It was near midnight. Selashia was surfing the web, looking for the records of Siramina, her long lost sister. It had been four years since the fire, and she was still looking.
"Huh, no success?" asked Stormrose.
Selashia sighed. Obviously, one didn't need to be Luxia, a Druitt, or a Seer to read minds. It was torture.
She also forgot that nearly all of Mana's members were gathered round.
"Obviously! No, we'll have to scout areas. We'll start with Elliot bay, in Seattle." With her strong Karra accent, Seattle sounded more like Seatel-o.
Noureia, a Mer, groaned. "Gods, I hate scouting! Do we have to?"
"We don't have time! Klistry was killed yesterday," Durret, her twin sister, agreed.
"He'll need a proper burial," said Stormrose.
Selashia lost her temper. "For Aqueta's sake, can't you shut up for one millisecond?"
"My record is one second," Noureia joked.
"Oh my Gods. Besides, we're still scouting Elliot bay."
Elvie, another Mer, groaned dramatically.
"Yaaaaay," Noureia and Durret sarcastically muttered simultaneously.
The scout party consisted of Fae, Selashia, Venutsio, Aesha, Durret, Noureia, Stormrose, and Elvie leading.
Elvie spoke up. "All right, first I found this middle school. Fae, you will stay over the school, and search the buses for her."
"The rest of us will scout the area of Seattle, and look for her. Tomorrow is her birthday, after all, and she might be in town."
There was a murmur of "Okay".
That evening, everyone got off of Sha'Kiria, Aesha's Ocean Dragon, disguised as the Mina L'Aqueta.
"We're all ready?" Elvie asked. "Good."
She heard Aesha groan, but didn't take interest. She got pretty sick while traveling.
"Fae, anything interesting?" Elvie asked via walkie-talkie the next day at around 2 o'clock.
"Yes!" exclaimed Fae with excitement.
"A find called Helen Lebsky. I know, I know, Hutios are so weird that they have two names. Oh well. Anyway, she doesn't know of her being a Selkie, but she's one heck of a swimmer. Sadly, it looks like her 'mom' used stitches on her gills and Ballast slits, but her earliest memory is from when she was nine, so there's hope that somehow, she just forgot. And…" A sneeze followed.
"Stupid summer pollen," muttered Fae. "Anyway, her ears are pointed, and her fingers fold back, like a Selkie's. Personally, I find that creepy." She paused.
"Go on," said Elvie.
"Today's her-I mean, Helen's birthday. June 25. Isn't that Siramina's birthday?"
"Yes! I'll alert Selashia that she's been found. I swore on Lumin she was dead!"
"Well, you swore wrong."
"But!-" Lumin curse my shameful face.
Two hours later, in Bellevue, Helen didn't know what to do with herself.
That's me, by the way. It was my birthday, June 25. I had begged my mother to take me out somewhere, like the Seattle Center, but she firmly replied no. She simply didn't have the money. Anyway, I overcame that. I had a friend in Bellevue, who said she'd take me to the Strawberry festival, and I gleefully agreed.
After several hours of enjoyment, I realized one thing: I just snuck out of my house! My mom was bound to catch me.
"So, see ya," Kelly called out as she raced toward her house. I was stuck with only a cell phone, out in the middle of Bellevue, and my one ticket home would get me in trouble.
Being twelve was hard.
"Dallienen," I silently cursed. I never got this, but I had a whole vocabulary from this weird language that somehow, I fluently understood and spoke. Was it related to my amnesia somehow?
"Language," said a female voice from behind me-in that weird language.
"Ummm… what? You…understood me?" Now I was utterly shocked.
Who was this? I looked behind her, and immediately, the first word that came to mind was, 'Celtic'.
Standing behind me was a girl about thirteen or fourteen dressed like she was ready for combat and had stepped out of some kind of fantasy book. Her hair, a vivid blonde, sparkled in the June sunlight. Her eyes were the color of Elliott bay-grey blue. Her skin was tan, and, oddly enough, she had pointy ears, like an elf. She appeared to be wearing a simple blue shirt, but over it was leather armor like I'd never seen before. She had leather guards that wrapped around her arms and reached to protect her groin, by the looks of it. Her chest was protected by what looked like a corset, only probably a lot looser. She had metallic gauntlets on her hands, and was wearing jeans and black combat boots.
I immediately thought that she was part of some D&D something or other convention. Yes, that made logical sense. But if this was just some kind of a fantasy con, then why could she understand and speak a made-up (or was it?) language that I, by chance, could speak? Were those ears really fake? Was she a part of my past?
Venutsio looked with surprise at Helen Lebsky. She was just as Fae described her-pale, with light brown hair, and eyes that looked just like Selashia's. It was a dead giveaway.
"Um…hi," Helen stammered, obviously having never seen Baltesian armor. Meh, she'd get used to it. "My name is…Helen."
Big surprise, we all knew that, Venutsio thought, but decided not to say that aloud. Helen already had a terrible day already; she didn't have to know that she was being stalked by some magical creatures only kind of resembling round-ears that had only one name and were part of an illegal society. (Also, she might be reluctant to follow them.) All she did was reply, "Hi. I'm Venutsio."
