In the morning, Brenden grilled our breakfast and we ate in silence. My nerves felt like they were literally going to jump out of my skin. I’d never been so jittery. So much was riding on me conquering this final trial, and I had no clue what I was going to go through. Brenden said it was different for everyone. But he assured me it wouldn’t be as difficult as facing the Under Realm queen since I couldn’t lose my life. If I failed, I’d go home.
“Are you ready?” Brenden asked, as we stood up.
“What if I said no? Are you sure you can’t give me any tips? I’m not gonna lie. Your training kind of sucks.”
He laughed, then pulled me along beside him. We walked for about a mile until he stopped in front of a stone hut. “There it is. The Cavern of Souls.”
“Promise me something,” I said, staring intensely at him. “If I fail, you’ll come find me. I want to help fight the queen.”
“Athena…you know I’m not in a position of promising…”
But before he could say no, I pulled him to me and kissed him. I hoped that would change his mind.
He didn’t move away. Instead, I left him breathless. Neither of us wanted to leave the other.
But I had a job to do.
I waved good bye before I entered the hut. He looked sad and alone.
Tearing my eyes from him and with one huge sigh, I opened the door.
Surprisingly, I was met with an irate glare from Lenora, the fairy who was with Brenden in the beginning of this journey. “You’re late,” her tinkling bell voice reverberated off the stone.
Looking around the tiny place, I said, “Yeah, that kind of happens when you get abducted by an Under Realm witch.”
“I’m not going to argue with you about all that you’ve unearthed. Queen Oria is livid. That Brenden is walking around as a dark elf is horrendous enough and now you…you are…well…”
I put my hand over my forehead trying to snuff out a headache. “I know. I’m something other than what you’d ordered.”
“We don’t have much time. You must complete this trial in less than twenty four hours. You must think through each challenge. Just as in all the trials, it isn’t about brawn and strength as it is about the heart. I want you to remember that. Understand?”
I nodded feeling as if I’d just jumped out of an airplane. There was no going back now.
Lenora flitted beside me, waving her hands. The ground shook and a stairwell appeared.
“Now Athena of the Over Realm, Middle Realm, and Under Realm, it is time to grasp hold of your destiny and become the Wishcaster. I bid Great Guardian’s blessings over your journey. Good luck, child.”
With a gulp and a huge lurch of my stomach, I tapped down the stairs.
The place stunk of old mold and the air was as clammy as a dead fish.
I spied a seat in the middle of a pool. It was all lit up. Pretty obvious where I was supposed to go since there were no doors.
I splashed my way to the middle and clamoured up onto the seat. Nothing happened for a while. Then I relaxed and allowed all my nervous tension to drift away.
Every muscle unwound. My mind went blank and I felt as if I was floating in the air.
Suddenly, a gentle breeze blew over my face. I opened my eyes to find I’d traveled to a magical place that looked as if it came right out of Fairytale Central. Tiny white fairies fluttered like butterflies over the flowers and trees. “Whoa,” I muttered, totally forgetting why I was even there.
Then I noticed my clothing had changed into a pretty, flowing dress. How was I going to fight in this? Lenora’s words came to me–it’s about the heart. Maybe I wouldn’t be fighting after all.
I walked toward a rainbow waterfall, gazing at the fluttering fairies. They reminded me of the Under Realm fairies, the harpswing, except these were smaller and definitely not scary.
I wondered if I was supposed to climb the rocks. Maybe this was going to be a puzzle I’d have to solve.
Then I heard a deep voice call my name. “Athena Meree Martin.”
I turned to see a handsome fairy all dressed up in a golden coat much like the way Brenden was dressed when he was the Wish Book.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I am your servant should you prevail this trial. My name is Godrick, the eternal Wish Book. I’ve come to give you your challenges. You must conquer three problems. If you fail, you will be sent away immediately.”
I eyed him. He looked even older than Brenden. And this man was a fairy. That meant he was like a toddler. “If you’re the Wish Book, why are you so young?”
“I am eternal, transcending time. When you defeat each foe, you will find that I’ve grown older in that span. Do not worry about my form. Worry about the tasks set before you. Are you ready, Athena of the Over Realm, Middle Realm, and Under Realm?”
I gulped, heart beating so hard it hurt. Then I nodded.
Brilliant light blasted from his hands bathing me with warmth.
He muttered words I couldn’t understand as the light poured over me like honey.
“What’s going on?” I whispered. My head swooned.
And then the next moment I was in the middle of a swamp. The mist was thick and I couldn’t see very well.
Once I got my bearings, I recognized it.
“The Moor of Dread,” I spoke out loud. The delicious smell of licorice lured my eyes to what I knew I’d find.
Crimerife. It glowed ahead, winking through the mist.
Senses tingling, the familiar euphoric invincibility rushed through me. “Yes!” I hunched over, trying to get a good look as to how much would be mine.
Racing toward it, the biggest piece of rock almost sang to me. I wanted it. No, I needed it. I’d be hard to defeat with all that crimerife in my possession.
I could take on the queen’s army all by myself with it. Maybe I would be able to turn into a real dragon with the magic I’d gain!
The queen would have to bow down to me in that case.
As I was about to touch the rock, from deep inside I heard myself shout, “NO!”
Brenden said crimerife in this form was deadly to witches. This was a trick.
I then knew what to do even though my body longed to taste and touch the rock.
Energy surging through me, I blasted the stone, destroying it into a million tiny pieces.
Instantly, I was back in the fairy forest, staring at a child. “Are you…Godrick?”
“Yes, it is I, Godrick, the eternal Wish Book. Well done! You may be the first to finish all three challenges in record time. I am most pleased with your determination and willpower.”
“Thank you. Will all the tasks be that easy?”
“I cannot say. These tasks are failings you possess inside. If you conquer them in your heart, it very well may be easy for you. We shall see.”
I didn’t like the sound of that.
Raising his hands, the shimmering light flooded over me. But instead of fillng me with light and warmth, this filled me with dread and sadness.
It was as if a heavy cloud drifted over me. I didn’t feel like I could conquer anything or anyone. “What is wrong with me?”
And then I was suddenly standing on the dock near my home.
I stared at an ugly old woman. I recognized her.
“Mrs. Claxton?” I screeched.