Chatventures, Book 1–Vespers Rising

“All right,” Vampire Lord said, “I found the map to the source of the dark figures in a book. Apparently,” Vampire Lord paused, “it’s on earth.”

“Really?” Nireth was startled. “But that’s where I’m from!”

Vampire Lord nodded, “We have to get to earth to stop the dark figures.”

Out of nowhere, a cab drove up. The driver said, “I’m looking for Vampire Lord and Nireth. If you’re them, then get in!”

Nireth and Vampire Lord climbed into the cab, which drove off rather abruptly.

“What is this?” Nireth asked, looking around in awe.

“It’s a cab,” Vampire Lord explained, “something from earth.” He was obviously distracted.

“We’ll be at the hotel in a few minutes,” the cab driver said.

Suddenly, as if someone had stuck him with a pin, he jumped and said loudly, “I forgot to take my medication on the way! We have to stop!”

“Are you all right?” Nireth asked, concerned.

Vampire Lord shook his head, but said, “I’ll be fine.”

When the cab stopped, the taxi driver asked if he could get their bags.

“Yes, please!” Vampire Lord said.

While the cab driver was busy, Vampire Lord grabbed Nireth and ran as fast as his legs could carry him. “Taxi!” he called, hailing another cab.

“Get in!” he cried. Nireth and Vampire Lord climbed into the cab.

Vampire Lord issued all sorts of weird directions, confusing the cab driver immensely; “Take this alley–NO! Not the street, the alley!”

Finally, Vampire Lord asked the cab driver to let them out near a small hotel. The cab driver, who was relieved to have his crazy passengers out of the car, drove away. Nireth and Vampire Lord went into the hotel lobby, which was strangely empty, where they stood and discussed their adventure so far.

“What was that all about?” Nireth asked, rather sick from their car drive.

“I never gave the first cab driver a location,” Vampire Lord said gravely, “but he clearly had somewhere he wanted to take us. He was a dark figure in disguise. And as for the ride: I had to make sure we weren’t being followed.”

Nireth gaped, “So–they could be anyone?”

Vampire Lord nodded solemnly. “That’s right. But I know a way to stop them. I know of a ring that will make my powers strong enough to stop them–the ring of my ancestor, Gideon Cahill.”

“That sounds useful!” Nireth said. “How can we find it?”

“It is usually kept in a bank vault in Switzerland,” Vampire Lord explained.

Nireth bit her lip. “Oh. How far is Switzerland? And why would a family ring help defeat the dark figures?”

Vampire Lord took a deep breath, “I really shouldn’t be telling you this, but my real name is Tiberius Cahill. The ‘Vampire Lord’ thing is fake.

“There are four branches in the Cahill universe: Janus, Tomas, Lucian,and Ekatarina. I am a Janus.

“But we have to keep the Cahill name secret for a reason. You see, the dark figures are created by the Vespers, our mortal enemies.”

Nireth shivered, “But why would anyone do something so awful?”

Vampire Lord shrugged, “That’s just it; I don’t know.”

“Will the ring take away their power to create the dark figures?” Nireth asked.

“Probably,” Vampire Lord said, “but there’s just one problem: the Vespers know the location of the ring, as well. And they are fully capable of getting it–they have every weapon imagineable!”

Nireth bit her lip, “We’ll just have to beat them to the ring!”

“Nope!” Vampire Lord said with a grin, “I actually got it last night. It’s right here.” He held up a silver ring.

“Oh, good!” Nireth said, clapping happily. Then, slowly, realization dawned: “Wait,” she said, “if they know the location of the ring, and the ring is here, does that mean they know our location?”

Vampire Lord nodded, “Allright, so now we have to go to–” his sentence was cut off by a voice on the intercom system:

“Ah, Tiberius and a friend,” the voice said maliciously. “All of your Cahill training, and you walked right into our trap. Not even you two are immune to knock-out gas!”

A thick, green gas filled the hotel lobby, and both Nireth and Vampire Lord were knocked unconscious.

Vampire Lord was the first to re-awaken. He realized, with growing dread, that he could not find the ring. “Nireth, wake up!” He cried. “They took the ring!”

“What?” Nireth asked, suddenly wide awake. “Oh, this is terrible!”

Vampire Lord nodded glumly, “Now they can overthrow the Cahills and steal the only other thing that can beat the Vespers: Gideon’s Serum.”

“Gideon’s Serum?” asked Nireth. “What is that?”

“It’s a compound made of every chemical known to mankind, and it was also hidden in the bank vault…” Vampire Lord stopped short. “Wait a second, I stole that, too!”

“Oh, good!” Nireth said happily. “How do we use it to defeat the Vespers?”

“We combine it with the ring,” Vampire Lord frowned.

Nireth’s eyes narrowed. “One of us will have to get the ring then–I’ll do it!” she volunteered herself.

Vampire Lord shook his head and took a drink from a nearby glass of water and began to choke. “Oh!” he cried. “They dropped the ring!”

“Really?” Nireth asked. “Where?” She began looking all around for the ring.

“It was–” Vampire Lord coughed–”in the glass!”

“Oh, no!” Nireth said. “Are you all right?”

“I’m choking!” Vampire Lord cried.

“Oh, um, right!” Nireth ran around behind Vampire Lord and began thumping him on the back, trying to get the ring to dislodge from his throat.

Shadow appeared out of nowhere, “What’s going on?” she asked, staring at the strange sight.

“I’m choking on a Gideon Cahill’s ring!” Vampire Lord exclaimed.

Shadow-Rue changed into Raider.

“Am I doing this right?” Nireth asked anxiously, pounding harder on her friend’s back.

Despite their efforts, Vampire Lord still choked.

As Vampire Lord choked, Fern appeared.

“Please, help!” Nireth cried. “He’s choking, and we can’t figure out how to save him!”

“Use Gideon’s Serum,” Vampire Lord said wealky. “It will ignite the ring’s power. The Serum is located in my pocket; just pour it in my mouth.”

Meanwhile, Fern Koa used a small vine to dislodge the ring from Vampire Lord’s throat.

“Stand back!” Vampire Lord warned as the serum started to take effect. His eyes turned red, and he burst into flames. Then, using his power, he teleported to the source and punched it. The source’s destruction caused an explosion so big that Fern, Nireth, and Shadow–who were a mile away–could feel it!

Even thoguh Vampire Lord had destroyed the source, the Vesper Leader, Damien, was still alive and well. He shot an energy blast at Nireth.

Vampire Lord snuck up from behind and stabbed Damien in the neck. “It is done,” he said.

“It’s over?” Nireth asked.

Shadow nodded, “Yes,” she said. “It is.”

“Look out!” Vampire Lord cried suddenly. An arc of sleep darts was raining down on them. Vampire Lord was the first to get hit, and Nireth fell shortly afterwards.

Shadow was also hit, but Fern Koa avoided all the darts. One of the Vespers approached her with a poison-soaked cloth.

“You fool!” laughed Fern. “I have power over plants–poison ivy included! I’m immune to your poison!”

However, another Vesper had snuck up behind her. He laughed, “That was merely a distraction!” and suck her in the shoulder with a sleeping dart.

When the Vampire Lord woke up, the group was in a cage.

“Tiberius Cahill,” a familiar voice said, “so we meet again.” Damien Vesper paced outside of the cage, surveying his new catch.

As the rest of the group began to wake up, a new round of sleeping darts was fired, knocking them out again.

“I’m not going down without a fight, Vesper,” spat Vampire Lord. “You may have me in a cage, but I’m by no means cornered!” he climbed out of the cage and grabbed a windshield wiper off of a nearby car to use as a weapon.

As Vampire Lord fought Damien, he realized his weapon was of little use. “Now would be a good time for a frying pan!” He called to Nireth, who was waking up slowly.

“Oh!” She said, pulling a frying pan off of her belt. “Vampire Lord, catch!” she tossed him the frying pan.

Vampire Lord caught it and began to fight with Damien. Unfortunately, Damien pulled out an axe and chopped off Vampire Lord’s head!

“We have to help him!” Nireth cried, and Shadow-Rue raced to aid Vampire Lord as Nireth awkwardly squeezed out of the cage.

Vampire Lord, however, stood up even though he had no head. He grabbed Medusa’s head, turned Damien to stone, and punched him to pieces.

“My head, please?” he asked a stunned Nireth.

Nireth returned Vampire Lord’s head to Vampire Lord, who put it back on his neck. It healed itself back on.

It had only been a few seconds, however, before another sleep dart sailed through the air, striking Vampire Lord. Vampire Lord fell to the ground, unconscious.

Shadow ran over and read the note:

“Although our leader has fallen, we will continue to fight. -The Vespers”

Nireth swallowed hard. “So–so it’s not over?” she asked Shadow.

“No,” Shadow said, “apparently not!”

Soon, another dart came whistling out of nowhere, hitting Shadow in the head. It read, “Leave now or DIE!”

Right after that, came yet another dart, hitting Vampire Lord once again, that read, “Yes, LEAVE!”

Nireth picked shadow up off the ground and tried to pick up Vampire Lord, but she was too weak. She grabbed the back of his collar and began trying to drag him away from the scene of the fight.

Luckily, Shadow-Rue regained conscience.

“Will you help me carry Vampire Lord?” Nireth asked.

Shadow-Rue nodded and turned into raider, picking Vampire Lord up. “Now let’s get out of here, and fast!” said Raider.

Nireth nodded and followed behind, picking up the frying pan as they ran.

Vampire Lord soon regained consciousness: “Sleep darts again?” he asked.

“Yep,” Raider answered.

Out of nowhere, a large crowd of Vespers appeared! They began hurling bombs at Vampire Lord, causing him to explode. Raider bravely went after the Vesper soldiers, and Nireth tried swatting away the bombs with a frying pan, but it didn’t work very well.

Vampire Lord re-appeared,  however; “Don’t worry!” he reassured his friends. “That was only a dummy; a distraction!”

However, the Vespers kept attacking. Raider fought bravely, but got shot in the leg.

Vampire Lord woke up, his head in a neck brace to help his decapitation injury heal, but otherwise unharmed.

“You’re alive!” Nireth cried.

Vampire Lord nodded, but before he could finish, an axe flew from the bushes towards Nireth. A large stone flew through the air and knocked it out of the way.

“Axes are lame,” RC said, dropping out of a nearby tree.

As she spoke, another axe flew towards Nireth! Vampire Lord heroically jumped in front of her, saving her, but at the cost of grave injury. The axe hit him in the chest, and he fell to the ground.

“Vampire Lord!” Nireth cried, running to his side. “Oh my Gods,” she whispered. “This is all my fault!”

“Just leave me here,” Vampire Lord said weakly. “I’ve accomplished all I was meant to.”

“I’m not going to leave you!” Nireth said stubbornly. “You’re NOT going to die!”

RC rolled her eyes and wrote a rune on Vampire Lord’s shoulder. “You owe me,” she muttered.

The rune, however, did not work; Vampire Lord kept losing blood. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them he was standing before the Counsil.

“You know why you are here,” a Counsil member said.

Vampire Lord nodded, “We need your aid in defeating the Vespers.”

Another Counsil member laughed, “We can offer you no physical aid–you know that! However, we can tell you this: the secret to defeating the Vespers is in The 39 Clues.”

Meanwhile, Nireth was panicking, afraid her friend was dead.

RC calmly surveyed the situation and said, “We’ve got to hurry–help me make a tonic, so we can fully heal him.”

Vampire Lord was losing blood at a frighteningly rapid pace. RC dug a hole in the ground, “Now we need blood and water to fill this up,” she said.

Nireth cut her hand on a sharp rock and offered her blood to RC, who dropped it into the hole and poured a canteen of water in after it. “Now help me splash this on the wound,” she said.

Nireth and RC began splashing the potion on Vampire Lord’s injury.

“All right, now he should be fine,” RC said, leaning her back against a tree.

“Hello!” a man popped out of a nearby shrub.

“Oh!” Nireth said, startled. “Hi!”

Vampire Lord regained consciousness at that moment; “The only way to defeat the Vespers is with The 39 clues!” he exclaimed. “Of course–the Cahills have hunted those for centuries!…” his voice trailed off, “But no one has found them.”

“Are you all right?” Nireth asked Vampire Lord. “And what are The 39 Clues?”

“What are you doing on my land?” the strange man asked suddenly, pulling out two pistols.

“We mean no harm!” Nireth tried to calm him.

The man began to weep, “I’m sorry,” he said, “it’s just–it’s been so long since I’ve seen another human being! My wife died three years ago.”

