Ever so slightly… opening. I decided I had to get it over with. I pushed the entire door open, and the magnificent Throne Room revealed itself to me and my friends.

    It was breathtaking.


    ~ Chapter Six: Lady Darkthorne ~

    Spoiler: show
    This room was so incredibly breathtaking that even Zoey was completely speechless. The room was so incredibly amazing, that word simply cannot do it justice, but I’ll try and explain anyways.

    The room was large and round, and it was INCREDIBLY tall. A large brazier hung on ultra-long chains from the ceiling. The Brazier was about as close to the ground as it would be if the ceiling was a normal high height, but the chains rose so high up to the ceiling that… well they sort of vanished. I couldn’t see the ceiling. The purple walls weren’t just walls, but stairs. A spiral staircase was carved into the walls artfully, every now and then passing a well-designed door to another room. The spiral staircase spiraled upwards until it vanished from view, just like the chains. The hanging brazier was alive with dancing, purple, flickering flames, lighting up the entire room with their brightness. If I looked directly into the flames, I might’ve been blinded, as if I looked into the sun, for how bright they were. Although they could light up the entire room, it still seemed dark in the room. The light was dim although the flames were bright. Two ramps lined with purple carpet circled up the room at a slight incline. Not part of the spiral staircase and not going very high up at all, they led to a slightly higher balcony area, in which there was a gigantic chair, of which it’s back looked almost like golden, flattened briar vines. On either side of the chair was a torch, alive with purple flames. A cloaked figure sat on a purple cushion as the base of the back of the chair. The cloaked figure had its back to us, but in our view were two purple butterfly-like wings. The wings of a pixie. And the pixie that sat in the gigantic chair was no ordinary pixie. It was none other than Queen Darkthorne, the fifth, ruler of Briarwood.

    “Come.”

    The voice had issued from within the cloak. As if hypnotized, Bryan, Zoey, Suzie and I began to walk up the small ramp that lead to the throne area of the room. All four of us stood in front of the throne and kneeled.

    “Rise, my guests.”

    We did as we were told. All four of us stood up simultaneously. As Lady Darkthorne turned to face us, her cloak dropped down, and her features were revealed. She had medium-length blue hair and extremely pale skin. She had vines tattooed around one of her beautiful purple eyes. She wore a long purple dress, a different shade of purple then her dark purple wings. Her legs were completely covered by some sort of purple sock-shoes. Her dress had designs of dark purple vines on it, and her arm was tattooed with green vines. I’d seen pictures of Queen Darkthorne, the first. They looked like twins.

    Lady Darkthorne stood up and stepped off of her throne. She walked toward us. She stopped in front of us and smiled.

    “Welcome to Briarheart Palace.” She said.

    I was about to say something, but I didn’t get the chance, because at that moment Zoey finally blurted something out.

    “YOU’RE QUEEN DARKTHORNE!” She blurted out, and then covered up her mouth, trying to seem a bit calmer.

    “Indeed I am, Zoey Clarkson.” Lady Darkthorne said.

    “She knows my name…” Zoey whispered excitedly.

    Apparently, Suzie just couldn’t hold it in anymore. She burst out laughing.

    Lady Darkthorne raised an eyebrow, and Suzie straightened herself and cut off her laughter.

    Lady Darkthorne smiled. “Do not worry, young ones.” She said. “I am the same as any of you. I enjoy having fun, exploring, and cookies. We are not so different. I just inherited the responsibilities of the land of Briarwood, that’s all.” She said it like it was no big deal. “Come.” She said, and she began to fly down the ramp. “Follow me.”

    We followed Lady Darkthorne down the ramp. She started up the spiral staircase and gestured us to follow. We walked up a few slights of stairs before stopping at a large door. The door was not marked in any way, and we had passed dozens that looked just like it, but Lady Darkthorne seemed to know the way around her palace well. She did something a lot like Captain Chugug. She simply stared the door and it began to slowly swing open. We followed Darkthorne inside.

    The door opened to a magnificent hall with a long table in the center. The floor was made of artfully shaped tiles and the walls were purple, rising all the way up to the ceiling. Hanging from the ceiling was a chandelier of purple crystals, with flames flickering from within. Towering purple stained glass windows let light in from outside. The table was very long, and made out of the finest polished oak, surrounded by dozens of beautiful chairs.

    “Eek!” went Zoey.

    Lady Darkthorne led us towards the table. She sat on one of the end chairs of the long table, and we all sat on the four closest to her. A chugawug marched into the room holding a tray. He set it down on the table in front of Lady Darkthorne. There were five mugs full of tea. The chugawug marched out of the room.

    “Tea?” Lady Darkthorne asked us. We all nodded and took a cup.

    I took a sip of mine and finally got to say something. “To what do we owe the pleasure, Madame Darkthorne?” I asked.

    Lady Darkthorne smiled. She took a sip of her tea and set it down on the table. She pushed her chair away from the table and walked away. Me and my friends were about to stand up and follow her, but as if she could see behind her back, she told us to remain seated, and that she would be right back.

    “Where do you think she’s going?” Zoey whispered excitedly.

    “I don’t know.” I said. “But I don’t like it.”

    “Maybe she’s going to give us a surprise!” Zoey said.

    “I still agree with Kelvin.” Suzie said. “Why did she invite us if we don’t know her?”

    “Who cares?” Zoey smiled.

    “We do.” I said.

    “Shush!” Bryan hissed. “She’s coming back!”

    We all quieted down as Lady Darkthorne returned. She sat back down on the table and placed a fancy-looking chest on the surface.

    “Do you know what this is?” she asked. We all stared at her silently. “I would’ve been surprised if you said yes. You see, I need you to do a little something for me.”

    We all remained silent. I didn’t like where this was going.

    Lady Darkthorne continued. “…Some may call it a task.” She said.

    My nerves were tingling. Something was wrong. Definitely wrong.

    “I need you to deliver this to an old friend of mine.” She said.

    “Where is this ‘old friend’ of yours?” Suzie asked.

    Lady Darkthorne’s finger touched her chin. “Ah.” She said. “Suzie Darkmoon, the intelligent one.”

    “Where did you get that information?” Suzie asked suspiciously.

    Lady Darkthorne didn’t answer.

    “Madame Darkthorne…” Bryan said nervously. “…You were saying…?”

    “Oh, yes.” Darkthorne said. “You must deliver it to my old friend.”

    “You said that already.” I said. “Where do we have to go?”

    “You will deliver it…” Lady Darkthorne said… “…To Seaside.”

    A tingling went down my spine. Silence fell over the room. Nobody spoke. I knew there had been something wrong. This was it. The room remained silent.

    At last, I spoke.

    “Madame Darkthorne,” I began, “why us? Couldn’t you get somebody else to do it? Somebody more experienced?”

    Lady Darkthorne remained silent. I was starting to realize that I really didn’t like her very much.

    She stood up and started to walk towards the door. She gestured for us to follow. I really didn’t want to, and I suspected my friends didn’t either, but some hypnotic force caused us to rise from our seats. We followed Darkthorne out of the room.

    She advanced up countless steps on the spiral staircase, and me and my friends reluctantly followed. I could swear we passed hundreds of doors, and we’d gone up thousands of stairs. The throne room at the base of the stairs was barely visible, and the ceiling was beginning to come into view. The walls were lined with torches that had been lit with purple flames. We continued walking up the stairs. I was beginning to feel tired, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself.

    “Darkthorne?” I asked. I refrained from calling her Madame anymore, because I really didn’t like her very much. “Where are we going?”

    “To the launch pad, of course.” Darkthorne said.

    “And that’s supposed to make sense to me because…?”

    No reply.

    If I fell over the rail on the spiral staircase, I probably would’ve died. We were so high up, that the air probably would’ve felt thin, except we were inside of a tree. At last, the spiral staircase ended. But we didn’t enter a door on the right. Actually, the floor continued like a path or a dock in the opposite way of the door. The floor ended in the dead center of the circular room, just beneath the ceiling. Four chains surrounded a railed circular floor area, and I knew that the chains went downward many floors to hang the brazier so far below us. And in the center of the railed circular floor area was a circular black stone that was stuck into the ground, and there were also four chains connected to the stone, rising to the ceiling. We followed Darkthorne into the circular area followed her onto the stone. The stone was large enough for all five of us to stand on, plus a few other people.

    “Why are we standing on a stone that’s stuck in the floor?” Bryan asked.

    “This is no stone.” Darkthorne said. She floated down and stood on the stone, too as did Suzie.

    I tried to get off of the stone, and I was surprised to find I had regained control of my body. But when I passed the line where the large stone ended, my foot stopped, like it had run into something. I was trapped by a force field.

    “Did you… trap us?” I asked Darkthorne.

    “No.” she said.

    The stone began to shake. And suddenly, the floor began to drop below us. We were going upward. We were on some sort of elevator. The four chains connected to the stone were pulling us upward. I grabbed onto one for safety. For one thing, I didn’t understand why we couldn’t have used this elevator to get all the way up here in the first place. Another thing I did understand was that we were about to crash into the ceiling.

    “Darkthorne…” Suzie said. “Do you realize that we’re going to crash into the ceiling!?”

    “Yes.” said Darkthorne.

    I would’ve tried to jump, but since the ceiling was still relatively high and the ground was much too low below us. Even if I tried, I would’ve run into an invisible barrier. The ceiling was becoming lower and lower above us, and the chains disappeared into the ceiling.

    I thought Darkthorne was INSANE.

    I crouched down as the elevator climbed higher. I closed my eyes and braced myself to be crushed. I waited for the crash into the ceiling.

    It never came.

    I opened my eyes and looked around me. It looked like I was in a sort of large vertical pipe. I was still standing on the elevator, with Bryan, Zoey, Suzie, and Darkthorne. We were ascending out of the pipe. When I looked up, I could see the chains of the elevator leading out of the pipe. The hole above me grew until we rose out of the pipe. The elevator stopped moving and clogged the entrance to the pipe, so that it looked like the pipe was never there. I noticed that the chains were wrapped around a large briar vine.

    We stepped off of the stone, and for a moment my breath was taken away.

    We were surrounded by gigantic branches, covered in many leaves. We stood on a circular platform made of stone, which seemed to be attached to the spot where a gigantic tree’s branches separated. We were on a platform atop Briarheart Palace, and through the leaves was a spectacular view.

    I walked up to the railing on the platform to look at the view, my mouth hanging open.

    The vast night sky opened before me, and I could see many, many stars. I hadn’t realized how long we had been inside the palace. Night had already fallen. The crescent moon rose high above me, hanging in the sky beautifully. Far, far, far below me, I could just barely see some of Briarheart. Some of it was blocked by the tree’s branches, though. When I looked ahead of myself, I saw the rest of Briarwood.

    Nettleseed looked tiny in the distance, so far away that the people bustling through the shopping capitol looked like tiny specks. The shops, boats, tents, and everything in Nettleseed were alive with light, and from a distance it looked so beautiful. I could barely see the waterfall, but even it looked beautiful. Further ahead, I could see Bristlewood. The wall separating Nettleseed and Bristlewood looked tiny, and the treetops of the forest at night looked beautiful. I could just barely see a few lights on in some of the houses, more easily houses on the mountaintops. A teeny tiny speck of orange light visible on a clearing in the forest was what I assumed a campfire. Even further ahead, the wall that separated Bristlewood and Thistlerow looked even smaller, and the Thistlerow maze looked almost like a maze in a coloring book, but even smaller. In the distance, the rest of Free Realms sort of disappeared, because the world was round. But we were so high up in the air that I could see the curve of the world. It was amazing.

    I had almost forgotten why I was there until the voice of Darkthorne brought me back to my senses. It made me jump.

    “Beautiful, isn’t it?” Darkthorne asked me. “But we can’t stay here forever.”

    I realized that my friends had all gathered around me and had been marveling in the view, too. I turned around and saw Darkthorne standing behind me, in front of something I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t noticed before.

    It could’ve been some advanced military airplane. Standing behind Darkthorne was a magnificent silver spaceship. The wings of the ship weren’t sticking out of the sides, but pushed backward, as if they were human arms that used to be stretched out straight, but were now hanging diagonally at the sides. At the end of each wing was a large silver rocket booster. In between the wings was what looked like a slightly flattened tip of an airplane, with windows in front and on the sides. I walked around the back and found three large rocket boosters behind it, one large one above two small ones, so that they created a sort of triangle shape out of circles. The ship was designed very aerodynamically. A door on the ship opened downward like a mouth, and formed into stairs so we could get inside the ship.

    I knew what this was for. This ship was supposed to take us to Seaside. I instantly became aware of my situation again. It felt as if a large stone had dropped into my stomach. I thought I was going to be sick.

    “And who are we delivering to, again?” Suzie asked, as Darkthorne held out the fancy box she had shown us earlier.

    “Baron Arks.” Darkthorne said. She glided toward me and handed me the box. “He has the key. Once you deliver it, he should give you something in exchange, and I need you to deliver it back to me.”

    I eyed Darkthorne suspiciously. “And where does he live?” I asked.

    “The autopilot in this sky ship should take you there.” Darkthorne said. “But if anything goes wrong, last time I heard, he lived in one of the shortest skyscrapers in Seaside.”

    “And what about our parents?” I asked.

    “Your parents will be notified by mail.” Darkthorne said.

    My heart dropped. I could imagine the utterly terrified look on my mother’s face when she read the letter. I hoped that she wouldn’t die of fear.

    “I don’t want to go.” I said straight to Darkthorne’s face. I’m not sure if I was brave, or crazy.

    “You don’t have a choice.” Darkthorne said. Her expression was serious, her face inches away from mine. I had to go.

    “So be it.” I said.

    Darkthorne gestured for us to board the ship. Reluctantly, me and my friends walked up the steps of the sky ship. Once we were on board, the door closed behind us.

    The inside of the ship looked pretty cool. The floor and ceiling were both silver, with a matte finish. There was a seat in front of a steering wheel if somebody was going to navigate the ship. The steering wheel was surrounded by quite a few buttons and levers. Above the controls was a large window that stretched around the sides of the room, and on the back wall of the room was a door which read: WARNING: ENGINE ROOM: DANGEROUS RADIATION.

    Four small doors on the floor slid open, and one chair rose out of each one. Each of the four chairs looked sort of like a fancy desk chair, except they had no wheels. A computerized female voice spoke from the ship. “Please find a seat where you are comfortable.” It said.

    I picked one of the seats in the middle. Bryan chose the one to my right and Zoey chose the one to my left. Suzie chose the last one.

    Darkthorne appeared outside of the ship. I could see her through the window. There were two chugawug soldiers next to her, and each one was holding two batons, and moving the up and down with their arms, as if preparing for takeoff.

    Our seats automatically buckled us with seatbelts. “Beginning launching sequence.” The computer voice said. “Takeoff in ten seconds.”

    The ship backed up to the back of the platform, so that it had to go over the rest of the platform to begin flight over Briarwood. A screen near the controls began to count down with the computerized voice.

    “10…” the computer voice began to count down. “9… 8… 7… 6… 5… 4… 3… 2…”

    I braced myself.

    “…1. Ready for takeoff.”

    The ship instantly began to move forward. I was pushed back into my seat. The ship sprinted straight off of the platform and began to fall, but soon began to regain its height, and climb higher.

    We were on our way to Seaside.

    We had to deliver a package, which I was still holding in my hands.

    I could think of hundreds of places I would rather be.


    ~ Chapter Seven: The Adventure
    Begins ~

    Spoiler: show
    If you’d asked me yesterday, I would’ve said that I’d love for Lady Darkthorne to give me a task so that I could explore the rest of Free Realms. Now that she had given me the task and I was on my way… well… I wasn’t so sure about it anymore.

    I held the fancy little box in my hands as I was pushed farther and farther into the back of my seat. The sky ship was zooming forward at a pace so fast that I was afraid that my eyeballs would be pushed into the back of my head. And if you couldn’t tell, that’s not the best feeling in the world. Out the window, I could just barely see Nettleseed disappearing before my eyes, and no more than a second later, Bristlewood had vanished from sight, too.

    We continued moving forward until all of Briarwood disappeared. Once we’d made it all the way across Briarwood, I started to feel a little better. I wasn’t being pushed backward into my seat anymore. Actually, my body was slowly inching out of a cushion that shouldn’t have been so cushy. I was sitting in the chair normally, as the ship continued to move forward at a slower pace.

    “Cruising speed.” The computerized female voice said over the loudspeaker. My seatbelt unbuckled itself. “You are new free to move about the cabin.”

    I thought this was a pretty warped excuse for a cabin, but I stood up from my chair anyways. More or less, I was able to stand up normally, as if I was in a normal room; except, of course, I was flying in a sky ship.

    I looked out the window. Far below me, I saw a nearly dry river with two bridges across it. There was a rocky Cliffside area that looked like it had once been a waterfall, but it had run dry, too. Across the bridge, nearer Briarwood, was a large archway and what looked like sort of a junk yard full of old karts. Thunder Falls Speedway. As we passed over the speedway, I looked down at it sadly. What used to be a nice little speedway was now deserted. I turned back into the main room of the ship.

    Bryan was looking at me through his sunglasses. “Hey.” He said.

    My stomach clenched. It seemed almost that I’d just become aware of my situation. I was heading towards Seaside, and probably towards my own death. And it was likely that some (If not all) of my friends would follow. It suddenly became clear to me that I might never be going back to Briarwood. I’d never live a normal life again. I’d never—

    “You okay?” Bryan asked me. He must’ve noticed the fear in my eyes.

    “Uh… yeah… sure.” I said. “I’m… fine.”

    “You sure?”

    My stomach grumbled. “Ugh…”

    “I don’t think you’re fine at all.” Bryan said.

    I just couldn’t take it. The horror, the fear, the frightening images forming in my head. My vision became blurred. I became dizzy, nauseated. I began to tumble over. I was about to pass out from fear, but Bryan caught me and splashed some cold water on me. I regained my senses.

    “You’re definitely not fine.” Bryan said.

    I felt like I was going to fall over. Bryan helped me back to my seat, where he set me down.

    “Take a deep breath.” He said.

    I inhaled deeply, and exhaled slowly. I repeated. After a few deep breaths, I began to feel better. Bryan handed me a bottle of water. I took a sip. The cool, refreshing H20 made its way down my throat. I handed it back to Bryan, who put the cap back on. And then I realized something.

    “Where did you get the water?” I asked him.

    “Suzie found something.” Bryan said. He smiled and helped me up.

    We walked towards a corner, in which Suzie was going through items inside a large door inside the wall.

    “Whoa.” I said. “What IS that?”

    “It’s a supply closet.” Suzie said. She pulled out a rack full of 7 silver swords.

    “Some supply closet.” I said in awe.

    “It’s got plenty of food and water for our trip, new clothes, plenty of weapons should we run into trouble—”

    “…Highly likely.” I interrupted.

    “…And even some tents and sleeping bags.” Suzie finished. “There’s some more stuff in here, but I haven’t found it all yet.”

    “Wicked.” Bryan said.

    “Where’s Zoey?” Suzie asked.

    Right then it just did occur to me. Where was Zoey? We looked around the room and spotted her, still sitting on her chair, as if the spaceship had never told her it was safe to “Move about the cabin.”

    We all inched toward her. We looked her straight in the face. Her mouth was hanging open. Bryan waved is hand in front of her sunglasses. He took off her sunglasses and snapped his fingers in her face. She still remained still.

    “Was she replaced by a wax statue, or something?” Bryan asked.

    “Uh…” went Zoey.

    “…I’m guessing that’s a no.” Suzie said. “Zoey… are you okay?” Suzie sat down next to her.

    “I…” Zoey began to say something.

    “Yes, you…” Suzie approved.

    “…Expected… fun night… Queen… in palace… but I’m in… ship… Seaside… going to die…”

    “No, no, everything will be fine…” Suzie rubbed Zoey’s arm, trying to comfort her.

    “I didn’t understand that.” Bryan said.

    “She’s in shock because of what happened.” Suzie said. “She expected a fun night with the Queen in Briarheart Palace, but instead she was sent to her death—”

    “Uh…!” Zoey quivered.

    “Not your death…!” Suzie assured Zoey, though there was a slight sense of doubt in her voice. “We’ll be fine… we’ll deliver a package and come back home… we’re just being… mailmen…”

    “I’m… a girl…” Zoey said.

    “Mailwomen…” Suzie corrected herself.

    Bryan cleared his throat.

    “…And mailmen.” Suzie said.

    Zoey shivered. Her teeth clattered.

    “You need some rest.” Suzie said.

    Suzie helped Zoey up and took her toward the supply closet. She took out a sleeping bag and rolled it out on the floor. She lied Zoey down and tucked her in.

    “Good night.” Suzie said, with an encouraging smile.

    Zoey closed her eyes. She shivered underneath the blanket in fear. I understood how she felt… sort of. Well, I, for starters, was engulfed in fear as well, but I hadn’t thought the visit to Briarheart Palace was going to be very fun in the first place. I imagined, just yesterday, I had taken a peek outside of the safe barriers of Briarwood, itching to explore the rest of Free Realms, and now I was WAAAY past that point. Just yesterday, I had seen another sky ship similar to mine fly off, assuming the passengers on the ship were totally lucky. Now that I was one of the passengers on the ship, I wished nothing more than to be back in my cozy warm bed in my tower in Briarwood. I remembered my mom.

    What would she think when she read the letter stating what had happened? She would most likely have a heart attack. Her little boy was going to get himself killed. What would all of the racing fans think when they heard the news that I was dead? What would Brickmetal think when he had finally finished The Speedinator, but had no more Kelvin to use it? These questions and wonderings clouded my head, swirling around in pure horrific thought. All I could do right now was either try to stay alive, or pray that there was an afterlife.

    “You should probably get some sleep, too.” A distant voice said, as if speaking from across a large body of water. I was shocked back to my senses and saw the face of my best friend smiling down sympathetically at me.

    I had dropped to the floor, which I only realized at this moment. Bryan helped me up and set me down on a sleeping bag next to Zoey, who looked almost like she was fast asleep.

    “We should all get some sleep…” I said weakly. I was surprised to hear how ill I sounded, but then again, not very surprised at all.

    “Good idea.” Suzie said. She was just standing in the floor now, her wings much too tired to keep her airborne. “Let’s get some rest.”

    I closed my eyes to the sounds of Bryan and Suzie setting down two more sleeping bags on the floor. The roar of the engine faded away as my conscious mind drifted into a state of unconsciousness. I fell asleep.

    This is what I remember of my nightmare.

