When the night comes in image card

Arcencai - Virida, 3000

Wind Sk8r stood beneath the canopy on the shore of Arcencai’s beaches. He scowled as the warriors loaded their equipment and supplies onto their seacraft, and pointedly refused to help one of the mystics as she struggled to drag her bags aboard.

He folded his arms and leaned against the trunk of a palm tree, trying to throw daggers with his glare. 

“Keep that up and see where it gets you,” Qendiri Bravebird, his mentor, said as she passed him. Sk8r grumbled and tried to fix his expression. The scowl failed to leave his face, though, and it earned him a much more fierce glare from Qendiri. 

Sk8r sighed and glumly watched her double-check the mission specs with Mieke after helping her with her things. The two of them pointed at something on the digital map and laughed sharply - Mieke covering her mouth with her hand. Sk8r longed to see what it was that had caused the usually quiet mystic to break out of character, but his moodiness stuck him to the side of the tree and he just sighed again.

“Sucks, doesn’t it?” 

He whipped around and came face-to-face with Mieke’s apprentice, Reese Riley. He hadn’t even heard her come over. Reese bit into a brilliant red apple, the juice splashing his skin. 

“You’re not going, either?” he asked her, wiping his face in disgust. She took another noisy bite and shook her head, silky black hair swaying. 

“I’m grounded. Again.” 

Wind Sk8r raised an eyebrow. They were in their late teenage years - and more than that, they were almost graduates! Getting grounded felt like something only little kids had to endure. 

“Did you stay up past your bedtime?” he chuckled lightly, returning to look at where the warriors were setting up their navigation system. Envy burned within him. 

Reese crunched away, throwing the core behind her. “Satine caught me sneaking into her class. Again. I
knew I should have used a stronger dose of Hazy Dust…”

Although he hadn’t hung out with Reese a whole lot, even Sk8r knew about the trainee’s antics. She was a massive fan of Satine Temple of the Assassin Faction and wished more than anything that she could train to be one instead. But for one reason or another, here she was still training to be a Mystic. 

He was about to ask her what ‘Hazy Dust’ was, but Qendiri strode over to them and he doubled down on his scowl. 

“Mhm,” she hummed, an unimpressed look in her eyes. “Real mature, Wind. You’re definitely convincing me to let you come on this mission.”

He frowned again. It wasn’t fair - this was the first mission Qendiri had gotten all season, and she was keeping it just for herself! And it wasn’t like she was part of a set team like the Storm Starters or the Snakeroot Shift. If she really wanted to, she could have taken him with her. But instead, she was stranding him here, as if he was just useless.

The young ranger trainee averted his gaze. “You’re treating me like a kid, so I’m acting like one,” he mumbled.

Qendiri jerked her head, signalling Reese to give them some privacy. When she was out of earshot, the warrior sighed deeply. 

“It’s just one mission,” she began, noticing how his jaw clenched. “You need to stay and study for your assessment. I can’t have my apprentice being the only one who fails.” She nudged his side.

Again, you mean,” he said through clamped teeth. 

She sat down on the warm, shimmering sand and patted the space by her. He remained standing against the tree, not even bothering to acknowledge her. 

She had predicted he would react this way when she had informed him that he wouldn’t be joining her this time. It wasn’t uncommon for mentors to not bring their trainees on long or dangerous missions, but she knew he would still feel the sting. He was 19 years old, after all - older than most of the students studying at Nexus Edge. She knew he was itching to graduate, could feel his desire as clearly as she felt the Sparx energy on Arcencai. But she had trained students before and she could tell he still wasn’t ready. 

Qendiri trailed her hand along the sand, the Virida* sunlight making it sparkle even more than usual. She was reminded of her own days of training on this island and how she had stood at this very shore, watching as her mentor set sail to embark on some epic quest she wasn’t allowed to join.

Though the pain had faded with time, she could understand his feelings.  

“When I come back, we can do some more field lessons,” she suggested with a hopeful smile. 

The breeze ruffled the feathers on Sk8r’s headgear when he grunted in response. 

She breathed deeply and stood up, dusting the beach sand off her pants. The rest of the team had finished going over the details of the reports again and were beckoning her over. 

She hesitantly placed a hand on Wind Sk8r’s shoulder. He barely glanced at her.

“Sk8r,” she called, her voice gentle. The young ranger turned, his brown eyes widening at the tone. Her lips parted but her throat closed up around the words she wanted to say. She floundered stupidly for a few seconds, her apprentice losing the scowl she’d feared was permanently etched into his features as he loosened up, expectant. 

