"ugh let me go you giant meat head!" Sara cried as Gun held her suspended in the air by the fire place.
"shhh little lady. Gun here has a body of iron, so your squirming and bickering will get you no where. Besides i don't want any trouble. i just want to know how to get into the garden." He said twirling his stick and pointing it at Damian who lay on the ground with Lances foot pressing intently on his head.
"No one knows what you're talking about so just let it go!" yelled Christian from the other side of the room, with blood still running down the left side of his face.
"Hmm now why do i get the feeling that you're lying Christian. Oh that's right probably because I've already seen you three butt heads read the book and figure out that the entrance is inside the castle. So unless you want the red head to have no head I would spill the beans." The rat threatened with a wide weasel smile on his face.
"Even if that were true, how could you possibly know?" Sebastian yelled out from the side of the book case where apparently he had regained consciousness after being thrown across the room.
"Oh Sebastien I knew a hit to the head wouldn't keep your obnoxious mouth quite for long. Really, so glad you could join us. But i suppose nows a good a time as any to let you fools know that I have been in this castle this entire time."
"What do you mean the entire time?" Christian asked
"Since bucket boy over here wound up on your door step. i was able to slide in undetected and continue my search for the book without any one noticing."
"With all due respect, rat, I highly doubt any of the guards would've not noticed a freakish little gnome like you." Sebastien tested once more as he saw the grin on the rats face quiver for a fraction of a second.
"Hm well Sebastian that is because I've had the help of this," he said as he held up his hooked stick. "You see the reason i believe so much in the old tale of the chest of the seven royal powers is because i possess the treasure created by the wood king. the chameleon cane."
Sebastian stared blankly at him and replied, "...you're kidding right."
"Ugh fine I'll show you.I want to be Sara." and as he commanded the stick glowed a light of black and red and the Rat no longer stood as the small skinny boy but rather the long red haired Sara.
"So it was you who i bumped into on the stairs the day after i arrived here not the real Sara..." Damian added.
"Oh Damian id almost forgotten you were still here. Now you still may have a place with us once we take back the south and let the Wood kingdom reign once more. Maybe even be a wood prince yourself. All I'm asking is to take that book and tell me how to get into the garden." he attempted to persuade using Sara's soft voice, and with her beutiful eyes he signaled to Lance to remove his foot from Damians head and handed the book to Damian slowly.
Damian took the book and looked around the room at his companions. Sara was now still with a little blood left on her lip as she remained motionless suspended in the air by Guns arms. Sebastian still lay on the ground with the broken book case on his leg as he looked coldly at Damian expecting him to do as the rat asked, but Christian stood looking at him with a hope. he could see the fire behind him reflecting in his eyes and for an instant
he felt he knew what Christian was trying to tell him.
"Before I do as you ask you must answer me something first." Damian demanded.
The rat chuckled still in the figure of Sara and said "Shoot."
"I've felt it for some time. And this book, me being able to read it must mean something and i want to know. Am i truly of wood kingdom blood?"
"If you do this who cares if you are or not you-"
"Answer the question!" Damian yelled as Lance grabbed him by the hair threatening the tone that he had taken.
"...No. You're not. You're blood is of fire like these three dimwits. You were left in our sewers late one night. As i like you were still a baby. We don't know who or why you were left there but the rat at the time knew that it must have been for a good reason. Of course he didnt want you to know of where you came from because that would risk you wanting to return to this world. Something you've wanted to do anyway. So i figured why not send
you up for the biggest mission our people have ever put into order. The mission to take what is rightfully ours. After all we cared for you, raised you and nurtured you.. Your blood may not be wood but you carry it in your very being.
But now here we are my good friend. What will you choose. betray the ones that have raised you as their own, or go back to the ones that never wanted you to begin with...?"
Without an answer Damian opened the thick wooden book, concentrated on what he needed to find, and as before the pages began to turn until they stopped and one blank page began to appear with writing.
"Well young prince, what does it say? where is the gate how do we get in?" The rat asked.
"...The mural. The mural is the gate." Damian said pointing to the wall that stood feet away in front of them. The mural with the large stone arch with a dusty path surrounded by bushes and flowers.
"Oh well done! Now rise Damian and tell us how to get in. How do we unlock it?" as said Damian rose from the ground and walked slowly toward the wall. Without turning his head he looked at Christian and gave him one glance in the eye and some how once again felt the connection as he sent a thought of reassurance through his stare.
The Rat quickly followed behind as Gun carried Sara closer and Lance kicked the book shelf to get Sebastian onto his feet with arrows pointing at both he and his brother at the back.
"The writing isn't clear but it says only fire can open the gate."
"Well that shouldnt be a problem you have blood of fire so just command it to open and it should do so."
"It's not that simple. This gate was made for only the royal family to open. Therefore one of them has to do it."
"o dear lord fine! You big brother guy get over here and open this thing up!"The rat snapped his fingers at Christian as Lanced lightly jabbed his arrow into his back forcing him forward by Damians side.
"Just put your hand on the book." Damian asked, and as he did Damian quickly read the books new instructions and looked to Christian. "Ok now just say, abre para enontrar lo que necesitamos."
As Christian was told he repeated through grinding teeth as suddenly the wall began to shake and the mural caved in to an opening where sunlight glowed through. The cool flower scented breeze blew in
toward them as they stood motionless.
"Nicely done princey...Well i suppose we wont be needing-" but the rats words were quickly cut off by a loud crackling noise beyond the bushy old arch. "What was that? Damian what did you do?!" The rat yelled as he
grabbed him by the neck.
"Master look" yelled Lance as he pointed to the long green serpent like vines that erupted from the gate and took the rat upward as it grabbed him from around the ankle. As Lance and Gun became distracted sebastian and Sara were able to break free from their clutches.
"Everyone into the books!" commanded Christian as they all made their way into the rows of shelves to dodge the smashing and chaos caused by the unknown being.
"Forget them you idiots get me down!" They heard the rat yell from beyond cases.
After a few moments the four of them huddled closely behind a vacant desk listening to the destruction that was happening in the close distance. Without a moments hesitation Damian reopened the book as Christian
attended to Sara and Sebastian observed around them cautiously for anyone approaching.
"Ok do you have an explanation for what that was?" Sebastian asked as he maintained eagle eyed monitoring their surroundings.
"It was exactly as Christian asked for. What we needed." Damian commented smiling
"What do you mean?" Christian asked.
"Well there was no way we were going to be able to get around them. We were going to need a distraction to get away. I knew you were thinking the same thing so when i told you to say the command to the gate i knew somehow it would do as you asked. i didn’t know exactly what it would do but i was willing to take the chance."
Suddenly the crashing and smashing ceased and silence filled the library. The four of them lifted themselves from behind the desk and slowly walked back out toward the center of the room. Dust and debris filled the air around them as they tiptoed back to the open mural.
Ruined books, destroyed shelves and chairs lay everywhere all the floor but the three trespassers were no where to be found.
“Do you think they ran away?” Sara asked as she made her feeble attempt to lift the pieces of wood.
“I don’t know but if they did or didn’t we have to make up our minds now if we’re going in there. For all we know they found away around the vines and got inside.” Christian said to them as he stared curiously into the murals gate.
“Are you out of your mind…? Whatever that was nearly killed those three and they weren’t even inside yet. We have no idea what we’re going to be up against if we go in there!” Sebastian protested as usual.
