Part 1: Cressida’s story
‘Nothing can get in the window when I’ve done the spell to shut it,’ said Ferocity, trying to calm her pet boggart, Guggalugs, before getting into bed.
Guggalugs was not convinced. He was about the size of your hand, and he waddled up and down the bedclothes, clouds of purple smoke coming out of his ears, which is what happens when boggarts get anxious. Ferocity’s father had gone out hunting, so it was just Guggalugs and Ferocity, all alone in Seeker’s Cottage, surrounded by the tangle of the forest.
‘The Tappers are coming out of hibernation,’ whispered Guggalugs. ‘…and Tappers are Child-snatchers…’
Ferocity picked Guggalugs up. ‘I spelled that window so tight, that not even a dust-sprite could wriggle their way in,’ said Ferocity firmly. Ferocity was not the worrying type and she was really quite an accomplished spell-maker for an 11-year-old. And boggarts change their minds easily, so looking into her bright hypnotic eyes calmed the little creature, and the smoke coming out of his ears turned from the purple of anxiety to a much more jolly yellow.
‘You’re right!’ squealed Guggalugs trustingly, and he fell instantly asleep, tipping forward and snoring loudly into the bedclothes. Ferocity made him comfy, before falling asleep herself.
But much later, the smoke drifting out of Guggalugs’s sleeping ears turned from yellow to midnight black. The ears of the boggart had heard something, although the boggart slept on.
The sound was coming from the window. ‘Tap,’ went the sound. ‘Tap… tap… TAP…’
Part 2: by First News reader, George Kauders
The smoke coming from Guggalugs’s ears was now pitch black, and was starting to choke Ferocity, who woke with a start. ‘Guggalugs, what was that?’ asked Ferocity.
‘Tappers!’ hissed Guggalugs, nervously.
Click! The window-locking spell broke, and a gnarled hand reached through the door, and grabbed Ferocity’s wrist tightly.
‘GUGGALUGS, HELP ME!!!’ screamed Ferocity.
‘I’m a boggart, I can’t exactly pull you to safety,’ replied Guggalugs.
‘Come with me, little child,’ whispered a voice.
Ferocity grabbed onto Guggalugs’s ankle as she was pulled through the window.
‘AARGH!’ screamed Guggalugs, as he too was pulled through. Once they were outside, they were bundled into a sack.
‘The boss will pay a pretty penny for you two,’ hissed the voice…
And then they were off . First at a jog, then at a sprint, and then finally at a speed so fast it would have beaten a jet plane in a race.
After what seemed like an hour, but what must have been only ten minutes, their sack was opened, only to see a black, hooded figure, whose face was shrouded in black mist.
‘I am a hunting Tapper, and us hunting Tappers hunt and track down kids.’
‘But why would you take kids? We’re kind!’
‘KIND!? PAH! EONS AGO, YOUR ANCESTORS WALKED UPON OUR LAND, AND TREATED IT LIKE A DUMP. ALL HUMANS WERE BANISHED FROM OUR LAND, UNTIL YEARS LATER, ONE OF YOU CAME BACK, AND AS A PUNISHMENT, EVER SINCE, WE HAVE BEEN TAKING CHILDREN!’
Part 3: by First News reader, Gabriel Monforte-Escudero
‘Okay, you’ve got a good reason to be kidnapping people,’ Ferocity admitted with reluctance. She had seen the way people treated the land they lived on and, she had to admit, it was a complete dump.
‘But why children? And why are you taking Guggalugs? He’s a boggart, for goodness’ sake! Boggarts didn’t do anything wrong, did they?’
‘Normally, we wouldn’t take this disgusting little creature,’ the Tapper replied with distaste in his voice (or maybe that was just his default voice).
‘But he chose to side with humans.’ He spat the last word out as though it tasted bad (disgust was definitely his default voice). ‘As for the children, our research on humans reveals that the worst pain a human can feel is to have their child taken from them. And so, we do just that in order to force people to feel the pain they have inflicted on this land. Now be quiet, before I shut you up myself!’
But Ferocity had never been one to listen to orders and she was not about to start now. As they set off to who-knows-where, Ferocity (now back in the bag) stuffed Guggalugs’s ears with wax and then gently, gently, began to
open the bag. Once the bag was wide enough, she removed the wax from Guggalugs’s ears and all the steam that had been trapped there came out in one big, multi-coloured rush.
Ferocity jumped out of the bag with Guggalugs, just as she realised she had no idea where they were…
Part 4: by First News reader, Mariella Dye Wain
Ferocity ran and ran. The sky was dark but glittered with stars, and the moon illuminated paths in the tangle of trees. Guggalugs clung to Ferocity’s shoulder as they hurtled through the forest, purple smoke billowing from his ears.
‘Ferocity!’ he hissed. ‘It’s the dead of night. There are shadows here!’ Guggalugs shivered, digging his claws deeper into Ferocity’s jacket.
‘We… can’t go… back,’ she panted. ‘Got to… get away from… the Tappers.’
The smoke from Guggalugs’s ears turned a lighter purple. Ferocity was right: the Tapper would have escaped the smoke by now and could be following them. Eventually, she found a place to rest and lay down on the crumpled leaves, covering herself with her jacket.