RC pursed her lips and stayed quiet.

Nireth approached the man cautiously. “It’s all right,” she patted him on the shoulder. “We’re looking for The 39 Clues so we can defeat the Vespers–would you like to help?”

“No,” the man shook his head, “I have to go. But I may be back later!”

“Good bye!” everyone called.

RC felt her hat lifted off her head. She looked up and saw Cobalt smirking, holding her hat.

“Get down here, Cobalt,” RC ordered. “So what, exactly, are these 39 Clues?” she asked, turning to Vampire Lord.

“The 39 Clues are the ingredients to make another batch of Gideon’s Serum,” Vampire Lord explained. “Once we make a new batch, the Vespers will be defeated!”

Cobalt dropped RC’s hat back onto her head. RC stomped in mock anger, “Get down here, Cobalt!”

Cobalt dropped nimbly from the tree.

“This is Cobalt Free, everyone,” RC introduced Cobalt. “He’s a friend.”

“Nice to meet you, Cobalt!” Nireth said, shaking his hand.

Vampire Lord’s face grew pale. “William McIntyre just made contact with me. He offered us a choice between a million dollars and the first clue.”

“First clue!” Nireth shouted before she could stop herself.

Vampire Lord shook his head, “You don’t understand. There will be a price. With the choice of the clue comes a promise from the Vespers that they will destroy one of us.”

RC, Nireth, and Cobalt froze.

“They’ll destroy me!” Nireth said finally. “I was the first so speak, so I’ll be the first to go–”

“It was funny of them to say that,” a clear voice rang out through the clearing. Raven Avelina stepped out from the shadows of the trees.

“Raven Avelina,” RC smirked, “I haven’t seen you in a while.”

“Rune Crafter,” Raven Avelina said coldly, nodding to RC.

“No one has called me Rune Crafter in a long time,” RC said, still smirking. “Not since I had to go to school, anyway.”

Suddenly, the whoosh of powerful wings interrupted their discussion. Vampire Lord had vanished while no one was looking–and now he was back with a dragon!

“Climb aboard if you want to defeat the Vespers!” he cried as the dragon settled onto the ground.

Nireth eagerly climbed onto the dragon’s back. “Do you want to come?” she asked RC and Raven Avelina.

“I’ll pass,” RC said, her face turning green at the sight of the dragon. “I’m not exactly good with flying on dragons.”

“Trust me,” Cobalt said, “you do NOT want her on board!”

“Vespers?” Raven Avelina asked, curious. “Why on Mir are you dealing with Vespers?”

“The Vespers are responsible for creating the dark figures that have been wreaking havoc all across Mir,” Vampire Lord explained. “Not to mention that I’m a Cahill and therefore their mortal enemy. Now that they’ve found me, they’re trying to kill me.”

“A Cahill,” Raven Avelina said, a hint of amusement in her voice. “Well, then. I hope you don’t mind if I tag along.” Not that she cared if they minded or not.

“I don’t think I’m going,” RC said, looking fearfully at the dragon. “Unless you have some other method of transportation.”

Suddenly, there was a sickening thud. All eyes turned to Vampire Lord, who was now slumped over on the dragon, an axe stuck in his back.

“Where do these things keep coming from?” RC asked.
Astrid ran away before anyone could see her, “I have got to work on my aim!” she whispered furiously.
Nireth slid off the back of the dragon and tried to get Vampire Lord off of his perch so he could be treated.

“Well, there’s not a chance I’m getting on that dragon now,” Raven Avelina said. “Not with axes flying everywhere!”

Suddenly, as if he were in a trance, Vampire Lord stood straight up. “Rainbows are nature’s rainbows,” he said before slumping to the ground, unconscious again.

Nireth knelt by Vampire Lord and looked curiously to RC and Raven Avelina. “‘Ranbows are nature’s rainbows’?” she echoed.

“Don’t look at me!” RC said, putting her hands up by her face. “I don’t know what it means!”

“Perhaps we have to create a rainbow,” Raven Avelina mused.

“Or perhaps we have to use a rainbow like a bow,” Nireth said, poorly mimicking an archer drawing an arrow, “and shoot something!”

“Archery?” Raven Avelina brightened. “I could do that!”

“I could provide mist,” RC offered.

Vampire Lord groaned, and the groups attention was drawn to his grave state. Nireth hurriedly tried to find something to block the bloodflow. “Help!” she cried, completely overwhelmed.

“Here,” Raven Avelina said, handing Nireth her quiver. “Hold my arrows.”

Nireth nodded and gingerly took Raven Avelina’s quiver.

Suddenly, a rainbow appeared. Something shiny sat at the top!

Raven Avelina stopped what she was doing and stared at the rainbow in wonder.

“That shiny thing at the top,” RC said, “do you think it’s our clue?”

As Raven Avelina picked up her bow and an arrow. “I’ll try shooting it down,” she said, taking aim. Just as her arrow was about to strike its mark, a gust of wind blew it away. Raven Avelina frowned. “There must be something protecting it!”

“Maybe we have to climb up the rainbow!” Nireth suggested.

“It’s made of mist,” RC pointed out.

“Oh,” Nireth blushed, “good point.”

As if on cue, Phoenix appeared.

“Phoenix!” Raven Avelina exclaimed. “Just who we need.”

“What’s our situation?” Phoenix asked.

“We need to get that–” RC pointed to the object at the top of the rainbow– “down here. Could you fly up and get it?”

“Sure,” Phoenix said, starting to zoom towards the object, but she was deterred as an arrow whizzed by her, narrowly missing her wing.

The arrow zipped through the air and knocked the object off the top of the rainbow.

Raven Avelina whirled around to see Vampire Lord holding her bow; he had shot the arrow. “Don’t touch my bow!” she cried, her eyes burning fiercely.

“Vampire Lord!” Nireth cried happily, running to hug her friend. “You’re all right!”

“I think you might want to put down that bow,” RC warned out of the corner of her mouth.

“I’m sorry,” Raven Avelina said, ashamed of her outburst.

Vampire Lord nodded, “It’s all right.”

Phoenix, who had caught the vial before it could hit the ground, flew back over to the group.

“Aha,” Vampire Lord said, examining the vial, “uranium. Here, we need to pour it into this bottle.”

He held out a clear glass bottle with a stopper made out of red cork. He took out the cork, and Phoenix poured the uranium in.

“Also, I found five more vials–they were hidden in the axes!” Vampire Lord said, pointing to a stack of vials to his right.

With the help of the others, the six ingredients were mixed together. As they were pouring the last drop of the sixth ingredient, a drop missed the vial and fell to the ground.

The small splash opened up into a large hole. Out of nowhere, a dark figure appeared and shoved Vampire Lord in.

“No!” Nireth cried, jumping in after him without really thinking things through.

Luckily, it was not nearly as deep as it had first appeared, and the landing was soft. When Vampire Lord reached the bottom of the hole, he exclaimed; “Look! I’ve found three more!”

“Oh, good!” Nireth clapped. “But how do we get out of here?”

“With this,” Vampire Lord said, springing open his Ladder-in-a-Can. He and Nireth climbed to the surface unharmed.

As soon as they emerged, they were greeted by an old friend:

“Hello,” Shadow-Rue said, stepping out from the shade of the trees.

“Shadow!” Nireth cried, running to hug the cat.

A sleep dart whistled through the air and struck Vampire Lord. Attached to it was a note that read:

“You’re running out of time… -The Vespers”

“Not again,” sighed Shadow.

“We’re running out of time?” Nireth asked, reading the letter. “Oh, no!” she looked to Shadow. “Do you have any idea how we might find the clues?”

“No idea,” Shadow said simply.

“Oh, please wake up!” Nireth pleaded, gently shaking Vampire Lord.

Shadow began to lick Vampire Lord’s face.

Vampire Lord came to; “Ugh,” he groaned, “what happened?”

“You got hit by another sleep-drug dart,” Shadow explained.

Suddenly, two more darts came sailing out from the trees; one headed for Nireth, the other for Vampire Lord. Nireth jumped towards Vampire Lord, trying to save him, but to no avail. One of the darts buried itself deep in her neck, and the other hit its mark: Vampire Lord.

“Oh, no!” Nireth whispered weakly as she fought for consciousness. “Shadow, run!”

Shadow morphed into Raider and tried to pick up their unconscious bodies, but Raider, too, was hit by a sleep-drug dart.

Everything went black.

When they came to, Raider and Nireth discovered that they were locked in a cage! Vampire Lord was dangling from a rope outside with a time bomb strapped to his neck.

A dark figure smirked and said, “Aha, Tiberius Cahill. I thought we’d never meet,” he turned to Nireth and Raider. “Now give me the clues!” he commanded.

“Or what?” Raider sneered.

“Or I kill your friend,” the dark figure said smugly.

Raider thought for a moment, “Let us out,” he said, “and we’ll give you the clues.”

“Raider, no!” Vampire Lord said. Raider shot him a look, and Vampire Lord stopped.

The dark figure opened the cage. Nireth raced towards the exit, but the dark figure blocked her way.

“Going somewhere?” it asked with a snarl.

“Yeah,” Raider said, “I was just on my way to do the first thing on my list: claw your eyes out!”

With that, Raider jumped on the dark figure and knocked him out of the doorway.

Nireth raced out after him and cried, “Go! Save Vampire Lord!”

Raider nodded; he knew Nireth would have no idea what to do with the time bomb strapped around Vampire Lord’s neck.

Nireth distracted the dark figure as Raider cut the time bomb off of Vampire Lord’s neck.

Raider raced back to the dark figure and made short work of him, while Nireth took Raider’s place next to Vampire Lord.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

“I think Raider nicked me as he was cutting off the bomb,” Vampire Lord said, pointing to a small cut at the back of his neck, “but other than that, I’m–”

A loud THUNK cut him off. They turned to see Raider sitting, unconscious, on the ground.

Vampire Lord and Nireth ran to Raider’s side.

Nireth felt Raider’s head and winced, “There’s a large knot,” Nireth said. “I hope it’s nothing too serious!”

Raider regained consciousness. “Wha… what happened?”

“You were knocked unconscious,” Vampire Lord explained.

Raider blinked slowly, “By whom?”

“What?” Nireth asked.

“By whom?” Raider repeated himself. “I defeated the dark figure. That means–”

“Someone else is there!” Vampire Lord sprang to his feet just a man prepared to pounce on the group. Grabbing a knife, Vampire Lord threw it at the man, killing him instantly.

Suddenly, as if he had been struck in the face, Vampire Lord’s facial expression shifted. “Oh my gosh,” he said, “That’s Alistar. That’s Alistar! I just killed a Cahill!”

“A Cahill?” Nireth exclaimed. “But why would a Cahill be working against us?”

“Probably because of that,” Vampire Lord pointed up a nearby cliff. “The tenth clue is up there. One of us will have to climb up there and get it.”

“I’ll do it!” Nireth volunteered. “You’ve both done so much, and I feel like I haven’t been of much use!”

Without waiting for an answer, she raced towards the cliff, examined her options for handholds and footholds, and began climbing.

She had only made it about ten feet off the ground when a loud BANG distracted her. She looked down to see Vampire Lord fall to the ground, the sand turning red with blood around him.

“Vampire Lord!” she cried, trying to climb back down. She lost her footing and fell, but it wasn’t far so she remained uninjured.

“Vampire Lord, Nireth!” Shadow cried, racing to Vampire Lord’s side.

There was a deep wound in his back–a bullet hole.

Nireth stared at her friend anxiously. “Oh, I’m useless with medicine,” she whimpered. “Shadow, do you have any ideas as to how we can save him?”

“None come to mine,” Shadow replied morosely.

Vampire Lord groaned weakly.

“Stay with us, Vampire Lord!” Nireth pleaded.

“I’ll try,” he said faintly.

Nireth forced a smile. “You’ve got to–you can’t die! You won’t die!” she took a deep breath, “All right, how can we save you?”

“I don’t know,” Vampire Lord coughed.

“Does it have anything to do with the tenth clue?” Shadow-Rue asked.

“Probably,” Vampire Lord said.

Shadow turned to Nireth, “You have got to get that clue!”

“Don’t let him die,” she said anxiously to Shadow. “And make sure Shadow stays out of trouble,” Nireth turned to Vampire Lord, making a bad attempt at lightening the mood.

With that, Nireth ran to the base of the cliff and scrambled up as fast as she could. When she reached the top, she saw a strange silver structure about as tall as her shoulder mounted on a stone pedestal. There was a small opening at the base. She peered into it and was startled when a bee flew out. To her relief, it didn’t appear to have any interest in stinging her.

