Waggling your legs in the air like a dying cockroach.
The red glow of the sun climbing lazily onto the horizon filled the sky. The gradual increase in brightness caused Davina to stir from her sleep. Her slumber had been so deep that she had almost forgotten what she was involved in. She opened one eye and peered below. She couldn’t help but gasp at the beauty of the immense forest and snow crusted mountains beneath them.
Just beyond the peak of the closest mountain was a clearing with the ruins of a derelict house and church. The Wolfgoyles were hungry – the fallen stones from the house would make a prime snack. The Wolfgoyles directed each other by yipping. It was time for the ‘Gorgeous’ of Goyles to land. Davina’s Wolfgoyle howled the order to descend and the group responded by swooping towards the clearing – breakfast time!
Davina peeked over at Ghost and watched his reaction. Ghost jolted at the sound of the howls, glanced down then closed his eyes and continued humming and twitching again (this time it was even louder). Davina giggled and joined in the howling as the pack descended towards the clearing.
Wanda altered the angle of her wings, spread them wide and slowed their descent. When they were at a safe speed she padded onto the ground. The other Wolfgoyles had different styles but all landed in a similar way. Once each had landed they quickly grazed the fallen stones about the house. She sensed the Goyles were keeping away from the main church stones out of respect. Even though the Goyles had been treated badly by humans, they still maintained the highest level of respect for sacred places. If the Goyles had rebelled against humanity then they could have eaten Stonehenge in one sitting between them.
Once the Goyles had eaten their fill, they settled under a tree-covered area. Each circled in the same way as dogs do when they curl up in their baskets. Once the Wolfgoyles had settled comfortably, they transformed into large boulders. Davina climbed off her Goyle, which quickly began crunching nearby stones. It sounded like a dog gnawing on a bone.
While the Wolfgoyles rested Davina walked over to the nearby church and gazed up at the sky. She understood that Ghost, even though elegant when doing martial arts, appeared to be somewhat clumsy. It seemed he wasn’t so much dangerous but unlucky. Instead of a gentle landing, Ghost got dragged through the treetops. He bounced amongst some branches until his Wolfgoyle pounded heavily to the ground. He was dumped on the ground like a limp prey. Once Ghost was freed, his Wolfgoyle searched for some stones to graze. Ghost laid in a heap but hummed at the top of his lungs. After a short while, he rolled over and planted his smacker on the ground with his legs crumpled beneath him.
‘Ghost what are you doing?’ enquired Davina.
‘Isn’ it obvious? I’m kissing the ground,’ replied Ghost mid-kiss.
‘Because I love the ground,’ responded Ghost increasing his kissing rate,
Davina wasn’t going to let it go. ‘But why?’ she pressed.
‘Because I hate heights Davina – okay? Another one of my weaknesses!’ A flush of red appeared on Ghost’s cheeks.
The strong who had fought off the ruffians at the school had turned out to be someone completely different. She tipped her head to the side as Ghost rolled onto his back and waggled his legs in the air.
‘What are you doing now?’ she asked, her expression perplexed.
‘I’m trying to get blood into my legs so I don’t get pins and needles.’
Davina had heard enough, Ghost could resemble a dying cockroach for as long as he liked. ‘Right,’ she said and went and joined the Wolfgoyles.
With a yip and a bark, Davina called the Goyles in close. ‘Thank you.’ (burp-bidi burrrrp rrrp pfe!) she said warmly.
The leader of the pack was a she-wolf, she stepped forwards. She had violet eyes and looked much less fierce than the other Wolfgoyles in the pack.
‘Could you tell me what’s going on and how you found us?’ Davina asked in Wolfgoyle language.
‘Regina Davina, as I said before I am Wanda and I am the leader of the Wolfgoyles. We followed your scent because you did nothing to cover your tracks. You were so easy to find. We had to remove you before the Grotesques caught up with you. They were already onto your scent, or should we say his scent.’ Wanda gestured towards Ghost who waggled both his legs arms! He looked like he was cycling whilst doing back stroke.
A sense of disappointment filled Davina. She had forgotten to cover her tracks and that was basic survival. She should have been more careful!
‘The fact that there were two of you made it even easier to find you.’ Wanda watched Ghost and his strange motions with a hint of a smile. ‘His strong scent reveals that he hasn’t washed for a few days. So, who is your smelly friend?’
‘That’s Ghost. He ended up in this situation by accident,’ Davina replied courteously.
‘It is lucky he was with you because he spotted us long before we were onto you. In fact he probably saved your life,’ said Wanda.
