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Consequential Magic - The Oath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consequential Magic

The Oath

 

Lizzi Cruz

Royce Steele

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consequential Magic

The Oath

Copyright 2017 Lizzi Cruz and Royce Steele

 

SBN: 9781370249336

Title: Consequential Magic – The Oath

Author: Lizzi Cruz & Royce Steele

Publisher: Shakespir, Inc.

 

Private Editor: Ann Anson

 

 

All rights reserved. No part of this novel may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

 

This book is a complete work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons – living or dead, or to actual events is entirely coincidental.

 

 

Authored by Lizzi Cruz and Royce Steele

First Edition Print 2017

 

 

 

Cover created and designed by Royce Steele. Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Reader

There’s always the magic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall into a world where

anything impossible

is possible to happen.

 

 

 

 

 

Prologue

Welcome to Crow Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The story begins inside Crow Hill Academy – an ordinary place, in an ordinary town, with ordinary boys and girls attending.

The academy does not sit on the top of a high mountain. It is not surrounded by a great, black lake, or a large, enchanted pine forest. Nor, does it look like a prison with barbwire fencing and strange lookout towers. It does not resemble a medieval castle with gloomy walls or tall turrets. It is indeed, an enormous citadel sitting in the center of town – which you could say was very far from the ordinary.

No matter where you stand in the town of Crow Hill, from every niche and corner, the metal slanted roof of the academy and its tall clock tower is seen poking above the tree tops. Nevertheless, no one takes notice to it, any more, than they would take notice to something they had seen a million times before. The clock tower exists as any commonplace tree, bush, or blade of grass. It is no more or no less of an attraction than the sign coming into town that reads, ‘Crow Hill – Population 1313.’

The town of Crow Hill sits in a large roundabout street surrounding the academy. Every neighborhood, from the smallest to the largest, sits on roundabout streets that connect one to the other by an alleyway, an attached road, or sometimes both.

No one notices from the street level what you can see from a bird’s eye view. The entirety of Crow Hill, from one end to the other, is shaped like the gears inside the clock tower. It is quite the picturesque town that one might imagine it to be, with all its quaint, down-home charm, and its alluring draw.

The entire town looks and feels as if it came straight out of a fairy-tale and plopped smack down in our modern age. Then again, it might be quite possible that you or anyone else would never take notice to it. It is, after all, just an ordinary place, in an ordinary town, with ordinary people like you and me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

The Oath

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Endora wasn’t crazy for ditching sixth-period; she had her reasons. Stopping at the south wing corner, she leaned against the column, and slipped the shoes from her feet. Quickly tossing them into her bag. She rummaged through the side-pocket and took out a compact. Glancing at the reflection of her grey eyes, she brushed her fingers through her short black hair.

Endora Brown, slender, book nerd, and high school freshman snapped the compact shut and dropped it back into her bag. She tiptoed down the east wing in her ankle socks, clutching her books against her chest. Her eyes locked onto every door she passed. She was extremely careful not to make a sound.

The huge hallways in Crow Hill Academy were notorious for amplifying the most miniscule noise and the consequences of getting caught… well, let’s just say, major tragic with a capital T. She took a deep breath in, rounded the corner, and darted into the girl’s lavatory.

The door slowly shut behind her.

 

2

 

“OMG,” Demi whispered. She stepped out of the first stall. “Where have you freaking been?”

Demi Collins, slim, brown-eyed, wannabe vogue freshman stood in front of her and flipped her blonde hair over her shoulders. “You didn’t get caught, did you?” she asked in her yuppie voice. She braced for the worst possible answer.

“No, she didn’t,” Selena answered in her usual sarcastic tone. She stepped out of the neighboring stall, stood in front of the mirror, and adjusted the skirt of her well-hated uniform. “Seriously,” she mumbled and curled her lip. “Who picked these colors… red and white?” She took a quick glance at herself. “Look at me, I’m a fashion wreck.”

Selena Woods, thin, blue-eyed, snarky freshman pulled back her long brown hair with a fuzzy band. “You know,” she said. “Witches hardly get caught at anything. They escape by shape-shifting.” She turned from the mirror and stared straight at Demi. “They’re way too clever to get caught, unless—”

“They totally do something lame,” Demi said, finishing the sentence her way.

Selena rolled her eyes. “I was going to say…” She continued after a short pause. “Unless they want to.”

“Which is totally lame,” Demi rebounded with her famous Machiavellian grin.

Endora set her bag down and plopped Indian style on the cold ceramic floor. “So far, I haven’t done anything lame, but the day isn’t over yet,” she said with a wink. She pictured herself opening the compact to check her eyes and hair. Well, unless you count that, she thought. She took the shoes out of her bag and slipped them on. “Oh, and for your information-” She glanced at the two of them. “None of us are official yet, not until we sign.”

Selena parked beside Endora and looked around at the bland walls. She let out a deep sigh. The bad feels of being cramped in this place were starting to bug her, and the smell of disinfectant wasn’t making things better. “Well, let’s do it,” she suggested. “Then we can get out of this drop-dead place, and we’re totally officially witches… right?”

“Right,” Endora agreed.

Demi sat on the other side of Endora. She looked over at the last sink at the far end of the counter. “Mila,” she called out and patted her hand against the floor.

Mila stood on her tiptoes, stared into the mirror, and rolled the lip gloss over her lips.

Mila Hill, skinny, self-absorbed, brat freshman puckered up and pressed her lips against the glass. “There,” she whispered, smiling at herself. “Another kiss for the sisters.” She put the lip gloss in her bag, grabbed the brush, and ran it through her shoulder length red hair. When she finished, she tossed the brush back in, took a few steps back from the mirror, and narrowed her green eyes for a better look. Perfect, she thought.

She plopped down across from Endora and between Selena and Demi. “Ta-da! I’m here,” she announced and threw her hands up in the air with a big happy smile.

 

3

 

They sat quietly, knee against knee, cramped between the stalls and the sinks. The last time they sat like camp girls around a fire was two weeks earlier in the clock tower. There they professed their desire to be witches. Each of them swore to the others that’s what they would be… witches, or, as Endora claimed, witchy girls.

Endora reached inside her bag into the zipper-pouch. “This is it,” she said and pulled out a piece of paper. She slowly and carefully unfolded it. “I did it last night.” She held the page out in front of her. At the top, written in red ink, was the initial ‘W’ and the word ‘Oath.’

“Who’s reading it?” Mila asked arching her brow.

Selena reached over and snatched the page from Endora’s hand.

Endora widened her eyes as big as half-dollars as the image of ripping paper flashed in her head. “Careful,” she snapped.

Selena handed the page to Mila. “Here, you’re reading it.” She glanced over at Endora with a sideways look. “I was careful,” she whispered. “I swear it.”

Mila held onto the page. She read every sentence aloud. Before she finished the last line, she stopped and stared blankly at the words.

“Tick-tock,” Selena said and tapped her finger impatiently against the floor. “Seriously, girl, time’s moving… and you’re not.”

Mila pretended not to hear her sarcastic words and read on. “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” she said and glanced up from the page. She looked at Endora. “So, what does it mean, exactly?”

“Simply put,” Endora answered, her words hurried. “It means break the oath and you are broken from it. You will no longer be a witch.”

“Right,” Selena interrupted. “And whoever breaks it is O-U-T. Out of the circle.” She looked over at Mila. “That means no oath, no magic, no more witchy poo… no nothing.”

Demi unclipped the ballpoint pen from her paper-jotter and handed the pen to Mila.

Mila’s face paled, and her hand shook as she took the pen. It didn’t take Galileo to figure out Mila was a little unsure about signing.

“Don’t think of it as a bad thing,” Mila said. “Think of it as protection.”

“Like insurance.” Endora leaned forward and whispered to her.

Mila signed her name on the first line. “I totally get it, now.” She passed the ballpoint and the paper.

Demi signed on the second line. Selena, on the third.

Endora was the last to sign. She quickly wrote her name on the fourth line with a sigh. “We’re so legit,” she said and folded the page. She put it carefully back into the zipper-pouch.

“Now that we’re officially witches, any clue what’s next?” Demi asked. “Perhaps a spell?”

 

4

 

The girls swapped awkward looks back and forth. No one had a clue what to say or do. Endora stood up and broke the silence. She glanced at her watch. “Never mind,” she said and pulled her bag up on her shoulder. “Bell time.”

Selena happily jumped to her feet and dusted the back of her skirt off. “We’ll figure it out later. I’m so ready to cliff this place.”

“One thing is for sure, it’s not going to be a cakewalk out of here,” Demi said and stood.

“No kidding, Sherlock,” Selena whispered.

Mila stood up and stretched. She stepped over to the mirror and checked out her uniform. She looked at her backside. “I know witches don’t get caught, but just in case… nobody get caught.” she said and took her bag off the sink. “Spending a week in detention is totally off the table, especially with Sister Dagon ruling the roost.” She pulled her bag up on her shoulder. “The woman totally has it in for me.” She glanced over at the smooch on the mirror and continued. “Dagon is a dried-up ghoul that climbed its way out of…” Her words trailed off as if she had forgotten what to say.

Selena threw a sideways glance at her. “Why stop?” She clutched a hand on her hip. “Finish it… dork. Don’t leave your words hanging in the air… that’s just rude.”

Mila stared back. She hesitated saying the word. Before she knew what happened, it spewed from her mouth. “Hell,” she blurted.

“ There you go,” Selena smarted with a crooked smile. “Don’t you feel better? Only next time say it like you mean it- Hell.”

Demi blurted out the silliest thing she could think to say. “Witch tales, and donkey feet, mind your tongue before you speak.”

Mila couldn’t hold back. She busted out with a fat lady giggle that sounded loud enough to crack plaster. Immediately, she cupped her hand over her mouth and whispered between her fingers. “Sorry.”

Selena wasted no time. She pressed her finger against her lips. “Shush, for gosh sakes. Pipe it.”

“I said sorry,” Mila giggled.

“You know the walls in this place have the longest ears,” Endora said. “They can hear every whisper, and you can bet they heard that. We’ll be quite lucky if the Gorgon Radar didn’t go off and she don’t waddle her fat self in here.” She walked over to the door and eased it open wide enough to peek out the gap.

The hallway was clear, no sign of Gorgon.

Endora glanced at her watch and started the countdown. “Five,” she whispered.

“Four,” Selena said from behind her.

“Three,” Demi spoke softly after.

Mila stood last in line. “Two”

In a perfect blend, they whispered together, “One.”

Like clockwork, the bell rang and the doors swung wide open. The east, south, and west wings filled with loud chatter. The sound of lockers opening and slamming and the chatter of excited kids echoed from one end to the other. Everyone rushed about. It was Friday, the week’s end. No one from freshman to senior wanted to be at the academy a second longer than they had to be.

 

5

 

Sister Gorgon waddled down the east wing like an oversized fat penguin.

Everyone in the academy and outside its doors knew the story of Baby Gorgon, how she was left on the sidestep and brought in to be raised by the sisters.

 

In the early 1960s eighteen-year-old Sister Dagon took the waste paper basket outside to the rear dumpster. At her feet, in a large carrying basket, laid a baby wrapped in a bundle of blankets. The sister bent over with a scowl on her face and picked up a note that stuck out from the top-blanket. “Take care.” She mumbled the words beneath her breath.

Baby Gorgon grew up learning far too well how to stick her long snout in the places it didn’t belong. She became the official radar and tattletale. She adopted a yardstick as her weapon of choice and wasn’t shy about using it. Nothing changed through the years except that Father Time had crept in and made her a little meaner.

 

Gorgon craned her neck to the left and to the right. She gawked at every boy and girl in her sight. Every few steps she slapped her yardstick against the lockers or floor, making a snap so loud that kids cringed. When they cringed, Gorgon’s eyes sparkled with a glint of diabolical pleasure.

She passed by the girls’ lavatory, and in a high-pitched voice she shrilled, “No dilly-dallying about.” Oblivious to Endora standing on the other side of the door peeking out, Gorgon didn’t notice the girl jump at her shrill shout, and she certainly didn’t see Endora when the door eased open a little wider.

Endora quietly slipped out behind her back and mingled her way into the flow of red and white uniforms.

Selena, Demi, and Mila followed close behind, one after the other, pacing their steps as fast as they could go through the crowd.

Sister Gorgon was none the wiser. She turned at the end of the hallway. Before she disappeared around the corner to the south wing, she watched the front doors fly wide open. She listened to the loud crash they made against the exterior of the building, and, if anyone had been watching, they would have seen her cringe just a little.

Endora was the first to walk outside and take in the fresh air of freedom. She paused at the bottom step and looked up at the sky. Not a cloud in sight, just a brilliant blue canvas overhead and the warmth of the bright sun shining down on the town of Crow Hill. She took another deep breath in and headed out to the open gate.

Demi, Selena, and Mila quickly caught up to her before she strolled away from the iron bars that bordered the land. They walked slowly along the way, talking, laughing, and making light of Sister Gorgon.

“The woman has issues,” Mila laughed.

The girls rounded the corner and walked to their favorite hangout. Selena peeked in the large glass window between the green, white, and gold letters that spelled out P-I-Z-Z-E-R-I-A. She could tell right away that some of the seniors and juniors had already gotten there ahead of everyone else.

Sister Dagon pulled favorites again and let the older ones out from the prison coop early, she thought.

As usual, the booths were occupied, leaving the tables and counter for the mere freshmen. Selena let out a long sigh and turned from the view. She hated the favoritism.

Chapter Two

Forty-Eight Hours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

The door swung open.

An old man stepped out, carrying a large pizza box. The thick aroma of sausage and cheese rolled into the air.

“OMG,” Demi said and stared at the box. She took a big whiff as he passed. “That smells so good,” she whispered and turned to her friends. “Okay, so what’s it going to be?” she asked.

Endora stared at her with a blank look in her eyes. It was obvious she was caught off guard from the smell and was taking a few seconds to process what Demi had just asked. Her eyes widened and she gave a little shrug. “Not sure.”

“What are you two babbling about?” Mila asked.

“A magic spell,” Endora calmly replied.

 

2

 

The door swung open again.

