Once I had changed into these clothes, I retrieved my wand and spell cards from my backpack, pulled my hair back into a ponytail, and slightly tilted my hat. I was ready.
Okay, so this is where I'll keep my whole story so far, including all of The Tale of Sarah Spiritheart and others that I may have for you in the future. :)
The Tale of Sarah Spiritheart
Today, my mom finally let me take my three younger siblings to the park without her.
The park, about three blocks from our house, was small as parks go. And boring. All it was was a jungle gym and a field not even large enough for a decent sized soccer game. But the younger kids, Sadie and Samuel, loved going there. So I had to take them, and Savannah had little choice but to tag along.
Today, all four of us were at the park: Samuel, Sadie, Savannah, and me, Sarah. I looked around, trying to find them all. Samuel was climbing around on the jungle gym. I spotted Savannah in the field. So where was... yes. There she was in the field. She had just thrown Savannah a ball.
So what was I doing? There was really nothing for me to do here, so I decided to plant myself onto one of those tiny little park benches and try to manage the nearly impossible task of keeping an eye on all three siblings at the same time. At twelve, I was the oldest and the most responsible, so my mom counted on me to keep the others out of trouble.
“Sarah! Help me!”
I whirled around then sighed with combined relief and exasperation. Samuel needed my helped to get across the monkey bars again. It must’ve been the fifth time today.
“I’m coming,” I said. I got off the bench and headed for the monkey bars. Then when I got there I held my arms open for him to jump into.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Samuel. But he’s four years old and probably the biggest troublemaker in the world. So I need to keep an extra careful eye on him most of the time.
I had helped Samuel get to the last rod when I heard shouting coming from across the field.
Oh no! “Not again!” I moaned, pushing Samuel onto the platform. But I didn’t even need to look to know that Sadie and Savannah were fighting. Again.
“Sarah, look! I did it! I made it across!”
I smiled weakly. “Good for you. Stay here, okay?” I said, even though I knew he’d be up and running as soon as I left anyway.
“Okay,” he said.
So off I went, Savannah and Sadie’s shouting driving me insane - almost.
I found them in no time; they were standing near the edge of the woods. I didn’t even get to say, “What’s going on?” before Sadie shouted, “Savannah called me a scaredy-cat!”
I put my hands on my hips and glared at Savannah.
“Well, it’s true!” protested Savannah. That girl always had an excuse ready. “She accidently threw her ball in the woods and made me go get it!”
“I don’t want to!” Sadie wailed. “I might get poison ivy!”
Savannah gave me a look as if to say, You see?
As if that would make me take her side.
“So you’re not getting it?” I asked.
I turned around and stuck my head through the trees. I saw the ball nestled in between two bushes no more than five feet away.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sadie look at me expectantly. Savannah smirked.
Frowning, I walked through the trees, sidestepped a patch of poison ivy, – Sadie was right about that at least- and picked up the ball. It was then that I heard a scream of pain.
I dashed back out onto the field. Sadie was rubbing her arm.
“Come on, guys, let’s not get physical,” I said, looking Savannah straight in the eye. I handed the ball back to Sadie.
I whirled around. Not surprisingly, Samuel had moved from his spot on the monkey bars. He was now on the other side of the field.
“Look!” he shouted. “I see an owl!”
“Go see what he wants,” I said to Sadie.
No sooner than she had left, to make sure Savannah learned the lesson here, I stomped down hard on her foot.
“OW!” She screamed. Her eyes shot daggers at me. “You were the one who said not to get physical!”
“Okay,” I said, fighting to stay calm. “I admit that I could’ve done that a little differently. But can’t you cut her some slack? Just once?”
She tuck out her chin defiantly. “She’s old enough to start doing things on her own now.”
“Exactly! And look at her! She can’t even play a computer game ‘cause she’s too afraid!”
I didn’t say anything; I just returned her hostile stare. I’ve learned that sometimes, silence can be more effective than any insult.
To my relief, Savannah finally scoffed, “I’ll go apologize.” I nodded.
I hope that she at least does it right, I thought as she walked away.
Suddenly, I heard voices. I looked over my shoulder and saw two girls rollerblading on the sidewalk.
It seemed innocent enough at first. But then my eyes narrowed. I had just realized they were from my school. And they were pointing at me.
Here it comes, I thought.
Amazingly, as far apart from each other as we were, I managed to hear a few words of what they were saying.
I scowled as they rolled away, laughing, but I didn’t say anything. People talked about me behind my back all the time, so I was used to it.
I guess they laughed at me constantly partially because I was the class brainiac, the geek, the bookworm, the girl who always turned her test paper in first and still got A’s. That was part of the reason. But it was mostly because of the weirdness.
I was certain that more strange things happened to me than everyone else combined. Everywhere I went, I somehow managed to cause something to happen that I couldn’t explain. I attracted weirdness like a magnet attracts paper clips; it was as simple as that.
There was one time during recess when I was sitting under the shade of an oak tree, finding nothing else to do but watch as everyone else hung out in their little “groups,” knowing I’d be rejected if I asked to join. I had watched them enviously, wishing that I had someone to hang out with too. All of a sudden there was a rustling noise, and then hundreds of birds dove down from the trees and perched on my head, arms, shoulders… well you get the point. I was starting to get uncomfortable and was attracting several stares. But when I tried to shake them off, they wouldn’t budge. Many of the teachers got involved, but nothing what they did helped. In the end, I shouted, “Oh, just go away!” And to my amazement, they flew back into the trees as if they had been there all along.
There was another time just after school when I saw the same two girls that just skated by, about fifty feet from where I was standing. Not only did I actually hear her say, “Sarah is such a freak,” but just when she said it, thick, long vines erupted from the ground and wrapped themselves tightly around the two of them. I almost laughed when I had heard them screaming for help. Sure enough, help had come, but nobody could pull the vines apart. They had to be cut out with a bread knife instead.
Many more strange things happened to me throughout the course of my life, some hilarious, some humiliating. But after each one of them, there had always been a tiny voice in the back of my mind.
Did I do that?
Everyone else seemed to think so. And everything that had happened seemed to be linked to something I said, did, or thought.
Besides the things I mentioned, I had superdeveloped senses, being able to see or hear things from far away as if they were right nearby. On top of that, I almost never got sick. When I did get ill or injured, it seemed to heal faster for me than anyone else. My parents were amazed when I, say, didn’t catch a cold that everyone else in the family had.
“I guess you’re just immune to that sort of stuff,” my mom had told me.
Suddenly, a voice cut through my thoughts. “I’ll go get Sarah,”
I had heard Savannah say it from the opposite end of the field. And she wasn’t shouting or anything.
There goes my super hearing again, I thought.
In a second, Savannah was by my side.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Samuel’s not kidding,” she said. “There really is an owl.” Was it just me, or was there something funny in her voice?”
“Cool,” I said. I rarely saw owls around here, so I thought I might as well come over.
I followed Savannah to where Sadie and Samuel were standing. They both were staring at the same point in the trees, so I followed their gazes.
And I was immediately confused.
“Are you sure that’s an owl?” I asked. Savannah nodded.
It was an owl, but it wasn’t only snowy white. It was also wearing a graduation cap complete with a tassel and blue, round glasses.
“Do you think it’s someone’s pet?” Savannah asked. “People dress up their dogs, so why not owls?”
“I don’t know…” I said uncertainly.
I studied the owl intently. It seemed to be smiling. Wait, could owls do that?
Then… it winked.
I gasped. “Did you see that?” I asked the others. Both Sadie and Savannah nodded.
That ruled out the possibility of hallucinations.
Samuel, meanwhile, had this big, happy grin on his face. “That’s so silly!” he said. At least one of us was enjoying himself.
I turned to look back at the owl, but it had gone.
“Huh? Where did it go?” I heard Sadie say.
Suddenly, the park, the forest, everything around us – I can’t describe this any other way – melted away. Like wax on a candle.
“What’s happening?” asked Samuel.
I didn’t reply. “Grab hands,” I ordered; I didn’t want us to be separated in any way.
But wait, what was I thinking? This couldn’t be real. Could it?
It’s got to be a dream, I thought. I fell asleep on the park bench, or maybe I never even went to the park at all. Simple.
“Aha! The spell is working!” said someone, but it wasn’t one of us. In fact, it wasn’t a voice I knew, or even recognized.
At last, the last of the park melted away, and we found ourselves in a circular room lit only by a few candles. It was a little cluttered, but it somehow had a nice, homey feeling about it. What mesmerized me most, however, were the objects flying, yes, flying, around the room. Books, quill pens, scrolls, they were all zooming around the room in no particular order or formation.
But it is a dream, I reminded myself.
Even stranger than the room itself, if that was possible, were the room’s two inhabitants. The first was an owl, the same one we saw in the forest, on a wooden perch. The other was a person, an old man. He had long white hair and a beard. He had on the weirdest clothes I had ever laid my eyes on: a dark blue robe and hat decorated with tiny stars. He wore a monocle and wielded a staff that was nearly as tall as he was.
“Do you think he’s a wizard?” Sadie asked me. I slapped my hand over her mouth. We might as well have been making fun of his clothes. I hoped that he wouldn’t get angry or think we were rude.
But he merely chuckled.
“Look Gamma, here are Ravenwood’s newest students. Welcome, Samuel Nighttamer…”
“My last name isn’t Sparkleblade!” Sadie exclaimed.
Savannah said nothing but raised her eyebrows.
“…and Sarah Spiritheart. Welcome to the Ravenwood School of Magical Arts, the finest school of wizardry around!”
We all stared blankly at him.
“Please, sit down,” he continued, waving his arm over a nearby couch. “We have many matters to discuss.”
Savannah, Sadie, and Samuel all sat down before I could stop them, so I went to join them too. We all just barely fit.
The man sat in an armchair directly across from us. “I apologize for not introducing myself,” he said. “I am Merle Ambrose, headmaster of Ravenwood School. And this is my assistant, Gamma.”
“How do you do-o-o-o?” said the owl.
I was so surprised, I nearly fell off the couch.
“I must say,” he said, “You are very lucky to be enrolled here. Only wizards of enormous skill can even hope to get in.”
“Are you saying,” I said slowly, “that we’re wizards?”
“Oh, I’m very sorry,” said Ambrose. “I keep forgetting that you come from a world that doesn’t believe in magic. Earth, I think it’s called. Yes, Miss Spiritheart, you are all wizards.” It took me a second to realize that he was addressing me.
Samuel gasped. “Just like Harry Potter!” he exclaimed. I couldn’t help laughing.
“So yo-o-ou already know a wizard?” asked the owl, now sitting on the headmaster’s chair. “Who-o-o is this Harold Spotter?”
“Harry Potter,” I laughed. “But he’s no one, just a character in a book.”
Then it hit me: I was talking to an owl.
This was probably the strangest dream I’ve ever had. And the best.
“Now,” continued Ambrose, “We must figure out what type of wizards you are. In order to do that, we must consult the Book of Secrets.”
As soon as he said it, an ancient looking book drifted from its place on top of a pedestal and into his open arms. Then he took a quill from his desk and handed them both to me.
I skimmed through its pages. It was only a few seconds before I realized what it was.
“It’s a questionnaire,” I said.
“Of a sort,” said Ambrose. “Answer these questions to find out what type of wizard you are and which classes you will attend at Ravenwood.”
Samuel tugged on my arm. “I wanna try!” he said. So I held the book between us.
At first, I wasn’t sure how it would go. Samuel couldn’t read very well yet, so he would probably pick the answers that went along with the best pictures. But Ambrose seemed to think Samuel knew what he was doing, so I went along with it.
Maybe fate will help him decide, I thought. Or magic.
I giggled to myself as I scribbled down Samuel’s answer to the last question.
All at once, everything on the page disappeared and was replaced by one word: BALANCE.
“Me next!” said Sadie. I handed the book to her.
The word that appeared for her was ICE.
Next was Savannah’s turn. ICE.
As Savannah handed me the book, I half expected to wake up in bed. I was almost entirely convinced it was a dream now. And when stuff like this happened in dreams, I often woke up before I could do what I wanted to do.
But to my surprise, I managed to fill out the whole “quiz” without being sent back into my bed. I stared at the page, waiting.
“Very good,” said Ambrose. The book flew back into place.
It was then that I began to doubt my theory about this all being a dream. I selected my longest fingernail and jabbed it into my arm. It hurt.
Maybe this isn’t a dream, I thought. The idea was impossible. Yet as soon as I thought it, happiness began to well up inside me until I thought I would burst.
“There are a few other things we must discuss,” said Ambrose. “First off, your registrations have already been processed, so it is essential that you must start your classes as soon as possible. Tomorrow would be best.”
“Classes? It’s the middle of June!” exclaimed Savannah.
“Your point is?” said Ambrose.
“Never mind,” she said quickly.
“I will now send you home to pack your things,” continued Ambrose, as if there had been no interruption. “Not much is needed; clothes will be provided.”
We’re going to live there? I started to feel slightly anxious.
“Don’t worry,” said Ambrose, as if reading my thoughts. “There will be plenty of teachers to look after you there. And you can visit home whenever you like.”
I certainly hoped so.
“I’ll be there at seven o’ clock to take you to your dormitory,” he said.
“Seven o’ clock,” I repeated.
“I shall see you then!” he said. He raised his staff.
Suddenly, we were back in the park.
For a while, we just stood there, blinking in the bright light. Then Sadie broke the silence.
“Sarah,” she said, “do you really think we’re wizards?”
I smiled at her and shrugged. “Why wouldn’t we be? After all that happened today I’m surprised you think we’re not.”
“Hey, I didn’t say that!” she said.
“So, what do we do now?” asked Savannah.
I thought a minute. “Let’s go home,” I finally said. “We need to go pack.”
My mom looked from the old man standing at the doorway to me. I tensed when I realized that the look she gave me was, in fact, a glare.
“Sarah,” she growled, “what on earth is going on?”
I grinned sheepishly. “Surprise,” I said.
At exactly seven o’ clock, Merle Ambrose had arrived, as promised. I suddenly realized I had refrained telling my mom that he would be here today. So telling her that we would be leaving would be harder than we thought.
I should’ve thought of that, I groaned to myself.
“Forgive me,” said Ambrose, stepping through the doorway, “but I don’t think we have been introduced. My name is Merle Ambrose, and I am the headmaster of a school called Ravenwood.”
My mom stared at him blankly. The corner of her mouth twitched.
“Excuse me, Miss Spiritheart,” he said, “but do you know of a place where we may talk privately?”
Mom looked at me. Spiritheart? She mouthed.
“In here,” I led them both into my parents’ bedroom.
Ambrose tipped his hat and closed the door behind him.
“All right, guys, let’s go get our bags,” I whispered, hurrying them upstairs.
Following Ambrose’s advice, we had decided to pack light. Among what we did pack were pajamas, cosmetics, books, (only I had decided to pack those) and games to play in case we had any free time.
These must be the lightest suitcases we’ve ever had to pack, I mused as I dragged both Samuel’s and my suitcases down the stairs.
Once down, I received a tap on my shoulder from Savannah. When I turned around, she jerked her head in the direction of the door, from which I could hear hushed voices.
I couldn’t help it; I crept over and pressed my ear to the door. They were apparently whispering, but I could hear every word
“The choice is yours,” Ambrose was saying.
I heard my mom sigh. “I don’t know,” she said. “Their father is better at this sort of stuff than I am. But he’s been gone on a business trip for over a week now.”
“They’ll be perfectly safe,” Ambrose reminded.
The next few minutes were in silence, long, tantalizing. I willed one of them to say something more.
Then I heard footsteps. I scrambled back to stand with the others.
Mom came through the door with a grave look on her face. My heart sank. I had so desperately wanted to go.
“It seems,” said my mom, “that you’re going to wizard school.”
My eyes widened. “Really?”
She nodded. And to my surprise she wiped away a tear.
I ran up to hug her. “We’ll visit whenever we can,” I promised.
She gave me a sad smile. “I know you all will be safe,” she whispered in my ear, “but can you look after them? Just in case?”
“Yeah,” I said, “whatever you want, Mom.”
I went back to stand with the others.
“Be sure to do what Sarah tells you, all right?” she asked the others.”
“Yes,” they all said, somewhat reluctantly.
Ambrose walked over to us. “Ready to go?” he asked. Before we had even answered, he said, “Let’s go then!” He seemed as eager to get to the school as we were.
“Bye!” our mom called out.
We all waved back. Ambrose raised his staff again.
Suddenly, we found ourselves in a totally different place. I looked around and gasped.
“Welcome to Ravenwood,” said Headmaster Ambrose.
There was so much to see I didn’t know where to turn. Magical, floating wisps colored red and blue covered the sidewalks. A great tree with a face of an old man stood in the center, surrounded by several other smaller trees. A golden haired boy dressed all in green smiled at me as he walked into a building labeled the Life School.
“This is where your classes will be held,” he said. He turned to Samuel. “You will be taking classes with Arthur Wethersfield.” To Savannah and Sadie, he said, “You will attend class at the Ice School with Lydia Greyrose.” He turned around to face me. “And you will take classes at the Life School with Moolinda Wu.”
Strange name, I thought. I had never heard it before. It sounded distinctively Asian.
Then, Ambrose sent us off on a “quest” (That’s what he called it.) To meet the seven magical instructors of Storm, Ice, Fire, Balance, Life, Myth, and Death. They were all different from each other and we enjoyed meeting them all… except for the Myth professor, Cyrus Drake.
“I wish they would send us some adept pupils for once,” he had sneered. I was stung.
“I’ll show him,” I muttered on the way out. “Incompetent… we’ll see about that.”
Our last stop was the Death School, a gaping, bottomless chasm.
At first we were confused. But then a student named Malorn Ashthorn told us what happened. A man named Malistaire used to teach Death. But then he disappeared, the school right along with him.
Then we went back to Ambrose, debating on whether Malistaire actually caused the Death School to disappear.
Ambrose was right where we had left him. “Ah, excellent,” he said when he saw us. Then he handed us some training points.
“Although you take classes from only one school,” he explained, “these training points will allow you to learn spells from any secondary school of your choice.”
I looked toward the Myth School and grinned. I knew exactly where I wanted to use mine.
“Come this way,” said Ambrose, opening a door.
We followed him through the door, up some stairs, and down a hallway. He halted when he approached a door at the end of the hall.
“This is your dormitory,” he said, handing me a ring with a single, golden key attached. “You will live here until you are able to afford real estate.”
I stuck the key into the lock, twisted it and opened the door.
Inside was a simple room with a wooden floor and stone walls. It was small, maybe just barely large enough for the four of us. On one side of the room was a desk and on the other were two beds.
“I’m afraid it’s not much,” said Ambrose. “However, I did take the liberty of adding an extra bed; I’m not sure you would all fit in just one.” His blue eyes twinkled.
“Thank you,” I said, touched by his thoughtfulness.
Then he pulled out from behind him four sets of robes, hats, and boots. “These are for you to wear when you attend classes,” he said.
He gave one to each of us. Samuel’s were light brown and orange. Sadie’s were white and light blue. Savannah’s were purple and blue. And mine were green and a creamish color that was somewhere between yellow and white.
“You also need these.” He pulled four objects out of thin air. “Wands.” He handed these out as before.
I ran my fingers up and down my new wand. It looked like a tree branch, but it felt as cool, hard, and unbreakable as metal.
“I will leave you now,” said Ambrose. “Come to my office tomorrow so you can learn the basics of Wizard City. No later than seven-thirty.”
“Got it,” I said. I wanted to say something else as he exited through the door, but all that managed to come out was, “Thanks, thanks for everything.”
From outside, I heard him say, “You’re welcome.”
As he left, I checked my watch. It was almost eight.
“All right, let’s get settled in,” I said.
The next couple of minutes we spent unpacking our suitcases and putting our stuff in random places. We even found a door that led to a bathroom where we could place our cosmetics.
I also found time to try on the robes that Ambrose had given me, which were very comfortable. They felt as if they were made especially for me.
At last, it was the time we normally went to bed. We were all dressed and ready.
“Let’s see if I can make this work,” I said, clapping my hands together. “Sadie, you sleep with Samuel in that bed. Savannah and I will sleep in this bed.”
“Samuel kicks in his sleep,” Sadie complained.
“Get used to it,” I said. “Are we all ready?”
We got into our beds.
“Goodnight, everyone,” I said. I received several sleepy replies.
I yawned. It had been a long day.
My mind was swimming as I went to sleep. Wizards. Ravenwood. Ambrose Magic. It was a lot to take in during one day. But I’d get used to it.
The image of the four sleeping children slowly faded from the headmaster’s crystal ball.
“They’ll come around,” he said fondly. “All new pupils do sooner or later.”
Gamma nodded in agreement. “What will yo-o-o-ou teach them when they come to-o-omorrow?”
“A little of this and that,” said Ambrose. “All the essentials. Teleporting, chat, quests and experience, Malistaire.”
The two exchanged dark looks.
“So yo-o-o-ou really think they are the ones, then?” asked Gamma. “In the prophecy?”
“As to that, I cannot be sure,” said Ambrose. “Although they do show a lot of promise, I have not yet seen their full potential.”
“There have been other families,” Gamma reminded.
“Yes, sighed Ambrose, “but none of them had quite the skill I was looking for.”
The family appeared once more in the crystal ball. “They just might be different,” said Ambrose.
“That’s what yo-o-o-ou said the last time,” said the owl.
“And the time before that,” said Ambrose. “I know.”
The slight sternness in his voice let Gamma know that this conversation was over.
The Tale of Sarah Spiritheart
I was woken up by my sister Sadie, who was bouncing hard on my stomach with her knees.
“Get… off… of… me!” I managed to gasp.
She did, excitement shining in her eyes.
That’s just great, I thought. Why couldn’t I have been woken up by… I don’t know… “a shaft of brilliant sunlight” like any normal person?
It could’ve been worse. Savannah, who was ten, three years older than Sadie, could’ve chosen today to wake me up instead.
“Get up!” shouted Sadie. “It’s time to go to school!” Only in the last four weeks have I ever heard her say that with such enthusiasm. Ever since we started classes at the Ravenwood School of Magical Arts.
“I’m up,” I mumbled. I groggily got out of bed and walked over to my backpack, which had been magically enchanted to fit everything I needed. It held a map, my wand and spell cards, and pretty much all the clothes I owned. Today, I pulled out my favorite outfit: my fairy cloak, fairy shoes, and the healer’s cowl I had recovered from Triton Avenue just two days ago.
Once I had changed into these clothes, I retrieved my wand and spell cards from my backpack, pulled my hair back into a ponytail, and slightly tilted my hat. I was ready.
Once I had changed into these clothes, I retrieved my wand and spell cards from my backpack, pulled my hair back into a ponytail, and slightly tilted my hat. I was ready.
“Finally,” Sadie said as I slung my backpack over my shoulder.
“If we’re late, I know who I get to thank,” said Savannah. I ignored her and stuck the key into the lock.
Oh, and your eyes aren’t deceiving you or anything. Everything I’ve said so far- magic, wand, spell cards, Ravenwood- is all true. All four of us are wizards and we just started magic classes at Ravenwood School. Samuel’s a balance wizard. Savannah and Sadie are ice wizards. And I’m a Theurgist, or life wizard.
Just four weeks ago, a man named Merle Ambrose had taken us from Earth to Wizard City to enhance our magical abilities. Not everything was exactly predictable here, but it was a lot more interesting. And fun. And not to mention classes here beat boring old math and science by a landslide.
I led the others outside to drop them off at their classes. “You two better get going,” I said to Savannah, who grabbed Sadie’s hand and raced off through a crowd of students.
Then I took Samuel to his balance class. Arthur Wethersfield smiled when he saw me. “Jolly good to se you, Miss Spiritheart,” he said, winking. “You too, Mister Nighttamer.”
Spiritheart. I grinned. That was my new last name here. Everyone’s’ was different, even siblings’.
I turned to go to find a friendly-faced, golden-haired boy standing right nearby.
“Hi, Sarah,” he said.
“Hi, Chris,” I replied.
Chris Willowcrafter had been my best friend ever since my first day of classes. He was smart, caring, and had a great sense of humor. And I could tell he thought the same about me.
I guess I was just really grateful. After all, once upon a time, before I came here, I was considered a freak, a weirdo. I was just glad of a new friend.
“What’s up?” he asked lightly.
“Nothing,” I said. We started walking to the Life School together, like we did every day. Actually, we did everything together: quests, minigames, and classes. It was simple: we enjoyed each other’s company.
“So you’re a level eight now?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “I’m planning on learning the Legend Shield today.” I pulled the door open and held it open for us.
“Welcome, students,” said a soft, mystical voice. It was Moolinda Wu, our teacher.
At first I was a little freaked out about having a talking cow for my life teacher. But then again, most animals talked around here. And as time went by, I began to like her peaceful manner, her soft, almost musical voice, and the lessons she taught us.
“We have been created,” she had advised one day, “so we must learn to create.”
Chris and I took our usual seats in the front row. Unable to wait to learn the new spell any longer. I put my hand up.
“I’m ready to learn the Legend Shield today, Professor Wu,” I said.
“Patience, young wizard,” she said. “We must wait for the rest of the class to arrive. I reluctantly nodded.
Finally, when everyone else who took Apprentice Life Magic was in their seats, Professor Wu walked up to the front of the room.
“Welcome, class,” she said. “Before we begin, I understand that some of us are ready to learn a new spell.” She beckoned me and a girl named Catherine Fairycrown forward. Then she gave us each a spell card.
“The Legend Shield will protect you from Myth and Death attacks,” she explained. “It will take seventy percent off your opponent’s spell.” Then she carefully showed us how it worked and how to cast it.
“Let’s see you try it,” she said to me when she was done.
I knew exactly what to do. First I traced the life symbol, focusing my energy on the leaf I was creating. When that was done I concentrated on my new spell card, using the limitless magical energy it provided. Then I heard the sounds of a forest- birds chirping, trees rustling in the breeze- which meant the spell was done.
“You have done most excellent, Miss Spiritheart,” I heard Professor Wu say.
I looked down. Swirling around my midriff were two shields, exactly as they had appeared on the card. I heard murmurs of approval throughout the room.
I practically glowed. Even here, in Wizard city, I did well in class. Only instead of being made fun of for it, I was admired.
It felt good.
“So, what quest are you working on?” Chris asked.
I grinned. It was a joke we had made up one day. To ask would be completely redundant because we always did the same quests anyway.
“Guess,” I said.
“Hmm… would it be… defeating the Harvest Lord in Triton Avenue?”
“Yup,” I said. “But I can’t go there just yet.”
“I’ve got an extra training point I need to use. I’m going to schedule private myth lessons.”
“With Drake?” he asked incredulously. I nodded.
“Why him?” he said.
“I know he’s a little strict…”
“Strict doesn’t even begin to describe him.”
I giggled. “I just think myth could prove useful someday.”
“Suit yourself,” he said. “Why don’t I go ahead and you could teleport to me when you’re ready?”
“That would be great,” I said. “Thanks.”
I grimaced as we parted. I hated lying to him.
Of course, it wasn’t a total lie. I really did think myth would come in handy. But the reason I took it had more to do with the fact to prove to Professor Drake, who humiliated me on my very first day, that I wasn’t “incompetent,” like he said I was.
I had a difficult time planning a date and time to learn the next myth spell. Cyrus Drake was just too hard to please. One time I suggested was to early, one time was too late, one time was during his lunch period; it went on like this for so long, I was certain that Chris had already gone to defeat the Harvest Lord himself.
Finally, we came to an agreement. I left the myth school listening to Professor Drake mutter how pesky and unbearable some students were. Feeling my face go red, I teleported to Chris.
To my relief, he was still outside the Harvest Lord’s tower. “What took you so long?” he asked.
“Professor Drake was a little picky,” I replied.
Chris nodded knowingly. “That’s understandable. Now do you see why I picked storm as my secondary school?”
“Oh, stop it!” I laughed.
“Okay,” Chris said. “You ready?”
About twenty minutes later, we both triumphantly emerged from the tower.
“Piece of cake,” Chris said.
“Easy for you to say,” I said, rubbing the back of my neck. “That crow of the Harvest Lord’s hurt.”
“So should we go talk to Suzie now?” Chris asked.
“Sure,” I said, “but after that I have to go to the Fairgrounds to play some minigames.”
“Saving up for something?”
I gave him a look. “Maybe…a house?”
Right now, my three younger siblings and I lived in our student dormitory. It was a little cramped, so at the moment, we were saving up for real estate. But even though we were all saving up together, we only had about 3,000 coins, not even halfway up to the wooded cottage.
Suddenly, I heard a cry from down the street. “Help!”
“Let’s go,” I said. With that, I tore off down the sidewalk, yanking him along behind me.
It wasn’t long before we found the source of the trouble. A boy was in a battle with three Scarlet Screamers at once. And he was almost out of health.
“We’ve got to help him, Chris, come on!” I was pleased to see that we weren’t too late.
After we both used the fairy spell on the boy to give him back health, it was easy enough to defeat all of the Scarlet Screamers. At last, we were all done.
“Thanks a million,” said the boy once we were safe on the sidewalk.
“No problem,” I said, “but couldn’t you have just fled?”
“I was about to,” he admitted. He flashed another grateful smile, which I returned. The boy, maybe a little older than we were, had olive-toned skin and brown hair so dark it looked almost black. He also had brown eyes that constantly sparkled and was dressed in black and white from head to toe. Even his staff was black.
“What happened?” asked Chris.
“I was running low on health,” the boy began. “But I went to help some younger wizards who were battling Scarlet Screamers. They fled before I realized I was here. So that left three all to myself.”
“I’m Nolan, by the way,” he continued. “Nolan Darkwind.”
“Sarah Spiritheart,” I said. I looked expectantly at Chris.
“Chris Willowcrafter, he said. To my surprise, his tone was steely and cold, and his eyes were narrowed.
Then, without another word, he took my arm and dragged me down the sidewalk.
“Chris, what are you doing?”
He came to an abrupt halt and turned to face me. “Sarah,” he said, “Nolan is a necromancer. A death wizard.”
“So?” I asked.
“So?” Chris looked amazed. “I would’ve thought you’d have known this by now, Sarah. Life and death wizards hate each other. We’re enemies.”
“Oh.” I hadn’t known that. “But he seemed really nice.”
He shook his head. “The Death School can’t be trusted. It’s evil. And it’s where Malistaire used to teach.”
“I knew that,” I said, slightly offended.
“Just so you know,” he said, although he looked worried.
He was with me up until we finished talking to Suzie. Then he said, “Well, see you around,” and teleported home, leaving me alone in Triton Avenue.
He had never done that to me before.
The next day was Saturday, so I was supposed to sleep in. But for some reason, I couldn’t. I woke up around seven, my head filled with images from the dream I just had. They were all of Chris.
What should I do? Well, Chris was an early riser, so I decided to find him and set things right.
I got up and dressed. Then I took out paper and a quill and left a note on the desk for the others to see.
Sorry, but I need to go. Can’t explain. If you all want to do some more quests, you can. Just whisper chat to me if you’re in trouble, all right?
See you soon.
Then I headed outside and sat down under the shade of a tree.
First, I tried contacting him with whisper chat. I talked as long as I was able, but he didn’t reply. Then, when all else failed, I tried teleporting to him. But when I tried, I just ended right back at Ravenwood.
Maybe he’s ignoring me, I thought. No, it couldn’t happen. We had been too good of friends. But was it possible that he was angry at me all because of Nolan?
I turned around, hoping to see Chris.
Instead, it was Nolan who came up to me. “Sarah, right?”
I nodded, remembering what Chris had said about the death school.
“Well,” he said, “I wanted to thank you for saving me the other day.”
“It was nothing,” I said, scrutinizing him. I decided that no matter what Chris said about the death school, this guy seemed friendly enough.
We added each other to our friends lists.
“So,” I said conversationally, “Nolan, right?” I couldn’t think of anything else to say. I’m not normally a huge talker.
“Yup,” he said. “Nolan Darkwind. The strongest, bravest, most powerful, most awesome…”
“Okay, I get it,” I laughed.
“I was serious,” he said, but I could tell he was joking. “Is something the matter?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean when I saw you, you were pouting with your head between your knees.”
I grinned wryly and shrugged. I didn’t want to worry him yet with details about Chris.
“Okay,” he said. “What level are you, anyway? I didn’t catch it.”
“That’s because I never told you,” I said. “But I’m a level eight. And you?”
“Twelve,” he said thoughtfully. He seemed to ponder something for a moment, then he said, “Would you like for me to show you something?”
“Okay,” I said
He smiled again. “This way,” he said, leading me through the tunnel to the commons.
“This thing you’re going to show me,” I asked, “is it in the commons?”
He nodded. I decided that if it was in the commons, it couldn’t be that dangerous.
Nolan took me to the waterfall, and then he stopped.
“Um…” I stalled. It was a breathtaking waterfall, but everyone knew it was there. “Where are you going with this?” I had to shout to be heard above the roar of the falling water.
To my amazement, Nolan stepped through the waterfall.
I took a deep breath, braced myself, and followed him in.
I gasped. This water was freezing! In fact, I was so cold, I almost didn’t notice where I was. Or the door just a few feet away.
“Here, let me help,” said Nolan. He took a spell card out of his bag and conjured up a fire cat. It pranced around us, warming us both up.
“Ahhh,” I sighed. “Thank you.”
“Now we’re even,” Nolan laughed. He opened the door with a key he took out of his pocket and slipped inside. “Teleport to me when I’m in.”
I shrugged and did as he asked.
I immediately found myself in a place I had never seen before. The ground was hard and rocky, and the only trees were scraggly, bare. I could hear ravens cawing in the distance. There was only one word for this place- spooky.
“Where are we?” I wondered aloud.
“Welcome to Nightside,” said Nolan dryly.
It was then that I saw a building that looked vaguely familiar. And suddenly I knew why. It looked exactly like all of the other schools in Ravenwood.
“Is that the…”
“…death school?” Nolan finished for me. “Yeah. For some reason, when Malistaire caused it to disappear, it ended up here, in Nightside.”
I spun on the spot, not knowing where to look first. Nolan chuckled.
“Want to sit down?” he asked, indicating a wooden bench.
“Sure,” I said. He sat down beside me.
“So, how’s your friend?” he asked.
“Chris?” he nodded. “He’s okay, I guess. Actually, I don’t know. I haven’t seen or heard from him since yesterday in Triton Avenue. I tried to contact him, I did, but for some reason I wasn’t able to.”
When Nolan didn’t reply, I added sheepishly, “I don’t think he likes you much,”
“Hates me, more like.” he said.
“It’s not his fault that he’s life,” I said defensively.
Nolan looked at me, and I was shocked to see a touch of bitterness in his eyes.
“It’s not just the death and life schools,” he said. “It’s the death school against every other school.
“The death school has a bad reputation,” he continued, “if you haven’t noticed. People hate us. They never approach us because we’re supposedly “evil.”
I thought of Chris and the things he said about the death school. Maybe it was really just a stereotype.
“And it’s all because of Malistaire,” he spat bitterly. “And his Black Hand.”
This, I noticed was a rather odd thing to say. “Black Hand?” I asked.
“You’ve never heard of the Black Hand?” he asked. When I shook my head no, he went on.
“When Malistaire disappeared, about five years ago, he also took with him five students who were all loyal to his cause. He took them here, to Nightside, and trained them until they were almost as powerful as he was. Now they live with him in his hideout, wherever that is.
“What are their names?” I asked.
“Ian Ghostbringer,” he recited, “Patrick Nightwalker, Cornelia Greyheart, Nora Skullhorn, and Marcus Deathspear. They’re all very powerful dark wizards. And they all enjoy pain and cruelty just as much as their master.
“They don’t come out very often,” he continued, “but when they do, it’s a nightmare. They set fire to buildings, summon monsters to attack people, and do anything else to cause devastation. I think the last time anyone saw them was in Marleybone, about a year ago. It was a disaster. A lot of people were injured. Or killed.”
He continued, “They are completely devoted to their master, Malistaire. If he gave an order, they would obey it without question. They are completely attached to him, kind of like a hand is attached to an arm. That’s how they got their name.”
“That sounds terrible,” I said.
“And the worst of it,” he said, “is that they’re still really young. In their late teens or something like that. Marcus…I think he’s only twelve or thirteen. But he’s the most powerful. And Malistaire’s favorite. At least, that’s what everyone’s said.
I can see why everyone would hate the death school, I thought, with students like that. I felt really sorry for Nolan.
So I gave him a smile, just like the ones he gave me, put a hand on his shoulder, and let him know he had a friend in me.
Days passed. Saturday faded into Sunday, and Sunday into Monday. But until Monday morning, I hadn’t heard from Chris at all. Instead, I hung out with Nolan during the weekend. I learned that he was funny, kind, and had a somewhat mischievous nature. He constantly was cracking jokes and making me laugh.
He reminded me a lot of Chris.
When I walked into the Life School on Monday, I had almost given up on Chris entirely. So you can imagine my surprise when I saw him where he normally sat, waving at me as I walked in.
“Over here,” he said to me. Bewildered, I sat down next to him.
He opened his mouth to say something, but just before he spoke, we heard the soft voice of Professor Wu telling us class was ready to begin.
Barely five minutes later, Chris pressed a scrap of paper in my hand. First looking around to see if Professor Wu wasn’t watching, I read the note that was on it.
Meet me in the Life Tower. Right after class.
I scribbled on the back, OK, see you then, and handed it back to him from under my desk. I wondered what that was all about.
The rest of the period seemed to pass by twice as slowly as usual. First, Professor Wu handed back Friday’s homework. (Chris and I both got an A+) Then we did a short exercise in which we practiced healing magic. Well, I’m pretty sure it was supposed to be short, but it felt like it went on for hours. In fact when class was over and we had to make way for the Initiates, I was nearly half dead, which had never happened to me before- not while I was taking classes here.
I went across the path and through the door to Life tower. Chris and I sometimes went here after class if we didn’t want to be surrounded by people. Every memory I had of this place was happy, but what if today wasn’t?
Chris was there, in the center of the room, holding a bulging bag. I walked up until I was just inches from his face. Then I put my hand on my hip.
“What’s going on?” I demanded. “Where were you all last weekend?”
“Easy,” he said teasingly, holding his hands up. “You don’t know all the details.”
“Maybe,” he said, “I didn’t want you to be near me all last weekend because I was arranging a little surprise for you; did you ever think of that?”
Instantly, all the anger that had flared up inside me was gone. “Surprise?”
“Yeah.” He held out the bag. I took it, unraveled the string that tied it together, and carefully opened it.
“Oh!” I gasped.
Inside the bag were coins. A lot of coins. More than I had ever seen in my life. Maybe enough to buy a forested mansion.
Which was probably why Chris was grinning.
“You didn’t…” I started.
“I did,” said Chris. “It’s for your house. It probably took about a thousand minigames to earn it all, but seeing the look on your face was worth it.”
I flung my arms around his neck. This was another thing I liked about Chris: he was okay with stuff like that.
“You’re the best, Chris! Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!”
“You’re welcome,” he laughed.
“I guess the whole death school thing his behind us now,” he added.
I squirmed uncomfortably. How would he react if he found out I was Nolan’s friend?
“I guess…” I managed to say.
“I’ll tell you what,” he said. “Why don’t you go finish up your Triton Avenue quest and then we could start on Firecat Alley?”
“Okay,” I said.
I left him with that awful feeling still in my stomach. Like I said, I hated lying to him.
The only thing left to do for Triton Avenue was to talk to Headmaster Ambrose. I didn’t feel like walking the whole distance, even though it wasn’t that far away. So I just teleported to the commons and walked from there.
When I entered the tower, I saw both Ambrose and his owl, Gamma, huddling over something I couldn’t see. They were also whispering to each other. But as a life wizard, I could hear every word.
“Miss Spiritheart. I have reasons to think that she may be the one mentioned in the prophecy.”
“The tru-u-ue healer?”
“I have told you, Gamma, I can’t be sure.”
“But she is so young! The others to-o-o-o! There’s no way they can possibly defeat Malistaire!”
“I agree that it is a lot to put on one’s shoulders. But if she is, in fact, the one mentioned in the Prophecy of Light…”
They continued their conversation in urgent whispers. Meanwhile I was frantically trying to comprehend all this. Prophecy of Light? True healer? Defeat Malistaire? Did I somehow have something to do with all of this?
“Ho-o-o-o,” Gamma warned suddenly.
Ambrose spun around, but not before shoving what he and Gamma were examining in one of the drawers in his desk.
“Ah, Miss Spiritheart! Good to see you again!” I couldn’t help but notice he was using a falsely cheerful voice that one normally uses when they’re trying to hide something.
I stared at him.
“What did you just hide behind your back?” I asked. Now wasn’t the time to worry about asking personal questions.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said calmly.
“But I saw you!” I said incredulously. You just put something in your desk! And you were talking about me and this prophecy thingy! You…”
“Now is not the time for you to know,” he said. “Trust me on this. Soon your time will come to find out. But not now. So why did you come to see me?”
This change of subject was so sudden, I started talking about Suzie and Artur in Triton Avenue before I realized what I was doing. Of course, by the time he handed me my points and experience, it was too late to go back to the subject of the prophecy. So I said good-bye and walked out the door.
I left the office hurt and confused. What was this “Prophecy of Light?” Why did Ambrose try to hide it from me? And what did I have to do with it?
Whatever the answers to those questions were, I had a feeling that it couldn’t be good.
The Tale of Sarah Spiritheart
“See ya at Ambrose’s tower!” Chris Willowcrafter called to me.
“Not if I get there first!” I laughed.
Together, Chris and I dashed through the shopping district. We were neck to neck as we dodged buildings, shopkeepers, and wizards carrying shopping bags filled with who knows what.
I willed my legs to somehow go faster. I would not give him the satisfaction of beating me.
We ran through the tunnel to the commons.
