Identical twins Fifer and Thisbe Stowe have amazing yet uncontrollable magical abilities. They’re naturally more gifted than even their brother, Alex, the head mage of Artimé, could hope to be. But when they accidentally use their magic in the jungle of Artimé to strike down a beloved creature, Alex is furious, and threatens to lock them away until they can learn to control their power.
The threat is soon forgotten, though, when Hux, the ice blue dragon, comes to Artimé bearing the horrible news that his siblings have been enslaved by the notoriously evil Revinir, ruler of the dragon land.
Seeking a chance to right their wrong and escape their brother’s wrath, Thisbe, Fifer, and their friend Seth sneak away to rescue the dragons from grave peril. Will their untrained abilities be enough to save the dragons—and themselves—when they come face-to-face with the Revinir?
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Thisbe Stowe glided through the vines in the dim light, with her twin sister, Fifer, right behind her. They were far deeper inside the jungle of Artimé than they’d ever ventured before. Much farther than their brother, Alex, the leader of the magical world, would allow. There were horrible living statues and creatures here that would attack them, he’d said. Creations carved from stone or molded from clay and brought to life with strong magic in the early days of Artimé. Not all of Artimé’s creatures were dangerous, but the ones banished to the jungle most certainly were.
As the girls crept forward to a small clearing, Fifer spied an entrance to a dark cave some distance away. She jabbed Thisbe with her elbow and pointed excitedly at it. They’d never come across something like this before. Thisbe paused to look, trying to discern between shadows and crevices, and watching for any sign of danger. Sensing none, they started toward it.
Each footstep crackled. Every now and then, Thisbe hesitated and put her hand up for silence. They stopped and listened, then continued on. When Thisbe heard a rustling that wasn’t theirs, her heart quickened. She turned sharply to see if Fifer had heard it too. The look on Fifer’s face told her she had.
The noise grew louder. Nearer. A few treetops began to waver, letting slivers of bright sunlight in before the branches covered the girls in shadows again. Something was coming, and it was definitely big.
“Maybe it’s the rock,” whispered Fifer. The enormous living rock that roamed about the jungle, watching over its creatures, was nameless, at least to these visitors.
“Maybe,” said Thisbe, sounding doubtful. “Come on.” She pushed forward, periodically looking back to try to see what was following them, but she couldn’t make out anything in the low light. As they moved, the noise from their pursuer stopped. Thisbe glanced at Fifer. Perhaps it hadn’t detected them.
Fifer peered in the direction of the cave, dying to know what was inside, but her nerves got the better of her. She gripped Thisbe’s shirtsleeve. “It’s too dangerous. I think we should go back.”
Thisbe nodded. But how? They’d have to go past the thing making noise in order to get back to the safety of Artimé’s lush grounds. “This way,” she whispered, pointing in a different direction. “We’ll go around and take the tube home.”
The rustling started again, and Fifer strained her eyes toward the noise. Would they be able to see the creature before it saw them? “Do you think it could be Panther?” she asked anxiously. Panther, carved from ebony-colored stone, had become slightly tamer in recent years than she’d once been, but she was still unpredictable and dangerous.
“Panther doesn’t make the trees move. Shh.” Thisbe headed away from the noise, stepping carefully, but there was no possible way to be silent.
The rustling behind them began again, then turned to loud crackling noises. Trees swayed. Their pursuer grew nearer.
“It’s following us,” said Thisbe in a harsh whisper.
Fifer took Thisbe’s hand and looked back as the outline of the enormous creature finally emerged from the shadows. She froze, then gasped. “Scorpion! Run!”
Thisbe’s heartbeat pounded in her ears. The scorpion! They were going to die. She abandoned the plan and ran for her life, dragging Fifer with her. Behind them came the sharp clap of splitting trees. The ground trembled under their feet. The giant clay scorpion was in mad pursuit and gaining ground rapidly. Hunting them.
The girls lurched and staggered as fast as they could over the uneven ground, but there was no way they could outrun the magical creature. No way for them to reach safety. Trees groaned and thudded to the jungle floor around them, their roots bursting from the ground and spraying dirt high into the air. Vines flew up in all directions as the scorpion closed in. Fifer could hear the sharp clicking of its pincers getting louder. “Thisbeee!” she screamed.
