She stretched her arms wide the moment she went past the hotel doorway. It was a fairly cold morning, but the sun was clear and she could feel the warmth on her arms. Her hunger for a great breakfast might've been satisfied, but her thirst for adventure wasn't. Kendra began her morning stroll with hopes of stumbling upon an incident. Thin snow covered the greenery and pavement, and not so much of the population wore thick clothing. Silently she felt relieved, because earlier she'd been deciding whether or not she should put on her winter attire lest the weather turns cold without warning. A storm was expected tonight, so she had to get back before it hits the town.
After several streets, Kendra stopped by an ice-cream stand to get a snack. Whilst she waited for her ice-cream to be topped, the Dove behind his cart conversed with her. "You're new in town?"
She nodded in reply, watching as he placed one scoop on top of another.
"Be careful if you're thinking of touring this town alone, miss. There have been reports of Mobians and humans disappearing without a trace, even in broad daylight."
Intrigued by this phenomenon, Kendra leaned on the nearest streetlamp to know more about this situation. "They disappeared as in like vanish into thin air?"
"Yep," he answered as he exchanged a double scoop for three Rings. "The cops had found a couple of scratches on the sidewalk and walls. Other than that, there wasn't a clue that could point to its kidnapper. You should avoid that part of town like everyone else." He pointed down the street. "Have a nice day ahead of ya!"
Thanking him over her shoulder, Kendra continued her way past his cart. She had been searching for an adventure for the past few weeks, but today just could be her lucky day. Whatever those scratches were, she thought as she licked her ice cream, maybe I could identify them and find out who'd done it!
As the pedestrians around her thinned, so did her jog slowed to a walk. She looked back at the crossroad to find the pedestrians walking past the road opening without stepping a foot on it. Neither did they stop her when she'd taken this path. What the Dove had said was true. With a shrug, she resumed walking.
Something shuffled from within an alley.
By instinct, she pressed her back against the wall and held her breath. Obviously she isn't alone. Padding as softly as she could, Kendra stopped just inches away from the corner. She looked to the floor for any signs of a possible attacker, for the sun was just above the horizon.
To her disappointment, the sun couldn't shine any shadow of her unknown attackers out of the alley for her to see. She needed a distraction, and her eyes fell upon a broken brick that lay on the edge of the sidewalk. But that would mean she had to step into her attackers' sight in order to obtain it.
The brick would prove to be a useful weapon to brain these attackers, so Kendra gave her decision a half-hearted shrug and went for it. But before her hand could touch it, a figure pounced onto her, knocking her off her feet and the two rolled on top of another. Kendra was about to kick her attacker off when she recognized the shadow's attire and beak. "Skye?"
That stopped the Raven from her struggles. "Kendra?"
Both of them stared at each other in disbelief, unsure as to how they had gotten into this situation. Skye quickly released her and helped her up. "Kendra, is that really you?"
The Lynx greeted her friend in return with a hug. "Mhmm, it's me alright. What were you doing in there?"
"I was looking for clues that could point me and the Jade Brigade to the mysterious kidnapper, until I'd heard your footsteps," said Skye with a sigh. "We'd been staking out since three in the morning." She paused to yawn. "And still no sign of him."
"Wait, the rest of the Jade Brigade is here too?"
Skye nodded in reply. "Yep, but we're all sorta scattered around this part of town to maximize our search. You have anything important to do at the moment?"
Kendra shook her head. "Nope, so count me in!"
"Great!" she exclaimed as she patted her shoulder. "Now all we have to do is…"
She didn't get to finish her sentence when they heard another set of running footsteps coming from an alley just further down this street. This town was really silent. Skye held a finger to her beak, and gestured at Kendra to sneak towards the source.
A dark creature ran out of an alley, but leaned on a streetlamp to catch its breath. After they hidden behind an unused car, Skye spied through the blurry window. "Keep an eye on her, because other than you, she seems to be the first Mobian I've seen in this area." Kendra nodded then joined her watch.
The winged creature glanced around her, then looked to the sky and began yelling, "I've had enough with your games already! I'm sick of chasing you from building to building just to find that you've already left! Get out now!!"
"Talk about having anger issues against someone," Kendra commented, and Skye nodded to agree with her.
They watched as the creature moved onto the road, constantly glancing as she muttered, even though it was loud enough for the two to hear. "Once I find you, you would wish that I had caught you a few months back."
"Do you think that we should ask her about the disappearances? Kendra?"