Of course, we both ran at about the same speed anyway. So no matter how hard we tried, we always somehow ended up in a…
“Tie!” Chris called out as both of our hands touched the door at the exact same moment. “Again!”
“I’ll beat you next time,” I said, laughing evilly. I opened the door for both of us to go in.
Having just finished our quests at Cyclopes Lane, we had rushed to Ambrose’s tower right away. Ever since we had been told by a Journeyman life student that we could gain access to Colossus Boulevard once we did all three quests given to us by Sergeant Muldoon, we had been working nonstop for the past week. At last, all our hard work had paid off. Not only had we each earned “Three Streets Savior” badges, but we also just might be going to Colossus Boulevard right now. I could hardly wait!
“Good afternoon Mister Willowcrafter, Miss Spiritheart.” greeted Ambrose. “You wanted to see me?”
Together, we told him about the events in Cyclopes Lane and how we had saved the three students. (How many times they had been captured, I don’t know.) Then he handed us a ton of experience points, enough for us both to become level 11.
I looked at Chris, who sadly shook his head. We both started to leave.
“Where are you two going? I still have two more quests for you.” Ambrose handed us each two scrolls, each one with the name and instructions for a different quest.
Chris was now grinning broadly. He caught my eye and pointed at one of the scrolls in his hand. It said, “Colossus Trouble.”
Chris and I accepted the quest. Ambrose, in turn, sent us to the tunnel to Colossus Boulevard, which was located in the shopping district.
We stepped out into the bright sunlight. Chris grinned craftily at me. “Race…”
“How about we just walk this time?” I said sarcastically.
“Okay,” he said. “But it’s not as fun.”
Chris and I kept up a constant chatter all the way there. “Can’t you wait to see what it looks like?” he asked.
“Um… yeah,” I said, somewhat guiltily. The truth was that I already knew what it looked like. Normally, I would have told him about it. But my other friend, Nolan Darkwind, had taken me to see it. Chris despised Nolan because he was a death wizard and we were life. So I thought it best not to let Chris know that I had anything to do with him. So far, it was working. But I had no idea how long he would remain ignorant.
We arrived at the gate. The guard, who, up to now, had prevented us from even coming within ten feet of the tunnel, reluctantly grunted a signal to raise the gate when he read our letters from the headmaster. We were in.
“Wow,” breathed Chris. Meanwhile I was trying my best to act as if this was my first time here too, as if all this snow, the cold, biting wind, and the gobblers roaming the streets were new to me.
A strong wind suddenly blew across the street. I shivered and pulled my cloak more tightly around my shoulders. While an ice wizard, like my sisters, Savannah Swiftsong and Sadie Sparkleblade, would enjoy the cold as if it were a warm summer day, I was probably more uncomfortable then anyone here.
“C’mon,” Chris said, “we need to find Mindy Pixiecrown.”
“Thank goodness for compasses,” I said. Chris sniggered. But really, without our magic compasses, we’d be stumbling around the streets, not knowing where to go next.
It didn’t take us long to find Mindy Pixiecrown. And soon, she had us engaged in fights with both gobblers and evil snowmen.
“Disgusting, isn’t it?” Chris asked me as we watched a gobbler scavenger cram a whole jar of jellybeans- including the jar itself- into his mouth during the middle of the battle. I didn’t answer; it was all I could do to stop myself from throwing up. Did these guys ever stop eating?
In the next hour, (or was it two?) Mindy had us running all over Wizard City. We went to the Ice School, back to Colossus Boulevard, collecting the stinkweed all over Colossus Boulevard, and, yes, defeating even more gobblers.
“Ugh,” I said, finishing off the last one with a well-aimed leprechaun spell. “These guys make me nauseous.”
“Let’s stop for the day,” he suggested.
“Good idea,” I agreed heartily. Between the cold air and the constantly eating gobblers, I was more than glad to leave. “See you at school!” Then, waving goodbye, I teleported to my house.
Not my dormitory. My house.
Barely a week ago, my three younger siblings and I had been living, cramped, in our student dormitory. But then, Chris, after hours of minigames, had earned enough coins to buy a forested mansion and had given the whole of his winnings to me. Now we each had our own room, which was more than we could’ve hoped for while staying here. And Chris and I were as close as ever.
I arrived in our living room, right in front of the couch. I sat down, enjoying the comfort, and pulled out my homework. Setting aside the three-page essay Professor Drake had assigned me, (That would come much later.) I pulled out my wand and spell cards and started on my life homework instead: practicing the sprite spell.
By the time Savannah and Sadie arrived, I was sitting back with my feet on the coffee table, watching the little fairy flutter around the room.
“Hey guys. What’s…?” I faltered when I realized that neither of them looked that happy.
Okay, that was the underestimate of the century. Savannah looked furious and Sadie looked almost reduced to tears. But I was used to stuff like this happening. Ages ten and seven, and levels nine and eight, Savannah and Sadie had more trouble getting along than anyone else in the family.
“What’s going on, guys?” I asked.
“Tell her,” Savannah said to Sadie, her face angrier than I had ever seen it in life. But Sadie remained silent, her bright eyes turned toward me in fear. I wondered what name she had called her this time.
Savannah apparently couldn’t hold it in any longer. “I was about to defeat the fire elf prince,” she exploded, “with some guy who said he would help me. And then she,” she motioned to Sadie, “whisper chats to me and says it’s an emergency. So I went over to find that she only had me come over to help her cross the street!”
“To help her what?” I said. Then I remembered I wasn’t supposed to be taking sides yet.
“To cross the street,” Savannah said in an “isn’t it obvious” sort of voice. “And then…” she looked at Sadie angrily, who seemed unable to speak.
“…she got me into a duel with these two Scarlet Screamers! And then more wizards joined the duel, so more monsters joined. And it took forever! By the time I had gotten back to the Fire Globe Theater, the guy who wanted to help me was gone!”
Sadie finally regained her speech. “Savannah hit me and called me an idiot!”
All was silent, except for the sprite, which zoomed around the three of us, giggling and fluttering her tiny wings.
“Sit,” I said at last, pointing at the couch. They did.
Time for a pep talk, I thought grimly.
“Okay,” I said. “Savannah, you need to calm down a bit and be a bit less… hmm, how do I put this..? Mean. And Sadie, you need to stop asking Savannah for help for every single little thing that needs done.”
“And to be less of a coward,” Savannah muttered.
I glared at her. “I heard that. Remember what we… I mean I just talked about?”
“This is probably the worst pep talk ever,” Savannah said, glaring right back.
I sighed. There was some truth to what she said. “I know. But can we please try to get along just once?”
They said nothing, probably thinking about the impossibility of my suggestion.
So I decided to change the subject. “You’ll never guess which street in the Shopping District I gained access to today,”
“Really?” Savannah’s eyes lit up. For the moment, it looked as though she had already forgotten her fight with Sadie. “You’re in Colossus Boulevard already? Can you take us?”
“Sure,” I said. Anything to get them to stop fighting. “I can take you tomorrow, if you like.”
After being asked questions about it for the next half hour by Savannah, Sadie, and Samuel, who had just arrived, I was getting sick of Colossus Boulevard already. Krokotopia sounded pretty good right about now.
The next day was as dreary as days go. A thick layer of clouds covered the sky of Wizard City, complimented with a light drizzle. Although, during class, Professor Wu said that rain was a blessing sent to help all kinds of life, that didn’t stop the day from affecting my mood. By the time I went to pick up my siblings from their classes, I was fuming, angered by the B- professor Drake had given me for my essay, saying simply that it was “two pages too long.” And I was sad because Chris said he couldn’t come with us to Colossus Boulevard because Halston Balestrom, his storm teacher, had given him too much homework.
But my spirits were lifted when I saw the happy looks on my siblings’ faces. Plus, Sadie and Savannah hadn’t fought the whole day today. That had to be an accomplishment.
And as we approached the tunnel, I saw something, or rather, someone else to make me even happier: my friend Nolan.
“Hey,” he said, waving his staff, which, I noticed, was a new addition.
“Hi,” I said to him. “What’s up?”
“Nothing,” he said innocently, but as he said it, a girl suddenly screamed. Her shopping bag had burst into flames.
I looked at Nolan, who was also watching this scene. He chuckled.
“Was that you?” I said accusingly.
“Slipped a fire elf in her bag,” he said casually. “She didn’t even notice.”
“You shouldn’t have done that!” I said, but I was laughing.
“You would have too,” he said. “She is the prissiest girl in the world; she told me off just because my banshee yesterday was too loud. So, what are you doing here?”
“I thought I’d show my siblings around Colossus Boulevard,” I said. “Oh, and by the way, this is Savannah, Sadie and Samuel.”
Nolan gave each one a brief nod. “Maybe I can come with you all. If your overprotective friend isn’t coming with you.”
“Chris isn’t overprotective,” I said defensively.
Nolan shrugged. “If you don’t mind him following you every waking moment of the day, that’s fine with me.”
“Yes, you can come,” I said, half exasperated. “Teleport to me when we’re in,” I said to the rest in an undertone so Private O’ Doyle wouldn’t hear.
When they got in, they were wearing the same expressions of delight and excitement that I had during my first time.
“This is awesome!” exclaimed Savannah, who didn’t seem to be affected by the cold at all.
So I took my siblings down the street, pointing out all the well-known buildings. So Samuel and I wouldn’t get cold, Nolan had conjured up a fire cat, which pranced around our feet, melting snow on the ground.
“And that,” I said as we arrived at a large palace at the end of the street, “is the Gobbler King’s castle. Ladies and gentlemen, this completes our tour. Are their any questions?” Nolan gave me a wry smile at my imitation of a tour guide.
Even though Sadie and Savannah were in their element here, even they got tired of seeing nothing but snow-covered cottages after a while. And they were starting to look tired too.
“Let’s go back,” said Nolan. But he was looking at Sadie with slight amusement. Her face was green, probably from being right in the way of a gobbler glutton, who at that particular moment, had released a loud, disgusting belch.
It was when we were starting to head back when we heard several terrified screams.
I looked at Nolan in case he knew what it meant. But his face was as confused as I felt at the moment. The others were also apparently lost too.
“Hmm…” I said, searching for an explanation. Maybe one of the gobblers just broke wind. That would certainly scare newcomers. But then I realized that it was no gobbler. It had to be something else… something more sinister…
Lightning flashed from the sky. More screams.
I didn’t think. I tore down the sidewalk. Everyone but Sadie joined me. As soon as I realized she wasn’t coming, I came to an abrupt halt.
“Can’t we just go home?” she said shakily.
I walked back and put my hand on her shoulder. At this, she seemed to relax.
“I’d like to know what’s going on,” I said gently. She nodded, however reluctantly.
As it turned out, all the commotion was coming from a spot near the entrance to the tunnel. A scary sight met our eyes.
This part of Colossus Boulevard was a complete wreck. Every house in the area was damaged in some way, whether it had shattered windows, had the roof caved in, or was up in flames. Apparently, the village had been evacuated- even Mindy wasn’t in her usual spot. But there was a ring of students right in the middle of the street. And it took me a while to realize there was someone in the middle. Or two someones.
Yes, there were definitely two of them. Both of them were wearing long, black leather jackets. In fact, everything about them was black: their hair, if they had any, their clothes, everything except their skin, which was as pale as the snow on the ground. I wasn’t sure who they were, but when I caught a glimpse of their arrogant stances, their forbidding demeanor, and the apparent contempt they showed the students, I was sure that they had caused the wreckage.
One of the two men, the one who had a short beard, had his staff raised, and I realized he was pointing it at a group of students who were looking maybe a little bit more terrified than the rest.
“Where are they?” demanded the one holding the staff. The bearded one.
“Who? I don’t know who you’re talking about!” The girl who was being interrogated then screamed, and that’s when I noticed the tiny black wisp floating around the students, slowly draining them of all their health.
“Don’t play games with me,” the other man snarled. This one was bald. “We’re looking for the children, the four children in the Prophecy of Light.”
Prophecy of Light. My blood ran cold. Because that phrase awoke a jarringly familiar memory.
More or less than a week ago, I was visiting Merle Ambrose’s office, finishing off one of my quests. He and Gamma had been holding a whispered conversation about me. They also mentioned something about a prophecy, a true healer, and a destiny someone had to defeat Malistaire. Since then, every day the encounter had been in the back of my mind, forcing me to wonder why Ambrose had tried to keep all this information from me.
And now, I was trying frantically to piece all this information together. Was it possible; was there a chance that these two guys were after us? It seemed impossible, yet…
Now the two men were whispering to each other. “The boss said they’d be here,” muttered the one who had tortured the students.
Malistaire was the first thought that came to my mind.
“I don’t know,” said the other, who I had decided to call Baldy. “Maybe we should just take ‘em all. Gives him a lot to choose from, don’t it?”
This wasn’t starting to look too good. “We should go,” I whispered to Nolan, who nodded.
I turned around to round up all the others. Savannah, Sadie…uh-oh…
“Did any of you see where Samuel went?” I asked the others. No, they didn’t.
Things were going from bad to worse. “I’m going to go find him,” I said, fighting to stay calm. “Savannah, Sadie, you guys can go home.”
“No,” said Savannah fiercely, grabbing Sadie’s hand. “We’re going to help you.” I noticed that Sadie didn’t exactly agree to that.
“Come on, at least take Sadie home,” I pleaded. That’s when I heard him.
“You guys are so mean!” Only one person in Wizard City was able to say that.
If it scared me to see Samuel gone, it practically horrified me when one of the men said, in a sly, silky voice, “Well, well, well, what have we here?”
I took my sisters’ hands. “Let’s move,” We pushed through the crowd of students, leaving Nolan behind.
Baldy bent right down so that his crooked nose was inches from Samuel’s face. “Malistaire will be interested to know about this one,” he said.
“Don’t touch me!” Samuel screamed.
“Yes,” agreed the other one, Goatee, I called him, “we should definitely take him.”
“Don’t!” I yelled, causing every head to turn in my direction.
“And why ever not?” asked Goatee in that horrible silky voice.
My hands clenched into fists. “He’s just a level five, and he’s four years old. You can’t just take him.”
The two men burst into fits of laughter. Meanwhile, Samuel went to stand up next to me and said, “I hate these guys.”
They were still laughing, probably trying to humiliate us still further. I took advantage of this situation and made motions to try to get the others to leave.
We had barely moved five steps back when a hand grabbed my shoulder. “Just where do you think you’re going?” one of the men said.
I tried to speak, but the words died in my throat. I was more afraid than I had ever been in my life. I could feel Goatee’s claw-like fingers digging into my shoulders and I could smell his putrid breath, which smelled worse than rotten eggs. Even worse was the knowledge that these guys could do some serious damage to us if they wanted. They might even kill us.
“Wait, Ian,” said Baldy. He was scrutinizing us. “You don’t think…”
Ian… somewhere, that name rang a bell, but now wasn’t the time to think about it.
All four of us stood side by side while the men stared at us with a mixture of thoughtfulness and suspicion.
“Maybe these are the ones Malistaire is looking for,” suggested Baldy, to my horror.
“Perhaps,” said the one called Ian thoughtfully. “We ought to take ‘em, just in case. And if they’re not the kids the boss is looking for, he can always dispose of them anyway. What are a couple more kids to him?”
I tried frantically to think of a way out of this. I looked toward the other students, all of whom looked too afraid to even take another step forward, much less come rushing to our aid.
At last, I found my voice. “You’ll have to beat us first,” I said, “in a duel.”
I don’t know what made me say it; maybe I felt it was our only chance. But as soon as I did, I regretted it. Both Ian and Baldy practically rolled on the ground, clutching their stomachs. They were shaking with uncontrollable laughter.
“Us fight you?” instantly their laughter was redoubled.
But I had my retort ready. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you two were scared.”
But wait, what was I doing? There was no way we could beat these guys! I was an Initiate, and Sadie, Savannah, and Samuel were only Apprentices! Malistaire’s minions were probably Grand Masters, if not higher.
But my previous battle had been won. To my surprise, Ian and Baldy were forming the dueling circle around us.
In the month I had spent in Ravenwood, I had learned much about dueling. There was what teachers liked to call “proper duels,” in which there was a dueling circle, players had to go when it was their turn, you felt pain from the spells but they didn’t really hurt you, and instead of dying if you lost, you went back to the commons. There were also duels that I was thankful that Malistaire’s monsters were too dim-witted to know how to do. Duels in which you didn’t fight fair, not in rounds. You had to throw in every dirty trick that you knew. And of course, the loser ended up killed.
But this was a proper duel, wasn’t it?
“And don’t think that you’ll end up safe in your commons either,” jeered Baldy. “Dueling wasn’t the only magic Malistaire taught us.”
I shuddered. It was just if he had read my mind. Could he read minds? Well, I wouldn’t put it past him.
We began to duel.
I examined my spell cards. As a level eleven, my highest spell was Troll. But what use would it be against Malistaire’s henchmen?
I looked over at my siblings, they, like me, hadn’t yet selected their cards. Savannah gave me one of those “I can’t believe you did this” looks as she cast Thermic shield upon herself. I sighed deeply and settled for Myth Trap.
After a half an hour of battling our hardest, it didn’t seem like we’d even made a dent in these guys. To make matters even worse, we were slowly being deprived of health. Ian and Baldy were enjoying this greatly, and seemed to want to make us suffer more than if we were in the average duel.
Bottom line: we were there on our four dueling circles with barely a hundred health left each, watching fearfully as the two men examined a meteor strike card.
This is it, I thought, looking around at my siblings again. Sadie was trembling so hard, I thought she’d drop her wand. Savannah was trying, with poor results, to look braver than she really felt. Even Samuel had realized what was going to happen. He was bawling, tears streaming out of his blue eyes.
If only I had taunt or distract, one of those ice spells. Then I’d be able to make them go for just me so the others would be safe. At least for a little while…
I was so concerned with the battle that I didn’t even notice that my hands had begun to thrum with magical energy. I didn’t notice the golden wisps of magic swirling around my waist. I didn’t notice the gasps and shrieks coming from the crowd.
They went first. Baldy traced the fire symbol in the air. Although I prayed with all my might that it would fizzle, it didn’t.
As a hole opened up in the sky, we all grasped hands. Later, I would know that we all had the same thought: better to be defeated together than separately.
I was vaguely aware of a golden glow. The sun must’ve come out at last. But it was to close to be the sun, wasn’t it? It was only seconds before I realized the glow was coming from us.
The air was full of flames. The fiery meteors had come at last. They were about to strike.
No, I thought.
And that’s when the first weird thing happened. I wasn’t exactly sure what happened, but right before the meteors hit us, they swerved and hit Baron Greebly’s castle instead, which burst up in flames.
I shivered. We had been that close to being reduced to ashes. Well, not really. But we had come that close to being knocked out.
The golden glare around us had reached such an intensity that I had to squint so I wouldn’t harm my eyes. Suddenly, all four of us were hoisted up into the air. Not only that, but I realized our health was coming back. It wasn’t long before we had one hundred…two hundred…three hundred…
And then we landed on the ground, our health completely filled.
Baldy’s eyes widened. “No,” he growled, “it can’t be…”
“Patrick,” Ian murmured, “they… their health…”
“I don’t need you to tell me what I already know,” snapped Baldy, who was apparently called Patrick. Then he gave us a look I didn’t like at all, one that said plainly, “You’re gonna get it.” He traced the death symbol into the air.
I noticed that he didn’t use a spell card.
Up from the ground rose a banshee. But this one looked different from all the other banshees I had seen. This one seemed more threatening, evil. I wondered if this was a form of banshee that only Malistaire knew how to cast. But it was only when she opened her mouth that I was certain.
From the banshee came the most unearthly, horrible sound I had ever heard. The ring of students around us clapped their hands over their ears. I was about to follow their lead when I realized that I couldn’t pull away my hands from Savannah’s and Sadie’s. So I just pressed my shoulders against my ears instead. It wasn’t long before I saw blood begin to ooze on my sleeves.
I could feel my health dwindling. Was this banshee really that powerful?
Another scream joined the banshee’s. It was Samuel. I both listened and tried hard not to listen as Samuel’s scream grew louder and louder. Soon it had reached a volume that I would have never thought possible, and climbing. It was almost as loud as the banshee’s!
But something weird was going on. Even though Samuel’s voice was now louder than the banshee’s, and I could hear it reverberating around my eardrums, it wasn’t affecting me at all. But it did seem to affect the banshee, who had gone back under the ground. And Malistaire’s henchmen, who were on their knees with their palms to their ears. This time, it was their health that had begun to drop…
But it was Samuel’s turn now, so he had stopped screaming and was now weaving the balance symbol into the air.
The next few moments went by in a daze. I didn’t even pay attention to the fact that my whole body was both glowing and vibrating super hard. All that really mattered were the spells we cast. Samuel’s scorpion, instead of releasing its normal poisonous fluids, somehow let out a thick cloud of toxic gas at Ian, who started wheezing and coughing. Sadie, who had trained second in storm, brought down not the usual three, but dozens of lightning bats, who zoomed around Patrick, making waves of electricity course through his body. Both of the two men lost a large amount of health.
Then it was my turn. By now, I was prepared for anything, so I traced the myth triangle into the air before me without hesitancy.
In front of me was a troll, like I had cast. I watched, astonished, as it began to grow. Soon it was taller than a Cyclopes, one of the magic schools, the Gobbler King’s castle…
Both Ian and Patrick cowered in fear as the troll- my troll- raised its club, which could have easily crushed them both. And that’s precisely what it did.
When the troll disappeared, I caught a glimpse of Ian and Patrick, both of whom were knocked out. Then they vanished in a puff of black smoke. The golden glow surrounding the four of us went out.
A cheer went out from the crowd. Students from Novice (How did they get here?) to Master crowded around us, congratulating us, requesting friendship, even asking for autographs. They didn’t even stop when Merle Ambrose appeared right in the middle of where the dueling circle had just been.
He looked around for a bit, aghast. Then his eyes found me. He looked astonished. Did he somehow know what had just occurred?
Then a strong hand found mine and pulled me into a building, out of sight of my new fans.
“Thanks, Nolan,” I said, grateful that he had helped me find some privacy. He didn’t smile.
“I,” he said, “am prepared to bet anything that those were Ian Ghostbringer and Patrick Nightwalker. They are part of the Black Hand. They’re two of Malistaire’s strongest henchmen!”
I froze. That was why the names seemed familiar; Nolan had told me about the Black Hand not too long ago.
Still one question remained unanswered. But before I could even think about it, Nolan spoke it for me.
“How did you do it?” Nolan asked. “Those two have been trained higher than you could ever get at Ravenwood!”
I didn’t exactly have a straight answer ready. “I don’t know,” I admitted. “My spells just seemed…stronger.”
I grimaced. That was about as a lame reply as you could get.
“Has it ever happened to you before now?” asked Nolan sharply.
“No,” I said. “Never.”
However good Nolan’s intentions were, he was making me feel more upset and confused than ever. I hadn’t really thought about the enormity of the deed I had done until now. Ian Ghostbringer and Patrick Nightwalker…how could we have done it?
I knew one thing. There was no way we could have done it alone. Someone had to have helped us.
Ambrose’s voice came back to me: If she is, in fact, the one mentioned in the Prophecy of Light…
This was all too confusing.
Later in the day, I was sitting on our home’s front porch. I had to get away from all the wizards, and here seemed like a good place to go.
Sadie and Savannah had decided to join their fellow ice students for a party in the Ice Tower, in which they were supposed to be the guests of honor, after the fight in Colossus Boulevard. So I was completely alone except for Samuel, who wasn’t really a desirable companion. He kept casting Elemental Shield upon himself as I thought about what had happened earlier. All these frequent flashes of light were starting to annoy me, but I was trying my best not to complain.
The first place I had gone after Colossus Boulevard was the library; I was hoping to find some information there. But after turning the whole library upside down, I was forced to conclude that Harold Argleston didn’t have a single book on the Prophecy of Light or even the Black Hand. So I looked at a book on spells instead. Not only did I not find even a bit of information about supersized spells, but I was also found by a group of fans, one of them holding up a sign saying, “Be mine.” Luckily, I was able to escape home before they were upon me.
I was on the verge of telling Samuel to cut it out. But this one wasn’t a spell; it was someone teleporting.
Thinking it was probably a new friend whose request I’d been too polite to refuse, I started to turn away. But then I realized it was Gamma.
“Hi,” I said.
“The Headmaster would like to-o-o see yo-o-ou,” he greeted.
Okay. “You all right here alone?” I asked Samuel. He nodded as he conjured up his eighth set of shields.
I took Gamma’s outstretched wing. In an instant, we were just in front of the door to Ambrose’s office. Hanging on a rusty old nail was a sign that said, “The headmaster is not available at this time.” It must not have meant to be intended for me, however, because Gamma took me right in.
Ambrose was there, seated at his desk. “Good afternoon, Miss Spiritheart,” he said. He held something under his hands. It looked like a piece of parchment or a scroll.
My eyes widened.
Well, what do we have here?
There it was again, across the top of the parchment in big letters: The Prophecy of Light.
The servant of Malistaire ran down the stone hallway, his black cloak billowing out behind him. He was one of the few who knew the way to the secret parlor, the room where Malistaire hatched his most devious schemes. He was in a hurry to get there too, running with a kind of furious excitement. He was eager to know what sort of punishment had befallen on Ian and Patrick; they had failed their master’s orders yet again.
Of course, if he was there fighting at Colossus Boulevard, it might have been different. Instead, he had been assigned the pointless task of supervisor.
He turned left, right, and went through an ancient-looking tapestry. And there was Malistaire, looking furious as he poured a potion into the mouths of the two unconscious men. They awakened. And they seemed surprised looking around at their surroundings. Then they saw Malistaire, and they began to quake in fear.
Malistaire held in his wrath, however, because he saw his servant standing in the doorway. “Marcus, how are you?” he cooed.
That’s when Marcus noticed two young women sitting on a couch near the back of the room. Like everyone else in the room, they were dressed all in black and had dark hair and eyes. Although they wore nice dresses and their hair was elaborately styled, they were far from pretty. Their skin was deathly pale, there were dark circles under their eyes, and they were scowling as Malistaire gave him an affectionate gesture.
Marcus gave a chuckle. He didn’t care. They were only jealous of his bond with Malistaire. And he reveled in their jealousy.
“Report,” Malistaire ordered.
“It seems,” said Marcus, before Ian or Patrick could make up a lame excuse, “that these two have failed to carry out your orders. They have failed to bring you the children of the Prophecy of Light.”
“However,” he continued, watching Malistaire’s face grow redder and redder, “we now know who they are.”
“Cornelia, Nora,” he barked, “take these buffoons to the dungeons. I will deal with them later.”
As the four exited the room, Malistaire turned to face Marcus, his eyes agleam with excitement. “Who?”
“It is the girl, Sarah Spiritheart, and her family. She enrolled in Ravenwood school barely a month ago,” said Marcus smugly. He had known it was her all along, ever since he had met her, which was not too long ago. He had just seen something in her.
“Ah, yes, her. Only an initiate.” He couldn’t hide his relief. “I trust you know of the plan? In case this was to happen?”
“Of course.” Marcus broke into an evil smile.
“Then keep an eye on the girl…until it is carried out.”
“I’ll leave right away,” said Marcus calmly. He gave Malistaire a short bow. Then he teleported to his house in Wizard City, where he lived as Malistaire’s spy. There he had a whole new name, a whole new identity.
He kicked back in his chair. What had happened today was chance, purely chance. Sarah had no idea of her true destiny. Her capture would be easy.
The Tale of Sarah Spiritheart
As soon as I saw the heading on that scroll, I took an eager step forward. I would finally get to figure out what this all was about!
“What’s that, Sir?” I asked politely
“Sit down,” he requested. I did. “This is the reason for what happened today in Colossus Boulevard, as I’m sure you’re wondering.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “Is that a prophecy?”
“Oh, yes,” he said.
“I didn’t know there were prophecies in Wizard City,” I mused.
“But there are,” he chuckled. “In fact, there are a great number of them. All prophecies that have happened already as well as those that are yet to commence were written before the dawn of the Spiral, when the giants, titans, and dragons ruled the land.”
I nodded to show that I understood. Professor Wu had told us that story countless times.
I hesitated before I asked the next question. “Does it…have something to do with me?” he nodded. “Then why did you try to hide it from me?”
“I didn’t want to frighten you, Miss Spiritheart,” Ambrose said simply. “Goodness knows how you would take the news in your first weeks in Ravenwood. Besides, I wasn’t sure back then.”
Okay, I’d take that. “How did you find this, though?”
“Funny you should ask,” said Ambrose. “About a year ago, I went to Bartleby with a potion that would help soothe his mind. It was at that time that he chose to mention that I might find a certain room just to the side of Dragon’s Mouth Cave. This was news to me, so I decided to make the journey to investigate.”
“Was it there?” I asked.
“Yes, in fact,” said Ambrose. “I followed his instructions and found myself in the Hall of the Prophecy, a legendary room in which few people are permitted entrance.”
“So were there prophecies in there?” I asked.
“Just about every prophecy ever made,” said Ambrose. “I explored a little bit. Then I came across a most peculiar statement called the Prophecy of Light. I was most intrigued by it, so I copied it down.” He handed me the scroll.
“So I can read it, then?” I asked excitedly. He nodded, and I unrolled the parchment.
The scroll was covered, not by words, but by a picture. My first thought was that it could’ve been a bit more elaborate. The people in the picture had dots for eyes and sticks for arms and legs.
“Oh, I am terribly sorry for my lack of quillmanship,” said Ambrose cheerfully. “I have never been particularly known for having artistic skill.”
“Uh, okay,” I guffawed. Then I studied the picture some more.
Four wizards stood side by side against a person I recognized as a badly drawn Malistaire. At least Ambrose had enough skill to portray three girls and a boy. And their approximate ages. Hey, that kind of looked like…
“Is that us?” I asked.
He nodded. “If I was just a little more skilled in the artistic field, the resemblance might have been clearer.”
I looked back at Malistaire. Even in this picture, he looked very menacing. He also appeared to be glowing, shown by the little stars that Ambrose had drawn around him.
My heart sank when I realized what this meant. “Malistaire’s getting powerful again.”
“Yes.” Ambrose gave a sad smile.
“And…” I looked back at the four wizards across from him. “…we’re going to have to defeat him.”
“It could’ve been anyone,” corrected Ambrose. “But so far, you were the most excelled family of four I’ve ever met. I really think you have the potential.”
I studied the picture a bit more. On the hand of the tallest girl (possibly me) was a strange rune that I had never seen before. I squinted. It looked like a leaf intertwined with a heart.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“That,” said Ambrose, “is the mark of a true healer.”
“What’s a true healer?” I asked.
“Normally you don’t learn this until Magus Life Magic, but it can’t hurt to tell you now,” said Ambrose. “Although, it might be a little bit tricky to understand without the knowledge of the properties of life.”
“We learned that already,” I said.
“Oh, did you, now? Good,” said Ambrose. “A true healer can heal herself and others spontaneously, without a wand or a spell.”
“Isn’t that impossible?” I asked.
“Theoretically, yes,” he said. “That’s why true healers are so rare. No one knows how they are singled out, besides from the fact that they have always been life wizards and, for some reason, young ladies like yourself.
“I believe,” he continued, “that Sylvia Drake was a true healer.”
“Really?” I asked. “Then why did she die if she could just heal herself?”
“They can only heal others, but when doing so, their magic can rub off on them too,” said Ambrose. “I’m afraid to say that poor Sylvia could not heal herself at that point.”
“So are you saying that I’m a true healer?” I asked.
“It could very well be,” he replied.
“So how do they do it?”
“No one knows,” said Ambrose. “Well, maybe except for Bartleby, but he’s in no state to tell us.”
There was the longest of silences. This true healer thing certainly did seem to explain what happened at Colossus Boulevard, but did that mean…
“So…we’re definitely going to have to defeat Malistaire, then,” I said slowly.
“You can choose not to, if you want,” said Ambrose. “Of course, if it is truly your destiny, I’m sorry to say you can’t evade it for very long.”
I massaged my temples with my fingers. “Okay…I’m going to need to think this through,”
“Please, take all the time you need,” said Ambrose warmly.
“Thank you,” I said. I started for the door and stopped. “Say I did decide to do this. What then?”
“Just stay together,” Ambrose advised. “I don’t think you’d do much good against Malistaire separately. And remember this, Miss Spiritheart; I have full confidence in you and your ability to save the Spiral.”
The next day, just as we had decided, Chris and I continued with our Gobbler quest.
To get to the Gobbler King, we had to defeat Prince Gobblestone, whose suspenders were putting on a large amount of strain. In fact, right in the middle of the battle, just before I was about to cast Leprechaun, one of the buttons popped off and hit me in the eye. I had to resist a strong urge to cast at Chris instead as he rolled around on the ground laughing.
“You had to admit it, though, that was pretty funny,” Chris said as we were coming out.
I rubbed my eye. “I guess…”
After we talked to Mindy Pixiecrown about the king’s decree, we were supposed to talk to Ambrose about it. I was slightly nervous about this; Ambrose might bring up the Prophecy of Light again…
But Ambrose treated me the same as ever. Maybe it was because he felt sorry for me, or maybe it was just because I was with Chris at the time. But he seemed to understand.
When we told him about the Gobbler King’s attempts to take over Wizard City, he (sounding sincerely sorry about it) sent us both to defeat even more gobblers. Two of each kind.
I groaned. I was getting sick of them. Literally.
Defeating the Gobblers was as dull as it was disgusting. And it took an excruciatingly long time. A couple of times, Chris and I had to take turns at the minigame fairgrounds to earn more mana or health. It took nearly an hour, but at last we were done. Then we had to go back to Ambrose’s office and…well it’s pretty straightforward from there. Chris and I both agreed that it wasn’t our most fun quest.
We were about halfway to Colossus Boulevard again (to defeat Baron Greebly) when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of light behind me. Someone, a friend, had teleported to me.
I gritted my teeth. It was probably one of the people who had begged to be my friend yesterday. Or, and my eyes widened in horror, what if it was Nolan? Then Chris would know he was my friend and would probably be furious…
But to my immense relief, it was Catherine Fairyblossom, one of my fellow initiate life students who I had known long before what had happened yesterday. Behind her was a small girl who looked exactly like her, only in miniature.
“Hey, Sarah.” Then she noticed me looking at the girl clinging to her leg. “Oh, this is my sister, Madison Goldengate. She’s fire.”
The girl, Madison, giggled.
“Do you need anything?” I asked.
“Well, actually, yes,” said Catherine. “There’s a bit of a problem on Unicorn Way; none of us can…”
“Unicorn Way?” I gaped at her. I hadn’t been to Unicorn Way for ages. And she, a level fourteen, hadn’t either. “Then why do you need me?”
“Well, there’s this over population problem, but it’s not the monsters that are usually there. I mean, they’re the same, really, but they’re a lot more powerful and know more spells.”
“On Unicorn—” Chris began.
“Yes! On Unicorn Way! These monsters appeared right out of the blue and I think we need your help.”
“But you don’t need Sarah, do you?” asked Chris. “It’s monsters, not Malistaire’s henchmen again.”
Thank you, I thought.
“I told you!” said Catherine, now slightly exasperated. “These monsters are different. But when we tried to get a couple of Magi to defeat them…”
Chris and I exchanged looks. Magi? On Unicorn Way?
“…it didn’t even seem to hurt them even a little bit. They’re multiplying or something. I don’t know.”
“So,” I said, “you think I can do better than a group of Magi?”
“But,” said Catherine, “yesterday…you…ugh!” She threw her hands up into the air. “Just come with me.
Without warning, she grabbed me by the arm and dragged me through the tunnel to Unicorn Way.
To my surprise, in the courtyard, I saw the three slightly bemused faces of my siblings staring at me when I walked in, each of them standing beside one of their friends.
“What’s going on?” Savannah demanded.
But I wasn’t focused on them. My eyes were on the street, which indeed seemed to be flooded with more Lost Souls then normal. Yet something about these seemed to be different. They weren’t floating around with the usual less-than-confident manner those lowly 65-health-Lost Souls had. There was a definite confidence, even smugness about them as they floated up and down the street.
I turned to look at Catherine, who was already facing me. “You need to do something,” she said. “It’s not just the Lost Souls. There’s also Skeletal Pirates and Dark Fairies. It’s horrible. They attack us while we’re on sidewalks and gang up on us four to one. Stuff like that. The novices are getting scared—look.” She indicated a group of children sitting on the steps of the gazebo, about Sadie’s age, quaking in fear.
“Please,” she said. She spoke to all four of us. “Can you help?”
“Well,” I said, looking over the sea of faces, “we’re not miracle workers.” The looks on the people’s faces told us that they thought otherwise.
“Alright…” I said. It couldn’t hurt. The worst thing that could happen was that we’d all get sent back to the commons. Right?
“Want me to come with you?” said a quiet voice right next to my ear.
I smiled to myself. “No thanks,” I said to Chris.
The minute I grabbed hands with Savannah, Savannah with Sadie, and Sadie with Samuel, a shimmery, golden wisp appeared and started swirling around us. People from the crowd oohed and ahhed. And something else happened. I began to feel more confident, like I could do anything, maybe even put a stop to this…
As we walked down the sidewalks, I noticed that something seemed to be keeping the Lost Souls away from us. Whatever Catherine had said about the Lost Souls attacking people on the sidewalks didn’t seem to be holding true for us.
Where to begin? They had to be coming from somewhere. That’s when I saw Lost Souls, Skeletal Pirates, and Dark Fairies streaming from one particular building at the back one of the street’s cul-de-sacs: Lady Blackhope’s tower.
My siblings’ faces mirrored my surprise. Lady Blackhope was the easiest Boss in Wizard City. This wouldn’t be hard at all!
A little too easy, I thought. Suddenly, I thought of something. If Lady Blackhope was this simple-minded, this weak, then how was she doing this?
I realized our mistake a second late, when we didn’t see Lady Blackhope in her tower.
Instead, there was a woman of about eighteen, laid back on a golden throne I hadn’t seen in this room before. I know I shouldn’t have thought it in the first place because it felt too prejudiced, but the first thought that came to my mind was, Death. I couldn’t help myself. Just like Nolan, she obviously preferred to wear just black.
With a jolt, I saw that the clothes she was wearing also reminded me of the clothes worn by Ian Ghostbringer and Patrick Nightwalker. Was she part of Malistaire’s Black Hand too?
Even if she wasn’t, she appeared to be the cause of the trouble. She was smiling, laughing even, as she gave her wand a couple of lazy flicks, summoning creatures who headed straight for the exit door...
…which slammed shut as we entered. Suddenly, the woman’s eyes swiveled around to the four of us. They were bright amber with slits for pupils, giving her the ludicrous appearance of an overgrown hawk—minus the beak. Although I could easily picture one, big and yellow, on her face.
The woman smiled evilly and raised her wand so that it appeared to divide her face in half. Her hair stood on end, forming a kind of halo, even though there was nothing heavenly about this picture.
Then a bright flash of blue light filled the air. Unprepared, I closed my eyes a second late. When I opened my eyes, it was only after I stopped seeing spots when I saw exactly how much danger we were in.
The hawk-like woman had gone. But she had been replaced by as many creatures as were able to fill the room. I could even see some on the stairs to the next floor.
“Argh, no!” I shouted. But it was too late. Sadie rushed to the exit door the moment she saw the creatures, bumping into a Lost Soul and forming a dueling circle in the process.
“Great…” Three Lost Souls and a Skeletal Pirate had joined, but as I had suspected, they were much more powerful than their normal kin. And many more surrounded us, waiting to fight.
A powerful emotion rose up inside of me, but it wasn’t fear or concern or anything like that. Instead, oddly, it felt like courage. Or something like it. Kind of like a “bring it on” feeling.
The golden glow flared.
I looked around, my lips twisting into a smile. I was surprised yet pleased to see even Sadie wasn’t looking even the least bit scared.
So the fight began.
It was like yesterday all over again. Except that we knew what to expect this time. Our spells were more powerful than ever. Leprechauns threw coins by the bucketful. Literally: they came surfing down the rainbow with dozens of pots. Snow Serpents bit with rows and rows of pointy teeth. A fire plate caused by a Fire Elf remained long after three rounds, causing damage endlessly.
Yet it was long, tiring work, even worse than Gobblers. The amount of creatures seemed infinite, and at times, I could’ve sworn they’d multiplied, like Catherine said. These creatures knew more spells than I’d expected they’d know. A Lost Soul actually cast Wraith, almost completely depriving Samuel of health.
And then there was the issue of health. The length of this battle made me think that we ought to have lost our health completely a fair few times. But I simply had to think it and our health was immediately replenished.
Time passed. But what really drove me crazy was that it was impossible to tell how much. There were no windows, no clock, and I had left my watch at Earth. And we were becoming tired. But there didn’t seem to be any difference in the monsters than when we first arrived.
I wish this would just end, I thought as a giant death shield supposed to take off 99.9 percent of a spell obscured my view yet again.
Something started tickling my left hand, in which I held my spell cards. I looked and saw a tiny, gold wisp floating among the cards. It traced a shimmery, rectangular outline in my hand. And then there was a card which had not been there before.
I grabbed it and held it up to my face. It said, Tornado. Nothing more. No amount of pips needed, no amount of damage, not even a picture. Nothing.
I decided to try it anyway. It had evidently appeared for a reason.
It was our turn, and I went first. I held up the new spell card. It was green, so I decided that it was a life spell. I concentrated and traced the life symbol in the air. Then I closed my eyes, waved my wand, and gathered up the energy of the new card
Almost straightaway, I felt a strong wind that whipped my ponytail around in circles. The minute I opened my eyes, I became conscious that my bangs had been blown in my face. The others were also having similar problems. Savannah was clutching her Frost-touched cap with both hands, afraid it would fly off. Sadie’s hat had blown off. And Samuel’s cape was blowing into his back. It looked as though he would be scooped up into the air. But aside from these minor drawbacks, we were all unharmed.