A small vial sat next to the structure–which was, in fact, a beehive. Nireth realized that the next ingredient (and the tenth clue) was honey! She filled the vial with as much honey as she dared and walked to the edge of the cliff. It was too far to jump, but trying to climb down would take too much time. She would also run the risk of breaking the precious vial!

She knew she had to get down and help her friends–but how?

“Blood,” Vampire Lord said finally. “The last ingredient is blood.”

He had miraculously made it to the top of the cliff—with the others’ help, of course.

He added it to the Serum, but as he did so, a change overcame him.

Vampire Lord laughed and dropped the bottle.

“No!” Shadow cried, snatching it before it could hit the ground.

“Vampire Lord, what’s wrong with you?” Asked Fern, stepping forward.

“You fell right into my trap!” Vampire Lord laughed. “You thought the Vespers would let you get away with this? You thought wrong!”

Vampire Lord grabbed Nireth and raced towards the cliff, tossing her off.

“Nireth!” Rainbow Dash cried, trying to fly out and save her.

Fern Koa sent out a vine to catch her, and Shadow lunged for the edge. As she did, she accidentally tossed the Serum over the edge.

Vampire Lord was the first to reach her, however; “I’m sorry!” he cried. “I don’t know what came over me! I— AH!” he cried, as he, too, lost his balance and began to fall. Before he did, though, he caught the Serum vial.

“Vampire Lord!” Nireth exclaimed as they fell, “you didn’t have to do that! I–”

“Here, take this!” Vampire Lord took a big gulp of the Serum. “Drink it!”

“What’ll happen?” Nireth asked, scared. “Will you be O.K.?”

“Just trust me!” Vampire Lord cried.

Nireth took a big swig and closed her eyes.

Vampire Lord expected impact, but nothing happened. “Are we dead?” he asked, opening his eyes.

“I don’t know!” Nireth said, frightened.

“No, look!” he said, pointing to the orb that was surrounding them, keeping them safe.

Suddenly, it popped!

Vampire Lord managed to save Nireth from a ghastly fate, flying her away from her doom, but he had to pay a price: a sharp rock stabbed him in the chest. Rainbow Dash helped fly them back up to the top of the cliff.

“Vampire Lord!” Nireth cried, seeing his spilt blood. “You’re hurt!”

Vampire Lord collapsed to the ground. He was dying!

“No!” Nireth cried. “You won’t die!”

Fern’s eyes grew wide, “This all seems vaguely familiar! And there’s something about the way you two look…”

“Flower, gleam and glow,” Nireth sang softly, “let your power shine…”

Rainbow Dash nodded, “I know this song, I know this song!”

Vampire Lord sprung up from the ground, healed!

“Oh my gosh, her hair glows!” Vampire Lord cried. “Why does her hair glow?”

“Really?” Rainbow Dash asked, fainting.

A small reptile smirked up at Vampire Lord.

“Why is he smiling at me?” Vampire Lord asked nervously.

Nireth twirled a strand of hair around her finger. “It doesn’t just glow,” she said slowly. “How much of the Serum do we have left?” she asked, getting sidetracked.

“I think the glass shattered,” Shadow said sadly, holding up shards of glass.

“Oh, no!” Fern cried. “What’ll we do?”

“We’ll use the backup,” Vampire Lord said, pulling a back-up vial from his pocket. Suddenly, his face changed again. “You’re not going to win that easily!” he said, his voice sounding strange and garbled. He picked up Nireth and threw her again, this time at an Acid Lake!

“Ahh!” Nireth cried as she sailed through the air.

“Hey, Nireth!” RC called, “do you ever use your frying pan for cooking?”

“No,” Nireth yelled back, “I’m terrible at cooking!”

Suddenly, Hiccup swooped down from the sky on a Night Fury. “Nireth!” he cried, soaring underneath her and catching her.

“Wow, it’s Hiccup!” RC exclaimed. “But that doesn’t mean I’m not still hungry,” she peered at Vampire Lord accusingly.

Vampire Lord summoned an entire buffet out of nowhere. RC began to eat happily, until she realized: “Blech!” she cried, spitting out what she had eaten. “Everything is made out of shrimp!”

Vampire Lord was too busy flying around on his unicorn to notice.

“Hello,” Machine Lord said, stepping out of the shadows. He charged his blaster, “and goodbye,” he said, firing it at the ground, laughing madly.

As the entire world began to blow up, Vampire Lord turned back time!

“Incredible!” exclaimed Fern.

“Oh, no!” Vampire Lord cried. “I think I’ve gone back to fa–AAAH!”

Everyone there had been turned into babies, even Machine Lord who turned back into an unhatched egg.

Vampire Lord summoned up some rattles for the babies, and a bowl of milk for Shadow-Rue.

Nireth crawled over to a rattle and began to play with it.

Thunder Ninja appeared out of nowhere, and Vampire Lord’s diaper grew larger. A nasty smell filled the room.

Vampire Lord began to cry, and Thunder Ninja asked, “Eww! What smells so bad?”

Shadow wrinkled her nose. “Ickie!”

Thunder Ninja crawled over to Vampire Lord and patted him on the back, but he threw up on her head! As might be expected, baby Thunder Ninja began to cry.

Shadow coughed up a hairball, and Vampire Lord hit Thunder Ninja with his rattle. Nireth began to cry and crawled over to hug Thunder Ninja. Thunder Ninja then kicked Vampire Lord in the side, so Nireth began to cry harder and hugged Vampire Lord. Shadow hacked up a hairball and walked over to the group, licking Nireth’s head.

Vampire Lord slammed his dirty diaper down on Thunder Ninja’s head.

Thunder Ninja morphed into Miranda, who was one very confused baby! She couldn’t figure out where she was, or why she was a baby!

Suddenly, Vampire Lord sped up time. The group was four years old now, and attending a pre-school.

Vampire Lord smacked Miranda, who levitated the tables and chairs before throwing one at Vampire Lord. Vampire Lord threw it back.

“Don’t be mean!” Nireth shouted, standing up on one of the desks. “Please!”

Miranda ignored Nireth, and Vampire Lord dumped a bucket of paint on her head.

Shadow walked over to Nireth and began licking her hair. Nireth grabbed Shadow and hugged her.

Vampire Lord sped up time once again; this time they were teenagers. They were in the mall, and many of the Beings who had never seen neon lights before were in awe.

“I’ll get us some movie tickets!” Vampire Lord cried, running off to the Movie Plex.

Nireth spun in circles, “I could do this all day!” She laughed.

Thunder Ninja grinned and began breakdancing.

Shadow, too, began to spin, but she fell down the stairs!

“Shadow!” Thunder Ninja cried, running to help Shadow-Rue.

“I got the tickets!” Vampire Lord called. “We’ve got to hurry if we want good seats!”

Thunder Ninja sighed, “But I wanted to go in that shoe store!”

“We can do that after,” Shadow reassured her.

Vampire Lord ushered them into the theater, leading them to front-row seats.

“What movie is this?” a boy behind them asked.

“Saw 6,” his friend answered.

The movie began rolling. The group gasped at the horrific sights on the screen—Nireth had Shadow in a death grip and Vampire Lord wet his pants, clinging desperately to Thunder Ninja’s head.

They walked out of the theater in a sort of horrified daze. “That,” Vampire Lord said, breaking the silence, “was awesome!”

“Shoe store!” cried Thunder Ninja as the group forgot all about their fear.

“Abercrombie and Fitch!” Vampire Lord ran towards the store. “And there’s Build-a-Bear!”

Nireth stopped in front of a store with a sparkly window display. “Dis-knee Store,” she said slowly.

Vampire Lord raced in and bought a pink dress for Shadow. Shadow glared at Vampire Lord and ripped the dress to shreds, her eyes narrowed.

Out of nowhere, young Damien Vesper appeared and stabbed Vampire Lord.

“No!” Nireth cried, stumbling to her feet. “Leave us alone!” she stood in front of Vampire Lord to protect him.

Time rewound once again, and the group found that they were babies. Vampire Lord hit Thunder Ninja with a rattle. Nireth crawled over with a baby blanket, which Shadow shredded.

Vampire Lord bit Shadow, turning her into a Vampire. Shadow-Rue then bit Thunder Ninja, turning HER into a vampire!

Radiance and Camile walked in and stared around, “Um,” Radiance said, confused, “why is everyone a baby?”

Nireth cooed and grabbed her feet.

Vampire Lord’s diaper grew larger again.

“Aww!” Camile said, “You guys look adorable!”

“Now how do we change them back?” Radiance asked, tapping her chin.

Vampire Lord began to cry—no one had changed his diaper!

The group was suddenly transported to Vesper Publishing, LLC. Damien Vesper stood in front of them.

“You have a choice, Tiberius,” he sneered, “either I stop publishing the Black Books, or you get a copy of the Tangled DVD… with a DVD player!”

Vampire Lord’s face remained stoic for a moment, then contorted with fury. “First,” he said slowly, taking a step forward, the power in his voice, “I chose the Black Books,” he took another step forward. “Second, it’s not Tiberius.

“It’s Vampire Lord!”

He flew at Tiberius, blind with anger. He began clawing at Damien’s eyes, killing him with his bare hands.

When the deed was done, he turned to face Sunny-Rue and Nireth. “It is done,” he said tersely, coated with his enemy’s blood.

“Oh, thank the Gods!” Nireth said.

Sunny-Rue heaved a sigh of relief.

Out of nowhere, a crowd of Vespers came and kidnapped Nireth.

“Help!” she cried as she was carried away.

Sunny-Rue and Vampire Lord charged to her rescue, and Vampire Lord shot them down with a single blast.

“Thank you!” Nireth stammered. “I—I’m so glad you’re my friends!” Nireth ran, giving her friends a hug.

“I’d never let you go,” Vampire Lord said comfortingly.

“Thanks, Vampire Lord!” Nireth patted him on the back. “I owe you one!”

Vampire Lord looked up sharply. “Wait,” he said, “there’s still—wait. We aren’t finished.”

The group was teleported to Madrigal’s stronghold. The floor began to shake violently—someone had set off an explosive!

“Under here!” Vampire Lord cried, shoving them all beneath a table.

When the worst of the tremors were over, there was a loud groan. Nireth and Shadow-Rue turned to see Vampire Lord pinned under a bookshelf.

“Vampire Lord!” cried a new voice. A girl and two boys came running into the room. “Jonah, Dan, get that bookshelf off of him!” the girl ordered.

Jonah, Dan, and Nireth began trying to get the bookshelf off their fallen friend.

“We have to get the serum to heal him,” Amy (the girl) said. “It’s through those doors,” she pointed Shadow, Nireth, and RC towards a door at the far side of the room.

Using a sheet like a hammock, they carried Vampire Lord through the doors. All of them were open—all except for the thirty-ninth one.

Shadow-Rue read the clue, then said aloud, “It says something about lost Shakespeare poetry,” she said slowly.

RC slapped Vampire Lord. “Do you know anything  about lost Shakespeare poetry?” she asked.

Vampire Lord opened his eyes and blinked slowly, “Um… there’s the one… I only know of one,” he coughed, his face wracked by pain. “Love Labour’s Lost.”

“Love Labour’s Lost,” Nireth said aloud, punching it into a keypad. The door swung open.

Another girl ran by.

“Natalie!” Shadow-Rue called out.

Natalie turned and, while she was distracted, accidentally ran off of a cliff.

“Get the serum!” she cried. “Just forget about me!”

Nireth set Vampire Lord down and ran to the lab .

“Serum, serum, serum,” she said, looking through everything. “Where could it–”

“Looking for this?” a voice asked. Isabel Kabra stood there with the Serum, holding it tauntingly.

“Yes!” Nireth cried. “Oh, thank you, thank you! I–”

Isabel tossed it over the edge of the cliff.

“No!” Vampire Lord cried, lunging and grabbing it before it could fall.

Isabel snarled. “Fools. You think that you–you, half dead,” she pointed to Vampire Lord, “you, a cat,” she said to Shadow-Rue, “you, half my size,” she sneered at RC, “you, still a naive child,” she scoffed at Nireth.

Suddenly, there was a loud explosion. A hole had been blasted in the ground. “Go!” Vampire Lord cried. “I’ll follow you!”

“We won’t leave you!” Nireth cried.

Shadow nodded, “We’re your friends!”

Vampire Lord used what was left of his energy to lurch forward and push them towards the hole.

