Authors: Jack Simmonds
?” I said sitting down where he asked me and staring in disbelief at the old man with silvery hair. “No way… this isn’t real… I thought you were…
My Granddad sat as still as a rusty nail, and looked as gnarled and grizzled as one. His face scarred and lined, due to all the fights he’d had. But all in all, for a dead person he looked pretty good — dressed in long black day clothes and a navy blue cape. His magical cane stood next to his chair, small colourful lights fizzing just under the surface. I was always fascinated by it as a kid and could watch for hours. We sat in silence for a long time, my mouth open, just staring at him.
He sighed. “So, you found me then.”
“… I didn’t mean to… I was just… running away and…” I stammered.
“Ross was after you. Thinks you ruined his life. You did something,” he said in his characteristic barky, clipped tone.
“Yeah,” I said. “He does, mind you, none of the Blackthorns like me.”
“Nonsense. They just have a funny way of showing it,” he said still looking into the fire. “So you came here by accident did you. That’s a
,” he smiled. “Why were you up here in the these turrets?”
“I wasn't, I was on the third floor. I was cleaning and ran away from Ross and…”
“Cleaning?” he sniffed, his brow furrowed. “They make you
“Yeah. Mum wants the castle clean for the guests coming to Marianne’s wedding.”
“Marianne?” he barked. “That jumped up little twerp? Sorted herself out and found a fella’ ahy? I don’t doubt with a personality like hers, she had to use quite the arsenal of love spells?”
I nodded, a small smirk gracing my face. “I think so yeah,” I was itching to ask him what the hell he was doing up here, he was dead, I mean I’d been to his funeral and everything.
“Don’t worry yourself about
,” he said suddenly, dark glaring eyes coming to rest on me, commanding attention. “We are Wizards, we can do strange things. And as Blackthorn’s we are well versed in black magic. Don’t worry yourself about how. Just listen…” he held his hand out and a long poker appeared in it. He poked the coals as some fresh ones moved slowly into the air from the coal basket and landed in the renewed flames. “Don’t worry yourself about Malakai.”
I nearly fell off my chair. “Wha— wha— whaaaat? I mean, you know? But how?”
Granddad leered at me through the darkness, grinning a black toothed smile. “Never liked him. You did us a favour I say… not sure
will see it that way,” he said flicking his eyes downwards. “You didn’t come here by accident, I made sure you came here. We never spoke much when I was alive.”
“Er… alive?” I said, unsure if this was a joke or not.
“I probably don’t need to remind you of the fact that you are different from other Blackthorns,” he grinned his black grin at me again. “You’re a
. You did well against
. And I am sure you will find out what you need to in the upcoming year.” He licked his lips, as if he was about to carry on, but then slumped back in his chair.
“Find out what?” I said.
He shrugged. “What you need to,” his eyes moved to a place just above the cluttered fireplace, along which three items stood: a porcelain dalmatian dog, some magic nails and a red urn with a funny mark on it. But now, something was hanging down in front of the mirror — where there had been nothing before. “I had better give you something that will help.” He reached forwards, stretching out his cane and unhooked the thing from the mirror. As he drew it towards him I saw it was a pendant. On the end of the sleek silver string was a small metallic shard of indistinguishable shape, which slowly came towards me on the end of the cane. “Take it,” he said gruffly, I reached forwards and took it. There was a short rumble like thunder, before a flash of blue light lit up the room, temporarily blinding me.
“Ahh!” I cried, shielding my eyes. “What on earth was that?” The pendant was spinning in my hand now and Granddad, who didn’t look like he was shocked at all, nodded happily to himself. The metallic shape on the end was a thin metal, but sturdy and a worn golden colour. In the very middle was a clear, black mark — I didn’t know what it was, but had an inkling that it was a rune.
“It’s a channeller,” said Granddad, putting his cane back to his side. “A very old one.”
“Forgive me Granddad, but this is strange… I mean, you’re a Blackthorn… you’re not supposed to be on my side. They all hate me…” I said, pointing down at the floor. “No one in this family has
Granddad sighed. “You realise this as you get older — not everything is black and white, or good and bad. There is a lot of grey too,” he gruffed. “You must tailor your vision to read the grey. Oh, and take this before you go,” He handed out a small, red velvet drawstring bag.
