“Let’s take a break,” Chloe said, panting. “We’ve been walking for hours.”
“Agreed,” Myrah said. They were currently wandering through a forest filled with tall, thick trunked trees. Myrah and Chloe dropped onto the grass and the others soon followed. Raven found herself a niche in the roots of a particularly large tree and curled up, falling asleep instantly. Everything was quiet for a moment.
“Something’s missing,” Prodigy pointed out with a frown.
“Rod’s not talking, for once?” Tia suggested.
“Hey, I am too talking! I’m ALWAYS talking,” Rod protested.
“Except for when you’re not,” Prodigy replied.
Rod looked at her. “Even when I’m not talking aloud, that doesn’t mean I’m not talking. I’m just not talking to you.”
“Yeah, well, I’m never talking to you, so....”
“Don’t make me burn you,” Rod threatened. He thought for a moment. “On second thought, go ahead and make me. Maybe it’ll be fun.”
Reluctantly, Prodigy laughed along with the others, temporarily forgetting what, or rather who, was really lacking.
“Are they always like this?” Paul asked Myrah, who was sitting slightly removed from the group.
“Yep,” she replied with a smile. “Keeps life interesting.”
He was interrupted by a scream from Prodigy. “OW, Rod, what in Brian May’s name was that?”
“A spider,” he replied with a grin.
Prodigy glared. “It was not.”
Rod gave an exaggerated sigh. “FINE. It was really... a fish.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“Prodigiant, you baka,” he replied.
“You’re BOTH idiots,” Raven said from her tree, eyes still closed.
They continued to fight amongst themselves as Myrah asked Paul, “So what’s your story?”
“I don’t have one,” he replied darkly, drumming his fingers rhythmically on his knee.
“But how’d you get stuck in that gif pla-”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
Myrah frowned. “Okay.”
Before long, Prodigy, Rod, Chloe and Tia had collapsed on the grass in laughter over something or other. Jess looked on with a grin and Raven tried for a sleepy glare, but a smile crept in.
“Maybe we should just spend the night here,” Jess suggested. “It’s nearly nightfall.”
It was true; the sun cast an orange-ish glow through the forest as it sank down over the horizon.
“Any objections?” she asked.
There were none.
“We should build a fire,” Myrah suggested, standing and helping Prodigy to her feet.
“Yeah, I’ll get some wood,” Prodigy said, heading off. She didn’t have to go far; they were in a forest, after all. “How about the fire, though? Does anyone have matches?”
Rod obnoxiously doubled over in laughter. “M-matches? HAHAHA. You have ME. Why would you need matches?”
“Oh, right, I forgot, Rod fancies himself the sun because everything revolves around him,” Tia said with sly grin. “Apparently, if we get too close, we’ll just spontaneously combust.”
“I didn’t say tha-”
“Combust?” Raven asked, waking up. “I love explosions. Can I help?”
“Yeah, sure, just get close to Rod and test it out,” Jess said with a wink.
Raven woke up quickly then, launching herself at Jess with clenched fists. They tumbled to the ground, wrestling each other and sputtering insults. The others watched unconcerned. After a minute or two, Paul asked, “Should we separate them, or something?”
“What, you don’t find this entertaining?” Rod asked.
Rod sighed and rolled his eyes. “Fine.”
He grabbed Jess while Chloe pulled Raven away. The girls stood glaring at each other. Rod looked back and forth between them. “Okay, now apologize and shake hands and whatever.”
The glaring match continued. “Fine,” Jess said at last. “Sorry. After all, it was Tia who admitted Rod was hot, so maybe I should be shipping Tod.”
Raven found Tia’s horrified face so amusing that she couldn’t help but laugh. “Alright, alright. You’re forgiven. For now.”
They shook hands as Prodigy returned to the clearing with an armful of sticks.
“What’d I miss?” she asked.
“Nothing,” Raven said hurriedly. She didn’t want Prodigy to start making fun of her too, which she was certain would happen. “So, uh, fire?”
“Fire!” Rod agreed. Prodigy dumped the pile of sticks and Rod stepped over to them, tossing a bit of dry grass nesting in the center. With a snap of his fingers, a spark appeared, igniting the grass and traveling up the twigs. In only a few seconds, a small flame had appeared, slowly growing larger. Rod looked up. “Admit it, you’re impressed.”
Prodigy shrugged in submission. “I’m impressed.”
“That’s right!” he said with a cocky grin. “I’m the BEST!”
“Hey, I didn’t say that,” Prodigy protested.
“But you know it’s true.”
“Shhhhh!” Chloe hissed. “Do you hear something?”
Darkness had fallen, obscuring the forest in shadows. The group fell silent, but the only sound was the crackle of the fire.
“Over there,” Paul said, pointing. “I heard a branch snap.”
“No, it’s over here,” Tia whispered. “I heard something over here.”
“You’re wrong,” Jess said. “It’s coming from that way.”
Myrah gulped. “Guys... what if it’s coming from all around us?”
They were silent. Without thinking, they formed a circle with their backs to the fire, eyes searching the darkness.
Chloe squealed. “Um, guys?”