‘You be lookout,’ Ferocity murmured sleepily. ‘I’m having a nap.’
Plumes of phosphorous blue and purple smoke whooshed from Guggalugs’s ears: ‘What if a shadow or a bog creature comes? What if the Tapper comes back?’
‘Fine, I’ll be lookout,’ said Ferocity. Guggalugs squeaked and nestled into the leaves, yellow smoke drifting from his ears. Moments later, Ferocity was asleep too, curled up under her jacket, Guggalugs snuggling into her shirt. Had she stayed awake a little longer, she would have seen a dark shape emerge from the bushes.
Its pitch black, wispy fur curled in the air like mist. It had one ripped ear and its smoky tail dragged on the forest floor. Its yellow eyes gleamed and its razor claws made no sound as it crept stealthily towards them.
Part 5: by First News reader, Ellie Mitchell
With barely a whisper, the creature of darkness stole towards the sleeping pair. The moon was half, a silver slice amid a bed of clouds: illuminated, the beast wormed closer. But deep inside the tousled undergrowth someone was watching. Someone else was creeping towards them, closer and closer, observing the being, which was arched over Ferocity. He had to help.
Clearing the concealing shrubbery, he pounced on Ferocity and Guggalugs, snatching them away just in time. Confused, the brute bellowed, and lumbered around, harsh eyes scanning the vicinity. Thwarted, the creature of the night turned and departed.
Meanwhile, three pairs of watchful eyes were surveying the scene from the bough of a nearby tree.
‘What,’ Ferocity gaped, ‘was THAT?’
‘A creature of the night. A Prowler, to give it its proper name,’ replied the stranger, matter-of-factly.
‘A wha… oh, never mind. More to the point, who are you?’ Ferocity detached Guggalugs from her jacket. He was surprisingly heavy.
‘My name is Trick,’ the boy stated. ‘I know this forest like the back of my hand. There are too many Tappers and beasts around to always take the same route. I couldn’t let the Prowler get you. It gives unhealable cuts with those talons, you know.’
‘Right, erm, of course they do.’ Ferocity observed Trick. His hair was pale blonde, with streaks so black they could be part of the diamond-strewn sky, and his eyes were a startlingly deep emerald colour.
She suddenly grinned at him.
‘Where do we go now?’
Part 6: by First News reader, Alani Clay
‘Where do we go now?’ asked Ferocity, with a grin on her face.
‘To Perum Hollow, of course!’
‘What’s Perum Hollow?’
‘You DON’T know?! It’s the most sacred place in this whole forest! I’ll take you there to see my grandfather. And before you ask, he controls all magic around here. C’mon, we’ll start now.’
They set off through the forest, Trick taking sharp turns and avoiding
After a while, they stopped, and Ferocity was glad as her arms were aching from carrying Guggalugs. They sat down and she accepted a drink from Trick. Ferocity glanced down at her feet and saw something unusual. Half-hidden beneath a leaf was a piece of copper with blunt, jagged edges. Ferocity picked it up.
‘Drop that,’ said Trick with a growl in his throat.
‘Just drop it.’ This only made Ferocity grip it tighter. ‘Fine,’ croaked Trick. ‘But keep it hidden. Especially where we’re going.’
The three started off again, moving cautiously, as it was getting dark. The moon was round, silvery and full of light.
After hours of trekking through the forest, Trick stopped at the foot of an enormous trunk. The tree that it belonged to must be at least three hundred years old, Ferocity thought. ‘Five hundred years old,’ breathed Trick, as if in answer to her thought. Ferocity gaped in awe as Trick pressed different parts of the trunk without any second thought as to where to put his hand. He stepped back as a door revealed itself, set into the tree.
Trick opened it and motioned for Ferocity to follow.
Part 7: by First News reader, Elvi Wren
Right before Ferocity’s and Guggalugs’ astonished eyes, there was a room beyond imagining.
Sharp, dazzling crystals hung from above like thick stalactites. As well as that, large, colourful, diamond-strewn lights filled the vast room with sparkling flecks of colour.
In the corner stood a twisted, round table carefully balancing a sea of different potions of all shapes and sizes: knobbly, bumpy, swirly and even some that were changing colour! Guggalugs stared at these ones, for he found them really quite fascinating, as all the colours slowly blended into each other.
Ferocity, however, had her eyes on something else; there was something shining in the corner of her eye, so she turned to have a closer look.
She slowly took out the piece of copper that was resting in her pocket and compared it to the one that was hanging on the wall. They both had jagged edges and looked a bit like puzzle pieces. “Come on!” said Trick, approaching Ferocity, as she held up her piece of copper and tried to fit the two together.
“It fits,” she murmured quietly.
“I thought you said I was meant to keep it hidden; how come he’s got one?”
“I did… I didn’t know.”
Just then, a deep voice filled the room. Ferocity thought it might have been the tree itself. But limping towards them was an old figure stooped over a tall staff.
“I was wondering when you would arrive.”
Part 8: by First News reader, Tudor Luhan
Ferocity turned to the old man. ‘Hello Ferocity… my child! I see you have what I’ve been looking for…’
His voice was that of a croaky frog’s, his smile showed wisdom, while his eyes showed regret.
‘Hello?’ Ferocity was slightly confused; it felt like she knew him but… she didn’t.
