Read A Tale of Magic... Online

Authors: Brandon Dorman

A Tale of Magic... (27 page)

“I’m afraid I have to leave the academy for a couple days,” the fairy informed her. “The ill friend I was telling you about has taken a turn for the worse.”

“Will you—I mean, will
she
be all right?” Brystal asked.

“I certainly hope so,” Madame Weatherberry said. “Can you let Mrs. Vee and your classmates know I’m gone?”

“Of course,” Brystal said.

The fairy gave her a bittersweet smile and led the witches out of the castle. Brystal ran after them and stopped her teacher on the castle’s front steps.

“Madame Weatherberry!”
she called.
“Wait!”

“Yes, dear? What is it?”

To the fairy’s surprise, Brystal threw her arms around her and gave her teacher a hug good-bye. Madame Weatherberry eyed the girl’s curious behavior, not knowing what to make of it.

“Please be safe,” Brystal said. “Illnesses can be contagious, you know.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine,” the fairy said. “Please look after the others while I’m away.”

Brystal nodded and released Madame Weatherberry from her tight embrace. The fairy tossed her brooch on the ground, and the golden carriage grew to its full size. She whistled to a field nearby, and four unicorns excitedly galloped toward the carriage and its reins magically fastened around them. The fairy and the witches climbed aboard the golden carriage, and it raced through the property, eventually disappearing into the hedge barrier.

Brystal waved as they left, but as soon as they were out of sight, she froze and looked into the distance with fear. She couldn’t fight the terrible feeling that she’d never see Madame Weatherberry again.

W
hile Madame Weatherberry was away, Brystal spent the days practicing magic and the evenings reading
The Tales of Tidbit Twitch
to her classmates. Although the exercises and reading were productive, she mainly used them as a distraction from her troubling thoughts. After eavesdropping on Madame Weatherberry and the witches, Brystal finally had answers to some of the questions haunting her, but the more she had learned, the more elaborate the mystery had become.
Now she understood why Madame Weatherberry had reacted so strongly to the mention of the Northern Kingdom. Something known as the Northern Conflict was destroying the country, and someone the fairy feared was at the center of it. The scaly black letters had been coming from the witches, not to update Madame Weatherberry about a
sick friend
, but to ask for the fairy’s assistance with the conflict. And apparently, if Madame Weatherberry helped the witches end the Northern Conflict, it would ensure worldwide acceptance for the magical community.

But what was the Northern Conflict? How would Madame Weatherberry’s involvement bring peace to witches and fairies? Who was the woman that Madame Weatherberry was afraid of facing? And the most disturbing question of all: Would Madame Weatherberry
survive
another encounter with her?

Brystal’s mind never took a full break from the harrowing questions. She desperately wanted to talk to someone else about it, but she didn’t know who to turn to. Emerelda and Xanthous wouldn’t know any more than she did, Lucy had enough of her own troubles already, and Brystal doubted Mrs. Vee would be any help. She considered talking to Tangerina and Skylene, but if the girls heard that Brystal was spying on their teacher, Brystal was certain they would tattle on her.

So Brystal thought it was best to keep her worries to herself. The concerns weighed heavily on her heart, and the longer Madame Weatherberry stayed away, the more fearful and lonely Brystal felt.

On the third evening after Madame Weatherberry’s departure, Brystal was a couple of minutes late to dinner. She was in the middle of a very exciting chapter of
The Tales of Tidbit Twitch, Volume 3
and quickly finished it before joining her classmates downstairs. As soon as she walked into the dining room, Brystal could tell something was wrong. Tangerina was sitting at the table with her arms crossed, and her cheeks were flushed. Skylene stood behind her friend and rubbed her shoulders. Emerelda and Xanthous sat back in their seats wide-eyed, like they had just witnessed a spectacle.

“What’s going on?” Brystal asked the room.

“Ask
them
,” Tangerina said, and pointed to the others.

“Lucy and Tangerina just got into a fight,” Emerelda informed her. “It was intense.”

“A fight about what?” Brystal asked.

“Lucy walked in and asked Tangerina to stop clogging the bathroom sink with her honey,” Xanthous recalled. “Tangerina said she was surprised Lucy knew what a bathroom was. Then Lucy suggested Tangerina’s personality, not her magic, is the real reason her family abandoned her. And finally Tangerina told Lucy she doesn’t belong at the academy and said she wished the witches had taken her with them.”

