FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY, I, ROSE MORNINGMIST, WILL ADMIT I WAS SCARED.
Even during my missions, when I was scared, I felt more of a thrill or excitement rather than fear. There was no time to be scared on the field.
But now, that had changed. I had failed – failed at saving our home. In just a few hours, what remained of the population would have to evacuate Pixie Hollow forever, and it felt as if it was my fault.
Deep down, I knew it wasn’t entirely my fault. But it sure felt like it. My life had been dedicated to keeping Pixie Hollow safe. Now, it was going to disappear forever.
I stared at bedroom, which was littered with items that were now rendered completely useless. A mirror, pile of pixie diamonds, a stack of paperwork. For a split second, I had the odd desire to hold one last meeting with the Pixie Elite Force, just to say goodbye to everyone. But most of the members had already left; deserting the Hollow to find refuge in the unknown world that lay beyond the portal that had appeared in Havenish Square nine days ago. I stared out my window, across the lake to Dewdrop Vale, now thinking of my friends that I was sure I would never see again.
Izzy, Tinker Talent, always full of amazing ideas. Lily, Water Talent, quiet, but caring, always ready to help those in need. Victoria, Rachel Citrussteam, and so many more.
Autumn, who had been appointed Head of Spells and Magic, though had never known it. Autumn, oblivious to the fact that the small spy agency she and her friends had started so long ago had grown into something so much bigger. Autumn, who if ever tried to return to the Hollow, would find nothing. And then there was Raven, whom I hadn’t spoken to since July…
No. You mustn’t think about that. Your friends are safe, and that’s all that matters.
I had plans to meet my friend Crystal Cutetwinkle and my sister Ruby in about twenty minutes, where the remaining members of the PEF and I were to venture the unknown land with the last citizens on the Hollow, and help them find a new home in whatever unknown land we ended up in.
This time the PEF wouldn’t be saving Pixie Hollow – we would be fleeing from it.
I sighed and moved away from the window. There was no use staying here. Most pixies would be at Havendish Square, getting ready to leave the Hollow, waiting for the PEF and myself to arrive to help everyone get through. I shuddered at the thought. Commanding a small secret society that had willingly volunteered their time was one thing, but part of the Hollow’s population? That’s a different story.
With these thoughts still in my mind, I walked down the stairs to wake Sky. Seeing her provoked even more sadness. Ruby and I had rescued the blue butterfly only a few weeks ago, and she’d stayed with us ever since. However, Ruby and I had agreed that it was time to let her go. As soon as we left the Hollow and it was safe, we’d have to say goodbye… I forced these thoughts to the back of my mind.
“Come on Sky, hop up. Let’s go for one last look at the place, yes?” I said. Sky stretched her wings and stood up.
I stared at HQ, my home, knowing that this was the last time I would ever see it. Then, not being able to bear another moment, I walked outside, and shut the door.
Once outside, I passed through the PEF training ground, Sky not far behind me. Dark storm clouds had started to gather on the outskirts of PH – I could see them looming over Neverberry Thicket and Palm Tree Cove from where I was standing. I glanced back at my house one final time, and then took flight.
It must have been my slowest flight around the Hollow ever. I wanted to remember every place down to the last detail, though truthfully, I didn’t see much of it. Tears blurred my vision as I struggled against the wind the storm was bringing. I only caught glimpses of the world I’d always called home – the oceans edge at Palm Tree Cove; the dotted white meadow of Cotton Puff Field, the ice-skating rink in Snowcap Glade from afar, and finally, the tulips in Dewdrop Vale once more. I landed next to the stream and stared out at Sparkling Lake which had held HQ for so many years. The nostalgia was almost overwhelming.
Taking a shaky breath, I brushed the tears out of my eyes. Crying certainly wasn’t going to help. In the distance, I could hear rain beginning to fall.
A sudden scream pieced the air. I whirled round instinctively, trying to determine where the scream had come from, because after several years with a secret society sworn to fight evil, you know that a scream like that equals no good.
A fairy streaked out of Neverberry Thicket in hysterics. She landed in front of me, babbling like the brook near Silvermist’s Grotto.
