Before I could catch my breath, my computer teacher, Ms. Claxton, turned into the witch I knew she was.
“The queen has been looking for you, Ms. Michaels, and now I’ve got you. You’ll not get away from me,” her elderly voice cracked on the last word.
Although the magical cloud still rained depressing thoughts over me, feelings of rage bubbled through my head, heating up my face. I’d show her who she was dealing with.
Spewing all my anger at her perpetual torment of me all school year, I lit a firestorm and didn’t let up until I was sure she was down.
When I had to catch my breath, to my surprise, it was as if my fire didn’t touch her.
Raising her arms in glee, she said, “Your piddly fire tricks won’t hurt me. In fact, it’s made me even stronger.”
In horror, I watched as the bottom half of her morphed into an ugly crab spider type creature.
“What the…” I whispered.
“Come with me or die!” she screeched.
“I’ll never join you or the Under Realm queen.” My voice sounded so weak like I was a mouse squeaking at a dinosaur. If my fire couldn’t hurt her, how was I ever going to defeat her?
I remembered in her class, I was so embarrassed by how tiny she’d made me feel. I knew she hated me. Because I was different.
Suddenly, a power shot out of her hands and I dodged, but barely. The self doubt invaded my thoughts. What could I do? A part of me wanted to run. Fly away and hide. Just like I’d wanted to when I was that weak girl in high school with only a few friends.
“You can’t escape me forever!” Ms. Claxton hissed.
A sharp pain swallowed me up like I was being eaten by a huge monster. My wings batted trying to free myself but I couldn’t move.
“Stop resisting. It’ll make the pain grow worse!” she warned.
It was true. The more I pulled away from her power, it was as if thousands of knives twisted through my body. She had full control.
“Give up, Ms. Michaels. It’s useless to resist. I’m too powerful for such a weak creature as yourself.” She flipped me over then let go.
I tumbled to the ground, hitting my head hard.
She was right. I wasn’t strong. Why was I chosen to go through this trial anyway? It was all so pointless.
The witch let out a shriek. “She’s mine now, Queen Casteen! Make ready your armies. We attack tonight!”
Brenden’s voice echoed in my mind like it was coming through a mist. “Most importantly, Athena. Believe in yourself!”
The witch skuttled toward me, her claws clacking along the deck.
I shut my eyes, wincing and wondering when this would be over.
Lenora’s words drifted inside my head. “It isn’t about brawn and strength as it is about the heart.”
The heart. The trials weren’t about strength. That’s what they’d been saying to me over and over. Queen Oria dismissed anyone who thought strength triumphed character.
What was I doing? I couldn’t defeat the witch with my strength. But maybe…
It was as if a veil lifted from my eyes and with it, power flooded through me. I rose up, wings flapping with the capability I had all along. “I won’t be going with you because I know who I am.”
I rose higher in the air and shouted, “I’m Athena of the Over Realm, Middle Realm and Under Realm. I am stronger than you because I believe I can defeat you! You’re a weak, evil wretch, not worthy to even be here speaking to me. Now go! And never show your face to me again!”
“Stop it!” the witch screeched. “Stop saying those awful things!”
I landed next to her, seeing that she was a truly pathetic creature. I pitied her. “I’ll never be afraid of you. Ever.”
“NO!” she yelled, her legs buckling underneath her.
Sparkles whipped around me then the beautiful Fairyland came into focus. I spotted a tiny tot, no doubt a very aged Godrick.
“Well done, Athena. I was a bit worried there for a moment. I almost whisked you away when the monster plunked you down. Your defeat was imminent.” He waved his hand toward me. “But you worked through it. I must say I’m very happy about that.”
I lifted my mouth. “I’m kind of worried about the next challenge now. Will it be even harder?”
“Harder is a perspective word, my dear. It is what you make of it as are all these challenges. Are you ready?”
No sooner did I give a slight nod than the magenta flash swooped over me, lifting me off the ground.
Light as air, my stomach whooshed like I was on a rollercoaster. “Whoa!” I cried.
Next thing I saw was my mom and dad smiling at me. “Hello, sweetheart,” Mom said. “I’m so glad to see you. We have a lot to talk about.”
What the hell? Had all of it been a dream?