A raindrop dropped off the hood of my kagoul and dripped down my nose for what seemed like the hundredth time tonight, I brushed it away, scanning the horizon, difficult to do when the fine mizzle kept covering my glasses with a mist of water. It had started raining that morning and kept going all day, luckily for us the tracks we'd navigated in the old Land Rover weren't too bad and we'd reached the hillside in good time. As there hadn't been enough room in the vehicle, Sinead, Lily and EH had stayed behind at the campsite to co-ordinate everything. I glanced at my wrist to see if there was any updates. Nothing so far. The nervous tension and excitement I'd felt all day was definitely on the wane. We'd been stuck here for two hours now, boredom had set in. Ahlaam and Prez were obviously used to this sort of operation and were busy engrossed in their own worlds. Ahlaam was reading a book, the dim light of her e-reader reflecting up into her face. Prez, being Prez, was once again carving away at a lump of wood. She seemed to have boundless nervous energy that she transferred to her carving. This time it wasn't a spear she was turning her attention to, but what appeared to be a figure. In spite of the fact that she was using such a large knife, the intricate carving betrayed her talents. I watched her handle the knife with a skill I would never have thought possible from such a large weapon. She caught me watching her and looked up.
'I'm making a soldier for my little brother', she said and paused before continuing as if unsure whether to go on, 'I miss him so much and I know he misses me.'
I thought I detected a tear forming in the corner of her eye as she spoke lovingly about her young sibling, but in this dampness I may have been mistaken. Prez was hard on the outside, but I knew from 'speaking' to her online, she was soft and gooey in the centre.
At that moment Prez suddenly froze and her eyes looked over my shoulder.
'They're on their way' she said, hopping down off the bonnet of the Land Rover. She placed the knife back in its sheath. Straightening herself up, she pointed towards the horizon. I could just make out a distant light twinkling, barely visible. I heard the door of the vehicle close and felt, rather than saw Ahlaam appear at my side.
'They're here,' she said pulling the hood of her coat over her hijab. I felt my pulse rate increase as I watched the single light evolve into two headlights. My stomach, already in knots, was threatening to give way. it was exciting, but also I was feeling really apprehensive.
I thought back to this morning when Megites had come into the camp with instructions about the mission. The excitement that had greeted her arrival was palatable among the Movellians. Prez and Ahlaam visibly cheered up at her arrival, as it spelt action. It was obvious from last night that they had been inactive for quite a while. She went through all the plans for tonight, where we were to meet the consignment of books and where we had to drop them off.
Now as I stood in the rain watching the lights getting larger, I was still apprehensive. The knot was tightening in stomach and I felt the overwhelming need for the loo. Ahlaam switched on the lights of the Land Rover in order that the approaching vehicle could see our position just at the moment the rain increased in ferocity, the rain bouncing into the moss of the moorland, stair rods of rain visible in the thin light of the vehicle.
The vehicle came to a halt just in front of us. It was difficult to make out who was in it as the glare of its headlights blinding us. The wheezing diesel engine spluttered and died as the headlights switched off. A door creaked and a huge dark figure hauled himself out of the driving seat. As he came into the light I was struck by his huge black bushy beard. Hagrid was my first thought. He scooped Prez up in his huge arms.
'You OK, Prezinator' he drawled in a thick Scottish accent, still got that puny knife?'
'Ahlaam, my dear. How are you?' he said putting Prez down, 'No EH or Lily?'
'I'm fine Rubeus,' Ahlaam replied, 'no room for everyone today. This is Squonk'
'Ah, Squonk?' he enquired holding out one of his huge meaty hands. This guy was seriously huge. He towered over me. I'm sure that if it was sunlight he could make a serious attempt at an eclipse all on his own. I shook his hand.
'It's getting harder to get over the border now. The guards are patrolling more than ever. I've no books this time,' he said slowly, 'brought you someone who needs to get to Newcastle and one young thing who's going to your camp.'
It was then I noticed two figures stood in the dark at Rubeus's side. Even in the dull light and the mist covering my glasses, I didn't need to be introduced to the taller of the two. Her whole demeanour spelt out authority and confidence. This was one of the most famous people in the world, her face instantly recognisable as the author JK Rowling.
'Hi, call me Joanne' she said, flashing a huge smile and holding out her hand to Ahlaam, 'glad to meet you. I think it's amazing what you young people are doing, you are the future and you’re grasping it in both hands'.
As the others flocked around the author, my eyes were drawn to the other figure. I edged closer. She was smaller, wearing a black hoodie, the hood up over her head covered most of her face. From the side I noticed a few strands of blonde hair falling out of the folds, an obviously homemade scarf was draped around her neck giving a splash of colour. On her back was a black bag and she held a skateboard in one hand. A pair of eyes studied me from the dark.
'What you looking at?' came out of the girls lips in a faint American drawl.