But she had never been very good with words. 

“Keep up with your studies,” she settled on saying, straightening up and clapping his back. “This is no time to be slacking off, okay?”

The boy rolled his eyes and shrugged off her touch. “You’re going to miss your boat.”

She gazed at him momentarily, before nodding once and heading off to the seacraft.

As the ship pulled away from the docks, she could just make out Wind Sk8r’s slumped shoulders. And then, before she was out of sight, he turned and walked away.


Night fell across Lumina, and all the apprentices were sound asleep in their dorms. Lights out was at nine o’clock, and the students respected the Academy’s rules. A good night’s rest allowed for a good day’s work, their teachers said.

But Sk8r lay in his hammock, wide awake and staring at the ceiling. On his desk, a small holographic video of Qendiri was playing on a loop. It was a message she had left for him sometime during the day but Sk8r had only seen it when he had dumped the bags he’d packed so hopefully this morning onto his desk. 

“-and Guild Master Searose told us to be very careful. I just don’t want you to get hurt, alright?” The crackly sound from the message echoed in the room. 

Wind frowned at the ceiling. He was good at this warrior stuff- he wouldn’t get hurt! Even if they would be dealing with an unknown enemy! He had been training for this his whole life - it wasn’t fair.

Suddenly, a thunk sounded against his window. 

He ignored it. It was probably one of those large speckled flowers that hung from the tree outside his block. They were always falling and hitting the windows during the night. 

But then, he heard it again. Thunk. 

The boy glared at the curtain blocking the moonlight. Dumb tree. Ruining his brooding.


Thunk. Thunk.

Frustrated, Wind violently tore off his covers and stormed to the window, wrenching the curtain open. He glared at the glass, but there weren’t any of the usual pollen smudges on it. Peculiar…

He pushed the window open and the chilly night air refreshed his soul, cooling his temper. The sky was a swirling blue-black, stars scattered across that upside-down sea. He breathed deeply, listening as the wind brushed through the trees, the soft rustling sounding like music in the quiet.

And then something smacked him in the face. 

“What the-?!” he jumped back, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up. 

He looked down at what had fallen onto his room floor, the dull light making it hard for him to see anything, except that it was weirdly shaped. He hesitated to pick it up.

But he wanted to be a warrior, didn’t he? He should be brave enough to touch whatever this was. 

He grimaced and lowered his arm, hand shaking as his fingers curled around it.

He let out a high-pitched whine in disgust and closed his eyes. He squeezed.

It was soft, surprisingly. Wind Sk8r opened his eyes and brought the thing up to his face. It hadn’t hurt when it hit him, so, rationally, he shouldn't be scared. A weird but sort of familiar smell emitted from it.


“Hey! Can I have my sock back?!”

The thing in his hand was, indeed, a rolled-up sock. 

Out of instinct, he flung it away, and it sailed out through his window and tumbled down, down, down where he heard a soft ‘thanks!’ as whoever it belonged to caught it. 

Once he had recovered from the initial grossness of touching someone’s clearly used sock, Sk8r leaned out the window and peered down. A small person was wildly waving their arms. 

“Finally!” he heard them say. “I was gonna throw a stone if the sock thing didn’t work!”

“What are you doing?” he shouted back, glad it wasn’t a stone that had hit him. “What about curfew?!”

“...What?!” they yelled.

“Curfew!” he replied loudly, leaning further out the window. 

“What fumes?!”

“No! CUR-FEW!”

“Oh, curfew!”

A window lit up as a light switched on in the room next to his. He was going to be in so much trouble if someone called the dorm supervisor. Grumbling to himself, he climbed out onto the windowsill and concentrated.

The red Sparx on the island flocked to him. He could feel the energy buzz in his blood as he closed his eyes and took the first step. His foot hit the air and it felt solid - just like the other millions of times he’d used his air-gliding ability. 

The wind whipped at his pyjama shirt and he spread out his arms, liking how it felt like he had wings. He felt a smile tug at his mouth as he walked through the air, descending the invisible staircase until his bare feet felt the grass. 

A low whistle, and then a girl’s voice: “Oan’s blood, that looked cool.” 

Sk8r opened his eyes and his gaze hardened when he saw Reese Riley grinning at him like she was Jacker himself. 

“What do you want?” he asked her, suddenly feeling the cold of Virida’s nights through his thin nightclothes. 

She put her sock back on and he recoiled slightly in disgust. “Oh, nothing much,” she said, feigning innocence. 

