‘Come on girls, keep up!’ Xeann called over her shoulder as they climbed up one of the slopes of the Hyacin Mountains.
‘Easy for you to say, stupid vampire,’ Vienna snarled in her tame wolf form as she tried to scramble over a boulder that stood in her way. Sarah gasped as she toppled backwards and landed on Sheela, sending the sisters tumbling down the slope and landing on top of poor Amber who was at the back of the group. Saphira winced, ears flat as she and Xeann neared the top of the slope where a steady path was.
‘We should have brought some rope,’ she commented once Xeann’s high heels settled themselves on the path.
‘I don’t trust rope nowadays,’ Xeann said as she pulled off one of her gourds of blood to take a swig from ‘I would show you the injuries I’ve had from their lack of sturdiness during the past few months if they weren’t located in my private parts.’
‘Yeah, too much information,’ Saphira whined and flattened her ears. Xeann laughed while watching her granddaughter.
‘Hey, Vienna!’ she called ‘I think it would be best if you go around that boulder.’
‘Don’t tell me what to do!’ Vienna barked as Sheela walked around the boulder that she was stuck on.
‘Sweetie, I know you’re trying to impress your friends but this isn’t the right time,’ Xeann said in a very patronizing tone.
‘When I get up there, there will be blood spilt!’ Vienna vowed as she made more of an effort to scramble over the boulder.
‘If you get up here,’ Xeann muttered to herself ‘Would you like any help?’
‘No!’ Xeann sighed impatiently and folded her arms.
‘Sarah, please help my granddaughter so that we don’t have to wait forever for her,’ she said to Sarah once she reached Vienna.
‘No, no, no, I can handle this myself!’ Vienna yelped as Sarah took one look at her and yelped as she lost her grip, rolled back down the slope and on top of poor Amber. Amber grunted when the wolf landed on top of her, groaning at the same time as Vienna.
‘You’re heavier than you look,’ she grumbled grumpily.
‘You’re not a bad person to land on, actually,’ Vienna commented as she scrambled up to her feet. Amber sighed and sat up, rubbing her waist where Vienna had landed on.
‘Come on, girls!’ Xeann called ‘No dilly-dallying allowed on this journey!’
‘How in God’s name did you manage to get up there first in your high heels anyway, you ancient zombie?!’ Vienna shouted at her grandmother in a snappy manner when Amber suddenly felt really dizzy. Amber suddenly retched, getting onto her hands and knees and panting softly, feeling very, very sick. The heat of the sun didn’t help much as she began to feel like she was going to throw up her stomach. Vienna noticed her sudden change in behaviour and nosed her curiously.
‘I’m fine,’ Amber breathed as she staggered up to her feet ‘Let’s…get going.’ She began staggering up the slope. Vienna whined and followed her, head-butting her rump gently whenever it looked like she was going to topple over backwards. Xeann pulled a worried face once they reached the top and crouched down to press a hand onto Amber’s forehead.
‘Hey, sweetie, you feeling alright?’ she asked and Amber shrugged her off.
‘I’m fine, let’s go,’ she said and forced herself to walk ahead of the others. Xeann raised an eyebrow whilst standing up.
‘Why, isn’t she a snappy young lady?’ she said with hands on her hips as Vienna scrambled up onto the path at long last ‘What do you reckon has gotten into her?’
‘I don’t know,’ the lilac wolf wheezed as she lay down for a rest ‘But I bet it’s your fault.’ Xeann gave her a swat around the ear after that remark. Sarah gasped and tugged on Sheela’s sleeve urgently.
‘Sheela, Sheela, look!’ she said as Sheela pulled her dress sleeve out of her sister’s grip. Sheela looked up and her pupils dilated as a large ice underbelly moved above them.
‘You weren’t kidding about the Narwhine’s size then,’ Sheela murmured as everyone, apart from Amber, looked up.
‘We shouldn’t worry that much,’ Saphira commented as she lay on her back to get a good look at what they could see of the Narwhine ‘They’re rather peaceful, right?’
‘Not when they’re expecting babies,’ Xeann said and frowned at Saphira ‘I thought you would have known that, Narwhines are rather common in the Frigus Mountains…’
‘Eh, they always migrated north when it was breeding season,’ Saphira shrugged.
‘Uh…guys?’ Sarah squeaked ‘It’s heading over to Amber…’ Xeann’s eyes widened when she saw that Amber had still not spotted the Narwhine above her.
‘Amber, watch out!’ she shouted as the Narwhine let out a low rumbling sound, slamming its body into the blue mountain. The mountain trembled and everyone, apart from Xeann, fell over. Xeann only stumbled slightly, leaning against the mountain to keep her balance. She gasped as Amber lay across the path, steadily rolling over to the edge of the path where a four hundred foot drop lay. Sheela saw this and grabbed Sarah by the wrist, getting up and jumping off the ledge at the same time as when Amber fell.
