This blog is a mixture of semi-autobiographical musings, fantasy, experimental, and love letters to london

Chapter Nineteen: Tick-Tock

Chapter Nineteen: Tick-Tock

The next day, all the year eleven vampires stayed at home to recuperate. According to Mistress Walker, Hollow, and the supervising adults, a First Hunt can be a shock to a young vampire’s body. Therefore, with no 11E, Penny took the day off too. She spent time writing her adventures in the diary Forrest gifted her, recounting her whirlwind of experiences from her last entry until almost ten pages were filled. When she met them down stairs in the kitchen as usual, she found them getting ready to leave.

“Just in time, Penny,” said Forrest, “we’ve had a letter from Blythe.”

They took a carriage to Gold Street and were led by Archer to the brunch room, with its peach-coloured finish and mother-of-pearl fittings. Gecko tea and pastries and meat were spread on the polished table, and Gardien, including new recruit Hollow, wss assembled around it. Dami was shouting at Felix about something, to which the vampire bellowed with laughter in response, Ulrich was reading a book whilst Josh helped himself to salt beef slices, Dagwood and Brian were in an intense discussion over an article in the Monthly Spell, Shaun was crouched on the floor, examining a series of menacing instruments as Silvia hovered thoughtfully above him. Hollow had been looking over Shaun’s shoulder, asking questions to the mage, when he spotted the trio at the door.

“Penny! Guys!” he said, to which the remaining party stopped their activity.

“Oh Penny!” said Dagwood, dropping the magazine to greet her. “How are you doing?”

“I’m doing great Dagwood, how are you? I’m sorry about the interview. I’ve been so busy.”

“Not to worry, Penny! You see everyone? She’s as loyal as they come. A friend to warlocks and a wonderful ally!”

“Come sit next to me, Penny,” said Hollow, pulling up an empty seat, to which she obliged gratefully.

“Talking about busy,” said Felix, his green spikes as impressive as ever, “I heard you went out on a First Hunt! How was it?”

“Very fun.”

“Hollow was kind enough to supervise her,” said Forrest. He had just set a chair out for Riider and was assembling a variety of treats for her on a plate. “Penny’s been assigned to Saffire Walker’s class at Greymalkin’s, so she’s been able to shadow the vampires.”

“Well you’ve certainly learned from the best,” said Felix, nodding to Hollow, “this guy’s a legend, he is. I remember when you had your First Hunt and everyone was talking about how well you did. Great to see you’ve joined Gardien, bro.”

“Thanks man,” said Hollow, “you’re pretty cool yourself.”

“Oh you flatter me!” said Felix. Dami rolled her eyes.

“Felix comes from a famous running family,” said Riider, “The Browns are the fastest vampires in The Cave. They’ve won world records!”

Felix did a mock bow. “We’re all right,” he said.

“I guess a lot of us here have unique little talents,” said Forrest, winking at Penny. He and Ulrich had been mulling over the latter’s book, A Tale of Two Cities, “take Shaun, fantastic weapons maker, and Silvia, the most accomplished espionage I’ve ever seen.”

“Oh, thank you Forrest!” said Silvia, holding her iridescent cheeks, “You’re a brilliant fighter yourself!”

“Yes, yes we’re all great,” said Dagwood, “however, I must say, I have fought against the odds more than most people, so there’s that.”

“Well done, Dagwood,” said Josh sardonically.

“About those weapons, though,” said Penny, peering over Shaun’s shoulder to look at the silver instruments, “what are they?”

“Eh, random bits and bobs,” he said sleepily, “it’s a chore, to be honest, cos I have to make things that fits with everyone’s abilities. So with Forrest and Riider and Josh, I have to make elemental stuff, things that can tap into their wind powers, but they also need to be able to turn invisible with them… and then there’s Dami and Dagwood, both magical types like me, but with less versatility…”

“What does that mean?” they both exclaimed.

