A few years ago, I met a garden fairy named Raven. Crazy, boisterous, and deadly smart. She’s helped out of some tight corners. About four months ago, I asked her if she’d like a place in the Pixie Elite Force, the secret organisation I run, as a member of the Disguise team. Luckily for me, she accepted. Raven’s probably one of the best friends I have. There’s no secrets between us. I’m really glad to know that she’s one of those friends I can always rely on. She’ll alway have my back, and I’ll always have hers.
Dalila’s Whisper Message to the Pixie Elite Force:
July 1, Late Morning
This is Dalila. I don’t know when this message will reach the PEF, but there’s something you must know. I’m currently in-
and I don’t know when I’ll be back. It’s really dangerous. The-
is everywhere. Don’t trust them. I hope to return soon but – they’ve found us. Jingles.
Don’t trust them, don’t trust the-
June 18, Breakfast
I’m signing my Summons right now, while I’m in the Tearoom. I’m hoping to drop it off at the Pixie Postings stand soon, so it can be accepted and approved before noon today. If I do get it sent in in time, I can be ready and on my way to the Mainland tomorrow!
I’m hoping to be all packed and ready before bed tonight. If I don’t turn it in today, or it doesn’t get accepted, I’ll be shipped out on one of the late pixie dust carriers.
Anyway, I’m going to see Ginger and Buttercup later to say goodbye. Since they’re art and tinker-talents, they can’t come to the Mainland with me. I wish they could, but the Never Council sa-
June 18, Early Morning
I stop writing abruptly because a short, brunette fairy has just spilled her bowl of soup on me.
“W-what was that?” I splutter angrily, staring at the orange stain that’s spreading on my favorite sweater.
“Oh, oh, my! I’m so sorry!” The other pixie says, trying in vain to wipe the stain off the tablecloth with her napkin. Quickly, I pull my bag away, trying to prevent what I think is pumpkin soup from dripping on it. Thankfully, my diary is no worse for wear.
“It’s fine,” I say, calming down a bit. “I can wash it off.”
I grab my bag with one hand, and begin pulling my sweater off with the other, all while walking towards the Tearoom’s public bathrooms.
June 18, Early Morning
I sit on my own blue stone and watch as the pixies on stones violet, orange, and red all take turns to duel.
Truth be told, I’m nervous. Rose and I have fought before, but not with magic, and one of us is usually not expecting it.
And, to increase my anxiety, most of the pixies here are good. Like, really good. I don’t have any practice!
I wipe my palms on my jeans and try to reassure myself. You’re good. You’re great. You’re a garden-talent, for Neverland’s sake. You can do this. Now stop whimpering, you insipid little…
Hey! Who gave my internal monologue permission to insult?
Shaking my head, I try to focus on the duel playing out in front of me. One of the fairies just summoned a giant branch, and started chasing her duelling partner around the arena with it. Is that even allowed?
June 18, Early Morning
“Next up – Blue stones!”
I stand up on the blue stone I was just sitting on and face my opponent.
Today’s duelling practice for all Pixie Elite Force members. We do it once a month, to keep our skills sharp. All the PEF members sit in a circle on coloured stones. For every coloured stone, there’s another of the exact same colour. Rachel, who’s the acting Head of Spells and Magic, calls out colours from a list. The two fairies that are sitting on that colour stand on the stone, take the oath and then duel.
My opponent today is Raven. She narrows her eyes at me from across the lawn.
Bring it, she mouths. I suppress a laugh.
Rachel lands in the middle of the duelling circle. “Because this is your first time Raven, I’ll explain the oath to you. This oath you are about to take means you are willing to abide by our rules for duelling. Are you ready?”
“The rules are simple – you may use anything you wish to duel, so long as it’s not illegal, of course. There is to be no deliberate injuring, maiming or mangling in this duel. The duel is won when one fairy is on the ground for longer than five seconds or one surrenders. If the fight exceeds five minutes, then it is considered a draw. Do you understand and swear to abide by these rules?”
Rachel told me she based the rules on a Clumsy sport called boxing. I don’t see how boxes could be used in a sport. As far as I can see, they’d only get in the way.
“Yeah, yeah.” Raven flips her ponytail and places her hands on her hips.
Rachel nods. “Rose?”
“Yes, I swear.” I tell her.
