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The Shadow Phoenix

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The red-haired girl continued desperately climbing the wall, hoping desperately that she wouldn’t fall and that she wasn’t too late. She’d nearly reached a stone balcony carved into the side of the citadel, and grasped at one of the stones that made up the edge of it. A shadow suddenly fell over her hand, and she ducked down hurriedly, hoping that the thing casting the shadow - whatever it was - would leave hurriedly. Against her better will, she glanced back down behind her, and inhaled deeply. If she fell now, she would die for sure. The only thing to look back at was a crevice deeper than the ocean, so deep that she couldn’t even see the bottom. The creature casting the shadow had passed, and she hoisted herself up to the rough stone pillar that led up to the next level. Just a little further, she told herself.

Finally she made it onto the next ledge, and rolled herself onto it. The stone had done a number on her jeans, and her legs were scraped to hell too, but she had no time to think about that. My friends… where are they??

“Yes, OK, now let me think!” a high pitched voice nearby snapped, drawing her out of her reverie. “This must be it. No, no, no wait! I need to think about this for another second… um… right, if I go to the left, the power will… wait, wait, wait, when I say 3, magical convergence, and that will - yes! If we can pull this off, then I’m absolutely certain that we can finally escape from this dreadful place!”

“Either way,” another voice said, “I really hope this is better than your first fifty ideas.”

The first voice apparently ignored the second. “OK, Abby and Simone will go to the sides, Abby to the right and Simone to the left, and then I’ll count to 3 and we’ll all switch positions and send an unexpected magical impact at the wall!”

“But will the movement be coordinated and elegant at least?” said a third voice.

The red-haired girl edged along the wall in the direction of the voices, praying that it really was her friends and not a trap. Suddenly, her foot made contact with an uneven part of the floor, and she tripped forwards, face-planting but managing not to yell.

“Ssh!” another voice hissed. This one, although just as high pitched as the others, seemed to be male. “Someone’s coming!”

“Who could that be?!” squeaked one of the girls. “I hope it’s not… him!”

“We’re all hoping that, Juliette,” yet another voice murmured.

The girl picked herself up and continued towards the voices, and seemingly a light source. Finally, she rounded the corner and found herself gazing at an enormous circular energy cage, and inside were -

“Musichetta!” the inhabitants of the cage squeaked in delight. Musichetta beamed relievedly down at her friends. They had the appearance of tiny winged humans - about 15cm tall at most, only their heads were far larger in proportion to their bodies than a normal human. Their limbs and bodies were chubby, their hands and feet were delicate, and their eyes were huge. They all wore war-paint-like make-up, unique to each one, and their clothes were doll-like.

They were Piskies.

One of them, a female one with blue curls and red-and-black war paint, dressed in a red coat, blue trousers and black boots, blinked her golden eyes up at Musichetta. “You’re alright! I thought you were captured too!”

Musichetta nodded, tucking a lock of scarlet hair behind her ear. “I was, but I was able to escape through the window of my cell.” She squinted into the cage through the glowing walls. “How’s Lise? Is she OK?”

The blue-haired Piskie nodded and patted the head of a baby Piskie, asleep next to her. “Yes, she’s fine. You must have been so worried about her!”

Another female Piskie, one with pink hair and dressed in a yellow Victorian-style dress, shook the sleeping baby’s shoulder lightly. “Lise! Wake up! This is no way to greet a visitor!”

The baby slowly opened her big brown eyes, and upon noticing Musichetta, flapped her moon-shaped wings excitedly and let out several excited gurgles of baby babble. Musichetta beamed down at her. “Hey Lise! Oh, thank the Dragon that you’re OK!” Her face grew serious once again. “There’s no time for chit-chat, though. We need to get out of here! That… thing could be back at any minute!”

A blonde Piskie, who had been the one non-stop chattering earlier, frowned up at Musichetta worriedly. “You are going to be able to get us out of here, right?”

The girl nodded determinedly. “I don’t know how, but I’m not leaving without you guys!” She raised her hand to the side of the energy cage and focussed hard. Pink light flickered in her palm for a moment before vanishing, and Musichetta sighed in annoyance. “I’m too weak to use my magic!”

Another Piskie, a ginger girl with purple highlights and wearing a long pink dress, squinted through the wall of the cage. “I think the lock is over there somewhere,” she pointed, and Musichetta squinted through the dark room until she caught sight of a stone monster skeleton with unnaturally glowing eyes. Magic, it has to be! She focussed again, and once again her hands lit up with pink light, only this time it didn’t immediately flicker out. Booyah. She flung the ball of light at the skull of the statue, and with a flash, the walls of the energy cage vanished and the Piskies whooped in delight. Musichetta hurriedly shushed them.

“Not so loud! Something might hear us!” Her shoulders were shaking from the effort of using magic in her weakened state, and the Piskies squinted up worriedly at her.

“Chetta, are you alright?” the ginger Piskie, whose name was Juliette, asked.

Musichetta nodded. “I’ll be fine. The dark energy here is very draining for Faeries, that’s all.”

A green-haired Piskie, named Abby, quickly took charge. “We need to get out of here as quickly as possible.”

The blonde Piskie, Roselyne, fluttered her wings experimentally. Now that Musichetta got a closer look, it seemed that all the Piskies’ wings were covered in some kind of gunk. “Our wings are still covered in that gross tar stuff though,” Roselyne pointed out. “We can’t fly!”

“I’ll carry you then,” Musichetta said determinedly. She held out her arms, and all eight of the Piskies who had been trapped in the cage climbed up one by one and clung to her jumper. She made sure that all were relatively secure before slowly standing up and heading down the only corridor in sight. “I can’t climb and carry you at the same time, and I’m too weak to fly,” she explained. “We’ll just have to find the stairs.” As they continued down the corridor, Lise wriggled free of the other Piskies and clambered up Musichetta’s shoulder until she reached her hood, which she crawled into. Musichetta hurried down the corridor, unaware that she was being watched.

 

 

In the throne room of the citadel, a pair of dark eyes gazed out of a rusted scarlet helmet into a viewing portal. Beneath the helmet, the only facial feature visible, a mouth full of sharp white teeth, snarled in anger. “So, the girl dares to attempt an escape from my fortress,” it growled. “Worthless Piskies, you think you are safe with her? How wrong you are! And as for you, pesky Faery, you don’t stand a chance against my Shadow Monsters!” With a flick of its wrist, the Shadow Knight’s hands filled with scarlet light, and three things spun into existence in front of him. The first took the appearance of a skeletal, blind theropod, about 6 feet tall. The second was like the hate child of a komodo dragon and a porcupine, with its spike-covered body slung low to the ground, and the third looked like a snake with legs, and had a wide drooling mouth filled with needle-sharp teeth. The Knight smirked at his creations before speaking instructions to them. “Your prey is heading for the main entrance. To the girl, do what you want, but I need the Piskies alive!”

 

 

Musichetta had finally reached a huge set of double doors, and shoved them open with her shoulder. She gave a whoop of relief when they led to a circular room full of doors.

“We made it!” Juliette cheered. “This is the main level! We’ll be able to get out from here!”

“Affirmative,” Abby agreed. She held up one of her wrists, which had a clunky sort of bracelet on it. “Stand by while I check my scanner, which should tell us where the exit - huh.” The bracelet, which had a tiny screen on it, gave a dying beep. “Power failure.”

“Judging from the appearances of the doors, I think that one is the exit,” Manon said, pointing to a set of dark-coloured metallic double doors. “My powers are growing weaker though, so I cannot be sure.”

“My powers are growing weaker too!” Roselyne agreed. “I can barely talk anymore! Which reminds me, Chetta, did I tell you about -”

“Sorry, Roselyne, but we don’t have time for gossip,” Musichetta sighed. “We need to keep moving. I’ll take your word for it, Manon.” She headed towards the double doors, but suddenly the room filled with scarlet light, and she hurriedly stepped back. When it cleared, they all screamed.

The Shadow Monsters were surrounding them on all sides. Musichetta yelped, and made to step back, but suddenly the snake-like one reared back its head and sent an enormous globule of saliva towards them. The Faery was knocked over by the force of it, and nearly let go of the Piskies. She lay there groaning for a second (while Manon complained about her dress getting dirty) before hurriedly rolling to her left. The spiky lizard thing had detached some of its spines, and was flicking them at her with its tail. She only narrowly missed them.

With a yell, Musichetta kicked up and used her momentum to get back on her feet. The snake-thing spat at her again, but she managed to dodge it, and in its haste to chase her, the theropod-beast slipped on the saliva and got stuck in it. One down.

The snake-thing spat again, and Musichetta ran between it and the spiky lizard, which flicked more spikes at her. By some kind of sheer luck - there had to be a higher power on her side - the spit hit the lizard, and the spikes hit the snake-thing, which shrieked as its life blood poured from the deep cuts they left. Musichetta didn’t stop to check if the spit had damaged the spiky lizard; she was already sprinting back down the corridor as fast as she could.

Another lucky streak led her down a branch off the corridor to a huge pair of double doors, far bigger than the ones in the circular room. She kicked them open, revealing a long stone bridge leading to a platform, which had stairs heading down to a cave exit! They had made it out of the citadel!

Their celebration was short-lived however. With a ghastly swooping noise, an enormous bird flew down from above. It had no feet, and its wings were huge and ragged, with a wingspan of at least 14 feet. It had a long neck leading up to a head with dark, cruel eyes and a shiny hooked beak. Its entire body was a shade of dull crimson, and its few tail-feathers undulated like snakes. In spite of its lack of feet, it landed on the platform at the other end of the bridge, and with a flash, it shrank down until it became a man - of a sort.

He wore rusted red armour, the same colour as the bird’s feathers, that covered his entire body apart from his midriff and his mouth - although his midriff was really only a black spine that twisted from the trouser-part of his armour to his chest plate. His mouth was lipless, and full of bright white teeth that gleamed menacingly. Several long spikes splayed from the back of his armour, and long tattered strips of fabric fluttered from them, giving a sort of cape effect. When he spoke, his voice was deep, gravelly and had a constant flavour of cruelty.

“Foolish girl!” he snarled. “You think you can escape when you barely have the strength to stand? Hand over the Piskies!”

“Never!” Musichetta snarled back. “I’d rather die than let them fall into your grubby claws!”

The teeth gleamed as the Knight chuckled. “I find your pointless bravery rather tiresome, but no matter. Terms… accepted.” He raised his hand, and a bolt of scarlet light hit Musichetta in the head, knocking her to the ground. The Piskies were sent flying back into the corridor, and with a flick of the Knight’s wrist, they were sucked into an energy bubble, which floated over to him. He crossed the bridge and raised his clawed hand, which gleamed in the dim light.

With a gasp, Musichetta raised her hands and focussed on her magic. With a bang, a pink shield spun into existence over her body, just in time, as the Knight brought his claws down on her. They punctured the shield, but didn’t touch her, and the Knight withdrew his hand. “How is that possible?!” he snarled. “You should be too weak to defend yourself!”

Musichetta got to her feet with a groan. “Faeries never give up! I’m not so easy to beat!”

“Aren’t you?” the Knight mused, before he once again blasted scarlet light at her. She managed to dodge it this time, but the second time she wasn’t so lucky. The Knight clenched his hand, and several shadowy tentacles grew from his claws. They wrapped around her, sticking to her skin like octopus arms. She was raised slowly into the air, struggling as hard as she could, but to no avail. The tentacles carried her to the edge of the platform, and the Knight grinned at her with those gleaming teeth. “Goodbye, Faery!” he crooned. “No one could survive the fall from this height!” And with that, the tentacles vanished.

Musichetta screamed as she felt herself falling into the abyss below.

 

 

Above ground, about 20 miles away…

It was the start of a new school year at the Musain College for Faeries, and Cosette Valjean was hopeful that things would finally settle down after the excitement of last year. She’d spent the summer with her father - or, well, adoptive father - Jean Valjean, and as much as she loved magic, it had been nice to get away from that for a while. She hadn’t even minded when he asked her to help out at his cake shop, Monsieur Madeleine’s Patisserie. There was something awfully soothing about serving up cream cakes and fruit pastries on little plates or in fancy paper bags.

She was curious to see how her friends had spent the summer, and if regular Faeries had a different idea of vacation than she did. She could see Éponine playing her saxophone to a crowd on the steps up to the front door, and Cosette waved to her.

Éponine finished her song and turned to wave back. “Alright, Cosette?” she yelled happily. “Azelma finally talked my dad into letting me go to Musical Summer Camp! I learned so much, it was great!”

Cosette smiled. “Glad he’s finally accepted that you’re a Faery, Ponine.” Éponine and her father had fought for ages over her education, culminating in ignoring the other’s existence as much as possible. Luckily, that had all changed after the battle against Patron-Minette last term, when Headmaster Thénardier, who ran a school for Witches, had seen Éponine’s magical prowess against the Army of Darkness. “I’m gonna go find the others, see you later!” Cosette headed inside the building, passing Courfeyrac on the way. He was squinting up at the placement of a banner with great concentration, so Cosette decided to say hello to him later. A familiar floral scent caught her attention, and she followed it to the cafeteria, where she found Jehan Prouvaire examining the floral arrangements on the tables with enormous delight. “Hi Jehan!”

Jehan turned, and beamed when they caught sight of Cosette. “Sette! It’s so lovely to see you!” They swept up a vase of red flowers and shoved them under her nose. “Give these a whiff, they smell amazing!”

Cosette obligingly sniffed the flowers, and was amazed when the familiar soft earthy scent of a low-burning fire filled her nostrils. “Wow! They smell just like…”

“The Dragon Fire!” Jehan supplied delightedly. “I started trying to cultivate them after we beat Patron-Minette! I’m so glad they’re ready in time for the unveiling ceremony!”

“Unveiling ceremony?” Cosette chuckled. This was news to her.

“Haven’t you seen the big construction sheet over the west tower?” Jehan asked. “They spent the whole summer rebuilding it after it was destroyed in battle. They want to have a big unveiling ceremony for it this afternoon! Lamarque’s going to be there too, and I think some certain Wizards are accompanying him…” Jehan winked at Cosette, who flushed at the thought of seeing her not-quite-boyfriend, Prince Marius, again.

“In that case, I’d better go and unpack!” she smiled. “Catch you later, Jehan!” Jehan waved to her, before turning back to their flowers.

Cosette headed up the stairs to the apartment she shared with her friends, with her pet Dutch rabbit Wolter hopping along behind her. When she reached the familiar green door with yellow stained-glass panels, she raised an eyebrow at the alarming noises coming from within. She hesitantly pushed open the door, and followed the noises to the room Courfeyrac and Enjolras shared, knocking lightly on the door. “Enj? Is that you in there?”

“Yes!” Enjolras’ voice groaned. “Now be a good friend, and come help me!” Cosette opened the door and felt her jaw drop at the mess within. Clothes, books and personal effects were strewn across the room like a hurricane had just passed through, and Enjolras was nowhere to be seen - until he unexpectedly appeared from behind the door, making her yelp in surprise.

“I wanted that Liberté, Égalité, Homosexualité T-shirt you got me for my birthday,” he groaned, “and I could have sworn I put it in my ‘Dad’ bag -” (Enjolras’ parents were divorced, meaning he would spend half of each holiday at his father’s and the other half at his mother’s) “but when I checked it wasn’t there, so I checked again, and -”

“And apparently chucked all of your belongings around the room in the process,” Cosette chuckled. She took in her friend’s appearance, and hurriedly pressed her lips together to avoid the giggle-vomit threatening to burst out.

“Yeah,” Enjolras moaned. “And then it happened again with my ‘Mum’ bag. And I still haven’t found the T-shirt!”

“Well, I don’t see what I can do unless you want me and my magic fire to clean up your room,” Cosette teased. “Although your belongings might not survive that.”

“Seriously Cosette,” the blonde Prince of Solaria snapped. “Now is not the time for teasing! Now is the time for helping me find my T-shirt!”

Cosette, who had been on the verge of giggles the entire time, finally burst out laughing. “Enj,” she gasped, “Enj, you’re wearing it. You’re…wearing…the…damn…T-shirt!”

Enjolras looked down, and realised he was indeed wearing the T-shirt he’d been so desperately looking for. “Kill me now,” he groaned. “You mean I could have been reading my book instead of tearing up my room? Ugh!” He flopped onto his bed dramatically, and Cosette patted his head in sympathy.

“Sucks, that. Well, gotta go unpack!”

“What? You’re not going to help me clean up my room?”

“Sorry, Enj, but I’ve got a whole suitcase of clothes here begging to be put away,” Cosette laughed. “Anyway, you’ve gotta learn how to clean some time!”

“Screw you,” Enjolras called after her, but she could tell by the giggle in his voice that he didn’t really mean it.

 

 

An hour later, and all her clothes had been put away, books placed on bookshelves, and pictures and ornaments hung on the walls and propped on either her chest of drawers or bedside table, and Cosette decided to take a walk through the school’s corridors with a packet of Corn Nuts. She was somewhere near the library, when a tinkling noise like a tiny bell being rung caught her attention. Cosette hurried to look in its direction, and noticed a trail of rapidly vanishing orange glitter turning down a corridor that, come to think of it, she’d never been down before. She hurried to catch up to it before it completely disappeared. The glitter zigzagged down the corridor, before coming to an abrupt halt in front of - a wall. A completely blank wall. Cosette groaned in frustration, but her attention was caught by a painting on the opposite wall, a few feet to the right. It was of the exact same corridor that she was in now, right down to the paintings lining the walls, except for one subtle difference - in the painting, there was a wooden door on the wall right where the trail ended.

Cosette’s eyes widened - it must be an invisible door! Which meant that the handle should be right over… her hand grasped an invisible doorknob, which she carefully turned, and a door-shaped hole appeared in the wall, and she walked through…

Cosette gasped in amazement at the sight that lay before her. It was an enormous library, stretching up at least three floors, with a domed glass ceiling. There were several shelving nooks, all on different levels according to subject, and there were star shaped platforms here and there to carry you up to the higher levels. In the centre of the room was a minute sofa, two tiny armchairs and a minuscule coffee table, set for tea time with doll-sized tea things.

There came a sharp whistle from somewhere up and to the left, and a bright blue glowing thing came spiralling down from the ceiling until it was on a level with Cosette’s face. She nearly jumped out of her skin, before realising that it was a tiny chubby woman with a head far too proportionally large for her body. She was wearing blue robes and a matching hat, with her blonde hair in two Princess Leia buns and a pair of tiny spectacles perched at the end of her nose. Three-pronged wings poked out of her back, and she glared fiercely at Cosette. “Well, what have you got to say for yourself?” she admonished. Her make-up, which was pale blue in colour, formed two triangles under her blue eyes.

Cosette finally found her voice. “This place is amazing!” she gasped out. “It’s incredible! The student library has nothing on this place! How come I’ve never been in here before!”

“No one is supposed to know about this place!” the woman snapped. “Look at you! First you come clunking after my poor pet, Hippocampus -” the thing that had apparently been making the orange sparkles appeared. It looked like a large green seahorse - the same size as its apparent owner - only it had large orange butterfly wings poking out of its back - “nearly scaring the poor thing half to death, and now you’re rampaging around the Magic Archive!”

“The Magic Archive…” Cosette murmured. “So this is a library, but with a record of everything Musain-related to ever have happened? Incredible!”

“Yes, it is, rather,” the woman said begrudgingly. “I am Élisa, Piskie of the Musain Magic Archive. It’s my job to keep it tidy, organised and running smoothly. And to keep out nosy students!” She sat down on the little couch with a huff and a swish of her robes.

Cosette’s cheeks flushed. “Oh, sorry,” she said, looking a little put out. “Should I leave then?”

Élisa sighed and picked up her tiny cup of tea. “Well, you’re here now. You may as well stay for a little while. It can get a little boring around here. But you can start by introducing yourself!”

Cosette smiled. “My name is Euphrasie, but everyone calls me Cosette. I really sort of came in here by accident, I didn’t mean to intrude.” She tilted her head to one side curiously. “If you don’t mind, I have a question for you. What’s a Piskie?”

Élisa took a sip from her cup before replying. “My dear, Piskies are beings of magic. Like Faeries, we draw our powers from positive forces - most of us, anyway, although you do get the odd Witch Piskie - and we often help Faeries fight evil and perform their spells. In fact, it’s possible for a Faery and a Piskie to form a deep connection with each other, known as bonding. It’s a little like falling in platonic love, and the two will become nearly inseparable. Any Piskie can help any Faery, but it’s always more effective if the two are bonded.”

“That sounds amazing!” Cosette murmured with wide eyes. “Man, I wish I had a bonded Piskie. What about you? Are you bonded to Headmaster Myriel or Professor Javert?”

Élisa gave a tinkling chuckle. “Oh, Dragon above, no! I am bonded to the Archive.”

“You can bond with a room?” Cosette said in awe. “Don’t you get lonely?”

The little Piskie shook her head. “I have Hippocampus to keep me company. He’s a sweet little thing - a Faery pet. Have you ever heard of the Velveteen Rabbit?”

Cosette nodded. “Yes! It was my favourite story when I was little!”

“It’s no fiction, though,” Élisa informed her. “When a toy is loved enough, but is thrown away, it will vanish, and reappear as a Faery pet to whichever Faery or Piskie needs its company. Love is the most powerful magic of all, Cosette. Never forget that.”

Cosette nodded seriously, before glancing at the large golden clock on one of the walls. “Oh no!” she gasped. “I’m late!”

“For what?” Élisa asked curiously.

“There’s a big ceremony I’m supposed to be going to,” Cosette explained. “I’m meant to be there in seven minutes!”

Élisa chuckled dryly. “Then go! Off with you!” Cosette waved to her as she exited through the door, and was delighted to see Élisa wave back.

 

 

“Where have you been?!” Enjolras groaned when Cosette finally arrived. “The ceremony’s about to start! We nearly sent out a search party!”

“Sorry, sorry,” Cosette groaned. “I, uh, got talking to someone, and lost track of time - dammit! I left my phone in my room!” To her utter shock, Wolter swooped down on a pair of little blue wings and handed her her phone, before turning and heading back up to her window. “Wolter can fly?” Cosette said in shock. “Did one of you do that?”

Her friends all shook their heads, and Cosette blinked slowly. “It’s probably Amaryl playing a prank on us,” she decided. “She never did get over us beating her team during that survival class last year.”

Éponine’s eyes were nearly closed, and she was listening intently to a sound only she could hear - as the Faery of Music, her hearing range was far wider than any of the others’ could have hoped to be. “Hoverbikes,” she grinned after a moment. “Three of them. And I have a pretty good idea of who’s riding them…”

They hurried out the open gates, and just as Éponine had said, three hoverbikes were racing towards the entrance of the school. They weaved in between each other, battling for the lead, until eventually the rider in a magenta helmet pulled up first, followed by the riders in blue and green helmets respectively.

Bahorel, the boy who’d won the apparent race, removed his helmet and ran a finger through his spiky magenta hair. “Come on, Marius,” he laughed at the blue-helmeted boy. “You said you wanted to make a grand entrance!”

Marius pulled off his helmet, revealing his familiar freckled face and messy red hair. “Yeah, but you didn’t have to be a jerk about it,” he teased. Cosette dashed up to him.

“Hey Marius! How are you? Have a good summer?”

Marius’ cheeks instantly coloured pink, as they were prone to around Cosette. “Hey, Cosette, hi! I’m good, had a pretty good summer, you?”

Cosette offered him a hand off the bike. “Yeah, me too, I had a good summer.”

The third boy, Grantaire, pulled off his helmet too. “Marius, you say that like you didn’t spend the entire summer moping that you had to be away from -mmph!” Grantaire was interrupted and nearly knocked over by the force of Enjolras throwing his arms around his neck.

A huge shadow fell over the whole group and they all looked up in surprise. An airship from the Corinthe College for Wizards was landing next to them, and Combeferre waved to them from the driver’s seat. Headmaster Lamarque sat next to him, smiling out at the pink and blue castle that housed the school for Faeries.

The two exited the ship, and Lamarque nodded to the Faeries before heading in to rendezvous with Headmaster Myriel. Combeferre, however, immediately went over to greet Courfeyrac, with whom he had become rather close when the Wizards had been staying at Musain last year.

“Hey Courf!”

“Hi, Ferre,” Courfeyrac blushed. The technology Faery’s crush on the bespectacled Wizard was painfully obvious to everyone except said bespectacled Wizard, and vice versa.

Meanwhile, Enjolras was busy kissing Grantaire hello. The two had become official during the battle, and were quite possibly the most openly affectionate couple Cosette had ever met - which was saying something, considering she had been brought up in the City of Love on Earth. The blond prince pulled away from his dark haired boyfriend just long enough to wave hello to the other Wizards, before returning to his previous activity. As everyone started heading over to the stage that had been set up next to the covered tower, it fell to Cosette to pry the two apart and inform them that the ceremony was about to begin.

Myriel was standing on the platform, with Professor Javert behind him. He smiled out over the sea of faces, and began his speech. “Students and professors, welcome to a new term at Musain College for Faeries! After our battle with the Army of Darkness, a lot needed to be done in order to restore our school to its former glory, and our victory in the battle was due to one Faery in particular - Cosette. Cosette, if you could come up and join me, please?”

Cosette’s eyes widened, and she smiled delightedly. “Really?”

Enjolras grinned at her. “Go on, Cosette!”

“Not without you lot!” Cosette insisted. “You guys are just as responsible as I am for defeating Patron-Minette. We’re all going on stage!” The Amis all grinned and followed her up to the platform.

Headmaster Myriel smiled fondly at the Amis as they all climbed onto the stage together. “In honour of Cosette’s courage, we have decided to dedicate the rebuilt tower to her as the Dragon Flame Wing!” Everyone burst into cheers, and with a flick of the headmaster’s wrist, the sheet covering the tower burst into sparkles, revealing it to be as good as new. As Professors Palladium and Fauchelevent set off fireworks, Cosette leaned against Jehan with a grin.

“I hope that the whole school year is going to be like this!”

 

 

At that moment, almost like an ominous kind of foreshadowing, the Shadow Knight was pacing back and forth in front of a large table in his throne room. Atop the table sat the recaptured Piskies - most of them, anyway, Lise was nowhere to be found no matter how hard the Knight looked - bound by tiny magical handcuffs. The handcuffs served a dual purpose; they both prevented the Piskies escaping and worked as an intimidation tactic. However, they weren’t working particularly well in that second aspect.

The Shadow Knight grit his teeth and loomed over the Piskies threateningly. “You WILL tell me the location of your village!” he instructed. Most of the Piskies shook in terror, but remained tight-lipped. The only Piskie who spoke, Abby, was glaring defiantly up at the Knight.

“You are not authorised to access our data!” she snapped. The Knight leaned down to her level, so close that she could have reached out and touched the rotting flesh on his jaw if she so wished. (She really didn’t wish, though.)

“Oh really?” he hissed.

“Leave her alone!” Roselyne yelled. She looked terrified, but clenched her jaw resolutely. “You big bully!”

The Knight smirked. “Very well, then.” He raised his hand, and a sound like a vacuum cleaner swept through the room. As the noise turned to silence, Abby collapsed backwards in a dead faint. The Knight turned to the other Piskies, who were shaking in their handcuffs. “I’ll drain all your powers one by one until you tell me where the village is,” he informed them. “That’s where you’ve hidden the Codex, isn’t it?”

“Leave them ALONE!”

The Knight glared at Roselyne. “I’ve had just about enough of you,” he snarled. The vacuum noise roared again, and Roselyne collapsed the same way that Abby had. The Knight turned to the other Piskies. “Now, the rest of you. Speak! Or suffer!”

 

 

“What’s up, Cosette? You look a little far away.”

The Amis - which, by now, really included Marius, Grantaire, Bahorel and Combeferre too - were sitting at Musain’s side steps, facing the forest. They were watching Enjolras lovingly explain to Grantaire how he was “very, very wrong with his opinion on the Zenith Isolation” (his current political topic of choice) but Cosette and Marius were sitting a little way off from everybody else, just enjoying each other’s company.

Cosette blinked herself out of her reverie and nodded with a laugh. “Oh yeah, I’m fine, Marius. Just thinking about a little adventure I had today.”

“What?” Marius gave her a jokingly offended look. “There was trouble and you didn’t call your friendly neighbourhood Prince Charming?” It was an in-joke between them; they both knew well enough that Cosette didn’t need a Prince defending her.

Cosette giggled and ruffled his hair. “Marius, not every adventure involves monsters, you know.”

“So, what happened?”

“Well, it’s kind of a funny story,” Cosette began, before groaning. “…aaaand I promised not to tell anyone.”

“Am I just ‘anyone’ to you then?” Marius joked, and they both laughed.

“And on top of it all, King Cryos tries to make Zenith look like it’s not isolating itself by going along to political summits, but he doesn’t give a crap what anyone else has to say!” Enjolras was continuing, and Cosette turned serious again.

“I hope that this year I’ll be able to learn more about my lineage,” she told Marius. “Remember when we were talking by the well last year? I’m hoping to finally answer the big stuff.”

Marius squeezed her hand. “I’m sure you’ll find out more,” he assured her. “And I’ll be with you every step of the way, no matter what.”

Jehan interrupted Enjolras’ tirade with an excited squeal as Combeferre and Courfeyrac rejoined the group. “And where have you two been?” they giggled, winking far too obviously.

Combeferre’s cheeks turned bright red at what the flower Faery was implying, but Courfeyrac just rolled his eyes. “Get your mind out of the gutter, Jehan. Combeferre was showing me the ship’s new design. It’s called the Owl, and it’s way more streamlined and speedy.”

“I’m sure it was,” Jehan replied, with such a tone to their voice that there was no mistaking the double-entendre they were making.

“Whatever you guys were doing, it’s getting late,” Grantaire chuckled. “Lamarque’s waiting for us. We need to head back to Corinthe.”

The Wizards said their goodbyes before wheeling their bikes onto the Owl and taking off in the direction of their own school. The Faeries waved goodbye to them until long after the ship was out of sight. They were turning to head back into the school, when suddenly Jehan stopped dead.

“Guys,” they said softly, “something’s wrong with the trees.”

The Amis immediately stopped where they were and turned to face the treeline a few metres away from the school. Cosette squinted into the darkness provided by the thousands of evergreens, and suddenly her eyes widened. There was a silhouette only just visible; someone pushing their way through the branches. They were moving slowly, but not seemingly by choice; they appeared exhausted.

Finally the person reached the edge of the forest and stepped into the light, and they realised that it was a girl around their own age. She had dark skin and long, messy red hair, and her wide brown eyes were filled with tears. Her face was covered in bruises, scrapes and shallow cuts, with more injuries covered by her hoodie and jeans, judging from how she was clutching her left side and favouring one leg. She had the unhealthy look of a naturally plump person who had lost a lot of weight worryingly quickly, and she was shaking all over.

“Are you OK?” Cosette asked unnecessarily. This girl was clearly not OK, and in response to Cosette’s question, closed her eyes and collapsed forwards. Cosette dashed to catch her before her head hit the ground, and carefully lowered her down, arranging her in the recovery position. The Amis joined her, gathering round.

“She’s not…?” Jehan said shakily, and Cosette felt the girl’s neck for a pulse then shook her head.

“No. Just exhausted.” Cosette moved the girl’s hair away from her neck, checking for head injuries, and to her surprise, something rolled out of the girl’s hood.

“What is that?” Enjolras muttered. Cosette glanced over at the thing, and her eyes widened.

“That’s a Piskie!” she exclaimed. Jehan cupped their hands and lifted it up for them to see it. ‘It’ was apparently a ‘she’, and a baby at that. She had brown curly hair and light brown skin, with a yellow moon painted over one eyelid and three stars on the other. She had silver moon-shaped wings, and wore a dark blue playsuit with gold star embroidery, silver leggings, a see-through gold skirt, and little pink baby booties. There was a moon-shaped pendant around her neck, and she was fast asleep.

“Why does she have a ‘Piskie’?” Éponine asked. “What are ‘Piskies’?”

“I’ll explain later,” Cosette assured her. “Right now, this girl needs a doctor.” Éponine nodded, and helped Cosette get the girl upright. Together they supported her up the steps and into the main building, while Jehan carried the Piskie and Enjolras and Courfeyrac ran ahead to alert Nurse Dahlia. They all had the same two questions on their minds:

Who is this girl? And what could have happened to her?

Chapter Text

Running…

Heavy breathing…

“Weak…”

A roar…

Spit flying towards her…

Screaming…

A wicked laugh…

“Pointless bravery! Foolish girl!”

Running, panting, “Hand over the Piskies!”

“Never!” she screamed. “I’d rather die!”

“Terms… accepted.”

Falling, falling, falling, “No one could survive a fall from this height!”

Falling - water - pain - blackness -

“Relax, Cosette,” Jehan told their pacing friend. It was nearly 5am, and the Amis had gathered in the room shared by Cosette and Jehan. “I know it’s been four days, but I’m sure she’ll wake up soon.”

Courfeyrac yawned and checked the clock on his phone. “The sun will be up in exactly twelve minutes,” he informed them. “We’ve stayed up all night.”

“Oh no,” Jehan groaned. “None of us has slept a wink! How will we stay awake tomorrow?”

“You mean today,” Courfeyrac pointed out.

“Don’t worry,” Enjolras said tiredly. “We can just sleep in. It’s the first week of school, so classes are optional.” He helped Éponine up from where she had been leaning against the chest of drawers. “Come on, kids, bedtime!”

“You’re less than a year older than me, don’t call me a kid, you midget,” Éponine snorted, although the jab was ruined by her large yawn that broke the sentence in half. She, Enjolras and Courfeyrac left to go to their own beds, while Cosette and Jehan changed into their pyjamas and exhaustedly collapsed into their own beds. Cosette was out like a light the second her head hit her pillow. She didn’t even have time to pull the duvet over herself.

 

 

There are many planets in the Magic Universe, each with their own societies, and Planet Ohm was no different. Ohm’s society centres around peace, meditation and quiet fulfilment, thus making it the perfect place for a rehabilitation centre such as Lightrock Monastery. An enormous temple at the top of the highest mountain, it has many courtyards filled with flora of all sorts (all beautiful and non-toxic), quiet corridors with windows that always seem to catch the sun, no matter the time of day, and sparsely furnished yet comfortable rooms. It would be no different to a hotel, was it not for two key features: first, hardly anyone ever enters or exits - at least during the day. Second, the monks who stand guard on every terrace, watching the criminals with beady, sharp eyes.

“It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?” one monk remarked to another on the day on which our story is taking place. “These gentle folks were once hardened criminals.” Indeed, many of the Monastery’s inhabitants, all dressed in baggy white jumpsuits and glowing green headbands, were engaged in the kind of activities not normally associated with hardened criminals - from stopping to smell the roses, to quietly meditating, to happily reading books while sitting on one of the many benches scattered around the garden walkways.

“I don’t understand why they are allowed to walk about so freely,” his friend replied. He was young in body, but with a look of intense frustration on his face that made him appear far older than he was.

“We believe in rehabilitation,” the first monk reminded him. “This is not a prison.”

“Maybe,” the second sighed, “but these people have more freedom than we will have in our entire lifetime.”

“But can’t you see what peace and meditation is doing for them?”

“I don’t think it’s working for everyone,” sighed the younger monk.

The older monk sighed too. “You speak of the three young Witches who tried to take over Magix.” It wasn’t a question.

“They shout and scream day in, day out,” the second monk groaned. “They’ve made no progress in the six months they’ve been here. I fear they will never be rehabilitated.”

“Brother,” the older monk reminded him softly, “no one is beyond redemption.”

The reader has probably guessed that the three Witches the monks spoke of were Babet, Claquesous and Gueulemer, the Witches known as Patron-Minette. Indeed, they had been staying (although, ‘imprisoned’ is probably a more accurate word) at Lightrock Monastery since their defeat at the hands of Les Amis about six months earlier. And they were most certainly not happy about it.

As they stumped across one of the many courtyards, Claquesous groaned as she recognised the fountain centrepiece. “Ugh, this is the third time we’ve crossed this courtyard, and we’re still no closer to finding the damn front door!” she snarled. “You’d think we’d have at least found a monk to follow at this point.”

“This is totally useless,” Gueulemer harrumphed, sitting down criss-cross-applesauce style and resting his chin in his hands. “It’s probably magically concealed so that the prisoners can’t find it. Face it; we’re not getting out of here any time soon.”

Babet made a growling noise at the back of his throat. “If it weren’t for these stupid Magic Containment headbands, we’d be out of here before you could blink.” He tugged fruitlessly at the glowing headwear for a second before giving up with a frustrated yelp.

Claquesous lay down on the grass, making a pillow out of her long brown hair. “I’m exhausted,” she wailed. “I hate this stupid, perky place!”

“Good morning, Lightrock Monastery!” said a perky voice from seemingly nowhere. The same voice had greeted the inhabitants of the Monastery every day since it had been founded hundreds of years ago. “Here is Brother Titus with the weather announcements for the day.”

“The forecast for today is clear skies with a light breeze from the west, with temperatures hovering around 21º Celsius or 70º Fahrenheit, and the same is expected for the next several years.”

“Thank you very much, Brother Titus!” the first voice said happily. “And now, back to our music programme!” Cheerful flute music blared out of what Patron-Minette could only assume was a concealed speaker, and the three of them groaned in frustration.

“That’s it!” Gueulemer snapped. “I’m going to obliterate that loudspeaker! We were among the most powerful beings in the entire Magic Universe! We had the Dragon Flame! WE KICKED HEADMASTER THÉNARDIER OUT OF HIS OWN SCHOOL, FOR FUCKS’ SAKE! And now all we do is sit around listening to that stupid flute music!”

“Gueulemer,” the speaker admonished, making the violet-haired boy nearly jump out of his own skin, “not only is it important to stop doing evil acts, one must also banish evil thoughts.”

Claquesous glared at the tree she had decided the speaker was concealed in from her position on the floor. “But Mister Loudspeaker Person, we haven’t done a single violent or evil thing for six months,” she groaned at it. “Can’t we at least be allowed to have evil thoughts? As a reward for good behaviour?”

“No, Claquesous,” the speaker replied. “That’s not how it works. Evil thoughts merely encourage evil acts. It was your evil thoughts that led you to do the evil things that got you sent here. Do you see what I mean?”

“Yup,” Gueulemer sighed. “I’ll disconnect you rather than obliterate you. Is that more positive?”

“That’s great, Gueulemer!” the voice chirped as Gueulemer began pushing branches aside in search of the loudspeaker. “You’re making progress! Do as you wish; a reward for good behaviour.” Gueulemer dug his nails behind the shiny metal box stuck to the tree, and began yanking at it. “And now the news…” The loudspeaker cut off and gave an electrical crackle as Gueulemer succeeded in removing it from the tree, but to his utter annoyance, the voice returned just as quickly as it had been cut off. “Welcome to Hope Conquers All, Lightrock’s hourly news segment!” it chirped. Gueulemer shrieked in annoyance and began turning the speaker over in his hands.

“This thing has to have an off-switch!” he groaned as the news report began. “Where is it?!” Giving up on the off-switch when he couldn’t find one, he promptly flung the device onto the ground with a yell of, “Shut UP!”

The news report cut off, and the speaker began to admonish him again. “Gueulemer,” it said mildly, “that doesn’t look like progress to me.”

Gueulemer lifted the loudspeaker and flung it to the other side of the huge courtyard.

“Unbelievable,” Claquesous commented, unsure of whether she was more annoyed or amused by Gueulemer’s fight with the device. She tilted her head to one side. “What the hell? I can still hear it!”

“Where is it COMING FROM?” Gueulemer screamed. He marched over to a forget-me-not bush and pulled another speaker from between its leaves. Another several were found at the base of the fountain, and there were even more under the benches and in the trees and bushes. For each one Gueulemer managed to remove, there always seemed to be another one concealed mere feet away, all blaring the same perky news programme. “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Babet watched his cousin tearing at his hair in frustration with narrowed ice-blue eyes. I swear, he thought to himself, when I get out of here I will be more evil than ever.

 

 

Having slept through double Potions, the Amis made it out of bed in time to get to lunch and then Transfiguration. Cosette was still utterly exhausted though; her sleep, while deep, had hardly been restful, as her dreams had been haunted by the strange girl they’d found in the woods. Her exhaustion had taken the form of luggage-sized bags under her eyes. She rested her chin in her hands and tried her best to pay attention to the lecture.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Professor Wizgiz was saying in his lilting Irish accent. “‘Wouldn’t it be nice if all the things in the universe were good?’ While that would be nice, that’s clearly not the case; furthermore, that’s not possible: because in the Universe, there is no light without darkness.” He hopped down from where he’d been seated atop his desk. “When an energy is created, it produces an opposite force; one that is equally strong. Observe:” He held his hand out, palm up. The entire class focussed on it eagerly - but nothing happened. “What do you see?”

“Professor,” Amaryl rolled her eyes, “you’re showing us nothing.” Some of her idiotic (in Enjolras’ opinion) friends started sniggering.

Wizgiz raised an eyebrow. “Am I?” he said cryptically, before snapping his fingers. With a bang, the black-out curtains closed and the lamps turned off, leaving the well-lit room pitch black, except for ball of green light at the front of the class, and everyone’s jaw dropped at its source. Professor Wizgiz was still holding his hand out flat, only now the ball of green light was flickering in his palm. “See?” he grinned, the light-ball illuminating his face. “What I did there, right, I captured some of the light in the room. However, it was only visible in the darkness…” he snapped his fingers again, and the lights came back on while the blinds opened, “…its polar opposite.” His hand was once again empty, and he returned it to his side, hopping back onto the desk.

“As I was saying,” he continued, “the creation of good energy leads to the creation of an equal amount of evil energy. Normally these forces are balanced, but sometimes balancing needs a little bit of help.” The teacher pointed to the blackboard, where he had drawn a neat symbol that looked like a yin-yang. “There is a dynamic energy between the dominant force and the recessive one…” Cosette’s eyes drooped shut, and the next thing she knew, Wizgiz was screaming her name with a volume that seemed out of place coming from such a tiny man, jerking her out of her stupor. “CoSEEEEEEEEEEETTE!”

“Yes, Professor?” Cosette replied embarrassedly.

“I know this is a review,” Wizgiz said sternly, “but this will be extremely important for the first unit we will be studying this term! You would do well to pay attention. Can you tell me what is missing from my diagram?”

Cosette squinted at the yin-yang tiredly. She couldn’t see anything out of place with it, and wound up blurting the first thing that came to mind. “I think Éponine’s got a pair of earrings that look like that,” she accidentally thought aloud. The entire classroom burst out laughing.

Wizgiz tutted. “Page 3 of the new textbook, fourth paragraph. Please read it out for us, Cosette.”

Cosette groaned at herself, opening the volume on her desk and turning to the correct paragraph. “‘In the case of imbalance, there is a third, greater energy that - yawn - will manifest to reset the balance,” she began. All I want to do is check up on that girl, and then go back to bed for another century.

 

 

Luckily, time seemed to pass by fairly quickly, and before they knew it, the Amis were walking into the hospital wing. Nurse Dahlia pointed them to the correct bed, which had curtains around it to afford the occupant some privacy. “She woke up this morning, and she’s been dozing on and off ever since,” she informed them, to all five teenagers’ excitement. “Don’t get too rowdy in there. This is a hospital.”

They only had to wait at the girl’s side for five minutes before her dark eyes blinked sleepily open. The sight of people in the room besides the Nurse clearly perturbed her somewhat, and she sat straight up in bed, gazing at the palms of her hands with unusual intensity. “What - four days? It’s been four days?!” She looked up at Jehan, who was closest. “Lise! Where’s Lise?”

Jehan blinked in confusion, and the girl shuddered unhappily before lying down again and closing her eyes.

“She’s nuts!” Éponine muttered to Cosette. “She looks at the palms of her hands to find out what day it is?”

“Apparently,” Cosette replied. “And she got it right too.” Being relatively new to the Magic Universe, Cosette was actually harder to surprise with the unusual, just assuming it was all normal for Magix.

Enjolras tilted his head curiously at the girl. “I wonder what her name is?” he asked the room at large. “Has she told anyone?”

Nurse Dahlia shook her head. “No, but don’t worry. She seems perfectly alright physically; her body is essentially healed, save for a few cuts made with dark magic, and she shows no signs of a concussion or amnesia.”

Jehan informed the room that the girl’s eyes had blinked open again. She sat up slower this time, leaning against the fluffy pillow. “Where am I?” she asked. Her voice sounded unnaturally thin and hoarse, but was otherwise quite pleasant to listen to.

“You’re safe at Musain College,” Éponine informed her. “We found you in the woods and brought you inside.”

“You had a baby Piskie with you,” Jehan added. “Is she Lise?”

“Lise?!” the girl said frantically. “Where is she? Is she alright? Please tell me she’s alright!”

“Don’t worry,” Jehan reassured her. “She’s completely alright.”

Relieved, the girl let out a calming breath. Cosette stepped closer. “Lise is your bonded Piskie, isn’t she?” she asked. It made sense, judging from how the girl had been more worried about the Piskie’s wellbeing than her own.

“Here she is,” Enjolras pointed to the dresser next to the bed, where a tiny cradle had been set up. The baby Piskie they’d found with the girl was slumbering happily in it, and Enjolras obligingly moved the cradle to the bedside table so that the girl could see Lise.

“Lise!” the girl whispered ecstatically. A shine had appeared in her eyes that made her seem far more alive. “I dreamt about you, baby,” she told the Piskie in a soft, fond voice. Her tone became sad, however. “Only in my dream, you left me all alone.” She was interrupted by the gurgling of her own stomach, and groaned quietly.

Courfeyrac passed her a tray with a sandwich and a glass of fruit juice. “Hungry?” he grinned.

“Yes,” the girl smiled. “Thank you.”

“It’s only logical that you would be,” Courfeyrac informed her. “You’ve been on a drip for four days; your body was crying out for something more filling.”

“Don’t scare her, Courf,” Enjolras teased. “She just woke up, she’s not ready for your logical justification of everything you do.”

“Trust me,” the girl smiled, already halfway through the sandwich, “I’ve seen scarier.” She absent-mindedly stroked Lise’s cheek, before finishing the sandwich and draining the juice in a single gulp. “So, this is your school, correct?”

Éponine nodded. “Yes. I’m Éponine.”

“And I’m Jehan,” Jehan added, fiddling around with the kettle on the dresser.

“My name’s Cosette.”

“I’m Enjolras.”

“And I’m Courfeyrac.”

“My name is Musichetta,” the girl introduced herself as Courfeyrac moved the empty tray away. “I’m the Princess of Andros, and… I couldn’t save my friends, the Piskies,” she whispered.

“Piskies?” Éponine asked. “As in multiple? How many are there?”

“Uh,” Musichetta blinked, “a village-full?”

“A whole village of Piskies?” Cosette said excitedly. “And you live with them?”

“Not exactly,” Musichetta shook her head. “I’m just a friend.”

“So what happened to them?” Enjolras asked. Jehan placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Come on, guys, don’t interrogate her,” they laughed softly. “She can tell us everything when she feels better. And I’m sure Headmaster Myriel would like to hear this too.”

Musichetta looked rather worried. “I don’t know, it might be dangerous for you guys to get involved,” she said uncertainly, coughing a little.

“We can handle danger,” Cosette assured her. “Maybe we could help you?”

Jehan offered her a cup of the tea they’d been brewing. “Here, this should help your vocal chords heal.”

Musichetta accepted the tea with a shaky smile and took a sip. Apparently, she’d been thirstier than she thought, because like the juice, the cup was drained exceedingly quickly.

“It started a week or so ago,” she began. “My family and the Piskies have always been close; every year we go to their village to visit them. But the village was empty when we arrived. Only three - Niamh, Juliette and Lottie made it back. The Piskies had been in the Dark Forest for a nature ceremony, and Niamh told us that they had been captured by these terrible beasts she called Shadow Monsters. I went with Juliette and Lottie, and we followed the trail of tar that the creatures left behind. The trail went into these underground caves, and we followed it through all these dark tunnels until we came to a huge cavern, with a citadel in the centre.”

“What’s a citadel?” Éponine interrupted.

“It’s like a huge fortress,” Courfeyrac explained. “Usually heavily guarded, and always at an excellent vantage point. Continue.”

Musichetta nodded. “The citadel was home to the master of the Shadow Monsters - a sort of superhuman creature with unparalleled powers.”

“What kind of creature was it?” Cosette asked in awe.

“It was a huge bird,” Musichetta replied. “A sort of Phoenix, but monstrous and evil - and then it transformed into a man of some sort; a skeletal knight with spines and sharp claws, and these teeth - they were the palest, sharpest teeth in the entire dimension. His flesh was all rotten, and his voice was super deep and raspy and -” she broke off, shivering. Foolish girl! Hand over the Piskies!

“Did he hurt you?” Jehan asked, gesturing to the bandages on Musichetta’s left arm, covering the dark magic wounds. Musichetta nodded.

“He caught me in no time,” she whispered, “and then he used his powers to drain mine. He took Juliette and Lottie, and threw them into magic cells along with all the other Piskies from the village!”

“They were still alive though, right?” Jehan asked worriedly. Their big green eyes were swimming with horrified tears at Musichetta’s story, and the other four Amis found themselves quite upset too.

“The Piskies,” Musichetta whimpered. “Only a few survived. Once I escaped my prison cell, I was able to free them, but when we tried to escape the citadel, the Phoenix caught us a-a-and…” she trailed off, tears splashing down her front. Jehan let out a whimper too, and pulled her into a tight yet careful hug. “He took the Piskies back,” Musichetta whispered into their shoulder, “and then he threw me off the side of the citadel. I landed in an underground river, and was washed out on the other side of the forest. I don’t know what happened to them!”

Cosette sat on her other side and joined the hug. “Don’t worry, Musichetta,” she said, finding her voice to be rather choked up. “We’ll help you free the Piskies. I promise.”

 

 

At that moment, the Shadow Knight was leaning back in his throne in the central room of the citadel, pondering his next move. “Kerbog!” he shouted. A screech answered him, and the creature he was seeking flapped into the room through the glassless window. It had an odd, crescent-shaped body, and eight legs, four on each side, like a blind spider, only its legs acted like membraneless wings, allowing it to fly. It was a dark creature known as a Cornu, and they had the ability to metamorph into beasts far larger than their true form. With a natural attraction to dark power, they made excellent lackeys for evildoers, but were thankfully rare. This one, Kerbog, obediently flew over to the Shadow Knight and hung upside down from his arm, twisting its legs together so that from far away it could have passed for a bat.

“Have you retrieved the information?” he asked. The creature responded with a series of shrieks and screeches that the Knight could apparently understand. “What?!” the Shadow Knight snapped. “The Codex is in four parts?! Are you sure?” Another screech. “You idiot! I know the Piskies are hiding one of the quadrants, but where are the other three?” It was a moment before it clicked. “Magix, of course! The schools!” The Knight leaned back, and Kerbog unwound its legs before fluttering outside again, its boss’s ghastly laughter echoing behind it.

The Knight raised his arm, summoning a viewing portal. “I need new lackeys,” he informed it. “Ones with knowledge of the three schools and who protects them…” An image formed slowly, sharpening in focus. “Excellent… Now, where to find them?” The image obediently zoomed out, revealing the identity of the building in which his soon-to-be employees were hiding, and a grin formed on his face. Time for a little visit to Lightrock Monastery…

 

 

Dusk was falling on Ohm, and nothing seemed out of place - until the dust appeared, that is. The sky, normally clear and filled with a beautiful sunset, was suddenly filled with dust that had come seemingly out of nowhere. The monks on patrol braced themselves, raising their staffs against whatever had caused the disturbance, but the bird’s cawing shriek that echoed through the sky threw all of them off their rhythm.

The enormous Phoenix glared down at the Monastery as the dust cleared, its metallic scarlet beak glittering cruelly in the fading light.

In one of the courtyards, Claquesous sat upside down on a bench, her head dangling back so that she could glare at the young couple on the bench opposite her. Prison was hardly the best place to meet your soulmate, but it was nonetheless amusing when it happened. Babet sat next to her, the right way up, groaning in quiet boredom, meanwhile, Gueulemer was sitting under a cherry tree, apparently meditating. Claquesous wondered if he’d noticed the cherry blossoms stuck in his hair yet.

In the shadow of the beech trees,
Quiet cradles me through the morning breeze,” Babet murmured softly. One of the poems from a poetry programme earlier had become stuck in his head, and he found himself quoting it almost without thinking. He groaned dramatically. “Claquesous, be a darling and punch me until I lose consciousness so I don’t have to think about that damned poetry any more.”

“And when he’s unconscious, punch me out too,” Gueulemer growled through gritted teeth, apparently not as lost in his meditation as he’d appeared. “I’m this close to chopping this stupid tree down with only my fingernails. If one more cherry blossom lands in my hair…” So he had noticed.

“Come on, boys,” Claquesous rolled her eyes, still upside down. “If any of us start using violence, they’ll never let us out for good behaviour. At least try to show some enthusiasm.”

“No way. That’s beneath my dignity,” Babet huffed. It was then that the dust appeared, drawing all attention away from what was or wasn’t beneath Babet’s dignity. “What’s going on?”

“I dunno,” Gueulemer grinned, getting up from the floor, “but I like it!” Claquesous turned herself the right way up, and the three of them gazed up at the sky, which was crackling with what at first seemed to be black lightning, but on closer inspection was the darkest magic they’d ever seen (and they’d summoned the goddamn Army of Darkness, so this was saying something).

“Yes,” Babet breathed, “something wicked is in the air!”

Something wicked indeed. The Phoenix rose over the temple, before shrinking down to his humanoid form. He stood in front of the three Witches, surveying them through shark’s eyes.

“Oh, my,” Babet grinned. Claquesous’ eyes were as wide as tennis balls.

“Who… are you?” she breathed.

The Shadow Knight grinned, teeth glinting in the gloaming. “No questions. You are now serving the forces of evil.”

“Am I ever glad to hear that,” Babet smirked. The Knight spread his arms wide, beckoning them forwards, and the three Witches stepped closer. With a flash of scarlet light, all four of them vanished from the courtyard, reappearing in a darkened corridor.

“We’re free,” Gueulemer gasped in relief. “I can’t believe it! WE’RE FREE!”

“Shut up, you idiot,” Claquesous snapped. “Seriously though, it’s a relief. Thanks, Mr. Evil Bird Dude.”

“You will address me as Lord Méchant,” the Knight informed them. “Is there anything in particular you require to serve me?”

“Well, a change of clothes would be nice,” Babet said contemplatively. “Also, if you could get these stupid headbands off of us…”

Lord Méchant nodded and clapped his hands - claws - talons - whatever together, and with another flash of scarlet light, Patron-Minette found themselves once again wearing their Witch clothes. Claquesous straightened her purple strapless dress with a grin. “Feels good to have this back,” she smirked.

Gueulemer and Babet, in their respective green and blue jumpsuits, nodded in agreement, Babet rolling his shoulders as he accustomed to the feeling of wearing a cloak again. A sudden shout from down the corridor broke the celebration, and the three Witches realised that they were still in the Monastery.

“There they are!” one of the monks was shouting. There was a group of Templars - the guards who had brought them there, and who were sent in to subdue wayward prisoners - heading straight for Patron-Minette, all armed with magical staffs, charging along the corridor with their heads down like rams.

“Not the Templars,” Gueulemer groaned. He raised his hands, summoning a ball of green lightening. “Take this!” He flung the lightning at the Templars, but it didn’t bother them at all, and they kept charging at the Witches. Babet stepped forward.

“Ice Wall!” he yelled, and with a bang, a wall of ice formed between the Templars and the Witches. Babet grinned in triumph, but it was short lived, as one of the Templars easily shattered the wall with his staff. They continued to charge forward.

“They’re immune to magic,” Claquesous realised, a little awed, but mostly annoyed.

Lord Méchant shook his head. “They’re immune to your magic,” he corrected her. “All you need is a little boost.” He raised his hand, which filled with scarlet light, and smaller balls of light appeared amidst it, one blue, one purple, and one green.

The green one was the first to shoot forward, landing on Gueulemer’s right hand. His fingerless glove vanished, and in its place appeared a green glowing bracelet that went up to his elbow, twisting into a diamond shape on the back of his hand. The purple ball shot forward, landing on Claquesous’ left hand, and formed a similar bracelet that replaced her arm warmer.

The final ball of blue light hit Babet squarely in the chest, and a glowing blue three-layered necklace appeared, with a diamond shape on the lowest layer, hanging over the centre of his chest. All three Witches inhaled slowly, feeling their new power coursing through their veins.

“These are Gloomix. They will multiply your power,” Lord Méchant informed them. “Now, prove your worth to me.”

Patron-Minette grinned identically. “Alright, cousins, it’s showtime,” Babet smirked.

Claquesous raised her Gloomix-covered hand. “Optical Darkness!” she screamed, blasting purple light towards the Templars.

This time, all of them stopped dead in their tracks, screwing up their eyes as though in pain. When they opened them, a black filmy layer was visible covering the Templars’ eyes. “She’s blinded us,” one of them whispered.

To the Witches’ shock, they remained unperturbed. “Use your ears,” one instructed the others. “Remember your training.” They all fell deadly still, listening intently, before simultaneously nodding and charging forward, following the sound of the Witches’ breathing. Gueulemer’s jaw dropped.

“Did they resist Claq’s spell?” he demanded. Babet shook his head with a smirk.

“No. They just don’t know when to QUIT!” He blasted a flurry of icicles towards the Templars.

Gueulemer grinned and raised his hands with a shout of, “Hurricane Fury!” The combination of ice and wind proved to be effective, freezing all of the Templars solid in mere seconds.

Babet examined his necklace in wonderment. “With these Gloomix, it will be almost too easy to steal the Dragon Flame again!” he grinned, but nearly jumped out of his skin at Lord Méchant’s response.

“Fools!” the Shadow Knight snapped. “There is much greater power to be had than the Dragon Flame!”

“Greater than the Dragon?” Claquesous gasped in amazement.

“Yes,” Lord Méchant grinned, teeth glinting. “And it shall be mine, just as you three are mine!” The Witches exchanged excited glances. “Now, follow me! I’ve had enough of this place.” To their surprise, he walked straight towards the wall. To their even greater surprise, he crashed straight through it with almost no resistance. Patron-Minette obediently followed him out onto one of the terraces. The sky began to fill with dust again, and Lord Méchant walked to the edge of the terrace, diving off it as he assumed his Phoenix form. Behind him, a portal opened, and Babet, Claquesous and Gueulemer delightedly followed him into it, never once looking back at Lightrock Monastery.

 

 

Cosette had returned to her bed after Musichetta had gone back to sleep, but something was keeping her awake. She tossed and turned briefly, before getting up and pacing over to the window, gazing out over the Magix skyline. Nothing was different about it; indeed there was nothing to suggest that anything bad had happened at all. But still…

I have a bad feeling, Cosette thought to herself.

Chapter Text

Musichetta woke up with a start in the infirmary. She’d managed to get another night’s worth of sleep after the Amis, as they called themselves, had left yesterday, and she felt a million times better. Stretching and yawning, she sat up slowly, and spun to the side, whisking herself out of the bed. She glanced up and down the room, feeling that something was a little off, although she couldn’t identify what. Musichetta barefooted it over to the window and yanked back the curtains, blinking in the summer morning sunshine - and there it was, or rather, there she was. Lise was fluttering haphazardly outside the window, explaining why Musichetta had felt a little off. It was the nature of the bond between Faery and Piskie that after stressful separation, any kind of distance that would normally be fine would feel a little painful. And besides, both Musichetta and Lise were unfamiliar with this place. Caution would be highly necessary.

Caution flew out the window to join Lise when Musichetta realised the Piskie was fast asleep in midair. With a cry of the baby’s name, she turned tail and rushed out the door of the infirmary, hoping to make it to Lise before she potentially fell out of the air.

Musichetta ran along a corridor and down a big flight of stairs (downstairs had to lead to outside, right?), to another corridor that split in two and went in different directions. She was hurriedly deciding which way to go, when suddenly something big, hulking and yellow-skinned turned the corner of the passage on the right. At the sight of the ogre (who was, for some reason, wearing round spectacles and carrying a broom), Musichetta let out a whimper of fear, backing away hurriedly and raising a hand of warning. To her shock, the ogre just looked confused, and awkwardly made its way around her, scratching its bald head. It headed up the staircase, carting its broom behind it.

Musichetta breathed a sigh of relief, but a voice behind her made her nearly jump out of her skin. “Well, it’s nice to see you up and about, but you shouldn’t have left the ward without letting me check you over first,” admonished the nurse, who was pushing a medical cart and was accompanied by a tiny old man with long, thick white hair, wearing pale blue robes that trailed on the floor behind him.

“Well now,” he smiled. “You’re the Piskies’ friend? Princess Musichetta of Andros.”

Musichetta quirked an eyebrow. “Uh, I’m sorry, do we know each other?” she asked nervously, finding her voice at last.

The man continued smiling. “My name is Professor Myriel. I’m the headmaster here at Musain, and I’m well acquainted with your father; although you would have been too young during my last visit to remember me. You really do look like him, though.”

“Lucky me,” Musichetta mumbled sarcastically.

“In any case, the Piskies have always said good things about you,” Myriel continued, eyes twinkling. His statement, however, reminded Musichetta why she’d left the infirmary in the first place.

“Lise!” she said loudly. “Have you seen her? She was flying in the garden, and I think she fell asleep in midair!”

The nurse made a very confused noise, and Myriel tilted his head curiously at her.

“Which way is it to outside?” she clarified.

Myriel pointed down the left corridor. “It’s that way,” he said, eyes twinkling even more.

“Thanks!” Musichetta shouted over her shoulder, already charging down the corridor, towards a set of double doors that had to lead out to the courtyard.

“What a wilful and spirited young lady,” Myriel chuckled. “She’s exactly like her father.”

Nurse Dahlia blinked a little. “She forgot her clothes,” was all she managed, lifting a stack of neatly folded laundry from the cart.

Indeed, Musichetta was dashing down the corridor in only a green cotton nightdress. As she sprinted for the doors, she collided with a girl emerging from a classroom, sending her papers flying everywhere. Normally she would have stopped to help pick them up again, but this was an emergency, so a hurried apology thrown over her shoulder would have to suffice.

Finally making it through the double doors, she emerged, blinking, into the sunlight. The school was built in a semicircle, with a tower at each end, connected by a wall with two lilac wing-shaped gates in the centre. The bell in one of the towers chimed nine times, signalling it to be 9am, and the courtyard was filled with student Faeries heading to their first class of the day, although many stopped in their tracks to stare at the redhaired girl who was apparently jogging in her jammies. To the surprise of all watching, her eyes were fixed on a moving point in the sky near the roof, and she suddenly screamed, “NOOOOOOOO!” and took a great running leap towards one of the classroom windows.

The point in the sky was, of course, Lise, who had paused to yawn but had forgotten to keep fluttering. Musichetta hurried to catch her before she hit the ground, but the Piskie had apparently woken up from her impromptu nap, and, not noticing Musichetta, decided to explore the school. She caught herself about seven feet off the ground, flew under the covered walkway next to the classroom windows, and squeezed through an open glass panel in one of the windows.

Musichetta groaned, and hurried to the next door inside, hoping she could catch up before the Lise got into any trouble.

 

 

In said classroom, Professor Wizgiz was continuing his lecture from the previous day to a class that included Cosette, Enjolras, Éponine, Courfeyrac and Jehan. “Magic is based on the principle of inconsistent continuity,” he was saying, “and so there’s no direct cause-effect relationship between - eh?” His and the entire class’ attention had been caught by the tiny visitor, who was fluttering around the ceiling lamps. To their shock, she suddenly paused, let out a tiny yawn heard by none but Éponine, and plummeted towards the ground.

“LISE!” Jehan shrieked, recognising the Piskie.

Musichetta came barging through the classroom door, eyes widening as she noticed Lise’s predicament, and flung herself bodily in the direction of the Piskie, managing to catch her before she herself went skidding along the floor, landing at the professor’s feet.

The entire classroom was silent, but suddenly Cosette whooped and led her fellow students in a round of applause. Musichetta looked up embarrassedly, making eye contact with Wizgiz, who looked less than thrilled about her entrance.

“Report to the Headmaster’s office straight away, lass,” he barked.

Musichetta grinned ruefully, getting to her feet. She had Lise back safe and sound, so nothing else really mattered.

 

 

When Musichetta had finally got properly dressed and sat down in Headmaster Myriel’s office, he asked her to recount the same story she’d told the Amis the day before. While she spoke, he sat quietly opposite her, his twinkling blue eyes filled with seriousness.

“So, after I was carried out of the caves by an underground river, I managed to walk through the forest until I reached Musain,” she finished. She’d managed to hold her composure a little better this time, helped by the fact that her entire body felt a lot healthier now. There had been some trouble healing the injuries on her arm and knee, but the dark magic they had been made with had finally drained out of them, leaving behind nearly-healed cuts that eventually would turn into faint scars.

Myriel had been silently listening, but as she finished, he lifted his chin off his hands and folded them on the desk in front of him. “Do you have any idea why the Piskies have been kidnapped?” he asked her.

Musichetta shook her head. “I’ve been wondering that myself, sir. Maybe he’s trying to blackmail them? Or maybe he wants something from them.”

Myriel nodded. “Yes, that’s what I’m afraid of. So, this Dark Knight had the ability to absorb powers?”

Musichetta nodded. “Do you know of him?” she asked. “Do you have any idea of who or what he is?”

Myriel sighed. “I’m sorry, my dear, but I only have some vague idea of what this mysterious foe could be. All I can say for now is that, if he is what I suspect him to be, the Piskies are in far more danger than I had thought. Our primary goal now, rather than fighting him head-on, is freeing the Piskies.”

 

 

The Amis weren’t surprised when Myriel called for them to come to his office after classes. They were even less surprised to see Musichetta sitting in front of the desk. Jehan gave her a smile and sat in the chair next to her, while the others stood behind them, waiting for Myriel to explain why they were there.

The Headmaster carefully made sure the door was shut tightly before moving around to stand behind his desk. “I’m sure you have probably guessed why I’ve called you here,” he began. “We need to organise a rescue mission as quickly as possible. Faeries and Piskies have always been close friends, and it is imperative that we free them as quickly as possible. This foe Musichetta has stumbled across is far more dangerous than I had previously imagined, so speed is of the essence.”

“Nothing against dangerous missions, sir,” Courfeyrac interrupted with an uneasy grin, “but if this guy is so potentially lethal, why are you sending a bunch of semi-trained student Faeries? Wouldn’t it make more sense to send the professors?”

“That’s a very good point, Courfeyrac,” Myriel nodded. “But as professors, it is our job to guide our students. In the case of an emergency, we have to be available to help everyone.”

“So basically what you’re saying is that it’s up to us to fight this guy?” Éponine summarised.

“Not fight,” Myriel shook his head. “Despite you all showing great skill in the fight against Patron-Minette last year, I feel that this creature, whatever he may be, is far too dangerous potentially even for the professors. From this moment forward, the Piskies are our number one priority. It is not wise to challenge an unknown enemy.”

“So we should avoid direct confrontation?” Cosette clarified.

Myriel nodded. “Exactly. Don’t forget, this Dark Knight absorbs magical energy. So although no one can steal your powers, we found out last year that a foe powerful enough can borrow them. And this foe is certainly powerful enough. If you’re not careful, he could turn your powers against you.” He walked around the desk and placed a hand on the back of Musichetta’s chair. “Musichetta will be your guide; she’s the only one who knows where the Piskies are being held. And although you are to avoid confronting this evil creature as far as possible, I do want you to look for clues towards his true identity. Now, follow me.” He opened the door to the office, stepping out into the corridor, and the six teenagers followed him, Jehan closing the door behind them.

Myriel led the way along the corridor at an impressive clip. “Now,” he said, “I’d like to point out that some of you will not be partaking in this rescue mission.”

The Amis all looked stunned. “But we do everything together!” Cosette pointed out.

“Yes!” Jehan added. “No one gets left behind, ever!”

Myriel nodded understandingly. “Yes, but each of you has powers better suited to some missions than to others. Would you send a frog to live in a hot, dry desert?”

Courfeyrac shuddered. “I wouldn’t want to be that poor frog. I’d dry out in a maximum of 1.4 hours.”

“You don’t have to worry about that, Courfeyrac,” Myriel assured him. “You’ll be staying at Musain.”

“But his techno-magic -” Jehan burst out furiously.

“Will help us monitor the situation from here,” Myriel said firmly. “Cosette and Enjolras will go on the mission.”

“But why only us two?” Cosette asked sadly. After she and Marius had crashed their hoverbike in the forest during the battle against Patron-Minette, leaving them with a long and lonely walk through the Black Mud Swamp, she never wanted to split up from her friends in a life-threatening situation ever again.

“Because,” Myriel explained, “Cosette possesses the power of the Dragon Flame - the Flame of Life. Her healing powers will be extremely beneficial to this mission. And Enjolras’ sun magic will be the most effective against the Shadow Monsters.”

Éponine made a noise like an angry cat. “What about Jehan’s plants? My sound-waves? Aren’t they worth anything?”

Myriel sighed, and beckoned for the Faeries to follow him down the main staircase into the entrance hall.

When they arrived, he directed them to stand in front of the stairs. “I’m going to create a simulation of the environment in which the mission will take place,” he informed them. “Hopefully it will explain things more clearly than I can.” With a clap of his hands, the room filled with turquoise light. When it faded, they found themselves standing in a low-ceilinged cave, with stalactites and stalagmites surrounding them on all sides.

Myriel’s voice echoed around them. “Now, Éponine and Jehan, I want you to use your spells. Any spell is fine; anything that displays your magical abilities.”

Jehan and Éponine obligingly transformed, and Jehan fluttered into the air, raising their hands in front of them. Suddenly, a look of intense confusion and horror came over their face. “Nothing is working!” they gasped. “There are no living plants down here!”

Éponine’s visible eye narrowed. “We still have sound!” she pointed out. “All of you, stand back! Sonic Blast!” With a sound like a gong, a spiralling jet of magenta light shot from her hands towards a stalagmite. When it made contact, the entire cave shuddered. Dust fell from the low ceiling, and a stalactite suddenly snapped off and landed where Enjolras had been standing about two seconds earlier.

“The vibrations are causing a cave-in!” Courfeyrac shrieked, throwing his hands over his head.

Jehan yelped, leaping out of the way of a large chunk of ceiling, but an even larger chunk had loosened above Éponine’s head. Even if she ran, there was no way she could escape it in time. As it came loose and hurtled towards her, she screamed.

Myriel clapped his hands, and the simulation vanished. They were once again standing in the entrance hall of the school, un-transformed.

“I am so happy I’m staying back here,” Courfeyrac shuddered. “I don’t envy you one bit.”

Éponine’s eyes were watering with angry tears, and Myriel placed a hand on her shoulder. “Éponine, listen,” he said, softly but firmly. “The point of that was not to make you believe that you are useless, because you are not. Your powers will doubtless be needed soon enough; I doubt that this will be over even when the Piskies are rescued. When that time comes, we will be extremely lucky to have someone as powerful as you on our side.”

Éponine scrubbed at her eyes fiercely, and Jehan slipped their hand into hers with a comforting smile. Eventually she smiled back.

 

 

The next morning saw the Amis up and awake in the courtyard extremely early, before even the sun was awake. While Jehan, Éponine and Courfeyrac were wearing their normal casual clothes, the other three were dressed for the adventure: Cosette wore a chocolate brown dress with a pale gold neckerchief, Enjolras had knee-length khaki shorts and a matching shirt, with a dark red T-shirt underneath, and Musichetta wore a dark green sleeveless playsuit. They all wore fingerless gloves (like the kind worn for rock-climbing), knee-length wool socks and hiking boots. Enjolras was clipping a micro-camera with a built in tracking device onto the breast pocket of his shirt.

Lise was sobbing in the palm of Musichetta’s hand, and the redhead cuddled the little Piskie comfortingly. “I’m sorry, baby, but you can’t come on this mission,” she said sadly. “Don’t worry though, I’ll be back soon. And when I get back, I’ll have all the other Piskies with me!”

Lise paused in her relentless sobbing and made a happier noise, Musichetta kissed her on the head. “Jehan’s going to look after you,” she assured her. “They’ll read you lots of bedtime stories; don’t worry.”

Headmaster Myriel approached the group, along with a man Musichetta had never seen before. “Musichetta,” Myriel said, “I want you to take these seeds.” He handed her a little brown bag, which she obediently tucked into her pocket. “In an emergency they will drive away any kind of Shadow creature, but only once.

He turned to the rest of the group. “So, are you three ready for this mission?”

Courfeyrac made a hmm sound. “With all due respect, sir, I don’t think only three Faeries will be enough.”

“A small group can move quickly, though,” Myriel explained. “They are also much less noticeable. But I do see your point, which is why Headmaster Lamarque here has suggested two of his students go on the mission too.”

“Prince Marius and Grantaire are some of my best students,” Lamarque smiled. “I’m sure they will be of great assistance to you.”

“Great,” Éponine huffed, although a smirk was playing around her mouth. “You lot get to have all the fun.”

A Corinthe airship (the Owl that Combeferre had shown Courfeyrac the last time they’d been there) was hovering outside the school gates, and the hatch slid open, allowing three hovercycles to fly out. Two of the riders wore the same kind of shirts, shorts and boots as Enjolras, although one wore a green T-shirt and the other wore a blue one. The third rider was still wearing his Corinthe uniform: a navy and cream jumpsuit with dark blue boots and a sky-blue cape.

Courfeyrac sniggered. “Enjolras and Grantaire? Cosette and Marius? My oh my, what a coincidence. Musichetta, looks like you’ll have to play chaperone.”

Musichetta giggled, and Cosette and Enjolras both glared half-heartedly at Courfeyrac. Cosette finished braiding her hair into two neat French braids, and flipped her head so that one of them smacked Courfeyrac. “Pffft!” he spluttered.

Grantaire lifted up the visor of his helmet. “So, you guys ready to go?” he smiled.

“Musichetta, you will be riding with Bahorel for now,” Lamarque added. The boy in the Corinthe uniform gave a head-jerk of acknowledgement, and Éponine let out what she claimed was a sound of greeting, but what most would describe as a jealous squeak.

The driver of the airship must have put it into ‘park’ mode, because he appeared at the hatch now: Combeferre, also wearing his Corinthe uniform. “Hey everyone!” he called down in greeting. Courfeyrac beamed and returned the greeting, while the other Faeries waved.

Enjolras climbed onto the back of Grantaire’s bike, wrapping his arms around his boyfriend’s waist. “I’m ready when you are, handsome,” he smiled. Meanwhile, Cosette was holding onto Marius, but to the surprise of everyone, Bahorel and Musichetta were arguing over who got to drive the bike.

“Who says you get to drive?” Musichetta was staring Bahorel down with a raised eyebrow. “What, you think I’ve never driven a hoverbike before?”

Eventually Bahorel conceded, sliding back on the seat as Musichetta hopped into the driver’s position with a grin. He awkwardly placed his hands on her waist (making Éponine scowl heartily) and she took off, doing a lap around the deserted courtyard.

Éponine’s scowl vanished, and she grinned. “Go, Musichetta!” she cheered. Lise cheered with her, from her seat on Jehan’s shoulder.

Grantaire waved to the onlookers with a cry of “Catch you later!” before taking off, followed by Marius. The three bikes headed out of the gates and started along the road, building up enough momentum to take off fully and enter the hatch of the Owl, which Combeferre was flying along in front of them.

As the Owl grew smaller in the distance, Myriel beckoned to the three still in the courtyard. “We need to set up the web-link with Enjolras’ camera.”

 

 

In the Owl, Combeferre and Bahorel were steering the ship while Marius and Grantaire sat in the back with Cosette, Enjolras and Musichetta. “So, who’s the bad guy this time?” Grantaire was asking.

Enjolras shrugged. “We don’t know that much about him, but apparently he’s really tough.”

“Nothing we can’t handle, I’m sure,” Grantaire grinned. “You should see all the cool tech we got for this mission.” He reached into the pocket of his shorts. “Check this out.” The dark-haired boy pulled out a gadget that looked like a tiny metallic-blue rugby ball. It split open on a line down the middle, revealing a panel with a navy button on it. Four stiff wires poked out of the back. “It’s a Demoleculiser T29.”

“A demoisturiser what-now?” Enjolras asked.

“Lamarque says we can use it to actually pass through walls and solid objects,” Grantaire explained.

“Uh, Grantaire?” Musichetta started quietly, but Grantaire didn’t hear her.

“Hey, Ferre, show them what the Owl’s engine can do!” he said excitedly. Combeferre gave him a thumbs-up and a grin, before pressing a button on the dashboard. With a whoosh, the airship zoomed off at a speed that made the trees outside turn into a single green blur and made the occupants press themselves back into their seats.

“18 Dragonpower with a titanium frame, and she handles like a dream!” Combeferre explained excitedly.

“Um, excuse me?” Musichetta shouted over the roar of the wind outside.

“Yes, Musichetta?” Combeferre smiled back at her.

“We’re going in the wrong direction! The enemy is the other way!”

Combeferre blushed embarrassedly, and hurried to right the ship’s course.

 

 

At Musain, Courfeyrac had managed to set up the video link on his laptop, and he, Jehan, Éponine and Lise were watching the screen intently, which was showing a grainy image of the ship’s interior. “It’s working,” he confirmed. “We have a video feed. But it’s going to take a lot of work to keep it going. I think I might be here all day.”

 

 

Eventually, the Owl arrived at a canyon on the other side of the forest that Musichetta had described to them. Combeferre lowered the ship into it carefully, and Musichetta headed up front to check their surroundings. She nodded in satisfaction. “Yeah, that river at the bottom is the one I used to escape.” The river vanished into a gaping hole at the end of the canyon.

“So I should drop you here then?” Combeferre asked, but Musichetta shook her head.

“No, it’s easier to get in through the old mines in the caves.”

“Let’s go then,” Marius smiled. Combeferre guided the Owl into the hole, following the course of the river until they arrived at a ledge about a hundred feet above it, with a human-sized tunnel cut into the rocky wall.

The bespectacled boy made a worried noise. “There’s no place to land,” he explained. “You’re going to have to climb out of the ship while it’s airborne.” Marius and Grantaire both looked excited, but Cosette, Enjolras and Musichetta looked reasonably apprehensive.

Marius was the first one down the rope ladder, scaling down with ease. Enjolras made to follow him, but shrieked loudly when he saw the drop at the edge of the ledge. “Nope, no way!”

“What’s the problem, Enjolras?” Marius called up. “You’re a Faery; you deal with heights all the time!”

“Yeah, but normally I have wings and can control where I’m going!” Enjolras snapped. “I’m not climbing down that thing!”

“I’ll hold the bottom steady!” Marius assured him. “Don’t use up your magic before we’re even in the caves!”

Enjolras grumbled quietly, but tied his long blond hair into a ponytail and gingerly climbed down the rope ladder. Cosette was next, somewhat distracted by trying to prevent her skirt from being lifted up by the ship’s engine, then Musichetta and finally Grantaire. Bahorel pulled the ladder back up to the ship with a call of “Bye, guys!” and with that, Combeferre turned and flew back out of the caves.

Musichetta adjusted the bandage around her injured knee, and turned towards the opening. “Come on, this is the way in.” She marched resolutely into the tunnel, and the others followed her.

 

 

At Musain, Courfeyrac’s laptop beeped and the screen went black; he swore loudly. “They’ve gone in,” he explained to Jehan and Éponine. “There’s no signal for a video feed in the caves; we’ll have to make do with the tracker. Luckily the wavelength is larger for the tracker signal, so it’ll work unless the actual device is destroyed."

 

 

In the caves, Marius and Musichetta had taken the lead with the flashlight. Grantaire was next, then Cosette, and Enjolras brought up the rear, looking increasingly grumpy.

“Marius, I know you want to save batteries, but for the love of the Dragon, give us some light back here!” he was saying. A second later, there was a thud followed by a curse, and Marius swung around to shine the torch onto Enjolras, who had tripped over a rock and looked furious. “Fine!” he snapped, even though no one had said anything. “I’ll take care of it myself! Transform!” In a flash, he was wearing his one-strapped red top, shorts and boots, black bracelets and headband, and his ring had turned into his sceptre. His three-pronged golden wings fluttered angrily, although he didn’t take off. Instead, he tapped the sceptre on the cave floor, and instructed it to give them light. The whole cave was bathed in a golden glow, and Cosette chuckled.

“Wow, I think I liked it better before,” she remarked. The roof couldn’t be more than two feet above Marius’ head, and the walls looked slimy. There were wooden archways every hundred feet or so, the only clue that this place had ever been inhabited.

“At least now I can see where we’re going,” Enjolras said relievedly.

“Yeah, but now we’re a beacon for the monsters,” Marius pointed out. A roar from somewhere in the caves underlined his point.

Enjolras shuddered. “Yeah, I don’t know what that was and I don’t want to find out. Let’s keep moving.”

They continued through the abandoned mine until they reached another sign of previous inhabitants: a huge set of metallic double doors. Musichetta looked worried. “I remember these doors, but they were open last time,” she explained. Marius tried the handle.

“It’s locked,” he groaned. Enjolras fluttered as high as he could into the air without bumping his head.

“Leave it to me!” There was a flash of golden light and a loud thud as his spell made contact with the doors. To everyone’s utter shock, nothing had happened.

“The doors absorb magic!” Cosette realised. “This guy thought of everything!”

“Except us,” Grantaire grinned. “You’re forgetting; most wizards don’t use spells, we control parts of nature. And the nature of locks is that they were meant to be broken.”

Cosette noticed movement in her peripheral vision, and turned around to view its source. It was not a comforting sight. “Guys, we’ve got company!” she shrieked.

The others turned to see several tar-monsters emerging from the cracks in the cave walls. These were the ones with snake-like bodies, two crocodilian legs with stubby claws, and gaping maws filled with needle-like teeth and endless drool. They moved slowly, but were still a concern - the mine wasn’t exactly spacious.

 

 

Combeferre and Bahorel parked the Owl back at Corinthe, before taking their own hoverbikes over to Musain. Jehan met them at the front gate, looking jittery.

“How’s the mission going?” Combeferre asked them. Jehan paused in their relentless chewing of their lower lip.

“A bunch of unknown signals are closing in on them from all sides,” they explained. “Courfeyrac’s monitoring the situation in our apartment, and Éponine’s gone to get Headmaster Myriel.” They continued gnawing at their lip. Their pink lipstick had long since faded, a casualty of their worry.

“That’s… unideal,” Combeferre said, trying to avoid saying anything that might send Jehan into a further panic. “Let’s go inside and check up on them,” he suggested. Jehan nodded shakily, and turned to lead them up to the apartment.

 

 

As the tar-monsters drew closer, Grantaire was digging through his pockets looking for the right gadget to break through the lock. Eventually he yanked out a package of mild explosives that Bahorel had insisted he brought. “…This works,” he decided after a moment’s deliberation, before glancing back at his companions. “I need you guys to buy me some time!”

Musichetta turned to Cosette. “We should transform too,” she suggested. Cosette looked delighted.

“You mean you’re a -?”

“Of course I am!” Musichetta rolled her eyes a little. “Transform!”

“Transform!” Cosette echoed.

Cosette was instantly wearing her blue halter top, skirt, boots and arm-warmers, with a golden tiara perched in her hair and little white wings poking from her shoulder blades. She glanced over at Musichetta, curious to see what her Faery form looked like.

Musichetta wore a tube top that was two tones of green, and green shorts with a light green skirt over them. The skirt split and connected to a silver hoop on her right hip, which was also connected to a strap that went over her abdomen and connected to the left side of her top. There was a green strap on the right side of her top simply going over her shoulder. Her boots were knee-length, and one was a lighter shade of green than the other, with silver heels. She also wore a metallic silver choker, and had three metallic bracelets on her right arm - one at her wrist, one on her forearm and one on her upper arm - and a single one on her left wrist. Her wings were translucent pale blue and teardrop-shaped.

Marius formed a fire-sword, and the three of them and Enjolras rushed forwards to meet the monsters.

The three Faeries began blasting away at them, but quickly stumbled upon a fault in the plan. “They’re immune to our magic too!” Cosette gasped. “Nothing’s working!”

“In that case, time to shed some light on the situation!” Enjolras grinned. “Everyone, shut your eyes!”

Cosette, Musichetta and Marius all obediently closed their eyes, their eyelids lighting up with the flash. When the room had dimmed again, they opened their eyes to see the tar-monsters melting into nothing. Cosette whooped.

“Good work, Enjy!”

“Oi, Marius, can you give me a spark?” Grantaire called, apparently finished his set-up.

Marius obligingly lit the fuse with his finger, and the entire party ducked for cover. With a bang, the lock was blown clean off the doors.

Grantaire emerged from behind a boulder with a grin. “Sweet.”

Another roar echoed towards them, and Enjolras thought he could see an eye-gleam visible in one of the cracks the tar-monsters had come from. “Aah crap, there are more of them!” he yelled. Grantaire kicked the doors open and they all hurried through just as the tar-monster made it out of the crack. Marius and Grantaire hurried to close them, but one of the monsters managed to get its head through, snapping its jaws dangerously close to Marius’ face. Grantaire raised his hand, forming a knife out of the water molecules in the air, and stabbed it fiercely into the beast’s leg. With a cry, it fell back, and the two boys managed to close the doors.

“It’s still trying to get through!” Musichetta said. “Hang on a sec…” With a blast of pink light, she shot some pink sticky liquid at the doors, sealing them shut.

“What is that?” Marius asked in awe.

“By mixing my magic with the water molecules in the air, I can create this stuff,” Musichetta explained. “It’s called Morphix. I can create pretty much anything with it.” She glued along the cracks at the edges of the doors with her Morphix, effectively preventing anything from getting through, before creating a tangle of Morphix strands in front of the door, so in case anything did manage to break through it would get stuck. She’d just added the finishing touches to her Morphix-web when suddenly she held a hand to her forehead and collapsed to her knees. Her Faery form vanished.

“Good work, Musichetta,” Marius smiled, offering her a hand. “It’s good to have you on our team.”

“Thanks,” Musichetta smiled, accepting his help up. Cosette frowned a little.

“Alright, let’s get going,” she said. “We don’t know what else is down here.” Marius nodded in agreement, and the five rescuers kept walking, Enjolras in the lead this time.

“See?” the blonde boy smirked. “Forget about the clunky old flashlight. My sceptre is the only way to really light up a room.”

“You may be the light of my life, Enj, but a good flashlight has saved me more than once,” Grantaire teased. He noticed Musichetta’s pensive look next to him. “Hey, Musichetta… are you OK?”

Musichetta started. “Huh? I’m just a little disorientated. We should have reached the crystals by now, but I don’t see any.”

“Crystals?” Grantaire questioned, but a moan from the back of the group made all of them freeze in their tracks.

“Marius…” it was Cosette. She was leaning against the cave wall, breathing heavily. “Marius… help me… I feel really dizzy.” She collapsed onto her knees, curling around herself. There was a flash, and her Faery form vanished.

“Cosette!” Marius ran to help her up, looking deeply worried.

“Enj?” Grantaire said anxiously. “What’s going on? Enj!” Enjolras’ knees were shaking, and he looked like he might be about to faint. Grantaire hurried to support him, catching him before he hit the ground. His Faery form had vanished too, and with it the light from his sceptre.

Marius hurried to turn the flashlight back on. “Cosette, is everything OK?”

Cosette groaned, managing to move onto her knees. “Yeah, I think I’m alright, but my powers feel really weak.”

“What’s happening to us?” Enjolras said nervously. Grantaire had an arm around his waist, and he was clutching at the dark-haired boy’s shirt as though he would fall otherwise.

Marius helped Cosette to her feet. Musichetta looked thoughtful. “I think this place drains positive energy,” she said slowly. “The more magic we use, the quicker our powers drain. You’ll be fine; just lay off the magic for a while. The Wizards are alright because they have neutral power sources, I guess.”

 

 

Her voice echoed in Lord Méchant’s viewing portal, and he chuckled quietly. “She’s a stubborn one, alright, but we’ll just see how long that lasts.” Three figures smirked in agreement from the shadows.

 

 

They continued through the caves, with Marius at first piggy-backing Cosette, then supporting one of her arms over his shoulder, before eventually she graduated to walking on her own. Enjolras was still wrapped tightly around Grantaire, but Cosette strongly suspected that it was less out of weakness and more out of affection. It was a little comforting to see such a familiar sight, actually.

Suddenly, Musichetta gave an excited gasp. “The crystals!” she whooped. Sure enough, clumps of spiky turquoise crystals jutted out of the wall here and there. There was something beautiful yet foreboding about them. “We’re nearly there now, come on!” Enjolras untangled himself from Grantaire, taking his hand instead, and the group continued forward excitedly.

Suddenly the tunnel split two ways, and Musichetta stopped. “It’s down one of these tunnels,” she said. “I can’t remember which one, though… let’s try the one on the left first.” She began marching down it.

“Musichetta, wait!” Cosette called after her. “Slow down a little!”

Grantaire let go of Enjolras’ hand and pointed to the right-hand tunnel, pulling out his own flashlight. “I’ll check this one,” he said. “I’ll catch up with you in a sec.” He headed off down the right-hand tunnel, while the others followed Musichetta down the left-hand one.

Musichetta could see light at the end of it, and she sped up, dashing out onto a brightly lit ledge. She made a disappointed face at the dead-end, but paused to take a look at the scenery. The cave she was in now stretched up into white light and down into black nothingness. There were still crystals here, but they were far more sparse. There were hundreds of ledges with tunnels leading back into the cave system exactly like the one she was currently standing on.

“Wow,” she murmured to herself. “It goes on forever.”

Cosette, Enjolras and Marius were emerged behind her. Cosette gave a low whistle. “Daaaaaaaaang,” she murmured.

Meanwhile, Enjolras’ attention had been caught by something on a ledge about twenty feet to their right and thirty feet down. “Hey, look!” he said. “Grantaire’s down there!”

Indeed, Grantaire was waving up to them. “Hey, guys?” he called up. “I think all these tunnels are interconnected. No matter which one you take, you end up out here!”

Musichetta looked worried. “Grantaire, we really shouldn’t let ourselves get separated!” she shouted down, but the dark-haired boy’s attention was elsewhere. A very familiar roar had just sounded behind him. Even from about 40 metres away, Cosette could tell that his entire body had tensed with fight-or-flight instincts.

Grantaire raised his hand, forming a water-broadsword as the tar-monster emerged from the tunnel behind him. Musichetta had been resting for long enough, and transformed again, flying down to help him. “Grantaire, watch out!” she yelled, flying into the tunnel. Her hands were glowing with pink light, but before she could shoot it at the creature, it spat at her.

She’d almost forgotten how sticky the tar-monsters’ spit was, until she found herself effectively glued to the wall. “Help! I’m stuck!” she shrieked.

“Musichetta!” Cosette gasped worriedly. Enjolras narrowed his eyes.

“You ready?” he asked, and she nodded.

“Transform!” they chorused.

Nothing happened.

“We’re still too weak!” Enjolras shrieked. “Grantaire, watch out!”

Grantaire backed away from the tar-monster, drawing it out of the cave and away from Musichetta. He darted out of view of the tunnel, waiting silently until the creature emerged. Then, with a furious war-cry, he brought the sword down on its neck, which was sliced cleanly off. The sword, however, continued following the route down to the ground, and made contact with the not-very-stable ground of the ledge. With a frightening crack, the ground began to crumble under his feet. Enjolras screamed.

The ledge broke off, and sent Grantaire tumbling into the abyss below. His frightened yell echoed up to them.

“GRANTAIRE!” Enjolras screeched. His golden-brown eyes narrowed, and he took a few steps away from the edge.

“ENJOLRAS!” Cosette yelled, having twigged what he intended to do perhaps even before he had figured it out himself. Enjolras ignored her, and with a great running leap, flung himself after Grantaire.

“GRANTAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRE!”

“ENJOLRAS!” Cosette screamed. “NOOOOO!” Marius wrapped his arms around her middle, lifting her off the ground before she could, dragon-forbid, toss herself in after him.

“Enjolras…” she whispered. “Grantaire… no…”

Chapter Text

A scream snapped Cosette and Marius back to reality. Musichetta was still stuck in the lower cave, glued to the wall by the tar monster’s spit. Marius hurried back down the tunnel with Cosette hot on his heels until they reached the one Grantaire had gone down, following it to the end until they reached her.

Marius wasted no time, grabbing at the filmy dried saliva and trying to yank it away from Musichetta. It was like dried PVA glue, stretchy when you pulled it but unyielding in its grip. “Hang on, Musichetta!” Marius reassured her “I’ll have you out of there in a second!” There was a dull sucking sound as it began to relinquish its grip on the wall.

Musichetta screamed again. “My wings!” she whimpered. “Be careful, Marius! Please don’t let them tear!”

Marius nodded, and readjusted his hands so that he was pulling at the spit stuck to the wall rather than her wings. With another yank she was free, and collapsed forwards into Marius’ arms, shuddering. “It’s OK, Musichetta,” the freckled boy said softly. “You’re safe now.”

Musichetta pressed her face into his chest, wrapping her arms around him in a tight hug. Cosette made a very squeaky noise of jealousy, and Musichetta pulled away with a roll of her eyes. “Don’t worry, Cosette, I was just thanking him.” Then to Marius, “Thanks for saving me.”

Jealousy gone, Cosette took Musichetta’s hand and squeezed it comfortingly. “Are you going to be OK?” she asked concernedly.

Musichetta nodded. “I’m a lot better now, thanks. But what about the others?”

Cosette’s eyes widened, and she poked her head out of the hole in the wall that up until very recently had led out to a ledge. She stared down into endless darkness. “Grantaire fell into the pit!” she whimpered. “And Enjolras jumped after him!”

Musichetta’s eyes widened with worry. “But Enjolras is still too weak to fly!”

Cosette retreated from the edge, back over to her friends. Marius took her hand. “Do you think you could fly down after them?” he asked her.

Cosette shook her head. “I’m still too weak,” she said, sounding ashamed. “I can’t do it.”

Marius nodded, turning to Musichetta, but not letting go of Cosette’s hand. “Musichetta, do you think you could carry me down?”

Musichetta fluttered her wings experimentally, rising as high as the low ceiling would allow, but after a few seconds she crashed back to the ground with a thud. Marius hurried to help her to her feet. “Nope,” Musichetta sighed, picking at some of the dried saliva on her left wing. It peeled off like Krazy Glue. “I can’t fly properly… but I think I can get us down there if we head up to that big ledge we were on earlier…”

The three of them headed back the way they’d come, eventually arriving on the higher ledge. Musichetta positioned herself in the middle, raising her hands, which filled with her signature pink light. With a crack like a firework going off, the water molecules in the air mixed with her magic, becoming Morphix, and with a quiet pop, arranged themselves into a winch with a rope that could be lowered down into the abyss.

Marius grinned, and made a loop at the end of the rope. With a snap of Musichetta’s fingers, the loop stuck to the main body of rope, and Marius carefully hooked it around his hiking boot. Musichetta snapped her fingers again, and the winch began lowering him. Cosette was the next to grab onto the rope, clinging white-knuckled to the smooth surface of the Morphix, and Musichetta followed her.

It seemed to take forever to reach the bottom of the chamber. Everything looked the same, and Cosette wondered if it was some sort of magical loop that went up and down forever, but eventually Marius’ hiking boots hit ground, and he stood back for his companions to dismount the Morphix rope. Nearby was a bloody chunk of tar the size of a vespa. Marius gave a low whistle.

“That’s all that’s left of the tar monster,” he muttered. The air down here felt humid, and warm steam was rising from the cracks in the ground. He walked a few paces from the rope while Cosette helped Musichetta dismount. “GRANTAIRE! ENJOLRAS!” he shouted.

“ENJOLRAS! GRANTAIRE!” Cosette shouted in the other direction. Both their voices echoed, but there was no other reply, and Cosette began fidgeting unhappily. “They’re not here,” she whimpered. The chamber they were in now was fairly small, with only one exit, and it was obvious that they were the only people down there.

“Good,” Marius nodded. “That means they’re still alive.”

Suddenly, Musichetta’s eyes widened, and she pointed at the most steam-filled part of the cave. “Look!” she whispered. “I think that’s them over there, through the steam!” Indeed, there was a dark mass on the ground, just visible behind the cloud of warm white mist.

Cosette inhaled sharply, dashing over to them. She was terrified that she was about to see her friends’ dead bodies - but thank the Dragon! When she made it through the cloud of steam, the only thing there was a large, flattish rock. “It’s not them,” she called back, and Marius and Musichetta followed her over, looking relieved. Something else had caught her eye, though - the source of the steam. “Hey, check this out!”

Marius and Musichetta stepped around the rock, and their jaws dropped. Stretching out for what must be miles, at a right angle to the exit from the cave, was an underground river.

“They must have fallen in!” Marius gasped. Cosette nodded, but suddenly a look of panic overtook her face.

“Oh no! Enjolras can’t swim!”

 

 

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH-SPLFTUINGULMPLEGH!”

Enjolras went from screaming to spluttering as his mouth filled with water, but seconds later he was back to screaming again as he and Grantaire were spat out of the river and fell down a waterfall. He managed to take a breath before they were submerged again.

Grantaire was the first to emerge. Pushing his sopping curls out of his face, he looked desperately around for Enjolras as the current continued to wash him towards another, smaller drop. “Enjolras?” he yelled. “ENJOLRAS, WHERE ARE YOU?!”

With another furious sputter, Enjolras popped out of the water next to him. Grantaire wrapped an arm around his waist and began swimming for the riverbank, but to no avail; the current dropped them down the second waterfall (which was really only about five feet compared to the previous twenty). Once again, Grantaire began swimming for the bank, but the current in this part of the river was even stronger, and they were being pulled towards a very large, sharp-looking rock that split the river in two. Enjolras screamed again.

“Grantaire! Rock ahead! Do something!”

Grantaire glanced over at the looming rock; it was close enough that avoiding it was more of a priority than trying to get out of the river. With a kick, the two boys moved far enough to the right of the rock to avoid the rough surface, but as the current washed them passed it, Grantaire noticed a doorknob-shape sticking out of the rock, and another idea popped into his head. He snatched at it, managing to cling on, but a shriek sounded behind him and he realised he’d let go of Enjolras.

