|The walk was pretty much uneventful. In fact, I was quite bored most of the way. At first I took the opportunity and tried to get to know Vanessa, but I gave up after I had to stop every time we came to an intersection so she could concentrate on leading us the correct way.
Victoria didn’t even attempt to converse. She kept to herself, detached from the rest of us.
Vanessa didn’t seem to mind the silence, though. She actually appeared content while guiding us. All I felt was troubled, and I was surprised at how she was feeling. Shouldn’t she be even more uneasy than I? It was her brother we were going to see, not mine.
It didn’t take long at all for us to arrive in an area that I recognized. Pretty soon I didn’t even need Vanessa any longer and I could find my own way. It was a good thing too, because I found that the farther we went the more forgetful Vanessa was becoming, and I was constantly having to remind her which way to go.
Eventually we came upon the large room that so much of our adventure today had occurred in.
“Liam has got to be around here somewhere,” I whispered.
“Shh, I hear voices!” hissed Victoria. When we listened, we heard it too.
“Should we go see what it is?” Vanessa suggested.
“What if it’s Malistaire again?” I pointed out.
“We should at least try.”
“I guess so, but still, if it’s Malistaire, we’re doomed.”
Vanessa nodded. “I know. But that’s why we’re not simply going to barge in or do anything that might announce us. We’re going to spy on them.”
We walked into the center of the room. No one was around, so there was no need to hide. We scanned the room, trying to locate the voices.
“Oh, no,” I moaned when I realized where they were coming from. “That’s the room Malistaire was in last time. And it is locked, and you can’t hear in there unless you’re inside.”
“We’ll find a way,” encouraged Vanessa confidently. She motioned for us to follow her to the door.
As we were walking there, we passed the table that all our stuff had been on. My sapphire necklace still lay there, untouched. I paused to stare at it, and again I had an uneasy feeling. Why didn’t it look right?
“Come on Sierra,” beckoned Victoria. “Whatcha looking at?”
“My necklace,” I answered.
“That’s yours? Then take it, and let’s get going.”
“Something doesn’t feel right.”
“It looks completely normal.”
“Fine, leave it. Let’s just get out of here.”
Finally, hesitantly, with Victoria’s encouragement I picked up the gorgeous necklace.
It was at that moment that I realized what was wrong with it. It wasn’t glowing.
As soon as my hands touched the metal chain, I was blinded by a brilliant bright light. Quickly I hid the light from the necklace so I could see. An alarm began to blare, which was surprising; I hadn’t known that there were alarms in the Spiral. Then again, I didn’t even know if we were in the Spiral anymore.
“Run!” I screamed.
Vanessa, who had almost been to the door, jumped, and ran away without hesitation. Gathering up my necklace that was flashing almost as if in warning, I darted out of the room behind Victoria.
“Which was should we go?” called Vanessa.
“To the exit,” I replied.
“Um… which way is that?”
“You don’t know?”
“I thought you said you knew your way around here!”
“All I said was that I had tried to escape once but failed. I never found the exit.”
“Then go… I don’t know… that way!” I ran down a random corridor.
As I was speeding down the hallway, I shakily took out the necklace. It was glowing brighter than I had ever seen before. When I arrived at the next intersection, I started to turn left. But I took a single step and my necklace’s shimmer increased. I stopped. If it was glowing more this way, that meant there was most likely more dark magic this way. I turned right, and it grew brighter still.
Vanessa and Victoria came up behind me. “What is wrong? Why’d you stop?” inquired Victoria.
“Hang on,” I mumbled. If right and left were both bright, then forward should be the way. Yet when I turned there, my sapphire necklace shined even more furiously.
“Guys, we’re going to wrong way,” I announced.
“Huh?” asked Victoria and Vanessa in unison.
Instead of answering, I swiveled around to face the way we came. Just as I had suspected, the light dimmed. “My necklace says there’s less dark magic this way. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to come face to face with Malistaire or one of his minions.”
“How can we trust it? It already set off the alarm once,” pointed out Victoria.
“It’s our only choice, instead of wandering aimlessly,” I answered, giving her a stern look that proved that my mind was made up.
“I vote for the wandering,” muttered Vanessa, but I ignored her.
The three of us sprinted down the hallway. Using my necklace as a guide, we traveled more efficiently than before. I was pleased to discover that you could now look at my necklace and not be blinded. It meant we were making progress.
After about thirty minutes, my necklace dimmed incredibly so I decided it was safe to rest. I didn’t think I could’ve gone on for any longer anyway.
