Chapter Seventy: In Which Everyone Runs For Their Lives
“But first open the door and let Snow and Flint in. We have to end this now,” Rose said in what she hoped sounded like a brave and confident voice.
Jack nodded and opened the door, saying, “Snow? Flint? We need- oh, no.” He rushed out of the room. Rose followed quickly behind.
John sighed. “Oh well then. Alya, lock the door.” The chief was about to do so when the room started rumbling. His eyes widened. “Oh, no.”
“An earthquake? Now? What-” Chief Alya was pushed over by John, who was running out of the room as well. “Now you too?!” she said. Then she felt the pull of a magnet coming from outside the door. Something was happening out there. After a moment’s hesitation, she grabbed Windy from the bed and went out to see what was going on.
Flint was half-submerged in the portal, flailing as Snow pulled on his leg. The ground shook with each tug. The portal swirled with a million shades of red, looking more unstable than ever. It was sucking up parts of the air like a vacuum, making it slightly harder to breathe. Everyone’s clothes were flapping like there was a strong breeze, even though they were deep underground.
“I told you he was running in the portal! You didn’t listen!” Snow exclaimed. “Now- now it’s like the portal is tearing this place apart!”
“No! That boy is ruining the portal!” John shouted, and with one powerful tug, he pulled Flint out. Flint gasped and stood up, looking unharmed but extremely confused. The portal continued to swirl, but with considerably less force.
“What- where am I- Jack- Snow- Chief Alya? Why… what?” he stuttered. “I was taken to the lab… then…”
“We’ll catch you up later,” Rose told him.
“The ground is still shaking…” Jack said fearfully.
“The damage is already done.” John glared at Flint. “And it’s all your fault! The caverns are all going to collapse and we’re all going to die!”
“What?!” Chief Alya exclaimed. “I didn’t come here to die-”
“Wait!” Rose yelled over the rumbling of the quake. “If we move fast enough, maybe we can get out before the caverns collapse but we have to move NOW!” She pointed at John. “Look, you know the fastest way out of here, so go!”
John looked disoriented. “Bu- but-”
He glared at Rose for a split second, but knowing what he had to do , he ran up the stairs and pushed open the bookshelf, everyone following behind. They spilled through the laboratory and followed John through the winding hallways, stumbling as the shaking grew more intense. He stopped by a door and fumbled around with his keys a bit while everyone waited.
“Huu-uurr-rrrryyy!” Snow cried, her voice shaking as the quake continued. Bits of plaster fell off the ceiling, and there were several crashing sounds from nearby rooms. Finally John pressed open the door and climbed up a ladder to a trapdoor which he opened. The breeze of the chilly winter air came over all of them as they got up and out to the outside world.
“Wha-what happened?” Flint said, tone demanding to be answered. “What portal, why are you all doing here, how did Windy get unconscious- wait, what happened to the forest?”
Rose looked around. The forest was almost unrecognizable. All the trees were partially burnt, while the ground had clumps of ice around. The ground was faintly wet and mushy covering any traces of grass. There were no animals or plants that were alive.
“Yeah, what happened?” Jack asked, standing up and peering at all the trees. “Is this a different part of the forest?”
“No, it’s- it's like the Kingdom War all over again,” Snow said softly. “And now… I guess this turned into a battleground.”
“They started a war without me?” Chief Alya said.
“What? Already? Dad said he wouldn’t attack until my birthday passed… which is like a month later… how- how long has it been?” Flint asked.
“Only a few days,” Rose said.
Snow’s eyes widened. “Wait- Flake! He’s still-”
“Oh, it’s only now you noticed?” John said snarkily.
“Well, thanks to my thinking ahead, Windy is still here.” Chief Alya was still carrying her unconcious daughter.
“We need to go down there!” Snow exclaimed.
“No use. If the collapse thing doesn’t kill him, the portal radiation will,” John said matter-of-factly.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m going back to my castle,” the chief said. “My kingdom needs their ruler back. I’m off! And I swear, if you- any of you- pull these crazy shenanigans again, you are all being sent to the dungeon.” She stomped off with Windy in her hands.
“I suppose I should be going back home… but Flake…” Snow was all in tears.
