Her fingers were icy cold. Her golden strands of hair was long enough to drag at her feet in surrender. Her eyes were lit with a fire so bright that anyone that looked into them would fall under her power.
Her fingers settled on a glassy surface of water as she laughed a cold, harsh laugh.
“Fate has brought her to them.” She reveled, “What if fate decides to give her a hint?” She hit the water with a bony fist, watching it ripple in agony. A dark cloud of magic floated in the reflection of the helpless Earth.
Tiffany woke up with a start. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She was breathing heavily. She had almost forgotten where she was and why she was there. She wiped the tears off her face and jumped out of the bed, forgetting the bed was a bunkbed and that she was on the bottom.
“Ouch!” She cried out. It only made more tears fall. She tip toed out the door and sat down on the deck. There was a nice spot to dangle her legs over the side so she scooted closer to it.
She remembered Phoenix showing them each to their tree houses and saying good night before he left them to pass out on their beds. Then she remembered the nightmare and shuddered. More tears slid down her cheeks, this time they were hot tears. She heard a crash in her room. She ignored it. She began to breath heavily. So many thoughts swirled in her head: her parents, school, Lexi, a new home, Pearl, the portal…
A gentle hand was on her shoulder bringing her back into reality.
“Hey, calm down.” She heard Phoenix’s voice say gently, “You are making yourself upset.” Tiffany looked up. Glass pieces were floating in front of her. The pieces looked like tiny daggers ready to pierce through anything and they were pointed at her. Her eyes grew wide and she forced those pieces back into the mirror in her room. She was shaking and ashamed. She looked away from Phoenix and began to cry.
“Come with me.” Phoenix coaxed, “I know what will help.” He held out his hand and Tiffany took it. He was gentle but strong as he lifted her up. It was almost as if he was pulling her away from the fears surrounding her.
He led her down a ladder of the tree house and onto the grassy earth. Phoenix gave a sweet high whistle and trotting out of the bushes came a beautiful unicorn. Her horn was silver just like her skin and her mane was bright blue. Tiffany put her hands over her mouth and gasped in amazement.
“Tiffany meet Baby. Baby this is Tiffany.” Phoenix said as he pet Baby’s nose. Baby gave a friendly whinny and Tiffany smiled as she wiped away her tears. Phoenix took her hand and placed a golden apple into it. The apple was cold, but Phoenix’s hand sent a tingle of warmth down her arm. She looked up at him and he nodded. Tiffany slowly approached Baby.
“Hi, Baby.” She whispered to the unicorn and gently placed her hand onto Baby’s nose, “I’m friendly, trust me I don’t bite. I think you are friendly too.” She ran her fingers through Baby’s mane as Baby ate the apple in one bite.
“You must be really hungry.” Tiffany crooned, “Oh, Daddy would love you.” She smiled and pet Baby’s neck. She was sure Phoenix was watching her, but she didn’t care. She was with a horse just like Cherry.
“Baby is always hungry.” Phoenix teased Baby. She stomped her feet and neighed as she nudged him playfully. Tiffany laughed and Phoenix grinned from ear to ear.
“You seem to know a lot about horses.” Phoenix said as he pet Baby’s back. Tiffany began braiding Baby’s mane.
“Yeah.” Tiffany said as she gently grabbed another strand of hair to braid, “My dad lives on a ranch and all he does is breed, raise, and race horses. Sometimes he’ll let me race or dress the horses up for some competition. My favorite horse was Cherry. I’d known her since she was a tiny foal. We were the best of friends.” She smiled as she finished braiding Baby’s mane and went towards the tail. Phoenix stared at her flawless work.
“Wow. Did your dad have a ton of horses?” Phoenix asked.
“Yes, he does.” Tiffany smiled, “I love to visit him and feed the horses sugar cubes.” She stopped herself.She hasn’t told anyone about her parent’s divorce. She hoped that Phoenix wouldn’t say anything. Phoenix didn’t seem to notice.
“Follow me. There’s something else I want to show you.” Phoenix said. Tiffany looked at him curiously and followed him down a path with Baby behind her. Baby wasn’t paying attention to anything but the butterfly on her nose.
Phoenix led Tiffany down a path full of flowers and the sound of thunder.
