The group passed the old library and entered an entirely new part of the town for the characters. The occasional passer-by on the street gave the oddly-dressed team some strange looks, but didn’t quite question it. They assumed the strangers with those two Maklif children were just some more magical creatures that may or may not exist out in the woods.
How convenient that we released magical creatures into a town that already believed in magic, Dylan noted. This would have been much harder if we did it at home.
“The post office is just around that corner,” Dylan pointed out the oncoming intersection.
“Do you guys feel anything yet?” Ella asked the characters, skipping beside Sofia.
“I don’t,” she sighed.
“Me neither,” Zach added.
Rebecca just shook her head.
Dylan groaned. “This is frustrating! At this rate, we won’t get all the pages for another ten years!” He noticed that Kyros was eyeing his backpack. “W-What’s wrong?”
The man blinked emotionlessly, looking away.
“Do you sense something?” Dylan asked.
“He can’t,” Rebecca spoke up for the ever-silent demon. “I would sense it too, right? The dragon, Sera, and Prince Zachary all felt when their page was near.”
“That makes sense. If it’s your story, you should feel it,” Ella agreed.
“Ugh!” Dylan squished his cheeks with his hands, his lips pursing like a fish and the skin of his cheeks forcing his eyes to squint.
“You look funny!” Ella giggled. Dylan frowned, releasing his face and pulling his sister into a headlock.
“You look dumb!”
“Ah! Dylan, let go!” Ella demanded, squirming under her older brother’s grasp. A familiar sound of a rickety old pickup truck grew louder as the dark blue car slowed to a stop next to the group. The characters tensed up, and Rebecca’s hand brushed against her sword. Dylan and Ella’s wrestling paused as the window rolled down.
“Mini Maklifs!” the man cheered. He was one of the rare youngsters in Cliffhaven, a whopping twenty years old. His black hair was tossed over an undercut, and had three piercings on his right ear, and a fourth on his lip. He looked like a real tough guy.
“Gilbert!” Dylan and Ella gasped, releasing each other.
“Ya know, I ran into y’all’s granny this mornin’ at the shop,” Gilbert said. “Told her about how I went and saw a centaur. She didn’t believe me, naturally, but I saw it for real, on my way to work.”
“A centaur…” Sera breathed, and finally caught Gilbert’s attention.
“Who are yer new friends?” he asked. “And why are they...dressed like that?”
“They...uh…” For a boy who had vast vocabulary, Dylan had trouble finding the right words.
“They’re magic too!” Ella blurted out.
“ELLA!” Dylan snapped.
“Really? Awesome!” Gilbert nodded with approval, the little SWOOP on his haircut bobbing happily. “You know, I knew there was magic in this town since I was a Mini Gilbert. My parents would go on ’n on ’bout the magic they’d seen when they were Mini Parents.”
Dylan and Ella looked at each other and grinned, having heard this tale before.
“They said the magic went and disappeared ’bout thirty, thirty five years ago, I can’t exactly remember the number,” Gilbert continued. “I’d never seen the magic myself, ‘till this mornin’!”
“I wonder why,” Lilith snorted, glancing up at Dylan, who stuck his tongue out.
“Wow! Is that a dragon?!” Gilbert hopped out of his truck. “It’s...tiny.”
“Convenient for travelling,” Lilith shot back, baring his fangs and clinging to Sera’s shoulder like a cat.
“And a pirate! Wow! Is that thing real?” Gilbert moved to point at Alex’s eye patch, but she swatted his hand away.
“This is insane. I knew magic was real!” Gilbert breathed. “Where have y’all been hidin’ all these years?!”
“No, no, we aren’t from here,” Sofia cut in. “Princess Sofia, at your service,” she introduced, falling into a curtsy before shaking his hand.
“The name’s Gilbert,” he shook her hand with enthusiasm. “A real princess, huh? That’s cool. And you’re a prince?”
Zach nodded. “Prince Zachary Akain, of Resembia.”
“That’s fancy,” Gilbert spun around, eyes meeting with Kyros. Even a confident man such as Gilbert would shrink under the demon’s gaze.
“Wow, that’s some get-up ya got there, pal,” he chuckled, stepping backwards. “S-So, how did you folks get acquainted?” he turned to Dylan and Ella.
“That’s an...interesting story that we’ll tell you all about,” Dylan said. “But first, we have to go to the post office,” he held up the envelopes. “Could you do us a favor and not tell Granny that we’re with them? She wouldn’t exactly like us hangin’ out with a buncha magic people.”
