|It was finally the day. My family and I had been waiting for this moment, had been anticipating it ever since the black fire. Everyone was so excited that we would have our own house again. No longer would we live with Sydney Jadehammer and Hunter Thundershield (which in my opinion was inconvenient because it provided easy access to two Seekers while it lasted). We had a new house, built in the same spot. It was almost an exact replica of our old one, though it felt empty and deserted with all the furniture gone. Still, sleeping on the floor in my own room without a bed was an improvement from sleeping in a cramped room with two others on sweaty mattresses with layers of blankets over top.|
Two weeks had passed since my encounter with Malistaire and Liam. My family had been frantic with worry when I didn’t come back from doing quests that night. When Victoria was also announced missing, they assumed we were together, though they couldn’t teleport to us or contact us in Whisper Chat. Though some had known Vanessa and her family were missing, they did not see any connection because I had never met her. Even though I knew Liam, his family had been missing longer than us and everyone thought Liam had disappeared with them.
I had told my tale to my worried parents, omitting parts having to do with the Seekers. I also left out the black lightning I had created; I shuddered every time I thought about it. Because I couldn’t explain that Liam was a Seeker, they were confused at why Malistaire had targeted him.
But I had told it all to them with enough conviction that they had to believe me. Mark’s family offered to take in Vanessa because she was an old family friend.
So it was the long awaited day at long last. All of Sydney’s family came with us and Vanessa as well. Rowan Willowleaf, my sister, and I eagerly rushed into our new house the second we teleported there. I was somewhat disappointed to discover that it wasn’t new; it was the same home we had left, with only minor adjustments.
The excitement of the new house quickly wore off. Though our parents remained happy, Rowan and I almost instantly left the house to go off with friends.
We split up into two groups: Rowan promised to help Sydney, who had began to lag behind me in Marleybone, and I went with Vanessa because she also had only recently gotten into MooShu.
I had many things to think about after leaving the lair that I didn’t have any time for quests. The Spiral Key to MooShu still remained unused.
When I twisted the key into the Spiral door, it shined a soft, green glow. Then, it faded, and I opened the door and stepped inside. I was suspended in air, in complete nothingness, with only darkness around. I pictured the lush, green fields of MooShu. A door was meant to come, but even when it didn’t, I remained patient. It always took a little while longer the first time you accessed a world.
Soon enough, a door appeared and I slipped inside.
I found myself in a room more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. There were real plants growing around me, and little waterfalls were all around. The room had a feeling of being outside, in nature. This was definitely a Life school world; no wonder Rowan liked it so much.
Vanessa had been waiting for me. She faked being impatient: “What took you so long? Geez! I thought you had died!”
I laughed. “Sorry. It was my first time. You know how that is.”
She smiled. “Yes, I do. All too well. I had to wait an entire hour to get into Marleybone.”
“Really?” I gasped. “Can it take that long?
We exited through the flower-filled Spiral Chamber of MooShu that led into the Jade Palace, and I froze. This view was so breathtaking, I couldn’t even walk. This place was gorgeous! The part of the palace that we were in was filled with shops, with perfectly placed signs advertising the product sold. Warriors roamed through the unpaved streets with purpose, and goat monks walked feebly, leaning on their staffs. Unlike the eternally dark and starry skies of Marleybone, the sky was a clear shade of baby blue that mesmerized me. The air smelled differently from any other in the entire Spiral: it was a fresh, clean, sweet scent that was pleasantly refreshing from smelling the polluted air of Marleybone. In the center of the palace, just a little ahead of us, was an enormous statue of someone that must have been important. A lily-filled pond surrounded the statue, and the water looked so pure that I could drink it. In the distance I saw snow-capped mountains.
I was so stunned that I hardly even noticed when Vanessa pulled on my arm impatiently to get my walking again. I followed her once more, but I couldn’t help but gape at the new world along the way.
As we strolled through the shops, a particular one caught my eye. It was the wand and athame shop. I was in need of a new wand. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my trusty old O’Leary Jinxed Staff anymore. No, far from it. The only problem was that it was a Balance staff, and I was sick of having balance enemies resist my wand spells. I needed an Ice wand. My clothes could use a MooShu Makeover as well. I was wearing a wonderful Crown robe, the Master’s Cloak of the Lizard, which I most certainly didn’t want to get rid of, but I was in desperate need of a new hat and shoes. The Cap of the Ice Wyvern was not very becoming, no matter how much it boosted my spells. But I could worry about that later. I just needed a new wand.
I halted Vanessa and pointed toward the shop. She grinned. “Of course. Should’ve known. Okay, we can stop there. But I don’t think you’re a high enough level to use any of them.”
I went in anyway. I stared reverently at the shimmering MooShu wands. I recognized the Life wand right away; Rowan had one just like it. I had always been fascinated by the way her wand had left a sparkling trail of leaves in its wake. Now I was looking at my own version, a beautiful brown-handled wand with glowing blue wind billowing inside. Eagerly I picked it up to try it out. When I waved it around, the wand left slight trails of the blue clouds behind it. Delighted, I was ready to put all my accumulated Marleybone savings toward it.
I was dismayed when the shopkeeper explained that I couldn’t. “You are level 33,” Himoora Kenshin, the shopkeeper, said. “You must be at least level 35 to properly use this wand.”
“Pretty, pretty please?” I begged. “Just look at this old staff! I can’t use it anymore. A wizard in MooShu doesn’t deserve to carry around something like this.”
“I am terribly sorry, but I cannot sell you this.”
