Her gaze was glued to the moon as the wind gently teased her hair. Clouds lazily danced in front of the stars, making them twinkle. The young witch sat up slowly, rubbing her stiff back. The shingles on the roof dug into her spine, but that didn't stop her from her nightly visits with the moon. She was slowly scooting to the window, when a humming sound made her stop abruptly. It sounded like wings beating…
"Neonni!" the witch hissed under her breath as the source of the sound joined her on the roof. "What are you doing here?"
"Jalessa," the faerie wheezed. "I had to come talk to you. I couldn't sleep." She slumped onto the roof next to her friend, who gently rubbed her back.
"Are you alright? Did you fly the whole way here?" Jalessa asked, her lavender eyes full of concern.
"No," Neonni whispered. "I didn't know any other way to get on your roof… I can't wait for my wings to be full grown. Then it won't strain me as much." As if on cue, her magenta wings sparkled in the moonlight as they folded themselves down. The faerie's aqua blue eyes met Jalessa's as she sighed.
Jalessa tucked her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. "So what's keeping you up? Everything alright at home?"
"Oh yes," Neonni breathed. "But I keep having these… visions."
Jalessa's brow furrowed at the word. "You're having Visions again? Have you told your mother?"
"No!" Neonni's eyes grew wide. "If I tell her I'll end up with that weird Elder and I'll be forced to relive my Visions over and over again! They'll never let me leave! You know how rare Seers are." She shook her head, her long purple hair trailing over her pale blue skin. "I don't want to be confined. Even if it would help the King."
"I don't blame you, but just be careful who you tell. Who else knows?"
"Only you… I wanted to talk to you first."
Jalessa looked at her best friend and smiled. "You know I'm always here for you, Neonni." The faerie flashed her smile at the truthful words. "Do you want to talk about what you saw?"
Neonni dropped her gaze and fidgeted. "I'm not sure where to start, I don't even understand what I saw." She sucked in a deep breath and released it slowly. "Okay here goes… I saw a wizard, in the mountains. He was calling to me to help him, and then everything faded into a strange world, I… I can't even begin to describe it. Everyone looked weird, and there were these shiny beasts travelling in herds everywhere… And then my sight centered on this creepy looking guy… he was laughing… it made my stomach hurt." Her big eyes drifted to the moon as she collected herself. "And then he was gone, and there was a little troll lady. She knew my name. She said, 'Neonni, come to me. Xenoria needs you.' Then I snapped out of it."
"Hmm…" Jalessa's lavender eyes looked thoughtful as she pondered over what she just heard. "She said Xenoria needs you?"
Neonni nodded. "Isn't that strange?"
"Extremely…" Jalessa agreed. "How can our world need you, if you live in it? It doesn't make sense."
"I dunno, but I thought I should let you know. Should we tell the others?"
Jalessa thought of their friends, and couldn't picture them handling the lack of answers very well. "I think we should wait until we know more about what it could mean. They would ask too many questions we can't answer, and we all know how impatient Salazar is…"
Neonni couldn't contain her smirk. "Yeah, I think we could figure this out better without him complaining about it."
Jalessa laughed warmly. "So it's settled then. After school tomorrow we can go to our spot by the bridge and see what we can come up with. Then we can tell the others."
"Okay," Neonni agreed as she climbed to her feet, then pulled Jalessa up. "I should probably make my way home before anyone realizes I'm not there."
"Good idea," Jalessa whispered as she wrapped her arms around her friend's tiny shoulders. Neonni hugged the witch tightly in return. "I'll see you after class tomorrow."
With one last smile the faerie spread her wings and jumped off the roof, her magenta wings sparkling brightly in the moonlight. The witch watched her disappear off into the night before climbing into her room and closing the window. Her bed was warm and waiting, and Jalessa slid under the covers without hesitation. Neonni's words played over and over in her head as her eyes drooped closed.
"Xenoria needs you…"
Her eyes jolted open at the sound of her name. She looked around her room in a daze. Sunlight streamed in through the home made curtains. Various knickknacks on her desk absorbed the light and bounced it around her room. The delicious smell of breakfast flowed through her open door and flooded around her. Groggily, she pulled herself into a sitting position and ran a hand through her long auburn curls. "Time to get up…" she mumbled grumpily to herself as her feet connected with the floor.
