"Parsley Unit, cover the left wing of the palace, Mint Unit, join up with Conker Unit on the river bank. Establish a perimeter and keep it until I give the order. No-one goes in or out of that building!"
"And where are the Blackbird Squadrons? I want aerial reconnaissance of that willow tree now!"
"On it Sir!"
Conifer, long serving commander of the Nymph Defence Force, had never hoped his plan for a hostage situation would actually have to be implemented, let alone for the Royal Palace itself. This was a situation that threatened to spiral out of control, but Conifer was a skilled strategist. Now the Elite Guard had fallen his officers were Daffoville's last line of defence, and he was determined to contain and ultimately defeat this threat.
"At what point do we begin the advance?" an impatient captain asked him from their position within the Royal Grounds.
"The Elite Guard are defeated, the Queen and her family are captives, we have no idea what enemy we are facing and what their numbers are, and you think our best course of action is to blindly advance?" Conifer roared at the stunned looking captain. "We will do nothing until we find out what's really going on and can formulate a
OFFICER FERN WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?"
He strode out of position to a young officer marching to the perimeter with Mint Unit. She was dressed in her patrol uniform of a green short sleeved blouse, dark trousers and ankle boots, with her acorn badge clipped to her belt. Under her arm she was holding a riot uniform and she was buckling a conker helmet onto her head, her green hair spilling from underneath it in a flowing ponytail.
At Conifers voice Fern stood to attention and turned to stare at him. Her face filled with just as much steely determination as the commanders she replied, "I am doing my duty sir!"
"I told you to stay behind the perimeter and await further instructions!"
"Like buttercups that's what I'm doing," Fern barked at him. "My friend is a hostage and I'm not going to sit and do nothing because of you showing me special treatment
Conifer angrily put his arm around her shoulder and escorted her to where they could have a private conversation. Once underneath the shadow of a rosebush he hissed at her, "I am not showing you special treatment. If you remember I stated quite specifically when you joined the force that I would provide nothing of the sort."
"You've got a funny way of showing it!" Fern retorted.
"Listen to me before you drive me to early retirement," an exasperated Conifer instructed her, the green moustache above his lips moving animatedly when he talked. "I have a more important job for you. Information suggests the person behind all this is Mage Foxglove."
Ferns anger dissipated in an instant as she processed what this meant. "But that means Bluebell could be in danger too."
"That was my conclusion," Conifer explained. "Fern I want you to find Bluebell and her family and escort them to the nearest safe house. Also locate Grand Mage Lupin, because we're sure as daisies going to need him. Take however many officers you need."
Fern gazed into the experienced commanders hazel eyes, the same exact shade as her own. Then she stood to attention and saluted him. "I'll get right on it sir. I know just the person to ask for help!"
As Fern unbuckled the helmet from her head and dropped the riot uniform to the floor in a crumpled heap Conifer said softly, "Take care of yourself will you Fern? And next time, put a little more faith in your old man."
Smiling reassuringly at him Fern replied, "I will dad!" And with that she turned on her heel and retreated through the bustling crowds of Nymph's preparing for the conflict that lay ahead, Conifer watching her go until she disappeared from sight.
"How can we even be sure it's Foxglove? No-one has ever returned from beyond the Black River before," my dad exclaimed while my grandfather pulled his cloak over his shoulders.
"If anyone is capable of such a feat, it's Foxglove," Lupin replied, betraying no underlying fear in his calm, authoritative voice.
I watched him make his preparations from where I was sat on the sofa, wedged in between Moss and Primrose, with my mum and dad standing by the front door arm in arm. We could all feel the tension. Every little noise from outside, be it the cry of an owl or the chirp of a cricket, had us all looking through the windows in alarm. The future for us all, which only hours ago had looked safe and comfortable, was now horribly uncertain.
While Lupin searched for his staff a thought struck me. "You knew this was going to happen didn't you? When Ribwort appeared at my flat he said someone was returning."