“Come on! I’ll be really good with it. I’ll be careful.”
She sighed as if she had heard this a million times. However, before she could say anything more the door swung open and a Samoorai warrior entered. I shrunk away, forgetting my argument with the shopkeeper. He walked with such authority that straight away I knew he was a force not to be messed with.
“Miss Kenshin, I must speak with you.”
She looked alarmed. “Of course! What is wrong?”
The warrior glared at Vanessa and I. “I meant alone.”
“We were just leaving,” I grumbled.
The Samoorai went to the back of the store with the shopkeeper. Vanessa and I started to walk out, but then we heard the Samoorai’s strong voice boom, “There have been rumors that two of Malistaire’s minions are in MooShu today.”
Vanessa and I exchanged glances. Malistaire? That sounded like it could be important to the Seekers. Careful not to alert them, we crept back into the store and acted as if we were browsing through athames.
“Oh, my,” responded the shopkeeper. “I will keep a lookout for them. Do you have any leads on what they could be here for?”
“A guard heard them talking about needing a wand. We quickly came to tell you. Check inventory before any customers leave.”
“How many did you say there were?” she asked, her eyes drifting towards Vanessa and me.
I realized the position we were in. We were two wizards in a wand shop… the perfect suspects.
“We aren’t doing anything!” I said quickly. “We are just looking through athames!”
She gave us one more doubtful look, and then glanced at the wands. I guessed she must have been making sure they were all there. She returned to her conversation. “Where were they last seen?”
“Hametsu Village. That’s not far from here, so they could be arriving at any moment.”
“I just want to know what they want a wand for,” the shopkeeper mused. “How could that be important? Especially a MooShu wand, when Malistaire is powerful enough to use a DragonSpyre sword.”
Just then two wizards opened the door and entered. One had a hood over their head, so I couldn’t see who they were. The other I knew was female, because though the hat she wore covered her eyes, her long blond hair cascaded down her back in a tight ponytail.
Though the odd pair walked near me, I didn’t pay much attention to them at first because I was so busy trying to look inconspicuous and listen to the conversation at the same time. However, I couldn’t help but notice when the hooded figure tensed as they passed me.
I was so surprised. Did they know me? Or was it a coincidence?
I gazed after them and noted that they were heading toward the wands. I tugged on Vanessa’s arm and pointed. Her eyes widened. She understood. These two fit the description of Malistaire’s minions as much as, if not more than, us.
I wanted to point it out to the shopkeeper, but I didn’t think that it would do much good while we were suspects as well. But the pair had walked in so silently that I doubted she had seen them.
Maybe I could talk to them. I walked over to the wands. When the hooded figure spotted me, he or she jumped, as if startled by my appearance somehow. The wizard seemed even more shaken when Vanessa took her place next to me.
Then, before I could even react, the girl grabbed the Balance wand that was on display directly beside us. Without a word she grabbed her companion and they teleported.
I was stunned. When I snapped out of it, I yelled in vain, “Hey! Wait!”
The shopkeeper and the Samoorai both turned to me.
And the wand next to me was gone.
“Thief!” screeched the shopkeeper. “You’re the minons!”
“What? No, we’re not!” I argued. “It was the two that were in here a moment ago!”
The Samoorai didn’t listen, and advanced toward us.
“Vanessa, let’s go!” I shouted, starting to flee outside.
But when the sunlight’s rays warmed my face, I ran straight into a startled girl who had looked like she had just been about to go inside.
“Oh, um, sorry,” I murmured, not even glancing at her.
“What are you running from?” she asked with genuine curiosity.
I ignored her, and continued to run, with Vanessa behind me.
It felt odd to running again, especially when it was now among the peaceful scenery of MooShu. Plus, we were running from the very people I thought we could trust. Everything was turned upside down, and I felt dizzy from everything that was happening. But still I ran.
We rushed into the center of the palace and splashed through the crystal clear pond surrounding a statue. When I stepped out of the pool, I heard more splashing than I thought Vanessa could make. I turned, worried that the Samoorai was already there. But instead, I spotted the Samoorai farther back. It was actually the girl I had run into.
“Stop following us!” I hissed.
“I heard something about you working with Malistaire. Are you his minons? Were they telling the truth?”
“Leave us alone!” I continued on, praying that she would stay there.
I then spied a bell that was on the other side of the palace. Looking over my shoulder, I motioned to Vanessa, and scowled at the girl who refused to stop following us. Leaving her behind, Vanessa and climbed under the bell.
It was an extremely bad hiding spot. Our legs were entirely exposed, and there was no way we would be able to stay under here very long. I was already feeling a little claustrophobic. I only hoped it would buy us some time, allowing us to teleport or think of a good reason for them to think we weren’t the minions.
The bell cloaked us in silence. I couldn’t hear anything outside of it. The shouts of the Samoorai faded, leaving us alone. Even the hollow sound of the wind disappeared.
“What should we do?” I frantically whispered to Vanessa.
“I’ll teleport to my house, and you can follow. I bought a new Krokotopian house yesterday so I wanted to show you anyway.”
I waited, but nothing happened. “Um, any day now.”
Her eyes widened in fear. “I’m trying! I really am trying!”
“Oh no… not again!”
“Do you think the bell is doing something? Should we climb out and teleport?” she whispered frantically.
“I don’t want to be caught!”
“They will find us under here anyway if we don’t do something!”
I bit my lip, weighing the consequences of each possibility.
Vanessa groaned. “You’re taking too long! I’m going out there.”
