June 23, Early Morning
“Rose? Rose, wake up! By the Second Star, I feel sorry for Ruby – how does she get your lazy wings outta bed everyday?”
I groan and sit up, rubbing my eyes. “She doesn’t, usually. Only when she’s really persistent.” I check my pouch and satchel haven’t fallen out of the balloon carrier whilst I was sleeping. Fortunately, they haven’t. “What’s up?”
“We’re about to land!” Exclaims Raven excitedly.
“You’re way too excited about this. When was the last time you got a Summons?”
Raven turns away and leans out over the edge of the carrier, smiling wistfully.
I frown, but decide not to press her. I suppose she has a right to be excited, after all. It’s not every day you get to visit the Mainland. Yawning, I pull out Izzy’s wand and wave it over my PJ’s, the blue turning to the usual purple.
“Well, Izzy will be pleased,” I say, breaking the silence. “Her wand still works, even here.”
“And it doesn’t catch fire? She’ll be so proud.”
I laugh. “She will be. She talks about this thing like it’s her only child.”
The balloon carrier begins it’s descent, and I hear someone shout out from below. “New Summons coming in to land!”
The carrier lands on the forest floor with a jolt, and Raven and I clamber out with our luggage. A blue-haired sparrowman walks towards us.
“Fly with you!” He says, pulling a piece of paper out of his pocket. “I’m Cecil Quicksand. What are your names and talents? I need to check you off.”
“Uh… I’m Rose MorningMist, Water Talent,” I tell him. “And this is Raven.”
“Garden talent!” Raven supplies helpfully.
“Hmmm…” Cecil runs through his list, his eyes narrowing. “Nope, I can’t see your names anywhere on here.”
“What?” I say, shocked. I know Raven won’t be on there, for obvious reasons, but I should be on the list! “Maybe you missed it?”
Cecil frowns, but then shrugs it off. “Probably. I’ll find it later. Someone may have just forgotten to add it on. Happens all the time. Anyway, I’ll show you to your tent.”
I sigh with relief. “Thanks,” I say. “Come on, Raven.”
June 23, Late Morning
I pause from planting a cluster of pickerelweed and look in the direction of the new voice. One of the animal-talents in this camp, Vanillavine, is running towards me.
“Yeah?” I say, standing up so she can see me better amongst the lilac coloured flowers.
“Dal-, oh, there you are!” Vanillavine says, facing me.
“A barn swallow’s caught in a blackberry vine!”
“Oh my wings!” I exclaim. “Is it hurt? What should I do?”
“Cut it back! Hurry!”
I turn around and run towards Tiny and my shared tent, nearly tripping as I go.
Once at my tent, I throw open the flap and gasp. My suitcase has been opened, and the contents are strewn about the floor. My clothes are in a messy pile on the floor, and my stationery set has been dumped on our table. The bottle of ink that comes with it has spilled, a large puddle seeping into the table.
Shaking my head in disbelief, I find my thick weeding gloves and run out the door. I’ll have to deal with that… mess later.
June 23, Late Morning
Once Cecil, the blue-haired hunk of a sparrow man leaves us to unpack, I throw myself onto the bed closest to me at the same time Rose throws her bag at it.
“Ow!” I shout as it hits me in the face.
Sitting up angrily, I rub my throbbing eye and look at her.
“What was that for?”
“Sorry.” Rose winces, and picks up her bag, setting it down on the bed opposite instead. “I’ll take this one then.”
Sinking back into the bed, I push my shoes off my feet.
“So…” I begin, stretching out. “Unpack first, then find Dalila?”
Rose sits on her bed and opens up her bag. “Sure. I’ll read the instructions Ruby left us for the locator potion.”
“Okie dokie!” I say, opening my suitcase.
Humming, I pull out my own pillow and set it on the bed. Once I find it sufficiently fluffy, I turn around and begin pulling my clothes out.
I shove my shirts, pants, skirts, and shorts into the two lowest drawers of our dresser. My shoes are placed neatly in a row by the entrance of our tent, and my makeup bag gets tossed onto a rickety nightstand.
I grab the only remaining items in my suitcase, two polka-dot print dresses.
“Hey, Rosy Posy, do you have any hangers? I forgot to pack mine.”
Rose doesn’t reply immediately, so I turn around. Rose is still leaning over the instructions, completely tuning me out.
“Fine, I guess I’ll just have to wear wrinkly dresses.” I say, pouting.
Rose doesn’t look up. I narrow my eyes at her, glaring so hard I’m sure she can feel it.
Finally, my (little) patience snaps.
“Rose!” I shout, throwing a pair of socks at her.
“Hey! What was that for?”
“You weren’t listening to me!” I snap, crossing my arms over my chest. “Shouldn’t you have gotten that figured out already?”
“Oh… Right – Sorry, I’ve got a lot on my mind.” She rummages through her pouch, producing two folded up cardboard coat hangers. “Here, will these do? I still have them in here from a mission a few months ago.”
“Thanks!” I take the makeshift hangers and hang my dresses on them.
“Oh, and don’t call me Rosy Posy.”
I stick my tongue out at her. “Anyway, what do the instructions say?”
