Jefferson Middle School newsletter
Chapter Twenty-Eight: In Which Rose Finds Out A Lot More Than She Wants To
A million thoughts were in Rose’s head that morning in the Coral Kingdom. She had questions, questions that could only be heard by one person, and he wasn’t there.
To her frustration, in the bubble as they entered Coral Kingdom, she couldn’t hear what Colden was saying, but she could hear the security guard perfectly fine. He called Colden the prophesied boy -what did that mean?- and was perfectly fine with letting him in the kingdom and leading her to a fancy hotel. What did he say that would make the guard so lenient?
She went through the whole night wide awake. How could she sleep, when outside the window there were so much wonders? Looking at the underwater world outside made Rose forget about her problems a little. It was so incredible. The Fearsome Forest had nothing like it.
In the morning, someone knocked on the door. Rose opened it, thinking it was probably Colden, but it wasn’t. It was a man with a security badge flashing on his suit.
“Madam,” he said, bowing slightly (Rose wasn’t sure what that was for). “I must escort you to the palace. The chief has requested a meeting with you.”
Why? Rose thought. Why would the chief be interested in me? Of course, the guard didn’t respond. She considered doing hand signals, but decided it would be too weird, so she simply nodded.
As she was escorted, the annoyance of not being able to talk came back to her. She had so much questions about everything. The palace was much more interesting than the view of the ocean from the hotel, with a variety of colors and decor. There was also about a million types of coral all over the place. Rose momentarily forgot that she was going to meet the chief until the guard knocked on a door. “It’s the girl you requested,” he said.
“Enter,” said a voice from inside. Rose got pushed rather roughly into the room.
In front of her sat a friendly looking young man sitting on a chair facing her. He looked like a normal person, with a mustache and beard, dark brown hair, and a welcoming smile. The only thing that was different were the slits on the side of his face. Rose first thought they were scars. But then realized they were gills. She’d seen them before, on other Coral Kingdom people, but none looked so much like… a fish. Bubbles even came out of them. She stared. How was it compatible with the human body?
“Hello?” He waved his hand in the air. Rose blinked and tried to not stare at the gills, which she was sure were moving. “I’m Chief Ripple, chief of the Coral Kingdom, and I have some questions to ask you. I’d appreciate it if you listen carefully. And I know you can’t talk, so I helpfully provided a pencil and paper.” He held up a pad of lined paper and a pencil.
Rose took it. She hadn’t used writing to communicate in a long time, not since her early days at the village where Alder was questioning her about her backstory. She wasn’t even sure whether she knew the correct way to use a pencil anymore. Rose wasn’t very fond of questionings either, since she often never knew the answer, but she could tell there was no escaping this one. Besides, this Chief Ripple guy seemed friendly enough.
“Okay. First question. How did you end up going on a quest with Flake? Do you know his background or what he wants to do?” Chief Ripple asked.
Rose blinked, then frowned. What? Who’s Flake?
Chief Ripple tapped the pad of paper. “Write whatever you want to say.”
Who is Flake? she wrote. Now it was Chief Ripple’s turn to frown. “You know, Flake. The person you were traveling with in the other bubble. Messy white-blonde hair, skinny, really stubborn when he wants to be-”
So you mean Colden. Rose wrote.
“Colden was with you?” Chief Ripple looked confused. Bubbles were coming rapidly out of his gills. “No, no… did Flake say his name was Colden? Why would he do that?”
Rose was trying to piece it all together. She knew nothing about Colden, or was it Flake? She wasn’t sure anymore. Then how much else was a lie? Was the missing sister problem fake too? Then what did he really want?
I know nothing about him. she wrote. That was the truth, after all. The chief studied her, as if wondering who would be so dumb as to follow a complete stranger on some quest.
“Do you recognize the name Flake? At all? Any references to prophecies about him, or his kingdom?” he asked. Rose shook his head. “Nothing? What about kidnappings happening?” She shook her head again.
Chief Ripple sighed. “Okay. Okay, that’s fine. I suppose you will want to know everything now, so here’s the rundown of things. You see, there is a sock puppet oracle at Frigid Glacier…” And Chief Ripple explained everything, from the prophecy to the kidnappings and everything else.