Rachel smiles. “Very well. You can enter the arena.”
The other members chatter excitedly as Raven and I join Rachel in the arena. Rachel clicks her fingers, and a shield falls over the circle, like a dome, blocking out the noise.
“Scared, Potter?” Says Raven, quoting an old Clumsy book we once found washed up on shore.
“You wish!” I shoot back, completing the reference.
Rachel rolls her eyes and steps back to the edge of the circle. “Ready?”
Both of us nod, eyes locked on each other.
“You may begin.”
June 18, Early Morning
After a few minutes of scrubbing, I decide that my sweater is a lost cause.
I stare at myself in the mirror for a few seconds.
“Well, I suppose the first thing I should do is get a new sweater.” I say, talking to myself. “And then I’ll turn in my Summons, and then I can go to the Mainland, and forget all about this.”
I push a few stray curls back behind my headband and stride out of the bathroom, confident and determined.
Twenty minutes later, I walk out of Summit Style, my brand new sweater in my hand.
Sitting on a branch, I pull it over my head and then search through my bag. I want to finish up my diary entry and make absolutely sure no soup got onto it.
However, I only feel my pen, my Summons, and some miscellaneous junk. My fingers don’t make contact with the rough cover of my diary.
Frantically, I begin pulling things out of my bag. I find a box of cottonpuffs, a bottle of shampoo, and an empty envelope, but no diary.
“Oh, no!” I say, jumping up. “I must have lost it! But where?”
June 18, Early Morning
I haven’t duelled against a garden fairy in a long time, so I try to recollect the best strategy. Water and Garden Talents haven’t got many weaknesses when tested against each other, so neither of us really have the upperwing in this fight. I also haven’t seen Raven use her talent that much, other than to garden or fix up her petal skirts when they start to dry out.
Raven cracks her knuckles, then clicks her fingers. The ground shakes, long vines growing at my feet, attempting to spiral around them. I take flight, moving out of harm’s way, but the vines rise upwards, trying to grab at my ankles.
Thinking quick, I circle the inside of the duelling circle darting to avoid getting tangled in the vines. Suddenly, they jerk to a stop. All my crazy flying has tied them into a knot. I blink.
“Well, that went better than I expected,” I mutter.
Raven sighs, clicking her fingers again. The vines retreat back into the ground.
“Fine,” She says. “Your turn.”
I grin, waving my hand. Rain begins to fall within the circle, soaking Raven’s wings.
“Hey, that’s not… Well, I guess it is.” She throws a pinch of dust over herself, and a transparent shield appears, blocking out the storm.
I twirl my hand in a spiral, creating a hurricane effect. Raven’s shield flickers and dims.
The ground rumbles again. More vines – I must ask Raven later why she likes these plants so much. I ready myself to dodge them again, when I notice something different.
These vines have thorns. Big, sharp looking ones.
Since when do vines have thorns?
I disperse the storm so I can concentrate on the vines. Unfortunately, that means Raven can focus on them too. I try to tangle the vines like before, but these ones don’t follow me. They just sit there, coiling.
“Raven,” I say cautiously. When she doesn’t respond, I turn to look at her.
Her hair is windswept from the storm, her brand new outfit soaked and torn. There’s a wild look in her eyes.
A wild look I could have sworn I’d seen before…
Suddenly, something sharp grabs my angle. I turn to see the vines twisting around my leg, and I wince in pain.
The vines throw me to the ground, and I land with a thud.
“One,” Begins Rachel. “Two, three…”
I attempt to get to my feet, but a small tug from the vines causes me to fall flat on my face again.
The shield around the circle disperses. All the members are silent. Then there’s an outburst of applause. Rachel points to Raven.
“And we have our winner!” She cries.
Raven blinks, and straightens. The vines holding my feet loosen, then retreat back into the ground.
I get to my feet.
“Not too shabby!” I tell her, grinning.
“Are you kidding?” Says Rachel, looking incredulous. “You’re the first person to ever beat Rose, well, apart from Ruby.”
“Well, I’ve been told I’m outstanding before, but you really do flatter me.”
Rachel laughs. “Come on, I’ve been told that there’s a morning tea being held in the planning room.”
“Yeah, Izzy helped me cook the food,” I say, brushing dirt off my pants. “Though first I should probably change my clothes and get that,” I indicate the small puncture marks on my leg, “Looked at.”
