The cause of the storm remains a mystery, and June fears there could be another. She enlists the help of the Senka twins, but the girls only grow frustrated after hitting dead ends. Ellie is far more curious about what she and Savannah might find on the other world, and eventually, June agrees to let them go.
Exploring the other world, the twins discover far more than what they bargained for. Secrets of the past are revealed, both in the mansion, and beyond the shadow cave.
Though Jerome remains bound in the forest, the trap grows weak, and a battle is coming. Ellie and Savannah are no warriors, but they still have an important part to play. This time their mission is not to rebuild, it is one of great sacrifice. They discover a secret of their magic, one that will allow them once again to keep the mansion's people safe. But the price may be too high to pay.
She waved him in, and quietly shut the door behind him. “Andy! What are you doing?” she whispered. “You’re gonna wake them up!”
“I’m being quiet,” Andy whispered. “Can we go see her?”
“Now? It’s the middle of the night! Go back to bed.”
“I just want to make sure she’s okay.”
“She’s fine. Why are you worried about her? Didn’t you say she can talk to squirrels and they give her nuts and stuff?” She giggled. “There’s no need to worry if that’s true!”
“It is true!” he said, slapping her arm.
“Okay, calm down, whatever! Either way, she’ll be fine, she always is. We’ll see her in the morning.”
He sat down on her bed. “Why can’t we tell them about her? She could stay with us. Mom would say yes.”
“But Dad would say no. He doesn’t like this kinda stuff. He’d probably make her leave.”
“What kinda stuff?”
“You know—she’s kinda weird,” she said.
“So are you,” he said.
“Yeah, and so are you. But it’s not the same. I don’t think he’d get it. Let’s just worry about this in the morning, okay? Go back to bed.”
Andy sighed, and crept out of the room. She waited a few minutes, then checked to make sure he had gone to bed, and hadn’t run off to see their unexpected visitor. He hadn’t. He was curled up in bed, waiting to fall asleep. She went back to her own room, to do the same.
In this world, Ellie could appreciate how beautiful fall really was. She didn’t have to worry about being stuck in a small house with fighting parents, or going to a school she took no interest in. June’s lessons were always worthwhile, and Ellie loved the only family she had.
She wondered where her sister was now. Savannah had been jealous that Ellie was the first to receive a private lesson with June, and disappeared for most of the day with Hannah and Michelle, but Ellie expected her to be back by now. Ellie wanted to tell her all about the lesson, but she was far too tired to wait up for her. She fell asleep, dreaming of the Celebration the next day, and the possibilities of what she and June had talked about. If only June would let them…
Ellie had only experienced one Celebration of Fall, and it was already her favorite holiday. There were six major holidays: one to celebrate the turn of every season, a day of remembrance of the storm, and the Celebration of June, the day June and her people had won the war so long ago. Now, a seventh holiday had been added. February eighth was the Celebration of New Beginnings, in honor of the day Ellie and Savannah had reset the world’s balance.
It had been over a year ago when the world awoke to the twins’ magic. The girls turned sixteen last summer, and their bodies were quickly coming into maturity. Growth spurts left them uneven in height for a brief time, to the amusement of many in the mansion. Now they were the same again, but Ellie still felt awkward with her new curves, and envied Savannah for moving so gracefully. Ellie feared their golden dresses from the center of magic would no longer fit, but was pleased to find that even though they remained child-sized on the hanger, they morphed by magic, conforming to the twins’ developing bodies. Despite the changes and awkwardness, the features everyone had come to know remained the same: long, light-brown hair, and bright, smiling green eyes. Young, cheerful, identical faces that told the world something wonderful was on its way.
Ellie woke in the early morning when Savannah opened the window, letting the light in.
“Happy fall,” Savannah said. She was still in her pajamas and her hair was a mess.
Ellie sat up, rubbing her eyes. “Happy fall,” she said. “Are you just getting back?”
“Well, yeah… When we got back from the beach we went to Hannah’s room and sort of stayed up all night.”
“You’ve been out partying with Hannah and Michelle all day and night?”
“Hey, don’t be jealous. You got a private lesson with June,” Savannah said.
“Right. Lessons are way more fun than staying out with your friends,” Ellie muttered.
“We better get ready, I’m sure they’re expecting us downstairs.”
“Do they really need ‘The Senka Twins’ this early in the morning?”
“You got a lot more sleep than I did.”
