Chapter: In The Vampire Rocks
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Previously: In Wonderland, Madnes and his group have split up in their search for the 7 crystals of the Terraforming Spell (a dangerous spell currently threatening to destroy their home on Earth, Okinala Island). Cheshire is with Cosmic, Harrey is with the orphans, and Madnes with Alice. They now journey through their individual missions, but the Red King has his own plan to put a stop to them, sending out his knights and Wanted posters. Meanwhile, the story follows Harrey, Ash and Drisel up in the Floating Isles of the Baa people as they hunt for one of the crystals. Thimble is their new Baa friend, and is the only Baa who cares about the strange introvert Wolf—who people have been accusing for the disappearances of several Baa. But now Thimble has gone missing, and it’s up to them to save her and find out who the real culprit is…
Ash let the older Baa girl lead him to an islet hovering nearby their workshop island. On it sat a rectangular basket, big enough for four people to stand in; it was attached to a pulley system. Ash craned his neck back to follow the pulley ropes leading straight up through a cloud.
Thelma climbed into the basket without a care, and gave him an impatient look. He followed in. “The High Plains are up there?” he asked.
She gave a curt nod, then pointed to one of the pulley system’s ropes. “Pull us up. We don’t have all day.”
Ash eyed the rope, then pulled on it.
The basket lifted slightly.
“Pull harder than that! Don’t you have muscles?”
Ash rubbed his hands from the strain, then pulled harder. The rope squealed as the basket rose some more. He let out a wheezing breath. “Can’t you help?” he craned his neck.
She sniffed. “You’re the male. You do the work.”
Ash groaned, clenched his teeth, then tugged the rope harder. ‘Insufferable Baa! I’m a kid—how am I supposed to have more muscles?’ This was going to take a while…
After who-knew-how-long of tugging and pulling, the basket rose free of the cloud layer, and an expanding island of rolling hills came into view beside them, stretching green into the horizon: the High Plains.
The basket wobbled as it locked into position and let them climb out. Ash surveyed the green fields and dotted woods winding up to a low mountain. He tried to see as far as he could, searching for anything that resembled Man in Moon’s airship.
It wasn’t near where they stood, but there were plenty of places farther in the plains that could obscure the moonship from sight. He chose a rocky, wooded area and began heading for that.
“A lot of land to search, kid,” commented Thelma.
She was right. “I know, but we have to start somewhere. Some of those rocky hills could be hiding something.”
She stuffed her hands in pockets and followed his trot toward the nearest grouping of rocks and trees. Reaching it, an hour passed as they climbed and weaved through the jumble, finding nothing… They tried a stand of solitary woods across the next field, still finding nothing. Ash felt like he was on a board game, weaving to and fro across the green board to every landmark he could see.
More hours of searching passed, and by then they’d only covered a third of the plains island. Thelma bent, hands resting on knees, catching her breath.
“No more, kid. I’ve had enough of this,” Thelma wheezed, a strong breeze rolling across the grassy plain battering them. “Thimble isn’t here. Man in Moon might be, somewhere beyond,” she waved at the rest of the island they hadn’t covered, “but I doubt he has anything to do with this. He’s been a friend of the Baa for a long time; I doubt he’d ruin that by kidnapping our young.”
What she said did make sense, but…
“I’m going back,” Thelma said finally. “There’re other places I want to check—more likely places where my sister could be.”
Ash hung his chin. She was being more sensible than he was. But…
“Good luck, kid.” She waved back a hand. “Head back before dark. Wouldn’t want vampire bats finding you up here alone.”
He shuddered. But…
What was it Madnes always did? Followed his instincts, investigated whenever he felt something was off. Madnes had a special power that Ash didn’t have, true, but…maybe he should follow his instincts too.
“I’ll try,” he waved back as the Baa girl trotted off on her sheep-like feet. Now, he was on his own. He turned to face the rest of the island, left unsearched. “Okay…I can do this.”
Ash made his way to a copse of trees in the field, climbed up a limb where he could get a better view, and chose his next search targets. He slid down the rocks of an outcropping, climbed up and around a wooded hill, and followed a winding trail around the base of rolling foothills in his search. Still no moonship.
“Maybe he’s on a different island…” Ash sighed. There were too many places for an airship to go in the Floating Isles. “One last try, then I have to leave.” He’d meet up with Harry, see if he and Drisel had found anything.
There was an odd hillside of jutting boulders with sharp tips, like vampire fangs, nearer the mountain. Ash let his feet carry him toward it, barely able to feel his numb toes from so much running.
Wind tore at his clothes until he reached the hillside’s shelter. He rested a hand on a white rock, eyeing its soaring height—much taller now that he was standing at its base, like a triangular pillar. He weaved through the forest of white vampire-fang rocks, flattening grass and pebbles under shoes.
Something grey showed between two pillar rocks when he passed; he halted, then backtracked. The grey thing was distant and round. He wove forward, edging toward it, and where something like a meadow interrupted the sharp boulder forest, there sat the moonship.
Ash stumbled, and caught a boulder to halt himself. There it was, finally. He’d found Man in Moon! There wasn’t much time to exult in his success, however; he made his way to the moonship. Quiet, keeping from windows’ sight as best he could.
A thick, heavy rope with an anchor stuck in the ground around a boulder kept the moonship grounded. It also made for a way to sneak inside, as Ash shimmied on up the rope—not an easy thing to do, quite painful; his hands still ached from the pulley’s rope.
Grabbing the lip of the guardrail, he hoisted himself up and over onto the ship’s deck. He paused, listening for any sounds, then crept to the tall cabin door he knew would lead down into the hull and home of the ship. The door creaked open and he held his breath.
He stepped around a jumble of objects and fishing nets left unwanted about the upper cabin room as he made for the set of stairs. The steep steps creaked a little at his feet’s touch, and he tried his best to suck in his weight and be light as possible while he crept down the rest of the way.
The familiar and crowded hall room, which was the hull of the ship, spread beyond the stairs.
Ash jumped at the sudden noise at his heels, and twitched his neck back to look behind him.
Frobbit the robot frog blinked glowing eyes at him from the shadow behind the steps.
‘Frobbit! He’s still here, and working?’
He picked the frog up in his hands.
“Looking for something?”
Ash spun around at the voice, dread pounding his chest. “Man in Moon…”
Dun-Dun-Dunnn! What will Ash do now that he’s finally found the elusive Man in Moon?
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