It was Halloween night, a night where anything could happen and it did. The holiday itself had held great significance for the eight guardians; it was what helped bring them together albeit indirectly.
Despite all of their different personalities, the girls had one major thing in common; a quest much greater than the Guardians of Candracar. They were charged with the challenge of keeping the entire universe safe from all kinds of evil. Being empowered with magical abilities from birth allowed them to control not four but seven elements: earth, thunder, air, fire, star, heaven, and water. The tomboyish and adventurous Beth had been given control of an extra-special power with the heart of Candracar's twin orb - the Heart of Etherea. That was the link that made their powers unite and also made Beth the unsuspected (and usually fearless) leader of the team. It was the Guardians' job to make sure that no evil (human or non-human) crossed the portals found within the Veil. The Winter solstice years prior had weakened the Veil to a great degree. Corrupted humans, creatures of every shape, size and form were able to travel through the Veil, by way of portals, which resembled cosmic tunnels. For five years the girls' victories have exceeded the expectations of the Immortal council, however many challenges lay ahead of them.
This evening the girls would be going to a festival by their school, an opportunity for high schoolers and college bound youngsters to put up a good party celebrating this western holiday.
Kylie was the palest of the Pantheon daughters, even though she was adopted. Her eyes were clear blue and her flaxen hair fell down to her waist. She was also quite unusual, Kylie was what you'd call a 'bookish blonde wallflower', for she was quite shy and loved to read.
She had loosed her braid for the holiday and wore a cloud grey shirt with peasant sleeves, black bodice, a stone grey ankle length skirt and a long purple shawl. Kylie was dressed as Briar Rose the Sleeping Beauty's forest costume.
"Dana, Beth come on." Kylie turned and beckoned the other two.
"I'm not coming out like this!"
The two sisters walked into view looking sour. Beth wore a more traditional Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Oz costume, where the skirt reached her calves. She was short for her age as was her hair, it was red and wild. Her eyes were a deep blue like her mother's. She's as energetic, bold, and sometimes aggressive as her own race once was in days long past. Nevertheless, while she could easily lose her temper with either a conniving enemy or a totally unfair teacher yet her heart was of the purest gold.
Dana was the youngest of both Pantheon girls and the guardians. She had long flaxen hair, rosy cheeks and emerald green eyes. She's the ultimate example of the genuine sweet and innocent little girl, with a pint of adventure-loving curiosity.
Tonight she was in a long blue dress with a white two-pointed collar and a line of 3 dark blue buttons. Covered by a white pinafore apron with ruffled shoulders. Attached to the waist/back of the dress is a large white bow tie. Complete with white old-fashioned stockings and black Mary Janes.
"I'm too old to dress up like Alice in wonderland. I wanted to go as something cool for once like a fortune teller or a female knight." Dana protests.
"Hey, it's your fault," Kylie chided them, "You two got so lazy that Chi-Chi ended up choosing the costumes for you. Furthermore the only other ones left were the more...revealing ones and I'm fully aware you, me and the other girls would rather be hit with eggs while wearing our Sunday best than use those."
Beth shook her head, "Geez, do they ever started showing skin with girls' costumes these days."
"Too true, this is Halloween. It should be one of the few holidays where people can show their creativity."
"I miss the old times back when girls can be either scary, adventures, funny or just simply pretty." Dana interjected, making her two sisters look at her.
"Here come the other girls now," Beth pointed out, "The others said they'd meet us at the festival."
Up ahead, Theo and Zaira, two of their friends, were walking up to join them.
Theone 'Theo' Schaffer was, needless to say, exotic. She was of mixed race: African- Hindi respectively. She had a mane of dark hair, sometimes decorated with the occasional beaded braid and there was a fiery spark in her hazel-brown eyes that inspired confidence. Which is true, Theo was sassy, passionate and great at making wisecracks. For the occasion, she wore gold jewelry and a vermilion gypsy dress with intricate designs, cowled neckline and see through draped sleeves.
Zaira wore an indigo bodice with a court neckline and heather colored skirt – she was going as Vanessa the disguise of the sea witch. With her violet eyes, cynical views on ideals, short black hair, pallid complexion and dark clothes, the guardian of thunder seems rather aloof but she's actually good-hearted and independent.
"Better start hitting the road, Halloween only comes once a year," Zaira urged, "And we happen live in one of the few countries that celebrate it differently than the United states."
Thankfully, the festivities they'd be attending was only a few blocks away. Once there, they were joined by their other three friends: Sara, Haruna and Yui.
Sara Goodman the water guardian was a straight-A student with long strawberry pink hair, jade eyes and a friendly disposition, not to mention a hard-working girl. She was costumed as Panacea/Falbala from the Asterix comics.