Ellie got out of bed, and the two of them began getting ready for the party, Savannah attacking her messy hair with a brush.
“So what did you and June do?” Savannah asked.
“Oh, nothing new, but it was still weird. She went on about how it’s important for us to strengthen our magic as individuals, not just as twins. Asked me what kind of magic I want to be able to do.”
“What did you say?”
“Only thing I could think of. I want to be able to fly.” She shrugged. “Oh, and I talked to her again about the people on the old world.”
“I think she’s considering it.”
“Well,” Savannah sighed, “I think she might possibly be considering it as well.”
“I’m not giving up on this. After the Celebration, we are going to go.”
When they were ready, the twins went down to the main room, where breakfast was served. People were milling about, most of them gathered by the tables along the walls to eat. Some were standing on the balcony, watching the others below. Outside the wide windows, the sun peeked through the clouds, and autumn leaves blew in the wind, golden, yellow, orange and red. Among the falling leaves, Ellie thought she spotted something else sparkling gold.
“Is Eva out there?”
“Probably,” Savannah said.
“Yeah, she’s out there,” Aaron said, walking up behind them. “She loves the Celebration of Fall. It still feels so new with the magic restored.”
Everything had vastly improved since the twins restored the magic over a year ago. They had much more freedom now, for they no longer had to worry about straying out of bounds. The schools in Kherington reopened, and some kids from the mansion had returned to lessons in town. The twins considered it, but preferred their lessons with June. The queen wanted to continue teaching them herself, too. Though they couldn’t see some of their friends as often because they were in school, everyone was much happier. Eva could dance without fear of losing control. Katherine returned to her home in the South, but Julian decided to remain in the mansion. Aiden was away on his journey to the center of magic, leaving Hannah and Michelle with more free time to spend with the twins. June warned them not to be too carefree, because they still had no idea what caused the storm, and she was afraid it might happen again. But with Jerome still bound by Aiden’s magic, Ellie felt like none of them had anything to worry about.
Michelle and Hannah met the twins in the main room, and the four of them sat down by a window to eat. The two best friends were rather different in appearance: Michelle, with plain brown hair and green eyes, and Hannah, with ethereal sky-blue hair and an innocent, almost childlike face. But often, their smiles were as identical as the twins’. They’d been inseparable since Hannah brought Michelle from the other world.
“What did you guys do last night?” Ellie asked.
“Practiced magic!” Michelle said. “With power transfers, I’ve mastered the magical basics. It was pretty hard when I first came here, but after you reset the balance it’s a lot easier to feel the magic in the air, especially this time of year.”
“Fall and spring are the best times to practice,” Hannah said.
“It’s incredible,” Michelle said. “I love fall.”
“I just wish Aiden could be here too,” Hannah said.
“Time passes differently on that journey,” Savannah said. “Don’t worry about him, he’ll be back soon.”
“I wish he didn’t have to miss this!”
“Would he even be able to stay awake for it?” Ellie asked.
Michelle shrugged. “I dunno, but I hope we’ll be able to.”
“Well, if it’s anything like last year, you’ll be getting hyped up soon,” Hannah said.
They heard yells from across the room. “Speaking of hyped up,” Ellie muttered.
“Celebration of Faaaaaall!” Shane called, dancing over to their table. “Ellie! Ellie-Ellie-Ellie! Are you ready to see this place like you’ve never seen it before?”
Shane’s red hair was already in disarray, probably from bouncing off the walls, Ellie thought. His energy matched his gift so perfectly. He was fire, in every sense, and she couldn’t get enough of it.
“I’m ready,” Ellie said, “but these three were up all night.”
“What had you up all night?” Shane asked. “It wasn’t me,” he added quickly to Bree, who had given him a glance as she passed by. “You all just a bunch of party girls? Why wasn’t I invited?”
“Girls only,” Michelle said.
“Is this a girls only table or can I sit down?”
“Sit,” Ellie said, pulling out the chair next to her. “Don’t worry, I wasn’t invited either.”
“We would have invited you! You had a lesson!” Hannah said.
“How’d that go?” Michelle asked.
“Great, but tiring,” Ellie said. “Plus I was babysitting Gabby and Cameron all day.” She scanned the crowd until she found them—Amber and Damien walking side by side, with little Cameron in his mother’s arms, and Gabrielle skipping along at their feet. Today was not only the Celebration of Fall, but Cameron’s first birthday. The little boy was born a year ago this morning, right at home in the mansion. Cameron’s wide brown eyes stared around at everyone, intrigued by the festivities.