“No, Vanessa, wait!”
But it was too late. Vanessa had already scrambled out from underneath the safety of the bell.
“Vanessa!” There wasn’t any answer. Had she been caught? With a wave of panic, I climbed out after her.
But when I peeked under, I was stunned to find… sand.
I emerged and found myself facing an endless desert. The land stretched on forever, meeting the horizon far in the distance. Above my head the blazing sun shone with such ferocity that everything appeared hazy and blurry from the heat. Nothing varied from the flat expanse of sand besides small dunes, and even those didn’t rise very high in the air.
Vanessa was standing there as well, gaping. “I… I don’t know… How did we… Sierra, where are we?”
“I think Krokotopia,” I managed to say.
“How should I know?” I said a little more sharply than I intended.
“You’re the only one here to ask!” she exclaimed.
“I’m here too,” said a timid voice that was barely more than a whisper.
I recognized the voice and angrily spun around. As I had feared, the girl who I had bumped into was sitting there on the sand, dazed. “Why do you keep following us?” I screamed.
“It’s not like I wanted to follow you,” she declared indignantly. “The Samoorai actually thought that I was one of you. And when you disappeared under the bell, I didn’t even think about it, I just dove after you. I most certainly wasn’t expecting to come out to… this.”
For the first time, I actually examined her. She was wearing deep, forest green robes. She held a beautiful Life wand, the same my sister had. She appeared to be at least level 30, because of her MooShu hat.
Then it hit me. “Hang on. You were able to follow us? So wouldn’t that mean that the Samoorai can as well?” I wondered.
The girl’s expression turned from confused and offended to fearful and shocked. Without a word, she rushed off toward the horizon.
Vanessa and I instinctively followed her, not even thinking twice about the bell that we were leaving behind us.
Though the sun shone brightly above us and my skin felt like it was burning, I followed the curious girl tirelessly for what felt like hours. But as far as I knew, it could have been seconds. Maybe even days. The sun never moved from its position directly above us in the sky, no matter how long we wandered across the sand. This reminded me so much of the desert we had been teleported to on Earth, except the sand here was loose and difficult to walk on.
In due time a figure rose upon the horizon. Only when I got closer did I see that it was a pyramid, almost an exact replica of the Pyramid of the Sun in Krokotopia. However, I could tell that it was a little bit larger.
Soon enough I stood at its base in front of a tall, formidable entryway lit by two braziers with Vanessa and the mysterious girl at my side.
For the first time since I had met her, the girl hesitated.
“Are you going in?” I asked.
“It’s our only choice,” said Vanessa flatly. She glared at the girl. “We may have more options if someone hadn’t run away from the only possible exit we might have!”
“You didn’t have to follow me.”
“Are you going in or not?” I repeated eagerly. I wanted to see the inside of the odd building, but didn’t want to go in alone.
The girl didn’t even answer. She simply walked inside, leaving Vanessa and I outside.
Vanessa looked at me as if waiting for my consent. I nodded, and together we walked inside.
The interior was just as grand as the outside. In the room we entered there was a staircase winding up into darkness. Like most Krokotopian pyramids, there were hieroglyphs on the walls. I realized I hadn’t been in Krokotopia for a long time since being let into Marleybone. I made a mental note to visit there again sometime.
There was a tunnel to our right. I also noted that it was cooler inside here than it had been outside, but that was normal for Krokotopian buildings.
The girl looked up when we came in. She had been looking up the staircase. “So,” she began, “Now that we’re in here why don’t you tell me your names?”
“I’m Sierra WinterBreeze.”
“And Vanessa DreamHaven,” Vanessa added.
The girl nodded once, and then turned to face the winding staircase again. She glanced up and asked, “Either of you guys pyromancers?”
We shook our heads.
She sighed. Taking out her wand, which I recognized as the Mooshu Life wand, she drew the Life symbol. When she activated it, a Dryad appeared. I gasped. My sister didn’t even know that! “What level are you?”
She realized I was asking because of the Dryad. She smiled sheepishly. “Um, I only turned level 35 yesterday. I just know Dryad from my shoes.”
“Oh.” I felt foolish for even asking. “Anyway, what are you going to do with that?”
“This.” She pulled off a branch from the beautiful tree-like Dryad and set it on fire from the braziers. “I’m going exploring,” she explained as she made the Dryad disappear.
“What? No!” I called as she walked to the foot of the stairs. “You have no idea what’s up there.”
“That’s exactly why I’m doing it,” she retorted, rolling her eyes.
“But it could be something dangerous,” I hollered desperately. I didn’t know why I wanted to protect her so much. She wouldn’t even tell me her name.
“I’ll soon find out, won’t I?” With the lit stick in her hand, she tromped up the stairs.
I choose not to argue anymore. But I still felt uneasy; there was something about this place I didn’t like. I couldn’t shake the feeling that we weren’t alone.
I twirled around to face Vanessa. “Now what?”
“We could go exploring ourselves,” she suggested, gesturing to the tunnel.
I peered into it doubtfully, but I couldn’t see anything through the darkness. “I don’t think so.”
“Well, that other girl lit a stick, didn’t she? Do you have anything flammable?”
We searched through our things, but everything we had that could possibly light our way was too precious to use.
“So much for that wonderful plan,” I murmured.
“I don’t want to just sit here!” Vanessa whined. “If only we had some light…”
As if on cue, braziers that I hadn’t seen through the blackness flickered to life on either side of the tunnel, revealing a long narrow passageway that we still couldn’t see the end of.
