It was time for Summer Vacation at Musain - six weeks off school, where Faeries were free to go home or stay in Magix, and do whatever they wished. The weather was beautiful, not a cloud in sight, and warm sunlight beamed down on the city of Magix, but in spite of this, Cosette couldn’t wait to return home to Paris and see her father again. She threw open the window and sat down at her desk chair, delighting in the warm breeze.
Meanwhile, Enjolras was flustering himself packing two separate suitcases at the same time - Enjolras’ parents had been divorced for a few years, and this meant that Enjolras would spend half of the holiday with his father, and half with his mother. He had pretty much accepted the divorce by this point, but it did make packing a bit tricky.
“Let’s see…” he pondered. “I’ll take the red silk suit to Mum’s and the blue cotton suit to Dad’s - but then again, the blue cotton suit would be perfect for Mum’s picnic, and the red silk suit would be great for Dad’s dinner with the delegates from Zenith…”
“The red silk suit is really nice, Enjolras,” agreed Simone, Enjolras’ bonded Piskie.
“It is,” Enjolras sighed. “And it would have been lovely for Mum’s garden tea party… You wouldn’t happen to know any cloning spells, would you, Simone?”
Simone shook her head sadly.
Éponine, who was supposed to have been helping but instead was sunbathing on Enjolras’ bed, rolled her eyes and offered her opinion. “For Dragon’s sake, Enj, just put seven outfits in one bag and seven in the other, then wear whatever one is most practical.”
Enjolras gave a scandalised gasp. “And what, throw hours of meticulous planning out of the window? I don’t think so!”
Jehan was in the room they shared with Cosette, and like Enjolras they were carefully separating their own personal effects into two suitcases. Jehan’s belonging binary, however, was slightly different from Enjolras’.
“All the aromatic potions go in the big bag, and all the floral scents go in the small one,” they hummed, levitating said items into their various cases and boxes. Roselyne, Jehan’s own bonded Piskie, hurried to catch a vial of lavender perfume that was slightly off target.
“On it, Jehan!”
Cosette got up from her desk chair and threw her phone onto her bed. “I just said goodbye to Marius,” she wailed dramatically.
Jehan patted her shoulder sympathetically. “Vacation isn’t that long, you’ll see him again soon,” they comforted.
Cosette groaned. “I know, but we kinda had a big fight, and I hate leaving it like that. And it was about something dumb too, so dumb I can’t even remember what it was!”
“It’ll be OK, sweetie,” Jehan insisted. “Give yourselves a few hours to cool off, then talk to him about it.”
Cosette sighed. “OK.”
Courfeyrac was probably the most organized of the Amis. While Enjolras was switching clothes from bag to bag, and Cosette hadn’t even started packing yet, and Jehan was still in their pyjamas trying to decide what colour of ridiculous velvet culottes to wear, Courfeyrac was hurriedly writing a magical computer programme that would fit his clothes perfectly into his bags (22.6% in the backpack and 77.4% in the suitcase). He finished adjusting the code that would (hopefully) fit all of his computer equipment into the other suitcase, pressed ‘enter’, and stood back to watch.
His clothes neatly folded themselves and stacked into his suitcase and backpack, while various wires, keyboards and monitors packed themselves snugly into the sturdiest bag. His Piskie, Abby, high-fived his index finger. “Nice!” she cheered. “Isn’t precision wonderful?”
“A thing of beauty,” chuckled Courfeyrac as he hoisted the backpack onto his shoulder and picked up the suitcases. “Come on, let’s go already!”
With all suitcases finally packed, the Amis headed out to the courtyard. Cosette, Éponine and Musichetta were all carrying cardboard boxes full of plants for Jehan, who was laden with bags containing potions, perfumes, clothes, and shoes. They’d finally decided on red culottes with a pink sparkly belt, and had paired them with a pink ruffled blouse with polka dot sleeves, pink knee-high socks, and red platform Mary-Jane heels. Like all their outfits, it was absolutely atrocious, but somehow it worked on them.
Éponine set her box down and turned to Cosette. “Since Chetta and I are staying here for the summer, we’ll help you carry your suitcases down,” she offered.
Cosette grinned and shook her head. “No need,” she giggled, and snapped her fingers. “Luggage, follow me!”
The window of the apartment burst open, and Cosette’s suitcase flew out, with her Piskie Juliette and her pet bunny Wolter riding it like a surfboard.
Enjolras chuckled and turned to Musichetta and Éponine. “So, since you two are staying here, what have you got planned?” he asked.
“We were thinking we might go to Magix beach this afternoon,” Musichetta replied, but a yelp of fright from above distracted her. Cosette’s flying suitcase was not the most practical nor stable seat, and when it stalled in mid-air, Wolter and Juliette had both been sent flying, while the suitcase tumbled towards the ground. Musichetta literally leaped into action - Juliette could fly on her own, but Wolter had seemingly forgotten about his wings, and the red-haired Faery caught him in her arms. Landing back on the ground, she assumed an arabesque position and caught the suitcase on her foot.
Cosette hurried over and took Wolter from her, thanking her gratefully. Musichetta made to place the case back on the ground, but the handle was stuck on her foot, and she toppled backwards – right into Enjolras’ stack of suitcases, which burst open.
Enjolras shrieked in annoyance. “It took me forever to get those packed! Now I have to re-sort them into my ‘mum’ bag and my ‘dad’ bag – again!”