"Uh, sure. Look, Venusio or whatever it is, I really don't have time to talk, I've just had the worst birthday of my life-"
"Really?" Venutsio was curious.
Helen sighed loudly. "Don't interrupt me."
"Sorry." Like sister, like sister, I guess. "So why was your birthday so terrible-wait…what is that? Paint??"
"Henna. It's nothing, really," Helen sighed, trying to hide her intricate flower design, though it was hard when it was on both hands and snaked up to her lower arms.
Venutsio nodded, starting to walk. Best make her follow me to Sha'Kiria. "Too true. My good friend Noureia has a Jaša berry dye of her pet Sun Fox on her cheek-she's awesome that way-and rune symbols of some sort on the backs of her hands. She once told me that she has a picture of a full-size light dragon on her legs, but…"
"Umm, what the heck is a Jaša berry?" Helen asked.
Venutsio sighed. She probably never even heard of it before-or she had forgotten…oh well. "It's a type of poisonous berry that has the same effect as a permanent tattoo, but painless. By poisonous, I mean do not eat, but it's okay on the skin. It can only be removed by a crean berry."
Helen looked at her like she was nuts. "By a cranberry?"
Venutsio sighed. "Not a cranberry, but a crean berry. Crean, not cran. By Demitrus's beard, I thought you'd hear the difference."
"Well, who's Demitrus?"
Most people would have a fit if she said that. However, having grown up in a warlock household where the only god was the dark Delphys, Venutsio had pity on Helen. "Umm…he's the god of ice, snow, and cold. He looks really old, and the three forces created the everlasting icicle for him, which-"
"What are the three forces? What's the Everlasting Icicle?"
Venutsio sighed again. Looks like I'll have to start with the basics-or maybe, I should just list the Gods. We're almost at Sha'Kiria.
It seems like Venutsio is going to tell me something important.
Venutsio started. "Our queen is Taliqaq, goddess of the sun and the sky. Now, each god has a symbol of power. Taliqaq's Sacred sword, by legend, only destroys what is necessary. She could run it through your heart, and nothing would happen. Her sister Lumin, on the other hand, is the goddess of the moon, of darkness, and of the afterlife. She wields the Scythe of the dead. It's her way of ending lives that must be ended, like dying or sick. Not evil-she'll never interfere with mortal combats.
"We have four afterlives: Haie, the place for heroes and all do-gooders and I mean, really, really do-gooders. Astore is for those with no sins, but no great accomplishments. Everyone from Haie and Astore know each other. Stei is for the petty criminals like thieves (not the kind that steals because they have to), drunkards, and those guys. And Haro is for the Warlocks, all evil, Serial killers, etc. Basically, the place for really, really bad people.
"Aqueta is the goddess of water, weather and diplomacy. She has a wave-raising harp. Her sister Fyorra is the fire goddess. She has a birch rod that can light anything on fire. Orchidea is the nature goddess. Her flower bell is said to heal anything. Tree-spirits have the ability to call on it. Her daughter, Florali, is the animal and life goddess, with clay to shape living creatures.
"Seiren is the wind goddess. She has the wind-baton, a staff that controls the wind. LaTisse is the Earth goddess. She has an earthquake-causing glove. Floumali-"
"I've been meaning to ask this," I suddenly butt in. "Don't you have any gods?"
Venutsio grinned. "Two, actually. Now, Floumali is the goddess of lightning and energy. Her ring can absorb energy. Her brother-" Here Venutsio put a lot of emphasis on the word brother. "Her brother Demitrus I've half explained. His everlasting icicle turns ice into Blue Ice, an unbreakable, inflammable, blessed material. Aphrotani is the goddess of love and friendship. Yes, she has love-causing arrows, but she fires them herself, rather than hiring a baby to do it for her…" Here she was lost in a fit of giggles.
"Oh, you're talking about Cupid," I muttered.
"Pfffh, yeah," Venutsio chuckled. "So, Skalincia is the goddess of music, and her violin is a charmer. Amlegranne, her sister, is the color goddess. She has a palette for painting the world. Predoxia, daughter of Aqueta, is the goddess of storms, confusion (the word paradox in your language comes from her), and punishment. She has a staff that 'borrows' other god's powers for storms. Luxia is the goddess of Prophecy, with a crystal ball atop a staff that lets her peek into the future-the Seer staff we call it.
"Now, Rumin is the father of Florali and Predoxia. He's the god of war and trickery. He has a sword that's indestructible and makes the user invincible." She paused. "And, that's the basics. Unuvians and Vampires have some of their own gods, but I don't know them that much. And-"
"Did you hear that?" I muttered. I hadn't realized how far we had walked.
"Yeah," Venutsio muttered back. It sounded familiar…I didn't know why.
"It sounds…Draconic," Venutsio explained.
Now I was really freaking out. "A-are th-th-they v-v-vicious?" I stammered.
"Only if they're wild," was the reply.
I was breaking into a sweat. Please, oh PLEASE, let it be tame, I hoped.
Not so much.