“Enjolras! Hold on!” he yelled, snatching at the boy’s hand. Enjolras gripped back, and Grantaire managed to pull him closer, wrapping his free arm around his waist again.

Enjolras spat out a large mouthful of water. “I swear I’ve swallowed half the river,” he shuddered. “Can’t you use your powers to control the current, or something?”

Grantaire shook his head. “I tried. This place is full of dark magic; and I don’t think I can control a body of water this bi-AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRGH!”

A huge wave crashed over them, and Grantaire nearly let go of Enjolras’ hand, but managed to cling on. He scrabbled to grip onto the rock, but felt his fingers slipping. “I don’t think I can keep this up - much - longer!” he panted in Enjolras’ direction. Enjolras’ tanned face went as pale as it could.

“Don’t let go!” he panicked. “Hold on!”

Grantaire gritted his teeth and dug his nails into the rock. “Can you transform?”

“Not yet!” Enjolras wailed. “I’m still way too weak!”

“There’s no way to get ashore!” Grantaire told him. His face had gone pale with the effort of clinging to both Enjolras and the rock-face.

“Just hold onto me, Grantaire!”

A second huge wave crashed over them, and with a scream, Enjolras’ hand was ripped away from Grantaire’s and he was sent spinning down the river again.

“Enjolras!”

 

 

At Musain, Bahorel sat perched on the railing of the balcony outside the Amis’ apartment, staring out over the courtyard. Jehan padded out and rested their elbows on the railing, not immediately noticing Bahorel, but instead staring down at Combeferre and Courfeyrac, who were standing next to the well. Combeferre had his hands on Courfeyrac’s shoulders, and seemed to be comforting him. Their voices echoed up to the two on the balcony.

“Don’t worry, Courf,” he was saying. “Myriel and Lamarque have picked the best team I can think of.”

Courfeyrac sighed. “I know that’s factually correct, but for some reason, I’m still worried.”

“I would trust Marius and Grantaire with my life,” Combeferre said firmly. “They know their stuff.”

Next to Jehan, Bahorel gave a bitter sigh. “He would trust Marius and Grantaire with his life,” he muttered, making Jehan jump. “They picked the best team.”

“Sorry, Bahorel,” Jehan apologised. “I didn’t see you there.”

Bahorel shrugged grumpily. “It happens.”

Jehan smirked a little. “I mean, I just thought you’d be with Éponine,” they hinted.

“Huh? Wha-why?”

Jehan shrugged. “She’s really worried too.”

“Hmm.” Bahorel glanced down to where Courfeyrac had pulled Combeferre into a fierce hug. Jehan sighed.

“Sorry, ‘Rel, I didn’t mean to disturb you -” they started, turning to go back inside. Bahorel jumped down from his seat.

“No, no, it’s OK,” he assured them. “I’ll go. I’ve got something to do anyway.”

Jehan smiled a little, leaning back against the railings and gazing down at Combeferre and Courfeyrac again. They had a sneaking suspicion that whatever Bahorel had gone to do, it involved Éponine.

 

 

Grantaire took a deep breath, let go of the rock, and pushed off into the river into forward stroke, powering through the water towards Enjolras. As he got closer, he broke the surface of the water and his eyes widened; they were rapidly approaching an enormous whirlpool. “Enjolras!” he yelled again.

“Grantaire!” Enjolras shrieked back, emerging ahead of him. “Grantaire, help!” He reached out, and they managed to grasp hands again.

“Hold on!” Grantaire shouted. He raised his other hand, and focussed hard. While he couldn’t control the current, he could still use his basic powers, and with a splashing noise, the water molecules in the air bound together and formed a grappling line, the hook of which clung to the wall of the cave.

“Why is the current so strong?” Enjolras yelled, squinting through his dripping mop of curls.

“We’re caught in a whirlpool!” Grantaire yelled back.

Enjolras managed to move his hair out of his face. His eyes widened when he noticed what Grantaire hadn’t; the wall around the hook of the grappling line was cracking, and the hook was about to be pulled out. Knowing they were about to be sucked into the whirlpool, he shouted one final request to Grantaire:

“Grantaire, whatever you do, don’t let go of my hand, promise!”

“Promise!”

A second later, the hook came loose, bringing a chunk of the wall with it, and they were sucked into the centre of the whirlpool.

 

 

“So, what do we do now?” Marius asked.

Cosette narrowed her eyes, walking to the edge of the river. “Well, I, for one, am going for a swim.” She prepared to dive into the water, but Marius caught her around the waist again.

“Cosette, wait!” Cosette struggled furiously.

“Enjolras and Grantaire could be in danger!” she snarled. “We can’t leave them!”

Musichetta shook her head. “I dunno, Cosette, this river’s probably connected to the one that carried me out last time, in which case… they’re safe.”

“Musichetta’s right,” Marius added. “They’re probably back in the valley right now.”

Cosette nodded. “All right, then, let’s go back up to the surface and join them.”

Musichetta looked a little uncomfortable. “I don’t want to leave Enjolras and Grantaire any more than you do, Cosette,” she assured the other girl. “But there’s just no time. The Piskies are in danger!”

“Enjolras and Grantaire can take care of themselves,” Marius comforted Cosette. “They’ll catch up eventually. Right now we need to focus on completing the mission. Let’s keep going.”

Cosette glared silently, but eventually nodded, and the three of them headed down the path at a right angle to the river.

 

 

Meanwhile, on the shore of the river about a mile away…

Two pairs of enormous eyes peered down at the odd sight of the two teenage boys seemingly asleep on the shore, holding hands. They were both breathing, although one looked rather ill, as his skin seemed duller than it should be. Irma looked up at Abrupto, who was poking the taller, dark-haired boy curiously with his club. “Abrupto, maybe don’t -” she began, but too late, for the boy had already woken up.

His wide cyan eyes glanced around the cave, before coming to rest on Abrupto. “What the fuck,” he said uncertainly, and apparently Abrupto didn’t like being sworn at, because he smacked the boy’s head with the club, knocking him out cold.

 

 

When Grantaire next woke up, he was gazing up at the roof of a cave from which glowing blue crystals appeared to be growing. “What the fuck?” he whispered again uncertainly.

“Please don’t swear at Abrupto, he doesn’t like it,” a soft, feminine voice chastised him - from behind him? Grantaire wiggled a little, and realised a woman was carrying him strapped to her back - but she looked like no woman he’d ever seen before. Her skin was a pale greenish colour, her chest-length hair was rust-red and flat, and her enormous pale eyes had a lilac tinge to them. Her face was all odd angles, but her smile looked kind.

“Where am I?” he asked nervously. “Where are you taking me?” Then he realised he was no longer holding Enjolras’ hand. “Where’s Enjolras?!” he demanded, sounding panicked.

“The boy you were with?” the woman asked. “Look down.”

Grantaire looked down, and realised that Enjolras was tied to a stretcher strapped to the woman’s back underneath him. His boyfriend’s skin was worryingly dull, his tan almost completely faded, and his brown eyes were closed. “Is he OK?!”

“He’s fine,” the woman reassured him. “He’s just sleeping.” Her voice took on a curious tone. “Is he your boyfriend?”

Grantaire nodded, and then, remembering she’d probably turned back around to face wherever it was they were going, said, “Yes, he is.”

“Do you love him?”

“I do,” Grantaire told her, not really sure why he was admitting this to a complete stranger.

The woman sounded delighted. “See, Abrupto?” she said to someone out-with Grantaire’s range of vision. “Same-sex couples can work out! I might have a chance with my Princess yet!”

‘Abrupto’ snarled loudly. “Will you just shut up about your Princess already?” He stumped off ahead of them. Grantaire could feel the woman sigh beneath him.

“Who is this Princess?” he inquired.

The woman sighed again, sounding far happier. “She’s the most beautiful thing to ever grace this universe with her presence,” she said dreamily. “Princess Floréal. My girlfriend!” She chuckled. “Sorry about Abrupto, by the way. He had a boyfriend too, named Ex, but he left him rather abruptly!” She chuckled at her own joke, before continuing the conversation. “So, do you know your crystal?”

“My what-now?” Grantaire asked in confusion.

“Your crystal!” the woman repeated. “Look at them!” She pointed at the crystals lining the walls of the tunnel they were in. This was the thickest Grantaire had seen them clustered, and they even looked more vibrant than the ones higher up. “Lately they’ve had this lovely green-blue glow to them,” the woman continued. “That means that an important event is about to occur in Downland!”

“Downland…” Grantaire murmured. “Is that where you live? And what do these crystals have to do with it?”

“You see, at the time of our birth, each of us is linked to a specific crystal,” the woman explained. “The colour of your crystal reflects on the events that happen in your life.”

“Will you stop it!” Abrupto snarled back at them. “Just shut up with your idiotic crystal nonsense, Irma. No one else but you believes it! Keep it up, and you can forget about Princess Floréal! Not even a one-eyed frog would want to marry you!” He stamped away again, and Irma sighed.

Grantaire twisted round to speak to the back of her head. “So, you’re not engaged to the Princess?” he asked.

Irma giggled blissfully. “Not yet, but I dream about her every night! She’s such a lady; she’s pure as an underground stream, elegant as marble, and bright as gold! You’ll meet her soon enough; we’re nearly there.”

Indeed, about fifty feet later, they were once again in a well-lit cave, and Irma angled them so that Grantaire could see the view without straining his neck.

“Whoa…” Grantaire murmured. They were standing at the top of a set of stairs carved from the rock, and were gazing out over a city. The buildings were all made from white plaster, with thatch roofs and simple doors and windows. Only a few had more than one story, with outside stairs leading up to the second and third floors. At the bottom of the stairs, there was what could only be a royal palace, made from the same white plaster, but with beaten copper roofs at the tops of several turrets. There were multiple balconies, and thousands of windows, and Irma and Abrupto began descending the stairs towards the front door.

 

 

“Enjolras! Hey, Enjolras! Wake up!”

Enjolras sleepily blinked his eyes open. His whole body felt weighted down, and he felt very dizzy and sick. “Grantaire?” he murmured, recognising his boyfriend’s voice. Grantaire’s pale face surrounded by his wild black curls came slowly into view.

“Are you feeling OK, Enjolras?” Grantaire asked. “You look really pale.”

Enjolras groaned. “I’ve never felt so sick in my entire life,” he said weakly. “I feel like I’m about to throw up, but not. I’m so…” - a huge yawn interrupted him - “… tired.”

He managed to get his bearings at last. They were in a square room, with orange walls and bronze sideboards, and he was lying on a simple bed. Grantaire was in a chair next to him, and there were several urns along the opposite wall, next to a wooden door. A strange-looking woman wearing brightly coloured linen clothes was standing next to the door, but now that Enjolras was awake, she approached them.

“Could you get that big brown urn next to the door?” she addressed Grantaire. “There’s water in it.”

Grantaire nodded, and got up to move the urn over. The woman sat down in the chair he’d vacated. “My name is Irma Boissy,” she introduced herself to Enjolras. “Don’t worry; I’m going to try to help you.” She raised her hands - and Enjolras noticed that her middle, ring and pinkie fingers were fused together - and a ball of dull yellow light appeared between her palms. Irma placed the ball of light above Enjolras’ head, and dragged it down the length of his body before returning it to her lap and gazing into it. “You’re a Faery, aren’t you?” she stated.

Enjolras nodded shakily. “Did your ball of light tell you that?”

Irma shook her head. “No. I knew you were a Faery when I saw how sweetly you were holding your boyfriend’s hand,” she sighed happily. Grantaire placed the heavy urn down next to her, panting, and she dipped a sponge into the water. “Thank you. Now put it back exactly where it was, please.”

With a groan, Grantaire picked it up again and dragged it back over to the door. Irma dabbed the wet sponge on Enjolras’ forehead, slightly alleviating his dizziness. “Yours is the power of the sun, correct? Trog magic is the opposite of yours. You can’t stay here very long.” She looked rather worried.

“Trog magic?” Enjolras whispered.

“Yes,” Irma nodded. “I am of a race known as Trogs. We don’t live anywhere else but Downland; in fact, I believe that you and Grantaire are the first non-Trogs to visit Downland in centuries - certainly in living memory.”

With a huff, Grantaire deposited the urn where he’d found it. Irma’s pale face turned, if possible, an even paler shade of green. “NO!” she shrieked. “What are you doing?” She hurried over to Grantaire, with an expression of panic on her angular face.

“What?” Grantaire asked in confusion. “This is where I found it.”

Irma tutted. “No, the Princess likes it over here. Exactly here.” She dragged the urn half an inch to the right.

Grantaire raised his eyebrows. “Your Princess sounds like… something else.”

Irma sighed happily, ignoring the ambiguity of the statement. “Oh, she’s beautiful! I’ll introduce her to you shortly!” She headed back over to Enjolras, and continued to dab the sponge on his forehead, while Grantaire leaned against the wall, and wondered what kind of Princess freaked out at an urn being half an inch out of place.

 

 

Bahorel found Éponine glaring into the wishing well in the centre of the courtyard. Upon hearing his approaching footsteps, she turned her glare on him. “What do you want?” she asked moodily.

“Nothing,” Bahorel replied, equally as moody.

Éponine returned to glaring into the well. “I’m not worried.”

“No,” Bahorel agreed. “But if I’d gone, we’d be back already.”

He was trying to be flippant, but he was shocked when Éponine responded by bursting into tears. He was even more shocked when she grabbed him and buried her face in his chest. He awkwardly patted her on the back a few times, before eventually settling on standing still and waiting for her to cry herself back to calm.

Jehan tutted from up on the balcony. “They’re so alike; it’s amazing.” Seeing Combeferre and Courfeyrac, and now Bahorel and Éponine, made them feel strangely lonely. It was nice to see their friends being comforted by their respective crushes, but it would have been even nicer to have someone of their own to crush on.

A pattering noise behind them made them turn. Wolter had hopped out to join them, and he was scuffling the way he was prone to when he wanted lifted up. Jehan obliged with a chuckle, loneliness abated. “At least I’ve got you, Wolter,” they smiled. “Thanks.” The little Dutch rabbit snuggled himself under their chin, purring happily.

 

 

Irma had led Enjolras and Grantaire out to the largest balcony of the palace apparently at the request of the Princess, who wished to meet the guests to Downland. Irma had paused to grab some flowers from her room; she explained that she worked as a tailor for the royal family. “Princess Floréal hasn’t told her parents about our love yet,” she informed the two boys. “The older Trog generation is… less open to homosexuality than our generation. But I’m sure that if I prove I can be as good - and better - than any gentleman suitor, she’ll demand for them to let us be married!”

They’d been standing on the balcony for about five minutes - Grantaire and Enjolras had their arms around each others’ waists, as Enjolras was still too weak to stand on his own - when a tiny bell chimed. The huge door into the castle swung open, and another Trog woman stood in front of them, this one with purplish curly hair. She was, to their surprise, no more lavishly dressed than Irma, and she moved forwards and knelt at one side of the doorway, revealing another woman dressed exactly the same. This woman moved to the other side and knelt. Six more women emerged, kneeling in a line of four at each side of the door, and Irma whisper-explained that they were the Princess’ ladies-in-waiting.

“Princess Floréal will see you now!” they chorused, and Irma dropped to her knees, holding the flowers out in front of her.

Bow!” she hissed at Enjolras and Grantaire, who hurried to copy her, Enjolras looking rather queasy at the movement. His skin had taken on an ashen tone, giving him a rather zombie-like appearance that was a far cry from his normal angelic good looks.

A ninth woman emerged from the doors, and the two boys knew that this had to be Princess Floréal. Her clothes, made from pink linen, had bejewelled hems, and her pointer fingers both glittered with rings. Her sandals were made from beaten copper, as opposed to Irma’s, which were made of simple leather. A heavy gold and sapphire crown glittered on her black hair. Black kohl emphasised her brown eyes, and her naturally pouty lips were cherry red.

“Princess Floréal!” Irma breathed, a lovestruck expression appearing on her face. She held the flowers towards Floréal. “Irma Boissy, at your service!”

“Irma!” Floréal looked delighted, and breezed over to her. Irma’s lilac eyes sparkled with adoration.

“These are Roses of the Abyss,” she informed the Princess. “I picked them just for you!”

“Roses of the Abyss are extremely rare!” Floréal beamed. Her voice was high in pitch, and was silky where Irma’s was soft. She smile serenely, sniffing the flowers with her tiny bump of a nose. “Aah, what a sweet smell! Thank you, Irma!” Irma blushed with delight, but suddenly something changed in Floréal’s face. “Hey!” she snapped. Her silky tones had taken on something rough and angry. She pulled a flower from the bouquet and shook it in poor Irma’s face. “One petal is wilted!” she screeched. “You’ve disappointed me, Irma!”

“I’m so sorry,” Irma whimpered, looking thoroughly ashamed. “I didn’t notice!”

“You’ve wasted my time!” Floréal snarled. She flung the roses away, where they hit one of her ladies-in-waiting in the face. Ignoring Irma, who looked like she was about to cry, she stomped over to Enjolras and Grantaire, who had got to their feet and had been exchanging concerned glances throughout her little temper tantrum. “Are these our guests?” she snapped in the tailor’s general direction.

“Yes!” Irma said, getting to her feet. She hurried over to the couple. “This is Enjolras. He’s a Faery.”

Floréal surveyed Enjolras through lowered lashes. “Ugh,” she concluded. “Ugly.”

Had Enjolras not been concentrated on trying not to faint, he would have flipped her off. (And he could have too. Normal people might have to be polite to royals, but when it was royal versus royal, everything was fair game.)

“And this is Grantaire, his boyfriend, and a Wizard,” Irma continued hurriedly.

Floréal turned her gaze on Grantaire, and a sudden change came over her face. “Grantaire… why, I can’t believe it,” she smiled. “What strangely harmonious facial features you have.”

A flush crept up Grantaire’s neck. Indeed, although his round cyan eyes, somewhat crooked nose, thin pink lips, alabaster skin, and dark curly hair weren’t what was usually classed as conventionally attractive, they all worked for him. Although he’d been occasionally inclined to believe otherwise, the people who mattered the most - Enjolras, Marius, his mother and younger sister - had always insisted that he was extremely handsome. However, it felt rather odd coming from someone he’d only just met. “W-with all due thanks -” he began, but Floréal bulldozed over him.

“Your face is absolutely perfect!” she beamed. Irma made an unhappy noise behind her.

“Princess, you’re making me blush,” Grantaire chuckled. “But, uh, good eye.” Enjolras made a noise like an angry cat.

“Oh no, Princess,” Irma mumbled desperately. “Please no!”

“You’re not my preference, Grantaire,” Floréal began, “but you’re handsome enough that it doesn’t matter. Hmm, yes. Mother and Father will definitely approve…” She was pacing around him, admiring him from every angle, and seemed to be talking herself more and more into a decision with every word. “Grantaire,” she said at last, coming to a halt in front of him, “you shall become my husband!”

Irma gave a wail, and fell to the floor in a heap.

“Huh?!” Grantaire spluttered. Enjolras echoed him. Floréal giggled demurely, and turned to go back into the palace.

 

 

“Musichetta, we’ve been walking for hours,” Marius groaned. “Are we lost?” He no longer needed the flashlight; the tunnel was lit by the hundreds of glowing crystals poking out of the walls.

“Uh,” Musichetta murmured, looking around. She’d been forced to un-transform a while ago, and it had left her a little disorientated. “Hmm… No! I remember this place!” She pointed ahead, where the tunnel narrowed down to a human-sized passageway. “Down here!”

 

 

“Heartbreaking,” Lord Méchant tutted, gazing at the three teenagers visible in his viewing portal. “Those three are all alone down there. Perhaps they would appreciate some… company.” Three laughs, two male and one female, echoed through the citadel, and as Méchant’s hands filled with scarlet light, he joined in.

 

 

Enjolras had been hoping that Floréal was joking, but the Princess turned out to be deadly serious. She’d returned to the balcony with four armed Trog guards, two of whom had dragged a kicking and struggling Grantaire into the palace, and two of whom had escorted Enjolras and Irma to the front doors and shoved them unceremoniously down the steps. Irma had collapsed in a pile of sadness and tears, but Enjolras was spitting mad. He made his way over to the banisters of the stairs, fully intending to pull himself upright and march back inside to liberate Grantaire, when Floréal herself emerged from the palace, towering over him. Her appearance made Irma wail loudly and burst into a fresh round of sobs.

“Still here?” Floréal asked coldly. “My fiancé pays attention to me, and me only. Now leave.”

Enjolras made it to the stone banister and yanked himself to his feet. He was a head shorter than Floréal, but he contained twice as much rage. “I’m not leaving without Grantaire!” he snarled.

Floréal snapped her fingers, and the guards who had been carrying Grantaire emerged with the boy in question. She turned to him with a pouty look. “Grantaire, he won’t leave!”

Grantaire’s eyes met Enjolras’. They travelled down his body, taking in his appearance, and his whole face scrunched in worry. “Enjolras, it’s OK! Just get yourself back up to the surface! You can’t survive down here!”

Floréal smirked. “See? He totally agrees with me. Face it, sun-boy; you’re no match for me.” She turned and glided back into the palace, following the guards dragging Grantaire, who was still struggling fruitlessly. The doors swung shut behind her.

Enjolras nearly fell to his knees again, but through a combination of sheer anger and willpower, he forced himself to turn around and begin walking towards the steps. Come on, he thought to himself. I’ve got to get above ground. He was trying to focus all his energy on walking, but he couldn’t stop the angry tear that rolled down his cheek.

 

 

If there was anyone angrier than Enjolras about the situation, it was Grantaire. He’d been dragged up to a throne room, and barricaded inside along with Princess Floréal, who had decided to get to know him better before the wedding. He wasn’t willing to cooperate, though.

“Never! Never, you hear me??” Grantaire was yelling. “I won’t marry you today, and I won’t marry you ever!”

Floréal ignored his yells, and tapped a headless stone bust. It was at the end of a row of similar busts, but the others all had heads, carved in the likeness of what seemed to be the Downland royal family. “This space is for whoever I marry,” Floréal informed him. “I can’t wait for them to add a likeness of that perfect face of yours!”

Grantaire shuddered, and decided to change tactics. “But I’m an uplander,” he reminded her. “We’re an entire different species!”

Floréal shrugged. “So? It’s a tradition here in Downland that the Princess can choose whomever she wants to be the man of her dreams!”

“Yeah, well, for me it’s more like a nightmare,” Grantaire muttered. Floréal gave a breathy sigh. She seemed to have moved from ‘marriage of convenience’ to ‘this is what I wanted all along’ in a worryingly short amount of time. Damn forced heteronormativity.

“Grantaire, you are my one true love,” she informed him. “Come here!” She floated towards him, puckering her lips.

“NO!” Grantaire yelled. “Stay away from me!” He backed away, stepping onto a dais and hiding behind one of the thrones on it. “Don’t you get it?” he shouted at the advancing Princess. “I love Enjolras! Only Enjolras!”

Floréal beamed. “Oh, how attractive your strong will is! You will make an excellent king once I get you onto that throne!” She stepped onto the dais, and Grantaire hurried backwards and stepped off it, ducking down and crawling over to hide behind the stone busts. Strangely enough, one of the busts on the far end from Floréal’s likeness was carved with a horse’s head.

“You can’t marry me!” he shouted from behind the horse. “I’m not a Trog!”

“But here in Downland, a Princess’s wish is law!” Floréal grinned, hurrying behind the horse. “Come here!” She lunged for him, lips first, and Grantaire squeezed between the horse and its neighbour (there was room for a pun in there, but Grantaire was too panicked to think of it) to get away.

“Yeah, well, I’ll take breaking the law over a forced marriage!” Grantaire informed her. Floréal stepped out from behind the busts, but now there was a look of confusion and anger on her face.

“You really won’t marry me?” she frowned.

“Enjolras is the only one for me!” Grantaire said firmly.

“Hmm.” Floréal pursed her lips. “Well then. Abrupto!” she shouted. Abrupto entered the room. He was enormous and musclebound, with dark hair in a topknot on his head, and yellow eyes highlighted by scarlet war paint. He bowed in front of Floréal. She smirked. “Bring Enjolras back to the palace.”

“Yes, majesty!” Abrupto nodded. Grantaire smiled.

“Aah, now you’re making sense!” he grinned, but Floréal wasn’t finished.

“Keep him from getting above ground,” she instructed Abrupto. “He won’t last long down here.”

Grantaire’s face turned a shade paler. “No!” he gasped. “You can’t do that!”

“Yes I can,” Floréal smirked. “However, you could change your mind…”

It had been bad enough seeing Enjolras ill from the lack of sun. Seeing him die… Grantaire would rather take a death sentence himself. Luckily, there was one laid out right in front of him. He nodded slowly.

“Alright,” he whispered miserably. “I’ll marry you.”

 

 

At the top of the steps up to the main cave system, Enjolras collapsed to his knees, clutching his head. The migraine had started a little while ago, and he’d started to see flashing lights at the corner of his vision. Keep going… He moaned quietly in pain, but forced himself to get up and re-enter the tunnels.

 

 

Cosette, Musichetta and Marius had reached a high-ceilinged tunnel with thousands of stalactites hanging down. Water droplets dripped down them, falling to the ground with drips that echoed in an almost drumbeat-like rhythm.

“What a beautiful sound,” Musichetta commented.

“It’s amazing,” Cosette agreed. “Éponine would love it if she were here.”

“It’s cave music,” Marius said dreamily. “It’s like a private concert just for us -” A horribly familiar roar interrupted him. He turned fearfully, as did his companions. Another tar-monster was standing at the other end of the tunnel, and beside it was one of the spiky lizard-things that had attacked Musichetta last time she’d been in the citadel.

“Run!” Cosette screamed. The three of them fled down the tunnel as quickly as they could, while the monsters gave chase.

 

 

Enjolras had finally reached the valley, through an exit off the shore he and Grantaire had been washed up on. Apparently they’d been in the caves all day and night, because the sun was rising over the cliffs. As the sunlight hit first his feet, and travelled up his legs, then his body and finally his face, he felt a thousand times healthier. The migraine vanished, as did his dizziness, and his tan returned almost as quickly as it had faded. He inhaled the fresh air delightedly, before getting to his feet.

“Transform! Enjolras, Faery of the Shining Sun!” His body glowed golden, and in a flash he was in his Faery form. Enjolras pulled his ring off his middle finger and summoned his sceptre. The orb at the top glowed like a sun surrounded by planets, and he grinned. “I’m back, bitches!”

 

 

“Cosette! Can you transform yet?” Musichetta shouted to the other Faery.

Cosette concentrated. Her Faery form flickered briefly into appearance on her, before vanishing again. “No,” she called back. “I need more rest, I’m sorry!”

“Me too!” Musichetta groaned. “We’ll never be able to fight them off!”

“Up ahead!” Marius shouted. “I think there’s a bigger cave!”

Sure enough, the tunnel widened out to a huge cylindrical cave about twenty feet high, with only one other exit near the ceiling. With no way to reach it, they backed away from the monsters while Marius summoned his fire-sword and slashed it in the beasts’ general direction. The spiky lizard-thing twisted, flinging some of its loose tail-spikes at them, and one hit Cosette in the back, tearing the back of her dress and knocking her over. She hurriedly backed away from the monster until she hit the wall.

Marius tripped over a rock as he backed away from the monsters, and the fire-sword flickered out. Musichetta was the only one still standing, and suddenly she remembered something. “Myriel’s magic seeds!” she gasped, pulling the little brown bag from her pocket. “Take this, asshole!” she shouted at the tar monster, which was nearest, and flung the seeds at it.

Nothing happened.

“Oh no!” she shrieked. “There’s not enough light for them to grow!” The tar monster took a threatening step towards her, bearing its needle-sharp teeth.

“I got all the light you need!” a familiar voice shouted from above. Enjolras flew out of the second exit, body glowing with sun magic. As his heeled boots hit the ground, he twirled his sceptre in his right hand, and swung it like a baseball bat towards the monsters, forcing them to back away from the seeds. As the light from his body touched the ground, the seeds glowed, taking root. They bloomed faster than any plant Cosette had ever seen, and she shared a room with a Flower Faery!

The stems of the plants were dark teal and crystalline, and they had white crystal flowers that glowed brighter than even Enjolras’ sceptre. The glow from the flowers made the monsters dissolve in milliseconds.

“ENJY!” Cosette shrieked delightedly, flinging her arms around his neck. Enjolras hugged her back happily.

 

 

Méchant glared at them through his viewing portal. He was standing on his balcony, and had been watching the fight in its entirety. “They made sport of my minions!” he snarled. The portal vanished, and he raised his hands. “Downlands, tremble at my will!”

 

 

The floor shook, and Cosette and Enjolras broke apart. “What was that?” Enjolras asked.

“Earthquake!” Marius yelled.

“What do we do?” Musichetta shrieked. The shakes dislodged a boulder propped against the wall of the cave, revealing a third exit, and Cosette pointed down it.

“RUN!” They all dashed down the new tunnel, before it split off in three directions. “What way do we go?”

“This way!” Musichetta selected the middle tunnel, and the four teenagers dashed down it as fast as they could.

 

 

Grantaire was thankful for the sudden earthquake, because it knocked him over out of the way of Princess Floréal, who seemed determined to steal a kiss from him. He scrambled backwards, finding himself pinned against the wall, and his face turned white as a bedsheet. There was nowhere to run. He was trapped.

“You’re my fiancé, so kiss me now!”

He fainted.

Chapter Text

Rocks. Enormous rocks covered in dust the colour of blood, on all sides except one - which was a very nearly vertical cliff-drop into darkness - and no way to get through them. Enjolras said as much, and Marius ruffled his own hair in thought.

“OK… uh… hey, Enjolras, could you teleport us to the main cave with the citadel using your sceptre?” he suggested.

Enjolras shook his head. “No way. I need to know exactly where we’re going, or else have an emotional anchor. Otherwise the teleporting could land us anywhere. And I’ve just had my boyfriend stolen by a pasty-skinned succubus, so my day’s going badly enough that I don’t fancy zapping us into, say, this shadow creep’s latrine. Besides, I’ve just de-transformed. It’s going to take a little while before I have enough power to even summon my sceptre.”

Marius sighed. “OK, so teleporting directly is out of the question. Huh…” Suddenly, another idea seemed to strike him. “Hey, Musichetta? Do you think you could guess how far underground the citadel is?”

Musichetta tapped her chin in thought. “Well…it’s pretty deep. Let’s see…” she examined the cliff intently, then picked up a pebble and dropped it into the pit. It was about two minutes before the tiny thunk it made as it hit the bottom echoed back up to them, and she nodded. “I’d say it was on the same level as the bottom of this cliff, but I can’t be sure.”

Marius nodded. “Then let’s get down there. It would be too risky to use the Demoleculiser from up here. We’d get trapped in the rocks.”

 

 

In their energy cage on one of the higher levels of the citadel, the Piskies huddled together, gazing out the window at the hundreds of Cornus that were flapping about outside, swarming like sharks that had scented blood. Manon turned her nose up at them. “I find the sight of those monsters most unpleasant,” she commented - really just to have something to say.

Roselyne nodded in agreement, flapping her tiny hands in the direction of the window in a shooing motion. “Go away, you horrible creatures!” she shouted hoarsely. “Leave us alone!” The creatures ignored her, like they had been every time she’d tried to shoo them so far.

“You’ve been shouting at them all day,” Abby commented from her cross-legged position on the floor of the cage. “And what has it done but overload my audio inputs? Nothing.”

Roselyne glared at her. “Well, listen to this if you’re not too ‘overloaded’!” she snapped. “At least I’m doing something to try and drive away those revolting things. So instead of just sitting there in your sandy-code -”

“Stand-by mode,” Abby corrected her boredly, yawning.

“Whatever! Now, help me give them a piece of my mind!”

“Those things are too ugly to look at,” Manon said angrily. “It’s a nightmare. An aesthetic nightmare.”

“I swear, if one more of you shouts, I’m going to reboot,” Abby murmured grumpily.

Manon ignored her. “Ugh, for goodness’ sake!” she shrieked at the Cornus. “Go aWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!”

With a final angry screech, the Cornus hurried away from the citadel, hoping to find somewhere to roost far away from Manon’s high-pitched screams. Manon turned back to her fellow Piskies and curtsied.

“See?” Roselyne smirked victoriously at Abby. “Yelling was the solution.”

Meanwhile, Juliette was staring sadly at the next energy cage over. Simone put a hand on her shoulder. “Juliette? What’s wrong? Are you OK?”

Juliette shivered. “We’re going to end up like the others,” she whispered. “Aren’t we?”

Simone followed her gaze, and shivered herself. The only evidence that the other cage had ever been occupied was a few articles of abandoned Piskie clothing, floating aimlessly around the container.

 

 

“How touching,” Lord Méchant hissed into his viewing portal as Simone hugged Juliette tightly. “Of course, it’s your own fault. And now I’ve been forced to call in an expert.” With a deep, harsh chuckle, he Vanished the portal and turned towards the door of his throne room.

 

 

With a cloud of blood-coloured smoke, an enormous cobra with Lord Méchant’s glowing eyes appeared behind the energy cage. Its body coiled over to the wall, and it slithered around the prison, wrapping its body around the base. Juliette was the first to notice it, and she was too terrified to even scream. The serpent bared its fangs with a hiss, and she hurried to the side of the cage furthest from its head, followed by the others as they noticed it one by one.

“Don’t worry,” Roselyne reassured them. “The energy cage will protect us; it can’t get through.”

With a crackling noise, the snake’s head passed through the side of the cage, followed by the front part of its body, and Roselyne squeaked in fear. “I guess my knowledge of dark magic is a little rusty.”

“Keep still,” Charlie whimpered. “No sudden movements.”

The snake slithered slowly into the cage, wrapping its thick red body around the Piskies. “Insssolent Pissskiesss,” it hissed. “Your sssilenccce deeply annoysss me.” A thin grey forked tongue emerged from its mouth, and dragged itself across Roselyne’s chin. “Yesss, ssso sssweet and brave,” it crooned, before turning to Juliette. “Let’sss try you. It opened its jaws.

Juliette screamed. “Alright! I’ll tell you everything! Our village is -”

“QUIET!” Roselyne screamed even louder. “Don’t you get it? Without us, he’ll never find the village! He needs us alive, Juliette!”

The serpent paused and turned its ugly head to glare at Roselyne. “You’ll be the firssst to go,” it hissed warningly, before turning and slinking back out of the cage.

 

 

Marius was flat on the ground, reaching over the side of the cliff to examine the kind of rock it was made of. He looked up with a wince. “It’s sandy,” he explained. “I’m not sure what type of rock it is, but it’s really gritty. This is not going to be a fun climb.”

“Unfortunately, this is our only option,” Musichetta pointed out as Marius got back up. “There’s nowhere else to go.”

Enjolras leaned tentatively over the side and shuddered. “Whoa. It looks pretty dark down there.”

Cosette placed a hand on his shoulder. “Enj, it’s OK if you don’t want to go down there.”

Marius nodded. “It’s probably not a good idea for you to go too deep into the caves at the moment. You might get sick again. You should play it safe; wait for us up here.”

Enjolras shook his head. “No way!” he said angrily. “I’m going down there. Hey, I’ll even go first!” He knelt on the ground and moved backwards to the edge of the cliff, reaching his right leg down to search for a foothold. “The sooner we get down there, the sooner we can save the Piskies, and the sooner we do that, the sooner we can rescue Grantaire from the clutches of that fish-faced troglodyte.”

“Wait!” Musichetta grinned from where she was crouched on the ground. “I think I just found a faster way to get down there!” She got to her feet and showed them what she’d found: four planks of wood that must have been knocked loose from one of the old mines during the earthquake.

Marius grinned too. “Brilliant!”

 

 

Musichetta whooped as she sped down the sandy side of the cliff on her makeshift snowboard, dodging the bumpier areas with the expertise of an Olympic pro. Her long red hair waved behind her, and the rush of air to the face felt refreshing. She hadn’t felt this alive in a long time.

Marius was able to pretty much keep up with her, and he gave an impressed whistle as she turned the board to avoid a sharp rock sticking out of the side of the cliff. “Wow! You’re awesome at this!”

“Sports have always been my passion!” Musichetta beamed. “Check this out!” With a quick manoeuvre to her right, she mounted the next rock and used it as a ramp, crouching on the board and flying into the air in a graceful arc. She landed surprisingly gently, and pulled the board to a stop. Marius pulled up next to her and offered her a high-five, which she accepted delightedly.

He glanced back up the slope, and giggled a little. “I hope you brought enough passion for everyone,” he commented.

Musichetta followed his gaze, and bit her lip to stop herself from sniggering. While she and Marius were both somewhat experienced when it came to sports, Cosette and Enjolras were decidedly inexperienced. Cosette had placed one foot at each end of her plank in an attempt to prevent it from overbalancing, and as a result she was rocking forwards and backwards on it like a surfer on a choppy wave - rocking forwards down the hill, bumping backwards, and then rocking forwards again. It did not look dignified.

At least she was doing slightly better than Enjolras, whose plank was facing long-side forwards, and who was skidding down the hill balanced on the back edge of it, wiggling from side to side like a rodeo rider. Both Faeries were shrieking in terror.

At last, Cosette made it to the bottom of the slope, and managed to turn the board so that it came to a neat stop between Musichetta and Marius. “What was that you were saying about passion, Marius?” she said, sounding a little envious.

Marius’ attention had been caught by something else, though. “Cosette, you should probably get off your board -” he advised her, but too late; for all her effort to avoid it, Cosette had finally overbalanced, and faceplanted into the chalky ground as her plank tipped over on the unsteady sand. She pushed herself up onto her knees, gagging and spitting out sand, but at that moment Enjolras took centre stage with a scream.

“Make WAYYYY!”

Having finally managed to move his board into the correct position, the blond prince was suddenly going far too fast for his liking. Not knowing how to slow down or stop, he turned the plank sharply before he crashed into his friends. The board came to a halt, but Enjolras kept going; he flew through the air and crashed arse first into a large red rock a few feet away from them.

Cosette hurried to her feet to help him up, and he accepted her help with a groan. “This is ridiculous,” he huffed, rubbing what he knew would turn into a CD-sized bruise within a few hours. “Grantaire better take me on a really nice date to make up for this.”

Marius followed Cosette over, and once again gave an impressed whistle, this time at the rock, which now had a large fissure cutting it open where Enjolras had collided with it. “You were lucky, Enj. You could have broken your spine.” He tapped it with his index finger, and to his surprise, it crumbled under the light pressure. “The rock here is seriously brittle,” he commented. “This makes it the perfect spot for us, though.” Marius reached into the side pocket of his cargo shorts and pulled out the rugby-ball-shaped device Grantaire had shown them back on the Owl.

“The Demoleculiser!” Cosette remembered. She smiled hopefully. “Do you think we should go in pairs?”

Marius missed what she was hinting at completely, and shook his head. “Better not, Sette. We need to all go together. The magic only lasts for twenty-five seconds, and we don’t know how much rock we need to get through. Is everyone ready?”

Cosette pouted but nodded, and Musichetta gave a thumbs-up, but Enjolras looked rather nervous. “Are you sure it’s safe?” he asked, and Marius nodded firmly. “Well, OK then…”

Marius unlocked the device, and it spilt down the middle, revealing the control panel. Cosette took Marius’ hand, Musichetta took Cosette’s hand, and Enjolras took Musichetta’s hand. Marius pressed the main button on the panel, and there was a flash of white light. When it cleared, Marius hurried forward, stepping through the rock as if it didn’t exist. Cosette followed him, as did Musichetta and finally Enjolras.

It was an odd experience, that was for sure. They were surrounded by the red rock as if encased in it, but they felt absolutely no resistance and were able to walk forwards like they were simply heading down one of the tunnels in the mines. Marius reached the other side first, and to Cosette’s shock as he exited the rock he let go of her hand with a yelp.

“Marius?” she called worriedly, following him. “Marius, are you O-GAHHH!” She let go of Musichetta’s hand as the ground vanished from beneath her feet. Apparently they’d emerged in the middle of another cliff-face, but this one wasn’t too high, because Cosette landed on top of Marius with a soft ‘oof’ after a seven-inch drop.

Marius groaned, but didn’t complain. “The ground up there was about a foot higher than it is down here,” he informed her in a muffled voice. They both groaned as Musichetta landed on top of them with a squeak.

Enjolras, now with less of a step down than the previous three, tripped out of the rockface over Musichetta’s legs and landed face-first on the ground. The three in a pile all groaned sympathetically, but Enjolras didn’t seem to be particularly hurt - just annoyed. “That was horrible,” he complained. “Never make me do that again!”

“Are you OK?” Cosette asked, struggling to free herself from where she was sandwiched between Musichetta’s chest and Marius’ back.

“I’m fine,” Enjolras shuddered, helping Musichetta up and then Cosette and Marius, “but there was a worm in there and - ugh, it passed right through me! It was gross!”

Cosette chuckled, having noticed something on his head. She reached up and detangled the worm from his now extremely messy curls. “Is this the worm?”

Enjolras screeched in disgust. “Yes! Eww!”

Marius smiled teasingly. “Grantaire had better buy you some new shampoo before your date too.”

“Apple-scented,” Cosette added with a giggle. “Y’know, to go with the worm.”

Enjolras burst out laughing in spite of his disgust, and Cosette carefully placed the worm on a small ledge on the rockface. It hurried to burrow back into the rock. Musichetta, however, had missed the joke entirely, and was standing at the mouth of the shallow cave they were now standing in.

“Guys!” she said in amazement. “Look!” They followed her over to the mouth of the cave, and their jaws dropped at the view that greeted them. An enormous grey stone citadel greeted them on the other side of a deep canyon, rising up from the darkness below. It appeared to be cut into the opposite side of the cave wall, and connected to the ceiling - possibly. It towered so high above them that it was impossible to tell where it really ended. Here and there, waterfalls fell from the roof of the cave, splashing down to the rivers hundreds of feet below them. “We’re here,” Musichetta said softly.

“Looks friendly,” Cosette commented sarcastically.

“Plenty of sunshine,” Enjolras agreed jokingly.

Musichetta ignored them. “The Piskies should be up… there.” She pointed to the top row of a series of rough windows that were cut into the side of the castle.

Marius shuddered as he noticed the only way over to the castle: a narrow rope bridge that stretched from the ledge they were on over to a stone balcony about halfway up the side of the citadel. “Does this mean we have to take the rope bridge?”

Enjolras smirked. “Of course not! We’ll fly.” Marius gave him a confused look, and Enjolras continued, still smirking: “Listen Marius, why don’t you play it safe and wait for us here?”

Cosette glared at him. “We’ll all go on foot,” she insisted.

“Won’t part from your sweetheart?” Enjolras muttered teasingly, but Cosette rolled her eyes.

“Enj, if we transform now, we might not have any power left when we actually need it!” she pointed out. Enjolras sighed and conceded, and Musichetta headed towards the end of the rope bridge.

“Let’s go already,” she said flatly. “We’re not getting any closer to rescuing the Piskies just standing here arguing.” She stepped onto the end, and raised her eyebrows. “And hold on tight; this thing is gonna swing like a boat in a hurricane.”

Cosette shrugged and followed her onto the bridge. “No worries. I used to spend my summers at Six Flag Sailing Club in Normandie.”

Marius looked confused. “You were a sailor?” he muttered, but followed her onto the bridge. Enjolras followed too, and they started across the canyon, but not without Enjolras grumpily muttering under his breath.

“First we have to get the Piskies, and then we have to do it on foot? How long will Grantaire have to wait? We’d better get there before he says ‘I do’.”

 

 

Meanwhile, in Downland Palace…

Grantaire was struggling against the combined strength of no less than two Trog guards and four footmen while the newly hired tailor attempted to measure his hips for his wedding kilt. Apparently the normal tailor was nowhere to be found, but Grantaire had picked up from a whispered conversation between two passing ladies-in-waiting that Irma Boissy had purchased a bottle of Downland’s strongest absinthe and locked herself in the spare room of her mother’s house. He felt really sorry for the Trog girl - but not as sorry as he was feeling for himself at that moment.

“No!” he shouted again. “I told you, if you want me to stay still, take me to the Princess!” Hopefully there was still time to appeal to her to cancel the wedding - “GAH!” The irate tailor had jabbed a pin into his arse. “I’ve got to talk to her and convince her that this wedding is a huge mistake!” he begged the footmen. “You have to help me - AAAAHH!” The tailor jabbed him again, brandishing the pin like a weapon. Grantaire glared furiously, reached over the tailor’s head, and with cat-like defiance knocked several skeins of cream silk off the table next to him.

The effect was instantaneous. The tailor, footmen and guards abandoned Grantaire and hurried to rescue the silk with mutters of “Oh no! The Princess will punish us!”

“So can I talk to her or not?” Grantaire demanded, folding his arms, but the familiar silky voice behind him made him jump nearly a foot into the air.

“My fiancé requires me?” Floréal asked, gliding into the room. The tailor, footmen and guards hurried to stand in front of the pile of knocked-over silks, blocking them from her view. She glanced at one of the footmen, and her eyes widened. “How revolting!”

The footman trembled.

Floréal changed direction, gliding towards him instead of Grantaire. “You’ve got five seconds to fix your hair, or else I’ll shred you with my nails, dip you in sewage, fry you in acid, and finally, I’ll cancel your health insurance!” she snarled. The footman hurried to tuck his purplish hair behind his ears, but to his relief, Grantaire spoke just then, distracting Floréal.

“My dear Princess,” he began, “I’d like a word in private. Now?”

Floréal cupped his cheek with a breathy sigh. “Later we’ll have plenty of time; a whole lifetime, in fact! I’ll see you later, my love!” With that, she glided out of the room, and Grantaire shuddered.

 

 

Over at Musain School For Faeries…

Courfeyrac emerged from the bathroom wrapped in a fluffy lilac bathrobe, hair still damp from the shower. He was heading to his room to dry his hair, when Wolter caught his attention. The little Dutch rabbit was chittering frantically and hopping around Courfeyrac’s laptop. The boy frowned in worry and headed over to see what the problem was. “What’s the matter, Wolter? Is everything OK?” To his shock, his computer’s screen was bright blue and blank; it had crashed. “What the fuck…” he murmured in confusion, sitting down with it to reboot. As it shut off and restarted, Éponine emerged from her bedroom.

“Has anyone seen Lise?” she asked the room at large. Courfeyrac shrugged, working on checking that he hadn’t lost any data, and Éponine noticed the little Piskie asleep in one of the armchairs. “Here you are, sleepyhead!” she cooed, before glancing up at Courfeyrac. “Maybe she’s got the right idea,” she commented. “She’s not wasting her energy worrying.” She started to pace the length of the room. “But I can’t help thinking about the risk they’re taking; going on a mission like that without us!”

Courfeyrac picked up the laptop and headed over to the balcony. “Maybe the reception will be better outside,” he murmured, not really taking in what Éponine was saying. “I hope so; otherwise I won’t be able to keep tracking our friends in the caves.”

With a surprisingly loud thud and a tiny “Oof!”, something collided with the back of the laptop.

“Hey!” Courfeyrac yelped, turning the laptop around to examine the collider. “I think some new hardware just installed itself,” he commented, prising the thing off the laptop. He held it up to get a good look at it, and his eyes widened. “Another Piskie!”

The Piskie looked rather dizzy. She had short, curly blonde hair and big blue eyes, and pale blue ‘go-faster’ stripes were painted on her cheeks. She wore a white vest and blue capri pants, and little red anklets that matched her triangular hairclip. Her wings were sky blue and almond shaped.

Éponine hurried over at Courfeyrac’s shout, and cooed over the new arrival. “Hey there!” she grinned. “What’s your name?”

The Piskie didn’t answer; instead she started squirming furiously. Éponine realised that Courfeyrac was still holding her from the back of her shirt, and she raised an eyebrow at him. “Courf, let her go.”

Courfeyrac obligingly let go of the Piskie, who fluttered into the air as he apologized. “You alright?” he asked her.

The Piskie grinned. “Never been better!” she said cheerfully. A second later, she plummeted out of the air towards the floor. Courfeyrac and Éponine shrieked in worry, but she caught herself with her little blue wings seconds before she hit the pale yellow lino. “See?” she reassured them, fluttering upwards. “Everything’s fi-” she crashed head-first into the underside of the pale wood table, and floated to the ground, unconscious.

 

 

Later, revived and leaning against an icecube wrapped in a facecloth, the Piskie felt well enough to explain how she’d ended up crashing into Courfeyrac’s laptop.

“You see, I missed the festival in the dark forest,” she told them. She spoke very quickly, as if she was worried she’d run out of time before she’d said everything. “I was home recovering because I’d hurt my head.” (“Imagine that,” Courfeyrac muttered amusedly.) “But my friends never came back from the dark forest. Those of us who’d stayed behind knew that something was wrong, but we were too scared to leave the village. Finally, our friend Chetta came, and she said she was gonna help us, and she told us to stay hidden. But we waited and waited, and she never came back. So we decided to come to Musain for help. That’s why I’m here. I’m Arietta, the Piskie of Messages.” She gave a little whimper of unhappiness, and Éponine hurried to cup her hands around Arietta in a hug.

 

 

Lord Méchant narrowed his eyes at them in his viewing portal. “How touching… and informative,” he hummed.

 

 

“You’re safe now,” Courfeyrac assured Arietta with a friendly smile. “Come on, there’s no point in crying.”

The little Piskie wiped her eyes and nodded. “You’re right,” she smiled cheerfully, getting to her feet. “And you know what? From this moment on, I’ll never cry again!”

At that moment, Lise woke up and sat up on the cushion of the armchair with a curious gurgle of “Tutti?”

Arietta turned around, and her eyes widened. “LISE!” she shrieked delightedly, fluttering over to throw her arms around the baby. “Lise, you’re alive! Oh, Lise, Lise, Lise, Lise, Lise!” Her eyes welled with more tears. “I thought I’d never see you again!” she sobbed, before bursting into happy wails. Lise looked extremely confused, but cuddled against Arietta all the same. Éponine smirked at Courfeyrac.

“Should we tell her Musichetta’s alive too?” she teased. “Or do you think she’d have a heart attack?”

Courfeyrac giggled. “Well…let’s wait a few minutes,” he suggested. “It’s cute.”

Indeed, Lise had recognised Arietta, and was doing her best to hug back. “Tutti,” she was squeaking happily (it was the only word she knew). “Tutti!”

 

 

Halfway across the rope bridge, Musichetta turned back to the others. “I’m going on ahead,” she informed them. “You guys help Enjolras.”

“I don’t need help!” Enjolras insisted fiercely from where he was clinging white-knuckled to the ropes that held up the bridge. He was starting to look a little green around the gills though. “Is a sliver of sun too much to ask?” he muttered grumpily to himself. A sudden movement up ahead made him look up, though. Musichetta had made it to the balcony on the other side of the rope bridge, and had used her magic to make a Morphix rope that stretched up to the window she had reckoned was closest to where the Piskies were imprisoned. Quickly knotting it around her waist, she took a step back before swinging at the wall and planting her feet against it. She walked up the wall, pulling herself with the rope, as easily as if she was simply walking along the ground. She was up at the window in no time. With a final heave, Musichetta tucked-and-rolled herself neatly through the window, and the rope vanished.

Musichetta got to her feet and looked around the room she’d arrived in. Energy cages - but they were all empty. She suddenly felt cold all over. What if she’d been too late? What if the Piskies were all -

“Chetta!” a familiar voice called to her left. Musichetta turned, noticing an archway into the next room. She hurried through, and several voices cheered. “Chetta!”

The Piskies! She’d been one window off! They were still alive! Musichetta hurried through and knelt next to the cage, grinning in at her friends.

“We knew you’d come back for us!” Roselyne cheered.

“It’s so good to see you again, Chetta!” Simone added.

Musichetta beamed, nearly crying with relief. “None of you are hurt, right?” she checked. “You’re all safe?”

“Safe as snakes in a pit,” Roselyne giggled at some private joke.

Abby gazed excitedly up at her. “Have you got the bandwidth for our escape?” she asked.

“Don’t worry,” Musichetta grinned. “I brought reinforcements this time.”

Juliette pointed over at what looked like a seal’s skull, only with needle-like teeth, mounted on the wall. “You have to destroy that seal,” she explained. “That’s the what powers the lock on the cage.”

Musichetta nodded. “Don’t worry; I’ll take care of it.” She got to her feet and narrowed her eyes, focussing hard. “Transform!” she shouted. “Musichetta, Faery of Waves!” In a flash, the green clothes, silver jewellery, and blue wings of her Faery form had appeared on her, and she was Chetta the Faery once again. In a second, she’d formed a ball of pink light between her hands, and flung it at the seal. It connected with a crash, stirring up a cloud of dust. To her shock, when the dust cleared, the skull appeared unaffected. It hadn’t worked! Her magic was still too weak.

“Alright then,” she muttered angrily. “Wave Blast!” This time, a jet of pink light blasted the skull, making a noise like an out-of-control garden hose. Still nothing happened. The skull’s permanent grin seemed to taunt her.

Musichetta let out a low growl, and glanced over her shoulder at the Piskies. “Stand back,” she warned, and they obligingly moved to the other side of the cage. “High Tide!” Musichetta screamed, and her entire body lit up with bright pink light. The room shook, and pebbles were lifted into the air by the force of her spell as Musichetta blasted the side of the cage with as much power as she could muster. With a bang and a flash of white light - nothing happened. Musichetta fell to her knees in exhaustion.

“That was my strongest attack,” she groaned.

“Did it work?” Juliette squeaked from where she was shivering in Simone’s arms with her hands over her eyes. Simone shook her head sadly.

“No, Juliette,” she sighed. Her eyes narrowed. “Huh… maybe I can use my magic to change the energy signature of the cage.” She got to her feet and held her hands up to the side of the cage wall.

 

 

“Enjolras?” Cosette called back to him. “Are you alright?”

She had good reason to worry; Enjolras was clinging to the bridge and leaning his head over the side, hyperventilating as if he might be sick. Cosette and Marius had already made it to the balcony, but Enjolras didn’t look like he intended to move any time soon. “Yeah, I’m great,” he whimpered. “I’ll be there in just a sec.”

Cosette nodded. “Good. Let’s go help Musichetta.”

A sudden crash of horribly familiar green lightening put an end to that plan, however. Cosette was blasted off her feet, skidding backwards to make contact with the wall of the citadel. A similar blast hit Marius in the back, and he collapsed next to her, both of their bodies still crackling with dark magic.

Three familiar shadows appeared on the balcony as their owners touched down on the ground, and three familiar silhouettes took a threatening step forward - only something was different this time. Now, they were lit up with glowing jewellery that was emitting enough dark magic to make Cosette feel a little nauseous as she sat up slowly, wincing at the pain in her stomach where the spell had hit her.

“What are those things?” she murmured. Enjolras made it to the balcony, and squinted at the silhouettes as a familiar evil cackle echoed around the cavern. The figure wearing a glowing green arm band lifted their hands, and green lightening flashed around the entire cave, lighting it up enough for them to see the features of the silhouettes.

Enjolras’ eyes widened. “It’s Patron-Minette!” he gasped.

Patron-Minette grinned in unison, as if to say, “Remember us?”

“Weren’t they shipped off to Lightrock Monastery?” Marius muttered.

“Myriel said it’s impossible to escape from there,” Cosette agreed.

Babet smirked. “We were given special gifts that makes everything possible,” he explained, his voice just as high and cold as Cosette remembered. She shivered. The last time she’d heard that voice, he’d been explaining to her how she was going to die at his hands. He threw back his head and cackled again.

Enjolras rolled his eyes. “Does he ever stop laughing?” he muttered sarcastically.

Babet stopped laughing immediately. “Who asked your opinion?” he snarled.

“Can’t you seen we’re gloating here?” Gueulemer scowled.

“And getting ready to settle old scores,” Claquesous added.

Babet raised his hands, summoning several deadly-sharp ice daggers. “We’ll finish you off for good this time,” he smirked as the air turned as cold as his heart.

 

 

Simone focussed as hard as she could, but her attempts to change the energy signature of the cage amounted to nothing, and she sighed and sat down with a groan. “Sorry, Chetta,” she sighed. “I can’t change the nature of the cage; it’s immune to magic.”

Musichetta nodded slowly. “No magic, huh?” she murmured. “Then let’s get physical.” She clasped her hands together, and swung her right elbow into the side of the cage. The surface crackled, but held. She swung at it again, eventually pushing at it with her entire upper arm, leaning her full weight against it. Suddenly, with a bang, her arm was sucked halfway through the barrier, and the dark magic crackled around it. Musichetta screamed in pain, yanking herself free with enough force that she tripped over.

“CHETTA!” the Piskies screamed in worry. Musichetta groaned in pain; a huge shiny new burn stretched from her shoulder to her elbow.

 

 

“Brace yourselves, boys,” Cosette murmured. “He’s about to attack.”

“Icicle Fury!” Babet screamed, and the ice daggers shot towards them with the speed of a springing cheetah. Cosette and Marius hurried to duck behind one of the pillars on the balcony, but Enjolras was too slow, and simply dodged the daggers as best he could. One grazed the side of his knee, slicing his skin open. He yelped in pain, dodging the final dagger, before glaring up at Babet.

“You’re going to regret that -” he began, but Cosette interrupted him with a warning scream.

“Enjolras! BEHIND YOU!”

“Huh?” Enjolras turned to see Claquesous firing a blast of bright purple magic at him. Cosette flung herself bodily at him, and knocked them both out of the way of the blast. She caught his eye, and they nodded in unison, before getting to their feet.

“Transform!” they chorused. In a flash, they were in their Faery forms, and Enjolras summoned his sceptre as they fluttered into the air. Cosette blasted pure fire at Claquesous, but she vanished seconds before it made contact, and instead, the spell crashed into the side of the citadel and the flames flickered out.

Gueulemer’s voice came from behind them, with a scream of “Shadow Whirlwind!” An enormous black twister appeared, crackling with bright green magic, and Enjolras summoned a golden shield to try and hold it off, but the twister was simply too powerful, and he was knocked out of the air, landing back on the balcony with a thud, unconscious.

“ENJOLRAS!” Marius screamed, but someone else caught his attention; Babet, hovering above Cosette, who had her back turned to him. Babet’s arms were raised, ready to strike -

“Cosette!” Marius yelled. He grabbed her arm and pulled her back behind the pillar. Seconds later, a chunk of ice the size of a small car shattered as it hit the balcony.

“Thanks,” Cosette panted, but suddenly her entire body froze, wrapped in a strange purple light. Marius turned, and saw Claquesous, who had reappeared behind Cosette and was putting the finishing touches on some kind of trapping spell that left Cosette immobile, trapped floating in midair.

Marius hurried to summon a fire-sword, and swung it at Claquesous, forcing her away from Cosette. His momentum caused him to stumble forwards, jamming his sword into the stone wall. She sent a bolt of dark magic back at him, but this was what Marius had trained for, and he jumped up onto the stuck sword, using it as a springboard to leap up onto the next balcony up.

He paused to inhale, a little out of breath from the stunt, when he heard a rushing noise, and suddenly his toes felt very cold. Babet grinned down at him, his hands filled with icy light. “Are you getting cold feet yet?” the Ice Witch smirked.

Marius looked down, and realised that Babet had essentially frozen his feet to the ground - and the ice was rising quickly up his legs. He glared, and his hands filled with blue fire to melt the ice - but Babet was too quick for him, and suddenly his hands were encased in ice too, rendering him unable to summon even a spark. The ice travelled up his body, eventually stopping at his neck. Babet landed next to him and tutted, dragging four sharp fingernails down Marius’ cheek.

“You’re pretty cute for a dorky little Wizard,” he smirked. “Too bad, ‘cause your game is up.”

“Did someone say game?” Marius and Babet looked up to see Musichetta standing on the windowsill, glaring down at Babet. “I’m a big fan of ball games myself!” With a bang, she leapt into the air and fired a ball of pink light at Babet, but to her shock, he caught it and crushed it into nothing without even breaking a sweat.

“This one’s new,” he commented. “I don’t know her. Still pathetic, though.”

“Oh yeah?” Musichetta snarled, landing on the balcony. “Not as pathetic as - AAAAAAARGH!” She collapsed to the ground, revealing Claquesous standing behind her, hands full of purple smoke - a telltale sign of a spell that would leave a magical burn behind. And sure enough, another burn was visible on Musichetta’s exposed lower back, matching the big one on her right arm. As she hit the ground, her Faery form vanished, and Patron-Minette rose into the air, admiring their work. Marius was frozen solid up to the neck, Cosette was still immobilised in Claquesous’ strange purple light, and Enjolras was lying on the ground with his legs twisted, bleeding from his left knee.

Suddenly, the whole cave was lit up with beautiful white-gold light, and something huge swooped down from the roof of the cave. The light was so bright that all three Witches screwed up their eyes against it, shrieking like annoyed banshees.

“What is that?!”

“It’s so bright I can’t see anything!”

“What’s going on?!”

Marius squinted up at the thing, and saw what the Witches hadn’t: a human-shaped silhouette. The source of the light was an enormous set of golden wings protruding from their shoulder blades, and as their body came into focus, Marius realised it was a man.

He appeared to be quite old, with long white hair tied back in a braid and a wrinkled, wise face, but he had the body of a young man - a sure sign of immortality. His eyes were narrow and dark, and he wore a navy blue shirt and trousers with a white and gold tabbard and matching boots.

He was a Paladin.

The Paladin landed next to Musichetta, and held his hands over her. They glowed with golden light, and as he moved away, Marius realised that her burns had completely vanished. She got to her feet slowly, blinking.

The Paladin moved over to Marius, and with a clap of his hands the ice melted away, and the scratches on Marius’ cheek healed. Marius opened his mouth to thank him, but he’d already moved over to Cosette, gently lifting her out of the air and setting her down on the ground. The purple light vanished, as did her Faery form, and Cosette rubbed her temple as though she had a headache.

Next, the Paladin held his hand to Enjolras’ head, and tapped his knee with his other hand. Enjolras sat up, and as the Paladin took to the air again, he realised that he was untransformed and his knee was healed without even a scar. He let out a a huff of disbelieving laughter.

The Paladin rose above Patron-Minette, and reached his hands above his head. “Strega Capuran Norha Sepherum!” he chanted. A ball of golden light appeared in his hands, and he flung it at the three Witches, trapping them within it. He swooshed his hand through the air, and the ball of golden light went spinning away with Patron-Minette still trapped inside, hollering with rage.

The rescue-party all cheered as the Paladin landed in front of them. Cosette approached him with wide eyes. “On behalf of everyone here, I’d like to thank you, sir.”

The Paladin smiled kindly. “I really couldn’t allow them to hurt you, could I now?”

Marius followed Cosette over, gazing at him in awe. “Are you one of the Master Templars from Lightrock Monastery?” he asked.

The Paladin shook his head. “No, that is not the case.”

“What’s your name?” Enjolras asked. The Paladin smiled.

“You’ll find out soon enough.” He bowed to them, before spreading his wings and swooping away into the darkness of the cave. The three Faeries gazed after him in amazement, but Marius’ attention had been caught by something else.

“Look out!” he yelled, pointing towards the castle. “More monsters!”

Indeed, a dark mass was flying towards them, and the group hurried to cross back over the rope bridge, dashing to hide in the small cave again. Marius, Cosette and Enjolras all made it in, but to their surprise, Musichetta turned back and stood in full view of the monsters.

Marius leaned his head out, looking terrified. “Musichetta! Hurry! Get in here before they see you!”

Musichetta shook her head. “No!” she laughed, turning around to face them. “You won’t believe this! It’s the Piskies!”

The three in the cave followed her out with wide eyes, and indeed it was: seven tiny Piskies were zooming towards them with bright grins. “Chetta!” they were cheering in delight. She held her arms out to receive them, but suddenly her eyes widened.

“No, wait! Not all at - oof!” The Piskies careened into her, shrieking with delight.

“Chetta!” they chorused again, all determined to hug some part of her.

“…once…” Musichetta groaned. She smiled over her shoulder as Marius, Cosette and Enjolras walked over to them. “Piskies, these are my new friends, Cosette, Enjolras and Marius. New friends, these are the Piskies.”

One of the Piskies, with curly blue hair, a red coat, blue trousers, black boots, red and black war paint, and red, white and blue wings, fluttered into the air when she noticed Enjolras. “Wow,” she said in awe. “What a wonderful person!”

Enjolras’ jaw dropped. “Oh. My. Dragon. You are adorable!”

Marius scratched his head in confusion. “Enjolras is cooing over a Piskie?” he muttered. “What’s going on here?”

Musichetta smiled serenely. “They’re bonding. It’s like platonic love at first sight between Faery and Piskie. Their bond will be unbreakable.”

“I’m Simone,” the Piskie introduced herself. “I’m the Piskie of Change.”

“I’m Enjolras,” Enjolras replied, looking a little slack jawed. “I’m the Faery of the Shining Sun.”

Cosette sighed happily at the sight of the bonding, but soon her attention was taken by another Piskie. This one had ginger and lilac curls in a long ponytail, and wore a pink and red Ancient Grecian dress with red sandals. She had little red broaches on her dress straps shaped like hearts, and had four little red hearts painted on her face: three above her left eye, and one below her right one. Her wings were purple and shaped like big hearts. Little bracelets made of pink and red flowers circled her chubby wrists. “I’m Juliette, Piskie of Love,” she introduced herself. “Will you protect me from now on?”

Cosette felt like she was floating. “Of course,” she said smittenly. “I’m Euphrasie, Faery of the Dragon Flame, but everyone calls me Cosette.” The Piskie snuggled under her chin in a hugging way, and Cosette made a happy squeaky noise.

 

 

Lord Méchant gazed at the touching scene in his viewing portal. “Those Piskies are so sweet that I’m starting to like them,” he commented, before bursting into deranged cackles of laughter.

 

 

“And that’s how we were rescued,” Cosette finished telling the Piskies the story of how the Paladin had fought off Patron-Minette. The other five Piskies - who Musichetta had introduced as Manon, Roselyne, Abby, Charlie and Lottie - gazed up at her in awe from where they were perched in Musichetta’s lap.

“Wow!” Roselyne gasped. Musichetta stroked her blonde curls fondly.

“How did you manage to get out of the cage?” she asked curiously.

Abby shrugged. “It was easy. All of a sudden the barrier was just… deleted.”

“So you weren’t rescued by our Paladin?” Musichetta frowned, but Enjolras interrupted the conversation.

“Um, hate to interrupt, but may I remind you that while we’re just sitting here, Grantaire is probably walking down the isle! Let’s hop to it!”

Marius got to his feet. “Enj is right. We have to save Grantaire. There’s no time to lose.” They hurriedly got to their feet, and Enjolras summoned his sceptre.

“Everyone get ready!” With a flash, they entered the sunlit tunnel, and freefell to the other end of it, landing on a sandy strip of beach next to a shallow river in what must have been one of the lowest caves in the entire system. Enjolras panted in exhaustion, shrinking his sceptre back down to a ring and sliding it onto his middle finger. “This is where we washed up,” he explained. “I’d take us further in, but the rest of the trip to Downland is sort of a queasy mess, and I can’t get a decent picture of it in my head.” Cosette squeezed his hand comfortingly.

“Don’t worry about it, Enj. We’re not wearing these hiking boots as a fashion statement, after all. Now let’s get going; we’ve got a wedding to crash.”

Chapter Text

Enjolras led the way back into the caves filled with the beautiful glowing crystals. Behind him, Marius held up a flashlight, and Cosette, Musichetta and the Piskies followed. As they progressed further in, Enjolras seemed to get angrier and angrier at the situation, and after roughly an hour of walking, Marius spoke up.

“Enjolras, I’m worried about Grantaire too,” he began, “but marching blindly into the dark isn’t going to do anyone any good!”

The only reply he received was a low, furious growl. Marius sighed and continued following him. Roselyne tugged on his sleeve.

“Why did Grantaire agree to marry that monster princess in the first place?” she demanded.

Juliette sighed happily. “They’re from two different worlds! Forbidden love!”

Enjolras growled again, only this time it sounded like, “Forbidden? Yeah, right!”

Marius sighed. “I’m sure that Grantaire was just playing along to protect Enjolras!” he assured Roselyne.

Behind him, Cosette leaned against the cave wall, and bent down to massage her foot. “Come on, Enj, I’m getting a cramp!” she complained. “Can’t we stop for just one minute?” She looked up in surprise when Enjolras’ footsteps continued echoing back to her. “Enj?” she asked again uncertainly. She glanced worriedly at Roselyne. “Do you think he even heard me?”

“Let me try!” Roselyne suggested. She beat her little wings and fluttered up next to Enjolras’ ear. “Excuse me, Monsieur, but I was wondering -”

Enjolras turned, and everyone was shocked at the unbridled rage in his eyes. “NO! WE’RE NOT STOPPING, NOT EVEN FOR ONE FUCKING SECOND!”

Roselyne was blown back to the other Piskies. Abby shrugged knowingly. “Well, like Grandpa Fahrenheit always said, ‘No use changing the oil while the engine’s running.’”

The group trudged on after Enjolras. Around ten minutes later, Marius tried reasoning with him again. “Look, Enjolras, if you fall in the dark and twist your ankle, I am not going to carry you!”

Enjolras actually stopped this time, and the entire group could see his shoulders shaking with anger. He turned on his heel and marched up to Marius, who in spite of his height and muscle advantage, looked a little nervous.

“In that case, I’ll take the damn flashlight!” Enjolras snapped, and snatched it off him before turning and continuing his crusade into the caverns.

Abby glanced over at Simone. “Good luck mate, you got the crazy one.”

Simone shook her head. “I like him. He’s so passionate!”

Juliette nodded in agreement. “And he’s so in love!”

 

 

Meanwhile, in Downland Palace…

Grantaire had finally been forced out of his own clothes and into traditional Downland wedding garb: a cream silk kilt, a woven blue belt, a scarlet cape with a bronze collar, woven golden armbands with blue feathers hanging off them, bronze sandals and wrist-cuffs, and a golden headband. He was currently being marched by two armed Trog guards down a corridor of the palace towards Princess Floréal’s chambers, and desperately hoping to himself, I hope Enjolras and the others get here soon…

One guard knocked on Floréal’s door before entering. “Your majesty? Your fiancé is here.”

Floréal was sitting at an elaborate dressing table applying make up. She hmmed and lowered her lipstick. “Good, leave him with me.”

Grantaire gulped.

“I trust everything is laid out perfectly for the wedding?” Floréal asked as the guards shoved Grantaire roughly into the room.

“We’re doing everything in our power, your highness,” the guard assured her, “but…” his voice shook a little, “there has been a slight, uh, delay.”

Great! Grantaire thought relievedly.

Floréal’s eyes narrowed. “Perhaps I have not made myself clear. I EXPECT PERFECTION AT THE VERY LEAST!” She got up and approached the sweating guard. “I CANNOT EVEN BEGIN TO EXPLAIN WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO YOU IF ANYTHING GOES WRONG!” She swiped a hand across his face, drawing a large red X with the lipstick she had yet to relinquish a hold on.

Both guards saluted her. “Yes, your majesty!” They scooted out of the room sharpish.

Floréal slammed the doors behind them and turned back to Grantaire with a demure giggle.

“I’m so sorry, your highness,” Grantaire said, bullshitting like crazy. “It really is too bad our wedding has been delayed!”

To his shock, Floréal no longer looked mad. “Why wait for the wedding?” she said silkily, gliding over to him. “Kiss me now! Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me!”

Grantaire backed into the corner, terrified.

 

 

As they got closer to Downland, Enjolras turned the flashlight off, as they weren’t shrouded in complete darkness any more - the Downland Crystals were lighting up the whole cave.

Cosette pointed to one that was flashing on and off. “Check out that one. It’s amazing!” One of the Piskies, a baby like Lise by the name of Lottie, fluttered up to the flashing one. She clapped her hands delightedly, and her belly glowed and dimmed in time with the crystal.

“These are Downland Crystals for sure - we’ve got to be getting closer,” Enjolras said.

Musichetta paused, and went back to drag Lottie away from the crystal she was admiring. “Come on, you,” she murmured to the little Piskie. “Enjolras is right. We’ve got to keep going.”

Sooner than they thought they would, the cave opened out into an enormous underground cavern filled with light that illuminated a city. Enjolras’ eyes glimmered in the light. He turned back to them. “Guys, this is it.”

“This is Downland?” Cosette asked.

Enjolras nodded. “It’s weird though… last time I arrived on the other side of town. Oh well. At least we’re here.”

Suddenly Juliette let out a little squeak of terror, as footsteps were echoing towards them.

Marius’ eyes narrowed. “Someone’s coming. We need to hide.” He beckoned them behind a rock formation, and they quietly peeked out at the enormous Trog guard patrolling the street in front of them. Manon tutted quietly. “What unhealthy-looking skin,” she said disapprovingly.

As the Trog rounded a corner and his footsteps became quieter, Cosette breathed a sigh of relief. “Come on, let’s go find Grantaire. But stay out of sight!”

Cosette led the way over to the next rock formation, followed by Marius, and then Enjolras and Musichetta. The latter glanced back and beckoned the Piskies forward with a hurried, “Come on!

Manon led her fellow Piskies after the Amis, and Musichetta groaned. “Get down!

The Piskies let out a collective gasp of surprise, but obligingly dived closer to the ground.

The group managed to make it down a narrow street, and Marius peered carefully around the corner. “Shit. We’ll never make it past that guard!” Another enormous guard - perhaps the same one from earlier - was blocking their path. “We need a distraction.”

Musichetta picked up a small rock. “This enough of a distraction?” she offered. Marius took the rock gratefully, and lobbed it in the opposite direction of the path they needed to get down. The guard spun on his heel and went to investigate.

Marius dashed forwards, and opened the door of an empty dwelling. “Come on! Everyone inside, now!” Musichetta shot though the door, and Enjolras followed her, but tripped and face-planted onto the ground, skidding a few feet forwards. Cosette ran to his side.

“Enjy? Quick! Get up!”

Enjolras gave a low moan and glanced up at her. A red, raw scrape ran from his forehead down his nose to his chin.

Cosette felt herself begin to panic slightly. The guard, having decided the rock wasn’t worth interrogating, was on his way back, and although Marius, Musichetta and the Piskies were now safely in the house, she and Enjolras were both out in the open. She hoisted his arm over her neck and half-supported, half-dragged him into the house in the nick of time.

In the house, they pressed themselves against the walls and listened carefully for the guard’s footsteps. Enjolras had sunk down the wall, and his eyes were closed like he had a headache.

“Enjolras?” Cosette asked uncertainly. “You OK?”

“I’m starting to get those dizzy spells again,” Enjolras murmured. He pressed one hand to his forehead. Marius made a shushing sound.

The footsteps got closer, and Marius raised a hand as though to summon his Fireblade, but Musichetta shook her head. Not yet.

The footsteps grew louder, and louder, and louder, and then - quieter. The guard hadn’t checked the house. They all breathed again.

Suddenly, the door began moving. It opened slowly, and the entire group gasped in terror. Marius’ hand filled with blue flames that fashioned themselves into a sword, and he raised it, ready to fight.

Thank the Dragon, it was just a cat. Marius let the sword vanish, and Cosette mumbled, “We’re safe!”

The Piskies peeked out from their hiding places in a saucepan (Roselyne), an urn (Manon), a measuring jug (Abby), a bean can (Lottie), a wok (Charlie), a mug (Juliette) and a teapot (Simone).

When they left the house, Musichetta took the lead. She carefully checked around the corner, and nodded, satisfied. “The coast is clear! Come on!”

The Amis dashed down the street, followed by the seven pots and pans that the Piskies were still hiding in. As they passed two Trog women sitting on a bench, they caught a snippet of their conversation:

“Work, work, work. That’s all we ever do!”

“Nothing ever happens around here!”

Suddenly, one of the woman looked up in shock as the Piskies passed by in their disguises. “Hey, look! There go some flying pots!”

“Pots and pans? That’s all you ever talk about,” the other woman groaned.

“I think those are your pots!” said the first woman.

The second woman narrowed her eyes suspiciously at them. “Oh. You’re right.” Then, realising the full implications of this, got to her feet and screamed, “HELP! THIEF! SOMEBODY’S STEALING MY POTS!”

As the screams reached Roselyne’s ears, she threw off her saucepan and shouted, “Every Piskie for themselves!” The pots crashed to earth, except for the bean can, which was stuck tight on Lottie’s head.

As they flew for their lives, Roselyne pulled ahead and took a quick headcount. “Hey! Where’s Juliette?”

Simone shrugged. “I don’t know. I totally lost her! Maybe she’s with Chetta?”

Charlie took the lead with a cry of, “To FREEDOM!” His goggles vanished, replaced with Braveheart-style face-paint.

“Copy-cat,” Simone mumbled.

As they turned a corner and approached a wall, Manon shrieked, “The road is blocked!”

Roads?” Charlie snorted derisively. His face-paint morphed into futuristic sunglasses, á la Dr Brown from Back To The Future. “Where we’re gonna go, we don’t need roads!” He flew over the wall easily, followed by the others.

The Piskies continued down the road, until Abby noticed Musichetta waving to them. They gathered around her delightedly, except Lottie, who, still blinded by the bean can, crashed into the wall as she tried to turn the corner. Marius picked up the can with a laugh.

“Hey, little lady. What happened to you?” he asked softly, gently tipping her out of the can.

Suddenly a shadow fell over them. “MARIUS! WATCH OUT!” Roselyne screamed.

Marius glanced up, but a second later crumpled, stunned, to the floor as the guard’s club smacked him in the back. Cosette came dashing out of the alleyway.

“Marius?” When she noticed him collapsed on the floor, she raised a hand and summoned orange sparks. “You’re asking for it, you big bully! I’ll teach you a lesson!” she snarled at the guard, releasing the sparks. The club in the guard’s hand pulled itself out of his grip and began smacking him around the head. The guard was thrown off his feet and collapsed unconscious into a stack of barrels. Cosette smirked victoriously as Marius got up, but her joy was short lived as she realised that the streets were rapidly filling with more guards - all dashing towards them.

“Cosette!” Musichetta screamed, as she and Enjolras dashed towards them, chased by more guards. “There are more over here! RUN!”

The group dashed down the street, hoping to outrun the guards. “Faster!” Enjolras shrieked. “They’re gaining on us!”

 

 

Meanwhile, Juliette was fluttering through the streets of Downland, trying to find her friends again, when she came upon a sad sight - a young female Trog sitting despondently against a wall, alternating between sobbing brokenly and glugging the contents of a scarlet bottle. She landed in front of her. “Hello. Who are you?”

“The saddest Trog ever!” the Trog sobbed. Juliette caught a strong whiff of alcohol on her breath. She wrinkled her nose.

“Don’t drink absinthe on an empty stomach!” she chided. “You’ll have a dreadful hangover!”

“My love!” the Trog cried. She took another swig of absinthe and coughed sadly.

“Love?” Juliette asked. “But love should be a happy thing, not a sad one!”

“It was even written in the crystals that we would be married!” she wailed.

“The crystals?”

“She doesn’t love me!”

“She who?” Juliette asked. The Trog merely sobbed harder. “She who?” she repeated.

“Th-the Princess!” the Trog sniffled.

Juliette gasped as she put two and two together, and realised she could help. “Hey. I’ve got just the thing for you!”

“Huh?” the Trog looked up.

Juliette carefully removed a flower from her bracelet, and snapped her fingers. The delicate rose grew to full size, and she handed it to the distraught Trog. “There you go!” The Trog took a deep sniff. “Doesn’t it smell nice?”

 

 

Grantaire gazed miserably out of the window of the room he’d been locked in, this time without any servants, or, thank the dragon, Princess Floréal. He was beginning to lose all hope of escaping. The ceremony would start any minute now, and apparently no one had bothered to read the letter of appeal he’d had one of the footmen take to the king.

At least he wasn’t totally alone; a little yellow bird with strange spiky feathers was perched in a cage in the centre of the room, chirping away cheerfully. Grantaire turned his mournful gaze towards the small avian, smiling briefly as it rearranged its feathers.

“Aren’t you cute?” he chuckled, before returning to his previous misery. “You wouldn’t be so chirpy if you knew what I’m about to go through.”

The bird turned its little head curiously towards him, and Grantaire continued:

“I didn’t get a lawyer,” he informed it. “I didn’t even get a blood test!” He tugged miserably at the red material of his cape. “I can’t be sentenced to a marriage like this! But you don’t understand that, do you.”

The bird chirped again.

“I’ve gotta find a way to escape from here, but this place is swarming with guards!” Grantaire continued. The bird’s chirping this time sounded almost smug, and Grantaire could’ve sworn it was mocking him. It might have been the one in a cage, but who was really trapped here?

A key clicked in the lock, and the door swung open. A tall Trog guard stood in the doorway, clutching a large spear in one hand.

“Squire Grantaire,” the guard said, “I bring you good news.”

Grantaire’s eyes widened excitedly. The king must have read his letter!

His hopes were dashed a second later when the guard continued, “You will be led to the altar by Queen Foeda.” Grantaire groaned and slumped against the wall. The guard stepped further into the room, away from the door, and stood to attention as heavy footsteps echoed in the corridor. As the footsteps got closer, he cleared his throat and announced, “Presenting her Highness: Queen Foeda!”

The bird chirped again, seemingly in alarm.

Grantaire didn’t blame it. Queen Foeda was enormous both height-wise and width-wise, with long purplish black hair and skin as pale and pasty as her daughter’s, except her surface area seemed to be entirely made of wrinkles. Her huge blue eyes, snout-like nose, and heavy lips that dripped with too much make-up all sank into her skin amidst a sea of wrinklage. She wore what Grantaire supposed passed for mother-of-the-bride garb in Downland: a blue silk half-shirt that might once have been a whole shirt, and a matching drapey skirt, with bronze sandals and heavy golden jewellery.

“Oh, my daughter was right! I like you!” Her voice was surprisingly high-pitched for such a large woman. “You’re not a Trog, but you’re a very good-looking son in law!” She cuffed him on the shoulder in apparent affection, not noticing his knees buckling under the weight of her enormous ring-clad hand. “I hope you’re ready for the one-hundred-and-seven steps?”

“One-hundred-and-what?” Grantaire quaked. A cheery chirp from behind him told him that the bird was enjoying this.

“After you leave this room, there are one-hundred-and-seven steps to the altar,” the Queen informed him. “One for each of the qualities of a good husband.” Grantaire whimpered, and she squinted at him. “Why so glum? After all, marriage is forever!”

That’s exactly why, Grantaire thought, but before he could think anything else, Queen Foeda had grabbed him by the arm and yanked him out of the door, the guard following. “Get it in gear, honey!” she said cheerfully, and as the door swung shut behind them, Grantaire swore he could hear the bird cackling.

As they arrived at the top of a wide staircase, Queen Foeda smiled widely. “Well, ready to start counting?”

This can’t be happening, Grantaire thought in terror. Please say this isn’t happening!

 

 

Juliette cheerfully fluttered ahead of the Trog, leading her through the narrow streets of Downland. The Trog - whose name, it turned out, was Irma - stumbled after her, slurring protests, but still following.

“Wherewegoin? Donwansee’er. Wasn’even…invited…tothewedding!”

Eventually, through a glassless window of a building near a large courtyard, Juliette spotted what she was looking for and made a sharp right turn, peering in. Irma turned after her with a loud wail of “WAIT!”

“Ssssssshhhhhh!” Juliette admonished her, before pointing through the window at what she’d spotted. “C’mere and look at this!” Irma obediently peered through the window.

Two of the ladies-in-waiting - who would also function as Floréal’s bridesmaids - were fussing over a bouquet of orangey-red flowers. “Do you think the Princess will like them?” one of them asked.

The other nodded. “There’s not a stem out of place!” she assured her friend. Juliette didn’t miss the slight undertone of panic in the woman’s voice, but she grinned in satisfaction as they left the room to wash the sap from the stems off their hands. Perfect!

 

 

Seven… Eight… Nine… Ten… Eleven… Twelve… Thirteen… Fourteen- Grantaire’s unhappy counting was suddenly interrupted by a shout from somewhere to his left.

“Please! LET ME OUT!”

Another echoed it: “Is anyone there? HELP!”

A chorus of unhappy shouts mixed with sobs echoed towards them as they left the staircase and entered a wide hallway with narrow corridors branching off it on either side.

“PLEASE!”

“HELP!”

“IS THERE NO GOD?!”

“LET US OUT!”

Seventeen… Eighteen…

“PLEASE! IS ANYBODY THERE?!”

Queen Foeda pulled him forwards, paying the shouts no heed. “Their turn is coming,” she assured him. “They’re to be married to ladies of the court.”

Grantaire shuddered.

 

 

In the centre of the courtyard stood a gazebo that had been decorated with pink flowers. A white and gold carpet ran from the centre of the gazebo down the steps towards the doors of the palace, and a Trog Minister stood at the end of it in front of two thrones, waiting. The doors swung open, and he cleared his throat.

“Ladies and gentlemen: Princess Floréal, and her father, King Norris!”

The footmen stood on either side of the doorway raised their trumpets and played a short fanfare as the two emerged. King Norris was very short, but he was as wide as his wife, and wore an orange silk kilt with similar sandals and jewellery. He had heavily lidded eyes and very little hair, but in pride of place on his upper lip was a huge bushy black moustache.

Floréal clutched tightly to his arm. Her hair had been put up in an enormous coil bigger than her head, and she wore a deep orange top with a pink hem, and a matching skirt that trailed behind her for several meters. She’d swapped her golden crown for a dark pink headband with a violet feather in the centre of her forehead that stuck straight up, but surprisingly wore no other jewellery.

They walked down the carpet and reached the altar, where Floréal kissed her father’s head and let go of his arm, and the King moved to sit heavily in one of the thrones. Floréal beamed, and waved to the watching crowd - made up of only the richest Trogs.

The wedding had begun.

 

 

Queen Foeda and Grantaire approached a narrow spiral staircase going downwards, and as he stepped onto the first step, reaching sixty in his count, Grantaire’s face paled a little.

This is it, he realised. I’m doomed. I’ll never see the sun again. Memories began flashing through his mind, dating from as far back as he could remember - his mother tying a bib around three-year-old Grantaire’s neck as he beamed at his first proper birthday cake… five-year-old Grantaire starting day school… eight-year-old Grantaire sitting on a riverbank, using his powers to act out his favourite book with figures made of water… ten-year-old Grantaire holding his newborn sister, her wispy curls already as dark as his own… twelve-year-old Grantaire standing in front of the King of Eraklyon, taking a vow to protect the Prince… then a few days later, when he’d first been introduced to Marius and had found what he knew would be a friend for life… being fourteen and the two of them leaving day school to go to a Wizarding school that would prepare them for Corinthe College… the day they got their Corinthe acceptance letters… the Freshman Faery Fair, when he’d first met Enjolras… and then the day Enjolras had called him to Earth to help him, unknowingly changing their lives forever…

I’m never going to see either of them again, he realised. I’ll never see my mother again, or know whether my sister decides to become a Faery or a Witch. I’ll never hang out with Les Amis again. I won’t get to graduate college, or go travelling, or do any of the things I wanted to do with my life.

It’s all over.

 

 

“Keep moving!” Enjolras screamed as the four of them dashed down a side street, at this point pursued by nearly twenty guards. The Piskies zoomed above them, their fight-or-flight instincts working overtime as they prayed that they wouldn’t be captured again.

Cosette glanced worriedly at him. He was running as fast as she was, but his skin was slowly but surely paling, and he was beginning to look queasy. Enjolras was beginning to die again from the lack of sun, and there was nothing she could do about it.

Judging from the relentless pursuit of the guards, they might all be about to die anyway.

 

 

Grantaire and Queen Foeda emerged into the courtyard, and the Queen dragged him down the carpet. Grantaire didn’t hear the cheers of the crowd. He didn’t see the pleasure on Floréal’s face. He didn’t notice the Minister announcing the arrival of “Queen Foeda and Squire Grantaire!”

His vision was spinning, and he thought he might be sick. The Queen deposited him next to Floréal, and he slumped in place miserably, staring sightlessly at the ground.

Regaining vision for a moment, he glanced up at Floréal, who assumed a kissy-face and made a ‘mwah’ sound. This was too much for Grantaire, and his eyes rolled back in his head as he collapsed forward.

Everyone looked shocked, except for Floréal, who looked bemused, and the Minister, who looked bored.

The Minister sighed internally. If I had a gold piece for every time this has happened… he thought bitterly. Although at least he made it to the altar. Most of them don’t even make it down the stairs. He sighed internally again, before turning to the crowd and announcing, “The groom has fainted!” They don’t pay me enough for this shit.

 

 

“Why don’t we just fight them off?!” Cosette yelled in confusion, but Enjolras shook his head.

“No time for that! Grantaire’s about to get married!”

They were nearly at the edge of town, and behind them, the two lead guards were panting in exhaustion. They were used to apprehending drunken Trogs stumbling home from the bar - quarry that never put up much of a fight. They definitely weren’t prepared for four able-bodied teenagers who were spurred on by fear and determination, and it showed.

Eventually they were forced to slow, and one of them panted out to the other, “They’re too fast! Call Preelbat, he should be nearby!”

The other nodded, and pulled a golden whistle out of his pocket. It emitted a shrill scream, and Marius glanced over his shoulder in confusion.

“What was that?!”

“It doesn’t matter!” Musichetta shrieked. “RUN!”

As they reached the wall of the enormous cave that housed Downland, an enormous explosion sounded up ahead and dust filled the air. As it cleared, they were forced to skid to a halt; the explosion turned out to be the sound of an enormous mustard-yellow worm-thing tunnelling its way out of the rock and crawling out in front of them, blocking their path. It was at least 40 feet in diameter, and had two sharp tusks and several reddish feelers poking out of its head, which was turned towards them. Footsteps behind them were drowned out by a smug roar of laughter that must have echoed through the whole city.

They’d been caught.

One of the guards stepped around them, and petted the worm’s feelers. “Good boy, Preelbat,” he cooed. “Extra Limestone for you tonight.” He smirked at the four teenagers and six Piskies. “Nothing can be allowed to interrupt the Princess’ wedding.”

 

 

“Dearly beloved,” the Minister was saying, “the moment has come to bless this union…”

Grantaire had been revived with some smelling salts, and with his consciousness once again functioning fairly normally, he glanced casually around the courtyard, seemingly taking in the crowd, but in reality, searching for an escape route. He eventually came to the miserable conclusion that there were too many guards for him to make an escape.

“The time has come for the sacred gifts to be offered to the bride,” the Minister continued, but he was suddenly interrupted by what sounded like a bomb going off in the distance. The crowd began murmuring in confusion - what was going on? Was this the end of the world? Would it interrupt the wedding?

A slightly different thought was running through Grantaire’s head. That had to be my friends! I’m saved! “YES!” he cheered, forgetting where he was for the moment.

The Minister raised an eyebrow somewhat disapprovingly. “Some enthusiasm is expected, but don’t forget your manners, young man.”

Grantaire grinned apologetically, overcome with relief at the knowledge that he might soon be rescued.

The Minister had other plans however. “The groom has clearly expressed his consent,” he announced to the congregation.

Grantaire’s face paled in horror. “B-but I-I-I-”

“Yes, yes,” the Minister cut him off. “And now we will hear from the Princess. Floréal, do you take Squire Grantaire as your husband?”

Floréal smirked like the cat that had got the canary. “Yes,” she purred. “I do.”

Grantaire let out a whimper, clenching his teeth as sweat beaded on his forehead. Hurry up, you guys!

 

 

“Hey, watch the knee!” Musichetta snipped at the guard carrying her over his shoulder. “It’s still healing, you know!” He paid her no attention, merely shifting her so that he could hold her arms to her sides, preventing her from continuing to pound on his back with her fists. He was swinging a pet carrier in the other hand, and Musichetta could hear Roselyne and Manon screaming furiously from inside it, their voices occasionally joined by one of the other Piskies’.

Another guard was carrying Cosette and Enjolras at the same time, one in each hand. He was big enough that he could hold both of them around the waist and pin their arms to their sides at the same time, and both were too exhausted to even attempt to fight back.

Marius had put up more of a fight, and as a result had his wrists and ankles tied to a pole, which was being carried between two smaller guards. He dangled upside down between them like a furious hammock, still squirming to get free, but it seemed the guards knew what they were doing when it came to the knots. They’d used magic-proof rope, too.

As they were marched over a bridge towards the palace, the four teens glanced over the side to the courtyard below, where some sort of ceremony was taking place. Instantly realising what it was, a re-energised Enjolras drove the heel of his boot into his captor’s shin and dashed to the side of the bridge when the guard let go to clutch at the rapidly forming bruise. When Enjolras kicked, he kicked.

“GrantAIRE!” he screamed. Grantaire glanced up to where Enjolras was staring down at him. He looked relieved and dashed towards him.

“Enjolras!” he called back. “Enjolras, sweetheart!”

The guard recovered quickly, and held a knife to the blond Faery’s throat. Enjolras paled as he felt the sharp blade pressed against his skin.

“NO!” Grantaire screamed. He turned desperately to King Norris and Queen Foeda. “Don’t kill them! They’re, uh, they’re my relatives!”

King Norris nodded to the guard, who withdrew the knife from Enjolras’ throat. Enjolras shivered as he felt a tiny drop of blood roll down his neck. “On with the Wedding!” the King called.

Enjolras’ eyes filled with tears. “No…Grantaire…” he whispered. “You can’t leave me like this!”

“I love you, Enj,” Grantaire murmured quietly. “I’m so, so sorry.” A silent tear slid down his crooked nose.

“Present the gifts for the bride,” the Minister instructed. Two bridesmaids approached, one offering a bunch of flowers and the other two oddly-shaped rings in a box - the rings looked like little horseshoes, but with a bar across the open end, and were made of bronze and sapphire.

“The Flowers of Fertility and the Rings of Faithfulness,” the Minister announced. “The Flowers will ensure that the couple have many children, while the Rings are symbolic of their everlasting commitment to each other. The Flowers, please?”

The flowers appeared to be several small orangey-red roses with one larger pink rose in the centre. Musichetta narrowed her eyes as they were handed to Princess Floréal. “Hang on a second…” she murmured. “I recognise those flowers… That’s one of Juliette’s True Love Blossoms!”

“Oh, what beautiful flowers!” Floréal beamed. “I bet they smell -” she took a deep sniff - “…a…maze…ing…” she tailed off, her eyes widening. “Oh my.” The flowers slipped from her grasp. The congregation gasped. “My lover!” Floréal suddenly demanded. “Where is my lover?”

“What are you talking about?” Queen Foeda demanded. “Your groom is standing right there!”

“Him?” Floréal snorted, glancing Grantaire up and down scathingly. “Why, I could never marry such a ridiculous looking creature! A man, of all things!” She turned her back on Grantaire, who let out a sort of relieved squeak. “My lover, Irma Boissy, the tailor!” Floréal specified. “Where is she?”

Her parents looked shocked, but the Minister (who, for the first time in all these years since he’d become a Minister, felt something akin to excitement) turned and pointed to a bank of seating. “There, your Highness!”

Floréal turned to see Irma leaping down from the top of the seating bank. Floréal’s face lit up with love, and as she ran towards Irma. Sending her bridesmaids flying, she screamed joyfully, “IRMA!”

“FLORÉAL!” Irma shouted back, equally joyful.

Floréal jumped on top of Irma, smothering her face with kisses. “I love this woman!” she announced to the congregation.

Grantaire turned to the Minister. “So…can I go now?” he asked quietly.

 

 

Flying back to Musain on the Owl an hour or so later, Enjolras pressed himself closer to Grantaire, relieved to feel his boyfriend’s arms around his waist again. He nuzzled into his chest and smiled contentedly. Juliette, who was perched on Cosette’s shoulder, sighed happily at them, and Simone looked delighted from her position on Enjolras’ lap.

Bahorel was laughing himself silly as Marius explained what had happened. He finally choked back his sniggers long enough to ask Grantaire, “Hey R, what’s with the absinthe?” while pointing to the large crate of bottles labelled ‘Absinthe’ sitting on the floor next to the seat that Grantaire and Enjolras were currently entwined in.

Grantaire glanced up from where he’d been pressing gentle kisses to Enjolras’ hairline. “Oh yeah, Irma felt really guilty about stealing my bride, so she gave me this as an apology gift. Apparently it’s the best absinthe in Downland.”

Bahorel chuckled. “Poor gal. Hope she knows what she’s getting into with Princess Floréal.”

Enjolras shrugged and snuggled closer to Grantaire. If Floréal loved Irma as much as Enjolras loved Grantaire, they were sure to have a very long and happy marriage, and he was completely fine with that.

Chapter Text

As they arrived back at Musain, Cosette felt an overwhelming sense of pride. This was the first time they had returned from a mission that had actually achieved its outcome. When the Owl landed, she was the first to dash down the walkway and through the gates into the courtyard, Juliette fluttering shyly behind her. Musichetta followed at a more sedate pace, with the rest of the Piskies staying close behind her, peeking out nervously at their new surroundings.

The other Amis came running out to greet them, and Roselyne’s nerves vanished the second she spotted Jehan. She let out a deafening squeal of excitement and fluttered towards them, zooming round and round their head. “This one! This one is amazing!” she shrieked. “Oh, Chetta, can I keep him – her –”

“They/them,” Jehan chuckled, and Roselyne looked even more delighted.

“Them! Chetta, can I keep them?”

“Depends,” Musichetta chuckled. “You alright with that, Jehan?”

“Jehan!” Roselyne squeaked. “That’s the best name ever!”

“Well, how could I say no?” Jehan beamed, and held their arms out for a cuddle, which Roselyne happily accepted. “And you are?”

“Roselyne,” the blonde Piskie said cheerfully. “The Piskie of Gossip.”

The next pair to bond was Courfeyrac and Abby, and although they’d all seen it coming a mile away, it didn’t make it any less lovely to watch. While both drew their powers from technology, Abby specialised in Nanotechnology, and she sorted out the problem with Courfeyrac’s laptop in mere seconds. She then proceeded to thoroughly kick his ass at Immortal Rage 3: Cyberbot Rising (his favourite video game), both turning him into a platonically smitten mess and beginning what would doubtless be a very fierce competition.

