Ganglies

The air knows no mercy here in Emeresia. It never does. The flames from the ground rose and licked the tip of my chin, and I brushed them away with an air of annoyance. Where we used to live, I thought as I walked down to where our hut was set up, grass would have tickled my chin. Not flames.

"Hi Mom," I said as I walked into our small home. I sat down in one of the stone chairs we had at the table as my twin brother Potar came in.

"Hey Kia," he said.

"Hello Kia, hello Potar," Mom said as she joined us both at the table. "What have our little adventurers been doing this morning?"

"I was just trying to get acquainted with the surroundings," I said. "I haven't met any other ganglies our age though."

"I have," Potar said without lifting his head off the table. "Two of them actually. Brother and sister. Their names are Yotati and Gangyoké. Very nice little ganglies. I met them when I was walking around looking for you, silly!" He shoved me lightly and I picked up an apple and threw it at him.

"Well, sorry I got lost from you, loser," I shot back. "You should keep better track of me if you like me as much as you say you do." Potar got down on one knee and stared into my eyes.

"Kia," he said. "If you weren't my sister, I would marry you." Mom and I laughed as she got up and walked over to our earthen stove.

"Anyone hungry?" she asked as she set the bowls out on the table.

"Yeah!" We cried simultaneously as she spooned some soup into our bowls.

"Armadillo stew," she said proudly, looking at her concoction. "I caught one while you guys were out playing." I leaned over and sniffed it. It smelled wonderful, and I grabbed the spoon with my wing flap and dug in.

"Mmmmm…" I said as I shoveled some more into my mouth. "This is really good." Mom smiled proudly as she watched us eat.

"I thought that you guys might like that," she said.

"Who said I liked it?" Potar said suddenly. Mom turned around and stared at him.

"You don't like it, Potar?" There was silence for a moment, and then he flashed her a wide grin.

"Fooled ya!" he said laughingly. "I love it!" She reached her wing over and ruffled the scales on his head.

"You are such a little joker, Po," she said, still laughing. "Your father was like that too, always joking about everything." She turned me and patted my head. "Kia's more like me."

"What was Dad like?" Potar asked threw a mouthful of stew. "Was he strong?"

"Was he nice?" I asked.

"Was he brave?"

"Was he handsome?" Mom nodded and turned back around towards the stovetop.

"Yes…" she said sadly. 'Your father was all of those things, especially brave." She looked at both of us. "Did I ever tell you how your father died?" We both shook our heads. She sighed and turned back around towards where we were sitting.

"Your father was enlisted in the Rejoliké army before we all were outlawed to Emeresia, and they sent his troop out Bantin, where we were fighting the kooklings. They were strong, they had about one hundred thousand ganglies, but the kooklings were far stronger. One of the few survivors told me after he returned that there were so many kooklings on the shore line you couldn't even se the forest." She rooted around the pocket of her apron and pulled out a dull medal. She rubbed it against the rough sacking that the apron consisted of. After she was done, she held the medal out to me with a hint of pride in her eyes

"Their general called an order to retreat, but your father wouldn't stand it. He called upon the ganglies to rally up and fight and he lead them to where the kooklings were waiting. He died on the spot. He didn't even have a chance. Most of the other ganglies, after seeing your father die, turned and ran. The kooklings followed and killed all the ganglies who hadn't made it to the water in time. Only twenty came back alive." I stared at the medal and read the inscription: 'Given to Kengar Yulé Rangbasser by General Leighton Mae for extreme courage and bravery on the date of August 12, 1982.' Potar took the medal gently from me and placed it around his neck.

"That was before you guys were even born…I was only about a month pregnant at the time. Ken died a year before you were born…no, not quite a year, about ten months. You guys never even knew him." She picked up the spoon and began absentmindedly stirring the stew.

"Oh well," she said sadly. "There was nothing we could do about it, now was there?" We both shook our heads and she cleared our bowls off the table.

"Now, both of you pesky little ganglie beasts shoo until suppertime, all right?" We nodded and walked out in the door into the hot, humid air.

"Where did you say you met those other ganglies?" I asked my brother as we walked outside.

"They live in the hut over there," he replied, pointing a wing over at a small hut. "They're really nice…"

"Sure they are, Po," I said sarcastically. "By your standards, a fucking warthog with a spear up its ass is nice." He shoved me a little, and I fell over.

"Shut up, Ki," he said. "Mom thinks you're so proper and prim, and then you leave the house and you're fucking worse then I am!"

"Blow me, assmaster," I replied. We were almost at the hut.

"See! There you go again! Even I don't talk like that all the time…" I pushed his face away and knocked on the door. An old looking ganglie appeared.

"Yes?" she asked.

"Are Yotati and Gangyoké home?" I asked. She stared at us strangely for a moment, and then realized about whom we were talking.

"Oh…those two. I'll go get them." She walked inside the house and came back with two ganglies about our age after a minute or two.

"Now, you two be back home before supper time, or else I'll have to tell your father when he gets home, and we don't want that now do we?" They shook their heads. She smiled and patted them both. "I didn't think so. Have fun, babies." They turned to us and we began walking out in the direction of the castle.

"Hey Potar!" one of them said. "Who's that?" It lifted up a wing and pointed at me.

"This is my sister Kia," he said. "Ki, meet Yotati," He pointed to one. "And Gangyoké." He pointed to the one who had pointed at me.

"…Hi…" Yotati said shyly and hid behind Gangyoké.

"Are you two brother and sister too?" I asked. Gangyoké nodded.

"Yup. We're twins!"

"So are we!" I said. "Wow!" Yotati finally spoke up from behind Gangyoké's back.

"All ganglies are," she said softly.

"What do you mean, 'All ganglies are?'" Potar asked.

"All ganglies are born twins. It's nothing special." I cocked my head.

"That's not true!" I said. "My best friend over where we used to live was an only child!"

"That's because the other one must have died." She replied. "Anyway, there has never been a ganglie born without a matching brother or sister. It's just not possible."

"Whatever, Yotati," I replied. She looked around and then gazed up into my face, I was a little taller then she was.

"You know the prince of the ganglies…what's his face…Raydin? Kiytopie's son?" I nodded my head. I had seen him once in last year's annual ganglie parade.

"He's kinda cute," I replied. She giggled a little and then continued.

"His twin sister died at birth. He's an only child, just like your friend…what was her name?"

"Liliti."

"That's a pretty name. So is Kia. I hate Yotati," she said.

"I like it…I think it has a magical sound to it."

"Tell that to Gangyoké," she replied. "He is constantly making fun of my name. He's says I'm gay and all that shit. However, I am not gay! I just don't like ganglies, that's all!" I stared at her strange.

"What the hell do you mean by that?" I asked.

"I am not sexually interested in ganglies," she said. "I prefer human beings."

"WHAT?" I backed away from her a little bit. 'How can you fucking like…humans? They're scary and ugly and they don't even have wings!" She lowered her head.

"I don't know why…I just do," she replied. "I keep having dreams about them." I raised an eyebrow.

"What kind of dreams?"

"Nothing bad," she said. "They come to me. There are two who stand out the most One with bright green-eyes and one with purple. The one with purple eyes is sick…and the green eyed one wants to save her, but he doesn't know how. I don't ever remember anymore after that."

"Ooh…is she his girlfriend?" I asked immaturely.

"No," she replied. "I think they're related because I saw the girl holding hands with the boy's best friend in one of my dreams.

"Do you know their names?" I asked.

"Only one of them," she replied.

"What is it?"

"Stan."

"Stan?" I said. "What the hell kind of name is Stan?"

"Shut up!" she cried. "I like that name. Stanley…Stanley…shit, I can't remember what his last name was."

"Do you like him?" I taunted. She grew bright red and turned away from me.

"You do!" I said. "Yotati likes Stan, Yotati likes Stan!"

"Shut up!" she cried and leapt onto me. "Shut up, shut up, shut up!" With every shut up that she said, she accentuated her words with a punch.

"Ow!" I cried out. "Stop it! Potar! Help me!" She was still punching me for all of her worth, and Potar, along with Gangyoké, came running over.

"Yotati!" Gangyoké yelled. "Get off of her right now! Get off of Kia!" He and Potar pulled with all of their might and finally pried her off me. I scrunched up in the fetal position, bracing myself for another hit, when I realized that she wasn't there anymore. Then I started to cry. Potar came over and sat on the ground next to me.

"Are you okay, Ki-bird?" he asked. Hearing him call me by my favorite nickname made me feel a little better and I sat up.

"I'm okay," I said, rubbing the side of my face. He looked me over.

"Are you sure?" he asked. "Your face looks like it's swelling up!" I rubbed my head as I got up off the ground. I glared over at Yotati, and she hid behind her brother. She looked to the ground, ignoring my gaze. I pushed Potar behind me, and Gangyoké and I stood there, staring at each other.

"I'm sorry about Yotati," he finally said. "She gets a little carried away with herself sometimes." I glanced at her and then rubbed my forehead again.

"You could say that again," I replied. "She has one hell of a punch. I didn't even get a shot off." He laughed a little.

"You should see her at home," he said. 'She gets so mad sometimes…"

While we were talking, Potar had left my side and walked behind Gangyoké.

"Yotati…" he said softly. She turned around and tried to wipe the tears out from her eyes.

"What do you want?" she asked. "Leave me alone!" He lowered his head a little and turned away from her.

"Sorry…" he said softly and started walking back towards me. She thought about it for a minute, and then brushed her wingtip against his shoulder. He turned around.

"Sorry Po," she said. "I didn't mean to sound so rude…but, your sister pissed me off."

"What exactly did she do?" he asked. She looked down to the ground and then looked back up at him.

"She laughed at me."

"What did you say?" She grabbed him by both wings.

"You'll laugh at me too!" she cried. She tossed him onto the ground. "I'm not having anyone else laugh at me!" He got up off the ground and grabbed her wing.

"I promise I won't laugh at you, Yotati," he said. She dragged him over to a rock that was about fifty yards away from where Gangyoké and I were chatting.

"I don't like ganglies," she said. His face contorted into a confused grimace.

"What does that mean?" Potar asked. "You don't like me or Ki or Gangyoké?" She shook her head.

"No…" she said. "I regular like ganglies…but, I don't like like ganglies."

"You…you don't?" he said. "But…what the hell? I'm totally confused." She sighed and looked back up at him, her bright green eyes shining.

"Okay Po. I like you as a friend, I like Gangyoké because he's my brother, I even sort of like Kia as a friend, but I don't like ganglies sexually. I like…" She looked away. Potar's eyes softened as he pictured the background of this poor girl. All of her life, she has been tormented by her peers, by her brother, and probably by her elders as well, he imagined. She had discovered her sexual preference and had made the mistake of telling…her brother, perhaps, or her best friend that she was different. In addition, they had exploited her emotions and made her into the spaz attack that she was now.

"Who do you like, Yotati?" he asked softly. She looked at him for a second, lost, and then replied, "Humans." She buried her face into her wings and sobbed.

"But there's nothing wrong with that! Daddy said so! Dad said there was nothing wrong with liking humans! He said he liked them himself!" Steam was rising from the ground where her tears were hitting the flames. Potar leaned over and placed his arm around her.

"If it matters, Yotati, I still like you," he said. She stopped crying abruptly and stared into his soft brown eyes.

"You mean it?" she asked softly. "You don't care that I like humans over ganglies?" He shook his head.

"Yotati," he said. 'You could like goddamn Satan and I would still like you." A huge grin lit up her tear-stained face and she leaned over and gave him a quick hug.

"Thanks Po!" she said. "Thanks for being a great friend!" He patted her head.