The monsters weren’t so lucky. They appeared to be losing strength. The Lost Souls were fighting against the wind with poor results. The Skeletal Pirates were being blasted apart. The Dark Fairies were being blown all about, their tiny wings helpless against the wind.
At last, the windstorm was over. And we found ourselves in a completely empty tower room. The floor was littered with bones and the occasional eye patch or bandana.
“Wow!” Savannah exclaimed. “Where did you learn a spell like that?”
“There was a card,” I said. “It appeared…hang on, I’ll show you…”
But to my surprise, the card had vanished.
“Huh? Where did it go?”
“Hey!” Samuel shouted suddenly.
I only had a few seconds to look at what Samuel was pointing at. Near the door was a black-cloaked figure holding a detailed staff. He was about my height, but did that mean he was my age? I couldn’t tell. All I could see of his face was his mouth; the rest was under his hood. But before I could get a good look at him, he vanished with a puff of black smoke.
“Huh,” said Savannah. I didn’t answer. I had just thought of someone I knew, someone who liked to dress all in black and wear hoods, and someone who liked to carry staffs rather than wands…
No, I thought. He would never do that.
But could it be? What I had seen of the young stranger looked pretty much like him. Even his skin color, although that may have just been darkened by the shadow.
I pushed the thought out of my mind, resolving to deal with it later. Right now, we had to tell everyone what had happened. And get our first ray of sunlight in three, maybe four hours.
Exiting the tower was like coming out of a bat cave. It was as though we were looking directly into the sun every minute. It made me envy fire wizards, who could look directly into the sun without suffering any eye damage at all. We had to do a kind of staggering walk along the sidewalk to get down the street. But the effects of the sun wore off at last. A whole bunch of students were waiting in the courtyard, probably for our arrival.
“Did you do it?” asked a small girl wearing Novice robes.
“I don’t know,” I said, and that was true. Although we had defeated all the monsters in Lady Blackhope’s tower, I had no clue if we actually stopped the trouble.
From the crowd came cries of disappointment and confusion, but then a voice echoed across the field: “Allow me.”
The voice had come from the gazebo. It was Merle Ambrose. He had only just teleported here.
“The person causing all the trouble on this street has fled, probably when she saw the extent of power in these four.” He waved a ringed hand over us. “This beautiful and historic street is now safe. To our younger wizards, you may now continue your quests without any further danger.” The crowd of wizards cheered.
I noticed that Ambrose had deliberately not mentioned that the woman was working for Malistaire, probably not to arouse any fear in the students.
Thankfully, before I received even more friendship requests, Ambrose walked up to me and said, “Miss Spiritheart, a word in my office?”
“Okay,” I said. I already knew very well what he wanted to discuss. Rather than dwell on that particular unpleasant subject, I instead marveled at the déjà vu of this scene. Both today and yesterday, after a horrific battle caused by Malistaire’s henchmen, Merle Ambrose had arrived just a second late and invited me to a pleasant chat in his office about the dreaded Prophecy of Light.
“So, Miss Spiritheart…” said Ambrose conversationally, closing his office door behind him.
“I know what you’re going to say,” I said.
Before Ambrose could do so much as look disappointed, I said, “But I’ve thought it over. I’ll do it, but you’ll have to ask the others about it before…” I couldn’t say it.
“A courageous decision,” Ambrose said. “I believed you had a chance, and I thought you would think so too.”
“Well, I’ll do it.” I said. “But what do I do now?”
“I think you deserve a break from all this responsibility,” said Ambrose, to my surprise. “Have fun, do quests, take classes.”
I was doing a mental back flip at his words. Yes yes yes yes yes! I was screaming inside my head. I so needed a real long break from this Prophecy of Light business. Even though I had only really known about it for a bit more than a day.
“And I almost forgot,” said Ambrose. “He handed me the scroll. “Keep this. You might be able to make some more sense out of it.”
I pocketed the bit of parchment. I’d have to show this to Chris. He’d help me figure it out. Nolan too.
Or maybe not Nolan, I thought, remembering the mysterious figure in the tower. After today, I didn’t know whether to trust him or not.
Merle Ambrose watched Sarah fondly as she exited his office.
“She’s a brave one, she is,” hooted Gamma.
“Yes,” said Ambrose. “And I feel certain that her siblings will be the same.”
He peered out his office window just as Sarah teleported away. True, he had no doubt of her abilities. Or any of their abilities, really. But he couldn’t help feeling a bit worried. He had half a mind not to let them do it at all. But he knew destiny always caught up with you sooner or later. And it was better to be prepared than to not have a clue.
Besides, now wasn’t the time to worry about Malistaire. Merle knew him. He was likely to bide his time until the next chapter of his scheme.
No, he wouldn’t worry that much about them until the time came. He had a much more pressing matter on his hands.
He knew that Malistaire was capable of a lot. After all, he had taught him once. But now he had achieved something that Merle had thought impossible.
“But how did he do it?” he wondered aloud.
“Do-o-o what?” asked Gamma.
“The creatures,” said Merle. “They appear to be what they were before. In fact, they’re the exact same.”
“Then why are they mo-o-ore powerful?” asked Gamma, finishing Merle’s statement.
“Malistaire has found a way to train his minions to make them more powerful then they actually are. I would not have believed it possible until now.”
Gamma hooted nervously. “What would they be capable of do-o-oing?”
“Stronger spells, I think,” he replied. “Better intelligence, more health, and maybe even more sometime. But what we really should be worrying about is what Malistaire will do with minions like these. Any ideas, Gamma?”
“Hmm,” Gamma thought. “He’d fill the streets, replace some of the bosses…”
“He may do more than that soon, Gamma,” said Merle gravely. “With these new minions at his side, he might even be capable of attacking the school. I fear that Malistaire is building up an army so as to make him unstoppable.”
“Oh dear,” said Gamma. “Should we expect an attack so-o-o-on?”
“I think we are safe for now,” said Merle. “He’ll wait until he has enough minions to attack, just to be on the safe side. But even so, we ought to be on our guard, just in case.”
So slowly, the day drew to a close. Chris and I worked on our Gobbler quest some more. And we were about to finish, but we were distracted by Kirby Longspear, who wouldn’t leave us alone until we collected his shipment barrels.
We did quests until the moon rose up in the sky. Finally, Chris yawned and said, “The Gobbler King can capture Wizard City right now, for all I care. And I’ll still be going home to get some sleep. So, tomorrow then? Same time same place?”
“Same time same place,” I replied. I waved goodbye to him. Then I teleported home.
I landed in the front yard only to find Sadie asleep on the porch steps in her pajamas. I gently shook her shoulder.
“Sadie, what are you doing here?” I softly asked. It must be later than I realized.
Without opening her eyes and barely moving her lips, she said, “Waiting for you.”
Then she laid her head back down, asleep again.
I still don’t know how I managed to get Sadie from the porch to her room without waking her up. I know that if someone had even touched me in my sleep, I’d be wide awake the next instant. It wasn’t like that for Sadie, though. After attempting several ways to pick her up, she still remained fast asleep. Finally, shrugging, I just slung her over my shoulder. Gently, of course. And I carried her like that up a flight of stairs and across the hall to her bedroom.
“Goodnight,” I said to her.
Then I tiptoed across to my room.
I lay awake for a long time, thinking about the prophecy. At last, when I could bear it no longer, I conjured a bit of light with my wand and retrieve the scroll from my bedside table.
I looked at the poorly drawn picture until I thought my eyes would burn out. But no matter how hard I studied it, I wasn’t able to make anything out other than what Ambrose told me.
At least I was able to push that from my mind. For now.
I should’ve known that this period of blissful relaxation was too good to last. And I’m not talking about the time when my other siblings actually found out about the prophecy. Or the magic, which we discovered appeared even when we weren’t fighting for our life, or when I was with only, say, one of my siblings. I was actually starting to like that I had some control over it now. I’m talking about a period weeks later in our life, when things took a turn for the worst.
How? Well, I’ll just say that over this month, things were going really well for my family. Savannah and Sadie hadn’t had a real argument in weeks. Samuel hadn’t screamed once ever since we got here. Unless you counted at Colossus Boulevard. But that had done us more good than harm. This wizard thing was really tying us together. I was starting to think that nothing could break us apart.
Boy, was I wrong.
The Tale of Sarah Spiritheart
Never had I been sad or miserable at Ravenwood. Not even once. All I’d ever known were happy times. Like when I finally bought a forested mansion, with a little help from Chris. Like when Chris and I finally made it into Krokotopia. Like when I learned the spell Sprite Guardian, enabling me to bring help to a battle without whisper chatting to one of my friends.
Never…at least, not until today.
The day started out normal enough. Chris and I were in our usual seats at the front of the classroom. We were watching with little interest as Professor Wu explained to a group of new level-eighteens how to cast Sprite Guardian. We had already learned that spell three days ago. The little fairy that had risen from the ground was like a normal sprite in many ways. Except that she was a little bigger and perhaps, more serious.
Five sprites soon filled the room. I watched them fondly, remembering the one I had cast the other day, which had helped me beat Chris at dueling at last.
One was doing a kind of graceful ballet move across my desk when I first heard it: a loud BOOM. An explosion. Well that stirred up some people, but Professor Wu managed to calm us down.
“The Adept Diviners have their class about now,” she said wisely. “They’re probably just learning how to cast Kraken.”
We all believed her then. But then there was another booming noise. Then another. Even Professor Wu seemed to think that there was something more going on when they continued for most of the day. And even after we left class.
As Chris and I exited with the rest of the class, I heard it again. It seemed to be coming from the other side of Ravenwood. From the “elemental” classes.
“Maybe Professor Wu’s right,” said Chris. “It probably is just a storm student.”
That didn’t convince me, but…all right. “Want to meet at the Oasis after we’re finished with homework?”
“Okay.” Chris said. “See you then!”
Homework from Professor Wu didn’t take long at all. It was actually fun. I was supposed to cast Sprite Guardian and take note of all the different spells she knew. It was my Myth homework that was the problem.
Professor Drake seemed to want to give me as much difficult homework as possible. The kindest explanation I could think of for this behavior was that he wanted to challenge me so I wouldn’t be bored. Then again, Cyrus Drake wasn’t exactly known for his kindness. So I was forced to assume the worst: he wanted to flunk me out of Myth class. He had tried to expel me once.
I took out the four sheets that he had given me that had questions on both the front and the back sides. Number One, I read to myself. Name the three metals that are found in a Cyclops’s hammer.
“How am I supposed to know that?” I complained loudly. Fuming, I skipped on to the next question. Describe the appearance of a River Troll.
A half an hour later, I put my half-finished homework in my backpack. I was thinking of stopping by Cyclopes Lane to ask Nolan Stormgate the answers to the questions when I heard a knock on the door.
Thinking it was Savannah or Sadie, or maybe both, I was surprised to see Lydia Greyrose.
“Hi, Professor…” I gasped. “Are you all right?”
Professor Greyrose looked as though she had been in a fight. Her blue robes were singed. Her hair, usually up in a tight bun, was falling in her face. Her hat was tilted in such a way that it covered her left eye. And her flying was a little lopsided, due to the fact that one of her wings was stiff.
“Yes, I’m all right,” she said, with a great deal of dignity.
“But,” she added, “I wish I could say the same for these two.” She pulled from both sides of the door Savannah and Sadie, who, up to now, had been hidden from my view. They looked similar to Professor Greyrose, except they were covered in bruises. And they both had angry, yet guilty looks on their faces.
Thinking that this could mean nothing good, I asked to them in particular, “What happened?”
Both of them opened their mouths, probably to blame each other, but it was Professor Greyrose who answered.
“Miss Swiftsong and Miss Sparkleblade started a fight during class today,” she said. “I assume you heard them, did you not?”
I clenched my fists. “You started a fight?” I screeched.
“In addition,” she said, they completely destroyed the Ice School.”
“How much damage could they do?” I asked, now on the defensive. “They’re only Journeymen.”
As an answer, she waved her wand and created a kind of window out of thin air. Upon a closer look, I saw that it was an image of the Ice School. Desks were overturned. Windows were shattered. Ink was splattered all over the room.
“Are you sure it was just them?” I said. “It looks like a Kraken got involved.” She appeared not to have heard.
“Luckily, Professor Ambrose was able to repair most of the damage. Otherwise, they would be in a lot more trouble than they are now. But since, now, the damage was minimal, they will have detention for the rest of the day. Good day, Miss Spiritheart.”
And with that, she closed the door in my bewildered face.
I didn’t move from my spot for a long time. It took a while for it to sink in. My two younger sisters just started a fight.
Oh, they were in for it when they got home.
A while later, I was sitting on the edge of the well in Krokotopia, waiting for Chris to come. The fight was still on my mind, but was not as important as before. Maybe when I saw my sisters tonight, it would be different.
But where was Chris? He should’ve been here ages ago!
Sweat started to form on my brow. If I hated anything about Krokotopia, it was the heat. And the fact that there weren’t any sleeveless wizard robes just made it worse.
At first, Chris and I were super excited, being in Krokotopia. But maybe after three or four days we became bored. The tunnels all looked the same, the only monsters in this place were Kroks, and the heat was just the worst thing ever.
I bent down to fill my canteen from the well for the…third time? As I did, I caught sight of my reflection in the water. I loved my Krokotopian outfit. It was all lime green complimented with a bit of gold jewelry. However dumb it was to wear long sleeves in the desert, this fabric was light and cool, which made it a little better. However, there was also one other minor drawback. Even though the shopkeeper swore it was the latest style, and Chris told me countless times how much I looked like a Krokotopian princess, I thought that with my helm of refuge on, I looked more like a hairless freak
I took another swig of water. Then I splashed the rest all over my face. I knew the comfort would only last a little bit, though.
Great meeting spot, Chris, I thought. Maybe next time we should meet, I don’t know, inside the Pyramid of the Sun.
Then without thinking, and first checking to make sure no one was watching, I dunked my entire face in the well.
“Having fun?” someone said. I nearly choked.
I came up out of the water, coughing. Nolan smirked.
“I have to admit,” he said, “I’ve never seen that technique used before. But I suppose it’s okay if you want to get a lot of water at once.”
I laughed. Then I straightened my cap and wiped the water from my face.
“So how come I haven’t heard from you?” Nolan demanded. “It’s been, like, three weeks.”
“Um…” I hesitated.
The truth was that I had thought that I had seen Nolan in one of my more recent battles, one that I was certain that Malistaire was directly behind. But if I told him he would laugh at me, be hurt that I accused him, or be angry that I accused him. In my opinion, none of these were worth it.
But the more I thought about it, the less likely it seemed that Nolan had been there. Now I felt really guilty that I hadn’t seen him in a while.
“Never mind,” said Nolan, to my relief. “So why don’t you come to the Temple of Storms with me today? I could use a bit of help; it’s supposed to be pretty hard.”
“I don’t think I can,” I said. “I said I’d meet Chris.”
“Okay,” said Nolan. He didn’t look put down at all. “I’ll ask David instead.” He started to walk away. “See you!”
“Um, Nolan?” I asked, suddenly remembering something. “I need to ask you something.” I knew he didn’t take myth, but maybe he’d know.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Well it’s something about my myth homework…Do you know what a river troll looks like?”
“A river troll,” I said.
Nolan shook his head. “Trolls don’t live in rivers; they only live up in the mountains. Everybody knows that.”
Ten minutes after Nolan had left, Chris still hadn’t arrived. I had started to sing under my breath, which had always been a habit of mine. I sang a few lyrics from one of my favorite songs by Taylor Swift. On Earth, not the one I knew in Wizard City. I only stopped when I heard someone clapping.
“Chris!” I felt my face go red.
“No, seriously,” said Chris. “That was really good.”
“Sure,” I said, rolling my eyes. “So where were you for the past…hm…thirty minutes?”
“Doing homework,” said Chris.
“Okay, there is no way that you could’ve had more homework than Professor Drake assigned…”
“Uh-huh. And how much of that did you do?”
Caught in the act, I looked away and mumbled, “Uh…well…”
Chris laughed. “It’s okay. I’ve heard how hard it is.”
“Tell me about it!” I burst out. “I mean, we haven’t gone over Minotaurs yet!” Then I noticed Chris fingering something on his belt with a shiny, silver hilt.
I normally didn’t care too much about daggers too much. I carried a small one around with me for defense, but I didn’t let any of my siblings have knives of their own. And I had a good reason. Samuel might fool around with his. Sadie might accidentally cut herself. And who knows what Savannah would do with hers if she got angry?
But Chris’s dagger was the nicest one I had ever seen. The hilt was wrapped in leather straps and was decorated with three sparkling emeralds on each side.
“Uh, thanks.” Chris didn’t seem to be as interested in it as I was. “It’s a hand-me-down from my dad, so I don’t know how old it is. So, shall we go?”
Another thing I don’t like much about Krokotopia: no sidewalks. So keep in mind that you could be attacked by monsters anytime unless you’re backed up against the wall.
It was nice and cool inside the Pyramid of the Sun, and even colder inside the Palace of Fire. I usually can’t stand the cold, but if you’re outside on a hot Krokotopian afternoon for a whole half hour, it begins to grow on you.
“Which way to the Throne Room of Fire? Chris asked
I held my compass flat on my hand and blew on it gently. The large, yellow arrow marked “Destination” spun around in a circle until it stopped somewhere to my left.
“This way,” I said. “Come on.”
And we set off, our backs against the wall so we wouldn’t run into any Desert Golems or Narini Warriors.
When we arrived at the Throne Room of Fire, we saw another familiar face: our friend, Catherine Fairyblossom.
“Hi, guys!” she said brightly, waving.
“What are you doing here?” Chris asked. “Weren’t you a higher level than us?”
“Well, not anymore, obviously,” she said. “My sister Meghan just got into Olde Town and I’ve been helping her with bosses and stuff like that. She’s only defeating Haunted Minions right now, so I bet she’ll be okay. Oh, and speaking of Meghan, she told me to ask you where your sister Sadie was. They’re friends now, you know.”
She’s in…um…” I decided it was safe to tell her. “She’s in detention.”
Catherine’s eyebrows rose in concern, but she didn’t ask why. Thankfully.
Suddenly, Chris threw his arms around both our shoulders and pulled us together so that we were making some sort of friend sandwich. “So what are we waiting for, guys? Those monsters aren’t going to defeat themselves!” And with that, he marched us to the entrance where, in ten seconds, we were transported to the Throne Room of Fire.
That night, I lay on the couch, exhausted but pleased from the day’s efforts. I was waiting for Savannah and Sadie, not exactly sure when they would get home. I sat with my back against the pillow with a book held up inches from my nose. Back on Earth you could rarely find me in a position other than this.
Chris was the one who had originally gotten me hooked onto Wizard City literature. He had recommended a book and, just like that, I couldn’t put it down. It was a long novel by a famous author in Wizard City, Sierra Winterbreeze. Even though I knew nothing of the different books here, I could tell this one was wonderful. Almost Harry Potter standard.
I took a long enough break in my reading to check my watch. It was just past ten o’ clock. Exactly how much trouble had Savannah and Sadie gotten into?
The second I returned to my book, my question was answered for me. There was a creak, the sound of a door slamming shut, and a second later, Savannah and Sadie had joined me on the couch.
The irony, I thought, sticking a leather bookmark in the middle of chapter three.
“What happened?” I asked, deliberately not looking at either of them.
“Sadie started it,” Savannah muttered.
“What happened?” I asked again, this time fixing Savannah with my famous evil eye.
Without meaning to, I caused a shouting match to erupt in our home.
“She was just jealous because I could cast Tower Shield and she couldn’t!” shouted Savannah.
Of course, Sadie had to have her say. “She was bragging about it!” she said indignantly.
“And then she cast Snow Serpent at me—”
“I didn’t mean to! It was an accident!”
“No, it wasn’t!”
“Yes, it was!”
I just wanted to scream right then and there if it weren’t for the fact that I had gotten Samuel to sleep after an hour’s hard work and wasn’t about to let him wake up. So instead, I took two pillows and shoved them both into their faces.
“So what? You didn’t have to destroy the Ice School over it!”
That, of course, got them fired up again.
“I told you, she started it! She cast—”
“It was an accident! And she thought it wasn’t and cast sunbird and—”
This time, I did scream. But I pressed the remaining pillow to my face so Samuel wouldn’t hear. This caused them to pause for a moment and look at me. But I barely opened my mouth when Savannah and Sadie went right on back to fighting.
I grabbed the two pillows again and pushed them as far into their faces as they would go.
“I get it!” I shouted. “I get that Sadie needs to be more careful with her spell casting! I get that Savannah can’t tell an accidental spell from an intentional one! But look at what you’ve done! You’ve landed yourselves in detention! You almost blew up the Ice School, for Pete’s sake!”
I angrily threw the pillows down on the floor.
“Plus,” I said, “you’re being really ungrateful. Especially since Ambrose is cutting us some slack,” I lowered my voice, even though no one was there, “from this Prophecy of Light stuff.”
Savannah’s face turned a bright shade of red.
“Sadie won’t last a minute with Malistaire,” she said, probably to vent her anger.
“That’s it!” I said, throwing my hands up in the air. “Just apologize! Make up! Whatever! It will make my job a whole lot easier!”
“Never,” said Savannah. She crossed her arms and turned her back on Sadie.
Sadie crossed her arms and turned her back on Savannah.
I sighed. “I’m going to bed,” I said.
Fuming, I picked up my book and climbed the wooden staircase. Maybe it would be all better in the morning.
Guess what? It wasn’t.
When I got up the next morning, the day seemed normal enough. I couldn’t hear anything downstairs, which meant that the others were probably still asleep. So I did what I normally did every day. I put on my green Krokotopian ensemble. Then I brushed my teeth and tried to comb my untamable hair, which just wouldn’t stay flat…
When I got downstairs, to my surprise, Savannah and Sadie were already there. They were silently eating breakfast, which was a first for them. The silent part, I mean. It looked as though they hadn’t forgotten their fight from yesterday. To make matters worse, from one look at Savannah’s face, I could tell that she was in one of her “moods.” This meant that I would have to spend the day with none other than Miss Gloom and Doom herself.
I then heard a happy, “Good morning, girls!” coming from the stairs.
Oh-no, I thought, catching Samuel’s big, goofy grin. Today, he was unnecessarily cheerful, which could somehow get on your nerves even more than a sulking, growling, teasing, ready-to-lash-out-at-you-at-any-minute Savannah.
As we all ate, I watched them nervously, not sure how it would go. Samuel was the only one who was actually talking. Well actually, it was more to himself; he had bought his Transformers action figures to Wizard City and was now playing with them at the table.
It was when he had asked Savannah to play with him for the fifth time in a row that she finally snapped, shouting at him so harshly that he screamed for the first time in days.
Thanks a lot, Savannah, I thought.
At school, it was a little bit better. When I told Catherine and Chris what had happened, they both expressed sympathy in their own way. Chris told me that it would be all right and that, of course, it wasn’t my fault. Catherine, after her comment about little siblings being so annoying, said that she and her little sister Meghan fought all the time and that their fights never lasted long, so I shouldn’t worry about it.
So, walking back from the myth school, where I had turned in my homework, (which I had probably Flunked with a capital F) I was feeling a little more optimistic. That is, until I saw Arthur Wethersfield, holding a sour-faced Samuel by the hand.
“Just a moment, Miss Spiritheart,” he beckoned.
As it turned out, Samuel had pretended his wand was a light saber while the teacher was talking, screamed twice when things hadn’t gone his way, and even hit his best friend during class today. I nodded solemnly at this, but on the inside I was tearing my hair out by the fistful. This sounded much like the old Samuel, how he would’ve acted before we went to Wizard City.
When Professor Wethersfield permitted me to leave, I grabbed Samuel by the wrist, walked away some, and tried to explain to him nicely that he was a bad boy and we shouldn’t do these things. Maybe it was because I wasn’t an expert at these kinds of talks, but Samuel seemed more interested in a passing butterfly than in what I had to say. Sighing, I let him go off then, resolving to have another little chat with him this evening.
Did Savannah and Sadie’s fight cause some sort of chain reaction? Because now it seemed as though everyone else in the family had a pretty bad attitude. How long would it be before I lost it?
I heard laughter. I looked up and saw a group of necromancers, Nolan included, walk by. He waved at me, and I waved back. That’s when I saw Professor Drake watching us through the window to his school. He wasn’t doing anything else…just watching us.
I gave him a look as if to say, “I didn’t do anything wrong and you know it.” But whether he either didn’t get the message or ignored it, I don’t know. He kept staring at us from between his curtains until Nolan and the rest disappeared from his sight. Then he withdrew from the window.
Just staring at where Professor Drake had been moments before and contemplating this strange behavior, I didn’t notice Chris coming until he was right behind me.
“You should probably know,” he said in an undertone, “I saw your sister, Sadie, in the Storm School just now. And she looked pretty mad…”
How long would it be until we just forgot this whole stupid fight?
Chris and I did quests for the rest of the day. Then we both went home for the night. But to my immense disappointment, I arrived on the front porch only to find myself listening to another shouting match. I took a deep breath and threw open the door.
“WHAT is going ON?” I shouted
I almost laughed when they all froze, Samuel with his fist halfway to Savannah’s stomach and Savannah with a fistful of Sadie’s hair.
Remember, “almost” was the key word here.
“I’m sick of this,” I said. “I’m sick of the fighting and the attitude. You all are just acting like…I can’t say this any other way…like jerks!”
Savannah’s and Sadie’s faces flushed. Samuel, however, went up to his bedroom, screaming all the way.
“I told you I couldn’t say it any other way,” I said, smirking slightly. I was letting my anger take over completely now.
Savannah recovered the most quickly. “And you’re…what? A saint?” she snickered.
That did it. I drew my wand lightning quick, but she reacted just as fast. The Blood Bat and the Frost Beetle collided, sending a sonic boom through the hallway.
Sadie screamed and followed Samuel upstairs, probably not wanting to get caught in another fight.
Leprechaun…Fire Elf… Troll…Evil Snowman. Back and forth it went until I finally managed to knock her down with a well-aimed Cyclopes whose head nearly crashed a hole in our ceiling. Her wand clattered to a spot some ten feet from her.
No words were said. We just knew that the battle was over.
Savannah got up, smoothed out her hair, and picked up her wand. After all this, she gave me a look that I didn’t like at all. One that plainly said, “I hate you.”
Many times had she given me that look, but this was the first time it actually hurt.
Well if I hadn’t lost it then, I didn’t know when I would.
The next day, I got dressed, ate breakfast, and walked out the door as fast as I could in order to not meet any of my siblings. Unfortunately, I was an early riser, so I had to wait outside the Life School for almost an hour before Professor Wu opened the door. Once inside, Chris, Catherine, and I bunched together and sat up front.
After one glance at my face, they both immediately knew something was wrong. “Are you okay?” they both asked at the same time.
I was about to tell them when Professor Wu approached us with a bundle of papers.
“We are having a pop quiz today,” she announced. “I’m sure you will all do quite well.” Although she seemed to be looking at us, the top students, as she said this. “Just go with the flow; listen to your heart and you will find the answers.”
For the first time in my life, I was thankful for a quiz. This would be just the thing to distract myself from last night’s events.
I took the paper from Professor Wu’s outstretched…uh…hoof and read the first question. What is the maximum possible damage that could be caused by an imp? I was about to answer the question when—
I clenched both my teeth and my fists. If Savannah and Sadie had stared another fight I was going to—
But a second later, it became clear that this was not another one of their fights…
…because the entire roof of the Life School had just gotten ripped off.
Nearly everybody screamed. And then, despite Professor Wu’s protests to remain calm, there was a mad scramble for the door, Chris, Catherine, and I, having been up front, bringing up the rear.
“Oh my…” Catherine said once we had gotten outside, her hand leaping up to cover her mouth.
Dozens of monsters of all shapes, sizes, and elements were rampaging around Ravenwood, destroying everything in their path. What seemed like all the wizards in Ravenwood School were outside, watching their school crash and burn before their very eyes. The Ice School was aflame, the Fire School was literally frozen solid, and the Myth School had just been struck by an enormous bolt of lightning.
Turning around, I saw that a huge, living tree like the ones I summoned in the spell Nature’s Wrath holding the missing roof over its head. Then it threw the roof into the air.
“RUN!” I screamed.
The Journeymen Life students scattered. Not caring which way I ran, I only wanted to put as much distance as possible between me and the shadow slowly increasing in size which could possibly be my death falling from the sky…
I hurled myself out of the way just as the roof smashed to the ground where I had been seconds before.
Coughing, I could barely hear Catherine say, “Chris? Where’s Chris?”
Oh-no! I thought with a horror. What if he was crushed by the falling debris?
I looked up to find what felt like everyone’s faces staring up at me. “Do something!” shrieked a girl whose name I vaguely remembered as Rebecca.
It took me a few seconds to work out what she meant. Oh, right. Yeah, this was a job for the Prophecy of Light siblings, or something along those lines.
But even if all four of us were on the job, could we defeat all of these monsters?
Someone dragged Savannah, Sadie, and Samuel by my side, all of whom were determinedly not looking at each other. Oh well, eye contact with your teammates wasn’t crucial in a fight. Was it?
I rolled back my sleeves and pointed my wand at the giant tree. It was about to find out what would happen to anyone who messed with our school.
Savannah spoke to me for the first time since last night, “No, aim for that phoenix instead.”
“La la la, I can’t hear you. Quiet, I’m trying to concentrate,” I snapped. I then pulled out a card and cast troll, remembering the one that I had cast time had been almost as big as a house.
I couldn’t help noticing, right before I cast, that the golden wisps that normally wisped around us in times like these were absent.
From my wand erupted…a normal sized troll.
My jaw dropped as the troll ran over to the tree and started beating it with its puny club. It didn’t seem to be doing any damage at all. What was wrong with it? With me? Wasn’t it barely a week ago that I had been able to cast a troll that would’ve beaten the tree monster to a pulp in seconds?
I snuck a glance at my siblings. Savannah had cast an evil snowman that went kablooey as soon as it had touched the tree, although normally the ones she cast were as hard as steel. Sadie’s Storm Sharks thrashed and bit, but with as little force as they would’ve used before the Prophecy of Light. Samuel’s scorpion had absolutely no effect at all.
What was going on? Where were the golden sparkles? And more importantly, what would happen to our school?
I looked around. There were the kinds of monsters you’d see in Wizard City, but also monsters I’ve never even seen before. Were they from Mooshu? Dragonspyre? Some other world that only Malistaire knew about?
It didn’t matter, though, how many worlds they were from. What only mattered right now was the insane amount of damage they were causing to our school.
Through my puerperal vision, I saw the giant tree lift something else over his head. Maybe a rock.
Someone shouted, “Look out!” only I didn’t know who. I barely had time to think before something huge, something hard connected with the back of my skull. Then I knew no more.
With a great effort, I opened my eyes. The battle was still raging all around me. Even though all I could see was a blur, I could tell.
I wasn’t sure what time it was, how much time had passed after…come to think of it, I wasn’t sure what had happened then. All I remembered was the pain.
What happened? Where were Chris and Catherine? Nolan? Please oh please let them not be dead.
I saw something that vaguely looked like flames. Was that the ice school? It was on fire, wasn’t it? Or was that the storm school? I couldn’t remember.
Then I saw something else. By my outstretched hand was a small, green glimmer.
I reached out to the thing, grabbed it, and held it up close to my eye. It appeared to be a jewel of some kind. An emerald, like the ones Chris kept in his dagger.
I don’t know why, but I somehow felt a strange connection with the jewel. Maybe it was because I was a life wizard, or because it was my birthstone. Then I heard it: softly at first, but then it grew in volume. It was a strange whispering that seemed to come from inside the gem.
I held it up to my ear this time. There were voices inside, but I couldn’t tell who they were or what they were saying.
It’s a magic gem! I thought wearily. I pocketed it.
Then I blacked out again.
Cyrus Drake stormed through the streets of Ravenwood, looking for Ambrose. This was an urgent matter…
At last he found him standing over a young girl, apparently unconscious. He didn’t waste time remembering names, but he remembered this girl by her last name: Spiritheart. She had completely failed the paper he had assigned her yesterday.
Ambrose was waving his wand over the girl, creating a turban of bandages. He was also muttering to himself, “Luckily the rock wasn’t as large as it could’ve been. Otherwise it could’ve killed her. Oh, hello, Cyrus, you wanted to see me?” Ambrose’s tone was light, but his eyes were serious.
“Yes,” said Cyrus. “We have already discussed this…er…matter before.”
“Ah,” said Ambrose, his eyes boring holes into Cyrus’s.
“You know what I am talking about, then?”
A flare of hope rose up in Cyrus’s chest. “And your answer..?”
“It is the same as it ever was, Cyrus,” said Ambrose.
Cyrus’s temper flared. “After today, how can you still say that?” he hissed. “As I have said before, it is impossible for monsters to get inside the school without inside help.”
“You have expressed your views to me before,” said Ambrose, not unkindly, but with a touch of impatience. And I see your point. However, we must not blame the death school for something we are unsure about.”
“There is also,” said Cyrus, raising his voice, “a boy who I believe is not to be trusted. Darkwind, I believe. He is up to something, I know it. Just look in his eyes—”
“Cyrus,” said Ambrose severely, “You may have told me that the boy’s parents may have been rather…close to Malistaire, but that is no reason to believe he is as well. The same holds true for the whole death school as well.”
“Don’t you think it strange that he was absent from school today, right before the attack?” Ambrose didn’t reply.
At this, Cyrus tried a different motive.
“The girl,” he motioned to the unconscious girl on the ground, “she is with him a lot. And I fear he may be plotting against her.”
“Cyrus,” said Ambrose, shaking his head, “you haven’t cared for a student since your brother disappeared five years ago. But you may watch Mr. Darkwind to see if he is up to anything suspicious. But for heaven’s sake, Cyrus, don’t do anything too drastic. And don’t forget, I trust Mr. Darkwind and every other death student at this school.”
During this exchange, neither of them noticed a young, black-robed wizard crouching down on one of Bartleby’s branches, eavesdropping on their conversation.
Stupid old man, he thought.
Chuckling to himself, he disappeared into the darkness.
The Tale of Sarah Spiritheart
I was lying down on my back in a field of flowers, the sun shining gently on my face. I was in my element here; this was where I truly belonged. Never before had I felt so safe and happy. This was my haven.
I looked around, trying to figure out who had said that.
The voice, seeming to come from the very heavens themselves, spoke again. “Everything in this world is connected: life, death, hate, love. While it creates a balance in our world, it also creates an air of mystery, perfect for concealing deceit and lies. Evil is near. And betrayal as well.”
I ignored the voice. I was trying to rest, and it was only an annoyance to me.
The sun seemed to go out as suddenly as someone switching off a light bulb. At that moment my oasis, my haven, turned into a living death chamber.
Rotting Fodders, Skeletal Warriors, Field Guards, and every other type of undead I could imagine rose up from the ground and walked slow, zombielike, to where I lay. I tried to get up and run. But as the thought rose up to my mind, thick, long, ropy vines erupted from the ground, which was now completely devoid of flowers or grass. They wrapped around my body, pinning my arms to my side and my body to the ground. I struggled to break free, but it was useless.
An unnatural hush seemed to come over the undead. Someone was coming.
In an instant, I knew who it was. Who else would have the kind of power to make all the creatures part like the Red Sea, bowing as they shifted off to the side?
He stood before me, his face hidden under a hood, his staff by his side. I struggled even more, but it seemed that the more I wriggled, the more determined the vines seemed to hold me.
Lightning flashed across the sky, and the wizard threw back his head and laughed. His hood was tossed aside, revealing shoulder-length, greasy black hair, a stringy goatee, those horrible, sunken eyes…
He raised his staff. He was going to kill me; I had known it all along. I closed my eyes, preparing for the worst…
I sat up in bed, gasping for breath. My hand was clutching my heart, which seemed to be beating at twice its normal speed.
I checked. No vines, no signs of recent pain, especially no Malistaire. And I was safe in bed, in my house.
So it was only a dream. I couldn’t help breathing a sigh of relief.
But it had seemed so real! I had other dreams like this before, but this was the worst. This time, Malistaire himself had come to kill me directly.
I could help but wonder if this was one of those “prophetic” dreams. I had two of those a long time ago, but those were for silly, pointless cases. What if this, officially my worst nightmare ever, would come true?
I relaxed after a few moments. I had never been to that place before in my life, and I hadn’t heard any tales about strange voices booming down from the sky, even though I’d only been here about two months
I got out of bed, my legs shaking like crazy. Even though it was just a dream, I half expected Malistaire to fling himself from behind the wardrobe. I managed to laugh that crazy thought off, but I couldn’t help checking, just in case. Nothing.
First checking to see if my bedroom door was locked so an unwanted sibling wouldn’t come barging in, (Not that they would; at the moment, we were giving each other the silent treatment.) I changed in to the lightest ensemble I had, clothes that could only be found in Krokotopia. Then, after a grabbed my wand and spell cards, I teleported to my friend Chris.
It was a Sunday, so today, we were going to finish up with the Temple of Storms. I was excited, for I knew that after you completed this, you were let into Marleybone, which would be quite an improvement from all this heat.
At least one good thing had come out of our month in Krokotopia. After weeks spent in the hot sun, I had acquired a magnificent sun tan, which I knew would last for days.
I arrived in Bartleby’s Spiral Chamber. It was crowded with wizards; I must have gotten up later than I thought.
I immediately spotted Chris, who, to my surprise, looked concerned. “Are you all right?” he asked. “You’re sweating all over and we’re not even in Krokotopia yet.”
Oh, that. “Bad dream,” I muttered.
“Oh,” he said. “Well at least it’s over.”
“That’s true.” I said thoughtfully.
We stepped through the door and transported to Krokotopia. But when we arrived in the pyramid, our destination in mind, we were distracted by none other than Tinu Bhak’Mal.
“Good friends, kind wizards, I would appreciate it if you helped me,” he called out to us.
“Come on, Sarah, we can help him later,” said Chris. He apparently, was as eager to get out of Krokotopia as I was.
But the minute Tinu looked at me with those wide, pleading eyes, my mind was made up. Man, I was just so soft sometimes.
“Krokopatra can wait,” I said firmly. “Please, Chris, it’ll only take a minute!”
“Okay, fine,” he said, with obvious reluctance.
So we both went to talk with Tinu, who needed some fire crystals from Professor Falmea. But after going back to Ravenwood to talk to her, we found out that she had none, but there were plenty in Dragon’s Mouth Cave.
“Excellent, I’ve always wanted to go there,” said Chris.
I had never been there either, so I was also pretty excited. I had always wondered what was inside the cave in Golem Court that stubbornly remained closed to all but those who had a quest inside.
“Yes!” exclaimed Chris when we saw that the gate had mysteriously, but not unexpectedly, crashed, leaving a hole for us to get through. We didn’t even have to crawl to enter the cave.
Taking my first glimpse of Dragon’s Mouth Cave, I couldn’t help but feel the slightest sense of anticlimax. There was nothing really special in here, just rocks. Although red, sparkling crystals adorned the walls and the stone seemed to have a sort of glow, I had been expecting something a little bit…more.
I climbed up on a bit of protruding rock and plucked two large fire crystals from their places. Then I hopped back down on the ground and gave one to Chris, who also looked disappointed.
“Let’s get out of here,” I said distastefully.
But Chris was looking at something behind me. I turned to see what he was looking at just in time to see two fire crystals finish growing in place of the ones I took.
“Huh,” I said. Maybe this place did have a little magic in it. But we needed to get going. Maybe if we hurried back to Krokotopia, we could complete the Temple of Storms before lunchtime.
That’s when I saw it: a hole in the side of the wall that I could maybe slip through if I were crouching.
“Look, Chris,” I said, swiveling him around and pointing to the hole.
“Do you think that’s supposed to be here?” he asked me. “What do you think is inside?”
“I don’t know, but it has to be more interesting than this,” I said. And with that, I crouched down on all fours and wriggled through.
When I got up, I had to blink my eyes several times to make sure I hadn’t suddenly fallen asleep. I saw nothing but blackness. I had thought that there would at least be a little light coming in from the hole I had just come through, but I couldn’t even see that, strangely enough.
There was a slight movement behind me. Chris had followed me in.
“Ouch, Chris, that was my foot!”
“Sorry. This is creepy, isn’t it? Not being able to see each other? I’m going to look around a bit; maybe there’s a torch or something.”
A couple seconds later there was a small thud and an “Ow!” Chris had apparently just walked into a wall.
“Strange,” I mused. “This being a fire wizard place and not having any light.”
“What is this place?” Chris wondered aloud.
No sooner than he had spoken, every torch in the room came to life with a loud crackling sound. A giant, disembodied voice echoed throughout the room, “You are in the Hall of the Prophecy.”
My eyes widened. We were in an enormous cavern, which surprised me a bit, because I had been expecting something smaller. The ceiling seemed to stretch for miles above our heads. But the walls were what amazed me most; they seemed to be colorful. On closer inspection, I realized someone had drawn pictures all over the walls. Beautiful pictures that looped and curled around the walls from top to bottom.
“How come we’ve never heard of this place before?” Chris asked. “A place this big…someone would’ve mentioned—”
“The door will only show itself for those for which a prophecy is made.”
“Hmm…it can’t hurt to have a look around,” I said, studying a picture of a beautiful woman with blue, flowing robes.
So we walked along the wall, admiring the beautiful pictures. We didn’t spot anything familiar until Chris stopped me at a picture of a staff.
“Hang on,” he said.
“What is it? Come on, Chris, it’s just a staff.”
“But that’s Malistaire’s staff; I’d recognize it anywhere.”
Sure enough, it was Malistaire’s staff. The tiny dragon curling around the tip was a dead giveaway. Beside the staff were these words:
Forged by masters;
So nears the hour
For the chosen necromancer
To wield the staff’s true power.