His eyebrows furrowed. “Reese, it’s ten o’clock - what are you doing here?”

She pressed her lips together and he saw a mischievous twinkle in her green eyes.

“Oh, Lumina,” he sighed. “Please tell me I’m not going to get in trouble. I need to graduate before the year ends.”

There was that grin again. “Exactly, pal!” She slung her arm around his shoulders (a surprising feat considering how much shorter she was than him) and he leaned to the side in her grip. “That’s precisely my point!”

“You haven’t said anything-”

“Patience, patience. Do you Rangers not know anything about showmanship?” she reached into her belt of pouches and jars with her free hand and pulled out a small, blue berry. 


He wriggled out of her hold and took the berry from her. It was round, almost perfectly so, and much tougher than he expected. It could have been a piece of rubber, except the scent it gave off was decidedly sweeter.


Reese rolled her eyes and took the fruit back. “You don’t know the half of it.”

He opened his mouth to argue, but soft footsteps sounded nearby. His eyes widened and he grabbed Reese’s arm, ready to drag them both into the thicket. 

“Oh, calm down, I’ll show you-”

“Shh! Someone’s coming!” he whispered, trying to pull her with him.

“I don’t hear a thing,” she said, not budging. She was remarkably strong - he had to give her that.

“Well, I do, so can we please-”

“What on Lumina?” a different, younger voice cut him across. It was Fennec the Bard, another ranger trainee he sometimes practised with. 

She stood with her arms folded across her nightshirt and her dark eyebrows raised. 

“Hey, Fennec!” Reese shook him off and raced over.

“Don’t ‘hey’ me,” the sixteen-year-old said. Reese gave her a sheepish smile.

“Did we wake you up?” she asked apologetically. 

Wind Sk8r froze, his eyes wide like the ocean. Fennec was absolutely going to tell on them, and then he’d get scolded, and then Qendiri would find out, and then his graduation would be delayed and, and, and- 

“For Arcencai’s sake! Calm down, pal!” Reese said. 

“No, no, he has every right to freak out,” Fennec interjected. She gave Reese an exasperated look. “Why would you think it’s a good idea to break curfew?!” 

Reese held up the berry and Fennec smacked it away. 

The two of them began a silent argument using their facial expressions instead of words, and that’s when Wind Sk8r finally had enough. 

“I’m going to bed,” he informed them and concentrated on the Sparx to lift himself back up to his room. 

But then Reese’s hand was gripped around his sleeve. “Oh, no, you’re not! We’re going on a mission!”

“What?” Fennec blanched. Wind was sure his expression was the same.

Reese turned to her friend. “You can come, too, Fen! Although you don’t need to, I mean rumour has it you’re gonna get a mentor this year already so you’re definitely gonna be made a warrior before us and then probably get asked to join a permanent warrior team I’m not jealous, nope, not me-”


“Sorry,” she paused for breath and then regained her composure.

Her eyes twinkled in the starlight and that same jackery** grin spread across her face.

"We’re going to get the Bowbell Bloom!”


The boat rocked gently on the water, much to Wind Sk8r’s discomfort. He wasn’t very confident in the ocean like he was in the air (something about how he couldn’t see anything underneath terrified him), and the constant jostling from the waves made his stomach queasy. 

“You’re not going to spill your supper on me, right?” Reese asked as she scooted backwards on the seat. Her hair had been tied back (because ‘this is a serious mission’ as she told him when they boarded) and she had his backpack next to her.

He shook his head, mortified at the thought, but kept his mouth shut just in case. 

Reese didn’t look entirely convinced.

The chime from the navigation system sounded and he checked it, noting how the little red dot that represented their stolen ship was just two nautical miles away from Belladan, the Blue Island that Reese insisted would be the solution to their problems.

Wind wasn’t completely abhorred by the fact that Reese had stolen the small seacraft (it was very on brand for an assassin-wannabe, at least that’s what she told him), in fact, he was actually sort of impressed! 

She had managed to unlock one of the boats in the docks earlier that evening and snuck past all the security without raising a single alarm bell. He had to admit, she would make a pretty decent assassin (Reese didn’t tell him that she used some of her plant toxins to disguise herself as her mentor, Mieke, which made it easier to access the seacraft’s controls and sneak past the warriors on duty. She was afraid that would have ruined the careful assassin image she’d created for herself and make her look more like a Mystic). 

