A/N- I'm really really really really sorry I haven't posted in such a long time! It's just that I've been working on some other stuff and my homework, so I haven't really gotten the time to post anymore. Umm... this story might have to be on hold for a while, because I have some other stories that I'm working on... Again, sorry, and here's the chapter!


I walked back to camp before I realized. Skyra wasn't with me. I turned around and ran, back the way I came, shouting her name. No answer. I went back to the point where I last saw her, but there was nothing out of the ordinary. Except I thought I saw a pair of eyes, the same ones from that boy I saw about a month ago, watching me.

When I got back to the campfire, Miss Catta was calling names. I arrived just in time to hear my name called.

Bursting into the circle, I shouted, "Skyra is missing!"

Well, that started an uproar. Students started exclaiming that 'how unfortunate, when my older sister went here, no one went missing!' Or other stupid and useless junk. I had a suspicion about why Skyra was taken, but I had no way of confirming it, unless…no. It was too crazy to even consider. A lightning-read would probably kill me. But it was Skyra's only hope.

I rushed into the room that we shared and packed everything with magic. Then I teleported myself to my friend Elizandra's house. Knocking on the door, I heard a voice tell me to 'get your fat, lazy young butt in here!'

Dashing inside, I started to explain what happened when Elizandra held up a finger and said, "Now, now, Coronalia. I know that you want a lightning-read. But do you understand what could happen?"

"Yes." I replied, out of breath. "Yes, I do."

"Well, if you insist…however, a favor must be returned with a favor. Twelve of us are needed for the lightning-read to work, just as twelve months must be there in a year. We each represent months, and if one of us is missing, we will most likely kill you during the lightning-read attempt. I represent September, but that's not important. One of us is being held prisoner inside the Demon Fort. If you can free her, my sisters – who are the other months, by the way – and I will do a lightning-read for you. Do we have a deal?"

I gaped at her. "But-but, Skyra probably doesn't have that much time! The Demon Hotel is a two-day journey, and I can't go on a plane!"

"This is my offer. Take it or leave it."

I sighed. "I accept your deal."

"Shake on it."

I held out my hand, and Elizandra took it. A slight wind blew around us, and the atmosphere seemed to get a little less tense. Just then, I noticed what Elizandra was wearing. My eyes bulged and my mouth hung open, making me look like frog, but I couldn't help it. Her dress was so…beautiful. I doubt there even was such a word to describe it, but I do know that it was a shimmering, deep blue.
Oblivious to my staring, Elizandra said, "So. You will need…" And on and on and on she talked, all the while packing for things I might need. When she was done, I took the little purse, expecting a huge weight, only to find that it was actually quite light.

"If you lose this, you still have a hope, but you must always keep your weapons out. If you lose the weapons, all your chances are gone, and your friend shall be doomed to a very painful death."

Elizandra's words echoed in my mind as I walked toward my destination. I was not allowed to teleport, otherwise I would be found and killed immediately.
I hiked for about twenty minutes at a time, then stopped to get a drink of water. On and on the grassland went, but then finally, I saw a swamp ahead. Elizandra said that I would have to go through a swamp, over a mountain, and up and down some hills. Of course, there were warnings about what to avoid and that stuff, but I decided to wait until I got to the marshlands before I reviewed them.
After an hour or so, I finally got to the swamp, but I just kept walking. When the ground got wet, I rolled up the bottoms of my jeans – I really shouldn't have worn those – and trekked through. At some points I saw light, but ignored them because Elizandra said that was how water demons lured their prey in. I walked and ran and jogged and skipped, but there seemed to be no end to the swamp.
Since the little purse was obviously magic, and since the weapons were weighing me down, I debated with myself about whether I should put the weapons in the bag, or listen to Elizandra and keep them out. Eventually I decided to put them in the bag, after all, I was really tired. As soon as I put my sword away, I heard a faint and low hissing sound kind of like laughter. I stuck my hand in the bag and whipped out my sword, but I was too slow. The snake demon bit my ankle, and I screamed in pain and blacked out.

I regained consciousness and heard a voice talking to me. I couldn't understand it, but it was definitely human, and male. He was singing some kind of song, and it gave me energy and made the pain in my ankle dimish considerably.

"Ah! You're awake! Finally! I was beginning to think that you were dead, but no, of course you weren't! I knew my skills wouldn't fail me."

I opened my eyes slowly, and saw a strangely familiar teenage boy, about two years older than me, jabbering about this and that.

"Who are you?" I tried to ask, but my throat was dry and it came out as a whisper.

"What did you say?"

I tried to clear my throat. "I asked, who are you? And where have I seen you before?"

"Oh! I am Ziro, King of the Marsh of Demons and–"

At this point I decided to interrupt him. "Yeah right. And you didn't answer my other question." I said sarcastically.

He chose to ignore me. "Ruler of all life here, with the exception of the demons, of course. And I have chosen to take pity on you, so you should pledge your loyalty to me forever, as I saved your life from that snakebit–"

"SHUT UP ALREADY!" I screamed.

He glared at me. "Listen punk, I saved you from that snake. Show a bit of respect."

"I don't give a shit! Just be quiet already!" His constant jabbering was giving me a headache. "I'm going back to sleep."

I closed my eyes, then opened them again when I felt a stinging pain flash across my face.

"What the hell was that for?!"

Through gritted teeth, he hissed, "You cannot go to sleep. Understand?"

"What? Why? I'm tired!"

"That's how you die. You fall asleep, your body won't resist the poison, and you'll die."

Oh. That brought the slap into another light. "Sorry."

He sighed. "It's fine."

I tried to sit up, but winced when my leg shot another blast of pain up my body.

Ziro whipped around. "Don't move. Whenever you feel pain, it gives the poison a boost in overcoming your body. Tell me immediately when you feel pain."

"Ok, ok."

"Good." He turned around and started doing something that I couldn't see.

Remembering his instructions not to move, I didn't crane my neck to try and see. But it was so boring!

After an hour or so, my eyes were threatening to close. They snapped open when Ziro came back with a bowl of food.

"Here. Umm…uh…since you aren't supposed to move, I guess I'll have to feed you…"

"Umm…ok?" I said. I thought I was allowed to move my arms, but apparently not. Still, being fed?! This was a little – no, really awkward.

I opened my mouth and he spooned in a little of the soup. When I swallowed, a warm but not hot sensation filled my throat.

"This is delicious! How'd you make it?"

"Umm…family recipe."

I ate the rest of the soup in silence. When I was done, I had an overwhelming desire to sleep, but I knew that I couldn't–shouldn't, actually.

I didn't remember falling asleep, but I certainly remember waking up. A bucket of ice-cold water was dumped on my face, and I woke up, startled, to find a very angry Ziro hovering above me. As soon as he saw that I was awake, he began yelling.


"Yes, what's your problem?"

"What's my problem?! WHAT'S MY PROBLEM?! Damn you! My problem is that you almost died! Can't you listen to 'don't fall asleep?'"

"Wait…why do you care so much about me almost dying? I'm not anybody important!"

"Yes you are! …to-to me, that is…"

My throat suddenly felt dry. "What are you-" My eyes widened as the truth hit me. "W-wait, you don't mean…?"

His burning gaze locked onto mine and the answer was instantly clear.