“That’s when Lucy burst into tears and ran upstairs,” Emerelda said. “Personally, I thought it was all really entertaining until she got upset. It reminded me of the dwarf boxing matches we used to have in the coal mine.”

Brystal sighed. “Tangerina, why would you say something like that? You know Lucy has been having a difficult time with her magic.”

“Don’t blame
me
!” Tangerina exclaimed. “Lucy started it!”

“But you didn’t have to join her,” Brystal reprimanded. “You’re an
apprentice
, remember? You should be more mature than that! I’m going upstairs to check on Lucy. Someone tell Mrs. Vee I’ll be right back.”

Brystal left the dining room and headed up the floating staircase. She prepared a list of positive and encouraging things to say to Lucy, but in case kind words weren’t enough, Brystal waved her wand and made a tray of chocolate cupcakes appear. However, as she reached the third-floor corridor, something very strange caught her eye. The door to Lucy’s bedroom had disappeared and a note had been pinned to the wall in its place:

Dear Madame Weatherberry,
Thank you for believing in me, but the academy isn’t working out. I’m leaving the school and returning to show business. I know my parents’ tour dates so it won’t be hard to find them. I wish you and the others the best of luck.
XO, Lucy
PS—Tangerina sucks.
Brystal was so alarmed by Lucy’s note she dropped the tray of cupcakes and it shattered on the floor. Without wasting a minute, she waved her wand and made a coat appear over her shoulders and then hurried down the floating staircase. Her classmates had heard the tray drop and peeked into the entrance hall to inspect the shatter. They were surprised to see Brystal heading for the front door in such a panic.

“Where’s the fire?” Emerelda asked.

“It’s Lucy!” Brystal said. “She’s run away!”

“Oh no!” Xanthous exclaimed. “What do we do?”

“You aren’t going to do anything,” Brystal said. “Madame Weatherberry specifically asked me to look after you guys while she was gone, so
I’m
going to get Lucy. You stay here in case Lucy or Madame Weatherberry returns.”

“You mean, you’re going into the
In-Between
? At
night
?” Skylene asked.

“You can’t leave the academy!” Tangerina said. “It’s against the rules!”

“I’ve got to find Lucy before a horrible monster in the forest does,” Brystal said. “She hasn’t been gone very long so it shouldn’t be difficult to track her down. I’ll be back as soon as I can!”

Despite her classmates’ fearful and frantic pleas to stay, Brystal raced out the door, ran down the castle’s front steps, and sprinted across the academy grounds. She reached the edge of the property and waited impatiently while an archway formed in the hedge barrier. Once it finished, Brystal ran through the barrier’s leafy tunnel and emerged into the creepy forest beyond it.

“Lucy?” she called into the dark woods. “Lucy, it’s Brystal! Where are you?”

Brystal looked in every direction for her friend, but she could barely see anything. Eventually her eyes adjusted to the darkness, but still, she saw nothing except crooked trees and jagged boulders. She cautiously moved down the dirt path that snaked through the In-Between, jumping at every sound she heard.

“Lucy, are you there?”
she whispered.
“Can you hear me?”

With each step, Brystal became more and more frightened of her surroundings. Soon the dirt path split into two different directions, and Brystal had to choose which path to take. Both directions looked almost identical and Brystal worried she might get lost. To help herself navigate, Brystal waved her wand and made the rocks beside the path glow in the dark, marking the parts of the forest she had already searched.

Just as Brystal started to fear she was too late to save her friend, she heard the sound of sniffling in the distance. Brystal followed the sound through the woods and sighed with relief when she finally found Lucy sitting under a tree. Lucy’s head was buried in her arms as she cried, and her porcupine suitcase and beaver-skull canteen sat on the ground beside her.

“Lucy!” Brystal exclaimed. “There you are! I’ve been looking everywhere—”

Brystal’s voice startled her friend. Lucy jumped to her feet and swung a large stick at her. Brystal dropped to the ground and barely missed getting hit.

“Lucy, relax! It’s just me! It’s Brystal!”
she said.

“What the heck is wrong with you?” Lucy said. “You can’t just sneak up on someone like that in a dangerous forest!”

“Sorry, I didn’t realize there was an etiquette to this place,” Brystal said.

“What are you doing here?” Lucy asked.

