|“Matt… Are you sure this isn’t a little… drastic?”
Matthew Fireshard, possibly the most impertinent pyromancer in the Spiral gave me a cheeky grin. “It is. That’s the point, Alex.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. Only Matt could be so lighthearted in a situation like this. Not that being, well, bad, was something I wasn’t used to doing.
“We could get,” I had said to him, “in so much trouble for this,” – I emphasized the word so – “it’s unbelievable.”
“How else will we find out?” he had replied, jovial as ever.
I had sighed then, because, as reluctant as I was to admit it, he was right. Our friends Liam Dawnbreeze and Jacob Ravencloud – the twins – were being asked to do something for Headmaster Ambrose, and wouldn’t tell us. Matt and I, of course, were desperate to find out.
“Coming?” his voice was still upbeat.
I could imagine him grinning. I would have seen his smile if it wasn’t so dark – it was coming up to midnight, and we were standing in Ravenwood, alone. I breathed in and out slowly. “Fine.”
He shivered, pretending to be freezing, or I thought he did, from what I could see in the dark. “Don’t like all this cold lark.” As whiny as that statement would sound from anyone else I knew, he still managed to pull it off with a bright tone, and I smiled in spite of myself. He could make Cyrus Drake laugh if he put his mind to it.
Soon enough we were in the Commons. It wasn’t a long journey. “You know, we could just ask them… One more time…”
Matt gave me a reproachful look. “You know they won’t tell us.”
“Still…” I shrugged.
“This is the only way!” Matt was, for the first time, irritated.
“Fine.” I’d all but given up. “So, how exactly are we going to go about this?”
“I told you!” Matt was exasperated. “It’s not hard. We see if the door’s open –” I nod – “and if it is, we walk straight in and see what we find.”
“And if it isn’t?” I challenged.
“We can think about that if we can’t get in.”
“Why did I ever agree to this?”
“Because – in case you didn’t hear me last time – this is the only way. And who could ever say no to me?”
I rolled my eyes. Typical Matt.
“I’ll try the door,” Matt said, trying to be bold.
Headmaster Ambrose’s office was, for the first time ever, completely empty. There was no one there at all, and it freaked me out big time.
“So,” said Matt, almost seriously. “This could be a bigger job than I imagined.” He surveyed the room critically, eyeing the countless stacks of books that were, for once, still. I wanted to laugh. ‘Why am I even thinking about laughing at a time like this?” I thought. ‘I’ve just broken into the Headmaster’s office!’ The full reality of the situation had only just hit me.
“Matt, I don’t like this,” I said. Even I could hear the tremble in my voice.
“Don’t be such a wimp!” he replied, rifling through a pile of parchment.
“Matt…” He looked almost pitying.
“Alex, don’t worry about it. What could come of it except a detention?”
I took a deep breath. He was right. “Nothing,” I said, somewhat reluctantly.
“Exactly. So nothing to worry about. Well, except trying to find the dang thing. I mean, this place is so unorganized. Someone should get the Headmaster to clean up in here!”
I smiled again, all trace of anxiety long gone. I started to go through a draw, feeling slightly guilty.
“What’s this?” Matt said, quietly. I turned to face him and took the ripped parchment. It was really old, so rough it felt like it would disintegrate as I held it. I looked at the cursive script which was clearly written with a traditional quill.
Certain young wizards will follow the path,
Become the defense from powers dark,
Three from each side of the Magical Arts,
Balanced enough will they depart.
They'll walk streets unknown to wizards before,
To find their objects of ancient lore,
To help them fight fights on which the Spiral will depend -
But these only upon reaching the Questend.
The rest of the text was harder to read, because someone had clearly ripped the paper in half, tearing some words in the process. I opened my mouth to speak, but Matt was already there.
“I think it says something about two girls,” he said, his voice still quiet and almost cautious. I looked at it. The next line was torn almost all the way across but he was right; the words I could make out looked like ‘Two of the children are girls’, but I couldn’t distinguish anything further.
I nodded in agreement. It seemed like hours before either of us spoke again.
“I think we should go,” Matt said, slightly louder than before.
I nodded again. Had I lost the ability to speak? “What does it mean?” The words were out of my mouth before I’d thought about it. Apparently not, then.
Matt frowned at the paper again. Then he pulled a quill from an ink well on the desk and grabbed a piece of parchment from the piles of the crowded desk. “I don’t know,” he said. “But we’re going to find out.” He started to copy the poem out in neat print.
