My Ranking Points
Cass was starting to get tired of sneaking out with Ace. His plans were never well thought out, and she was fairly certain that sooner or later he was going to get her killed.
Alisha helped them climb down the rope, pulling it safely shut. Then, following Ace, Cass sprinted away from the school onto the lawn. Ace slowed to a walk, taking Cass’s hand.
“Ready?” he asked, meeting her eyes.
“For what, exactly?” Cass asked.
“I thought we could go back to the Cyan Caves and look for clues. Don’t worry,” he added hastily before she could protest, “we won’t go into Jabberwocky’s cave unless we have to.”
“I really need to learn my lesson. It should be Alisha and me doing the planning; you’re so bad at it,” Cass complained.
“Well, that’s just the best plan I could come up with,” Ace said. “It’s not the real reason we’re sneaking into the Forest.”
“What?” Cass said, stopping.
Ace turned to face her, taking her other hand as well. “I really just wanted some time alone with you, without Alisha.”
Cass smiled slightly. “You lied to us.”
Ace shrugged. “It’s been too long since it’s been just you and me.”
“That’s sweet, but I hope you’re still planning on going to the caves so we have something to report back to Alisha.”
“Oh, we are. I still think we need to work on the Jabberwock thing, especially with what the Rabbit said. I call it multitasking,” Ace said.
Cass laughed. Ace grinned at her before pulling her onwards. They reached the Blue Forest and ducked under a low- hanging branch and were under the vast blue canopy of trees, hidden from the schools’ view.
“You’d think sneaking out of school would be harder,” Cass said.
“Well, either the teachers are really bad at discipline, or we’re just really good,” Ace said.
“As much as I’d like to say it’s us, it’s probably them,” Cass said.
“We can pretend,” Ace said, pulling her to him and kissing her.
They continued on, but had barely gone a yard into the forest when someone appeared in front of them. They froze. Cass tensed as Ace pulled her against him, waiting for a teacher to come out and get them in trouble.
But it wasn’t a teacher. It was the person Cass least expected to see. She straightened and pulled away from Ace, but the newcomer spoke before she could.
“Sneaking out, Cass? That’s a new low,” he said, violet eyes glinting.
“Ches?” Cass said. “What are you doing here?
“I could ask you the same,” Ches answered. “I actually came to find you. There’s something I found a while ago that I tried to show you, but you were too busy with your new friends and then we stopped talking.”
“What changed your mind?” Cass asked.
“I decided I’m not going to give you up to him,” Ches said, throwing a glare at Ace. “And I think you’ll want to see this.”
Cass glanced at Ace. “Actually, we were-”
“It might help with your little Jabberwocky situation,” Ches interjected. “If you can stop kissing him long enough to see.”
Cass blushed. “Lead the way,” she said.
“It’s at school. You’ll have to come with me,” Ches said.
Cass hesitated. She looked to Ace, who shrugged. Then, with a sigh, she stepped closer and let Ches wrap an arm around her waist to pull her along when he teleported. Cass held out her hand and Ace took it.
Ches vanished, pulling the other two with him. They reappeared in the foyer of the School for Evil.
“Remember the last time we were here?” Ace whispered, moving closer to Cass.
“Yeah,” she breathed back. “Your sister almost killed me.”
Ches raised an eyebrow. Ace tensed and pulled Cass even closer. Cass warmed slightly at how protective he was, especially when it was his own sister he was worried about.
“Did you give up on getting her out of here?” Cass asked as they followed Ches down a narrow hallway.
Ace paused. “Not really,” he said after a moment. “More like forgot, what with the Jabberwock thing and all.”
“Thank you, by the way,” Cass said. “For stopping her all those weeks ago. I’m not sure if I ever properly thanked you.”
“You just did,” Ace said. “Plus, I’m pretty sure I did myself a favor in saving you.”
“You always save me,” Cass said affectionately.
“But I’m also usually the reason you’re in danger,” Ace said.
“True,” Cass chirped.
Ches stopped suddenly, causing Cass to ram into his back. “Here we are,” he said.
Cass looked over his shoulder at the wall before him. “Here?” she repeated.
“It’s a secret passage,” Ches said. “I accidentally discovered it a while ago.” He pulled a torch out from the wall and it slid open, revealing a dark doorway.
Ches held out his hand to help Cass through. She took it and Ches climbed in after her, leaving Ace to scramble in behind them.
Cass lit her fingerglow, illuminating the dirt walls around her. Painted pictures covered the walls. As she peered closer, however, she realized they were pictures of Wonderland. Bandersnatches, rabbit holes, even card soldiers. They covered the walls as far as she could see.
“This is-” Ace began, but stopped when he couldn’t think of the proper adjective.
“Strange,” Cass finished for him.
Ches led them down the long, dark corridor. The pictures began depicting scenes from Alice In Wonderland, including one of the Queen of Hearts beheading her subjects. There was a mock turtle and an ocean of tears, a rose garden and a jubjub bird.
They came to a dead end. Cass sighed and turned to Ches, but he and Ace were staring at the wall behind her. Turning back, Cass pointed her fingerglow at it and gasped.
A large picture of a Jabberwocky, bigger than any of the others, stared back at her. It was terrifyingly realistic. Cass stepped forward to examine it closer.
It’s hideous green face stood out against the dirt walls, red eyes flashing in the light of her fingerglow. The beasts slimy scales were depicted with great accuracy, so it was almost like staring at a real Jabberwocky.
But as she peered closer, Cass’s eyes caught on the pearly white oval the beast was perched on. She ran her fingers over it as her heart sped up.
“That’s odd,” she murmured. “Jabberwocks don’t have white eggs.”
A tiny silver fleck in the middle of the egg caught her attention. She leaned in closer until she realized that it wasn’t just a speck; it was a tiny little x.
“Stand back,” she ordered the two boys on either side of her. They obeyed, giving her space without question.
Cass’s finger burnt a vibrant crimson, then she began searing away the dirt beneath the painting of the egg. After she made a good sized hole, she reached inside and felt around, finally pulling out an aged scroll.
“What’s that?” Ace asked.
Cass unraveled the scroll and read the words written neatly across the parchment. Her eyes widened and she read it over twice more to be sure she was comprehending it properly.
“Ace, it’s all here! The location of the Jabberwock, why it’s there, what the School Master had planned, everything,” she said excitedly. Turning, she threw her arms around Ches. “You did it! Great job!”
“What does it say?” Ace asked. “What did the School Master want with the Jabberwocky?”
“He was going to-” Cass stopped. A faint scuffling echoed down the corridor. “We need to leave.”
“Take my hand,” Ches said. Cass obeyed and gripped him tightly. She held onto Ace with her other hand. Ches vanished and reformed with them in the Blue Forest.
“Thank you,” Cass said. She placed a quick kiss on his cheek, then turned to Ace.
“Let’s go tell Alisha what we found,” she said. “Then I can read this scroll to both of you.”
Ace nodded, thanked Ches, and headed back to the school hand in hand with Cass. Ches watched them go before disappearing and reappearing safely in his dorm room.