"No problem," he said. "And don't worry about Ki, she's just not used to that idea. She's not big on change. She's still getting used to the idea of living here…you'll have to excuse her." She laughed a little.

"I understand." She got up off the rock and pulled my brother up. "Let's go see what her and my brother are up to."

"So that's why monkey's always eat Spam," Gangyoké finished as the other two came back. I was on the ground laughing from his story. Potar walked over and kicked me.

"What the fuck…" I said and looked up from the ground. I was staring into the mischievous face my brother. I leapt up off the ground and flapped my wings. I wasn't very good at flying yet, but I still could get some air under my wings. I raised myself about five feet off the ground and bared my fangs at Potar.

"AHHHHHHHHHH!" he cried out. I forgot that I was in the air and I started to laugh. I fell tumbling to the ground and landed right on top of him.

"You bitch!" he cried and rolled on top of me. He slapped me lightly, but I was laughing too hard to care.

"Your…your face," I gasped through the hysterical gusts of laughter. 'Holy shit…if you could have seen…your face!" Gangyoké was also on the ground laughing.

"Nice going, Ki," he said hysterically. "That was the funniest thing I've seen since the monkey ate that mother fucking Spam…" Potar smiled shyly and lifted me up off the ground.

"All right, all right, it was a little bit funny…" Even Yotati had the smallest hint of a smile on her lips. He turned towards her and pretended to cry.

"Now you're against me too?" he cried. "Oh no…" She laughed a little bit and then tackled him.

"Yes I am, Potar Rangbasser!" She rolled over him and held him down. "I am definitely against you." Gangyoké and I looked at each other and we both leapt on top of the two of them.

"Here…I…COME!" I cried out and we all rolled around on the ground like an armadillo. After about five minutes, we were all so exhausted that we finally had to stop. I giggled a little as I placed my head on Gangyoké's shoulder.

"This is the happiest I've been since we had to move," I said. Gangyoké rubbed the scales on the top of my head, and then, when he realized that Po and Yotati were watching him, he stopped. Yotati leaned over to Potar and winked, and he winked back. I yawned a little and snuggled deeper into Gangyoké's chest.

"I'm so tired," I said. "I wonder when we're going to eat dinner? I'm also starving!" The others laughed.

"Ki, you're always hungry!" Potar said. He added on a second thought, "You're always tired, too!" We all laughed again and then Potar leaned over to Gangyoké.

"Come with me for a minute," he said. He picked me up off him, dropped me on the ground, and walked off with Potar.

"Thanks for the gentle drop-off!" I called after him. He flipped me off with one claw without even turning around. I laughed, and then turned to Yotati.

"What do you think your brother thinks of me?" I asked her outright. She glanced at me in mild surprise.

"Wow, you are very blunt, Ki," she said. "I dunno, why?"

"Because I like him." I thought about it, and then added, "A lot." She giggled a little bit.

"I don't understand how you could like my brother," she said. "He's annoying, ugly and sarcastic as hell."

"Just like me," I chipped in. "We're a perfect match." She nodded her head, and then glanced off at the two boys.

"I wonder what they are doing…"

***

"You like Ki, don't you?" Potar asked outright.

"How the hell did you know?" Gangyoké asked. Potar smiled a sly smile.

"I know a lot about my sister," was all he said.

"Do you think she would go out with me?"

"Are you going to ask?" he thought about it, and then nodded.

"I like her a lot," he said. "She's cute, and funny, and she laughs at all my jokes. What more could I want?" Potar smiled.

"For her to be nice to me," he said. Gangyoké laughed.

"That will never happen. I bet you if you died right now that she wouldn't care."

"Yeah…probably." They both laughed again.

"Hey Gangyoké…do you have a nickname? Like me and Kia?" he thought about it for a moment.

"No…actually, everyone's always called me Gangyoké." He nodded his head.

"I was just wondering…everyone has always called Kia and I Po and Ki. I thought you might have one too." He shook his head.

"Nope," he said and then changed the subject.

"You think I should ask your sister out?"

"Go ahead…but I'm not guaranteeing anything…" He smiled a little and they started walking back towards us girls.

"That's okay, Potar," he said. "It doesn't matter what she says, just as long as I try."

I heard them coming before I could see them, and I told Yotati so.

"They're coming back," I said, and we stopped our conversation. I turned around slightly so I could see them. They didn't look like they were plotting anything, so I relaxed considerably. Po sat down next to Yotati and Gangyoké sat next to me. I looked over at him and pushed him over. He gave a little squeak of surprise and fell backwards.

"That's what you get for dropping me on the ground, Gangyoké!" I said.

"Ki," he said, and looked at me. "How old are you?"

"Two."

"No, I didn't ask how old you were mature wise, I asked how old you were!" I laughed, and so did he.

"I'm seventeen," I answered. He smiled.

"So am I…when's your birthday?"

"February 13."

"That's coming up soon," he said. Today was January 28.

"I know." I said, and then asked, "When's yours?"

"March 1."

"Not long after ours," I said. He nodded.

"We'll be able to move out soon."

"Yeah…I wonder what it's going to be like without my mom and Po…I'm scared to leave, but scared to stay. I wanna be independent, but I like having my mom there…"

"What about your dad?" Gangyoké asked. He saw my face and knew he shouldn't have asked.

"Oh…I'm sorry, Ki," he said. "My mom died having us…so, I know what it feels like." I stared at him oddly.

"Then who as that ganglie that answered the door?" I asked, thinking about the kindly face of that ganglie.

"Oh, that's our grandmother on my dad's side," he replied. "She came to help him raise us after Mom died…he still had to go out to war and such."

"That's where our Dad died…he was in our history books though." I thought about the chapter in our history book dedicated to the war in Rejoliké. I had memorized the passage where it mentioned our father's name.

'During that devastating final battle, one ganglie stuck out in particular. Captain Kengar Yulé Rangbasser of the 22nd regiment went against the orders of General Leighton Mae in a final attempt to defeat the kookling beasts. He died in battle, but he received the ganglie's highest war honor, the medal of Kingito, given to his wife on the date of August 12, 1982. General Polang of the kooklings later said that he was the bravest creature that ever lived.' Just thinking about that passage brought tears to my eyes. Gangyoké saw them, but he didn't say anything about it. He just let me have my moment of sadness. After a moment, though, I was all right again. I told Gangyoké so.

"Are you sure, Ki?" he said. "If I brought back something painful, I'm sorry." He grinned sheepishly. "Open mouth, insert foot." I smiled a little and then sighed.

"It's all right," I said. "You didn't know, how could it be your fault?" he looked down at the ground and picked a flame up on his claw. He let it run almost to his scales and then blew it out.

"Was Kengar Rangbasser your dad?" he asked. I looked up, surprised.

"How did you know that?" I asked.

"I read that thing in the history books too, you know," he said. "I'm sure he wouldn't have wanted to go any other way."

"Yeah…" I said. "But don't you wish sometimes that your mom was there? Couldn't she do some things better then your dad?" He thought about that for a minute, and then nodded.

"That's how I feel. I know that my mom can support me emotionally, and in that respect she will always be there, but who is going to race with me? Who is going to teach me how to fly? My mom has a permanent hairline fracture in one of her wings, so she can't teach me. Who is going to take me out to the national ganglie flying competition? Mom doesn't like that kind of stuff! But Dad would have…I'm sure of it." Gangyoké put his arm on my shoulder, and turned my face towards him.

"Ki…" he said. "Don't be sad, all right? You're much more beautiful when you're happy." I blushed and turned away with a shy smile on my face.

"Thanks…" I said softly. "Uh…so are you." I honestly didn't know what to say in reply of his compliment, and it showed. He took one finger and used it to push my face around so I was looking at him.

"Ki, can I ask you something?" he said. I laughed to myself as I thought, 'Didn't really give me a choice now did ya, buddy?'

"Sure," I replied. Yotati and Potar looked at each other, and she winked at him. He winked back.

"What do you think of me?" he asked softly. I raised an eyebrow.

"What do I think of you? In what kind of way?" he lowered his head and rubbed his toe in a flame. It sputtered and died under his foot. He looked back up at me again.

"Well…do you like me?" I nodded my head.

"Sure, I like you…but what kind of like are you looking for?"

"Do you like like me?" I cocked my head to the side and thought about it for a moment. Should I tell him? I thought to myself. Should I let it all out, or should I wait for a better time…

"I like you." It came out before I could shut it up. Gangyoké's face lit up.

"You do?" he cried. "Really?" I hesitated, and then nodded my head.

"Yeah…I like you, Gangyoké."

"That's GREAT!" he cried. "That is so fucking COOL!" I smiled a little as he gushed some more. He got serious again after a minute.

"Ki, then I have a question for you."

"Does it involve monkey's eating Spam?" He laughed and then slapped my shoulder lightly.

"No," he replied. "I want to know if you would go out with me." I glanced over at Potar, who was grinning from head flap to head flap. He flashed me a thumbs up sign; he approved. I turned back to Gangyoké.

"Sure," I said. "I'll go out with you, Gangyoké." His face lit up as if the sun came down and sat on his face.

"You'll will?" he said. I nodded my head. He looked genuinely happy over this and gave me a hug.

"Wow!" he said. "That is so awesome!" I slowly put my arms around him in return, and surprised myself by giving him a kiss on the cheek. I think it surprised him more though, and he slowly pulled away from me to stare me in the eyes. I stared right back, but after a minute I looked away, embarrassed.

"I'm…I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't mean…" he out his hand over my mouth and I stared him in the eyes again. They were golden yellow, and they were beautiful. My eyes were a soft, dull brown, and I hated them. Everyone would always say that I was full of shit so it made my eyes brown. I told them to go fuck themselves, though.

"It's all right, Ki…" he said, and then smiled. "I liked it." Behind us, Yotati and Potar leaned over and slapped each other a high five. Gangyoké and I were an item, and it would stay that way until the day he died.

Everything was going okay for all of us ganglies until King Kiytopie died. Everyone said that it wasn't anyone's fault, just a misfired shot. But I knew it wasn't. Potar and I saw the whole thing. No one believed us, though, but I remember that event as clear as day.

Potar and I had just eaten lunch and decided that were wanted to be alone today, so we left Yotati and Gangyoké alone. We walked along a small rocky trail that led to the castle, a place that both of us were fascinated with. The huge oaken doors and enormous stones were things that the two of us could stare at for hours. The ganglie motto was carved onto the handle of the door: To Live, Love, and Prosper. We walked around to side and we could hear an argument going on.

"Listen, Po!" I said excitedly. "Someone's fighting out around back!" He cocked his head listened for a few moments. He smiled and grabbed my arm.

"Come on, let's go check it out!" he cried, and we walked quietly around to the back, and hid behind a large outcropping of rocks. We saw King Kiytopie himself and the smaller, more muscular form of Prince Raydin out on the balcony duking it out

"I am not stepping down, Raydin, and that's final!"

"Dad, I'm warning you, step down or something bad is going to happen…"

"What do you think is going to happen? What the hell do you know anyway? You're only thirty years old!"

"Dad, I'm afraid that someone's out to kill you! I think that you should give the throne to me so that I can protect you!" Kiytopie rolled his eyes and turned towards the edge of the balcony, staring over in our direction.

"Like I haven't heard that one before, Raydin," he said. "I am not going to step down so that you can rule early, no fucking way. Now you are just going to have to deal with that." He turned towards the door and started walking towards it when Raydin nodded his head. It was such a slight nod that I didn't think of it until after the fact. A shot fired into the air, and Kiytopie fell.