A squad of fake-vogue-preps followed Ingrid outside onto the sidewalk. Ingrid Hill was a skinny, red-haired and blue-eyed know-it-all; a senior and varsity head cheerleader, the girl every girl wished to be and every boy wished he could date. She glared around at Mila and quickly brushed by her, making Mila take a step back.

“Move it, baby sister.” She snapped her spearmint-gum.

Mila clenched her teeth and kept quiet until Ingrid was far enough out of range. The girl brought out the worst in her, and, lately, it was getting hard to hold back the bad feels she had for her. She turned to her friends. “Seriously, I wish she would shut up and not call me that. I wish she would just go away and be someone else’s problem.”

“She’s not that bad,” Demi said. “I’ve seen a lot worse.” She watched Ingrid fade into the distance with her squad. “At least you have a sister.”

“You’re freaking kidding me,” Selena quickly objected. “I would cliff that high-maintenance pom-pom pusher if she were my sister. She’s so totally condescending.” Selena rolled her eyes and continued, “What she said was nothing but a slap of sibling cutthroat.”

Mila agreed and nodded. It was cutthroat sisterly rivalry and, for the record, she was glad someone else besides her saw it.

“Whatever spell we do it will have to be a simple one,” Selena bounced back to the conversation. “Nothing overly complicated and nothing over our heads.”

“Everything is over our heads,” Mila giggled and turned to look in the window. She stared through the glass at Dillon Percy. He stood behind the counter in his tie-dye tee shirt and faded jeans. He tossed the dough into the air and spun it around perfectly on his fingertips. The boy was a total dream. She did a quick turn about when she heard Demi.

“It has to be the four of us together.”

“Right,” Endora agreed. “And I think the first rule of the witchy girls should be no one does spells alone; it’s together or nothing.”

Selena stepped off the curb and walked over to the edge of the alleyway. She liked the way it reminded her of the yellow brick road, only it wasn’t yellow, and it wasn’t brick. It was brown cobblestone between two brick exterior walls. The best part was the thick vinery that crept up and disappeared over the tops of the roof. She loved that the walkway was clear and not cluttered with garbage or soiled with down-and-outers to trip over, like in the big cities. The place was storybook perfect – enchanting.

Selena turned away from the alleyway and looked over at her friends. “We could stay at my house,” she volunteered. “Mom and dad left this morning.” She walked closer to them. “They won’t be back for forty-eight hours. We can do the spell there.” She slid her bag off her shoulder and held it down at her side. “No interruptions,” she finished with a smile.

With no questions or arguments, Demi, Mila, and Endora took the cell phones from their bags.

“Wait,” Selena abruptly stopped them in mid-dial. “Don’t say a word about my parents not being there” She jumped up on the curb. “We don’t want, or need, a parent freak out. You know how adults get.”

“OMG,” Demi said. “My dad is the worst. He’s so protective. He has to know everything. Where I am, what I’m doing,”

“My mom isn’t protective.” Mila said. “It’s Ingrid I have to worry about, and she’s not really protective, just nosey.”

Endora smiled. “My mom wouldn’t have a problem with it. She’s cool, but I won’t rat us out to her.”

Mila clicked off her cell phone. “I can stay,” she said with a grin and tossed her phone back in her bag. “No problem.”

Demi erased the message from her dad. “Same here,” she said. “But I have to check in with him later.” She shook her head. “He’s such a worry wort.”

 

3

 

Lost in chat, Endora wandered a few steps away and rolled her eyes. “Okay, mom… I will. I said I would.” She clicked the off button. “Well, I can stay, but I have to go home first.”

“Why?” Mila was quick to ask.

“The box,” Endora answered. “It came this morning. Mom wants me to go through it first… before I disappear for the weekend.”

Mila stared at her as if what she had said didn’t register with her.

“It’s the box… remember,” Endora said, trying to jar her memory. “I told you about it last summer. I can’t believe my friends forgot.”

“I remember,” Demi spoke up.

“I didn’t forget,” Selena confessed. “But promise you’ll be straight over when you’re finished. We have a spell to do.”

Endora stood three fingers up together and kept the pinky and thumb down. “Witch promise. I’ll be there. No worries,” she said and tossed the phone in her bag.

She watched the three of them walk into the alleyway between the Pizzeria and the Java Café. When they reached the center, she turned in the opposite direction.

Endora strolled through town and turned right onto a road. She followed the sidewalk all the way, shuffling her feet along and lifting them up when she came to the cracks in the concrete. She veered to the left where the road met the neighborhood roundabout. Along the way she admired the street trees that grew between the edge of the sidewalk and the curb. To the far right sat her cookie-cutter home – number thirteen.

Endora placed her hand on the knob and opened the door. She stepped across the threshold. A strong scent hit her nostrils like a hot blast of wind.

 

4

 

“Is that you?” Cora Brown yelled from the upstairs hallway. She stood at the open linen closet waiting for an answer.

Cora moved the pile of mixed-matched sheets to the side and set a small box in the far corner out of sight. She quickly pulled the pile back in place, shut the door, and dashed into her room before Endora saw her.

“What’s up with the smell?” Cora heard Endora as she watched her drag up the steps to the top landing. Cora glanced over at her as she stood by her bed pretending to fold clothes. She gave Endora a half-wave.

“The whole house smells.” Endora said.

“It’s lavender,” Cora answered. “Gram’s smell good recipe. Do you like it?”

 

“Nice,” Endora whispered. She pushed her bedroom door open, stepped in, and tossed her bag on the bed. She plopped down and let out a long sigh. She scanned her eyes around the purple walls to the bookshelf crammed with a huge collection of fairytale books. She shut her eyes, hoping for a quick catnap.

Cora walked in wearing a big Mona Lisa smile and carrying a large, sealed box in her arms.

Endora opened her eyes and sat up. On the front side of the box her name was scribbled in big black letters.

E n d o r a

 

“This one is all yours,” Cora said, setting it down by her feet. She walked back into the hallway.

“Aren’t you going to wait and see what Gram left me?” she asked.

“Nope,” she answered. “I’ll leave you to your own rummaging.”

“Gee, thanks,” Endora mumbled as she listened to the sound of her mom’s footsteps going down the stairs. She glanced at her watch, scooted to the edge of the bed, and stared down at the box.

It wasn’t much bigger than she had imagined.

She let out a gasp of air, leaned over, and yanked the layers of packing tape off. She pulled back the top. A thick musty smell rolled out into the scented air.

“Oh, geesh,” she gasped.

She stood to her feet, reached inside, and pulled out a dusty green cloak. Endora quickly looked it over. Without a thought, she stuck her nostrils to the material and took a big whiff. Her nose snarled up and she tossed it over onto the corner chair. A puff of dust flew up and hovered over the room like a grey cloud. She waved her hand in front of her face.

“Remind me not to do that again,” she whispered.

She reached back into the box and brought out a small wooden chest. With her finger, she traced over the gold symbol engraved on the top – an S interlocked sideways between an upside-down W and an upright M.

Curious, Endora opened the top and stared at four gemstone necklaces inside. She picked up the ruby, admiring the different hues of red. “Beautiful,” she whispered. She put the ruby back inside. “Gram, you had such good taste.”

She shut the top, put the chest in her bag, and reached down into the box. She lifted out a heavy leather book stuffed full of writings.

She sat on the edge of the bed and carefully opened the pages to the middle of the book. She stared at the words, and her eyes widened.

“Seriously,” she said.

She flipped the pages back to the first one and started reading. Before she had realized it, two hours had come and gone. She looked at the window at saw the sun starting to set.

“Gosh.” She closed the book and set it down in her bag. She quickly tossed the box in her closet. It was no use bothering to change out of her uniform, so she grabbed her bag and headed down the stairs in a hurry.

Cora sat cuddled on the couch reading the newspaper. “Do you want me to drive?” she asked, peeking over the top.

“That’s okay. I’ll get there before dark.” Endora bent down to give her mother a kiss on the top of the head. She went out the front door and stepped onto the porch. She walked across the yard to the sidewalk.

The pole lights clicked on.

She listened to the low hum of each as she passed. By the time she reached the third light, she was humming right along with them.

Chapter Three

Gram Has a Secret

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Selena leaned halfway out her bedroom window. From the third floor, she could see across the whole neighborhood.

No sign of Endora, she thought, tapping her fingers impatiently against the outside frame.

The streetlights in the neighborhood popped on.

Selena listened to the sound of the neighbor’s mower cutting off while she watched a small poodle wander along the sidewalk. In the distance, sounds of little boys laughing and doing big wheel spinouts in the street filled the air. Two little girls strolled by pulling a red tatty wagon of dolls. They both looked up at her window, called her name, and waved. Selena waved back.

 

2

 

Demi laid the brush down on the dresser and pulled her hair back in a tight ponytail. She stared into the mirror, wondering if she would look better with short hair like Endora.

Mila stood beside her, leaning over to the side. She ran her fingers through her hair. “I think we both should go shorter.”

Demi looked at her strangely. She was just thinking that. How odd.

“Don’t muck with it. Let it grow,” Selena said, coming back in from the window. She walked over to the dresser, stood between them, and stared in the mirror at their reflection. “If you cut it, you’ll be sorry later.” She took the fuzzy elastic band from her hair, brushed her long strands, and put the band back on. She stepped over to the side of the bed, kneeled down, and reached under, pulling out a faded blue suitcase.

“Dang, where did you get that has-been thing?” Mila asked, staring at it with disgust.

Selena flicked open the rusted latches and lifted the top. “I’ve had this thing forever,” she answered. “I put junk in I don’t want to toss.” She reached her hands in and shuffled through the pile of jumble. “Look,” she said and smiled, holding up a shiny badge. “This was from my brownie troop.” She tossed it back in and picked up a mood ring. “And this thing… I’m pretty sure I got from an old gypsy woman at the fair.”

Demi widened her eyes. “Let me see that,” she said and took the ring from her hand. “I’ve always wanted one.” She slid the ring on her finger and admired it as it changed from black to green. She looked over at Selena. “What’s green mean?”

“Sensitive,” she answered.

“Since when?” Mila asked with a smirk.

Selena held up fifteen pictures of herself, one for each year, and laid them back in the jumble. “And here’s my first set of jacks.” She held them in her hand and slowly dropped them back in, one by one. She grabbed a piece of paper and unfolded it. “Here’s my first drawing.” She handed it to Demi, who passed it over to Mila.

Mila took the drawing and looked closer at the tall witch in a pointed hat holding a crooked broom at her side. “Oooh, you’re psychic,” she taunted, wiggling her fingers in front of her.

Selena took the paper from Mila and folded it back. “You’re a funny, funny girl,” she said, with a grin.

Selena grabbed a yellow pillar candle and held it up. “We can use this for the spell.” She shut the suitcase and shoved it back under the bed.

 

3

 

A loud slam came from somewhere upstairs.

“Holy crap,” Demi gasped and placed her hand over her pounding heart. “What was that?”

Mila dashed over to the door and out into the hallway. She looked around for something out of the ordinary. She saw nothing. She stepped back and into the room. “Nothing,” she said and shrugged her shoulders.

“But the house ghost,” Selena softly snickered under her breath.

“Ghost.” Mila’s eyes widened. “No freaking way,” she said and plopped on the bed. “Ghosts aren’t real.”

Selena set the candle on the dresser. She turned and spoke with a calm, disinterested look at Mila. “Well, you don’t have to believe for them to be real. Just like nobody has to believe in witches for you to be real.”

“That’s true,” Demi busted in. “Believing is just your personal take on what you’re willing to accept, and that’s logic 101.”

“I get it,” Mila said. “Point sort of taken,” she half-heartedly agreed. “But I never—”

“Saw one,” Demi finished her sentence and started another with a secret of her own. “I saw one once.”

“A ghost? When did you see one?” Selena asked, giving her a strange look.

“And where did you see one?” Mila added with her slight bout of skepticism.

Demi walked over to the window and looked below at the light poles. No Endora in sight, she thought.

“I was seven,” Demi answered. “In my room, under the bed, I heard something like fingernails dragging across the floor. I got up the courage, hung my head over the side, and looked under.”

“You’re never supposed to do that,” Mila gasped. “Seriously, don’t you pay attention to horror movies?”

Demi turned around and stared with a serious look in her eyes. “I swear… a little girl… pale, sickly looking was looking right at me. Her eyes were black like freaking coal.”

“What did you do?” Mila asked.

“What any seven-year-old would,” she answered. “I got up and ran. I tried to tell dad. He swore I was having a nightmare and that I was sleeping, but I wasn’t. I was wide-awake. He didn’t believe me… so I kept my mouth shut… until now. Point is… I believe ghosts are real.”

“I bet you scared it more than it scared you,” Selena said.

“What?” Demi looked bewildered.

“It’s a fact; ghosts are more afraid of being scared than they are of scaring,” Selena said. “Do you know witches used to frighten ghosts away by yelling ‘BOO’ at them? Then people started using the word to scare each other. Now witches hardly use it at all.” She picked up the candle from the dresser and stepped into the hallway. She glanced over her shoulder. “Well, are you two coming or not… and flick out the wall light, will you?”

Demi and Mila looked at each other, shrugged, and followed her downstairs into the kitchen.

 

4

 

Selena stuck her hand in the secret stash cookie jar, pulled out a ten-dollar bill, and waved it in the air. “Double cheese,” she said with a big happy grin.

“You’re so lucky,” Demi sighed and stared out through the sliding glass doors into the backyard. Her eyes fixed on the in-ground pool.

Selena glanced over at her. “You mean the pool?” she asked. “That’s nothing. Everybody on this roundabout has one.” She thought of Clara Bella. “Oh, except for Old Lady Clara. The one in the first house on the right. She filled hers with dirt.” Selena snickered under her breath. “And now it’s a pool of flowers,” she said and dialed a number on her cell phone. “They say she’s afraid of water; that’s why she filled it. Dad says she totally ruined the pool and that ruined the house. He said it’ll never sell again, not in a million years.”

“No,” Demi said, turning from the doors. “I didn’t mean the pool. It’s cool and all, but I was talking about your mom and dad and them leaving you alone all weekend. Just once, I wish my dad would do that.”