The way Davina and the Wolfgoyle kept glancing at him gave it away that they were talking about him. ‘What is it saying?’
‘She is congratulating you for spotting the Goyles. It could have been the enemy and I could have been caught because I was fast asleep.’
‘What else did she say?’ His pleased expression verged on smug.
Davina crouched down and leant against the old ruin. ‘She said you stink and that you need to wash!’
‘No I don’t! I smell wild – like a proper boy!’
Davina rolled her eyes. ‘Wanda also said the Grotesques are increasing in numbers daily and their armies are growing at a rapid rate. There will soon be almost two Grotesques to one Goyle. The Goyles intercepted communications between the Grotesques and the Chimera – the Chimera have planned target practice on some major European cities.’
‘Why does she need to do that?’ he asked in a shocked tone.
‘She doesn’t ‘need’ to do that. It’s her idea of fun. She is demonstrating that she is growing more powerful.’
Davina grew tired of translating and gestured at Ghost’s bag. ‘Put your nose plug in and then you’ll understand.’
‘Do you know how weird I look with a bright light thing hanging out of a nostril?’ He folded his arms, he was reluctant to say the least.
‘Who cares what you look like?’
Three bushes close to them rustled. ‘Ghost can you see what it is?’
‘Yes your highness!’ Ghost replied with a small bow. Ghost didn’t like being told what to do by anyone but spun around and focused his attention on what was behind the trees. He inhaled deeply when he noticed approximately ten Beargoyles lumbering towards them. ‘Davina I think we have Beargoyles moving in.’
Davina rose to standing and paced anxiously. ‘Is this a designated meeting place Wanda?’
Wanda barked her answer. ‘Yes. We said we would meet here and discuss our findings.’
The sense of unease filled Davina’s gut. ‘Ghost can you see anything else at all?’
Ghost checked the forest again, ‘There doesn’t seem to be anything else… just Beargoyles.’
The leading Beargoyle burst through the bushes. His massive stature, huge shoulders and massive paws dwarfed Davina. He paused and studied the group before he stepped forwards and bowed. ‘I am Solomon, the leader of the Beargoyles. It is my pleasure…’
There was a lovely sense of calm and dignity in his presence and Davina felt safe with him instantly. Ghost stood with his mouth agape studying the bulky form of the Beargoyles. They were huge, solid and their claws were larger than his head.
‘Nice to meet you Solomon. I am Davina. Do you have any news?’
Solomon sat up on his hind legs and stretched his huge stone wings. ‘Regina Davina I know who you are. I used to protect you when you were growing up. Although the Goylegate guardians informed me that you are now without memory – so we can forgive that. Unfortunately the news is not good. Fluxions were sent to discover your whereabouts at the Nadim School. Someone at that school informed them of your presence. The school has since been surrounded by Grotesques because they expect your return when you hear the school is trouble. I presume that is not part of your plan, especially when there are much greater things at stake here and it is more important to save your father.’
Davina glanced sideways at Ghost, he had subtly inserted a translation tube into his left nostril. ‘That’ll teach them!’ he snorted.
‘Ghost, imagine you were at that school now and the walls were being eaten by the ugliest creatures alive,’ she responded sympathetically.
‘Well I’m not there and it serves them right!’ said Ghost with a grin. ‘Anyway Davina, we can’t go back and help them – we have to save your father first. That’s your priority. I say let them suffer for a bit! They wouldn’t help us if we were in their situation. They would just leave us to it.’
Davina sighed, he was probably right – those kids were too busy being cruel to one another. ‘What other news is there?’ she asked as she turned back to Solomon.
‘Clio, the leader of the Pumagoyles, has been tracking your father. He has recently been moved from the Sideways Tower – he disappeared with his captors in the Sea of Sand. Clio says there has since been a huge growth of Grotes in an area known as Mortvlei. So she assumes he is imprisoned somewhere around there.’
‘Makes sense,’ Davina said. Solomon’s logic made sense but it did not stop Davina feeling deeply troubled.
‘Why does that make sense?’ asked Ghost with a confused expression.
‘Mort means death and Vlei means valley,’ replied Davina.
‘I still don’t get it..’ said Ghost fiddling with his nose.
‘I wouldn’t worry yourself about it. All you need to know is the Chimera likes to do things differently. She is birthing the Grotes in a place of death.’ Solomon’s deep tones captivated Ghost.
Davina noticed Ghost’s expression revealed confusion, but he nodded just the same, he probably didn’t want to feel stupid.
