Amber swallowed nervously as she stood slightly behind Xeann, staring up at the tower uncertainly. Xeann kept a firm stance, looking up at the tower coolly as the sun steadily set over the horizon. Sheela looked rather wary, giving the tower a doubtful glance then glanced at Sarah. Sarah, nearly reaching a full recovery, bounced on the balls of her feet eagerly, ready to get going. Saphira whimpered softly in her tame wolf form, tail tucked in between her hind legs as she stared up at the looming tower behind Damon. Vienna snuffled warily in her tame wolf form with lilac fur cautiously and looked up at her grandmother uncertainly.
‘Supposing your theory is horribly wrong and we get shot at?’ she asked and warily glanced back at the crowd behind them. Xeann gave her a look and she snarled at her when they had eye contact. ‘I mean, they could have changed the way the guns work since you managed to get halfway across without being shot at.’ A murmur of agreement and uncertainty rippled through the crowd. Xeann huffed to herself in frustration and rolled her eyes at them. The crowd consisted of several fighters and scavengers that were staying in Magia Town in the hopes of taking down the Queen’s tower. Damon sighed and bent down and ruffled Vienna’s ears with a cheerful smile.
‘You should have more faith and trust in your grandmother,’ he said to her softly with the wag of his finger while resting his hand on her shoulder ‘Remember, she’s been good at this sort of thing since she was your age. She does have eighty years of life experience.’ Vienna growled warningly and shook her head to get his hand off. Damon recoiled and raised an eyebrow at her. ‘I know you two don’t get along very well but you agreed to work with her until you find your parents.’ Vienna huffed and turned away moodily. Xeann rolled her eyes again and smiled with a shrug. She grunted as she stretched her arms above her head and sighed, rolling her shoulders.
‘Fine, I’ll go forward first then,’ she said holding up her hands with a tired sigh ‘Anyone who feels safe enough to follow me can feel free do so. But everyone remember, you need to walk forward slowly and carefully or you’ll get shot at. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you if you start tearing ahead.’ She began to calmly walk across the wasteland towards the tower, as if she was taking a pleasant walk in the park. She pulled her hood up to shade her face from the setting sun which cast her shadow far behind her and onto the crowd of fighters and scavengers. Amber hunched her shoulders shyly then shakily took a step out onto the wasteland. She slowly followed Xeann, not quite matching the calm and elegant pace the vampire had across the dry cracked land. It was good thinking for Xeann to pick the late afternoon, the land would have been too hot for Amber’s feet. Well, even enhanced people like her had limits. Sarah skipped across some of the wasteland and yelped when a gun’s laser hit the ground before her. Xeann turned to her with a sharp glare. ‘I said slowly and carefully, Sarah. What part of slowly and carefully do you not understand?’ Sarah flinched at her stern tone.
‘O-Oh…but I was skipping slowly and carefully, very slowly and carefully even,’ Sarah pouted softly at the vampire and pouted more as she received a fierier glare ‘I swear I was anyway.’ Xeann sighed in frustration and pinched the bridge of her nose impatiently and continued to walk towards the tower with a dismissive shake of her head. Sheela sighed, shaking her head as she carefully walked over to her sister and held her hand. Sarah looked at her with a bright smile and began merrily skipping across the wasteland again. Sheela pulled her back sharply with a horrified gasp as she went too fast and nearly got hit by another large black ugly looking cannonball. Sarah yelped at the sudden assault, frowning in confusion and glared at the tower fiercely. Sheela rolled her eyes and squeezed Sarah’s hand gently.
‘Come on, Sarah, I’ll help you learn what slowly and carefully means,’ she said with a warm smile. Sarah pulled a hurt face but complied with a sigh and a sulky pout, her shoulders sagging. The triplet sisters began to slowly walk across the wasteland, Sheela squeezing Sarah’s hand firmly whenever she was walking a bit too fast. Saphira carefully padded out into the wasteland next in her tame wolf form, a bit grumpy for having been in care for about five days because Madison ended up getting her fingers jinxed from a spell gone wrong and was unable to use magic for about three days. Around her neck was the tooth Cody had left with her, strung up with some dental floss. It hang next to the gold coin he had given to her as a birthday present. It was all the medical centre had to use for string apparently. Xeann had decided to wait for her, despite their rivalry issues, saying that the fighters would need time to get ready too. She also understood about Cody.
