Ruey opened the door, ushering the two girls in and closing it again. Cressela looked astounded as Amber lead her into the main room, dimly lit by the lamp in the corner. Ruey picked up Celeste and put her in the bedroom, closing the door and offering them a seat. Amber sat on one end of the sofa, and after a little hesitation, Cressela sat on the edge of the sofa too.
“Amber, dear, who have you bought with you? Is it the girl?” he asked, a little confused.
“Yeah, um, this is Cressela - Cressela, this is my grandad, Ruey. She’s taken on a human form at the moment.”
Cressela looked up at her name but had a slightly puzzled look on her face, glancing around warily.
He nodded, turning back to Amber.
“What exactly happened, my child?”
“Well, I told her that I was there to help her, but I needed her to help me do it too, and that we could save her friends and the rest of her species. It did take some convincing though, but she stuck the house and everything with lightning, so I don’t think that it’s there anymore.”
He nodded in understanding, sitting opposite them and slipping his glasses on.
“Could you get her to show her true form, Amber?”
“Can you come out of your human form?” Amber asked, and Cressela rolled her eyes slightly.
"I'm not in a 'human form'," Cressela said, "this is what we look like unless our powers are active. That I can show you, though." And after speaking, her dark brown eyes morphed into completely black, tiny sparks crackling around her hands.
The pitch-black eyes were still unsettling for Amber to look at, but she found it easier to get used to the more she stared. Blood wasn’t trickling down her face as it was before either, nor was the white glowing colour in her eyes instead of black, which was a little confusing. After a few moments, the black was replaced by the natural brown, sparks disappearing.
Ruey didn’t seem terrified or judgemental on her appearance like anyone normally would be on seeing such an unnatural, dark being. He marvelled over her appearance, studying her face and form as Cressela stayed where she was, still a little tense.
“Incredible,” he murmured, intrigued, and Cressela smiled a little at the compliment.
“Amber said... you know where my friends are?” she told him, turning back to a human form.
“Yes,” he began, getting up and going over to his desk, Cressela still tracking his movements as he picked up a folded map and bought it back to them.
“Cressela, dear, where from here did you run away from?” he asked, handing it over to her. She concentrated hard as she studied it, then pointed at a minuscule point near the very edge of the map after several moments. Amber looked over, frowning as she read it out.
“Lotarke Brooke Island? I didn’t even know that was a place.”
“That’s the point. This inventor wanted to stay hidden, working on his projects completely undisturbed. And I believe that Lotarke Brooke,” Ruey said, as the girls listened, “had accidental nuclear leakage years and years ago. But it was so large and polluted that it was unsafe to live in, and no one’s been there since. It’s in the middle of nowhere, a very small place.”
Ruey sat back down in his armchair, perplexed. “Fancy that, I wouldn’t have guessed it at all,” he muttered to himself. Amber sat up straight, watching his expression, Cressela feeling a little more at ease, knowing that there was no potential threat here.
“How do we get there? By plane?”
Ruey shook his head, frowning.
“Too risky - and too expensive.”
“How did you escape, Cressela?” Amber asked, looking back up at her.
“Lightspeed,” she replied, “I can move at the speed of light. Insanis says.”
Ruey’s mouth was open slightly in wonder and astonishment, and Amber nodded slowly, impressed.
“Can you get me there too?”
Cressela thought about it, shifting a little in her seat.
“Something we can test, possibly.”
“For now,” Ruey said, standing back up and taking off his glasses, “we need rest. It’s very late at night. I’ve told Mazel and Theo that you’re sleeping over today, Amber.” He turned his attention to Cressela.
“Do you sleep, Cressela?”
She nodded. “A little.”
Ruey showed the girls to the spare room, where Amber had some of her things inside from her past stays. There were two single beds, one at each side of the room, which was just their luck.
“Right, I’ll leave you to it.” He smiled at Cressela, offering her his hand to shake, and she stared at it doubtfully.
“Thank you, Cressela. For coming to help. Very brave. We will make sure you are not hurt. We’re your friends.”
She processed his words for a moment before smiling a little and nodding, slowly putting out her hand too, flinching as it came into contact with his as he shook it.
“It’s a sign of respect,” he explained, letting go, and she nodded. He left the room, leaving Amber and Cressela alone. Amber sat on her bed, smiling at Cressela.
“How old are you, Cressela?”
Cressela sat with Amber, her eyes wandering about the room.
“Quite young. In humans’ years, seventeen.”
“Really? I’m sixteen,” Amber replied, interested, “but I am seventeen later this year.”
Cressela nodded, biting the inside of her lip as she looked at the door.
“Is he your father?”
Amber shook her head, smiling wistfully.
“No. My grandad. My dad died when I was very young.”
Cressela looked over at her, remembering her mentioning it back at the house in the woods.
“I don’t know. There was a war.”
Cressela frowned, cocking her head to the side slightly.
“What is war?”
“It’s where humans fight and kill one another because of something important that they want, or disagree on. It’s very bad.”
Cressela took in her words for a second before nodding.
“And your mother?”
“My mum,” Amber started, looking away, “she died after I was born. I wish I could have known her.”
Cressela nodded in understanding.
“My parents too, dead. Killed by humans. And my brother. I escaped, killed them.” Hurt and anger filled her expression as she recalled the traumatic event and Amber gasped in horror. Having to watch your family being killed before your eyes could quite possibly be the most painful, torturous thing to have to watch.
“I’m so sorry,” Amber said in compassion, “how did it happen?”
“It was a long time ago. Nothing they did, but humans found and were afraid. Because of our difference. They killed them with fire.”
Amber’s eyes were wide in disbelief. Fire? They were supposed to be immortal, weren’t they?
“But I thought that you couldn't be killed?”
Cressela shook her head.
“Your fire reacts with something in our blood. Insanis fixed most of us from it, but I got away before he did.”
“Do you like Insanis?” Amber asked her curiously.
“No,” Cressela spat, scowling, “he is horrible, crazy. Sometimes nice, but we are slaves to him. He makes us give birth to many, to over-populate humans, to take over. Kill them, and fill the planet with us.”
Amber froze, realisation hitting her instantly. That must be what he had meant by the threat in the newspaper article - killing off all humans, and filling the planet with his Cressela’s kind! She pushed it away for the night though, knowing that all she could do was talk to Ruey about it the next day and that there was no pint fussing over it right now.
“I’m sorry you lost your family,” Amber said, sighing, “you don’t deserve it. But you aren’t alone now. You have me.”
Cressela nodded, smiling almost fully.
“As a friend?”
“Yeah, as a friend. We’re going to find the rest of your kind and free them, and take you all to a safe place. Then we’ll decide what comes next. What do you think?”
“I think it will be very hard. You will have to kill Insanis, Amber. Very, very hard. He will torture and kill you, probably. But I will try to help.”
“Can you overpower him?”
“Probably not. But I will try. When we free them, we will still be friends? You won’t leave?”
“Of course we will! I won’t leave for anything. This is my new adventure, my new life. And I couldn’t be readier.”