“Well we’ll never know unless we try. We have some of the eye bleed powder from the underground and Lance even dropped some of his arrows. We may not know what’s in there but we have to try and make sure whatever is being protected doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.” Damian stated, hopeful that he could talk some faith into his three older companions.
“…Damian’s right.” Sara added as she dropped the torn books back on the ground and walked toward the gate, “We may not know but we know that this gate and whatever is inside was meant for fire to protect it. Well we’re fire so lets do what we meant to do. Besides, Damians book usually tells us something when we have to know it. So there’s a good chance once we get in there it’ll let us know something else.”
The four remained silent as they stared blankly to the dark archway that every few moments let out a cool spring breeze from beyond.
“Alright, lets go.” Christian said as he began to move toward the archway as Damian and Sara followed close behind.
“You cant be-!”
“Yes we are Sebastian!” roared Christian cutting off his brother from another witty mocking statement. “If you don’t want to come fine at least try and rally some guards to go back to the underground and get mom and dad.” And without another word the three continued to walk into the archway.
Almost as soon as they began their walk inside, the warm surroundings of the fire lit library left them and was replaced by a refreshing breeze from ahead.
“I smell flowers… Sara stated nervously holding on to Christians hand.
“Just stay close to me. Damian keep your book ready in case of anything.” Christian said as he walked slowly deeper into the tunnel.
Finally at the end of the long tunnel a shimmer of light began to peak through what appeared to be a curtain of vines. The three of them began to move their cautious steps into a speed walk to reach the end. At the end of the tunnel they could finally see that the light they were seeing was the sun. Where ever they had gone it was certainly somewhere far from the moonlight city of Funbi.
The sky was the clearest blue with the sun beaming down on thousands and thousands of beautiful flowers and trees that seemed to go for miles. Dahlias, roses, lilies, orchids, oleanders, and any other flower you could imagine glowed with vibrant colors. As well as adorable lotus flowers floating serenely in the stream that stretched far down the mysterious flower forest.
“wow..Christian this place is beautiful.” Sara awed of over the sight as she slowly let go of his hand moving like a curious child toward the closest pink flower filled tree whos petals danced in the air as the wind stroked its branches.
“Sara stay close we still don’t know what were dealing with here. Don’t let the place fool you. Something’s being protected here and we have to be careful with whatever that is.” Christian said as he grabbed hold of Sara’s hand once again.
The three of them began to walk down the cobblestone path that twirled and twined down the mysterious place where they found themselves as suddenly the book began to shake crazily inside Damians bag. They stopped beside a large marble fairy statue and pulled out the wooden book as it began to quickly flap through the blank pages until alas once more landed on a page that slowly began to show writing to Damians eyes.
“What does it say?” Sara asked as she knelt close trying with the same futile attempt as the others to see what Damian could see.
“I think I know where we are and what we’re dealing with.”
“That doesn’t sound very reassuring,” Christian started,” What does it say.”
“The sisters of sin…” Damian began to read out loud, “long ago as the 7 royals ruled the world as it once was there lived three sisters. Wicked, devilish, and rotten to the core. Serena the eldest was incredibly deviant and seductive. Using her femininity to steal husbands and ruin love for her anger of never being able to obtain it herself. Petra, the next sister, aggressive and violent, stealing and hurting others for revenge and the need to be the best, then lastly Eden the curious cocky young beauty that tried out do her sisters in every way. As these sisters roamed land and sea going about their treacherous ways, there came the day when each sister attempted to out do the queens of the world, so that they themselves could reign as royalty in one of the 7 sectors. Petra attempted to frame the northern queen as having an affair on her husband and sought out to have her executed for her disrespect. Serena went to the west and with her seduction tried to sway the big strong king from his wife. Lastly Eden went to the south and did not attempt anything like the other two, but rather simply and plainly tried to make the king of Funbi fall in love with her. It did not take long for the three targeted queens to catch these three sisters in their act. As Serena, Petra, and Eden were exposed the 7 royal powers gathered together to decipher the appropriate punishment for the three. The three sisters wanted glory and to live forever as treasures of the world. The royal powers thought it only fit to give them their gift of immortality, but never reach to be treasures, but rather protect the most important of the world. To Petra who not only tried to reach the thrown through trickery but rather tried to punish and kill the queen for a crime she did not do, she was changed into a Fury. To live forever protecting a treasure and to keep from suffering in eternity, to feed on the true crimes and evil deeds that live in the conscious of man. To Serena who used her sexuality as her tool, she was transformed into a Siren to live in the Oceans waters protecting her treasure from men. Using her seductive song to lure them off course and eliminate them with her deadly kiss. Then lastly, Eden, who though her actions were wrongs she was the one who did not act in such treacherous ways. She would receive her immortality as well as her eternal beauty unlike her sisters. For Petra trying to commit the worst of the three crimes would be the most hideous baring her wings and talons. Serena would have scales, gills, and snake like eyes in which no man or human would ever find pleasing to the eye. But she would be beautiful as long as she remained in water. Eden would also be given the most pleasant place to live and guard her treasure. She would live eternally in a garden as a nymph.”
Christian and Sara remained staring blankly at Damian for some time as they put the pieces together in their head.
“So this is a garden?” Sara asked
“Yes and no. You see this is the outside of the center of the garden. That’s where this path leads. If we continue to follow it well eventually find Eden and whatever it is she’s protecting.”
“Wait a second,” Christian spoke with a look of remembrance on his face. “ A garden in Funbi protected by a nymph…Damian does that book say anything about Eden and children?”
Puzzled, Damian held the book and concentrated as hard as he could to see if the book would reveal to him something that Christian was asking. Suddenly with one flip of a page more writing and a picture of the red haired beauty appeared on the right.
“Um actually it does. It says that there are many specific types of Nymphs. Eden specifically is a Dryade, a tree nymph. Without their tree they die, otherwise they live forever. However their trees are not normal for they bear a fruit that contains the nectar of youth created by youth itself..”
“Ok that is just creepy.” Sara said nervously.
“Don’t worry we may be young but I don’t think we qualify for her fruit pickings.” Christian said
“What makes you so sure of that?” Sara asked more nervously and seemed to forget all together of the beautiful flowers.
“Because I’ve heard the story before.”
“You know about the sisters of sin? How I thought you couldn’t see the writing?” Damian added.
“I said I heard it not read it. When me and Sebastian were younger our mother would always tell us a scary story of a little girl named Anna who lived probably a hundred years ago. According to her she wandered off into the forest claiming to hear some music and she was never heard from again. I always figured it was just a story to scare us from wandering off on our own but I guess there was more to it then that..”
“The book says that the music that little girl in the story heard was Eden’s flute. It mesmerizes children to heighten the greatest characteristic of a child.”
“Which is?” Sara asked impatiently
“There curiosity…” Christian interrupted before Damian read read out loud.
“Ok well where do we go from here. If Damian’s right we still have to reach the center of the garden and find Eden” commented Sara as she paced around slowly looking through the bushes flowers and shrubs in worry of the mystical creature appearing before them.
“We don’t have much of a choice. As much as I would like to see those ass’s get exactly what they deserve, the Rat is still a child. If Eden gets him shell be able to make more fruit.”