"DAD!" Raydin cried, and ran over to his fallen father's body. "Dad, can you hear me? Dad?" I stared over at Po in shock, and he stared right back at me.

"Ki…" he said softly so that the shooter couldn't hear if he or she was still around. "That was planned. Did you see that nod? And the way that Raydin said he that he was afraid someone was going to kill him…" It all came to me then, and I almost screamed.

"Po! Po, we have to do something! We can't just let him…" A deafening wail pierced the air and I heard Raydin's voice cry out over the still, hot air.

"My father is dead! King Kiytopie is dead!" he wailed. Many ganglies of all sizes started rushing to the castle then, and Raydin stood up. He looked around to make sure no one was close enough to see what he was doing, and kicked his father's body. I saw his lips moving, but neither Po nor I could ever figure out what he said. Something terribly rude, I'm sure. The first ganglie came running up the stairs then, and one was flying up to the balcony just as the first one arrived.

"Prince Raydin, what happened? Did you see anything?" he shook his head and tears rolled down his scaly face.

"No…" he said in that obviously fake sob voice. "I never saw anything. We were out here taking in the air one minute, and he was…dead the next." The ganglie that was flying up the balcony arrived then, and landed next to Raydin.

"I guess this means that Raydin is now the king," she said. Her voice sounded like someone had rubbed the inside of her vocal chords with sandpaper. He turned to the girl ganglie and fell into her arms, and I recognized her then. She was Kayla, the now King Raydin's current fling. The other ganglie nodded in agreement.

"Yes…" he said. "I guess that is what it means." Po and I stared at each other, to afraid to move, to afraid to talk. We had to do something! I thought. I stared at the height from the ground to the castle, and then flapped my wings a little. If I tried really hard, I could probably make it to the balcony. I leaned over to Po.

"I'm going to tell the other ganglies up there what really happened. Wait here for me, all right?" He nodded.

"Take care, sis," he said, and I flapped my wings, and rose slowly into the air. I was still an inexperienced flyer, and it took all of my strength just to get off the ground. I struggled to get height and I finally did so when I caught my wings under a hot steam vent. It looked painfully high up, much higher then it had from the ground, but I still pushed on towards it. There were all looking at me now, and at first I was afraid that they weren't going to let me land up there. They moved out of my way though, and after a painful few moments, I was up on the balcony. I immediately turned to the ganglie on my right and started yelling hysterically.

"It was fixed, it was fixed!" I cried. "That wasn't an accident!" The ganglie grabbed onto my shoulders and held me down.

"Woah, woah, slow down, young one! Now explain this to me more slowly," he said. I took a deep breath and started over.

"King Kiytopie's death was no accident," I said, and he gasped.

"What do you mean by that…um…what's your name?"

"Kia. Kia Lily Rangbasser. Everyone calls me Ki, though." He nodded his head, which told me he understood and also meant for me to continue.

"Well, me and my brother were taking a walk, and we heard fighting from around back so, as you would expect, we went to see what it was all about. King Kiytopie was standing out here on this balcony, and he and Raydin were arguing. Raydin wanted him to step down so he could have the throne, but he refused. Raydin said that he wanted him to because he was afraid that someone would kill him, but Kiytopie didn't believe him. He turned around and was about to go inside when Raydin nodded his head. It was a small, subtle nod, but someone out here understood what it meant. There was a gunshot, and now Kiytopie is dead." The ganglie stared at me with regarding eyes, and then turned towards Raydin. He leaned over and whispered something in his ear. He nodded, and they both leapt at me. I was caught totally off guard, and I cried out. The ganglie that I had trusted turned around and whispered in my ear.

"You're getting what you deserve, bitch! This what we're going to do with people who can't leave us alone! You know too much!" He nodded to Raydin, and they heaved me over the edge.

"PO!" I screamed before they let go of me. "PO, HELP ME!" He looked up and saw them drop me.

"KI!" He cried. "Don't worry Ki, I'm coming!"

I tried desperately to slow my hundred-foot drop by flapping my wings, but I was still falling just as fast as I was before. I saw the ground rush up to meet and I thought it was lost. Five feet above the ground, though, it happened. Po rushed by me like a rocket and grabbed right onto my arm, pulling me up. He flapped his wings even harder, and he slowed down enough so that neither of us would be hurt when he landed. We both landed on the ground, Po on top of me, in a tangled mess of limbs and wings.

But I was alive.

"Po…" I said, crying in relief. "Oh my God Po, I thought I was going to die…" He held me tightly as he stared up into the eyes of Raydin above. He stroked the scales on the top of my head and tried to calm me down.

"Shh…" he said. "It's all right now, Ki-bird. They aren't going to hurt you anymore…" A shot whizzed through the air and struck me in the shoulder. Po had spoke too soon.

"OW!" I screamed. "Oh fuck, they shot me!" Potar grabbed me by the arm and stared dragging me away from the castle.

"Po…it hurts," I said quietly as he dragged me along.

"Don't worry, Ki," he said as he looked over his shoulder to stare into my face. "I'll get you home."

He got me home all right, but I thought to myself later that he could have been a bit gentler about it. My mom was hysterical as she saw him drag me through the door.

"Holy shit!" Mom cried. That was one of the only times I had ever heard her swear, the other time being when Po and I brought home a filthily dirty pot bellied pig. Boy her language was colorful that day. "What the fuck happened? Potar Edward Rangbasser, explain this to me right fucking NOW!"

"Someone shot her…we saw something at the castle…" That was all she had to hear. She lifted me up and lay me out over the table.

"Potar, got get me a towel, and some peroxide," she said. "A needle and some thread, too. And a clean sheet." He stood there for a second, awaiting more orders.

"Go!" she cried, and he went. She pressed her hand down upon the wound, and I winced.

"Ow…" I said weakly. "That hurts, Mom." She took her other and rubbed my head with it.

"I know it does, Ki, but you have to be strong, all right?" I nodded and a few stray tears slipped out of one of my eyes. She wiped them away with her hand just as Potar came back with all the stuff she needed.

"What's wrong?" Po asked, pulling a chair over so he could see better.

"I don't know if the shot hit her bone or not, but I am not going to take any chances. Give me that peroxide, Potar." He handed it to her and she poured it into my wound. I screamed. There is nothing I hate more then peroxide, and Po knew it. He grabbed my hand and I squeezed it as hard as I could to keep from screaming again. He leaned over and blew on it to ease the pain also. I relaxed a little as the stinging started to abate a bit. Mom grabbed the towel and held it over the wound to stop the blood.

"Oh shit…" I moaned. "This really hurts…" I was surprised that my mother didn't correct me for my language usage, but I think she was too occupied with the task on hand.

"Thread a needle for me, Po, and then give it to me," she said. He did so with lightning speed, and he handed it to her. She leaned over my face so I could see her eyes for a second.

"Now Kia, this is going to really hurt," she said. "So if you feel like screaming, go right on ahead, all right?" I nodded, and she stuck the needle into my shoulder.

They could have heard my scream from miles away. Or at least houses away, Gangyoké later told me that he had heard it from his house. Potar tried to sooth me, but he couldn't this time. This was just too much.

"Owowowowowowfuckshitdamnsonofabitch!" I shouted. "This hurts like a mother fucking BASTARD! AHH! FUCK!" This time Mom did correct me.

"Kia Lily Rangbasser, you watch your mouth!" I clamped my mouth shut and tried not to scream. I grabbed onto Po's hand and would have broken it if she hadn't stopped then.

"Hand me the sheet, Potar," she said. He let go of my hand for a moment and handed her the sheet. She sat me up and made a sling out of the white material. She put it gently around my neck and slipped my arm into it. I whimpered a bit, but it didn't hurt nearly as much as the stitches.

"This is just a precaution; I don't know if the bone is broken or not, but if it is, I don't want it healing funny. You are to leave this on for the next few months, you hear me Kia Rangbasser?" I nodded my head and she released me from the table.

"I don't want you guys going over to the castle anymore," she said. "Bad things have been going on there lately, and I don't want you involved in them." We both nodded our heads and we're about to go outside as a frantic ganglie raced through the door, almost plowing me over.

"Lolita! Lolita! Oh God…poor Kiytopie…"

"What the heck are you talking about, Hypito? What's wrong?"

"Haven't you heard? King Kiytopie has been assassinated! All the ganglies are meeting at the castle to proclaim Raydin the new king…you all must go." He waved a wing at Po and I. "Even your little ones." Mom looked down at the two of us and grabbed each of us.

"Thank you, Hypito. Come on you two, we have to go to the inauguration." The three of us walked outside into the hot air and began walking towards the castle.

There were so many ganglies that I couldn't even see the castle. Only the towers were visible, and this large platform that we kept for when these types of events came around. I heard someone call my name from behind me and I turned around.

"Ki! Kia! Hey!" It was Gangyoké and right behind him was Yotati. "Hey Ki!" He came over.

"Hi Gangyoké," I replied. He looked me over.

"What happened to your arm?" he asked.

"Someone shot me." His eyes grew huge.

"Somebody shot you? Why?"

"I saw what really happened today."

"You saw what really happened to Kiytopie?" he asked in wonder. "Shit…why didn't you tell anyone?"

"I tried!" I cried. "I tried but nobody believed me. They chucked me off the balcony, and when that didn't work, they shot me." A single tear trickled out of my eye and rolled down my face, leaving a tear trail, as Po and I called them.

"I was so scared," I said. "I thought I was going to die…" Gangyoké placed an arm around my back as we both gazed up at the platform.

"I wouldn't have let them kill you," he said. 'And if they had, I would have gone and killed them." I was about to answer him, but someone finally approached the microphone they had set up on the platform.

"Eh…heh…hi everyone," the ganglie said nervously. "As you all know by now, King Kiytopie was killed this morning." There were several shocked gasps from the crowd and he stopped for a moment.

"Well, lucky for us, there as a successor to the throne, Prince Raydin, so it is with a heavy heart that I proclaim him king of the ganglies." There was silence as he approached the mike. His eyes searched the crowd and they came to a rest on me for a second. They were a violent shade of purple, and they bored into my own.

"As many of you know," he said after he was done his staring contest with me. "I am Raydin. My father's death today was the most traumatic experience of my life, since he was all I had since my mother giving birth to my sister and I. My sister died with her. Now, I am alone and the sole successor of the throne. I accept my position with the utmost grief and sorrow for my father, and I hope he is happy where ever he is." There was a burst of applause at this, and he stopped what he was saying for a while and basked in his glory.

"But his death was not for the worse!" Raydin continued when everyone was done clapping for him. "No, this change was much for the better! There are going to be a few changes around here, and we are all going to participate in them. First, I am going to take people to work for me in my castle. Nice, strong, young people." He got down off the platform and started walking around the crowd.

"I'll take…this one," he said, pointing to my friend Liliti. "This one," He pointed to Potar's friend Trentor. "This one," He pointed to a ganglie that I knew slightly, her name was Kyra, almost the same as mine. "And…" He looked in my direction. "This one." He pointed to Yotati, and she whimpered as he grabbed her along with the three others and took them back up to the platform.

"Lil…" I said, holding a hand out to her. "Yotati…" Liliti held her hand out to me.

"Bye Ki…" she said softly.

"See-ya, Kia…" Yotati said, and then they were gone.

"No…" Gangyoké said softly. "Yotati…" He lowered his head.

"Aw, man…" he said. "She's gone. My sister is gone…"

"Not forever," I said. "She'll come back to see you. Anyway, we're eighteen now…she was going to leave anyway. Po and I are going to move out tomorrow…" He turned furiously upon me.