“Um, okay… That was weird…” remarked Vanessa.
“Very,” I agreed uneasily.
“But I suppose that answers your question.” She grinned.
“You know, if anything that makes me want to go down even less.”
“You can stay here,” she offered.
I considered it for a moment, but shuddered when I thought of being left alone in here. “Okay, I’m coming.”
After sauntering through the tunnel for a few minutes, it widened into a large, dim room lit by only three braziers – one with a purple flame, one with a blue, and one with a red. Other than that, I saw nothing. “We should go back,” I said, somewhat disappointed. “There’s nothing here.”
However, when I faced the cave once more to our dismay the fires in the tunnel went out. The blue, red, and purple fires at the back of the room now remained the only ones lit.
“That wasn’t supposed to happen, was it?” asked Vanessa worriedly.
“Uh…” I looked around the room again. Not seeing anything, I glanced up, then gasped and jumped out of the way. Tumbling down from out of nowhere came an enormous pile of medium-sized rocks that rained on the spot I had just been standing.
For a moment, Vanessa and I simply stood there, too stunned to speak. I could have been killed, I realized. The grim thought frightened me, and I felt nervous butterflies in my stomach.
Suddenly, the ground shook. Or rather, the rocks made the ground shake. They were vibrating, and I took an involuntary step back. Then, with a whooshing sound, the rocks amalgamated to form a towering Desert Colossus.
“Hello, Seeker WinterBreeze. Welcome, Vanessa DreamHaven.”
As usual, I was surprised that a creature like this knew my name. But then realization set in. “You know about the Seekers!” I shouted.
“Yes,” it said plainly.
“Why are you here then?”
“I am here to awaken the seventh Seeker.”
I paused, puzzled. Seventh Seeker? “Um… shouldn’t the seventh Seeker be Life?”
“It was supposed to be, but Vanessa got here first.”
“Vanessa? She’s Balance!”
“There are two Balance Seekers.”
“I’m a Seeker?” questioned Vanessa, gaping. I think I had my mouth hanging open, too.
“But… why?” I inquired. “I mean, I understand what happened with Liam and everything. Is Vanessa replacing him?”
“No!” boomed the Colossus vehemently, making me jump. “In some generations the ways that the Seekers are affected by dark magic is something that they cannot get through, and causes them to not be able to fight as effectively as the others or not even fight at all. So there is two of that school, so that they will still have the benefits of that type of wizard. But the original Seeker will always help their team in some way. Such as with your friend Liam.”
“He’s not my friend,” I growled.
The Colossus ignored me. “Vanessa is here to become the second Balance Seeker. She must be awakened.”
I turned to my companion to see what she was thinking. She was just standing there, dumbfounded, so I grinned. “So, are you happy to be a Seeker, Vanessa?” I questioned.
“I… I don’t understand,” she murmured. “My brother is the warrior of the family, not me. I’m no good at this sort of thing.”
“Of course you are! Victoria and I wouldn’t have gotten out of Malistaire’s place without you.”
“And I would be dead if it weren’t for you!” she retorted.
“So we both rely on each other,” I said gently. “That’s why we need you.”
She didn’t reply, only glared at the wall she was now facing.
“You are a good leader, Sierra WinterBreeze,” the Colossus approved, beaming.
I scowled. Why did everyone have to keep reminding me of that?
The Colossus asked Vanessa, “Do you accept your task, Seeker DreamHaven?”
“I…” Vanessa began, but then she was interrupted by a blood-curdling scream. All three of us started.
Recognition dawned on the Colossus’s face. “Oh yes… I sensed the presence of three others. And I knew there were more than two Seekers from the beginning…” It turned to us. “We shall be getting some visitors soon, I believe.”
“Who?” I asked. I knew that the annoying girl whose name I still did not know was here, and she was who I had suspected screamed. But three others? Who else could there be?”
What made me wonder even more was that the Colossus had claimed that there was another Seeker as well. Which one of my friends would be here?
“I do not know who it is.” My heart sank. “Do you know of any others who could possibly be in here?”
“Well, I’m guessing one of them is that girl that followed us here,” I informed.
“And what is her name?”
“She never told us.”
“Is she a Seeker?”
“I don’t think so.” But even as I said it, I was reconsidering it. Was she a Seeker of Light? Was that even possible? I was thinking about everything that had happened. She had come to this desert, but maybe non-Seekers could do that too. From her wand, it also looked like she was Life. And we needed a Life Seeker. Unless there was some other Seeker that these guys conveniently forgot to tell me.
“Before they arrive, what do you say, Vanessa?” asked the Colossus again, more apprehensive now.
“Um, I guess if-“ But again Vanessa was stopped. This time it was the sound of flames flickering to life as the braziers turned on again.
“Why’d you turn on the braziers?” I accused the Colossus.
“It was not me. They light themselves every time a Seeker needs light.”
“I guess we’ll find out who our guests are, then,” Vanessa said grimly.
I said, “Before we are interrupted again, tell us what this place is called.”
“This is the Pyramid of the Moon,” the Colossus explained. “It used to sit next to the Pyramid of the Sun in Krokotopia, but because it was larger and heavier, it sunk into the unstable sand the first time it rained when it was brand new. Ever since then it has been here in this desert, used by the Spiral Guardians.”
Then footsteps echoed from down the tunnel, and we all stared at the intruder that was now standing at the front of the tunnel.
But luckily it was only to girl from earlier. “Sierra! Vanessa!” I couldn’t believe she had remembered our names. And she had a genuine expression of relief on her face. Maybe she was nicer than I gave her credit for.
