By Rose MorningMist and Raven Mistycloud
I wait impatiently in line for my explosive dealer to finish up with his other customer. What is with this guy? How many other people are trying to buy kegs of dynamite in Maple Tree Hill? In the whole Hollow, for jingle’s sake?
I not-so-subtly glance at the watch on my wrist for the third time.
“All done now, ma’am. How may I help you?” The greasy-looking man who just interrupted my annoyed pouting asks.
Quietly, I pull him into a secluded corner underneath a stray bough of the large maple this meadow is named after.
“Why all the secrecy, ma’am?” Jed asks. I scoff.
“Cut the act, Jed. A friend recommended you, I know what you sell. I need all of your biggest and best firepower. Big explosives. Ones that go BOOM!” Here I make an exaggerated explosion motion with my arms, attracting some attention from the other pixies in the meadow.
“Okay, okay, sweetheart. Don’t hurt yourself.” Jed chuckles, grabbing my wrists and pushing them back to my sides.
“I can you get what you need, but it will come at a price, darling.”
“It’ll be worth it.”
“Rose! Big news!”
My sister Ruby MorningMist flies into the Pixie Elite Force HQ at full speed, skidding to a stop in front of me. I look up from the book I was reading and swing my legs off the armrest of my favourite chair.
“What is it?” I ask, closing the book and getting to my feet.
She speaks so fast I can barely make out what she’s saying.
“Whoa, slow down, sis. What’s happening?”
I watch as Ruby takes a deep breath, and starts again.
“Ok, so I was collecting ingredients in the meadows for this potion I’m working on, and I happened to overhear a conversation at Maple Tree Hill between some fairy and sparrowman. They were acting all secretive and stuff, so I hid before they saw me and – hang on, give it a sec, I took a Mist Memory.”
Mist Memories are a specialty of ours. It’s a handy little trick us water fairies can do by creating a fine mist to capture a particular moment, like a recording. The memory then condenses into smaller form – a bubble, usually – until ready to be viewed again.
The only downside is that they’re exceptionally slow, and can only be popped by the caster.
Sure enough, about 30 seconds later, the transparent sphere bobs into Headquarters. Hastily, Ruby flies over and raises a finger to burst it. The bubble explodes into a shower of mist, and an image slowly begins to form. I move closer to the Memory and lean in to watch.
I flutter my wings even harder, trying to get home with this crate before I’m spotted by a Never Council scout. I’d like to stay off any watch lists, thank you very much.
When I told Jed I wanted his best firepower, he took me seriously. Very seriously.
This is crate three. I’ve still got two more to lug home.
I’ll have to find somewhere good to hide all this stuff. Goodness knows I wouldn’t want Sarah or Sophie snooping around, blowing things up.
I watch the two figures talk to each other. One’s a grubby looking sparrowman with black powder smeared all over his overalls. The other is a garden fairy with tanned skin and flaming red hair. She’s wearing an icy blue dress with tall black boots. I watch as she pulls the sparrowman out of sight. The Memory moves closer so that snippets of their conversation can be heard.
“Cut the act… Friend recommended you… Your best firepower. Big explosives… Go BOOM!”
The man laughs. “…Will come at a price.” He says. The fairy’s response sends chills down my spine.
“It’ll be worth it.”
The Mist Memory dissolves, and I turn to Ruby.
“Gather up the Heads.” I tell her.
“But Rose – it’s nearly Christmas. They’ve all on holidays.”
“Tell them it’s a Class A emergency. This could be important.”
Ruby nods. “On it.” She says, and then flies out the door.
I’m just storing the last of the crates in a knothole behind my house when I realize I’m not alone anymore.
“What is that?” Sophie questions loudly.
I jump about a foot in the air, and then not-so-casually pull a leaf down onto the crates and sit on top of them, trying to hide them from view.
“O-h, um. Nothing.” I reply in a high-pitched voice.
Sophie looks at me suspiciously, then she gives me her best I-know-you’re-up-to-something-and-I-don’t-really-want-to-find-out glare. I gulp loudly, and fiddle nervously with the end of my ponytail.
“Well, you see–um, well…” I search for a reasonable explanation as to why I am hiding large, unlabeled crates in a hidden crevice behind my house. I find none.
“Nevermind. Anyway, I wanted to let you know, I got those extra invites for you.”
“Oh, thanks. Also, please keep away from the crates. And whatever you do, keep them away from open flame!”
“So you think this fairy could be an ally to Jack?”
I nod. It’s twenty minutes later, and I’ve just explained the situation to four of my most trusted friends: Lily, Head of Healing, Isabelle, head of Disguise, Rachel Citrusstream, Head of Spells and Magic as well as current acting Second in Command and Victoria, Co-Founder of the PEF.
“Perhaps. Or perhaps she isn’t. Either way, she could be a threat.”
