Authors: Jenell Diegor
The Strange Adventure of Maria Mercado
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information browsing, storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Copyright © 2013 Jenell Diegor. Jhnellorx Publishing.
All rights reserved.
I would like to dedicate this book, my first novel, to the victims of super typhoon Haiyan.
I would like to acknowledge the influence of NaNoWriMo 2013 for being the sole motivation to finish this novel.
I would also like to thank all those who tracked my progress with this book and encouraged me along the way.
The figure in black moved swiftly through the shadows in the dark and seldom used cave. It detected a small crack somewhere on the wall and started the painful process of squeezing through. Creatures like it have the amazing capability of re-configuring their body structure to fit into even the smallest of holes; a gift only a few in the Kingdom of Hepoxia unnaturally possess, bestowed to the creature by a powerful ally.
The creature moved through the cracks and navigated the underground of the Palace with precision. Knowing exactly where it needs to go, it is heading there with incredible speed. Finally, after a few minutes of navigating thru the walls, the creature reached the palace storage room where it squeezed thru a tiny hole fit for a mouse before transforming back to its normal size.
The figure hid behind the storage door for a while as it heard the regular rotation of Bostavs passing thru. The Bostavs, loyal guards of the Royals, are known for their sensitivity to almost everything that is going on in the kingdom. A change of emotion, a startling revelation, an enjoyable happiness or an astounding fear – these are the kinds of things that the Bostavs notice. The figure was well aware of this, so it stopped – and stayed very still, almost in a frozen-like state – and blended in with its surroundings. Yet another gift supplied by its magnificent ally.
The two Bostavs felt the slight change in the air and stopped to a step back and scanned the area. One of them touched the door scanner of the storage room. He went in and continued scanning while the other one stood guard outside the door. Their sensors did not pick up the creature; and so they retreated and continued their rounds.
Relieved at having avoided detection, the creature went back to its normal format. It knew that if it had gotten caught then it could very well be the end of its life and of the entire operation. It waited a few more seconds and then exited the storage room. It touched the door scanner and picked the imprint that the Bostav who opened it earlier left behind. The creature’s body went through a moment of spasms and then started to transform into a Bostav. Once again, an unnatural talent possessed by someone who clearly has a formidable ally.
The creature walked through the hallways now undistinguishable from the other Bostavs. Covered in black indestructible alloy from head to toe, carrying an indestructible spear with both edges sharper than a 1,000 swords. Like them, it is now free to walk the halls of the palace and be around the Royals.
The creature continued its way upward, floor-by-floor, until it reached the Royals’ chambers. It passed a few unsuspecting Bostavs in the hallways who were unable to detect the creature’s true nature. But once it reached the top, it must pass another test; the Royals themselves can distinguish between a real Bostav and an impostor. Before entering the chamber, it must also explain its presence to the 4 Bostavs guarding the entrance.
“Stop.” It was a fierce command that echoed through the walls.
The creature obeyed. One of the Bostavs took a step forward until it is eye to eye with the creature.
“Explain your business.”
“His Royal Highness Prince Amir has requested my presence,” the creature said.
“We were not informed of this,” said the Bostav. “Wait here.” He retreated and disappeared in the hallway and went to Prince Amir’s chambers. After a brief period of absence, he returned.
“You may proceed.”
The creature walked past them and stopped on the first door in the hallway. It placed its hand on the door scanner and the door opened. The creature then covered its eyes; the Royals’ illuminating golden skin can be painful on the eyes at first. Eventually, the eyes would adjust and would enable the creature to look at the Prince directly.
Standing in front of the creature was a humanoid being, wearing a red flowing robe. At a glance the robe looks and feels as soft as silk. Yet it is impossible to pierce by any object – except one. His feet are covered with the same red material that legend says is impenetrable. On his head is a golden crown like all the Royals wear; the only distinguishable characteristic is Prince Amir’s own symbol in the front. His face glows, as the rest of his body, and one cannot see the eyes, nose, or mouth. He walks with a staff that is made from pure gold is engraved with the symbol of Prince Amir.
“Ah, you are here,” said Prince Amir. “I trust that you did not run into any trouble?”
“No, your Majesty. It went precisely according to plan.”
“Excellent. I will alert the others. And what about your people? Are they ready?”