“Well,” She begins, “It says here that we have to pour some over something that belongs to the person we’re trying to find, which in this case is the diary. Supposedly, the object will grow warmer the closer you get to the person.”
“So, sort of like that Clumsy show you’re always watching?”
“Yeah, I think that’s what she based it on,” Says Rose, grinning.
“Well,” I say. “Shall we find ourselves a Dalila?”
June 23, Late Morning
Carefully, I uncork the locator potion and tip it onto Dalila’s dairy. The liquid sinks into the leaf-bound cover almost instantly. My fingertips tingle as I pick it up and hand it to Raven, who begins to slowly rotate in a circle.
“Is it getting any warmer?” I ask anxiously.
“No… Wait!” She stops abruptly, facing the tent entrance. “This way!”
I follow Raven out of the tent and away from the camp. Every now and then she stops, changes direction and keeps going. It isn’t until I notice the trees growing further and further apart from each other that I realise something’s up.
“Uh, Raven…” I say.
“What?” She stops in mid-air and turns to face me.
I nod my head at the clearing behind her. “Look.”
The clearing is massive, and seems to be some sort of play area for Clumsy children. There’s benches for the adult Clumsies to sit on and big metal structures for the children to climb all over. There’s a constant rumbling sound in the distance, occasionally accompanied by honking sounds.
“That’s impossible. The Ordinem Forest can’t end here. You said that Dal’s in the same camp as us.”
“She was supposed to be in the same camp as us.” I say darkly.
Raven looks aghast. “You don’t think something’s happened to her, do you? By the Second Star, we’ve got to find her!”
“Look, Raven,” I say, trying to calm her down, “We don’t know anything for sure. The locator potion is working; that means she’s definitely alive. The potion won’t wear off until we find her, so there’s no rush.”
“No rush? She’s gone missing!” She turns and tries to fly out into the clearing.
“I know, but Raven-” I pull her back. “Think about it. That place is crawling with Clumsies, and we don’t know how far away Dalila is! What if we left now, and ran out of dust in the middle of nowhere?”
Raven stops struggling. “I guess you’re right.” She looks at me, determined. “We need a new plan.”
June 23, Early Evening
Sweaty and tired, I trudge back to my tent after freeing the bird. It wasn’t easy work! I had to convince the blackberry vine that the barn swallow wasn’t really trying to attack it, and then persuade it to loosen its grip on the poor bird.
However, my biggest problem is the fact that my tent looks like a team of burglars went through it!
Gasping, I realize that I didn’t warn Tiny about it! She might’ve gone back midday and interrupted them! She could be lying somewhere in the mess of torn clothes and broken furniture, knocked out!
This line of thought makes me sprint towards our tent. Practically tearing the entrance flap open, I’m greeted by the sight of Tiny standing over our table with two bowls of soup steaming in her hands, our tent impeccably clean.
“Dalila! I made dinner for the both of us, since you were busy planting all day.”
Standing open-mouthed in the entryway, I blink a few times before replying.
“I-I was…” I say, walking slowly in and sitting at the chair across from Tiny.
As Tiny chatters about her day, I can almost convince myself that I’d imagined everything I’d seen.
If not for the small, faint black stain on our table…
June 26, Late Evening
Just for the record, this was all Raven’s idea.
The last few days have been a blur – carrying out our tasks to bring Summer to the Mainland, and preparing for our journey to find Dalila.
Now, I’m creeping through the darkness in the middle of the night, about to hijack the balloon carrier that’s due to arrive with supplies for the camp in ten minutes.
Raven’s somewhere near the food hall, preparing to set off ‘The Distraction’ when I give the signal. I look down at the wand in my hand. I still can’t believe I agreed to this.
“New supplies, coming into land!” The lookout announces to no one in particular, as no one’s really up at this hour.
Finally – the carrier appears in the sky, beginning it’s descent. The lookout moves forward to unload the carrier. I hold Izzy’s wand up and wave it over myself. Almost instantly, my hair turns short and blonde, and my purple top and pants turn into a pink tie-dye shirt and matching skirt. Izzy’s wand is capable of more than I thought – I’ve even been able to disguise my Talent by changing the colour of my wings from blue to pink, signifying me as a Garden Talent. Then, taking a deep breath, I step into view.
“Need a hand?” I ask the lookout.
The lookout whirls around, surprised. With a start, I realise it’s Drake – an extremely flirtatious Light Talent who’s got a thing for Garden Talents and is assigned to the same area as Raven and I am. He was hitting on Raven when we first arrived and started helping out – until she ‘accidentally’ pushed him into a bush of stinging nettles. He was in the hospital wing for two whole days.
“By the Second Star, you startled me!” Drake yelps, clutching at his chest.
Turning around, he looks me (or more accurately, my disguise), up and down.
“Wow, I hope you know CPR, because you just took my breath away.”
I refrain from rolling my eyes. “Fly with you too. Cecil said you could use with a hand unpacking the supplies,” I say.
Drake grins. “Sure thing, sweetie pie, but are you sure you can move these boxes on your own?”
“Maybe we can split them up, so I don’t get too tired?” I say, as he turns to tie the carrier to a nearby tree. Whilst he’s distracted, I send a whisper message to Raven. They don’t work all that well on the Mainland, but there’s a short distance between us at the moment, so if I concentrate really hard…
Now, I tell her.
