The war fan spiraled through the air, embedding into the neck of the straw, training dummy with a satisfying thwack. Five hits in a row. April couldn’t help but smile.
As she walked forward to retrieve her weapon, her eyes scanned the training yard, full of practicing soldiers, wondering if she’d finally be able to find a sparring partner, other than the guard captain, who wouldn’t treat her like glass.
Understanding that attacking her went against all their training and instincts didn’t make their hesitation any easier to accept. She was no delicate flower and would not be able to improve if no one was willing to challenge her. Some of the new recruits were on the overconfident, cocky side. Perhaps they could be goaded into taking her seriously and learn a little humility of their own in the process.
Tugging her tessen free of the straw target, she zeroed in on a few likely candidates and was making her approach when her breathless page rushed into the courtyard.
Sighing at the interruption, she turned to face the scrawny boy, not-quite-yet a man, looking ridiculous in his ill-fitting finery. To her irritation, he wasted time kneeling despite the clear urgency of his business.
Blushing furiously, he stood and blurted out his message. “The outlying villages are under attack. A barely-surviving refugee is on his way to entreat the king for assistance.”
“Good work.” She nodded to give the page leave, having trained him to specifically keep her apprised of military information. Her father, King Kirby, was more of a scholar king than a warrior and she’d discovered early on that her input was essential in matters of war.
She was all that kept her father on speaking terms with General Slash, their kingdom’s chief military advisor, whenever conflict arose. Admittedly, the gruff, warrior turtle was not the most patient of people and his frustration with her father for not being a man of action frequently bordered on insolence.
Not bothering to freshen up or even strip off her sweat-soaked leather armor, she made a beeline for the audience chamber, arriving just in time to see a battered gecko boy collapse before father’s throne. She took her place at his right side, opposite General Slash, who stood at his left.
Her father looked down in concern at the youth. “Speak…uh?”
“Jason, sir.” The young gecko answered as he struggled to pull himself into a kneeling position, despite his obvious exhaustion.
“Jason, tell us what happened to your village?”
The youth bowed his head respectfully. “Kraang soldiers busted into our village in full war armor, setting everything on fire and chasing everyone down. It was chaos.”
Her father paled. “How long ago?”
Jason thought for a moment, the days likely blurring together in his wild flight to the capital. “A week maybe. Just after dark.”
The king stood and began to pace in agitation.
Slash glared at the boy. “And how is it you survived?”
Jason broke out into a toothy grin. “I was away in the field practicing my moves for the harvest festival. Not to brag, but I’m pretty awesome.” The grin faded. “I was on my way back when I heard the screams and saw the village going up like a bonfire.” He looked away in shame. “I just ran.”
Slash’s expression softened. “You did the right thing. If you’d gone to help, you’d have only died with the rest of your village and we would have had no warning.”
April sighed. Unsurprisingly, the general’s words of comfort clearly hadn’t done anything to make the boy feel any better. She waved over some of the palace servants. “See that Jason is fed and given a place to sleep until we can get him sorted out.” They bowed and led him away.
Her father was now mumbling to himself incoherently.
“Dad?” He didn’t seem to hear her.
Slash looked about to take more aggressive action to get his attention when scout Pete flapped in through the audience chamber skylight, touching down in what could only be described as a tumble-splat, skidding to a halt before the empty throne. Sadly, it was one of his more graceful landings.
Slash immediately turned away from his frazzled liege. “Report.”
Pete popped up, giving Slash a winged salute. “The border villages along the boundary with the Kraang Empire are under attack.”
Slash growled. “Which ones?”
Pete blinked as he considered the answer. “Well…all of them?”
“Are the Kraang advancing on us?”
The bird-man shook his head. “Nope. Just skirmishes so far. And all the ruined villages I stopped at had something written on the largest building. It was the same everywhere.”
Slash crossed his arms over his chest, drumming his fingers along his bicep in irritation as the silence stretched out between them, before giving up and exploding at Pete. “Well, what was the word?”
Pete ducked his head shyly. “Uh, I couldn’t read it.”