And then she spotted the Colossus for the first time. She turned pale. “What is that thing?”
“A Desert Colossus.”
She eyed it warily. “Why is it here?”
“For, um, something…”
“If I didn’t know it was something, I wouldn’t be asking you.”
I changed the subject. “Why did you scream?”
“Oh. You could hear that? Um, well… I met someone…”
“Uh… I don’t think they want me to tell you…”
“Come on, who is it?”
“Okay, fine! I guess I would have to tell you about them at one point anyway.”
“Just tell me who it is!” I demanded.
“My friends. I met two people in here.”
Though the Colossus had told me there were others, I was still surprised when she told me about them. So, this girl was friends with them? Perhaps they were here accidentally, too.
Then again, I couldn’t ignore the fact that one was a Seeker. Again I pondered who it could be. Was it Sydney? No, she was with Rowan. Victoria? Impossible, she had been grounded ever since our little stunt with Malistaire. So who else? Mark? Hunter?
Then I thought of the other Seeker. But the thought of him being here sent a shiver down my spine.
I really, really hoped it wasn’t Liam.
The Colossus decided to speak up. “Young wizard, it is rather important that you tell us. What are their names?”
For a moment the girl just stood there, her face fixed into an expression of terror and awe. Finally, she shrieked, “It speaks!”
“So listen to it, please!” I commanded. “What. Are. Their. Names!”
“Uh, I can’t remember.”
“WHAT? You can’t remember?”
“Were any of their names Mark?” Vanessa asked. “Or Sydney? Or Victoria? Or Hunter?”
“I don’t think so. There was one boy and one girl. Here, why don’t I just introduce them to you? Then you can learn their names and it will at the same time refresh my memory! Hang on, I’ll go get them. They’re waiting at the entrance to the tunnel.” She glanced at the Colossus nervously before dashing down the tunnel.
I suddenly remembered something. “Wait!” I called.
She spun back around. “What?”
“What’s your name?” I inquired.
“Scarlet MoonHeart,” she replied, though hesitantly.
Then she was heading down the tunnel again.
“Well, that was nice,” Vanessa huffed sarcastically.
“At least she finally told us her name.”
“I’m just glad we’ll find out who else is in here.”
And then the Colossus gasped so suddenly that Vanessa and I jumped. “There’s dark magic approaching!” it yelled.
For a moment we stood in silence, gaping at him. Neither of us had been expecting an outburst as wild as that. Slowly, I asked, “Wait…what?”
“Seekers, you must run! This is too dangerous!”
“But… um… my necklace isn’t glowing…”
“They have concealed it well. It will not shine until they come closer.”
“What about Vanessa getting awakened? And Scarlet?”
“Forget about it!”
“Uh, but… where are we supposed to run to?”
The Colossus looked desperately at the tunnel, where we could hear footsteps slowly approaching. The calmness and unhurried pace of the steps made every second agonizing, especially now that we knew that with them it could be a practitioner of dark arts.
As they footsteps grew louder, so did the voices of the people coming.
“No, Scarlet, this is a very, very bad idea,” said one person that I recognized as a male voice. And yet I still thought I knew it from somewhere.
Vanessa stiffened next to me at the sound of the voice, though I couldn’t figure out why.
“If you already know her, then she’ll love to see you,” came Scarlet’s voice.
“You don’t understand. She hates me. And… I think Vanessa will, too.”
“Don’t worry,” soothed a cool female voice. Hearing it made me shudder. It also reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t figure out whom. “Maybe Sierra will tell us who the next Seeker is.”
I listened even more intently when I heard both my name and the Seekers in one sentence. These people obviously knew what they were talking about.
“I doubt it,” grumbled the first voice.
It frustrated me that I still couldn’t figure out who either of the voices reminded me of.
“Look, there’s the exit of the tunnel,” said Scarlet. “I will run up ahead and tell them you’re here, and then we can make introductions! Or I suppose it wouldn’t be introductions, because you already know them, but-”
“Just go, Scarlet,” growled the female voice again.
“Okay, okay! Geez.” Scarlet soon came around the corner. “Hello, again,” she greeted us, though in a somewhat distracted way. “This is Mary RavenGem” – A girl with golden blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail and aqua blue eyes dressed in red and green clothes stepped around the corner, evidently not happy to be there from the scowl on her face – “and Liam.”
Time seemed to move in slow motion after that. Liam stepped out behind Scarlet, just as unhappy as Mary had been. Then I remembered where the Mary girl was from – if Liam had a hood over his head and Mary’s hat was tipped ever so slightly forward they could be identical to the pair we encountered in the MooShu shop. My sapphire necklace from Sydney’s awakening began to glow, as the Colossus had predicted. Then Mary lifted up her wand – though I couldn’t see very well, I assumed it was the Balance wand they had stolen – and with a flick of her wrist the Colossus was trapped in a pile of quicksand, unable to move. After that, Mary turned to me. Though Scarlet had no idea what was going on, I can thank my lucky stars that she instinctively grabbed Mary’s arm to save me. Unfortunately, my savior was thrust into the wall by Mary when she waved her wand again. I don’t know when it happened, but somehow Liam and Vanessa were on the other side of the room, between the red and blue braziers.
And then entire time this hectic scene was unfolding, the supposed leader of the Seekers was standing there, dumbfounded, useless, and unable to move.