“Yeah, me too. You really did a number on my outfit.”
I roll my eyes. “It’ll dry,” I say. “Come on, let’s go eat!”
June 18, Late Morning
Sighing, I pull a dry dress over my head. It’ll dry. Pah!
I turn and examine myself in the HQ’s bathroom mirror.
My ponytail’s soggy, and my makeup is running. I grab a hand towel and dry my face with it, then tie my hair up into a bun.
Opening the door and walking downstairs, I notice Rose and Ruby speaking in hushed voices by the refreshments table. Rose is sporting a leaf bandage around her ankle. Lily must have patched her up.
Rose and Ruby immediately shut up, and Rose has a very suspicious look on her face.
Narrowing my eyes slightly, I decide I want to know what they were discussing.
“Soo… Whatcha talking about?”
Rose hesitates. “There’s an upcoming mission that we’re yet to assign pixies to. Ruby and I were contemplating who.”
I smile. “That’s all?”
Rose nods. “That’s all. Now, who’s for a smoothie?”
“Me!” I shout. It’s been too long since I’ve exploited my friendship with Rose for free drinks.
Ruby nods. “Can it have extra cream?”
Rose rolls her eyes. “I suppose so.”
Ruby does a backflip in mid-air, then follows Rose out the door.
Shaking my head, I follow them both (but I don’t backflip. I’m too refined for backflips).
There’s something Rose and Ruby aren’t telling me, but I’ll leave it for later. The Tearoom is a place for happiness, not domestic disputes!
June 18, Late Morning
Inside Summit Style, I begin searching for my diary.
I dig through t-shirts, rummage through racks, and crawl along the floor. Finally, the shop owner, Diva Wings, interrupts me.
“I don’t know what you’re looking for, honey, but it’s not here.”
“You don’t say.” I mutter, standing up amidst the piles of clothing I’ve created.
Ashamed, but only slightly, I grab a random purse and push it towards her.
“I’ll take this.” I say, handing her my pouch.
“Yeah, I think you will.” Diva says, holding my pouch between two fingers.
Outside, I decide to search for my diary where I last saw it, the Tearoom.
Stuffing my new purse into my bigger (and more useful) bag, I flit outside, hoping that my diary is there.
June 18, Late Morning
As the three of us fly to the Tearoom, Raven and Ruby ramble on about the latest fashions, which gives me time to think. I cast my mind back to my conversation with Ruby earlier.
“You really think it’s possible? That she’s somehow related to…” Ruby had trailed off in mid-sentence.
“Anything’s possible,” Was my response. “It may be nothing, but either way, keep an eye on her.”
Raven had interrupted seconds later. What I had told her was the truth, technically. It just doesn’t make sense, and until it does, I’m going to stick to my number one rule:
Trust no one.
Raven has always been someone I could trust. She’s one of the few people who know about my past. There’s literally no secrets between us.
A saying I read in a Clumsy book jumps to mind. Red Queen, I think it was called. Four words, four, very true words.
Anyone can betray anyone.
“Rose? Are you okay?”
I blink, and look at Raven. Her eyes are full of concern.
“I’m fine,” I tell her, as we near Havendish Square. “So, what kind of smoothie would you like?”
June 18, Late Morning
I sit at the table in uncomfortable silence with Rose and Ruby. Rose is staring intensely at the tablecloth, and Ruby is leaning back in her chair, apparently enjoying her smoothie.
I stir my strawberry smoothie and sigh for what must be the umpteenth time in the past five minutes.
“So, Raven,” Says Ruby, slurping on her smoothie, finally breaking the silence. “How are you settling into the PEF?”
“Pretty well, I’d say. You’re all so professional, I’m not sure I’ll ever catch up to you!”
Ruby giggles. “You should’ve seen us when we first started out. There was only, what, four of us?” She nudges Rose, who blinks.
“What? Oh yeah, just you, me, Victoria and Autumn,” She says distractedly.
“Victoria and Autumn? Who’re they?” I ask.
Ruby finishes her smoothie and sets it down on the table. “Victoria founded the PEF with Rose. She still pops in from time to time. But Autumn…” She shrugs sadly.
“What?” I ask. “Where’d she go?”
“She disappeared without a trace, about two years ago.” Says Rose flatly. “No one’s seen her since.”
