Chapter 8

The Lost Explorer

Flynn stared at the silent orb left all alone in the courtyard after the final Enchantress disappeared behind the ivy curtain. With no crowd lingering around the ruined courtyard, he took the opportunity to get a closer look and see what was within the remaining orb. 

Still keeping to the cover of the bushes and other debris, he snuck up closer to the centre of the courtyard. To his surprise, it looked like the outline of a body floating within the orb. 

Flynn took another step closer, then another. Once he rounded the burning fountain he had a much clearer view. Immediately, his jaw dropped when he recognised the pointed hood and ashy grey cloak – it was his father trapped within the orb!

Throwing caution to the wind, Flynn ran out from the cover of the hedges and into the open courtyard. He raced over to his imprisoned father, suspended within the glowing orb. Flynn winced when he saw Brady’s injured leg now twisted at a grotesque angle. 

Even worse was the complete look of hopelessness etched on his father’s face. Brady was lost in a deep trance, staring off into the direction which the coven had gone.

Trying to get his father’s attention, Flynn pressed himself against the golden links of the glowing orb. No sooner did he touch the meshing then an intense electric shock surged through him – jolting him away. 

Flynn was thrown backwards, flying through the air away from the prison. Falling onto the broken paving, he tried to shake off the burning sensation in his finger tips. This commotion snapped Brady out of his daze, grabbing his attention.

Finally noticing Flynn, Brady reached his hands out to his son. Pressing them against the inside of the orb, he was immediately jolted back by the electric shock as well. Totally unaffected by his burnt hands he looked up at Flynn, “Son!” He gasped.

“Dad!” Flynn came back to the orb as close as he could possibly get, “Dad, are you okay? 

“Stay quiet son! They must not hear you.” Brady hushed him.

“Are you okay? Where’s Mom?” Too many thoughts were rushing through Flynn’s head to make sense of anything at the moment.

“They’ve taken your mother away, but you must keep quiet son.”

“They took her away?” Flynn whispered in the loudest way possible.

“Yes. And they are going to take me next.” Brady said in a matter-of-fact tone. 

This wasn’t comforting to hear at all, “But Dad —”

“Flynn!” Brady interrupted, “You must not be caught.”

“But Dad, I can help you.”

“I know you can Flynn, but you MUST listen to me first!” Brady very nearly shouted out, “There is nothing you can do for us now. Your mother and I will be taken away very shortly. But whatever happens, you must NOT be seen – This is extremely important. We are depending on you Flynn, so listen carefully.”

All of Flynn’s attention was now focused entirely on his father’s instructions. He listened with intensely as Brady  urgently continued in a low and serious voice,  “Your mother and I are now prisoners of The Coven.”

“THE Coven!?!” Flynn asked in terrified awe. 

“Yes son, The Coven has captured us and there’s no changing that. But they don’t know that you exist and we are going to keep it that way. So you must stay hidden for now and let us be taken.”

Flynn couldn’t believe what he was hearing, “But Dad —”

“Flynn! It’s the only way – You must hide. We don’t have much time now. Your mother gave The Coven a bit of trouble,” he said with a touch of pride in his voice, “But they will be coming back soon, so you must listen very closely.” Brady looked over his shoulder, determining how much time they had left.

He looked back at Flynn, noticing the pack slung across his son’s shoulder, “Great! You still have your mother’s satchel – You’re going to need that!”

Flynn had forgotten that he was carrying Mom’s satchel full of bottles. He hugged it close to his chest as a source of comfort. 

Brady continued, “First you must go to my study and collect all of the Resting Relics from the oak bureau. Throw them all in your Mom’s satchel – It’s YOUR satchel now.”

Flynn felt a surge of pride from inheriting his mother’s satchel, but he let his father continue, “Then, also in the bureau, you will find my field journals. They contain maps and all of the other information that you need. They will explain everything.” 

Flynn wasn’t sure how this would help release his parents, but he began making solid mental notes of all he needed to do, “Oak bureau… Resting Relics… journals… maps… ”

Brady interrupted the mental checklist, “Then you need to find the Lost Explorer.”

“The what?”

“It’s not a what, it’s a who. You must find the Lost Explorer.”

“Who’s the Lost Explorer?”

“He’s an old friend, but there’s no time to explain that now. Just find him and he will help you recharge the Relics. Together, you will be able to rescue us from The Coven.”

“But where is he?”

“You will be able to find him in the Crater.”

“The what?” Flynn was so confused.

“The Crater. Don’t worry – All you need to know is in the journals.” Brady continued, “The Lost Explorer will definitely there. He hasn’t left the Crater for over a decade – Not once. I wish I could explain more, but there’s no time. Don’t worry, like I said, my journals will explain everything.”

“But what if I can’t find him?”

“Flynn, look at me.” Brady looked into his son’s eyes with absolute confidence, “You can do this – You WILL do this. I have all the faith in you. My journals will lead you on your way.”

“But Dad—”

“Go now Flynn!” Dad whisper-shouted.

“Dad—”

“I’m counting on you Flynn. Your Mother is counting on you too. It’s the only way to save us. Get the Relics. Get the journals and find the Lost Explorer.”

