Hey, guys! Here’s the new chapter of the AJ Story. I hope you enjoy it!!
If you haven’t read the previous chapters, they’re at
I have still failed to come up with a real name for this story, so if you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them in the comments.
Even though Flora and Juniper hadn’t forgotten they still looked like phantoms, it came as a bit of a surprise when the prisoners treated them like real enemies. There weren’t that many of them – fifteen at the most – but the number of cells was immense. This was the only place they’d come across so far that had intentional light. It came from a few weak torches placed around every corner, and with the noise, it wasn’t too hard to find their sister. She was the loudest of the lot.
“Go away, you ugly ball of slime,” she hissed.
“Lucky, it’s us,” said Juniper urgently. “We used the phantom disguise I developed with Greely.”
Lucky’s eyes widened. “Juniper? Flora? Get me out of here!”
“Just let us – ”
“Shh,” said Lucky. “You’ll wake them up.”
It was only then that the two elder sisters noticed the three younger animals asleep in the corner. They were all bone-thin and snuggled up in a heap. They saw a white-and-blue rabbit, a red tiger, and a gray penguin.
“Well, this might get loud,” said Flora, and, with one tentacle, smashed through the stone bars that made up the front of the cell. The three kids sleeping in the back awoke suddenly as the debris crashed to the hard stone floor.
“What – ” gasped the rabbit.
“You’re out,” said Juniper. “Come on.”
Lucky bit her lip. She looked back at the other animals in the back of the cell. Even though she hadn’t known them for more than two hours, they had gotten to know each other pretty well. The tiger, Little Spirittiger, was eleven, the rabbit, Scooter Bravescout, was fourteen, and the little penguin, Fauna Snowymoon, was only eight.
“Can they come, too?” the golden wolf asked, jerking her head back at her cellmates. Juniper and Flora glanced at each other. They couldn’t just leave her, but they hadn’t planned on sneaking another three animals out.
“Of course they can,” said Juniper before she could change her mind. “We wouldn’t leave anyone here, especially your friends.”
“Come on,” said Lucky with a flick of her tail. “Scooter, Little, Fauna, you get to get out.”
The tiger sat up, stiff as a board. “Really?” she said, her blue eyes lighting up.
“We have to hurry,” warned Flora. “Our disguises are going to wear off too soon if we stay.”
“She’s right,” said Juniper. “We need to get a move on.”
The phantoms, doubtless sure they could never get to them, had left their weapons propped up against the wall outside the cell. Lucky’s sword, still shining and pristine, a clawed glove like Flora’s, a beautifully curved silver bow, and a very expensive-looking pocket knife were all returned to their owners. Juniper looked rather surprised when Fauna handled the bow like she’d been born with it.
“That’s yours?” she asked. In answer, Fauna shot a red-tipped arrow cleanly into the keyhole on the cell door adjacent them and gave her a cocky wink. Juniper didn’t need any more proof.
Even with six animals, their escape went mercifully unnoticed as they made their way back to the mouth of the cave. They had all lost track of time. It had taken an hour and a half to reach the Hive, another hour to find Lucky, and, having to make sure no one had gotten lost and keeping everyone quiet, another hour and a half to get back to the entrance.
“We’re here,” said Flora in relief. She could see light ahead. From the tone of the light and the time of their adventure, she guessed it was about noon.
The three kids were staring as if they’d never seen the light.
“How long has it been since you were out of here?” asked Juniper.
“Little and I have been in here for about six months now,” said Scooter. “We’ve been best friends since we were little. And Fauna was already here when we got there.”
“It’s been years,” said Fauna. Her voice was pretty, but very small. “They always treated me like I’d done something bad to them, but I’ve never done anything.”
“We’ve got to get them to their Alphas,” said Lucky, putting a hand protectively on Fauna’s shoulder. “Scooter, we’ll take you to Peck. Little, Sir Gilbert. Fauna, your Alpha is… Edmund?”
“That’s the giraffe,” said Juniper immediately. “Marco’s the penguin.”
“I don’t remember my family,” said Fauna. She was starting to tear up a little.
“Not again,” sighed Scooter under her breath.