Suddenly, out from behind a clump of bushes, a dragon jumped out, though not the kind described by storybooks. About a story high, the dragon had shining, red scales all over it, complete with a neck ridge. His-I only assumed that it was a male-wing span was about the length of a school bus, with a golden talon on the edge of each. His claws were also golden; along with his bared teeth-teeth which half a second later sunk themselves into my arm.
Yellow spots danced in front of my eyes for a few moments. I screamed in pain. "Is your world always like this??"
"No," Venutsio grunted, trying not to scream. She slashed at it from every angle possible, all covered in blood red scales. "Here, take this." She tossed a dagger to me.
I stared at it. "A dagger…a dagger…"
Venutsio groaned. "Just stab the freakin' beast already!"
I tried to stab it, but since the closest thing I had handled to a dagger was a steak knife, and since steak knives had to be handled with caution, this mostly involved some jabbing motions, with no avail. "How-do-you-use-this-thingy?"
Out came running a girl, maybe about high school age, with wild, unkempt, dark hair. Her eyes were jade-colored, set on a tanned complexion. Wearing the same type of armor as Venutsio, and brandishing a silvery sword, the two could have been relatives-or twin fangirls.
After all I'd seen today, I didn't think these were fangirls.
The mysterious girl came running forward-toward the dragon! "Narika! No, don't attack this girl! She's a friend, okay? Narika? Good girl, Narika!" She was talking to the dragon like you would to a misbehaved dog.
The dragon stopped attacking us, and replied to the girl's stroking.
The name just popped up in my head suddenly. A strange feeling in my gut tugged toward the dragon girl. Was this girl some kind of dragon tamer?
Venutsio tugged at my arm. "Come on, we better go. Aesha, you fly Narika back to the isle." So her name was Aesha!
"That's fine. I can just send her off." The dragon took off.
"Helen, you're coming with me."
"Wait, why? I didn't do anything wrong!"
"No, rather the opposite. You see, you're really-oomkph!" she wildly exclaimed as Aesha thumped her. "Nevermind. Helen, there's some people I want to show you to."
I noticed that we had reached Elliott bay. Venutsio made way to a very large ship. At that moment, it transformed into a dragon. It was a little larger than the last, with had lovely dark blue scales and silvery teeth, claws, and talons. I noticed that there were people on it.
"Oh Gods," I muttered.
Aesha shrugged. "She's tame." I noticed her ears weren't long and pointed like Venutsio's-rather, the point was bent back, like a sagging hat.
"Alright, Helen, meet Sha'Kiria-" she beckoned to the dragon (I later learned it was a female), "Fae -" a pale girl with white hair, white eyes, and feathered wings, wearing a white tank top and Capris, "Noureia-" a tall girl my age with waist length brown hair, and sparkling blue eyes, in a colorful tank top and shorts, "Durret-" a girl identical to Noureia with shorter hair and spectacles, dressed identically, "Stormrose-" slightly short, also my age, in a stylish crop-top and a miniskirt, with short brown hair with highlights, brown eyes, and a tan complexion, "Elvie-" pale, long black hair, icy blue eyes, in a black t-shirt and jean skirt, "And Selashia." A tan girl, about Venutsio's age, with wild brown hair, dark green tank top, jeans, and deep, blue eyes. My eyes.
Did this mean something?
"This isn't all of our people," Venutsio explained. "This is just a fraction of everyone."
Everyone of what?
"Now, board the dragon."
Noureia must have sensed my fear, because she spoke up. "Don't worry. She's tame," she soothed, with a heavy accent of some sort.
"I know," I muttered.
I gingerly stepped onto the dragon. Venutsio turned and beckoned to Selashia. Selashia nodded, drawing out what looked like a dagger…she advanced toward me.
I screamed. I knew this was a trick!
"No, wait!" Selashia interjected. "Your slits are tied up-I'm freeing them!"
"WHAT!?" I screamed. Reluctantly, I stayed still as Selashia cut away my stiches. Mom said they were there for a reason…
At that moment, Selashia also crafted what looked like bubbles, and placed them over the heads of everyone except for Noureia, Durret, Selashia, Elviritix, and me. Probably because we were going underwater…wait. How did I figure that out? And why wasn't she giving me air?
We dove underwater. I gasped, tightly grabbing the back of Sha'Kiria, and screaming, "What is going on?"
Wait a sec.
How did I gasp underwater?
I took another gulp of water, which seemed to get replaced with a fresh breath of air. Gills, sweet!
Wait, what? How did I know these things?? Was I psychic?
Suddenly, I sensed the water growing warmer. Quickly. How fast does that dragon go? So quickly that it's causing a whirlpool…
"Advancing toward the Bermuda Triangle!" Aesha shouted. "Hold on tight!"
I gulped, but we still went through the Triangle. My head started spinning, as I struggled to hold on. Suddenly, I felt dizzy. I couldn't take this anymore. But, somehow, my body urges me to hold onto the dragon.
All of a sudden, the waters changed. Hot, blue, and sweet tasting.
"Coast clear!" Aesha proclaimed. As Sha'Kiria surfaced, I glanced at an island. Several simple shacks, some on top of each other. Training dummies, swordfighters…what could this mean?
Selashia stood next to me. "Si-Helen, welcome to camp Mana."