“The stream… In the Thicket… Then the rain… And then it was gone…” She broke into sobs again. She was short, with dainty pyorre wings tinted pink, signifying that she was a Garden Talent. She had long, dark curly hair, chocolate-coloured skin and eyes the colour of rich soil, and wore a stunning deep pink dress with matching shoes.
“Whoa, easy there,” I said, gripping her shoulders. “Take a breath and try again.”
The fairy stopped trying to speak and took a few moments to calm down. “I was hanging around Neverberry Thicket, watching my pet ladybug fly around the brook – you know; the one they used to use for collecting dewdrops – when it started to rain,” She paused for a minute to steady her voice. “At first I thought nothing of it, but then I noticed that everywhere it fell, patches of earth and water would disappear.”
“What do you mean, disappear?” I asked her.
“Exactly what I said. Whatever the rain touches, it disappears into nothing.”
“That’s impossible,” I murmured.
“I’m not lying, I swear!”
“It’s okay, I believe you,” I reassured her. “Please, continue.”
“Okay… Well, I called for Rosy, but she didn’t come.” It took me a moment to figure out Rosy was the ladybug. I kept listening, dreading what was to come.
“Then I saw her – a little red streak coming towards me. But as she flew, she got hit by a drop, and… and…” She burst into tears again. I hugged her, feeling awful inside. No one should experience that. Not now, not ever.
At the same time, fear gripped me. Because I knew what this meant.
It had started. The end was closing in on us, and if we didn’t get though the portal in time, we would be trapped.
The closer we got to Havenish Square, the thicker the crowd got. Pixies flew in all directions – some towards the portal, some away, searching for friends. Everyone was talking at once, panicking, unsure what to do. Many had probably been there since the Closing Ceremony that morning – I personally had refused to go.
The portal was only just in sight when the remaining PEF members, Lily, Izzy and Ruby, appeared, with Crystal Cutetwinkle flying not far behind them.
“Rose! Thank the Second Star you’re here!” Exclaimed Ruby. “Fairies are coming in with stories from winter, summer and autumn. The storm clouds – the rain is causing everything to-”
“Disappear.” I finished. “I know, I just came from the Spring Meadows, it’s happening there too.” I turned to Izzy and Lily. “I thought you two had already left!”
Izzy grinned. “And leave you to have all the fun?”
“We decided to stay and help after your speech.” Explained Lily. I had momentarily forgotten about that. Through all events that had happened in the past half hour, the thought of the speech had left my mind, but now it was back, and fear threatened to take over. I took a deep breath. I knew that these fairies were relying on me. I had to stay calm.
“Any sign of Jack?” I asked, turning to the PEF members.
Izzy shook her head. “None of us have seen him since Closure was announced.”
I nodded slowly. It was true – I hadn’t seen my brother since the notice announcing Closure was posted, which was concerning, especially seeing as months before, he had given me a warning of what was now coming to pass.
But that was last Spring, I thought. None of us knew then. So how did he? Unless… Could the Order have something to do with this?
Only a few months before I had found out about the ruthless Order – an organisation that had influence over the Never Council, the Ministers – even the Queen. It was a scary thought. If they had something to do with this…
“It doesn’t matter now. We should focus on getting everyone out.” I said, ridding my mind of such thoughts. “After my speech, then what?”
“Then, we release this.” Said Ruby. She pulled out a small vial filled to the brim with a dark purple liquid. “It’s a type of tracking potion, sort of like the one you used to find Dalila on the Mainland.” She explained. “This one should do a head count of all the fairies left in the Hollow as soon as it’s exposed to air.”
“That way we can keep track of how many are left to go through the portal.” Izzy explained. “Lily will stay on this side of the portal, counting everybody who goes in. You and Ruby will make sure everyone stays calm and goes through in small groups, so that we can keep count easily.”
“And you?” I looked at Izzy quizzically. I didn’t see what was left for her to do, unless…
My eyes widened. “No,” I said firmly. “No, I will not allow you to-”
“Rose.” Izzy cut me off. “I can do this. The Never Council wouldn’t open the portal if it leaded anywhere dangerous!”
“It’s too risky – we have no idea what’s on the other side!”
“It’s necessary. Someone has to do it.” Her voice quavered. “Someone has to do a head count on the tail end.” I suddenly realized that she was just as scared as I was about the idea, but was doing her best to hide it.