    ***

    I flew as fast as my tiring wings could carry me. I rushed across the path that led across the water. I saw the Royal Palace ahead of me. It was time. I bounded into the doors. The Queen might’ve been there, but I wasn’t paying attention. I bounded through the doors on my right and flew up the stairs. I held the ancient bowl in my hands. Instead of flying above every step on the spiral staircase, I simply flew straight upward through the gap in the center. It would be much, much quicker that way. I crashed through the doors at the top of the spiral staircase and out onto the platform. I looked to my right toward the beautiful view. It was simply breathtaking. I was beginning to rethink my plans. Should I really…? As if reading my thoughts, a voice from inside the bowl boomed, telling me to proceed, or I would regret it. I sat the bowl down in the center of the platform. I opened my mouth to speak, and my mind became blurred. My surroundings swirled in and out of view, and the feeling I had of my body began to feel numb. It wasn’t even numb, for the fact that I couldn’t even FEEL my body anymore. I began to feel dizzy, stressed, worried. Thoughts that should have never been in my head appeared and I knew it had worked. Somehow, I had done it, even though I was not aware how.

    It appeared almost exactly as I had pictured it in my head. The inside of the bowl began to emit a black light. The tiny object rose out of the bowl and shot into the sky. It had moved so quickly and unnaturally that my mind barely had time to process its appearance. The clouds became darker above me. A storm formed above, and a voice boomed from within my head like thunder. The voice told me that I had done well, and it was finally finished with me. I had almost finished my job, and it was time for me to do one last thing. The clouds lowered themselves toward me. They went straight through my chest, straight into my heart. It felt like my insides were turning to ice. I felt like part of me was miles away.

    I… I… I…

    ***

    I was woken.

    Not me a friend, and nor by a foe. I was woken by a sound. An alarm, to be exact. My body had begun to come to its senses. I was regaining feeling in my torso and my limbs. I had been woken from my horrifying sleep by an alarm. My eyes slowly opened. I strained myself to wake up, to sit up. I rose out of my sleeping bag slowly. My vision became clear.

    I pulled my feet toward me and out of underneath the covers. I set them down on the ground, dazed and confused. I was trying figure out what my dream was actually about. I knew it was about something drawn-out and complicated, but it made absolutely no sense. It didn’t even make enough sense for my conscious mind to comprehend.

    I managed to stand up. I looked around me. Bryan and Zoey were both fast asleep in their sleeping bags, but it didn’t seem Suzie was. In fact, even though her sunglasses remained on, her head was directed right at me, right at my eyes. I suspected that she was awake. My suspicions were confirmed when the spoke to me.

    “Do you hear it too?” Suzie asked me.

    “The alarm?” I asked. “Yes. But what does it mean?”

    “I think it’s a warning.” Suzie said. A warning. That didn’t sound good to me.

    Suzie got up and we both started toward the source of the alarm. It was a small screen near the controls of the ship, and it was blinking red. We inched closer, and the text on it became visible to read. I didn’t require straining my eyes and reading the black text against a blinking red background, because at that moment the computerized voice spoke over the loudspeaker of the ship.

    “WARNING: AUTOPILOT SET ON COLLISION COURSE!” The computerized female voice said. “USE MANUAL SETTING TO AVERT COURSE!”

    The alarm continued to go off. The siren woke Bryan and Zoey.

    “What’s going on…?” Bryan asked, rubbing his eyes.

    “What’s that noise…?” Zoey mumbled miserably.

    “Look.” I said, pointing out of the window.

    They rubbed their eyes and approached. We looked out the window.

    In the distance, I could see something frightening.

    Dark clouds stretched down and swirled into a sort of black tornado made out of clouds, swirling slowly in circles. An eerie purple glow emitted from within the tornado, creating a not-so-friendly image. It was some sort of vortex. Purple electricity seemed to pulse through the darkness inside the vortex. The vortex swirled down, and I realized that it wasn’t coming from the sky, but from the ground. At the base, the purple glow from within was much brighter. The swirling mass came from a bunch of old ruins that looked incredibly creepy in the dim purple light. The ruins looked sort of like they had once previously been a large stage, surrounded by a moat. But the moat had now drained out. The surrounding areas were full of dead flowers, dead grass, abandoned camps, and old, toppled over merchant’s carts.

    It suddenly came to me what the vortex in the center of this place was. It seemed Darkthorne had overlooked something when setting the autopilot.

    Straight in the direction of our course, right in the middle of our ship’s path, was the TRUE form of the rainbow.

    The TRUE form of the Everainbow.

    We were passing over Merry Vale, and we were coming within reach of the vortex. Stories told that of you were pulled into it, you would be transformed into a zombie, and become bound as an undead slave to the evil fairies for all eternity.

    “Oh no.” I said, the sentence of which was quite an understatement of our situation.

    We were the Merry Vale vortex’s next victims.


    ~ Chapter Eight: Fairies at Midnight ~

    Spoiler: show
    The sky ship sped through the night, bringing us closer and closer to our doom. The alarm continued to go off, and the computerized voice repeated itself.

    “WARNING: AUTOPILOT SET ON COLLISION COURSE!” The computerized female voice said. “USE MANUAL SETTING TO AVERT COURSE!”

    “We, know, we know!” I yelled.

    The sound of the engine became louder from the engine room behind me. I sat myself down on the driver’s seat of the ship, buckled myself, and began pulling on the steering wheel. No matter how much I tried, the steering wheel just seemed stuck.

    “It won’t move!” I yelled.

    “What IS that!?” Zoey screamed in fright, pointing out of the window.

    “Merry Vale!!!” I screamed, still attempting to change our course.

    “It doesn’t look like it should be Merry or a Vale!” Bryan screamed.

    “Why won’t it move?!?” I asked desperately, as the ship brought us closer and closer to the vortex.

    “Because it’s still set on autopilot!” Suzie said. She pulled a lever near the controls.

    I felt the gravity inside the ship change. All of the sudden the ship began shooting up into the night sky, up into the dark swirling clouds above us.

    “Manual mode activated.” the computerized voice said calmly. “Please take steering wheel and buckle up.”

    I turned the steering wheel again, steering our course back toward the vortex. Wow. Did it really have to be that hard to control a sky ship? I mean, it was flying, and it was in the dead of the night, and I was utterly terrified beyond my wildest nightmares, but the ship could’ve been a bit easier to control!

    “Turn around!!!” Suzie screamed at me. “NOW!!!”

    “I’m trying as hard as I can!!!” I screamed. “Trust me; I don’t wanna be a zombie!”

    Suzie screamed, panicking and flying around the ship frantically.

    “Don’t just panic!” I yelled. “Help me!”

    The ship was nearing closer and closer to the vortex. Suzie screamed and ran into a lever on the controls. The ship began to move forward, faster.

    “We’re dead!” Bryan shouted. Zoey fainted.

    We just couldn’t take all this pressure. It was like the situation was messing with our heads. The vortex became larger and larger as we got closer and closer. I wanted to turn the steering wheel, but my limbs seemed too terrified to move. That’s then Suzie dropped her state of panic, pushing me out of the driver’s seat along with my seatbelt, and taking the wheel. She turned it as hard as she could. Everyone went flying around the ship at that point, and the view we had outside of the window became a blur. I assumed Suzie had turned the wheel too much, because it felt like the ship was just spinning around. I felt like I was going to be sick.

    “Stop it!” I yelled.

    Suzie strained herself to turn the steering wheel. The ship, luckily, stopped spinning around and began to head away from the vortex. Suzie has succeeded. Everyone cheered except for Zoey, who was still passed out on the floor. The ship began heading toward some dark mountains. I became suspicious when I realized that the mountains seemed to be getting smaller. The others seemed to have taken notice too.

    “The mountains are getting smaller.” Bryan said nervously. “Why are they getting smaller!?”

    “WARNING:” the computerized voice said, “STATE OF SHIP CONTROL UNKNOWN. WE ARE NOT MOVING FORWARD.”

    The ship’s voice thing was right. We were actually moving backwards. Things really began to scare me when the view we had outside of the window began to look sort of purplish. I backed up to the front window of the ship and looked at as much of behind us I could see from the side window.

    The vortex was behind us, and it was getting bigger.

    “We didn’t escape!” Suzie yelled. “It’s pulling us in!”

    She screamed. I didn’t know why it was so hard for her. Suzie always seemed like the strong type, not to be incredibly terrified by something like this, only mildly terrified.

    “I thought you were better with things like this?” I yelled to her over the noise of the engine, which seemed to be getting louder.

    “I just have…” Suzie began. “…Bad experiences with this place…”

    I didn’t know what she meant. Had she been here before?

    “How do we escape its grip?” I asked, hoping she would have some idea.

    “We need to make the ship go faster!” Suzie screamed.

    The computer voice spoke again. “If you would like for the ship to move faster, just use the voice command ‘High speed mode.’”

    “High speed mode!” Suzie shouted desperately.

    “High speed mode, activated. Please remain seated.”

    “I suppose that means sit down?” I said, finding myself a seat.

    Suzie sat in the driver’s seat, and Bryan sat still passed out Zoey on another seat. Once we had all buckled up, we were instantly pushed back into our seats.

    The ship sped forward so fast, that I could swear I heard a sonic boom as we zoomed away from the vortex. Of course, the sonic boom might’ve just been the ship escaping the pull of the vortex, but I still felt that we were exceeding the speed of sound.

    Everybody screamed as we shot forward, including Zoey, even though she was still passed out. The mountains in front of us began to become bigger and bigger. We were nearing them much too quickly, and it seemed that now, we were on a collision course with the mountains.

    “We’re gonna crash!” I screamed.

    “No we won’t!” Suzie yelled, and I was slightly reassured to hear a bit of confidence in her voice.

    Suzie steered the ship above and beyond the mountains. The tips of the mountaintops disappeared from our view as we flew over them.

    We’d made it. We were free!

    “We did it!” Bryan said happily as we flew into the clouds.

    “Yeah, but I did all the work.” Suzie muttered.

    I felt the ship turn as the steering wheel averted its course. Wait a second. Suzie wasn’t touching the steering wheel… she was just sitting there, staring at it. The steering wheel was turning by itself.

    “Suzie… how are you doing that?” I asked.

    “I’m not doing that…” Suzie said nervously.

    “Is it on—” I began to ask.

    “It’s not on autopilot…” she said.

    I heard a bit of scattering from behind me. I turned my head around and looked to the source of the sound. There was the engine room, marked DANGEROUS and CAUTION. The sound of the engine normally came from that room, but this time there was something else. Something besides the engine was inside the room.

    “There’s something in there.” I told the others, pointing to the engine room.

    “You pointed it out,” Bryan said, “you go inside.”

    “What?” I asked. “I’m not going in there alone!”

    “I’ll go with you.” Suzie said. “Bryan , take the wheel.”

    “But—”

    “JUST DO IT!”

    Bryan unbuckled himself and sat in the driver’s seat. He attempted to change the course of the steering wheel, but it had a mind of its own. Suzie and I silently stepped toward the engine room.

    “Wait.” She said. “Get a weapon from the supply closet. There might be something dangerous in there.”

    I decided that I probably should take her word for it. I stepped toward the supply closet and took out a long sword with a button on the base of its grip. I pressed the button on the grip of the sword and the blade instantly disappeared, slipping inside its grip. I pressed the button again and the blade quickly slipped back out of its base. I thought it was pretty cool. Some words on the grip of the sword read “Shadowblade 2000”. When the blade was concealed, I could fit the grip in my pocket. I was keeping this sword.

    “Ready?” asked Suzie.

    “Ready.” I said, holding the grip of the blade firmly in my hand.

    Suzie stepped toward the engine room’s door and turned the knob. She pulled it open.

    It was very loud. Inside there was a large metallic device, with hundreds of different colored wires attached in various different outlets in many different areas of the device. There were different containers and devices used for various different functions. There were switches and meters and dozens of electrical mechanics. This was the ship’s engine. On the other side of the engine, there were three large steel tubes, one large above two slightly smaller. They were connected to the back wall, and I knew they were connected to the rocket boosters in the back of the ship. Aside these three large steel tubes, there was a door, for somebody to get into the room from the outside should repairs be needed, and for some reason, they had to be done from the outside, or something. The weird thing was, the door was hanging open.

    “Shh.” went Suzie.

    We walked around the engine room, trying to be quiet. We were about to turn a corner when I stopped dead in my tracks. I heard something unusual around the corner. Me and Suzie peeked our heads slightly around the corner to see what it was. There was what looked like a few small pixies facing away from me, standing next to a complicated looking control panel. It looked like they were doing something with the control panel. It hit me that maybe it was because of these pixies that the ship was driving itself. They must have been controlling it from the engine. I then realized that they weren’t pixies at all. One of them turned around and I saw its face. It was unbelievably pale and small, and it was wearing goggles, where an eerie red light seemed to glow from within its eyes. I also realized that it had antennae, and pixies didn’t have antennae. It was a fairy. And fairies weren’t good. Before the fairy noticed me and Suzie, we slipped back around the corner. I readied my sword.

    “What are you doing?” Suzie whispered to me, looking at my sword. “Whoa, is that a Shadowblade 2000?”

    “Uh, yeah.” I whispered. “You know what it is?”

    “Yeah, I’ve always wanted one.” Suzie whispered, eyeing my sword with jealousy.

    “It was in the supply closet.” I whispered. “And I’m going to use it to get rid of those fairies.”

    “Can I do it?” Suzie asked.

    I was about to say something, but I heard a hissing noise from behind me. I turned. There was that same cloaked fairy, staring at me with glowing red goggles, making a scarily unnatural hissing noise. It raised its hands, which began to glow. I felt my feet leave the ground and I was pushed backward by an invisible force. Before I fell over, I regained my balance.

    “Get it!” I screamed.

    I heard a scream from the other room. I heard Bryan’s desperate voice. “We’re going towards the vortex again and I can’t get the ship to stop!”

    I finally understood.

    The fairies had snuck into the engine room to lead us back to the vortex, so that they could have a few new zombie minions for a change. Well, I sure as heck didn’t wanna be a zombie, so I knew what I had to do. The small fairy sprinted toward me with hands that almost looked as if they were on fire. The pixie summoned the use of some evil magic, throwing flaming balls of blue fire at me. I dodged a few and deflected a few with my sword. I liked my sword. I didn’t know I was this good at that sort of thing. I’d like to say that I was completely awesome and I knocked the fairy out cold with Suzie’s help, but that’s not exactly what happened.

    “This fairy is trying to distract us while the other steer the ship to the vortex!” Suzie said. “You hold off this one while I take care of the ones using the control panel!” She drew her hidden sword from her sleeve and rushed off around the corner, leaving me alone with the dangerous little fairy. The fairy laughed an evil, slightly squeaky sounding laugh. It began throwing more balls of fire at me, which I dodged nervously.

    I was hit by a ray that the fairy had released, and suddenly I became aware of how dangerous my situation was, and how I was probably going to be defeated by a fairy, and how nervous I should’ve been. But then I realized that the fairy must’ve hit me with something that was supposed to make me nervous. I tried to regain my sense of self confidence, but I was suddenly startled at a ball of purple fire that rushed under my feet as my natural reflexes jumped and saved my life. During my moment of daze and confusion, the fairy had taken advantage of my cluelessness and tried to set my pants of fire. I decided it was time to make a bit of humor out of the situation.

    “You almost set my pants on fire, liar!” I shouted, rushing toward the fairy.

    I hit the fairy on the head with the flat of my blade, knocking it out cold on the floor of the ship. I praised myself for my unusual spite of strength there, and only then did I realize how exhausted I was. But I had to keep going. I rushed back into the main room of the ship, and I was alarmed to see that we were getting closer and closer to the vortex again. Bryan was desperately trying to turn the wheel, but to no avail. The fairies were still controlling the course of the ship.

    The fairies. Suzie. How could I have forgotten? Was she okay?

    “Guys, we’ve got to go help Suzie!” I said.

    Zoey jumped up from the floor. “Where is she?” she asked.

    Zoey decided to help me, since Bryan was still busy, striving to take control of the ship. Zoey and I rushed back into the engine room and around the corner. We found Suzie, out cold on the floor, the fairies still controlling the ship. They spotted us.

    “Did you get a weapon?” I asked Zoey.

    She screamed. And when I say Zoey screamed, I mean she literally freaked out. I could see down the back of her throat, sort of. The screaming woke up Suzie, who immediately took hold of her sword and knocked out the confused fairies. I was glad that my sunglasses were made out of plastic, because if they were glass, they would’ve shattered.

    “Stop screaming!” Suzie said, covering Zoey’s mouth, who refrained from continuing her shriek.

    I rushed toward the control panel. “What do you do with this thing?”

    “Press the button that says ‘Let the steering wheel control the ship’?” Zoey guessed, pressing the button. The gravity shifted.

    “It’s working!” I heard Bryan say from the other room.

    We picked up all of the knocked-out fairies and threw them out of the outside door to the engine room. We pulled the door closed and rushed back into the main room, pulling the engine room door closed behind us.

    “We’re being pulled again!” Bryan said, trying desperately to turn the steering wheel.

    It felt like the ship was going in circles to me. When I looked out the side window, I realized why. It seemed the vortex had trapped the ship in a loop, and the ship was flying in circles around the vortex, getting closer and closer each time the vortex was circled. Soon, we would be completely engulfed in the vortex, and we would be turned into zombies.

    “Make this thing go faster!” Suzie shouted.

    “How!?” Bryan asked nervously.

    “By doing this!” Suzie said. She pushed a lever up to its highest setting. “Everyone, find a seat!”

    Suzie kicked Bryan out of the driver’s seat and we all found ourselves a chair, buckling ourselves up for the ride. As we circled the vortex, I could feel the speed of the ship increasing. Before I knew it, to my left, everything was a blur, and to my right, it looked like the vortex was spinning around a lot faster than it would normally. The ship was finally freed from the vortex’s pull, and we were slingshot from the vortex, zooming away at a high speed. I heard a crash from behind me, and I realized that the engine room door was still open. Inside, I saw the engine on fire. Amidst the fire were two fairies, shooting flames from their hands. I could feel the ship beginning to lose control.

    “Guys, the engine’s on fire!!!” I screamed.

    “We’ve got bigger problems!” Suzie said, pointing out the window. I saw dozens of fairies heading straight toward the ship, every little wing fluttering wildly, like an insane moth. “What do we do about them?” Suzie asked.

    “Isn’t there some sort of laser on this ship?” I asked.

    “Oh, yeah.” Suzie said, pressing a red button.

    I saw beams of hot red light shooting from the sky ship to the fairies. Quite a few of them were knocked out of the air.

    “Do it again!” I said.

    “I’m losing control of the ship!” Suzie said, continuing to shoot lasers at the fairies and straining to keep control on the steering wheel.

    All of the fairies were finally knocked out of the sky, and our path was clear, but the lights inside the ship were flickering. We weren’t on a straight course. The ship was losing control.

    “Somebody’s got to get the fairies that caused the fire!” I said.

    Something happened that I least expected. Zoey sprinted out of her seat, grabbed two swords from the supply closet (By the way, there were like, ten swords in there,), and threw them into the engine room. They went through the fire and hit the fairies in the face, knocking the fairies back out of the door.

    That took care of the fairy problem, but the engine was still on fire.

    “Activating emergency engine cooldown.” The computerized female voice said.

    Sprinklers appeared on the ceiling of the engine room, squirting out water and putting out most of the fire. But unfortunately, they caused a LOT of smoke. The entire ship was covered in flame, ash and smolder. The ship rushed through the sky, carrying us down lower and lower as the thing spiraled out of control. I grabbed hold of the back of my seat as the ship flipped over. The gravity shifted, and I found myself holding onto the back of my seat almost like a monkey bar, hanging over the ceiling of the ship. The ship continued flipping and spiraling through the sky. Most of the windows had broken, but I could still see out of them, and most of what I saw was a blur. Although, it wasn’t a really dark blur, so I assumed it must have been getting brighter outside.

    I was ready to throw up with all the motion sickness, but I held it in for the good of my friends. If it ended up on Zoey’s shirt, she would scream. The ship finally crashed, and most of the room was sort of crushed, leaving enough space for us to walk around while leaning downward. The entrance to the ship tumbled down; it was crushed and broken.

    We had just crashed somewhere.

    “Come on...!” I said in a strange tone of voice, in shock. I was as shaken up as soda… when you shook it… I don’t know, I couldn’t think of a good metaphor at that moment. I was much too shaken.

    We all crawled out of the crushed ship and our surroundings were revealed to us. The sky was still mostly dark, but the sun was climbing slowly out of the horizon, just barely visible above the ocean.

    I couldn’t believe we had made it already.

    It can’t have been that easy?

    But here we were, stranded in our destination.

    Seaside.


    ~ Chapter Nine: Desolation Shores ~

    Spoiler: show
    We’d crash landed on some sand/dirt covered mountaintops high above and far away from Seaside civilization. The sun was rising over water that was an unnatural dark green color. I assumed it was because the waters of Seaside had become polluted so much over the years. The rest of Seaside was visible from the mountains. Most of the building’s bases were round, and there were many, many large, silver or silver-blue skyscrapers covering a majority of the area in Seaside. The sandy shores were indented with tire tracks and covered in piles of trash. The current was rough, washing up onto the shoreline and pulling trash out to sea, polluting the waters as this happened. I realized how polluted the skies were. There were grey clouds that were definitely not those of rain, and I realized in many areas there were large power plants, with polluting smoke rising up from those really tall pipe things. The land didn’t smell like peaceful seawater, but a terrible scent of burning coal for power. A single tear trickled down my cheek. The area seemed desolated, covered in unnatural tall buildings and trash. A land which used to be paradise felt like a neighborhood that nobody should ever have been unlucky enough to live in. The winds weren’t soft and breezy, but rather rushing through the air, as if they were trying to escape this terrible area as fast as they possibly could. The feeling you got when you were in the presence of this region was uncomfortable, as if your consciousness knew that something terrible had happened here, and it was just itching to leave. I couldn’t blame my consciousness. I wanted to run away from this place and never look back. The feeling I got when I looked at it… the chill that went up my spine… it was something that no living being should ever have to feel, yet I was merely standing safely in the mountaintops, where I hoped nobody would noticed the crash-landed ship and a couple of people who’ve never been to Seaside. I’d heard tales of how the area was full of gangs and bandits and stuff you wouldn’t want to read as your bedtime story… it was at this moment that I realized how much I was hoping that these were just stories of fantasy, to warn little children not to stray from their safe Briarwood haven. I began to wonder if Darkthorne had just sent us on this task to get us killed. I never thought the queen of Briarwood might be cruel. I mean, did she really think we could deliver a package to Seaside? Well, we’d made it here already, so maybe we were on the right track. Then there was the problem of getting home. The sky ship had become COMPLETELY trashed. Our ride home was dead.

