The Quest for the Moonlit Orb: Part Six
Illuminated by the light that flowed through the doorway, the figure was clearly visible. There was no doubt in Cleo’s mind. It was Jamie. Ten realized it as soon as Cleo did. At first he was overjoyed to see Jamie alive, but then he began to wonder what Jamie was doing here. Could it be possible that he was (or was working for) the thief?
Seeing the stunned looks on Cleo and Ten’s faces, Nalina hissed, “Who is it?”
“It’s Jamie!” Cleo cried ecstatically. She had absolutely no doubt about Jamie’s loyalties, but the others were not so sure. Up until now, Jamie had not noticed the others, because he was preoccupied with closing the enormous door behind him, but when he heard Cleo, he spun around and saw them. At first he did not recognize anyone, but then Cleo came running forward to greet him.
“Cleo?” he asked, astonished.
“Yes, and Ten too!” she said happily.
“Who’s Jamie, again?” Stacia asked Mysia while this was happening.
“Cleo and Ten’s owner,” she replied, “the one who went missing.”
Cleo and Jamie, who had been joined by Ten, returned to where the others were standing.
“What are you doing here?” Ten and Jamie asked simultaneously.
“I was taken prisoner by Goulart,” Jamie said. “He was trying to get me to show him how to work the Orb. I knew, because my brother told me.”
“It is Goulart? And he doesn’t know how the Orb works?” Mysia asked, looking pleased about something for the first time that day. “You didn’t tell him, did you?”
“No. I’ve been trying to escape, which is what I was doing just now.” He looked carefully at Mysia. “You must be a Guardian,” he said.
“Yes,” she said, “Mysia.”
Quickly they informed him of the events that had occurred in his absence.
“So, can you get us inside?” Mysia asked when they were through.
“Well, I’ve been more concerned with getting out than breaking in... I think there is a third-story window that’s wide open right now, if we had a way to reach it.”
“Most of us can fly,” Cleo said. “That’s how we’ve been getting around, with Nalina on my back and Stacia riding on Ten. But there’s no one to carry you.”
“I’ll take Stacia first, then I’ll come back for Jamie,” Ten suggested.
“Is the window far from where the Orb is being kept?” Cleo asked.
“Well, the Orb’s on the fifth and highest floor, but I know the way.”
“Let’s go,” Mysia said, setting off through the snow.
After flying through the open window, Jamie led them through the corridor and up two flights of stairs. Nalina fell slightly behind as she studied the beauty of this palace; just like the outside, the interior was made completely of ice. When they had reached the fifth floor, Nalina realized Edd, who had been just in front of her, had vanished.
“Edd’s gone,” she whispered.
The others looked around, but no one spotted the Pteri. “Maybe she just fell behind,” Mysia said.
“What if Goulart captured her?” Cleo whispered.
“We don’t have time to stop and look,” Mysia said impatiently. “We’ll get her after we rescue the Orb.”
Though they still worried about Edd, the others had no choice but to turn and follow Mysia and Jamie through the hallway.
At the end of the hall was a set of massive double doors. They were made of solid gold, and sparkling jewels were encrusted along the outer edges of the doors.
“This is it,” Jamie whispered.
“How can we tell if there’s anyone inside?” Stacia asked.
“We’ll have to be very quiet, and see if we can hear anything,” Ten said. The group remained silent for three minutes, but they didn’t hear a sound.
“I think it’s safe,” Cleo whispered.
“All right,” Mysia agreed. Cleo, Ten, and Jamie pulled on one door, while Narros, Nalina, Stacia, and Mysia pulled open the other. The doors opened to a massive room, full of glittering jewels and priceless objects, all of which were probably stolen. The ceiling was actually a huge dome, made of stained glass. In the very center of the room, mounted on a large velvet pedestal and placed inside a glass case, was the Orb. It was a huge, iridescent sphere that hung suspended in midair, with dozens of vibrant hues and every color of the rainbow dancing across its surface. Translucent mist swirled and rolled around the Orb’s glassy surface.