“Yes, your majesty. They are waiting outside the Palace walls, blended in with the forest.”
“We must act quickly before their camouflage is discovered. The spell is not meant to last for too long. What signal have you devised to alert them to attack?”
“I will change the color of the white light on top of the Palace to red, Prince Amir.”
“Then you must proceed. You can use the stairwell from the back of my chambers; that will take you straight to the top and I am confident that you will find the path to the white light. Go, brother, be on your way; for tonight a change is coming in the Kingdom of Hepoxia. The Palace and the Kingdom will be ours!”
The creature moved slightly, as if he is unsure of something. “Pardon me your majesty, but they - the rest of the Royals - they can only be killed with the Diamond of Astanfe!”
“Have a little faith in me, my brother!” said Prince Amir. He walked towards the right wall and removed a brick. He took an object from a secret compartment and held it in his hands. He slowly unwrapped it before the creature’s eyes, revealing a shiny dagger. The handle was engraved with the symbol of the Royals and the Kingdom of Hepoxia. But instead of a blade, the body of the dagger was made entirely of a single sharp diamond. It is the only weapon capable of piercing through the red material that all the Royals wear and the only weapon that can kill the Royals.
“This,” said Prince Amir, his voice drunk with pride and malicious greed, “is the Diamond of Astanfe!”
The creature fell on its knees and chanted, “Long live Prince Amir! Long live Prince Amir!”
“MARIA!!! Wake up!!!”
The yell vibrated throughout the house, awakening Maria from a very peaceful slumber and pleasant dreams. Gone were the blissful pictures of a sunny side beach and ice-cold smoothies. She just got to the part where her friends were motioning for her to join them in the cool waters of Wasaga Beach. Instead, all she can think about now is her mom, Virginia Mercado, who seems to be blessed with a pair of really powerful lungs.
“I’m up, I’m up! You don’t have to wake up the entire neighborhood!” she yelled back as she got up slowly and sat on her bed.
What time is it? What day is it?
She grabbed her iPhone from the nightstand and checked the answers to her own questions.
Ugh, Monday. And its only 7:30, why did she have to wake me up so early!
Maria’s classes don’t start until 9, and they live relatively close to the school, taking her only 20 minutes to walk there. Her mother however, firmly believes in the little bit of quality family time that they get to spend in the mornings.
Still half-asleep, Maria got up and made her way to the bathroom. But of course her brother Peter was already inside. She knocked on the door with so much vigor that it would make any member of the police force proud.
“Come on HURRY UP! You always take so long!”
“Shut up! I was here first! Wait your turn!” yelled the voice from within.
“Ughhhh Mommmm, Peter is taking too long!”
“Whoa there’s way too much yelling going on in this house,” said Maria’s dad, Ruben Mercado. He walked past her and gently squeezed her cheek. Annoyed, Maria rolled her eyes and went back to her room.
She went to her closet to pick out an outfit as she waited her turn for the bathroom. She picked out blue jeans and a black shirt; Maria always wore blue jeans and black shirts. Many regard her, including herself, as someone who is just “ordinary”. She then took her backpack from where she had thrown it on the floor on Friday and checked the contents.
Notebooks, pens, calculator, iPhone charger. That’s all I need. Nothing interesting ever happens to me anyway!
Before she could think of anything else she needed for school, the bathroom door opened and her brother Peter came out. “Your turn loser,” he said as he ran to his room.
Maria didn’t bother to dignify that remark with a response. Like any ordinary brother and sister, insulting each other is just a normal part of life. She got up and went in the bathroom to start her routine of getting ready for the day. At 8 o’clock sharp, she came down to join the family for breakfast.
“Eggs and bacon with buttered toast,” Mrs. Mercado announced as she put a plate in front of Maria.
“Coffee?” said Mr. Mercado and gave her a cup anyway before she could reply.
“Thanks, Dad. What are you guys up to today?”
“Oh you know, going to the store again. A few shipments of spices are due to arrive today from India. I believe the camel’s milk products are also arriving from Jordan. We might need you to work tonight, from, say 6-10, if you’re not busy?”
“Yeah sure I can do that today. I’ll have to go to Alex’s house for a bit to study first though. We have a big Math test on Friday and I can’t afford to be failing that.”