“We’ll be there in fifteen minutes,” he said through clamped teeth. Reese nodded and then a sort of uncomfortable silence fell over them. Fennec had explicitly stated she wanted no part in this and now he had just realised how much of a relief it was having a third person with them. It wasn’t that he found Reese unlikeable, he just… didn’t have anything in common with her. It was awkward. 

“So, you-”

“Have you ever-”

They spoke at the same time.

“You go first,” he said. 

Reese shook her head. “Nah, I talked a lot earlier, you go ahead.”

Wind scratched his neck, his shoes scuffing the bottom of the seacraft. He had gone back up to his room to fetch some things before leaving with Reese. Qendiri’s message pervaded the room still, so he deleted it. Although, “I just don’t want you to get hurt, alright?” rang in his head even now. 

He couldn’t believe she still thought of him as a kid. He was more than capable of going on a dangerous mission! His hands clenched into fists by his side and he changed what he was going to say to Reese.

“Tell me again about the Bowbell Bloom.”

Reese quirked an eyebrow. “Uh, okay… The Bowbell Bloom is probably the rarest flower to exist, like, ever. Remember the berry I showed you?” At this, she fished out another berry from a pouch. 

“If enough of these are consumed, they can be extremely fatal. And the flower that produces them is the only known cure for the poison.”

“So you want us to find it, right?” he asked as the navigation chimed again. They were close.

She nodded. “It’s pretty much impossible to find one, let alone bring the antidote back to Arcencai. This is probably more dangerous than whatever mission Mieke is on!” 

He hoped so. If he could complete this quest, it would certainly prove to the Guild that he was ready to graduate. Bringing back an antidote to a fatal poison would certainly prove he was responsible and ready to be a warrior. 

It was humiliating having to repeat his final apprenticeship year, especially when kids like Fennec were so effortlessly breezing through.

“We’re going to find it,” he assured her, brown eyes hardening in determination. They had come this far, they were already in deep. If they failed now… no, they couldn’t.

Sk8r faced the wide open sea in defiance. “And then they’ll see they were wrong about us.”


Pretty soon, the boat hit the shoreline of Belladan, Reese jumped out and immediately took off. 

Wind hastily locked the boat down, not wanting it to drift away and leave them trapped there. Belladan was one of the few islands that weren’t inhabited by people or Totems, so there was no way for them to get help if the boat drifted away. And Reese just abandoned it!

The short mystic was already scurrying into the caves and he was fast losing sight of her in the darkness. Wind grabbed his backpack and charged after her, acutely aware that this was a Blue Island, and so he didn’t have the limitless supply of red Sparx like he did on Arcencai. He had channelled a small amount of it into one of Reese’s jars on her belt, and being separated from the only source of his abilities made him rather nervous. He didn’t know what he would do if he couldn’t use his ability at all. 

“Wait up!” he called after her, and at least she had the decency to pause. 

“We only have until the sun comes up, so come on!” she yelled back. Thankfully here they didn’t have to worry about being quiet. 

According to Reese’s scarily extensive knowledge of this elusive flower, Wind knew that it grew deep in the caves on the island, and only bloomed at night. Strange, yes, but important because the antidote could only be gathered when the flower had blossomed.

His shoes crunched along the sand and Reese headed into the nearest cave. He was surprised that it was right here by the shore. When she said it was impossible to find, he assumed it was because the cave itself was hidden somewhere deep on the island. But as he stood at the yawning opening, craning his neck just to see the top of the rocky walls, he wondered if the real danger of the mission lay inside. Somewhere dark and deep and probably filled with creepy, slimy things crawling around…

No! He was brave! He was a warrior! Almost one, anyway. 

“Hey! Slowcrow!” The echoey sound of Reese’s voice bounced back at him. Wind Sk8r gave himself a little shake and headed in, getting swallowed by the darkness.

Inside, he couldn’t see a thing. He couldn’t feel the cold night air, he couldn’t hear the sounds of the waves crashing against the sand. He couldn’t even breathe-

Okay, no, he could. Thankfully, he could. 

“Sk8r?” Reese’s faraway voice pulled him out of his thoughts.

“I’m here!” he yelled back, wincing as the echo filled the space. He could hear sounds from inside the cave, that was good. 

“Okay, um, where?” she asked faintly. “I can’t see anything- ahhh!”

“Reese!?” he ran forward and immediately tripped on something, smacking right down onto the hard sand. He spluttered, the sand unbelievably cold in his mouth.

“Reese! Are you okay?” he shouted into the blackness, scrambling upright.

When he was met with silence, Wind turned around to look for the entrance, but there was nothing. 