Just like you, said a small voice inside of me. We all are, but we’re trying to stay calm for everyone else’s sake.
I took another long, deep breath. “Okay.” I said, finally giving in. “Start gathering people up. I’ll address the crowd in a few minutes.” Then I watched as three of my most faithful members took off, all in different directions, to follow through on my order.
Crystal turned and smiled at me. “I’m staying on this side with you as well.” She explained. “I want to stay in Pixie Hollow until…” She trailed off, biting her bottom lip. I knew that the whole closing thing was a touchy subject for Crystal – it was for all of us, but for her especially.
“Crystal, you’re one of the bravest pixies I’ve ever met, and that’s saying something, seeing as I work with a lot of brave pixies every day.”
She gave me a watery smile. “Thanks Rose. Hey, who’s this?” She pointed to the Garden fairy I had run into earlier. She hadn’t left to find friends like I had expected, nor said anything since we had met up with the others. “This is…” I paused, realizing I’d never asked her name. “I don’t know.” I said. “I just… ran into her in the Spring Meadows, when the rain hit.”
The Garden fairy lifted her chin. “My name is Orchid.” She said. Then she looked at me, eyes wide. “Are you really her?” She asked. “Are you this leader of the Pixie Elite Force everyone has been talking about?”
I stared at her, thinking that she may be joking, but her face was quizzical, not sarcastic, and there was a gleam in her eyes that I recognized immediately – hope. I was quite taken aback by this. Were all these fairies really depending on me? It was a bizarre thought, but it also made me feel determined not to let anyone down.
“Yes.” I said firmly. “Crystal, go with Orchid. Meet me at the top of the steps to the Ballroom after my speech – that’s where I think I’ll give it.”
Crystal nodded. “Good luck!” She called, as she disappeared into the crowd. I took a deep breath. Fear paralyzed me and made my stomach squirm, but I knew that I couldn’t take back my word. I promised I’d protect these pixies, and it was a promise I intended to keep. Gathering all my courage, I made my towards the Ballroom’s entrance, Sky following me in my wake.
I landed on the top step, taking in just how many fairies were still here, determined to stay until the end. Izzy, Lily and Ruby all landed next to me shortly after I did. The crowd, which had been buzzing with noise moments before, fell silent. All eyes were upon me. I stood, glued to the spot, completely frozen. I had been dreading this moment for days now, trying to calm myself, but the fact remained that I, Rose MorningMist, after years of leadership, was still scared of public speaking. My mind had gone blank.
“Rose,” Ruby hissed in my ear. Her voice snapped me out of my trance. My eyes focused properly, and I spotted two familiar faces in the crowd. Crystal smiled and waved. My mind cleared and I remembered the storm raging around us, that was soon to hit, and the task at hand. I took a deep breath, and started my speech.
“Uh… Hi. My name is Rose MorningMist. I’m the leader of the Pixie Elite Force, which swore to protecting Pixie Hollow many years ago.” I tried to swallow, but my mouth was too dry. “The PEF intend to make good on this promise. Although Pixie Hollow is closing, we will be staying to help you all leave before… before it closes forever.”
“Is it true?” A voice from the crowd shouted out. “Is it true that the storm is making everything disappear?”
Everyone stayed silent, waiting for the answer. I inhaled slowly. It was best to give them the truth.
“Yes.” My voiced quivered slightly, but I kept speaking. “The storm that has gathered at the edges of Pixie Hollow makes everything thing disappear. The rain from it destroys everything it touches, and I’m afraid that I have to tell you it’s on the move inwards.”
A wave of outbursts came from the crowd and everyone began to panic.
“We’re trapped here!”
“Is it going to kill us?”
“That’s it. We’re all doomed.”
“Everyone, please!” I shouted over all the racket. “I know you’re all scared, but I need you to remain calm if we’re going to get you all through the portal safely.”
Slowly, the talking ceased. I waited for silence before carrying on.
“We have a way to count all of you accurately, but I ask of you all to stay where you are. We’re not sure whether moving around might cause a miscount.” I finished. An awkward silence followed. “So, um… just give us five minutes to do this, and we’ll start letting you through the portal.”
