Christmas Chaos

Raven’s POV

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 in as many minutes.

“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’s POV

“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.

“ReportMaplehillexplosivesJackdealingneedtoactNOW!”

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 speciality 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.

Raven’s POV

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 watchlists, 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.

Rose’s POV

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 started their 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.

Raven’s POV

I’m just storing the last of the crates in a knothole behind my house when I realize I’m not alone anymore.

“What’s 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!”

Rose’s POV

“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.”

Raven’s POV

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…

Rose’s POV

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 just 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…

Raven’s POV

I walk into Phoebe’s Party Favors 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 a 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!!

Rose’s POV

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.

Raven’s POV

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 colorful 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 can catch her, but I’m too late.

She tumbles over backwards, pushing both of us to the floor.

Rose’s POV

“Ow.”

I try to sit up.

“That was quite the tumble we took.”

“Yeah, no kidding. You ok?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Ever fallen off one of the 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?”

Raven’s POV

“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 that 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?”

Rose’s POV

“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 you magic to alter the dress match Raven’s Christmas theme?”

Izzy smiles. “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.

“What?”

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.”

Raven’s POV

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. D’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!”

“Excellent. Thanks.”

Rose’s POV

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.”

Raven’s POV

“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 parlor (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.

“Thank you!” I reply cheerfully.

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!”

Rose’s POV

I can’t actually remember the last time I went to a party. Ever since I established the PEF, most of my time goes out the window.

The parlour is so crowded, it’s almost as if half the Hollow is here.

Actually, scratch that. Knowing Raven, half of the Hollow probably is here.

I stand next to the food table, stuffing my face with chocolate as politely as I can and trying to calm my nerves.

“Rose, this is Rachel.” Rachel’s voice carries through my com. “I’ve just arrived. Meet me in the garden in five minutes.”

“Ok,” I say quietly. “See you then.”

Raven spots me and comes over.

“How’s my favorite party pal enjoying themselves?”

I smile. “Great. The food is amazing.”

She grins. “Awesome! D’you want to start a game of – Evie, are you listening?”

I am certainly not listening, because I just saw an all too familiar face in the crowd.

He may be wearing an elf costume, but I’d know my brother’s face anywhere.

I’m not listening because Jack Frost has just crashed the party.

Raven’s POV

A look of icy terror washes over Evie’s face.

I quickly look over my shoulder, tossing my ponytail aside.

I scan the crowd of newcomers to the party quickly, looking for anyone who could have scared Evie this badly.

I may have only know her for less than three days, but I can tell she’s scared witless.

My eyes fall on the grotesquely tight-looking face of a sparrow man.

His eyelids are pulled back, his lips stretched into an artificial grin.

After a few moments, I recognize him from one of my trips into Havendish Square. Strange man – but he did give me the reference to Jed.

I can’t seem to recall his name…

Whoever he is, Evie obviously isn’t a fan of him. Not taking my eyes off the sparrow man, I ask her:

“Do I need to ask him to leave?”

I get no reply.

Reluctantly tearing my gaze off the sparrow man, I turn around to see that Evie is gone.

Rose’s POV

There’s very few people in the garden, so it’s a lot quieter than inside. When I arrive, Rachel is already there. It’s decorated with an arrangement of wintery lanterns and ice crystals, but I barely take notice of it.

Rachel is wearing one of her spectacular party dresses: this one a sparkly green. She looks up from her leaf journal and sees me.

“Evie!” She cries, a smile breaking out on her face. She closes her journal and rushes up to me, tackling me in a hug.

“Nice cover,” I say quietly.

“Thanks. Have you found something yet?” She mutters.

“Something, no.” I say, breaking away. “Someone, yes. Jack is here.”

Rachel stares at me. “You’ve got to be kidding me. What in Neverland is he doing here?”

“I don’t know, but it does confirm one thing – Raven is in league with Jack.” I feel a little disappointed having to admit this.

Mission aside, I had enjoyed spending the last few days with Raven. It was nice to spend time with someone who was so laid-back and cheerful, even if it probably was an act.

“Did he see you?” Asks Rachel.

“I don’t think so,” I say. “But we’d better stay away from him, just in case he recognizes us.”

“I agree – the last thing I want to do is run into your crazy brother. He gives me the creeps.” She looks at me. “No offense.”

“None taken – I’ll admit he’s not exactly a gentleman.”

“I found out something as well. I was talking to Sophie – she’s a friend of Raven’s – and she mentioned that Raven was acting all suspicious, trying to hide something from her the other day.”

“Did she find out what it was?” I ask.

“No, but she said whatever it was is inside a heap of crates.”

“Probably whatever she bought off of Jed,” I say, blood running cold. “Did she say where?”

“Yes – somewhere around the back of the house.”

“Well then,” I say. “What do you say we go check it out?”

Raven’s POV

I swivel my head around, looking for Evie. Did she go to the refreshments table? Or to get some fresh air on the balcony?