    “Seaside.” A voice brought me back from my uncomfortable state of thought. It was Suzie. “Not much of a paradise anymore, huh?”

    I would’ve agreed, but I was much too stunned to really make a sound.

    “It’s kind of creepy…” Bryan said. “…In a nice-place-gone-bad sort of way…”

    It was pretty creepy. One of the things that really turned me off was the fact that there were no pedestrians walking the street, or really anyone seen over miles for that matter. Then there was something I remembered. Something that Darkthorne has said…

    I decided to speak up. “Darkthorne had said something…” I strained my thoughts to remember. “She said, ‘but if anything goes wrong, last time I heard, he lived in one of the shortest skyscrapers in Seaside.’”

    “Almost like she knew this was going to happen.” Suzie said.

    “Do you think she did…?” Bryan asked. “Do you think she might’ve actually set the course to the Merry Vale vortex because she wanted something to go wrong?”

    Zoey whimpered. I realized that she was just lying on the dirt, staring up at the sky with a look of complete terror on her face. She was having a hard time dealing with this. She’d really been looking forward to tea with Darkthorne, and the thought that Darkthorne had purposely sent her on a trip to zombie-land probably didn’t make her feel any better. Of course, it didn’t make me feel any better either.

    “Starts to make you wonder if we really should deliver this package or just forget about it.” I said.

    “We should still do it.” Bryan said “She is the queen, and who knows what she’d do to us if we didn’t deliver the package.”

    “Besides, how are we going to get back, anyway?” Suzie asked.

    “That would be a problem whether we delivered the package or not.” I said.

    Then it hit me.

    “THE PACKAGE!!!”

    Everyone gasped. Where had it gone? We’d come all this way to deliver it, and I didn’t even see it anywhere. Hopefully it was still in the ship. Unfortunately, the ship was pretty much destroyed, and we’d be lucky of the package was in a fine state. Plus, somebody would have to crawl in and find it.

    “Kelvin, you get it.” Suzie said.

    “Me?” I asked. “Why can’t you do it? You are the strongest here, right?”

    “If you are the strongest,” Bryan said, “then how come you let that fairy vortex incident get to your head so much?”

    Suzie shuddered. “I’ve had… bad experiences with Merry Vale… okay?” she stammered.

    “What kind of bad experiences?” Bryan asked with a sly tone to his voice.

    Suzie balled her hand into a fist and started toward Bryan.

    “Never mind, never mind!” Bryan said, holding his hands up.

    “I’ll do it.” Zoey said, raising her hand.

    Me, Bryan, and Suzie gaped at her. She shrugged and crawled into the mostly crumbled entrance to the crushed ship. The ship looked like it had been thrown into a junkyard with a bunch of junk cars and crushed, just like the cars. There was smoke coming from it, and various broken parts scattered all around it. We waited slightly impatiently for Zoey to come back out. Finally, she crawled out of the crushed doorway, coughing, holding a fancy little package covered in white dust. She climbed onto her feet and blew the dust off of the package.

    “Tada!” She said, holding the package up.

    I was relieved. For a second I thought we had come all this way for nothing. We all gathered around the package to check out its condition. Other then the fact that it was still covered in some dust, it was a bit beat up, and a few of the crystals had fallen out, it was… well, it wasn’t in the best condition, but it hadn’t been shattered to pieces.

    “Ready to deliver this thing?” Bryan suggested.

    I shuddered at the thought of having to venture down into Seaside, where anything may jump out and grab me. Bryan and Zoey didn’t seem too fond of it either, but now that we’d escaped Merry Vale, Suzie seemed to have dropped all of her fright. Her expression was eager to deliver a package and hit anyone that gets in her way on the head with the flat of her sword. I was relieved. Maybe it would be a little easier if Suzie didn’t lose her head.

    “I’m not ready at all.” I said.

    “Maybe we should get some rest, first.” Zoey said.

    “First,” Suzie began, “we should go through the supply closet and see how many supplies are still in mid-condition. Each of you is going to need a weapon in case we run into trouble. Kelvin, you still got that Shadowblade 2000?”

    I found the grip of the sword in my pocket, not exactly sure how it got there. I took it out and pressed the button. The sharp silver blade quickly slid out of its holder. “Got it.” I said.

    “Excellent.” Suzie said. “Let’s go through the supply closet and find two more weapons and maybe some food or water. Then we’ll find some camping supplies and make camp for the night.”

    “Who made you boss?” Bryan asked.

    “And you care, why?” Suzie asked.

    “You’re the little pixie that’s afraid of fairies!” Bryan laughed. “I mean, come on, do we really need her as the—”

    Suzie took Bryan by the neck and spoke in a harsh voice. “And I didn’t see you helping out much with the fairies, did I?” she hissed. “I have a good reason for my fear, and I’m leaving it at that.”

    She pushed Bryan away and crawled into the remains of the ship. I heard the muffled voice of Suzie Darkmoon from within.

    “Most of the stuff is fine!” she shouted. “Although, it could be a little cleaner, but we crashed the ship, so we can’t really expect the best.”

    Suzie crawled out from the ship, pulling some boxes full of clothes, camping supplies, packages of food, water bottles, and weapons.

    As the sun climbed higher and higher in the polluted skies, we set up camp and refreshed our systems with some warm water and crackers. Once it was about midday, I was exhausted. We were all sleeping in one big baby-barf green tent with quite a few stains in its fabrics. I climbed into my sleeping bag, wishing desperately that I could go to sleep in my warm, comfy bed in Briarwood.

    As I drifted to sleep, my thoughts wondered to the possibilities that there might be some sort of danger that interrupts our slumber. Maybe… some insane mountain climbers… or something… I don’t know, I just couldn’t help the thought that the mountains weren’t safe. I kept trying to reassure myself that we were going to be fine. I still wasn’t calm. I heard some tossing and turning in the tent, and I suspected I wasn’t the only person lying awake.

    I must’ve fallen asleep at some point. I really don’t remember if I had any dreams… I usually don’t. I think I might’ve woken up in the middle the night… or the day, since we were sleeping during the day… but I really don’t remember much. I probably slept through the rest of the night.

    In the morning (Or the evening… yeah, our schedule was going to be a little off), I was shaken awake by Suzie.

    “It’s time to make a delivery.” She whispered.

    “Can’t we just sleep…?” I said hazily. “For like… a hundred years…?”

    “Well, you can stay here, run into some bandit, and kill yourself, and then you’ll be able to sleep for as long as you like.” Suzie said with a bit of attitude.

    “Fine…” I said sleepily, straining to wake up my senses. “…I’ll get up.”

    I finally woke up, along with everyone else. We weren’t too happy about having to wake up, though. We took the camp down and left most of our supplies near the ship. We wouldn’t be able to carry everything with us to Seaside. Each of us took one water bottle in one pocket, and a few snacks in the other. Bryan and Zoey held their swords in some sort of sword holder that hung over their back. Me and Suzie got to conceal ours in our pockets… or whatever Suzie called her concealment.

    We devised a plan to deliver the package.

    “We can’t be seen.” Suzie said. “By anyone.”

    “What about the guy we’re delivering the package to?” I asked.

    “Except him.” Suzie said. “We can see him.”

    “I forgot his name.” I said.

    “Yeah, what was his name?” Bryan asked.

    “Uh…” went Zoey.

    “Baron Arks, I think.” Suzie said. “Everyone ready?”

    Bryan, Zoey, and I all shook our heads no.

    “Well too bad,” Suzie said, “we’ve got to go anyways.”

    And with that happy note, we began to hike down the sand/dirt covered mountain.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I wished I could turn around and run, but that wouldn’t really get me anywhere, either, so I decided it best that if I’d come all this way, I shouldn’t abandon my task.

    Oh, but I really, oh so really, wanted to run away.

    We climbed down the mountain. Once we had made it down from the mountains, we were less than a mile away from the Seaside city area. We hid behind a rock so that nobody in the city could see us.

    “And how are we supposed to do this, may I ask?” I whispered.

    “I don’t know…” Suzie said. “It seemed a lot easier in my head.”

    “I just want to get in and get out.” Bryan said.

    “Alright.” Suzie said. “Let’s just… try to hide ourselves. Should we… split up?”

    “No, too much of a risk.” I said nervously. A bad feeling was coming onto me. I was feeling nauseous. “I have a bad feeling that this is all going to blow up in our face.”

    “So do I,” Suzie said, “but we don’t have much of a choice.”

    “Why don’t we ever have a choice…?” Bryan moaned.

    We stepped out from behind the rock and began making our way toward the tall, futuristic looking skyscrapers. There was a little tall brown grass standing in the sand, and we tried to crawl in this to hide ourselves. It didn’t really work. But so far, we were lucky. There was nobody to be seen outside for miles. Of course, that gave me a really bad feeling, too. Like we were stranded alone in a desert, where anything could jump out and grab us.

    We tried to make our way through in alley in between two buildings. I really should’ve realized how horrible that idea was. I mean, come on. When you’re in a dangerous city, never go down an alley. That should be common knowledge! How stupid were we?

    The ground seemed like there was some pavement buried under mounds of sand. An eerie sort of wind blew slowly through the alley, carrying small waves of sand that blew above the ground. They were little clouds of dust billowing through the air, just an inch off of the ground. Above us, the unnaturally tall buildings cast dark shadows on the alleyway. There were clotheslines hanging from one building to another that’s clothes were covered in sand. It looked like whoever had put the clotheslines up had been too scared to come back out and get them.

    I noticed something strange. In the corner of the alley were a few cobweb-covered trash cans, covered in dust and sand. The weird thing was, they were shuddering.

    “Guys…” I whispered nervously. “…I think there’s something in there…” I pointed to the trash cans.

    “Yeah, trash.” Suzie whispered.

    “No.” I whispered; my voice even more tense than before. “The trash can is shaking.”

    “It’s… probably just the wind.” Bryan said.

    I should’ve run away right then and there. It would’ve been the smart thing to do. How I didn’t realize how pathetic the excuse “just the wind” was.

    We backed up against the wall on one side of the alley, just beside the trash cans. I heard them shudder again. I should’ve known it was coming. I looked toward the trash can, and the lid slowly rose up off of the tin can, just high enough for me to see a tiny red eye staring at me. If I squinted, I could see that the eye was attached to some sort of robot/cyborg thing. It should’ve made sense to me right then and there. The others were looking away from the can. I tapped Suzie’s shoulder. She turned her head around and I pointed nervously to the trash can. But once she had looked, the lid had fallen back down again. She looked at me like I was crazy, and then turned her head back away from me. We inched along the wall, getting closer and closer to the main road. I heard a tiny sound, kind of like a little phone ringing, but then it stopped. I desperately hoped that the little red eye I’d seen and the sound were my imagination. Heck, maybe it actually was. Maybe I was just so panicked that my brain was trying to mess with my consciousness.

    I shouldn’t have had myself believe that.

    As we inched closer and closer to the main road, I began hearing a noise in the distance. A sound so far away from the spot where I stood that it was barely recognizable. The distant sound of some sort of engine, like the engine of a racing kart, coming from somewhere far away. The sound began to get louder and louder. It was getting closer and closer.

    I couldn’t keep assuring myself that there was nothing bad going on. I mean, we were in SEASIDE, for Pete’s sake! We weren’t safe at all!

    “There’s something coming.” I whispered, sure of my suspicions. “Coming for us.”

    “There are a lot of noises in Seaside; they can’t just be coming for us.” Suzie whispered.

    “I hear it too.” Bryan whispered.

    “There was something in that trash bin, and I think it contacted some of its friends.” I said. “We need to get out of here.”

    The sound was getting louder and louder. It was getting closer, I could feel it.

    “Fine.” Suzie said. “Let’s find another place.”

    Too late.

    Once Suzie had finally agreed, the sound had finally stopped, but that’s because it had found its target. Parked at each end of the alley were what at first glance looked sort of like karts. It seemed for a second to me that there were large crabs driving them. Then it hit me.

    Cyborg cray.

    The creatures of Seaside, the cray, had learned to fuse themselves with technology. INCLUDING karts. And we had just been trapped. It looked as if there was a cray sitting in a raised driver’s seat, except the seat had no back, there was no steering wheel, and the only part of it that was cray was from the torso up. The cray had no legs, only a kart. They had one small claw that was normal, and another large metallic claw covered in a bunch of weird gadgets and lights. They were cray from their head down to their torso, and then they turned into a kart, and they had a large metal claw.

    There were three cyborg cray at each end of the alley. We had become completely trapped. I knew that I should’ve run. Now, I didn’t have a choice.

    The cyborg cray neared us, the four wheels on their kart bottom halves turning slowly as they neared. Oh, and did I mention that they had a normal eye on the left, and a weird red robotic eye that extruded from them like a telescope on the right? Even creepier. Why couldn’t the cray have fused themselves with something like… I don’t know… kittens? Okay, scratch that… that would be even weirder. Now our only problem was not being cut in half with large metal claws.

    “I told you so.” I said to Suzie.

    “Now, is this really the time for that?” she asked, pulling out the sword from its concealment as the cray neared.

    “If you’d just listened to me, we wouldn’t be in this mess!” I said.

    “Guys, we can work this out later!” Zoey said nervously, eyes darting back and forth to the cray that surrounded her. “Right now… we need some sort of a plan!”

    “What are we supposed to do, fight them?” Bryan asked, but he still took out his sword for safety.

    “I’ve got a better idea.” Suzie said, with a sly look on her face. “You guys are trapped here, but I’m not.” She began to flap her pixie wings more than usual, the way she normally does when she’s about to fly higher above the ground. Then it hit me.

    “No.” I said, my mind blown.

    “Well what other choice do we have?” Suzie asked, sword at the ready.

    “Why don’t we ever have a choice!?” Bryan demanded, as the cray inched closer and closer.

    “Just trust me on this.” Suzie said.

    “Wait, Suzie, what if they get you?” Zoey asked nervously.

    “Do you think these cray could stand up to this pixie power?” Suzie smiled, slashing her sword in the air.

    “Good luck…” Zoey said, and I could tell she was scared for her best friend.

    Suzie smiled. She rose, beginning to fly above us. She started to fly toward the main road. She flew over the cyborg cray and landed in the middle of the main road.

    “Ha ha!” she shouted. “I bet you silly robot crabs can’t get me!” She stuck her tongue out.

    This seemed to grab the cyborg cray’s attention. The three closest to the main road turned around and began heading toward Suzie. Suzie rose back into the air, high out of reach of the cyborg cray.

    “Ha ha, you stupid crab-bots can’t fly!” she said.

    She’d spoken too soon. A nearby trash can began to shudder, not the same one that I’d seen before. The lid popped off, and out came a cray with a sort of jetpack thing as its torso. This cray had fused itself with a jetpack, and it began to fly toward Suzie.

    “Aw, come on!” She said.

    She turned and began to fly down the main road, around the corner from the alleyway. The jetpack-cray and the kart-cray chased after her.

    There were still three cyborg cray left with us and I could hear their engines revving up. There were about to speed up.

    “Run!” I shouted.

    We sprinted out of the alleyway. The cray chased us in the direction that Suzie had disappeared, and I could still see her flying ahead of us, followed by jetpack-cray and kart-cray. The kart-cray began to chase us toward them, forcing us to become surrounded by cray once more, except this time we were running.

    My heart was racing.

    My mind was pounding.

    My legs were tiring of running, but they didn’t have a choice.

    As always, I didn’t have a choice. Ever since about two days ago, I’d lost my ability to choose.

    …The cray chased us into the sunset, which should have been beautiful over the horizon, but gave the most eerie feeling that Seaside was no longer a beautiful place.


    ~ Chapter Ten: The Cyborg Cray ~

    Spoiler: show
    The cray were chasing us along the pavement through Seaside. There were hundreds of tall, futuristic silver buildings surrounding us as we ran. My heart pounded furiously as I was chased by the speeding kart-cray behind me. Bryan and Zoey were running for their life at my sides. We had just about caught up with the four cyborg cray that were chasing Suzie. Suzie flew through the air above us, her wings flapping furiously, rushing away from the jetpack-cray on her tail. The three kart-cray followed them along the ground. We were coming up just behind the kart-cray that were chasing Suzie. Zoey, Bryan and I had become trapped between the six cyborg cray, and Suzie was still flying away from the jetpack cray.

    We really couldn’t have landed ourselves in a worse situation.

    I thought of something that would be of no help to us at that moment. I thought that we should have asked Darkthorne if she had anything that would turn us invisible before we left. That way, we would’ve been invisible in Seaside, and we wouldn’t have this problem. Oh well. That didn’t help us. …Just a thought.

    I thought I was going to pass out from exhaustion, but somehow I kept running. I suppose fear can really fuel your energy, especially when you’re being chased by a bunch of cyborg cray.

    “What do we do!?” I shouted over the noise that the cyborg cray were making. I could barely talk due to my lung’s demand for more breath.

    “RUN!!!” Zoey screamed frantically, running faster still.

    “I mean besides that!” I shouted.

    The heat was beginning to get to me. It was so literally HOT in Seaside. Not the kind of hot where you want to go swimming in the water, but the kind of hot that you think you’re much too close to the sun. Also, boiling heat plus running for your life isn’t the best combination. I was sweating so much, that I was worried I would become dehydrated.

    I supposed I shouldn’t waste the rest of my energy running. I thought that I might as well use my remaining energy to get myself out of the situation.

    The cyborg cray behind us were chasing us closer and closer to the cyborg cray ahead of us. In a few moments, the front and back of the karts would collide, and we’d be crushed. It was time to see how well I could jump. I took my Shadowblade 2000 out of my pocket and clicked the button. The blade quickly slid out of the grip.

    “Follow my lead!” I shouted.

    I wasn’t sure if it was going to save us completely, but at least we wouldn’t be crushed by karts. It was go time.

    I jumped.

    I forced my legs to propel me forward and into the air. I flew upwards and landed on the back of one of the cyborg cray’s kart halves. The cray part of it turned around and stared at me with its creepy extendable red eye. Perhaps I hadn’t thought that trough. It raised its large metallic claw, readying itself to cut me in half.

    What else was I supposed to do?

    Sword at the ready, I raised the blade and slashed downward into the air, almost losing my balance and falling off the kart. Luckily, I regained my balance, and the blade shot right through the robot arm of the cray, and the robotic arm fell off.

    “Look out!” I called behind me.

    I turned around just in time to see Bryan duck under the claw, and the claw hit the face of one of the other cyborg cray, which spiraled out of control and crashed into a building.

    Awesome.

    I turned back toward the cyborg cray that I’d hitched a ride on. It stared at me with hate, but without its large metal claw, all it could do was run over me, and that wasn’t possible considering I was riding it.

    “You guys try!” I shouted behind me.

    “ARE YOU NUTS!?” Zoey screamed.

    “Maybe he is,” Bryan said, “I mean, he did it himself. That is pretty nuts.”

    “Thanks for the support.” I shouted sarcastically. “Look, you really don’t have a choice, do you? You’re going to be crushed in a few seconds.”

    “WHY DON’T WE EVER HAVE A” –I’ve removed this part for your safety— “CHOICE!” Bryan screamed, taking out his sword and jumping onto the cyborg cray’s kart half beside me.

    The cyborg cray raised its claw. Bryan tried to cut the robotic arm off, but the cyborg cray used the large robotic claw to defend itself. It had already seen what I’d done. The cyborg cray opened up its claw and began to bring it down toward Bryan to cut him in half.

    Bryan couldn’t reach the robotic arm with his sword, and the claw was much bigger than his sword, so he wouldn’t be able to defend himself. I had to take a risk to save my best friend’s life.

    As the cray continued to rush forward, I jumped off of my cyborg cray and onto Bryan’s, just nearly falling off, but holding onto the cray’s torso for support. The cray’s attention was diverted from Bryan, and it began to take its robotic claw toward me. Now it wanted to cut me in half. My original plan was to cut off the arm for Bryan, saving his life, but I couldn’t reach it anymore. Luckily, the robotic arm was wide open to Bryan.

    “Cut it off!” I cried with fear as the claw descended toward me, ready to chop me up.

    Bryan slashed through the metal arm with his sword, and the arm flew from the cray, spiraling through the air. It spiraled over Zoey, who ducked under the claw as it hit another cyborg cray in the face, sending it spiraling out of control and into a building. Two cyborg cray had lost their claws, and we’d gotten rid of another two! That left two kart-cray and one jetpack-cray. Well, we still had four kart-cray, but two of them were defenseless. Oh, yeah, they were defenseless. Except for the fact that they could still run people over. Oh, and Zoey was going to have to jump onto them soon, or she’d be run over.

    “Zoey! Come on!” I shouted.

    “ARE YOU NUTS!?” Zoey screamed.

    “You screamed that already!” Bryan pointed out. “And I didn’t know you wanted to be run over!”

    Nearly out of breath, Zoey rolled her eyes and took out her sword. She jumped onto one of the cyborg cray that still had a claw on it. Now, I thought that was sort of stupid, because there were two others that couldn’t hurt her, but maybe she just wanted to cut that one’s arm off too, which she did easily. It seemed that she was so panicked, that her reflexes forced her to slice the cray’s robotic claw off before the robot crab even had a chance. The claw spiraled into the sky. The remaining cyborg cray behind us looked confused for a moment, because the claw had somehow flown upwards. The cray looked above itself just in time to see the open claw fall right onto the top half of the cray, completely covering his body. Not being able to see, the cray sort of spiraled out of control and began heading even faster toward the kart-cray that me and Bryan were standing on. It was going to crash.

    “Jump!” I yelled, jumping onto one of the other cyborg cray. Bryan did the same.

    The kart-cray we had been on moments ago was trashed by another kart cray when they collided. They both sort of spiraled out of control and hit a building.

    There were only two defenseless kart-cray left, and there was still a jetpack-cray chasing Suzie.

    Wait a second.

    The jetpack-cray that was chasing Suzie was gone. Suzie was actually behind us, following us at a steady pace.

    “Where did jetpack crab go?” I asked.

    “Weren’t you paying any attention?” Suzie asked me. “I kicked him into next week!”

    “Why couldn’t you do that with the fairies?” Bryan asked.

    Suzie looked like she was ready to pummel Bryan. “IF YOU VALUE YOUR LIFE, YOU WILL NEVER ASK ME ABOUT THAT AGAIN!!!” she screamed with a look of pure anger.

    “I sincerely apologize!” Bryan whimpered nervously.

    Suzie nodded and landed on the cyborg cray that Zoey was standing on. The two cyborg cray were really going fast. I didn’t know why they were, they weren’t chasing anyone anymore. They could’ve just stopped.