Lupin breathed deeply as he turned to look at me. "Yes, Ribwort told me that Foxglove was indeed coming back, and was gathering forces for a fresh assault on Daffoville. I'd hoped for more time, but he's made his move quicker than I anticipated. Yet Foxglove's haste may yet prove his downfall, because it means we can preserve our greatest asset."
"But Foxglove knows you'll come after him," I protested.
Then, standing utterly still with his gaze fixed on me Lupin said, "What I meant is that our greatest asset is you!"
"What, Bluebell?" Primrose blurted in astonishment.
Lupin nodded at her. "Foxglove must have no idea of Bluebells abilities; otherwise he would have come after her first. If there is one thing he cannot tolerate, it's competition. "
My dad's face flushed red, and he looked like he was about to explode. "Of all your hair brained
you can't possibly expect Bluebell to duel him!"
"No, I want you all to pack your things and leave, immediately," my grandfather instructed. "Either way Foxglove will be coming after you now he has control of the Royal Palace. And should I fail to repel his assault, Bluebell will be Daffovilles only hope."
Never in my life did I ever expect to be referred to as Daffoville's only hope. I'd never considered myself to be all that powerful, or special in any way. But I'd always known my grandfather had seen something in me others hadn't. Yet at that moment in time I wasn't questioning his assessment of my magical abilities. What I was questioning was his decision to leave me behind.
Before I knew it I was on my feet, my head clear and my resolve firm. "I want to come with you!"
"No, you must stay with your parents. At your current stage of magical development he will be too much for you."
"But if we combine our magic together then we can overwhelm him! And I can't leave Marigold in danger!"
"If Foxglove proves too powerful I will at least endeavour to create an opportunity for Marigold and her family to be rescued."
"And what about you?"
Lupin paused as the same sorrowful expression I'd seen on my balcony reappeared. Looking at the floor he answered, "It is my duty as Grand Mage, and as his father, to save Daffoville from his twisted lust for power. This is my chance to atone for my mistakes."
"Not if you end up getting killed it won't be!" I bellowed, feeling the blood rush to my face.
But then this sensation continued, like a bubbling liquid was rising through my head and then erupting through my crown. Suddenly electrical sparks started crackling from my blue hair, making it stand on end. This only ever occurred at times of great stress and emotion. It had been seven years since it had last happened during a tricky Nymph Literature exam. It demonstrated that I wasn't yet in complete control of my abilities and Foxglove would sense this immediately.
Calm and collected as ever Lupin took my hand in his and reassuringly rubbed my shoulder. "I have prepared for this Bluebell. Foxglove has not caught me completely by surprise. But I have also made plans if the worst should happen. Ribwort will keep an eye on you, bringing supplies and overseeing your development. But it is imperative that Foxglove does not discover how powerful you will become."
"I just wish it didn't have to come to this," I told him sadly.
"Hopefully it won't have to," Lupin winked at me.
My mum, who until that moment had been very quiet, suddenly asked, "Where could we possibly go where Foxglove can't find us?"
Surprisingly, the answer to this question came from Moss. "Our grandma owns a holiday cottage on the Sunrise Moors, a day's Nymph flight if we take routes where we avoid humans."
"Can you take Bluebell and her family there?" Lupin asked him and Primrose.
"After Bluebell risked her neck to help me with those mobsters it would be my pleasure," Moss replied.
"We'll help anyway we can!" Primrose announced. I smiled gratefully at my classmate; she always did go out of her way to help a friend in need.
"My humblest thanks to you both!" Lupin told them. The without warning her pulled me into his body and embraced me. I buried my head into his shoulders, not wanting my granddad to leave for his duel with tears falling from my eyes. Though I found it incredibly hard to contain them as he whispered into my ear, "Remember everything I taught you, and to always follow your heart. And whatever happens tonight, I will always be proud of you!"
Then all too soon he pulled away, retrieving his staff from the floor as he slowly walked to the doorway. He kissed my mum on her cheek and embraced her fondly. But when it came to my dad both men hesitated. Both had so much to say, and a limited time in which to say it. Ultimately my granddad outstretched his hand for my dad to shake, and said very simply, "You've raised a wonderful family son. You mother would be proud of you."