“Hmm,” I said, contemplating the words. “Maybe…” I gasped, suddenly realizing the truth. “No way…Malistaire was this chosen necromancer!”
“Really?” asked Chris.
“Think about it; it makes sense! We see a picture of his staff on the wall…how many other staffs in the world are like his? That’s how he’s becoming powerful; he’s been using this really powerful staff! Of course, he may have been a skilled wizard anyway, but the staff just made him stronger!” I quivered in excitement. “We should tell Ambrose right away!”
“He probably already knows; he knew about the Prophecy of Light” said Chris wisely. He appeared to be looking at something else. “Uh…Sarah?”
“What?” I asked.
“You’re here too. In a picture. Your sisters and brother too.”
This was the last thing I’d expected to hear. “What?”
My curiosity aroused, I walked over to where Chris was pointing. Sure enough, there was me in perfect likeness from my head to my toes. Surrounding me were my siblings, and we all seemed to be glowing. We were facing Malistaire with looks of sheer determination.
Right next to our picture was painting of the death skull. Below the skull were more words: Everything in this world is connected: life, death, hate, love. While it creates a balance in our world, it also creates an air of mystery, perfect for concealing deceit and lies. Evil is near. And betrayal as well.
I frowned. Where had I heard those words before?
“What are you looking at?” asked Chris curiously.
I inhaled deeply. “I’ve heard these words before,” I said. “In a dream.”
“Really? Wow.” Chris seemed impressed. “You’re like, a seer or something.”
“Yeah, a seer. You know, someone who can see the future. I think my great, great, great…well, I forget how many “greats” there were…but one of my great aunts was a seer, anyway.”
“I don’t think so,” I said. “Wouldn’t I have known?”
“You’re probably right.” He looked around again. “This is so cool. We’ve got a lot to tell Ambrose when we get back.”
I nodded, trying to hide the new worries that had erupted in my mind.
The words I had heard in my dream were written here, in the Hall of the Prophecy. How much more of the dream would come true? Would Malistaire really try to kill me? Probably yes, because of the Prophecy of Light. But would he kill me like he had almost killed me then?
I was still thinking about this as we crawled back into Dragon’s Mouth Cave. But as we were about to leave, someone teleported behind me.
“Hey,” said a familiar voice that made me freeze in my tracks.
Oh no, I thought. Anywhere but here. I gave Nolan a discreet little wave and tried to push Chris out the door. But it was too late; he had already noticed.
“Sarah,” he asked, “who is this?” His eyes narrowed when he caught sight of Nolan’s black ensemble. “Are you a necromancer?” he asked him.
“Yeah,” said Nolan. “So?”
“So what are you doing here?”
Nolan returned Chris’s icy stare. “Can’t a guy visit his friend?”
This is not going to end well, I thought. I looked from Nolan to Chris, the latter of whom looked surprised, than skeptical.
“What? No,” said Chris. “I know Sarah. Not only are you guys certainly total opposites, but Sarah is the most dedicated, hardworking, loyal…”
“Um, Chris?” I said quietly.
“…intelligent Life Wizard that I know. She would never, ever, ever, ever…”
“Um, Chris?” I was feeling guiltier and guiltier by the minute.
“…ever, ever, ever, ever make friends with a necromancer. That would go against everything we believe—”
“Chris!” I yelled in exasperation. “I am his friend!”
All was silent except for my words echoing around the cave: “friend…friend…friend…”
“He does seem familiar,” said Chris suddenly. “Wait a minute, I do remember you. You were at Triton Avenue; you were being attacked by Scarlet Screamers! Your name…it was something like…Nick or…”
“Nolan,” Nolan finished. “Nolan Darkwind. And who are you; coming up to say that I can’t be friends with Sarah? I can if I want. So what if I’m a death wizard?”
“I’m her best friend,” said Chris. “And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll leave right away and never see her again.”
My mouth was hanging open in shock. The angry lecture from Chris I had expected hadn’t come. Instead, he was blaming our friendship on Nolan. This didn’t seem very fair, in my opinion.
Nolan had his hands held up, like he would if he were facing a cop with a gun. “Alright, I will,” he said snidely. “But first, tell me where you got those robes. Your mom’s closet?”
Chris’s face glowed a bright red. Then he raised his staff and pointed it directly at Nolan.
“No, Chris!” I rushed over to stop him only to stop and turn around because Nolan had gotten out his staff too. “No, don’t do it!”
But it was too late. Only seconds later, I found myself in the middle of a dueling circle with both wizards pointing their staffs at each other.
And I, I realized, would be in the crossfire! I threw myself out of the way just in time. A giant tree cast by Chris and a vampire cast by Nolan erupted from the stretch of ground where I had been moments before and started battling each other. Both dissolved into the air.
“A necromancer.” Chris cast Storm Shark at Nolan, which surprisingly didn’t fizzle. “I don’t know what Sarah was thinking…”
Nolan regained some of the health he had lost with another Vampire. “Funny,” he said coolly. “I was about to say the exact same thing. I have no idea how she can even get around this place without you following her around like a little heckhound…”
After another fresh wave of anger from each, two spells canceled each other out again.
“No! Stop it! Stop it!” I screamed, reminding myself of a crabby Samuel when he wasn’t getting his way. They both ignored me, and I felt like I was going to have to resort to more drastic measures.
“Out of the way, Sarah,” Chris snapped when I tried to jump right into the middle of the dueling circle.
“Yeah,” Nolan snarled. “I’m trying to see whether your friend would be any better looking as a pile of ashes. Probably wouldn’t make much difference anyway.”
“Yeah, like I should take the word of someone who can’t tell a regular human being from a pile of ashes.”
Part of me, a totally and completely insane part, was fighting a sudden urge to laugh. This was turning out to be the diss-off of the century! I had to memorize some of these; they would be useful against Savannah…
But then I snapped back into reality. Right, I had to focus. I had to get Chris and Nolan to stop before they killed themselves.
“Come on, guys, let’s stop this…”
Nolan, his face contorted with anger, cast death trap on Chris.
“Chris.” I tried again, this time trying to tempt him. “Um, the Temple of Storms, remember?” He appeared not to have heard, casting Spirit Armor on himself so as to counteract Nolan’s upcoming attack.
That was the last straw. I gathered up every shred of dignity I had and said, “Fine, I’m leaving. Let me know when you’re done.” Then I promptly marched out the door.
For a second, I wondered if I was doing the right thing. Then I decided I couldn’t do anything else. I mean, one of them had to notice that I was gone…
Then I spotted Catherine waving me over to her. Relived, I walked up to chat.
“Hi, Sarah! I heard something in Dragon’s Mouth Cave, like shouting or something. Maybe you can tell me what’s going on in there.”
I shrugged, trying to act like it wasn’t that big of a deal. “Some boys are in there fighting.”
Catherine’s eyes grew wide. “Are they fighting over you?”
I hesitated. “Kind of,” I finally said
“Wow.” To my surprise, Catherine appeared a little envious. “You are so lucky. I could never even hope to be that popular. So which boys? Is it that cute guy in Magus Balance Magic?”
Before I could answer that, no, it wasn’t that boy and just because he was cute didn’t stop him from getting five detentions a week, there was a painfully loud explosion and a flash of light coming from inside the cave. Several apprentices helping Regina Flametalon with her science project screamed. Catherine and I gave each other startled looks and hurried inside.
The dueling circle had vanished, and both Chris and Nolan were lying on the ground, both of them covered in scorch marks. They were both glaring at each other, giving off identical contemptuous expressions.
Nolan got up, straightened his hood, and stormed over to me, his eyes full of hate.
“Is he a necromancer?” Catherine whispered into my ear.
“I can’t do this anymore,” said Nolan, acting like he didn’t hear Catherine’s comment. “Not with him hanging around: Mr. I-know-best. You have to choose: me or him.”
I looked at Chris helplessly. He hadn’t spoken, but I could tell he meant to say the exact same thing. That I would have to choose. And right now.
“Well…I…” I looked from Nolan to Chris again, my mind being clouded with panic. Then I looked at Catherine again, who just shrugged, unable to do anything.
Then I did something incredibly stupid, although it would have been what any normal person would have done. I ran. I ran the heck out of there.
I was hoping that Chris would forget about the fight the next day, that it wouldn’t affect our friendship at all. So in life class the next morning, I was immediately disheartened when he ignored the seat I had saved for him and went to sit next to one of his other friends instead. And although Catherine did sit next to me, she didn’t do much to improve my mood.
“I mean,” she said as she cast a Seraph over her desk, “a death wizard? It’s no wonder he was mad. I know you probably liked him. But aren’t death wizards supposed to be evil? Everyone says…”
“I everyone is just being prejudiced,” I said a little too loudly. Everyone within a three-desk radius swiveled around to look at me. “Just because Malistaire was in the death school doesn’t mean that the whole school is evil. It’s probably just a stereotype!”
I became consciously aware that the whole entire class had fallen silent. Everyone, except Chris, who was determinedly looking anywhere but me, was staring at me looking scandalized. Even Professor Wu said, “Please quiet down, Miss Spiritheart,” her gaze disapproving.
Catherine looked as if she would like nothing more than to put a paper bag over her head.
Possibly to avoid any further encounter with me after class, Chris leapt up from his chair as soon as class was over and was out the door before I had even gathered up all my supplies. I scowled at the doorway where the hem of his cloak had been seconds before. Then I exited with the rest of the Adept life students, all of whom were acting like I was carrying some sort of contagious disease.
To my surprise, Nolan was waiting outside the Life School. I had expected him to be behaving like Chris, avoiding me whenever possible.
“Where’s your friend?” he asked as soon as I had approached him.
I understood where he was going with this right away. So I merely shrugged. “I don’t know.”
I couldn’t help but notice that Nolan looked slightly more cheerful. I hastily added, “But it doesn’t mean—”
“I know, I know,” said Nolan, still grinning. “So what were you planning on doing today?”
“Just finishing up the Temple of Storms,” I said. “Do you think you could come with me?” Chris and I had wanted to go to Marleybone together, but why not?
“Sure, I’ll go!” said Nolan. “I’m ready to go right now, if you like.”
I was about to say yes when a voice behind me said, “Miss Spiritheart, a word in my office?” It was Professor Drake.
“What did I do?” I demanded. I didn’t do anything wrong, did I?
“Come with me and I shall tell you,” Professor Drake snapped. He turned around and walked brusquely to the Myth School, and I had no choice but to follow.
“Now, Miss Spiritheart,” said Professor Drake, sitting down at his desk. “I have a comment to make.”
“What?” I asked. What had I done that had made Cyrus Drake so intent upon seeing me in his office?
“You are seeing a lot of Mr. Darkwind, am I right?”
My jaw dropped. First Chris and now you, I thought.
“Yeah,” I replied. It took all the self control I had to refrain from also saying, “So what?”
“Well, don’t,” he said. “The boy is not to be trusted. And believe me, I have your best interests at hand.”
Best interests? Since when had Professor Drake had the best interests of anybody?
“His father and Malistaire were old school friends, and now both of his parents are Malistaire’s most dedicated servants. There is no reason to think that he is not also,” Professor Drake continued.
This was news to me. “What?”
“You are dismissed,” said Professor Drake as if I had not spoken. “I had merely wanted to talk to you about this. I hope you will take my advice into account. Good day, Miss Spiritheart.”
So Nolan’s parents work for Malistaire, I thought as I walked out the door. I found that hard to believe, even if he was death. Was Professor Drake, for reasons best known to himself, lying?
Then again, I thought, seeing Nolan waving by the Spiral Chamber, Professor Drake was Malistaire’s twin brother. Who knew if he was trustworthy?
Well, I finally got my first glimpse of Marleybone. And it was okay. Dark and dreary, sure, but okay. The air was deliciously cool against my skin, and the Marleybone dogs were considerably more high-tech than us wizards, with their dirigibles and automobiles.
I was now at the door to my house, but my mind still on Marleybone, or the Land of Perpetual Night, as Nolan called it. And thinking about Nolan, I suddenly remembered that he had invited me to hang out in the Death Tower that night with some of his friends.
“You should come,” he had said. “It’s lots of fun. I hear David’s going to set off some fireworks too.”
“Don’t teachers normally discourage fireworks?” I had asked. At this, he had shrugged.
At last he had persuaded me to come. And here I was on the front porch, now wondering what Chris would say if he knew that I was going out at night with a bunch of necromancers setting off fireworks.
As it turned out, I didn’t have to wait long to find out. There was a flash of light before me, and I turned around to see Chris, looking angry but determined.
“I hear you’re going out with Nolan and a bunch of his friends tonight.” It wasn’t a question.
“Uh-huh…” I said slowly, wondering what he was getting at.
“Well, don’t. I’ve heard…” He paused. “…stuff…about Nolan that…well, just don’t go. You shouldn’t trust him.
I wondered if Cyrus Drake had put him up to this.
“Please,” he said. “Don’t go. I’m saying this as your friend.” He paused again. “We are still friends, right?”
“Of course!” I said. “But…”
“I know. You’re still going. But please, just promise me you’ll bring a wand, spell cards, something to protect yourself. You can never tell what’ll happen with a bunch of necromancers.”
Before I could answer, he disappeared into the night.
I crept inside and upstairs, careful not to wake any of my siblings. Then I walked up to my room. There I grabbed a cloak—for some reason it was cold out tonight. And it was still summer.
As I was about to leave, I caught sight of my wand and spell cards I had just deposited on top of my dresser. I hesitated, then I picked up my wand and spell cards again and pocketed them.
Just in case.
A giant, silver firework whirled through the air with a loud WHEEE. Then it exploded, raining silvery sparkles on us all. I held out my hands, trying to catch them.
Nolan grinned at me. “You have sparkles in your hair.” I hastily ran my fingers through my hair, trying to brush them out.
We were on the roof of the death tower. It was kind of creepy at first, but once the fireworks started, you began to appreciate the beauty of it. Especially with the full moon and the stars twinkling in the sky.
“Wow,” I breathed as an orangey-golden firework arced around the tower. It was so beautiful; it looked like a fiery dragon.
“You liking it?” asked a girl maybe a little older than I was. When I nodded, she continued, “Yeah, David’s really outdone himself this time. Must be ‘cause you’re here.”
“Me?” I was surprised. Wouldn’t I, a life wizard, be considered inferior, or even the enemy?
The girl laughed, a loud joyful sound that echoed across the cliffs of Nightside. I vaguely remembered her name being Sabrina, but I wasn’t sure from where.
“Word gets around fast in Ravenwood,” she explained. “Of course, we’ve all heard of you. You’re, like, the only person here who isn’t convinced we’re working for Malistaire. Well, besides Ambrose.”
I smiled, touched. Then again, she would probably be feeling the same about now.
“Hey!” Nolan shouted suddenly. But it wasn’t to us; he was leaning over the edge of the tower which could only make me assume that he was talking to this David person. “We’ve got company!”
Immediately, the fireworks ceased.
“What’s going on?” I asked curiously.
“Dworgyn’s coming,” said Sabrina matter-of-factly. And sure enough, the door opened and the humpbacked death teacher waddled out. He scrutinized the sky; had he seen the fireworks there before?
Nolan turned back around to face me, and to my surprise, he was grinning. “This is my favorite part,” he said. “Watch.” Then he traced the death symbol in the air. A dark sprite emerged from his wand and descended, hovering around Dworgyn’s head.
For a while he just stood there stupidly, watching the fairy fly around in circles. Then the fairy zoomed away, heading straight for Sunken City. After a moment’s hesitation, Dworgyn followed.
Despite myself, I found myself grinning. I looked back to the necromancers, all of whom were shaking with silent laughter.
“He falls for it every time!” laughed Sabrina, clutching her side. “It’s just so hilarious!”
“We should be safe for the time being,” Nolan informed, fighting to keep a straight face. “When he heads off to Sunken City, he always gets caught in a battle, which lasts probably an hour or so.”
I felt a stab of pity for Dworgyn. Did this happen to him every time the necromancers decided to “hang out?”
“Don’t worry about him,” said a guy who I didn’t know the name of. “He always comes out all right; it just takes him a while to finish, that’s all. Licorice?” He held out some black, rope-like candy.
“Yes please,” I said, taking some to be polite. It was extremely bitter, but I pretended to be enjoying it as another firework, this one green and gold, exploded directly above our heads.
“That reminds me,” said Nolan. “David said something about planning a big finale and I’ve got to go down to make sure he doesn’t go overboard.” He winked at me. Then he opened a trapdoor and slid through.
“Of course,” Sabrina informed me, “whenever he says ‘big finale,’ he always means ‘setting off several fireworks at once.’ It’s a spectacular, really, but it wastes all our firework supply in one night.”
“How often do you do this?” I asked curiously.
She shrugged. “Every so often, when we feel like things get too boring. Oh, here it comes.”
No sooner than she had spoken, fireworks in every color of the rainbow exploded with the sound and force of a nuclear bomb. Besides the fact that I had gone temporarily deaf, the effect was wonderful, and I clapped and cheered along with the others.
Someone on the ground let out a whoop; I assumed it was David.
Without warning, I let out a yawn. What time was it anyway?
“Are you all right?” Sabrina asked.
“Yeah,” I assured her. “I’m just tired. I should probably be heading back to the house. Tell Nolan bye for me, okay?”
“Okay,” said Sabrina. She didn’t seem to be tired at all. “See ya!”
“Bye,” I said, and I teleported home.
As soon as I arrived home, I heard a loud BOOM coming from upstairs. At first, I thought that I was hearing things from that enormous firework. But then I reconsidered. Hoping dearly that Savannah and Sadie weren’t fighting again (I mean, come on, it was after midnight.) I walked upstairs to check it out.
First I went up to Sadie’s room. She was there, apparently sleeping. Check.
Then I tiptoed across the hall to Savannah’s room she was lying with her head on her pillow and her butt sticking straight up into the air like an inchworm. But, yes, she was still sleeping. Check.
Then I walked over to Samuel’s room. He was completely under the covers; I couldn’t even see his face. But he was apparently still asleep.
Wait. Something was wrong here. What was it?
I pulled back the covers. Where Samuel’s head should’ve been was the corner of a large, white pillow. That’s what was missing. The pillows.
I pulled back the covers as far as they would go. Two pillows side by side, mirroring Samuel’s height exactly. Samuel was gone.
I stared in horror at those two pillows as my insides turned to ice.
The Tale of Sarah Spiritheart
It was quarter to midnight.
Ignoring the lateness of the hour, Cyrus Drake sat at his desk, grading a paper of yet another Conjurer-want-to-be. Not even the pleasure of scratching a big, red F on top of the paper with his luxury sunbird feather quill could distract him from the memories.
…a woman’s scream ringing in his ears…
No, Cyrus thought. He took a deep breath to soothe his mind. Then he turned the paper over and wrote with blood-red ink, Very poor work. The next paper you hand in that is as bad as this one, and I will personally make sure that you are expelled. Cyrus breathed in a sigh of pleasure. Giving threats was a favorite pastime of his.
Of course, nothing could distract him for long. It was but a minute before the ghost of his memories came back to haunt him again.
…a staff with a tiny dragon curled around the glass ball at the top…
…words, angry words, unforgivable words…
…a flash of light, a horrible scream, a woman dead on the floor…
Cyrus pulled away from this flashback, his chest heaving in and out. He would never fully recover from this memory. But he had found a way make it a little better. He had eased his conscious, hid the guilt, by blaming Death. For five years now, he had been blaming Death, so now he actually believed it was to blame.
Cyrus stood up so abruptly, he knocked over the inkwell, spilling red ink all over the paper he was grading. Oh well, there were so many marks on it that it would make a difference anyway.
A sinister smile crept across Cyrus’s lips. One word filled his mind: revenge.
Death was the cause of it. Death was to blame. Then why was he sitting around here when he could be giving those horrible students what they deserved for what they did to him?
Never before had Cyrus felt this way. He had always been able to keep himself in check, to keep himself from ripping out each and every one of their throats. But all that changed when he arrived. The boy. The direct descendent of the creators. He had acted like a trigger, bringing back memories like they had never been brought back before.
A plan began to form in his mind, and a brilliant one at that. He’d show Ambrose that he had been wrong to trust them. They would be at Cyrus’s mercy, and soon enough, they would admit to everything.
He strode across the classroom, throwing a black cloak over his shoulders and picking up his wand. And, he realized, he knew exactly where he would go first.
My face turned pale, and for a while, I forgot to breathe.
“Samuel?” I whispered, as if that would somehow bring him back. But, of course, it didn’t.
Then I kind of went crazy. I tore around the room, throwing open doors and upending any possible hiding places for a four-year-old kid. “Samuel! Samuel!” I kept screaming. “Samuel, where are you?”
In a minute in a half, the room resembled a tornado wreck. But I didn’t care. All I cared about was listening for one of Samuel’s trademark mischievous giggles or waiting for him to come out for behind something and shout, “Stop messing up my room!” But there was nothing.
“Samuel!” I shrieked again. This time, as I screamed for my little brother, I heard two doors slam in the hallway. A minute later, Savannah and Sadie had entered.
“What’s going on?” Savannah glared at me, her hand on her hip. It was the first time she had spoken to me in days. “Can’t a girl get some beauty sleep around he—” she saw Samuel’s empty bed and faltered. Then she saw the two pillows, side by side. I could almost hear her brain whirring.
“He’s not smart enough to do that…” she said, her voice hushed.
These words confirmed what I had been denying all this time. That he couldn’t have just gone on a leisurely stroll around the yard. Someone had kidnapped him, and we all knew who.
“Samuel…gone…” Savannah whispered.
“G-gone?” Sadie stammered. “But what should we do?”
I looked at the scared, frantic faces of my sisters and immediately knew one thing. Samuel’s sudden disappearance, however devastating, had brought us back together. A new sort of determinedness rose up inside me and I put on the most un-scared expression I had.
“Here’s what we do,” I said. “We look around the island; make sure that he isn’t there. If he isn’t, we go straight to Ambrose and we tell him what happened.” If anyone could help us, I was certain that Ambrose could. “Don’t worry, you guys, we’re going to find Samuel, no matter what.”
I don’t know exactly how it happened, but in those two minutes alone, we went from sourly avoiding each other to giving each other group hugs. And as we threw our arms around one another, a great feeling of warmth began to spread inside of me. Or was it just my right thigh..?
Sadie suddenly shrieked. “Your pocket’s glowing!”
“What the..?” Savannah said in wonderment.
I reached into my pocket and immediately found the source of the heat. It was an emerald, mossy green, the one that I had found when monsters were attacking Ravenwood School.
“Oooh!” Savannah’s eyes were as wide as dinner plates. “Where did you get that?”
“In Ravenwood,” I replied. “I found it when…well…I found it on the ground.” I refrained from mentioning the exact time because I knew that horrid day still gave Sadie nightmares.
“Maybe…”said Savannah, taking the gemstone from me. “…nah, that’s stupid. I mean, just because you found it doesn’t mean…”
“Uh, Savannah?” I said. “Remember, we’re supposed to be looking for Samuel.”
“Oh, right.” She said hastily, putting the tiny gem back in my pocket.
We searched all over the island, but we didn’t see Samuel anywhere. Not inside the house, not behind a tree, not in a box, or not with a fox. We reported in front of the front door thirty minutes later.
“Sorry, Sarah, we couldn’t find him anywhere.” Savannah panted.
“Don’t be sorry,” I said. “It just means that he’s not here.”
Sadie’s face suddenly lit up. “Why don’t we try Whisper Chat?”
This was the most painfully obvious suggestion ever made. Calling myself stupid under my breath, I thought as hard as I could, Samuel, where are you? I waited for almost a minute, but no answer. Either he didn’t get my message, he wasn’t responding, or—I shuddered—someone was keeping him from responding.
“No can do.” I said. “He isn’t responding.”
“How about teleport, then?” Sadie asked.
I sighed. “I thought of that,” I said. “And I don’t think we should do it. There’s no guarantee where we’ll end up. Maybe in the middle of Dragonspyre or a cage in Malistaire’s hideout or in a big pit of lava or something.”
“Oh,” Sadie said, “yeah.”
“I say we go to Ambrose,” I said firmly. “He’ll help us out.”
The three of us shared a nod, and then we walked up the cobblestone pathway to our spiral door. I jammed a golden key with a beautiful carving of a tree in the lock. The door opened to the Wizard City Spiral Chamber and I ushered everyone inside.
We scrambled outside of Bartleby, who was snoring gently. We were about to go through the tunnel to the Commons when I saw a cloaked figure emerge from the Myth School.
“Quick, over here,” I whispered, shoving everyone behind a large tree root.
“What are you—” Savannah began, but I made the “shh” sign with my finger. I peered over the root and immediately recognized Cyrus Drake.
Life wizards are known for having highly developed senses. So even though it was night and his face was almost entirely hidden by a hood, I could see him as clear as day.
As he approached the spiral chamber, I also heard him muttering under his breath, “They will pay…pay for what they did to me.” Then he entered the chamber and I couldn’t hear him any more.
However intriguing this may be, there was know time to wonder what Professor Drake was doing at this hour of the night, muttering to himself as though mad. We had a more urgent matter to attend to.
As soon as Professor Drake had disappeared, I shooed everyone back out. Then we dashed through the tunnel to the Commons and all the way to Ambrose’s office.
Not worrying about the fact that it was after twelve at night, I grabbed the bronze star-shaped knocker and banged it against the door as hard as I could. When that didn’t work, I started yelling, “Come on, open up! It’s really important!”
“All right, I heard you the first time,” said a voice from directly behind me. And there was Professor Ambrose, dressed in a periwinkle shift, a nightcap with a tassel, and fuzzy, pink bunny slippers. Of course; Ambrose had been at his house, not in his office.
“For future reference, Miss Spiritheart, I still know that if a student happens to come calling late at night, even if I am sound asleep at my house at the time.” His blue eyes twinkled, or at least the one that I could see that wasn’t behind the monocle. “So do what to I owe this late pleasure?”
“This isn’t a pleasure visit,” I said grimly. “Samuel’s missing.”
“Mister Nighttamer?” Ambrose inquired.
“Yes, him,” I said. “I heard a loud crash upstairs and when I went up to look he was gone!”
“Oh my,” said Ambrose. “Please come inside, all of you.” He pulled a key out of the folds of his nightshift and stuck it in the lock.
Once we were all settled on the couch and drinking tea that Ambrose had conjured out of thin air, Savannah piped up, “Professor Ambrose? You don’t think that Samuel could’ve been kidnapped, do you?”
Ambrose took a sip of tea and swallowed, his mustache twitching. “A wise hypothesis, Miss Swiftsong,” he said. “Yes, I think we must assume so. And, of course, I think we all know by whom.”
“Malistaire,” I muttered under my breath. Did it always have to be him?
“I believe so,” said Ambrose.
“Are we going to be able to save him?” I asked.
“I will give it my best efforts,” said Ambrose. “But you three are to remain here in Ravenwood for the time being.”
While Sadie looked somewhat relieved, Savannah and I both gave cries of outrage.
“Why?” Savannah shouted.
“He’s our brother!” I added.
“Goodness gracious, I thought it would’ve been obvious,” said Ambrose, raising his eyebrows. “Did you not think that Malistaire captured Mister Nighttamer to lure you to his base? It may very well be a trap.”
I opened my mouth and closed it again. Ambrose was right.
Ambrose stood up. “Excuse me while I go alert the staff,” he said. “We will begin a full search of the Spiral, starting with Dragonspyre, I think. After all, that was where Malistaire was sighted last. I am very sorry for what has occurred. Trust me when I say we will do everything you can to find your brother.” After this speech, he vanished in a puff of smoke.
The next few minutes were long and agonizing. Not a sound was made, except for the clinking of spoon against china as we stirred more sugar in our tea.
Almost involuntarily, maybe out of boredom, I took the gemstone out of my pocket. When I held it up to the light just so, it shone around the room like a beacon.
“I still think it has something to do with what happened,” said Savannah.
“Really? Wouldn’t it have been too much of a coincidence?” I asked.
She shrugged. Just then, Ambrose teleported back into the room, now dressed in his normal wizard robes.
“I have told the other teachers about what has happened,” he said. “The search will commence shortly. I advise you to wait in your house while we…what is that?”
“I don’t know,” I said, holding out the emerald so he could get a better look.
“May I?” he asked. I nodded.
He picked the stone up from my outstretched palm. Then he started examining it. He looked at it from all angles, held it up an inch from his nose, and even prodded it with is staff at one point.
“By Bartleby…” he said.
When he handed in back to us, it was with a look of amazement.
“Where did you find this?” he asked.
“On the ground,” I said. “On school grounds. Why do you want to know?”
“This,” he said, “is no ordinary gemstone. I can’t imagine how you came across it. It’s Bartleby’s eye; the missing eye of history.”
Okay, so none of us were expecting that.
I was still protesting when Ambrose led us to Bartleby, where he would meet the other members of the staff. “But it’s a gem! Wouldn’t his eye look…I don’t know…more like an eye?”
“Both of Bartleby’s eyes have magical properties,” Ambrose explained. “If they were to be taken away from him, they would take the shape of an ordinary gem, so no one would know what it really was.
Maybe except for the person who had taken it, I thought, wondering if this plan could’ve been thought out a bit more properly.
“It’s not even blue!” exclaimed Savannah. Ambrose appeared not to have heard; he led us through the tunnel to Ravenwood to come face to face with all the teachers of magic.
“Oh my,” said Professor Greyrose, fluttering about anxiously. “I heard what happened. We’ll find him, dearies. Don’t you worry.”
“I am glad you could all be here tonight. Despite the lateness of the hour,” he added to a weary looking Dworgyn. He looked around. “But one among us is missing. Where is Cyrus?’
“I looked for him,” said Professor Falmea. He isn’t in his house or the Myth School, as far as I can tell.”
“We will have to proceed without him, then,” said Ambrose gravely. “As you all know, we cannot risk waiting for Cyrus at the present time.”
Professor Greyrose nodded, looking as though she might burst into tears.
“Go on then,” said Ambrose. “I will meet you on the other side.” When the other teachers had left, he turned to us. “Return to Bartleby what belongs to him. Make note of anything he says about Malistaire. And if you happen to see Cyrus, let him know of what is going on.
“Hmm,” I said as Ambrose also vanished through the Spiral door. How did you wake up a tree, anyway? “Um, Bartleby?” I said hesitantly, tapping on the trunk.
The great tree’s one eye blinked slowly. Then it looked down and saw the three of us.
“Hello, young wizards,” he said. His deep voice reminded me of a fire crackling in the hearth: warm, tamed, but with a slight hint of great power. “You wish to speak to me?”
I nodded. “We believe this is yours.” I held out the emerald.
“Closer,” said Bartleby gently. I brought it up closer.
Just then, there was a great wind. The gemstone was swept out of my hand, being carried closer to Bartleby’s empty socket by a tornado of leaves. Then it connected, and a transformation took place. The gem widened, softened at the edges, and turned sky blue. Bartleby’s other eye was in place.
“Wow,” said Sadie.
“You’ve found the lost eye of history,” said Bartleby. “Memories…I can feel them coming back. You have undone Malistaire’s evil work; for this I thank you.”
“Yes,” I said, “but now we really need your help.” His giant eyebrows rose. “Our brother is missing, and we think he’s been captured by Malistaire. The teachers went to search for him in Dragonspyre, but we want to know if you have any other information that can help us.”
“They search in vain. Your brother is not in Dragonspyre,” said Bartleby.
“I remember now…the day Malistaire stole my eye, he used my Spiral Chamber to go to a world that was beyond my recognition. I believe this is where he is hiding now.”
“But how do we get there?” I asked.
Something poked me in the back. It was one of Bartleby’s branches. Hanging there was a large, black key with a tiny rune of a skull.
“I felt someone up in my branches not too long ago. They dropped this key. However, it was one of many.”
“Thank you,” I said to Bartleby. Then I said to my sisters, “Let’s go.”
“Wait!” said Sadie. “Aren’t we going to go get Professor Ambrose?”
“There’s no time,” I said. “Besides, we can’t get in Dragonspyre.”
“Oh,” Sadie’s face fell.
“Come on.” I dashed through the hollow in Bartleby’s trunk, but I ran headlong into someone. I fell toward the ground, clutching my nose, which had suffered the most severe blow.
“Sarah, is that you?”
“What are you doing here?”
“What are you doing here?”
“Long story,” I said, backing up to give him room. “How about you?”
“I was coming to find you,” he said somewhat apologetically. “I just couldn’t stand the idea of you and those necromancers…oh and I see you brought your sisters.” His tone was disapproving.
“Of course I didn’t!” I blustered. “We just came back from Ambrose’s office. Samuel’s missing!”
“What? No way!” He looked from me to Savannah to Sadie as if hoping to find Samuel among us. “So what are you going to do?”
“We’re going to go get him,” I said, holding out the spiral key.
Chris’s eyes widened. “Where did you get that?”
“Bartleby found it,” I said. “Oh yeah, and we found his other eye too.”
“You found his what?”
“Again, a long story,” I said. “Excuse us please.” I was just about to herd Savannah and Sadie through the hollow when Chris suddenly smacked a hand to his forehead.
“I should’ve seen this coming,” he said, more to himself than to me.
“What?” I asked curiously.
“I mean, why didn’t I see it before? Isn’t it obvious?” He looked at me seriously. “When you were out with those death wizards, did Nolan leave any time at all?”
“Uh, yeah,” I said. “He left to help with the big finale. Only I never actually did see him after he left…” My heart sank faster than a bowling ball dropped off a ten-story building.
“I’m sorry,” Chris said sadly.
I swallowed. Now wasn’t the time. I hated to think about what would happen to Samuel if we hesitated for even a second.
“We need to go now,” I said. Again, Chris stopped me.
“Not so fast,” he said. “I’m coming with you.”
“You are? No, you can’t; you really can’t. It’s too dangerous,” I protested.
He smiled wryly. “And yet…you’re going.”
“Look, let me come with you guys. Do you think I can just stand here watching while my best friend goes to take on the most powerful dark wizard in the world?”
Without any warning on my part, I hugged him. And despite Savannah’s whistle too.
“Thank you,” I said. As much as I hated dragging another person into this, I was grateful for his company.
This time it was Chris leading us into the Spiral Chamber. Even though I’ve never been fully stressed by it, I was glad that someone else was leading for once.
“Can I see the key?” asked Chris. I gave it to him, and he put it through the keyhole. The door opened, there was a flash of blinding light, and…
“Whoa,” said Savannah.
We found ourselves in a different world entirely. The surface of the ground was rough and jagged, and I thought I even saw a bit of lava beneath the cracks. There were no plants anywhere. (I shivered; as a life wizard I was very uncomfortable in this plant-less world.) At least, there were no living plants. Surrounding the stretch of ground we were on was a forest composed entirely of dead, leafless trees.
But what caught my attention most out of this scene was the big castle right smack dab in the center of the land not covered by dead trees. It looked just like Hogwarts from Harry Potter, but almost completely black and without the cheerfulness. There were even large, black birds circling the towers. In fact, it was so creepy, I half expected there to be ominous music right along with it, like in cartoons.
Chris muttered something incomprehensible, but maybe that was because I was wrapped up in my thoughts and wasn’t listening.
“What?” I said.
“Do you think we’re in Dragonspyre?” Chris said again.
“Not sure,” I said. “Probably not. Bartleby told me that Malistaire wasn’t in Dragonspyre.”
“Oh,” said Chris. Almost simultaneously, there was a puff of smoke and the spiral door vanished.
I groaned. “There goes our ticket out.”
Suddenly, Chris shoved us all behind a large rock. “Get down!”
A second later, I saw why. Two skeletal warriors were marching in front of the fortress. We would’ve been in full view.
That’s when I noticed all the other monsters surrounding the castle. There were all kinds, but it was primarily types of undead. Great. I should’ve known that this place was gong to be guarded.
Savannah and Sadie had seen them too, and now they were both looking at me expectantly. “Sarah…” Savannah said through gritted teeth.
“Hang on. I’m trying. Let me think.” I massaged my temples with my fingers. What could we do? How could we avoid getting seen by all these guards?
Suddenly, it came to me. Remembering something from earlier this night, I traced the life symbol into the air. An imp emerged, happily playing its harp.
Several creatures were now staring at our hiding space because of the racket that the imp was making. No, quiet, I thought. To my surprise, the imp quieted down. Then, laughing, it flew out from behind the rock.
“What are you doing?” Savannah hissed.
“Just watch,” I retorted. Of course, a lot of my plan depended on the guess that these creatures were no smarter than the average bear.
The imp floated over the heads of the creatures, occasionally giggling cheekily or pinching the unwary on the nose. I watched it, waiting. Come on… I thought.
I didn’t have long to wait. Soon, my imp was leading a crowd of unsuspecting monsters behind the castle as if he were the pied piper. It wasn’t long before the area in front of the castle was completely empty.
“Yes!” I whispered. Chris, Savannah, and Sadie all looked impressed. I smiled.
“Come on,” said Chris. “Let’s go before any more arrive.”
We dashed out from behind the rock and toward the wooden doors at the front—which were locked.
“Ugh!” I felt like kicking the doors, but besides the fact that it would cause a big pain in my toe, it would alert someone that we were here.
“Now what?” Savannah said, frustrated.
“Look! Up there!” Sadie was pointing at a window that was big enough for us all to fit in to. The only problem? It was fifteen feet above our heads.
“That is the only other entrance as far as I can see,” I observed. “But how do we get up?”
“Ooh! I know!” said Sadie. “I can cast Lightning Bats and we can fly up!”
“Good idea,” I encouraged. Sadie started rummaging in her deck. At last, she came across the right card.
“Will three bats be enough?” Chris asked.
I smiled playfully. “You’re forgetting who you’re talking to,” I said. As I said this, Sadie tried to cast the spell—but it fizzled. Storm was never known for having high accuracy.
“Hey guys…they’re coming back!” said Savannah in an urgent whisper. Sure enough, I could see one or two ghosts coming back from around a column.
“Hurry,” I moaned as Sadie dug around in her backpack for another card. I was on the verge of sticking my hand in myself when she finally found another card. This time when she cast it, it worked. Dozens of Lightning Bats flew down from the sky and surrounded us.
“Okay, that’s a lot more than just three,” said Chris.
“Um, take us up there, please,” Sadie said aloud, pointing to the open window. The bats surged down from their hole in the sky and started carrying us upward.
As soon as they hefted us onto their backs, my body began to thrum as if with an electric current. And I received several shocks up and down my body. I looked around and saw that the others were also experiencing similar effects. After all, none of us were storm wizards, even though both Chris and Sadie had it as their second school.
“Oi!” I looked down and saw a skeletal pirate shaking his bony fist at us. We had been spotted.
Just then, I was unceremoniously hurled through the window. I landed flat on my face on the cold stone floor.
“Thanks a lot,” I muttered to the bats, which had just disappeared. I felt a trickle of blood run down the side of my mouth.
“Are you all right?” I asked everyone.
“Are you kidding?” said Chris. “That was awesome!” I sighed. Boys confused me sometimes.
“Okay, everyone, we have a problem,” I said. “One of those skeletal pirates saw us come in, so I’m betting that soon the entire place will know we’re here. So let’s just find Samuel as soon as possible and get out of here.”
“How?” asked Sadie. “There are probably a million rooms in here.”
“That’s…a good question,” I said. I looked to Chris for guidance, who merely shrugged.
“Okay, first of all, we need to come up with a plan. But we don’t want to be out it the open.” I held open the first door I saw and led everyone through. Just then I heard something.
“Wait,” I said to everybody, who all stopped at once. “I hear something.”
“I hear it too,” said Chris.
I strained my ears to where I thought the sound was coming from. It sounded like…a scream? A scream! Samuel!
“You guys, I think I hear Samuel!” I said excitedly.
“Really? I don’t hear anything,” said Savannah.
“Follow me,” and I tore off down the hallway, Chris right at my heels, and Sadie and Savannah in our wake.
The four of us dashed down hallways and corridors, rooms and staircases. Samuel’s voice grew steadily louder the farther away we got from the entrance. And we didn’t tire either. Something seemed to be keeping my energy up.
Yet something was wrong. I would’ve thought that even the inside of Malistaire’s castle was guarded. But I didn’t see any creatures as we ran.
“Strange, isn’t it,” I said to Chris, “us not running into any monsters yet?” He shrugged as best as he could while running.
Suddenly, I stopped. Samuel’s wails had reached the loudest yet. They were coming from the exact door that I had stopped in front of.
“He’s in here,” I said. I pulled on the door, expecting in to be locked. It wasn’t.
I walked into a small, dark room with what looked like dog crates piled all over the place. In the largest one was Samuel.
I walked up to him, the others close behind. “Samuel,” I whispered.
He looked up, and immediately, his face brightened. “Sarah!” he exclaimed
“Shh!” I said. “Yes, it’s me. We’re going to get you out of there.” I turned toward the rest. “How are we going to get him out of there?”
“Here.” Chris reached into his belt. “Use my knife.”
“Thanks,” I said, turning the dagger over in my hand. It was just as beautiful as I remembered it. Except now there was a gem missing. I ran my finger over the hole. It was about the size and shape of…of…
A sudden suspicion seized me, but before I could do anything, a bone-chilling voice behind me said, “Well done, girls.”
I slowly turned around and found myself staring into eyes I only ever hoped to see in dreams.
“Malistaire,” I whispered. I hoped I looked fiercer than I sounded.
He chuckled. “Who else?”
My eyes darted around the room, and I automatically began to weigh our chances. Malistaire was blocking the only exit. The room was small, and we had little space to fight. Even if we did fight, he would probably kill the five of us in less time it took you to say, “Toast.”
Malistaire kicked the door shut with his foot. “I applaud you for getting this far. But now, I’m afraid, it’s your time to die.” He smiled wickedly, pointing his staff directly at my chest.
“We’ll see about that,” I growled. And I lunged forward, my wand in hand.