Brady glanced over his shoulder suddenly causing Flynn to look in the same direction. The curtains of ivy began to ripple as The Coven returned to the courtyard.

“Go Flynn – Now!”         

 

Flynn wanted to grab hold of his father for a parting embrace, but the electrified orb would not allow that. He wanted to say a heart-felt goodbye, but the Enchantresses returning prevented that as well. 

Knowing that he would be captured if he stayed any longer, he tore himself away from his father and ran for cover. Flynn huddled down behind broken bits of statue lining the pathway. He felt vulnerable behind the crumbling statues, but The Coven took no notice of him as they reemerged from the ivy curtain. 

The Enchantresses were visibly exhausted from the effort of transporting Dawnella’s orb, but they did not delay in their preparations. Quickly securing Brady’s orb with a series of charms, they guided him out of Fountain Square. With extreme efficiency The Coven disappeared through the ivy curtain from whence they came.

Watching his father being dragged away left an empty feeling deep in Flynn’s stomach. He had never felt so alone in his entire life. Cradling his mother’s satchel close to his chest, he tried to shake the isolation away by running the list of things he needed to do through his head: 

Get Resting Relics, Get Journals, Find Lost Explorer… 

Get Resting Relics, Get Journals, Lost Explorer… 

Get Resting Relics, Journals, Lost Explorer…

Resting Relics, Journals, Lost Explorer…

Over and over he repeated this mantra to avoid the thoughts of his imprisoned parents. While reciting the list, a caravan of shadows lifted off into the late afternoon sky. Swooping through the dusk, The Coven flew far off into the eastern sky, escorting the two prison orbs between them.

Flynn thought he felt alone when his father was being dragged away earlier, but now he felt absolute loneliness settle in. He would have preferred to be taken with his parents, but Mom and Dad were trusting in him to come to their rescue. Knowing that he was going to save them was the only thing that helped him through his pain.

To keep up his courage, he began to repeat his mantra, 

“Resting Relics, Journals, Lost Explorer… 

  Resting Relics, Journals, Lost Explorer… 

  Resting Relics, Journals, Lost Explorer…” 

The shadows grew longer under the setting sun while Flynn waited for The Coven to disappear over the horizon. Once they were out of sight, he readied himself to complete his task. Realising that hugging his Mom’s satchel wasn’t going to bring her back, he stood up to get moving. He had important work to do now so he raced with determination towards Brady’s study in the Depths of the Glasshouse.

~ – ~

Chapter 7

The Coven

Flynn awoke with an intense ringing in his ears and spots in his vision. Rubbing his eyes, he blinked the spots away, but the buzzing in his ears continued. Unsure of where he was, Flynn peered at the prickly branches surrounding him. Slowly he began to recall the chaotic events that had set IvyHold ablaze. 

Scanning his surroundings he noticed an eerily calm aftermath to the invasion. It may have been peaceful now, but the recent carnage in IvyHold was evident by the ruins of crumbled walls, smouldering rubble and craters pockmarking the entire landscape. The stillness was only disturbed by the high-pitched buzzing in his ears.

Flynn sat up to check himself for any injuries or broken bits. Blinking heavily, he realised that aside from his muffled hearing, he was relatively unharmed. That’s when thoughts of his parents came flooding into his mind. 

Were they alright?

Where were they?

They were in the house!

The house was under assault!!!

He must find his parents NOW!!! 

Kicking up a storm of sand, he dashed through the Sunken Oasis racing towards home. Ignoring the ringing in his ears, he skipped across the stepping stones at the Moonfalls, and rounded the corner to his home. 

The contents of his satchel were clinking and clattering when he came to a sudden halt. His stomach dropped at the sight in front of him.

Time stood still. 

Frozen with disbelief, Flynn stared down into a massive crater where his house once stood. The gigantic pit was totally scorched and clear of any rubble or debris. Completely pulverised, there was nothing left of what he once called home. There was no Mom, no Dad, no signs of life.

All hope disappeared when this reality dawned on him. In his despair, everything seemed to have stopped, even the buzzing in his ears. With IvyHold torn apart, his home obliterated, and his parents gone, there was absolutely nothing left in Flynn’s world. 

With his entire life collapsing around him, an impossible sound of laughter broke the silence surrounding him. Amidst all of the wreckage and carnage, the cheerful giggles were a piercing contrast. How could anybody be happy enough to laugh at a time like this?

In disbelief, Flynn was drawn towards the joyous laughter coming from down the laneway in Fountain Park. He made his way along the gravel pathway past the statues – or whatever rubble was left of the statues. Moving quickly, he stayed under the cover of bushes lining the path. 

Approaching the curtain of ivy that surrounds the central courtyard of Fountain Park, Flynn swept the tendrils aside. He could not have imagined what he was about to see. 

The merry laughter came from an elegant woman sitting on the edge of a broken fountain. The entire courtyard surrounding her was in absolute ruins. She sat with great ease amongst the smouldering piles of rubble, scattered paving stones and open flames raging throughout the courtyard. 

