My Exploding Cat

Just stories and drawings really, no actual fissile felines.

Brian, now updated



“Aw, but Mom!”
But Brian’s mother had her mind made up.
“You are NOT getting another video game! Period! END of discussion.”
Brian always wondered why she said “period” when it was usually an exclamation point.
“But Mom, it’s the coolest thing on the market today! I gotta have it!” Of course it was. Brian said that about every video game. And while it was the coolest thing on the market today, there would always be a different, more expensive coolest thing on the market tomorrow.
But Brian always managed to get whatever video game was most popular at that moment into the shopping cart, even if the next cool game came out an hour later. It was a skill you developed, especially if you loved video games as much as Brian.
Currently Brian’s mom was raising an eyebrow and doing the mother look that all mothers do in such a situation.
“Mo-om! Come on! There’s an instant prize for whoever wins the whole game first! Look, I’ll even read the book first. See?” He pointed to the little book that came with the game (which naturally nobody read). Fortunately for Brian’s mom, he hadn’t quite figured out how to do the puppy-eyes look that Lila used occasionally to get what she wanted. Their mom couldn’t look at that face and say no. Wimp.
“Hmm.” Brian’s mom was interested now, but doubtful. She would do anything to get him to read, even pay thirty-five dollars for a video game, but it was probably a trick.
Brian had a book shelf, and it wasn’t empty.
It wasn’t filled with books, either. His shelves were filled with each day’s coolest games.
Well, she would put at least one book on his shelf.
“Nobody’s won it yet. I could – I’ve had lots of practice.” Brian interrupted her thinking.
“All right, but don’t get your hopes of winning the prize thingy up, and you have to read the book first.”
“All right! Thanks!”
“But just to make sure that you actually read the book, I’ll hide the game until you’re done with the book. When you’re done with the book, hand it to me and I’ll do a test with it to make sure you read it all the way through.”
(Smart mom.)


Well, Brian read the book all the way through, and found out (just Mom’s luck) it was a disguised player’s guide. Now he turned it into Mom, who in turn did the 17-page test. This is when moms go every 17 pages or so and check to see if the book’s binding is stiff. If it is stiff,
then they haven’t read that page – and if that keeps up through the book, then that would say the kid hasn’t read it.
It turned out that Brian hadn’t missed a single page. Brian was obsessed with player’s guides almost as much as the games. The final boss would be very tricky – it had to be defeated by uniting all these critters, including his own warriors, and turning them against the bad guy. Then the warriors would attack everything they saw – including the character Brian controlled. Brian had to dodge his own warriors to avoid being trampled to death, and the boss was so huge and bulky that it couldn’t dodge, unlike Brian’s small, fast character. It was supposed to be easy if you knew how to do it, and overly impossible if you didn’t. Well, that was why nobody beat it yet. Nobody ever bothered to read a book when there was a game to play.
Brian’s mom returned the book and the game, and Brian beat it within a day. He shut off the TV to get a snack. As he started to get up, a voice called him back.
“Don’t forget your instant prize!” A little faerie called, producing a six-rayed orb between her hands. “Catch!” She threw it through the TV screen. Brian looked behind him.
“Sorry, bad aim,” The faerie said. Then she disappeared. Brian found, entangled in his bed sheet, the six-rayed orb from the video game used to unite all the creatures. It struggled out of his sheets and hovered over his shoulder. Brian tried to tell it to go back into the game, where it belongs, but it sort of told Brian that it was his, and he’d finally found it. How would he explain it to anyone else? But then, he could always change the subject and brag about how he won.
The orb refused to leave its perch right above his shoulder, and kept pace with him no matter how fast he ran. Brian gave up trying to get rid of it.


When Brian went back to school, he expected the kids to stare at him like he had two heads. But nobody seemed to notice the baseball-sized orb that followed him everywhere. (Most of the time it was that size, but Brian found, later, that it could change size to hide or even support something.) If you asked anybody there, nothing was up except Brian was acting a little crazy, seeing things and such. People were a little weirded out by the fact that he claimed to have the orb from the video game floating over his shoulder. Brian decided it would be better to let them think that it was only in the game. It was a sunny day, and since the class idiot in math was absent, the teacher thought that everyone was on their best behavior and let them run around outside in the extra time. Brian scrambled up a tree, and looked out the branches.
“Hey, guys, look how high up- Yaaaah!” Brian started, but he leaned out too far and started to fall out of the tree. Suddenly, the orb flashed bright red and Brian was a bird. More surprised than hurt by falling out of the tree,    Brian examined himself. He was scraped up a bit, but otherwise ok. Then Brian tried to tell his orb to turn him human, but it refused.
“No!” it said. “I won’t turn you back! I need you to go somewhere. Besides, if you help me, you don’t have to deal with that idiot teacher you have next. You can cut the rest of the school day!”
The orb knew Brian a little too well. He readily agreed.


Brian assumed that they were going to fly to this place, but the orb said otherwise.
“It is a magic realm, not easily reachable from Earth. It is hidden away where no human can hurt it. If the humans found us, they would wreak havoc!”
“YOU aren’t human! You are a Shapee, and you always have been! You grew up with humans; you think you are one! That’s because the evils want you to think that you are human! But I am not evil. You need to see the truth! That is why I take you here.”
“Take me where?”
There was a POP sound, and the orb said, “Here. This place is not simply a cloud. It is Faerie land, and your littlest sister resides here. She thinks she became a faerie through a potion, but the potion only made her come to her senses. She, like you, has always been a SMC.”
“SMC? Eak-spay English-ay! Seriously, you need to get out more.”
“Supposedly Mythical Creature(s),” the orb said, ignoring the snide comment.
“Oh.” Brian still didn’t quite see the orb’s point, but didn’t bother asking, or even trying another phrase in Pig Latin, because he knew the answer would be just as confusing.
“Well, all of the children of your family are SMC.”
“What about my parents?”
“What about them? They’re not your real parents!”
“So basically you’re telling me everything I know is wrong.”
“What’s right, then?”
“I’m telling you everything you think is wrong. That’s different.  There is  thought,  illusion, and reality. Your previous thoughts were an illusion from an evil spell.”
“So how do I know you’re not an illusion?” Brian asked.
The orb turned him into a flower. Okay. We’re questioning sanity here a little.
“Imaginary things don’t give off a scent. Notice you never got sweaty in your illusion of being human.”
The orb turned him back into a bird. “Granted, some SMC sweat, but not Shapees. Weird but true. It’s because Shapees are so athletic that their entire species adapted to the rigorous exercise.”
“So what was that about Lila?” Brian decided to change the subject.
“I am your orb. I was hidden as another effect of the evil spell. I was hidden in that video game, where you would find me. But since the spell was evil, it was a very hard game. Lila hasn’t found her orb yet. She doesn’t know that she has one. All the other faeries are missing orbs, too. Until she finds hers, the faeries’ power is limited. After a few spells, they run out of magic. Then they must stop using magic for the day. The faeries don’t mind it, because they don’t use much magic. But I bet the pixies are in trouble.”
Brian put it together: My orb is telling me I was never human. Lila hasn’t found hers yet. She doesn’t have an orb telling her this!
“Uh, duh,” said the orb.
“What are you, a mind reader?”
“Actually, you are. But I can hear it when you figure something out. What you know, I know.”
“So exactly why are we sitting here blabbing when we came for Lila? I mean, we should at least start in that direction. It won’t look very weird if there’s just a Shapee talking to an orb, now would it?”
“Um, actually, it would. Like I said, nobody here has an orb. And Shapees are not common in these parts of the magic realm, not with how territorial faeries are. I can camouflage, though, and you can easily disguise yourself.”
“But how would I – I mean,…” Brian started. But the orb simply answered that…


…by turning his form from Bird to Faerie.
“Duh,” it said. Then it camouflaged.
The orb telepathically directed him to Lila’s house. When they got there, Brian pushed the doorbell.
“Hello, do I know you?”
“More than you know and less than you think,” Brian said.
“You’re beginning to sound like me,” said his orb, slowly becoming visible.
“Excuse me, but what are you doing here?”
“Well, it’s not my idea,” Brian said. “The instant prize for that stupid game I got Mom to buy was…”
“Brian?” Lila was puzzled. “You’re a faerie too? I thought I hid that potion!”
“I’m a Shapee. Like I was saying, this is the instant prize from the game. It has a lot to say, and it won’t turn me human!”
“If I turned you human, you’d try to resume a normal life. You will never fit in with humans again. Every time you fall from somewhere, you will turn into a bird. If you so much as trip on a stair at school, and head for the ground, you will change. It’s a common reflex. If you get angry, you might turn into random things. How would you like to get mad at a teacher and turn into a dragon in front of her?”
“That would be fun,” Brian murmured.  “Anyway!” Brian cleared his throat and did the  whole I-didn’t-say-that routine. “The little orb has a LOT to say. Watch the time, the thing could blab for hours.”