“Jake and Liam can’t deny anything when they’ve seen the evidence,” he continued.
“Wait,” I said. “We’re going to show them this?”
“Yes.” Matt was still copying.
“They can tell us what it’s about.”
I thought about this for a moment. Certain young wizards will follow the path. Well, it’s a prophecy, obviously. Three from each side of the Magical Arts. That would make one from each school, except Balance. Jake and Liam. Storm and Life. Different schools. It didn’t mean that they were the ones from their school in the prophecy. No, it didn’t make it certain. But no one could argue that it wasn’t a possibility.
“Do we need to?” I asked.
Matt looked up. “What?”
“Do we need to ask them?” I repeated. “If you think about it, they could be these… young wizards.” The phrase made me oddly reminiscent of the time when I’d first arrived in Wizard City; the time when Headmaster Ambrose and Gamma used to call me ‘young wizard’.
I heard a wheezy snore.
“You’re right,” said Matt thoughtfully. “It fits.” I wasn’t really listening. Why would anyone be close enough so I could hear them snoring.
I motioned for him to be quiet. He realized what I was trying to tell him to do maybe a split second before I heard the soft hoot. Almost like the yawns I hear every morning when Nat wakes up.
Matt looked confused until he saw my shocked expression. I watched the realization spread slowly across his face. I was the first to react.
“Get out!” I hissed, grabbing his wrist and sprinting towards the door. I opened it and pulled him into the Commons, where the sun was starting to rise. We’d been in there for too long. We didn’t stop running until we were half way through the Ravenwood tunnel.
I leant against the wall, Matt beside me, trying to catch my breath. I glanced at a grinning, if somewhat disheveled, pyromancer, brown hair all over the place and startlingly blue eyes delighted.
“What are you looking so pleased about?” I said.
“We made it out alive.” Matt’s grin spread and I felt myself return the smile.
“Yeah, no thanks to you.”
“Hey, I got the prophecy. Don’t get mad at me.”
That’s when I realized just how crazy that had been. I reckon we were probably the first students to have broken into Ambrose’s office.
“We’d better get back to our dorms.” For a split second, I could have sworn he looked almost reproachful, as though he wanted to stay, but his face morphed immediately into a somber expression.
“Yeah, poor Saffy will be getting worried.”
“I wouldn’t think she would wake up this early.”
“Oh. Yeah. You’re right. It’s sort of hard to tell in a tunnel.” Without any warning, I started laughing.
“Come on,” I said, pulling him along. He grinned at me sheepishly.
The minute we got out of the tunnel, we saw a distinctive red-haired tall woman in the distance. Matt went unusually white.
“Oh man,” he said. “Mom.”
Matthew Fireshard just had to be the son of Dalia Falmea.
“Go to your dorm,” I urged. He hesitated. “Quick!” I added, before running to my left and stumbling blindly to my room in the near darkness. I tried to be quiet, but I think I can safely say I’ve never been known for my gracefulness. Nat stirred in his sleep and I froze.
“Shh Nat. Go back to sleep.”
“Why are you awake?”
“I had a bad dream.”
“Uh… Yes. Now go back to sleep. It’s late. Well. It’s early.”
Nat murmured something unintelligent as he rolled over and curled up. I heard his soft snores within a few minutes. I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Sidequests…” he mumbled to himself. “Triton… Fireca… Mmrrh.”
Typical. Talking in his sleep again.
For probably the first time ever, Nat was the first to wake up the next morning. I was exhausted.
“Alex…” I had opened my eyes groggily to see a slightly puzzled Nat leaning over my bed.
“Oh geez,” I said, realizing just how late it must be if Nat was awake. I leapt out of bed and pulled on my robes quickly before dashing out of the door with a puzzled necromancer in tow.
Jake and Liam were waiting by Torrence as they always did. Nat had disappeared somewhere already – probably to Malorn Ashthorn to talk to him about the Death Blade quest.
I passed Autumn Willowbreeze, my adept friend, as I walked towards them. “Hi Alex,” she said as she breezed past me. I replied with a sort-of-friendly grunt. She frowned at me. “Speaking boy again, Alex? You spend too much time with that lot.”
That woke me up a little. “They’re my friends.” My voice was defensive, even snappy.
“Oh, don’t get all moody on me, Alex. Diviners,” she said, rolling her eyes as she went to join her friends by Blossom.
