Escape Vo'Arum by Nicole MacDonald by Nicole MacDonald - Read Online

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Escape Vo'Arum - Nicole MacDonald

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Nicole

Map of Gar’Nyse Part One

Map of Gar’Nyse Part Two

Chapter One

Great Uncle Ilder lay on a high narrow table surrounded by flowers and shimmering white crystals. Mila watched as her grandparents made their way to the table, bending over his head, appearing to whisper to him before adding a crystal of their own to the table.

Seated between her mama and papa, Mila straightened in anticipation when her grandparents nodded to Mama.

‘Let Mila go play,’ Papa spoke the words without moving his lips.

Her mama arched an eyebrow.

‘No!’ Mila protested before a firm squeeze on the shoulder made her falter, voice dropping to a whisper.

‘Please, I want to put a crystal up too.’

‘Come, Mila,’ Mama released her shoulder, seizing her hand. ‘This way.’

All those in the room, her Mestarn relatives and DeNaga relatives, moved forward in a line to say their final farewells. Mila squirmed to watch as Mama, her hold on Mila’s arm firm, guided her to the door.

With an extended hand Mama pushed the door open, her gift a familiar soft bell tone in Mila’s mind. Mama closed the door behind them then crouched to meet Mila’s eyes.

‘Go play with the others, darling, you don’t need to say another goodbye.’

Mila’s face wrinkled, bottom lip thrusting out in a pout as an indignant fluttering in her chest made tears well up.

‘But Mama,’ she sniffed as tears trickled out. ‘Everyone else is!’

‘This is the adult part of the ceremony, little one.’

‘But Jyen is staying!’ Mila stomped her foot, regretting it the moment her foot met the solid wooden floor.

‘Mila! Are you questioning me?’ Mama straightened up, her eyes hard on Mila’s as she flicked the layers of her beautiful black dress out with a gesture of irritation.

Mila stared down at her feet, curling her toes inside the new shiny black leather shoes.

It had all seemed so exciting this morning, to have Nanny dress her in the soft black dress with pretty lace. And her first pair of proper grown-up shoes!

‘I wanted to say goodbye,’ she whispered the words out to her shoes, knowing them to be a lie, wanting to be seen and admired.

‘You’ve said one,’ Mama’s voice softened. ‘Now, go and play. I can sense Addy is there already.’

She stooped, cupping Mila’s chin to press a quick kiss to her forehead before turning back to the door, skirts spinning out and disappeared back into the Memory room.

With a scowl at the closed door, Mila stomped her foot again and again then for good measure jumped on the spot a couple of times. Her skirt filled with air as she jumped up and rounded out with a muffled ‘poof’. The sound and sensation made a giggle bubble up.

Mila! Go on now!

Mama’s voice cracked in her mind, Mila flinched at the sudden sound. She scurried off down the hall her new shoes clacking on the wood floors. The sound caught the attention of the fire dragon in residence, snoozing on a low window seat in full sunlight. The silver green dragon lifted its head, dark eyes narrowing as Mila edged her way past, pressed against the opposite wall. She’d banged into a sleeping fire dragon once. The smell of burning hair still hung in the back of her mind.

Sounds of building echoed along the corridor, heavy distant booms and the occasional sharp ringing CRACK of stone being split. At the next window seat, Mila climbed onto the plump cushioned top to peer out at the slowly rising spiral of stone. From the third story of the Manor Lodge (as the villagers called it) it didn’t seem that impressive yet. One day, not too far away Papa said it would be a round tower, tall enough to house them all with a magnificent spiral staircase from bottom to top.

The staircases in this building all went straight.

I wonder how fast I would slide down a spiral staircase, Mila thought, head tilted as she stared out the window, envisioning the gleaming wood railing. I bet it would make Addy scream lots!

Reminded of Addy, Mila climbed off the window seat and ran along the corridor. After passing only a few doors with many still to go, she paused, reaching down to unfasten her shoes. The tight fit of the buttons made it a struggle. She plonked down to the floor and crossed her foot across her other leg, as close as she could manage and squeezed her little finger behind the button, wriggling it back and forth, easing the leather slit of a button hole off over the shiny metal button.

‘Ooaf!’ It took more effort than she’d expected. Mouth set in a hard line, Mila wrestled the other two buttons out and let her stocking clad foot swing out then pulled her other foot in.

With both shoes off, clutched tight in her hands against her chest, Mila set off at a sliding run, slipping along the wood floors while giggling madly, trying to keep balance.