The most surprising bond was definitely the one that formed between Éponine and Manon. They were an incredibly unlikely pairing – the bold, brash Faery of Music and the prim and proper Piskie of Etiquette, but at the same time there could have been no better fit. There was silence for the first moment, then Manon said in a halting voice, “Well, the rest of your outfit is awful unseemly, but your hair is magnificent.”

Éponine blinked slowly and touched a hand self-consciously to one of the two little buns at the sides of her head. Then she grinned. “Aah, what the heck. I’ve always found the bitchiest people the most interesting.”

There was a tense silence for all of three seconds, before they both giggled and rushed to embrace each other.

Wolter had followed the Amis outside, eager to greet his mistress, but he was most disgruntled to find her attention entirely taken up by Juliette. After failing to get her attention for five solid minutes, he hopped huffily into Marius’ arms and glared at Juliette, letting out a displeased grunt. Marius stroked the rabbit’s ears in agreement.

“You’re right, Wolter. I don’t understand Faeries either.”

“Me neither,” someone said from behind him with a chuckle, “and I’m bonded to one!”

Marius turned to see Simone fluttering a foot away from him, and he raised a curious eyebrow. “Speaking of, where is Enjolras?” The blond was nowhere to be seen, and come to think of it, Grantaire was also missing.

Simone looked a little disgusted. “He and Grantaire were – what do you call it? Smooshing faces rather intensely on the Owl. I left them to it. Piskies don’t really go in for the whole romance thing, no matter what Juliette says. She’s a weird exception.”

Marius looked fascinated. “So you don’t get romantic feelings at all?” he asked. “Is it a species thing, or a cultural thing?”

Simone shrugged. “Who can say? Piskies reproduce asexually, and we feel platonic love so intensely that it more than makes up for whatever romantic love does for you. Most of us find humanoid romance culture extremely weird. The idea your kind put out there that your life is empty without a lover is, quite frankly, ridiculous.”

“That’s really interesting,” Marius said eagerly, but he was interrupted by a yell from inside the Owl that sounded rather like Combeferre might have sniffed some off milk. His reason for yelling was revealed a second later when Enjolras and Grantaire emerged from the ship with mussed hair and kiss-reddened lips. Simone raised an eyebrow.

“Apparently Combeferre doesn’t go in for romance either,” she commented, and Marius shook his head with a chuckle.

“Nah, he does.” He lowered his voice. “Check out the way he looks at Courf. He’s just very protective of his new ship.”

Indeed, Combeferre’s furious admonishment followed Enjolras and Grantaire out of the ship: “I don’t care how in love you are or how scared you were that you wouldn't see each other again, this airship has a strict No Shirtlessness Policy!”

As Enjolras and Grantaire hurried into the castle, clutching each other as though to let go would be to die, Cosette chuckled softly. “Uh, I guess you boys will be sticking around here for a while, then?”

“Looks like it,” Bahorel laughed. “I guess they’re really eager to celebrate the fact that Grantaire hasn’t been made a Downlandian Prince via an arranged marriage.”

Éponine choked on air. “I’m sorry, what?”

Musichetta burst out laughing. “Oh, boy, we have to tell you this story! It’s the whole reason the mission took two days instead of the one day we estimated.”

Cosette nodded in agreement. “Might want to put a muffling spell on the entire wall of Enjolras’ room, though,” she giggled.

 

 

A few hours later (about 10pm), it was raining outside, and Enjolras and Grantaire were cuddled together in Enjolras’ bed, holding hands and just enjoying being next to each other while listening to the rain drumming on the roof. Eventually, Grantaire smiled and let out a loving sigh. “I love you, you know.”

Enjolras beamed and cuddled closer. “I love you too, funnily enough. I’m so glad I got to say that again. I want to tell you I love you every day for the rest of our lives.”

Grantaire’s cheeks flushed pink. “Are you suggesting what I think you’re suggesting?” he said with wide eyes.

Enjolras smiled coyly. “What does it sound like I’m suggesting?”

Grantaire had to take a moment to clear his throat, and when he spoke again, he sounded oddly husky. “It sounded almost like you were proposing marriage.”

Enjolras blushed scarlet, confirming it. “Well, not immediately. I’m not saying we elope right now. We’re still kids, pretty much. Way too young to get married. But someday, I want to marry you.”

“Someday,” Grantaire agreed, looking mind-blown. He giggled. “I love you so much, Enj. But trust me when I say that ‘someday’ is probably quite a while away. I’m not sure I can face attending another wedding for quite a while.” Enjolras laughed, and Grantaire sat up, stretching. “Well, as lovely as this is, I’m pretty sure that the guys will be a little annoyed if we make them wait any longer for me. That is, if they haven’t got bored of waiting and left me behind.”

Enjolras pouted. “You could just stay here for tonight.”

Grantaire managed to locate his shirt on the floor and tugged it over his head. “I doubt Courf would be too happy about sharing a room with a couple.”

Enjolras attempted to look mischievous, but it just looked cute. “He could sleep on the couch for the night.”

Grantaire laughed. “Goodbye, Enj.” He made for the door.

Enjolras hurried to get up and tug his own clothes back on. “At least let me walk you out.”

Grantaire smiled. “I’d love that.”

They emerged into the main room of the apartment, and their friends grinned from where they were arranged around the coffee table: Bahorel, Combeferre and Courfeyrac all sat on the couch, with Jehan splayed across their laps, Marius and Cosette shared one of the armchairs while Musichetta sat in the other with the Piskies, and Éponine was stretched out on the coffee table in a goofy ‘paint me like one of your French girls’ pose. She grinned knowingly at the two of them. “Hello, boys,” she purred delightedly. “Have, uh, fun in there?”

Enjolras’ entire face turned the colour of a strawberry. What if everyone heard our conversation about marriage? WHAT IF THEY HEARD EVERYTHING BEFORE THAT?

Cosette put his fears to bed with a chuckle. “Relax, Enjy, Ponine put a muffling spell on the entire wall. We heard nothing.”

“We can guess what happened in there from your face, though,” Bahorel sniggered.

Enjolras turned, if possible, an even deeper shade of red, but Grantaire spared him any further embarrassment by announcing that it was late and they should head back to Corinthe.

Jehan and Cosette both stood to let Bahorel, Combeferre and Marius get up, but in spite of the newly free sofa, Éponine continued to lounge on the table, still smirking at the couple. “So, Grantaire,” she grinned, “how’s Floréal?”

“Fuck off,” Grantaire groaned. “That was one of the most traumatising experiences of my entire life. Seriously, I may never recover.”

“I’m sure Enjolras will be willing to offer some, uh, therapy,” Jehan smirked, wiggling their eyebrows so that everyone understood the innuendo.

To their surprise, Enjolras didn’t blush and tell them off; instead he smirked lazily and rose onto his tiptoes, planting a passionate kiss on Grantaire’s mouth – the kind of kiss that made Juliette sigh happily, Bahorel wolf-whistle, Cosette cover Marius’ eyes with her hand, and everyone else groan in disgust. Enjolras finally pulled away and grinned mischievously up at Grantaire. “Goodnight, babe.”

Grantaire gave an equally evil smirk and replied, “Goodnight, sun-pumpkin.”

Enjolras burst out laughing. “‘Sun-pumpkin’?! What the fuck?

Grantaire laughed sheepishly. “I was trying for a gross pet-name. Not feeling it?”

“Disgusting,” Courfeyrac said delightedly. “Goodbye.”

The Wizards waved goodbye and left the apartment, and as soon as the door was closed, Jehan yanked Enjolras down onto the sofa. “So, how was it?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Enjolras said primly. His cheeks turned strawberry-red again, though.

“Aw, come on!” Éponine grinned. “We singletons need some sordid gossip to fill our otherwise empty lives!”

Enjolras poked his tongue out. “I’m sure Bahorel would be perfectly happy to fill the void.” Then he threw a pillow at her.

Éponine wasted no time in grabbing the pillow and sliding off the table to hit him back. The blond boy shrieked and leapt up, and Éponine chased him around the room, swinging the pillow wildly and occasionally managing to cuff him with it. The others fell about laughing, and Cosette was about to grab another pillow and join in when Éponine suddenly skidded to a halt next to the window. Enjolras took the opportunity to poke his head out from behind the table and make a victorious face.

“Out of steam already, Ponine?” he teased. “Whatever happened to finishing the fight?”

But Éponine shook her head. “Something isn’t right outside,” she murmured. “It’s the lake, it sounds wrong. It sounds like it’s crashing off the side of a cliff, but there isn’t a cliff anywhere near here.”

Cosette’s body instantly tensed. If Éponine said something was wrong, something was definitely wrong. She walked over to the window to join her, as did Enjolras, who squinted out the window. Like how Éponine’s sense of hearing was far better than anyone else’s, Enjolras’ sun powers meant that his vision was a whole lot sharper than the average Faery’s.

“Something’s out there,” he confirmed. “I can’t say what, but there’s something with a shiny surface visible above the treeline.” Suddenly, he looked down into the courtyard, and his eyes widened. “There’s someone out there. I can’t make out any features, but they’re tall – maybe around 6’4”? – and they have wide shoulders, so I’m guessing it’s a man, or at least someone who works out a lot.”

Cosette was seriously worried. “We need to warn Headmaster Myriel right away.”

Courfeyrac got up. “I’ll go find him and tell him immediately!” He rushed out of the apartment and headed down the corridor in the direction of the Headmaster’s office, but when he got there, he paused and looked out down the huge staircase that led to the entrance hall. To his surprise, he saw that the front door was open, and Headmaster Myriel and Professor Javert were both welcoming someone in from the cold – a tall person with wide shoulders, wearing a long navy cloak with the hood up. It had to be the figure Enjolras had spotted outside; Courfeyrac crouched down and peered through a gap in the marble railing of the staircase. Myriel, Javert and the newcomer were speaking in low voices, too quiet for anyone with a normal hearing range to hear. Suddenly, the cloaked figure looked up, directly at Courfeyrac, and the boy froze. Evidently the person had said something to Myriel and Javert, because they both looked up too.

“Courfeyrac, what are you doing out of your dormitory?” Javert said sternly. “It’s an hour after curfew. Stand up and explain yourself.”

Courfeyrac stood and felt his cheeks flush pink. “Enjolras saw someone outside right after Éponine heard a weird noise from the direction of the lake,” he said nervously. “I was coming to inform you.”

Myriel chuckled. “No need to worry, my boy. I advise that you head back to your room and think no more of it for the moment. Oh, and tell your friends that I would like to see all of you in my office tomorrow morning after breakfast. Oh, but send the Piskies up first. I need to speak to them too.”

Courfeyrac nodded and turned to head back to the apartment, but accidentally made eye-contact with the cloaked figure, who, despite being inside and out of the rain, had neglected to remove their hood. The Faery of Technology couldn’t make out any features, but two dark eyes gleamed from the depths of the hood. Courfeyrac shivered and scurried back down the corridor, feeling deeply uneasy. Maybe their minds were playing tricks on them, and all everyone needed was a good night’s sleep.

 

 

The next morning, Les Amis headed to Headmaster Myriel’s office as he’d asked. Musichetta and Enjolras both sat down in the chairs opposite the desk, while Cosette, Éponine, Jehan and Courfeyrac stood behind them and the Piskies sat in a row on the desk. Myriel was, as always, resting his elbows on the desk with his fingers clasped, but today his blue-eyed stare was incredibly serious.

“First, I would like to congratulate you on the success of your mission,” he began, “and express my great relief at your safe return.” He clapped his hands, and heavy red velvet curtains swung closed over the huge window, dimming the light level of the room. “Now, onto more serious matters. After intense examination of Musichetta’s story, as well as what the Piskies have told me, we must conclude that our enemy is far stronger than we initially thought.” He snapped his fingers. “Look closely.” Behind him, an enormous screen formed on the curtain, as though from a projector, and the Amis all focussed on it as Myriel angled his chair so he could see the screen and talk to them at the same time.

“Sixteen years ago,” he told them, “the entire Magic Dimension was on the brink of destruction. A deeply evil power had emerged from the void, and this was the result.” On the screen, a huge city appeared, but seconds later it was decimated by an explosion of dark magic. Smoke filled the sky, and dark magic fires glowed evilly. Cosette shuddered. Myriel was talking about the war that had wiped out the population of her home planet, Domino, and had caused the disappearance of her mother, Queen Fantine. Mulling Myriel’s words over in her mind, she suddenly narrowed her eyes.

“Sir, wasn’t it the three Ancestral Witches who destroyed Domino during their search for the Dragon Flame?”

Myriel nodded. “It was indeed. However, they were just carrying out the orders of an even greater evil: the Shadow Phoenix, a monstrous being from the beginning of time. When the Great Dragon created the universe, a sliver of its flame mixed with the Darkness, and from it, the Shadow Phoenix was born. It recruited the three Ancestral Witches to serve it, and when they discovered the source of the Dragon Flame, it sparked off the war on Domino that was so bloody and vicious, it only has one confirmed survivor: Cosette.”

Musichetta’s eyes widened. “Sir, are you saying that the creature that kidnapped the Piskies is the same one that destroyed Domino?” Her voice sounded unnaturally high in pitch, and there was a noticeable tremor.

Myriel snapped his fingers, and the screen vanished. He nodded sadly. “Considering your descriptions of the monsters, the spells that were cast, and the transformations into a giant monstrous bird, our nemesis could only be the Shadow Phoenix, or, to give him his true name, Lord Méchant.”

“But why is he surfacing now?” Courfeyrac asked in confusion. “What is he trying to achieve? And why has he waited sixteen years before returning?”

Myriel opened the curtains, letting natural light flood the room. “The three Ancestral Witches were defeated by Thénardier, Lamarque and myself; the Lord of the Templars dealt with Méchant. Méchant was cast back into the Darkness and forced into a deep slumber. However, with Cosette and her Dragon Flame having returned to our dimension, he appears to have awoken.”

Jehan’s voice quaked. “So he’s looking for revenge?”

Myriel shook his head. “No. Not yet, at least. He’s looking for the greatest power in the Universe: the Ultimate Power. He wants to possess it in order to become truly invincible. Then he will seek out his revenge.”

Éponine made a confused face. “So then why did he kidnap the Piskies?”

“He’s looking for their hidden village,” Musichetta explained. “But what does he want that they have?”

Myriel straightened his robes with the air of a man about to change the subject. “What’s important now,” he said firmly, “is that we stay on our guard. His powers are strong enough to affect us no matter where we are.” Courfeyrac narrowed his eyes in suspicion at the abrupt subject change, but Myriel’s next words thoroughly distracted him: “So, in order to prevent Lord Méchant from discovering the village, the Piskies will stay here at Musain for now.” The Amis all whooped, as did the Piskies – however, Musichetta was silent, frowning.

“But Professor,” she started, “I really should go back to the village with Lise –”

“No! Under no circumstances,” Myriel said firmly. “Méchant is more than capable of spying on our every move; you go back to the village at any time, and you might as well send him a map with a basket of snacks for the journey!” He moved around the desk, not breaking eye-contact with Musichetta. “And so, Musichetta, I would like to cordially invite you to stay here at Musain as a student.”

Musichetta’s eyes widened excitedly. She’d never been to boarding school before – or any kind of school; her parents had preferred to have her stay at home and be tutored by a series of governesses. “How is college going to help you become a Queen?” her mother had laughed. “What you need, my dear, is training in proper etiquette.” She shuddered at the memory, before smiling happily at Myriel. “Thank you, Professor. I would be honoured to take up a place here.”

The Amis all whooped again, and Musichetta felt warm all over. Not only was she allowed to stay; her new friends wanted her to stay too! This had to be the happiest she’d felt in a long time. Myriel clapped his hands to quiet them, smiling fondly. “Alright, now out of my office, all of you. You have a challenging school year ahead of you, and it would do you well to go and get started on some extra studying.”

 

 

Later that day, Roselyne, Juliette, Abby, Manon and Simone all fluttered down one of the many corridors of Musain, familiarising themselves with the layout of the school. “Professor Myriel seems to be a very strict but fair headmaster,” Manon was saying. “He’s perfectly suited for such an important position.”

“Jehan’s going to pass this year with flying colours,” Roselyne said cheerfully. “There’s no way they can fail with me by their side.”

“And my Courfeyrac will finish at the top of his class,” Abby added proudly.

“I don’t know much about academics,” Juliette said thoughtfully, “but Cosette’s heart is full of love, and I’m going to help her express that love to everyone!”

Simone smiled. “I think Enjolras needs a little help adapting to change, but with my help, success is guaranteed!”

They set off to get started on helping their bonded Faeries straight away. Within three hours, Manon had helped Éponine clear up the floor of her room, which was somehow a mess after only a week or so of living in it, and had helped Musichetta move in to the other half of the room that had previously been devoid of an occupant. Within four hours, Abby had organised Courfeyrac’s study plan and had beaten him at another video game, and within five hours, all of the Amis were ahead with their reading for Self-Defence class, the elective they were taking this year. With her time now freed up a bit, Cosette messed around with her phone settings, updated her ringtone and voicemail message to something a little more modern, then tried to introduce Wolter to Juliette, but the rabbit was still sulking over the Piskie getting more attention than he was, so Cosette was forced to find something else to do. Courfeyrac, who, now that she thought about it, had been looking unnerved since he’d returned to the apartment the night before, easily distracted her. When she asked him about it, he shrugged.

“It’s just weird little things, you know? I think Myriel is keeping something from us. A secret of some sort.” He looked hopeful. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about it, would you, Sette?”

Cosette shook her head. “Nothing, sorry.”

Éponine sprawled into the armchair across from them. “So he told you to forget about all the weird stuff with the lake last night, and now he’s not telling us something? Suspicious.”

“Exactly,” Courfeyrac nodded. “And I think I know the context of the secret. He never told us what Lord Méchant wanted from the Piskies. He changed the subject really quickly, but I’d bet my hard drive that he knows all the data.”

Éponine looked over at Musichetta in the other armchair. “You wouldn’t know anything about it, would you, Musichetta?” she asked curiously.

Musichetta shook her head. “Not a thing. Swear on the Shimmering Shells.”

Courfeyrac began worrying his lower lip between his teeth. “And then there’s what happened with the Piskies in the caves. One minute they’re trapped with no way out, and the next they can fly away with nothing stopping them? It’s just really…”

“Suspicious,” Cosette finished. She sighed. Outside, the rain had started up again. “And then there’s Patron-Minette managing to escape from Lightrock Monastery, with their powers stronger than ever.”

There was a sharp knock on the apartment door, and Jehan headed over to answer it. Javert was stood in the doorway, looking severe, and the Amis all sat up straight. “Amis, Headmaster Myriel requires you to wear your rain-cloaks and meet him by the lake. Speed is of the essence.”

The Amis hurried to find their cloaks (one of the wardrobe requirements for second year Faeries at Musain) and headed outside. Perhaps Myriel was finally going to explain everything to them! Or at the very least, show them what was wrong with the lake.

They headed out of the doors and across the courtyard as a group. The water-repelling cloaks made them nearly indistinguishable, except for Jehan, who had ignored the suggestion of getting a plain uniform grey cloak and had instead bought a violet one with frills that Enjolras swore up and down made Javert’s eye twitch behind his monocle. It was a short walk from the gates through the pine forest to the edge of Lake Roccaluce, but Courfeyrac felt rather jumpy the entire time. He swore they were being watched, but when he looked around, he couldn’t see any other sign of life.

“Stop with the nerves, Courf,” Jehan insisted. “All the animals will have headed into their burrows and whatnot. No one in their right mind would be out here in this weather.”

“Aside from us,” Éponine commented sarcastically.

Myriel was indeed waiting for them, wearing a lilac cloak. “Amis,” he said relievedly. “Look at this.” The six Faeries turned, and the source of the strange noise from the lake was revealed: an enormous, smooth, shiny, rectangular black stone had risen from the lakebed, towering at least 80 feet above the water. “This appeared just last night, and what with everything that has been going on lately involving Lord Méchant, I find it extremely suspicious.”

Courfeyrac rummaged in his hoodie pocket for his handheld compact. He pressed a button on the top of it, and it opened up to reveal a tiny robotic ladybug, which spread its wings and flew into the air, spiralling around the obelisk. Cosette knew from when he’d used it to help her work out what her dreams meant last year that it could scan and analyse pretty much anything with a magical resonance. The ladybug returned to the compact after a second, and the lid shut. Courfeyrac squinted at it in confusion, frowning.

“What the fu-fudge?” he changed the path of his sentence hurriedly, remembering the Headmaster’s presence. “I can’t scan it! It’s made of neither metal nor mineral; it’s like it’s not even made of matter!”

Myriel’s eyes twinkled briefly, as if he knew exactly what Courfeyrac had just refrained from saying, before his face became worried again. “Cosette, Enjolras, Éponine, Musichetta, Jehan and Courfeyrac, I want you to use all of your powers. You must destroy it at all costs. Wait until the rain stops, then get started at once.”

The Amis headed back inside, but only had to wait half an hour or so before the rain let up. Immediately, they hurried back outside, to the confusion of the Piskies.

“Where are the Amis going?” Simone said worriedly. “Without us?”

“I don’t know,” Roselyne scowled. “Jehan didn’t tell me.”

Juliette wailed and collapsed dramatically onto Cosette’s pillow.

 

 

As soon as they arrived at the lakeside again, Cosette rolled her shoulders back confidently. “Alright, mes Amis, let’s show this thing just what a Faery can do. Transform!”

“Transform!” her friends echoed. In a flash, all six of them were in their Faery forms, glaring up at the obelisk. Enjolras was the first to fly into the air, spinning his glowing sceptre like a fire baton.

“Sun Burst! Take that!” A blast of golden light shot from the sceptre onto the obelisk, sending up a cloud of acrid black smoke. Enjolras smirked proudly, but as the smoke cleared, his jaw dropped. It hadn’t even made a scratch!

“Our turn, Jehan!” Éponine said, taking flight. Jehan followed her, and they both raised their hands into the air.

“Waterlily Whirlpool!” Jehan shouted, blasting green light at the obelisk. Meanwhile, Éponine shot magenta light into the water.

“Sound Wave!” With a crash, an enormous wave swept over the obelisk, propelled by Éponine’s vibration spell, but to her shock, it simply dripped off the smooth side of whatever the thing was. She groaned and fluttered back to the ground, as did Enjolras and Jehan. “Stupid piece of crap,” she muttered. “What the fuck is it made of?”

Courfeyrac, Musichetta and Cosette all blasted it at once, but not even their combination of bright green (“Backspace Blitz!”), pale pink (“Wave Blast!”) and fiery orange (“Fire Bomb!”) could inflict damage on the object. Cosette looked furious.

“That’s it!” she snarled. “FULL DRAGON ENERGY!” Something reddish gold erupted out of her chest and hit the obelisk with a bang so loud that it knocked her clean out of the air and into the forest, where she collided with the top of a pine tree. The Amis winced as they heard her crashing down through the branches to the bottom, and she emerged from the forest with pine needles tangled in her hair, sap staining her skirt, and a rapidly forming bruise on her tailbone. “VA TE FAIRE FOUTRE, TU AS GLORIFIÉ UN ROCHER!” she screamed, reverting to her first language in frustration. And then the heavens reopened. “And now it’s raining again! That’s just great!”

Behind them, the cloaked figure hiding in the shadows of the forest examined the six tiny glowing orbs floating in front of them. Each one held a different symbol: a shell, a flower, a music note, an @ mark, a tiny sun, and a golden flame. The figure noted how they had all dimmed a little, although the flame was crackling angrily, before retreating further into the forest.

Eventually, Enjolras got to his feet. “Are we going back inside, or are we just going to sit here, staring at that dumb rock?” he demanded grumpily. His normally curly hair was nearly straight from the rain, and he was shivering.

Eventually, all but Cosette elected to go back inside and try again later, the temptation of a hot shower too great to resist. Jehan insisted on being the last into the bathroom, as an idea for a poem had come to them and they wanted to write it down before they forgot it: 

Black rock or gem or something unknown,
Towers o’er the lake, a mysterious stone.
Who can say if it can be destroyed?
It seems to be, of matter, void.
Is it harmless with evil none,
Or will it destroy us one by one?
We hide inside, but sooner or later,
We may have to face its creator.

Finally it was their turn in the shower, but to their great unease, Cosette still wasn’t back. “Do you think she’s OK?” Jehan called through the door, to where the others were lounging around the main room in fluffy bathrobes.

“She’s fine, I’m sure,” Éponine insisted, and Courfeyrac nodded in agreement.

“That girl is as stubborn as a crashed PC. If anyone can destroy that thing, she can.” He couldn’t stave off the shiver of worry that ran through his body, though.

 

 

At Corinthe College – a new, fancier campus that had replaced the old building that Patron-Minette had destroyed – Marius paced around the room he shared with Grantaire, worriedly staring at his phone. “Why won’t she pick up?” he groaned eventually, as the phone rang out for the seventh time that day, playing the extremely worrying voicemail message yet again.

“What’s up?” Grantaire asked from where he was attempting to tame his hair in the mirror. “Worried Cosette might be having fun without you?”

Marius shook his head. “She’s just been offline for a worryingly long time, that’s all,” he explained. “Normally she sends me a weird Earth meme every day because she says she needs to get my knowledge up to scratch, but it’s nearly 8pm, and she hasn’t sent me anything! I’m scared something might have happened to her. And she changed her voicemail too!”

“So?”

“So, she changed it to something really weird. And scary.” Marius called Cosette again, and once again the phone range out. He hurriedly put it on speaker so that Grantaire could hear the weird voicemail message, and Cosette’s bubbly voice rang out across the room:

“I’m sorry, the old Cosette can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh… ‘cause she’s dead! Leave a message!”

Marius began pacing again while Grantaire attempted to figure out the bizarre message. “I’m just worried something’s happened to her, you know?”

Grantaire flopped back on his bed. “Maybe it’s just another Earth meme?” he suggested.

Marius sighed. “Maybe…”

 

 

Cosette was still fighting the obelisk; she’d been repeatedly shooting fire at the obelisk for about three and a half hours now, but she hadn’t even made a dent in its smooth surface. Every so often, she’d be thrown back into the trees by the force of her own blasts, and would emerge seconds later covered in scratches and bruises and more determined than ever to destroy the bizarre object. However, continuous use of one’s powers can sap even the strongest Faery entirely of their energy, and Cosette’s exhaustion was beginning to catch up with her. A final blast at the block of what seemed to be some kind of anti-matter, and suddenly her head was spinning, and her eyes rolled back in her head. She fell back in a dead faint, collapsing out of the air and landing on her side on the ground, utterly unconscious. A second later, her Faery form dissolved, leaving her human form exposed to the rain with no more cover than her jeans, Vans, and hoodie.

 

 

In Musain’s Magic Archive, Myriel had called a serious meeting with the Piskie elders. Élisa sat at his side, and the three other Piskies, Andromeda of Corinthe, Beatrix of Votirlu, and Niamh of Piskie Village, gathered in front of him, and he pulled a small bag from his pocket and placed it in the centre.

“As I’m sure you all know by now, our situation is critical,” he informed them. “Lord Méchant knows of the piece in Piskie Village, and it won’t take a genius for him to work out that the other pieces are hidden within the schools of Magix. These must remain secret.” He opened the bag, revealing four delicate bejewelled trinkets. They were made of solid gold, and the first was shaped like a tree, with an emerald making its leaves. The second was a minute bird, with a ruby for its eye. The third was a tiny fish, with sapphire scales, and the fourth was a bell, and if you looked inside you could see an amethyst chime. “You know what to do.” The Piskie elders nodded seriously.

 

 

“I say we all put our cloaks on and go and look for Cosette,” Jehan was saying, but Éponine shook her head.

“She’ll come back when she’s tired of getting rained on,” she said firmly. “Or at least when she runs out of magic.”

Courfeyrac was pacing the room, frowning. “That stone-thing was so weird. I wonder where it came from? How could it have just –” he snapped his fingers – “materialised out of nowhere?”

Enjolras nodded in agreement. “And why here at Musain of all places? You’re right, Courf, there’s been a lot of suspicious activity around here lately.” Suddenly, the lights flickered, and an electrical crackle was audible throughout the entire building. Enjolras groaned. “Ugh, blackout.”

Courfeyrac shook his head in disbelief. “Impossible. Musain’s lights are powered by magic.” He hurried over to the window to get a better look at the storm, but suddenly he was smacked in the face by the glass door onto the balcony as it blew open. “Ouch!”

Jehan hurried to close and latch the door, before helping Courfeyrac up and offering him a tissue for the trickle of blood pouring out of his nose. “Weird. I could have sworn we latched it before we went out.”

At that moment, there was a sharp knock at the door, making everyone jump.

“Who could that be?” Enjolras said nervously. “Cosette wouldn’t knock, she’d just walk in.”

“Maybe she wants a towel or something?” Éponine reasoned. She got up and nervously opened the door. “Oh my!”

The cloaked figure – the same one Courfeyrac had seen in the entrance hall the day before – was standing in the doorway, with Cosette curled up in their arms, unconscious and soaked to the bone.

 

 

The next morning, after Cosette had been magically woken up and dried off, and had taken a serious power nap, they headed down to breakfast, where Headmaster Myriel asked for all Junior and Senior Year Faeries to wait behind, as he had an important announcement.

“You all received your timetables on the first day of classes, and I’m sure you may have noticed that you had more free periods than usual. Elective classes don’t start for another week, so they will go in some of the gaps, however, many of our Senior Year Faeries may have noticed that Philosophy is not on the timetable. This is because Professor Polidori retired over the summer, and our new Philosophy teacher couldn’t start until a week or two into term due to prior engagements. However, I am delighted to introduce to you today, Professor Mabeuf.”

At the back of the dining room, the doors opened, and everyone turned and stared at the man who entered. It was the cloaked figure who had silently brought Cosette back the night before, but now he finally removed his hood. Enjolras squinted, then suddenly gasped, and jabbed a sharp elbow into Cosette’s and Musichetta’s ribs on either side of him. Cosette was gaping unashamedly, and Musichetta’s eyes were so wide, Enjolras was a little worried they’d get stuck like that. But there was no mistaking those dark eyes and that wise face.

It was the Paladin who had rescued them from Patron-Minette.

 

 

They were lucky enough, along with half of the second years, to have a class with Professor Mabeuf right after breakfast that day, and to everyone’s delight, he led them outside to the bank of Lake Roccaluce. Cosette scowled up at the obelisk, still towering above them, furious that she hadn’t been able to destroy it.

Mabeuf had exchanged his cloak for a crisp white linen suit with a golden pin holding his flowing white shirt closed at the top, and his white hair was still tied neatly back in a braid long enough for him to sit on. His skin was the colour of melted chocolate, and his voice was deep and smooth, with a nice cadence that made you want to keep listening forever.

“Welcome to Magical Philosophy,” he began. “Philosophy is the study of matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language, but it is also often seen as the way in which you look upon life and the universe surrounding you.” He pointed at the stone. “Both last night and the night before, Headmaster Myriel had you come out to the lakeside in groups and attempt to destroy the stone. None of you were successful – although some of you were incredibly determined.” Cosette’s cheeks flushed in embarrassment.

“The reason none of you were able to destroy it, was because you were thinking too much about total destruction.” Several of the Faeries looked confused, and he elaborated: “You must now begin to consider solutions outwith completely annihilating your opponent. Sometimes you need to find a tiny weak spot instead.” He stood back, pointing his right index finger directly at the stone. “Conteret quae creata est!” A narrow beam of light shot from his finger, and hit the rock very precisely in the center. A second later, cracks were spreading from it, and the entire structure crumbled into the river.

The entire class burst into wild applause. “How did you do that, Professor?” Philibert, one of Amaryl’s friends, asked.

Mabeuf smiled serenely. “All it took was a little out-of-the-box cognitive analysis. That is what I strive to teach you in this class: how to find solutions to problems that seem to have no solution.” He checked his golden pocketwatch. “We have ten minutes left, so class dismissed, but anyone who has any questions about the course may ask me now.”

All hands shot up in the air, but there was no confusion; rather, it seemed as though the class simply enjoyed listening to Mabeuf’s explanations. Roselyne and the other Piskies, who had followed the Amis to their class, all looked rather pissed off, though.

“I can't believe it,” Roselyne was saying angrily. “First they’re all obsessing over that stupid stone, and now over this Professor. It’s like they’ve forgotten all about us!” She turned to her fellow Piskies. “How about we ask them to go flying with us over the lake?” The other Piskies agreed that this was a fine idea, and each zoomed off to their respective counterparts.

Unfortunately, luck was not on their side, because all of the Amis had hurried to surround Professor Mabeuf, hands raised eagerly. “Ask whatever you want,” the professor was chuckling. “I am here to help, after all.” He pointed to Courfeyrac. “Yes?”

As Courfeyrac asked his question, Juliette wailed unhappily. “Cosette didn’t even notice me!” she sniffled. “It’s so unfair!” She fluttered over the treeline and the courtyard, entering Cosette’s room via the open window, and flung herself dramatically onto the pillow for the second time in two days. Wolter looked up from where he was cleaning his whiskers, and for a moment, some form of understanding flickered over his face. However, it was quickly replaced with smugness, and as he continued to clean his whiskers, he couldn't stop a little happy thump escaping from his back paw.

 

 

Outside, Mabeuf had answered Courfeyrac’s question as best he could, and had moved onto Amaryl.

“Professor,” she was saying, “what does ‘cognitive analysis’ mean precisely?”

As Mabeuf explained what he had meant, an idea took flight in Cosette’s mind: ‘Cognitive Analysis’? I wonder if this professor could help me find my mother? If she’s not dead, but is rather imprisoned somewhere in another dimension, maybe it requires an out-of-the-box solution…

She realized belatedly that she’d missed Mabeuf’s answer, and that Éponine was asking another question. “Professor, what did the language you used have to do with the spell?”

“It’s simply a matter of what works best for you,” Mabeuf explained. “In some cases, chanting in ancient languages is what works best – usually if the target is either unknown or if you are trying to enchant something that already has its own magical properties.”

“Is your class harder than other classes?” Jehan wanted to know, and Cosette thrust her own hand into the air, making up her mind.

“Not if you keep up with the workload and make sure you understand everything before moving on,” Mabeuf assured them, and pointed to Cosette.

“Professor,” Cosette began excitedly, “would you be able to help me with a personal project outwith class?”

To her delight, Mabeuf nodded. “I’ll be in my office after classes end. Come and see me then, and I’ll see what I can do.” He pointed to the next student, and Cosette practically shook with excitement. He was willing to help!

 

 

That evening, at about 5pm, Marius decided to head over to Musain to check on Cosette. The voicemail had thrown him for a loop, and although Grantaire insisted he was being ridiculous, he couldn’t shake the fear that something might have happened to Cosette. He parked his hoverbike against a tree behind the school – not noticing two beavers chittering angrily at him for disturbing the darkness of the forest with headlights – and headed through the sidegate, across the courtyard, through the main doors, and up to Cosette’s apartment. However, to his surprise, he actually found Cosette before arriving at her apartment. She was – actually, she was skipping down the corridor, looking delighted about something.

“Cosette!” Marius called, and the blonde skidded to a halt, looking incredibly embarrassed that he’d caught her skipping. Her embarrassment turned into cheerfulness when she recognised him.

“Hey Marius!” she beamed, hurrying over to hug him in greeting. “I’ve had the most simply wonderful day, you would not believe, it was just great, absolutely magical!”

“That’s great!” Marius chuckled, hugging her back. “What happened?” He was relieved that she didn’t appear to be injured – apart from a nasty-looking scratch on her cheek. “Also, what scratched your face?”

“My face?” Cosette repeated. “Huh.” She felt the scrape with her fingers, and Marius wondered if she was high on something. She seemed a little spaced out. “Oh, right, that. There was an incident with a pine-tree last night, nothing important, just got carried away with a class project.”

Marius couldn’t help but wonder what sort of class project got you into an apparent brawl with a pine-tree, but didn’t stop to ask. “So what happened that’s got you skipping?” he chuckled. “You’re not high, are you?” he checked.

She shook her head with a giggle. “Nah. We have a new Philosophy professor, and he’s agreed to help me out with finding my mum! Isn’t that great, Marius?”

“That is great!” Marius grinned.

“And you’ll never guess his identity!” Cosette continued excitedly. “It’s the Paladin! From the caves! You remember, right?”

“No way!” Marius said in amazement. “I did wonder what he meant when he said we’d find out who he was soon enough. Well, I think this is a cause for celebration. What say we head out to Magix City and grab a bite to eat? Just the two of us?” I can ask you about that voicemail message… and that other thing I’ve been meaning to talk to you about…

Cosette looked apologetic. “Sorry, but I can’t, Marius. I want to get ahead with my reading for Professor Mabeuf’s class, and besides, I haven’t hung out with Juliette or Wolter all day.”

Marius sighed. “That’s fair enough. Maybe some other time?” Cosette nodded, which was encouraging. Marius had one more question before he left though. “Cosette? Uh, I tried calling you, but it went straight to voicemail, and your answering machine message had me a little worried.”

Cosette squinted, trying to remember her voicemail message, when it suddenly clicked, and she burst out laughing. “Oh, God, I didn’t even consider that! I’m so sorry, you must think I’m really weird now.” She pulled out her phone and pressed a few buttons. “This is my new ringtone, it’s a song that’s really popular on Earth right now, and there’s a bit in the middle that’s become a meme.” So it had been a meme. Marius listened to the few bars that made up the ringtone with a curious look on his face:

“I don’t like your kingdom keys,
They once belonged to me!
You asked me for a place to sleep,
Locked me out,
And threw a feast, oh!

The world moves on, another day, another drama, drama,
But not for me, not for me, all I think about is karma!
And then the world moves on, but one thing’s for sure:
Maybe I got mine, but you’ll all get yours!”

“It’s… nice?” he said confusedly after a moment, but the truth was, the song sounded so angry and un-Cosette-ish that he didn’t know what to make of it. Cosette giggled.

“It’s not a statement or anything. I just like the rhythm. Well, gotta go, Marius! I’m so excited that Professor Mabeuf is going to help me find my mum! See you later!”

“Yeah… see you later…” Marius called after her, before heading back out to his bike. In spite of Cosette’s explanation, he still felt confused, and a little abandoned. They’d promised they would stick together in the search for Cosette’s missing mother, but now it almost felt like she was leaving him for someone else – this new professor.

“Nah,” he told himself firmly. “You’re being ridiculous.” After all, this was Cosette’s search, not his. He just had to be encouraging and supportive and positive, and remind her to not give up even when it seemed impossible.

Of course, it was difficult to stay positive when you returned to your bike to find it had been surrounded on all sides by enormous piles of woodchips that would doubtless be sucked into the engine the second he turned it on.

“What the –” he started. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

The beavers that he had accidentally annoyed earlier chittered in celebration of his ‘defeat’ and scampered away into the woods, leaving Marius to yank his bike free of the woodchips and drag it out of the forest before heading back to Corinthe.

Chapter Text

Much as Musain had had a ceremony to unveil the mended tower destroyed in the battle against Patron-Minette, Corinthe was going to have an unveiling ceremony to reveal its new campus, and the student Wizards were allowed to invite whoever they wanted. All of the Amis got an invitation, as did most of the Faeries who were friends with or dating one of the Wizards. The staff of both Musain and Votirlu (the college for Witches) got invites too, so Cosette and her friends took it upon themselves to escort Professor Mabeuf to the school. Actually, to Cosette’s great surprise, the building didn’t look that much different than it had when it had been destroyed – apart from that what had remained of the tower was no longer crumbling and was instead standing in place like an ancient ruin, and the rubble had been cleared away. Courfeyrac assured her, however, that according to Combeferre, the unveiling would be totally magical.

When they reached the doors of the castle, Mabeuf stopped and smiled at the Amis. “This is where I leave you.”

Cosette looked disappointed. “You’re not coming in with us, Professor?”

Mabeuf shook his head with a smile. “This is an excellent opportunity for me to meet the professors of Corinthe college; Headmaster Lamarque extended an invitation for me to join him. I’m to wait for him here.”

“Oh,” Cosette sighed. “Well, see you later, Professor!” Her friends chorused goodbyes, and they started to head into the foyer.

As they crossed through the doors, Musichetta’s eyes widened, and she pointed at a group of gothic-looking students standing huddled in a corner of the room. “Are they… what I think they are?”

“Witches,” Courfeyrac confirmed. “Some of them are friends with the Wizards. They’re alright, but a little cold and aloof.”

“Not to mention completely unreasonable when they feel like it,” Éponine muttered, and Cosette suspected she was still a little bitter about the time last year that Babet had persuaded many of his fellow Witches to chase Éponine into an alleyway with the intention of beating her up. In fact, she thought she actually recognised one of the Witches from that very incident: a tall boy with dark, well-coiffed hair and eyes so brown they were nearly black. He wore a white t-shirt with a dark waistcoat, skinny jeans and heavy boots, and his lips were cherry red.

Azelma, Éponine’s younger sister who had transferred to Musain from Votirlu, appeared to recognise him too. “Montparnasse! Hi!” she exclaimed excitedly, hurrying over to greet him.

Montparnasse completely ignored her. He headed towards the doors into the stadium, and his two companions followed him, leaving behind Azelma, who looked upset. Éponine hurried over to her, and the two of them spoke in hushed whispers before Éponine dragged her over to the Amis.

“I invited Zelma to sit with us,” she informed them, raising an eyebrow. “Hope that’s OK with everyone?” Her raised eyebrow seemed to say, ‘It better be OK.’

The Amis nodded, and without further ado headed into the stadium doors. If they’d waited a second longer, they might have noticed the three students who entered the building as a group behind them, as well as the dip in temperature that seemed to follow them.

The boy in the lead had dirty blonde hair in a manbun, and wore a puffy silver jacket, dark jeans, and white sneakers. His friend, a boy with frizzy ginger hair cut short, wore a yellow hoodie and dark board shorts with green sneakers, and the third, the only girl, had black hair knotted neatly on top of her head and wore a purple blazer with shoulder-pads, a grey skirt, black flats, and yellow-tinted eye-glasses.

“Are you sure it’s a good idea to sneak in with the Witches?” she was muttering to her companions, and anyone who had heard her voice would have recognised her instantly: Claquesous.

“Relax,” the leader, who was obviously Babet, was saying. “Even if anyone does see through our brilliant disguises, they’ll be too scared to say anything.”

“Yeah,” the redhead, clearly Gueulemer, agreed. “We spent three years bullying those kids… good times.” He smiled fondly, as if recalling something that made him extremely happy.

“We just need to get the thingy Lord Méchant wanted, and get out,” Babet said confidently. “What was it called again?”

“The ‘Codex’,” Claquesous reminded him. “And it might not be that easy. Something wanted by the Darkest Evil From The Dawn Of Time is probably really well guarded or hidden. And don’t forget, this is only one part – of four!”

“Relax,” Babet muttered. “Everyone knows that ‘Wizard’ isn’t exactly synonymous with ‘genius’. This will be a piece of cake.”

“I prefer pie,” Gueulemer muttered, but followed his cousins hurriedly into the stands.

 

 

The Amis had looked around the stadium, but had ultimately decided to go and wait for their Wizard friends in the foyer, unable to decide where to sit. It wasn’t long before they spotted their friends approaching, but Jehan wasn’t paying attention, engaged in a whispered conversation with Roselyne, their bonded Piskie.

“Now, what was that promise we made, Jehan?” Roselyne was saying.

Jehan sighed. “No talking about plants, homework or weird poetry to any potential significant others,” they recited. Roselyne smirked.

“Exactly. It’s high time you stopped being a Single Pringle.”

“But I’m not good at this, Ros,” Jehan groaned. “Last time I had a crush on someone, I tried to talk to her and wound up accidentally switching languages halfway through, got so tongue-tied that I said an incantation by accident, and transformed her into a snapdragon! It was a total disaster!”

“A snapdragon doesn’t sound so bad,” Musichetta said comfortingly from next to them, but Jehan groaned.

“It was so bad. She had hayfever!”

Next to them, Grantaire was brushing his lips against Enjolras’ hand. “You look as radiant as ever, sun-berry.” Enjolras gave him a look, and he burst out laughing. “Not feeling that nickname either?”

“Nope,” Enjolras said flatly, although he was fighting back a smile. “You’ll have to come up with something else, sweetheart.”

Grantaire sighed dramatically. “And after I spent all day coming up with that one!”

“Don’t take him seriously,” Bahorel snorted. “He came up with that one while we were walking down here.”

“Hope you weren’t too bored waiting for us,” Marius smiled, and Éponine sniggered.

“We were fine. I was too busy being admired to be bored.” A passing Wizard, one that Cosette didn’t recognise, waved at Éponine, proving her point.

“Hey, Éponine,” he said shyly, and she waved back with a flirtatious grin.

“Hey there.” She waited until the Wizard was out of earshot before smirking at Bahorel. “And that makes 26.”

Bahorel smirked right back. “Well, I scored 11 Witches, 17 Faeries, and a Freshman Wizard for a grand total of 29, so Check. Mate.”

“What’s going on?” Musichetta asked in an undertone, and Courfeyrac sniggered.

“They made a dumb bet about who can get more students to hit on them. Something about ‘loser has to piggyback the winner through town proclaiming their greatness’?”

“While under the influence of an extra loud volume spell,” Bahorel added. “I’m very much looking forward to hearing Éponine tell everyone just how great she thinks I am.”

“You wish, Rel,” Éponine grinned. Musichetta nudged Courfeyrac again.

“Are they a couple?” she whispered.

“Pretty much,” Courfeyrac giggled. “Everyone knows it except them. They’re the two most stubborn people in the universe, so I’m pretty sure it’ll take the start of an apocalypse to get them to admit it though.” He got up. “So shall we head in to the stadium?”

Combeferre offered him his arm like a Nineteenth Century gentleman, making Courfeyrac giggle and take it. “We shall indeed.” The group began heading back inside, and Marius fell into pace with Cosette as they entered the foyer.

“So, uh, Sette,” he started with a smile. “We don’t have any classes tomorrow morning.”

“Uh huh?”

“I was wondering if you’d maybe like to go into Magix City to hang out?”

Cosette smiled. “Sounds wonderful!”

Marius looked relieved. “It’s a date then!” he grinned.

Cosette nodded happily, but suddenly frowned. “Oh, no, wait, Professor Mabeuf’s class is in the afternoon!”

“So?” Marius looked confused. “It’s in the afternoon.”

Cosette rolled her eyes. “Yeah, so I have to study for it in the morning. I want to make a really good impression.”

“I… didn’t know you could get so excited about school work,” Marius said, raising an eyebrow.

“Which reminds me!” Cosette gasped. “I should go and tell Professor Mabeuf where we’re going!” She turned and began heading in the opposite direction from the group, Juliette fluttering after her. “Meet you guys there!” she called back.

 

 

Patron-Minette had slipped away from the crowds of Wizards, Witches and Faeries, heading up a staircase to what remained of the top floor. They found themselves standing in front of a set of double doors under a dusty awning, and Babet nodded decisively. Gueulemer looked unimpressed.

“Are you sure this is it?” he wrinkled his nose.

“The teachers’ quarters used to be here,” Babet explained, “so this is where our search starts.”

 

 

The group entered the stadium again, and this time they took a moment to really properly appreciate the structure. It was similar to the old stadium, but it had a roof that clearly could slide open, and the old fancy individual seats had been replaced with bleachers that slanted up all eight walls. Courfeyrac let out a low whistle.

“The geometric structure of this place is amazing!” he gushed.

“Forget the geometric structure,” Éponine murmured, nudging Jehan. “Check out that guy!”

A boy with freckle-covered skin and long red curly hair in a ponytail was carefully folding an origami bird. He had a squinting, intense expression on his face, and he seemed totally indifferent to his surroundings, absorbed in folding the paper.

“What about him?” Bahorel scowled.

“He’s cute,” Éponine shrugged.

“He is,” Jehan breathed in agreement. Very cute. Very very very cute indeed. “What’s his name?”

“That’s Feuilly,” Combeferre said. “He’s new in our year. Actually, he’s Lamarque’s nephew.”

“So he must be a really talented Wizard?” Enjolras asked.

“Definitely,” Grantaire nodded. “Actually, he did First Year two years ago, but dropped out to – well, it’s not my place to tell you. That’s his story. I can introduce you, though.” He led them over to the boy, who paused in his folding and looked up as Grantaire approached.

“Hey Feuilly,” Grantaire smiled. “These are some of our friends from Musain College. This is my boyfriend Enjolras –” Enjolras waved hello. “And these are Courfeyrac, Éponine, Musichetta, Azelma –” Courfeyrac waved, Musichetta smiled, Éponine said “Hi!” very loudly, and Azelma waggled her fingers in greeting.

“Pleased to meet you,” Feuilly smiled. His voice was soft and pleasant, and his smile was small but genuine. Jehan made eye-contact with him, and their cheeks turned very pink, and they hurriedly glanced at the bird Feuilly was still holding. Their eyes widened at the level of craftsmanship.

“Are those feathers part of the paper?” they asked. Feuilly shook his head shyly.

“I drew them before I began folding.” Jehan’s eyes widened, impressed.

“It’s amazing how they line up perfectly with the wings,” they gasped. “It’s beautiful!”

“Thank you,” Feuilly said softly. His cheeks had turned a little pink.

“And this is Jehan,” Grantaire finished with a smirk.

Jehan grinned so widely they nearly split their lip, and Roselyne grinned too, the beginnings of a plan dancing in her copper eyes.

 

 

Cosette dashed up a wide staircase that curled around what was left of the central tower, searching for where Professor Mabeuf might have gone. She reached the top of the stairs, arriving under a stone awning that sheltered a door, in front of which three students were standing, and she approached them eagerly.

“Excuse me, have you three seen a tall, well-dressed professor pass by?” she asked with a smile.

A blond boy, who seemed to be the leader, shook his head, his eyes widening. “No, only short ones with bad fashion sense,” he apologised.

“Oh…” Cosette frowned. “Well, thanks!” she hurried off, turning the corner and vanishing from sight. As soon as she was gone, the ginger boy next to the blond scowled.

“Is she on to us?” he whispered suspiciously.

The blond boy shrugged. “Let’s lie low, just in case,” he decided.

 

 

Eventually, Cosette decided to hurry back to the stadium, her search fruitless. She hurried into a seat next to Enjolras. “Did I miss much? Where did Marius and the Wizards go?”

Enjolras shrugged. “You missed Jehan swooning over a boy, but not much else, other than the start of the hoverbike exhibition. And the Wizards went to go get ready for their performance.”

Cosette looked very interested. “A boy, Jehan?” she smirked, leaning around to grin at the redhead. “What’s his name?”

“Feuilly,” Jehan replied. “And I wasn’t swooning. I was just admiring his origami.”

“Never heard it called that before,” Éponine muttered with a snigger, and Jehan’s cheeks turned as red as Feuilly’s hair.

The hoverbike display ended, and Headmaster Lamarque entered the arena. “Welcome, friends of Corinthe,” he began. “We are not gathered here today to lament over the ruins of our illustrious school. While the historical splendour of Corinthe College has been destroyed, the skill and spirit of the Corinthe Wizards remains unshaken!” The crowd cheered, and the Headmaster raised his hands with a smile. “The time has come to restore the prestige of Corinthe Academy by renewing the very foundations of our institution!” His hands glowed with golden light, and the entire stadium shook.

Manon dived for the safety of Éponine’s lap, and the girl herself looked extremely alarmed. “What’s going on?!” she shrieked.

“It’s collapsing!” Simone screamed.

Cosette’s eyes filled with horror. “Something must have gone wrong!”

The air was filling rapidly with golden smoke, but Lamarque’s voice rang out, unimpeded. “Please, everyone, stay calm and enjoy the ride!” he shouted, and Éponine could hear the smile in his voice. “Presenting, the new Corinthe College!”

The smoke cleared, and everyone’s eyes widened. The roof was opening up, and the clouds seemed far closer than they had a second ago. The seats were still moving, sliding into place, and Cosette hurried over to the edge.

“Wow!” The new school towered high over the ground, spiralling up like a giant needle that widened a little on each level until it reached the stadium on the top floor, which was far wider than the floor below it – which was saying something, as that floor and the two below it had large garden areas spanning their wraparound balconies. Glass elevators on all four sides ran down the structure, giving anyone inside an amazing view, and all of the apartments had balconies that looked over the forest on each side. The new building was made of some kind of shiny bright red metal, with silver and navy accents. All that remained of the old building was the sandy-coloured stone ruins on the ground, which were really only rubble now.

Cosette hurried back to her seat as the ground of the stadium opened up, allowing six dragon riders to fly out on dragon-back, looping and spinning in formation. Marius waved at her from the back of his blue-frilled Eraklyon Mix, and she waved back with a grin.

 

 

Patron-Minette, however, was certainly not smiling. They were now stranded in a pile of rubble taller than they were, with a large piece of the original wall impeding their path towards the new school. The sun shone down, casting their shadows onto the wall, and suddenly the shadows warped and changed into the silhouette of Lord Méchant himself. His eyes and teeth were visible, even in shadow form. “What are you three doing?!” he demanded. His voice was echoey and quiet now – a side effect of shadow communication.

The three Witches jumped, and Babet replied, “We haven’t found the Codex, master. And now we need to start again from scratch as our only lead has just been destroyed.”

The projection of their master scowled. “Well, Kerbog will be arriving shortly, so wait until he’s caused a distraction then fly to the school.”

“Another Shadow Creature, my lord?” Claquesous said in excitement, and the shadow grinned.

“Not just any Shadow Creature, but my own pet!”

 

 

The Amis decided to go and relax in one of the large gardens a few floors below the stadium, and Juliette perched on Cosette’s head, flopping back dramatically. “Aah, I’m exhausted! Too much excitement for one day.”

“The Freshmen are racing at the moment,” Cosette added. “I hope we’ll have a little time to relax before our guys go up again.”

Grantaire and Combeferre approached them at that moment, both with easy grins on their faces. “Hey, fam,” Grantaire smiled. “The one-on-one display is about to start; you won’t want to miss that.”

“Ooh, who’s up first?” Enjolras grinned, getting to his feet.

“Marius and Bahorel,” Combeferre replied. “It’ll be an exciting match for sure!” He looked around the group, noticing two faces were missing. “Hey, where are Éponine and Musichetta?”

“Getting drinks,” Jehan replied. They got to their feet and brushed grass off their white and navy floral-print leggings. “Shall we?”

The group headed back towards the elevator, but Courfeyrac and Abby stayed where they were, sitting on the ground and squinting at a holographic screen projecting from Courfeyrac’s PDA. Combeferre smiled nervously at him. “You coming, Courf?”

“I will,” Courfeyrac grunted. “Abby and I are playing Sumo Turtle Master 2; it’s a best 2 out of 3 round. We’ll be with you in a bit.”

Combeferre nodded, turning to follow the rest of the group. Courfeyrac was so absorbed in the video game that he didn’t notice his friend’s slightly upset look.

 

 

“So you know the bit where the guitar goes ba-ba-da, da-da-la-da, da-da-la-da-da-da-da-da-la-da-da-da, ba-ba-da, ba-ba-da and then the vocals come back in?” Éponine was saying to Musichetta as they walked back from the bar through the garden with their respective Piskies, sipping pink lemonade. They’d discovered a shared love of alternative pop-rock music, and were currently discussing dance routines for one of their favourite songs.

“Yeah, that’s when I was going to do this!” Musichetta went into a fast-paced rock-n-roll jive routine, ending in a dramatic slide along the ground on her knees. “YEAH!”

Éponine applauded with a giggle, but a dark haired girl approaching them caught her eye. “Hang on a sec,” she grinned at Musichetta. “I’m going to try to even the score with Bahorel.” She waited until the girl was only a few feet away from them, before smiling flirtatiously. “Hey there, gorgeous.”

The girl’s reaction stunned both Faeries. “Whatever, wannabe,” she sneered, continuing past them. She moved as if to flip her hair, but abruptly remembered it was piled on top of her head in a neat bun, and hurried away from them as quickly as she could.

“That was rude,” Musichetta murmured. “I mean, maybe she’s not into girls, but still, it was rude.”

Éponine was frowning in confusion. “That was weird,” she concluded. “Her voice was familiar. Actually, so was her face, come to think of it.” She squinted after the girl, but suddenly her eyes widened. “It’s Claquesous!”

The girl’s shoulders tensed upon hearing her own name, and she broke into a sprint to get away, not caring how suspicious it made her look.

Her theory confirmed, Éponine gave chase, dropping her cup of lemonade. “Come on, Chetta!” she called back. “We can’t let her get away!” Musichetta dropped her own cup and ran after Éponine. Manon tutted from where she was still hovering above the spilled drinks, sipping from a minute cup of tea.

 

 

“Ha ha, I win!” Abby cheered as the final round of the video game ended and a screen announcing their scores appeared. Courfeyrac turned the screen off and moodily leaned against the ornamental plum tree behind him. “You owe me a cold processor!”

“You could have won without brute force, y’know,” Courfeyrac scowled, crossing his arms. Abby giggled.

“Aah, but t’was the most logical way to go about it. You didn’t use your cheat codes fast enough. You used up half your ammo shooting at me while I was using my Invisibility code, and then you forgot I have a cloning code to mimic all fourteen of your special abilities.”

“Whatever,” Courfeyrac sighed. “I’ve just had a lot on my mind lately. It’s affecting my game.”

“Stuff such as?” Abby gave him an inquisitive look, and he obligingly pressed a button on his PDA, opening a programme titled yokubo.exe and pressing the button that opened the holographic screen.

“This programme is directly connected to my own brainwaves. I assume you can use your powers in conjunction with electronics without a controller?”

“Obviously,” Abby tutted. “OK, let’s see what’s going on.”

The screen lit up, showing a green-lit snowy cityscape. Two figures appeared at the top of the nearest building, and the screen zoomed in. Both wore black futuristic armour with green detail, and as Abby squinted, she took in that the shorter figure had dark brown curly hair, while the taller wore circular glasses and had messy dark blond hair.

“That’s you and Combeferre,” she stated. Courfeyrac nodded ashamedly.

On the screen, digi-Courf walked to the edge of the building and gracefully leapt off the side of it, upside down. The screen followed his progress, but with a flash of green light, digi-Ferre appeared next to him. The two figures leaned in, and it was obvious that they were kissing as they free-fell through the air. Courfeyrac embarrassedly closed the programme, and gave Abby a doleful, what-do-I-do sort of look.

“It’s a dream I had a few nights ago, and I can’t stop replaying it. Any advice?”

Abby thought for a moment, then shook her head. “Not yet. Come on, we need to catch up with the others.” The gears in her head were turning rapidly, and she resolved to talk to Juliette about how romantic feelings and fantasies worked and how best to deal with her apparently lovesick human.

 

 

Éponine and Musichetta continued to pursue Claquesous through the garden, pushing through crowds of confused Faeries and surly Witches, shouting hurried apologies over their shoulders. They rounded a corner after her, but crashed into someone else – someone far too short to be their quarry.

Éponine rubbed her chin where it had collided with her accidental target’s forehead. “Courf?”

Indeed, it was Courfeyrac the two girls had run into, and he was rubbing his forehead with a very confused expression. “Ponine? Chetta? What are you doing?”

“Sorry,” Éponine groaned. “Have you seen a girl run past you at all? Dark hair, purple blazer, glasses?”

Courfeyrac shook his head. “Negative. Abby?”

Abby checked her wrist-computer. “Nope. There’s no one else within 50 feet of us.”

“So she got away,” Éponine groaned. “Great.”

“Who got away?”

“Claquesous.”

Courfeyrac gave Éponine an extremely confused look. “What? No way a member of Patron-Minette would come alone to Wizard central. Especially when there are Faeries and Witches everywhere.”

Éponine frowned. “Well, it sounded like her, and it looked like her, but to be fair her glasses were bigger than normal. They nearly covered her whole face. And she ran away when I called out.”

“Maybe you just thought you saw her?” Musichetta suggested. “Anyway, even if it was her, I doubt she’ll be resurfacing in a hurry.”

“True…” Éponine sighed. “I dunno. Let’s just find the others.” They headed back into the stadium, each looking fairly pensive – although Courfeyrac had his own reasons aside from the potential threat.

 

 

Deep in the bowels of the citadel of Shadowhaunt, the Cornu known as Kerbog flapped over to its master, wrapping its leg-wings around his arm. Lord Méchant grinned at the ghastly creature, and began whispering instructions to it. “Kerbog, I have a special task for you. Approach the insignia.” The bird-like creature obediently unfurled itself and flapped over to hover above an ancient symbol that had been carved into the floor of the throne room. Lord Méchant directed a blast of scarlet light at the symbol, which glowed golden and shot out beams of light to surround the vile creature. “Awaken the monster within!” Méchant instructed it. “Arise, Chimera, and do my bidding!”

The Cornu’s body twisted and expanded, morphing into an enormous and ancient beast. It had the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and snakes for limbs and tail. Two enormous bat-like wings sprouted from its back, and it let out a rumbling roar, as well as a small ball of fire. Méchant nodded in satisfaction.

“You know what to do.”

The beast spread its wings, and flew out of the window, down the gorge and along the river, until it reached the valley. The opening into the outside world was a little small for its height, so it merely crashed through the rocks, increasing the height of the tunnel by at least ten metres.

 

 

The stands of the stadium at Corinthe had filled up again, and Marius and Bahorel were approaching each other from opposite sides of the arena, weapons in hand. Marius swung his fire-sword at Bahorel, a move designed to force him back, but Bahorel was prepared, stepping out of his way and throwing a small rock at Marius’ feet. It cracked open, unleashing a cloud of thick green gas.

Cosette was clutching her face in worry. “Was that even legal?!” she gasped.

Éponine giggled. “Barely, but yes. As long as the gas isn’t toxic, it’s fair game. I’m assuming it’s just steam.”

“Then why is it green?” Enjolras said in disgust.

“Colour dust,” Abby guessed. “To be dramatic.”

In the arena, Marius had leapt clear of the cloud of smoke and was properly swordfighting Bahorel. The magenta-haired boy made to slice downwards with his rock-sword, but Marius sidestepped him, tripping him at the last minute.

“Marius won!” Cosette cheered. “That’s the rules, right?”

Abby nodded. “Indeed. First one knocked out of action loses.”

On the arena, Marius was offering Bahorel a hand up with an easy smile. “Come on.”

Bahorel scowled, getting up on his own. “I don’t need your help.” He pushed his hair out of his face. “Must be nice, being a Prince and spending your whole life learning from the best.”

Marius looked affronted. “I couldn’t have beaten you if I hadn't put in the work. I trained really hard for this match.”

“Whatever,” Bahorel scowled. He turned and stalked off the pitch, leaving Marius looking a little upset.

“Marius was just amazing, wasn’t he?” Cosette sighed smittenly.

Éponine nodded begrudgingly, having been rooting for Bahorel. “He’s pretty good at what he does.”

Enjolras sat up excitedly. “It’s Grantaire’s match now, so shoosh.”

In the arena, Grantaire and his opponent eyed each other from opposite ends of the pitch. Marius tapped Grantaire’s shoulder, looking a little concerned. “Be careful, mate. Your opponent is a Senior Wizard. He’s got experience on his side.”

“So how do I level the playing field?” Grantaire mused. Marius could sense the nervousness underneath his carefree tone, though.

“Try and attack from above,” he advised. “If you leap up in the air, he’ll be blinded by the sun, giving you a chance to plan your attacks.”

Grantaire glanced up at the sky and sighed. “Great. The sun just went away.”

“What?” Marius looked confused. “But the magic forecast said clear skies all day!” He looked up too, but the reason for the sun’s disappearance became very clear a second later: an enormous winged creature swooping down on the stadium, snarling viciously. The two boys hurried to leap out of the way as its tail came crashing down, smashing to smithereens what had been one of the changing rooms. Screams rang out from the audience, but Cosette’s eyes had narrowed in steely determination.

“OK, party’s over. Transform!” The other Amis echoed her, and in a second they were all in Faery form, fluttering into the air. Cosette and Enjolras swooped down to assist Marius and Grantaire, who had formed shields of their respective elements. “Get going, guys!”

“We’ll take care of this,” Enjolras added. As soon as their friends had made it to the relative safety of the upper seating banks, the two Faeries swooped over to their friends to face the monster head-on. Enjolras wrinkled his nose. “Ugh, why do all the monsters in our dimension have to be so horrifyingly ugly? Can’t we get a deceptively adorable terror-beast for once?”

“What, like a bunny with fangs?” Cosette commented sarcastically, dodging the beast’s tail on its return journey.

Up in the bleachers, Lamarque was calling instructions to his students. “Wizards, report to your teams! Evacuate the area!”

Enjolras nodded to Cosette, and the two of them zoomed in opposite directions around the creature’s head in the hopes of making it unsure of what to chase.

 

 

From the safety of the garden, Gueulemer whistled appreciatively at the sounds of destruction. “Now that’s what I call a distraction,” he grinned. “Now, let’s get rid of this stupid disguise.” In a flash of green light, he was back in his Witch form, his Gloomix glowing on his arm. With another flash of light, he’d smashed a window on the side of the school, giving himself free entry to the corridors.

 

 

On the other side of the garden, Babet was shaking his hair out of its stupid, hipster style, and in a millisecond, it had shortened and faded back to white-blond. His Witch form appeared, and he muttered, “That Codex is mine!” as encouragement, before freezing the glass of another window and shattering it.

 

 

Cosette blasted a fireball at the beast’s right shoulder blade, while Enjolras aimed a sun bolt at the left one, but to their annoyance, the critter didn't turn around or even acknowledge them. Enjolras grit his teeth. “Ugh, I can’t stand being ignored,” he commented.

The dragon riding teams were taking to the air in formation, Lamarque in the lead with a cry of “Let’s go!” Musichetta fluttered over to Cosette and Enjolras.

“I’m not having any luck distracting it either,” she groaned.

“Well, we need to keep trying,” Enjolras said determinedly. “We need to keep it busy until the Wizards have got the crowd to safety.”

Cosette groaned. “I wish Professor Mabeuf was here,” she sighed. “He’d know what to do.”

 

 

In the crowd, a Freshman Wizard hurried over to Combeferre, who was overseeing the evacuations. “Combeferre!” he gasped when he reached the bespectacled boy’s side. “Two windows downstairs were broken by magic; lightning and ice powers respectively. Petit-Gervais said I should go find a Junior or a Senior.”

“Ice and lightening?” Combeferre muttered. Suddenly his eyes widened in realisation. “It’s Patron-Minette. I need to inform Lamarque of this immediately.” He pressed a button on his left glove, turning on a communicator screen and unveiling a tiny keyboard, into which he entered the digits for Lamarque’s own communicator. He sent an SOS signal, and Lamarque hurriedly landed his dragon next to Combeferre, climbing down.

“Another emergency?”

“Sir, Patron-Minette are in the school!” Combeferre explained. His eyes were wide with worry. “Do you want some of us to go after them?”

Lamarque’s face turned pale. “There’s only one thing they could be after,” he realised. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if the monster was just a distraction!” He turned back to Combeferre, who was still awaiting instruction. “I will deal with this. I’m taking the Senior Guard.” As he spoke, he entered digits into his own communicator, signalling the students who made up the Senior Guard, as well as some of the other professors. “I’m leaving Marius in charge; he’s your team leader.” The Senior Guard hurriedly assembled behind him, and Lamarque nodded for them to follow him. They hurried out of the stadium, and Combeferre bit his lip nervously, but continued to usher the guests out of the stands.

In the air, Jehan was forming a new plan of attack. “Let’s try a double-sided attack,” they were saying. “I’ll hit it from above, while you guys strike from below.”

“Got it,” Cosette nodded. The Amis flew into position, and Jehan raised their hands to summon their strongest attack – but then they sneezed. The monster turned, fixing its pupilless yellow eyes on them, and reared its head back, pinning around. An enormous glob of spit shot through the air, colliding with Jehan and covering their eyes, rendering them temporarily blinded. As the Flower Faery hurriedly scrubbed at their eyes, the beast reared its head back, preparing to attack again – only Cosette suspected it would be with more than just spit this time.

“Jehan! Look out!” she screamed.

Jehan blinked the spit out of their eyes, regaining vision just in time to see the monster spring forwards, jaws gaping and fangs gleaming. They screamed –

And the monster stopped in its tracks.

“What’s holding it back?” Grantaire asked his fellow dragon riders.

“Dunno,” Marius said thoughtfully. “But something’s tied to its tail, using its own strength against it.”

“Who could have possibly –”

“Up there!” Jehan pointed, a joyful grin spreading across their face.

Feuilly was standing at the top of the bleachers, with beams of what appeared to be pure sunlight streaming from his fingertips and restraining the creature. His expression was one of intense concentration.

Grantaire’s jaw dropped. “How could someone who hasn’t been in formal schooling for a year be so powerful and controlled?” he muttered.

“I heard he was Lamarque’s best student before he dropped out,” Marius replied. “Not to mention, he’s been bulking up.”

“Jehan,” Feuilly called. His voice was still calm and measured, even in the face of danger. “Are you all right?”

Grantaire smirked at the doe-eyed grin on Jehan’s face. “They’re fine, Feuilly.”

Feuilly nodded, a hint of a grin playing around his mouth, and pulled his hand away. The beams of sunlight disappeared. The monster was free again.

“What the fuck?” Cosette yelled. “He set it free again!”

“Nice job, Feuilly!” Enjolras snarked. “Why not send us a few more monsters while you’re at it?”

“He’s probably out of practise,” Courfeyrac scowled.

To their surprise, Feuilly jumped backwards off the bleachers, executing a perfectly controlled flip into the garden below. Even more surprising, was that the beast followed him. Simone peeked out from her hiding place in Enjolras’ ponytail.

“Is it over?”

The monster’s tail thrashed, and the Piskie eeped and darted back into the thick blond curls.

The remaining Faeries and Wizards in the stadium – that is, Cosette, Enjolras, Musichetta, Éponine, Jehan, Courfeyrac, Marius, Grantaire, Bahorel, Combeferre and several Freshmen Wizards the Amis didn't recognise – all gathered behind one of the piles of rubble, trying to form a game plan while the monster was distracted swatting at Feuilly over the side of the bleachers.

“Faery magic is useless against the monster,” Cosette was saying. “This plan is going to depend on weaponry rather than spells.”

“So what’s the plan?” Bahorel asked, and Marius took charge.

“We do what Feuilly did and use ropes to restrain the monster. We’ll need to work together to target the exact same spots, though. That cool?”

Bahorel grinned. “OK. You’re in charge, but just wait until I beat you.” Marius grinned back with a nod.

“You’re on. Usual stakes?”

“I get your desert if I beat you and vice versa,” Bahorel agreed. “Let’s go.”

The Junior Wizards all whistled to summon their dragons, flying into the air and swooping around the beast’s head. Cosette turned to Courfeyrac. “Courf, you’re in charge of positioning everyone.”

Courfeyrac nodded, and in a flash, several bright green holograph-magic-screens had appeared around him. He plotted several points on one very carefully, before shouting up to the Wizards. “OK, Wizards, take up your positions with a twenty metre radius!”

The Freshmen Wizards had placed themselves in a circle around the monster, each carrying a bazooka over their shoulder. Upon Cosette’s signal, they fired the bazookas, which, rather than shooting missiles, shot magic ropes similar to Feuilly’s sunshine beams. They criss-crossed over the monster, attaching to its limbs, tail, body and neck, and making the creature writhe with fury.

“That won’t hold it back for long,” Grantaire commented worriedly.

 

 

Deep in the bowels of the school, Lamarque marched down a corridor at the head of a formation of Senior students. “We’ll head to the Veritas Chamber rather than try to find Patron-Minette,” he instructed them. “After all, that’s where they’ll be heading. We’ll catch up to them in no time.” Neither he nor the students had noticed Babet following them silently at a distance, stalking them like a leopard stalks its prey.

 

 

The ropes binding the creature were beginning to give, and Jehan reacted quickly. “Arms of the Earth, bind it!” they yelled, blowing golden dust onto the stadium floor. Even though there was no possible place for plants to take root, enormous vines sprung up from the ground, wrapping around the monster’s limbs, continuing to hold it in place.

“Jehan!” Courfeyrac called. “I’ve managed to identify both the species and the weak spot; I need you to create a muzzle that will hold its mouth open.”

Jehan nodded, and the vines obediently wrapped around the creature’s jaws, forcing its mouth wide open. Courfeyrac turned to Cosette.

“Cosette, it’s a Chimera. Like dragons, it ignites flammable gas in its throat to breath fire; but only when it feels threatened. I need everyone to blast at it, enough to agitate it, but be careful not to hit the ropes or the vines! Cosette, prepare to fire.”

Musichetta, Éponine and Enjolras moved into position, surrounding the creature from behind. They began firing tiny darts of magic it its back, which, now that it was bound, did what it hadn’t done earlier and infuriated the Chimera, making it snarl and huff in anger. Cosette positioned herself directly in front of it, and as it opened its mouth to spit its fiery defence, she could actually see the gas forming in the back of its throat.

“NOW!” Courfeyrac yelled, and Cosette shot a fireball directly into the Chimera’s throat. The gas ignited too soon, and with a horrible roar, the Chimera exploded into dust, blinding everyone for a moment. If it hadn’t been for the explosion, they might have seen the Cornu hurriedly flying away in the direction of Shadowhaunt.

 

 

Babet peered around the corner into the room the Guards had led him to. The only piece of furniture in the room was an enormous golden set of weighing scales, which the Guards were surrounding. Lamarque was still barking instructions to them.

“Anyone wishing to reach the Veritas Chamber must go through us,” he was saying. “They will not get through.”

Babet grit his teeth in annoyance. He hurried back down the corridor, his Gloomix glowing and sending a message to his cousins.

Too many guards. But we’ll be back. Now we know where to go, the next attempt will be as easy as pie. Good enough for you, Gueulemer?

A single beep in reply indicated Gueulemer’s annoyance at his sarcasm, but Babet didn't have time to reply. This was a time for Plotting.

That Codex is as good as ours.

 

 

The Amis had returned to the garden to hang out for a while before heading back to Musain, but Cosette stood away from the group, chatting with Professor Mabeuf, whom she had finally managed to track down.

“Congratulations,” he was saying. “You Faeries successfully fought an important battle today.”

“We did OK, Professor,” Cosette smiled, practically glowing from the praise.

“I wish I could have helped,” Mabeuf continued, “but I was evacuated with all the other spectators.”

“Well, what’s important is that you’re safe, right, Professor?” Cosette smiled. Leaning against a tree a short distance away, Marius rolled his eyes.

All that’s important to her, at least, he though bitterly, before shaking his head to clear it of the sudden jealousy that had hit him.

Sitting against the tree across from Marius, Jehan twirled a stray lock of ginger hair around one of their fingers, staring absently up at the clouds, when suddenly something moving quickly towards them caught their eye. They squinted at it, realising it was a bird fluttering towards them, but its wings seemed unnaturally thin. It stopped on Jehan’s kneecap, and they realised it wasn’t a real bird at all, but an origami one. A very familiar origami bird with delicately painted feathers on its wings…

Turning it over in careful hands, Jehan’s jaw dropped and their cheeks flushed pink with delight when they noticed the tiny words painted on its underbelly:

For Jehan x

 

 

Patron-Minette knelt apologetically at Lord Méchant’s feet, keeping their eyes firmly on the ground.

“We’re very sorry, Master,” Babet said emotionlessly; their Lord hated grovelling. “We were unable to retrieve the Codex as we didn’t arrive in time.”

“That’s because you’re a bunch of slow-witted fools!” Lord Méchant raged, before flinging himself back onto his throne. “We’ll let them think they’ve won for now, then they’ll let down their guard.” The Witches chuckled in agreement. “Now we know where they’re keeping it, and when they least expect it, we’ll launch an attack they’ll never forget! The Codex will be MINE!”

Chapter Text

“Euphrasie… Euphrasie, darling!”

“Aah, you’re awake. You’re so precious to me, my little lark.”

“Come to Mama, sweetheart. I love you.”

Cosette’s eyes snapped open, the image of warm brown eyes, porcelain skin and dark curls imprinted into her memory. Although she had seen images of her mother before, they had always been carvings or astral projections that lacked the vibrancy and realness of the dream she’d just awoken from. This had been more than a dream; it had to be a memory.

An actual, real, honest-to-God memory of her mother. She’d been afraid it would never happen, as she’d been parted from her mother when she was barely a year old, and Fantine had died or disappeared - no one really knew what had happened to her - shortly later.

She closed her eyes, turning over in bed, and drifted slowly back to sleep. A tiny pearl of a tear tracked down her cheek, but her mouth curved into a tiny smile.

I love you too, mum.

 

It was raining when she woke up a second time, at around 8am, and Cosette headed down to breakfast with her friends. She was still shaken by the memory-dream, and nibbled distractedly at her toast and raspberry jam, only jerking out of her trance in time to bat Enjolras’ hand away from her breakfast.

“Enjy!” she scolded teasingly. “You have your own breakfast, this one’s mine!”

“No I don’t, it’s gone,” Enjolras whined. “I ate it already. Come on, Sette! I’m starving!”

Not in the mood to fend off further attacks, Cosette crammed the slice of toast into her mouth, reminiscent of a chipmunk. She turned to Courfeyrac on her other side and peered over his shoulder at the thick book that seemed to have completely distracted him from the Great Toast War. Through a mouthful of crumbs, she asked him what he was reading, and he held up the cover.

A Brief History Of Prophecies And The Futures They Predicted  by Professor Cyrus Facetus

“It’s really interesting,” Courfeyrac told her. “Did you know that about five centuries ago, the Count of Whisperia predicted the second rising of Thanzianus by just by studying the planets?”

“There’s an easy scientific explanation for that,” Abby assured him. “The rotation velocity of one planet didn’t match its chromatic spectrum.”

Courfeyrac nodded, tilting his head to one side, while simultaneously snatching his plate away from where Enjolras was not so sneakily trying to pull it over to his side of the table.

“Aww, Courf, come on, just one! I’m so hungry, I can’t even concentrate on what you’re saying!”

Courfeyrac rolled his eyes. “Fine, you can have it.” He pushed the plate over to Enjolras, who eagerly made to grab the shiny red apple in the middle, but to his shock, it vanished before reappearing a few inches to the left. He poked the bowl again, and it flickered, before a second apple appeared next to it. Another apple appeared, and another, until there was a pile of them on the table nearly as high as his head. Enjolras looked furious. “OK, if one of you is doing this, it’s not massively funny.”

“I dunno, Enjolras,” Amaryl smirked from beside him. “It looks like things are ‘stacking up’ in your favour.”

“Hilarious,” Enjolras said, in a way that made it clear that he did not find it hilarious at all. “Courf, are you doing this?”

Courfeyrac shook his head, but Professor Wizgiz interrupted them from behind. “Relax, laddy. You’ve been the subject of an experiment.” He held up an odd sort of palm-size projector, operated by a hand crank, which he cranked now. More apples appeared in the pile, making it almost as wide as it was tall. “The apples fooled the eyes of the Faery of Light; clearly my work is improving. Still, practice makes perfect.” He pressed a button next to the crank, and the apples all vanished. “Enjoy your breakfast, kids!” The leprechaun headed back up to the faculty table, leaving Enjolras with an empty plate and a furious expression.

“This is the worst day ever,” he groaned. “My breakfast has disappeared, my hair is all frizzy, and we have seven hours of classes ahead of us. Well,” he paused and reconsidered. “It’s not as bad as that time Grantaire nearly married that Trog princess. But still. Nothing can cheer me up now.” Almost as though the universe had taken pity on him, a bright red flower appeared in front of him with a burst of sparkles. “Huh?” All along both tables, flowers were appearing in front of Faeries in their favourite colours. Enjolras sniffed the flower, and to his delight it smelled of strawberries, warm grass and the sweet, salty scent he’d come to associate with Grantaire.

“Good morning, students,” Professor Mabeuf called from the top of the room, and everyone turned to smile at him.

“Good morning, Professor,” they all chorused.

“I hope these Amore Blooms have got your day off to a good start.”

“They have, Professor,” Cosette beamed, taking another sniff of her own purple flower. “Mine smells like grapefruit and firewood, it’s lovely!”

“I’m glad,” Mabeuf smiled. Suddenly, he squinted at Cosette. “Cosette, you had a dream last night which touched your heart, didn’t you?”

Cosette nodded. “Sir, it was a memory, of my birth mother. I really want to find her, can you help me?”

Mabeuf nodded. “Of course, Cosette. Meet me in my office after class, and I will do my best.” He headed out of the room, and everyone gazed after him in admiration.

“This is the best day ever!” Enjolras said cheerfully, tucking the flower behind his ear. Éponine nodded in agreement.

“And he had such a nice voice. I won’t have any trouble paying attention to his lectures at all!”

Courfeyrac was the only person in the whole room who didn’t look enchanted. “Hang on a sec,” he muttered to Abby. “Didn’t you say he had wings in the caves?”

Abby nodded. “That’s what it looked like.”

Enjolras rolled his eyes at him from across the table. “Will you quit it with the paranoia, Courf? This is turning out to be a really nice day, and Dragon knows we could do with a nice day.”

Courfeyrac’s mouth set into a firm, determined line. As he got up from his seat, he muttered to Abby, “We’d better find out what happened to those wings.”

 

 

That afternoon, Courfeyrac and Musichetta were walking to their next class (actually, Professor Mabeuf’s class) behind Headmaster Myriel, who was out strolling in the courtyard. To Courfeyrac’s surprise, they ran into Professor Mabeuf, who was crouching over a flowerbed, but got up when he heard them approaching. “Five roses and eight tulips have gone missing from this garden since this morning,” he informed them. Myriel looked seriously impressed.

“My, your cognitive acuity certainly does live up to its reputation!” Myriel said delightedly. Courfeyrac narrowed his eyes.

 

 

When Courfeyrac entered the classroom and sat down at his desk, he noticed that a large bunch of roses and tulips had been placed in a vase on the teacher’s desk. “Suspicious,” he muttered.

Mabeuf entered the room a few seconds later and gazed at the flowers in surprise. “What a lovely bouquet!” he exclaimed in delight. “I’m not sure I’ve done anything to deserve this.”

Jehan smiled brightly. “It’s the least we could do after you gave us those lovely Amore Blooms this morning.”

Courfeyrac leaned back in his seat. There are thousands of flowers in the garden. How could he possible know exactly how many were missing?

Mabeuf sat down at his desk with a smile. “Thank you very much, Jehan. Now, on to today’s lesson. As you know, this class is called Philosophy, but we will also be studying cognitive analysis. The two play into each other; you can have no philosophy without cognitive analysis. I hope to teach you to hone your senses and trust your instincts. You’ll learn to look for details, and perhaps find new powers within yourselves.” There was a brief noise of excitement from the class at large. “Now, let’s start with an easy question. Who was the first ever Faery?”

Many hands waved in the air, but Mabeuf didn’t move to point at anyone. “Do you know it? Or do you just think you know it? Do you simply believe it? Can you prove it?” He pointed at Musichetta. “How do you know?”

“My mother told me,” Musichetta informed him. “And she’s never wrong.”

“That may be so, but where did your mother learn it from?”

Musichetta shrugged. “I can’t say for sure, but everyone knows about Blodwyn.”

Mabeuf shook his head. “Having everybody believe she was the first Faery is enough to make her so, even though she was not. It was, in fact, Arcadia who was the first Faery. Blodwyn was merely the first mortal Faery, but the translations have been reinterpreted so many times that some parts of it are lost to history. That’s how strong the power of words can be.” Jehan raised their hand, and Mabeuf pointed at them.

“But shouldn’t Musichetta trust her mother?” they asked.

“Sometimes Trust is all you have to carry you forward,” Mabeuf replied. “But to really know the Truth is an entirely different experience, not to be taken for granted.”

 

 

Back in the apartment after class, Courfeyrac was typing away on his laptop, while Abby had entered the programme and was interacting with the files from inside the computer. “We need to solve this mystery of Professor Mabeuf’s lost wings,” Courfeyrac informed her. “Is there any data that could tell us what happened?”

Abby touched a bright blue file that merely had an elaborate picture of an eye on it. “This book keeps popping up in the search results,” she informed him. “It’s a study of a prophecy concerning a morphic winged monster.”

“Can you download it?” Courfeyrac asked excitedly, but Abby shook her head.

“No; it’s too ancient. But,” she continued at Courfeyrac’s dissappointed look, “I did manage to locate it in the Musain library catalogue.” She stepped out of the computer screen with a grin, and Courfeyrac offered her his index finger, which she high-fived. “Off to the library!”

 

 

The book was surprisingly easy to find; the reference section had been updated with an image scanner over the summer, so Courfeyrac merely showed the scanner the strange eye shape on the cover of the book and in a flash of magic the correct book flew off the shelf and onto the platform. He and Abby headed over to a table in the Magical Law section; it was nearly always deserted as next to no Faeries had intentions of ever becoming a lawyer. Courfeyrac examined the title with interest.

Anthropomorphic Winged Monsters by Cyrus Facetus - huh.” He pulled out his book about prophecies. “Same author, but this one about monsters must have been before he got his diploma. This book is ancient, while mine is fairly new - he must be so wrinkly now.” He opened the book and scanned the contents page. “Angels… vampires… here, winged humans, page 196.” Page 196 yielded exactly what they were looking for: a paragraph titled ‘Anthropomorphic Monsters With Retractable Wings’. “That’s what I was thinking! The wings are hidden!”

Abby looked concerned. “Do you think Professor Mabeuf is one of these monsters?”

Courfeyrac was squinting down at an ancient verse scrawled between two diagrams: one of a humanoid with large wings, and another of the same humanoid, now wingless.

Give heed to this warning, foolhardy humankind:
The Creature of Destruction will appear
From the illuminating void
And reveal hidden wings!
He will perceive that which is hidden,
And will mirror himself among the citizenry!
When the three sacred planets align,
T
heir power will extend throughout the Universe
And he will usher in Doom and Destruction!

“That looks like a prophecy,” Abby murmured. “So Mabeuf does have a secret!”

Courfeyrac glanced at her. “Which sacred planets are we talking, here?”

Abby answered immediately. “Soarus, Vepra and Gulmeter. Their conjunction is bad news.”

Courfeyrac shut the book and got to his feet. “We can’t let this happen. I’m checking this book out for safekeeping.”

 

 

Courfeyrac sent Abby out to patrol the gardens while he himself skulked through the corridors. His PDA beeped with an incoming message:

From Abby:  Prof. M not in gardens. Found him?

Courfeyrac paused and peeked through the window of Mabeuf’s office door. His eyes widened.

To Abby:  Found him. He’s in his office.

The PDA beeped again almost immediately, twice in quick succession.

From Abby:  Not possible! He just walked into the garden!

From Abby: I’ll follow him.

To Abby: WTH? I can see himhbujeijdnciuhjsdhnfbdskncx

From Abby:  Courf?

From Abby:  COURF WHAT’S WRONG?!

The keyboard smash had been the moment Courfeyrac dropped his PDA. Professor Mabeuf had stepped out of his office, and although he looked surprised to see Courfeyrac, he offered him a warm smile.

“Can I help you, Courfeyrac? I have a little time before my appointment with Cosette.”

He will perceive that which is hidden, And will mirror himself among the citizenry!

“Uh…”

He will usher in Doom and Destruction!

“No, sorry, Professor,” Courfeyrac mumbled, hurriedly grabbing his PDA. “Sorry, bye!” He hurtled off down the corridor, more spooked than he’d like to admit.

To Abby:  I’m alright, I just ran into Professor Mabeuf.

From Abby:  But he’s out here! He seems to be everywhere!

To Abby: Meet me in the West corridor now. Cosette’s in danger.

Courfeyrac tucked his PDA into his pocket at the same moment that Abby flew through the window. They hurried down the corridor back in the direction of Mabeuf’s office, but Courfeyrac skidded to a halt when he spotted Juliette sunning herself in a window. “Juliette! You need to come with us, Cosette’s in danger!”

Juliette, to her credit, zoomed into the air and followed them with nothing more than a startled “What?” and the three of them hurried to the office as fast as they could.

They were too late. The blind was down over the window, suggesting Mabeuf had a student with him, so Courfeyrac knelt and put his ear to the keyhole.

“Reveal your birthname to the crystal,” Mabeuf was saying.

“Euphrasie.” There was no mistake. Cosette was already in there.

“We’ve got to stop him!” Courfeyrac whispered to the two Piskies. “He’s putting a spell on her -” he leaped away from the door as a wave of heat rolled through the office, making the keyhole too hot to touch. Juliette took his spot, peeking through the hole.

“Cosette?” she whispered. She could see her bonded Faery standing next to a long, wandlike blue crystal that was emitting yellow light in a pattern of boxes connected by tiny lines. “Courf? What sort of pattern is that?”

Courfeyrac peered in, and his eyes widened. “That’s not a pattern. It looks like a family tree.”

“What’s all that?” Cosette was saying.

“That’s your family tree,” Mabeuf confirmed. He pointed to the lowest box. “This is you here.”

Cosette gazed at her own name in the box with amazement. “And there’s my mother, Fantine!” She pointed to one of the two boxes above her own. “And this other one… I can’t make out the name.”

Mabeuf examined it himself. “That would be your father. Unfortunately, it seems that history knows no more than we do about his identity.” In the centre of the grid, which extended up to the ceiling, a coat of arms had appeared - a golden dragon, wrapped around an orange flower with a green stem. “That’s your family coat of arms.”

“And those…” Cosette had traced the line from her mother’s name up to the next two boxes, “are my grandparents! Posetine and Darilius… incredible!”

Courfeyrac pulled away from the door and stood up, looking disappointed. Juliette gave him a confused look. “Why are you upset, Courf? Cosette’s finally learning the truth about her family, this is amazing!”

“She’s not in danger at all,” Abby added.

“I know,” Courfeyrac sighed. “But I was so sure… Oh well. I’m still going to keep an eye on him.”

 

 

The next day, the Amis were spending their break between classes in one of the corridors that faced the lake, discussing their classes for the year. Apparently they would now have Professor Palladium for a class called ‘Invocation’ as well as Potionology. Jehan was just saying how they hoped the new class would be easy when they were interrupted by a voice behind them:

“That will depend on how hard you work this year, Jehan.”

The group turned to see a tall, handsome elf standing behind them. He had long auburn hair combed neatly off his face, and wore a well cut green silk waistcoat, a white shirt, and white trousers with brown boots. “Although,” he continued, “if you work as well as you did last year, you will have no trouble at all, I’m sure.” The moment of realisastion made everyone’s jaw drop. It was Professor Palladium. His new clean cut look was a far cry from the scruffy, awkward professor they’d had last year, as was his newfound confidence. It was impressive.

 

 

Instead of sitting behind the desk, Palldium casually leaned against it, and began the class by talking them through what the course would involve. His stutter was completely gone.

“Professor Mabeuf will teach you how to understand magic; I’ll teach you how to make it. Let’s start at the very beginning; I’d like to take a moment to discuss technical charms.” A short lecture on what made a charm technical later, and Palladium asked them to head up to the amphitheatre so he could demonstrate and they could practice more easily - or rather, with less risk.

“Now that you know the basics, we can begin. Plasmosphere!” A ball of yellow-green light appeared between his palms. “This is the plasmosphere, summoned through direct invocation. Who wants to try it?” Enjolras put his hand up, and Palladium nodded. “Alright, Enjolras, excellent. Remember, recite the incantation very carefully. One syllable out of place could burn all the air out of this room.” Enjolras put his hand down nervously.

“Maybe not.” He grinned along the line, catching sight of Amaryl. Her snarky comment the other day was clearly still fresh in his mind. “Amaryl, why don’t you try?

Palladium smiled in agreement. “Amaryl, perfect!”

Amaryl got up, looking furious. “I’ll get you for this, Prince Goody-Goody,” she muttered under her breath as she walked to the front of the class.

“Once the image is well-defined in your head, you may invoke it,” Palladium instructed her. Amaryl closed her eyes in concentration, holding her hands together in front of her as though in prayer. She hummed under her breath, and her hands slowly began to glow. “Stay focused,” Palladium reminded her. “Do not let anything else penetrate your mind.”

“Plasmosphere!” Amaryl spoke aloud. Her hands glowed brighter.

“Imagine the sphere is inside you. Now, imagine it illuminating you from within. You are one with the sphere.” A wave of energy pulsed from the light in Amaryl’s hands, and Palladium nodded. “This visualisation is called ‘inversion’. Now, Amaryl, part your hands.” Amaryl did as he said, and indeed, a ball of light had appeared between them. Her classmates all made noises of fascination.

Palladium pointed to the three targets at the other side of the auditorium. “Now, Amaryl, choose a target and launch it, but remember to keep your mind focused - otherwise, your classmates will be wishing they’d worn sunscreen.”

Amaryl approached the targets, but then a nasty smirk appeared on her face. She spun on her heel and launched the ball of light at Enjolras, who screamed in terror.

“DESIST!” Palladium yelled. The plasmosphere vanished instantly, and the professor turned to Amaryl, looking furious. “Try to hurt one of your classmates with this sort of magic again and I will have you expelled!” he snapped. “Is that clear?”

Amaryl nodded ashamedly. “Yes sir,” she sulked, hurrying back to her seat. Enjolras still looked terrified.

 

 

Courfeyrac had since managed to recruit all of the Amis but Cosette into his research, and now they met in the library before class to discuss what they’d found out. “Data dump, guys,” Courfeyrac began. “What have you found out?”

“Not much,” Roselyne sighed.

“We know that Professor Mabeuf used to have a career at Tongypso Academy in Gnara before he transferred here,” Musichetta said.

“And seventeen years ago, villages there were attacked by a winged man,” Éponine added. At that moment, Charlie landed on the table. He had yet to bond with a Faery, but he was beloved by absolutely everyone at Musain.

“Here’s the zinger,” he announced. “Gnara’s destruction happened exactly when the planets aligned last time.”

“That sounds just like the prophecy,” Courfeyrac muttered, “but I need more information.”

“I have some!” Arietta came zooming towards their table, standing on a folded piece of paper like a surfboard. It was a method of travelling that made her far faster that all the other Piskies. She landed surprisingly daintily on the table. “Headmaster Myriel said you should consult Headmaster Thénardier. He’s a world expert on astronomy and prophecy.”

Courfeyrac nodded, getting to his feet. “I’ll go. You guys keep an eye on Cosette and Professor Mabeuf.”

Éponine got up too. “I’ll go with you.” She grinned. “Say ‘hi’ to dear old dad.” She glanced at the others. “Cover for us in class, will you? And if Cosette asks, I have a headache and Courf has a twisted ankle. That’s reasonable, right?”

 

 

As it turned out, Cosette didn’t even notice the two were missing. She was seemingly enthralled by Professor Mabeuf’s every word, eagerly scribbling down notes. The class took place outside again, and this time, Mabeuf had left two swords stuck in the ground - one old and dull, and the other new and sharp. “We’re going to try an exercise with these two enchanted swords,” he was saying. He grinned. “Now, who’s going to be my first victim?”

Cosette thrust her hand into the air with such enthusiasm she nearly took Jehan’s eye out. “ME!” She hurried forwards, and in a panic, Enjolras grabbed her wrist and yanked her back. Cosette glared at him. “What’s your damage, Enj? Let go of me.”

Enjolras, realising everyone was sending him weird looks, flushed pink and stepped back. “Sorry, Cosette,” he chuckled. “I, uh, thought I saw a mosquito.”

Cosette hurried over to Professor Mabeuf, and Jehan narrowed their eyes. “One suspicious move, and we clobber him,” they muttered.

 

 

At Votirlu, Courfeyrac and Éponine had been lucky enough to manage an appointment with Thénardier, who was more than happy to see his eldest daughter. He invited the two Faeries up to his office, and listened to their request with an interested expression.

“Soarus, Vepra and Gulmeter?” he hummed when they’d finished their explanation. “They’re an ancient planetary system, and their convergence always brings bad luck.”

“And do you know when they’ll align next, sir?” Courfeyrac asked.

Thénardier shrugged. “Soon. I’ll have a more precise answer tonight, when it’s dark and I can examine the sky.” The two Faeries thanked him for his time and headed out, transforming and flying over the lake. They could probably sneak into class if they were quick enough.

 

 

Cosette had chosen the sharp sword; her opponent, Philibert, was given the dull one. Mabeuf asked them to simply duel without intent to injure, and to Cosette’s shock, Philibert bested her in a few seconds, slicing clean through her sword with his own.

“Hey!” she complained, but Mabeuf was smiling in satisfaction. “Cosette, you chose the beautiful sword because it seemed superior to you, when in fact the dull sword has the stronger blade.” He took Philibert’s sword and held it up so the whole class could see it. “These dents are the result of a mighty attack, but the sword survived it because it is made of a special alloy.” He paused, smiling at the agog students. “Never trust appearances; always look for other clues to the real truth.”

Jehan narrowed their eyes in the back row. What other clues will reveal the truth about you, Professor?

 

 

Cosette went straight to Professor Mabeuf’s office after the class. He had a new method for researching her past that he hoped could help her. Mabeuf had her lie down on a gurney, and he placed six little glowing balls of purple light above her, each holding a tiny replica of Domino’s coat of arms. When he’d positioned the final one, he asked, “Well, Cosette, are you ready to step into your past?”

“Yes Professor, I’m ready.”

“Then close your eyes and we can begin the spell.”

 

 

Courfeyrac and Éponine landed on the outskirts of the forest behind the school, quickly detransforming, and Jehan and Musichetta hurried to meet them.

“Well?” Musichetta asked.

Courfeyrac shook his head. “We don’t know anything for sure, except that the convergence of Soarus, Vepra and Gulmeter brings bad luck.”

 

 

Sweet William, Silverweed, Sally-My-Handsome…
Dimmity darkens the pittering water…
On gloomed lawns wanders a king’s daughter…
Curtains are clouding the casement windows…
A moonglade smurs the lake with light…
Doves cover the tower with quiet…

Cosette sat upright with a jerk, sending the little orbs flying. Mabeuf was staring at her with a look of quiet curiosity.

“I heard my mother’s lullaby,” Cosette explained. Her voice was a little choked up.

“Wonderful,” Mabeuf smiled. “So the spell did work.” He tilted his head. “Still no sign of a father?” Cosette shook her head. “Well, maybe we can find him with a different spell. Still, this is wonderful for you.”