“Sarah, no!” Chris shouted. But it was too late. Malistaire moved his staff so fast I could barely see it. And just like that, I was frozen in place, unable to move. Quick glances told me that Savannah and Sadie were stuck in the same situation that I was.
Then I looked at Chris, who wasn’t frozen like us. Yes! There was still hope.
“Chris!” I shouted. “What are you waiting for? Come and help us!”
For a while, he didn’t move. Then he slowly strode across the room towards Malistaire. But he didn’t face him. Instead, he now stood next to him.
I looked from the dagger lying on the ground to Chris’s expressionless face. Sweat began to form on my brow. My breath came out in slow, ragged gasps.
“Chris?” I said. But it came out more like a squeak.
“No,” he said.
A zap of lightning came down from the ceiling. Only it was black.
Blinking spots from my eyes, I looked at Chris and started to wonder if the black lightning was making me see things. Chris was now dressed all in black—a black robe, black boots, and a black hood that covered his eyes. He smiled.
“Marcus Deathspear,” he said just loud enough for me to hear.
Before I could even make sense about what he just said, he raised his staff and it all went black.
The Tale of Sarah Spiritheart
I stirred in my sleep. What was wrong with my bed? It was cold and hard and rough, and my back was black and blue just from sleeping on it.
Subconsciously, I tried to punch my pillow into a better shape.
It felt as if I had broken my hand. I abruptly sat up, pulled away from my dream, and immediately realized that I was not in my bedroom. Instead, I was in a tiny room with no doors or windows. There was no furniture, just a cold, stone floor and walls.
I was in a dungeon.
And one thing about Malistaire’s dungeon: those who were caught inside never got out. Ever.
I started to panic. How did I get here? Everything had been a blur. And where were my siblings? Would I ever see them again?
No, I thought. Don’t think like that. Don’t panic. I’m going to escape. There’s a way out; there has to be.
But after feeling around the entire perimeter of the wall with my hands, I came up with nothing. I began to weigh my chances. No wand, no deck, no doors, no windows: no chance. Not good.
Okay, keep calm. What would Sierra Winterbreeze do?
I smiled as I thought of the name of my favorite character from Wizard City literature.
After a couple of minutes, a plan began to form in my mind. Someone was sure to come in to bring me food or something. If—no—when that happened, I’d be able to push past them and then escape. Then I’d find my siblings.
Endless minutes ticked by. I sang under my breath, did handstands against the wall, recited the properties of life to myself—I mean, come on. Anything to break the boredom, right?
Finally, I heard footsteps from outside the cell. Then a shimmery, rectangular outline appeared on the wall.
I flattened myself against the stretch of wall next to the new door, prepared to attack whatever was coming. A lock clicked. I had never battled a skeletal soldier physically before. What would it feel like? And how did you defeat one?
The door opened. I lunged sideways and made to shove past whoever was there. But two hands grabbed my wrists. Not skeleton hands, human hands.
And I found myself looking into the face of my best friend.
For a second, I felt like cheering. Chris! He was here! But then I remembered what he did. And more importantly, who he was.
“Surprised?” he chuckled. He shoved me back against the opposite end of the room. Then he turned and stuck a key through an invisible keyhole.
“You,” I managed to get out. The pain of his betrayal still hurt even now. “You tricked me.” Way to state the obvious, Sarah.
He said nothing. He just laughed again. Not the friendly, easy laugh I had known when we were friends. A harsh one.
“I trusted you.” Again, stating the obvious. Tell him something he doesn’t know.
“Are you finished?” he asked mockingly.
“No,” I said defiantly, but not able to hide the hurt in my voice. “How could you? You were my friend. And now you’re with him.” I spat out the last word as if it were dirt I had to get out of my mouth. “And,” I said, just realizing, “you’re not even death! You’re a life wizard! You hate death!”
“Maybe that’s what you though,” he snorted. “But I would’ve thought you’d have realized it now. Of course I’m death. Marcus Deathspear, last in the line of the only pure-death wizard family, greatest servant to Malistaire, life? Ha!
“I tell, you Sarah, it was the easiest job in the world, being a spy. All I had to do was change my clothes, convince that old fool Ambrose that I was a late arrival, and answer the questions that I knew a life wizard would answer. Simple.”
“But why life?” I demanded. “Ambrose trusts death wizards too.”
“Isn’t it obvious?” said Chris. I mean Marcus. “I think, on the whole, that it is easier to trust a life wizard. I didn’t want to do it, but Malistaire insisted. ‘Opposite of death’ he says. ‘Less suspicious.’ Well, let me tell you, it was terrible being stuck in that horrible tower learning all this junk about life and creation.” My cheeks glowed red as he said this. “It was a relief when I could finally throw all those useless spell cards away. I hated it, but I stuck with it. After all, after all I was spreading around about death wizards, there wasn’t a soul who would trust me if I was pretending to be a death student instead.
“You see, Sarah, I was in Ravenwood on a mission; besides getting close to you, I mean. Malistaire was getting tired of his old death students opposing him. He said that he felt betrayed by his own school.”
“I know exactly how he feels.” I spat.
Marcus ignored me. “He knew those unfaithful traitors had to be eliminated. So while at Ravenwood, I spread all the rumors I could about the death students, hoping it would cause the other schools to turn against them.”
“You mean,” I said, my temper rising, “that everything you said about the death school was a lie?”
“Yes,” said Marcus. “I mean, even I was surprised at how well the plan worked. If anyone had at least paid any attention to what was going on, they would’ve known that death wizards have been some of Malistaire’s greatest opponents. But people will believe anything these days. Especially Cyrus Drake. What an idiot. All I had to do was tell him that Darkwind’s parents and Malistaire were old school friends and he sang like a canary. Of course, you don’t know about Cyrus’s history with the death school, do you?”
Only one part of that sentence registered into my brain “But…Nolan…you told me he was a traitor!”
Marcus laughed again. “Like I said, people will believe anything. No, he wasn’t a traitor. But think. Do you really think that I would let someone like that befriend you? Someone whose parents have been fending off Malistaire from the very beginning? I don’t think so.”
“So all those times when you said I shouldn’t be friends with necromancers…” I began.
“Yes,” said Marcus. “Not only was I getting very much in character, I was also preventing you from finding an ally. Clever, wasn’t it? Yes, necromancers are the most powerful wizards out there, so it would really hurt our chances if you happened to befriend one.”
If he was waiting for a response, he would have to wait a while. I stood there silently, unable to make a sound.
“Well, I suppose I’ve had my say.” Marcus pulled something from out of nowhere and thrust it into my arms. It was a water jug. “I wouldn’t bother at all, only Malistaire wants to keep you alive while he plans something creative for your execution. Twenty coins says it’s going to involve a wraith again. It’s his absolute favorite. I mean, between you and me, it’s getting old. It was pretty cool the first time, but he killed it. Oh well.”
Laughing, he stuck his key into an unseen lock and swung the door open.
I looked from the water jug back to Marcus, and that’s when I made a snap decision. Without thinking, I thrust my arms outward, splashing water all over his face. Not to mention the rest of him.
“Hey…what the…” he sputtered, but with a well-placed kick to his stomach, I was off, running down the corridor.
“You won’t get away with this!” I heard him shout. But I didn’t care. As long as I could put as much distance as possible between me and him, I would be fine.
I dashed down corridors and passageways, making a lot of turns along the way so it would be even harder for him to find me. And the more I ran through the castle, the less I liked it. Battle axes adorned the walls, suits of armor turned their helmets to look at me as I ran by, and, call me paranoid, but every shadow on the wall seemed to take the shape of Malistaire himself.
I finally stopped in the middle of a long hallway, gasping for breath. Surely I could rest for a moment. There was no way he’d be able to find me now.
Or maybe there was. My well-practiced ear twitched as I heard footsteps.
I frantically looked around. There were no doors, no rooms I could hide in, but…yes! I squeezed in behind a large desk. The footsteps were getting closer. Then…they stopped directly in front of where I was hiding.
What were the odds?
“And do you know where she went to?” said a horribly silky voice from above me. I froze. It wasn’t Marcus; it was Malistaire. How did he find out that I was gone? Had Marcus told him already?
“No,” said another voice, but this one was gruff. It didn’t sound human. Was it a skeleton?
“Then find her and bring her to me.” There was no mistaking the venom Malistaire had implanted in every syllable. “She will be the first to die.” As he spoke, I heard him lay something on the table. I stifled a gasp. Those sounded like wands!
Two sets of footsteps walked away from where I was hiding. I wanted to jump out right away and grab my wand, but I didn’t dare wait until I was sure they were gone.
I remained behind the desk until I couldn’t hear them anymore. Then I cautiously crawled out.
Three wands were lying on top of the desk. I picked them up. One of them was mine. The two others were Samuel’s and Sadie’s. Savannah’s was missing.
I held mine in my hand and pocketed the other two. I don’t know what happened to Savannah’s, but maybe we’d buy her another one if we ever got out of this place.
Now grabbing the three spell decks also lying on the table, I turned around…
…to find Marcus’s sneering face inches from mine.
I shrieked and took a startled leap back.
“You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?” said Marcus. “I know this castle like the back of my hand.”
I knew if I ran, I’d be toast. Time for Plan B.
“Well, it’s too bad for you,” I shot back. “I have my wand back now.” I twirled it in the air, causing green sparks to shoot out from the tip.
“Are you suggesting that you could actually beat me?” Marcus scoffed.
“Maybe,” I said. I shot sparks up into the air with my wand. A dueling circle formed on the stone floor. “Do you want to test that theory?”
“Not so fast,” Marcus took out his wand and waved it once, causing the dueling circle to disappear. “Dueling circles are for amateurs, don’t you think? Why don’t you and I test our skills in a real duel?”
Whoa, whoa, whoa, this wasn’t part of the plan.
“Doesn’t your boss want to finish me off himself?” I asked, trying to hide the fear from my voice.
Marcus shrugged. “Why? He’ll have the other three. And what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. I can always say that one of your own spells backfired or something. Besides, I like it better this way: just you and me.”
Without warning, he whipped a card from his deck and traced the storm symbol into the air.
Just like that, I was standing on a tiny island suspended in the middle of a magical ocean. But these waters thrummed with electricity. Then I saw a fin in the water. A shark!
I stuffed a hand into my deck and cast the first spell, which turned out to be leprechaun. A tiny figure zoomed down a rainbow just as a shark leaped out of the water, its mouth showing rows and rows of pointy teeth.
A wall of coins suddenly appeared in front of me, blocking the shark, which sank back into the water.
The leprechaun laughed joyfully as the water around me disappeared. He threw fistfuls of coins at Marcus, who, in less time than I could’ve thought possible, was buried.
But not for long. A head popped out of the mound of coins.
“Really? That’s all you got?” Marcus brushed some coins off of himself. “Attack by coins; oh I’m scared now. Well, I should’ve known. Life magic is particularly known for weakness.”
Okay, that did it. I was so red hot mad I could practically feel steam coming out of my ears.
Then I swirling, golden wisp appeared out of nowhere and drifted lazily toward the pile of coins, which started to glow red as if ablaze.
Marcus suddenly leaped up from the pile, howling in pain. He had large, shiny burns all over his arms, and his clothing was also singed in many places.
Despite myself, I grinned.
“Don’t you just love magic?” I said sarcastically, kicking aside a stray coin.
“Of course,” he muttered angrily, “I should’ve known. The magic of the prophecy…”
He grinned evilly at me. “That was just a starter!” he hollered. “I do know other spells; more powerful ones. Do you want to see?”
My first real shock came when Marcus cast vampire. I gasped, but refusing to scream, as inch-long fangs dug into my shoulder. Then a funny draining sensation came over me, as if the vampire were depriving me of energy. What’s more, most of Marcus’s burns had vanished.
Gritting my teeth angrily, I drew a Troll from my deck.
Several minutes into the battle, Marcus and I were both suffering from major injuries. He had a big, bloody lump on the side of his head from where the troll had gotten him, and he looked a little winded from the rock that my tree had hit him with in the stomach. I was still tingling with the electric shock I had gotten from Marcus’s Kraken, and I had bruises all over due to his ghoul’s shovel. I was also a little deaf from his banshee.
Now, happy music filled the air as my imp darted around Marcus’s head, pulling his ears and poking him in the eye. I took advantage of the opportunity to cast satyr, which easily brought me back to full health.
Marcus finally managed to swing his wand at the imp, kind of like a baseball bat. The hit flung it against the wall, where it exploded in a puff of green smoke.
Then Marcus shot me a look of pure contempt. “I admit, Sarah, that I have been going easy on you. But no longer.” He whipped a black card out of his pocket. Then he traced a skull into the air.
In that instant, the temperature seemed to go down ten degrees. I shivered, pulling my shroud tighter around my shoulders. Then I sensed something behind me. I jumped and turned around, but I saw nothing behind me but black mist.
Suddenly, I drew in a breath. A pair of glowing, red eyes had appeared in the mist.
I took a step back. I had heard about this once. This was no ordinary mist; this was a shadow daemon.
“Nice, huh,” Nolan said smugly. “Yes, very special spell. VIPs only, so don’t think you can go casting it or anything.”
The mist advanced. I tried to step back, but my legs felt like jelly; I couldn’t move, much less run.
Then—I was surrounded in thick, black clouds.
I was lost, hopelessly lost. I tried to part through the mist, but it just sifted back into place. Somewhere, I heard Marcus’s laughter, but I couldn’t tell from which direction.
I stifled a shriek. Coming toward me from the depths of the mist was a giant, black hand. I tried to swat at it, but it was apparently solid.
There was nothing I could do. The fingers were reaching for my throat, and nothing seemed to stop them. I squeezed my eyes shut, anticipating their touch.
It didn’t come. I opened my eyes only to find myself in the midst of a thousand flames.
I was confused. Spirit daemons used death magic, not fire. In fact, they were afraid of fire. What was going on?
I heard a terrible roar, and then the last of the black mist vanished. But now I had a new problem: the fire was getting closer.
Then I saw the source of the flames: a sunbird flying overhead. But then who—
As the flames around me died down, I saw a figure behind Marcus. My jaw hit the floor when I realized it was Savannah.
Savannah waved her wand again, and the sunbird changed course and dive-bombed Marcus.
“Savannah!” I had to shout to be heard over the roar of the dying flames, Marcus’s yells, and the sunbird’s screeches. “You escaped!”
“Yeah!” she shouted back. “Maybe next time Malistaire will think twice about sending a skeletal pirate to bring me water! Those things are just so fragile.” She shook her head and made a tsk sound. I laughed. “Now finish off this idiot and let’s get out of here!”
I raised my wand and then hesitated. Part of me didn’t want to kill him. This was Chris, my best friend in Wizard City. I began to have a sort of flashback: Chris and I sharing grades on a test, dueling in the arena, fighting off monsters in dungeons…
The sunbird had now finished its work. Marcus stood up again, looking angrier than ever. He pointed his wand at Savannah.
That brought me back down to earth. “Don’t you dare!” I screamed. Rage flooding from me like fire from a hot furnace, I traced the myth symbol into the air.
A Cyclopes popped out of the ground, its hammer almost as big as it was. It took a ferocious swing at Marcus, who was flung up against the opposite wall just like the imp. And just like that, everything: the Cyclopes, the fire, disappeared.
“Well?” I panted.
Savannah nudged Marcus’s head with the toe of her boot. “He’s dead,” she said harshly.
A terrible feeling rose in my gut. It wasn’t the fact that I had killed my former best friend; I was surprised to find that I felt no pity at all. It was the fact that I had just killed.
But it was the Cyclopes that actually did it, I told myself. That still didn’t convince me.
“So what do we do?” asked Savannah.
I tried to push Marcus’s mangled body from my mind. “We find Sadie and Samuel. Then we’ll blow this joint.”
“Sarah!” Sadie said hoarsely, pressing her face against the bars.
I smiled. “Yeah, it’s me. We’re going to get you out of here. Do you know where Samuel is?” She shook her head.
“I can’t find a key,” came Savannah’s voice. “Malistaire must’ve taken it.”
Darn. “All right,” I said. “Let me think.”
But Savannah beat me to it. “I’ve got an idea,” she said. “Sadie, did anyone come to bring you water or anything?” Sadie nodded, pushing the small water jug through the bars.
Then Savannah held up the lock face up and poured water into the keyhole.
“Um…what are you—” I began, but she silenced me. She waved her wand over the lock and the water froze.
“Here,” she handed me the wand. She twisted the stick sticking out of the hole.
“Brilliant!” I whispered excitedly. Sadie rushed over and gave Savannah a big hug around the waist. “Now let’s go get Samuel.”
“I think not,” said a voice.
I whirled around. There, again, was Malistaire.
“Again, I am impressed that you got this far.” His dark eyes bored holes into mine with little interest. Then he thumped his staff once on the ground. All of our wands and decks flew into his possession, we were flung backward, and the prison door clanged shut.
He scrutinized us. “I see that Marcus wasn’t able to catch you. There will be punishment for him, I think.”
“That will be awfully hard for you then,” I said triumphantly. “He’s dead.”
For a minute, Malistaire looked surprised, even fearful. Then he relaxed. “With your puny life spells? Ha!”
“It wasn’t life,” said Savannah defiantly. “She finished him off with a Cyclopes.
“Ah, myth,” Malistaire sneered. “My dear brother’s field. I am sorry to say that that would not have done much good either. Myth is weak. Just like Cyrus, but I don’t suppose you could’ve heard what he had done, could you?”
“Then why don’t you go and check?” I asked.
“Oh, I will,” he said leaning forward until he was inches from my face. “And don’t even think about trying to escape, either.”
“Maybe we will,” Sadie sassed.
I stared in surprise. That was exactly the kind of thing that I would never imagine Sadie saying. Even she looked momentarily shocked at this sudden moment of boldness.
But she had said the wrong thing. Malistaire’s tunnel-like eyes swiveled around to stare at Sadie. “No you won’t,” he said softly. “At least…you won’t.” Then he pointed his staff directly at Sadie.
“Don’t!” I screamed. But it was too late. The glass ball on his staff was already glowing.
Just then, Savannah sprinted across the room and hurled herself in front of Sadie, just as the magical energy was released from Malistaire’s staff.
I’d like to say that a bright flash of light filled the room, but the energy radiating from Malistaire’s staff was actually black. So even now, I still don’t get how it was able to temporarily blind me.
I opened my eyes to find Malistaire disappear with a whirl of his cloak, laughing. I was afraid to look beside me, but Sadie’s sobs confirmed the worst.
I turned and knelt down. No…it couldn’t be…
“Is s-she d-dead?” Sadie choked. I didn’t answer. Instead, I pressed my palms flat on her chest, listening for a pulse. Then I heard it, however faint, a small, feeble heartbeat. Relief coursed through my body
“She’s not,” I assured her. But even as I said it, her heartbeat continued to grow slower and fainter. “Not yet.”
I felt a deep sense of panic. What was I supposed to do? I was stuck in Malistaire’s dungeon with my two sisters, one of whom was near death. Malistaire would probably come back in minutes. And who knew where Samuel was? Maybe he was dead already.
It’s not as hopeless as you might think.
I froze. I didn’t think those words. “Who’s there?” I called out, causing Sadie to look my way, alarmed.
A tinkling laugh reverberated around my brain. It wasn’t my voice; it was that of a young woman.
You know you can do it, said the woman’s voice. You just can’t remember. Think back to who you are and what you can do.
I thought, but I didn’t come up with anything. Um, lady? How about some clues? Hints?
The laugh sounded again. All right. Look at your hand. I looked and then gasped.
Appearing on my palm, as if drawn by an invisible hand, was a thin, silver line. It curled and looped around until it connected with the other end, forming an undefined shape. Upon closer glance, it appeared to be a leaf intertwined with a heart.
Do you recognize this symbol then?
“Hmm…” I thought back. Suddenly, I knew, having seen it before on a certain drawing. It was the mark of a true healer.
As soon as I thought the words “true healer” I perked up. I had heard about those too. They were wizards who could heal without a wand, charm, or spell!
You know what to do, said the voice.
And somehow, I did. Feeling as though I was being pushed by someone else, I leaned over Savannah’s body and placed a hand on her chest, where it rose and fell along with her breathing.
A golden haze filled the room. My heart leaped for joy in my chest. It was working!
I obeyed without question. Then, out of nowhere, came the music. It was lovely, melodious. And as it grew louder and stronger, Savannah’s heartbeat grew more defined.
I have found myself in the midst of bright light many times during my time at Wizard City, but none had been like this. It was though the sun, in all its glory, had decided to come down from its spot in the atmosphere and shine in Malistaire’s cell room instead, spreading a golden glare throughout the room. I squinted my eyes, and then closed them, but never taking my hand away…
Savannah stirred from underneath my hand.
“Wow!” Sadie exclaimed. “You did it!”
“Savannah,” I said, shaking her gently. “How do you feel?”
“Ugh,” she groaned. She sat up. “Terrible.”
“Well done,” said a voice.
That’s when I discovered that someone had joined us in the room. A beautiful, shining woman with long, blonde hair stood before us. But her figure was distorted and somewhat transparent, as though someone had painted her using watercolors.
She also seemed vaguely familiar, as though I had once met her a long time ago but I had forgotten.
“Who are you?” I asked.
She laughed, and then I realized that she was the same voice that I had been hearing inside my head. “That is not important. What is important is who you are, Sarah Spiritheart.”
I again looked at the mark on my palm. It had turned from silver to gold. “A true healer,” I answered.
“Yes,” said the woman, “but you are even more special than that. All of you, actually. Malistaire is getting powerful, and we fear that with this much power, he would try to rule the Spiral. It is up to you to stop him.”
“But when? How?” Savannah asked desperately.
“Not now,” said the woman. “There is a time for everything, and this is not it. You need to go back to Ravenwood and train.”
“But we need to get out of here first,” I pointed out.
The woman smiled. Then she glided through the bars, which turned into ashes as she passed through. “Come; I will take you to your brother.”
Once again, we set off through the hallways of Malistaire’s castle. But this time, we were feeling less afraid. We felt safer in the maiden’s presence.
“Almost there,” she whispered.
Then I happened to look through one of the doors that adorned the hallways, and I saw, sitting helplessly in the center of the room, a miniature unicorn.
Feeling a wave of pity for the creature, (After all, this was a Life animal.) I opened the door, which was conveniently unlocked, and it looked up in surprise.
“Go!” I whispered. “Get out of here!”
As happy as I was to have been able to help another innocent life escape from Malistaire’s dungeon, I didn’t wait to see if it left. I hurried along to catch up with my sisters, who were now standing with their backs against the wall.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. Savannah pointed around the corner. I followed her finger and saw none other than Ian Ghostbringer and Patrick Nightwalker, two members of Malistaire’s Black Hand. They were holding our wands and decks and Samuel by his wrists. They were talking to each other, and I caught the word “execution”
I pressed myself against the wall too.
“We’re going to have to try and take them.” I paused. “Where is…she?”
No sooner than I said that, I heard Ian and Patrick yell at the same time, “GHOST!!”
First looking at each other in alarm, we all peered around the corner to see what was going on.
The woman, her long hair flapping out behind her, was hovering in the air just below the ceiling. Ian and Patrick literally threw down everything they were holding, including Samuel, and scrambled as fast as they could down the hall.
“Go!” I hissed. We dashed to the corridor and grabbed our wands and decks. Before Samuel even had time to smile, I grabbed his arm and we were off. The woman had vanished.
“Which way?” asked Savannah.
I was just about to answer when a scream of rage came from somewhere behind us. It sounded as though Malistaire had just found out is greatest servant was dead.
“That way!” I pointed in the opposite direction.
“You come back here!”
I dared a look behind me. Malistaire was storming toward us, looking mutinous, absolutely beside himself.
“Look!” Sadie pointed down another hallway coming up. There was the same unicorn that I had set free earlier. It made a sort of motion with its head. “It wants us to follow it!”
“Yes, run!” screeched Malistaire as we chased the unicorn down the hall. “I’ll get you all, like you killed Marcus!”
We were coming up to something: a large door. A spiral door.
I reached into my pouch, pulled out the key to Wizard City, and jammed it in the keyhole. Then I held the door open for my siblings. “Get in!”
I snuck a glance back at Malistaire, who wasn’t far behind.
“You filthy myth wizard!” he bellowed. “You’re a murderer, just like my brother!”
“And what were you going to do, have your wraith invite us to tea?” I shouted back. After shoving our new unicorn friend in, I dashed in myself and closed the door, but not before Malistaire had his last say.
“Cyrus Drake killed my wife!”
And suddenly, I was back in Bartleby’s spiral chamber, facing a bunch of wizards who looked just as confused as I felt.
The Tale of Sarah Spiritheart
When Nolan woke up, it took him a few minutes for him to realize that he was not in his room.
Abruptly, he sat up. Then where was he? And more importantly, how did he get here?
He breathed a sigh of relief. He recognized this place. He was in Nightside. But that still left the other question.
He turned to see his friend Sabrina Ravenstaff anxiously running toward him.
“Nolan, something really weird happened. I could’ve sworn I was in bed last night, but when I woke up I was here in Nightside!”
“No kidding? Me too! I wonder what happened.”
“Yeah.” Sabrina looked toward the entrance. “Hey, look! There’s Professor Falmea. Maybe she knows what’s going on.”
She rushed over to her. “Professor Falmea? Just a second, please. Hey, wait up!”
But Professor Falmea kept on going. This struck Nolan as odd. Professor Falmea, although, at times, strict, was always happy to help any interrogative student.
“Excuse me, ma’am!” Nolan shouted. “Sabrina was talking to you.” She still didn’t answer.
Nolan turned to Sabrina. “Not that people aren’t prejudiced here,” he said, “but this is ridiculous.”
“I don’t think it’s that,” said Sabrina worriedly. She stuck her hand out in Professor Falmea’s path as if to stop her.
She walked right through it.
Sabrina gasped. “Did you see that?”
Nolan could feel his eyes bugging out. “What was that?”
“This is a spell!” Sabrina exclaimed. “I think I’ve heard of this! It’s a really old Myth charm called a Confinement Spell. We’re still here, technically, but we must be, like, in another dimension or something because no one can see or hear or feel us except for the caster.”
“What?” gasped Nolan. “But then…who cast it?”
A maniacal laugh echoed throughout Nightside.
Sabrina looked at Nolan and gulped. “Malistaire?” she asked him, as if he knew the answer.
Suddenly, it dawned on him. “No,” he said slowly. “His brother.”
Four weeks later…
It was nearly a month since we escaped from Malistaire’s castle, blowing everyone’s minds in the process.
A lot had changed since then. As soon as we had arrived through the spiral door, Ambrose had gone and tightened security around the school. Now we couldn’t go anywhere without one of the guards or a heavily armed security troll breathing down our necks.
I also hadn’t seen a single necromancer anywhere since the fiasco at Malistaire’s fortress. Although all my fellow Theurgists seemed to be thoroughly convinced that they had all gone to join Malistaire, I wasn’t that sure. And I was getting pretty worried too.
And, as you probably all now know, Chris was no longer among us. I know; he was a traitor and he deserved it. But the pain of his death still hurt. Every moment, I half expected him to come up behind me saying, “Whatcha’ doing?” like he always did before.
I guess we changed some too. I found myself caring more for the safety of my siblings, making sure we stayed together every non-school hour. I noticed that we were behaving oddly well. Well, for us, that is. We were fighting less, anyway. And we seemed more in a hurry to get through our studies, doing quests on a daily basis. Perhaps it was because of the battle with Malistaire we knew had to come sooner or later.
And any free time we had we spent practicing in the arena. Take now, for instance.
It was not long after dark. Of course, the arena was closed, but Diego had permitted us to stay without even charging us extra tickets. Savannah and I were in the middle of what we agreed on would be the last duel of the night while Sadie, Samuel, and our new pet unicorn that we had rescued from Malistaire’s dungeon (whom we had decided to name Elvis) watched in the stands. I was a level thirty and she was a level twenty five, so we were pretty evenly matched.
I whipped a card from my pouch and cast Humongofrog, while Savannah did the same with a sunbird card. At first, I thought that I had won this round—no competition. But Savannah’s sunbird turned out to be a speedy little sucker. Every time my frog raised its gigantic foot intending to squish it, the sunbird was at least thirty yards away.
The next minute or so was chaos. The enormous frog awkwardly blundered around, the sunbird was going to drastic measures so as to not be squashed, and Savannah and I both yelled out encouragement to our creatures. In fact, it was so hectic that we didn’t even see Professor Ambrose stride in through the gates.
“Good evening,” he said, giving a nod to each of us. “My, you’re out late.”
I didn’t hear him at first; my mind was still on the battle. “Come on, squash him! He’s only a stinking bird you id…oh, hi, Professor.”
He beamed at me just as Savannah’s bird zoomed up at light speed and, with its sharp beak, poked my frog in the eye.
“Ugh,” I said, disgusted, as flecks of gore littered the ground and the Humongofrog howled pitifully. “Uh…Savannah? I think we’d better call it off…”
We both waved our wands and the two creatures disappeared.
“Now,” I said, “you wanted to see us?”
“Well, actually, more specifically, you,” corrected Ambrose.
“Oh,” I said, getting the hint. “Okay. Savannah, can you take everyone home?”
“Alright,” she said.
“Why did you want to see me?” I asked as they vanished in a whirl of sparkles.
“Do you remember,” asked Ambrose, “when you rid Unicorn Way of a hoard of monsters of which Miss Nora Skullhorn was responsible? It was some time ago, I believe.”
“Uh-huh,” I said.
“What do you remember, then, about the monsters?”
Taken aback, I started, “Hmm…let me think. They were more powerful; I remember that. They knew more spells, their moves were kind of smart, and they had more health. They also broke some of the rules for proper dueling, like attacking on sidewalks and ganging up on people four to one.”
“Miss Spiritheart,” Ambrose began, “I believe that Malistaire has found a way to make many of these creatures at once. My guess is that he’s using these creatures to build up an army.”
I gaped at him. “An army?” I asked, horrified.
“Yes,” said Ambrose. “A multitude of these creatures capable of doing the things that you mentioned and, possibly, more. Can you think of anything else?”
I thought hard, still horrified at the prospect of a whole army of past Dragonspyre-level minions. Not much came to my mind, except…
“Malistaire will teach them how to duel to kill,” I said, with a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
“Yes,” said Ambrose gravely.
“So…it’ll be like that attack on Ravenwood?” I asked, shuddering slightly at the memory.
“I assure you, Miss Spiritheart, that it will be much more damaging than even that,” Ambrose said. “I believe that there will come a time when Malistaire will use is forces to launch a full-scale attack on Wizard City.
“Which is why,” he continued, “we’ll need our whole school on the job. And that’s why I came to you.”
“What for?” I asked, half bemused half terrified.
“Well, frankly, I am getting worried,” he said. “I have not seen a single death pupil since you arrived from Malistaire’s fortress. Nor have I seen any sign of Cyrus Drake. Although I fear for their safety, I admit that I also would like them here at the time of Malistaire’s attack, as Death is one of our most prestigious schools. So I would like you to go and find both. Quickly, too. We don’t have much time.”
“Um…Sir?” I said hesitantly. “Do you think that...you know…Professor Drake’s and the Death School’s disappearances might be connected?”
Ambrose hung his head.
“Oh, I didn’t mean it like that, Sir!” I said hastily. “I know Professor Drake would never—”
“That’s just what I think,” said Ambrose. It took me a few seconds to comprehend what he said.
“You mean,” I said slowly, “Professor Drake’s working for M—”
“Nothing of the sort,” said Ambrose. “But I still believe he did it.”
“How come?” I asked.
“Cyrus…well…he has always had a…troubled history with the death school.” Ambrose hesitated. “You do not know of this, I presume?”
I shook my head “No, Sir.”
Then I suddenly remembered something: Malistaire’s face, furious and white, only feet away from mine. He opened his mouth to speak, and…
“Well, there is something,” I said, a little apologetically. “When Malistaire was chasing us through the Spiral Door, right before we escaped from his castle, he said something about Professor Drake. He said that he, well, killed his wife,” I said in a very small voice.
Ambrose looked at me gravely.
I covered my mouth with my hands. “Oh my gosh,” I said. “So it is true!”
“As much as I would hate to say so, yes,” said Ambrose.
Dozens of questions were flooding through my mind at once, but the one that came out first was, “Why?”
“Why what?” asked Ambrose.
What I really longed to ask was, “Why are you still letting him teach here?” But I didn’t think that would be polite. So instead I asked, “Why did he do it?”
So Ambrose told the story.
“A while back,” he began, “both Cyrus and Malistaire Drake were almost ready to graduate from Ravenwood. Cyrus, the valedictorian student, was naturally at the top of the class. Malistaire, however, needed all the help he could get from his fellow necromancers. Even then, as I remember correctly, he barely managed to scrape a pass. But they were as close as any two brothers could be, besides a little feeling of superiority on Cyrus’s part.
“Pleased with their efforts, the boys decided to take a vacation to Dragonspyre. But the night they did, Cyrus had…a vision, if you will. Of a certain staff.”
My heart seemed to speed up several paces. “Malistaire’s staff?”
“Why yes,” said Ambrose, looking at me almost quizzically. “How did you know?”
“I saw it in the Hall—”
“Ah, of course, said Ambrose, smiling now. “You too have found the secrets of the Hall of the Prophecy. But never mind about that. We have a story to finish.
“It came to him in a dream. In his mind he saw a staff sitting in a notch on top of Pereputual Peak, one of the tallest mountains in the entire Spiral. And when he woke up, he knew that he must journey there. He left that morning, taking his brother with him.
“It took many days, but at last, Cyrus and Malistaire reached the peak. And there was the staff, sitting right there waiting to be taken. But alas, Cyrus did not know about the…special requirements. There was a curse on it, and when he reached out to take it…well, I will spare you the details…
“But when Cyrus woke up in the hospital about a month later, to his surprise, his brother was wielding the very staff that had denied him. It had accepted Malistaire’s touch. This upset Cyrus very greatly, for he was a part of the death school also. Oh yes,” he said as an answer to my startled expression, “Cyrus used to be a death student. One of the best too.
“In the five years that followed, Cyrus became increasingly jealous of Malistaire, whose staff was showing its newfound wonders. I believe that in his mind, he thought he should be the one to carry the staff rather than Malistaire. He convinced himself of his superiority by claiming himself to be both the more talented and the more responsible until he actually believed it.
“About that time, Malistaire was becoming even more power-hungry, with a powerful staff to do his bidding. Cyrus saw this, of course, and used it against his own brother. Soon he had everyone in the school convinced that Malistaire was not the true owner of the staff. Malistaire grew furious at this. Not long after, there was a huge fight between the two brothers, and ever since then, they have seldom spoken to each other again.
“But this wasn’t enough for Cyrus. Having been convinced that he was the staff’s true owner, he snuck into Malistaire and his new wife Sylvia’s house to claim it. But they were there at the time, and he was already sneaking out when they spotted him. There was another fight between them, this one more furious than the one before. Cyrus tried to curse Malistaire with the staff, but, not being the true owner, he couldn’t control its power. Before he knew what was happening, Sylvia lay dead on the floor.”
My mouth hung open. I was speechless, utterly speechless.
“But,” I stammered, “I thought she got sick…”
“That is the cover story I invented,” said Ambrose. “Anyhow, Cyrus has suffered a great deal since then. But he found himself less miserable if he blamed something else. So he blamed the staff. He blamed death for the incident, and once again, he convinced himself of its guilt. So he went with his second school, myth, instead. He has hated the death school ever since.”
I found myself slightly revolted. I didn’t want to discuss this anymore.
“What do you want me to do?” I whispered.
“Find the necromancers,” said Ambrose, who seemed also glad to be out of this conversation as well. “We need them here as soon as possible. Oh, and it would help if you found Cyrus too. Not to worry,” he said as I flinched. “He wants to see Malistaire’s end as much as you and I. He wouldn’t dare harm you. Oh, and Miss Spiritheart? Would you kindly refrain from telling about Cyrus’s troubles to anyone else? Chances are that he would be given the sack, so, if you would…”
Without another word, he strode from the arena.
I stayed up all last night thinking about Ambrose’s request. He did seem to be asking rather a lot, but I was sure I could handle it…unless something horrible had happened to them. If Professor Drake really hated the Death School as much as Ambrose said…
But where did I look first? I had six whole worlds of the spiral to cover, not to mention Earth. But as most wizards didn’t even know about it, I was pretty sure that Professor Drake hadn’t hidden them there.
I yawned and turned over. My head was spinning, and I didn’t know what to do first when I got up in the morning.
My last thought was, This is impossible. Then I instantly went to sleep.
I was running down a long, dark tunnel, my breathing heavy. The voices of the missing death wizards called to me from the end. Nolan’s voice stood out in particular. Pumping my arms, I ran harder. But the tunnel seemed to go on for miles; the light at the end wasn’t getting any closer.
Suddenly, a hand pushed me from behind, and I was instantly only feet away from the light and the voices. I didn’t even stop to thank whoever had helped me. I dashed toward the exit, expecting to find all the awaiting necromancers.
Instead, there stood a minotaur, axe at the ready. And, I realized, the screaming voices were coming from his mouth.
Horrified, I tried to run. But he swung his axe at my head. I crumpled from the blow. I could feel something warm trickle down my neck. I tried to get up, but I couldn’t stand.
And then, the same hand that had pushed me down the tunnel grabbed me the collar of my robes and yanked me into an upright position. I whirled around and saw, not an arm, but a branch.
A tree branch.
I sat bolt upright in bed. Why didn’t I think of this before? Bartleby knew where Samuel was; why wouldn’t he know where the necromancers were?
I got up and got dressed, even though it couldn’t be more than five-o’-clock in the morning. I had to get to him right now. Or Cyrus Drake might do something horrible to them. I shuddered, imagining horrors.
I ran over to my dresser, put aside my copy of The Tale of Sierra Winterbreeze, and grabbed my wand. Then I heard a small whinny from behind me.
I looked, and there was a sleepy-looking Elvis behind me.
“It’s fine,” I assured him. “I’m just going out a bit early; that’s all. Go back to sleep.” But he stubbornly stayed by my side.
I laughed. “Okay, you can come.”
What seemed like seconds later, I was tapping the trunk of the great tree, Bartleby, awake.
He blinked sleepily for a moment. Then he looked down and saw me and Elvis standing there.
“Ah, Miss Spiritheart,” he said slowly. “What would you like this morning?”
“Well,” I said, “it’s about the death wizards.” His eyebrows rose. “I haven’t seen a single one since we got back from Malistaire’s castle. Professor Ambrose says I need to hurry up and find them. You wouldn’t, by any chance, know where they are?” I ended hopefully.
Bartleby nodded as best as a giant tree could nod. “Yes,” he said, “as a matter of fact, I have detected a hint of dark magic within my roots.” He paused dramatically. “More than one.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. But my question was drowned out by the voice of someone behind me.
“Miss Spiritheart!” said Ambrose, surprised. He emerged from the tunnel to the commons at a brisk pace, carrying a bundle of packages. “Goodness gracious, I wasn’t expecting you out this early!”
“Professor…” said Bartleby, and for the first time, I detected a sliver of urgency in his tone.
There was a split second in which Ambrose looked thunderstruck and Bartleby’s face was contorted into what was evidently a grimace.
“No…” said Ambrose, “…surely not…”
“Yes, it is so,” said Bartleby.
The packages tumbled out of Ambrose’s arms. I thought that I heard something shatter from in one of them.
“Professor,” I said anxiously, “what’s wrong?”
But I thought that I already knew. Surely no one else could make Ambrose look that scared.
“Malistaire?” I said. He nodded.
“But…but he’s not coming here?”
“Oh yes he is,” said Ambrose.
I gave a small little gasp. “What do we do?” I nearly whispered.
Ambrose looked at Bartleby as if he needed a point made clear. At last, he looked at me. “I think,” he said, “that our best hope is to try and fight him out. Lydia!” he shouted so suddenly that both Professor Greyrose, who was now emerging from the Ice School, and me jump. “Round up all members of the staff now! Then report to Bartleby; he will tell you of the current situation.”
Professor Greyrose, looking a little alarmed, nodded and flew away.
“Now Bartleby,” said Ambrose, “I suspect that Miss Spiritheart needed your assistance finding the death students; am I right?”
“Yes,” the great tree said. “It is probably the most peculiar case I have ever seen, though. I can still sense them, but…I can’t.”
“Right,” I said brusquely, for now wasn’t the time for riddles. “But do you know where they are?”
“Hmmm,” said Bartleby, “I felt them in Nightside, but…”
Ambrose and I left, Elvis trotting along behind us, before Bartleby could even finish his statement.
“Hurry; we must hurry!” Ambrose said urgently. “Malistaire will be here within the hour!”
Even as he spoke, black clouds tinged with red began to block the morning sky.
“Anything?” I asked hopefully, somewhat desperately.
Ambrose shook his head. “No,” he said.
Ambrose then raised his staff, and as he did, a slight breeze ruffled my ponytail. And was it just me, or did I hear the softest of screams carried across the wind?
“I sense a deep magic in this place,” said Ambrose suddenly. “But what?” He seemed to be talking to himself.
Another breeze came around, this one stronger than before. But something was odd. Although it was blowing ferociously against my neck, that was the only place that seemed to be getting wind. In fact, now that I noticed it, what was left of the leaves on the trees didn’t seem to be affected at all.
An old feeling of unease flickered over me. What may have once seemed like a slight wind now seemed more like someone breathing down my neck.
I whirled around; no one there.
“Who’s there?” I cried out in alarm anyway.
No one answered.
Ambrose was now making complicated motions with his staff, as if painting an invisible picture in the air.
“Dear me,” he said to himself. “I don’t recognize any of this at all.”
“Ambrose?” I said.
“I think there’s someone here.”
He sighed. “Bartleby is usually right about things like these,” he explained. “But now I don’t see how he could be. I’m sorry, my dear, but we’ll have to search elsewhere.”