‘Sheela!’ Saphira shouted as Sarah clung onto her sister fearfully. Sheela’s bright blue eyes turned silver as her whole body was enveloped in light. Soon Sarah was riding a silver pegasus cross unicorn and reached out to grab Amber as they chased after her. Sarah managed to catch Amber and drag her onto Sheela without dropping her.
‘Amber!’ Sarah said loudly and shook Amber harshly ‘Wake up!’
‘Mother?’ Amber murmured in her sleep.
‘Huh?’ Sarah frowned in confusion at the response and tilted her head to the side ‘No, it’s Sarah! Wake up!’
‘Save it, Sarah,’ Sheela said as she ascended to avoid getting hit by the Narwhine’s tail ‘There’s something wrong with her.’
‘Hey woah, fly faster!’ Sarah shouted as it began to rain icicles. The Narwhine’s growl went from a low pitch to a high pitch as it tried to hit the girls with its tail. Xeann shielded Saphira and Vienna with her body while staring up at the Narwhine, frantically thinking of something to distract it. But it was huge! She would only be like an ant to the large beast. She knew Narwhines were attracted to singing but her voice alone wouldn’t be able to grab the Narwhine’s attention. She stared at the terrified wolves, by now they had turned back into their human forms, and looked at Saphira suddenly.
‘Saphira, you are half sorceress through your mother’s side, aren’t you?’ she asked and Saphira blinked at her and nodded once ‘Are you familiar with any spells?’
‘My specialty is cold weather conditions like this,’ she replied and yelped when the Narwhine slammed its tail into the mountain when it missed its target.
‘Can you perform any voice boosting spells?’ Xeann asked and Saphira shook her head.
‘But I know the chant and what it requires,’ she said ‘I could try. But then again, the Nightmare Blanket might hold me down…’
‘Why are you asking for a voice-boosting spell, I doubt we can shatter the Narwhine with your singing,’ Vienna raised an eyebrow.
‘Vienna Susanna Sierra Murphy, I know this isn’t the right time or place but NO-ONE insults my singing!’ Xeann suddenly snapped angrily and Vienna winced ‘Come on, follow me.’ They got up and began running down the path, dodging the icicles falling on them. Xeann spotted a small cave up ahead and further on was a high ledge that she could stand on to sing. She grabbed Vienna and threw her into the cave as they passed it. Vienna yelped as she landed in it and growled, poking her head out.
‘At least give me a warning!’ she shouted which made Xeann roll her eyes. She grabbed Saphira by the wrist and stood her underneath the ledge.
‘Wait here and start fabricating the spell now,’ she commanded ‘I will know when it’ll take hold of me so don’t worry about telling me when it’s in effect.’ Saphira nodded and Xeann began climbing up onto the ledge as she sat down and held her hands out. Energy sparked out of her fingertips, joining together to form a small ball while she chanted under her breath. Xeann stood on the ledge, watching the girls struggling to fly with the Narwhine chasing them. Sarah clung onto both Amber and Sheela, her eyes squeezed tight shut.
‘We’re not going to make it!’ she shouted making Sheela whinny loudly and snort irritably.
‘Don’t say things like that!’ she scolded.
‘And I suppose you have a plan to get us out of this?’ Sarah asked as the sisters made eye contact ‘You got us into this mess in the first place!’
‘Just give me some time to think!’ The sisters ceased squabbling as a harmonious voice echoed in the cold wintry air. The Narwhine hummed a low note in response and turned towards the mountain to see what was making the beautiful singing. Xeann stood her ground, singing as loud as her lungs could bear to catch the Narwhine’s attention, Saphira’s voice-boosting spell taking effect. Vienna stood outside the cave, waving her arms to catch Sheela’s attention.
‘Come on!’ her voice just reached Sarah’s enhanced hearing ‘In here!’
‘Over there in the cave, Sheela! Hya!’ Sarah dug her heel into Sheela’s side, making her sister whinny in surprise.
‘Don’t do that!’ she snapped and began flying over to the cave. Xeann spotted them coming in her direction and sighed in relief.
‘Saphira!’ Her boosted voice made Saphira’s ears ring and the blue werewolf whined.
‘Don’t talk so loudly!’ she snapped and Xeann sighed, rolling her eyes.
‘I’m going to go ahead,’ she said in a quieter tone ‘If Amber doesn’t recover, take her down to the village there.’ Saphira looked down and saw a small cluster of huts covered in snow below. She then looked at Xeann who sighed. ‘It might take me a week or so to go to the tower and come back so wait for me that long.’
‘What if you don’t come back?’ Saphira asked and Xeann shrugged.