“Lila. Do you remember the Song of the Six?” The orb asked.
“Of course. How could I forget?”
“Hmm.” Lila narrowed her eyes. “Why, exactly, are you here?”
“He dragged me here because he wants to tell you everything you think is wrong,” Brian said.
“Not helping,” the orb said. “Do you know why you remembered that song?”
The orb settled into a calming blue. “It is because the song is a part of you. You made it up when you were two years old. But you can’t remember when you were two, can you?”
“No, come to think of it. The earliest memory I have is of when… I think I was four. It was decorating my room…”
“Three, actually. The Drearie Queen wiped your memory. She took you two and the others from your actual birthplace. You are one of only six living descendants of the Heroes, and they, too, saved the world. But the world they saved was your birthplace, an SMC territory planet called Omikron, which is one of the more secluded fairy territories. It is mostly farmland, and the Heroes have lived in places such as this for centuries. Farmlands, mountains, underground, anywhere off the beaten path. These were places where a Hero could learn magic without distraction, away from evils of the city. Then they moved to the city, where they could put that magic to use.
“You will save Earth from becoming Drearie territory, and save all faeries in it. Correction – all SMC in it.”
Lila knew what SMC meant. “But wait,” she said. “Is Omikron a faerie territory or all SMC? I know that my kind is extremely territorial. They’re like cats, all of them.”
“There’s a difference. Fairy, spelled F-A-I-R-Y, refers to all SMC. The other spelling is your kind. It’s complicated, but that’s how it’s done in this dimension. I don’t know about the Mirrorworld or any of the other dimensions.”
Nobody bothered to ask what the heck the orb was talking about this time.
“Well, whatever. I have the other descendants to help, at least. Where are they?”
“One of them is standing in the room.”
Lila turned to Brian.
The orb continued, “We have to find the others. We must go as soon as possible.”
Then there was a knock at the door. Lila opened it. Cherry came in. She looked panicked.
“I haven’t seen this thing for centuries!” An orb was floating above her shoulder.
“But – that’s impossible!” Brian said.
“Minda?” Brian’s orb seemed to recognize Cherry’s orb.
“Nicolas, where have you been?”
“Well, well!” Cherry smirked.
Lila shrugged. “Even orbs have lovers. Minda there has herself a boyfriend!”
Both orbs turned away and literally turned bright red.
“Only one thing,” Brian said. “Lila hasn’t found her orb yet, and you’re a faerie… aren’t you?”
“No. I’m not. I don’t think anyone has heard this speech before?”
Blank faces all around.
“I guess not. Well, I am a Shapee, as I know someone here is. Before the age of five, it is not recommended for Shapees to change forms to any magical creatures. Well, when I was three, I was on a walk in the woods and I saw some hunters. Of course, Shapees are born in human form for protection, but I was sure that in my bright red dress with my bright red hair that the hunters would see me. I was not knowledgeable with humans, but I knew that whatever magical creatures they found were kept in bottles or cages, made to do chores, held prisoner or otherwise mistreated. I didn’t recognize that the most these hunters would do was yell at me. For some reason, though, I had not come into my powers enough to turn into something like a dragonfly or a gnat. I couldn’t turn into any non-magical creature that could fly away. So to protect me, Minda had to turn my form faerie. Once in safety, I couldn’t turn back and Minda couldn’t recognize me. I decided that if I went home, I would get in trouble, so I flew to Faerie Land and never told anyone my secret, except Sky. Remember the little story she told you? That was a cover-up, that I was simply a founder of Faerie land, here from the start, you know? Which I sort of was. Faerie land had been in tales before it was ever founded, and I believed those tales.  When I shapeshifted, I decided that Faerie land was the one place where I wouldn’t get in trouble. It was a coincidence that Faerie land was being founded right then. I helped. That bit is true. I didn’t meet Sky or Kira before then. That was something Sky and I made up. I completely forgot about it until now… I have adapted so well to faerie magic and the faerie way of life. It is strange to realize this again… but I see that you are on a quest. Would you like me to come along? I don’t take up much space.”
“Sure, we could use another share of magic,” Lila said.
Cherry slipped into her handbag.
“We must set off now, before sunset. We need light,” Minda said.
“I can bend, store and generate light. You don’t need to fuss with it,” Lila said, forming a ball of light in her hand. It glowed white, then a soft yellow. It chirped, much to Lila’s surprise.
“Heh, I think you found your orb,” Brian said.
“My name is Emma. I have come to you in this time of need.”
“Emma. I like that,” Lila murmured distantly, under her breath.
“My power is unlimited. I will perform any spell for you.”
“Why can’t you act like that?” Brian said to his orb.
“I have different tasks. I have reasons for being slightly able to control your powers for you. I, as any orb, have unlimited power. I must guide you very firmly and control you until I see that you do not need it. If I see fit to guide you more, so shall it be. Your SISTER is already armed with common sense and can be trusted to be responsible for herself without having to be told that maybe it’s not a good idea to tell everyone that you have an infinite source of magic that they saw in a video game. So there.” The orb seemed to be desperately trying to glare at Brian, regardless of the fact it didn’t really have a face.


“Should we set off? We do need to go soon, light or not.”
“First we need provisions, Minda. There will be a journey to the dragon forest, to Florida, to California…” Lila began, counting on her fingers.
“Wait a minute! Who’s in California?” Cherry asked.
“My twin sister.”
“What twin sister?” Everyone looked at Lila like she was crazy.
“The one in California. She’s a pixie.”
“Hold on. So, you’re a faerie, and now you’re saying your twin sister is a pixie?”
“Yes. Magical creatures don’t follow human rules. Duh.”
“Everyone shut up already!” Nicolas rose to the ceiling and glowed a blinding white-blue, which got everyone’s attention. “We must leave. Now. Provisions are not needed if we set off soon. Lila can keep light and warmth. Cherry is the “faerie” of wisdom, and the name Minda means “knowledge” – they are both good at setting up camp and travel strategies. Brian is a protection to us all. I understand that Cherry is an expert at finding food, and as soon as we get… Nikki? I think her name is Nikki. As soon as we get Nikki, we have purified water… if we can find water. That’s the problem. Mermaids need water to stay alive, but I am not sure we will find enough water to support her.”
“If you boil water, you can purify it. But the whole flint-and-steel fire thing in the wild is a bear, pardon the pun,” Cherry said.
“Then let’s get Leo first. After all, we are closest to the dragon forest. Then we’ll be closest to Maya’s favorite tree to travel in… we’ll be there by sundown, but only Chikik can use trees to travel, and that would be the only way to get to Maya’s place,” said Minda.
“Well, one thing at a time. We should go, then worry about Chikik,” Brian said.
They set off into the wilderness.


The dragon forest was alive with activity. Warriors were practicing swordplay and magicians were practicing battle magic. Everything was going on at once, and nobody could see Leo among the many dragons. Lila even slipped through the crowds of dragons and did a thorough search but did not find Leo. They finally found him in his room, drawing weapon designs.
Leo looked up from his work to meet Lila’s gaze. “What do you want now?”
Lila responded, jerking a thumb in Brian’s direction, “Not what I want. What he wants.”
Brian said, “Not what I want, what this thing wants!”
The orb said, “Not what I want, but what… oh crud.”
Minda laughed at Nicolas’s color, which was now bright pink. Lila noticed that Brian and Cherry’s orbs changed color while hers stayed a pleasant yellow. She figured it was a Shapee thing.
Correct, a voice in the back of her head said. Orb, the voice said in explanation.
Leo’s voice snapped her back into reality. “So, whoever wants it, what do you want in the first place?”
“We need you to come with us on our trip to find the rest of our family. We’re off to Maya’s next. I think I can send her a magical message if you have a sticky note. She’ll be studying the Chikian language right about now,” Lila said.
“Always with tricks up your sleeve, you faeries.” Cherry shook her head.
“What’s with all the battle practice?” Brian asked.
“Happens every year. Why do we need to get our family together anyway?”
“We’ll explain on the way. I’m pretty sure Nicolas is tired of repeating himself, so either Minda or Cherry will tell you. Emma and I need to keep light on our way to Maya’s tree, and Brian and Nicolas need to scout ahead and protect us. Brian can change into a lion or something. Hand me that sticky note.” Lila sent the message and they were soon met at the tree by a Chiki who was assigned the job of chauffeur. He gave a puzzled look to the variety of creatures he escorted but kept quiet. He knew the tree could hold them all, so he didn’t complain. The princess had given him an order and he was not to question it. That was what Maya was – the monarchy that the Chikik had requested. The Chikik wanted to be kept on a tight and steady lead, always the same, instead of confusion. They were a good match, but with all this going on, Maya did not notice any change in appearance or powers. Her powers seemed natural to her and she did not even realize she didn’t have them before when she first used them. In guarding, she had not noticed that her ears were pointy. (I don’t care what you were told about elven princesses. Maya did not wear poofy gowns that make you look like you have an umbrella shoved up your keister whilst fighting.)
Maya had the whole story explained AGAIN, then trotted along with the rest. She ended up bringing her favorite Chikian soldier along. Ukiki was introduced to the group.
Brian climbed onto Leo’s back, Maya called an eagle to ride on, and Lila spread her own wings.
“Hey,” Emma whispered to Lila. “You notice that preachy narrator is missing? The one who blabbered all that stuff about curiosity? Where’d it go?”
“This is the part Brian gets to tell. I mean, we add details and stuff while he’s not looking, but he’s supposed to do most the work. We don’t worry about huge changes like that. Anyway, he can’t hear that thing. I don’t think he could understand it anyway.”
Emma nodded.
“So, the next stop is Florida, to go and get Nikki?” Brian asked.
“No, of course not!” Lila said. “Nikki can’t fly or call an eagle, and she probably doesn’t want to ride on a fire creature. Water and fire never mix. Plus, I bet she needs water to swim in so that she doesn’t dry out. We’re off to the pixie forest next. But I bet my twin won’t recognize me. I probably won’t recognize her, either.”
“No problemo. I can predict the future. I figured this out a while ago.” Leo said. “The pixie you want will have a jade ring with a sword etched into it.”
“Good. Now we must leave.”


