The figure was now above me, drifting over my head, and then it tumbled on me with the force of gravity.
And then with a whimper, I fell unconcious as darkness surrounded me.
ARICA MILLER is thrilled to begin her sophomore year at Hill Valley Private Arts Academy. Little does she know that the prestigious school holds more hidden secrets than she'd anticipated-especially with the head mistress. After she accidentally comes into contact with a mysterious gemstone necklace, she receives strange hallucinations that connect to her family's past. Arica soon realizes that this is no regular necklace that contains power beyond her knowledge. And that's not all. Her world unwinds as she is absorbed with knowledge of a world of sorcery.
All dating uo to Halloween night, Arica must face suspicious friends, monstrous creatures, and the truth of her family's connection with sorcery. But worst of all, she must face a powerful enemy keen on only one thing: the gemstones.
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Read an Excerpt
By Sarena Nanua Sasha Nanua
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Sarena and Sasha Nanua
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA NEW LIFE
British Columbia Present day
I lowered my bow after a perfect shot at the target board. "As if it couldn't get any worse."
"Oh, come on, Arica dear. I know moving is hard, but we're moving into a beautiful new house! The academy isn't very far either, so you can always visit." My mom pasted a picture-perfect smile on her face. I turned to my mother with an unhappy look on my face.
"What about Kathy and Samantha? What about drama and archery club? How am I supposed to survive without my best friends and my two favourite clubs of all time?" My emotions gushed out of me before I could stop myself. Even on moving day I was still anxious of my new home and school. Essentially, I was apprehensive of my new life.
My mom sighed, and then said, "You'll find many new friends and join many new clubs! After all, you are joining a private academy for the arts!" my mother said enthusiastically. She had a point. This new school—academy—would be all about the arts. All about drama....
"I suppose so," I said in a timid voice.
"Alright, now let's not get all gloomy. Why don't you say your final goodbyes and meet me in the car. The moving truck is about to leave."
* * *
My palms were flat against my jeans as we pulled up to the large house. I surveyed my new home through the open window. The wind carried the sweet scent of lavender from the landscaping across the yard. My pink shirt billowed in the wind, dancing to the distorted harmony of the wind.
With one last sigh, I exited the car and marvelled at the sight of my new home. The house was an enormous expanse of brick and stone. To the left was a beautifully hand-crafted door of the richest red. The house sparked with a warm, magical glow; the amount of space it took up was so large it resembled a magnificent palace. But this was obviously not a palace. This was my new home.
The unloading trucks were drawing closer as my mom and I strode away from the car and treaded across the large lawn. My eyes squinted to see the numerous boxes that were stacked at the back of a large white truck. Doors were already slamming closed and the echoes of tired engines drifted away. I really wanted to settle down with my things so I could relax and call my friends, but I knew the sorting of these endless boxes would take precious and tedious time. I pulled a box out of the truck and turned to view the scenery. The houses were huge, a never-ending suburban stretch of royalty.
Then again, maybe moving wasn't so bad. I knew that my three cousins would be attending the academy with me. Two of them were twins of my age and the other was an older boy. They all had the most intriguing British accents and quirky red hair. I hadn't seen them for many years, but I hoped their personalities hadn't changed since I last saw them.
Clanging boxes echoed in the distance. I held a spare box in my arms, the rough ridges rubbing across my forearm with a continuous swish, swish.
I hadn't realized what object laid within this box—an object that would inevitably change my future.
My first impression of the new house? Huge. When I walked inside, a large, golden-framed chandelier greeted me. The colour it emitted reminded me of the outdoors, playing in the park with friends. This was a faint reminder of my old friends, my old life. Not much had changed; I had always lived with my mom, always had great friends, and even more than substantially good marks. If you were wondering, I'd never really lived with my father. He was apparently killed in battle—military war, when I was too young to remember.
"Arica," my mom called. "Welcome to your new home, hunny!" She rubbed my shoulders from behind, the rattling keys barely clinging to her finger.
My new home. Yes, this was definitely something I would need to get used to.
"Oh, butterfingers!" Mom muttered when her keys fell to the ground. She muttered something else and then strolled out the door.
I lowered the box to the ground before drifting casually out the door. The sky's gloomy and saddened expression mirrored my own nervous and stirring thoughts of leaving my old home to go to the academy. But then again, I was quite excited to see the arts and drama programs that would be at my disposal.
I marched over to the trunk and pulled the bags into my arms.
"That's better," Mom said when I dropped the bags onto the smooth hardwood. She sat on the comfortable sofa, peering over the cluster of boxes.