Slash looked about ready to flatten him, when she stepped forward. “Pete, could you draw a picture of it, if given some paper?”
He chirped happily. “No need. I already did that.”
“Then why didn’t you say so?” Slash roared as the startled pigeon pulled a piece of parchment from his belt pouch.
April reached out and snatched the paper from his feathery hand, reading the word aloud in a barely audible whisper. “Prophecy.”
Her father froze.
She turned her full attention to him. “Do you know what this means?”
“No. No. No.”
Slash snorted. “Like ignoring it was gonna make it go away.”
It seemed like everyone knew what was going on but her. Furious, she grabbed the king by the shoulders before he could bolt into his study, which the look in his indicated would have been his next course of action. “Tell me.”
He avoided her eyes. “I can’t.”
“If you won’t, I will. Imprison me if you want.”
Her father glared at Slash for a moment before caving. “Fine.” He turned back to April. “When you were born, an emissary of the Kraang Empire appeared during the celebration and declared that you fulfilled a great prophecy of theirs. We were told that, upon your sixteenth birthday, you were to deliver yourself to them, unaccompanied by any of our soldiers or they would raze our kingdom to the ground.”
Her breath caught in her throat as she absorbed his words. “And you didn’t think to tell me this?”
Slash huffed out a dry laugh. “He forbid anyone from speaking of it to or around you, on pain of imprisonment.”
Tears sprung to her father’s eyes. “It doesn’t matter. I can’t, no I won’t, lose you.”
Squaring her shoulders, she reached out and grabbed his chin, meeting his reluctant eyes. “It is not your decision to make.”
“I will not allow our people to suffer for my sake. I leave at dawn.”
Her father began to panic. “Wait! If you must go, then General Slash and a company of…”
“It is forbidden. If I bring any of our military into their lands, they will be destroyed and I will lose my chance.”
“I will demand on honor duel with a champion of their choosing to earn my freedom. According to their customs, they cannot refuse. But I must abide by their issued command if I’m to have any chance of making such a request.”
“At least, Sir Leatherhead…”
“The only soldiers in our forces who could make any difference are too recognizable. I can’t take anyone.” She faltered when she saw the lost expression on her father’s face.
“I can’t let you. Perhaps our alchemist, that Rockwell fellow, can come up with…”
She placed a hand on his shoulder and shook her head. “You’ve known about this threat for almost sixteen years. If he hasn’t come up with some kind of magical defense for our kingdom by now, it’s not happening.”
He looked so broken. “But you can’t go. Not alone.”
She would not allow her resolve to weaken. “I must.”
His eyes brightened as an idea struck him. “As long as it’s not one of our soldiers, you won’t be in violation of ultimatum, right?”
She raised an eyebrow at him. “Yes…”
He straightened, taking on a more kingly posture. “Then I will only allow you to go, if you have a powerful ally to assist you. There’s talk that a legendary warrior has retired to the monastery at the base of Mount Byerly. You will seek him out and take him with you or you’re not going at all. Do you understand, young lady?”
Rolling her eyes, she responded. “Yes, father.”
A monk led her through the towering hall of the gothic stone structure towards the courtyard at the monastery’s center. On the way here, she’d heard many tales about this Master Splinter and his battle prowess, most of which were beyond belief. She couldn’t imagine what could have caused him to abandon his heroic life of adventure to settle for an austere existence in this boring prison.
Would he even listen to her? What would she do if he refused to aid her. Should she defy her father and continue on her journey alone?
Her ruminations were interrupted as she stepped out of the darkness of the monastery into the sunlight garden, momentary blinded by the sudden brightness. At the far end, beyond the rows of planted vegetables and herbs, sat a large rat-man, clad in a dark-red robe, calmly sipping a cup of tea. At least she assumed it was tea, the way it steamed into the cool mountain air.
He surprised her, not that she’d had any idea of what to expect as no story seemed to contain any actual description of the man. With a bow, the monk left her to her business.
Taking a deep breath, she strode towards him, careful not to step on any of the delicate young plants, just bursting through the soft, tilled earth as though it were early spring and not the height of summer. “Master Splinter?”