As the old man ambled toward her, Trick took a few steps back. Was he scared? He did say that this man was his grandad, didn’t he? Ferocity lost her footing a bit, but the old man held his staff out for her to hold.
‘In your hand, you have a part of a puzzle. I have one – and Trick has one. We have three parts, but we miss a fourth. Have you noticed strange things lately…? More Tappers? More wild things?’
As he spoke, she felt a funny sensation in her toes and the old man’s eyes began to glow an eerie blue.
‘The parts of the puzzle we hold are a key controlling the magic in the world, but I fear that a great evil bangs at our doorsteps and we need the key to lock our door. For years I have searched for the piece you hold and
now I have learned of the fourth’s location. You and Trick are to collect it and stop this great evil!’
He stopped, and handed Ferocity a map.
‘To the north you must go, and retrieve the final piece… our world depends on Trick and you! Farewell!’
Part 9: by First News reader, Freya Lusty
Ferocity looked down at the map. It was old and tattered, but still readable. Questions raced through her head. Why her? What was this extra puzzle piece? She looked up, hoping for some answers, but there was no-one there – Trick’s grandfather had vanished!
‘Trick, was that by any chance…’
‘Yeah, he’s a bit unpredictable sometimes, but after a while you learn to live with it. What does this map say we have to do?’
There was a picture of the woods, along with another place that was unclear to them. Mountainous hills surrounded a small, circular plate with forest-green lines and a smudged red dot.
‘Well, let’s get to it. You can’t stop for tea when you’re saving the planet!’ cheered Trick, who was clearly in a good mood after seeing his grandfather.
They trailed back through the magnificent diamond-drawn room, and out through the other side of the tree; the woods were still menacing, staring at their every move. But somehow, the three felt reassured that they knew they were doing something, something that could change the world forever.
After hours of trekking through the woods, Ferocity (who carried Guggalugs all the way) and Trick finally saw some mountains. Crystal-white snow crested the rocky mountains, stretching for miles on end. However, its beauty faded as vultures circled threateningly.
‘Ferocity, I need to tell you something, and you will understand why soon. My grandad told you about the puzzle pieces. When they are fitted together, they make a maze…’
Part 10: by First News reader, Sophia Waters
Ferocity’s mind was exploding with questions. ‘A maze! W-why a maze? What for?’ She instinctively ducked as a vulture swooped viciously overhead.
It hissed in frustration as it darted off empty-handed.
‘Something’s hidden in the middle. I don’t know what, but it’s vital to controlling the magic. Ever since it went missing, the Tappers and Prowlers that used to be concealed by a magical boundary have been released.’
Trick dodged a circling vulture.
‘Ferocity,’ Guggalugs squealed anxiously, violet clouds of smoke gushing out of his ears, ‘Shouldn’t we keep moving?’
The three trekked on, shielding themselves with their arms as an icy wind bit at their faces. Ferocity retrieved the map from her pocket, and it was battered by the fierce weather.
‘Where do we go now?’ she called to Trick. He glanced at the map over Ferocity’s shoulder, and froze. Ferocity whipped around at the sudden silence. ‘What is it?’
‘This map… I’ve seen it before. It was much clearer, but it’s definitely the same one, and this route is perilous.’
‘Why did your grandfather send US then?’ Ferocity queried, feeling sick. There was no answer.
The crisp, bitter gale was whistling in her ears and seemed to be echoing inside her brain. As they neared the mountain, they saw what seemed to be a tiny entrance to some sort of cavern. Cautiously, they moved inside, grateful for the shelter and the friendly fire crackling and dancing in the hearth. However, this also meant something…
‘We’re not alone.’
Part 11: by First News reader, Sorcha Moore
“Flatten yourself against the wall,” Trick instructed in a hushed
voice. Ferocity immediately followed suit, covering Guggalugs’ ears.
“We’ll continue on in the mornin’ then?” a rough, deep voice said,
more as a statement than a question.
“Aye,” another voice replied, hoarser than the last.
A third, more human voice yelled out: “You haven’t explained what you want with me!”
Trick’s face changed suddenly and he covered his O-shaped mouth. “Mum,” he whispered. Sadness turned to anger and Guggalugs thought that smoke would start pluming out of his ears.
“You don’t need to know yet, princess!” snarled the first voice. Trick picked up two large stones and hurled them at the two creatures. They fell, knocked out, onto the cave floor. Trick’s mum cried in relief but fell silent, not wanting to wake her captors up.
Ferocity helped Trick find the key and take off the woman’s bonds. “Good aim!” she smiled, embracing her son. Her face wore a warm smile but her eyes were tired and sunken.t“Who’s your friend here, Trick? My name’s Ariella.” Ferocity nodded and introduced herself and Guggalugs. “I assume your grandad sent you? Best be getting back then,” Trick shook his head. “He sent us on a quest, to find the last copper piece. Ferocity found one on the way to Perum Hollow. He never mentioned anything about you being taken by Night Creatures.”
Staring into his crystal ball, Trick’s grandfather watched the foursome from afar. “Drat!” the old man hissed.
Part 12: by First News reader, Charline Lepant
Trick’s grandfather pounded his fist on the battered table angrily.