I cocked my head to the side and looked at her. Could this be who I thought it was. Although I'd never seen her before, I knew that this was Zee, otherwise known as dramaticllama, one of my e-sisters. She was one of the first friends I'd made on the site and despite the time differences involved, one of my favourite's to chat to. No matter how I felt beforehand I always came away with a smile on my face, I always felt weird calling her a sister though, it was difficult to explain what it was, what tied us together, and wasn’t something I wanted ever to dwell on too long.
'Zee' I screamed. This time I couldn't help myself, I flung my arms around her hugging her tightly and then felt a sharp pain in the foot, then sensed arms around me as Zee hugged me back We held the pose for a while, the drizzle seemed to melt away.
'Jeez, do you two need a room' Prez laughed.
We pulled apart, both quite sheepish. She picked up the skateboard which had bashed my foot.
'Does Sinead know about you two?' Ahlaam said jokingly.
'Is Sinead here?' Zee said, 'Aww so looking forward to meeting her.'
I was just about to answer when the peace was shattered.
Bright lights suddenly illuminated our location catching us in the spotlight. We jumped moving together in a close huddle, as if trying to hide from the glare.
'Freeze and stand still, this is the England Border Agency and we require you to submit for inspection.' a muffled voice screeched, amplified badly, through some sort of speaker.
Why would we not freeze I wondered. Then I saw Ahlaam run towards the Land Rover. I looked around to see the figure of Prez and Rubeus stood almost back to back, Prez had once again un-sheaved the knife whilst Rubeus stood with a huge claymore in his hands. After feeling like I was rooted to the spot I felt the urge to run. I felt, rather than saw something wiz past my head and shatter the windscreen of Rubeus’s vehicle. Grabbing Zee by the hand I pulled her towards the Land Rover. She stumbled on the uneven ground and stumbled dropping her skateboard in the process. I half dragged her across the wet ground towards the cab. This time I heard the bullets as they hit the metal of the side of the Land Rover.
Here we were on the moors of England, or maybe Scotland, being fired at by the English Border Control. Totally unbelievable being attacked by people who were supposed to be protecting us, keeping us safe. I pushed Zee into the cab and sat behind the wheel. Looking at the scene through the window was like watching a computer game. I saw Rubeus fell three soldiers who advanced towards him with a couple of swings with the claymore. I heard a scream from Prez as one of the advancing figures grabbed hold of her. I started to move but Ahlaam put her hand out to stop me. What I thought I could do against these armed forces, I didn’t know. I saw a couple of them grab JK. Reubus for a minute was caught in two minds as if what to do, you could see the indecision in his movement, the soldiers saw it too and moved in on him.
He sprang to life though felling the man holding Prez with a swipe of his claymore. The guard dropped faster than a bank’s share prices in the crash. Rubeus shoved Prez roughly towards the Land Rover, she turned back before he shouted her to go. Prez hesitated, Ahlaam yelled and Prez ran towards the Rover. It was crowded with four of us in the cab. Instinctively I pressed the button to start the engine, it coughed into life then died. Ahlaam was shouting at me. I looked up and saw the soldiers approaching us with their guns raised. I froze in terror, my mind seeming unable to function. A huge shape appeared behind them and the soldiers collapsed, slain by Rubeus. He shouted and frantically waved us to leave.
The engine caught this time and I shoved it in gear, metal grinding on metal as the old gearbox strained under stress. Then we saw Rubeus, scarlet red blood suddenly spouted from a growing hole in the front of his head. He stood still for a moment, slightly swaying like an giant oak tree in a light breeze, an empty look upon his face, then slowly he started to fall, slowly at first then the momentum caught and he collapsed violently onto the wet heather strewn moor. Prez screamed out at him and tried to open the door. In sheer terror I accelerated the Land Rover down the dirt track as fast as I could. The back window of the cab shattered as a bullet found its mark. Dull thuds could be felt hitting the bodywork. I dipped my head as low as I could and concentrated on the track ahead. The rain was now coming down heavily and the vehicle splashed through deep puddles which occasionally causing the wheels to lose their grip.
On reaching the main road, I turned left and headed south, my foot hard down on the accelerator trying to get ever last bit of power out of the antique engine. Ahlaam looked back on the scene behind us. It appeared that no-one was following us. The only sound that could be heard for the next few miles was the roar of the old engine as it powered the vehicle back to the site I looked from face to face and saw the same white faced, startled pensive expression on their faces, one I felt was probably mirrored in my own..
‘I’ll get those bastards for what they’ve done to Rubeus’, Prez spat out, eventually breaking the silence. The tone of her voice was ominous. We’d all seen our first death tonight and tragically grown up in the process. From now on we weren't just playing games, it had become not just a way of passing on knowledge, but I knew now I could never leave the battle until we were victorious or dead in the process.