“I’m bored,” complained Vanessa. “Can you tell your necklace to hurry up?”
“Find some entertainment,” I shot back. “There’s no telling how long we could take. This may not even work; it wasn’t meant to give directions.”
She groaned loudly.
“If you have any better ideas, I’m listening.”
She didn’t answer.
We began moving again. The necklace’s glow continued fading and fading. Compared to what it had been, my necklace was quite dimmer. Of course, it was still radiating some light, but considering our location that was to be expected.
I stared intently at the gorgeous sapphire in the middle. It grew dimmer, and dimmer, and dimmer…
Suddenly I crashed into something hard and solid. “Ouch!” I yelled, looking up. In front of me was one of the red and black walls that were all over the place. We were at a dead end. There was nowhere to go but back.
Clearly there weren’t any options, but my necklace still urged us forward.
“See!” said Vanessa triumphantly. “Look at where that waste of metal had gotten us now. We’re in front of a useless, pathetic wall. We should just go by instinct.”
“I have been patient, Sierra, but I think I must agree with Vanessa this time,” said Victoria. “Though that necklace can sense dark magic, it doesn’t know when there’s an obstacle. Come on, let’s retrace our steps.”
“No, wait!” I shouted as they turned away. “There has to be some reason it led us here.” I studied the wall to see if there was anything suspicious about it. But it just looked and felt like all the other walls: smooth to the eye, rough to touch.
“There isn’t a reason for everything,” sighed Victoria, trying to push me away from the wall.
“No!” I shouted, struggling against her.
“Honestly Sierra, what is the big deal? It is a dead end, and insignificant. We need to get out of here and find the life Seeker.”
“The necklace wouldn’t have led us here if it wasn’t important!”
“We’ll find another route to the same location. Maybe there is a wall on the other side.”
“The necklace isn’t just signaling that there is less dark magic here. I think it knows what it is doing. Just look at this!” I held up the necklace. Now it was pulsating with light, fading in and out, and I just simply knew that it was telling us to turn back.
Vanessa rolled her eyes. “Victoria, if Sierra wants to stay here then let her. We should just get going. As the sensible ones, I believe we have responsibility of teaching her a lesson. She should learn for herself not to put all your trust in a piece of jewelry. Besides, I do not want to be cornered here. There is nowhere to run.”
I glared at her. “You know, ever since we have saved you you’ve been, like, against me or something.”
“I’m not against you. Oh, and by the way, it was Victoria who saved me, not you. You just stood there while Victoria made the key.”
“For your information, we would not have even bothered rescuing you if it hadn’t been for me! Victoria just wanted to walk out on you.”
“That’s not true,” protested Victoria. “I was a little reluctant, but I still knew deep in my heart that I couldn’t leave you.”
“Let’s go, Victoria,” said Vanessa indignantly. “I don’t want to hear anymore of her lies.”
“Fine!” I screamed, my voice having risen over the argument. “Be that way! I’m staying. If you want to go off ‘instinct’ or whatever, be my guest. Just… just get out of my sight.”
“Gladly.” Vanessa, glaring at me one last time, grabbed Victoria’s wrist and dragged her off. I felt the tears coming to my eyes, and this time I didn’t hold them back. Once or twice Victoria looked back at me before turning the corner. Vanessa didn’t turn even one time.
After they disappeared from view, I sighed, tears trickling down my face. I walked back to the wall. I glanced at my necklace, barely glowing, satisfied that its owner had turned back. “I hope you’re happy,” I whispered to it. “You made me lose my friends for this.” Then, the tears cascaded down once more. I sat on the ground and continued to weep, so I was entirely unaware when a Skeletal Pirate came up to me.
When he said something in his unique language, I looked up and jumped, automatically standing with wand and deck ready.
Even with my sadness, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I saw his face. He was so surprised! I was even more relieved when I noticed that he was one of the easy pirates that stayed in Unicorn Way.
With barely any effort I defeated the pirate. Still, I worried. What if there were stronger, worthier opponents roaming around? What if Vanessa and Victoria were caught?
They don’t need me. I’m not important. It was their idea to use their instincts.
I realized that the pirate’s disturbance had thrown me off course. Wrapped up in all my troubles, I had forgotten what I was there for.
Attempting to unravel the mystery of this ordinary looking wall was not going to be easy, I knew. In fact, it proved to be even more difficult than I had thought. First I scanned the wall, searching once more for a clue. I even tried running my finger over the wall, as if there were some sort of secret button like in the Castle of Rain. However, nothing happened, and I got plenty of cuts from the jagged pieces. Next, I stared intently at it, but all I did was make myself really bored.