Somehow Mary got over to me. I allowed myself to be pushed over to the wall, where she raised her wand and threaten to have her Hydra destroy me if I didn’t tell her what she wanted. I didn’t respond. So what if she destroyed me? I was a failure, a useless leader. No one really wanted me, anyway. Why had they chosen me to be a Seeker in the first place?
“Okay,” she said when she was sure I got the message, “I want you to tell me who the next Seeker is.”
I stared at her blankly. “Why would you want to know that?”
“That’s my business,” she growled. “Who is it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Stop lying!” she accused. “Who is it?”
“They never told me.”
“Then why are you here?”
“Um…” Because I didn’t know what she would do with this information, I lied. “The Colossus was about to tell me, but didn’t get to it.”
“I don’t believe you,” she huffed. “But that Desert Colossus probably does know something. If you won’t tell me, maybe it will.”
Oops, I thought. That wasn’t what I had in mind.
Mary began walking away, and I had a small hope that I’d be able to escape when her back was turned. The she abruptly turned, as if remembering something important.
Indeed she had remembered, much to my dismay. “Of course, I can’t leave you alone! Why don’t I give you a friend?”
I didn’t like the way she had said “friend” one bit.
Retrieving the stolen wand, Mary drew the Balance symbol and activated it, making a colossal Hydra appear.
Strangely, I wasn’t afraid. Perhaps it was because the only real Hydra I had ever seen (besides the miniature pets Master Balance wizards owned – they sometimes snapped at you, but they weren’t scary) was the one that had awakened Liam. That one had been friendly enough, if not a little unusual.
One of Mary’s Hydra’s heads let out a throaty growl. I wondered if it could talk. I doubted it.
“Sierra!” I heard a panicked cry from a voice that I only vaguely recognized. Turning towards the voice, I saw that it was the Desert Colossus. “Grab Vanessa and your other friend and get out of here!”
“What?” That had been unexpected. I had thought it would have wanted us to stay and help get rid of Liam and Mary.
“Go!” it ordered.
Mary was approaching the Colossus at the moment. I had to make my decision fast. Should I heed him, or simply leave?
“You don’t understand,” it pleaded. “You can’t fight them. There is dark magic here, darker than you can imagine! The Seekers aren’t strong enough right now. There will come a time, but not today. Please, go.”
I just happened to glance at Vanessa at that moment and froze. She was with Liam, but I had known that from the beginning. What truly shocked me was that she was laughing. Laughing! While I was in mortal danger, guarded by a Hydra, yelled at by Mary and continuously begged by the Colossus to leave, Vanessa was laughing.
Well, I mused, I suppose they are brother and sister. But still, couldn’t Vanessa at least pretend to care about my safety? And how could she forgive Liam’s perfidiousness so readily? It somewhat disgusted me, but I knew in a way how she felt. Wouldn’t I feel the same way about Rowan if that happened to her? Not that it ever would, but still.
Unfortunately, that didn’t change anything. And actually, that one look had helped me decide – I was going to listen to the Colossus. I would get out of here. Of course I couldn’t leave Vanessa; she was the new Balance Seeker, after all. But how would I get to her with Liam there?
That wasn’t the only flaw in the escape plan I was starting to develop. Mary’s Hydra was still watching me carefully, and under its watchful eye I would never get away. I had to fight it. What other choice did I have?
But did I have a spell that could take it? Hydra was a Master spell, and I wasn’t a Master.
Actually, I could already think of one spell. I still had the Master’s Cloak of the Lizard that I had bought in Marleybone. Could a Stormzilla defeat a Hydra? Maybe if a Master Storm wizard cast it. But what about me?
Without considering it any farther, I took the card and began forming the Storm symbol. Even though I usually didn’t cast spells like this, the Stormzilla card that came with my clothes worked in the same way as a Treasure Card, guiding me through the actions effortlessly. There was the sound of a storm – a deafening thunder-like rumble, the pattering of rain – and I drew power from my mana and the card. With a flash of lightning I released the energy, activated the symbol, and summoned the Stormzilla.
Roaring, the Stormzilla charged directly at the Hydra. I smiled when I heard a satisfying “thump” as its head made contact with Mary’s Hydra. The Hydra hadn’t been expecting this at all, and tumbled backward.
The Hydra was sluggish, still startled. But it wasn’t long before it snapped out of it and countered by making all three heads bite the Stormzilla in unison. I felt awful for making the creature suffer so much, but at least the Hydra was distracted.
Actually, I think everyone was distracted. Liam and Vanessa were gaping at the battle when I rushed over. I pulled on Vanessa to start towing her to the tunnel. She opened her mouth to protest, but she didn’t have the time. Mary’s Hydra zoomed into the wall three inches away from us. With her mouth still hanging open, but this time in fear, she no longer resisted as I guided her towards Scarlet.
Scarlet was looking fearfully at the scene in front of her. Mary was angrily screaming at her Hydra, trying to regain control. Liam was still a bit dazed, because he was staring at us, confused. The Hydra and my Stormzilla were still brawling, and sadly my Stormzilla was losing. The Colossus was still bound prisoner by the quicksand, and it had its head down, distraught and defeated. In some ways, it reminded me of the Cyclops that had awakened Hunter. It hadn’t been at all brave when Seth lit the fire. It seemed like the people who awakened the Seekers weren’t very powerful.
Maybe that was the point. Whoever appointed these guys (if there was anyone – how was I supposed to know?) obviously wasn’t choosing fighters. They seemed to be the outcasts, the ones looked down on by, um, creature society. Like my Frost Giant. He was tiny compared to the rest of his kind.