“Okay, sugar. How’s about I take these crates and you-”
There’s a sudden loud boom and a flash of light. Drake shoots three feet into the air. “What in Neverland was that?” He cries.
“I don’t know!” I say, feigning surprise. “We should probably go find out.”
“But, the carrier!” He exclaims, obviously torn.
“How about I look after the carrier, and you can go see what happened?” I suggest. “Then you can come back and tell me.”
Drake nods. “Alright. Start unpacking while I’m gone.”
I smile. “Will do.”
A few minutes later, Drake has run off to see what the noise was, and I’ve unloaded most of the crates from the carrier. Raven flies into the landing area, out of breath and dirty.
“I thought you said it would be a small explosion!” I yell at her.
“That was a small explosion!” She yells back. “I only used one firework!”
“Raven, our job is supposed to be preventing destruction, not making it!” I exclaim.
“Look, there isn’t time for this – we gotta get outta here!”
“But I haven’t unpacked all the supplies yet!”
“There’s no time! We can always bring them back after we find Dal!” She says. “Come on!”
Raven clambers into the carrier and I untie it from the tree, landing in the carrier basket just as it picks up speed.
“We’ll have to fly it manually!” I yell over the wind. “It’s not programmed to go anywhere!”
Raven pulls out Dal’s diary. “You steer, I’ll navigate!”
I nod. “Let’s do this!”
June 27, Late Afternoon
“Rose, I swear on the Never Seas, if you don’t stop jiggling your leg, I’ll throw you over the side of this carrier.”
Rose looks up from her wand and rolls her eyes. “It’s not hurting you.”
“It’s rocking the entire carrier!” I shout.
Rose sighs impatiently, and stops jiggling her leg. “Is the diary still getting warmer?”
“You asked me that five minutes ago.”
“Right. Sorry. I’m just a little nervous.” She says.
“Yes, it’s still getting warmer. I’d tell you if it stopped.”
Rose is silent for a while. “What was that plant you conjured up that day we were duelling?” She asks suddenly. “I’ve never seen a vine with thorns before.”
“I call it whipping vine.”
“Where’s it native to? It doesn’t grow in the Hollow…”
“It’s a long story.” I reply.
“We have time.”
I roll my eyes and sigh.
“Fine. I got it by combining different plants.”
”That’s what you call a long story?” Rose looks skeptical.
“Yes,” I snap back, sticking my tongue out at her.
“Raven, do you know anyone by the name of Daybreak?” She asks.
I freeze for a moment, and then bring one of my hands from the diary to my chin.
“Hmm. I think I crashed a party with a Daybreak once, but she could have been lying about her name. I certainly wasn’t ‘Celeste’.” I say, laughing stiffly.
Rose’s eyes bore into mine for a few moments. Then she shrugs, smiling slightly. “What were you crashing a party for?”
“My friend’s date stood her up to go to this party, so I dragged her there with me to see if it was worth it.” I smile to myself. “It wasn’t that great. The punch was too sweet.”
Rose laughs. “This is why I never date,” She says. “Hey, I found some strawberries in the bottom of one of these crates earlier. I’m sure the camp won’t miss a few…” She smiles slyly. “Want some?”
June 30, Early Morning
Blinking, I sit up and put my feet on the floor softly. Ever since the …incident, I’ve been very wary around Tiny.
I’m not sure what actually happened. Did the burglars come back and clean up before Tiny arrived? Or did Tiny…? No, she couldn’t have! She’s so small, she couldn’t have even cleaned everything up herself!
Quietly, I push my blankets off my lap, and rise from my cot. Tiptoeing to my suitcase, I grab my gardening outfit and change behind the screen that’s set up in the farthest corner of the tent. I’m going to be checking on some trees that are growing by the lake today.
As I leave the tent, Tiny rolls over, her cot crinkling beneath her.
June 30, Late Morning
“Ouch!” Raven cries suddenly, dropping Dalila’s diary. We’ve been flying for a few days now. I hope we find Dalila soon – our food supply is running low.
“What is it?” I ask.
“It burnt me!” She cries.
“We must be getting close,” I say, peering over the edge of the carrier. Below us, there’s a huge body of water surrounded by willow trees. “Hang on…” I say, frowning at the lake below. “This is another camp!”
“What?!” Raven rushes to the edge to have a look. The carrier wobbles, tilting to the side.
“Raven, careful! The carrier’s low on dust and unsteady as it is! If we’re not careful, it’ll-”
I’m cut short as a sudden burst of wind tips the carrier basket upside down, leaving Raven and I dangling from the side, unable to fly so high up, at least, not without being blown half a mile of course. Crates of supplies plummet to the ground – I guess we won’t be returning them to the camp after all, though I suppose we did eat most of the food. Raven clutches Dalila’s diary tightly in one hand, and I catch my satchel on my foot as it falls. Panics seizes me as I hold on to the carrier for dear life.
“NO, NO, NO! I’M TOO YOUNG TO DIE!!!” Raven screams directly into my ear.
The carrier begins to lose altitude, falling towards the ground.
“OH MY FROGS, WE’RE GOING TO CRASH!” I yell.