“I’m looking for you,” Brystal said, and got to her feet. “I found the note you left and I’ve come to talk some sense into you.”

“Well, good luck,” Lucy grumbled, and threw her stick aside. “I’ve made up my mind, Brystal. I’m not spending another day in that academy. I knew I didn’t belong from the moment I laid eyes on the castle. Madame Weatherberry’s lessons have only proved that.”

“But that’s not true,” Brystal said. “Our training has just started! You just need more time and practice. Don’t let what Tangerina said make you give up on yourself.”

“Stop trying to make me something I’m not!” Lucy yelled. “Face it, Brystal—
I’m a witch
! I’ll never be a fairy like you and the others! And if I keep using my abilities, I’ll turn into a monster like Madame Weatherberry’s friends. I’d prefer to keep whiskers and scales off my face, so I’m going to stay as far away from magic and witchcraft as possible. I’m leaving and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”

Lucy picked up her porcupine suitcase, swung her beaver-skull canteen over her shoulder, and proceeded down the path. As Brystal watched Lucy walk away, something inside her changed. All the sympathy she felt for Lucy drained away and was replaced with irritation. She couldn’t believe she had risked entering a dangerous forest only to have Lucy turn her back on her.

“Lucy Goose, you listen to me!”
Brystal ordered. “You’re the best friend I have at that academy, and I’m not about to lose you! I’ve lost too many people in my life to let you wander off like this! Whether you believe it or not, Madame Weatherberry has given us the opportunity of a lifetime, and I
will not
let you throw it away to play a
stupid tambourine
with your parents!”

Lucy was shocked by her remarks.
“Stupid tambourine?”

“IT’S STUPID AND YOU KNOW IT!”
Brystal yelled. “You have so much more to offer the world than that! You may not believe in yourself, but
I believe in you enough for the both of us
! So we are going to march back to that academy
right now
and continue our training! You’re going to stop feeling sorry for yourself, you’re going to stop making excuses, and you’re going to work as hard as you possibly can to be the fairy I know you can be! And if we find out you’re a witch along the way,
so what
? If you’re a witch, then you’ll be the
best witch
there’s ever been! You’re going to
out-witch
all the
witchiest witches
in the world! But I promise you, you will
never
become a monster on my watch! I’ll always be there to keep you in line and stop you from making mistakes,
JUST LIKE I AM RIGHT NOW
!”

Lucy was stunned by Brystal’s emotional rant and stared at her as if Brystal was the scariest creature in the woods.

“Do you honestly believe everything you just said?” she asked.

“I risked my life following you into the In-Between! What do you think?”

Lucy went quiet as she realized how significant Brystal’s gesture was.

“Wow,” she said. “I don’t think anyone’s ever believed in me that much. And I have
thousands
of adoring fans.”

“So have I convinced you to come back to the academy?” Brystal asked.

A sweet grin came to Lucy’s face. Apparently, Brystal’s tough love was much more effective than any words of encouragement.

“Yeah,” Lucy said. “I think you have.”

“Good.” Brystal laughed. “Because if my rant didn’t work, I was about to drag you by the—”

FWITT! FWITT!
Suddenly, they heard a strange sound coming from nearby.
FWITT! FWITT!
Brystal and Lucy looked around the forest but couldn’t find where the noise was coming from.
FWITT! FWITT!
Something was flying through the air, but it moved too fast for them to catch a clear glimpse of what it was.
FWITT! FWITT!
Brystal felt a light breeze across her cheek, and two arrows hit the tree directly behind her.
FWITT! FWITT!
Lucy looked down and saw a pair of arrows sticking into her porcupine suitcase.

“We’re being shot at!”
Lucy cried.

“By who?”
Brystal asked in a panic.

In the distance, the girls saw three men step out from the darkness. The first man wore a yellow vest and had a rope tied around his waist, the second man wore a red cape and an axe swung from his belt, and the third man wore a green cloak and held a pitchfork. All three were dirty and scruffy, like they had been in the forest for days, and each of them carried a crossbow that was pointed in Brystal and Lucy’s direction.

“Well, well, well,” the man in yellow said. “It seems to be our lucky day! The Lord has led us to
two witches
in the same spot!”

“What did I tell you, boys?” the man in red bragged. “The rumors must be true! There’s a whole
coven of witches
somewhere around here!”

“Sinful scum,” the man in green sneered. “Did they really think they could live in the woods without anyone noticing? They’re practically begging to be hunted down!”