"Your brother wasn't fucking taken by that fucking maniac so he could be his slave! That's why you can say that! If it was your brother in there, you wouldn't be as optimistic, now would you?"

"I'm…I'm sorry Gangyoké. If I sounded that way, I didn't mean it. I wanted to make you feel better, that's all. Please don't be mad at me anymore, all right?" He sighed and turned towards me.

"I'm sorry, Ki," he said. "I shouldn't have flipped out on you like that…please…" Raydin continued talking then.

"Another change that will be taking place," he said. "We are going to be like Hell. Do you all know what Hell is?" There was silence from the ganglies as we stared up into his purple eyes.

"They torture people in Hell, and they're mean in Hell. That's what we're going to be. We are going to be a mini Hell. But not for everyone, no. This mini Hell is for children." I couldn't stand it, and I raised my hand.

"Stand and be recognized," he said.

"Kia Lily Rangbasser," I said. He nodded his head for me to continue.

"Why do you want to torture children? Why can't we just live the way we are?" I turned to the crowd.

"Aren't we happy the way we are? There's nothing wrong with the ganglie way of life! I mean, I'm sure some people fucking envy our way of life!" There was a murmur of agreement from the ganglies as I sat down.

"Nice job, Kia," Potar said softly as Raydin stared at me.

"Kia Lily Rangbasser…hmm…Rangbasser, that name sounds familiar. Kia, was your dad named Kengar?" I stood up and nodded my head.

"Yes, Raydin," I said. "My father's name was Kengar Yulé Rangbasser. He died before I was born…my brother and I don't even know him." He nodded and smiled to himself.

"Kia, you know that it was your father who suggested that to me so long ago? When I was only about…your age, perhaps. He told me that when I am King, that I should have every ganglie torture young children…" I shook my head in denial.

"No he didn't," I said softly. "You're just saying that so you can get me to believe you…"

"Believe what you like, Kia Lily, but he did. And what ganglie," he said, looking at the rest of the crowd. "Would go against the words of the bravest ganglie in our generation, Kengar Yulé Rangbasser?" There was silence from the crowd.

"At least some of that bravery has been placed into little Ki-bird here," he said. "She talks to me like I am trash. That takes guts, Ki." He stared into my eyes, this time they had a warm glow to them.

"You knew my nickname…how did you…"

"I know more about you then you think, Kia," he said. 'I know more about all of you then you think." The crowd gasped and stared at each other, a hubbub of conversations spilling out.

"SILENCE!" Raydin shouted. He waved a wing at a ganglie and he brought out a film screen, along with the projector.

"These are the two main targets that I want you to torture," he placed the filmstrip into the projector and hit play. Two small kids, either twins or only a year apart were playing, laughing, and learning. They looked happy.

"These are Lillian Catherine and Stanley Craig Torcelli, but, since they are adopted, that is not their real last name. Their real last name is Marsh. I want these children found, and I want them beaten, flogged, tortured, and even killed if I say so." I glanced up at Yotati. Her face was as white as a ghost's and it looked like she had just seen one. She waited until Raydin was preoccupied, and then leapt off of the platform and slipped unnoticed back into the crowd.

"Ki!" she gasped. "Kia! Those are them!" I grabbed her by one shoulder.

"What the hell are you talking about? Calm down, Yotati!"

"Those are the two kids that I saw in my dream…the same two!" I suddenly remembered me making fun of the name Stan.

"Well slap my ass and call me Charlie," I said softly. "So they are."

"I'm so scared for the two of them…I don't even want to know what Raydin has in store for them." Raydin began talking again, and we shut up.

"Now, tonight when it gets dark, none of you will go to sleep. We are going to become nocturnal from now on. We sleep during the day; we awaken during the night. After the sun goes down, we all go to the surface and grab children's souls from their bodies. And if you don't…" he said menacingly. "Then I will kill you. Got it?" We all nodded. "Now GO!" All of the ganglies dispersed then. This was going to be terrible, I thought as I walked back home with Po and Mom. Just fucking terrible.

That night was the first night the mini Hell came into effect. I found that I could still fly even though my arm was busted, and I stretched my wings and soared into the air. Potar flew next to me, along with Gangyoké and Yotati. We all hovered in the air as we awaited Raydin's orders.

"How's your arm?" Po asked me softly.

"All right," I replied. "Better then it was." He nodded his head.

"That's good." Raydin appeared before us then, his huge wings spanning over twenty feet. I finally saw how big he was now that I was on the same level as he was.

"All right everyone, here's the plan! We are all going to span over the earth over cities in-groups of four. He pointed to Po, Yotati, Gangyoké and me.

"You four! You'll be going to Parkensville, Illinois. Bring back a child and take it to your torture chambers that you set up today. And don't be slow!" We soared upwards as he began talking to another group of four. I saw Potar swoop into one house and pull out a twelve-year-old boy and carried him back to Emeresia. I saw a house about ten houses down from the one Po had entered and swooped in. There was girl who was also about twelve, and I pulled her soul out and dragged her back with me. She was extremely tired and she didn't even notice anything at first. I dragged her back down and carried her to the chamber that I had set up. If I pulled the lever hard enough, it would pull you apart. She began to wake up a bit as I strapped her into my contraption.

"What…where the hell am I?" She gazed sleepily around and then her eyes came to a rest on me.

"OH MY GOD! HOLY FUCK! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU?" she screamed, struggling to get out of the machine. I stood there helplessly.

"Uh…my name is Kia Lily Rangbasser…but everyone calls me Ki. I'm a ganglie. I wish I could say I wasn't going to hurt you…" Her eyes grew wide.

"You're a what? A ganglie? What the hell's a ganglie?" A tear fell out of her eye as she stared up into my face. "What are you going to do to me?"

"We're ganglies. Our king has decided now that we all torture young people…" She started to scream then.

"HOLY SHIT! Kia, please…" she sobbed. "Please don't hurt me…" I softened my eyes and held her down.

"I have to…our he'll kill me. Don't hold it against me…what's your name?"

"Isabelle Noelle Palmer…but everyone calls me Izzy. You can too, I guess."

"All right then Izzy," I said. "I'll try to make this hurt as little as I can…" I pulled the lever and set it on its lowest setting. She screamed at the top of her lungs and tried desperately to get out.

"OH FUCK, MAKE IT STOP!" she screamed. "Kia, PLEASE!" she yelled. I turned away, unable to watch. I hung my head in shame, and pulled the lever a little bit harder.

"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" she yelled at the top of her lungs. "Oh goddammit…" I couldn't take it anymore, and I stopped the machine. She lay there, trying to catch her breath.

"Ow…" she cried, tears running freely down her face now. She looked up at me.

"Why did you turn it off?" she asked softly. I kicked the machine and it broke.

"It's not fair," I replied. "I am not going to torture you for one more fucking sec…" Raydin was standing over me.

"Oh…strong, brave little Kia," he said. "Tisk tisk. What are you doing?"

"This isn't fair, Raydin!" I cried. "What has this little girl ever done to us? What have any humans ever done to us?" He lowered himself down to my eye level and bore his eyes into mine. I gasped in shock. His eyes were no longer the beautiful shade of purple they used to be, no.

They were pure black.

"Ki, I suggest that you put that little girl back into the machine, and get it working again, or there might be some bad news to report to your mother tomorrow." He thought about it for a second, and then said, "I could see the headline now: 'Brave Girl Dies Trying to Save Brother.' Kia Rangbasser, age 18, accidentally fell off a cliff in a mad attempt to save her…"

"Just like your father died on accident?" I said without thinking. "Just like he was shot by a supposed hunter who was just 'passing by'?" Raydin screeched and leaned down and breathed into my face. I drew away from him as he whispered in my ear.

"You show some respect for your king," he hissed. 'Kiytopie is dead, and that makes me king, and don't you forget that." I nodded my head as he stood up and brushed some ash off his stomach.

"Good," he replied. "Now you strap that little piggy back into that machine, all right?"

"Yes…King Raydin," I replied as he walked away. I turned to Izzy and grabbed her arm.

"Sorry Izzy," I said softly and pulled the lever.

Potar held the sleeping boy gently in his arms so he wouldn't fall. That would be terrible. He landed with little grace and tied the poor kid to a pole. He raised a large club and brought it down onto the kid's back. He snapped awake.

"What the fuck…" he stared up at Potar just as he was bringing the club down again.

"What the hell are you…OW! What the fuck?" the kid cried. He took a really good look at him and pushed himself to the pole.

"Oh my God…" he said softly. "What the hell are you?" Po got down and looked into his face.

"My name is Potar. I am a ganglie…and I have to do this."

"What the hell do you mean? You don't have to do anything! Now, LET ME GO!" He struggled against the ropes and Potar felt truly sorry for him.

"Dude, I can't," he said. "The guy who is ruling over us is a fucking nutcase, and he'll kill me if I don't continue beating the shit out of you. Kapish? Who are you, anyway?" The boy swallowed a lump in his throat and stared into his eyes.

"My name is Kyle." He gazed fearfully into Potar's eyes. "Please don't hurt me, Po…" Po sighed and lowered the club.

"There is nothing more then I want to be able to let you go right now…but I can't." Kyle's face looked like it had been slapped with a wet towel.

"Why not?" he asked. 'What is so wrong with letting me go?" Potar looked around, and then leaned over and whispered into his ear.

"It's our king. I'm so afraid of him, but my sister Ki isn't. She's so brave…why can't I be like her?" Kyle sympathized.

"Potar, don't worry about it. She's older then you right? Older people usually are braver then younger people."

"That's the thing," Potar said. "Ki's my twin."

"Really?" Kyle said. "My friend Stan has a twin sister too! You two should hook up sometime!" He laughed a little and played the name over in his head.

"His sister wouldn't happened to be named Lily, would she?" Kyle stopped laughed and stared into his face.

"How did you know that?" he asked softly. 'How the hell did you…"

"Don't ask now, Kyle, but your friend's could be in great danger." His eyes widened.

"Danger? What kind of…" He stopped as Raydin walked by. Potar felt that he was coming and raised the club over his head. He struck Kyle a hard blow to the leg.

"Ow, FUCK!" Kyle cried. "Please, Potar, PLEASE!" Raydin nodded his head as he walked by.

"Nice job, Potar Edward Rangbasser," he said. "Much better then your insolent sister Kia…" He nodded his head and continued beating Kyle.

"Thank you, my Lord," he said and hit Kyle again. He was crying now, and Raydin glared at him as he passed.

"I'm sorry Kyle," he said as he raised the club. "I hope he hasn't found your friend Stan…"

The club came down.

Gangyoké stretched his wings as he soared over the town. He was looking for a house that had children when his sister came. She was holding a boy in her arms, cradling him almost lovingly. She pointed to a house directly bellow them.

"There's another child in that house," she said. "A girl this boy's age. Go get her." The boy started wiggling furiously in Yotati's arms.

"No!" he cried to Gangyoké. "You leave Lily alone! Isn't it good enough that you have me? Just please…leave my sister alone." He carried him down into the depths of Emeresia, and he swooped down to the boy's house. He went in through the upstairs window and saw a very finely shaped form in the bed. He gently pulled back the covers and gasped. This creature was the most beautiful thing that he had ever seen. The moonlight was shining the right way along her hair, and her face was round and smooth. He gently picked her up and carried her without waking her down to his torture chamber, which was a scourging center. He laid her down into the chair and strapped her in when she opened her eyes. They fluttered once, twice, and he could see the bright flashed of purple. She stared into his face, still half asleep.

"Stan?" she said groggily. "What are you doing? It's only two in the morning…"

"I'm not Stan," Gangyoké said. Her face contorted into a confused grimace.