“Calm down! I’m just saying, Dagwood uses a cloak, don’t cha? So I need something that can transmit your powers, in case you ever get into a pickle and become disarmed in some way. For you, Dami, I have to make things out of wood because witches use nature magic, but then I got to reinforce them otherwise it’ll all break. Brian’s easy, he just needs a good armour to protect his skin cos it’s soft like a baby’s arse, poor thing. And the vampires need good combat gear; daggers’n’ that.”

“It’s really cool,” said Penny.

“He’s very good,” said Silvia, her voice seemingly echoing through Penny’s head.     

The doors of the brunch room crashed open, silencing the din. Blythe approached them, the smoke from his constant cigar trailing behind him. He was barefoot, and the hem of his dungarees were bunched dangerously around his round, podgy toes, which were finished with delicately manicured nails. His attention was on Shaun and the weapons. When he was near enough, he scanned over the instruments with a stoic glare, before dropping a gold-plated case of cigars in the mage’s open palms. “Well done,” he said quietly.

“Take a seat, Blythe,” said Silvia. She waved her hand and another chair slid across the room beside him. As he sat upon it, he nodded to Hollow, narrowed his eyes at Penny, and regarded the others absently.

“I called you all here to update you on some things,” said Blythe. “And to get some updates from yourselves.”

They straightened themselves in their seats, all business; Forrest and Ulrich put their books down, Riider pushed her plate of food away, Dagwood and Brian and Felix and Dami stopped arguing, Hollow leaned forward in his chair. Even Shaun was attentive, and Silvia’s shimmering eyes narrowed in anticipation.

“Penny has been doing an undercover assignment at Greymalkin’s Academy, following a tip-off that Tarquin has followers in the school,” said Blythe. The Gardien members’ surprise was immediate. All eyes turned to her, slightly impressed, before returning to Blythe. “She has located a potential follower. Penny, tell us what you know.”

“S-sure,” said Penny. She had not been expecting to be put on the spot, and had to quickly recount the events following the prom committee’s meeting with the warlocks in her head. “Erm, as you guys know there’s something called the Arrow Club at the school, like a warlocks’ society.”

“Yes, yes,” said Dagwood, “I was the president of the Arrow Club for three years, re-elected twice, until I graduated!”

“Well a guy called Martin Dell is the president now,” said Penny, “and he’s very hateful. I met up with them for a meeting about prom with some other students and he kicked us out.”

“A disgrace!” said Dagwood.

“Yeah, it wasn’t amazing,” continued Penny. “Anyway, I snuck back into the meeting room and overheard one of the warlocks talking, calling me an enemy, he sounded really dangerous. Chloe Manheim told me his name was Hawthorne Cole.”

“Oh dear Hawthorne Cole, yes, his parents were killed on the Outside,” said Dagwood.

“Yesterday Chloe and I followed him to his house, he lives alone in Murky Lake—”

“How dangerous, Penny!” said Dagwood, “although I must add, Murky Lake is one of the safest neighbourhoods around… plenty of warlocks would have stepped in to help, had you got into any trouble—”

Enough,” said Ulrich. “Just let her speak, you’re being insufferable.”

Dagwood opened his mouth to protest, then closed it again. Brian patted him consolingly on the shoulder.

“I saw Hawthorne scrying…” said Penny. “He was talking to a witch on the Outside, but I never got to see her face. According to Chloe, he didn’t always attend Greymalkin’s, and he tends to visit the Outside often, like his parents used to.”

“Very ominous,” said Josh, “is he a popular guy, Penny?”

“Not at all, a bit of a loner, however he’s recently joined the prom committee to follow me, I think.”

“There’ll be more of them in the school if we’re not careful,” said Dami, “Mistress Rookwood needs to be told immediately.”

“Definitely,” said Forrest, “following Penny’s findings, I booked a meeting with her yesterday. I’ll be seeing her this afternoon, at the end of the school day.”