"I'm coming mother!" She shouted as she felt a series of thumps vibrate through her feet. I need to remember to hide that broom.
She walked over to the door, and grabbed her robe off its hook. Wrapping it around herself, she made her way down the stairs and was greeted by a stronger scent coming from the kitchen. The growl from her stomach was very audible as she entered the bright yellow room.
"Morning sleepyhead," her mother's smile warmed her all the way to her toes. It was contagious.
"Morning, mom." Jalessa managed between yawns as she hopped into a chair.
"Had a late night last night, did we?" Selene's eyes held that knowing look as she set a plate of food before her daughter. Jalessa kept her eyes on her plate. "You don't have to hide it from me. Do you really think you can hide your late night visitors from a witch?"
"Mom!" Jalessa's head snapped up. "Were you listening to what we were saying!?"
Selene's jaw dropped. "Excuse you? Do you think I would eavesdrop on my daughter?" she shook her head sternly. "I said I heard you talking, I did not say I listened to what you had to say."
Jalessa relaxed her shoulders slightly.
"Why so worried? Is something wrong?" Selene chose the chair across from her one and only child. "You know you can talk to me." She looked hurt at the thought of being kept in the dark.
"Mom, it's not my issue to discuss. It's Neonni's." Jalessa softened at the look on her mother's face.
"Ah, that's who I thought it was. At least it wasn't one of those boys you hang out with."
"Mom!" Jalessa nearly dropped her fork. "What kind of girl do you think I am?"
Selene smiled as she shook her head. "If you want to have late night meetings with Neonni that's fine with me. But I don't think you should have that vampire over here after dark."
"You don't have to be racist." Jalessa pouted. "He's my friend."
"I understand that sweetie, and I am not racist, I just don't want to hear it from your father. Now hurry up and eat, or you're going to be late for school."
The red brick hallways of Blackwood High were loaded with students of all different shapes and sizes. Jalessa strolled past a group of centaurs and squeezed through a pack of banshees to get to her locker. She merely waved her hand in front of her combination lock and it popped open. One of the many perks to being a witch, she thought.
As she shuffled through her locker for her Spell casting and Herbology books, something jabbed her in the side.
"Hey!" she snapped as she spun around, eyes holding the perfect glare for the culprit. Her gaze softened as she recognized her attacker.
Raneku was taller than her by at least half a foot. His shoulder length brown hair framed his dark face and his goofy smile reached his warm brown eyes. He was a shape shifter. "Hey Lessa."
"Hi, you jerk." Jalessa grumbled jokingly as she rubbed her damaged side. "Was that necessary?"
"Absolutely." Raneku grinned. "Where's Neonni?"
"I haven't seen her yet, I just got here. Where's your annoying sidekick?"
"I'll have you know, he's the sidekick, not me." A voice growled from the other side of Jalessa.
"Jeez man, you gotta stop sneaking up on me like that, Salazar." She grinned at the tall boy who moved into her line of view. He was deathly pale, with black spiked hair that had red tips. His black eyes held a spark of humor as he smirked at her.
"You're just jealous you witches aren't as stealthy as us vampires, Lessa."
"Yeah, I'm sure that's it Sal. And I'm not the sidekick." Raneku playfully shoved the vampire, who pushed him back, sending him into an ogre.
"Watch it, shape shifter." The ogre growled.
"What are you gonna do about it, ugly?" Salazar snapped. The ogre shook his giant head and continued on his path.
"One day, you guys are going to make the wrong ogre mad." Jalessa scolded as she slammed her locker door shut.
"And what are they gonna do? Sit on us?" Salazar laughed hysterically as Raneku joined in.
Jalessa rolled her lavender eyes as Neonni walked up to the group. "Hey Lessa, hey boys." She had to crane her head back to look at the guys. At four foot eight, she was the shortest of their group.
"Hey Neonni" they chorused as the bell rang.
"Ugh, gotta go deal with Professor Spinka." Salazar groaned. "Boring old history."
"Haha, I have my specialty class first." Raneku grinned. "Catch ya later," he waved to the girls and took off, with Salazar close behind him.