They came on the wrong day. It was graduation day at the pixies’ main school. Each would go through a magic test and see if they can beat their teacher and graduate from the school forever, never needing to go back unless they so desired. Students longed for such freedom.
The group could tell that the last battle had just been won by a student, because the second they were in the door, they couldn’t hear a thing. The sound barrier was broken. They went into the room marked “Gym”, which was the source of the noise. (They might as well have been at a cheerleading camp. Everyone and their cat was giggling and the noise from the clinking of bracelets wafted around the room.) They needed to find a way, amid all of these girls, to find Lila’s sister.
Nicolas said, “We’ll take care of it. Here.” Brian whispered into the announcer’s ear, and when the pixie shook her head no, Nicolas whispered into Brian’s ear and Brian stared at the pixie.
The pixie suddenly got all creepily happy-looking (in other words, normal) and said over the microphone, “Will the pixie with the jade ring that has a sword etched into it please proceed to the stage. Thaaaaaank you.”
“Ah, the controlling stare. Works every time,” Nicolas said as Brian walked back. The pixie was blinking and shaking her head furiously, as if to rid herself of dizziness.
“Jaymi, why are they calling you up?”
“Jaymi, what happened?”
“Jaymi, what did you do?” The students asked.
“I have no clue! I’m just doing what I’m supposed to!” Jaymi was becoming more and more nervous as she flew to the stage, her student uniform skirt flying behind her. Why would she be needed? She hadn’t been involved in anything big lately. (Even the biting gnome contraption “accidentally” painted white and placed in the boys’ bathroom toilet right before Master Zeagr sat down on it had nothing to do with her – that was Mallory’s plot.) She was even more skittish when a dragon walked to the stage, trying not to squish any pixies. Followed by a Shapee. Followed by two Chikik and a faerie. The Chikik did not seem very  threatening to Jaymi, but was that – no, it can’t be – no, that’s impossible! It is! Lila was gliding through the room! Why…? No, of course not. No. No. Must be someone else.
Lila dropped to the stage. Jaymi was wondering what just happened. And how. Lila raised her sword for effect. She knew what was going to happen next, so she started the mood right then and there. “She has been found!” That should do it. Warlike cry? Check. Polished sword? Check. Now all that was left was the gaping faces, and Lila would have a full headache. The entire set was better than just one symptom, because people got satisfied more quickly and shut up faster.
The pixies started cheering. Nobody knew why. It just seemed like a time to cheer. Lila lowered her sword. “Hello. Do you remember me?”
“I have no clue who you are,” Jaymi said with big eyes. Lila stood there, anticipating the gawking in the near future. “Unless you’re… no. No, you’re not the faerie in all the legends… are you? No, that’s not right. That’s impossible. No. You’re someone else, aren’t you? No, that faerie wouldn’t need anything to do with me… right?” Check.
Lila shook her hair out of her face, thought, Here it comes, and said, “If you’re over your denial rant now, yes. I am that faerie. You probably don’t remember. Brian, don’t Shapees have a certain power…”
Nicolas said, “She’s right… Brian. Here.” The orb quietly told Brian how to do this magic.
“Now, miss pixie, you will have to keep your eyes open for this one. None of us mean any harm to you, because… well, we’ll tell you in a second. This won’t take long,” Brian said.
The pixie backed away a little, but Lila said, “It’s all right. My brother is half nuts from too many video games, but he’s not about to hurt anyone… unless the harm is the other person going mad from his tips.” She laughed.
The hairs on the back of Jaymi’s neck stood up, and her life flashed before her eyes. I must be dead, she thought. But then she saw the room, spinning a little, and realized she was not hurt at all, except for a lot of dizziness.  She wobbled over to the stage podium and steadied herself on it, putting her head down to overcome the twitchy dizziness.
In the background she heard Nicolas say, “Yes, she is the one. Your twin. The ring is hers and has not been stolen or sold. We are lucky.”
“Such a valuable as that ring is normally guarded with the owner’s life. I am not surprised.”
The pixies were watching all of this, intrigued.
“Her history is rather interesting to me. It seems…” Nicolas dropped lower. “As soon as possible, Brian needs to read you. But not now. Girl! What is your name?”
Jaymi was still clinging to the podium, panting. “Jaymi,” she said between gasps.
“Did you hear us?”
“I must have heard wrong. Wait… I have a single memory…” Jaymi groped for it. “It’s foggy.”
“You were the one who escaped. The only one. I don’t think it strange that you don’t remember. You were the youngest of us, if by ten minutes from Lila.” Nicolas said, and Brian added, “If you heard something about twins, you heard correctly. We have a lot to explain. If there is nothing you need here, we must leave.”
“I still need to take my…”
“NO!” All eyes turned to the back of the room.
“Mistress Gryphon and Master Zeagr.” Jaymi bowed at the most respected magicians in the forest.
“Enough. I have heard all that the faerie has said. Shapee’s information is never inaccurate. You have no need to take the test. You are free from the school. I declare you a graduate,” Master Zeagr said.
“But I…”
“Listen to the master. Jaymi, you are one of the Heroes. Do you see the orbs following Lila and the Shapee?” Mistress Gryphon said, in the voice she used which was soft as fleece. Mistress Gryphon was less stern than Master Zeagr, but just as wise and twice as young. “You have one of your own.” She gracefully flew to the podium. “Take off your ring. Hold it so that you can see the circle inside.”
Jaymi had always liked Mistress Gryphon. She always wore very light, soft blue-jean skirts, had light gray-bluish eyes, and was always very comforting and when you talked to her, you knew you were talking to an old, kind, wise woman who possibly knew more about you than even you did, someone who was like a grandma to everyone. You could bet your life that you wouldn’t find anyone in the world who knew her and didn’t like her, and even Master Zeagr was respectful to her.
The ring glowed pink, and then in the circle formed a pink ball that shot out six rays. The ring disappeared and reappeared on Jaymi’s finger. The other pixies now also had their own.
“From today forward, our power has been restored to us all. No longer are spells limited. Wait…” The magician lifted Jaymi’s chin and frowned. “No, you are not a magician.”
“You see it?” Master Zeagr said.
“Yes. Try to make Master Zeagr give you a cookie.”
“What?” Jaymi and Master Zeagr said at the same time.
“I never give cookies. Never have.” Zeagr scowled.
“Exactly. This is totally random. Sweet, here’s your wand.”
Jaymi thought for a minute, then whispered something and gave the wand a flick. Her wand felt strange – it almost vibrated with energy. Or perhaps it was simply her own nervousness.
It didn’t really matter now – Zeagr was racing to the bakery.
“As I suspected. You are a mage, not a magician. Anyone who can make Zeagr give out sweets must be pretty powerful.” Mistress Gryphon bowed to Jaymi, grinning at her own joke.
“I do not understand, Mistress Gryphon.”
“You will. Go with the faerie. Oh, wait! I can make you understand right now. I have never had enough magic to do this before, so I don’t know how it feels. Grab on to something, just in case. This should save your brother a lengthy explanation. Dears, it’s getting late. Geraldine, find room in the hotel for our guests. Students, we will continue the tests tomorrow. Mage, are you ready?”
The students shuffled out of the gym and went home. Lila and the others followed Geraldine, who had always been Mistress Gryphon’s student and who, herself, was a miniature copy of her tutor, dreading having to fight her.
“Yes, mistress.”
“I am not your mistress anymore. Mage is a much higher title than mistress. Call me Sarah.”
“My wand is coursing with energy. It’s driving me nuts.”
“Oh, I almost forgot! That wand must be like using a stick to you. You need something that can handle the unlimited magic of your orb. Your student uniform might feel weird, too. You need a stronger wand and a mage’s cloak. I will deal with that once you can remember a certain memory from when you were young, as well as your first few years. Just hold still and don’t think about anything in particular. You also might want to look away. I’ve always found it hard to look straight at someone while they are casting a spell on me.”
Then Mistress gryphon sighed, took a deep breath and shouted, “Revive!” and a cloud of pink-purple something-or-other surrounded Jaymi. “Well, that was interesting,” Mistress Gryphon said. She left Jaymi twitching on the floor to go and get her something to lay on.
In that period of time, Jaymi decided she liked the feeling of being in a spell, at least when a friend is doing it and she knows what they intend. It was just like being in a dream, only more informative, and you remembered it better afterwards. She woke up later in the back of the gym on an inflatable mattress with a sleeping bag on top. A deep purple cloak and a magenta wand lay next to her. Perfect. Much better than her old things. The spell was so strange… Jaymi wondered how it was real. She was the one who escaped. The evil one had forgotten her. The creature had managed to take her orb, but she had escaped with her memory. At least, some of it.
The only memory of that day (before the evil memory spell) was faint and foggy. There was a black van, a house and a small forest-type area not too far away from the back yard. It was a rather gloomy, overcast day, not far from raining. Jaymi slipped away into the forest before the thing caught her. It had taken the orb, but not any memory. She used magic to keep herself alive in the little forest and then got trapped in a bottle by a passing little girl who was chasing butterflies and happened to have a net. She was put in a large jar by the little kid and had become a sort of pet.
Then the kid took her on a vacation to California and Jaymi happened to fall out of her backpack while the girl was on a hike in the forest. Jaymi saw the welcoming flicker of a campfire down a long, straight path. With enough shoving and kicking, she was able to roll herself down the hill and into the pixie villageplace. Pure coincidence.
Knowing her past helped Jaymi to get grip on the present. Still partially lost in thought, she stuck a lollipop in her mouth and trotted off toward the hotel.
The pixies decided they liked Leo. Well, after all, there’s a very muscular, powerful dragon and a bunch of giggling magic girls with little dragonfly wings. What did you think would happen?
Brian had ignored all of the pixies but one. That pixie had noticed that on the handheld video game system he carried around, he was farther than her on LostSword. Which ended up with the pixie grabbing hers, Brian helping her along, and both of them staying up all night trying to solve all the puzzles. Tika didn’t need to worry about the tests tomorrow – she’d already graduated and could do whatever she wanted.
Leo was less fortunate. He had been surrounded by girls all evening – whether he flew or walked. Almost every girl in the academy had flown up and asked for a picture/autograph/seeing him blow fire/whatever. Leo eventually satisfied them. It was kind of an accident, but he didn’t really care… It was funny. There was a new sidewalk being built. The pixies had blinded his flying, and he’d accidentally stepped a paw in the wet concrete. They all just flocked to it, cameras flashing. Leo shrugged and flew away quickly.
The pixies were nice, but they were getting annoying. Geraldine stayed out of the way, however; she had to keep house in the hotel. The last time Leo had recalled seeing her when he went to bed is when she calmly came up and handed him a bowl of chili, saying how Lila said he liked anything spicy. (Which could get rather dangerous.) Then she fluttered away, tending to a messy table. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. What do YOU think?
Both Leo and Brian kind of lingered around the hotel. Brian had been playing video games through the night. Tika was not used to such vigorous thumb exercise and had gone to bed at about midnight. She had rejoined Brian in the morning. Brian wasn’t likely to divert his attention from his AwesomeGame system anytime soon. He’d figured out a trick for not getting tired or needing light – when night came, he’d turn into a raccoon. If they could get into garbage cans, they could get into the secret door, right?
Jaymi had been swamped with questions even more than Leo.
Everything she heard was:
“Jaymi, how did it feel when Mistress Gryphon cast that spell on you?” or
“Jaymi, what happened when you were three?” or
“Jaymi, why did Lila and everyone show up yesterday, of all days?” Jaymi didn’t have time to answer any of these, because everyone was in her face. Finally she managed to zip ahead of the cloud of questions and rush to the hotel door, slamming it shut behind her and keeping everyone out. She locked the door and sighed. She could have fallen asleep right there, but managed to crawl up the stairs and find an empty bed. She plopped down a fifty on the nightstand table and fell asleep.
Leo overheard Geraldine saying how she could never get enough fuel to the heating system, so in the middle of the night he found it and studied it and how it worked. Dragons are especially good at science, and Leo had to design all of the battle weapons, so naturally he found the problem. The fire Geraldine needed to keep burning kept going out, so he found what was apparently the only problem. The fire was in a closed system. All of the ashes from the fire were filtered out, and the hot air was piped into the rooms. The fire itself was outside, and the metal box it was in was airtight. Here is where Leo found the problem.
A fire needs oxygen to keep going, and this fire was not getting any. Leo guessed that Geraldine opened the airtight door to shove in more fuel, thinking that was the problem, and she got it to roar a little, then closed the door and the fire went out. Just after he realized this, he heard one of the pixies singing. Knowing that this would be on newspaper headlines if he were caught, Leo moved silently behind the corner.
In the morning he slipped a note to Geraldine and told her how to fix it. He did not sign his name, but Geraldine had asked all of the pixies, and none of them knew how to fix the system. Lila told Geraldine that Leo would know how to fix it. She knew instantly what Leo had done. She was surprised that he would have gone to the trouble, but was rather grateful that all she had to do was drill some air holes in the box and not stay up all night trying to get fuel into the heater. And here Geraldine had been trying to come up with a modest, polite way to ask him to find the problem. Hmm.
To put what happened next in the shortest piece of text possible, when Jaymi woke up they packed up and started to leave. Geraldine and Tika ended up tagging along with the others – they told the others, “We need an adventure” – but you and I know why they really came. Heh.
“We need to go to Florida next. It’ll be a long journey…” Lila started.
“No, it won’t,” Jaymi said. She used magic to teleport the party.
“That works too. Now we go into Orlando. Nikki’s waters linger near.”
“Big words.” Brian stuck his tongue out. “Quit acting all posh.”
“Nikki’s close. We’ve gotta walk somewhere. If we fly, we’ll be detected.” Jaymi opened her mouth, but Brian put a finger up.
“And if we appear out of nowhere, it’ll be even worse. Even if we appear in the water, it’ll be an awkward situation. We have to walk. Or run. Or even swim. If we can get an underwater spell so we can survive, it’ll be easier than any other way.”
“No problemo. My type uses magic for anything they can think of.”
“Except fixing heaters!” Geraldine laughed and Leo turned even redder than usual. Jaymi smirked and cast the spell.
“Good enough for me!”