‘What’s her plan?’ asked Davina.
‘We don’t know exactly. We do know she’s been torturing your father to discover where the Rebis egg is. She knows it’s located somewhere on his body. Originally she planned to cut the egg out of him, but the egg would lose its power. Instead she has been using him as the central generator of Grote life- force.’
‘I don’t understand… what does that mean?’ cried Davina in distress.
‘Your father contains the Rebis egg. Through symbiosis of egg and his life energy they are able to grow the Chimera’s Grotesque army.’
Davina slammed her palm against her forehead. ‘We have to save him!’
‘So where the Grotes are growing most intensely will be where my father is being held prisoner?’ she said beginning to pace.
‘Not necessarily,’ Solomon growled. ‘His energy is vast. The armies are being grown from mountain to desert. He could be anywhere within a thousand mile radius.’
‘The Chimera is using my father to grow Grotesques from sand,’ Davina muttered despondently.
‘She is using the dunes to manufacture them so they’ll be born of the sand and that means they’ll be able to form and deform – then reform again,’ Solomon replied with a knowing nod.
The feeling of being out of control overwhelmed Davina. It was so much to deal with.
‘So where is Mortvlei?’ Davina began pacing once more.
‘It’s a long journey over the ocean to the Sea of Sand. Once one has reached the skeleton coast you continue past the Quiver tree forest.’
‘How do I know the Quiver tree forest?’
‘You will hear the strange ringing sounds of the judderers echo. From there you’ll find cracked earth of a once river. That is the beginning of Deadvlei which leads to Mortvlei. The Meru fortress will be hidden amongst the dunes and its form will defy all earth logic,’ rumbled Solomon.
‘Why?’ Ghost had never heard anything like it.
‘The fortress is in a constant state of transformation. The best disguise for anything is constant change so it is never fully identifiable. Also the forms the Chimera chooses will be unusual because they are born from her imagination.’
‘So does that mean that I won’t be able to find it?’ asked Davina.
‘From what Clio says, she thinks you’ll be able to find it because… erm.. because of your natural instinct,’ started Solomon, uncomfortably.
‘And where will the Grotes be grown?’ asked Ghost.
‘Everywhere. Well everywhere there is space for them to grow through the earth. Now I wouldn’t ask any more questions, you’ll see how it looks when you are closer. If you think about it too much is will fuddle your mind.’
Davina sighed, even though she had no allegiance to the people of her school, she couldn’t allow them to suffer – could she? First, she had to stop the human cities from being attacked, and then she had to save her father. Davina paced again, how was she supposed to handle a task so massive when she was so small?
‘Do you know anything else that will help us in our fight against the Grotesques? Thalia mentioned something about salt and water,’ Davina pressed Solomon.
Solomon shook his head, ‘Davina when the time comes your instincts will direct you and you will use your natural talents. That is all I can say at this time.’
The other Beargoyles didn’t utter a sound but shifted about awkwardly. From the way the Goyles reacted Davina sensed she had a rare talent.
Solomon cleared his throat, ‘Erm, Davina – I think it is fair to remind you that you have certain natural talents. One of these is your Ventus ability.’ The huge Beargoyle looked deeply uncomfortable.
Ventus ability? The words meant nothing to Davina, she stared back blankly at Solomon.
Solomon scrutinised the small girl before him. ‘You really don’t remember anything do you?’
Davina shook her head sadly.
Suddenly Solomon lunged at Davina with his claws extended. Instantly she flipped backwards, bounced off a tree and then rebounded to standing.
‘Why did you do that?’ she demanded upset but unhurt.
‘I had to see how strong your instincts were. Davina if it comes down to it, you will have to rely on those instincts.’ Solomon retracted his claws and sighed loudly. ‘What are we going to do with you child?’ he chided gently before he leant forwards and ruffled her hair.
A red flush filled Davina’s cheeks. She glanced at her nails, they had transformed to claws. She felt so out of control and frustrated! All she could do was fold her arms and pace. She wanted her memory back. She wanted to know who she was and what she was capable of.
Solomon returned to sitting upright. He stretched his wings and re-folded them. ‘Do you remember anything about the Ventus?’ he enquired.
‘I don’t even know what that means,’ she replied with a shake of the head.
Some of the Beargoyles and Wolfgoyles sniggered.
The rise of Davina’s shoulders revealed how she hated being laughed at.
Wanda stepped in from the side of the group nuzzled Davina sympathetically. ‘Oh darling, they are not intending to mock you. We just had no clue of the extent of your memory loss. Now imagine a great, fast wind blowing through the trees. This will reveal the power of Ventus.’