I was a bit put-out by her comment. Autumn was usually – well, just nicer than that. I frowned to myself. What’s wrong with my friends? I’d never really given much thought to who I quested with, let alone the fact that they were all boys.
Still heading towards Torrence, I was somewhat distracted by a whirlwind of pale blue and purple sprinting past me. “Kymma!” she was yelling.
That would be Saffy, Matt’s sister, my bleary mind concluded. I wondered how Matt was feeling after last night’s escapade. Most likely the same as me: as though I had been knocked over by a Helephant.
“Hi Alex!” yelled Liam, waving as he spotted me. I walked over quickly to join him and Jake.
“You’re a bit late,” said Jake, cautiously. “Aren’t you usually the first one here?”
“I overslept,” I said evasively. It wasn’t a lie, exactly. Then again, why was I thinking about lying when I had marched into Ambrose’s office in the middle of the night?
“No sign of Matt yet,” added Liam, somewhat dejectedly. I bit my lip to stop me saying that he was probably tired after last night.
“He’s usually here by now.” Jake was looking worried. I was all set to go and drag him out of bed when a disheveled figure in red and orange appeared.
“Hey!” Matt cried, adjusting his hat. “You guys!”
“You’re late,” I teased.
“You can’t talk, Alex. You only just arrived,” grinned Liam.
We had life class first, and without communicating, we automatically started walking towards the life school. A lot of the kids in journeyman theurgy were already at their desks when we arrived and tried to sit down at the back without attracting too much attention.
Moolinda Wu stood up at the front of the class, as usual, and at the sound of her voice the class fell silent.
“Good morning, students of Life,” she began, nodding pleasantly. “Morning is the time of all things fresh and new, and we can reflect these blossoming energies into our theurgy. Today, we will be practicing healing spells. Some of you may not know as many ways to heal as others, but all of you, at least, have the sprite spell, which we shall be focusing on today.”
There were a few groans. I mean, even I knew how to cast a sprite, and I’d only started learning life a week or so ago.
“Students,” said Moolinda Wu, frowning slightly, “mastery of the basics is the only way to grasp the next level of life.” The groans fizzled out like a storm spell.
Meanwhile, I was staring out of the window, too tired to listen. I knew I should be listening, but the rain looked so calming, so wet, and so peaceful. I wanted to go outside and stand in it. I wanted to feel the wind on my face.
“Miss Stormrider?” I looked up. Moolinda Wu was standing in front of my desk, looking slightly concerned. “Are you feeling alright?”
I nodded. “I’m fine, professor.”
Moolinda Wu seemed to think for a while. “Would you care to deliver these papers to Madame Falmea?”
“Yes, professor.” She handed me the papers and I set off towards the fire school.
It was cooling outside. I tried not to get the papers wet. Why had Moolinda Wu picked me to go outside? Perhaps because I was a diviner, and wouldn’t be affected by the rain like the theurgists. Then why not Jake? I shook my head to try and rid myself of the confusion. It didn’t really matter. What did matter was that I was outside and trying to deliver these papers before they got soaked. I ducked under one of Bartleby’s huge branches which stretched out above me, over the schools and probably further if I could see that far.
I began to wish I had a mount so I could get this over with quicker. Perhaps a dragon or a horse… Even a broom. Then again, I did adore the lovely soft seraph wings that sprouted out of so many theurgists’ and other wizards’ backs.
I think it was then that I noticed the paper.
I have considered some potential candidates for pyromancer of the prophecy whom I teach, and I think you should personally assess their pyromancy skills as they are showing much promise.
And it was then that I wished I hadn’t.
More about the prophecy? Was this simply a coincidence? I realized then that I shouldn’t be reading the sheet anyway, but now I had seen it I was frozen to the spot in front of the myth school. Matt was in the prophecy? Well, he could be. One from each school. Liam would be Life. Jake would be Storm. Matt would be Fire.
All my friends were probably part of a prophecy.
I glanced around quickly to catch Cyrus Drake giving me a furious glare from inside the myth school. I decided to make a run for it and sprinted towards the fire school past a herd of novice necromancers.
I knocked on the door of the fire school before I entered a class of Masters. Feeling oddly out of place, I quietly left the papers on Professor Falmea’s desk before leaving without a word.
I walked back to the school of life more dazed than I’d felt when I woke up that morning. I didn’t hesitate to whisper chat to Matt – “We need to talk about the thing.”