    That was exactly what they did.

    It seemed that at top speed, they came to the most sudden stop. So sudden, in fact, that the force of the brake forced all of us, me, Bryan, Zoey and Suzie, off of the cyborg cray and onto the pavement. We all fell to the ground. Momentarily dumbfounded by what had just happened, we gave the cyborg cray almost enough time to run us over. But as they were revving up their engines, I knew what they were planning.

    “Get up and run!” I shouted.

    I hopped onto my feet and sprinted away, followed by my friends. The cyborg cray began to speed toward us. We tried to run faster. It was no good. We were so tired out, that sooner or later they’d run us over. And if we managed to jump back onto them, they’d just shake us off again. I had an idea.

    “Guys, turn a corner!” I said, as we began to approach a corner. “Then we’ll keep turning corners until we lose them!”

    “Genius!” Bryan said. “You know, if it works.”

    As soon as we arrived at the corner, we turned sharply away from the course of the cyborg cray. As we ran down the alternate road we had found, I heard the cray continue speeding along the other road, and then stop and turn around. We had to turn another corner.

    “This way!” I said, turning onto another street.

    I could hear them coming. I hoped that they wouldn’t find us. I decided we should turn another corner.

    “This way!” I said, turning onto yet ANOTHER alternate route.

    “You think we’re going to end up going in circles?” Bryan asked.

    I didn’t hear the cyborg cray anymore. We’d lost them.

    “We can stop now.” I said, panting. “I think we lost them.”

    I was incredibly relieved. That had been a lot easier then I’d thought. Well, actually, it was pretty hard, but I was amazed that we made it out alive. Me and my friends all fell to the ground in exhaustion. We were on some side street, and I couldn’t see anyone for miles. I was worried we might be caught again, but I’d learned from experience. If I saw ANYTHING suspicious, I should run. Even if it was just the slightest shudder of a trash can. That’s when I heard something strange. I heard an unusual sound, the opening of a door.

    I turned and saw that the door in the building we were next to had opened, and in it stood a tall male pixie. He stood on the ground, and his wings looked like they had been broken. They were sort of torn apart. He had black hair and a goatee on his chin. He wore a white T-shirt and blue jeans, and he only had socks on his feet. He was staring at us. I knew I should’ve run, but something about the guy told me to stay put.

    “Who are you?” I asked the pixie suspiciously.

    “Who are you?” he asked me suspiciously.

    “I asked you first.” I said intently. I hoped I wasn’t getting myself into trouble.

    “Look, I didn’t do anything wrong!” the male pixie stared at us. “I’ve just been in this here apartment, that’s all!”

    “I didn’t say you did anything wrong!” I insisted.

    The man hesitated for a moment, and then decided to introduce himself. “My name is Baron.” He said.

    Baron.

    Baron.

    It was familiar…

    Baron Arks. How many Barons could there be in Seaside? Was he the guy we were looking for? My insides tingled with excitement. I looked up, and I noticed that the building he was in was a lot shorter than the others. It seemed much too good to be true. Well, actually, considering how hard it had been to get here, it wasn’t really too good to be true.

    “What’s your last name…?” I said, trying to hide my excitement.

    The man hesitated for a moment, studying me. “You’re… Kelvin… aren’t you?”

    I gasped. “You’re Baron Arks?”

    The man nodded. I looked at my friends. Their mouths were hanging open. We’d made it already. Here we were, at our destination.

    “Yes, I’m Kelvin.” I said with excitement. “And I’ve come to deliver… where’s the package!?”

    My heart raced wildly for a second. Had I lost it again? We couldn’t have come all this way for nothing! If we’d lost in during the cray battle… well, I was just about ready to go find the cray and let them chop me up.

    “Right here.” Zoey said, holding up the fancy little beat-up box happily. She handed it to me. Phew. That was REALLY close.

    I handed the box to Baron. He eyed it with delight. “Come inside.” He said.

    “Uh…” I went. I heard the sound of some cyborg cray getting louder in the distance. They would soon find us. I guessed it couldn’t hurt to visit the guy’s house for a little while. “Okay…”

    Baron walked into the open front door and gestured for us to follow. We followed him inside a large room.

    It was amazing.

    The room was incredibly tall, almost as tall as the building itself. The walls and floor looked like they were made of matte chrome. The room was circular, the same shape as the building. On the floor of the room were a few sections. On one side of the room was a living room with a large couch, some chairs, some lamps, a coffee table, and a television set inside a large entertainment center. On the other side of the room was a kitchen with metal cabinets, granite countertops, a fancy-looking sink, a large silver refrigerator, a stove, a microwave, a breakfast bar, and an island. It was a pretty fancy kitchen. Next to the kitchen was a dining room with a fairly sized wooden table with six chairs around it, and what at first glance looked like a lamp that was hanging over the table, but since the ceiling was almost a hundred feet above the hanging lamp, I realized that the lamp was floating above the table. A spiral staircase was attached to the rim of the room, and led up past some modern art and lamps hanging on the wall. The staircase led to a large platform that hung below the ceiling, sort of reminding me of Darkthorne’s palace. It was a pretty cool place to live. I guess if you’re trapped in Seaside, you have to make your place livable. I just didn’t know how he could’ve gotten all that stuff here in the first place, given how dangerous Seaside was. We’d finally found Baron Arks, who had an amazing house. If I lived there, I’d never want to leave, except for the fact that it was in the middle of Seaside. The poor guy probably never got that much sun. There were only a few windows on the walls, and they were all draped closed.

    Baron closed the door behind him and pulled the drapes on the windows shut, so that nobody could see inside. He led us over to the wooden dining table and had us sit down. He placed the package we’d delivered him on the table and offered us refreshments.

    “You kids look worn out, you could use a nice glass of water.” Baron said to us with a smile on his face. “I haven’t had guests over in such a long time…” he said softly.

    Baron set five glasses of water on the table, one for each of us.

    “What is this?” I asked Baron suspiciously, pointing to the glass of water.

    “It’s water.” Baron said, looking at me like I was stupid.

    For some reason, I was a little suspicious of drinking the water. I knew Baron was Darkthorne’s friend, and all, but Darkthorne was the person that sent us on this mission. It seemed Suzie was having similar thoughts, since she hadn’t touched her glass of water. But Bryan and Zoey drank their entire glass in a couple of gulps, and they looked fine, so I supposed it wouldn’t hurt to have some of my water. As soon as the glass touched my lips, I gulped the entire thing down in a few seconds. I was already feeling better. It seemed Suzie had done the same, given the fact that her glass was empty.

    I tried to make some casual conversation. I mean, I didn’t know the guy AT ALL. It was actually sort of awkward. “So…” I began. “Did Darkthorne tell you that we were coming? Uh… how do you know who I am?”

    “She notified me.” Baron said. “And that’s LADY Darkthorne to you.”

    He wasn’t even Darkthorne, but he insisted we call her that. I didn’t really like the idea of saying her name formally, given the situation she’d put us in, but I managed to do it one time. “LADY Darkthorne…” I said, straining myself. Baron approved.

    “How did she notify you?” I asked.

    “Cell phone…” Baron said.

    “Why didn’t you just use a normal phone?” I asked.

    “You think landlines go all the way from Seaside to Briarwood?” Baron asked. Now that I thought about it, that did sound pretty ridiculous. “I called her using a cell phone, even though I got terrible reception.”

    “I thought Seaside was the technology capitol of Free Realms?” I asked. “Shouldn’t it have lots of cell phone tower thingies?”

    “I’d say they built a mite to much of them.” Baron said. “I think the radio frequencies emitting from each one interfere with each other, and since there are so many, sort of make them backfire. That’s Seaside for ya.”

    There was a moment of silence, in which Zoey and Suzie pushed an empty cup back and forth between each other. Then I spoke again.

    “What’s in the box we delivered you?” I asked, trying not to sound too nosy. But I was trying my luck.

    Baron pushed his chair out from the table. “Follow me.” He said, taking the package from the table.

    Baron led us to the base of the spiral staircase, and we began to climb the steps. As we climbed the spiral staircase around the rim of the tall circular room, I was reminded of how we had climbed the steps in Darkthorne’s palace, and I suddenly hoped that Baron wasn’t going to try and crash us into the ceiling.

    As we ascended step by step, nobody spoke. I wondered if my friends were feeling the same way I did. This guy was sort of creepy, but he was also sort of interesting. I was sort of scared of him, mainly because of where he lived and his appearance, but I remembered the fact that my mom always told me to, and I quote, “never judge a book by its cover”. Somehow I always found that hard to do. And the thought of my mom ultimately led to me missing her, and wondering how she was taking the fact that I was probably gone forever. How long had I been gone, anyway? I thought it was about nightfall, so that meant we had been gone for… uh… two days? Wow, it hadn’t been very long, and it felt like over a month. I couldn’t take all of this. I really hoped that the trip home was going to be a bit easier on us.

    This was where my mind spiraled off to during the moment of silence. Once I had come back down to earth, I decided to start up a little conversation again.

    “So…” I said, trying to think of a subject. “…You and the queen know each other… huh?

    “Yes, for quite a long time.” Baron said

    “Ah.” I said.

    “Do I bare any resemblance to my cousin?” Baron asked.

    I was instantly confused. “Uh… I don’t know your cousin…”

    “I’m talking about Darkthorne.” Baron said. “Do I look anything like her anymore?”

    It took a moment for the sentences to process in my head. Baron and Darkthorne were… cousins?

    “You’re cousins?” I asked.

    “Yeah.” Baron said. “Didn’t she tell you?”

    “No…” I said awkwardly. “No she didn’t.”

    “Ah.” Baron said. “Little Dark with her secrets and mysteries. She always used to confuse people when she was a kid.”

    I could agree with that. Darkthorne was pretty confusing. “I can imagine that.” I said.

    “We’re almost there.” Baron said.

    I had become so distracted that I hadn’t noticed how far we had climbed up. We were nearing the platform that was hanging a little ways below the ceiling. We were almost there.

    The climb had been a lot shorter then Darkthorne’s palace and I suspected that we wouldn’t be nearly crashed into the ceiling this time. We finally made it to the top of the staircase, and what lay on top of the platform was revealed to us.

    As soon as I got a glimpse at the amazing platform, my mind was blown.


    ~ Chapter Eleven: The Capture ~

    Spoiler: show
    This trip had been crazy. So far I’d almost been turned into a zombie in Merry Vale, crash landed in Seaside, and almost cut in half by cyborg cray. I’d managed to escape all of that, and none of it thrilled me.

    Really, I thought I’d seen everything, but this was truly amazing.

    The platform was a whole lot larger than it looked from the first floor of the building. It had the same matte chrome floor as the ground floor had. There were some normal-sized railings standing on the edges of the platform to keep people from falling off. Now, this probably doesn’t sound truly amazing to you. But that’s because I haven’t gotten to the cool part.

    No, the chrome floor wasn’t empty. That would’ve been boring. No, the chrome floor was covered in the most amazing things.

    There were tons of tables, desks, chairs, workbenches, and large silver tables covered in the most amazing devices I had ever seen. Atop every table and desk were hundreds of amazing-looking gadgets and gizmos, devices and machines, mechanisms and engines, and just about every technological thing that you’d never think of. On one table there was what looked like an engine, except there was what looked like a few metal birdbaths attached to it. On another desk were a bunch of supplies, like metal balls, wires, cables, electronic unit things, a robot eye, and eve a postage stamp. (I supposed the stamp had something to do with mailing things.) There were tons of other mechanisms and machines and what-do-ya-call-its too. Plus, they weren’t just floating on the platform.

    Well, first of all, on the surrounding walls that weren’t attached to the platform were a few large windows. And by large, I mean HUGE. They were like some of the windows in Darkthorne’s palace, except I couldn’t actually see anything through them. The windows were completely blurred up, and all that came through was light. (Well, not a lot of light was coming in right then, since the sun had already set.) I assumed this was so no one could see what was going on inside. I assumed the windows were plastic, because a jetpack cray would have a hard time breaking through a glass window. Floating above the platform were a few robots. No, not bad robots, but they looked more like robots that did a specific function. One robot was just hovering above the platform, and it looked more like a small flying thing with a light, which was shedding light on the many objects that stood on the floor. Another robot seemed to be cleaning things up. It looked like a floating screen with a robotic eye and some robotic arms, pushing things to the side to create pathways. Another few robots looked more like floating ceiling fans, cooling the platform.

    Basically, it looked like some science laboratory full of crazy gadgets, except it was on a platform. It was amazing. And suddenly I wondered where Baron Arks had gotten all this stuff. So I asked him.

    “Where did you get all of this stuff?” I asked, bewildered.

    “I built it.” Baron said promptly, looking very satisfied with himself.

    I looked around at my friends. They were all speechless, staring at the laboratory with their eyes popping out of my heads.

    “I’d tell you this is my laboratory,” Baron said, “but I think you already know that.”

    “So… you’re a scientist…?” Bryan asked.

    “Yeah, pretty much.” Baron said.

    “Not the most clean look for a scientist.” Bryan said.

    “I spend all my coins on my gadgets, so I don’t have enough for clothes.” Baron said.

    “How did you get all of these supplies here?” I asked.

    “That…” Baron said. “…Is an excellent question. Come along now.”

    Without answering my question, Baron began to move along through rows of gadgets, holding the package tightly in his hands.

    “Let me begin my story.” Baron said. The pixie got a slightly creepy and slightly sad smile on his face, like he never got to tell his story, although he enjoyed it so. When he began, I could see the flashback in his eyes. “Years ago, many years, Seaside was still beautiful. This many years after the great tree had died. Although something in the air felt wrong, I didn’t want to leave my paradise, for I had lived there all my life. I had been living there with my parents at the time. I was only a teenager, knowing no better what I should really do.”

    “Hey,” I interrupted, “we’re teenagers.”

    “Yes, I know.” Baron stated, as we walked along through the aisles of gadgets. “As I was saying, knowing no better what I should really have done. Seaside began becoming more polluted, and things began to seem strange when a prized possession was stolen from our household. Years passed, and my friends began to fade away. My parents passed, and once they had, there were already a few silver buildings being built in Seaside. Unaware of the changes going on around me, I refused to leave my Seaside home. Soon, my small Seaside hut was turned into a tall silver skyscraper. Finally realizing Seaside was no longer my treasured home, I tried to leave, but I was too late. The streets had become terrible and dangerous, and I’d become trapped in my towering building, as my region became more horrible around me.”

    As Baron talked, his face began to look more old and grim than it had before. This story was bringing back dark memories. I could feel the tension in the air. The story already was very sad.

    “Deciding I wanted to change the world for the best, I set off on a journey with the only family I had left, my dear Andria, my little sister. But the journey turned to the worse, and once I had made it back home alive, my Andria was gone.”

    There was a silent pause, as if Baron was again in mourning for the loss of his little sister.

    “I wasn’t able to leave the house.” Baron continued sadly. “But luckily, my home was full of very useful scientific things. Due to the fact that I had been very successful in my youth at science, I began to get to work. Over the years as Seaside’s beauty faded to a trifle, I got to work, and created many unique inventions. They made my stay in Seaside a mite more enjoyable, but they just didn’t help me. I needed a way to escape. With a lot of effort, I was able to contact the only family I had left. Darkthorne, my little cousin. I told her of my problem, that I was trapped in Seaside. She promised that she would help if she could. I told her of a machine that I thought I would be able to build which would allow me to be sent to Briarwood, in the safety of my cousin’s rule. But there was one thing that my machine needed, and I pleaded Darkthorne to somehow get it for me, for it was somewhere deep in an old cave in Briarwood, and I would never arrive there without it. We made a deal that if I would build her something, she promised that she would retrieve the object, and one day, send it to me. I said yes. She said that next time she contacted me, she’d tell me what she wanted me to build. But she never called…

    Just recently, I was contacted by Darkthorne. She alerted me that she had finally retrieved the object I needed, and would soon send somebody to deliver it to me. She also asked me to build a specific machine, and I knew I could build it. Unusually, the delivery guy was a teenager, by the name of Kelvin. I asked for a last name, but her reply was that nobody knew the boy’s last name. That was good enough for me. She told me that the boy would probably arrive in a few weeks, most likely with a few others to help him, and I thanked her. I was able to build the device that she requested. A few weeks after our conversation, I heard a disturbance outside my door. I peeked out of the window and saw four teenagers standing there, breathless. I opened the door, and it was you, boy, holding the package firmly in your hand. YOU. At last.”

    “So… back up.” I said, trying to take in what Baron had just said. “What we delivered you is…”

    “…The last thing I need to make my machine function.” Baron said.

    Baron’s story had taken us from the top step of the staircase all the way to a desk covered in blueprints, supplies, and mechanics. Standing behind the machine was what looked sort of like a futuristic telephone booth, covered in many complicated mechanisms, wiring, and tubes. This is where we stopped.

    “Darkthorne designed a box specific to a key that I have, so that only I could open it.” Baron said, pushing all of the supplies on the desk onto the floor, creating a large mess of things beside the desk.

    He set the box we’d delivered him atop the desk and eyed it with joy. He reached his hand into his pocket and pulled out a small golden key. He took the key and inserted it into the lock on the box. He turned the key, and the lock made a little click sound. The lid of the fancy box popped up, and Baron opened it up. Bryan, Zoey, Suzie, and I all gathered around the box to see what was inside. The inside of the box was lined in a soft red cushion, and lying in the red cushion, all safe and sound, was a small, glowing, purple crystal.

    “A Briarstone.” Baron said, eyeing the crystal with delight. “This rare large gemstone, native to dark caves in Briarwood, looks beautiful, but it also has special powers, and would be dangerous should it fall into the wrong hands. Used correctly, this stone has the power to, without special magic, cause a living being to disappear from one place and appear in another specific location. It takes a lot of work, though, and that thing over there,” Baron pointed to the futuristic telephone booth thing, “is the thing that’s going to bring me to Briarwood. The gadget that requires this stone to bring me to my new home.”

    So, this gadget had teleportation powers. That meant that it wouldn’t only be able to get Baron home, but me and my friends too, right?

    “Ah, I see that little spark of happiness in your eyes, children.” Baron said. “Unfortunately, the proper potion to me made with this stone won’t be ready for a year and a half.”

    My heart sank. I had really hoped we’d be getting home the easy way, but there was no way I was staying with an old pixie scientist for a year and a half. I’d rather trek across dangerous Free Realms. I could see the smile wiped off my friend’s faces, too.

    Baron took a few things off of a nearby shelf; a potion bottle, and a few other ingredients. He set them on the desk we stood in front of and began mixing some ingredients in the potion bottle.

    “Hold up.” Suzie said, finally speaking. “I thought Seaside went bad hundreds of years ago. How can you still be alive?”

    “Well, due to my many machines and gadgets, I’ve been able to prolong my lifetime, allowing me to go on in time and live a longer, happier life.” Baron said. “I’m actually hundreds of years old.”

    “Wait.” Suzie said. “I thought you said you knew Darkthorne when she was little.”

    “It is a known fact that royalty lives longer than most others do unless murdered, right?” Baron asked. This pretty much shut Suzie up.

    “Your life hasn’t been very happy, lately, huh?” Bryan asked.

    “No, but things will soon turn to the better.” Baron said happily. He finished mixing a few ingredients in the large potion bottle, and he simply dropped the Briarstone we’d delivered him into the liquid, which turned a dark purple.

    “So, soon is one and a half years?” I asked. “That’s awhile.”

    “When you’ve lived as long as I have, son,” Baron said, “a year and a half isn’t very long.”

    “Whatever you say…” I shrugged, sort of amazed, sort of confused, and sort of crept out.

    “This potion will take a year and a half to settle, along with a few other ingredients added over time. Once the year and a half are passed, the Briarstone will have completely dissolved in the liquid, and I’ll be able to pour it into fuel compartment of my machine, and I will finally be sent home.”

    “So, how are we going to get home?” Bryan asked.

    “However you want.” Baron said. “You could stay with me for a year and a half, or you could travel home yourself.”

    “What do you guys think?” Bryan asked us.

    “I’d rather travel home earlier.” I said. “I don’t really want to stay here for a year and a half.”

    “Agreed.” Suzie said.

    “Okay.” Zoey said nervously.

    “Great.” Baron said, clapping his hands in approval. “Now, come with me. We don’t need to do anything with this machine anymore. I have to show you what you’ll be taking back to Darkthorne.”

    Baron led us away from the Briarstone potion and through many aisles of gadgets. We finally arrived at a silver table that was almost like a kitchen island, except made of metal. The table’s surface was empty, all except for one small opened hard-oak box. We approached the table, all straining to see what was in the box. The box’s inside was also lined with red cushion, just like the box we had delivered, except this box was slightly larger, and lying inside it wasn’t a Briarstone, but another gadget.

    There was a solid gold sphere in the center, and it was in the center of something that looked mainly like a large metal ring, except it was connected by four metal bars to another metal ring that was holding the golden sphere in place. It looked like a golden sphere with handles, basically.

    “What is it?” I asked.

    “That’s Darkthorne’s business and her business only.” Baron said. “If she wants to tell you, she will. But it’s your duty to deliver it back to her.”

    “Great.” I said with sarcasm.

    Baron closed the box’s lid with a click and handed it to me. I looked at it curiously. I wondered what the gadget was.

    “Now, come back downstairs.” Baron said. “You look worn out, and I’m sure you could use a nice meal before you set off.”

    We followed Baron back through the aisles of gadgets and back down the spiral staircase, all the way back down to the ground floor of the building. Me and my friends sat down at the dining table next to the kitchen, and Baron went to cook us some dinner. He hummed happily as he prepared some chicken.

    I didn’t speak throughout the entire wait for dinner, and none of my friends did either. I became lost in deep thought as Baron stirred something.

    I realized, for the first time, how completely strange my world was. I know, weird right? I should’ve noticed it a long time ago. I also realized how cruel my world was. I mean, look what had happened to Baron! He was a lonely old pixie, trapped in Seaside, with only a bunch of inventions to keep him company. I didn’t understand how he could still be SANE after all those years. All of Free Realms was terrible. It was such a terrible world. I wished I knew a way to fix it. I would sort of rather go on some dangerous adventure to fix Free Realms instead of going back into safe little Briarwood and doing nothing. Hey, maybe my adventuring spirit was beginning to shine again. Maybe I was beginning to lose the shock of being sent on a mission by Darkthorne. Maybe I was beginning to want to explore again, just like I did when I was trapped in Briarwood. My perspective was slightly turned around. I was still unsure of how I felt about all this. But when I really thought about it, I did still wish I was back in the safety of Briarwood.

