Amber felt restless again. Xeann had told them to stay put again while she went ahead and Amber didn’t like it one bit. She couldn’t see any monsters in sight to fight and she didn’t like Elzamia’s negative aura. It wasn’t a good idea to be around a mother werewolf when she’s injured and she has pups. Amber was very uncomfortable in being around her so she took regular walks along the abandoned streets early in the day and often stayed out for the whole day if she got lucky in finding any food and water. Her walks stopped at the crater where she could see Xeann’s progress in scaling the crater wall. She didn’t keep track of the days but eventually Xeann’s climbing form disappeared. What Amber pondered about the most was how on Ethylias could she climb vertically with high heels on?
It was a very hot and dry day when Amber went out walking again to get away from Elzamia’s bad morning temper. She spun an ice cube from Saphira around in her mouth to keep herself hydrated. She scowled at the foul taste. Artificial water wasn’t exactly the best tasting water there is and it was such an effort for Saphira to construct one ice cube with the lack of natural water. So she used spit and sweat to help form ice cubes which was awful to taste but it kept the girls alive. Amber honestly didn’t know how much longer she could go on with these ice cubes. They were salty and disgusting, Amber just shivered in revulsion at the thought of them.
Amber stopped at the crater wall and stared up at the crater, nearly falling over backwards as she craned her neck up. Her scalp felt really sweaty and uncomfortable so she took her bunches out. She jumped when she felt the sweaty ends tickle her back and realised that she hadn’t cut her hair at all since the Nightmare Blanket came out. She carefully swept it over her shoulder and combed it with her fingers thoughtfully. It reached past her developing breasts now, Amber hadn’t felt so different before. She didn’t like the fact that she was growing up under these conditions. She clenched her fists and glared at the ground silently. This wasn’t the way she had planned her life. It just didn’t feel fair for Florence to appear out of the blue and ruin everyone’s plans for the future. She was shaken out of her thoughts when a little figure crashed into her and dropped an empty wooden bucket onto her foot.
‘Ow!’ she yelped and jumped away.
‘Ah! I’m s-s-so s-s-sorry!!!’ Amber stood on one leg to rub her foot tenderly. She then froze when she heard a familiar stammer in the little boy’s voice. She looked at the boy and saw that he had short silver hair like her father.
‘Jasper?’ she whispered as the boy picked up the bucket after dropping it. He began running away and Amber tackled him to the ground.
‘P-Please! D-D-Don’t hurt m-m-me!’ he stammered as he covered his eyes and began shaking like a leaf ‘I didn’t m-mean t-to crash into y-you like that!’ Amber hugged him tightly to her chest when she recognized the short white hair and got a glimpse of his jade green eyes.
‘Jasper, it is you,’ she croaked and began sobbing into his shoulder ‘Oh, Jasper, I’m so glad you’re safe!’ The boy in her arms wriggled and tried to get out of her grip. Amber just tightened her grip to make sure he didn’t escape.
‘B-But I’m n-not J-Jasper!’ he squeaked.
‘Yes you are!’ Amber turned him around so he could see her. Jasper stared at her for a few seconds and slowly relaxed.
‘Amber?’ he whispered ‘Amber, is it r-really you?’ Jasper sniffed as he began tearing up and hugged Amber tightly. Amber hugged him back tightly, gasping when she felt how thin and frail he was.
‘Jasper, you’re so…’ she whispered and Jasper began crying loudly.
‘I thought you were d-d-dead!’ he wailed ‘When Momma and I were being dragged away, we s-s-saw them hit you and b-b-beat you when you were on the ground! Then this man purchased me and tried to do w-weird things to me! I-I’m s-so s-scared that M-Momma m-might b-be d-doing something w-weird t-too!’
‘Oh, Jasper,’ Amber cradled him to her body ‘It’s OK, I’m here, don’t cry. Mother is fine, she’s safe, you don’t need to worry. Stop those tears, your big sister is here now and she’s going to save you…’
‘I r-ran away though!’ Jasper sniffed and rubbed his nose ‘I ran f-far away from h-him when I got the opportunity. This old l-lady is looking after me now and I’m just trying to find water to bring back to her.’
‘Do you know of a water source near here?’ Amber asked as she let go of Jasper and set him down in front of her. Jasper sniffed and nodded, his eyes red from crying. Amber smiled and cleaned his face up. ‘Well let’s go and get some water then,’ she said as she stood up and helped him back up onto his feet ‘I have some meat on me so we can share it with the old lady.’