After a really long time of doing everything I could think of to figure out why the necklace had led me here, I decided to take a break.
“Maybe Vanessa was right; my necklace doesn’t know what it is doing.” A thought occurred to me: what if Vanessa and Victoria had already found the exit? I almost started crying again. I couldn’t imagine Victoria willingly leaving me, but under the influence of Vanessa…
I slumped against the wall, disappointed, miserable, and doubtful. But just as I leaned my back on the wall, it slid open easily and revealed a metal door. I slipped back, thumping hard against the cold surface. What had I done?
I stood, examining the door. Was it a way out? It had to be!
Still not knowing what to do, I reached out to the door, thinking I was going to try and pry it open. There was no door handle, so I didn’t know what to do.
Before I could touch the metal surface, the doors suddenly slid open. I jumped back, and ran back and hid around the corner like I did in most situations. Out of the door came three Skeletal Warriors – not Skeletal Pirates, but warriors, dressed in armor and everything. They were harder and tougher, the exact enemy I didn’t want to find.
They were speaking and laughing in their own language, and, luckily without noticing me, walked around the other corner and down the hallway. I cautiously stepped back out to see the doors closing with the wall over top of them, but not before I saw outside. It was only a short glimpse, but I could tell that the air coming from out of it was fresh, welcoming air that could only belong to a legit outdoors.
I started rejoicing and was ready to wait for the door open again and run out of there. I had my plan all laid out when I remembered how crestfallen I had been when I thought Victoria may have abandoned me. Yet here I was, about to do the same thing.
“Why couldn’t they just listen to me?” I murmured as I turned to walk back down the hall in search of my friend.
I knew that if I didn’t somehow remember my path, this detour would be pointless. I considered marking my path with ice, but I didn’t want someone else to find it and I didn’t know if I had enough energy in me to do that. I looked at the walls to see if they had any unique features that I may recognize later, but to me they seemed a little too unique. I would never remember them.
Then, the most obvious reason hit me: teleport!
We had used teleporting lots of times on my adventure. Professor Ambrose was right when he told me about when I was younger: I adore teleporting. It’s fun to feel the wind on your face and find yourself in a new location. However, sometimes when we teleported it didn’t work. Usually it was because of Malistaire (or so I thought) and in his lair I wouldn’t be surprised if we couldn’t teleport out. But if I was correct, and I was ninety-nine percent sure that I was, then we could teleport within here, just like we had on Earth to get to the orphanage.
The only problem was how to find my way back. I could hope that they wouldn’t be too far away, and I would be able to navigate using my necklace again. But, just in case they weren’t, I had a better idea.
Marking Magic was kind of new to Wizard City. Personally, I had never used it. But when faced with a problem like this, it was my only choice.
I felt the mana draining from me, which was something I hadn’t expected. Come to think of it, no one had ever told me anything about this. All I could do was hope it would work.
When the glowing blue ‘X’ appeared beneath me, I prepared to teleport directly to Victoria.
I was troubled at first when I wasn’t teleporting when I tried. After a full minute of waiting, I determined it wasn’t going to work. So I took a step and…
I was in some place entirely dark.
“Huh?” I said, disoriented and confused.
I heard movement next to me, and the voice said “Don’t move.”
Not wanting to cause trouble, I froze, and then realized I knew that voice. “Vanessa!” I exclaimed loudly.
“Sierra?” answered another voice that I was sure was Victoria’s. “Where did you come from?”
“I’m not sure,” I replied truthfully. “Where are we?”
“I don’t know. We’re hiding.” Then she dropped her voice to a whisper. “Which reminds me, we’re supposed to be quiet. We can talk later.”
I was still confused, but I felt better with my friends at my side. “Okay,” I managed to squeak out.
We sat in silence for what seemed like forever until I said, “Seriously guys, what are we hiding from?”
I heard rustling next to me. Then, Vanessa’s voice: “I think it is safe now.”
“Still, what was the matter?” I repeated.
“Oh, nothing…” said Victoria.
“It had to be something.”
“It was just… um…”
“Sierra,” cut in Vanessa, “how exactly did you get here?”
“I don’t know.”
“It had to be something,” she mocked.
“Okay, okay. I tried teleporting, but it didn’t work, and then I was suddenly here with no wind or anything. And I still want to know why we’re hiding. Don’t try changing the subject again, because I will keep asking.”
“I don’t want to worry you,” said Victoria quietly.