    Unfortunately, all these thoughts had no affect on the present situation.

    A pleasant aroma brought me back from my deep state of thought, and I heard Baron saying “Dinner is served.”

    I looked in front of me, delighted to find that sitting on my plate was a delicious-looking dinner of chicken and mashed potatoes. Baron wasn’t a bad cook. All of my friends had the same plate as me, and so did Baron. I dug into my food.

    Once I had finally finished, I felt a whole lot better. My taste buds had experienced the delight of freshly-cooked food, and my stomach was no longer in a bad mood. I felt satisfied, and my friends looked satisfied, too.

    We thanked Baron for the meal and the hospitality and he led us to the door. Before we left, we came up with a plan.

    “Okay.” Suzie began. “The plan is, were going to sneak out of the city and climb back up to the ship. We’ll retrieve enough supplies to get us back home and then we’ll get out of here. Once we’ve escaped Seaside, we’ll try and find the safest route back to Briarwood… you know… if there is one. But I don’t think there is. Any questions?”

    We shook our heads.

    “Good.” Suzie said. “Let’s go.”

    Baron bode us good luck as we bode him goodbye. I held the oak box tightly in my hands as we stepped out into the quite nighttime streets of Seaside and Baron closed the door behind us.

    Everything was quiet. At night, Seaside was so unnaturally quiet that it was freaky. Many of the lights in the Seaside buildings were on, and I wasn’t sure of that made me feel better or worse. Above me, the night sky was completely empty. The stars and moon were hidden by pollution. It was scary.

    Under the cover of night, me and my friends snuck as quietly as possible through the streets of Seaside. Whenever we saw any suspicious movement, whether the shuddering of a trash can or a shadow creeping up the street, we got out of the area as quickly and quietly as we possibly could. At one point, we were almost seen by a gang of bullies of who were roaming the streets, looking for pedestrians that should be inside. Luckily, we whipped around the corner just in time, and they didn’t see us. There were a few other encounters like this, but we were able to remain hidden. At last, we’d finally made it out of the Seaside city, the shorelines that were covered in tens of thousands of tall buildings. And, by an incredible stroke of luck, we’d managed to get out on the side with the mountains and the path away, and not the side with the trash-covered sand and the polluted water.

    We were standing in some brownish sand/dirt with a few weeds growing. I still couldn’t hear a sound. We began to head quietly away from Seaside, with the thousands of tall silver skyscrapers becoming smaller and smaller as we ascended the rising path up to the mountains.

    We passed a tall waterfall that’s waters fell into the polluted oceans below. We were aside a sort of cove. The waterfall would have been beautiful, but then again, this was Seaside, and the waterfall somehow managed to look menacing in the night. It might’ve been the fact that there was a broken wooden bridge hanging in pieces over it, looking as abandoned and creepy as ever.

    We were nearing the mountains, now. I thought we had finally made it. I thought we were finally home free. Too bad our luck couldn’t have been better.

    We were about 20 feet away from the mountains we needed to climb when I heard a sound. It seemed my friends had heard it too. It sounded like the distant sound of some sort of engine. It sounded like something that was hovering.

    I saw a light in the sky and looked up. There were two lights shining faintly into the dark night sky, and I could see, just barely against the darkness, the silhouette of something that was shaped like a sort of sky ship. I knew it wasn’t ours, because ours was broken. But any sky ship couldn’t be good. I realized that the ship’s silhouette seemed to be lowering in the sky.

    We tried to run, but all of the sudden, six armored humans fell from the sky and surrounded us.

    Each human was wearing a futuristic-looking suit of armor, with goggles covering their eyes. Each on e held a large hammer. That didn’t make me feel any better. Me, Bryan, Zoey, and Suzie all backed up to one another and took out our swords, all except for Suzie. This was a terrible situation we’d landed in. And just when I’d gotten my hopes up, too.

    “Get your sword out.” I whispered to Suzie out of the side of my mouth.

    “They don’t know I have one.” Suzie whispered to me out of the side of her mouth as the armored humans closed in on us. “If they take your swords away, we’ll still have mine.”

    “Oh.” I whispered.

    “Well, well, well.” One of the armored men said, staring at us with an evil grin. “What do we have here? A few trespassers, perhaps?”

    The other armored men laughed, staring at us with the same evil grin.

    “Should we pound their heads, or lock them away?” asked the same guy that has spoken before. “What do you think, boys?”

    “Lock them away.” One of them said.

    The others went “Yeah…” sort of menacingly on approval.

    “Alright, then, boys.” The first guy said, and I suspected he was the leader of their group. “Lock ‘em up.”

    A cage descended from the sky ship and landed on us, trapping us.

    “Let us out!” Suzie yelled.

    “Oh, look.” One of the guys said. “The pixie has a backbone. Isn’t that cute?”

    The others laughed menacingly.

    “If you don’t let us out of here, we’ll fight our way out!” Suzie demanded.

    “And the little pixie thinks she can beat us up!” another guy laughed. The others laughed with him. I really wanted to beat them up. “So adorable! Drop your weapons, or we pound your heads.”

    I’d taken out my sword, and so had Bryan and Zoey. The guys who’d captured us (I guess you could call them a gang…) looked so frightening in the darkness that my mind forced me to drop my sword to the ground. It seemed it was the same case with Bryan and Zoey. Luckily, Suzie’s blade remained concealed.

    The gang took our weapons out of the cage and activated a jetpack on their backs. They began to ascend back up to their ship, and so did the large cage that we’d all been trapped in.

    “We’ll take ‘em back to the prison!” I heard one of the gang members say in the distance.

    The cage ascended into the sky ship and into the main room with a large windshield. The gang members had already made it up.

    “We’ll let you stay in the main room so that you can see your new home before we get there.” The lead gang member said. He sat down in the driver’s seat and took the wheel.

    Suzie made a menacing growl, but she seemed to try and force herself not to take out her weapon.

    The ship’s engine roared to life, and we, trapped in a cage like little animals, flew into the night to our doom. But what our doom was, we did not yet know. That day could have been a whole lot better.


    ~ Chapter Twelve: Imprisoned Beneath the Waves ~

    Spoiler: show
    The sky ship sped through the night, bringing us closer and closer to our… doom… no… I used that already. The ship sped over the towering silver sky ships in Seaside, bringing us closer and closer to this so called “Prison.” Man, we seemed to have bad experiences with sky ships. Lucky us.

    We were still trapped in the cage behind the gang. Their leader was commanding the ship, and the other gang members were either looking out of the windows or polishing their gigantic hammers. I couldn’t imagine how they could hold such big hammers.

    The view outside the window changed, and slowly turned from tall silver buildings into a vast polluted ocean. We were flying over the water.

    “Do something.” I whispered to Suzie as the ship sped us over the ocean.

    “I can’t.” Suzie whispered.

    “But you’ve got your…” I didn’t want to say weapon. “…Thing.”

    “Well they have much bigger… things.” Suzie whispered. “And armor. Mine works wonders on monsters, but not metal. Especially Seaside armor… that armor just isn’t normal. It’s all techy and stuff. I couldn’t take them all down at once. Maybe one at a time, but…”

    “Come on, you’re just being modest.” I whispered.

    “And why would I be modest in a situation like this?” Suzie hissed.

    I heard somebody clear their throat. I turned and saw one of the gang members standing on the other side of the cage’s bars, staring at us with… hunger…

    “I’m sorry, but whispered conversations are NOT ALLOWED.” The gang member hissed. “You’ll stop if you know what’s good for you. Oh, and what’s this?” The gang member added, his gaze dropping down to my hands.

    I tried to hide it behind my back. I wasn’t going to let these guys steal the package that we had to deliver back to Briarwood.

    “I’m sorry, but the behind the back trick doesn’t work with us.” The gang member said. “Hand it over.”

    I stared him in the eye… or, at least as much as I could while I was wearing sunglasses and he was wearing goggles. “No.” I said promptly.

    “Excuse me!?” The gang member demanded, sticking his arm through the bars and taking me by the shirt. “I didn’t hear that clearly. WHAT DID YOU SAY?!”

    I guess I sort of panicked, dropping the package to the floor of the cage. The gang member pushed me out of the way and grabbed the package, pulling it through the bars of the cage with all his might. He popped open the lid and took out the gadget from inside, the one that looked like a gold sphere with handles.

    “What is this?” He asked.

    I decided to be honest. “I don’t know.”

    “Well if you don’t know what it is, why do you have it, hmm?”

    I thought for a moment. “I don’t know.”

    “Well, then I guess it’s mine now, isn’t it.”

    “No.”

    “Hmm…?” He spoke in a cold, slightly sarcastic, demanding tone. “I didn’t HEAR you. You’ve gotta talk LOUDER, kid! What did you SAY?”

    I was going to say no again, but I was elbowed by Bryan. Sometimes I wished we’d take our sunglasses off, so I could see the expression in his eyes. But I was pretty sure he wanted me to let the gang do what they wanted.

    “I… don’t know.” I replied to the gang member hesitantly. “I don’t know.”

    “Well, it is mine, whether you like it or not.”

    “I don’t know.” I repeated, trying my luck.

    “Ugh.” went the gang member. He turned and walked back to the rest of the gang. “Hey boys! That kid’s got a short term memory!”

    Okay, so I really, REALLY wanted to punch this guy in the face, even though I knew I couldn’t. He would just smash every tooth out of my mouth. I would have tried, but Suzie elbowed me out of it. We just had to wait for the right time.

    I heard a computerized voice speak over the loudspeaker, similar to the one in our old sky ship. It gave me the creeps. “Passing over coordinates: CLASSIFIED. Automatic settings have stopped the ship, and transformation is underway. We will begin our descent momentarily.”

    Okay, so I really didn’t understand most of that, but it didn’t sound very good. I felt the ship began to tremble and shake, and I wondered if the engine had broken or something. When the quaking had finally stopped, the computerized voice spoke again.

    “Transformation complete.” It said. “We are beginning our descent.”

    “Wait.” I said worriedly out loud. “Descent… what does that mean?”

    “It means we’re going down.” One of the gang members said. “Aren’t you as smart as a 5th grader or sumthin’?”

    “But… where is the ship gonna land?!” I asked in a panicky fashion.

    “Heh, it’s not GOING to land, kid.”

    “Are we gonna crash?”

    “You could say that.”

    “And drown?”

    “Maybe…”

    “Kelvin, calm down.” Bryan said. “He’s just messing with your head.”

    “Ah, so your name is KELVIN.” The lead gang member inquired.

    I moaned. “Nice going.” I muttered sarcastically to Bryan.

    The computerized voice spoke once again. “Full descent is underway. Please remain seated, or in a secure area. This is going to be a, so called, ‘bumpy’ ride.”

    Each member of the gang took a seat and buckled themselves up. The gravity in the ship began to shift. The sky disappeared from view outside the window, and all I could see was a vast polluted ocean, nothing but dirty water. The cage was forced backward as the ship began to fall toward the water.

    Me and all of my friends screamed in terror as the ship rushed downward through the air and toward the raging waves. I mean, this gang was CRAZY! They were crazier then Darkthorne, who wanted to crash us into the ceiling. Didn’t these guys realize that by dropping into the ocean, they’d be killing themselves, too?

    “ARE YOU PEOPLE NUTS!?” Zoey screamed as we fell.

    “No!” the lead gang member shouted. “We’re intelligent! There’s not a way anyone could escape our prison!”

    “Obviously!” Bryan screamed. “YOUR PRISON IS DEATH!!!”

    “Not exactly.”

    The raging waves were approaching us at a quicker pace. It was almost as if WE were flying forward into a wall of water. It was freaky. I closed my eyes, bracing myself for what would happen when the ship collided with the ocean. Most likely we’d be blown to pieces, or explode, and if this ship could withstand the collision, we’d probably just drown.

    My end had come so quickly that I couldn’t think of any words to say before I died besides what I actually said.

    “I CAN’T THINK OF ANY LAST WORDS TO SAY!!!” I screamed.

    I opened my eyes for a fraction of a second, just enough time to see the ocean’s surface less than ten feet away from the ship. One I’d closed my eyes again, I heard a gigantic splash.

    I knew we had crashed into the water.

    ***

    I had been awaiting my death, though I was not prepared for it. The moment the ship collided with the water, I thought I had died.

    I thought I was lucky.

    I could hear.

    I could feel.

    I could smell.

    I… had nothing to taste, but I probably could have.

    And all I needed to do was open my eyes to know if I could see. So that’s exactly what I did. My eyelids opened, and a completely odd view revealed itself to me. We were still inside the sky ship, which was by the way, completely unharmed. Mostly everything looked the same, except for the view out the window. Previously, our view had been the slowly brightening night sky. And now? Our view was dark, and there was quite a lot of trash floating, yes floating, in various places around us. If I looked to the top of our view, I could see the surface of the ocean raging from the underside. We were underwater, and we were still alive. The ocean’s waters were dark and murky, and the ship moved forward slowly. I couldn’t see anything through the pollution, other than greenish darkness and some floating trash. There were no fish, at all.

    “How are we alive…?” Zoey wondered in amazement.

    “Boss, tell the kid what’s up.” One of the gang members chuckled rudely.

    The leader of the gang snickered. “Well, allow me to explain the obvious. This ship transformed into a submarine, blah blah blah…” He spoke in an incredibly annoying tone.

    “But… where are we going?” Zoey cried nervously.

    “Ah, you want me to spoil the surprise; I can’t do, that, no, no, no.” the gang leader said in an insolent tone.

    “Wait…” I began. “…We’re in a submarine?”

    I heard the sort of underwater sounding beep of a radar, the kind you usually hear in submarines in movies. I heard the beep again, and again. I guess that meant we were in a submarine.

    “That must’ve answered your question.” The lead of the gang said, turning back around to control the ship.

    We passed under a sort of arch made out of a large rock, and I began to see the silhouette of something forming in the distance. It wasn’t a normal thing. It looked sort of like the silhouette of a factory, or a gigantic engine. The ship… err… submarine, began to float toward this large silhouette. As we got closer, the fog softened, and the object in which we were heading towards became clearly visible in the murky ocean water.

    It was amazing and frightening all at the same time.

    It stood atop a large rock that ascended from the depths of the ocean. It looked sort of like a large factory or some sort. The building was made entirely out of metal, and being underwater, it was covered in rust. There were several large, futuristic-looking smokestacks, placed in various locations on the large metal building, or should I say, what looked more like a bunch of metal buildings of various sizes placed together. There were also countless pipes, generators, large wires, and other things coming from and leaving the cluster of buildings. There were a few entrances here and there, but most of the walls were just solid steel. The submarine was heading towards an area on the side of the building that looked like a docking station. There were several submarines stuck in holes in the side of the building, and a small platform in front of them, just in case they needed a little room to take off. The ship we were in was heading toward an empty hole. One of the gang members pressed a button and a holographic screen popped up near the submarine’s control panel, displaying what was behind us. This helped as the gang leader backed the submarine straight into the empty hole, fitting perfectly.

    “Docking process in progress.” The computerized voice spoke over the loudspeaker.

    I felt the submarine fit into its hole like a puzzle piece. I heard a few mechanisms running outside of the submarine, most likely fitting the sub into place and/or draining all the water out. I heard a loud crash sound and the submarine fell about less than in inch downward, probably fitting exactly into place.

    “This,” the gang leader said, “is our inescapable underwater prison.”

    “Oh.” Zoey cried nervously.

    A door on the back wall of the ship, the side opposite the window, opened wide into a large room with metal walls. There were large, bright, long fluorescent light bulbs lining the ceiling, lighting up the entire room. There were plenty of doors in various places on the walls, and there was one larger than the others on the back of the wall. There was a label above the door that I could just barely read from across the room; it read “Jail Cells”.

    There were a few strange looking machines that looked sort of like large red buttons with robot legs and a few light bulbs stuck underneath the red buttons. I assumed they were some sort of guard robots. There were various strange-looking tracks on the floor, and I wasn’t sure why they were there, until I saw what looked sort of like a gigantic, futuristic, metal wagon, that instead of wheels, had these blades that went into the tracks on the floor, guiding the large, what would you call it, transportation wagon device thing, across the floor. The transportation device zoomed along the tracks right to the submarine that we were still in. It stopped just inches away from the door that had opened in the sub, and one of its little walls that kept you from falling off flipped downward and turned into a sort of bridge between the submarine’s floor and the floor of the transportation device.

    The gang got up from their seats and walked toward our cage. Using only one arm each, they easily pushed our cage from the submarine onto the transportation wagon.

    “Attention!” The leader of the gang shouted. “Half of us will let the commander know we’ve gotten another catch, and the other half of us will deliver these kids to their cell. You people, go notify the commander!”

    “Yes, sir!” One half of the gang said, jumping off of the transportation wagon and running across the room to another door.

    “Now, let’s see what cell we’ve got for you kids.” The gang leader said, looking at us as if we were his silly little pets. “Transportation platform, bring us to the nearest empty cell.”

    The bridge that had been created with the wall of the transportation platform (I guess that’s what this thing was called) flipped back up into the wall, and the transportation platform sped away from the submarine, whose doors closed with a loud crash.

    The platform sped toward the large door on the opposite side of the room; the door that read “Jail Cells”. That couldn’t be good.

    We sped toward the door quickly, and for a moment I was worried we’d crash into it, but just before we might’ve crashed, the large door slid open, and, wide enough for the transportation platform to fit through, we passed right through.

    The jail cells looked… well… they looked sort of amazing, but I couldn’t decide if I was amazed or mortally terrified. The transportation device was moving along two steel wires, and there were an incredibly large amount of steel wires in the room. Okay, so room, isn’t so much of a description of this place. It was INCREDIBLY GARGANTUAN!!! The walls were entirely made up of cubicles that were either empty or filled with a jail cell. I know, it sounds sort of strange, but that’s how it was. It seemed that each cubicle was the size of a cage, and the filled cubicles had cages slid inside them, filling the cubicle perfectly. I might also add that there was a seemingly endless amount of cells climbing up to a ceiling I could barely see, and down into darkness, for I couldn’t see the floor. If you measured the dimensions of the room by cubicle, you’d have about 80 cubicles horizontally on the front and back walls, and 50 cubicles on the two side walls. And from top to bottom? I had NO idea.

    Another thing that added complication was that there was an entire three-dimensional grid of steel wires spanning across the entire room, so that the transpiration platforms could get to each one. The steel wires were strong, but thin, so you could easily see the rest of the room through them. Our transportation platform sped along the steel wires through the seemingly endless room of jail cells. We went up, down, back and forth, side to side, and all the other directions that the platform could go. For a moment, I actually thought it was pretty cool, and I was having a good time, holding onto the bars of the cage, in awe at my surroundings, even though no matter how amazing they were, they were horrible. Bryan seemed to be enjoying the ride, too. Suzie was sitting on the floor of the cage with no expression, and Zoey was screaming her head off.

    Finally, the moment of fun had ended. We’d come to a stop, and the short wall on the transportation platform flipped down into a small bridge, connecting our platform to an empty cubicle.

    We’d arrived at our cell.

    The gang members barely had to push our cage into the cubicle. Once our cage had been slid in just barely, the cubicle automatically pulled us in. I heard a clicking sound, as if the cage was snapping into place, and a computerized voice said, “Cell locked.”

    “I hope you enjoy your stay at the Seaside underwater prison.” One of the gang members said sarcastically, looking at us slyly. He laughed a menacing laugh along with his colleagues, and I had a feeling he wasn’t just a member of a gang. He was a member of an entire evil organization.

    The transportation platform sped away from our cell, and then it rose up and out of sight.

    Only then did the seriousness of the situation hit me. Only then did I realize how we had been trapped miles underwater. Only then did I realize that we didn’t have much of a hope.

    “By Darkthorne…” I exclaimed, grabbing the metal bars of our cell, looking out into the prison around us.

    “What do we do!?” Zoey cried. “What do we do, what do we do, WHAT DO WE DO-HOO-HOO!!!” tears fell from behind Zoey’s Goth Goggles as she held on helplessly to the bars of our cell.

    “Zoey…” Suzie said, floating toward her best friend, landing a hand on her shoulder. “First, you might want to stop crying.”

    “But I CAN’T!” Zoey cried, tears pouring from her face. “Life’s too HORRIBLE!!!”

    “Remember when you said that to me when we couldn’t afford tickets to Bruce’s concert?” Suzie asked, trying, somehow, to cheer Zoey up. “But then we worked hard and earned enough money to see the concert!”

    “I remember!” Zoey cried. “But we can’t use a lemonade stand to get out of Seaside PRISON!”

    “I know we can’t.” Suzie said with a sly smile on her face. “But we can use an escape plan.”

    Zoey’s crying was interrupted. She looked up hopefully to her best friend. I smiled. Suzie was always the best at coming up with plans. If anyone could get us out of this, she could. I suddenly felt hopeful again, and I realize how stupid the guys who’d trapped us were. They didn’t check to see if the pixie had any weapons. With a little pixie power, we were going to leave this underwater prison in the dust. I saw a glint from behind Suzie’s shades, as if her eyes had just lit up with an idea.

    “What’ve you got?” I asked, knowing Suzie’s plan would somehow get us out of our situation.

    Suzie smiled and helped Zoey off the ground. She clapped her hands together and began. “Okay, so, this is the plan…”


    ~ Chapter Thirteen: The Escape Plan ~

    Spoiler: show
    As we looked at Suzie hopefully, she began to relay her plan.

    “Before our plan can work, we’re going to need some information. I’m going to use my sword to cut enough room out of the bars and let me through. Then I’ll sneak around the prison and gather some information on our package’s whereabouts, AND find a detailed map of this underwater prison.”

    “Wait, what if they get you?” Zoey asked, tearing up. “You’re my best friend…!”

    “They won’t get me!” Suzie said reassuringly, patting Zoey in the back. “I’ll be fine… you know I will.”

    “Okay…” Zoey moaned half-heartedly with tears in her eyes. She took Suzie and hugged her, as if they were sisters, and at one point when I was little, I actually mistook them for sisters. Yes, that’s how close they were.

    Suzie, choking, forced herself out of Zoey’s tight squeeze. “Sorry.” Zoey apologized. “You were saying?”

    “Oh, yeah!” Suzie said, perking up. She continued with her plan. “I’ll sneak back here and tell you guys the plan I worked out based on the information I found, and show you the map.”

    “You don’t actually have a plan right now?” Bryan asked.

    “I need information to work with before I can think up a surefire plan!” Suzie shouted.

    “Okay.” Bryan muttered. “You don’t have to shout about it.”

    “So… when are you going?” I asked.

    “Now!” Suzie shouted. “You think we’re going to hang around all day? I’m going to go and get information now, and then we’ll put the rest of the plan in action!”