“Juniper?” gasped Flora. Juniper looked down, and her huge eye got even huger as she looked at the blue-and-swirly patch on her belly.
“We’re turning back to normal,” she gasped. Already the patch of sky blue was spreading, and Flora was beginning to turn silver.
“It’s okay,” said Flora. “The opening’s right – ”
The solution wore off then and there. When Flora blinked, she was a wolf again, and Juniper was already staggering to her feet.
“Hey, June, I know you’re a genius and all,” said Lucky, “but there’s some of your stuff I could do without seeing.”
Juniper elbowed her playfully. “If you hadn’t seen it, you’d still be stuck in a cave.”
“Looks like you may be stuck in a cave for a little while longer,” rasped a voice so loud dust fell from the ceiling. The six animals spun around. Floating right in front of them was a massive phantom, easily as large as their house, and at least a hundred normal-sized ones flanking them.
The Phantom King.
“Just long enough to show you who’s boss,” shouted Lucky in reply.
“Lucky – ” whispered Juniper hesitantly.
The Phantom King flexed his muscles, and a bolt of purple lightning crackled around him with a sound like a giant stick breaking.
“If a fight is what you want, you’ll be happy to know that’s exactly what you’ll get.” He uttered a short, barking laugh. “I’ve been itching to tell someone since I came up with my plan. And since I’m going to kill you anyway, I’ll just tell you now.” His eye glinted with triumphant pride. “When Greely’s little pets disappear, he’ll be sure to come right into my clutches looking for you. The other Alphas will be so preoccupied looking for him, they won’t notice my phantoms coming right into Jamaa. Then, when the time is right, a full-out war will ensue, and the phantoms will win. And you won’t even be here to stop me.”
An angry silence followed the Phantom King’s words. He had just opened his mouth to continue making fun of Jamaa’s best warriors when a rock went flying and hit him right in the face.
The wolves looked around in bewilderment, but they didn’t have to look far. Fauna’s nostrils were flared, and she had wrapped her wing around another rock.
“Say that again, squeaky toy,” she said contemptuously. (Lucky was very proud of her.)
“What did you just call me?” thundered the Phantom King.
“Something for the dogs to chew on,” she replied coolly.
The Phantom King couldn’t stomach any more from a flightless bird.
“Phantoms!” he roared. “Attack!”
Flora and Juniper retrieved their weapons from behind them just as the phantoms swarmed over the rest of the group. Flora and Lucky were taking down a phantom a second, Juniper was aiding them as best as they could, and Scooter and Little made a great fighting team. Not to mention Fauna, shooting fiercely like a seasoned warrior, even though she wasn’t even ten years old yet.
But none of them were fooled into thinking it would be an easy victory. Every phantom in the Hive seemed to be bent on tearing them limb from limb, and they knew it.
“There’s just too many of them,” gasped Juniper, splashing some of her ointment on a gash on her foreleg. “We have to retreat!”
“Just a few more!” said Lucky through gritted teeth. Juniper grabbed her by the scruff of her neck and pulled her back.
“Where’s Scooter and Little?” gasped Flora. When they pulled back, the phantoms had begun to focus on the three remaining warriors. Fauna was still frantically loading and releasing arrows, but the rabbit and tiger had disappeared under waves of encroaching phantoms.
“Lucky!” screamed Scooter’s voice. The golden wolf howled and galloped off to the fight, and this time neither of her sisters objected.
Lucky was like a demon, tearing the phantoms away from the little rabbit with a glint in her eye that let her warrior’s heart show. Somehow, Scooter and Little had gotten separated, and when Scooter realized it, she cried out as if she’d been struck.
“Little!” she wailed. Lucky jerked her head up just as she heard the red tiger’s scream.
“Little!” cried Scooter, and reached out to where the scream had come from.
“Go!” yelled Little. “Scooter, run!”
“No! I’m not leaving without you!”
One of the tiger’s paws rose above the line of phantoms. It was stained even darker red with blood. There was a last crackling sound as one more phantom went down at her claws, and the remaining five animals had already gone when the last bloodcurdling scream marked the end of Little Spirittiger.
I hope you enjoyed it! A very important character was introduced in this chapter, but no spoilers. 😉