Flora sat inside the small, humble house of the girl called Tatalena. She found it a pleasant place. It had wooden planks on the floor and a small kitchen, a living room, a couple of bedrooms, one small bathroom, and a little sunroom up front. But what she liked the most was that pots of colorful Irisian bulaklak bloomed on every windowsill, and silverbell bulaklak covered the entire rooftop.
"Thanks again for letting us stay here," Helia sinabi to Tatalena's mother, who was called Lemsey. "But we must leave as soon as possible."
Lemsey had dark hair like her daughter and eyes that held a motherly glow within them. But her eyes looked startled when Helia sinabi that.
"No!" she gasped. "You must stay here until you're healthy again."
While Helia kept pressing their reasons, Flora let the green tsaa she was drinking leech out her energy. Even though all she wanted to do madami than anything was lie down and sleep, she knew that Helia was right; they had to keep moving.
But Lemsey kept insisting that they stay, and Helia finally gave in. Besides, he knew already that they were in no state to travel. The wormhole created sa pamamagitan ng Moonless Night had left their bodies wracked and feeble.
Tatalena, who was sitting across from Flora at the dining table, was sipping a glass of iced sweet tsaa with gatas in it and staring at Flora intently. Flora turned her gaze away.
"Good," Lemsey sighed, looking relieved. "You should rest."
"Tomorrow we'll help you with any housework possible," Helia sinabi cheerfully.
Flora opened her mouth to protest, but instead she just smiled. She realized that maybe she just needed some work to take her mind off of Moonless Night and all that drama. "Yes," she said. "We'll help."
In the evening, Tatalena made Flora string up a thin, gauzy blue net, tinted silver, around her small bed. She helped her tuck the edges of the net under the mattress.
"Is this for mosquitoes?" asked Flora.
"No," Tatalena replied. "Irisian cicadas. Nasty beasties, them. Turn your brain right to mush. Just a little prick!"
Tatalena reached out and pinched Flora's arm. She jumped a little and gasped.
Tatalena threw her head back and burst out laughing. Flora could still hear her laughing as she went out the door and down the hallway.
In the morning before breakfast, Lemsey made Flora drink a glass of something she called "sweetrose tonic," which was basically rose petals ground to a fine, shimmery kulay-rosas dust mixed with various herbs. The powdery mixture was stirred into one teaspoon of honey, one teaspoon of dayap juice, and one teaspoon of seresa juice, not a drop madami nor a drop less. Then that mixture was stirred into a glass of fresh mansanas juice.
For Helia, Lemsey mixed crushed red pepper with garlic and the same herbs she used in the tonic. Lemsey made him lunok a spoonful of the stuff each morning, and his breath always smelled awful afterward, but somehow, the stench made Flora laugh every time.
It took a long time for Bloom to register what she had just done. When it finally got to her brain, her hands began shaking so hard that her bow simply dissolved into a little wisp of smoke. Her breathing was suddenly labored. Her chest ached and her head was pounding. She thought her puso would explode.
"No," she whispered hoarsely. "I didn't mean to...I didn't mean to!"
Suddenly it was as if the world was dissolving, melting, falling to pieces all around her. Bloom let out a piercing wail and began drifting toward the ground, where she landed facefirst on the trunk of a tree. She turned back into a human. Sobbing, she slid down the trunk, feeling like all of her Buto had just melted.
The bodies of fallen Amazons littered the ground. Most wounded, a few dead. Blood, rich and glowing like fire, trickled across the ground and stained the lagoon purple.
Alena the siren began shaking at the bottom of the lagoon. Streaks of crimson were raining down around her. She could see dark figures drifting on the surface of the glowing water.
Layla and Musa, who had just found the body of Ember, rushed toward Bloom, trying to soothe her. But Bloom didn't want their help. Not one bit.
Shame! Shame! Shame! The word pounded in her head with each and every heartbeat.
Bloom heard a piercing cackle behind her, and suddenly Moonless Night and all of her monsters disappeared.
