Amber felt sweat roll down her forehead as she clung onto two spikes that were sticking out of the ceiling. She held out a hand and flailed it, hoping to touch the red button on the wall. She sighed in relief when she managed to push it and the spikes along the floor disappeared. Sheela carefully treaded across the floor as Amber fell from the ceiling after climbing through the room to deactivate the spike trap.
‘I have never been so scared in deactivating a trap,’ she breathed and got on her hands and knees, taking some deep breaths. She took another deep breath and stood up, grabbing Sheela’s wrist and helping her up the staircase.
‘Well, I never thought she would put in a few clichés,’ Sheela raised an eyebrow as she held Amber’s hand ‘If anything after the Human Weapon, I would have expected much more challenging obstacles.’ Amber noticed how she always looked back anxiously and had to pull her along whenever they had finished an obstacle. Sheela just walked like a puppet but still looked back.
‘Sarah will be fine, she has Vienna,’ Amber said as the staircase began circling like the others and Sheela suddenly shouted.
‘She’s my sister, every day she gets into an accident, every week she manages to get someone hurt, every month she breaks at least one bone and every year she ends up in near death situations!’ Sheela breathed in and out harshly, placing a hand over her quickened heart and Amber stopped while she began sobbing. ‘She’ll get killed if I don’t go back and help them with the Diamond Bruiser!’
‘Have some faith in her!’ Amber said as she held Sheela’s hand tightly in both of hers ‘Sarah has always wanted a chance to prove to you that she isn’t a total klutz so let her and Vienna deal with the Diamond Bruiser.’
‘Amber, I do have faith in her,’ Sheela raised an eyebrow at her ‘I have seen her prove to me that she isn’t a total klutz and I have loosened my ropes around her since we were sixteen. But let me make this very clear, Amber.’ Amber’s eyes widened as Sheela took a deep breath. ‘She and a child are battling a Human Weapon and not only a Human Weapon, one of the deadliest! They’re going to get killed! Even if they do manage to shut it down, it’ll be the last thing they’ll do in their lives!’
‘…That’s why we must get to the Queen as soon as possible.’ Sheela took another deep breath and sighed harshly.
‘Fine, but I’m going to choose where we bury the poor children,’ she said and let Amber lead her on. They ascended onto the next floor and Amber froze when she saw hedges.
‘Damn, I hate mazes,’ she muttered as Sheela looked around to examine their surroundings.
‘Don’t worry, I don’t think minotaurs would be able to live here without making holes in the hedges,’ Sheela somewhat recalled Amber’s last experience in the last tower.
‘But there’s something in this maze,’ Amber whimpered ‘I can sense lots and lots of body heats. Though not as big as minotaurs thankfully but it is making me feel uneasy.’ The girls looked around at the four possible paths they could take and Sheela turned to Amber after examining each one.
‘Well, I suggest that we part ways to try to escape this maze,’ she said ‘I can track you down with my sorcery, even with the limits from the Nightmare Blanket, and you can sense body heats so if one of us can get out of the maze, we can find the other and help them out.’ Amber nodded, a bit worried.
‘I’m not so confident about all these tiny body heats I’m sensing,’ she said with narrowed eyes ‘What can you keep in a maze like this?’
‘Anything from ants to deer,’ Sheela replied with a shrug ‘If the Queen kept something dangerous within these hedges, I don’t think it would be as feral as a bull minotaur.’
‘I hope,’ Amber muttered as she picked a path to follow. Sheela picked the path next to the one Amber had gone down and began exploring the maze. She ran a hand along the hedged wall, feeling the green leaves slide through her fingers and the twigs scratching the palm of her hand. She began singing to herself and a nostalgic smile appeared on her face as she remembered the hours she would spend in the garden, looking after her siblings as they played in the sun. Sheela looked up when she heard the sound of tiny wings flapping and saw little lights flicking from one place to the other above her. She smiled warmly and reached a hand out to touch them.
‘Faeries,’ she murmured as more and more lights began circling above her ‘What are you doing in this dreadful tower?’ Her bright sky blue eyes glistened in their light and a dreamy smile slowly spread on her face. Her movements slowed as the colour in her eyes dulled. The lights circled her and Sheela began moving, as if in a trance. They led her to a hedge wall where the hedge split, revealing a pathway. As the hedge closed behind her, the faeries led her across the pathway where another hedge split to take her back to the original maze. Sheela was taken to a small meadow with flowers and lots more faeries. They unbound her plat and lay her down gently where she stared up blankly as they circled her and weaved flowers into her loose silver hair. Sheela closed her eyes and drifted off to a nightmarish sleep.