A teenage girl came into the room and sat down next to him. ‘What’s wrong?’ she asked him, her green eyes full of worry. ‘Nothing, I… no, nothing.’ He chewed a pencil thoughtfully. The girl stood up to leave, saying, ‘Ok then.’ ‘Actually, Aida, I do need your help. Your magic has improved immensely – I think you can do it.’ Aida’s face lit up with happiness at the prospect of helping him, and she sat back down, ready for anything. ‘Aida, I want you to perform a transportation spell, and focus on the Skleros Mountains. I’m going to think up an animal, and put it into your mind for you to transport. Got it?’ Aida nodded, and closed her eyes to focus. Her hands started to glow orange, and sparks flew out the gap between them. Then, Trick’s grandfather closed his eyes and a moment later his hands were engulfed in a pink smoke, where a figure of the beast, Typhon, revolved. Then it was over. The colours faded. It was done. Typhon was transported to the Skleros Mountains, where Trick and Ferocity would go. The man chuckled evilly and left the room. Aida was left at the table, and she peered into the crystal ball. The scene of the
foursome was still there, and it all clicked. She
put her head in her hands, murmuring. ‘What
have I done? I have to help my brother’. ‘Before it’s too late.’
Part 13: by First News reader, Natalie Ng
Meanwhile, back in the cave, Guggalugs was asleep on Ferocity’s lap, pastel pink smoke gently wafting from his ears. Trick and Ariella were talking by the fire. Ferocity was barely keeping up with what the pair were saying. Questions buzzed in her head, all related to recent events involving Trick’s grandfather, but before she could say anything, a dreadful sound came from outside.
Without warning, the cave swelled with an unbearable cacophony as sudden yelps, screeches and howls surrounded them. It was now impossible to see or hear anything, and everyone staggered around, trying to block out the deafening sound.
Then, as quickly as it had come, the clamour cleared. But just as the foursome reunited, a huge beast dashed into the cave. ‘Typhon,’ breathed Trick, panic sketched across his face. ‘Run!’ They raced to the back of the cavern, the beatst pouncing and lashing ferociously behind them. It was closing in. ‘Typhon hates water!’ Trick shouted, as Typhon missed Ariella by centimetres. Ferocity tried to focus. Water.
She immediately turned back, and sprinted towards the beast. ‘Ferocity!’ Ariella screamed. Ferocity didn’t have time to answer. She dodged and swerved around the thrashing beast and scrambled her way back to the two captors. Fumbling around, she finally found what she was looking for – a flask of water. But when she turned around, it seemed that Typhon had been distracted by something else.
The beast was heading towards the mouth of the cave, where a young girl stood. ‘Aida! Watch out!’
Part 14: by First News reader, Eden Breslin
The beast charged towards the girl, snarling ferociously, green slime dripping from its long, yellow fangs. But the girl didn’t look afraid. Calm as ever could be, the girl raised her hand, all five fingers pointing to the sky.
A blue glow suddenly slithered down from the sky itself, winding itself round each finger like a snake. The beast was just inches away from her… then suddenly, time seemed to stand still. The icy blue glow that had wound itself around her fingers froze, then suddenly exploded into a bright aurora of blue light.
Then, all in one second, it became a raging torrent of water that shot from the palms of her hands like lasers. It hit the beast in the face like the blow of a boulder.
There was a terrified howl, a scream, then a BANG! Typhon had vanished.
The water flowing from the girl’s hands slowed to a trickle, then finally to a stop. Ferocity thought her lower jaw would fall off.
‘What…’ she gasped, breathless, ‘was that?’ ‘A torrent spell,’ the girl replied, walking into the cave. ‘Takes practice.’
Ariella and Trick were both staring at the girl, even more shocked than Ferocity. ‘Aida!’ they both cried.
Ariella came forward to touch her daughter, but Aida moved away. ‘No,’ she said quickly. ‘We must leave now.’
She took a deep breath before looking Trick in the eye.
‘Grandfather’s out to get you, brother.’
Part 15: by First News reader, Sahra Ali
Trick grimaced. ‘I had my suspicions about him, but I didn’t have enough proof.’
‘You knew?’ huffed Aida. ‘But why didn’t you…?’
Trick held out his hand to silence her and shook his head, still in thought. Next to him, Ariella was horrified. ‘I just don’t believe it… my own father… ridiculous.’
‘You would believe it if you were there,’ Aida shook her head in agreement. ‘It doesn’t make sense; Grandfather’s good, he was one of the mages who battled in the Great War.’
Ferocity gasped. She, like any spellcaster, had heard of the Great War against the Tappers and the creatures of the night. It had happened about 45 years ago, but still was one of the most renowned battles.
Ferocity’s own grandfather was one of the head mages who fought in it. ‘Still, there was something funny about him,’ continued Aida.
‘He sometimes became pale green in the face when he was angry, but I expect it’s a side-effect from the war.’
‘Wait a second,’ cried Guggalugs, who had woken up. The others jumped as they heard his voice, as they had quite forgotten he was there. He was quite grave, as there was a dark grey smoke emerging from his ear. ‘Wait a second,’ he repeated. ‘What did you say, Aida?’ ‘That he became green when he was angry?’ she recapped. Guggalugs looked quite gloomy. ‘I’m afraid that isn’t your grandfather,’ he moaned. ‘It’s a shapeshifter!’
