It was like watching a couple of four years olds fight over a cookie.
Helena, the Elementals and I leaned against the wall by the door just watching Derrek and Blake fight. At first Blake began fighting Derrek while he was still in bed but after lunging himself at Derrek, they were quick to fall onto the floor and continue fighting. Despite the two of them trying to strangle the other, I could still hear the guffawing of Derrek.
“How long has this been going on for now?” Cameron asked leaning his chin on top of Cara’s head.
I checked my watch. “About ten minutes now”
“As entertaining as this is, don’t we actually have stuff to do today?” he asked flicking is eyes over to me with a raised brow. Cameron seemed like such a level headed guy it was easy to forget he had any sort of ability, let alone be an Elemental.
“Sure do” I turned my attention over to Helena who was shaking her head in amused disappointment. “Mind breaking them up Helena?”
She chuckled and nodded before taking a step forward and raising her hands. She pointed her hands at a dying fern that sat in the corner of the room and flicked her fingers. Immediately, the branches swooped out and curled themselves around the midsections of both Blake and Derrek and instantly pulled them apart. The branches lifted them up and held them tightly ensuring they weren’t able to escape.
“Helena... I can always burn the damn plant” Derrek threatened.
“Sparky! You started it and you know it!” I scolded him.
“No, I didn’t! That was only payback for yesterday morning! He knew he had it coming-!”
“Lies! You already got me back-“
“When did I get you back, you little- Ouch!”
Suddenly both their heads snapped forward and they both began rubbing the back of their heads. Cameron instantly appeared between them and rubbed his temples with a pained look on his face. “And the next time, I’ll actually make sure it hurts” he stated before walking out the room.
I barely managed to stop myself from bursting out in laughter at their shocked expressions and nodded at Helena to let them down. The fern branches uncoiled from around them and shrunk back to the pot, if not a little healthier looking, and I looked at the two who seemed keen on ignoring the other. Thank God!
“Now listen up you two, I don’t want to be babysitting the both of you all day. You’re both even in whatever the hell you’re doing so now stop it!” I glared at the both of them and didn’t let my stare waver until they both nodded their heads. If they wanted to act like children then I’d treat them like it! “Alright, show’s over everyone! Let’s get ready and meet at the diner across the road for breakfast before getting down to business”
The Elementals left my room and I turned to Derrek. “Really, Sparky?”
He chuckled deeply and shook his head “You should’ve seen the rest of his clothes. What he was wearing was decent compared to the rest. I’m sure he’d have been surprised to see the rest of his shirts looking like bikini tops and his jeans looking like too-indecent short shorts”
I stared at him with an eyebrow raised. “When did you...? Never mind. Just get ready”
The sun was shining brightly and the birds were chirping happily as they sang to the world. We were all sitting in a small, dingy diner eating our hot breakfasts as we discussed how we were going to ask around for information. Blake had long since thrown out his burnt clothes, muttering about rather going out in the snow naked than wearing the burnt clothes. He’d had to borrow jeans and a shirt from Cameron, and I bit my lip to stop from laughing at how they hung off him seeing as Cameron was much taller and bulkier than he was.
“We thought it would be best to split up. We’ll split up then just ask the townspeople if there’d been any other people pass through. Get as much information as you can, we only have today and tonight to ask before we have to be back tomorrow” Everyone nodded and we finished off our breakfast making light conversation before splitting off into the same groups that shared a room.
“So how exactly do we do this?” Helena asked as we walked towards a group of teenagers, “Just straight up ask if there was a huge group that came through or...?”
I shrugged and sighed. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I seemed to have been shoved into a ‘leader’ position so I needed to make the major decisions, I just didn’t know the smaller details too well. There were six teenagers made up of three girls and guys and I offered a smile to them as we neared their circle.
“Hey” I greeted them cheerfully. They pulled out from their circle a little so they were facing us and greeted us back a little unsure.
“Are you guys part of the last group that came through?” the tallest guy of the group asked as he eyed us suspiciously.
“No, we’re not. My friends and I just arrived last night, there are eight of us around here. Was there something wrong with the last group of people that came through?” I asked innocently.
The tall boy eyed me curiously for a few seconds before shrugging and hugging the girl in front of him. “Yeah, you could say that. This is a small town... there’s hardly any visitors that come passing through and the eight of you is already something to talk about. But last week there was a massive group that came through. There must’ve been close to, or even more than, fifty people together”
“Fifty?” I asked surprised. I threw a look at Helena and Derrek and their faces mirrored the feeling I had inside. “What was so odd about them except that there were a lot of people?”
