‘I can see an exit!’ Sarah perked up immediately with a bright smile when she saw a parting in the trees. She abruptly dropped Sheela, leaving Amber to support both her and Xeann with Saphira and sprinted out gleefully. Amber winced sympathetically when she heard the pink haired girl trip up and exclaim her pain loudly. Sheela sighed tiredly, rolling her eyes as they eventually reached the exit of the forest. Before them lay a terraced pathway and at the bottom of the pathway was a small town. Beyond that town was a vast amount of wasteland and in the middle of that wasteland stood the Queen’s Tower. Sarah had fallen down one of the slopes of the terraced pathway and was sprawled across the pathway in a clumsy fashion. Saphira raised an eyebrow and glanced at Sheela.
‘Is she always like this or does she like to trip over a lot?’ she asked curiously.
‘She’s always like this unfortunately,’ Sheela sighed ‘The day just doesn’t pass without her having an accident.’
‘I’m OK!’ Sarah shouted from her place.
‘You don’t look OK,’ Amber commented.
‘Oh it’s just a twisted arm, it’s nothing too serious or big! Sheela can easily fix it, I hope. But I do still feel bright and healthy!’ Amber tilted her head to the side curiously when she heard Sarah sound rather happy about her injury. As if to prove a point, Sarah immediately jumped up to her feet and began running around, doing a sort of dance before tripping over and falling down the next cliff. Xeann raised her eyebrows in amusement.
‘Well that didn’t last long,’ she commented.
‘I’m still OK!’ Sarah’s voice rang out. Sheela sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose irritably.
‘Come on, let’s get going,’ Saphira said as they began to descend down the pathway the safe way.
‘Oh, Magia Town,’ Xeann sighed wistfully as they reached the small town ‘I never thought I would see it this lively.’ There was a heavy sarcastic tone in her voice as she looked around the town. Abandoned and wrecked stalls stood along each side of the street they stood in front of them and dusty pathways separated the ruined houses. Sheela looked around with a sad look.
‘We used to come to spend our summer here every year,’ she whispered softly ‘It had such a happy and joyous atmosphere.’ Amber looked around before spotting a green cross on a building.
‘Well, let’s see if anyone’s in,’ she said while nodding to it. Saphira grunted in affirmation as she and Amber dragged Xeann down the road to the ruined building. Sarah looked around curiously with a sad nostalgic look then jumped when a hand slapped itself on her shoulder. She turned, pushing the hand off her shoulder and brought her fists up. Sheela stopped when she heard her sister’s familiar karate yell and the familiar dull thuds of her punches landing on a body. She turned and gasped when she saw Sarah fighting a larger man with bulging muscles and a shaggy beard on his face. Amber and Saphira stopped abruptly when men, all shapes and sizes, blocked their path to the medical centre. Xeann looked up and smirked.
‘Oh, more scavengers,’ she said ‘I thought I left them back at Eventide Town.’
‘You certainly have come a long way then,’ one tall and lanky man commented wryly after taking a drag from his cigarette. Xeann smirked and shrugged.
‘Maybe,’ she said with a coy smile ‘Do you have a map?’ Amber winced as Sarah fell her rather large opponent. Sarah stood on top of him triumphantly with her hands on her hips, only to spot his friends closing in on her. Xeann reached for one curved blade and held it up, using Amber as support. ‘I can take you guys on any time,’ she said despite the pain in standing on her squashed leg.
‘You’re one crazy vampire,’ Saphira commented wryly as she turned into her feral wolf form ‘Come on, you ugly lot! I’ll take you guys on!’ Amber stepped back cautiously and held her fists up warily after putting down the cloak with meat. She hadn’t taken on any opponents as big as these men. Everyone began to close on them as the girls prepared to fight.
‘Mum! Mum, is that you?’ Everyone froze and the men turned round to let a young man in his twenties, with shaggy black hair and bright sea-green eyes stumble out of the crowd and stand in front of Xeann. ‘It really is you!’ he exclaimed happily. Xeann blinked in bewilderment.
‘Damon! Is that really you?!’ she exclaimed with a wide smile and held out her arms wide to hug her second eldest son. Damon tightly hugged her immediately, picking her up easily so the pressure was off her injured leg. ‘How long has it been now?’ she asked ‘Forty years?’
‘No, mum, half a century,’ Damon replied as the men stepped back.
‘Do you know these girls, Damon?’ one of them asked warily. Damon turned round and shrugged.
