Disclaimer: You know the drill.
"So we're all agreed then?" Will asked and the other Guardians nodded.
"Are you sure that this is the best course of action?" Hay Lin asked with a slight frown. "I mean...we're meant to keep this a secret and..."
"Oh I'm sorry. Maybe you would prefer her to wander about cluelessly and get eaten by Lord Cedric?" Miranda said sarcastically and Hay Lin winced.
"Hey, leave Hay Lin alone!" Irma snapped and Miranda rolled her eyes.
"Lord Cedric is dangerous. He has killed innocent people just for being in the wrong place at the wrong place at the wrong time," Miranda said and she looked away. "He killed my foster parents when I was five...he almost killed me. He is ruthless and deadly and we cannot afford to let our guard down."
"No, you cannot," Yan Lin said with a shake of her head. "Any course of action we take will be dangerous, both for your friend and yourself."
"Well in comic books the heroes normally have someone important who knows their secret…" Hay Lin began and Miranda resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Of course the young Air Guardian would refer to comics. (Miranda had tried one once. Some character called Spiderman. Now that had been a disappointment. What kind of Spider-man was only human with a few powers?)
"We even have the superpowers to go with it. And the costumes," Irma said with a grin "All we need to finish the deal is cool hero names and we're practically a done deal."
"Oooh, that would be awesome!" Hay Lin cried, her eyes lighting up. "We could be like the Justice League! Or the Avengers! We could call ourselves-"
"We already have enough trouble saving Meridian Hay Lin," Cornelia pointed and Hay Lin shrugged.
"Maybe in the future?" she suggested and Yan Lin shook her head.
"You cannot use your powers like that. You have been chosen to protect the Veil, a role not taken lightly," she paused and shrugged. "Then again, I suspect that the council can hardly object to extra...training."
"We still have to defeat Phobos. And Cedric. And find the rightful heir to the throne," Taranee said before Hay Lin could go off on a tangent. "How are we supposed to even do that?"
"All five of you were chosen for a reason," Yan Lin said, shaking her head. "I know that you can emerge victorious."
"The Rebellion has been fighting this war for years," Miranda added with a slight growl. "We will win, with or without your help."
A tense silence fell over the room and Miranda idly wondered if she should have stayed quiet. Will pulled out her phone.
"So...where do we want to meet Alchemy?" she asked.
Alchemy sighed as she laid back in her bed.
She was meant to be doing her homework right now. She had at least two assignments to be working on really. One for math and another for english. She really didn't have time for be just laying around just thinking.
But at the same time, she just could not bring herself to focus. Instead of equations and metaphors, her mind insisted on dwelling on what she had seen.
To be fair, seeing giant snake men trying to eat someone whole was generally a very distracting thing to have seen.
And learning about magic and other worlds and who knows what else. That was also pretty distracting.
She sat up and sighed once more. It was...frustrating. And crazy. And weird. And unbelieveable. Like something out of a dream.
There was a miawing sound and Alchemy looked down.
Looking up at her was a pair of vivid green eyes and Alchemy smiled.
"No I haven't forgotten you Misty," she said, reaching down and picking up her small grey cat. Misty looked at her like she didn't believe her, but Alchemy knew better. What Misty really wanted was to be a comfort when Alchemy's mind was ablaze. She began to stroke the cat, who began to purr.
There had to be SOMETHING she could do to help. There was a war being fought practically on her doorstep. Maybe even one being fought to protect her and everyone else. Maybe this Phobos had an interest in invading Earth eventually, which was why there were girls from Earth fighting…
She let out another frustrated sigh. She was doing a lot of that this evening. If this was a cartoon or an anime, she would probably be convinced that this was just a dream or something. Then again, if this was an anime or cartoon, she would probably know a lot more.
Then there was Elyon.
Cornelia and Elyon were best friends. They told one another everything. Did she know about this? Was she a part of it?
The same could be said of Hay Lin and Irma, she supposed. Miranda was staying with Hay Lin's family so Hay Lin almost certainly knew. As for Irma...well Hay Lin could never keep a secret from her anyway.
But Elyon didn't seem to be part of this. At least, not yet.
Of course, she could simply be a lot better at acting than the others. Certainly she was less egrarious than her more popular and admired friend Cornelia. And it could just be shyness. (Or simple fear of spiders.)
Either way, Elyon didn't seem to be involved.
She looked down at her phone. Maybe she should try calling Will. Or maybe not. If Will was busy in Meridian or some other magical world, would she even have her phone with her? And could she even get a signal?
Misty began demanding more attention, sensing her inner turmoil and she began stroking him faster.
Her phone let out a ping and Alchemy looked down. On the screen was a message from Will.
"Meet us at the Silver Dragon" it read and Alchemy stood up. (Much to Misty's chagrin.)
The evening was still light and the weather warm. Maybe she should leave a note for her parents? Then again, this was going to be quick. Probably didn't need to say anything really. And...well these were her friends, right? It wasn't like they were going to hurt her or anything?
Then again, she had had no idea that her friends were involved with some kind of magical war on another world.
With a niggling sense of foreboding, she pulled a piece of paper out of her school notebook and wrote a quick note about who she was meeting. Just to be sure. After all, she really had nothing to worry about really, did she?
Putting on her jacket, she began walking to the Silver Dragon.
Caleb glanced across the kitchens and frowned.
He was well hidden where he was. A small alcove of no apparent function, just outside the kitchen door. His escape had yet to be noticed. There was no immediate need for him to move just yet. It was just...frustrating.