“What thing?” Matt glanced at me, confused.
“The prophecy thing. There was something on that sheet I took to your mom.”
“Meet me in the storm tower after your storm class.”
“Why aren’t you guys saying anything?” asked Liam, loudly. “You keep looking at each other like you’re both in on some sort of secret.”
I almost laughed at this. Those two were the ones with the secret. Liam must have seen Matt and I smirk because he frowned. Jake was concentrating unnecessarily hard on getting his sprite to perch on his arm like a bird.
“What?” Liam was clearly getting agitated now. “What is it?”
“It’s nothing,” Matt said smoothly. “Besides, what are you and Jake hiding?”
Jake looked up so suddenly his sprite gave a squeal and hid in his blondish-brown hair.
“That’s different,” he said, quickly. Liam nodded.
There was an awkward silence, which was only broken when I yelped when a stray sprite landed on my head. Matt sniggered as I tried to get it off me. The sprite tugged at my hair for a while, but it soon gave up and flew away, a few purple hairs still tangled in her wings. Thomas Deathsong, a necromancer a few levels lower than me, gave us a guilty grin, which I returned half-heartedly. His sprite then flitted over to a theurgist, who, with a flick of his wand, dismissed her. Thomas backed away so comically that Matt cracked up, and Liam, Jake, and I soon followed suit.
“Good old Tom,” said Liam. “Always messing everything up…” Tom looked a bit embarrassed.
“No offence, of course,” grinned Matt good-naturedly. Tom grinned then returned to his desk quietly as Moolinda Wu cast a somewhat disapproving gaze in his general direction.
Liam turned back to Jake, who was struggling to extract his giggling sprite from his hair. With a flick of his wand, the sprite squealed again and disappeared with a soft ‘poof’. Jake grinned nervously.
I couldn’t stop my mind wandering to that sheet of paper. I could tell that my sprite knew I was distracted – okay, so most sprites disobeyed me anyway, but this one was really brazen. She simply would not stay still. I sighed in agitation. After a night of nearly no sleep and a lot of strange events, my temper was already dangerously frayed. Soon enough, I was going to snap.
I dismissed my sprite and sat at my desk moodily. How was Matt able to stay awake? I was tired – heckhounds, I was totally exhausted. And really stressed out. Really, really stressed out. I put my head on the desk and tried not to focus on how much my head was aching.
Suddenly I felt a floating, peaceful sensation, what could only be magical energy flowing through my body from my head to my toes. I sighed happily, and looked up, headache forgotten and stress relieved. Liam was grinning down at me.
“Feeling better?” he asked lightly.
I nodded. “Can you do that again?”
“It wouldn’t be much use. Minor blessing isn’t much help anyway, unless you’re a little novice,” he said, looking sympathetic. “Which I hope you aren’t.” I smiled half-heartedly.
“I could try a unicorn, but it’s a little crowded.” My smile widened. I felt awake again.
“See you after class,” I whisper chatted to Matt as Jake and I turned into the storm building.
“Later,” he replied, somewhat dismissively.
Halston Balestrom was in a lively mood – as usual. “Good afternoon, students!” he (quite literally) bounced. “Do have a seat!”
Jake and I obliged, heading to a pair of seats near the middle of the room, getting out our books almost in unison as Halston Balestrom leapt excitedly across the desks in the front row.
“Any new level sixteens?” he asked, as he did every day in journeyman class. Jake and I had both been level sixteen for a few days already, so we had already received our Kraken spell. No one put their hands up.
“Well, that’s good! Now, today we will be doing a very much practical lesson!” Halston Balestrom hopped onto his own desk. “Everyone outside!”
A few necromancers groaned, but the diviners in the class, including Jake and I, rushed towards the door. Halston Balestrom hopped happily after us.
“Go practice your spells!” he shouted exuberantly, trying to keep the herd under control. “Whichever you like! Find your weaknesses, and remedy them!” He hopped onto the dock by Torrence, and pretty much left us to it.
I waved my wand happily, splashing Jake with a stream of cold water that I had involuntarily conjured up. “Hey!” he spluttered indignantly, shaking it out of his hair. I grinned sheepishly. He waved his wand in return and sent a jet of water into my face. My hat fell off.
“That’s not fair,” I said. “I did it by accident!”
“Well, so did I!” grinned Jake.
“You so did not do that by accident!” I flicked some more water at him and he retaliated with a Minor Shock that made my hair stand on end. I summoned a Thunder Snake and started poking it to get it to pursue Jake.