He turned his amber eyes towards her as she spoke. “Not many bother to seek me out anymore. Whatever you seek, look elsewhere.”
No way was she giving up that easily. “I am April, princess of the kingdom, New York.”
A small smile of amusement curved the corner of his mouth. “Do you think that you are the first royal to come here and make demands.”
Taking another steadying breath, she fell to her knees. “I demand nothing. The Kraang Empire threatens my kingdom and everyone in it unless I deliver myself to them. However, my father will only allow me to go if accompanied by a great warrior. As I am forbidden from taking any of our own soldiers, I ask, no I beg that come with me, so that I might save my people.”
Splinter stroked his long, thin beard thoughtfully. “You would go alone if not for this command?”
She held his gaze. “I would.”
He sighed. “I will not leave my seclusion.”
Her heart sank as she was now faced with the choice she’d been avoiding. Should she defy her father? Would he die of worry over her if she did? How could she do anything else?
“But I will send my student with you.” His voice shattered the spiral of her thoughts as she snapped back to attention. “You only required a skilled warrior, correct?”
She nodded, hope blossoming in her chest.
“I can vouch for his skill. Is this acceptable to you?”
“Yes.” She couldn’t keep the relief out of her voice. Pete wouldn’t know the difference, if she worded her return message properly and her father’s mind would be set at ease.
Splinter rose. “Come then.”
She followed him back through the monastery and out towards the open space against the cliff behind it. There a young, turtle warrior practiced his swordsmanship. Watching him, she had to admit that he was impressive. Master Splinter was not giving his word lightly.
The warrior stopped at their approach and bowed respectfully towards the rat. “Teacher.”
“At ease my student. I have a task for you.”
The turtle straightened attentively, his blue eyes shining with determination. “I am ready and will not disappoint you, sir.”
She sensed a mixture of pride and amusement in the master warrior as he nodded in acknowledgement, before gesturing towards her.
“This is Princess April of New York. She is on a journey to the capital of the Kraang Empire to spare her own people from invasion. You will accompany her there and back safely.”
The turtle bowed again. “As you will, sir.”
Splinter turned back to her. “Lady April, meet my apprentice, Leonardo.”
It was nearing evening when she and Leo finally arrived in the first small town on the way towards the Kraang Empire. To her amusement and slight annoyance, he’d immediately taken charge after setting off, despite her outranking him. She chose not to take it as a sign of disrespect, but rather as an essential part of who he was.
And she had to admit that he was as good at planning and tactics as he was at fighting. The route he’d chosen was efficient, but relatively safe, taking into account how the terrain might slow them and what potential hazards they were likely to encounter.
Too bad he still treated her as a liability rather than an asset. She could see how he might have that impression, given her status and her unblemished, custom-fitted half-plate as compared to his limited equipment which consisted of a helm, gauntlets and shoulder guards, dented, mismatched and possibly cobbled together by him. If he’d seen the armor that hers had been commissioned to replace, he might have given her more credit.
It didn’t help that she’d missed her chance to display her skills when bandits had swarmed them on the road earlier, but she’d been too busy struggling to breathe through a crippling bout of laughter when he’d called himself ‘the hero of justice’ before taking them down. She couldn’t be blamed for him being a bit ridiculous. It mattered not, she’d prove herself to him eventually.
Leo had suggested that they seek out other allies to join their group, if possible, and they’d heard talk of a powerful wizard in this area that might aid them, if they could convince him. He was said to be something of a shut in. Since they’d been told that his dwelling was some ways beyond the far side of the town, they’d opted to seek lodgings, rather than antagonize him by showing up unannounced in the middle of the night.
Their search for a suitable place to sleep was soon interrupted by the shouts and jeers of a gathering crowd.
“Where are you going?” Leo hissed as she veered off to investigate.
“I just want to see.”
“See what? A street fight?”
She glanced back over her shoulder, knowing how she might get him to cooperate. “And what if someone needs our help?”
Straightening to his full height, he tromped past her towards the crowd, blue cape swishing behind. She followed with a bemused smile, quickly catching up. They were trapped at the back of the circle of spectators, and she stood on her toes to see into the center.