“I’ll help you repack –” Cosette started, but just then everyone’s attention was caught by a bright light that appeared in mid-air in front of them. As they all gasped in amazement, the light formed into the shape of a young woman, wearing golden and red clothes and holding some kind of trumpet, which she blew into. The sound had a warm quality to it, reminding Cosette of the feeling she got when she lay down in the sunlight – warmth coursing through her entire body, making her feel at peace with everything. The woman had a friendly vibe; she didn’t seem to be an enemy, but none of the Amis seemed to recognise her – except Enjolras.
In fact, Enjolras looked very excited at her appearance, and he didn't even look away from her when he explained to them, “She’s a herald from Solaria – she must have a message for me!”
Indeed she did. She pulled out a golden scroll and unfurled it, setting her trumpet down where it hovered next to her. “The Royal Court of Solaria is pleased to announce that a Crown Ball will be held in two days’ time, in honour of Prince Enjolras of Solaria turning nineteen.” A shimmer of sunlight passed through her body, and they realised she was a hologram, rather than actually there in person.
Enjolras positively squirmed with excitement. “A Crown Ball!” he beamed. “A Crown Ball – for me!”
Cosette cleared her throat. “Um, I don’t mean to sound totally clueless, but… what’s a Crown Ball?”
“It’s a huge party,” Musichetta explained, “for the eldest child of the rulers, held on the child’s nineteenth birthday. When you’re a member of a royal family, turning nineteen means you’ve had a year to be an adult free of responsibility, and you can finally be crowned as the future ruler of your kingdom.”
“In the old days when they had arranged marriages, that was when your parents would announce who you were going to marry,” Éponine added.
Musichetta made a face. “They still have arranged marriages in some kingdoms. Nowadays though, you’re told the name of your betrothed on your eighteenth birthday, and then it will be announced to the kingdom when you turn nineteen.”
Enjolras shuddered. “Ugh, can you imagine having your fiancé chosen by your parents? That would suck!”
The herald cleared her throat, and they all turned back to her. “King Nicholas of Solaria sends a message for his son,” she continued. “‘I can’t wait to see you, son, and I have a special announcement that I’m sure will make you a happy Prince.’” The herald bowed, before vanishing in a burst of golden light. Everyone was silent in a moment of amazement, before Enjolras spoke again.
“Change of plans!” he said excitedly. “You’re all coming to Solaria with me!”
“But –” Cosette started, but Enjolras interrupted her.
“No ‘and’s, ‘if’s, or ‘but’s, Sette. I’m going to be crowned as the future ruler of Solaria, and I want all of you to be there!” He puppy-dog-pouted, blinking his big brown eyes up at her. “It’ll be my birthday…”
Cosette burst out laughing. “Oh, of course I’ll be there! How could I say no to that face?”
On the other side of the Magic Dimension, a heavily-armoured airship sped through space. A sign on the side proclaimed it to be armed and carrying dangerous criminals, so all the other airships gave it a wide berth. An announcement echoed through the ship as it approached the airspace of a planet covered in ice – a planet that spun far away from any others.
“Now approaching Omega. Don’t steer any closer to the surface or the ship will freeze.” A guard patrolled past the cells, and his attention was caught by one of the criminals pressing his face against the reinforced window of the tiny prison.
“You’re not sending us to the Omega Dimension?” he asked fearfully. The guard didn’t reply. “Are you?”
The guard shook his head. “No. You’re not nearly evil enough for that.”
Another guard arrived in time to hear this, and shuddered a little himself. “I hear it’s so cold there, your heart freezes into solid ice.”
The first guard grinned devilishly and rapped on the window opposite the cells, behind which was a little bay containing three human-sized capsules. “Sounds rough. Sorry, kids.” As the ship came to a halt, he pressed the button next to the window. The floor dropped away beneath them, and all three pods were dropped from the ship, falling like bombs to the surface of the icy planet below. The ship fled as soon as the capsules were out of sight.
The pods fell through the atmosphere, and then towards a crack in the icy surface. All three passed through into the crevice below, and continued to the bottom, where they pierced the icy ground and stood like three monoliths. The metal outsides fell away, revealing their passengers, who were sealed into blocks of ice – two boys, and one girl.
Almost an hour passed before anything interesting happened. One of the boys, who had white-blond hair and was dressed neatly in a pale blue button-up with jeans and combat boots, suddenly opened his eyes, which were glowing with icy magic. A second later, with a crack like thunder, his icy prison exploded away from him, and he stood free, glaring up at the hole in the ceiling, which was rapidly freezing over. It seemed it had appeared just for them to pass through.
“Thought they could freeze my heart?” he asked the cave, hearing his high, cold voice echoing back to him – heart… heart… heart… “Don’t they know it’s already so cold that nothing can freeze it?” His icy blue eyes glittered as his laughter echoed too, a wicked cackle that sounded more enraged than mirthful.
“I sent out an E-vite, Enjolras,” Abby announced, as the Amis helped Enjolras repack his cases. “Now all your friends can RSVP.” Her computer-bracelet pinged, and she grinned. “Combeferre and Azelma say they’ll definitely be there!”
“It’s cool that your dad planned this,” Éponine smiled, folding a pair of black skinny jeans. “Not a lot of dads know how to do stuff like that.”
Enjolras frowned for the first time since getting the news. “My dad certainly doesn’t know how to do that stuff. It’s my mum who’s the party planner.”
