Amber wasn’t sure just how long Sarah had been in her coma. But there was one thing she was sure about, Sheela wouldn’t leave without Sarah. Saphira wouldn’t leave without Sheela. Vienna wouldn’t leave without Saphira, Xeann wouldn’t leave without Vienna which resulted in either going to Relevein Town on her own or staying behind. Amber didn’t want to leave without having Xeann around. So she had been stuck in Stiraia Village, combatting weaker monsters in the junkyard to keep in shape. Amber was starting to experience changes in her body and she began worrying just how long they’ve been in Stiraia Village.
The first thing she noticed was that she had grown a couple of inches and she grew out of Sarah’s clothes, ripping them a bit. Siegfried stitched them up when that happened. The next thing Amber knew her body was doing, her breasts had gotten bigger and ripped Sarah’s shirt. Another patching up job for Siegfried. Soon Amber felt her hips widening and she got worried that she might be starting her periods soon. Considering their current situation, that would be very inconvenient and Amber would be very stressed with the changes in her body, effectively distracting her from her training and battling. The only thing Amber was pleased about was that her muscles were developing and growing just nicely and she felt herself growing stronger.
As the days and weeks passed, Amber felt herself growing restless just staying in Stiraia Village to wait and see if Sarah was going to wake up. She didn’t dare go to Relevein Town on her own in case there were dangerous monsters like the Narwhine and the Croft’s Raven from earlier encounters blocking the way. Xeann had taken her outside the village but not as far as past the mountains that surrounded it. But with Xeann they could hunt down other monsters that were stronger than the monsters in the junkyard which really tested and trained Amber's skills. But Amber still yearned to go to Relevein Town and track Florence down again to find her father. It was getting more frustrating with every day she had to wait for Sarah to open her eyes. You could imagine her excitement when Sarah finally showed signs that she was waking up.
It started with her hands twitching and Sheela pulled Siegfried over to check if she was alright. Then slowly but surely her eyes opened and she was greeted by a very joyful and tearful hug before getting a harsh smack around the head for being stupid and clumsy enough to get her jaw broken. The next day they began to set out for Relevein Town which meant hiking around the next set of Hyacin Mountains.
‘Hurry up, Vienna!’ Xeann called as she climbed up the slope.
‘I’m coming, I’m coming, you old zombie!’ Vienna snarled as she trailed after her grandmother wearily. Amber was already at the top of the slope and Xeann’s demands to stay put as all that kept her at the top instead of going ahead to Relevein Town. She clenched her fists and waited impatiently for the rest of the girls to reach the top, tapping her foot to try and suppress her energy. She then began jumping to get rid of her agitation. She felt pumped and ready to punch that egotistic Queen in the face. Xeann reached her first and stopped her jumping by placing a hand on her shoulder.
‘Patience is a virtue, little one,’ she said and Amber chewed on her lip.
‘Sarah was in that coma for ages though!’ Amber growled angrily ‘In the time that she was out, I could have found my family and have taken Florence down! It was such a waste of time to wait for Sarah…’
‘Ah, so her name is Florence?’ Xeann raised an eyebrow ‘I suppose it is a pretty name for a pretty young lady.’
‘I wonder what she named her daughter,’ Sheela thought out loud as she reached the top next.
‘I feel sorry for the child,’ Amber scoffed ‘Having a mother like that, I would report that child to the RSPCC in normal circumstances.’ Sheela and Xeann were both taken aback by Amber’s foul mood. Xeann was less surprised, she had been stuck in the village for over six months and every day she got more agitated. But this sudden mood swing, Xeann suspected that Amber was growing up more in puberty and her menstrual cycle might be starting. Oh, the poor girl.
‘Finally,’ Saphira wheezed as she reached the top next with Sarah holding onto her tail to avoid falling.
‘Vienna, hurry up!’ Xeann called to the lilac wolf that was scrambling up the slope.
‘I’m coming, keep your knickers on!’ Vienna snarled as her hind leg slipped on some gravel. Amber tapped her foot impatiently, staring ahead at the sandy wasteland behind the Hyacin Mountains. She was a cluster of houses which she assumed to be Relevein Town. Behind it was a large crater where a small meteor had struck the planet many millennia ago. It had devastating effects to a large portion of the planet and in the present day very few people survived travelling into the crater. It was rumoured to contain treasure and alien life. As soon as Amber saw Vienna’s paws touch the path that they were on, she marched off without much of a second thought, her mind set on finding Florence.