One of the many fountains was ablaze – it’s once cooling waters now transformed into burning flames spouting from the centre of the fountain. Flynn had no idea what kind of enchantment this was, but the figure laughing demanded all of his attention. 

Regardless of the chaos, she sat there, lounging on the edge of the broken fountain. Flynn couldn’t take his eyes away from the enchanting vision splashing her slender hand through the rippling waters.

Hauntingly beautiful, she wore a thin golden crown adorned with a slim crescent moon upon her raven-black hair. On her lap she stroked a long staff tipped with a deadly sliver that was also in the shape of a crescent moon. Her dark cloak reflected the firelight in unnatural ways – she was absolutely mesmerising to look upon.

Sitting next to the alluring figure was another much younger woman whom Flynn hadn’t even noticed until now. Quite stunning herself, she was draped in a skyblue cloak that matched her feathery, powder-blue hair. She laughed cheerfully, trying to avoid the enchanting woman splashing her with the cool waters that were flowing from the shattered fountain. 

The whole situation felt so incongruous – All of this beauty in the middle of the ravaged scene that was once the courtyard of Fountain Park.

After enough splashing, the blue-haired girl was completely drenched. Still laughing, she stood up while clutching a shining amulet strung around her neck. Directing her gaze at the ground in front of herself, the young woman went into deep concentration. 

A serious look crossed over her face when the amulet began to glow. All of a sudden a twirling whirlwind rose up from the ground in front of the young woman. She stepped into the swirling gust and her skyblue cloak dried off completely. The whirlwind wisped away while the blue-haired girl took the opportunity to smile at her handiwork.

Suddenly it dawned on Flynn. 

These elegant women were Witches – in IvyHold!!!

Flynn nearly gasped aloud, but managed to withhold his shock. He had been so hypnotised by their beauty that he never considered the obvious.

“Well conjured Ventille.” the elegant Enchantress said in her smooth, rich voice.

The younger lady, Ventille, took the compliment with a nonchalant shrug, although unable to hide her excitement at being acknowledged.

“You are too kind Empress Lunasa.” she said, remembering her etiquette. “That basic charm was hardly worth your notice.”

The flattery was brought to an end when Lunasa’s attention was suddenly drawn to a disturbance across the courtyard. Approaching through the ivy curtain on the opposite side of the courtyard was a crowd of even more witches – an entire coven it seemed. 

Flynn couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

The scene before him was nothing he could have ever imagined. Witches everywhere – bouncing about IvyHold in celebration. The coven laughed and joked while crossing the wide courtyard. Young and old, elegant and hideous, there were all sorts of Enchantresses parading across Fountain Park. 

A select few held ornate staffs, while others were adorned with amulets strung around their necks on thin copper chains. None were nearly as captivating as the raven-haired Supreme Enchantress with her crescent moon crown, but each of them did possess the definite allure of Power.

Obviously bothered by the inconvenience of the incoming procession, the younger Enchantress Ventille rolled her eyes at the spectacle coming their way. She spoke in a disgusted tone, “I do apologise my Supreme Enchantress.” She spoke with venom in her voice, “I will never understand why they choose to act so common. Why can’t they all behave as regal as yourself?”

The Supreme Enchantress Lunasa responded with understanding, “Today was an achievement Ventille. It is well deserved excitement. Some of us are just able to hide it better than others.”

Eventually, the final few Enchantresses emerged from the ivy curtain, towing along a series of gold-linked chains attached to two golden orbs. Floating just above the ground, the large orbs throbbed with the hum of Enchantment. The coven continued parading through the courtyard when one of the orbs came to a jolting halt, snapping the chains attached to it.

There was a minor commotion as one intimidating Enchantress shouted at two of the younger ones, “Orphelle! Talana!!! What happened to your links?” She scolded the younger girls with obvious disdain, “Keep your concentration or you’ll be scrubbing out the Forge for the next few moons.”

The two young Enchantresses looked mortified as they began to mend the broken chain. Busy at work they didn’t notice that the loose orb began to rock back and forth.

Then it began to quake uncontrollably.

Then it began to glow from within.

Accompanied by a furious buzzing sound, the orb began to bulge and expand well beyond it’s constraints which quickly got the attention of the rest of the coven.

Immediately, the entire coven stopped their joyous celebrations and surrounded the orb. It wasn’t just a snapped chain, now they were trying desperately to contain whatever was inside. Each member of the coven frantically focused their Powers on the orb. 

Flynn was unable to see what was within the orb, but it was taking all of their concentration trying to regain control. 

The strain was evident on all of the Enchantresses involved. The coven struggled to keep control of the situation when the raven-haired, Supreme Enchantress stood up from the fountain in a fluid motion. With an elegant twirl of her staff, she approached the orb with visible irritation.

“Enough of this nonsense!” She called out. Pulling back the sleeves of her shimmering cloak one at a time, she cleared a space around her, “Must I do everything here?”

A vague hint of concern crossed her face while casting her pure concentration on the troublesome orb that was on the verge of bursting open. First raising her face, then her hands to the sky, she summoned her Powers. When she lowered her intense gaze at the orb, a flashing glow lit up all of IvyHold for an instant. 