When I came next to Scarlet, I hissed, “Come on Scarlet, let’s go.”
“But… what about Mary and Li-”
“Forget about them!”
“But they’re my new friends-”
“And they’re Malistaire’s minions.”
“Wow, really? I had no id-”
“Let’s go already!”
“I kind of wanted to-“
“Never mind,” I sighed. “We’ll leave you here.”
I spun around and walked away and didn’t look back. But I was still pleased to hear the slight pattering of footsteps behind me. She was following.
So Vanessa, Scarlet, and I left the hectic scene behind us to let Liam and Mary figure everything out themselves. I grinned when I thought of my Stormzilla.
They were going to have a lot of work to do.
We emerged from the pyramid minutes later. To my surprise, the bell was already sitting right outside the pyramid, waiting for us.
Without even thinking about it, I dove under the bell, anxious to go home.
In that split second, I remembered something very important.
Time didn’t move when a Seeker was awakened.
Vanessa had just been awakened.
Last time we had been out there, the Samoorai had been looking for us.
And I had just gone back to that moment.
I tried to stop myself. Instead of halting, however, I stumbled and fell under the bell, scraping my knees. They stung, but I did not want to get caught but the Samoorai. I peeked back underneath the bell. The picture was wavering in front of me. I assumed that I was just dizzy from falling, so I proceeded to climb out under the bell.
Everything grew worse. I stood there for a moment, confused. The Krokotopian sand shivered beneath my feet, making me feel almost nauseous. I looked at Vanessa and Scarlet, who now looked so queer that I couldn’t tell who was who. I shouted, “The Samoorai will be there! Don’t go under!” My voice sounded oddly distorted, and only incomprehensible gibberish answered me with Vanessa’s just barely recognizable voice. At this point I began to panic. Why did everything look so strange? What was happening?
Finally, everything was stretched beyond recognition. I was inside a senseless jumble of colors. Wondering if I would be trapped here forever, I spun around and sighed with relief. The bell was sitting there, unperturbed despite the chaos around it.
I found it comforting to know that there was a possible exit nearby. Seeing no reason to immediately go under the bell and with my dear gone, I only felt curious. I slowly turned to look at the emptiness again. When I took one step, everything changed.
I heard it before I saw it. Shouting. It was loud, unfathomable yelling. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but it sounded angry.
Suddenly I was in MooShu. I gazed around, dazed. Why was I here? Had everything been a dream? Awakening Vanessa, Liam and Mary, the pyramid, the colors, everything? Disoriented, I twirled around, half-expecting something even crazier to show up there. All I saw was Vanessa and Scarlet emerging from under the bell. They were both looking over my shoulder at the Samoorai who were sure to be approaching. But at this point, I didn’t care. Everything had happened so quickly, I hadn’t the time to think.
Someone grabbed me from behind, and I didn’t have to look to know that it was the Samoorai.
If this was a dream, it was about to turn into a nightmare.
I sat in the room with Vanessa and Scarlet, contemplating our next move. Things hadn’t gone well with the Samoorai. They didn’t even give me the time to put up a good argument before we found ourselves being thrown into this old MooShu shop. I couldn’t tell what used to be sold here just from the appearance, but I did know it smelled horrible.
I could only hope there was someone in MooShu that would listen to me when I said I didn’t work for Malistaire.
We had been in the room for just about over ten minutes when Scarlet spoke up. “So, what was all that about in the pyramid?”
Vanessa and I exchanged looks.
Scarlet added, “Liam and Mary were saying something about Seekers.”
We looked at her. Or more, glared at her.
“Are the Seekers a bad thing?”
We still didn’t reply.
“Oh come on! You can’t be silent forever!”
“We’re not going to answer you,” I stated.
“Because it’s not important.”
“But I want to know!” Scarlet pouted.
“What area are you working on?” I was becoming a master at changing the subject.
“In the Village of Sorrow. Right now I have a quest to – Wait a second, this is silly. We’re chatting about quests when we’re trapped in a makeshift MooShu prison. And I still want to know what Seekers are.”
“What if we don’t know?”
“I think you do.”
“But what if we don’t?”
We sat there, glowering at each other for a few more minutes. The silence in the room was eerie and uncomfortable.
With a loud boom the door abruptly swung open. Scarlet and I broke each other’s gaze to stare at the new visitor we had.
“Professor Ambrose!” I shouted, on my feet in an instant.
“Hello, Sierra. I see you have met Miss MoonHeart here.”
“Headmaster! I’m so, so, so glad you came! I thought we would die in here. And Scarlet wouldn’t stop asking about the Seekers. And –”
“I’m sure you’ve had a marvelous adventure. You’d better be going though. Your sister wanted to tell you something.” For a moment the headmaster had a worried, nervous look on his face. Then, within a second, it was gone. “Sierra, have you had any luck with the next Seeker?”
The suddenness of this question stunned me momentarily. To be asking such a thing now, in front of Scarlet, too! I felt her gaping at me, but I didn’t let it bother me. “Actually, no, sir. Do you know anything about who it might be?”
“I’m sorry, no. But let me give you a little advice: the answer may be right in front of you.”
I gave him a puzzled look to get him to explain better. But he didn’t.
Instead, Merle glanced anxiously at the door. “I’d really better be going, students. The real minions are still out there. No doubt they’re causing trouble. Good luck to you.” In one swift motion, Merle Ambrose teleported away before I could ask any more questions.
