Breaking the News
There was a rare thunderstorm over Artimé when Simber returned, carrying Thatcher and an unconscious Fifer Stowe on his back. All was quiet in the mansion, for it was not quite dawn, and the dark skies kept most of the mages in their beds with the covers pulled up around them, listening to the rumbling in their dreams.
A three-headed tiki statue stood guard in Simber’s place to the left of the door, and Jim the winged tortoise, with his brightly colored mosaic shell, floated lazily in the air on the right, his white feather wings flapping just enough to keep him rising and falling without hitting the ceiling or the pedestal
below him. They hadn’t sensed Simber coming until he burst through the door.
“Get Alex and Henry!” Thatcher shouted. “Bring them to the hospital ward right away!” His voice was harsh and gravelly, for he’d barely slept in the days it had taken them to return home from the land of the dragons. With Fifer limp in his arms, he slid off Simber’s back and stumbled to his knees, his legs numb and body aching from the journey. He got up and hobbled toward the hospital ward as the two statues figured out what was happening. Simber followed Thatcher.
Jim flew upstairs with the tiki statue behind him, mysteriously able to glide up the steps on his flat, legless bottom. At the balcony Jim headed for the family hallway to locate Henry Haluki, Artimé’s chief healer and Thatcher’s partner in all things, while the tiki statue slid to the farthest hallway on the left. Many of Artimé’s mages couldn’t see that magical hallway—they saw a mirror on the wall instead—but the tiki statue had no problem finding it. He charged toward Alex’s apartment and pounded his top head against the door.
In the hospital ward, Thatcher gently lay Fifer on a bed and looked around, feeling helpless and a bit guilty that he knew
so little about the medicines Henry had so lovingly created. He went to get a cup of water and a sponge to soak and press against the young twin’s parched lips, in hopes that drops of water would seep inside her mouth and trickle down her throat without choking her.
While Thatcher lifted Fifer’s head and administered the sponge, he swept his troubled gaze over the girl. Her clothing was full of rips and stained dark with blood after Simber, the enormous winged-cheetah statue, had unintentionally smashed through the glass barriers in Dragonsmarche, sending shards like a thousand daggers into Fifer’s body. An instant later Fifer’s twin, Thisbe, had been snatched up by the Revinir—someone Thatcher and Simber had recognized as the former Queen Eagala from Warbler Island, who should’ve been dead—and taken underground to her lair among the catacombs.
They’d had to leave Thisbe behind. In order to save Fifer’s life, they’d flown nonstop for days, all the way to Warbler, where they’d learned of even more heartrending news: Sky had been swept underwater into the mouth of the plunging volcanic Island of Fire and was gone.
Thatcher heard a commotion on the stairs and looked up, feeling his heart in his throat. He and Simber had a lot of explaining to do, and there was no easy way to go about it. Delivering this news to Alex was the hardest thing Thatcher had ever faced, including everything he’d just been through.
“Thank goodness,” Thatcher murmured when he saw Henry racing toward him, one arm slid inside the sleeve of his healer’s coat, the rest of it flying behind. The two quickly embraced; then Henry slipped his other arm into the jacket and reached for his medical supplies. “Tell me everything,” he demanded.
Before Thatcher or Simber could begin to tell him, Alex arrived inside the ward. At the sight of his sister on the bed he paled, and his mouth slacked in shock. “What happened? Is she okay? How did this come about?” He looked around frantically. “Where’s Thisbe? Carina said—Carina told me— You were all supposed to be coming right behind them!”
Simber looked to Thatcher to fill in everyone as Henry began assessing Fifer’s condition, then working on her wounds, cleaning them and applying the magical plant-based concoctions he’d developed over the years. Thatcher spoke hastily
about what had transpired after Carina and Seth had left the castle Grimere with the five young dragons. Things had not gone as planned.
Alex listened, stunned. He could hardly take in the information about Thisbe or how the Revinir had snatched her up and disappeared. Or who the old woman really was. “Queen Eagala is the Revinir?” he whispered. “How can that be? She’s been dead for over ten years!”
“We don’t know,” said Simber. “But I’m cerrrtain it was herrr.”
“We have to go after Thisbe,” Alex said, growing frantic. “She must be absolutely sick with fear! But Fifer—is she . . . ?”
“We’ll go after Thisbe,” said Thatcher, trying to calm Alex down. “Shortly we’ll start to organize and figure out a plan for that. But . . .” He gave Simber a pleading look.
“Rrright,” said Simber in a grave voice. “Alex, therrre’s . . . something else.”
Alex looked at Simber. His hand shook, and he reached for a bedpost. “Something else?” he said weakly. “What more could there possibly be?”
Simber’s body sagged, and he closed his eyes as if he couldn’t
bear to see Alex hurt even more. After an agonizing moment, he opened them and looked squarely at the mage. “It’s Sky,” he said quietly. “She was worrrking on the Island of Firrre, and it plunged below the waterrr without warrrning. She was swept in.” He paused for a moment as he watched Alex, dazed, sink heavily to the bed next to Fifer’s. And then Simber growled, “She’s gone.”