When the light subsided, it was followed by what can only be described as a reverse-popping sound. The absence of sound was as loud as any bang Flynn had ever heard. He covered his ears with his hands to keep out the emptiness until the disorientating vacuum of sound evened out. 

When normality returned, Flynn looked up to see the bulging orb lay silent in the middle of the courtyard. He saw the Supreme Enchantress Lunasa let out a deep exhale, visibly exhausted from the effort. 

Composing herself, she stood tall and quickly reprimanded the rest of the gathering, “What are you waiting for?” she called out, “Finish securing the prisoners. We must transport them immediately, otherwise we will face the same issues while midair – not an ideal situation.”

The coven jumped into action, casting various charms on the silent orb. During the commotion, a few Enchantresses went to check on the second orb that had been silent all along. 

Lunasa scolded those few, “Leave that orb be. He is of no concern to us now. We need all of our attention focused on this troublesome one. She still poses a serious threat.” She motioned towards the other harmless orb with disdain. “He is of no danger to us now. We will return for him once she has been secured for transportation.”

The entire coven rallied around their Empress and focused their energies on the orb. Working together, they cautiously began their task of transporting the troublesome orb from the courtyard under Lunasa’s supervision. 

Flynn watched in horror as they disappeared from the courtyard, leaving nothing behind but the silent orb.

Chapter 6

The Depths

It wasn’t usual that Flynn was eager to start the days chores, but the excitement of seeing the cloud clay in action spurred him on. He picked up his pace to keep up with Dawnella’s quick strides. Following his mother out of the Glasshouse, they made their way along the gravel pathway towards the Boulder Patch near the Eastern Gate.

When they passed through the wall of bonegrass, Flynn was once again uncomfortably reminded of the Spider Queen’s skeleton on the alter. That memory was really troubling him for some reason and he couldn’t quite figure out why. His mind was caught up on that morbid thought when Dawnella turned back to him.

She was buzzing with excitement, “I was thinking of starting the Floating Garden here, over the bonegrass wall.” She spread her arms, pointing above the harsh border. “It would look much more cheery, don’t you think?”

Flynn had to agree – the tall, white stalks of bonegrass were quite depressing, especially in his current state of mind. Dawnella continued, “I thought something like a series of hanging garden trellises would be lovely. Wouldn’t they?”

“Yeah.” Flynn agreed. He wasn’t sure what hanging trellises were, but he had to admit that anything would be an improvement on the stark, curling stalks rising up into the air.

“But first, we have to spread the bog-root paste on the Boulder Patch.” Now that she was finished envisioning her future Floating Garden, Dawnella noticed the concern etched on her son’s face, “Is everything alright darling?”

“Yeah, I’m just a little… I don’t know… ” he paused trying to think of how to put words to his feelings.

Dawnella tried to ease his mind, “It’s alright darling, let’s keep strolling and you can think about what you want to say. Sometimes moving your feet gets your brain moving as well.”

“It’s okay. I’m just not sure how to say it.”

Dawnella gave her son a reassuring pat on the back and began to stroll at a slow pace. “Whenever you’re ready to talk, I’m listening.”

Flynn followed his mother and believe it or not, the simple act of moving his feet one step at a time, unclogged his thoughts and his mind began to flow.

When the thoughts became clear, he stopped in his tracks, “I got it now Mom.” Dawnella stopped to listen while Flynn continued, “When we were in the Spider Queen’s Hovel, something happened…” All of a sudden, his brain decided to stop again. He paused trying to think of a way to describe what had happened, “It was when we went into her burial chamber…” and he fell silent again.

Dawnella tried to help her son think, “That’s where the Relic recharged, right?”

“Yeah, but there was more than that. It was…” Flynn trailed off again cause he wasn’t sure how to explain what he was thinking.

“It’s okay, your father told me. That’s also where the Enchantress sprung her attack.”

“Yes, but that’s not it either. It was before she attacked.” Flynn tried to gather his scattered thoughts. Dawnella gave him time instead of trying to finish his thoughts for him.

“Let’s keep walking.” She encouraged.

They began to stroll again. Almost immediately Flynn’s thoughts started to form again. Walking really did help him focus his thoughts, so he started to speak quickly while the thoughts were clear in his mind, “It was when I saw Tarantu’s skeleton on the alter. Her bones… they… they just…”

“Ahh!” Dawnella understood straight away, “The Cursed Bones.”

“Yes!” Flynn said. He remembered Dad mentioning Cursed Bones when they were in the Hovel. “I just felt… I don’t know…”

“Drawn to them?” Dawnella knew, “You felt like you had to touch them? To FEEL the Power that was surging within them?”

“Exactly!” Flynn didn’t know how Mom knew this feeling, but that was the exact sensation that he had felt.

“The Power never leaves an Enchantress – even after they’ve passed away.” Dawnella went on to explain, “A long time ago, thieves used to steal Enchantress bones from their graves. The Power that remained in their skeleton was worth plenty of gold to the right buyers.”