The girl the boy was hugging spoke up. She couldn’t have been any older than sixteen. “They walked here... like, literally just walked into town. They didn’t come in a car or a bus or anything. There’s nothing around here for hours and that day it was snowing pretty bad. It wasn’t even just that...-“
“No, it was what they looked like!” Another girl interrupted her friend. This girl was as tall as me and still held a little chubbiness around her face and waist, but she seemed highly energetic.
“What they looked like?” Helena asked curiously. I looked over at her and saw she was playing the innocent new comer as I was. Derrek, on the other hand, had slipped back into the mysterious, brooding guy I’d first encountered when I first arrived at the university.
“Oh they were all different. There were men and women and even some teens as well. None of them looked related but they all had this blank face. Kinda like they didn’t even see what was in front of them and they had scars all over their body. Well, from what we could see anyway”
“So... they looked like a zombie army then?” Derrek asked with faint amusement.
The same girl blushed a little, moving a little closer to the olive skinned boy next to her who glared at Derrek. “No... I just meant that they didn’t seem... normal. They followed the guy who was walking in front of them who wore a tattered cloak. Now he was really creepy!”
I could barely gulp when I realised she was speaking about Malum. The air around me seemed t constrict around my throat and I only snapped back to reality when I felt Derrek slip his arm around my waist and gave me a little squeeze to my waist.
“How so?” Helena jumped in to say when she realised I was temporarily losing it. She offered them an innocent puppy dog look and I saw them lose any suspicion. It was Helena’s easy going and trusting personality that I instantly saw in her that had them finding it easy to talk.
“He kept his cloak covering his head but he looked... he looked...” she looked around before continuing, “He looked like Death, you know? He wasn’t carrying the whole scythe thing but he had the cloak and his hands and part of his mouth that you could see looked like he was decaying or something! I mean, I could be wrong... he could’ve just had some skin disease happening but that’s how it looked like to me”
“Wow, that is creepy” Helena agreed shivering slightly before looking around as well, “They’re not still here are they? I wouldn’t want to bump into them”
I applauded Helena’s great acting in my head as I tried to compose myself. She was doing a great job at getting the teenagers to trust us enough to gossip without any suspicion. I probably would’ve seemed like I was prodding a little too much if I had been asking these questions. The group of teenagers shook their head and the tallest boy spoke again.
“No, they walked through and disappeared into the woods, but my dad said he saw them head west and out of the area a few days ago. Hopefully we don’t have to go through that again”
I frowned at what he said. Heading west? And go through what? What the hell was west of this town? I’d have to keep that bit of information locked away until we get back and see Mr Obsidian. “Go through what? Having a large group come through?” I asked a little confused.
Derrek scoffed, “Not a very social town is it?”
The tall boy glared at Derrek before answering me, “You wouldn’t believe us if we told you”
“Is it bad?” Helena whispered with her eyes wide with curiosity. He looked at her and me before shrugging.
“One of the reasons why we kept away from the group was because weird things happened with them. Some things we can’t explain”
“Look... you seem like nice guys” he answered... though not looking at Derrek, “But you seem awfully curious and we’ve said enough to you. Let’s go guys...” he steered the girl he was hugging around and began walking away while the rest of the group followed him.
“Well... that was a hell of a lot more information we got out of them than I thought. Good acting Helena” I winked at her. She chuckled and shrugged her shoulders.
We continued walking around, sometimes bumping into the Elementals, but didn’t find out any more information about Malum’s group from anyone else. It was nearing lunch so we ended back at the diner and ate with the Elementals. They had heard just about the same thing as we did, except that Malum was heading west.
“Do you think we should have a look at the woods? The teenagers said that Malum headed into the woods before heading west out of the area so maybe there’s something there that’s important... or just some clues that were left behind?”
“We need to be careful” Derrek announced softly, “People might start getting suspicious if we keep on asking straight forward. Plus, even though they say that the group left... it doesn’t necessarily mean that they did”
“I think we’ve gotten all the information out of the people that we’ll get anyway” Bree spoke up. “Sophia, Cara and I ended up talking to the same people who you all spoke to and they were beginning to ask why we were so interested in the group. I don’t think we should ask anymore... just to be on the safe side”
“I second that” Cameron nodded. “Besides, if they just walked through then there’s only so much the people in town know”
I took everything in and nodded. They were right. There was no use in asking the same people over and over again, they had nothing to hide from us. Plus Derrek had a point as well. The Elementals could still be lurking around and letting Malum know we knew where they were and asking around for information.
