Stories

Chapter 3 – All That Glitters

Forcing herself to put one foot in front of the other she made her way to the door. It was mind numbingly slow going. It was the only way Alice knew. Being made to leave her sanctuary – the only place where she couldn’t hurt anyone – was not something she was going to speed along. She had all the time in the world. It was her last means of showing any defiance. Her last way of showing the shadows that they hadn’t won the war yet.

Reaching the door, she hesitated. She saw the shadow of her hand grab the handle and knew what she had to do. In slow motion she raised her hand and touched the door handle with the tips of her fingers. It felt cold. Icy. She grabbed it and pushed it down. It wasn’t locked. It never was these days. Oh how she longed for someone to simply break in. To discover her. To punish her. Perhaps to end it, if she was lucky.

Alice stepped out into a well-lit hallway. Directly opposite her was a beautiful door – with its intricate carvings painted white with the rest of it, a golden handle gleaming in the light from the elaborate chandeliers hanging from the high ceiling. It looked exactly like every other door she could see. Exactly like the one she had just opened.

She didn’t bother closing the door behind her – there was always someone who was offended by what was visible through it who would close it -, but dragged her feet on the soft red carpet that ran along the marble floor, towards the golden elevator at the end of the hallway.

Pressing the up button, she waited. She could hear the gentle whirring of the lift and then a soft clang when it came to a stop on her floor. The golden doors parted and Alice was greeted by more marble and large mirrors.

Keeping her head down she pressed the button to the top floor. The lift started to move with an almost unnoticeable lurch. Seconds passed. Another gentle vibration ran through the elevator when it came to a stop. The doors opened and she looked out to a hallway that looked exactly like the one she had just left. Without lifting her eyes off the floor she made her way to the stairs just right of her and started to climb them, one at a time. The elevator didn’t go that high.

When she reached the top, her way was blocked by a heavy door. She pushed it open, knowing that it would not be locked. Her shadow had taken care of that. She had seen it move just a fraction ahead of her own.

She stepped outside and looked up properly for the first time since leaving her apartment. The sky was nearly black with clouds and it was raining. Big heavy drops landing rapidly one after another. She was outside. She had been defeated by the shadows again. They had won this battle.

Quickening her step a little, Alice headed towards the edge of the building. She broke into a run, nearing the edge. Her heart skipped a beat when he reached the end of the roof and pushed off it into nothingness.

In the beginning she had enjoyed this moment the most. Then she had hoped it would be her end. Now she loathed that piece of herself. The part that made everything so real. The part that was solid proof of the shadows who owned her, and their powers.

She closed her eyes as she soared towards the ground, and feeling for the right moment, she stretched out her arms – and the wings followed. They looked like they were made of shadows themselves – their span huge, their colour darker than the most solid black, yet looking like a gust of wind could blow through them. Her certain plummet to death now turned into an elegant arch, avoiding the other buildings around her. Looking for her next victim like a bird of prey or Death herself.

It was time to hunt.


 

Yeaaaaah… I still don’t know where this is going. I’ve got some ideas, some paths that Alice could take, but I’m not quite sure about her final destination yet.

G.

Stories

Chapter 2 – The Deepest Pit

Alice knew she had to get up. Staying behind her shadow wasn’t an option. Inexplicably, as excruciating as it was, she had to keep going. Giving up was physically impossible. She’d tried. Again and again. Impossible.

She had to get on her trembling feet, resting with her hands on her bony knees half way up, and then stretch to her full height. He legs were shaking as she opened her eyes, still puffy and crusted from the tears, looking around in her tiny apartment. She saw the rickety wooden table with its paint peeled off so she could only guess what colour it had once been. The only chair in the place still lay knocked down next to it from last night. The couch she was standing next to – oh, how she longed to throw herself in its waiting embrace and forget about everything that was happening. Forget about the things lurking just behind her vision. Ever present. Whispering. Shouting. Feeding the flames in her.