"Yeah, and she'd be proud of you!" my dad replied solemnly.
Then Lupin turned to me, provided a reassuring wink and exclaimed, "Be seeing you shortly gang." Then with a swish of his cloak he walked through the front door and out into the night, making my living room suddenly feel a whole lot emptier.
Marigold stared forward as Mage Foxglove hunched over on his knees, using a slab of black charcoal to etch strange engravings and symbols onto the marble floor. He'd been hard at work for minutes, taking great care to get each marking just perfect. She had got a good look at his face; the long blue hair tied back in a ponytail with his beard neat and short, and a large scar slicing down his left cheek. He hummed happily as he worked, seeming to not mind being watched by his captive audience.
Marigold was seated in the same high backed chair she'd watched the concert in. But now copious ropes surrounding her body ensured that she was sitting bolt upright. Her hands were pulled around the chair back and fixed tightly together with the cords fixing her chest, waist and lap into the seat, which also ensured her wings remained sandwiched between the chair and her body and were thus rendered useless. Her ankles had also been bound together, and her high heels clopped loudly throughout the spacious room as she gave a frustrated stamp against the marble.
Her sigh through the black rag still wrapped about her lips and head intermingled with the frustrated grunts from the other hostages. Her and her family were arranged in a line on the front row, and behind them were four more rows containing a grand total of forty eight hostages, all bound and gagged identically to her. Some were staff, some were musicians, some were guests, and a couple were Elite Guards. Among them Captain Ivy grunted through her gag as she bucked and rocked against her chairtie, shaking her head as she tried to dislodge the black cloth wrapped around her head and short orange hair, desperate to rescue the family to whom it was her sworn duty to protect.
Marigold heard a scraping noise to her side, and looked to see Ash and Honeysuckle twisting about in their chairs trying to get closer, swivelling so they could clasp each other's bound wrists from where they were fixed over the chair back. Marigold watched on in anticipation as Honeysuckle's gloved fingertips found a knot in her brothers bonds, and began trying to pry it loose.
"Not so fast munchkins!" Foxglove laughed when he saw what they were up to. With the flick of his wrist Honeysuckle and Ash's chairs were yanked back into their original positions.
"Yyyynnn cccnnnttt kkkkppp sssss lllkkkk tthhhsss!" Honeysuckle snarled as Foxglove came over to inspect his prize captives.
With a look of mocking scorn Foxglove told her, "If you keep being naughty I'll just cover you with more rope. Believe me, I can make things very uncomfortable for you pretty princess!" Honeysuckle said no more, just fumed at him over her thick gag.
Then Foxglove walked down the line to Marigold. "You know, I've a niece who'll be about your age," he mused idly to her. "You'll probably have never met her. Knowing my little brother he'll have her doing something boring and mundane like secretarial or admin work."
'By the dandelions, he doesn't know about Bluebell!' Marigold thought with an excited jolt in her stomach.
But this excitement didn't last long, as Foxglove told her, "Well I'll be sure to introduce you when she and her folks arrive in a short while." He motioned with his head to three empty chairs at the end of the front row, and with a nervous squeak Marigold realised just who he intended to occupy them.
"Yyyynnnn wwwnnnnttt sssccccccdddd yyyynnnn cccckkkrrrcccc!" snarled a still brave and furious Queen Snowdrop, from where she too was bound and gagged to her chair.
"Oh give it a rest grandma, you know full well only one man is capable of taking me on," Foxglove guffawed as he advanced on her bucking body. "But with you as hostages there's no way the great Mage Lupin can resist springing my trap."
"Wwwwtt tttrrrppp?" enquired a livid Queen Snowdrop.
Unable to contain his smirk Foxglove replied, "This one!" Then he grabbed the dark jewel that had been hanging around our monarch's neck. She made loud and energetic protests, but he still ripped it away, causing the beads of her necklace to bounce and scatter along the ground. But Foxglove cared only for the dark jewel in his hand, which he held up to the light in ecstasy.
"And with the Black River Gem in my possession, father dearest really doesn't stand a chance!"