I was left we more questions than answers, now. What had he meant, right in front of me? What had the strange look been? Or had that been my imagination? These questions and more were all jumbled up in my head, making absolutely no sense. But when I truly thought about it, all of them were asking the same thing.
Who is the Life Seeker?
Headmaster Ambrose had been right when he said Rowan wanted to tell me something. The second I stepped in the door, Rowan bounded up to me, screaming, “Sierra! Sierra! Sierra!”
“What? What? What!” I shouted back.
“For the last time, what?”
“I learned Dryad!”
“Oh. Um, okay.” Honestly, I didn’t really care. It only meant I was even farther in level behind her.
Rowan didn’t seem to notice my gloomy reply. “It was sooooooooo awesome! Okay, so first I talked to Moolinda Wu, and then I went to Sunken City. And while you were in MooShu doing whatever, I defeated Grubb!”
I couldn’t help but smile at the way she had said “in MooShu” and “doing whatever”. Truthfully, I hadn’t been in MooShu at all for most of the time, and using the words she did made my adventures sound insignificant and unexciting, which was the exact opposite of how they really were. Spotting my grin, she paused for a moment. “Um, what’s so funny?”
“Hmm? Oh, nothing.” I tried my best to make my expression once more indifferent.
Rowan wasn’t one to over observe things, so she simply shrugged and continued on. “So I found that chest, and it wasn’t hard to find, it was just off to the side Grubb’s room, and then I brought the contents to my teacher, and then I found out I had to fight Plague Oni, so I was like, ‘Ugh! I just did him last week!” but I still went and…” Rowan babbled on, not even stopping to breath. Everything was just one big, giant sentence. “We had so much fun and because Mark’s a Master it was super easy so we sped through it and then Sydney got caught in a battle with ninja pigs and started screaming ‘Bacon!’ or something like that, it was so funny, and so we started it too and…”
I stared at Rowan most of the time, nodding every once and a while, but not really comprehending what she was saying. My own thoughts were too mixed up. Instead, my mind wandered. I put together all my clues, and thought hard. It was a great struggle to look at Rowan like I was actually listening but think about other things at the same time.
Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore. I excused myself by mumbling something about being tired from quests and locked myself in my bedroom. I flung myself onto the bed, just lying there quietly.
Somehow I ended up thinking about Vanessa’s awakening earlier today. I was thinking about everything Mary had said. I wondered if the Colossus had told her anything. And if my poor Stormzilla had triumphed in its battle with the Hydra. And what had Liam and Vanessa been talking about before I interrupted? What did Mary’s voice remind me of? And Scarlet –
I froze. Scarlet. Scarlet MoonHeart.
Scarlet was Life, wasn’t she? She had the wand, and wore green clothes. She had come with us to the Pyramid of the Moon, too. The Colossus had said there were “more than two Seekers” in the pyramid, didn’t he? I had always known Liam was there, those words didn’t mean there was simply one more. What if there were four Seekers altogether? Scarlet could be one of them.
What about Merle Ambrose’s comment about the answer being right in front of me? Scarlet had been right there, next to me. It was so obvious: she had to be it.
Scarlet MoonHeart was the Life Seeker.
The next day, Rowan and Sydney teamed up with Vanessa and I so I could catch up with everyone else. Even Sydney was ahead of me by now.
Unfortunately, on this seemingly normal day, disaster struck.
We were battling the Oyotomi Quartermaster. He wasn’t that difficult, but Rowan had entered low on health in the first place. Though the rest of us tried to convince her to drink one of her potions, she had refused. “Theurgists don’t need potions!” she declared. “We can heal ourselves.”
Within the first three turns, Rowan got five pips made of her power pips and she got ready to cast her spell. She expertly drew the Life symbol in a dramatic way. When she was about to activate it, I saw the card she had chosen in her hand: Regenerate.
Regenerate was a spell that healed you over time. When Rowan first got it, she instantly loved the spell and named it “Handy”.
But this time, I wondered if I had been mistaken of what I saw in her hand. Black clouds were starting to cover the dueling arena.
Rowan didn’t even notice. She proceed on with her silly little motto she always said when she cast Handy: “This is Handy. Handy is handy. But sometimes he’s not so handy. But Handy is-”
The three of us gasped. A hand did come out from the sinister clouds, but it wasn’t Handy. This hand was scaly and clawed like a Draconian’s hand. It was a terrifying dark color that matched the clouds behind it perfectly. Rowan stopped talking, her eyes wide with fright.
From Sydney’s side Sir Romeo hissed. The rest of our pets, Vanessa’s Queen Chelsea the Ninja Pig and my Baby Fluffy the Ghoul (though it wasn’t particularly a proper name for such a creature, I kept it, because I loved the irony of it), also began reacting strangely, suddenly looking fearful and skittish. Rowan’s Summer Dragon, Mister Muffin, emanated a horrified cry and started flitting around Rowan anxiously.
Rowan was distracted by this movement. She took one, tiny, quick little glance at her pet. In that same moment, the hand lunged at my sister.
“ROWAN!” I screamed, abandoning my spot in the dueling circle to come to her aid.
Rowan was being pulled up by the hand. I leaped to reach her, but it was useless. When I landed, I stupidly stumbled and fell.
Mister Muffin, disconcerted and unsure of what to do, flew up to Rowan hurriedly and perched on her arm, flapping his wings and pulling in a useless attempt to free her. Rowan was too busy struggling to react to his sharp claws that were digging into her skin.
In one single, swift motion, the hand and the clouds, Rowan and Mister Muffin, everything – was gone.