“This brings me to the next topic,” said Blythe, “we now know there is a contact on the Outside liaising with a student of Greymalkin’s and most likely Tarquin. I can imagine that this person is using Hawthorne as a spy, to keep watch over Penny and our own movements in Gardien, perhaps even Armand’s science team. This person is a witch. We need to look through the records of registered witches who do not live in The Cave. Whoever she is, she’s our link to finding Tarquin.”  

“And what do we do about Hawthorne?” said Hollow.

“Hawthorne has to stay. We need to keep him in sight, he’s our key to determining Tarquin’s next step,” said Blythe.

“It’s a bit risky for Penny though, innit?” said Riider, “and I doubt Rookwood’ll allow that.”

“That’s why I’ll attend the meeting with Forrest. I can persuade her. And regarding any potential risks, I will assign our newest member on his first mission. Hollow,” said Blythe, “you and Penny will be partners. Spinead, welcome to Gardien.”

He looked pained to welcome her, but Penny was elated. She beamed at Hollow, who was just as excited to start work, and bowed slightly in response to the applause from her new colleagues.

“That’s it, gel!” said Riider, “I always knew you had it in you!”

“Well done, Penny,” said Forrest, “congratulations, I’m proud.”   

“You really think I’m capable?” Penny said to Blythe, who only shrugged.

“Capable? You’re fearless,” said Dami, “you’ve been absolutely excellent, and I hope everyone gives you the utmost respect. Remember, you and Hollow are only a year apart in age, so there’s no reason for anyone to think you of as less capable than him.”

“And you guys didn’t see her last night at the hunt,” said Hollow, “she wasn’t scared at all, she’s taken to Cave life like she’s always been one of us, deep down.”

“Agreed,” said Forrest.

“Back on topic,” said Blythe, “Hollow, you will be a teaching assistant at Greymalkin’s, mainly assisting your mother, but I want you to keep watch over the pupils, particularly Hawthorne Cole and the members of the Arrow Club. Penny will be there for another two weeks, until prom night, I’ve decided. I have a suspicion that Hawthorne will use that event as a cover for any unscrupulous activity, after all, the school populace will be all in once place, and the teachers will be distracted. No one will miss him or notice any odd behaviours. It also means we can keep a good eye on Arrow Club members, who are unlikely to attend. If any of them have teamed up with Hawthorne, we’ll know on that night.”

“Cool,” said Hollow.

“Whilst the school operation is going on, we’ll need a recon team to begin searching for any other haunts or connections to Tarquin on the Outside. I’ll send you all your tasks throughout the week. I’ll dismiss myself now, but I don’t want you to stay for too long. Eat your food and get out.”

He was gone a moment later. As soon as the doors were shut, Penny was bombarded with hugs and well-wishes from Gardien.

“Aww, this means we’ll have to love you and leave you, Pen,” said Riider.

“What do you mean?” said Penny.

“Usually, Gardien partners live with each other, or at least live nearby,” said Forrest. “It makes it easier to communicate and to quickly leave if we’re needed to be deployed anywhere in an emergency. We would love for you to stay, but Hollow lives in Nightmare, the vampire town on the other side of the city. And I think it’s good to be near Saffire Walker as well, now that you’re on official Gardien duties in her class.”

“Oh that’s a shame, I’ve had so much fun with you, but I understand,” said Penny, feeling a little sad, and then “Wow, so you guys all live together?” She observed the group incredulously. Forrest and Riider made sense, and they had most likely lived together before joining Gardien anyway. Dagwood and Brian seemed friendly, and Silvia and Shaun were unassuming enough not to get in each other’s way, but Ulrich appeared to dislike Josh’s joviality, and Dami clearly hated everything about Felix.

“It’s a team building exercise,” said Dagwood, “great for strengthening rapport!”

“If you say so,” said Penny.

“You’ll be safe with my family, Penny,” said Hollow, “we’re all cool, easy going and that.”

“And you’ve got that little Sharan to boot,” said Felix.

“She’s not a genie,” said Dami.

“She could be,” said Felix. “Must be amazing to have her, right?”

“She’s cool,” said Hollow, slightly perturbed.

