Amber opened her eyes groggily with a groan when she was pushed out onto a soft plush comfortable surface. She immediately sunk into it and sighed in content, finally feeling some comfort in her life. It was so soft, so warm, much better than the straw beds the minotaurs had. Amber felt like she could just fall asleep at any moment now… She gasped in surprised pain as a large rough tongue licked her shoulder wound. She whimpered and felt dizzy from the sudden loss of blood. The sabre tooth tiger growled and pulled out a small box from underneath where she was lying on. It nudged it over and picked up a small white ball. When it was pushed into Amber’s hand, she could feel that it was a roll of clean bandages. She managed to find one end of a bandage then let the roll fall from her grip and roll away to unravel a bandage. The tiger took the end from her hand and Amber painfully lifted her arm to let it sling the bandage around her wound clumsily. Amber groaned as she tightened the bandage groggily, her eyesight not as good as it should be. When a cool human hand rested itself on her forehead, she felt too weak to protest. All she did was let out a pained moan.
‘Mother?’ she murmured ‘Is that you?’ She didn’t hear a response as cool slender hands began to adjust her bandage carefully and clean up any blood that had spilled out of the wound. Amber sighed as her eyelids fell heavy and she yawned loudly. She tensed up briefly when she felt the familiar sting of healing magic going into her wound. She tried to pry her eyes open and take a look at her healer but even if she did manage to keep them open, her eyesight was all blurry and tears were clogging them up. She then gasped in pain when she felt it abruptly stop and excruciatingly close the wound, ensuring a scar would always remain on her shoulder. Amber whimpered in pain as she relaxed back into the sofa, raising her left hand shakily to try and feel the wound. It dropped and she found herself wanting sleep more than ever. She had climbed up countless of levels, tried to outrun a feral bull minotaur, tired her brain out with the riddles that came after the labyrinth and fought a sabre tooth tiger while using the her limit and the last of her strength. She couldn’t bear to go any further now.
But she had to find her father, no matter what the cost. She can’t give up now, what would Xeann say if she saw her now? Amber tried to get up but her body told her to stay still and relax. Her mind persisted and told her that she must get up now and she must find her father and afterwards her mother and Jasper. She jolted her body slightly but those warm hands pressed her down into the soft plush surface.
‘Rest now,’ a familiar voice that Amber failed to recognize softly instructed ‘Battle scars rather suit you, despite the fact that they heal too quickly. You’ve been through a lot, I’m very impressed with you, Amber. Oh how I could really use someone like you in the future…’
‘Mother?’ Amber breathed weakly but she was hushed soothingly. A giggle was heard as Amber heard high heels click on a marble surface. She then felt a cool hand brush itself against her cheek. On instinct to search for comfort, she nuzzled into it warmly and heard a light giggle.
‘You’re so persistent and strong,’ the voice praised ‘I’m sure your mother would be very proud of you.’ Amber stirred as the hand began caressing her hair gently. ‘Your father would be proud too, if he was around to watch you.’ Amber frowned at the mention of her parents and tried to move away from the hand but felt too weak. ‘Your little brother would be happy too, I’m sure.’ Amber didn’t like the fact that this person seemed to know too much about her and her family. Who was this person? She tried to wake herself up more but soon dropped off to sleep when she felt cool lips kiss her forehead, like a mother would kiss her child to sleep. ‘Sleep well…’
Amber woke up with a gasp when she heard a particularly loud bang from outside and light blinded her vision temporarily. Her vision came back to her almost instantly after the flash and she looked around her surroundings. The sabre tooth tiger lay down beside her on a dark green carpet. Amber then discovered that she had been resting on a plush pea green sofa with several cushions and pillows cushioning her. She looked up and saw a large window which showed Magia Town on the outskirts of the wasteland and saw the battle was still going on below in the wasteland between the fighters and the clay dolls. Dark ominous thunderclouds, that flashed with energy every so now and then, were visible in the illusion sky which indicated that the bang had been a clap of thunder. Cody was probably still fighting down there with Saphira then. Amber briefly wondered how well Saphira was doing. She glanced back at what was behind the sofa and saw a roaring warm fire in a marble fireplace behind her. Above it was a painted portrait of a young woman with pale skin, bright magenta eyes and forest green hair tied up in a high ponytail. She posed with a solemn face, her thin lips set in a tight line. Amber recognized, from Xeann’s description a couple of weeks ago, her as the young-looking Queen. The reason why she was here in the first place.