“What is it?” I said, then realising as it touched down in my palm, it was a bag of gold! I couldn’t help but gasp. “But, but, I…”
“It’s embarrassing having a Blackthorn that walks around looking like a corpse… get yourself some smart clothes.”
I couldn't help the grin that grew across my jaw. “Thank you, thank you so much!” Granddad didn’t say anything, he just sat and stared at the fire.
“Take care,” he barked, then with a wave I was dismissed. I stood, carrying my bag of gold and new channeller, unsure if I was dreaming or not, or whether these shoes were in fact casting a strange illusion of my dead Granddad being nice to me. But as I walked back out of the hazy darkness, I found myself high up in the castle, nowhere near the turrets… how strange.
put the pendant channeller round my neck and tucked it beneath my robes. Then, put the bag of gold down the back of my trousers, into a secret compartment that I had installed in the shop when my Mother wasn’t looking. No one would be stealing this bag of gold from me. I raced back to the cleaning cupboard to get another mop and bucket before I received another thunder clap to the butt.
Over the proceeding week, many unsavoury characters arrived. Slowly but steadily each room filled. Now that I had a channeller again I could do magic, but I had to make sure Mother and Father didn’t see me otherwise I would be in for it. They would start questioning me about where I got it, and I’m a rubbish liar. But, I did have a few mop and buckets scrubbing the floors by themselves on the second and forth floors. And I casted the Riptide chameleon spell
over myself at the top of the stairs while hiding behind a statue, so I could watch Father greeting the Hennessy Warlock Clan, who trod mud all the way up the stairs.
Then I saw Nasty Luke make his way in with his similarly nasty, pasty faced family. Followed by some wicked witches, twelve piggy bankers, who
all the way around the Hall, valuing the goods. Then came the Chelsee family. The wicked head of the family was old Marge Chelsee, a particularly foul woman — with her six, very ugly, daughters in huge ridiculous dresses, waddling behind her. As they chatted away to each other, I had trouble making out the difference between the piggy’s oinks and the inane gigglish chatter.
I sat watching for a good few hours, it was better than cleaning, and noticed many important people. King’s and Queens, Princes and Princesses, Head’s of Kingdoms and Prime Ginisters (or whatever they’re called on the Outside). Anyone who was anyone was here, it was crazy. If someone dropped a bomb and took this place out, you would have no leaders of any Kingdoms.
Father stood and with half a look at Mum, took out his magical megaphone and spoke, his voice cast magically throughout the whole castle. “Greetings to all who have arrived today here at Darkhampton. As you all know, we are here to witness the wedding of Marianne Blackthorn and Edward James Burrows…” There was some cooing from the people that remained in the hall. “Dinner this evening will be served in the hall at
sharp.” There was a small clap and everyone began to make their way upstairs to their rooms. I displaced myself from behind the statue and scuttled away back along the corridor to my mop and bucket on the forth floor.
Before I knew it, the sickening circus was ready to begin. Mother had found out what room I was in, and had made my wedding attire appear over the door. It was hideous. Green layers of jacket accompanied a yellow shirt — I didn’t know it was fancy dress? Obviously I was going as a lump of mouldy cheese. I know Marianne wanted a colourful wedding, but this was ridiculous.
The week leading up to the wedding was hell. I’d been worked like a donkey: cleaning, scrubbing, washing clothes in the laundry room, washing drapes, washing dishes, bowls, cups and cutlery — Butler Kilkenny looked like he was going to have a nervous breakdown. “They haven’t hired any extra staff like they said they would!” he called, as the piles of dishes tottered ominously on the creaking draining board.
“You should have learnt by now, that their
He huffed, creaked then whimpered. “Ridiculous…
Fortunately, I didn’t see Ross at all. I had no idea where he was. All my other brothers were milling around talking to guests, taking them on tours of the grounds — the black, dusty, bracken filled grounds — and leading dinners and parties.
Surely enough Marianne, (the bride) finally arrived. With everyone seated at the huge table, elongated until it was as long as the Hall, the doors suddenly burst open and a fanfare of rambunctious trumpets resounded ear-splittingly loud — announcing her arrival. She burst through the doors with enough gusto to blow a herd of Hubris over. The Hall stood, clapped and cheered. I couldn’t clap because I had serving gloves on. Yes, you guessed it, I was a bloody waiter as well.