'The Beginners Book of Ice Charms, yeah, that'll help me defeat an all-powerful sorcerer' I thought glumly. I slung my old textbook into my luggage regardless, for nostalgia as much as anything. If my next few years were to be spent in hiding, I wanted to bring along as much from my old life as possible.
The large bag lying open on my bed contained all the possessions I could gather from my parent's house. A couple of beginner spell books, my favourite childhood toy Fluffity Field Mouse, clothes that were either too small for me or horrifically out of fashion. But they'd have to do. I had no time for returning to my Daffoville flat.
Suddenly my frustration over this whole affair got the better of me, and with an angry cry I hurled 'The Adventures of Norman Gnome' as far away from me as possible. Feeling my magical quintessence bubbling up again, I dropped to me knees and rubbed my temples. I was trying to meditate as my grandfather had taught me. But how could I find inner peace knowing what was about to happen? And knowing what had happened in the past?
Suddenly something on my dressing table glinted at me as moonlight streamed through my balcony doors. I walked over to it, and was astonished to find the necklace I'd worn the night of the Midsummer ball where Briar had once again made a nuisance of herself. I must have left it here for safe keeping and forgotten about it. The deep blue sapphires seemed to emit a warming glow, and suddenly feeling much calmer I picked up my grandmothers necklace and carefully examined it.
I have no memories of grandma Rosie. But I'm told that with aquamarine coloured hair instead of my deep blue locks, I'd be a dead ringer for her. My grandparents had been childhood sweethearts, and had married young. They eventually bore two sons, Foxglove first and my dad, Yarrow, three years later.
Early on it was clear Foxglove had especially proficient magical powers. As a result my granddad doted on him, spending every free hour they had practising spells and passing on all his knowledge. He also spoilt Foxglove rotten, and wouldn't hear a word against him. Which was his first mistake, as he completely ignored teachers and neighbours growing concerns about Foxgloves arrogance and greed. His other mistake was to treat my dad very much as second best, due to his lack of magical ability. The result of which was my dad formed a much closer relationship with his mother than with his father.
But Foxglove only grew stronger, and at the same time obsessive and power hungry. He became convinced he was the most powerful Nymph alive, and so it was his duty to lead and rule us all. Even then my grandfather could not see what his son was becoming. It all came to a head where, appalled by Foxglove's behaviour, the Grand Mage at the time suspended him from the Spellcasters Council. Enraged Foxglove attacked, and within seconds the Grand Mage was dead.
Following this Foxglove fled, but returned shortly with a small force of Pixies and other magical creatures with a score to settle against us Nymphs, and tried to seize power. Only then did my grandfather intervene. With the future of Daffoville at stake, they engaged in a terrible duel in the grounds of the Royal Palace. It had caused the lightning storms that my mum and I could see through my balcony windows. Close by my grandmother watched on in anguish, until the sight of her family duelling one another became too much, and she flew right into the battle to talk some sense into them.
To this day, we don't know whether it was a spell from my grandfather or my uncle that killed her.
She'd been caught in the crossfire, neither had meant for something so awful to happen to her. At the sound of her desperate scream the battle ceased, and both men broke down at the sight of her lying motionless on the ground. My uncle was arrested and sentenced to exile. But my grandfather could barely live with the shame, disappearing for years until he suddenly reappeared on the day of my ninth birthday.
It's perhaps cruel to suggest that my grandmother's death made him a better man, but it certainly changed him. He took great interest as my magical abilities developed, but played a more supportive role. He'd learned from his mistakes, instead taking me on fun days out to the Crystal Lakes or to the Alder Towers Theme Park, and he never doted on me but made sure he was there if I needed help. I think my dad, who struggled to forgive him for his mother's death, had a real restraining influence on him.
When I hear or relate this story now, it's difficult for me to imagine the smiling, loving grandfather I'd always known as being in part responsible for the creation of one of the most feared sorcerers in Nymph history. And now it was happening all over again, only this time I was caught right in the middle of it.
I was suddenly roused from my lingering daydream by an unpleasant grunting noise, originating from underneath my dressing table.