‘Amber, watch out!’ Xeann shrieked as she tackled her to the ground. Amber landed with a loud THWUMP and a gust of air blew past them. She looked up when she heard the loud sound of wings beating against each other.
‘It’s a Flaregona!’ Saphira shouted ‘Run for it!’ Xeann slung Amber over her shoulder and slid down the mountain slope on the other side of the path. Amber looked up and her eyes widened when she saw a massive scarlet dragonfly creature with a glowing orange tip. It began shooting hot red fireballs at the girls as they slid down the slope. They hit the slope the girls were on, sending them flying into the wasteland. Sheela was trying shooting spells at it to steer it away, however the fall weakened her too much to be able to shoot spells as far. Sarah grabbed her sister before she collapsed and began dragging her across the wasteland in a panic. Vienna and Saphira used their tame wolf forms to run across the wasteland, tails tucked between their hind legs, while Xeann got her blades out in case they would be used. No-one realised that Amber had stayed behind to try to fight the Flaregona herself.
She watched as the Flaregona chased after the others and picked up a reasonably large rock. She used her strength that she had been building up over the months to throw it and it struck the Flaregona’s tail tip. There was a loud screech that sounded throughout the wasteland. Amber braced herself as the Flaregona swerved and stared down at her with an angered buzz. Xeann skidded to a halt and turned around, sighing in exasperation.
‘Amber, what do you think you’re doing, young lady?!’ she snapped as Amber began zig-zagging up the slope. The Flaregona buzzed angrily as it clumsily fired fireballs at Amber. Xeann sighed again and began running towards them. Amber, her body holding a few burns from the close calls whilst climbing, reached the top and was at perfect height to jump on the Flaregona. She braced her knees and then launched herself at the Flaregona. She was going to land on its head but out of nowhere, a beam of navy blue energy shot out and disintegrated the Flaregona. Amber’s eyes widened as she went through the cloud of smoke and tried to look for the source. Xeann dropped her blades and ran underneath Amber, catching her. She turned around to the source of the attack and only saw the top of the crater as the only place where it would have been possible to fire such a powerful attack.
‘Are you alright?’ Sheela asked as Xeann placed Amber down and put away her blades.
‘Well whatever that last attack was, it got rid of the Flaregona,’ Xeann said as she kept her eye on the crater then looked at Amber ‘What were you thinking?!’ Amber jumped when Xeann raised her voice.
‘I…I…’ she stuttered as the girls came back and began forming a small circle.
‘Were you trying to get yourself killed?!’ Xeann shrieked.
‘But I thought I could take it on by myself,’ Amber defended herself weakly.
‘Only the most experienced can take down a Flaregona by themselves!’ Xeann was losing her cool now and Vienna just squeezed her hand tightly to calm her down ‘You could have been burned alive if you landed on it! What would your mother say if I brought back your ashes?!’
‘But I’ve been training so hard these past six months!’ Amber whined ‘I thought I’d be strong enough to kill it!’
‘You’re only fifteen, Amber and you’ve never been up against a Flaregona before,’ Saphira said calmly as she turned into her human form.
‘I’m fourteen,’ Amber argued. Everyone went silent and Amber then began thinking about how much time had passed since the Nightmare Blanket was released. Saphira sighed and shook her head.
‘I’ve actually been keeping track of the days,’ she said ‘It’s been fourteen months. I think you’re fifteen years old by now.’
‘My birthday was two months ago?’ Amber said as she stared ahead ‘It’s been over a year since my family was torn apart?’
‘We should get going,’ Sheela quickly said and everyone began heading over to Relevein Town. Amber trailed behind them, eyes fixed to the ground in thought. Fifteen years of age, she had three more years until she could officially start her assassin profession, starting with simple assassinations like discretely poisoning elder people. But that wouldn’t be possible with Florence in charge of the Ethylias.
‘So what do you reckon killed the Flaregona?’ Saphira asked Sheela as Amber slowly caught up and matched their pace.
‘I haven’t got a clue,’ Sheela shook her head ‘Normal magic can’t be fired and have a direct hit from that distance.’
‘Maybe it was an alien!’ Vienna said spookily and tugged at Xeann’s sleeve ‘Hey, Nan, do you think it was an alien?’
‘I think it was a demon,’ Xeann replied bluntly as she jerked her sleeve out of Vienna’s grip ‘Probably Nightmare judging by the colour of the magic. Stupid prat, always trying to show off his power…’
‘Wait, a demon?’ Sheela frowned ‘Xeann, are you sure?’