“But I felt…”
“I’m sorry, Miss Spiritheart, but I don’t see any sign of them.” His words were nearly drowned out by a rumble of thunder. Elvis gave a nervous whinny.
I slowly nodded. “Okay.”
But something in me told me that we shouldn’t leave. Some part of me was on the alert, and to my surprise it seemed to be the small part of my mind devoted to Conjuration—Myth magic.
I changed tactics in mid-sentence. “Professor, I really think we should—”
I stopped as a huge bolt of lightning lit up the sky, making everything in sight cast a shadow on the ground in front of them.
I tried again. “Ambrose, I—” Suddenly, I stopped, my eyes locking on to one impossible detail.
There were two extra shadows on the ground. No one was there to cast them.
I looked at Ambrose in alarm, but he had seen them too.
His brow furrowed. Then he looked up at the sky, even though the lightning was long since gone.
“Impossible…” he murmured.
His eyes widening, he traced his staff into an intricate pattern in the air.
Instantly, a purple dome appeared over the perimeter of Nightside. It was semi-transparent, yet it was somewhat darkened with what I thought looked like miniature storm clouds. Lightning coursed through it, filling the interior with an electric hum.
In the sudden light, the shadows were revealed again, and this time, a trace of a shimmer appeared above them.
“What’s happening?” I asked.
“A curse has been placed upon the Death school, said Ambrose darkly. “Lightning reveals this curse for what it really is.”
“So, it’s a myth curse?” I asked, knowing that storm was myth’s weakness. He nodded.
I watched as the shimmers above the two shadows became more defined, becoming two separate shapes: a boy and a girl. Soon I began to recognize the tanned skin and jet-black hair of Nolan Darkwind and the red-brown hair and dark green eyes of Sabrina Ravenstaff.
“Nolan! Sabrina!” I called out to them.
Both their mouths opened, but no sound came out.
And they weren’t the only ones. Hundreds of death students were materializing out of thin air: some by the tower and the graveyard, but most huddled in tight-knit groups around the edge.
“You guys!” I ran at Nolan and Sabrina and made to throw my arms around them.
Instead, they passed right through them.
Suddenly, a voice coming from almost directly above me shouted, “Get away, wretch!”
And out of nowhere, a hand came out of nowhere and slapped me full in the face. I fell to the ground with a scream of pain.
Elvis growled at my attacker.
Not thinking, I scrambled back up and whipped my wand out of my pocket. But it was the face above me that made me stop.
“Well, well, well,” said Cyrus Drake. “So it’s Spiritheart, is it?”
I noticed, however, that he didn’t make any move to attack me again. Perhaps what Ambrose had said about him was true.
“Cyrus.” For the first time today, Ambrose looked angry. “I cannot allow you to treat my students this way.”
As he spoke, the purple dome flickered and died, and the apparitions of the missing death wizards did also.
Ambrose approached Professor Drake and drew himself to his full height (which, actually, was still shorter than him). Then he said, “Cyrus, Malistaire is on his way, and unfortunately, you have placed a seventh of the students in this school, also a seventh of our army, under a Confinement Charm.”
Cyrus cackled. At the same time, lightning flashed across the sky, giving this scene an eerie effect.
“Our army?” he laughed. “I’ve done you a service, old man. How do you know that they won’t run off to join their master the moment they’re set free?”
Ambrose’s eyes flashed with a fire that I had never seen before in him. “It is you who are mistaken, Cyrus. I trust every single student in this school, death included.”
This time, Professor Drake’s eyes flared in anger. “Perhaps you have forgotten, Ambrose, that little incident in which…”
“My memory continues to serve me well, even after all these years,” said Ambrose harshly. “And although you may have managed to convince yourself otherwise, the fault is yours and yours alone.”
Lightning flashed again, and a shocking scene met my eyes. Ambrose was glowering up at Professor Drake with an expression of nothing short of pure contempt. And then Professor Drake’s expression flickered. In that one split second, his expression was that of a small schoolboy caught in the act, of someone who has ignored the truth for years only to come back and look at it full in the face.
But in the second after, his expression turned back to one of hatred.
A tremendous earthquake shook the ground, taking me down with it. Ambrose and Cyrus, however, stood firm.
“Do you hear that?” Ambrose thundered. “Malistaire and his forces will penetrate the grounds. Every second you delay, those earthquakes grow worse, a part of Wizard City that need not have been is destroyed. Time grows short, Cyrus. Right now the only question is whether you will do it willingly or need be by force.”
“Professor!” I shrieked. Both men turned around.
“Quiet, girl; this is not your fight!” Cyrus screeched.
“He’s right,” said Ambrose gravely. “You must return to Ravenwood, Miss Spiritheart. Go join your siblings. I will attend to Cyrus.”
“Attend to me?”
“Go now!” shouted Ambrose, just as Cyrus let out a stream of rather foul cusswords that, unfortunately, could not be beeped out like they were on TV shows.
Without a second thought, I dashed out the tunnel, Elvis right behind me.
Yet I couldn’t help but feel that, with Malistaire on the way, Ambrose fighting Cyrus Drake in the middle of Nightside wasn’t the best omen.
When I arrived, Ravenwood was in a state of complete disarray.
Every single student (except, of course, for the necromancers) was outside at that very moment. Some looked fearful, some confused, and some just looked sleepy. Despite all the teachers’ efforts to keep them calm, they couldn’t fully quiet the amount of ruckus going on, especially when pets were added to the mix.
Professor Falmea stood up on a large, elevated platform, speaking to the crowd.
“…students Journeyman and under will be evacuated to Krokotopia,” she was saying, her voice magically magnified to talk over the students. “If you are a level twenty or over, you may stay and fight if you wish, but by all means you can join the evacuating students.
“Arthur Wethersfield will oversee the escape party,” she went on. I saw Professor Wethersfield trembling by the entrance to the Spiral Chamber, his umbrella in hand. “All evacuating students please join him now.”
There was a flurry of movement as students, both young and terrified out of their wits, ran to join Professor Wethersfield in Bartleby’s Spiral Chamber.
“No, I won’t do it! I won’t go!”
I looked around and saw Catherine’s sister, Madison Goldengate, with her lower lip stuck out and evident protest in her scowl. Catherine Fairyblossom looked at her pleadingly.
“No, Maddie, you’re only an Initiate. You have to go with the other students. Go on with your sister Meghan.”
“But you’re staying!”
“Yes, I’m staying. I’m a Magus; I’m going to try to fight him. They need my help here.” Although Catherine’s voice trembled, I could sense a hint of determination in her voice, and my heart swelled.
“I don’t wanna go! I wanna stay with you!” Madison sobbed, just as Professor Falmea put a gentle hand on her shoulder and led her away with the other students. “No!”
“Sarah Spiritheart,” boomed a great voice suddenly. Maybe it was the power of that voice, or maybe it was the fact that it was my name being mentioned; but either way, everyone fell silent. “Come over here please.”
As if by a trance, I walked slowly over towards the great tree. Savannah, Sadie, and Samuel were there, all sitting on a tree root.
“It is time,” Bartleby boomed. “I feel destiny arriving fast as if carried by the wind. Malistaire has come here for one purpose and for one purpose only: to destroy the four of you. Now is the time to fight him. It is time to seal your fate.”
I suddenly felt small and insignificant. Trembling slightly, I began to wonder how I could even walk straight, let alone defeat Malistaire.
“Do not worry,” Bartleby said. “I have great faith in you. As of the outcome, I am not sure. All I know is this: your battle will be both horrible and legendary. It will be mentioned in years to come.
“I don’t know if we can do this,” I said. “I’m only a Magus, and I’m not even in Mooshu yet! How—”
Bartleby chuckled. “Give me your hand,” he said, extending a branch. On it, I laid my palm face-up, the one with the golden symbol: a leaf connected to a heart.
“This,” he said, “is the mark of a true healer.”
Many older life wizards gasped, and I distinctly heard Catherine say, “Oh!”
Bartleby continued, “I have never seen one shine as brightly as this before. It signifies a path of greatness ahead, for you and for your sisters and brother. If you want proof, there is none greater than this.”
Then he spoke in an undertone, signifying that his next words were for me alone: “I imagine you met Sylvia?”
“Sylvia…Sylvia Drake? Malistaire’s wife?” I remembered the maiden who had saved us from Malistaire’s dungeon. “You mean the woman with the long blonde hair?”
“Let me explain,” said Bartleby, still whispering. There can only be one true healer in the world at a time. For the one in the present to come to terms with her true identity, she must be visited with the image of the true healer before her. It was Sylvia Drake in the dungeon who opened your eyes, and it will be up to you, when you die, to bring news to the next one.”
I just stood there, marveling. So it was Sylvia who I had met in the dungeon. I had actually met Sylvia Drake, Malistaire’s deceased wife. Or rather, her ghost.
“Decide now,” said Bartleby in the same loud tone as before, interrupting my thoughts. “For alas, time is not on our side. Sarah Spiritheart, do you accept your destiny?”
I nodded, my hopefully determined look kind of thrown off by my terrified shudder. “Yes.”
“What say you, Savannah Swiftsong?”
“Let’s do it,” she said bravely.
She nodded. I beamed at her, giving her the thumbs-up.
“And now, Samuel Nighttamer.”
“Okay,” he said.
BOOM! This was the loudest yet.
Everyone looked at Bartleby in alarm, who nodded solemnly. “Malistaire’s forces are upon us.”
“Everyone in attack positions!” bellowed Halston Balestrom.
It wasn’t long before we saw them, but not in the direction we were expecting.
“Look!” shouted a Master life wizard, pointing toward where the infamous death school had once stood. All the life wizards could see them first, but in a few seconds, soon everyone would too.
It looked like a sea of black at first, but then it began to take shape. Both wizards and creatures alike were all flying this way—fast—on the backs of huge, roaring dragons.
“Steady!” cried Professor Balestrom.
I’m sure if I had looked at all the surrounding dragons, I would’ve seen a number of grotesque creatures of all elements that I couldn’t have even imagined up. But my eyes were only toward the two beasts in the front.
On one of them was Malistaire himself, because Lord knows he just had to have one for himself.
And on the one beside him was his Black Hand. All five of them riding sidesaddle with wicked smiles curving on all their faces.
All five of them.
For there, at the front of the beast, sat my former best friend, now my worst enemy: apparently-not-dead Chris Willowcrafter.
Now known as Marcus Deathspear.
The Tale of Sarah Spiritheart
The earthquakes had been going on for some time now. But this, now, was the loudest and most destructive one yet. To everyone in Wizard City, it signified the end of the shaking, but the beginning of a battle.
As that last tremor went on, doors opened on every street as Ravenwood alumni dashed out to see what was going on. Actually, most of them knew, as the guards had traveled all over Wizard City to warn everyone of Malistaire’s coming. But no one actually believed it until now.
Either way, everyone seemed to know what was going on at once. Several screams pierced the morning air.
Then there was a flurry of movement as wizards from Unicorn Way, Cyclopes Lane, Colossus Boulevard, and all the other streets all sought to get somewhere at once. Some of the more cowardly rushed back inside their houses, snapping shut the blinds and magically locking their doors. But most ran outside on the streets, wands in hand, prepared to fight.
And it wasn’t only the wizards preparing for battle.
As the people prepared to fight Malistaire, there were several creatures preparing to join him, primarily the bosses. If anyone had been watching, they would’ve witnessed a strange yet horrific scene: bosses like Lady Blackhope, Sergeant Skullsplitter, and Wormguts, marching side by side, as if hypnotized, to go and fight for the side of evil.
In Colossus Boulevard, hundreds of Gobblers rushed toward the Gobbler King’s castle to hide, them being a neutral party. Each one of them was headed toward a room that was supposedly hidden (but actually in plain view) that none of them could think of a fancier name for other than the “Emergency Room.” Inside that room was a mountain of food that the king’s heralds had spent years collecting. This was where the Gobblers “hid,” stuffing their faces while the enormous Gobbler King struggled to get in.
Over in Triton Avenue, the Kraken raised its gigantic head. He could sense a great battle coming, perhaps the battle foretold in the prophecies.
He would not fight, he decided, crawling back into his cave, for neither light nor darkness. But still, he wondered if his life might be better if darkness won. Perhaps there would be no more pesky wizards seeking his electric crystals.
And in Ravenwood, a student army prepared for war, including the young family in the prophecy. Many would die, and everyone there was prepared for it.
The students watched, beads of sweat forming down their necks, as Malistaire and his forces steadily drew nearer.
But wait, he’s dead, isn’t he? I killed him, right? Didn’t I?
Questions like these formed in my mind, bouncing around in my brain until I thought I would go numb with shock.
Perhaps it wasn’t really him, I thought. But when I looked again, there was no mistaking that familiar black hood, that arrogant stance, that smug smile.
Then maybe I didn’t kill him after all.
But he wasn’t even breathing!
Suddenly the two dragons in front, bearing both Malistaire and the Black Hand, swerved in different directions. They fled the grounds, leaving the numerous amounts of creatures to attack the students.
A great amount of shouting erupted amongst the students; I caught the word “coward!” at least ten times.
I shook my head, trying to clear it. Now wasn’t the time to worry about Marcus. The time would come sooner or later. Now we had a much more pressing matter to deal with, in the form of forty or so fifty-foot dragons.
Who were opening their mouths.
And everyone knows that there was only one reason that a dragon would open its mouth.
A wave of heat blew over me, and I saw orangey-black flames begin to build up in the dragons’ throats.
I wish I could’ve thought up some amazing plan that I could share with you now, but I didn’t. My mind was numb, and my only thought was, Oh, Lord, this is gonna hurt.
In fact, if a few Grandmaster Storm wizards hadn’t been there to conjure up a wind, we would’ve all been toast.
It was pretty cool, actually. They just stood up in front of us all, held out their hands, and Whoosh! I heard several sighs of relief and was immediately tricked into thinking that the worst had been overcome.
But one dragon was smart. It flew around the wall of wind, snapped its jaws open, and instantly blew a jet of flame about a quarter of a mile long. At first, none of us saw what was happening. But when the flames receded, we saw a small, dark body crumble in their wake.
Everything was silent for the longest time.
Then several cries of outrage broke out among the students. Nearly everyone raised their wands at once. The burning of a student acted like some sort of wake-up-call, instantly animating those who had just been standing there with their wands hanging stupidly at their sides.
Later I would learn that the person that the dragon had burned hadn’t died. She was a small, wiry girl named Alice Firestalker. And if she hadn’t been a pyromancer, then her injuries probably would’ve been much more serious.
I’ve never been in a full blown-out war before. The closest I’d come to it was the invasion of Ravenwood, and that was just about it. But I knew it would be bad.
But after my experiences in this war, I would come to think of that assumption as a major, major understatement.
Chaos, utter chaos. That doesn’t even come close to describing the war, for no words could do that. But it was the closest I could get to it.
The first few seconds seemed to go by in slow motion. The dragons approached land in a speed I would never have thought possible, some going to other areas of Wizard City, but most merely staying in Ravenwood. Then everyone around us was diving out of the way as they fell from the sky like nuclear bombs, the earth trembling as they landed.
Then when the creatures slid off their backs, signaling the beginning of the fight, everything seemed to speed up again, and this time it was if someone had hit a fast-forward button: everything was happening much too fast for my liking.
I looked at Sadie and Samuel and suddenly felt a pang of terror in my gut. They were only Journeymen; were they ready for this?
I made a decision right there on the spot. “Guys, take cover somewhere. Anywhere. I don’t know…get inside the Spiral Chamber or something. We’ll whisper chat to you when we’ve found Malistaire.”
Sadie’s lip trembled. “No.”
For a moment, I felt like my heart was about to burst with pride. What happened to the girl who had, once upon a time, been afraid of crossing the street?
“Seriously,” I tried again. “It’s not safe here. You need—”
And that was all it took for everything to burst into flames.
“Aaaah!” I screamed, twirling around on the spot. Everything around me was on fire, and I could only see the silhouettes of those around me. But the scariest part was all that smoke rising up from the flames. For a heart-stopping second, I couldn’t see my siblings anywhere. I called out to them, but choked on the smoke.
Then came a strong wind (probably conjured by more storm wizards) that blew all the smoke away. And, as water elementals got to work putting out the flames, I quickly realized that I had a new problem. Savannah, Sadie, and Samuel were all missing.
I tried to call out to them, but, once oblivious to the battle around me, I realized that it would do no good. It was too loud.
So I tried whisper-chatting to Savannah: Are you okay?
Yeah, came her reply.
Are Sadie and Samuel with you?
No, they got away. But I tried contacting them, and they sounded like they were okay.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
What do we do now? Savannah asked me.
First things first, I replied. We have to find Malistaire. They’re right: we need to end this as soon as possible.
Taking a deep breath, I stepped out into the battle.
A scene of great pandemonium met my eyes. Magical domes of all colors, which, I knew, boosted the strength of a wizard’s attack, covered the sidewalks. All five present schools of magic were damaged in some way; the Myth school had already been reduced to just a little pile of rubble. Everywhere I looked, students were fighting their hardest, but Malistaire’s forces were fighting just as hard.
Sidestepping a giant spider’s pincers without even a second thought, I ran through the tunnel to the Commons.
The first thing I noticed when I got there was the huge, serpentine, 60-foot monster rising out of the pond. One glance told me that it was for Malistaire. There were several myth wizards surrounding it (for myth was storm’s weakness), each trying to fight it off.
Then it lunged, moving at a pace that I wouldn’t have thought possible for its size. I screamed, as did a few others, but I needn’t have worried. No one was hurt, but I hated to think of what would happen if they had been even a second late.
I turned left and dashed across Rainbow Bridge, allowing my thoughts to wander over to Nightside. Had Ambrose succeeded in freeing the death wizards? And exactly how far would he go to do so? Lost in thought, I almost bumped into Professor Falmea, who was snapping her fingers, allowing patches of fire to spring up from the ground at random.
Swerving to avoid Sergeant Muldoon, who was sticking his spear into the body of a Draconian, I almost simultaneously skidded to a halt, the result being me sprawled in a patch of grass. I had just noticed the library; it was up in flames.
Scrambling up, I automatically changed course, me having a soft spot for libraries. I shoved my hand into my deck and pulled out a Humongofrog spell card, which I cast on the spot.
A giant frog rose from the depths of the ground and lumbered over to help all the wizards surrounding the library, who weren’t having very much luck. I’ll have to say that it was disgusting, but it worked; the Humongofrog’s mucus completely smothered the flames. But before the other wizards could do as much as whirl around to find out who had cast it, I was off.
“Catherine! Catherine, where are you?”
I gasped when I realized who had said that. Madison Goldengate, who had somehow snuck past the other evacuating students, was stumbling around the Commons as if caught in a pinball machine, screaming for her sister. Her hair was a mess, and there was a purple bruise under her left eye.
And that’s when I noticed the dark shadow right behind her, and advancing.
—a bright flash of silver—
“No!” I cried, my wand somehow pointing at the shadow before I knew what was happening. A bright green flash of light appeared somewhere around the creature’s heart, and I heard a wail of pain. Madison leapt back from her pursuer, frightened, but unharmed.
“Madison!” I yelled, but I was interrupted by a throaty hiss.
The shadow became clearer as it stepped out into the sunlight, and I wished that it hadn’t, for it was immensely ugly. It was dressed all in dark, navy blue rags, had decaying, claw-like hands, and something that looked suspiciously like a bird beak from beneath its hood.
“You,” it rasped in a voice that was arguably female.
I gulped; I knew what this was now.
“Hag,” I gasped, referring to a type of monster that I had learned about back in Adept class. They lived independently up in the mountains, only coming down from the mountains when they sensed a great war coming. They had dark magic that not even Malistaire knew. And, incidentally, they ate human flesh.
It chuckled, or it may have just been a growl. It was hard to tell.
“Die well, child of Light,” it purred. Then it made a throwing motion with its right arm. I didn’t even have to look to know that the silver knife, once so close to Madison’s throat, was now inches from my own heart…
Something hit me hard from below. My knees buckled, and I fell to the ground, the knife whizzing harmlessly overhead.
I looked around for my savior, and I nearly had a heart attack when I saw who it was.
I threw my arms around his neck, forgetting for a moment that he wasn’t Chris Willowcrafter, who was (or at least pretended to be) okay with me hugging him at random moments. But then, I reasoned, I didn’t really care that much. And apparently, he didn’t either.
“Oh my gosh, Nolan! Are you all right? Are the others okay too? How did Professor Ambrose get you out of there? And where’s—”
“I’m okay,” he interrupted. He looked genuinely happy to see me, a wide smile lighting up every inch of his face. “And so are the rest. They’re out fighting this very moment. Ambrose too.”
“And Professor Drake..?”
At this, Nolan’s smile faded. He gave me a look that plainly said, You can’t win them all.
“Ah, how sweet…old friends perhaps..?”
A dark shadow was rising over Nolan and me, huddled on the ground. Together, we watched it move across the field, reach a row of buildings, and steadily start inching up them. We finally had enough sense to look up.
The hag, as if she wasn’t hideous enough, was growing, great leathery wings with bits of skin missing sprouting from her back. Then she landed on all fours, at least ten feet long and six feet high. Her eyes, as red as coal embers, were turned toward us in an expression of pure fury.
She opened her beak, and…well…it wasn’t exactly fire that came out. It was more of a swirling, black mist, kind of like the mist of a shadow daemon. But I knew that anything that came out something’s mouth couldn’t be good. And then I had to learn the hard way that it wasn’t as harmless as it looked: As I jumped out of the way, a small bit of it touched my finger.
“Ah!” I gasped. It wasn’t—couldn’t be fire, but that’s exactly what it felt like. My finger was certainly aflame, so why didn’t I see any fire?
“Leave her ALONE!” Nolan shouted, tracing the fire symbol in the air. Instantly a great, flaming phoenix shot up from the ground and breathed a wide jet of flame right at the hag’s face, who howled pitifully and clawed at the flames.
“Did it get you?” Nolan asked. I nodded, holding up my pinkie. Something was bubbling on it that looked suspiciously like acid, but I couldn’t tell. Fascinated, I reached out to touch it.
“Don’t!” Nolan warned. “You don’t want it to spread!”
“Want what to spread?” I asked, just as the hag took a great swipe at the phoenix, and it disappeared into a cloud of ashes.
A strange gurgling noise erupted from the creature’s throat as its murderous, red eyes swiveled toward Nolan.
I was on my feet in an instant, pointing my wand at the hag and casting the first spell I could lay my hands on: Nature’s Wrath.
A giant tree appeared out of nowhere, but you have to remember that this was no ordinary giant tree. As shimmery, golden wisps swirled around it, the number of branches increased and on each one grew a row of dozens of tiny thorns.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Nolan cast a Meteor Shower card, and a hole erupted in the clouds covering the sky.
A clump of wizards who weren’t in the middle of a fight came and formed a little semicircle behind us, their eyes as wide as dinner plates. Geez, we’d attracted a fan club.
The tree struck, and meteors started falling from the sky.
You had to say this for the hag, she was tricky. No monster that I had ever known had managed to fend off two forces at once, especially if one of those forces was magically enhanced. Every moment that she didn’t spend ducking under the brambles or dodging the falling meteors, she was spewing the black acid stuff into the crowd at random, and sometime I heard a scream directly after.
Unfortunately, luck was not on our side. A fiery meteor, intended for the hag, hit my tree instead. Both disintegrated in a cloud of ashes.
The hag leered, or at least I thought she did. She pointed a clawed finger at Nolan, as if about to perform a curse.
“No,” I said. I stepped in front of Nolan and held my arms protectively outstretched
“Two for Malistaire, then,” croaked the hag menacingly. This time I was certain that she smiled. A ball of light appeared on her hand.
“NOW!” shouted a voice.
Just as she threw the ball of magic at us; streams of purple, green, blue, red, black, and gold magic intertwined and hovered to a spot directly above us, cast by five teachers of magic plus Ambrose. Their spells acted as a sort of shield, throwing the magic back at the creature. But it didn’t seem to be doing any harm to her: she was death, after all, and resisted her own spells.
Then I felt Nolan raise his wand from behind me, and a shield appeared around the hag’s midriff and started circling around her: it was a Death Prism.
“No!” the hag gasped, but it was too late. As her own magic seeped into the shield, it turned green, the color of life magic. “No-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!”
She exploded into a whirl of sparkles. All the wizards who had stopped to watch started clapping.
I turned to Nolan. “I never thought I’d see the day when one of those prism spells would actually turn out useful,” I said.
Nolan was looking at me kind of funny. “Sarah,” he said, “give me your hand.”
Confused, I extended my wand arm.
“The other one.”
It’s funny how something doesn’t bother you when you don’t know a thing about it. And when someone mentions it, that’s when you really start to notice it for the first time.
That’s exactly how it felt this time. Until Nolan had me extend the finger on which the hag had breathed her acid, I forgot all about it. But now…
I sucked in a breath. What had first seemed like a slight bubbling sensation on my finger was actually the acid eating away at the skin. The tip of my finger was a bloody mess, and, it may have been just me being paranoid, but I thought I saw a little bit of white poking out from underneath.
“Oh my,” said a soft voice from above me. I looked up to find Moolinda Wu standing right beside me. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” I said. But even as I spoke, I began to be conscious of exactly how much pain I was in.
“I can help,” she declared. “She took my hand in her hoof and muttered a few incantations. With a flash of green light, the acid disappeared, but the wound was still there.
Professor Wu sighed. “I’m sorry, Miss Spiritheart,” she said. “I cannot fully heal these wounds. Not when this amount of dark magic is involved. I did get rid of the poison, but only time can heal wounds like these.”
I nodded, barely paying attention. Something was wrong, and it took me a while to realize what it was. Nolan was no longer there.
I scanned over the Commons looking for him, and through the chaos of the battle, I saw it in impossible detail: Professor Drake standing on Rainbow Bridge, holding a crude, silver knife to Nolan’s throat.
I started running.
“No! Stop!” I screamed, attracting everyone’s attention, including Professor Drake’s.
“Ah, Miss Spiritheart,” he said calmly. “I do wish you’d stop doing that. It gets very annoying from time to time.”
Many students were gathering around us looking thunderstruck. At this, an expression of unease flickered over Professor Drake’s face. But then he was calm again.
“What’s he done to you?” I shouted. Nolan urgently nodded in agreement.
“Now, Miss Spiritheart, you had better be careful,” warned Professor Drake, “as I am a teacher at this school and you are merely a Magus. If you know what’s good for you, hold your tongue.”
I couldn’t believe this. I knew Professor Drake hated the death school, out of all his faults. He had once captured all the students in it. But to actually go so far as to kill them?
“You wouldn’t dare,” I said softly. “You want to see your brother’s end as much as I do.”
“Why wouldn’t I?” he said. He was panting heavily and a crazed look was in his eyes. “After Mr. Darkwind I can easily attend to you…”
My mouth hung open in shock. I was seriously considering that he might be possessed. But I couldn’t tell
“You’re CRAZY!” I screamed. “You’re INSANE!” The card in my hand itched to be cast right away, but for some reason I couldn’t remember drawing it.
What are you DOING?!? said a small voice in my mind. You can’t attack a teacher!
Out of the corner of my eye I saw on it a picture of a woman: probably Seraph. I weaved the life symbol in the air just as Professor Drake raised the knife.
It was no use. I wasn’t quick enough.
Just as the knife was about to plunge, I blurted out, “Sylvia wouldn’t want this.”
I had no clue where it came from or what made me say it, but it worked. This shocked look came over his face, and he actually went so far as to drop the knife. He looked absolutely dumbstruck…a little too dumbstruck. This kind of confused me.
Then I realized that he wasn’t actually looking at me, but above me.
“No, Cyrus,” said a soft, female voice. “I wouldn’t.”
I looked up, and there was Sylvia Drake. She was exactly how I remembered her from Malistaire’s dungeon: long, blonde hair, slightly transparent, bright blue eyes. She was dazzlingly beautiful.
“What are you doing here?” I breathed. She ignored me; I wasn’t who she was here for.
“S-Sylvia?” Professor Drake sputtered.
“Yes,” she whispered.
His hold on Nolan’s neck loosened, and Nolan instantly ran over to join me with a scathing look in Cyrus’s direction
“I-I never thought I’d see you again,” he gasped.
A sad look crossed Sylvia’s face. “Why are you doing this, Cyrus?” she pleaded. “Look at yourself; you’re becoming your brother.”
“No,” said Cyrus. “It’s different.”
“Murder is still murder, no matter what the intention,” said Sylvia bluntly.
“Listen, Sylvia, it’s not the same,” said Cyrus as if he hadn’t heard her. “They killed you, all of them. I had to do it.”
“No they didn’t,” she said.
But he wasn’t listening. “This boy,” he said, gesturing to Nolan, “Do you see him? He is the direct descendent of the creators of the staff. Don’t you see? If they hadn’t lived, you would be alive. That’s why I have to do it.”
“You don’t have to do anything,” I said indignantly, at which he gave me a look of pure loathing.
“Listen to me, Cyrus,” said Sylvia. “Please admit it: you did this. There is no fault that I could not be alive, that Malistaire is attacking the school this very minute, but yours.”
For a while, Professor Drake was silent. Then…he hung his head.
“You were selfish,” Sylvia continued, “always searching for your own gain. You were over competitive, self-serving, and always looking for the easy way out. However, my death was an accident.” She took a breath. “And I forgive you.”
“But…Sylvia…I…” Professor Drake protested. But it was too late. Before he could finish, she vanished.
All of us watched, amazed, as professor Drake sank down to his knees. A tear trickled down his cheek.
Soon I found myself into Nolan’s tight embrace, and I hugged him back. It was all I could do not to start crying myself.
But I noticed something over his shoulder. A dark shape stood at the entrance to Unicorn Way. It smiled, its mouth the only thing visible under its dark hood. Then it slunk back into the tunnel, beckoning with its hand.
The message was clear.
“Are you sure he was here?” Sadie asked, squeezing my hand.
“Pretty sure,” I said. “That was Marcus; I’d know him anywhere.”
“What if it’s a trap?” asked Savannah.
That never occurred to me. “Well, even if it is,” I said, “we have to defeat Malistaire anyway.”
“Let’s try the Arena,” Savannah suggested. Nodding, I walked over and pushed open the gate.
It was weirdly, eerily quiet in the arena. Diego was absent, probably off fighting. Noises of the battle could be heard in the distance. This had to be the only place in Wizard City in which there was no fighting, an ultimate clue. What? I must have read dozens of these kinds of stories back at home.
Quietly, I stepped over the safety ropes in front of the entrance to the dueling circle. It was empty, but I had had too much experience with seemingly empty rooms.
I felt my siblings join me on the other side (Samuel had to crawl under.), and then we cautiously stepped out into the middle of the dueling circle.
“No one here,” said Savannah uncertainly.
“I wouldn’t say that,” said a voice that I sincerely hoped to never hear again.
Marcus had appeared out of nowhere, and now he was standing right behind us.
I scowled. “You keep showing up like a bad penny.”
I never really got that phrase—I mean, what was a bad penny anyway?—but I was pretty sure that it fit the bill here.
Savannah scrutinized him. “Didn’t we kill you?” she asked.
“Can’t you just stay dead for once?” I asked. Savannah cracked a smile.
“Maybe I would’ve,” he said, “if it hadn’t been for you.”
“I think you’ve got it backwards,” I said. “Why would I ever want to bring you back from the dead?”
“You didn’t—at least, not intentionally,” he said. “Remember when you healed your younger sister? Well, when you did, there was so much extra healing magic floating around that some of it found me, and that was enough to bring me back to life. So I’ve really got to thank you.”
“Well, you’re not welcome,” I said, surprised by this news but not showing it. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a serious bone to pick with your boss.” But Marcus stayed put.
“You’re not going anywhere,” he said, an evil smile curling across his face. “You kill me, and you think I’m just going to let you go without returning the favor?”
“Get out of the way,” I said, shoving him hard in the chest. That was a mistake.
Marcus’s face clouded over. “Fine,” he said. “Since you’re obviously not satisfied, I guess I’ll have to kill your siblings too.
“But Malistaire…” I began.
“To heck with that,” Marcus interrupted. “He may be mad for a little bit, but ‘revenge’ is a word that he gets well. He’ll understand. Goodbye, Sarah.”
As he was going through his monologue, I noticed his hand creep toward his pocket and pull out a black spell card. Then he traced the death skull into the air between us.
A scarecrow appeared in a whirl of sparkles and dirt, kind of like the Field Guards in Haunted Cave. Only this one was larger, and it seemed…somehow…more menacing.
Oh yeah, one thing about Scarecrows…they’re particularly known for attacking everyone at once.
Samuel started bawling and pressed his face into my shirt, making me hate Marcus all the more. Sadie whimpered a little, and Savannah actually squeezed her hand.
Marcus was laughing, fire starting to build up in the Scarecrow’s sockets. I squeezed my eyes shut, prepared for the worst.
What it felt like was getting a shock from someone who has spent sixty seconds rubbing their feet on a wool carpet. It did not feel like getting burned by laser eyes or getting hit with 10,000 volts of electricity.
I checked my health. Minus five.
“What? NO!” screamed Marcus. “Why isn’t this working?”
He drew another card. This time a wraith rose from the ground, its scythe pointed at my heart.
So, this is just a guess, but maybe when my true healer magic brought Marcus back to life, something went haywire with his magic because, I don’t know, it “somehow sensed the darkness in his heart”? I don’t know. It’s just a guess, but I think it’s a pretty good one.
Anyhow, Marcus was getting really ticked off now. As he feverishly rummaged in his deck for another card, I turned to face my siblings, giving them a look that clearly told them that I didn’t have time for idiots like these. Then I pulled a myth card from my deck.
Marcus automatically stopped as my Cyclopes rose into the air. I was pleased to see that he was trembling.
“Oh, so you’ve met my friend here,” I said, my voice sarcastically bright and cheerful.
Marcus muttered something about it not being funny.
“You know, you’re right,” I said, “because one flick of my wand and you could become a human pancake. So I’ll say this slowly and clearly. Answer me and you need not be hurt. Where. Is. Malistaire.”
“Why, I’m right behind you, Sarah,” said a voice. Cold, cunning, and other qualities that are present in only your darkest nightmares.
In fact, I was so surprised that I accidently brought my wand swooshing down, leaving a trail of sparkles. The Cyclopes, once frozen, now sprang into action, bringing down its hammer to where Marcus had been seconds before he dove out of the way.
“ROWR!” the Cyclopes cried, shaking his hammer above his head.
Quick as lightning, Marcus was on his feet and racing for the exit. His last words were, “You’ll pay for this, Sara-a-a-ah…” then he vanished through the doorway, the Cyclopes in full pursuit.
Malistaire had an odd look on his face; it was almost like amusement.
He turned to us. “Now that we’re all here…”
“…I would just like to make sure that we can get this over with without any further interruptions. So if I may…”
He raised his staff.
A deep rumbling came from within the earth. Suddenly, the large, circular patch of ground on which we were standing rose up into the air: ten feet…twenty feet…fifty feet…
I really hoped that none of us was afraid of heights.
It was as though we were standing on a flat-topped mountain. And a really high one at that. People looked like ants below us. The temperature seemed twenty degrees colder, making me really jealous of Savannah and Sadie, the ice wizards. I touched a cloud as it floated by. Yes, I touched a cloud. Just how powerful was this guy?
“None of that dueling circle nonsense,” said Malistaire suddenly, catching Sadie trying to form one. I come all this way just to kill you and you think that I’ll just let you escape to your Commons?”
“Are you sure?” Savannah taunted. “In case you hadn’t noticed, there is only one of you and…oh, look…four of us.”
Malistaire’s black eyes glinted smugly. “It would take a thousand skilled wizards to defeat me. Would you like me to demonstrate?”
Without warning, a tornado appeared between him and us. But it wasn’t an ordinary tornado. From within, I caught glimpses of monsters I won’t even mention because I couldn’t even describe their horribleness. A thousand yellow eyes stared at me from within, and once or twice I even saw a slimy, dirty claw poking out.
All at once, the tornado disappeared, and all that was left was a trail of sludge from the particularly dirty creatures.
“Ah, yes,” said Malistaire smugly, “I see you are surprised. Yes, the combination of Death and Storm is a rather formidable one. And I imagine that old fool Ambrose doesn’t teach about combinations at that amateur school he runs.
As my blood boiled, I suddenly realized something. Malistaire hadn’t just spent those five years of evil biding his time at his castle. He’d actually been inventing spells, hoping to use them to become more powerful.
Inventing spells wasn’t really a topic I thought about much. I mean, I had all the spells I needed to learn right here. It never really occurred to me that people could actually make new ones.
This confirmed two things. One: I wouldn’t know what to expect, because his new spells could be anything in he world, basically. And two: I was prepared to bet everything I had that they were powerful ones.
Smirking, Malistaire raised his staff again, which brought me back down to earth. Let him go first? Give him the advantage? No way!
Somehow, Samuel knew what I was doing before I did it. He traced the balance symbol into the air, and a Balance blade appeared near my forehead.
Flashing him a grateful smile, I grabbed a card from my deck and cast Seraph.
All four of us started glowing, of course (nothing new there!), and I was used to golden wisps separating themselves from us to aid our spells in battle. But this time, the swirls of magic floated from both me and Samuel, a combination of my magic and his blade.
I wasn’t sure what would happen. None of us had really cast a blade on each other, preferring to do it on ourselves.
My golden sparkles drifted around the newly-formed Seraph’s arms, lengthening them and tightening the muscles. And Samuel’s…
“A light saber?” Savannah started cracking up.
I don’t know how or why—maybe he was thinking about Star Wars or something—but his magic had floated around the Seraph’s sword, turning it into a bright green light saber. The Seraph looked at it confusedly for a second and seemed to shrug.
“What the—” Malistaire stopped his spell in mid-skull. “What sort of a weapon is this?”
Before Samuel could do as much as shout, “It’s a light saber!” The Seraph, singing a high pitched note that would reduce an opera singer to tears, swung the weapon.
It probably would’ve killed Malistaire right then and there if his staff hadn’t been damage-proof.
Clang. Sparks flew as the cool metal collided with the beam of space-energy, Malistaire’s face drenched with sweat as he struggled to keep his staff up.
But I knew that spells only lasted for so long. And I was determined to have it do at least one bit of damage before it disappeared.
“Concentrate!” I called out to my siblings, who—bless them—obeyed without question.
Under our extreme concentration, the Seraph fought with more force. Malistaire was actually shaking now. But you had to hand it to him; he was holding his own.
We were on tenterhooks when the Seraph finally broke through Malistaire’s defense and swung her light saber at Malistaire’s face. But before she could actually make too much of a mark—poof—she disappeared into an explosion of sparkles. Malistaire had gotten away with no more than a burn on his cheek.
But this was only the beginning of the battle.
Before Malistaire could gain the upper hand, we went crazy putting up shields: Legend Shield from me, Volcanic Shield from Savannah and Sadie, and Spirit Shield and Elemental Shield from Samuel. Malistaire scowled at the thirty or so shields around us, apparently trying to find an opening.
I grinned triumphantly as Malistaire pondered his next move. I learned later that maybe I shouldn’t have been that confident.
Malistaire, grinning wickedly, thumped his staff twice on the ground.
The mountain we were on started shaking violently, threatening to hurl us off.
No! I thought. Even though we were nowhere near the edge, I had this horrible feeling. I don’t know how to explain it, but I somehow knew that even if we were to fall down, something really bad would happen.
I saw Savannah and could tell that she had the same realization that I did. “Stay up!” she screamed.
Too late. With a final thrust from the mountain, all four of us were on the ground. What’s more, a small crack had appeared on the cliff.
I stared in dismay as the shields around us started disappearing one by one until we were left completely unguarded.
And what’s more, I realized, they were all around Malistaire.
I’d never seen a spell like this before, except Earthquake, and that was a myth spell. Plus, Earthquake only took shields and buffs away from opponents. I realized with horror that Malistaire had somehow twisted the spell around and greatly enhanced it in the process.
“Now do you see,” he said softly, “just how powerful I am? That you don’t stand a chance against me? But I am merciful, if anything. I will give you time to get up and regroup.”
I looked at the sly smile playing on his lips. Was it a trick?
But then, I realized, this might be the only time we had to plan something without him finding out what we were up to. They all looked at me, and I nodded.
“Okay guys,” I said, watching Malistaire out of the corner of my eye. He was standing stock-still, stroking the dragon head on his staff. “We know what to do in situations like these, right?” They nodded, reaching into their decks for all their low-damage cards.
All together, we came up with two Imps, a Bloodbat, a Thunder Snake, and a few of those wispy spells that come in wands. The rest we had tossed earlier on, no room in our decks for them with all those high-level spells.
They didn’t come close to the amount of shields Malistaire had taken from us.
“Now what?” asked Sadie.
The answer was as simple as it was obvious. “Get out your treasure cards.”
Their faces fell; we were pretty big on hoarding treasure cards.
“Well…” said Savannah, “we were sorta saving them…”
“For what?” I demanded, although I knew how they felt. “What situation out there in the world could be more desperate than this?”
Samuel only had Tough; he pretty much wasted his treasure cards for useless reasons. But with the rest of our low treasure cards, I figured we had enough to break the shields around him.
“As soon as you see an opening for a school that’s yours, go for it,” Savannah encouraged.
“Let’s do it,” I agreed.
We went back to our places. Malistaire was still standing there, smiling in a way that was hard to read. What was he planning?
We started hurling at him one spell after another. Of course, these were magically modified shields, because of the prophecy. So we were barely leaving a dent in him.
But as soon as the last fire shield had disintegrated from my Fire Cat treasure card, Savannah went right for the kill and cast sunbird.
Even as the bird squawked and flapped and breathed fire all around him, Malistaire stood straight up and continued rubbing the tiny dragon on his staff.
