had been ruined, and what he was doing stuck on an island in the middle of The
Endless Ocean. When Shadow Stalker and Wind Rawth, the two giant owls with onyx colored feathers had asked him if he would watch out for Samantha and Gale, he had agreed. But so far, everything was much more difficult and dangerous than he thought it should be.
From hiking through the snow to the Great Ice Mountain (where he'd been imprisoned and turned into a statue!); to the escape (where the people they'd just helped repaid them by shooting at both himself and his friends!); to dealing with Ts'ui--a terrifying cat with tiger stripes made out of wolf's fur that was the same size as a bus; to fleeing on the magic train, it was far more than he'd bargained on, and he was sick of it. But the train, which had run on tracks made out of the steam from the engine would never move again. Sea water had gotten inside the boiler while it was red hot, and it had ruptured, blowing all the bolts off the front end of the engine, and rending a huge hole in one side it. Additionally, every axle on the train snapped--the result of dropping out of the sky like a bird brought down by an arrow.
Mr. Bristle suddenly felt all his quills stand on end, and he had the distinct impression that he was being watched. Diminutive in stature, he was humanoid but looked like a hedgehog, and even though he was not at all related to the creatures on Earth, his first instinct, nevertheless, was to ball himself up and protect himself. Instead, he looked around slowly, trying to see what was causing the feeling. Nothing caught his eye, which was problematic.
From the ocean, Voda, the master of The Endless Ocean, watched the creatures, fully rested and restored. It had been two full days since she created the island and caused the train to crash. The magic she had used to do so was more than she'd used in centuries, and it had exhausted her in a way that forced her to remember that while she was powerful, she was not immortal. Since that time, Voda had rested. Whatever magic the two young ones had, it was more powerful than anything she'd felt since she'd been cast into the ocean; however, they did not seem to know it surrounded them. This meant it was either some kind of ward, in which case attacking them could have serious negative consequences, or the two creatures did not know about the magic. She thought the latter was more likely, but if there was one thing she had become in the last 700 years, it was patient.
Returning to what he was doing, Mr. Bristle finished his inventory and winced. The food looked like it would last a few weeks at the most, and that only with careful rationing. But there was no way to get more, and so it looked like he was going to die a slow, agonizing death on this spit of rock. He tried not to think about it as he cooked. Once the meal was ready, he fixed a plate and took it to Gale's compartment. The younger of the two girls had been very moody, and he found that at least feeding her early made for a more enjoyable day. "Still, it's not like we don't all have problems," he muttered under his breath as he
He knocked again. Still nothing. Finally, after knocking for a third time, he slipped inside the cabin, which was empty. Shrugging, he sat down on the floor and uncovered the food. "No sense letting this get cold," he said and started eating.
On the other side of the island, Gale sat on the shore and looked out over the water. She didn't know why she was here. Mr. Bristle would probably be bringing her food right now, but she still wanted to be alone. Still, her belly gave a mighty gurgle, and she decided it was time to go back. She'd only gone a few steps when a huge hand made of water erupted from the ocean and grabbed her. She was dragged down under the waves. She tried to scream, but all that came out were bubbles, and then she had no air. Frantically, she kicked and struggled, clawing for the surface, but to no avail. Then just as she was sure she would open her mouth and swallow a gallon of water, an air-bubble formed around her. Sputtering as she stood, she looked around her and found that the bubble was thick and transparent, yet it flexed underneath her feet. Then she saw them; a pair of eyes were watching her, and they seemed to be glowing.
"Gale!" Mr. Bristle shouted as he began to trek his way around the island. "Gale! Where are you?" Ten minutes later, he had traversed the whole island and made his way back to the train. After double checking every car he hurried to Ahmed and Samantha, who were eating in the dining car. Bursting through the door, he huffed, "Gale. I can't find her anywhere. She's not outside, and not on the train."
"Are you sure?" Ahmed asked.
Mr. Bristle nodded, and Samantha was not waiting for anyone. Using the link created by the necklace she wore, she focused on her sister. A familiar itch that was at the back of her mind became her focus, and by concentrating on it, she began moving. She burst out of the train with Mr. Bristle and Ahmed in tow.
It did not take her long to reach the very point where Gale had been sitting.
"I do not see her," Ahmed said, as he raised one of his massive hands to shield his eyes from the sun.
"Neither do I," Samantha said, "but she is near here. I can feel her."
"It is the same way you found her in the Ice Palace, yes?" Ahmed inquired. And when Samantha only nodded, be began looking at the ground and inhaling deeply through his nostrils "Her scent is very faint. And look! There is water here, and it comes up very far, but only in once place. There have been no strange waves, since we landed here, but it looks like one came out of the ocean and grabbed her."
"But how can that be?" Samantha asked. "If it was just a wave, Gale can swim, and look, the path is a straight line. That would not happen if it was a wave. More of the rock would be wet."