“Really? Any idea what happened to her?” I gulp nervously.
Ruby shakes her head. “No. And it’s not like she was acting strangely before she left either. She wasn’t unhappy or angry, she was fine.”
Our whole table returns to silence as I run Ruby’s words over and over again in my mind.
June 18, Late Morning
After sitting in another awkward silence for about five minutes, I excuse myself to go pay for our smoothies. I wonder why Ruby brought up such a touchy subject. Autumn was a really close friend – a best friend, even, and I miss her a lot. Sometimes I still have to double take if I see a pixie with long blonde hair, or hear a laugh that sounds the same way as she did.
By the Second Star Rose, you act like she’s dead.
But she’s not. She just can’t be.
I push those thoughts out of my mind.
I place a handful of oak leaves on the counter and thank the waitress for her service.
I’m making my way back to our table, when something catches my eye. A book, half hidden under a table.
I bend down and pick it up. There’s no title. It’s dark blue, and the cover is rough underneath my fingers.
Intrigued, I shove the book into my pouch and walk back to where Ruby and Raven are standing.
“Where to next?” Asks Raven.
“Back to HQ. We have a training session tomorrow morning and I have to finish off some paperwork.” I fiddle with my ring. Technically, not a lie.
Ruby gasps dramatically. “Not the dreaded paperwork!”
“Unfortunately,” I say, laughing. “Anyway, I’ll see you both later.”
Then I fly out the door as fast as I can. My moves may not have been very subtle, but I’m dying to have my question answered:
What is in that book?
June 19, Early Morning
I lug my suitcase up the few steps to my assigned pixie dust carrier. I still haven’t found my diary, but I’m afraid that wherever it is, it’ll have to stay there until I get sent back home.
I scan the crowd for Ginger and Buttercup. They promised they’d come and see me off!
Shrugging, I sit on top of my bag and wait for the rest of the pixies to join me.
I got up extra early today to keep searching for my diary, so I’m a tad bit grumpy.
A sudden voice makes me look up. Standing in front of the pixie dust carrier is a short blonde fairy.
“You must be Dalila!”
I nod, helping her move her large backpack onto the carrier.
“Well, Dalila, it looks like we’re going to be travelling buddies!”
I smile at her. Maybe this trip won’t be so bad after all!
June 19, Midday
I sip my iced tea and sigh.
“Is there anything better than summer sun?” I say, talking to myself.
“Friends?” A familiar voice says.
I sit up sharply, sliding my sunglasses down my nose.
“Ginger?” I say, pleasantly surprised. “Wow, I almost didn’t recognize you without Buttercup and Dalila.”
“And I almost didn’t recognize you without a ponytail. What’re you doing out here anyway?” Ginger asks, waving her hand at the grassy bank I’m lying on.
“Trying to get a tan, duh. Where are Butters and Dal anyway?” I ask, using my nicknames for both of them.
“Buttercup’s in the Tearoom somewhere. She went in for a shake, but she’s been in there a while…” Ginger trails off, and then shakes her head. “Dal headed to the Mainland earlier today, didn’t she tell you?”
I slide my sunglasses back up my nose. “Really? No, she didn’t!”
“She probably just forgot. She was really distracted when she left.”
“Maybe she realized she forgot to pack her hairbrush!”
We both laugh, remembering the time she actually did forget her hairbrush, and had to go without it for a whole week. By the time we’ve finished laughing at Dalila’s expense, Buttercup is rushing over to us, Plum fluttering along behind her.
“Sorry about that! The take-out lines in there are crazy!” Buttercup hands Ginger a bright green shake and sits down next to me.
“So, Dal went to the Mainland today?” I ask her.
“Yeah, but she’s kind of upset. I can understand. I’d feel the same way if my diary got lost. Can you imagine someone finding it and rifling through all your private thoughts?”
“Whaddya mean, if your diary got lost? She lost it?”
“Yeah, yesterday! And she was trying so hard to write in it regularly, too.”
“How come she told you about it and not us?” Ginger interrupts.
“Maybe it’s because I can keep a secret,” Buttercup says, staring pointedly at Ginger.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
I don’t quite catch Buttercup’s retort, too caught up in my own thoughts. Lost her diary? Gone to the Mainland? Why doesn’t anyfairy ever tell me anything! How am I supposed to keep in touch with her if she doesn’t…
Standing up quickly, I gather my towel and bag.