June 30, Late Morning
Slowly, I climb up to a branch of the tree I’m working on that has become sickly and weak.
“Shh, don’t worry. I’m going to have you better in no time.” I whisper, petting it softly.
Turning slightly, I dig around in my bag for my bottle of elder leaf essence. Pulling it out, I uncork it and pour three drops onto the branch. Putting the bottle back into my bag, I work on rubbing the bitter-scented essence into the sick branch.
“See? That wasn’t so bad.”
Suddenly, I hear a loud crash. Scooting to where the branch meets the trunk, I press myself as small as I can be. If it’s a hawk, I need to find a place to hide!
However, instead of the loud, frightening shrieks of a hawk, I hear the voice of an irritated pixie.
“I told you, I’m working on it!”
Twisting my neck, I manage to find the source of the voice. On the ground, half-hidden behind a tree, is Tiny, arguing with a pixie who is out of sight.
“Not fast enough?” Tiny practically screams. Quickly, her annoyance turns to anger, as she appears to begin hitting the fairy or sparrow man behind the tree.
“I’ll have you know that I’m only on this assignment because Tulip messed up! So, when I get the diary isn’t important!”
I gasp. They want my diary? And who’s they, anyway? This is an awfully elaborate prank, especially for just a diary!
“And,” Tiny continues, unaware what she’s just revealed, “I don’t see why getting the jinglin’ diary is so important! We already have enough surveillance on her to last her however many aliases she has!”
Surveillance? Aliases? Assignments? Suddenly, it all clicks in my mind. This isn’t some silly prank, it’s a mission. A spy mission. And if they catch me in this tree, they won’t laugh it off. I’m in real, actual danger. As quietly as I can, I kick off the branch and fly towards camp.
Unanswered questions rattle around my brain. Who are they watching? Why is my diary important? And, the biggest and scariest question, who are they?
June 30, Late Evening
I don’t wake until hours after the crash, and when I do, it’s not because of the diary that’s currently burning an imprint into my back, or the uncomfortable angle at which my left leg is bent. No, it’s the gentle lapping of water that tickles my foot and makes me kick Rose that wakes me.
“Ouch!” I yelp, holding onto my leg. “What’re you made out of, steel?”
“You’re leg’s probably broken. I tried to block the fall with a shield spell, but we did fall from pretty high up…” Rose groans and sits up. “Which wouldn’t have happened if somefairy hadn’t toppled the carrier over!”
“Hey, I’m not the one that couldn’t use a stinkin’ shield spell correctly!”
“We were fifty feet in the air, hanging from a falling carrier!” She cries, then she sighs, seemingly getting her temper under control. “Look, it doesn’t matter. We’re alive, and the diary is still intact, that’s the main thing.”
“Yeah, the diary is still…” I trail off, freezing in place.
I open my mouth and draw in a long breath, so long that Rose begins to look at me with a worried expression. “Raven? What is it?”
“MY CLOTHES!” I scream, probably startling anything within a five-mile radius. Rose winces and covers her ears.
“Raven, calm down! Here,” Rose picks up her wand, which has fallen a few metres away from her, and waves it in my direction. Instantly, my clothes change to a pair of blue jeans and a white blouse and the ruined dress appears in my arms. “It’s not the most fashionable thing I have, but we’re looking for someone, not attending a Fashion Spotlight, and the best I can do right now. I think that this wand is running out of dust.”
Slowly, I look down and take in the outfit. The too tight pants that don’t reach my ankles, and the blouse whose stitches I can practically feel ripping.
Looking back at Rose, I give her a very unamused look.
“I hate you.”
“Well you can’t wear the polka-dot dress, it was torn at the back!” Rose waves the wand over her own torn clothes, changing it to a miniskirt and tights with a matching top and jacket.
Running out of dust my behind.
“It was? Why didn’t you tell me?”
Rose rolls her eyes, rummaging in her pouch, pulling out a small jar of green paste and some bandages. “Here, let me fix up your leg. You won’t be able to walk on it for a few weeks, but you’ll still be able to fly.”
“Yippee.” I say unenthusiastically.
Ten minutes later I’m gathering up Dal’s diary and watching as Rose packs her belongings back into her bag. A photograph, a shell necklace, the wand, her leaf journal. She and I now have matching bandages around our legs, hers from the duel, and mine from the fall.
“Hey, we’re like bandage buddies now!”
Rose rolls her eyes. “Ready?” She asks.
June 30, Late Evening
I sit on top of my luggage case, brushing my long, curly hair out by candlelight. The sun set hours ago, and Tiny, if that’s really her name, isn’t back yet. I guess she’s still talking to the pixie who accused her of being slow.
I stop brushing my hair, trying to piece together the few clues I have as to who they are monitoring and how. So, as it turns out, Tiny really did wreck our tent, and came back later to clean it up. And who is Tulip, the other fairy assigned to getting my diary? Wait… Is it possible that Tulip is the pixie from the Tearoom that spilled soup on me so many weeks ago? Yes, I can see it now! How eager she was to wipe the soup from my bag!
Anyway, if that was Tulip, she did a horrible job! I had my diary open on the table, and she just….
I had my diary, open on the table! That’s where I left it!