Amber turned to the end table by the sofa and frowned curiously when she saw a framed photo. She reached out and winced when a dull ache went into her right arm as she remembered where she had injured her shoulder a while ago. She glanced at her bandaged shoulder and carefully pressed down on it. She felt that the wound had closed up and carefully tugged the bandage off. She hissed softly and gently rubbed the large nasty scar that was embedded in her shoulder. It was rare for someone to have a scar in the Enhanced category unless a healing spell went wrong. Amber grimaced as she pulled her hand away with a confused frown.
‘How did that happen?’ she asked to herself and reached over for the photo with her left hand.
Studying the photo carefully, Amber blinked in surprise when she immediately recognized the Queen in the centre of it. Surrounding her were six other people. A tall man with yellow-brown eyes and green hair like the Queen’s stood behind her right hand side, staring at the camera unfeelingly. A beautiful woman with long blue hair and gold eyes stood next to him, a warm smile on her features. Directly next to the Queen on the right side stood a slightly taller girl who looked around about eighteen years of age. But even with her beautiful light blue hair, her twinkling sea green eyes and her charming smile, she looked very intimidating. On the left hand side stood a shorter girl around Amber’s age. She had shoulder length silver hair and golden eyes which displayed her hidden and seemingly endless energy. She had a warm smile on her features as she had her hands on a younger girl in front of her, roughly twelve years of age. The young child had curly silver hair and bright smiling yellow-brown eyes. She displayed a rather eager smile on her face. The Queen had her hands on a younger boy’s shoulders. He had spiky jade green hair and timid dark blue eyes. He looked very shy and bashful and looked like he was about to hide his face into the Queen’s chest. The Queen looked genuinely happy, a pleasant smile spread across her beautiful young features.
Amber looked from the photo then to the portrait behind her. She wondered what the Queen was like before she rose to power. The portrait displayed her seriousness, as if she was being forced into having her portrait being traditionally done by a painter. In the photo, it showed her happiness, as if she was the one who suggested a family photo. At least, it looked like a nice family photo from Amber’s analysing deduction. Placing down the photo when she heard voices, Amber looked up at the ceiling with a curious look. She shakily got up to her feet and stumbled when she remembered how weak she was from climbing up the tower and going through all the obstacle courses. The sabre tooth tiger sat up then padded over to her, fully healed by the look of it, and offered her a ride. Amber collapsed on top of it, clinging onto its fur, and it padded off to the staircase, ascending up to the next floor. Amber clung onto the tiger’s fur coat tightly, looking up as the voices got louder as they neared.
‘I’m really worried about this,’ an unfamiliar voice said ‘You can’t possibly be still thinking about that theory now, surely.’ Amber and the sabre tooth tiger reached two large decorated wooden double doors. Amber peered through the gap in between them carefully and saw the girl with short silver hair and golden eyes from the photo on the other side of the doors. She held a face of concern and her fingers were laced together nervously.
‘Lavender,’ Amber recognized the Queen’s voice almost instantly ‘Think what this could mean for all of us if we looked into this anomaly further. Those legends and myths we read about that connection, we can prove that it exists in this world. We could find out a ground-breaking discovery! Isn’t that interesting, or perhaps exciting to you? And you wouldn’t be hassled about so much if they focus their attention solely on the bond that connects us.’