“Fair enough.” Replies Izzy.
Victoria frowns. “What did she look like?”
“Tall, with flaming red hair and an interesting sense of fashion.” Says Ruby. Rachel’s eyes widen.
“Tanned skin? Probably a garden fairy?”
I nod again. “You know her?”
“Yes – that’d be Raven. She throws the best parties. I’ve been to quite a few – but she’s never really seemed, well, traitorous.”
“Looks can be deceiving.” Interjects Izzy. “Look at Jack.”
“I reckon it’s better to be safe than sorry.” Says Lily.
“Exactly.” I say. “After all, what’ve we got to lose?”
“Only our holiday.” Mutters Rachel. I ignore her comment.
“I don’t suppose Raven would be having a Christmas party, by any chance?” I ask her. She nods.
“Yes, in a few days’ time. She’s giving out invites to just about everyone she comes across. Says it’s going to -” She stops in mid-sentence, eyes becoming as round as blueberries.
“What?” I ask. “What is it?”
She swallows. “She said it’s going to be a blast.”
I stamp the last invite left and put it in my messenger bag to take to the Pixie Post Office. I absolutely cannot wait for my party. All my friends are coming! And some people I don’t even know.
Basically, I invited anyone who would take an invitation. Lots of people on their way to Havendish Square ended up with an unexpected invitation from a very pushy redhead.
What can I say? I’m charismatic.
Anyway, I’m letting Sophie take the invites to the Post. I’ve got a lot of bigger things to do, including buying decorations.
I’ve also got another problem. Now that Sophie knows I’m hiding something, she’ll try to figure out what.
Don’t let the blank looks and demure attitude fool you, she knows a lot more than she lets on. And that could be a big problem…
I stand in Phoebe’s Party Favours, pretending to be entranced by a set of silk banners and not the slightest bit interested in the red-headed fairy who I now know as Raven, who has just entered the shop. I turn on my earpiece.
“This is Rose reporting back to the PEF HQ – the suspect has entered the shop.” I say quietly.
“Right.” Carrie’s voice talks through my com. “Try and engage her in conversation. She’s a big talker, so if you can strike up a convo, she’s likely to mention the party.”
“Ok.” I whisper. I look up and casually glance at where Raven is standing. Here goes nothing…
I walk into Phoebe’s Party Favours and hang my light jacket on the rack by the entrance.
I’m here so often, I practically have my own tab. Actually, that’s not a bad idea.
I walk over to the lanterns and begin sifting through, trying to find the best winter lanterns in stock.
The shop is empty, apart from a water fairy in one corner, looking at the decoration displays. She has jet black hair and wears a purple top from the butterfly fashion collection ages ago, and matching leaf trousers.
I remember that butterfly collection. Oh, those were good times. Anyway, enough reminiscing, I’ve got a party to throw!!
As casually as I can, I take a handful of silk banners down from the shelf. My plan is simple: take a couple of different banners over, and ask Raven for suggestions. They’re longer than I expected – three of them fall off the shelf and pile into my arms. They’re also heavier than I thought. I stagger slightly trying to regain my balance, but accidentally stumble over one of the long bits of silk that’s fallen out of my arms and is dragging along the floor. I feel myself trip not-so-gracefully backwards…
… Falling straight into Raven, who’s walked up behind me.
As I turn around to put the lanterns I’ve picked out on the counter, I see the same water fairy who was looking at a colourful display of banners now wrapped up in them.
She seems to have accidentally pulled down too many banners. I rush over to her, thinking that I could catch her, but I’m too late.
She tumbles over backwards, pushing both of us to the floor.
I try to sit up.
“That was quite the tumble we took.” Says Raven, dusting off her skirt.
“Yeah, no kidding. You ok?”
“Ever fallen off one of the balloons they take to the mainland? Now that hurts.”
”How did you manage that?” I ask, raising an eyebrow.
“I was leaning out the side, trying to wave goodbye, and I dropped my scarf. So, naturally, I dived out after it.”
I laughed. “I heard a rumour about a fairy who fell out of a pixie dust carrier a while ago. I didn’t know it was actually true, though.”
“Well, I guess my reputation precedes me.” Raven says, flipping a lock of red hair over her shoulder.
The two of us get to our feet.
“I’m Evie,” I say. It’s the cover name I’ve decided to use whilst I’m on this mission, and comes out as smooth as honey.
“Raven.” She holds out a hand to me, and I shake it.
“I suppose I should make up for the fact that I almost broke your leg,” I say. “Care for a smoothie?”
“So, tell me Evie, what was the reason for so many silk banners?”
It’s half an hour later, and I’m sipping my strawberry smoothie in the Tearoom. Evie sets down her barely touched chocolate one and shrugs.
“Well,” She says, “I was hoping to top up on Party decorations before Phoebe closes up for the year.”