And with that, I turned my back on the remaining residents of Pixie Hollow, and the sound of chatter filled my ears again. I looked at the other PEF members, who were all grinning at me.
“That was fantastic!” Exclaimed Izzy, her smile widening.
Lily nodded. “You were incredible.”
“Okay, how about we release this tracking potion thing?” I asked Ruby, changing the subject quickly, before my cheeks could go any redder. She nodded, smirking slightly. She knew how stressed I’d been about that speech. Fortunately, she didn’t say anything.
“Right.” She said, pulling the tiny bottle out of her pouch. “Stand back – it could explode. Well, it’s supposed to explode, but there’s a difference between it exploding the way it’s supposed to and just plain exploding.”
“Such reassurance.” Izzy said sarcastically, and Lily and I sniggered.
“Shush, I’m trying to concentrate!” Exclaimed Ruby.
The three of us fell silent. Slowly, Ruby opened the lid, and then:
Freed from the bottle, the liquid flew upwards and the exploded like a firework.
“Uh, Ruby? Is this supposed to happen?” Asked Izzy nervously.
Ruby smiled. “Watch.”
I watched as the firework fizzled down, and then, just as it was about disappear completely, the sparks whizzed through the air, towards the large mass of pixies standing below. The sparks separated, bouncing on the head of each fairy or sparrowman it passed, covering them in a shower of magenta sparkles. The crowd oohed and ahhed as they watched as the sparkles soared back we were standing and began to form numbers. With every cluster of sparkles, the number went up – thirty-four, forty-seven, fifty-two…
Slowly, the number increased, until finally, with a shower of sparkles on our own heads, the number stood still.
Seven-hundred and eighty-two. There were exactly seven-hundred and eighty-two fairies and sparrowmen left in the Hollow. Seven-hundred and eighty-two pixies who had wanted to stay until the end. I stood there, awestruck by how many pixies had stayed. Then a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder rolled overhead, reminding us we were on a timer. I checked my pocket watch. 30 minutes. Half an hour to get nearly eight hundred fairies out of Pixie Hollow for good. I turned to Ruby.
“How are we going to keep track?” I asked. “We can’t all just keep referring back this number -” She gestured to the giant sparkly numeral beside us. “- Every few minutes, especially Izzy – she’ll be on the other side!”
“I thought about that.” Said Ruby. She pulled a notebook out of her pouch and tore four pieces of paper out. Then, she poked a corner of each piece into the glittering number. As she did, the piece of paper lit up, leaving a copy of the number on each piece. The original number disappeared as she did.
“This paper should hopefully keep track of any fairy or sparrowmen in the Hollow.” She explained, handed one to each of us. “The number should decrease as people leave, too.” She explained.
“Ruby, that’s amazing!” Lily exclaimed. Ruby smiled. “Don’t thank me until it works.” She said.
“What about pets, like Sky?” I asked. At the mention of her name, my butterfly, Sky, brushed up against my leg. I smiled and pulled out a lily petal for her. She landed on it and began sipping it’s nectar. Ruby looked troubled.
“I’m afraid not. The potion only counted fairies, not other beings. Vampixies and fairies with Mermai blood should be fine though.” She said.
“It’ll be their responsibility for any pets they own then.” I said, turning back to the crowd. Almost instantly, the chatter died.
“Okay,” I began. “There’s about half an hour left before we all need to be gone. Please do not leave the Square, unless you are going through the portal. This way none of you will be too far away from the portal.
“The potion that Ruby just released was a type of tracking spell, so we can keep an accurate head count of all of you.” I continued. “I’ll make it known, however, that any pets you might own were not included with this. Your pets are your own responsibility. Make sure they are with you when you leave through the portal. Ruby and I will be circling the square and will be there to assist you.” I gestured to Ruby. “Lily will be on this side of the portal, and Isabelle has volunteered to stand on the other side of the portal, so that we can be doubly sure that you get through safely.” I pointed to Lily and Izzy in turn.