“That only happened be- Hey, where are you off to?” Ginger says as I flutter just above the ground.
“Gotta go see a friend!” I reply, shooting off towards the PEF Headquarters.
Maybe, just maybe, I can get Rose to tell me where Dal’s stationed and sneak letters to her!
June 19, Early Afternoon
I wake up to someone shoving my shoulder and shouting in my ear.
“Dalila! Dalila, wake up! We’re here!”
Shaking my head to wake myself up, I stand up and look out.
All I can see is early morning fog as our pixie dust carrier skims over clear blue water.
“Water?” I ask, confused. I was assigned to change the season in a small forest, not a lake!
“Yeah, water!” My travelling companion replies. “I was reassigned at the last moment too! I guess they need us garden-talents more down here!”
I frown slightly, considering what she said. Reassigned? Why would a garden-talent be more helpful by a lake than a forest?
I’m jolted out of my thoughts by a large thud.
“They’re here!” A sparrow man shouts from the ground.
I’m helped out of the carrier by a tall fairy.
“I’m Jeanie, and I’ll be showing you both to your tent,” she says, turning around to help the other pixie in our carrier.
I wait for her to turn back to me before I introduce myself.
“I’m Dalila, a garden-talent.”
My small blonde friend, whose name I just realized I don’t know, introduces herself as well.
“I can see that,” Jeanie laughs.
Tiny rolls her eyes.
“That’s my name.” She says, irritation clear in her voice.
“Well, Tiny and Dalila, let’s go see where you’ll be staying!”
June 19, Early Afternoon
I sit in my office, ignoring stacks of paperwork balanced behind me, examining the small blue book I found in the Tearoom yesterday. It’s taken me this long to finally get to looking at it properly; one of the members of the Potions Sector accidentally set the Potions area on fire and it took the whole afternoon to get it under control. This morning was taken up replacing everything was damaged.
Now, intrigued by the small book, curiousity gets the better of me and I open up a page at random.
June 13, Dinnertime
All my friends were busy today, so I had a day to myself. I started it off by eating breakfast with Plum and then going out for a fly together. I was enjoying myself up until lunch, when I realized I had to eat alone. I cooked and ate a simple soup, and washed the dishes right after.
Then, I went and read a book to keep myself busy. I was getting to the most exciting part when I turned to talk to one of my friends about it, but they weren’t there. By this time, I was feeling terribly lonely, so I just went upstairs and cocooned myself in blankets for a midday nap.
I always hate it when I have a day completely alone. Playing with Plum is fun, but she gets bored and leaves to play with her other butterfly friends after a while. Days like this remind me why I have friends in the first place!
Now I’m eating dinner. I have to say, my nap didn’t make me feel any better. It just made my hair frizzy and my tummy hungry!
I think I’m gonna drop by the Fairytale Theatre and see if there are any plays tonight.
Realising what it is, I slam the book shut again, feeling bad. I didn’t know it was a diary! At least now I know who it belongs to.
“Dalila Pineforest,” I mutter, thinking hard.
If I had lost my diary I wouldn’t want it to be read by some stranger… I instantly feel bad. I think fast, fiddling with my ring. I haven’t really got any personal missions right now. The least I can do is return the diary to this Dalila Pineforest, whoever she is.
I’m thinking about this when Raven bursts into my room, looking slightly flustered.
“Hey Rose, I-” Raven stops dead and stares at the book still in my hands. “What are you doing with that?”
“I found it in the Tearoom,” I explain quickly. “Turns out, it’s a diary. Belongs to someone called-”
“Dalila Pineforest, I know. I know her, and I know you shouldn’t be reading her diary, of all things!”
“I didn’t know it was a diary!” I say hotly. “Anyway, I’m glad you know her. I was going to have to go to the Council and ask to see the Arrival records to track her down.” I roll my eyes. “Reading the records is worse than paperwork.” I glance at the stack of paper behind me sheepishly. “I should probably address those pa-”
The door bursts open, and Ruby rushes in. “Rose! By the Second Star, you won’t believe it!”
I laugh. “Woah, calm down Ruby. What’s up?”
Ruby looks like she’s about to explode. “Rose, you got a Summons to the Mainland.”
June 19, Early Afternoon
I look between Ruby’s excited face and Rose’s shocked one.