“Wh-What?” he whispered, eyes darting frantically around. It was right there a moment ago! He hadn’t even moved all that much!

“Reese!” he screamed again, his throat feeling like it was closing up. 


“Blang, blang, blang,” he muttered as he fumbled through his backpack. Water, bandages, rope, protein bars, matches - matches! Wind grabbed the box of matches and shakily struck one against the side. It didn’t take.

“Blang!” he hissed, and tried again, harder. The little stick snapped in two and he dropped it in frustration. 

“Reese! I’m coming, okay!” he yelled, hoping with all his heart that she could hear him.

Wind tried again with a new matchstick, and by some miracle, it caught. The tiny fire blazed brightly, and for a second, he swore he saw something long and pale slithering away. Wind let out a small yelp and drew his knees up to his chest, the match slipped from his hand and died unceremoniously on the sand below. 

“Reese! Can you hear me?!” he screamed again. 


That wasn’t Reese’s voice. It was whispery and melodic but it made his skin crawl. 

“Wh-Who’s there?” he called out, successfully lighting another match. Blangdang it, he only had a couple left. 

“Sk8r… come in… come closer…”

Wind felt around, wishing against everything that the tide had washed in a piece of driftwood, or anything he could use as a torch. 

“Come on, please, please,” he whispered, his hand grazing against something that immediately moved away when he did. He tried not to scream. Sk8r pushed on, crawling on his hands and knees until- there!

A lone stick the length of his thigh was wedged between two rocks. He set the match stick down, half-burying it in the sand. It was almost burned through, the circle of light decreasing with every second. He had to hurry.

“Skater Windwalker….”

His heart froze, and his blood turned to ice. That was his real name. The only people who even knew that were the Guild Masters. He wasn’t even sure if Qendiri knew it. 

“Who are you?!” he shouted, only just now realising that the echoes had stopped.

His hand gripped around the stick and he pulled. The fire died, but the stick budged, and then after another tug, it was free. He rushed to the box of matches, lit another one and after a few moments, it caught on the stick. 

The fire soared, and his eyes adjusted to the dim light. Sk8r could see only a little in front of him, but his heart rate did slow down a bit. He felt a bit more grounded, and in feeling that, realised he wouldn’t be able to use his air-gliding ability now that Reese was… well, she wasn't here. And so his heart thumped violently in his chest as it sped up again. 

He looked and looked, but for every step he took forward, the place behind him changed. He couldn’t tell where the entrance of the cave was, he couldn’t tell how far he had actually walked. But every so often he would hear that sing-song, drifty voice call to him. 

“Reese!” he tried again, but his throat was sore and he stopped for a second to drink some water. And that’s when he noticed that his backpack was gone. He must have left it where he found the stick, but he was sure, he was sure he had grabbed it with him.

His hand clasped tightly around the burning make-shift torch. Forget the flower, forget being made a warrior - he had to find Reese and get out of here. 

Wind Sk8r marched on.


Reese Riley’s childhood dreams had always danced on the edge of a dagger.

From the moment she first heard tales of the Legendary Assassins, she was enraptured. Their mysterious allure, the sleek, shadowy outfits, the hushed stories that surrounded them - the desire to be one of them burned within her. She devoured the articles and interviews, and scoured libraries for any nugget of information she could find. Her room was plastered with posters of her idols.

But fate had a twisted sense of humour. 

When the day came to try out for Nexus Edge, the Guild Masters felt her abilities better suited the Mystic Faction. All that longing, all that dreaming and working… it was for nothing.

In those early days, tears often accompanied her training, staining her pillows as she grappled with the reality that her cherished dream was right in front of her, and yet, so out of reach. Magic coursed through her veins but it was a different kind - a mystical power that beckoned her toward the path of a mystic, not the secret, deadly art of assassination. 

Not even Guild Master Lilija Valleowl’s soothing words could ease the disappointment gnawing at her heart.

But Reese had never been one to let go, especially not now when she was so close. She just had to push a little harder, go a little farther- and so she began privately practising with some of the assassin trainees. They taught her their ways as best they could, her path diverging from the ordinary, but she was determined to forge it. Just because her abilities and style of fighting didn’t align with what was normally expected of an assassin, didn’t mean she could never be one, right?  

Then, when she turned 17, an audacious spark ignited. Reese stood boldly before the Guild Masters once more, her voice trembling but her spirit unyielding, begging for a chance to prove herself in the faction she had always longed to be a part of. 