‘Well, I don’t know about you lot, but I’m going next,’ Damon stretched his arms out with a strained grunt, flexed his biceps out and walked across the wasteland with a confident strut, chin tilted up slightly. Amber paused briefly when he overtook her and watched him behind his mother’s shadow. Their elegance and coolness in their walk seemed eerily similar, Amber curiously wondered to herself if it was because they were mother and son. Or it might just be that vampire thing again. Vienna whimpered frightfully and carefully walked across the wasteland to follow her uncle closely, keeping her body flat to the ground as she stared up at the guns and cannons cautiously. Amber glanced back to see that the fighters, one by one, were slowly following them across the wasteland, their eyes on the tower at all times. A sly smile spread across her face as she faced back to the tower and sighed.
Xeann stopped suddenly after she passed the large dent where Sarah had landed the other day and abruptly held up an arm for everyone to stop. Amber paused with a confused frown then heard them. The loud clicks from the tower as they signalled the fact that they’ve been switched off or shut down. Either way, it didn’t feel right. Xeann narrowed her eyes suspiciously and looked down to the entrance of the tower to see Cody walking up to them casually. She bared her fangs in instinctual hatred while Cody raised a cool eyebrow, stopping a few metres away from her.
‘Well,’ he drawled with a wicked smirk ‘and here I thought vampires would be too stupid to figure out the trick.’ Damon snarled softly but it wasn’t as loud and ferocious as his mother’s whose eyes flashed brightly as a feral hiss erupted from her. Vienna peered around Damon warily, staring up at him with her tail tucked in between her legs, conflicted on whether to snarl at Cody in hatred or not. Saphira, knowing it was safe now, ran up and turned human in front of Cody. She glowered at him as he smiled warmly at her, unaffected by her cold stare.
‘Cody, give up,’ she said, looking up at him fiercely ‘We have you outnumbered and I know you’re not that much of an idiot to take on all of us. Don’t you dare be a coward either, I’m not letting you get away this time.’ Behind her chains rattled loudly, triggers on guns clicked noisily, whips cracked menacingly and metal swords and daggers slid out of their sheaths in an attempt to intimidate Cody. But Cody smirked and shook his head with a tired sigh. He cracked his neck into place and cracked his knuckles out while leering over his little cousin.
‘Oh, my little Saphira,’ he said and placed a hand on Saphira’s head, as if to mock her height compared to his ‘You know me too well, my little cousin.’ He calmly raised a hand and clicked his fingers. The ground rumbled and Saphira yelped as she fell over when she couldn’t keep her stance. Vienna whined loudly and flattened her body close to the ground, ears flattening fearfully. Sarah fell over almost immediately and there was a crack when her face collided into the ground, indicating that she had broken her nose again. Sheela winced sympathetically as she knelt by her sister and began healing up the damage with the little healing power that she had. Amber’s toes dug into the ground as she held her arms up to a bracing position in case anything came flying towards her. She glanced at Xeann and gaped when she saw Xeann hadn’t been fazed by the sudden quake. She was balancing herself perfectly! In her high heel boots no less! Was there anything at all that this woman couldn’t do? Xeann stepped back warily when dust kicked up and several hundred suits of armours came out of the ground. She pulled her curved blades out and braced herself into a fighting position, eyeing each and every suit carefully.
‘Are those…clay dolls?’ she murmured in a confused tone with a befuddled frown ‘I thought he had power over lightning? And if my memory serves me correctly, earth and lightning do not go together…’ She stepped back warily when Cody grinned widely, showing off his brilliant white teeth as energy sparked around his body. The crackling white bolts hugged his body comfortably as if making themselves as his personal elemental armour for battle. Amber whimpered when she saw the lightning and hid behind the nearest person.
‘You should be honoured. This is a personal welcome from her Majesty the Queen,’ Cody said with a mocking bow ‘Please, enjoy it while you can. Her Majesty would be sorely disappointed for you to take displeasure in it.’ Thunderclouds swarmed above him in seconds, blocking out the sunset and a large bolt of lightning landed on his body. Saphira snarled ferociously as he grew into his feral wolf form and howled, turning into her own feral wolf form. A steady blizzard began to blow across the wasteland as she and Cody began to circle one another. Xeann smirked as she glanced at the fighters behind her.