"Yeah," I murmured in agreement, looking over my shoulder to see two muscle men carrying a beige couch. Once it was settled, I sat on it for the purpose of a reminder of my old home, old school, and how I'd always come home from elementary school to sit on this couch and watch cartoons. The new private academy—Hill Valley—would be different in comparison to my old school. The academy had dormitories and different campuses for the students to live in while attending the academy. By the looks of the brochures, it was quite large and there were multiple campuses to join. I didn't know much about the school at the moment, although I was sure to find out more information at the orientation in several days' time.
After that small deliberation I ascended the slippery staircase with my bags. A wide corridor greeted me at the top of the stairs. The smell of fresh paint invaded my nose.
I passed several white doors before I reached one in particular. Stretching out my arm, I opened the door to my brand new—but temporary—room.
The walls were an expressionless white; a blank canvas. I'm sure that you're beginning to wonder why we moved into such a large house in the first place. Well, the only reason we could actually afford this house was because of Aunt Elizabeth.
Ah, yes, Aunt Liz: the incomparable real estate agent who had offered us this home—less than retail, of course—and suggested that since Mom needed a new job, she could work alongside Aunt Liz. Aunt Liz was now Mom's boss and she provided us with this house because it was closely situated to hers.
Aunt Liz was the most outgoing and adventurous mother you could ever meet, which was quite the opposite of my own mother, her sister. She had three children, although I probably only visited them when I was young, where they lived in England. Aunt Liz's family had lived in Ireland, Scotland, and then England—Mom told me all about this—until they moved here about a year ago, when they began to attend Hill Valley.
The only vivid part of England which I could remember from my vacations as a child was strolling through a large open area with my cousins, their cherry-red hair drifting behind them as we played tag in the fields.
I wandered out of my room and heard a loud bang. I shook my head and my chocolate brown eyes followed the source of the noise. I strutted down the stairs and finally saw two men holding a familiar bed—yes, mine—and they began to carefully manoeuvre the bed up the stairs.
My whole life had officially moved. I had a new life now, although I didn't know that by 'new life' it would be completely different.
I went back into my room, seeing that my mom had dropped my special sketchbook on my bed. My lips twitched into a warm smile and my hands began to flip through the flying pages of my sketchbook. It was full of numerous drawings, but mostly just scenes I had pulled out of plays.
I left the book on my bed and then trotted downstairs, walking briskly through the halls while scanning the numerous boxes. I found the box I had been holding earlier, with the word 'basement' labelled neatly in black marker.
When I saw the word 'basement' on the box, I'd taken a moment and realized that I hadn't even visited my own basement yet; it was still being furnished at the time we had come to visit the house.
I walked over to the box, swinging it into my arms before I strolled over to the entrance of the basement.
"Where is that box?" I heard Mom call from across the hall. I turned swiftly and saw her gasp at the box in my hands. "Arica, where did you find that?" she asked alarmingly.
"Oh, just in the truck—"
"Well, don't worry about that," she said, sweeping her somewhat fearful blue eyes over my face. Worry lines crossed her forehead as she took the box from my hands and held it cautiously, as if it were about to explode with a single movement.
"It's alright, Mom, I think I want to see the basement—"
"Could you grab the rest of those boxes from the trunk, dear?" Mom asked.
"Oh ... yeah, sure, Mom...."
She smiled appreciatively and then took a fearful glance at the box. Within a split second, she had opened the door to the basement and descended into the darkness.
She didn't come back for a while, but when she did I knew that I wanted to know what was so odd about that box—what she wouldn't disclose to me. Rather than being upfront about the situation, I carefully considered my options.
"Um, Mom, I'm just going to sort some of my things ..." I trailed off.
"Ah, yes, of course," she said disconcertingly, matching the plates in a long array across the table.
I felt a small twinge of guilt after she spoke, but as soon as she started to file the plates I left for the basement. I repeatedly told myself that there was nothing to be guilty for. What could be so important about a box, or what it contained, anyway?
I stood before the basement staircase, questioning myself. I knew I shouldn't have gone into the basement. Of course my mother needed help, but I was curious. It didn't matter, anyway. I should be able to see my own basement—especially that box, and I had an odd feeling that she'd hidden it for a curious but vital reason....
The cool steps were incredibly slippery, but I finally made it down with extreme caution.
Before contemplating the final step, I lost my grip on the railing and tumbled onto the floor.
"Ow ..." I groaned, peering through my eyelids to see a dark and dimly lit room with only a few distinct and fuzzy shapes. The only light source finally flickered and died out, so I was left in a deep, eerie darkness.
I pulled myself up on my elbow and a dizzy feeling overwhelmed my thoughts. I turned my head to the side and examined the small window at the top right corner of the basement. A thumbnail of the gray sky began to paint itself into a hazy blue as the evening commenced. I stood on my feet and rubbed my elbow until the seemingly infinite pain subsided. My vision gradually grew sharper in the dark haze. The floor was covered with a crème coloured carpet, where we would keep a plasma screen television and a few extra storage boxes. My toes sunk into the carpet as if it were quicksand, massaging my toes. I moved at a steady pace, feeling alongside the cool walls for a light switch.