They watched the family walking to the breakfast table together. Gabrielle soon left the others, and ran around the room searching for her friends.
“Hey Vikki!” she called. “Vikki!”
Vikki greeted her friend with a smile, but it wasn’t as bright and genuine as others in the room. Ellie knew why. This holiday had to be hard for her. It was another Celebration without her little sister, Lili. Amid all the joy of the world’s renewed magic, it seemed to the twins that Lili had been forgotten.
The group talked with excitement about the coming events. There would be a party in the garden that night, and a grand feast. Eva would be performing earlier in the day as well.
“Oh, when’s Eva’s show?” Ellie asked, bouncing in her seat.
“After breakfast,” Hannah said.
“Now she’s awake,” Savannah laughed.
In the meantime, music was playing, and people were beginning to rise from their tables to dance. “Shall we?” Shane said, offering his hand to Ellie.
Ellie jumped up and went with Shane to the dance floor. They took hands and twirled about together. Ellie lit up her hands with her green glow in imitation of Eva, and Shane added his own light to the mix.
Ellie hardly noticed when others in the room were finishing their breakfast, and beginning to migrate toward the theater. Soon, Savannah, Hannah, and Michelle had left, but Ellie and Shane stayed until the room emptied. Then they hurried up the stairs, eager to see Eva perform.
Savannah waited in the theater with Hannah and Michelle. The stage was beautifully decorated. Colorful autumn trees, pumpkins, and flowers surrounded the clear space where Eva would dance. Seated near the front of the theater was the trio of the most powerful people in the mansion: June, and her advisors Nikki Blake and Julian Adelburg. Behind them, Alicia sat with Vikki, next to the Bard family, Amber, Damien, Gabrielle and Cameron.
Hannah was talking about Aiden. The mention of the name in this place brought up bittersweet memories for Savannah. She remembered the room of voices below the theater before they reset the balance. “Nathaniel’s a lot like Aiden. He doesn’t quite fit his gift.” After all this time, she still hadn’t heard news of her storm-created friend.
“What’s up, Savannah?” Hannah asked.
Hannah looked at her expectantly. Savannah tried to think of something believable. “Oh, it’s nothing, it’s… It’s stupid.”
“You can tell us,” Hannah said.
“Oh, you talking about Aiden, and you know, seeing Ellie dance with Shane… I don’t want to be jealous or anything, but no one’s ever been like that with me.” It seemed like an obvious lie, but Hannah didn’t know about her feelings for Nathaniel. She had only discussed him with Ellie.
“What about you and Morgan?” Hannah asked.
“We’re both pretty shy,” Savannah said. She was beginning to feel shy now, even though she could talk to Hannah and Michelle about nearly anything.
“Just try to relax,” Hannah said. “Maybe you’re both waiting for the other to make a move.”
Savannah nodded. Truthfully, she wasn’t waiting for anyone to make a move. If Morgan did, she imagined she’d turn him down. What she was waiting for was an answer. There was still a chance Nathaniel was alive. Before Hannah and Michelle could ask if there was something else on her mind, she decided to steer them away from dangerous territory. “What about you, Michelle?” she asked. “You got your eye on anyone?”
“Maybe,” Michelle said, glancing around the room. “He’s not here right now, though.”
Savannah’s eyes followed Michelle’s. Several people hadn’t arrived in the theater yet. Ellie and Shane were still downstairs. Aaron and Jordan were both missing as well.
“Gonna tell us who it is?” Savannah asked.
“Oh look, Ellie and Shane are here!” Michelle said.
“Nice try,” Hannah said, as Ellie and Shane sat down beside them. “Come on, Shelly, tell us!”
“Sh! The show’s starting!”
The lights dimmed, and the audience fell silent. The stage lit up, and Eva appeared at its center, dressed in red, her purple hair tied in a high ponytail. Music started, and the dance began. Eva glowed gold, twirling around the stage. Gold turned to orange, yellow, and several colors at once. Leaves fell from the ceiling, and from the trees on stage. Shadows danced behind Eva, staying in the background. The effect was mesmerizing.
The music changed, and another dancer appeared from behind a tree. It took a moment for Savannah to recognize him, despite his dark skin and dreadlocks. Jordan looked like a different person, dressed up, and standing tall. Eva had taught him to dance. The glow circled around them both as they moved together. He was nowhere near her level of talent, but he kept up with her, and seemed to be enjoying himself.
