If Gwen said one more thing about food, Jade was going to burn the pigtails off of her head.
Jade would be the first one that Alya took downstairs, but before then she had a serious question.
“Hey,” Jade poked Athadius’ side.
The silent wind-warrior gazed down at the girl who was nearly half her size with a stony expression.
“Can you fly?”
No words. Almost intimidating. Almost.
“I’ll take that as a maybe.”
“Jade, we should go.” Alya shifted uncomfortably.
“Are you sure about this?” Gwen looked up and down the hallway warily . “I mean, Jade is small—like really small—”
“I get it—” Jade said.
“Buuut she’s not a pillow.” Gwen helpfully pointed out. “Unless you secretly have the ability to turn us all into little fluffy pillows…”
“Enough.” Athadius’ voice brought down an invisible hammer. They went silent, but the atmosphere was tense and Jade could feel the tension creeping into the crevices of her bones. This was real. This was happening. If they didn’t escape…Jade didn’t dare to think about what would happen.
Lynn knelt down so that she was face to face with Alya and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Be brave, Alya. You can do this.
“I can do this.” Alya repeated, a focused determination taking over her face.
Jade scooped Alya’s hand into hers. “I’m a pillow.” She said.
Alya closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Jade braced herself, not exactly sure why. She didn’t know what being invisible was supposed to feel like. The next time Jade looked down at her hand…she didn’t? A glint of mischief sparked in her eyes, and her mind began to reel at the possibilities of all the pranks they could pull together in the future.
The two girls descended the stairs, not sure what to expect but trusting the plan. While they were on the stairway, Jade was barely able to push away the feeling of suffocation. Gwen’s voice rung in her head. She was kind of right. Jade was small and inarguably cuddly, but was quite bigger than a pillow—a small pillow. Grant it, Alya was gifted but the amount of focus it took to keep a whole person invisible…Jade would keep her hand on the hilt of her dagger. Just in case.
Jade blinked when they reached the bottom of the staircase. At that moment Jade wondered how early it was. There wasn’t a lot of hustle and bustle about.
Gwen had given them a brief layout of where the kitchen would be. The directions were straightforward enough, but everything seemed so big. In comparison to Jade, everything was.
The faint echo of feet marching against the stone floor reached Jade’s ears. She whispered, “You hear that too, right? Probably their stupid guards…” Jade trailed off when she noticed that she suddenly became visible.
“Alya…What’s going on?”
“Sorry!” Alya’s voice was quietly panicking beside her. “I—I just have to focus.”
Alarm seized Jade as the footsteps sounded closer and closer until the definition of close became around the corner. She gulped down a wave of nausea as her fight or flight instincts started kicking in.
They were going to see her.
“I can’t do this, Jade!” Alya hissed. “Maybe you should run…”
Running sounded good. That way she probably wouldn’t get caught. Probably wouldn’t die. Then Jade remembered the way Lynn spoke to Alya earlier.
Jade didn’t have to kneel but looked in what must’ve been Alya’s general direction. “I trust you.” Jade took her companion’s hand and strode straight in the direction of the marching guards. They turned the corner, the man in the front caught Jade’s eye. He had cruel, lifeless eyes and scraggly gray hair that was in patches around his chin. He wore a sly sneer accompanied by a look of disgust that was permanently etched onto his face. His unpleasant features were interrupted by a scar that ran from the tip of his brow to his cheekbone.
He stared dead at Jade. Her breath caught in her chest, and she found herself reaching for her dagger only to realize she couldn’t see her hand. She couldn’t help but smile in relief.
They were able to make it past the guards without so much as a hiccup. She could breathe again. The kitchen was obvious to spot—and smell—once they were close. The entrance was an arch nearly reaching to the ceiling. The kitchen was magical! The aroma from the steam of the sizzling pots rose into the air.
“Keep moving,” Alya said softly so that only she could hear.
Jade shuffled her feet and absentmindedly ran her finger across the marble counter. She was glad they were invisible, so Alya couldn’t see the tears welling up in her eyes. This reminded her so much of home!
Home! Jade could barely contain her excitement. She looked around. The way the cooks maneuvered around each other was a dance. It was eloquence. To Jade, it was art. Jade’s spirit was soaring when they reached the kitchen supply closet. Alya gingerly shut the door.
“How’s that for carefully and quietly?” Jade said.
“Okay, I’ll be right back.” Alya slipped out of the door and left Jade alone in the dark. But that was okay.
She would be seeing her family soon! Finally she would have the chance to set her father free! The antidote for the mazel poisoning was nearby—she could feel it. And all they had to do was escape. Her dad could probably help with saving the powered ones too!
Jade lit her pointer finger aflame and scanned the supplies. All the lentil soup in the world didn’t need all of these spoons.