Suddenly rage burned in her. Rage at how unjust it was. The ‘Why me?!’ was back. If she couldn’t give up, she had to keep fighting. She had to find a way out. She had to! She couldn’t going on hurting everyone around her, hurting herself. Although, after everything she had done she felt that she deserved this and everything else that hell could rain upon her. Such remorse, she felt like it was pulling her apart. She gave in to it, hoping that it would tear her to millions of pieces.

She did her best to keep up her shield of rage. It lit another fire next to the strange one that, once so familiar, now felt alien to her. The desire to be the best no matter the cost was no longer her own. She could not embrace it, she could not give in to it. She had to be strong and fight it. Because ‘no matter the cost’ was a high price to pay indeed.

So she had been the best in class throughout her school years – but what of Penelope Woods? She had been the truly clever one with a brilliantly bright future ahead of her. Until it was taken from her. Alice’s threats had made sure she was too scared to ever speak up. She knew what happened if she defied Alice. She had seen it happening. She had seen it again and again throughout the years. So she stayed silent. She lost any interest in her studies. She lost interest in life. The last news Alice had of her said that Penelope had been caught in a firefight between two drug gangs whilst waitressing at a 24/7 diner. It didn’t say whether she survived.

Marissa Bollard had broken a leg when she was about to beat Alice in an inter school race. She’d been in a wheelchair ever since. Billy Clifford had fallen down the stairs when he applied for the same job as Alice and for which he was better suited. He’d broken his neck and died. The list went on. She remembered them all. She repeated their names in her lowest moments, willing herself to sink even deeper. Punishing herself.

It hadn’t been like this in the beginning. She had been a bright and athletic child, naturally excelling in everything she did. It’s when she started to see that there are others better than her, that it started. Not able to stand the idea of being the first loser – coming second – she’d maliciously wished ill upon her competition. It worked, and the fire – the desperate feverish desire – grew ever stronger. Alice became ruthless. Marissa was tripped. Billy was pushed. Her own sister had been slapped, kicked, beaten and humiliated until she was a shadow of her former bubbly self. Until she took her own life.

The rage was gone. All that was left was remorse. Alice screamed. It sounded inhuman, blood curdling. She lurched forward, throwing herself on the splintered chair leg that was sticking up in the air.

Once again the shadows laughed at her. They were not going to release their hold. Even though she no longer thrived on their power and was growing increasingly cumbersome, they still found her somewhat amusing. Puny human. Pathetic. Worthless. Something to be toyed with.

Wailing, snot and spit dribbling down her hollow face, Alice screamed until she could scream no more. Her voice was reduced to little more than a feeble rasp. Nobody heard. Nobody cared. She was alone. Unable to let go. She had tried. Again and again.

Her shadow was moving once again. More urgently this time. She knew there was no escape. It had allowed her to despair as it found it entertaining every now and again. Now it was time to go.

Not seeing or caring where she was going, she let the fire inside her lead her forward to whatever lay ahead.


 

I guess that’s as good place as any to let you know that this is entirely a work of fiction and the people, places and events aren’t related to me or anyone else. 

G.

Stories

Chapter 1 – The Making of Alice

When Alice was little, she was usually rather on the merry side. She rarely cried, she considered her failures little more than plot twists and she was always looking for ways to prove herself. She needed to be the best at everything. Everything was a competition. She even made family dinners something of a race – always finishing her meal first like it was another victory in her already achievement filled day.

Her parents didn’t discourage her – her father saw this as something that would drive his daughter to do great things one day and her mother simply said ‘She’s so spirited!’.

Even though Alice couldn’t understand it at the time – and what she didn’t understand couldn’t possibly bother her or get her mood down – her drive to be better than everyone else, didn’t really sit with other children and their parents. They saw her as single minded to the point of recklessness and even dangerous. Perhaps they were just envious, or perhaps there was a darker side to Alice – a side that would do anything it takes to achieve her next goal.