At the end of the dance, he held her up on his shoulder, and she reached out an arm to pluck a golden leaf from a tree. She threw the leaf out into the audience, and people stood up to catch it. This was a tradition of the Celebration of Fall. Catching the golden leaf meant good luck for the coming year. It floated past the row where June, Nikki, and Julian were seated, and into the small hands of Vikki. The girl stared at the leaf in surprise, and sat back down with a smile, holding it in both hands. Most of the crowd stayed on their feet, clapping and cheering for Eva and Jordan.
After the performance, the mansion was relatively quiet until that night. Ellie and Savannah spent the day with their friends, talking and laughing as they prepared for the evening. Hannah took them all—the twins, Michelle, Shane, Morgan, and Aaron, to a costume room. There were racks of elegant clothes at the center of the room, and along the walls were rows of mirrors, and counters stacked with make-up. Hannah and Michelle sat by the mirrors, and the twins sorted through the costumes with the boys. Eva and Jordan had disappeared together, and Shane was speculating aloud about what they might be doing.
“It is the Celebration of Fall, I mean they have reason to—”
“No one wants to know, Shane,” Aaron said.
“Hey Hannah, can you tell us about the meanings of the Celebrations again?” Savannah asked. “I get them confused.”
“Maybe Morgan should tell us, I don’t want to mess this up.” Hannah was busy doing Michelle’s make-up. Michelle wore an elaborate red dress with orange and yellow flowers. Hannah’s dress was black with blue ribbons that matched her hair.
“Alright,” Morgan said. “Well, the Summer Celebration is the biggest, and a lot of people visit the Summerland. They tell stories of the early people all night. It’s all about celebrating the Illusions, and everything the early people created. The Spring Celebration is about the love between Claire and Dimitri. People focus on the good times between them for spring and summer.”
“That’s why fall is the best one,” Ellie muttered.
Savannah was still watching Morgan as he spoke. He was so quiet most of the time, hiding behind his long brown hair. His presence could so easily go unnoticed, but when he spoke, when he told stories, he lit up. He’d developed a more muscular build, too, and Savannah couldn’t help admiring him, though she didn’t plan to act on her feelings.
“They say Claire’s Summerland froze over on the first day of fall,” Morgan continued. “It turned to Winterland and stayed that way until the first day of spring, when the ice melted and it became Summerland again.”
Savannah loved the idea of Summerland. Claire worked on it when she was happiest, bringing her love and joy into physical form. She made a sanctuary the cold couldn’t touch, a beautiful space where it would always be summer. But losing Dimitri was so painful, it permanently changed the magic, stealing its warmth for half the year.
“During the Celebration of Fall, people tell more stories about Dimitri, to remember all he did for the world, and how he died defending the mansion,” Morgan said. “The Winter Celebration is smaller, for families to celebrate their love for each other. Some people focus more on the stories of the early people, but the Celebrations are also just a way to mark the passing seasons.”
“Dimitri was awesome. Claire was evil,” Ellie said.
“Hey! Claire was awesome too!” Shane said.
“Awesome? Are you kidding?” Since Morgan first told them the story of Claire and Dimitri, Ellie had taken an interest in it. She found Claire particularly intriguing. She spent hours in the library studying history books, but hadn’t found anything to justify Claire’s actions. Now she thought Claire was just plain evil. Every time Savannah reminded her it was Claire and Dimitri’s letter that helped them in the golden room, Ellie gave all the credit to Dimitri.
“She didn’t know what she was doing!” Shane said.
“In the beginning she didn’t, but she could’ve stopped once she realized it. If she really loved Dimitri, she would have changed. How’s this dress look on me, Savannah?” Ellie struck a pose in her lacy black gown.
Shane cut in before Savannah could answer. “It’s lovely. Very Claire-like, actually.”
“No!” Ellie exclaimed. “Do you even know what Claire looked like? Because I don’t look a thing like her! And I’m not wearing this stupid dress!”
“You look more like Claire than we do,” Savannah said to Shane. She’d seen pictures of Claire. She had a curvy figure, green eyes, and long red hair.
Shane laughed. “I’m kidding, Ellie. You don’t look like her. Although she was very pretty.”