"Bloom?" Sky was in front of her now. "Bloom? Can you hear me? Bloom, answer me!"
His words echoed around her head, and a new thought suddenly formed, one that made the others seem gentle.
The last thought she remembered was, I just killed Ember. I just killed the leader of the Amazons, before sinking into a dead faint.
"Just to make things easier for both of us," Flora sinabi to Tatalena in fluent Irisian, "let's speak your language."
Tatalena actually gave her a nice smile. "Good," she sinabi pleasantly. "Now we can talk like intelligent people."
Flora chuckled. "So, what can I help you with today?"
"Well," Lemsey sinabi as she entered the kusina with Helia. "You can start sa pamamagitan ng tending the plants. Then you must take your tonic."
She turned to her daughter. "Take Flora and Helia to the Catacombs today."
Flora blinked. "We didn't learn anything about the Irisian catacombs in Alfea," she said, puzzled. Lemsey smiled at her fluent Irisian, although Helia just stared.
"Ah, that's because you are not supposed to know about it," sinabi Lemsey. "But you, we can trust. See, the catacombs area is the workplace of all us rural Irisian families. Basically an underground market. Tatalena is training with a jeweler down there. There are places to eat, and shops for almost everything." She handed Flora the glass of tonic. "The Irisian soldiers know now that you were two of the people who snuck into the library; the safest thing possible for you is that you all spend the araw down there. No one will ulat you."
"It isn't ligtas for Tatalena either?" asked Helia, stumbling a little bit on his Irisian. Flora giggled.
"The military never took a liking to rural families," sinabi Lemsey. She turned around with the pepper-garlic mixture. "Open wide."
Helia cringed as he swallowed the stuff, but Flora could tell he was awake now.
"Where will you go?" asked Flora.
"I will go to the rural market," sinabi Lemsey. "And stop sa pamamagitan ng at the dance company to drop off some clothes."
"Is that where the truck came from?" asked Helia.
Tatalena nodded and spoke up. "Yes," she said. "I make beaded jewelry for them and my mother makes their costumes. Sometimes I hitch a ride on their truck." She grabbed three paper bags and tossed in flakey, buttery flatbread, boxes of meat and vegetable nilaga from the festival, vibrant fruit, and bottles of water. "Let's head off now!"
Helia blinked. "It's six thirty in the morning."
"We haven't even eaten breakfast yet," Flora protested.
Tatalena shrugged. "The earlier we get there, the less likely the soldiers are to come for you. Now water those bulaklak and let's go!"
Eight hours earlier...
Timmy jerked his head up. "Guys! I hear footsteps."
Tecna and Stella gasped and quickly scrambled to their feet. Sure enough, down the distant hallways they could hear commands in Irisian.
"Let's take the book and leave," Brandon hissed in a low voice.
"But it's cursed!" cried Tecna.
"Only if we open it," Stella pointed out. "But...if they catch us...with the book, and they open it..." She began shaking, remembering Flora's shrieks as she was sucked into the portal leading anywhere.
Tecna stood up, firmly holding the book under one arm. "If they don't believe us and open the book, then let them suffer. Scarlette and Caelestis have both suffered from the arrogance of Irisian nobility. They should pay for what they've done. In the meantime, though, we need to find a way out!" She put a hand on Stella's shoulder to steady her shaking. "Don't worry. We'll get Flora and Helia back. They must be alive; I'm sure even Moonless Night knows that killing them would be too much for the universe to take."
Caelestis had already gotten to work prying out a rusty ginto window frame. She quickly created a metal rod out of magic and propped it open. "Out!" she hissed. "Quickly. Find Scarlette in the crowd; she will take you to the catacombs of Iris. Buy some clothes to disguise yourselves; the wanted posters are already up!" She gestured wildly. "Out, out! Fast!"
Everyone hurriedly climbed through the window. Tecna tucked the book into her bag, stopped, and hugged the little girl.
"Thank you for everything," she said. "Stay safe, okay?"
Caelestis grinned and nodded. "Of course. You all be careful, okay?"