My breath stalling in my body I cautiously dropped to my knees and stared into the dark shadows underneath the furniture. I heard another grunt, but I couldn't see a thing. That is, until a pair of yellow, glowing eyes suddenly opened and stared straight at me. I gave a surprised cry and stumbled onto my back, while at the same time a dark shape leapt at me.
"Frozarg!" I yelled, holding out my hand and summoning a flash of white light. My stunning enchantment made the dark shape squeal as it was forced onto its back. I got to my feet and stared at the creature. It was humanoid in shape, but was squat and tiny, reaching up to my knee in size. Its skin was rough and coloured a deep pungent grey, and it was clad only in a black tunic. Tusk like teeth protruded from its flabby lips and it had a pig like snout in place of a nose.
It was a gremlin. Horrible, odious little creatures that lived in caves and dark places, living as scavengers and hermits. As a result they were experts at camouflage, and could conceal themselves perfectly in any dark corner. They were intensely jealous of Nymphs and sometimes abducted wandering travellers out of pure spite. But even as I stared at the gurgling creature I felt only raw dread, because I knew full well that they travelled in packs.
A fact chillingly confirmed when more pairs of yellow eyes suddenly opened and shone through the darkness at me, hiding on top of my wardrobe, underneath my bed and behind my bookshelf. All of them glinting intently at me.
Then with a high pitched, unified squeal they leapt from the darkness towards me. Again I summoned a stunning spell and repelled the first three gremlins. But I was oblivious to those behind me whirling rope lassos. With bird like squawks they threw them over my head and around my shoulders and wings, the loops swiftly pulled taught and trapping my arms against my sides.
I gave a frustrated series of grunts as I felt a gremlin leap onto my shoulders and grab hold with its rough, grubby hands. "Let me go, or I swear I'll summon a spell so powerful I'll blast you a million miles awwwwgggggnnnnn!" My angry outburst was stifled as the gremlin on my shoulder forced a knotted rag into my protesting mouth. I tried jiggling my shoulders and shaking my head to force it away but it still managed to knot the rag behind my head with relative ease. "FFFFRRRZZZGGGG, RRRLLLLSSSS!" I bellowed as I tried to summon a spell, but the rag had also been washed with silencing powder, and it rendered my incantations intelligible.
While my attention was focused on the rag in my mouth, the tiny creatures started running about my legs with more infernal rope in their hands. Round and round they went, enveloping first my ankles, then my calves, all the way up to my thighs. I tried kicking my legs free but found them firmly welded together. More gremlins used the ropes constricting me as a climbing frame, and with a surprising amount of strength for such tiny creatures they yanked my hands behind my back and held them together forearm against forearm. In this manner they were bound together, while another rope attached my now secured hands to the lassos which had become an effective and constricting harness.
In just over a minute I was rendered helpless. Despite all my wriggles and twists I wasn't going anywhere. With a triumphant snort one of the gremlins pushed me, and I tumbled onto my side. Moaning and bucking I stared up as the gremlins surrounded me in a huddle, admiring their handiwork.
"Good job lads!" snorted one in a nasal, high pitched voice. "Let's get 'er down with the others!"
I didn't like the sound of that, but I could only watch as the gremlins, working as a team, picked me up like I was a heavy parcel and turned me onto my back. I stared at the ceiling as they whisked me out the bedroom. I groaned as my body was tilted at an angle when they carried me downstairs, with my feet pointing up in the air. As they transported me into the living room I heard muted moans mixed in with disgusting snorts, and as they bundled me through the door I realised with a rising sense of dread why this was the case.
On the sofa sat my mum and dad, both bound hand and foot with copious amounts of rope and knotted rags in each of their mouths. My dad growled angrily through his gag when he saw my plight, while my mum wriggled her pump clad feet as a gremlin tightened the knot binding them together. More gremlins were perched on the sofa like family pets, chattering animatedly among themselves. Then on the floor at my parents feet sat Primrose and Moss, bound back to back with their wings pressed against each other by the crisscrossing layers of rope enveloping them, their legs bound together at the ankles and knees.