“Better him then me…” Damian mumbled in his breathe.
The three continued to move with caution down the cobblestone path. They were bewildered by how such a beautiful place could really be the location of the vanishing children. Smelling the flowers through the cool mid afternoon breeze, seeing pink and white petals dance through the wind as the sound of swaying trees filled the air. As nervous as they were, the place projected such a sensation of peace that overwhelmed their bodies.
Finally the petals and flowers began to vanish and the sound of the wind disappeared as they walked deeper into dark decrepit trees who’s thick grungy leaves and twisted branches blocked the sun and sound from reaching them. It seemed they had walked straight into night surrounded by a haunting echoing silence. The path continued to spiral down hill with many turns and twists until they alas reached its end to find a large metal door belonging to what seemed to be an abandoned green house with its glass walls covered in moss and dirty stains.
“Ok this is probably where she is. We have to be as careful as possible. Damian I think you should go back. Me and Sara can go in and get whatever she’s got. Go and see if Sebastian made it to the Underground alright and tell him to send soldiers in here.” Christian commanded as he stroked the door up and down with his fingers looking for a way to open it.
“ I’m not leaving..” Damian murmured causing Christian to lose his concentration on the door and look at him as if he were insane.
“Didn’t you listen to anything I just said? Whatever this thing is it not only kidnaps children but it kills them.”
“So I’ll be with you two. The girl in your story was alone and she didn’t know about her. It’s a completely different situation.”
“He’s right Damian, you should go.” Sara added. “If you stay you might only make it harder for us to do what we have to do.”t
“It’s not fair…I was given this book to read it and help you get in here to fight this thing. Turning around now would just be-,” but Damian was cut off from his thought as his frustration vanished and suddenly felt so relaxed and drawn to the door behind Christian. Beyond it he could hear the faint sound of a beautiful melody that he just had to find its player.
“What is he doing?” Sara asked as Damian blank faced approached the heavy door as it slowly squeaked open to let the child in. their attempt to stop him from entering was futile as two large branches from neighboring tress swung down throwing them both up hill. Hitting the ground with a loud thump they slowly raised themselves trying to recover from the hit the abdomen, and up ahead the door to the Nymphs home was closing with Damian right inside.
The fate of Anna Dupree
“Damn it!” Christian shouted slamming his fists on the door.
“What do we do now? It seems to only open when a child gets close to it. And these damn trees don’t let anyone but the child go in.” Sara said hopelessly sitting on a rock to the left of Christian looking down at her feet .
“We cant stay here and wait to see if she opens the door. We’ll have to go back and come up with a new plan and a way to get him out of there.” He turned around furiously and began to walk up hill without even glancing to see if Sara had begun to follow. Feeling un considered as usual, she did not see the point at fighting about it now. She raised herself up and followed him silently trying to catch up to his furious fast pace. As they almost reached the top of the hill they were stopped by the alarming sound of various steps heading toward them and voices. Christian quickly turned around and grabbed Sara’s wrist and yanked her into the dense trees beside them observing stealthy through the twigs and branches.
“Move it you dimwit! I bet those losers already got to the treasure thanks to your dumb slow antics! There was no mistaking the bratty obnoxious voice that yelled demands so foully. The Rat and his goons had entered the garden. But to Christian and Sara’s dismay, the dimwit that he pushed forward was Christians terribly beaten brother Sebastian.
Instinctively Christian raised himself to attack in anger but was pulled back down by Sara.
“What are you doing, don’t you see they have Sebastian!?” Christian asked angrily
“Of course I do but don’t forget what happened in the library. You know as well as I do that if we jump out now they’ll have all of us. Besides I think I have an idea. Follow me.” Sara said still holding on to Christians arm tightly pulling him down hall still cloaked by the thick trees.
As they approached the metal door once more they knelt quietly awaiting the four of them grow close.
“Aha! What do you know another door… Gun, be a pal and get this rusty thing open.” The rat commanded.
Silently the muscular giant walked to the door and began to slam it with the outside of his fists, but the door did not budge.
“ugh not another stupid password. Hey princess wanna do that funny little trick your brother did and get this thing open?” The rat asked tauntingly as Sebastian kept both eyes on the ground as blood dripped from his left eye brow and bottom lip.
“I said open it!” and with a kick to his back Sebastian fell to the ground in front of the door.
Once more Christian made an attempt to lift himself from hiding but Sara pulled him down again just the same.
“Not yet give it a few more minutes.” Sara urged him.
“Look twinkle toes, I don’t have all day so if you want to live I suggest you-.” And just as Damian the Rats faced lost tension and focus and began to stare blankly at the door which again began to open.
“Now! Get Sebastian!” Sara yelled running out back onto the path and grabbing the stick from the Rats loose hand who seemed to not even notice it was taken. Christina quickly followed behind and raised his brother back onto his feet to take him to the opposite side into the cover of the trees.
As Lance and Gun realized what had happened, they too were unsuccessful in taking action as the trees once more hit the two. Although Lance was the only one to go flying back as Gun stood his ground firmly. As if a mind of their own the trees quickly took notice and instead bent themselves completely and used the full mass of their wooden bodies to hit the monstrous man backward as the door closed itself with the Rat inside.
“ok hurry grab the stick!” Sara yelled frantically as Christian grabbed hold and helped his off balanced brother grab it as well. “Make us children!” Sara commanded and the can again glowed its strange lights of black and red and the three grown teens shrunk down to the appearance of seven year olds.
` Christian now weaker in his young body could not carry Sebastian on his own as he nudged to Sara for help. The three walked back out onto the path with Sebastian on their arms.
“Open!” Sarah commanded in her high pitched voice, and the door as it had done for Damian and the Rat opened wide for the three disguised youngsters letting them in without question.
As they entered they fell to the ground resting their heads on the door gasping for breathe. They had made it inside.
“Ok I think it’s safe now. Grab the stick again.” They all grabbed the hooked shaped stick as Sara gave the command and they were once again restored to their normal selves.
“Sebastian are you alright?” Christian asked his injured brother examining his wounds.
As usual Sebastian was not in any mood for sympathy as he pushed his brothers pestering hands off of him. “I’ll be fine. Lets just get this over with.”
“Well what happened?” Sara asked
“They were hiding behind some book cases waiting for us to go in so they could follow. After they saw you left me behind they jumped me.
“What are you talking about we never left you behind you didn’t want to come!” Christian said angrily.
“Enough this isn’t a time to be fighting!” Sara commanded putting herself between the two brothers. “Whatever this Nymph does is what she’s going to do to Damian if we don’t hurry up so waste time with your childish he said she said bull crap later!” The three now stood quietly calming themselves down looking around their new surroundings. Like the forest on the opposite side of the door, the bushes leaves and ivy that stuck to the glass walls wore a foul shade of green as the sun shown through the mossy glass ceiling making the suns rays shine a lime colored light down upon them. It seemed they were standing on an enormous hill as downward they could see a filthy murky pond with lily pads floating on top the size of carpets. With small trees all around it with the most vibrantly colored fruit.
“Look fruit trees they must have the youth!” Christian yelled and without caution began sprinting down the hill into the small garden forest of the trees that oddly did not go higher then his waste. Sarah And Sebastian quickly followed looking at the strange trees who’s fruit was a mix of white, magenta, and orange.