 

Swoosh and CRACK. Alice’s sleeve had caught on the handle of her mug and she pulled it off the table when she moved. She jumped, knocking her chair over. More crashes and bangs. She couldn’t deal with all the noise anymore. Looking around her apartment, she saw shadows everywhere. What was hiding in the shadows? Were they back? Was she alone? Was she imagining it all?

Her eyes were red, face blotchy. She’d been crying again. Tired, so tired. All the time. Exhausted. Was today the day she could finally end it? She looked down at the broken pieces of the cup. They looked quite sharp. She tentatively picked one piece up. So many thoughts racing through her head. Memories of other nights like this. Of the shadows. Forever lurking, just beyond the rays of the solitary light blazing above the table.

It was unbearable. She gripped the shard and pulled decisively across her arm. She felt no pain. Nothing happened. Shadows whispered to her louder. They were angry. Alice slashed at her arm again and again, but to no avail. Not even a scratch appeared.

The shard fell from her slack fingers and she dropped to her knees. Tears were running down her face again. ‘Stop it,’ she sobbed. ‘Please, let me go. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,’ she cried feebly. There wasn’t an ounce of strength left in her to go on. She wanted to go to sleep and stay there. Even her usual questions weren’t fighting for a place on her mind. Gone. Even the desperate ‘Why me?’ had left her.

Silent tears kept falling down her face, her breathing shallow. She was letting the fear take over – anything to escape the reality of her life.

After a while, Alice crawled to the dirty couch next to the table. It was one of the very few pieces of furniture in the room. She didn’t feel like she deserved any more. Even this was too much. Nevertheless, there was the tiniest part of her that longed to curl up on this rat eaten piece of junk with springs sticking out in odd angles that prodded her through her clothes whenever she didn’t feel herself enough to resist this luxury.

Not this time though. She just lay next to the couch on the bare floor, hiding in the shadow of it. She’d succumbed. Too weak to resist the whispers, she let the shadows in.

Gleefully they seeped in through her skin, feeding the fire that would refuse to go out. Like the first time all those years ago.

How could she possibly still remember? She’d been so young, so foolish. Just a child. And yet she remembered.


 

She remembered how she had always wanted to be first, be the best. She remembered how hard it had been to achieve. She remembered how one night, on the verge of falling asleep in her bed, she felt the shadows talk to her. They talked to her all night.

When Alice opened her eyes in the morning, she didn’t feel like her usual self. She felt tired and her maple leaf patterned sheets were crumpled like she’d been tossing and turning all night. When she looked around in her small bedroom, nothing was out of the ordinary. Her stuffed toys were still looking up at her from the floor by her night cabinet. Her school things were still on the white wooden desk under the window. Her wardrobe doors were still ajar with jumper sleeves and trouser legs sticking out.

Yet something felt different. It felt like someone had come with a huge brush and painted everything just a slightly different shade. Or moved every piece of furniture just slightly away from where they should have been. And the shadows that every item in her room cast, felt just a bit more menacing than they used to.

It felt strange, but she didn’t have time to pay much attention to it. She got dressed in her usual jeans, t-shirt and jumper and bolted out the door.

Had she paid more attention, would she have noticed how her shadow didn’t move quite with her, but always seeming to stay just a fraction ahead of her movements? Or if he’d delved deeper in her thoughts and feelings, could she have detected a tiny fire that had started in her, telling her that she should spare no means to get to the top and trample down anyone who dared get in her way?


 

It was morning. Alice lifted her head an inch off the floor but fell back down almost immediately. Tired. So tired. Exhausted of being terrified of her own shadow. Drained of constantly being alert to what terrible thing was going to happen next – what terrible thing she was going to do next.

Sleep. She just wanted to sleep.

But already she saw her shadow move.


 

So yeah, I felt like writing a bit. Don’t mind the ‘Chapter 1’, I have no idea where this is going next – if it’s going anywhere at all. But it felt right to start from the beginning. 