Haruna Kisaragi the earth guardian with her cerulean eyes and long red-violet hair, was not only warm and level-headed, but was quite skilled with computers. Her costume had hug shoulder neckline, puffed greenish shoulders white sleeves, long white dress. She was going as Princess Odette.
Yui Kasuga, the guardian of the stars, had bouncy wheat-colored curls and bright orange-brown eyes. These features fit her vivacious personality quite well. Her costume was little red riding hood except she wore black leggings under her skirt, the better for running.
As it turns out that little carnival was quite a hit. Everyone was in a costume either participating in the booths, dancing to the band's songs or joining in the activities.
The girls had fun at least until the scavenger hunt began and one of the item unfortunately is located in the old abandoned school house nearby.
"Why does everyone think it's haunted?"
"Oh they know it's haunted."
"They said a kid went in once and they never came back."
One competing group flocked away, leaving the eight girls behind to stare at the building.
"No way." Yui shook her head, having every intention of leaving as did Sara.
"Theo, don't you dare!"
"Don't be so dramatic, it's Halloween!" Their gypsy garbed friend said with a dramatic flair. "Let's live a little bit!"
"Yeah, I'm game!" Dana chimed in. "It's so creepy I bet it is haunted."
Beth shivered, "Look. One of the items is a ruler, let's go in and search quickly then we can get out of here."
Reluctantly they agreed. Inside, it was dusty and filled with old desks and supplies. Surely they'd find what they're looking for soon enough.
Haruna winced a little, "These floorboards are terribly squeaky."
"Walk softly everyone, this woods' quite old and we don't want to fall." Kylie told them.
Zaira gulped and saw her friend wasn't kidding. Especially as she sees one cracking dangerously.
"Did you find anything?" Dana called.
"Wait, don't come any-!"
Too late, as Dana stepped over to the other girls, the floorboards beneath the older ones cracked!
All seven girls screamed as they fell through the large hole in the floor. A frightened Dana just barely held on to the edge for dear life. She called out worriedly to the other girls, but got no reply. She had to get help!
Quickly, Dana runs out in direction of the school only to be startled by a flock of ravens that threw her off course. She tripped, her head hit something hard and then everything went black…
The forest looked foreboding especially this evening. Out from the bushes, the eight guardians walk through, dazed and bruised.
"What a way to start the fun stuff on Halloween," grumbled Theo as she tugged her scarlet skirt out of the shrubs.
Zaira picked a cockle burr out of her hair, "Something like this always happens when we try to enjoy a party or anything similar. Always."
"I'm just glad I already trick or treated before we left. At least earlier in my school that is to say." Dana said, adjusting the pink bow hairband she wore.
"We'll feel better when we find a place to sit…" Haruna glanced around unsure, "The woods didn't look this vast when we left the festival."
"Let's take things extra slow here. Do you remember how we ended up this deep in the forest?" Beth pondered glancing at the girls.
They didn't know it but they were walking through some very dangerous territory.
"Wait, do you hear that?" Sara interrupted.
"I don't hear any…" Dana began only to be shushed again.
"Shh! Those are voices, someone's here with us!"
Out from the mist, walking just a good five feet away from them were two boys – both possibly Caucasian. The somber eldest looked to be only a year or two younger than them. He was tall and thin, brunette with pointed bangs that cover the majority of his forehead and black eyes. His outfit consisted of a conical red hat, a navy blue cape with yellow buttons, simple grey pants that reach his ankles, suspenders, and a classic buttoned up white shirt.
The other looked to be a cheery second grader. He was short and plump. He wore a white shirt with a small brown ribbon, light green overalls with round black buttons, and black shoes with high white socks. He also has a brown satchel and wears a tin tea kettle on his head. In his arms he carried a live frog.
"No. Though I am lost, my wounded heart resides back home, in pieces, strewn about the graveyard of my lost love." The eldest was lamenting softly to the younger boy.
Yui sighs wistfully, "Those are some lovely words…"
"Yui!" Her friends elbowed her anxiously. What if they weren't friendly?
She didn't go unheard, the two boys jumped briefly, then the oldest spotted them. And he visibly blushed as the girls stepped out and introduce themselves. They could actually see him quietly counting how many of them there were.
"Don't ask!" Beth said through gritted teeth, when she noticed him staring. She thought he was internally questioning her choice of costume.
The young man held up his hands defensively, "I wasn't going to."
"He's a bright little ray of sunshine." Sara quipped.
"Nope, that's my big brother, Wirt." The little boy said rather cheerfully.
"Ooh, sorry." Sara apologized then paused when the sounds of thumping were heard nearby.