Cosette looked thoughtful. “Maybe she’s helping him?” she suggested, casting a sorting spell on Enjolras’ collection of T-shirts, which neatly split into two piles.
Enjolras’ eyes widened, and he nodded excitedly. “I bet you’re right, Sette! The invitation said it was from the Royal Court, and the Royal Court is the two of them – mum and dad!” He jumped up suddenly, positively bubbling over with excitement. “You know what? I bet they’re getting back together! That must be the surprise announcement!” He pulled Cosette into a tight hug. “Oh, my parents are finally gonna be my parents again! This is fantastic! And I get to have a Crown Ball!” He released Cosette and turned to the clothes still scattered around the courtyard. “No more separate bags for you, clothes!” He snapped his fingers, and all of his clothes packed themselves neatly into one suitcase. “This is a huge deal! And of course I need a new suit for the party. We’re going shopping!”
The white-haired boy, whom the reader must have realised was our old friend Babet, stretched, clicking his back into place, before turning to the other two capsules. “Wake up, cousins!” He blasted them with blue light, and the ice on each one exploded immediately. His two cousins fell to their knees, not as accustomed to the cold as he was, and rubbed at their eyes.
“Where… where are we?” the other boy, who had curly purple hair and orange eyes and was, of course, called Gueulemer, panted.
“The Omega Dimension,” Babet said casually, examining his nails.
The only girl, Claquesous, pushed her dark brown hair out of her yellow eyes. “Whoa. That’s the big leagues,” she murmured, sounding awed.
“Yup,” Babet grinned. “Only the worst of the worst get sent here.”
“Cool,” Gueulemer laughed. “I bet everyone is talking about us.”
A hissing noise made them all look up, and two giant ice-blue snakes with dark blue spines protruding from their heads hissed threateningly back from the ceiling. “Hello,” Babet purred. “Looks like we’re not alone.”
“Ice-snakes,” Claquesous said worriedly, adjusting her small spectacles. “They must guard this place.”
A small pterodactyl-like bird swooped into the cave through the only exit – a round hole on the wall leading to an icy tunnel. The ice-snakes hissed, before drawing back their heads and spitting white light at the bird. The bird’s body froze immediately, crashing to the ground and shattering into a thousand pieces. Claquesous and Gueulemer shuddered, but Babet merely tutted. “They think they mean business,” he laughed.
The Amis took the bus into Magix City, getting off at the uptown stop, and Courfeyrac checked his phone for updates as they walked down the street towards their favourite pizza parlour. “Here are the latest RSVP’s for your party, Enj,” he announced. “Bahorel and Feuilly are coming –”
“Yay!” said Jehan, and Éponine looked excited too.
“– Grantaire’s coming –”
“Obviously,” Enjolras grinned.
“– Montparnasse is coming too.”
“Did Marius RSVP yet?” Cosette asked worriedly. Courfeyrac shook his head, and she groaned.
“If he gets home before he receives the invitation, his grandfather will never let him come!”
Enjolras held open the door of the pizza parlour, and they all filed in. “Stop worrying, Sette. Marius will be there, I’m sure of it. But for now, let’s have lunch. Then we can really shop properly!”
Lunch was a long time coming. They were early for the lunch hour rush, and the first few pizzas were only just going into the oven, so they had to wait a while before it was ready. At last, though, it was in the box, Enjolras was about to hand over his credit card, and the chef was handing the box over to him – when suddenly, someone snatched it away!
“Excuse me!” Enjolras said angrily. “That’s our pizza!”
The boy who’d taken it glanced haughtily over his shoulder, flicking his dark fringe out of his eyes. “Not anymore,” he said coolly. He was wearing what looked like a prep-school uniform – a mauve blazer, white shirt, pale pink tie and blue trousers with polished black shoes.
“I ordered it,” Enjolras snarled. Cosette saw his shoulders tense, and wondered if she might have to hold him back from cursing the boy. Then again, stealing their pizza meant he was practically begging for a good jinxing.
“And I grabbed it first,” the boy smirked. The chef shrugged apologetically.
“Sorry. It’ll be at least ten minutes before the next one is out.”
“He can just wait,” the obnoxious boy said. Behind him, his friends – two girls, wearing the same uniform but with skirts and pink socks instead of trousers, smirked and tittered. “Like I said, I grabbed it first.”
“Then I’m grabbing it back!” Enjolras let out some sort of war cry, and snatched at the pizza box, digging his nails in. The other boy had a height advantage by about six inches, but Enjolras had the determination advantage, and Cosette felt very glad that there was no truth to the phrase ‘if looks could kill’, because Enjolras’ glare would have definitely left them with a dead body on their hands.
“No, you let go!”
The pizza box was not built to have two teenage boys fighting over it, and it split, sending pizza spattering over both participants. Enjolras gave an enraged yell.
“My shirt!” Enjolras’ neat white T-shirt was spattered with stringy, oily cheese.
“Looks better with mozzarella!” his opponent said snidely, even as his hair dripped with tomato sauce.
They got to their feet, and cast cleaning spells on themselves at the same time – Enjolras with a snap of his fingers, and the other by clapping his hands. “What are you?” the other boy sneered. “Faeries from Musain?”
“Yeah,” Enjolras growled. “So? What are you?”
The boy looked offended that Enjolras didn’t know. “We attend the National Academy for Faeries.”