Part 16: by First News reader, Ryan Pepper
‘How did you know about this shapeshifter, Guggalugs?’ asked Ariella.
‘Well…’ began Guggalugs. ‘Back at home, I read a book that Ferocity had about all kinds of creatures lurking in the wild…’
‘I remember!’ cried Ferocity. ‘And it spoke of a creature called a shapeshifter. Apparently, they turn green before they’re about to transform into something else. Sometimes they uncontrollably shapeshift into lots of things, showing some things that it has seen or experienced.’
‘Wow, you’ve got a good memory, Guggalugs!’ Trick laughed.
‘I know…’ said Guggalugs modestly. The smoke coming out of his ears turned an embarrassed pink.
‘Anyway, that means Trick’s grandpa must’ve found a shapeshifter to TRICK us! Get it?’
Everyone looked at Guggalugs as if to say: ‘Really?’
‘The fiend!’ whispered Ferocity. Suddenly, the ceiling of the cave began
to glow green.
The light disappeared for a moment and a green Prowler appeared,
before dropping to the floor and transforming into Trick’s grandfather.
‘Don’t keep me here!’ it cried, before transforming again into the Prowler and letting out a deafening roar.
It transformed into a grandpa again.
‘You’ll never get away with this!’ it yelled, looking as if it was struggling to get out of a room. It transformed into Ferocity. ‘Drat!’ it said to itself, annoyed by its own performance.
The copy of Ferocity transformed into a Prowler again, although this time, it looked ready to fight. The gang nodded at each other and charged towards the creature.
Part 17: by First News reader, Alexandra Daly
As they charged, the shapeshifter glowed green. Instead of changing shape, it stayed as a Prowler. It moved fluidly for a Prowler, effortlessly flooring both Trick and Ariella with a swipe.
‘Yes,’ it growled in a rough voice. ‘I’m so close.’
Ferocity gulped and was struck with a terrifying realisation: it wasn’t trying to hurt them – the Prowler wanted the copper pieces.
Shivering with horror, Ferocity saw Guggalugs unleash a torrent of red steam from his ears in an attempt to confuse the beast. Aida sent streams of light into the shapeshifter, but it shook them off like flakes of snow. The situation was looking grim. Ferocity herself was already panting, Trick wasn’t moving and Aida’s best attempts were useless. Suddenly the shapeshifter froze. It locked eyes with Aida and gave a high-pitched scream. ‘AAAHHHHH!’
There was something wrong with Aida’s eyes too; they were glowing with an ethereal light. Ferocity dived at the shapeshifter in an attempt to keep it focused on Aida’s eyes, but as she jumped, the glow dimmed and the shapeshifter jumped towards Aida’s pockets.
Now it was Aida’s turn to scream. There was something important in her pockets, but Ferocity didn’t know what.
Trick leapt up, realisation on his face. Together, Ferocity, Ariella and Trick tried to pull the shapeshifter away, but judging from the smoke coming from Guggalugs’ ears, they weren’t doing well.
At last there was a flash and a bang and the creature disappeared. Aida stood. Her face was very white. ‘No!’ she shouted as she checked her pockets. ‘No!’
‘What’s the matter?’ Asked Guggalugs.
‘My copper piece,’ Aida replied. ‘It’s gone.’
‘What?’ Ferocity yelled.
‘What?’ Trick stumbled and stared at Aida in shock.
Aida took a deep breath as if composing herself. ‘Grandfather lied. There was no copper piece in the north. I had it, all along. He was trying to get you killed and now it’s gone straight to the beasts and we have to stop them!’
Part 18: by First News reader, Saanvi Chakrapani
Deadly silence. They were clueless. One question crowded their minds: How? It would be impossible for five spellcasters to fight an army of thousands of powerful, menacing beasts.
Reluctantly, Ferocity broke the silence: ‘Aida, couldn’t you transport us to the beasts’ lair like you transported Typhon?’
‘Part of my energy drains once I transport something; it would be extremely difficult to transport five people,’ Aida explained. ‘But it’s worth a shot.’
‘Be careful,’ Trick warned, worriedly.
They held hands in a circle. In a blinding flash, they found themselves on the outskirts of a forest. Immediately, Aida collapsed!
‘NO!’ Ariella gasped. Suddenly, Ferocity’s body started to glow with a heavenly aura. She touched Aida and a beam of light seeped through her body. Aida’s eyes fluttered open; the others sighed with relief.
‘You saved me,’ Aida exclaimed, ‘by sharing your energy with me!’
‘I didn’t know I could do that,’ Ferocity muttered, confused.
‘LOOK!’ Guggalugs pointed.
Beasts were everywhere: Tappers, Prowlers, Gnarls, Halflings and many more unimaginable creatures. They had crowded round their leader – the Lord of Beasts – under the shadowy tangle of the forest’s canopy. A Prowler rushed into the forest, grasping a glinting bronze shard.
‘I… have… it!’ he exclaimed, panting.
Excited murmurs filled the dark atmosphere, as they awaited their master to speak.