‘There are two powers that can travel such distances and have a big impact on living things like that,’ Xeann said as she turned around to see the few ashes of the Flaregona still floating down ‘One is demonic power, the other is divine power.’
‘But what if it was a divine power?’ Sarah suggested as Sheela handed her some water from a salvaged gourd to keep her going.
‘Please, if it were a divine power that would mean the Lord Almighty would have granted his angels to come to Ethylias and help us through this hellish nightmare,’ Xeann grumbled moodily then glared up at the Nightmare Blanket ‘It’s really nice to know that you care about us, Lord! I bet you’re damn happy to just sit there and watch this planet crumble away to the demons!’ Sheela took a step away from Xeann discretely as did the other girls.
‘So what’s Relevein Town like?’ Saphira asked as they neared the cluster of houses by the crater.
‘Well, Relevein Town is famous for its performing arts school,’ Xeann said with a wistful smile ‘I remember spending a few years there.’
‘And yet you end up being some pr…’ Vienna was about to remark and yelped when Xeann clipped her over the ear, interrupting her.
‘It was only for the fun of it,’ Xeann continued ‘I’ve always loved acting, it had been a passion since I was a little girl.’
‘So did you actually have to stay over there if you enrolled into the school then?’ Sheela asked with a frown ‘It must be sort of daunting to have a massive crater like that looming over you.’
‘Actually it was sort of interesting because over the years, the walls of the crater became hosts of alien specimens, or so scientists say anyway, that’s why it’s a dark green colour, and sometimes it would glow.’ Xeann sighed wistfully. ‘Those were good times during my youth. I gave birth to your Aunts Garnet, Jade and Dawn and your Uncles Christopher and Edmund then, Vienna.’
‘That’s good to know,’ Vienna mumbled, not really listening.
‘Actually, I believe Bianca’s father was one of the students I went out with briefly,’ Xeann hummed and scratched her head thoughtfully ‘I don’t remember his name, but I believe he went on to be a Drama teacher later on.’
‘Wait, my grandfather might be in this town?’ Vienna perked up hopefully.
‘Don’t get your hopes up, dear,’ Xeann smiled and ruffled Vienna’s hair ‘He was only a human and it was fifty six years ago. He’s probably retired, married, has other grandchildren and gone over to Zugaite Village to live out the rest of his years. Who knows, he might be dead by now…’
‘Sometimes I wish you would just stick to one guy to have your children with,’ Vienna grumbled under her breath as she looked rather deflated.
‘You have two grandfathers at home to spoil you,’ Xeann frowned ‘Don’t you like them?’
‘Yeah but they’re not exactly my actual grandfathers are they?’ Vienna glared at Xeann.
‘What about Seri? You love Seri don’t you?’ Vienna remained silent with a cute embarrassed blush on her face. Xeann smirked triumphantly as Amber sat down to stretch her legs.
‘I’m tired,’ she whined.
‘It’s not far now,’ Sheela bent down to place a hand on her shoulder.
‘But I want to be there now, my legs ache and my feet hurt…’ Amber pouted moodily. Xeann sighed and went over.
‘Up you go,’ she heaved and swung Amber onto her back ‘Now don’t get too comfortable, I don’t normally give teenagers piggy back rides.’ Amber immediately clung onto her and closed her eyes to take a nap. Xeann raised an eyebrow and shook her head with a tired sigh. ‘She’s a piece of work,’ she muttered as they continued walking to Relevein Town.
‘Hey, Sheela, give me a piggy back ride!’ Sarah said and jumped onto Sheela’s back.
‘No, Sarah, whoa!’ Sheela fell and landed heavily onto the ground with Sarah on top of her. Saphira winced at the impact.
‘We’re trying to get to Relevein Town in one piece, Sarah,’ she reminded Sarah and nudged her off Sheela.
‘But I want a piggy back ride,’ Sarah pouted.
‘You’re too big for piggy back rides,’ Sheela moaned as she got up, rubbing her back with a pained groan.
‘And apart from Xeann, no-one’s strong enough to carry you,’ Saphira said with her hands on her hips ‘You’re…nineteen now? Yes, you’re nineteen, you should grow up and take it like an adult.’ Sarah whined and sulked moodily while following Xeann, kicking stones on the way.
‘It’s not fair, Amber gets a piggy back ride…’ she muttered darkly.