G.

My life, Stories

Lily, hold on!

‘Lily, hold on!’

‘What a brilliant piece of advice,’ Lily grunted, more to herself than to Poppy who’d called out to her, as it was almost impossible to hear anything over the wind whistling in her ears, not to mention the deafening noise the dragons made. She was currently hanging from a gigantic red one’s wing bone. She was holding on to dear life after their dragon had been attacked by another one of the creatures whose tail knocked her out of her position and almost off into the sky. At the last moment she’d been able to grab on to her dragon’s leathery wing and pulled her way back towards the dragon’s massive body in an attempt to get back on it. That plan had failed and she was all too aware that she wouldn’t be able to hold on for much longer, as her hands were getting sweatier and growing more tired by the second.

‘We need to go back or at least land somewhere!’ she shouted, trying to make herself heard over the continuous dragon roars and wind.

Poppy, who had managed to stay on the back of the beast when Lily slipped, nodded briefly to let Lily know she’d heard. Lily could see the panic in Poppy’s eyes. It wasn’t easy to fly a dragon on the best of days and today was pretty much as bad as it gets. The battle around them was raging on, drawing the dragon’s attention and the wind was picking up as well, making it even more difficult for the dragon to hear Poppy’s instructions. It took great skill and a powerful mind on top of years of training and bonding with a dragon to be able to control it enough to ride it. Poppy was young and inexperienced, but had been forced to take the reins anyway as they were losing dragon riders every day and needed to replace them or admit defeat. Without dragons they didn’t stand a chance. And they couldn’t afford to lose. Giving up now would mean that everything they know would be destroyed and millions would die. And the deaths wouldn’t be quick. The destruction wouldn’t be swift. It would be drawn out to ensure maximum amount of torture. They knew this as it had already begun to happen before they gathered the resistance and halted the doom’s progress.

Slowly starting to lose her nerve, Lily tried to swing her leg up again, as the dragon’s leathery wing beat down, but failed and nearly lost her grip completely. She closed her eyes, feeling tears and terror starting to overwhelm her. ‘I must hold on. I can’t let go. It’s not an option to give up,’ she whispered, to no-one in particular. She was out of ideas and about to lose hope. How could she not? They’d been in open battle for days and even before this she’d been in raid parties sent out to conduct surprise attacks on the enemy or scouting or bringing in more supplies. She was always busy, always in the thick of things. She was tired. It would be so simple to just let go and not have to worry about anything anymore. She was exhausted of trying to be what everyone expected of her.

Looking down, Poppy saw that Lily was really struggling so she focused all of her efforts once more on the dragon. She closed her eyes in concentration and thought: ‘It’s going to work. You’re going to hear me. We need to get somewhere safe. We need to land. I command you to fly away from the battle. Anywhere safe.’ She put as much conviction in it as she could muster, wishing that this time the dragon would pick up the command and do what she wanted. It was their only chance. Her magic was slowly waning and to be honest she was surprised it had lasted her that long. She had last refilled her reserves hours ago, before they set off towards the battle with the other troops who had been resting, if you could call it that. A couple of hours of fitful naps, more like dosing off from exhaustion than knowingly going to sleep. It was hard to get any rest so close to the war front. If you couldn’t get it out of your mind, it’d haunt you in your dreams. So it made little difference, but they were still grateful to know that at least for those few hours they weren’t in imminent danger from being burnt to death, thrown off a dragon, blown apart or any other common occurrences that came along with being in open war.

To Poppy’s immense surprise and relief, the dragon seemed to have heard and was now banking left, turning its back on the battle and making its way back. It didn’t take long for the dragon to get low enough so Lily wouldn’t be in mortal danger anymore. This seemed to encourage Poppy so she felt more confident when closing her eyes again and thinking: ‘Hurry.’ She felt the dragon speed up and looking down she saw the scorched ground fly by so fast it became a blur of fully burnt black and wilted yellow. Occasionally a grey rocky patch would break the monotony, but overall it was a bleak sight. Soon they were far enough so they were able to land.