Directly across the room from the doors was a massive, throne-like chair, and sitting in it was a Halloween Kougra that was most certainly Goulart. He was not, however, the only person in the room, nor was he the most surprising. To the right of the throne stood a tall human girl with long, thin black hair and luminous green eyes. Stacia recognized her instantly as one of Nicosia’s previous apprentices. She knew it must be Jasmine. To the left of the throne was a fire faerie, one who had been haunting Mysia’s dreams: Mysia’s younger sister, Matarah. She looked almost exactly like Mysia, except there were no dark circles under her eyes, her hair was shorter, and her eyes glittered maliciously. The fourth person in the room was one that all seven of them were startled to see. Standing beside Matarah was Edd.
They hardly had time to realize what this meant before Goulart stood and whispered some kind of incantation. Before they had time to react, the doors behind them closed with a bang and sealed themselves.
“How nice of you to join us,” Goulart sneered, his voice menacing and low. “Of course, if Edd had done her job properly, you wouldn’t be here at all,” he added, glaring at Edd.
“I tried,” Edd snapped, “but we ran into that fool Nicosia’s place. She kept all the poisons locked up, and her idiot new apprentice figured out where the Orb was.”
“You were the traitor,” Ten said faintly. “The Island Mystic was right.”
“Yes,” she said with a smirk, “and I would have had you all fooled if he would have kept quiet. Luckily he was considerate enough to leave out my name.”
“But you were Ankira’s neighbor,” Cleo protested, still struggling to realize that Edd had betrayed them all.
“That was all a fake. Jasmine posed as my owner and moved in next door, and we convinced Ankira to let me into her house. After that it was easy to spy on her and discover everything we needed to know,” Edd bragged. “Then I was supposed to join you all and lead you in the wrong direction, giving Goulart time to figure out how to work the Orb. I didn’t plan on picking up a couple of orphans and Nicosia’s newest apprentice.”
While Edd was speaking, Mysia was trying to call the Orb. Once it was in her hands, she would be able to use it against them, but for some reason the Orb would not come. Why weren’t her powers working? She glanced up, and then she realized what was going on. Matarah had already figured out what she was doing, and was countering her spell.
When Edd finished her explanation, Goulart addressed Mysia and began to speak again. “You see, Mysia, this little plan has been in my mind for many, many years. Fyora simply stopped believing that I was a threat, but that’s exactly what I was waiting for. I took my time, wanting everything to be perfect. First, I needed someone on the inside, someone who knew all about the Guardians and the Orb. Who better than Matarah, recently exiled from her family of Guardians, who knew everything I needed to know? Who better than the sister of a Guardian, who knew you better than anyone else, and was longing for revenge? She was able to find the location of Ankira’s house, and learned that the house next door was abandoned. Obviously Ankira knew about me, and would be immediately suspicious of another fire faerie, so I asked for help from another dark magician longing for power, Jasmine, and her pet Edd, who quickly became an excellent spy and attempted to befriend you all, in order to trick you.
“Matarah also knew the story of Amman, and with Jasmine’s help she soon located his brother Jamie and discovered that he knew all about the Orb. He also had the one valuable secret that neither Matarah nor I had learned: how the Orb works. So Matarah went to his house while his pets were out, and brought him here. She also used her fire faerie magic to burn all of his research, so that his pets would not discover it.
“I, meanwhile, went to the Lost Desert after Edd learned where Sylia lived by spying on Ankira. Unfortunately, Sylia realized that something was wrong and sent the Orb to Cymirus. This time Matarah accompanied me, and distracted Cymirus by setting a small fire in the kitchen, enabling me to steal the Orb. Unfortunately we left some clues behind that led you here.”
Narros remembered how Mysia had wondered about the thief’s apparent preference for burning things, and how Edd had been against the idea of traveling to Terror Mountain. Suddenly, everything made sense.
Mysia also realized this, but she was focusing most of her attention on overpowering Matarah and getting the Orb. She couldn’t understand why Matarah’s powers were so strong. Matarah had always been an amateur faerie, but Mysia had received some of the best magical training in the world so that she would be ready to protect the Orb. Overpowering Matarah should have been simple, but Mysia found herself struggling.
