"Give me my lantern." The forestal being commanded.

"Your lantern?"

"This is the dark lantern?" Theo raised an eyebrow, taking a closer look at the lantern.

Beatrice declined, "No way, we need this thing."

Wirt agreed, "Yeah, I'm keeping this. We're taking them home."

"Your brother is too weak to return home, soon he will become part of my forest." replied the Beast.

"I won't let that happen."

"Well then… perhaps we better make a deal."

On the ground, the Woodsman stirred. "No…"

"Deal?" Wirt blinked at the creature.

"I can put his spirit in the lantern. So long as the flame stays lit he can live on inside. Take on the task of lantern bearer or watch your brother perish."

Wirt looked at the lantern then back at Greg.

"Come here." The Beast commanded.

"Don't listen to him, it's got to be a trick." Sara G. shook her head.

For a horrible moment, it looked like Wirt hadn't considered her words but then he stopped halfway.

"Wait, that's dumb." Wirt rationalized.

The Beast was shocked. "What?"

"That's dumb. I'm not just gonna just wander around in the woods for the rest of my life."

"I'm trying to help you!"

Back with the other girls, Haruna tried to speak. "Wait… he said the spirit of the Woodsman's daughter was in the lantern. How can he, unless…"

Her words make Zaira scowl thoughtfully, she touches the lantern and gets a vision. What she saw left her determined, she looks to Wirt and whispers: "He IS playing a trick. Trust your instincts."

Wirt addressed the Beast's answer. "You're not trying to help me. You just have some weird obsession with keeping this lantern lit. It's almost like your soul is in this lantern."

On the ground, the Woodsman gasps softly. They all stare at the Beast, who began to twist and contort nightmarishly, the white eyes turning a flurry of color. Then everything around Wirt became enveloped in darkness to the point where he can only see himself and the eyes of the Beast right in front of him.

"Are you ready to see true darkness?" The Beast declared, his voice reaching demonic tones.

Wirt looks visibly frightened, until to each of his sides, different lights were lit. To the left, was Yui holding up a bright yellowish-white orb and to the right, was Theo holding up small fireballs, they were illuminated by the lights of their elements.

"Hold on to that tightly – what you said must be true, or he wouldn't want it to stay lit so badly!" Yui whispered to Wirt.

"Are y-" Wirt cleared his throat, his voice had come out a little higher than he intended, "Are you?" He asks, staring firmly into the glowing pink, blue and yellow eyes of the creature before opening the lantern and preparing to blow out the flame.

Abruptly, the darkness dissipated, revealing the Beast reaching out an arm in his direction.

"DON'T!" The Beast hollered.

"Good thing you were suspicious." Theo comments.

Wirt simply closed the lantern and scoffs. So long as one of them held the lantern, this thing was barely a threat. He approached the Woodsman and held out the lantern to him. "Here Woodsman, I've got my own problems to deal with this one's yours."

The man took the lantern uncertainly.

"My brother and I are going home and so are my friends." Wirt said as he picked up the fallen axe.

Zaira looked to the Woodsman and said evenly. "Go home – to your old house. You'll see the truth for yourself."

Kylie says kindly, "Good luck to you sir, we know you'll make the right choice."

Once Wirt freed Greg from the Edelwood he asked Beatrice to come with them.

Beatrice looked downcast, "I-I got to go home, too, admit to my family it's my fault they're bluebirds."

Wirt clears throat and held up the scissors in his left hand.

"What?" Beatrice fluttered into flight before him in surprise.

"The scissors that'll make your family human again."

"You had them all along!"

"Wait a sec, how did you-?" Beth demanded.

"I-I used them to escape Adelaide, and then-" He explained then admits to Beatrice, "Then... yeah, I-I was sort of mad at you."

"Oh, you... wonderful mistake of nature!" Beatrice tearfully flew into Wirt's arms.

"You see Woodsman? All who perish here will become trees for the lantern!" The Beast tried goading the man.

The Woodsman watches as the group walks away with Beatrice close by.

"Except for the Earth maiden, cut them all down with your axe – GO!"

The Woodsman blinks then defiantly turns the light of the lantern onto the Beast, the beam revealed the creature's true form briefly: A ghoulish body made out of wood (edelwood perhaps) with countless knotholes resembling twisted faces from neck to ankle.

Although unnerved, the Woodsman opened the lantern. One of the girls said they knew he would do the right thing, and that meant it was time to end this.

"STOP! You'll NEVER see your daughter again, Woodsman!" snarled the Beast, "Are you truly ready to go back to that empty house?"

A tear escaped the man's eye. Perhaps he never will be prepared, but he wasn't going to let anyone else suffer as he did either.