“Sharan,” said Penny, mulling the word over, “that’s the race from the Sahara Desert?”

“That’s the one,” said Hollow, “one of them lodges with us. You’ll like her. But anyway, let’s get you sorted.”

Penny, Hollow, Forrest and Riider said their goodbyes to the group before taking a carriage back to Closet Road for the last time. Riider helped Penny pack and the quartet had tea and biscuits before the spinead and vampire left for Nightmare. Penny fought back the tears. It was at that moment she realised, Forrest and Riider had been the parents she never knew she needed, and the care and attention they had given her, from rescuing her from the alley way after her attack, to feeding her and providing a roof for her head, was more than what she would have expected from anyone in her old life. She swallowed the lump in her throat as she waved at them, and continued to wave even when she could no longer see them.

“They’re cool people,” said Hollow.

“They are.”

Their carriage rolled through Scare and continued towards a quaint community of houses, all with three floors or more, and built in the gothic-style architecture she had come to associate with vampires since reading about them in her childhood novels. The houses were all black and grey, and black bats hung from the rims of the roofs. There was one house that was home to a series of flying foxes—massive bats that were as tall as Penny’s waist—that regarded both Penny and Hollow with interest. Hollow waved at the bats and they shivered in response.

“This is me,” said Hollow, helping her out the carriage before tipping their driver. “Mum’s at home today cos 11E’s all sleeping. This’ll be a pleasant surprise for her! She likes you, Penny.” 

When they entered the door, a loud bang sounded, confetti fell from the ceiling, and a short young woman with silver hair bundled into Hollow’s arms. She placed a party hat on his head and blew on a paper horn.

“Happy Birthday!” she said.

“Oh, it’s your birthday?” said Penny.

“No, no it isn’t,” said Hollow, removing the hat from his head. “Penny, this is Tick-Tock, our resident Sharan.”

They regarded each other with reservation. Tick-Tock the Sharan was petite, like a pixie, and she was barefoot. Her large brown eyes were overwhelming and soulful, and her dark skin appeared to glow with its own light. There was something strange and childish about her, especially with her long elf ears and messy silver bun, and yet, like Blythe Mason, the Sharan held a presence that was both fearful and impressive. It was obvious that despite her appearance, she could destroy everything in the house; the hallway seemed to crumble and diminish when she was in it.

“Pen-ny,” said Tick-Tock, “oh, Spine Girl! Penny!”

She blew her horn again, threw more confetti in the air, and place another party hat on Penny’s head instead. “Happy Birthday, Penny!”

Tick,” said Hollow. “No birthdays today. Where’s my mum?”

“Kitchen, I’ll go get her,” Tick-Tock half-waved at them, froze, and then floated backwards towards another room at the end of the corridor, eyes wide and glassy, hand still held in a waving pose. Her head was tilted to the side, as if in a trance.

“You’ll get used to her,” said Hollow, “she’s mad, but we love her.”

“Why is she with you guys?” said Penny.

“She wanted to move to London, she said,” said Hollow, “and she just happened on our house because she liked our pet bats… she likes unusual things, I guess. She literally turned up on our doorstep, said she wanted to move in and that was that because no one wants to say no to a Sharan. The next day all these crazy things from the desert started getting delivered to our house, so we thought ‘she’s here to stay’. That was two years ago. I dunno when she plans to leave, but she’s been fun.”   

“Penny?” Mistress Walker rushed to the hallway, her black eyes wide with confusion. After Hollow explained her initiation to Gardien, the vampire clutched her chest and rested on the wall, distressed.

“Why is Blythe Mason doing this?” she said, “All these bright young people, he’s just sending you lot all over the place to die!”

“But mum, we’re both strong,” said Hollow, smirking, “and Penny’s already roughed it out with Tarquin, she’ll be fine!”

“Look, I want both of you to look out for each other,” said Mistress Walker. Tick-Tock floated onto the scene, hovering behind her thoughtfully, “you’ll both be in a lot of danger, this isn’t a joke,” the vampire continued, “oh, why didn’t you just join your dad? You’d make a great writer, Hollow! Or an editor, or even a photographer.”