“I won’t be worried,” I promised. “Now what was it?”
Vanessa sighed. “Okay Victoria, since she obviously won’t give up...”
“It was just an army of enemies searching for us,” said Victoria quickly. “So, what did you want to tell us?”
“A what?” I gasped.
“You shouldn’t have told her!” scolded Vanessa.
“Your exact words were ‘Okay Victoria.’ If that wasn’t a signal to tell her, what is?” At that moment, light flooded into wherever we were. Victoria had opened a door that led back into the hallway.
“Well, I’m actually not that concerned. We’re not going to be discovered,” I proclaimed.
“Why not?” retorted Vanessa.
“I found a way out!”
“Really? Where?” inquired Victoria.
“I marked the spot, so we can teleport to it at any time.”
Victoria smiled broadly at me and gave me a hug. “This is wonderful news. Come on, let’s go now. I can’t stand to wait another second in this horrid place.”
Victoria’s enthusiasm was contagious, and I found myself grinning right back. Vanessa, however, just stood there.
“You came back for us,” she said hesitantly.
“Yeah,” I said modestly, not understanding what she was getting at.
“You could have left us. And I thought you would have, after all the mean things I said to you. But you came.”
“Um, I’m glad you’re happy or whatever but I think we should leave A.S.A.P.”
Finally, she reached out her hand, but not before whispering quietly “I’m sorry.”
I gave her a huge smile and said “I forgive you.”
We teleported together, but nothing could have prepared us for what happened next.
When we arrived on the ‘X’ I discovered that it was really small for three people and I stumbled and fell because I was so crowded. I sat up, facing my friends. “We’re here!” I announced.
Neither of my friends seemed in the least bit happy. They had a terrified look in their eyes and they stood there, gaping. “What’s the matter?” I questioned, and then I recognized that look. I had seen it before, on Liam’s and Mark’s face when the Hydra had been behind me.
I spun around and saw a powerful looking Skeletal Warrior that I knew would take me forever with lots of friends if I wanted to beat it. Behind him was a large variety of minions such as Dark Sprites, Skeletal Pirates, Haunted Minions, Rotting Fodders, Field Guards, Draconians, and all sorts of creatures I couldn’t even begin to name.
“Sierra,” Victoria whispered, “this is supposed to happen, right? Please tell me it is.”
I slowly shook my head, just starting to overcome the overwhelming feeling of shock.
“It seems you were right!” said the Skeletal Warrior in front of me who was apparently in charge to another Skeletal Pirate. “They are here.”
“Victoria, Vanessa, get ready to run,” I whispered.
The Skeletal Warrior grinned wickedly. “You’ve caused a lot of trouble,” it scolded. “Don’t try anything else or we’ll be the ones causing it.”
“When do we run?” whimpered Victoria.
“Just hang on,” I said. “The door is behind them, and I do not want to have to find it again, no matter what.”
Even as I was saying those words I was changing my mind. Now in front of me was Malistaire himself, with Liam next to him.
“Vanessa!” shouted Liam when he recognized her.
Vanessa looked terribly happy and, forgetting all her fears, ran right up to him to give him a hug.
I expected Malistaire to be angry, but instead he appeared amused. “So, little Seekers, you managed to free her? I would be much more impressed if I hadn’t been about to release her anyway. Didn’t you see how few guards there were?”
“But you killed her parents,” I retorted.
“That was a mistake,” he explained hastily.
“Yeah, right,” I replied. “How do you accidentally take someone’s life? That is just cruel to lie about that.”
“Liam, it wasn’t an accident,” said Vanessa. “Malistaire took them away and-”
“They were going to be questioned, as you were. It was a minor calamity. If only they had chosen to cooperate, then they would still be alive.”
“You think it was an accident?” Vanessa shrilled. “Liam, it was not just an unfortunate disaster. He did it purposefully! He even told me that I was going to die too!”
Liam looked at his sister reproachfully. “It must have been a misunderstanding, Vanessa. I did all this for you. I’m sure nothing would have happened to you. You were going to be freed.” Then he appeared thoughtful. “I do mourn for them though. Besides, didn’t Malistaire ensure their safety? Maybe they aren’t dead.”
Vanessa took a step back towards Victoria and me. “You actually think you had his word for that? He was lying. And I’m sure he has done it thousands of times over to trusting fools like you. Why can’t you see? Where is my wonderful brother that would never, ever do anything so evil? You’ve been tricked.”
“I have not!” protested Liam. “You know me better than that! I’m not so gullible.”