‘Well then? What are you lot waiting for?’ she asked with a raised eyebrow. Damon glanced back, mirrored her smirk and yelled a battle cry. Everyone behind joined him as they raced past the clash of the werewolves, their variety of weapons at the ready, and began fighting with the armoured clay dolls. The clay dolls pulled out their swords and lances to counter with them. Vienna scampered among the battles, still in her tame wolf form, and head-butted one clay doll rather harshly. Her eyes sparked as she focused her energy in her body and sent it through the clay doll. She swaggered and shook her head to recover from the head-butt, hoping she hadn’t fractured her skull. The clay dolls were rather hard and tough after all, or they’d be useless in battle. She glanced up and saw the clay doll looking down at her, ignoring what its comrades were doing and awaited orders from her. Vienna blinked.
‘It worked?’ she murmured in wonder while tilting her head to the side curiously and examined the clay doll cautiously ‘It worked! Yes, it did work! I don’t believe it! After all these years of training, I managed to gain control over a clay doll! Woohoo!’ She barked happily with her tail wagging and jumped up a couple of feet into the air in joy. She landed neatly and dipped into a play bow. ‘Finally! My first ever clay doll that’s under my command!’ She chased her tail a couple of times to celebrate, barking in celebration then stopped and looked up at the clay doll. ‘Fight against the other clay dolls and help out my allies,’ she instructed. It responded by turning and raising a sword towards the other clay dolls and began fighting. Vienna lolled her tongue out happily but didn’t really fancy to head-butt another clay doll to pulse her control over earth into and make it help their side so looked around for anything else she could do. Her ears pricked up when she saw Xeann snatch Amber by the scruff and carry her over to the open entrance of the tower. Not wanting to miss out on any action, she bounded after them, dodging any attacks from the clay dolls around her. She slipped in before the door slid shut, nearly trapping her tail.
‘Oh there you are, Vienna,’ Xeann said as she placed a very flustered Amber down and clicked her fingers into place ‘I was beginning to wonder whether you were coming along or not.’ Amber turned and saw Vienna as she turned into her human form. Vienna rolled her shoulders stiffly and sighed.
‘You really didn’t think I’d miss out on the real action did you?’ she said gruffly and followed them up the stairs that were ahead of them in the dark cold room that they’d just come in ‘Tch.’ She brushed past her grandmother coldly and briskly. Xeann raised an eyebrow and smirked knowingly, following her up the stairs. Amber looked around curiously at the vast amount of space there was inside this tower. The floor and ceiling were made out of black, grey and white marble and the walls were made out of black metal, making the room feel colder than it was. Amber, rubbing her arms for some warmth, shivered as she followed Xeann closely up the stairs. The next couple of rooms they went past were more or less the same and Xeann frowned.
‘By my count, we’re on the eighth floor by now,’ she murmured to herself thoughtfully as they ascended the next flight of stairs ‘Or we should be on the eighth floor by now anyway.’ Vienna grumbled to herself because she was sick and tired of climbing stairs and jogged up the next few steps in agitation. She froze when a horrid stench filled her nostrils. Wrinkling it after a few moments breathing it in, she coughed and groaned, shaking her head with a disgusted face.
‘Ugh!’ she scowled and recoiled, holding her nose ‘What is that?! It’s horrible! It stinks like a troll in here!’ Amber smelt it once she reached halfway up the stairs and felt the humid atmosphere. Her eyes widened when she recognized the smell.
‘That’s because there is a troll on this floor, Vienna,’ she murmured softly as she reached the floor. Xeann looked up and saw that the ceiling was rather high.
‘Well this room is designed for a troll to stay and live in,’ she said wistfully and looked ahead of her ‘Oh, and there’s the troll.’ Amber’s eyes widened as she saw a large hideous bulk of grey flesh standing in front of a door with a huge club clenched tightly in its hand. It snorted as its eyes scanned the room slowly. Vienna stepped back with a wary look towards the huge creature when she spotted it. Xeann froze as she carefully pulled her curved blades out.
‘It can’t see us,’ she whispered.
‘Right, we need to find a way to get past it then,’ Vienna muttered.
‘No, trolls are often short sighted,’ Amber said in a hushed voice and grabbed Vienna before she could try and run past the troll ‘If we get any closer, he’ll see us…’
‘Or she,’ Xeann muttered pointedly. Vienna huffed and folded her arms.
‘Well then,’ she shrugged and took a deep breath ‘How about I take on the real action early and get this ugly fella out of the way for you two to go ahead?’ Xeann cocked an eyebrow in surprise.