 

 

Night fell, and Thénardier squinted through his telescope at Soarus, Vepra and Gulmeter, which to his shock were moving into position. He hurried to send a text to Éponine, cursing at the difficulty of operating a touch-screen with gloved hands.

To Éponine:  Soarus, Vepra and Gulmeter will align tonight at 11:59pm, bringing a curse upon Musain. You have 10 minutes.

 

 

Éponine checked her phone the second she felt it vibrate, and her eyes widened. “So it’s true,” she whispered. “Mabeuf is the Creature of Destruction.”  She informed the others, and Courfeyrac poked his head into Cosette’s room to check she was asleep.

“Did she say anything about the session?” he asked when he was sure she was dead to the world, and Jehan shook their head.

“No; she’s been resting ever since.”

Courfeyrac nodded seriously. “We’ve got to terminate Mabeuf immediately. If he transforms into the Creature of Darkness, then Cosette and everyone else at Musain are in serious danger. This evil must be stopped.

“How much time do we have?” Enjolras asked.

Courfeyrac checked his watch. “Now? About four minutes and thirty-two seconds until astral convergence.” He blew his fringe out of his face. “This is going to be dangerous. Is everyone up to it?”

To his relief, his friends all chorused a “Yes!” To his surprise, Charlie dropped down from the ceiling, attached to a grappling rope.

“No mission is too impossible!” he grinned excitedly, but Musichetta shook her head.

“No way, Charlie. You Piskies have to stay here, it’s too dangerous for you.”

 

 

The Amis hurried down the covered walkway outside the classrooms, pulling hoods up over their heads to disguise themselves. Eventually they reached the side door that lead to the teachers’ quarters, and they hurried in in single file. “If we’re quick, we can catch Mabeuf in his sleep,” Courfeyrac informed them. 2 minutes and 38 seconds.

 

 

In the library, a book fell off one of the shelves in the restricted section. It opened to a page with a diagram that showed three circular planets moving into alignment, and the diagram lit up with a golden glow.

 

 

Courfeyrac crouched next to Professor Mabeuf’s door and beckoned to his friends to follow him. “This is it. When I get the door open, be prepared to pounce.” He stepped back, and blasted a beam of green light at the lock. Éponine pushed the door open and felt for the lightswitch. She found it easily enough, but when the overhead lamp lit up the room, it became clear that the bed was empty except for a few throw pillows. Courfeyrac looked bewildered.

“I don’t get it. Where could he have gone?!”

At that moment, the ensuite bathroom door swung open, and Mabeuf entered the room dressed in white pyjamas. “What are you all doing in here?” he inquired. “Is something wrong?”

Courfeyrac’s eyes narrowed. “Yes. You’re what’s wrong. TRANSFORM!”

“TRANSFORM!” his friends echoed.

A second later, the five of them stood there in full Faery form, facing off with the increasingly confused-looking teacher. “What’s going on here?”

“It’s time to work our magic on you!” Courfeyrac yelled. 30 seconds. “Let’s go, guys!” He and Éponine both leaped at Mabeuf. To their shock, he spread a pair of wings made of golden light, and zoomed out of the room and down the corridor. The five Faeries immediately took off after him, chasing down the corridor and then down a staircase.

“Don’t lose him!” Courfeyrac yelled. “The full transformation only takes one minute!” He glanced at his watch again and gasped. “Fuck, we’re too late! The transformation is almost complete!”

They’d chased him into the dining hall, and Mabeuf had found himself cornered against the stained glass windows. He turned to them, wings vanishing. Enjolras smirked. “Cornered?” he taunted. “Shame, that.”

 

 

Courfeyrac had paused in the corridor when he checked his watch, but hurried to catch up. By his calculations, they still had some time left before the transformation was complete. “Desperate times… call for desperate measures,” he grunted, landing behind his friends. “Move, guys! PLASMOSPHERE!”

“No, Courf!” Jehan yelled. “His wings are gone!”

They were too late. Successfully summoning the ball of light, Courfeyrac selected his target and swung - and he was an excellent shot. The ball of light sped towards Mabeuf with terrifying accuracy.

BOOM.

When the smoke cleared, Courfeyrac was left with a massive hole in the window, a frazzled-looking professor, and four beat-up Faeries. No monster in sight.

“Next time,” Musichetta groaned, “go digital.”

“Sorry,” Courfeyrac squeaked.

 

 

Headmaster Myriel was not happy about the hole in the window, to say the least. The next morning, the Amis - minus Cosette, who was very confused about the whole thing - were summoned up to the Headmaster’s office. Courfeyrac was asked to come in first on his own, and found himself facing off against Myriel, Javert, Palladium, Wizgiz, and Mabeuf himself. His knees knocked a little, but he stuck to his story.

“Headmaster, I have no idea what happened. My watch was perfectly on time. There was plenty of time for him to transform, but he didn’t. The book described everything exactly right: his retractable wings, his clones, the missing flowers, and the converging planets. I need an explanation.”

Myriel gave him a stern look. “Well, perhaps my colleagues will be much obliged to give one.”

Mabeuf looked, quite frankly, pissed. “I use my wings only when I need to - when I’m being chased, for instance. And I knew how many flowers were missing because I was practising a spell which enhanced my sense of smell. I’ll teach it to you.”

“Well, what about all those multiple clones of yourself? How do you explain that?”

Wizgiz looked sheepish. “Aah, that was my doing, Courfeyrac.” He brought out the hand-cranked machine he’d used a few days ago. “Remember my trick with the apples? I’ve upgraded it. See what else it can do…” He turned the crank, and to Courfeyrac’s shock, seven clones of Headmaster Myriel appeared in the room, before vanishing when Wizgiz pressed the off-button.

“So the prophecy was false?” Courfeyrac asked.

Myriel tilted his head. “Tell me, who was the author of this so-called ‘prophetic’ book?”

“Professor Cyrus Facetus, Headmaster.”

Professor Cyrus Facetus? Or just Cyrus Facetus?”

“Well… just Cyrus Facetus. I figured he wrote it before he became a professor.”

Myriel chuckled for the first time since Courfeyrac had entered the room. “Courfeyrac, I don’t think you checked your sources. Cyrus Facetus - not the professor, who is his great grandson - was a comedian from two centuries ago.”

“B-but,” Courfeyrac stuttered, “the book is famous! Everyone knows it!”

Myriel tutted. “I don’t think you’ve been paying attention in Professor Mabeuf’s class, my dear. Just because something’s well known, doesn’t make it the truth. And I think you owe Professor Mabeuf an apology.”

Courfeyrac looked ashamed. “I’m sorry, Professor Mabeuf.”

Mabeuf nodded. “Forgiven. But an exam as punishment should fit the crime.”

Courfeyrac emerged from the office with a look of horror on his face, and Musichetta was immediately concerned. “What’s the matter, Courf?”

“Exam… as punishment…” Courfeyrac flopped face down onto the carpet and let out a moan like a dying whale. “You were wrong, Enj. This is the worst day ever.”

 

 

While all of this was happening, Cosette was lying on her back in the forest near the castle, staring up at the sky. If she squinted, one of the clouds overhead was almost the shape of that same coat of arms. “Mum,” she whispered in delight.

Chapter Text

Cosette was walking across the courtyard to her next class when her phone rang. Upon seeing it was Marius calling, she excitedly picked up. “Marius! Did you see the link I sent you?”

Marius sounded confused. “Hi to you too, Cosette. What link?”

“To the website of the organisation the runs carriage rides through the enchanted forest!” Cosette explained. “Enjolras and Grantaire went on a date there, and Enjolras said it was really romantic, but I thought it might be fun. Y’know, since we’re keeping it casual.”

Marius sucked in a breath. “Uh, actually Cosette, I wanted to talk to you about that.”

Cosette’s heart stuttered in her chest. And not the good kind of stutter. “OK…?” she said uncertainly.

“Can you meet me at my dorm tomorrow?” Marius asked. “It’s really important.”

“Sure…” Cosette said. Then she laughed. “Hey, you don’t have another secret fiancée to tell me about, do you?” she joked, but there was a slight edge to her tone.

“What? No, no!” Marius said worriedly. “Definitely not!”

“The old secret fiancée isn’t back in the picture, is she?” Cosette’s voice had lost all traces of humour; the mention of Céleste always made her tense.

Marius made an exasperated noise. “I can’t believe you’re bringing up Céleste.”

“Well, excuse me, Prince Marius, but you were only engaged to her!” Cosette snapped.

“I can’t… I don’t have time for this right now, Cosette,” Marius said wearily. “Just meet me at my dorm after classes tomorrow. Please?” He hung up.

He hung up on her.

This tanked.

Cosette angrily threw her phone across the courtyard. It spun through the air before Jehan caught it with a cloud of green magic. Cosette made a furious noise as they looked concernedly at her. “What a shitty day!” she yelled, not caring who was staring, and not realising that in his dorm at Corinthe, Marius was throwing his phone onto his bed and echoing her.

She stormed inside and marched off to Classroom 2D, where her other friends were waiting for her. Jehan caught up shortly and silently handed her her phone back. To her relief, they didn’t comment on how they came into possession of it.

“So, does anyone have any idea of what this new class is supposed to be?” Courfeyrac asked, leaning against the door.

Éponine shrugged. “No description on the timetable. It just said ‘2D’.”

“Huh,” Enjolras said. “I wonder what teacher we’ll get? I hope it’s not one of the strict ones.”

At that moment, the door swung open, knocking Courfeyrac onto the ground. Enjolras’ prayer had not been answered; in the doorway stood the strictest professor of all.

Professor Javert.

“Well, what are you all waiting for?” he snapped. “In, and sit in alphabetical order!”

Cosette flung herself down between Amaryl and Courfeyrac. Her day couldn’t possibly get any worse.

When everyone was seated, Javert clapped his hands sharply. “This class is called Master Combat for beginners; it is extremely important for all Faeries. The subjects we will be discussing and testing are self-explanatory. Yes?”

Philibert, a rather pompous boy, had put his hand up. “Didn’t we already learn enough combat skills during the Battle for Magix last year?” He already sounded like he regretted putting his hand up, and from the expression on Javert’s face, Cosette didn’t blame him.

Javert popped out his monocle and began to polish it, seemingly taking his time to make Philibert squirm. Then he screwed it back into place and said in a silky voice, “Then you should have no trouble passing my class at all, Philibert, hmm?” He turned to the blackboard and began scribbling on it in chalk. While most professors preferred to use whiteboards and dry-wipe magi-markers, Javert still insisted on using chalk in his classes for seemingly no other reason than he could use the screeching noise it made to get the class’ attention if things became too rowdy. Or just for the heck of it.

“This class will be focusing on magical battle skills. Imagine you are up against an enemy far more powerful than you. This enemy has just cast an extremely destructive spell - what do you do?”

Éponine raised her hand and Javert nodded at her. “Combine our powers.”

Javert tutted. “Too late, Éponine. You’ve just been pulverised into oblivion. What you must do is dodge the attack.”

“Golly, I never would have thought of that,” Enjolras said sarcastically. He seemed to have a bit of a death wish when it came to provoking Javert. “I would have just stood there waiting to get hit.”

Javert’s eyes turned steely. “In that case, Enjolras, since you clearly already know all the material, why don’t we make this class practical? You try to attack me.” He looked around at the other students, who were watching the exchange with morbid curiosity. “Everyone up! Outside to the courtyard. NOW!”

In the courtyard, Javert had everyone transform into their Faery forms. He himself stood with his feet shoulder-width apart and his arms folded, staring them down. “Everyone in line, please. Enjolras, you will be the first to attempt to attack me. I await with… baited breath.”

Who does Javert think he is anyway? Enjolras thought furiously to himself, stepping out of the line and marching to the spot Javert had indicated opposite himself. A couple of green uniforms and we’re ready for the army. Really, a Musain Faery deserves to be treated better than this.

“Alright,” Javert turned and walked away from Enjolras. “My back is turned. Show me what you’ve got.”

Golden light appeared in Enjolras’ hands. “Sun Bolt!” he yelled, flinging the spell at Javert.

Javert, before anyone could blink, raised one of his hands and shouted, “Sun Block!” A dome of green magic formed around him, absorbing Enjolras’ spell in milliseconds. Enjolras’ jaw dropped, but he fluttered into the air and transformed his ring into his sceptre, which he swung like a baseball bat.

“FULL SUN POWER! HIGH NOON!” he yelled, firing another, much more powerful ball of light at Javert this time.

“Reflecktor!” The dome turned silver, and Enjolras was knocked out of the air by his own spell. He landed on his arse, bouncing on the ground a little.

“You should have dodged it, Enjolras.” Javert looked satisfied. “Now everyone attack me! All together!”

Everyone, minus Enjolras, obediently flew into the air. “Well?” Javert snapped. “What are you all waiting for?”

“Digital Glitch!” Courfeyrac yelled, issuing a stream of bright green light.

“Floral Whirlpool!” Jehan added, shooting a beam of pink light.

“Star Burst!” Amaryl screamed. Her yellow light combined with the pink and green light, but Javert simply snapped his fingers and the shield turned green again, absorbing the spells. Amaryl winced. “That’s not a normal barrier.”

“These are immunity spells!” Courfeyrac agreed. “We’ve not learned anything about them in any of our classes other than passing mention!”

Musichetta rolled her shoulders back. “Let’s see him try to block my Current Attack!” She flung a ball of pink light from each hand, but Javert clapped his hands and the dome became a series of vertical golden bars surrounding him, forcing the spell to flicker out.

“Alright,” Éponine muttered. “Cosette, it’s our turn.” Cosette didn’t seem to hear her, lost in thought and staring into the distance. “COSETTE!”

“Huh?” Cosette jumped out of her apparent disassociation. “Right. Yes. Class. Let’s go.”

Éponine nodded in satisfaction. “He can’t be invincible. Sonic Bomb!” A whirl of magenta light spun towards Javert. Had it hit its mark, Javert would have doubtless been rendered temporarily deaf, but he was too quick.

“Earmuffs!” Javert’s spell made Éponine’s one shatter and vanish, and the girl’s jaw dropped in shock.

“He cancelled out my spell with an opposing wave! Cosette, it’s your turn!”

“Incandescent Sphere,” Cosette muttered. A ball of pure fire appeared in her hands, and she shot it at Javert, who caught it easily.

“Cosette, I’m disappointed. Is that the best you can do?” The fire flickered out. Cosette sank to the ground in shame, and Jehan immediately dashed over to her.

“Cosette! Are you OK?” Cosette gave no indication that she’d heard them.

Courfeyrac, meanwhile, had approached Javert. “Excuse me, Professor, but what kind of spell was that you used?”

Javert looked exasperated. “Did no one ever teach you to raise your hand in class?”

“Sorry,” Courfeyrac squeaked. He seemed to be doing that a lot lately.

Javert steamrollered over his apology. “If Patron-Minette were here, they would have torn you to shreds in minutes. I want you all to think very carefully about what you have learned today, and save your questions for our next class. Dismissed.” He marched off in the direction of his office, leaving the Faeries to detransform and tidy themselves up as best they could. Jehan tapped Cosette on the shoulder to get her attention.

“Are you alright, Cosette?”

Cosette shrugged. “I… I don’t know,” she whispered.

 

 

As she lay in bed that night with Wolter curled up on her chest, Cosette sighed unhappily. “I just don’t know what I did wrong,” she murmured.

Jehan sat up and rubbed their eyes. “Everything OK, sweetie?”

Cosette felt her eyes fill with tears. “No,” she whimpered. “No, it’s not. Marius is going to break up with me tomorrow, and I don’t know why. I… I really thought we had something special, but he wants to talk to me tomorrow and he didn’t say what about.”

“It might not be a breakup,” Jehan said, but Cosette shook her head.

“That’s the only thing I’m sure of. All I know is that he’s going to dump me tomorrow.”

Jehan sighed worriedly. “If you want, me and Courf could come with you?” they suggested. “Y’know, as moral support.”

“That would be really great,” Cosette whispered. “Thanks, Jehan.” She closed her eyes and drifted into an uneasy sleep. Jehan watched her breathing even out and sighed unhappily before going to sleep themselves.

 

 

In the heart of Shadowhaunt, Patron-Minette knelt before Lord Méchant, who was sitting on his throne. “Witches!” he announced. “Today I want you to attack Corinthe for their piece of the Codex. Don’t fail me this time.

“If we succeed, my lord,” Babet spoke breathlessly, “will you make me your main Witch?”

Méchant considered this for a moment. “Very well,” he smiled at last. “Succeed and you become my main Witch. Fail… and I may have to find some new Witches altogether. Now go!”

The three Witches swooped into the air and through the caves to the cavern nearest the exit. There, Claquesous created a portal, and they hurried through, coming out in the mist-filled woods next to the new Corinthe Academy. They gazed up at the towering structure with identical wicked grins.

“At last,” Babet smirked. “The moment we’ve all been waiting for. It’s time to do some real damage. Ready?”

“Bring on the Mayhem Globe,” Gueulemer grinned. The three Witches raised their hands into the air, letting out bursts of magic that combined to form an enormous black globe that crackled with bright pink sparks.

 

 

In his dorm at Corinthe, Marius glanced over at Grantaire, who was lifting weights in the mirror. “Are you sure this is the right thing to do?” he asked.

Grantaire nodded. “Absolutely. If you want to…ngh… keep Cosette, you have to…uh… show her that you’re serious about your…oof… relationship.” He put the weights down and turned to face his friend. “You gotta have The Talk, man. You’ve been seeing each other for nearly a year, and you still haven’t asked her to be your girlfriend.”

“Not my fault!” Marius snapped. “I was pretending to be you for the entire start of the relationship while engaged to someone else. When Cosette found out, she lost all trust in me, so we had to start again at square one.”

“Chill, dude,” Grantaire shrugged. He flopped onto his own bed with lazy gracefulness. “Have you seen the way she looks at you? There’s no way she’ll say no.”

“I hope you’re right…” He grabbed his phone and made to call Cosette, to check she was still coming to Corinthe. She must have had her phone off, because her voicemail answered. It seemed she’d updated it.

“Hey there! You’ve reached Cosette of Earth, AKA Princess Euphrasie of Domino! Leave a message! But not if it’s you, Marius.”  It was followed by a magical crackle.

Marius groaned and threw his phone onto his bed. “Shit. Magic makes voicemail so frustrating.”

Grantaire made a sympathetic face. “You didn’t really do a good job of setting the tone for this meeting, did you?”

“No,” Marius wailed. “And now she’s probably on her way over here in a really bad mood because, I dunno, she thinks I’m engaged to Celéste again, or something like that. I need to practise what I’m gonna say to her. Oh, crap, what do I say to her?!”

It hadn’t been included in Grantaire’s job description that he might have to coach his romantically inept best friend through his first time asking a girl out, but Grantaire was generous that way. He advised Marius start with a simple statement of the intended topic, and follow up with a meaningful gift: “Just straight up tell her that you like her, then give her something nice to make it official.”

“Like an engagement ring?”

“Dragon above, Marius, no” Here was where the problem was: the only relationship Marius had ever had was with Celéste - and that had been an arranged marriage. As a result, he had little to no idea of how actual teenage relationships were supposed to work. Grantaire pressed his eyes into his palms and exhaled deeply before continuing. “Something sweet. Something cutesy. Like in those Earth movies she makes you watch sometimes.”

“Aah,” Marius nodded, then frowned. “But I don’t have a Letterman jacket. That’s what the guy always gives the girl in Earth romantic comedies.”

Grantaire looked thoughtful. “OK, we’re on the right path… Let’s stick with something simple. Like flowers. Everyone loves getting flowers.”

Marius nodded. “I can do flowers.” And then he grinned. “Actually, I know exactly what to give her.” He hurried over to his desk, where he’d set up a single rose in a vase the day before. “Smell it.”

Grantaire took a sniff of the rose’s scent. “It’s…rosey, I guess?”

Marius shook his head, beaming now. “No, no, it’s sweet yet sharp - like Cosette’s perfume. And it has undertones of smoke from a wood fire - like her powers. It smells like her.” Grantaire had to admit that this was a pretty perfect gift. He’d thought his work here was done, but then Marius gave him a pleading look. “Help me practise?”

Grantaire made a face, but obliged, and they headed out to the small balcony together. Marius held up the rose. “Cosette, I really like you,” he recited. “Will you be my girlfriend? Officially?”

Grantaire’s horrified look told him everything. “I sound ridiculous, don’t I?” he sighed, but a second later his best friend/roommate/squire had tackled him around the waist and pinned him to the ground. “What the hell, mate?!”

Grantaire pointed at the… thing rising past their balcony. It was an enormous black ball crackling with pink electricity that was sending out blasts towards the tower. Grantaire’s timing had been impeccable; a blast had hit the wall where Marius’ head had been moments earlier.

 

 

“So statistically, this makes sense?” Cosette asked as she, Jehan and Courfeyrac approached Corinthe College.

Courfeyrac nodded. “Most teenage relationships end in heartbreak. It’ll hurt now, but you’ll be fine eventually.”

Cosette nodded slowly. “So really, it doesn’t matter that Marius is going to dump me,” she continued. “I don’t need a boyfriend or a …not-quite-boyfriend… anyway. So who. Fucking. Cares.”

At that moment, the school came into view, and by nature, so did the ball-thing attacking the building.

“What is that?” Cosette murmured.

Courfeyrac squinted at it before drawing a conclusion. “Shit. It looks like a Mayhem Globe.”

Jehan’s face paled. “Isn’t that, like, Level 4 Witch Magic? They’ll need our help!” The three took off running towards the building at once. As they entered the lobby, they could hear Headmaster Lamarque’s voice echoing throughout the school’s PA system.

“Wizards, Alpha Alert. Corinthe College is under attack by an unidentified Dark object. Repeat, Corinthe College is under attack by an unidentified Dark object. We are under attack.” Sirens were sounding throughout the school, and judging by the sound of aircraft from outside, the Pilot Club were now involved.

 

 

Marius and Grantaire had hurried to pull on their flight gear and dash to their battleships - tiny one-men aircraft called Kestrels with four maneuverable wings and a single set of blasters. They took to the air with three other flyers, with Marius in the lead and Grantaire as his wingman. Marius barked instructions into his headset. He had gone from an awkward, romantically clueless teenager to a well-trained fighter pilot in seconds. “Squadron, Attack Formation V. Get your blasters ready for a strafing run.”

The ships moved into a ‘V’ formation, and on Marius’ signal began rapid fire at the ball-thing. The whatever-it-was dodged and swooped around the school, looping back to come at them from behind. Marius heard Grantaire’s voice in his ear.

“Marius, this thing’s looking for a fight. I’m taking it on!”

“Grantaire, wait-”

Grantaire had already shot off after the ball, twisting and spinning after it, attempting to get a clear shot. Marius sighed and was about to give chase when Lamarque’s voice filled his ears.

“Grantaire, Marius, draw the fire away from the school.”

“Roger that, Sir,” Marius replied, before zooming after Grantaire. They both sped up, curving in front of the thing from either side before speeding up and giving it two targets.

 

 

Combeferre sat next to Lamarque in the control room, pressing options on various screens. “The object has massive dark energy potential,” he informed his headmaster. “Has to be at least Level 3 Dark powers.”

“Level 4,” came a voice behind them. Lamarque and Combeferre both turned to see Bahorel standing in the doorway. “I’d recognise Claquesous’ style anywhere. She was a Level 3 last year, but Patron-Minette have been given a power-up by their new boss. This has to be a Level 4 spell.”

Lamarque narrowed his eyes. “I should have known Patron-Minette were behind this,” he muttered. “They’ll be trying to get to the basement levels. They’re after an ancient magical artefact.” He immediately pressed the on button on the PA. “All Senior Guard members to the Veritas Chamber immediately. This is an emergency. Repeat, all Senior Guard members to the Veritas Chamber immediately! All Junior Dragon Riders, defend the lower levels. Repeat, all Junior Dragon Riders, defend the lower levels.”

A voice crackled through the radio; Marius. “Lamarque, the sphere has vanished. What do we do?”

Lamarque frowned. “Position yourselves over the lake,” he decided. “Await for further instruction.”

 

 

The three Faeries had run into Feuilly, who was good enough to invite them up to the control room. He confidently walked through the doors, and they followed him, a little intimidated by the hundreds of screens and buttons on all sides.

“Uncle Lamarque, Cosette, Jehan and Courfeyrac from Musain are here. They have offered us their assistance in battle.”

Combeferre looked up from his screen to wave hello with a cheery, “Hey, guys!” Lamarque, however, was less enthusiastic.

“Thank you, but that will not be necessary. We Wizards can handle ourselves in this situation.” He leaned into his microphone again and pressed a button. “Dragon Riders, Radial Formation. Begin Reconnaissance.” Cosette found herself absently staring out of the window, but jumped back into reality upon hearing a familiar name - followed by a familiar voice. “Grantaire, see anything suspicious?”

“Not yet, Sir.”

“OK. Keep patrolling.”

 

 

With the Mayhem Globe having done its job perfectly, Patron-Minette had no trouble opening another portal onto the roof of Corinthe College’s stadium. They had no other choices for their entry point; everything else was heavily guarded. Luckily, their Gloomixes would make this job easy.

“Ice Storm!” Babet shouted, and the roof instantly froze.

Gueulemer pointed his finger at the centre of the frozen patch. “Raining Thunder!” With a blast of bright green Dark magic, the roof shattered. They were in.

 

 

In the control room, a new siren went off. Combeferre checked his screens, and his eyes widened. “There’s a gaping hole in the roof of the stadium!” he gasped.

Cosette shook herself. I need to stay focused. “How?”

Lamarque looked frantic. “It’s Patron-Minette. All of you go! Use whatever means necessary to stop them - they must be stopped. GO!”

The three Faeries hurried towards the door to the lift, followed by Bahorel and Feuilly, but Courfeyrac paused and glanced back at Combeferre, still at his computer.

“Ferre? Aren’t you coming to fight with us?”

Combeferre shook his head. “No, Courf. My place is here.” He didn’t even look up from his screen. Courfeyrac nodded sadly and followed his friends towards the door. Bahorel pressed in the code to unlock it, but someone must have unlocked it from the other side, because it swung open before he’d finished.

Indeed, Marius stood frozen in the doorway upon making eye-contact with Cosette, and Bahorel cleared his throat loudly. “Mate, this is not the moment. We’re in the middle of a battle here.”

Marius shook himself and nodded. “You’re right, Rel. Let’s go.”

 

 

“Follow me,” Babet grinned. “I know exactly where the Codex is hidden.” He flew straight down the corridor towards a stairwell, but Gueulemer paused to send a blast of lightning towards the elevator.

“Never use the elevator during an emergency, kids,” he chortled, before speeding after his cousins.

 

 

As Marius, Bahorel, Feuilly, Cosette, Courfeyrac and Jehan hurried out of the control room, they heard a new message coming in for Lamarque: “Lamarque! The elevator is stuck! We can’t back up Marius!”

“Guess we’re taking the stairs,” Bahorel muttered, kicking open the door to the fire-escape. “This way!”

They hurried down the rickety stairs, coming out in the lower garden area. Bahorel hurriedly formed a rock-sword as they dashed towards the nearest entrance to the inside of the building - up a flight of stairs to the next garden level. Amazingly, Patron-Minette came shooting out of said door a second later, and Bahorel grit his teeth. “Feuilly, come with me!”

The two Wizards hurried after the three Witches, following them onto the next level up - but suddenly they couldn’t see them any more.

“Hey, where’d they go?” Feuilly murmured, but the mystery of the Witches’ disappearance was easily solved a second later.

“Over here!” Gueulemer smirked, before blasting lightning at their feet. This was followed by a blast of snow from Babet and a wave of dark energy from Claquesous, and Feuilly had time to duck and roll out of the way, but Bahorel took the lightning to the head, smacking into the wall and sliding down it slowly, leaving a sizeable dent.

Marius and the Faeries caught up a second later, and Marius caught sight of the direction Patron-Minette had flown off in. He pressed a button on his glove and spoke into his radio. “Grantaire! PM are headed for Hangar G24. Can I request some aerial backup?”

“You sure can, Lover Boy,” Grantaire’s voice teased back a second later. “Catch ya there.” Marius rolled his eyes, and those who were still conscious hurried after the Witches.

 

 

The Witches had indeed entered Hanger G24, and were looking around it in confusion. Votirlu - the only magic school they’d ever really properly known - was built nothing like Corinthe. The room they were in now had shiny walls and lights everywhere and to Gueulemer, it looked an awful lot like an empty armory during a battle. He said so, and announced his intention to destroy the place, to which Claquesous told him to shut up, they didn’t have time for meaningless destruction. Gueulemer intended to follow up with a rude comment about Claquesous’ uptightness when it came to these sorts of things, but was interrupted by a large, horizontal door sliding open, exposing them to the outdoors.

Grantaire was standing atop his Kestrel airship, twirling a sword made of water molecules. “Welcome to Corinthe College,” he quipped. “May I see your hall passes?”

Claquesous snapped her fingers, and immediately three clones of her appeared. They surrounded Grantaire as he jumped from the ship into the hangar, and he swung wildly at them, forcing them to dodge and regroup in the air.

“Sphere of Oblivion!” the clones chorused, and the air filled with acrid black smoke. When it cleared, Grantaire was unconscious on the floor and the clones had vanished, but five more adversaries had appeared to combat Patron-Minette: Cosette, Jehan, Courfeyrac, Marius, and Feuilly.

Babet looked delighted. “Well, isn’t this just like a little reunion party! Except for that one,” he pointed at Feuilly. “He’s new. Shall we get the party started?” His hands filled with white light. “How about a little ice-cream to get things going?”

“The only thing going is you three - going down!” Cosette snapped. “TRANSFORM!”

In their Faery forms now, Cosette, Jehan and Courfeyrac flew into the air, and Babet narrowed his eyes. “OK, Gueulemer, you can have a little fun with them. But don’t get too carried away; we have a mission.”

Gueulemer grinned and cracked his knuckles, which were sparking with electricity, as his cousins zoomed off out of the hanger. Courfeyrac raised his right hand.

“Digital Glitch!”

Gueulemer dodged the green light with ease and shot his own back at Courfeyrac. “Cursed Lightning!” His spell was so powerful that it knocked all present, apart from himself, clear off their feet. Courfeyrac took the majority of the blast, landing on his head.

Gueulemer chortled nastily, but was forced to dodge and follow Babet and Claquesous a second later when Feuilly created a whip made from light particles and swung it at the Witch’s legs. With Gueulemer fleeing, he turned to Cosette, Jehan and Marius. “You guys go on ahead, I’ll take care of Courfeyrac,” he assured them, hurrying over to the Technology Faery’s prone form. “You OK, mate?”

Marius beckoned to the two remaining Faeries to follow him down a corridor adjacent to the one the Witches had headed down. “Shortcut,” was the only explanation he offered. Cosette reckoned she could actually hear Patron-Minette arguing on the other side of the wall, so she couldn’t fault his logic.

With a crackle, Marius’ glove-radio filled the corridor with Combeferre’s voice. “Marius, Patron-Minette are headed straight for the Veritas Chamber. If you hurry you can beat them to it!”

“Thanks, Ferre!” Marius replied, and sped up, Cosette and Jehan flanking him from the air. They were approaching what seemed to be an elevator door, and Marius skidded to a halt next to it.

“I thought the elevators were down?” Jehan asked. Marius grinned.

“Yup. But we’re not taking the elevator - so to speak.” In a second, he dug his fingers into the tiny gap between the doors and yanked them open. “Follow me.” Marius grabbed the cable inside the elevator shaft and slid down it with almost concerning nonchalance. Jehan and Cosette flew after him, and followed him through another open elevator door. To their delight, Gueulemer was within shooting view, flying across what seemed to be an antechamber towards another staircase. Jehan reacted instantly.

“Floral Whirlpool!”

Gueulemer froze before spinning around and snapping his fingers to create a shield. “I hate flowers,” he muttered. Jehan’s spell bounced off the shield and returned to its caster, too quickly for them to dodge. The redhead crashed out of the air, and Gueulemer chuckled and made his escape. Cosette dashed over to her friend.

“Jehan! JEHAN! Are you OK?!”

Jehan nodded weakly. “Don’t worry about me. Just go after him! I’ll catch up.”

Cosette squeezed their hand before she and Marius took off down the corridor again.

 

 

The Veritas Chamber was a beautiful room with golden walls and a matching floor, the only piece of furniture being an elaborate giant set of golden scales on a circular silver platform, with a large lump of bronze in one of the dishes. It was nearly always entirely deserted, but at that moment, it was packed with Senior Wizard students, all wielding weapons and standing in neat formation. They were confident that no one would be able to get past them - which was why they were so shocked when the air around them filled with snowflakes and three figures confidently entered the room.

Babet grinned at his cousins. “Ready?” The three of them raised their hands into the air, and the entire room filled with blue, purple and green light.

 

 

As Cosette and Marius continued to hurry down the corridor, Cosette glanced at her not-quite-ex. “Marius, do you know anything about what Patron-Minette are after?”

Marius made a sort-of face. “All I know is that it’s an ancient magical artefact with great power. I don’t really know anything else; only Lamarque actually knows what it is. Sorry, Cosette.”

Cosette nodded, but her thoughts were churning at his last statement. What’s he really apologising for? she wondered unhappily.

 

 

With the Senior Guard completely encased in ice, Babet examined the huge golden scales. After a moment, he stepped away from them with a look of curiosity on his face. “These scales are doubtless the key to the room where they’re hiding that Codex,” he murmured.

Gueulemer grinned. “Let’s blow it up. That’s the best way to unlock doors.”

Claquesous rolled her eyes. “Sure. Go ahead and smash stuff. Because that always works.”

Gueulemer ignored her, raising his Gloomix-encrusted hand to point at the scales. “Mega Lightning Storm!” he yelled, issuing a blast of green light. The scales, to his shock, absorbed the blast, and then shot an identical one back at him, making his hair stand on end even more than normal.

“Brilliant as always, Mer,” Claquesous grinned. She always took great pleasure in seeing her hot-headed cousin bested by whatever he was attempting to destroy.

“Anyone could have guessed that it’s booby-trapped,” Babet added with an eye-roll. “Claq, you’re up.”

Claquesous approached the scales and examined an inscription on the base. “The instructions are right here,” she said grumpily. This seemed a little too easy. “Guess whatever equals the weight of Corinthe College, and the door will open.” She stood back to examine the scales and the bronze counterweight, and as she did so, a secret compartment opened up on the silver platform, revealing a variety of seemingly random objects that she was clearly supposed to choose from. “Doubtless all of these trigger lethal traps except for the correct answer. The counterweight looks pretty heavy, so the stone would be the most obvious choice,” she decided. “But that would be too easy, so it has to be its complete opposite - the feather.” Claquesous delicately picked up the bright blue peacock feather that was on offer, and waggled it in Babet’s direction. “I’m so sorry, Babet, this is your moment. I’m sure you want to be the one to unlock the Codex.” Her meaning was clear. I’m not going to be the one to trigger the trap if this is the wrong answer.

Babet made a face at her. “Aww, Claquesous, you’re a backstabbing coward. And I love you for it - but this was your idea.” He pushed the feather back towards her. “Put the feather in the dish. Now. Or I’ll cut you into tiny ice-cubes.”

Claquesous bit down on her lip and nervously approached the scales. Her hands were trembling, but she was relieved of the task when a boomerang made of blue flames flew towards her, smacking the feather out of her hand before returning to its creator: Marius, standing in the doorway with a furious expression.

“Stop right there, you pricks!” he yelled. Cosette fluttered behind him with her fists clenched.

Babet grinned. “You again? Ooh, now I’m scared.” Marius ran at him, swinging a sword in the general direction of Babet’s neck, and the white-haired Witch took to the air, hands filling with ice. “Black Icicle!”

Marius was forced to backflip away from him, while Claquesous began shooting waves of Dark magic at Cosette, who formed a fire shield and used it to absorb the attack while moving slowly forward. When Claquesous took a break, Cosette fired an attack spell, forcing the Witch to move to dodge it. Gueulemer rolled his shoulders back.

“Leave her to me! Twister of - OW!”

He’d been hit in the arm by a glowing yellow dart that left a shiny red burn. Cosette glanced at Gueulemer’s new assailant and was delighted to see that Combeferre had joined the battle, air-pistol raised and ready to fire again. Gueulemer looked enraged.

“OK, that’s enough!” he snapped. “Tornado Thunder!” An enormous tube of black wind crackling with green lighting began spinning towards Combeferre with worrying velocity. When it hit him, it sent him flying into Cosette, and the two were knocked into the wall, landing on the floor with a painful thud. The tornado vanished, and Gueulemer laughed in delight.

Marius let out an animalistic snarl and rushed at Gueulemer, fire-sword drawn - and it was clear that this time he was aiming to actually maim rather than simply fend them off. He slashed the weapon through the air, narrowly missing Babet, who blasted a ball of white light directly into the Wizard’s heart. Marius was knocked off his feet, landing on his back with a nasty sounding crack. A trickle of blood ran from the corner of his mouth onto the floor.

Claquesous held her hand out to examine her Gloomix in wonderment. “The power of our Gloomixes makes this almost boring,” she grinned. “…Almost.”

Babet grabbed the feather from where it had landed on the ground. “No more screwing around,” he muttered. “Let’s get down to business. Hmm… the ‘weight of Corinthe College’…” He placed the feather back where they’d found it - between a tall blue crystal and a bar of gold, and examined the other objects: a dinner-plate-sized stone (which Claquesous had already ruled out), a stone effigy of a robed figure, the crystal, the bar of gold, a sword, a scroll, and finally, a fountain pen. “OK,” he hummed at last. “Physical weight, moral weight, magical weight, weightlessness, economic weight, military weight, the weight of knowledge and the weight of communication. Wizards fight mainly with weapons rather than spells, so that rules out the crystal and suggests the sword - but that’s too easy. Wait…” His glance fell on the robed effigy. “That pompous Corinthe attitude… of course. The moral weight.” He grinned in delight as he picked it up. “Ironic that I’m forced to follow the path of morality… but I suppose the ends justify the means.” Babet placed the effigy in the dish, and to his delight, the scales fell into perfect balance. Behind them, a circle glowed on the floor, and three quarters of it fell away to reveal a spiral staircase into the deepest level of Corinthe College. Babet smirked at his cousins. “Well? Shall we?”

They followed the staircase down to the bottom - a simple, cylindrical room with a smaller cylindrical glass case in the centre, which held -

“The first part of the Codex,” Babet breathed. “Ours at last!”

The Codex was, admittedly, less elaborate than they had expected. It was a simple grey almost-flattened ovoid with ancient scriptures running down the edges, but it pulsed with some kind of invisible magic that told them this was the right object. The entire room seemed to thrum with ancient power.

 

 

At last, Cosette and Combeferre came to in the Veritas Chamber. Cosette glanced around, looking for her adversaries, when her gaze fell on Marius, still spread-eagled on the ground and looking terrifyingly still. She and Combeferre shared a brief glance, before struggling to their feet and dashing to his side.

“Marius!”

 

 

Babet raised a hand to the glass case and froze it solid, moving to shatter it, but suddenly a blast of scarlet light burned his hand. He yelled in annoyance and turned to his assailant - a ginger Piskie wearing a white toga-style dress and an expression of pure rage. She fired another blast at him, causing his ears to ring. He screwed up his face and plugged his ears with his fingers, but the noise persisted.

“Stop this horrible noise!” he screamed at Claquesous and Gueulemer. “STOP IT!”

Claquesous narrowed her eyes, and with a flash of purple light, she vanished. The Piskie raised her hands for another attack.

“Hands OFF the Code-” Claquesous reappeared behind her and zapped her until she fell out of the air, unconscious. The Witch of Darkness grinned.

“Sorry, little bug,” she taunted. “Did I hurt you?” She turned back to her cousins. “Get that thing, and let’s go.” Gueulemer obligingly punched a hole through the frozen glass, and Babet snatched the Codex from the case. It had a feel that didn’t match its appearance - the material felt almost egg-shell-like. The three turned and made to move back up the staircase, when several air-darts shot down into the room, forcing them to duck.

“What the…?” Gueulemer muttered, glaring up at the exit.

Combeferre stared them down, pistol aiming directly at Babet’s heart. “D-don’t move!” he stuttered. “Stay right there!”

Behind him, Cosette was kneeling next to Marius, lightly shaking his shoulders to try and wake him. “Oh, no, Marius, what did he do to you?!” she whispered in terror.

Combeferre glanced over his shoulder to see what was happening with his friends, and in his moment of distraction, Patron-Minette started back up the staircase, all smirking identically.

“Well, what have we here?” Babet purred. “Another little Wizard who wants to play hero.”

Pull the trigger, Combeferre thought to himself. Pull it now!

Babet continued moving towards him, hand filling with the same kind of white light he’d used to attack Marius. “How many times do I have to beat you?” he sneered. Combeferre’s finger twitched on the trigger, and he came to an awful realisation.

Patron-Minette’s new powers make them invincible. I could sacrifice myself but it wouldn't help anybody... All we can do is find a way to beat them before the next battle.

And then, hands shaking, he lowered his pistol.

Babet nodded. “Now, that’s what I like to see. A hero realising his defeat and bowing down before the enemy. Stay down and live, worm.” And he passed by, without any resistance.

Gueulemer was next, and upon realising that Combeferre had no intention to shoot, snatched the gun away from the boy and broke it in half, following Babet to the door. Claquesous was last, and she simply leaned in to whisper a single word:

Coward.”

Combeferre lowered his head in shame, and as the Witches regrouped next to the door out, Babet grinned over at Cosette. “And by the way, Cosette? If I were you, I wouldn’t wait around for Prince Lovey-Dovey to wake up. He’s going to be napping for a long time.” With one final cackle, Patron-Minette vanished in a cloud of purple smoke.

Cosette was still shaking fruitlessly at Marius’ shoulders. “No,” she was whispering. “No, no, no, Marius, wake up! Please, say something!” Marius lay motionless, and Combeferre, moving for the first time since Patron-Minette’s escape, hurried over to her side, grabbing Marius’ wrist. Suddenly, his face froze in horror, and he spoke to her in a shaky voice.

“Cosette… he doesn’t have a pulse.”

Cosette’s face paled, and she moved to pull Marius’ head into her lap. “Please, Marius, open your eyes, I’m begging you.” Her eyes were filling with tears, and they began splashing mercilessly down her front. “Please, Marius, I need you. I really, really do. This can’t be the end. It can’t.” Combeferre’s jaw dropped at the sight before him: Cosette’s hair was swirling around her head like a halo, and golden light was pulsing from her fingertips, dancing across Marius’ face from where her fingers were touching his cheek. “This is not the end,” she was whispering. “Please wake up, Marius. Please.

Healing powers, of course, Combeferre realised. Cosette’s power came from the literal Flame of Life, it was only natural that she could heal as well as maim. And, in spite of the fact that she had never demonstrated healing powers before, and, indeed, didn’t even seem to realise what she was doing, they were working. The blood had vanished from the corner of Marius’ mouth. The colour had returned to his cheeks. And suddenly, his eyes were blinking open.

Cosette had actually made a miracle happen.

Marius sat up at the exact moment that Cosette collapsed behind him, her energy spent. He gazed around the room, looking confused when he didn’t immediately see her. “Cosette?” His voice sounded a little croaky, but otherwise exactly the same, and Combeferre huffed out a relieved breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding.

Cosette, upon hearing her name, pushed herself back into a sitting position. She was still crying, but she was beaming with relief at the same time. “Marius.”

Marius flung his arms around her, and she held him back tightly. It was such a tender moment that Combeferre felt almost indecent standing there watching it, and he hurriedly excused himself to go and help their various injured friends. Cosette and Marius paid him no attention, just continuing to hold each other in silence, and he hurried out of the room to find Jehan.

Eventually, the two parted, but still maintained their physical closeness, leaning their foreheads together and smiling softly at each other, and Marius spoke again.

“Cosette, I think you’re wonderful.” He took a deep breath, and any idea of a fancy speech flew out the window. Grantaire had been right; this was a simple question with a simple answer. “Will you be my girlfriend? Officially?”

Cosette wiped her tears away on her arm-warmer, before nodding. “Of course I will,” she beamed, before bursting into fresh floods of tears and throwing her arms around him again.

Marius held her close and stroked her hair softly. He didn’t have the rose; it was up in his bedroom, and now wasn’t the time for it - nor for the three words that nearly burst out of his mouth upon her reply. So instead, he silently made himself a promise, and continued to hold Cosette, euphoric in the knowledge that he would someday be able to tell her and perhaps even hear the same words back.

Chapter Text

The sun was shining down on Musain, but unfortunately Professor Palladium wasn’t as big a fan of class outdoors as Professor Mabeuf, and had insisted they all continue indoors as normal. “The exercise consists of opening this padlock only with magic,” he was saying. He held up an enormous clunky padlock bigger than his own head. “The key to a proper technical charm is proper pronunciation. For instance, this incantation is pronounced ‘Expedio Ketaino’ - that’s eh-ks-pee-dee-oh k-eh-tay-n-oh.” He wrote the correct spelling on the board, and the pronunciation beneath it, before turning to the class and looking for a volunteer. “Cosette, why don’t you give this spell a try?”

Cosette smiled and got to her feet. She’d been in an amazingly cheerful mood since Marius had asked her out a few days before, and it showed in her practical work, which was better than ever. “Of course, Professor,” she smiled, and pointed at the padlock, focusing intently. “Expedio Ketaino!

With a happy little click, the padlock opened, and everyone applauded - nearly everyone. Jehan didn’t seem to have noticed that anything was happening, staring intently down at their notebook. Luckily, they sat in the back row, and no one except Musichetta next to them had noticed their preoccupation.

“Very good, Cosette!” Palladium smiled. “Now, see what happens when I switch one letter. Expedio Ketaina! With a tiny pop, a little white kitten appeared in his hands, and everyone cooed at it - except, once again, Jehan. They were still gazing smittenly down at the name they had written in careful calligraphy on the cover of their notebook. Feuilly.

Jehan couldn’t get over him. First the beautiful origami, and then… when Feuilly had saved them from that Chimera, with his beams of sunlight… the moment kept replaying over and over in Jehan’s mind, constantly. They decided to focus on it, and suddenly the scene was playing out a little differently than reality; Feuilly had destroyed the monster single-handedly and had now picked up Jehan and was carrying them bridal-style, whispering endearments into their ear. And, hello, Feuilly was now wearing a dark suit, and Jehan was wearing a frilly white dress and a veil, and Feuilly was carrying them down an aisle towards a priest of some sort, who was wearing scarlet robes and a tall hat. The priest turned - and Jehan gave a yelp of surprise, for it was Professor Palladium! The priest glared sternly and spoke:

“Jehan? Can you try the spell? Try and open the padlock.”

Jehan shook the daydream out of their head and glanced at the board. “Uh, Exaggero Ketaina?”

With a magical crackle, the kitten Palladium was holding puffed up into a massive ball of fluff, and Jehan groaned in embarrassment as the class burst into laughter. “Oops… Sorry, sir.”

 

 

The Musain potion lab - which had been closed for the majority of the Amis’ first year (due to an incident the previous year involving Enjolras and some highly destructive Swamp Badgers) - was now fully open to students and faculty alike. The thing about most laboratories of any sort, is that they’re excellent for using as a hiding place. All you have to do is put a sign on the door announcing that you’re using dangerous chemicals, or something that requires a lot of intense concentration, or even just an object that can’t be exposed to daylight, and you have as much privacy as you wish. (The author neither recommends nor endorses hiding in laboratories, and you should, of course, always ask permission before using one). As the Amis were in their Technical Charms class, someone had indeed strung up a sign announcing the use of volatile chemicals in the lab, and as such, they were left well alone. However, had anyone ignored the sign and entered, they would have seen that the cloaked person inside the lab was using perfectly normal chemicals that most people who’ve only done the most basic chemistry would have recognised as non-explosive, and as thus would have been forced to come to the conclusion that this person was up to no good. They would, in this particular situation, be correct, although it could also be argued that whoever-it-was simply wanted a little privacy. But then you would have to consider that all the electric lights were off, the person was using black candles as a light-source, and they were sinisterly chanting in a long-dead language as they went about their sinister business. “Mobierus Torchempra,” they were hissing. “Quenactum Demoortis!” With their spell finished, nine orbs of green light rose from the cauldron (another indicator of bad intentions, as most chemists prefer test tubes, unless they happen to be a Goth). With a nod from their creator, the orbs zoomed off, passing through the wall as if it wasn’t even there.

 

 

With their classes over for the day, the Amis were heading back up to their apartment, but Jehan suddenly grabbed Musichetta’s wrist and pulled her away from the rest of the group. “Uh, Chetta?” they whispered. “Can I…uh…talk to you for a second?”

Musichetta looked a little uncertain, but then she noticed the puppy-dog look in Jehan’s eyes. It was the same look that Marius got when he looked at Cosette, the same look that Courfeyrac directed at Combeferre when he thought he wasn’t looking, the same look that Enjolras and Grantaire got when they made eye-contact with each other. It was the look of someone hopelessly in love, so she nodded. “Sure. I’m guessing this is about Feuilly?”

Jehan’s cheeks coloured rapidly. “Uh, yeah. How… how did you know?” Suddenly, their eyes widened in an entirely different expression - one of great excitement. “Oh. My. Dragon. Are you psychic? Does being Faery of Waves come with, like, psychic moon powers? From the tide or something? Because that would be the coolest!”

Musichetta was the one who blushed now, although her dark skin hid it better than Jehan’s olive complexion had. “No… sorry. I saw you write his name on your notebook.”

Jehan nodded, a little disappointedly. “Well, I guess that makes this easier. I was going to ask if you could help me. I just… I so wish I could talk to him.”

This seemed to be a problem that could solve itself very easily. “Well, why can’t you? There’s no reason someone can’t tell someone else if they like them.”

“B-but…” Jehan looked terrified. “What if he doesn’t feel the same way about me?!”

“Jehan,” Musichetta giggled. “You won’t know until you ask.”

“Well… yeah.” Jehan was fiddling with the lacy cuff of their paisley-print shirt. “But I was…hoping you could maybe find out how he feels about me for me.”

Musichetta gave them an incredulous look. “How am I supposed to do that?!”

“Maybe Roselyne knows how?” Jehan suggested. “She always knows everybody’s secrets.”

“She’s your bonded Piskie,” Musichetta pointed out, but Jehan’s eyes widened to the puppy-dog look again, and their lower lip began to tremble.

“Please, Chetta? I can’t do this myself!”

“Fine,” Musichetta sighed. “I’ll see what I can do.” Anything to stop Jehan from looking so miserable. They had the kind of fragile look that made you want to protect them, even though Musichetta was pretty sure they were anything but fragile.

Jehan through their arms around Musichetta in delight. “Oh, thank you, thank you!” The strength of their hug supported the evidence that Jehan was less frail than they looked.

“No…problem… ack… Jehan, you’re…crushing… me…

 

 

Cosette decided not to go back to the apartment; she instead headed to the library, intending to do some research into the healing powers she had used on Marius. The ‘Healing’ section of the library was one of the largest sections, with two whole aisles, so it didn’t look like it would be an easy search. Cosette suspected her powers had something to do with her Dragon Flame’s properties, so it made sense to start in the ‘Ancient Healing’ section. The books there, however, looked like they hadn’t been checked out in ages.

“Nope… no good… uh-uh…” she muttered as she perused the shelves. “Huh… maybe the other shelf…” She turned to examine the shelf opposite, but at that moment there was a heavy thud behind her, and she spun around to find the source.

A heavy leather-bound manual had fallen off the top shelf. If she’d moved a second later, it would have concussed her. Cosette bent down to examine the cover, and to her delight, it was exactly what she was looking for. “The Moste Anciente & Reveréd Spelles Of Healinge & Fiyre.” Maybe not quite up-to-date, but it seemed an excellent place to start - the Dragon Fire was an ancient power, after all. “Perfect!” And with that, she picked the book up and headed to a table. She didn’t notice a set of eyes watching her from the shadows between the ‘Magical Surgery’ and ‘Fae Healthcare’ sections.

 

 

The Piskies had set up a little sports court in the courtyard of Musain, and were playing a game that seemed to be a combination of hockey, rugby, roller-derby, and an obstacle course, known as Glow-Ball. At that moment, Roselyne, in red body armour with a white helmet, was in possession of the glowing yellow ball, and was skating down a path towards a little hedge with Simone (wearing blue) in hot pursuit.

“And look at her go, Folks, she is unstoppable!” she was commentating on her own movements. “Unbeatable- GAAAH!” She had tripped over the hedge into a shallow puddle behind it, and lost her grip on the ball. Abby - on the blue team - had easily caught it, and was now heading back down the way Roselyne had come towards the red team’s goal.

“Come on, Simone, I’ve got it!”

Juliette paused to pull Roselyne out of the puddle. “Are you alright, Roselyne?”

“I’m fine!” Roselyne snapped impatiently, wringing out one of her gloves. “Just go after them!” Juliette nodded and skated after the blues, who were rapidly approaching the hedge labyrinth that led to the circular, dish-like goal. Roselyne got back on her feet and was just rebalancing herself on her skates when she noticed something was amiss: nine floating green balls of light were hovering over the court. “What are- OH!” One of the balls of light hit her squarely in the forehead before vanishing, and she dizzily fell to the ground, unconscious.

Simone and Abby had entered the hedge labyrinth, and Simone had chosen their path. “The goal is this way, I think.”

“You’re sure or you think?” Abby said suspiciously. While Simone was excellent with puzzles that involved a lot of rapid changes, her sense of direction was not always to be trusted.

“I’m sure - I think.”

“I think they went this way, Arietta!” Juliette was saying nearby, skating down the path the blue team had chosen. “Come on, we can still catch them!”

Manon was refereeing rather than playing, both to make the numbers even and to avoid dirtying her clothes, so she was an easy target for the next ball of light, which hit her between the shoulder blades. Like Roselyne, she gave a little “Oh!” before she collapsed.

Simone and Abby had entered a tunnel, but Juliette was quickly catching up to them, and they could see the goal at the other end, with the goalie nowhere in sight. “Quick!” Simone hissed, looking back at Juliette. “She’s gaining on us!” She glanced back again, and breathed a sigh of relief when she couldn’t see Juliette anymore. “Come on, the goal is right up ahead!” She hadn’t seen Juliette being hit in the back by another ball of light, or noticed her collapsing a second later.

Exiting the tunnel, Abby threw the ball towards the goal and it neatly landed right in the middle - but then, to their surprise, it bounced right back out! The two Piskies approached the goal slowly, and found the goalie curled up inside it, fast asleep and snoring softly.

“Lise!” Abby groaned, and the baby sat up.

“Tutti?”

Simone burst out laughing, while Abby rolled her eyes. “The rules explicitly state that you’re not supposed to sleep in the goal!”

Simone stopped laughing and glanced back into the tunnel. “Hey…” she said uncertainly. “Where is everybody?”

Her question was answered a second later, when three glowing green orbs burst out of the tunnel and hovered menacingly in front of them. Abby’s jaw dropped, and Lise’s eyes widened, but Simone quickly announced her plan:

“RUUUUUUUUUN!”

All three Piskies skated away from the globes as quickly as they could, but to no avail - the spell was cast with the intention of capturing fast-moving quarry, and all three were hit by the balls of light, collapsing in a heap only a few feet from the goal.

 

 

As night fell over Musain, Cosette left the library and took her book back to her room. Jehan was already asleep, so she put on the little study lamp on her desk and sat down to read some more, making careful notes in a paper pad. Finally finding a spell that sounded right, she examined the instructions very carefully before turning to her victim: a crop of Bamboozle that Jehan had acquired over the summer, sitting in a little terracotta planter between their desks. The spell seemed simple enough, so she focused and pointed at the plant, murmuring the incantation under her breath. “Illorus Tyriatus!” The plant withered and died, and she groaned. “Fuck. Jehan’s going to kill me.”

The door swung open, letting light flood into the room, and Cosette thought that if Jehan’s groan was of any indication, they would probably be killing Enjolras before her. The redhead pulled a pillow over their face, and Enjolras hurried quietly over to Cosette’s desk.

“Hey, Cosette?” he asked, sounding worried. “You wouldn’t have happened to see Simone anywhere, would you?”

Cosette shook her head. “Come to think of it, Musichetta couldn’t find Lise or Roselyne anywhere earlier, either.”

Enjolras began nibbling at one of his fingernails. “They were going to play Glow Ball earlier, but that was hours ago. None of the Piskies are back, it seems.”

Cosette shut her book and stood up. “We’d better go look for them, then.”

It didn’t take much effort to awaken Jehan, nor to track down Musichetta, Éponine and Courfeyrac, and the six Faeries pulled on coats over their pyjamas and headed out to the grounds, armed with torches.

“I really hope they’re not in trouble,” Enjolras said nervously, and Cosette squeezed his hand.

“We’re going to find them, Enj. I promise.”

 

 

Juliette woke up a few hours after the green glowy thing had hit her. Her head was spinning, and she could only focus on one thought, ringing in her ears.

I must get back to Piskie Village.

 

 

Gazing into his viewing portal, Lord Méchant grinned as the spell began to take effect. “Yesss… verrry good.”

 

 

Juliette could see the same emotions reflected in Abby, Lise and Simone’s eyes, and the four of them got up and began to look for their fellow Piskies. They found Arietta in the labyrinth, Charlie lying next to a little hurdle, Lottie inside the blue team’s goal, and Roselyne next to the puddle she’d fallen into earlier. Finally, Manon was located next to her umpire’s chair, and the nine Piskies snapped their fingers, making their sports gear vanish. They flew into the air as one, and headed straight for Musain’s front gates.

We must return to Piskie Village!

Enjolras caught sight of the front gates opening, and the six Amis hurried towards them, Éponine listening intently. Finally she nodded.

“I can hear their wingbeats. They’re going this way.”

Musichetta’s eyes narrowed. “We need to follow them.”

 

 

At Corinthe, Combeferre was typing away at his computer screen, glaring at the ‘Not Online’ message that kept flashing up in front of him. “I don’t believe this,” he sighed eventually, pushing his spinning chair away from the computer and sliding it across the floor. “Courf’s not online. He promised we’d videochat tonight, but he’s either forgotten, or he’s ignoring my calls.”

Grantaire gave him an upside down look of sympathy from where he was hanging off the sofa. “Ferre, Faeries are complicated. One day they like you and the next day they don’t. And sometimes they’ll pretend not to like you so that you’ll like them even more. The sooner you accept that, the happier you’ll be, trust me, dude.”

Combeferre slid out of his chair onto the floor. “Maybe he’s disappointed in me,” he murmured. “Maybe Cosette told him about what happened with Patron-Minette.”

Grantaire shook his head. “She’s not the gossipy type. And I think her memory of the whole fiasco is completely taken up by, y’know, Marius nearly dying.” He did a backwards roll off the couch and got to his feet. “Well, I’m going to bed. ‘Night, mate.”

“Goodnight,” Combeferre murmured, before continuing to stare unhappily at his computer screen. Why can’t I understand you, Courfeyrac?

 

 

It was easy for the Amis to catch up to the Piskies in their zombie-like state, and it was even easier to drag them back through the gates and sit them down for a firm talking-to.

“We were worried sick about you!” Enjolras informed them. “Why didn’t you come back when the game ended?”

Simone gave him a blank look. “We must get back to Piskie Village,” she informed him in a monotone.

“What?” Cosette spluttered. “Are you mad? You know that Lord Méchant will follow you, and you know that he must never, ever find out where the Village is!”

Musichetta placed a hand on her shoulder. “Cosette, wait,” she said softly, before turning to the Piskies. “Why do you want to go home so badly?”

“Because…” Simone muttered, and Abby nodded.

“Just because!”

Courfeyrac gave her a stern look. “‘Because’ isn’t a logical answer. This isn’t like you at all, Abby!”

Enjolras nodded in agreement. “Simone, stop this nonsense immediately and let’s go back inside!”

Simone shook her head. “No! We’re homesick, we wanna go!”

Roselyne backed away slowly. “Piskies… SCATTER!” she yelled. The Piskies immediately shot up into the air, zooming off through the trees, and Jehan’s jaw dropped.

“They’re making a run for it!”

“Then we’re just going to have to go after them,” Cosette said firmly. “Transform!”

In their Faery forms now, the Amis each zoomed after one or more of the Piskies. Jehan shouted “Earth Cage!” and flung green sparks after Roselyne, trapping her in a net of vines. They fluttered up to her and gave her an apologetic look. “I’m really sorry about this, Roselyne.”

Enjolras, meanwhile, was speeding after Simone and slaloming between pinetrees. The forest was so dark at this point that even he had trouble seeing, and he flung a ball of golden light after her to light his way. He easily found her cowering behind a log, and cupped his hands to pick her up. “No more running, OK? I can’t let you go back to the Village.”

Cosette easily trapped Juliette in a golden containment bubble, and then repeated the spell on Arietta, who luckily was without a folded-up message to use as a hoverboard. “Sorry ladies, but I can’t let you out until I know what’s going on with you.”

Musichetta managed to grab Charlie and Lottie in one go. The task was made easier by the fact that Charlie was dragging Lottie through the air, as she was too tired to fly on her own. Meanwhile, Éponine and Courfeyrac were chasing their own Piskies through the forest, feeling increasingly frustrated.

“Éponine!” Courfeyrac called. “Can you use your SONAR to pinpoint their locations?”

Éponine shook her head. “No, there are too many trees here! It would just bounce off them! What about you, can’t you use the ‘net?”

“If Abby goes online, I can, but otherwise I’m as lost as you are!”

Ahead of them, Manon and Abby paused to take a breath, and Manon tutted. “It’s simply not right for a Piskie to be away from home for so long,” she announced. “We must hurry!”

Abby tapped the little screen set into her bracelet with a nod. “I’ll try to find us a faster route, then.” The screen projected a little map of the forest, and she pointed to their location in the bottom right corner of the map. “We’re over here.”

Unfortunately for Abby’s plan, that was exactly the opening Courfeyrac had been waiting for. With a location now available, he and Éponine changed course, heading directly for the two Piskies, and managed to grab them right out of the air with cries of “Gotcha!”

Courfeyrac hurriedly snapped his fingers with a mutter of “Firewall!” and a grid of green magic wrapped around Abby, preventing her from escaping. “Come on, Abby, I’m not going to hurt you!”

Manon was struggling too, but Éponine held her tightly. “Éponine! This is extremely rude of you!”

Éponine made a pained face at having to upset her bonded Piskie. “I’m sorry, Manon! I just want to help!” She turned to Courfeyrac. “We need to get them to Headmaster Myriel.”

“Agreed.”

They returned to their friends, and Musichetta hurried to conjure a large Morphix pet carrier to hold the Piskies. Once all of the caught Piskies were inside, Enjolras bent down to take a headcount, ignoring Roselyne’s enraged screams to let them go. “Hang on,” he said worriedly, straightening up. “Where’s Lise?!”

Musichetta grinned and pointed behind him. “She’s over there, don’t worry.” The Amis turned to see the baby Piskie curled up on the ground, fast asleep. “She flew about ten feet and had to stop to take a nap.”

Everyone burst out laughing - except Lord Méchant, still watching through his viewing portal. He grit his teeth in a snarl. “Laugh while you still can, Faeries. Soon it will be nothing but tears for you!”

 

 

Myriel was relieved that the Amis had managed to capture all nine Piskies, and hurried to move them to “an undisclosed safe location where no one would dare go” (read: Javert’s office). When he returned, Jehan shot up out of their seat to ask the all-important question:

“What’s wrong with them, sir?!”

“They are under the influence of a Homesickness Spell,” Myriel explained with a frown. “It compels them to return to their Village. Frankly, I believe Lord Méchant is behind this.”

Courfeyrac clenched his knuckles on the back of Jehan’s chair. “Headmaster, you’ve been keeping something from us about Méchant and what he wants from the Piskies.”

“And what about Corinthe?” Cosette added. “Does this have something to do with what Patron-Minette stole? Marius says that Lamarque won’t tell anyone what it was.”

“To put it simply, what’s going on?” Enjolras finished.

Myriel seemed to be having some sort of inner battle with himself, but eventually he nodded and got to his feet, pacing over to the window and gazing intently at the scarlet velvet curtains that covered it, as if to distance himself from the information he was about to disclose. “Lord Méchant is after the four quadrants of something called the ‘Codex’,” he said quietly.

“Is that some sort of magical artefact?” Cosette asked, but Myriel shook his head.

“Not quite, but it will be a disaster for the Universe if he gets hold of all four pieces.”

“So he has the piece from Corinthe,” Éponine realised.

“And another piece is being kept at Piskie Village,” Musichetta finished for her, verbally connecting all the dots.

“And what about the other two pieces?” Enjolras asked - although he had a sneaking suspicion about the general locations.

He was proved correct. “Votirlu and Musain,” Myriel said solemnly. “And now that you know, I hope you realise how vigilant we must all remain.”

“First things first,” Jehan said. “We’ve got to help the Piskies!”

Courfeyrac made a worried face. “But how?”

Myriel turned his gaze to Cosette. “Cosette, don’t you think this is an excellent opportunity for you to test your new healing powers?” he smiled.

Cosette grinned. “Absolutely, sir. I’ll give it my best shot.”

 

 

As the clock struck 10 that night, a pair of bright green boots with silver heels lightly touched down on one of the balconies of the Corinthe dorms, and the owner peered through the window before picking the lock and slipping into the room, knowing that this was the right one. The things I do to make new friends, the owner of the boots - Musichetta, of course - thought to herself as she glanced around the simple dorm, looking for any possible sign that its occupant - Feuilly - harboured romantic feelings of any kind for Jehan. An open sketchpad on the desk caught her eye, and she hurried over to examine it.

Feuilly was apparently a sketch artist as well as an origami-maker. His drawings all had the same delicate, dainty quality to them as the bird he’d given Jehan, and were quite lovely to look at.The page it was opened at showed an intricate drawing done in green ink, of a face with ethereal features: a button nose and delicate mouth, round cheeks that she could easily imagine flushing pink, a surrounding sea of wavy hair held in place with a floral hairclip, and huge dark eyes that were seemingly full of a quiet yet loving personality…

Musichetta was admiring how intimate the drawing seemed to be, and was puzzling over the familiarity of the features, when the handle of the bathroom door clicked. She zoomed out of the room and hid on the balcony, peeking through the glass door at whoever had emerged. It was indeed Feuilly, and he sat down at the desk with the sketchpad on it, gazing at the drawing as if trying to commit it to memory. The red-haired Faery hurriedly fluttered away, heading back to Musain, before she could be caught.

 

 

“Okay,” Cosette said to herself, examining the Healing Book she’d borrowed from the library. “This purification spell sounds about right.” She got to her feet and held her right hand out, making a circle with her thumb and pointer finger. She’d decided to try it out on the wilted Bamboozle tree before using it on the Piskies, just to make sure it worked alright. “Sluundis Strierbus!” she spoke the incantation and sent a beam of yellow light at the plant.

The spell did not work as intended, unfortunately. Instead of purifying the target (and hopefully removing any traces of last night’s failed healing spell), it instead caused the plant to come to life with a ghastly snarl. The two large leaves at the top of its stalk split along the edges and curved towards each other like a mouth full of teeth - which were snapping at her with a terrifying fierceness.

“Oh shit.”

The plant made a move towards her, and Cosette acted quickly, snatching up the book and swinging it into the plant’s ‘face’. The plant retreated, the leaves returning to normal, and Cosette glared down at the book she was still holding. “I’m starting to think it’s not just me,” she murmured. “What the hell is wrong with this book?” She resolved to go and talk to Headmaster Myriel about it.

 

 

In the forest next to Musain, eight glowing eyes peeked out from between the trees - not tracking anything; just waiting. Their owners knew they had to wait for the exact right moment for their attack to be truly effective.

 

 

“Come on, Lise, sweetie, stop crying!” Roselyne was imploring the baby Piskie. They were still in the pet carrier, but Lise had woken up, and was not happy to find herself in an enclosed space away from Piskie Village - it reminded them all a bit of being trapped in the energy cage in Shadowhaunt.

“This is terrible!” Manon whimpered. “Poor Lise is homesick, perhaps even more so than the rest of us!”

“We’ve got to get her back to the Village,” Simone agreed, but suddenly she fell silent, her eyes widening in fear. “Someone’s coming!”

Indeed, the door of Javert’s room had swung open, and footsteps were approaching the carrier. Charlie peeked out at their visitor, but retreated in a hurry - the intruder wore black robes and had no visible features - except shining white teeth and glowing red eyes.

“Who is it?” Juliette asked in a whisper, but Charlie shook his head in terror. He’d seen those eyes before, and those teeth were unmistakable. He felt frozen with fear.

The figure approached the cage slowly, grinning maniacally. It was time.

 

 

Cosette knocked on Headmaster Myriel’s office door, entering at his call of “Come in!” He smiled pleasantly when he saw her. “Ah, Cosette. How may I help you?”

“Hello sir,” Cosette smiled. She was clutching the book in her arms. “I’ve been practicing my healing spells, but nothing seems to be working.”

“I see,” Myriel frowned. “And this is the book you’ve been using?”

“Yes, sir.” Cosette handed him the book, and he examined it carefully, humming a little in concentration. Suddenly he frowned.

“Cosette, where did you get this book?”

“The library, sir.”

Myriel reached into the neck of his robes, pulling out a little lilac bottle on a necklace, and uncorking it with a snap of his fingers. He upended it over the cover of the book, sprinkling pale blue dust over it, and to Cosette’s surprise, the title carved into the aged leather warped and changed, becoming ancient runic symbols. Myriel examined them again, and his expression changed to one akin to horror.

“This is not from our collection, Cosette. This is a dark book, containing some of the most potent Black Magic known to us. It’s not quite on a level with The Book Of The Beast - that is, the tome containing the spells used to call forth the Army of Darkness - but it’s near to it; it contains magic so dark that it is not even discussed at Votirlu. I fear someone planted it as a trick or a trap. We’re lucky nothing serious happened.” He got to his feet and headed towards his own personal bookshelf. Cosette’s attention was drawn to a book bound in a pale pink material that seemed to be glittering with the purest of magic, but Myriel instead selected one bound in warm red leather. “Here; try this one.”

“Thank you, Headmaster,” Cosette smiled, taking the book. She turned to leave the room, but Myriel spoke again.

“Also, Cosette, go and check on the Piskies. They are in Javert’s office. Remember, they cannot be allowed to return to Piskie Village. Lord Méchant will follow them, and we cannot allow the Codex to fall into his hands.”

 

 

A gloved hand touched the roof of the pet carrier, and the Piskies all went still - they weren’t paralysed; they were merely frozen with fear. Yellow light flashed - and suddenly, the figure was retreating. They left the room, closing the door behind them, and as they did so, the door of the carrier swung open.

He’d set them free.

Roselyne peered out nervously, but found nothing waiting to attack them. “I think they helped us,” she whispered. “Come on; we need to get back to the Village before we’re caught again.”

The Piskies filed out of the carrier, and headed for the window, which Simone unlocked with a snap of her fingers. All nine Piskies zoomed over the courtyard and into the woods without a single glance back; home was but a flight away.

 

 

Lord Méchant grinned into his viewing portal; things were going simply swimmingly, and his spies were waiting in the woods to follow the Piskies. “Flutter on home, little Piskies,” he crooned, before banishing the portal. He closed his eyes, focusing on where his monsters had been posted, and in front of them, a tree warped and allowed him to push his face through the bark. “Minions!” he hissed. “It is time. Follow your quarry - but do not catch it. It is imperative that they do not see you until you have seen the Village!”

 

 

Musichetta landed in the courtyard exactly two minutes after the Piskies made it into the forest. She’d barely had time to get her breath back when someone collided with her.

“OOF!”

She landed on her butt and looked up at her assailant: Éponine.

“Sorry, Chetta! Are you alright?”

“Yes, I’m fine. What’s the rush, Ponine?”

Éponine’s narrow eyes were swimming with worry - at least, the visible one was. “It’s the Piskies, they’ve escaped! Someone set them free.”

“How?!” Musichetta gasped. “My Morphix is immune to magic - except for super dark magic. And no one in Musain uses dark magic!”

The other Amis appeared behind Éponine, and Enjolras narrowed his eyes at her. “So, uh, Musichetta, where have you been? And how come you’re transformed?”

“There’s no time to talk about that,” Musichetta said firmly. “We need to find the Piskies!” At that moment, she noticed that someone was missing. “Where’s Cosette?”

“Still trying to find a way to reverse the Homesickness Spell,” Courfeyrac informed her. “But you’re right; we gotta move!”

 

 

“Hurry, they’ll be following us!” Roselyne whispered. The nine Piskies were zooming through the forest, unknowingly being silently stalked by Méchant’s monsters. Their progress was impeded by Lise’s most recent burst of exhaustion, which required her to be carried by Manon and Abby. Lottie was still awake, but still held tight to Charlie’s hand - Lise tired quicker, being the Piskie of Sweet Dreams, but Lottie was still a baby.

“We’re going as fast as we can, Roselyne!” Manon panted. “But Lise is heavy!”

“Simone and I can carry her for a while,” Juliette offered, and Abby nodded with relief. They landed on the ground, and Abby and Manon passed over their exhausted charge to the other two before everyone took off again. However, the brief break, barely ten seconds, had still been enough time for the monsters to catch up a little. When the Piskies took off again, they were barely 15 feet away.

 

 

“Are you sure we’re going the right way, Jehan?” Éponine questioned, possibly recalling the incident in their first year when Jehan had accidentally led them into a bog full of sulphur during a survival class.

Jehan nodded. “Definitely. Trees have a better memory than anything. They know exactly which way the Piskies went.”

“While you’re at it, Jehan, could you ask the trees to stop tangling their branches in my hair?” Enjolras groaned, yanking his blond curls away from where they’d wrapped around a low-hanging pinecone.

 

 

Cosette flicked through the book Myriel had given her, wishing she could pause to read all of it, but there was no time at the moment. She had to tear her eyes away from a chapter detailing the complexities of healing one’s own mind (she was definitely marking it for later) and remind herself that the Universe depended on her finding the right spell, before she finally found something useful - a spell for curing longing and homesickness curses. “Booyah!”

Unfortunately there was no time to try it out. Cosette transformed and ran to the balcony, leaping up into the air and fluttering towards the forest.

 

 

The woods were filled with late-night mist from Lake Roccaluce, making it increasingly hard to see. Enjolras tried a light spell, but the mist was too thick, so the Amis continued following Jehan, who was intently listening to whatever the trees were telling them.

 

 

The Piskies had decided to take a break too, and wait for the mist to clear before continuing. Lise awoke briefly as they landed, but almost instantly went back to sleep, not noticing the sound of a twig breaking about twenty feet away.

All the other Piskies stood stock-still, listening intently. “What was that?” Abby whispered, and Roselyne shrugged.

“I don’t know!”

“I knew it!” Juliette whimpered. “We’re going to be gobbled up by horrible monsters!”

“No, you’re not,” someone said firmly above them.

The Piskies looked up, and saw Éponine frowning sternly down at them. Next to her stood Musichetta, Jehan, Courfeyrac and Enjolras, all wearing an expression that said ‘you are in big trouble’.

“You’re coming back with us,” Enjolras informed them.

“Leave us ALONE!” Arietta shrieked, and Musichetta shook her head.

“Don’t make me do this again,” she said, raising her hands. She was about to create another Morphix pet carrier, but a roar from behind them startled her.

The monsters had realised that their quarry was about to be taken from them, and had leaped out of the shadows towards the group. One was one of the spiky lizard things with dull green skin, and the other was vast and purple, looking like a rhino with six eyes and no horn, with bulbous swellings protruding from its sides over its many legs.

“I knew it!” Juliette screamed. “We are going to be gobbled up after all!”

“Not a chance!” Courfeyrac said firmly. “TRANSFORM!”

In a flash, the five Faeries were in their Faery forms, and fluttered into the air. Enjolras swung his sceptre back, and used it to blast light at the spiky lizard, which was forced to leap out of the way to avoid being completely annihilated. With a snarl, it arched its back and flung some of its spines at him, and he was forced to duck out of the way. The spines hit the tree behind him, snapping the thick trunk like it was a tiny dry twig.

Enjolras whimpered as the creature began approaching him again; he didn’t have time to move as it was nearly upon him. Courfeyrac hurriedly blasted green light at the beast, sending it skidding back 20 feet, before he offered Enjolras a hand up. The monster hit another tree, landing on its back and baring its apparently vulnerable underbelly, and Jehan acted quickly. “Roots, bind the monster!”

With a flash of pink light, the tree’s roots sprung up and tied the monster to the tree trunk, and Enjolras cracked his knuckles with a grin. “Now I’ve got a clear target!” This time, his aim was perfect, and the monster was reduced to ashes in less than a second.

“Jehan! WATCH OUT!” Éponine screamed. Jehan turned and let out a shriek before leaping away from the gaping maw of the purple monster. Musichetta dived in front of them, raising her hands, which were filled with pink light.

“Chew on this, you crusty bastard!” she yelled, flinging a ball of light into its open mouth. The ball exploded the second the beast chomped down on it, blowing off most of its head and sending what seemed to be shadow-sludge everywhere. The smoke from the explosion cleared, and Musichetta’s jaw dropped - another mouth had opened up on its neck. “It’s got two mouths!”

“More like twenty!” Éponine shrieked - mouths were opening all down the creature’s back, as well as on the bulbous protrusions over its legs, all of them filled with hook-like teeth.

 

 

Cosette zoomed through the forest with a ball of pure fire in one hand to light her way, searching desperately for her friends and praying that she wasn’t too late.

 

 

Roselyne turned to her fellow Piskies. “Come on,” she whispered. “Let’s go while they’re distracted fighting the monsters!”

Manon looked desperately unhappy. “We should not abandon our bonded Faeries at a time like this… but we must get back to Piskie Village!” The others all nodded in agreement, and together they took flight again.

 

 

Lord Méchant grinned into his viewing portal. “Aah, that’s more like it,” he hummed. “Just a little further…”

 

 

Courfeyrac fluttered away from the creature’s back, yanking his knees up to his chest and barely missing being caught between two snapping jaws. “OK, I think I have an idea how to defeat this thing,” he panted. “Éponine, can you bounce the monster up into a tree?”

“I’ll try,” Éponine replied. She landed on the ground a cautious 10 feet away from the beast, and stomped her foot, releasing a high-frequency pulse that made the ground warp. The monster was thrown into the air by the wave, landing back on the ground about 12 feet away from its original position. Éponine stomped again, throwing it back into the air, and Jehan grinned.

“I’ll tie him up,” they smirked. “Magic Vines!” As the monster hit the top of its arc and began coming back down, several enchanted vines appeared and caught it like a fish in a net.

Enjolras fluttered into the air and summoned a powerful blast of sunlight, hitting the creature dead on. The air filled with acrid smoke, and Enjolras realised what was going to happen seconds before it did. “Oh crap, not again -”

Shadow-sludge exploded everywhere, drenching all five Faeries and knocking them to the ground. Enjolras shuddered. “I hate this part.”

Jehan wiped some of the sludge out of their eyes and looked around, worry reappearing on their face. “Shit! The Piskies are gone again!”

“And our wings are soaked and sticky,” Éponine groaned. “We can’t go after them!”

Something crashed into a tree a little way away, and the Amis all jumped at the sound. “What was that?” Musichetta asked uneasily.

“Whatever it is, it’s getting closer,” Courfeyrac whimpered.

 

 

The Piskies had stopped in a clearing, and Méchant squinted into his viewing portal, literally on the edge of his seat. “Yesss!” he hissed. “Show me the way to Piskie Village, to the Codex, and to your doom!”

 

 

A pair of blue shoes touched down on the sludgey ground, and the Amis all gasped with relief. “Cosette!”

Cosette tried to catch her breath. “I got here as fast as I could,” she panted. “Man, speed-flying really takes it out of you.”

“Did you find a counter spell?” Enjolras asked urgently. Cosette nodded, and Courfeyrac conjured a tiny radio mic which he handed to her.

“Take this and go after them!”

Cosette clipped the mic onto her collar, straightening up before pressing the ‘on’ button. Jehan closed their eyes, listening intently.

“The trees say the Piskies are almost home,” they informed her, pointing the way their friends had gone. “You need to hurry; we’ll direct you from here.”

Cosette took off, speeding through the air after the Piskies.

 

 

“Show me the secret path!” Méchant urged the Piskies. “Quickly, quickly!”

 

 

“Jehan, what direction do I take?”

“Keep going forward. They’re straight ahead!”

Cosette beat her wings as fast as she could, and soon enough she could see the clearing where the Piskies stood. “There they are! I see them!” She raised her hands. I sure hope I’m pronouncing this right! “Etheenis Feliniate!”

The clearing filled with golden light, and Cosette landed, sinking down to her knees. As the light cleared, she grinned. It worked!

The Piskies all looked thoroughly confused. “What… what are we doing here?” Roselyne murmured.

Manon took charge. “We must get back to our bonded Piskies and lend them a hand,” she decided. “Come on, everyone up and away from this place.”

 

 

As the sun began to rise over Magix, Lord Méchant clenched his hand into a fist and brought it down on the arm of his chair in anger. “NO!” he stormed. “I was so close!”

 

 

While all of the Piskies and most of the Faeries headed back to the school to get some well-deserved sleep, Musichetta and Jehan decided to lie down on the bank of Lake Roccaluce, and Musichetta told Jehan all about the drawing she’d seen in Feuilly’s room.

“And you’re sure it was of me?” Jehan asked, their eyes wide and hopeful.

Musichetta nodded. “He captured your eyes perfectly. There was so much feeling visible, even in just a drawing. And I know no one makes that much effort with a sketch unless the subject is really important to them.” She rolled onto her stomach. “I reckon you should send him a message and tell him how you feel.”

Jehan looked thoughtful. “I’m not sure I’m ready to be that upfront about it. But I think I will send him a little something…”

 

 

That afternoon, Feuilly was sat in his room, carefully folding an origami crane in the early October sunshine, when something cast a shadow across the floor from outside. He hurriedly got up and opened the balcony doors, grinning with delight upon the realisation that a pot of beautiful white tulips had appeared there. Bending down, he found a note attached to one of the stems, a haiku written in neat calligraphy.

Feuilly read it aloud, flushing pink:

“Your eyes are honey
The opposite of darkness
Artist’s hands, sunlight.”

As he glanced up, cheeks magenta with pleasure, he thought he could see a flash of pink and orange growing smaller in the distance, but maybe his eyes were mistaken.

 

 

Lord Méchant paced his throne room in anger, occasionally pausing to send another wave of earthquakes through Downland. You might have won that battle, Faeries, but the next one will not be so easy. I WILL find the Codex and I WILL gain the Ultimate Power!

Chapter Text

“This year we will be studying Applied Magical Convergence,” Professor Fauchelevent was saying. To his surprise, the entire class sat up perfectly straight and listened intently, even in spite of it being four days before the start of the October Holiday. “The purpose of this class is to enable you to improve the effectiveness and potency of your spells. This is a very difficult topic, and it will require a lot of hard work.”

Cosette put her hand up eagerly, and he nodded at her. “Sir, what is ‘Magical Convergence’?”

Professor Fauchelevent smiled. “Convergence is when two or more Faeries intentionally combine their powers to create ultra-powerful spells. Yes, Enjolras?”

Enjolras was practically on the edge of his seat with excitement. “How does it work?”

“There are several different components,” Fauchelevent replied. He grabbed a marker and began a list on the board. “1) Superior spell-casting skills are absolutely essential. 2) You must understand your own magic and its abilities to an extremely high level.”

Kimmy put her hand up and Fauchelevent nodded at her. “Why is that, sir?”

“Because it is simple enough to make mistakes when casting a spell alone,” Fauchelevent explained. “The risk of a mistake increases along with the number of Faeries casting the spell. There is no room for error; especially considering the volatility of some powers on their own.”

“So you could say that a Convergence spell almost takes on a life of its own?” Jehan asked.

Fauchelevent nodded. “In a way, yes.”

“So you’re saying that all of us could combine our powers to create a super spell?” Enjolras said excitedly. When Fauchelevent nodded, he practically wiggled around in his seat with excitement. “A super-Amis spell!” he squeaked. “How cool would that be?!” Cosette, Courfeyrac, Éponine and Jehan all nodded in agreement; Musichetta looked unsure of whether or not she was included in this.

“Alright, settle down,” Fauchelevent smiled. “For your first assignment you will be working in pairs, combining your powers to open one of these boxes…” He began to explain the assignment, not noticing how Musichetta was quietly sinking down in her seat, almost as though she was trying to turn invisible.

 

 

At Corinthe, a boy named Petit-Gervais gazed at the photo collage he’d set up on the pinboard in his room. They all showed pictures of the same girl, some with her friends and some alone. She had dark hair tied back in two buns, and a long fringe that covered one of her eyes. In most of the photos, she wore some combination of cargo shorts, boots, and a crop top, though in a few she had dressed a little fancier. Petit-Gervais selected one of the photos and pulled it down, kissing it for good luck before tucking it into his backpack. He’d been lucky enough to have been set a paper that required him to go to Musain for research, and hopefully she’d be there. He hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her since she’d smiled and winked at him at the Corinthe renewal ceremony, but hopefully today would be the day he worked up the courage to say something.

Today would be the day he would finally talk to Éponine Thénardier.

 

 

Enjolras arrived at the grove behind the school and flung himself down on a bench. The other Amis were lounging around it, Musichetta and Éponine leaning against trees, and Cosette, Jehan and Courfeyrac lay on the grass, propped up on their elbows.

“I just checked on the Piskies,” Enjolras announced cheerfully. “Professor Palladium is making sure that the homesickness spell is completely gone; he recommended a few days of bed-rest to ensure they’re totally healthy.”

“That’s good,” Éponine smiled, pushing off the tree trunk. She strolled over to Musichetta. “How’s about we get a headstart on our homework before going to visit them?”

Musichetta looked a little worried. “About that… I hope you don’t mind that Professor Fauchelevent paired you up with me, Éponine.”

Éponine looked thoroughly confused. “Why should I mind?”

Musichetta stared down at her shoes. “It’s just… I’m new here, and everyone else is probably way better at magic than I am and-”

“Excuse me?” A voice cut her off, and all of the Faeries turned towards the speaker: a short teenage boy with inky-black hair and golden-brown eyes. “Hi, Éponine.”

“Hi…?” Éponine said uncertainly. “Um, not to sound rude or anything, but do I know you?”

The boy blushed. “Oh, right, yeah! Introductions… I’m Petit-Gervais, and I go to Corinthe. I’m, uh, supposed to write a paper on Musain’s Simulator.”

“Right…” Éponine said suspiciously. “And how do you know my name?”

Musichetta grinned a little in spite of herself. “Well, I’ll catch ya later, Éponine. Bye!” She hurried off back into the school. The other Faeries all crowded behind the bench, listening with interest.

“I saw you at the renewal ceremony at Corinthe,” Petit-Gervais explained. “You smiled at me, so I asked about you.”

“Uh… why?”

“I just…” Petit-Gervais had turned a shade of pink hitherto unknown to be possible for a human to produce. “I thought you and your friends looked really… cool.”

Éponine looked a little flattered, but still suspicious; Cosette suspected her upbringing (likely surrounded by some of the most powerful Witches of the age) had made her wary of compliments from strangers, always suspecting that someone might be manipulating her. “Who did you ask?”

“Bahorel,” Petit-Gervais replied, not noticing how the answer made Éponine’s shoulder’s tense like an angry cat. “He said you were really nice and that if I wanted to meet one of the Amis -” Éponine huffed angrily and stalked off, ignoring him. “…it should be you.” Petit-Gervais looked thoroughly disappointed, but wasted no time in hopping onto his hover-bike and zooming after her. He pulled to a halt in front of Éponine, who looked utterly bemused.

“I’m sorry,” Petit-Gervais apologised, and he looked it. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Éponine untensed a little. “No, I should be the one apologising,” she sighed. “I’m not angry at you; I’m just kinda mad at… someone else.”

Petit-Gervais offered her a hand. “Wanna talk about it?” he offered. “We could go for a ride, and you could get it off your chest…”

“I dunno…”

“I also need to interview someone who has used the Simulator,” he added. “You could tell me about your experience in it? Please?”

Éponine hesitated, but eventually nodded. “Alright.” Petit-Gervais grinned and helped her onto the bike, and they took off, zooming through the forest. It only took a few minutes to reach the beach, and Éponine and Petit-Gervais climbed down and sat on the shore, and Éponine began telling him about the last time she’d used the Simulator while he took notes.

“Time was almost up, so I launched a Sonic Bomb and blasted the lock open,” she finished, grinning. “You know, the Simulator is a great place to work off stress. Fauchelevent says that - hang on.” She glanced over his shoulder at his notebook, impressed. “Are you really writing everything down?”

Petit-Gervais nodded, laughing a little. “I’m afraid I might forget something otherwise.”

With the interview over, Petit-Gervais offered her a candy bar. “Do you want to talk about the whole… ‘mad’ thing?” he suggested.

Éponine accepted the candy bar., and took a bite before shrug-nodding. “I guess,” she acquiesced. “You said Bahorel told you to come talk to me… I just kinda found it weird that he said I’m nice. We had a big fight a few days ago.”

“What about?”

“Something dumb,” Éponine sighed. “We were chatting about music we like, and he made some offhand comment about how his ex, Claquesous, hated rock music and got really mad when he took her to a concert on a date and then I made some snarky comment about how she got arrested and it all kicked off and before we knew it we were just being petty and… ugh.

“His ex got arrested?” Petit-Gervais asked with wide eyes, and Éponine chuckled.

“Where were you during the whole Battle For Magix fiasco last year? He used to go out with one of the Witches who caused the whole thing.”

“In the hospital wing getting stitches down my back for most of it,” Petit-Gervais admitted. Éponine winced apologetically.

“Oof… sorry.” He shrugged and gestured for her to continue, and she sighed. “It’s just… we’ve got this dumb routine going. We talk and things seem to be going great, and then he does something stupid. And then I hate myself for liking him, and then I miss him. And then I see him again, and then he does something stupid.” She tugged her fringe in frustration. “I mean, a routine like that is enough to drive you mad. I wish he would just tell me what he wants from this.” She glanced over at Petit-Gervais, whose expression had become blank. “Is it really so hard to tell a girl if you like her?”

“Sometimes… it really is difficult,” he said quietly, and Éponine patted his shoulder.

“Thanks for listening. And for the candy bar. I’d better be going back; see you later?”

“Yeah… sure…”

Éponine got to her feet and headed through the forest back towards Musain; Petit-Gervais stayed where he was, frowning out at the lake. It didn’t take Éponine long to get back to the apartment, where she was immediately accosted by Cosette and Jehan.

“So…” Jehan cooed. “Who was that guy?”

Éponine shrugged. “Just someone from Corinthe; a guy called Petit-Gervais. He was really nice, a good listener too.”

“So where did you go?” Jehan questioned. “What was it like? What did he say? Where’s he from? What powers does he have? Did you two kiss?”

“What?!” Éponine looked horrified. “It wasn’t a date or anything! It was two people talking about the how the Simulator works, and then a bit of ranting on my end.”

“But do you like him?” Jehan continued excitedly. “Is he cute?”

“No,” Éponine said flatly. “He’s not my type.”

“Aah, of course,” Jehan nodded sagely, not noticing the way her shoulders had tensed up. “Your type is tall, muscly and grumpy… like Bahorel.”

“That’s neither here nor there,” Éponine said angrily. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I want to take a shower before Musichetta and I start our homework.” She stormed into the bathroom, leaving Jehan with their mouth hanging open.

“That was a little uncalled for,” they said, looking unhappy. Cosette sat down on the sofa with a sigh.

“Jehan, you know Éponine isn’t comfortable with sharing her emotions,” she reminded them. “She was brought up to keep everything close to her chest; that probably felt a little too close to being interrogated.”

Jehan made a sad face. “I know; I forgot. I just wanted to hear some good dating news.”

“Well, if it makes you feel better,” Cosette offered, “Marius and I are meeting each others’ families during the October holidays.”

Jehan’s eyes widened excitedly. “Already? You’ve only been on one date.”

Cosette shrugged. “Technically, we’ve been on other dates. We’ve only been on one date as an actual official couple, but we’ve also both nearly died enough times in the last year that it makes up for the lack of official dating.” She giggled a little at her own joke, before getting to her feet and heading over to Enjolras’ room. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, Enj and I need to start our project.”

“What? No! Just when the conversation was getting interesting!”

Cosette blew a raspberry at them and shut the door of Enjolras and Courfeyrac’s room behind her, and Jehan slumped onto the couch, pouting. They brightened up quickly, however, when Courfeyrac entered the apartment, chatting to someone on his phone and blushing, if possible, an even brighter pink than Jehan’s glittery crop top.

“…No, how could you possibly think that…? …Well…OK, then… What? …No, no, I genuinely didn’t hear you… Oh. Oh. Wow. Um…” The blush had spread to his ears, and Jehan strained to hear the other end of the conversation, but no dice. “Yes! Yes, I’d love to! …OK… see you then. Bye. Bye…”

Courfeyrac hung up, and sat down in an armchair, seemingly in a daze and still magenta-cheeked. Jehan clicked their fingers in front of his face, almost squirming with curiosity.

“Hello? Magix to Courfeyrac, Courfeyrac come in. Do you read me? Over.”

Courfeyrac shook himself out of his trance. “Whuh?”

“You’re zoning out on me, buddy. Spill the tea!”

A smile formed at the corners of Courfeyrac’s mouth. “He asked me out,” he said quietly.

“What?”

“He asked me out,” he repeated. “Combeferre asked me out on a date.”

Jehan squealed loudly and tackled Courfeyrac in a massive hug. “GO COURF!”

“Stop that, you’re acting illogically,” Courfeyrac giggled, but hugged them back. “I can’t believe it!”

Jehan pulled away, grinning crazily. “So, when’s the big date?”

“Tuesday of the October Holiday. He’s picking me up at 9am and we’re going to breakfast in Magix City.”

“That’s so awesome!” Jehan said happily, and Courfeyrac nodded.

“Yeah. It really, really is.” He got to his feet and held out a hand. “Come on, let’s go get started on our project now so we don’t have to worry about it during the holiday.”

 

 

Babet peered into the viewing portal Lord Méchant had set up and narrowed his eyes at the happy looks on Jehan and Courfeyrac’s faces. “Our friends look like they’re having fun,” he said coldly.

Gueulemer’s eyes were narrowed. “We need to deal with them now,” he said urgently. “Before they learn any Convergence tricks.”

Lord Méchant Vanished the portal, looking furious under the helmet. “You must NEVER reveal yourselves at Musain! Or do you dare to disobey my orders, you fools?”

Claquesous placed placating hands on her cousins’ shoulders and moved towards their master. She was an expert at convincing people that something they were initially against had actually been their idea. “But still, Master,” she said silkily, “Éponine’s new friend has such potential to be useful to us.”

Lord Méchant’s eyes narrowed in thought. “It is a wicked idea,” he admitted begrudgingly. “Very well, amuse yourselves. But you must not reveal your identities! Have fun…” He vanished with a flash of scarlet light, and Claquesous grinned in satisfaction.

She loved getting her way.

 

 

“And what have you got here?” Professor Fauchelevent asked Jehan and Courfeyrac. The class was a little antsier today, but he insisted on having a look at the beginnings of their convergence projects. Courfeyrac and Jehan had attached a carved wooden hand to Courfeyrac’s PDA with a jumper cable. “How have you combined Nature and Technology to open the box?”

Jehan pointed to the hand. “This hand is made from living wood,” they explained, and Courfeyrac held up the PDA.

“We’re trying to connect it to my operating system to control it. A bit like a robot hand.”

“The leaves do have a language of their own,” Fauchelevent agreed. “Is it working?”

At that moment, the wooden hand caught on fire and the PDA’s screen turned bright blue, answering the question.

“Not really,” Courfeyrac groaned, and Jehan nodded.

“I think Nature and computers might be too different to be compatible,” they sighed.

Fauchelevent put the fire out with a flick of his wrist, and moved on to Éponine and Musichetta. Musichetta was levitating a strand of Morphix a few inches above the table, and when Fauchelevent stood in front of them, Éponine flicked the end of it, sending a soundwave down it.

The resulting spell should have opened the box; unfortunately, it seemed that Éponine had misjudged the intensity of the wave. High frequency buzzing filled the whole room, forcing the majority of the class to clamp their hands over their ears while Fauchelevent raised his eyebrows in wait. The buzzing eventually died down, but the box was still sealed tight.

“I mean, I think the lid moved a little this time,” Éponine comforted Musichetta as Fauchelevent moved to the next table, where Enjolras and Cosette sat slumped together.

“Aah, invisible magic, perhaps?” he teased, but both Faeries looked miserable.

“We can’t do it,” Cosette explained unhappily.

“We don’t even know where to start,” Enjolras added. “Fire and light are already so similar that nothing is noticeable as a Convergence.”

Fauchelevent nodded in understanding. “Before you can Converge your magic, you have to understand it fully,” he reminded them. They both looked confused, so he elaborated. “Find the true essence of your power. In your case, Cosette, it isn’t just fire; it’s actually the Flame of Life.”

Cosette’s eyes widened as she made a connection. “So that’s why I have healing powers,” she realised. “It’s a part of the Flame of Life.”

Enjolras’ unhappy expression had vanished, and his excitement from the previous day had returned. “What about me, sir?”

Fauchelevent smiled. “Light is the expression of your powers of inner vision, sight and clarity,” he explained. “Your power bursts forth to energise and illuminate, so others can understand what is often in front of them.” He stood up and spoke to the class as a whole. “The sentiment stands for all of you. You need to look beyond the superficial appearance of Nature, Music, Luck, Love, etc. - look for a deeper meaning. Next… aah, Amaryl and Meadow, how have you combined Starlight and Trees?”

When he’d finished looking at everyone’s projects, there were only a few minutes left of the class. Fauchelevent returned to his desk and announced the next Convergence project. “Tomorrow we will have a Convergence test in the Simulator,” he announced. Everyone’s jaw dropped; they all looked horrified. Kimmy raised her hand, looking worried.

“But sir, we only started learning about Convergence yesterday!”

