Amber groaned groggily as she felt herself wake up woozily, her body all stiff and rigid, and tried to open her eyelids. They protested irritably, making themselves as heavy as possible so her body could continue to sleep peacefully. Her whole body, as small as it is, felt as heavy as lead and Amber’s brain screamed to just go to sleep and let all her worries just fly away. Amber couldn’t remember much about what happened to her and why she was like this. She felt unbelievably hot, her blood was boiling and melting her bones, disintegrating her entire being into one gooey messy puddle. Amber blocked out the pain, her trained instincts telling her to open her eyes, sit up and examine her surroundings. She was supposed to be a top-trained assassin, trained by the best of the best given that in mind, she mustn’t ever let her guard down. Finally, Amber’s eyes creaked open and she winced when she saw light. It felt painful, nearly too painful, to see so much light after being encased in so much darkness for so long. With a pained groan, Amber tried moving her body and only succeeded in rolling her aching shoulders slightly. She gasped as she felt a cold hand against her sweating forehead and her eyes opened wide, her hand reaching out and snatching the wrist to which the hand was attached to. Her reflexes were slow so she assumed that it wasn’t much of a threat if the hand hadn’t retracted.
‘Hey, ssh…’ a soft voice reached her ears as her vision blackened after the initial brief and short burst of instinctual energy ‘There’s no need to be so jumpy, you’re safe now and more healthy than before. You still need a few hours of rest though so just take it easy and relax.’ Amber swayed tiredly and abruptly fell backwards onto the hard bed but her head landed on a somewhat soft pillow. She curled up when a blanket was pulled over her and the voice tittered. ‘You’re such a cute little girl,’ it said with a soft coo ‘Naw, if you weren’t recovering, I’d cuddle you to your death.’ Amber’s eyes opened and her vision cleared. In front of her was a young blonde woman with bright blue eyes and pale skin. Her wide yellow smile was broad, optimistic and cheery but it revealed the tiny cracks in her pale plump dehydrated lips. Amber glowered at her.
‘Don’t call me cute,’ she said bluntly and took a good look around in the room she was in. It was falling apart, there were nasty cracks in the peeling walls and there was a horrific stench in the air. Amber had no desire to know what it was coming from. She confirmed that she was in some sort of medical centre when she smelt chemicals lingering in the air. She shifted uncomfortably on the hard bed she was on. The woman laughed and placed a hand on Amber’s shoulder. Amber growled at her as menacingly as she could master but the woman continued laughing.
‘Aw, sweetie, that cute adorable growl just makes you even cuter,’ she cooed and pinched her cheek playfully ‘Now why can’t I have a little sister like you? I know! I could adopt you and keep you as my daughter!’
‘Owwww…’ Amber whined loudly and pulled away from her, retreating further into the blankets ‘Get off me or I’ll hurt you. I mean it.’ She grumbled moodily and rubbed her cheek while the woman giggled away hysterically.
‘My name’s Candy, honey,’ she said while pulling the blanket away from Amber with a warm wide smile.
‘My name’s Amber, not honey,’ Amber mumbled grumpily and snatched the blanket back, wrapping it around her small body firmly with a grumpy indistinct mutter. She eyed Candy cautiously for a second or two and narrowed her amber coloured eyes suspiciously. ‘I assume you’re in the Normal category, aren’t you?’ she said warily. Candy grinned and nodded.
‘Yep, but I do have a little bit of Sorcery blood in me,’ she said modestly ‘but it’s just really a little bit. I’ve used what I could to heal you up.’
‘Heal?’ Amber’s hand immediately moved down to her bandages which were clean and white instead of dirty and brown. She sat up abruptly, threw the blanket aside and gaped at the pristine clean white bandages around her torso. She had never seen anything so clean and unspoiled for a good long while. Touching them gently and carefully, she realised she couldn’t feel the large yellow squishy bumps that covered her wounds through them. ‘What happened to me?’ she murmured in astonishment.
‘I healed you, hun,’ Candy tittered lightly ‘I must say, you had a pretty tough case of Zennalpha plague so Miranda dropped you off with me so I could look after you.’ Amber stared at her warily and frowned.
‘Who’s Miranda?’ she asked. Candy smiled warmly.