“I don’t quite have anywhere to go… I guess I’ll stay with you?” Jack said. “And about Flake… I feel like he’s going to pop out of the ground any moment now… he’d find a way.”
“That doesn’t happen in real life, Jack,” Rose said softly. “We should go. I bet the war would be put on hold for our return. Maybe it’ll save some people.”
“Don’t you think we should catch that guy first?” Flint pointed to John, who was already far away, running through the burnt forest.
Jack was about to run after him but stopped. “He’s too far. And as long as he doesn’t cause trouble… I don’t think he’s dangerous.”
“Me neither, but with an ambition like his, I wouldn’t underestimate his abilities,” Rose said. “He went through so much to build a portal… he must really want to go to that other world.”
“What?” Jack asked.
“Oh, right… there’s a lot I didn’t tell you, didn’t I? I’ll explain” Rose said.
“Wait… but I don’t know how to get to the Flame Kingdom from here!” Flint exclaimed.
“I don’t think any of us do,” Snow said. “But Dad does, so you can just come with us for a short while and-”
“How about no. I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to be walking straight into enemy territory with a war going on. After all, I’d be the perfect hostage,” Flint said. “I can find my way back on my own.”
“Well, fine! Go yourself then!” Snow said, stomping off.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come? You’re more likely to get kidnapped as a hostage if you’re alone…” Jack said. “Do you want me to come with you?”
“No.” Flint walked in the opposite direction.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” Jack waved at Rose. “Bye! Hurry and catch up with Snow, I’m joining Flint here.”
Rose didn’t think that Jack going to the Flame Kingdom was a good idea in any situation, but she couldn’t bring herself to tell him to come back. She looked at Snow walking into the distance and ran after her.
They walked together in silence, shoes squelching on the muddy ground.
Chapter Seventy-One: In Which Political Tensions Increase
Windy woke up to the smell of smoke.
It took about five minutes to recollect her thoughts, and another five minutes to scan her surroundings. She was lying on a bed in some sort of room lit with torches, which might have been where the smoke smell was from. The wall was stone, not the smooth marble kind used in the Breeze Palace, but a rocky, reddish kind that made her feel a bit unsettled. The room was too small and plain for Windy’s taste- there was barely any furniture and barely any room to put furniture in the first place. It felt like a dungeon- one where valuable hostages could be kept in pristine condition.
Windy was suddenly struck with fear. What if she was a hostage? Then who was keeping her here? How did they kidnap her in the first place?
Kidnap. That word brang out a spout of forgotten memories. The kidnapper guy. The caves. She was in the caves- what? Was this one of the rooms? It kind of made sense… but she wasn’t sure.
The door creaked open. She leaped to her feet… then stumbled, being still weak from the coma. Flint was standing in the doorway, lip curled in mild annoyance.
“Oh. You’re awake.” He sounded disappointed.
“Flint! Where am I? What happened?” Windy shouted at him.
“Um… a lot happened. You’re in the Flame Castle now, and you’re safe, and that’s all you need to know. Your mom might visit you later, after she’s done with figuring out what she is going to do,” Flint said. “Anyways, bye.” He shut the door.
“Wait, what? Excuse me? You didn’t tell me anything!” She walked up and pounded on the door. “Hello? What happened with Mom? What is she figuring out? I want to know! I'm royalty, you know! You have to obey me!”
If Flint heard, he didn’t answer.
“What? A rebellion?” What kind of stupid stunt is this?” Windy said in disbelief. She was with Flint and Jack in the Fourth War Room, which was just one of the rooms for discussing battle plans that no one ever used.
“Well, this group succeeded in taking over the Breeze Kingdom during your mom’s absence, don’t take them so lightly,” Flint said. “And with a war going on… your kingdom is going to collapse.” He didn’t sound like he cared very much one way or the other. "You're lucky you and your mom can stay here in safety."
“Aaugh!” Windy slammed her hands on the table. “It’s all your fault!” She pointed at Jack.
“What? Why?” he asked. “I didn’t do anything-”
“Yes, you did! You- you- if it weren’t for you and your idiotic ‘let’s rescue so-and-so and get captured’ missions, none of this would never have happened!” Windy shouted. She was shouting so much in the past hour, it was surprising she hadn’t already lost her voice.
