King Kornelius had been travelling for a while. It was bitterly cold up in the heavens and his water wagon was slowly turning to crystallised ice as was expected. He would soon be reaching Cloud Headquarters. The clouds looked like they were busy at work. It was always a pleasant sight to see the millions of newly created water droplets being hurled from the sky. He would have to remember to stop by the Droplet Factory for a quick inspection. He loved to watch a droplet in the making and see it finally ready to start its journey through the land. They passed by the site of the Monitor and he turned to one of his companions.
“We will need to stop by this site on our way back after my meeting with Cloud Bearer,” said the king solemnly.
“Of course, Your Majesty.”
“Has there been any news?”
“We have been keeping a close eye and the latest report from the Monitor is that he is still on the loose,” said the king’s companion.
The King gave a nod with his head and returned to his thoughts. It had been five years since his wife had died. It had been agonising to watch Petuna grow without a mother. It was all coming back to him now. The uprising that had occurred, the escape of Glacier and the avalanche that resulted in the queen’s death. He had vowed to find Glacier no matter how long it took him and to publicly banish him from the land. He was a traitor and a murderer in the king’s eyes. There was no question about it.
Glacier had been a trusted ally to the king and his companions. But something must have happened to turn him against the king in such a way. Many doctors told the king that it was an illness that Glacier had contracted. They spoke of Storm Blazer’s plot to feed Glacier samples of frenzied water droplets over a prolonged period of time. The frenzied droplets were then trapped in the ice crystals that made up Glacier and the result was a latent disease that could not be easily detected. Storm Blazer had the cure. The only way that Glacier could survive was to obey Storm Blazer. The king had heard this theory many times from his advisors as well but he was sceptical.
The king had his own theory. Glacier had become greedy. It was true that he was influenced by Storm Blazer. It was true that perhaps he had one too many a water droplet gone bad. But they could never explain the avalanche that occurred. Only the king knew the truth behind it. It was a phenomenon that only had one justification. Someone had attempted to steal the Amber Crystal from the Crystal Well which in turn triggered the avalanche.
The king had been holidaying nearby at the time and whereas he had managed to save Petuna, it had been too late for his queen. No amount of magic could have saved her from being eaten up by the vicious avalanche. Shortly after the incident, Glacier had disappeared and the king’s army had searched the land for months to no avail. That was when a special unit was set up at the Monitor. Its job was to search and arrest Glacier.
“Your Majesty, we shall be arriving shortly. Shall I send a messenger ahead of us to announce your arrival?” said one of the king’s companions, jerking him out of his thoughts.
“Yes, very well. Prepare to land and I must see Cloud Bearer as soon as we do,” said the king.
Meanwhile at Cloud Headquarters
Cloud Bearer had been meeting with his advisors for hours. They were in deep discussion. One of them was explaining his theory of the invasion.
“There must have been a gap or a hole somewhere in the cloud network. That’s the only plausible way for them to have come through.”
“Don’t be absurd, Cumulus, the network has been scanned several times now for security breaches. It’s clean,” said Cloud Security.
“You can say that a hundred times but I would say that you’re biased. Let one of us check it. We’re the ones who are down in the cloud field day in, day out. We know about the flaws that happen every so often!” replied Cumulus.
“Nonsense!” cried Cloud Security, “I personally guarantee that our security system is the best this land has ever had…”
“Yeah sure the best this land has ever had, you say, explain the intrusion then. Go on explain it.”
The clouds grew silent as they fumbled to find an explanation. Cloud Bearer watched them closely.
“Arguing will get us nowhere my fellow clouds,” said Cloud Bearer, “We do need to find out how this intrusion happened so that we can foresee anything like this happening again in the future. There is no need to cast accusations at this stage.” Cloud Bearer flicked a look at Cumulus. “We do need to take responsibility for our actions,” Cloud Bearer continued as he looked at Cloud Security, “now we need to focus. The time for theories has passed. I need answers. The king is expected any moment now and I will need to have concrete evidence to back up my claims.”
“Here are the reports that show the damage that occurred within the river’s internal harmony. We monitored the synchronisation of the water droplets in the river and detected an irregular pattern over the space of a week,” said River Check.
River Check had been called upon out of the blue to provide a report on the Flowing River’s patterns for the past week. No one had offered any reason until yesterday. He was then summoned without notice to the Cloud Headquarters. Although he felt totally out of the place, after all he was a different water form altogether, they had made him feel welcome and important. River Check had been worried that he would solidify and die having to be transported from the land below where temperatures are warm and comfortable. But he was assured that he would be safe. They had injected him with a special serum that would stop his water droplets from being exposed to the cold in the heavens. He found it amazing that he had maintained his water form at this altitude. As he sat in the committee listening to the theories that the clouds had thrown on the table, he slowly realised that this was a serious matter that was being displayed before him. He resolved to do everything in his power to help.
Cloud Bearer and the other clouds on the committee examined the reports closely. Silence filled the room for what seemed like the longest time for River Check.
Cloud Bearer looked up, “Has the data in these reports been verified?”