‘You’re taking a huge risk here, sister,’ Lavender countered her, lacing her hands together worriedly ‘Supposing the first thing she thinks about is fighting you when she wakes up? You’re in no state to fight at the moment…’
‘Then fight we shall and it shall be ever so glorious. I’ve been dying for an opponent like her, little sister. It’s been months since I last had a thrilling fight. Of course you wouldn’t understand the thrill of a fight, Lavender. You’re too much of a pacifist to get involved in a fight.’ Amber’s eyes widened at her words. The Queen had been wanting for someone like her to fight against? But why? Battles were ugly business and Amber did everything she could to avoid them. Lavender sighed in exasperation.
‘Sister, I don’t like this at all!’ she shouted, clenching her fists tightly ‘You can’t fight, you know very well that you can’t!’
‘Oh if it doesn’t survive through the fight then it’s not worthy enough to be a child of mine,’ the Queen scoffed and Amber could hear high heels clicking against a marble floor when she spoke.
‘How on Ethylias can you think like that?!’ Lavender shouted in shock ‘You’re sixteen years old now! You should know better!’ Amber lifted her head at that exclamation with wide eyes. So the Queen was just sixteen years of age after all? But how can that be true? Surely a teenage sorceress couldn’t possibly be able to hold this much power within her… Amber gripped the sabre tooth tiger’s thick warm fur fearfully when she suddenly remembered. The Queen had two demons for her allies. It wasn’t uncommon for any teenager to give into a demon’s offer for a Faustian contract. They must have made all of this possible.
‘Lavender, I don’t like this,’ the Queen’s heels clicked against the marble floor more when she spoke ‘You don’t know what it’s like to have a blood thirst like me. You’ve seen how she managed to convince a bull minotaur to let her live as his mate and the way she persevered through the whole tower! I want to fight her, I just know she’ll be a perfect addition to the court! I’m sure you’ll be agreeing with me after she’s been with us for about a month.’
‘You’ve met with her father to recruit him and he certainly didn’t want to join the court.’ Amber held her breath when Lavender mentioned her father. Had they tried recruiting him too? ‘What makes you think that she would want to join the court?’ Silence fell over them until another loud clap of thunder sounded outside, lightning flashing through the room. ‘Look, Cody’s getting exhausted out there. I don’t know what you see in that mutt but he can’t hold the rest of the fighters off for very long.’
‘Cody has endless of energy and they’ve been malnourished and weakened for over four months. I think he can keep them at bay.’
‘Yes, but only long enough for us to evacuate, Your Majesty.’ The term, ‘Your Majesty’ was spoken with heavy sarcasm ‘Really now, you have too much faith in him. Just accept the fact that he’s not as strong as you think. He is only a teenage werewolf.’
‘We’re only teenage sorceresses and look at us now,’ the Queen snidely remarked.
‘We had a proper education and actually succeeded in some classes,’ Lavender folded her arms with a disapproving look.
‘Cody went to a school that was as good…’
‘But he wasn’t intelligent enough to remember the simplest of facts. Just admit it, sister. We’re going to have to leave soon and you know it.’ The Queen sighed and there was a pause of silence. Amber held her breath when she heard a sigh.
‘Alright, Lavender,’ the Queen said in defeat ‘You win. Go and tell the others that we’re moving to the Southern Tower.’ Lavender nodded stiffly and walked off, her own lilac high heels clicking against the marble floor. Amber held her breath when she disappeared through the door on the other side of the largely decorated room. She gently pushed the heavy wooden door open and the sabre tooth tiger padded in softly when it was wide enough to fit through. Amber didn’t pay attention to the room, her eyes were only fixated on the figure that was going up the large staircase in front of her. She jumped off the sabre tooth tiger and used all her strength to run towards the Queen.