The girls looked at each other. "Let's get going to Language now. Don't wanna get yelled at for being late again." Neonni sighed. Jalessa nodded as they started walking in the opposite direction of their friends.
Their language class went by rather quickly. Jalessa seemed to have a knack for learning the different dialects Xenoria had to offer. After that class, Neonni left for biology, whilst Jalessa was scheduled for her specialty class.
Because of the many different types of species that inhabited Xenoria, the school systems devoted full length classes to each culture. A werewolf wouldn't need to attend a Vampire anatomy class, nor would an ogre need to attend a faerie's flying lesson. Jalessa especially looked forward to her specialty class because there were so many spells she couldn't wait to learn. She loved being a witch, magic was her favorite thing in the universe. When she was a little girl, her father used to perform little tricks and shows for her in place of bedtime stories. She smiled at the memory as she walked into the classroom.
Hayzl, Jalessa's favorite instructor beamed at her as she entered the room. She shyly returned the smile. She adored Hayzl, but didn't want to be considered a teacher's pet. She was polite and respected her, but tended to keep her distance.
"Ah, there you are." Hayzl greeted her warmly. "I have some important news for you." Her giddiness was written all over her face. It was impossible to miss.
"Good morning, Hayzl," Jalessa bowed her head, as was the custom to greet a witch of such power and stature. Hayzl was once the King's loyal Sorceress, but after the deadliest war of their age, she decided to step back from her place of authority to become a professor. "What has you so excited?" Anxious curiosity was audible in her voice.
"Step into my office," she pointed at a door in the front of the room. "Everyone take your seats and begin the assignment I have written on the board." She gestured to the long blackboard behind her as a piece of chalk levitated up and began to write on the board. "I will be back in a moment."
Hayzl gracefully strode across the room to her office and eagerly pushed Jalessa inside and closed the door. When she turned to face her, her silvery eyes were as bright as the moon could shine.
"What's all this about?" Curiosity was licking at Jalessa's nerves like an insatiable flame.
"Do you remember the tests from last week?"
"Of course I do," she nodded.
"You passed flawlessly. The highest grade in the class." Hayzl reached out to shake Jalessa's hand. "Quite remarkable really. But the most intriguing thing is, the test I gave you was a level six."
Jalessa's jaw dropped. "What?! That felt, so easy and natural to me. I barely had to think, it was like I knew it all. Level six? But we were only studying level three…" she shook her head, trying to get her thoughts to settle down.
"You are an amazingly talented young witch, Jalessa. I have never seen a pupil so naturally talented in all my years. And I have been teaching a very long time. So I am going to put you with a higher level class. This book," she turned and lifted a very large and heavy book off her desk and thrust it in the shocked witch's arms, "contains some extremely powerful information. Whatever you learn from here must be handled with extreme caution. You are not to let any eyes but your own fall upon these pages."
Jalessa nodded dazedly. She ran a finger gingerly over the cover. It was leather bound with an intricately braided spine. She could feel the power within its covers warming her fingertips.
"Now, that book is a bit more... advanced then the standard level six books. That was my own personal book when I went through this school." She smiled at Jalessa's sharp intake of breath. "There are a lot of things in there that are too complicated to be teaching at a high school. Here I have a list of chapters for you to read and what you should take note of." She handed Jalessa a rather long list. "You can use the rest of this class time to get started. You may stay in the classroom or go to the library."
All Jalessa wanted at this moment was to let her eyes dance over the pages that were calling to her. "I'll head over to the library I think, Hayzl."
Hayzl nodded, her long red hair spilling over her shoulder. Her silver eyes twinkled as she congratulated Jalessa once more. As if in a trance, Jalessa didn't notice the stares she was receiving as she walked out of the office and right out of the classroom. Once the door clicked closed behind her she ran as fast as she could to the library, where she began her inspection of the precious book.
The rest of the day seemed to fly before his eyes, but something sinister settled in the pit of his stomach and he couldn't quite figure out what it was. As the final bell rang Raneku sprinted to his locker to retrieve all the books he needed for homework.
"Hey man!" the familiar voice called to him from behind him. "What are we gonna do today?"