Autumn happened to walk past at that point, giving me a critical glance as I prodded my snake’s tail with my wand. She rolled her eyes as she passed us on her way to the life school. I remembered how off she’d been with me earlier and couldn’t help feeling somewhat annoyed. I was distracted from these thoughts by another Minor Shock.
Halston Balestrom hopped up behind Jake. “Please try not to use your spells on your classmates, Mister Ravencloud!” Jake blushed and mumbled an apology, but Professor Balestrom was already leaping away after a storm shark that had decided to take a trip through Torrence’s little river.
Halston Balestrom had let us out late after class, so I sprinted over to the storm tower as quickly as I could, grateful for its proximity. On the way, I, again, walked straight into Autumn.
“Hey, what’s the rush, Alex?” she said, trying to get me to slow down.
“Hi Autumn,” I said, trying to dodge past her. She grabbed my shoulders.
“Where are you going?” She didn’t sound annoyed, or uptight, just curious.
“I need to talk to Matt,” I explained hurriedly. She let go of my shoulders and rolled her eyes emphatically.
“You’re always hanging around with a gang of mucky boys,” she said, exasperatedly. I felt my temper rising.
“You know what Autumn? If you’re gonna be like that, then don’t talk to me. They’re my friends, and they’re a heckhound of a lot better friends than you are sometimes. You don’t have to criticize me.” I strode past her, still fuming, and walked into the Storm tower.
Matt was already there, as I had suspected, and was leaning against the wall casually. “Hey Alex,” he said. “You took your time.”
I sighed, my anger evaporating. “I got caught up.”
“Well, you’re here now. What was it you wanted to tell me?”
“It’s about the prophecy,” I said quickly.
Matt grinned. “You don’t say.”
“Well, your name was on that sheet that I took to your mom earlier. And some other fire kids.”
Matt frowned. “And..?”
“It was about the prophecy! Possible candidates for the pyromancer of the prophecy!”
Matt looked a bit confused. Then he realized what I meant. “So… I’m in the prophecy too?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. It just had this list of kids. And your name was on it.”
“So… I could be?” He sounded more baffled than happy. “Are you sure you read it right?”
There was a long silence, where neither of us could think of anything to say.
“Must be because of my mom!” declared Matt, finally. He grinned.
“Nah, you’re good at pyromancy. You’re a natural.”
“Well, I have to say, I do have a feel for setting stuff on fire.”
I laughed, thinking of the plants he’d burnt in his Life lessons. “Too right!”
“So, up for a few quests in Krokotopia?” Obviously, Matt was back to his typically cheerful self.
“But of course,” I grinned, playing along.
“Am I right in thinking we have a certain Palace of Fire to start on?”
“You are indeed!”
“Shall we call on our twin friends to assist us?”
I took this as a signal to whisper chat to Jake.
“Alex? Where are you? You just disappeared after class!”
“Oh yeah, sorry about that, I had to… rearrange the dorm room. I got a few cool housing drops yesterday and I didn’t have time to put them down.”
“Oh, okay.” There was a pause.
“Do you want to start the Palace of Fire with us?”
“What? Don’t you want to?”
“Yeah, we’re—I mean, nooo.”
“Right. Okay. See ya.”
Matt shook his head at me.
“They’re doing prophecy stuff for Ambrose.”
“I know, Jake just… Well, he didn’t tell me, but it was obvious.”
“Guess we’ll just start by ourselves then.” Matt was smiling. I grinned back.
“Their loss,” I added. Then I paused. “Race you to the Altar of Kings!” I yelled, sprinting out of the door.
“That’s not fair!” Matt cried after me, trying to catch up. Though we usually ran at the same speed, I was ahead of him, so I had the edge. I sprinted past crowds in the Oasis, splashing through the pond, and dashed into the Altar of the Kings to find Matt right in front of me.
“What?” I spluttered furiously, still out of breath from my sprint.
“I win,” Matt said, blue eyes glinting mischievously.
“You ported!” I cried, not angry any more but finding the whole situation hilarious.
“You didn’t say I couldn’t.” Matt’s face was practically split by his massive grin.
“Let me catch my breath, cheater,” I said, “and we’ll get going.”
I swear Matt didn’t stop grinning the whole time we were there.
“Phew,” I sighed. “If I see one more dog asking us to do a sidequest, I think I will start crying.”