They relented, and Reese was given a series of tasks to prove she could make it as an assassin, all of which she tried her absolute hardest to complete. And yet, silent tracking, espionage, the art of shadow lurking - these skills eluded her grasp. Her magic, a rare and flashy gift, flourished when she showed off her poison art. The verdict was clear: she was destined to be a Mystic, not an Assassin. 

The Guild Master Mystic even said she would make a very influential warrior one day, but Reese could only hear the cracks as her dreams shattered.

The choice loomed in front of her: abandon her beloved Nexus Edge to pursue her assassin dream elsewhere, or, accept her fate and embrace her life in Arcencai - a life intertwined with friends, mentors, and a world she had come to cherish despite it all. 

But perhaps, she wouldn’t have to choose.

Whispers of a heroic challenge that no assassin had ever conquered spread throughout the assassin trainees. Her friend, Sylver Swiftblade, told her about the rare and precious Bowbell Bloom, a flower whose nectar was the only cure for the lethal berry it produced. While the berries were easily found and collected, the flower itself had only ever been seen once before, and since then, many Assassins had tried and failed to bring the cure back. Her eyes glittered with newfound determination as her face broke out into an unsettling grin. An idea took root - wild, and daring.

And now, she was here.

Reese hadn’t been able to feel a thing for the longest time. She didn’t know if her eyes were open or closed - everything was empty and dark.

But she refused to cry. 

“I’m an assassin, assassins don't get scared,” she whispered over and over again to herself, wrapping her arms around her body but not even feeling her own skin.

After what felt like an eternity, Reese stood up (or, was she always standing up? She couldn’t tell) and gingerly spread her arms out, hoping to feel a wall or a rock - anything really. 

“Sk8r!” she screamed when her fingers touched nothing but empty space. “Sk8r! Where are you?!”

She remembered the tales of this cave with a shudder. Sylver had warned her that something lived in them. Something hungry. 

Reese quickly pulled her hand back to her side, not wanting whatever it was to bite it off.

“Oh, silly Reese…”

She froze, her breath stopping. 

“S-Sk8r?” she managed to choke out. 

A laugh. It was silky, and yet, thin like air. Reese felt the hair on her arms stand up. 

“Wh-Who a-are you?!” she screeched at the darkness, whipping around blindly. 

“Who are you?”

The voice spoke and she could swear it was right behind her. She kicked back, her boot connecting to nothing. She lost her balance and fell, landing awkwardly on-

Reese gasped and pressed her hands down, her heart rate quickening. This was sand. This was extremely cold sand, but sand nonetheless.

“I’m still in the cave,” she mumbled, never feeling so grateful towards sand before. She ran her fingers through it and delighted in the fact that she could finally feel something. She felt grounded, and possibly, less afraid. 

The laughter again. This time, below her. 

Reese gulped. If this was the ground, how could anything be below?

Suddenly, she had an idea. Foolish girl, forgetting she had powers. 

“Foolish girl, being so scared of the dark… and you said you wanted to be an Assassin…”

Sylver hadn’t mentioned a creepy, all-knowing voice. Perhaps she was just imagining it…

Reese fumbled in her belt of pouches and jars, her fingers clumsily searching them for a thin tube. She was looking for a powder made from the root of a bioluminescent plant called ‘Aurora’s Curse’. The leaves, once prepared as a tea, were extremely poisonous, but Reese wasn’t interested in the leaves.

“Yes!” she whispered, pulling out the tube from the loop. She could sense it was the right one, even if she wasn’t actively channelling the green Sparx she had been saving up to bring on this mission. She clasped the tube in her grasp, squeezing it lightly. 

“Mmm, mmm-mm…” she hummed, the sound surprisingly not ricocheting off the walls in an echo. Unnerving, but she didn’t have time to think about that. She focused now, concentrating on both the green Sparx energy she had tucked in one of the pouches and on the powdered root of the Aurora’s Curse in the jar. 

“Mmm, mmm-mm…” she tried again, closing her eyes (maybe) and frowning deeply in concentration. In her mind, she could picture the grains of powder vibrating as it hummed with her, and then a faint glow appeared. 

“Alright!” she said aloud, the glow growing and growing as the tube lit up neon pink, the root powder unlocking its bioluminescence once again. The light it cast was fairly bright, and Reese stood up, thrusting the tube forward.

“Pretty trick…”

The voice again, and this time Reese held up the tube just in time to catch movement. 

Something pale and flaky curled at the edge of the light, but as soon as she moved closer, it vanished.