Groaning, I smack myself on the forehead. Of course, I left it on the table, open for anyone to read, while I tried to save my sweater! One good thing, though, is that they don’t have it, since Tiny has been sent to look for it with me. But if I don’t have it, and they don’t have it, who does?
June 30, Late Evening
I follow Raven, who’s now carrying the diary wrapped in her torn dress so she doesn’t burn herself, wringing out my wet hair as we go. Raven was lucky – she crashed further away from the lake, so she wasn’t soaked. I’m lucky that my wings are waterproof. It’s times like this that being a Forbidden Child isn’t all too bad.
As we near the camp, Raven speeds up, darting between tents, and finally stopping in front of one next to a large oak tree.
“It’s stopped burning!” Raven exclaims. She lands at the entrance of the tent, using the tree for support. “Dalila?” She whisper-shouts.
The tent flap opens, and a tanned fairy with curly hair looks out. “Raven?” She says, looking shocked.
Raven throws her arms around her, dropping her diary in the process.
“Oh, Dalila, I’m so glad you’re alright!” Raven says, pressing her face into Dalila’s shoulder.
“Yeah, I’m all good.” Dalila says, pushing Raven back and picking up her diary. “Where – How did you get this? I lost this in the Tearoom!”
“Well, that’s kinda what we’re here to talk to you about.” Raven peers around Dalila’s shoulder and into the tent.
“Are you alone?”
“Yeah, Tiny is gone. She’s my tent-mate. I need to talk to you about her, by the way.”
I frown. “Why are you at this camp? The Summons records said you were in the Ordinem Forest!” I ask.
Dalila recognises my presence for the first time. “Raven, who’s this?” She asks, looking utterly bewildered. “And how are you here?!”
“I’m Rose MorningMist,” I say, smiling grimly, “And I think we’ve all got a lot to catch up on.”
June 30, Late Evening
“And that’s how we got here,” Says Raven.
“Raven’s exaggerating. We didn’t blow up the whole Forest.” Says Rose, rolling her eyes. “Only the food hall.”
“Wow. So, a Forgotten Child, or whatever you call them, gets a Summons, you sneak out, blow ‘only the food hall’ up and get here, just to deliver my diary? If you don’t mind me asking, why?”
Rose sighs. “It wasn’t just because of your diary. Forbidden Children can’t get Summons. We don’t exist in the Council’s records. At first I thought it may have been one of the Council members that knew me giving me a break from work or something… But then Raven realised the note didn’t give me a choice to accept the Summons or not, and now, you’re in a completely different camp to the one the records say you are?” She shakes her head. “Something’s up.”
“How do you know Council members? Why would they give you a break?” I ask.
“Oh, right,” Says Raven. “Rose runs an organisation that’s dedicated to kicking evil’s butt.”
Rose rolls her eyes. “I guess that’s one way of putting it. The Pixie Elite Force is a secret organisation that helps maintain the peace in the Hollow. Very few people know about it.”
“Did I mention Rose recruited me onto the Disguise team?” Raven says cheerfully.
“Should I know about this? I mean, this is spy stuff!” I say nervously.
“Someone relocated you, and it wasn’t the Council.” Rose says seriously. “Plus, Raven says you’re trustworthy, and I believe her. I need to know Dalila – have you seen anything suspicious since you’ve been here?”
“Uh, yeah. That’s what I wanted to tell you about, actually.” I begin to tell Raven and Rose about Tiny and the stranger she was talking to earlier day. “You see, my roommate, Tiny? She’s probably a spy.”
Raven’s jaw drops. Rose frowns. “What makes you say that?”
“Firstly, she tore apart this tent searching for my diary, and then she cleaned it all up. Then, today, she started arguing with a pixie about her ‘assignment’, surveillance on a fairy, and my diary. I flew away after that, I didn’t want them to catch me, and they had me treed.”
Raven begins to turn a sickly shade of green before she remembers how to breathe.
“You’re sharing a tent with a spy?” Raven manages to choke out.
“Yeah, I guess so. I thought I’d be more worried, but talking to you guys really helped!”
“Well it hasn’t helped me! How am I supposed to sleep tonight, knowing you’re stuck with a crazy pixie because of–” Raven stops speaking abruptly.
Rose freezes. “Did you hear that?” She asks.
“Dalila? Are you in bed?”
“Go, go!” I hiss. “That’s Tiny!”
Rose runs to the end of the tent, followed by Raven. Quickly, I grab Raven’s shoulder and shove my diary into her hands.
“For safekeeping,” I whisper.
Raven smiles at me before following her friend out the other end of my tent and into the night.
July 1, Early Morning
I’ve barely finished dressing (this time I’m wearing a slightly too-short green dress) when Dalila bursts into our makeshift tent.
“Yikes!” I yelp, nearly tripping over my own foot. “What’s got your wings in a bunch?”
Dalila gasps for air, sweating slightly, before she can manage a few words.
“Letters. From someone named Jack. I guess they were sent from him to Tiny, but her name isn’t mentioned anywhere… I don’t know.”
“Jack?!” Rose leaps out of bed. “Dalila, are you sure?”
“Letters,” Dalila says again, and then shoves a bunch of papers towards Rose and I.