‘Nuh uh,’ Jasper shook his head ‘I’m a v-vegetarian, remember?’
‘This really isn’t the time to be fussy, Jasper,’ Amber narrowed her eyes at him ‘And it’s monster meat anyway, we can’t really find any proper normal meat.’ Jasper hunched his shoulders and nodded shyly. Amber smiled down at him. ‘Still, it’s good to know that you’re still the same, little brother.’ She took his hand, picked the bucket up and let him lead her to the water source where he fetched his water.
Xeann had lost all track of time when as she climbed the crater wall. Her mind was solely focused on climbing the large dark green crater wall. She struggled over caves and slippery patches with nothing but rope to help her up the massive crater wall. Eventually it got very cold and Xeann pulled her hood up to keep her face protected. Her blood supply was running low and she was exhausted by the time she reached the snowy top. She scrambled up onto the top and panted for breath, exhausted. She looked down and shuffled away from the edge with a gasp, clutching the ground in terror. She had only realised how much she was afraid of heights and she hadn’t realised just how far up she was. She lay down, closing her eyes and gasping for air. She eventually steadied her breathing and rested for a few minutes. When she opened her eyes, she jumped to her feet when she saw a tall hooded figure towering over her and brought her blades out.
‘You are trespassing,’ he said as he brought out two indigo swords ‘I must eliminate you.’
‘Yeah? We’ll just see about that,’ Xeann swung her blades at him and the two of them clashed. Xeann had quick reflexes but this young man was even quicker. She criss-crossed her blades, made swerving movements with her arms and tried to aim for his stomach to cut it open. He executed swift bold strokes, aiming for her shoulders to try and severe her arms off. Xeann narrowed her eyes as she saw how he didn’t slip or slide on the icy surface that they stood upon. This one looked resilient and she wasn’t going to let him cut her down now she had gotten this far. Her attacks became more frenzied, determined to knock him down first. This did lead to her being wide open to his attacks more often though. The hooded man caught onto the pattern of her attacks and took his opportunity to swing at Xeann when she stumbled past him. Xeann turned around and blocked the attack clumsily. She squeaked when she slipped and fell flat on her back. Her hood slipped and she sat up with a groan, glaring at the indigo blade that came dangerously close to her face. She slowly looked up at the man who froze in position.
‘Mummy?’ he whispered and Xeann raised an eyebrow.
‘Dear, I’m considered to be a lot of children’s mother, or in your case ‘Mummy’, and I am very flattered to have triggered your memory of your ‘Mummy’ before you kill me,’ she said maliciously.
‘No, Mummy.’ The man pulled his hood down, revealing his features. ‘It’s me. Don’t you recognize me?’ He held out a hand for Xeann to take. Xeann glared at his gloved hand and warily took it, her blade at the ready to strike him if he tried anything funny. He gently pulled her to her feet and Xeann carefully studied his features. His right eye was blood red and his left eye was bright blue. He had short dark purple hair to his shoulders and pale skin. He held her hand tightly as he stared at her expectantly. Xeann’s eyes slowly widened.
‘Cedric?’ she whispered as she slowly lowered her blade ‘Cedric, is it really you?’ Cedric smiled widely.
‘Mummy,’ he whispered back and Xeann dropped her weapons, reaching up to cup his cheeks.
‘My, you’ve grown up into such a handsome man,’ she sniffed as tears pooled in her eyes.
‘You haven’t aged a day,’ Cedric said as he reached out to cup her cheek ‘You look just like the same woman who gave birth to me…’
‘Please, dear, I’m a vampire. It happens. You must have hit your aging stopping point when you were twenty.’
‘Actually, twenty five,’ Cedric shrugged ‘Dad made sure of that.’
‘What?! He made you look older than me?! That bloody son of a…!’ Xeann began cursing, swearing and shouting at Nightmare as she turned her heel and paced up and down the crater top irritably. Cedric smiled to himself as he watched her rant out her stress and frustration. She gasped as her eyes burned and she fumbled for her gourd of blood, drinking quickly.
‘Mummy, take my blood,’ Cedric urged as he took off his glove.
‘No!’ Xeann said with wide alarmed eyes and wagged her finger sternly at him ‘No, dear, Demonic and Divine blood is lethal for vampires and any other creatures that live on Ethylias.’
‘Is it?’ Cedric frowned as he pulled his glove back on.
‘Oh, yes,’ Xeann nodded ‘Trust me, I used Divine blood to kill my parents when you were still just a child. I read up about it beforehand. Demonic blood poisons those who drink it whilst Divine blood drives them crazy. I did not have any access to Demonic blood when I was twenty though.’