‘Expect the worst has happened to me and let Sheela take charge of the group,’ she replied ‘I’ll find you sooner or later if the worst hasn’t happened to me.’ Saphira looked wary for a moment and nodded. Xeann looked up at the Narwhine, staring into its glowing red eyes before opening her mouth to continue singing. The Narwhine let out a few moans in response and began following her away from Saphira who retreated into the cave.
‘OK, Xeann’s just gone ahead and left Sheela in charge and we should expect the worst has happened to her if she doesn’t come back within a week,’ she said as Sheela turned into her human form and bent down to feel Amber’s forehead.
‘Amber’s burning up,’ she whispered softly ‘Does anyone know how long she has been like this?’
‘Well she didn’t look too hot on her feet when we were climbing,’ Vienna shrugged.
‘Yeah, considering both you and Sarah landed on her after you fell down,’ Saphira raised an eyebrow and Sheela’s eyes widened when she lifted Amber’s shirt.
‘Merciful Heavens, there’s pus leaking through her bandages!’ she exclaimed when she saw yellow-orange pus coming through the dirty bandages on Amber’s body.
‘Eww!’ Sarah pulled a face and retreated to the back of the cave. She yelped as she tripped over something. Saphira pricked herself up when she heard a similar yelp follow Sarah’s and her eyes widened when she saw a wolf in the cave with them. A blonde wolf.
‘CODY!’ Cody yelped again as Saphira pounced on him and began icing him to the ground. Cody whimpered and struggled when his paws became frozen solid to the ground and looked up at Saphira pleadingly.
‘Please, Saph,’ he begged ‘I won’t try to run away, I’m too tired…’
‘I am so not falling for that façade again,’ Saphira raised an eyebrow as she settled herself on top of her cousin ‘Sheela, do you know any binding spells?’
‘Stand back, my binding spells tend to get a bit snappy,’ Sheela warned as a response, raising her hand at Cody. Saphira stood up and stepped away, her eyes widening when black cords snapped out of Sheela’s fingertips, cut through her ice and snapped themselves around Cody’s body and paws. Cody whined in pain.
‘This is highly undignified,’ he complained ‘Couldn’t you have waited until I was in human form to bound me?’
‘Cody, I’ve been chasing you for nearly five months,’ Saphira raised her other eyebrow ‘I am not taking any risks.’ Cody whined and rolled onto his side sulkily.
‘Naw, poor puppy…’ Sarah cooed and patted Cody’s head affectionately.
‘Yes, poor me,’ Cody agreed and wagged his tail appreciatively as Sarah’s fingers tickled his ears. Sheela rolled her eyes as she gently pried Amber’s bandages apart and hissed in sympathy.
‘Zennalpha plague,’ she muttered as she pulled some cloth from her dress and dabbed some of the pus up ‘It looks like it’s been in Amber’s body for months. This is the secondary stage.’
‘Will she make it?’ Vienna was about to nose the pus thoughtfully but Sheela flicked her nose.
‘Any contact with the pus and you’ll be infected,’ Sheela warned.
‘But you’re touching it!’ Sarah protested.
‘I’m the leader of the group now, I will put myself at risk to try and save Amber,’ Sheela said calmly ‘Plus I can cure Zennalpha plague by myself in the early stages.’ She narrowed her eyes thoughtfully as she pulled Amber’s shirt down, discarding the pus covered scrap of material outside. ‘I don’t understand how this has gone unnoticed.’
‘Oh wait, I know,’ Saphira suddenly said ‘Cody kidnapped her from Vigour Village whilst she was still being treated.’
‘And if you didn’t attack me, she wouldn’t have it any more,’ Cody grumbled ‘Stop trying to make me out like I’m the bad guy.’
‘You are the bad guy at the moment!’ Saphira snapped grumpily.
‘Naw, the puppy was trying to help Amber,’ Sarah cooed and Cody panted happily when she tickled his belly.
‘Sarah, stop coddling the hostage,’ Sheela snapped.
‘And please stop calling him a puppy, he’s far from that,’ Saphira snapped afterwards with a vicious snarl. Sarah and Cody whined simultaneously whilst Sarah stood up and walked away from Cody. Sheela took off her shawl and wrapped Amber up in it, wiping her hand over Amber’s sweating forehead.
‘We’re going to rest here,’ she decided ‘I don’t think we could possibly follow Xeann with Amber like this.’
‘If Amber doesn’t recover, Xeann suggested that we take her down to the village below,’ Saphira said.
‘Alright, that’s what we’ll do,’ Sheela nodded as she gently lay Amber down in a more comfortable position.
‘I’ll stay up to keep watch,’ Vienna volunteered and the girls nodded in agreement, curling up to get some sleep.