Amber sat on the roof of the medical centre cross-legged patiently, watching out over the wasteland where a pile of black rock and metal stood clustered in the centre. She endured the baking sun as she waited for a familiar dark shape to come towards Magia Town. She could hear Sarah falling down the stairs again and Sheela shouting at her. With a tired and bored sigh, she threw the pebble in her hand to another building near her, watching it as it bounced off the thatched roof and fell through one of the holes.
‘Hey, Amber,’ Saphira stuck her head out from the hole in the roof next to her ‘You’ve been up here for hours. Come back down.’
‘It’s been two weeks and a day now,’ Amber said simply and curled her knees into her chest ‘She should be back by now.’ Saphira sighed as she heaved herself up onto the roof and sat down in front of Amber.
‘She must have lost track of time, vampires often do that because they age so slowly,’ she suggested with a shrug ‘Come on, Amber, I’ve managed to snatch some meat off the feral minotaurs that are roaming around free now for our dinner. Surely you must be hungry after spending so much time up here.’ Amber’s stomach grumbled and Amber turned away sharply.
‘I won’t eat until Xeann gets back like she promised,’ she said determinedly and Saphira sighed tiredly.
‘Amber, you know Xeann isn’t invincible like a lot of people think,’ Saphira placed an arm around Amber’s shoulders ‘She might have ended up in another sticky situation like the Croft’s Raven.’
‘It’s too soon to say things like that!’ Amber snapped irritably.
‘Then it’s too soon to assume that she isn’t going to come back,’ Saphira began to tuck Amber back down the hole ‘Come on, the meat won’t keep forever and it took me ages to snatch it off them.’
‘You could have asked me,’ Amber said absent-mindedly ‘The feral minotaurs think that I’m their new alpha female.’
‘I did ask you but you were too hooked up on waiting upon Xeann’s arrival,’ Saphira growled with an annoyed twitch of her brow ‘Now come on, it must be finished roasting in the sun by now.’
‘Wait!’ Amber suddenly stood up with wide eyes ‘She’s there! She’s there, look, Saphira, look!’ When Saphira looked, her eyes widened when she saw a staggering figure coming from the Hyacin Mountains and across the wasteland.
‘Vampires don’t bleed like that normally,’ she murmured when she saw the trail of blood that followed the dark figure then widened her eyes more when Amber abruptly jumped off the roof ‘Hey, wait!’ She sighed tiredly, closing her eyes briefly so she could transform into her feral wolf form then jumped off to grab Amber and lumber off in Xeann’s direction. Xeann swayed as Saphira screeched in front of her and Amber quickly slipped off Saphira.
‘Hey, Xeann, are you alright?’ Amber asked and Xeann smiled.
‘If you’re worried about the blood, one of my gourds leaked,’ she said and yelped as Saphira grabbed her and swung her over her shoulder.
‘I’m really hungry so let’s get back,’ Saphira snarled and grabbed Amber to swing over her other shoulder and lumbered back over to Magia Town. Xeann hissed in pain as Saphira’s claws accidentally dug into her skin as the blue werewolf stormed into the medical centre and trudged upstairs, breaking one of the stairs carelessly. She stormed into the room that she and Amber were staying in, throwing Xeann onto her bed and Amber onto hers. She shrunk into her human form and grabbed the two slices of meat that were roasting on the window sill, tossing a piece to Amber who caught it with one hand while stumbling over to Xeann. Saphira sat down on the stool in the corner, muttering under her breath while tearing away at her piece of meat hungrily.
‘Xeann, what happened?’ Amber asked worriedly as she chewed on her meat absent-mindedly. Xeann groaned and held up her gourd and drank deeply. She grimaced as she pulled out her leaking gourd and drank the remaining contents. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and relaxed.