‘Why she’s my older sister,’ she replied ‘She may not be as beautiful as me, but she can sure pack a punch to any virus and infection with her healing powers. Even with the Nightmare Blanket botching all her spells, she manages to pull through somehow.’ Amber jumped when the door suddenly opened and saw a slightly older woman, who looked uncannily like Candy that Amber assumed they were sisters, came in with a glass of water and a small bowl on a tray. She smiled and placed the tray on Amber’s lap.
‘Hey there, honey, my name’s Miranda,’ she greeted warmly and sat on Amber’s bed ‘How you feeling now, sweetie?’ She gently placed a hand on Amber’s head and brightened up. ‘Oh good, your temperature is finally cooling. I was starting to lose hope when you didn’t wake up for six days.’ Candy nodded knowingly and sighed.
‘I was getting ready to dig your grave, just outside of here with the others, because our success rate has been decreasing since the Nightmare Blanket came.’ She nibbled her lip thoughtfully.
‘What do you mean six days?!’ Amber exclaimed in disbelief with wide eyes ‘I’ve been sleeping here for six days?!’ Suddenly remembering how she fell asleep in the first place, she looked up at both women. ‘Where’s Xeann?’ The sisters stared at her with frowns until Miranda gasped and clapped her hands together.
‘Do you mean that scary but beautiful vampire that dropped you off while nearly scaring poor old Uncle Jack to death?’ she asked and when Amber nodded she sighed softly ‘She went off and across the mountain. She told us that you had to be unharmed before we discharge you safely back to your village. Or you could have the choice of staying here, it’s much safer and Jack wouldn’t mind having an extra mouth to feed because that vampire gave us enough money to look after you… Plus you’re too cute to just send back to that nasty village, aw, I really want to keep you…’
‘Same here!’ Candy giggled and the sisters laughed together with wide smiles.
‘But I can’t go back to the village nor can I stay here!’ Amber protested, stopping them from laughing ‘I need to confront the Queen and find my father! And after that I need to find my little brother and my mother! I have to find them!’ She tried to get off the bed but was wrestled back by both sisters. ‘Let me go, I need to catch up to Xeann! I said I’d help her find her granddaughter!’
‘Now listen here, Amber,’ Miranda said as she fought against her ‘I am letting no patient of mine run off and head back into the danger out there, especially if that patient is too young to be alone at a time like this!’
‘Just let me go, you stupid women!’ The room filled with the girls screeching and the loud thuds of Amber being pushed back into the bed.
Jack’s pale, shivering, skinny hand shakily wrote down the possible things he could but to benefit the health clinic with the vampire’s money. Five gold coins would keep the taxman that came often away for a good month or two. But he could also use it to hire a professional scavenger to get a few months’ worth of medicine supplies just to keep himself and his nieces alive. Professional scavengers had been popping up everywhere since the Nightmare Blanket came, looking for a job that they could get a lot of money out of. They charged seriously high prices. The higher the price, the more likely they’ll return successfully with the resources that had been asked for. One had to be very picky and careful when choosing a professional scavenger to work for them. Jack sighed and closed his eyes, managing a small smile when he heard silence and began enjoying the peace.
A foot suddenly slammed onto the cracked white tiled floor, cracking it even more and breaking the silence and Jack screamed in fright, dropping his pen and the paper flew up in the air with his sudden actions. A young, healthy hand snatched it as it flew across the room and a young teenager boy came in. He had a healthy tan on his skin and his whole body seemed to thrive with energy. His dark golden eyes gleamed wickedly as he read it through. With a thoughtful hum, he glanced at Jack and tutted.
‘Five hundred grams of sun faerie dust?’ he said with a raised golden eyebrow and a wicked white grin while going across his face. Jack stuttered helplessly and retreated to the far wall in fear. The young boy’s golden spiky hair crackled with electricity and the lights flickered throughout the building. Jack shivered as he reached the counter and leaned over, his golden eyes glinting mischievously. ‘Well that’s an expensive little mineral isn’t it, Mr Fry? Looking for an expensive professional scavenger, are we?’ Jack shook violently and screamed as the boy broke through the poorly made counter.
‘I-I can p-pay the t-tax!’ he stuttered fearfully but stopped as the boy raised a hand to silence him ‘I p-promise that I c-can actually give y-you some m-money today, you won’t have to come back again for a while, a-a long while…’ The boy cleared his throat sharply, silencing the man finally. He suddenly snatched the handle of the drawer and forced it open, breaking it in the process. The five gold coins skittered around and the smile on the boy’s face grew wider.