‘Hey you!’ she called and coughed roughly afterwards when her legs protested and she stopped to stand still ‘Wait!’ The Queen paused on the staircase and looked at her over her shoulder. Amber took in a sharp breath as she saw those glowing magenta eyes for the first time which bore into her skull. The Queen took in a sharp breath too when she saw those blazing amber eyes. With a devious smile, she turned round fully, revealing her whole figure. Amber’s eyes widened and a silent gasp escaped her when she saw the large round belly pushing out the dark fabric of her dress that had been concealed from her. Amber gaped at her and looked at the Queen, speechless, stunned and shocked. Why was the Queen pregnant? When did she get pregnant? How was she pregnant? Who was the father? Why did she want to fight with Amber when she clearly was unable to? A light giggle escaped the Queen when she saw Amber’s shocked expression. The Queen opened her mouth to say something, but the tower suddenly shook. Amber fell over immediately as the Queen stood on the stairs, unfazed. She gasped as a large piece of the ceiling fell and landed inches away from her.
‘Florence, hurry up! We have to leave now before we get caught up in the deconstruction!’ Amber looked up sharply at the unfamiliar voice and saw a young pale-skinned man with shoulder length dark azure hair and twinkling blue eyes run down the stairs and grab the Queen’s hand. He spotted her and Amber’s skin erupted in goosebumps immediately when she recognized the stare of a demon. Staring into the demon’s eyes would give you just a glimpse of their demonic personality. Amber felt the dread of nightmares run down her spine through his stare and swallowed harshly when his lips parted to reveal a wide, bloodcurdling toothy grin. She also remembered the time when she was nearly tempted by a demon. Amber had never looked at a demon in the same light ever. Amber yelped as the floor beneath her cracked and she screamed as she began plummeting down the tower with the sabre tooth tiger, hearing a loud manic cackle, which could only belong to a madman, before plunging into the darkness below her.
Saphira was in her feral form and on Cody’s shoulders when pieces of the tower began to fall from the sky. She glanced up to see that it was crumbling down rapidly, pieces of large stone and marble falling and landing around the fighters, flattening clay dolls in the process. Cody took the opportunity to throw her off his shoulders and run away from the battlefield at the speed of lightning. Saphira landed in her human form with a yelp and watched him go. A snarl left her mouth.
‘Cody, you idiot!’ she yelled at him in fury, her eyes blazing in anger ‘You stupid coward! Get back here or I’ll kill you!’ When Cody didn’t respond, she began running after him but her leg got squashed by one of the large stone pieces that were falling around her. She gasped in pain and tried to pull away from the large piece of stone that had her trapped. When she saw Cody was still running off, she let out a mournful howl of despair as the tower collapsed fully behind her, leaving nothing but a gigantic pile of rubble.
In the meantime, Sheela was looking for Sarah and beginning to panic. Sheela sighed to try and compose herself as she checked who was still alive out of the fighters who had joined them to assault the tower then got worried all over again when Sarah wasn’t anywhere to be seen. She immediately went into frantic sister mode and began worrying for the worse after a minute or two. She knew Sarah was careless but surely her little sister wasn’t careless enough to get herself killed was she?!
‘Sarah!’ she called anxiously then quickly did a check in the sky, in case Sarah had decided to be an idiot and tried to fight in her pegasus form ‘Sarah, where are you?’ Her eyes widened when she saw two dark figures with large demonic wings fly into the night sky, hiding in the clouds that the Nightmare Blanket created to conceal them. Sheela felt her heart race and her breath hitch when she recognized the eerie sensation of a demon’s presence doubled over. Clutching her heart tightly, she closed her eyes and took a moment’s pause to compose herself. She bit her lip when she remembered that she had to find her sister and began looking around the remains of the clay soldiers in case she had gotten killed without knowing it. She heard rubble move behind her and turned round slowly to see her younger sister burst out and stagger onto her feet. She stood unevenly on her feet and swayed unsteadily.