From a different direction there appeared a smaller, shadowy figure, too far away for Thisbe and Fifer to figure out what it was. “Look!” shrieked Fifer. “Over there!”
“Oh no!” Thisbe cried. “This way!” They changed course and barely slipped away from the scorpion, but it turned and followed. Seconds later the girls heard a third enormous-sounding creature thundering toward them. Could there be more than one scorpion in the jungle? No one had ever mentioned it. The girls were surrounded.
“Up this tree!” Thisbe cried, ripping her hand from Fifer’s sweaty grip and leaping for a low-hanging branch. She swung and caught her foot on the trunk, then scrambled up as fast as she could. Fifer followed, the noises around them growing louder still. “Hurry!” Thisbe said, climbing higher. She held her hand out to pull Fifer up.
But it was no use. The scorpion slid to a stop below them. It gripped the tree with one of its pincers. Then it snapped the trunk in two, sending the top portion with the girls in it falling through the air and crashing to the jungle floor. The girls lay stunned, the wind knocked out of them.
The sounds from the other two approaching beasts grew more distinct. Suddenly a piercing scream filled the air, coming from one of the creatures.
“That’s Panther!” Fifer managed to say as she tried to catch her breath. She struggled to get to her feet. “Come on, Thiz!” The scorpion was clipping branches and batting them aside, trying to get to them.
“I can’t—I’m stuck!” Thisbe’s ankle was caught under the tree. She yanked on it, then tried pushing the tree trunk off her while wildly looking around. “Watch out!”
Fifer turned an instant too late. The scorpion, moving steadily toward her with its poisonous tail raised, knocked her flat with its pincer. Then it pinned both girls to the ground with its spindly front legs. “Help!” Thisbe screamed. They stared at the horrible monster, who was looking down at them with all of its creepy eyes. It swished its tail, knocking over more trees in the process.
Just then a large black panther came bounding into sight, her chiseled stone jaw opened wide, emitting a piercing scream. Was she coming to help the twins? Or help the scorpion eat them? One never knew with Panther.
“Let us go!” Thisbe struggled and fought to free herself. But neither Fifer nor Thisbe could escape, and with the scorpion’s feet pressing hard on their chests, it was getting harder and harder to breathe.
As the third creature came running toward them, making the ground shudder, Fifer began screaming in a strange, almost melodious manner. Hundreds of birds swooped in and flocked to the trees around them, but they did nothing to help.
Thisbe closed her eyes and gagged at the sight of them. A familiar pulsing began in her stomach, and it rose up like bile to her throat. As the panther jumped over the girls and slammed into the giant scorpion, knocking it off balance, a garbled, uncontrollable shout burst forth from Thisbe.
Sparks flew from the girl’s fingertips and slammed into Panther’s flank. The creature’s scream stopped abruptly. With a loud crack and a horrible thud, the black stone beast hit the ground, split completely in two. She didn’t move.
“Oh no,” breathed Thisbe, horrified.
“Panther!” screeched Fifer. She slammed her fists against the scorpion’s thin leg, trying to break it so she could roll away. She thought she heard a crack.
The scorpion reared back in anger, pincers clicking and tail swishing. Thisbe yanked on her leg to free it, and both girls scrambled out from under the creature just as the third pursuer drew near and rose up, flapping its wings and taking to the air. The scorpion swiveled and whipped its tail around, swiping at the girls. Thisbe and Fifer leaped and dodged the stinger, then tried to run. A shadow hovered over them, making the jungle even darker and harder to navigate. The scorpion took another swing, its aim dead-on.
Before it could connect, two sets of claws grabbed the girls and lifted them up into the air, and with a loud roar, the third pursuer carried them off. The scorpion slid to a stop and watched, a sinister hiss dying in its throat. Frustrated, it slammed its tail into a tree, then skittered away to its cave in the darkest part of the jungle, leaving the unmoving pieces of Panther’s stone body on the ground.