‘I just know that this is definitely my mum,’ he said then glanced at the other girls ‘But I don’t know who these lot are…’
‘They’re with me,’ Xeann said immediately ‘We were all travelling here to find a place to stay and try to get to the Queen’s Tower.’ A murmur spread through the group of men until one man cleared his throat.
‘Do ya think that’s a wise idea?’ he said ‘Anyone who’s gone across the wasteland to the tower has gotten shot down. Anyone lucky enough to manage to reach the tower, never comes back. You’ll never be able to survive.’
‘Damon, Vienna’s run away,’ Xeann grabbed Damon by the shirt ‘Her parents have disappeared too, have you seen her around here?’ Damon sighed biting his lip, and shaking his head.
‘I haven’t seen her since her twelfth birthday,’ he said.
‘What about Bianca?’ Xeann’s grip tightened ‘Have you seen your tenth youngest half-sister?’
‘No, mum. I’ve only seen Seito and he’s just left to go home and look after you since the Nightmare Blanket came.’ Xeann sighed and covered her face.
‘My family is such a mess,’ she sniffed and blinked back her tears.
‘Wait, mum, I thought you were pregnant?’ Damon noted Xeann’s rather flat belly.
‘Gave birth a little earlier than I had hoped because of the Nightmare Blanket,’ Xeann sniffed and sighed ‘She’s a little healthy girl but she’s been born blind. Her name’s Cassandra.’
‘And another one to add to the family,’ Damon rolled his eyes then looked down as Xeann’s leg began to drip with blood ‘Mum, you’re bleeding!’
‘Well we can only have enough rags to use for bandages nowadays,’ Saphira rolled her eyes after she shrunk to her human form ‘Stupid vampires. Go on, get her inside so we can change them!’ Damon, politely ignoring Saphira’s snide comment, rushed into the medical building everyone following him closely.
‘Madison!’ Damon called as he stormed through the doors and corridors ‘Quick, come down here! You have a patient who’s in need of some serious wound binding here!’
‘I have hundreds of patients, Damon!’ a shrill woman’s voice shrieked, making Amber wince, as they finally came to a spare room ‘Stop thinking that I can tend to fifty patients at once! I know I’m good, Damon honey, but I’m not that good!’
‘This one’s my mum!’ Damon called in a singsong voice with a knowing smirk as he laid Xeann down on the bed and lifted her leg gently to look at it ‘You know how you’ve always wanted to see her! Hurry up before she passes out from loss of blood.’ Suddenly a girly squeal was heard, making both Amber and Saphira cringe and there was a light pattering of feet from upstairs.
‘Well why didn’t you say so before? I could have come a little bit quicker if you had told me sooner…’ a woman in her thirties came in and looked from Xeann to Damon closely ‘Oh my lord, now I know where he gets his dastardly good looks from! I wouldn’t mind meeting any of your brothers soon.’ She simpered cheekily and pinched Damon’s cheek harshly, who just grinned painfully and bared it. Amber stepped back and stood behind Sheela warily. She had never seen such a flamboyant woman in her life. She had bright blue eyes and ginger curls framing her pretty face. She looked a tad ill, or maybe she just didn’t have enough sun, and was about six foot tall.
‘Madison, she has a mangled leg,’ Damon said when she let go of his cheek and rubbed it sorely ‘Do you have enough energy to take care of it properly?’ Madison turned to Xeann and lifted up her injured leg, ignoring the hiss of pain that came out of her. Madison sighed softly and shook her head.
‘Well doesn’t that look horrifying, what on Ethylias did this to you?’ she said and pulled the makeshift bandages off before grimacing at the bloody sight ‘Well, I can clean it up but fixing and healing would have to wait until tomorrow ‘cause I’ve just spent all of my healing magic on that poor old werewolf upstairs.’ Xeann lurched and hissed in contempt at the mention of ‘werewolf’ and Damon sighed.
‘Be careful with the ‘w’ word, Madison,’ he cautioned softly as Xeann slowly relaxed ‘Mum’s a full blood traditional vampire.’ Madison looked at him with a frown then gasped, placing a hand over her mouth.
‘Why, I’m sorry,’ she said ‘I forgot what you told me about you being half vampire and all… I’m sorry, Mrs Kelly.’ Xeann raised an eyebrow.
‘Miss Murphy,’ she corrected ‘All the boys take their father’s names.’
‘Oh why didn’t you tell me, Damon?!’ Madison looked up at Damon with a frown.