“Maybe some of it might have not happened- but not all,” Jack said. “I’d say it was the fault of your government system that you don’t have a vice-chief or someone like that. You know, someone to take over while the chief is gone or sick or dead or something.”
“Are you kidding? You have no idea about the way government works, who are you to say anything?” Windy shot back. “There are advisors for that, idiot. And when the chief is dead then their kids take over, obviously! The only thing that went wrong with our system was that the advisors weren’t competent enough, but that’s their fault.”
“Anyways, what happened already happened, and you’re stuck with us for the time being,” Flint cut in. “But honestly, we’re at a disadvantage now- our kingdom versus both the Snake and Coral Kingdom is hardly fair. Now, if the Council of the Tree joined us, that would be a different story, but they’ve been stubbornly unmoving, supporting ‘peace’ and all that I suppose.”
“The battle has already begun. Turning back now would mean surrender, and that’ll make us look weak and cowardly,” Flint said.
Jack still felt uncomfortable. “Yeah, but… I don’t think we should cause deaths for the sake of pride-”
“Look, even if you convince me, it’s not like anything I could ever say would change my father’s mind, okay?” Flint looked at Jack to make sure he understood.
“Yeah… I guess…” Jack stared at the table, imagining small figures on horses charging at each other and stabbing everyone in the vicinity. He wasn’t sure if that was how wars were, but he didn’t think people killing each other was right on any level. Then again, Flint and Windy seemed to think that war was a perfectly okay way to resolve conflicts, so maybe it wasn’t that bad? He felt kind of uncomfortable thinking about it all, so he decided to change the subject.
“Windy, are you sure there isn’t anyone to take care of your kingdom after you and your mom is gone?” Jack said, bringing the matter up again. “Other than your advisors of course… like maybe your dad or something. You never mention him…”
“My dad is dead. Idiot,” Windy said. “Everyone already knows. Everyone except you, frankly. And technically, my mom isn't supposed to be the chief... come to think of it, those rebellion people are probably the ones that think that having a woman as a chief is somehow a bad thing-”
“Oh. Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know,” Jack said quickly, suddenly feeling bad for mentioning it. “That must be hard…”
“Well, I don’t think it is as hard as growing up with your kidnapper dad,” Windy pointed out.
“Um… he isn’t that bad…” Jack wasn’t sure how to articulate it. Of course, there was so much that he didn’t know and he wasn’t in a good position to any kind of judgements about him. John still didn’t quite strike him as evil, just… insane? There was one thought he was tossing in his mind earlier… “I’m starting to think he isn’t actually related to me though,” Jack said. “He doesn’t resemble me, he doesn’t resemble Rose… so I was thinking…”
“It’s only now you start thinking that maybe he isn’t relate to you?” Windy said, as if she already knew that a million years ago. “You’re so slow. Isn’t it obvious? Look, I’ve got a theory.” She put her feet up on the table in a domineering way and looked at Jack and Flint in turn to see whether they were listening.
“Using my superior detective clues, I’ve come up with several theories,” she said dramatically.
“I thought you said you only had one,” Flint said, unimpressed.
“I came up with more on the way. Anyways, first theory: I think that Flake isn’t actually dead. Believe me, I’ve read enough stories to know that if you didn’t see the corpse, then they are most likely alive. He’s probably wandering in the caves right now, meeting some wizards and gaining magical power and in the most crucial battle of the war, he’ll come up out of nowhere and lead the Snake Kingdom to victory. However, thanks to me, we’ll be prepared to set up magic defenses when the time comes.” Windy looked pretty proud at her conclusion.
Flint was still unimpressed. “That’s a horrible theory.”
Jack was nodding his head a little. “It makes sense, kind of… I read stories like that… so Flake isn’t dead? That’s reassuring!”
“Right, so on to the second theory: I think-”
“That’s it,” Flint interrupted. “The meeting is over. You guys can create conspiracy theories or whatever, I’m going back to my room. And Windy, get your feet off the table, these are expensive.” She frowned and put her feet down. Flint slammed his palm on the table to make his point, and then stormed out.
“How grumpy. And rude,” Windy groused, putting her feet back on the table the second Flint was gone.
“Well… do you have other ideas? I would like to hear them,” Jack said.
Windy, thinking that a one-person audience was too demeaning, shook her head. “I’ll tell you later, when Flint is willing to listen.”