Now that Goulart had finished speaking, everyone in the room became aware of the struggle between the two sisters. Mysia and Matarah stared intensely at each other, each waiting for the other to grow weak. Mysia was beginning to lose. Her power was giving out, and the Orb was slowly inching its way nearer to Matarah.
Then, suddenly, it quickly changed direction and flew towards Mysia with such a force that it shattered the case that held it. Stunned, Mysia looked beside her and saw Stacia, who was using her power to urge the Orb forward. Matarah was no match for their powers combined. Across the room, Jasmine also realized what was happening, and began to help Matarah. The Orb returned to the center of the case, but would go no farther.
Cleo watched this struggle with a feeling of helplessness. Jamie, who was standing beside her, subtly nudged her and nodded in Goulart’s direction. Cleo realized that he was about to join in the struggle, and then Mysia and Stacia would be outnumbered. She nodded in agreement and then looked at Ten, who was standing on her other side. He nodded as well, and very quietly Jamie slipped onto Ten’s back. “On three,” he whispered. “One... two... THREE!” Ten and Cleo flew rapidly into the air and headed straight for Goulart. When Goulart saw them coming, he released two bright jets of green light that were undoubtedly spells. Cleo and Ten maneuvered around them, while Jamie jumped from Ten’ back, knocking Goulart to the floor. The spells headed across the room, where one almost hit Nalina, who ducked just in time, and they collided with the wall. The impact caused the entire wall to cave in.
The room began to shake, and the ceiling was collapsing. Quickly, Jamie climbed onto Ten’s back, and Ten flew straight up through the dome, shattering the glass. Just behind them was Cleo, with Nalina on her back, and Narros.
Below them, Jasmine and Matarah had been distracted when Goulart fell. Mysia took advantage of the confusion and grabbed the Orb. As she did so, there was a loud rumbling sound, and part of the roof collapsed. Quickly, Stacia took the Orb, and Mysia lifted Stacia into the air and flew after the others. Jasmine, Edd, Goulart, and Matarah were not far behind as the entire palace fell to the ground.
They had just made it out of the canyon when Jasmine lunged at Mysia, knocking her and Stacia out of the air and onto the ground below. Luckily, they didn’t fall back into the canyon, but onto the even ground of the summit. However, the Orb fell from Stacia’s hands in the impact. It rolled away through the newly fallen snow. Ten and Jamie made a dive for it, but so did Jasmine. They collided in midair and fell to the ground. Goulart headed for it, but Cleo reached it first. Nalina snatched it from the ground, and Cleo soared away, but Goulart and Matarah both aimed spells at her. While she was trying to dodge them, Edd took advantage of the distraction and grabbed it from Nalina, only to be met by a furious Mysia, who easily shoved the Pteri to the ground and grabbed the Orb. As the blizzard raged on, so did the battle for the Orb. Goulart’s side was outnumbered, but they had the advantage of having three magicians instead of two, and everyone on their side was able to fly.
The Orb constantly changed hands, but no one was able to keep it for very long. Soon, Mysia and Matarah were flying through the air, throwing spells at each other, while on the ground Nalina, and Cleo fought Edd while Narros, Jamie, and Ten fought Goulart. Meanwhile, Stacia and Jasmine, the two apprentices, were dueling fiercely.
Nalina tried to see through the blinding snow, but everything was hard to make out. She didn’t even know who had the Orb now. All she could see were the outlines of Cleo and Edd, the sharp, jagged edge of the cliff, and, nearby, the shapes of Jasmine and Stacia. Then, abruptly, Edd was hurtling towards her out of nowhere. Swiftly she dodged the Pteri and prepared to attack, but she never got that far.
A scream echoed around them as Stacia, hit squarely in the chest by a spell from Jasmine, flew through the air, where she collided with Edd. Stacia’s momentum propelled both of them through the air, and before anyone had time to react, they plummeted over the side of the cliff and fell into the dark abyss below.
To be continued...