Authors: K.D. Faerydae
Serenity Sunrise Beach sure was beautiful, and Grace and Christian couldn't help but feel as if they were on vacation.
“Woo-hoo,” Christian yelled excitedly as he burst out of the water.
He managed to let go of Mateo's dorsal fin with one hand just long enough to give Grace a quick wave before he and the dolphin disappeared back under the surface of the calm ocean. Grace smiled and gave Chris a cheery wave back with a sand-covered hand.
“This has got to be the best beach holiday ever,” she grinned. “Abi, how long have we been here for?” she asked.
The sea turtle was very slow to answer. She chewed leisurely on a clump of seaweed, then swallowed it, making a loud gulping noise and said, “How long y'all been here in Serenity? Well, my sweet child, you arrived yesterday, when the sun was at its highest, and my-oh-my didn't y'all cause a stir; there ain't never been such a commotion here in Serenity. The seabirds was a-squawking, the crabs was a-scurrying, the fairies was a-fizzing, the Halfses was a-gabbing, Mateo was a-leaping, and I was just a-chewing on ma seaweed, and keeping an eye on ma nest. We hasn't ever had one from the Human world in these parts before, and seeing how y'all ain't âsposed to know anything about us here in Liberty, we's all a bit shook up. Anyways, the sun is almost at its highest again, so y'all been here for one day now, that's all child, just one day is all.”
“Yee-haa!” Christian shouted, with both hands waving in the air this time as he shot out of the sea standing on Mateo's nose.
“One day, is that all? It feels as if we've been here for much longer than that. We've done such a lot, and met so many new friends, which is a good job seeing as I've hardly seen anything of Christian; well, not since he and Mateo became BFFs, anyway. But I don't mind because he's having so much fun, and I've got lots of new friends too. There's you for a start,” Grace said, snuggling up to Abi.
“And then there are the amazing Fire Fairies. I can't wait for it to get dark later so that I can see them dancing within the fire and whizzing around like fireworks in the night sky again. Oh and Jazmine, she's so lovely, she's been looking after us. She altered some of the Halfses clothes so that they fit us, which was a good job, because our fancy dress costumes were way too hot to wear here. And she made us a delicious pizza for dinner, which was
much nicer than my mum's terrible cooking. Not even my dogs, Chyna and Womble, will eat my mum's food, and they eat lots of disgusting things.
“Actually, speaking of my dogs,” Grace said, rolling over onto her belly in the sand and placing her head in her hands, so that she was nose to beak with Abi, “how come they can't talk like the animals here in Liberty can?”
“Well now, only the animals that were born here within Liberty gets to has the power of speech, that's just the way things is. There's lots of magic that happens here, y'all see this is the land where magic is free. But, you has to have the blood of Liberty running through your veins to gets the power, mmm-hmmm, yes you do,” Abigail said, blinking and nodding assertively. “Unless of course Liberty wants to do some sharings of the magic, then y'all from the Human world might get a little of your own, but I doubts very much that's a-ever gonna happen.”
“Oh, okay, well what about the Halfses? Zavier and Aaron changed from horses into people when we got here, does that only happen in Liberty as well?”
“Like I says, child, y'all has to have the blood of Liberty running through y'all to has the magic,” Abi said, grabbing another mouthful of seaweed with her beak, then she closed her eyes and chomped contentedly.
Grace sighed and rolled over onto her back, the cool ocean water gently splashing against her heels as it lapped at her feet. She placed her forearm across her eyes to shade them from the bright midday sun and lay there sleepily daydreamingâ¦
Well, Chris and I both have magic powers, we wished for them on New Yearâ¦ and we got them!
she thought, smiling. She lay on the sand, listening to the calming sounds of the waves, and the occasional âyahoo!' from Christian, and it wasn't long before she'd drifted off into a dreamy and peaceful sleep.
* * *
“Graceâ¦ Graceâ¦” a voice whispered softly. Grace took her arm away from her eyes to see Jazmine crouching beside her.
“Sorry to wake you, I know you must be exhausted, but you can't sleep out here in the full sun, you'll get heatstroke.”
“Huhâ¦ ermâ¦ okay,” Grace replied, still half asleep.