    Zoey began to tear up. “Are you sure you’ll manage…?” she asked Suzie sadly.

    “Are you questioning my abilities, dear sister?” Suzie asked slyly, smiling at Zoey and patting her on the back. “Of course I’ll manage.”

    Suzie fluttered toward the bars of the cell. Using a complicated sword maneuver, she cut a single metal bar off of our cell. I realized that the bar had slots on the top and bottom that Suzie had cut, and on the top and bottom where the bar used to be were small remains of it, also with slots. It seemed the slots were made so that Suzie could put the bar back into place.

    With just enough room for her, Suzie slid through the gap in the bars and slid the bar she’d cut off back into the newly created slots. “Just so they don’t think you’re trying to escape.” She smiled. On the other side of the bars, Suzie waved, ascended upwards away from the cell, and disappearing from sight. I hoped desperately that she’d be okay.



    We waited for hours on end for the return of Suzie Darkmoon. And for those hours, we all remained silent; waiting under pressure, hoping desperately that Suzie was okay. As the hours passed, I couldn’t help thinking that Suzie might not make it back. What if they’d gotten her? What if she’d tripped on something, or if they found her hiding place? What if… what if… what if…

    I slapped myself, snapping me out of my “what if” state and attracting a bit of attention from Bryan and Zoey, both of whom had nervous expressions on their face. I looked up at them for a moment, and then looked back down to the floor. Then I heard a sound. I raised my head upwards, looking towards the bars of the cell, and my emotion was instantly overjoyed and relieved.

    Suzie had finally returned. She was floating contently outside of the bars of the cell. She ripped the bar that she’d cut earlier from the cage, entered, and put it back in. As she turned toward us and smiled, I noticed a rolled-up piece of paper in her left hand.

    “YOU’RE OKAY!” Zoey cried, tackle-hugging Suzie with joy.

    “Yeah, if course I’m okay! And ouch!” Suzie laughed, pushing Zoey off of her. “I got it.” She said confidently, unrolling the piece of paper and holding it up for us to see.

    I eyed the paper with hope. Suzie held an incredibly detailed map of the underwater prison up to us. It was definitely going to help with the plan. On the map, each level of the prison was mapped out, including the extra-tall prison room, which actually ended after going over a mile underground, with some doors also leading to the basement. There were countless levels and different rooms, and there were plenty of doors leading from the room of jail cells. With this map, we’d have that plan in the bag.

    Bryan laughed. “Oh, this is totally gonna work.” He said confidently.

    Suzie set the map down on the floor of the cell. Taking her left pointer finger, she began showing us what we were going to do.

    “Okay, so, assuming this prison works how I think, they should deliver us food using that transportation platform. I’ll have cut off all of the bars in advance, so we’ll break out of the prison, and throw whoever or whatever off the edge of the platform. Then we’ll take the platform around the room of jail cells and go to all our specific locations. I’d just cut the bars off and fly away, but the rest of you aren’t pixies.”

    “Yeah.” I muttered.

    “Zoey and Bryan, you two are going to cause a distraction by running over to the west guard’s post and setting off an alarm for the west wing.” Suzie continued, waving her hand over a part of the map that showed a small room with a window and a long hallway that led off to several other rooms. “Then, you’re going to get out of the west wing as quickly as possible. Run as fast as you can to the docking room. Got it?” Bryan and Zoey nodded, a little uncertainly. “Then, once you guys have set off the alarm and caused all the guards’ attention to be diverted, Kelvin and I will go back to the docking room, where we came from. You know, the one with all of the submarines. I will remain in the docking room, and with my clever skills, I shouldn’t have much trouble using a code to unlock one of the submarines. Then, Kelvin has the most important job.”

    Oh no, I thought.

    “Kelvin,” Suzie continued, “I’ve located the package, and it’s in the boss’s quarters, which is only a few corridors from the docking room.” She showed me a corridor that led from the docking room to another large room at the end. “You’ll sneak into the boss’s quarters, and you should find the so called ‘Boss’ in there. I’ll GENEROUSLY give you my sword, just in case the ol’ boss doesn’t WANT to give you the package.”

    “Highly likely.” I said uncertainly.

    “You’ll retrieve the package and head back to the docking room, and by that time, Zoey and Bryan should be back in the docking room, and most of the guard should be coming from the west wing. Also by that time, I should already have unlocked a submarine. So we board the sub and get OUT as fast as we can. We’ll take the sub back to the surface and see how far we can make it out of Seaside. How’s that sound?”

    “It sounds dangerous, risky, likely to go wrong, but with much potential.” I snapped my fingers. “Sounds like a plan.”

    Suzie smiled.

    “When do we start?” Zoey asked, eyeing Suzie with hope in the newly created plan.

    “Whenever they decide to deliver our food.” Suzie smiled menacingly, as if she couldn’t wait to throw whoever was delivering our food down into the depths of the prison. She fluttered up to the bars, and, using a special sword maneuver, cut all of the bars off but created slots, just like the other one, and she put the bars back in. That would make it easier for us to just jump out onto the platform.

    ***

    We waited.

    We waited like… like… chickens in a coop? Nah, that sounds silly, but I can’t think of anything else. Like chickens in a coop, waiting nervously, knowing that when the farmer came, they’d be lunch. Only we were waiting for a platform OF lunch, and we weren’t planning on sticking around to eat. If my suspicions were correct, it would probably just be green glop anyways.

    We were waiting nervously but slightly impatiently. As I racked over thoughts in my mind, I realized how much that I REALLY just wanted to get everything over with. Part of me just wanted the nervous wait to last forever, so we’d never have to go, and part of me wanted it to happen sooner than later, so that we could just DO it and leave it behind us.

    Whether my thoughts had any influence on the situation, I could only guess, because at that moment, I heard a noise outside of the cell. My friend’s faces perked up, and so did mine. We peeked out of the bars and saw a transportation platform approaching. One of the gang members, or should I call them guards, was standing on the platform with countless grey bowls of green glop. I knew it would be green glop. And if my thoughts had influenced the situation, the second part won.

    “Are we ready?” Suzie whispered in question, looking at the rest of us. She rolled up the prison map and stuck it in her pocket.

    “Ready.” We all whispered at once.

    The platform moved and stopped at our cell. The short wall of the platform flipped down, forming a bridge between our cell and the transportation platform. The guard sighed, turned around and bent over to pick up a bowl of glop from the floor of the platform. Suzie mouthed “Now.”

    We rushed forward from the cell. I wasn’t completely sure what we were going to do. Take all of the bars out? But no, Suzie just broke through them all at once, scattering them all over. The noise caused the guard to turn back toward us. There was open room between us and the guard, no bars that separated us. The guard was about to take a hammer from a holder on his back, but Suzie was too fast for him. She rushed forward, quickly pulling her sword out of her sleeve and hitting the guard o his face with the flat of her sword. The guard tumbled over onto the floor, his face falling into one of the bowls of green glop.

    “Nice work.” Bryan said, astounded, as we walked forward to better see the knocked out guard.

    We were all standing on the platform now, and none of us remained in the cell. Suzie pressed a button on the top of a short wall of the platform, and the other short wall flipped up from its bridge form. Suzie pulled a lever, and the platform began to move along the steel wires and into the center of the room. Or at least, the center elevated hundreds of feet in the air.

    “Should we throw him over?” I asked.

    Suzie looked at the sleeping guard, disgusted at what I suspected to be the fact that his face was in the green glop. “Nah, I think we should let him sleep in the slime for awhile.”

    Suzie pressed a button, and the platform automatically began to move through the room of jail cells. I was sort of nervous, but I knew that we had to do this. If we didn’t, we’d probably be stuck here forever.

    The platform came to a stop, but it was still in the middle of the room. It hadn’t pulled up next to a door or anything.

    “Why did we stop?” Zoey asked with a perplexed face.

    I looked around, and I noticed that the guard had moved. His face was still in the bowl of glop, but he’d moved himself over near the lever, and pulled it to a stop. Once I’d pieced it together in my mind, it was too late.

    The guard pulled the lever again and didn’t let go. That was probably because at that moment, the platform turned itself over, so that the bottom was on top and the top was on bottom. Unfortunately, the only person holding onto the platform was the guard, who kept a firm grip on the lever. As for me and my friends, well, we were all shocked and startled as we fell from the platform.

    Yes, we FELL from the platform, hundreds of feet above ground, along with all of the bowls of slop. We began falling away from the platform, screaming and flailing wildly and helplessly in the air.

    As we fell, I looked back up at the platform. The guard swung and flipped the switch again, and the platform turned over. He began to move the platform again. But I didn’t see any more, because we were falling at such quick a pace that the platform fell out of sight.

    “WHAT DO WE DO!?” Zoey cried, looking down into the darkness with eyes of fear.

    “Well, I can fly,” Suzie said as we fell, “but you guys can’t, and I can’t carry you all. And if you guys are all going to die, I guess I will too.”

    “We can’t die!” I shouted nervously. “I mean, this situation seems pretty hopeless, but we’re not going to die! I KNOW!” I’d had an idea. “It’s a pretty long way down, right? What if we try and move through the air, sort of by swimming, and grab onto a jail cell, or grab onto one of the metal wires, which are a lot wider than I thought, since I can’t reach any of them.”

    Bryan had been screaming, but he instantly stopped. As the jail cells became blurred as we fell, I wondered if he’d stopped screaming because I’d had such an awesome plan. Well, apparently that wasn’t it, but what Bryan had to say was even better. “Uh, guys, you might get a kick out of this.” He said sort of disappointedly, but also hopefully. “Do you remember our hoverboards?”

    I smacked my hand on my forehead, and it seemed my friends had done similar. We’d had them since Briarwood, hadn’t we? Had we lost them, at any point? Did we still have them? I didn’t have any remembrance of us losing them. I checked in my large back pocket and felt something smooth. I pulled my shiny black hoverboard out of my large pocket, and so did the others.

    “We are stupid, aren’t we?” Suzie shouted angrily, looking at her hoverboard as if it was its entire fault.

    “You’ve gotta be kidding me!” I shouted. “We’ve done SOO many dangerous things, and these would’ve been a HUGE help in them all! How could we forget about our HOVERBOARDS!?”

    “Stop blabbing and get on!” Bryan shouted.

    Suddenly that made sense. We had our hoverboards, and we could just get onto them and fly wherever we please. Suddenly this plan seemed a lot easier. “Oh, right.” I said with glee, hopping onto my hoverboard, as did my friends.

    The falling and blurred surroundings immediately ceased. The glop continued falling without us. Saved by our hoverboards, me and my friends looked around ourselves happily, incredibly relieved that we hadn’t fallen SPLAT on the ground like a bug.

    “Bryan, I hate to say this, but we owe you one.” Suzie growled. I’d noticed that they don’t always get along so well. “If you hadn’t remembered the hoverboards, well, I wouldn’t have HAD to die, but I probably would’ve, seeing as there’d be no hope of me escaping without the rest of you.”

    “Well, thanks…” went Bryan. “…I think.”

    “Now what?” I asked.

    “Okay, so slight change of plan.” Suzie said. She pulled out the map of the prison and examined it, and our surroundings. She rolled the map back up and put it in her pocket. “We’re near mark 19B in the jail cell room. Guys, follow me. I know where to go. But first, that guard is probably going to go back and report our escape. We’ve got to stop him.”

    We followed Suzie on our hoverboards back up to where we had come. I saw the platform that we’d tried to steal, and the same guard who’d knocked us over moving the platform determinately along the steel wires.

    “Wait here.” Suzie said.

    We stopped slightly close to the platform of which was moving away from us. Suzie hopped off her hoverboard, leaving it floating with us, and began to fly, not towards the platform, but towards where the platform was heading. She took out her sword and held it below her, and just as the platform approached, she cut both of the steel wires it was riding along. The guard, surprised and startled, didn’t have enough time to turn around. The platform continued moving and fell right off of the broken steel wires, sending the man and the platform down into the depths of the room. In my opinion, Suzie’s skill and plan was pretty impressive. She turned around and flew back to us, boarding her hoverboard once more.

    “That should take care of him for awhile.” Suzie chuckled.

    “Whoa.” went Bryan.

    “Alright, Zoey, Bryan,” Suzie said, “We have to drop you guys off first. Follow me.”

    We followed Suzie through the ultra-tall room of jail cells, going upwards and moving alongside the walls. Whenever a transportation platform passed, we hid in the darkness off an empty cubicle and waited until it passed. Once it did, we got back out of the cubicle and continued on our way. We only had to do this a few times. I wasn’t sure where Suzie was going, exactly, but she said that we were dropping Zoey and Bryan off first.

    Finally, avoiding any trouble, we arrived at our destination. It was at first what I thought was another empty cubicle, but when we got closer to it I realized there was light coming from it, and we arrived, I saw a long corridor.

    “Zoey. Bryan.” whispered Suzie.

    “Yes?” they both asked.

    “This is the west wing. Go down that hallway, turn left, and enter the last door on the left. That should be the west guard’s tower. When you enter, the guard should push the emergency button for the west wing. Then you have to get out of there on your hoverboards AS FAST AS YOU CAN. Rush all the way back to the docking room. And I am 100% sure you’ll find your way there easily.” Suzie told them, though I wasn’t sure what made her say that. “In the original plan, you would’ve had to run, but luckily we found our hoverboards.”

    “Thanks to me.” Bryan whispered proudly.

    “Yes, thanks to Bryan.” Suzie muttered. “Now go!”

    “Wait, why can’t you do this?” Bryan asked. “What if they, you know, catch us?”

    “As far as I know, they don’t have hoverboards.” Suzie whispered. “You’ll be fine.”

    Bryan nodded uncertainly. He and Zoey left me and Suzie and went off into the hallway. Zoey took one last look at us, and then disappeared around the corner.

    ***

    I followed Suzie through the jail room, nervous for both Bryan and Zoey, and even more nervous for myself. It was going to be my job to get the package back from the “Boss”. I didn’t like the sound of that.

    We approached a large door in between the cells, and I realized it was the first door we had come through when we arrived in the jail cell room. It was the door to the docking room.

    There was an empty cubicle next to the door, and both me and Suzie entered the cubicle and hid in its darkness.

    “What are we doing in here?” I asked nervously. “I thought we were going into the docking room!”

    “We are.” Suzie whispered confidently. “We just need to wait…”

    BUZZ!!! I heard an ENORMOUSLY loud buzzing sound, forcing me to cover my ears. It was a noisy alarm! Suddenly it hit me: we were waiting for this alarm. It was the alarm that Bryan and Zoey had set off. Suddenly, an automated voice spoke over the loudspeaker of the prison.

    “EMERGANCY: WEST WING. TWO ESCAPEES, CAPTURE IMMEDIATELY! ALL GUARDS TO WEST WING!”

    Suzie and I ducked further into the shadows of the cubicle as dozens of transportation platforms zoomed in all directions past us, out of the docking room, and dozens of platforms coming out of the few other doors around our area. Each platform was filled with about 6 guards, all armed and ready to re-capture Bryan and Zoey. Suddenly it seemed that they didn’t fare so well, and I could only imagine the horrified looks on their faces at that moment.

    Once the transportation platforms were all a ways from the docking room, Suzie pulled on my arm and gestured me to come out of the cubicle.

    I followed her out of the cubicle, through the doors, and into the large docking room. It looked just like I remembered it from when we arrived at the prison, except there were no transportation platforms or guards. There were only about a dozen security robots, all with laser pointers aimed right at us.

    The laser pointers lit up with heat, ready to fire at us. As lasers shot from the security robots, Suzie pulled out her sword and jumped in front of me, deflecting the laser beams with her blade, and blowing up all of the security robots in the process. She basically blew my mind.

    “Wow.” I said in awe.

    “No time for wows.” Suzie said quickly, in a serious tone of voice. “Kelvin, you see that hallway over there?” She pointed to a hall that led off to the room to my left.

    “Yeah.” I said. “Is that..?”

    “Go down the hall to the end, and you’ll find the Boss’s Quarters.” She handed me her sword. “Take this. If the Boss puts up a fight, it should be useful. Once he’s defeated, retrieve the package and return to this room, where you’ll find me, next to one of those submarines, with the door unlocked. By that time, Bryan and Zoey should be coming through THAT hallway,” she pointed to a hallway to my right. “And we’ll all jump into the ship. Now GO!”

    With Suzie’s sword in my hands, which was strangely light for such a powerful object, I ran across the room underneath the bright fluorescent bulbs above me and dashed into the hallway. I took one last look back at Suzie, who was standing next to the back of a submarine, entering a code on a number pad. I turned back into the hallway, jealous of the fact that Suzie gave herself the easiest job.

    There must have been some reason she’d chosen me to fight the Boss, instinct, maybe, or maybe the boss couldn’t put up a fight without his guards. I silently hoped that was the case as I ran through the hallway, toward a large door at the end. Nervous and stressed, I stopped at the end of the hallway, looking up at the large metal door, which looked a lot bigger close up. I have to do this. I told myself. I don’t have a choice. There it was again. Not having a choice. Cruel fate never wanted to give us a choice, did it? I could hear Bryan’s voice in my head right then. “WHY DON’T WE EVER HAVE A CHOICE!?” I remembered him shouting. I missed Bryan’s voice already.

    Getting up my courage, I slowly reached my hand up to the doorknob of the large metal door. I turned it and threw the door open. I held my sword at the ready and looked at the room that lay on the other side of the door. The floor, walls, and ceiling were all matte chrome, like most of the prison. There were about six pictures of angry, ripped people on the walls, which I thought were most likely past captains. If they were all super-strong, I almost wet myself in thinking how strong the present captain was going to be. There was a large window on the back wall of the room, looking out into the polluted, murky ocean water. There was a large circular table with about 10 chairs in the center of the room, and there was one larger chair that sat in front of the large window. The large window had a windowsill, but the windowsill was so large that it seemed like a desk of some kind. I realized that the windowsill, or desk, was covered in junk and papers, and sitting on the chair in front of it was a large armored man, not unlike the rest of the guards in the prison. There was an open box sitting next to him on the desk, and the man was holding something. He didn’t seem notice that I’d come in. I closed the door as quietly as I possibly could and quietly peeked around the man’s back to see what he was holding. The man examined a pure-gold sphere with handles, and suddenly I knew what it was. It was the item in the package. The one we had to deliver to Darkthorne.


    ~ Chapter Fourteen: Unpleasant
    Surprise ~

    Spoiler: show
    I noticed that the opened box next to the man was the hard-oak package. I’d found the package, and the guy sitting in the chair must’ve been the BOSS. I was really freaked out now.

    What was I going to do? Maybe I could shout out to him, like, “HEY, LOSER, HAND OVER THE BOX!” No, then he’d pummel me. I thought. Maybe I’ll sneak up on him and knock him out of the chair. Yeah, that’ll work. Confident that I could sneak up on the “Boss”, I snuck quietly around the large circular table. I began to feel more nervous as I inched toward him. What if I lost? What if he, like, killed me? What if we were all just sent back into our cell? What if he threw me out the window and I drowned?

    “WHAT DOES THIS THING DO!?” The Boss shouted out, shaking the gadget that we had to deliver, frightening me so much that I almost screamed, but refrained from it, so the boss didn’t hear me. He set the gadget back down on the desk and turned the chair he sat in around. I didn’t have any time to hide. The Boss turned around and looked at me. He stared at me for a minute, as if he was trying to decide if I was really there or not.

    I panicked. “Hi.” I said nervously.

    “INTRUDER!” The Boss shouted. “GUARDS, GET HIM!”

    I tried to be brave. I held up Suzie’s sword and said, “All of your guards are in the west wing… for some reason. They can’t hear you from there.”

    The Boss’s face snarled up. He turned around and started to run toward a button on the wall.

    I wasn’t sure what made me do it, honestly, but my instincts told me to rip the button out of the wall. As I ran toward the button, too, I assumed the button was some sort of guard caller. I have NO idea how, but I somehow outran the boss and made it to the button first. I broke the button with Suzie’s sword, point first, and the button sort of exploded in the wall, although it didn’t make much of a sound. It left a small hole in the metal wall.

    “Grrrrrr…..” The Boss snarled, anger pouring somehow from his face.

    I thought I was crazy, but I felt like my instincts were controlling me, or something, like I knew exactly what to do. “Hey there, Boss guy. I came here for that package over there.” I said unnaturally calmly, pointing over to the gadget on the desk. “Would you mind if I took it?”

    “That package is mine now, and you BETTER BELIEVE IT!” The Boss screamed in anger. “NOW, GET OUT OF HERE BEFORE I POUND YOU!”

    “Yeah, about that… why don’t I pound you?” I asked. I felt stupid, like I was getting myself into too much trouble. But something kept telling me to just keep going.

    “Why… you… LITTLE!!!” The guard screamed, balling up both of his large firsts and raising them into the air.

    I have to admit, I laughed a little when I did this: I stabbed the pointy end of Suzie’s sword into each of the guard’s feet, and he screamed each time I did. For some reason, his feet were the only part of his body that weren’t armored. Actually, he was wearing socks. That made no sense. NO sense.

    The Boss pulled a hammer from a case on his back and tried to hit me with it, but with some unbelievable strength, I deflected the hammer with my sword. No, I do not know HOW. All I know is WHY. Because I had to protect my life.

    Me and The Boss began to try and out-maneuver each other, trying as hard as we could to defeat the other person. After a little bit of back-and-forth attempts to knock out each other, I realized that we were fighting, and I wasn’t even the slightest bit scared. It didn’t make any sense. It was as if there was something happening with me, as if I had these natural fighting reflexes. Somehow, I managed to knock the hammer out of The Boss’s grip, sending it flying across the room. The Boss, without his large hammer, attempted to punch me, but I ducked through his legs, which he’d left wide open, and pushed him forward from the back. He almost fell over, but he righted himself, turned around, and started towards me. There was that unbelievable force again. That SOMETHING that seemed to be making me invincible. As The Boss angrily charged toward me, I quickly sidestepped out of the way, and I stuck my sword underneath his helmet. No, I didn’t stab his neck. I used the sword to pull off his helmet, and then, using the flat of the blade, hit The Boss’s head hard, knocking him out cold on the floor.

    Once he was finally defeated, I realized how out of breath I was. The fight had really tired me out. I couldn’t believe what I had been able to do. I actually won against him, somehow. There was SOMETHING that helped me. I hoped that one day I’d find out what that something was. But there was no time for wondering now.

    I looked over to the desk. There was the hard-oak box, and there was the gadget. Neither looked damaged at all. I rushed toward the desk, grabbed the gadget, stuck it carefully back into the box, closed the package, and with the package and the sword in hand, rushed to the door, opened it back up, closed it behind me, and started running as fast as I could back down the hallway.