“That will be great. Thanks Maria,” her dad said as he smiled at her. “Well, we have to run, are you ready Ginia?”
“Almost… and there I’m ready. Bye kids, try not to kill each other okay?” She came over and kissed both of them on the forehead before following Mr. Mercado out the door.
Peter got up. “I’m leaving too, c-ya!”
“Wait, at least put your plate in the dishwasher!” Maria said, but Peter was already gone. She looked around at the mess on the table and sighed.
I guess I’ll clean this up. Again. No wonder Mom woke me up so early.
She proceeded to do the chore and by 8:30 she was ready to leave for school. She grabbed her backpack and put it on, only to take it off again in order to put on her coat. It was getting cold in Resullar City; the fall gives them the gift of beautiful colors of the leaves but with it also comes the beginning of the cold weather. She put her backpack on again then turned on the dishwasher. She made sure the front door is locked then she exited the house through the kitchen door.
Maria Mercado, just an ordinary girl in Resullar City, is on her way for yet another ordinary day at school.
As soon as Maria stepped through the front doors of Resullar Junior High, her best friend, Jasmine Smith, grabbed her by the arm and pulled her over to the side.
“Maria, listen to this. Madeline Chin has been telling everyone that Tyrell dumped me. Like really? I’m the one who got rid of him,” she said, clearly flustered and bothered.
“Don’t listen to her, you know how she is,” Maria replied. “And besides, does anyone ever believe her anymore? She’s always lying about everything.” They started walking towards their first class.
Just as she finished saying this, a group of boys entered the front doors of the school. As they were laughing and pushing each other around, one of them noticed Maria and Jasmine standing on the side. He pointed towards them.
“Hey Jasmine! How does it feel to get dumped?” he yelled loud enough for everyone in the hallway to turn their heads and stare at the girls.
“I didn’t get dumped you idiot I left him! And what are you all looking at? Go mind your own business!” Jasmine shouted at them as she started to run outside. As she was doing this, one of the boys grabbed her bag and pulled it, ripping the zipper open and spilling all the contents on the ground. Jasmine started crying and continued to run off outside, leaving her possessions behind.
Maria stared at the boys in disgust as they laughed and continued on with their merry ways. She picked up all the things that fell out, one of them being Jasmine’s cell phone. As she did so, she noticed that it had opened to a text message from Tyrell and she couldn’t help but read the screen. It said: “It’s over Jasmine. Sorry girl, just not into you anymore.” Maria instantly felt sorry for her best friend, knowing how embarrassed she must be. She ran out after her. She found Jasmine a block away from school, sitting on a giant rock under a maple tree. She was hugging her knees and her face is buried in her arms. She was crying loudly and she didn’t seem to hear Maria approach.
She looked up at Maria.
“I am SO embarrassed Maria. It’s true, you know, it’s true! I didn’t want to tell you guys cause its so humiliating. I never ever got dumped before. And Tyrell was the hottest guy I ever dated! You know I had a crush on him for ages! That stupid Madeline, why did she have to blab it all to the whole school? I hate her Maria. I HATE HER.”
The look on her face changed and so did her tone of voice. It went from sadness to pure anger.
Oh great, now there’s going to be a war.
“Come on Jas, just forget about her. I know she doesn’t watch what she says and she’s always bragging and stuff but come on don’t waste your time thinking about her. People like her; they just want attention you know? She probably doesn’t get much of that at home so she takes it wherever she can.”
“Listen to you, Dr. Phil!” Jasmine laughed a little but then her faced turned grave. “I have to do something Maria. I need to. I can’t let her push me around like this. She basically ruined my reputation. And how did she even know about it? Tyrell must’ve told her. I hate them both.” She got up and started her way back to the school. Maria went after her.
“Wait! What are you gonna do?”
“I don’t know yet Maria. But I’m telling you that I will get her back. Come on let’s go back to school.”
Maria was just glad to be heading back, as she was in no mood to babysit her sad best friend. She has known Jasmine since they were 4 years old, in daycare and had been best friends ever since. Jasmine was always the more outgoing type, the one that always cared about what people thought of her and was the first one among Maria’s friends to start dating. She was always trying to be one of the popular girls, but those girls have formed a clique based on their parents’ net worth. Unfortunately for Jasmine, her single mom just wasn’t making enough to afford showering her with expensive gifts and clothes like the other girls.