"I dunno..." Gilbert rubbed his prickly chin. "Doesn't sound awfully responsible..."
"Pleeeeaaaase?!" Ella and Dylan begged in unison.
"Granny doesn't believe in magic!" Ella pointed out.
“I understand,” Gilbert laughed, patting Dylan on the back. “I’d better set off, have fun goin’ to the post office! And watch out for any magical creatures that cross yer paths, we’ve seem to have an influx come in today. The beach is in an uproar,” he chuckled, shaking his head and opening up the door of his truck. Ella and Dylan looked at each other with surprise.
“The beach? Off the edge of the cliff?” Dylan asked. “What do you mean?”
“‘pparently it’s covered with mermaids, isn’t that somethin’?!” Gilbert laughed. “Pretty dangerous, mayor’s orders that no one goes down there.”
“Our grandpa,” Ella breathed. “He said no one could go down there?”
“Makes sense, mermaid’s are bitc-” Alex was cut off by a slap on the arm from Sofia, who nodded purposefully at Dylan and Ella. “Jerks. They’re jerks,” Alex corrected, rolling her eyes.
“You know about mermaids?” Gilbert gasped.
“Duh. Pirate,” Alex motioned to herself. “Mermaids are greedy little hoarders of everything shiny.”
“Like a shiny box?” Sofia raised an eyebrow. “Possibly containing memories?”
“Memories?” Gilbert questioned.
Alex’s jaw dropped. “Wow, Princess, you aren’t as dumb as you look.”
“Gilbert, thank you. Bye now!” Dylan practically shoved Gilbert back into his truck.
“The gears in your head are turning, small one,” Rebecca mumbled, looking down at Dylan.
“You bet they are,” Dylan breathed, grinning. “Let’s get to the post office.” He began to walk towards the building, with a rushed skip in his step.
“And then?” Ella asked, rushing to keep up with her brother.
“Next stop: the beach.”
“Oh yeah,” Alex sighed from on top of a pier. Behind them was an empty beach. Below them was a drop off into the water. “We’re close, I can sense it. It’s down there.”
“It seems creatures of the story are attracted to the pages, not just the main characters,” Kyros commented, both hands on his cane. “First the troll, and now mermaids.”
“So someone has to go down there?” Dylan asked, looking down at his reflection in the water.
“Yep,” Alex dug through her pockets. “Luckily, I have something to help with the whole...lack of oxygen situation.” She pulled out a bag of marbles. “We call ’em Pirate’s Gills,” she explained, holding it out for the group to study. “Swallow one of ’em like a pill, and you can breathe underwater for five minutes. Useful when getting treasure from underwater. Luckily, everything in my pockets survived the trip over, including this,” she pulled out a small bottle of rum.
“Convenient,” Sofia mumbled.
“I’ll just go on down there and be up in a pinch,” Alex said, kicking off her brown boots and bending down to peel off her socks.
“Wait, you can’t just go down there!” Sofia grabbed her by the wrist. “I’ve heard of mermaids from my parents, they’re very dangerous, they can-”
“Hypnotize you with their singing, I know,” Alex yanked out of her grasp. “I can handle it.”
“Have you actually ran into any mermaids?” Sofia asked.
Alex cleared her throat. “What kind of pirate do you think I am? Of course I have.”
“You’re lying!” Sofia crossed her arms. “I can tell. Pirates are just as greedy as mermaids, and thousands have died trying to steal from them. No one can steal from a mermaid and survive.”
“Wait, wait!” Dylan stepped between the two girls. “We’re stealing from mermaids right now, right?! This whole ‘not surviving’ deal would have been good information to share earlier!”
“Okay, okay, so I’ve never actually come face-to-face with a mermaid,” Alex admitted. “But as long as I don’t listen to their singing, I should be fine, right?”
“Pirates are easy victims of temptation, Captain,” Sofia warned. “And temptation is what mermaids do best.”
“I get you’re worried, Princess,” Alex snickered, taking Sofia’s hand. “But I’ll be fine.”
“Is it a crime to worry for a person’s life?” Sofia asked sharply.
“It is when it’s a pirate’s,” Alex winked, releasing Sofia and popping the Pirate’s Gill, taking a swig from her bottle of rum, and dropping her sack of marbles and the rum at the princess’s feet before diving into the water.