‘How am I supposed to do that?’ Davina replied with a frown at Wanda.
‘Don’t think about it, just do it!’ Solomon urged with a smirk.
Davina plonked herself down and looked up at the trees. She imagined the feeling of a gust of wind forming and blasting through the trees. When she focused, the leaves began to rustle. The more she concentrated the more the leaves rustled. Was it really her making it happen? If so – it felt so natural. If she could do that then what else could she do? She glanced at Ghost and concealed a smile. A small perfectly formed whirlwind gathered strength and whipped up some leaves.
With a grin of triumph, Davina considered other weather conditions – a smattering of hailstones might be nice. As soon as she thought about hail a few golf-ball-like lumps of ice collided with Ghosts’ head. ‘Ouch!’ he cried.
She attempted to conceal her mischievous smirk.
‘How come you can do that?’ Ghost scowled.
Davina shrugged, ‘I have no idea… it’s pretty cool though eh?’
‘Yeh it’s all right.’ Ghost sulked.
‘Come on Ghost you can see stuff others can’t see – now I can’t do that. And now I understand why I can hear what the wind says when it chatters,’ she offered thoughtfully.
‘So what else can you do?’ said Ghost with a loud huff.
Davina shrugged and looked for direction from Wanda.
‘Illuminatus,’ said Wanda. ‘Davina you have many hidden talents, which you will learn as you go. It is a shame you don’t remember. It would make everything so much easier.’ Wanda nuzzled Davina, ‘Illuminatus can be achieved in two ways. You can use your mind and focus on feeling immensely happy. Alternatively, you can focus on the word happiness itself and ‘feel’ it. Both will achieve the same result.’
Davina focused on the word happiness. As soon as she thought about happiness something happened – the area around her grew brighter. The more she focused, the happier she felt. ‘Is that what you mean?’
Wanda smiled enigmatically.
Ghost didn’t like it – it was as if Davina was caught inside the sun. It was just too bright! He watched with an unamused expression – the girl shone with the intensity of the sun. Ghost blinked a couple of times – his eyes had naturally adapted. There were none of those weird floating blobs turning up in his view – like when a flash went off.
‘Ghost notice how your eyes reacted,’ said Wanda gauging Ghost’s reaction.
‘It is weird… but I think Davina should stop that now because you’re drawing attention to yourself and you’re going to let those repulsive creatures know where we are. Why not get flashing neon arrows pointing at you and a loud trumpet?’ Ghost was already bored of the brightness, he re-focused on the woods. Had anything spotted them?
‘Ghost stop going on! So what does it look like?’ The excitement in her voice softened his mood.
‘It looks bright… like you are your own sunshine. Now it’s all very nice and all that… but it’s very obvious we’re here now,’ Ghost added.
Davina stopped glowing, she had no idea of the use of Illuminatus but realised she had been jealous of Ghost’s abilities and now she was showing off. It wasn’t necessary but she couldn’t help but be pleased.
Davina gazed at the dormant Wolf and Beargoyles, they needed to rest and refuel. The group had decided that when night fell they would check the situation in the cities, in the meantime both Ghost and Davina needed to rest as well.
‘Solomon is there anything else I should know?’ She said when she noticed Solomon’s expression of concern.
Solomon bowed his head and groaned. ‘There is a tool that can help you called the Shamaventus. It is the flame of air used for manifestation. The flame of air is sacred and magical. It glows like nothing you have seen; its colour is all colours. It is the spectrum heated and resembles a flame of rainbow. It is so beautiful, yet it can be deadly. You could use this weapon against the Chimera, but it needs to be used wisely.’
‘And what does it do exactly?’ asked Davina, curious to know more.
Solomon stretched his wings and considered the correct words to describe the Shamaventus. ‘The flame of pure intention combined with the air of alchemy enables the carrier of the Shamaventus to manifest their desires. Although manifestation can go terribly wrong if the asker is not specific enough. Sometimes one can get what they ask for but in a different form or wrong place.’
‘What does that mean?’ asked Davina.
‘The Shamaventus is a powerful tool but to use it effectively the request needs clarity and specifics. That way you are provided with the correct result. Wishy-washy demands always end up messy,’ he said in his deep, thick tone of wisdom. He glanced at Wanda for her opinion.
‘The Shamaventus can be used to protect, manifest or enchant.’ Wanda watched Davina’s response to power.
‘What if it falls into the wrong hands?’ asked Davina.