“Don’t worry,” the professor said calmly. “This isn’t an official test; it’s more of a practice run. You will be working in bigger groups; two fives and a six. We’ll go by dormitories. The Simulator is free until six, and as this is your last class for the day, you may go in in your groups to practice. Afterwards, you can always come to me for help, but remember, the key to success is within yourselves.” On that note, he left the room, and as the bell rang, the Amis hurried to get to the Simulator first.

Cosette had only been in the Simulator once before, but the concept was simple enough: when you were ready, the operator loaded a pre-programmed environment, which would appear around you, and you would simply complete the task you had been set. The room itself, when it wasn’t in use, was built like a gigantic metal hamster-ball with a walkway that extended to the exact centre of the room, and the Amis all crowded onto it now.

Jehan’s keen eyes had locked onto the window through which whoever was in the operating room would watch them, and they nudged Éponine sharply in the ribs. “Hey, Ponine, check who’s watching us. Reckon he came to see you?” they teased.

Éponine looked up, making eye-contact with a wide-eyed Petit-Gervais, before glaring at Jehan. “Stop that. He’s here to learn about the Simulator; Headmaster Myriel gave him access.”

Cosette hurriedly stepped between them before an argument could start. “Come on, guys, we need to stay on task. It might not count towards whether we pass the class or not, but it’s still a test.”

“Right!” Enjolras agreed. “And the five of us are going to impress everyone when we cast one big-ass mega-spell together tomorrow!”

The five of them.

Musichetta had suspected, but this confirmed it. They didn’t see her as one of them. They probably never would. She was setting herself up for embarrassment with every minute she spent tagging along with them.

She turned tail and ran before they could see the tears of humiliation that had started to well up in her eyes.

Éponine turned her rage towards Enjolras. “The five of us?” she imitated.

Enjolras’ eyes widened in realisation. “Oh fuck. Did I say five? I did, didn’t I? Shit, I wasn’t thinking.”

“When are you ever?” Éponine said nastily. She turned on her heel and dashed out of the room after Musichetta, leaving a mixture of upset (Enjolras), guilty (Jehan), confused (Courfeyrac) and worried (Cosette) expressions behind her.

 

 

Éponine followed Musichetta to the girls’ bathroom on the ground floor. The other girl had locked herself in one of the stalls, but Éponine could hear her quietly sobbing. She herself didn’t feel so great either, regretting how she had snapped at Enjolras, but Musichetta took priority right now. “Chetta?”

Musichetta’s voice was muffled, as though she had been crying into her hands. “I’m fine, Éponine,” she said. “Really, I’m OK.”

“I have a hard time believing that,” Éponine said softly. She sat down crosslegged on the floor, not caring if she got her baggy jeans dirty. “I’ve been where you are right now.”

“I have a hard time believing that,” Musichetta sniffled. “You’re popular and talented and you have tons of friends. I’m the new girl who you guys are forced to put up with because I live in the same apartment.”

Éponine shook her head, then remembered that Musichetta couldn’t see her. “We’re not forced to put up with you,” she said firmly. “And I’m not what you think I am. None of us are. We’re the Amis, not a bunch of super-popular college-gods. I’m plain old Éponine Thénardier, and I’m as human as anyone else here - except for, like, Larbin, but he’s an ogre, and they’re an entirely different evolutionary branch - anyway, I think we’re a lot alike.”

“You do?” The pause in Musichetta’s hitched breaths was encouraging, and Éponine nodded again.

“Sometimes I feel like an outsider too.”

“I’m pretty sure everyone feels like an outsider every once in a while.”

“Yeah, but you’re new here, so it’s harder for you.” Musichetta was silent, so Éponine tried a new tactic. “You were raised to become a Queen, right?”

“Right,” Musichetta said. “It sucked. It was all posture and etiquette and elocution lessons all day long. The only break I got was when I sneaked away to hang out with my best friend, but then she moved away. It was lonely as - as fuck.

“I get that,” Éponine said softly. “I’ve been there. Did you know that I was raised to be a Witch?”

“What?”

“Yeah,” Éponine smiled a little sadly. “My parents wanted me to follow in their footsteps and become one of the most powerful Witches in the universe. From the moment I could talk I was raised to have a raging temper, to show no mercy, to be the best and push down everyone else until I got there. Sometimes I would sneak away and watch the local Faeries flying together, and I wished I could be like them - beautiful and happy and free and good.

“You’re all of those things now,” Musichetta said. It didn’t come out like a compliment; it came out like she was stating a fact, which made Éponine grin.

“Exactly. I didn’t have to be a Witch, and now you don’t have to be lonely. You’re with us now.”

“I just feel like I’m intruding.”

“Enjolras says things when he’s excited or angry without thinking, but he’s a really good person. He has trouble managing his brain-to-mouth filter, but he likes you. And so do I.”

The stall door unlocked and Musichetta emerged. Her chocolate-coloured eyes were rimmed red and bloodshot, but her cheeks were dry. Éponine got to her feet, cleaning the floor-grunge off of her jeans with a click of her fingers. “So, Chetta, what did you like to do with your best friend?”

Musichetta’s face broke into a smile. “We used to dance together. She taught me how to dance, and it became my passion. I also love sports. After she moved away, I was too sad to dance, but sometimes I’d try and teach myself the games that my parents would take me to watch tournaments of - like Dragonsport, motocross, hoverboarding, horseback riding -”

“I’m no good at sports,” Éponine admitted, “but maybe you could teach me how to dance?”

Musichetta was positively beaming. “Sure! I bet you’ll learn in two seconds flat.”

At that moment, the bathroom door swung open, and Cosette rushed in, panting. “Musichetta, listen!” she said rapidly. “I know sometimes you might feel left out, but you’re one of us. You are an Ami, just as much as any of us.”

“Really?” Musichetta looked delighted, and Cosette nodded.

“Of course. And I know exactly what we need to bring harmony back to the group: we’re having a pyjama party tonight. We’re just going to eat snacks and have a laugh together, maybe watch some movies. What do you say?”

“I’m in,” Musichetta smiled. “Gosh, I’ve never been to a pyjama party before!”

“Well, you’re coming to this one,” Éponine grinned. “You’re one of us now, Chetta. You’re an Ami.”

 

 

Petit-Gervais had left Musain shortly after Éponine had appeared to argue with her friends before storming off. He’d been hoping to do a bit more studying, but he found he couldn’t concentrate with her on his mind constantly. It had hurt, the way she hadn’t taken any notice of the hints he’d been dropping, and had spent all their time together telling him about what seemed to be a train-wreck relationship with another guy. The icing on top of a spectacular disaster cake was when his bike cut out about a quarter of a mile away from Corinthe College, and he was forced to push it. At least one good thing came out of that: he passed a little roadside jewellery stand that he might not have noticed otherwise. The proprietor called out to him.

“Half-price sale on everything: earrings, pendants, rosaries, rings, bracelets! Doirrean’s Enchanted Gems, all homemade, all guaranteed to help with spell-casting!”

Petit-Gervais couldn’t help himself; almost as though he was in a trance, he approached the stall, gazing at a necklace in the centre of the display. It was made of black string, and the pendant was a purple gem wrapped in a twist of gold. It caught the light beautifully. “Excuse me, miss?” he asked the girl seated at the stall. “How much is that necklace in the centre?”

The girl had dark hair that fell over her face, and her lips were painted dark purple. Her clothes were what one would expect of a gypsy or fortune-teller, and her eyes were a curious shade of golden yellow. “Trying to win the favour of a young lady?” she asked with a knowing grin.

Petit-Gervais’ mouth hung open in amazement. “Yes. How did you know?”

“Oh, I have a way of knowing,” she winked, picking up the necklace and handing it to him. “The necklace has no monetary price; instead, you shall repay me by doing a good thing for someone.”

Petit-Gervais took the necklace. As soon as he touched it, his eyes glowed bright purple for a second, before returning to normal. His brain felt light and fuzzy and empty, except for the girl’s voice, still speaking.

“Of course, though,” she was saying, and there was a definite smile in her voice, “if that favour happens to be for Lord Méchant, you could win the girl over - and so much more. Do we have a deal?”

Petit-Gervais nodded lazily. “Of course.” He hung the necklace around his neck and waited for further instruction.

The girl’s eyes were glittering with malice. “Return to Musain and make sure that tomorrow’s Simulator test is a complete disaster.”

 

 

“Enjolras, Truth or Dare?” Cosette asked. The Amis were gathered in Enjolras and Courfeyrac’s bedroom, armed with pyjamas and a massive box of chocolates. They’d decided that a few rounds of Truth Or Dare would be the best way to start the evening, and so far Jehan had been dared to read the group some of the poetry they had written about Feuilly (there was one in iambic pentameter about how handsome the Wizard was that had everyone squealing), Éponine had been given the choice between telling the truth about her crush on Bahorel or licking the toilet seat and had instantly gone for the toilet seat (much to everyone’s disgusted delight), and Cosette had admitted some very intimate details about her relationship with Marius (which were, disappointingly, relatively innocent. They hadn’t even kissed properly yet).

Enjolras pursed his lips before deciding. “Truth.”

“Tell us about your first love.”

Enjolras blushed pink. “Oh, Dragon, no, it’s so embarrassing!”

“All the more reason to tell us then,” Courfeyrac grinned. “I believe that embarrassment often leads to better bonding. And if nothing else, it’ll give us all a laugh.”

Enjolras stuck his tongue out, but nodded. “OK, picture it. I was a skinny, awkward, zitty little twelve-year-old who had just started at a pre-college Faery School. It was the first day of classes, and the most super-handsome boy in the whole year came and sat right next to me.”

“Was it love at first sight?” Jehan squealed, and Enjolras turned a darker shade of pink.

“Sort of. I didn’t actually realise I liked guys until my friend told me it wasn’t normal to squeak every time a ‘just-a-friend’ spoke to you. But once I realised, then I knew it had been love at first sight. For me, anyway.”

“For you?” Éponine leaned forwards in interest. “What about him?”

Enjolras sighed woefully. “Eventually I realised that he was disappointingly, heart-breakingly, totally straight. He was in love with someone else entirely; the prettiest, coolest, most popular girl in our year. I pined for him for three years without him noticing. But then came the Junior Prom -”

“The one night no one should miss out on,” Cosette chimed in.

Courfeyrac popped a chocolate into his mouth. “Pretty tough night for a pining teenager,” he said around it.

Enjolras nodded. “But, there’s a special twist: on the eve of the Prom, the girl fell down a flight of stairs and broke her leg!”

“So did you get to dance with your prince?” Cosette breathed, and Enjolras burst out laughing.

“Of course not; she came to Prom anyway and he spent all night taking care of her and her broken leg!” The Amis joined in with his giggles, and Enjolras grinned, still pink, but more from laughing than humiliation at this point. “Pretty crappy for a first love, huh? Now, Courfeyrac, Truth or Dare?”

 

 

While all this was going on, Petit-Gervais had returned to the pink-walled castle and slipped through the hallways towards the Simulator room. The door unlocked when he presented the key Myriel had given him, and he stepped inside towards the control panel. As soon as he was close enough, the girl whispered another instruction in his ear, and he raised his hands about a foot above the panel. With a flash of purple light, the spell was cast and the deed done. He left the school with the girl’s praise ringing in his head.

 

 

“This is nice,” Jehan sighed happily when the game had ground to a halt. They were hanging upside down by their knees from Courfeyrac’s bed, clad in pink shorts and a flowery blue top that was nearly falling over their face. Their hair was held back with a pink satin scrunchie. “Just us Faeries, and no relationships to deal with.”

“Really?” Cosette asked, surprised. “You’re happy that there’s no relationship drama tonight? You live for romance!”

“Yeah,” Jehan giggled, “but when the Wizards aren’t here it means we can talk about them!” They rolled backwards off the bed, landing the right way up, but had lost the scrunchie, so their ginger locks were wild around their head. “So, let’s start with Éponine. I wanna know about Petit-Gervais. It’s obvious that he really likes you, but does he tickle your fancy?”

“Well…” Éponine looked a little uncomfortable, but suddenly something changed inside her. This wasn’t a night for being unnecessarily dramatic. This was a night for having fun and being honest. “No. He doesn’t.”

“That’s because you like Bahorel, isn’t it?” Courfeyrac said wisely.

Éponine drew her legs up to her chest and pulled her yellow nightie down so it covered her feet. “I don’t think there’s anything between Bahorel and me,” she said sadly. “All we do is fight, fight, fight. He never hints anything towards having feelings towards me that are more than platonic.”

Courfeyrac sighed exasperatedly. “And that is where you are wrong, dear Éponine. You haven’t seen how he looks at you when you’re not looking. It’s clear to everyone else that there’s something there.”

“It totally is!” Musichetta nodded. “Bahorel is Mister Tall, Dark and Moody, right? He’s hardly going to be all ‘hey, girls, I’m the bravest, handsomest, most talented Wizard in all of Magix! Who wants to be my girlfriend?’, is he?” She put on a deep ‘manly’ voice while doing her impression of Imaginary Bahorel, and the beat of silence that followed it made her wonder if she’d spoken out of turn, but a second later everyone was howling with laughter, and for the first time in a really, really, really long time, Musichetta felt light inside.

 

 

When the sun rose the next day, the Amis were all fast asleep, and would have probably stayed that way had it not been for the alarm on Courfeyrac’s phone reminding them all that they had a test run in the Simulator that day. All six of them got ready in a record 35 minutes, and together dashed to the control room, where Fauchelevent was waiting for them along with Petit-Gervais.

“Excellent, our first group is here,” Fauchelevent smiled. “Let’s begin the test; head into the Simulator and I will instruct you from in here. And Musichetta, don’t worry when the walkway disappears when I switch the Simulator on; you will remain suspended while the simulated world forms around you.”

“I won’t panic, I promise,” Musichetta smiled back, and the Amis began filing through the doors into the room. Éponine was the last in line, and she waved at Petit-Gervais.

“Hey, Petit-Gervais, how are you?”

Petit-Gervais ignored her, turning to sit at the control panel. Éponine frowned, but followed her friends into the Simulator. They gathered at the end of the walkway and listened for Fauchelevent’s instructions.

He spoke into the mic on the control panel, and his voice rang clearly through the room. “Alright, pay attention. You will find yourselves in a small village on a bright sunny day. You will have to use Magical Convergence to solve a series of puzzles. Everyone ready?”

“Ready!” the Amis chorused, and Fauchelevent nodded.

“Alright, let’s begin.” He pressed the start button, and the platform vanished as the room lit up with magical light.

When the light cleared, Cosette blinked in confusion. The small, sunny village Fauchelevent had described was nowhere to be seen. Instead, darkness surrounded them in every direction, and the air was full of mist.

“Where the fuck are we?” Éponine frowned, and Enjolras nodded in agreement.

“Bright sunny village my ass.”

“It’s so damp here,” Jehan shuddered, rubbing their bare arms. Leggings and a white tank top were not exactly appropriate clothing for such a cold place. “We must be near a swamp.”

Musichetta looked up at the sky, and her eyes widened in fear. “Look!”

The Amis followed her gaze, and everyone’s jaws dropped in shock: there was a tiny sliver of yellow sky visible, but above that, a forest of black pine trees hung down from above.

“Wait…” Cosette said slowly. “If the sky is a forest… what are we walking on?”

The mist surrounding their feet cleared, and they realised they weren’t walking on anything at all. Another forest was visible far below them, but they themselves were stationary in midair, held up by nothing except some sort of dark magic.

The trees below them seemed to be getting closer, and the six Faeries realised that the ground was shooting up towards them. They all landed hard, and were almost immediately forced to roll over and away from the dozens of pine trees that had started shooting up out of the ground where they had landed.

“What’s going on?!” Cosette screamed.

“I’ve seen this before,” Courfeyrac said worriedly. “It’s a magical computer bug, a Bukeharn Virus. But it shouldn’t have been able to affect something as powerful as the Simulator. This is really bad.”

“The Simulator crystals are not responding,” Fauchelevent said worriedly. “I can’t end the programme!” He didn’t notice Petit-Gervais grinning behind him, eyes lit with a faint glow of Dark Magic. “It’s ingrained into the hard memory. However, even if I can’t delete or end the programme… I might be able to add something to it…” He began typing rapidly on the keyboard, and after nearly a minute, his face split into a triumphant grin and leaned back towards the mic. “OK, I have added the data of an exit programme, but I don’t know what form it will take, so look around for something that doesn’t fit in.”

“Like something normal?” Enjolras snarked, but behind him, Éponine screamed.

“You mean like that?!”

A wolf was approaching them, but while it was distinguishable as a wolf, everything else was wrong. It was walking upside down, hanging in midair, but its face was the right way up, and it approached them, snarling viciously, like some sort of particularly gruesome insect.

“A wolf in the woods is perfectly normal,” Enjolras pointed out, but suddenly Musichetta tackled him from the side, knocking him back onto the ground.

“Enjolras! LOOK OUT!” The wolf had sped up, and if Musichetta had been a second later, its jaws would have easily clamped around Enjolras’ neck. It bounded off through the forest, still hanging upside down in midair, but thankfully empty-mouthed.

“Look at that!” Courfeyrac yelled suddenly. A ball of white light, almost like a comet, was zooming between the trees around them. “That’s not normal!”

“Professor!” Cosette called towards the sky. “Is that the exit programme?”

“Yes, but you need to come in contact with it!” Fauchelevent replied.

Cosette nodded. “Alright then, let’s surround it!” The Amis got to their feet and formed a circle, closing in on the light with linked hands. They were almost upon it, when suddenly the forest filled with horrifyingly familiar laughter.

Fauchelevent could hear the laughter too. “Someone has used extremely Dark magic on the Simulator, it’s completely corrupted!” He didn’t notice Petit-Gervais edging towards the door behind him.

In the forest, a figure flashed around the ball of light: a girl in fortune teller’s clothes, with long dark hair and yellow eyes.

“It’s Claquesous!” Éponine realised.

“Figures,” Courfeyrac shuddered. “Who else could have thought of such a nasty place?”

The figure vanished, only to be replaced by the twisted wolf a second later. To their horror, the wolf leaped into the air and swallowed the exit programme in a single bite! The addition of Professor Fauchelevent’s magic made it warp and twist into another creature, this one far larger with four arms that ended in pincers, hoofed feet, and a crablike face.

Cosette took charge. “Quick, everyone transform!”

A flash of light later, and the Amis spread their wings as one, fluttering into the air to surround the monster.

“Sonic Bomb!” Éponine yelled, blasting the monster with magenta light. The blast would normally have destroyed everything in its path, or at least deafened the target, but - nothing.

“No effect at all,” Courfeyrac shuddered, before screeching like a banshee and dodging as one of the monster’s arms shot towards him. Musichetta flipped out of the way of another arm, and they regrouped a good twenty feet away from it. “At least one good thing came of Javert’s self-defence class,” Courfeyrac commented.

“Come on!” Cosette shouted. “Everyone attack together! Dragon Fire!”

“Solar Wind!”

“Magic Bass Boom!”

“High Tide!”

“Flower Twister!”

“Electroshock!”

When the smoke and light from the six spells vanished, the monster was nowhere to be seen, and Enjolras whooped. “I think we got it -AAARGH!”

They had not got it; the monster had simply reappeared upside down, standing on the forest floor that made up the sky and snapping its claws even more viciously than before. Fauchelevent’s voice echoed through the room:

“The monster is completely immune to magic; you’ve got to find another way to beat it!”

The Amis hurriedly took flight away from the monster, but it gave chase with a snarl. There was something almost surreal about flying through two forests at once, one above and one below. Courfeyrac called up to Fauchelevent, “Professor, couldn’t you just cut the power and end the Simulation?”

“I could, Courfeyrac,” Fauchelevent replied, “but the resulting magical feedback could burn out all of your powers. We can’t risk that, you need to defeat the monster to get out.”

“But we’ll never take it down without magic!” Musichetta shrieked.

Cosette narrowed her eyes. “Guys, we need to use convergence,” she said firmly. “It’s our only hope!”

 

 

“Professor Fauchelevent!” Fauchelevent jumped at the sound of a voice behind him rather than from inside the Simulator, and his eyes widened in confusion upon seeing Headmaster Myriel standing next to Petit-Gervais, who was magically bound in silver chains. “I have found the saboteur; Petit-Gervais has been hypnotized by Patron-Minette to serve Lord Méchant. You need to do everything you can to help the Faeries while I get him out of his trance.”

 

 

The Faeries had found themselves out of the woods - the simulated ones rather then the metaphorical - and instead in the ruins of what seemed to be an ancient temple. Luckily, this new environment was the perfect hiding place: it had enormous columns and thick stone walls in every direction. They took shelter behind the largest column of all - more than twelve feet in diameter - and formed a circle to make a game plan.

“The monster is immune to magic, so we’ll need to fight physical strength with physical strength,” Cosette said.

“But we’ve never used Convergence Magic before,” Jehan reminded her. “This could go seriously wrong.”

Courfeyrac, however, looked thoughtful. “In theory, it would be possible if we joined together our most basic powers to create some sort of guardian force.”

“Like a Patronus!” Cosette grinned excitedly, but the roar from the other side of the pillar nearly made her fall out of the air. “OK, no more wasting time. Musichetta, you’re the foundation! Go!”

Musichetta nodded and raised her hands at the exact moment the monster smashed a claw through the pillar’s base. As it began to crumble, she cast her spell, creating a human figure made of pure Morphix.

“She has to be bigger!” Cosette called. “The same size as the monster, if you can!”

Musichetta nodded, and soon the figure stood at about 15 feet tall. Cosette nodded in satisfaction, but a second later one of the monster’s flailing arms caught Musichetta in the stomach, sending her flying backwards into a wall. As she crumpled to the floor, the figure began to wobble.

“The Guardian needs some sort of skeletal support!” Jehan realised. “Magic Ivy!” They clapped their hands together, and ivy began climbing up the figure’s limbs, forming armour-like markings over the chest and flowers on the head for hair. The monster swung another arm at it, knocking it to the ground, but the shape remained intact.

“She needs a brain!” Courfeyrac decided. “Central Processor!” He flung green light at the figure, and a purple oblong appeared inside its gelatinous head. “Guardian, come to life! Stand up!”

The Guardian obediently got to its feet and began marching forwards, heading straight for another pillar, and Cosette realised what was wrong. “Enjolras, she can’t see!”

“Gotcha!” Enjolras replied, brandishing his sceptre. “Sun Vision!” With a flash of golden light, two eye shapes appeared on the Guardian’s face, and it changed course, this time heading towards the monster.

“She can’t fight without a will of her own,” Fauchelevent reminded them over the mic, and Éponine’s face twisted with worry.

“She’ll be pulverised!”

Cosette grinned. “No way, no day. Flame Of Life!” Cosette;s orange light wrapped around the Guardian, and a second later, she leaped towards the monster and pushed it to the ground, grappling with it to make sure she stayed on top of it.

 

 

Myriel took out the little bottle he kept around his neck, and sprinkled some of the dust within over Petit-Gervais’ eyelids. The pendant on the necklace he was wearing shattered and he blinked awake, looking shocked. “Where am I?!”

“You’re safe,” Myriel reassured him. “You’re at Musain.”

 

 

“Guardian,” Cosette called, “you have to retrieve the light that the monster swallowed!” The Guardian nodded and began grappling with the monster again, this time trying to keep its mouth open, but Fauchelevent gave another instruction.

“It’s not enough that she retrieves the programme; she needs to speak the following incantation: Huanilea Ialga Rodhaith!

“Right-o, Professor!” Éponine said, cracking her knuckles. “Power of Words!” She directed her spell at the Guardian, and a little mouth appeared beneath the eyes.

The Guardian flung the monster at a wall, charging again, and suddenly, so fast that if you had blinked you would have missed it, punched one of her hands through its stomach and grasped the ball of light within.

“Ready?” Cosette asked, and they all nodded.

“Huanilea Ialga Rodhaith!” the Amis chorused.

“HUANILEA IALGA RODHAITH!” the Guardian echoed. Her voice was high-pitched and had a distant quality to it, as though her voice box might have been in another dimension.

There was no time to ponder this, though, for a second later, the Simulator lit up with white light, resetting itself to its original state.

Fauchelevent leaned back in his chair, looking relieved. “They did it!” Myriel smiled proudly next to them, and Petit-Gervais let out a relieved breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding.

 

 

That afternoon saw another group in the Simulator, while the Amis relaxed outside in the grove behind the school. Most of them were lounging on the bench or against the trees - or in Jehan’s case, on the grass - but Éponine stood a little way away from them, talking to Petit-Gervais, who was sat astride his bike, and the other Amis weren’t even pretending not to be eavesdropping.

“I feel really bad for all the trouble I caused,” Petit-Gervais was saying, but Éponine shook her head.

“It wasn’t your fault. We all forgive you. And, uh, I hope you can forgive me too.”

“For what?” The boy looked completely bemused, and Éponine sighed unhappily.

“I didn’t realise you had a crush on me, when we were talking the other day, and I realise I maybe wasn’t totally tactful. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, Petit-Gervais - you’re a really nice guy, but my heart belongs to someone else. And even if Bahorel made it clear that nothing would ever happen between me and him, it wouldn’t be fair on you for me to lead you on. I hope we can be friends?” Éponine looked rather nervous, but to her relief, Petit-Gervais smiled at her.

“I’d love to be friends with you, Éponine.”

“I’m glad,” Éponine smiled, but suddenly yelped in surprise when Petit-Gervais reached up and pecked her on the cheek. Behind her, the Amis all squealed in excitement, and she glared back at them. “Don’t you all have to be in Javert’s class in, like, five minutes?”

“Well, yeah,” Musichetta smirked, “but this is so much more entertaining!”

“I’ll say hi to Bahorel for you,” Petit-Gervais grinned. “See you around, Éponine.” With that, he hopped onto his bike and drove away, and Éponine slowly made her way back over to her friends.

“What are you looking at?” she blushed, but Cosette pulled her into a hug.

“We kicked butt today. I’m just really glad I’m friends with all of you.” Courfeyrac, Jehan and Enjolras joined the hug, and after a second, Enjolras reached out and yanked Musichetta into the hug too.

“Best friends forever,” he said firmly. “All of us.”

Chapter Text

The planet Eraklyon is renowned for many things - dragons, rare flowers, vast wealth, and most recently, a bloody civil war - although by this point in time, the civil war is dying down and the rebels have only one final tattered card to play (but that’s not relevant yet). One part of Eraklyon that is often forgotten, however, is its forests.

The forests on Eraklyon are seemingly endless. As you passed through the trees on foot, they seemed to be extremely far apart, but from above it is impossible to see the forest floor through the thick canopy. The leaves still let little patches of sunlight through here and there, and in the rare places where they touch the ground, clumps of mushrooms sprout up. Curling vines cling to most of the trees, and a medley of flowers add a colourful, scented element to the scenery.

In the deepest part of the Eraklyon forests, there was a sort of wooden house. It had originally been built with three floors, but by now two of them had crumbled, so all that was left was a first floor under a makeshift roof. This building was one of the places where the rebels had based their operations, but many of them were now dead, fled, or imprisoned. The wooden house wasn’t on a registered area of property; it had been built centuries ago and only still existed because of the magic holding it together - and even that had mostly faded. However, this made it the ideal place for someone with nefarious intentions to hide out if they didn’t want to be found.

And someone with nefarious intentions was indeed hiding there. He was a vast man, with seven chins and a body wide enough to take up an entire side of an average dining table. He had a great drooping moustache and beady black eyes, and despite his vast girth (or perhaps, because of it) his skin was pale and papery. He wore clothes that looked expensive, but didn’t go together - the look of a thief or plunderer, a man who stole things and wore them. He was, at that moment, chewing his way through a bowl of odd red meatballs like a ruminant, lower jaw moving almost in a circle as his teeth ground up the food. He had an odd air to him - no one could quite place what it was, but there was something almost alien about him, something that made you fear him - which was perhaps why he had been able to gain so many followers when he had first begun to look for them.

Perhaps you’ve already guessed his identity, but here it is anyway: the man’s name was Bellacodice, and he was the leader of the rebels on Eraklyon.

The tinkling of the chime attached to the door didn’t disturb him in any way. He continued to sit there in silence, emotionlessly grazing on the food in front of him as another man entered the room. This man was of average height and girth, and shrouded in a dirty cloak that may once have been colourful but was too blackened with sludge to tell, and this, combined with his juxtaposition to Bellacodice, made him seem far smaller than he really was.

“Master,” he said huskily, kneeling in front of Bellacodice. “Your troops have returned from Iris.”

Bellacodice continued to chew in silence, before swallowing and dabbing at his mouth with a heavily brocaded sleeve. He hummed a little before he spoke. “And were they successful?”

His voice was low and gritty, like it hadn’t been used for a while. However, he had a unmistakably clear tone to his question: I had better hear what I want to hear.

The cloaked man had a smile in his voice now, the smile of a man who knew he was home free. “Yes, Master,” he replied. “The girl has been captured. She will be escorted here shortly.”

“And the money?”

“We have sent the ransom note to her parents. By this time next week, you will either have the throne, or enough money to continue your campaign against the royal family.” The man spat on the ground in contempt of the royals of Eraklyon.

Bellacodice nodded slowly, a smile spreading over his wide face. “Marvelous. Our new friends are already doing their job so well. And if they try to rescue her… We all know the King won’t lift a finger, but the sweet little Prince might. And when he makes a wrong move, we take him too.” He chuckled, reaching for another meatball. “Oh, how I’d love to see charming little Prince Marius try to save his dear, sweet girlfriend.”

 

 

In a tent a few kilometres away, a group of masked figures dressed in black heaved a bundle of fabric onto the floor, quickly binding it to a boulder inside the tent with thick ropes. As soon as it was secure, the leader leaned down and yanked part of the fabric away, revealing a girl’s pale, scared face. He hushed her before she could scream. “Prince Marius cannot reach you here. You are safe from the world. This is only temporary, sweet lady. You’ll be out of here in no time.”

 

 

The Amis were very nearly late for Professor Javert’s self defence class; his monocle had twitched angrily when they skidded into the classroom with only ten seconds to spare. Perhaps it was this that put him in such a foul mood for the rest of the class - he once again led them outside and had each student attempt to attack him individually. It was less of a train wreck than it had been the first time, but everyone was bruised and limping by the time he dismissed them (Javert was renowned for forcing students to repeat an exercise until they got it right). They then headed to Professor Palladium’s class, which was, thankfully, their last class of the day.

Palladium’s class was also held outside; it wouldn’t be long before the weather would turn too cold for outdoor classes, and it seemed that the teachers wished to make the most of it. At her old school, Cosette would have celebrated an outdoor class, especially when it was the last class before a holiday. Here, though…

“AAAAAAAARRRRGH!”

…outdoor classes meant that you might get rained on by a cloud your professor had summoned to demonstrate weather spells.

Cosette could admit that she might have overdone it with her level of enthusiasm when she’d cast the spell. Palladium agreed, but used it as an opportunity to explain what Cosette had done wrong. Unfortunately, he had forgotten to remove the cloud.

“Correctly cast, this spell should only cause a tiny sprinkling of rain. Some technical charms, especially weather charms, require a specific level of, for lack of a better word, oomph. Too much enthusiasm can turn a simple shower into a monsoon.”

Enjolras was kind enough to click his fingers in Cosette’s direction, turning the rain cloud into a beam of sunlight. “Look on the bright side, Cosette,” he teased. “You won’t need to wash your hair before your big date with Mar-OW!” She’d jabbed him sharply in the stomach, where a bruise from Javert’s class was forming. They glared at each other for a second before simultaneously grinning and bursting into silent giggles. Jehan poked them both hard in the back, and they worked to control their laughter as Palladium continued with his explanation of weather charms.

“Rain spells, in fact, were the first ever technical charms of any form in the history of magic. Can anyone tell me why?”

Jehan raised their hand as Cosette and Enjolras sat down on the grass with the rest of the class, and Palladium nodded at them. “Because of droughts,” they said cheerfully.

The professor nodded with a smile. “Indeed, Jehan. Nearly all of the primitive cultures we’re descended from used some form of technical rain charm, usually involving a rain dance of some sort. Now for extra points, can anyone give me an example of a culture that doesn’t use rain charms, and why that is?”

Enjolras raised his hand and Palladium pointed at him. “The Trog society of Downland doesn’t use any weather charms at all,” Enjolras answered. “They live in underground caves heated by hot steam from underground springs, and have no need of them.”

“Very good, Enjolras. Moving forward…”

Éponine wasn’t paying attention to the lesson at all, instead wearing earphones and listening intently to a backing track while gazing into space. She was snapped out of her reverie by one of her earbuds being yanked sharply out of her ear, and she turned to see Manon glaring at her. The Piskies had been released from hospital that morning, and had immediately sped off to join their bonded Faeries.

“Éponine!” Manon hissed disapprovingly. “How can you be so rude to your teacher? This may be important!”

Éponine shrugged. “I’m the Faery of Music, Manon. When am I ever going to use a weather charm to solve one of my problems?” She popped the earphone back into her ear, ignoring Manon’s disgusted look, and continued to listen to her soundtrack until the end of class. Sometimes Palladium’s demonstration of the movements for the spell would sync up with the beat, making her crack a grin.

Enjolras and Courfeyrac both raced off to bed, clearly desperate to sleep off the injuries from Javert’s class, while Musichetta headed to the library to do some studying. Éponine walked through the courtyard with Cosette and Jehan, aimlessly heading for the gates, and discussing what they were going to do with their holiday that had now officially begun. Éponine only really had one plan for the last day of the holidays, and Jehan had decided to stay in Magix instead of going home to Lynphea, so really they discussed Cosette’s plans for the holiday - or, rather, tried to get her to give them the details of her plan. All she would say, though, was that they should “Keep Monday and Tuesday open. And Wednesday’s probably a good idea too.”

“Come on, Cosette!” Jehan pleaded. “Please tell us what you’re doing! Or what we’re going to be doing! I wanna know!”

“Yeah!” Éponine agreed. “You know I don’t really like surprises…” She trailed off as something hovering over the fence caught her eye. It looked like a bubble, but it had a tiny jagged symbol trapped inside it, and it definitely wasn’t normal. Not abnormal enough to be considered a threat, but certainly out of place. She didn’t want to spoil Cosette’s now much happier mood, though, so all she said was “I have to go do something now, see you guys later!” before going to head back inside the school, calling over her shoulder, “Are you coming, Manon?”

Manon curtsied daintily towards Cosette and Jehan. “Have a nice day, both of you,” she said sweetly, before flying after Éponine and leaving Cosette and Jehan alone with their respective Piskies.

Jehan, Cosette, Roselyne and Juliette waved after them, before Roselyne turned back to Cosette. “OK, Cosette,” she said in her best ‘interrogation’ voice. “Spill! For real. You already told Jehan you’re meeting Marius’ family, when’s that going down?”

Cosette sighed in resignation before she smiled. “Actually, I’m meeting them officially tomorrow. Marius is picking me up and we’re flying out to Eraklyon tonight.”

Jehan made an excited noise. “EEEEEE! So you’re coming back on Sunday?”

Cosette nodded. “Then on Monday we’re going to Paris so Marius can meet my dad.”

“That’s so romantic!” Juliette sighed.

Jehan and Roselyne nodded in agreement, but suddenly Jehan’s smile turned suddenly mischievous. “Just the two of you… staying together at his palace at the weekend… probably alone most of the time…”

Cosette made a scandalised face, but she was laughing. “No, get your mind out of the gutter! We haven’t even kissed properly yet!” She blushed. “Actually, I was thinking I’d try and kiss him properly while we’re away. But that’s all!”

Juliette, Jehan and Roselyne all squealed, but it was drowned out by the sound of an approaching hover-bike. “Speaking of…”

Marius pulled his hover-bike to a stop next to them, removing his helmet with a smile. “Hey Cosette, hi Jehan!”

“Marius!” Cosette beamed. “Are we good to go?”

Marius looked apologetic, and Cosette’s stomach dropped unpleasantly. “I’m really sorry, Cosette, but something’s come up. My grandfather says it’s urgent business, so Grantaire and I have to head back to Eraklyon pretty much immediately.”

Cosette nodded understandingly, and Jehan tilted their head at him. “You sound really worried,” they said.

Marius nodded. “It doesn’t sound good. Grandfather said it’s a combination of diplomacy and general heroism required.” Behind him, one of the Owl ships landed, and Grantaire waved at the Faeries from inside. “One’s bad enough, but both…”

“Well, if it’s that bad, maybe it would be a good idea to have some Faery magic with you,” Cosette pointed out. “Jehan and I could help!”

Jehan nodded enthusiastically. “Totally! Eraklyon is home to this magical flower I’ve been wanting to procure for ages!”

Marius nodded slowly, looking a little uncertain. “Only if you’re sure. Eraklyon can be pretty dangerous.”

“Wonderful,” Juliette groaned.

Cosette was undeterred. “Oh, please, Marius! We can help you guys, and I can meet your grandfather and aunt at the same time!”

Marius finally nodded with a smile. “Alright, then. Grab your bags and let’s go.”

Jehan and Cosette hurried to their room and grabbed backpacks with clean clothes, bathroom supplies and other necessities, giggling excitedly about the trip. In their excitement, Jehan didn’t notice Charlie, today dressed as Scorpion from Mortal Combat (he’d discovered Earth YouTube on Cosette’s phone), sneaking into their bag with a mutter of “Eraklyon, the planet plagued by civil war and ninjas? I gotta see it for myself!”

He got bumped around a little as the two Faeries raced back down to the ship, but it would be totally worth it for the adventure.

 

 

Éponine hadn’t been able to find the odd bubble thing, so instead she headed back to the room she was now sharing with Musichetta and flung herself onto her bed in annoyance. Manon tutted sympathetically and went about setting up afternoon tea for herself, and it was ten minutes before Musichetta returned from the library with a cheerful “Hey, Éponine!”

Éponine groaned from the depths of her pillow, and Musichetta made a confused noise. “You OK? I thought you’d be psyched about the Autumn Concert! I just saw the flyers, it’s so cool that Headmaster Myriel wants you to organize it!”

Éponine sat up, adjusting her hair to make sure her fringe still covered her right eye. “It is, isn’t it,” she smiled, putting the odd bubble to the back of her mind for the moment. “I’ve got some pretty good ideas for it. I’m just not sure about the dancing, though. I don’t really know what makes a dance routine good.”

“Is that all?” Musichetta grinned. “I can help you with that! Here, watch.” She hurried over to the speaker set and plugged in her phone, flicking through songs until she found the right one. After tapping her foot to it for a few seconds, she moved into a fast-paced routine that looked like it might be contemporary (although Éponine was no expert). It looked actually a little familiar, and it took her a second to place where from.

“Hey, that kinda looks a little like one of the rain dances Palladium was demonstrating today!”

Musichetta nodded, not pausing the routine. “When I was a kid, sometimes I’d sneak out and learn weather magic from the farmers. My best friend Anne liked to watch them too, and that’s where a lot of our choreography came from.”

“Bet your parents were real happy about that,” Éponine teased, and Musichetta finished the routine with a giggle.

“What do you think?” she laughed. Éponine laughed with her, nearly forgetting the odd bubble completely.

 

 

The Owl was set on a course for Eraklyon, and Cosette stared out the windshield in amazement at the deep, glittering purple of outer space. Jehan sat next to her, humming cheerfully under their breath, but Roselyne, in their lap, was less pleased.

“How much longer ‘til we get there? I’m getting space-sick.”

“Would you rather we crossed the galaxy by train?” Marius muttered, but something tugged on his sleeve, distracting him.

“Captain,” Charlie squeaked, and Marius did a double take. The little Piskie was now dressed as Han Solo, complete with a tiny blaster gun strapped to his waist. “The radar indicates that Eraklyon is straight ahead.”

“O…Okay,” Marius stuttered. Roselyne whooped in relief, but the red-haired captain still looked tense. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” he said quietly. “Grandfather doesn’t like asking for help. The situation must be pretty damn serious.”

It was half an hour before they landed in front of the glittering royal palace. While the castle on Domino had been like something out of a fairy-tale, Eraklyon’s castle looked more like an enormous manor house. The building was blocky and rectangular, and had a four-walled tower at each end and one in the middle. Windows glittered in every direction, and five circular fountains gently sputtered in front of it. Cosette had even caught a glimpse of an enormous hedge labyrinth behind the building. At the edge of the grounds, forest extended in every direction, blocking from view what had to be the road to the city.

“It’s beautiful!” Jehan gasped as they left the ship and walked towards the enormous front doors, and Grantaire snorted.

“Yeah, when it’s not overrun with conservative rebels and their hired techno-ninjas.”

“Techno-what now?”

“Never mind,” Marius assured them. “Let’s just hope Grandfather’s news has nothing to do with them.”

Unfortunately, Marius’ wish was not granted. The four teenagers were shown into the enormous throne room, where King Gillenormand and his niece, Princess Ophélie (Marius’ aunt) received them. Gillenormand was a tall, older man with a spectacularly bushy white beard and neat moustache, wearing blue velvet robes and a glittering golden crown studded with jewels. Ophélie had the same red hair as Marius, and wore a fine gown of pale pink silk with a silver tiara. They were an intimidating pair, and Cosette nearly quaked in their presence. The last time she’d seen them, she’d been duelling their then-future-daughter-in-law, under the belief that Duchess Céleste was a Witch in disguise. It didn’t make for the best first impression.

Gillenormand didn’t even bother to greet his grandson, let alone his friends. He cut straight to the point, and informed them of the situation at hand. His explanation made Cosette wish very dearly that she’d stayed behind, not because of the task before them, but rather, who it would involve.

“What do you mean, Céleste has been kidnapped?!” Marius exclaimed.

“Exactly that,” Gillenormand replied. He clicked his fingers at the guard next to him, who walked forward and handed Marius a tiny, glittering brooch, with diamonds set in a spiral.

“And this is her brooch?”

“It was found in the woods near her home in Iris. She’d been out horseback riding, alone, and her horse returned to the castle without her in some state of panic. The brooch was all her staff found of her. Her parents are desperate to find her. She was taken by a group of techno-ninjas. Bellacodice is asking for a huge ransom for her safe return.” Another guard handed him a scroll of parchment, and he unrolled it. Cosette could see from where she was standing that the writing on the parchment was mostly zeroes on what had to be the largest sum of money she’d ever laid eyes on.

“Your majesty, that will bankrupt the kingdom!” Grantaire burst out. “Our people will starve! It’s utterly preposterous -”

Gillenormand nodded. “I know, but what more can we do? Céleste is a nice girl, and her parents are both rich and influential.”

“Not to mention,” Ophélie cut in, “she’s still the best candidate to become your fiancée, Marius.”

Marius made an angry noise. “I already told you, I’m not marrying her. But regardless of my future, we need to rescue her. She’s innocent, and if we don’t save her, she’ll have no future at all.”

“We’ll all go!” Cosette agreed, somewhat hoping to make a better impression. “We’ll do everything we can to save her -”

“Young lady!” Princess Ophélie snapped. “You speak out of turn!”

Cosette shrank back, and Marius glared at his aunt. “Don’t talk to my girlfriend that way!”

Gillenormand intervened. “Marius, you must stand beside me as Crown Prince. We need to appear strong before the nobles -”

“How can I worry about appearances at a time like this?!” Marius snapped. “A girl’s life is on the line, and all you can think about is reputation and who you’re going to marry me off to!”

Grantaire, Cosette and Jehan all quickly bowed to Gillenormand and Ophélie, and Grantaire hurriedly led the Faeries out of the room. “Well, that was an unmitigated disaster,” Cosette muttered. “I make it three hours before they insist Marius breaks up with me.”

“Don’t take their attitudes as permanent, Cosette,” Grantaire assured her. “They’re pernickety at best. Besides, as if they could make Marius do anything he doesn’t want to do.”

 

 

As Marius stormed out of the room in the opposite direction to his friends, Ophélie leaned back in her throne with a pensive look upon her face. “Perhaps it is not such a bad idea for Marius to rescue Céleste,” she mused. “Certainly that Cosette girl is a bad match for him…”

Gillenormand caught onto her meaning. “Rescuing Céleste is a risky business; however, it may be the push Marius needs to agree to marry her…”

 

 

“Marius?” Grantaire poked his head through the door of Marius’ bedroom. In spite of the room being larger than the dining hall at Corinthe, it was sparsely furnished - Marius refused to spend ridiculous sums of money on decorating a room he only used for about three months of the year. Marius himself was currently rummaging through the enormous chest of drawers, searching for any weapons or gadgets he might have left behind. “What’s the plan?”

“First, I think we should go to Céleste’s mansion and check the grounds there for any more clues. It’s about a ten minute ride south-west.” He finally looked up from the drawers. “Where’s Cosette?”

Charlie zoomed into the room and landed on the four-poster bed. “I know!” he squeaked. “She and Jehan went out looking for magic flowers!”

Marius ruffled the Piskie’s violet hair. “Thanks, Charlie,” he smiled, before frowning. “Man, she must be really upset to have left in such a hurry.”

“You’ll have a chance to talk to her after we get a little exercise with those techno-ninjas,” Grantaire assured him. Charlie clapped his hands, and suddenly he was wearing a white jacket and baggy white trousers, like the kind worn for martial arts practise, and he was carrying a bamboo staff. “Hey, looks like Charlie’s ready for action. I feel safer all ready!”

Marius finally cracked a proper grin, while Charlie spun his staff with a hi-ya! noise.

 

 

“I can’t believe I screwed up so quickly,” Cosette groaned as she and Jehan walked along the forest path, with their Piskies fluttering behind them. “I totally put my foot in my mouth back there.”

“Come on, Cosette,” Jehan said reassuringly. “You only learned you were a princess in February. Give yourself a break. You can’t be expected to know everything expected from a princess just like that.”

“A title doesn’t make me a princess.”

“No, being a good leader is what makes you a princess,” Jehan said fiercely. “You’re a great leader, and an amazing friend, so stop beating yourself up about - hey, there it is!” They were pointing excitedly at a sort of pale pink peony growing out of the path in front of them.

Roselyne hurried over to retrieve the flower, but to everyone’s surprise, as soon as she was within touching distance, it disappeared!

“What was that?!” Cosette gasped. Jehan looked unsurprised.

“It’s a Flos Movere, or, to give it its garden name, a Portus Peony. I need it for a project.”

“But it disappeared!”

“Obviously. It’s a teleporting flower.”

“Huh.” Cosette thought for a moment. “How about we use that location spell we learned in Mabeuf’s class?”

Jehan shook their head. “We need something belonging to the target, and we don’t have anything belonging to the flower.”

“Is that it over there?” Juliette pointed to where the peony had taken up residence under a tree. Roselyne hurried to grab it, but again it vanished, and she landed face down in the dirt.

“I’ve got it!” Cosette assured the group, diving at where the flower had reappeared in a little clearing. Again, too late, and she skidded along the ground, landing in a patch of mushrooms. “Why you little -”

“It’s over there!” Jehan was the one to go skidding this time. The peony turned its petals towards them when it reappeared ten feet away from them, seemingly mocking them. If it had been human, it would have been chortling with laughter.

 

 

Palladium hurried through the corridors of Musain, carefully locking the classroom doors before he turned in for the night. He was sure he was the only person in the building still out, so a voice behind him made him jump nearly a foot in the air.

“Professor?”

Palladium turned to the skinny raven-haired girl standing behind him, peeking out from behind her thick fringe. “Éponine! What can I do for you? Did you have a question about the homework?”

Éponine shook her head. She was fidgeting with a scrap of paper, which she presented to him now. “Do you recognise this symbol, sir?”

Palladium took the paper and examined the rough sketch - a circle with an eye inside it. He frowned a little. “Looks like a spying charm to me. But it’s not something you’d ever learn here.”

“A spying charm?”

“It’s dark magic, Éponine,” he explained. “Generally the sort used by Witches. Goodnight.” He handed her back her drawing and headed off down the corridor.

Éponine frowned at the little sketch, not making any move to head back to bed. What are Patron-Minette up to now?

 

 

Marius and Grantaire paced through the woods, staying in shadow and checking their surroundings carefully before moving. Grantaire nearly yelped when what seemed to be a large blue and red spider swung down from a tree branch and nearly hit him in the face, but a second later he breathed in relief, realising it was just Charlie, now dressed up as a blue and red spider-themed superhero.

“You don’t need to pretend you have spider powers, Charlie,” he reminded the Piskie. “You’re the Piskie of Insects, you already have spider powers.” 

“Right-o!” Charlie said cheerfully. He didn’t move to change though - a good thing too, as if he had, the two Wizards might not have noticed the quiet rustle of leaves above them.

“We’ve got ninjas,” Marius muttered. “Get ready.”

The silvery throwing stars zooming through the air towards them didn’t come as a surprise. The bright blue metallic figures dropping out of the trees did, but only for a second. They looked like the techno-ninjas the boys were used to, but upgraded - their suits seemed to focus more on defence, and instead of two glowing red dots visible in the gap in their helmets where their eyes would be, they had one large white circle. This did nothing to deter Marius and Grantaire though, and they both raised their hands, forming swords. “Let’s go,” Marius muttered.

The ninjas leapt into the air as one, seemingly vanishing into the sky (great, Marius thought, cloaking devices) and a second later, more throwing stars rained down on them. The boys raised their arms over their heads, using their powers to form shields, and as the ninjas landed, they moved back to back with each other, raising their swords. A ninja flung a glowing electric rope, managing to catch Grantaire around the neck, but the squire ducked and turned, swinging a punch into the robot’s face, frying a critical circuit. The robot ninja dropped to the ground, defeated, and Grantaire turned back to the fight at hand, in time to see Marius tripping over a small rock as he duelled another robot. He landed with his back against a tree, managing to roll out of the way seconds before the techno-ninja brought its sword down on him. The sword got stuck in the tree, and Marius used the robot’s confusion to kick it in the gut, knocking it to the ground. A blast of fire from his hand had the other robots fleeing, and Marius reached for his backpack, rummaging around for a small console, which he plugged into the robot’s head. The robot protested with a weak crackle of electricity, but didn’t otherwise resist, and Grantaire and Charlie crouched next to Marius as he set up the hacking device.

With the wires and circuits in place, Marius hurriedly recalled what Combeferre had told him about hacking and typed out a message: query://duchess_ce;!%leste_kidnapping.exe/search-files

The robot’s response was surprising; the white eye flickered out, and a message appeared instead: q=//duchess_ce;!%leste_kidnapping.exe_unknown-file

Marius frowned, and typed another message: query://bellacodice_plans.exe/search-files

This time, the robot’s response was more promising: q=//bellacodice_plans.exe/1-available-file

Marius clicked on the file, and the screen lit up as the robot beeped out a message in Morse code:

-.-- --- ..-     .... .- ...- .     ..-. .- .. .-.. . -..     -- . .-.-.-     ..     ... .... .- .-.. .-..     -... .     ..- ... .. -. --.     -- -.--     -. . .--     ..-. .-. .. . -. -.. ...     - ---     ..-. ..- .-. - .... . .-.     -- -.--     .--. .-.. .- -. ...     ..-. .-. --- --     -. --- .--     --- -.

Marius pressed a few buttons, and the message was translated, read out by a tinny, robotic voice. “You have failed me. I shall be using my new friends to further my plans from now on.”

Its power drained, the robot promptly crackled and shut down, and Marius looked up at Grantaire in confusion. “New friends?” Grantaire shrugged, as confused as Marius was.

 

 

When they caught up with the Faeries, Cosette, Roselyne and Juliette were all covered in dirt and bruises. Jehan was unscathed, and was holding a magic bubble that contained a delicate pink peony. For some reason, Cosette was glaring at the flower, but the Wizards didn’t bother to ask, and quickly explained what they’d found out from the techno-ninjas.

“Remind me, Grantaire,” Cosette said as they began heading in the direction of Diaspro’s home, “who is this Bellacodice guy?”

“He’s a conservative rebel who’s been after Marius since we were kids,” Grantaire explained. “He’s the reason we traded places last year, so Marius would be safer.”

Cosette nodded, remembering the conversation she and Marius had had on their way back from Domino. “And he wants the throne?”

“Bingo. Every chance he gets, he sends his techno-ninja robots after us. But tonight was different. I think a lot of the robots have gone rogue. Either that, or they’re trying to regain favour with Bellacodice by bringing him Marius. He’s moved on to a new team, but so far we have no idea who or what that team -”

A scarlet arrow with the quill part sharpened to a point sped past his face and embedded itself in a rock in the path, effectively cutting him off. “What was that?!” Cosette gasped.

Grantaire took a deep breath, attempting to calm his heartbeat. “It’s a warning. Someone doesn’t want us out here.”

Jehan, careful not to disturb their peony, pulled the feather out of the rock and handed it to Marius. “It’s got to be someone working for Bellacodice, right?” they asked.

Marius nodded. “It’s an unusual weapon. It’s not the techno-ninjas though; I think it might be Bellacodice’s new team - the one the robot mentioned before it shut down. We need to find Céleste as quickly as possible.”

Cosette frowned. “Hang on. You have Céleste’s brooch, don’t you?”

Marius nodded and pulled the little diamond-studded pin out of his backpack. Cosette grinned. “We could try that location spell, right Jehan?”

Jehan nodded, and Grantaire looked very interested. “You know a spell that could take us to their hideout?”

Cosette made a face. “Sorta. It won’t get us there precisely, but we’ll be close.”

Jehan looked worried. “I’ve never done it with an object that’s been away from its owner for so long…”

“It’s still worth a try,” Grantaire said, and Marius nodded in agreement.

Cosette squeezed Jehan’s hand. “We can do this. We need to save Céleste.”

It only took a few minutes to set the spell up, and Cosette and Jehan both touched a finger to the brooch, muttering the incantation. A few seconds later, a swarm of little golden lights burst from it, forming an arrow shape and beginning to move down the forest path.

“She’s this way,” Jehan muttered. They picked up the brooch and led the way after the arrow.

“Good,” Marius muttered. Cosette had never seen him looking so tense. “We’ve only got until morning.”

“She’ll be safe until then,” Cosette said firmly. Marius nodded.

“I know,” he said quietly, “but what happens to her after my father pays the ransom?”

A few minutes later, Juliette froze up, fluttering in midair. “Stop.”

“Juliette?” Cosette said uneasily. “Do you sense danger?”

Juliette nodded. “Charlie senses it too.”

Charlie cracked his tiny knuckles. “What’s out there is not only human, it’s superhuman,” he murmured.

“It’s got to be a false alarm,” Grantaire said nervously. Jehan glanced over their shoulder into the foliage. They thought they could see movement between the thick bushes, but in the dim light of the night, they couldn’t be sure.

“Let’s just hope for the best and keep going,” they said eventually, but as they turned, they heard a swooshing noise behind them, and caught two flashes of purple out of the corner of their eye as Charlie promptly zoomed forward and put himself between Jehan and a glowing magic dart. It hit him in the face, and he landed on the ground with a tiny thud. “CHARLIE!” Jehan shrieked, and picked up the little Piskie. “You’re hurt!”

Charlie shook his head. He was now wearing a green jumpsuit and a battered Stetson, and had a neat little toothbrush moustache. He shook his head to clear it. “I ain’t got time to hurt.”

“It was probably just a stray techno-ninja,” Grantaire insisted, but it was impossible to tell whether he was convincing them or himself.

“Hopefully nothing to worry about,” Marius added. He spoke too soon, because a second later, the ground under Grantaire’s feet had given way, sending him falling into a pit full of sharpened wooden spikes. He snatched at a tree root and clung to it, while above ground, arrows, darts and a weighted net poured down on the two Faeries. Cosette reacted quickly with a shout of “Sphere of Fire!” sending a golden-orange dome of flames zooming up around them, melting the net.

“Root of All Good!” Jehan shouted, and large roots pushed out of the ground, effectively putting a wall between them and the arrows and darts. Marius pulled Grantaire out of the pit by the scruff of the neck, and Cosette allowed the dome to vanish. The roots disappeared too, allowing the arrows and darts to clatter harmlessly to the ground, and Roselyne let out a whoop of excitement.

“Did you guys see that?!” she shrieked. “I can’t wait to tell the others! First it came from over there, then over there, like - nyoom nyoom nyoom nyoom nyoom -”

“Sssssssshhhhhhhh!” Cosette hissed, and Roselyne fell silent, letting out one final tiny “nyoom”. The Faeries, Wizards and Piskies listened intently, and Grantaire’s eye caught a glowing symbol seemingly floating in a tree.

“What the f-”

A figure stepped out. He was dressed in a blue and yellow jumpsuit, with a blue helmet and a red cape and boots - looking rather like cartoon superhero. The glowing symbol was on the front of his jumpsuit, and it was shaped like a stylised ‘RF’. Grantaire glared up at him.

“Alright Mr Ninja, get your butt down here so we can teach you a lesson -”

“Silence!” the man roared. He was quite young (mid-twenties, perhaps) and had a chiselled jaw line and long black hair visible behind his helmet. “How dare you?! Whenever there is injustice, we answer the call. Be afraid, villains, for I am Red Feather -” he flung more sharpened feathers at their feet, forcing them to leap back out of the way, “- mysterious anti-hero.”

A second figure in a similar costume but with a yellow helmet flew down after him on what looked like a boomerang-shaped hoverboard covered in buttons. “I am IQ, the smartest kid ever!” he announced.

The next figure to leap down was a woman with waist-length black hair, in the same costume, only her helmet was red with black polka dots and she was holding a yellow purse. “I am Azura, Princess of Beauty!” She reached into her purse, pulling out what looked like parts of a robot and flinging them into the air. The robot assembled itself and landed next to her with a clank.

“And I am Protectobot, the most advanced self-aware robot ever!” it announced. “And together we are -”

“The Super Ninjas!” they chorused. The Amis gave them blank stares, before Cosette voiced what they were all thinking.

“What - what the fuck?!”

 

 

“Senthere animas karinas bagoni… senthere animas karinas bagoni…”

A familiar voice made Gueulemer nearly fall off the roof. “I should have known. I thought I saw one of those weird sphere thingies coming up here.” He turned to see Éponine and Manon glaring at him as they leaned against the tower. Éponine’s eyes were fixed on Gueulemer’s Spy Orb - which he’d done a very good job on, if he did say so himself. He laughed to cover up his shock.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve, coming up here alone,” he grinned, “but thanks, because I was getting really, really bored.” He raised his eyebrows and stormclouds began to gather above him. Éponine glared back steadily, her face illuminated by a flash of neon-green lightening.

 

 

As ridiculous as the Super Ninjas’ introductions and costumes were, their powers were super efficient. Marius was forced to duck out of the way of yet more sharpened scarlet feathers, while IQ swooped around Grantaire’s head, taunting him. Cosette and Jehan grasped hands and shouted “Transform!”, and glared at Azura and Protectobot as they spread their wings.

Protectobot clasped his hands. “Bashing Hammer!” he shouted, while behind him Azura shouted “Lipsticker!” Cosette nearly laughed herself silly.

“Come on, is that the best spell name you can come up with?” she giggled. “Lame! Flame Shield -” the lamely named spells, however, hit their target perfectly, sending her flying back about twenty feet. Jehan ducked out of the second blast of what seemed to be enchanted lipsticks, and glanced behind themself, wincing as the lipsticks embedded themselves in a tree trunk.

“Now that’s just a waste of good make-up.”

Marius managed to avoid Red Feather’s subsequent attacks, but Grantaire wasn’t so lucky. The self-proclaimed mysterious anti-hero looped a wire around his neck, sending an electro-magic blast through his system. Grantaire collapsed, unconscious, and Marius jumped at Red Feather again.

IQ, meanwhile, was pressing buttons on his hoverboard, which seemed to double as a computer. He grinned up at Jehan, who was currently using more magic vines to bind and restrain Protectobot, and pressed the ‘go’ button. A blast of techno-magic shot out of the computer, hitting Jehan in the face. They flew back and landed on top of Grantaire, also unconscious. Protectobot wriggled free and raised his hands, sending magic ropes at Marius, which pinned his arms to his sides and tied his knees together, making him faceplant into the dirt. Red Feather glared down at the captured Prince. “You’ll never get Duchess Céleste to marry you, fiend!”

Protectobot jumped at Cosette, who was ready this time. “Dragon Fire!” she shouted, and an enormous blast sent pieces of Protectobot flying in every direction. Azura glared at her.

“Time to powder your nose.” She flung a pale pink powder puff at Cosette’s face. Cosette didn’t have time to duck before it released the powder into her face, making her cough and squint. While she was blinded, Red Feather swung a fist into her gut, making her crumple to the floor in pain.

 

 

“Alright, Gueulemer, no more free shows for you and your Spying Spells,” Éponine said, stepping forward. “Let’s get down to business! Transform!”

As she assumed her Faery form, Gueulemer snorted. “I will destroy you, little girl.”

Éponine appeared unbothered, but Manon looked terrified. “Éponine, I sure hope you know what you’re doing!” she squeaked. Éponine grinned.

“Don’t worry, I have a plan.” Éponine began tapping her foot and chanting the words of the song Musichetta had danced to earlier, swaying her body and arms from side to side, closing her eyes in concentration. Gueulemer recognised the spell she was attempting immediately, and laughed in disbelief.

“Do you really think you can overpower my control of the clouds with a little rain dance?” he snorted, raising his hand. He sent a blast at Éponine, who was thrown off her feet.

 

 

Céleste opened her eyes slowly. She was still in the same tent as she’d been in last time she’d awoken, only now she was handcuffed to some sort of pole. As she looked around, she noticed another problem: there was now a dog in the tent.

“Nice doggy,” she whimpered. “Now go away.” The dog got up, padded around in a circle, and sat back down, staring curiously at her. For some reason, it was wearing a yellow helmet.

The tent curtain was pulled back, and Céleste looked up hopefully, wondering if it was her saviour - but no. It was her kidnappers.

“Ugh, what a day,” Azura was saying. “I need a shower.”

The kid - IQ, if she remembered correctly, patted his thigh with a call of “Zork! C’mere, boy!” The dog got up and wobbled over to him, away from Céleste (thank the Dragon). The leader, Red Feather, approached Céleste and beamed at her.

“Fear not, Duchess. Justice has vanished the evil Prince Marius.”

Céleste scowled. “I’m not afraid of your justice. I’m rich.”

Red Feather looked utterly befuddled. “She’s confusing me,” he murmured to his companions. IQ got to his feet, cracking his knuckles.

“I’ll get her to calm down,” he grinned. Red Feather frowned, then nodded.

“OK, but play nice.” He, Azura and the dog left the tent, and IQ smirked over at Céleste.

 

 

“Where are we?” Cosette groaned.

Grantaire leaned against the wall, looking resigned. “Bellacodice’s prison. I’ve been here before.”

“We were so close to finding their hideout,” Jehan sighed.

“That’s probably why they attacked us,” Cosette pointed out. Grantaire pushed his dark curls out of his face.

“We can’t fight them face-to-face. They’re just too strong.”

Jehan began nervously braiding their long ginger hair. “What I don’t understand is how they can believe in justice but still be kidnappers.”

Marius had been sitting on the floor in silence, but now he got up, grinning. “That’s right. Jehan, you’ve just given me a great idea!”

“Can we help?” The Amis turned to see Juliette, Charlie and Roselyne fluttering outside the barred, glassless cell window.

Cosette beamed. “Can you get the window open? There’s only a few hours ‘til sunrise!”

 

 

“What a fool,” Gueulemer laughed, gazing at Éponine’s unmoving body through his eyelashes. That’s why he was taken completely by surprise when she leapt to her feet.

“Bass Boost!” Éponine screamed, and an enormous wave of sound magic shot from her body, knocking Gueulemer onto his back. Éponine continued to move and chant, but now it was much louder, and magic sparks were glowing in the air around her. Gueulemer winced as he got back up.

“This never gets old,” he smirked, his hands once again filling with dark magic. “She’ll never get to the end of that spell.”

 

 

As Cosette once again set up the location spell, Marius leaned against a tree. “Escaping was the easy part,” he sighed. “The hard part will be finding Céleste.”

“I’ve got her location,” Cosette announced happily, before her face fell. “And it’s smack in the middle of Club Super Ninja Dorks.”

Grantaire sighed. “I wish we’d thought to bring the demoleculiser. That way we could just teleport ourselves in unnoticed.”

Jehan grinned, reaching into the huge pocket on the front of their fuchsia corduroy dungarees. “I’ve got something even better.” They held up the containment orb holding the peony.

Grantaire looked sceptical. “A flower?”

Jehan nodded. “There’s a spell I can cast with it that should bring Céleste right to us.”

“So we wouldn’t have to deal with the Ninja Dorks at all?” Marius looked delighted, but Jehan shook their head, looking embarrassed.

“Well… it doesn’t actually move anyone. The spell, correctly cast, should switch the locations of two people.”

“So one of us will have to go into their hideout?” Marius winced. “OK. I’ll go.”

Jehan shook their head. “No. The people being switched have to be about the same height and weight.”

Cosette pursed her lips determinedly. “It’s got to be me then.”

Marius shook his head in horror. “No! We’ll find another way!”

“It’s super dangerous!” Juliette added.

“But there’s no time to try anything else,” Cosette reminded them.

“But you hate Céleste!”

Cosette tilted her head to one side. “I think ‘strongly dislike’ is more appropriate here. But anyway, it doesn’t matter. It’s the right thing to do.”

Marius looked pained, but eventually nodded, and Jehan nodded. “Alright. We need some light for the spell to work.”

Charlie cleared his throat. He was now wearing a Doctor Light costume, and in his hand was a firefly. With a snap of his fingers, the firefly was glowing brighter than any insect any of them had ever seen.

 

 

“That’s it girl, light up my life,” Gueulemer taunted as Éponine continued to dance. “Sing for me. Maybe you’ll be able to lull me to sleep -” he glanced over his shoulder, and suddenly his jaw dropped. The stormclouds he’d summoned were puffing into little white dream clouds! “No way!” While he’d been distracted taunting her, Éponine’s spell had managed to sooth his storm.

 

 

Céleste scowled at IQ, who was fiddling around with a helmet covered in wires. “You know, you’re kinda mean for a hero,” she commented - not because she cared, but because she really didn’t know what else to say.

IQ scratched his nose with a gloved finger, chuckling. “Yeah. Troubled childhood. Been in therapy since I was four.” He turned back to his helmet contraption and grinned at it, deciding it was ready and getting to his feet. Céleste’s eyes widened.

“You’re not going to put that gross helmet thingy on my head, are you?!”

IQ laughed, but suddenly jumped out of his skin when, with a flash of light, the girl in front of him changed into another girl - one with blonde hair instead of copper, and blue eyes instead of bronze. The new girl cracked a victorious smirk, and to IQ’s shock, easily broke the handcuffs and got to her feet.

 

 

Grantaire and Marius waited in the forest, observing the skyline for a signal. Grantaire stretched and began to say, “When do you think we should step in to find Cosette -” when he was cut off by an enormous blast of fire shooting into the air about a hundred metres away.

“I reckon now would be a good time,” Marius muttered. Both boys formed swords and raised them, but suddenly the Super Ninjas came zooming out of the smoke cloud, landing in front of them. Cosette followed, her body still glowing with fire magic. “Never mind,” Marius said. “We’ve just gotta hold them off until Charlie gets back.”

 

 

“It’s so not fair!” Céleste wailed. Jehan had set up a little tent for the spell, and this was where they, Céleste, Roselyne and Juliette were currently hiding out. “Cosette’s the one who rescued me!”

“Yes, yes, I know,” Roselyne sympathised. Juliette had stuffed her own tiny fist into her mouth to hold back her thoughts, and Roselyne was having a hard time not laughing.

“Oh, I hate her! I hate her!” Céleste continued. “Why does Marius have to like her?!”

“Well, human emotions are very -” Juliette began, but Céleste cut her off.

“I spent my whole life studying posture, etiquette, court protocol, everything!”

“We understand,” Jehan said kindly, but Céleste once again steamrollered on.

“And after all that hard work, I’m supposed to marry a Prince! That’s the whole point!”

“Hey!” Roselyne finally spoke loud enough that Céleste looked up at her. “There are plenty of Princes in the Magic Dimension! Princes that don’t like someone else, like Marius, or are gay like Prince Enjolras of Solaria -”

“Enjolras of Solaria is gay?!” Céleste wailed. “Dammit, he was my second choice!”

 

 

In King Gillenormand’s study back at the castle, Charlie was digging around through the documents he’d left out. He knew what he was looking for was here somewhere - he’d nearly found it, he was sure!

 

 

“Crap,” Gueulemer muttered, looking at the clearing sky. Éponine smirked in victory.

“You’re defenceless. Power Chord!” She shot magenta magic at him, knocking him off the roof and into the rosebushes. Gueulemer emerged, yanking out thorns from awkward places, and glared up at Éponine with gritted teeth.

“How dare you?!” he hissed. “You’re going down!” He raised his hand, which began filling with lightning, but at that moment, several lights inside the school clicked on, and students and teachers alike rushed to the windows. Realising he was about to be outnumbered, Gueulemer scowled and pushed off the ground, flying away from the school in a hurry. “I’ll get you for this, Éponine,” he muttered.

Éponine lay back in exhaustion, and Manon rushed to kiss her cheek. “Brava! Éponine, I am very impressed!” Éponine grinned back.

 

 

Marius, Cosette and Grantaire stood back to back, surrounded by the Super Ninjas. Grantaire narrowed his eyes, clutching his sword tightly to stop his hands from trembling. “They’ve got us cornered,” he muttered. “Now what?”

“Team,” Red Feather spoke up, “it is time for justice to be served, and for us to seal their fates once and for all -”

“WAIT!” a tiny voice screamed. The Ninjas all looked up in confusion.

It was Charlie, clutching a scroll bigger than his own body, and flying towards them as fast as he could.

“Charlie!” Cosette exclaimed, and Marius gave a whoop.

“Just in the nick of time,” Grantaire added, looking relieved. Charlie flung the scroll towards him, but Red Feather swooped in and snatched it.

“What’s this? Secrets?”

“Go ahead and read it,” Cosette glared.

“It’s a ransom note,” Marius added. “You’ll recognise Bellacodice’s seal.”

“To sum it up, you guys are kidnappers!” Cosette said victoriously.

Red Feather scanned the letter, his face growing redder by the second.

 

 

“They’re coming!” Juliette squeaked. “I can feel their emotions approaching!”

“Are you sure, Juliette?” Jehan asked. The little Piskie was frozen in midair, eyes wide and terrified.

“There must be some mistake,” Céleste added hopefully, but Juliette shook her head.

“They’re right outside!”

“But there’s no way Cosette could have lost -” Jehan was interrupted by the tent flap being yanked open, revealing the Super Ninjas themselves glaring down at them.

“I definitely didn’t lose,” a voice said behind them, and the Ninjas parted to reveal Marius, Grantaire, Charlie and Cosette grinning at them.

Red Feather cleared his throat. “The side of justice is here to rescue the lovely Céleste from the claws of the villainous Lord Bellacodice,” he said sheepishly, and both Jehan and Céleste breathed out in relief.

 

 

The next day, Gillenormand called both Marius and Cosette into the throne room of his palace. Cosette was shaking with nervousness, but Gillenormand looked nowhere near as fierce as he had the day before. “What Cosette did was very brave,” he announced. “Worthy of a future queen.”

“Thank you, your majesty,” Cosette said delightedly.

Marius’ Aunt Ophélie took over the conversation. “But these Ninjas are just too dangerous. They cannot be allowed to stay on Planet Eraklyon. What if they were tricked by someone else?”

Cosette smiled widely as an idea came to her. “If I may, your majesties, I think I know how to get them to leave.”

 

 

The Super Ninjas were stood outside the palace next to the fountain, and Grantaire and Jehan were awkwardly leaning against it, listening to their conversation.

“I am filled with righteous ire over Bellacodice’s trickery!” Red Feather was saying.

“It is unforgivable!” Azura added.

“It turned out Marius was one of the good guys all along!” IQ sighed. Protectobot scratched his head.

“I don’t get it,” he sighed. “Who’s evil and who’s not?”

“At least we know for sure that the king is evil,” Red Feather said confidently, before frowning. “Wait… no, he’s not.”

“Maybe Bellacodice and the king are working together!” Protectobot gasped.

“That means the real villains are the queen and Céleste!” Azura theorised. Grantaire and Jehan both groaned.

“Do you think they’re going to force Bellacodice to marry Céleste?” IQ said quietly.

“I’m getting confused again,” Red Feather whimpered.

Cosette’s voice filled the air as she and Marius walked past. “So, Marius, did you hear about the troubles?”

“Oh yes,” Marius sighed. “It’s absolutely awful!”

Red Feather cleared his throat. “What are you talking about?”

Cosette’s eyes widened. “Didn’t you hear? On Planet Earth, the country of America has been taken over by a terrible dictator, known to some as the tangerine hellbeast! The country is a complete disaster thanks to that evil man.”

Red Feather’s eyes widened, and he turned back to his team. “The people of America are in danger! Let’s go, team!” The three humans, the robot and the dog took off immediately, running into the forests doubtless to find their airship - or some other mode of transport. Cosette giggled.

“Well, that’s that taken care of!”

Marius frowned. “But Cosette, Earth is your planet. Aren’t you worried?”

Cosette shook her head. “Honestly, no. They’re heroes, aren’t they? I think some heroes are exactly what America needs right now. And anyway, I’m from France.”

Jehan, Marius and Grantaire all burst out laughing, and Cosette added, “Besides, I didn’t say anything that wasn’t true.”

Grantaire wiped a tear from his eye and turned to Marius. “So, how did it go with your grandfather?”

Marius grinned and wrapped an arm around Cosette’s shoulders. “Let’s just say Cosette is going to be an amazing queen someday.”

Cosette blushed, and Jehan and Grantaire grinned at each other in a conspiratorial sort of way. Jehan got up from the edge of the fountain, stretching their back out. “Well, I’m going to go find the Piskies. See you back on the ship!”

Grantaire got up too. “Yeah, I have to go check I didn’t leave anything behind. Later!” The Nature Faery and the Water Wizard hurried off in different directions, and Cosette and Marius were alone.

Cosette grinned up at Marius. “So, do you think they’ve accepted me?”

Marius positively beamed. “I think so. They were pissed that I wouldn’t do what they wanted, but now that they’ve seen what I want, I think they’re going to end up liking you even more than I do! Which,” he added, “I didn’t think was possible.”

Cosette couldn’t help herself; she stood on her tiptoes and pressed a firm kiss to Marius’ mouth, pulling away to beam back at him. “I like you a lot too, Marius,” she sighed happily. “I think I am very much in like with you.”

Marius hugged her, lifting her off the ground and making her giggle. “Good, because I’m very much in like with you too.”

Chapter Text

“Posture, Princess Musichetta. Head high, shoulders back.”

“Yes, Nanny.”

“Your father rang. He wants to make sure you’ve been attending all of your lessons.”

“Yes, of course I have.”

“Mind your posture, Princess Musichetta!”

“Yes, sorry, Nanny.”

“You will be attending court this evening.”

“Yes, I know.”

“You’ll sit quietly.”

“Yes, Nanny.”

“You will sit still and do nothing.”

“Yes, Nanny.”

“You will be quiet. Speak to no one!”

“Yes, Nanny - what?!” Nanny’s face was changing - into shiny scarlet metal that concealed rotting black flesh and white teeth that grinned wickedly.

“And no one will speak to you. You are all alone.”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Musichetta screamed, shooting upright in bed. Her eyes were still closed tight, but she was curling into a ball, as if to hide from the monster haunting her nightmares. In her tiny cradle next to the bed, Lise rubbed her eyes and gazed at her bonded Faery in concern. With a flutter of her wings, she flew from the cradle to land on Musichetta’s head. Musichetta was sobbing, but as Lise made contact with her, a pale golden glow settled around her face, and suddenly she took a great shuddering breath and breathed out, lying back in bed and falling into a calm slumber at last.

 

 

Cosette, Juliette, Wolter and Roselyne were all fast asleep too, but Jehan lay awake, pondering over their discovery from a few days ago. Feuilly had drawn a picture of them, had been thinking of them. Perhaps he thought of Jehan the same way Jehan thought of him! Coming to a decision, the Faery of Nature rolled out of bed and padded over to their desk, turning the nightlight onto its dimmest setting so as not to disturb Cosette. Reaching for their letter-writing set, they pulled out a piece of recyclable paper decorated with green and blue flowers, selected a a fountain pen with purple ink, and began to write:

Dear Feuilly…

 

 

“I’m starting to feel stressed out,” Musichetta announced at breakfast the next morning. “This doesn’t feel much like a holiday. I mean, Cosette was supposed to go to Eraklyon to meet Marius’ family, and instead she and Jehan spent the whole time fighting a team of confused superheroes! That’s hardly better than how we’ve been spending the whole year learning to fight Lord Méchant.”

“It sounds like we could all use a proper break,” Cosette grinned, “and I think I have something in mind…” she held up a letter. “Marius and I were going to Paris for a few days to see my dad, but Marius can only stay for one day because of something that came up at school. My dad suggested I bring you guys along as well! I also have an invite to a party in Paris that says I can bring friends, so we could go along to that tomorrow!”

Éponine, Musichetta and Enjolras all made interested noises, but Jehan pointed out a problem. “Courfeyrac’s busy today though!” they reminded them. “He’s gone out on a date with Combeferre, remember? And…” they blushed, “I kinda had plans today too.”

Éponine made a sad face. “The party won’t be any fun without you though,” she sighed. Jehan nodded.

“It does sound like fun, and I would really like to go, but we can’t just abandon Courf like that!”

Enjolras looked thoughtful. “How’s about you and Courf stay here today and do whatever it was you had planned, and I’ll pick you up before the party tomorrow?” he suggested. “It only takes a second for me to open a portal.”

Cosette, Éponine and Musichetta all nodded, and Jehan looked relieved. “That would be great!” they beamed. “Thanks, Enj!”

 

 

When Enjolras’ portal spat the four Faeries, four Piskies and the Wizard out in Les Jardins Du Luxembourg (ironically in the very clearing where Cosette and Enjolras had first met), it was only a few minutes walk out of the park to a bus stop, and only a few seconds before a bus pulled up in the direction they were going. Marius, Éponine, Enjolras and Musichetta were all fascinated by the wheels, as there were next to no wheeled vehicles in the Magic Dimension, but Cosette hurried them onto the bus before anyone noticed their odd behaviour.

“No staring at anything that you find unusual because it doesn’t exist in the Magic Dimension,” she whispered. “It’s probably pretty normal on Earth.” As an afterthought, she hurried the Piskies into her handbag. “Also, you guys need to stay out of sight.” Manon made an affronted face, but Simone, Juliette and Lise didn’t complain. The last thing they needed was for someone to shove them into another pet carrier and drag them off to be examined by someone who’d never heard of Piskies before.

“So,” Musichetta leaned against the window. “How’s about Enjolras, Éponine and I head downtown to hang out while Cosette and Marius are with Cosette’s dad?”

“It’ll take you forever to get there,” Cosette pointed out. “The bus is stuck in the morning traffic.” Indeed, it had been about five minutes since the bus had last moved, and the air was filled with honking horns and shouting drivers.

“No problem,” Enjolras grinned. “We’ll fly! Trans-” Cosette gasped and nearly tackled him into a commuter’s lap as she slammed her hand over his mouth to keep him from switching forms.

Désolé, Monsieur,” she apologised to the irate man, who brushed off his suit while glaring at them. He snapped something at her in rapid French, and she nodded politely before turning back to Enjolras. “No magic, Enj! Remember, Earth is magic-free! No one here knows about it except us five and my dad.”

Enjolras looked disappointed. “And transforming counts?”

“Trust me, if there’s one thing you are not gonna wanna do, it’s transform in public.”

 

 

In a little café in Magix City, Courfeyrac and Combeferre were ensconced in a booth, sharing a plate of pancakes and syrup. They’d spent seemingly forever talking about first the current state of the Magical Political system, followed by a conversation about schoolwork, but by this point the conversation had died down, and they were awkwardly picking at their food, but suddenly Combeferre shook himself and reached into his hoodie pocket. “So, you guys have been pretty hard at work training to fight Lord Méchant, right?”

Courfeyrac nodded. “I honestly don’t think I’ve had a break since the summer holidays,” he laughed awkwardly. I’m really glad you asked me out, but can’t we talk about something a little less grim? he sighed internally.

Combeferre smiled. “I know, which is why I got you this!” He held up his present: a slim blue memory stick. Courfeyrac took it with an awkward smile.

“You got me a present? Thanks.”

“It’s the latest model,” Combeferre added with a smile. “It’ll store twice as much data as the last one.” I really hope you like it.

“That’s very thoughtful of you, Ferre.”

“So, do you like it?”

“It’s really cool,” Courfeyrac smiled, but then his face changed. He looked kind of sad. “But it’s a gift for my computer. It’s not for me.”

“Oh.” Combeferre winced. That did not go as planned. He hurried to change the subject. “So, Courf, I’ve been thinking…”

Courfeyrac’s green eyes widened hopefully. “Yes?”

Combeferre’s nerve went, and he went with the first thing that came to mind. “The new Tensor Incantation Circuitry software has some really cool features -”

Courfeyrac sighed and got to his feet, and Combeferre groaned. How had he managed to blow it already? “Look, Ferre, I’m really sorry, but I’ll be dealing with software all day -”

“I understand,” Combeferre said hopefully. Maybe he hadn’t blown it, and Courfeyrac was just late to get back to work? But his hopes were dashed with Courfeyrac’s next sentence.

“I came out with you because I thought a date would be a break from all that,” he sighed. “I’m… probably just gonna go.” He began walking away, and Combeferre panicked.

“It was my fault!” he shouted suddenly, and Courfeyrac turned back to him.

“What?”

“What happened at Corinthe.”

Courfeyrac shook his head. “No one could have predicted that Patron-Minette were casting spells that could actually kill someone,” he reminded Combeferre, who looked ready to tear his hair out. “It wasn’t something we could have prevented.”

Combeferre shook his head. “No… I mean, it was my fault that they got away with the Codex.”

“What?!”

Combeferre continued, not really sure why, especially when every rational part of his brain was screaming at him to shut up now! “I had my gun pointed right at Babet,” he whispered. “I could have shot him right there and then. But I didn’t.” He screwed up his face in shame. “I dropped my gun.”

“Like, by accident?” Courfeyrac looked sympathetic. “We’re all clumsy sometimes, it wasn’t your fault -”

“No,” Combeferre shook his head. “I dropped it on purpose. Because I couldn’t shoot him.” He stared at the floor in shame. “I couldn’t even shoot to stun. I stood back and let all three of them walk out.”

Courfeyrac’s face flashed through about twenty emotions at once, before settling on the one Combeferre had hoped he’d never see on the boy’s face. Disappointment. And it was because of him. “I have to go.” He started to walk away.

“Courf, wait -”

Courfeyrac turned back to him, looking upset. “You let them get away. That was your fault. That’s on you. I… I don’t think there’s going to be a second date.” He turned on the ball of his foot and hurried out of the café. Combeferre put a face in his hands with a groan.

Why did you tell him?! his brain berated him. You could have just told him you like him, but instead you had to go and admit that you’re a coward!

I had to tell him though. He needs to know that he deserves better than me.

 

 

The Amis got off the bus at l’Archives Nationales Museum, and waited outside Les Jardins des Archives Nationales with the Piskies while Cosette hurried off to make a phonecall. When she came back, she took Marius’ hand with a smile. “My dad’s home. We’re off!” She suddenly noticed that the group was very much smaller than when she’d left it. “Hey, where are the Piskies?”

“Lise is right here in my hood,” Musichetta smiled.

Marius squeezed her hand. “Manon got spooked by one of those mini-hoverbikes on wheels and flew into the park, but Simone and Juliette went to find her,” he assured her. To his surprise and concern, though, Cosette looked horrified.

“You let them all fly off together?” she shrieked. “Are you nuts?!”

Enjolras shrugged. “What’s the problem? They’ll find their way back easy peasy.”

“Enj, no one in Paris has ever seen a Piskie before!” Cosette reminded him. “Who knows what could happen if they’re spotted?”

 

 

Juliette watched in adoration as a man and a woman embraced, before the man got into a taxi and left, the woman waving after him with a sigh. “So sad, and yet so romantic,” she squealed. Manon, meanwhile, was talking to a little girl wearing a neat blouse and a checked skirt with a pink ribbon in her hair.

“My, such a prim and proper young lady,” she smiled. The girl blushed.

“Thank you, mademoiselle,” she whispered in awe. Simone looked worried.

“Manon, we should really be getting back!”

“In a minute,” Manon insisted. “Look at how nicely shined her shoes are!”

“Well, well, well, what have we here?” an unfamiliar voice behind them said. The three Piskies and the little girl turned to see a police officer. “Have you lost your way, young lady?”

The little girl nodded, and the policeman smiled at her. “Alright. Let’s go find your mama and papa.” He offered the little girl a hand and she took it gratefully, leading him down the path, but turning to wave goodbye to the Piskies. The policeman didn’t even seem to notice them.

“Some fairies kept me company, you know,” they heard her say to the policeman, who chuckled.

“Well, isn’t that lucky?”

“Excuse me?!” Manon muttered. “I am clearly a Piskie! I look nothing like a Faery!”

“This planet has no magic, remember?” Simone reminded her. “She’s probably just guessing what we are as best she can. What I find odd is that the policeman didn’t say anything about us, even though we were right under his nose!”

“He didn’t even see us,” Juliette agreed. “But now we should really head back.”

The Amis were waiting exactly where they’d left them, and Cosette, Marius and Juliette headed off to meet Jean Valjean while the others headed off to inspect the town. The Piskies told the Faeries all about their discovery that they were invisible to adults, and Éponine sighed in relief. “Well, that’s one less thing to worry about,” she smiled, waving at a small boy whose jaw was nearly on the floor as he spied the little fluttering beings around her head. His mother pulled him away.

“Allez, Kevin! Nous serons en retard pour la journée des enfants à Mangaland.”

Manon shuddered as she spotted the half-melted ice-cream Kevin was clutching. “Ew, germy hands!” the policema

“Excusez-moi, Mesdames,” a voice said behind them, and the three Faeries turned to see another policeman. Enjolras scowled at being called a girl but the policeman corrected himself a second later. “Désolé, Mesdames et Gent. Qu'est-ce que vous faites traîner ici? Tu ne devrais pas être à l'école?”

Manon whispered a translation into Musichetta’s ear, and Musichetta’s eyes widened with an idea. She stepped forwards and smiled politely at the policeman. “P, nsa. Aa m ims iapn p msnns m aa sm nsnseea iasmn rm ysnrs. Asdsk spa aa' er i npna mp assea paa iasm pmar s asomam ephiasm s mmm. Sn k ha maeh a aa r eah smrspn?”

Enjolras and Éponine pretended that they understood what she’d said, and smiled politely at the policeman, whose eyes widened in realisation. “Aah, les touristes.” He smiled politely and tipped his hat at them. “Profitez de Paris et passez de bonnes vacances!” He headed off to continue his patrol, and Musichetta breathed out in relief.

“That was great, Musichetta!” Éponine whooped. “What language was that?”

“Mermish,” Musichetta smiled. “The language of Mermaids.”

“What did you tell him?” Enjolras asked. Musichetta grinned mischievously.

“The truth. There’s no way anyone on Earth speaks Mermish, so he definitely won’t be suspicious. Then I asked him where I could get some nachos.”

Enjolras and Éponine burst out laughing, while Simone made a face. “Mermaids have a word for nachos?” she muttered.

 

 

Andros, seven years ago…

“Hi!” The little girl with bright orange pigtails twirled around the empty ballroom. “My name is Anne. Want to be my friend?”

“What are you doing?” Musichetta asked curiously. She’d never seen anyone move so freely before, not even her Mermaid cousins in the water. “It looks like fun.”

“I’m dancing,” Anne giggled. “Do you know how to dance?”

“You look so free,” Musichetta whispered. There was no way she’d be able to move like that in her heavy petticoats, but Anne smiled and offered her a hand.

“Do you want me to teach you how?”

Paris, present day.

Musichetta napped, her head lying on the table of an outdoor café. Lise lay on top of her head, and Manon tidied her hair and smoothed out her dress, while Simone amused herself by hiding under a menu and pretending it was a barricade during a revolution.

“Wake up, sleepy head!” Enjolras said cheerfully, placing a tray with three plates of food next to Musichetta’s head. Musichetta twitched awake and stretched, and Lise slid onto the table with a scowl.

Éponine put down a tray of drinks on the other side of the table. “Yeah, spill!”

Musichetta shugged. “Spill what?”

“Where did you learn to speak Mermish?” Éponine grinned.

Musichetta smiled awkwardly. “Oh, right. As a princess I had to learn hundreds of languages. Especially Mermish. Andros is bilingual.”

Enjolras looked envious. “Aw, that’s so cool! I would have loved to have been taught another language when I was younger!”

Musichetta shrugged. “It wasn’t that fun. I wasn’t even allowed to pick out my own clothes. I was only allowed to look one way.”

“Prim and proper,” Manon smiled. “Like a proper lady!”

“Exactly,” Musichetta sighed. “It was awful.” Manon scowled, and went back to fixing her own petticoats. Éponine made a face.

“Did you have to have perfect posture and hair at all times?” she grimaced. “Only go outside when the lawns had been properly dewormed in case you fainted at the sight of an insect?”

Enjolras shuddered. “That old-fashioned stuff is so last century. I’m glad the only etiquette I ever learned was for the courtroom. None of that ‘perfect posture at all times’ nonsense.”

Musichetta nodded. “I couldn’t cope. I had to break free one way or another.”

“Well, you can choose all your own clothes now, and have fun,” Éponine smiled.

“Because you’ve got us,” Enjolras grinned. “Now let’s have some lunch.”

 

 

Cosette, Marius and Jean Valjean were sitting down to lunch too, but it was a far more awkward affair, because Valjean didn’t know what to say to Marius, while Marius, in spite of his powers and status, was absolutely terrified of Valjean. It wasn’t that the man put out an unwelcoming vibe - quite the opposite - but Marius had seen enough Earth movies and read enough Earth books in preparation to know what fathers did to boys who got too close to their little girls. Even if the little girl in question was nearly an adult, could shoot fire from her hands, and had survived her home planet’s apocalypse when she was only a baby. And he’d also broken a plate by mistake when Cosette had asked him to get some down from the cabinet for her.

Marius went to tuck in to the smoked salmon and cream cheese on the massive platter of lunch-things Valjean had served up, but Cosette held him back. “We have to say grace first,” she whispered. “You don’t have to join in though, but hold off on the munching until after.”

She offered him her hand, and he awkwardly took it, and even more awkwardly took her father’s offered hand. Valjean and Cosette both had their eyes shut, but Marius, having never said grace before, awkwardly looked around the room for a few seconds before shutting his eyes too.

“Our father who art in heaven,” Valjean began, “thank you for blessing us with this food.” He paused, and Marius nearly opened his eyes, but then Valjean continued, and he shut them tightly again, almost shaking with nervousness. Was this the part where Valjean called for Marius to be a sacrifice to some ancient Earth God?

But the rest of the prayer didn’t go the way Marius had been expecting at all. “And Lord, if you’re listening, let Marius Pontmercy know that he is welcome in my house and to my family and that the plate he accidentally broke that Cosette sneakily cleared away was an ugly plate and I’m glad it is broken.” This was followed by an awkward silence, before suddenly Marius heard the unmistakeable snort of repressed laughter, followed by uncontrollable chuckles. He opened his eyes to see Valjean spluttering with laughter, and Cosette giggling madly, and he found himself laughing too. Thank the Dragon!

Juliette grabbed a slice of green apple and tucked in, and Valjean paused in his laughter, looking thoroughly confused. “Cosette, what…?”

Cosette giggled, realising her father could only see a slice of apple vanishing in midair. “It’s kind of hard to explain, Papa.”

 

 

Enjolras, Éponine and Musichetta walked through Paris, occasionally pausing to admire the architecture and the river, and observe the people. They were pondering visiting one of the museums, when Musichetta’s eye was caught by something else. “Look, a dance club!”

Enjolras made a face. “I don’t know about this. It’s a school day. This place is bound to be full of dropouts.”

Éponine giggled. “Weren’t you a dropout?”

Enjolras scowled. “I was expelled, there’s a difference. And I did everything I could to go back to school.”

“We can go in, have fun, and mind our own business,” Musichetta said matter-of-factly.

“We’re not exactly pushovers,” Éponine agreed. Enjolras shrugged.

“I dunno. Dancing isn’t really my thing. Unless Grantaire wanted it to be, then it would totally be my thing… I think I’m gonna go meet up with Cosette and Marius, maybe say hi to Monsieur Valjean. See you later.”

Enjolras headed back the way they’d come, and Éponine and Musichetta waved after him before heading into the club. They didn’t notice the inordinate amount of young adults - mostly men with a few women - wearing matching white leather jackets and smoking outside the club in a group.

 

 

Jehan walked through the forest next to Musain with Roselyne by their side, pondering their next move. They had indeed had a plan that day, but how to put it into effect hadn’t really been thought about. As they passed two girls who were holding hands as they studied under a tree together,Jehan found themself sighing in jealousy - not because they were envious of one of the girls, but rather because they desperately wanted what Robyn and Francis had with each other. They gazed down at the sealed envelope they were clutching, wondering how to get it to the recipient - when the answer appeared further up the path, sitting cross-legged on a flattish rock.

Feuilly.

Jehan took a deep breath of excitement, thinking, just go and put the letter next to him, when suddenly Feuilly’s eyes opened, and he turned to look at them. Jehan promptly dropped the letter, and Feuilly got to his feet with a smile.

Oh my Dragon, he’s coming over to me. Don’t panic. Don’t hyperventilate. Breathe, just like you’ve been doing all your life. Oh crap. I’ve forgotten how to breathe. How do you breathe?!

 

 

“WOOOHOOO!” Éponine and Musichetta cheered as they danced together. Éponine grinned.

“This place is so cool!”

“Yeah,” Musichetta agreed, “but we need better music. This song is kinda lame.”

“Cosette said no magic,” Éponine reminded her, but Musichetta grinned mischievously.

“In this crowded place? No one will notice!”

“Good point!” Éponine grinned back. She allowed a ball of pink light to form in her hand, and checked no one was watching before flinging it at the speaker. The track changed from a modern upbeat pop loop to something more electrifyingly keyboardy. Everyone on the floor immediately began grooving to the new music - well, almost everyone. A girl in a white leather jacket looked rather cross about it.

“Who changed the music?!” she demanded - and definitely not like she wanted to congratulate them. Musichetta snapped her fingers with a smirk, and a second later, the contents of the bottle the girl was holding fizzed up and sprayed into her face. Musichetta and Éponine giggled and continued to dance. They hadn’t noticed three boys in white leather jackets watching them from a booth.

“There’s something different about those girls,” one of them muttered. One of his buddies nodded in agreement.

“She changed the music without having to ask anyone how it worked. She must have some kinda hi-tech remote control.”

The first boy shook his head. “No, did you see the other one? Those girls have some kinda freaky magic.”

His other friend sniggered. “You need to stop reading those Harry Potter books, Jared, they’re messing with you.”

Jared scowled. “I can’t read, stupid!”

 

 

“Is something wrong, Jehan?”

Jehan jumped and shook their head. “N-no. Nothing.”

“Nothing,” Feuilly repeated. “Despite its definition, fewer words have more meaning.”

Jehan blinked a little, nodding in agreement, but then Feuilly spoke again. “There’s a drawing of a rose on this letter,” he said thoughtfully. “The flower of love.” Jehan jumped, realising Feuilly was handing them back their letter. He must have picked it up while I was trying to remember how to breathe. “Whoever this is for, they’re very lucky,” Feuilly smiled. “Good luck.”

“B-”

Feuilly turned and headed back down the path, leaving Jehan standing awkwardly in the clearing clutching the letter and wondering if they were imagining the unfamiliar slump in Feuilly’s shoulders. Roselyne glared at them.

“What was that, Jehan? You had a beautiful opportunity to give it to him and you blew it!”

Jehan made a sort of high-pitched whimper in the back of their throat.

 

 

As Musichetta and Éponine danced, Musichetta found herself slipping into a memory from a long time ago:

“Thank you for coming to see me!” Musichetta giggled as Anne spun her under her arm.

“You don’t have to thank me for coming to see you,” Anne giggled. “I’ll always be here with you, and you’ll never be alone.”

“But what about when the darkness comes?”

“Don’t worry,” Anne smiled, and the two ran past the windows, giggling, Anne throwing in a jetté for fun. “I’ll be in your heart, as a friend.”

Musichetta sighed as Anne continued to sway. “I’ll never escape this palace.”

“Chetta, wherever you are you can always be free. All you need is a friend to dance with.”

As Éponine led her to a seat so they could catch their breath, Musichetta told her about the memory, and Éponine listened with interest. “So you’d dance to escape your princess duties?” she smiled.

Musichetta nodded. “It means a lot to me that you’re dancing with me.”

“No problem.”

“Now let’s go show everyone how good we really are!” Musichetta grabbed Éponine’s hand and dragged her back onto the dance floor, not noticing Jared continuing to watch them from his booth.

 

 

Enjolras had gone to Cosette’s house and joined them just as they were sitting down to coffee. Valjean hugged him in greeting and went to make an extra cup, and Enjolras sat down with Marius and Cosette in the main room. The afternoon passed quite pleasantly, and at about five o’clock, Marius announced that he had to head back to Corinthe. Enjolras obligingly gave him a lift with his sceptre, and it was then that Cosette asked where Éponine and Musichetta were.

“They went clubbing a few blocks away. Some place called Liquide or something like that.”

Cosette’s eyes widened. “Oh no. Liquide is White Jacket territory. They could be in trouble.”

“What are the White Jackets?”

“A bunch of truants who want to seem cool, so they dress in white leather and go around in a little gang acting all tough,” Cosette explained, already reaching for her own leather jacket, which was black but somehow seemed less threatening than the white leather Enjolras had seen in abundance outside the club. “Éponine and Musichetta could be in trouble.”

 

 

A circle had formed around Musichetta as she danced, her entrancing moves catching the eyes of a fair few male admirers, and quite a few female ones too. Éponine grooved with the crowd, but suddenly she felt a hand on her shoulder, with too much pressure to be considered an accident - or even friendly. She turned to see one of the guys in white leather jackets gripping her shoulder, and he yanked her all the way around to face him. “Play nice, and no one gets hurt,” he sneered.