“Ahh!” RC cried, losing her balance. As she fell, she grabbed ahold of Nireth, who fell down with her.

Vampire Lord reached out again and knocked Shadow down with the others, sealing the hole after she fell.

Isabel smirked, “So, Tiberius, we meet again,” she said, pacing in circles around him. “Pity–I was hoping to get a bit of fight out of you before you died.”

Vampire Lord stared her in the face, refusing to say anything.

“Very well,” she shrugged. “A fight for words wasn’t what I was gunning for. I guess this is it, Tiberius!”

She jumped at him and he felt a prick in his arm. He looked down and saw a red spot on his arm. A tiny line was creeping its way up his arm–she’d poisoned him!

When Vampire Lord looked up, however, Isabel was gone.

The poison began its deadly work. He had to do something–he remembered his friends he had sealed into the hole. Using all he had left, he teleported books to them, opened up the way out, and summoned a ladder for them to get out. He hoped he would be able to see them one last time before he died.

As the group was falling, Nireth jumped suddenly, “What’s this?” she asked; a book had appeared in her hands! “The Secrets of the Branch of Janus?”

“Over there–another one! The Secrets of the Branch of Lucian! And–and there! The Secrets of the Branch of Ekatarina!” Shadow exclaimed.

“I’m more interested in that cookbook,” RC said sullenly as a random cookbook appeared with the others.

“And Madrigal and Thomas!” Shadow continued. “All the Cahill branch books–the’re here!”

And then another book appeared.

“The Vespers?” Nireth guessed.

Shadow shook her head, “No! It’s a note from Vampire Lord! It says, ‘Isabel poisoned me! Please hurry!'”

“Oh, no!” Nireth cried.

“Oh, hey, look!” RC said, “a ladder! That wasn’t there before.”

The group scrambled up to the top, where Thunder Ninja was waiting for them.

“Guys, what’s going on?” She asked. “Is Vampire Lord all right?”

“He’s poisoned,” Shadow said grimly.

Nireth ran to Vampire Lord’s side, followed quickly by Shadow-Rue.

“How can we save him?” Nireth asked Shadow-Rue.

“Try the serum,” Shadow suggested. 

Nireth looked around for the vial–she knew she had seen Vampire Lord save it!–when she spotted it rolling towards the edge of the cliff. “No!” she cried, jumping towards it.

At that second, Vampire Lord groaned. “Not… the serum,” he said weakly. “I need to go to the Cahill Command Center!”

Nireth turned away from the Serum and knelt beside her friend, half-lifting him by the armpits.

RC, who had been skipping along, tripped and hit her head on a rock. “Augh!” she cried, a wound in her head beginning to bleed profusely. Nireth watched helplessly in horror.

“Here, I’ve got you,” Thunder Ninja came to the rescue, giving RC some herbs to put on her injury and some blue gatorade to replenish her system.

“Thanks, Thunder Ninja!” RC said brightly.

“No problem,” Thunder Ninja nodded kindly.

As she did so, a gunshot rang out. Shadow hissed and ran to the edge of the cliff. “It’s that lady again!” Shadow shouted. “Isabela! She’s got a gun!” Shadow gasped. “Oh, no–she’s shot Natalie!” Shadow ran over to Vampire Lord and Nireth. “Nireth, take this!” She nosed the sheet Vampire Lord had been lying on towards Nireth. “Pick Natalie up–we have to get out of here!”

Vampire Lord got to his feet, and somehow he remained standing. “I can’t believe it,” he said, “Isabel is Natalie’s mother!” he turned to Shadow, aghast. “She shot her own daughter!”

As Nireth inched Natalie onto the makeshift hammock, Vampire Lord saw that Natalie’s brother, Ian, was tied to a post nearby. Vampire Lord untied Ian, who said, ‘Thanks!” he stared after Isabel. “I don’t want to understand why she did this. Our own mother!”

“Are you all right, Natalie?” Thunder Ninja asked.

“I’m fine,” Natalie forced a smile, “I just got shot in the ankle. Nothing too serious.”

A harsh laugh distracted the group. “You think I’m gone? I’m not leaving until I’ve won this thing!”

Everyone whirled around and saw Isabel with a pair of knives, smirking.

Shadow-Rue was the first to charge her. Isabel slashed out with a knife, hitting Shadow’s left eye.

Shadow realized, horrified, that she was going to be blind in that eye.

Isabel laughed–one opponent down, three to go.

Vampire Lord stepped up next, charging at Isabel. She slashed out at him with one of her knives, and stuck the other into his chest. He stumbled backwards and fell. He tried to get back up, but realized that whatever strength he had left was slowly ebbing out of the wound in his chest.

“You could just let go,” VL told himself. Already,he was slipping in and out of consciousness,imagining lights dancing all around the room. “No.” thought VL. He had been fighting to be the best Cahill in the world ever since he could pick up a machete,and he wasn’t one to give up.

He looked up and surveyed the battle.

Thunder Ninja ran at Isabel with her own blades, managing to dodge Isabel’s slashes. Isabel was visibly growing angrier–her eyes were flaming red.

Nireth watched, her heart filled with fear for her friends. “Isabel!” she cried, “I really, really don’t know who you are, or why you’re doing this, but I do know that this is wrong! Please, just leave my friends alone!”

Isabel turned away from Thunder Ninja and ran at Nireth. Nireth ran at her, too, but when they met Nireth tried to give her a hug.

Isabel slashed out at Nireth, barely clipping her stomach, but cutting deep enough to draw blood. Nireth just hugged her tighter.

Vampire Lord, seeing what Isabel had done to Shadow-Rue, Thunder Ninja, and Nireth found energy in some locked away reserve and attacked Isabel, knocking her head clean off with a single punch. Thunder Ninja and Nireth winced at the gruesome sight, and Shadow-Rue was glad she was blind in the eye facing that direction.

“Oh, Vampire Lord!” Nireth cried. “You look awful! We need to get you to a doctor–”

Vampire Lord snapped his fingers, cutting her off. His wounds were instantly healed.

He looked up suddenly, “Where’d Ian and Natalie go?”

Suddenly, a shower of sleep darts rained down on the group. All fell to the ground unconscious except for Vampire Lord, who struggled to remain conscious. As the light faded, he saw two familiar faces standing over him and grinning maliciously.

No, he thought. It can’t be…

With that, he faded into unconsciousness.

When he reawoke, he was tied to a post, and Ian stood before him, smiling smugly.

Overwhelmed with anger, Vampire Lord tried to punch him, but was shocked by a collar that had been placed around his neck.

“Nuh-uh-uh!” Ian held up a remote. “Tsk, tsk, Tiberius. You really don’t learn, do you?”

Meanwhile, Natalie was waking Thunder Ninja and Nireth.

“Wakey, wakey!” She said in a mockingly sing-song voice.

“Wha–where are we?” Nireth asked sitting up and rubbing her eyes.

Thunder Ninja sat straight up, and her eyes widened at the sight of Natalie. “Natalie?” she asked, refusing to believe what she saw.

“Natalie!” Nireth said, completely oblivious. “How is your ankle?”

“It’s fine,” Natalie said, pulling out a gun, “but I’d be more worried about YOU, if I were in your shoes,” she said, pulling the trigger.

Nireth threw her arms up to defend herself, and the bullet grazed her elbow.

Vampire Lord heard a gunshot and began trying to bite through the ropes, a seemingly futile effort that actually worked!

Thunder Ninja used her knives to break herself and Nireth out of the cage.

“Vampire Lord!” Thunder Ninja cried, “Are you all right?” she cut the collar from his neck.

“Fine,” he said, rubbing his neck, “now that that thing,” he nodded to the collar, “is gone!”

Nireth felt something cold press against her head, and she cried out involuntarily.

Vampire Lord turned to see Alistar holding a knife to Nireth’s head. He picked up Natalie’s gun and shot Alistar before he could hurt Nireth.

“What has this come to?” he said morosely, half to himself, half to Thunder Ninja. “Now, we must kill Cahills, as well?”

He took a look at the gun in his hand, then looked at his friend. “This needs to be brought to an end. And only we,” he looked at them intensely, “can bring that to pass.”

Vampire Lord walked out—he was all bandaged up, and he had to use crutches.

Raven Avelina snorted, “Are you O.K.?” she inquired stiffly.

“Guys, ever since I almost died in the Madrigal stronghold, I’ve been wanting to tell you some Cahill secrets, just in case—well, you know.” He took a deep breath, “I didn’t destroy the Dark Lands. It was Isabel Kabra.”

“Oh!” said Shadow.

Vampire Lord shook his head, “What I’m REALLY worried about is the connection between Trevor, the dark figures, Damien, and the Dark Winter.”

“They’re connected?” Nireth asked, fearful.

“You see,” Vampire Lord explained, “if Damien can bring Isabel and Trevor back to life, the three of them will be able to summon the Dark Winter,” Vampire Lord said, then stopped. “Wait, that’s not right,” he muttered to himself. “Something is missing.”

“We can’t let that happen!” Nireth said earnestly.

“I don’t know if we can this time, Nireth,” Vampire Lord said, shaking his head slowly.

“Nonsense,” Raven Avelina said, slightly insulted. “There’s always a way that a power can be stopped!”

Vampire Lord shrugged, “I’m not so sure.”

Suddenly, he looked up. “That’s it!” he said. “That’s what’s missing! The thing that keeps them from summoning the Dark Winter—it’s me!” he looked around at the group. “I remember hearing that they would have to kill me and absorb my energy before they could do anything.”

Shadow frowned, “But won’t that mean they’ll be all the more anxious to kill you? We’ll have Vespers right on our tails!”

“I don’t understand this,” Raven Avelina muttered. “This Dark Winter you keep talking about—I’m assuming it’s bad?”

Nireth nodded sadly, “Very bad!” she said glumly. “And there seems to be no way to stop it!”

“Remember how I said the serum could save millions?” Vampire Lord asked.

“Yes?” the others all said, eager to hear what Vampire Lord had to say.

“Well, if it falls into Vesper hands, it can be used to summon the Dark Winter.”

“Then we won’t let it fall into Vesper Hands,” Raven Avelina said simply.

Vampire Lord shook his head, “It’s not that easy. They’ve tested batches that they’ve obtained from us throughout our travels—drops we spilled on rocks, tiny bits of it on shattered pieces of glass—and they have most of the ingredients now. All they need is the blood of four Cahills—one from each branch—and one last ingredient,” Vampire Lord trailed off. “Anyway, they need Lucian, Tomas,  Janus, and Ekat blood before they can move along with their production of the serum.

“Unfortunately,” Vampire Lord looked at the others, “We have two Janus branch members in our group,” he pointed to himself and Nireth, “and we have two Ekats in our group,” he pointed to Shadow-Rue and Raven Avelina.

“Wow,” said Shadow, “they’re going to try and take my blood?”

“MY blood?” Raven Avelina asked, incredulous. “They’re going to try to take MY blood!?”

Vampire Lord nodded, “But for us to complete the serum, we’d have to do the same exact thing. We have to save Natalie and Ian—we need Lucian blood, as well.”

Vampire Lord teleported the group to the stronghold and looked down the face of a nearby cliff. “Ian! Natalie! Are you down there?” he called

“Yes!” a faint voice cried back. It was Ian!

Nireth peeked over the edge cautiously and waved, “Are you all right?” she asked.

“We’re fine!” Natalie replied.

Vampire Lord teleported them both to the surface.

 “You promise you’re not going to try to kill us this time?” Vampire Lord asked uneasily.

Suddenly, the group was struck by another round of sleep darts. Nireth went down almost instantly, and—although she tried to dodge them—Raven Avelina was hit by a sleeping dart, as well. Vampire Lord was the last to be struck down, and as he struggled for consciousness, he realized; “It’s not Ian and Natalie this time!” he cried, but no one was awake to hear him.

When the group woke up, Shadow-Rue, Raven Avelina, and Nireth were in a cage. Vampire Lord was tied to a post outside. Alistair paced back and forth in front of him menacingly.

Angry, Vampire Lord tried to punch him, but realized he was once again wearing a shock collar.

“Vampire Lord?” Shadow called; she had just woken up. “Are you all right?”

“What is it with Cahills and shock collars?” Vampire Lord asked grimly.

“Why are you holding us here?” Nireth asked Alistar. “I thought you were our friend!”

“Fools!” Raven Avelina cried, throwing herself against the bars. “You will never restrain me! Never!”