“Who are you?!” Reese called again, puffing her chest out. She wasn’t afraid. Her Mystic skills had actually come in handy, surprisingly. For a fleeting moment, she felt proud of herself. “I’m not scared of you!”

A chuckle this time, low and condescending. 

“Oh, my dear,” it said from her left side. Reese swung around but found only more darkness. 

“You should be…” this time, from behind her. So close in fact, she could feel something graze the back of her neck.

Reese jumped, wildly thrashing at whatever was behind her. 

“Where is Wind?” she demanded, her voice shaking.

“That’s it… just a little more…”

Suddenly, something shoved her forward. Reese fell against the sand, the tube rolling out of her reach. Panic flared in her chest when the bright pink light revealed white bones in a cluttered heap. Her eyes widened when she realised… those were… that was…

Reese scrambled backwards, her back hitting against something solid. Her heart was beating so fast, her breath barely filling her lungs. Fear clawed at her throat, making it hard to scream. And by Lumina did she want to scream.

“Ahh… delicious,” the voice said. Directly above her.

Reese slowly craned her neck upwards. A sharp gasp of horror left her lips when large chunks of pale, flaky skin fell as the being shifted to look down at her. 

Its impossibly long neck was covered in that sickening peeling flesh. Its eyes (if you could call those gaping white holes eyes) bored through her body, as if it could see every part of her life and knew every detail of her existence. 

Reese couldn’t move. 

The thing moved, though, flakes falling around her, twisting its head until it was right in front of her face. Reese had never been more terrified. 

“Reese Riley,” it sounded, but she couldn’t see a mouth, didn’t know how it was speaking. “Your fear, your despair… I must thank you… I have not been this full in yearsssss…”

It pressed its wide, scaly forehead against hers and she shut her eyes. 

It was quiet and still again, but then, a spike of pain seared through her chest. Her hands clutched at her shirt but she could feel no weapon. 

Tears spilled from her eyes and wet her cheeks as the feeling dug deep into her soul, ripping her apart from the inside.

She cried out weakly and the creature only laughed.

Reese’s hands were so shaky she could barely grip her toxins. Couldn’t reach for her dagger.

She would die here. 


Her eyes opened and the creature pulled its head away. At once, the pain stopped and Reese let out a shaky breath as she slumped backwards.

A bright orange glow came into focus, and then, a boy she had never been so glad to see in her life.

“Sk8r!” she called out, momentary relief washing over her.

He waved his torch and his eyes lit up when he saw her.

But then-

“What on Lumina?” he faltered as the light lit up the ragged creature. Its attention turned to Wind Sk8r and Reese feared what it would do to him. 

“How wonderful…” it slithered over to him. Reese finally saw what it was: a massive worm-like entity. “My dessert has found his way here all by himself…”

“Wh-What…” he took a couple of steps back and the creature drew itself up to its full height, its skin falling like snow. 

“Sk8r - run!” Reese managed to stand, refusing to let her legs give out. She ran to him as fast as she could, only stopping to pick up her Aurora’s Curse tube. 

“We need to go, now!” 

The worm-thing tilted its head and chuckled. Raspy and paper-like, it spoke, “And here I thought you wanted the Bowbell Bloom.”

“How did you-” Sk8r began but Reese, feeling braver now that she wasn’t alone, cut him off.

“We have to get out of here,” she tugged his arm. Forget the flower - their lives were more important. 

Sk8r glanced at her and then nodded. The two of them turned and ran, Sk8r’s fire torch lighting the path but- 

“Running away? No wonder you’ll never be warriors…” the worm-thing blocked their way, its large, coiled body trapping them in its lair. 

Sk8r suddenly felt the weight of his failures like stones on his back. The thing was right. He… wasn’t fit to graduate. 

Next to him, Reese shook his shoulders. “No, hey! Wind, that’s what it does!” 

But the boy slumped in defeat, his hand loosening around the torch. “I should never have…” he muttered.

Reese glared at the worm who just gazed almost fondly at Wind Sk8r. 

“Yes, Skater Windwalker… that’s right, child…” 

Reese tore through her supplies, finding a vial of dark red liquid. She focused, her Sparx almost out, and the liquid slipped through the lid and seeped into the worm’s flesh. 

Reese strained her magic, desperately fighting for control of the poison as it drifted into the creature’s body. She needed it to get to its heart.