“It’s not what it’s cracked up to be; trust me on that,” Selena said and put the phone against her ear.

“Pizzeria.” A male voice answered and took her order.

“I wish I had a dad,” Mila sighed. She sat on the barstool staring across the counter. “Give me half a chance and the power, I’d swap Ingrid in a heartbeat for a dad and not think about it twice.”

Selena smiled and glanced her way. Before she opened her mouth to say another word a loud knock came to the front door.

“Endora!” Demi yelled and ran into the foyer. She swung the door open.

“Who else would it be?” Endora asked with a big smile. “I told you I would be here. Witchy Girls don’t lie.” She stepped inside and set her bag down against the wall. “Where’s Selena and Mila?”

“Kitchen,” Demi answered and shut the door behind her.

“So, what’s it going to be?” Selena asked with her head ducked down inside the fridge. “I have whatever… just name your potion.”

The three of them stood behind her. At the same time, they belted out together, “Ginger Ale.”

Selena grabbed four bottles and shut the door with her foot. “I knew it was you,” she said, turning around. “You almost missed it. Double cheese is on the way.”

 

5

 

Another knock at the front door.

Mila grabbed the money from the counter. “I got this!” she yelled, running into the foyer. She opened the door. “Hi,” she blurted out, sounding like an immature idiot to herself.

Dillon stood on the porch with a pizza box in his hand.

Dillon Percy – short black hair, blue-eyes, a junior, and an offensive lineman on the football team – smiled at her. “Double cheese,” he said.

Mila handed him the money. It was impossible to take her eyes away or blink. He looked like one of those Vogue Teen male models. His smile was the absolute cutest, which made the dimples in his cheeks stand out. He was perfect to Mila.

Mila reached out and took the box. “Thanks,” she whispered.

He stared at her for a moment as if he were trying to place her, but that wasn’t true. He had seen her before many times. “Hey, aren’t you a junior?” he asked, catching her off guard.

“Freshman,” Mila answered bashfully, secretly hoping that wouldn’t make a difference.

“Oh,” he said, looking confused and a little disappointed. “I saw you at the Pizzeria earlier. You were outside hanging with the seniors.”

“No.” Mila shook her head. “That was Ingrid, my sister, and her tag along squad.”

He tucked the money into his pocket and left her standing on the porch.

Mila watched as he walked back to his red, beat up VW Bug. He opened the door, and the rusty hinges made a loud creak. Just before he slid in, he yelled back at her, “See you around.” She smiled the biggest smile she could and threw up her hand for a quick wave.

Dillion started the clunker and looked in his rearview at her as he pulled away from the curb. Wishing that she was at least a junior. “Seriously,” he mumbled with a sigh.

When she could no longer see the VW, and was sure he was gone, Mila went inside and shut the door. She walked into the kitchen, carrying the box, and stopped a little beyond the doorway. She bellowed from the top of her lungs, “Pizza!”

 

 

 

6

 

After pizza and a movie, Demi, Mila, and Endora stood by watching Selena stand on the bed while hanging up a poster of her favorite vampires – the Salvatore Brothers.

She pinned the last corner up with a thumbtack and jumped off. “There,” Selena said, scanning her eyes over the poster. “You can’t get better than that,” she whispered. “If I was just a few years older.”

“OMG! Give it up!” Demi laughed and looked at the poster. “Like they would hook up with us… that’s a total fail.”

“Seriously.” Selena glared over at her. “I don’t believe you did that. You had to go and kill it.”

“Nice,” Mila whispered, admiring the vampire brothers.

Endora gave the poster a thumb up. “Excellent,” she said, and set her bag down on the bed. “Hey, do you want to see something really neat?” She reached in her bag and turned around. She held the wooden chest in her hands.

“What’s that?” Demi asked.

She opened the top and took out a ruby stone necklace. “Here,” she said and handed it to Demi. “Take this and hang onto it.” Next, she took out a sapphire stone necklace and gave it to Mila. She picked up the citrine stone necklace and passed it to Selena. Lastly, she took out the emerald stone necklace for herself.

“These are freaking gorgeous,” Demi said. She held the red stone up to the light.

“I know,” Endora smiled as she tossed the chest on the bed.

“Where did you get them?” Mila asked, admiring how the blue stone shone when she touched it.

“They were in the box Gram sent me,” Endora answered.

“How long has she been… dead?” Demi asked.

“A little over ten years, I think.” Endora walked over to the mirror and stared at her reflection. “She died when I was five. I don’t remember much about her. Mom said she loved me more than anything.”

“So the stones are over ten years old,” Mila said.

Selena examined the citrine stone and the clasp. “I think they’re much older… centuries perhaps.”

Endora positioned the emerald stone on her neck. “Gram had a condition set on the box,” she said. “Her lawyer wasn’t supposed to send the box to me until I was fifteen.” She fastened the clasp. “Well… how does it look?”

“Smashing,” Mila said with a bad attempt at a British accent.

“They’re ours,” Endora said. “Gram wanted us to have them.”

“OMG! No freaking way!” Demi gasped and fastened the ruby around her neck. She stepped over to the mirror. “It looks just like it was meant for me, doesn’t it?” She turned to show them.

“I can’t believe it. You’re giving them to us… for keeps.” Mila put hers on. The sapphire laid perfectly against her lily-white skin. “I love it,” she whispered.

“Gram meant the stones for us,” Endora said. She picked up the chest from the bed and held it in her hands.

Selena put the citrine on. She touched it with her fingers and centered it on her neck. “It’s gorgeous on me. It looks just like it belongs,” she whispered.

“There is one minor condition,” Endora said.

Demi glanced over at her, a little worried what the condition was. “What is it?” she asked.

“It’s nothing bad, really,” Endora answered with an assuring smile. “See, the necklaces belong to us for keeps as long as we stay witches. If one of us breaks from the oath, their necklace goes back into the chest and, later, to someone else.” She handed the chest to Selena.

“What’s this for?” Selena asked.

“We trust you with it. You’re the keeper. Now, hide it for safekeeping,” Endora said.

Selena slid the top dresser drawer open. She shuffled through the clothes and set it in the back corner. She shut the drawer and looked in the mirror at the citrine stone. “Condition or not… I don’t care… I still love mine,” she said. “Besides, that’s not a bad condition, right?”

“Told you, it’s not really bad,” Endora said and reached in her bag. She pulled out Gram’s book and plopped down on the edge of the bed.

“What’s that?” Mila asked and stared down at the worn leather.

“It’s Gram’s book,” Endora answered, running her hand over the cover. “She started writing in it when she was fifteen.” She turned to the first page.

“Look at that,” Mila said. She stared down at the drawing of a weeping willow. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tree drawn so good. I didn’t know your Gram was an artist.”

“She wasn’t,” Endora answered. “This book contains Gram’s secret, a secret she wanted us to have.”

“I totally love secrets,” Mila said with a big smile.

“Me, too,” Selena agreed. She plopped down on the bed beside her. “So, do tell. Spill your guts.”

Chapter Four

Spell Me a Dream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Endora flipped the pages back and forth, searching. She showed them a drawing of a pentacle in a circle and smiled. Then she announced happily, “My Gram was a witch.”

“Seriously,” Selena said. “I can’t believe it!”

“OMG,” Demi gasped. “I was beginning to wonder.”

“I was so starting to suspect something,” Mila said.

“So, where do you think Gram got the stones?” Selena asked.

Endora shrugged. “I don’t really know. All I know is they were given to her for all of us.”

“So, we don’t know who put the condition on the stones,” Demi said. “That’s a little strange.”

“Right,” Endora answered. “I skimmed the book earlier, looking for something on the stones, but Gram didn’t say much about them. Only that they were for us.” She flipped to the back of the book. “That’s what took me so long to get here.”

“See, I knew you got sidetracked. I should’ve figured whatever kept you was a book,” Selena said jokingly. “So, I take it you didn’t know about your Gram until—”

“I didn’t,” she answered. “Not until I opened the book. Then it was obvious.” Endora pointed to the date written on the last page. “Look here… It says 2000, the third of May.”

“What’s it mean?” Mila asked.

“It’s my birthday,” Endora looked down at the words scribbled beside it. She read the passage aloud, “Four friends bind together under rule, an oath they take, witches they stay.” She smiled and whispered, “Hard to believe my Gram was a witch.” She touched her emerald stone and held it with her fingers. She fixated her mind on her mom. “You know, mom never has said a word to me about Gram—”

“Being a witch.” Mila finished her sentence.

“What’s hard to believe is she knew about the four of us,” Demi said. “That’s kind of freaky weird.”

“Want some good advice?” Selena asked. “Own it. She’s your blood, and that means you’re a generational witch. You have freaking roots, girl.”

“OMG,” Demi gasped. “You have a true blood claim.”

“Oooh, that makes you a natural,” Mila added. “I’m so jealous.”

Endora thought for a second then smiled. “Don’t be.”

 

2

 

“What about your mom?” Demi asked with curiosity in her voice. “If Gram was a witch and you are, then she has to be… right?”

Endora hadn’t given it much thought. She barely had time to get used to the idea of Gram being a witch, much less her mom possibly being one. She shrugged. “I guess,” she answered. “If she’s a witch, I don’t think she knows it. I’ve never seen her do anything witchy-like. Besides, mom would have said something to me by now… wouldn’t she?”

The neighbor’s car pulled into the driveway next door. Selena knew the sound of the engine and the rattle it made when it stopped. She stepped over to the window to check. “It’s possible she doesn’t know,” she said, glancing back over her shoulder. She closed the window and turned. “You didn’t know anything until you got the box. So, she might be totally in the dark about Gram, too… or it could be a skip.”

Endora looked at her strangely, bewildered. “A skip?” she said. “Okay, I have to ask… what are you talking about?”

Selena rolled her eyes. “Seriously, I can’t believe you weren’t paying attention. Biology 101. The generation skip,” she answered. “It’s where a gene exists in one generation, skips the next, and shows in the generation after.” Selena tilted her head slightly to the right. “Well, if genes can skip a generation—”

“I got it,” Demi interrupted. “Then maybe magic genes do the same.”

“Right,” Selena said. “The magic could have easily gone from Gram straight to you and totally ditched your mom.” She walked over to the closet and sorted through her clothes. She took four baggy shirts with matching jogging pants and shut the door. “Here,” she said, and tossed them over. “Put them on. It’s better than being in this horrible uniform all weekend. I can’t stand looking at it any longer.”

Endora shut the book, laid it aside, and stood up to change. She tossed her uniform in her bag. “Well,” she sighed. “If mom did get skipped, and she’s not a witch, then I will have to find a way to tell her about me and Gram.”

Selena tossed her uniform into her hamper. “Or you could just not say anything like Gram did. Just write stuff down in a book and one day pass it on when you have a kid.”

“Know what I think,” Mila said, pulling her jogging pants up over her hips. “She knows and has been keeping it from you.” She rolled her uniform up and stuffed it in her bag.

“Why would she do that?” Demi asked.

“Mom wouldn’t deliberately keep something like that from me. If she knew, she would’ve told me,” she said and glared over at Mila. “Mom and I have never kept secrets from each other.”

“Maybe she’s protecting you from a family secret,” Demi suggested.

“Spoken like a true and clueless Nancy Drew,” Selena smarted. “That’s silly, and do you want to know why? Her mom wouldn’t have given her the box Gram sent if she were hiding some sort of family secret from her.”

Endora walked over to the dresser and looked in the mirror at the emerald. “When I went home, the whole house smelled like lavender,” she said. “I asked mom what it was. She told me it was Gram’s smell good recipe.”

“So what?” Selena said, shrugging. “That really doesn’t prove anything. Maybe your mom was using it for just what she said she was.” She walked over to the door and leaned against the doorframe. She looked at her fingernails, inspecting her blue nail polish. “Having a smell good recipe hardly makes one a witch.”

Mila looked at Endora. “Maybe,” she shrugged. “Or it’s a sign she knows more than what she’s letting on.”

“I got it,” Demi spoke with the voice of optimism. “Come out and ask her. Just open the family closet and let the skeletons out.”

“No freaking way,” Endora said quickly. “If Gram didn’t say something to mom, she had a reason. Until I find out more, I’ll keep it hushed.”

“Ah-ha!” Mila shouted with a big grin. “See, you do keep secrets from each other.”

 

3

 

Selena flicked on the downstairs light. She walked into the back hallway, opened the linen closet, and reached in for the sleeping bags. Demi and Mila followed her. They took the sleeping bags and spread them out in a circle in front of the fireplace like a camp out.

Endora sat back in the recliner with Gram’s book, searching the pages for some kind of easy spell. It has to be something quick, something easy, and something for us all, she thought. After a few minutes searching, she yelled, “Here. I found it.”

“What?” Demi asked, leaning over the back of the recliner. “Do tell.”

Endora glanced over her shoulder and up at Demi. “It’s called Spell Me a Dream,” she answered.

“What does it do?” Mila asked, and sat down on the edge of the coffee-table.

Endora ran her finger along the words, mumbling to herself as she read. At the end of the last paragraph she stopped. “Gram doesn’t say much, only that it’s an open portal to a place called the Witch Maze.”

Selena finished with the sleeping bags and disappeared into the kitchen. She missed her mom and dad. She took her cell phone from the counter and hit the parent button. The phone rang four times, and on the fifth, her mom answered.

 

4

 

Margie Woods looked at her phone and answered in a groggy voice. “Hello, Selena.”

“Mom.”

Margie sat up in bed, a little startled by the unexpected call. She rubbed her eyes and looked over at the clock sitting on the bedside table.

“Is everything okay?” she asked, glancing out the window. The neon light from the motel sign seeped through the slats, making the room glow an eerie blue. “It’s almost eleven-thirty.”

She reached over and grabbed a Marlboro from an almost empty pack. She stuck the cig between her lips, fired up, and took a short draw. She blew out the smoke.

“Are you okay? I was going to call earlier, but I fell asleep watching a movie.” She looked over at the man beside her. “And your dad fell asleep sometime… I don’t know.”

“Everything’s okay.” Selena answered. “I’m good. I just wanted to say goodnight…”

 

5

 

Selena clicked off her cell phone and set it down on the counter. She missed her parents and had wanted to hear their voices. She grabbed four Cokes from the fridge and walked back into the living room. “Here you go,” she said and passed the cans around. “I overheard some… so what’s this Witch Maze you’re talking about?”