“There’s something really strange about these trees…” Christian said stroking the barks. Suddenly from behind Sara gave a loud yell as she fell to the ground with both hands covering her mouth looking petrified at one of the trees.
“What is it?” Sebastian asked.
“Th-These aren’t trees…” Sara mumbled.
“Ugh what are you talking about?” Sebastian asked impatiently.
“This one has a heart beat…She doesn’t take the youth out of them she makes them grow it. She turns them into these things. The reason they’re so small is because they’re children!”
And looking closely around them Sebastian and Christian realized as well the bark of these tress had the shape of children’s faces screaming in pain with their arms its branches and legs attached to the moist soil beneath them like roots.
“Does anyone hear that?” Sebastian asked squinting his highs trying to listen. “It sounds like a flute.”
Christian and Sara looked at one another in panic and quickly began to run deeper into the field of children.
“I cant hear it Sebastian where is it coming from!?” Christian asked impatiently looking left to right trying to find Damian.
“Over here! He yelled and began to lead the way until alas they reached the foot of the pond where on the opposite side sat the Rat and Damian peacefully next to one another each holding a piece of the multi colored fruit.
“Damian don’t eat it!” Sara yelled from across the pond, but it was no use. He was deaf to anything that was yelled.
“I don’t get it the music is coming from over there but who’s making it?” Sebastian asked himself looking at all sides.
“There’s no music Sebastian your just hearing things, drop it!” Christian commanded.
“No Sebastian might be right. The music only effects children. Well Sebastian your two years younger then us so you must still be young enough to hear the music but too old to be effected by it.”
Without comment to Sara’s theory the three began to run across the pond leaping on to the lily pads as the warm green sunlight came from the glass dome high above.
Grabbing a hold of Damian and throwing the fruit into the pond Christian tried to shake him out of the trance caused by the music who’s source remained some where hidden in the green house.
“Ok we got him and he actually looks dumber then usual. What now?” Sebastian asked impatiently eagerly wanting to discover where the music was coming from.
“No!” Sara yelled as she ran toward the Rat knocking the bitten fruit out of his hand. “Christian he ate it..”
An suddenly his hypnotized face sprung back into consciousness clutching his stomach in pain as if he were stabbed by a phantom dagger. Sara backed away slowly as the Rat began to sweat and shake on the ground groaning in pain.
“The music’s getting louder..” Sebastian murmured with transfixed eyes still on the pain stricken boy.
The Rats tan skin now becoming harder and cracking like broken sticks as his hair changed from black to green leaves and twigs . Giving out a scream that pierced their ears and almost allowed them to understand just how much pain he was in. Lifting himself from the ground, his feet began to sink into the damp soil and his screams grew fainter as his wood changed skin took over is body and with one last desperate out reach of his branches to the frozen three teens, the Rat moved no more.
Grabbing onto the Damian and lifting him over his shoulder the three silently agreed that whatever was in the garden was something they would just have to try and take another time. They had seen a fate that they would not have wanted for anyone. Not even the rotten boy that now stood motionless in front of them.
“Are you leaving already?” said a bubbly soft voice from the pond.
The three of them turned in terror to see the beautiful creature sitting calmly on the lily stroking her long red autumn leaf hair staring intently at them with her big green eyes.
“What’s the matter you all look like you’ve seen a ghost or something?” she added smiling flirtatiously at the two boys.
“W-we were just leaving.” Sara said as politely as she could trying not to cause the nymph any agravasion.
“But we haven’t had a chance to talk or play.”
“Well we really should be going we’re sorry.” Sara added
“Well it looks like he wants to play.” She giggled and softly put the flute back to her lips and to Christian and Saras ears no sound came. Damian quickly got off Christians shoulder and began walking toward the enchanting Nymph.
“I don’t think so.” Sara groaned as she lifted a rock from the ground and launched it at the beautiful creature knocking the flute right out of her hands and sinking to the bottom of the pond.
“That was my favorite…” the innocent voice creature said unhappily as she raised her hand, snapped her fingers, and from the depths of the pond came two long mossy green vines quickly coiling themselves around her dragging her like pray to the bottom of the murky water.
“SARA!!” Christian yelled running after but another tentacle like vine popped from under and knocked him backward denying him entry. “Give her back!” he commanded through grinded teeth as his heart pounded intensely against his chest.
The nymph didn’t flinch by any of this. Her face stayed just as innocent, calm, and playful as it had been the entire time. “Mmm I may not have my sisters talent but I would be willing to guess that you love her.” She stated teasingly. “Since she means so much to you how about we make a trade? You have something I want, and now I clearly have something you want.”
“What would that be buck weed..?” To Sebastian and Christians surprise the speaker was young Damian back to his normal self. Apparently as the flute left the nymphs hand so did her control over him.
“You my witty friend” she said now laying her stomach down on the lily sustaining her head with both hands on her chin and she kicked her legs up and down resembling a little girl.
“Phew well that’s no contest. Do it Christian.” Sebastian sneered looking at Damian with such disgust.
“Shut up Sebastian!” He told his brother impatiently. “ No deal there has to be something else you want.”
“Ummmm no I can’t seem to think of anything. I’m all out of fruit and I need a new tree. He seems young enough to give me some for another good fifty years.”
“What are you talking about? You just got him didn’t you?” Christian questioned impatiently pointing to the Rat who still held the frozen expression of pain on his face.
“No he’s a bad tree. Can’t you see there’s no fruit on his limbs? Yes he’s young but he doesn’t have innocence like that little guy right there. So he can’t grown anything.” She replied still staring happily at Damian like a young girl in love.
“Alright ill come with you..” Damian said quietly looking down at the ground.
“ No! You don’t have to do that we’ll find another way!”
“No… we wont.” Damian replied now looking the nymph dead in the eye. “ Bring her back and ill come to you. I promise.”
Without a response or a turn from her fixated view on Damian she slowly moved one hand from under her head, snapped her fingers once more, and from under the water came soaring Sara into the air like an unwanted morsel.
Plopping on the ground coughing hysterically for air and covered in the wet dirty muck of the pond Christian ran and held her up.
“Your turn my friend… I promise we’ll have fun.” And without comment Damian began to walk toward her. As he grew closer he could see her giant green eyes and her ivy green dress as it held tightly to her white skin.
“Eden don’t!” Christian yelled from behind. And at last the Nymphs attention turned from Damian and back to Christian who was still holding on tightly to Sara.
“ You know my name handsome boy? she asked
“Of course. You were the nymph from the story we were told growing up. You were the one that killed Anna Dupree.”
Eden laughed at the comment. “ I didn’t kill her. She failed the test plain and simple. She ate the fruit of youth and was turned into a tree just like the rest of them. Nothing I could do about it.”
“You lying witch! You played the music to trick them just like you did to Damian!” Sara yelled digging from her exhausted body what energy she had left.
“Ok so I gave them a little push…What’s your point? Now if you don’t mind I believe Damian here was about to come join me for lunch.” She said holding out her hand for Damian to grab to join her on the large lily pad.
“ I know where your tree is!” Sebastian yelled. To everyones surprise, even Edens, they all turned to him in curiosity.
“What?” she asked no longer with the expression of innocence but rather a frozen look.
“You’re a Dryad. So even though you have all of these trees to keep you looking young you still need your original tree to keep you alive and I know where it is. So let him go or we tear that thing down.”