And since there were no Balance shields, Samuel had cast sandstorm right away. But there he stood, oblivious to the danger around him.
What was going on? What was keeping him from attacking us? And why..?
“Guys!” I shouted. “Stop! STOP!”
But before they could, the mountain shook again. More cracks appeared on the surface.
And this time, it was because of the huge dragon curled around it, similar to the way that the miniature dragon was curled around Malistaire’s glass ball.
The dragon raised its gigantic head, its yellow eyes blinking rapidly. And that’s when I knew that it was going for me. It was the obvious choice, me being the true healer; healing the rest in the blink of an eye, but not being able to heal myself.
It bared its teeth. At that moment I heard a small, frightened whinny, like that of a miniature unicorn.
Oh-no. I whirled around.
Elvis! What was he doing here? And HOW did he get all the way up here?
“Go!” I warned, not caring at the moment. “Shoo! Get out of here!”
But he didn’t listen. Instead he started whinnying frantically, pawing at the ground, and turning his face upward toward the sky.
“Go!” I said again. But I didn’t get the chance to finish. The dragon roared from behind me.
And suddenly, I was on fire.
“AAAAAAHHH!” I screamed right then and there like a little girl.
And who wouldn’t? I was on fire. It was super freaking hot. And it hurt like…uh…never mind…
Just one question. Why wasn’t I dead?
I looked around. In front of me was the dragon, still breathing fire and letting out constant roars of frustration because I wasn’t dead. Behind me were my siblings, their mouths open in horror.
Above me was a rainbow, its end directly above the mass of flames that surrounded my body.
Just then the sky split open like a stage curtain. And a dazzling, larger-than-life unicorn popped out.
In an instant, I knew that she wasn’t like normal unicorns. Besides the obvious factor of her size, a thing I noticed was that she glittered. She was like a prism: wherever the sunlight caught her fur threw off dozens of tiny rainbows.
There was also this…how do I describe it…aura…surrounding her that made her different from regular unicorns. She radiated power and grace and gentleness that surpassed that of the unicorns in the spell, for instance
Malistaire looked up, and I saw something that looked astonishingly like fear in his eyes.
“Impossible…” he murmured.
The unicorn gave a low whinny. The fire around me started to disappear. But this was only the beginning; I had a feeling.
The whole of Wizard City, or at least as much of it as I could see, was bathed in a beautiful, rainbow-colored glow. Even the four of us.
“She’s healing us,” I said. And there wasn’t any question to it.
Sarah, came Savannah’s voice in my head, even I know that it’s impossible for a unicorn to heal that many people at one time…
But that was exactly what she was doing, I realized. Even now our strength was returning. Ever single cut on our body had disappeared. Even the hangnail I got yesterday during a Life class.
I turned toward the unicorn in awe. “Who are you?” I whispered.
But it was too late. She had vanished.
My siblings were turned to me, as if looking for some explanation. But I had none. I was just as clueless as anyone.
But apparently Malistaire knew what this was all about. Is face was turned toward the sky, his expression a mixture of fear and anger and…jealousy? I couldn’t tell.
But this was my chance, I realized. Malistaire wasn’t even paying attention to us. If I was going to do something, I’d better do it now.
As it turned out, I didn’t get the chance.
Just then, a roar sounded from behind us. The dragon was still there.
I felt a little heat on my back, and then the short stretch of rock we were on was surrounded by fire. Everything: Malistaire, us, the Minotaur, was encircled in a ring of fire.
“Surely you didn’t think it would be this easy!” Malistaire cackled, suddenly coming back to life. “The fire will not harm me. But with your unicorn friend gone, I’m afraid it’s time for you to die!
“But you need not be harmed!” Malistaire continued. “Join me, and together we will put an end to that pathetic Ambrose and Ravenwood School! Not only will you be spared, you will also have power by the likes of which you have never known!”
“NEVER!” I screamed over the flames.
“Then die!” He screamed, and I was immediately reminded of his twin brother, laughing like a mad person as he was about to kill Nolan.
Samuel pressed his face into my robe. Sadie did the same with Savannah. Both Savannah and I held hands and stared Malistaire down full in the face.
Okay, I’ve probably said “And then something amazing happened,” a couple hundred times in the course of my story. But I promise you that this thing that happened right then was the most amazing thing to happen to us so far, especially to us, who were living and breathing the moment at that instant.
The fire didn’t harm us one bit.
And no, the unicorn wasn’t back, if that’s what you all were wondering.
Instead, as we all huddled together, the glow intensified, forming some sort of shield. And from in that position we heard Malistaire’s scream of rage, the roar of the flames as well as the dragon.
In that instant, I realized why we were chosen to be a part of the Prophecy of Light in the first place. I don’t know how or why; I just knew.
All that we stood for, all that we believed in, was opposite from Malistaire. And it wasn’t just that, but how far we would go to achieve that. I thought back to when I had begged Mortis to teach me Taunt or Distract even though I had no training points, to how we had all raced to Dragonspyre without a second thought just to come to Samuel’s aid, to when Savannah had dove in front of Sadie as Malistaire was performing a curse. And then I knew that one of us, even Samuel, would ultimately jump off a cliff if it meant saving one of our lives.
Malistaire, I knew, was different. He hadn’t even made an attempt to save Marcus as my Cyclopes chased him away. When things got tough, his first solution to be to grab one of his own comrades and shove him in front of him.
This, I knew, was his weakness. And our strength.
At this point, there came a loud grumbling noise that seemed to come deep within the cliff. I looked around and saw hundreds of cracks appear in the solid rock.
Oh-no! I thought. The mountain couldn’t withstand us, the dragon, and the fire all at once. We were going to fall!
A few rock shards gave away from near the bottom. And I knew this was the end.
I don’t know if you’ve ever fallen 50 stories before. But seriously, don’t. Even if there happens to be a small section of rock protecting you from really reaching the bottom.
My stomach gave an unpleasant, frightening lurch as the ground at the bottom of the mountain gave away.
We fell like boulders, on boulders, and with boulders surrounding us. Savannah and I forced the younger ones onto the ground, and I had to pull Samuel down from the air to keep him from going too high up. We were all screaming as if we were on a rollercoaster, and I assure you that after this experience, I would never go on another rollercoaster again.
I was close enough to the edge to peer over, and I saw some rocks that were falling from below us hit the ground and explode into a million pieces.
Exactly how we would end up.
I closed my eyes. The impact would come in about three seconds…two…one…
There was a huge bump, and we all went flying up in a cloud of dust.
When I opened my eyes, I found myself staring at a mix of brown dirt and rock.
I pushed myself up, spitting grit out of my mouth. My stomach was a little sore, but, miraculously, I had come out of the fall relatively unharmed.
The dust cloud was still settling. My eyes burned, and I could barely see anything besides what appeared to be light brown fog.
I looked down and saw the still figures of Savannah, Sadie, and Samuel. Unmoving, but still alive.
I automatically knelt down and held out my hand. Then I felt a familiar warmth in my palm, and a gold glow surrounded my siblings.
A light, cool breeze blew across the arena, shifting the dust that had settled as the mountain crumbled. I coughed as it blew into my face. Savannah stirred from beneath me.
When I felt the wind still, I looked up, and I would never forget the haunting image that awaited me.
The dragon was gone.
Elvis was gone.
And Malistaire was gone.
All that was left, in the middle of the dueling circle, was Malistaire’s staff, still intact.
I also noticed that the dragon at the tip had, too, vanished.
Savannah slowly sat up, but I had already left her. I was walking towards the center of the circle, toward the infamous staff. I bent down and picked it up.
The most horrible of feelings washed over me, leaving me nauseated. I felt a sense of a great yet terrible power within, which, to me, a life wizard, was the most revolting power imaginable. I was tempted to drop it—no—I was tempted to hurl it towards the ground, smiling triumphantly as I watched it shatter into a million pieces.
“Do you think he got away?” asked Savannah, who, up to now, I had not noticed standing beside me.
I shook my head. “He wouldn’t leave his staff. And no one could survive a fall like that.”
“We did,” Savannah pointed out. “And besides, no one can just disappear when they die. Where would his body be?”
“I don’t know,” I said. The staff I was holding suddenly started to feel less solid. “I don’t know.”
Both Savannah and I watched, transfixed, as the staff turned to ashes in my hands, running through my fingers and scattering on the ground.
Without Malistaire, the tides were turned for the battle. Even with the Black Hand fighting their hardest, the wizards, students, and guards eventually crushed Malistaire’s minions, restoring Ravenwood to a state of peace—and ruin. But peace nonetheless.
In the years to come, I would continue to wonder what really had become of Malistaire. Did he somehow get away? Did he die? Did his body turn to ashes, just like his staff?
Either way, we never heard from Malistaire again. And as time wore on, I began to come to the conclusion that if he hadn’t died there in the arena, he surely would have sometime after then.
But that would be a time many, many years later from now. Now I didn’t have time for wondering about things like that, having many other things to do before the battle was truly over. Like gathering up all my siblings and giving them each a well-deserved hug. Like going to Ambrose with news that Malistaire was at last dead. Like helping my siblings trying to find Elvis, even though we couldn’t find him anywhere. Like scouting the area, looking for any friends that survived, and healing those that were near death.
But when I found out that none of my close friends had perished, I realized that I didn’t really want time for most anything. The war being over, I found that I really wanted nothing more than a good long rest. To soak in the fact that there was no one chasing us, hunting us down, or wanting to kill us. There would be time after that, years, in fact. But I didn’t feel like doing anything much for a long time. For now, I was content to rest between the shoulders of Catherine and Nolan, softly relaying everything that had happened to us since the battle started this morning. They were a very good audience: they gasped in all the right places and were otherwise silent for most of the time…until I reached the part about the unicorn.
“Wait…you said there was a unicorn that came out of the sky?” Catherine asked, astonished. I nodded.
“I did feel that I was being healed somehow,” said Nolan, “but I never imagined…”
“Okay, so what do you know about this that I don’t?” I asked.
“Wha-a-a-t?” Catherine gasped. “You mean you don’t know?”
“Sarah,” said Nolan, “I’m death, and even I know what this is all about…”
“Oh for Pete’s sake just tell me before I explode!” I yelled.
“Okay,” said Catherine dramatically. “She is the reason that the symbol of the Life school is a unicorn.”
“Uh…thanks? No really, I don’t get it.”
“There’s a story about it,” Nolan said quietly. “During the war between the dragons and the titans and the giants, the first life, myth, and death magic was created. After the war, the unicorn that arose along with the first life magic went around to everyone who had been injured or hurt and healed them, healed them all. Ever since then, unicorns have been considered sacred, especially the one that actually did the healing. And it’s rumored that because of her good deeds, the unicorn was given special powers, along with immortality. And almost no one has seen her since. There’s also a myth that she’ll appear to whoever’s ‘worthy enough.’”
“But she healed all of us.”
“Yeah,” said Catherine, “But she came up to you!”
“I don’t know why though,” I said. “I think Elvis might have something to do with it, but I don’t…”
I stopped. I was sure we’d get to this mystery later, and they seemed to understand along with me to give it time.
I pulled out my copy of The Tale of Sierra Winterbreeze and turned the page to the beginning of the last chapter, where I had bookmarked it. Almost done. Just as this chapter of my own life was also coming to a close. True, Sierra’s story was ultimately fantastic, whereas the life I had lived for the past couple of months was nothing short of a nightmare. But there was a strange bittersweet feeling inside me for both events. And I knew some part of me would miss the adventure.
Catherine, Nolan, and I looked at each other and smiled. Who knew? Perhaps there would be even more adventures to come. More blank pages to fill in; a new heading, the start of a new chapter.
“Call it off!”
Out of nowhere, Marcus Deathspear came into view, still being fully pursued by the Cyclopes. He gave me a frantic, pleading glance, and that was his downfall. He wasn’t looking where he was going, which is a must, particularly if you are approaching a giant pit that the Death School fell into.
And that was the end of him.
The Cyclopes hesitated for a moment at the edge of the pit. Then it dove right in after him.
“Don’t worry about it,” Nolan murmured into my ear. “He was a bit of an idiot anyway.
I smiled at him. “I know.”
Together, we watched the sun make its descent over the horizon.
“Well, there is something,” I said, a little apologetically. “When Malistaire was chasing us through the Spiral Door, right before we escaped from his castle, he said something about Professor Drake. He said that he, well, killed his wife,” I said in a very small voice.
Ambrose looked at me gravely.
I covered my mouth with my hands. “Oh my gosh,” I said. “So it is true!”
“As much as I would hate to say so, yes,” said Ambrose.
Dozens of questions were flooding through my mind at once, but the one that came out first was, “Why?”
“Why what?” asked Ambrose.
What I really longed to ask was, “Why are you still letting him teach here?” But I didn’t think that would be polite. So instead I asked, “Why did he do it?”
So Ambrose told the story…
Of Dragons and Drakes
A prelude to The Tale of Sarah Spiritheart
A wraith rose from the ground, spinning its scythe like a baton. Blades broke around Cyrus’s head, and shields broke around his brother’s midriff.
How many? Oh, about seven.
Malistaire scowled. “I promise you, Cyrus, this is the last time you will ever beat…AAAAAAAAAAAAAA—”
Several students watching winced.
The death teacher, Professor Drywrath, made a bored scribble on his clipboard. “Cyrus beats Malistaire again…”
But he couldn’t hide the smug little smirk on his face. Everyone knew that Cyrus was his favorite student. And he absolutely hated Malistaire, ever since the first day at school when Malistaire somehow found out that Professor Drywrath’s first name was actually Milford.
As Professor Drywrath wrote some more, Malistaire stopped yelling in anguish, got up from the ground with something of a swagger, and put on a brave sort of grimace. But Cyrus knew why he went to that trouble: because Malistaire knew that it practically made girls faint when he simultaneously looked at them and swept his bangs out of his eyes.
“Homework,” droned Professor Drywrath, causing several girls to come back down to earth. “I want a twelve-page essay on wraiths and the proper way to summon them.” He glared at Bryan Soulward, who had somehow caused his wraith to turn up, not in front of him, but in the middle of the life school earlier today. The life students had been in hysterics (Some death wizards had been rolling on the floor laughing at this.) until Sylvia Liferiver had stopped it with a well-cast centaur spell card.
“When are we supposed to hand it in?” asked Cyrus.
“Tomorrow morning, no later than nine o’ clock,” said Professor Drywrath. Several students groaned, Malistaire included.
“I heard that, Drake.” Malistaire always seemed to be the only one he ever heard. “Detention. Saturday night; eight o’ clock sharp. If you’re not there, you will be very sorry. Are we clear?”
“Fine,” said Malistaire, forever unruffled. First making sure that Professor Drywrath wasn’t looking, he rolled his eyes.
The medieval-looking clock on the wall struck three. There was a sudden rush as everyone raced to collect their book bags.
“Remember,” shouted the Professor over the commotion, “graduation is in only one week. You are expected to wear your best dress robes. Attendance is mandatory…that is…for anyone who wants to graduate.” He smirked slightly at Malistaire. “Cyrus, have you been practicing your valedictorian speech?”
“Yes, sir,” said Cyrus.
Malistaire, from behind him, whispered something to his friend, and they both laughed. But Cyrus had learned long ago not to be offended by this. He knew Malistaire sometimes even better than Malistaire knew himself, and this meant that he was only jealous.
As the students hurried out the door, Cyrus approached Malistaire and tapped him on the shoulder.
“How about heading to the library?”
“Thanks, but no,” said Malistaire. I just whispered to Sylvia, and she said that she’d meet me in the arena.”
There was a pause in which the last remaining necromancer girls promptly marched out of the class, looking scandalized.
“Um, Malistaire?” asked Cyrus, “We kind of have a twelve page essay…”
The two brothers looked at each other for a moment. Then they burst out laughing.
“Yeah, sure, Cyrus,” chuckled Malistaire. “See you later.”
“Bye,” said Cyrus, heading down the all-too-familiar path to the library.
Harold Argleston, was, of course, well used to seeing Cyrus walk through those front doors.
“Can I help you, Mister Drake?” he asked politely. A few small apprentices stared, having never seen him act this kindly to a student before.
“Yes, Sir,” said Cyrus as the students turned away. He could practically read their thoughts: Just another teacher’s pet…
“Another paper, I presume?” Professor Argleston asked.
“Unfortunately, yes,” said Cyrus, causing the Scottie to smile wryly up at him. “Do you have any books on wraiths?”
“Hmm…let me see what I have…” muttered Professor Argleston. Simultaneously, three incredibly heavy, ancient-looking books drifted off the shelf into Cyrus’s arms. He staggered slightly from the weight. “Does that help?”
“Plenty,” said Cyrus. “Thanks a million.”
“Oh, don’t mention it,” said Professor Argleston, his eyes twinkling. “And Mister Skythief,” he suddenly snapped at a mischievous-looking conjurer with white-blonde hair, “if I ever see you do that to a book again, I will put you in an eight-hour detention doing nothing but flattening out dog-eared pages. Got it?”
Chuckling softly to himself, Cyrus seated himself at the first available table, gently placing the books down so Professor Argleston wouldn’t yell at him.
Ignoring the librarian’s mutterings of, “And why do they even call them ‘dog-eared pages’ anyway..?” Cyrus picked up the first book, entitled, Wraiths: The Complete Guide.
After a few minutes of reading, Cyrus opened his notebook to the next blank page and took his sunbird feather quill out of his bag. He stared at it for a little while, appreciating the beauty of its magnificent red-orange hue. It had been a gift from Sylvia.
Out of all of his brother’s past girlfriends, Sylvia Liferiver was his favorite. It didn’t even matter that she was from the life school. She was a sweet girl; always kind to others. She was also very intelligent and gave great advice whenever anyone needed it. She was friends with practically everyone in Ravenwood, and to her, it didn’t matter what school you were from, how old you were, or what you looked like. She would always show kindness and compassion to everyone. At times, Cyrus and Malistaire didn’t quite understand her, but it was impossible to not like Sylvia, and now Malistaire was head over heels in love.
Momentarily forgetting what he was supposed to be writing down, Cyrus checked back in the enormous volume.
Cyrus continued this for most of the afternoon. Before long, he had successfully skimmed through the first two books that Professor Argleston had given him and had written down anything that would help him on the essay. Finally, he picked up the last volume, titled The History of Necromancy.
Few students were in the library now. Cyrus glanced outside and saw that it was dark out. But this didn’t bother him in the slightest. Late-night study sessions were his favorite pastime. Smiling slightly, he looked back at the book.
And he nearly dropped it
He just stared at it. He stared and stared until he thought his eyes would fall out.
When professor Argleston had first handed him the book, it had looked just like an ordinary book straight out of the nonfiction section. And if someone else had even looked at its cover, it probably still would’ve looked like an ordinary book to them.
But not to Cyrus. Where someone else would’ve seen just a faded picture, he saw confusion, memories, and untold mysteries.
The picture on the book was that of a staff. It had a dark, wooden rod with a shiny glass ball forever balanced on the top. A dragon curled around the ball as if it was asleep. The picture was a little sketchy and faded, as if someone had simply drawn it on the leather over a thousand years ago.
Maybe it was an ordinary picture. But what had shaken Cyrus most was that he had seen it before.
In a dream.
In several occurring dreams, actually. Each one the night after the next.
He had never seen the staff before the dreams took place.
Then the picture began to move. Cyrus watched, transfixed, as the dragon that was curled around the glass ball very subtly opened its stone eyes. It blinked at him, and then it opened its mouth in a huge yawn.
Then the book cover started to glitter, as if a pixie had sprinkled magic dust all over it. And as if that weren’t enough, then came the whispers, as if reoccurring from his dreams.
Words like these floated around in his brain until slowly, but surely, they faded away into silence.
Cyrus stared at the book for a long time. He was subconsciously aware that none of the few remaining students had noticed a thing—perhaps he was seeing things?—but that wasn’t his main focus right now.
“What does this mean?” he whispered, causing a few late-night studiers to look his way.
What’s happening to me?
Sylvia Liferiver was copying notes from the chalkboard when she first heard the scream.
It came from the back of the classroom; she whirled around to see what was wrong.
Samantha Hawkthorn, one of her fellow Master Theurgists, was standing on top of her desk screaming. Beside her, rising spontaneously from the ground, was a wraith.
“Ugh! Not again, Bryan!” she moaned to herself.
By now, the whole class had seen it too, and nearly all of them were either yelling, getting as far to the front of the classroom as possible, or mimicking Samantha and climbing on top of their desks.
“Class!” Lorraine Serevina was normally very quiet, but somehow she could make herself heard even above the din. “Everyone be calm! We know how to deal with creatures like these. Don’t we, Sylvia?”
Professor Serevina gave Sylvia a knowing smile, and Sylvia hesitantly nodded.
“Then go for it.”
Sylvia took a tentative step toward the wraith, which was now using its scythe to split one of the desks into splinters.
Some necromancers had appeared at the windows to watch, and a few of them were laughing. The life wizards scowled at them.
Sylvia raised her staff and traced a leaf pattern into the air. A life blade started circling around her head. The wraith ignored her, now shooting magical energy at the book pedestal in the corner. It burst into flames.
Then her friend, Luke Summerstone, stepped up beside her and cast life trap, which he had learned earlier from Mildred Farseer in Colossus Boulevard.
Then Sylvia pulled a Centaur card out of her pouch. The wraith still hadn’t noticed. She waved her staff a second time. And that’s when it saw her. Giving an angry hiss, it lunged at her, scythe ready.
With a shriek of terror, Sylvia activated the life symbol.
A centaur appeared out of nowhere. It gave a war cry and loaded its bow with a fresh arrow. The wraith swung its weapon, which Sylvia just barely dodged.
Just then, an arrow came flying at top speed and buried itself into the wraith’s cloak. It vanished with a horrible wail.
The centaur gave Sylvia a deep bow. Then it faded into nothing.
Around the perimeter of the life school, the necromancers groaned and walked back to class. But Malistaire and his twin brother Cyrus both gave her a thumbs-up before they walked away.
Professor Serevina had already started repairing the classroom, the students helping her, walking back to their seats, or else patting Sylvia on the back.
Luke was just now getting up from the ground. Sylvia realized with horror that the wraith must have knocked him over.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
Luke nodded. “Just a cut, but I’m all right.”
Sylvia traced the red line running across his cheek with her finger. “Just a cut? Luke, this looks really bad.”
“May I?” asked Professor Serevina, striding across the room and taking a look at Luke’s face. Then she looked at Luke, puzzled. “Did you say there was a cut here?”
“I—wha—?” Luke then ran his own finger across his face in wonderment.
The cut, somehow, had disappeared.
“Hmm…” Was it just Sylvia’s imagination, or did Professor Serevina give her an odd look, maybe just for a fraction of a second? But when she looked at her again, her expression was back to normal.
“Now,” said Professor Serevina, brushing her short, dark brown hair away from her face, “everyone back to their desks. Quickly, please. Alright, you can finish copying from the board now, and when all of you are done, we can move on. Sound okay?” She smiled, and the entire class nodded and got to work.
When everyone had set their quills down, Professor Serevina smoothed out her floral-patterned skirt, sat down at her desk, and said, “I thought we might have a little review, with graduation coming up. Nothing to worry about, just to help me see where you all are at this stage of schooling. So take out your wands, please.”
Sylvia picked up her wand, which she had gotten on a vacation to Mooshu just a few days ago.
“Now everyone get into groups of four.” There was a flurry of movement as everyone rushed over to be with their friends. “We will be doing two on two duels today, so you can practice healing your partner as well as yourself. I will be coming around occasionally to check your progress. Just let me clear a space…” She rolled back her sleeves and waved her hands in the air, and all the desks and the other furniture disappeared, leaving plenty of room. “…and you can get started.”
Sylvia and Luke set up a dueling circle in one of the corners, and two of their other friends stepped into the spaces on the other side.
“Ready?” asked Jeffery Greenchant, while Bailey Owlstrider hopped into the space beside him. “Because we’re definitely going to win this time.”
“Not necessarily,” said Sylvia, grinning.
“Yeah, want to bet?” said Luke in an undertone, because Professor Serevina was near.
“I’m out,” said Sylvia automatically.
“Me too,” said Bailey.
“Chickens,” Luke scoffed, although he looked amused. “Alright, Jeff, let’s say…three hundred coins?”
“Let’s make it nine hundred.”
“Okay, you’re on.”
Several shields, traps, blades, and power pips later, Professor Serevina finally came over to their circle as a centaur cast by Bailey rose up from the ground.
“Hold on,” she said, stepping right in its path. The centaur froze in mid-gallop, looking at her as if saying, Now what?
“Crooked arrow,” she said matter-of-factly, straightening it with a single touch. “You have been practicing, right Bailey?”
Another nice thing about Professor Serevina was that she was the only teacher at Ravenwood who called students by their first name. The rest of them preferred to address them by the person’s last name, preceded by “Mister,” “Miss,” or else nothing at all.
“I tried,” confessed Bailey, looking sheepish.
Professor Serevina gave Bailey a wry smile.
“Oh, and boys, we aren’t gambling, I hope?” she added.
Jeffery and Luke said, “No, ma’am,” at the same time.”
Professor Serevina gave a small sigh and exchanged an amused look with Sylvia, indicating that she didn’t believe them one bit. Then she stepped out of the circle and said to the centaur, “Go ahead.”
Sylvia could’ve sworn that she heard the centaur give a sigh of exasperation before he shot the arrow, which hit Luke right between the eyes.
Ouch, Sylvia winced, as Luke’s health was deducted by approximately 1,800 from all the extra shields and blades. That had to hurt.
Luke looked at her. “Dryad?”
“You know it,” said Sylvia, drawing a Dryad card from her deck.
Sylvia groaned. Mal, I’m kind of in the middle of something…
He ignored her, of course. Do you want to meet up somewhere after class?
Don’t you have homework? Sylvia questioned. Professor Drywrath normally gives a lot…
She knew he was lying. But what could she do about it? Sighing, she asked, Okay, say I believe you. Where?
Malistaire chuckled. How about the arena?
Sylvia rolled her eyes, although, of course, he couldn’t see it. Okay.
Both Jeffery and Bailey had passed, and now it was Luke’s turn. He waved his wand in the familiar pattern and cast the spell sanctuary, which would add fifty percent to all healing spells.
“Ready?” Luke asked. Sylvia nodded.
It happened just as she was about to cast the spell. It started out as a sort of tingling feeling in her feet, but soon her whole body began to vibrate with magical energy.
Whoa! What was this? Even now, a golden haze had begun to obscure her vision, and she had not just begun to vibrate, but shake uncontrollably.
Luke had noticed. “Um, Sylvia, what’s going on?”
Just then, the clock on the wall struck three. The dueling circles disappeared, as did all the effects from the spells.
“Ugh!” groaned Jeffery. “I didn’t even get to cast Earthwalker yet!”
“The bet’s still on,” reminded Luke.
“Oh yeah,” said Jeffery. “Race you to the arena?”
“Hang on,” said Luke. “I’ll meet you there.
Then he said to Sylvia, “Uh, you didn’t cast Dryad at all, did you?”
Sylvia frowned. “No.”
“Okay, then, never mind,” said Luke hastily. But Sylvia hadn’t missed it: Luke was back up to full health.
Confused and somewhat self-conscious, Sylvia left the room, aware of Lorraine Serevina’s eyes on her back the whole way out.
Malistaire was already in a duel when Sylvia arrived at the arena. He was with one of his fellow necromancers, Jason Darktalon. Directly beside them, also engaged in a duel, were Jeffery and Luke.
“Hey, Malistaire!” Sylvia called to him, waving. He waved back.
I’ll be right up, he said in her head.
Jason waved up at her also, his amulet gleaming in the afternoon sun.
There was an interesting story behind that amulet, or so he told everyone. He had received it from his father for his eighteenth birthday last week. It had come with a note written by his father:
I was told that this belonged to one of our most powerful ancestors. I don’t know who, exactly, but this amulet has great, untapped power. If you can figure out how, use it wisely.
Ever since then, Jason had been obsessed with his parentage. Almost every day, he could be seen in the library looking up records of students or family lines. This was hard work, as everyone in Wizard City had a different last name, but he was persistent and stuck to it, even though he was nowhere near close enough to figuring it out.
“Yes! I won!” Sylvia heard Luke say from a distance. “Hand over the nine hundred coins!”
“But I don’t have nine hundred coins…”
On the other side of the arena, Jason and Malistaire were finishing up their duel too.
“But you don’t even know Stormzilla!”
“It was a treasure card,” said Malistaire smugly, brushing sparks off of his sleeves.
“Oh well,” Jason said indifferently. “The match was rigged anyway. You got to go first, and all my spells fizzled.”
“Wait, are you saying I cheated?”
But before Jason could make a retort, they were teleported out of the arena next to her in the entrance area.
“Lo siento…sorry, young wizards,” said Ricardo the duel master. “But you need to give someone else a try, no?”
“Sorry, Ricardo,” said Jason. “How’s it going, Sylvia?”
“Fine,” she said. “How about you? Did you trace back your amulet yet?”
“Not yet,” said Jason. “But I’m getting there. I just need to go a little farther back; that’s all.”
“Can I see it?” asked Sylvia.
“Sure,” said Jason, tugging it off of his neck and holding it out to her. “See the markings around the edges? They haven’t been used for about two thousand years.”
“Really?” asked Sylvia.
“Yeah,” said Jason. “It’s really that old. But I’ve only gone back a hundred years into my family, and it gets harder the farther you go back…”
“Let us know when you find out, okay?” interrupted Malistaire, grinning. Although Sylvia knew that he really thought that Jason was wasting his time.
“All right. See ya…you two.” Jason winked, and both Malistaire and Sylvia rolled their eyes.
“Yeah, sure,” said Malistaire. “Come on, Sylvia.
Something was bothering Malistaire today, Sylvia noticed as they walked through Unicorn Park. He was staring at his feet while they walked, and his face was deep in thought.
Sylvia was often told that she really knew people and understood what was going on inside them. At times like these, it was a gift she prided.
“Something the matter?”
Sylvia studied his face again. She knew that look.
“Is it Cyrus?”
“Well…yeah,” Malistaire admitted.
They entered the gazebo, one of their favorite hangouts. Immediately, Malistaire sprawled out on one of the benches, and Sylvia sat beside him
“So what’s the matter?” Sylvia couldn’t help but feel the least bit touched that Malistaire was going into “concerned brother mode” rather than the sarcastic, indifferent mask he hid behind during day-to-day life. It sort of made her proud that she was one of the few people who actually got to see this side of him.
“Do you remember what I told you earlier?” he asked through gritted teeth.
Sylvia nodded. “Is he still having those funny dreams?”
“Shh!” Malistaire said suddenly, looking around in alarm. “Not so loud. I don’t want people to think we’re delusional freaks or anything.”
Sylvia nodded in agreement. “So what’s going on? Are they getting worse?”
“I can’t be sure,” said Malistaire. “He won’t tell me anything. But I can sort of tell. He’s muttering in his sleep now; I can hear him.”
“What’s he saying?”
“I don’t know: mostly it’s just gibberish. Sometimes he screams though. I was…uh…spying on him one night. All that time he was mumbling something I couldn’t understand, and his eyes were wide open. It was scary.”
He took a breath. “I don’t know what’s going on, Sylvia. What’s happening to him? I’m scared for him…for both of us, really. I mean…we’re twins. What if it starts happening to me too?”
“Have you told anyone about this?” Sylvia asked.
“Put it this way,” Malistaire mumbled. “There are some things that you just can’t tell anyone.”
And Sylvia immediately understood.
She looked into his eyes and saw, probably for the first time in them, true fear. But he must’ve realized this, and he turned his back to her.
Still, she wasn’t complaining. After all, he had told her one of his most important secrets. Something he probably wouldn’t have told to anyone else.
She felt…touched. And surprised. And maybe a little guilty.
Because she had a secret of her own too.
When she was sure he wasn’t looking, she took a tentative glance toward her palm. Yep, it was still there. She traced the curved, silver line with her finger. It was short now, but it was getting longer and more defined every day, as though someone was drawing an invisible picture on her palm.
Malistaire looked her way, and she hastily hid her hand behind her back. Boyfriend or not, there was simply no way she could tell him that new grass sprang up from her feet wherever she walked, or that she and whoever she was with healed instantly after a duel. There was no way she could admit to him that at the moment, she was as confused and as scared as Cyrus Drake must be feeling right now.
Like he said: there were some things you had to hide.
Black, pitch black.
That was all Cyrus saw. He looked around. Then down. Then towards the absent sky. He couldn’t see anything. Not even his own body.
But he could hear.
There they were again: the whispers. Like always, he couldn’t tell whether they were male or female, adult or child, friend or enemy.
He knew one thing though. He wanted them out.
He tried to shout, “Leave me alone!” But somehow his vocal cords wouldn’t work. So he attempted to make a break for it. He couldn’t.
This complete muscle malfunction was definitely starting to get on his nerves.
“The hour is near…”
These words were not disembodied, like he had been hearing before. Instead, they had come out of the mouth of a dragon—a beautiful minuscule dragon with golden scales.
The dragon sailed overhead for a moment or two. Then it drifted downward and coiled around a glass ball.
A red glass ball that was attached to a staff.
Cyrus abruptly sat up in bed, panting and clutching his chest. It happened again: the nightmares.
Well…they weren’t exactly nightmares, he thought. They weren’t at all that scary. But he hated having them nonetheless.
For all his life, Cyrus had been in control, no questions asked. He felt like he had the answers to everything in the world. If he didn’t know about something, he would learn it in a millisecond. But when these dreams first started happening was just about the first time he started getting seriously confused. He didn’t have a clue what they meant, and he hated it. He’d stay up late into the night wondering, “What could this mean? What’s happening?”
For the first time in eighteen long years, his life was spinning out of control.
In frustration, Cyrus punched his pillow. How long exactly was this supposed to go on for? All this pretending to other people, appearing to have it all together, while really holding something like a tornado wreck inside.
As he lay back on his pillow, he happened to notice the door. Hadn’t he shut it before? He was sure he had.
Never mind, he thought sleepily, turning over on his back. He would deal with it in the morning.
It was nearly an hour before Cyrus finally dozed off.
An hour before the dreams began again.
The entire class cheered as the clock on the wall struck three for the last time—for them, that is.
Cyrus couldn’t believe it. School was finally over. He picked up his bag of supplies, which some people were dumping into the nearest trash can, and slung it over his shoulder. He couldn’t resist letting out a hearty cheer with the rest.
Although he was going to miss it here, he mused.
He turned his head and saw Professor Drywrath sitting there, not even attempting to hide his triumphant grin.
“Graduation tonight!” he hollered, and Cyrus chuckled, imagining the look on his face if Malistaire failed and he would have him again for another year.
Still, he felt he owed Professor Drywrath a goodbye. So he walked over to his desk and held out a hand.
“It’s been a good year Professor,” he said formally. Professor Drywrath looked up.
“Ah, Cyrus,” he said. “Just the man I wanted to see.”
Ignoring Cyrus’s hand, he walked around and put a hand on his shoulder.
“You’ve been a fine student this year, Cyrus,” he said conversationally. “Very fine indeed.”
“I…thank you very much, Professor.”
“Indeed,” he continued. “Have you considered a career choice yet? Once you’re old enough to apply, of course.”
“No,” Cyrus said. “I can’t say that I have.”
“Well, if you keep up your studies of necromancy and maybe wait a few years or so, I think you’ll become a fine death teacher, wouldn’t you agree?”
Cyrus was speechless. “Me?”
“Of course,” said Professor Drywrath, smiling…almost warmly. “Just keep up the good work; I’ll have you at the top of my list.”
He finally reached for Cyrus’s hand and shook it. But Cyrus was still sort of in shock.
Him…a death teacher. The idea was marvelous, but somehow unbelievable. The reason he had never considered it until now was that all the teachers had seemed like geniuses. He had unconsciously told himself that he would never be able to join their ranks.
Or would he?
He remembered how Professor Drywrath treated him more fondly than any other student that walked into his classroom, how Harold Argleston always bragged about the essays he wrote in history class, when Professor Belwick, the teacher of his secondary school, offered to teach him all of the spells only myth students could know when he saw that he was doing so well with the other spells.
Was it possible…could he really be a death teacher someday?
“Excuse me, sir.” A voice interrupted his thought process. It was Mr. Reagan, the school administrator.
“Good afternoon, Sir,” said Professor Drywrath, as Mr. Reagan walked, or rather flew, into the room. (Mr. Reagan happened to be a pelican. All of the school administrators had been birds; no one knew why, exactly.)
“Professor,” said the administrator, lifting up a heavy package, “I have the exam results right here.”
Exams! Cyrus had almost forgotten about those. Exams were a huge portion of their final grade. They were what determined if you were held back another year or got to move on.
“Oh, yes, exams.” Professor Drywrath reached for the package. “Cyrus, you’d better get a move on; I need to take a look at these. And keep in mind what I said!”
“Of course, Sir,” said Cyrus, backing out the door, where Jason and Malistaire were already waiting for him.
“Now I’m really nervous,” confessed Jason. “I mean…oh, Lord…if I failed…”
“I’m sure you did fine,” said Cyrus. They walked further down the path, where teachers were already starting to prepare for that night’s graduation. Some were setting up folding chairs for the audience, and some were hanging up streamers of every color. Even Merle Ambrose pitched in; he was preparing the refreshments table.
“It’s you I’m worried about, Malistaire,” said Jason suddenly. “They only accept a C- or higher, you know. And if you failed that exam…”
As always, Malistaire appeared undaunted by this news.
“We’ll see,” he said, with a rather mysterious smile.
Together, the three of them entered the Spiral Chamber to go home and get ready for tonight’s graduation.
Ravenwood School had a strict process for graduation. Each year, all the Grandmasters and everyone else who wanted to watch would gather in front of Bartleby to hear the teachers read the names of the students who passed. They would go from school to school in alphabetical order. Then the valedictorian students, any boy and girl who went above and beyond, would each give a speech. Then everyone, most of who were half-dead by this time, would be allowed to get refreshments.
Cyrus looked in the mirror one last time and once again straightened his bow tie. He couldn’t help but notice that he was feeling slightly nervous.
You passed, he told himself uneasily. But then again, there was no way to know for sure if that was true.
“You ready?” hollered Malistaire from downstairs.
“Uh, yeah…hang on.” Cyrus fingered the note cards in his pocket, and checked himself in the mirror once more. “I’ll be right down.”
“Finally,” said Malistaire when Cyrus arrived at the bottom of the stairs.
“And that,” retorted Cyrus, “is exactly what I’ll say to you when you graduate next year.”
“Not the point,” Malistaire scowled, opening the front door. He was dressed up in a black satin suit with red lining that looked a little bit more modern than Cyrus’s Marleybone ensemble.
Malistaire held the door open for Cyrus, and the two brothers walked down the pathway of their house to the spiral door, which would take them to Ravenwood for the night.
“We’re early,” announced Cyrus as they exited Bartleby’s spiral chamber.
“Not that early,” said Malistaire, checking the time. “Ten minutes ‘till.”
“But hardly anyone’s here yet!”
“Cyrus,” Malistaire chuckled, “no one ever comes to these things anyway.”
“All right, fine,” Cyrus grumbled. “Let’s go; we’re supposed to go sit with our school.”
They wandered around the campus until they found a section of seats labeled, “Reserved for Graduating Necromancers.” They sat down, not surprised to find Jason already seated.
“Hey, guys,” he said, twirling in his fingers the piece of string that held his necklace…oh, sorry…amulet.
As if on cue, Malistaire piped up, “Are you still wearing that necklace, Jason?”
Jason turned red. “It’s an amulet.”
As they talked, more graduating students and teachers started to file in either through the Commons or the Spiral Chamber. Sylvia Drake, who had arrived just a minute or two after Cyrus and Malistaire, was looking as stunning as ever in a short, jade-green dress studded with emeralds. She waved at Malistaire as she walked by, and Malistaire waved back, looking slightly dazed.
And that, thought Cyrus, is a certified example of a one hundred percent love struck fool.
Last to arrive was Professor Drywrath, who, as Malistaire not-so-politely pointed out, was actually wearing a tux. When he was comfortably seated, which in itself took ten long, aggravating minutes; Merle Ambrose stepped up onto the podium.
“My fellow teachers and students of Ravenwood,” he began, “welcome to our six hundred fifty-seventh annual graduation.” He gave the audience a smile which was instantly returned.
Merle Ambrose had been teaching long before any of the other staff members, although no one knew how long, precisely. There were some rumors floating around that he had actually founded Ravenwood and had taught all six hundred fifty-seven years. Although technically impossible, Cyrus had to admit that if anyone could live that long, it would be he.
“Ravenwood, for those of you who do not know,” continued Ambrose, “is one of the most prestigious schools of magic in the Spiral, very much like the Dragonspyre Academy.” There were several boos from the crowd at the mention of their rival school, but Ambrose continued, “It is beautiful as well as historical, but its history would take me a year or more to explain. Furthermore, tonight is a celebration for our graduating class, is it not?”
With a gesture over the seated students, Ambrose then declared, “So without further ado, allow me to present Professor Celeste Delcana, who will now read out the names of the graduating students of pyromancy.”
The schools of Fire, Ice and Storm always went first. As the teachers read out the names of the students, Cyrus couldn’t help but try to count up the people who failed. There was an awkwardly tall blonde boy from Ice and a girl with neon pink hair from Fire, but that was it.
After the “elemental” classes, Lorraine Serevina stepped up onto the podium, wearing her trademark floral-patterned skirt.
“I am pleased to announce,” she spoke to the crowd, “that the following students have graduated from Life magic.”
She then read out the list of names, pausing for a second as the students came to receive their diploma and exam results. Not a single person had failed. Professor Serevina was a good teacher; she usually got everyone through their exams all right.
When Sylvia’s name was called, she stepped graciously down from the platform with her diploma and exam papers and winked at Malistaire as she passed him.
Good luck, she mouthed.