“Well, we’re not exactly sure,” Endora answered. “It’s a spell dream. Gram says the walls are eternal and that it is some kind of never-ending dimension.”

“Oh, I get it,” Selena said with a big smile. “It’s a place on the astral plane. I saw some movie about it before. Count me in.”

Endora read the instructions of the spell aloud. When she finished, they searched the house for the ingredients they needed.

Demi ran upstairs and grabbed the candle. She carved their initials into the wax just as Gram had written.

Mila anointed the candle by rubbing olive oil all over it. Selena made a perfect circle on a sheet of paper and used colored pens to write their names counter clockwise inside so the writing would surround a single flame.

Selena reached up on the fireplace mantel and took a wooden match from its box. She struck the match against the side and lit the wick. “Perfect,” she whispered with a grin.

Endora plopped down on a sleeping bag. “Ditch the light, somebody.” She laid down on her back.

Demi darted over to the far wall and clicked the switch off.

The house went dark.

Demi, Selena, Endora, and Mila laid flat on their backs. Endora’s feet pointed north, Selena’s pointed south, Mila’s pointed east, and Demi’s feet pointed west.

Endora looked over at Mila. “Hey,” she whispered to her. “Do you really think my mom knows?”

Mila didn’t waste a second answering back. “I do.”

Endora stared back up at the ceiling, focusing on the stucco above her head. Selena’s mom called it a popcorn ceiling, but the texture reminded her of cottage cheese… cottage cheese that smelled faintly like lavender. “Do you smell that?” she asked.

Demi sniffed the air. “No,” she answered. “What are we supposed to be smelling other than burning wax?”

“I don’t smell anything,” Selena said. “Just the candle wax.”

“What about you, Mila?” Endora asked.

Mila inhaled and slowly exhaled. “Nope… nothing here,” she whispered.

“Never mind, then,” Endora said, glancing at her watch. “Are we ready to try this?” She folded her hands across her chest and stared up at the ceiling.

Demi shifted herself back and forth, wiggling about, trying to get comfortable. Laying on her back wasn’t the easiest thing to do. She was a side sleeper, and that’s all there was to it.

“Seriously,” Endora said. “Stop being a wiggle worm or this won’t work. We have to concentrate.”

“Be still, everybody,” Mila said.

“We’re so wasting wax,” Selena belted out. “Oh wow, I sound like my mom.”

Demi settled in while Endora called out once more. “Ready?”

A blanket of stillness fell over the room. No one moved a muscle. Endora shut her eyes and touched her finger to her emerald stone. She focused until she saw herself wrapped from head to toe in green ripples of air. “Touch your stone,” she whispered to them. “And imagine yourself immersed in its color.”

Demi laid her hand over her ruby stone and saw herself basking in a deep river of red. Mila touched her sapphire and thought of the blue pouring down on her like a waterfall. Selena held onto her citrine and imagined flying in a yellow sunrise.

“Now, say this after me,” Endora whispered. “And don’t stop saying the words until we are in the Witch Maze.”

“How will we know if we’re there?” Demi asked.

“I think it will be obvious,” Mila answered with a low giggle.

“Shush,” Selena overrode the conversation. “You’re totally breaking the concentration.”

“Here we go,” Endora said, softly clearing her throat. She spoke the words loud, slow, and clear. “I can fly, I exist, I’m alive.” she said, repeating the words over and over.

Demi, Mila, and Selena repeated the words after her in a perfect and unbroken chant. Just before their voices faded, they drifted out from their bodies, and Endora shouted the magic word, “Transporto!”

The room fell silent.

 

6

 

They stood together, side by side, in the thickest pitch dark they had ever seen. Demi stretched her hand in front of her face. She couldn’t see at thing, not even her fingers when she wiggled them. “I can’t see anything,” she whispered.

“None of us can,” Endora said.

“This is so creeping me out,” Mila whined. “I totally did not sign up for this.”

“Where the heck are we?” Demi asked. “Are we in the Witch Maze or what?”

“My first guess… limbo,” Selena answered hesitantly. She looked around and saw nothing but blackness.

“I hope you’re kidding,” Mila whined again.

“She’s totally joking,” Endora said. “And quit whining. We’re not in limbo.”

“Wherever we are, it’s huge here,” Demi spoke up. “My voice is echoing.

“I’ve never seen the dark so dark before,” Endora admitted. “Gram didn’t mention a word in her writings about the dark.”

“Something tells me we’re not in Kansas anymore,” Demi snickered.

“Something tells me you’re right,” Endora agreed.

Chapter Five

You’re Here Not There

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

They walked slowly, one step at a time, unaware they were moving down a long corridor. Suddenly, out of the pitch dark, a strange glow of light manifested, and the walls that surrounded them revealed themselves.

“OMG,” Mila gasped. “Would you look at that?” Her eyes scanned up the walls. “I think we’re here.”

“This is it… the Witch Maze,” Endora whispered as she ran her hand over the closest wall.

Demi opened her mouth and made a loud humpf sound. She stopped alongside Endora and looked at the walls to the left and the right. “Look at them,” she whispered. “Is that real gold?”

“Yes,” Endora said and touched the wall. “It’s freaking real all right.” She took a few steps back and looked straight up.

“It’s like they don’t end,” Demi said.

Selena remembered Gram’s words. “Eternal,” she whispered.

Mila wandered slowly down the corridor to the end. She looked to her left. The walls went on as far as she could see. To her right, and a few hundred yards away, the corridor came to a dead end. There she saw a large English Tudor sitting alone in an alcove.

Selena turned from Endora and Demi. She looked around for Mila and saw she had wandered away.

 

2

 

A few moments later… Selena walked up behind Mila. “What are you doing?” She looked to the right where Mila was staring and saw the Tudor. “Now that’s totally enchanting. Straight out of a fairy tale.”

“Freaking Hansel and Gretel,” Mila said with a slight tone of silliness in her voice.

Endora and Demi walked to the end and stood beside the other two as they stared to the right.

“Well,” Endora said. “That’s either going to be the most perfectly charming place. Or the most terrible one.”

They walked side by side until they stood in front of a vine-covered porch.

“Look,” Demi said and pointed to the front window.

A large, old sign hung inside the glass, nestled tight against the inside frame.

“You’re here.” Mila read the sign aloud.

A strange look fell on Selena’s face. “I wonder what that means,” she said. “It’s a bit odd. Don’t you think?”

“Odd? It—.” Demi’s words stopped, and she went silent. Something white and furry darted past her onto the porch.

A skinny cat with large brown eyes took a seat in front of the window where the paint had peeled away from the floorboards. The girls watched as he slowly opened his mouth. Instead of yawning, something strange happened… the cat spoke. “No window shopping here, witchy girls. You’ll catch no quick sneak peaks of what lies inside from out here.”

“You’re a talking cat?” Endora asked with a look of disbelief on her face.

“My, my, my, aren’t you the bright bulb of the bunch,” he replied with a bit of snarky smugness. “Tell me then, bright-bulb, do you suppose that I need your permission to talk just because I’m a cat?” He raised his paw to his face, admiring his newly gnawed manicure. After he observed the last nail, he slapped his paw down on the floorboards, making a low thud sound. “Because I don’t,” he smirked.

Endora was taken by surprise at his rudeness. She stared back at him, speechless and not quite sure how to respond.

“Are you a magic cat?” Mila busted in with a question that seemed as silly to her as to the cat.

He glared and narrowed his eyes at her. “A magic cat,” he said, standing up to arch his furry back. “Is my talking some sort of magic to you? If it is… then I am.” He stretched his back higher and let out a long purr that turned into, “Purrhaps, you four little witchy girls should clearly refine your meaning of magic so you know what it means before you say the word magic.”

“I rather am quite fond of talking cats,” Selena said with a big smile. “Of course, you’re the first one I’ve ever seen.”

The cat narrowed its eyes tighter. “Indeed,” he said, letting out a yawn as if the whole conversation were a bore. He leapt off the porch and dash away, mumbling and grumbling his way down the corridor.

Selena looked over at Endora. “Rude little snot, isn’t he?” she said.

3

 

“How strange this place is.” Demi stared back in the direction the cat had gone.

“It’s so strange; I wouldn’t be surprised to find a rabbit hole around here somewhere,” Mila giggled.

“That’s only in Wonderland,” Demi said, stepping up on the porch. She looked around. “And this certainly isn’t Wonderland.”

“For your information,” Selena said, jumping into the conversation. “The rabbit hole didn’t begin in Wonderland; it ended there. It actually started in a field, under a hedge on someone’s property, and in a normal world.”

Mila made a crazy gesture with her hands, wiggling them in the air. “So what?” she asked.

Selena returned the gesture with a roll of her eyes. “Get there faster, Einstein. It means… no rabbit holes to Wonderland.”

Demi glanced at her with a smug grin and batted her eyes. “Maybe we’re already there.”

Endora couldn’t help but let out a giggle. She suggested something to change the subject. “Perhaps, we should forget about the rabbit hole and go inside.”

Before another word was spoken, Demi reached for the doorknob and jumped back.

“OMG,” she gasped and snatched her hand back. She stood frozen and wide-eyed at the door.

“What’s wrong?” Endora asked.

Demi stepped a little closer to inspect the leafy green face that had appeared out of the wood. The face was quite large and amazing to look at, especially the tangled roots that came out of the sides of it and melted back into the door.

“This is incredible,” Demi whispered, half-expecting it to open its mouth and say something.

The leafy green face said not one word.

Something like a low foghorn sounded in the far distance. The girls turned toward the sound, not knowing what to expect. They trembled at the suddenness of the noise.

The eyes of the face squinted open and quickly peeked out at them. The leafy green face shut its eyes before anyone took notice.

“Well,” Selena said, boldly taking hold of the doorknob. “Obviously, it can’t hurt you. It’s just decoration. Nothing more.” She slowly opened the door. “Come on, Demi,” she whispered and dragged her in across the threshold.

Mila walked in behind them. “Seriously,” she said. “I told you all, freaking Hansel and Gretel.”

Endora followed her in. “Hello.”

No answer.

 

4

 

Inside, a few feet from the door, a large cauldron sat streaming long whispers of smoke that intertwined and drifted above their heads in cloud puffs. The walls were lined with tall oak shelves that almost reached the ceiling. On the tops, and out of the reach of grasping hands, where house webs and dust collect, old stone relics of ancient gods sat. Beside the front doorway stood two huge iron images of guardian serpents – one to the left, the other to the right – their eyes as unmovable as saber-rattlers. In the center of the room, a glass counter sat crammed with jumbles of magic stuff – the top-side cluttered with candles of all colors. Surrounded in the muddle was a tall, tarnished, brass antique register. At the opposite end of the room, a large standing mirror stood. The frame was made of gold and rested on four large, silver crowfeet. Next to it was an obscure rack of colored glass potion bottles sporting strange faces of every emotion known.

They moved to the rack and stared with the most curious fascination.

“Look at this one,” Mila said and picked it up carefully in her hand. An old-looking cork plugged the top. She was careful not to tip it to one side or the other… just in case. “It’s smiling at me,” she said. “It must be a happy one.”

Demi scanned row after row, looking at each face. One bottle really caught her attention – a red one with a fuming face. “How about this one?” she asked, pointing at it. “It looks very mad.”

Selena looked up. “That would be an angry potion. Don’t pick it up, whatever you do. We don’t want it leaking out.”

Endora wandered around the room, looking at whatever drew her interest. “This place is fantastic,” she whispered. She bent down at the counter and looked inside.

Demi had a sudden urge to go over and stand in front of the mirror. As soon as she stepped in front of it, she saw something weird and unusual. She let out a yell that made the girls jump.

“What’s wrong?” Endora asked. She ran over to her with her heart thumping hard against her chest.

Demi held out her arms. “Look at me,” she said. It was the weirdest thing ever, even more bizarre than the talking cat, or the face on the door, or the fact that they were even in the Witch Maze. Demi was covered from head to toe in polka dots.

“It’s just not her,” Selena said and walked over. “See.” She held out her arms.

Mila examined her arms. “Dang it! They’re all over me,” she said.

Endora stared down at her own arms. She was covered with green polka dots, which were much worse that the yellow ones on Selena. Demi had the red ones that were just as bad as the green.

Poor Mila had it worst of all. She had the blue dots, and those were the darkest of them all. She stared at her reflection and at the swollen tears in her eyes. “I don’t want to be like this,” Mila sniveled. “I don’t want to be polka-dotted.”

“We look totally ridiculous,” Demi said. “I hope we don’t stay like this.” She tried rubbing the dots from her arms. “They don’t come off. If I stay this way, my dad will kill me dead.”

Endora couldn’t hold back any longer. She let out a loud bellowing laugh, almost as loud as the fat-lady giggle.

Selena threw a glare her way. “I really don’t see anything funny about this. Seriously, this is not even close to being funny.”

Endora shook her head and laughed. “Lighten up. It’s so hilarious,” she said. “Look at us.” She looked in the mirror at the four of them standing together staring at their reflections. “Take a good look at us. We look like sideshow freaks. I mean we could work at the circus. When have we ever looked so strange… and so funny.”

 

5

 

Demi cracked a slight smile. Mila giggled, and Selena came close to putting a half-grin on her face.

Endora caught a glimpse in the mirror of a dark figure standing by the door. She turned to see a tall, thin woman with red hair pulled back in a tight librarian bun step out of the corner into the dim light. She wore a long black dress, black stockings, and black hobnailed boots. Her face was stern, long, and boney. On the end of her nose, a pair of half-round spectacles sat.

“Uh… hello,” Endora spoke.

Mila, Selena, and Demi turned around with their eyes opened wide and their hearts racing. They watched the woman glide across the floor, barely dragging the tips of her boots along the floorboards.

“Do not be frightened,” the woman said and lowered her feet to the ground.

She looked over the top of her spectacles at the polka dots on their skin. “Those dots are not unusual ones. Not to worry the least little bit, dearies. You won’t leave here with them. Nobody ever does.”