As the group reached the place where the mermaids’ kingdom resides, they grew rather exhausted at the prospect of having to swim back. Jaymi was too tired to cast any more magic spells to return them to the surface, so Lila would have to. Unfortunately, Lila was a faerie, not a pixie, and not used to magic spells. So after Nikki joined the group, Lila tried casting a magic spell to get them to Faerie land, so they wouldn’t have to deal with any humans. (Chikian lands were pretty much only accessible by the Chikian magics, and there were very few exceptions to that, and only through trees except if someone had enough magic to get through the weirdo security dome thing around the Chikian world to keep out humans. Trees don’t really grow 100 feet below the surface of the water.)
That didn’t exactly work. Lila almost got it right – but not close enough. Unfortunately, she got the party right BELOW Faerie land’s cloud.
It was a strange fall. A leaf slapped Maya in the face. Jaymi was beaten by the same wind that gave her strength. Wait! The same wind that gave her strength! She sprang back from exhaustion and cast the transportation spell that would get them to a deserted island.
No one knew what happened during that spell – perhaps it happened during their fall – but when it all settled down, the orbs were all gone and Maya had holly-leaf wings resembling the leaf that had slapped her in the face. Weird how a bush’s leaf would be up in the sky. She was peeling the leaf off of her cheek and making a face.
“The evil thingy took them from you,” Jaymi said. “It must have. You had them, and then… the leaf hit you. I think you just needed to find the right kind of leaf. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. We know now, so… although the orbs are gone and we have no real magic power, we can still travel to other land. It’ll take a while, though.”
“None of us really want to keep going like that. That’s actually a really bad idea. A, we’re all exhausted, B, we don’t know which direction to travel in, C, the humans will spot us the second we approach, and D, I can sense the orbs nearby. So let’s build camp right here. Someone can build a pool for Nikki – I hear mermaids are really bad at building, and she’ll be busy purifying water. None of us panic – I can’t count how many survival books I’ve read. In fact – !” Maya pulled one from her bag. “Yes! I have one with me! Ha! Leo, I’m leaving you in charge of building camp and making a fire. Geraldine, Tika, help Leo.” (Geraldine’s eyes lit up.) “Lila, it’ll be dark soon. You know what to do. Jaymi, I want you to gather wood. Nikki, purify some water and keep it in… well, I’ll bring you some watertight leaves. Brian, turn into… something and hunt for meat. Watch for poison ivy. I really don’t want to hunt for jewelweed in the dark. I’ll find some edible greens to eat. Everyone start now!”
“Good!” Brian said. “I’m great at turning into something!”
Nobody objected to having a Chikian survival leader. They knew how to set up camp.
Maya came back with a bunch of edible leaves, then found a hollow log to enlarge.  Leo had made more comfortable huts than that, and he’d used his massive paws to dig a fancy pool for Nikki with a roof and everything. Maya only had to do a few logs, because Leo had it mostly covered. They had a bunch of huts with a campfire in the middle.
“Village in a day,” said Maya, making tea with the tea bags she carried. Maya was not one to come unprepared. “And a boat tomorrow. We’ll look perfectly normal just sailing along. Just a perfect disguise.”
The fire shrunk, threatening to go out, but Geraldine threw some palm leaves onto it (habit) and Leo lit it back up (also habit). Some glass appeared in the sand, because Leo’s fire was so hot.
“But we find the orbs first. They’re probably in this cave I passed while hunting,” Brian said.
“Right,” Tika said. “We’re going to need to explore that cave thoroughly. Besides, doesn’t everyone like spelunking?” Jaymi and Geraldine cringed a little, Brian and Leo yelled, “Yeah!”, Maya, Lila and Ukiki shrugged and mumbled, “Boys…” and Nikki said, “I don’t have enough magic to travel out of water anyway. I really don’t.” But Leo and his crew had built her a wheelchair (by what little magic was left, he, Geraldine and Tika had managed something).
“Oh, you.” Nikki made a face. She did NOT want to go.
“You’re coming with us, whether you want to or not! Yes, I know. We got kinda bored after the village was done.”


It was the next morning. Nobody suspected any trouble at first. That was how people get IN trouble; the unsuspecting are always targeted. Now you’re leaning forward in suspense and suspicion. What happened? Well, a lot of things.
Since Leo was an overachiever, he had made everyone their own hut. There was no trouble in the first part of morning. Geraldine woke up first, and there was a nice breeze blowing, so she sat out and absorbed the power and magic carried on the wind that only pixies can use. Then she used some of that magic on getting a frying pan.
Ah, California. California and its forests and mountains and waterfalls… and beaches. The lovely beaches. On the beach, there are nice looking houses with a sea view. In this one, the owners are still asleep.
Not for long.
A very large frying pan made a loud CLANCKLANGBANG (waking everyone up) as it dragged itself out of the cupboard, almost as if there were a very large magnet pulling it along. By the time the owner of the house realized she was short a frying pan, she was realizing that said frying pan was out the door and in her sea view, being carried away by the ocean. And then, as it disappeared behind the waves, the only thing there was to show for it was the sound of a high-pitched, giggly laugh. Or rather, the echo of one.
Oh, Geraldine’s magic had done well. It brought her, on the ocean, a very large frying pan made of stainless steel, which she showed to Nikki, who had woken up while the pan was being washed away from the Californian coast and its real owner, whose name was Dana and who was rather annoyed that breakfast would require a trip to the store.
Geraldine, on the other hand, had essentially just gone to the store and was cooking bacon. Everyone gradually woke up, and some got up bright and early, while others took a long time to rise. At 10:00, Brian was rolling around and snorting in his tent, being poked with some substantial force with a stick by Leo, who had woken up three hours ago.
It is not very nice to be woken up by a full-grown dragon, especially when he occupies most of your beach hut. This was, however, the next to last attempt at waking Brian, as everyone else had tried everything from sticks and stones to pixie magic, and Nikki got all excited over the snort she got from throwing a water ball up his nose. The last attempt would be to have Leo pick Brian’s nose with a claw, which they got from Nikki (“Well, if I got him to snort, what would happen if…?!”), but who “nose” what they’d find up there. Leo was rather thankful that this attempt worked. At first, nobody wanted Leo to do anything, but after a water ball the size of a birthday cake didn’t work, and an actual birthday cake didn’t work, they were kinda out of options. In the commotion, they didn’t notice someone was missing. But Brian did.
“Hey, why are you giving me a hard time when Lila’s still asleep?”
“Funny, Lila’s usually up at 6:00, no later,” Nikki said.
“She shouldn’t be that hard to wake up, not like SOME PEOPLE.” Maya glared at Brian. “I’ll handle this.
Maya went in, and Brian was told the story of why he had birthday cake in his hair.
Maya came out in five seconds without Lila, and reported that she wasn’t there.
“Ukiki’s missing, too. I’ve known her quite a while, and quite a while is more than long enough to know that A, she’s off on some daring and possibly slightly stupid and far-fetched adventure, and B, she’s left a note. I’m going to go search her cabin.” She trotted on in, and the others guessed at what she was doing. They were probably joking around more than they should have been, but all the same, Maya came out with a note in Ukiki’s neat handwriting. It said:

I’m with Lila. Don’t freak out. We’re safe, just go look for the orbs. -Ukiki

Then Lila, who knew that Maya had found the note, sent a message, writing over it:

Ifr yodu ckant reaedd thissa theran dien ksfiejsd frart sdfoiejm. Kdjiem deri asdkjf hjdi kdi obbs.

Ukiki sent a message over Lila’s message, saying,

Still don’t freak out if that came out weird. Just find the orbs. -Ukiki

Maya took on an expression of concern, regardless, and showed all of the notes to everyone. “We can’t lose our head. We’ve got to find the orbs.”
Brian said, “Yeah. If you lose your head, where are you going to get another one? Oh, and by the way, this doesn’t include me because I already lost my brain and all I’m capable of doing is playing video games. Losing my head can’t be too different.” He grinned.
Leo said, “That’s true. Oh wait! Brian, you didn’t lose your brain, you traded it for a pack of bubble gum at recess in third grade, remember?”
“Oh yeah! It was grape bubble gum,” he added.


“It’d be best if we just start moving. It doesn’t matter if they goof off if we’re on our way. If they want to stay here and doodle around, we don’t need them,” Nikki whispered. Maya nodded, and they just walked into the forest, leaving Brian and Leo behind.
After five minutes, the boys stopped joking around and caught up with Maya and Nikki. Then they started laughing at each other again. It went on like this until they got to the cave. Maya trotted in, and Nikki jumped into the stream. They split up, and so did Brian and Leo.
Maya went through a few long halls of dank, dripping cave and then saw a clearing. An expert on nature, Maya knew that when a cave wall is wet, it usually means that nobody has ever touched it. All of the walls were wet, so more than likely nobody had been here before. Or was too smart to touch anything. Maya felt like this was the route she was supposed to take. Like it was a destiny.
Or a setup.
Leo, in the middle of the first room he entered, saw a torch, just waiting there for him, like it knew he was going to pass that way. However, he knew better than to light it. In a cave, there were little places to let out smoke. Lighting it would be foolish. Leo felt like this was the route he was supposed to take.
Nikki did not enter a hall – she followed the stream until it was very deep and dipped into the ocean a little. It was a very large cave. No one else could possibly follow this route. There was a slab of rock that reached down too far for a swimmer to reach without a submarine – and no submarine could possibly ever fit into so narrow a spot. Only a mermaid could ever go through. Nikki felt like this was the route she was supposed to take.
Brian did not enter a hall either. He turned into a mouse and darted into a small hole in the wall the size of a basketball. He came to a place where he couldn’t move more; there was a wall that covered half the opening that the mouse couldn’t reach. He turned into an ant and continued along, finally coming to a clearing. The path he took would not be followed by any other life form that had the brains of a plant. Even if they traded said brains for grape bubble gum. Brian felt like this was the route he was supposed to take.
In the clearing Brian found was large enough for Leo to reach, if he had a pathway. In fact, there was a pathway. He scurried into the clearing and turned into a human again. Wait a minute… Leo was IN the pathway! And Maya was in another pathway! Nikki was in the stream! They might as well have never split up. They stared at each other until Maya broke the ice.
“Hey, anyone else feel like they were supposed to go along the path they took?”
Nods all around.
Nikki asked the question burning on everyone’s mind. “Was this planned?”
Now you’re probably asking, was it planned? And where’s Lila? What happened?
Lila was relaxing on the far side of the island, getting magic from the sunlight. SMC tended to need to use their elements a lot more in survival mode. Lila had learned to absorb magic while asleep. Little did the others know that Lila was a mile away, dreaming on the beach. The magic in the natural sunlight was influencing her dreams. In her dream…
“Hello?” Lila calls. She is in an empty field, with few trees and long grass. It is a starry night, but now the stars are fading. A wind picks up and blows Lila’s hair into her face. She brushes it away and looks to the navy blue field of fading stars adorning the sky. The wind writes in the sky.
Hello… good evening…
“Who are you?” Lila whispers into nowhere.
I am… the magic on the wind… the ocean breeze that caresses this island…
“And I am not a pixie. Why are you here?” says Lila, still speaking softly.
So you are not. The pixies, however, use the most magic. They rely on the winds to keep up their lifestyle. That is why I am here. There has been… something… and I sense that a strong magic has been meddled with. A magic that is not the meddler’s own.
Don’t mind the wind, Lila, another voice says, not in sky writing but instead one of the nearby stars speaking. He tends to speak in a giant riddle. Only the pixies can truly understand him. You, Lila, are one of great magic. Wind magic does not understand you. But you know who I am, of course. We’ve met before.
Lila nods. This is her own, her light power speaking. The light took the stars to talk with, but wind does not have a home as light in a star, such as the Sun, and instead uses writing.
This is not to be taken lightly, the wind says. Show your power level and your intelligence first. We will allow you to pass only then.
Lila wondered whether she should take this as an insult.
Then the light says, I’ve seen you do magic. You’re past my test. The wind expects something, though. Do that thingy again. The one where you got all that fanmail. That one that was a pain in the you-know-where. Don’t expect this guy to send you a brazillion cards, though.
So Lila sings the Song of the Six and impresses the wind with magical ability.
“And about the intelligence,” Lila nearly spat the words out but kept her composure. Man, it was obvious here why she wasn’t a pixie. “You know the star over there, the one talking? The light energy? Well, do you know her name?”
We have a thousand names. You cannot possibly guess them all. The wind looks as doubtful as ever wind can look.
“Yes, but the one bit speaking in this particular star I know personally. Her name is Emma. She is my orb, my source of magic power. You have thousands of names, for you are thousands of different orbs.”
Like, duh.
“Incredible. You may pass. You shall have the information you seek.”
A scroll appears. Lila takes it.
Lila woke up with it in her hand. It said:
Your magic has been messed with.    That was all it said.