‘SILENCE!’ their lord declared. His icy voice pierced the air. ‘You all know why we are gathered here. My son has retrieved the last copper piece and it is now time to assemble all of them…’
Part 19: by First News reader, Lucy Hallam
Ferocity’s heart stopped.
‘What? How?’ Aida whispered. ‘Don’t you and Trick each have one, Ferocity?’
‘Yeah, we do,’ Trick replied, and then checked his pockets for his piece.
‘No!’ he exclaimed. ‘It’s gone!’
Ferocity rummaged through her pockets quickly and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that hers was still there. ‘We’re good,’ she told the others, and held her piece up.
As it caught the light, Aida noticed something. ‘Wait,’ she said slowly. ‘Look.’ She pointed to the edges of the copper. They were crumbling slowly. As the five watched, the copper piece disintegrated into nothing.
‘It was a diversion,’ Ariella groaned. ‘We were meant to think that we had the last piece so that we wouldn’t be on our guard. Trick’s piece must have been real, but the shapeshifter must have taken it before we set out here.’
The booming voice of the Lord of the Beasts caught their attention again. ‘The last piece will complete the maze. The object in the middle may trap
us in the hands of the spellcasters, but in our hands it will trap them!’ he roared triumphantly.
The Lord of the Beasts brought the final piece towards the rest of them. As it joined them, bright light shot out from it. Fine tendrils of pure energy shot out in different directions. They weaved together to form…
‘The maze,’ Aida whispered. ‘First person to find the object in the middle banishes the others.’
‘Spellcasters against beasts,’ Ferocity murmured. ‘Game on.’
Part 20: by First News reader, Keira Wang
The five proceeded cautiously towards the glimmering silver maze, but started to hurry when they saw the beasts and their leader rushing in a great wave towards it.
With Ariella in the lead, they managed to squeeze inside the entrance just before the beasts trickled in.
Determined to avoid them as much as possible, the spellcasters turned left onto another path. That was when Trick noticed something.
Pointing towards the end of the pathway, he muttered slowly: ‘Wait a second, see that? It’s moving!’ They looked on, and immediately saw what Trick meant.
The turn to another path was slowly closing, forcing them outside into a slightly wider path.
‘This is going to be the hardest thing in my whole life! This magical maze is never still!’ Ferocity moaned. The others all silently agreed, although none admitted so.
Over the next few minutes, they tried every opening they could find, but were soon closed off by the ever-changing maze. Finally, after what seemed like an hour but was probably only a few minutes, a new pathway opened.
The five could see that it went a long way without closing, so they hurried in before the maze could change its mind.
Proceeding straight forward, they met no obstacles until they came across the Lord of the Beasts himself. He was walking with his back to them, so, thinking quickly, Ferocity hit him unawares in the back with a strong, crimson-coloured spell that sent him flying backwards across the maze.
The group continued ahead, smirking slightly.
Part 21: by First News reader, Niah Shah
The journey continued. It was eerily silent, as if the maze itself had come and stolen their voices. They walked on.
Ferocity watched as the sun dipped into murky darkness, and now night was upon them… ‘We’re going to have to stop,’ she said firmly, surprised at how rusty her voice sounded, like a lock that was finally opened.
The others murmured in agreement.
‘But it’s too visible here. We’d be spotted.’
‘What about over there?’ Trick asked, pointing towards a small alcove in the walls of the maze. ‘Looks good to me,’ she said, shrugging.
‘Trick, you can stay on watch with me. Everyone else, sleep.’
Aida and Ariella sat down, clearly relieved for the break. But where was Guggalugs? ‘
Trick! TRICK! Where’s Guggalugs?’ Ferocity’s voice was higher than usual and she could feel panic bubble inside her like a potion brewing.
‘WHERE IS HE?’ ‘I don’t know,’ Trick replied hurriedly, fear flashing in his eyes. ‘I thought he was with you.’ ‘He isn’t,’ she cried. ‘I have to go look for him!’ She started to walk off, but was held back by Trick’s long arms.
‘It’s getting dark, we’ll look for him in the morning.’
‘But he might be in trouble, I need to…’ Suddenly, they heard heavy footsteps stomping towards them. ‘HERE THEY ARE!’ a voice boomed.
They froze. ‘We’ve a present for these spellcasters, don’t we?’
The Lord of the Beasts stood to one side, revealing a terrified Guggalugs trembling behind…
Part 22: by First News reader, Isabella Myers
Acrid, violet mist billowed out from Guggalugs’ ears and shrouded the pathway, but the Lord of the Beasts’ burning red eyes pierced the thick fog, and found their way towards the fearful spellcasters.
Ferocity could feel herself reddening in the cheeks, furious at the group of beasts. She moved forward, holding her arm up to fire at them. Trick pulled her back, shaking his head, but never lifting his gaze off the shadowed figures standing before them.
Ferocity stood staring for a second, then screamed in anger and pelted towards the Lord. For a split second, he was taken aback and lost concentration.
Ferocity didn’t take this opportunity for granted. She raised her arm, and fired a burst of electric blue bolts that hit him right in the chest. He was knocked to the ground, but one of the Halflings behind him opened his arms, and an inky black shadowy shape grew from his hands, and snaked towards Ferocity.
Thinking fast, she ducked, and the figure moved towards Trick and Aida. ‘Watch out!’ shrieked Ariella, firing a glowing red net out of her palm, which caught and crushed the dark spell. Ferocity jumped and landed on top of Guggalugs.