Mila stared at her, trying to get past the Hansel and Gretel image still running around in her head. She wondered why the woman didn’t have the polka dots on her own skin. The latter was too much to ignore. The question bubbled inside her until she had to ask. “Why don’t—”

“I have them on my own skin,” the woman finished her question with a big grin. She pushed her spectacles back a touch. “Those of us living within the walls do not have such on our skin. Only those who come from the mundanies world have them while they’re here. I assure you, they are quite temporary. No, you won’t take them back home.”

“Did you say mundanies?” Selena asked.

The woman shook her head. “They are those who do not possess the magic in them.”

“You mean humans,” Endora said.

“Of course,” she answered. “Humans, but we call them mundanies.”

“So, are we them?” Mila asked. “Are we mundanies?”

“You are, and you are not,” she answered. “You are from the mundane world, as we all have been at one time. But you are not of them, or the magic would not have chosen you.” She smiled. “You are called by the ancestors.” She pushed her spectacles back. “One day, as I have done, you will step beyond the veil and be given a choice to return to the mundane world and live among the mundanies, or join us here in the Witch Maze to dwell with your kind.”

“You mean like rising from the dead?” Mila asked.

“Please, dearie.” The woman shuddered as if someone had jumped over her grave. “That makes us sound like we crawled out of the ground. We prefer to say… reincarnation.”

“How big is the Witch Maze?” Endora asked.

The woman bent her head down slightly and looked straight over the top of her spectacles. She smiled. “The Witch Maze is never-ending, dearie. It’s an eternal puzzle of dimensions. It cannot be measured or calculated. What you discover within its walls is meant for magic folks… not the mundanies.”

“So why are we here?” Demi asked.

“She means… why are we here in this place?” Endora inquired. “I saw the spell and thought—”

“You thought it would be easy and quick, something for the four of you,” she answered and smiled. “Truth is…” She stared at them standing gullibly in front of her as her mind flashed back to a long distant memory, a memory of three friends and herself standing side by side in the same spot, saying and asking much the same things. The memory quickly vanished with the sound of Demi’s voice.

“What truth?”

“The truth, dearie, lies within yourselves. You only have to listen inside yourself to know why you’re here.” She pushed back her spectacles a touch. “Go ahead, all of you, shut your eyes and listen inside yourself.”

 

6

 

Mila made a gasping sound and opened her eyes. “Dang! I just heard myself say I want to be a witch.”

“That’s what I heard, and it was clear,” Selena said. “Like someone standing beside me talking.”

“Ditto,” Demi said. “But I saw the four of us inside the clock tower sitting in a circle.”

“That’s the gift of the mind’s eye, dearie,” the woman whispered to her. “You have a gift like me. Use it well.”

“That’s where we were when we agreed we wanted to be witches,” Endora said.

“I remember.” Selena looked over at the other three. “We all do.”

The woman agreed and tilted her neck to the side so that it made a cracking sound. Her lips formed a crooked smile. “Bad habits are hard to break, no matter where you are.” The woman walked over to the counter. “It is settled then. You are witches. From the moment, you declared your heart’s desire, the magic heard you, and it came to life in you because it is part of you. If it had not been part of you, you would not have had the power to come here, but here you are.” She stared at them, raised her hand in the air, and called loudly “Plinth appareo!”

Chapter Six

Whispering Register

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

A wooden podium appeared with a thick book sitting on it that looked older than time itself. The woman opened it to the middle and blew the dust from the pages. She waved her hand through the dust and waited for the air to clear. She ran her long, skeletal finger down a row of familiar names.

“What is that?” Endora asked and stared wide-eyed with great curiosity. It was the biggest book she had ever laid eyes on.

“This is the record book showing the name of every female witch and warlock that is and will be again,” the woman answered with a small glint of a twinkle in her eyes. “When I place my finger on the name, the book shows me in my mind the face that goes with it. You’re all in here. Your faces were recorded with the names the moment you signed the oath.”

“It’s like an ancient face recognition thing,” Mila said.

“More than that,” Demi said. “It’s magic.”

Endora took a few steps closer to the counter and leaned over the best she could to get a better look. If she could see her mom’s name and face, she would know then if she was a witch or not. “May I look up a name,” she dared to ask.

The woman shook her head. “No!” she snapped and quickly slammed the book shut. The sound echoed in the room, and more dust flew out into the air.

The girls jumped.

The woman sternly peered over her spectacles at them and blurted out. “These faces are most private, dearies.” She walked away from the podium and called loudly, “Plinth evanesco!”

The podium vanished before their eyes, leaving no trace of it behind.

“I’m sorry,” Endora immediately apologized. Big swells of tears filled her eyes.

“For what, dearie?” the woman asked.

“For asking to look up a name,” she answered. “I honestly—”

“Didn’t know better,” the woman interrupted with a smile. “It’s quite all right. You have done nothing that hasn’t been done a million times before.”

She walked over to the far wall and climbed up the rolling ladder to the very top. She took four leather books in her arms and stepped down. Right away, she noticed the downcast expression on Endora’s face.

“My dearie,” she said. “I never meant to give you such a terrible fright. It is simply forbidden for me to show the names to anyone.” She peeked up over the top of her spectacles. “And it is forbidden for you to peek at the names. Magic rules, my dearies. We must obey and follow the rules.” She smiled a little. “Never mind all that now, you will have plenty of time to learn them.” She handed a book to each of them.

“What is this?” Demi asked and ran her fingers over the worn leather cover.

“Well, the ancestors called such a book ‘A Shadow Book.’ As time went on, the hipper witches renamed it ‘A Book of Shadows.’ The woman took a deep breath and exhaled. “Nevertheless,” she said. “It’s still the same book.”

She walked over to Demi and took the book from her hands. She flipped through the pages and handed it back to her. “The book is blank inside. You write in it, and what you write is for your eyes only. The writings should be your trusted spells, potions, cures, and—”

“Bindings,” Endora interrupted with a big smile.

“Yes, dearie.” The woman repeated, “Bindings.”

She walked over to the corner and bent down. She ran her finger along the spine of the books and pulled out a large, thick, old-looking book. She stood up and walked over to them.

“By the way,” she said. “I answer only to Liddy. That is my name. I’m not, ‘hey, you;’ ‘hey, witch;’ ‘hey, lady;’ or ‘hey, woman’. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system and into yours, you will be needing this magic book.” She handed the book to Endora. “This will cover the basics.”

Endora held it in her arms against her chest and listened as Liddy continued.

“ Take the book, read it, study it, and experiment. But first, a word of warning- magic isn’t a game. Mind you well to take heed and learn the easy way. Sometimes carelessness…” She paused. “Sometimes things mess up, and sometimes there are consequences.”

 

2

 

“We’ll be careful,” Endora said. “We’ll learn every word.”

Liddy looked at her and scrunched her eyebrows together. “I’m sure you will, dearie,” she said. That was not the first time she had heard those words coming from a new witch, and those words could not have hit any closer to home. She remembered holding the book for the first time, saying the same words, and the uncontrolled mess that came after.

Liddy moved closer to Mila and stared at the sapphire stone around her neck. She took her glasses off, pulled a tissue from her pocket, and wiped the lens. When she put them back on, she looked over at the emerald around Endora’s neck and the citrine around Selena’s. She stepped over in front of Demi and admired the ruby stone on her. “I see the elements have already been chosen,” she said.

Demi touched the ruby with her fingers.

“Yes, dearie,” she nodded. “You are of fire.” She bent over and whispered in her ear, “We are the same… you and I.” She lifted her own stone from under the high-top collar, showed it to Demi, and smiled.

“It’s almost identical,” Demi said.

“And mine?” Selena asked, showing her the citrine.

Liddy tucked her ruby away and moved in front of her. “You, dearie, are of air,” she answered. She pushed her spectacles back a touch and looked over at Mila holding onto her stone. “And you are of water.”

“So, I’m of earth?” Endora asked.

“Yes, dearie, you are,” Liddy answered. “All these things you will find in the book.”

She started to walk away, then turned back. “There are only two things you should never forget that are not written.” She held up her index finger. “One,” she said. “The oath – your vows – they always come first, no matter what.” She held up two fingers. “Second, there are no shortcuts in magic. Break either, and the consequence will follow.”

A look of fright fell on Mila. The word consequence was never a good thing. “What do you mean?” she asked.

Liddy shrugged. “Who knows? It’s different for everyone.” She moved over behind the counter to the far end where the register set.

 

3

 

“Come closer, dearies,” Liddy said and motioned them closer with her finger.

The girls moved over to the counter. They watched as she punched the location number of each book into the register.

Selena leaned over and whispered to Endora. “None of us have cash. Mine is in the cookie jar at home.”

“We don’t have any cash with us,” Endora spoke softly across the counter.

Liddy crooked a smile and peeked over the top of her spectacles. “Of course, you don’t, dearie. No one has need of money here.” She looked more firmly. “Now, tell me, which girl are you?”

“Endora,” she answered.

“Good, dearie, but don’t tell me,” Liddy said and pointed. “Tell it to the whispering register.”

Endora glanced at her friends. “This is so weird,” she mouthed quietly.

She turned back to the register and cleared her throat. This is the silliest thing she had ever done, she thought. Who talks to a register? Then again, she remembered the talking cat. She leaned in closer. “My name is Endora,” she whispered.

From the backside of the register, a human face took form. The girls let out a loud gasp and jumped back.

“Don’t be afraid, dearie. It won’t hurt you,” Liddy quickly said.

The register opened its beady black eyes and looked straight at her. Then a more peculiar thing happened. The register opened its mouth and whispered to her. “Endora, a slither of your nail from the tip of your finger. Any such one will do.” The drawer flew open with a loud ding.

Liddy reached inside and handed her a pair of fingernail clippers. “Here, use these,” she suggested with a pleasant smile. “A bit from the tip. Go on now, snip, snip.”

Endora handed her book and the large one to Demi to hang onto, then took the clippers and snipped off a slither. She gave them back along with a tiny piece of her fingernail.

Liddy placed them into the register, then it slammed shut with a loud ka-ching sound.

 

4

 

“Next,” Liddy said and stared straight at Mila.

Unsure of it, Mila slowly inched her way over to the register. “I am Mila,” she spoke softly.

The register took in a long, wheezy, deep breath and whispered, “Meeh-lah.” It scrunched its face, making a high crackle laugh that made the girls, and even Liddy, giggle.

“Is it laughing at me?” Mila asked. “Why is it laughing at me?”

The register gave her a hard wink and whispered her name longer and louder than before. “Meeeeeeh-laaaaah.”

“Go on now, dearie,” Liddy said.

“Yes,” Mila answered the register.

“Hmmmm,” it whispered to her. “A single strand of red taken from your head and plucked out by your own hand.”

The drawer flew open with a loud ding.

Mila stared back at it as if it had said something she didn’t quite catch.

“A single strand of red,” Liddy said. She grabbed a piece of her own hair to show Mila what the register meant by a strand of red.

Mila held onto her book and reached her hand up to her head. She yanked out a single strand of red.

Liddy took it from her hand and put it in the drawer. It slammed shut with a loud ka-ching.

“Who’s next?” she asked and looked over the top of her spectacles.

Selena stepped over to the register. “I’m Selena,” she said.

“Selena,” the register whispered. “So it is. What shall I ask of you?” The register squinted its eyes tight and scrunched up its face. It puckered its lips as if it had taken a bite from a sour lemon. Then, the eyes flew wide open. “I know,” it whispered louder. “Give to me the loose thread dangling from the bottom of your shirt.” The drawer flew open with another loud ding.

Liddy reached in for a pair of scissors and handed them over.

Selena gave her book to Endora and looked around the bottom of her shirt for a loose thread. She found it and cut it off. “It’s just a piece of fiber and not very long,” she said, slightly disappointed with her offering. She handed the scissors back to Liddy with the thread.

Liddy held the thread up to the light and smiled. “But it is a very fine piece, dearie,” she said, quickly placing it inside.

The drawer slammed shut with a loud ka-ching.

Selena took her book back from Endora and gladly stepped out of the way so Demi could move over to the register.

“And last, but certainly not least,” Liddy said with a warm comforting smile. She pushed her spectacles back a touch. “And who might you be?” she asked.

“I’m Demi,” she mumbled, somewhat unclear.

“What did she say?” the register whispered and looked around with its eyes. “Did anybody hear anything?” The register put its tongue between its lips, and blew hard, making the loudest raspberry-tart sound it could. “You must speak louder than the mice in the wall. I’m a smidgeon on the deaf side.”

“Demi,” she spoke up louder and glanced over her shoulder at Selena, Mila, and Endora, who were giggling behind her. She turned back. “My name is Demi.”

Liddy stared at her in disbelief, as if she had just seen something quite impossible to see.

 

5

 

“Well then, Demi,” the register whispered. Its drawer flew open with a loud ding. “I know exactly what I’ll be needing from you. A little prick from a pin will bring a drop of red from your lily-white skin.”

Liddy reached into the drawer and pulled out a long, gold pin. “Hold out your finger, dearie. I promise this will not hurt a bit.” She held up three fingers together and kept the pinky and thumb down. “Witch promise,” she said.

Demi held out her shaky finger. Something inside her trusted Liddy, but that same something was very nervous.

Liddy took Demi’s finger and stuck the tip of the pin into her flesh. No more than the tiniest drip of red oozed to the surface. Liddy dabbed Demi’s skin with a piece of tissue, wiped off the small residue of red, and put it back in her pocket. She placed the pin with the tiniest drip of red into the drawer. “Now, that wasn’t bad, was it?” Liddy asked.

Demi stared at her finger and pushed gently on her skin. She glanced across the counter at Liddy as if a miracle had taken place. She didn’t feel a thing. Her finger didn’t hurt at all. No soreness… no nothing. She flashed a big smile. “Not bad at all,” she said with a sigh relief.

Liddy moved over to the front door and opened it with a flick of her wrist. The girls quickly swapped looks back and forth at each other. Slightly confused, they slowly walked over.

“Did we do something wrong?” Mila whispered to Demi.