Alistar laughed, “You’re the fools, my friends!” the way he said friends implied that, in truth, he did not consider them to be friends at all. “I’m not an Ekat—my last name is Vesper-Oh!”

Vampire Lord shuddered, “So you’re behind the corruption of the Cahills!” he hissed.

Alistar laughed, “I don’t think I said that, Tiberius.”

Vampire Lord tried to lunge for Alistar, but the collar shocked him and he recoiled. While everyone was distracted, Nireth tried to slip through the wide bars of the cage.

“How many people in this family are Vespers, for crying out loud?” Vampire Lord cried, exasperated. “What’s next—I get stabbed by Jonah Wizard?”

Out of nowhere, Jonah Wizard appeared and attempted to stab Vampire Lord, who kicked the knife away.

“I shouldn’t have asked,” he sighed wearily.

Nireth finally squeezed herself through the cage bars, falling flat on her face.  Vampire Lord concentrated as hard as he could on Jonah—Jonah fell to the ground seconds later.

Nireth began trying to unlock the cage to release Raven Avelina—Shadow had walked through the bars with ease.

“What happened to Jonah?” Shadow asked, staring sadly at their once-ally.

“I turned his brain to mush,” Vampire Lord said, his voice sounding hollow. “May I never have to do that again.”

While the others were distracted, Raven Avelina picked the lock from inside the cage and stepped out.

There was a blinding flash of light, and Vampire Lord disappeared.

“What was that?” Nireth asked, momentarily blinded.

“Where’s Vampire Lord?” Shadow asked, looking around.

Nireth rubbed her eyes, “I don’t know.”

“They took him for the Janus blood extraction,” a voice rang out from the shadows.

“What?” Shadow whirled around and hissed.

Nireth looked anxiously into the darkness. “Do you know how we can stop them? Do you know how we can save him? How do we reach him?”

Nellie Gomez stepped out from the darkness, flipping her black-and-blonde hair away from her face.

“I’m Nireth,” Nireth said, stepping up to meet her. “What’s your name?”

“Nellie Gomez,” Nellie said, shaking Nireth’s hand.

“You know where Vampire Lord is?” Shadow asked.

“He’s in the Lucian stronghold in Hollywood,” Nellie said, “but other than that, I don’t know.”

“How are we going to get there?” Nireth asked. “It sounds far!”

“On this—” Nellie said, pointing to a wall. As if on cue, a motorcycle broke through the stone. Natalie approached it. “Curses!” she grimaced, “Jonah messed with it. It won’t work as fast as it needs to. Luckily, I have backup–” She raised her hand and pointed to the wall again; this time, a motorcycle came crashing through a few feet to the left.

Nellie sighed, “It couldn’t have just come through the hole that was already there? No matter, hop on if you want to come.”

Shadow, Nireth, and the Strange man from the Bush hopped on the motorcycle and drove to the Lucian headquarters in Hollywood.

Meanwhile, Damien, Isabel, and Trevor had Vampire Lord strapped to a table.

“What should we do with his Janus blood?” asked Isabel.

“I say we put it in the serum we stole from his cabin last night,” Damien said, slamming a fist down on a table. “We can just capture the cat to get our Ekat blood.”

“Not so fast!” Nellie cried, crashing the motorcycle through the wall.

Vampire Lord strained against his bonds, which Shadow ran forward and cut with her razor-sharp claws.

“I found out what the last ingredient is!” Vampire Lord whispered, gathering his friends. “And this isn’t the blood—it’s the one that no one knew about before. It’s a magical Sundrop flower—like the one in Tangled!”

“Good sleuthing!” The Stranger said.

All of the sudden, a man in black appeared and grabbed Shadow, then disappeared again.

“Shadow!” Nireth cried. “Oh, no!”

They ran to the laboratory next door and saw Shadow tied to a post, but found they could not get in.

“Good thing we captured the cat,” Damien said, holding an empty vial, “as soon as we’re done, all we’ll need is blood from a Lucian and blood from a Tomas.”

“What?” Raven Avelina asked, alarmed, “How did they get so ahead?” she hissed.

“Ekat blood from Shadow,” Vampire Lord nodded to the cat, “and Janus blood from me.”

Shadow cut through the rope with her claws.

“Shadow is escaping!” Nireth said.

“Climb on!” Nellie said, running back to her motorcycle. “I have an idea!”

“Are you sure you know how to drive one of these?” Vampire Lord asked, uneasy.

“Positive,” Nellie held up a picture of her on a motorcycle, jumping over the Great Wall of China.

“All right then!” Vampire Lord said, surprised.

“I gotta grenade!” yelled the Stranger from the Bush. He hopped on the bike.

Just as Shadow transformed into Raider, Natalie came crashing through the wall.

Vampire Lord hopped off and produced a machete, a headband, and some black paint from his backpack. He smeared the black paint under his eyes. “Let’s do this,” he said, getting into a ready stance with the machete.

“What do you WANT?” Raider cried, clawing at one of the men.

 “I want your blood,” the man battling Raider said with an evil grin.

Raider was startled by the voice: it was Damien Vesper. “I thought you were dead!”

“I escaped,” Damien smirked, “and I’ll let you go if you get me Raven Avelina–maybe Fern Koa! They have what we’re looking for!”

Raider stuck out his jaw, “Never!” he cried.

The stranger fell of the motorcycle, “HELP!” he cried.

“Oh, dear!” Nireth gasped and ran to help him.

“I think I’ve broken my arm!” the man groaned.

“Here, we’ll—uh—splint it!” Nireth suggested. “But we need a splint—”

She was distracted by Isabel’s cackle of a laugh. “You fools think you can beat me?” she shook her head. “Your leader is pathetic,” she pointed to Vampire Lord, “you’re useless,” she pointed to Nellie, “you’re wounded,” she pointed to the Stranger, “and you’re just a naïve child!” she turned to Nireth.

“She’s not naïve!” Vampire Lord cried, “She has more common sense than you!”

“Silence!” Isabel cried, her face contorted with rage. She shot Vampire Lord.

“Vampire Lord!” Nireth cried.

Fern appeared and wrapped vines around Isabel’s neck. Isabel turned and tried to stab Fern.

Nellie crashed through the wall with another motorbike. Natalie and Ian hopped off, joining them in the fight.

“I have seriously got to work on my aim!” Nellie said, shaking her head.

“Vampire Lord isn’t pathetic!” Nireth cried, “And no one here is useless!” she held up a lab tray like a shield.

Stranger got to his feet, fire burning in his eyes, “I guess it’s time for me to teach you a lesson,” he said menacingly.

“Well, isn’t this grand?” Isabel asked with a smirk. “Enemies and traitors–I can take them out in one go. This’ll be a blast!”

Meanwhile, Damien knocked Raider to the ground, trying to stab into him with a needle.

“Help!” yelped Raider.

Vampire Lord pulled some chainsaws from his backpack, “This thing is like a bottomless pit!” he exclaimed. He tossed them to Nellie, Natalie, and Ian.

“Raider!” Nireth ran to Raider’s side. “Are you all right?”

“Get Damien!” Raider cried desperately.

Nireth laughed, “I don’t think I”ll be able to stop him,” she said, “but I’ll try!” she leapt at Damien and clung to his back, piggy-back style.

Raider ran. As he did, John cried out loud and fell off of a cliff.

“John!” Raider called, running to the edge of the cliff. “John, are you all right?”

But it was too late. John was dead!

Isabel pushed over a bookcase, which landed on Vampire Lord’s legs, breaking them both.

“Vampire Lord!” Nireth cried, dropping off of Damien and running to her friend.

Trevor pushed another bookcase onto Nireth, who cried out in pain.

“How wonderful,” Trevor said with a sneer, “now we have two useless people to kill!”

“He’s not useless!” Nireth said weakly, tears of pain and fury streaming down her cheeks.

Suddenly, a man appeared at Vampire Lord’s side. “Hello, my friends,” he said, holding up a golden sword. He looked up at Trevor, “I come not to kill you,” he said, pointing his sword at Trevor’s throat, “but I will kill the others,” he moved it to Isabel and Damien.

All remained silent.

And then, Vampire Lord began to sing.

His voice was clear and beautiful–Raider heard it and stood up, his mind clear of the fury of the battle. Nireth began to weep silently; it brought images of beauty to her mind.

Damien’s head turned into a raddish, Isabel fell into a vortex in the floor, and Trevor vanished into darkness. Vampire Lord stopped, “My singing is very powerful,” he said, gravely. “Don’t make me use it again.”

Raider scowled, “So you can’t sing?”

Vampire Lord hesitated, “Well, I can,” he said, “but when I sing certain songs, they bring things–nightmarish things, and beautiful things alike–to pass.”

“All those days, watching from the windows,” Vampire Lord started.

“Oh, I know this song!” Nireth tried to join in, but her voice was terrible. “All those years, outside looking in–Oh, I’m so sorry!” she cried. “I can’t sing!”

Miranda watched from the sidelines, trying to remain unseen.

“Hi, Miranda!” Nireth waved. “Would you like to come sing with us?”

“No thank you,” Miranda said, uncomfortable. “I don’t think you’d know any of the songs I know.”

Shadow began singing, “Who Let the Cats Out?”

Nireth bit her lip, “Hm, we should probably try to get the blood they took from Vampire Lord,” she searched the room. “Not here, not here, not here,” she said, scanning the shelves.

“Where are we?” Miranda asked, looking around curiously.

“We’re in a Vesper Lab,” Nireth explained. “They were trying to take Shadow-Rue’s blood so they could finish the serum.”

“Oh, no!” Shadow cried. “They got Vampire Lord’s blood, didn’t they?” she asked.

Vampire Lord nodded slowly.

Shadow said gravely, “That means they have blood from all of the houses–all of the houses except for Ekatarina.”

Suddenly, a Vesper came out of nowhere and tried to draw some of Nireth’s blood. “Hey!” she cried.

Vampire Lord generated an axe and threw it at the Vesper. “Nireth, duck!” he cried.

Miranda moved to slap the Vesper in the face.

Nireth screamed and ducked Vampire Lord’s axe and Miranda’s swinging arm, both of which did quite a number on the Vesper.

“And that’s ten times this week I’ve heroically saved you,” Vampire Lord said, pulling  a chalkboard out of his backpack and making a tally mark.

“Wow, thanks!” Nireth said, honored and grateful. “I really owe you, don’t I?”

RC appeared out of nowhere and rammed into the chalkboard face-first.

“RC!” Nireth cried. “Are you all right?”

“Hi, RC!” Shadow exclaimed.

“RC!” Miranda called, “Did you hurt yourself?”

“I”m fine,” RC said, making a face, “but chalk really doesn’t taste very good.”

Out of nowhere, a dark figure came up behind Raider and tried to grab him.

Vampire Lord grabbed a machete out of his backpack and threw it at the dark figure.

“Nice aim!” Nireth cheered as the machete hit its mark.

Vampire Lord pulled a tube of lipstick out of his bag.

“Um,” RC said, staring. “What?”

A Vesper was creeping up behind Nireth. Vampire Lord shot a poison dart at it from the lipstick.

“Wow!” Vampire Lord exclaimed. “The Lucian stronghold has AWESOME weapons!”

“That is amazing!” Miranda said, awed.

Another Vesper approached; this time, Vampire Lord handed him a teddy bear. When the Vesper hugged the teddy bear, a needle shot out and poked him in the face, injecting him with poison.

“Poison teddy bear,” Vampire Lord said with a smile. “It’s a classic.”

Nireth laughed nervously, “I never would have guessed!”

Miranda changed into Thunder Ninja, saying; “What other kinds of weapons do they have here?”

“My iPod is dangerous,” RC suggested, making a ducky face.

Suddenly, it started to pour. Vampire Lord handed a Vesper an umbrella. The Vesper opened it, and was greeted by a shower of poisoned darts.

“Yikes!” Nireth winced.

“Poison umbrella. Awesome, isn’t it?” Vampire Lord asked with a grin.

“It’s certainly surprising,” Thunder Ninja said.

“My bubblegum expands ten seconds after chewing,” RC said. “Chew it a bit, stick it in the keyhole of a lock, and–BAM!–no more lock!”

“Nothing is what it seems here!” Nireth gaped, shaking her head.

Vampire Lord smiled knowingly, “But wait!” He said. “There’s more.”

More?” Shadow asked, incredulous.

Vampire Lord gave a Vesper a ring. When the Vesper put it on, it shot a poison dart into his chest. Then Vampire Lord handed Thunder Ninja an iPad.