There stood a large man, with short black hair, covered in markings of purple dragons. He appeared to be facing off with a dark-eyed young man, missing a few teeth, boldly wielding a shepherd’s crook. Cocky as he was, he didn’t look to be a match for the larger man.
Leo huffed. “As I thought. A street fight.”
As though his words triggered the action, the younger man charged in. Fast. His motion was so fluid, he seemed to be skating over the uneven cobblestones. The larger man rushed forward, thrusting a heel kick out towards the approaching youth with a piercing shriek.
But the younger man leaned aside, evading the kick by the narrowest of margins, while bringing the end of his weapon up to crack the wood solidly across the bridge of the big guy’s nose, causing him to stagger back.
Then the young man darted aside, flipping the crook down to use the curved end to launch a barrage of loose cobblestones at his opponent who shielded himself with his forearms. Taking advantage of the distraction, the youth dashed in, looping the curved end of the crook around his opponent’s ankle and yanking it back to flip the older man on his back before jabbing the other end at his neck, stopping an instant before it became a finishing strike.
“And hooking. You’ve lost.”
The man growled against the cheering crowd.
“He’s good. Should we recruit him?”
Leo frowned at April’s words. “He’s just a thug. What honor is there in street fighting?”
“You said we needed allies.”
He crossed his arms petulantly. “Not ones who would turn on us.”
In the circle, the younger man grinned down at his fallen opponent. “You’re finished Hun. Take your brigands and leave this town, as agreed.”
Hun angrily swatted the bottom of the staff away from his throat. “You haven’t heard the last of me boy.”
The crowd cheered as Hun stalked off, followed by several other men with similar body markings.
April gave Leo a sidelong glance. “You sure he’s untrustworthy?”
Leo sighed. “I may have misjudged him.”
She followed in Leo’s wake as he pushed his way through the excited crowd to approach the victor.
“A word if you would.”
The youth laughed. “Always time for my fans.”
Leo stiffened and his serious expression transformed into a full frown, but he kept going as though nothing were amiss. “We are on a journey and could use a warrior with your skills.”
“Casey Jones ain’t no guard or mercenary for hire. Fish elsewhere.”
Casey turned indignantly away from a fuming Leo, just as April broke through the crowd and managed to grab their recruit’s arm.
“Please wait. Our quest is for the sake of the kingdom.”
Whatever Casey was about to say, a retort by his expression, died in his throat as he laid eyes on her and his jaw fell open. He quickly recovered his cocky grin. “Well, why didn’t you say so, Red. I’m in.”
Leo jerked back. “What? Just like that?”
Casey completely ignored him, wrapping an arm around her. “And I know the perfect tavern where we can celebrate our new partnership.”
“Here we are. Home sweet home.” The barkeep looked up and smiled at Casey’s flamboyant arrival.
“Hey, my favorite bouncer is back. Take care of the Purple Dragons for good this time?”
Casey shrugged. “Think so, but…hey!”
They all followed his gaze to the turtle lounging in the back corner of the room. Dressed in animal skins and a horned helmet, he leaned back in his chair, feet on the table as he picked his teeth with a sliver of wood.
Casey tromped over. “That’s my spot.”
The turtle didn’t look impressed. “Didn’t see your name on it.”
Casey huffed, looking the turtle up and down. “Wouldn’t surprise me if you couldn’t read.”
Furious, the turtle pushed off the chair to stand on the table, holding his axe threateningly. “You got a problem with dwarven barbarians?”
Casey snorted out a laugh through his nose. “Dwarf? Really? Aren’t you a little tall for a dwarf?”
The turtle’s green eyes narrowed as he glared at Casey. “So what if they took me in. I’ll show you just how tough I am shepherd boy.”
Casey clunked the bottom of his crook on the floor. “Yeah. I’d like to see that.”
Just then, the doors burst open, to reveal Hun with several more purple dragons at his back. “Boy, it is time to teach you a lesson.”
Casey rolled his eyes. “What do I need to do to get rid of you guys?”
The turtle didn’t even bother sparing them a glance. “Get in line. I’m first.”