‘I did,’ Damon sighed ‘You must have forgot…again.’
‘Oh, Damon, please stop treating me like I forget everything, you tease!’ Madison simpered as she slapped Damon’s shoulder playfully then grabbed some bandages to wrap Xeann’s leg up.
‘The other girls need seeing to too,’ Xeann said as she looked at Amber ‘I’m not sure if they’re fully well from the Croft’s Raven and Magia Forest.’
‘Hey, you’re the only one who got injured from the Croft’s Raven!’ Saphira pointed at her and they bared their teeth at each other with their individual snarls ‘I’m the one who shot it down!’
‘Well, Amber was taken out of medical care too early, she needs to be examined properly to see if the Zennalpha plague has gone or not!’ Xeann argued back fiercely with a menacing snarl ‘And Sheela doesn’t look so hot on her feet either, plus I don’t know what her sister is going through!’
‘We’ll just be in the room next door,’ Amber suddenly decided as she grabbed Saphira by the waist and hauled her out of the room ‘Get well soon.’ Saphira growled as Sheela and Sarah followed them out of the room while Xeann began to hiss in pain at Madison’s ill-treatment to her leg. Amber sighed when they sat outside on a barely stable bench and rubbed her neck.
‘Um, Amber?’ Sheela said as she leaned over to her ‘Would you like me to find you some clothes?’
‘Mmm?’ Amber lifted her head and sighed. ‘Nah, I’ll be fine. These bandages are actually quite cosy.’ Sheela giggled but stood up anyway.
‘I’ll see if our summer house is still intact,’ she said and walked off with a slight stagger.
‘Uh, I could do for you,’ Sarah said as she was about to stand up.
‘No!’ Sheela said suddenly with a raised voice then hesitated as a hurt look crossed over her sister’s face ‘…No, stay here with Amber. Saphira can help me over.’ Saphira stood up as Sarah sighed.
‘She thinks I’m useless at everything because I’m clumsy,’ she muttered while watching them leave ‘It’s so frustrating, I’m not that clumsy!’ Amber chose to remain silent on that note. ‘I pretty much feel useless because my family keep on saying it to me, even my own dad!’ Amber blinked and looked up at her.
‘You must be able to do something,’ she said ‘Like…do you do martial arts?’
‘Brown belt in karate but I can’t achieve black because I’m too clumsy,’ Sarah sighed ‘My training instructor isn’t pleased with me at all.’
‘Brown belt?! I’m only on yellow!’ Sarah glanced at her and smiled.
‘Black’s my goal,’ she sighed ‘Like everyone else.’
‘Well…how about a licence or an experience or something like that?’ Amber suggested with hunched shoulders. Sarah hummed before glancing around and leaning to Amber’s ear.
‘I somehow managed to get a pilot’s licence,’ she whispered.
‘Wow! Really?!’ Amber gasped then frowned ‘Why are you being so secretive about it?’
‘The Queen’s looking for pilots and all creatures that can fly ever since she banned flying,’ Sarah whispered discretely ‘No-one knows why but I don’t want to take any risks by flying or telling just anyone about myself. You can’t trust anyone in this world anymore and I don’t want anyone too suspicious to find out about it… My piloting teacher was arrested and taken away last month when they found out that he was a pilot. It was pretty upsetting, he was one of my closest friends. You never know who’s working with the Queen. She has quite a small court and I guess the only person I know about is that Cody chap…’ Amber’s eyes widened at the mention of flying being banned.
‘Flying has been banned?!’ she whispered in exclamation, her jaw going slack ‘When did that happen?’
‘Yes, hasn’t it ever occurred to you why you haven’t seen any dragons or pegasi or anything of the like flying around free for a long while?’ Amber looked away with hunched shoulders and sighed.
‘I’ve only seen Outlandish Vultures and dragons,’ she whispered then bowed her head sadly ‘The dragons…left, didn’t they?’ She remembered the day before the Nightmare Blanket was unleashed, there was a flock of dragons that flew over her village. They ascended into the Dragon Heavens and Amber remembered the sense of loss and sadness that engulfed her when they disappeared completely. She loved dragons with a passion. Amber wiped a tear away and looked up at Sarah. ‘But I’ve seen Outlandish Vultures and a Croft’s Raven flying…’
‘Abnormal creatures don’t count, they side with her,’ Sarah explained while shaking her head ‘They use this hostility to their advantage so they can hunt more easily and efficiently so they immediately agree with the Queen’s demands. Plus they use their brains more for attacking strategies instead of serious decision making. I’ve always hated them, I keep on getting worried that I might become like one of them whenever they bite me in battle.’ Amber sighed and bowed her head, curling her knees into her chest and hugging them.