Flynn was revolted by the thought of bone thieves, but Dawnella continued, “They were called Bone Wranglers and they made a fortune by stealing Dead Bones. They desecrated so many burial chambers, that Enchantresses began to place curses on their own Bones.”

Flynn thought this was a very clever idea. It was obviously very effective since the Spider Queen’s skeleton still remained in her burial chamber with only a curtain of webs to keep intruders out. But one thing confused him, “They cursed themselves?”

“Yes, but the curse would only take effect whenever the Enchantress passed away. Their remains were safe with this curse protecting them. Nobody would dare to steal their bones unless they wanted to suffer a terrible fate. You see…”

Dawnella was interrupted by a humming vibration shimmering through the air. She stopped short, recognising the familiar protective charm surrounding IvyHold that signaled whenever one of the Outside gates had been opened.

“That was the Western Gate. Your father must be back already.” A look of concern crossed her face as she continued, “He said he would be returning just before moonrise.” The hint of worry in her voice was due to the fact that it was not even midday yet.

She turned down the path and rushed towards the Western Gate. The containers within her satchel clinked rapidly with her quickening pace. Flynn could sense there was something wrong, so he doubled his own pace to keep up with his rushing mother.

Limping silently down the pathway, Brady met them where the paths crossed. He flung his bulging pack onto the ground with a muffled clatter and lifted his cloak to reveal a brutally discoloured bruise on his thigh. Dawnella dropped her clinking satchel and rushed to her husband’s aid. The sight of the wound put a knot in Flynn’s stomach – he couldn’t imagine the pain it caused.

Pretending not to feel the pain, Brady tugged at Flynn’s cloak playfully, “I coulda used you out there buddy.” He couldn’t hide his pained laugh though.

Dawnella hushed Brady’s playful banter and assisted him along, “Quiet now Love. We must apply a salve to that fracture.” She lifted her clinking satchel from the ground and pulled out a small, round tin.

“It’s not a fracture, just bruised.” Brady defended.

“I think I know a fracture when I see one?” Dawnella snapped back, “Over the years, you’ve come back with enough bumps and breaks that I know a fracture straight away. You should too,” she continued, “You DO see the colour of your leg don’t you?”

They all looked down at the grotesque bruise on his thigh. Brady winced as she applied the salve to the discolouration, “Maybe you’re right.” In fact, Brady knew his wife was right. The hobbling walk back to IvyHold was torturous, he just didn’t want to admit it to himself.

“Of course I’m right,” Dawnella said as she continued to apply the salve to his leg, “We’ll get you some milktree sap to soothe the pain.”

“That is, if Flynn didn’t drink the whole supply already.” Brady joked with a pained chuckle.

Flynn laughed guiltily, knowing that a good amount of the delicious milktree sap was guzzled down this morning. Hopefully there was more around to help heal his father’s leg, otherwise he would be in big trouble.

Dawnella brought him out of his guilty thoughts by calling to him, “I’m taking your father back to the house, if you could run to my Garden and get the medical chest?” She wrapped her arms around Brady to take the weight off his injured leg. “It’s the big blue case – You know the one don’t you?”

“I know Mom.” Flynn said.

“Thanks Sweetheart. Oh, could you also take my satchel back to the Garden please?”

“No problem Mom.” Flynn lifted her satchel from the ground.

“Wait Buddy.” Brady interrupted. Flynn could hear the pain in his Dad’s voice as he limped along, “I took the chest yesterday.”

“Did you?” Dawnella asked, “Where did you leave it Love?”

“It’s down in my study.”

“Oh.” Flynn said with disappointment. His Dad’s creepy study was the last place he wanted to go, “No problem.” He lied.

“I think it’s on my worktop… I think…” Brady scratched his head wondering if that’s where he left it.

“I’ll find it Dad.” He tried to sound like he wasn’t bothered.

Flynn adjusted his Mom’s satchel over his shoulder and sped back towards her Garden. His father’s study was located far underground in the dark basements beneath the sprawling Glasshouse. Flynn always referred to the study as ‘the Depths’ and he never liked to go down there.

Brady, on the other hand, spent most of his time down in the Depths. Either wrapped up in his journals or tinkering with random objects that he brought back from the Outside. Brady had managed to make quite a cosy little den for himself down there. Mom had her Garden and Dad had the Depths.

Flynn ran to the Glasshouse, wanting to get this over with as soon as possible. He swung the doors open, banging them against the wrought iron frame and entered the Glasshouse. Instead of continuing down the fragrant hallway lined with plantlife, Flynn turned the first corner he came to.

He ran down the long corridor which led to a heavy, iron door barred by a thick wooden plank across it. Flynn thought this plank was a bit excessive, but his father said that it was necessary, otherwise the door would be blown open from the drafts coming from below.

By lowering his shoulder and hefting upwards, Flynn managed to lift the plank with a bit of effort, unbarring the door. He pulled up on the latch handle and the iron door swung open with a rusty clang. An icy breeze rose up from the Depths giving Flynn the chills.