Everyone stayed quite as they looked to Eden who now stood from her lily and looked at the prince blankly as the two stood in their draw.
“…You’re bluffing.” She whispered.
“We’ll just have to see wont we!” and without another moments hesitation Damain through a satchel of eye bleed powder into the Nymphs face as she gave out a ear piercing shriek. Damian turned and ran into the mess of victims who’s stayed firmly in the ground as Christian and Sebastian followed with Sara in arms. Running as fast as they could with Eden’s cries growing fainter and fainter the last thing they could hear was the sound of a whistle, and three large things entities emerge from the pond.
The guards of the murky water
Ten minutes had past since they took off in the sprint for their lives as they sat nestled beside a tree trying to catch their breathe.
“How did you know she was a Dryad?” Sara asked Sebastian who was staring blankly to the glass ceiling high above them.
“It was in moms story. She told us about how every Dryad as a tree that they are connected to. If it dies they die.”
“ So did you really see it?!” Damian asked excitedly.
“Of course not dumby…” He replied now leaving Damian confused. If he had not seen the tree then he had lied in order to save his life?
“You tried to save me?” Damian asked sincerely.
“ Ew of course not. If she got you then who would read the damn book.” And with roll of everyone’s eyes they immediately dismissed the possibility of Sebastian’s heroic rescue.
“Well we have to keep moving and find this tree.” Christian ordered
“Can’t we rest a little while longer?” Sara asked desperately still not fully recovered from her under water nightmare.
“No we have to keep moving and find the tree. Whatever came out of that water is probably going to it to protect it.”
“So we want to go towards whatever came out of the water?!” Sebastian asked
“If it means finding the tree and getting out of here, then yes.” Christian responded harshly to his brother.
As he helped Sara get up from the side of the tree the four of them proceeded deeper and deeper into the mess of trees with caution keeping their eyes peeled for one that stood out from the rest.
“What was that?!” Sara shrieked as a loud thump came from somewhere behind them.
“I don’t know but keep moving.” Christian whispered.
The ground now no longer as solid as it had been when they were standing at the ponds edge, but now thick and muddy with each step more difficult then the last as they sunk deeper and deeper to the cold muck. The green sunlight from the glass above now gave them an eerie sensation as they moved terrified unknowing of what could come from the other side of the trees.
There muddy walking finally came to a halt as the four arrived to what seemed to be the center of the greenhouse with a large tree standing tall and strong in the middle with its coiling long serpent roots flowing through out the ground. This tree however was different from any they had ever seen. Its bushy leaves were nothing like the moldy foul color like the frozen children but rather glowing in emerald light. This was Eden’s tree.
“Ok we found it now can we take it down!” Sebastian howled impatiently as he ran full speed toward the gargantuan Nymph life support through the thick goopy mud reach up to his knees making him sink deeper and deeper the closer he got.
“Sebastian stop, wait for us!” Christian yelled from behind
“Sebastian look out!” Sara shrieked and as Sebastian froze in terror as a long wet mucky tongue surfaced from underneath the mud throwing him into the air landing loudly on a root.
Christian ran into the mud toward his brother who was holding onto the root as he stood waste deep
“Wait don’t go into the mud, the books saying something!” Damian yelled after Christian as he held the book in his hands as words slowly appeared onto its surface.
“What is it, what does it say?!” Sara questioned nervously not removing her eyes from Christian in the distance.
“I think I know what came out of the pond…” Damian said anxiously. “Christian you have to get out of the mud! Eden’s guards are what came-“ but Damian could not finish his sentence as he and Sara were lunged forward into the mud as well by another long slimy tongue from behind.
Damian pulled his face out of the mud and looked around the silent swamp but saw nothing but the elevated roots and the light from the tree ahead of him. He didn’t dare call out for the others around him in fear of alerting the monsters he saw in the book. Suddenly it hit him. Where was the book? It was no longer in his hands nor in the mud around him. He could only hope that where ever Sara was, she had the book safe.
Without standing up Damian remained slouched and moved slowly toward the tree ahead. With no idea how to destroy it, his only focus was to reach it and figure it out then. Staying close to the giant thick root to his right he followed it like a road until alas he reached the trees trunk. Standing up slowly he placed his hand on the remarkable marble smooth bark. It was warm like a persons body and the emerald light of the leaves glowed on his face from above. It almost made him not wish to destroy it.
“Stop that tickles…” said the same soft voice that lay on the lily in the pond. Behind Damian stood Eden twiddling her fingers in her long red locks looking not as chipper as before but instead agitated by the sight of Damian along site the emerald tree.
“Damian get out of there!” Yelled Christian afar to his left holding on to Sebastian who was clearly still in terrible pain from his fall on the root.
Damian could not budge from his position looking the enticing nymph dead in the eye as she walked slowly closer to him.
“You know it isn’t polite to touch a lady without her permission…” She whispered ever so gently
“You could feel that? He asked the beautiful creature as she approached him and bent closer to his face.
The nymph ignored his question and walked around Damian like a beast to it’s pray. Without another moment’s hesitation, he let go of the smooth trunk and ran as fast as he could in the opposite direction in hopes to make It back into the cover of the trees. To his dismay he had no such luck as once more a slimy muddy tongue rapped itself around his ankles pulling him upside down high in the air. The tongue came form beneath the thick bubbling mud below him and from it began to emerge the foul creature he had just seen in the pages of the book. Its face dripping in chunks as it pulled itself leg by leg out from beneath until alas the form of the giant toad was fully present below him.
“You don’t seem as afraid as the others have been. Have you ever seen my guards before little boy?” Eden asked as she sat on a root close to the toad with mouth wide open looking ready to swallow him whole.
Damian made no response to her question feeling the blood rush to his head and his heart bounding fiercer then ever. Where was Sara? Had Christian really stayed with Sebastian as he saw this happen? Was the toad the cause for the books disappearance?
“Put him down!” yelled Christian’s voice as he now stood leaning against the tree with dagger in hand pressing against the smooth bark. “I’ll destroy it if you don’t…”
Eden sat expressionless gazing at Christian. Here he was threatening to destroy the very thing that kept her alive and yet she showed no sign of fear or hesitation.
“I mean it!” He yelled again now pressing the dagger into the tree making just the slightest dent causing Eden to twitch and reach for her side in pain. Just as she had felt Damian’s touch, she could feel the dagger as well.
“Silly boy…” she said softly as she raised her hands and snapped her fingers. And in seconds another muddy tongue from behind coiled around Christians waste and hauled him back straight into the mouth of another toad.
Sara yelled in the distance grasping her mouth realizing she had let her location be revealed. Eden turned and smiled signaling to her muddy friend to give her the same fate as Christian. Moving sluggishly forward the beast sank deep into the mud and out of sight and Sara began to cry in terror.
“Leave them alone it’s me you want!” Damian spoke alas.
“I think I already gave you that option once before and you weren’t very honest. I have to tell you little boy I don’t like liars.
Sara, now accompanied by Sebastian who had recovered from his fall, were now standing together on a root where the other toad stood between them, the tree, and the dagger that Christian had dropped.
“You knew my name.” Eden stated, but Damian made no response. “How did you know my name?”
Was it possible that neither of the slimy reptiles found the book in the mud?
“Put my down and ill answer anything you want…” he told her.