‘I miss my father…’ she whispered.
‘Aw…’ Sarah wrapped an arm around her and gave her a comforting hug. ‘I’m sure we’ll find him. I miss my dad too, but not that much. He always teased me about permanently sending me to the hospital back in Nubis Metropolis and he always had a first aid kit in handy…’ When Amber remained silent, listening to her story idly, Sarah gently nosed her. ‘Hey, I’m only quarter Enhanced you know.’ Amber looked up with a raised eyebrow.
‘And three quarters of Sorcery blood?’ she concluded assumingly with a grin. Sarah giggled and shook her head, taking Amber’s hand and leading her outside. She gave her a wink as they ran off to a more secluded area. She tripped up a couple of times on the way, saying that she was OK whenever Amber inquired her health. Amber had never met a clumsier person than Sarah. Even Abigail wasn’t as clumsy when she tried to fly every day since her fifth birthday.
‘Now, only Sheela and my family know about this,’ she whispered once they were in between two houses in the shade of the sun ‘For the moment, let’s keep this between us, alright?’ She winked slyly then looked from left to right quickly and laced her fingers together with a small smile. ‘My dad’s blood is partially a rare breed of a unicorn cross pegasus,’ she whispered softly and giggled ‘That means I’m part unicorn cross pegasus too!’ Amber gasped and looked at Sarah in awe. She tilted her head and stared at Sarah with an incredulous look.
‘I’ve heard a lot about those! They’re so rare that they’re near to extinction…’ she murmured but was silenced by Sarah’s hand. Sarah glanced around warily before closing her eyes. Amber covered her eyes when she suddenly glowed pink. She heard a snort and when she uncovered her eyes, her breath left her. A bright pink horse stood before her with golden eyes. Large feathered pegasus wings were attached to her sides while a shiny pink horn was attached to her forehead. Sarah snorted and trotted around in a circle, as if putting herself on show.
‘I look rather impressive, don’t I?’ she asked with a titter ‘This is how I passed my pilot test in the end.’
‘You really get a pilot’s licence just for being part pegasus?’ Amber raised a disbelieving eyebrow in bewilderment ‘Isn’t that cheating and a bit unfair for the other people who want to be pilots?’ Sarah snorted amusedly.
‘No, no, of course not. Don’t be ridiculous, Amber. I just knew how to fly and I thought I could go and get a licence in my human form. I’m the only one in our family who decided to do that. Everyone was pretty surprised when I passed without crashing into anything along the way. Heck, even my teacher was surprised when I passed because I was pretty clumsy taking off at first. In fact, the only person who thought I would pass was my father…’ Amber smiled and sighed.
‘Must be wonderful to be able to fly freely,’ she murmured.
‘Uh, no. The Queen banned flying so I haven’t been as free as I like.’ Sarah turned back human in a flash of pink and sighed wistfully. ‘It’s been pretty boring lately… I’ve been missing that feeling of freedom when I take up into the skies, flying without a care in the world. And it was the only place where I wouldn’t get into trouble. The sky is like my little haven when I’m down. I hate the Queen from taking it away from me.’ Amber sighed and hunched her shoulders.
‘Well, what can we do?’ she mumbled.
‘We can stand up for ourselves of course!’ Sarah exclaimed suddenly while striking a sharp determined pose, making Amber jump slightly in fright ‘Stand up to the mysterious Queen and fight! Arise, group up and unite to fix the world and bring back the lives that we once knew four months ago! Bring down the damned Nightmare Blanket! And more importantly, fight for those who are dear to us! Let us fight together and fight for what rightfully belongs to us! For freedom! Hya!’ She attempted to finish her little inspirational speech by doing a flying karate kick but crashed into one of the house’s walls, knocking it down in the process. ‘I’m OK!’ Amber didn’t think Sarah was OK so rushed over to help her out of the rubble.
‘Let’s get you back to the medical centre,’ she said and helped a bruised Sarah back to the medical centre ‘I’m sure Madison will be able to repair whatever you’ve broken.’
‘Hey, I said I was OK! Come on, let me stand up by myself!’ Amber rolled her eyes as Sarah tried to get out of her grip and complain about people ignoring her when she said she was ‘OK’.