"BBBLLLLLLBBBBLLLL NNNMMMM!" squealed Primrose through the rag in her mouth with her glasses dangling over her face. Moss was twisting like there was no tomorrow in his attempt to break apart from his cousin, but the gremlins had done their work perfectly. I found it scary how they could have restrained my family and friends so effectively without me even realising.
"He he he, excellent work. I can't wait to get my hands on those jewels Mage Foxglove promised us!" one gremlin spoke eagerly. "I wonder what he wants with them?"
"You lichen breathed dum dum. They're part of his family. You can tell by the blue hair on this one!" said one of the gremlins currently holding my left leg.
"All Nymphs look like ugly, skinny weeds to me," another gremlin voiced, to which his fellow creatures gave cruel, raucous laughs.
"Pppplllsss lllltttt ssss gggnnnn!" I desperately pleaded, which only made the gremlins laugh even more.
"We'd best get back to the Royal Palace. Foxglove won't appreciate any delays!" one particularly stout gremlin explained.
"What about these two?" said another, referring to Primrose and Moss as he playfully hopscotched over Primroses thrashing legs.
"If Foxglove doesn't want them then we should dispose of them. Take them to the balcony and throw them over the edge!"
"NNNMMMMM!" screamed Primrose in horror as Moss struggled with even more intensity, but despite landing a kick against an unwary gremlin he and Primrose were still picked up and carried to the balcony door. I was hauled in the opposite direction, while my parents were also whisked off the sofa. I twisted and turned, called out through my gag and desperately trying to summon any form of spell that might save my friends from a long and painful drop. But I was helpless, only able to pathetically mewl as the gremlins stood on each others shoulders in order to reach the front doorknob.
But suddenly the front door was kicked open, almost off its hinges. I blinked as at first I saw a pair of gremlins being held in a tight headlock, making breathless rasps as they struggled against the arms holding them. Then their heads were bashed together with an audible crack, and they fell out of the intruders grip and to the floor completely stunned.
"Fffffrrrrnnnn!" I cried out in delight as the green haired Nymph glared angrily at the stunned looking gremlins.
"Who's next?" Fern barked, her wings a blur as she hovered in mid-air, waiting for her opponents to make their move.
The gremlins hesitated, not sure what to make of this intrusion. Then at once they scurried forward. But they'd lost the element of surprise, not to mention they didn't know that Fern was an expert in the Nymph martial arts. The first pair of gremlins were recipients of a strong round house kick to the jaw. Another leapt forward but she caught him by the neck and using his momentum redirected its flight plan into a nearby hatstand. One gremlin managed to leap onto her shoulder but she twisted her body and slung him back into three of his buddies.
I was dropped to the ground as the creatures carrying me fended off Ferns assault. I rolled onto my side and watched with wide eyes as Primrose and Moss were carried through the open balcony doors. "FFFFRRRRNNNN, HHHHLLLLPPP TTTMMMM!" I cried, but Fern was too preoccupied winding a pair of gremlins with well-timed punches to their stomachs.
But before my bound friends could be carried any further there was a whoosing sound of a Nymph flying through the air at top speed. Then from underneath the balcony flew the help Fern had enlisted, another of my classmates with his green hair held in a ponytail. "Here I come to save the day!" Reed trumpeted, before aiming his hands at the gremlins and yelling, "Voltigas!"
The gremlins yelped and scampered away from his lightning attack, dropping a hugely relieved Primrose and Moss on their side. Reed maintained his magical assault, driving the now bewildered intruders into the radius of Fern, who remained more than a match for would be kidnappers.
As the green haired officer sent another trio somersaulting through the air the lead gremlin let out a long, urgent whistle. "Retreat, retreat, make for the caves!" His troops didn't linger for a moment. Instantly they scurried through any exit they could find, diving out the window, over the balcony and through the open front door, squealing in terror as they went.
Fern and Reed maintained their defensive stances until certain the intruders had all run off, after which Fern ran over to me. Smiling in relief when she saw I was unhurt she said, "Where would you be without me Blue?"