“Phoenix,” Tiffany said timidly, “It sounds like it’s going to rain.” Phoenix smiled at her.
“That’s not thunder.” Phoenix grinned as a beautiful pond came into view with a waterfall streaming out from the top of a rocky hill. The water was so thick that when the sun hit it just right, a thousand rainbows appeared all over the waterfall.
“Welcome, to the Falls.” Phoenix exclaimed. Tiffany gaped in awe. Phoenix looked at her and she stared at him puzzled. Before she could do anything, he ran and went through the waterfall. Tiffany imagined all the pressure the water was putting on him and cried out:
“Phoenix!” She ran into the rushing pond. Her jeans were soaked. She stopped at the waterfall staring at it’s massiveness. A hand reached out from the water and grabbed hers. Tiffany screeched as she was pulled through.
Her eyes closed tight suddenly popped open. She wasn’t wet. Her jeans had dried up. Phoenix was grinning at her.
“Did I scare you?”
Tiffany gulped down the fear in her throat and lied, “No.” Then she scolded him, “Don’t you ever do a thing like that again…or…or…” She blanked:
“Else…” Tiffany’s anger went away and when he smiled, it melted her heart.
She grinned, “I’ll think of something.” Phoenix grinned. Baby, whom was still on the other side, whimpered.
“Baby, you don’t have to come.” Phoenix called, “You can go home.” Tiffany heard Baby stomping her feet.
“She’s not happy about that.” Tiffany said and she ran out of the waterfall and coaxed Baby in. Baby, incredibly, still had the butterfly on her nose. Tiffany shooed it away and Baby whined.
“Silly, you’ll get distracted if you have that on your nose.” Tiffany held onto Baby as Phoenix led them down a long tunnel. There was an opening at the end of the tunnel that suddenly became a huge cavern of bookshelves full of books. Some books were flying!
“Wow!” Tiffany gasped. In the center of the room there was a big black bowl that reminded her of a witch’s cauldron. Bottles that were filled and some that were emptied circled the bowl. Potions filled many of the books as well. Oddly enough, there were bubbles floating around with images of people and places.
“What is this place?” Tiffany asked as a book landed in her hand, “The Guide to Everything in Magic?” Baby ran around chasing the other flying books.
“This is the Keepers Den.” Phoenix’s voice echoed off the walls, “We keep all the spell books and ingredients here.”
“We?” Tiffany asked as she let the book fly away.
“Well, used to be ‘we’.” Phoenix sighed, “My parents died when I was twelve years old. I’ve been the Keeper for four years.” Tiffany did the math. Sixteen. He was sixteen years old, just like her.
“You’re sixteen?” Tiffany pretended to be interested in another flying book.
“Yes, same as you.” Phoenix answered as he turned down one of the isles of the bookshelves. Tiffany looked at him in shock.
“How…how’d you know that?” Tiffany asked.
“I’m the Keeper. I can read where your magic comes from, how it effects you, and I know a little bit about you. It helps if there is an intruder. Your magic comes from your mind and emotions. You are very powerful, but you just don’t know it.” Phoenix smiled, “Everyone goes through it.” Tiffany blushed.
“You even have powers you didn’t even know about, just like you finding out you could send messages when you contacted me.” Phoenix stepped on a stool and reached the top shelf to grab a book.
“You don’t know anything else?” Tiffany asked nervously.
“Not that I know of.” Phoenix said as he peeked into the book, “Aha! The rest of the ingredients!” He rushed to the bowl. Inside was a swirling purple soup. Some of it wasn’t purple and some wasn’t even visible, but she could still barely see it.
“This is that portal. I started working on it last night. I couldn’t find some other ingredients. Thought I’d call it a night.” He glanced over the book and back at the portal, “Hmm…I’ll have to look for more of that tomorrow.” Tiffany leaned closer to the portal and Phoenix caught her quickly.
“The portal is not fully stable.” He said as he pulled her gently away, “I wouldn’t go swimming yet.” Tiffany smiled as he turned away to put his book on a desk in the corner of the room.
A flash of light suddenly hit the bowl and Tiffany was thrown back. A black cloud surrounded her. Then a giant, fiery phoenix appeared and was trying to pull her out. Life swirled before her. She collapsed and fell asleep mumbling:
“She’s coming…she’s coming…”