I pull the first one of the pile and begin reading it aloud.
“Jack, we are sending you to collect more surveillance material. This is your first probationary mission, do not make errors. This is very important.”
“That’s more of a scribble than a note,” I say, moving that paper to the side and reading the next one. “It wasn’t even signed.”
Target: Dalila Pineforest.
Mission Objective: Obtain Target’s diary to obtain more surveillance information on D.
Do not make yourself known to the Target. This is entirely a stealth mission. As few casualties as possible, but do not let yourself be discovered. Your are the second member to receive this mission. Member Tulip made a grave mistake and is being punished for it. You will be punished for your mistakes, if any, on this mission, regardless of the outcome.
Mission Deadline: August 20.”
Rose looks grave. “You know what this means, don’t you?”
I gulp. “What?
“Jack isn’t the highest authority. He and Tiny are working for someone. There’s another piece to the puzzle, and I’ve missed it for all these years.”
I bow my head, guilt taking hold of my heart.
“There’s something I–” I break off. “It’s signed C. Pearlstring.” I finish lamely.
“C. Pearlstring…” Rose mummers. “I wonder if we could find a file on her in the Council records.” She picks up the letters. “We need to get these back to HQ. Dalila, were there any others?”
I grab the letters from Rose.
“Hey, what are you doing?” She asks.
“Rose, I don’t think we should bring these to Headquarters.” I say, before Dalila can reply.
“Why not?” Rose looks confused.
“You just shouldn’t!” I snap.
“Raven, this is ground-breaking evidence. With this we may finally be able to track Jack down and who he’s working for! We have to give information like this to the Council right away, it’s standard protocol!”
“No! You can’t show it to the Council! The Order will…” I trail off, eyes widening as I realize what I’ve just done.
Rose stops dead, her eyes blazing. Dalila looks between Rose and myself, her eyes full of confusion.
“The what?” Says Rose, her voice filled with barely contained rage.
Continuing where I left off, I realize it’s best to have them know.
“The Order. They’re a sort of… High Council. They control the Council, their spies, and what you can and can’t think. And if you tell the Council, they’ll have you…” My voice cracks and I take a moment. “They’ll have you killed,” I finish, looking straight into Rose’s eyes.
Dalila raises her voice after a painfully long silence.
“Why? Why would they want to kill us? To hurt us?”
“They want control, Dal. Power. It drives them insane.”
Rose voice shakes when she next speaks. “How long have you known about this?”
“Years? It’s hard to keep track when you have to pretend you’ve never heard of them.”
“So all this time, ever since I’ve known you, since I recruited you to help protect the Hollow, you’ve known, and you, what, never thought to tell me?”
I laugh, and it sounds bitter even to my ears.
“Don’t you think I wanted to? Now that I have, I might have condemned you both to exile or worse!”
“If the Council knows about it, why don’t they do something? Asks Dalila.
“I told you, the Order controls them. They control the Pixie Postings, the talent mentors, and probably the entire Hollow.”
There a sudden scuffling sound from outside, and a shadow sweeps the side of the tent.
“Someone was listening,” Says Rose, horrified. “Quick, after them!”
July 1, Early Morning
I grab my satchel and race out of the tent and after the eavesdropper with Dalila and Raven not far behind, my thoughts buzzing with what I now know. After all these years of trying to track down Jack, it turns out he’s been getting orders from the same authority that controls mine.
Questions race through my head as I follow the fairy trying to get away from me. How long have the Order been around? How much of a hold do they have on the Hollow? Who else knows the truth?
I begin to gain on the fairy up ahead, closing the gap between us and her as we dart and weave through a forest of maple trees. We race into a clearing, and I take the opportunity of not having to dodge the trees to grab the fairy and tackle her in mid-air. We land with a dull thud onto the mossy ground below.
“Lemme go!” Shrieks the fairy.
“Calm down, we don’t want to hurt yo-”
Dalila looks at the pixie I’ve just thrown to the ground. I stare at her. “This is Tiny?” Dalila nods. I get to my feet. “Well I suppose the name makes sense now,” I say, dusting myself off. “Don’t try anything funny,” I add, as Tiny clambers to her feet. “I’ve had years of training and my reflexes are quick.”
Tiny rolls her eyes. “I’m not a bird-brain, we’ve had tabs on your little ‘Pixie Elite Force’ for years.”
My eyes narrow. “Why has Jack been sending you messages?”
Tiny laughs. “He hasn’t. I thought you were smart enough to figure it out, but obviously I was mistaken.” She pulls something out of her pocket – a small vial of blue liquid.
“Hey! What’re you doing?” Tiny ignores my question and uncorks the vial, downing the contents in one gulp. Nothing happens for a moment, then there’s a flash of light that temporarily blinds the three of us. When I can see again, Tiny’s disappeared, and in her place is-
“Nice to see you too, sis. Didn’t recognize me, huh? Was it the dress? I liked the dress, to be honest, though it was a bit breezy. Do you think Coal’s sells kilts? I might buy one when I get back.”
“What – how -” I splutter. “You’re Tiny?!”
Jack grins, spreading his arms wide. “Surprise! I got the disguise idea from a Clumsy book. Chamber of Secrets, I think it was called.”
