The story’s protagonist Neina has found a place in many hearts and she will surely be missed when the novel ends. But what WSA and SC have managed to do in the span of these 3-4 months has carved out an indelible legacy on the literary canvas of the UAE.
Let’s see in which direction this mercurial ride steered itself this week.
“The Queen is dead, long live the queen”.
And on this note we had concluded Chapter 69 last week. Isla mother, with the help of the turquoise stone, had killed Queen Orla while perishing along with her. Neina had told Isla that she must take the reins of the Mors World. Let’s see what happens next.
Chapter 70 has been written by Dalia Mustafa of Universal American School.
Isla does not want to take the throne and Neina reassures her that she would support whatever decision she takes. But what was more pertinent at the moment was to go back to Earth and inform others of the cataclysmic events which had taken place. Isla takes Neina’s hand and opens a portal to travel back to Earth. The two finally reach Charlotte’s house.
The moment Charlotte sees Neina, she engulfs her in a tight hug. Frankie and Ryder are there as well. Charlotte asks them to eat something and they gather around the dining table.
Isla goes on to tell the others all that had transpired while Neina and she were in the Mors World. Their conversation turns to the prophecy and Neina is reminded of the wormhole that Queen Orla had talked about. This wormhole which was, at present, connecting the Earth and Mors World had to be closed within a given time frame. The portals lay underneath the ground in the foundations of the two prophesy towers and if Queen Orla’s warning was true then they had to act fast to close them. Neina wonders what was it that they had to do?
“The Prophesy Tower was her life's work; if it was already built in Mors, was building it here just strengthening the connection between the two worlds? Did it mean she had to destroy the project she had given everything to? Or was there another way?”
As Neina tries to wrack her brain for a solution, the flickering flame of the candle reminds her of something that she had encountered during one of her first visits to Mors World, her meeting with her childhood friend Freya. Neina remembered how Freya had disappeared after she (Neina) had apologized to her. Neina is further reminded of how Pride and Envy also disappeared after she had answered their questions. This makes her wonder if there was a way after all to cut ties with the Mors World?
Neina tells others that she might know what to do but they needed to find Janus first.
The baton is passed to Arshia Shetty of Repton School Dubai for Chapter 71.
Charlotte assures Neina that she believes in her. Neina replies that if Queen Orla was telling the truth about only having two days left to close the portal, then they had to race against time. Neina is also struck with a realization:
“Not everyone could survive almost dying in an unfamiliar and deadly place - and multiple times. Not everyone could survive the trauma of repeatedly wondering if, in fact, they were insane. Even fewer still could survive intact the worry that their life had been fundamentally worthless, its only meaning coming from a prophecy that meant every act, every thought was not theirs but predetermined.”
It’s good to see Neina back in control and telling herself that she was the girl “made of the stars”. She tells Isla to create a portal to reach Tutumni Desert where they will have the hope of finding Janus. Once they reach there, they do not find Janus immediately, but they do find an apparition of Lola, Isla’s younger sister who went missing when she was a little child.
“She looked so young, seven or eight, yet so, so, very old. Her once gamine features were now, inexplicably just a blur. Her hair had turned ghostly white; the colour of freshly fallen, untouched snow. Lola's eyes looked devoid of any other emotion other than pure sorrow and melancholy.”
As Lola turns around to reveal a stab wound- ruptured, spliced skin now filled with dry, congealed blood, Isla passes out. When she regains consciousness, she finds herself alone with Lola who goes on to tell how, after being lost, she had found her way back home only to find Queen Orla there who had mortally wounded her. Lola goes on to say that Queen Orla’s sword can fix everything. With that Lola disappears.
As she does, a sense of peace descends over everything and Neina spots the sword wrapped in an argyle scarf.
Before I move on to the next chapter, I have to commend Arshiya for doing a fantastic job. This was a well thought out and fluidly written chapter- no over the top action or supercharged reactions but it touches the right chords. On one hand, we finally see Neina realizing her worth and taking charge while on the other, by bringing in Lola, a child who was brutally murdered by the Queen, Arshia finally manages to do what many of the authors in the past had attempted but not quite succeeded in doing- humanizing Isla.
The poignant appearance of Lola is like an embodiment of the losses and strives that Isla has gone through in her past and for the first time, as readers we empathize with her.
Chapter 72 has been written by Sofia Syed of Kent College Dubai. Neina picks up the sword from the ground and then passes it on to Isla who is still shaken after her encounter with Lola. Neina is wondering about Janus’s whereabouts. As she’s thinking the “argyle scarf leapt from Isla's grip to wrap itself around Neina, as if preparing her for the journey they must all now undertake.”
Neina takes that as a sign of moving ahead. As they move towards the mainland of Mors World, they realize that something was really different:
“The environment was unnaturally peaceful. Neina felt deeply uneasy. Abandoned buildings spread out across an open field where this place had once bustled with life. Once crowded and noisy, now the Mors had become dormant and silent.”
Neina and Isla are shocked to see Frankie and Ryder running towards them. They inform the trio that the reason why the Mors world is so deserted is because all the people are at the Prophesy Tower trying to get inside. Understanding the urgency of the situation, Neina tells everyone to find Janus. There’s a rather long description of the group running helter skelter looking for Janus and they finally find him. Neina tells them that they are running out of time and they must close the two portals which connect the two worlds.
Janus tells them that what they need to do to finally break this connection between the two worlds is to destroy the foundations of the towers. But before that they need to find a new queen because without a queen the Mors World will fall into chaos. That is the reason why all the Mors people want to leave through the portal. However, if they do succeed in leaving the Mors World, it will cause disruption in the "space time continuum".
Everyone looks at Isla anticipating her to take up the throne, but she vehemently refuses to take reigns of a land which robbed her of everyone who was important to her.
Neina’s mind once again drifts to Freya and she wonders if she could bring Freya back if she really wished her to. And the chapter closes.
This has been a good week with balanced writing and negligible factual errors which is testimony to the fact that the authors have read the past chapters and have followed the story. The quintessential magic of the “Write a Novel Challenge” is the collaboration between students. Readers who have followed this epic tale since the beginning have developed an affinity for the characters and when the same affinity reflects in the writing, it boosts the faith and interest in the story.