Wow, we couldn’t have figured that out for ourselves? Seriously.
Back in the cave…
There was a chest in the middle of the room. It was covered in cobwebs and had a dusty, thin cloth wrapped around it. Leo sliced the cloth open with a claw. Spiders went scurrying out of it. Maya gave a shriek (it reached about 95 decibels) and the spiders scuttled away quickly. Leo lifted the lid and one more spider came out. Brian turned into a frog and ate it before Maya could scream again. Light burst from the chest and made each SMC back up. Their eyes were wide as things come out of the chest… they had found the orbs! Geraldine and Tika (who had gone with Maya and Jaymi, who had decided to go together because they didn’t want to follow the boys and get all muddy) got their own orbs back, but it surprised everyone when the orb that came to Maya said, “Hello, Lila. Long time no see!” and Nikki got an orb that changed color, and told her that this wasn’t the time to try new forms, and turned her into a gryphon, apparently to try to help out. Brian got a little pink orb that twittered riddles, Jaymi got an orange orb with an adventurous and mischievous look about it, and Leo got an orb full of swirling water.
“I can’t do anything with fire magic!” wailed Jaymi.
“Yeah? Well, try an orb that’s exactly the opposite of your element. Watch this.” Leo blew fire, and the orb he got – Nikki’s – freaked and doused it.
“Gotta agree here! I got a girly orb! I can’t even understand the thing!” said Brian.
“I can’t fly! I’m a water creature!” Nikki said, testing her wings. “I have no clue how to do this – eep!” The wings lifted her a few inches off the ground and she started to panic. She froze and was grounded once again.
“What am I to do with this? Oh, I know. Take us to Lila, please, Emma?”
“Ha ha! You’re funny, Lila.”
“Um… take us to Maya, then.”
“Well, why don’t you follow her orb?”
It was true. Maya’s orb was out the cave exit. They ran after it.
The orb took them to the far shore of the island. Lila was lowering her sunglasses and trying to recognize the handwriting on the scroll. She turned, and everyone was trying to read over her shoulder at once. Jaymi spoke up at once.
“That’s the wind’s writing! I’ve never seen that before! It’s supposed to be so rare that only those who are the most powerful will ever see it!”
“You’re seeing it now,” Lila pointed out. “And you must have seen it before, because you recognize it.”
“No, I haven’t,” Jaymi argued. “I’m a pixie. I’m kinda supposed to know my own element’s handiwork when I see it.”
“You’ll see it. We’ll all see some element, but maybe just in the background.. I just happen to be first. The time will come. All I have to say is pay attention to your dreams tonight. I came here because I just somehow knew I was… supposed to. It’s hard to describe. And we’re supposed to stay on this island for eight more nights. No… not eight. Nine. There’s a reason. Dreams are more real here than anywhere else.” Lila glanced oddly at the scroll. “Something has passed here recently, and it has to do with the fate of the universe.” The others were staring at her like she was mad. Lila had an expression that said, I’m dead serious.
“And I thought I was the only one who could predict the future,” Leo muttered. “But she’s right. It’s a fuzzy prediction, though. Probably none of us will know more until… until… tonight. More will happen at night than is thought about right now.”
“Yes. Do not anticipate an early leave. Things will be revealed soon.”
“Out of curiosity, can you control plant magic? By the way, to save time, all the orbs think you’re me, I’m you, Jaymi’s Leo, Nikki’s Brian, Brian’s Jaymi,” Maya giggled, “and Leo’s Nikki. But we’re not exactly opposite elements like Leo and Nikki, so you might be able to use mine.”
Lila pointed at the ground and said, “Pepper plant.” A pepper plant was growing so fast that they could visibly see it moving.
“Um, I’m thinking that’s a yes,” Leo said.

That night, Maya had a dream.
Maya turns around. The voice comes again.
“Hello?” It sounds small and meek, but Maya knows from experience that things like that can be devastatingly ferocious. Lila was a pretty good example.
“Hello,” Maya said, keeping wary.
“Help me…”
Maya rushed to the source of the voice, her auburn hair flying behind her. There was a plant talking to her, but it did not appear to be hurt.
“What? Looks like you’re fine.”
“There’s magic… a spell put on by unfriendly flarkneazer snabadabrrrrrr…”
“Sorry, what was that?”
“Snarideflaritosis braaarrrrrrrrrrrr…”
The plant waved two branches in the air and desperately tried to talk, failing all the while.
“Feaererdkjieihvner gerabrensnakent despintanarro shontanixiiieeee!”
“Kujifrednesstoronnn adeflaaabbbaaaneees barinitararararana ieniftsojarinass sharana!”
“Harinarothiknederink! Carrotanitosis speaeelkfrthns? Raaaaraah!”
It whimpered a little bit and tried to get Maya to understand Confused Plant.
“Ohhh, a spell was put on you to mix up your speech?”
The little flower nodded furiously.
“So, you can’t speak English?”
It shook its bloom sadly.
“I have an idea,” Maya said…
…but dawn was here.
“I will be back!” she called, but she found herself lying in bed just after saying this.
She wondered if the plant had heard her. A voice of gibberish babbled on in her head, however, and it was somehow incredibly reassuring.


It is that night that Maya tells the plant her plan. It can’t speak English – but can it speak Chikian? Yes. It tells Maya her quest: She must find the plant in the real world.
“But you must remember,” the plant says in Chikian, “that this island’s dreamworld duplicate is more dangerous than you think. The evils are released in the dayworld, but they are bound to the night and to dreams. This island is full of magical things, good and bad. Beware the Lurking Spirits. You don’t want to meet one of them. Be ready to protect the entire group from fire attacks and plague. Imps and Lurking Spirits, along with the gruesome Deathwolves, well… they make a pretty freaky island. You notice, of course, that nobody lives here except them.”
“And you,” Maya adds.
“I don’t live here,” the plant replies. “Or, I’m not supposed to. I haven’t seen you since you were a child.”
“Ohhh… of course!” Maya realizes who she is talking to. “You’re… Honey? No, that’s not right.”
“Hazel. No, we haven’t met for a long time.”
“Dawn is coming. I need to find your dayworld duplicate. I’m going to make a run for it.” Maya runs for the horizon.

In the mind of Jaymi, a lot is going on. It seems that on this island, everyone knows when they are dreaming. It seems real. That is because, in a way, it is…
Jaymi is in a round room, with a breeze in it, and although there is no way in and no way out, there are people there and wind, and nobody feels trapped. Jaymi finds herself in a dance she can barely control. The wind picks up a little, and it turns into a small whirlwind that would go around the room, and every once in a while, one of the dancers would freeze and fade away.     Jaymi stayed in the dance, and after a while, she was the only one still whirling through the room. Her hair was graying, and she realized that the whole dream was a metaphor for life and death. There was only one way to get out…
She leaped into the whirlwind.

Leo was dreaming something like this: There was an opera house, and it seemed that everyone was claustrophobic in there. He knew he would be trapped in there forever listening to the singer hit the same high note and hold it for much, much longer than was humanly possible. There was one solution, as, like Jaymi’s dilemma, there was no door: He burned the place to the ground, but he used magic make the flames turn only the building to ash. Poof! The dust settled, and everyone left.
Right where the very top of the building used to be, there was his fiery orb, just sitting there, He flew up and as soon as he touched it, was sent back to the “real” real world.
Leo woke up without a quest.

Nikki dreamt of a pirate ship on which she was trapped, and she had been on this ship for over 24 hours and was water-deprived. But right next to her was a little space where he ship’s rail had gone missing. She bumped her cage over to it, and slid off the ship and into the water. She sank into the bottom of the shallow waters in which the ship had been docked, and there was an oyster. She opened it by instinct; Nikki loved to search for pearls. There wasn’t a pearl, but there was her orb, which woke her up. Nikki also left without a quest.

Brian was in his favorite game, LostSword. The game actually did give him the health of his character and he actually did have to win the game to survive. But he did. Of course he did. The faerie appeared again (it was Lila, the same faerie from earlier, in case you were wondering) and gave him his orb again. So he, too, woke without any quest. He was actually expecting one, and felt a little disappointed. Oh well.


Jaymi woke up feeling extremely tired. Which was funny, because she was usually almost hyper in the mornings and she usually woke up at 6:00. But what she didn’t know was that it was already 9:00. She felt very groggy, and wondered what happened. When she went to wash her face, her hair dropped over her shoulder and it had been gray. The dream, she figured out, had been a partial reality. She had to find her youth again. She should have just jumped right into the whirlwind as soon as it formed.
But now? Now she had a bit of a problem. Then she had the ability to solve it, but not anymore, not as easily. With the orb, she knew somehow, would come the youth. Of course, she still had the magic bit. There was a cloud hovering over the very middle of the island, so she tried to go there.
However, her magic was weaker than what she was used to and dropped her, just like Lila’s spell, right below the cloud.  Her orb, following its natural element, had gone right beneath this cloud because that was where there was wind blowing at the moment. Regardless, Jaymi touched it and regained her youth. She hadn’t expected it to happen so soon, but she took advantage of the fact that she had both her youth and her orb now, and was flowing with energy and alertness. Her wings caught her very easily.
And dropped her into the middle of the forest.