“Bor-ing!” said Hollow, making Tick-Tock giggle loudly, “just accommodate me, all right? I’m your new teaching assistant.”

Mistress Walker narrowed her eyes.

“We’ll see if Mistress Rookwood is happy about that!” she said, before turning to Tick-Tock, “Tick, why don’t you show Penny to her new room? She can stay with you for now whilst we clear out the two top floors… that’s where the bats like to sleep,” she added for Penny’s benefit.

“Yessir!” yelled Tick-Tock, “come with me, Penny!”

The Sharan raised her arms absently, and Penny’s luggage rose to the air and floated up the stairs behind her. Penny followed, watching the levitating Sharan with amazement. Upstairs, she found Tick-Tock’s room to be stiflingly hot. The ground was covered with at least two feet of warm sand; there were damask throws hanging delicately across bookshelves and furniture, large paper parasols dangling from the ceiling with invisible thread, and a series of golden orbs that illuminated the room for light. The shelf next to the squashy-looking, queen-sized bed was filled with glass jars containing indiscernible liquids, crystal balls and dried, blackened paraphernalia.

“The bed is big enough for the both of us!” said Tick-Tock before depositing the luggage on the floor. “Let me show you the rest of the house!”

She grabbed Penny’s hand and took her back to the ground floor. The Walker residence was just what she had expected of a vampire house: all the light came from candles and the interior design had been limited to scarlet and black; the kitchen was large and circular, but the cupboards only contained books and cauldrons. Locke Walker’s writing office was in the basement, a deep emerald room with black and white tiles on the floor, and the corridors were all narrow and rickety, but every wall was filled with family photos. The living room was spacious and had a fireplace that was as tall as Hollow. It was framed with black-and-white photos, but one was in colour: a slender woman with black hair cut into a bob read a book on a riverbank. Her eyes were wide and blue, and she wore a summer dress that dazzled in the sun.

“Saffire…Mistress Walker,” said Penny.

“Yep,” said Tick-Tock, “when she was a human… and there’s Locke in his heyday, see how miserable he looks?”

Penny was puzzled by the photograph. It was definitely the same vampire she had seen in Blythe’s house during her maid’s duties, and yet the photograph looked to have been taken in the early nineteen hundreds.

“Isn’t this an engraving?” she said.

“Yeah,” said Hollow, entering the room soundlessly to stand beside them. “My dad’s proper old… the Walkers were one of the first families to move into The Cave when it was made all those years ago. I come from a very old, very established vampire family. This is my dad when he was a teenager; born-vampires stop ageing properly at twenty, after that it’s just extremely slow, almost unnoticeable, but as you know, people can be turned into a vampire at any age.

“My dad never really wanted to marry, you know? Everyone tells me he was really popular, one of those eligible bachelors, but he just wasted time, too busy running around and being stupid I guess? Then twenty years ago he met my mum and fell in love. Bit her half to death and made her a vampire. Romantic, right?”

“Did she want to be a vampire?” said Penny.

“Apparently so… my mum was lovesick. Dad swears he never Charmed her, but we’ll never know.”

“Sounds shady,” said Penny.

“Indeed,” said Hollow.

“He’s telling the truth you know,” said Tick-Tock.

“Yeah? How d’you know?” said Hollow.

“I looked at his heart when we first met,” she said, “don’t tell him though, I don’t want him to think I’ve been spying on his feelings.”

“You did what?” said Hollow quizzically.

“I’m deaf! I can’t heeeeear you!” said Tick-Tock. She was in the air again, and started spinning rapidly out the door.

“Sharans are so spooky,” said Hollow, “anyway, as we don’t have anything for you to eat for dinner, feel free to order something in. Spooks Restaurant sells all the Outside food; a mage runs the place, he’s got good delivery sources up there.”

“Cool,” said Penny.

….