Instantly Lily let go of the dragon, feeling drained. She tumbled and fell clumsily to her knees before collapsing completely. She was still alive. She could hardly believe it. She’d used the last of her magic to bind herself to the dragon as they’d been speeding off to safety. A few more minutes and her last drops of magic would’ve been gone and even though they weren’t flying that high, falling when flying at that speed would’ve been dangerous. So for now she was content just breathing in the smell of burnt ground and knowing that even though she’s not the hero everyone’s expecting her to be, she’s surprisingly lucky. And still alive.

As soon as the dragon’s claws reached the ground, Poppy slid off it. It wasn’t the most graceful disembarking, but little to do with dragons was graceful these days. Everything was rushed and technical, it was about practicality, not about what was right. That’s not something she wanted to think about now, however. She’d been lamenting over the poor treatment of dragons and her part in it ever since she was recruited to the army. She didn’t want to think about that either. She didn’t want to give in to her thoughts at all recently as a lot of them span around the horrors she’d seen, been through and inflicted. Attacking the enemy still meant killing and not all of the enemy soldiers were evil. Some of them were recruits like herself. The other side had just reached them before. She pushed all of that to the back of her mind and crouched down next to Lily. Her sister needed her and that’s all that mattered for now.

To be continued…

——————-

The featured picture was drawn by my sister.

 

Stories

5 Years Ago

Lily kept tossing and turning in her sleep, grumbling something not quite human. Her voice grew louder and louder until she was screaming her head off, waking herself up. Ollie burst through the door, his little bare feet pattering across the cold wooden floor. He looked so frightened, looking up at his big sister, whom he’d just thought to be in mortal danger, at the very least! ‘Was it the monsters again?’ he whispered, as if scared they’d be overheard. Lily was covered in cold sweat and she felt feverish, yet when she glanced at her younger brother, her face softened and she whispered back ‘Yes Ollie, it was the monsters again. I’m sorry I woke you.’ She brushed the hair back from her brother’s eyes and pulled him close for a hug. Ollie hugged her back and said ‘Don’t worry Lil, I’ll protect you from them. Let’s go back to sleep,’ he added, letting a big yawn escape his mouth. ‘Yeah, you can stay with me tonight if you’d like,’ she said, and then added almost inaudibly ‘And here’s hoping for a dreamless sleep.’

When they finally awoke, the sun was high up in the sky and they could hear their mum clattering with a frying pan downstairs, undoubtedly preparing a late breakfast. Without saying a word they got out of bed and Ollie went to his room to change out of his sleep clothes and Lily did the same in hers. She sat down on her bed, plucking at a loose thread dangling from the sleeve of her moose pyjamas. Why did she keep having the same dream? Well, with the same characters at the very least.

It always started with her looking down on a massive battle where on one side were people – or wizards? – throwing balls of fire or lightning or what ever else their imagination could conjure up to the opposing side of, well, dragons, she supposed. They were quite big and scaly and were most definitely breathing fire. She had witnessed them scorching large areas of grass and ground – and people – in front of them, to ashes. There was so much death and destruction, it pained her to even think about it. She had to stop recollecting her dreams to remind herself that’s all it was – dreams. None of this was real. But why did it feel so realistic though?

The next part was almost always different. At times she swooped down, her wings – when had she grown wings? – spread wide, to let her glide without much effort. When she was close enough to the mayhem before her, she spoke. It didn’t sound like her, nor was it any language she recognised, but all action ceased immediately, all faces turning towards her.

At other times she dove down – again those blasted wings! – and started throwing balls of fire and ice upon both sides of the battle. Or sometimes just the dragons.