Éponine wasn’t taking this lying down. Growing up in a level-4 Witch’s house had left her with some pretty excellent attack spell skills. “Hands off, asshole!” she snarled, clapping her hands. “Sound Wave!” The boy stumbled forwards, his ears clearly ringing with Éponine’s spell, and faceplanted onto the floor. Musichetta paused mid-wiggle, eyes widening.

“Ép?” she said nervously. Éponine backed away towards her as another boy in a white jacket made to snatch at her arm. He whistled loudly to get the room’s attention.

“Alright, from now on this is a private party,” he announced. “Anyone who doesn’t want to play, leave now.” Most of the club’s patrons hurried out of the building, but the ones who stayed were all wearing similar white jackets. The boy Éponine had knocked out was being helped over to a seat, but the second he was out of the way the girl supporting him moved to rejoin the group. Musichetta realised with a sinking feeling that it was the same girl whose drink she’d made spray her in the face.

“What if we don’t want to play?” Éponine asked nervously, and Musichetta nodded.

“Yeah! Can we leave?”

No one answered; they didn’t need to. The girls were surrounded on all sides by a wall of white leather jackets. They were trapped.

 

 

Cosette, Juliette, Enjolras and Simone found Manon and Lise in some state of panic outside Liquide. “Éponine and Musichetta are still in there,” she informed them, “and now a bunch of those boys in those scruffy leather jackets are guarding the door and not letting anyone else in!”

“Tutti,” Lise squeaked in agreement.

“Something’s definitely going on in there,” Cosette muttered. “If Musichetta and Éponine are still in there, they’re almost certainly in trouble.”

“And there’s no way for us to get in there and find them,” Enjolras groaned. “Unless you know an invisibility spell?” he added hopefully, but Cosette shook her head.

“I don’t.” To his surprise, a grin was forming on her face. “But I have a much better idea.”

 

 

“What do you want from us?” Éponine growled.

“Tell us how you controlled the music,” one of the boys grinned.

“Come on, we saw you!” his friend added. “We know you have magic powers!”

“What are you talking about?” Musichetta said nervously, hoping they believed her.

They didn’t. “We won’t hurt you,” another boy reassured them, before his grin turned nasty, “as long as you use your magic for our benefit!”

“What do we do now?” Éponine whispered. Musichetta cracked her knuckles.

“They can’t possibly be worse than anything we’ve faced in the Magic Dimension,” she said determinedly. “I say we take them on!”

“Let’s get ‘em!” one of the boys snarled. Musichetta and Éponine stood back to back, but suddenly the lights snapped off, as did the music, and they were left in dark silence. Éponine felt cold fabric looping around her wrist, before it yanked her onto her knees, and as her eyes accustomed, she saw a boy standing over her, holding a tie taut like a rope.

“Éponine?” Musichetta whimpered. “It’s dark! Where are you?!” She remembered being twelve and cowering in her bed, while Anne stroked her back to comfort her.

“It’s OK, I’m here,” Anne said. “You don’t need to be afraid of the dark.”

“I can’t help it,” Musichetta whispered, hugging her pillow.

“WHERE ARE YOU?!”

“She’s gone!” said a boy. “You’re all alone!”

“Your friend left you behind,” added another boy. He sounded like he was getting closer, and Musichetta panicked.

“NO!” A ball of pale pink light formed between her palms, and she felt the ground under her feet shaking a little.

“Now what?” the boy goaded, and by the light in her palms she could see that he was close enough to touch her. Musichetta screamed, and pink streams of light flew from her body in all directions, lighting up the room. She saw Éponine throwing off the boy who had been holding her captive, and the rest of the white-jacket-clad cads backing away, shielding their eyes from the light. They collapsed, unconscious, when the light made contact with their bodies, and as the last hooligan fell to the floor, Musichetta fell to her knees.

“Musichetta, are you all right?” Éponine asked urgently, when suddenly a voice joined her - one of the last voices Musichetta had been expecting to hear.

“Pull yourselves together, ladies,” Manon said primly.

“We’re here to help,” Simone added.

“Good thing they couldn’t see us sneaking in,” Juliette giggled.

“Tutti!” cheered Lise. “Tutti tutti!” She fluttered down and landed on Musichetta’s head, and Musichetta instantly felt calmer, Lise’s Sweet Dreams magic flowing through her whole body.

“I knew it! You all saw that, right?!” And uh oh, the thugs were getting up.

“Let’s make ‘em take us to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!”

Éponine ignored them in favour of checking Musichetta was OK. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

Musichetta nodded. “Sorry, I lost it there for a second.”

Manon smoothed her dress and cracked her tiny knuckles. “Come on, ladies,” she said primly, “are we ready to teach these rude boys and girls some manners?”

Éponine grinned. “I’ll crank up the bass,” she announced, clapping her hands. The music and lights were back on in a flash, and now the bass was so loud it was making the entire building shake.

“Wake up to love!” Juliette giggled, tossing a handful of Piskie Dust over two of the boys, who immediately stopped and flung their arms around each other in a tearful embrace.

“ENOUGH!” Manon shrieked, and apparently it was loud enough to be heard by some of the boys, because two of them paused and made confused faces.

“Who said that?!” Manon grinned and began zooming around their heads. As she pulled to a halt, the two boys noticed that their formerly artfully spiked hair was now slicked down into neat side partings, and burst out laughing at each other. They were yet to notice that she’d also tucked their shirts in and pulled their trousers up so they were no longer low-riding (because, let’s face it, that went out of style in like 2015).

Musichetta blasted light at a vending machine full of drinks, and the cans inside instantly flew out, spraying the thugs with sticky fizzy liquid. Several slipped over, and Simone body-slammed into the face of the only one still standing, knocking him onto his back.

“Damn, Simone,” Musichetta mumbled. “You’re not messing around today.”

“Run now, congratulate later!” Éponine shouted, already dashing for the doors, but Simone called after her.

“No! The front is swarming with more of them! The back stairs are our best bet.”

Éponine changed direction, and she, Musichetta and the Piskies all hurried for the back stairs, which they hoped would lead to another way out. Some of the thugs who’d only been knocked over rather than knocked out were already getting up, so they ran faster up the stairs. Éponine could see a door at the top with a green EXIT sign over it, when suddenly she heard a thump behind her, followed by a shriek and an exclamation of victory.

“HELP!”

“Gotcha!”

Éponine turned. “CHETTA!”

One of the boys had grabbed her ankle, causing her to trip. Éponine ran to grab Musichetta’s hands, but the boy was too strong, and two of his friends had joined him. Éponine tugged as Musichetta scrambled, but suddenly light flooded the staircase and two more people joined her side.

Cosette and Enjolras! Their added strength was what had been missing, and Musichetta was pulled free easily, sending the boys tumbling down the staircase. The four Faeries and their bonded Piskies hurried out of the building, and Cosette slammed the door behind them.

“They got away!” Jared snarled in rage.

One of the boys who had been hit with Juliette’s love spell smiled and lay across his lap. “You know, you’re awful cute when you’re angry.”

Jared let out a howl of fury that would have made a werewolf jealous.

 

 

Cosette braced her hands on her thighs and took a deep breath. “New rule,” she panted. “From now on, tell me before you wander off in Paris. Today my dad met my boyfriend for the first time, and that should have been the most stressful thing to happen to me today, but somehow it wasn’t.”

Éponine and Musichetta had the decency to look sheepish.

 

 

“Courf, why am I afraid of talking to Feuilly?”

“Dunno,” Courfeyrac grunted. “That’s pretty illogical. He’s not exactly a scary guy.”

“I wish I could tell him how I feel,” Jehan sighed. They were upside down on the sofa, watching Courfeyrac angrily typing away on his laptop. He’d returned from his date in the worst mood Jehan had ever seen him in, which was far from the desired effect. “Even better, I wish he could just psychically know how I feel about him!”

“Yeah, well, don’t hold your breath for that one to come true” Courfeyrac mumbled. “Wizards can be pretty stupid about feelings. Sometimes they buy you impersonal gifts. Sometimes they talk about nothing but computers and politics and the impending doom of the universe. Hey, if you’re lucky, sometimes they’ll say something that makes you question if they’re the guy you thought you knew, and then confirm that they’re not when you ask!” He was jabbing his keyboard with unwonted venom now, and Jehan flipped the right way up with a frown.

“You… wanna talk about it?”

Courfeyrac shook his head, slamming his laptop shut. His eyes were glistening with unshed tears. Jehan tilted their head to one side before making another offer.

“You want a hug?”

Courfeyrac nodded, and practically launched himself out of his seat towards Jehan. Jehan wrapped their arms around him, stroking his back, and feeling the Technology Faery sobbing into his shoulder, wondered why out of all the possible love interests they and Courfeyrac could have had, why they’d had to pick the ones they had no luck with.

Chapter Text

As the morning of October 31st dawned over both Paris and Magix, Enjolras made the trip between the two to pick up Jehan and Courfeyrac. His friends were waiting at the Musain bus stop for him, and he greeted them both with a hug. He noticed Courfeyrac had rather red eyes, like he’d been up most of the night crying, but didn’t comment on it, and they hurried to make the return trip to Paris. Cosette was waiting outside her house for them, and they headed in to breakfast.

The little dining room felt very crowded; it was perfectly sized for Cosette and her father, but now that seven people and seven Piskies were crowded around the tiny table it was beginning to feel a little cramped.

“So what sort of party is this we’re going to tonight?” Éponine asked Cosette, whose eyes widened in excitement.

“It’s a Halloween party!” she grinned. “It’s going to be so fun!”

To her surprise, her friends all looked very confused. Courfeyrac raised his hand sheepishly. “What’s Halloween?”

Cosette frowned a little. “Don’t you have Halloween in the Magic Dimension?” All twelve heads shook, and she sighed. “That’s a shame, it’s so fun! Halloween is a holiday where we celebrate the supernatural - y’know, like ghosts, zombies, vampires, werewolves - and Faeries, Wizards and Witches.”

“They celebrate Faeries here?” Jehan said excitedly. “I thought no one knew Faeries existed!”

Cosette made a face. “Most people don’t believe we exist,” she sighed. “It’s more the idea that they celebrate. But everyone dresses up as their favourite monster to celebrate. Little kids and their parents go trick-or-treating, where you go door-to-door telling jokes in exchange for sweets, but some people prefer to go to Halloween parties - like the one we’re going to.”

“So your friend invited us to come with you?” Jehan smiled. “That’s so nice of her!”

Cosette chuckled awkwardly. “Well, Rosetta isn’t exactly a friend… but yes, she did say I should bring some of my college friends.”

Valjean smiled fondly and patted Cosette’s shoulder. “I hope you all have a good time tonight. Be home before midnight, and be careful. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to ask you all to clear out, as my book club is coming over.”

Cosette laughed and hugged her father, before grabbing a handbag from her bedroom and leading her friends out the door. Despite it barely being 9am, the streets were already full of people in colourful costumes. A girl about their age in a Wonder Woman dress walked past, giggling into her phone, and Éponine gave the costume an approving glance.

“Is she dressed as a Faery?”

Cosette shook her head. “Nah, she’s dressed as a superhero. Wonder Woman. She’s very popular right now, a movie just came out about her.”

Courfeyrac pointed at a boy wearing a yellow raincoat and carrying a little paper boat. “What about him? Is he in a costume at all?”

Cosette’s eyes widened, knowing that if any of her friends ever saw the movie that inspired the boy’s costume, they would probably never sleep again, not to mention freak out whenever they passed a storm drain. God knew that’s what she’d been like for a while after seeing the famous Steven King flick. “I think he’s from a movie too. I… can’t remember the name though.”

Jehan gave a dreamy grin. “Do you think one day they’ll make a movie about us?”

“As if any actress would ever want to play Cosette,” a gloating voice, unfamiliar to most, sneered. The Amis turned to see a sleek black car had pulled up next to them. In it sat a girl with glossy black hair and cold grey eyes, wearing a sleeveless white turtleneck crop top and what seemed to be a permanent sneer on her face. “Cosette, I see you brought your friends.”

“Hello, Rosetta,” Cosette said politely. “Yes, these are my friends from college. Enjolras, Jehan, Courfeyrac, Éponine and Musichetta. Everyone, this is Rosetta. It’s her party we’re going to tonight.”

The Amis all politely waved hello, but Rosetta sneered down her nose at them. “How cute. You know, Cosette, they’re exactly the kind of friends I pictured you ending up with.” Cosette glared, sensing the veiled insult, but Rosetta tossed back her hair. “Hey, when you come to the party tonight, try not to look so scruffy.” She snapped her fingers, and her driver sped off, leaving the Amis to scowl after her.

“Scruffy?!” Manon seethed. “That’s rich, coming from someone wearing a top that tacky!”

“That’s Rosetta for you,” Cosette said lightly. “Come on. Let’s go find somewhere to hang out until tonight.”

They walked through the streets of Paris, hmming at boutiques and bookshops, until Jehan spotted the perfect activity. “Look, a flea market!” they beamed. “Oh, let’s go in! They always have the cutest jumpers and ornaments and -”

“More things for you to clutter our room with?” Cosette teased, but she nodded. “Sure, let’s go in.”

The group split up as they entered the market, with promises to meet up again in an hour, and Jehan immediately skipped down an isle filled with stalls selling thousands of bright woolly jumpers in every colour imaginable, Roselyne following close behind. Their attention was caught by a few in particular - one covered in spangly ladybirds, and another decorated with pom-poms with googly eyes glued on stood out more than the others, and they made a mental note of the location in case they wanted to come back later. Jehan proceeded to the next isle, where they saw something even better than the jumpers: a brick-sized wooden box covered in beautiful Grecian images.

Jehan hurried over to admire it, and noticed the writing on the top: TAROT. It had been so long since they’d seen a box of Tarot cards - they weren’t popular as a divination method in many other places besides Lynphea - and they couldn’t resist them. They turned with a beam to the lady behind the counter. “How much for the Tarot cards?”

The lady looked politely confused, and Cosette, passing by as she admired some porcelain bunny ornaments, jumped to Jehan’s rescue. “Combien pour la boîte de cartes de tarot?”

“Ah!” the lady smiled. “€10.50.”

Jehan excitedly held up their credit card, but Cosette stopped them. “Maybe I should pay for it, Jehan. I’m not sure they’d recognise the Bank of Lynphea here.”

An hour later, the Amis all met up again, and headed off to a café patio for brunch. The wind had dropped to non-existent (OK. So maybe Enjolras and Simone had sneakily used a little calming spell while Cosette’s back was turned) so Jehan set up their cards for a reading while the others were inside getting their order, with Arietta and Roselyne watching curiously.

“Let’s see…” they murmured to themself. “Five Of Swords… deceit… actions taken against the Seeker… The Moon… the classic ‘fear’ card… the unknown… concealment… This is not a happy spread.” They shook their head, before drawing one final card and gasping in worry. “The Lightning-Struck Tower… chaos… destructive forces… this is bad.” Roselyne nodded in agreement.

“Do you think this could be about the party?”

“I don’t know,” Jehan said worriedly, “but if it is, something bad could be going down tonight.”

Cosette, Éponine and Courfeyrac emerged carrying trays filled with chocolate crêpes, with Enjolras behind them carrying cutlery and Musichetta with a tray of lemonade glasses and bottles. Jehan helped unload them, and as they began to tuck in, caught Cosette’s eye. “Sette,” they said quietly, “are you sure it’s the best idea to go to this party tonight?”

Cosette gave them a confused look. “I mean, I can think of better things to do than sit around listening to Rosetta bragging all night, but there’ll be dancing and other people to talk to and loads of cool costumes.”

Jehan gnawed worriedly at their lower lip, slouching back in their seat. They remembered their parents telling them a story about the last time a Faery drew those three cards in one reading: the Faery from a far-away world had made a prophecy about the consequences of three local Witches making a deal with an ancient dark power in order to save the murdered fourth Witch of their coven. The Witches ignored the warning and subsequently had lost their faces to some of the most gruesome dark magic, and had worn white masks to hide the scars, and their robes had become stained with blood. Jehan had always thought it was just an old story that Lynphean parents told their kids in order to warn them against messing with dark magic and ignoring the predictions of the cards, but now they weren’t so sure. Didn’t they know of three Witches who had recently made a deal with the darkest ancient power in the entire Universe?

 

 

Jehan elected to put the reading out of their mind as they approached the mansion that night; there was quite enough spookiness without worrying about what might or might not happen in the near future. The party was to be held in an old mansion in the middle of one of the largest parks in Paris, from the days when landowners lived on their largest properties. The gates up to the mansion were rusted and black, and a sign carved into the stone gateposts named the house ‘Silent Villa’. Juliette shrieked as she noticed a pumpkin with a scary face carved into it, but Cosette patted her own shoulder, and the little Piskie fluttered over and hid in Cosette’s hair. The six Amis wore matching long black robes over their costumes, and they walked up the path, avoiding the potholes.

Enjolras shuddered. “Compared to this place, Votirlu is warm and fuzzy. Are you sure you have the right address, Sette?”

“Yeah, this is definitely it,” Cosette smiled. Jehan shivered.

“It’s freezing out here.” Their attention was caught by a black cat sitting on a pillar in the garden, which was overgrown with thorn bushes and had various Grecian-style statues strewn across the long-uncut lawn.

“Bonsoir, Jehan,” the cat said. Jehan’s eyes widened.

“That cat just spoke to me!” they shrieked. The others turned around, looking confused, but when Jehan looked again, there was nothing there but the pillar. They shivered again and drew their cloak tighter around them. Courfeyrac put an arm around their shoulders and pushed them up the path.

“Jehan, you’re letting this place get to you.”

Abby was the next one to jump, at a cawing noise from somewhere in the thorn bushes. “What was that?! Did you guys hear it?” She noticed a poorly concealed speaker and breathed out in relief. “Oh, it’s only artificial noises.”

“She wears a bone-white mask.”

That hadn’t come from the speaker. Abby turned in the direction it had come from, and her eyes widened as a figure vanished into the mist; a figure wearing a long, bloodstained dress, with long dark hair. “She wears a bone-white mask,” it repeated, before vanishing into the mist.

“Who was that?” Abby whispered. She hurried to catch up with Courfeyrac.

They reached the door without further incident, and Cosette lifted the cracked door knocker and knocked three times. On the third knock, a sprinkling of dust fell from the ceiling above the decking.

Courfeyrac frowned. “This house is about to fall apart!”

Cosette nodded in agreement, but at that moment the door swung open and another Jack-O-Lantern swung down to face them. They all jumped, but a second later a girl in a French Maid costume pushed it out of the way. “Name?”

“Cosette,” Cosette replied. “And these are my friends.” She held up a pumpkin-shaped card. “Here’s my invitation.”

The girl nodded. “Please, come in.”

They followed her into the gloomy hallway, and she swung the door closed behind them. Éponine gave her a friendly smile. “I like your costume!”

The girl frowned. “I’m not a party guest. I’m at Rosetta’s service.” She led them through to the main room of the house, and Éponine made an embarrassed face. Whoops.

The main room was filled with people in various costumes, some of them generic Halloween costumes and some specific characters. A DJ booth was set up to one side, and a boy in a Ninja Turtle costume - Michelangelo to be exact - was playing another spooky noises soundtrack. Behind him, a staircase decked in black and orange streamers and Halloween confetti spiralled up to the second floor. Paper pumpkins covered the lights hanging from the ceiling, bathing the whole room in dim orange light. A skull sat on the post at the bottom of the stairs, leering out at the room, and various archways led into different rooms, filled with yet more guests and spooky decorations. The entire place was the perfect setting for a Halloween party, yet something still seemed to be missing, but Cosette couldn’t think for the life of her what it was.

“Is no one going to welcome us?” Manon muttered disapprovingly. “How rude.” Cosette realised what was wrong: hardly anyone was talking, giving the room a cold, unfriendly feeling.

“It’s really dark in here,” Musichetta murmured. “I hate the dark.”

“Hey there, sexy,” a voice said, and Musichetta turned to see a boy with slicked back hair and a wispy teenage moustache, wearing an Orin Scrivello costume from Little Shop of Horrors. “If you’re not feeling well, I can help you. I’m a doctor.”

Musichetta shuddered in revulsion. “No thank you, doctor. You’re the one making me feel unwell.” Cosette nodded in agreement.

“Besides, Orin Scrivello was a dentist.”

The boy’s grin didn’t waver. “In that case, maybe you’d prefer to see my friend, the Nurse?” He pointed to a girl wearing a drab brown coat and a green wig, who turned towards them. She was wearing an eye-patch over one eye, and she walked over, holding up a prop syringe - at least, Cosette hoped it was a prop.

“How did this trash get in here?” she drawled, and Cosette recognised her as Nadia Chaubert, one of Rosetta’s little followers.

“Bonsoir, Nadia,” Cosette said. “Is Rosetta around?”

Nadia leaned one arm on the boy’s shoulder. “What if she was?” she said coldly. “Do you really think she’d waste her time chatting to nobodies like you, Valjean?”

Cosette glared right back, but the awkward silence was cut off by the change of the soundtrack from spooky noises to what sounded like Darth Vader’s entrance music from Star Wars. Everyone turned towards the stairs, and the hostess of the party grinned back. Rosetta had arrived.

She descended the stairs slowly, giving everyone plenty of time to admire her outfit: a matching crop-top and skirt made of glittering black material. The top had an intricate arrangement of crisscrossing straps that surrounded an orange diamond that sat over her breastbone, and the skirt had long orange streamers that drifted behind her as she walked. Her dark hair hung loose down her back, held in place by a black tiara with orange jewels, and she wore shiny black boots and a little pumpkin-shaped purse at her waist. A girl in a Mira costume sighed in jealousy.

“I wish I could carry myself like her.”

As Rosetta reached the bottom of the stairs she gave a little twirl, making the streamers swirl around her - and it was then that the record skipped. She turned to the DJ with a glare. “What the hell?”

“Sorry,” he whispered. “It’s skipping.” He looked terrified, and Cosette didn’t blame him. Rosetta looked furious.

“Fix it!” she snarled. “Or else!” He nodded, changing the record for another, and a pop song blared out over the party. In spite of the upbeat tune, no one moved to start dancing, fixated on where Rosetta was slowly approaching Cosette and her friends with a smile. “Cosette!” she beamed, seemingly genuinely delighted. “I’m so glad you could make it!” Nadia looked shell-shocked, and Rosetta continued, “Isn’t my outfit amazing?”

Cosette smiled politely. “Yes, it’s really something else.”

Rosetta raised an eyebrow. “‘Something else’? What sort of compliment is that?” She twirled again, letting the dim light glance off her dress. “Check out the material. I had it custom-designed, it cost me a fortune! Now, speaking of costumes…” she raised both eyebrows and critically glanced over the Amis’ cloaks, “I am very disappointed. I told you to wear something elegant. This is a party, not a funeral!”

“Could have fooled me,” Éponine muttered, but Enjolras tossed his hair with a grin.

“Sweetie, put on your sunglasses.” He nodded at the Amis, who grinned back, and as one they threw off their cloaks, revealing their real costumes. Every jaw in the room dropped as the light bounced off the sparkling material, and shone through the delicate wings on their backs, creating coloured patterns on the floor. Every boy in the room was staring at Cosette, Éponine and Musichetta, while several of the girls gave Enjolras and Courfeyrac, in their tiny shorts and knee-high boots, looks of approval. Jehan’s genderless beauty seemed to dazzle everyone who looked at them. And best of all, Rosetta and Nadia both looked furious.

“How did you make your wings?” a girl dressed as an Anime character gasped. “They look so real!”

Jehan giggled. “It’s a secret!” A girl in a zombie bride costume reached out to touch the glittering material on their shoulders.

“I would so love to wear something like that just once in my life!” she sighed in amazement. Jehan preened, and a girl in a skeleton jumpsuit and over-the-knee white platform boots admired Courfeyrac’s outfit.

“These are wicked, they’re better than the costumes from World of Warcraft!”

As the guests crowded around the Faeries, showering them with compliments, the girl in the Mira costume - another follower, named Jeanette - sidled over to Rosetta. “Want me to go and dim the lights a little bit?”

“No, you’d just mess it up,” Rosetta snapped. “Anyway, I’ve got a plan to scare them all out of their half-wits.” She cackled a little as she laughed in delight at the genius of her own plan.

 

 

Jehan thumbed through their Tarot cards in the corner of the party, and winced as they found the Five of Swords again. “I have a bad feeling about this,” they murmured. Cosette, stood next to them, tutted.

“Look, nothing bad has happened yet, so we’ll worry about that when it happens,” she pointed out. “Let’s have a little fun for the moment. Check out that guy, he’s pretty cute.” She pointed at a boy in a vampire hunter costume, with a Stetson tilted down over his face. “He’s even more mysterious than Feuilly.”

“You know there’s nothing with Feuilly,” Jehan said gloomily, but Cosette was already on the move, dragging them over by the wrist. “No, don’t!”

“Hey there!” Cosette said cheerfully. The boy ignored her. “Pretty great party, huh?” Still nothing. “So, where are you from? I don’t think I recognise you.”

“Romania,” the boy grunted. Cosette smiled at him again, but he continued to ignore her. Luckily the maid approached them, carrying a tray of glasses full of red liquid.

“Would you care for a Bloody Mary?”

“Thanks,” Jehan smiled and took a glass. Cosette took two and offered one to the boy, but he shook his head with a scowl and pushed off the wall, walking away from them. Cosette looked scunnered. Jehan voiced her thoughts: “Rosetta’s friends are all so anti-social.”

“What am I going to do with this drink?” Cosette agreed. Jehan shrugged, sipping their own drink.

“I mean, you could use it as an excuse to meet someone new.” Cosette nodded and headed towards a girl in a vampire costume, glueing her smile back on.

“Hi, I’m Cosette. Would you like a drink?”

The girl scowled. “Leave me alone.” She stalked away, much like the vampire hunter. Jehan made a face.

“That didn’t go too well.”

Cosette sighed. “I might as well drink it.” She took a sip, and it was then that Rosetta made her move. Sauntering across the room, she subtly grabbed Cosette by a wing as she passed. Cosette stumbled backwards, and the contents of her glass splattered over her top. Rosetta feigned an apologetic face.

“Sorry about your costume. Y’know, nothing stains like a Bloody Mary.” Cosette glared, and as soon as Rosetta’s back was turned she clicked her fingers. With a brief flash of golden light, the drink returned to the glass, leaving her top with no indication it had ever come in contact with the liquid. She took a satisfied sip before calling after her assailant.

“Rosetta!” The girl turned, and her jaw dropped in shock at Cosette’s unblemished costume. “These drinks are great, it would be a shame to spill one.”

 

 

“Her eyes are red, red like blood.”

“Her face is crawling with maggots, crawling with maggots.”

“Whoever meets her gaze shall also perish, perish horribly.”

Arietta glanced out the window uneasily. “Éponine, did you just see some strange girls outside?”

Éponine shook her head. “Relax, Arietta, it’s just more of Rosetta’s boring friends in costumes. They all think they’re so cool…”

Rosetta raised her eyebrows as she watched Éponine converse with what appeared to be midair on the other side of the room. “She’s talking to herself,” she laughed to the boy next to her, wearing a Freddy Krueger costume. “This is what happens when you’re friends with Cosette for too long.”

“Something weird is going on,” Arietta shuddered. “I can feel it. Jehan felt it too, earlier.”

“Hungry is what I feel,” Éponine murmured. “There’s no food anywhere in here.” Just then, someone outside knocked the door knocker, making Éponine jump. No one seemed to be moving to answer it though, so she hurried over and opened it herself.

“Who is it?” she inquired.

A chubby man in a Spiderman mask held up a cardboard box. “Just your friendly neighbourhood cake delivery guy. Enjoy.” Éponine took the box, and the guy gave a little salute and headed back down the path.

“Cakes?” Éponine repeated eagerly to herself, when a voice replying to her made her jump.

“That’s right, my dear.” She turned, and the boy dressed as Freddy Krueger grinned at her. He took the box and opened it. “These are very special cakes, pumpkin cakes to be exact!” Inside the box were several trays of little round cakes, iced orange to look like pumpkins. Éponine’s stomach gurgled eagerly as Rosetta draped an arm around the boy’s shoulders.

“Offer her one,” she smiled. The boy held up his fake mechanical hand and stabbed a finger into one of the little cakes, offering it to Éponine with a wide grin. Éponine took the cake and popped it into her mouth. A second later she gagged and raced outside, leaning over the railing of the deck to throw up into the bushes. Rosetta cackled behind her. “Oops. I guess you picked the vomit-flavoured one.” Éponine wiped her mouth with a groan, and headed back inside, hopefully to find something to wash her mouth out with. Rosetta and her friend had headed back to the party too, leaving the cakes abandoned on a little table, and Arietta eyed them mischievously.

A second later, Rosetta ran shrieking through the party, pursued by the little cakes which were throwing themselves at her repeatedly. The fondant got stuck in her hair, and the sponge littered the carpet. Arietta grinned delightedly after her, and Manon tutted.

“Was that really a ladylike thing to do, Arietta?”

Arietta sighed. “You’re right. I should have made them bite her!”

 

 

Courfeyrac had found the kitchen, and on the table was a delicious-looking margarita pizza. He weighed up the logic in his head, and after deciding that Rosetta wouldn’t miss a slice, he grabbed a plate and took it to the top of the stairs to dig in out of sight of the partygoers. Abby fluttered next to him, sipping lemonade from a thimble. As he leaned against the stair behind him, Courfeyrac noticed a crack running down the dark green wall, seemingly coming from behind a picture frame before splitting off in two directions and stopping an inch or so above the steps he was sitting on.

“This crack worries me, Abby,” he said at last. “I don’t think the structure of this house is very safe.”

“What I find odd,” Abby mused, “is that the crack originates from behind that picture.”

Courfeyrac got to his feet, and his eyes widened as he saw the subjects of the picture. “Three faceless girls! Jehan was going on about something to do with faceless Witches earlier, while they were freaking out over their Tarot deck! We’ve got to warn the others!”

They managed to round up the Faeries and the Piskies, and even luckier, found an empty room with no furniture except a baby-grand piano and a loveseat. The Amis listened to their theory with frowns, and when they finished, Cosette nodded decisively.

“I don’t like this ‘three Witches’ stuff,” she said. “If it has something to do with Patron-Minette, we could be in trouble.”

Musichetta cleared her throat. “Courf? Was the crack you saw at all like this one by any chance?” She was pointing at a framed newspaper article on the wall, and sure enough, a crack in the wall beneath it seemed to originate from behind it. Courfeyrac nodded.

“Exactly like that!” he gasped, walking over to examine the article. His eyes widened with every word. “‘Renovated 15 times in 20 years: the mystery of Silent Villa. After each renovation, the house seems to age fifty years in a matter of months! No construction worker will go near the place any more.’ The house is haunted! I guess that explains all the noises and strange happenings outside.”

“Cosette! Quick!” A voice from the door startled them, and they turned to see the maid standing in the doorway apparently in some state of panic. “Rosetta is ill! She asked for your help!” The Faeries exchanged brief glances, before following the maid up the stairs to what must have once been the master bedroom. Rosetta lay sprawled on the bed, with wide eyes and a glistening forehead, and Nadia was sat next to her, looking concerned.

“Rosetta! What happened?” Cosette asked worriedly. Rosetta shivered violently, and Nadia hurried to pull the covers over her.

“I saw them!” Rosetta whimpered. “All three of them!”

“Them?”

“They’re still alive,” Rosetta sobbed. “The mirror…” She raised a shaking finger, pointing at the large mirror that hung on the wall. The glass had cracked right across the middle, dividing into smaller fisures that distorted every reflection into seven pieces.

“Rosie saw the three evil sisters who used to live in this house over two hundred years ago,” Nadia explained in a hushed voice. Cosette gasped, and Nadia pointed to yet another picture with a crack behind it. Cosette approached it, realising it was another newspaper article, and Nadia explained, “There was an article in the paper about how their adorable younger sister was murdered when someone tried to demolish the house.”

“There was a fourth sister?” Jehan whimpered. Nadia nodded.

“Yup. The legend goes that the three sisters then made a deal with the devil, who turned their clothes to blood, and no one ever heard from them again.”

“I think I saw one in the yard,” Abby murmured. Courfeyrac raised his eyebrows.

“Then why didn’t you report it?” he hissed. Abby shrugged.

“I thought it was a prank.”

Rosetta took over the story. “It is said that when the three sisters come to announce the return of the youngest one, mirrors will shatter into seven pieces as they walk by them. The mirror shattered when I was in here touching up my lipstick. One of them must have been in the room with me!”

“They must be pretty ugly, huh?” Enjolras sniggered, and Jehan jabbed him in the side.

“Not the time!”

“Seven pieces,” Cosette murmured. “Seven is known for having magical properties as a number. Something supernatural was here.”

“And if ever the fourth sister returns…” Rosetta shivered, before bursting into noisy tears.

“What happens then?” Musichetta asked.

Nadia turned to her. “She has blood-red eyes, wears a bloodstained dress, and wears a bone-white mask to cover where her face, like her sisters’, has been eaten away by maggots,” she explained. “They say she has a petrifying gaze, and whoever looks her in the eyes is all but doomed.”

“Cosette,” Rosetta sniffled, “you’re the only one who can help me. The fourth sister wants revenge, I just know it! You’ve got to stop her!”

As much as she disliked Rosetta, Cosette had always had a compassionate heart and soul, and it showed now as she wrapped the distraught girl in a hug. “We’ll help you, Rosetta. I promise.”

As they headed back downstairs, leaving Rosetta under Nadia’s care, the Amis were met with another shock as they arrived back at the party. Cosette hurried over to someone in a Darth Vader costume. “What’s going on? What happened?” The person didn’t answer, merely breathing heavily before turning and walking away, and Cosette groaned. “Great. Another antisocial part guest.”

Musichetta tugged her arm. “Cosette, check out the mirrors.” Cosette turned, and sure enough, every mirror in the room - mostly little framed ones too high up to be actually useful - had cracked into seven pieces. The girl dressed as a zombie bride hurried over, shaking.

“They all broke at once,” she whispered. “It must be a sign!” Her skeleton friend nodded.

“Yeah, and I felt four different cold patches all around the room!”

“Four?” Cosette gasped. Courfeyrac turned pale, pointing to the picture of the three faceless sisters that hung over the staircase.

“Guys, look at the picture.” The everyone turned, gasping in horror when they realised what had changed. Instead of just three girls, there were now -

“Four,” Jehan whispered. “It’s the fourth sister. She’s returned.”

Cosette took charge. “Everyone, stay inside. This is dangerous. Mes Amis, follow me.” The Amis nodded and together they hurried out the door into the garden. They didn’t notice the smirk crossing the maid’s face as they left.

 

 

Outside, the six Faeries walked through the mist. Cosette beckoned for them to hurry up. “Everyone stay close. We don’t know what exactly we’re dealing with here.”

Musichetta shivered. “Oh, Dragon, I hate the dark!” She shrieked in fear as a sudden burst of light briefly illuminated the gloomy lawn, and turned to see -

Enjolras, chuckling in amusement. “It’s just a pumpkin,” he giggled. “See?” He clicked his fingers. “On… and off. On and off. On, off, on, off, on -”

“Enj!” Éponine hissed. “You know we’re not supposed to use magic on Earth. Besides, a bright light like that makes us sitting ducks for whatever is out there!” Enjolras pouted, but stopped messing around with the pumpkin and followed his friends deeper into the maze of thorn bushes and Grecian statues. Suddenly he stopped abruptly.

“Hang on a second.” There was an element of panic in his voice that made everyone stop dead. He raised a finger and pointed shakily towards the shadow cast by the boundary wall. “There’s someone over there!”

Jehan squinted in the direction he was pointing, and their eyes widened when they saw it too. “Whoever it is is so skeletal, they could use some serious dinner,” they said lightly, but everyone heard the tremor in their voice.

Enjolras gulped, and began slowly approaching the person, hands raised, ready to attack - or defend. Courfeyrac and Cosette clutched each other, and Jehan began chewing on their fingernails. Éponine took Musichetta’s hand and squeezed it comfortingly, and it seemed agonisingly long before Enjolras called back to them. “It’s OK! It’s just a rake!”

The Amis breathed out in relief, and Enjolras picked up the rake and twirled it like a Majorette’s baton.

“Someone could trip over this thing. It’s weird though, I don’t think this garden has been raked since the turn of the century - huh?”

“She wears a bone-white mask.” Enjolras turned slowly to face whatever had spoken, and whimpered as he laid eyes upon a woman, hunched over, with her dark hair covering her face and her long brown dress stained with scarlet that shone in the moonlight - blood. She raised her head, and that was when Enjolras screamed.

A white mask stretched over her face, leaving only holes for her eyes and mouth - but where her eyes should have been, there were only two empty sockets, and her mouth was simply a lipless gash cut into her face. “Her eyes are red, red like blood,” the woman continued. She began moving slowly towards him, and he shrieked again and hurriedly backed away.

Another hoarse voice came from behind them, and the Amis glanced over their shoulders only to scream again. Another woman, dressed like the first and with a similar countenance, was gliding towards them. “Her face is crawling with maggots,” she hissed. “Crawling with maggots…”

A third voice came from the direction of the house, and although they were prepared for it this time, it didn’t make the sight of the third woman any less horrible. “Whoever meets her gaze shall also perish, perish horribly,” she groaned. The Amis clumped together, all trembling, and raised their hands nervously.

“Careful,” Cosette whispered. “We still don’t know what their powers are!”

 

 

Inside, all of Rosetta’s guests were in stitches. Rosetta herself stood in the centre of the room, apparently fully recovered, now wearing a skin-tight purple jumpsuit as Nadia and Jeanette helped her onto a pair of stilts. As she found her balance, secretly feeling very proud of herself for taking circus classes when she was younger, she cleared her throat. “That’s enough! Everyone shut up!”

The guests obeyed her, and she grinned with delight at her own genius. “The legend of the three Witches and their murdered sister is true, but the stuff about their return was all me. Now everyone, grab a Jack-O-Lantern and get ready for the grand finale!”

 

 

The Amis backed away from the three ghostly Witches, shaking in fear. They reached what seemed to be the back gate, and hurried through it in the hope that leaving the property would discourage the ghosts, but they kept following them, still repeating the prophecy about the youngest sister. “She wears a bone-white mask… Her eyes are red, red like blood… Her face is crawling with maggots, crawling with maggots… Whoever meets her gaze shall perish, perish horribly!”

The sight that met them through the gate made them rather wish they had stayed in the garden. They were now in a graveyard, surrounded by tombstones that proclaimed the names of long-dead former residents. Musichetta frowned as she glanced over her shoulder.

“Why is this graveyard so bright compared to the garden?”

“I neither know nor care,” Enjolras whimpered. “Come on, we have to get away!”

“No, Enj, something is weird with this,” Musichetta whispered. “There are lights hovering over the gravestones.”

“Great!” Enjolras moaned. “We’re surrounded by ghosts!”

Behind a gravestone, Jeanette held a Jack-O-Lantern over her head and sniggered delightedly. “The guests of honour aren’t too bright, huh?” she chuckled to the boy dressed as Frankenstein’s monster next to her.

 

 

Back at the house, Nadia helped Rosetta into a bloodstained dress, white mask, and wig. Rosetta popped out her regular contact lenses and replaced them with glow-in-the-dark red ones, before pulling down the mask. Everything was set. Rosetta made to head for the graveyard, but suddenly something smacked her in the face, knocking her over - the rake Enjolras had found earlier. Nadia helped her up, and she hurried through the gate, sneaking through the fog away from the revealing lights of the lanterns until she arrived at the central tombstone: that of the fourth sister herself. Now it was only a matter of waiting for her prey to come into view…

 

 

The ghostly Witches were now chanting as one, and they were nearly upon the Amis, who backed towards the largest tombstone in the very centre of the graveyard, which was shaped like an enormous winged reaper.

“The three faceless Witches are real!” Jehan sobbed. “The stories are true!”

The first sister stepped forward. “The fourth sister is here!” she hissed. “Behold!”

The Amis turned, and from behind the tombstone stepped the fourth sister, her eyes glowing red in the dark, her lipless mouth stretched wide in a snarl -

“Hi, Rosetta!” Enjolras said cheerfully.

The Amis’ jaws dropped - as did those of the onlookers behind the gravestones. The five Faeries turned to Enjolras. “Rosetta?”

“Of course it’s Rosetta,” Enjolras grinned. “Look at the way she carries herself, like she’s the ruler of everything. This whole thing is a joke, just like her fashion sense.”

The three Witches removed their masks, and the Amis recognised the zombie bride, the skeleton, and the maid. Rosetta angrily removed her own mask, glaring at Enjolras. “You are a Witch!” she snapped.

Enjolras grinned. “Hey, look, she does have a maggot-face!”

Rosetta scowled even harder. “Admit it, you were scared out of your wits!” She threw her head back with a cackle, and her friends joined in. The Amis all stared flatly back, even as those in the bushes joined in the laughter. Rosetta smirked, her ego restored. “Pathetic. Where is it you go to college again? The Institute for Weirdos and Loners?” She cackled again, but this time the Amis ignored her. Their attention had been caught by something hovering over the grave behind Rosetta. “I mean, if you saw a real ghost, you’d completely lose it!”

Enjolras cracked a grin. “Sweetie, she’s right behind you.”

“What is?” Rosetta sniggered, but suddenly her three helpers shrieked and dashed for the house, dropping their masks. She turned slowly, and the girl hovering over the tombstone glared back, before opening her mouth, revealing rotten teeth, and snarling a horrible scream.

“A GHOST!” Rosetta screamed, shriller and louder than anyone else had the entire evening. She collapsed backwards, landing on the grass in a terrified faint. Behind the gravestones, Jeanette’s eyes widened as she realised that there was nothing under the sheet. With a yell, she ran for the house, the rest of the guests following her.

The Amis were the only ones to not move, staring steadfastly at the ghost, who all of a sudden dropped its sheet and mask, revealing itself to be -

The Piskies! The Amis all burst out laughing, and Roselyne grinned at Jehan. “So the prophecy kinda came true. We still came out on top! Now stop worrying, you still have the rest of the party to enjoy!”

 

 

Back inside, Éponine headed over to the DJ, and persuaded him to return to his booth. With an upbeat rock-n-roll song blaring through the house, Cosette spun around in the middle of the floor.

“Come on, this is a party! Let’s dance!” The Amis rushed to join her on the makeshift dancefloor, rocking out to the song, and it wasn’t long before Jeanette and Nadia joined them. That was all that was needed for the rest of the guests to begin grooving, even the grumpy vampire hunter and Freddy Krueger. Rosetta was the only one who refused to join in, even when Darth Vader offered her a hand.

“No, I refuse to dance! I’m in a really, really, really bad mood!”

Darth Vader nodded understandingly. “Everyone has a dark side,” he wheezed, before heading back onto the floor and spinning the maid under his arm. Rosetta ground her teeth in annoyance, but no one paid attention to her, and the party continued on. Halloween was a night of celebration, after all.

It’s also one of the few times in the year when the veil between the living world and the ghost world is a little thinner than usual, and if anyone had glanced out of the window as the clock struck midnight, they might have noticed the figure of a little girl in a Victorian dress standing in front of the reaper tombstone. If they’d looked a little longer, they may have seen three older girls approach her, and embrace her lovingly before all four vanished. But no one did, and the party continued on.

Chapter Text

Hi, Mum.

It’s me. Your eldest daughter. Éponine. But you probably already knew that.

Things have been quieter here. No sign of Lord Méchant since I saw Gueulemer on the roof a few nights ago. The holiday is nearly over, then it will be back to preparing to battle him.

I’m organising the Autumn Concert this year - Headmaster Myriel asked me to. I hope you’d be proud of me, I know you loved hosting it when it was held at Votirlu when you were a student there.

I haven’t told Dad yet. I know how he gets whenever something to do with you the past what happened is mentioned. I’m hoping he’ll be better about it though, he did let me go to Music Camp for the summer holidays this year.

Azelma is blossoming at Musain. I’ve never seen her so happy. And my brother will be attending the concert with Dad.

I miss you, Mum. Every day.

Love from Éponine

Éponine finished the letter, and placed a kiss next to her signature, before folding it and placing it in a little box, which she tucked into her desk drawer. It was a little ritual begun when she was little; she would write a letter to her mother and tuck it into the box once a month. She took a calming deep breath before heading out of the room and leaving the school to catch a bus to Corinthe for the rehearsal.

When she got there, Freddie and Tori were already on stage, harmonising into the microphone while Courfeyrac played the soundtrack from the tech booth that had been set up above the stage. Éponine listened, nodding her head slowly as the song wound down:

I’ll stay if I’m what you choose! (Can we be seventeen?)
If I am what you choose… (If we’ve still got the right…)
‘Cause you’re the one I choose…
You’re the one I choose…
…You’re the one… I… choose…

As the soundtrack struck the final note, Éponine applauded delightedly. “Sounding great, guys!” she smiled. “Keep practising for tonight. Next!”

The next group to take to the stage was Petit-Gervais and a group of freshmen Wizards, playing in a band. Éponine had initially been sceptical about letting amateur guitarists and drummers play in the showcase - this was a charity concert, after all, not a high school talent show - but they weren’t actually all that bad. Petit-Gervais grabbed his bass, while his friends set up their guitars, drums and microphones, and they began practising their song.

I'm on my way but I don't know
What to do or where to go.
I'm so nervous, I feel sick -
I hope I don't come off like a jerk!
I went all out, I washed my hair,
I searched and found some clean underwear.
She's so hot, I can't resist!
I don't know what I'll do if she gives me that first kiss!

As they went into the chorus, someone tapped Éponine on the shoulder, and she turned to see Francis, her assistant organiser. “Hey, Francis! What’s up?”

Francis smiled cheerily. “Someone’s here to see you, Éponine.” She pointed at the doorway into the stadium, stood in which was -

“Hi, Dad!” Éponine said cheerfully.

Headmaster Thénardier stood in the doorway, as tall, thin and intimidating as ever. Behind him were clustered several student Witches, most holding various instruments. Thénardier cleared his throat. “Éponine, I have brought my students who wish to participate in the concert. They have all been rehearsing hard, and are ready for tonight.”

“Awesome!” Éponine smiled. She addressed the student Witches. “I have a sign-in sheet over there. If you could all write down your names and what you’ll be doing? If you’re playing as a group, sign in as the group rather than individuals.”

The Witches headed over to the sheet in the bleachers, and Éponine returned her attention to her father, who cleared his throat awkwardly.

“I assume you’ll be playing in the concert too?”

“Well…” Éponine began awkwardly, but Francis interrupted her, beaming.

“Éponine’s going to be singing in a group number, as well as playing a song she wrote as the final act!”

Thénardier’s eyes widened in realisation. “But only the organiser plays the final act -”

“Yes, well,” Éponine said loudly. “I’ve got lots to be getting on with, Dad, so yeah. Oh, look, it’s nearly lunchtime. The teachers will be heading out to Magix City for lunch - you should join them!” She began hurrying him towards the exit, speaking louder and louder with every step. “You probably have tons of things to do - what with… everything… OK, bye!” Thénardier looked very confused as Éponine swung the door shut, but as soon as the lock clicked, the girl herself looked relieved. Petit-Gervais and his friends finished their song, and Éponine checked the roster for rehearsals. “OK, Musichetta and the Musichettes? You’re up.”

Musichetta had offered to find some girls to form a dance troupe for one of the concert acts, and they took to the stage now, Éponine using her powers to move the instruments out of their way. As Courfeyrac pressed play on their song, which was an upbeat alternative pop number, and the girls struck poses as the first few beats played, Éponine curled the end of her fringe around her finger, wondering how she was going to deal with her father finding out that she was the organiser - or indeed, how she was going to deal with seeing her brother for the first time since the argument. She didn’t notice Musichetta frowning concernedly in her direction as the dancers twisted around on the floor before getting to their feet and striking another pose.

 

PS. Bahorel will be at the concert as well. He’s that boy I told you about ages ago. We’ve got really close lately - we’re not a couple or anything, but we’re really good friends. I don’t know what Dad thinks of him though. Maybe I’ll find out tonight.

 

 

In a cavern deep in the halls of the Shadowhaunt Citadel, Gueulemer glared at the flyer advertising the Autumn Concert he’d tacked up on the wall. This year it was to be held at Corinthe, but organised by a Faery - whose name made him tense in rage and humiliation.

“Éponine,” he hissed. “I sure hope you’re ready for your concert tomorrow night, because it will be an evening you won’t soon forget…”

He waved his hand in a circle, opening a Viewing Portal, and gazed at his nemesis with a grin…

 

 

Éponine, at that moment, was hurrying onto the stage to practice her own song. Everyone else had taken their turns, and the room had cleared out, leaving only Courfeyrac in the tech booth and Musichetta in the bleachers. Armed with her acoustic guitar, Éponine straightened her yellow beanie and pulled the guitar strap around her shoulders.

“One… two… three…

So, here we go again,
I know how this one ends!
It’s a phone-call from some place far away.
You say you’ve found yourself -
Oh, in someone else,
And she makes you -”

“Éponine!” Éponine leapt about a foot in the air, cutting herself off with a yelp. Headmaster Thénardier was back, and he had a guest with him. A little boy, too young to be a student, with shaggy blond hair and the same heterochromatic brown and yellow eyes as Éponine and Azelma had. Thénardier, for all his intimidating Head-Witch-ness, looked actually quite excited. “Look who came to see you!”

Éponine looked like a deer caught in headlights. She slowly put her guitar down, and hopped off the stage, walking slowly towards her father and the little boy he had with him. “Hi again, Dad,” she said quietly. “Hi… Gavroche.”

Musichetta hurried over to her friend and smiled at Thénardier. “Hello, Headmaster Thénardier,” she said politely. “And Gavroche? I don’t think we’ve met.”

“Princess Musichetta,” Thénardier nodded. “Yes, this is my youngest, Gavroche, Éponine’s brother.”

“Hi,” Gavroche grinned, looking very cute in a cheeky sort of way. He was missing a tooth, and wore a dark blue beanie, tilted so it sat the same way Éponine’s did.

“Lovely to meet you,” Musichetta said, forcing herself not to coo. “Éponine, you never told me you have a brother.”

“Yeah,” Éponine grunted. “I do. Sorry, I have to go… be somewhere.” With that, she turned tail and fled the room.

 

 

Gueulemer ran a hand through his hair, straightening it with a burst of magic. With a click of his fingers, it turned from bright purple to chestnut brown, and his narrow orange eyes turned blue, and widened enough to give him a look of constant innocence. Another click, and he was wearing a baggy blue sweater and jeans with red Vans. He looked nothing like his normal self. No one would suspect a thing.

 

 

Musichetta found Éponine standing outside leaning against the balcony, glaring out at the world. There was a tenseness to her shoulders that suggested frustration rather than outright anger or sadness.

“Wanna talk about it?”

Éponine turned, and Musichetta almost prepared to duck out of the way of her glare, but suddenly Éponine nodded, and the Princess instead sat down across from her as she sank down onto the ground.

“My mother studied Witchcraft,” Éponine began, her voice sounding soft and vulnerable, contrasting with the glare still on her face, “but all she ever wanted to do was become an opera singer. She and my father knew each other from school, in fact they graduated in the same year and got their lucky breaks at the same time, but my father’s career was in a very different direction to my mother’s. While she was offered a role in a grand opera, he had travelled the Dimension, and fallen into servitude of an ancient dark power.

“He saw my mother for the first time since their school days when he was tracking someone rumoured to be at the opera that night. He forgot about his mission the second he heard my mother sing. It was a surreal experience, seeing a girl you went to school with up on the stage belting out one high note after the other, and he went to the stage door to see her. She remembered him, and the next day they went for coffee together.

“My father wished to leave his masters and be with her, but he couldn’t exactly just hand in a resignation letter. He and my mother went on the run together, eventually settling on her home planet, Arioson. But they couldn’t hide forever. One of my father’s former associates found them… There was a duel.

“They both survived, and the associate was taken into custody. I was born a few months later. The war that had been going on in the Magic Dimension ended a while after that, and a little while later they had Azelma. My father was offered a position teaching at his old college, while my mother became pregnant with her third child.

“He was at work the night it happened,” Éponine’s voice shook a little for the first time in the conversation. “She went into labour early. He arrived home, but it was too late. She’d had the baby, but she’d lost her life.

“My dad changed after that. He began working longer hours, coming home less often. He rarely spoke to us about our futures other than encouraging us to become Witches like him. But I’d seen the Faeries who lived near us, and I knew that was who I was, and… he wasn’t pleased, but he let me go. Azelma was the good one, she went to Witch school like he wanted, but now she’s a Faery too. Gavroche… he hasn’t decided yet."

“That still doesn’t explain why you reacted the way you did in there, when your dad came in the first time.”

Éponine looked rather wretched. "He can't bare to talk about anything to do with my mother. I'm afraid if he finds out I'm doing something she did, he'll do something drastic, like send me away to another school where there's no music."

"And your brother?"

Éponine stared at her boots, as if they could provide the answers. “He looks exactly like she did,” she murmured, scowl back in full force. “Gavroche. And it’s his fault she’s gone. She died having him. She might still be around if he - and my dad might still be -”

Musichetta pulled her into a hug. This family needs more counselling than I can give.

 

 

The disguised Witch hurried through the crowds of Faeries, Wizards and Witches waiting to enter the concert. As he passed a gaggle of female Witches, they burst out giggling, and one hurried over to him, draping herself over his front.

“Hey cutie,” she giggled. “I’m looking for someone sweet to stand next to during the concert, I was hoping you could help me out -”

“Get lost,” Gueulemer grunted, pushing her off. He continued to hurry through the crowd, deeply regretting that his new nerdy-cute look made him so palatable to girls.

 

 

“And now, I would like to invite on stage Cosette, Éponine and Grantaire, performing King Of The World!” Lamarque announced. The crowd applauded as Cosette ran out, twirling so her silvery dress spun around her. Éponine followed in a gold dress, and Grantaire, in a bronze shirt and black trousers, followed too, grabbing an acoustic guitar. As the cheerful backing music began playing, and Grantaire strummed along with his guitar, Éponine noticed Gavroche and her father standing near the front, watching intently as Cosette began to sing, her sweet mezzo-soprano voice practically urging the crowd to groove along.

“At ten in the morning I was laughing at something
At the airport terminal.
At nine in the evening I was sitting
Crying to you over the phone
While passing the border from a state to another
Filled with people whom I couldn't help to relate to,
And we stopped a while at a roadside restaurant
Where the waitress was sitting outside smoking in her car.
She had that look of total fear in her eyes,
And as we drove away from there she looked at me and she smiled.”

Éponine joined in on a higher harmony, the two girls’ voices blending together perfectly.

“I keep running around
Trying to find the ground,
But my head is in the stars,
And my feet are in the sky!
Well, I'm nobody's baby,
I'm everybody's girl!
I'm the queen of nothing -
I'm the king of the world!”

During the short instrumental break, Éponine noticed her brother’s face. It had expression of awe and excitement on it, bordering on idolization, and she hurriedly looked away before starting the second verse:

“And once you asked me ‘what was my biggest fear?’
That things would always remain so unclear.
That one day I'd wake up all alone
With a big family and emptiness deep in my bones!
That I would be so blinded I’d turn a deaf ear,
And that my fake laugh would suddenly sound sincere!”

Cosette was the one to sing the higher harmony this time, the two of them swaying to the music together:

“Now I wasn't born for anything,
Wasn't born to say anything!
Oh I'm just here now and soon I'll be gone!

I'm nobody's baby -
I'm everybody's girl!
I'm the queen of nothing -
I'm the king of the world!”

After another short instrumental break, Grantaire sang the third verse, and Éponine once again sought out her brother’s face. He had wiggled through the crowd to the front of the stage, and he still had that same delighted expression, his eyes fixed directly on her. Next to him, her father looked almost… proud?

“Now everyday there's a short intermission -
While I sleep they start dimming the lights!
But I've seen everything I ever want to see,
Screaming "Fire!" in a theatre of people taking their seats.
Watch it all go down like a stone in a stream;
If you fall for your reflection you will drown in a dream!”

Éponine nearly missed her cue, and hurried to join in the song again as they sang the final chorus:

“Tell me something real.
Tell me something true!
I just want to feel
there's something left that I can do,
But I'm nobody's baby -
I'm everybody's girl!
I'm the queen of nothing -
I'm the king of the world!”

As tumultuous applause rang through the stadium, Éponine curtsied before she and her friends left the stage. She stayed in the wings as the next three acts went on - a band of Witches playing a rock song, Petit-Gervais’ band, and then Enjolras, playing the violin of all things - and not once did Gavroche’s face become as awed as it had been when she sang, although he still seemed excited, and it softened something inside of her, for the first time since her mother had died.

He… really looks up to me.

As Musichetta led her dance troupe on stage, which included Azelma, to the surprise of everyone who hadn’t seen them practice, Éponine hurried to change to get ready for the final song - her solo song. She’d written it last year, partly about Bahorel, but dedicated to her mother, and it was almost time to perform it. She exchanged her gold dress for a white one, and pulled her hair loose so it hung down nearly to her waist, before twisting the front strands into a single knot at the back of her head and securing it with her blue lacquered chopsticks - the ones that had belonged to her mother. The song ended, and the dancers struck their final pose, before curtseying and hurrying off. It was time. She was ready.

Éponine stepped out onto the stage and grabbed her guitar. She approached the microphone with a steady, calm expression, and inhaled once before beginning to strum.

“So here we go again,
I know how this one ends!
It's a phone call from some place far away…
You say you've found yourself,
Oh, in someone else,
And she makes you forget about the rain.

Her eyes are a golden hue,
And everything you knew
Slips away at the hem of her dress!
As I was passing by
That old mountainside,
It turned to dust at my feet.”

She caught sight of Bahorel’s face in the crowd, grinning and looking so proud of her as he swayed to the music, with an equally proud Manon perched on his shoulder, and she felt something inside of her swell delightedly as she sang her heart out to the room.

“So I am incomplete -
So loud, and so discreet!
You tried to pinpoint me;
I guess that was your mistake.
Too much whiskey,
Too much honey, too much wine!
I learned some things never heal with time.

And I've been waitin' here,
Feels like a million years!
And I'm a photograph that you forgot you took…
But I remember spring -
I remember everything!
Oh, I guess that's the way it goes.”

She curtsied, and just like that it was over, and the crowd’s applause was ringing in her ears, and her friends were cheering, and Francis was passing out tissues to some people who had connected to her words enough to cry a little, and her brother -

Her brother was nowhere to be seen.

Éponine’s eyes searched the crowd desperately, when suddenly a flash of green light in the centre of the stadium caught her attention, and she realised with horror what was happening.

Someone had grabbed Gavroche, and was holding him with one hand over his mouth so he couldn’t scream for help, and his eyes were wide and scared, and Éponine didn’t recognise the person, but a second flash of green light told her all she needed to know, even before it cleared, revealing the true identity of her brother’s kidnapper.

“Éponine!” Gueulemer called out, grinning madly, and the crowd fell silent. “Hope I’m not interrupting anything important. I just have a score to settle with you… ha, see what I did there?”

“Leave my brother alone!” Éponine screamed. “He’s just a kid! He has nothing to do with this!” The crowd backed away from the Witch, who grinned in sadistic delight.

“Everyone had better relax, or the kid loses more than just another tooth!” he taunted. “Éponine, I want you and you only. If you really love this little squirt, come and take his place.”

Éponine placed her guitar next to her, cold fury glowing in her eyes. “You asked for it, Gueulemer. I’ll take you on. Transform!” With a flash, Éponine wore her yellow and blue dress, and her wings glittered in readiness. She zoomed into the air, staring her enemy directly in the eyes, and forcing herself not to look at her brother, who was at that moment looking half his age with fear.

Gueulemer looked unfazed. “Ah yes, the old ‘transform and send him running’ routine. Well, I hate to think what your sonic bombs will do to these people at close range. Do you really want to risk injuring so many for just your brother, whom, from what I know, you can’t stand the sight of?” Éponine’s shoulders slumped, and Gueulemer looked victorious. “Give yourself up to me, and the kid goes free.”

Éponine landed back on the stage, and walked forward slowly. Gueulemer removed his hand from Gavroche’s mouth, and Gavroche sniffled, “No, Poni, don’t give in to him! Not for me!”

Gueulemer twisted the little boy’s arm behind his back, making him cry out with pain. “Shut it, you!” he snarled. “We all know who is stronger here. Your big sis is as good as dead.”

Éponine approached the microphone, looking miles more confident than she felt. She cleared her throat and spoke into it. “I need each and every one of you to help me,” she said to the crowd, who turned towards her. “I need all of you to sing together.”

“Has she completely lost her mind?” Thénardier muttered. Gueulemer cackled.

“A sad song; how appropriate.”

“Sing, dumbasses!” a voice called out, and Éponine turned to see Bahorel standing on a bench in the bleachers, hands cupped to his mouth. “She’s the Faery of Music, her powers are strengthened by music! She’ll be strong enough to win if we all sing! La la la la la la, la la la la la la, la-la-la-la, la la la la!” He began singing the same tune as the song she had written, and slowly, the rest of her friends joined in, followed by their classmates, then the rest of the crowd, including her father.

Gueulemer looked angrily confused. “Is this supposed to prove something?” To his shock, on stage Éponine was practically glowing with golden light as the music swelled throughout the stadium. She clapped her hands above her head, and an orb of golden light appeared, rising into the air and growing bigger. Gueulemer swooped up to meet it, letting go of Gavroche, but realising too late what the orb was doing.

“What’s happening to my powers?!” he screamed. “What - AAAAAAAAARRRGGGH!” The orb zoomed through the air towards him, hitting him right in the stomach, sending him flying backwards through the open roof of the stadium and away from Corinthe. He was a good several kilometres away before he regained control of his flight, and he angrily decided that the fight wasn’t worth continuing, turning and zooming away back to Shadowhaunt.

In the stadium, the crowd cheered as Éponine detransformed and bowed to them. “Gueulemer has left the building,” she quipped into the microphone, making several people laugh. Bahorel hurried to help Gavroche up and bring him back over to Headmaster Thénardier, who looked grateful. Éponine leapt down from the stage, and hurried to embrace her brother.

“I’m so glad you’re OK,” she whispered to him. Gavroche hugged her back tightly.

“Thanks for saving me, Poni.”

“Éponine,” her father’s voice made her look up. “I just want to tell you how proud I am of you for organising this concert.” He looked it too, his yellow eyes shining with fatherly pride for the first time she could remember. He joined the hug, pulling both Éponine and Gavroche close, and Éponine realised something: they were a real family now, no matter what had happened in the past. She vowed to add another note to her letter that night.

 

 

PPS. And now it’s over. I’ve given my first official concert. And I realised something: no matter what happened to you, to our family, we will get through it together.

Chapter Text

The cool November morning was filled with birds chirping and squirrels chittering, when suddenly the calm was destroyed by the sound of several rocks being blasted apart.

In the clearing next to Musain, Cosette shot pure magma at another rock, smashing it to smithereens, while Professor Mabeuf watched intently. As yet another rock shattered at his feet, he cleared his throat. “Cosette, may I ask why you are training so hard?”

Cosette paused in her relentless assault of the rock formations. “I find it rather strange that it’s been so long since we were last directly attacked by Lord Méchant,” she explained.

Mabeuf nodded. “It has been quiet, hasn’t it,” he hummed.

Cosette allowed another bolt of magma to form between her palms. “A little too quiet. It feels like the calm before the storm!” She sent the magma flying towards the only rock yet to have been touched, and it exploded outwards with the force of a small bomb going off. However, when the smoke cleared she realised that only the top had been blown off, and flew into the air with renewed fury. “Triple Dragon Blast!” she yelled, and sent three flame bolts spinning towards the rock one after another. To her shock, when the smoke cleared this time, only a little of the rock had been chipped away, her powers doing barely more damage than a nail file.

Mabeuf looked confused as she landed on the ground. “What happened?”

Cosette looked as bemused as he felt. “I have no idea,” she said quietly. “Since the last attack, my powers have been acting weird. I don’t know what’s wrong with them. What should I do, Professor?”

“My advice would be to stop training so hard all the time. You’ll work yourself to exhaustion.”

Cosette shook her head. “But what if Patron-Minette attack soon? I can’t even blast a boulder apart; I’ll be no use if they find the Magic Archive!”

“Don’t worry, Cosette,” Mabeuf said comfortingly. “The Secret Archive is said to be impossible to find.”

Cosette shook her head, and to Mabeuf’s surprise, her eyes were welling up with tears. “That’s not true, Professor,” she sniffled. “I found it by accident way back at the start of the year, and I’ve had to keep it a secret. It’s been really hard.”

Mabeuf patted her shoulder. “Cosette, you must be strong. You cannot tell anyone where the Archive is, ever. Not even me, OK?”

“OK.”

 

 

Combeferre hopped off the bus and headed into Musain’s courtyard, glancing around until he saw someone he recognised. “Hey, Meadow!”

Meadow looked up from where she was sitting on the grass doing homework. “Hmm?”

“Sorry, excuse me, but I was wondering if you’d seen Courfeyrac?” Combeferre smiled nervously. It had taken a lot of courage just to get on the bus, but now he was here and doing this he was practically shaking.

Meadow chuckled. “Well, you’re not excused, but I did see Courfeyrac.”

“Where?”

Meadow grinned a little nastily. “He was busy looking for an excuse not to talk to you.”

“Oh.” Combeferre sighed, but suddenly his attention was caught by a very familiar lilac sweater, and he hurried towards it. “Courfeyrac!”

Courfeyrac gave no indication that he’d heard anything, but Combeferre continued, “Do you have a moment? I think we should talk.”

Courfeyrac shook his head. “Not right now.” He speedwalked towards a door into the school, and as it slammed behind him, Combeferre sighed again. He’d failed.

 

 

Of course I don’t want to talk to Combeferre! Courfeyrac thought to himself as he stormed down the corridor. Why would I want to talk to someone who behaves so illogically?

Are you sure it’s not just because he has trouble expressing his feelings? asked another part of his consciousness - the part that sounded an awful lot like Jehan. Is this really because of something he did?

It’s what he didn’t do. He goes to a school for warriors. If he wanted to do something, he would do it. Courfeyrac slammed his bedroom door shut, hopefully onto the part of him that said he should hear Combeferre out.

 

 

“My theory,” Mabeuf mused as he and Cosette walked back towards the school, “is that your Dragon power is weakened by the Phoenix, because they are opposites.”

“That’s what worries me,” Cosette murmured. Juliette, who had been zooming up and down outside the school gates waiting for her Faery, hurried to comfortingly curl into Cosette’s hair. Mabeuf looked thoughtful.

“Perhaps if you rekindled your link to the Dragon Fire, you could restore the balance between yours and Méchant’s powers.”

“You really think I could?”

Mabeuf nodded. “The answer lies in your distant past. Although seeking it out could be a bit tricky.”

Juliette looked worried. “Oh, no! What if something went terribly wrong?”

“That’s unlikely,” Mabeuf reassured her, “but it’s a choice Cosette will have to make for herself.”

“If it succeeded, Professor, would my powers work against Méchant and his spies?”

Mabeuf nodded. “Of that, I am sure.”

Cosette grinned. “Then I’m in!” She cupped her hands for Juliette to land in. “I’ll see you when I get back, sweetie,” she smiled, kissing the little Piskie on the head. Juliette nodded, before fluttering into the air. “Now don’t worry, OK?”

“Be careful, Cosette,” Juliette sighed, before flying away to Cosette’s dorm room.

 

 

Cosette sat down in an armchair in Mabeuf’s study, while her teacher placed a softly levitating wand above the table. “I’m ready for anything, Professor.”

“That’s the spirit, Cosette,” Mabeuf smiled. “I’m sure you’ll be fine - but, as we both know,” he added, “any magical journey can have unexpected results.” He opened the door, and Éponine, Enjolras, Jehan and their respective Piskies promptly fell into the room. Mabeuf raised his eyebrows at them, and they all grinned back sheepishly. “Could I ask all of you to wait outside?This spell will require my total concentration.”

The Amis got to their feet, brushed themselves off, and waved to Cosette before leaving. Mabeuf swung the door shut behind them. “Are you comfortable?”

Cosette nodded. “Mm-hmm.”

“Then close your eyes.” Cosette did so, and Mabeuf raised his hands into the air. “Somnio Falax! Cosette, where are you?”

“I’m.. I’m up in the sky… oh, wait a minute, there’s someone down there! Oh, it’s my Papa, can I go say hello to him?”

“No, Cosette. Your destiny lies far away from him.”

Cosette frowned, for the sky she could see was filling rapidly with grey smoke. “What’s happening?” Suddenly, up ahead, a bright light appeared in the sky, and she flew desperately towards it. The light flashed, and suddenly there was the face of a beautiful woman with long dark hair and wide brown eyes - Queen Fantine. Next to her was a blurry figure, taller and broader than her, apparently male, and Cosette fancied he might have the same golden hair as she did, but before she could get any closer, an enormous scarlet glowing thing appeared behind them, and she realised what it was in delight: the Great Dragon itself.

Her mother reached out her hands, and Cosette flew closer, yearning to touch her, but suddenly the thick grey smoke appeared again, obscuring Fantine, the man, and the Dragon from view. Suddenly, out oft he smoke appeared eyes and a mouth, both scarlet in colour, and twisted in a ghastly grin. It got closer, and closer…

Cosette screamed. “HELP! HELP ME! PLEASE, HELP ME!”

“Cosette! Cosette, you’re OK!”

Cosette’s eyes snapped open, and she was back in Mabeuf’s office. “How did I do, Professor?”

“First tell me what happened.”

“Well… Cosette thought back, but couldn’t remember much. “It’s all kind of fuzzy now. I think I remember Paris? Oh, wait! Then I saw my birth parents, although I couldn’t make out my father’s face, and then I saw the Dragon, and it had eyes of liquid gold, and then… nothing. That’s all I remember.”

Mabeuf looked relieved. “You seem to have avoided all the pitfalls and potential dangers, Cosette. Good work.”

“Thank you, sir!” Cosette said cheerily. “So, can I check out my powers now?”

Mabeuf frowned and shook his head. “Better let things settle down for a bit first. Perhaps later?”

Cosette sighed. “Alright, if you really think it’s best…” She left his office and headed back to the dorm, where Enjolras, Éponine and Jehan were waiting for her - armed with a dozen questions. When they found out she’d seen her parents, they were practically overcome with excitement:

“So what were they like?”

“Did you talk to them?”

“Were they nice?”

“Do you look more like your mother or your father?”

“Were they noble-looking?”

“Were they in your castle?”

Cosette shrugged. “I didn’t really get to talk to them… I suppose I look more like my father, although I didn’t see his face, but I think he has the same hair as me, whoever he is. My mother always looks utterly regal, though. I don’t really know where they were - all I remember was the Great Dragon surrounding us. It was really beautiful, I wish you could have seen it.” She leaned back, exhausted, and Éponine quickly changed the subject.

“Hey, I recorded a new dance track yesterday. Anyone wanna hear it?”

“Oh, yes!” Manon beamed, and Roselyne clapped her hands. Simone, Jehan and Enjolras all followed Éponine out of the room too, leaving Cosette alone with her thoughts - and Juliette.

“What’s the matter, Cosette?” Juliette asked concernedly. “Don’t feel like dancing?”

“I dunno,” Cosette sighed. “I mean, it was great to see my birth parents, and the Dragon, but it was weird to pass by my Papa, who cared for me all these years, and not even stop to say hi.”

“Oh,” Juliette sighed. She fluttered down, cuddling into the crook of Cosette’s neck. “I’m sure he understands. You had to go and see another part of your life, that’s all.”

“Thanks, Juliette.”

“So, what about your powers? Are they working better yet?”

Cosette shrugged. “I dunno. Professor Mabeuf didn’t want me to try them right away. But I think I’ve waited long enough…”

“Are you sure it’s OK?”

“What could possibly go wrong?” Cosette smiled. “Transform!” With a flash of blue light, she was in the air, and she rolled back her shoulders confidently. “Hey, I do feel stronger!”

 

 

Combeferre paced along the corridor, still determined to talk to Courfeyrac. He noticed the familiar set of green doors, and hurried over to them, wondering if Courfeyrac was in the dorm.

 

 

“Cosette?” Juliette backed away nervously. “What’s going on?”

Cosette was surrounded by the same thick grey smoke from her vision as she floated in the air. The door swung open and Combeferre stepped in just as she opened her eyes - which, to Juliette’s shock, had turned bright red with slit pupils. Cosette grinned. “Actually, I’ve never been better.”

“Oh, hey, Cosette,” Combeferre smiled. “Have you seen Courfeyrac? I’m worried, I really need to talk to him.”

Cosette smiled politely. “Oh, I’m sure that’s not the case,” she said sweetly. “Why don’t you and I look for him together?”

“Oh, that would be great!” Combeferre smiled. Cosette smirked back.

“Courfeyrac’s just turned your world upside down, hasn’t he,” she sighed. “You might as well get used to it…” she moved her finger in a circle, and Combeferre gave a yelp, for he was suddenly floating upside down in midair, suspended by thick grey smoke. “How does it feel, Ferre?”

“Ha ha, I get it, funny,” Combeferre said nervously, “but I’d rather have my shoes on the ground.”

“Oh, of course, how thoughtless of me!” Cosette chuckled. She snapped her fingers, and suddenly Combeferre’s shoes were on his hands. “Is that better?”

“Cosette, put him down!” Juliette whimpered. “This isn’t like you!”

“What? You want me to drop him just like Courfeyrac did?”

“Oh, poor Ferre!” Juliette wailed. Combeferre nodded.

“Yes, poor Ferre!” he shouted. “Someone help me!” Cosette snapped her fingers, and Combeferre went zooming out the door, Cosette and Juliette following. “Someone get me down, please!”

“Oh, stop whining!” Cosette snapped.

Combeferre shook his head, recognising the two Faeries walking down the corridor. “Éponine! Musichetta! HELP!”

“Combeferre?” Éponine raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t know you could levitate.”

Combeferre scowled. “Neither did I.”

“It’s actually kind of cute,” Musichetta giggled.

“He’s not doing it on his own,” Cosette sighed, leaning against the wall. She looked up with a smirk. “But hey, if that’s what you all want…”

“Oh, Dragon, no, not again -” Combeferre’s yell was cut off as Cosette snapped her fingers, making the smoke vanish, dumping him into a large plant-pot nearby.

“Something’s wrong with Cosette,” Juliette whimpered. “I think it’s to do with that journey!”

“That’s weird,” Musichetta muttered. Cosette cackled again at the sight of Combeferre’s kicking feet sticking out of the plant-pot, and Éponine made up her mind.

“I’m gonna get Professor Mabeuf.”

 

 

Luckily, Mabeuf was able to set things right in a second, and Cosette hurried to help Combeferre out of the plant-pot before explaining what she remembered. “I really don’t know what happened, Professor,” she sighed. “I felt kind of… possessed, as if someone else was talking using my body. It was horrible!”

“Juliette’s right, Cosette,” Mabeuf said thoughtfully. “You seem to have picked up a Shadow Virus during your journey. I’ll need to prepare a special spell to remove it before it gets any worse.”

Combeferre finished putting his shoes back on. “Well, I’m going back to Corinthe. And if you girls see Courfeyrac, tell him I was looking for him.”

“I will,” Cosette smiled. “And sorry about all that levitation stuff, Ferre.”

“No problem.” Combeferre picked a stray leaf out of his hair. “See you later!”

Mabeuf turned to Éponine and Musichetta as Combeferre walked away down the corridor. “Do you think you can keep Cosette out of trouble until I return?”

“Definitely!” Musichetta grinned. “We can do one of the things I was never allowed to do as a kid…

 

 

…makeovers!”

They hurried to recruit Enjolras and Jehan - Courfeyrac was still apparently sulking in his room - and Jehan got to work on Cosette’s nails while Enjolras styled her hair. Éponine worked on Cosette’s makeup, and Musichetta picked out outfits.

The first look was a frilly, flouncy yellow dress, like something worn by one of the Schuyler sisters. Cosette pranced around the room, practising her Princess Curtsey, before Musichetta revealed the next look.

Next, Cosette put on tight shiny blue trousers, knee-high black boots and a black tank top with a glittery gold dragon on it - straight out of RENT. She high-kicked, showing off the way the light looked on her trousers, making everyone laugh, before Musichetta pushed more clothes towards her.

Now, Cosette wore a short plaid skirt, thigh-high plaid socks, black flats, a white blouse and a scarlet blazer, with her hair pulled back from her face with a bright red scrunchie, à la Heather Chandler. She pouted for them, then put her hands on her hips and posed, with a giggle of, “How very!” making everyone burst out laughing.

Cosette laughed along with them, but suddenly fell silent and put her hand to her temple like she had a headache.

“Cosette?” Enjolras asked uncertainly.

The blonde’s face was screwed up, and she was groaning quietly, but suddenly her apparent headache vanished as the air surrounding her once again filled with grey smoke. She opened her eyes again - revealing that her eyes had once again turned vivid scarlet, and the pupils had become slits. In a flash she’d transformed, and she pulled the scrunchie out of her hair, glaring at it as though it had personally shat on her pillow.

“Sorry, losers, but I don’t have any more time for stupid dress-up games!” she snapped, and pushed passed them, marching out of the dorm with clear intent.

“Oh no!” Juliette gasped. “It’s another attack of that Shadow Virus!”

“We need to get the Professor!” Éponine said worriedly, and Juliette nodded.

“I’ll follow Cosette, to make sure she doesn’t hurt herself - or anyone else!”

Cosette hadn’t got that far away, and Juliette fluttered after her. “Where are we going, Cosette?”

“To the magic archive!” Cosette smirked. “More exciting to hang out with me than those drips, isn’t it?” Juliette looked terrified, but followed her. When they reached the right corridor, Cosette carefully checked the painting that showed the invisible door, and found the handle easily. The Faery and the Piskie entered the secret room together.

 

 

Lord Méchant lounged back in his chair, grinning madly. “Ah, the plan is in motion!” he cackled. “I’ve got Cosette under my control! Victory is close at hand! I can feel it!”

 

 

“And here it is,” Cosette grinned. “The formerly Secret Archive of Musain.” She and Juliette both gazed up at the thousands of shelves in awe, when suddenly the little green seahorse with orange wings fluttered down towards them - Hippocampus, if Cosette remembered correctly. It blinked its big cute eyes at Cosette.

Cosette hated cute. “BOO!”

The little creature zoomed off to hide behind the little floating table and chairs, and Cosette headed up to check the books when a voice behind her startled her. “Hello, Cosette, it’s lovely to see you again!” Élisa said delightedly. “My, it’s been ages! How are you doing?” She was sitting in her little floating armchair, and Cosette ignored her, heading straight for the books and yanking one off the shelf at random. She flicked through it, but upon discovering it wasn’t what she was looking for, tossed it over her shoulder. “Oh, I say, dear, do be careful!” Élisa noticed the little pink-clad Piskie who had come in with Cosette. “And who might you be, my dear?”

“I’m Juliette,” Juliette replied. She looked ashamed. “I’m Cosette’s bonded Piskie.”

“Well, it is wonderful to meet you, little one,” Élisa smiled. “So, what brings you to the Magic Archive this time, Cosette? Questions about your parents?”

“That’s ancient history,” Cosette grunted. She was onto her third shelf of books by then, the others lying as wreckage beneath her. “Now I’m here to find Musain’s part of the Codex! And something tells me it’s in here somewhere…”

Élisa looked shocked. “A fascinating idea,” she squeaked, “but even if it were true, why would you be interested?”

Cosette shrugged nonchalantly. “Simply because I intend to hand it over to its rightful owner, the Shadow Phoenix!” She grinned wickedly, and Élisa got up from her armchair.

“Over my dead body! Dear me, there’s no way I would let anyone find the Codex, let alone gift it to our enemies, so you can forget about that right now!”

Cosette chuckled. “And how is a tiny little squirt like you going to stop me? Huh?” She raised her hands and blasted black light at Élisa, who dodged out of the way, tutting.

“I haven’t been called a squirt in over a hundred years, but now, my large young friend, it is time you realised that small is beautiful too!” Cosette dropped another book just as Élisa’s spell hit her. She realised in horror that she was shrinking - all the way down to the size of a Piskie! How humiliating! “Juliette!” Élisa shrieked, “go and get help!”

“OK!”

“Not so fast!” Cosette snarled. She blasted more black light at Juliette, who dodged and and ducked through the door to the Archive. Cosette turned to Élisa with a snarl. “Nicely played, Grandma, but make no mistake, I will find the Codex!”

 

 

Juliette zoomed down the corridor, desperately searching for the Amis before it was too late, but couldn’t find them anywhere! “Where is everybody?!” she whimpered.

 

 

“Hmm,” Cosette purred, “the hiding place of the Codex is probably able to repel my fire…” she raised her hand, and sent a blast of orange light at a shelf of books, which disintegrated into ashes in seconds, “so I’ll just keep destroying things until it turns up!”

“Oh, dear, oh dear, oh dear,” Élisa whimpered. “Young lady, stop that immediately! The magic in those books will be lost forever! Stop it right now!” Cosette unleashed another blast, destroying one of the delicate star-shaped platforms and setting more books alight, and Élisa growled. “You want to play that game? Fine by me!” With a wiggle of her own fingers, the books stopped smouldering, and she wiped her forehead in relief. Cosette tutted.

“Well, there’s plenty here to burn… and I’m kind of in a hurry here. So if you don’t mind -” Another shelf was blasted to bits, and Élisa whimpered.

“That’s enough!” She flew down, facing off with Cosette, whose hands were glowing with yet more fiery magic.

“Give me the Codex or face oblivion,” Cosette said coldly. “Your choice. Which one?” She blasted fire at the Piskie, who screamed as it licked her skin, imprisoning her in a tight little circle. Hippocampus yelped and came zooming out from his hiding place, heading for one of the top shelves.

“No,” Élisa whimpered. “No, Hippocampus, don’t do it!”

“That’s right, little seahorse,” Cosette cackled. “Hurry up or your mistress is gonna melt!”

Hippocampus headbutted a glittering golden book, which fell off the shelf, opening to reveal a square had been cut out of its pages, concealing -

“The Codex!” Cosette gasped. “Finally!” Hippocampus zoomed after the book, wrapping his little green tale around the quadrant and beating his wings as rapidly as he could. “You won’t get far, shrimp!” Hippocampus dodged the ball of fire she sent his way, and Cosette snarled, zooming after him.

Élisa shakily got to her feet as the fire imprisoning her fizzled out. She glanced up to see Hippocampus dodge another ball of fire, and Cosette reach out to snatch at the Codex.

“Give it here, you blasted Piskie Pet!” The Codex slipped from Hippocampus’ grip, but Cosette fumbled the catch, and it spun to earth. “NO!”

Hippocampus and Cosette both dived after it, but Cosette was quicker. She grabbed it, grinning in victory - but suddenly Hippocampus swooped down and used his tail to snatch it from her.

“Hippocampus, quick!” Élisa shouted. “Gateway, Chapter Six of that compendium!” Hippocampus nodded and headbutted another book, and as it fell off the shelf, dived into its pages. Cosette leapt after him, cursing.

They swam through what seemed to be an ocean of golden symbols, Hippocampus heading for the exit and Cosette following closely, like a killer whale that has latched onto its target. “There he is,” she hissed, but a large spinning ‘X’ threw her off, and Hippocampus sped up. “Oh no, you don’t!” Cosette snarled. She blasted the poor little creature, who yelped and let go of the quadrant. Cosette snatched at it, successfully clinging to the egg-like material. “At last, the Codex is mine!” Hippocampus whimpered and zoomed through the portal. Cosette followed at a more sedate rate; her prey had been caught. Her prize was won. And there was nothing the stinking little shrimp could do about it.

Free of the book, Cosette easily grew herself back up to full size, grinning nastily at Élisa. “Lord Méchant will be so pleased.”

“Cosette,” Élisa whimpered, “you cannot do this. You’re not aware of the evil you are about to commit!”

“Of course I’m aware of it!” Cosette chuckled. “With this, my master will be able to become the most powerful being in existence!”

The door slammed open.

“What a place!” Courfeyrac gasped. “I never thought there could be anything like this at our school!”

“Stay focussed,” Éponine whispered. “This isn’t summer camp. And judging by the look on Cosette’s face, she’s no happy camper either.”

“Are you OK, Cosette?” Jehan called up nervously.

Cosette grinned. “Never better, Jehan.”

“More to the point, Cosette,” Courfeyrac asked, “is what you’re holding Musain’s piece of the Codex?”

“It is!” Élisa shouted. “And unless you can convince her to give it back, the whole Magic Dimension will be in terrible danger!”

“If you’re talking about Méchant, say no more,” Musichetta replied. “We’re on it!” She raised her hands forming a Morphix bolt, but Jehan shook their head.

“Chetta! Wait. Let me talk to her.” They stepped forward, smiling up at Cosette. “Sette, please listen to us! We’re your best friends!”

Cosette rolled her terrifyingly scarlet eyes. “And I couldn’t care less. I’m tired of all the fake cheeriness and sunshine and all those little heart-shaped notes you pass in class. You dimwits are pathetic!”

Jehan’s eyes welled with tears, and Juliette tugged their hair to get their attention. “Jehan, that’s not Cosette talking! She’s under a spell!” Cosette sent a blast of fire towards them, and Faeries and Piskies alike scattered. Roselyne rose into the air decisively.

“It must be Lord Méchant! Cosette would never act like this!”

“That must be it!” Éponine gasped. Enjolras nodded.

“If Cosette’s under a Shadow Spell, then an intense dose of Sunlight Therapy is sure to help our ailing friend!” He raised his sceptre.

 

 

Méchant watched in amusement through his viewing portal. “Hold them off just a little longer, my precious spy. Kerbog is on his way!” Indeed, the horrid black spidery-bat thing was swooping down towards Musain at that very moment.

 

 

As Enjolras’ blast cleared, Cosette grinned, eyes still glowing red. “Nice try, Enjy,” she called mockingly. “Nothing happened!”

“What?” Enjolras gasped. “That’s impossible! It disintegrates all Shadows!”

“I don’t think she cares about that!” Musichetta yelped. “Duck!” Indeed, Cosette had sent five spinning balls of fire down, one for each of the Amis, and as they ducked, the fire hit a mirror, cracking and singing the frame but leaving everything else unharmed.

“If you want to run away, I wouldn’t blame you,” Cosette chuckled. Musichetta was forced to abandon another Morphix bolt, and Enjolras spun his sceptre again.

“Alright, you asked for it!” he snarled. “Maximum Daylight Energy!” His spell spun towards Cosette, who shrieked as the sunlight hit her skin. The entire room glowed brightly, and then -

Cosette opened those horrid scarlet eyes. “Nothing?” Enjolras gasped. Cosette laughed right back.

“Nothing. You don’t really think you can keep me in check, do you? Try that again and I’ll destroy you all.”

The Amis gasped, but to everyone’s surprise, Juliette darted forward. She zoomed all the way up to Cosette, and planted a dainty kiss on her cheek. “Cosette, we’re your friends! All of us!”

“How dare you!” Cosette snapped. “How dare -” Suddenly, her eyes bulged, and seemed to fade from scarlet to blue. Her pupils were round again. Juliette had fixed her!

“Bonded Piskies can undo dark magic with a kiss,” Roselyne explained. “And Juliette is so loving, hers can surely undo even Lord Méchant’s magic!”

“Juliette, that was really sweet!” Cosette whispered happily.

 

 

Outside, Kerbog circled the towers of Musain. Why was the girl taking so long?!

 

 

“Now come on, Cosette, you don’t really want that Codex,” Enjolras smiled.

Cosette looked down at the object in her hand. “This? Oh, of course not!” The Amis breathed a sigh of relief - too soon.

Cosette’s eyes flicked back up to them, and they realised they had turned red and slit-pupiled again. “But Master Méchant sure does!” she cackled. The air around her filled with purple smoke, and a second later, her outfit had changed. The pale blue was now navy, and the hems of her top and skirt were tattered. Her shoes now had sharp metallic heels, and her arm-warmers had become fingerless gloves with spikes at the elbows. Her tiara was now a crown of glittering silver spikes, and her wings were tattered too. Her hair spun around her head like she was possessed by a demon, and one thing was very clear:

Whoever this was, it was no longer Cosette. She raised a hand, sending a blast of light through one of the delicate stained glass panels in the roof, and turned to Juliette, eyes blazing with fury. “Juliette,” she snarled. “My very own bonded Piskie, trying to trick me?”

“No, no!” Juliette sobbed. “I really do love you! I swear I was only trying to help!”

“It’s now or never,” Courfeyrac muttered. “We need to get the Codex back ASAP.”

Jehan raised their hands. “Growing things, protect our school!” they chanted. All the plants in the room glowed gold, and their vines and stalks began growing taller, reaching up to Dark Cosette, who looked irritated.

“Now what?” She snarled, before seeing the petunia reaching for her. “Aww, flowers for me?” she cooed, before her face turned furious again. “I really hate flowers, especially now! They clash with my new look!”

A leaf drifted past Jehan’s nose as Dark Cosette blew up the flowers. “Oh dear,” they sighed. “What now?”

“Time to make her listen to reason!” Éponine clapped her hands together, and the resulting soundwaves sent an avalanche of books tumbling down on top of Dark Cosette, who cursed furiously. Élisa whimpered again - this was a librarian’s worst nightmare.

Dark Cosette landed on the ground, buried by books, but was up again a second later, sending the books flying. “That was weak, Éponine,” she chuckled. “Very weak.”

“Keep talking, girl,” Musichetta murmured. “It gives me enough time to form my Morphix Ball!” She flung the spell at Dark Cosette, who caught it easily, popping it with a sharpened fingernail. “Is that it?” she taunted. “Pink bubbles? I’d say, ‘hit me with your best shot’, but looks like you already did!”

Courfeyrac checked his scanner, jaw dropping at what it told him. “Her power is off the scale!” he gasped. “I’m not sure if there’s anything we can do to beat her!”

“But still, the girl is totally irrational!” Enjolras growled. “I won’t hold back this time!” He flew into the air, brandishing his sceptre, and blasted Dark Cosette with golden light. “SUNWAVE SUPERNOVA!”

Dark Cosette cackled, dodging the spell with ease, and Enjolras’ jaw dropped. “You asked for it, Mes Amis,” Dark Cosette snarled. “I’ll fight fire with fire!” She raised her hand, and the next thing Enjolras knew, he and the other Amis were lying on the ground in considerable pain.

Enjolras sat up with a groan. “Where’s Cosette?” His eyes widened in horror. “I didn’t disintegrate her now, did I?!”

“Look!” Jehan gasped. Dark Cosette had fluttered up to the broken window, and was presenting the Codex as if expecting something to come and take it. To the Amis’ horror, something did fly down from the heavens, something with a horrible slimy body and spider-leg wings -

“Kerbog!” Dark Cosette grinned. “There you go, little one, take this to the master!” The creature cawed, wrapping two of its leg-wings around the Codex, and took off into the distance.

They were too late.

They’d lost the Codex.

“She’s in here, Professor!” Simone shouted behind them. “Hurry!”

The Amis turned to see Professor Mabeuf standing in the doorway. He rushed over to them. “I came as soon as I heard,” he gasped. “What’s going on, what happened? And where’s Cosette?”

“She’s up there, Professor,” Éponine groaned. Dark Cosette cackled down at them, and Mabeuf raised his eyebrows.

“Hello, Professor!” Dark Cosette grinned. “You’re just in time to experience my wrath!” She clapped her hands, and a scarlet circle appeared in front of her, glowing like some kind of cursed frisbee.

“Poor girl,” Mabeuf tutted. He raised his wand. “Somnio Falax Dessimo!” A blast of light issued from the wand-tip, hitting Dark Cosette dead in the chest. She screeched like a banshee, and suddenly the room was full of white light and they couldn’t see her any more. When it cleared, Cosette was back - in her Heather Chandler costume, not her Faery form! The Amis hurried to catch her, and Musichetta managed to snatch her out of the air before she hit the ground.

“Let’s set her down, nice and gently,” Mabeuf said calmly. Musichetta did so, and the Amis gathered around her. A second later, Cosette’s eyes fluttered open, and to everyone’s relief, they were back to their normal indigo. “Cosette,” Mabeuf said relievedly.

“What happened?” Cosette murmured.

“You had a particularly virulent bout of a particularly nasty form of Shadow Virus,” Mabeuf explained. “You must have picked it up on an earlier journey.”

Cosette looked panicked. “Professor, does that mean - did I - what if I have a relapse?”

Mabeuf held up his amethyst crystal wand. “The magic from this special wand eradicated the virus,” he assured her. “I just wish I could have realised earlier…”

Élisa landed on his shoulder. “Don’t blame yourself!” she chirped. “If it weren’t for you, this whole room would be a pile of rubble!”

Cosette put her face in her hands. “I don’t remember much, but it must have been awful.” She looked up at the Amis, looking pale and wretched. “Oh, please, everybody, forgive me! I feel terrible for what I must have done to you! I’m so sorry!”

The Amis gathered around her, hugging her. “Of course we forgive you,” Enjolras assured her. “You’re our best friend, and you were sick. That wasn’t you back there.”

Cosette suddenly froze. “Was there - did I do something to… the Codex?” She looked panicked, and Mabeuf nodded sadly.

“That is, however, another story entirely. And we will have to let Myriel know it has been taken.”

Cosette got to her feet, shaking. In spite of the Amis loudly reassuring her it wasn’t her fault, she knew that when it came down to it, it was. I did this. I have endangered the universe beyond belief.

Chapter Text

A few days later, Headmaster Myriel called a meeting in his office with Headmaster Thénardier to discuss their concerns over what might happen next in the struggle against Lord Méchant.

“Votirlu will be his next target,” Thénardier said. “They have two pieces, and the piece in Piskie Village is too far out of their reach for the moment. No, they see my school as an easier target by far, and this time they have an unfair advantage in that they know how the castle works.”

Myriel nodded in agreement. “If my Faeries and your Witches work together, they could protect your quadrant of the Codex more efficiently,” he suggested.

“True,” Thénardier nodded, “but no Witch likes the idea of working with Faeries. Including myself.”

Myriel shrugged. “Well, we’ll need to find a way to put aside our differences. The future of the Magic Dimension is at stake here.”

Thénardier nodded grudgingly. “I don’t know how, but I know who to ask.” With that last cryptic sentence, he clapped his hands and vanished from the office in a flash of scarlet light.

 

 

On Monday, the Amis found themselves being called to Myriel’s office. They hurried there as soon as Javert’s class ended, and were very surprised to see Azelma sitting next to Headmaster Myriel. Even more surprising, however, was the mission Myriel had in store for them.

“What?!”

“You want us to study at Votirlu for a few weeks?!” Cosette repeated.

“You can’t be serious!” Musichetta added.

“We’re Faeries!” Enjolras said angrily. “We go with Witches about as well as hot fudge sauce goes on macaroni and cheese!”

“Come on now,” Myriel said sternly. “You know we have to protect the Codex from Lord Méchant. We know he will be going for the Votirlu quadrant next.”

“But there are absolutely no records of Witches ever asking Faeries for help!” Courfeyrac burst out. “Even last year the Witches were offered our help rather than asking for it. They’re too proud!”

“And that is where Azelma’s advice has been most helpful,” Myriel said calmly. Azelma waved next to him, looking a little awkward.

“The Witches of Votirlu reckon Faeries have it easy,” she supplied, “and the teachers all say that Musain students wouldn’t last two days if they were to take Witchcraft classes.”

“So you’re saying we just have to swallow our pride?” Éponine demanded. Azelma nodded, and Myriel took over.

“Faeries aren’t slaves to pride like the Witches are, correct?” The Amis all nodded, and he continued, “Then it’s settled. If you are willing to take classes at Votirlu, then Headmaster Thénardier is willing to ask for your help in defeating Patron-Minette.”

“He won’t regret it,” Cosette said firmly. “We will do everything in our power to protect the Codex.”

 

 

The sun dawned brightly over Musain the next morning, but the Amis weren’t there to see it; they were at that moment hiking up the stairs of the great bridge that led to the front doors of Votirlu castle. Their progress was slower than usual, as Azelma had taken the time to give them all Witchy makeovers, which included wearing heavy combat boots that felt like you’d dipped your feet in blocks of cement. Azelma explained that Witches preferred heavy boots in order to be prepared for any eventuality, which led to Enjolras sarcastically asking if it was a common instance for Witches to accidentally drop refrigerators on their feet.

Montparnasse stared down from the great scarlet-glass window above the front doors at the visitors as they crossed the bridge. “Azelma,” he whispered in realisation. His heart felt soft for a second, remembering the many good times he’d had with his childhood friend, before he hardened it up again. Azelma had betrayed Witchcraft, deciding instead to become a soft, itsy-bitsy Faery. She was a traitor, and Montparnasse was not friends with traitors.

As they crossed the bridge, Musichetta sighed gloomily. “I wish Lise could have come along too.” Unfortunately, few Piskies would have been able to function around the intense levels of dark magic at Votirlu. Charlie was one of the few who could, being the Piskie of Insects, which were often associated with dark magic. He snapped his fingers, giving himself a witch costume, and fluttered around Musichetta’s head on a tiny broom.

“I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little Lise too!” he joked, eliciting a smile from the Faery of Waves, before she pulled her green skirt down over her black fishnet tights in an attempt to conserve some heat. Votirlu was chilly first thing in the morning.

“OK, guys, we need to start thinking about working together with the Witches,” Cosette said. Despite her Gothic makeover, which included a blue mini-dress with long bell-sleeves and a giant black bow on her hairband, she maintained her cheerful smile.

“Yeah right,” Enjolras shuddered. He looked like a character out of an Oscar Wilde novel, with his flowing white shirt, black corset and trousers, and hair tied back with a scarlet bow. “I don’t even like being in a crowd with a single Witch.”

“They did help us fight Patron-Minette last year,” Cosette pointed out.

“Yeah, but you seem to be forgetting that they also helped Patron-Minette fight us,” Éponine pointed out. Musichetta’s eyes widened.

“Éponine, did the Witches do something to you last year?”

“Don’t bother running, Faery! It’s useless!”