Thunder Ninja looked at him suspiciously, “I don’t know,” she said cautiously. “I don’t want to be poisoned!”

“Don’t take it!” Shadow warned.

“He wouldn’t poison you!” Nireth said confidently.

Thunder Ninja stared at the iPad, then shrugged. A little poison would flush out her system, at the worst. She took the iPad.

A poison dart shot from the back, hitting a Vesper who had been about to attack Thunder Ninja in the chest.

“Poison iPads,” Vampire Lord said with a small chuckle, “you’ve just got to love them.”

“I think we should get out of here and visit wild dragons,” RC said, bored.

“Yes!” Nireth cried, excited. “Oh, that would be amazing!”

“Wait!” Vampire Lord cried. “First–” he ran off into a nearby Disney store and returned with Tangled costumes for RC, himself, and Nireth.

“Yay!” Nireth said, twirling. “I love this dress! Thank you, Vampire Lord!”

RC frowned, “My Pascal costume doesn’t change colors when I move.” She stopped short, “Wait a moment!” she ran back into the store and returned with a Maximus costume. “That’s more like it!”

Shadow laughed at he friends’ antics. “Would you like to see some of our inventions?” she asked.

“Sure!” the others said.

“Look here,” Shadow pointed to a tiny cube, “this unfolds into a rocket-powered skateboard!”

“Ooh!” Nireth said.

“I wish they had those for rollerblades,” RC sighed.

Vampire Lord walked up to the group.

Nireth waved, “Hi, Vampire Lord!”

“I added the Sundrop Flower to the serum,” Vampire Lord said. “But now what do we do with it?”

“I don’t know,” Nireth said cluelessly, scratching her head.

Vampire Lord handed everyone a piece of gum, “Use it wisely,” he cautioned.

“What’s going on?” asked Invisible Guy, running into the room.

“I can’t chew gum,” Shadow-Rue said simply.

“I know,” Vampire Lord nodded, “that’s why I made you this catnip!” He held up a can of catnip.

The Invisible Guy turned invisible, munching on his gum. “So–what do we do now?”

“Chew the gum and see what happens,” Vampire Lord recommended cryptically.

The Stranger chewed it and gasped–it felt like his mouth was on fire.

Invisible Guy’s skin started to boil. “Help!” He cried. “What’s happening?”

Shadow hopped onto Nireth’s shoulder, and Nireth cried aloud when she saw her friends in pain.

Invisible Guy turned invisible, “Oh, that feels MUCH better!” he said with a sigh of relief.

Vampire Lord popped the gum into his mouth and began to chew. He said, “Even though there may be side effects–”

Invisible Guy made himself visible again and shouted in surprise, “Oh, no! Why am I a monster?” he moaned.

“–you will be able to teleport from place to place after chewing this gum, and you’ll be able to turn into anything.” His voice was growing increasingly squeaky. “What’s going on?” he asked, confused.

“You aren’t a monster,” Nireth said, consoling her friend. “And, in that case, I guess I’d better chew the gum!” Nireth began to chew on her piece of serum gum.

Invisible Guy turned into a bug. “How long does this last?” he asked.

Stranger suddenly cried, “I’m green!”

Shadow watched the strange transformations his friends were undergoing and shrunk away, “I think I’ll pass on the catnip,” she said wisely.

“Green?” Nireth asked Stranger. “How peculiar!”

Stranger pouted, “I wish I was red!”

Suddenly, all of Stranger–his clothes, his hair, his skin, and all–turned bright red. “I have power over color!” he laughed. “I think I’ll turn all of you purple!” he said.

Suddenly, everyone was colored with different shades of purple.

“I hate purple!” bellowed Invisible guy.

“I love purple!” Nireth jumped up and down excitedly.

“I think I got multiple powers,” Invisible Guy said, changing his color scheme back to normal.

“I prefer black,” Shadow-Rue said. She touched her paw to her nose, and her pelt turned black again.

“O.K.,” a tiny voice said. The others looked around–they had forgotten Vampire Lord! “Now this is just cruel!” it continued.

“Vampire Lord?” Shadow-Rue asked, peering around curiously.

“Down here!”

The group looked down at the ground and saw Vampire Lord jumping up and down. He had been turned into a chipmunk wearing a sombrero!

There was a flash of silver light, and Radiance apeared. “What’s going on here?” she asked, slightly disturbed.

“We chewed the serum gum,” Invisible Guy explained, “and now we’re having weird side effects! Nireth is the only one who hasn’t changed yet.”

All eyes turned to Nireth, who was beginning to feel a tingling in her legs and feet. Suddenly, her knees grew weak and she fell to the ground. She looked at her feet, but instead saw–

“A mermaid tail?” she cried, shocked.

Invisible Guy helped Nireth stand, but she fell quickly afterwards, “Thanks, anyway,” she said bashfully.

Suddenly, as if a switch had been flipped, Vampire Lord and all the others had been changed back to normal.

Invisible Guy spit out his gum, “No way,” he shook his head. “There is no way I’m trying that serum–gum–stuff again!”

Radiance smiled slightly, “You know, Nireth,” she said, “if you paid attention in our lessons, you’d–oh, nevermind,” she said with a fake cough.

Nireth hung her head. “I’m sorry!”

Vampire Lord looked around at the others, “Now we have all the power of the serum!”

Invisible Guy turned into a dog–and there were no side effects this time!

“This is wonderful!” Nireth exclaimed.

“Now we should be able to defeat the Vespers!” Vampire Lord concluded.

Suddenly, something snatched the gum from Vampire Lord’s hand. “Hey!” he cried. “Give it back!”

It had been Shadow–she uncomfortably chewed on the gum, then spit it out, “Yes!” She said. “Now I’ve got the powers of the serum!”

Radiance wasn’t paying attention. She was looking at Nireth.

Nireth waved to Radiance, “Hi!”

“Hi,” Radiance said with another fake cough.

“Are you all right?” Nireth asked, walking over to Radiance.

“I’m fine,” Radiance said, trying to hide her grin.

“What’s wrong?” Nireth asked, then straightened her face. “I see that smile,” she said as seriously as possible.

“What smile?” Radiance asked, a grin splitting her face from ear-to-ear.

“Hey!” Vampire Lord cried. “Someone took the gum again!”

Invisible Guy looked around, “I don’t see anyone!”

Stranger shook his head, “Neither do I.”

Vampire Lord had managed to catch a glimpse of who had taken it. He hung his head in sorrow, unable to speak.

“Help!” choked Shadow, who had managed to swallow the gum.

“I wonder what’ll happen now?” Invisible Guy mused.

“Shadow!” Nireth cried, running to her friend’s side. “Are you all right?”

“Shadow?” Radiance asked, the smile falling from her face.

“No,” whispered Vampire Lord. He looked up sharply, “No!”

Nireth looked anxiously from Shadow to Vampire Lord, “What’s going on?” she asked.

“It was Amy!” Vampire Lord said angrily. “Amy just stole the gum!”

“Amy?” Radiance asked, raising an eyebrow. “I thought she was fighting with us–fighting against the Vespers!”

“This is bad,” Invisible Guy said, pacing. “Really bad!”

Suddenly, Vampire Lord’s phone rang. He quickly drew it from his pocket and checked the message. “Oh, no,” he said softly.

“What is it?” Shadow asked, unsheathing her claws.

Radiance took out her bow and strung it, staring intently around them.

“The Vespers are kidnapping Cahills to use as minions,” Vampire Lord said sadly.

“What?” Nireth cried. “This is terrible news!”

“They’ve gotten Nellie, Alistar, Jonah, Amy, and Dan,” Vampire Lord said, staring at his hands blankly.

Suddenly, someone strapped a helmet to Vampire Lord’s head.

“This is not good,” Radiance hissed through clenched teeth.

“Not good at all!” Invisible Guy said, turning into a beetle.

“Must… Obey… Damien… Vesper…” Vampire Lord said, walking robotically into the woods.

“Vampire Lord, no!” Nireth cried, running after him. Shadow followed.

Invisible Guy tried to turn back into a human, but found he couldn’t. “Help!” he cried.

“Invisible Guy?” Nireth stopped and knelt by the beetle. “Are you O.K.?”

“I can’t change back into my human form!” Invisible Guy cried.

“Hm,” Nireth thought. “I’ll see what I can do about this in a moment. I’m not good with spells of any sort,” she admitted, “but I’m sure we’ll figure something out after we’ve saved Vampire Lord!”

Radiance faked another cough–the group was always getting into such ridiculous situations!

Shadow jumped onto Vampire Lord and cut the helmet’s strap. Vampire Lord shook his head and blinked a few times. “Wh-what?” he asked, confused. He quickly regained his bearings when he saw the helmet. “Vespers,” he snarled.

Vampire Lord had left his phone on a stump. Vampire Lord walked back and heard it ringing. He jogged to the tree stump and picked it up. “Hello?” he said, and then his face became ashen.

“It’s Ian,” He mouthed to the others. “The Vespers got Natalie!”

“Natalie?” Nireth asked. “Oh, no!”

“Serves her right,” Radiance said quietly.

Vampire Lord jumped and stared at his phone. He looked gravely at the others; “They got Ian, too.”

Meanwhile, Invisible Guy–who still couldn’t change back to his original form–ran around anxiously on Vampire Lord’s palm.

“Vampire Lord!” He cried. “Please, give me more of the serum gum! I think it’ll cure my inability to morph!”

Vampire Lord dropped the gum on Invisible Guy, accidentally crushing him.

“Sorry,” he said, wincing.

“Poor Invisible Guy,” Nireth said sadly.

Radiance put on her hat, trying to hide a smile. She fake-coughed again.

Vampire Lord looked up and glanced around, “We only have one hope now–with so many Cahills captured…” he turned quickly on his heel and marched into the forest.

The others followed, confused but curious.

A few hours later, they arrived at a door. Vampire Lord began knocking furiously. “Open up!” he demanded, furious.

Isabel Kabra opened the door.

“Aha, Tiberius,” she said, raising an eye brow and grinning smugly, “you have come so that I may destroy you? How splendid.”

“Not today, hot stuff,” Vampire Lord mocked, pushing past her and into the house.

Radiance faked another cough.

As Vampire Lord was picking up a red suit of armor, Invisible Guy groaned, “Please! Just… get me the gum, and I’ll be fine!”

Nireth bent down and got the gum that Vampire Lord had dropped, giving it to Invisible Guy.

“Thanks!” said Invisible Guy, chewing on the gum. He transformed and spit out the gum.

Vampire Lord reappeared outside the house with suits of armor for everyone. He handed them out to his friends.

“Gold?” Radiance asked, not so sure about Vampire Lord’s color choice. “Hm.”

When everyone was done, Vampire Lord pulled a sword from his backpack and shouted, “GO GO SAMURAI!”

Tridah suddenly appeared, “Um,” she said slowly, “what’s going on?”

Shadow yelped gleefully in surprise, running to Tridah.

Machine Lord appeared beside her and frowned.

“We’re fighting the Vespers,” Vampire Lord explained. “They’re an evil family that’s trying to kill us–we’re stopping them from summoning the Dark Winter!”

“Machine Lord! Tridah!” Nireth ran to hug her friends. “Oh, I’m so glad to see you again!”

“It’s only been a little while,” Tridah said, slightly freaked out.

Radiance waved to her friends.

Vampire Lord sighed, “Now there’s not enough armor for all of us!”

“I don’t need armor,” Machine Lord said, annoyed at the implication that he might need extra protection. “I have armor,” he gestured at the metal covering his body. “And it makes me weak,” he said softly and mournfully.

“Tridah can have mine!” Nireth said, clumsily trying to take off her armor.

“It’s fine,” Radiance stepped forward. “I don’t need armor, either.” she handed her gold armor to Tridah.

“The Vespers are kidnapping members of the Cahill family,” Vampire Lord explained, “and using them as minions. The Cahill family is on our side–well,” he slowed, “they used to be.”

“You really think these Vespers will be a challenge?” Machine Lord asked, crossing his arms.

“Nope,” Radiance shook her head, smiling.

“Oh, Tridah!” Vampire Lord exclaimed suddenly. “I forgot–you’re a Lucian! These are yours,” he handed back all the poison trinkets he had been exhibiting the other day.

“TEDDY BEAR!” cried Tridah.

“Tridah, no!” Nireth called. “It’s got a poison needle in it! You’ll die!”

Tridah stared at the teddy bear. Ravenblood began to surface. “Evil teddy bear!” they both whispered, excited.