Eden smiled and whistled to her friends to let him down and with a plop into the mud Damian lifted himself up quickly and faced the nymph twiddling her fingers in her hair once more.
“You knew my name, you knew about this tree, and I have a feeling you knew about my toads as well. How is it an innocent little boy like you would know about all of that?”
“Because of the book.” He told her and at the corner of his eye he could see Sebastian and Sara looking at him puzzled in what he doing.
“…You have the libreta?”
“Yes. And well give it to you if you let us go…Christian as well.”
“What’s a Christian…Oh Tera’s snack?”
“Screw you hag!” Sara screamed as Sebastian held his hands up to keep her from doing something stupid.
Eden continued without recognition of the outburst. “You’re a tricky one…Give me the book first and then you can have the Christian.”
Damian’s heart sank. This was exactly what he feared. “Well… I dropped it somewhere in the mud.”
“Oh I see…Tera! Find the libretta and bring it to me baby.” she commanded as the fat toad dove into the mud. “Sucio,” she began looking back to where Sebastian and Sara stood. “Cough it up.” And with the command the giant toad gave a look of protest and opened wide to let out a splash of gunk where Christian plopped onto the root unconscious in front of them. Sara ran to him and pressed her ear to his chest looking for a sign that her love was still breathing.
Damian approached them as they huddled over Christians body until Sara loosened the tension in her face and said, “He’s breathing.”
“You little liar… This book is empty!” Eden yelled angrily from beside the tree with her two frogs as she held open the muddy book Tera had found rather quickly just as Christian began to awake. Once more she snapped her fingers and the monsters jumped into the think mud and began to move slowly toward them.
“Run!” Sara commanded as she put Christians arm over her shoulder and signaled Sebastian to do the same. Back into the trees they ran away from the creatures and away from the tree that was their ticket to freedom.
The four of them knelt once more in between two frozen wooden children Helping Christian into consciousness.
“What happened?” he asked weakly covered in mud and water.
“You almost died that’s what.” Sara answered him frantically feverishly whipping his face of the filth.
“Ok how are we going to get to the tree with those giant frogs in the way?” Sebastian asked impatiently standing watch around them.
“They’re not frogs.” Damian snorted, growing every second more impatient with the negative attitude Sebastian brought.
“Ok how do we get past the toads then oh wise one…”
“They’re not toads either.” Damian said lifting himself now standing to face him
“Then what are they?” Christian asked almost in a whisper.
“They’re not real. Just before Sara and I got thrown into the mud I was able to read what the book said. They were created by a sculptor who possessed something to turn inanimate objects life. Those toads weren’t covered in mud, they are mud.”
“Well I take it you read a way on how we can kill them?” Sebastian asked furiously, but Damian
and no further come backs to silence the cocky prince.
“You can only get rid of them with fire or heat..” he murmured.
“Well that would explain the immense amount of mud and why the glass walls are so smudged. Direct sunlight would just dry the things out.” Commented Sara who was now holding on tight to Christians hand.
“Wait…” Christian interrupted now sitting up straight as if his idea had brought back every ounce of energy in his body. “ Dry them out that’s it! We don’t need to set them on fire we just need to try them out!” everyone looked at him rather puzzled and unsure of what he was trying to get across, but before any of them could ask he had gotten up and began to look into sliming pocket and pulled out two tiny dry reserved pouches that could only contain the very dust that still brought pain to Damian’s eyes.
“Eye bleed powder? What is that going to do?” Sara questioned rapping her arms around Christians big one.
“If this stuff drains moisture from the eyes to cause the irritation why cant it drain the moisture in the toads?” he asked
“Ok fearless leader but even if we could get one of those in them its no where near enough to take them out. They’re huge in case you didn’t notice while you were in its stomach.” Sebastian commented as he walked around them in a circle keeping close eye on any movement beyond the trees.
“Well that’s the thing. If we manage to get close enough to one were going to have to use both bags. Its no guarantee it’ll take it out but we have to at least try.”
As they stood looking at Christian wondering if he had either suffered brain damage in the creatures stomach, or if his idea was really crazy enough to work, they knew there was no other choice. If they wished to ever get out of the garden and see Funbi once more they were going to have to take the risk. So as the three nodded in agreement (Sebastian in angrily) they circled around Christian as he said, “Ok here’s the plan.”
Secret of the nymph
The garden lay quite around the glowing oak as the thick disgusting mud creations slumped around the roots and goo keeping close watch for their mistress. Eden sat angrily still on one of the long smooth tree branches holding the libretta trying to read its blank pages.
“Come on now tell me your secrets…” she asked in her sweet voice which failed to help her cause. Upon seeing no reaction from the book she shut it with pulsing frustration and set inside a hollow hole in her tree where balls, jacks, playing cards, and even hats all belonging to children past lay dormant like their owners.
Eden looked down to her sloth guards and remembered what she had almost forgotten. The four trespassers were still inside her garden and the air had been undisturbed far too long for her comfort.
“Tera…” she began, “Go and do a round of the garden. Find me those four immediately.” She commanded as she lay slowly on her back humming a tune playing with her fire locks.
But interrupted she was by her other goon toad who was now yelping from bellow seeking attention from his mistress giving obvious signs of his desire to get another taste of Christian.
“No Sucio you have to stay here. Its clear they want the treasure and if you leave there’ll be no way of stopping them on my own.” And as she finished Sucio flopped back into the mud and lay motionless in disappointment.
“Ok everyone saw that right?” Christian asked the others as the peaked through the dry crusty branches of a forgotten child.
The three silently agreed to let him continue. “Ok well she put the book in the hole. So my guess is whatever she was sent to protect has to be in there too.
“Are you sure…seems a little easy don’t you think?” Sebastian asked
“um not when you have giant mud toads around trying to eat you…” he replied to his brother who made no comment back which was universal knowledge to be his way of saying “you’re right”.
“ok well you all know the plan, so lets move out.” Christian signaled as Sara and Damian stealthily ran around to the opposite side of the trees out of sight from Sebastian and Christian.
“Ok little brother you ready?” Christian asked placing his hand on his shoulder. For the first time in a very long time there was no rivalry, anger, nor anything else that had existed between them in the past time. With a strong pat Christian began to lift himself slowly before Sebastian quickly grabbed his arm pulling him back down to his side.
“Er, whatever happens I just wanted to say-“ Sebastian began before his brother stopped him smiling strongly assuring him that there was no need for whatever he was about to say. He reached out his hand, and the two of them got up together ready to face the nymph.
The two walked out slowly side by side coming into full view for the Eden to see. And as it was Eden gazed at the princes and whistled joyously to her remaining pet as it got up excitedly hurrying after them.
Christian could feel Sebastian shaking next to him. “Don’t get scared.” He told him reassuringly as Sebastian angrily responded he wasn’t. Closer and closer it approached them as they stood motionless waiting for Tera to get close enough and as it reached arm distance the two princes lunged forward as they and the toad clashed toppling over into the thick mud.
“Now!” Sara cried from the other side as Eden turned to meet a jagged rock nailing her right between her eyes knocking her off the tree landing on a root right on her stomach. As she rubbed her pain stricken nose she looked up to find Sara with arms out grabbing her by the neck and into the mud as well.