Finally, Professor Drywrath stepped forward.
“These students have graduated from necromancy at Ravenwood School,” he drawled, sounding, as always, bored and indifferent.
As he read through the names, Cyrus gave a slight shudder. The D’s weren’t too far off…
Jason beamed and stepped forward as his name was called.
“Good job, brother,” said Malistaire, patting Cyrus on the back as he stepped on the platform.
“Very well done indeed, Cyrus,” said Professor Drywrath, handing him two scrolls. “Take a look at those exam results, won’t you? You’ve done most excellent… and do remember what I said about your career…”
Cyrus walked backed to his seat. As he sat down, he peripherally saw Professor Drywrath read the next name and give a small shudder.
The jaws of every single student hit the floor, Cyrus’s included, as Malistaire stepped forward to receive his diploma. He was wearing a gloating smile, like, And y’all thought I couldn’t do it…
“Let’s break into those exams, shall we?” Malistaire asked, staring with delight at Cyrus’s shocked expression.
“What? Oh, yeah…” said Cyrus. “I suppose we’d better…”
They both broke the seals on their envelopes and pulled out their exams. Cyrus stared at his paper, trying to memorize it.
Student: Cyrus Drake
DEATH PRACTICAL: A+
DEATH THEORY: A+
MYTH PRACTICAL (ELECTIVE): A+
MYTH THEORY (ELECTIVE): A+
HISTORY OF MAGIC: A+
Stapled underneath was a paper that read:
Student: Cyrus Drake
School: Death (Myth Elective)
Teacher: Milford Drywrath
EXAM GRADE AVERAGE: A+
TOTAL TERM GRADE AVERAGE: A+
FINAL GRADE: A+
Teacher’s Signature: M. Drywrath
Headmaster’s Signature: Merle Ambrose
Okay…not much to memorize. But still…these were better than he could’ve hoped for. Cyrus peeked over at Malistaire’s papers to see how he did.
“How’d you do?”
“See for yourself,” he replied.
Cyrus was in for another huge surprise as he looked over Malistaire’s paper. Not a single exam grade was below an A-! He too had passed with flying colors!
Of course, averaged in with his abysmal term grade and his even worse conduct grade, his final grade was still only a C-, which was the lowest possible grade one needed to pass. But still…
“How,” Cyrus croaked, “in the heckhound did you get your grades up that high?”
Malistaire chuckled. “It’s called studying,” he said sarcastically. “I believe you understand the concept.”
The two checked over to see how Jason did (pretty well—mostly in the B range) while Professor Drywrath finished reading out the list. Three necromancers had failed, Cyrus noticed. Then Anton Belwick read out the names of the Myth students who had graduated—which was all of them.
By then the few students who had come to watch, mostly siblings of graduates who had been forced to come, were falling asleep in their chairs. This was not unnoticed by Professor Ambrose, who had just ascended the podium.
“I apologize, everyone,” he said. “But I’m afraid that you will have to wait a little longer to get refreshments and so forth. For now, let us welcome up our valedictorian students: Cyrus Drake and Miranda Dawneyes, who will be presenting their speeches.”
There was a collective groan from the crowd. Valedictorian speeches were normally lengthy and rather boring.
To them, at least.
“Why don’t you go first, Cyrus?” Merle suggested kindly, gesturing for Cyrus to take his place.
“Um…sure…okay,” said Cyrus. Automatically, he reached into his pocket and nervously shuffled his note cards. Still there.
There was a charm on the teachers’ podium; whoever stepped onto it would obtain a magically magnified voice to be heard in even the thickest of crowds. As Cyrus stepped up, he indeed felt a curious sensation that tickled his throat. Knowing that his voice was able to be heard also boosted his confidence somewhat, so he was able to step up with a winning smile rather than a nervous shudder.
“My fellow students,” he began. Sylvia was watching him intently, as was Malistaire (surprisingly) and all the teachers. But they were among the few who were.
“It’s been a great year,” he went on, “full of education and adventures. We learned a great deal this past year. I, for one, learned that of all the places to cast Earthquake, it is most unwise to do it inside a building.”
Some students chuckled weakly.
At this point, Cyrus noticed a strange buzzing sound vibration around in his eardrums. Thinking it was just an aftereffect of the charm, he plowed on.
“As a graduate, I have many memories of this place that go far beyond this year. As do many of you all.” The buzzing was getting louder and was seriously starting to annoy him. “Ravenwood has generally been a positive experience for me, and I hope I’ll be able to accurately reflect…reflect…”
He suddenly stopped. Amongst the crowd, right up against the entrance to the Commons, was a wraith.
He tried to shout a warning, but then a crazy thought occurred to him: maybe no one else could see it…
He stared at the wraith, and the wraith stared back. Many people were curiously following Cyrus’s eyes and then looking puzzled, as if they couldn’t see anything after all.
The wraith drew itself up to its full height and held up its scythe. Only it wasn’t scythe anymore. It was a staff. A wizard’s staff.
A staff with a red glass ball and a dragon curled around the tip.
Cyrus drew in a breath. Not again. Not here, not now.
“Is anything the matter, Cyrus?” asked Ambrose.
“I-I…” said Cyrus “…I…saw…”
And then he fainted.
Dimly, he was aware of the whole school standing up at once, students and teachers rushing over to his side. But they were growing fainter and fainter, and the buzzing was growing louder.
Suddenly, he wasn’t in Ravenwood anymore.
He was flying, flying over a dark range of mountains.
“Cyrus? Do you hear me? Are you okay?”
Thin, twisting rivers of lava, sheer cliffs of over five hundred feet, and deep gorges within the earth passed below him as he soared through the sky. Surely a dangerous journey on foot…
Someone was slapping his face. People all around him were screaming, or else saying forms of “What’s happening?”
Approaching was an enormous mountain, thousands of feet tall. He sailed over it effortlessly, but he was still daunted by the size. As he passed, he noticed that the mountain was slightly hollow, as if the peak had caved in a long time ago.
This, he somehow felt, was his destination.
“Someone get a stretcher over here!” Almost simultaneously, he felt something that was like a thin piece of fabric being slid under him.
He slowly descended, and then he landed on the hard, rocky ground. Then he turned around.
Behind him was a dragon.
He was lifted up into the air, supported by the stretcher. People spoke around him in shrill tones of voice.
“What’s going on?”
“Is he okay?”
“Get him to the hospital! Now!”
The dragon bowed its head. “Child of the Prophecy,” it boomed, “I am waiting.”
It shrunk down to barely three inches. Then it soared through the air as Cyrus had done earlier and curled around a red glass ball.
That was attached to a staff.
He heard a frightened scream pierce the night. Then he realized with horror that it had come from him.
He blacked out.
Of Dragons and Drakes
“What did I tell you? It’s gotten worse.”
“Shh! Malistaire, you could wake him!”
Cyrus only barely heard these voices; he wasn’t fully awake yet. The image of the golden-scaled dragon was still imprinted in his mind.
He unconsciously let out a strangled moan that caused whoever was with him to temporarily stop bickering.
“I think he’s waking up.”
“About time. He’s been out for the whole weekend already.”
Cyrus’s eyes fluttered open.
At first, all he saw was a huge blur, as if he had opened his eyes underwater. But soon it began to come into focus. He was lying in bed in a small, bright room that he recognized as part of the hospital. He was still wearing his Marleybone-style dress robes.
He blinked, and the concerned eyes of Sylvia and Malistaire blinked back at him.
“Are you okay?” Sylvia asked.
“I’ve been better,” mumbled Cyrus sarcastically. He saw Malistaire grin behind his hand so Sylvia wouldn’t see.
With a groan, he shakily sat up, using the headboard for support.
“What day is it?”
“Sunday,” said Malistaire. “You were out for two days, almost.”
“What happened, Cyrus?” asked Sylvia. “Nothing like that’s ever happened to you before.”
At this, a warning signal went up in Cyrus’s mind. Should he tell them? Tell them about all the dreams that he’d been having? About the mysterious dragon who had mentioned, in his most recent dream, something about a prophecy..?
“I don’t know,” he lied. “Maybe it was the heat or something. Remind me to never again wear Marleybone robes at a summer graduation.”
He was hoping that this joke would soften them up a little bit. So his heart sank when Malistaire scowled.
“Liar,” he said. “This has something to do with those dreams, doesn’t it? The ones that you’ve been having all year.” When Cyrus didn’t respond, he grinned triumphantly. “See? I knew it! Now tell us the truth.”
“We won’t laugh or anything,” said Sylvia consolingly. “It can’t be that bad.”
Meanwhile, Cyrus was having something like an internal war inside, trying to decide whether to trust them and tell them everything or to refuse.
It’s just Malistaire and Sylvia, he finally told himself. They can keep a secret. Or at least Sylvia can. But Malistaire will find a way to force it out of you anyway, so what the hey.
He took a breath. Here goes.
Just as he was about to tell them, the door to his hospital room opened and two people walked in.
One of them was Merle Ambrose, eyeing Cyrus, even as he walked in, with a mixture of curiosity and concern. Following him was Lorraine Serevina, who was carrying a potion bottle filled to the brim with bubbling, green liquid.
“The healers told me to give this to you,” she said, placing the bottle into Cyrus’s hands. “It’ll help.”
“Thanks, Professor,” he said. He uncorked the bottle and took a sip. It tasted kind of like honey and grapefruit rolled into one.
Professor Serevina smiled. “I’m not your teacher anymore, Cyrus,” she said.
“What? Oh yeah, right—graduation.”
“How are you, Cyrus?” asked Ambrose. “Are you feeling better?”
“I’m doing fine, thank you,” said Cyrus.
“Are you sure? No headache? Nausea? Dizziness?”
“I’m sure,” he replied.
“Good,” said Ambrose. “I’m glad to see that you’re doing all right then.”
At this point, Cyrus hiccupped, and a small, green bubble came out of his mouth.
“Oh, sorry,” said Professor Serevina somewhat sheepishly. “That’s sometimes a side effect of the potion. It’s supposed to help you stay alert for a while, although I don’t think vigorous activity is advisable for the time being.”
“The thing is,” said Ambrose, “we’re trying to figure out what would’ve caused this. Some of the more fragile students are prone to pass out from excess heat.” At this, Malistaire smirked a little. “But I’ve never heard of a case where they remained unconscious for two days straight. So now you see, Cyrus, why it is liable to think that some dark magic may be involved.”
“But now that you’re awake, you might be able to tell us something,” said Professor Serevina. “So if you have any idea what happened that night, we need to know now.”
At this, Cyrus hesitated. Telling Malistaire and Sylvia was one thing, but telling his teachers? Who wouldn’t even be teaching him anymore, he realized. No doubt it would be all over Ravenwood by the time he got out of the hospital.
But then again, he realized, the last thing he would want them to think was that he was involved in some horrific scene of dark magic. And they might actually be able to help him.
So Cyrus cleared his throat and said, “Well, I suppose it all began…maybe two years ago. I had a dream that night. I kept seeing this image of a staff.”
“What did it look like?” asked Ambrose.
“It was black,” said Cyrus. “At least, the wood was. On the top there was a red glass ball. With a dragon curled around it.”
This was the first time he had told this to anyone. Well, once he had mentioned to Malistaire that he had been having the same dream over and over. But never before had he described his dreams to anyone in such detail.
“I kept having those same dreams…well not exactly…but variations, I suppose, every day after that. I didn’t know what it meant, that I kept seeing that staff. And afterwards I saw it on the cover of a history book and found out that it was real.”
“Did you see the staff before?” asked Sylvia.
“No,” he said. “Never.”
“So what happened on Friday, Cyrus?” asked Professor Serevina. “Was it another one of these…dreams?”
“Yeah, I think,” he said. “Only this one was different. I was at a range of mountains. And there was a dragon. It mentioned something about a prophecy.”
“Is that all?” asked Ambrose.
“That’s it,” said Cyrus.
Ambrose gave him a long stare, as if he were pondering an answer.
At last he spoke. “I know you’re very confused about this, Cyrus, and I know how you feel. I myself can’t comprehend this.”
“You mean you don’t know what this is all about?” Cyrus asked, his heart sinking. He had been hoping that by telling Ambrose, he’d be able to get some answers.
“No,” said Ambrose. “But I will talk to the other members of the staff; maybe they know slightly more about this than I. And I will come to you as soon as we find something out.”
Then he leaned over the bed. “And I will say this,” he said. “You said something about a prophecy? You might want to go to Bartleby about that…”
“I’ll tell the healers you’re all set to go,” said Professor Serevina. “You do seem well enough, after all.”
With a final nod from each of them, they exited the room.
It felt a little weird, Malistaire thought, to be wandering around the school after graduation. He looked around a little uneasily. Although he had called this place home for the last eight years or so, he still felt like an outsider, someone who didn’t belong.
Strange, he thought he’d never have to come back to this place again. Ever. That was why he had worked so hard to pass the exams. As if he would want to stay here yet another year, trapped learning the same things over and over. He wanted to get out, to see the world. At eighteen, he should be able to do all that.
But he had to admit, he was a little curious. After years of flatly refusing him anything, Cyrus had finally come clean and told them what his dreams were all about. He too wanted to help Cyrus and get to the bottom of this mystery. Even if the answers were waiting to be found at his old school.
A lot of the students that they passed were giving Cyrus quizzical looks, like, Weren’t you the one who fainted? But Cyrus appeared to be ignoring them. This kind of impressed Malistaire, as he would’ve probably shouted at them or something.
As they walked down the pathway, they passed Mr. Reagan giving a group of new students a tour of the grounds. They were all nervously looking around, perhaps feeling swallowed up by the enormous scenery or wondering frantically which school they would be placed in. How did he know this? That had been him ten years ago. He still could identify the signs.
“They’re so cute,” Sylvia murmured in his ear. “Do you remember when that was us there?”
“Yeah,” Malistaire muttered back. “But I still can’t believe we were that small when we started out.”
“—our Ravenwood graduation, you know,” Mr. Reagan was saying. “It was just this Friday. And speaking of, here are three of our graduates right now. Boys and girls, I’d like to introduce you to Malistaire and Cyrus Drake, and Sylvia Liferiver. What are you three still doing here, by the way?”
“School business, Sir,” said Cyrus, shrugging. “Just a few more loose ends to tidy up. Then we’ll be on our way.”
“Naturally,” Mr. Reagan agreed. “I was just telling these new students about our historic landscape. Would you care to join us for a few moments?”
“Well…” Cyrus began, but Mr. Reagan took no notice.
“Come along, then, all of you,” he said, taking flight above the heads of the students. “Now, I assume you all know about Bartleby. Aside from being the largest talking tree in the entire Spiral, his roots dig deep into Wizard City and hold the entire island together. Keep it from crumbling apart, see.”
They approached the great tree, some of the new students pointing or giving awe filled gasps. Bartleby was asleep at the moment, snoring gently.
Cyrus frowned, and Malistaire knew that he was thinking about how he wouldn’t be able to ask him about the mysterious prophecy.
“Now, both of Bartleby’s eyes have magical properties. Perhaps you can tell everyone what they are, Mister Drake,” he said, looking at Malistaire.
“Uhh…” Malistaire looked around, seeing the new students looking expectantly up at him. “Well, one’s… the Eye of History, right? It lets him remember things that happened in the past. Sometimes times he’s never been in.” He racked his brains, trying to remember. Why couldn’t he have asked Cyrus instead? “The other one is the Eye of…Future? Yeah? Well, that enables him to predict things. To tell the future.”
“Very good,” said Mr. Reagan, smiling. “Bartleby’s roots have magical properties too, you know. Do you know their purposes too?”
“Uh…well…” Truth be told, Malistaire didn’t know. He didn’t waste time learning the things that he thought he wouldn’t need to know.
Mr. Reagan gave him a rather stern look, he thought. (It was difficult to read the expressions of a pelican.) “Very well. Cyrus, do you know?”
“Certainly,” he said smoothly. “Bartleby has four main roots, and each one has a different purpose.
“The first one is the root of nature. It preserves all of the nature in Wizard City and keeps every single plant healthy and beautiful. It also can grant nature magical properties, such as giving the school trees the ability to talk.
“The next one,” he went on, “is the root of the Spiral. It’s what keeps Wizard City afloat in the Spiral. Without it, we’d probably flip over or veer out of control. At best.
“The next root is the root of dreams. It keeps the hopes and dreams of every single person alive because without dreams, there would be no possibilities.
“The last one,” he said, his voice starting to take on a slight tremor, “is the root of prophecies.”
Both Malistaire and Sylvia turned to look at him.
“Indeed,” said Mr. Reagan. “And what is its purpose?”
“It’s said,” said Cyrus, “to contain the secrets to every prophecy ever made. It makes sure they are carried out at the prepared time.”
Mr. Reagan gave a satisfied nod.
“There is also a legend about the root of prophecies,” he explained to the students. “Would you care to tell them, Cyrus?”
“I would, but I’m afraid I don’t know what it is,” Cyrus admitted. Only rarely was he able to say that.
“Really, then?” inquired Mr. Reagan. “Then I will. Now, let’s see…the root of prophecies...
“Legend has it that if you follow the main root all the way to the end, it will lead you to an ancient room far beyond the realm of imagination. This place, being connected to the root of prophecies, contains the secrets to every prophecy ever made. Past, present, and future.”
Malistaire, Cyrus, and Sylvia exchanged a look.
“How many are there?” asked a small ten year old girl.
“Thousands. No, millions,” Mr. Reagan said dramatically. The crowd of students gasped in awe. “And more are still being added. It gets larger every passing week.”
“Have you ever been there?” This question came from a tall, fair-haired boy in the first row of students.
“Been there? Goodness no,” said Mr. Reagan. “Only a legend, my boy. A myth.”
Malistaire’s heart sank at this. But then again, what did Mr. Reagan know about myths anyway? That was more Cyrus’s turf.
This room could be real.
“Which way does the root go?” he asked innocently.
It was Cyrus who answered. “They run in the four main cardinal directions: north, south, east, and west. The root of prophecies, I believe, goes west.”
“Quite right,” said Mr. Reagan. “And thank you three for helping us out today. If you would care to join us, we were just getting to the School of Life right now…”
But they were gone even before Mr. Reagan had spoken. Heading west.
It was harder than one might think to follow a tree root, Malistaire thought. Their only clues were their gut instinct of which way was west and an occasional bulge in the stone pavement. In fact, he didn’t know what they would’ve done if Sylvia hadn’t been there. As a life wizard, Sylvia was intuitive to nature, and she would know if they were on the right track.
“Where to now?” Cyrus asked Sylvia. In response, she closed her eyes and ran her toe along a stray crack in the sidewalk.
“That way,” she said, pointing down the road. “It’s in Golem Court. Come on!”
Together, the threesome dashed down the road, their shoes slapping on the cobblestone tiles as they ran. Several curious student heads turned their way, but after a quick glance, didn’t feel the need to inquire them.
They approached the end of the tunnel and, as one, skidded to a halt when they reached the courtyard.
“Okay…what now?” Cyrus wondered aloud.
Hmm…Malistaire thought, also looking about his surroundings. There had to be a secret entrance or and underground tunnel…or something.
Then his eyes fell on the tower before him. And he grinned.
“Maybe this secret room’s in Golem Tower,” he said eagerly. Already he was getting excited, picturing going inside right now. He hadn’t been in there for ages, but he was sure it would be easy to defeat the clockwork golems inside. He had a sudden vision of the scarecrow spell he had just learned and smiled; those puppets wouldn’t stand a chance.
It was Sylvia, however, who shattered his plans of total golem domination. “I don’t think so, Mal. Look.” She pointed to a spot somewhere to the right of the tower, and Malistaire followed her gaze.
Sylvia was pointing at a tree root, one that had actually broken free of the ground, and after a graceful arc, sank back down again. It was aimed towards Dragon’s Mouth Cave.
“Oh,” said Malistaire, disappointed. Cyrus, however, strode right up to the shattered gate and ran his hand along the remains. He wasn’t…exactly...smiling. He just looked…serene, maybe? At ease?
“This is it,” he said. “I don’t know how I…I just feel a connection somehow. I mean…I don’t expect you to…”
Cyrus looked down, somewhat ashamed. Sylvia then walked up to him and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.
Malistaire stepped forward. Then, before he could stop himself, he said, “I feel it too.”
It was indescribable: this strange but powerful link that once had no meaning to him whatsoever, save a few years back when he went in for about thirty seconds to pluck a fire crystal and then left.
“I’m almost afraid to go in,” Cyrus admitted suddenly. “I mean—there could be anything behind that gate. Anything. And if it’s something bad…”
“What are you talking about?” Malistaire blurted. “This is what you’ve been waiting for, isn’t it? You’ve been having these dreams for months! Months! And now you finally get to figure out what this is all about!”
Cyrus bit his lower lip. Malistaire could tell that he knew he was right.
“We’ll go in together,” Sylvia comforted. “Mal and I will be right behind you, Cyrus.”
Cyrus nodded. Taking a deep breath, he stepped inside.
Malistaire didn’t know what he expected, stepping into the cave behind Cyrus. Maybe for a glittering staff to somehow fall out of the sky. For the cave to undergo a sudden, glittering transformation into the secret room Cyrus and Mr. Reagan were talking about. For a huge, powerful boss monster to appear or something.
But as Malistaire stepped into the cave, his first thought was, I’ve seen this before. A small, stone-walled cave met his eyes, speckled with red crystals that peered out from behind brown slabs of rock. Nothing magical or exciting.
His second thought was, This is boring.
“Well…” he began, but Cyrus spoke at the same time. “Nothing.”
Cyrus wandered around for a little bit, fingering the cold rough surface of the cavern wall. When he had traveled almost half the entire perimeter, he sank to his knees.
“Don’t give up now,” Sylvia consoled. “It can’t be just as easy as walking in and having something handed to you on a silver platter. Right?”
Cyrus looked up at her, giving a sort of half smile. But there was an ashamed pink tinge to his cheeks.
“Yeah, you’re right,” he confessed. “Sorry, guys, I was just being stupid.”
Dang right you were, thought Malistaire. But he didn’t say anything.
“Here, let’s split up,” Cyrus suggested, standing up. “See if we can find anything…unusual.”
“Roger that,” said Malistaire cheerfully, joining Sylvia at the nearest cave wall. Cyrus, meanwhile, wandered toward the center of the cave, alternatively looking towards the ceiling, then down at the floor.
Staring absentmindedly at Sylvia, Malistaire gave a loud, somewhat obnoxious sigh and leaned against the rock. Sylvia, who was running her hands up and down the stretch of wall, scowled at him.
“Will you get off your butt and help, please?” said Sylvia. “Search around the wall or something; I don’t know. This is for your brother, you know.”
Instead, Mal was seized by a sudden stroke of genius. He reached up and plucked the nearest fire crystal from its crevice in the wall. Then he handed it out to Sylvia.
“For you, my love,” he said with a flourish.
Sylvia gave a small little smirk as she took the crystal from him. “How…thoughtful, Mal.”
Although sarcastic was her tone, she still felt the need to give him a small peck on the cheek before she withdrew. Apparently, all was forgiven.
Meanwhile, Cyrus was in a squat position, staring at something on the floor. He frowned, scratched his head a bit, paused to roll his eyes at Malistaire and Sylvia, and then again stared back at the floor.
At last, Malistaire couldn’t take it anymore. “What’chya looking at, Cy?”
“This,” he said, beckoning for them to join.
Curiosity winning them both over, both Malistaire and Sylvia walked over to see what he was looking at.
“See?” he said, pointing at something imbedded in the gray stone. Close to the cave wall was a flat, hexagonal stone with an orange fire symbol etched upon it.
Malistaire could sort of see where Cyrus was coming from on this. The light brown tablet and the orange fire symbol stood out boldly against the floor. But still…
“I don’t see anything particularly special about it, Malistaire sniffed. I mean thing’s always been there, hasn’t it?”
“Yes it has,” said Cyrus. “And we’ve both seen it before. But there’s something else too.”
He then proceeded to kneel down, blowing stray dust away from both sides of the tablet. After a few more wipes with his hand, both Malistaire and Sylvia could just barely see the thin line protruding from either side of the stone, disappearing into the wall on both ends.
“Wow,” said Malistaire dryly. “I’m really impressed now.”
As Cyrus shot him a look, Sylvia traced the line with the toe of her boot, her eyes following the slight curve of the line with growing interest.
“It looks as though it could be part of a circle, Sylvia mused. She looked at Cyrus. “So are you saying that this secret room..?”
“...is in the middle of the circle,” Cyrus finished. “Well, it does make sense. Think of all a circle represents: life, magic, existence...when you think about it, time prophecies...they should be at the very center...” he trailed off, deep in thought.
“You know,” interrupted Malistaire loudly, “that I hate to interrupt a genius at work. But...there happens to be a wall in the middle of the circle.”
“I know,” said Cyrus impatiently. “I’m working on that.”
Almost instinctively, he carefully placed his fingers around the edges of the tablet and made to rip it from the ground.
“No use,” he announced after a few seconds of work. “It’s cemented in.”
At this, Sylvia went over to stand by the wall. She paused to look at it a few seconds. She tugged her earlobe in thought, a cute habit of hers that she never got around to breaking. Then she reached out and lightly tapped the wall with her fist.
“It’s hollow,” she said, surprised.
“Really? Let me try.” Cyrus walked over beside her and knocked on the wall precisely where her fingers had touched it before. “It feels solid to me.”
“Trust me,” Sylvia insisted. “There’s definitely something behind there.”
“Hmm,” said Malistaire thoughtfully. That’s when a brilliant idea grabbed hold of him. He reached into the pocket of his robes and withdrew his spell deck.
Unfortunately, Cyrus saw where this was going at once.
“Don’t be an idiot, Malistaire,” he said irritably. “We can’t just use magic to knock down a wall. School property, no less!”
“Who says?” said Malistaire slyly, thumbing through the cards in his deck. It took a while, but he finally found what he was looking for: a helephant card. “I’m doing this to help you Cyrus. And you know what? I say we’ve got nothing to lose.”
“A helephant?” said Sylvia, seeing the card. “In here? Mal, you’re insane! It’ll destroy the cave!”
Malistaire started to trace the fire symbol into the air. “Relax guys. I can control it now. I’ve gotten way better since last time; watch.”
“Fine,” said Cyrus, crossing his arms. “Your funeral, then.”
Malistaire didn’t care the slightest. Why should he? He could control it. It wasn’t like they were in any danger of it going crazy.
He waved his wand and activated the symbol.
A deep rumbling sounded throughout the cave. Both Cyrus and Sylvia launched themselves out of the way as a circle of flames appeared in the center of the floor. There was a loud trumpeting, and a huge creature was born from its depths, so large that its head scraped the ceiling.
Maybe Cyrus and Sylvia did have a point, he thought as a spider web of cracks appeared on the ceiling. The thing was enormous; it took up maybe about half the cave’s area.
But there was no turning back now, Malistaire reasoned. He cleared his throat and faced his creation, which stood frozen in a battle stance, as if awaiting an order.
“Um...er...hi,” said Malistaire. He had never given orders to a helephant other than “attack” before, but how hard could it be? “See what you can do about that wall over there, will you?” He pointed at the said wall so as to not be misunderstood. “Uh...thanks.”
He waved his wand.
The helephant sprang to life, stomping its gigantic feet continuously on the ground, trumpeting into the air, and swinging its fiery sword left and right. Small chunks of debris rained down from the ceiling as the enormous creature lumbered over to the wall. Once it had reached its designated spot, it slowly turned its head around to look at Malistaire, as if to say, You ready?
“Go ahead,” said Malistaire calmly. Sylvia covered her eyes.
The helephant charged.
It was chaotic. Blow after blow the helephant issued upon the wall, becoming increasingly frustrated when it wouldn’t give. A small explosion sounded each time it swung the sword, and the three of them could hear students screaming in between. More cracks appeared in the ceiling.
The helephant gave a final wail of rage. It started to glow bright orange, bright tongues of flame and shining embers beginning to seep from its nostrils. Fire eagerly spewed from its sword as if itching for the flame to catch.
Then, with a tremendous effort, the helephant stampeded forward and collided with the wall.
A colossal explosion threw Malistaire, Cyrus and Sylvia up against the far wall. They struggled to get up, but and endless round of heat waves kept forcing them back. The helephant was gone; in its place was a cloud of smoke and dust that looked almost thick enough to be solid. And a deep rumbling sound that seemed to come from within the walls.
Okay...thought Malistaire, ...maybe they did have a point...
“Nice job, Malistaire,” Cyrus shouted above the din. “Now the whole cave’s coming down!”
“Okay, I admit it, you were right,” said Malistaire grouchily. “Happy now?”
“Stop it, you two!” Sylvia shrieked. Come to think of it, it was a miracle that she managed to make herself heard. “In case you haven’t noticed or something, we’re going to be crushed unless we don’t so something!”
At that particular moment, a chunk of ceiling almost directly above their heads decided to rip itself from the other pieces of neighboring rock. It started falling.
“Scatter!” yelled Cyrus.
The three of them dove in different directions, the slab of rock smashing down precisely between them.
When Malistaire next looked up, Cyrus was tracing the Myth symbol into the air. Seconds later, a minotaur appeared, equipped with a giant axe. Back and forth the axe swung, shattering the giant boulders to splinters
There was a small whimper. It had come from him. When was the last time a sound like that had escaped his lips? He neither knew nor cared at the moment. Instead he pressed himself up against the nearest wall and closed his eyes, trying not to think too much about but always somehow coming back to death.
Weird how fast one could go from cool and confident to scared out of their mind if their death was falling from the sky.
He could hear Sylvia’s screams. Cyrus’s yells. The grunts and wails of the minotaur, which he wasn’t sure if it was doing more harm or good.
He opened his eyes, just barely wider than the width of pine needles.
Cyrus was there, brushing a layer of dust off himself. A slight movement out of the corner of his eye told him that Sylvia was pushing herself out of a pile of rocks and other debris.
He ran across the room, withdrawing his deck.
A slight moan came from inside the pile. “No more spells, Mal. Please.”
“Right,” Mal agreed. He then proceeded to shift through the pile, throwing rock after rock against the wall, until Sylvia was clearly visible.
She threw herself into his arms and sobbed into his shoulder, and Malistaire gently patted her hair. “Shh...it’s okay...”
She stopped. Cyrus had just approached them.
Nothing came out of his mouth. No words of resentment. No acknowledgments to how they could’ve all been killed. Not even threats to tell everyone how Malistaire had cowered against the wall.
Sometimes, a simple gesture can be more affective than any of these. And that’s exactly what Cyrus did. With a simple point in the right direction, he caused both Malistaire and Sylvia to stop what they were doing. To stare at him in agreement. To follow him to where he was leading them.
For Cyrus Drake had just pointed out a crack in the wall. A small one, one that a person could barely fit through.
And, in silence, the three of them went to discover the secrets that had, thus far, remained hidden form them.
She tried to open her eyes...only to discover that they were opened already.
Huh, she thought. That’s weird.
“No one move,” she said nervously. “Otherwise—”
“Cyrus, are you okay?”
“Yeah,” came his voice somewhere to her left. “I just tripped, that’s all.”
“Over my foot,” Malistaire grumbled.
“Well, I’m sorry, but it’s not my fault I can’t see...”
“Oh, this is stupid,” said Malistaire. “I’ll just cast flare, and then...”
Both Cyrus and Sylvia shouted, “NO!” at the same time.
“There’s got to be another way...a light or something,” Sylvia hastily explained. Invisible footsteps came from in front of her, and she jumped. “Lord, that’s creepy.”
“Relax, it’s just me,” said Cyrus. “I’m going to see if I can find a light source somewhere.”
A sudden realization struck Sylvia: they might not be alone. Someone or something could be among them at this very minute and they wouldn’t be able to tell. The thought sent chills up her spine.
As if I wasn’t paranoid enough when I walked in, she thought.
“That’s funny,” said Malistaire softly.
“What is?” Sylvia asked.
“Look behind you,” was all he said.
Sylvia looked. “I don’t see anything.”
“Exactly,” said Malistaire. “Where’s the light coming in from the tunnel? We should be able to see an outline of the crack, at least.”
“Hey guys!” Cyrus called to them. “I think I found something.”
“That’s great!” said Sylvia. “Except...where are you?”
“Just follow the sound of my voice.”
Seconds later, Sylvia heard Malistaire’s footsteps beside her, and then a small thud.
“There’s a wall in front of you, genius,” Malistaire grumbled, his voice slightly muffled.
“Then go around it,” said Cyrus impatiently.
Sylvia took a deep breath. Then, feeling like a blind person, she put her arms out in front of her and started to walk forward. Her hands found a wall as she walked, so she felt around it and walked on.
She rounded what she thought was a corner; then she looked ahead.
“Wow,” she breathed, seeing what Cyrus had pointed out.
There, right before their eyes, was the only light source in the room. It was small, and in the shape of the ice school’s own snowflake. Behind the tiny, precise, wooden crystals, Sylvia could see sunlight on the other side. But the snowflake shaped hole cast no light around the area, which an ordinary skylight should have. They couldn’t see anything beyond it; the light was simply there, as a light.
Sylvia stood up on tiptoe and peered through the hole in the wall. But since she had seen nothing but darkness for the past few minutes, the sunlight temporarily blinded her, and she was unable to see what lay outside.
“There’s a door!” Cyrus exclaimed suddenly.
“Feel around here—there’s a crack in the wall,” he explained. “It has to be a door, and it’ll lead us somewhere.”
Sylvia reached out to touch the wall only to leap back with a yelp of surprise. “Yikes! It’s freezing cold!”
“Forgot to mention that, didn’t you, Cy?” asked Malistaire smugly.
Instead of a snappy retort, they heard Cyrus muttering: “There’s got to be a way to open it somehow...wait. Here’s something...I think this may be...”
There was a click, and a door seemed to materialize out of thin air and swing open right before their eyes, striking all of them with the first sunlight they’d seen in what felt like hours.
All three of them let out a gasp and, as a reflex, squeezed their eyes shut at once. But although Malistaire and Cyrus, who had adjusted to the pressing darkness far too quickly, took much longer to recover, Sylvia was much more used to brighter places. After about two seconds, she chanced to open her eyes a crack. A few more seconds later, her eyes were wide open, and she was stepping out into the world before her.
“What the—” she paused as a cold blast of wind hit her, and as she heard the familiar crunch of snow. She was in Colossus Boulevard.
She glanced behind her. Her gaze wandered past Malistaire and Cyrus, who were struggling to open their eyes past a squint, and locked onto the door from which she had just come. She appeared to have emerged from a giant glacier.
Sylvia turned back around, trying to get a better glimpse at her surroundings. Having rarely been to Colossus Boulevard—cold weather didn’t really suit her—it took Sylvia a while to figure out exactly where she was. Most of what she could see was obstructed by a huge tower, but...yes. There was the tunnel to the Shopping District. She couldn’t be too far from Ravenwood.
She took another step forward, and her foot touched something that wasn’t snow. She looked down.
Her toe was touching a large flat stone, hexagonal in shape. It looked just like the one in Dragon’s Mouth Cave.
Except...she realized as she bent down to brush snow off it...this one didn’t have the fire symbol on it. It was a beautiful, detailed snowflake, the symbol of the Ice school. Other than that, everything was the same: the shape, the size, even the line protruding from both ends.
“A circle...” she breathed, swiping snow and dirt away from the indention of the line with her finger. What did it mean? What did it stand for? What other places did it connect?
She turned around.
Sunlight appeared to have broken into the cavern at last. All three of them watched as, in slow motion, a stream of sunlight crossed the room, lighting up a path as it went. At last, it hit the opposite wall, or rather, a torch on the opposite wall. And as the sun hit it, it ignited. This seemed to set off a chain reaction. Torch after torch burst into flame, illuminating the room once bathed in darkness.
And what a room they were in! They appeared to be among a maze of stone walls, minus the glacier they had just emerged from. Each wall had a picture on it, a beautiful colorful picture, more entrancing then what she had seen in any book. She could stand here for hours and just look at them all...
“What is this place?” she asked, almost to herself.
But someone answered her. Not Malistaire or Cyrus, but a different voice. Who did answer her was a mystery; she couldn’t see anyone besides the three of them. All she knew was that the voice was deep and masculine, and that it seemed to come from within the walls themselves.
Welcome to the Hall of the Prophecy.
Sylvia soon figured out that it became very easy to forget Cyrus’s motive for being in there.
As soon as they could see clearly, Cyrus had started giving orders, something that came naturally to him. “Let’s split up,” he said. “The staff that I saw was black with a red glass ball and a golden dragon curled around it. Look for anything similar to that. Then we’ll be on our way.”
But Malistaire and Sylvia soon became distracted by all the other pictures on the walls. It was hard to look for any one thing when there were so many other places to turn. Although Cyrus repeatedly reminded them to stay on task, they often found their eyes and minds running elsewhere.
“Find anything yet?” came Cyrus’s voice, yet again, from behind the corner. But Malistaire and Sylvia barely heard him, or else dismissed his voice. They were looking at one of the more elaborate pictures on the wall. It was five people on a dueling circle: one man facing four young children, three girls and a little boy. And it may have just been her but the man on the opposite side seemed really...menacing and evil and...strangely familiar...
She tugged on her left earlobe in thought—when would she learn to stop doing that? “I don’t know how, but it feels like I know that guy from somewhere.”
“Really?” Malistaire studied the picture some more and snorted. “I don’t know what you mean. Crazy maniac. Who does he think he his, attacking a bunch of kids? Anyway, we’ve got to keep looking.”
Sylvia nodded, crossing over to the opposite wall.
It wasn’t long before she felt a slight tug at her consciousness. She turned her head and the pull got stronger. It was...almost like she was being drawn to someplace...
She walked along the wall, but all she could see were seven large rectangles that reached from ceiling to floor, each one a different color.
Only they weren’t rectangles, she realized. They were lists! Each was embroidered in its own color...in a school color! Red, blue, purple, brown, yellow, green, and black.
She walked over to the green one, feeling pulled toward life’s color. Then she picked a random place on the list and started reading down.
They’re names, Sylvia thought. She read more:
Perhaps a relation of Lorraine’s, she pondered. She’d have to ask her.
Her eyes snapped back up the list.
No matter how many times she read it, it still didn’t make sense. What would her name be doing up here? What was it supposed to mean?
She looked up and down the list of names for any explanation, but there were none. All she found was a symbol in the bottom right-hand corner: the life leaf intertwined with a heart.
She frowned. “Mal? Can you come over here for a second?”
“What is it?”
He was cut off by Cyrus’s exited yell: “Malistaire! Sylvia! Over here! I found it!”
He smiled as Malistaire and Sylvia came running over to join him. This was it!
“What is it? What did you—” Malistaire stopped, seeing the picture of the staff on the wall, just where Cyrus had pointed out. Under the staff were these words:
Forged by the masters
So nears the hour
For the chosen necromancer
To wield the staff’s true power
“Chosen necromancer...” Sylvia murmured. “Cyrus, do you know what this means?”
He nodded. “It’s me.” A grin was spreading slowly across his face. “Isn’t it amazing? It’s me! Me! I never could have imagined this!”
Malistaire let out a whistle and patted him on the back. “Congratulations, Cyrus.” He looked back up at the wall. “I guess you get that staff then, huh? Very nice. Looks like it could deal about a hundred fifty death damage at least.”
“Really?” Cyrus mused. A sort of excited glee was rising up inside of him, a realization that he, out of all people, was chosen to be a part of this. A world of possibilities was right there at his fingertips, most of which were seeming to end with his name in a history book somewhere.
“Absolutely,” Malistaire replied. “Only...where is this powerful weapon of yours?”
Cyrus’s heart sank. Leave it to Malistaire to ruin a perfectly joyful moment.
“I don’t know.”
“Exactly,” said Malistaire. “So why get your hopes up about this staff if you can’t even—”
“Wait a second,” said Sylvia. “What about your vision the night of graduation? Did that tell you anything?”
“Wait—yeah! It did!” Hope was beginning to well up inside him again as he struggled to remember. “I was on...a mountain, and it was huge! Thousands of feet high! And...” he suddenly remembered, “...there was lava everywhere! I was in Dragonspyre!”
“A mountain in Dragonspyre?”
Sylvia’s and Cyrus’s eyes lit up at the same time.
“Per—what?” asked Malistaire, a bit slow on the uptake. But neither of them noticed. As if he had ever paid attention to History of Magic anyway.
“That’s it!” exclaimed Cyrus. “It’s on Pereputual Peak!” He reached into his knapsack and pulled out his map of Dragonspyre. He then pointed to an island off the coast, not to far from the Basilica. “That’s where I need to go.”
“But Pereputual Peak is the tallest mountain in the Spiral,” said Sylvia. “It’ll be dangerous. You know that.”
Cyrus nodded. It would take days of preparation for the journey. And even with all the food and supplies they needed, there were still all sorts of dangerous creatures to be dealt with: hags, ghosts, draconians. Sylvia was right: it would be very dangerous.
“I know,” he said. “But it’s something I have to do.”
“Then we’re coming with you,” said Sylvia.
Cyrus hesitated. As much as he admitted he might need them, this was something that he felt he just may need to do alone.
“Don’t be a moron,” said Malistaire. “You wouldn’t last a day out there without us. And you wouldn’t believe how boring it is stuck up in that school for eight years. Helephant, I’m ready for some fun.”
Cyrus cracked a smile.
“All right,” he said. “Let’s go pack.”
As Cyrus, Sylvia, and Malistaire exited through the passage to Colossus Boulevard, the writing on the wall which they had been looking at changed.
It was instantaneous: one minute there was the prophecy, the next, blood red letters dripped down the wall to take their place.
On one last note beware
Of the assumptions you make
They can bring danger
And in themselves control fate
They will cause a great change
Unless you are protected
With open minds and hearts
And expect the unexpected
If, perhaps, they had stayed long enough to see this, they might have been able to save themselves from what was to come.