‘I ran into a nasty surprise over the Hyacin Mountains,’ she grimaced and glanced over at Amber ‘You know about the fact that the Nightmare Blanket has made several creatures, Abnormal creatures in particular, unnaturally grotesque and fall under the Queen’s possession?’ Amber nodded eagerly and Xeann pulled her soaked cloak off, casting it aside to reveal the ice shards buried in her arms and side. Amber gasped and Xeann looked over to Saphira. ‘Help me out here please.’ Saphira snorted as she raised one of her hands and clenched it. The shards flew out of Xeann, making the vampire hiss in pain when the shards were pulled out without any gentility. Saphira smirked widely and snorted.
‘Serves you right for being so late,’ she grumbled and Amber grabbed the roll of bandages on the bedside table, quickly wrapping them around Xeann’s arms. Xeann sneered at her distastefully before sitting up to let Amber wrap the bandages around her torso.
‘As I was saying, there’s a large Ice Narwhine on the other side of those mountains,’ Xeann continued, nodding her head to the large mountains to the left of the wasteland ‘Those snow clouds are caused by it and it nearly struck me down.’ Amber tilted her head with a frown.
‘What’s a Narwhine?’ she asked and Xeann opened her mouth with a confused frown then sighed.
‘Oh yes, you grew up in a desert, I forgot,’ she mumbled and sat back ‘Do you know what a narwhal looks like?’ Amber shook her head and Xeann sighed in frustration. ‘A whale?’ Amber nodded when she remembered the picture books that her mother used to show her when she was a young child. ‘Right, now imagine that whale to have a horn like a unicorn then imagine it about half the size of a mountain and it’s got an armour made out of ice.’ Amber blinked blankly as she tried to imagine such a creature.
‘Do such creatures exist?’ she asked and Xeann nodded.
‘Well, they’re usually about six metres long but this one has had a touch of demonic magic from the Nightmare Blanket,’ Xeann grimaced and fingered her bandages thoughtfully.
‘And how long did you have to spend fighting it?’ Saphira asked with a concerned frown.
‘Oh, I didn’t dare fight such a creature,’ Xeann looked alarmed at the thought ‘She didn’t seem to notice me though until I was on my way back.’
‘How do you know that it’s a girl?’ Amber asked curiously.
‘The way she reacted to my presence when I was coming back matched the behaviour of a protective mother,’ Xeann shrugged ‘I could be wrong but I’m just assuming that it’s a female Narwhine that we’re dealing with.’
‘Dealing with?’ Saphira cut in ‘Are you saying that we have to go and face this thing?’
‘Well I did find that tower,’ Xeann shrugged ‘The guns and cannons aren’t working so we can infiltrate it easily.’
‘Didn’t you go in yourself?’ Amber asked with a confused frown.
‘I was hoping that when we got back that the blizzard would blow over,’ Xeann explained ‘And I was running low on blood so I didn’t want to take a risk.’ She hissed in pain as she accidentally twisted her leg in the wrong way and Amber carefully twisted it back round again. Xeann yelped and Amber winced when they heard a crack.
‘Did that feel right?’ Amber asked sheepishly as Saphira winced sympathetically.
‘No,’ Xeann said through gritted teeth ‘Especially when it got buried by a ton of ice and I landed on it when I slipped down a slope.’
‘You certainly like getting injured a lot,’ Saphira remarked with a smirk.
‘No, oversized feral creatures don’t seem to like me very much,’ Xeann glared at her briefly as Amber ran out to fetch Madison. Saphira sneered at her before tearing off another piece of meat and chewing it moodily. Vienna stumbled in and widened her eyes when she saw Xeann.
‘Where were you?’ she demanded ‘You said you would be two weeks!’
‘OK, so I was delayed by a day because a Narwhine tried to freeze me and swallow me whole,’ Xeann rolled her eyes ‘Would you rather I went off by myself to the tower and found your parents on my own so you would miss out on the action?’ Vienna’s eyebrow twitched in annoyance and she sighed tiredly.