His two lady friends posed as though cheerleading. “Just in case you hadn’t guessed, the National Academy is the best!” they chanted, with identical sneers to Enjolras’ new enemy.
“Where’s the National Academy?” Enjolras sneered back. “The realm of Dumb Chants?”
“At least we’re not from the realm of Nerd,” the boy sneered back. His friends laughed behind him.
“Snap, snap, snap!” they giggled, snapping their fingers.
Cosette hurriedly intervened. “OK, guys, let’s try to get along,” she smiled at the National Academy Faeries. “Are you guys going shopping?”
One of the girls, who had pink hair in curly high bunches, nodded. “Lucas got us an exclusive invite to a ball on Solaria!”
“No way!” Cosette said excitedly. “Enjolras is the guest of honour at a ball on Solaria!”
“We’re shopping for outfits,” the other girl added. She wore her ginger hair in a long braid, and Jehan smiled at her, playing with their own ginger braid.
“That’s funny, so are we!” they smiled. “It’s really nice to meet Faeries from a different school –”
“Is it?” Lucas said coldly. “I think it would be nice if you kept your stupid mouth shut. It would be even nicer if you went and got yourself some actual fashion sense.” Enjolras shoved him hard in the chest.
“Don’t you dare talk to them like that!” he spat. “Or I’ll hex you bald!”
Cosette once again found it necessary to intervene. “Come on, Enj, let’s go find you that suit. It was… nice to meet you, Lucas, Lucas’ friends.”
Enjolras couldn’t resist. “And by the way, pizza thief, tomato-sauce orange is a perfect colour for you. You can thank me later –” Cosette yanked him towards where Courfeyrac was holding the door open. Courfeyrac himself wiggled his eyebrows.
“Oh snap,” he laughed, snapping his fingers in Lucas’ direction. “Come on guys, let’s get out of here.”
“And don’t follow us!” Enjolras shouted over his shoulder, before Cosette forcefully pushed him out of the parlour.
They headed down the street, stopping at a shop called Glitzmore’s Department Store, and it was here that Musichetta and Éponine bade the rest of the group goodbye. “We’re heading to the beach now,” Éponine explained.
“See you guys there,” Musichetta added. They waved, heading towards the bus-stop, and the other four hurried through the automatic doors. Once again the group became smaller: Jehan and Courfeyrac decided to check out floor one first. Enjolras dragged Cosette straight towards an area devoid of racks and shelves, and as they got closer she could see that there were several circular platforms here, glowing with magic, in front of a giant mirror. A sign above the platforms proclaimed it to be the Virtual Dressing Room.
“This is my favourite way to shop,” Enjolras informed Cosette. “I can try as many outfits as I want on, and I don’t even have to run around looking for anything!” He stepped onto one of the platforms, which lit up gold, and a second later he was wearing a glittery mint green suit with a pale pink ruffled shirt.
“Wicked!” Cosette gasped. Enjolras grinned gleefully.
“Pretty cool, isn’t it? Next!” The next suit was a light lilac-blue colour, with pink accents. “What do you think?”
“Gorgeous!” Cosette grinned. To be totally honest though, she thought, Enjolras is good-looking enough that he could wear nothing but a robe made from an old bin-bag and still be gorgeous. “I wanna try!” She stepped onto the platform next to him, and a second later was wearing a ruffled blue ball-gown with one strap. Enjolras wolf-whistled.
“You look beautiful!”
Cosette giggled and twirled, stopping so that she could admire herself in the mirror. “Why, of course, Marius, I’d love to dance with you.” She held out her hand as though being led onto the dance floor, before laughing and turning back to her best friend, who was now wearing a fuchsia suit with a purple ruffled shirt.
“I want something fancy,” he laughed, “but maybe not this fancy… Next!” His suit changed again, now pale yellow with a green shirt. “Maybe not… clashes with my hair.”
Cosette nodded. “Next!” she called, and with a flash, her dress changed to a red glittery strapless number with a slit all the way up to her hip, and white elbow length gloves. “Hmm… maybe if I was cosplaying as Jessica Rabbit,” she laughed. “More modest!”
Her next dress was purple with a blue ruffled skirt – and maybe a little too modest. “Enj…” she said thoughtfully, “Can we try on any outfit?”
Enjolras nodded, turning this way and that in a glittery gold suit with a red shirt. “I like this one,” he said thoughtfully. “Maybe… Huh? Oh yeah, just tell it what sort of outfit you want.”
Cosette grinned. “Make me a rock-star!” A flash of light later, and she was wearing dark pink leather trousers, a tiny black crop-top, heavy black boots, and her hair was streaked with dark pink.
Enjolras whooped. “Oh, cool! I’m trying that!” His next outfit consisted of black leather trousers, black boots with red laces, and a torn purple T-shirt. His hair now had bright blue highlights streaked through it.
They went back to trying on suits and dresses after that, but Enjolras suddenly fell silent, and Cosette looked over at him. Her jaw dropped. Enjolras was wearing a raspberry red suit with a bright blue ruffled shirt, and looked absolutely stunning.
“This is the one,” he said quietly, smiling with delight. “This is the suit I’m wearing to my Crown Ball.”
“You look amazing, Enj,” Cosette gasped. “It’s perfect!”