    At last, I made it back to the other end of the hallway and into the docking room. Relieved from my battle, and expecting it all to be downhill from there, I ran toward Suzie, who was still at the same submarine, tirelessly entering digits on the number pad, just as she was doing when I left.

    “Suzie!” I shouted.

    “Kelvin, you’re okay!” Suzie said, relieved.

    “I got the package!” I said happily, but still with a trace of nervousness in my voice.

    “Well, that’s one thing off the list.” Suzie said. “But I have tried EVERY code and combination I could think of, and this thing just WON’T OPEN! And Zoey and Bryan should be back any minute!”

    Uh oh. That was NOT good. Of Suzie couldn’t unlock the submarine, we’d have no way to escape, and we’d be toast. Suzie entered another code on the number pad.

    “Access denied.” A small computerized voice said.

    “Grr…” went Suzie.

    “Have you tried this?” I asked, hoping my little test would work.

    I handed Suzie her sword back, balled up my fist, and I PUNCHED the number pad with ANGER, THREE TIMES. After I gave the pad a good beating, the computerized voice said, “Access granted.” The door on the back of the submarine popped open, and I pulled it out, revealing the control room inside of the submarine. I giggled.

    I heard screaming in the distance. I turned my head, realizing it was coming from the hallway on my right, the one that Suzie had predicted Bryan and Zoey would come through. And they did.

    Both Bryan and Zoey zoomed out of the hallway, screaming in fear. I heard tens of hundreds of hard footsteps behind them, like there were hundreds of people chasing them. And there probably were.

    “Guys!” Suzie shouted. “OVER HERE!”

    Both me and Suzie climbed into the ship. Suzie sat in the driver’s seat and I stood next to the door as both Bryan and Zoey rushed into it on their hoverboards, screaming. I pulled the door closed, my heart pounding. Now all we had to do was get out of the underwater prison. The plan was working out better then I’d thought.

    “Everyone, sit down!” I shouted nervously. We all found seats. Suzie sat in the driver’s seat; I sat next to her, Bryan next to me, and Zoey on the other side of Suzie. “Suzie, get this thing outta here!”

    “ON IT!” Suzie shouted. She pressed the startup button on the control panel and the engine revved to life.

    A screen popped up from the control panel and displayed what was behind us. There were a bunch of armored guards entering the room from different entrances. Outside of the submarine, through the windshield, I could see polluted, murky water.

    Suzie pressed another button, and I was instantly pushed back in my seat.

    The submarine shot out of the underwater prison with a loud BANG, and within seconds, we were rushing through the water, speeding away from the underwater prison. Suzie took the steering wheel of the ship and changed our course upwards, towards the surface of the water.

    “Somebody find the transform button!” Suzie shouted. “Once we surface, we’ll need to turn back into a sky ship!”

    I quickly searched the control panel for a button that looked like it would transform the ship. Once I found a red button labeled “Transform”, I pressed it the moment we shot out from the surface of the ocean. We’d been speeding so fast through the water that the submarine had catapulted up into the sky, giving it more time to transform. I felt the submarine shake and quiver as a computerized voice said, “Transformation is underway.” Once the shaking and quivering stopped, we were already falling back down toward the water. But when the computerized voice said “Transformation complete”, the ship stopped falling and changed its course to be level with the water. We began ascending through the air, and stopped when we were a ways above the water.

    Outside of the ship, the skies were bright, overcast, and polluted. It was daytime now. Suzie pushed a button on the control panel. “Hydro-boost activated.” The computerized voice said. I was suddenly pushed be I my chair again, as the ship shot forward with incredible speed. I looked ahead of us, and I saw the desolated shores of Seaside quickly approaching. The ship rushed high over the water and began to ascend into the clouds.

    “Suzie, go back down, we can’t see up here!” I said with fear as the clouds fogged our vision.

    “Fine, but I was just trying to hide.” said Suzie.

    “Hide?” I asked. “From who?”

    As Suzie lowered the ship back out of the clouds, I looked at the small screen that displayed what was behind us. Far behind us, several ships were shooting out of the water, beginning to chase us.

    “Oh.” I said nervously. “Can we make this thing go any faster?”

    “I don’t know!” Suzie shouted, steering the wheel in different directions.

    She kept averting the ship’s course, causing us to loop, spin, and go back and forth. I couldn’t figure out why until I realized that the ships that were chasing us were shooting lasers at us. Suzie was dodging the lasers as best as she could, but she couldn’t keep it up forever.

    “Suzie, give me the wheel, I want to try something!” I shouted over the noise of the engine, coming up with an idea in my head.

    “What are you going to try?” Suzie asked, as she let me onto the driver’s seat and handed me the wheel.

    I realized that my idea was stupid and likely to go wrong, but there were a lot of ships chasing us, and they were bound to get us at some point. I turned the hyper-boost off, but since we’d been shooting forward so fast, we didn’t slow down. I turned the ship completely around as we neared the shores of Seaside, so that we were flying towards the tall silver buildings backwards. I pressed the button that I ASSUMED shot the lasers.

    Lasers shot from our ship and flew all the way toward the several ships that were chasing us. I repeatedly pressed the laser button until all of the ships I could see had been knocked out of the sky with lasers. I turned the ship back around and turned the hyper-boost on again, and steered the ship upwards JUST before it ran into a tall silver building.

    The others screamed beside me. My heart pounded wildly and my nerves were on edge. I couldn’t believe that worked. Suzie pushed me back out of the driver’s seat and took the wheel.

    “WERE YOU CRAZY TO DO THAT!?” She screamed in anger, steering the ship up above all of the towering silver buildings and toward the mountains.

    “Maybe I was.” I said. “But they would’ve eventually got us anyways. Maybe now we’ll be able to take this ship all the way back to Briarwood.”

    As Suzie steered the ship, her angry grip on the wheel lightened up a little. “Well, maybe.”

    The ship passed over the dreadful city of skyscrapers and finally made it to the other side. It sped through the sky and toward the mountains. Far ahead of us, I could see the spot where we’d crashed the ship that Darkthorne had sent us to Seaside in. Man, Darkthorne, Briarwood, it all seemed like such a long time ago, now. This adventure was turning out to be harder than I thought. And suddenly it hit me. We’d just nearly escaped Seaside, and we’d probably be able to take this ship all the way back to Briarwood. We’d be back there in less than a days’ time if we didn’t run into any trouble. The future seemed bright. It seemed that all of our problems were slowly fading away. But when old problems fade, new ones appear. We couldn’t hope that our luck would last forever.

    Actually, our luck was lasting a lot shorter of a time then forever. The ship began to fly high over the mountains, and slowly ascended toward the clouds. I could see some treetops on the other side of the mountains.

    I heard a large, loud BOOM. The ship shuddered and quaked. “WARNING: Ship has been damaged.” said the computerized voice of the ship. “All control has been lost. Please locate the parachute compartment in the back of the ship. We are falling out of the sky.”

    It was true. We WERE falling out of the sky. The ship began to fall from the clouds and descend quickly down towards the mountains.

    We all screamed, even Suzie. “WHAT DO WE DO!?” I screamed, hopping out of the chair.

    “Kelvin, do you have the package?” Suzie shouted to me over the alarm that was sounding.

    “I’m holding it!” I said, holding up the package for Suzie to see. I lost by balance as the ship descended out of the sky. “What happened? Did something hit us?”

    I wondered. I ran over to the control panel as best as I could and looked at the screen that displayed what was behind us. The screen was a little blurred, but I could make out a sky ship speeding towards us, chasing us. There had been one ship left, and it had shot OUR ship. We were falling out of the sky at a tremendous speed. A speed so much so, that the ship grew hot, and it felt like it was catching fire.

    “THE SHIP HAS CAUGHT FIRE!” The computerized voice shouted, confirming my suspicion. “PLEASE SIT BACK IN YOUR SEATS AND PRESS THE ‘CRASH’ BUTTON! IT IS THE ONLY WAY YOU’LL MAKE IT!”

    We all sat back down in our seats and buckled up.

    “WHAT CRASH BUTTON!?” Bryan screamed.

    “This one!” I shouted, pressing a large orange button that said THIS IS THE CRASH BUTTON on it.

    The roof of the ship popped open and the seats popped out of the ship, shooting into the endless sky of clouds. We all screamed as we were ejected from the fiery ship. I had only experienced a situation like this once before, and that was with The Speedinator breaking back in Briarwood, which seemed like such a long time ago. Only, this was about 200 feet higher in the air and above a bunch of sandy mountains.

    “NOW WHAT!?” I screamed, holding onto the package as tightly as I could.

    “I suppose fall.” I heard Suzie state calmly. “I’m sure these things have parachutes on them, right?”

    As soon as Suzie said it, as if on command, parachutes popped up from the back of each seat and slowed our fall. We descended downward, heading toward the mountains. The ship fell down below us and crashed on a distant mountaintop. I was relieved that we’d made it.

    Although, not quite. The ship that had shot us with the laser was approaching, and shooting lasers in our parachutes. We began screaming once again, as we began to fall faster down to the mountains. Luckily, we landed on the top of a mountain without crashing. We instantly unbuckled our seatbelts, and I was incredibly relieved to see that we had landed right next to the crash-landed ship from Briarwood. We’d be able to get some supplies from here.

    We unbuckled our seatbelts and got out of our seats. We walked over to the old crashed ship.

    “Someone should go in and get supplies.” I said, but before I finished my sentence, Suzie had already darted into the remains of the ship and come out holding new weapons, clothes, food, water, and camping supplies. I wasn’t exactly sure how she held it all.

    “Whoa, cool.” I said. When I looked at the new weapons, I realized we hadn’t gotten our old ones back. I missed my Shadowblade 2000. But I was happy to find out that Suzie had found another Shadowblade 2000 for me. “Thanks.” I told her.

    “You’re welcome.” She said, smiling.

    I was relieved that we’d finally escaped from Seaside… but there was still a problem. There were three more sky ships coming toward us from the sky, their lasers ready, determined to get us.

    “RUN!” I shouted.

    We gathered all of our supplies into large backpacks and began to try and climb as fast as we could down the other side of the mountain. It wasn’t as much as climbing down the mountain as we were basically jumping down from ledge to ledge. It seemed sort of impossible, but we were doing it, so it couldn’t have been impossible.

    I saw the ships come from behind the shadow of the mountain as we finally neared the bottom. We were near some leafy treetops, above a large forest. Seeing the ships fly above us, we jumped down from the mountain and fell through the branches of the trees, getting scratched up by the wood as we fell. Finally, we hit the ground with a few loud thuds. We were in a dark forest next to Seaside. We ran away from the mountain where the ships were around and ran deeper into the forest. After a lot of running, we finally stopped in the middle of the dark forest, out of breath, but relieved we’d made it away from Seaside.

    “Finally… we made it.” I said, out of breath.

    “Yeah.” went Bryan, falling onto the floor.

    That was so easy, I couldn’t believe it. Almost everything had worked. Nothing had gone horribly wrong.

    “Oh my gosh… that was too intense.” Suzie said, looking around. “Uh… where’s Zoey?”

    I looked around the dark forest. There was absolutely no sign that Zoey had ever been here. I didn’t see her anywhere around us. Something HAD gone horribly wrong.

    She was nowhere to be seen.

    She had vanished.

    My heart pounded with fear as I looked around, searching for any sign of her, but it was as if she never existed. Come to think of it, I didn’t remember her talking much in the ship, or when we were hit by the laser, or when we landed or climbed down the mountain.

    I couldn’t believe it.

    Zoey was gone.


    ~ Chapter Fifteen: Suzie’s Story ~

    Spoiler: show
    Was I having a nightmare? Was it possible we were still in the cell in Seaside, and my mind had only been preparing me for it? I pinched myself. Nope, it wasn’t a nightmare. The pinch had hurt. This was reality, and the reality was that Zoey was gone. I looked around at the dark forest of which surrounded me, searching through the dark branches and leaves for any sign of her, but there was none. She was just… gone. I knew that our plan had seemingly worked too well. There were no problems in our plan to escape Seaside, until one of our friends at vanished.

    “She’s… gone.” I said in a depressed, surprised tone. “I can’t believe it…”

    “We have to go back for her!” Suzie shouted, and started to try and fly back the way we came, but stopped and looked around, confused, probably at where we were. “Which way did we come from?”

    “I don’t know… but we couldn’t go back even if we did know the way back.” I said sadly. I hadn’t realized how much I’d liked Zoey until she inexplicably vanished. Life’s like that, sometimes. “If we went back to Seaside now, we’d probably get captured or trapped again, and we’d never escape. And Seaside is a HUGE place! We’d never be able to find Zoey if we went back… it’s just…” I paused, the reality of what happened slowly coming over me like a shadow. It really was… “Hopeless.”

    “Hopeless…?” Suzie asked me. “HOPELESS!? What if YOU had fallen behind, and YOU were in trouble in Seaside, and you wanted YOUR friends to come and save you!”

    I had an answer, but I didn’t want to say it, because it was much too depressing. But when Suzie grabbed me by the neck, I ended up spitting it out. “I’d know it would be too dangerous for them to come find me, and I’d try to stay alive for as long as I could, but eventually I’d lose all of my hope!” I spat out uncontrollably. I covered my mouth with my hands as soon as I’d said it.

    Suzie let go of me and turned away. “Alright… then… we’ll just… stay… here… and...” she sniffed, and I suspected that she was tearing up. She spoke in an incredibly sad and depressing voice. “Just… do… nothing…”

    I didn’t want to do nothing. Believe me, I wished we could just run back up to Seaside, grab Zoey, and slip back out, but I knew that was hopeless. It was -1 from our group of now only three people.

    “Let’s… make camp.” I said glumly. I figured it was our best option, due to the fact that we were sad and tired. I heard Suzie sniffle once more.

    ***

    We had come to a stop in a clearing inside the dark forest, so there was enough room for us to make camp. Sad and depressed, Bryan and I unpacked our backpacks and pitched up a couple tents, one for us and one for Suzie, two sleeping bags in ours and one in Suzie’s, and gathered a little firewood to make a camp. Suzie hadn’t spoken the whole time we’d been making camp. She had just been sitting in the corner of the clearing, leaning against a tree, holding both her legs in her arms. Occasionally we’d here a sniffle come from her, but other than that, she’d just sit there in silence and despair.

    Once we’d finally finished making camp, night had fallen. At least, I assumed it was night, because the dark forest was a lot darker then it had been before. If Bryan and I hadn’t started a campfire we wouldn’t have been able to see anything. All three (sadly not four) of us sat around the campfire. Bryan hadn’t spoken at all since Zoey had disappeared. He’d only nodded or shook his head whenever I asked him a question. Finally he spoke.

    “Do we have any marshmallows…?” he asked glumly.

    I walked over to the tent and picked up one of the backpacks that were leaning against it. I searched inside for some food. I found some pretzels, a peanut and gummyfruit-jelly sandwich, and finally a bag of marshmallows. I went back over to the campfire and tore open the package. I handed a few to Bryan, who walked over to the edge of a clearing and picked up a few sticks. Bryan and I both stuck our marshmallows half-heartedly onto the sticks and stuck them into the flames.

    For some reason, even though it was so dark in the forest, we hadn’t taken our sunglasses off. So that might’ve been one of the reasons it had seemed so dark. Suzie was just sitting on the ground holding her legs in her arms. She hadn’t spoken at all since I declared we make camp. In fact, none of us had really spoken much at all. We were all on mourning at the loss of our friend, Zoey Clarkson.

    I wanted to cheer Suzie up, but I really didn’t know how. She was taking this loss harder then all of us, and I knew why. I decided I’d try to cheer Suzie up, anyways.

    “Suzie…?” I asked slowly and carefully, trying my best not to touch a nerve.

    Suzie moaned.

    “Would you… like a marshmallow?” I asked, though I wasn’t sure if that would help.

    “Nn-nn.” Suzie moaned no with her mouth closed.

    I took my marshmallow out of the fire, and my sugary little treat was now burnt black. Hot and softened, it melted off of my stick and landed on the forest floor with a splat. I barely noticed. I moved over closer to Suzie.

    “Look… it isn’t like the world is ending.” I said quietly, trying to comfort her. But my sentence only seemed to cause her to tense.

    I couldn’t think of a way to comfort her. Yes, I was also HORRIBLY depressed that Zoey was gone, but this loss had hit Zoey like a giant boulder and broken every bone in her body, while it had only broken me and Bryan’s arms.

    Once again, I attempted to comfort her. “Is there anything that could cheer you up?” I asked slowly and hopelessly, because there was probably nothing that would ever lift Suzie out of her funk other then Zoey returning.

    I finally got a few words out of her. In response to my question, this is what she said. “Maybe if the world ended.” said her depressed and muffled voice from behind her legs. She’d tucked the bottom half of her face behind her knees.

    It was hopeless, and I was probably just making it worse, but I kept going. “Suzie…” she moaned. “It isn’t like she’s… dead.” Suzie whimpered. I should’ve stopped there, I know, but I kept going. “There’s still hope.” I said, despite the fact that there really was no hope.

    Suzie instantly jumped out of her crouched position, startling me so much that I jumped, too. “And even if she IS still alive, she’s probably INCHES AWAY FROM DEATH!” Suzie shrieked. “There’s NO hope anymore. Life is HOPELESS. I should’ve been the one to get lost and die.”

    “She’s not dead…” I whimpered, sort of afraid of Suzie, attempting to calm her down. “She can’t be…”

    “Can’t you see how HOPELESS life is, now? We should all just get lost in die! There’s no point in participating in this nonsense anymore!” She shouted in anger and sadness. “And there’s no hope of us making it back to Briarwood, either!”

    “Suzie—” I tried to say something to comfort her.

    She interrupted me and threw off her sunglasses, revealing pink eyes (Not the pink eye that’s a virus) that were sparkling with teardrops- pink eyes that I’d never seen in my LIFE. Suzie had never taken off her sunglasses. This was the first time, ever. Her pink eyes glistened with sadness, and her eyes pierced me with depressing glare. “How can you not see how horrible it is?” she whimpered in sadness and anger.

    “Suzie, I know it’s bad, but—”

    “Oh, yeah, and it’s not like Zoey meant everything to YOU in YOUR pathetic life.”

    “Suzie, I—”

    “Do you WANT to know why I can’t TAKE this?” Suzie cried, and all I wanted to do at that moment was comfort her. But as she spoke, I began to see a flashback in her eyes, as if she was uncovering a horrible memory that lay within her mind. “I’ll tell you! I’LL TELL YOU WHY THIS IS SO HORRIBLE!”

    Before I could say anything, Suzie began.

    “I was only 5 years old.” She began, tearing up. “My parents had been training and training to achieve their dream: a task from Darkthorne. At last, after years of training, they finally received their letter. My parents dropped me off at Zoey’s house, and her parents agreed to take care of me until they returned. My parents left for Briarheart Palace just after nightfall. Being the curious and innocent little 5 year old that I was, I snuck out of Zoey’s house and began to follow my parents. But they’d already made it all the way to Tanglewood Fort, and I was back in Bristlewood. So I went back into Zoey’s house and found a REALLY long rope. I went back outside and started to head toward Thistlerow. I flew over the maze, and stopped just before the path that led out of Briarwood. I flew upwards, looking back and waiting patiently for the ship that would take my parents to the rest of the Sacred Grove. Yes, being the curious little 5 year old that I was, I didn’t know how dangerous the outside Realms were, and I really wanted to see where my parents were going without me. As soon as the ship flew off from Briarheart Palace, I took the rope and swung it. As the ship passed over me, I lassoed it in a tight grip of rope. I held on tight to the rope as I hung on for the ride, speeding away from my Briarwood home at a tremendous speed. The ship left Briarwood behind, and in less than a few minutes, I, as just a little kid, was speeding through the night, passing over dozens of eerie looking trees and dangerous-looking areas, holding onto the rope for dear life. I passed a place which I was pretty sure was Sanctuary. It looked completely dead, with dead grass, no water, and a huge dead, lightning-struck broken tree in the center. As soon as I saw this place, I began to feel a bit unsteady. I quickly sped away from Sanctuary as the ship continued moving westward. The ground seemed to be miles below me, and I was only a tinge afraid, because after all, I did have wings. After a lot of flying, the ship pulled me around a few mountains and through a pass that led in between two mountains. When I got to the other side, it was almost all pitch black, except for a distant purple glow ahead of me. The ship landed next to the dark silhouette of a tree, which looked almost like a monster in the darkness. I shivered, whether from fear or cold, I did not know. I hid behind a rock as my parents got out of the ship. Their friendly faces calmed me down, and I knew that with them around, I’d be safe; even if they weren’t aware I was present.

    “My parents fluttered around the area and started to move toward the faint purple glow. I followed them quietly, hopping from rock to rock, hiding. A few times I thought I heard something suspicious, but it was probably just my parents. Once we finally got closer to the purple light, I realized what it was. The purple glow had been a huge, gigantic vortex of purple and black. It was the Everainbow, which was more commonly known these days as a huge, menacing vortex. We were in Merry Vale, and I suddenly knew that all the tales I’d heard were true, and that the Realms truly were dangerous.

    “I knew my parents were tough, and I thought there was no way they’d ever get pulled into THAT thing. I assumed they were in Merry Vale to do some investigating, to see what was going on, and report back to The Queen with their information. It had always been my parent’s dream to receive a task. I followed them along the perimeter of the Everainbow ruins as they snuck through the area in the night. A streak of dim purple light came from the vortex and began to encircle my parents, as if the vortex had an arm and was reaching out to pull my parents in. My heart skipped a few beats as this happened. As the streak of light began to pull my parents closer to the vortex, they used their weapons and struck the light until it disappeared, and then they ran away until they were just out of reach of the vortex. I caught my breath, relieved that my parents had made it. For a moment there, I thought they were goners.

    “I followed my parents back the way we came as they began to go back toward the ship. Again, I thought I heard something, like a rustling in the bushes, but when I turned around, I saw nothing. I thought I saw a tiny red glow, a light of some sort, but at the moment I had seen it, it disappeared. I assumed it was my imagination. I wish I hadn’t. As my parents got closer to the ship, I heard another sound, and another, and another. I stopped dead in my tracks, and so did my parents. I looked around, and so did they, but I didn’t see anything. Then, out of nowhere, they came. An entire swarm of fairies, with piercing red eyes, foaming mouths full of crooked, pointing teeth, and dark robes covering most of their bodies! They emerged quickly out of the darkness and swarmed my parents. I held my breath.