Liddy overheard her. “Not at all,” she said. “I would have you to stay longer, but houseguests here would be difficult.” She smiled. “Besides, you must be quickly running along and back into your bodies. A witch or a warlock should never stay out of their bodies for too long at a time. The consequences could be… well, never mind that now. There’s no time to go over the rules. I trust you will learn everything you need to know from the book.”

“Will we see you again?” Demi asked before she stepped over the threshold.

Liddy put her hand on the girl’s shoulder, leaned over, and whispered in her ear. “Yes, I think we just might, dearie.”

Liddy shut the door behind them.

Slowly, the girls walked away with their books held tightly against their chests, and then something peculiar happened.

Selena stopped. “Did I forget something?” she asked, looking at her hands as if she were trying to recall. “I must have forgotten something. I could’ve sworn I had something in my hands just seconds ago.”

Endora held her empty hands out in front of her and stared at them trying to recall what they had forgot.

Demi and Mila looked at their hands, trying to remember. It was as if a total wave of memory loss had washed over the four of them.

They walked slowly back down the corridor and away from the Tudor. After they got a distance away, it was as if they had forgotten to remember what they had forgotten in the first place. It all seemed so strange, but oddly enough, it wasn’t strange at all. In fact, it was quite normal.

Endora was the first to notice the polka dots fading.

The girls could barely see them and none of them was sorry to see them go. They turned the corner just in time to see the walls beginning to fade. When they reached the end, the walls were gone and they were standing in the pitch dark.

“How are we supposed to get back in our bodies? I mean, how are we supposed to get home?” Mila asked.

“You heard Liddy say we shouldn’t be out for long.” Selena voiced her concern.

Demi didn’t say a word. How could she when no one really knew what to say or do? They stood still in the dark wondering what was next.

Endora listened to the silence. “I think…” She paused. “I think that if we think of ourselves we might wake up where our bodies are.”

“Okay,” they agreed.

Out of nowhere, a wave of nothingness came rumbling over them, and, one by one, the girls disappeared. First Endora, and then Selena. Demi followed behind her, and Mila followed her. They fell back into the living room of Selena’s home and back into their bodies.

The house was silent as could be. No noise was heard except the steady sound of sleep and the snapping of a low flickering flame from a small melted clump of wax.

Mila was the first to wake. She opened her eyes and rubbed them. She dared not speak a word until someone else was up and had spoken.

Chapter Seven

Hello Kitty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Endora moved and quickly sat up. She looked around and raised her arms up examining her skin; the polka dots were history. Not a trace of them anywhere.

Mila sat up and reached over to blow out the low flame. She looked over at Endora. “The spell worked,” she whispered. “That wasn’t just a dream… right?”

“That was no dream,” Endora answered.

Selena heard the whispers and sat up. She wiped the sleep from her eyes. “Hey, I remember what I had forgot,” she said. “The books. What happened to the books Liddy gave to us?”

Demi heard Liddy’s name and opened her eyes. She sat up and thought about the pin sticking her finger. She touched the skin, still no soreness. She recalled everything: the register, Liddy, the Tudor, the walls, the face on the door, the talking cat, and standing in front of the mirror looking at the red dots that covered her from head to toe. She looked at her arms. They’re gone, just as Liddy said, she thought.

 

2

 

A loud thump hit the front door.

Not expecting it, the girls jumped out of their skin.

Selena hopped off her sleeping bag and ran into the foyer, expecting someone to be standing at the door. She saw no one through the stained glass. She turned the knob anyway and opened the door.

No one was there, but a large cardboard box sat on the porch.

Selena stepped outside. Her first instinct was to look around to see who would set a box there. She saw no one moving about, not a postman or a delivery truck.

She leaned over and read the label. “You are here.”

Selena knew who it was from. She picked up the box, hurried back inside, and shut the door behind her. She walked into the living room with a dumfounded look on her face.

“What’s that?” Endora asked and stood to her feet. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost or something.”

“It’s a package,” Mila said.

“You think?” Demi laughed. “What was your first clue?”

“I think this one is a special delivery,” Selena answered. She set the box on the table and peeled back the tape. She reached inside and pulled out four leather books. “This is so not possible,” she whispered. She laid the books on the table, reached back in, and pulled out the large book – the magic book.

“OMG,” Demi gasped and jumped up from her sleeping bag. She walked over and reached out for a book.

“Wait,” Endora said. “Look at the covers. I don’t remember seeing a stone in the center, do you?” She picked up the book with the green stone inlayed in the leather. “The stone matches my necklace, so I’m willing to bet this one is mine.”

Demi took the book with the red stone. “Then this one has to be mine.”

Mila grabbed the book with the blue stone in it, and Selena took the one with the yellow stone.

“Check out the magic book,” Mila said. “It has all the stones on it, so I guess that means—”

“It’s elementary. It belongs to all of us,” Endora interrupted. She took the magic book and plopped down on the couch.

Demi and Mila sat beside her and watched as she flipped through the pages. Selena stood in the front of her, watching.

“There’s a whole lot in here to learn,” Endora said and let out a big sigh. “And I mean a whole lot.”

“It’s like all the grades of school crammed between two covers,” Mila said.

“At least it’s magic and not the crap you never need when you grow up,” Selena said. “Seriously, who needs to know how to factor X to the sixth and minus Y to the sixth. Like we’re ever going to use that… hello. But give me a brew on how to turn a freak nerd into prince charming… that I can use.”

“I think being a witch is going to be fun,” Demi said.

“I don’t know,” Mila let out a long breath. “Looks complicated.”

Selena looked down at the book and over at Demi. “I think it’s going to be a lot of work, but I think we’ll be good at it.”

“It’s not going to be simple,” Endora answered. “It’s not going to be like the fairytales we read.” She turned the page over to the chapter titled “Spells.”

Mila and Selena picked up the sleeping bags and put them out of sight. Demi threw the lump of wax into the trash-bin then picked up the pillows and carried them upstairs.

“We know the spell ‘dream’ worked. How about we start our studies off with a smaller, harmless spell?” Endora asked.

Mila shook her head. “I don’t think so,” she spoke. “Didn’t Liddy say to study first before we do the magic?”

“Actually,” Selena injected her opinion. “If you want to be precise, her words were to take the book, read, study it, and experiment. She never said which one to do first.”

“True,” Demi said, coming down the stairs. “She didn’t make it clear which to do before the other. Besides, what harm can a little spell do? We already went into the Witch Maze, and that turned out great.”

Endora looked at their staring faces. “So, who’s with me,” she asked, raising her hand in the air. “Who’s in favor of doing a little spell?”

Demi and Selena agreed and raised their hands.

Mila was outnumbered. Strangely, the face of Ingrid flashed in her head. She was holding her fingers up to her forehead making the letter L and whispering out her famous whammy word ‘loser.’ Mila gave in and reluctantly raised her hand. Who wants to be a loser? she thought.

“It’s settled, then,” Endora said with a smile. “We do the spell.”

 

3

 

An hour later…

“Sure you don’t want to join us?” Selena asked Endora on her way into the kitchen. She was dressed in a bathing suit with a towel hanging across her shoulder. “The water’s heated, you know.” Mila and Demi followed behind her in their bathing suits and towels.

Endora shook her head and waved them on. She listened as the sliding doors slid open and shut. It wasn’t her intention to be left out, but she wanted to search out the perfect spell for them.

Something simple and completely harmless, she thought.

She flipped through the pages of the magic book, ignoring the sounds of splashing and fun, until she found something that caught her attention. “I got it,” she whispered. She folded down the corner of the page, shut the book, and set it down beside her. She glanced at her watch, got up, and walked into the kitchen.

 

4

 

Demi heard the door slide back. She looked and saw Endora walking toward them. She held to the side of the pool and glanced over her shoulder. “Endora found something!” she yelled.

Mila and Selena swam across the pool and hung to the side with Demi. “What did you find?” Selena asked as she wiped the water from her eyes.

Endora squatted. “You remember the talking cat in the Witch Maze?”

“Yes,” Demi answered.

“That smart little fellow,” Mila said with a grin.

“You mean the rude little snot,” Selena retorted and rolled her eyes.

“That’s him,” Endora laughed. “Well, I found a spell that makes a familiar talk.”

Selena tilted her head a little to the left and stuffed her finger in her ear to unplug the water inside. She looked at Endora as if she had lost every marble in her head. “Uh… duh, none of us has a cat.”

“True,” Endora answered. “We don’t, but three houses down from yours they are giving kittens away.”

Selena arched her left brow. “I think they only have one left or, at least, it was that way yesterday.”

“Oh, let’s go get it. That would be so freaking awesome.” Demi’s voice showed her excitement.

“It would be kind of neat having a talking cat,” Mila said. “I mean, who else around here has one?”

“Really, seriously, a talking cat could turn out to be a real problem,” Selena butted in. “And maybe even a nark.”

“Familiars aren’t supposed to work against you,” Endora answered. “It should be quite loyal to us.”

Mila let go of the edge and swam to the ladder. She climbed out and dried off.

“So, what do you say, Selena? Are we going to go get it or not?” Demi asked as she climbed the ladder.

“Okay,” Selena said, giving in. “You win. I know when I’m out-numbered. Go get the kitten.”

 

5

 

Selena was right; there was one kitten left.

Demi opened the front door, and Mila stepped inside carrying a small, solid black kitten with big blue round eyes. “Look, we’re home,” she said with a big smile.

Selena and Endora jumped up and hurried into the foyer.

“We are now the owners of a kitty,” Demi proudly announced and rubbed the top of his small head. “Say hello, kitty.”

They stood in the foyer, petting kitty and passing him back and forth between them. Selena went and grabbed a sheet from the linen closet. The kitty watched her every move as she set up his new bed in the box that she brought in from the porch.

“Meow,” he cried.

“Aww, he’s so adorable,” Mila said. “Just look at that little face.”

“I think he likes you, Selena,” Demi said.

She took kitty and gave him a kiss on his tiny nose. “This is where you sleep, my furry friend,” Selena whispered to him. She lowered him in into the box and watched as he stared back up at her.

“What are we going to name him?” Mila asked and looked into the box. “He has to have a name.”

“Kitty,” Demi smiled and spoke. “We’ll call him Kitty.”

“I like it,” Mila agreed. “And it fits perfectly.”

Endora couldn’t help but laugh. “You are what you’re named,” she said, staring at Kitty. “We won’t forget your name,” Selena smiled and petted the top of his head. “It’s totally unforgettable.”

He looked up with his round eyes and a look that only a sweet innocent kitty could make.

Endora sat on the couch and picked the magic book up. She opened it to the folded corner and read aloud the spell. She went over everything needed to make the magic work and read the instructions.

When she finished, she stood up. “Let’s make Kitty talk,” she said.

Afterward, Mila took Kitty from his box and held him in her arms.

Chapter Eight

Sometimes Things Mess Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

“We’ll need a chair from the kitchen,” Endora said. “Someone has to sit and hang onto Kitty. The rest of us will tend to the spell. I know he won’t sit by himself. So, who wants to be the guinea pig?”

“I will,” Mila answered without hesitation.

Demi dragged a chair into the living room. “Here you go, my lady,” she said in her bad British accent. She patted the seat with her hand. “Your throne.”

“Okay, Mila,” Endora said, “Park your fanny.”

Selena reached out for Kitty. “You’re so cute,” she whispered and rubbed her nose against his. “Please don’t turn out to be a rude little snot like that other talking cat.” She handed him to Mila. “Here, hang onto him,” she said.

Endora stood in the middle of Demi and Selena with the book opened. They scrunched together, looked down at the page, and began to chant the words…

“Tail of rat. Wing of bat. Bone of Cat. Make this kitty chit-chat.”

They spoke the words over and over, slowly at first, and then they picked up the pace until Endora gave the signal to stop. She shut the book and handed it over to Demi. She pointed her finger straight at Kitty as if it were a magic wand and flicked. When she finished, together the three of them spoke the power word, “River-so,” and waited for Kitty to open his mouth and say something… anything.

He didn’t say a word.

“Well,” Demi stared at him impatiently. “What happened? Why isn’t he flapping his jaws?”

“I don’t know,” Endora said, scratching her head. “But I think it went right. We did everything the spell said.”

“Mila, are you okay?” Selena asked.

She felt quite strange. At first, Mila thought she was floating above them, then their voices sounded to her like far away jumbled whispers. Everything seemed out of focus. She tried to answer back, but the words came out of her mouth in garbled mumbles that no one understood. She lowered her head as if she had fallen asleep.

“OMG! Mila, are you okay?” Demi asked and stepped over to her. She put her hand on her shoulder and gently shook her. “Mila.”

“We need to get her up and move her to the couch,” Selena quickly suggested.

Endora nodded.

Selena grabbed Kitty out of her hands and put him into the box. She hurried back over to Mila and took her by the arm. “Come on, Mila,” she said.

“You’re going to be all right,” Demi said nervously. She took Mila’s other arm, led her to the couch, and sat beside her.

Selena wandered back over to the box and stared down at Kitty with disappointment. “So, it didn’t work,” she whispered.

Endora stood beside her and looked. “He should be saying something by now… that is, if the spell would’ve worked.”

Kitty sat on the sheet licking the padding of his paw.

Selena tried scratching the box to get his attention. “He’s acting like a normal kitty. I don’t think it did a thing. Maybe we did something wrong,” she sighed.

 

2

 

Demi jumped up and yelled in a high-pitch squeal. “OMG!”

Endora jumped and quickly turned to see what the commotion was. She threw her hand over her mouth to hold back the scream that bubbled up inside her.

Selena stood frozen in the moment.

“What is it?” Mila asked and wobbled to her feet. She steadied herself and stared at the three of them. “What’s wrong?”

Demi took her by the arm. “You need to see this,” she said, leading her into the foyer. Demi wasn’t sure how Mila would respond, but she had to see.

Endora and Selena followed behind.

 

3

 

Mila stood in front of the mirror in shock and disbelief. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing with her own eyes. “What happened to me?” she whined.

Endora ran back and plopped on the couch. She opened the book. “Something is way out of whack,” she mumbled to herself as she thumbed through the pages to the spell.