“It is, isn't it?” Enjolras beamed. He stepped off the platform, and the suit vanished. A computerized voice informed him that he could pick up his suit at Xerox, which Cosette remembered was only a few streets away. “Come on, Sette!” he said excitedly. “We can get your dress afterwards. Let’s go!”
They hurried out of the Virtual Dressing Room, but suddenly Enjolras stopped dead. There, on another platform, was Lucas, and he was wearing –
“That’s my suit!” Enjolras snarled. Lucas turned to him and raised a haughty eyebrow.
“Oh, no. It’s mine. It’s just perfect for me, don’t you think?”
“All the suits at Xerox are exclusive,” Enjolras snapped. “They’re very expensive, and there’s only one of each suit. And I’m getting it first!”
Lucas swaggered towards him, the suit changing back to his National Academy uniform. “Your shoe is untied,” he said unconcernedly. Enjolras glanced down at his red converse, which were both tied perfectly.
“Huh? – GAH!”
Lucas shoved him onto the platform. At the same time, Lucas’ friends grabbed Cosette and pushed her onto another platform. The three National Academy Faeries took off, leaving the two Musain Faeries to struggle away from the platforms, which, now activated, were determined to have them try on at least one outfit before leaving. Lucas glanced back over his shoulder.
“Have fun in the dressing room, Musain Losers!”
Babet, Claquesous and Gueulemer hurried down the ice-tunnel away from the ice-snakes, which were determined to freeze them back into blocks of ice. As they reached an open chamber, Gueulemer turned and blasted lightning at one of the snakes. To his shock, the ice-snake blasted the lightning with the same magic that had frozen the bird earlier, and the frozen lightning bolt fell to the ground and shattered.
“Mer! Let’s go!” Babet yelled, and Gueulemer ran hurriedly after him. The ground was getting steadily icier, until it suddenly turned to pure ice and slanted downwards. Babet was the first onto the ice-slide, and positioned himself like a skateboarder, looking completely unconcerned – indeed, like he might be rather enjoying himself. Claquesous and Gueulemer looked terrified behind him, and the ice-snakes hissed angrily, still pursuing them, but moving slower, as the tunnel was a little tight for them. Eventually they reached the bottom of the tunnel – a good hundred feet ahead of the ice-snakes – and got up to look around.
The chamber was completely empty, except for one thing: an enormous chunk of ice in the centre, taller than any of the Witches, and far thicker than their capsules had been. Barely visible through the sheets of ice was a shadowy figure, about the size of a fully-grown man.
“Whoa,” Claquesous murmured. Babet looked curious.
“Check this out,” he murmured, moving closer. A carved stone plaque was visible near the surface of the ice, and he wiped the frost away from it so as to better read it. “His name’s all blurry through the ice. I can’t read it.”
Gueulemer examined the inscription beneath the name, which was less blurry. “He got sentenced to eternity in the Omega Dimension! He must have done something even worse than us!”
Claquesous wiped more of the frost away, and all three Witches stepped back a little. Without the frost, two glittering black eyes were visible even through the layers of ice. “Do you think he’s awake in there?” she asked, going for a casual tone but missing by about a mile when her voice trembled.
“His eyes are open,” Gueulemer pointed out. “I think he might be.”
“Let’s find out,” Babet suggested. “Yo, frozen dude! Blink once if you can see us!”
Nothing happened, but a hiss behind them told them that the ice-snakes were near the end of the slide. Gueulemer thought hurriedly.
“Maybe if we give them this guy, the ice-snakes will leave us alone,” he suggested. Babet smirked.
“Fabulous idea,” he grinned, and pressed his hands against the man’s icy prison. It took him longer than usual to perform the spell – perhaps because the ice was so thick, but by the time both ice-snakes entered the tunnel, the man was completely free of the ice, which had shattered around him. He stood completely still, blinking in shock, and Patron-Minette took the opportunity to move behind him. Babet shoved him forward. “Sorry, buddy,” he laughed. “It’s you or us.”
The man stumbled forwards as if he’d forgotten how to walk, but stood tall as the ice-snakes reared back their heads. As the first one spat white light at him, he raised his left hand and blasted black light back at it. The black light won out, blasting the snake into pieces, and he shot another beam of light over his left shoulder with his right hand, destroying the other snake before it could even open its mouth. Babet’s jaw dropped.
“Nice moves, ice-man,” he said approvingly.
The man turned, cracking his fingers, then his elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, and finally his neck. “Thank you,” he said. He was very handsome, with short, shaggy blonde hair, a straight nose, and narrow black eyes. His chin and cheekbones were very sculpted, and his shoulders were broad. He was dressed like a Victorian dandy, in a neat purple suit with a ruffled white shirt, black knee-high boots, dark purple gloves and a wine-red overcoat. His voice was deep and smooth, and surprisingly pleasant to listen to.
“How long were you imprisoned in there?” Gueulemer asked.
The man rolled his shoulders back again, and twisted from side to side, clicking his spine back into place. “Seventeen years,” he replied. Claquesous’ jaw dropped.
“And you were awake the whole time?”
“That sounds awful!” she shuddered. “I’d be bored out of my mind!”
The man shrugged. “Gives you time to think.”
“About what?” Gueulemer wondered. The man smirked.
“About how you’re going to get your revenge.”
Babet picked up the plaque, which was readable outside the ice. “Félix Tholomyès,” he read aloud. “What do you say we break out of this walk-in freezer together, Félix?”