"What? Then…who are…" She finally woke up all the way and it dawned on her.

"Oh my fucking God…" she said, but she didn't scream. She seemed calm. "What are you? Where am I?"

"I am a ganglie. My name is Gangyoké and you are in Emeresia. My king has ordered me to take a human from Earth and bring it here and torture it until he was satisfied or until the morning came, whichever came first. You're Lillian Catherine Torcelli, aren't you?" She looked even more confused then she had before.

"What? How did you know that?" she asked softly.

"Is Stanley Craig Torcelli your brother?"

"Yes…he's my twin. Why do you ask?" He grabbed her shoulder and held her down to the chair.

"You're going to have to listen to me and listen to me good, all right?" She nodded fearfully. "King Raydin is out to kill or capture you and your brother, for reasons that I don't know. I don't know what he is going to do when he see you guys, but you have to be brave. You can't let him get the best of you, all right?" She nodded. He stared at her eyes for a second, waiting for them to blink.

"You have purple eyes," he said, and she smiled a little.

"Yeah…" she said. "Everyone always made fun of me for my eyes back home, but Stan would stick up for me. He always does." She stared up into his bright yellow eyes.

"Gangyoké?"

"Yeah?"

"Do you know if my brother is here?" he nodded.

"He's with my twin sister." She lowered her head.

"I wonder what your king wants with us? We didn't even do anything to you guys…hell, I didn't even know that you fucking existed until a few minutes ago…"

"I don't know, Lily," he said. "But I can tell you for sure that isn't something good." He pulled out his knife that he had for the torture center. Lily's smile faded.

"Uh…Gangyoké? What are you going to do with that?" she asked nervously.

"Sorry Lily," he said, raising it over his head. "I have to."

She screamed as he brought the knife down.

"Let me GO!" the boy cried. "Put me down, you filthy fucking beast!" Yotati held him tighter as he squirmed and struggled.

"Please, be calm," Yotati said.

"NO!" he yelled. "Now, I've asked you for the last time…LET ME FUCKING GO!" She tossed him to the ground and flung him into the torture machine that she had in a fit of rage.

"Shut up!" she shouted and strapped him in. "Shut up RIGHT FUCKING NOW!" he still struggled to break the bonds, he even tried to chew his way out of them.

"You let me go right NOW!" he shouted, and she pulled out the thing that she would need for her machine to operate. A skinner. She took it a skinned a section of his leg. It didn't hurt him as much as it made him angrier.

"AHHHHHHH! GODDAMMIT THAT FUCKING HURT!"

***

Over where Lily was she heard her brother's cry.

"STAN!" she shouted. "Stan, I'm coming!" She tried to pull herself out of her bonds, bleeding from the wounds that Gangyoké had made.

"Gangyoké…please. Let me go!" He sighed and released the bonds.

"Run quickly Lily!" he said softly. "Go find your brother!"

***

Stanley also heard his sister's reply.

"LILY!" he called. 'Lily, get me out of here!" Yotati held him down as he screamed for all her was worth.

"Stanley Craig Torcelli, shut your goddamn mouth!" Yotati screamed, losing her patience. He stopped screamed and stared at her, shocked.

"How…how did you know who I was? How…"

"Stan, listen to me," she said. "You and your sister are in great danger. Raydin wants you and none of us know why. You have to be careful! You can't let him see you or else he'll capture you!" She saw a slender figure hurtling through the flames towards where she was. Her blonde hair flowed out behind her back and her eyes glowed with a faint purple light.

"STAN!" she called. "Stan, where are you?" Yotati raised an arm.

"LILY!" Stan yelled. 'Lily, over here!" She turned her head over towards then and started running as fast as she could. She got to their sides in less than five seconds and almost collapsed.

"STAN!" she shrieked. "Holy shit, Stanley!" She got next to him and started ripping the bonds apart. Yotati batted her hand away.

"Don't touch me, you ugly bitch!" she cried. "Don't worry Stan, I'm going to get you out of here…" She looked and saw a big rock on the other side of Stan, and she raced around and picked it up. All the adrenaline that was rushing through her body must have given her an extra boost of strength, Yotati had said later, because there was no way that she would have been able to pick up and hurtle a thirty-pound rock otherwise.

"This is what you get for hurting my brother!" she shouted and threw the rock. It hit Yotati right in the face and knocked her totally out. She undid the straps and lifted Stan out the chair.

"Lily…" Stan said, crying. "Holy shit…you killed the ganglie!" She leaned over and kicked her scornfully.

'She's not dead," she replied, and gave her brother a hug. "We have to get out of here."

I saw two shapes racing along the ground, dodging and weaving around the rocks and flames that were in their way. I recognized them as the got closer. They were Stanley and Lillian, those two kids Raydin said to be on the lookout for. I tripped one of them as they came racing by, and Lily fell.

"OW!" she cried and sat up off the ground. "STAN!" I picked her up and held her in my good arm while Stan came rushing back.

"Let my sister go you bitch!" he yelled at me. I cocked my head slightly to the side.

"I'm not a bitch," I replied as the form in the machine behind me started struggling.

"Stan? Lily?" it said. "GET ME OUT OF HERE!" Stan ran to the side of the machine.

"Izzy?" he said. She nodded her head fearfully as more tears spilled out. "Please get me out of here, Stan." I let him release her and she raced into his arms, crying up a storm. Lily was struggling madly in my arms to get to her brother.

"You dumb fuck ganglie, let me go right NOW!" she cried, scared. She stared up right into my eyes, and I shuddered when I saw that they were purple like Raydin's. Or like Raydin's used to be.

"Please…" she whispered. "All I want to do is go home…" I put her down gently on the ground next to Stan but kept all three from running.

'Did you guys honesty think you were going to get out of here by running?" They all stared at each other, confused.

"Well…" Stan said.

"Exactly." I replied. "You can't get out of here unless someone takes you out. Now, I'm willing to help you, but I'm going to need some help from a few of my friends since I only have one arm right now…" Lily's face lit up as I said I would help them.

"You'll help us? You're not going to beat us up anymore?" I shook my head.

"It's not like I want to beat you guys up either, you have to realize that! Raydin has all of us under his claws, and if we do anything wrong…" I gasped as I saw his shadow moving towards us.

"Shit!" I whispered.

"What?" Stan said.

"He's coming this way!" I looked madly around to see if there was any place for me to hide. I saw a small hole in the ground, and I led the three of them to it.

"Get in here, and don't make a fucking sound. Got it?" They nodded their heads and I walked away and began putting my machine back. Raydin tapped my shoulder.

"Kia?" he asked.

"Yes, King Raydin?"

"Where is your charge?" I looked confused.

"My charge? Izzy?" I asked. He nodded his head.

"Oh, her! I had to bring her back because I was getting tired, I only have one arm you know." He nodded his head.

"I understand. Did she scream good before she went back?"

"Of course. Why else would she have been here?" He nodded gleefully.

"Yes…she did scream good, didn't she," he said. "Have you seen sight of Stanley or Lillian yet?" I shook my head.

"No, but when I do I'll be sure to let you know."

"Good," he said, and then stared down at me.

"Kia…you are such a headstrong little beast aren't you? You don't take orders well, I see." I slowly nodded my head.

"I take care of myself, Raydin," I replied. "I don't need some other ganglies riding up my ass all the time just so I can feel needed." He nodded once again and smiled down at me.

"Kia Lily Rangbasser, if you were a little older and I wasn't engaged, I would ask you to marry me." I gazed at him with a faint look of amusement on my face.

"I wouldn't recommend that," I said. "I would end up ruling over all the ganglies." He laughed a little.

"I didn't think that would be too good of an idea," he said. He rubbed the scales on the top of my head and started to walk away.

"You keep doing your job, Kia Rangbasser, and I'll make sure you're okay," I stood up tall and gave him a half-assed salute.

"All right then, King Raydin," I said, and then added, "Love ya!" He found that extremely amusing and shook his head.

"You're a funny one, Ki," he said. "Love ya too." I smiled a bit to myself as I walked over to the hole where Stan, Izzy and Lily were hiding. Now that I was on Raydin's good side, then maybe he wouldn't search me as much. Maybe he would just leave me alone.

"Hey," I said softly. Stan cautiously poked his head out of the hole.

"Is it safe to come out?" he asked. I nodded my head and they all followed him out of the hole. I beckoned over towards where my brother was set up.

"Come with me," I said. "I have to get my brother to help me carry you out of here." Lily noticed my arm and she pointed to it.

"What happened to you anyway?" she asked.

"You know that ganglie that I was just talking to?" She nodded her head. "Well, this morning, his father was assassinated, but it was all planned. My brother Potar and I saw it all. Raydin, the ganglie that I'm talking about, set it up just so he could get the throne. I'm sure of it! But anyway, Po and I saw it all, so I decided to go fill one of the ganglies that had flown up to see what happened in on it. Turns out that he was collaborating with Raydin, and they tossed me over the edge. It's quite a long fall, you know, and I would have died if Po hadn't caught me. I was scared to death, and we just sat there for a minute as they realized their little plan didn't work, so they pulled out a gun and shot me in the shoulder."

"Oh man…" Lily said. "That would make a great book." I laughed a little.

"Maybe it would…but it would bore the shit out of everyone who read it." She laughed as we continued walking over to where Potar was stationed. I tapped him on the shoulder as we arrived.

"Ki!" he said. "Nice to see you!"

"Stan?" A voice said from his machine. "Stan…is that you?" Stan lightly shoved Potar out of the way and gazed at Kyle.

"Kyle!" he cried. "Dude, what the hell are you doing here?"

"I dunno, just get me the fuck out!" He undid the bonds and they all stood there, staring at the two of us.

"How are we going to do this?" I asked Po.

"I can carry one in my arms and one on back, and so can you…can you hold up one of them with just one arm?"

"I did on the way down…"

"All right then," he said. "Stan, you get on my back. Kyle, I'll carry you."

"Lily, on my back. Izzy, in my arms." I felt Lily climb onto my back and buckled a little under weight.

"You got her okay?" Potar asked before we took off.

"Yeah," I said and stretched out my wings. "Let's go."

I was totally exhausted as I crawled into my bed the next day. The day's activities had totally drained my body and my soul, and it showed. Po walked into the room and sat down next to me on my bed.

"Hey…" I said sleepily. "I haven't slept in over a day, leave me alone!" I pulled the covers over my head and curled up in a ball.

"No…come on, Ki!" Po said. "We can sleep tomorrow! Get up!" I stared at him through half-closed eyes.

"How the hell can you still be awake and energetic?" I mumbled through the blanket. "There's nothing more then I want right now then to go to sleep." Po sighed angrily and dragged me out of the bed.

"Come on Kia," he said. "Mom needs to talk to us anyway." I groaned as I got up off the floor; that's where Potar had graciously dropped me off. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes as Po and I walked into the kitchen where Mom was standing.

"Well, good morning there, sleepy-head," she said. "I have to talk to you two." I nodded my head.

"What do you have to talk to us about?" I asked sleepily.

"I have to talk to you about you guys moving out." Po and I looked at each other. We had totally forgot about this.

"Uh…all right," Po said. We both sat down in our chairs and she started talking.

"Ki, Po," she said. "You have come of age. I always wished to myself that you never would, but you are, and the time has finally come for me to let my babies go." We stared at her, not knowing what to say.

"You guys are going to have to leave tomorrow," she said, and after she saw our panic-stricken looks she added hastily, "But don't worry! I got you both houses…so that's all taken care of."