Amber was confused. She had only been running through the maze for a few minutes and the tiny body heats had sort of floated away. She could sense much less than last time and Amber was suspicious. She carefully treaded across the paths that were covered in leaves and twigs. Suddenly she sensed a clump of body heats around the corner and picked up her pace to see what they were. As she turned the corner, she blinked in confusion when she realised that it was just a dead end. But she could sense so many tiny body heats! It didn’t make sense! Were they invisible or something? Amber slowly placed a hand on the hedge wall and then heard the tiny flaps of wings above her. She slowly looked up and saw several tiny gold and white lights circling her and her enhanced sight detected each little light to be a small person, each with individual looks if you took a good look. The girls looked pretty with long eyelashes and cute dresses to clothe them. The boys looked handsome with their gorgeous eyes and their strong looking body build. Their eyes glowed a deep blue and Amber closed her eyes to avoid getting hypnotized. She reached out and jumped, snatching one in her hand.
‘I am not going to fall under your spell,’ she said sternly, eyes still closed ‘I know what your game is, I’m not going to play along very nicely I’m afraid. So sorry to disappoint you.’
She suddenly yelped when the faerie in her hand sunk her teeth into her hand. She abruptly let go and opened her eyes to see a lot of angry faeries swirling around her and screaming with their tiny high-pitched voices. Amber was suddenly snatched by vines and pulled into the hedge behind her. She thrashed about as twigs snagged in her hair and cut through her clothes. Panting heavily when she eventually was bound with her wrists above her head and her ankles in the undergrowth, Amber looked around to examine her surroundings. All she saw was hedges and she let out an annoyed huff. Grunting, she dug her nails into the vines that bound her wrists and sawing through them to get free. They were thick vines but very soft so she didn’t break a nail while getting herself free. Once the vines snapped back to their original places, Amber began pulling her legs free and scrambling around the hedge blindly to get out. The hedge unexpectedly split and Amber fell to the ground once she realised she had been suspended in the air. Amber looked around, confused to which direction she should go in but the angered faeries that swirled above her made her decision fairly quick. She shot in one direction and began running away wildly from the tiny annoying little lights. What made the chase more interesting was that the hedges were after her too so Amber frantically jumped and ducked to avoid getting hit by vines and branches that appeared in front of her. Amber felt the adrenaline run through her as she blindly turned corners and yelped when she tripped over one branch and landed in a clearing in the maze. The faeries flew straight over her as she groaned, lying on the ground and seemingly unconscious. Amber slowly sat up and blinked when she saw a staircase spiralling up to the ceiling.
‘OK, now where’s Sheela?’
Amber frowned and closed her eyes, focusing on looking for a larger body to detect the heat off. All she could feel were the faeries’ body heats surrounding her and hiding in the hedges. Amber gave a wary look to the hedges around her. She didn’t like being watched, she especially didn’t like being watched and knowing that she was outnumbered. She tried her best to ignore the faeries and concentrate on finding Sheela. Eventually she detected a larger body heat but what alarmed Amber was that it was lying down, not doing that much. Well the fact that she could detect the body heat proved that Sheela was well and alive but Amber got worried. She didn’t know how to break a faerie’s grip on a hypnotized person. This would certainly prove to be a challenge. With a deep breath, Amber began running through the maze, trying to follow Sheela’s body heat. The branches and vines lashed out to try and grab her again while the tiny body heats of the faeries began clumping above her again. Amber’s mind was focused solely on Sheela’s body heat which led her directly to the field that Sheela lay in. Amber fell at Sheela’s body, frantically batting away the faeries that surrounded the young sorceress. She grabbed Sheela’s limp hand and pulled her to her feet. Sheela automatically stood, dazed with a dreamy look on her face. Seeing Sheela respond so fast, Amber gripped Sheela’s hand and began running only to be jerked back by Sheela’s slow reflexes. As Amber fell over she heard the faeries laugh in their tiny high pitched voices and sighed in irritation.
‘Shut up,’ she grumbled moodily as she got to her feet and jerked Sheela forward ‘Come on, Sheela, wake up!’
Sheela’s legs began moving slowly and Amber sighed tiredly as the faeries laughed harder. Amber tugged Sheela harder and Sheela began to walk at a normal pace. The faeries’ laughter died down as Amber tugged Sheela again and they ran off, Amber clumsily steering Sheela through the maze to get to the exit. The faeries screamed loudly and Amber hissed in pain when her ears began ringing. Sheela’s face remained blank as she blindly followed Amber to the staircase. Amber saw clouds of faeries coming from different paths and pulled Sheela harshly up the stairs. Sheela’s bare feet didn’t pick themselves up so she fell after the first step. Amber was hauled back from the sudden fall and sighed tiredly when she saw Sheela lying on the stairs, staring ahead expressionlessly.