"No, Woodsman! N-"

The voice of the Beast was cut off by a howling wind once the Woodsman blew out the flame, enveloping themselves in darkness.

Before parting ways, the girls were talking with Wirt.

"I'm not so sure it'll work the same way across countries and time zones, but…" Beth said sheepishly.

One by one the girls slip pieces of paper containing their numbers and emails into his pocket.

"Just in case…"

Wirt said goodbye to each of the girls, including Beatrice.

"Here's hoping we see you soon." Those were the last words Wirt heard a weak Haruna say to him before everything went black…

When he opened his eyes, he was in the same pond he, Greg and the frog had fallen into. Gathering his strength, he swims to his brother, pulling him, the frog and himself out of the water.

He heard voices and saw his peers with flashlights, they spotted him and hurried just before he collapsed on the bank.

Soon afterwards, he awakens in the hospital to find his crush Sarah and his other schoolmates listening to
Greg – he looked so much better now- about his and Wirt's adventures in the Unknown.

Then to his somewhat relief, Sarah shows the tape recorder and reveals she doesn't have a tape player. Deciding to take a chance, Wirt invites her to listen to it at his house.

"By the way, the nurses found these in your pockets. I don't recognize the names, are they friends of yours?" Sarah held out something in her hand with a warm smile.

To Wirt's surprise, he sees that they were the same papers with the girl's numbers and emails. A quick glance at Greg left him equally speechless – Greg's frog stomach was glowing faintly, meaning it still had the magic bell that belonged to Auntie Whispers. That could only mean everything he experienced in the unknown was true…

Blinking blearily, Beth groaned as she tried to get up. Around her, the other girls moaned painfully.

Up above they heard voices – worried voices belonging to some of their schoolmates.

"We're down here!" Beth croaked.

Thankfully, they were pulled of the sinkhole before they and an unconscious Dana are driven to the hospital. As they were taken there, Sara G. had requested that Tony bring the Book of Secrets as fast possible once the girls were checked over by the medics.

When Beth woke up she saw the girls talking to their other friends and allies that knew their secret about what had happened in the time they'd been unconscious.

"You sure it wasn't some psychological hallucination or something?"

Yui looked grim. "No. Because we found this around Haruna's wrist when we woke up. I had to hide it in my basket before the doctors could take it away."

She lifted the picnic covering and pulled out… a piece of edelwood. It looks like the Beast wasn't too keen on losing Haruna.

"I also asked for the Book of Secrets because we need to check up a couple of friends of ours." Sara held it, then said. "Show me our friends in the Unknown!"

She opens it wide and in an intricately framed illustration, they could see what has become of them one by one.

They saw the Woodsman no longer possessed the dark lantern, he was sitting outside on a chair outside a house looking forlorn. Just then, the house door opened and out stepped a brunette girl no older than fourteen.

Zaira smiled, "So he did listen after all. That's his daughter Anna."

"It is?!" Dana chirped excitedly, "So then that premonition you had…"

"It was a vision that his daughter had escaped the Beast, but when he couldn't find her, he feared she was lost to him for good. So she was practically home alone in their house for quite a while until now."

The girls smiled warmly as Father and daughter were reunited. The image rippled now showing a much healthier looking Lorna and Auntie Whispers are living a better life. Next Lady Grey admiring a newly made portrait of Quincy and Fred the Horse. The colonial tavern patrons kept as they were with the exception of the toymaker crafting figurines of Wirt, Beatrice, Greg, his frog and the girls are included – which made the girls giggle in amusement. Next, Jimmy Brown, Ms. Langtree and some of the animal students are seen watching the circus. And to the guardians' surprise: Enoch the giant pumpkin headed being was revealed to be a black cat.

"What about Beatrice?" Kylie asked.

The image rippled once more to reveal a family of redheads dressed in clothes from the regency era in their home – they recognized it as the old Grist mill. One of the older daughters was at the window with the dog they'd seen on their first night in the Unknown.

"Dear, eat your dirt." The mother said.

"Mom, stop calling it dirt." The girl replied – the guardians gasped recognizing her voice.

"It's Beatrice!" Haruna said in delight

"Whaddoyou gonna do about it? Turn us into bluebirds again?" quipped her mother.

The family laughed.

"Now eat your dirt."

Beatrice complied.

The eight girls all had to stay in the hospital before they were officially released. In that space of time, they'd pondered on whether Wirt and Greg would be able to contact them. Using phone and cellphones might be problematic but the internet was another story entirely.

"Maybe they could've sent an email. Internet cafes aren't that uncommon in the US."

"Well, there's only one way to find out." Yui shrugged.

They all tensely watched as she logged in. There was one message, could it be?

Yui clicked on it. She and the girls read the name of the sender, the first few lines then gasp in both joy and amazement.

The End.