‘I don’t think so…’ the Lord of the Beasts’ deep voice muttered.
He opened his arms wide and a blood-red spell burst into the air and grew out towards the five, spreading like the roots of a tree. Suddenly, a husky, evil voice was projected into the air: ‘We’ve found it!’
Part 23: by First News reader, Lucy Hallam
‘No!’ Ferocity screamed, at the same moment that the Lord of the Beasts roared ‘Yes!’ The crimson spell stopped in its tracks and then receded before disappearing in a puff of mist. The Lord of the Beasts turned and raced towards the voice, completely forgetting about the spellcasters. Ferocity went to race after him, but Trick held her in place. ‘What are you doing?’ she cried. ‘We can’t go after him,’ he told her. ‘He’s too strong and he’s got all of those beasts defending him.’
Ariella, Aida and Guggalugs were nodding too. ‘But we can’t let him get the banisher,’ Ferocity sagged in Trick’s arms. Deep down, she knew he was right. ‘So what do we do?’ Aida asked quietly.
‘If the Lord of the Beasts gets his hands on it, we’ll be banished… forever.’ There was an ominous silence. None of them could think what to do.
Then a victorious roar pierced the air. ‘The Lord of the Beasts,’ Ariella whispered. The five glanced at each other, and then, coming to a silent agreement, they pelted towards the voice.
They sneaked silently through the maze, turned a corner and there he was, the Lord of the Beasts. Wreathed in shadows, he looked more dangerous than ever. A pillar of pure white light writhed before him. He reached into it and withdrew a long, thin staff.
‘Merlin’s staff,’ Ferocity whispered, awed.
‘Yes, my dear,’ the Lord of the Beasts hissed, looking right at them. The shadows around the creature sank into him, and he revealed his true form. A mop of red hair. Big, green eyes. Betrayal and shock clenched Ferocity’s heart in a vice.
Part 24: by First News reader, Ben Priest
‘My dear,’ her father began, ‘look how far you’ve come.’ He reached out to touch her face but she batted his hand away, and took a step back. ‘
No,’ she muttered. ‘No. It can’t… you can’t…’
Trick, Aida and Ariella all stood back awkwardly, uncomfortable, unsure what to do; none of their fathers were the most evil being in existence. Trick took a step forward, resting his hand on Ferocity’s shoulder.
‘You okay?’ Ferocity nodded, but didn’t take her eyes off the Lord of Beasts – her father, she reminded herself – and it was a good thing she didn’t, otherwise she might have missed what happened next.
There was a sudden shift in her father’s face, and his features contorted, then he spoke. ‘Ferocity? What are you doing here?’ ‘Father?’
Against her better judgment, Ferocity took a step forward. ‘My dear, what are you doing here?’ ‘What happened to you?’ she asked. ‘It was the Lord of the Beasts, he’s taken over my body, not strong enough to sustain his own form. I’m just able to repress him, but I don’t have much time,’ he reached out and stroked her cheek.
She let him. ‘Tell me what happened to you,’ her father said. And she did. Once she had finished, he sighed. ‘You are an incredible girl, and your mother would be so proud, but you need to go.’
‘Why?’ asked Ferocity. But suddenly her father’s face changed again, and his hand slid from her cheek to her neck, and before she knew what was happening, it closed around her throat.
Part 25: by First News readers, Felicity Cornes and Laura Jobke
‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered, his clawed grip growing tighter and tighter every second. ‘I cannot be The Lord of The Beasts and your father. There is no other way. I’m sorry, Ferocity.’ She gasped and choked as she struggled to speak. Eventually, her determination forced her to croak, her voice barely audible:
‘Why would you choose your duty over f-family?’ she spluttered. Trick looked stricken as he backed away to the edge of the action. With a yowl of The Lord’s voice, more and more beasts entered, stalking them and leaving the friends with barely any hope.
Fear started to flood Aida as she realised this could be the last time they would see another day. But besides her desperation, there was also anger burning and building in her mind. But this was no ordinary anger. Her heart was pulsing and she could feel the red hot fury burning in her veins. She suddenly broke free of the beast’s hold. Merlin’s staff! If she could get it, then she would banish the beasts forever.
Ferocity suddenly made a gurgling and hissing noise and Aida knew there was nothing for it. She leapt and landed perfectly by the Lord’s side like an eagle pouncing on prey. She drew out her wand from her torn, ragged pocket. A burst of lightning shot out of it, hitting The Lord of The Beasts and freeing Ferocity, who collapsed in a motionless heap on the ground. Ariella was stunned and happy tears burst from her eyes as the beasts retreated, scared and now fearful as their master had been defeated. She dashed over to Trick and Aida and hugged them, grateful that they had succeeded.
Ferocity stirred. Her eyes slowly opened to see Trick, Ariella and Aida staring down at her. She staggered slowly to her feet, groggily. She looked around. The Lord of The Beasts lay quietly on the muddy ground. He was gone. She didn’t know whether to be happy or sad as she stared down at his body. But something wasn’t right. She could feel it. Ferocity turned slowly around. She screamed as dark shadows rose nearby…
Part 26: by First News reader, Florrie Evans
Trembling, Ferocity turned round to face the curtain of darkness.