Raneku turned to face Salazar as he closed the metal locker door. "I think I'm just gonna head home, I got a lot of homework to do."
"Oh." The vampire's face fell slightly. "Alright man, I'll stop by later then."
Raneku nodded as they started walking down the crowded hallway. There was an unusual crowd lingering by the doors. They pushed their way to the front of the line and froze. The sky, normally a pale purple hue, was littered with black clouds, darker than any rain cloud they'd ever seen.
"What's wrong with the sky?"
"That sure doesn't look like rain!"
Murmurs filled the tension around the crowd of students. Raneku pushed the door open and stepped outside. The air was still warm, with a hint of dampness. Not quite humid, but slightly muggy. Salazar walked alongside him as they made their way down the hill their school was perched upon.
"I don't see why everyone is making a big deal. It's a black cloud. Woop dee doo." The vampire grumbled as they walked by an elf staring into the sky.
"When have you ever seen black clouds?" Raneku sighed uneasily. "Something's not right."
Salazar turned to him, his black eyes narrowing in confusion. "You really think it's something to worry about?"
"I don't know, but I do know that something isn't right. I feel it in the air."
Salazar snorted. "How can you 'feel it in the air'? That makes no sense." Raneku just shrugged as they reached the bottom of the hill. "Must be a shape shifter thing, because I don't 'feel' anything other than everyone else's misery about a damn black cloud."
Raneku glanced up and the feeling clenched his gut tightly. "I don't know how to explain it. But listen, I'm just going to run home. Come over in a few hours if you want."
Salazar nodded his head, his red and black spikes bobbing slightly with the movement. "Alright, catch ya later then." He patted his friend on the back and began walking in the other direction.
Raneku walked quickly. The sky was making him feel extremely nervous, which was a foreign feeling for him. The long road to his house was always peaceful, but something about the darkening sky made it seem evil somehow. The tree limbs reached out to him sinisterly. A soft breeze whispered in his ear. He shifted the weight of his back pack as the path spread out into a clearing that contained seven houses. Raneku and his mother lived in the sixth house on the right.
He cast the strange looking sky one last glance as he walked up the four steps that led to the door. His fingers dug into his pocket for the key. He shuddered involuntarily as his fingers gripped the cold metal; a cold breeze blew from his left. The weather was extremely warm when he left the school. How could it be cold now? A strand of dark brown hair caught in his eye as he tried to push the key into the lock. It made a clank as it fell from his cold fingers and hit the cement steps.
Cursing silently to himself he smoothed his hair away and bent to pick it up. As his fingers were about to touch the key, it startled him by moving out of his reach.
"Huh?" he reached again and it levitated up to his eye level before it disappeared completely. His brown eyes widened with shock for a brief moment, before he realized what was happened.
"Come on Vero! Give me back my key!" Raneku laughed as a blonde haired boy materialized. He was four years older than Raneku, at the age of twenty one, but his blonde hair and clear blue eyes made him look about the same age.
"I can't believe I fooled you!" the ghost boy laughed as he handed the piece of metal over.
"I have a lot on my mind right now. Have you seen the sky?" Raneku shoved the key in the lock and opened the door. He breathed a sigh of relief as he stepped into the warmth of his house. "Do you want to come in?"
"Uh, sure," Vero nodded. They knew each other fairly well, seeing as they lived next door to each other their whole lives. They were merely acquaintances, and had never spent time at the other's house. Vero entered with shy caution.
Raneku returned the key to his pocket as he stepped over to the refrigerator. "Do you want a drink?"
"Nah, I'll pass." Vero leaned coolly against the counter as Raneku grabbed a bottle of water and took a deep drink. "Some pretty strange stuff outside, huh?"
Raneku swallowed the gulp of water and nodded. "Extremely. I don't know what to think of it. It makes me feel... weird."
Vero laughed heartily. "It's only natural, dying is supposed to feel weird."
Raneku laughed nervously. "I'm not dying."
The ghost boy nodded. "We all are. The sky is the first sign. It's part of the legend my grandmother told me. She was right."
"It's quite complicated, I don't remember much of it. Only that it means our world is losing power. First the sky will start to die, then the sun, and everything touched by its light." His blue eyes stared out the window. "It's already starting."