Hun took a fighting stance. “Kill the turtle too.”
Now he had the barbarian’s attention. “You want some of this? Fine. Let’s see how you talk when your spitting teeth.”
April looked over at Leo who shrugged and drew his sword, positioning himself protectively in front of her. Not this time. Snapping her battle fan open, she charged into the fray.
Faster, trained and experienced, she easily took out the three that had closed on her from the side seeking an easy target. The last one fell as she sliced his crude, makeshift dagger out of his hand and drilled a kick into his solar plexus.
Looking around, she noted that the other thugs had all been downed and Leo was finally looking at her with a new-found respect. That would make things easier. Beyond him, Casey and his barbarian comrade were congratulating each other.
“Did you see the way I took that guy down. It was epic.”
The turtle rolled his eyes at Casey’s excitement. “You only think that because you didn’t see what I did.”
Casey shrugged. “Eh, you weren’t bad.”
“Not bad?” The turtle bristled, but Casey wasn’t really paying his reaction much mind.
“You should come along with us. You might learn a thing or two.”
The turtle’s hand shot out, picking Casey up by his collar, though the streetfighter didn’t seem intimidated at all. “Listen you…”
Leo chose this moment to intervene. “I’m sure he is a fine warrior, but we really don’t need…”
The turtle dropped Casey to glare at Leo. “What? Don’t think I’m good enough for your little band? At least I’m not playing at being some kind of a knight.”
Leo’s eyes widened in shock before narrowing in fury. “I’ll have you know…”
The new turtle crossed his arms condescendingly as he spoke. “If you were a real knight, you’d be doing something about those border villages that the Kraang are annihilating.”
“Actually, that’s exactly what we are doing.” They all turned at the sound of April’s voice. “I’m heading into the heart of the Kraang Empire to stop it.”
The barbarian turtle grinned at her. “Now that sounds like my kind of a plan. Count me in.”
Before anyone could protest or comment, she nodded. “Welcome…”
His grin morphed into a smirk. “You can call me Raphael.”
April struggled to roll the stiffness out of her shoulders as she walked. She could now check sleeping in a tavern common room off her bucket list. She wasn’t sure how long after she’d fallen asleep that everyone continued celebrating their victory and new partnership, but it was probably a while as her allies seemed to be dragging a bit behind her while she trudged her way towards the wizard’s cottage.
Everyone in town spoke of him with a mix of awe and fear. Not that he’d ever attacked anyone. In fact, it seemed he was quite open to helping those who sought his aid. But, apparently, whatever spells he worked on could get a bit…explosive. So the townsfolk preferred to keep their distance.
The dwelling looked ordinary enough to her, if a bit large. She was just reaching to knock when… BOOM! The noise resounded from within the cottage and dark smoke spilled out the windows.
“Lady April, stay back.”
“Hey…” She didn’t even have a chance to get her protest out as Leo shoved her aside and barreled into the building through the billowing cloud. Casey and Raph charged in after him. With a sigh, she followed, waving the smoke out of her face as she went. Despite her inability to see, she followed the sound of strangled coughing.
“By Darwin’s beard, that was a mistake.”
The smoke was finally clearing and now she could see another turtle, attempting to dust the soot off of himself. Whatever contraption he’d been working on had shredded a skein of white fabric and blown it all over him. She had to stifle a laugh as the ones hanging off his face resembled a long, hoary beard, drawing attention to the gap in his teeth. He started mumbling to himself as he leaned in to examine the twisted tangle of metal and wood more closely.
Leo cleared his throat and the wizard snapped upright, fabric beard falling away and his brown eyes widening at the sight of a horde of strangers in his home. “Wuh…don’t lean on that!” He rushed forward but wasn’t in time to stop Raph from crushing something on the nearby table he’d chosen to lounge against.
Leo attempted to forge ahead despite his recruit’s distress and his own misgivings about the plan. “We are seeking aid on a quest to stop the Kraang Empire…”
“No, no, no. I have nothing for you. Now get out of my workshop before you break anything else!”
