Chapter One: Returning to the Map
Minecraft music filled the family room as JJ and Jamie concentrated on the television screen. The theme park map they’d visited the previous weekend was open. They weren’t playing, only watching.
On-screen, their new friend Archer tended to his horses.
“Why did he lead them to the waterfall?” Jamie asked.
“To wash them,” JJ said.
Jamie sighed. “This is the slowest week ever. I can’t wait to go back into the map. Archer’s probably forgotten who we are by now.”
“I doubt it. You’re just impatient.”
“All I can think about is going back through the portal to see him. He won’t believe we’ve met Flos. I wish Annie and Charli would hurry up.”
“They’ll be here soon, it’s still early.” JJ couldn’t wait for Archer’s reaction either. Their last visit to the Minecraft world had been to thank Archer, the masked hero, for saving them from the crazy professor’s potion. They hadn’t expected to get caught up in a rescue mission. Spirit, Archer’s special horse, had been stolen and the Crafters’ Club members offered to help find her. Cave explorations and encounters with mobs had only been the start of their issues. Once they’d found Spirit, they had faced further problems trying to free her. Quick thinking and clever crafting had been essential.
Jamie tapped his foot against the coffee table. “It’s not that early.”
JJ laughed. “Stop whining would you, they’ll be here any minute.”
Annie arrived first. “Charli will be here soon.” She flopped down on the couch. “What are you doing?”
“Filling in time, waiting for you and Charli,” Jamie said. “We’re watching Archer but other than look after the horses he’s not doing a whole lot. I can’t wait to go back in, can you?”
Annie grinned. “Nope, it’s all I’ve thought about this week. Archer will get such a surprise. Do you think Flos’ potion will work?”
At the end of their last adventure, when the four Crafters’ Club members exited the portal, they’d been amazed to find Flos, a friend of Archer’s, waiting for them.
Archer had explained that Flos was a beautiful woman he’d met in the Minecraft world. She’d disappeared after giving his horse, Spirit, a special apple which had changed her forever. No longer a horse, she was now a unicorn but Archer had never seen Flos again.
Flos had told them that when the professor killed her in the map she’d been transported back to the real world and was unable to go back through the portal. Flos was a real person who’d found her way into a map and she had powers they did not. Flos could create potions.
The Crafters’ Club members had arranged to meet Flos in the forest. She would give them a special apple, containing a potion, to take into the map. The potion would help protect Archer, Spirit, and the horses, from nighttime mob attacks.
“I hope the potion will work.” Charli came into the family room. “It would make Archer’s life so much easier.”
Jamie jumped to his feet. “Come on, you’re here, let’s go and find Flos.”
JJ laughed. “She’s unlikely to be there yet. It’s still early.”
“She said after breakfast.” Jamie moved to the door. “Breakfast was hours ago, she’ll think we’re not coming.”
“Breakfast was hours ago because you got up at five o’clock,” JJ said.
“It won’t hurt to hang out by the portal and wait,” Charli said. “Wolf might be down there, we can play with him.”
“Oh yes,” Annie said. “I’d love to see Wolf, he hasn’t been around all week. Come on, JJ.” She grabbed his arm and pulled him to his feet.
JJ grinned. “Okay, you guys win. Let’s go.”
Leaves rustled as the trees surrounding the clearing swayed in the cool morning air. The hum of the portal and its purple light greeted the four friends as they ran out of the forest and into the clearing.
JJ glanced from the portal to the fallen log Flos had been waiting on when they’d first met her. The log was empty. “I told you we didn’t need to hurry,” JJ said. “Wolf’s not here either.”
A bark rang out through the forest the moment JJ said the dog’s name.
Annie grinned. “Sounds like someone heard you.”
Moments later Wolf bounded into the clearing, rushed up to Annie and almost knocked her over. She laughed and tickled the dog’s ears. He raced from Annie to Charli and then Jamie, licking each of them as his tail wagged furiously.
“Where’s Flos, boy?” Jamie asked.
Wolf ran in circles, barking at the sound of Flos’ name. He leaped up and raced back to Jamie, butting his head into Jamie’s leg.
Jamie laughed. “Calm down, you’re going to knock me over.”
Wolf continued butting against him.
“He’s trying to tell you something,” Charli said.
“What’s that white thing attached to his collar?” JJ asked.
Jamie grabbed Wolf’s collar and the dog sat down. He pulled a piece of white paper from beneath the leather and handed it to JJ.
“A note from Flos.” JJ opened the sheet of paper. “She says she has an appointment this morning and can’t come.” JJ glanced over at the fallen log. “She’s left an apple in a container by the log. She says we can’t open it until we get into the map or the potion won’t work. Once we’re in the map we give it to Archer and he, Spirit, and the horses all need to take a bite. The potion will protect them from mobs.”
Jamie and Charli searched around the fallen log.
“Does the note say anything else?” Annie asked.
JJ nodded. “To tell him she loves and misses him.”
Annie smiled. “He’ll like that.”
“Here.” Jamie held up a white container. “It’s heavy, it must be a very big apple.”
“Don’t open it,” Annie said.
