The lava bombed village.
In one swift movement, Davina grabbed her staff and climbed onto Wanda. Ghost followed her lead. As he ran, he dressed. As always, he was awkward when it came to flying.
‘Davina what I don’t get is why they’re coming by foot and not by air? They can fly you know.’
‘I know, but I think they’re clearing the forest. To do that you walk the forest as a mass, they probably heard we were hiding in the forest. Once they’ve cleared the forest they’ll return to the air.’
Wanda bounded into a take-off and the pair ascended at great speed followed by the other Goyles. Glancing back, Davina searched for Ghost, she needed him. His multitude of eyes could scan ahead and find the right direction.
After an hour of flying, Davina could see a bright clearing in the forest. That clearing had black smoke billowing from it. Davina turned to Ghost, who was sleeping on Solomon’s back. ‘Ghost can you see anything down there?’
‘Nope… I’m asleep,’ he replied grumpily.
‘Ghost this is important! It looks like a village has been set on fire,’ she said.
Ghost yawned and looked down, scanned the area and saw numerous burned out houses. ‘Yep it’s a burning village,’ he said.
‘Can you see any people?’
Ghost tutted, ‘Davina I can’t see anyone.’
‘Do you think they’re all dead?’
Ghost screwed up his face, ‘Davina I’m not using my eyes to search for dead bodies!’
Davina shook her head, ‘I wasn’t suggesting that you did. I was just asking what you thought.’
‘All right… Tetchy! Yes they’re probably all dead!’ he replied.
‘Don’t you care Ghost?’ she said sharply.
‘Not really… Right now I’m tired and want to go to sleep, that’s all I care about. Remember I am still getting used to having so many eyes!’
Davina glared at Ghost and whispered in Wanda’s ear. The pair carefully circled and glided down to the village. Solomon circled above watching for signs of a trap.
Davina held tight while Wanda made a graceful landing. It appeared most of the village had been wiped out days ago. Peering into a nearby house, she saw the remnants of burned belongings, but there was nothing to suggest any of the villagers had been killed. Davina walked slowly down what was once the high street. Did anyone need help?
Smouldering lumps of molten rock steamed and littered the village. Some had solidified and hardened. ‘I think they attacked using lava bombs. Maybe this was a test target for them,’ said Davina patting Wanda.
‘That means they’ll be using the volcanoes as ammunition,’ said Wanda.
‘Quite industrious don’t you reckon?’ said Davina.
Wanda nodded and looked ahead, ‘And we need to cross that volcano range,’ sighed Wanda. ‘It’s a large range too. We should be fine as long as Ghost uses his new sight wisely. That is… if you ask him nicely.’ Wanda continued to survey the area. ‘Davina there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you. Do you think that Ghost can be trusted? He seems to be acting so strangely… It is as if this is all just an annoyance to him. I don’t sense he has any warrior instinct, plus look how easily he was captured.’
‘Wanda I can’t change him. Maybe it is all an inconvenience to him, but look at it from his point of view. One day he’s raking a few leaves and getting hassle. The next he’s flying on a Gargoyle across the world. His future now involves facing a massive war,’ she said with a shrug.
Wanda folded her wings, ‘But he has to make an effort, he has to believe in himself. At this point, he believes himself to be a small boy who has wandered into a dangerous situation. He needs to pull himself together and stop all the self-pity. He has to think like a warrior and only then he will come into his own.’ Wanda became silent and growled. She could smell something nearby.
‘What is it?’ asked Davina.
‘I think I can smell human…. mixed with…’
Davina turned; something small scurried behind a building. She instinctively darted into a doorway. ‘Go to stone Wanda.’
The she-wolf curled up into a boulder. ‘If you need me call,’ she whispered.
Davina carefully crept along the side of a house until she was in an open area. From nowhere a stone flew through the air. Davina caught it in her left hand. Then there was another and another. Davina tapped her staff against the ground and manifested a protective shield of pale, blue light. The rocks collided with the shield and rebounded. Davina followed the direction of the stones and could see two pairs of feet hiding behind a gate. She closed her eyes and summoned a small whirlwind. She stepped inside, lifted into the air and glided up and over the two concealed children. She then elegantly landed behind them in silence.
The two children stood with their mouths agape. Both brandished sticks and intended to attack if necessary.
‘Who are you?’ demanded the boy who was probably about fourteen with dark, wavy hair, bright eyes and a look of annoyance.
‘How did you do that?’ asked the girl wearing nightclothes. She had long, curly hair and delicate elfin-like features.
‘There’s no time to explain. My name is Davina and I will not hurt you. Nice pyjamas by the way,’ she said with a smile.
‘Are you travelling with the ugly things?’
Davina shook her head, ‘Is that what did this to your village?’
The girl glanced at the boy.
‘I’m asking the questions… So how do we know we can trust you?’ he said.