On some occasions one side lost or won, whether she participated in any way or not. Sometimes she was captured and tortured. Those were the dreams most often waking her up. And that’s what she’d seen again last night. But she hadn’t just seen it, she’d felt it. She’d felt the red hot iron touching her skin, making her dream self black out, but the screaming in her head continued. That’s when she realised it was her making the ear splitting noise, and woke up, panting as if she’d just ran for miles.

What did this all mean? Should she research dream omens or something? But she still couldn’t shake the feeling they weren’t really normal dreams. They just felt too real.

‘Okay, now you’re being an idiot,’ she told herself aloud, trying to sound as convincing as she could, for it’s quite hard to persuade someone, if deep down you know you don’t believe it.

Nevertheless, she got up from her bed and changed into comfortable jogging pants and a t-shirt and then went to the bathroom to brush her teeth where Ollie was just finishing doing his. He waited for her and then they went downstairs together. Half way down they could smell pancakes and hastened their pace, excited to see what had gotten their mum in a pancake mood, since it happened so rarely nowadays.

‘Morning kids! Slept well?’ she asked, her voice sounding light and happy, even if there were dark shadows under her eyes betraying how tired she really was. The kids sat down and each grabbed a plate with food and started munching. ‘Lily had a bad dream again,’ Ollie said, raspberry jam dripping from his fingers. Lily shot a warning look at her little brother and said ‘Uhmm, yeah, I did. But it was no big deal. What about you? We’ve not had pancakes in ages!’ Her mum’s face split into a big smile as she exclaimed ‘I got a promotion! I don’t have to work the night shifts any more! Magda, you know Magda, right? Well anyway, she retired so they were finally pumping one of us up to replace her and they said they’d actually noticed all the hard work I’d been doing and,’ her voice cracked and she burst into tears ‘Oh, kids, I’m so happy!’ She hugged them both and they were all whooping and cheering.

As they sat beside the fire, having finally stopped when it got dark, that’s what Lily was thinking about. How it all had started five years ago. How she’d been dragged into this mess, into this lunatic story. The dreams. She scoffed. She’d been right. They weren’t just dreams at all. They were the futures. Well, one of them would be in any case. Which one would actually come true, even Bel couldn’t say. Any change in even the smallest of details could alter it.

No, she really didn’t have the heroic nerve Bel seemed to hope for. Some of the futures she’d seen had been downright horrific. The things she’d seen, the things she’d herself done. She couldn’t bring herself to even consider it possible she could bring death and chaos like that or be tortured until she died – if lucky.

She sat staring at the fire for a while, thinking it all over. Becoming more convinced that all she and Ollie needed to do was to get off this strange planet. To go back home to their mum. Oh how she missed her right now. And the tears came again.

G.

Stories

Tectonic Llamas

‘What… What are these things?’ Ollie whispered, his voice shaking, as all his sister could do was gape at these creatures. And what a sight they were, too. Truly worth taking a few seconds out of your life just to be astounded by the wonders of this strange world.

Massive, no, absolutely monumental beasts with thick green moss like fur that looked to be covering what were great slabs of rock, making up some sort of an armour – overlapping in most places, yet leaving gaps in others. And the way they moved, it was like watching Time itself in slow motion. Their faces didn’t look too menacing though, Ollie noticed. And as the animals were grazing along, nibbling on the plentiful lush plants growing around here, rather than charging onward to attack them, he thought they ought to be rather safe.

Hearing a rustling of leaves behind them he turned around in alarm, but saw it was only Bel who didn’t seem to be surprised in the slightest by the gigantic beasts, who were now all slowly turning to face the same direction for reasons unknown to Ollie. ‘Oh, so you’ve seen the tectonic llamas,’ she said and then added with a sigh ‘Magnificent, aren’t they?’

‘Tectonic llamas? So the leaves we had for dinner weren’t poisonous and I’m not seeing things right now? That’s a relief I guess. What exactly are these llama things though? You know, if you care to share any more, or do you just expect us to know everything like you do?’ Ollie said, words coming out rather faster than usual, with a hint of fear showing through is sarcasm.