Mistress Rookwood had transformed her office into a Grecian paradise. The ground was marble again, and the pillars still framed the perimeter, but this time, the walls provided the view of an open expanse of clear turquoise ocean, with an orange sunset gracing the surface of the waters. She had added the tangy scent of black grapes, ocean spray and lavender to the scene. Forrest marvelled at the ability it must have taken to create the setting, and as he made his way to the desk, his eyes darted around the room, transfixed and fearful.

“Afternoon, Forrest,” said Mistress Rookwood, “would you like some red Gecko tea?”

“Red?” said Forrest. Red was the confession colour.

“Just a precaution,” said Mistress Walker, “I’m hoping for good news from you, but I also want the truth. I’ve been very patient and merciful to allow Gardien to investigate my school.”

Forrest groaned inwardly. This would be a difficult meeting.

“Well, about being honest,” he said, “I haven’t come alone, due to the nature of what I’m about to say—”

The office door swung open. Blythe entered wearing his house jeans and a loose-fitting jumper. He paid no attention to the enchantments of the room, instead his scarlet eyes were fixed upon the witch’s cold, black ones.

“Blythe?” said Mistress Rookwood, leaping to her feet. “Forrest, you never told me Blythe would be coming!”

Before Forrest could answer, the room turned dark grey; the Grecian pillars transformed into dead, barren trees, and the ocean became a murky waste land, shrouded in grey mist. Blythe ignored the change. He perched himself delicately on the second seat beside Forrest, and withdrew a cigar from his pocket, his eyes never leaving Mistress Rookwood’s.

“I know you hate me,” he said in his low, raspy voice, “I’m not entirely fond of you either.”

“You have no right to be here!” said Mistress Rookwood, “after all you’ve done, after unleashing Tarquinius onto the world!”

Forrest frowned. He turned to Blythe askance, looking for some explanation to the witch’s words.

“By that argument, you shouldn’t be here either,” said Blythe, “after all, you did nothing that day, after I came to you for help, and then continued to write letters to you asking for advice… you saw what kind of warlock he would turn out to be but like always, you buried your head in the sand, enjoying your school from this very office in which the whole issue began. I have not forgotten that day and I’m happy you haven’t either.”

Mistress Rookwood lowered herself in her chair. For the first time in all the years he had known her, Forrest saw a remorseful expression, and genuine sadness, in the witch’s eyes.

“What are you here for?” she asked Blythe.

“To tell you about a young warlock who’s at risk of following Tarquin’s footsteps,” he answered, “this time, you might be able to do something to prevent it.”

The pair exchanged a silent conversation. Mistress Rookwood did not hide her distress, and Forrest sympathised with her. As she had so proudly told him less than a month before, Greymalkin’s Academy was her pride and joy, the first and only headmistress to open its doors to any Creep who wanted to perfect their abilities and learn their history; the only institution in their community that enabled human-passing Creeps the chance to have jobs on the Outside by teaching them the human national curriculum. From the uniform design, to the location, every aspect and fibre of the Academy belonged to the illustrious and complex mind of Mistress Amethyst Rookwood—so dedicated she had been to the school that she never married, nor had children, but had instead taken on the role of adopted mother to thousands of Creeps since its conception in 1841. And because of her contribution to them, Mistress Rookwood and her Familiar, Tolkien, was a definitive legendary feature of The Cave, as important as Kit Mason, and as distinguishable as the purple orbs that lit the streets, the golden key that opened its entrance, and the muddy fells that framed the horizon. No one would be able to understand the devastation it would cause her to know that their most infamous warlock had been weaned and educated in her school, and that the poison that converted him, and that the warlock-hatred that permeated the streets of The Cave had not been dissolved at the Academy doorsteps. And now, a decade later, another generation of warlocks was being infected by the same thing.

“Tell me everything,” she said, and she poured a cup of tea for herself.

….