‘Why, I thought you’d want to go ahead alone, challenge the Queen and find your parents?’ she said bemusedly. Vienna scoffed.
‘I’ll catch up with you,’ she said with a scowl ‘Taking down a troll has been on my to-do list for a long time now.’
‘Are you sure you wouldn’t want a little help?’ Xeann pulled a worried face.
‘Nan, just shut your mouth,’ Vienna snarled nastily to her ‘Whenever I make a decision, I never change my mind. Ever.’ Xeann sighed and shook her head.
‘Whatever you wish, off you go,’ she said dismissively and folded her arms. Vienna nodded firmly and closed her eyes. She swelled up and grew to about five foot five, lilac fur erupted all over her body. Her bodice tightened around her chest as she gained height as her leather trousers split by the ends and bright lilac nails sprouted out of her boots. Growling, she kicked the boots off and howled, startling the troll out of its daze.
‘Oi, ugly!’ she snarled loudly ‘Down here! I want to fight you, you useless clump of flesh!’ She lumbered over to the troll and howled shrilly, catching the troll’s immediate attention. Amber’s eyes widened when she realised that Vienna only reached as high as the knee of the troll. The troll blinked and stared at her before roaring and swinging its club in her direction. Amber opened her mouth to shout in warning but Xeann clamped a hand firmly around her mouth.
‘Don’t, we’ll attract the troll’s attention and ruin the meaning of Vienna’s sacrifice,’ she whispered as Vienna jumped on the club and lunged for the troll, her jaws wide open to sink into mouldy flesh. Amber paled when Vienna landed on the troll’s shoulder and bite down on its neck hard. Xeann pulled a disgusted face. ‘That can’t taste nice,’ she said before hurrying Amber over to the doors. They opened them and Amber blinked as she saw a dead end.
‘OK, how do we get out of here?’ she asked turning to Xeann ‘There’s no way out apart from the way we’ve just come.’ Xeann raised an eyebrow and pressed a button on the side of the metal room.
‘You haven’t been to a city before, have you?’ she asked with a soft smile when the doors swiftly closed behind them and the floor suddenly jolted harshly while the lift began to go up. Amber wobbled and landed on her knees in fright. Xeann simpered lightly. ‘Aw, bless, you adorable little thing. When this is over, you’re going to come to my home city with me so I can teach you the life outside your isolated little village.’ Amber was helped to her feet as she looked down at the scene between Vienna and the troll. She gasped as the troll grabbed Vienna and threw her into the wall.
‘Should we really be leaving her behind?’ she asked looking up to Xeann with a concerned face. Xeann shrugged.
‘She wanted to take down a troll by herself, she’ll take down a troll by herself,’ she said with a thoughtful look then turned to Amber ‘She’ll include a lot of friendly attacks if I got involved.’ Amber winced again as they disappeared out of sight.
‘She hasn’t taken down a troll before has she?’ she said nervously and looked up at Xeann. Xeann shook her head.
‘We live far away from any kind of trolls,’ she said ‘The city is mainly only for those who have a humanoid form. That way it restricts the creatures that we’re allowed to see, including any Abnormal and creatures that can’t morph.’ Amber hummed curiously.
‘I might visit a city after this is all over then,’ she smiled thoughtfully ‘It might be more enjoyable.’ Xeann chuckled and ruffled her hair.
‘I’ll tell you what,’ she said and crouched down to look Amber in the eye ‘I’ll give you and your whole family a tour of my city. It isn’t much now since the Nightmare Blanket ruined most of it with these new monsters and diseases. It will be a nice experience for all of you and I’m sure I can take your little brother to some of the best toy shops. How old is he now?’ Amber snorted at the mention of toys.
‘Jasper should be about twelve now,’ she said after a moment’s pause ‘I’ll tell you now that he never was interested in toys when he was younger. But he always had a fascination about buildings in the picture books we had in our early childhood. Perhaps going to some famous buildings in your city would be a better idea. He would appreciate it greatly if we did that instead of going to toy shops. Unless the structure of the toy shop is interesting.’ Xeann laughed at the idea.
‘None of my children were ever interested in the buildings that I took them to visit,’ she simpered ‘I would certainly love to get to know your little Jasper. He sounds simply adorable.’ Amber smiled softly.
‘Be careful with him,’ she said ‘He’s terribly shy around strangers.’ Xeann smirked.
‘Oh, I’ll be careful with the little dear, don’t worry,’ she assured her as they continued going up.