The White Rose of Fiorazzurro
Chapter 26 (or, “Raid on the Crystal Palace”)
Jen hit the PLAY button on Jason's boombox, and the sounds of SqrL-X filled the area.
"Shoutout to my homegirls -- holler if you hear me!
L.A. to the East Coast, Seattle to Miami
Don't stop! Go for the top!
We're gonna stick together and we're gonna make it rock!"
"And now," Jason said, clearing some space around him, "we dance."
He hit the ground in a dizzying spin, kicking this way and that, turning on his hands so quickly that Jen couldn't even see individual body parts anymore. Then, he heard a shout from Rifka in a language he couldn't understand, and a roar from the crowd, and then, all of the magic users charged forth.
Jason jumped out of the way at just the right second, letting the crowds of magicians pass him by. Jen ran over to him. "Now what do we do?"
Jason smiled. "We watch them do their thing, that's what we do."
A sound swelled up from behind them; turning, Jen saw an entire group of musicians had situated themselves around the boombox, playing along in complete harmony with the buzzes and beats. As they played, the wind started to blow away from them, and Jason realized even the soundwaves were bending to their wills.
“You think it’s so easy to go against me?” Dark Rosa yelled, letting her staff strike the ground. In an instant, the golden floor changed to spikes, and the other magic users stopped moving. Then, a father and son in the middle with blue hair raised their hands, and the spikes turned into flowers.
Dark Rosa’s mouth gaped open. “How did you do that?”
“How DID they do that?” Jason asked himself. He watched as Rifka grabbed a lady's hand and ran across the mall, leading her up to the Crystal Palace. Dark Rosa was so distracted by the water readers that she didn't even notice them go.
"Die!" she yelled, pointing her staff at them. The flowers rose above the ground, then separated from it, becoming floral monsters of vines and branches and thorns.
“Ladies and Gentlemen!” a voice raged up from the crowd, and everybody turned to see Sheriff Collodi and his assistant, Blue, in the middle. “I need everybody’s help for this next trick I am about to do. Might the Water Readers of the Northern Shore come forward?”
A bunch of women in long, flowing blue outfits, led by a girl with long red hair, stepped forward into a circle. They came around the Sheriff, then grasped their hands and formed a single link around him. William Collodi smiled. "On the count of three, I will perform my best magic trick ever. I will cause the sea to rise up and wipe away the flower monsters you now see coming toward us. There is no need to be alarmed. You will not drown in these waters. Gutschmidts, are you ready?"
"Ready when you are," Adam said, giving a curt nod to the Sheriff.
He raised his hands above his head. "On the count of three. Three!"
With no time to lose, the water from underneath their feet, locked away in pipes, burst forth. Within seconds, the entire area had flooded with a good few centimeters of water, and that was enough for Jasmine and her friends to use. With a flick of her hand, a huge wave gathered up from the water and headed right toward Rosa.
Rifka heard the wave and the ensuing crash from her point, several meters away. She ran from the crowd with Hilary's hand in hers, running to the Crystal Palace's wide entrance. There was a side service entrance, and Rifka whipped out her phone. "Come on, stupid thing, work!" she said, unlocking the screen and tapping it over and over. Thankfully the command entered, and the locked door opened.
"You have a magic of your own," Hilary said.
"We're gonna need it," Rifka said as she pulled up the GPS coordinates. "They said they brought your dragon here, correct?"
Rifka tapped her map, and the GPS coordinates lit up. Two bright blue dots started to flash on the map. "Let's go toward this one first," she said, pointing at it.
But the first blue dot was not Hilary's dragon, but Daisy, tied to a post in a spare bedroom with a gag across her mouth. Rifka untied her and pulled her down from the post. "They know you have to mute us if you're going to take us captive," she muttered as she sat on the ground, getting the feeling back into her arms and legs.
Hilary looked up at the huge stained glass windows, the lofty bed with its canopy, the detailed embroidery on the pillows. "This is what the castle is like?"
"Yeah, and it was ours until we were kicked out," Daisy muttered again.
"You know, that's something I've never understood," Rifka said. "You say you've only left Fiorazzurro and this castle after Cendrillon became queen. But Len was ruler before that, right?"
"Len's grandfather was able to rightfully declare that his family should be the royalty of Fiorazzurro," Daisy said. "So we reigned together in this castle. He was the rightful ruler -- which was a sore issue -- and we were the rulers of magic users. So when Cendrillon took over, clearly that was the end of us. I think I'm ready to move again."
"We don't have far to go," Rifka said. "Daisy, does this map make sense to you?"
Daisy led them out of the room and down two corridors, then down a long flight of stairs that led to a wooden door. Daisy picked the lock, and they were through to the prison underneath the castle. "I remember being here, when I was a kid, and watching as prisoners were led here. My dad was always sensitive to prisoners and made sure they repented for their misdeeds. Now, people just stay here for life, I bet. I wonder how many magic users are down here."
"We should release them."
"Not yet. I haven't been here in so long, I don't know which prisoners should be released. Let's go find your dragon, Hilary."
The locked door at the very end of the hall led to a huge room, several meters in diameter, dark without a single light in it. Daisy snapped her fingers and conjured fire in midair, letting it light the huge stone room without any windows. The room was empty, save for a large black mass as far away from the door as possible.
Hilary stepped forward. "Kaminari?"
Her voice echoed out, pattering across the rock floor, echoing off the walls. Hilary wasn't sure if Kaminari would even remember her, after all these years of loneliness and imprisonment. She herself tried to recall images of her great dragon, strong and tall and powerful. She closed her eyes and reached back into her mind, searching for the mental link she had once shared with Kaminari.
And it was there -- a small light, but a light nonetheless.
She reached up, and the dragon rose to its feet, rearing back with a yawn that came out more like an earthquake. Then, it was on its feet again, red eyes open and ready to receive orders from Hilary.
She grinned, tears running down her face. "Let's fly, Kaminari. For all of Fiorazzurro."
She climbed onto Kaminari's back, and then lent out a hand for Daisy and Rifka. Rifka found herself hanging onto Daisy, noting how scaly Kaminari really was as the dragon came to life. With a flap of its wings, it flew across the room, then ran through the hallway and up and out of the Crystal Palace, leaving it undisturbed. And then, it flew, wings beating against the sky, finally free again.
"Over there!" Hilary called out, and the dragon soared over to where Jason and his boombox were. It landed with a huge gust of wind, then lowered itself so Rifka could get off.
Jason gave Rifka a slap on the back. "Awesome work!"
"I've never seen a dragon before!" Jen said, eyes and mouth wide open.
Daisy slid off the dragon's back. "Where's Calimero?" she asked Rifka.
"Hiding with Sarah. There are only so many of us here right now." Rifka bit her lip. This wasn't going well. "I need to get him."
"No need. I'll go to him. Just tell me where he is."
"I'll take you." Rifka ran with Daisy across the battlefield, past drowned flowers, the cacophony of musicians playing, the electricity in the air and over to the now-empty fountain in the middle of the square. Calimero was hiding under the main rim, completely out of Dark Rosa's sight, holding the merging potion and praying nobody would notice he was there.
He nearly jumped when Daisy slid under the decorative rim to greet him. "Yo."
Calimero got his breath back, sighed, smiled. "This is for you," he said, handing the potion to Daisy.