“Maybe my brother wasn’t, but I hardly know you anymore.”
The two continued bickering. Malistaire seemed entertained, and Victoria looked somberly at the pair. I looked back and forth between the siblings. They were saying such horrible things. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. “STOP!” I yelled.
Startled, Liam and Vanessa turned to look at me.
“Come on, guys. You’re siblings. You love each other. Why are you fighting?” I saw Vanessa open her mouth to say something, but I interrupted her by saying, “Okay, so you don’t think he is your brother anymore. But somewhere deep inside, I’m sure Liam is still there. That is the face you’ve known all of your life, isn’t it? That is your brother, regardless of what you think.”
She and Liam exchanged apologetic glances.
“She’s right…” began Vanessa. “Still, you can’t do this.”
At first, Liam looked as if he were about to give some kind of anger-filled retort, but then his face softened, and he said, “I’m sorry, but I need to.”
Until this point, Malistaire had been standing on the side, examining the whole scene. But now he stepped forward and commanded, “This has gone on for long enough. Kill the Seekers, but since Liam likes the girl so much, let her live.”
The monsters pounced on us, and it was so unexpected that I hardly had time to react. “I really thought my motivational speech would work,” I whispered to Victoria as I was whisked into a battle separate from her with at least six different monsters. I had heard of duels like this, ones without dueling circles; the loser never came back.
I figured I was lucky, because I had very easy enemies. All of them had less than one hundred health. As I was defeating a Scarlet Screamer, I snuck a glance at Victoria. She was not as fortunate. Though the majority of her enemies were only as difficult as mine, she had two Draconians, and not the easy kind. These were true Draconians all the way from Dragonspyre that Magi like us should never have to fight.
I searched for Vanessa, but I did not see her. I didn’t see Malistaire or Liam either, which was not a good sign.
The second I defeated the final monster in my duel, more sprang up to take its place. It continued the way for both Victoria and I. Just as we were sighing with relief that the last enemy was gone, more attacked. We were stuck in an endless cycle. After twelve rounds of doing this I was exhausted. I looked at how Victoria was doing. Though she gave me an encouraging smile and mouthed the words “I’m okay” I still knew she was tiring quickly. We had to find some way to get rid of all these monsters before they got rid of us.
By the end of my sixteenth battle I had used up all three of my potions and every Treasure Card I owned. I knew that I couldn’t go on any longer, especially since now every one of my enemies were Draconians. I slowly fought my way towards Victoria while trying to fend off my attackers. In her ear I whispered, “It’s time.”
She looked confused. “For what?”
Without another word she sped off, with me close behind. The heavy footsteps of hundreds of minions thudded behind us. “Which way?” she asked hurriedly at the first intersection.
“I don’t care!” I moved forward, but unexpectedly the floor beneath me gave way and I fell. I crashed to the ground far below. Stunned, I gazed around. Only darkness was my companion.
“Ahh!” screamed a voice a little farther away. I ran toward it. As I was running, I looked up. Curious minions of Malistaire were peering down through a tiny hole that was just barely big enough for me to fit through. I hoped that all they saw was blackness.
I wandered through the darkness and bumped into a wall. Without any light, it was impossible to maneuver around. I stuck my arms out to either side of me, and they touch walls – but not the sharp, rough surface of the red and black walls as I expected. They felt rough, but not pointy like the red and black ones.
With my arms staying on the walls I inched down what seemed to be a tunnel. But soon, I saw something in the distance. What was it? Light. That’s what it was: light. It was flickering on and off, as if someone was flipping the light switch over and over. As I got nearer, I could see my surroundings. I was indeed in some sort of tunnel, but the walls around me were plain gray concrete. Soon enough, I saw where the light was coming from and I grinned. It was Vanessa and Victoria, who was holding a lightning bolt that flashed incessantly.
“Where have you been?” I demanded, too relieved at finding them to even give a proper greeting.
“We’ll talk later. I think I have another way out,” said Vanessa.
“Another way? Really? That’s awesome!”
“Vanessa told me it is not far from here,” said Victoria.
“Okay, then lead the way!”
“Navigator!” added Victoria, laughing.
Happy that our group was reunited once more, we followed Vanessa. “So, did you make us fall like that?” I questioned her.
She smiled slyly. “I told you I know my way around here.”
She didn’t look like she was ready to give answers about how she did it, so I asked a different question: “Why did you do it, though? What is the point?”
“There is a possible exit down this way.”
She didn’t answer.
“But if you tried getting away and failed, how do you know about the exit?” inquired Victoria.
