The guards whizzed me so fast through the queen’s chambers, I didn’t get a chance to really gape at all the splendor.
I had just wrenched my head, not wanting to take my eyes off the queen’s amazing canopy bed when I heard a scream that sounded like Zelda.
“Stop!” I hollered. “You need to take me back.”
“That’s against orders, Miss,” the guard who was pushing me said. He looked like my younger cousin, Max, who was only seven. But this Max was dressed like a leprechaun.
“Hurry,” one tot ordered, pointing to a door behind a fancy fountain.
“Gordon,” another yelled pointing at me. “She must be on her way.”
Another shriek and a shrill cry pierced my body. I hit the brake on my chair. “Something’s wrong with my sister! I have to go back.”
The tot exclaimed, “Do not interfere with us, Athena of the Over Realm. You must enter the Third Trial before the witch discovers your presence.”
The guard said something and my chair lifted, floating even more swiftly toward the huge wooden door.
“You’re not getting it, Lucky Charms,” I yelled, catching a dresser’s edge, stopping myself from moving forward. “I’m going back. NOW!”
Instantly, one second I was pulling myself away from the marauding cereal box character and the next second, I was sitting in front of the queen’s chamber door, viewing the throne room from the back, although no one could see me. I had no idea how that happened, but then I felt the hard cover of Wish Book behind me and realized Brenden must have helped.
Seeing what was going on in the throne room, I gripped the arms of my chair. My grandmother (who didn’t look like the witch—it was Gran!) was pointing at the queen. My sister was crying, holding Gran’s hand, and Francisco and Holly’s hands were tied behind their backs, both looking down.
“She’s not here, Sidheag,” the queen said, calmly. “She’s entered the Third Trial and not even Queen Casteen herself can stop her once she’s ventured on The Path.”
“You’re bluffing, Oria,” Sidheag said in her thick Scottish accent. “I can feel her bones. They aren’t yet on The Path. I want what is mine. She isn’t your flesh and blood. You have no right.”
“Let me go!” my sister howled through tears. “You’re not my granny. You’re ugly. I hate you!”
I wanted to get Zelda right then but had no idea how to rescue her and free my friends.
“She will never join with you,” Holly yelled. “Let us go.”
“Quiet down,” the witch spat, “or I’ll put you in me next stew.”
“I’d like to see you try,” Francisco barked, wrenching his shoulders around, still stuck in those handcuffs I couldn’t see. “I’ll choke you again if you even get near her.”
“Silence, prisoners.” A bolt of light slammed over their mouths as a gag materialized.
Now I understood why the witch had to tie up my friends. I would have loved to have seen how they fought her before she had to shackle them.
“Threats will not work,” the queen said. “Release the children before I have you dragged to the dungeon.” By now there were some leprechaun fairy guards surrounding my friends and the witch.
At this Sidheag gave a throaty evil laugh.
I had to free my friends. But how? If the witch wanted me, then maybe she’d release them and my sister.
I moved forward. “What do you want?”
Zelda tried to spring away from the witch’s grasp, but it was too tight.
“Athena, me sweet child. So good to see you, lass. Come to Granny’s side so we can clear up this misunderstanding.”
Queen Oria pursed her lips in thought. I couldn’t believe she was listening to these lies. She said, “Athena belongs where the Great Guardian ordains. She has been chosen to prove herself in the Third Trial and by Tri-realm law she should be given that right.”
“There has never been an Under-realmer Wishcaster in all the days of the past and there shant be one now.” Sidheag chanted some words.
I felt a cold energy envelop me like a sudden snowstorm. Queen Oria then shot magenta sparks from her hands and the chills which had shuddered through my body vanished.
“Very well, Oria,” the witch spoke, obviously her magic was blocked. “These children will be my prisoners until the time when Under Realm armies overtake your kingdom and then Athena will go with us on her own, Wishcaster or no.”
“No!” I shouted. “You can take me now. Just let them go.”
“Athena!” the queen cried, pointing toward her chambers. “You must go through the trial. Remember what I told you.”
“It is done,” Sidheag said. “She has given permission.” A cold wave enveloped me again, buffeting my body like I’d gotten caught in a nasty thunderstorm.
But I resisted, thinking about my friends and how I wanted them out of their shackles.
What was happening to me?
Dark, thick clouds surrounded my vision. I went into a dream state, swirling around a large hazy whirlpool. In slow motion, I could see Holly screaming at the witch, yanking off the invisible shackes from her wrists and then the bonds of Francisco. Francisco expertly jumped around the witch and put her in a choke hold as I’d seen him do so many times in his dojo. But the wind rose up and blasted my body, shaking me. I couldn’t see anything more except darkness and then it felt as if I’d been sucked in the midst of a tornado and then just as suddenly, spit out.