‘Such power in the wrong hands could be disastrous. An individual with cruel intentions could destroy the world. With this in mind, it has an inbuilt safety mechanism. When used on this earth plane it utilises the life force of the carrier. When it is over used, it will purposely suck the life force out of the person who carries it. That is, unless the carrier is brought to it through destiny and not through choice. According to legend, there has to be limitations on manifestation otherwise the outer world would have everything manifested in a day. And what would be the point of that? It would stop progress and purpose,’ Wanda answered solemnly.
‘Still, I would personally prefer to keep away from the staff,’ Solomon continued, more gravely.
Wanda licked her paw and rubber her ear. ‘Imagine what could happen if a person’s thoughts were manifested instantly. Imagine what a cruel person could do to the world.’
Davina understood the gravity of what was implied but she was intrigued. ‘So how could I use the Shamaventus? I mean how will I recognise it?’
‘According to legend the Shamaventus is a cup of light emitting a gusting rainbow flame,’ replied Wanda holding back a yawn.
‘And where will I find this?’
‘The Atrox has it,’ said Solomon glancing at the ground.
‘And what is an Atrox?’ Davina asked curiously.
Wanda glanced at Solomon and shook her head disapprovingly. ‘Davina the Atrox is a cruel creature. It will verbally stab you and criticise you. It will point out all your weaknesses and use them against you. It will purposely undermine you until you surrender – then it will suck the life out of you until it kills you,’ warned Wanda grimly.
‘So how do you beat it?’ asked Ghost.
‘You believe in yourself, you do not allow the verbal venom through to your heart. Or take anything that is said personally.’ Wanda peered sympathetically at Davina. ‘The truth is… not many return from facing the Atrox. The repetitious criticism quickly destroys them. You will have to be very strong to resist such nastiness.’
‘Wanda, she is just a child… I don’t think she is ready,’ growled Solomon.
‘She is a small girl with no memory and…’ Wanda interrupted. ‘And that might work in her favour. She may not know what her weaknesses are because she doesn’t remember them.’
Davina didn’t like being talked about as if she wasn’t there. ‘And how do I find this Atrox thing?’ She demanded.
‘You have to be willing to face the Atrox and you have to intend to get the Shamaventus. Once you have that set – nothing will get in your way,’ Solomon wished he hadn’t mentioned it now.
‘But where does the Atrox live?’ persisted Davina.
‘According to legend it’s beneath you. When you are ready to face this demon, you simply sit on the ground and say its name so it knows you are ready to confront it. It will then transport you to where it resides,’ said Solomon wearily.
‘And how do I get out if it all goes wrong?’ she asked with an overwhelming feeling of self-doubt.
‘That’s it… if you allow its poison to get at you then it’s not likely you will come out alive. The poison will filter into your bloodstream and break you down from the inside. It will kill you by emotionally suffocating you.’ Wanda replied reluctantly.
‘But that’s terrible!’ Davina cried. She glanced at Ghost to judge his reaction. Did she really want to face such a creature?
Ghost said nothing, there was no way he wanted to be involved.
‘You have to understand your reaction is all in your mind. Whatever it says – you do not have to take it personally – it can be lies. If you believe the Atrox is right you will allow its venom in. Davina your mind has to be strong and determined. You have to be secure in yourself to face the Atrox,’ said Wanda clearly concerned.
‘What do you think Ghost? Can I beat the Atrox?’ asked Davina.
‘I don’t know. All I know is that I wouldn’t want to be facing something so nasty!’ he replied, taking care to avoid eye contact.
‘But I can get the Shamaventus,’ Davina asserted.
Ghost wasn’t so easily persuaded. ‘Is it really worth it? Anyway that’s a stupid word…’
Solomon growled angrily, ‘That’s a special word from Gargantuan. I suggest you show some respect human!’
‘And how would I know that?’ Ghost huffed and folded his arms defensively. It all seemed so stupid to him!
‘Davina the fact that you have no past works in your favour. Everyone has told you that you are great – so get it done and stop fannying around!’ Ghost blurted.
‘Ghost be serious!’ clamoured Davina. ‘Do you really think I should face the Atrox? If we have the Shamaventus then at least we have a weapon from Gargantuan that we can use against the Chimera.’
‘I don’t know! Only you know the answer to that. Use that bloody intuition thing…’ he said grumpily.
For once Ghost was right – she had to listen to her intuition. She closed her eyes and asked herself the question. Did she believe in herself enough to face such a creature? Could she resist the criticism? She smiled to herself when she received the answer.