‘Well, well, well, what kind of generous customer was able to pay this kind of money?’ he asked curiously with a shiny lopsided grin as he picked one up and held it in the blazing sunlight that shone through the door and the cracked windows ‘Must have been a very well off person which is so rare in these parts of the world.’ Glancing at Jack with a devious smirk, he took the other four coins and put them in a small pouch, putting it on his belt. He leaned into Jack so that Jack could smell what had been an unlucky catch for his lunch. Jack looked paler than milk and on the verge of fainting. The boy looked roughly fifteen to sixteen years old but he could tower over this man in his full height, making the man cower in his shadow. Smirking, her tilted his head questioningly and placed a hand over his ear. ‘I’m sorry but I can’t quite hear you. You’re going to have to speak up, old man, or I might misinterpret you.’
‘A-A-A-A-A v-v-v-v-vamp-p-p-p-pire!’ Jack stuttered out as his whole body trembled in anxiety. The boy’s pupils suddenly widened at the mention of a vampire and the golden warm glow in his eyes turned ice cold. He snarled in contempt, his bright white teeth bared fiercely and Jack hastily began talking again. ‘But she left! She left a little girl in our care with Zennalpha plague and she isn’t a v-v-v-vampire!’ The boy narrowed his eyes and stared at Jack hard.
‘Which room?’ he asked.
‘C-Candy’s…’ Jack swallowed. The boy turned sharply on his heel and walked out, his footsteps echoing throughout the nearly empty building, leaving Jack to slump to the floor and promptly faint.
Candy and Miranda froze abruptly, Amber against the bed in their grip. Amber blinked in confusion, frozen in an awkward position on the bed and watched as the lights above her flickered and saw the look of pure terror on the sisters’ faces. Candy’s eyes were wide and staring at Miranda while Miranda mouthed ‘Oh no’ to her. Two shrill screams assaulted Amber’s sensitive hearing when the door slammed open, falling off its poorly maintained hinges. Amber sat up in attention, her hands still covering her ears from the screams, as the girls retreated to the far corner of the room. Her eyes widened fearfully as a healthy teenage blonde boy entered in the room, his spiky blonde hair crackling like a live wire with electrical energy. The girls screamed again as one of the light bulbs suddenly popped from an energy overload. The boy chuckled in amusement as shattered glass showered over Amber. His teeth were whiter than any kind of teeth Amber had ever seen and his eyes were a dark gold colour. They looked over to the sisters and the boy sighed.
‘Why, you two lovely ladies look lovelier by every tax collection, pity you won’t even consider going on a date with me,’ he grinned cheekily then turned his sights to Amber ‘And who’s this little girl? She looks like she could easily be one of your sisters.’ He walked over to her casually and grabbed her chin harshly, examining her face carefully. ‘A fine job you two did in healing her,’ he complimented the nurses ‘I’ve never seen anyone look so healthy for the past few months.’ He chuckled wryly and continued examining Amber’s face. His eyes suddenly gleamed in recognition. ‘Why…you’re Amber from the village across the desert.’ He grinned wider. ‘Well, well, lucky me.’
‘Cody please have some sympathy!’ Cody snapped his head to the girls who flinched at his gaze. Miranda hesitantly stepped forward, her hands shaking in fright as she shakily opened her mouth to speak again. ‘Sh-She’s o-only just recovering and she’s very young, just let her be please. She has other wounds to recover from too, including some nasty snake bites and she’s been through so much since she was brought here… Please, Cody, I know a young man like yourself has a bit of compassion for a younger person…’ Cody smirked then paused, as if he was thinking hard and clicked his tongue.