In contrast to that, Maria was very happy to stay behind in the shadows. She would rather do her own thing and tries hard to avoid the spotlight. She is an observer, and she enjoys people watching more than anything. She enjoys being regular - ordinary; the interesting things always happen to Jasmine anyway. This is why she was usually the one left to look after Jasmine every time she goes through a broken heart or when Madeline and her friends get snotty and pick on her.
When they arrived back at the school, the hall has cleared out and almost everyone was already in class.
“Okay I gotta run Jas, are you gonna be okay?” Maria asked.
“Yes darling, I’ll be fine,” Jasmine smiled, “I’m so glad to have a friend like you. Thanks for listening to my drama.” They gave each other a hug and went their separate ways.
Maria’s day was incredibly boring. She had Math and Earth Sciences, subjects that she never cared for, and then just before lunch she had Biology.
At lunch Maria sat on her regular table, surrounded by her closest friends: to her right sat Jasmine; in front of her sat Alex Romanov, the school’s exchange student from Russia; and beside Alex sat Neil Romo, the class nerd who’s been friends with Maria since they were in elementary school.
“So gang, what’s up?” asked Jasmine.
“Er-not too much,” said Alex. For someone who has only been in the country for 3 months, his English was incredibly fluent.
“Well,” Neil said, “I had been working on a science project that involves mixing various compounds and I have successfully created a new… er… material.” He opened his backpack and took out a clear jar. Inside it was a green, jelly-like substance.
“Haha, you mean you created your own blob?” said Alex.
“Well, yes, in a manner of speaking. But unlike ordinary “blobs” this one sticks to other objects and is very, very difficult to remove.”
Maria and Jasmine stared looked at each other and rolled their eyes.
“I mean something socially Neil. Not everything is about school you know!” said Maria.
“Well nothing on that front either. Although I’m kind of noticing Samantha a lot lately,” he grinned, as he put the jar of blob back in his backpack and laid it on the floor, neglecting to close the zipper.
“Not Samantha Gosse?” said Jasmine.
“Yes, her,” replied Neil.
“Why whats the matter with her? Anything I should know?” he asked.
“Well,” Maria said, “there is a bit of fresh drama going on with Jas and Madeline. And you know Samantha is part of Madeline’s crew…”
“Oh I see,” said Neil. “Don’t worry Jasmine,
I will always be in your corner.” He smiled at her.
Maria had always suspected Neil of liking Jasmine but knew that he was too scared to do anything about it. And Jasmine was too preoccupied with trying to be popular and trying to get the popular boys’ attention to actually notice a good one in front of her. Maria sighed, kind of jealous, but not of Neil – just the fact that Jasmine gets noticed by boys while she is yet to be asked to go on her first date.
“Thanks Neil,” Jasmine replied, clearly oblivious of Neil’s feelings towards her. “Oh look, there’s Tyrell.” Her eyes followed the movements of a tall, good-looking boy, whose natural athleticism has made him an automatic winner in the popularity contest. “Oh my god, don’t tell me he is sitting with her!”
Everyone on Maria’s table turned their heads to look and see who “her” is but they already knew the answer before their eyes confirmed it.
Tyrell Jones put his lunch tray down and sat next to Madeline Chin.
Distressed at the sight of her recent ex-boyfriend sitting next to her worst enemy, Jasmine told her friends that she wasn’t feeling all too well and is going home for the rest of the day. She got up, and because she was still looking in the direction of Tyrell and Madeline she failed to see Neil’s open backpack on the floor. She stumbled over it and some of the contents spilled out. Embarrassed once again at a repeat of this morning’s disaster, she hurriedly tried to shove the contents back in, and said a quick “sorry” to Neil. She grabbed her own backpack, which was also on the floor next to Neil’s and rushed out before she could hear anyone laughing at her. Maria ran after her again, and when she caught up she offered to skip school also and keep her company but Jasmine declined, saying she preferred to be on her own. Maria went back to the lunch table.
“Me, you know, I feel bad for her,” said Alex. “But really she need to just move on.”
“Yes I agree. But I guess she needs a bit more time,” said Maria. “She gets too attached to boys and ends up with a broken heart every time.”