"Phew…" I sighed and rubbed my head. "That was too close!" She held out cash, and I grabbed my share. I gasped. There were over thirty hundred hectung bills here!

"Mom…" I said, touched "I don't need this…" I tried to give it back to her but she refused.

"It's to get you started…I don't want my babies not having enough food or electricity for their first year on their own…" she said. She turned away from us so we couldn't see her imminent tears.

"I'm going to be all-alone now that your fathers gone…" she said softly. "Oh, I wish that you didn't have to go…"

"I'll stay with you," Potar said quietly. "If you like…"

"No!" she said. "No, you guys have to get out on your own. I'm not going to let myself get in the way of that…" She did start to cry then.

"Oh, why can't my little babies just be little babies forever?" she sobbed. She stared at both of us through tear stained eyes.

"You both have gotten so big," she said. "I remember when I could fit one of you in each hand…you were so small! The doctors didn't think you were going to make it."

"How small were we?" I asked.

"You were two months premature…put together you only weighed five pounds. That less then the normal both weight for a single ganglie!"

"Wow…" I said softly. "Did we almost die?" She nodded her head softly.

"I was so afraid," she said. "I thought that I was going to lose you guys too. Kengar had only been dead for about ten months, and I still wasn't over it." She held us both out at arms length.

"You guys are the only things I have left to remind me of him…especially you, Po," she said softly. "I just hope that nothing happens with this new law that Raydin has established…"

"Nothing will," I assured her soothingly. "I actually had a normal conversation with Raydin yesterday." She raised an eyebrow.

"Really? What did he say?"

"He said that if I was older he would marry me." Potar burst out laughing, and so did Mom after a moment.

"Ki, you are such a liar!" Po laughed. "There's no way that Raydin said that to you! He hates you with a passion!" My face clouded over with a storm of anger.

"Shut up, Potar Edward Rangbasser!" I shouted. "He did say that to me! He did too!"

"Oh, come on Ki," Mom said. "That's a bit outlandish. Maybe if you said that was going to be friends with you we would have believed you…"

"SHUT UP!" I cried, my anger out in full force now. "What the fuck do any of you know anyway? You all can fucking blow me!"

"Kia Lily, watch your mouth," Mom said warningly.

"NO!" I shouted. "I'm eighteen now! I don't have to listen to you anymore! You're not my boss!"

"KIA LILY RANGBASSER, AS LONG AS YOU LIVE UNDER THIS…"

"I WON'T!" I shouted, interrupting her. Mom looked like she had been slapped across the face. "I'll leave now." I walked out into my bedroom and started piling my things into my small suitcase. My CD's, my bedspread, my pillow, my stuffed Care Bear that I had since I was three, all of it went into the bag. I walked into our small bathroom and grabbed my toothbrush and deodorant and scale smoother and walked out into the kitchen. I grabbed my share of the money off the table and stared at my mother and my brother.

"I guess this is it," I said. "Bye…" I walked out the door, and Mom burst into tears.

"Po…" she whispered. "Oh Po, what did we do?"

"I guess she was telling the truth," he said softly.

"I should have believed her," Mom sobbed. "I should have believed her…she's my goddamn daughter! She never ever lies…she always left that to you." Po smiled a little.

"Yeah…I would always do the lying. Ki would just stand there and look innocent. Ninety percent of the time though, she was the one who I was lying for." He cocked his head to the side and smiled dreamily.

"I love Ki," he said. "There is no other person that I would want to be my sister…she's so brave…she talks to Raydin like he was dog shit!"

"Potar…" He covered his mouth.

"Sorry, but it's true! There is not another ganglie that would dare to speak to the king like that. That's why he has respect for her, and that's why he would have said he would marry her…"

"She's got quite a mouth on her, doesn't she?" Mom said in agreement. "Well, go get some sleep, Po. Tomorrow you're moving out too." He walked towards the room, and then turned around to stare at her.

"Are you sure?" he asked. She turned away from him to hide a small tear.

"Yeah…" she said. "I can handle it." Po went into our old room and was asleep before his head hit the pillow.

I saw the house that Mom had picked out for me; it had a small bouquet of flowers out in a vase on the doorstep. There was also a note connected to one of the stems. I saw it and ripped it off, almost breaking the stem in the process. The note read:

Ki-Bird,

Here's your new house.

I bought some food, its inside in the fridge.

I hope you're happy here! :)

Love,

Mommy

I stared at the note for another minute after I was done reading it, and then placed it back on the stem. I grabbed the whole vase and walked inside the house, and flipped the switch. I gasped. There was a whole bunch of new furniture, and a new TV and VCR. There was even a new bed over in the corner for me. I suddenly felt really bad for how I had acted back at home, but I shrugged it off. It was deserved, I said to myself as I crawled into the bed. It definitely deserved, and she fucking knew it.

***

Over the next year I met three hundred and sixty five children, with three hundred and sixty five different names, and three hundred and sixty five different personalities. There was no one child that I remembered more clearly then the first one though, which had been Isabelle 'Izzy' Noelle Palmer. There were some other kids that I took a liking to, like little Eric Santos and Karl Smith and Rachel Killinger, but there was no one kid that liked more or missed more then Izzy. I never thought that I would ever be able to get back to Parkensville to see my pals, Raydin seemed to want to send the four of us to different ends of the world. I saw her occasionally, but she doesn't remember me. None of them remember me. Raydin doesn't let them. Before he lets us take them back to their still, lifeless bodies, he casts a spell on them so they forget everything that happens. I also see Stanley and Kyle, once in a while, but I don't see Lily. The next time that I would see Lily was when Gangyoké was dead.

That day started like any other day, or should I say night. Potar and I met at the midway point between each other's houses, and then we met Yotati and Gangyoké on the way over to the Ganglie Acropolis. Raydin would stand on his platform, formidable and imposing, and direct us where to go, group by group. After about a half an hour, he finally called upon us.

"You four! Go to Parkensville, Illinois…" I couldn't believe our luck! He was gong to send us back to the place where we had met our very first victims! I saluted him and we soared into the air. Po and I had become quite good fliers by now, so the small down drafts didn't bother us a bit. Gangyoké came out of nowhere and flew next to me. I looked over and gazed into his golden eyes.

"You have very pretty eyes, Gangyoké," I said. "I wish mine were like that." He shook his head.

"No you don't," he said. "I hate them. I don't know of another sole who has these color eyes. They're all green, or brown or red…"

"Not Raydin's, they used to be purple," I said. He laughed a little.

"Used to be is the key phrase there." He gazed at me. "What color are they now?" I shuddered as I said the word.

"Black."

***

I soared around the town until I saw the house that I was looking for. I came through the window and grabbed her soul out of her body and carried it down with me into the depths of our mini Hell. She stirred, and then her eyes fluttered, revealing their beautiful ice blue color.

"Where…huh?" She stared up into my face and then let out a strangled sob. "Oh no…"

"Shh…Izzy, I'm not going to hurt you." She pulled at her necklace, thoroughly confused.

"How…how did you know who I was?" she said. "Who are you?" My spirit sank deep into me as I landed on the ground.

"Izzy…don't you remember me? I'm Kia…I helped you and Stan and Lily and Kyle get out of here...remember?" She stared at me as it slowly dawned on her.

"…Kia? Kia Lily Rangbeater? Something like that?" I nodded my head joyfully.

"Kia Lily Rangbasser," I said. I gave her a quick hug and danced around with happiness. "I am so glad that I finally got to see you again!" Izzy smiled just as wide in return.

"I'm…glad to see you too, Kia," she said. She lowered her voice to a hushed whisper and leaned over to me.

"Raydin found Lily and Stan you know," she said. My eyes grew wide in fear and I thought my heart was going to stop in my chest.

"He what?" I said softly. "Oh no…what has he done with them?"

"Nothing yet," she said quietly. "They're just brought to him when they are taken down so that he can intimidate them…and then usually a ganglie will take them away for them to be tortured." My face clouded over as I tried to keep from screaming.

"That is so not fair!" I cried softly. "What does he have against these poor little kids? What the hell did they ever do to him?" She shrugged her shoulders.

"I don't know," Izzy said. "But I can tell that it isn't going to be good." I nodded my head in agreement. With Raydin it was never good.

***

Gangyoké soared through the town, finding the house that Lily was in. He had to find her, but he wasn't going to take her. He had his mind set on that. He was going to protect her even if it killed him. He spotted the house down below and soared in through the window. He alighted softly on the post of the top bunk, and stared at the still sleeping form. She's so pretty, he thought to himself as he reached out to touch her hair. He hesitated, and then set his hand on it, stroking it lightly. He took a particularly long strand and began to curl it around one of his claws. He accidentally pulled too hard and the strand came out with little resistance. She stirred and rolled over, exposing her face to Gangyoké. The moon cast it's pale light into the room, and some of it spilled across her face, making her glow with a phosphorescent light.

"Oh Lily…" he whispered softly. "No one's going to hurt you anymore, I won't let them." She moaned softly and rolled over once again, this time with her face facing the window. He patted one of her cheeks lightly.

"Oh…I love you, Lillian," he said. "Even though I have Ki…I still love you."

***

"Where is he?"

"Who are you talking about?"

"The yellow-eyed ganglie. Yotati's brother. Where is he?" The big ganglie looked around, sniffing the air.

"I don't know, baby," she said. "Maybe he's still getting his charge."

"It wouldn't have taken him this long. Something's up. This is now the perfect opportunity to kill him…"

"I thought you were killing the other one."

"No, Yotati's too smart for me to waste. She could become a powerful asset later on. The other one on the other hand…"

"Wasted time?"

"Exactly." He looked up into the air where Gangyoké was talking to Lily, not seeing him but sensing he was there.

"What are you planning?" Kayla, the ganglie with him, asked.

"You'll see," Raydin replied. "Let's go."

***

"Where's Gangyoké?" I wondered to myself. I turned to Izzy with a feeling of dread gripping hold of me.

"Get on my back," I said. "I think there might be trouble." I looked over in the direction of where Raydin was while Izzy was getting herself situated on my back. He was soaring into the air his fiancée Kayla at his side. I felt something dreadfully wrong deep in my bones, and fear's icy hand gripped my heart and squeezed. I shuddered as I took off.

"Hold on tight," I called behind me. I turned my head around so I could see Izzy. Her eyes were shut tight, and she looked like she was going to be sick.

"Don't worry," she said. "There has never been a time where I have held onto to anything tighter…" I laughed to myself and turned back around so I could see where I was going. I looked down to the ground and was surprised to see a shape come flying up right underneath me. It was Yotati, with Stan latched tightly onto her back.

"Hey," I said softly. "What are you doing up here?"

"I came up here to ask you the same thing." We both stared at each other for a minute.

"Raydin's planning something," I said. "I know he is. I saw him fly up here and I noticed that Gangyoké wasn't back yet…" Yotati's face looked like it had been held together with a couple screws, and they all had been taken out. Her face sagged and she almost looked like she was going to cry.

"Oh no…" she whispered. "Then it's true…" I flew closer to her as we beagn to see the outline of Parkensville on the horizon.

"What's true?" I asked softly. She lowered her head.

"I had another dream," she said. Stan was leaning over on her back so he could hear, precariously close to the edge. It looked like he was going to fall off, but he held on. "I dreamed that there was this lovely girl lying in bed, and Gangyoké went to her, and protected her, and he was killed by Raydin…" She breath caught in her throat as she grabbed onto one of my head flaps.

"Kia! We have to hurry! Come on!" she cried, and we flew faster, both of us secretly knowing that he was doomed.