Searching, searching, searching…
Maya was looking for trees that looked like the ones in her dream. Right near the middle of the forest, she heard a groan, and Jaymi popped up from the undergrowth.
“What happened?” Maya asked.
“Long story,” Jaymi said. “Why are you out here?”
“Long story,” Maya said. “But I’ll tell you anyway. You’ll think I’m weird, though, so I’m warning you now.”
“Everything on this island is weird,” Jaymi said. “Go right ahead, it’ll make sense compared to the rest of this place.”
Maya told her.
“Well, you say the ground was gritty, but you could barely see anything? When the sun came up, which side of the island was it on?”
Maya thought a minute, then pointed.
“Then it’s on that side of the island, where the sand meets the forest. Let’s go look,” said Jaymi.
The plant was there, but it didn’t talk. Maya stared at it. Jaymi stared at it. Without taking her eyes off the plant, Maya said, quietly, “Jaymi, you can go ahead and start on back to camp. Don’t come looking for me. Don’t let anyone come looking for me. I have to stay here. Don’t ask questions, just go. There are secrets here, not just right here, but on the entire island. I’m still piecing it all together.”
Jaymi’s eyes got big, then she whirled on her heels and left, obediently, without a word.


Maya was not going to come back to camp without her orb. She slept by the plant, expecting to have another dream like the other two, but she didn’t. There was just this light, and a sound, like a musical note that she couldn’t quite describe; it was like when you pulled the branches apart in the oak she traveled in – warm but cool, windy but still, light but dark – this was a soft note, but loud and high-pitched, and very low, all at the same time. It wasn’t even as… neat as the oak. It was all messy, the opposites were jumbled, and you had to look for it, or listen, or maybe both…
And the wind! The wind knocked the wind out of her! Or something! And every oxymoron that could ever have been was THERE! (Maya ate the jumbo shrimp. It was good.)
Then dawn came, but it was hard to tell. It came when you were beginning to think that it might not after all. All of Maya’s dreams ended that way – dawn came, and she was in the light and woke up. But in this dream, right before dawn came, the light – and everything else – turned Maya’s favorite shade of green, very familiar… and right before it all turned green, she heard a voice:
“Oh, no, you ain’t!”


Maya woke up with Hazel lying on the ground above her head.
“Uggggghhh. Stupid dream. Tried to end before I got in. I told it otherwise, though. Caught it off guard. It’s very sensitive to improper contractions. Of course, I could have split an infinitive, too, but I just blurted out the first thing that popped into my head.”
“What are you talking about?” Maya asked.
“Don’t ya know? You used to be very big on English when you were little. Always telling on your brothers for ending sentences with the word “to” and correcting all their spelling errors. I thought it was funny, just this miniature English teacher trotting around, screaming grammar rules at people,” Hazel laughed. “You were cute.”
Maya blushed in slight embarrassment with a hint of teacher’s-pet pride. She wondered, slightly more embarrassed…
“Yes, I can see the slight pride,” Hazel said. “You’re not going to hide it. Your expression says it all.”
Maya blushed more and said, “Hazel, we’d better get back to camp now.” There was something in the way she said the word now.
Hazel subconsciously grinned to herself.

One person had been ignored. Cherry had sat in Lila’s handbag for too long. She turned into a gnat and flew out, wondering if Lila was in trouble and had left her bag somewhere. But no, Cherry just simply hadn’t caused any trouble at all and was forgotten. Now she made herself reappear. She’d had a dream, too. She’d watched Lila converse with the wind and the light, and a shadow had spoken to her.
There is one more.


Cherry told everyone what the shadow told her.
“And there’s a reason why it told me, not Lila or anyone else. What makes me different? Well, I was in a faerie form for so long, and I was considered to be the faerie of wisdom. I did help found Faerie land, but I myself am a Shapee. So that means that there is yet another founder that we haven’t… um, found.”
“That’s convoluted,” sad Maya, emerging from the forest.
“Oh, the old times show through,” said Hazel.
“The farthest a dog can run into a forest is until he reaches the middle,” Emma said. “After that, he’s running out.”
“True,” Hazel said. “I’m guessing that the stories of how you guys got back to your owners are pretty long ones, so I won’t ask.
“You got that right.”
“Well, what do we do now? It’s been six days.”
“We leave for Faerie Land. I think I know who the other faerie is. But we travel by Jaymi’s magic. Mine isn’t working right. I can’t trust myself to do any battling right now. It’s because of what the wind told me.”
“I haven’t seen the wind’s magic yet,” said Nikki. “Are you sure we should leave now?”
“Yes,” Leo said. “You haven’t seen the wind, but you didn’t need to. You saw your own element, it just didn’t talk because you knew what you were doing, sort of. Sort of. No one really knows what they’re doing in a dream.”
Lila is the little miniature celebrity. Pah! Leo thought. Of course wind and light will talk to her. She’s Little Miss Magic and any problems she has are all, “Oh, noooo! Oh, such an inconvenience! Oh yes, I’m going to defeat the enemy by SINGING! LALALALALALALA!” Of course her magic has been messed with by whatever we’re fighting. She can’t ever have a weak point, because she’s just perfect.  Leo sniffed, then looked the other way to hide the anger in his eyes.
I wish I had Leo’s role, Lila thought. He doesn’t have to deal with all this stupid chosen one crud.
Lila sighed, then slumped a bit before standing up straight again. Maya, knowing what each was thinking, died laughing.


Finally, Nicolas asked the question that everyone had on their mind.
He asked it too late, however. He asked it at night, when no one could hear him, and it wasn’t that effective – he didn’t get an answer, of course.
But he still wondered. Why did Lila say we needed to stay nine days? It couldn’t have been because of the dreams. He hadn’t had one, and it had been six days already.
He didn’t take into consideration that the orbs (except Hazel) may not have dreams, because their owners would handle that.
Nicolas didn’t go to sleep at all that night. He just didn’t. There was a certain aura around the village and he had to stay awake. With an aura like this, the dreamworld of the island was dangerous. Everyone knew that. But knowing that and not using the knowledge didn’t do anything. Nicolas woke everyone up so that no one would be in danger, but everyone ignored him and went back to sleep.
In the morning, Lila woke up, thankfully, at her normal hour. She felt completely normal and fixed everyone breakfast. Everyone ate, and Nikki was putting the paper plates into a garbage bag (thank you, Maya) and then they played kick-ball, because they had plenty of food, no goofy quests, and nothing else to do but enjoy the island. Then Lila turned to her cabin for a nap –
Lila stopped. Everything about her stopped, even her breathing and pulse. She stood there. Everyone rushed in front of her. Her normally turquoise eyes faded to gray, then flashed red, and she started breathing again, but she had a shadow.
Leo knew that Lila emitted light like nothing else. It was impossible for her to have a shadow, he knew, because a shadow meant…
…that she’d stopped emitting light.


Nikki sighed. “Good, she’s still alive.”
“Oh, no, she’s not,” Leo said.
“But she’s breathing, and her pulse is back,” Maya said.
“No. That is NOT my little sister. No.” Leo circled “Lila.”
“Looks fine to me. See, her eyes are getting blue again.”
“No. Lila’s eyes would never have even a hint of gray, and never red. No.”
“Come on, Leo. Nobody’s buying this. You’re pranking us.”
“She has a shadow.” Leo didn’t even look up from staring at Lila.
“Leo, everyone has a shadow. Get over it.”
“NO!” Leo spun around fast, fire in his own eyes. He’d reached the bottom of his element and his temper, and had more magic than any dragon could possibly hold. Even the word “no” seemed weak, too much of an understatement. He bared his teeth. “She may be breathing, but a part of her is not living – or, it won’t be if we don’t heal her fast. The fate of the universe depends on it.”
“Leo, I think you’re the one who needs healing,” Jaymi said. “Seriously!”
Leo had met Lila’s gaze again, but he spun once more, this time so fast that his tail smacked Lila’s ankles. His nose was not even an inch from Jaymi’s.
“You dare to doubt a dragon’s prediction?” (Especially one who can predict the future in the first place!)
“Well, what do we do?”
Leo thought for a moment. He sighed, his breath hot, making Jaymi step back. “There are… secrets, and beings in the forest and on the island. There are secrets that I found not a year ago. The secrets are the only thing that can save Lila, and the universe too. We’ll take care of the universe, but we can’t do it without Lila, and we need to take care of her first.”
Leo turned back to Lila, put a paw on her chest, and howled, “EXPEL!”
Lila’s shadow vanished – or, rather, it tried to dash away into the forest, but not before Leo took his paw off of Lila, stood on his hind legs, and shouted, “STAY!” Then he ignored Maya’s snickering at the dog command, and even more anger flashed in his eyes. The same – almost the same – creature that attacked Leo in his own home had attacked HIS little sister. HIS. When his own relatives had angered him, he could keep from casting magic. But Leo, as a dragon, was built for battle and could not hold back on a creature that attacked HIS little sister.
He saw the creature, which looked like a spot of darkness creeping along…
… and killed.


Light. Not the flimsy light for looking around, but a more blunt, armored light for battle. Lila could rid the world of Drearies all she wanted and bring hope everywhere singing and skipping along a path with butterflies, and she had all the love of a faerie (if that faerie hasn’t been called a pixie recently), but she couldn’t stand the brute force of a real enemy. Leo could. There was always more than one kind of light in the world. Leo’s battle spells had worked, and whatever it was had faded into the sunlight. Lila had stopped breathing and had no pulse again, and Maya had started CPR by the time Leo turned back to the group. She stopped when Lila’s eyes turned from the dull gray back to the brilliant turquoise again and Lila said, “Ouch! Stop! What the heck are you doing?”
Maya sat up and said, “You passed out on us for a second. It’s a long story.”
“In a nutshell, you got all, like, possessed by a Shaede or something, and then Leo, argued with us because, for a minute, you, like, stopped breathing and your pulse stopped, Maya checked, and, like, then you were back to normal but your eyes were all gray and red, and we all thought you were ok except Leo, and he, like freaked out and got, like, totally enraged and then he cast the Shaede out and, like, totally killed it! It was, like, cool and scary and horrifying all at once!” Jaymi proclaimed.
Lila just stared. Everyone just stared.
“Well, that’s what HAPPENED,” Jaymi said, totally unembarrassed.
Leo’s eyes returned from the fiery rage scene to the normal deep green of the island forest. “We need to leave here. There may be more Shaedes around.”
“No!” Lila screamed in a panic. “No. Number one, we NEED to stay on this island for nine days. There are secrets here. And two, that was not a Shaede. Shaedes don’t take over things. They kill 100 or so of any new species they find and then they leave everyone alone, and they kill because they are afraid of  the SMC attacking. They find easy kills in the night, and they don’t take prisoners. That was a Lurking Spirit. They’re the ones that take down enemies slowly and eat away at them. And as Leo has saved me from one, I’d like to thank him now, but regardless of all dangers, we have to stay here because everywhere else is even more dangerous. I see it in my dreams. We are the Heroes, the chosen six, and I know that you’ve heard all this junk before, but we can’t control it and we don’t need to like it. The best we can do is to satisfy everyone, save the universe and get it over with. The only thing we can control is ourselves. WE have to deal with that and work with it. It’s all we have.”