Damian stood frozen for a few seconds looking at the two of them battling intensely. For the short time he had known Sara he had never known her to be so aggressive. Just then She looked back to see Damian’s motionless body as she yelled, “What are you waiting for!?”
And quickly he snapped back to his senses grabbing onto the tree climbing up to where Eden had just sat. Positioning himself carefully he peeped into the hollow hole where she placed the book quickly grabbing it and checking for any damage. Relieved at finding no such sign he opened his jacket and placed the book against his chest zipping it up safely.
Looking back into the whole he saw the dusty and dirt covered belongings which belonged to the children. The unworn hats and unused toys that sat sadly in their place. But to worsen his Damian’s mood he could find no sign of anything peculiar or special inside her storage of things.
“Sara I cant find any-“ he began but once again a coiling brown tongue looped around his waste yanking him backward falling into the mud
Unharmed he rose and looked around to see Eden standing with Sara’s neck tightly in her grip as she slowly lowered her head into the mud.
“No!” he yelled as began to move forward but from behind around his ankles Sucio lifted him up into the air with mouth open wide.
“Yes Sucio. Make mommy happy and eat the little runt!” Eden yelled with such ferocity it was hard to believe she was the same seducing nymph by the pond.
“Yea eat up!” Damian yelled as he reached into his tight pocket that secured the small pouch even upside down. Ripping the string that closed the top, he threw it with all his might straight down the toads throat and within seconds the beast began shake painfully freeing Damian from its grasp.
As he hit the ground he stared with fingers crossed hoping that it was enough. And to his joy the toad began to cough up not mud, but rather dry dirt as its long slimy tongue swiveled no more but grew hard and crusty and broke from the creature’s mouth.
Quicker then expected, its mouth, legs, and entire body dried and broke off until at last what remained was a giant pile of dirt from which a shining object shimmered at its top. Damian quickly remembered the dagger Christian had in his hands as the toad had attempted to eat him. Rushing quickly he grabbed it from the soil and turned to where Eden still had Sara in her hands as she came up and down from the mud still fighting the angered Nymph.
“Eden!” Damian yelled angrily as the Nymph turned in shock looking from Damian to the pile of dirt and then back to him. “Let her go!” he commanded pointing the dagger at her.
She chuckled and teased “make me…”
And for whatever reason Damian could not understand, he was fairly happy to hear her say that as he replied “Gladly.” And with all his might he threw the dagger through the air as it spiraled striking the tree like a dart.
As the tree was struck, its living counterpart gave a cry of pain releasing her grip on Sara to clutch the center of her chest allowing her opponent to raise her head from under the thick liquid one last time and kicking Eden onto her back.
The two of them ran toward the tree getting on top of the roots running to the daggers position. Damian pulled the blade from its target and stabbed it once more deep into the tree, but to their surprise Eden gave out no yell. Turning around they gazed at her standing calmly and painless.
“Why isn’t working why isn’t she dieing?” Sara panicked.
But before Damian could think of anything to say Eden opened her mouth to speak. “My time has come you now have won what I guard here from what they fear. Take it if you wish you need not ask, but don’t be foolish there is still another task.”
Suddenly the nymph began to disappear and the stained glass high above them began to crack and fall as beams of the sun began to warm the damp atmosphere around them. Mud turned to dirt and then to dust as the trees as well began to vanish releasing the transparent figures of the children that once stood in their place. Rising high beyond the green house hundreds of them flew in joy freeing themselves of their prison.
“Do you think the Rat got out too?” Damian asked.
Sara put her arm around Damian softly, sighed and replied “I’m sure of it.”
As the two stood silently on their own regaining their steady breathes the began to here the leaves of the tree behind them shaking by the wind. Turning they realized that the leaves now longer had their emerald shine. All of them had turned to the shades of autumn leaves and were falling off one by one as the wind stroked the branches.
“Are you two alright!?” yelled a familiar deep voice coming up from the roots as he and Sebastian covered in dirt joined them at the top.
Without hesitation Sara ran over to him and leaped into his arms in relief that he was alright. Together silently they all looked up at the tree as all the leaves flew into the wind. They could not believe that it was over, that they had defeated Eden and her two filthy guards. But as they stood in silence what seemed to top the relief was that the only way of finding Eden’s treasure was now gone. No more frozen children, giant toads, or Eden herself to tell them how to find it in the massive green house in which they stood.
“Well we should get back now don’t you think? Sara asked softly trying to not make the situation any more realistic to the four adventurers of their loss.
“I guess so…Alright guys lets get going. Don’t forget they still have mom and dad in the underground.” Christian said solemnly.
They all began to walk slowly into the now baron grounds where the dense forest once was, all of them except for Damian who stood still in his place. As they walked it didn’t take them long to notice he wasn’t following.
“ugh don’t tell me he’s going to cry.” Sebastian mumbled to himself.
“What is it Damian?” Sara asked.
Damian took a few moments to answer as his heart was beating fast with excitement. “All the leaves that fell were red…” He whispered gently as if telling a secret.
“What are you talking about?” Christian asked looking up at the bear tree curiously.
“All the leaves were red except for that one.” Damian pointed as they all looked up to see one lonely gold leaf as it shone from the light of the sun above.
Without another second Damian took the book out of his jacket, placed it on the ground and ran toward the tree as fast as he could to reach the golden leaf. Following behind him still rather confused Sara, Sebastian, and Christian called from behind urging an explanation.
As Damian climbed and climb he at least reached the single leaf that he noticed was not shaking by the wind but rather staying perfectly still. Slowly he touched it and saw how hard and smooth the leaf was and came to realize it was not a leaf at all. Grasping it tightly he pulled it from its branch and looked at it closely.
This oak leaf was in fact real gold as it contained writing tracing its edges. However the words seemed to be warn as Damian could not make out what they said. Following the incredible find to its petiole he saw how oddly jagged it was and came to realize this was not just a golden leaf, but a key.
“What did you find?” Christian yelled from below still looking confused and impatient.
As Damian got back down with the key in his hand, he showed his fellow companions on what he had discovered coming to the conclusion that the key was exactly what Eden was protecting.
“Well it makes sense.” Sebastian began. “He purpose was to protect the key. So if she died then she would have failed giving the key over to who ever defeated her.”
“But what is it supposed to open?” Sara questioned.
Without a response they all huddled around the book as Damian opened it to see what the key could possibly mean. But minutes past and the book made no sign of telling them anything.
“ I don’t understand,” Damian began “ It should be telling me something by now.”
“ Maybe that for now we know all it wants us to know?” Sara suggested.
No one answered as they closed the book, stored the key safely away and began to make their way back to the garden door. It didn’t hit them of how exhausted they were until they made their way up the dark thick tree hill and back into the flower meadows. Like zombies they arrived at last to the archway that brought them into this crazy world and one by one went through back to the place they called home.
the unexpected heir
As the filthy four entered the still semi destroyed library which was now illuminated by the light of the sun outside they felt the true relief of their crazy night reaching its end. Walking past broken chairs burnt books and destroyed book shelves, their slow walk picked up into a fast pace to get back outside and see how everyone was.
Out into the stone hall, and out to the grounds of the hills that looked below at Funbi they could see a mess of people huddled around the street where the entrance to the underground was, and without a moment to spare in pairs they jumped on two roosters and headed down to the streets.