“Um… Is there something special about this Summons?” I ask, confused. Pixies get Summons all the time!
“Raven,” Rose says, “I’m not in the Never Council’s records. I’m a Forbidden Child, remember? Technically, I don’t exist. I don’t just get a Summons out of the blue.”
“Ohh…” My eyes widen, realizing what this means. “OH!”
“Exactly!” Ruby exclaims. “This is so exciting! Well, don’t just stand there Rose, open it!”
Tentatively, Rose opens the letter and reads it out loud.
“Dear Miss MorningMist, we are glad to announce that you have been chosen to help bring the season of Summer to the Mainland!
Your group is number 34, and will be travelling to Ordinem Forest in America.
Please report to Sunflower Gully tomorrow at 10AM for departure. Sincerely, the Never Council.”
I look at Rose, whose mouth is hanging open slightly, and Ruby, who’s bouncing with excitement.
“Don’t Summons usually give you a choice?” I say incredulously.
Rose frowns. “Yeah, they usually do…”
June 19, Early Evening
I pace the length of the planning room, very aware that all eyes are on me.
All the Heads as well as Raven sit in their chairs, taking in what I’ve just said.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” Says Lily. “Why send you to the Mainland now? We were given a mission a few days ago, asking you to personally lead it!”
She’s right – exactly four days ago we were asked by the Council to check out some unusual activity on the Outlands Fringe – the area on the other side of the Mountains surrounding the Hollow.
“Well, I don’t seem to have a choice,” I say slowly. “Rachel, you could lead the mission, couldn’t you?”
Rachel nods. As Second in Command, it’s only logical she leads the mission in my absence.
“Okay,” I say, thinking for a minute. “Take all the Heads and five people from each sector. The Outlands are dangerous, and it’s a lot safer in larger numbers.”
“Got it. We’ll go and start preparing.” Rachel gets to her feet, making her way up the stairs, the others following behind her.
“What about me?” Asks Raven. I pull Dalila’s diary out of my pouch.
“I need you to return this to your friend. Can you drop it off on your way home or something?”
Raven fidgets with her bright red flame lily skirt. “Ah, that… Dal’s not actually here.As in, not in the Hollow. At all.”
“According to the grapevine, she got a Summons. That’s why I’m here, actually. I wanted to know if you could help me sneak letters to her or something like that.”
I open my mouth to turn her down, when a sudden idea pops into my head.
It’s crazy, insane and completely dangerous, not to mention would break at least a dozen rules… But the Council is up to something, and I need to know what.
“I have an idea,” I say.
June 20, Early Morning
Sitting at my kitchen table, I jot down a note to Ginger and Buttercup.
Dearest Gingie and Butters,
I was recently Summoned to the Mainland to help change the seasons. While I am gone, I humbly request that you take care of my garden. Please make sure my rhododendrons get enough sunlight, and that my ferns get watered regularly. Also, please take care not to bother the red vine plant in the corner. It’s very touchy.
P.S. If one of you even thinks of throwing a party at my house without me, I will personally dye your hair green.
Technically, I was summoned by an official, Level Two Clearance member of an elite organisation. So, really, it’s not a lie!
Shaking my head, I grab my bright red suitcase, smooth my flower-patterned dress, and fly towards the place Rose and I planned to meet.
The pixie dust carrier that’s going to take Rose and myself to the Mainland is docked near the border crossing from the Autumn Woods to Summer Glade. When I see the bright red fade to green, I begin my descent.
Once I’m in the meadow, I kick aside a few wilted sunflower petals and plop down on the river bank. Rose should be here soon. The carrier’s scheduled to leave at 10 AM, so hopefully Ruby can get her out of bed before noon.
While I’m leaning over the water, I see a small purple figure walking towards me.
Not even having to look up, I greet her.
“Hello, Rose! Trying to sneak up on me?” I say cheerfully.
“I don’t know if that’s physically possible,” She says.
“Where’s the rest of your luggage?” I say, noticing that she only has one small leaf satchel.
“This is it,” She shrugs.
“But what about your clothes?” I say, panicking slightly.
Rose pulls something out of her pouch. “I didn’t need to pack any, I’ve got this.” She holds the object up for me to see.
“Is that a wand?” I ask. Rose nods.