‘You know you’re such a pain,’ she mumbled with a pout ‘Anyway, how long is this going to take to heal?’ She gestured to Xeann’s bandages and Xeann shrugged.
‘Perhaps Madison can look at it, I’m not a professional nurse you know,’ she said and gently ran a hand across her torso ‘It could have been worse though.’
‘Hey, I heard that you were back!’ Sarah came running into the bedroom and tripped over her feet, crashing into Xeann and making the poor vampire hiss in pain.
‘Nice to see you too, Sarah,’ she said through gritted teeth as blood began to seep through the bandages. Amber huffed in frustration as Sheela came in after her sister with Madison.
‘Those were fresh bandages as well,’ she mumbled sulkily and handed over the roll to Madison who took it and began examining Xeann carefully. Madison let out a low whistle as she gently parted the bandages and saw Xeann’s gash.
‘Well what happened here, did an oversized Narwhine try to eat you alive or something?’ she joked with a laugh.
‘She tried to bury me alive and when that didn’t work she nearly gorged me to death with her horn,’ Xeann raised an eyebrow at Madison’s accurate diagnosis ‘How long have you been a nurse?’
‘Oh, my family have been doctors and nurses for generations,’ Madison scoffed as she gently pressed two fingers on the gash to heal it ‘I started learning all about medicine before I learnt how to walk and talk.’
‘My father waited until I could walk and talk before he began teaching me how to kill people,’ Amber mused quietly and Madison raised a disapproving eyebrow.
‘You haven’t actually killed anyone have you?’ she asked and Amber quickly shook her head.
‘No, ma’am. Assassins need to be at least eighteen before they can start going on proper missions.’ Madison rolled her eyes and pulled her fingers away from Xeann.
‘There,’ she said and removed the bandages on Xeann’s body ‘Give it a day or two of complete rest and you should be fit and healthy enough for travelling again.’ Amber stared at the smooth pale skin that was once marred by a nasty gash and rubbed her shoulder thoughtfully. The large circular scar on her shoulder had always bothered her about what had happened at the tower. Amber recognized the fact that it was the Queen herself that had begun healing her then deliberately interrupted the spell to scar her.
Amber stood up and walked out to go back onto the roof and contemplate about the time she had at the Tower that had been standing in the wasteland. No-one followed her so she stretched her arms out and lay back, taking up most of the space and letting the sun warm her skin. Being in the Enhanced category and living in a desert for her whole life, Amber’s skin couldn’t easily get sunburnt luckily, even with the Nightmare Blanket making the weather worse. What Amber really hated was a tan but at this point in time, she couldn’t care less on how she looked. Rolling her shoulders stiffly, Amber pulled her hair out of its bunches and began finger combing it thoughtfully. She remembered seeing the Queen on the steps, about to leave for evacuation. Those bright ethereal magenta eyes made Amber feel numb and immobilized her for a moment. Normally the stare of a demon would do that but the Queen didn’t give off that sort of aura. Amber recognized that feeling though, as if staring into the world of the dead but she couldn’t remember exactly where she had felt it before. Then there was that demon that came down the stairs to help her get out of the Tower before it crumbled down completely. He called her something and Amber closed her eyes to briefly remember what happened during those few seconds.
‘…Florence, huh?’ she murmured and opened her eyes to stare at the fake sky ‘Sounds like a pretty normal name for someone who’s taken over the world.’ She smirked and closed her eyes again. ‘Queen Florence. I suppose she kept her name a secret because it doesn’t really have a ring to it.’ She laughed loudly and rolled around with a grin. Saphira poked her head out of the hole in the roof and raised an eyebrow at Amber’s manic laughter.
‘That’s it, you’ve officially gone mad from the sun,’ she said and grabbed Amber by the shoulders to pull her back down into the medical centre ‘No more going to the roof for you.’ Amber just kept on laughing at how ridiculously simple the Queen, or Florence, looked now as she was dragged back to her room.