Everyone looked her way as a dark skinned girl stepped out of the shadows, eyes shrouded in darkness. She was dressed like a warrior, and carried a wicked knife with a bone handle. For a long moment, she stared around the group, and they stared back. Suddenly, she straightened, shifting the knife to her other hand. Chloe took a step back and bumped her heel on a log in the fire. Sparks flew into the air.
“Hi!” she said, offering her free hand. “I’m Ahlaam. Who are you?”
"Oh, um, hi," Myrah said, edging slightly closer to Ahlaam. "I'm Myrah. This is Tia, Prodigy, Paul, Chloe, Jess and Raven. Oh, and that's Rod," she said, pointing at the boy - sorry, fish - who was currently nursing his little flame back to its glory, occasionally shooting glares at Chloe and muttering fire-related threats in her direction.
"Feel free to stab him if he threatens to burn you," Raven added in, grinning because he'd threaten to burn her at one point or another.
Ahlaam frowned, taking a step towards them as she slid her knife into her hunting belt. "Burn me?"
"Yep." Tia nodded. "Don't worry, it happens all the time."
Ahlaam regarded the fire-fish with curious eyes. "How peculiar. I have known few fish that like fire."
For the first time since Ahlaam arrived, Rod's attention was diverted from his now RADical fire. "What was that?"
"I said that I have known few fish that-"
"OH MY GOSH YOU SAID FISH!" He was running around the fire, flailing his arms in a celebratory fashion.
"Indeed," said Ahlaam. "Wait, you are a fish, aren't you?" Sorrow prodded at her face. "Oh, I'm sorry, I was sure that you were a-"
"I AM! I AM A FISH!" He started to squeal like a fangirl, Raven thought, which she would know, of course, seeing as she was the pure definition of fangirl.
Although she was now smiling, Ahlaam looked very confused. A side-effect of Rod, presumably. "Ah, well, that's very..." She appeared to be flabbergasted, at a loss for words. Another side-effect of Rod.
"Very rad?" Jess suggested, grinning.
"Although I enjoy making people uncomfortable due to ships, we'll have to make Rad jokes later," Prodigy said, squinting at Ahlaam. Raven seemed to relax fractionally. "So, Ahlaam, who exactly are you? Where do you come from?"
"I'm Ahlaam of the Nightshade tribe. I was on my way to the Nightshades when I bumped into you, you see. I remained here for longer, because hunting is proving to be more difficult than anticipated. I found nothing, though. Where are you heading?"
"Um, where are we going?" Paul asked, stepping around Rod, who was on the floor and continued to flail, strangely resembling a fly.
"We're just walking, seeing what we wonder into, aren't we? I mean, we haven't really been given a specific destination. Or task, for that matter," answered Chloe.
"Ahlaam," Tia said, stepping over Rod, "why is hunting proving to be difficult?"
She sighed. "All the animals have gone."
"Indeed." Ahlaam looked troubled. "We aren't sure where they are, but they're most definitely gone. Anyway, seeing as you have no fixed destination, how about you come to my tribe with me?"
Prodigy nodded. "That might be a good idea, actually. We were supposed to be resting though, you see. Would you like to stay here with us for the night? We'll set off at first light." Her dark eyes flicked up to the sky, the orange light of evening being rapidly engulfed by the darkness of night.
No one seemed too sure, but by the time that anyone had mustered the courage to object, Ahlaam had already curled up against a tree, her short, quiet snores dancing through the silent air.
Raven was still awake when the light of morning came. It seamed to pounce on her unexpectedly, casting her gaze towards the horizon. It didn't feels as if she'd been awake all night, but it was easy enough to see that she in fact had been
"You alright?" Jess, the only other person who was awake, asked.
"Yeah... I just couldn't sleep, is all." She knew she'dsaid the wrong thing the moment that she saw the look on Jess's face.
"Why? Too busy thinking of Rod, were you?"
"Stop it." Raven's voice was firm, and Jess's smile dissipated. "I am not in love with Rod! I don't know why you keep throwing those accusations at me, but they're false. Maybe it's you who loves Rod."
"Nope, I don't. I don't believe in love. Therefore, if I don't believe in love, I can't fall into it. And when did I say love, anyway? Guilty conscience, is it?" She raised her eyebrows.
Raven smiled. "Shut up."
Jess laughed at that. "As if." She looked at Raven. "What is wrong, then?"
"Something feels... Wrong. I can't explain it, but it just doesn't feel-"
Screams interrupted her next words. A green fog grabbed at them, dousing reality for a few minutes. When they awoke, they found themselves in a cage, just them two, with very little light, as a blanket acted as a barricade through their vision.
Prodigy sighed in anger, rattling the bars that wrapped around her and Rod. "I'm going to kill whoever did this. Rod, can't you use your fire-god powers and get us out of here or something?"
Rod tutted. "Now, now, Prodigiant, respect my godly restrictions"
Even in the dim light, Rod could see the look of horror on her face. "Did you just tut at me?"
He tutted again. His face went blank.
Prodigy shook his arm, then resorted to slapping him. Nothing. "Rod?"
His voice emerged from his mouth, but it held a tone of unfamiliarity. "Welcome to the land of Inappropriate Fanfiction."