    “The fairies began to use dark magic and the power of their entire swarm to force my parents toward the vortex. My parents slowly got closer… and closer… and closer…” Suzie paused, her eyes tearing up. Then, she continued. “They pushed my parents into the drained-out moat around the small island that housed the vortex. They then threw my parents onto the island and the fairies instantly disappeared from sight. I wanted to help them desperately, oh so desperately, but they were already too close to the vortex…

    “The vortex pulled them in, many dim, smoking beams of light encircling them and pulling them into the vortex. My parents tried and tried hopelessly to escape the grip of the vortex, but it was no use… they had come in to close…” Suzie paused and wiped away her tears. I wanted desperately to comfort her, but her story was depressing me even further. She continued, her eyes tearing up. “They were pulled up and off of the ground, and sucked at a seemingly slow pace into the vortex… and as they were sucked in… I saw their bodies begin to change… their skin slowly became wrinkled and pale… their eyes became cold and empty… their hair began to fall out… they were transforming into zombies… tears poured out of my eyes, but I forced myself to remain silent… for the sake of my own life…

    “Before I could see them become zombified even further… their mutated bodies disappeared into the raging vortex, which, as soon as they were gone, became just a little bit calmer…” Suzie paused again. Before I could say or thing anything else, she continued once again. “My eyes were tearing up, and I began to cry silently… I jumped out of my hiding place and flew away from the vortex as fast as my little 5-year-old wings could carry me. My parents were gone. GONE. Forever. And ever. And ever. AND EVER. It was a horrible experience, especially only at the age of 5… to just see your parents disappear like that…

    “Believe it or not…. I FLEW… All the way from Merry Vale back to Briarwood. I cried the whole way there, and made it back JUST BY FLYING within an hour… as soon as I got back, I flew as fast as I could back to Zoey’s house… and once I got there, I found Zoey there… little 5 year old Zoey… sitting in the front yard, crying… when she saw me, she ran over and hugged me. She called out for her parents, and they returned back with dozens of chugawug soldiers. They thought I’d been lost, and had been searching for me all night. I told them everything that happened. How I’d decided to follow my parents… how they had been mutated into zombies… EVERYTHING. And I cried the ENTIRE WAY THROUGH, just like I am now! I should’ve been in trouble for sneaking away, but because of what happened, I was comforted by Zoey and her parents… the parents she still had… which depressed me EVEN FURTHER. Zoey and her family offered to take me under their wing, and so they did, and we’d been living in her house together ever since…”

    Suzie paused again, and it seemed like her sadness was going to engulf her in tears again. But the teardrops in her eyes continued to glisten in the firelight as she continued. “And now… and now Zoey is gone. She was my best friend… my sister… and now she’s gone, too. You’ve never lost anyone before. YOU have never lost any of your parents, or family members. Zoey WAS my sister. She was my support… my best friend… forever… and now SHE’S GONE. Forever. I’ve lost practically ALL of my family. After I lost my parents, I began to learn to fend for myself… but I never prepared myself for something like this… I… I just can’t take it…”

    Suzie came to a stop and fell to the ground, sobbing. I had never seen her like this. Suzie, the strong-willed, strong, threatening, tough, nearly unbreakable pixie… had been broken. I wanted to comfort her, to tell her that somehow it would be alright, but her story had engulfed me in hopelessness and depression. There just seemed to be no way that Suzie would ever be happy again.

    Suzie sobbed and spoke again. “Tell me if YOU’VE ever lost your family! YOU WOULDN’T KNOW HOW MUCH IT HURTS, WOULD YOU?!”

    After a few seconds of silence, I spoke. “I’ve never known my father.”

    Suzie stared at me with cold, piercing, bloodshot, and tearing eyes that sparkled in sad and anger. She turned her back on us, grabbed her sunglasses off the forest floor, and zipped into her tent without another word.

    After a few minutes of silence, I spoke again. “We should get some rest, too.” I moaned sadly.

    Bryan and I got up and headed toward our tent. We could both hear Suzie crying and sobbing as we got underneath the covers.

    ***

    I didn’t get any sleep that night. I lied awake in the sleeping bag, staring at the top of the tent, thinking about how Zoey was gone, how Suzie would never be happy again, and how all of our lives were slowly falling apart. Suzie had stopped crying at some point, and I assumed that her eyes had either run out of tears, or she just ended up falling asleep. It might’ve been both.

    The night was silent. I heard not a sound. Not a cricket. Not the rustling of a raccoon in the bushes. All that I heard was a ringing in my ears, caused by an eerie silence. An eerie, unnatural silence. What was wrong with this forest?

    I heard a sound.

    A faint rustling noise, and it wasn’t a sleeping Bryan tossing and turning. It had come from outside the tent. I tensed up, and so did Bryan. He turned over, sat up, and looked around.

    “Did you hear that to…?” I whispered.

    The firelight had mostly died down, and I could barely see Bryan, but I’m pretty sure he saw me nod my head yes. We poked our heads out of the tent and looked around, and saw Suzie stick her head out too. Her eyes were read and puffy from hours of crying. She spoke in a tense voice. “What was that?”

    I heard a rustling again. We all got out of our tents and looked around. I felt around in my pocket for my Shadowblade 2,000—it was there. I zipped back into the tent and grabbed the package from the corner where I’d placed it so safely, just in case there was a danger out there, and we had to make a run for it. I got back out and rejoined the others, who were standing up now. I stood up with them and looked around through the vastness of the dark forest. I didn’t see anything, but then… I spotted two dim eyes, staring at me from out of the darkness, the eyes reflecting the dim remaining firelight. Then I spotted another set of eyes, and another. Before I knew it, there were dozens of eyes surrounding our camp. Many dark figures emerged out of the darkness. Once I could just barely see them, I could make them out. At first they looked like plump, out of shape people covered in dead leaves. But no. They were florens… corrupted florens. And they had a few snake friends, too. Now I knew where we were.

    We were in the Pixie Nursery forest, also known as the Floren Forest, a forest full of corrupted florens, snakes, and other dangers.

    And we were completely surrounded by MUCH too many of those unfriendly creatures.


    ~ Chapter Sixteen: Forest of
    Nightmares ~

    Me and my friends exchanged terrified looks. The Florens and they snakes inched closer, closing in on us. I did what any sane person would do.

    Screamed, “RUN!!!”

    I ran through the largest open space between Florens and out of the circle! I looked back and saw my friends AND the Florens following us through the dark forest. As we ran, I heard hoots, howls, and other unfriendly noises in the distance. What happened to the complete and utter silence? I checked my hands and made sure; YES, the package was still there! Me and my friends wound our way through the labyrinth of shadowing trees, the corrupted florens not falling too far behind.

    I jumped over a mellow brook of smelly water and continued to run, occasionally looking back to make sure my friends were still following. This was MUCH too much excitement after such a loss had hit us. I’d nearly forgotten that Zoey was gone, but every time I looked back at my friends, I counted two, and I almost thought we had lost Zoey, but then I remembered that she’d already been lost, and that threw me off even further. I kept running and running, twisting through the ever-going maze of thorns, vines, trees, branches, sticks, and everything. After a lot of running I realized I’d forgotten to look back for my friends. When I turned around, that’s when I realized they were gone—

    THEY WERE GONE!

    I tripped over a large root and fell into a small stream of toxic-smelling water. I sat up, covered in mud, and looked around. There wasn’t a soul in sight. I’d lost the florens, but I’d ALSO lost my friends. No, that’s just not right! They couldn’t lose Zoey AND me! That would just be too much! I wasn’t sure how long ago I’d lost them, but it was long enough that once again I couldn’t hear a sound. I wondered if they were okay? Had they gotten lost too? Were they still being chased? Did they take on the florens, though outnumbered? Did they find a place to hide? Did they just get separated from each other AND the florens? I realized I’d lost them both, AND Zoey. Now I’d lost everyone.

    Including myself.

    Seriously… I had no idea where I was. I could be so close to danger, or so far away from help, or both, except I hadn’t a CLUE where I came from! After I tripped I lost my sense of direction, and now I didn’t know where I came from or where to go.

    I remembered to check and see; I still had the package. The package for Darkthorne. Containing some weird gadget that’s use is a mystery to me. How was I ever going to get back to Briarwood now? What was the point of even keeping the gadget? It was no use to me anyhow.

    Still, I didn’t want to give up hope, so I kept the gadget. I felt around in my pocket and found my Shadowblade 2,000. I pressed the button and the blade slipped out of the slot. At the ready, I continued walking through the forest at a slow and steady pace. I was out of breath from all the running. I was hungry and thirsty, but we’d left everything behind at camp. And I didn’t know where camp was!

    Then I realized: I had no drink, no food, no friends, and nothing but my smelly, filthy clothes, my trusty Shadowblade, and the sole package containing a gadget that I had to deliver to a place that was probably thousands of miles away from me.

    I had no chance of surviving.

    There I had it, I was going to die within a few hours and never live to see daylight again. Giving up all hope, I sat down on the forest floor and leaned my back against a tree, relaxing…

    There was no hope of going on now, so I thought I might as well enjoy the last few hours of my life. Yes. Relax, I thought to myself. Let out all the stress. Nothing matters anymore.

    These thoughts echoed through my head as I fell into a daze. I wasn’t sure if they were helping me relax, helping me tense up, or leading me quicker towards my death. Nothing matters anymore, nothing matters anymore, nothing matters anymore…

    ***

    I woke up in a daze, looking around at myself and the environment around me… I was on an island. A tiny island of sand with a single palm tree with three coconuts, in the middle of a vast blue ocean. The sky was red, blue, and purple, as the sun set over the horizon. Swirls of clouds with beautiful colors moved slowly through the sky above my head.

    I didn’t know where I was.

    I didn’t care where I was.

    I wanted to enjoy where I was, because, since I was on this abandoned island with a beautiful view, I thought I might as well enjoy it because my life would not be lasting very much longer.

    That’s right, I’d given up all hopes.

    Because nothing matters anymore.

    I’d let go of everything and everyone that tied me to this life.

    Nothing matters anymore.

    Nothing matters anymore.

    NOTHING MATTERS ANYMORE.

    I closed my eyes and leaned against the palm tree as the sound of the ocean pleased my ears. My clothes were dirty and smelly, but that did not matter to me. I was bruised and scabbed, but that did not matter to me.

    All that mattered was that I enjoyed the last few hours of my life.

    As the minutes went on, the sea grew louder and louder. The sound of the waves began to sound rougher. I opened my eyes and saw that the ocean’s waves were becoming unsteady and angry. The skies grew dark and overcast. I heard a boom of thunder in the distance. I stood up and felt around my pockets for my Shadowblade 2,000—it wasn’t there. I looked around for the package; it wasn’t here, either. But that part didn’t matter as much.

    I heard a voice. A faint whisper, indistinguishable to my sense of hearing. Then, it slowly got a tiny bit louder… and a little more, and a little more…

    Then, it sounded like someone was speaking right next to me. The voice of Zoey.

    “You never came for me.” She hissed. It was a scary, unnatural voice, but it was her voice.

    I heard some noises to the right of me, and I turned and saw a figure walk out of the water… it was ZOEY. A sad, colorless, heartless looking version of Zoey.

    “You gave up… you gave up on your life, and all your friends. Including ME.” She hissed. “I will never forgive you.”

    I was suddenly hit with the feeling of guilt. What had I done? Wait, I heard another whisper…

    “You let us die.”

    To my left, another figure walked out of the water—Bryan. Again, he was another colorless, sad, and heartless. He walked up to me and stared at me with cold piercing eyes.

    “We lost you, and you lost us… but we thought you’d find us. We thought you would do something. We did. We searched and searched for you.” Hissed the cold, colorless version of Bryan. “But we were wrong.”

    The skies darkened further, and the current became more violent. Thunder rumbled loudly overhead, as another last figure rose from the ocean… it was SUZIE. A cold, colorless, heartless version of her, staring at me with a set of cold, piercing eyes.

    “I lost my entire family.” She hissed. Her wings were broken and wet, hanging down ever so sadly. “I gave up on the world and you were the only thing I was holding onto. But you went and decided to die too. YOU BETRAYED US. You are no friend of ours. We will never forgive you, Kelvin. It is all YOUR FAULT. We will NEVER FORGIVE YOU!”

    The three, colorless, heartless, sad, cold versions of my friends stared at me, piercing through my mind and causing endless amounts of guilt. The words echoed through my head as I fell into a daze.

    We will never forgive you.

    Never forgive you.

    Never forgive you.

    NEVER FORGIVE YOU! ...

    ***

    I woke up with a start. I looked around… it was a dark forest. I was holding the package tightly in one hand, and the Shadowblade 2,000 in the other. I could barely move. My mouth was dry, and my head was confused. I managed to sit myself up. I looked around.

    Finally, it hit me: it was only a dream. No, not a dream, a NIGHTMARE. A horrible, incredibly scary nightmare! My slowly dwindling dreamland achieved its purpose: to cause me not to give up on my life, to not give up hope, and to start searching for my friends… to SAVE THEM. We had to reunite. I managed to stand up. I probably hadn’t drank or eaten anything for hours. I regained my sense of self and began to walk around.

    How was I going to find them?

    I heard a distant scream… a loud, terrified shriek.

    I decided to go that way and follow the scream.

    Making my way through twisted trunks and vines covered in thorns, I headed towards where I thought I thought I heard the sound. I heard the scream again, louder this time—it was closer. I was getting closer. Finally, I found a clearing, filled with Florens and snakes… and cornered by the creatures was none other than Bryan. He screamed a loud, girlish scream again and I stifled a little laugh. I hid behind a tree and tried to decide what to do.

    They were going to do something to him any second. I had to think fast. I heard him scream once more—my best friend, in danger, his life in peril…

    Without thinking, I climbed up the tree I was hiding behind, climbed up a branch, and jumped down and onto the head of a corrupted floren. It caught the floren by surprise and knocked him out. There was a slight confusion in the crowd of corrupted florens, just enough a distraction for me to swing out my Shadowblade 2,000 and whip their sorry behinds, because I HAD TO SAVE BRYAN! I WOULD NOT LOSE HIM TO A COUPLE OF STUPID CORRUPTED FLORENS!!!

    I looked at the florens with hatred and swung my blade, eventually knocking every one of the florens out.

    I looked around at the florens. They were all out cold. I turned and looked at Bryan, who was staring at me in awe.

    “How… how did you do that?” he asked me.

    “Bryan, you’re okay!” I cried.

    “Yeah, but seriously, how the heck did you do that?!”

    “Uhh… I used this sword?” I held up my Shadowblade 2,000.

    “Cool.”

    “What happened to your weapon?” I asked.

    “I think I left it back at camp.” Brian looked around. “Thanks for saving me man… that was scary.” He paused. “…Where’s Suzie?”

    “I don’t know, I kinda thought you were Suzie when I came towards the screaming.” I said.

    “Why would you think I was Suzie?”

    I tried to stifle a laugh, but I still let out a small giggle. “You were screaming like a girl, dude.”

    Bryan responded with an embarrassed, “No I was not!”

    “Yeah, you were.” I laughed. “Now, let’s just put that behind us… we need to find Suzie.”

    “And… where are we exactly?” Bryan asked.

    “Yeah… that’s the problem.” I sighed.

    We looked around. It had gotten a little bit brighter after awhile. It was still a dark forest, but we could see where we were going and everything. We both exchanged looks, and neither of us had come up with any ideas. Then, I heard a soft, trembling voice…

    “Thank you.”

    I jumped and looked around for where it came from. Bryan had heard it too, as his head was darting around in search of the voice, too. I heard it again.

    “Thank you.”

    I looked downward, and saw… a floren’s eyes were open. Its mouth moved slowly.

    “Thank you for saving us.”

    Brian and I exchanged looks. “Saving you?” he asked.

    “Yeees….” The floren said. He turned himself over and pushed himself up on the ground, and looked at us. “We were… corrupted… we were being controlled by something. You woke us up…”

    “…You’re welcome?” I said, kind of confused.

    The other florens I had knocked out began to grunt and get to their feet. They all thanked us. The first one spoke again.

    “Long ago, a traveler came to our forest… they had this look about them, it made us uncomfortable, but we let him pass…” the floren said. “…That was a mistake. He placed an artifact in our forest, corrupting it, and us… the only thing protecting the rest of the wilds was a strong sense of magic. But it seems, after the fall of the great tree, the bound magic vanished, and this corruption has spread throughout most of the northwestern wilds. We thank you very much for saving us from the corruption.”

    It took a moment for that to sink in. “Oh. You’re welcome!” I said. “Glad we could help…”

    “If theeerrreee’s anything we can do for yooouuu….” The floren continued, his voice sounding quite elderly. “Do not hesitate to ask.” He gave a warm, leafy smile that made me feel a little warmer on the inside.

    I thought for a moment. Then it hit me. “Yeah… we could use your help. You haven’t happened to have seen… I don’t know… a pixie, with a black outfit, and pink hair, and sunglasses maybe… have you?” I asked.

    The floren thought for a moment. Though the forest was dark, these once again pure florens seemed to give off a sense of light. Finally, he spoke.

    “Yeesss…” he said softly. “Our master recently caught a pixie girl that looks as how you described… he ordered us to scout the forest and see if there were any other travelers… we found a camp, and then, we found your friend here…”

    “My name is Bryan.” Bryan said.

    “And I’m Kelvin.” I said. “So, this pixie… her name is Suzie. Where is she?”

    “Ohh… I think I may remember… follow me.” The old floren said. I was starting to suspect he was really old, by the sound of his voice and the way he seemed to limp.

    We followed the old floren through the twisting vines and the shadowing trees and the… well, everything else scary about this forest. After a long period of walking, Bryan moaned.

    “Hooow… muuuchh… further…!” he groaned.

    “Don’t worry, young traveler.” The old floren said. “We are aalllmoooosstt there.”

    The old floren began to walk over an old, rickety wooden bridge with bubbling, off-color water beneath it.

    “Are you sure that’s safe?” I asked nervously before stepping onto it.

    “Yes, they are just over here, come, follow me!” the floren said.

    We followed him over the rickety bridge. I kept expecting the bridge to give in as we crossed it, but apparently that was too predictable for where our story was going. We made it to the other side of the bridge, and after going through even more of the dark forest, we finally stopped at a large clearing.

    The trees stopped and formed a large clearing between the forest and some tall mountains. I looked up at the mountains and saw a dark, overcast sky—unfortunately we weren’t greeted by any daylight. I looked back down and took in the sight.

    I saw a large cauldron of a bubbling, smoking liquid sitting on some firewood. I looked around and saw a large tiki head with an animated face… its eyes were looking upwards as its sly expression turned into an evil grin. Okay, that really kinda freaked me out. Was this creepy looking live tiki head that artifact that the floren was talking about? Well, whatever it was… it was creepy. We hid behind a tree and looked back upwards, to where the living tiki head’s eyes were pointing.

    There, I saw a large branch with a rope around it. The rope and the branch were acting like a pulley. There were some corrupted florens on the ground slowly lowering the pulley by letting the rope go more. I looked to see what was on the other end of the rope… and my heart skipped a beat.

    It was Suzie. Trapped in a cage, her arms and legs tied up, and her mouth held shut by a scarf. Her cage was hanging over the HUGE cauldron of smoking, bubbling liquid, which was about 5 times the size of her cage, which was slowly lowering!

    “I like to keep my victims in suspense.” The tiki head’s menacing voice boomed. “It tortures them even further mentally, and provides some entertainments I don’t usually get to see around these parts… but every once and awhile when some fool dares to enter my forest, I am rewarded with such a pleasure as the one you are experiencing right now. Mwahahaha!!!!”

    Suzie was about to have her body eaten up by… whatever… that… stuff… was. I think it was some sort of acid. But I didn't want to stand around wondering. We had to do something before we lost Suzie, too!

    ~ Chapter Seventeen: Tiki Totem Trouble ~
    ​Sorry, there are no current plans to write this chapter.

  2. #2
    Kayopuro's Avatar
    Kayopuro is offline Master Gamer
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    Default Re: Free Realms: Vision of the Future

    I thought this page would be of ideas for Free Realms. Well, anyways, even though I only read chapter 1 since i'm so lazy, it's very good so far! I'll read the rest later, lol. I do have a question.... how is your great, great, great, great, great, grandfather alive? o_o
    Last edited by Kayopuro; 10-03-2012 at 07:36 PM.

    This ends on a good note.

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  3. #3
    KitanaEdenia's Avatar
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    Default Re: Free Realms: Vision of the Future

    I will read this! It's such a long post...(My eyes will BURN!) but oh well ! I love the intro, that's what I read so far, and I'm looking forward to reading more!


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  4. #4
    KitanaEdenia's Avatar
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    Default Re: Free Realms: Vision of the Future

    Quote Originally Posted by Kayopuro View Post
    I thought this page would be of ideas for Free Realms. Well, anyways, even though I only read chapter 1 since i'm so lazy, it's very good so far! I'll read the rest later, lol. I do have a question.... how is your great, great, great, great, great, grandfather alive? o_o
    No, I think he's sending it to him from the future! o_o


    Code: Breaker is awesome.
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Free Realms: Vision of the Future

    Oh wow, I remember when you first started writing this, and asked me to read it. I was scared of the giant wall of text, and I still am! Heh, nice work Kelvin!
    KitanaEdenia likes this.
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  6. #6
    KitanaEdenia's Avatar
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    Default Re: Free Realms: Vision of the Future

    Kelvin, you could write a novel with a post this large, lol.


    Code: Breaker is awesome.
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Free Realms: Vision of the Future

    Quote Originally Posted by KitanaEdenia View Post
    No, I think he's sending it to him from the future! o_o
    Yes, exactly. That's why it says "Inter-Tiem Message".

    Quote Originally Posted by TheFlyingTurtle View Post
    Oh wow, I remember when you first started writing this, and asked me to read it. I was scared of the giant wall of text, and I still am! Heh, nice work Kelvin!
    I take that as a, there's so many words you still haven't read it? Just think of it as reading a book! Unless you can't read books because all the words scare you...

    Quote Originally Posted by KitanaEdenia View Post
    Kelvin, you could write a novel with a post this large, lol.
    It is a novel. Well, fanfiction, but a novel, yes.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Free Realms: Vision of the Future

    This is amazing I love the original idea
    http://i45.tinypic.com/21lkd2f.gif
    Signature and Avatar made by Jenna(:




  9. #9
    newmexicofan is offline Newbie Explorer
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    Default Re: Free Realms: Vision of the Future

    I love it! You are very talented. Please post more!!!

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    Default Re: Free Realms: Vision of the Future

    Kelvin you have won a new FRI Title: Character Limit Hacker.

    ANYWAY amazing job!


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