“Izzy’s been working on a prototype for ages. She reckons it’ll help when Disguise members need to make quick outfit changes. This one’s been set to my wardrobe – she wants to test how far the distance can be between the item and the wand before it’ll stop working.”
“How come I don’t get one?”
“So far, this is the only prototype she has that doesn’t catch on fire everytime you use it.”
“Ah, that makes sense. After all, fire is extremely difficult to accessorize.”
“Anyway,” She says, stuffing the wand back into her pouch, “I got the list of locations for Summoned fairies off the Council.” Rose pulls out a small scrap of paper with her handwriting scribbled on it. “Turns out, Dalila was Summoned to the same place as I have, the Ordinem Forest in America.”
“Ruby gave me a locator potion to use on her Diary when we get there.” The area is getting crowded now; more Summoned fairies are boarding their carriers, their friends surrounding them to say goodbye. Rose lowers her voice. “Once we get it to her, we need to ask her about her Summons. There’s something going on here, something not right, and I want to find out what.”
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. 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 as the balloon carrier begins it’s descent.
Someone shouts 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 there, I got a Summons! “Maybe you missed it?”
Cecil frowns, but then shrugs it off. “Probably. Here, I’ll show you to your tent.”
I sigh with relief. “Thanks,” I say. “Come on, Raven.”
June 23, Late Morning
I pause in my planting 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 pickerelweed.
“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.
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 it figured out already?”
“Oh… Right – Sorry, I’ve got a lot on my mind.” She rummages through her pouch, producing two 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, 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 getting further and further apart 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 Clumsy’s to sit on and big metal structures for the children to climb all over.
“That’s impossible. The Ordinem Forest can’t end here. You said she’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.
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 cries.
Finally – the carrier appears in the sky, beginning it’s descent. The lookout starts forward to unload the carrier. I hold the 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 top and 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 started – 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.”
“Fly with you too. Cecil said you could use with a hand unpacking the supplies,” I say, refraining from rolling my eyes.
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, we don’t have time for this – we gotta get outta here!”
“But I haven’t unpacked all the supplies yet!”
“Didn’t you hear me? 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.
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 the crates earlier. Want some?”
June 30, Early Morning
Blinking my eyes, 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 excitedly, 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 holding on for dear life, unable to fly so high up, at least, not without being blown half a mile of course.
“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.
“MY CLOTHES!” I scream, probably startling anything within a five-mile radius. Rose 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. “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.
“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, the wand, her leaf journal.
“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. “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. “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. Only a small area.” Says Rose, rolling her eyes.
“Wow. So, a Forgotten Child, or whatever you call them, gets a Summons, you sneak out, blow ‘only a small area’ up and get here, just to deliver my diary? If you don’t mind me asking, why?”
Rose sighs. “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, but then Raven noted 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?” 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. “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 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 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. 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.”
“Mission Details. 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. Were there any others?”
I grab the letters from Rose.
“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 groundbreaking 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!”
“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 looks furious. 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? Raven, this information could have changed so much for the better!”
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.
“The Order controls them. They control the Pixie Postings, the talent mentors, and probably the entire Hollow.”
There a sudden scuffling sound from outside.
“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 dart through a clearing, and I take the opportunity of not having to dodge any trees to grab the fairy and tackle her to the ground and 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. “Don’t try anything funny,” I tell her. 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 ‘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-
“Jack.” I say coldly.
“Nice to see you too, sis. Didn’t recognize me, huh, sis? Was it the dress? I liked the dress, to be honest, though it was a bit breezy. Do you think Gale’s sells kilts? I might buy one.”
“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 the three of us. “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 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!”
“That won’t happen! I won’t let it!” Cries Dalila, almost at the same time as Raven speaks.
“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!”
“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 PEF, as quick as you can!” Cries Rose. “Now, get out of here! It isn’t safe!”
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, continuing to kneel. “It flourishes by pointing itself towards the most powerful energy source. I hope you let us do the same.”
“Of course,” Jack says, 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.
“Whoa, 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.”
Reluctantly, I lie back down again, closing my eyes to block out the bright lights in the PEF hospital wing.
“What happened?” I ask.
“Your 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’s 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. “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. But no, I haven’t told anyone, and I don’t intend to.”
“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 so many secrets 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.”
“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.
Pointing 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, 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 bedsheets. “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!”
“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.