I run. Don’t ask me how, but looking only ahead, I keep running. The pain is excruciating and often slows me down but the adrenaline and burning desire to be as far away as possible by the time he wakes up keep me running. I go over the events in my mind. One minute my pitiful life is about to flash before my eyes and the next my brother – by blood and by no other sense of the word – is about five feet in the air, skidding across the kitchen like one of those spinning table top toys. And the door I am certain is locked suddenly slides open – by itself. Whatever did happen I am thankful, I only wish the miracle had continued long enough to heal my injuries.
Somehow, with the door open and Drake unconscious, I crawled into the garden, scraping myself on thorns and getting tangled in vines. I had no idea where I was headed, I just knew I needed to get far away.
I’d heard Drake stir and needed no further encouragement. Yanking myself up with the aid of a garden gnome, I pelted for the gate and haven’t stopped running. Until now. I am right by Beatrice Brook; underneath the broken bulb, and perhaps it is the beauty of the water, or my despair that the portal is not here, but I break down. Tears gush from me like a flushing toilet and I quite appropriately feel like the waste you put in one.
Sprawled on my back, not fully able to breathe, I allow ants and other insects to crawl over me. A frog hops onto my forehead and regurgitates. I close my eyes and soak in its heat. And then, drip by drip, the rain slowly begins to fall, washing away the only warmth I have felt in a long time. The fact that the loss of frog vomit upsets me saddens me even more. I have reached a new low and I am sure I cannot get any lower unless I dig my own grave.
‘Cheers.’ I salute the passing bum who has kindly tossed me a bottle of whiskey. I am not sure how long I have been lying here but the rain has come and gone in small and large bursts until eventually stopping altogether, and the moon has risen higher in the sky. By my guess it has been a few hours and I am certain I was unconscious for most of them.
‘Look like you need it kid,’ he grumbles as he pushes his trolley out of sight. It is not easy to will my hand to open the bottle but the promise I make that I will feel a lot better once I do – at least the pain will stop if I pass out – seems to help.
At last, I unscrew the lid and, though spilling a good amount down my front, I manage to get a large mouthful down my throat. The potent taste, mixed with the sensation of gulping liquid fire and of course the lying on my back to swallow, causes me to choke uncontrollably. Once my face is as red as it can be, though, and the tears have stopped streaming down my cheeks, I force myself to continue.
‘This is ridiculous.’ Yvane pulls her shawl tighter around her shoulders, glancing warily around as they skulk across the empty land; the moon and glowing stars lighting their way. ‘Going to the land of the Corporeal? How did you talk me into this?’
‘What if we’re seen by the Vildacruz?’
‘It’s been five years,’ Lexovia hisses. ‘I’m prepared this time. One thing I know, though, is that noise is a good way to get us caught.’
They continue on in silence, the only sound the rhythm of their feet.
‘Okay,’ Lexovia whispers, stopping as they eventually reach a cluster of trees. ‘This is far enough.’ She digs in her pocket, pulling out the gethamot the others had made; a thick golden ring about the size of her palm, and gently taps the thin sheet of glass in its centre. The glass begins to spin, slowly at first but then faster and faster until at last it stops and a small sliver of smoke creeps up from around its edge. Lexovia’s hands tremble but she wills herself not to drop the device. The smoke starts to twist and change, finally forming an arrow, pointing straight ahead.
Holding out her other palm, Lexovia’s eyes shine, ‘Iginassa Orob’. Immediately a ball of fire appears, twirling above her outstretched hand. ‘This way.’ she sets off into the forest and the others follow.
Howard wraps a reassuring arm around Yvane’s shoulders. No longer in Melaxous, and in fact without the faintest idea where they are, they follow the floating smoke arrow of the gethamot as it constantly changes direction.
‘Are you as confident as you seem to be?’ Milo whispers in Lexovia’s ear.
‘I’m confident I don’t want to get us killed.’
The force sends Yvane a good few feet ahead of the others as the Borum Wolf collides with her back and tackles her to the ground. She lands face down in the mud, inhaling leaves and mire, swivelling just in time to come face to face with the yellow fanged creature. She whimpers. The stench of the beast’s rancid breath is hot and enough to smother her and the weight of its oversized body presses her into the ground, a claw pinching her skin.