Éponine ran as fast as her feet could carry her. “Leave me alone!” she begged to the Witches chasing her. “Please, leave me alone!” She was crying by this point, and she knew it.

The Witches ignored her. Their only response to her pleas was to blast dark magic at her feet. She dodged it, ducking into an alleyway.

“Nothing at all,” Éponine grunted. Azelma put a hand comfortingly on her sister’s shoulder.

“Most Witches want nothing more than to prove that they’re better than Faeries,” she insisted. “Trust me.”

“I hope you’re right, Azelma,” Cosette sighed. She looked a little guilty, having forgotten about the incident with Éponine in Magix City last year. “But I also hope they realise that stopping Méchant is more important than our rivalry.”

Two professors met them at the door, a man and a woman. The man had cropped grey hair and wore green robes, while the woman had long skunk-striped hair and was dressed in deep purple robes. They did not look impressed with the Faeries.

“Don’t you vorry about zat, leetle Vaeries,” the man said coldly, and Cosette jumped and clapped her hands to her mouth as she realised he’d heard her. “Vee are more zan capable of underztandeeng zee zituation.”

“Even more, I’d say,” the woman added. Her accent was different to Viridium’s, but just as unnerving. “I am Professor Zarathustra and zees ees Professor Viridium. We are ‘ere to escort you. We ‘ave been told you weel be stayeeng weeth us unteel ze dangers pass - or unteel our classes become too much for you. Wheechever comes first.”

Cosette glued her smile back into place. “So will you be showing us around the building?”

Zarathustra huffed what might have been a laugh, but may also have been a noise of disdain. Perhaps both. “Votirlu ees not your teepeecal beelding.”

“Eet’s a living creature vith roots and branches,” Viridium added.

“Roots and branches?” Jehan asked, wide-eyed. In fact, their eyes looked wider than usual due to the sheer amount of eyeliner they were wearing.

“Yes,” Viridium smirked. “It eez an ancient creature created by deescendants of zee sree Ancestral Vitches.”

The Amis gazed up at the purple-walled structure, with its vivid scarlet windows, and each felt a shudder pass through their bodies.

 

 

As the clock struck nine and classes began, a flash of violet light appeared above the school. As it cleared, it revealed three cackling Witches, who felt almost as if they had come home after a long day at work…

 

 

“Welcome to Basic Witchcraft 101,” Thénardier greeted the Freshmen Witches, as well as the Faery guests. They were in the amphitheatre, and his voice echoed up through hundreds of benches, where Witches sat, scattered,and the Faeries sat clumped together. “The objective of this class is to teach beginners - and honoured guests - the rudiments of Dark Magic.”

Éponine glanced over her shoulder. “This is so embarrassing,” she muttered.

Musichetta nodded in agreement, accidentally making eye-contact with a Witch with shaggy blue hair and hurriedly looking away. “Ever since we got here, the Witches have done nothing but stare at us.”

“We’ll begin with a simple exercise,” Thénardier continued. “Producing energy by conjuring up dark images. Jehan, would you start us off?”

Jehan frowned. “Aren’t we going to divide up into groups to practice first?” they asked, shaking a little.

Thénardier’s wiry eyebrows shot straight up. “In groups?! Witches working in groups?!”

All around the Faeries, the Witches burst into mean-spirited laughter. Jehan shrank in their seat, and Musichetta and Éponine both glared at the Witches nearest them.

“Listen up, Faeries,” Thénardier said coldly. “Team members can betray one another. That’s why a Witch depends on no one but themselves.”

“Yes, of course sir,” Jehan squeaked. “If that’s how Witchcraft works…”

Courfeyrac leaned over to Cosette. “I don’t want to learn any of this stuff,” he mumbled. “It sounds horrible!”

Cosette nodded in agreement. “I know, but we have to try.”

Thénardier clapped his hands once, and silence fell immediately. “Now, everyone take out your textbooks and open them to page three thousand and twenty six!”

 

 

While the Amis were in Thénardier’s class, Azelma walked down a very familiar corridor until she came to one door in particular, marked MONTPARNASSE AND AZELMA. Her own name had been violently scribbled over, which made her insides twinge a little in hurt, but she still knocked, hoping the now singular inhabitant would let her in and talk to her.

No one answered, even though she hadn’t seen him in the cafeteria or the library, and knew he didn’t have a class at that moment. He had to be in there, but he wasn’t talking to her. Azelma sadly walked away.

 

 

In Thénardier’s class, everyone was now standing up and holding their hands out in front of them. Everyone, even the Amis, had managed to create an orb of violet energy, and Thénardier patrolled between the benches, giving criticisms and correcting postures. Occasionally one of the orbs would explode, sending the creator flying, and every time this happened another mean titter would run around the class.

“Not dark enough… a little dusky… hmm.” Thénardier had reached Éponine. “Better than I would have expected from a Faery, even if she is my own daughter. Very good, Éponine.” Éponine smiled smugly, and continued focussing. “Many of our spells require darkness as a primary source of energy, so it is important to learn how to subdue light.”

A burst of gold from Éponine’s other side caught his attention, and he turned to Enjolras with a glare. The blonde prince had summoned a miniature sun instead of the correct purple light. “Sorry,” he apologised, “but I don’t really do darkness.”

Thénardier looked angry. “You do realise your marks from this class will go on your permanent record?”

Enjolras made a face, and waved his hands in an attempt to subdue his ball of sunshine. Cosette cleared her throat, and Thénardier turned to her, raising an eyebrow. “Sir, if I complete the spell, may I leave class early?”

Thénardier frowned, examining the ball of light floating between Cosette’s hands. Instead of blueish-purple, like most of the class, it was rather reddish in colour. “Colette, are you feeling alright? Faeries don’t normally summon dark energy so easily.”

Cosette shrugged, not even noticing he’d gotten her name wrong. “I’ve had a bad week.”

 

 

On one of the lowest levels, three shadowy figures stalked through an empty laboratory. One of them raised their hand and blasted lightening at a shelf, destroying several test-tubes.

Babet turned to Gueulemer with a glare. “Will you stop that?! Someone’s going to hear us!”

Gueulemer scowled. “No one’s down here this time of day. And I’m sick of trying to find a needle in a haystack!”

“Well, it’s not like we have much of a choice,” Claquesous hissed.

Gueulemer grit his teeth. “Come on! We can control the tower, let’s just ask it to bring us the piece!”

Claquesous shook her head. “Thénardier still has most of the tower under his power,” she pointed out.

“Well, there’s nothing around here,” Babet said. “Let’s split up and look for likely hiding places.”

“Fine,” Claquesous said coolly. She raised her hand and blasted at the wall opening a dark portal, while Babet did the same, only his was ice-blue. They both zoomed into their respective portals, which closed behind them, leaving Gueulemer in the lab. He sighed in annoyance, before peering around the door - and catching sight of a very familiar back walking away down the corridor.

Well, well, well. Looks like Azelma is back at Votirlu.

 

 

In the library, the Amis met up with a group of four Witches on request of Thénardier. The Witches gazed stonily at the Faeries as they made their case for working together.

“Headmaster Thénardier said we could count on all of you,” Cosette said, her charm back in place. “We need to stop Patron-Minette from getting anywhere near Votirlu.”

Courfeyrac pulled out his PDA and held up the little screen. “Based on previous patterns, they’ll attack any day now.”

A red-haired Witch, whose name was Marilla, scowled. “We can stop them on our own! We don’t need you!”

Enjolras tugged Cosette’s arm. “We don’t need them, Sette,” he said coldly. “Let’s just do this ourselves.”

Éponine rammed an elbow into his side. “Enj, you’re as bad as the Witches!”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Marilla hissed. If Enjolras had been cold, Marilla was icy.

“Everybody, let’s calm down!” Musichetta said loudly. Cosette nodded.

“Look, let’s just keep our eyes and ears open for now. And if you know of any secret entrances -”

“We wouldn’t tell you about them,” Montparnasse snapped.

“Fine,” Cosette took a deep, calming breath. “Then just make sure Patron-Minette doesn’t use them. You OK with that?”

Marilla surveyed the Faeries through narrowed eyes. “Don’t worry. We’ll stop them,” she hissed.

“Not that you’d know how to do that,” another Witch, Leander, added.

“Yeah, you’ve lost to them twice now, haven’t you!” Montparnasse sneered.

“At least we stood up to them,” Musichetta snapped.

“Which is more than you’ll ever do,” Éponine added hotly.

The fourth Witch, Ebony, smirked. “Rumour has it Cosette herself gave them what they wanted.”

The Faeries all paused, glancing at Cosette, whose face had turned pale and guilty. Enjolras growled. “How dare you!”

Courfeyrac nudged him. “Well, technically it’s true,” he whispered. Enjolras turned his glare towards him.

“Whose side are you on?!”

 

 

Azelma walked through the castle, passing the library, when a sudden shout from within made her pause.

“See that? Faeries can’t even agree with one another!”

She swung open the door, and her jaw dropped at the sight within: Montparnasse, Leander, Ebony and Marilla, facing off with the Amis.

“What’s going on?!”

“We’re collaborating,” Enjolras said snarkily. “Isn’t it obvious?”

“You’re arguing!” Azelma said unhappily. “And while you’re doing that, whose watching for Patron-Minette?”

“Azelma’s right!” Jehan gasped. “I’d completely forgotten about that!”

Ebony sneered. “I’d rather listen to Cosette than that traitor.”

Azelma drew herself up to her full height - which, admittedly, was not massively impressive at 5’2”. “And if Patron-Minette wins because you didn’t cooperate, what do you think Thénardier will do to you?” she said quietly. Ebony’s eyes widened, and Leander and Marilla both shuddered. Montparnasse stared at the ground.

“Guys, this is possibly our only chance to stop Patron-Minette from getting enough power to threaten the entire Magic Dimension,” Cosette pointed out. “Let’s make Thénardier and Myriel proud! Who’s with me?” She held her hand out, palm down, and after a second, Montparnasse placed his on top.

“I’m in.”

The Amis and Azelma followed, and then so did Ebony, Marilla and Leander. They didn’t notice the eye opening on the wall behind them.

 

 

“Gueulemer! Have you found the Amis yet?”

Gueulemer nodded, pointing to his spying spell, which had opened the eye on the wall of the library. “Yep. It’s just like Méchant figured.”

Babet examined the eleven figures visible in the library, and grinned when he recognised some of them. “Excellent. Let’s catch up with Claquesous. I reckon I’ve found us a weak link…”

 

 

Azelma finally sat on the bed that used to be hers, while Montparnasse paced around the cramped dorm. She noticed the multiple pictures of the two of them together Montparnasse still had pinned above his bed, and searched for an icebreaker. “So…” she said at last. “I saw your update on #Glitter. Did you have fun at that club, Sparx, last night?”

Montparnasse finally cracked a smile. “Yeah, I did. It was kinda like when we were kids, and you used to drag me to the Village Festivals.”

“I remember,” Azelma smiled. “We had fun, didn’t we?” In the first few years after losing her mother, Azelma would often be left to her own devices while Éponine sulked and a neighbour watched baby Gavroche. She and Montparnasse would always go to whatever festivals were on nearby, and although Montparnasse would always sulk at first, he would eventually open up and have a great time with her.

Montparnasse chuckled. “You had more fun there than at school, that’s for sure.” He recalled how Azelma was picked on in their youth for her differently coloured eyes - a trait rare even in the Magic Dimension.

Azelma leaned back on the bed. “And you always wanted to go paint with the big kids in Art class.”

“Yeah,” Montparnasse shrugged, “because I was better than them!”

Azelma burst out laughing, and felt relief wash over her when Montparnasse joined in. “You know,” she said softly, finally getting her chuckles under control, “we’ve been through a lot together.”

Montparnasse nodded, sitting on his own bed. “Remember our first day here?”

“You tried to sit with Patron-Minette!” Azelma recalled, gasping. “They turned you into a toad!”

“And everyone kept asking you how someone so wimpy got let into a school for Witches!” Montparnasse giggled. Azelma raised an eyebrow, and he continued giggling, even when she whipped a pillow at him.

“You know, maybe I would have been better off not coming here at all,” Azelma said thoughtfully. “I’m having a lot of fun at Musain.”

Montparnasse’s laughter cut off like a snipped wire. “Don’t tell me you want me to become a fru-fru frilly Faery!” he gagged.

“Well,” Azelma teased, but Montparnasse shook his head.

“No way! If I keep studying Witchcraft, I’ll get all kinds of powers!”

Azelma nodded, shrugging. “I guess some things never change, huh?”

“Hey, not all Witches are like Patron-Minette!” Montparnasse pointed out. “Your father for example. He’s strong and proud. One day I’ll be just like him!” He paused. “Y’know, just because you’re not a Witch any more…”

“...doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends,” Azelma grinned. She got to her feet and wrapped Montparnasse in a hug, who after a moment of confusion, stood and hugged her back.

“Best friends, Zelma.”

 

 

As Montparnasse walked down a corridor alone later that night, he jumped a little, feeling as though someone was watching him. He hurried quicker, but suddenly the wall next to him warped, and who phased through it but -

“Babet,” Montparnasse whispered. Babet grinned, and Gueulemer and Claquesous followed him.

“Well, well, well,” Gueulemer hissed delightedly. “What have we here?”

“Why, it’s our old friend, Montparnasse!” Claquesous grinned.

Babet came so close, Montparnasse could feel the snowflakes flickering around him. “You are going to help us, aren’t you?” he said silkily.

Montparnasse backed away into the opposite wall. “Why d-don’t you j-just l-leave me al-lone, huh?” he trembled.

Gueulemer placed a finger under Montparnasse’s chin, tilting his face up. “Because we know you, Monty.”

“You’ll help us,” Babet snapped. “Yes or no?”

Montparnasse caught sight of a cockroach crawling past, and raised a hand. “No!” he shouted, blasting the ‘roach with purple light. “I won’t!” In a millisecond, the cockroach had grown to the size of a man. Montparnasse used the Witches’ momentary distraction to blast more green light at Babet’s glowing necklace in the hopes of destroying it.

Nothing happened. Babet turned slowly back to him, fury crossing his face. “How dare you attack me!” he hissed. Gueulemer raised his hand, revealing a bracelet much like Babet’s necklace. Claquesous folded her arms. She too wore a bracelet.

“‘Mer,” she smirked, “I think it’s time you showed Monty here what happens when you disobey Patron-Minette.” Gueulemer’s bracelet lit up, and Montparnasse backed up against the wall, shaking and sobbing.

“Wait!”

Gueulemer blasted him. Pain ricocheted through the young Witch’s body, and he slid down the wall, still crying. “I’ll do whatever you want,” he sobbed. “Anything you say. Don’t… hurt me. Please!”

A victorious smirk stretched across Babet’s face. “That’s more like it!”

 

 

In his study, Thénardier raised an eyebrow at Zarathustra across the desk. “Our students are searching every nook and cranny for any sign of Patron-Minette. Seems Courgette managed to convince them.”

Zarathustra scowled. “Yes, for now.”

 

 

In Professor Viridium’s class room, the six desks were arranged in a circle around the walls of one of the towers with two to a desk. There were only four actual students in this class; the six Amis plus Azelma filled up all the seats. Azelma was left to sit at a desk on her own; Montparnasse hadn’t actually shown up for class.

“Now, good performance een zee next exercise eez absolutelee vital for good Vitches,” Viridium was saying. A crystal ball filled with green smoke sat in front of each student. “Zee brighter zee glow, zee more powerful zee spell.”

Cosette raised her hand. “Professor Viridium, we don’t understand what to do!”

“Zen let me help you!” Viridium snapped. “Everyone, close your eyes. Now, zink of all zee times zomeone kept you from doing vat you vanted. Zink of ze last time you felt helpezz or angry. Zink of ztrezz, lonelinezz, heartache. Feell your heart weeth zoughtz of zadnezz or gloom.”

Azelma opened her eyes, and to her shock, all the crystal balls had turned blacker than night. Realising what was happening, she shot to her feet. “Professor, that’s enough!”

“Meezz Azelma,” Viridium said coldly, “kindly reeturn to your seat. You are eenterupting zee lesson.”

“I took this class with Professor Edeltrude last year.” Azelma kept her voice even and polite, even though she was visibly shaking with anger. “This exercise isn’t part of it.”

“Azelma?” Cosette sounded worried. “What’s going on?”

“This is a spell for unbridled rage,” Azelma explained. “She set all this up for you guys. It’s not meant to be part of the class.”

“What?” Enjolras gasped. Cosette, meanwhile, pushed herself away from her crystal ball as quickly as she could. She easily remembered the last time she’d lost control of her temper…

Viridium stared Azelma down, but Azelma refused to back down. Eventually he turned away, rolling his eyes. “Clazz vaz almost over anyvay. Everyone pazzez - exzept Azelma.”

 

 

Charlie found himself in the basement of the castle, in a room filled with a rather ugly collection of statues that seemed to be of the three Ancestral Witches themselves. He sneaked between them, before clapping his hands, and suddenly he wore the patched robes and neat moustache of Professor Lupin from Harry Potter, complete with a tiny wand. “Riddikulus!” he cried, waving the wand at the statue.

Nothing. The statue didn’t change, and Charlie zoomed away in a hurry. These boggarts, he thought to himself, are getting craftier every day.

 

 

“I expect all the teachers to help if the Codex is in danger!” Headmaster Thénardier was saying.

Zarathustra sounded derisive. “Patron-Meenette ‘as really beecome so powerful?”

Montparnasse pressed his ear harder against the door, listening intently. “Myriel himself told me Lord Méchant has gifted them with special powers,” Thénardier was saying.

“Eef your so worried about ze codex, why not send ze teachers -”

“DON’T mention its location!” Thénardier snapped. “Evanesco!” With a zapping sound, the door to his study vanished, revealing Montparnasse to both teachers, who he knew could tell full well what he’d been doing.

He fled.

“‘e was spyeeng!” Zarathustra raged. “‘e won’t get far, ‘eadmaster -”

“No, stop!” Thénardier insisted. “He’s scared. I think what is happening here is fairly obvious.”

 

 

Montparnasse sprinted down the corridor, shaking as he ensconced himself in a little alcove near the library. “Babet, is that you?” he whispered. Nothing. Nothing but a tinkling of little wings -

Something collided with his face. Something small and hairy. He screamed. So did the thing.

Montparnasse didn’t have time to examine whatever it was, and launched himself out of the alcove, sprinting further down the corridor.

Charlie shook himself, and continued on his way.

Montparnasse skidded to a halt at the feet of Azelma, Cosette and Jehan, still shaking in fear. He screamed again, and Azelma started forwards -

“Montparnasse, what’s wrong?”

He fainted.

“Oh Goodness!” Jehan gasped. They hurried forward and helped Azelma support Montparnasse. The boy’s eyes fluttered open after a second, and he whimpered:

“Patron-Minette… they’re already here!”

“No!” Jehan gasped. Montparnasse nodded.

“They’re after me.” Footsteps came from behind Cosette, and the other Faeries emerged from one of the rooms.

“What’s going on?” Éponine asked. Cosette turned to her, looking urgent.

“Patron-Minette are already in the tower.”

Musichetta’s eyes widened. “We need to find them. And get them!”

Cosette nodded, turning back to Azelma and the distraught Montparnasse. “Azelma, I think you should stay here with Montparnasse. Everyone else, let’s go and find those Witches!”

 

 

Cosette hadn’t been in Votirlu since the Battle back in March, but she remembered the layout of the castle’s secret passageways perfectly. Unfortunately, she remembered the layout from March. The layout now, in early December, was completely different. They dashed down corridors and up staircases, but without the Witches to guide them, the building was a perfect maze.

“Nice idea, Cosette,” Enjolras grumbled. “‘Let’s go and find those Witches!’ How are we supposed to do that?!”

“I’m open to suggestions!” Cosette called back to him, making a right turn. The Amis followed her.

“Based on past experiences,” Courfeyrac began, “we can’t beat them at their own game.”

“Nice way of saying we’ve already lost,” Cosette groaned, but Courfeyrac shook his head.

“No! What I mean is, if we wait for them at their destination, we’ll get the jump on them!”

“But they’re after the Codex!” Jehan pointed out.

“And we don’t know where it is,” Musichetta added.

Courfeyrac pulled out his PDA. “I’ll calculate its most probable position, and we’ll wait there,” he suggested, but Enjolras shook his head.

“That’s too dangerous; we could lead them straight to the Codex!”

“We’re not getting anywhere!” Éponine groaned. “Can we even trust some of these Witches? I’ve grown up around dark magic my whole life; the Witches are probably helping Patron-Minette!”

“Fine!” Enjolras snapped. “Then go beat up some Witches and get them to tell you where Patron-Minette are!”

“It’s not as if you’ve got any better ideas!” Éponine snapped back. Enjolras skidded to a halt at another right turn.

“Fine! Think you can find them without my help? Go right on ahead!” He angrily turned and dashed down the corridor to the right, into pitch black.

“Enjolras!” Cosette groaned. She held her fingers to the bridge of her nose. “Well, I’m going to go look where Montparnasse last saw them. Come if you want.” She stalked off down the corridor in the direction they’d been going. After a moment, Jehan followed her, and Éponine flipped the bird after her.

“She didn’t even consider my idea,” she muttered, before following Cosette. Musichetta followed her too, but Courfeyrac hung back.

“My idea has the highest probability of success,” he said to Charlie, who had caught up with them. “I’ll stay back and look from here.”

So Courfeyrac made his calculations, Cosette and Jehan examined the corridor where Montparnasse had been attacked by Patron-Minette, Éponine and Musichetta decided to look for the Witches, and Enjolras went to the cafeteria and had lunch, which he’d sorely been missing. He began to regret having walked out on his friends as soon as his hunger was sorted, and got up to try and make his way back to find them. Courfeyrac, meanwhile, had made a breakthrough.

“I was right!” he muttered, sitting against the wall. “Magic flows through the whole structure of Votirlu, like veins in a living creature. And it originates…” he pointed to the bottom of the diagram of the castle projecting from his screen, “…here. The Heart of Votirlu… Huh?!”

The wall across from him warped into a portal, and out flew -

“Patron-Minette!”

“So you found the Codex!” Claquesous grinned.

“You better tell us where it is,” Gueulemer smirked, cracking his knuckles.

“Not in a million years!” Courfeyrac yelled. “Transfo-”

“Glacial Freeze!” Babet yelled. A second later, and Courfeyrac was trapped like a bug in amber. “Too slow! …Well, what have we here?” He noticed the projected model, and examined it in delight. Courfeyrac had animated the flow of magic, and it all centred around a room somewhere in the basement. “Looks like we’ve found the Codex!”

 

 

Éponine and Musichetta had found the room on their own - and so, it seemed, had many of the student Witches, including Ebony, Leander and Marilla. The room had statues up to the ceiling of three ancient old hags, and you entered through a door that glowed yellow from a room full of glowing doors.

“Creepy,” Musichetta muttered, examining the décor. Éponine nodded.

“No kidding. Mind you, the atmosphere matches the rest of the building.”

“What now?”

“Let’s ask these Witches a few questions.”

 

 

Claquesous aimed her Gloomix at the wall, sending waves of dark energy towards it. The wall warped, but refused to change into a portal, and she scowled at it.

“What’s wrong?” Babet snapped. “Can’t you reach that area of the tower?”

Claquesous shook her head. “No. Thénardier has total control over that area.”

“What a pain,” Gueulemer groaned.

“Of course he’ll have set up his strongest shields around the Codex,” Babet realised.

“If we get near it, we’ll lose control of the tower,” Claquesous added.

Babet grinned. “Then we’ll steal it the old-fashioned way,” he smiled.

Gueulemer looked excited for the first time on this mission. “With brute force!” he cackled.

 

 

Cosette and Jehan rushed back to the corridor where they’d left Courfeyrac, and their eyes widened in horror at the state he was in. “Oh no,” Jehan groaned. “Patron-Minette must have been here! They’ve frozen poor Courfeyrac solid!”

Cosette noticed Charlie fluttering up in the corner of the ceiling. “Charlie, what happened?!”

Charlie shivered. “Patron-Minette found his model. They know where the Codex is!”

“Courfeyrac figured it out?” Jehan asked.

Cosette nodded, pointing at the model, which still glowed from the PDA. “And then they figured it out from him.”

“We’ve got to help him and warn the others!”

“No time!” Cosette shook her head. “Patron-Minette will reach the Codex any minute now!”

“But Cosette -”

“You help Courfeyrac,” Cosette instructed. A fire was blazing in her eyes, maybe the reflection from the model, or possibly the Dragon Flame itself. “I’m going after them.” She turned and dashed away down a corridor in the direction the model had pointed her.

Charlie zoomed down. “I’ll go with you!” he said enthusiastically, but Jehan yanked him back by the back of his suit.

“Oh no, you don’t,” they said. “Cosette, be careful!”

 

 

“What kind of question is that?” a blonde Witch, named Laurie, snapped. “You don’t trust us, do you?”

“Of course not!” Éponine snarled back. “You’re a Witch!” An explosion from above interrupted the conversation, and Musichetta looked up worriedly.

“Éponine? Did you hear that?”

“What’s going on?” Laurie whispered.

“Something bad -” Musichetta started, but another explosion interrupted her as it blew the doors off their hinges.

“Ooh, a welcoming committee!” Babet cooed as soon as the dust cleared.

“A bunch of Witches and a couple of Amis,” Gueulemer added. “That’s a nice warm-up!”

“Ha!” Éponine cheered. “Found it first! Transform”

“Technically they found us,” Musichetta pointed out. “Transform!”

Éponine grinned down at the student Witches as she and Musichetta fluttered into the air. “Hey, Witches, let’s see what you got!” she shouted. “Defend your school!”

“Shut up!” Marilla snapped. “We know what to do!” A ball of silver light formed in her hands, and Ebony zapped some extra magic into it. “Ha!”

 

 

Enjolras exited the cafeteria feeling much more agreeable. I should probably go apologise, he thought to himself, when a panicked shout made him turn.

“ENJOLRAS!”

“Jehan? What’s -”

“It’s Courfeyrac, come quick!”

 

 

“Come on, Witches!” Marilla shouted. All six Witches grouped into a clump and simultaneously blasted light up at Patron-Minette, while Éponine and Musichetta zapped at them from the air. Patron-Minette themselves, in spite of the eight-pronged attack on them, looked rather board, easily summoning shield spells. As soon as the Witches paused, Gueulemer darted forwards, but Musichetta was too quick for him, forming a Morphix net that stuck to him, pulling him down to the ground.

“Got him!”

“You’re gonna pay for that!” Babet snarled. “Ice Daggers!”

“Remix!” Éponine shouted, blasting soundwaves back at him, shattering the ice daggers into tiny fragments that wouldn’t have hurt a firefly. Babet was forced to rejoin Claquesous in maintaining their shield.

“This is turning into a complete waste of time!” he snarled. Claquesous pointed at the statues of the old Witches.

“Hey, Babs, those gargoyles are part of Votirlu, aren’t they?”

“Of course!” Babet’s eyes widened. He snapped his fingers. “Votirlu, protect us!” The gargoyles came to life with a flash, and reached down for the Faeries and Witches, who ran and flew in all directions, screaming. Babet cackled.

“Now that’s entertainment,” Claquesous commented.

Babet nodded. “Unfortunately we have no time to enjoy it. Let’s get out of here!”

 

 

“This is taking ridiculously long!” Enjolras groaned. He was blasting sunlight from his hands at the Courfsicle, which was melting very slowly. “If Cosette was here, we’d be done in no time. Where is Cosette anyway?”

Jehan chewed a fingernail nervously. “Oh, I hope she’s alright,” they wailed. Charlie, now dressed as a prehistoric squirrel, tapped an acorn against the Courfsicle.

“Gotta crack this nut,” he muttered, but slipped on the icy ground. “Oops.”

 

 

Cosette walked down an empty corridor in the basement, a floor above the crypts where the fight was going on. She turned down a corridor, and to her surprise, found herself in a huge room with a giant, veiny bulb in the centre, pulsing like -

“A heart,” she whispered. “The Heart of Votirlu. I’m the first one here. They must have been sidetracked.” She took up a position in front of the Heart. “I can do this,” she told herself. “Transform!”

 

 

“Good going!” Ebony snapped. “We destroyed the gargoyles, but Patron-Minette got away!”

“And whose fault is that?” snarled Éponine.

“Your magic just bounced right off them!” Musichetta added.

“At least we tried!” Leander snapped. “You guys didn’t even attack!”

“My net did more damage that anything you tried!” Musichetta growled.

“And you let them get away on purpose!” Éponine accused. Leander turned scarlet with fury.

“How dare you!” he snarled.

Éponine spread her wings as the Witches rose into the air. “All right, then. Bring it on!”

Hands filled with spells ready to cast, but suddenly a voice interrupted them. “NO! WAIT!” Jehan cried. “All of you, that’s enough!” Behind them were Courfeyrac, unfrozen, Enjolras, and Charlie. All three Faeries were transformed.

“You’ve got to stop!” Courfeyrac agreed.

“It’s this place!” Jehan explained. “This crypt. It’s making you crazy!”

Éponine and Musichetta landed on the ground, looking apologetic. Behind them, the Witches looked rather embarrassed for having lost their cool.

“Alright, if that’s all settled,” Enjolras said seriously, “Patron-Minette is about to get the Codex.”

“And Cosette’s fighting alone!” Jehan added. Courfeyrac took to the air.

“Follow me! I know where it is!”

 

 

Cosette stared down Patron-Minette, who glared right back. Cosette formed a fire blast between her palms, and Babet narrowed his eyes.

“Hang on!” he said as he formed a shield. “There’s only one of them! Your little friends didn’t want to come out to play?”

The fire blast hit the shield, which vanished, and Babet turned to Claquesous. “She’s all yours, Claq.”

Gueulemer attacked first, and Cosette staved him off with more fire, giving Babet time to sneak behind her and blast her in the back, knocking her to the ground. Claquesous raised her hands with a grin.

“Optical Darkness!”

Cosette got to her knees, opening her eyes - but she couldn’t see. A layer of filmy black magic covered her eyes, rendering her completely blind! “My eyes!”

The Amis flew towards the sound of her yell, but Patron-Minette were already circling her like sharks that had scented blood. “Poor darling can’t see a thing!” Claquesous grinned. Babet raised his hands.

“Ready, cousins?”

No, Cosette thought, I’ve got to keep fighting! Somehow!

“NOW!” Cosette screamed as her body was blasted against the wall. She sank to the ground, unconscious, and Babet grinned. “Let’s pick up our prize.”

“It’s right up ahead!” came a shout from the corridor. “Come on!”

Babet turned towards the doorway as the Amis burst through it. “Cosette!” the Faeries screamed, and Babet cackled.

“You’re too late! Cosette’s unconscious, the Heart of Votirlu is opening, and the Codex is ours!” He turned towards where the side of the enormous heart was indeed opening, but to his shock, instead of the Codex, was something he definitely didn’t want to see…

Chapter Text

It was Headmaster Thénardier in a bathrobe.

The Witches covered their eyes, the Faeries politely looked away, and Éponine looked very, very embarrassed. Patron-Minette simply gaped in shock, until Babet voiced everyone’s thoughts.

“What… what the fuck?”

“Congratulations, Patron-Minette,” Thénardier said coolly. “You’ve found my personal sauna.”

“Not the Codex vault?!” Claquesous said dopily. Courfeyrac’s eyes widened in embarrassment.

“I… miscalculated?”

Thénardier ignored him, still staring down Patron-Minette. “I usually come here to relax, but today I came to wait for you three.”

“In a bathrobe?” Gueulemer asked. Thénardier shrugged.

“I figured I might as well enjoy the sauna while I was here. Now, get out of my school.

Gueulemer and his cousins all raised their hands, their Gloomix glowing threateningly. “What, you think we’re afraid of you?” he growled.

Éponine cracked her knuckles. “You should be. If you want to fight, you’ll be fighting all of us.”

The three Witches looked panicked, but Claquesous suddenly made a slashing motion with her hand.

“Total Darkness!”

“Sunbeam!” Enjolras shouted. A bright light bloomed from his sceptre, but too late. Patron-Minette were gone.

“They got away!” Musichetta gasped.

“Forget about them,” Jehan said, and everyone turned to see them cradling Cosette’s head in their lap. “We have to help Cosette!”

 

 

“Alright… take it easy… there.” Jehan and Enjolras set Cosette down so she was sitting on her bed in the dorm they were sleeping in at Votirlu. She blinked, holding up her right hand, and her eyes widened happily when she realised she could see again. “Headmaster Thénardier used a spell to cure your blindness,” Jehan explained.

Cosette groaned and flopped back on the bed. “Ugh, my brain feels like cotton candy.”

“Well serves you right for taking on Patron-Minette on your own!” Enjolras started, but Musichetta interrupted him.

“Nice, Enjolras. Giving her flack as soon as she wakes up. Very supportive.”

Cosette shook her head, then groaned again at the sensation. “No, Enjy’s right. I shouldn’t have taken them on by myself. I should have gone for backup first.”

“To be fair, you’ve taken them on before and survived,” Éponine pointed out. “I guess it’s easy to forget they’ve had an upgrade in power when we haven’t faced them in so long.”

Courfeyrac sniffled. “This is all my fault,” he said miserably. “If it weren’t for me, none of this would have happened.”

“Yeah, maybe it was dumb of you to set up a map,” Enjolras sighed, “but it’s also on the rest of us for abandoning you with it. We’re all to blame for this one.”

 

 

“I HATE THIS!”

Patron-Minette had reconvened in a passage on the other side of the basement, and Babet was looking furious.

“How could Thénardier be so pathetic as to team up with the Faeries?!”

“Finding the Codex is useless if they’re all guarding it,” Claquesous added. “We can’t take on Thénardier and Les Amis at the same time.”

“Why not?” Gueulemer growled. “We should have tried.”

Babet shook his head. “No, it’s pointless.”

“We beat Cosette and those other two easy enough,” Gueulemer pointed out.

“Good point,” Claquesous said thoughtfully. “Why weren’t the Amis fighting together?”

“I’m not sure,” Babet smirked as a delightfully wicked idea came to mind. “But if they keep this up, we can pick them off, one by one.” He and his cousins threw back their heads and cackled.

 

 

Musichetta’s eyes flickered open as she lay in her temporary bed. The room was dark, and the only familiar thing was the sound of Éponine’s breathing in the bed next to her. “Éponine?” she whispered. “You awake?”

No answer except a little snore. Musichetta sighed. “Well, nice talking to you.”

 

 

“Good morning. I hope everyone is feeling better?” It was six AM, and the Amis plus Azelma and Montparnasse were gathered in Thénardier’s study. Montparnasse had a bandage wrapped around his head, but some of the colour had returned to his pale skin.

“Yes, thank you, sir.”

Musichetta next to him looked exhausted. No sleep for two nights, she groaned internally. I’m a living zombie.

“Good. Now listen closely. I’ve discovered how Patron-Minette is getting around the castle. They have help from Votirlu itself.”

“Of course!” Cosette gasped. “Votirlu is a living creature that can be controlled!”

“Exactly,” Thénardier nodded. “However, they must have cast some sort of cloaking spell, because I should be able to sense them moving through walls and changing the directions of corridors.”

“Maybe their new powers from Lord Méchant override your control,” Enjolras suggested, before frowning. “Wait, did I just hear you say they can move through walls?”

“They can,” Montparnasse shivered. “They can show up anywhere.”

Azelma took his hand. “It’ll be OK, Parnasse,” she assured him.

Thénardier held out four red gems. “In order for you to track them, I have created these ruby coins.” Charlie, now dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow, made an excited snatch at them, but Thénardier held them out of his way. “The coins will light up if the spell is being used to control the tower in your area.”

“So we just split up and walk around the tower until we find Patron-Minette?” Éponine clarified.

Musichetta raised her hand. “But how will we stay in contact with each other?”

Cosette nodded. “Sir, we’ll need a way to communicate.”

“Simple,” Thénardier said. “If Patron-Minette can control the tower, so can you. Exclamo!” He held up his hand to the wall, and a hole appeared on it about the size and height of his nose.

“So we just do that and it’ll find whoever we want to talk to?” Enjolras asked. Thénardier nodded.

“Exactly. Say their name as you cast the spell, and it should be easy to stay in contact.”

As they split into four groups (Éponine and Enjolras, Cosette and Courfeyrac, Jehan and Musichetta and Charlie, and Azelma and Montparnasse), Patron-Minette watched them in a summoned viewing portal. Gueulemer grinned.

“Would you look at that!”

“They’re splitting up!” Claquesous said delightedly.

“That’s so sweet of them,” Babet grinned. “They’ll be easy pickings!”

 

 

Jehan stopped suddenly. “Chetta, are we lost?” they said nervously. “I’m not sure Votirlu is supposed to look like this.” Indeed the polished stone bricks had changed to rough, rocky walls, and they were approaching a dead end.

“Maybe,” Musichetta murmured. “Patron-Minette can control the corridors, can’t they?”

“Do you think they’re close by?”

Charlie held up a little glowing staff. “Don’t worry. I keep this for close encounters of the unfriendly kind.” He was wearing a padded jumpsuit now, along with black kneepads and goggles.

Jehan’s face lit up with a red glow, and they looked down, their eyes widening in horror. “The coin!” They and Musichetta both tensed, ready to fight, when a hand tapped Musichetta on the shoulder, and she screamed, turning in horror.

“Well, aren’t we jumpy today.” It was Headmaster Thénardier, thank the Dragon, looking mildly amused. “Musichetta, I didn’t expect someone of your mettle to be acting like this.”

“Yeah,” Musichetta shuddered. “I’m just feeling a little nervous today for some reason.”

“Well, try to stay calm, and if you see anything, contact the others. I’m going to go and check on them.” He raised his hand, and a portal appeared on the wall, which he stepped through. As soon as it closed behind him, Musichetta breathed out an exhausted sigh.

“I hope he checks on Enjolras next; he could use a bit of a fright,” she muttered.

 

 

Enjolras himself was in one of the labs with Éponine. They were examining several shattered test tubes and a large burn mark on the wall. Éponine tutted.

“Gueulemer’s been here. I recognise his lack of finesse.”

Enjolras narrowed his eyes. “Speaking of which, look at the burn marks on the wall. He was angry, which suggests that they didn’t know where they were going when they were here. I doubt they’ll be back.”

 

 

“This kind of search is too slow!” Cosette sighed as they entered Viridium’s classroom, which had been cleared of crystal balls. “There’s got to be a better way!”

“Don’t look at me,” Courfeyrac snapped. “Apparently Faeries and logic don’t mix!”

“Huh?” Cosette realised what he was talking about. “Courf, no one blames you-”

“Do they blame you?” Courfeyrac said aggressively. “Huh?”

Cosette hurriedly changed the subject. “Maybe there’s a technical charm we can use?” she suggested. “They’ve helped us a lot before -”

Courfeyrac’s face brightened. “Hang on, I know something that might help!” He hurried over to a desk and sat down, taking out his PDA and beginning to push buttons. He’d just made a satisfied noise when there came a crash from the corridor.

“What was that?” Cosette whispered. She approached the door, holding the ruby coin aloft, but Courfeyrac stopped her.

“Cosette, wait.” She turned back to him, and he gave her a worried look. “I don’t want to spend the rest of the day on ice again.”

“Don’t worry,” Cosette assured him. “I won’t run out on you.”

 

 

Thénardier closed the large book on his desk, picking it up along with a scroll and his crystal ball. As he turned towards the door, he made eye-contact with Viridium, who frowned.

“Headmaster Thénardier, where are you goeeng?”

“To meditate,” he explained. “I must gain full control of the tower.”

“Don’t tell mee you sent zee Vaeries out just to keep Patron-Minette busy!”

“I would never needlessly endanger my daughters,” Thénardier said coldly.

“Zen vy deevide zem? You put each Vaery vith zere vorst match.”

“It will either strengthen their bond or destroy it. Either way, they’ll learn something.”

 

 

“Parnasse, are you alright?”

Montparnasse nodded. “Yeah. Don’t worry about me.”

“In that case, let’s keep moving,” Azelma smiled.

“It’s just that…” Azelma turned back to her friend, who looked a little awkward. “If we get into trouble, and you want to call Les Amis for help, I won’t get mad.”

Azelma realised this was his way of saying he’d actually feel safer with the other Faeries around, and she smiled. “Sure. No problem.”

Just then, the ruby coin in her hand lit up, and they both turned to it nervously. The wall next to them warped, and they leapt away from it with a shriek, but thankfully it was once again just Headmaster Thénardier.

“Dad!” Azelma breathed out in relief. “It’s just you! You’ve come to check on us again?”

Thénardier grinned, and suddenly his face warped into someone else’s, someone with yellow eyes and long brown hair.

Someone horribly familiar to the two friends.

 

 

“This is taking forever!” Cosette sighed again as Courfeyrac finished pressing buttons, and a green diamond projected out of the PDA. “Are you sure this is the best way?”

“This spell will increase the ruby’s power substantially,” Courfeyrac nodded. “When it’s done, we’ll be able to track Patron-Minette from a distance.”

“How far?”

“Anywhere in the castle.” Cosette looked much more on board, and Courfeyrac smiled, but then frowned. “Unfortunately, while the spell is being cast, the ruby won’t work at all.”

“So we have no warning system?” Cosette said nervously, and Courfeyrac nodded.

“However, it is unlikely that Patron-Minette will attack us at the moment. We’re not a threat to them right now.”

“Great,” Cosette muttered.

 

 

Enjolras and Éponine entered the cafeteria tower, gazing up at the staircase that spiralled up the walls with platforms for tables branching off it. “If Patron-Minette are on the move, we risk missing them,” Enjolras said thoughtfully. “We could wait for them here.”

“Why would they come here?”

“For a coffee break. Duh. Plotting is hard work, Ép. Even diabolical Witches need a rest. Besides, there are comfy chairs here.”

“We’re in the middle of a mission, and all you wanna do is take a break?” Éponine snapped. “You’re ridiculous!”

“I’m exhausted!” Enjolras snapped back, sitting down. “This place is terrible for my powers, there’s hardly any sunlight! It’s not as bad as the Downland caves, but much longer and I’ll be feeling queasy! And since I have the coin thing, I’m in charge!” He didn’t notice the coin slipping out of his pocket, falling onto the floor and rolling away. As it landed under a nearby table, it began glowing, but neither of them took notice.

“And what if Patron-Minette were to attack now?” Éponine pointed out angrily. Enjolras shrugged.

“We’d be well-rested and ready to fight.”

“Yeah, right. You probably wouldn’t even notice.”

The coin glowed brighter, still unnoticed by both Faeries.

 

 

“Hey! Where did Charlie go?”

“They’re coming out of the walls!” Charlie yelled above them, zooming down. “I can feel it!”

“Where?!” Musichetta gasped. “What direction are they coming from?”

“Well…” Charlie looked sheepish. “They’re not coming out of the walls yet. But I can’t wait for them to try something! We’ll show ‘em, right?”

“Chetta, what do you think we should do now?” Jehan asked.

Musichetta looked thoughtful. “Aren’t Azelma and Montparnasse supposed to be around here somewhere?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Then let’s get in touch with them. Maybe we can team up with them for a little while.”

Jehan nodded. “OK.” Musichetta hurried over to the wall and held her palm against it.

“Exclamo! Azelma!” A small hole opened, and Musichetta gazed through it, not seeing anyone at the other side. “Azelma? Montparnasse? Can you hear me?”

Charlie fluttered down next to her. “Come in, Azelma!” He made a walky-talky sound, but still nothing.

“Nothing,” Jehan moaned. “They’re not there.”

Musichetta looked worried. “You don’t think Patron-Minette got them, do you?”

 

 

Cosette tapped her foot on the floor, but Courfeyrac’s excited shout made her jump. “I’m done!”

“That’s great news!” Cosette said excitedly. “Good work, Courf!”

Courfeyrac pressed a few buttons, and his eyes widened. “I’ve got them! They’re in range!”

“Can you be more precise?” Courfeyrac nodded, and pressed a button. Suddenly his face turned worried.

“They’re in the cafeteria. They’ve cornered two Faeries!”

“OH NO!” Cosette shrieked. She held her hand up to the wall. “Exclamo! Enjolras!” She hurried over to the hole. “Enjolras, Éponine, respond, please!” She pressed her ear against it, but suddenly leapt away, for the noise was loud enough that she could hear it probably from the other side of the classroom.

The noise of screams and magical explosions.

“Enjolras!” Cosette whispered. “Éponine! No!”

 

 

“I think I should have been an interior designer,” Gueulemer said, satisfied as he gazed out over the smouldering wreckage of the cafeteria. “I have an eye for this kind of thing.”

“There is something about this room that really says ‘home’,” Claquesous commented. Babet chuckled.

“It’s easy to play house when you’re using the building as a weapon.”

“Why stop here?” Gueulemer grinned. “We’re on a roll, let’s keep going!”

“Yeah!” The three Witches rose as one and flew out the doors, away down the corridor. Enjolras and Éponine scowled from where they were partially stuck in the wall, only their heads and knees sticking out. Éponine breathed out in relief.

“They’re gone.”

“Quick, let’s contact Cosette!” Enjolras suggested. “She’ll get us out of this easily.”

“No!” Éponine said. “If Cosette comes here, she’ll walk right into another trap.”

“Good point. But I don’t want to spend the day like this!”

“Well, we’ll just have to find a way out of it ourselves,” Éponine decided.

 

 

“If Patron-Minette has got Azelma and Montparnasse, what do we do?”

“We’ve got to meet up with Cosette right away,” Musichetta said. Jehan nodded.

“Um, sure. I guess that’s a good idea… wait! The coin!”

“What’s happening?” Musichetta gasped. The coin was lit up bright red, but after a moment it dimmed. Jehan breathed out.

“Nothing. Must have been a false alarm.”

“Well, let’s try the contact spell again.”

 

 

“I’ll check on Jehan and Musichetta to make sure they’re OK,” Cosette decided. She held her hand to the wall and said “Exclamo! Musichetta!” at the same time Musichetta touched the wall and said Exclamo! Cosette!”

“Chetta?”

“Cosette! We’ve lost touch with Azelma and Montparnasse.”

“Enjolras and Éponine are missing too. They were attacked by Patron-Minette.”

“We’ve got to meet up.”

“Definitely. Come to Viridium’s classroom. We’ve found a way to track Patron-Minette.” Musichetta ended the call, and Cosette turned back to Courfeyrac, who looked worried. “Um, Cosette?”

The ruby was glowing, and Cosette hurried over. “Speaking of Witch,” Courfeyrac said nervously. “Ha. Pun intended. We have a little activity over here.”

Cosette gave him a look, and he made an apologetic face. “OK, I get it. That was a lame joke.”

 

 

Marilla and Ebony both screamed as they dashed down the corridor after Leander and Laurie. The floor behind them was warping and twisting, as if something burrowing under the floorboards was chasing them.

“Keep running!” Leander screamed, but suddenly the corridor ahead of them twisted to the left, and they hurriedly changed direction, the lump following them. Suddenly, the floor ahead of them opened up, and Laurie and Ebony both fell, screaming, into the hole. Leander and Marilla both glanced back nervously, but sped up, the lump continuing to chase them.

They hurried to the first classroom they saw - Viridium’s - and swung the door open. Cosette and Courfeyrac turned in surprise, and Leander slammed the door shut. Cosette hurried over to them.

“What happened?”

“It’s Patron-Minette!” Marilla whimpered. “You’ve got to help us!”

“What happened to the other Witches?” Courfeyrac asked.

“They’ve all been captured,” Leander shivered. “They’re trapped in the walls of Votirlu, along with your friends.”

“They’ve changed their tactics!” Cosette realised. Courfeyrac nodded.

“They’ll delete us one by one!” he gasped. “Then they can go after the Codex without having to fight us all at once!”

“What do you mean by Codex?” Leander said curiously, but Marissa interrupted him.

“Never mind that! What do you mean by DELETE us?!”

Courfeyrac’s eyes widened. “Uh, just forget you heard either of those words.”

“I knew we shouldn’t have relied on your stupid technical charm,” Cosette muttered. “It gave them all the time they needed!”

“It was your idea, remember?” Courfeyrac snapped. Cosette looked embarrassed.

“Sorry. But is there any way we can rescue everyone?”

 

 

In his sauna, Thénardier focused hard on three things: control, power, yield. Control, power, yield. “Just a bit more time!” he murmured. “I almost have full control of the tower!”

The great bulbous structure pulsed, and he continued focussing.

 

 

“Don’t worry,” Cosette reassured the Witches. “We’re safe here. We can keep an eye on them using Courf’s charm.”

“What charm?” Leander asked, and Courfeyrac’s eyes widened.

“The monitor!” He hurried back over to the PDA, which was luckily still projecting the diamond shape. “OH NO!”

“What is it?”

“Forget your toys!” a high, cold voice cackled above them. Cosette, Courfeyrac, Marilla and Leander looked up, and Babet grinned back, his head poking out of the ceiling. Gueulemer emerged next to him.

“Yeah! Try using your eyes!”

Claquesous poked her head out on Babet’s other side. “Give up!” she cackled. “We’ve got you!”

Leander and Marilla both ran for the door, swinging it open and sprinting down the corridor. Cosette and Courfeyrac stayed where they were as the three Witches emerged fully from the wall.

“You don’t stand a chance!” Babet smirked. Courfeyrac glared back.

“I’ll believe that when I see the odds.”

“And I’ll bet on the power of Les Amis,” Cosette added. Courfeyrac glanced at her.

“Ready, Cosette?”

Cosette nodded. “TRANSFORM!”

Even as their wings sprouted from their shoulder blades, Patron-Minette still looked confident.

 

 

Musichetta and Jehan sprinted down the corridor, Charlie in hot pursuit. A crash from up ahead made them both tense in worry, and Jehan called over to Musichetta, “You don’t think Patron-Minette have found Cosette and Courf, do you?”

Musichetta shook her head. “No. They set up a way to track Patron-Minette, they’re prepared.” Another crash sounded, and she winced. “What was that?”

“I don’t know, but I’m worried.” Another crash sounded, and Musichetta changed direction as they reached a split in the corridor, going right instead of left.

“Well, I’m going to check it out.”

Jehan shivered. “I don’t think I’ll be much help.”

“O-OK.” Musichetta slowed down, and Jehan came to a stop. Musichetta glanced back at them. “You’re sure you’re not coming?”

“I’m comin’!” Charlie announced - in a Texas accent, of all things. He was now dressed as a tiny cowboy, complete with a pretend rifle. “I’m a-comin’ to help Cosette and Courf, Chetta, an’ you ‘n’ Jehan’s comin’ too!”

Jehan gulped and followed them down the corridor. Helping my friends takes priority over my fears right now.

 

 

Cosette leapt onto a desk, and Courfeyrac positioned himself on the ground next to her. Courfeyrac waved his hands. “Digital net!” A web of green numbers spiralled around Cosette.

Gueulemer sighed. “This will be easy,” he smirked. Babet shrugged next to him.

“Go for it. They’re all yours if you want.”

“Maybe not so easy!” Cosette shouted. “Heat Wave!” Amplified by Courfeyrac’s spell, the blast of fire that came from her hands was twice as big as usual. The three Witches dived out of the way, and Gueulemer raised his Gloomix.

“Gloomix Storm!” he shouted, and a blast of wind and lightning shot towards the two Faeries, who didn’t have time to dodge before they were zapped off their feet. Gueulemer grinned. “How do you like Faery wings, cousins?” he cackled. “Deep fried or extra crispy?”

Cosette got to her feet and grabbed Courfeyrac by the scruff of the neck. “Fly!” They shot out of the classroom doors and down a corridor. “We need to find the others!” The Witches were right behind them, and Courfeyrac glanced back nervously.

“Their propulsion has a greater torque ratio!”

“In Moron, Courf.”

“Sorry,” Courfeyrac apologised. “They’re faster than we are. They’ll catch up in no time!”

“He’s right, Cosette!” Babet cackled behind her. “This time we’ll finish what we started, all the way back in August last year!”

Cosette beat her wings, but suddenly a voice echoed in her head - Headmaster Thénardier!

Corvette, keep clear of them just a little longer.

I’m trying! she thought back, wincing as Gueulemer shouted “Gloomix Storm!” again.

“There’s no room to dodge the attack!” Courfeyrac whimpered. They sped up, bracing themselves, but no attack ever came. A wall shot up in the corridor behind them, absorbing Gueulemer’s spell.

“What?!” Gueulemer screeched. The three Witches skidded to a halt, and made to turn back the way they’d come, but another wall appeared behind them, trapping them in a box of corridor.

“Thénardier!” Babet realised furiously.

 

 

Musichetta and Jehan arrived at the smoky ruins of the classroom, and Jehan chewed on a fingernail nervously. “They’re gone!”

Musichetta looked ashamed. “If we’d been a little faster, we wouldn’t be too late,” she said unhappily.

“Relax,” a voice behind them said, and they turned to see Cosette and Courfeyrac untransformed behind them. “Thénardier regained control of the tower at the last minute,” Cosette explained. “It’s over.”

 

 

Gueulemer blasted lightning at the wall, but to no avail. “Nothing’s happening!” he raged. Babet’s face was filled with cold fury, eerily lit by his Gloomix.

“Thénardier will pay for this!” he snarled.

Claquesous scratched her long nails down the wall in anger. “He must have a spell that we don’t,” she muttered. “We’ll never control the tower now!”

“It’s always about control with you!” Gueulemer said angrily. “Whatever happened to good, old-fashioned, complete and utter chaos?”

“‘Mer is right,” Babet hissed thoughtfully. “If we can’t control the tower, no one will.”

 

 

“Liberato!” Thénardier’s voice echoed through the tower, and a second later, Enjolras and Éponine were free. Enjolras offered Éponine a hand up, which she took gratefully.

“Are you OK?” he checked. Éponine nodded, and a second later the other Amis came rushing in, followed by Thénardier.

“I’m going to free the Witches,” Thénardier announced. “You Faeries better stick together. My advice would be to head back to your rooms until further notice.”

The Amis headed up to the dorm corridors, which were through a door at the end of another corridor. However, when they reached the end of the first corridor, there was no door in sight.

“What?” Cosette murmured. “I swear there was a door here this morning!”

“Is that your door?” Jehan said nervously. They were pointing at the ceiling above where they were standing, and sure enough, when Cosette looked, the door was on the ceiling.

Suddenly it vanished, and reappeared on the ceiling at the other end of the corridor - then it vanished again, and appeared above the door into the library - then again, appearing - wait. Right where it had been, above the library, but with another door next to it!”

“What’s happening?” Enjolras whispered.

“The tower’s going nuts!” Éponine yelled, pointing at the floor. To their shock, it was splitting in half right under their feet.

“We have to get out of here!” Cosette shouted, but she was too late. The ground shot open, and all six of them were left standing on nothing - then they fell into the darkness, Charlie zooming after them.

 

 

As the bridges and towers of Votirlu warped and twisted, Babet, Claquesous and Gueulemer zoomed out through a window, admiring their handiwork.

“We made it out,” Babet sighed in relief.

“Thénardier’s powerless now,” Claquesous grinned, before frowning. “But how are we gonna find the Codex?”

Babet frowned, but then grinned. “That’s easy. Check out that spire.” Indeed, the topmost tower of the school was entirely stationary, even as the rest of the building twisted and shook. “Why didn’t our Gloomix affect it? It’s got to be the Codex.”

 

 

The Amis had transformed in midair, and flown out of the hole - and now they were zooming down another corridor, avoiding the random walls that were popping up out of nowhere on all sides. They swerved to the left, staying together, as another wall popped into place, barely missing Enjolras.

“Any ideas?” Cosette asked the group. Jehan nodded.

“The teachers said that Votirlu’s towers were like branches, and that it had roots. It’s like a tree.”

Courfeyrac saw where they were going with this. “And trees grow their fruit up high to protect it from predators!” he realised. “Of course!”

Enjolras looked confused. “What do trees have to do with any of this?”

Cosette had understood. “The Codex is the fruit!” she explained. “It’s up in one of the topmost towers. Patron-Minette must know where it is! We’d better hurry!” Another wall slammed into place behind them, making them all wince.

 

 

As the three Witches reached the unaffected tower, Gueulemer grinned in satisfaction. “It’s like someone left a nice present just for us!” he commented.

“Well, what are we waiting for?” Babet smiled wickedly. “Let’s open it!” The three of them blasted curses at the spire, cracking a largish hole in the roof, but suddenly a tiny figure appeared in it: a Piskie.

This Piskie had black hair, and was dressed all in purple. Glowing green eyes glared up at them, and a spider pendant around her neck swung as she fluttered.

“Who dares stand in our way?” Gueulemer snarled. The Piskie glared back.

“I am Beatrix, Piskie of Votirlu. Go away, riff-raff!”

Babet raised his hands, no doubt to cast a deadly curse, when a scream behind him distracted him.

“Leave that Piskie alone!”

Patron-Minette turned to see the six Amis fluttering in the air behind them, all looking furious. Cosette spoke again, too quiet for the Witches to hear her.

“They’re still too strong for us. We’ll have to use convergence magic.”

“All of us?” Enjolras gasped. Cosette nodded.

“It’s like the spell we did in Thénardier’s class. Focus on your power, and use it to create energy! GO!”

Cosette focused on the Dragon Fire, glowing bright gold. Next to her, Jehan glowed green as they focused on flowers and plants, and Enjolras glowed yellow as he thought of the Shining Sun.

“No way!” Babet hissed. “We cannot allow them to finish that spell!”

“And I cannot allow you to mess with them!” Beatrix cried. She raised her hands, blasting the three Witches with purple light.

Courfeyrac’s technology powers glowed lilac, Musichetta’s water magic glowed pale pink, and Éponine’s music energy glowed magenta. Cosette raised her hands. “OK, guys, let’s knock them off that tower!”

“Wait!” Éponine shouted. “Maybe we should make them prisoners!”

“And maybe someone should stay on defence!” Courfeyrac added.

“What do we do?” Jehan wailed.

“Just do it!” Cosette shouted. “We’ll worry about what the spell does when we get there! CONVERGE!”

All six Faeries blasted into a central point, and a globe of golden light formed, flashing other colours occasionally. Beatrix smiled, and Babet scowled.

“Faery magic can’t hurt us!” Babet snorted. “All this is doing is wasting our time!”

“I don’t know,” Claquesous said nervously. “That spell looks pretty powerful!” Her fears were suddenly assuaged by a worried shout from Courfeyrac.

“Guys, something’s wrong!”

“I feel strange!” Jehan added, and Éponine nodded.

“It’s like I’m losing control!”

“We don’t even know what this spell is gonna do!” Enjolras added. Cosette opened her mouth to reply worriedly, but just then the spell exploded.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAH!”

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!”

“AAAAAAAAAAARGH!”

“OH NOOOOOOOOO!”

“IT’S GONE WRONG!”

“HEEEEEEEEEEEELP!”

The three Witches shaded their eyes as the six Faeries were blasted backwards. Beatrix whimpered as they turned, grinning, towards her. She screamed as Gueulemer blasted her out of the air, landing amongst the rubble from where they’d zapped the tower.

Babet flew forwards through the gap, looking around the tiny room and cackling in amazement as he found his prize. He emerged, holding the piece of the Codex aloft like a trophy.

“We win again, cousins.”

 

 

“They lost,” Thénardier murmured as he gazed out the window the next morning. “They’re walking away.” Indeed, the seven Faeries were heading down the steps of the great bridge, miserable, with six of them covered in bandages, bruises, and scratches.

“They are luckee to be able to walk at all,” Zarathustra commented behind him, “after zat convergence spell backfired.”

“Indeed,” Thénardier sighed, watching his younger daughter pull his older daughter’s arm around her shoulders to keep her upright. “But now Lord Méchant has more power than ever.”

Viridium shuddered. “Eet eez a zad day for all of us.”

Thénardier turned away from the window, a shiver going over him, and he felt that somewhere, deep below Magix, someone was cackling madly and holding up the third piece of the Codex, knowing he was three quarters of the way to victory.

Chapter Text

It had been two months since Patron-Minette had attacked Votirlu, and there hadn’t been another attack since. The Amis had sat their midterm exams, gone home for the winter holiday, and returned to school for two weeks when Myriel finally made the decision. Even though they had taken a break from school work - and in Cosette’s case, from the Magic Dimension itself - Myriel could see there was tension throughout the group. Courfeyrac felt guilt over his failure to track Patron-Minette, and was withdrawing into himself, spending long hours alone in his room. Éponine felt ashamed at not having been strong enough to defeat them, and was moodier than ever and snapping at small things. Enjolras was bitchier, Musichetta was quiet and withdrawn, and Jehan was prone to small nervous breakdowns. Meanwhile, Cosette was spending long hours in the forest behind the school, burning everything in sight as she trained - or rather, Myriel thought, overworked herself to the point of exhaustion every night. They needed a break. They needed to become a team again.

Which was why he asked them to visit him in his office after class on the Friday of the second week back. As the final classes of the day drew to a close, he thought back to the task he’d given the four Piskies of the Codex.

“These must remain secret.” He opened the bag, revealing four delicate bejewelled trinkets. They were made of solid gold, and the first was shaped like a tree, with an emerald making its leaves. The second was a minute bird, with a ruby for its eye. The third was a tiny fish, with sapphire scales, and the fourth was a bell, and if you looked inside you could see an amethyst chime. “You know what to do.”

“These may be our best hope after all,” he murmured as the school’s bell chimed for the end of classes. A few minutes later there was a knock on his office door, and he called, “Come in!”

Cosette and the Amis stood in the doorway, all of them looking on edge and most appearing a bit peaky. “Good afternoon, Headmaster. You wanted to see us?” Cosette said politely, although Myriel could tell she would have rather been out in the forest blowing up rocks training.

“Yes, I did. Please, come in and shut the door.”

The six Faeries filed into the wide office, and Éponine swung the door shut. They stood before him, looking wary, and he sighed sadly. “Well, mes Amis, we’ve had a very difficult time lately, haven’t we?”

“That’s an understatement if I ever heard one,” Enjolras muttered, and Myriel got up from his chair.

“As you all know,” he continued as if he hadn’t been interrupted, “Lord Méchant has obtained three pieces of the Codex. If he obtains the fourth one, his powers will be impossible to beat.”

Jehan gasped. “That would be terrible!”

“‘That would be terrible’,” Enjolras mocked. “Then stop whining and do something about it instead of just standing there complaining!”

“You’re the one who’s all talk, Prince Enjolras!” Éponine snapped.

Enjolras looked furious. “As if you could do anything against Patron-Minette!”

Myriel cleared his throat. “As long as you Faeries remain quarrelsome and divided, you are useless in the struggle against Lord Méchant. In light of the situation, I feel the need to take… drastic actions.”

“D-drastic action?” Musichetta trembled. Myriel nodded.

“I’m sending you on a vacation.”

The response was immediate. Everyone’s jaws dropped, and they all spluttered in confusion for a few moments, before Courfeyrac finally spoke properly. “Excuse me, but it doesn’t seem logical to take a vacation at such a critical time!”

“On the contrary, my dear Courfeyrac,” Myriel replied evenly, “a vacation is exactly what you need.” He clapped his hands, and the six teenagers all fell silent instantly. “Now listen carefully. I’m sending you to Resortia. It is a beautiful planet, with various different environments. Up in the mountains, you’ll find a winter paradise with excellent skiing facilities. Beneath them are the Resortian forests, home to a wide variety of animals and plants - some of which don’t thrive anywhere else. You will leave tomorrow for the city of Equistus, where you will shop for clothes, food and supplies. You will then spend a week at a lodge in the mountains and a week camping in the forests.” Myriel looked around sternly at all of them. “This vacation is in order to help you relax and regain your spirit of cooperation.”

Jehan raised their hand worriedly. “But what about all the classes that we’ll be missing?”

Myriel waved their concerns away. “This is more important. Another thing: keep in mind that the magic energy in Resortia is very low.”

“No magic?” Cosette looked worried.

“What if something goes wrong?!” Jehan squeaked. “What do we do then?”

“You’ll have to rely on your wits.” A twinkle came into Myriel’s eyes. “But just to be on the safe side, I’ve invited a few Wizards to go with you. They have trained in survival skills, as nature is a big part of their powers, and I think their presence will be appreciated.” All of the Amis looked far more excited, and Myriel raised an eyebrow. “I feel you will learn more from this vacation than from sitting around at desks all day. Dismissed until tomorrow morning.”

 

 

“Are you sure you don’t mind my coming along uninvited?”

“Of course not, Mabeuf,” Palladium said cheerfully. “It’s a pleasure. Besides, four eyes are better than two when looking for magic.” It was dawn, and they were deep in the forests of Magix, tramping along an old path between the trees that seemingly hadn’t been used in ages. Mabeuf was looking around interestedly, while Palladium was carefully examining each plant and tree from a distance until he found what he was looking for.

And find it he did! “Oh! Can it be?” he said excitedly, stopping dead in his tracks and gazing at something just off the path. Mabeuf stopped and followed his gaze to a small orange flower with a red beak. The beak was like that of a daffodil, while the petals were more lily-ish. It wasn’t spectacular-looking, and yet Mabeuf couldn’t stop staring at it… Palladium seemed very excited. “Yes! It’s a Red-Guilded Venus Fly-Orchid!” he exclaimed. “Very useful in hypnosis spells.”

“Hmm, you don’t say,” Mabeuf murmured, finally pulling his eyes away from it.

Palladium knelt down next to it and reached out as if to stroke the petals. Suddenly, the stem leaned forward, and the beak snapped shut like a tiny mouth - like it was trying to bite Palladium. The Elf chuckled. “My, it’s a lively one. But no matter; it will soon be in my basket.”

Mabeuf hmmed again, gazing around. “I think I’m going to go and look for more plants over in that direction,” he pointed sort of North-Westerly.

Palladium was entirely concerned with the plant, and nodded distractedly. “OK. Now, let me see your petals…”

“I’ll see you later!” Mabeuf called back to him, setting off. He hadn’t gone far when his attention was caught by another flower - this one growing high up out of a tree’s trunk. It had a spiky stem, bright red petals and a pointed yellow beak - very pretty. “Hmm… what have we here?”

The flower sneezed on him.

The pollen - at least, he assumed it to be pollen - hit him in the eyes (a very bad place to be hit with anything). It stung as soon as it touched him, and he yelled in pain. “My eyes! My eyes! I can’t see!” A second later, he collapsed backwards in agony, and two seconds after that he was unconscious.

 

 

Half an hour later…

“I told you you would end up in my basket,” Palladium chuckled, admiring the Fly-Orchid that was indeed sitting docile in his plant carrier. “Mabeuf!” he called. “I’ve got the flower if you want to continue on!”

No answer.

“Mabeuf?” It was then that he saw the shiny black riding boots sticking out from behind a thicket. They were positioned as though their owner had fallen onto their back very suddenly. “Mabeuf!”

Mabeuf was sprawled on his back, completely unconscious, and Palladium hurried to examine him. The Paladin’s eyes were glued shut with some kind of fluid, and when Palladium looked up, he easily found the culprit.

“Oh my word! A Corollium X - better known as the Whisperian Spitting Hibiscus! I must get help, he needs an antidote as soon as possible!”

 

 

Arietta smiled contentedly as she napped, using Wolter’s furry belly as a pillow, when suddenly she was woken up by a burst of magic in front of her. She sat up and saw that a letter had appeared in front of her, and unfolded it hurriedly. All that was scrawled on it was a set of coordinates, and underneath them a scarlet exclamation mark.

“It’s an emergency!” she gasped. “Don’t worry, I’m on my way!” She hurriedly folded the paper into a surfboard shape (so it was a message board. Geddit? Nevermind.) and hopped on, knowing it would take her to the coordinates.

 

 

“I’m just worried we’ll miss something important, that’s all!” Jehan defended themselves. Enjolras shrugged.

“School’s been a big pain this year. I for one deserve a nice holiday.”

“It’s always about you,” Éponine said coldly, “isn’t it?”

Enjolras glared at her. “Would you lay off for five minutes?”

Cosette hurried to move between them as they walked down the corridor, dragging suitcases behind them. “Let’s not argue,” she said. “We don’t want to ruin our holiday.”

 

 

“Thank goodness,” Palladium gasped as Arietta came into view, “you came right away! Professor Mabeuf has been poisoned by a venomous flower. I need you to fly to Musain and ask Professor Wizgiz to prepare the lab, and Nurse Dahlia to prepare the infirmary.”

“Will Mabeuf be OK?” Arietta said worriedly, hopping off the little paper surfboard. Palladium shrugged, careful not to jolt Mabeuf too much.

“I don’t know. Plant venom - particularly magical plant venom - is difficult to counteract.”

Arietta looked thoughtful. “But I know a universal cure!”

“What?”

“Tea brewed from the leaves of Folium Mater,” Arietta pronounced carefully. “It grows in Piskie Village!” She hopped back onto the surfboard. “Wait here, I’ll be back in no time!”

“No, wait!” Palladium said urgently. “Arietta, Headmaster Myriel forbade you to go back there. Lord Méchant might see you, and follow you!”

“Oh, that’s right!” Arietta gasped. “But what about poor Mabeuf?”

Palladium sighed. “We risk putting the whole of Magix in serious danger… but on the other hand, we can’t let our friend down… and Méchant has been focussing on fighting the Amis lately.” He came to a decision. “Alright. Fly to Piskie Village and get the cure, but keep a low profile. I’ll get Mabeuf to the lab at Musain.”

Arietta saluted him. “I’ll be back in two shakes of a snake’s tail!” She made to take off, but then paused, looking confused. “Or is it a shark’s tail? Maybe it’s a pig’s tail…”

“Just go!”

Arietta saluted him again, and took off into the trees atop her tiny surfboard.

 

 

Deep in the bowels of the citadel, Lord Méchant watched Arietta zooming between the trees in his viewing portal, and cackled wickedly. “Perfect,” he hummed. “Just as I planned…” The image changed, showing Mabeuf’s pallid, ill face, and Méchant cackled again before allowing the portal to vanish and getting to his feet. “Babet! Where are you?”

In a flash of pale blue light, Babet appeared in front of him and bowed. “You hollered, my lord?”

Lord Méchant summoned the viewing portal again, somewhat regretting allowing it to vanish the first time, and showed Babet the Piskie zooming away between the trees. “Find this Piskie. Follow her to Piskie Village, keeping your distance until the right moment. Then find the Codex that is hidden there, and bring it to me!”

Babet rubbed his eyes, looking rather tired (hey. Even super evil Witches plotting to take over the Universe need a break occasionally). “Very well. I’m on it.” He vanished in a second flash of blue light, and Méchant cackled again. So close… just one final piece of the puzzle. “I’m a genius!” he murmured to himself, gazing into the portal at the Piskie. “Now, show me Babet!”

Babet had teleported into the woods in record time, and was flying obediently after the Piskie with some of Méchant’s Shadow monsters - these ones shaped like skeletal brown dogs with glowing red eyes. “Don’t let me down, Babet!” Méchant spoke into the portal, and Babet raised his eyebrows.

“You got it. Come on, you stupid monsters. Move!”

 

 

“Oh, this will be great!” Roselyne said excitedly as they waited in Musain’s courtyard. “I hope you all brought a swimsuit - and long underwear!”

“We did, don’t worry,” Jehan laughed. The holiday hadn’t even properly begun, and it already seemed as though fifty pounds had been lifted from the Faeries’ shoulders. As the great red Owl ship from Corinthe came into view, they all grinned excitedly at each other. This was going to be great!

The ship landed, the door at the back opened, and the ramp rolled down. Marius and Grantaire were the first to emerge, waving at the Faeries. “Hey, guys!” Marius called. “Ready for a holiday?”

Enjolras was the first to dash onto the ship, followed by Cosette, Éponine and Courfeyrac. Jehan hurried to catch up with them with an excited shout of, “Wait for me!” and Musichetta raised her eyebrows.

“I wonder if I just stood here, if they’d even notice I wasn’t with them?” she muttered to the sleeping Lise in her arms, before following them onto the ship at a more sedate rate.

At the ship’s control panel, Combeferre nervously glanced over his shoulder as Courfeyrac boarded the ship and stowed his luggage. He smiled at the brunet Faery, who to his delight, seemed to smile back.

“Hey!” Courfeyrac said cheerily, looking around the space.

“Hey -” Combeferre started to reply, but Courfeyrac interrupted him.

“Everyone alright?”

Combeferre slumped in his seat gloomily as he realised Courfeyrac still wasn’t talking to him - which was the moment Courfeyrac chose to look over at him. Really? Courfeyrac thought angrily. He’s sulking because I’m here?

Éponine stowed her suitcase next to Courfeyrac’s, noticing a certain Wizard leaning back in his seat, with his feet on the control panel and his nose in a book. “Hey, Bahorel,” she grinned.

Bahorel glanced up from his book and raised his eyebrows. “Hey.” To her annoyance, he went straight back to his book. She stomped over and sat next to Courfeyrac, who raised his eyebrows.

“Boys,” he said understandingly. Éponine sighed in agreement.

“Boys.”

The ship took off as soon as everyone was seated, and in spite of the hurt and annoyance both felt, Courfeyrac and Éponine couldn’t help but grin at each other. It was a holiday, after all.

 

 

“Wheeeeeeee!” Arietta giggled as she flew between the trees, weaving between branches. She ducked to avoid one that would have hit her in the head otherwise, and breathed a sigh of relief at missing it. “Oof, that was close! Hang in there, Professor Mabeuf!”

Babet’s eyes zeroed in on his target. “There she is,” he murmured, glaring at the monsters running beneath him as he flew. “Keep quiet, you beasts.”

 

 

Palladium carefully hoisted the still unconscious Paladin over his shoulders. “Don’t worry, Professor,” he assured his colleague. “I’ll have you back at the lab and cured in no time… oof, is this the weight of knowledge, or just too many carbs?”

 

 

The ship reached Resortia by midday, and they zoomed over a lake around which various unfamiliar animals had gathered to drink and bathe. As they reached the forests again, Lise’s big brown eyes blinked open, and she babbled excitedly. “Tutti! Tutti tutti!”

The Faeries and Wizards all giggled, but a loud beeping noise interrupted them, and Combeferre and Grantaire turned back to the sensors.

“What have we got, Ferre?”

“The ship is picking up another ship ahead of us,” Combeferre replied, looking confused.

Grantaire looked confused too. “But we’re in the middle of nowhere. There shouldn’t be any other ships out here -” something enormous swooped over the ship, and his jaw dropped. It was a huge bird - but maybe not a bird. Actually, it looked more like a big, furry Pteranodon. And it was swooping around again to get a closer look at the ship -

Combeferre pressed a button, and the ship put on a sudden burst of speed, which sent everyone who wasn’t buckled in flying out of their seats. “Sorry about that, folks.”

Manon curtsied to him in midair. “I would like to thank you on everyone’s behalf for saving our lives,” she smiled, and Combeferre grinned and tipped an imaginary cap at her.

“All in a day’s work, ma’am.”

Cosette had been one of the ones who had fallen out of her seat, and Marius hurried over to help her up. “Cosette, are you OK?”

“Of course I am,” she said grumpily, taking the hand he offered her. “I can take care of myself, I’m a big girl.”

“No, of course, I was just -”

“Did you expect me to cry or something?”

“No.” Marius sighed. “I - never mind.” He helped Éponine up, and headed back to his own seat. Cosette sank down into her chair with a sigh.

“What’s wrong with me today?” she asked Juliette. “Everything I say is just coming out wrong.”

Juliette looked sympathetic. “Not a great day for romance, huh?”

Grantaire cleared his throat, standing up like an air hostess. “Ladies, Gentlemen and Nonbinary folks,” he smiled. “Prepare yourselves; we’re landing.” Behind him, a great sprawling city that had to be Equistus had come into view out the window.

 

 

“Faster!” Babet hissed at the monsters. “She’s losing us!”

“Wheeeee!” Arietta squealed again, out of sight up ahead. “Wheee-oh!” there was a small, dull thud, and then silence.

Babet and the monsters slowed almost to a halt, gazing through the branches, and Babet groaned. The little twerp had clearly hit her head on a branch - which was still vibrating - and was as unconscious as the Professor she was trying to save. “Ugh,” he moaned. “This is just pathetic! It’s ridiculous!” He picked up the Piskie by the back of her little white T-shirt, and sighed in shame. “To think that I’m about to help a Piskie…” He took a deep breath, psyching himself up, and held a finger to her forehead. “A little ice is good for any head injury…”

The Piskie’s eyelids twitched as he cast the healing spell, and he hurriedly placed her back on the ground, the monsters following him to hide in the shadows.

“My poor head…” the Piskie mumbled. “What happened…? It doesn’t matter. I’d better hurry!” She leapt back onto the surfboard and zoomed off, Babet following her and trying to forget his embarrassment.

 

 

“Should I get this one…” Jehan held up a green glittery puffy jacket, “or that one?” This time they held up a slimmer pink jacket with fluffy white lining. Roselyne groaned.

“Just pick the one you like best. They’re both nice!”

“Well, I like the green one… but what if it’s not warm enough? Oh, I don’t know…”

“Jehan, just pick a jacket!” Enjolras groaned. “The rest of us have already paid for ours, we want to buy hats and snow boots too!”

“Not everyone can be a speedy shopper like you,” Musichetta said grumpily. He’d snapped at her when she’d been trying to narrow down her own choices too. Enjolras sighed.

“I know. It’s very annoying.”

Marius and Grantaire had already paid for their jackets, and were waiting for Cosette to finish at the till. Marius sighed unhappily. “I can’t believe she snapped at me like that!”

Grantaire patted his shoulder. “Cosette’s just stressed out. And who wouldn’t be in her position? She would have snapped at anyone. Even that professor she goes on so much about.”

Marius scowled, but didn’t comment.

Éponine and Bahorel had been among the group to move over to the hat shop early, and Éponine was currently trying on a stripy mauve and blue hat with ear flaps and fluffy white pompoms. She smiled at Bahorel. “Hey, what do you think of this one?”

Bahorel shrugged. “Uh… it’s cool.”

Éponine scowled. “It’s ‘cool’? That’s it?”

Bahorel, realising he’d screwed up somewhere, hurried to add to his reply and held up one of the pompoms. “I mean… I mean it looks warm.”

“Why do you say that?”

Bahorel was feeling more confused by the minute. “It’s a ski hat. Isn’t it supposed to be warm?”

Éponine grumpily threw the hat in his face. “You’re unbelievable.”

 

 

Arietta had stopped at the edge of a river, next to a place where a tree root hung with gossamer protruded out of the ground, making a little arch. Babet held up his hand for the monsters to stop, and watched her closely. Arietta was beaming.

“And a one and a two and a…” she muttered, “to Piskie Village!” The little gossamer curtain moved aside, and she flew into the gap, vanishing from view. Babet waited a moment before stepping out and examining the curtain, which had closed again.

“To Piskie Village,” he instructed it, and once again the curtain moved aside, leaving him to squeeze through the tiny gap. How humiliating. When this is all over, never mind the Ultimate Power. I’m going to bed and I’m going to sleep for a month and hopefully forget all of this.

Arietta flew out over a quaint little village filled with toadstool-shaped buildings and tiny paths lit by colourful lanterns, all arranged around a huge glittering golden flower in the centre. The streets were filled with young Piskies skipping about, and she beamed. It looked exactly the same as when she’d left it. She was home at last. “And now for the magic antidote,” she said cheerily, but her attention was caught by an excited shout.

“Look! Arietta is back!”

As more and more Piskies noticed her, the air filled with delighted cheers, and she landed her board with a smile. The Piskie who had shouted, Eli, hurried over to her. “What happened?” he gasped. “You’ve been gone so long!”

“No time!” Arietta replied, hurrying over to the golden flower. “I need to poison a flower; Mabeuf has been flowered by Palladium - no, I mean, poison has bloomed in Mabeuf - or was it the flower that was -” she shook her head. “To make a short story long, someone’s in trouble. I need the magic leaves from Folium Mater.”

“But who’s in trouble?” Eli asked, sounding very confused.

“You are,” said a high cold voice. Eli turned in terror to see a white-haired Witch dressed all in blue grinning down at him as he towered over the village.

 

 

“How do we get up to the top?” Cosette asked. With their clothes paid for, skis and snowboards rented, and tetchiness ignored, the Faeries and the Wizards gathered next to the main ski lodge at the bottom of the mountain.

“We need to take the cable car over there,” Juliette said. She pointed at what seemed to be a small bus attached to a cable by a hoist, and Grantaire raised his eyebrows.

“Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go!”

“Is it just me, or does that thing look kinda out of date?” Éponine murmured to whoever was closest, who happened to be Simone.

Simone nodded. “I hate heights,” she said nervously, and Abby raised an eyebrow at her.

“You can fly.

Grantaire was unperturbed by the cable car’s apparent clunkiness, and hopped through the doors first. “Alright! Come on guys, it’s getting late and I don’t wanna miss out on any snowboarding time!”

It was a bit of a squeeze to get ten teenagers, six Piskies, a rabbit, five snowboards and five sets of skis into the cable car, but it set off nice and quickly. There was a bit of a jolt more than halfway up, but they moved past it and were soon at the top. None of them looked behind them, to where the wire where they had jolted was unwinding a little…

 

 

Babet froze the village, the golden flower, and most of the Piskies completely solid in two seconds flat, and Arietta shrieked in worry.

“Oh no! The antidote for Mabeuf!”

Babet ignored her, turning his attention to the few unfrozen Piskies, who turned and flew away from him screaming in terror, but skidded to a halt at the sight of Babet’s Shadow monsters, which had entered the village with him, and were prowling like hungry dogs. Babet cleared his throat.

“I have come for your Codex!” he announced. In front of him, the air glowed green, and a new Piskie appeared. She was clearly older than the others, and had green hair swept up away from her face. Her dress and crown were yellow and purple, and her staff was golden with an amethyst at the top. She stared him down.

“Begone, Witch!” she said. Her voice was high and ladylike. “We have no Codex.”

“Oh, really?” Babet sneered. He raised his hands again, and several ice daggers shot towards the dignified Piskie, who darted out of the way, flying around him.

“Twirling vines, the Witch they will bind!” she chanted. A second later, Babet’s shins were jerked together, and he toppled over.

“What?!” The Piskie’s spell had summoned vines, which had bound his legs together from the knees down. She chuckled as he untangled himself.

“That was fun.”

“Give me the Codex,” Babet snarled, “or I’ll send you back to the Ice Age!” He raised his hands and shot a burst of pale blue magic at her as a warning, which she dodged again.

 

 

At the top of the mountain, Combeferre squinted up at the sky. “It’ll be dark before long,” he commented. Courfeyrac nodded.

“To be exact, we still have forty three minutes of daylight.”

Marius fastened his snowboard straps. “Well then, let’s go! Last one down is a rotten Gargoyle egg.”

Bahorel finished strapping his own snowboard and grinned competitively. “That’ll be you, Marius, after I scramble you!”

“Fat chance!” Marius and Bahorel pushed off at the same time, and Musichetta hurried to follow, on a snowboard the same colour as her Morphix.

“Come on, Lise,” she grinned at the little Piskie, wearing a minute snowsuit and fast asleep in her chest pocket, “let’s show ‘em.”

Behind her, everyone else pushed off with a cheer.

 

 

“Take your best shot,” Babet taunted the Piskie, who raised her staff threateningly.

“Netherthorn Blades!” Several enormous thorns shot from the amethyst towards Babet, and he dodged them with a snarl.

“I’ll turn you all into pretty little ice-cubes!” He raised his hands, and half of the Piskies who had avoided the first freezing were now trapped in the ice with their fellows. The Piskie leader looked angry.

“Hey, fight me! Not them!”

Babet raised his eyebrows. “If you insist. Shadowhounds, crush the village!”

One of the Shadowhounds stepped forward, bringing its skeletal clawed paw down a delicate little house. The Piskie leader screamed. “No! Please, no, you can’t do that!”

“That’s it!” Babet crooned. “Keep going, good boys! Smash it all!” The hound raised its paw above a frozen Piskie’s head, and the Piskie leader wailed.

“NO! Please, listen to me.” Babet snapped his fingers, and the hound removed its paw. He turned to the Piskie leader, who sighed in defeat. “If you spare the village, I’ll give you the Codex.”

“Niamh, no!” Arietta shouted, but Niamh shook her head.

“We have no choice, Arietta,” she said sadly, and held up her staff. Niamh circled her staff in an oval shape twice and let go of it, and in a flash of golden sparks, the staff morphed into the fourth piece of -

“The Codex!” Babet gasped. “Finally, it’s mine -”

Arietta swooped past him and snatched the piece from the air. “Got it!”

“What?!” Babet screeched. “Pesky little Piskie!”

The few Piskies still unfrozen all cheered as Arietta zoomed away, and Babet raised his hands in her direction. “Ice Wave!”

Arietta, faster than the average Piskie on her paper surfboard, easily dodged the bolt of blue light, and Babet let loose an animalistic snarl and gave chase, the Shadowhounds following.

Arietta flew out the opening, giving her a headstart as Babet and the hounds had to squish themselves through the narrow gap, and slalomed between the trees. A snarl behind her told her that the Witch and the monsters were out of the tunnel and gaining on her, and she put on an extra burst of speed. She ducked to avoid a burst of blue light, and it hit a tree branch up ahead of her - one that was rapidly getting closer -

BANG. Arietta smacked face-first into the frozen branch, falling off her board, which without her powers to steer it, fluttered away on the breeze. Luckily, she wasn’t knocked out this time, and snatched at the Codex - which had a flattish shape, perfect for an escape vehicle.

She whooped as she flew upwards, now balancing on one side of the Codex - and Babet gave chase, but fortunately the Shadowhounds were unable to as they had no wings. “Come here, you!” Babet screeched behind her, and Arietta hurriedly changed direction, diving down and into a tiny hole in the ground next to a pile of rocks. Babet knelt on the ground next to it, and stuck his arm in, but she was too far down.

“Cursed Piskie,” he groaned, standing. “Gloomix, Let Me Pass!” His necklace glowed, and a second later he was small enough to pass through the hole. With a burst of speed, he could hear Arietta whooping to herself up ahead, and as the strange green gems that poked out of the walls lit the way he vowed to wipe the smile off her smug little face.

 

 

Marius whooped as he went over a jump, Bahorel keeping pace with him. The redhead grinned mischievously, and shouted over to his friend, “Hey Bahorel, look behind you! There’s a bear!”

Bahorel looked back, giving Marius enough time to pass him. “I don’t see anything,” he said suspiciously, before turning and groaning as Marius whooped again.

“See you at the finish line!”

Suddenly Bahorel’s eyes widened. “Hey, Marius! Look out for that tree!”

“Nice try, Rel!” Marius laughed. “I’m not falling for that -” he looked back ahead of him, and sure enough, a huge pine tree with snow covering its branches was right in his path - close enough that he could see it reflected in his goggles,. “Aw crap.” He hit the tree at full speed and was buried in snow. Bahorel sped past him, chortling.

“Guess I’ll be seeing you at the finish line!” he laughed, while Marius tried desperately to dig himself out of the snow.

 

 

“I’m getting closer!” Babet purred. The tunnel had widened, allowing him to grow himself back up to full size, and he reached out, fingers grasping for the edge of the Codex. Arietta bent her knees and leaned forward, speeding up enough that he couldn’t reach, but still too slow to lose him.

I don’t know where I’m going, but I hope I get there soon!

 

 

“Later, slowcoach!” Marius called to Bahorel as he passed him once again. Once he’d dug himself out of the snow and got upright again, it was easy enough to catch up to his friend. While Bahorel’s muscle and broad shoulders gave him an advantage in contact sports, Marius’ skinnier, lankier frame gave him the advantage in speed sports.

“Aw man…” Bahorel leaned into it, putting on a bit of extra speed, and then they were neck and neck, nearly at the finish line - when a dark silhouette loomed up ahead, and they both shrieked and skidded to a halt to avoid it, toppling over.

Musichetta stepped forward, grinning victoriously. “Took you boys long enough.”

 

 

A light appeared at what had to be the end of the tunnel, and Arietta inhaled nervously. Where am I? An extra burst of speed by flapping her wings, and she and the Codex shot out of the tunnel into the warm air above - an underground city? The buildings were white plaster with thatch roofs and simple doors and windows. Only a few had more than one story, with outside stairs leading up to the second and third floors. Directly in front of them there was what could only be a royal palace, made from the same white plaster, but with beaten copper roofs at the tops of several turrets.

Arietta zoomed down to the ground, seemingly hundreds of feet below, but pulled up sharpish when it turned out the ground was much closer than she’d thought. Babet landed next to her, seemingly too confused by the city to continue chasing her for the moment.

“What kind of place is this?” he asked the cave at large.

“This is Downland,” said a high, silky voice. Babet and Arietta both turned to the source in shock. It was a woman - unlike any woman either had ever seen before, with pale greenish-yellow skin, an angular face with large brown eyes but small lips and nose, and dark hair - which she wore under a scarlet hood with gold trimming, connected to her dress. The dress was cut with two leg slits, and covered in gold embroidery that glittered in the dim light. She wore sandals with leather straps that ran up her legs to the knee, and a cape was attached to the back of her dress, which also had two glittering golden shoulderpads. Around her waist was a belt with a buckle seemingly made from the skull of a small animal, and in her hand - which had the middle, ring, and pinkie fingers fused together. On her left pointer finger was a golden ring studded with sapphires, and in her right hand she held a rather vicious-looking spear.

“This is my place,” she continued, her voice getting rougher as she got angrier, “and you are trespassers.” There were two enormous guards behind her, shirtless and wearing leather armour. They too held spears. “I am Queen Floréal, and I ask the questions here!”

 

 

After a second run down the mountain, Jehan pulled their skis to a stop and shivered a little. “It’s getting late,” they said. “Maybe we should head up to the lodge now.”

Abby checked her wrist computer. “According to my calculations, we still have time for one more run down the mountain!”

“Then what are we waiting for?” Cosette smiled. “Let’s go!”

Grantaire nudged Marius as they all began squeezing back into the cable car. “Have you guys talked things out yet?”

Marius shook his head. “We’ve been busy all day,” he pointed out. “And… I’m a little worried that if I ask to talk to her, she’ll snap again.” He looked quite sad, and Grantaire patted him on the shoulder.

“Talk to her at the lodge tonight,” he suggested. “Or at least tomorrow morning. I know I’d have a bad time if I walked around all day worrying if Enj was mad at me.” Marius nodded, the doors swung shut, and the cable car began to move up the mountain.

 

 

“What is happening here?” Floréal asked coolly. Arietta flew to her side at once.

“Please, help me!” she begged, clutching the Codex. “He wants to steal this. He’s a thief!”

“I will have that Codex, and no one will stop me!” Babet said coolly. Floréal took the piece and tucked it into her dress’ built-in bra.

“You know,” she said, equally as cool as she surveyed Babet through her thick eyelashes, “you just got here, and I already hate you.”

“How dare you!” Babet snarled.

“Watch yourself,” Floréal smirked. “I am the law here.”

“You don’t know who you’re talking to, do you?” Babet hissed, but suddenly the spear Floréal was clutching was being pointed into his face.

 

 

“Oooooh,” Simone whimpered, as the cable car swung to and fro, “I really don’t like heights!”

“It’s alright!” Grantaire reassured her. “We’re almost there, Simone -” He was cut off by the cable car making a very worrying thudding noise, swinging wildly, and then stopping completely.

“What was that?”

“What’s going on?”

“Why have we stopped?”

Combeferre pointed to the ceiling. “Look, there’s a roof hatch here. I’ll check it out, but I think I’m gonna need a leg up.”

Seated on Grantaire’s shoulders, Combeferre opened the roof hatch and poked his head out. His eyes widened upon seeing the problem. “Oh, boy.”

“Combeferre?” Courfeyrac called up. “What’s wrong?”

“The cable’s frayed. It’s about to snap!”

Everyone in the car gasped, and Simone whimpered. “I knew it! We’re doomed!”

Another thud, and the cable car felt significantly lower than it had been. Simone shrieked louder than anyone else. “We’re going to fall!”

“Let’s transform!” Enjolras suggested, but Courfeyrac shook his head.

“Magic doesn’t work here, remember?”

“And the last convergence we tried had disastrous results!” Éponine added.

 

 

Arietta isn’t back yet, Palladium realised as he paced around the laboratory. Perhaps I can simulate the antidote with what’s in here…

 

 

“So we can’t transform?”

“What now?”

“Oh, I wish I could fly!”

“Come on guys, think of something!”

“Why don’t you come up with an idea for once?”

“I can’t think properly under pressure!”

“This is so stupid, we should have stayed at Corinthe -”

The cable car swung even more as they argued, and eventually Cosette snapped. “QUIET!” she shouted. Everyone turned to her, agog. She took a deep breath. You’re a Princess, Cosette. That means you’re a leader. And leaders solve problems. “Let’s not panic. Let’s stay calm and work together, and maybe we can figure a way out of this. OK?”

There was silence, and then Abby nodded. “As Grandpa Fahrenheit used to say,” she said, “‘Don’t panic. Now, does anyone know how to land a plane?’”

Courfeyrac chuckled a little, before nodding too. “So what’s the plan, Cosette?” The cable car thudded again.

 

 

Babet high-kicked the spear away from his face, flying into the air and freezing Floréal’s guards solid. Floréal tutted. “I knew I should have brought more soldiers!”

“You can’t beat me!” Babet informed her, grinning. “Surrender now!”

“Floréal never surrenders!” Floréal snarled. She ducked his next two spells, and twisted away from him down an alley.

 

 

“Sunset,” Palladium sighed. “Time’s up. My antidote has to work.” He’d been waiting in the infirmary with the still unconscious professor, hoping and praying that Arietta would make it back with the tried and tested cure-all, but she had not. He had no other choice.

He tipped Professor Mabeuf’s head forwards so he wouldn’t choke, and poured the potion into his mouth.

 

 

“OK, I have an idea,” Cosette smiled. “First I need everybody to take off their snow jackets.” Her friends stared back at her like she’d suggested laminating live cats as a solution, and she sighed. “Take off your snow jackets, and pull the elastic out of the hood. I have a plan, I swear, but I need you to trust me.” A beat later, and they were all doing as she suggested. “Good. Now I need two teams. One ties the elastic to the skis, the other sews the fabric together. Jehan has sewing needles and thread in their pocket.”

No one asked how she knew that, and they obediently got to work. Bahorel, Marius, Combeferre, Courfeyrac and Éponine tied the skis and snowboards together as Cosette instructed them, and Enjolras, Jehan, Grantaire and the Piskies sewed the jackets. Musichetta, meanwhile, sat on Cosette’s shoulders and checked the cable situation on the roof.

“How’s it going over there?” she asked the elastic team.

“It’s going great,” Courfeyrac replied. He glanced back at Combeferre. “By the way, we’ll need a strut on that quadrant.”

Combeferre nodded. “I know we don’t have our computers, but we should be able to calculate stability with algebraic equations…”

“Go for it!” Cosette smiled. “How’s the stitching going?”

“Very well,” Grantaire replied. “Jehan’s showing us how to do a strong double-back stitch.”

“Good thing Jehan always carry some needles and thread in case their outfit isn’t hideous enough,” Enjolras teased. Jehan jokingly whacked him, and he corrected himself. “OK, not ‘interesting’ enough.”

“How’s it looking up on the roof, Chetta?”

Musichetta’s voice sounded worried. “Not good…”

 

 

Floréal jabbed at Babet with the spear, and he angrily dodged again, blasting at her. The blasts only seemed to urge her on, and she slashed at him with a grunt of “Come on!” Babet blasted at her again, and she flipped away out of his sight.

“Cursed creature,” he muttered. “Where did she go?” The shaft of the spear pressed against his throat told him she was behind him.

“I’ve got you now!” she gloated.

“Oh really?”

“Really.”

A second later, the spear was frozen, and Babet snapped it in half easily. Floréal made a disappointed noise. “That was my favourite spear, Witch!”

He blasted her again, and once again she jumped out of his way, landing with her hands braced against the rock face at the edge of the cave. “OK, time to break the ice!” A split second later, throwing stars were flying towards him, and he held up his hands, creating an ice wall for protecting.

“On the contrary,” Babet said coldly as the stars got stuck in the ice, “I think it is the ice that will break you, my brainless new enemy.”

Floréal reached into a pocket seemingly concealed in her cape. “Oh, you bastard, now I’m really getting pissed!” she snarled, pulling out a sword. It seemed Grantaire’s visit to Downland had taught her all sorts of new swear words.

 

 

“Guys?” Musichetta called nervously. “How’s it going down there?”

Cosette knelt down so she could come down from the roof hatch, and she climbed back into the warmth of the cable car.

The four Wizards were shoving the enormous hang-glider into position. “It’s a little heavier than I expected,” Marius grunted.

“Luckily it’s collapsible,” Bahorel added. “We’ll get it out the doors.”

“I hope it works as well as it looks,” Musichetta sighed.

 

 

“Look,” Babet panted, “just give me the Codex, and I’m out of here!”

Floréal allowed the light to bounce off her cutlass. “No way,” she said coldly.

“Look, you can’t win against me - what’s that noise?”

“That,” Floréal grinned as a hundred guards thumped into place behind her,” is my army.”

Babet looked worried for a second, but then the cave filled with violet light, and he grinned.

Gueulemer and Claquesous had arrived, and Gueulemer surveyed the scene with a bloodthirsty look in his eye. “Don’t count your chickens before they’re dead,” he quipped. Floréal looked furious at the appearance of two new trespassers.

“Soldiers ATTACK!”

The soldiers thumped forward, and Claquesous sighed like a damsel in distress. “Oh my,” she said in a voice dripping with sarcasm, “whatever shall we do?” She held up her hands, which were glowing with violet light. “Gloomix Darkness!”

“I’ll get you -” Floréal snarled - but then the light vanished from the cave, and she tripped over something, shrieking. The thuds behind her told her the soldiers hadn’t fared much better.

“Triple Gloomix Blast!” three voices said somewhere in front of her, and suddenly she was being thrown backwards through the darkness.

 

 

“Everyone holding on?” A bit of rock power from Bahorel - who could still manifest his element and weaponry, but doubted he’d be able to use his powers to, say, stop a landslide - had got the hang glider out the doors and onto the roof, and everyone had climbed up after it. The six Faeries and four Wizards squished together with the Piskies tucked into various pockets, clinging to the bar, and they all nodded. “Then push!”

