1. Total Confusion
Thisbe and Fifer had been abducted by the Revinir, and Rohan was beginning to panic. Nobody in Artimé seemed to be doing anything about it. He descended the stairs of the mansion to implore the one in charge. “Florence, please help me understand what’s happening,” he said, stopping in front of her in the entryway. The Magical Warrior trainer and Simber, the winged-cheetah statue, exchanged a concerned glance as the young man began pacing, struggling to stay calm. Rohan finally found his words and turned to face them. “Look. It has been days. Why aren’t we going after Thisbe and Fifer? Are we seriously planning to sit here and wait for Fifer to contact us? What if they’re dead?”
“I’ve told you before,” Florence said firmly. “I understand your concern, and I feel it too. Perhaps even more strongly than you. But we’re going to wait.”
“And Fiferrr is clearrrly not dead,” said Simber, indicating the mansion still standing and himself still magically enchanted. “We don’t believe that the Rrrevinirrr wants to hurrrt them. Frrrom what Thisbe and Maiven Taveerrr have told me, the Rrrevinirrr wants Thisbe to be an ally. She needs at least one black-eyed rrrulerrr on herrr side to complete the rrrequirrrements of prrroperrr trrransferrral of drrragon leaderrrship.”
Rohan stopped pacing. “Right.” He thought hard for a moment. “So the Revinir believes she needs a black-eyed human to join forces with her, and because Thisbe is more evil than good, she thinks Thisbe is her ticket,” he said, like it finally made sense to him. “And even though we know the truth—that the dragons have to actually choose their leader, and the Revinir can’t choose herself to be the lead dragon—she doesn’t actually know that. So…” He paused, putting it all together. “She thinks she can convince Thisbe to team up with her—that Thisbe will be tempted enough by the leadership position to go for it.” He shook his head. “Even though that won’t work either, because the black-eyed people need to choose their leader too. And besides, Thisbe would never, ever do something like that.”
“She’d better not,” Florence muttered. “I trained that girl right. If she does something—”
“She won’t,” Simber interrupted impatiently. “She’s smarrrt and loyal. Therrre’s no way she’d do that to us.”
“But what about Fifer?” said Rohan. “She’s way more good than evil. Won’t the Revinir want to do away with her to stop her from influencing Thisbe?”
“I’ve thought about that, too,” said Simber. “And I think she knows that if she does something to hurrrt Thisbe’s twin, Thisbe will neverrr join herrr side.”
Florence studied Simber. “That’s actually a comforting thought.”
“It’s all I can think rrright now to get thrrrough this,” said Simber, and finally the worry lines on his face broke through. He hated being away from his head mage, especially days away. He’d promised once that he’d never let this happen again, yet here they were. Shortly after Thisbe had sent a message calling for help, Fifer, Artimé’s new leader, had sent one telling them all to retreat and wait for further instructions. And he trusted her… almost fully. He cringed. He had no choice but to put his support behind Fifer. She was the head mage—a good one too, unlike Frieda Stubbs—and she’d given an order. Hopefully, they’d know more soon. But if not, this might just drive them all to the brink of madness. It was hard enough to run things in Artimé these days after the civil war. But to do it without the head mage was even harder.
“The best thing we can do,” said Florence, “is to be stronger than we’ve ever been, and to be in a position to help when the time comes. That means we train harder than ever. We broaden everybody’s abilities. And we need to take every move, every spell, every trick up a notch. That includes broadening our minds. We need to anticipate the Revinir’s moves. She is the most powerful enemy we’ve ever faced, and we need to be smarter than her. I’m not going to sleep until I come up with a way to beat that monster.”
Simber lifted an eyebrow. “You… neverrr sleep.”
“It’s just an expression,” Florence said with a snarl. “Intensive training begins first thing in the morning on the lawn. We need everybody present.”
“Everrrybody who?” asked Simber.
“Everybody everybody. Not just Artimé this time. I mean everybody.”
Simber gazed at her. “Ourrr allies, you mean?”
Florence nodded seriously. “I’ll go alert our friends on Karkinos and see if they can track down Spike and Talon, who are still out searching for Issie’s baby. Send Scarlet and Thatcher to fetch the people of Warbler, and Lani to speak to the people in Quill. Tell Seth to get our friends from the Island of Shipwrecks.” She paused for a breath, then said in her sternest voice, “We will not fail Fifer and Thisbe. We will not let Artimé down, or anyone in the world of the seven islands. Not this time. Not ever again.” She turned to look into Rohan’s eyes. “I’m counting on you to step up now that I’ve lost my two main players.”
“I will, Commander Florence,” said Rohan.
With that, Florence left the two standing at the entrance and turned sharply, heading out the door into the evening, marching into the water toward Karkinos.
Rohan looked at Simber, fear and awe in his eyes. They were calling in everyone the people of Artimé knew. This was a major deal.
Simber nodded sharply. “You hearrrd herrr. Let’s go.”