The Lynx in question had her eyes wide open. The distinct features on her – mainly because of her two horns – gave Kendra a startling memory. "Skye," she began in a whisper, "don't you ever drop your dagger."
"Why?" she asked as she sneaked a peek around the headlights.
"She's-!" Kendra never managed to finish her sentence when they heard something hit the hood of their cover.
"Oh, I guess today is my lucky day," she snickered as Skye and Kendra quickly got into their stances. She seemed surprised when she noticed the Lynx. "It looks we have met again, victim," she said with her eyes narrowed in a calm anger.
"You know her?" Skye asked, but never took her eyes off this creature.
"Fought with her," Kendra corrected with something that resembled a snarl.
"Exactly, my victim," she chuckled. "I could've spilled your blood that day if that annoying Tamaskan hadn't interrupted. But no matter, for now I have two victims to torture instead."
"Run!" Kendra exclaimed before the creature could even finish her sentence, grabbing Skye's wrist. The Raven resisted, only to join her a second later after she'd seen the creature spread her wings for flight.
"How did you defeat her in the first place?" Skye gasped as they rounded into an alley.
"I didn't defeat her, Roslan did!" the Lynx replied as she glanced over her shoulder. "Listen, go and get the rest of the Jade Brigade here so that we can defeat her together. In the meantime, I'll try to distract her."
"Are you sure that's such a good idea?" She'd glanced back to find one of the creature's hand to be enshrouded in dark flames.
"Trust me, now go!" With that said, Skye took the right turn, but Kendra headed straight for the alley across the street. She snuck a look back, and then felt relieved when the creature didn't go for Skye. It's time for a bit of revenge, the Lynx decided.
As more and more boarded windows began to appear, she went deeper into this unused section of the town. That had meant to the Lynx that she was on the right track from civilisation. With the walls this close, the creature's wings wouldn't have enough space for her to keep her in the air. However, she soon regretted to have thought of that when she looked back.
The creature was gliding from wall-to-wall, using her left hand as an anchor before she made the next leap. She only needed to spread them a little to catch the air as she made another jump. And it took the Lynx one second to realize what her plan was.
In a desperate attempt, Kendra picked up a piece of a broken brick and slung it over her shoulder. She heard a crash, followed by a scuttle and an outrage cry after she'd rounded a corner.
Leaning on her knees behind another corner, she panted for air as quietly as she could. Ignoring her own breaths, her ears listened for any footsteps or wing beats as she picked up an unused pipe to be used as a weapon. It seemed to be the longest yet most solid object around that wouldn't seem to break on its first hit.
"Ooh victim! Where are you!"
The casual voice startled Kendra as she got into her position, readying her pipe so that it would hit the creature at its knee-level. It seemed like an appropriate revenge for breaking her leg months ago.
"You know that Roslan wouldn't be here to assist you, right? I would suggest that you start hiding victim, cause once I find you, I'll tear your arm out for damaging my wing!!"
Kendra grinned maliciously as the shadow grew.
"And that will just be the beginning of your torture, my victim. But don't worry, I'll slowly sever your limbs— Yeouch!!"
Dropping her lead pipe, Kendra's feet flew as the creature stooped over to clutch her wounded knee. She shot a glare at the fleeing Lynx through her tears, only to catch her tail disappearing around the corner.
The only moment Kendra would ever stop was when she recognized the turned over vehicle. This was the road where she and Skye had split up. Leaning her back against the wall, she relieved a big sigh and tried to steady her breathing. She had done what had to be done, and now that creature – Cassandra was her name, she remembered – would have trouble searching for her with a wounded wing and knee.
Her ears were perked when something shuffled in an alley closest her. It wasn't the one where she'd left Cassandra to eat her dust. Regretting to have dropped the lead pipe, Kendra picked up a glass bottle instead and neared the opening.
A head popped out of the opening all of a sudden. She reacted instantaneously, but smashed into its neck. That attack didn't stop the gruesome creature from noticing its new prey as it slowly turned its pale muzzle towards her.
A wave of nausea hit her as soon as she'd smelled the creature's foul odour. Whilst she had been backtracking from the monster, she failed to notice a brick until she'd tripped over it.
The moment she'd hit the floor, the monster was onto her in an instant, dragging her towards the alley. Its fingers weren't tight around her ankle, but it was so cold that she could feel her muscles go numb. Since she had no plan to have a friendly chat with this thing, Kendra kicked the skeletal hand several times with her free boot, but with no avail despite its frail appearance.