Vampire Lord poked his head outside the door of the house. Half of the world had been reduced to ash and shadow. “Let’s go!” he urged, frantic. “They’re summoning the Dark Winter!”

Nireth gasped. “Oh, no!” she whispered.

Vampire Lord summoned a bunch of robots. Tridah jumped and looked around, snapped out of her teddy-bear-induced trance, “What’s going on?” she asked, confused.

“Summoning robots is my job!” Machine Lord said with a frown.

“Get in the Zords, and let’s go!” Vampire Lord cried, raising his sword high in the air.

Vampire Lord got inside a red lion Zord and pointed to a blue dragon one, “That’s yours, Nireth,” he said.

“Yay!” Nireth jumped, excited. “Oh, a dragon!” She ran eagerly to the Zord and climbed in. “Thank you, Vampire Lord!” she called.

Shadow sat on Tridah’s shoulder. Tridah patted Shadow on the hat–the hat of dooooom!

“Tridah, Shadow, the yellow jaguar Zord is for you,” Vampire Lord said. “And yours, Machine Lord, is the golden cheetah Zord. Radiance and RC get the green mantis Zord.”

“I’m not in any Zord,” snapped Radiance. “Don’t tell me what to do!”

Tridah began to stare at the teddy bear again.

“Can we ride on the giant turtle again?” Shadow asked eagerly.

Tridah nodded and said the summoning spell; a giant turtle appeared! Tridah looked up at it and smiled.

Vampire Lord looked out over the horizon, “Oh, my,” he said, his face expressionless, “we may need bigger Zords that I first anticipated.”

He merged his Zord with the others’. “Behold: The Mega-Zord!” He cried.

“Wow!” Nireth stared at the new, roomy interior. “This is magnificent!”

“It’s a turtle!” Tridah cried, happily clapping.

“Tridah, I don’t think–” Radiance said, then stopped. “Oh, nevermind,” she said, rubbing her forehead.

The Zords suddenly blew up, sending Vampire Lord flying towards the sea of razor-sharp rocks.

“No!” Nireth cried, jumping out of the Zord and running to try and save him.

Luckily, Vampire Lord landed a good, safe distance away from the sea of razor-sharp rocks. His phone rang, and he slid it out of his pocket, getting to his feet. He put it back down again, his face reflecting the bad news. “They got the rest of the Cahills.”

“All of them?” asked Nireth.

“Every last one of them,” Vampire Lord said gravely.

“What is that?” Tridah asked, staring at the phone.

Suddenly, someone shot something into Vampire Lord’s neck.

“Must… Obey… Vespers…” Vampire Lord said, walking into the forest.

“Oh, no!” Nireth cried, running after him.

“Let him go,” Radiance said, rolling her eyes.

Fern appeared out of nowhere.

“Fern! Thank the Gods you’re here!” Nireth exclaimed, running to her friend, “Vampire Lord’s in trouble! They’re controlling his mind,” she explained.

“Let him be controlled!” Radiance said with a careless wave of her hand.

Nireth shook her head, “We have to save him! He’s our friend!”

Vampire Lord turned back and shot a poison dart at Nireth.

Nireth cried out and ducked it.

Radiance raised her knives defensively and ran to Nireth. Shadow unsheathed her claws, on high alert. She ran at Vampire Lord and tried to knock him over.

Vampire Lord shot sleep darts at everyone. One hit Nireth in the neck and she fell to the ground, unconscious. Shadow dodged the sleeping dart, Radiance was hit, but couldn’t sleep, and Tridah ate the one that Vampire Lord had fired at her. She swiftly spit it out.

“This tastes like failure!” pouted Tridah.

“Nireth!” Radiance ran to her pupil and picked her up off the ground. “Oh, no!” she looked at Nireth’s face.

Nireth made an odd face while sleeping. Radiance frowned.

Vampire Lord was hit by a sleep dart that bounced off of Machine Lord’s metal armor. The dart hit the mind-control helmet, shattering it.

Tridah began skipping around; Ravenblood had transferred all her randomness into Tridah!

Suddenly, they were all teleported to a cage.

“Wha–?” Nireth asked, waking up, “What happened?”

“Sleep dart,” Radiance explained.

Tridah tried to eat the cage, but found she disliked the taste. “Why does everything taste like failure?” she wailed.

Shadow easily squeezed through the bars of the cage.

“No, Isabel–don’t do it!” Vampire Lord mumbled in his sleep. “Please–have mercy!” tears began streaming down his face.

“Vampire Lord, wake up!” Nireth cried, frightened. “Are you all right?”

“Isabel?” asked Tridah. “Is that his girlfriend?”

Radiance tried to hide a smile and gave a little cough that sounded suspiciously like a laugh.

“He did call her hot stuff!” Nireth said with a giggle.

“Isabel and Vampire Lord, sitting in a tree,” Tridah taunted, “F-i-g-h-t-i-n-g!”

Vampire Lord suddenly took a turn for the worst and began trying to punch the air. “Isabel, stop! Please! Don’t burn it!”

“Vampire Lord!” Nireth cried, very frightened. “Please, wake up!” she shook his shoulder gently.

“Isabel, no!” Vampire Lord swung an arm at Nireth.

“Ahh!” Nireth squealed as Vampire Lord hit her in the shoulder, “Yikes, he’s stronger than he looks!” she forced a smile.

Shadow-Rue morphed into Raider and jumped on Vampire Lord.

Vampire Lord grabbed a sharpened bone and began trying to stab Nireth in his sleep. “Isabel, no!” he cried.

Nireth cried out and fell backwards, “Oof!” she winced as she landed.

Raider unsheatehed his claws.

Nireth’s eyes grew wide, “Raider, no!”

Raider jumped on Vampire Lord again.

“Please, Raider!” Nireth tried to pull Raider off of Vampire Lord, but to no avail.

Tridah began laughing for no reason, spinning around and swishing her skirt back and forth, singing, “Isabel is a BELL! Isabel is a BELL!”

Radiance laughed and joined in.

Raider shoved Nireth out of the way, saving her from one of Vampire Lord’s nightmare-driven blows.

Vampire Lord sat up, screaming loudly.

Raider tried to bite Vampire Lord’s neck.

“No!” Nireth cried, pushing herself between Raider and Vampire Lord.

Raider shoved her gently out of the way, “Don’t be foolish, Nireth,” he said, staring angrily at Vampire Lord. “He’s dangerous!”

Tridah sat down sullenly, suddenly remembering that she had cake for her first birthday. “Cake,” she said quietly.

“Cake?” Nireth asked. “Tridah, are you all right?”

Tridah said nothing.

Nireth sat down beside her friend, “There, there; it’s all right!”

Raider stopped trying to bite Vampire Lord, “Wait, doesn’t he taste like failure?” he asked Tridah.

“I hate failure,” Tridah said, making a face.

“Are you all right, Vampire Lord?” Nireth asked, going to Vampire Lord’s side.

“I think Isabel hid a coded message in my nightmare,” he said, still a bit sleepy.

“Really?” Raider asked, disbelieving.

Tridah’s true form started to show through. Raider saw his friend in need and walked over to Tridah, showing her his blind eye.

“Isabel said to go to the Maze of Bones,” Vampire Lord said.

“Maze of Bones?” Nireth asked.

“It’s a series of catacombs on earth–where the walls are made of bone!” Radiance said. “Please, let’s not go to any catacombs,” she said, rolling her eyes.

Shadow nodded, “Instead, let’s go to the temple of death!”

“Death,” Tridah smiled. A dark claw appeared in her hand out of thin air.

The Temple of Death exploded. Machine Lord stood before the flaming ashes, smirking, “Hello,” he said.

“Machine Lord?” asked Radiance, peering cautiously at Machine Lord.

“This has all been an elaborate hoax,” he said, waving his hand as if this revelation meant nothing. “There are no Vespers. You have fallen right into my trap.”

“No Vespers?” Nireth cried. “But–but I’ve seen them, I’ve touched them!” she looked at her hands. ‘This can’t be true!”

Robots surrounded the group, “You entered the matrix long ago,” Machine Lord said smugly. “Vampire Lord helped me–he made up a story to gather you all!”

Nireth’s jaw dropped, “He would never lie!” she said, trying to keep from crying.

Machine Lord smiled, “That’s where you’re wrong. Blake and I have been working together all along–There are no such things as Vespers, he made them up!”

“He wouldn’t!” Nireth cried, stammering. “He couldn’t! I–I–” she collapsed to her knees, unsure of what to think.

Radiance ran to Nireth and looked down, her silver eyes glittering lightly.

“You are all now in my own virtual world! Everything is as I command!” Machine Lord cried, raising his arms high.

Vampire Lord narrowed his eyes, “We’ll see about that!” he said.

“There’s always a way out,” Tridah grinned mischievously.

“Attack him!” Shadow charged at Machine Lord.

Machine Lord laughed and waved his arm. A river of lava opened up beneath the beings: they were now standing on individual islands of rock.

Machine Lord snapped his fingers and disappeared, “I lied to you!” he laughed over the loudspeakers. “Vampire Lord had NOTHING to do with this! I just said that to confuse you! ”

Nireth smiled, relieved; “I knew he wouldn’t lie!” Nireth cried.

“The only way to get out of my world,” Machine Lord continued, “is to find me! Happy hunting!”

The intercom switched off with a final-sounding click.

Nellie Cahill appeared at Vampire Lord’s side and threw a knife at the intercom. It fizzled and disappeared.

“Nellie?” Vampire Lord asked, then his eyes flew open wide. “Of course! If the Vespers aren’t real, you aren’t being mind-controlled!”

Shadow tried to teleport to Vampire Lord’s hiding spot, but was instantly teleported back. “It’s my world–you play by my rules!” his voice bellowed.

Shadow rolled her eyes, “I’m starting to question the fairness of your rules.”

Radiance sat down and stared blankly ahead.

“Radiance?” Nireth asked, approaching cautiously. “Are you all right?”

“Fine,” she said, unmoving.

“You don’t seem all right!” Nireth said, sitting next to Radiance.

“I’m fine, Nireth!” Radiance said through clenched teeth.

Vampire Lord cried out, frustrated, and slashed at Machine Lord’s armor. Machine Lord disappeared, then reappeared a good distance away.

“It’s useless,” Radiance said firmly. “We can’t beat him! This is it.”

Machine Lord frowned, “You don’t think I’d be so cruel as to just leave you here to your doom, do you?” he began to pace. “There is a way out. Since you clearly proved yourselves dishonorable,” he shot a look at Shadow, “by teleporting to my location when you were supposed to search and find me,” he looked sternly at the others, “I give you a new mission: Find the center, and I will release you. You don’t know what it looks like, so you can’t imagine yourself there. Good luck!”

Machine Lord disappeared with a flash of grey.

Nireth looked at her friends, “Well, at least we’re still together.”

“Hey,” Shadow found she was sitting on something, “what’s this?”

“It looks like a map!” Radiance said, bending over to pick it up. “It’s a map of Machine Lord’s world!” she gasped.

Nireth hurried over, “Oh!” she cried, pointing to a large castle in the center of the map. “That must be the center!”

Vampire Lord surveyed the map and frowned, “To get there, we’ll have to go Across the Lava River, through the Valley of Demise, over the Mountains of Destruction, and–” Vampire Lord stopped and looked more closely at the map, “–across the Magical Pony Meadow?”

“The ponies there eat people,” Machine Lord’s voice clarified.

“Oh,” Nireth said, feeling sick to her stomach. Tridah began to laugh madly.

“Can we go to the Fountains of Death?” she asked.

Machine Lord made an anvil appear over Tridah’s head. Tridah just laughed at it.

“This should knock some sense into you,” he muttered, dropping the anvil on Tridah.

“It’s an anvil metal thingy!” Tridah practically screamed with laughter, easily sidestepping it.

“Say, what are we roleplaying about?” Pinkie Pie asked, trotting onto the scene and sucessfully breaking down the fourth wall.

“We’re just randomly role playing!” Fluttershy giggled, then sang to all the animals of the forest.

Lucario cried out and began trying to stab Fluttershy. “Die!” he cried, but some invisible force protected the pony. “Why won’t you die?” he cried.

Fluttershy began to cry, as well.

“Hey!” Pinkie Pie got to her feet. “Leave her alone!”

“She ruined my life!” Lucario wailed. “She turned me into a walking Pokemon!”

Fluttershy ran to the emo corner of sadness and began to cry, all alone.

Pinkie Pie’s tail began twitching. “Oh, no!” she cried. “Something’s going to fall–on Lucario!”