Recognizing that many of the creations in the room were cleverly done, even if she didn’t know what they were designed to do, April was not so quick to dismiss the wizard’s usefulness and pushed her way to the front. “Please. My kingdom is in grave danger and we could use your aid in saving it.”
He turned his head towards her to respond and halted abruptly, his jaw dropping open. She wasn’t even sure he was still breathing until…
Oh, of course. How rude of her. “I am April, princess of New York and heir to the throne.”
Still looking star struck, he smiled widely. “April. What a beautiful name. I’m Donatello, but you can call me Don or Donnie or whatever you’d like really. So what brings you out this way?”
She blinked. He’d seemed so smart a minute ago. What happened? “My quest to save my kingdom.”
Donnie flushed red as he slapped a hand over his face. “Right. Of course.”
He quickly threw on a purple robe and pointed, purple hat, grabbing up a quarter staff with a chunk of glass tied to the end. “So, when do we leave?”
April walked uneasily through the wood as Donnie strode beside her, deliberately slowing the pace of his long stride to not overtake her as he prattled on about the history of the forest, said to be haunted by spirits of nature that kept everyone out.
All she knew was that straight through it would save her days of travel. Days in which her people were not being attacked. Beyond the wood lay the Kraang Empire and the end of her quest.
“Halt intruders!” She froze, realizing they were surrounded on all sides by warrior frogs. Apparently the guardians of the forest weren’t as spiritual as everyone thought.
Raph laughed. “Really? ‘Halt intruders?’ These guys sound like Leo.”
Leo’s head snapped towards him. “What? I do not!”
A slump-shouldered, gangly frog dropped down from the trees in front of them. “I am General Napoleon, the greatest warrior in all the realms, ever. You might have heard of me.”
A bow-wielding turtle in a feathered cap and green tunic and a burly, armored frog with a mustache dropped down beside him. The turtle flipped about, striking a dramatic pose. “We’re the legendary elves of the forest, yo.” His makeshift ears, swished about his head as he moved and they all gaped in disbelief as the mustached frog rubbed his head and groaned.
Napoleon remained focused on them. “What are you doing in my forest?”
April recovered enough to speak before anyone else. “We are on a journey to the Kraang Empire to stop them from invading.”
Napoleon shrugged. “Then go around. This is our forest.”
Raph stepped forward angrily. “What? The Kraang’ll be coming through here too, ya know!”
Napoleon shrugged again. “So. We can handle them.”
The mustached frog seemed taken with a sudden idea and approached eagerly. “My general…”
“Geez…what is it Genghis. I’m making proclamations here.”
Apparently, accustomed to dealing with Napoleon, Genghis forged on with his suggestion, undeterred. “While of course we can deal with the Kraang, but why should we waste our resources doing so? It costs us nothing to let these strangers pass.”
Napoleon nodded thoughtfully.
“And to prove that our decision is based in wisdom, rather than cowardice, we could send one of our warriors to demonstrate the skill and power of our clan. I propose Michelangelo.”
The turtle hopped up and down. “Woohoo! I win! Wait, what?”
Napoleon sighed dramatically. “I guess you have a point. We can send are second most awesome warrior after me. Mikey, show ’em how we do it.”
The bouncy, little turtle excitedly darted forward and threw his arms around Raph and Casey. “Road trip!”
Leo stepped forward cautiously. “While we appreciate your willingness to help, I’m not sure…”
Napoleon’s eyes narrowed. “Are you insulting us by throwing our generosity back in our faces.”
April could see the frogs in the trees draw back their bows expectantly. “No, no, no. Of course not.” She shoved Leo aside as she spoke. “We’re happy to have him.” Turning nervously towards Mikey, she gave him what she hoped was an encouraging smile. “Welcome to the quest.”
It had been a long road, but she was finally here, trusted friends and allies at her side. She marched up to a massive Kraang, seated atop a throne-like pedestal on a dais, with a scarred and armored, smaller Kraang standing guard beside it, whose voice grated on her nerves when he finally spoke. “What is this? You were supposed to come alone.”
April straightened her shoulders. “No, you said not to bring my soldiers. You never said anything about my friends.”