Without warning, the thing stopped dead in its tracks. Its tight grip on her loosened, giving her the chance to kick herself free. She kept her distance from it and remained wary of its next move, only to watch it collapse onto the floor, revealing a Tigress to be shining her claws with a handkerchief.
"So how was your travelling?" she asked calmly as she went around the body.
"Oh, am I glad to see you!" she said as the rest of the Jade Brigade caught up with her from an alley further down this street. Kendra received a hug from Tala as Kira patted her shoulder, followed by Skye who gave her a thumbs-up. "Great to see you again, Kendra," greeted the leader as she shook hands with the Lynx.
"Eeeww, that thing is gross." All heads were turned to regard Rilla who peered at the corpse ten paces away. Tala pulled the dagger from between its eyes, used a disposable cloth to wipe off the weird blue liquid before handing it back to Jade.
"What do you girls think it is?" asked Kira as the Tigress sheathed her dagger.
Jade pinched her nose to block the smell as she neared it, examining its features with only her eyes. Like Kira, she was reluctant to lay a hand on this thing. "Well, whatever this is, it certainly isn't alive now. Come on girls, we have to continue our search for the mysterious kidnapper."
All of them nodded in agreement as she stood up. But before they could split up and head their own ways, something gooey exploded behind them. Turning around, Rilla had nearly lost her breakfast while the rest of the group flinched in disgust.
Where the head was before was now the centre of a mess of flesh and brains, and the same liquid left a mild splatter around it. All of them pinched their noses – Skye had to block hers – when the horrible smell reached them.
"Let's get out of here fast before Rilla really throws…" Kira didn't finish her sentence when an ululating shriek silenced her. Without her command, Jade and her friends made a circle around Rilla to protect her from harm. "This isn't going to be good," Skye voiced her thoughts, and that had earned her a stare from the Tigress to shut up. No one moved an inch as they scanned their surroundings for any signs of movement. Something hunched bolted across the street, but the girls didn't get a good look of it before it disappeared into another alley.
"They know we're here," Kendra whispered as the circle tightened.
Aside from the old piece of newspaper being blown by the breeze, the girls heard no other sound. Their hands never left their daggers, except for Kendra, who relied on her knuckles, and Rilla, who wasn't much of a fighter at all.
Something gray burst out of the alley, making a desperate grab for Tala. Luckily for the Echidna, she had enough room to leap back from its claws. Her dagger came free, and she managed to take three of its claws out in a swipe.
Skye was the next to break her formation as she slid past the Frost Ghoul to cut across its leg. Despite the wound, the creature appeared to feel no pain and turned to attack the Raven instead. The Ghoul suddenly stopped, then fell face-first onto the ground with a dagger sticking out of the back of its neck. Tala's smug grin said it all as she retrieved her dagger.
Their victory was short-lived when another Ghoul came into their view, followed by another, and another, and another, and the girls soon realize that there was more than they could handle. Sensing the tipping balance of this fight, Jade grabbed Rilla's wrist and called out to the rest, "Run!!"
A pair of Ghouls tried to stop their escape, but they received a dagger each to their eye, causing them to stagger momentarily. Kendra gave the dagger a boost, pushing it deeper into its eye. "Come on, we can't stay around to get them back!" she told them as she pulled Kira with her. Skye, however, had made a swift retrieval, pulling her dagger out of the eye then twirled around the Ghoul, leaving a long cut around its neck.
The group then made a turn into an alley, followed by a group of fifteen or more Frost Ghouls on their tails. "Don't split up, alright?" gasped Jade as they made rounded another corner, running past and leaping over the contents of a knocked-over bin.
Kendra scooped up a piece of sizable brick then tossed it over her shoulder. She could hear a sickening crunch of a Ghoul meeting an oncoming brick, but there weren't enough bricks to knock all of them down.
"This way!" Jade cried from the lead, making a turn into another alley. They made another turn after this one, but they'd reached a dead end!
"What do we do now? There's only a window for us to climb through one at a time!"
"Kira, don't panic. We'll hold them off while you girls climb through, alright?"
"Hold it, let me break the boards first," Kendra suggested then looked at the Tigress for an approval. She nodded, and the Lynx stepped onto a box and pushed the board inwards. "Alright Rilla, be careful once you're inside. Who knows what could be lying around in there."
But she was already gone before the Lynx could finish. Kira was the next to go in, and then followed by Tala. "Wonder what's taking them so long?" whispered Kendra to Jade.