She shook her head in frustration. “You guys ask too many questions. Okay, listen. I will tell you what happened. Actually, I don’t know why I didn’t think of this door before. It is where they took me in, when they kidnapped my family while Liam was out doing quests. Of course, it was pitch black then so I couldn’t see. But when Liam brought me down here, I knew this was the place.”
‘”Liam brought you down here?” I repeated.
“Yes. He was trying to help me escape.”
“The Liam can’t be all bad!” I cried jubilantly.
Vanessa looked away, which was not a good signal. “That’s the problem. I think, though he still loves me, he is evil, Sierra. The entire time he was trying to convince me to help him and that you were doing the wrong thing. He said that Malistaire only missed his wife, but I think it has gone farther than that now. He continually said you were sure to lose. I don’t think he likes you guys much.”
“Obviously,” I muttered.
“But your little speech that you said to us about being siblings really changed him. I think he would have gladly argued with me forever, just to prove his point. That was until you spoke up. Even if he doesn’t like you, I think he admires you.”
“For what?” I said, surprised.
She shrugged. “Well, you’re one of the Seekers, aren’t you? It must be because you were so persistent when you needed to find the life Seeker. He said that you really inspired him.”
“Wow, seriously? He seemed like he didn’t care at all. If I had known that, then we would never have fought and… we might not even be in this mess!”
We said nothing after that. The only noises were our footsteps and the soft thunder that apparently came with Victoria’s lightning.
Thankfully it wasn’t too long before our scenery changed. Instead of the concrete walls, they transformed slowly into the black and red ones. Soon there were even medieval-like torches dotting the walls and Victoria doused her lightning.
We stopped when we arrived at the top of a flight of stairs. I attempted to see where they led, but it faded into darkness.
“At the top there is another passageway. Then, we can get out. But there will probably be guards at the top,” cautioned Vanessa.
“That’s okay,” I replied. “We can handle them. I’ll go first.” I took at step up and began climbing.
It was terrifying blindly climbing stairs in darkness, but with Vanessa’s fantastic guidance we managed to reach the top.
Unfortunately, the second my foot touched the top step I was attacked by two Skeletal Pirates. I think they were counting on a physical fight, not magical, because they wrestled me to the ground instead of casting a spell. With the hope that they may not know any magic, I struggled to get my wand out while they were on top of me. I instantly cast the first spell that I picked up from my deck, and luckily it was Blizzard. It finished both of them with a single blow. Quickly I pushed them off me and scrambled to my feet.
Victoria and Vanessa were standing at the top of the stairs. Vanessa looked at me with gratitude. “Thanks. Now we won’t have to deal with them. But both of you keep your wands out. There could be more.”
“You could have helped,” I grumbled, but I left my wand out anyway. No way was I going to get caught unarmed.
I was dismayed to find that the second passageway was longer than I had hoped. I was expecting a short, small tunnel that you could see the end to. Though Vanessa promised this was smaller than the last, I still thought any amount of time we wasted was too precious to lose. Still, I followed without protest.
Gradually I realized that the torches were farther and farther apart, and yet we could still see. The light was growing.
I was overjoyed when the torches disappeared completely. I was even happier when the concrete walls also left, replaced with the red and black ones. Then, the sight I had been awaiting the entire time met me: the doorway out.
I rushed towards it and impulsively yanked on the door. But just as it was about to fly open, a voice screamed out “Stop!”
I did stop and turn, thinking that Vanessa was going to tell me that there was something important we needed to do first. That was when I realized, a bit too late, that it had been a man’s voice. So it couldn’t be Vanessa.
In front of me was a much unanticipated scene. Vanessa and Victoria were both in the arms of two tough looking wizards. The worst part was that I recognized them. They were the same exact ones that had tried to take Sydney’s and my necklaces away. One smiled evilly at me. “So we meet again. Are you enjoying the fortress?” he said so casually it made me want to scream.
In fact, now that I wasn’t so shocked, only one word came to mind: run.
Without another word or even a thought of what may happen to my friends, I flung open the door and rushed outside. I didn’t even look back to see if my friends were all right.
When I opened the door, I didn’t know what I expected to see. Probably nice, welcoming sights, like blue skies and fresh air or at least something like that. But in reality, I was just dreaming. Outside of Malistaire’s lair or fortress or whatever it was there wouldn’t be pretty flowers or grass. Not even the sky was blue. Instead, it was disorienting, because it reminded me so much like the inside. There was a different sort of air out here, but it wasn’t what I would call fresh. It smelled musty and old and ruined, as if a dust storm had just come by. The sky was a deep red color. The streets did actually kind of look like Wizard City’s, but they were made of concrete and had red diamonds on them. The streets were also red, but there weren’t monsters roaming through them.