“Well, that’s not great then,” said Matt, grinning.
Private Archibald was calling us over. “Young wizards!” he cried in his distinctive Marleybonian accent. “I wonder if you might be so kind as to help me out, here.”
I sighed internally as we agreed to help him out. He wanted us to use the well in the Oasis. “At least it’ll give us a break from Nirinis,” I muttered to myself as Matt and I teleported to the Oasis.
There were barely any people there when we arrived. Of course, what with the perpetual sunshine it was hard to tell what the time was, but when there are only a few dedicated adepts left, you can tell it’s getting late.
“I think we’d better be getting back soon,” I said. I was slightly concerned.
“Yeah, sure,” replied Matt. “We’ll just finish this off, and then we’ll get back. It can’t take too long to just turn in this quest, can it?”
“No, I’m just… Time conscious, that’s all.”
“You still don’t have a watch, though.” Matt grinned cheekily.
“Maybe it’s time I should. Krokotopia’s an odd place.”
We headed back into the Altar of the Kings and walked slowly up the stairs towards the Palace of Fire. It seemed surprisingly empty; usually the place would be crawling with initiates, journeymen, and even apprentices and a few novices who had teleported to their friends. Instead, we found no one.
We talked to Private Archibald quickly, telling him we’d finish off his questline when we returned tomorrow. “As soon as we get in here, we’ll come straight to you,” promised Matt, nodding convincingly.
“Jolly good, jolly good,” mumbled Archibald tiredly. It must be a tough job, standing there talking to journeymen and whoever else all day.
We wandered back towards the Oasis quietly, too tired to teleport. Something was different. Maybe it was how cool it was, or the way the Nirinis were walking. I didn’t know.
When we emerged into the bright daylight, we found the area almost completely empty. Only a few manders and Sergeant Major Talbot remained. He dashed towards us.
“I say, wizards, why are you still here?” he frowned. “Off you go, now. Back to Ravenwood!” He pushed us towards the Spiral Chamber. Matt and I exchanged a confused glance.
“Sergeant…” I hazarded. “What’s the time?”
“The time?” He sounded incredulous. “The time? You’re asking me for the time at a time like this?”
Matt gave him a grin. “Well if we knew what the time was now, we’d know what a time like this would be.”
“Crikey, haven’t you heard? Get back to Ravenwood!”
Matt and I looked at each other in confusion again as we were shoved in the direction of the Spiral Chamber. We started towards it.
“And if you don’t mind me saying, young wizards, get a move on!”
Matt and I grinned at each other and broke into a run.
The first thing I saw when we got to Wizard City was a flurry of blue and purple. Saffy.
“Matt! Matt!” she cried. At first I thought she was simply excited, but then I detected a sense of desperation in her child-like voice. “Come on Matt, mommy is so worried!”
“See ya, Alex,” he sighed before running after her.
The next thing I noticed was that Ravenwood was packed with students. Noisy students. Students who were clearly talking about something very big that had probably occurred very recently.
I glanced around for a familiar face, until I found Madison Lifesong sitting on a patch of grass in tears. She was one of Autumn’s friends, and as much as I was annoyed with Autumn at that point, I hated to see her upset. I leapt over the fence surrounding Bartleby and crouched down near her.
“What’s up?” I asked, quietly. She glanced at me and burst into new tears. I decided to back away.
I tried to find someone else I knew. I whisper chatted to Jake.
“Look, Alex, now is really not a good time…”
He didn’t respond. I shouted in frustration, although I couldn’t hear myself over the noise of the crowds surrounding me.
I shoved my way through the crowds, trying to get to the dorms. Whatever had happened had nothing to do with me whatsoever. At that moment I could honestly not have cared less.
“ALEX!” I suddenly heard over the huge noise. “ALLLLLLEEEEX!!!” I whipped around, and sure enough, a hysterical Nat was running towards me. I hadn’t seen him this upset for a long while. He slammed into me with a force I wasn’t sure was possible for such a scrawny kid and continued sobbing.
I peeled him off me. “What is it, Nat?” I said, trying to be sympathetic. “What’s wrong?”
He sniffed. “Malistaire…”
“What?” I exclaimed, shocked.
“Aumnntnmmm!!” His wail was slightly muffled.
“What?” I repeated. “What? What’s happened?”
I waited as Nat pulled himself together. He took one long, last, deep breath.
“He’s got her. Malistaire captured Autumn.”
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