“Come on. Let's go inside, lunch is ready.”
“Great, I'm starving,” Grace said, suddenly recognising the empty feeling in her stomach that she'd woken with. She wiped dribble from the corner of her mouth and opened her eyes wide in an attempt to shake off the tiredness. Jazmine held out a hand and pulled her to her feet.
“Where's Christian?” Grace asked, brushing sand from the backs of her legs.
“He's at the beach house with the others, they're waiting for us to get back before they eat. I thought it would be nice for us all to sit and have lunch together. Once we've eaten, Zavier wants to speak with you both. And I'm sure that you and Christian must have lots of questions that you want to ask us. We'll all be there to help answer them for you.”
“That's good. I'd like to know lots more about Liberty, like are the Fire Fairies going to dance for us again tonight? And will the starfish be lighting up the sea?”
“Yes, I'm sure they will, but that's enough questions for now. Come, let's go and eat, you can ask all the questions you like after lunch,” Jazmine said.
“See you later, Abi,” Grace called out as she dug her toes into the sand and headed off toward the beach house.
Abigail, still merrily munching on seaweed, acknowledged Grace by lifting her head and smiling, crinkling up her sparkly eyes.
* * *
The kitchen was filled with the mouth-watering aroma of freshly baked bread. The table was laid with an assortment of baked foods, wholesome fruits and an array of cheeses. Grace pulled out a chair and sat herself at the table beside Christian.
“Hi, my name's Grace, remember me?” she said sarcastically, holding her hand out for an introductory handshake.
“Yeah, yeah, I know. I'm sorry, but it's not every day you get to swim with a dolphin, is it?”
“I'm only teasing you, Chris,” Grace said, lowering her outstretched hand. “It's been good to see you having so much fun. I was worried about you when we first got here. You were really quiet, and that's not normal for you, is it now? You're usually very loud and very annoying.” Grace laughed.
Zavier was seated at the head of the table, with Jazmine and Aaron seated on either side of him. When they'd arrived at the beach, Zavier had sent for Jazmine, requesting she join them at the beach house. He knew that when the children arrived they would benefit from her warm and mothering nature. The rest of the herd had been advised to remain at the meadow until further notice.
“Well, this makes a nice change. I normally have to wrestle Zek or Tobes for the last of the food,” Aaron said, picking up the one remaining bread roll.
“Manners, Aaron!” Jazmine said scornfully. “Don't forget our guests.”
Aaron rolled his eyes. “I'm sorry, would either of you like this roll?” he grumbled, offering it to the children. “No, okay then, I'll have it,” he said, quickly shoving the bap in his mouth before Grace or Christian had a chance to answer.
Jazmine shook her head and couldn't help but smile. Grace and Christian laughed as Aaron's cheeks bulged, pushing his eyes into a squinting grin. Chester hopped onto the plate, and began to peck at the remaining crumbs.
Zavier pushed back his chair and rose from the table.
“Grace, Christian, I've allowed you very little time to adapt to your new surroundings, and for that I apologise, but I don't have the luxury of time, we must talk, you need to know why you are here, and you need to be made fully aware of the dangers that lay ahead.”
Christian grabbed Grace's hand under the table and gave her a concerned look. He'd been having such an amazing day with Mateo that he'd forgotten about his worries, and now they came flooding back to him with the full force of a steam train: the evil Nomeds, the loss of his powers, the absence of everything that was familiar to him, except for Grace that is, she was his comfort, his link to home, his best friend.
“Come, let's sit outside,” Zavier summoned.
Grace gave Chris's hand a reassuring squeeze and pulled him up from his seat.
Why is she so okay with everything?
Christian wondered, and then he realised,
she doesn't know, she still thinks we have the magic powers that we used against the Nomeds in her garden on New Year. She thinks we're able to protect ourselves. Well, I know differently,
he thought as he rubbed the bruise on his thigh that he'd received after falling from the tree branch.
Zavier pulled a stick from the unlit fire and sat himself down on a log. He jabbed the stick into the sand and began to draw.
“Is that supposed to be Mateo?” Grace asked, looking at the image etched in the sand that resembled a dolphin, nose down with its tail in the air.