Tholomyés nodded. “Follow me,” he said, still smirking. Babet glared.
“Now, hold on, mister!” he snarled. “You’re cool and you’ve got some nice powers, and if we join forces I’m sure we can get out of here. But do not tell us what to do!”
“Yeah,” Gueulemer added angrily. “That would be a big mistake!”
Tholomyès’ smirk had gone from confident to amused. “Of course,” he said softly. “I would never dream of it.”
The second they escaped from the Virtual Dressing Room, Cosette and Enjolras ran for the door. Luckily, it hadn’t taken too long, and Lucas and his friends were visible just down the street. The second Lucas spotted them, he and the two girls broke into a sprint. Enjolras snatched Cosette’s hand and yanked her down an alley. “This way! I know a shortcut!”
“Enj, are you sure about this?” Cosette panted behind him. Enjolras’ brown eyes narrowed.
“I am going to buy that suit!” They left the alley and emerged onto another street, turning right. Cosette glanced back just as Lucas and his friends turned onto the street, about fifty metres behind them. Enjolras laughed madly. “We’re going to get there first!” He turned back to smirk at Lucas. “Later, moron!”
A blast of blue light whizzed past Enjolras’ head, and a second blast just missed Cosette, who groaned. “They’re attacking us over a suit!”
“Then we’ll fight fire with fire!” Enjolras grinned. “Or should I say sunlight? Take this!” He blasted light over his shoulder. Judging from the responding yelp – the same one they’d heard when the pizza had exploded – it had hit Lucas right in the eyes. The two Amis sped up, coming to a crossing, and hurried across just as the light turned red. By the time Lucas caught up, the cars, bikes and buses were whizzing past, too fast for him to be able to risk it. He snarled furiously, raising his hands.
“That’s IT!” Blue light blasted from his hands in mad, uncontrolled bursts. One severed a branch from a tree; another cut a lamppost clean in two. Enjolras cackled.
“Look at him go!”
“Lucas, don’t!” one of the girls squealed. Lucas ignored her, and his next blast hit a balcony on an apartment building. As the concrete was severed away from the wall, a yelping noise hit the Amis’ ears, and Enjolras turned, gasping in horror as he realised what had happened.
“There are two puppies on that balcony! Cosette, they’re going to fall!” Cosette turned around, and they changed course, heading for the crumbling balcony just as it gave way. The puppies plummeted downwards, and Cosette and Enjolras transformed.
A second later, Cosette wore her blue halter-top, skirt, boots and arm-warmers, with her golden tiara fastened in her hair, her topaz heart-shaped pin on her chest and her pink fluffy bag secured around her waist. Enjolras wore his red one-strapped top, shorts and boots, with black cuffs on his wrists and a black headband, and his hair was tied back in a ponytail with a red band. His ruby mirror-shaped pin glinted on the strap of his top, and his black-and-red moon bag appeared around his hips. White and gold wings respectively protruded from their shoulder blades.
Cosette conjured a safety net, and Enjolras pulled his ring off his finger. The ring instantly transformed into the sceptre of Solaria, made of shiny black metal with a large orb at the top surrounded by several smaller red orbs. “Speed of Sunlight!” he shouted, and yellow light issued from his sceptre, which sent the net speeding towards the two puppies, catching them about fifteen feet above the ground. It slowly lowered them down, and Cosette and Enjolras hurried forwards to make sure they were okay. The larger puppy leapt into Cosette’s arms, licking her face, while the smaller greeted Enjolras with similar delight.
“You’re OK,” Cosette cooed. “You’re OK now!”
“You’re perfectly safe,” Enjolras giggled. His puppy licked his face again. “Awww!”
They returned the puppies to their owner (who fixed the balcony with a click of her fingers and roll of her eyes) and said goodbye to the little dogs, before hurrying off to Xerox. As soon as they were through the doors, Enjolras flung himself onto the counter.
“I’d like the raspberry red suit,” he panted in the direction of the rather concerned-looking salesgirl. “It’s made of –”
“Satin,” a smug voice interrupted him, and he turned to see Lucas holding up a suit bag. “And it comes with a ruffled blue shirt.” He sneered again. “Later, Musain loser!”
Enjolras turned to the salesgirl, looking furious. “You sold that suit to him?” he yelped. “But I’m the Prince of Solaria! It was for my Crown Ball!”
The salesgirl frowned. “That’s odd. He said he was the Prince of Solaria!”
“Wh… what?!” Enjolras’ jaw dropped. Cosette frowned too.
“Are you sure?”
The salesgirl bit her lip. “Well… he said he wasn’t the Prince of Solaria yet, but that he would be very soon.”
Enjolras and Cosette exchanged wide-eyed glances. This was weird, even for the Magic Dimension.
Tholomès led Patron-Minette through the tunnels of the Omega dimension until they came to a cavern with a floor that spiralled down like a ramp. “This is the gate to Andros,” he explained to them. “All I need is for you to make a crack in it, then I can use my magic to get us out of here.”
“Easy-peasy,” Babet smirked. “Cousins?” The three Witches blasted light at the bottom of the ramp at the same time, but to their shock, the ramp flung it back at them, sending them crashing into the wall. Tholomyès raised his eyebrows.
“It’s protected by a magic shield,” he said, as calmly as if he was discussing the weather.
A hissing noise behind them made them turn. Another ice-snake had arrived, and Babet grinned as an idea came to him. “I know how we can get around that… hey, snake-eyes! Over here!”