“I don’t get it,” Says Dalila. “Who are you? And what do you want with my diary?”
“Jack Frost, Ice Talent,” Say Jack with a mock bow. “Originally I was supposed to steal your diary to get information on a specific pixie, but now I’ve found something even better!” He gestures to Raven and I. “Not only have you brought your diary straight to me, but you’ve also brought me these two!”
“What do you want with them?” Dalila says, stepping in front of Raven and myself.
“Redhead over there knows too much,” He says, “And my dear sister was supposed to be eliminated whilst away on her Summons, but unfortunately, Drake reported she disappeared after an explosion at the camp where he was stationed.”
“What?!” I exclaim.
“Eliminated?! Drake was one of yours?” Raven shouts, her voice full of surprise and anger.
Jack looks like he’s enjoying this. “Yep! But he failed, and now I have the chance to finish what he started. I’ll be taken off probation for sure!”
“You’re insane!” I yell.
“That won’t happen! I won’t let it!” Cries Dalila.
“You’re killing us so you can get in their good books? I knew you were soulless, but this is a new level of low.” Raven begins circling him slightly, making it nearly all the way to his left side before Jack strikes.
July 1 Late Morning
Quickly, I pull my hands up, and vines shoot out of the ground, mimicking their motions.
The thick vines block out the ice, but freeze and become motionless. Rose rushes in front of me to enact a shield spell as Jack strikes again.
Pulling my hands through the air, I manage to get the grass in the clearing to wrap around Jack’s arms and legs, though I know he won’t stay in place for long. Because I’m a garden-talent, and he’s an ice-talent, I’m especially vulnerable to his attacks.
“Jack can control water as well as ice,” Rose tells me. “So any attacks I try won’t be very useful here.”
“Jingles,” I reply, gritting my teeth as I summon more and more vines.
Once I think my wall is thick enough to stand a few more attacks, I turn back to Dalila.
“Go,” I ground out, my head throbbing from the amount of energy it’s taking to keep Jack at bay. “Get out of here. You’re a civilian.”
“I can’t leave you, you’re outmatched!” She cries.
“Get out!” I yell, sending Dalila scooting backwards.
“Alright, but I’m coming back!” Dalila says stubbornly.
“No you’re not,” I murmur as I bring a tree down, separating her from Rose and myself.
“Dalila, Whisper Message the Pixie Elite Force, as quick as you can!” Cries Rose. “It’ll take a lot of concentration, but you can do it – I have faith in you. Now, get out of here! It isn’t safe!”
Dalila, hesitates, then nods, turning and flying back the way we came.
Turning back to my vine wall, I can make out Jack on the other side.
“You can’t hold me off forever!” Says Jack.
“No, I can’t.” I reply calmly.
Waving my left hand, all the vines shrink back into the ground, leaving nothing between us.
“Raven, what are you doing?” Rose asks.
“Surrendering,” I say, turning and winking at Rose, hoping she can see it. “It’s the most logical choice, after all. We’re both outpowered, by Jack and the Order.”
Jack grins. “I’m glad you came to your senses, Daybreak. Now, don’t you think it’s time we finished this?”
“Yes, I think so.” I say, twirling my right hand from where it rests on my waist.
“Daybreak?” Rose turns to stare at me. “What? I don’t understand…”
Ignoring Rose, I move to kneel in front of Jack.
“In apology, please accept my peace offering.” Three beautiful, pink flowers blossom from the ground, their petals reaching upwards towards the sun.
“Lover’s Lily,” I say, staying on my knees. “It flourishes by pointing itself towards the most powerful energy source. I hope you let us do the same.”
“Yes, of course,” Jack says distractedly, stepping forwards.
Tilting my head upwards, I see his foot pointed downwards, on a course to trample the middle flower.
“Gotcha, bellbottom.” I mutter.
There’s a loud explosion, and then there’s nothing.
July 1, Mid-afternoon
It’s been a long time since I’ve written in your pages, and so much has happened since the day I signed my Summons without a care in the world.
I now know of many secrets that I can’t write down, not even in here.
I will record the important things, however.
Raven and her friend Rose are okay. They are being transported to a hospital by their ‘butt-kicking organization’. Raven, as per usual, blew things up, but managed to delay Tiny and her associates, whatever their goals might be. Nofairy, except Raven and Rose, fully know what I heard today.
I’m not foolish enough to think that everything is going to be okay from now on. Jingles, I’m not even dumb enough to trust
Ra anyone completely anymore.
But I’m going home. I’ll see Ginger and Buttercup again, and take Plum out for her morning fly every day. And it’s not going to be any different from the outside, and that’s what matters now.
July 2, Late Afternoon
When I first wake up, I’m not entirely sure where I am. Then the events before I was knocked unconscious come rushing back to me, and I sit up abruptly. My head instantly starts spinning, black spots dancing around my eyes.
“Woah, easy there,” Lily says, steadying me. “You got caught up in an explosion at close range. I’ve patched you up best I can, but your balance may be off for a few days yet, and I can’t save you from Izzy’s rage, either. Looks like that wand you were testing out snapped.”
Reluctantly, I lie back down again, closing my eyes to block out the bright lights in the PEF hospital wing.
“What happened?” I ask her.