At the heart of what she could now see, in the jet-black fog stood a figure. It advanced slowly, cackling with a might that Guggalugs found particularly frightening. ‘Please, Ferocity,’ he whispered.
The smoke that puffed weakly from his large ears was thin with anxiety. ‘I… I think… I think you may have lost your father.’
‘No. No! That can’t be the way!’ Ferocity crouched on the dirt, only to hear her name called by a soft voice. She got up abruptly, dropping Guggalugs. There, shrouded in the fog, was a woman.
That couldn’t be true, surely. Mother had been seized by a Tapper six years ago. It had almost killed Ferocity and her brother, but Mother had sacrificed herself for Ferocity. Or…
‘He’s still alive!’ Typhon. Typhon was her brother!
As Ferocity emerged from her trance, her mother walked forward slowly, slowly towards her. Ferocity backed away. Suddenly the maze walls closed around her. Ferocity, Trick, Aida, Ariella,
Guggalugs and now her mother were thrown high above the maze.
From their viewpoint in the air, they could clearly see the centre, a glowing yellow light.
‘The copper pieces!’ Ferocity managed to yell, before abruptly vomiting downwards. The sludge tumbled wildly down, landing with a splat far below.
‘Ouch! I will kill whoever sicked on me!’
Part 27: by First News reader, Marianne Bussey
All six of them fell back down to earth with a thump. ‘Ferocity…’ her mother said. She touched Ferocity’s cheek, but Ferocity slapped it away.
‘How could you?!’ Ferocity cried. ‘I thought you were dead! You could have saved me that pain and sadness that I’ve felt over the years, but instead you left me!’
‘Guys, the copper piece!’ Aida said. ‘We have to get it!’ Ferocity turned to her and nodded. Then she looked back at her mother. ‘Forgive me, my child,’ her mother said softly.
Ferocity frowned and spun on her heel. ‘Let’s go.’
Trick put a hand on Ferocity’s shoulder as they walked on. ‘Are you okay?’ he asked her.
‘Yeah,’ she replied. ‘I just can’t believe my father is the Lord of the Beasts and… my mother married him.’
‘I understand,’ Ariella said, putting a hand on Ferocity’s other shoulder. Suddenly, a shadow loomed
over them. Everyone turned around…
To be continued…
Part 28: by First News reader, Theodora Harwood
The six turned and saw, to their horror, a Griffin towering above them, wings outstretched. ‘My father’s pet,’ gasped Ferocity. Fear clenched Ferocity like a vice. The Griffin lunged at Aida, its sharp talons narrowly missing her. Outraged, it dived again. Trick was slower to respond; it sliced through his shirt, the material darkening red from the cut. He slumped, his arm hanging like a still pendulum.
‘NO!’ screamed Ferocity. Enraged, she stretched out her hand. Her palm glowed amber and from the centre erupted a fireball. It incinerated the Griffin and stunned silence followed, the grey smoke of the smouldering ashes mixing with the navy smoke that came from Guggalugs’ ears. ‘Trick?’ Ferocity called.
‘Just a scratch,’ he said, ‘but one thing’s for sure, we need to destroy this maze. Without peace between the spellcasters and the beasts, it’ll be a future of endless fighting.’
‘But how do we destroy the maze? And make peace?’ asked Aida sceptically. ‘I think it’s the same puzzle,’ said Ferocity. ‘The maze exists if the copper pieces are united. We need to separate them and Merlin’s staff needs to belong to both the spellcasters and the beasts.’
Grabbing the talisman from her father, Ferocity grasped Merlin’s staff.
‘Let’s go,’ she said. ‘Those pieces won’t destroy themselves.’ They found their way to the centre of the maze where the copper pieces floated, glowing in an unearthly light as they spun around each other.
With tightening knots in their stomachs, the four approached and reached out their hands.
‘On three,’ Ferocity said. ‘One… two… three!’ Four hands reached forward and grasped a piece. With a pulse of energy that flung them off their feet, they parted. Ferocity opened her eyes.
She was lying by the entrance to Perum Hollow. In front of her was the maze, spinning and whirling, and lying near her were Trick, Ariella and Aida. Her ears still ringing, she scrambled, disoriented, to her feet.
‘Bury your copper pieces before the maze disappears,’ she said, as she scraped away the ground. ‘Come on.’ Fingernails filled with grime, they buried each of the pieces and just managed to throw dirt on top as the maze disappeared.
‘As the maze falls in on itself, the copper will return to the ground – it’s old magic. Trick, have you still got your grandfather’s amulet?’
‘Yes,’ said Trick, confused but pulling it out of his pocket. ‘But why?’ The friends stepped back and looked at the deep hole they’d dug. Carefully, Ferocity placed Merlin’s staff in the earth and lay her father’s talisman next to it.
‘Go on, Trick.’ Trick placed the amulet in the hole, pausing as his eyes pricked with tears at the memories of his grandfather, which played in his head like a film.
‘Spellcasters and beasts united at last,’ said Ferocity. In silence, they threw handfuls of dirt covering the staff, the amulet and the talisman.
Linking arms, the four walked into the sunset and the smoke from Guggalugs’ ears turned yellow.