He had had a mission to complete. A mission that needed to be done as soon as possible, on Earth. It may as well have been on the other side of the galaxy.
The kitchens were busy. Really busy. Staff were walking in and out, cooks were preparing food or cleaning up. In short, there was no shortage of people there. And this was (according to his sources) the quieter time.
He needed to find a way across without being seen. Or at least noticed. (He had considered leaving by another means, but...leaving the castle presented the same problem any other way.)
"Caleb! What are you doing here?"
An unfamiliar voice suddenly caught his attention. He looked up to see a concerned chubby woman with hazel eyes looking at him with concern.
"How did you see me?" he asked, pulling into a defensive stance. "And how do you know who I am?"
"Your face is on wanted posters across the kingdom," she said, raising her hands in a placating gesture. She leaned forward. "You have many allies in the castle, even amongst us servants."
Caleb said nothing and the woman continued.
"My name is Trill," she said and she nodded towards the alcove. "And this very alcove is where I smuggle prisoners out of the castle when I have the opportunity."
"You're part of our network?" Caleb asked and Trill nodded.
"Yes of course. Now put these on. Quickly," she said, giving him some hooded kitchen robes. "Not all of us are with the rebellion. Many still favour Phobos and hold the royal line as the rightful rulers of Meridian."
"I need to get to Earth," Caleb said as he quickly changed into the robes. Trill sighed.
"I know a way," she said after some hesitation. "Meet me at the north entrance to Market Street at eight bells."
"Eight bells? But-"
"It will be faster than just fumbling about searching for a random portal," she said quickly. "I know someone who might be able to help you."
"Okay then. Eight bells at the north entrance to Market Street," he said and Trill nodded.
"Yes. Now follow me," she said and he followed her through the kitchens, his face hidden by the cloak. Several other kitchen workers wearing identical robes joined them and they quietly left.
"Hey Trill. Were there really that many people in garbage disposal today?" someone asked from inside the kitchen.
"Oh yes. A busy day it seems," he heard her say before the door closed behind her.
Cedric smirked as he saw a familiar face cross his window.
It had been a mostly unsuccessful mission. He had located the rebel girl and knew the school that the Guardians attended.
But he knew Phobos would not be happy with that.
He had failed in his primary mission, namely cutting off the link between the rebels and the Guardians. The rebel girl had, by some lucky fluke, managed to survive. Worst still, she would be on her guard, ready for another attack.
Then there were the Guardians.
The Guardians were young and inexperienced, but they were still powerful. More powerful than his Prince? Probably not, but for now, he had to bide his time.
So when he saw the same young girl who had hit him with her books cross his path, he slipped out of his bookstore and began to follow her. If he was going to fail, at least he could take his revenge. And the girl was clearly an ally of the Guardians. One less ally would at least weaken them.
The girl remained completely oblivious to him. Her mind seemed to be elsewhere, moving as though she were on autopilot. Cedric came closer and closer and despite the fact that the street was otherwise deserted, the girl didn't notice him. At all.
It was almost too easy.
He quickly scanned the street. It appeared to be empty and nothing really stood out. There was nothing hidden in the shadows either as far as he could tell.
No, the girl really was painfully oblivious to a tall blond man following her on a quiet, empty road. He idly wondered how the girl had managed to survive this long. On Meridian, this kind of lack of awareness could easily get someone killed.
Carefully he planned his next move.
He could just follow the girl to her destination. It would give him time to plan and be more successful than his last attack.
Then again, he had no idea if and when he might gain such an opportunity. The streets were empty, the girl clearly distracted and there were a few dark alleys ahead. And no security cameras either.
It was the perfect setup.
Abandoning all attempts at stealth, he quickly dashed up to her. The girl barely had time to register his existence when he grabbed her hard and threw her into a dark alley. She let out a cry of pain and Cedric could see that she had landed badly.
"Did your parents never teach you to stay out of other people's business?" he asked, stepping on the girl's phone. The girl began to back away, scrabbling desperately to her feet. He could see the look of fear in her eyes and he sighed.
He punched her hard in the stomach and the girl doubled over wheezing. He then hit her again.
"You know," he said almost conversationally. "I really didn't want to have to do this."
"Wha-" the girl croaked out before he hit her again hard.
"Hasn't anyone ever taught you not to interrupt your elders?" he asked with a hint of annoyance. "As I was saying. I didn't really want to have to do this. I like to make as little mess as possible, leave the minimal amount of hints that I was even there. But…" he paused and looked at her, shaking his head. "You just had to interfere, didn't you? Had to play the hero, just like those fool Guardians."
He hit the girl one more time and transformed. The girl was still keeled over and didn't notice, which was a shame really, Cedric thought to himself. The taste of fear was something he enjoyed. He picked her up by the throat as her puny legs flailed about helplessly. Then he opened his mouth, extending his double jaw to it's maximum size and he swallowed the girl whole.
As he coiled himself up and waited (transforming after a big meal was never a good idea.) he spotted the girl's student ID on the ground. Picking the laminated card up, he examined it thoughtfully. Maybe this mission wasn't a complete failure after all.
As he sat there and waited to transform back, a new plan began to emerge. If he couldn't sever the link between the rebels and the Guardians now, maybe he could if the Guardians were distracted.
"Well, well Alchemy Ethel," he said to himself with a small chuckle. "You may be more useful to me than you realised."
And in a dark, hidden alleyway, a new plot was formed.