Lucario yelped as an avalanche buried him.

Pinkie Pie ran to Fluttershy, who was still crying.

“There, there,” Nireth said, patting Fluttershy on the back. “Don’t cry!”

Pinkie Pie anxiously examined Fluttershy, checking for wounds, “Are you O.K.?”

Fluttershy smiled at her new friends.

“I’m O.K.,” Fluttershy said shyly.

“Oh, O.K.,” Lucario said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “Tend to the perfectly healthy pony and leave ME here to die!”

Nireth ran over to Lucario, “I’m sorry!” she appologized, “And, in advance, I think I should warn you: I’m not good with medical situations.”

“No one hurts Fluttershy!” Pinkie Pie cried, running over and karate-kicking Lucario.

“Please stop!” Nireth held up a hand. “He’s hurt enough already!” she looked down at Lucario. “Where does it hurt?”

“My legs,” Lucario groaned. “I think they’re broken!”

“Nireth, use your hair!” Pinkie Pie suggested.

Nireth smiled, “Oh, right! Flower, gleam and glow. Let your power shine…” she sang.

Once Lucario was healed, Nireth ran over to Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie. “Are you all right?”

“I–I’m fine,” Fluttershy said bashfully.

“Come on, Fluttershy!” Pinkie Pie said, kicking at the air. “Let’s show that jerk who’s boss!”

Fluttershy shook her head, “I don’t want to hurt him!” she nudged Lucario with her nose.

Nireth clapped and cheered, “Yay!” she exclaimed.

“Are you O.K., Lu–Lu–Lucario?” Fluttershy stammered.

“Thanks for healing me, Nireth,” Lucario said, getting to his feet. “And I’m fine, Fluttershy! Thanks!”

Fluttershy walked of and Akuji entered.

“I think we should forget about hurting each other and have a party!” Pinkie Pie said.

Nireth nodded, “I agree! Hurting people is bad.”

Pinkie Pie jumped up and down, “Yay!” she squealed. “I’ll get every pony in town and invite them! We’ll have loads of fun–and I’ll make CUPCAKES!”

Vampire Lord was lying on the ground with a poison dart in his back.

“Vampire Lord!” Nireth cried, running to his side. “Oh, no!”

Vampire Lord coughed, “We–we have a new Vesper!”

“We do?” asked Nireth, frightened.

“Radiance came here a–a few hours ago and shot me with a poison dart! She’s a Vesper–I swear!”

“This can’t be!” Nireth cried. “She–she wouldn’t! I know Radiance, she’s my mentor!” Nireth shook her head, “It’s more important to tend to you at the moment,” she said. “Are you all right?”

“I have a poison dart in my back!” Vampire Lord cried. “What do you think?”

“Hold on a moment,” Radiance said, stepping from the shadows. “What did you say about me?” she held her sword to Vampire Lord’s  throat. “Say that again,” she dared him. “To my face this time!”

“Stop!” Nireth cried. “You know I’m not good with healing–we have to save him!”

Radiance looked skeptical.

“Please!” Nireth begged.

Radiance sighed, “Oh, fine!”

“Do you have any ideas on how to save him?” she asked Radiance.

Suddenly, a slew of Lucian poison darts flew into the group.

Nireth tried to stand in front of Vampire Lord and Radiance at the same time, which wasn’t working out too well for her.

“Gah!” Radiance shouted, dodging the poison darts deftly.

With what was left of his energy, Vampire Lord jumped in front of Nireth, taking a double dose of Lucian poison.

“No!” Nireth cried.

Radiance snorted, “Let him take the poison.”

“I can’t!” Nireth cried. “He’s my friend. He doesn’t deserve to die–not for me!” she knelt at his side.

Radiance heaved a sigh.

Vampire Lord coughed weakly, “That’s–that’s 39 times I’ve heroically saved you, Nireth.”

“I’m sorry!” Nireth said, smiling weakly. “I seem to get into trouble a lot, don’t I?” She balled her hands into fists, “I just wish there was some way I could repay you–That maybe I could save you some day!”

Vampire Lord’s breathing was becoming shallower and more irregular.

“Radiance?” Nireth asked, panicking, “What do I do?”

“Let him die,” she shrugged. “He always comes back to life.”

“No!” Nireth shook her head, crying. “We can’t let him die!” she turned to Vampire Lord, “Hold on!”

Vampire Lord stopped breathing.

Nireth wailed and buried her face in her hands, “This is all my fault!” she wept.

“No, it’s not,” Radiance said, kneeling beside Nireth and patting her gently on the back.

“Yes it is!” Nireth cried even harder. “He can’t be gone–he, he can’t be!”

Suddenly, Vampire Lord coughed. “All those days, watching from the windows,” he sang weakly.

“He’s gone mad!” exclaimed Radiance.

“If we get him to keep singing,” Nireth gasped, “maybe we’ll keep him alive!

“All those years, outside looking in. All that time, never even knowing just how blind I’d been,” Nireth sang desperately. The singing also helped calm her racing mind.

“And at last, I see the light,” Vampire Lord continued, his voice sounding stronger, “and it’s like a fog has lifted.”

“And at last I see the light,” Nireth sang with him, “and it’s like the sky is new!”

Radiance rolled her eyes and had a fake coughing fit to hide her laughter.

“And it’s warm and real and bright, and the world has some how shifted,” Vampire Lord’s voice trailed off.

“No, come on!” Nireth whispered, intent on reviving him. “All at once, everything looks different, now that I see you!” she looked up anxiously at Radiance, “Should I try the Healing Incantation?” she asked, knowing that it only worked sometimes.

Radiance was still having a fit of coughing, “If you wish,” she said, hiding her grin behind her hand.

Vampire Lord jumped to his feet and ripped the poisoned dart from his back.

“Oh!” Nireth exclaimed, startled, “It looks like I won’t need to!”

A Vesper crept up behind Machine Lord.

“Look out!” grunted Radiance, drawing her knives.

Vampire Lord grabbed the Vesper by the neck, headbutting him. “I learned that trick from the Tomas,” he said.

Tridah appeared.

“Tridah!” Nireth cried, running and giving her a hug.

“So what’s going on?” Tridah asked.

“Vampire Lord,” Radiance said, her voice dangerously angry, “said something very inaccurate about me,” she said, “and I tried to kill him.”

“But we’re all O.K. now!” Nireth said lightly, trying to lessen the tension.

Tridah turned to Vampire Lord, “What did you say?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.

“He called me a Vesper,” Radiance snarled.

“It must have been someone in disguise,” Nireth said, shaking her head. “Maybe they wanted us to fight amongst ourselves!”

Vampire Lord looked up sharply, “Speaking of Vespers,” he said, looking into the woods, “it seems we may have to battle them a little sooner than I thought. Come on!” he ran off into the forest.

Tridah rolled her eyes and pulled out a giant teddy bear and a tiara from her purse. She was ready to show her mettle–she was tired of being underestimated by everyone! She had been keeping close tabs on the others, though; for quite some time, in fact.

Vespers came out of nowhere and surrounded the group.

Nireth jumped, startled; “Oh, no!” she said.

Vampire Lord used the poison darts he had ripped out of his chest to stab into the Vespers’ necks.

Radiance readied her knives, gritting her teeth.

“Hi, Vespers!” Tridah yelled, waving at them enthusiastically. She wanted to trick them into thinking that she was stupid and weak.

Vampire Lord tossed the others the remotes to their Zords and their armor.

Nireth put on her armor, but Tridah walked up to a Vesper, poking him in the eye with a stick.

“Hi!” she said, poking him repeatedly. “Do you like turtles?” she asked.

“No!” cried the Vesper. “Ack!”

Radiance put on her armor and held out her knives.

“Do you like turtles now?” Tridah asked again.

“No!” The vesper shouted, quite annoyed.

“We TROLLIN’!” Tridah laughed.

“Guys!” Vampire Lord said, preparing to enter battle, “Toss me the serum gum!”

Nireth grabbed a piece from her pocket and tossed it to Vampire Lord. “Here!” she cried.

Vampire Lord caught it.

Radiance sighed, bored; a mound of Vespers at her feet. “Are these honestly the best they’ve got?” she asked.

“Fools,” Vampire Lord’s condemning voice caught their attention. Tridah, Radiance, and Nireth spun around.

“You played right into my trap!” he cackled. The laugh sounded terribly familiar.

“Vampire Lord” morphed into Isabel Kabra.

“What?” Nireth asked, stopping in her tracks. A Vesper ran into her and knocked her off her feet.

The real Vampire Lord crashed through the bushes, his mouth duct-taped and his hands and feet bound.

“Vampire Lord!” cried Nireth, getting to her feet.

“Silence!” cried Isabel, throwing a knife at Nireth.

The knife caught Nireth’s armor, pinning her arm to her side.

Isabel grabbed Nireth, “Allow me to say: You just got PUNK’D!”

“What?” Nireth asked, a stupid expression on her face.

“Isabel” morphed back into Vampire Lord, and “Vampire Lord” morphed into Isabel. “I wasn’t really Isabel,” he explained. “We were just playing a joke on you guys!”

Radiance glared at Vampire Lord.

“Oh!” Nireth cried. “Oh, good!” she heaved a sigh of relief and laughed nervously. “You scared me!”

Vampire Lord let go of Nireth, laughing hysterically, and Ashton Kutcher emerged from the bushes.

Suddenly, the world faded. They were in a computerized world, all passed out on the ground.

Vampire Lord woke up, “We’re in the Matrix, aren’t we?” he asked, rubbing his eyes.

Radiance was watching the others wake up, since she couldn’t sleep.

“Where are we?” Nireth asked, yanwing tremendously.

“The Matrix, apparently,” Radiance said.

“What’s the Matrix?” asked Nireth, tracing the grey lines on the ground with her finger.

Shadow magically appeared.

“Shadow!” Tridah exclaimed, running to hug her cat.

“Hi, Shadow!” Radiance said.

“What’s up?” Shadow asked, looking around curiously.

Vampire Lord grabbed a phone out of his backpack. He glanced at a message, then went pale, “It’s from Ian. He, Natalie, Fiske, Nellie, and Jonah were taken hostage!”

“What is that?” Tridah asked, pointing curiously at the phone.

Nireth got up and looked around, “What is this place?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” Tridah said, “but why did Vampire Lord say he got that thing–” she pointed to the phone “–from Ian? He clearly got it from his backpack!”

All of the sudden, the group found themselves standing in the woods.

Vampire Lord began to sing again, and a nearby Vesper exploded.

The others were startled by the explosion, and they stared at Vampire Lord for answers, “Every time I sing,” he explained, “a Vesper blows up.”

He began singing, “Insane in the Membrane”, and a crowd of animals began dancing behind him.

Radiance stared at the spectacle, unsure of what to make of it.

Tridah totally freaked out, dressed up in a Haruhi outfit, and started singing hare hare yukai.

The singing went on for so long that, by the time Vampire Lord finished his song, it was christmas! He began to sing a rock’n’roll version of “Deck the Halls” and passed out presents to Nireth and Tridah.

“Open them!” he urged.

Nireth opened hers and found a baby dragon.

“Oh, yay!” she squealed with delight. “Thank you so much!”

Tridah opened the first one and found a sword! It glowed dark purple and rose up into the air. Tridah took her true form and floated up towards it, also glowing a dark purple color. There was a burst of light, and Tridah was suddenly back on the ground, her true form restored, her sword in hand.

“Thanks!” she exclaimed. “I needed a new sword!”

Tridah opened her other present–it had Machine Lord’s armor in it.

Tridah gasped and fainted. When she came to, she laughed, “It’s just because it smells so bad,” she joked. But, really, she looked up to Machine Lord like a father figure–he was her idol! She was super thrilled by her gift.

“I’m going to sing the Doom Song now!” Vampire Lord said in a Gir voice, and began to sing the Doom Song for six months.

The room went dark, and Radiance appeared as if she had just been there all along.

“Radiance!” cried Nireth, running to hug her mentor.

Vampire Lord handed Radiance a present. Radiance looked at it suspiciously and took it in her hands. She opened it, and found a pair of earmuffs.

“Did you bring any air refreshener?” Tridah asked. “This armor REALLY stinks.” She pulled out a mixture of bug spray and perfume and sprayed down the armor.

Tridah poked at the armor with her sword.

Suddenly, she cried, “WHY DO SO MANY HAVE TO DARKEN THE SKIES WITH HATE!?”

END OF BOOK 1

One thought on “Chatventures, Book 1–Vespers Rising

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