"Beats me, they might be quarrelling right now," she giggled at the face of danger. When the two looked back, Skye was already in, and she beckoned the two to come. With a smile, Kendra allowed Jade to go in first. Just as the Tigress was halfway in, the Lynx could hear the mob coming closer and closer. Apparently, Jade heard it too. She gestured at her to hurry. "Come on, get in quick!"
Kendra was onto the box in an instant, but it gave way after she'd gotten one leg onto the window ledge. She'd nearly lost her balance if it weren't for a pair of hands grabbing each arm. Kendra thanked Skye and Jade with a smile as they pulled her in.
They ducked below the window's height to avoid being seen by the mob behind the wall. "Do you think they could smell us?" whispered Rilla from the doorway, and from the condition of this room, it was long abandoned.
"Not sure, but let's keep moving so that they won't…"
Tala's sentence never got to finish when they heard a distant shattering of a glass. The group outside stumbled from the open window, and Kira sighed in relief. "Phew, well that's a relief. Who came up with the brilliant idea of luring them away?"
No one admitted to done so. All of them exchanged confused glances, wondering who had lured the Frost Ghouls away. Jade made her mind with a shrug. "Well, whoever did that, they seem to know more about these monsters than we do. Come on girls, let's get out of here before they could trap us in here."
They all formed a line with Jade in the front and Tala at the back. Carefully avoiding any objects that could reveal their location, they sneaked towards the front door. It was slightly ajar, and Skye peeked through it.
"The coast is clear!" she whispered to the group, and then opened the door.
Keeping watch as they left the shadows of the building, Tala broke off from the group to check an alley across the street. Once she'd given them the thumbs-up, they hurried across the street and went down the alley. They took a break from all this running behind several broken boxes that was enough to hide all six of them.
"How do we," Kira gasped, "stop them?"
"I'm not sure," panted Rilla, "they aren't machines, and they don't seem to die, even with a dagger sticking out of their throats. I don't think they could even feel pain!"
"Girls," Kendra said to get their attention. "I'm not sure if this helps or not, but their hands were cold when one of them grabbed me. Maybe we could burn them."
"Bad idea, missies," said a voice that didn't belong to any of them.
It caught them all off-guard, and they began to look around for its owner.
"Frost Ghouls can be killed with fire, yes, but that doesn't stop them from chasing you. You wouldn't want your friends to be burnt alive if one of them accidentally falls and gets touched by a moving torch now, do you?"
"Where are you? Show yourself!" Jade demanded with her claws ready.
A Dog stepped into their sight from behind a pile of boxes. The Tigress was onto him in an instant as she demanded an answer. "Who are you, and how long have you been following us?"
He waved his hands to keep her from getting too close to him. "Calm down miss. I had been hiding behind those crates until I'd heard your footsteps, followed by your voices of course."
He maybe in a different attire, he was certainly recognizable from his exaggerated way of speaking. "Roslan, is that you?" she said for him just as he was about to introduce himself. Kendra earned several questioning glances from her friends.
"Ah, so you do remember my name." With a smug grin, he took a step back and bowed at them. "Weapon Specialist at your service, ladies."
Jade crossed her arms over her chest. The rest of the Jade Brigade knew that she was as suspicious as they are. "So, tell us about these 'Frost Ghouls'. You seem to know more than we do."
He snickered as he leaned against a wall. "Oh, they're just bodies of rotten flesh and bones that have came back to life on their own. Frost Ghouls, however, they're special because they'd freeze to death, and are now resistant to cold attacks."
"Wait, they're like zombies?" Rilla exclaimed.
He gestured at her correct answer. "Yep, they're just like zombies."
"So does that mean we can kill them again?" Tala asked.
He shook his head. "Not every zombie dies from receiving too much damage, you know? They will only die if their head is gone." He made a gun gesture to his head, cocking his hand skywards after he'd 'fired' it.
"Oh, so that explains why they didn't die even after I'd run my knife around their neck," Skye said. And when everyone looked at in a guilty silence, she shrugged. "What? I didn't cut through its neck bone."
Jade faced Roslan again. "You need an extra knife? Don't worry about me, I have claws."
He waved his hand at the offer. "No need, I have weapons of my own. Oh right, have any of you seen a Jersey Devil with a pair of red and amber eyes around here?"
Kendra raised her hand. "I did, and I'd damaged her wing and knee."
She was surprised, however, when he slapped his hand across his eyes with an exasperated murmur. "Can't that Devil stop hurting herself in horrible situations such as this? Come on, we need to find her before we take a trip to the Nine Hells."
"Uhh, are you alright Roslan? Don't you remember, she's trying to kill you!"