It waved its tentacles in irritation. “Whatever. All of you bow before Kraang Prime, your new lord and master.”
“Hold. I’ve honored your request. Now, by your ancient traditions, I demand a duel.”
Before the Kraang advisor could protest and cause her teeth to grind, Kraang Prime waved a tentacle to intervene. “And what would you ask of us if you win?”
She smiled. “The freedom for my friends and I to return home.”
Kraang Prime shuddered slightly. “We agree.”
“What? We got them right where we want them…”
“Silence Kraang Subprime. We agree, but if our champion wins, you must cooperate with anything we ask of you. Anything.”
Swallowing hard, she nodded, hoping she didn’t regret this decision.
It tapped its massive tentacles together. “Excellent.” Kraang Prime turned back to someone whom she couldn’t see. “Do what you want with the others, but leave the girl alive.”
“With pleasure.” The deep, answering voice sent shivers up her spine and she couldn’t help an involuntary step backwards as the figure, armored in blades, stepped up onto the dais.
Kraang Prime shuddered excitedly again. “Princess, you and your friends face the Shredder.”
Trying to ignore the lump in in her throat, she drew her war fan and took a steadying breath.
“Come at him from all sides simultaneously. If you can’t land a hit, draw focus to give someone else an opportunity.” She could hear Leo’s whispered voice behind her.
The Shredder charged in. Peripherally aware of the others attacking, she had no attention to spare for anything but her own part in the battle, having to trust in their ability to pull them through this fight she’d dragged them into.
She approached her opponent head on, feinting a groin attack, before switching direction, to slash at his exposed eyes. He hadn’t bought her bluff at all, swatting her attack aside before plowing an elbow into her chest. She could feel the force of his strike reverberate through her, barely mitigated by her body armor, as she flew backwards in a tumbling roll.
With great effort, she managed to stop her motion on her feet, still sliding back across the sandy ground, but the shock of the hit left her trembling and barely able to move. Her body simply refused to respond properly to her brain’s commands.
Cries of pain and frustration drew her focus back towards the fight. To her dismay, she saw her comrades sprawled about the ground around their opponent, not completely out, but definitely in rough shape.
The Shredder caught an arrow, launched by Mikey, with one hand, just before it flew into the eye slit of his helm, while he used the other to hammer-fist Raph into the ground before launching him away with a kick as he came back up on the rebound.
The Shredder eyed them derisively as each fallen warrior struggled back into standing position. “Was this supposed to be a challenge? Enough. Now you die!”
Time seemed to slow as he initiated a lethal assault against Donnie and Casey, the two closest to him and her heart clenched. Her allies. Her friends. Maybe even something more. No!
Her mind lit up as what felt like a web of fire charged along its channels and she screamed, blasting an unseen force into the monster before her. His eyes widened in shock as the targeted, concussive blast, momentarily immobilized him.
That moment was all everyone needed. Five attacked as one, taking the Shredder down to the dismay of the Kraang crowd surrounding them. Looking from Leo to Casey to Raph to Donnie to Mikey, she realized it was over. She’d won. They’d won. New York was finally safe. She could go home with her new friends and…
Something hard abruptly connected with her chin.
April snapped awake to the sight of Mikey’s foot in her face, spilling popcorn onto the floor as she jerked head back away from the stinky triplets as he called them. Mumbling incoherently, he rolled over onto his plastron, somehow balancing on the edge of the couch as he snuggled his face into an armful of cushion.
The lair’s television was rolling the credits of the final movie in their Master of the Circlets marathon. It looked like she wasn’t the only one who’d passed out during the sixth film as Casey and the turtles, decked out in the LARPing costumes, lay sprawled and snoring around the room.
Yawning and stretching, she couldn’t help but smile at the whistling breath escaping through the gap in Donnie’s teeth as he slept on the couch on her other side. Well, no reason not to enjoy the moment.
Chasing away the remnants of her bizarre dream, she cuddled up close against him and he reflexively wrapped his arms around her. As she drifted back to sleep, she vowed never again to eat homemade Mikey-pizza ever again. Her life was strange enough without crazy, food dreams. Even if it had been kind of fun.
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