‘I’m OK,’ she said shakily before falling on top of a horrified Sheela ‘No need to worry about me, I’m perfectly…OK…’ Sheela caught her and held her steady.
‘How on Ethylias did you manage to get buried underneath the rubble?!’ she demanded shrilly ‘You were supposed to be running away from the crumbling tower!’ Sarah held her head and moaned.
‘I was running away from it when it was falling down,’ she slurred her words together ‘Then the tower decided to fall on top of poor little me when I tried to get away from it. Ow…Sheela, my head really hurts and I’m starting to see pink and blue ducks…’
‘I’m not surprised,’ Sheela sighed, rolling her eyes at her sister’s bad luck and quirking an amused eyebrow at the hallucination that she had described ‘Come on you, back to the medical centre where you belong.’
‘Shut up, sis,’ Sarah moaned grumpily.
Meanwhile, Xeann burst out from the rubble, covered in snake egg yolk. She pulled a disgusted face as she wiped her face and pulled the egg shells out of her hair. She shook herself out and shuddered.
‘Ugh, I never was a fan of eggs in general,’ she dismissed in disgust and brushed herself down. She turned round and picked up her tattered cloak. With a dismayed sigh, she put it on her and placed a hand painfully on the wound on her hip where one of the Titanoboas had successfully bitten her. She began scanning the rubble and saw a troll arm sprawled out of the rubble. She hurried over with a limp and began clearing away the rubble until she found the dead troll that she had left with Vienna. A groan was heard underneath the troll which startled Xeann.
‘Nan…’ Vienna moaned from underneath the troll ‘Help me, I can’t breathe under here and I’ve got the biggest headache ever…’ Xeann sighed in relief as she held her breath and stretched her arms out to gently grab Vienna by the wrists and pull her out. She grunted as she tugged her granddaughter out from underneath the heavy corpse. The young teenager coughed and spluttered then hugged her tightly once she was free, making the older vampire hiss in pain.
‘Watch it, I’m badly injured and it might make it worse if you hug me too tightly,’ she cautioned then looked around, her eyes glowing in the dark ‘Thank goodness I only left you with a troll and at a low level too. You could have seriously injured yourself if you were on the same level as me. Damon!’ She petted Vienna softly as she waited for her second eldest son, soothing her granddaughter whenever she moaned in pain. Vienna whined and hugged Xeann tighter.
‘Nan, I think I broke something,’ she moaned in pain as she tried to move her limbs ‘The troll fell on top of me when the tower began to fall down…’
‘Ssh…ssh, everything’s going to be alright, Vienna, it will stop hurting soon,’ Xeann cooed and waved her free arm to grab Damon’s attention ‘Damon, over here, dear! Come over here! I need some help with Vienna!’ Vienna whimpered and nuzzled Xeann softly for comfort. Xeann hushed her soothingly and rocked her back and forth while Vienna whined and cried in pain, burying her face in her grandmother’s chest.
‘Nan, I’m sorry,’ the half wolf whined ‘I didn’t mean to say anything nasty to you and I just want to say…’
‘You are going to survive, Vienna,’ Xeann said sharply when she predicted what her granddaughter was thinking as Damon crossed the rubble and bent down to study Vienna ‘You may be a werewolf but you’re vampire too and both species survive no matter what they think! Damon, get her over to Magia Town quickly!’
‘OK, mum,’ Damon said with a firm nod and picked Vienna up gently, soothing her when she gasped in pain ‘I’ll be sure to get her over to Madison right away. I promise that she’ll be the first patient that she’ll be seen to!’ Xeann got to her feet unsteadily, as Damon jogged over to Magia Town with Vienna, and looked around, doing a quick check of everyone that was present.
‘Sheela!’ she called ‘Sheela, are you still alive?!’ After a few minutes, Sheela came over after laying her sister down on a makeshift stretcher.
‘Xeann, where did you go?’ she asked in concern ‘I couldn’t find you anywhere on the battlefield during the fight.’