“So... to the woods then?” Sophia asked taking a sip of her water.
“Looks like it”
The weather had been warmer and the snow was no longer as thick over the grounds. We trudged through the town and began to make our way to the woods. The trees were thick and the hill slanted down with large rocks poking out that made for good steps. I was walking next to Derrek behind Helena and Blake and I watched how Helena would slide her hand over the trunks of the trees, temporarily turning them from the dull frost covered bark to a rich brown colour with swirls of green moss.
If we ever got lost, it would be easy to find our way back if we just followed her trail of healthy trees. The more the hill dipped, the more the snow seemed to thin out and the rocks became more prominent. “Keep an eye out for anything” I called out.
“Like what?” Cara asked. Hmm... got me there.
“No idea... but maybe just some signs of the Elementals or disturbance” I answered. Suddenly Helena screamed and fell out of sight. She hadn’t been watching the ground and didn’t notice the hill practically turned down into a steep fall.
“Helena!” Derrek, Blake and I shouted.
Before I could do anything Blake threw his hand out and crystal blue flames shot out from his palm as he aimed it at the ground. The ground solidified into ice and he jumped onto it before sliding down the hill using the ice to slide down.
“Come on Sparky!” I shouted before following after Blake, sliding down his ice slide like a surfer riding a wave.
The rush of cold air whooshed past me as we slid down the slide towards Helena and I was surprised how steep the fall actually was! The ice thinned and I found myself stopping on the ground. Blake was kneeling down beside Helena who was leaning against a tree trunk. She was conscious and seemed a little dazed but otherwise looked fine.
“Helena! Are you okay?!” I called out as I ran over to her.
“Yeah...” She puffed out, “Just fine. My dignity might be a little bruised though...”
I smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. “How are you not badly injured after that fall?”
“She grabbed the trees and made them swing her down a little gentler” Blake answered for her.
Helena nodded but winced, “Yeah, but they’re still trees and I’m sure I’ll have a few bruises to brag about tomorrow”
We were joined by Derrek and the other Elementals but by then everything was fine. Instead, I looked around and my eyes widened at where we were. “Wow...” I breathed. We’d dropped down to face a giant pool of water at the base of a cascading waterfall. It wasn’t a majestic waterfall, but was big enough to look magnificent surrounded by rocks and snow.
“I bet that it would be great to swim in” I commented as I watched the spray of the water where the water crashed into the pool below.
“It’d be too cold” Sophia rebutted, eyeing the snow surrounding it.
Derrek stepped forward with a smirk painted on his face as a fireball grew bigger and bigger in his hand. “Not after I’m through with it” Quick as lightning, he launched his fireball forward. As it flew in the air he spread his hands apart making the fire grow even bigger. It collided with the water that fell into the pool and steam filled the air while the water temporarily bubbled. Once the flame had disappeared the steam continued to hover over the surface of the pool.
Derrek had just heated the entire waterfall and pool below!
He kicked off his shoes and tore off his shirt before taking a running start and jumping into the pool of water. The small waves that he’d made began to settle down and I started to worry when he didn’t return back to the surface but just as the thought came to my mind he burst through the rippling water and shouted to us.
“You don’t even understand how amazing this water is!”
In a matter of seconds the guys were following suit, throwing off their shoes and shirts while the girls ended up jumping in without shoes. I laughed and tossed my shoes aside before jumping into the water.
Even though Derrek had said that the water was warm, I didn’t expect it to be quite so comforting. It was like swimming in a bathtub. The water rejuvenated my body and calmed my mind. For a moment I let myself forget about the Elementals, Malum, our mission and absolutely everything. I lazily floated on my back while listening to everyone talking, shouting and laughing around me and I cracked my eye open when a splash of water hit my cheek.
I was faced with the waterfall. The watched as the water fell from the cliff above, watching as if it was falling in slow motion before speeding up just as it crashed against the glassy water below. A movement caught my eye instinctively I looked for whatever moved.
I frowned and moved off my back to tread water when I noticed a dark figure lurking behind a rock that was half hidden half way up the waterfall. I couldn’t see anyone... just the dark figure, just a shadow. I squinted, trying to see if there was anyone there when suddenly it shifted its position.
It almost looked as though the shadow was looking straight at me.
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