Together they pushed off, and all ten of them screamed as the glider took flight.

 

 

“Oh no!” Arietta whimpered as she reached Floréal, who had managed to prop herself up. “Patron-Minette took the Codex!”

“I don’t care about your Codex,” Floréal replied, “but those Witches - Patron-Minette, did you say? - will pay for making a fool of me! Get up you idiots!” As the soldiers began getting to their feet, Arietta tried to get Floréal’s attention again, but to no avail. Floréal rolled her bony shoulders back angrily. “I will have my revenge; to that I swear!”

 

 

“Mabeuf?”

Mabeuf coughed - once, twice - and then, to Palladium’s relief, he opened his eyes. “What happened?”

Palladium breathed out in relief. “I did it! I saved you!”

“That poisonous flower!” Mabeuf murmured. “Now I remember.” He turned to Professor Palladium. “Thank you so much.”

Palladium blushed a little. “Don’t mention it. Only doing my duty.”

 

 

With a thump, the hang glider landed in a snow drift. A second later, Marius poked his head out of the snow. “You did it, Cosette!”

Cosette’s blonde hair popped out of the snow next to him, followed by her face. “No. We did it together as a team.” As the rest of their friends wriggled free of the white powder, Cosette turned to them. To their surprise, her eyes were welling up with tears. “I’m sorry, guys. I’ll admit, I’d lost faith in us as a team lately. And Marius… I’d even lost faith in you, in us. Can you all forgive me?”

Her friends made various noises of affirmation, and Marius pulled her into a hug. “Of course, Sette.” She hugged him back with a smile, but as she pulled away, she suddenly felt warm all over - even though she was sitting in the snow.

“What the - huh?” The warm feeling was mainly in the centre of her chest, and she looked down to see that a glowing pin had appeared over her heart. It was silver and bent into a heart with the ends crossed over at the bottom and an oval yellow gem in a silver setting hanging from the point so it was inside the heart. “What’s that?!”

Juliette poked her head out of Cosette’s jumper pocket. “It’s a Charmix!” she said excitedly. “It’s something a Faery can earn when they manage to overcome their weaknesses! You’ll have an upgrade when you transform now!”

Cosette admired the brooch for a moment longer before it disappeared. “My magic feels stronger!” she said in amazement. “This… this is incredible!”

Her friends all whooped and cheered for her, and she was nearly knocked over from hugs the second they were out of the snow drift.

 

 

“Finally! You’re back!” Lord Méchant snarled. He sounded irritable, as though he’d been expecting them much sooner.

“With a little present, my Lord,” Babet said silkily. He stepped forward and handed over the piece, and Méchant wrapped his claws around it in amazement.

“At last,” he whispered. “The last piece of the Codex is mine, and with it, the Ultimate Power!”

Chapter Text

“Do you think this bikini is too revealing?” Éponine asked, turning this way and that to show off her swimsuit - an orange string-tie number decorated with tiny baby blue musical notes.

Cosette (in a green bikini with a pattern alternating pink hearts and lemon stars), Jehan (in a striped Victorian-style bathing suit they’d found Dragon-knows-where), Courfeyrac (in purple and green flowery trunks) and Musichetta (in a pink camo-pattern tankini) shook their heads. Enjolras (wearing red trunks with little yellow suns on them) hesitated, but Éponine gave him a warning look and he hurriedly shook his head too.

“No offence, Jehan, darling, but where did you buy that swimsuit?” Courfeyrac asked. “Wait, no. Why did you buy that swimsuit?”

Jehan rolled their eyes, but didn’t take offence. “Do you know how damaging the sun is? You should, what with your mental computer. Call me when someone wants to make a handbag out of your leathery back fat,” they teased.

“Um, there’s this thing called sunscreen! Duh!”

They had left the mountainous area of Resortia that morning, and had pitched tents on a calm, isolated beach. Marius, Grantaire, Bahorel and Combeferre were taking turns of patrolling the waters on their hover-bikes. Enjolras glanced longingly over at Grantaire, but a second later noticed Musichetta was staring in the same direction. “Hey! Eyes off my boyfriend!” he said, half joking and half deadly serious. Musichetta started.

“Relax, Enj, I was staring at the hover-bike.” She sighed longingly. “It’s been too long since I got to drive one.” It was then she noticed that Combeferre had stopped patrolling, leaving his bike at the edge of the lake. He’d probably come over to try and talk to Courfeyrac, who was steadfastedly ignoring him. She leaped to her feet and dashed over to the hover-bike. “YES!”

Combeferre glanced back, alarmed, and groaned as he realised she’d stolen his hover-bike. 

 

 

Meanwhile, in Shadowhaunt…

Lord Méchant let out a ghastly chuckle as he levitated the four Codex pieces that were finally his into the air. It was time to begin the ritual. Gueulemer, Claquesous and Babet stood before him, a captivated yet impatient audience. Still, Lord Méchant couldn’t resist the chance to gloat.

“Once I have completed the ritual, the realm of Realix will open and I will retrieve the Ultimate Power!”

“Come on!” Gueulemer snapped. “Enough with the speeches, just make it happen already!”

“Silence!” snapped the Shadow Phoenix. He raised his hands, and the four pieces of the Codex began to spin, forming a crackling electrical whirlpool around them. The three Witches winced and fell to their knees, shielding their eyes from the blinding light.

“Don’t close your eyes, Witches! You won’t want to miss this!” Lord Méchant cackled. “The Portal is opening, and soon the Lord of Shadowhaunt will become the Lord of EVERYTHING!”

Patron-Minette opened their eyes a crack, and joined in with his deranged laughter.

At last, they had won.

 

 

 

An hour or so later, a volleyball game had started on the beach. Courfeyrac, Marius and Cosette were playing against Éponine, Bahorel and Grantaire while Combeferre refereed. Enjolras sat grumpily off to one side, refusing to join in; Jehan had wandered off to pick wild-flowers; and Musichetta had disappeared to Dragon-knows-where just before the game had started.

She came back out of the forest just then, a small axe in her right hand and several camp-fire-sized logs under her left arm. Enjolras raised an eyebrow.

“You don’t have to carry an axe and logs to look tough, Chetta. We already know you’re hard as nails.”

Musichetta chuckled. “It’s firewood, Enj. Haven’t you ever had a camp-fire on the beach? Made s’mores and told scary stories around it?”

Enjolras shook his head.

“Ever been camping?”

Another head shake.

“Didn’t you wanna play volleyball?”

“Couldn’t. Not enough people.”

“Well, I’m here now,” Musichetta suggested. “You could go on one team and I could go on the other, and it would still be even.”

“I just don’t wanna play!” Enjolras snapped. His arms were folded around his knees, and his shoulders were tensed up.

Musichetta dropped the logs and the axe. “Honestly, Enjolras, do you know how to relax at all?” She meant it as a joke, but Enjolras leaped to his feet, looking both angry and hurt.

“This is just who I am, OK?” he snapped, before turning on his heel and storming off into the forest.

The volleyball game ground to a halt, and the Piskies looked over from where they were building a sand fortress. Everyone winced as the sounds of Enjolras cursing at the foliage echoed back to them.

 

 

 

Lord Méchant continued to grapple with the light, trying to force the Realix portal to open. The three Witches were looking slightly less impressed, considering he’d been at it for an hour now. The Phoenix gritted his teeth angrily.

There was suddenly a large flash, but instead of the portal opening, the four pieces of the Codex flew off in opposite directions. The Vortex vanished. The ritual had failed.

“Well, that was anti-climactic,” Claquesous sneered.

“I cannot do it,” Lord Méchant murmured in shock. “Not yet.”

“Oh no, you gotta be kidding me!” Gueulemer growled.

“Do you have any idea what we’ve been through to get those?” Babet snarled.

“The Ancients of Realix used an ultra-secure spell!” Lord Méchant ground out from between clenched teeth. “The Shadow Fire is not enough!”

“Not enough?” Babet demanded. “What else could you possibly need?”

“To open the Portal, I need the powers of both Darkness and Light!”

“Well, you’ve got the Darkness part covered,” Gueulemer said frustratedly. “Where’s the Light?”

“I must have the Dragon Fire!” Lord Méchant explained. “I need that girl. Cosette.” 

 

 

That evening, once Enjolras had come back out of the forest and Cosette had used her Charmix to light the camp-fire, the Amis roasted marshmallows on sticks to make s’mores and chatted about what to do over the next few days.

“I, for one, am looking forward to really getting in tune with nature,” Jehan announced. “I bet there are loads of cool animal species here, not to mention the flowers! I could get some really great poetry inspiration!”

“I was hoping I could write some music based off animal calls,” Éponine added.

“Send a postcard to my dad!” Cosette smiled.

“Climb trees!” Musichetta suggested.

“Play sports,” offered Bahorel.

“Go exploring,” said Marius, smiling shyly at Cosette.

“Fly kites!” Courfeyrac enthused.

“I like kite flying too!” Combeferre smiled awkwardly at Courfeyrac, who turned away with a scowl. Ferre sighed sadly.

Grantaire didn’t offer anything to the group, but he muttered something to Enjolras that made the blond Faery’s cheeks turn scarlet. He definitely didn’t look angry though.

 

 

 

“So, did you find them yet?” Gueulemer demanded.

Lord Méchant was glaring into his viewing portal. “Yes. They’re in Resortia.”

“Resortia?” Babet demanded.

“You mean they’re taking a VACATION?” Gueulemer screeched.

“Not FAIR!” Babet shouted angrily.

Lord Méchant ignored them. “This works to our advantage! Both the Faeries and the Wizards will be without their powers! The Wizards will still be able to manifest their elements, although not control them, but the Faeries are essentially powerless!”

“And why is that?” Babet said, a little calmer.

“Resortia is a magic-free realm.”

“But if it’s a magic-free realm, we won’t have magic either,” Gueulemer pointed out.

Lord Méchant brushed his concerns to the side. “Your Gloomix multiplies your power enough for you to be able to cast a few spells. Now, go! And bring that Faery back to me. The sooner I have her, the sooner I can enter Realix and gain the Ultimate Power!” The three Witches vanished in a flash of scarlet lightening.

 

 

That night, Cosette was roused from slumber by a strange animal call in the distance. She rubbed at her eyes and climbed out of her sleeping bag, and exited the tent carefully, trying not to wake anyone.

Marius was sitting at the tent entrance, wearing his Corinthe uniform and holding his customary sword of blue flames in his left hand. He looked tired, but smiled happily at her when she came and sat next to him.

The animal call sounded again. Cosette glanced questioningly at her boyfriend. “What’s making that sound?”

“Male Herglasaurs,” Marius replied. “According to Ferre’s guidebook, they only eat plants. Nothing to worry about.”

Cosette leaned against him. “Are they, uh, saying anything?”

Marius chuckled and wrapped his right arm around her. “I don’t speak Herglasaur, sorry.”

“He sounds so sad and lonely,” Cosette mused. “I wonder why.”

“Maybe he misses the one he loves.” Cosette glanced up at Marius, blushing, and leaned forward to place a quick kiss on his lips.

Marius’ cheeks coloured, and he grinned delightedly at her and pulled her closer. “You know, I read somewhere that the male Herglasaur stays up all night to make sure his mate gets a good night’s sleep.”

“He stays up all night?”

Marius nodded and blushed a little. “He likes it because he knows that the one he cares about is happy, safe and peaceful.”

Cosette smiled, and used what little magic she had access to to levitate her sleeping bag out of the tent. She unzipped it all the way and wrapped it around the two of them. “Night, Marius,” she murmured sleepily, pressing into his side.

Marius placed a kiss on top of her head. “Sleep well, Cosette,” he whispered. 

 

 

In a clearing in the middle of the forest, Patron-Minette had built their own camp-fire, only they were burning magical herbs on it. Babet grinned as the crash of heavy creatures plodding through the woods drew nearer. “The conjuring is working!”

A Herglasaur poked its head through the trees, and was followed by several other creatures into the clearing - two other Herglasaurs (enormous two-legged sauropods), about five Snarlhogs (lion-like creatures with black and white stripes and snouts and hooves like pigs), six or seven Trimadillos (enormous armadillos with the faces of triceratopses), a single bizarre eyeless creature with snapping jaws and a reddish hyde, and several strange birds that bore resemblance to giant winged scorpions.

Claquesous got to her feet and raised her hands. Violet rings of powerful illusion magic pulsed from her fingers. “Listen to Claquesous now… Sit! Stay!” The animals obeyed. “Good… From now on, you do what Mama tells you to do! Got it? You have intruders in your forest!” The animals howled. “Faeries and Wizards who mean to hunt you down and destroy your habitat! Go find them, and destroy them! Except for the girl with pale blonde hair; capture her! Now go!”

The animals left the clearing, growling and snarling, ready for the hunt. Claquesous smirked to herself, satisfied in the knowledge that their prey didn’t stand a chance. 

 

 

The next morning, all of the Amis except for Enjolras sat outside their tent. Marius was heating two pans, one of bacon and one of facon, over the campfire; Grantaire was pouring coffee, and the rest of the group were striking poses as Musichetta took their pictures with a Polaroid camera to send to their families.

Éponine sighed as she glared at the back of her pictures. “I can’t think what to write!”

“Do something in verse!” Cosette suggested. “Azelma and Gavroche will probably get a kick out of it.” Éponine grinned and began hurriedly scribbling, apparently freshly inspired.

“It’s been ages since the last time I actually wrote a letter by hand!” Courfeyrac laughed. “It’s fun!”

Jehan smiled at Musichetta. “Would you like me to take your picture for a postcard, Chetta?”

“Nah,” Musichetta shook her head. “My parents and I aren’t really on good enough terms for letters. Besides, I’m not really very photogenic. I’m better behind the camera.”

“OK,” Jehan sighed. “Though I’d love it if you came with me later and took some pictures of me with different plants and animals!”

“Sure, I can do that,” Musichetta smiled.

Enjolras unzipped the tent, yawning. He was clad in red shorts with a blue belt, red high-tops with white socks, a black fishnet shirt with a red cropped vest over it, and his hair was held out of his face with a red, white and blue-striped scarf.

“Good morning, Sunshine,” Musichetta teased. “You get enough sleep?”

“Fuck off,” Enjolras groaned. “I’m not used to not having an alarm.”

“We’re going on a wildlife expedition later!” Jehan announced.

“Sounds great, Jehan. Count me out.” Enjolras sat next to Grantaire and gratefully accepted the cup of coffee he offered him.

“Want me to take your picture? You could send a postcard to your parents!” Musichetta offered.

“It’s postcards, Musichetta!” Enjolras snapped. “My parents are divorced.” He put his cup down with unnecessary force, got to his feet, and stumped off down the beach.

“It’s been a tough couple of years for him and his family,” Cosette explained to Musichetta. “He doesn’t like to talk about it.”

“I genuinely didn’t know,” Musichetta said. She looked stricken.

“Of course you didn’t,” Cosette assured her. “But it’s probably best if you just let it go.”

“I…” Musichetta sighed and tucked Lise into her hood. “I’m going for a walk.”

Jehan looked up. “But what about our expedition?” they asked sadly.

“Chetta, wait!” called Courfeyrac. “Is everything all right?”

“Fine,” Musichetta shrugged. She hurried into the forest before they could see the tears that had welled up in her eyes.

She finally sat down when she reached an isolated little pond in the middle of the woods. Musichetta gazed at her reflection and hiccuped sadly as a tear slid down her nose and splashed into the water. “I didn’t know Enjolras’ parents were divorced,” she whispered to Lise. “I… I guess I don’t really know them at all. I’m just no good with friendships.”

 

 

Back at camp, Combeferre leaned back in his deckchair. “Yep, this sure beats sitting at a computer,” he smiled.

“What’s that, Ferre?” Marius raised his eyebrows in surprise.

“Ferre’s feeling the call of the wild!” Bahorel laughed.

“Soon he’ll be taming hydras and wrestling trolls bare-handed!” Grantaire added, teasing.

Over by the tent, Cosette tapped Enjolras’ shoulder. “Enjy! We’re going to make Sangria. Wanna help?”

Enjolras shrugged. “I think I upset Musichetta earlier,” he said worriedly.

“That’s funny,” Cosette mused. “She thinks she upset you.”

“I’m gonna go find her and apologize.”

“Really? His Majesty Prince Enjolras of Solaria is going to apologize to someone?” Cosette teased.

“Very funny, Cosette.” Enjolras rolled his eyes, giggling a little. “Seriously though, I’m going to say sorry to her.” He squeezed her shoulder and followed the path Musichetta had taken earlier.

Cosette stared after him worriedly, but was distracted by Éponine’s shout of “Cosette! Come on!” 

 

 

Musichetta got to her feet. “I guess I’d better get back to camp.” She began to walk back the way she came, but stopped when she heard the crunch of leaves being stood on behind her. “Did you hear that?” she whispered to Lise. No reply. She pulled the tiny Piskie out of her hood. “I’m not talking to myself, Lise, I’m talking to you!” Lise snored on. “Come on, wake up!”

“Hey there!” shouted a familiar voice behind her. Musichetta jumped about three feet into the air and gave an uncharacteristic shriek. She turned to see Enjolras standing behind her.

“Enjolras! You scared the crap out of me!” she complained.

Enjolras raised an eyebrow. “Really? You were scared of me?”

“Yes! I wasn’t expecting anyone to be out here.”

They began walking back the way they came. Enjolras looked unusually nervous. “Here’s the thing,” he began. “A lot of the things I say and do that come out bitchy are just me putting up walls because I’m insecure.”

“You get insecure?” Musichetta asked, shocked that someone who appeared as strong and put together as Enjolras did could feel like that.

“Sometimes,” Enjolras shrugged like it was no big deal. “Doesn’t everyone? Like this camping stuff. Everyone else is totally into it, but I’m out of my element, and you may have noticed I don’t deal with that very well.” He put out his hand to stop her. “Anyway, I’m really sorry for being a dick to you earlier. I like you, Chetta - is it OK if I call you that?” When Musichetta nodded happily, he continued. “I want us to be friends.” He offered her a handshake, which she gladly took.

Suddenly Enjolras’ body started glowing bright gold. “Whoa! What’s happening?”

“You’re, uh, glowing,” Musichetta said unnecessarily.

A delicate red gem appeared over Enjolras’ heart, set into a black metallic broach shaped like an intricate hand-mirror. “I think it’s a Charmix!” The pin glowed and then vanished. “AWESOME!”

“Congrats, Enjolras!” Musichetta beamed at him.

A low growl came from the nearby bushes, and both Faeries jumped. “What was that?” Musichetta murmured fearfully.

She was answered when two enormous Snarlhogs leaped from the bushes and bared their teeth at them. Both Faeries shrieked in fear.

“Think that Charmix might work here?” Musichetta trembled.

“It’s worth a try!” Enjolras agreed. “Enjolras Charmix!”

In a flash, Enjolras was in his Faery form, only now he wore the pin over his heart, and a black belt with a circular purse on it was around his waist. The bag was decorated with a scarlet moon wrapped around a golden sun.

“Stay back!” Enjolras shouted, blasting the Snarlhogs with bursts of sunlight. Both creatures were blown back several hundred yards. Enjolras sighed, already looking worn out. He transformed out of his Faery form and wiped a hand across his brow. “Don’t know if I’ll be able to do that again! Come on, run!”

 

 

“Well, I feel like Musichetta hides how she really feels sometimes,” Jehan said.

Cosette raised an eyebrow. “And you think Enjolras doesn’t?”

“What do you mean by that?” Simone looked affronted.

“Does Enjolras lie to you?” Juliette asked worriedly.

“No, sweetie,” Cosette reassured her Piskie. “I just mean that he doesn’t always tell us how he’s really feeling.”

“I love talking about my feelings!” Roselyne announced loudly. “In fact, did I tell you about the time I-”

Courfeyrac dramatically flung himself onto his back and interrupted her. “We’ve been discussing this for an hour. Can we please move on?”

“I’m with Courf,” Bahorel said grumpily. “You guys talk way too much about your stupid emotions.” He rolled his eyes and stalked off into the forest.

Éponine got to her feet and ran after him. “Bahorel! What do you mean, ‘our stupid emotions’?”

“You know exactly what I mean.”

“No, I really don’t.”

“What’s so great about sitting around and talking about your feelings?” Bahorel snapped.

“Well, uh-”

“You never talk about your feelings.”

“What is that supposed to -”

“Forget it, I’ll see you later.” And with that, Bahorel stumped into the woods.

Éponine let out a growl of frustration, and marched down a different path. Grantaire got to his feet and ran after her. 

 

 

As Enjolras and Musichetta leaped over an angled log, Musichetta came to an abrupt halt. “Hold on, I’ve got an idea!”

“Isn’t running a good idea?” Enjolras yelped, continuing forwards.

Musichetta waited until the Snarlhogs were in sight, before jumping up and bringing her full weight down on the log, which smacked both creatures in the face, fazing them. “OK, now running is a good idea!”

 

 

As Bahorel stumped moodily through the forest, he glanced down and noticed the peculiar arrangement of animal tracks - different species, but all heading in the same direction.

“That’s weird,” he thought aloud. He decided to go back the way the tracks came, to see if there was any particular reason so many animals had come this way. 

 

 

Meanwhile, Éponine was marching down her own path, her shoulders tense and her teeth and fists clenched. A rustle from the bushes startled her. “What? Who’s there?!”

Grantaire held up his hands in apology. “It’s just me, Ép. Sorry about that.”

“Grantaire,” Éponine sighed relievedly. “What’s up?”

“I thought you could use an interpreter. For Bahorel.”

“What are you talking about?” Éponine scowled.

“When he says things like ‘stop talking about stupid feelings’, it’s all Bahorel-talk for ‘please stop talking about feelings, they scare me’,” Grantaire explained.

“Why can’t he just say that then?”

Grantaire shrugged. “It’s not that different from you always acting tough.”

“Me?” Éponine said in surprise. “I don’t act, I am tough!”

Grantaire raised an eyebrow at her. “Have you ever just told Bahorel you like him?”

“Well, not directly, but -”

“So what’s stopping you?” Grantaire pointed north-west. “I think he went that way.” He patted her on the shoulder and began walking back to camp.

Éponine chuckled nervously. She would never admit to anyone that the second his footsteps were out of earshot, she ran north-west like her life depended on it. 

 

 

Meanwhile, Babet and Gueulemer were busy constructing invisible net traps. “This is hard work without our full powers,” Gueulemer groaned.

“But this magical trap is sure to capture Les Amis,” Babet pointed out, not realising how much he was beginning to sound like a cartoon supervillain.

“How do we get them near it?” Gueulemer asked.

Babet put the finishing touches on one trap. “Claq’s new pets will take care of that.”

 

 

Éponine followed the path Grantaire had pointed out to her until she found Bahorel, who was lying on the ground with his head in some bushes. “What the hell, ‘Rel?” she began, but yelped as Bahorel pulled her down next to him and pointed through the bushes. When she saw the girl surrounded by local wildlife in the centre of a clearing, her eyes widened in recognition. “Claquesous? What’s she doing here? And…” she narrowed her eyes, trying to discern what Claquesous was doing. “What’s she doing to those poor animals?”

“I’ve been tracking her,” Bahorel muttered. “She’s been at it for the past half-an-hour or so.”

“We need to tell the others,” Éponine said.

Bahorel nodded. “We also need to find out what Patron-Minette is up to. We need to split up, I’ll go tell the others while you keep an eye on her.”

Éponine shook her head, already getting to her feet. “No, you know more about traps than I do. You stay here; I’ll tell the others.”

Bahorel raised an eyebrow at her. “You’re leaving me alone with her? You’re not worried?”

Éponine shrugged. “I guess I’ll just have to trust that you know what’s good for you,” she said teasingly, before turning on her heel and heading back to the beach. When she was out of earshot of Bahorel, she breathed deeply and smiled to herself. I did it, she thought proudly. I trusted him alone with Claquesous. She really did trust him to do the right thing, and it felt great; her heart was practically tingling with pride. She looked down, and realised it was more than just an emotional response - a silver treble-clef-shaped pin with a blue gem on its tail had appeared over her heart. A Charmix!

 

 

“Run faster!” Musichetta shouted to Enjolras. “It’s gaining on us!” Three more Snarlhogs blocked the path ahead, and they skidded to a halt in realisation. The creatures had been herding them.

“OK, what now?” Enjolras said nervously.

“Your Charmix will be recharged by now, right?”

Enjolras shook his head. “Not enough to take out five.”

“There’s got to be something we can do!” Musichetta said desperately.

“Hey,” Enjolras said suddenly. “I don’t have enough power to attack anything, but I think I have enough to create a signal flare?”

“It’s worth a shot,” Musichetta nodded. Enjolras quickly transformed, and directed scarlet sparks at the sky, where they exploded like fireworks.

On the beach, Les Amis saw the sparks, as did Éponine in the forest. They all ran towards the source, but none as quickly as Grantaire, who would have recognised the red sparks anywhere. “Enjolras!”

Enjolras’ Faery form vanished, and he breathed heavily. “Even with a Charmix, I can’t transform for long here,” he groaned.

“OK, guess you’re about to get a crash course in punching Snarlhogs,” Musichetta started, but before she could do anything else, there was a loud smacking sound, and they turned to see Grantaire holding a broadsword made of water, swinging it at the Snarlhogs. Unwilling to mess with something so sharp and heavy, the creatures turned tail and dashed back into the forest. Grantaire allowed the sword to vanish, and turned to face the two Faeries.

“You guys OK?” he asked.

“Grantaire!” Enjolras said relievedly. He flung his arms around his boyfriend. “We’re fine, what about you?”

Grantaire smirked. “Well, my lips hurt a little bit…” Enjolras stood on his tiptoes and planted a kiss on them.

“Better?” he smiled.

“Much,” Grantaire rested his chin on top of Enjolras’ head. “I should save your life every day.”

A loud, high-pitched squeal interrupted them, and they turned to see Juliette perched on Cosette’s shoulder, clapping her hands over her mouth. “Sorry,” she giggled. “You guys are just so cute!”

The rest of the Amis appeared behind Cosette. “What happened?” Cosette asked urgently. “We saw your signal flare.”

“Wild animals attacked us,” Musichetta explained.

Marius glanced behind him. “I don’t like it here,” he muttered. “Something’s not right.”

Simone nodded in agreement. “Yes. There’s been a change in the air since last night. It feels dangerous!”

Cosette’s eyes suddenly widened. “Marius! Remember those sounds we heard last night?” The noises of the male Herglasaurs were getting closer…and closer… until suddenly one stuck its head through the bracken and snapped its teeth at them. Musichetta, who was closest, leapt away with a shriek, and Grantaire cleared his throat nervously as a second lizard appeared.

“So, what’s the plan?”

“Well, sometimes the best plan is the simplest one,” Cosette said. “RUN!”

They all dashed away into the jungle, the Herglasaurs crashing along behind them.

 

 

Babet’s eyes widened at the noise of sudden movement through the jungle. “Do you hear that?”

Gueulemer looked excited. “It sounds like the party has started.”

“I bet they’re all headed straight for our trap!” Claquesous giggled.

Babet sighed happily. “Snatching up Cosette will be a cinch. Lord Méchant will be so pleased!”

In the bracken at the top of a small cliff next to them, Bahorel wiggled backwards at least ten feet before crawling back into the jungle. He’d heard enough.

 

 

As they continued through the forest, Marius shouted over to Grantaire. “Wait! Let’s take them on!”

He and Grantaire waited for everyone to pass before summoning swords and swinging them at the beasts’ faces. Suddenly, something big and blue crashed through the trees just as the Herglasaurs backed away, and swung a club at Marius, who realised with mounting horror that it was a hunting troll. He whipped the sword at the club, knocking it out of the creature’s hands, and suddenly a blast of magic hit the troll in the head.

“Hey!” Roselyne shouted above it. Her powers, like the Wizards’, were apparently limited rather than inaccessible. “Pick on someone your own size!”

“Roselyne, no!” Jehan shouted worriedly. “Keep moving!” One of the blue tassels dangling off their red playsuit had got caught on a branch, and Roselyne hurried to help them untangle it.

“Look on the bright side!” Roselyne said cheerfully as Jehan wriggled free and they kept running and flying through the trees together. “They’re slow as molasses!”

“Yeah?” Jehan replied. “And right now so am I, because I can’t fly!”

Marius and Grantaire had caught up to the group, and Marius panted, “We can’t keep this up for much longer!”

“Yeah, tell me about it!” Cosette gasped. Marius’ eyes widened, and he pointed upwards.

“GET DOWN!”

“Huh?” Cosette ducked, shrieking as one of the scorpion birds snatched at her.

Éponine knew what she had to do. “Éponine Charmix!” With a flash of yellow and blue light, she was in her Faery form, but now her treble clef pin was secured on the strap of her dress, and a blue portable music player was strapped around her waist. “Maximum Volume!” She blasted waves of magenta light at a Snarlhog that had joined the fight, and it backed away, whining. “Face the Music!” Another blast, and the scorpion-bird turned tail, screeching. With a pant, she detransformed, and turned to her friends. “The valley is the only place without monsters!”

“I dunno,” Simone said nervously, but Cosette nodded as another roar sounded behind them, suggesting the monsters were on the move again.

“We have no choice. Come on!”

They changed trajectory, sprinting for the valley instead of deeper into the forest, as the thumps of the Herglasaurs and roars of the trolls came ever closer.

 

 

Patron-Minette all tensed in wait in the bushes at the top of a small cliff next to where they’d set their traps, and Claquesous huffed in delight. “I can hear them coming!”

Babet grinned maniacally. “It won’t be long now!”

 

 

“This is not natural!” Jehan said unhappily. “Animals don’t attack for no reason!”

Cosette nodded. “I’d bet my shoes that it’s Méchant.”

“Bingo!” Éponine panted. “I saw Claquesous earlier!”

“All we can do now is keeping moving!” Enjolras shouted, but suddenly someone appeared on the path in front of them, making them all screech to a halt.

“Stop!” Bahorel shouted, emerging from the bushes. “It’s a trap! You’re all being led directly into it!”

“Are you sure?” Marius asked, and Bahorel nodded.

“Positive. I overheard Patron-Minette talking about it.”

“You’ve sure had a change of heart since last year,” Enjolras muttered, quiet enough that no one could hear him.

“You wanna avoid the trap?” Bahorel asked rhetorically. “Step where I step.” He began moving very carefully across the clearing they’d been heading for, taking massive strides and lifting his feet up high, as if to avoid tripwires. Éponine followed him immediately, but the others hung back for a second before Cosette took charge.

“You heard the man,” she said firmly. “Let’s go.” She followed Bahorel and Éponine, and one by one, so did the others. The noises of the creatures were still getting ever closer, but thankfully they all made it past the traps before any of them appeared.

“We made it!” Enjolras cheered, but Jehan still looked nervous.

“I can hear the monsters getting closer!”

“We’d better hurry and move out of here!” Musichetta added.

“To go where, exactly?” Combeferre asked. They turned to him, and he was pointing up ahead. To their shock, the land simply vanished, and there was nothing but sky in sight.

They were at the edge of a massive cliff.

 

 

“Oh, this is perfect!” Gueulemer laughed.

“Les Amis are finished!” Babet added. “They’re trapped!”

“They have nowhere to go,” Claquesous grinned. “Cosette is as good as ours!”

Chapter Text

As the creatures prowled ever closer, the Amis took a collective step back. Jehan shook in fear, but spoke up: “Cosette, Éponine, Enjolras and all Piskies, fly away. Save yourselves!”

“No way!” Cosette said firmly.

“It’s all for one and one for all!” Enjolras added.

Out of sight on their clifftop, Patron-Minette peered out of the bushes, grinning victoriously. They were so close!

“We’re all going to die!” Simone wailed, and Juliette sighed.

“Yes, a grand sacrifice. It’s so romantic!”

“As, uh, romantic as that sounds, Juliette,” Combeferre said awkwardly, “I think I might have a better idea.”

Courfeyrac snorted. “Based on past performances, what are the chances of that being true?”

“Hey,” Grantaire said sharply. “When Combeferre has a plan, we listen.”

“Thanks to Bahorel, we know the way through the net traps,” Combeferre explained. “But the animals don’t.”

Cosette’s eyes widened approvingly, and Courfeyrac made a hmm noise. Not half bad, he thought begrudgingly.

Bahorel took the lead. “Follow me.” He led the way back towards the traps; the animals continued approaching, still on the other side of the traps. Combeferre was moving slower than the others – he was apparently checking something on his phone, which he’d brought for who knows what reason.

“What is it with you, Combeferre?” Courfeyrac snapped. “Move!”

They reached the traps, and Bahorel turned back to the group. “If we stand here, we can lure them straight into the thickest area of the traps. Once they’re stuck, we can escape through the thinnest areas which are –” he pointed, “there, there, and… there. Enjolras, duck now!”

Enjolras obediently ducked just as a Snarlhog launched itself at him. Missing its target, it crashed straight into the tripwire for a net trap, and was hoisted into the air by a magically reinforced net. Two Herglasaurs, another Snarlhog, and a Trimadillo followed it, and Bahorel shook his head in amazement. “Unbelievable.”

Up in the bushes, Babet grit his teeth angrily. “I can’t believe they outwitted us!”

“Trapped in their own trap!” Cosette whooped. “Awesome!”

“Not all of them though!” Éponine yelled, and everyone turned in horror to see that the scorpion-like birds were easily flying above the tripwires, while some of the hunting trolls were using the nets containing captured animals to swing across the clearing.

“Follow Bahorel!” Cosette suggested. “If we go back through the traps while they’re still making their way across –”

Marius shook his head. “We’ll never make it past all of them in a big clump like this.”

“We’re gonna have to split up,” Combeferre agreed. “Half go left and half go right.”

Éponine led Courfeyrac, Combeferre, Enjolras and Marius to the left, while Bahorel led Cosette, Grantaire, Jehan and Musichetta to the right – but Musichetta was last, and before she could follow the group, a humungous troll leapt down in front of her, beating its chest and snarling.

“Uh, guys?” she said nervously, backing away, but no one heard her over the snarls of the captured animals. “Guys!” Still no one heard her, and she realized she only had one option.

She turned and ran. The troll gave chase, and Musichetta wished desperately that she had gained her Charmix. All too soon she was back at the cliff edge with nowhere to go. She slowed down a little, but the troll hadn’t seen the cliff edge, and was still going at full speed. This is my chance! Musichetta moved to one side and stuck out her leg, and the troll tripped over her, toppling down the cliff with a roar. Yes!

She’d celebrated too soon. A second later, the ground she was standing on crumbled, and she was falling down the cliff too! She snatched at a tree branch sticking out of the dirt and managed to grab it. It creaked ominously, and she hurriedly let go, sliding down rather than falling. She landed at the bottom, and shuddered as she laid eyes on the troll, which was lying about ten feet away and not moving.

“All things considered, I was lucky,” she thought aloud. “Now, to get back to the top…” She turned and reached for a rocky indent in the cliff face, pulling herself up, but a second later the rock had crumbled away beneath her fingers, and she was sliding back down. The rock is too brittle to climb, she realized. Musichetta turned, scoping out the gorge she’d fallen into, hoping it leveled out at some point, but – It’s a canyon. There’s no way out.

I’m trapped.

           

           

“OK, what now?” Cosette asked as soon as they’d made it to the river, a good way away from the traps.

“I want to go home,” Enjolras sighed. “Being chased by monsters and Witches are not in my idea of a good vacation.”

           

           

The three Witches stalked down to the clearing, and with a snap of her fingers, Claquesous freed the monsters from the traps.

“You stupid brutes!” Gueulemer said angrily. “You were supposed to capture the Amis, not yourselves!”

They all raised their hands, blasting the beasts once again to make sure they were still under their control. “Thanks to Resortia though, the Amis’ powers are next to nil,” Babet reminded his cousins. “While our Gloomix are powerful enough to control all the monsters.”

“Of all the monsters here, those ones are the most monstrous,” Gueulemer said thoughtfully, pointing at three creatures that certainly hadn’t been in the first batch of hypnotized animals. They looked like giant Ankylosaurs, with bony armour built into their reddish hydes and bone spikes surrounding their faces. There was something extremely prehistoric about them. “Claq, do you think you can get them to work for us?”

“Easily,” Claquesous grinned. She raised her hands, and the powerful rings of magic pulsed from her fingertips. The second it touched the three beasts’ faces, their eyes glowed red, their jaws snapped, and they prowled towards the three Witches obediently. Babet approached the biggest and ran one finger down its snaggletooth, grinning in satisfaction at the cut it left on his finger.

“We’ll be unbeatable!”

 

 

“If they catch us on the run, we’re done for,” Combeferre was saying. “We need to set the stage for the next battle –” He was interrupted by a distressed cry, and everyone turned to see Lise fluttering towards them, clutching a piece of khaki fabric and wailing worriedly.

“Lise!” Cosette gasped. “What’s wrong?”

“Tutti tutti,” Lise said sadly, holding up the fabric. Enjolras looked worried.

“That’s a piece of fabric from Musichetta’s shorts!”

“She hasn’t caught up with us,” Grantaire added. “It shouldn’t be taking her this long. She might be in trouble.”

“Lise, can you show us where you found the fabric?” Cosette asked, stroking the baby’s head. Lise nodded, and led them along the river. The ground was rockier here than it had been near the traps, and soon the Amis realized why: they had arrived at the edge of a waterfall down into a canyon where an enormous pine forest grew!

“Tutti tutti,” Lise squeaked, and Abby nodded.

“Cosette, she says she found the fabric on the wind rather than in the ground, but it was around here somewhere.”

“Don’t worry, Lise,” Cosette reassured her. “We’ll find Chetta, I promise.”

Combeferre nodded, straightening his round glasses. “Of course, finding Musichetta is a priority,” he said worriedly, “but don’t forget, we need to prepare to fight off the next attack.”

“We’ll need to set up some kind of base,” Marius added. “Any ideas, Ferre?”

Courfeyrac sneered. “You’re asking Combeferre for ideas?” he said snidely.

“He’s our Chief Defense-Offence Coordinator,” Bahorel said firmly. “It’s his job.”

“And no one is better at it than him,” Grantaire added.

“Yeah, right,” Courfeyrac muttered, but no one paid attention.

“The Piskies won’t be able to help us, so Cosette, you take them and go look for Musichetta,” Combeferre decided. “I think their powers will benefit you more than us.”

“Of course you can go, Abby,” Courfeyrac said in mock-agreement. “After all, Combeferre said it’s OK.”

Éponine dug an elbow into Courfeyrac’s side. “Give it a rest.”

“Be careful, Cosette,” Enjolras said, and Jehan nodded.

“Bring Musichetta back in one piece.”

“I’ll be fine,” Cosette assured them. “You have my word.” She moved to the edge of the cliff next to the waterfall, and knelt down, searching for a foothold. She found it, and moved backwards, but suddenly slipped and yelled. Everyone gasped in worry as she vanished from sight, but she called up “I’m OK!” a few seconds later, and Enjolras leaned over to see her waving from a ledge about ten feet down.

He straightened back up, looking worried. “Just to recap. We’re sending the girl who once fell down a 50-foot crevice by accident to scale down a cliff of unknown height without a harness?” Silence. “Just checking.”

They headed back to the spot by the river, where Combeferre directed them to chop down some trees to make a base, before having the Wizards sort the logs into ‘walls’ and ‘roof’. Enjolras missed why it was so important they were separate, but as Bahorel and Marius began hefting the wall logs into place, Grantaire formed a water axe and used it to chop into the roof logs in specific places that Combeferre pointed out to him.

“Are you sure you want me to cut notches in all the roof logs, Ferre?” Grantaire asked, and Combeferre nodded.

“Definitely. And Bahorel, when the base is finished, can you show me your trap design?”

“Sure.”

Enjolras turned away, and transformed into his new Charmix form. Éponine transformed next to him, and together, they used their powers to levitate as many boulders as they could find into the river, creating a dam.

Enjolras huffed as he levitated his fourteenth rock into the river, which by now had stopped flowing towards them, leaving just the muddy bed. “I don’t think I can keep up my Lunar Magnetism for much longer…”

“Just a few more rocks,” Éponine reminded him. He nodded, and together they levitated the last few into place before changing back. “Oof!”

“Great work on the dam!” Combeferre called cheerfully. “We’re nearly finished with the base. Anyone who attacks us is in for a real nasty surprise.”

Bahorel’s trap design had required for several thin nets to be strung between trees, and Jehan and Courfeyrac were working on that now. As Jehan fixed a vine in place, they sighed. “If I only had my Charmix, we’d be done in an instant.”

Courfeyrac patted them on the shoulder comfortingly. “Don’t worry, Jehan. You just have to be patient.”

Enjolras and Éponine had recharged, and had gathered a pile of as many non-poisonous fruits as they could find. They held their hands over the pile, and Éponine spoke, bathing the fruits in magenta light. “Converterent Alica.”

Enjolras spoke too, and the light turned golden. “Et Liberate.”

The light vanished, and Jehan applauded. “Wow, a magic dispelling charm! Beautifully done, guys!”

Grantaire bent down to fill his backpack with the newly enchanted fruits. “Load up, everyone,” he said. “With how many monsters there are, we’re going to need all the magic fruit we can get.”

“Éponine, do you think you have enough magic left for a short flight now?” Combeferre asked.

Éponine nodded. “I think so.”

Enjolras raised his hand awkwardly. “Um, has anyone heard from Cosette?”

Everyone shook their heads, and Jehan made an anxious face. “I hope Musichetta didn’t get lost!”

 

 

Unfortunately, Jehan’s wish was not to be granted, and Musichetta was at that moment wandering through the canyon, pushing past pine trees in the hopes of finding a way out. She excitedly started towards a hill leading higher up, but sighed in frustration when she realized it ended a good 20 feet below the edge of the canyon. She continued on, but suddenly a horribly familiar roar made her tense up. There was a Snarlhog somewhere nearby, somewhere behind her, and she hurried forwards, but suddenly the air was very foggy, and her head was spinning, and she sank to the ground, groaning softly. Lise, where are you? And Anne, I know I promised I wouldn’t feel lonely without you anymore, but I can’t help it. Oh, Anne, please say you’ll forgive me! Musichetta got to her feet in a daze, and suddenly a flash of movement up ahead caught her eye. She hurried after it, fancying that it had been a ginger braid whipping out of sight, that Anne had come to comfort her and forgive her – maybe Anne was waiting in the cave up ahead…

 

 

Perched in a tree and hidden by leaves, Éponine watched Patron-Minette closely, listening intently. They had since acquired three more creatures that Éponine recognized from the guidebook as Dragodons, and were sitting on their backs as if they were riding horses. “I think we have enough creatures under our control,” Claquesous was saying.

Gueulemer nodded. “We’ll hit them like a hurricane and blast them out of this world!”

“Mer, don’t forget our main objective here,” Babet said sharply. “We need to capture Cosette – alive. And keep the Dragodons away from water. They hate it almost as much as I do. Come on, let’s go!”

As the creatures all roared, following the Dragondons ridden by the Witches, Éponine flew backwards, staying in the canopy of leaves until she reached the base – ahead of Patron-Minette, but not by much. She landed, detransforming with a pant. Everyone looked up from where they were apparently digging the riverbed deeper, and Combeferre threw down his shovel as she reached them.

“OK, everyone, that should do it.”

“Do what, Combeferre?” Courfeyrac said irately. “This is so illogical! Méchant is after the Codex, not us, so why would Patron-Minette bother to come after us at all?”

“They’re after Cosette!” Éponine explained. “I overheard them before they left. They’re on their way now –”

The Witches crashing through the treeline interrupted her. “Positions, everyone!” Combeferre shouted. He grabbed Courfeyrac’s hand. “Courf, you’re with me.” They ran towards the wooden base, and to Courfeyrac’s surprise, Combeferre climbed onto the roof before turning back to help him up too.

Grantaire hid behind a tree, and Marius climbed up another tree, poking his head through the leaves. Jehan, Éponine and Enjolras began to hurry into the forest, but suddenly someone reached out and pulled Éponine behind a tree. She nearly screamed, before realizing it was Bahorel. He beckoned her towards a hollow under a bush, and they squeezed into it together. He grinned at her. “Ssh, we’re hiding.”

“Right,” Éponine giggled, relieved.

The Witches, their steeds and their minions stomped down towards them via the dried riverbed, and Enjolras chuckled to Jehan. “We’re so popular, even in the forest the locals flock to see us.”

“It’s time to take out the dam!” Combeferre shouted, and Enjolras leaned around his tree with a sigh.

So much work… ah well. “Enjolras Charmix!” Now in his Charmix form, he blasted light at the rocks forming the dam, which exploded, sending the water flooding back into the riverbed. The Witches were washed right off their steeds, which pulled themselves out of the river, ignoring their masters.

Patron-Minette followed, shaking themselves and squeezing out their hair. As Babet wrang out his cape, Claquesous raised her hands. “Dragodons, come back!” she snarled, and the purple light pulsed towards them once more, making them change course and run back towards the Witches, who once again climbed onto their backs.

 

 

In her cave, Musichetta exhaustedly slid down the wall and closed her eyes, grimacing as her headache grew worse. By the time she opened them again, she’d forgotten why she’d come into the cave at all. All she could see was that there was no light, and that she was the only person there.

“It’s so dark,” she whispered. The only thing that answered her was the drip of water, from somewhere deeper in the cave system. “No… I’m total alone! Someone help me, please help me, I don’t want to be alone!” An echo of her voice bounced back to her: alone, alone, alone, alone… “No…” Musichetta whimpered. “Please… help me…”

 

 

“Hey!” Enjolras said suddenly. “They’re looking for Cosette, and she’s not here, right? So we’re safe – uh oh.” Apparently the monsters hadn’t heard him, because suddenly a scorpion-bird swooped down, its six limbs reaching out and grasping at Enjolras, who screamed.

 

 

Musichetta noticed something suddenly: a pool of light on the floor. She followed it up, and to her amazement, there was a hole in the roof of the cave, about 20 feet up. “It’s a way out!” she realized excitedly, but suddenly reality came rushing back. “But I can’t fly here, and it’s too far from the wall for me to climb to.” She sank back against the wall in despair. “And my friends… my friends are probably under attack right now, while I’m stuck in a stupid cave with my stupid fears!” She got to her feet. “I need to find a way out and help them!” she said firmly, before turning and shouting to the cave walls. “You can’t keep me here! I will find a way out, and I will help my friends – huh?”

Her body was glowing, and to Musichetta’s surprise, a beautiful amethyst set into a silver shell-shaped brooch had appeared on the right side of her chest! A Charmix!

Maybe now she had a way out! “Musichetta Charmix!” she shouted, and with a flash of light, she was in her Faery form, only now the brooch was on the strap of her dress, and attached to a new belt was a pink hip-purse shaped like a gourd. With a flutter of her wings, she was zooming towards the light, and with another flutter, she was through the hole in the roof, and back in the light, and someone way calling her name!

“Musichetta!” Cosette shouted, and the Piskies echoed her.

“Musichetta!” She flew down to meet them, and Lise hugged her cheek delightedly, babbling away.

“Oh, thank goodness you’re OK!” Manon said, fanning herself with her hand.

“What happened?” Juliette gasped.

Cosette noticed the amethyst brooch. “You got your Charmix! Congratulations!”

“I’m so happy for you!” Simone beamed.

“Tutti tutti!” Lise babbled, and Musichetta hugged her.

“Aw, thanks, Lise. But where’s everyone else?”

 

 

“AAAAAAAAAAAARGH!”

Enjolras shrieked as the bird snatched him around the middle and took off, swinging him around like a ragdoll. The three Witches cackled in satisfaction.

“That will keep them busy while we look for Cosette!” Babet grinned.

Grantaire hurriedly climbed up a tree, and as the bird passed him, he jumped onto its back, grabbing two small feelers poking out of its head. “Put him down!” he yelled, but upon seeing how high up they were, changed his mind. “Actually, don’t put him down yet!”

Combeferre was shooting air-darts at the ground, creating a lot of noise but not any actual destruction, making most of the animals besides the Dragodons flee for the woods, towards Bahorel’s traps. As the scorpion-bird flew past, he shouted to Grantaire, “Grantaire! Remember, the charmed fruits!”

Grantaire nodded, and pulled a fruit out of his backpack, popping it into the bird’s open mouth. The second the bird bit into it, its eyes flashed, and it flew down, dropping Enjolras onto the ground. “Amazing,” Grantaire chuckled, climbing down. “Your spell actually worked.”

Enjolras jokingly flipped him off, and the two hurried back to their positions.

Patron-Minette were stomping closer to the base on their Dragodons. “Where is Cosette?” Babet was snarling. “We can’t go back to Lord Méchant without her!”

To their surprise, Combeferre was running towards them. “Hiya!” he shouted cheerfully.

Still on the roof of the base, Courfeyrac’s jaw dropped. “Combeferre, what the fuck are you doing?!”

“That cute little log cabin is the only place they could be hiding her!” Babet continued. “Let’s trample it.”

“Let’s squish that little worm first,” Gueulemer said, pointing at where Combeferre was now jumping up and down and making faces at them. “He’s so annoying.”

As the Dragodons turned towards Combeferre, he took off running towards the treeline, and Courfeyrac bit his lip in worry. “Combeferre, no!”

The look on the Wizard’s face seemed to say ‘Combeferre, yes.’

 

 

Cosette led Musichetta back towards the hills – 20 feet was a shorter flight than 60 after all. They had to go the long way around, past the caves, and as they entered the pine forest, Roselyne squealed excitedly, pointing at some large squashy red fungi that were periodically sending clouds of golden spores into the air.

“Look! Boomer mushrooms!”

The two Faeries ignored her, their attention taken by gunshots in the distance. “The fight must have started already,” Cosette murmured.

Roselyne fluttered her wings, and dived at the largest mushroom, clearly hoping for a springy trampoline effect of some sort – but when she hit it, she bounced back into the air and landed on the ground, face down.

“Roselyne!” Musichetta gasped. “Are you OK?”

Roselyne nodded. “I think so – a-a-a-achoo!”

A dainty sneeze sounded behind them, and they turned to see Manon blowing her nose with a groan. Juliette and Lise both sneezed too.

“Why are you sneezing?” Abby asked. “There’s nothing here that – achoooo!”

Simone sneezed even more heavily than Abby, and Cosette and Musichetta exchanged worried glances.

 

 

“Look out, Ferre!” Courfeyrac shouted, but Combeferre continued to look stupidly calm.

“There’s nothing to worry about as long as Marius is on the job!” he shouted, but then his face showed a sign of nervousness. “Marius is on the job, right? MARIUS!”

“Of course I am!” Marius called, swooping down from a tree on a hoverboard made of blue flames. He dived, missing Gueulemer by an inch, and turned in the air, raising his hand and forming a sword. “All right, Patron-Minette, shall we dance?”

Another one?” Gueulemer whined. He raised his hand, blasting lightning at Marius, who easily dodged it. “Hold still!”

“What are you doing?” Babet snarled. Gueulemer ignored him as Marius dodged the second and third blasts of lightning.

“You little prick!”

Marius dived at him again, raising his sword and swinging it at Gueulemer, who only just ducked out of the way. The Wizard looped around and dived a third time, smacking the Dragodon hard in the face. Dazed and disoriented, the creature collapsed, and Gueulemer howled with rage. He scrambled down, and hurried to climb onto Claquesous’ Dragodon behind her.

Combeferre continued running, and the Dragodons kept chasing. “What’s wrong, guys?” the Wizard taunted. “Can’t you catch an insignificant worm like me?”

As he passed Bahorel’s bush, the magenta-haired Wizard yanked a rope that had been set up, moving a tripwire into place – just in time to trip up the Dragodon ridden by Claquesous and Gueulemer. The Dragodon collapsed to the ground, jilting the two Witches out of their seats, and Bahorel reached forward and slashed at another rope, setting off a sprung net trap.

The net landed perfectly on top of Claquesous, Gueulemer, and their Dragodon, and Claquesous let out a shriek of rage, clearly recognizing the trap style. “Bahorel!” she screamed. “I HATE YOU!”

“Somehow, I’m OK with that,” Bahorel chuckled, but groaned when a second later she had blasted the net to pieces. “Aw, shit.”

Combeferre had made a full loop around the clearing, and was leading Babet and the last Dragodon back to the little wooden cabin. Babet was cackling madly. “Come on, my trusty steed! Let's trample him into the dust!” His cousins followed on foot, and Courfeyrac hurried to climb down from the roof.

“WATCH OUT!” he yelled.

“It's OK!” Combeferre yelled back. “I have a plan, but you need to get away from the cabin!”

Courfeyrac backed away from the base, but Combeferre continued his mad dash towards it, scrambling up onto the roof as Babet continued charging. Combeferre turned and watched as Babet’s steed reared back, and the second the beast made the jump up to the roof, he jumped down.

The notches in the roof logs did their job perfectly, and the roof splintered down the middle, sending Babet and the Dragodon crashing into the little room. Babet struggled off the Dragodon just as Marius and Combeferre jumped in after him, Marius with his sword raised and Combeferre cocking his air pistol. “Right, where’s Cosette?” Babet snarled. Combeferre grinned.

“She’s not here. And here in Resortia, your magic is weakened.”

“Surrender!” Marius added, raising his sword for emphasis.

Babet sighed. “Oh, I hate to be the barer of bad news,” he grinned, “but we’ve got you two outnumbered.” Claquesous and Gueulemer jumped down after him, and all three Witches grinned wickedly.

“Guess I’ll have to play the hero then,” Combeferre said, narrowing his eyes.

Babet ignored him. “Cousins, let’s attack them all at once. They’ll have no way out.”

“Be careful, Ferre,” Marius muttered. “One wrong move and we’re toast.”

“How do you wanna go?” Claquesous asked mockingly. “Darkness Blast?”

“Icy Tomb?” Babet suggested.

“Or how about a burst of lightning?” Gueulemer cackled. They exchanged glances, then spoke as one:

“How about all three?” Suddenly, a whirring noise sounded behind them, and the three Witches turned in confusion.

It was a ship from Corinthe! And not just the Owl passenger ship – it was a full sized Hawk battleship! It blasted at what remained of the cabin, sending everyone inside scrambling for cover, and the Dragodon got up and walked away. Feuilly waved from the driver’s seat as he landed the ship a little way from the cabin.

“Hey everyone!” he called down. “I’m not too late, am I?”

The rest of the Amis exited the woods and hurried towards the ship. “Great timing, Feuilly!” Courfeyrac shouted, and Feuilly smiled serenely.

“You can thank Combeferre for that. He contacted me.”

“So that’s what he was doing with his phone!” Courfeyrac realized. “Gosh Combeferre, I know I said this was stupid, but you came up with a really brilliant plan. Combeferre?” No reply. Everyone spun, searching for the bespectacled Wizard, but suddenly Marius let out a horrified cry.

“FERRE!”

Sticking out from what remained of the cabin was a hand – a hand connected to an arm clad in a very familiar white T-shirt sleeve. Everyone hurried to the woodpile and yanked at the logs, moving them away from Combeferre’s prone body, but suddenly Éponine gave a shout.

“Hey, Patron-Minette is getting away!”

Grantaire yanked at the last log. “Let them go. Getting Combeferre out of there is more important.”

With the log out of the way, Marius and Courfeyrac pulled at Combeferre’s arms, and with a few good tugs he was out of danger of being crushed. He blinked woozily up at them. Meanwhile, Feuilly climbed out of the ship and came over to the group, and Jehan’s face turned scarlet. Enjolras nudged them.

“Drool later,” he muttered. “Look at Ferre and Courf!”

Courfeyrac had helped Combeferre over to a tree-stump, which he sat down on. Combeferre looked up at him sadly. “I’m sorry, Courf. I let you down again. You know me.”

“I thought I did,” Courfeyrac sighed, “but I was wrong. I’ve been so stupid, you were amazing today.”

“Really? I mean, I didn’t do anything special. Bahorel designed all the traps, and Marius and Grantaire did all the heavy lifting…”

Courfeyrac yanked him up. “But you were the one who made it work!” To everyone’s surprise, his eyes were filling with tears, and he pulled Combeferre into a tight hug. “I jumped to conclusions about you because I didn’t have all the data. But that’s not the point. I was so scared I was going to lose you!”

“Are – Courf, are you crying?”

Courfeyrac shrugged, looking down embarrassedly. “I really didn’t like not liking you. Y’know?”

Combeferre chuckled. “I know. But Courf, that sentence was very illogical.”

In spite of his tears, Courfeyrac burst into watery giggles. Combeferre grinned back at him, and a second later, the Technology Faery felt warm all over. He looked down, and a triangular brooch with a round emerald in the middle had appeared in the centre of his chest.

“Hey everybody!” The whole gang turned to see Cosette, Musichetta and the Piskies emerging from the woods. “We found Musichetta, safe and sound!”

Everyone cheered, but just then Simone gave another massive sneeze. “But I think we caught a cold,” she groaned.

 

 

With Patron-Minette defeated – or at least, chased away from Resortia, all that was left to do was to make sure that all of the animals in the traps were free from their spells. The Snarlhogs were actually quite cuddly when they weren’t trying to eat you, but all too soon they were out of magic fruit. “Luckily these were the last two,” Grantaire commented.

Cosette tapped Feuilly on the shoulder, having heard the whole story from Enjolras. “Thank you very much for saving us, Feuilly,” she smiled. “On behalf of all of us.”

“I’m glad I made it in time,” Feuilly smiled back. “I couldn’t forgive myself if anything had happened to any of you.” Jehan made eye contact with him, and once again turned bright scarlet. They were saved any embarrassment though by Éponine’s panicked announcement.

“Guys! The Piskies are really sick!”

Roselyne tried to explain what had happened between increasingly larger sneezes. “After we found Chetta, we breathed in some really weird mushroom spores,” she groaned. Juliette squinted next to her.

“Why is the forest spinning?” she mumbled.

“I tried to heal them,” Cosette added, “but it seems my powers only work on injuries, not illnesses.”

“We need to get them back to Piskie Village,” Musichetta announced. “The tea brewed from the leaves of the Folium Mater that grows there will cure them.”

Marius nodded. “Well, unless anyone has any objections, I declare this relaxing vacation officially over.”

“I object!” Feuilly said jokingly. “I don’t want to go, I just landed here!”

“Then by all means stay,” Jehan laughed, seemingly forgetting their shyness, “but I am positively out of here!”

Bahorel burst out laughing and clapped Feuilly on the back, and Jehan turned pink again and began heading over to the ship. Courfeyrac caught up with them and patted their shoulder.

“Jehan, come on. Sooner or later you’re going to have to tell him how you feel.”

Jehan sighed. “I know, I know… just not today.” Together they climbed up the steps into the ship, and in a little while, Resortia was nothing more than a speck on the horizon.

Chapter Text

In the deepest part of the Shadowhaunt Citadel was a dank, damp dungeon filled with prison cells, and it is inside one of these cells we find ourselves now. It was the only cell with a prisoner inside; a struggling man in ragged grey robes and a dark grey metal mask that covered all of his face except his eyes and mouth. He was chained to the wall by his wrists and ankles, and he was barefoot and emaciated. As a monstrous guard prowled past, he fell still, but as soon as it was out of sight he began writhing again, trying to get free. “Your iron mask may prevent me from using my magic, Méchant,” he whispered, “but I will find a way to escape this place.”

           

           

“Niamh? What’s wrong with Folium Mater?”

Niamh sadly patted Eli on the shoulder. In the weeks since the attack on Piskie Village, she had been hard at work restoring the little town to its former beauty, and nearly everything was back to normal – except one thing. The leaves of Folium Mater had completely dried out, and her petals were brown and fragile-looking. Occasionally one would fall to the ground – normal for most plants, but Folium Mater hadn’t lost leaves on her own in millennia.

“I’m sorry, Eli, but I don’t know what’s wrong with her.”

“She hasn’t looked well since she was attacked by that Ice Witch –”

“Well, let’s not worry ourselves ill,” Niamh said firmly. “Perhaps it can be healed.”

Arietta sat sadly on a little park bench with Lottie next to her. Lottie comfortingly patted Arietta’s arm, but Arietta continued to look miserable. “It’s my fault, Lottie,” she said morosely. “I’m the one who led Babet to the Village!”

Lottie made a concerned noise, and Arietta nodded. “Yeah, I know I saved the Village, but now Lord Méchant has all the pieces of the Codex, and that’s even worse!”

Lottie made another noise, this time more curious, and pointed up at the sky, where an enormous red airship was flying lower over the village. Arietta moaned in misery. “The Wizards are here! They’ve probably come to punish me!” The ship landed, and the occupants began dismounting – Grantaire, Marius, Feuilly, Jehan and Musichetta, with their arms full of blankets, and bundled up in the blankets were the bonded Piskies! The Piskies were sneezing every few seconds, and the expressions on the Wizards’ and Faeries’ faces were all pinched with worry. “The bonded Piskies all sound sick!” Arietta said aloud, in case no one else had noticed. “Come on, Lottie – let’s go see what’s going on!” She pulled out a spare piece of paper and folded it into a surfboard shape, hopping on with Lottie behind her. Together they flew over to the Amis. “What’s wrong?” Roselyne sneezed again, and Arietta looked at her concernedly. “Are you guys OK?”

Abby glared at her from Grantaire’s arms. “Do we look – a-a-achooo! – OK?”

Lottie fluttered over to Lise in Musichetta’s arms, chirping concernedly at her, while Roselyne explained what had happened. “We flew into some spores that made us really sick – achoo!”

“We need petals from your Folium Mater to brew some healing tea,” Musichetta added.

“So you’re not here to punish me?” Arietta asked timidly. “Even though I lost the Codex?”

Jehan reached out and stroked Arietta’s blonde curls. “Oh, Arietta, of course not. We all know you were just trying to save the Village; Feuilly heard it from Myriel, who got it from Niamh herself.”

“There’s no way that my Jehan or any of their friends will let Lord Méchant get away with his nasty plans!” Roselyn added between blowing her nose.

Feuilly stepped forward. “I remember hearing a short rhyme that went ‘While Folium Mater is alive, Piskie Village will grow and thrive.’”

“It’s true!” Simone said. “The tea that is brewed from her leaves is a universal cure.”

Arietta looked down in shame, and Manon tilted her head in concern. “Arietta… Folium Mater is still alive, isn’t she?”

“I… I don’t know.”

As soon as they reached the centre of the Village, Jehan hurried to examine the once-beautiful flower. Reaching a conclusion, they looked up at the others anxiously. “She’s sick,” they said quietly. “Very sick.”

“Because Babet was so mean!” Arietta said.

Roselyne looked desperately unhappy. “The poem continues, ‘But if she should fade and die, the Piskies from this world will fly.’”

           

           

“My magic is contained by the mask,” the Prisoner murmured, “but… perhaps I can use it on myself!” A drop of water rolled down a stalactite and splashed into a puddle in the middle of the cell, giving him an idea. “It’s a dangerous incantation, but it may be my only way out!” He closed his eyes focusing intently. “Corpus est aqua mutata est!”

His body glowed as the cell filled with golden light, and suddenly he felt himself melting into liquid – well, more a non-Neutonian fluid. As a sort of grey sludge, he drained out of the robes, the manacles and the iron mask, reforming away from them. Leaving the mask and the chains where they were, he picked up the robes and pulled them on, before making his way towards the bars into the main dungeon. “Freedom! At long last!”

           

           

“Now that I possess all four pieces of the Codex, I must have the power of the Dark Dragon!” Lord Méchant snapped into his viewing portal. His faithful servant, whose face was reflected in it, nodded obediently. “I need both Darkness and Light to unlock the Realix dimension and summon the Ultimate Power!”

“Fear not, my Lord. I will deliver her myself.” He paused. “But, Master, may I make a request?”

“You may, but be brief!” Méchant snapped. “What is it?”

“Please, Master, get rid of the prisoner!” his servant begged. Méchant scowled.

“No! I won’t dispose of my favourite plaything! He will live a long life of suffering! Begone!” The portal closed.

 

 

In the dungeon, the Prisoner used his powers to create a wax double of himself, chained up with the iron mask over his face. No illusion would deceive the Shadow Phoenix forever, but this one would do at least temporarily.

The spell complete, he sank to his knees, coughing heavily. Just a moment’s respite will be OK.

 

 

Headmaster Myriel stood in the centre of Musain’s auditorium, smiling proudly. All eyes were fixed on him as the student Faeries waited to hear what he had to say.

“We are gathered here today,” he began, “to honour and celebrate five very special young Faeries who have reached their Charmix transformations – the first in their year group. This is especially impressive, as second years have only begun discussing Higher Magic Levels in the last two weeks.” Everyone in the auditorium cheered, the first and second years looking excited about what a Charmix might do for their powers, and the third years smiling loftily, remembering their own Charmix transformations. Sitting together on a bench in the front row, Cosette, Enjolras, Éponine, Musichetta and Courfeyrac all grinned delightedly at each other. Myriel continued, “The kind of positive energy required to earn Charmix is exactly what we need for the doubtless upcoming battle against Lord Méchant; I am sure that good will triumph over evil.”

Of course, with new powers comes a new level of training, and for the rest of the day the Amis found themselves almost overworked – first with Wizgiz’s new Transfiguration exercises, which now involved turning things into their complete opposites – one of the hardest kinds of Transfiguration they had learned yet – and then Palladium’s Technical Charms Convergence exercises. Since the last disaster they had had with Convergence magic, the Amis had been a little wary to try it again, but now they were adding Technical magic, which required them to know the intention right from the start, the whole thing became a lot easier.

 

 

The former Prisoner made his way out of the dungeons and into the stairwell, which to his surprise led both up and down. He’d thought he’d been on the lowest level, but when he followed the stairs down, they led to a balcony only 20 feet or so above the river. He used a concealment spell to hide from the flocks of Cornus still circling, but the second they had past he leapt down into the water, landing with barely a splash.

 

 

“Professor Javert and I agree,” Professor Mabeuf was saying, “the only way for you to truly master your new powers is to face genuine hazards.” They were in the auditorium, now cleared of students, and Javert clapped his hands.

“I need everyone to stand to the left of the dais.”

The four Faeries (Musichetta had gone back to Piskie Village to help Jehan) shrugged and moved over to the left of the dais. Mabeuf approached them, holding a little tub of golden powder. “Now, I am going to sprinkle some of this special Willow Leaf powder over each of you. It will copy some of your vital energy…” Éponine was first, then Courfeyrac, then Cosette and finally Enjolras. “We can use this to create a simulacrum.”

To the Faeries’ amazement, the powder swirled around them, before apparently blowing over to hover above the dais. It glittered in mid air before forming a figure made of apparently pure white marble. It had green three-pronged wings on its back, pinkish eyes, and a delicate mouth.

“Professor Javert, what’s this for?” Éponine asked.

“It will be your opponent for now. It is a sentient being created of all your strongest powers, and you must defeat it to pass this test.”

“So we’re our own worst enemies here, huh?” Cosette chuckled. “I’d say I’ve definitely been there, done that already.”

“Then let’s see how you do here,” Javert said coolly. “Overcoming an opponent of your own creation is a very difficult task.”

Mabeuf, meanwhile, was running his hands over the creature’s head, murmuring in a strange language. “All right everyone,” he said, now in English, as the creature glowed golden. “If I were you I would transform now, and prepare to do battle with a most worthy adversary…” The creature’s eyes glowed, and its mouth opened, revealing sharp teeth in a wicked grin. It started towards them, snarling, and the Amis transformed.

“Amis Charmix!”

Like Enjolras and Éponine, Cosette’s and Courfeyrac’s Charmix forms were almost the same as their old transformations, only now Cosette wore her heart-shaped topaz pin in the middle of her top, and had a belt around her waist with a fluffy pink heart-shaped bag attached to it. Courfeyrac also wore his triangular emerald pin in the centre of his chest, and had a sort of transmitter device attached to his belt.

The second they were transformed, the creature’s hands filled with a golden light Enjolras recognised as one of his attack spells seconds before he and Éponine were hit with it. Javert tutted. “If you want to beat Lord Méchant, you’re going to have to do a lot better than that!”

“Cosette!” Enjolras groaned. “Give us the signal any day now.”

“Positions everyone!” Cosette shouted. “Surround it!” They moved into a circle around the creature, but suddenly it vanished in a burst of golden light, reappearing behind Cosette and Courfeyrac.

“Hey, that’s my transportation spell –“ Enjolras began, just as the creature’s whole body glowed so bright they could only see its eyes. “And that’s Cosette’s Wipe Out All Enemies Spell. Oh dear…”

An explosion later and they were on their butts. Éponine leapt to her feet and blasted sound waves at the creature, which briefly vanished before reappearing with a giggle that sounded awfully like Cosette. Courfeyrac blasted green light at it, trapping it inside a cage made of spinning equations. The creature squirmed as if trying to teleport again, but nothing happened, and Courfeyrac cheered.

“Yes! I trapped her in a mental puzzle!”

“My turn!” Cosette grinned, flying into the air. She hit the mental puzzle with orange light, which burst into golden flames upon making contact. Enjolras followed her, blasting the puzzle with flashing light and making the creature shield her eyes.

“When you have really good eyesight, flashing lights are your worst nightmare,” Enjolras explained, and Courfeyrac nodded.

“She’s trapped in my mental puzzle, she can’t go anywhere. Éponine, try your charm again!”

Éponine once again blasted sound waves at the creature, which shrieked before bursting into marble dust. The other spells vanished, and the four Faeries landed back on the ground, cheering.

Mabeuf applauded. “Nice work, students!” Cosette beamed.

“You really think so, Professor?”

Enjolras smiled eagerly at Javert. “What do you think, Professor? Did we do OK?”

To his surprise, Javert smiled at him for what might have been the first time since the two had met. “Enjolras, I am very proud of you and your three friends. You are a credit to this school.”

Enjolras flushed delightedly, and just then there was a knock at the door. Francis stuck her head around it. “Pardon me, Sirs, but Headmaster Myriel sent me. A message just came in from Piskie Village.”

“It must be from Jehan and Chetta!” Cosette said excitedly. “It’s probably news about the Piskies!” They followed Francis out of the room, waving at the two teachers as they left.

 

 

An image of Niamh and Jehan streamed from Myriel’s holophone, and he listened intently. “It’s no good, sir,” Niamh was saying. “Folium Mater is sick. How are we going to heal the Piskies?”

“I believe Jehan is the key,” Myriel said quietly. “They may be the only one who can heal her.” There was a knock at the door, and Myriel called, “Come in!” Cosette, Enjolras, Éponine and Courfeyrac filed into the room, looking hopeful for good news.

“But I wouldn’t even know where to start!” Jehan exclaimed. “Besides, I don’t even have a Charmix yet.”

“You are the Faery of Nature and Flowers,” Myriel reminded them. “You have a natural gift when it comes to healing.”

“Yes,” Jehan sighed, “but if I make the slightest mistake, she will die.”

“No ifs or buts!” Myriel said firmly. “If you wish to save Folium Mater, you must act now.” He ended the call, and Jehan sank onto the ground with a quiet moan. Behind them, Musichetta, Grantaire, Feuilly and Marius were still cradling the sick Piskies, while the other Piskies kept them well supplied with tissues and heating pads. Niamh tugged at Jehan’s plum-coloured dress.

“Jehan, please try. Just do your best,” she implored them. Seeing the desperate look in her eyes, Jehan moved over to kneel beside the great flower, and placed their hands just above the petals. They directed pale green light over the leaves, focussing on healing, but nothing happened, and they sighed mournfully.

“It’s no good. I can’t tell the sick parts from the healthy ones.”

Someone placed a hand on their shoulder, kneeling beside them, and Jehan glanced over to see Feuilly smiling at them. “You can do this, Jehan,” he said quietly. “If anyone can heal her, it’s you. I believe in you.”

Jehan took a deep breath. “OK. Transform!” With a swirl of pink light, they were in their Faery form, and they closed their eyes and focussed again. Feuilly kept his hand on their shoulder, and Jehan could feel warmth and belief spreading through their body even from that single point of contact. It gave them an idea: they reached out and stroked the flower’s petals, ran their fingers over her leaves, and focussed as hard as they could on healing, health, and restoring her.

They heard gasps behind them, and a low voice in their ear whispered “I knew you could do it,” before the gasps erupted into cheers. They opened their eyes, and to their delight, the petals were turning a healthy bright gold again, while the leaves filled with chlorophyll and practically glowed green. She was healed, and all that was left to do was brew some tea to heal the Piskies.

 

 

The escaped Prisoner had left the cave system, washed out by the rivers, and was now walking through the gulley before it, hoping to reach help before nightfall. He was exhausted, but knew he could not risk resting – there was too great a risk of Méchant finding and recapturing him.

 

 

The tea was brewed quickly, and as soon as the Piskies took a sip, their sneezing calmed. A second sip and the colour was back in their cheeks, and by the time the tea was all drunk, there was no clue to suggest they’d ever been ill at all. Although she wasn’t ill, Lottie took a sneaky sip from the teapot, and the golden tea made her tummy glow like a firefly. Everyone chuckled, and Jehan turned to the others with a joking smile. “You want some too?”

Grantaire shook his head. “No way. Not if it’s going to make my tummy glow,” he laughed. Juliette tugged excitedly at his sleeve.

“Look at Folium Mater! She’s giving birth again!”

Everyone turned to the golden flower in time to see its petals part, revealing a tiny baby Piskie – even smaller than Lottie and Lise.

“Weird. That’s not what we were taught in Health class,” Grantaire said, raising an eyebrow.

“This is how Piskies are born,” Niamh explained. “Folium Mater is so sacred to us because she is our mother.”

“Amazing,” Marius grinned. “So is everyone ready to head back?”

“Yeah, let’s go before Corinthe sends out a search party,” Grantaire joked. The three Wizards turned and began heading back to the ships; the Faeries had decided that a walk back might do them some good as it wasn’t massively far between here and Musain.

Jehan gazed sadly after Feuilly, knowing they’d missed another chance to tell him they liked him. They gazed down at their glittery pink jelly sandals in shame, not noticing Feuilly glance back at them. Musichetta nudged them in the ribs.

“Jehan? Aren’t you coming to say bye to the Wizards?”

Jehan looked up just as Roselyne yanked their hair. “Jehan, this is your chance!” she hissed.

“But what if –?”

“No ‘what if’s! Go talk to Feuilly now!”

“But he’s leaving. And he didn’t even say goodbye to me!”

Roselyne raised an eyebrow. “Ever wonder if he might be shy too? You’ve gotta go now!”

Jehan gulped, nodded, and ran towards the ship. The boys were checking the engines before they took off, and Jehan cleared their throat. “Feuilly?”

He didn’t hear them. Jehan spoke louder: “Feuilly!” Still nothing and they yelled with all their might, remembering when Feuilly had put his hand on their shoulder, showing them that he believed in their ability. “FEUILLY!”

Feuilly turned at last, and Jehan bit their lip. “OK, he heard me. What do I say now?!”

Roselyne shoved them in the small of their back. “Tell him! He’s walking over, you have to say something!”

“Is everything OK, Jehan?” Feuilly asked. He looked concerned, and Jehan gulped again.

“I wanted to tell you – I mean, I, uh, wanted to thank you. For what you did. For believing in me.”

Feuilly smiled. “You’re the one who deserves all the thanks; you saved Folium Mater.”

Jehan blushed, smiling bashfully. “I’ve wanted to tell you this in person…” they began nervously, but Grantaire interrupted them.

“Feuilly? You ready to go?”

“In a sec!” Feuilly replied. He turned back to Jehan. “Please, go on, Jehan.”

“I-I-I just wondered, I mean, if you were… uh…” Roselyne yanked their hair again, apparently in frustration, and Jehan’s nerve went. “…But… I mean…”

“Perhaps this isn’t the right time,” Feuilly said, still smiling, but looking a little sad too. Jehan winced internally as he waved and turned to walk back towards the ship. “See you later, Jehan.”

Roselyne glared at Jehan. “Stupid, stupid, stupid-stupid-stupid!”

“But what if he doesn’t feel the same way about me? What if he wants a girlfriend, or a boyfriend, not a… Jehan-friend?”

“JEHAN!” Roselyne yelled, and Jehan sighed. Myriel’s voice came back to them: No ifs or buts… you must act now.

Jehan came to a decision: it was now or never. They took a deep breath, and just as Feuilly was about to step onto the ship, shouted at the top of their lungs: “FEUILLY, I THINK I MIGHT BE IN LOVE WITH YOU!”

The world didn’t stop turning. Jehan’s life didn’t end. There was just Feuilly, who stopped dead in his tracks and turned back to them, a look of amazement coming over his face. “I… I think I might be in love with you too, Jehan.” Jehan’s eyes grew so wide they looked like a cartoon character, but Feuilly continued, “But…”

Jehan moved closer, and Grantaire shouted from the ship again, “Feuilly? What’s wrong?”

“I told you, I’ll be a minute!” Feuilly called back. Jehan was standing right in front of him now, looking worried at whatever Feuilly wasn’t saying.

“What’s wrong?” they asked quietly. “We… we feel the same, don’t we?”

“Jehan…” Feuilly sighed anxiously. “I’m… I’m trans, Jehan. People are sometimes put off when they find out about that.”

Jehan gave them an incredulous look. “Feuilly, I haven’t touched the gender binary with a twelve-foot stick since I was ten. As if that would change how I feel about you. If anything, I admire you more for it. I love you, and I would love to pursue a relationship with you, if you feel the same way.” All their shyness had melted away. The confession was out in the open. It was like having a curtain pulled away from their eyes: Feuilly was in the same place they were, worrying that Jehan might not like him back because of his identity. “I’d like it very much if you were my boyfriend, Feuilly.”

Feuilly smiled again, but this time instead of his normal shy, close-lipped smile, it was a bright, sunny beam. “In that case, I would very much like to go out with you, Jehan.”

Grantaire called from the ship a third time, now sounding a little irritated, and Feuilly laughed. “Guess that’s my cue to go. See you later, Jehan.” With that, he leaned down and planted a kiss on Jehan’s cheek, which turned bright red, and headed into the ship. Jehan backed away, beaming and waving, as the ship took off, and as soon as it was out of sight, squealed loudly. Roselyne zoomed around their head, giggling, and Jehan pulled her into a hug.

“Thank you, Roselyne!” they laughed, almost delirious. Roselyne beamed up at them.

“You finally told him! Oh Jehan, I’m so proud!”

Jehan nodded dizzily, when suddenly their body was enveloped with warm pink light. They looked down and saw a pink Rhodolite garnet set into a silver brooch that looped across their chest, with a little curl at each end. They had finally earned their Charmix.

 

 

The Prisoner reached the top of a hill, and looked out over the pine forest below. He could see a pink building with a blue roof rising up above the trees in the near distance, and his eyes widened in relief. Musain College for Faeries; he would be safe there. Just a little further… he coughed again, wincing.

 

 

“I can’t believe Javert gave us a compliment!” Enjolras was saying cheerfully, as he, Courfeyrac and Éponine walked through the side gate of the school. They had decided to avoid the late afternoon heat – unusual for February – by taking a quick walk through the woods near the school. “We totally deserved it, though. It was so awesome how we took down that creature – huh?”

In front of them was an emaciated man wearing ragged grey robes with a hood that kept his face in shadow. He was moving slowly, as though tired or injured, and they realised with a sinking feeling that they were in the same place as they had been when they had first found Musichetta all those months ago. He was coming from the same direction, but looked even more ill than she had.

Almost in the same exact spot where Musichetta had fainted, the man collapsed to his knees and then onto his side with a quiet moan. The three Faeries hurried towards him, and Éponine knelt down and removed his hood. No Piskie fell out this time, but a very familiar face greeted them…

“Professor Mabeuf!” Éponine gasped. “What’s wrong?”

“Myriel,” Mabeuf whispered. “Myriel… need… to see… Myriel…” He was shaking all over.

“I’ll go and get you a glass of water!” Enjolras said, jumping to his feet from where he’d knelt next to Éponine. “We can talk later!” He hurried back into the courtyard.

Éponine caught Courfeyrac’s eye. “Professor Mabeuf is acting really weird.”

Courfeyrac nodded in agreement. “On top of that, we just saw him in the hallway a few minutes ago. Now he comes to us from the opposite direction, and in this state? Something doesn’t add up.”

“Maybe it’s one of Professor Wizgiz’s clones,” Éponine suggested, and Courfeyrac nodded again.

“That’s a logical explanation, but why is it damaged?” He made a decision. “I’m going to go and get a teacher. You stay here and keep an eye on him.”

 

 

Enjolras hurried down the corridor with a glass of water, back towards the courtyard, when to his surprise Professor Mabeuf turned the corner up ahead of him, no longer thin and clad in rags, but healthy-looking and wearing a white linen suit. The Prince sighed in relief.

“There you are!” he smiled. “You look a lot better. Here’s your water.”

Mabeuf took the glass awkwardly. “Uh, thank you.” He took a sip, and Enjolras bounced his foot a little.

“Is it OK to ask what happened to you?” he asked. “Did you see Headmaster Myriel?”

“J-just a series of unfortunate events,” the Paladin stuttered. He handed the still mostly-full glass back, hand shaking a little. “Thanks for the water, but now I really must be going.” He headed off down the corridor, and Enjolras smiled happily.

He’s so nice to me, even though I failed the last exam in his class… maybe he’ll let me resit it after all!

 

 

Courfeyrac hadn’t been able to find Wizgiz anywhere, and was now heading down the stairs wondering if it was worth bothering Myriel over what was possibly a clone projector that had been left on by mistake.

 

 

Outside, the man who looked like a very unhealthy Professor Mabeuf sat up suddenly, staring at Éponine with wild eyes. “I must speak to Myriel,” he repeated, clearer this time. He got slowly to his feet, wobbling a little, and she hurried to help him up.

“Don’t exert yourself, Professor Mabeuf! Do you need anything?”

The man narrowed his eyes at her, as though trying to put a name to her face. “Sorry, but do I know you?” he asked.

“I’m… I’m one of Mabeuf’s, I mean, one of your students.”

The man looked even more confused. “But… I haven’t taught here yet!”

“Of course you have,” Éponine replied, feeling very confused herself. “Everyone loves Professor Mabeuf’s class. You’ve been here all year.”

“Couldn’t have been,” the man said, shaking his head. “I’ve been held captive in Lord Méchant’s dungeon for months.”

“But then…” Éponine said, feeling increasingly uneasy, “who’s been teaching us? We’ve got to get you to Headmaster Myriel, like, right now.”

The man coughed and nodded. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”

It took them about ten minutes to reach Myriel’s study, and he ushered them in immediately, looking very concerned. Courfeyrac was already there, and Myriel helped Éponine set the man who claimed to be Mabeuf down in a seat. He explained what had happened to him, and Myriel listened, frowning.

“And you’ve been held captive by Lord Méchant for… how long?”

“Since mid-summer,” the man said. “I don’t know how long ago that was, though…”

Myriel steepled his fingers. “You claim to be the real Professor Mabeuf, but can you prove it? Or do you expect me to just take your word for it?” he asked suspiciously.

“I have this,” the man replied. He reached into a pocket within his ragged robe and pulled out a damp envelope. “It’s the letter you sent me about my transfer to Musain. It has your signature, and the Musain crest on it.”

Myriel opened the envelope and pulled out the letter within. He reached into the neck of his robes and pulled out a little bottle, sprinkling pale blue dust over the letter. Nothing happened, and Myriel nodded. “It is the letter I sent you. Which means we have a spy in our midst.”

“B-but –” Éponine began, “our Professor can’t be Méchant’s shadow spy. He’s a good teacher, and he’s helped us more than once!”

“Very true,” Myriel said thoughtfully, “but if I remember correctly, didn’t Cosette, Enjolras and Musichetta first meet him in Shadowhaunt outside the Citadel? That’s quite a coincidence, isn’t it?”

Courfeyrac’s eyes widened. “And remember what Cosette said? They never figured out how the Piskies were freed. It must all have been a part of Méchant’s plan!”

“Yes,” Myriel agreed. He got up and began pacing behind the desk. “And there was also the time the Piskies fell under a Homesickness spell… and Cosette’s Shadow Virus…”

“But that doesn’t make sense!” Éponine pointed out. “Wasn’t it Mabeuf who cured Cosette’s Shadow Virus?”

Myriel stopped dead. “Of course,” he murmured. “Now I see it. You said that Mabeuf was able to cure Cosette with a wave of his wand, but how could he have cured her so quickly unless he knew exactly what sort of spell she was under? And the only way he could have known that was if he were the one to cast it in the first place!”

“So let me get this straight,” Éponine said, looking furious. “He was only so helpful to us in order to earn our trust?”

“Once we all saw him as a wise authorative figure, he was able to spell both Cosette and the Piskies – and he probably poisoned himself on purpose to force Arietta to go back to the Village, so Babet could follow her!” Courfeyrac added. “It makes perfect sense; it’s a well thought out plan!”

“But we learned so much from him,” Éponine frowned. “Why would he teach us so much if he was working against us?”

Mabeuf spoke up from his chair. “Méchant probably used his magic to copy all of my memories to the clone – including my lesson plans! If the clone acted exactly like I would as a teacher, he could easily gain your trust and respect, and no one would suspect him of a thing!”

“And his goal was to find all four pieces of the Codex,” Myriel added. “He didn’t consider you a threat, so he didn't mind helping you learn – especially if it meant gaining your trust.”

“And it worked!” Éponine gasped. “Now he’s got everything he wanted!”

“Except Cosette,” Courfeyrac realised aloud.

“Huh?”

“Remember?” he continued. “That’s why he had Patron-Minette come after us in Resortia. He wanted them to kidnap Cosette.”

Myriel’s face paled. “Where is Cosette? She could be in danger as we speak!”

Courfeyrac and Éponine both shrugged and shook their heads; they had no idea where Cosette had gone off to. Just then, someone knocked at the door and Enjolras stuck his head in. “Hey everyone!” he said cheerfully, holding up the glass of water. “I thought I might find you here. You’ll never guess what – oh! You’re here, Professor.”

Courfeyrac and Éponine turned to him, both looking panicked. “Enjolras, where is Cosette?” they asked in unison.

“Haven’t seen her,” Enjolras replied, raising an eyebrow. “But whenever she has the day off in the afternoon, she usually goes to visit Professor Mabeuf so he can help her with her family history. But since he’s here, I don’t know where she is.”

Éponine grabbed him by the arm and pulled him towards the door. “Come on, Enjolras. Cosette is in serious danger!”

The three Faeries transformed and flew through the corridors, shouting Cosette’s name in the hope she’d hear them. Unfortunately for them, however, Cosette was on the other side of the school, walking towards Professor Mabeuf’s office with the man she thought was Professor Mabeuf.

“So, Professor, what was it you wanted to ask me about?” she said cheerfully.

“I have some questions about the time we tried the hypnosis spell,” he replied.

“You mean when I caught the Shadow Virus and helped Lord Méchant steal Musain’s part of the Codex?” Cosette’s good mood diminished a little. “It was the worst day of my life.”

“And I want to make sure it never happens again,” the professor assured her. “Come with me.” He led her to his office and sat her down in a chair. “Now then, Cosette, start from the beginning, and tell me what you remember about that day.”

Cosette scrunched her nose, thinking, and fiddled with one of her earrings. “I don’t remember much,” she admitted. “All I know is that I’ll do anything to prevent it from happening again.”

The Paladin nodded, raising his hands and creating a huge golden bubble, big enough for a man to stand inside. “Follow me,” he smiled. “I believe that this spell will solve the problem for good.” He stepped through the side of the bubble, turning into a silhouette inside it. Cosette smiled excitedly, not noticing her earring coming loose and falling to the carpeted floor, and followed him into it. The surface felt odd to touch, like she was walking through liquid wax, but soon she was inside it, standing next to her professor. After a second, she shivered.

“Professor,” Cosette began uneasily, “I’m really not sure about this spell… I’m picking up so much negative energy in here…”

“I know, my dear.” She turned nervously to Mabeuf, and to her surprise, his skin was rippling, changing into something else. “That’s because this is a dark energy barrier.” His voice had changed too, now far more deep and gravelly, and his skin was now scarlet, and his eyes were black as coal, and huge wings made of black light were sprouting from his shoulders. He grinned at her, revealing a mouth full of sharp white teeth. “You are trapped!”

Cosette screamed.

 

 

Éponine screeched to a halt, having heard and recognised the scream. “Cosette!” she gasped. “She’s this way!” She turned and led the other Faeries through the corridors and down the stairs towards Mabeuf’s office, all three of them shouting her name once more.

“Cosette!”

“COSETTE!”

“Cosette, WHERE ARE YOU?”

Other students jumped out of the way as the three zoomed through the corridors, but they paid them no heed; Cosette was in grave danger.

 

 

The bubble vanished, and the demon-thing that had been posing as Mabeuf held the unconscious girl in its arms. It laughed delightedly, knowing that this time it would bring its master exactly what he wanted.

“The scream came from over there!” a voice nearby said, and hurriedly the demon flapped its wings once, and both it and the girl vanished in a flash of scarlet light seconds before the door burst open and three Faeries flooded into the room.

“Oh no!” Éponine gasped upon seeing the empty office. “We’re too late!”

Enjolras’ keen eyes spotted something glittering on the carpet, and he pointed it out. “What’s that?”

Courfeyrac fluttered over and picked it up, lifting it up for them to see with a horrified expression on his face. “It’s one of Cosette’s earrings,” he whispered, turning the little silver heart over in his hand. “He took her!”

 

 

Musichetta and Jehan walked through the oddly deserted courtyard towards the front doors of the school, flanked by the now healed Piskies. “Hey everybody, we’re back!” Jehan shouted cheerfully, surprised that none of the Amis were there to greet them.

“The Piskies are all healed!” Musichetta added. Juliette looked worried.

“Where is everybody?” she asked. “Cosette? Where are you?”

The door swung open, and Myriel stood there, looking uncharacteristically grim. “Welcome back,” he said softly. “Unfortunately I have terrible news. We have been deceived. Cosette has been abducted.”

 

 

As the demon carried the unconscious Cosette through the caverns ever closer to Shadowhaunt, Lord Méchant watched them through his viewing portal, grinning wickedly. “Welcome, Cosette,” he cackled. “It is high time that the Dragon and the Phoenix were reunited…”

Chapter Text

“I don’t care what anyone says!” Juliette snapped. “I’m coming to rescue Cosette, and that’s final!” The Amis – Faeries, Wizards and Piskies alike – were gathered in a classroom in Musain, an hour or so after Cosette had been taken. Speed was of the essence; who knew what Lord Méchant intended to do to their friend?

“Whatever happened to ‘never wanting to see that dreadful place ever again?” Jehan asked.

“Remember all those Shadow Monsters lurking everywhere, ready to eat you?” Musichetta added, hopeful that the memories of Shadowhaunt would put Juliette off accompanying them.

Juliette whimpered, clutching her pink dress, but shook her head stubbornly. “I don’t care! Cosette is my Faery, and she needs me!”

“She needs you alive and well!” Musichetta argued. “Just think back to when you were the one imprisoned there.” Marius nodded in agreement, and Éponine cleared her throat.

“Juliette, Shadowhaunt is filled with pure evil. Courf calculated the chances of a Piskie surviving a return trip, and it’s not good.”

“The chances of you surviving Shadowhaunt again are less than 30%,” Courfeyrac added. “The Piskie mortality rate more than doubles, isn’t that right, Abby?”

Abby nodded. “Actually, the Piskie mortality rate nearly triples.”

Juliette glared furiously. “I don’t care if I have to fly there on my own two wings; I’m going!”

“If you’re going, I’m going,” Simone added firmly, and Enjolras shook his head.

“Absolutely not, Simone!”

Simone fixed Enjolras with a golden-eyed puppy-dog pout. “But Enjy, we all love Cosette! We’ll all do whatever it takes to save her!”

“Tutti!” Lise added, and Roselyne nodded.

“What Lise says goes double for me! …What did she say?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea,” Manon shrugged, “but I agree too.”

Courfeyrac shook his head. “Abby, reason with them!” he implored his own bonded Piskie. “Make them realise that if they go back to Shadowhaunt, the chances are that they’ll never return!”

Abby looked thoughtful. “That may be so, but looking at my calculations, you Faeries and Wizards have the same chances as we do… so we might as well all go.”

Courfeyrac facepalmed with a groan.

 

 

Outside in the clearing behind Musain, Combeferre finished checking the reinforcements he’d added to the Hawk battleship, and sent a text to Courfeyrac:

Hawk is ready. If anyone wants to pay Lord Méchant a visit, now’s the time to do it.

 

 

Cosette woke in a dark room, disoriented, but she soon remembered what had happened, and moved to struggle and scream for help. This brought her to the realisation that she was manacled to a table, with a gag tied over her mouth, and she looked around in fear, hoping that there was someone nearby who would help her – but the only person she saw was the demon that had brought her here, standing over her and grinning sinisterly.

“Are you afraid of me, Cosette?” it hissed. “You weren’t when I was looking like thissss, were you?” Its face morphed back into that of Professor Mabeuf, and Cosette glared at it. It cackled, changing back to its true form, but then another voice came from somewhere behind it, deep, gravelly, and cold.

“Stop bothering the young lady, you slave! She is more important to me than you could ever imagine!”

Cosette’s blood ran cold; she had never heard the voice before, but there was only one person she knew of who it could belong to.

The Shadow Phoenix. And she was trapped in the very centre of his nest.

The Phoenix continued: “Once I have transformed this custodian of the Dragon Flame back into Dark Cosette, the natural consort of the Shadow Phoenix, we will together enter the Realix Dimension and unleash the Ultimate Power, which I alone will wield!” His voice was getting closer, and she realised with horror that he was approaching her table. An armoured hand came into view, pulling the gag from her mouth, and she snarled at him.

“Dream on, Lord Mé-can’t! I will never help you!”

Lord Méchant leaned over her, and she saw for the first time his face exactly the way Musichetta had described it: a scarlet helmet, fathomless black eyes, rotting flesh, and the sharpest, whitest teeth she had ever seen. “Oh, but my dear, this is not my dream,” he crooned. “This is your worst nightmare!”

 

 

The Amis gathered outside by the Hawk along with Headmaster Myriel, and Combeferre pressed a button on the control panel, opening the hatch. The teenagers began to file on board, but suddenly Courfeyrac stopped them, holding up his PDA. “Hang on a sec! I’ve been going over the topographical features of the cave systems, and none of the entrances are big enough for any of our ships – except the Kestrel fighter jets, but they’re one-person vehicles.”

“Major problem there,” Grantaire said worriedly “Without our vehicles…”

“…our chances drop from slim to none,” Bahorel finished for him.

“What do we do then?” Jehan asked, chewing at one of their fingernails.

Marius looked thoughtful. “Well, it might not be so much what we can do as what Grantaire can do…”

“Me?” Grantaire looked confused. “What, do you want me to dig a hole with my bare hands?”

“No,” Marius smirked. “But your ex-fiancée has a giant rock-eating worm that could munch his way through in no time flat…”

Grantaire paled, and he shook his head rapidly. “No way, no day, Marius! I know exactly where you’re going with this, and I don’t like it!”

“What?” Marius said mock-innocently. “You’d rather let the entire universe fall into Lord Méchant’s hands than ask your almost-wife Princess Floréal for a favour?”

Grantaire squirmed uncomfortably. “That’s not fair…”

“Actually,” Myriel interrupted, “I think it’s a wonderful idea. The two of you should go and see her immediately.”

Marius made a spluttering noise. “The – the two of us?!”

“Of course,” Myriel said cheerily, eyes twinkling. “After all, it was your idea.”

“Me and my big mouth!” Marius groaned. Grantaire laughed at his friend’s expression, even in spite of the mounting doom inside him.

It was decided that Musichetta should go too, and that they should take the hoverbikes in order to make their entrance to the caves easier. The plan was simple: Marius, Grantaire and Musichetta would go to Downland and persuade Princess Floréal to help them while the others waited at a rendezvous point outside the caves in the Hawk. Once Floréal had been persuaded, she would follow them to the rendezvous point with her rock-eating worm, which would then chew a hole through the caves big enough to get the Hawk through. Grantaire was still squirming even as he pulled on his helmet, and he raised his hand to get Myriel’s attention.

“Professor, couldn’t we ask the Lord of Templars to help us?”

Myriel shook his head firmly. “Absolutely not. The Lord of Templars must never be asked to interfere in the battles between Darkness and Light. That must be avoided at any cost, so in our current struggle –”

“– we get to crush Méchant on our own!” Marius grinned. He revved his hoverbike’s engine, and Musichetta and Grantaire followed suit. “Let’s go!”

 

 

Lord Méchant made his viewing portal vanish with a swish of his arm, laughing madly. “So that’s their plan!” he spat. “Pathetic! Shadowhounds!” With a growl, several skeletal creatures that looked like dogs with glowing red eyes emerged from the shadowy recesses of the throne room, and Méchant grinned at them. “I have a job for you! And I think Patron-Minette might be useful as well…”

Cosette trembled on the table. Be careful, everybody, she thought.

 

 

The three hoverbikes whizzed through the gulley towards the lowest cave entrance. They pulled to a halt in front of it, and Musichetta nodded. “Yeah, that’s definitely the way in closest to Downland.”

“Princess Floréal, here we come,” Grantaire sighed, when suddenly a snarling noise above him made him look up. He leapt off his bike just in time to avoid the Shadowhound that leapt at him, teeth bared and claws unsheathed. Another one jumped at Marius, and the three Amis backed away, throwing off their helmets. Marius and Grantaire both formed swords from their respective elements, but Marius’ sword flickered out as one of the hounds leapt on top of him. It was all he could do to hold its snapping jaws away from his face, and he eventually managed to kick it off, raising his hands and forming a hoverboard rather than a weapon.

“Sorry, pooch. I’m outta here.”

Grantaire had chosen to create his double-ended sword, and twirled it like a majorette’s baton. He jabbed one blade at the other hound’s open jaws, wincing at the smell of rancid meat on its breath. “Man, you oughta use a better mouthwash!”

Marius flew past, grabbing Grantaire by his collar and yanking him onto the hoverboard. “Get on!” The Shadowhound gave chase, and Marius bent his knees to speed up.

Musichetta waved from where she was halfway into the entrance. “Guys, over here!” A second later, the first hound had jumped in front of her, facing off with the two Wizards briefly before charging towards them. Marius pulled the board up just in time, and the hounds