Overhead I heard a large cracking sound. After my heart settled from skipping a few beats I realized it was probably the familiar sound of Mom's breaking china glass. I continued to search along the walls; I still, unfortunately, could not find a light source.
Suddenly I heard a thudding sound from the top of the stairs. I turned around and squinted as I saw the two moving men, carrying heavy boxes for storage. They carried the boxes without straining a muscle, and then left them in the darkness. Then they turned around and noticed me.
"Can you turn on the light switch down here?" a blond man asked.
I fumbled to find my voice. "Um, I-I'm trying to," I said without confidence.
The man only sighed and headed back up the stairs. I let out a breath as they made their way to the moving truck.
I looked back into the small window positioned at the navy blue sky. It was clear and cloudless, unlike my scattered and clouded mind. In the darkness I saw multiple boxes stacked beside and on top of each other, and in the corner sat a lonely box with distinctive black scribbled marker and red writing beneath it. I immediately knew it was the box that Mom took from me. I leaned down beside the box, my hand moving behind me so that my body weight relaxed on my hand—
A sharp pain grew in the palm of my hand; it had come in contact with a sharp object. I immediately withdrew my hand and stared at what had caused such a painful stab in my palm. Squinting, I saw something razor sharp caught in the palm of my hand. I used my pointer finger and thumb of my other hand to remove the small shard. It was a small piece of glass—no, not quite like glass, but I couldn't quite define it. In its place was a red trail of blood.
I squeezed my fist into a ball, perishing the pain. I focused on the box, looking at the defined red writing beneath the black lettering. In slanted cursive it read: DO NOT OPEN—GEMSTONE.
Do not open? Gemstone? The words puzzled me, but I had to know what was inside. I ripped open the box and saw a few spare snow globes and other particularly random items. I expected to see a 'gemstone' of some sort, so I moved my right and undamaged hand through the box, feeling around for some potentially dangerous object. As my fingers collided with a cool object an odd surge jumped out of me. What was I touching? Was it something Mom didn't want me to see? Did it have to do with Dad? I gasped. Dad—that'd make perfect sense! Mom didn't want to me to see what was in here because it'd have something to do with him, and her memories of him.
"Arica, I need help in the kitchen!" my mother called.
I suddenly realized that I had spent so much time familiarizing myself with this box that my mom was probably struggling to move the heavy kitchen boxes.
"Coming!" I quickly replied, and then let my fingertips release hold of the box. As I lifted my body to stand up, I realized that my bracelet had caught onto something deep inside.
It was some sort of velvet or ribbon. I tried breaking it loose but my bracelet was caught on the ribbon so intricately it was like prey trying to escape a spider's web. The harder I tried to pull it, the more it hurt. My mind stirred as I wondered what my bracelet could be stuck to. What could it be? Was it the gemstone?
A small shimmer came from the object, like a rainbow bouncing off crystal.
I touched the cool part of the object that I could see. It was connected to a black ribbon, like a necklace.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something.
I twisted my head to see a dark figure—well, not exactly a figure, but I wasn't sure what it was. It was moving toward me with an odd saunter, but the shape was undefined, box-like. My breath quickened. I tried moving, but my hand was caught in the necklace. I kept tugging, willing for the thread to come loose, but it didn't. I could only tug harder and harder, but the figure continued to drift toward me. I heard a faint scream and realized it came from my mouth.
Now it was almost before me. My breath quickened as I struggled to let go of the necklace. I even stood to pull the box with me, but the ribbon of the necklace reddened my wrist like a hot coal and I cried out in pain. Suddenly all I heard was my breath—in, out. The figure moved quicker and quicker, closer and closer ...
The figure was now above me, drifting over my head, and then it tumbled on me with the force of gravity.
And then with a whimper, I fell unconscious as darkness surrounded me.
The next morning I woke up to hear the three most unexpected words.
"Happy Birthday, Arica!" my mom said loudly overhead.
I stretched my arms and yawned at the same time. "W-what?" I said, struggling to find my voice. I began rubbing my eyes until I could finally see my mom sitting in front of me on a white bed.
"Don't tell me you forgot your fifteenth birthday!" she said, hands on her hips.
I sat up and stretched. "Where am I?" I said weakly.
My mother sighed. "You hurt your head on a box and somehow ended up with minor damage. I had to take you to the hospital before any serious damage was done. You're lucky we even got here!"
"Wait—I got hit in the head with a box? I thought I fainted! I thought someone—"
My mom cut me off mid-sentence. "Someone?" she asked, confused. "You should just get some sleep." She left and then came back with a bottle of ginger ale.
Excerpted from The Gemstone by Sarena Nanua Sasha Nanua Copyright © 2012 by Sarena and Sasha Nanua. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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