Pausing to gather his courage, he ducked through the low doorway and began to descend the stone staircase that spiralled down into the Depths. He hurried down the clumpy spiral steps wanting to get the blue medical chest and leave the Depths as soon as possible.

Reaching the bottom of the staircase, Flynn entered the arched vault of the Depths and made his way over to Brady’s worktop. It was a long counter covered with random objects that Brady was working on at the moment. His father always had about five projects going on at the same time, so the worktop was always a bit of a mess. Standing there, Flynn browsed the counter, but saw no sign of the blue medical chest.

He had a good idea where it could be though. In the far corner, stood a large oak bureau where Brady kept all of his tools and other private matters – as he called them. Flynn didn’t like to go near the bureau though because it was near the entrance to the Deep Depths.

This was the main reason that Flynn didn’t like coming down here. The entrance to the Deep Depths was another iron door like the one at the top of the spiral staircase. However, this door had more than a wooden plank barring it’s way. It was secured by a series of crisscrossing steel beams. Each of the massive beams were wrapped up with a ridiculous amount of bulky chains and locks.

Flynn always had the feeling that something terrible was right on the other side of this door – something that was never supposed to be let out. But he put that thought to the back of his mind. He was down here for the medical chest, so he was going to find it and get out.

As he approached the bureau, Flynn swore he could hear a scratching behind the barricaded door. Hoping it was just his imagination, he crept towards the iron door with caution. He was a few paces from the door when it began.

BOOM!
    BOOM!!
        BOOM!!!

The whole chamber began to quake. Flynn jumped in surprise as dust came raining down from the low-arched ceiling with each BOOM! He may have imagined the scratching behind the door, but knew he wasn’t imagining this. Something was trying to get out of the barricaded door – and it was rocking the entire chamber with it’s force.

Panic-stricken, Flynn turned and ran up the spiral staircase as quickly as his legs could carry him. His mother’s satchel clinking rapidly as he pounded up the steps and rounded the top of the staircase. Once on the other side, he slammed the iron door closed and dropped the heavy wooden bar across, hoping to stop whatever was trying to get out.

Exhausted, Flynn leaned against the heavy iron door thinking he was safe for the moment. However, the banging continued to rattle the entire Glasshouse. It seemed even louder up here if that was possible. Sweat dripping down his face, Flynn came to realise that the banging wasn’t coming from the Depths at all – it was coming from up here.

Gathering himself, he raced down the long corridor, turned the corner and ran outside the Glasshouse. His eyes grew wide, taking in a scene of total chaos. The whole of IvyHold was alight in flames and smoke. Through the overhanging trees, he saw figures whizzing through the sky – IvyHold was under attack from above.

The intruders were swooping around the sky, blasting everything in sight. Flashes and sparks erupted from a series of explosions scattered all over IvyHold. Flynn now knew that he would have been much safer if he had stayed within the creepy confines of the Depths.

He turned back towards the Glasshouse for shelter, when a swirling fireball came crashing down over his shoulder. It smashed into the Glasshouse entrance, splintering the doorway where he was standing moments before. Without delay, Flynn turned and dove into a thicket of prickly bushes, scratching and tearing at his cloak.

More flaming balls showered down from the sky, exploding all over IvyHold. There was no escape from the carnage. Flynn stayed under cover and kept a watchful eye as all of the attackers joined up together. Hovering in a swarm, they began to launch an all-out blitz at a single point now. Flynn didn’t need to guess the focus of their attack – he knew their target was his house.

The intense barrage of explosions echoed across the entire Western Reach. The relentless attack continued until it reached it’s sudden crescendo. Everything went silent for a single moment, when a single mega-flash lit up the sky. The sheer absence of sound was absolutely deafening. Then came the inevitable concussion of impact. The shockwave sent Flynn flying off his feet, hurtling through the air. His senses went from an extreme flash of bright light to total darkness after he crashed forcefully into a thick tree trunk.

His body went limp from the impact, then his mind went blank. Losing consciousness had recently become a very unhealthy habit for Flynn.

Chapter 5

The Glasshouse

Flynn couldn’t wait to begin his day and hear all the news from Mom. So he dashed out the doorway and down the long, gravelled path. The small stones crunched rhythmically underneath his boots as he picked up his pace.

On most mornings, he would take the long route to Mom’s Garden before starting his daily chores. Usually in no rush to start working, he would wander down the statue-lined laneway which led to the ornate Fountain Square. Slowly he would make his way past the Broken Tower then climb through the Boulder Patch which led to the Glasshouse. But today he was eager to get there as soon as possible. Today he decided to take a shortcut to Mom’s Garden.

He sprinted past the statue-lined laneway and continued towards the majestic Moonfalls. Approaching the pond at the base of the falls, he hitched up the bottom of his cloak. Without slowing down, he nimbly skipped across the stepping stones that acted as a bridge across the calm waters. After crossing the Moonfalls he rushed to the Hedge Maze where he took a sharp left and cut through the Sunken Oasis.