Ahmed nodded, but did not respond. Finally he said, "Have either of you felt that we have been watched these last few days?" Both Samantha and Mr. Bristle nodded at this, which caused Ahmed to flick the spearhead that was embedded in his horn. "I have as well. The feeling always seemed to come from the water. Is it the same for you?"
Again, both of them nodded, but then Samantha added, "So what are we going to do? We can't leave Gale."
"I do not know child. How do you fight the ocean?"
"I don't know!" Samantha yelled, "But there has to be a way."
"If there is I do not know it. But you can feel that your sister is alive, yes?"
"Yes," Samantha said.
"Then we will have to hope for the best."
Samantha was about to respond, when the same watery hand that grabbed Gale burst from the ocean and enveloped Samantha in its crushing grip. Then, with hardly enough time for Samantha to scream, it dragged her under the waves.
The water whipped by Samantha, and the only thing she could say for sure was that she was being moved away from Gale. She kicked and bucked, but to no avail, and like her sister, all the air in her lungs left her in a rush, and at the last moment, a bubble expanded around her.
After Voda secured Samantha in her cell, she returned Gale. Ever since abducting Gale, Voda had not gone near her, but now that both sources of magic were trapped under the waves, she felt a little more adventurous and swam closer so that she might see for herself what she was dealing with.
Gale saw the glowing eyes first. Eventually the glowing eyes were just on the other side of the bubble, but Gale could not see anything that went with them, so she said, "Who is there?"
Voda more felt the creature speak than heard her. The sound waves passing through the water filled her mind, and to her surprise, she could translate those waves in a way she could understand. She concentrated on the bubble and it began to vibrate. At first no noise came, then a high pitched whine filled the small space, which caused the creature to scream and cover her ears. Voda tried again, and to Gale it sounded like someone was running through radio stations using an old twist dial. Eventually though a voice came from the walls of the bubble that said in a slightly garbled female voice, "I am Voda."
"Are you the one that wrecked the train?"
"Yes. I wanted to talk to you."
"You could have just asked. We could have stopped the train."
"I could not. I cannot speak to those above water."
"I see," Gale said. "Is that why you dragged me down here?"
"Fine, Gale said. Then what did you want to say?"
Voda considered this for a moment. The magic was all she really cared about, but it would not do to let the creature know of its existence if it was not already aware of it. Deciding, she said, "Your ship. I've never seen anything like it. I wanted to know what it was and how it worked."
"Well it does not work any more," Gale said. "But it was a train. It came from home."
"Where is home?"
"I have never heard of such a place. It must be far from my ocean."
"Yes. I am the master of the Endless Ocean."
"Well it can't be endless," Gale said as she recalled something Ts'ui said. "I've been on its shore, so it ends."
The thing in the water seemed to laugh at this. "That may be true, but Endless Ocean sounds much better than the Really Big Ocean; besides, no ship has yet to cross it. Thus, as far as most are concerned, it is endless."
"Are you the reason the ships don't get across?"
"And if I were?"
"Then it makes you pretty mean."
Voda cocked her head and looked even closer at her prey; although Gale could still not see her. The thing, puny as it was, did not seem afraid of her. Voda had seen so many brave creatures perish, thrashing and screaming in her ocean, and she was suddenly irrationally annoyed that she had yet to inspire the right kind of fear. "You know, I have the other one like you."
Gale, who was still looking for the thing that was responsible for the voice, stopped short at that, and it was as if the bubble she was in collapsed on her. She wanted to scream, but somehow she knew that was what the thing out in the water wanted. Instead she dug her nails into the palm of her hand. While she did that, she also focused on the itch that was in the back of her mind, and sure enough, she felt that her sister was much closer to her than she would be if she was still on the train. Assuming that Samantha was in a bubble like her own, Gale said, "And what are you going to do with the two of us when you are done?"
"None cross the Endless Ocean. But maybe I will return you to the island and your friends. You can spend however many days you have left on that bit of land," Voda said, and she was pleased when that did not get a response.
Gale still wanted to scream, yet she remained quite. It was something she had learn to do to make her mother mad. For some reason it also seemed to work, and like Gale's mother, Voda found her rage rising. But she would not let herself show it, particulalry to this thing. But she still had options. Perhaps the other one is a bit more talkative, she thought and swam off.
Gale watched the glowing eyes swim off, and only when they were gone did she allow herself to let lose her pent up rage. Screaming, she punched the wall of her bubble, which flexed in and then sprang back with enough force that it jerked Gale's shoulder and tossed her backward. She collapsed onto the floor of the bubble and began crying, the sound of which reached Voda as she sped towards her other captive.