Wirt, the older boy gasped, "Do you hear that?"
"Yeah." His sibling answered. Behind him, the girls nodded.
Cautiously, they hide behind a nearby tree.
"Do you think it's some kind of deranged lunatic with an axe waiting out there in the darkness for innocent victims?" Wirt questioned rather quickly.
Theo scoffed, "Sheesh, turn off your brain! It's probably just a lumberjack."
"Yeah, a lumberjack." The girls agreed.
Just then the little boy runs ahead.
"Greg, Greg!" His brother called out in a loud whisper. Then he whimpers and follows after him.
Concerned, the girls exchanged glances, shrugged then sprinted after them.
Luckily, they didn't go too far. Greg had stopped at the large roots of an Oak tree with his brother catching up.
"Greg, you're gonna get us into trouble again-" Wirt was saying.
"Shh! Look, that's where the noise was coming from!" Dana quieted them and pointed.
Six feet in front of them, was a man singing lowly and gathering branches from a large – and recently chopped tree. He was middle aged, wore a stove pipe hat, dark- grey colored clothing, and black boots. He must be a woodsman or a hermit of some sort that lived in the area.
"We should ask him for help." offered Greg
Wirt shook his head, "No, we should not ask him for help."
Beth rolled her eyes, "Oh come on. What is it with guys being so prideful about asking directions?"
"I don't want to play the gender card right now. I'm thinking of something dark and mysterious. It's a stranger. If we ask him directions..."
"But-" Greg protests.
The boys continue arguing back and forth.
"Will you two keep it down?!" Zaira scolded.
Wirt covers Greg's mouth. The man appeared to have finished his work, walking into the forest, carrying his lantern with him until his singing faded.
"Shoot. You think we should have asked him for help?" Wirt remarks to them.
Greg merely shrugged. Zaira sighed in annoyance, "Uh. Yes, it would've been more practical."
"Maybe I can help you." A female voice offered but it didn't belong to any of the girls.
They glance up to see a little bluebird sitting on a branch.
"I mean, you guys are lost, right?" she inquired.
Astonished, the girls except for Dana were thinking the same thing: did they just walk into the Twilight zone or something?
Wirt shared their stupefaction. He slaps his face as if to wake himself up, "What in the world is going on?"
Greg answered matter of factly, "Well, you're slapping yourself, and I'm answering your question, and-"
"No, Greg. A bird's brain isn't big enough for cognizant speech."
"Dude, you're not imagining things and you're not going crazy." Theo reassured him with a nervous chuckle, "We heard her speak too."
The bluebird scowled, "Hey, what was that?"
Wirt began to stammer, "I mean, I'm just saying you're- you're weird, like... not normal."
Dana chided him, "Hey, that's very rude!"
"I-I mean... oh my gosh, stop talking to it, Wirt."
"It?" The bluebird spread her wings irritably.
"Now, now. I'm sure she means well…" Kylie said then opened her hand gently as if to coax the little bird into her hand.
But that wasn't going to happen. "I'm not going to sit in your palm like a farm chick, if that's what you're thinking!"
"I was only trying to be courteous," the bookish blonde reasoned.
Suddenly a light shines on them.
"What are you doing here? Explain yourselves!"
It was the man who'd been cutting the tree, he must've heard their voices and went to investigate.
"And I'll see you guys later. Bye." The bluebird flew away in alarm.
The man glares down at the group, almost in suspicion.
Beth, Theo and Zaira glared back defiantly. Sara, Kylie, Dana and Yui huddled together, would this man attack them for trespassing?
"Sir, please, we mean no harm." Haruna pleaded earnestly.
"Calm-calm down, mister. Wh-whatever you do here is your business." Wirt babbled, "We just wanna get home with all of our legs and arms attached."
Sara pursed her lips and elbowed him, a comment like that could probably get them in worse trouble.
"These woods are no place for children." The Woodsman said sternly, "Don't you know the Beast is afoot here?"
"Excuse me, children?" Yui lost her fear temporarily.
Beth questioned with shrug. "What Beast?"
"W-w-w-we don't know anything about that. We're just lost kids trying to get home!" Wirt spluttered out.
The Woodsman looked grave, "Well, welcome to the Unknown, young ones. You're more lost than you realize."
Haruna frowned unsurely. More lost how?
She looked to her right where the fallen tree lay. Now that she noticed, it was quite unsettling. The trunk's knotholes eerily resembled a mournful face with the sap running down it looking like tears or…she shivered at the thought.
Something definitely didn't feel right. It wasn't like the rest, as the Earth guardian, she could feel the unusual life-force within. What did it mean?