"Trying to defeat me, to be exact," he corrected as he took something out. "But enough chit-chat, let's go before… Oh, there she is."
Confused by his smirk, they followed his eyes to find a creature limping towards them with the support of the wall. "About time I'd found you, victim! Now I'm going to have to twist and snap your neck like a toothpick!"
"Now now Cassandra, now's not the time to kill your allies. Oh, and your shouting is attracting too much attention."
A shriek came from within the group, and the girls soon found Rilla to be resisting a Ghoul's capture. "Heeelllp!" she cried as the arms pulled her into an opening, which had been hidden behind a plank all the time.
A red blade came down on the arms, severing its hands off and nearly Rilla's tail. Easing the light bruises on her arms, the Raccoon thanked him and went into the centre of the group.
"Where did you get that thing from? May I borrow one?"
In reply, Roslan drew out another sword from his pouch and held it downwards to Skye. "Be careful not to freeze your friends with this one," he added as he took the front.
"Cassandra, now's the perfect time for you to show these girls that despite your wounds, you can still rip and tear these Frost Ghouls as if they were wet tissue paper. Oh, and don't forget to keep their heads as far as you can from you. You don't want to know what the blue slime can do to you."
Roslan took in a sharp breath and winced as soon as an ice pack touched his swollen wrist. "You didn't tell me that they were strong enough to sprain your hand!" the Lynx exclaimed as she did the bandages to keep his hand from moving.
He gave her a one-shoulder shrug as he put on a sling. "Hey, why do you think I had to dance around their arms and hacked their legs instead? At least this one had caught my wrist, not my elbow…" He shuddered before he could even continue, then got up and went for the balcony. In need of answers, she followed him.
After the little skirmish, they returned to their hotel and made a surprising discovery that their rooms were on the same floor. With Jade in the lead, they all gathered in her suite room to tend their wounds.
Kendra looked at the Jade Brigade who was doing the same to their members. Jade was wrapping a strip of linen around Kira's arm, while Skye cleaned Rilla's leg wound before Tala bandaged it. Luckily for them, the wounds weren't bad enough to cause an infection, as said by Dr. Roslan after he'd passed them all a wineglass of a mysterious yellow liquid each. It tasted surprisingly sweet, despite its sickly appearance. He hadn't told them of the drink's purpose yet.
Kendra took her seat in a relaxer, taking care not land her head too hard after a cold hand had slapped the back of it. "So Roslan, what are you doing here?"
He glanced at her, but in that short moment, she caught a baffled look from the way he curls his lips. "Downing the reported Frost Ghoul population in this town before another zombie-apocalypse could happen."
From the way he hunched and spoke, Kendra knew that he wasn't joking. Instead, she decided to tap into another topic. "Why does Cassandra want to defeat you so badly?"
"Long story short, she claims that I am her ultimate test." He took in a deep breath and shook his head. "Whoever had told her that, I have no idea."
"And you had reluctantly agreed to become her tutor?"
"Yep." He said it as if it was nothing, snapping his fingers then turning around to bask in the sun with his eyes shut. "When we first met, she didn't even know how to speak like a proper villain, so I had to 'teach' her the proper steps before she could make a fool of herself. Think about it, this planet isn't as round as everyone thinks."
Left with a confusing message that doesn't even make sense, the Tamaskan went inside with the doors shut behind him. Kendra took a while to think about it, but soon shrugged in defeat. I guess a cup of lemonade would do, she thought as she neared the glass doors, which had its curtains drawn. She didn't bother to wonder why.
When she came in, the whole room was dark. "Guys, this isn't funny!" she called out as she went towards the refrigerator by memory. Without warning, the lights flashed on, temporarily blinding Kendra.
After her eyes had adjusted to the light, she couldn't believe the scene before her. With a party hat on their heads each, the rest of the Jade Brigade, including Roslan, cheered for her while Skye and Jade carried a cake that bore seventeen candles. "Happy Birthday Kendra!"
"How… how did you…?" Kendra stuttered as she tried to find her words. This scene was magnificent beyond her description, even though the bandages and small bruises on her friends all made this party look, weird.
"Come on, don't tell me that you'd actually forgotten about your birthday, huh?" Skye teased as they set the cake down onto the table. She then went over to the Lynx and placed a party hat on her as well, but this one had the words 'Birthday Girl' written on it.
"Well, what are you waiting for? Make a wish then blow the candles~!" Rilla cheered.
"And make sure that you don't accidentally blow the flames off the candlewick and set this whole room on fire!"
An awkward silence filled the room as they all stared at the only one grinning.