Inside her bubble, Samantha was gritting her teeth. As soon as it had formed around her, she had tried to orientate herself, and found, much to her surprise, that she could tell where the surface of the water was by the faint glimmer of sunlight that filtered down to where she was stuck. Unfortunately, it looked much further up than she could swim before she ran out of air. Still, she tried
everything she could think of to pop the bubble, but she had nothing sharp and
nothing she attempted seemed to damage the thing in the slightest.
Eventually she wore herself out and sat down to wait. "At least I had breakfast," Samantha thought, and wondered how Gale, who she knew had not eaten, was doing. More time passed, though it was impossible for her to say how much. Finally, just when she thought she'd been left for dead she noticed a set of glowing eyes staring at her from the water.
"Hello," said Voda. "Tell me, what are you?"
"I don't understand the question." Samantha shot back.
"I mean, your home is called Earth. Where is it? Are you a normal earthling?"
"I don't know where Earth is, but I'm a normal earthling."
"Do not lie to me, how can you not know where your home is?" Voda demanded.
"Because I was brought here, and not willingly. Hence I have no idea where I am," Samantha snarled back.
Out in the water Voda, grinned like a shark that has caught the scent of blood in the water. "Really?" Voda said. Then tell me about this place you were taken from. The other one said that the thing you traveled in was called a train. It ran on magic. So is there a lot of magic on Earth?"
"You have Gale?" Samantha asked.
"Of course I have her, and if you wish to see her again, you will answer my question. Is there magic on Earth?"
Samantha's mind flashed to when she was eight and her father had hired a magician to come to her birthday party. He had seemed to be able to do magic. He'd guessed cards correctly every time he had someone pick one out of the deck; and made solid rings chain together and multiply just by tapping them together and a whole bunch of other things she could not explain, but her mom said there was no such thing as magic. She said he was just very fast with his hands so her eyes were fooled. Then there was the time she had snuck down at one in the morning to see if Santa had come and she glimpsed her father putting presents under the tree. She never believed in Santa after that.
"Yes. Yes there is," Samantha said.
"What kind of magic?"
"My people can build great big ships that take us into the stars and let us travel under the sea," Samantha said. which caused Voda to laugh. "What's so funny?" Samantha demanded.
"Ships that move under water. And tell me, do the sailors on these ships breathe under water?"
"Of course not. The water does not get in the boat."
"And is that the only magic your world has?"
Samantha wracked her brain, trying to figure out what to say. She knew the train had run on magic tracks, but the way the creature was asking questions, made her nervous. "Of course not. We can also make pictures that move and talk. We can smash atoms to bits too."
Voda considered what the creature was telling her. She did not understand the last part, but knew it was something very important, and if the thing put it after making pictures talk and move, then there was indeed more magic to these creatures then she thought. Still, it did not seem like this one was particularly powerful. Neither of them did, and her questions, were not quite getting at what she wanted to know. Still, there was an easy to way to find out if the magic was a ward or not. Turning, she swam back towards her other prisoner and stopped halfway between the two bubbles. "Now, let's see what magic comes from Earth." she said to herself.
Samantha watched the glowing eyes swim away, and she wondered what it was going to do. Her answer came almost immediately.
Both Gale and Samantha's bubbles began contracting. They did not move fast, but the bubbles were only about a foot taller than the girls to start with so it was instantly noticeable.
Samantha screamed and began throwing herself at the wall of the bubble, trying desperately to break through the wall.
Gale saw the bubble moving and simply yelled "Coward!" and sat in the middle of her bubble and closed her eyes so she could not see what was going on.
Across from Gale, Samantha was forced to her knees as the bubble
collapsed. Then further still.
Voda had just decided that nothing was going to happen, when all of a sudden both of the balls blazed with light brighter than the sun, though nowhere near as hot. The light was so bright that it blinded both Voda as well as Ahmed and Mr. Bristle, who were standing over five hundred feet above the girls.
Samantha found herself rising, but not as if she was swimming. It was more like she was the very tip of a rocket that was roaring its way into space. Meanwhile, Gale found she was moving up, but she was not getting wet. The water was passing through her, as if she was a ghost. At the same time, Gale found that her sight was different. It was as if it had been amplified; she could see more of everything: the ocean floor, the different animals in the water, the outline of the island above her, and the form of Voda.
The ocean sorceress, like Ahmed and Mr. Bristle, was humanoid, but she had the the sleek lines and fins of a great white shark and the black and white look of an orca. Her face had rows of pointed teeth that took up most of it, while her hair looked like the tentacles of jellyfish. "You." Gale said. "You are really ugly."
Voda snarled. Nothing had seen her in more than a thousand years, and the first thing that did called her ugly! Still, she reminded herself, she had an advantage. The creatures were stuck and their friends did not have powers. Focusing her energy, Voda prepared to lash out at the creatures on the island. "I'm not done with the two of you yet," the sea witch said, and then she launched herself towards the island and her new prey.