I’ll leave her to her own devices for a bit. It’s getting late, and the grand finale isn’tnearly ready! Evie is my best party pal, but I can’t risk anyone finding out!!!

I set down my flute of fairy punch, dab at my face with an ornate blue napkin, and begin to walk up the stairs quickly.

I smile, nod, and wave at people as I pass them on the stairs and in the hallway. When I reach my bedroom, I walk inside, unlatch my window, and fly out towards the back of my house.

I did have to move the crates from the knothole, but I kept them close.  I can’t be spotted around the front of the house, so I hid them in a large, scruffy bush near my garden.

As I creep towards the scraggly bush, I see Evie talking to another pixie in the near deserted garden. It’s good to see Evie having a good time.  The bad news is, Evie and the pixie she’s talking to are standing right in front of the pathway to the place where I hid my crates.

This could be a problem.

Why is it that the whole world seems to want to keep me from setting these crates off? Sophie, and now Evie and her friend?

Is there some secret society whose only goal is to prevent me from blowing up those crates?!

Rose’s POV

The two of us stroll around to the back of the house, trying to act as casual as we can along the way.

As soon as we’re out of sight, I change into something more comfortable – a white knitted jumper and skirt with bright blue tights, and a pair of trainers.

Not the best thing to be creeping around in, but the best I can do on such short notice. At least my feet are comfortable again.

We break into a sprint, which is a lot easier now than it would have been in my dress.

We’re about to run around the corner when Rachel stops abruptly, causing me to run into her.

“What are you -”

“Shhh!” She hisses. “Look.”

I poke my head around the corner and see what she saw moments before me.

Someone’s beaten us to the crates, and it’s not Raven.

It’s Jack.

I have no plan. All I know is that I can’t let Jack get those crates. Without thinking, I run into the clearing, all caution thrown to the winds.

HEY!

Jack looks up, startled. I storm up to him.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” I snarl.

Raven’s POV

As I creep closer to my hidden pathway, I see Evie and her friend dash inside.

That could mean big trouble!!

I quickly run in behind them, keeping as quiet as I can.

What I see is a very angry-looking Evie, yelling at a sparrow man I can’t quite make out.

Actually, is…that the sparrow man that referred me to Jed, again?  What are they all doing so close to my explosives?

“Well, well, I wasn’t expecting to see you here, sis.” Says Jack, a smiling spreading over his face. Evie clenches her fists.

Sis? Is Jack, the reference to Jed, related to Evie, my party pal?

“Step away from the crates, Jack.” She says, her voice hard as steel.

“What crates?” He asks, a look of mock surprise on his face.

“Don’t play dumb with me Jack, I’m really not in the mood. You know exactly which crates. You’re in league with Raven, and we’re here to stop you.”

“Oh really? Tell me, Rose, tell me how you are so sure I’m working with your pal?”

Rose? ROSE? You mean, Evie doesn’t exist?

“She isn’t my pal, Jack. It’s called a cover. I’ve been watching her for the past few days. We found out who gave her the explosives. We traced it back to you. We figured it all out, and now we’re here to stop you.”

Evie doesn’t exist, Jack is tricking me, and some unknown party in league with Rose thinks I’m trying to blow up half the Hollow.

Just. Great.

So, maybe my judgement is a little clouded by the fact that I’ve just been triple-crossed, but I’m 99% sure I’m in the right when I take running leap from my hiding spot and tackle Rose to the ground.

“What the -” Rose barely has time to react.

“How dare you pretend to be my friend and then accuse me of trying to blow things up!”

During the confusion of me tackling Rose and Rose’s friend trying to pull me off of her, Jack seems to have taken his leave. As in, is trying to run away from a dog pile of three angry pixies.

Rose’s POV

Raven is scary when she’s angry.

Her hair is messy and covered in twigs, her dress slightly torn. I do my best to block her punches, but training never really taught me how to do that flat on the ground.

Rachel is screaming and trying to pull her off of me, but not with much success.

“Rose, he’s getting away!” Exclaims Rachel.

In sheer desperation, I enact a shield spell. Raven flies twenty feet into the air and Rachel gets thrown backwards into the bushes. I get to my feet.

“Are you alright?” I ask Rachel, dropping the shield and running to her.

“Ouch.” She groans, and sits up. “I think I just found Raven’s hidden stash of explosives.”

She’s right – the bushes she landed in happens to have a large pile of crates hidden inside them.

“We should probably get rid of these,” Is say. “Before they cause any damage.”

“Yeah, we probably – Look out!”

I whirl around in time to see Raven speeding towards me.

“Do not mess with those crates!” She yells.

I throw up my shield again, this time making sure that it’s around me and Rachel.

Raven flies as hard as she can, trying to get through.

“Calm down Raven!”

“I will not calm down!” She says angrily. “You’ve been lying to me this whole time! How dare you- DON’T YOU TOUCH THOSE CRATES!”