From here, he could see the large, curling stalks of bonegrass that surrounded the Glasshouse in the distance. Bonegrass was one of the only plants that was hearty enough to withstand ivy’s strangling grip. So Dawnella had planted a wall of the milky-white stalks around the Glasshouse to keep the ivy out.
The bonegrass did it’s job very well, but even it needed to be kept in check. Bonegrass was known to take over entire fields itself, so Dawnella used it sparingly and spent plenty of time taming this inner wall.

Racing up the far end of the Sunken Oasis, Flynn continued down the path and through the wall of bonegrass when a creepy memory resurfaced in his mind. The bony stalks of bonegrass reminded him of the Spider Queen’s skeleton he had seen on the alter. Remembering the Power within the bones calling to him – begging him to touch them. He shook this thought from his head as he approached the wrought-iron doors at the entrance of the Glasshouse which held Mom’s Garden.

There were a number of gardens within IvyHold, but anytime Dawnella said ‘My Garden’ she meant her space within this massive, glass-walled botanical house. This is where she spent all of her time growing precious plants and bottling ointments.

The towering, multi-coloured glass walls of the Glasshouse rose up nearly as high as the walls of IvyHold itself. The panes of glass shimmered a vivid range of colours. Brilliant violets, yellows and scarlets sparkled in the sunshine casting a rainbow of reflections over the exotic plant-life that bloomed within the expansive Glasshouse.

Walking through the bright botanical house always reminded Flynn of taking a stroll on a summer afternoon. Even in the dead of winter when frost was forming outside and icicles clung to the glass walls, the air in here was rich, heavy and most importantly, warm.

Lush plantlife filled the massive interior with bright colours and fragrant aromas. Every few steps, a different scent drifted Flynn’s way. The sweetness of butterrose blossoms turned into relaxing lavender petals, which then gave way to the invigorating scent of rocky pine. Flynn had no idea how his Mom maintained this all by herself, but if anybody could, it was Dawnella. She just had a way with plants and the thriving Glasshouse was proof of her skills.

Flynn walked through the heavily scented air approaching the rear section where he was certain to find his Mom. Tucked away in a far corner of the massive Glasshouse was a smaller enclosure that Dawnella used for her personal Garden. Any of her current projects took place here, behind a curtain of patchwork quilts she put up to maintain a bit of privacy.

Passing through a series of massive domed conservatories brought Flynn closer to Dawnella’s personal Garden. Glass cabinets now lined the walkways instead of exotic plant-life. The cabinets were crowded with all sorts of faded bottles and strangely shaped jars. Flynn had stopped wondering what was in these containers long ago. They were either gardening potions or medicinal remedies anyways – nothing very interesting in his opinion.

Flynn reached the end of the cabinet-lined corridor and came to the patchwork quilt that covered the entrance to Mom’s Garden. He swept the quilted curtain aside to see Dawnella standing over one of her countertops in deep concentration.

Dawnella didn’t raise her head at the sound of his entry, she was too intent on a large lump of clay she held in her hands. Moulding the clay with extreme care, she paused to lift a thin vial from the countertop. With the vial at eye level, she stared into the cloudy mixture. Noticing Flynn through the distortion of the vial, she lowered it with smiling eyes.

“Good morning Love!” Dawnella chimed. Her flowery cloak swished behind her as she walked around the countertop towards her son.

“Morning Mom.” Flynn replied, rubbing his sore head, not realising when the aching began again.

“Still sore honey?” She swirled the cloudy vial before putting it down on the counter.

“No.” Flynn lied, then stopped rubbing his head.

“You took quite the wallop out there.” She slapped the lump of clay in her hands with a wet thwack.

“I’m fine Mom. I swear.” Flynn actually thought that she was the one that looked tired.

“Well, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do after your little adventure the other day.” She picked up the vial again and continued to swirl the cloudy mixture. Hypnotised, Flynn stared into the vial while Dawnella continued, “I let you rest the past few days because of that bump you took to your head.”

“Few days?” Flynn came out of his daze, having no idea it had been that long.

Dawnella placed the lump of clay on a countertop behind her and tucked the cloudy vial into a pocket within her sleeve.

“You needed the rest,” she soothed. Reaching out, she hugged him tight and rubbed his head lovingly, “It’s not everyday that you get gobbled up by a Webling.”

Flynn squirmed out of her embrace, “Dad told you?!?”

“Of course your father told me.” Dawnella laughed, “He tells me everything. I mean, it’s a pretty big deal to be swallowed up by a beast and then fight your way out of it’s belly. To be honest, I’m super impressed.”

“So I’m not forbidden to go Outside again?”

“Forbidden? Of course not!” Dawnella beamed, “If anything, you’ve proven yourself very capable. Your father was extremely impressed with the way you carried yourself as well.”

A big smile flickered across his face, but the mention of his father made Flynn wonder aloud, “Is he around?”

“No,” Dawnella replied, “he went back Outside to sort things out. Things have gotten a bit… messy since your adventures.” Flynn noticed her pause and wondered what could be so ‘messy’ now. His mother continued, “So your father’s just Outside trying to smooth everything over.”