‘Sorry, doll,’ he sighed and shrugged his shoulders in a mocking regretful manner ‘The Queen’s orders must always, and I mean always, be completed. We’ve all got to do our jobs, you know. The economy nowadays is a bit unstable…’ Amber snatched both of his wrists when he tried to grab her with a snarl. She kicked him as hard as she could in the chest and managed to knock him out of the room. He staggered in shock as she grabbed the blanket, ran past the startled sisters and jumped out of the open window. She landed unsteadily on her cut-covered feet and wrapped the blanket around her like a toga over her almost nude body which was only covered in bandages. She began to run towards the mountain hurriedly, her bare bandaged feet leaving bloody footprints in the dusty roads. Her heart was beating loudly and she felt rather panicky as her legs shook from their sudden use after six days in a coma. She yelped sharply as Cody came flying out of the health clinic doorway and lunged for her. They rolled around in the dust and dirty water until Cody pinned Amber down harshly. Amber bit her lip as she felt some of her bones click awkwardly. A low rumble was heard overheard and dark clouds blocked the sun. Cody smirked and leaned down close to Amber’s face. ‘So you won’t come willingly?’ Amber scowled at him.
‘Never,’ she snarled determinedly, baring her teeth like a ferocious animal ‘unless you tell me what has happened to my father then I might think about it…’ Cody cocked an eyebrow and raised his head, staring at the black clouds. He pulled a thoughtful face and cupped his chin wistfully, his golden eyebrows furrowing in confusion. He then suddenly grinned and glanced at Amber with a knowing smirk. He sighed and cracked his knuckles, as if he was prepared to beat her up. Amber stepped back warily, biting her lip as he rolled his shoulders stiffly.
‘Well I’m really sorry, kid, but I don’t know your father or what happened to him so I guess I’ll have to use a little bit of my…persuasion.’ Amber’s heart leapt as she heard some menacing thunder echo in the distance and used the remaining of her strength to push Cody off her and jump to her feet. A good thing she did that too because a large bolt of blinding lightning landed where she had been shortly after. Amber staggered back in shock with wide frightened eyes and a slack jaw and her breath caught itself in her throat as Cody chuckled loudly. ‘What’s the matter, Amber?’ he asked curiously ‘Scared of a little bit of lightning? It’s alright, you won’t feel a thing if you get struck. I’ll make sure of that, just for you.’ Amber was not scared of thunder and lightning, she was absolutely terrified since she accidentally got struck by lightning when she was a little girl. She had always been scared since that time and that fear will always stay with her no matter what. Cody chuckled as he got himself on his feet and looked up at the sky, his arms out as if he was greeting the dark clouds with a friendly embrace. He laughed slightly and tilted his chin up fully.
Amber yelped in fright and jumped back far away when a large bolt of bright white lightning landed on Cody full on. Her eyes widened and her pupils dilated when Cody’s body turned golden and a howl that sent chills down her spine echoed in the abandoned village. His white shirt ripped as he grew taller and his shoulders grew broader, revealing the muscles that he had been hiding. Light golden claws grew out of his brown sandals while his khaki shorts stretch to accommodate the sudden increase of muscle in his thighs, calves and waist. Brilliant, golden fur grew all over his body and a wave of electricity flowed through the thick coat. Cody gave a wolfish grin to the terrified Amber in all his newly transformed werewolf glory, thunder clapping directly above him. At full height, he looked around about seven feet tall. Gulping loudly and nervously, Amber stepped back as it began to rain heavily around them. Cody growled in a teasing fashion and Amber legged it, more terrified of transformed werewolves that were too large for her comfort than thunder and lightning. The sound of heavy, resounding steps echoed throughout the streets as Amber blindly ran through the rain. Her silver hair with blue highlights stuck to her scalp and face due to the rain as she jumped over the developing puddles and headed straight for the mountain. Cody’s footsteps stopped abruptly and Amber didn’t dare look back to see why he had stopped. Pain shot through her as a bolt of lightning came down on her, shocking her and collapsing on the street while blacking out. She grimaced as she realised that Cody was wrong. She did feel pain and it was something that she never wanted to experience ever again.
Cody smirked widely as the rain stopped and he shrunk down to his human form slowly. His clothes just loosely covered his body after they had been stretched and outgrown by the transformation. He panted tiredly, falling to his hands and knees beside Amber with sweat trickling down his face and looked down at her with a forlorn look. Sighing and heaving her over his shoulder, he staggered to his feet and stepped a foot in one of the puddles. He closed his eyes momentarily and focused. A small bolt of lightning landed in the puddle and the energy pulsed through his leg and into his body, his eyes widened with a newfound energy. He sighed and with his trademark smirk he carried Amber out of the village and began hiking up the mountain path.