***

"Oh dearest Gangyoké!" Kayla called jokingly. "Where are you?" She thrust her head into the air and began sniffing slowly, trying to pick up his scent. There was nothing more feared in Emeresia the Kayla's sense of smell. She was always able to find you.

Always.

This time was no exception. She found is scent about fifty yards from where her and Raydin were hovering, and she screeched triumphantly into the air.

"I found the little rat!" she cried. "Come Raydin, let's go!"

***

We heard the cry.

So did Gangyoké.

He thrust his head out the window and saw the two dark forms coming for him, and placed his head in his lap.

"Mom…" he said softly. "Please…I know that you're not Lester, and that you can't save me, but please…give me strength. Let me save this little girl. Let me do what you would have done…" He raised his head and saw Kayla's ugly, piggish face staring in through the window. She tapped it with her claw, smiling an evil grin, and it opened, and pure evil rushed into the room. She flew in first, followed by King Raydin himself. He stood there next to the bed, staring intently into Lily's face. He turned towards Gangyoké after a few seconds and cocked his head.

"Oh…Gangyoké…this is not good," he said. "I thought that you were loyal to me…that you would never do me wrong…and this is what I get. Give the child to me." He picked her up and held her close to his stomach.

"No." Raydin spit and moaned and leapt through the air and onto the bed.

"Give her to me NOW, Gangyoké!" he shouted. He held her even closer.

"NO!" he shouted in return. 'I'm not going to let you hurt her anymore! Leave Lily alone!" Raydin looked over at Kayla, and she nodded. He turned back to him and raised his hands into the air.

"I hate to have to do this, but you're asking for it…" Lily snapped awake then, still slightly dazed but awake.

"What the hell is going on?" she said, and three things happened at once. Raydin let a huge ball of electricity roll off his fingertips, Yotati, Izzy, Stan and I burst into the room, and Stan leapt off Yotati's back and shoved Lily off just in time. The thunderbolt hit Gangyoké incinerating him before he even had a chance to really scream. He only let out one surprised squawk. That was all, and he was gone. Yotati was rip shit, and I was very angry myself.

"GANGYOKÉ!" she screamed, tears running down her gentle face. "GANGYOKÉ! NOOOO!" She turned to Raydin with pure hatred burning in her eyes.

"YOU BASTARD!" she screamed. "I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU!" Izzy dismounted off my back and ran over to her friends.

"Lily!" Stan cried. "Lily, are you all right?" Her eyes were wide with fear as she stared at the four ganglies that were in her room. Three of them she recognized. One she didn't. She nodded her head slightly and buried her face into her brother's chest.

"Stan…" she whispered. "Why won't they leave? What happened?" Tears were filling up her vivid purple eyes, and her face looked like it was going to break in two. He held her gently, rubbing her back with one hand, and stroking her hair with the other.

"I'll tell you later," he said. "Something happened that doesn't really concern you, but in a way it kind of does…oh shit, Lily…I wish I was here. You shouldn't have had to go through that by yourself…" She smiled a little in spite of the circumstances.

"It doesn't matter anyway, dear brother," she said sarcastically. "I was asleep."

I, on the other hand, wasn't asleep. I wished to Lester and all the gods that I was still asleep, that I would wake up at home and I would still be asleep. But, I knew deep down that I wasn't. This was real. I looked over on the floor next to me where Yotati was lying in a pitiful lump. I knelt on the floor next to her and put an arm around her shoulder, feeling like crying myself. She got up off the ground and pulled me up, and pulled me tight to her, looking for something, someone, to give her comfort. I allowed myself to be put in the death grip, and I actually returned the favor. I started crying a little myself; Gangyoké was my boyfriend and all. Yotati looked up at me with her bright green eyes, now red with tears. They were wide in that way that only pure sadness can make them, and she as struggling to catch her breath. Raydin and Kayla were gone by then, vanished into the night, so it was just Izzy, Lily, Stan, Yotati and I standing there in their room. After a moment, Yotati finally spoke.

"Ki…" she said. "There was no one I loved more then my brother."

"I know, Yotati…"

"No, you don't know!" she shouted. "You don't have a fucking clue! Potar's still down there, with Kyle. He's still alive. Gangyoké isn't!" She started to cry again. "No one knows…" I got a little angry with her, and I retorted,

"For all I know, Yotati, Raydin could be down there killing every goddamn ganglie's twin…there's nothing we can do!" Something seemed to click inside her as I said that.

"What did you say?" she said softly.

"What? There's nothing we can do?"

"No, before that."

"I said that Raydin could be down there killing everyone's twin…but, I didn't mean it! I'm sorry if it hurt your…" She waved a hand at me, the universal gesture for shut up. I did so. She thought for a minute, and then looked back up at me, her eyes dry.

"That was the part of dream that I didn't understand," she said softly, her eyes never leaving mine.

"What the hell do you mean?" I asked, confused.

"In my dream, I saw a cradle holding two babies. I saw rows and rows of those cradles, all holding bouncing, happy ganglie babies. When I looked again, there was only one in each cradle. I didn't know what it meant, but what you just said made me think…" I covered my mouth in shock and stared at her.

"You're not shitting me, are you?" I asked. I had come to trust Yotati's dreams, but I didn't want to believe this one. Just like I didn't want to believe that Gangyoké was dead. She shook her head.

"We're all fucked," she said. I nodded in agreement. She could say that again. We were definitely fucked.

Yotati and I, after saying good-bye to our human friends, went back to down to Emeresia with heavy hearts. I could barely stay in the air, and it felt like three thousand-pound weights had been slapped onto my back. I also felt like I had one around my heart. Both of us said nothing for the ten minutes it took to get home, and we went our separate ways when we landed. She went home to her mother; I walked off towards where I knew Potar would be. He was sitting there, chatting with Kyle, and they were laughing about something. Kyle saw me coming, but Po didn't. He saw how sad I was and raised an eyebrow. I shook my head and flopped down on the ground next to Po. He started and then stared at me.

"Oh, hi Ki!" he said, and then, after taking a closer look at my face, added, "What's wrong?"

I hadn't really cried when I was up there in Lily and Stan's room, I hadn't cried on the way down, shit, I didn't even cry on the way back. But now, I did. I started to cry. Po looked at me, startled. I rarely ever cried, and he knew something must have been pretty wrong.

"What happened, Ki-bird?" he asked gently. Just hearing him call me by my favorite nickname made me cry harder. "What has gotten you so upset?" I composed myself slightly and stared at him.

"Gangyoké…" I sobbed. "He…" Po stared at me, confused.

"What about him, Kia?" he said, exasperated. "Did he dump you? That's nothing to cry about…" I shook my head vigorously. It finally dawned on him on what other thing that would have made me this sad.

"Oh God, Ki, is he…" I nodded slowly and started to wail.

'He didn't even have a chance…" I said during one of the times that I could breathe. "That asshole just…incinerated him…" I lapsed back into the wailing state, and Po asked me, "Who did it, Ki? Was it an accident…"

"No…" I cried. "He was murdered."

"By who Ki!" Potar said.

"Take a guess," I said cryptically. His eyes grew wide.

"He didn't…did he?" I nodded my head.

"I thought that he was just starting to get under control…" I sobbed. "I thought that Raydin was finally on medication or something…but he killed Gangyoké…"

"Why, Kia? Did he do something?"

"He wouldn't let Raydin hurt that girl…the one that's named after some kind of flower…I can't remember."

"Lily."

"Yeah!" I exclaimed, remembering. "Lily. He told Raydin that he refused to hurt her anymore, and that he wasn't going to let him take her away. Yotati and I had just got there when he was starting the spell. There was nothing we could do, except that Stan leapt off Yotati's back and knocked Lily off of him just in time. Then the thunderbolt hit him, and he was gone." His face looked like it had just been slapped.

"Oh my God…" he said softly. "This is horrible…" Kyle looked up from the chair he was sitting in.

"Is Lily okay?" he asked softly. I nodded my head.

"Yeah…Lily's fine. Stan too, incase you were wondering." He rubbed the back of his hand against his forehead.

"Thank God…" he said softly. I stared at him curiously.

"You like her?" I asked. He kind of looked around at anything but me, and then shrugged. I smiled a little.

"Kyle," I said. "It's not like I'm going to tell her or anything…" He looked shyly around and then raised his head to stare at me.

"You promise that you won't?" he said. "Even if she asks you?" I nodded my head.

"I promise." He rubbed toe in the ground, and put out a flame in the process.

"I like her a lot," he said. "I don't know what it is about her…but…I'm drawn to her. It's like she had some…magical power to her. Her eyes…her eyes are so…"

"Purple?" I suggested. He shook his head.

"Strange," he replied. "I've never seen another soul with purple eyes…"

"I have," I said softly. He grew interested.

"You have? Where? Who?"

"Our king once had purple eyes…" His own hazel eyes grew wide.

"But, they're not purple! They're…"

"Black." Potar said suddenly. "Black as coals." Kyle shuddered and looked back towards me.

"People, like certain individuals who I've told, think I like her just to get to Stan, but that's not true! I like Lily for who she is, not because she's my best friend's sister." I nodded my head.

"I understand totally, Kyle," I replied. "Yotati was my best friend, and I was going out with…Gangyoké…" I stopped after I said his name. In talking to Kyle, I had totally forgotten that he was dead. Memories of all the good times that we had had kept flowing back into my brain. I lowered my head, just as Kyle had done not to long before, and another few tears slipped out of my eyes.

"Oh Ki…" Potar said softly, placing his hand on my shoulder. "I'm so sorry. I know that he meant a lot to you, but shit! He meant a lot to all of us! How the hell do you think Yotati's dealing with all this? She doesn't even know, does she?"

"She was there," I said softly. "I wish that she wasn't. Shit, I wish that I wasn't there. It was…horrific. That is the only word that I think of to describe what I'm feeling. Horrific. Po, you've never seen someone disappear so quickly but he did, and then he was gone. PO, HE DIDN'T EVEN GET TO SCREAM, PO! HE DIDN'T EVEN SCREAM! HE WAS DYING AND HE DIDN'T EVEN FUCKING SCREAM!" Anything I said after that didn't make sense, so I'm not going to waste paper on it. There was nothing that Po could do but comfort me as I wailed in sorrow for my lost love. I was sure that I was going to get married to him, hell, we had even planned a fucking wedding. Now there was nothing. The only thing left for me to do was to get over him and find someone else, but I knew it wouldn't be that easy. The thing was, I didn't want anyone else. I wanted Gangyoké dammit, and Gangyoké I would fucking have. That's the part I couldn't get. This wasn't a cartoon where the character in question dies and comes back fine the next week. No. This was real. This was way too fucking real.

There was no consoling me for days, even weeks. Raydin would come by my house, drag me out of it, and beat me to try to get me to go get my charges, but I refused. I was too upset and I wasn't going anywhere. He had once again captured Yotati for he insolence days ago. She was now his personal servant, but she snuck out occasional to say hi to me. One day though, she came back with frightening news.

"Kia." She rapped on my window again, and I groaned and rolled over in my bed.

"Kia, get up." I raised my head slightly off the pillow and glanced at the clock. 2:30 p.m. I looked out the window and was met with Yotati's anxious face.

"Come on, get up," she said, and I flung the comforter off my bed and stretched my wings. It was still way too early to be up, but it was the only time that Yotati could come out and see me. She could only escape during the day, when the rest of us were sleeping. I opened the door and ushered her in.

"What is it, Yotati?" I said sleepily, rubbing my eyes. "I wanna go back to bed." She shook all over; it looked like she had just dunked her entire body into the Arctic Ocean. But it wasn't the cold she was shaking from, I could tell.

It was fear.