“Yes we make it a habit to make sure that important information such as this is not relied upon until at least three separate data readings are made.” River Check continued to explain the process that they used at every segment of the river. He had diagrams and charts to show the changes in the flow of the river. He felt proud of his work and wanted to be up to the responsibility that was being placed on his shoulders. River Check walked about the room slowly so that he was in full view of the committee and continued to explain the normality of fluctuations in certain parts of the river which they had been monitoring. But the patterns had changed overnight a week ago. He explained how they had immediately started observing the changes and recording the way that the water droplets had acted irrationally.
“What do you mean by irrationally, River Check?” interrupted Cloud Bearer.
“We initially thought that it was a set of droplets that had gone bad, perhaps through disease. So we took samples and tested them but found that they did not respond to the usual treatment that we gave them.”
“Do you mean perhaps,” Cloud Bearer chose his words carefully, “that there was a water-wrestler disguised in the river?”
“Well, yes,” River Check coughed nervously, “That was our initial thought. But we soon realised that the situation was much more complicated.” River Check shuffled back to his seat and sat down. He took a deep breath and said, “The tests that the water droplets went through indicated that they were in shock.”
Murmurs spread amongst the clouds in the room. Cloud Bearer raised his hand indicating silence and the clouds turned their attention once again to River Check. Cloud Bearer nodded in silence, “What is the situation at the moment?”
“The droplets are undergoing therapy and the doctors are working around the clock trying to understand this unprecedented phenomenon. It is still far too early but we are hoping that progress will be made soon.”
The door to the room opened and a cloud sailed in. He leant over and whispered in Cloud Bearer’s ear before sailing out of the room again.
“I’m afraid we’re going to have to cut this meeting short. King Kornelius has just arrived. We will continue this at a later stage. Thank you for your input.” Cloud Bearer turned towards River Check, “Stay close by and don’t wander anywhere tonight. I might need you.”
River Check nodded, “Of course, I’ll help in any way I can.”
“You already have,” Cloud Bearer smiled at him and placed his hand on his shoulder.
Cloud Bearer stood at the platform watching the king’s procession advance towards him. His mind raced as to how to break the news to the king who was still trying to recover from his wife’s death. He knew that the king had not been the same since the incident and had set out on a personal vendetta to find Glacier and his associates. Nevertheless, the king needed to be brought up to speed on what was happening.
“Your Majesty, welcome to the heavens,” Cloud Bearer bowed to the king as he stepped off his wagon and on to the platform.
“I say, let us get inside it’s quite chilly out here,” said the king, clearly not used to the icy conditions. “Come. We must speak at once.”
Moments later the king was standing with Cloud Bearer in the royal quarters. The king stood in the enclosed veranda looking out over his land below. The view was breathtaking. He turned towards Cloud Bearer, “I heard about your extended meetings with the committee. Something must be wrong. What is it?”
“Your Majesty,” Cloud Bearer started, “a grave matter has to be brought to your attention. None of us have rested since we discovered it. Our doctors and researchers have been busy at work for over a week now.”
“Your Majesty, there has been an intrusion.”
The king flung himself around, his eyes wide with surprise. Cloud Bearer continued, “I have alerted Cloud Intelligence who has been feeding me with accurate reports.”
“Where has it happened? And more importantly who is behind this?”
“We don’t know who they are but they have created all sorts of chaos in the Flowing River. It seems that they came through the river and have now settled on land. It all happened a week ago,” Cloud Bearer paused momentarily, fidgeting with his hands, “but there is an indication that this has happened before in the past. We didn’t notice it before because the agitation in the river was mild. But this time, the disruption has altered the river’s flowing pattern in a most noticeable manner.”
Cloud Bearer paused for the king’s reaction but the king motioned for him to continue.
“Cloud Intelligence has been monitoring these intruders and they seem to have taken refuge in the Dark Forest.”
“We need to find out who these intruders are and which lands they have come from.”
“Your Majesty,” Cloud Bearer struggled to break the news, “it seems that the intrusion happened in such a way that it was not something from this land or any other land that is known to us.”
The king brought his head up, his eyebrow raised in surprise, “Are you telling me that we have an alien invasion? That’s absolutely absurd!”
“I have these reports,” Cloud Bearer dug into the papers that River Check had given him. “They show that the water droplets in that section of the river have gone into shock. There’s only one explanation for this – that they witnessed something that was too much to bear. They must have been exposed to something out of this world.”
The king scanned over the reports, his eyebrows deeply furrowed and was about to question the validity of the information when the door to the quarters flung open. A tiny cloud burst into the room in a flurry. He quickly kneeled before the king and greeted Cloud Bearer.
“Your Majesty. Cloud Bearer. I’m awfully sorry but.. but..” the cloud stuttered nervously.
“What is it cloud!” roared the king.
“Your Majesty, Princess Petuna has been captured!” cried the cloud, tears running and freezing down his face.
Cloud Bearer ran towards the cloud grabbing him by the shoulder until he was as tall as him. “What?! Who has captured her?”
“Cl..cloud B..bearer, the intruders, the intruders did. I saw it with my own eyes and couldn’t wait. I had to come and tell you myself,” the cloud cried, his fluff shivering with grief and fear.
“Fetch me Cloud Intelligence! Immediately!” shouted the king, “and find those fairies.”