‘How do you know you can’t?’ replied Davina.
‘Stop playing games with us!’ shouted the boy.
‘Look, I don’t want to get into arguments, but I do need to know how long ago the village was attacked?’
‘Why do you care?’
Davina rolled her eyes and turned to walk away, ‘I haven’t got time for kid’s games. I have other, more important things, to worry about. I have to go now.’
The two children followed. ‘You can’t just leave us here. What if we get attacked again?’
‘You are not my responsibility so I can leave you. You would probably be safer here anyway,’ she said.
Davina continued to walk back towards the boulder.
The boy appeared curious because the boulder wasn’t there before.
Davina smiled mysteriously and carefully climbed onto the stone.
The boy watched, what was she doing? ‘Erm… have you got any food?’
‘We have algae, that’s all,’ she said.
‘What’s algae?’ he asked.
‘A nutritional source. Look I’m in a hurry so do you want some or not?’ asked Davina.
The girl glanced at the boy,‘Is there any way you can help us?’ Davina sighed; she liked the girl’s long golden hair and was interested the boy’s black hair and blue eyes. Although brash, he was incredibly handsome. Could they be brother and sister yet look so different?
‘Why are you staring at us?’
‘Are you related? You don’t look like brother and sister.’
‘That’s because my mother lost my father to a war when I was one,’ he replied . ‘Susie’s father became my stepfather and now they are captured.’
Davina sighed sympathetically, ‘I’m sorry for you… but it isn’t safe here.’
Our parents and all the other villagers were captured by some really ugly creatures. They dribbled strange net stuff and coated people in wax that came from their ears.’
‘So how did you escape?’
‘Our parents hid us in the basement.’
‘So how did you see what happened then?’ Davina asked suspiciously.
‘We have a periscope,’ said the boy folding his arms.
Davina sighed, ‘Look, to be honest I am worried about taking you with me. It will probably be dangerous and I don’t even know who you are.’
‘I’m Johnny and this is Susie, my sister.’
‘Do you have any skills?’ asked Davina.
‘I’m really good at computer games, can play football really well and I’m a good swimmer. And Susie here is really good at ballet.’
‘You have interesting ideas about useful skills! So… okay then how does that help in a war?’
The brother and sister were curious and side-glanced each other. ‘What do you mean a war?’ asked Johnny.
‘Well don’t you find it a little suspicious that your village was attacked and everyone was taken away? Do you have any idea that those creatures are part of the reconnaissance for the largest human extermination ever? You humans often miss the obvious things and only react when it is too late!’
Johnny stared at Davina, ‘And what? You’re not human?’
‘Maybe I’m not. Look if you come with me you may well end up caught in a conflict. I don’t want to do that to you. Is that what you want?’
The brother and sister were silent and shook their heads.
‘If you’re not human then where are you from?’ asked Johnny slowly.
‘A place known as Gargantuan,’ she replied.
Johnny side-glanced Susie, ‘That name was said in that weird burp chant wasn’t it?’
Susie sucked her thumb and stroked her nose, ‘When they were attacking us, there was this strange rhythmic chant. I’m sure it had a word like that in it,’ she said.
Davina studied the pair. ‘Do you really want to come with us?’
Johnny and Susie nodded.
‘It’s better for us to be with someone than alone here. We can only survive here for a certain amount of time. Plus I want to get my parents back,’ said Johnny with a look of determination on his face. He had focus and she liked that. ‘Okay you can come but it’s going to be difficult. Do you understand? We can’t stop half way because you don’t like it. I need you to commit.’
Johnny glanced at Susie, ‘What do you want to do?’
‘We have to find mum and dad don’t we? We can’t do that if we stay here,’ said Susie shaking her head sadly.
Johnny agreed, ‘okay we want to come but how are we going to travel?’ asked Johnny.
‘That will be arranged. Now I need to make sure whether you agree to my terms or not,’ said Davina.
‘Okay if we start whinging you can leave us, but somewhere safe,’ said Johnny.
Davina smiled mysteriously, threw back her head and howled.
Susie and Johnny stared at her as though she was deranged. Above them two Wolfgoyles swooped from the sky. At the same time, Wanda transformed back to her usual form.
Susie’s first reaction was to scream. Johnny was rigid with his mouth open, but trembled.
‘What are… they? What are we getting ourselves involved in?’ Susie croaked.
‘They don’t bite and you are now involved in something massive. Remember you still have the choice to stay here – alone,’ said Davina with a smirk.
Susie shuffled and sucked her thumb. Johnny shifted awkwardly. What was worse?
‘Now the Goyles are ready. If you intend to join me climb on and we will go,’ said Davina.
The two children gazed at the two stone creatures. Susie glanced at Johnny; Johnny shrugged and moved towards the Goyles before them.
‘Are they safe?’ asked Johnny.
‘Just make sure you hold on tight,’ said Davina with a nod.