Everyone stared rather blankly at Lila. Lila herself adopted a very firm, I’m-not-joking-guys expression.
“Well, you can stare all you want, but I’m with Lila,” Jaymi said. “We know how to deal with Lurking Spirits now, so other things can’t be too bad, can they?”
“They can,” Lila said. “They can be deadly. But anything anywhere else won’t even give us a chance. Not without the secrets. We need them first. Then we go. It’s not do or don’t, it’s do or we’re dead. We don’t have a choice. It’s not our fault if we are magic, or have the power to save the universe, or are the only ones who get to learn secrets on a deserted island and be like heroes and heroines in books or video games–” (Brian glanced at Nicolas out of the corner of his eye) “–and it’s not anyone else’s fault either. WE have no choice, and the only reason there is a ‘chosen one junk’ is because the people saying it are just telling us that we don’t have a choice, period, and we can be just like the video game characters we all know and love. And you can gush, and be all, ‘oh, nooooo! What are you talking about? You’re mad, no, that’s not right at all! This can’t be happening!’ or you can be sensible and get the job done, over with, and out of the way and move on. That’s all the choice we have here. To freak or not to freak, that is the question.” Lila stopped and scanned her audience to see if anyone had gotten the joke, but everyone’s face was blank and nobody said anything at all. They were busy trying to figure out what the heck Lila said. But Lila knew how to snap them into attention. She sighed, headed toward her cabin and stopped, a grin on her face, which the others couldn’t see. They started towards her, and she turned around. “Just checking to see if you’re awake!


“All right. So right now, here’s the situation,” Lila said. “In a nutshell, right now we’re on a very, very dangerous island. We have to stay on the very, very dangerous island. WE have to stay on the very, very dangerous island because – listen closely – if we went anywhere else, then it’s basically a case of YOU DIE NOW. The only thing that protects us from the YOU DIE NOW are the secrets on the island. So we stay on the island and find the secrets in the slightly less dangerous place rather than go and commit suicide by traveling somewhere else without the key to defeating the evil stuff there. Once we get the secrets, we go get the thirteenth faerie founder. The other person who was there but wasn’t there, if you know what I mean.”
Lila was given the Blank Face award.
“Oh, that’s right. You speak caveman. Grunt grunt. We stay on island. Grunt grunt. We get secret thingies. Grunt grunt. Then get pretty faerie thingy who name Jane. Grunt grunt. We no leave without secret thingies. Grunt. Understand?”
“Ohhhhh,” everyone said. Brian took the joke a bit farther and sat down and started licking his feet.
“I’m… quite scared now,” Maya said. “Um. Just smile and back away slowly.”
Everyone did. Brian kept licking his feet. He’d turned into a human again to hunt as he needed the archery practice, and had stepped in the dung of… well, he wasn’t quite sure what animal’s dung it was. “It’s not really that bad, guys…” he started, but everyone had backed away into their cabins. He heard faint cries of, “Mommy, make the scary thing-that-eats-questionable-things go away…”

Everybody sat in their respective cabins and thought about everything. Lila somehow knew that there was a secret here, the most important one, that was impossible for her to figure out, because of perspective. She didn’t know why she used the word perspective, and she didn’t know how to interpret this new knowledge, but she knew that the best she could do was go to sleep and hope.

Nikki had gathered everyone around the fire in the center of the village to explain history. She got a sudden urge to do this out of the blue. Awkwardly, everyone gathered as told and Nikki told them what she wanted them to do. Each Peterson was to explain their history, going in the order of realization, a method not commonly used. This was old magic. The order of realization was when a select group of SMC were involved in a common event that had to do with their turning into an SMC or, at the least, realizing it. This made sure that a sort of timeline of explanation was occurring in the right order. The big picture was revealed without confusion.
First Jaymi explained, as she never lost her memory, then Lila, then Maya and Leo, and then Nikki. Nikki told about very odd things happening. She and her friend, Sylvia, had gone to a  pool on vacation, and they’d put some sort of chemical in the water that made her and Sylvia come to their senses. Then they’d traveled to Florida a year later and then she went for a swim again and met a very friendly shark – or, a shark that was friendly after he realized they were mermaids and he wasn’t allowed to eat them. He took them to the other mermaids. Nikki had made friends with the lead mermaid, Salia, and soon had a Tagari following her around. The Tagari were these little creatures who were a bit like a snake with four tentacles, but they swam, and kept rather horizontal when still. They had gray hair and what looked kind of like a veil that was white but transparent and reflected light. They were very odd-looking creatures, but they shared the mermaids’ love of books and liked to read over their shoulder.
Anyway, Nikki and Sylvia helped the others move out of their deprived little plot of land over to another place. The mermaids were trying to fix up an old pirate ship that sank and propel it around underwater. Mermaids are horrible at repair jobs, however, so it was worse off than when it sank. Sylvia fixed that – architecture and technogeekiness were her specialties. So they moved, and Nikki vaguely remembered hiding in her bedroom and getting all up in armor and fighting something. She slashed off its head, which fell rather slowly, for a head, and then had her friend The Shark eat it. People were kinda grossed out, but it worked.
Then Brian barely needed to explain anything, because the others were with him most of the time. Nicolas added in, as a sidenote, that the person who made the game LostSword was a Shapee. This was pretty much just to shut Brian up; Nicolas used the fact as a bribe.
Then Nikki just stared at everyone. Why did I do this? She thought. Why did I bring everyone here?
Then she knew.


“Complicated,” Nikki said. “Very complicated.” She sighed. “There’s… it’s hard to explain. Listen carefully.”
Everyone, including Geraldine and Tika, scooted towards the fire to listen.
“It has to do with colors. You know all that junk they blabber at you in Art? Complimentary colors, all that? Well, if you never thought you’d use it, you guessed wrong. You see, whatever we’re fighting, if it’s so powerful that it would kill us as soon as we set foot anywhere but on this island without the secrets, must be pure evil, right?”
“Well, then I’ll explain like this. Complimentary colors are exact opposites. So I’m going to invent a little and say complimentary elements here to explain. Opposite elements. So, let’s say, Leo vs. ice spirit. Ok? Orange against blue. Fire melts ice. Fire wins. Lila vs. Drearie thingy. Yellow vs. purple, and yellow wins, because if light surrounds a shadow, the shadow can’t exist because a shadow is when an object blocks light. If it doesn’t have an object blocking the light, it ceases to exist. Bye bye Drearies. So since this is pure evil, it’s not a purple Drearie-that-used-to-be-a-faerie, it’s black. Black can only be cancelled out by white. But Lila can’t be white. She’s the lightest of our colors, and alone, compared to each of us alone, is the best at destroying evil.
“So? Why is it that we’re here, then? Well, I tell you, the only way we can get to a white element is with all of our elements combined. When red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet come together, it makes up the colors of the Sun’s light, which is white light. If split by a raindrop, it makes a rainbow. Taken the opposite way, it makes white. I rest my case,” Nikki said.
“Who’s red?” Jaymi asked.
“Oh, you’re pink magic. Pink, light red, what’s the difference? Pink is red with white in.”
“Wait. Violet? That’s purple. Does that mean…?” Brian asked.
Nicolas sighed. “We have purple. Shapees used to work for the bad guys, but they rebelled. Successfully. We’re not about to become slaves to them again. I an sorry to say, that may be why they came back. To retrieve us.”
“Nicolas, you know that’s not true.” This was Minda’s voice. “They want the orbs. If they get the unlimited power of the SMC orbs, they can take over everything. That’s why we hid.”
“You hid?”
“Yes. We didn’t think it would come to this. The evils are usually fought off by now. It’s much safer for everyone if we’re here, where pure evil can’t go. So we hid. Orbs from any other SMC than you guys, the chosen six or whatever, are completely useless to them. We’re kind of unstable, in a way. We can save the universe or destroy it. That depends on whose hands we are in. But I have a plan. I’m a Shapee orb, remember? Now, I can turn into Nicolas and be the bait. You guys have to hide and wait. While the evil is still here, the Sun comes out for only one hour. The rest is night. Now we have the secret. Oh, by the way, the other secret is the one that Leo was avoiding telling to us. There’s more than one kind of light. For example, you’d want Lila to light a cave, because you don’t want smoke from fire filling up the whole cave and suffocating you. Then when you need a more destructive light for fighting, use fire, because Lila won’t do anything but blind you for a second. Then if you have limited light, use leaves and water to reflect it all over the place. And if all there was, was light, no shadows, then who could sleep? Then the light would have no magic to it and be useless. And the wind… well, I’m not exactly sure what the wind does.”
“No,” Jaymi whispered, “You wouldn’t know.”


In Faerie Land…

The group got a bit held up at the gate.
“Yeah, yeah. Right. You’re NOT Lila! You’re just another Lurking Spirit coming in to take someone over!”
Lila screamed.  It was very loud and girly, something a Lurking Spirit couldn’t manage.
“Oh, so you’re one of those pesky Drearie critters. And who are you with?”
“I’m with Maya, Leo, Nikki, Brian, Jaymi, Cherry, and Geraldine and Tika, who are pixies. It’s a big group.”
“Yeah, right.”
Cherry spoke up. “Hey, you. She did mention me in the list. But you weren’t listening. I’m Cherry, and if you don’t let me in now, I’ll just be rude and slip past the filter. I helped build this place and I know how it works!”
The guard’s voice dropped. “Shh. All right, I believe you. Cherry’s been missing for quite a while now, and nobody has that much audacity. Come in, but be quiet.”
“Quiet is my middle name,” Cherry said. “You want us to sneak in and attack?”
“Yes, if you know how to kill stuff like this. Otherwise, hide!”
“All right, so everyone just kill the thingies like I did, and Lila, go get Jane. Then get as many people to attack as possible!” Leo told them. They snuck into the castle and Lila hid by dimming her light as much as possible. Leo kept behind the red curtains, Nikki hid in the goldfish pond and interrogated the goldfish, Brian hid under a table and Maya and Ukiki in a hibiscus tree that was in the indoor garden and absolutely humongous. Or, at least it was huge to a two foot high elf. Jaymi and the other pixies hid on the ceiling, which was a deep periwinkle and matched their clothing.
Sky came in, but it was clear that she had been taken over. Jaymi said, “I’ll handle this.” She dropped to the ground and tried to expel the spirit, but it didn’t work. Lila intervened and cast it out, but she was busy holding the queasy Sky up.
“A little help with the Lurking Spirit!”
Jaymi killed it with a zap of lightning.
“Whew! Now that that’s done, why couldn’t I do it?”
“You have wind, not a form of light. Sort of. Your part is needed to make up the white light, but you don’t have any form of light that could cast it out. You still have the magic power to destroy them when they’re out of the person, though. Let’s split into two groups. Leo, Sky, you expel, Cherry, Brian, maybe you can too, because your element is almost close, and… well, whatever. You cast the spirits out, and the pixies, Maya, Ukiki and Nikki, you zap ‘em.”
Lila was, again, given blank stares.
“Hold on. You were able to control my orb,” Maya said. “Maybe that goes both ways. Maybe I can cast them out. Oh, and something tells me you’d be able to control the others’ orbs, too, but I’m just saying that perhaps just because our element isn’t exactly a form of light doesn’t mean we can’t expel those things. Let’s separate into who can and who can’t, and then everybody just do what you can and destroy a buncha stuff. Ok?”
Everyone understood Maya.
“Sneak out and zap stuff,” Brian said.
“Pretty much,” Maya said. “Zap bad, protect faeries. Got it?  It’s like one of those shooting games in the back of pizza parlors where you aim at stuff and don’t aim at other stuff.”
Vigorous nods.
“So we just run in screaming?”
Lila opened her mouth in horror, but Maya beat her to it. “Yeah, whatever. Just go before Lila has time to speak Japanese. This is not a strategic battle, it’s just expel, zap, expel, zap, FAST. And NOW.”
Everyone left, even Lila, FAST and NOW.