“But that’ll be in never!”
“So that’s why you have to help me make him. It’ll be his fault if we lose the war,” Windy said.
Nide sat on his side outside and cried. He was so mad, he felt fried! "Tide!", cried Nide. "Shide wide pide gide!" Nide was tongue-tied. "What?", replied Tide, and they both sighed wide and decided to bide and abide, but Nide was abide, his pride unable to hide, "You lied, Tide! I almost died, but I pried the answers from Chide!" "Chide?", Tied both sighed and replied, and it seemed as if he had died inside. But Tide had not, and though Nide was red-hot, away Tide flied and would glide, before a bullet was applied inside his side by the allied law guide which made the skin divide as the bullet made the collide inside and Tide was implied to have died. This made the worldwide ride divide make it so that the guide was tied, tried, and asked why'd he'd shot Tide. The guide complied, and though he was spied and the lawyers vied, they found that punishment would have defied law guides so they untied the guide's hide and would provide the ride home nationwide, stateside, alongside and across the subdivide even if Nide was snide during the fight but he cried because in the beginning he actually lied and everyone died because they were oversupplied with food that was fried and as they exploded aliens watched from the wide world's outside starry-eyed.
Chapter Sixty Nine: In Which Rose Remembers
Snow was getting a little dizzy by the time she had gotten to the portal room. With all the excitement and danger that had been going on, and also considering the fact she hadn’t slept at all that night, she was just about ready to pass out. But of course, her brain didn’t let her, insisting that she would not be a burden to everybody else and that she needed to be there to help rescue Flake.
Chapter Sixty-Seven: In Which The Point Of Everything Gets Revealed And Seems Pointless
Rose did not trust Chief Alya one bit. Maybe it was just because the chief didn’t like her very much, but something about her seemed like there was more to her than what met the eye. She debated staying in the lab with Flake, since she highly doubted that there was anything interesting in the basement, but then she decided that, if Snow and Jack got into any trouble, (which she figured they would, being as naive as they are), she needed to be there to get them out of it.
Chapter Sixty-Six: In Which Once Again Someone Appears Unexpectedly
For a moment, it was like time stopped. Everyone froze in place, looking in horror at the bookshelf opening…
Then Rose swiftly shut it closed and everybody breathed a sigh of relief.
While she and Jack and Snow tried to hold the bookshelf door closed, the person at the other end pounded at it, causing the shelf to shake and the books to fall. Then the shaking stopped.
Chapter Sixty-Five: In Which The Oracle Explains About Unseen Physicks
With everything that had been happening, it would be suffice to say that Flake was feeling very overwhelmed by everything that was going on. He was having a rough time, considering he still hadn’t fully recovered from the shock he had when he woke up, and he still felt like throwing up when he had this slime thing forced down his throat but Jack unexpectedly appearing out of thin air was… well, almost to much to handle. And then Snow and Rose rushing in right after...
Chapter Sixty-Four: In Which Rescue Missions Take Place And Rose Gets Ignored
“You- you figured something out? What? What did you find?” Jack asked eagerly.
Have you noticed that these pages have markings and underlines and notes on the margins? Rose wrote.
Chapter Sixty-Two Part Two: In Which Everybody Has a Hard Time Collaborating
“How come you’re here? How did you even get here? And how did you open the locked door?” Jack exclaimed, stumbling back a little. Flint grinned widely and didn’t say anything.
“Oh, great,” Snow sighed, after she recovered from the shock. “As if we need more trouble.”
Chapter Sixty-One Part Two: In Which Someone Appears Unexpectedly
The second Jack heard footsteps coming, he panicked, threw the invisibility cloak over himself, and pressed against the wall, trying his best to stay still and not make a sound, though he couldn’t control his frantic breathing.
Stay calm. It’s probably not Dad, it might be… I don’t know, but surely it can’t be anyone too bad, could it? But on the other hand, who else could it be-
Chapter Sixty-One: In Which Jack Gets Lucky
Jack thought he knew where he was. He didn’t. And after a while of sneaking around the woods in the dark, he was lost. He wasn’t entirely lost, since he could see the Great Sycamore pretty well no matter where he went, therefore helping him locate where the Grand House was, but he had no idea where the entrance to the caves might be.