‘That’s MY ball!’

Addy’s voice rang out high and tight, like how she sounded when about to cry.

The fun of sliding vanished, Mila dashed around the next corner and wobbled with the effort to stop.

The four children stopped to stare at her for a second before ignoring her, the tallest boy lifting the ball high, too high for Addy to reach when she stepped forward with her arms outstretched for it.

‘Benal,’ Addy’s voice got higher. ‘Benal give it to me!’ She dropped her arms, hands curled in fists as she huffed, shoulders going up and down.

‘Na-uh! You gotta grab it off me,’ Benal taunted, the two other boys with him laughing in a tone that made Mila’s face hot with anger.

‘That’s ADDY’S BALL!’

Benal paused for a second, light eyes squinting at her before he turned his attention back to Addy.

‘Ha-ha, come on, grab it, don’t you want it?’

Addy stepped back, face flushed red, making her pretty white eyes stand out even more than usual. Mila covered her ears, knowing what came next.

‘WAAAAHHHHHHHHH!’

The scream pitched out sharp as a wendal sting with almost the same reaction. Benal dropped the ball, sprinting after the other two boys who’d started running as Addy first drew her breath.

‘You sooky baby!’ he shouted while running off.

The scream dropped to a shuddering sob, Addy’s shoulders quivering along with her lower lip.

‘It’s okay,’ Mila dropped her shoes and put her arms around Addy’s shoulders, squeezing.

‘It’s okay. We got the ball back.’

Addy sniffed while nodding, the pigtail close to Mila’s face rubbing over Mila’s nose. She pulled back with a sneeze, wrinkling her face and swatting at the itchy sensation on her nose.

Addy giggled and turned, pouncing on the brown leather ball.

‘Want to play?’

‘Yes!’

They moved further down the corridor, off the main route to the quiet end where the doors finished further back. A window at the end let sunlight stream in pretty patterns through the rough glass windows.

They started out flinging the ball to each other, increasing the distance and when the lumpy ball tired their arms they kicked it, the wool filling with leather cover soft enough to not bruise their shins. Addy, standing near the end of the corridor, took a deep breath before dashing forward to kick it at Mila. With a shout Mila lunged, hitting the floor with her knees but catching the ball in her arms. She grinned at Addy, scrambled to her feet and kicked as hard as possible.

The ball flew down the corridor, too left of Addy, lurching off a wall. It hit a corner and tumbled from view.

Both girls dashed after it, their feet making soft padding noises as they ran. They reached the corner at the same time, Addy squealed when Mila banged into her, both of them falling into the short dark section of corridor.

‘Where’s it gone?’

Mila blinked and blinked again. She saw four walls of the corridor, a single door to the right, but nowhere was the brown leather ball.

‘Mila! Where’s it gone?’ Addy wailed the question again as they climbed to their feet.

‘I don’t know!’ Mila looked at her friend; her stomach lurched like she’d jumped off too high a ledge. ‘I’m sorry!’

Addy stared around the small corridor, her mouth open and face sagging. ‘Miillaaaa,’ the wail from her friend made the falling sensation even more pronounced. ‘You LOST my ball!’

On hands and knees Mila started hunting, peering along the way while glancing back at her friend.

‘We’ll find it, Addy, it can’t just disappear!’

Addy slumped to her knees, blonde pigtails sticking out. Her face crumpled a little more.

‘Honest, it’s gotta be here-’ As the words left her mouth Mila spotted it. ‘LOOK!’

Addy slid across the floor on all fours, jamming up beside Mila who peered through the gap beside an iron-grated manhole set in the floor.

A gap large enough for a brown leather ball.

It sat there beyond reach. Mila stretched her arm hard but didn’t even brush it with her fingertips. Addy, slightly longer limbed, tried her turn, face scrunched with effort before her eyes popped open.

‘I touched it!’

She pulled back, both girls peering through.

It seemed a little further away.

Addy thrust her arm back through the gap, stretching and stretching for it before she pulled back with a gasp of exertion.

‘Too far,’ she said in a voice of angry tears and pulled her knees to her chest, burying her face in them. She rocked on the spot, refusing to look at Mila or the ball.

Pressure built on the back of Mila’s mind, making her eyes hurt and stomach ache. She chewed on her inner cheek and stared at her friend, tummy flip-flopping. Mila crouched next to the gap where the ball was and squinted at the locked manhole beside it.

It was to do with maintenance that’s