“Oh, so I’m not as pretty as Claire. But if I did to you what she did to Dimitri, you wouldn’t be too happy with me, would you?”
“Yeah, but you wouldn’t do that.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“You’re Ellie Senka!”
“We’re Ellie and Savannah Senka,” they said together.
“Wow, that never stops being beautiful and a little creepy,” Shane said. “Anyway, the situation’s totally different. As far as I know, you don’t have a Lidia.”
“She made her own choices, and would have with or without Lidia.”
“Ellie, chill,” Savannah said. She’d been surprised when Ellie first expressed her dislike of Claire. Ellie was usually the kind of person who saw the good in people, and Savannah liked to think she was too. Part of her didn’t mind at all that Claire had made mistakes. In fact, she was glad of it, for it meant even the creators of the world weren’t perfect. It made her feel a little better about the consequences of resetting the world’s balance. “What do you think, Morgan?” she asked. In her mind, Morgan was the expert on the old story, if only because he was the first one who told it to them.
“I don’t know why Claire went wrong,” he said slowly. “But I don’t think there would be a Winterland if Claire didn’t love Dimitri.”
“Or maybe she was only depressed because she killed all her evil friends, too,” Ellie said. “Why is the story of Claire and Dimitri thought of as such as epic love story? You never hear anything about Dimitri and the Lady Illusion, but she didn’t betray him to his death.”
Savannah tried to change the subject. “So does the Summerland really freeze over on the first day of fall?”
“No,” Shane said. “That’s just a story, but it does start changing on the first day of fall. It’ll be winter there soon.”
“And then it starts changing back on the first day of spring,” Morgan said.
“It’d sure be nice if it stayed warm there during winter,” Ellie said. “Claire even screwed that up.”
“Hey Ellie, wanna try on this crazy outfit?” Savannah asked, struggling to hold up an enormous red dress. Its full skirt could have hidden the entire group.
“Looks like a huge version of the dress you’ve got, Michelle,” Aaron said, looking back toward where she’d been sitting. “Hey, where’d she go?”
Caught up in the argument, no one had noticed the absence of both Hannah and Michelle. They searched the costume room until they found them both, fully dressed and made up.
“Wow!” Savannah said. “You look beautiful!”
“I know!” Michelle said, twirling in a circle.
“Hey,” Ellie said, “do you think Claire had good reasons for being so evil?”
“Ellie,” Savannah sighed. “Let it go, please.”
“Did you ever hear the rumor that June is Claire and Dimitri’s daughter?” Morgan asked.
“Heard it,” Hannah said. “Don’t believe it.”
“What?” Shane said. “That’s ridiculous! I know she’s old, but she couldn’t be that old!”
“There’s a story that says after all the loss Claire went through, she couldn’t stand to have another child leave her. So she put a spell on her to stay a little girl forever, so she’d never grow up.”
“That’s straight up creepy,” Ellie said.
“Sounds like an old fairy tale to me,” Savannah said.
“Psh. I wouldn’t put it past her.”
“I’ve got an idea,” Hannah said. “We should all take a trip to the Summerland before it freezes! If we can’t get out soon, it’ll have to wait till spring, but we should go, it’s absolutely beautiful.”
“It sounds like a dream,” Michelle said.
“You’ll love it,” Hannah said. She and the others managed to keep Ellie’s mind off Claire while they got ready. Instead, they talked about what would happen that night, and reminisced about the past year’s Celebration.
Dinner that evening was held in the garden, where many tables were arranged among the trees. Colorful leaves gently drifted down to join piles building up on the ground. There were pumpkins everywhere, some of them carved and some of them whole, the carved ones glowing with candlelight. Candles were set among the tables as well, enchanted to keep burning until the Celebration ended.
Savannah’s mind was still on Claire as they ate. Claire, who had done so much for the world, yet lost everything in an attempt to put things right. People still held her in their memories and celebrated the good she had done, but there were also holidays to remember what she had done wrong. Savannah couldn’t help wondering what the Celebration of New Beginnings would become, years in the future. The world was still too bright and new for people to hold a dark thought in their minds, but Savannah feared what might come in time.
The Adventure Continues...
"I enjoyed this book as much as the first one. I am glad the kids grew up a little more and their powers have grown with them. I think this is a great series with magic and characters I enjoy to read about." --Amazon reviewer
"This sequal, in short, was amazing! It made me tear up many times. This book has a more mature tone to it. I personally loved it!" --Amazon reviewer