When Locke Walker saw Penny sitting around the kitchen table eating a chicken and mushroom pizza, with Tick-Tock floating on her back beside her, he dropped his briefcase and called for his wife, assuming something to be terribly wrong. After being debriefed by Saffire, he was jubilant, rummaging the cupboards for some juice or wine for Penny to have and some sweets for Tick-Tock, before giving up and setting a notepad and pen in front of the pair, asking for some photos and an exclusive.

“No can do, dad,” said Hollow before Penny could answer, “she’s got an exclusive with Monthly Spell.”

Monthly Spell?” said Locke, “Come on, Penny! No one will read that!”

“Maybe I’ll help their sales a bit?” she said, “but a promise is a promise.”

“In-te-gri-ty!” said Tick-Tock. With each syllable, she waved her arms like a cheerleader, omitting bright blue sparks from the tips of her fingers. The sparks fell on the table as glitter. Locke shook his head sadly and put the stationery back in his bag.

“Well if you change your mind, let me know,” he said.

“Of course.”

“We’ve been lucky, haven’t we, Saff?”said Locke, “first Tick-Tock comes to stay and now Penny the Spinead! Who next? Might be a Mason, or a Manheim.”

“Actually, Chloe and I are really good friends,” said Penny teasingly.

“You’re joking!”

“I’ve seen them, dad,” said Hollow, resting his arm on the older vampire’s shoulder, “Chloe even took Penny along to her First Hunt. They’re tight.”

“Penny you’re killing me here!” said Locke.

“Enough,” said Saffire, trying miserably to hide her smirk, “it’s getting late now and it is a school night. Both Hollow and Penny need to be up early tomorrow.”

After chiding Locke for a little while longer, Penny followed Tick-Tock to her sweltering room. The girls changed into their night clothes, Tick-Tock pulled a damask mask over her eyes and rolled over into bed. Penny followed her, setting up camp on the other end of the bed.

When she had observed the squashy, queen-sized bed earlier that day, she had assumed it to be soft and relaxing, but Penny found the mattress hard, knobbly and discomforting. She tried to roll over into different positions for what felt like several hours, all the while Tick-Tock snored loudly beside her. Penny punched the mattress in frustration, hoping to rid herself of some of the lumps, when it purred at her. The spinead froze, held her ear to the bed, and heard the unmistakable rattling breath of something not human. Bracing herself, she pulled the sheet away from the mattress, and a yellow eye rolled up to look at her. She screamed so loudly that Tick-Tock awoke from her sleep. The Sharan leapt into the air, face mask off, her eyes glowing a shimmering turquoise. Her arms were splayed outwards as she hovered cross-legged in the air, all the items in the room hovering with her, encased in a turquoise glow that matched her eyes.

“What’s happened, what’s happened?” she said to Penny, who was wheezing on the sandy floor.

“There’s a crocodile in your bed,” said Penny.

“Yes.”

Penny stared at her blankly.

“Actually,” said Tick-Tock, “there’s four... it is a big bed.”

“Tick-Tock, I can’t sleep on that,” said Penny.

“Oh no!” said Tick-Tock, “are they too soft?”

“No… they’re crocodiles.”

“Yes.”

“Right,” said Penny, “that’s fine, if it’s okay with you, I’ll prefer to sleep on a mattress. I’ll just ask Hollow for one.”

“Okay, Penny!” said Tick-Tock. Satisfied, she floated back into the bed and set the furniture back in its place.

Eventually, Hollow let her stay in his room, in which there was only one wooden closet and one shiny black coffin, but the vampire found a camping bed for her to use. The Walker residence was a startling contrast from Forrest and Riider’s house, but Penny had become accustomed to her constantly changing environment. She felt like a passenger on a carousel, delicately being taken from one location to another, whether a comforting cottage on Closet road, to any other bizarre setting, with always another surprise around the corner. At last, she succumbed to sleep, ready to continue her final fortnight of Gardien duties at Greymalkin’s Academy.

Chapter Twenty: Prom Night

Chapter Twenty: Prom Night

Chapter Eighteen: The First Hunt

Chapter Eighteen: The First Hunt