‘I went into the tower with Amber and Vienna to face the Queen with them and find out what happened to those who went to challenge her,’ Xeann explained and breathed in sharply when she pulled out a piece of a snake fang from her wound. She sighed painfully and rubbed her wound gently. ‘Ouch, I didn’t mean to break their fangs into pieces when I was getting out of their grip but they did have a good hold of me… Is there anyone at all that’s missing, Sheela?’
‘Well, I’ve just found Sarah and I’ve sent her back to Magia Town to get looked at, we’re just checking the rubble for anyone that might have been flattened by the tower at the moment. I’ve just seen Damon and Vienna head over to Magia Town. But apart from that, I can’t find Amber anywhere.’ Xeann’s eyes widened when she realised how much danger Amber must have been in if she was nearer the top of the tower when it collapsed. Xeann didn’t know how far exactly Amber might have gone but she had a good idea that she must have been rather high up. She had a rather strong perseverance to find her family and Xeann didn’t blame her one bit. But that didn’t mean that the flame that kindled her determination wouldn’t soon die out and Xeann knew that Amber was just some mortal from the Enhanced category. Even if she was from the Enhanced category, a fall like that could have seriously injured poor Amber.
‘Oh, lord,’ she gasped and covered her mouth in horror, tears brimming her blood red eyes ‘I put her in danger, the poor thing. I shouldn’t have let her go alone.’ She immediately looked around frantically for any signs of life underneath the rubble scattered around her, panic striking her heart. ‘Amber!’ she called and began walking around the rubble to search for any sign of her ‘Amber, can you hear me?!’ There was a low growl and rubble was sent flying everywhere a few metres away from her. Xeann turned and bared her fangs instinctually when she saw a minotaur emerge from the rubble but then saw it clearing away more rubble for something. A large cat emerged from the rubble next and shook out its massive body that was covered in thick fur. It picked up a small limp body and Xeann cried out to them. ‘Amber!’ She limped over and picked Amber up, cradling her gently. The large cat growled but Xeann hissed at it warningly before cupping Amber’s cheek ‘Amber, wake up. I know you’re alive, please Amber…’ She stared at Amber’s face worriedly until she saw amber eyes slowly open. Amber looked up at Xeann groggily, not really seeing her clearly.
‘Mother?’ she croaked ‘Father? Jasper?’ Xeann sighed in relief and leant her forehead against Amber’s.
‘Thank goodness,’ she sighed with a comforted smile ‘You’re alright, Amber, everything’s going to be alright now.’
‘Mother!’ Xeann gasped as Amber suddenly threw her arms around her neck and began crying loudly. ‘I want my mother back! Give me my mother back! Give me my father back! Give me Jasper back! Give my baby brother back! Give them back! Give all of them back! Mother!’ Her chest heaved up and down as she tried and failed to swallow down her continuous sobs and let her tears trail down her cheeks. She let out a scream of frustration and began to weakly punch Xeann, burrowing her face into the elder vampire’s shoulder. Saphira turned her head round behind her as she was being helped towards Magia Town by a fighter when Amber’s wails echoed throughout the land. Sheela watched from afar with sad eyes while Xeann rocked Amber back and forth to soothe her. Sarah cracked her eyes open as she was carried over to Magia Town and grimaced when she recognized Amber’s cries of sorrow. Vienna bit her lip and tried to not cry when she heard Amber and saw the scenario over Damon’s shoulder. Xeann sighed forlornly and hugged the young teenager tightly while standing up. She let Amber bury her face into her chest and kissed the side of her head reassuringly.
‘It’s alright, Amber,’ she murmured soothingly and began carrying her over to Magia Town ‘Don’t worry, it’s going to be alright, Amber, just wait and see. We’re just going to patch you up everything’s going to be alright, I promise.’ As Amber closed her eyes, all she could remember was the demonic stare from the man that she had seen with the Queen.