!” she screamed. “Please, please…” she said in her sickeningly faux sweet voice. “Please sit, sit, it’s only little old
!” She then proceeded to hug and kiss almost every one on the table, take her presents and hand them to her poor entourage. It nearly took all flipping night.
The morning of the wedding I was awoken by an alarm set up by my mother, which zapped my bed with an electric current — so naturally I shot out of bed. I got into the mouldy cheese costume, washed and sat on the end of the bed. I put the Seven League Shoes on, a golden tinge reflected off the dull black leather. It was early, too early. But something was different. Usually, in this house, we wake up to darkness, eternal darkness all day long. But today, sun light, glorious, wonderful sunlight peered through the window. I walked in front of the rays in a daze. It hit my face and made me tingle all over. For a moment, I thought I might be back in Hailing Hall.
“Well Sedrick,” I said. “One more day of hell.” I knew that if I just did whatever my parents asked, I would kind of get left alone for the rest of the holidays. And with three weeks left, I didn’t want to do anything that would hinder my chances of going back to Hailing Hall.
It was the gaudiest wedding I’d ever been to. As I went downstairs everlasting rainbow confetti rained down from the roof, as guests descended slowly, taking in the whole god dam ugliness of it all. Cherubs, or fat, ghostly babies serenaded the crowd with trill tunes. Flowers sprouted from the banisters with bright colours, setting my hay fever off. Banners read
The Union of Blackthorn and Burrows
Wedding of the Year
and other cringe-worthy things swung from the rafters at every angle. The Hall table was decked out with so much fancy glass, porcelain and cutlery that I am sure they’d’ve had to enlarge it again. As well, the biggest black cake you’ve ever seen sat in the corner of the Hall with a huge glass dome standing over it. I mean it must have been twenty feet tall.
My parents were struggling with the sun, I could tell, they were shielding their faces and wincing like vampires. But they had no choice, you see Marianne had decided that for her wedding day that’s what she wanted, so they had to make it happen. Removing whatever charm it was that made darkness eternal around the castle and letting the sun in once more. It showed off all the worst bits about the castle though. I mean, in the rays of sunlight that streamed in through long ceiling to floor windows, you could see streams of dust floating around. No wonder I’d always had bad lungs.
Our family is strange you see, their evilness has led to several strange traits: Marianne lives in the sunniest part of the Seven Kingdoms and has a palace with a glass roof that she calls Crystal Palace. It gets near twenty hours a day sunlight — she loves it. My parents however, love darkness. My brother’s Wilson and Simon love the cold, and live in a big ice castle in Slackerdown. Wendice loves silence and darkness, and lives in a sound proofed palace in Farkingham. Whereas Gertrude loves noise, shouting, parties and dances and her palace in Golandria, has a permanent dancing troupe, band and party guests. It’s a flipping strange family, this one.
“Avis!” cried Mother, spotting me. “
over here, with Butler Kilkenny and the
,” she pointed and I traipsed over to a line of Butler Kilkenny and some stunned looking staff, standing to attention. Ross stood at the end of the line glaring at me in a red, orange and pink tuxedo, he looked like a dead flamingo.
Outside, in the charmed grounds which, today only, looked like a lush green paradise with actual grass, palm trees, white seats and a white tent thing.
The cherubs and the band piped up. I was at the back and saw for the first time, the tall, dark and handsome, if not a little dazed looking Edward Burrows. He made his way to the front where he stood next to a slim, fair haired and rosy cheeked man, who must have been his best man or whatever. Then, I mean you couldn’t have missed her, in the hugest dress you’ve ever seen, Marianne began to walk to the front. The best man of Burrows looked really nervous, more so than Burrows, he kept looking around and checking his watch. As Marianne reached the front, Burrows gazed dreamily towards her — probably wondering what on earth was going on.
A man, dressed all in long black robes and golden buttons began speaking. “We are here today to celebrate the union between Marianne Louise Blackthorn and Edward James Burrows.” The crowd clapped. I sighed, please let this be over already.