Knowing very well not to charge at a Borum Wolf, Milo does the next best thing and teleports right behind it. The clash temporarily distracts the hound, and acknowledging his cue, Howard taps into his inner Fuerté. He puffs out his chest and it promptly doubles in size. He flexes his arms and they too increase. Now stacked with rippling muscles, he lumbers towards the animal and grapples it in a headlock. The beast is strong. It writhes in Howard’s grip, twisting and gnashing its teeth. Howard’s jaw is taut as he squeezes tighter. His entire body trembles and his golden hair falls into his furrowed eyes. His veins bulge as if trying to burst through his skin, his bones crack and his cheeks colour.
Lexovia watches; slightly dazed, amazed by how powerless she feels when in truth she is the most powerful. The wolf howls and she flinches. No matter how prepared she felt before she is now almost paralyzed with fear, feeling once again like that twelve year old she had been, in the vampire’s grip, the night the Vildacruz first discovered she existed.
Milo is constantly teleporting to distract the Borum wolf and Howard is doing his best to detain the creature but their strength appears to be matched. The beast howls again, and this time its cry is greeted by several others from numerous directions.
‘We can’t do this much longer,’ Milo yells.
Lexovia inhales deeply. She knew a trek to the other side would not be easy but, apparently, imagining the worst and facing it are two completely separate things. She closes her eyes and concentrates on nothing but her breathing. At last she feels the familiar surge of power and her fingers spark amber. She tosses the ball of fire and only source of light, to the side, thankful when it collides with a shrub on the ground.
‘Spee’ad,’ she whispers, and her outline rapidly wiggles until she is nothing more than a transparent shimmer shooting towards them. She reaches Yvane in no time and instantly adopts her inner Fuerté, causing her body to double in size. She grabs Yvane under the shoulders and attempts to haul her up. Milo joins them, pulling on Yvane’s arms, but the wolf maintains its grip, snarling at them; drool dribbling down its fur. Lexovia pulls again and Yvane cries out in pain. It is clear that, if they continue this tug of war, she will be ripped apart, limb from limb.
Yvane shakes her head wildly, begging them to stop. Her cheeks are stained with grit and tears, eyes clenched shut.
‘Lexovia!’ Milo yells over the grunting and growling of those around them.
Lexovia sighs. One thing every Coltis knows is never to approach a Borum Wolf from the front, but with Howard yanking on its back, Lexovia sees no other option. She charges at it, welcoming the graze of its fangs on her shoulder as she rams it under the chin, clamping the jaw shut. Her added weight causes the animal to stagger. Howard fixes his arms tighter around the wolf’s neck, squeezing the life out of its glowing yellow eyes. Howls of other wolves echo through the night, getting louder as the wolves clearly get closer.
Lexovia glances at her already large hand and her eyes shine – the hand increases. This is a gift she owes to her Elentri heritage; a normal fuerté can only grow so large. Now her hand is almost too heavy for her arm to hold up but she raises it as high above her head as she can, then lets it drop with full force onto the Borum wolf’s head, smashing in its skull. The beast falls and Howard quickly scrambles from beneath it. Yvane hastily does the same.
‘You alright?’ Milo asks.
She nods but says nothing.
‘Remember when you said this trip was ridiculous?’ Howard pants, reverting back to his original form and collapsing into the mud, ‘well, I’m starting to think ridiculous may have meant suicidal.’
‘Did I not mention that?’ Lexovia jokes.
They chuckle; a little too enthusiastically as they try to make light of the situation, but they all know that their journey is still far from over.
Finally, the arrow stops spinning and instead points directly upwards. Lexovia props the new swirling orb of fire onto her shoulder and pulls the book, ‘Practicing Portals and the gethamot’, from her rucksack, flicks through a few pages and reads.
‘Once the denomatrix is at its lightest hue, a ray shall form and the portal will open.’ Lexovia observes the gethamot in Yvane’s grasp. Sure enough, the delicate green hand – the denomatrix – ticking anticlockwise is getting lighter. ‘Be warned: The portal stays awake for naught but a shimmer of a window. Those who wish to pass must pass as one.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘We hold hands and run.’ Lexovia snaps the book shut and places it back in her bag. Blowing on her shoulder she causes the ball of fire to disintegrate.Swoosh! The pale lime glow extends from the gethamot and the portal materializes. Beatrice Brook lies straight ahead. Grabbing hands, they run towards it and a strong force lifts them off the ground. The portal engulfs them and in an instant they are gone, yanked from one place and into another.