“Your new friend managed to contact us from the Mainland, which is a pretty amazing feat. We got to your location as soon as we could, and brought you back here.”
“What about Jack?”
“He was arrested and taken away.” Lily said. “You got him, Rose. He has a trial in front of the Council at noon. He’ll finally be locked up.”
A trial with the Council. After everything we’d gone through, Jack had fallen right back into the hands of the Order again.
“What happened with your mission?” I ask. “The unusual activity in the Outlands. Was it successful?”
Lily sighs. “We were attacked when we reached the location. It was a trap. Several pixies were almost killed. We’re almost sure they work for Jack.”
I think about telling her about the Order, about telling her who we’ve really been up against all these years.
“They control the Council, their spies, and what you can and can’t think. And if you tell the Council, they’ll have you killed.”
Raven’s words replay in my head. I look away from Lily, avoiding eye contact.
“Yeah,” I say, “They must.”
The secret Raven had kept for so long would remain a secret for now.
Wait… Where is Raven?
I sit up again, and catch a glimpse of a tangle of red hair in the bed opposite to mine. I breathe a sigh of relief.
Lily props up my pillows so I can sit and rest my head on them. “Rachel filed a report on our mission, and the Council are requesting you do the same with yours.”
I nod. Of course the Council wants a report. They want to know how much I found out. “Is Dalila still here?” I ask.
Lily nods. “Yes, she said she was going to wait until you and Raven woke up.”
“Can you ask her to come in? I want to talk to her.”
July 2, Late Afternoon
Slowly, I walk to the doorway of the room where Rose and Raven are.
“The healer said you asked for me?”
“Yeah. I wanted to thank you for going to get help. Without you, we’d probably still all be lying in that clearing right now.”
“It was nothing. I did what anyfairy would have done.”
Rose smiles. “I bet you still have a few questions.” She gestures to a chair next her bed. “Come, sit. I’ll do my best to answer them.”
Cautiously, I sit down on the chair, clutching my diary close to my chest.
“You haven’t told anyone that I know about…?” I trail off, trying to determine the answer through Rose’s expression.
Rose shakes her head. “To be honest, I haven’t told anyfairy that I know about it. I don’t want to put them in unnecessary danger. I will be more cautious when taking orders from the Council in the future though. So no, I haven’t told anyone, and I don’t intend to… At least, for now.”
“Thank you. I won’t tell anyfairy either. I wouldn’t want them to have to keep the secret, too.”
Rose smiles sadly. “I’m sorry you have to carry such a burden now, but you must understand; you can’t tell anyone about what you saw whilst you were away. If anyone asks why you came back from your Summons early, tell them you were sick and had to return for treatment or something. No one can know about this place, or the battle you witnessed.”
“Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll spend most of my time trying to forget and get life back to normal.” I laugh nervously.
“Thanks again.” She says. “If you want, I can send you something through the Post Office as a thank you gift.”
“I wouldn’t want to trouble you,” I say, standing up. I look over at Raven, who’s still asleep.
Nodding at her, I turn back to Rose.
“When she wakes up, tell her that I’m glad she’s okay. And, that I’m sorry.”
Rose nods. “I understand.”
With that, I turn around and leave the room quickly. I can’t wait to be out of here, and to be rid of everything it reminds me of.
July 2, Late Afternoon
As I listen to Dal’s departing words, it takes every ounce of willpower to lie still, feigning sleep.
A few moments after Dal leaves, Rose speaks again.
“You can stop pretending now. She’s gone.”
I sit up and stare at her. “How d’you know?”
“You were all stiff and your breathing was too shallow,” She says. “Remember, I’ve been trained to notice stuff like this.”
“Yeah,” I say, nodding my head absentmindedly.
Rose folds her arms. “I think you have some explaining to do,”
I stare at my bed sheets. “I do.” I say, and launch into my tale.
Rose is silent whilst I tell her my story, watching me carefully the entire time. I think she’s trying to tell if I’m lying, but she doesn’t have to worry. This time, I don’t hold anything back.
When I’m finished, she sits back in her bed, looking slightly stunned.
“Rose?” I say anxiously, silently begging for her to crack a sarcastic joke, to tell me I’m forgiven.
“Raven,” She begins, her voice wobbling. “By the power I have as leader of the PEF… I hereby exile you from our organisation.”
My jaw drops. “What?”
“Your allowance for last month will still be delivered,” She continues, “And Lily will organise to transfer you to the Healing talents for the rest of your recovery.”
“I’m sorry, but-”
“No!” She exclaims. A tear rolls down her cheek. “No more apologies. You kept information from me, vital information, information that could have stopped Rachel taking a team of members into the Outlands. They almost died out there, Raven. The Order set this whole thing up to eliminate me and pick off my best members. So much could have been avoided if you had just told me!”
“Rose, think abou-”
“My mind is made up,” She says darkly. “After today, I never want to see your face again. Understand?”
I set my jaw and lift my chin, staring directly into her eyes.
“I understand. And don’t worry about the healers. I can take care of myself,” I say, pulling myself from the bed slowly but firmly and walking to the door.
Every step brings pain, but I keep going. I walk out of the room, out of Headquarters, and out of Rose’s life, my head held high.