‘Where did you get the Divine blood from then?’ Cedric asked with a frown ‘You’d need to have an angel to take their blood and they aren’t known to do that willingly.’
‘I had my ways when I was young,’ Xeann smirked and winked ‘Are there any clean sources of blood around here?’
‘Well, there are plenty of creatures inside the crater that you’ll be able to feed from,’ Cedric said as he pointed to inside the crater. Xeann frowned.
‘Well, not the best kind of…’ She froze when she turned and took a good look inside the crater. Inside, life flourished everywhere. Clean rivers ran amongst the lush green grass fields and flower patches. Xeann saw trees full of life and normal animals from squirrels to deer prancing around. In the centre of the crater stood a large tower, casting a shadow over a strip of the small haven. Xeann felt her jaw drop as she smelt the fresh plants and sighed despairingly, shaking her head sadly. Cedric grimaced softly.
‘The Queen wants the best for her daughter,’ he murmured as Xeann’s body shook with rage.
‘I want the best for my children, why does she have to be so selfish?’ she growled and clenched her fists ‘How dare she just lives in this paradise whilst other mothers and children suffer from her soldiers and separation!’
‘It’s a dictatorship, Mummy,’ Cedric shrugged ‘Life isn’t fair on this planet anymore.’ Xeann nibbled her lip while sighing. ‘Which reminds me, would you like to join the Queen’s forces with me and Father?’
‘No, never as long as I live,’ Xeann snapped at him ‘Why are you just being blindly controlled by your Father?’
‘I don’t really have a choice,’ Cedric shrugged hopelessly and Xeann scoffed, waving a dismissive hand.
‘Nonsense!’ she retorted ‘Every child of mine has a choice in their life, whether it may be their sexuality or their choice in career! I’m officially stealing you back from your father.’ She stepped forward and cupped her hands around her mouth. ‘You hear that, Nightmare?!’ she bellowed into the crater where her voice echoed ‘I’m taking my son back whether you like it or not! You had no right to separate us and I will make you suffer for all the pain you have caused me!’ Cedric tilted his head and Xeann grabbed his hand. ‘You’re going to lead me to that tower and you’re going to be turning against the Queen,’ she said firmly.
‘But Father won’t like that,’ Cedric hunched his shoulders.
‘This isn’t about what your Father likes or dislikes,’ Xeann said with narrowed eyes ‘This is about what your loving Mummy wants.’ Cedric looked uncertain and Xeann sighed tiredly. ‘Come on!’ Cedric yelped as she pulled him sharply and they went skidding down the slope into the crater.
‘This is a rather healthy looking water source,’ Amber raised an eyebrow as Jasper led her into a cave of the crater and showed her a waterfall falling from a hole from the top of the cave and falling down another hole at the bottom. She stuck the bucket out and began filling it with the water.
‘I-I just h-happened to c-come across it when I-I was hiding from that m-man I t-talked about,’ Jasper said as Amber pulled the bucket out and sipped it. Amber’s eyes widened when she tasted it and pulled away.
‘It’s clean,’ she murmured in surprise ‘No poison, no chemicals, just natural mineral water…’
‘Is that s-suspicious?’ Jasper asked worriedly and Amber just drank more of the water.
‘It’s just so refreshing!’ she exclaimed and refilled the bucket ‘Saphira’s icicles always contained something dodgy in them and she is always so exhausted after making them…’ Amber drank another bucketful before refilling it. ‘Come on, let’s take this to the lady you’re staying with and I can bring the girls here,’ she said and let Jasper have some water too ‘But why is such a clean water source here when it’s supposed to be Hell on Ethylias?’
‘I don’t know, I guess the Queen wants s-some of us to s-survive,’ Jasper shrugged ‘But water alone is great to have but there’s hardly any food around. I’m starving for a coconut or an apple…’
‘The only sufficient way to get food is to hunt monsters and collect their meat, I’m afraid,’ Amber sighed as she took Jasper’s hand and led him out of the cave ‘I’ll drop off some monster meat with this old lady you’ve mentioned so she might be able to cook it or you’re going to have to eat it raw.
‘I told you, I’m a v-vegetarian!’ Jasper interjected.
‘And I told you that now isn’t a good time to be fussy!’ Amber snapped at him and sighed, hugging him tightly with one arm ‘I’m still so glad that you’re safe.’ She gave him another squeeze before letting him take her over to the old lady’s home that he was staying with.