‘Come on, Sheela, get up!’ she shouted as the faeries began circling her, biting her neck, her hands, her arms and her legs ‘Come on, we’re nearly there!’ She swatted the faeries away like angry bees while pulling Sheela to her feet and pulling her up the staircase. Sheela’s feet eventually learned how to climb stairs and Amber led her up the spiralling staircase, blood dripping from the tiny bite marks covering her body and her clothes ripped from where tiny hands had been pulling at her. Amber furiously swiped at the faeries while storming up the staircase, a huge sense of relief flooding her body when she saw the doorway up ahead. The faeries were starting to attack her face and Amber closed her eyes, clearing a path through the insistent cloud of gold and white light until her hand found a door handle. She pushed against the door and tumbled into another room, Sheela falling in after her. As soon as the door swung shut, Sheela blinked in confusion, the colour slowly returning to her eyes.
‘What…happened?’ she asked as she sat in the dimly lit room thoughtfully then saw Amber lying on the floor, lots of pinpricks covering her body and her clothes slightly torn. Amber looked at her and sighed.
‘You…owe…me…’ she breathed as Sheela covered her mouth in horror while healing up the bite marks.
‘Oh dear, I don’t know what came over me!’ Sheela began panicking while Amber regained her breath and sat up ‘I saw the faeries and I thought they might help us get out of the maze…’
‘Silai Faeries do no such thing,’ Amber breathed and looked at Sheela ‘They’re tiny little monsters, always wanting to cause mischief. They’re pretty vicious too, they feed on flesh unlike other faeries.’ Sheela balked at the last comment while Amber grimaced. ‘Silai Faeries allure their prey by hypnotizing them and putting them to sleep if they want the prey to keep for a banquet. If I hadn’t gotten to you, you would have been quite the banquet tonight.’
‘How do you know about these Silai Faeries?’ Sheela asked as she pulled the flowers out of her hair.
‘My father bred them to use for missions,’ Amber shrugged ‘Nasty little buggers too, one or two would escape occasionally and bite one of us. They’re especially lethal if you have them in colonies like the one that was living down there. If you really get them angry, they’ll eat you alive, stripping you from all your flesh and muscle.’ Sheela shuddered as she slowly got to her feet and dusted herself down.
‘Well, thank you,’ she said with a nod ‘I believe I owe you my life.’
‘Don’t mention it, if you see any more Silai Faeries don’t look at them and just run for your life,’ Amber said as she scrambled up to her feet ‘I don’t think we’ve got much further to go…’
‘No, you don’t,’ a voice echoed in the air ‘In fact, you are one floor below the Queen.’
Sheela and Amber turned their heads to the staircase where a young girl of fourteen years descended, her sleek silver hair reaching her past her shoulders. Her golden eyes glowed in the dim light as gold orbs of energy appeared in her hands. Amber brought her fists up while energy sparked at Sheela’s fingertips. The young girl smirked as she reached the bottom of the stairs.
‘I hope the Silai Faeries weren’t too rude to your coming here,’ she commented as Amber narrowed her eyes, rolling her shoulders stiffly.
‘Who are you and why do you work for the Queen?’ Sheela asked as more energy sparked from her fingertips when their opponent’s orbs of energy grew brighter.
‘Lavender Fox,’ Lavender replied coolly and gave a courteous bow ‘At your service.’
Her eyes gleamed playfully as she threw one orb into Sheela’s stomach. Sheela let out a pained grunt as she was thrown back and crashed into the wall behind her. Her frail body collapsed onto the floor and Amber charged towards Lavender, her fists raised to attack the young sorceress. Lavender grabbed her by the hair and exploded the remaining energy orb in Amber’s face. Pain exploded in Amber’s head as Lavender tossed her to Sheela carelessly, dusting her hands with a disappointed sigh.
‘Her Majesty was so eager to fight you after we saw your battle against the sabre toothed cat,’ she shook her head and placed her hands on her hips. Amber let out an angered snarl.
‘You fight dirty,’ she accused while getting off Sheela and rubbing her slightly singed face.
‘No, I fight like a proper sorceress in training,’ Lavender smiled warmly while lacing her hands together in front of her ‘You’re just sloppy.’ Sheela groaned as she sat up and rubbed the back of her head with a pained wince.
‘Sloppy or not, you don’t take advantage of opponents that are obviously weaker than you,’ she scolded while shakily getting up to her feet.
‘I was going easy,’ Lavender shrugged while letting gold energy spark between her fingertips as she got ready for her next spell. There was a pained wail from upstairs and the girls froze. Lavender winced when the wail sounded again and sighed. ‘This isn’t really the right time…’
‘What’s going on?’ Amber asked warily as Lavender waved the energy off her hands and began ascending the stairs.
‘Her Majesty is giving birth,’ Lavender announced and paused midway up the stairs to look at the girls ‘If you ladies would be kind enough to assist then we would be glad to have the extra help.’ Amber heard Florence wail louder and Lavender sighed tiredly, hitching the skirt of her dress up and hurrying up the staircase. Sheela and Amber gave each other a look before following Lavender.