“No, this is a map of Liberty,” Zavier replied, and he continued to draw, marking above the dolphin's tail with an N for north, below its nose with an S for south, beside its belly with an E for east, and a W beside its back for west. “We're here,” he said, pointing along the belly of the dolphin. “This part of Liberty is known as Serenity Sunrise Beach. I brought you here because this is the safest place for you to be.”
“How come it's safer here than it is in the woods? It was so beautiful there. It didn't look dangerous to me,” Grace puzzled.
Zavier pointed to the dolphin's head on the map. “This is Bluebell Wood, and the entrance into Liberty lies just about here,” he explained, tapping the part on the map just above the dolphin's nose. “It was morning when I brought you into Liberty, the safest time of day to travel, and I chose the southernmost path from the entrance to Serenity Sunrise Beach, ensuring that we journeyed as far away from Shabriri Swamp as possible.”
“Shabriri Swamp? Now that does sound dangerous!” Christian gulped.
“Yes, it is dangerous, very dangerous indeed. It is home to the Nomeds and their kingâ¦ Balam.”
“Where is this swamp?” Grace asked.
“It is in the northern region of Bluebell Wood. Round about here,” Zavier answered, poking the stick just behind where the dolphin's eye would be.
“Well, that's not far away enough for my liking.” Christian shuddered.
“Oh Chris don't be such a wuss,” Grace griped. “We smashed those Nomeds before and we can smash âem again,” she exclaimed, waving a clenched fist in front of his face.
Chris grabbed Grace's knuckles and pushed her fisted hand away “No, Grace, we won't be able to smash âem, we don't even have any super powers. We're just normal kids and those Nomeds are more likely to bash us!” he shouted angrily.
“But we did send them flying across my garden, we have got powers,” Grace argued.
Ice perched on a log beside Grace and weaved her head, contemplating whether or not to tell her the truth, and then she said. “I'm afraid not, Grace, it wasn't you or Christian that sent the Nomeds flying across your garden that night, it was me. I used a propelling enchantment on the Nomeds. I was protecting you. You see, if I had allowed the Fire Nomed Adramalech to get any closer to you, he may have burnt you or even worse, killed you.”
“So what are you saying? We haven't got, and never did have, any powers then?”
“I told you, sweet child, only those that has the blood of Liberty a-running through their veins gets to has the magic and the power,” Abigail interjected from her nearby grazing spot.
“I told you,” Chris mumbled.
“Now, listen to me and listen carefully,” Zavier commanded, regaining control of the conversation. “The reason that you are both here is because Liberty is in great danger from the Nomeds. If we don't find a way to destroy them they will conquer the realm, and when their food supply runs out here in Liberty they will invade your world, and they will feed on your kind. I'm sorry to have to be so blunt, but you needed to know.
“Now, the Great Prophet foresaw that Humans are essential if we are to win this fight. Don't ask me why, but if the Prophet says that you are needed, then needed you are. The Berthold of the realm were told to gather some good Humans, and we decided to start with you. And yes, Grace, you do have magical powers. Abigail was wrong to say that you have to be born in Liberty to have them. You are good and kind, and those are two of the most precious and magical powers that anyone can possess. So you see, your kind hearts, combined with our power and magic, will form a lethal combination of magical-good and with enough good, we
“Okay, okay, I get it, you need us,” Christian snapped. “But to be honest I don't see how we can help that muchâ¦ and Iâ¦ well, Iâ¦ I'm scared, okay. There, I said it. I'm scared, all right!”
Chris covered his face with his hands and tried his hardest not to sob.
Zavier walked over to Christian and pulled his hands away from his face. “I cannot one hundred per-cent guarantee your safety, but you should know that I would sacrifice myself in order to protect you. I think I know a way in which I can reassure you. Come with me,” he said, pulling Christian off the log he was sitting on and dragging him over to a clearing in the sand.
Zavier picked up a large rock and hurled it to Aaron. The large black man caught the beach-ball-sized rock with ease, as if it really were a ball that was filled with air. Zavier then grabbed Christian and pulled him close before turning him to face Aaron. “Be brave and trust me,” he whispered.