Though the city people were crowding the streets, they all moved out of the way without question as Christian lead them through. Passing markets and merchants, they alas made it to the street where soldiers and guards held Damian’s fellow neighbors tightly.
“Let them go!” He yelled as he let go of Sara’s waste and lowered himself from the feathered creature.
Finding his stand comical, the soldier laughed and pushed him to the ground.
“Soldier you heard what he said…Let them go.” Christian ordered as the soldiers smirk washed quickly from his face as he untied the three people.
“What is going on here?” Christian asked.
“ Exactly as you ordered your highness. We received the message of the king and queens capture and we came to release them as you ordered.
Christian looked confused and looked and Sebastian behind him as he recalled being told that Sebastian never delivered the message.
Without further questions the four of them past the guards and walked down to the damp sewers below.
“Wow… I know I said you were garbage but I think even that lives better then this…” Sebastian commented as he looked the moldy walls up and down.
Through damp corridors they walked until they reached the grand room where Damian remembered he was snuck into not too long ago. As they walked in they could see below at center stage the king and queen of Funbi ever so relieved to see their boys walking down towards them.
As the family hugged and rejoiced their being ok and held Sara as well, Damian gazed remembering his feeling of loneliness in the world. He sat on the front bench alone and pulled the golden key from his pocket staring at it with his head swimming in dreams. He could remember arriving at the Funbi castle and having every desire to leave. Yet now he sat gazing at the royal family and though there they stood in front of him…He missed them already.
A soft hand laid itself on Damians shoulder, turning he saw it was his good friend Jim with bloody lip and other injuries all over his body.
“Jim!” Damian yelled jumping to hug his friend who groaned in pain letting him realize the injuries were probably worse then they seemed.
“You’re alright! But I saw them take you-“
“oh come on now you know it takes more then a giant meat head to take me down.” He joked weakly.
The two sat together and conversed over the things that happened and of the key that they had found. Jim looked at his young friend proudly of how much he’d grown in the short time they had been apart.
“Well I’m just glad to see all of you are alright.” The king stated after his sons had told him of their long adventure as well.
He took the key from Damian and looked at it curiously. Unlike the four of them his expression was one of familiarity with the mysterious object. He stowed it into his pocket, smiled to them all, and began to make his way up the stairs.
“Your highness?” Damian called from behind stopping the king on the third step up as he turned around to look at the nervous boy.
“Yes?” he asked kindly.
“What is to happen to the people here? I don’t know if Sebastian and Christian told you but the rat didn’t make it. These people have no leader now and their sewers are no longer secret.”
The king stared at Damian with a faint smile gazing respectably at his compassion like all fire children had burning in their hearts. “Well my boy they will all have to leave here. I wont permit them to stay.”
Damian didn’t know how to respond to this cruelty. Where would all of them go? Where would he go as now they all knew it was where he was from. They all knew though is blood was fire his past was Wood. And nothing changed that.
“T-then I suppose Jim should say something to all-“ but Damian was interrupted
“Oh no no my boy I’m not kicking them out of Fumbi! I just believe its good time for all of them to come to the surface. Unless these sewers really are what tickles your fancy?” He chuckled looking the walls up and down.
And without thinking of rules or respect or ideas of appropriateness, Damian ran up the stairs and hugged the king with all the strength he had left as the king returned the gesture.
“Of course though as you know there blood is not fire, they cannot just be in our nation without representation. The royal family of wood was whipped out years ago and the rat was the last leader they had. Someone must be appointed to represent these people. And I cant think of anyone better then your friend Jim.”
Suddenly Jim who was looking Damian rose his eyes to meet the kings as his jaw dropped wide.
“M-me your highness?” he asked surprisingly
“Well of course, unless you are disagreed?”
Jims eyes teared with joy and appreciation as he shook his head happily to the king as the agreement was silently made.
“ Dear?” The queen spoke in her corner with her kind voice, as for a second everyone seemed to have forgotten her presence.
“Oh yes , yes Damian my boy there is something me and my wife have been meaning to ask you ever since we were brought down here.” He began “ you are a remarkable young man, and I know we are not your real family. But if you would like, we would be honor to take you into our home as no more a guest, but instead our son.”
Damian froze. He legs glued to the ground as his heart raced. He could feel Christians joy from behind, Sara’s tears, and Sebastian loath, but most importantly he felt his own happiness.”
He looked the king above him and replied “I would love that very much your highess.”
“oh please, you can call me father.”
The rest of the morning went in a blink of an eye. Damian washed up, never happier to be in his room, dressed in the ruby red, gold, and white clothes that were laid neatly on his chair and put Mo’s small matching jacket on his tiny monkey body. The night seemed like a dream. The libretta lay on his bed as it had plainly all those nights ago and every few seconds Damian looked eagerly to see if the phantom wind would turn its pages. But the book lay motionless.
Out his window Damian could see into the clear sky day where bustling and quick moving filled the city streets, more then usual. Banners were being hung, drum players were setting up at the foot of the castle. If Damian didn’t know any better, a party was being set up. Signaling Mo to climb on his shoulder as he walked to the door, he rushed down the stone steps, past the court yard into the throne room where his new mother stood happily with three garderners holding three different sets of flowers. Seeing him at the corner of her eye she shoed them away and walked slowly toward him.
“What’s happening your- I mean mother.” It was still a bit awkward for him to say and rather umcomfortable, but the none the less it was a term he was growing fond of saying.
“Well as word spreads rather quickly in this city, it should be no surprise that the word of a new prince spread within a couple of hours. And as all princes, like my sons were when they were born, you too will be coroneted.”
It hadn’t crossed Damians mind at all that besides being a son and a brother, he now would bare the same responsibility as Sebastian and Christian. He too was now a prince of Fumbi.
“Mother I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. Really, but I was just wondering. Why did you vouch for me when I was brought in those nights ago. Why did you take me in and give me a birthday party and made me feel as if you had known me my entire life?” Damian was unsure if the questions were inappropriate because of the queens reaction as she stared down to the ground.
“ Well my son, I will let you in on a secret. You are the second to almost be crowned third in a line of sons. Shortly after Sebastian I was about to have another but there were complications and well…” she didn’t have to say more for Damian to understand.
“When you stood here in front of us that night I saw a boy who was scared and hurt. Queen or peasant or no matter what no child should be placed in such a position. I knew I was doing the right thing. And seeing you standing here in front of me now…I have my proof.”
Taken to the foot of the castle by carriage the five fumbis rose to the beautiful stage that stood facing the street of people cheering and shouting to see their new prince. Five golden thrones were placed at the stages center where each member of the royal family took their seat, including Damian. As they sat the celebrations began and drums roared through the city, men marched twirling their wooden staffs and fire grazed the air like confetti.
With Damian center stage his new father rose being handed a castle top crown identical to the ones he his sons and wife were wearing. As the ruby and cold crown touched Damians head the people roared in applause and cheer at the sight of their new leader. In the crowd Damian could see his old friend Jim no longer in rags but elegant clothes of green and bronze. Representing the wood people just as the king had promised.
Everything was as Damian had always wished. A life worth living, a family to love, and a future he couldn’t wait to see. Though back behind him in the castle he would now call home, through the silent halls and into his still bedroom where the libretta lay alone on his bed, the phantom breeze came once more and to a new page the book opened. Where the words the chest of the seven royal powers appeared in clear black ink.