“Right.” I said, wanting to finish this awful speech and get it over with. “You can leave whenever you want, so long as you stay in the Square.” I was so close to finishing, but I wanted to say one last thing. “Lastly, I want to comment on your bravery. Staying in Pixie Hollow until the end my not seem like much, but as you can see, out of the whole of the Hollow, less than a quarter stayed. This shows just how much you all care for your home. Thank you, and may the stars be with you all.” I smiled, then, as a dismissal, turned my back to the crowd.
The next twenty minutes was more of a blur than reality, moving from one dilemma to the next. In a way, the chaos was good. It didn’t give me too much time to think.
Slowly, the number on the paper I held decreased, until there were only about 100 fairies left in the Hollow, with about ten minutes to go before our home would be gone forever. I skirted between the remaining fairies, shouting out to them that they didn’t have much time left, and warning them to leave within the next 5 minutes. Amidst all the confusion I bumped into a garden fairy with long, golden brown hair, causing her to drop all the papers she was holding, but I only had enough time to call a quick “Sorry!” from over my shoulder, before moving on.
I need to find Crystal, I thought, swerving to avoid colliding with a sparrowman’s pet firefly. I know she wanted to stay until the very end, but the storm is too close now – it’s not safe anymore!
The rain wasn’t far off now – not only could I see it falling in the distance, but I could feel it’s power. It wouldn’t be long before it hit the square. I checked my tally. Fifteen fairies left. Not many to go now. I was just deciding whether to do a last check of the area when I heard a voice.
I whirled around; expecting to see Crystal or Ruby, but no one was there.
There it was again, this time more urgent. The voice sounded familiar, yet almost forgotten – one that I hadn’t heard in a long time.
No way, I thought, still frozen to the spot, my mind obliterated of all recent thoughts. It can’t be –
It was. There, propping herself up on the riverbank, was my mother, Selina MorningMist.
“By the Second Star,” I breathed, falling to my knees. “But how – I saw you die!” My eyes traveled down her body, to her legs, or, at least, where her legs should have been. My eyes widened. “Wait. You’re-”
She nodded, still smiling, tears in her eyes.
“Oh, Rose look how much you’ve grown up! You’re so tall, just like your father and-”
“Wait a minute!” A million questions ran through my head. “You’ve been alive this whole time? As a-”
“Mermai? Yes. My parents are both Mermai. As for seeing me ‘die’, well, that story is much too long for now. Take this.” She pressed a sand dollar into my hands. “When the time is right, it will take you where you need to go.” A clap of thunder rolled over the square, shaking the ground.
“There’s much you need to know, but for now, you have to go. I’m sorry our meeting had to be so brief – I hope to see you again.”
“Wait. Aren’t you coming with us? You may be a Mermai, but you still should be able to walk on land.” My mother smiled, and before she spoke I already knew the answer.
“Yes, I should be able to, but there are some… complications.” Another clap of thunder rolled overhead. “The storm is close. I have to go now, and so do you.”
“No.” I said firmly. “I’m not leaving you.” She smiled, and brushed her hand across my cheek. “I love you. Never forget that.” She said. Without another word, she was gone.
I sat there in shock. A single tear fell from my face and into the river. I hadn’t noticed I was crying again.
Ruby placed a hand on my shoulder. I turned to see Lily and Crystal standing not far behind her.
“Everyone’s out except for us.” She said gently. Hastily, I wiped the tears from my eyes. I didn’t want anyone thinking I was weak. “The rain is about to hit.” She went on. “We need to go now.”
I stared at her for a few seconds, registering what she had said. Then, shakily, I stood up.
“Okay.” I said. “Let’s go.”
Raindrops had started falling on the other side of the river, leaving an indescribable scene. There was just… nothing. There’s no colour to describe it. I stood there, staring in horror. Then I felt myself stumbling along, being pulled by Ruby. The four of us ran, not bothering to try and take flight, racing toward the portal. Upon reaching it, we stopped, taking one last look at our home. Then, one by one, we entered the portal – first Lily, then Crystal, and finally Ruby, leaving just me, staring out at the storm. I stood there for a few seconds, staring at what remained of my home. Then, I said the words that I would never forget.
“I will get you back, Pixie Hollow. I don’t care how long it takes, but we will soar again.”
It was with this pledge echoing in my mind as I turned my back on Pixie Hollow, and stepped into the portal, letting it engulf me in its endless black.