I didn’t have much time to ponder over all of this because I was running for my life. So I quickly hurried on.
When I couldn’t run anymore, I stopped, panting heavily. I glanced around. The death wizards were nowhere to be found. Then I examined my surroundings. There were many buildings, all red, lined with sidewalks. The road was broken in places. I walked up to one of them and immediately drew back. There was lava filling the hole!
I tried to piece together where we could be. Lava filled ruins… red skies… red sidewalks and buildings… I didn’t know of any place in the Spiral that had those things. Then again, I didn’t know any of the Spiral beyond MooShu, and even that was only from the few times my sister let me help her there.
At that moment someone teleported to me. I flinched, thinking of what happened last time someone came unexpectedly. It had been Liam, and all of that had ended in a disaster.
But Liam was no longer my friend, so the next people I thought I would see were Victoria or Vanessa. But it wasn’t any of them. It was none other than Sydney.
“Where are we?” she asked nonchalantly, as if we weren’t in tons of danger surrounded by lava. “It looks awesome!”
“Sydney Jadehammer, what are you doing here?” I demanded.
She rolled her eyes. “Sorry. I guess you don’t want my help. Geez.”
“How did you know that we-”
“Victoria said that the two of you were in trouble, but I couldn’t teleport to her. So I came to you.”
“It’s too dangerous. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Hello, fire Seeker here! Are you forgetting that I am part of this too?”
I opened my mouth to protest, but then thought twice about it. She was right. As one of my best friends and, more importantly, the fire Seeker of Light, she had as much a right to be here as I did. So, instead of arguing, I asked, “How much did Victoria tell you?”
“Not much. Hey, guess who I brought to help?” She pointed at her feet and I saw Sir Romeo, the Fire Cat she had saved from the well in Krokotopia, at her heels.
“We don’t need a Fire Cat,” I said impatiently. “Anyway, then I guess you don’t know not to trust Liam.”
“What? What is the oops? Oops is never good.”
“I guess I shouldn’t have told him to come and help us right now?”
“No! Sydney, break your friendship with him now!”
“But we need all the help we can get. And he saved my brother, anyway.”
“I don’t care! Get rid of him before he…”
Liam appeared next to Sydney.
“…teleports to you. Hello, Liam.”
“Listen, I don’t have much time,” he said.
“I think we know that,” I said coldly. “Your ‘Master’ is going to be here any second, right?” I reached over and grabbed Sydney’s hand. I whispered, “We need to teleport soon. Don’t believe him, no matter what he says.”
She only squeezed my hand in reply, but that was enough. She understood.
“No. Well, actually, yes. He will figure out that I’m missing soon. I need to let you know that this isn’t real.”
“Oh, so you were only pretending to kill us with all those undead monsters. It must have been an accident that you teleported to me to lead Malistaire to Victoria and I. And all that talk about understanding you mission was fake. Oh, so that’s it? Thanks for clarifying that. Sure, I’ll make friends with you right away.” My words dripped with sarcasm.
Sydney shot me an alarmed look but didn’t say anything.
“Vanessa told me about our parents. I feel betrayed, and I want to make it up.”
“You’re the one who feels betrayed? Sorry, but I find that hard to believe. If it is anyone feeling that way, it is us.”
Liam took a deep breath. “I profoundly apologize for all the pain I’ve caused you.”
“You’re just a horrible traitor. I forgave you once, but I cannot do it again.”
For a moment Liam looked so sad that I almost reconsidered. But then, his face turned grim. “Fine. If you won’t let me be a Seeker again, I have no choice but to turn you in.”
I realized my mistake right away. “Sydney, teleport!”
“You can’t teleport here,” said Liam. “It is too close to the fortress.”
“Uh… then…” I frantically looked around to see if there was anything I could use to get out of this mess. Time was running short. Malistaire could show up at any moment.
With no other options I sprinted away, with Sydney close behind.
As I was running, I glanced at the barren landscape. What could have caused such destruction?
It didn’t seem as if anyone was following us. I didn’t hear footsteps, but I still worried, so I turned to look over my shoulder to make sure there was no one there.
Then, I tripped and fell flat of my face. With a groan partly because I was in pain, partly because I was angry with myself for being so clumsy when our lives were endangered, I lifted my head. In front of me was a pair of green and purple shoes. Gasping, I stood to greet Victoria Ravensmith.