‘Well, they’re quite hard to explain,’ Bel said and seemed to drift off in thought for a bit, before carefully choosing how to phrase what she wanted to say ‘To be honest, we’re not actually sure what they are, we just know why they are. For most of the time anyway. Take a closer look at them. As in, close your mouth and actually use your wits rather than just gawp like you’ve never seen creatures resembling floating islands before,’ she paused, looking at the llamas ‘Erm, furry islands? Regardless, look at their sides and backs. Do you see anything?’

Ollie looked, and his sister, who had still failed to say anything, looked as well. ‘I don’t see anything?’ he said, sounding bewildered and slightly disappointed. ‘Ah, not to worry,’ chirped Bel. ‘What about you, Lily?’ she asked, but looking like she already knew the answer. ‘I see it,’ Lily said in a quiet voice. ‘I knew you would! See, I told you. You’ve got more magic than I’ve seen in anyone in a thousand years! And oh boy do I wish I was exaggerating. Being on the lookout for you for a millennium has been exhausting!’

‘Bel, you’ve still not explained,’ Ollie complained, trying to sound curious rather than confused, for he still didn’t know what he was supposed to have seen. ‘Oh, yes. I’m sorry, one can be entrusted with the most important of tasks for several aeons and still have the attention span of a flutterpuff. Anyway, these tectonic llamas represent our solar system,’ she said simply, as if hoping this would explain everything. Seeing the confused looks on her companions faces though, she rolled her eyes and continued ‘I know you don’t have quite as much magic as Lily does and that’s why she can see it. As you know, my magic depleted a very long time ago so I’m just digging around in my memories now but what a sight they were – where you can see their armour plates not quite touching, there’s magic shimmering through, flowing as an eternal underground river, golden and diamond flecked. And where they’re overlapping or forming ridges, which are actual coast lines and mountain ranges by the way, there you can see it bursting out as if a display of fire wonders. Ever so beautiful and something you’ll never be able to forget,’ Bel drifted off as if looking at it all in her mind’s eye.

‘In any case, like I said, we don’t know what they actually are. Whether they’re alive and breathing or whether it’s all just a sort of a game they’re playing – pretending to be peaceful furries so they wouldn’t be considered a threat and hunted down. But for why they are, there’s a rather simple explanation. Like I already said, they represent our solar system. So it’d be a really safe guess – one that no-one has dared to question or test so far – that keeping them here, hidden and away from any dangers, is how our planets are protected from the Athlore folk,’ her face turned grim as she said it, remembering stories from the refugees of other planets. The remnants of them at least, for not many escape Ahtlore warriors once they’ve targeted your home.

Lily turned to face Bel, tears falling from her eyes, but her voice steady when she spoke ‘You tell me all this hoping I’ll go along with your mad plan, aren’t you? Trying to soften me up and hoping I’ll have some stupid heroic nerve somewhere you can touch by showing me what you’re all fighting for and hoping that I’d take over?’ her voice had risen a bit when she said it ‘Well that’s not going to work. I know how this is meant to go – you find the destined one and she’ll pick up a sword and go chop the dragon into bits and everyone will live happily ever after. Well no. I’m saying no. I’m not the one you’re looking for. I don’t know what you see in me, but it’s not magic. And definitely not anything to make me believe I could make a difference. Not going to happen!’ she shouted, turned around and walked away, wiping tears from her face.

Ollie looked at Lily’s retreating back, shocked to see her sister fall to pieces like this, then shot an apologetic glance towards Bel and trotted after Lily.

Bel looked at them both going, and incredibly there was a small smile playing on her lips. She spread her wings and flew off in the opposite direction.

*Right, so. Tectonic llamas, eh? English is really missing out there. I was so surprised to discover that what we in Estonia call ‘tektoonilised laamad’ (literal translation tectonic llamas), are called ‘tectonic plates’ in English. I mean. What a let down.

Like I said – everything’s a story.

G.