“You’re throwing a Christmas Party too?”
Evie shakes her head.
“No, I was going to throw one in the New Year.”
“Really? That sounds like fun!”
”Yes, I’m looking forward to it. I take it you’re throwing one for Christmas yourself?”
I can feel myself blushing just a bit.
“We-eell, it’s going to be awesome. I had my friend Sophie send out all the invites, and I’ve gotten the decorations and the….” I let that sentence go unfinished, aware my big mouth almost blabbed away the best part.
“Hey, how rude am I? How would you like to come to my Christmas party? I think I have an invitation right here!” I fish around in my messenger bag, trying to find one of the last invites I stamped.
“You know what, why not? I could do with a break.” Says Evie, smiling. “What’s the date?”
“By the Second Star, you’ve just got to wear this one.”
It’s the night before Raven’s party, and Izzy, Head of Disguise, and Ruby are raiding my wardrobe to try and find a suitable outfit. Ruby holds up the red dress I bought ages ago from the strawberry collection. It’s long, studded with strawberry seeds and has a green flowered sleeve.
“No.” I say, shaking my head. “Just no.”
“Come on Rose, you can’t just show up in your purple top and pants.” Said Izzy. “And it’ll be too cold to wear that short blue dress you got from the Post Office.”
“Yes, but it’s just too… I don’t know, Summer-y.” I say, fiddling with my ring.
Ruby raises her eyebrows. “It’ll be fine. Izzy, can you work your magic to alter the dress match Raven’s Christmas theme?”
Izzy smiled. “No problem.” She takes the dress from Ruby and leaves the room. Ruby places her hands on her hips.
“Come on, spit it out.” She says.
She rolls her eyes at me. “You only fiddle with that ring when you’re nervous. So spit it out. What’s bothering you?”
I sigh, and sit down on my bed. “I don’t know, Ruby. It’s just… A lot of things could go wrong tomorrow.”
“C’mon sis, you’re a natural at this sort of stuff.”
“Perhaps, but I just have this gut feeling that something bad is about to happen.”
“Calm yourself, Rose. After all, that’s what we’re going to be there for. Now, come help me pick out some shoes.”
I put on a mint coloured hat with red feathers on it and inspect myself in my full length mirror.
I turn around and face Evie, who is sitting on my bed.
“So, what do you think?” I say, twirling the hat around a bit.
Evie frowns. “Not bad… But if you’re wearing that, you should probably wear your hair down so it isn’t hidden in your hat.”
“True, true. Do you think I should wear a headband instead?”
“I think so – try the blue one.”
“Good idea, Evie!”
I pull a dark blue headband out of the top drawer of my chestnut dresser, and put it on.
“I like this one a lot better.”
Evie smiles. “It definitely suits you.”
I look at myself in the mirror.
Overall, I’m wearing a fairly simple navy blue shirt & skirt combo. Evie is wearing a long, simple strawberry red dress, with matching heels and a poppy headband, which stands out against her pale skin and jet black hair.
“You ready?” I ask Evie.
“As I’ll ever be,” She replies. “Hey, before we go downstairs, can I use your bathroom?”
“Sure! It’s just down the hall!”
I stand in Raven’s bathroom, cursing Ruby’s choice of shoes. The party hasn’t even started, and my feet are already killing me. Sighing, I put in my ear com and turn it on.
“Rose to HQ. Any updates on finding the explosives dealer?”
Ruby’s voice comes through.
“Yes, we have – his name is Jed. Victoria did some research and found evidence that he’s done deals with Jack before.”
Cold dread rushes over me. “Ok. Give Victoria my thanks.” I check my pocket watch.
“The party is about to start. I can’t talk for long. Is Rachel ready?”
“She’s getting changed now. You’ll be hooked up to her com too, so you guys can communicate throughout the party.”
“Excellent. I’ll give you hourly updates so you know I’m ok. Tell Rachel -”
There’s a knock on the door. I stop talking abruptly.
“Evie?” It’s Raven. “Hurry up – the party’s about to start!”
“Coming!” I call. “I’ll talk later,” I whisper into the com.
“Ok, just be careful.” Says Ruby.
“I will. Over and out.”
“Are you in there, Evie?”
Just as I’m about to knock a second time, a bright and cheery looking Evie opens the door and steps out.
“I’m ready. Have any other guests arrived yet?”
“Nope, but they should be here soon!”
Evie and I walk down the grand staircase into the main parlour (read: living room). The whole room is decorated extravagantly with snowflakes, courtesy of a couple frost-talents I know. Icy blue silk banners are strung up above the doors, and wintery lanterns hang from the ceiling.
“Great job on the decor.” Says Evie.
I rush towards the door as I hear the first fairies knocking.
Grabbing the heavy golden handles, I throw open the doors.
“Welcome to my party!”