I am so sorry that I haven't posted lately! I have been really busy, and I had a slight case of writer's block. But anyways, here is the next chapter. Thanks to CharissaKarn for her reviews-I really appreciate it! And without further ado, here is the story.
It was so refreshing to be flying through the cold night air that I almost shouted in joy. But then, I refrained myself. We weren't out of the woods yet. We were just a small distance from the school, and if we made any loud noises, the whole academy could be on our tail in minutes. So instead, I studied the faces of my friends.
Riley had joyous look on her face, like it was great to be free. She had always been kind of an adventurous spirit, and I'm sure that this was exciting for her. She and Jade were flying slightly ahead of me, at a smooth, swift glide. Jason looked focused, and kind of nervous. I shouldn't have been surprised. He had always been a little bit of a goody-goody, and this must be a little scary for him. After all, he was breaking school rules. But he kept flying forward, determined. He caught my eye, and smiled. Maybe he was calmer then I thought. He and Cobalt were flying steadily on my left. Finally, I looked at Aleck, who was flying on my right. He seemed excited, and his dragon was flying in a choppy fashion, swooping occasionally left, occasionally right. Aleck was usually rash, so this must have been nothing new for him. In fact, it wouldn't have surprised me if he had gone out without permission before.
We flew for a while, until I judged that we were out of hearing range of the school. Then, I shouted out to my friends. "Let's land and talk about where we're going. We don't want to be traveling without a plan." I saw them nod, and we all landed in a large clearing in the middle of the thick woods that we had been flying over.
"Go explore," I told Sky after I dismounted, and she and the other three dragons clomped off through the woods. They had been trained to come back at the sound of a whistle, and they were too well-behaved to destroy anything, so I wasn't worried. Much.
We cleared away some pine branches and sat down on the ground, in a square-like formation. "So, what did everyone bring in terms of supplies?" I asked. This would be a good thing to know, so we didn't buy anything that we already had. "I have clothes, for colder weather of course, some food rations, for about eight days, some rope, food for Sky, a warm sleeping bag, and ten dollars that I got for working a couple of extra hours on night guard duty. And the certificate that I got today. What do you guys have?"
Riley started talking next. "I have warm clothes, some more food, for humans and dragons, iodine, to purify water, a sleeping bag, my certificate, and forty dollars that I got from my family last year for my birthday."
Then Aleck joined in. "I have clothes, food, a sleeping bag, and my certificate like you guys. I also have a whistle for Russet, matches, and a warm blanket, just in case. I also managed to borrow twenty bucks from my roommate." I started to ask if his roommate knew what was going on, but Aleck was way ahead of me. "Don't worry, Gabby. I told him that I needed it to pay for an extra couple of lessons for me and Russet, and he believed me. And besides, he owes me at least this much. I've hauled his weight plenty of times."
Expectantly, we all looked at Jason. "I have the same stuff as you guys, and forty bucks that I've had saved up for whatever came along. Oh, and I also have a book on edible plants, because we might find some out here, even if it is winter." He said.
I nodded, and started doing some calculations. We should have 110 dollars, which would be useful for emergencies and buying food. And if we ran out of money, the dragons could always catch some small animals for us. Also, although I'm pretty sure that none of us would do this unless we were starving, we could steal some food. But that would only happen if worse came to worst. Then, I said to the group, "Can you guys think of anything else that we might need?"
"A tent?" Aleck suggested. "It may not have snowed yet, but come next month, there could be snow. A tent would be a useful thing to have." Riley and Jason nodded, and I agreed with them. We would have to make a detour to a town, and spend some of our precious money, but a tent could be worth it.
"Okay, we can buy a tent," I consented. "Now, as for our destination... I think that, after heading towards the nearest town, we should head towards the forest where Riley found me. I think that we could find some clues there, and maybe get started on tracking the darkness."
My three friends looked at each other, and nodded in agreement. "Okay," I said. "Let's go. There should be an all-night store in the next town over, and we can purchase a tent there. Then we can head towards the spot where I was found. Riley, do you remember where that was?"