“Of course I won’t, I listened to what JJ said. Now come on, who’s going to take it in? Can I?”
JJ nodded. “Yes, if you want to. I’m still not sure if this will work.”
“Come on,” Jamie said. “The apple and I are going in, who’s coming?”
Wolf barked and moved next to Jamie. Jamie rubbed his head. “There’s one yes, who else?”
Annie and Charli joined Jamie and Wolf. JJ followed them. Everyone was keen to go back in. Giving Archer protection would be amazing. JJ smiled. Telling him about Flos and getting to see Spirit again, maybe even ride her, would be incredible.
He joined arms with Annie and followed Jamie, Charli, and Wolf into the portal’s flickering purple light.
Wolf leaped and barked as JJLee45, CakeGirl1, JamieG14, and Charli9 oriented themselves. They were back in the theme park map but they’d arrived in a different location.
“Where are we?” JJ peered across the landscape looking for familiar landmarks. Hills and trees spread for miles.
Jamie laughed. “Turn around.” He watched as Annie, JJ, and Charli’s Minecraft characters swung to face in the opposite direction.
Annie let out a breath. “Oh, thank goodness. For a second I thought we’d ended up in a different map.” The theme park stood in the distance. They’d entered the map on a tall hill, rather than the thick forest they’d arrived in last time.
“It worked.” Jamie grinned and held up the white container. “I was able to bring the apple through the portal.”
“Fantastic,” Charli said. “Let’s go and find Archer.” She started moving down the side of the hill to the valley below.
Jamie didn’t need to be convinced. He tucked the container under one arm and followed her.
“Ready?” JJ asked Annie.
She nodded. “Definitely. I can’t wait to see Spirit again. Do you think Archer will let us ride her?”
JJ’s smile widened. How he’d love to experience the magical feeling of riding Spirit again. “I hope so,” he said. “Only one way to find out.” He grabbed Annie’s arm and together they sped down the hill after Charli and Jamie.
Archer was cleaning a saddle when the Crafters’ Club members arrived at the waterfall. Surrounded by the other horses, Spirit’s brilliant white coat gleamed in the morning sunlight.
Archer rose to his feet. He dropped the brush on the ground and hurried over to the group. “Hello.” He gave Jamie a friendly pat on the back. “It’s wonderful to see you.”
“We’re sorry it’s taken us so many days to come back and visit,” JJ said.
Archer’s face creased in confusion. “But I’ve seen you every day. Well, Jamie at least. He doesn’t say much though.”
Jamie laughed. “I’ve been visiting you from our world. It’s different. I can’t talk to you or hear what you say when I’m playing from the Xbox.”
“I still don’t understand your world,” Archer said. “Do you think you could take me one day?”
“No!” All four friends said at once. On one of their past adventures, they’d attempted to take the villager boy, Toby, to the real world. It hadn’t ended well.
JJ laughed. Even though Archer’s face was partly hidden by a white mask the surprise in his eyes was unmissable. “Sorry, we’d love to but we’ve tried before and it doesn’t work. We’d end up in the Nether which is a horrible place.”
Archer nodded. “Okay, I believe you. So, would you like to ride Spirit or one of the horses?”
“We need to discuss something with you first,” JJ said. “Jamie, do you have the container?”
Jamie placed the container on the ground.
“What’s inside?” Archer asked.
“A present. From Flos,” JJ said.
Archer sucked in a breath. “Flos?”
JJ nodded. “We met Flos in our world. She was only visiting the Minecraft map when she gave you the special apple for Spirit.”
“She was killed by the professor,” Jamie said. “Not in our world,” he hurried to add. “But because she died in the Minecraft world she can’t come back in.”
Archer stared at Jamie. “Not ever?”
Jamie shook his head. “No, it’s the same for the professor, he can’t come back in either.”
“Flos asked us to bring this container to you,” Annie said. “She also told us to tell you how much she misses you and loves you.”
Archer blushed. “I miss and love her, too. What’s in the container?”
“It’s a magic potion,” JJ said. “An apple, like the one she fed Spirit, but this one is to protect you. Flos said you must take a bite and give a small bite to Spirit and each of the horses. The potion will stop mobs from attacking you at night.”
“Really?” Archer said.
“Yes,” JJ said. “She wanted to do something to make your life easier.”
“All you need to do is open the container,” Charli said, “and take a bite.”
Archer picked up the container. “I can’t believe Flos did this. I told you she was a beautiful person. Now, let’s take a look at this apple.” He lifted the lid of the box and took out a blue and green can.
Archer dropped the box, holding the can in one hand. “There’s no apple in here,” he said. “Are you sure she said it was an apple?”
“It’s one of those cans,” Charli said. “Like the professor had.”
JJ frowned. “But…”
The top of the blue and green can shot open and a blue gas rose into the air.
Archer dropped the can. “What’s happening?”
No one knew. The gas whirled and twisted above them before moving higher into the sky.
“This is not what Flos said would happen.” JJ’s eyes were fixed on the blue gas. “Her note said it was an apple.”
The blue gas turned black and an explosion shook the ground. Smoke and dust filled the air.