Everyone ran out, screaming at the top of their lungs and Sky looking mischievous, which wasn’t common, everyone said. Except Lila. Who knew her better.
Sky was enjoying herself. It had been a while since the last time she’d gotten the chance to use tons of magic and spin around screaming, zapping everything, not looking where. There were some really creeped-out faeries, but it had been worth it and the attack had been warded off. Sky’s magic didn’t hurt faeries, but Leo and Maya had to jump over the beam of light once or twice. Anyway, the attack had been warded off.
Sky told them to go and search each of their homes. “Each is under attack. There have been requests for our warriors. Take them with you. Take every warrior you can with you. Deja!”
The queen’s adopted daughter came quickly.
“Yay! Can I go with them? Can I can I can I can I can I can I can I? I wanna go shoot something!”
“You go, girl!” Ukiki laughed. She gave her a high five.
“Deja, it’s dangerous. If they call you, you go to them quickly. You can be… reinforcements? Yes, reinforcements. The backup. Okay?”
Day sighed. “Okay.”
“And no more coffee.”
Ukiki gave Day a look that said, “If they don’t call you in time for the final battle, I will.”
They went, got Jane and let her know that she was a founder of Faerie Land and “yeahwe’reinahurrynowlet’sgoyou’vegottocomewithus!” and zipped off.


Following the queen’s instructions, the group went to the mermaids first, because they really weren’t great fighters, and then to Maya’s place and the Chikik, and then to the pixies, which didn’t take long, but it could have been shorter. The warriors had done quite well, but Master Zeagr and several others had been seriously hurt. It was a good thing that the mermaids had kept their pet Tagari with them, because Tagari know healing magic and can walk in and out of water.
Jaymi rushed to Master Zeagr even faster than the Tagari, who were bolting the way something you really don’t expect to be fast but is does.
“What’s hurt? I don’t have a spell for all-around healing.”
“My leg…”
Jaymi healed him and teleported him to Geraldine’s inn, then ran off to help others. She ran into Mistress Gryphon, who bowed again.
“No time for etiquette! Go quickly to Zeagr! He’s in Geraldine’s inn. I’ll teleport you.”
Jaymi did and rushed away. Geraldine, hearing this, teleported to the inn too. There was no time to walk even if the inn were five feet away.
It was not the battle that took long. It was the recovery of the soldiers and the gathering of the remaining soldiers who could still manage fighting. Brian thought that this sounded familiar. Sounded… right. Leo was thinking about something that Sky said, and he wasn’t sure he liked it.

The dragon forest was next, because they needed the warriors. In other words, almost everyone over the age of six went with them. Then the Shapee territory. They went to the dragons first because they knew that the Shapees would be in chaos. The mischievous creatures would be very hard to organize, and that was sort of good, but bad, too, because people would try. They just needed to go out and blast stuff. The only challenge in that battle was getting them all to listen to one sentence: “Just go smash stuff!” Then they did, and what battle was there? Shapees think that smashing stuff is fun, and they had plenty to do. There was nothing left in a matter of minutes.
“We’re… done, then?” someone asked.
And then something clicked. Not done. Leo knew what it was. Sky had said to search every one of their homes. He could see that Nikki knew it too.
“You know what we have to do,” he said quietly.
Nikki nodded and told the others. She’d always been the better one with words.
And then they all went home.


Home. A word associated with comfort. There was, however, nothing comfortable about the Peterson household that evening. In one corner, their assumed parents stood frozen. In the very center of the room, a humongous gaping black portal sat, moving slowly at first, but faster and faster once someone stepped toward it. The group stepped silently around the portal to face the frozen humans. Brian stepped forward and read their eyes. They told the very same story that Mistress Gryphon’s spell told Jaymi.
“Lila,” Brian said at last. “You’ve been told some things, but that’s nothing like seeing it. Come here.”
“I’m not a Shapee,” Lila said.
“We know that. Do it anyway. You were able to control Maya’s orb. Try directing Shapee magic.” Brian sent Nicolas to her, and she used the controlling stare to make one of the dragons sit up and say, “I like to play with dollies!”
“Oh, a sense of humor,” said the dragon next to it. The portal roared.
“Well, now read them,” Brian said.
She did. “It’s not the same as when you’re told,” she said afterward. “It’s much creepier, and more realistic. Jaymi looks kind of funny scrambling off into the woods.” The portal roared again.
“Are we gonna have to go into that thing?” Maya asked
“Unfortunately, I think so. We really don’t have another option,” Leo said.
The room fell silent. Everyone stared at the ground until Nikki broke the silence. “So, uhh… I guess it’s best we get a move on, then.”
“I guess. Everyone, into… the thing,” Jaymi said
The portal was a horrible experience. Everybody decided that, if given a choice, they’d never go through a portal like that again. It hurt. Lila was the worst off, being deprived of light. Even Emma dimmed, and ended up carrying Lila. The perks of being eight inches high and having an orb that can change size on demand.
It took fifteen minutes for everyone to recover from the portal and take a glance around them. Maya shook a little, and took a step back. “I’ve been here before,” she said. “If you thought the Drearies were bad, wait for what comes. At least last time, I was fighting something easy. But with that aura… we could only be fighting one thing that bad. One thing. A Devia.”
Immediately everyone knew what she was talking about, even though none had ever heard of one before. Devias were rare and that was just as well, because they could destroy entire galaxies, leaving a black hole in the universe. It was most likely that they were rare because either they killed each other off, or got sucked into the black holes they created. This was not something to be messed with. Jane and Amy, her orb, kept wary. They kept silent as possible approaching the evil Devia fort. It had been taken over by this creature when Maya had gotten rid of the Drearie queen and Lila her assassins.
Maya figured she could get in the same way she did last time, calling a squirrel to bite into the walls. They were hard stone. Let’s just say the squirrel didn’t get far.
So, unlike tradition, they went in through the front door and killed everything in sight except each other. That worked pretty well, except Lila was growing weaker.
When they came to the final room, the final battle, it was not what they expected. They expected some big old thing that looked like a black sheet draped over something tall. It wasn’t. It was, in fact, the Drearie queen. Taken over, of course, by the Devia.
Maya and Ukiki’s jaw dropped. “Deja Vu.”
And suddenly a faerie trotted into the room. “You called?” she said with obvious glee.
“Ha ha! I knew you would!” Her smile was brilliant, and everything about her was a sign of pure joy. She glowed brightly, and Lila blinked. This little girl had helped a lot with her strength. Lila cast a sunbeam to the middle of the ceiling, almost by instinct.  The not-Drearie-queen started toward her, and Maya stepped forward and grew vines up to it. The little girl, grinning, blocked the Devia’s path to escape. Leo came and blew fire up to it. Nikki cast a shower of water upward. Brian cast his unique magic up, and Jaymi stepped into her place and caused a whirlwind to go around them all, then caused wind to blow up to that point on the ceiling. And there they stood, in a circle, each with his or her orb above the head, supplying magic for the most costly spell in the universe, but also the most important. Six figures stood around the six figures: Sky, Nua, Aldrich, Saria, Master Zeagr, and that guy who made LostSword.
They said, in unison, “We are here. Soon we will go. We will come back, at the time of need. Which is a sure-fire guarantee, of course, that we will. WE WILL COME BACK. But for now…”
They leapt, together, into the spot on the ceiling.
Jaymi, Lila, Leo, Maya, Nikki and Brian all said in unison, in the voices of the ones they respect: “You are us.”


A day passed. Everything was frozen for a day. Which, if you think about it, doesn’t really make it a day, except the one thing that made it different from all the recent days was that the sun came up, and went down. That hadn’t happened in the past few days, when the Devia had taken over. But now that Devia was trapped in the sun. For a day. And with an ear-piercing shriek, when the sun, the white light and the white magic, set on that day, the world unfroze and the Six knew that the Devia would never come back.
“So now what? Should we return to Jessini?” Maya asked.
“A farming land? What, are you crazy? There’s no fun stuff to fight there! Let’s stay near Earth. This is where the action’s at!” Brian declared. Everyone else agreed, even Maya.
“Well, guys, we’d better get a move on while it’s still light out. I guess we have to go back through the portal,” Jaymi said. “Yuck.”
“Well, at least the dirty work’s done,” Lila said.
“Y’know, we’re gonna get bombarded with fan mail and newspaper reporters after this.”
“Yep.” They stood for a moment, silent.
“Well, let’s get a move on,” Nikki said.
They did.

Then they all went back home. They grew up in peace, Brian married Tika and Leo married Geraldine. Maya laughed when Brian cried at Leo’s and Leo cried at Brian’s. Lila shared an expression that said she was trying really hard to keep from laughing. Maya herself stayed single and acquired 35 cats, had fun making fun of the occasional person who flagged her as “that crazy cat lady” and yelling, “You kids get offa my lawn!” and laughing at their crazy expressions, then saying, “And come into the back yard and I’ll teach yez how to play tug-of-war right!”, then beating them all single-handedly. Oddly, no one noticed that while she acted as if she were some crazy elderly person, she never got graying hair and could talk normally whenever she wanted to. Good acting, that is! Cherry eventually found Aaron stuck in a castle trying to fit one of her old shoes on a bunch of girls and married him. Lila became queen of Faerie land in Sky’s place and went through a bunch of bad dates until Cherry brought up the dragon that was right next to the one who was the subject of the doll joke, who she married for his own jokes and carefree lifestyle (and for that one time when he stuck his tongue out at a President who was raising taxes and freaking out about Americans not having money to hire people with, resulting in a job crisis, people not having money to buy a house, and inflation. Anyone who can make a President blush like that was worth marrying).
Nikki became a very well-known editor who gritted her teeth through the mermaids who had no clue how to send in work, and therefore did it on bright orange paper. Eventually she got them to do it right, and sold books to humans with titles like “The Loch Ness Monster: Myth or Dinosaur?” and “Really, Now! Explanations For The Unexpected Events” and “Bermuda Triangle: Vacation spot?”. They led happy lives, but they were warned:
The others will come back.

The End
…for now

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 21st, 2010 at 5:50 pm and is filed under Brian. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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