"Yeah that's two drinks you now owe me!" Reed announced, not that he was keeping count or anything. He raised his arms and bellowed, "Relosas!" I immediately breathed in the air and my limbs sprang apart, as his spell transformed my ropes and gag into deep green leaves that flew away as if caught in a breeze. It had the same effect on the other captives. My mum and dad embraced each other in relief, while Primrose had flown into Reeds arms before Moss had even got to his feet.
"Thanks for that mate!" Moss said to Reed.
"For you, it was absolutely no problem," Reed smiled at him with a cheeky wink.
But Moss seemed a lot more interested in thanking Fern, running to where she was helping me to my feet. "That was absolutely incredible Fern, you have to teach me some of those moves some time."
Fern shot him an awkward and confused look as she replied, "Er
yeah, maybe later."
Her unsure response made Moss start to blush and look to the floor. Reed noticed this and with a resigned but joking sigh he muttered to Primrose, "Oh well, plenty more acorns in the oak tree."
"What do we do now?" my mum asked urgently. "Someone must tell Lupin that Foxglove has allied himself with the gremlins!"
"I'll tell my dad once I've taken you all to the safehouse!" Fern replied urgently, as she took me by the hand and started dragging me to the doorway.
But I had other ideas, my mind suddenly and miraculously clear. My mum was right, my granddad needed to know what he was up against. Plus I was furious at Foxgloves minions attempt to kill two of my best friends. First Marigold, then Primrose and Moss. I'd had enough!
"You take my parents to the safehouse Fern!" I insisted as I wrenched my hand free from her grasp. "I'm going to the Royal Palace!"
Everyone gawped at me in silence following my unexpected announcement. Never had anyone in this room experienced me doing something so impulsive and rash. Reed summed up what everyone initially felt by saying, "This isn't a time jokes Blue."
"I'm not joking!" I insisted. "Foxglove won't be expecting me and I may give my granddad the opportunity he needs. And I won't leave Marigold at his mercy!"
"I'm worried about Marigold too, but this isn't time for hasty decisions," Fern told me. "Not only do we have Foxglove to contend with but a huge number of gremlins at his command."
"All of which I'm sure Bluebell is perfectly capable of handling."
I reeled in astonishment. That statement had come from the last person I'd ever have expected. "You mean you agree with me?" I asked my dad incredulously.
My dad nodded, and there wasn't a hint of joke or lie in his expression. "I've spent your life trying to stop you being like your grandfather, and he's spent your life trying to stop you being like me. And I'm not sure how we managed it, but you've ended up getting the best of both of us. You've done some incredible things Bluebell, your battles with Briar, bringing those gnomes to justice, defeating that Drider. And I'm positive you'll do something equally remarkable now!"
Almost by instinct I ran forward and embraced him, and we were both swiftly joined by my teary mother. I'd waited years for him to say those words. My one regret was that it had been said now. "I swear to you both, I will be coming home!" I told them firmly.
"I'll make sure she does!" Fern seconded. I pulled out of our embrace to boggle at my flatmate, and before I could voice any objection she smirked, "As if you'll manage to infiltrate a building full of hostiles without my help. Only if my dad asks, tell him you hoodwinked me into it."
As soon as Fern announced her intentions Moss was at our side like a rocket. "I'm coming too. I may not be a sorcerer or a martial arts expert but I've handled myself in a few bar room
"And don't think I'd miss this party!" Reed interjected with great enthusiasm.
Primrose shook her head in disbelief at us. "You're all madder than a bunch of tadpoles in Satsuma wine, but I guess the more the merrier. I'll join you!"
I looked around at them all. Out of nowhere I'd ended up as the ringleader of a band of would be heroes. How did that happen?
I took my time to embrace my parents again, and then with nothing more than a nod to my friends I ran through the balcony, and with my wings fluttering like fury I took off into the cold Daffoville night. I was quickly joined by Fern and Moss on my left, Primrose and Reed on my right, as we made an arrowhead formation. I steered us all to the right in the direction of the river, knowing it would take us to the Royal Palace; to Marigold, my grandfather, and to Foxglove.