“We were searching all over for you!” she yelled. “I was so scared! We almost gave up and left. To think what would have happened if we had… Hey, why’s Sydney here? If I remember correctly, she wasn’t here before.” Her eyes narrowed. “And you said you couldn’t come!”
“Sorry,” Sydney said. “It worked for Sierra.”
“We have to leave,” I cut in.
“I think we know that,” stated Vanessa in a way that was much like her old self, before we made up after the argument. She had been standing there and I hadn’t known it.
Together again, we continued to flee. I didn’t even ask Victoria or Vanessa how they got here.
Abruptly I stopped. “Oh, duh,” I said aloud.
“What?” asked Sydney.
“We can teleport!”
“Liam said we couldn’t.”
“Can you really still trust him?”
“Yes. I haven’t seen all these horrible things happen.”
“Let me try, at least,” I argued. “But I have to warn you, it may be delayed. The same thing happened when I was attempting to get to Vanessa and Victoria.”
At that exact moment we heard footsteps. “Sierra, I don’t think we have time for delays,” shouted Vanessa. “Look!”
The two death wizards were advancing towards us, and they looked angry.
“No. We’ll deal with them. Hold our hands, Sierra,” commanded Sydney. “Just focus on teleporting. We’ll hold them off.”
Though Victoria began to say something, I was no longer listening. I was about to teleport to my house, when I realized it had been burned down. So I thought of Sydney’s home instead – her nice, warm, comfortable home and the lovely bedroom that she, Rowan, and I slept in.
I felt minor tugs on my arms as my friends fended off the death wizards, but I barely noticed.
A whole minute ticked by, but I didn’t give up hope. The same had happened last time I had tried this. I thought of everything: Rowan, Mom, Dad, Sydney, Hunter, Sydney’s parents, and even Liam because that was where I first met him. With the welcoming thought in my mind, I didn’t notice when Sydney cried out “Watch out!”
I opened my eyes, but it was too late. The dreaded Wraith was in front of me again, its arm raised. This is the end, I thought. There was no dueling circle. When I died here, I died for good.
I cringed, waiting for the attack.
It never came.
Sir Romeo, Sydney’s Fire Cat, lunged at the Wraith. It said nothing, but I could sense its agony as it disappeared in smoke.
“What the…” hollered the wizard who had cast it. He couldn’t say anymore, because Sir Romeo pounced at him, too.
All of a sudden, the wizards were gone. My surroundings changed. Sir Romeo, with no wizard in his mouth anymore, fell onto a coffee table that lay in front of me. Instead of red streets beneath my feet, there was plushy carpet. There were chairs and couches arranged in perfect order.
I had successfully teleported.
“WE’RE IN MY HOUSE!” screamed Sydney. “Mom! Dad! You will never believe what just happened!”
Vanessa grinned and followed Sydney, who was rushing out the room. But Victoria and I stayed behind, silent.
When the pair ran out, Victoria turned to me. “We’re back,” she said.
“Yes.” I had absolutely no enthusiasm in my voice.
She looked puzzled. “Why aren’t you happy? You tried so hard to get us back, and now you aren’t satisfied?”
“We failed,” I whispered.
“We tried,” she corrected. “It just didn’t work out.”
“It’s all my fault!” I sobbed.
“No. Don’t blame yourself. We all tried just as hard as you. We’re all in this together.”
“We’ve lost a Seeker. A valuable friend. A fierce ally. Liam is gone.”
“Good thing, too. He is a traitor.”
“Not helping!” I wailed. “Why don’t you care?”
“I do,” she said quietly. After waiting a moment to let this sink in, she continued, “Look on the bright side. Everyone is back home, and we can continue searching for the life Seeker. And did you see that Fire Cat? Was it Sydney’s? It saved your life!”
“It has done it before, too. But don’t change the subject.” I took a deep breath to calm myself. “I know, you’re right. I shouldn’t get worked up about this. But… I’m worried. Apparently Malistaire has been ruining our lives for a while now, but never like this. He’s always been hidden, not out in the open. The time it was so obvious. He’s getting bolder.”
Victoria sighed. “I don’t think there is any way to get Liam back. I mean, I think it was his destiny. Can you think of any way that his life was affected by dark magic?” I thought, and realized I couldn’t. “This was his way, I believe. This is the way it was meant to be.”
“Well, one thing is for sure.”
“What’s that?” she inquired.
“I swear I will get my revenge on Malistaire one day.”