Hey, guys! Here’s the chapter you’ve been waiting for! If you haven’t read the previous chapters:
Please, please, PLEASE post your title ideas in the comments!! I’m still stuck!!
Without further ado, the next installment of the AJ Story!
“Is this it?” asked Juniper. Flora gave her a withering look.
“Well, it’s a giant cave in the middle of the mountains with phantom tracks everywhere. I’d say this is it.” Juniper looked slightly irritated.
“I only meant – I don’t know, it’s a stress thing.”
“Stalling?” Flora smiled a little.
The mouth of the Hive was enormous. Greely’s volcano probably couldn’t have fit in it, but their house would have been swallowed up. The edge was rimmed in what looked like violet char marks, but only something with the power of a phantom could have burned inch-deep gouge marks in solid stone.
Flora started walking, one paw firmly in front of the other, steadfastly toward the Hive.
“Wait,” said Juniper. Flora heard the clink of glass as Juniper rummaged through her pockets.
“What?” she said. “Don’t you want to find Lucky?”
“I want to just as much as you, if not more,” answered Juniper curtly. “But we can’t just go barging in. They’ll see us for sure, and you know as well as I do that we’re outnumbered a thousand to one.” She held out her paw. She was holding a tiny, plain glass bottle with a dark, shiny, purplish liquid inside.
“Greely and I developed this,” said Juniper. “It – ”
“This isn’t going to be like the BOOMseeds, is it?” asked Flora. The BOOM stood for Bombarding Organic Oxidizing Macroorganism, but Lucky, who had helped test them, liked “Boom” better. The BOOMseeds were, without a doubt, superb weapons, but phantom-disintegrating, detonating-on-impact grain wasn’t Flora’s idea of a good project for her little sisters.
“Um… not really,” said Juniper evasively. “It’s diluted phantom goop – you know, that stuff they spew everywhere when they die. With a few other ingredients added, it should give us phantom forms for long enough to get through the Hive and back out with Lucky.”
Flora was speechless. This was by far the riskiest concoction Juniper had come up with, and the margin for failure was tiny.
“What if this goes wrong and we end up as phantoms forever?” said Flora wildly.
“We have no choice,” replied Juniper.
“I am NOT drinking that stuff,” said Flora.
Five minutes later, Flora was holding the vial of phantom juice so hard the glass nearly shattered in her paw.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” she said helplessly.
“Think of Lucky,” said Juniper. “No more finding couch stuffing in the toilet if you don’t do it.”
“Believe it or not, I miss that,” said Flora. She took a deep breath and poured the thick black liquid down her throat.
She dropped the vial as soon as it touched her lips. Juniper caught it just before it shattered on the rocks. The solution was the consistency of tar and tasted like a combination of burning hair and overcooked meat. It burned as it went down her throat, and it made her entire body tingle like it was asleep. She heard a tinkling sound as Juniper consumed her half and dropped the bottle.
Everything was a blur of burning pain for barely a second. Then it all cleared and Flora opened her eyes wide.
She looked down and gasped. She was no longer a wolf. She was glistening black and sparking with electricity.
She was a phantom.
Flora heard another, almost imperceptible humming noise behind her and turned around. Juniper was hovering over the ground about seven feet behind her.
“You look nice,” giggled the younger sister.
“You do, too,” said Flora with a smile. It looked strange on her phantom features.
“You look way too happy to be a phantom,” said Juniper. She screwed up her face and put on a scornful look.
“Not bad,” said Flora, and frowned darkly.
“Ready to go,” said Juniper, and they went into the Hive, leaving their things just inside the cave so they could get it quickly.
Once they were inside, all the natural light disappeared like fog on a warm morning. Luckily, their new phantom night vision helped them see normally, but they couldn’t imagine being stuck in there without their bolstered sight. Every once in a while, they’d spot a patch of some kind of luminescent fungus, but that was the only light in sight.
Although they could see in the pitch-blackness, the Hive was like an enormous rocky maze. There were tunnels spiraling out in every direction, and every one of them looked the same.
The phantoms themselves didn’t help, either. Even though Juniper and Flora knew they looked inconspicuous, it still gave them the chills whenever one of the dark, electric creatures drifted by. They stopped when they saw a carving over one of the tunnels.
“’Dungeons’,” whispered Flora, reading from the heading above one of the tunnels. It actually said something more like , but Juniper’s solution had given them the gift of being able to read, speak, and understand the phantoms’ tongue.
“Well, here we are,” said Juniper, and took a deep breath. Phantoms weren’t her thing at the best of times, but here, in the heart of the Hive, where so many things could go wrong, was not her idea of a morning trip.
They hadn’t gone three feet when a massive phantom loomed out at them from the shadows. Juniper gave an involuntary squeak as he seemingly appeared from nowhere.
“What is your business here?” he growled in a raspy voice.
Flora stood up tall. “We want to enter the dungeons,” she said. “Did the Phantom King appoint a guard that couldn’t even figure that out?”
A flash of electricity shot down the guard’s sleek black body, and he gave his tentacles a little shake. “You better know who you’re messing with, little girl. Do you have clearance to enter the dungeons?”
Juniper was furious. Their entire mission had been thrown out the window by an issue of clearance. She should have known there would be a guard. It was the Phantom Hive’s dungeon, for goodness sake. But not all was lost.
Juniper came forward, her face a picture of anger. “Listen, you bobbleheaded idiot, we want to enter the dungeons. The Phantom King won’t be very happy if you don’t let his own phantoms in the dungeons, don’t you think?”
Flora was amazed at her usually meek little sister’s attitude, but the guard was not fazed.
“I can let who I want in!” he roared, and began to ready one flickering tentacle to strike.
Before he could move even an inch, Flora launched herself at him and began striking him again and again right on top of the head. After several hits, the guard’s resistance wore out and he fell to the ground.
“Is he dead?” asked Juniper, tentatively nudging him with one tentacle.
“Nah,” said Flora. “They sort of explode when they die. This one’s just knocked out.”
“Let’s do this before he wakes up,” said Juniper.
Without another word, the two disguised wolves floated through the rocky doorway and into the dungeons.
Thanks for reading! I can’t wait until next Friday!! XD