I turn my head to see Rachel prying off the lid of one of the crates, revealing a massive pile of –

“Fireworks?” Says Rachel, looking utterly baffled. I turn back to Raven, my mind slowly putting the pieces together.

“You really weren’t trying to blow up the Hollow,” I say.

Raven snorts.

“You just figured that out now? Really, it’s almost as though everyone assumes I’m a redheaded psycho, bent on destroying the world.”

I try to process this.

“So you’re not in league with my crazy psychopath brother?” I ask.

“No, of course I’m not! You’re the one that let your crazy psychopath brother get away!”

“She’s right. We’re wasting time.” Says Rachel.

I frown.

“I know.” I say. “Look, Raven, I know we messed up. Big time. I can explain and I will, but not right now. I have to go after Jack. Can I trust you not to try and kill me again if I put this shield down?”

“I’ll try to contain my homicidal maniac urges.” Raven replies, rolling her eyes.

“Thank you.” Reluctantly, I take the shield down.

“Right.” I say, turning to Rachel. “We’re going to need backup. Can you call HQ on your com?” Rachel nods.

“What about you?” She asks.

I smile grimly. “I’m going to find Jack,” I say. “I think it’s time I had a little chat with my brother.”

Raven’s POV

Rose and Rachel, as I now know they are called, just called for backup from the Pixie Elite Four or something. So apparently, there was a secret society trying to prevent me from setting off some (illegal and pretty dangerous) fireworks.

Huh.

Well, Rose and Rachel have run off somewhere. Turns out that because of the holidays, the Pixie Elite Fork or whatever couldn’t send enough backup in time, so Rose and Rachel are going to face Jack off alone.

A bad idea, if you ask me. But they didn’t. So now I’m here, sitting on a crate full of illegally distributed fireworks and trying to pull moss out of my hair.

Yippee.

I mean, they could have at least brought me along! I can kick villain butt too! But I guess the good guys always work alone.

Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Rose’s POV

“I should never have roped Raven into this.”

“I don’t think that would have been physically possible.” Says Rachel, jogging to keep up with me. Apparently I walk faster when I’m agitated.

“Yes, but Raven shouldn’t have had to be involved.”

“Rose, I know you feel guilty about falsely accusing Raven, but there’s nothing you can do about it. And anyway, all the evidence pointed to her.”

I sigh. “I know. Come on, the sooner we confront my brother the sooner I can right this mess.”

“I think I may know a way that could make that much easier for you.”

I spin around to find Jack himself sitting on a tree stump we just passed.

“You were never very observant when you were angry at yourself,” He says.

“Fireworks?” I say, folding my arms. “You were trying to steal fireworks?”

“Well, if you had been more observant, you would have noticed a couple or grenades at the bottom of each crate. That was my main objective. The fireworks would have made a good celebration for afterwards.”

“Good thing you’ll never get your hands on them.” Rachel says.

“Who says I won’t?”

The next thing I know, Rachel and I are on the ground, as if pushed backwards by some force.

Jack’s magic.

“Whilst you two were being attacked by Miss Redhead, I managed to snag this.” He pulls out a single grenade. My heart drops.

“So,” he says. “You now have a choice. Give me the ring, or watch your friends house go up in flames.”

There’s a rustle in the bushes behind us.

Raven emerges from the bushes, holding a humongous lit firework, pointing it straight at Jack.

“Choose this, Jack…”

POW!!!

Raven’s POV

I cough as the smoke fills my lungs. Jed didn’t tell me fireworks were so smokey!  To be fair, Jed also didn’t tell me he was planning on framing me and using me to blow up the whole Hollow.

As I use a stray branch to help lift myself up, I notice my knees, hands, and elbows are scraped and bloody.

I wipe my hands on my torn skirt, and look behind me to see Rose and Rachel, also hacking their lungs out.

Jack is nowhere in sight.

I suppose I knocked him halfway outta the Hollow with that firework.

As I stumble over to Rose, I can hear her say:

“And that is exactly why explosives are banned from the Hollow.”

Epilogue

Rose’s POV

“So let me get this straight – you’ve been doing this for how many years?”

“About 5 years?” I say. “I’m not sure. I’ve never really kept count.”

It’s two days later, and Raven and I are enjoying cookies and a smoothie from the Tearoom whilst I give her that explanation I promised.

The chocolate tastes a lot better this time. Maybe lying dulls your senses? I’m not sure.

“Well, at least it doesn’t seem like you’ll have to worry about it for a while.” says Raven.

“Oh, I’m sure something will come up. I feel like my work never ends…” I sigh.

“So, are you actually planning on having a party in the New Year, or was that just part of your cover?”

“I have to admit, I came up with that on the spot.”

“Well, if you do…”

I roll my eyes. “Yes, you can help.”

Raven punches the air. “Yes!” She starts rattling off a bunch of preparations. I sit back and listen, and for the first time in a while, I feel like my life is normal.

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