Brystal and Lucy exchanged a glance of terror and slowly backed away from the men.

“They’re witch hunters!”
Brystal whispered.
“And they think we’re witches!”

“What should we do?”
Lucy whispered back.

Brystal’s mind went completely blank. Although her wand was securely in her hand, all of Madame Weatherberry’s training abandoned her, and there was only one thing she could think of doing.

“RUN!”

Without a moment to lose, Brystal and Lucy bolted into the forest and ran away from the men as fast as they could. The witch hunters whistled and cheered, excited for a chase, and charged after the girls. The men shot arrows at Brystal and Lucy, but fortunately the thick forest made it difficult to aim. The ground was covered in so many overgrown roots and rocks it was almost impossible to run without tripping, but Brystal and Lucy moved as swiftly as possible, knowing one misstep could cost them their lives.

As they ran, the girls looked back and forth between the men chasing them and the ground ahead. Their escape came to a dead end when they slammed into the flat side of a hill they hadn’t seen in the dark. The witch hunters surrounded them, beaming with sinister glee. Obviously, watching their prey tremble in fear was their favorite part of the hunt.

“You’re awfully young and pretty to be witches,” the man in yellow sneered.

“That’s because we’re not witches!” Brystal cried. “We’re
fairies
! You’re making a terrible mistake!”

The men howled with laughter, like wolves howling at the moon.

“Did you hear that, boys?” The man in yellow laughed. “The girl in the sparkling garb says she’s not a witch!”

“Who cares what they are?” the man in red said. “No one in the village will know the difference. We’ll be heroes when they see the bodies!”

“Make sure to aim below their necks,” the man in green instructed. “I want to mount their heads to my wall.”

The witch hunters reloaded their crossbows and raised them at Brystal and Lucy. The girls closed their eyes and held each other in horror, expecting to be pelted with arrows at any moment.

Just as the men were about to pull their triggers, they were distracted by something rustling in the trees nearby. Suddenly, a massive creature emerged from the woods and plowed into the witch hunters. The men were knocked to the ground and dropped their weapons. Before they could get to their feet, the mysterious beast plowed into them again, crushing the men’s crossbows under its feet. Brystal and Lucy didn’t know if they were in more or less danger now that the creature had joined them. It was so large and moved so quickly in the moonlight that Brystal and Lucy could only see one piece of it at a time. They saw horns and hooves, nostrils and teeth, fur and metal, but not enough to determine what they were looking at.

“Let’s get out of here before we’re killed!”
the man in red shouted.

The witch hunters fled into the dark forest, screaming like small children as they went. However, the creature stayed with Brystal and Lucy. It became very still and all three of them studied one another in total silence. Once her heart rate slowed down and her senses returned, Brystal remembered the magic wand in her hand. She waved it through the air, and dozens of twinkling lights illuminated the forest, and finally the girls saw what kind of creature was standing before them.

“Oh my gosh,” Brystal gasped.

“You don’t see that every day,” Lucy said.

It wasn’t just one creature, but two. An enormous knight dressed from head to toe in silver armor sat on the back of a giant horse. A pair of antlers grew out of the knight’s helmet, and he wore a long fur cape. The horse had a pitch-black hide and a long ebony mane, and to the girls’ amazement, the steed had three heads instead of one. Everything about the strange knight and his horse was incredibly frightening, but there was an otherworldly quality about them, too. Brystal couldn’t explain why, but she trusted the knight, like he was some kind of sacred being.

The knight extended an open hand toward the girls. Brystal stepped forward and reached for his hand, but Lucy quickly pulled her back.

“Are you nuts?” Lucy said. “Don’t go near that thing!”

“No, it’s okay,” Brystal assured her. “I think he wants to help us.”

“How do you know that?” Lucy asked.

“He just saved our lives,” Brystal said with a shrug. “If he wanted to hurt us, he would have already done it by now.”

Brystal took the knight’s hand, and he pulled her aboard his three-headed horse. He reached toward Lucy next, and after some coaxing, Brystal convinced Lucy to join them. The knight tugged on his horse’s reins, and together, he and the girls traveled through the dark forest. Soon they returned to the dirt path and Brystal spotted the academy’s hedge barrier in the distance.

“How did he know where to take us?”
Lucy whispered.

“I have no idea,”
Brystal whispered back.

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