She found the bent corner and read through every word carefully again. I don’t get it, she thought. She knew she had done everything right. Her eyes scrolled to the bottom of the page and then she saw it. Hidden in a woven decorative scribble a warning written in the smallest camouflaged print. “Seriously, how did I not see that?” she whispered.

Mila reached up and touched the pointed ears that had formed out of her scalp on the top of her head. She slid her hands beneath her hair. “Where are my ears?” she cried. “My ears… they’re gone.” She looked at Demi with big swells of tears in her eyes. “How can my ears be gone?”

Demi and Selena stood beside her. Both were unsure what to say or do, so they stood and stared into the mirror at her reflection.

“I have cat ears,” she whined.

“That’s not all you’ve got,” Selena said. She took her by the arm and turned her around so that her back faced the mirror.

Mila looked over her right shoulder and gasped at herself. “Oh no,” she whined louder than before. “I have a tail!” She watched as it twitched back and forth on its own. “Endora!” she screamed. “Do something. I won’t be a cat. I can’t be.”

“Come on, Mila. Let’s go sit down,” Demi said and tugged her away from the mirror. “It’s better if you don’t stare too much at yourself until you’re fixed.”

“And when will that be?” Mila snapped and folded her arms across her chest. “Tell me exactly when will that be?” She walked into the living room, mumbling under her breath. “I can’t be a cat. There’s no way I can be a furry cat.”

“How about something to drink?” Selena asked Mila, trying to take her mind off the obvious spell blunder.

“Milk,” she quickly answered without a thought.

“OMG,” Demi whispered loud. “She never wants milk.”

“It’s a sign,” Selena gasped. “She’s turning.”

 

4

 

“I think something messed up bad,” Endora said. “I found a warning at the bottom of the page. I swear, I didn’t see it before.” She scanned her eyes over the words and pointed at the warning. “Look here, you need a freaking magnifying glass to see it.”

“What does it say?” Demi asked.

“Basically,” Endora answered. “It says not to speak out the word River-so, unless you’re sure of the affect. Apparently, whatever it does is powerful and it messes up if it’s not used right.”

Mila scrunched her brows. “What do you mean it messes up?” she asked crossly. “Didn’t I say we should study first? You should’ve listened to Liddy, she said it, too. Now, look at me, I’m totally done for.” She lowered her head. “I’m turning into a cat.”

“We said River-so after the chant like it said to do,” Endora said. “I just assumed it was a power-word that activated the spell; you know, like Abracadabra does. She looked over at Mila and her heart sank. “I’m sorry.”

Mila crashed down on the couch and curled her legs up under her. “Sorry,” she repeated with sarcasm. “No, don’t be sorry… just fix me. Sorry comes later.”

Selena came back into the room and handed Mila a glass of milk. “There has to be something we can do to undo whatever it is we have done,” she said.

“Well, huge news flash: I can’t stay like this,” Mila said and set the glass on the table. “I can’t be seen this way.” She wiped a tear before it ran down her cheek. “Endora,” she sniffled and looked at her. “Whatever you do, please do it as fast as you can. I don’t want to be some sort of sideshow freak.”

Three hard knocks came to the door.

They froze and looked back and forth at each other.

“Who could that be?” Selena wondered, walking into the foyer. She saw through the stain glass the shape of head standing on the other side. She placed her hand on the knob and slowly opened the door. “Ingrid,” she said, looking surprised. “What are you doing here?”

“Where’s Mila?” she asked, snapping her gum annoyingly and fidgeting with the ends of her hair.

“Uh… she… she’s in here,” Selena answered as she politely blocked the doorway with her arm.

“Mom sent me to check on her,” Ingrid said. She leaned her head to the side, trying to sneak a peek past.

“Tell her… I’m here,” she spoke louder. “I have to see her… mom’s orders.”

“Uh… Mila is getting into her costume,” Selena said loudly, so that her voice carried into the living room, warning everyone. She opened the door wider and stepped aside. “Come on in, Ingrid.”

“OMG,” Demi whispered. “It’s your sister.”

Mila jumped up from where she was sitting.

Endora quickly stashed the magic book and Gram’s book behind the couch pillows. She leaned against them as if she were resting her head.

“Ingrid,” Mila said. “What are you doing here?”

“What do you think? Mom sent me.” She looked her sister up and down with a weird stare. “What are you supposed to be?” she asked and stepped over closer to her.

Mila stood speechless She had no answer ready to give.

Endora knew Mila was in trouble, so she quickly interrupted. “She’s a cat.”

Mila widened her eyes and looked past Ingrid at Endora. What could she say? There were no words in her mouth.

“We have to put her whiskers on,” Endora continued. “But she looks good… don’t you think?”

A smile came to Mila’s face after it dawned on her to play along. Endora was enacting the fib-along-game. A game that the four of them happened to be very good at.

“We’re playing cats and dogs,” Demi said, jumping into the fib.

“Want to play with us?” Mila asked. She brushed a fake smile across her lips. “I’m sure Endora would have no problem making you into a cat. She’s quite good at it.”

A little caught off guard, Endora looked at Mila as if she had been put in the most awkward of spots.

Demi broke in with a loud, contagious laugh and made them all join with her, except for Ingrid, who obviously wasn’t in on the joke, and who was more than ready to get away from these immature freak-a-zoids. It wasn’t her bright idea to be here in the first place. She arched her left eyebrow. “I don’t think so,” she answered. She looked over at Selena and changed the subject. “Where’s your mom and dad?”

Selena answered back as quickly and as cleverly as she knew how. “They’re at the store,” she replied. “They will be back soon. If you want, you can hang with us and wait for them.” All bets were on the fact that Ingrid wouldn’t stick around any longer than she had to, but just in case she did, Selena had already cooked up a plan B.

Ingrid shook her head. “Nope, just checking things… you know… mom’s orders.” She looked over at Mila with a crooked smile. “You should wear that for Halloween; it suits you well, baby sister.”

“Right,” Mila answered, gritting her teeth.

Ingrid walked back into the foyer. They listened for the sound of the door shutting behind her. When they were sure she had gone, Selena darted to the front door and locked it.

 

5

 

“That was too freaking close,” Mila said and let out a deep breath of relief. She plopped down on the couch.

“Think she suspected anything?” Demi asked and peeped between the slats of the window blind. She watched as Ingrid walked out of the yard and down the sidewalk until she disappeared from her sight.

“I don’t think she suspected a thing,” Selena answered. “She just thought we were being bratty, immature kids.”

Endora moved the books from behind the couch pillows. “Now that she’s gone we can get back to figuring what went wrong.” She carried the books into the kitchen and set them on the table. She popped the top of a Coke can, sat down, and opened the magic book to the first page.

Demi and Selena followed behind her and grabbed drinks from the fridge. They sat down at the table. “We’ll have to figure out something,” Selena said. “She can’t stay like that.”

“We need something we can use to counter the spell,” Endora added.

Demi took Gram’s book and opened it. All the writings, scribblings, and drawings were so fascinating. “Maybe there’s something in here that will help,” she said.

“This isn’t fun!” Mila yelled from the other room. She paced back and forth across the floor, scratching her right palm. It itched as if she had a bad case of dry winter skin. “You do know we have to go home tomorrow and then it’s Monday. What then?” She stopped talking, and suddenly the thought came into her head. If she tried chanting the words a little differently, maybe the spell would break and she would go back to her normal self. She ran to the mirror and stared at her reflection. “Tail of rat. Wing of bat. Bone of cat,” she paused for a second. “Reverse me back,” she added and waited for something to happen.

Nothing.

Nothing happened at all.

Waste of time, she thought. She turned from the mirror, heartbroken.

“Find anything?” Selena asked, tapping her fingers on the top of the wood surface.

Endora shook her head. “Nothing,” she answered. She shut the book and looked over at Demi. “Did you find anything in Grams writings?”

She thumbed through the last pages. “Afraid not,” she said.

Mila leaned against the doorframe with a sad look across her face. She overheard every word. “Apparently,” she said. “You three had no luck either. She walked to the fridge and opened the door. She reached in and grabbed the milk. “Chanting the spell again is a waste of time,” she said, pouring a glass. “I’m so thirsty.”

Demi, Endora, and Selena quickly glanced back and forth at each other and watched as Mila turned the glass up and gulped down every drop. She set the glass in the sink, wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, and turned around.

“What?” she asked, staring back at them. “Haven’t you ever seen someone thirsty before?”

 

6

 

“Well, it’s not like we can ask anyone to help us,” Selena remarked.

“Right,” Endora agreed. “It’s not math or science. It’s magic, and I don’t know of anyone that can help with that. Not in Crow Hill.”

Mila’s face lit up with a twinkle of sudden hope. “What about Liddy? She could help us.”

“You mean go back into the Witch Maze?” Demi asked.

Endora watched Mila’s tail twitch back and forth. “I don’t really think we have much choice.”

“She’s not going to be happy with us,” Selena said, concerned.

“So, you don’t think she will get me out of this jam?” Mila asked.

“I didn’t say she wouldn’t,” Selena said. “I said she wasn’t going to be happy about it.”

“There’s a chance she would say no,” Endora said, getting up. She walked over and threw the can in the trash. “She might say we knew better.”

“If she doesn’t help, I’ll be this way forever,” Mila lowered her head in tears. How will I explain this to mom? What about Ingrid? She’ll never leave me alone. What about the academy? Everyone would make fun. That triggered another thought. And, dang, what about Dillon? Like, he would ever want to be seen with me.

“We’ll figure something out,” Endora said and put her hand on Mila’s shoulder.

“Somebody better and quick. If not, I’ll be joining the freak show.” Mila turned and walked back into the living room.

“I’m afraid of what Liddy will say,” Demi lowered her whisper so Mila couldn’t hear.

“Personally, I don’t think she will be overly willing to help,” Selena said. “I mean, after all, why? None of us listened. We did what we wanted, and now look at Mila.”

Endora shrugged. “She’s all we have. She’s the only witch outside of Gram we know, and we can’t count on talking to Gram.”

“Just so you know,” Mila yelled. “I hear every word you say.”

“OMG! Her freaking hearing is heightened,” Demi whispered as soft as she could.

“I still can hear,” Mila said. She walked back into the kitchen and leaned against the doorframe. “I know you think it’s possible Liddy won’t help.” She nibbled on her nail. “But you won’t know for sure until she turns us down. I want to go there anyway. I can’t stand sitting here waiting to grow fur.”

Selena walked across the floor and put her hand in the cookie jar. She sent Demi and Endora to the plaza with the money for a candle. “Grab two… just in case.”

Chapter Nine

You Went There

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Mila helped Selena prepare just like they did the first time.

After the girls returned, they carved their initials in the wax, dressed the candle, drew the circle on paper, and wrote their names. Selena struck the match and lit the wick. “There,” she whispered. “We’re ready.”

The blinds were shut to keep the light of the day from blasting in-between the slats. The house was not dark or dimly lit. It was bright and quite bothersome to concentrate in, but they had to get to the Witch Maze. They laid on their backs, shut their eyes, and tried to focus on their stones.

Endora did not smell the lavender. She smelled the strong scent of wax. “Don’t worry about the light,” she said. “It won’t make a difference with your eyes shut. Just focus on the color the way you did last time, and imagine yourself immersed in its color.” She softly cleared her throat. “Ready?” she asked.

“Ready,” they answered together.

Endora said the words she had spoken before. The girls repeated her words over and over in the same unbroken chant until their voices faded away.

Endora felt herself drifting from her body. She hurried and said the magic word, “Transporto!

Once again, the four of them faded into the black and the room fell into silence.

 

2

 

“Are we back in the Witch Maze?” Demi asked.

“I think so,” Endora said. “I can’t tell, though. It’s still too dark.”

“It feels colder than it did before. Do you feel it?” Mila asked. She touched the air with her fingers.

Selena shivered from the cold chill that ran through her.

“Okay, stay close,” Endora whispered. She took a step forward.

“I hate the dark,” Demi said. “I hate not being able to see where I’m walking or my hand in front of my face. It totally freaks me out.”

“I don’t think we’re in far enough. I think we have a way to go,” Selena answered.

“Maybe we are somewhere else,” Demi said nervously. “What if we went somewhere bad?”

“No, we’re in the right place,” Endora spoke up. “We could be in a different corridor than last time. Just keep walking.”

Selena let out a gasp, and her heart picked up speed. “Did you feel that? Seriously, something just brushed by me… I swear… I’m not kidding.”

“I felt it, too,” Demi said. “Whatever it was, it was going a heck of a lot faster than us.”

“Okay, now I’m scared,” Mila whined. “I want to go back.”

“We can’t,” Endora said. “We have to get you back to normal, and this is the only way we can. We have to keep going; there’s no choice.”

“What was that then?” Selena asked.

“Don’t worry. Whatever it was is gone now,” Endora answered.

Suddenly, a glow of light manifested out of nowhere, and the gold walls revealed themselves.

“There,” Endora said with a sigh of relief. “There’s the light. See? Nothing to worry about.”

“Let’s hurry then,” Mila said. She moved faster because she felt confident they were going in the right direction.

The girls got to the end of the corridor and turned right. They stopped when they noticed there was no English Tudor sitting alone in an alcove, and it seemed as if there was no end in sight. They looked back to the left as far as their eyes could see. No end in sight there, either.

“This isn’t where we were last time,” Selena noted. “And it’s not likely we’re going to find Liddy down either one of these corridors.”

“Then we go left,” Mila suggested.

“Why left?” Demi asked.

Mila shrugged and gave the only answer she knew. “Last time we went right. So, we try left.”

They moved along the corridor and, in the middle of the way, they found a small, enchanting path leading straight up to the door of a large, white manor. The place was huge and void of any trimmings or decorations. No windows were visible, only a sign that hung next to a set of tall double doors.

“You are there,” Mila read the words aloud.

“That’s just as silly as the other sign at Liddy’s place.” Demi said.

“There’s no talking cat here,” Selena said. “The place seems kind of normal… well, except… where are the windows?”

Endora looked around and over at Demi, Selena, and Mila. “Maybe the answer we’re looking for is inside.”

She put her hand on the knob and slowly opened the door. They walked, one after the other, across the threshold and into a large open foyer.

 

3

 

“Look at me,” Selena held out her arms. “They’re back.”