“What are you doing?!” Gueulemer shrieked as Babet took to the air. The ice-snake chased him, looking as though it would have dearly liked to bite Babet in two.
Babet flew over to the other side of the ramp. “Come on, slimy!” he taunted the ice-snake. “Give me your best shot!”
The ice-snake spat its freezing blast at him just as he formed an ice-shield. The ice-snake’s blast hit the bottom of the ramp, which began to shake, and Claquesous and Gueulemer took to the air too, realising Babet’s plan.
“Now hit it with everything you’ve got!” Babet yelled. Claquesous and Gueulemer released blasts of purple and green light respectively, and with a noise like a gunshot a crack appeared in the floor.
“Perfect,” Tholomyès smiled. He jumped down next to Babet as he landed and the ice-snake reared back, hissing. “I like your style.”
Babet flushed pink, pleased. “You’re not so bad yourself,” he winked.
Tholomyès flashed him a cheeky smirk, before pressing his hand against the crack and closing his eyes to focus. Black light crackled, sparks flying everywhere.
On the other side of the portal was an island that spiralled upwards the same way the Omega Dimension spiralled downwards. It was a real island, full of caves and tunnels, but at the very top was the portal to the Omega Dimension. Unable to be opened by anyone but one of the Great Wizards of Andros, you wouldn’t have known it was a portal unless you had been told. The mermaid guards stationed in the waters around the island knew, and as black light blasted out from the top of the mountain like a volcanic eruption, they knew something was very wrong.
“The Omega Dimension gate!” one of them screamed. “Someone is trying to break out –” A bolt of black light hit her in the neck, and she collapsed, unconscious. More bolts hit her fellow guards, and soon all of them were out cold. Where the black light had touched them, a strange symbol appeared: it looked like a circle, inside which was a backwards F attached to a T, and it glowed scarlet in the dim light. The second it had fully formed, the mermaids’ angelic faces began twisting into monstrous shapes…
On the other side of the portal, Tholomyès grinned with satisfaction. “Now that they are my minions,” he explained to Patron-Minette, “their power is my power. The mermaids of Andros Undersea are now mine!”
Cosette, Enjolras, Jehan and Courfeyrac changed into swimsuits and headed to the beach, where they found Musichetta and Éponine sunbathing on their towels. “Hey guys!” Enjolras shouted cheerfully, and the two girls sat up and waved them over. “Hey Éponine… you look different!”
Indeed, Éponine’s dark hair, which was normally tied tightly into two little buns on either side of her head, was now worn in high bunches, and curled at the tips. Her dark fringe still covered her right eye, but it was a very good look for her. She laughed, shrugging. “Just trying out a new style. So, how did your shopping go? Can we see your new suit?”
“Here?” Éponine nodded, and Enjolras sighed resignedly, although he seemed to actually be quite enjoying himself. “Well, okay!” He raised his right hand above his head, and just like the virtual dressing room, his new suit was projected onto him. With the raspberry suit gone, he’d chosen the gold suit with the red shirt, which glittered more than ever in the bright sunlight.
“Wow!” Musichetta gasped. “You look brilliant!”
Éponine nodded, and Enjolras preened. He gave them a twirl letting them see the suit from all angles, before letting the projection vanish. “It is nice, isn’t it?” He sighed. “Oh, but you should have seen the one that got away!”
“Come on, Enj!” Cosette said. “You’re having a Crown Ball for your birthday, your parents are getting back together, and we’re on holiday! How could things be any better?”
“Well,” said a familiar voice behind them, “maybe if we were here?”
“Grantaire!” Enjolras beamed, immediately running to embrace him. Grantaire waved at the other Faeries, and they realised that standing next to him were Feuilly, Combeferre, Bahorel, and – Cosette’s heart skipped a beat – Marius!
Jehan and Feuilly were hugging, Courfeyrac was on his tiptoes to kiss Combeferre hello, and Bahorel had one arm around Éponine’s waist and one around a boombox, of all things, which was playing soft guitar music. Cosette hurried over to Marius, smiling brightly.
“Marius! I – I thought you went back to Eraklyon!”
Marius took her hand and kissed the back of it. “I was almost there when I got Enjolras’ invite,” he smiled, “so I turned straight back around.” He pulled her into a hug. “I would never miss a chance to be your date to a party like this one.”
Cosette hugged him back. “I’m so sorry we had that stupid argument,” she sighed, and Marius nodded.
“Me too. Sorry for blowing things out of proportion.”
Combeferre interrupted the tender moment by swinging a picnic basket in the air. “How about a cookout, guys? We have burgers, hotdogs, and marshmallows!”
Bahorel held up his boombox. “And music,” he added cheerfully.
The Faeries all nodded – except Musichetta, who was frowning out at the ocean. “Guys, something’s wrong,” she said seriously.
Bahorel nodded in agreement. “I know. This channel isn’t nearly rock-n-roll enough.”
Musichetta shook her head. “No, I mean something’s wrong with the ocean.” The Amis turned towards the water, which was boiling and frothing in the shallows, while further out –
“Is that a tidal wave?” Jehan gasped. People who had been out swimming were hurrying back to shore, but not all of them were able to move quickly – some were trapped in the current, while others weren’t strong enough swimmers to move more than a few feet in the water.