“Let’s go.” Athadius was the last one in and she didn’t bother keeping her voice down. When Jade stepped outside she saw why. Three unconscious cooks were sprawled out on the ground.
“I couldn’t stop her.” Alya said.
All eyes were on Athadius. “They were looking at me.” She said plainly.
An expression of utter exasperation overtook Gwen’s face. “What do you mean they looked at you? You were invisible! You just couldn’t help yourself—could you?”
Jade smirked. “You’re hard to take seriously right now, pigtails.”
The five of them quickly dragged the limp bodies to the kitchen supply closet and shut the door.
“Because the party hasn’t started until we tossed around some unconscious bodies.” Gwen said. Shaking her head, she lead the four others outside using a door adjoining the kitchen supplies. As it opened, its hinges sang, making Jade grimace.
When Jade saw the forest in the distance, she almost ran for it. It was too far away, but oh she could try. A wave of crisp air engulfed her senses. There was a path leading to the midway building carved in a squiggly pattern. Not bothering to use the path, Athadius walked in a straight line.
“Athadius, you need to be careful before anyone sees you.” Lynn said.
Athadius’ shoulders stayed rolled back as if daring anyone to spot her.
“Fantastic! We got a one man army over here!” Gwen waved.
Lynn sucked in a sharp breath, and everyone instinctively tensed.
“What?” Alya disappeared in an instant.
“It’s a garden house!” She said pointing at a building about 30 meters off.
Jade’s breath hitched when Lynn said the word “garden.” Garden could mean antidote.
The midway building that they were trying to get to was only a little farther, but Jade wouldn’t be going with them.
“I have to make a stop at the garden,” Jade said.
Gwen nodded in agreement. “Finally you’re making some sense! I’m hungry!”
“We were just in the kitchen.” Lynn said pointedly.
Jade waved a hand. “Gwen, I’ll bring you something, but—”
“No.” Athadius’ said. “We stick with the plan.”
“I wasn’t asking. I’m going to the garden.”
Athadius studied Jade’s face and realized that the child-girl was not going to change her mind.
“Be careful,” Lynn said.
Jade nodded. Careful was like her middle name or something. Not wasting any time, she jogged over to the garden and could feel the air thicken as she got closer. Jade gingerly opened the door and slipped inside. The first thing she noticed were the plants hanging from the ceiling in a ring. Vines climbed up the walls across rows of plants that Jade had never seen in her life.
‘I’m on a mission,’ she reminded herself. Jade didn’t know what the antidote for mazel poisoning was called, but back home there were paintings of the plant everywhere. “The plant that saved the Kaciot people.” And now it was going to save the king and set her father free.
Ah! There it was. On some sort of shelf. It was unmistakable. It was a plant about 13 inches tall with a purple stem, star shaped leaves, and an ugly red flower topping it off.
She couldn’t reach it. Jade found herself getting worked up. It would have even been too tall for Ath to reach. The plant was coming down, or this whole garden house was coming down. Because burning down everything would totally save the plant.
Movement over by the door caused Jade to freeze. She kept her back toward whoever the sound. It was probably Athadius coming to get her. There was no way she was leaving without that plant.
“Hey,” a voice called out. Jade turned around to reveal a frail old man with a deep hunch in his back. Jade ran toward the intruder and tackled him with a hug that she was afraid almost broke him.
“Papa Juko!” Jade’s face lit up. Papa Juko used to be the most famous chef in Kaciot history. He could make anything taste good. He was the one who taught her dad how to cook. “Kaciot misses you! Why’d you leave?”
The old man’s face darkened. “Leave? I didn’t leave. I was banished.”
“But Kahn said—”
“Jade.” Papa Juko held up a shaking hand.
“How could he do that?”
“I found out the truth behind the Mazel Massacre.”
Jade was silent.
“It wasn’t poison that killed one third of the population. The former king was paid to have all the power ones killed.”
Jade’s head was spinning.
“Mazel doesn’t exist—”
Jade shook. “Then why did Arik send me away?”
The old man shrugged. “Have you heard about your father?”
“Yeah, I know. He’s locked up.” Jade didn’t break her eyes from Juko’s gaze.
Alya peeked through the door, “Gwen found her grandpa…” Alya trailed off when she saw the old man.
Jade embraced Papa Juko one last time headed towards the door.
“Jade, wait!” Juko called. He lifted his hand at the plant Jade left on the shelf and it slowly wiggled out of the dirt before levitating into Jade’s hands. “Find out for yourself. Good luck.”
Something was wrong, and there was something Papa Juko wasn’t telling her, and she would find out soon enough.
By F. Rendles
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This blog post is part of a collaborative writing project (The Five Fledglings); if you’d like to read the story from the beginning, click here!