They raced across the manicured lawn of the palace and were relieved to find themselves back in the city circle. On a stage in the center, musicians were enjoying meals, and backup musicians were playing dreamy tunes. This would just be a resting time before the lively nighttime festivities. Glittering lights had been strung up in weblike patterns, and families sat on the ground or on benches and towels, eating as though they were at picnics. Quiet chitchat and pleasant laughter surrounded them.
Scarlette raced up to them, her face still smeared with bahaghari powder. She had Iris's mischievous grin. "You made it!" she said, hugging each of them.
Stella jumped right in. "Caelestis- I mean, the girl in the library, sinabi you would take us to the catacombs."
Scarlette smoothed back her dark hair. "The catacombs are not very active right now, but some clothing shops should still be open." She smiled widely. "Would you like casual...or all-out Festivales de Iris?"
"Casual!" everyone yelled at her.
"Too late!" Scarlette cried back. "Follow me and I will buy you the gaudiest outfits I can get my hands on! This'll be fun!"
"See, the arrow!" Topaz, the second-in-command Amazon, hissed to Echo. "The dragon...it was the fairy!" Her face burned red. "She must die!"
"That is illogical!" Echo boomed back at her. "Surely she did not mean to. We will bring her before her majesty Stalene herself. She will decide her fate."
"See the body?!" yelled Topaz. "It is too late for justice! She must be killed...you don't see? Do I have to tell Stalene your soul is corrupted? Her blood will flow tonight!"
"If Stalene finds out you killed the fairy, your blood will be the one flowing tonight," Echo warned her. "No decision about anything this serious goes without the input of our queen."
Topaz's golden eyes flashed with rage. "Raagh!" In one matulin motion, she snapped her spear in two and flung both halves into the ground before her dead sister. Finally, she sighed and shivered. "Fine. We will allow her to be brought to justice. But I swear, if her majesty says she will die, I will be the one to do it!" She balled her hands into fists. "My sisters will apoy every palaso they have into the monstrosity of her forsaken soul!"
Bloom was in a hazy world, tinted purple and having no sharp edges or corners.
"W-where am I?" she whimpered.
Somehow, she was dimly aware she was somewhere on the island.
Little fairy, came the voice of Moonless Night, right now we are in the Middle Realm, beyond the gates guarded sa pamamagitan ng the Black Dancer, but not quite in the depths of the Seven Sacred Pits, where dead souls reside.
Now, my sweet, I mean you no harm. But I do have a task to ask of you.
Bloom narrowed her eyes. "Name it," she snarled.
There are four ancestral spirits of all mga hayop on this island. They are called the Spirits of the Fauna.
Suddenly, four mirrors popped up around Bloom, each with a richly decorated frame. Right below Bloom, a giant gemstone creeping with ginto vines shimmered. Black clouds billowed behind the shimmering glass of the mirrors.
These mirrors were designed to contain the most powerful dark magic. Now, I must tell you something, helpless little fairy. The souls of the Spirits of Fauna are corrupted. The soul of Stalene is also corrupted, flooded with darkness. She will ravage the whole universe. You must imprison each of the spirits in one of these mirrors. The gem will hold Stalene. In return for this task, I will spare yours and all of your friends' magic.
"You lie!" Bloom hissed.
How do you know I'm lying?
"How do I know you're not?" Bloom fired back.
Think about it! Moonless Night snapped. They are corrupted beings! If you do not imprison them here, they will become tyrannical and ruthless! They will try to destroy everything. I should know...they destroyed everything in my life! EVERYTHING! The puwang around Bloom shook violently.
They'll take away everyone you hold dear. So, make your decision, my sweet, and make it fast, Moonless Night hissed.
I would apologize for the HUMONGOUS delay, but it's not even worth it anymore. If you check my pader I hope you'll understand how busy I've been...BUT I SWEAR TO GOD AS SOON AS SCHOOL ENDS THIS FANFIC WILL BE ON THE ROLL! In the meantime, please spread the word about this fanfic; I'd really appreciate if madami people would read them.