Cosette took charge. “This is serious. Amis Charmix!”
With a flash, the six Faeries were transformed. Jehan wore a pink playsuit with light pink sleeves, pink ankle boots, and a green choker with a pink flower and a matching pink flower clip in their hair. They wore a silver pin that swirled across their chest with a Rhodolite garnet in the centre, a rose-shaped hip-bag, and their wings were green and leaf-shaped.
Éponine wore a one-strapped yellow dress with a blue mesh midriff, yellow knee-high boots, blue armbands on her upper arms, and yellow headphones. Her pin was shaped like a treble clef, with a sapphire tail, and her blue bag was actually a small portable music player. Her wings were blue and more traditionally Faery-like, two on each side and rounded at the tips with the lower ones a little shorter than the upper ones.
Courfeyrac had green triangular wings, and wore a lilac playsuit with purple sleeves. He had pale blue fingerless gloves and matching knee-high boots, and a pale blue headband holding his fringe out of his face, with a tear-drop-shaped emerald in the centre. He had a triangular emerald pin in the centre of his chest, and his hip-bag was a dark-blue transmitter.
Musichetta wore a tube-top that was two tones of green, with a green strap over her right shoulder and one across her midriff from left to right, connecting to a light green skirt over green shorts. One of her boots was light green and the other green, and she also wore a silver choker with matching bracelets – three on her right arm and one on her left wrist. Her wings were light blue and raindrop-shaped, her amethyst pin was shaped like a shell, and around her waist was a pink gourd-shaped purse.
“Hold back the wave!” Cosette shouted. Together the six Faeries fluttered into the air and blasted light at the tidal wave, forcing it to stop moving towards the beach. Meanwhile, the five Wizards – who were all strong swimmers – plunged into the sea and began helping people to safety. Grantaire used his water powers to force the current away from a tweenage girl before pulling her to safety, and Bahorel carried a small girl of about five over to her mother. Feuilly helped an eight-year-old boy out of the water, and Marius and Combeferre helped two teenagers who had been struggling next to where the wave had stopped. Luckily, they’d got everyone out before the Faeries’ spell gave out and the wave began rushing towards the beach again – wait. Someone was screaming for help! Musichetta turned to see a little girl in a yellow duck-shaped inflatable ring struggling to swim for the shore – and the wave was closing in on her!
“I’ve got you!” she yelled, and plunged into the water. Being the Faery of Waves gave her an advantage in being able to see underwater, and she easily swum over to the girl, wrapping an arm around her waist. “Don’t worry, you’re safe with me,” she assured the child, who was sobbing with fear. “Come on, let’s surf back to shore!” With a snap of her fingers, her magic mixed with the water, forming a Morphix surfboard, and Musichetta jumped on, still cradling the girl, and easily rode the wave back to shore. Thankfully, the tidal wave calmed before it hit the beach, and she was able to step out of the water and carry the little girl back to her relieved parents.
As the crowd of onlookers cheered, the Wizards began wringing out their shirts. “Always nice to take a swim,” Marius joked, tipping a crab out of his shoe. Enjolras shuddered, squeezing the water out of his hair. Even though Musichetta had started teaching him to swim, he was still nervous of any body of water bigger than the shallow end of Lake Roccaluce.
“That wave was definitely not a natural occurrence,” Courfeyrac frowned, and Combeferre nodded.
“You can say that again.”
“What do you think caused it?” Feuilly asked.
“A dimensional shockwave,” Musichetta explained. “A wave like that could only mean one thing: something terrible has happened to the heart of all oceans.” Just then, the water bubbled, and everyone turned fearfully in case it was a second wave, but a second later, a head popped up out of the water, followed by shoulders, arms and a torso. It was a young woman with long blonde hair, dark skin, sea-green eyes with long lashes, and wings shaped like fish fins on her back. She wore a pink top and a necklace of pearls, and there were more pearls strewn through her hair. Cosette got the funniest feeling that she didn’t have legs.
“Yarn Nansrkkm,” the girl said, and Musichetta inexplicably raised her hand, hurrying forward. The girl continued, “Aa hpaa ey! Npna saseea sn smyy, s r sk sn mp as k pnadm ykme mapn! K damamn, assmkaame n m smyy kn! Hpaa ymakn na im hpa, paa yeak s hpa!”
“What did she say?” Enjolras asked, looking thoroughly confused. Musichetta turned to him, looking fearful.
“I was right,” she said quietly. “Something awful has happened on Andros, my home planet. I have to go there!”
Éponine stepped forwards. “We’re coming too, Chetta!” she started, but Musichetta shook her head.
“You can’t. I have to go through the ocean. My people need me, and it’s the quickest route.” She ran into the shallows, diving into the water as soon as it got deep enough to swim. Her scarlet hair swooshed out behind her as she swam over to the girl. As soon as she reached her, she turned back and waved to the Amis. “Goodbye!”
The Amis all waved back worriedly, and the girl next to her slipped under the water. Cosette caught a glimpse of a shimmering blue fishtail before Musichetta dived beneath the waves after her.
Patron-Minette transformed into their Witch forms before Félix Tholomyès led them out of the portal, and they gazed upon the transformed mermaids, which now had green, lizard-like faces and long jaws. “Minions everywhere,” Babet grinned. “Not bad, Tholomyés.”
Tholomyès laughed. “Please, call me Félix. And this? This is nothing. This is only just the beginning…”