‘Where are we going?’ asked Susie.
‘To save my father and then search out the Chimera.’
‘What’s a Chimera?’ asked Susie.
‘I’ll explain that later,’ said Davina.
The brother and sister glanced at each other. They climbed onto the back of the Goyles.
‘It’s warm,’ said Susie patting her Goyle.
‘That’s because it’s alive. Now make sure you hold on. I don’t want you falling off and dying before we get there,’ said Davina cheekily.
Johnny shot Davina a glance, she was joking.
‘Could that really happen?’ asked Susie.
‘So what do I do if I do fall?’
‘Scream. The Goyle will out manoeuvre you and catch you in its mouth,’ said Davina.
‘Will it eat me?’ asked Susie.
‘Not unless you are stone flavoured,’ she replied.
A small pile of hot stones fell from Wanda’s bottom. Susie noticed and frowned. ‘Erm… why have hot stones just fallen from her bottom?’
‘It just grunted. The Goyles grunt hot stones,’ she said.
Susie and Johnny appeared confused.
‘So what do they eat?’ asked Susie.
‘Stone. Right let’s go!’ said Davina.
Davina made a howling noise and flew ahead until she drew parallel with Ghost who was clinging to Solomon. Of course, he was asleep – snoring and humming. ‘Is that snoring bothering you Solomon?’ asked Davina.
‘No, but it is tickling my ear,’ he said with a deep growl.
‘How long has he been asleep?’
‘Since you began your decent,’ said Solomon. ‘Davina before you get angry with him… remember he is human. Human children need their sleep and his body clock is off. Now let him rest as long as he needs to.’
‘Solomon I understand what you are saying, but he needs to get more of a survival instinct otherwise he’ll get us all in trouble.’
‘Leave him be. Just tell me where you want to go.’
‘Let’s head in the direction of the city. While we do that I need to have a word with him,’ said Davina.
‘Davina be nice…’
‘Ghost wake up! There are some other human kids coming with us,’ shouted Davina.
With a loud snort, Ghost woke up and looked drowsily around to see Johnny and Susie. When he lifted his head all his eyes opened simultaneously.
‘Ghost this is Susie and Johnny and they will be joining us,’ she said.
Susie attempted to smile, that was, until she noticed Ghost’s multitude of eyes.
‘Ahhh! They did something to him!’ Susie screamed in horror.
Ghosted jumped and looked around. ‘What?’
‘If you’re human, then why have you got so many eyes?’ Johnny asked suspiciously.
‘I ate something strange and this happened,’ he replied.
‘Davina how long do I have to be like this?’ asked Ghost.
‘I guess as long as the algae remains in your system…’
Johnny stared at Davina, ‘Is that what the food you were talking about does to you?’
‘Ghost mixed it incorrectly and he chose the orange one. He then ate far too much in one go.’
To the left of the group Susie trembled: she was flying at great speed, there was a mutant kid and she was hundreds of feet up in the air.
‘Susie, don’t be scared – you’ll get used to it. In a matter of days you’ll forget how normal life was,’ Davina said sensing Susie’s discomfort.
‘I don’t ever want to forget how normal life was! I want to save our parents and return to normal life,’ she said
‘Of course you do. We have something in common then – I’m trying to save my father as well,’ said Davina with a sigh.
‘Where is he?’
‘The Chimera is holding him prisoner somewhere. She’s the one who’s in charge of all the Grotes. You know… the ugly ones.’
‘What those ugly swines who took our parents away?’
‘Yep, she is their leader and actually manufactures them.’
Johnny frowned, ‘How on earth does someone manufacture such creatures?’
‘She uses the rules of Gargantuan and they are very different to here. I will explain it all to you later. In the meantime, we have to move quickly – before the Grotes catch up with us.’
Davina paused, the chanting sound from below wound through the air accompanied by a series of nasty, whispering voices. Those whispering voices circled and searched. That could only mean one thing.
‘The Atrox has escaped. Ghost can you focus and see where it is?’ asked Davina.
Ghost focused his vision on the source of the sound, ‘Oh my goodness Davina – you were right! That is one ugly creature. In fact it is more than one it is more like twenty,’ he said in a shocked tone.
‘I told you. So where is it?’ she asked.
Ghost concentrated, ‘Davina there are thousands of Grotes and from what I can see there are at least twenty snake-like creatures. Oh my… they have loads of mouths.’
‘They probably ate the same algae as you,’ she said.
‘Very funny!’ said Ghost, trying not to be amused.
‘Right, Susie, Johnny and Ghost lay flat to the Goyles. We are going to have to fly full speed.’
Ghost, Susie and Johnny all nodded. Ghost seemed more alert. Was the presence of another boy something to do with it? The change in Ghost was a relief – the warrior side could be freed. It was in there somewhere, it just needed a bit of a prod!