Rose blinked, trying to process everything. She wasn’t sure where to start. She felt mad, surprised, excited, and confused at the same time. The only thing she was sure of was that she wasn’t going to go back to the forest anytime soon, not with so much adventure waiting!
Chapter Twenty-Nine: In Which Flint Interrogates Jack About Important Things
Flint was swiping through the photos in the strange rectangular box (or as Jack called it, an iPad) for the millionth time. He couldn’t stop looking at it. It glowed and it hummed and it presented these images of places and animals that Flint had never seen before. Then again, Flint didn’t really spend much time outside his room except to go to school.
There were pictures of a man smiling with a big green statue of a lady in the background, pictures of that same man standing next to a giant mouse that looked completely fake, pictures of that man with other people standing around him and a cake in front with candles on it (why would you want to put candles on any food?). The list of weird things went on and on. Most pictures had the man in it. Some didn’t.
When Flint first stole the iPad and brought it to his room, he made sure to ask Jack about it. He trusted Jack about as far as he could throw him (which despite his tendency to throw things, wasn’t very far), but he needed answers, and he was the only one with them, no matter how annoying he was.
Jack sat on Flint’s bed and looked at the box. He said that it was called an iPad, and that the person in the pictures was his dad. But he had no idea what else was in the pictures.
“Does your dad… travel?” Flint asked.
“Not really. Actually, he mostly stays down here, locked up in his private rooms. But he came from somewhere else. All of the stuff in the caves is part of my dad’s belongings from that place. I assume the pictures are from that place too,” Jack explained.
Flint looked at the man, who was smiling brightly out from the picture. “He doesn’t look like you.”
Jack shrugged. He flopped on the bed. “Mom’s genes? I don’t even know what she looks like. Dad doesn’t like talking about his past life. He doesn’t like talking, period. He mostly spends his time cooped up in those rooms of his, doing whatever.” Did Flint hear bitterness in his voice? “I mean, the last time I spoke to him, it was about how there were kids coming over to stay. You guys.”
Flint squinted at the man, Jack’s dad, in the pictures. He didn’t look like the evil sorcerer type. In fact, he looked rather friendly. But those odd colored liquids in those vials he saw in that room he sneaked into, that reeked of sorcery to him.
“Do you know what your dad does?” Flint asked.
Jack shook his head. “He doesn’t tell me anything. And I’ve learned not to ask.”
Flint blinked. Maybe not so friendly after all.
“So I guess this magical Silver Apple device comes from your dad’s homeland?” he asked.
“It’s an iPad. And yes.”
“Have you ever seen your dad go outside of here? Anything to indicate that there might be a way out?” Flint said.
“Nope. I mean, if he had, it’s not like I would have known. Again, he doesn’t tell me anything. And I’ve never been taken outside.”
“You… haven’t?” Flint stared at Jack, who was staring at the ceiling. He suddenly had a flood of questions. “Really? I mean, I’ve never left the Flame Kingdom, but really? Like, you’ve never seen the sun or anything?”
“I don’t really want to talk about this-”
“Yes, you are. You are going to spill everything so that I won’t have to be stuck with Snow and Windy in here. So answer the questions. Were we the first ones that were brought here? If not, what happened to the other ones? Second, are you and your dad the only ones who live down here? If not, than who else does? If yes, then how do you get food and water every day? Don’t you have to go outside and buy it at some point?” Flint wasn’t used to talking that much at once, but he had to know. His escape depended on it.
“Well… there’s Stripes. Our cat. Dad brought him. He wanders around the system of caves, but I barely bump into him. He technically lives down here. But no one else,” Jack said. “As for the food and water, I’m not sure. There’s a whole lot in the fridge, and it never seems to run out.”
Flint frowned, taking it in. “Okay. So, was there any other people that came down here? Like me?”
Jack sat up. He bit his lip. “No.”
“Well…” Jack looked at Flint. Flint tried his best to look intimidating. “There is… there was… someone. She … she didn’t come down here like you guys. She was always here. But then she wasn’t. Sorry if I’m not making any sense.” Jack looked at the ground. “It’s a long story.”
“Well, I expect to be here a long time, so go ahead,” Flint said.