But try as she did, she couldn’t seem to find… anything. No organs, no blood. It was almost as if…

Sk8r cried out as the creature pressed its forehead to his, draining him of his suffering. Reese broke her connection, losing the poison but not even caring at this point. She rushed forward, reaching for her dagger but it was missing (even though she was sure she had packed it - she never left her room without it). Letting out a wild battle cry, she wrapped her arms around its head and pushed. The worm struggled in her grip but she held fast.

“Get. Away. From. Him,” she strained through gritted teeth. 

The worm changed targets, trying to eat her fear instead, but Reese fought tooth and nail against it.

“Wind!” she screamed for him, and the boy snapped upright, eyes blazing when he saw her struggle. 

He looked around for a weapon, and then an idea struck him. Sk8r gripped the torch and drove it through the worm, its furfuraceous flesh melting easily under the flame. 

The worm screeched, the sound high-pitched and echoing around the cave, each wave louder than the last. 

It writhed as the fire kept eating, pale flesh stripping away.

Sk8r grabbed Reese’s arm and yanked her upright, the two of them scrambling over the twisting, burning mass. 

“Wait,” Reese paused when they were over it. “Look- Sk8r!”

He turned and in the dim light of her mystic torch, he saw something bright blue from inside the worm-thing. 

“Is… Is that?” he breathed. 

“I think so…”

A flower petal, large and vibrant peeked out from in between the melting skin.

The Bowbell Bloom. No, it couldn’t be… 

“It’s going to burn,” Wind said, hesitating. 

The worm thrashed, its head smacking against the walls of the cave as it tried to put itself out. 

“We could…” he suggested, but Reese turned back and in the distance, she could see… light. 

The entrance to the cave. They were so close!

Reese looked back at the flower, the edge of it catching fire. This was their only chance! Her only hope of being recognised as an Assassin…

Sk8r was looking at her, waiting. He was leaving the choice up to her. 

It was now, or never.

Reese grabbed Sk8r’s hand and they ran as fast as they could to the cave entrance. She was getting him out of here, that was the only thing that mattered.


They only stopped when the sunlight warmed their faces, the sound of the waves crashing against the shore. Reese didn’t let go of his hand, and even when he wanted to stop to catch his breath, she dragged him to the boat. They were getting off this island. 

She only looked back once, when they unlocked the boat and set the course for Arcencai, but she couldn’t see the cave. It was gone. 

Reese looked at Sk8r and he just stared back, neither one of them willing to talk about what had just happened.

The journey back was quiet, and when they pulled up to the docks, they found it swarming with Warriors. Their teachers were organising search patrols for them, Fennec being the one who first spotted them. Even though they received years' worth of scolding, it was clear to Wind Sk8r and Reese Riley that their teachers were more relieved that they were okay than anything.

“I’m sorry we didn’t get the Bowbell Bloom,” Reese said to him when they were bundled in blankets and handed a bowl of hot oats. “I know how much you wanted to be recognised as the fantastic warrior you are.”

Wind faced her, a tired half-smile on his lips. “I’m sorry, too. This could have been your chance, I- I don’t get why you…”

Reese shrugged and stirred her breakfast, the pain in her chest slowly fading away. 

“You were more important. You’re my friend, pal. I… don’t want anything to happen to you.”

Wind set his bowl down and wrapped his arms around her shoulders. He understood now why Qendiri hadn’t wanted him to get hurt. It wasn’t about him being weak, it was about how much she cared for him. 

Reese stiffened in surprise but returned the hug, glad she had met him.

They may not have completed the mission, they may not even be closer to their goals, and they were in a world of trouble for breaking every rule - but they knew now they had a friend for life. Someone worth sacrificing everything for. 

“I’m glad we’re friends, Reese,” he whispered. 

She smiled back at him. And then, something popped into her mind. “Well, now that we’re friends,” she began, a sly grin on her face, “ ‘Skater Windwalker’? What’s that about?” 

When Wind pulled a face, she burst out laughing.

“You have to promise not to tell anyone that!” he groaned, shovelling oats into his mouth. 

“Oh, I absolutely have to tell Fennec!”

“Don’t you dare!”

The two of them looked out through the big glass windows of Nexus Edge, the horizon effortlessly calling their names. They knew, one day, they would have to go back. Lumina’s secrets couldn’t stay hidden forever. But being a Warrior could wait; at least for now, Sk8r and Reese were happy being right here where they were.

*Lumina’s spring **Devilish


Wind Sk8r
Reese Riley
Qendiri Bravebird
Fennec the Bard
Sylver Swiftblade (mentioned)
Guild Master Lilija Valleowl (mentioned)