Flynn wasn’t sure what she meant by ‘messy’ or ‘smooth everything over’, but he was certain his father could handle whatever it was. Especially since they now had a brand new charged Relic. The Queen’s Web was bound to possess spectacular Powers which Dad could use.

Remembering this set Flynn off on a chain of questions, “What about the net? Has Dad used it yet? What does it do? What’s it’s Power?”

Dawnella laughed at her son’s outburst of questions. Then she responded simply, “We don’t know. We haven’t used the Queen’s Web yet.”

“But it could help Dad ‘smooth everything over’.”

“You know we can’t go unleashing unknown Powers without first understanding them.” she said with patience.

“But —”

“They will reveal themselves in time sweetheart,” she cut him off with less patience in her voice, “Until then, your father will just have to rely on his wits and sharp blades. They’ve never failed him so far.”

Flynn knew when there was no point in pushing a subject anymore and Mom’s tone of voice meant this was one of those times. He walked over to the countertop where he peered into a large basket full of assorted bottles and jars. Picking up a heavy jar full of thick goo, he held it up to the light to look at the sludgy contents within.

“Careful with that, unless you want to be covered head to toe in bog-root.” Dawnella warned.

“Bog-root? The mossy-mushroomy stuff?” Flynn was grossed out, “Why would you want to grow that?”

“That ‘mossy-mushroomy stuff’ is used for a lot more than you know. Why do you think your mattress is so soft.”

“There’s bog-root in my bed?” Flynn asked, disgusted, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You never asked.” Dawnella answered logically, “And if you are so grossed out about the bog-root, you REALLY don’t want to know why your pillow is so fluffy.”

Flynn shuddered, “Ughh! Why are you telling me this Mom?”

“I didn’t tell you anything.” Dawnella giggled, “I only said you don’t want to know.”

Flynn decided to change the direction of the conversation, “This isn’t bog-root though – it’s sludge.”

“It’s bog-root paste.” she clarified, “It sprouts bog-root on any surface it’s spread upon. Very handy to control, but very tough to get rid of once it’s applied. So you need to handle it with care.”

Flynn still didn’t understand the need for that, but he kept it to himself. Instead he lifted a spray bottle next to the murky sludge in the basket. There was a golden coloured mist inside, “What’s this for?”

“That’s Bee Bringer. It’s a high concentration of…” losing interest, Flynn zoned out while his Mom continued to talk about pollen content and other scientific mumbo-jumbo. He scanned the other vials inside the basket until his attention was brought back my Mom’s warning, “Unless you want an entire swarm buzzing around inside your cloak.” This didn’t sound very comfortable, so Flynn put the spray bottle back in the basket carefully.

Noticing Flynn’s lack of interest in the bog-root paste and Bee Bringer, Dawnella called him closer, “Come here, you’ll like this one.” She pulled the cloudy vial out from her sleeve once again.

“What is that?” Flynn eyed the hypnotic swirls.

“Cloud Clay.” she said matter-of-fact. She walked over to the counter to lift the lump of clay in her other hand.

Flynn had no idea what she was talking about. He knew both words: ‘cloud’ and ‘clay’, but together they made absolutely no sense. Then again, most of Mom’s potions made no sense to Flynn. Dawnella saw her sons confusion and motioned him closer.

She swirled the vial and watched the cloudy mixture roll about. Uncorking the vial, she dripped two misty drops onto the lump of clay.

“What’s Cloud Clay do Mom?”

Just as he asked the question, Dawnella tossed the clay ball up into the air and – POOF!!! Instantly, it puffed up into a dense, fluffy cloud floating at eye level.

“Wow!” Flynn marvelled.

“It’s for the Floating Garden that I’ve been planning.” Dawnella said proudly as she leaned against the sturdy floating cloud.

Flynn was well impressed that the fluffy clay cloud was able to support her entire weight as she leaned against it. The Floating Garden would certainly be an interesting addition to IvyHold.

They already had the Water Garden, the Sunken Oasis, the Boulder Patch, and the crawling Wall Garden on the Eastern wall. Flynn supposed that the next logical step was to go airborne.

Reaching up to grab the floating clay, he began to hang from it, “Could I make another one?”

“Of course. But first we need to get started with the morning’s work.” Dawnella put the swirling vial of Cloud Clay into her satchel.

“What’s the job today?”

“First we will spread the bog-root paste on the Boulder Patch by the Eastern Gate.” She picked up the heavy jar of bog-root paste and placed it in her satchel, “Then we can spray the patch of mantis lilies by the Moonfalls with the Bee Bringer.”

Lifting the spray bottle of Bee Bringer, she placed it carefully into her satchel on top of the Cloud Clay and bog-root paste, “Then we can start the Floating Garden.”

Pulling a darker vial from her sleeve, she dripped two drops from it onto the floating ball of clay that Flynn was still hanging on. Immediately, the sturdy cloud vanished in a puff of smoke, causing Flynn to drop heavily to the ground.

Turning towards the door, Dawnella motioned Flynn to come along, “Come along, we have a lot to do today.”

With the chime of bottles clinking in her satchel, Dawnella swept out of the room. Her flowery cloak gave a breezy swish on her way to start the day’s work.