She sat down on the side of my bed and rubbed one of her hands along her cheekbone.

"Shit Ki, we are all fucking screwed," was all she said.

"What the hell do you mean?" I asked, starting to feel a little bit frightened myself. She looked around nervously and then took a deep breath and stared at me.

"Kia, I heard Raydin and Kayla talking," she said. "They said that they were going to kill your brother…" I stared at her like she was crazy. For a minute I honestly thought she was crazy. When I saw the look on her face though, I knew that she was serious.

"You're…you're not shitting me, are you?" I said softly. "Oh my God…what the hell am I going to do?" She only had two words to say.

"Get out."

"Get out?" I asked, bemused. "Get out? Where would we go?"

"Far away from here," she said. "I don't know where you could go, maybe Serena or Lylat, but you have to get out of here; you and your brother. He's out for you two…and I'm afraid that he might not stop with just Po…"

"But why would he do something like this?" I cried. "What did we ever do?"

"He's not doing it just to you, Kia!" she shouted in reply. "He's doing it to all of us! Remember my brother? He's dead now because of his personal problems. Kia, he's killing everyone!" When she saw my face she quickly added, "Well, not everyone, but half of the entire ganglie population is going to be decimated by this…this asshole!"

"What are you talking about, Yotati? You're not making any sense? How could he kill half of the whole entire ganglie population? That's imposs…"

"He's killing one out of every two ganglies. He's killing one of the twins born in every birth from now on, and he's also putting an end to one of the two living now, until we are alone. My brother was the first. Your brother is going to be the second if you don't get him out of here soon." She glanced at the clock and walked towards the door.

"I have to go," she said softly. "He's going to be waking up soon, and I have some work that I have to finish. Good luck, Ki." She gave me a big hug before she left, and I returned it whole-heartedly. She slipped out the door, and I fell onto my bed and started to sob. There seemed to be no way that I could save my brother. But I had to.

I just had to.

That night I finally came out to do my job, or so I told Raydin when he showed up at my door with the cudgel again. The real reason for me venturing out again as to warn my brother of the imminent danger that he faced. I soared into the air, after Raydin told me my destination, Tokyo, Japan, and thought about what I would say to him. How I would break the news, I thought with some cynicism. Nothing ever seemed to go right for us, and this was just one of the reasons. If I went into them now you would all complain about my complaining, so I won't waste your time. But this and Gangyoké's death certainly topped the list. I soared down into the shantytown and grabbed an eight-year old boy, one I had captured before. Juninchi Tsuminch was his name, if I recalled right. It was a long flight, especially with a sleeping boy on my back, but I geld up well, and it went by quickly, mostly due to the thinking that was going on. I laid him gently into my chair, and he opened his eyes slowly, fluttering them once or twice. They were extremely dark brown eyes, curved up slightly at the edges.

"Where am I?" he said softly, looking around in awe. "What is this place?" His English was rusty, but I could understand it well enough.

"You are in Emeresia," I said kindly. "My name is Kia Rangbasser, but everyone calls me Ki. I met you once before, you're Juninchi, right?" He stared at me more closely, studying my face. He smiled suddenly in recognition, showing his small, white baby teeth, and nodded his head.

"Yeah! You're the one who play cards with me!"

"Yeah," I said softly. "We played rummy and poker." He stared at me quizzically.

"We going to play cards again?" he asked. I shook my head.

"Sorry big guy," I said. "I have to talk to my brother about something. You're going to come with me." When I saw his dejected look I quickly added, "But we can bring the cards with us, and you can play solitaire on my back." He visibly brightened and leapt lightly off the chair and started skipping around.

"Yeah!" he said. "We going to play solitaire!" I grabbed the pack of cards out of the pocket in the back of the chair and placed them into his hands.

"Here you go…" and then, after thinking about it for a minute, added, "You can have them if you like." His whole face lit up in the way only children's faces can and clutched the cards tightly in his hands.

"Thank you, Kia! Thank you very much! I will treasure them forever." I laughed a little as I placed him back on my back and took off.

"Forever is a long time, buddy," I said. "You think you could love my old cards for that long?" He nodded his head almost violently.

"I will," he said. "I will love them cause you gave them to me!" I spotted my brother on the ground with Kyle again and I reached my arm back and rubbed the top of his head.

"Thanks Juninchi," I said. "Thank you for taking care of my cards." I landed lightly on the ground and I told him to go by the rock next to where Po was sitting and play cards there. He did so joyfully, and I thought to myself that this kid was either a nerd or he was very good at cards. Maybe it was because he was young, but I wasn't sure. I walked up behind Potar and laid a soft hand on his shoulder. He started and turned around faster then a one legged man trying to get out of an ass kicking convention. He relaxed when he saw who it was.

"Oh, it's only you, Kia," he said. "What do you want? I don't want us to get in trouble with Raydin…"

"Actually," I said slowly, trying to think of the right words to say. "That's what I have to talk to you about." Po looked at me oddly.

"What's wrong, Ki?" he asked softly. "What is he doing now?" I broke down then, and Juninchi looked up from his card game, saw me crying, and came over.

"He's going to kill you, Po…you have to get out of here. Tonight. Now. You…"

"He's going to kill me?" Potar asked incredulously. "But…that doesn't make any sense, Ki! Are you just trying to scare me or something, because if you are, it's working. Stop it!"

"Potar, if I were just making it up would I be as worked up as I am?" I stared at him, waiting for a reply, even a good comeback. There was none and I knew there wouldn't be.

"You're serious, aren't you?" he said softly. I nodded my head and placed my face in my hands so that he wouldn't see me cry anymore.

"Shit…" I heard him say to himself. "What the hell are we going to do?" There was a huge shadow standing in front of us, and I turned around and looked at it. So did Po. Raydin, as imposing and ugly as ever, was staring there, with his new bride Kayla at his side.

"So, Kia Lily and Potar Edward Rangbasser…so cute together. So Ki, how have you been lately? Gotten over that silly fool Gangyoké yet?"

"Fuck you," I replied harshly, and he laughed.

"Tisk tisk, Kia. You should watch your mouth around the little ones, you isn't good for them."

"Neither is this." I snapped back. He seemed almost happy that I was antagonizing him.

"Oh, Ki," he said. "There's no need for you to get so angry about all of this. Gangyoké only got what he deserved…same as your brother is going to." My eyes grew wide in fear and I got down on the ground at his feet.

"King Raydin," I said. "I will do whatever you want if you spare my brother's life. I will be your slave for all of eternity if you just let him be." He laughed and raised his hand in the same way that he had for Gangyoké.

"The only way I will spare your brothers life is if he can kill his little friend there." He turned to Potar. "If you can kill Kyle, I'll let you live." Potar looked desperately from me, to Raydin, and then to Kyle. Kyle lifted his head and spoke in a voice that was almost inaudible.

"Go ahead, Po," he said. "I'm just a little human teenager, I mean nothing to you guys, right? Kill me so you can be with your sister…" Potar eyebrows were now set in a 'V' over his eyes, and he walked over to Kyle and stood in front of him.

"N…no." he said. "I'm not going to kill Kyle. He's my friend…he's like a brother to me."

"Potar…" I said. He looked over at me and sighed softly.

"I'm sorry, Ki," he said softly, as he stared into the faced of his executor. "I love you…"

"I love you too, Po…" I said and then the fireball appeared. He kept his eyes locked with mine until he was gone. That wasn't the scary part though.

The scary part was that he hadn't made a sound.

"Potar…" I said helplessly. "Oh…oh my poor brother…" I buried my face in my hands and started to wail, under the watchful eyes of Kayla and Raydin. They finally left, satisfied with my reaction, and I felt a small hand brush against my back.

"Kia…" The voice said. "Please don't be sad…I'll be your brother…" I turned around and stared into the dark brown eyes of Juninchi, the boy that was sent here to be tortured. Even knowing that he still had the heart to forgive me. I embraced him and pulled his small body tight to me, and held him close for a very long time. I think that if it wasn't for him, I would have killed myself right then and there.

"Thanks, Juninchi," I said softly in-between sobs. "Thanks so much…" Kyle also looked up from where he was sitting, and then he too got up.

"Kia…" he said. "I have no idea why your brother did that for me, but I thank him. I'm sorry that he isn't here, and he chose me over you, but…"

"I understand Kyle," I said softly, still holding Juninchi, who was also crying a little. "He did what he thought was right, and I admire him for that. I just wish that that asshole didn't have to kill him…" I resumed crying then, and Juninchi and Kyle stayed there and comforted me for what seemed like an eternity. After about an hour at the most, I got up off the ground and wiped my eyes.

"Come on you two…I'll take you home." Kyle got on my back and I carried Juninchi in my arms and I dropped them off at their houses. On the way back, there was nothing I could think about but my brother, and how much I wanted him to be here with me, flying back and keeping me company on this lonely flight. A single tear fell out of my eye and landed in the ocean below, and I was surprised when I saw a fish leap out of the water and catch it. It fell back into the water with a graceful splash, and my thoughts turned back to Potar again.

"Oh Po…" I whispered into the still night air. "I miss you so much already…I can't even think of how I'm going to tell Mom…" But I needn't have worried. When I got to my mother's house, she was dead.

I knocked on the door several times before I decided to just walk in, I figured that Mom wouldn't mind too much, even if she were sleeping. I screamed at the top of my lungs at what greeted my eyes when I walked into the kitchen. My mother's body lay across the table, skinned from head to toe, and the head was jammed onto a knife and embedded into the table to make some kind of grotesque trophy. One of her eyes was missing, and her mouth was dribbling just the smallest bit of blood. Her skin was draped on one of the chairs, but even that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was her face. The expression that was left on her face was so horrible that I couldn't bear to look at it after I had seen it the first time. It was that sorrowful shock that always seemed to be on people's faces when they died, but this was different. I think it might have been because it was my own mother, but I couldn't take it, and I threw up all over the floor. I bent down and grabbed a rag from under the sink and began to absently scrub it off the floor until finally I broke down completely and sat there in my own puke and in my mother's blood bawling for her and my brother.

"Raydin…" I sobbed underneath my breath. "If it is that last fucking thing I do, I will kill you one day. I'm going to make sure of it. Oh…poor Mom. Poor Potar…poor Gangyoké…" I got up off the floor, and, being careful to avoid her facial expression, I gently took her head off the knife and placed it on the table along with the pitiful remains of her body. For the first time I noticed that someone had been eating my mother. This made me cry harder as I grabbed her best table cloth and wrapped it around her corpse and carried it outside, where it had just started to rain. The rain made little steam clouds rise from where it hit the fire, and I could barely see the ground. I laid her down trying not to jiggle her too much, like she was still alive, and began digging at the ground with my claws, disregarding the flames that were burning my scales. It took me almost two hours, but I finally dug a hole that was big enough to put my mother in for her final resting-place. I pushed the dirt pile over her, crying harder as each clod hit her like a brick. When I was finally done, I was covered from head to toe in mud and my hands were covered in second-degree burns.

"Shh…" I whispered softly. "Ki-bird loves you, Mommy. Kia loves you," I said as I walked back into the house and fell asleep immediately on her old bed, using it for the last time.

There was nothing for me to live for after that. Absolutely nothing. I wanted to kill myself. Yotati stopped me on several occasions, and so did Izzy once. With my brother, my mother, and my father all dead, I was the only one left in our family. I was the only surviving member of the Rangbasser family, and I didn't want that kind of responsibility. All I wanted was to die. There was nothing else that would have made me happier then to drop dead right then. But, there was always something for me to do, even though I hated it with the most loathsome passion.

There were always kids to torture.