I tumbled onto a carpeted floor.
Pain erupted on the side of my forehead. My body wobbled as if I’d just gotten off an insane ride at an evil theme park.
“Where am I?” I asked, head spinning, looking around. I found my wheelchair and hoisted myself into it. The room was dark, only lit by a few candles.
“Hogswallow,” the witch gagged. “Min—“ she gasped again, scratching at Francisco’s arm.
My friends! They came with me somehow, and they weren’t chained. Francisco held the witch in a wrestling move I’d never seen him try. He was sitting on the floor behind the witch. It looked as if he was choking her!
“Get something to knock her out!” Francisco yelled.
Holly screeched, “With what?”
I cried, “Take that purple urn.”
She lifted the pot off a table and shattered it over the old lady’s head. Instantly, she closed her eyes.
“Now what are we going to do?” Holly asked as Francisco wriggled his body out from under the witch.
I couldn’t believe even in her unconscious state that she still resembled Gran and not that ugly blue thing.
Before I could think about what to do next, I felt Wish Book stabbing me in the back. I whisked him out.
A jet of blue beams lit the dark room. Brenden materialized out of indigo clouds of vapor.
Omg! “What happened to you, Brenden?” In the low-lit room, his hair looked almost bluish black and his skin was grey.
But he ignored my question. “That was brilliant, Athena, just brilliant.” I wasn’t sure if he was being sarcastic.
“You mean brilliant good or brilliant bad?”
He put his arm around me and squeezed. “You figure it out. You were supposed to be on The Path to becoming our next Wishcaster, but instead of following the wise orders of the queen, you decide to save your friends.” He shot a look of contempt at Francisco.“And then you ferry these two dolts into the pit of hell right along with me and yourself.” He leaned in close to my ear and whispered, “Not good, dear Athena. Not good.”
For some reason, I felt a little jolt in my stomach just having him so near me, so I pushed him off my lap.
He tumbled onto the floor.
“Hey, what was that for?”
“It’s obvious,” Francisco said, moving toward him. “You’re being a jerk. Athena didn’t bring us here. That witch did.”
Brenden jumped to his feet, hands clenched. “You don’t have a clue what you’re going on about.” Brenden pointed at me. “Athena has her own magic. She willed you out of your invisible bindings as the witch incanted her spell, and she is the reason she’s not on The Path at this moment. I’m not the one anyone should be mad at.”
Three pairs of eyes all turned on me. “I-I didn’t do anything, Brenden,” I stammered. “You’re the one with all the magic, not me.” I didn’t understand what was happening. I just wanted my simple life back where the only thing I worried about was whether Adam Slack even noticed me or my parents would stop arguing. Now, I was being accused of not doing my duty in saving the world even though I had no idea how I was supposed to do that. All by myself.
Brenden ran his fingers through his hair. “Athena, as Wish Book, I can only wield magic to do your bidding, but you didn’t use me. You did it all by yourself.”
I shook my head and whispered, “But how? I don’t even know I’m doing anything.”
“Humans aren’t supposed to have their own magic,” Brenden said, accusingly. “I don’t know why I didn’t suspect something before.” He shot a look at Francisco as if I wasn’t even around. “Queen Oria knew. She said Athena might be the folly of us all.”
“What are you saying?” Holly sat in one of the witch’s chairs. “T-That Athena isn’t human?”
All at once, the witch moaned, smacking her lips. “Come to Granny, dear,” she croaked, still in a hazy dream.
“Guys,” Francisco whispered. “The witch is about to wake up. We need something to tie her. Brenden, can you make a rope?”
Brenden shrugged, never taking his glare off me. “I have no power here. I’m in shadow as you can see by my black hair and gray skin. Athena couldn’t even use me as a Wish Book. All my power is gone except for my ability to fly and turn into that worthless book. Why don’t you ask the witch to help?” But Brenden wasn’t talking about the hag on the floor. He jerked his head toward me.
Blood rushed out of my body and I felt woozy as if I was about to faint. This couldn’t be true. That hideous blue witch could NOT be my real grandmother. I would have known if I was different. If I had powers. I was just a normal girl in a wheelchair. Nothing more.
But something familiar needled me about the room. It felt as if I’d been here before. A huge artist’s easel sat in a corner. Had I visited here thinking I was in Scotland?
Yes. I recognized this space. This was Gran’s parlor where she’d painted and read stories to me. But I didn’t remember the chairs having gargoyles on the armrests. “Could this be…?” I wheeled myself around to face the fireplace, surveying the gnomes lining the mantle. I’d always liked looking at them–each one had their own personality. My favorite was the one in the middle with the glowing eyes.
I turned myself around, facing my accusers. “We’re not in hell, guys,” I announced, relieved. “We’re in Scotland!”
Next update Wednesday, December 5th.