Riley thought for a minute, then nodded slightly. "I vaguely remember where it was, but Jade probably hasn't forgotten. It was where she did her first darkness-blast, after all."
"Okay," I replied. Jade's memory should make finding that spot easier. Dragons were the only animals that could fight the darkness, besides humans, and a dragon's first fight against the darkness was like a right of passage for them. Even though it was five years ago, Jade would remember exactly where she had her first fight. Riley just had to let her know that we wanted to fly there. With the details settled, we should get going. I stood up, and let out a whistle for Sky. My friends did the same around me, and soon enough, we were flying through the air again.
In about 30 minutes, we had reached the nearest town. It was pretty small, and thankfully, almost every light in town was shut off. There was a small motel, a general store (the only building open), a gas station and some houses. We landed our dragons outside the town, and got off, taking our packs with us. Then, we headed towards the general store.
"Hello," the store clerk greeted us when we walked inside. "Can I help you?"
I shook my head. "No, sir. We know what we need." With that, I walked over towards a corner of the store, where I had spotted a tent that looked big enough for the four of us. My friends followed me, and we examined the tent together. It was a collapsible pop up tent, and said that it could hold five people. And the price, $59.99, would have to do. But, before I folded up the thing and bought it, I decided that we should all have a say in the matter. So I turned to my friends and pulled them into a huddle.
"What do you guys think?" I asked. "Can we afford it?"
Riley nodded, but Jason and Aleck looked concerned. "I don't know," Jason, the ever-cautious one said. "That will only leave us $50 dollars, and what happens when we run out of food?"
We though about that for a moment. Do we really need a tent? I wondered. But then Riley came up with a solution.
"Hey, I just thought of something," She said. "I remember that before my parents sent me to the academy, I had something called a savings account at a bank. When I got money, I put it in there, and I could take the money out of the bank at any time. I think that I might still have an account, and we could take my money out of there."
"How much did you have?" I asked excitedly. This could solve our problems, if Riley was willing to give up her money.
Riley's eyebrows went up as she tried to remember. "I think I had... about...100 dollars?"
"$100!" Aleck, Jason and I gasped. Riley nodded.
"Well, then. I guess that when we run out of money, we can just get Riley's out of the bank." Aleck said.
"Okay," Riley agreed. "It's not like I was using it for anything else."
With that settled we folded up the tent and paid for it. We then walked out of the store, called for our dragons, and set off.
"Do you know for sure where we are going?" Jason asked Riley.
She shook her head, but then answered, "I don't, but Jade does."
I breathed a sigh of relief, and sank down into Sky's saddle. We flew for about forty minutes, and I watched Jades head go from side to side, as if she was searching for something. But then, Jade stopped suddenly, and tossed her head up, excited. We had arrived.
I gave Sky the signal to land, and all of us hit the ground at the same time.
"Now what?" asked Aleck.
"I guess that I should start looking for something that I recognize, a landmark or something." I replied. I hadn't really thought this through. Would everything be the same as it had been five years ago? But then I shook my worries off. I would be able to find it. I had to. "Can you remember which way the darkness was moving when you rescued me?" I asked Riley.
She thought for a moment, and then nodded. "It was heading that way," she pointed. So, still riding Sky, I set off in the opposite direction, with my friends following me. If I had been heading the way that the darkness wanted to go, it wouldn't have picked me up, right?
Then, I saw something that looked very familiar. There was a clearing, and on the other side of the clearing was a downed tree, one that would have made good shelter. I had made it. We were in the right place. I was about to turn and tell the others about what I had found, but then Sky froze, and looked up at the moon. Startled, I followed her gaze, and what I saw made me gasp.
"What is it?" asked Aleck, concerned. Silently, frozen in fear, I pointed straight up, at what Sky was staring at. When my friend saw what I had, they gasped as well.
The darkness was coming.