I gasp as the seat of my wet-suit meets cold water rushing along the inside of the tube. I then proceed to wonder how I got into my wetsuit, and turn to check Felix. He was also wearing his. He throws me a puzzled look. "Must be automatic; our clothes disappear and our wetsuits appear as soon as our torso come in contact with water. I read about a certain charm in one of the textbooks that could help provide that sort of transformation."
We slide down one of about a hundred tubes that´s inside the original one. The water pushes us that way, as if it was obeying an order.
We continue to slide slowly down the tube as my panic at the water melts away.
"Won´t this thing go any faster?" I grumble in annoyance. "Come ON!"
My shout echoes through the tube.
"Hey, what´s that noise?" Felix asks suspiciously.
"That´s just my echo, idiot," I roll my eyes.
"No...no, this sounds like a..."
The sound of quickly rushing water meets my ears.
"Waterfall," I whisper.
A big dip greets us, hurling us at full speed down the tube.
"WOOO!" I scream.
"S-SCARLETT," Felix shouts.
"THIS IS AWESOOOOOME!" I shriek.
We rush through bigger dips and intense turns, the ceiling sloping all the while. We both resort to lying on our stomachs and sliding down the tube then.
The slide must have went on for half an hour, until finally, we see a blinding square of light.
"Oh, thank god," I whisper. The amount of water was beginning to get to me.
"On the count of three, we jump," I shout over the water.
"What? No way! I´m not trusting your judgement!" Felix yells back.
"Well, if we jump from when I think you´re going to want us to jump, we´ll surely get slapped to bits by the rocks at the bottom!"
"And why should I trust your judgement?" "Maths, Scarlett, maths!"
The ceiling disappears as the slide carries on.
"You´re not going to start counting yet?" I say in a panic, as we both sit back on our behinds.
"No," Felix says, his eyes narrowed in concentration.
"3," he says.
"2." I would have jumped at this point- and he´s right, we would have gotten beaten against the rocks at the bottom if we had went with my countdown.
"1!" he shouts, just as we were at the rim of the half-tube. He grabs my hand, where I flush pink, and he leaps into the air, me in tow.
We plummet into the water, but we both immediately rise due to the flotation aids inside our belts.
I thrash about, unable to open my eyes. I slip out of my backpack and hold onto it as it drifts over to some flat rocks, where I clamber on, gasping, looking for Felix.
"Felix! Felix! Fe-"
"Alright there?" asks a familiar voice. I turn around and see Wolfie.
"Oh, hi, Wolfie," I say, my voice weirdly high.
"Hey. You seem concerned about Felix. Are you two out?"
"What? Ugh! Nonononono. Just frenemies."
"Ah. Then who is the lucky guy?"
I giggle in a eardrum-splitting high tone.
"Really? Lovely girl like you?"
I laugh far too loudly. "Where´s Finn?"
"Here I am!" Finn emerges from behind one of the rocks, a half-eaten cheese sandwich in his hand. "I´m looking out for Celeste. And the others," he adds hastily.
"Scarlett," says a bedraggled voice. "I was just lying in the water for a while. Sorry if I worried you. It´s very relaxing there." Felix clambers onto the rock.
"No problem," I say. "We better get moving. I think I know where we are; the map back at Skothamor´s said the tube that our camp would come out of the fresh water creek. Next to us is Fair Green. We need to go through Fair Green Meadow, somehow around the Crystal Mudflats, over Searing Crevice and then through White Valley."
"Awesome," Wolfie says. "You guys seen Kitty yet?" "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" Kitty screams from inside the tube.
"Kitty! Calm down! This is very fun yes!" Bea´s mildly excited tone says.
They both shoot from the tube and quickly swim to the flat rocks that we were on.
Kitty morphs into a cat as soon as she leaves the water- a mini backpack is strapped to her fluffy back.
Wolfie also morphs into a broad-backed wolf, also equipped with mini backpack. Celeste and Charmy swim to shore, lugging their backpacks after them. Charmy blows away the small braids in her dark hair. "Where to now?" she queries.
"Onward, I guess," Celeste says.
Asher and Chase emerge from the water.
Everyone sorts through all of the stuff in their backpacks.
Five packets of medicine, a days supply of food, ten bottles of water, two empty water bottles, two fleeces, five boxes of matches, two pots and two pans, seven daggers, a pistol, a Pet Transporter, thermal tinfoil, flares, a sleeping bag and the clothes they wore before in every backpack. One partner in each duo has tent equipment.
"I guess partners share tents," Felix says glumly.
"Dammit." I grumble.
"Just be happy we´re not sharing a sleeping bag," Felix hisses. "Now let´s everyone fill one of their empty bottles with this water. It´s really pure, and see these orange streaks? That´s iron. It´ll strengthen us. Don´t drink any yet, we´ll boil them when we set up camp to kill any parasites."
We all obediently fill one of our bottles.
"Come on; let´s just get out of the water before we get pneumonia or something," Kitty complains
I scramble up the rocks until I meet grass.
Not normal grass.
Sweet-smelling, flowery, green, luscious grass, soft to the touch, bumblebees going about their day, humming softly. Several trees blooming flowers and fruit brimming with juice can be seen on the completely flat surface, a mile away.
"Guys!" I call, clawing my hand through the soft grass. "Look at that fruit!"
Gasps of awe emerge as each of them find the sweet grass and see the blooming trees.
"Do wait," Bea says. Everyone turns to her. "Fair Green is the meadow of temptation. Do not smell any flowers, eat any fruit nor pet any animals, for they are misleading figures of beauty, and as soon as you succumb to their faith, they have you locked there."
Every jaw was dropped.
Not only was this amazing information, but this was the most fluent English that anyone had heard Bea speak.
"Then we better get out of here," Asher says.
"Yeah," Finn agrees, tiptoeing over the waving grass. "I don´t trust anything now. Can we kill the grass?" "No," Wolfie sighs. "You can´t stab grass, Finn."
Celestia giggles in a very un-Celeste manner.
"I don´t want to leave," says a small voice.
We all turn around to see Kitty in human form, kneeling in the grass, eyes like saucers, soaking in everything around her.
Like she was possessed.
"I...I can´t leave...guys..."
Her unnaturally large eyes fall to the trees.
"No, Kitty," Wolfie warns softly, now human.
"Sorry," she whispers- and makes for the trees in an unstoppable sprint.