Demi glanced over at her. She was right. The polka dots were back. She looked at her own arms covered with red dots. “Here we go again,” she giggled.

“Well, at least we know they’re not permanent.” Endora said.

Mila checked out the blue dots on her arms and hands. “I look completely ridiculous,” she said. “Like I stepped straight out of Wonderland or something.”

Nobody laughed at poor Mila, even though the sight of having the tail and ears of a cat, along with the blue dots, was quite hilarious. They wandered about the foyer. Not one of them thought of going up the black staircase to the second floor. Endora walked over to the French doors and opened them. She stood in the doorway, looking around the huge room. The place was nothing less than spectacular. It’s like a fairytale castle, she thought. She stared at the big black crow that stood in the center of the room facing the door. Its wings were held out as if it were in flight. Its round, black beady eyes were watching her, or at least it felt as if they were. The walls were lined with hundreds of large, thick books, sitting on towering onyx shelves that almost reached to the top of the vaulted ceiling. On the very top, glass bottles sat. She could see labels, but they were impossible to read. At the far end of the room, a large iron desk and chair sat with feet like a dragon. In the dark corner, a beautiful stand up mirror stood made of gold.

“OMG,” Demi gasped, walking in the room.

“Hello!” Endora yelled out.

Selena and Mila followed Demi in. Selena took a closer look at the books. She ran her hand along the spines. “Awesome,” she whispered. “This is my kind of place.”

“This place is a palace,” Mila said.

“I could live in this room,” Demi said, eyeing the large crystal ball on the desk.

“Can I help you?” A male voice carried from across the room.

The girls jumped and turned around at the sound of his voice. A tall, thin man stood in the doorway. He was dressed in black, like an undertaker, with black hair pulled back in a tight ponytail. His piercing blue eyes sparkled like sapphires.

He looks normal enough, but something about him appears a bit odd, Endora thought. It was his long face that reminded her of a crescent moon.

“You seem a little bewildered,” he said to Endora. He gave her a big, toothy smile. “Tell me, what brings the four of you to my manor? First, allow me to introduce myself. I am the master of this place.” He bent slightly over as if he were taking a half bow. “I am Pegrah.” He looked straight at Demi. “And you are?” he asked.

“I’m Demi,” she answered nervously, staring back at him.

He looked over at Endora.

“And I’m Endora.”

“I’m Selena.”

He moved closer to Mila. “And who might this creature be?” he asked.

“I’m Mila,” she answered softly.

“Mmmm, I see,” Pegrah said. He rubbed his chin, considering her situation. “Don’t take this as discourteous, but aside from the polka dots that are occupying your skin, what species, may I ask, are you?”

Mila quickly looked to her friends and back to him. “I’m not a species. I mean, I’m not like this,” she said. “I’m a witch and these are not my ears or my tail. A spell went wrong and did this to me.”

“I see,” Pegrah said. “So, tell me then, I would be right to say that perhaps you are the victim of some nonsensical adolescent magic?”

He turned, walked over to his desk, and sat down, prim and proper, into the large iron chair. He leaned back and placed his hands on his chair arms like a royal king.

“It appears to me that you and your friends seem to have gotten yourselves into… shall we say… quite the litter box.” He laughed in a playful giggle that made the girls almost feel at ease.

“It was my fault,” Endora said and stepped over to the desk.

“Perhaps,” he said, tapping his long skeletal fingers against the arm of the chair. “But you can’t very well carry the whole blame yourself.” He looked straight at Demi and Selena. “Not when there were others with you.”

 

4

 

Mila listened carefully to everything Pegrah said. He struck her as being someone who seemed clever, very highly intelligent, and quite sure of himself. She was sure, almost very positive, that she could trust him to help her. Mila swallowed hard and boldly stepped closer to the desk.

“Are you a witch?” she asked. “And if you are, could you help undo this spell that is on me?”

Pegrah stared past her, deep in thought. He had been thinking about trapping the girls there, and at the last moment, he changed his mind for a better idea. Suddenly, he snapped back into the moment.

“Yes… I am a warlock, and perhaps I can,” he answered her back and corrected her from calling him a witch. “First, what is it that you girls have done, and don’t leave anything out. I’m not in the guessing mood.”

“Well… we three,” Endora said and pointed to herself, Demi, and Selena. “We sat Mila in the kitchen chair and had her hang onto Kitty.”

“Kitty?” he asked. “Who might Kitty be?”

“Kitty is a kitten,” Selena spoke up.

Endora continued. “We were doing a spell to make Kitty talk and as you can see… it didn’t do well.”

“We did the chant,” Demi said. “After that, Mila started acting strange, and then she had a tail and ears.”

“What was the chant?” he asked, tapping his index finger impatiently against chair arm.

Endora ran the words through her head to make sure she had them right before she spoke. “Tail of rat. Wing of bat. Bone of Cat. Make this kitty chit-chat.”

Pegrah stood up from his chair. “No,” he said, and shook his head. “That silly childish chant wouldn’t do it.” He stared at Endora. “It had to be something else you did or said. Perhaps a last word of some sort?”

He walked over to the shelves, scanned over a few rows, and ran his long skeletal finger over the spines. He pulled out a large thick book and opened it up.

River-so,” Endora said loudly. “That’s the word I said.”

“Well, now… that would do it,” he whispered and showed a most devious grin. “And this Kitty, was it a familiar of yours?”

“Not exactly,” Selena interrupted. “It was a kitten we got from someone in my neighborhood. We were trying to make it talk.”

“I see,” Pegrah said and giggled in his playful laugh. “Silly, witchy girls” He mumbled so low that no one else heard him. “It is not River-so as you have said. It is pronounced RIVERSO! It means reverse.”

“So, what we did was…” Endora stopped talking. She had been abruptly interrupted by Pegrah.

“Shush,” he said and dragged the word out as if he were a hissing serpent. He pressed his long finger against his lips. “What you did… Wait a second, let me correct that. What you three did was reverse what was never there.” Pegrah leaned back against his desk and opened the book. “What you tried to do could not be done, since there was no magic in the kitty to reverse. Nevertheless, since you attempted to do it anyway, the spell caused the one with the magic in them to take what was the easiest to reverse from the kitty. Shall we say Kitty’s genetic features?” He laughed in his playful giggle and spoke to his book. “Page two-hundred-and-three.” The pages flipped open. He arched his right brow. “I think a reversal to reverse the reverse will work just fine.”

He walked across the floor to a bare spot in the room. Pegrah looked over where the girls stood and motioned them back with his hand. “You girls step back and stay far out of my way.”

Around his feet a large white circle appeared as if an invisible hand had just painted it onto the floor. “Mila,” he said, motioning for her with his long fingers. “Come… step inside.”

“You’re helping me?” Mila asked, slowly walking over.

Chapter Ten

Trick of His Hand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

“Come inside and I will fix what you witchy girls messed up,” he answered.

“Will I go back to normal?” Mila asked, staring up at him with a glimmer of hope.

He stared back at her with a scary gleam in his eyes. “There are two important things to know about magic,” he said. “Magic always comes with a price and it always has a loophole. Lucky for you, I’m pushing you through a loophole with a trick of my hand.”

She stepped into the circle and stood in front of him. He held the book open between them. Inside, she was trembling and the only thing she thought about was not letting it show.

“Shut your eyes,” Pegrah said. “Imagine yourself back to the way you were before the spell and listen very carefully to my words: Imperium riverso tergum visvires riverso!”

He raised his voice and repeated the words. The girls trembled at the sound of his voice.

Demi, Selena, and Endora watched as he walked counter clockwise in the circle around Mila. They could see Mila clearly until a cloudy blur formed around her. It was impossible to see anything but a big swirl in fast motion.

From inside, Mila saw a strange whirlwind circle around her.

Pegrah’s voice sounded as if it were a thousand whispers all around her. The force was nothing like she had ever known before. It was intense, hard, punchy, and yet she couldn’t help but feel safe with him.

Pegrah spoke the last word, “Subsisto!”

Everything came to an abrupt halt and returned to normal. He shut the book, flicked his hand, and stepped out of the circle. He set the book on the desk.

Mila collapsed to the ground, unable to move a muscle or open her eyes. She laid still as a corpse.

Demi was first to dash over to her side.

Pegrah quickly raised his hand for her to stop.

Endora reached out and grabbed Demi by the arm before she went any closer and pulled her back to them.

“Leave her be,” Pegrah snapped and rushed over to them. He grabbed Demi by the shoulder and turned her around to face the wall. Next, he grabbed Selena and turned her around, then he turned Endora around. “Keep your backs turned,” he said. “So the transformation can happen and whatever you do, don’t look at her, least you be consumed in the reversal.”

The girls, not knowing what to do, stood facing a wall of books. They dared not look. The only thing they could do was trust him.

Pegrah walked back to the circle and stepped inside without the book. Quickly, it filled with a dark swirling mist. He bent down, touched Mila’s forehead with his finger, and whispered so low that no one outside the circle heard. “Imperium gratia expositus!”

The mist swirled around and, in seconds, disappeared up and into Mila’s nostrils as she inhaled. She opened her eyes to see Pegrah staring down at her with a conniving grin.

“How do you feel?”

She sat up and rubbed her eyes. “A bit light-headed, I guess.”

He took her by the arm and raised her up. “Steady as you go, Mila,” he said, glancing over at Demi, Selena, and Endora. “You can turn around. She’s quite all right now.”

“OMG,” Demi gasped and covered her mouth.

“Mila, look at you,” Endora said with big swells of tears in her eyes.

“I can’t believe it,” Selena whispered. “You’re back to yourself.”

Mila looked up at Pegrah with her big green eyes. “Am I back to normal?”

“Go ahead,” he said and smiled down at her. “Have yourself a look.” He led her out of the circle and over to the mirror.

Mila stood staring at her reflection. She placed her hands beneath her hair and touched her ears. “They’re back,” she smiled. The pointed ears on top were gone. She quickly turned to the side to look. No tail. “I’m me again,” she said happily.

 

2

 

Pegrah walked to the shelf and put the book back in. He stood at a distance, watching Mila laughing and chatting with her spoiled little witchy girlfriends. Under normal circumstances, he wouldn’t have helped the whiny brats out of their nonsensical adolescent magic mess- up, but he had something else in mind. And, this time, there would be no stopping him.

Mila turned from her friends and walked over to him. She threw her arms around him. “Thank you, ever so much,” she said.

Taken by surprise, Pegrah awkwardly, and grudgingly, hugged her back.

The girls walked over and stood with Mila. “Do you know Liddy?” Endora asked him. “We would like to find her and say hello.”

“Liddy,” he said her name with a meaningless smile. “Did you notice the sign on the door that says ‘You are there?’

“Yes,” Endora answered. “We saw it.”

“Well then,” Pegrah smarted. “You are in a different place. You’re not here, but there, and had you not been looking for me, you would not have found me, instead you may have very well found Liddy.”

“How could that be? We never heard of you. How could we be looking for you?” Demi asked.

“It’s elementary, really.” Pegrah answered. “You were looking for someone who could help your friend out of the mess-up, and you simply directed yourselves through your will to me.” He smiled. “Now, I can see how it all might be a bit confusing for you, but it’s not really that way at all. One place is here and one is there.”

He stared at Mila as he walked over to his chair and sat down. He opened the top drawer and brought out a small tin can. “This is there, where you are,” he said with his playful giggle. “This is a bit of a different place.”

Mila kept her eyes on the tin can.

He popped the top off, reached his fingers in for a small pinch, and placed it into a small black pouch. He pulled the drawstring and handed it to her. “Take this home, boil it, and drink it down hot. Do it as soon as you get home.”

“What is it?” she asked. She picked up the bag and took a whiff of its scent.

“It’s called Imperatoria Ostruthium, but you can call it Masterwort.”

He put the lid back on and placed the tin can back in the drawer.

“What does it do?”

“I use it for… shall we say, to bring a spell of another under my command. Just think of it in this way, you will have no more genetic traces of the kitty in you, and you will not need to worry about turning into a cat anymore.”

“Thank you,” Mila said and flashed a grateful and trusting smile.

 

3

 

“You should really be going,” Pegrah said and stood to his feet. “You’re much too new at this to be out of your bodies for too long. Plus, you don’t want to end up between here and there, which is someplace else and rather complicated. It’s where I don’t think you would fare too well. Shall we say, the ones there are not so sociable as I or Liddy.”

Pegrah led the way into the foyer and to the front double doors. He opened the door and, one by one, they crossed the threshold to the outside. Mila carried the pouch in her hand, but quickly forgot she was holding on to it.

Pegrah shut the door behind them and walked back into the room and over to the standup mirror. He stared at his reflection and grinned. “Foolish witchy girls,” he whispered. He put his hand against the glass and watched it melt into a silver liquid substance. He stepped one leg inside and then the other, until he disappeared.

 

4

 

Endora opened her eyes and looked around. She was back in the living room of Selena’s home. She laid still for a moment, waiting for everyone to wake. “Is everyone awake?” she whispered.

“Yes,” they answered one after the other.

They sat up and looked at their arms and hands. No polka dots, and, best of all, Mila was back to herself.

Demi looked over at Mila. “So glad you’re back to normal.”

Mila jumped up, ran into the foyer, and stood in front of the mirror to check out her reflection. She smiled. “I’m not sure where we were in the Witch Maze, but I’m so glad we went there.” She threw her hands up in the air. “Yay! I’m back to me again.”

“And that’s a good thing?” Selena asked jokingly.

A loud and hard knock sounded.

“That sounds like it came from in there,” Endora said and looked toward the kitchen

“It sounds like the sliding doors.”

Selena got up. Demi and Mila followed behind her.

“There,” Demi said, pointing to the sliding glass doors.

Selena slid the door back, stepped outside, and reached down to pick up a tiny box. She read the label. “You are there.” She stepped back in and shut the door. “I knew it,” she said.

“So, that’s how it goes, then,” Endora said, as if a bright idea suddenly dawned on her. “Whatever you get in the Witch Maze comes to you in the mundanies world when you wake.” She grabbed a Coke from the fridge. “That’s witchy cool. Don’t you think?”

Selena handed the box to Mila. “Then this would be yours.”

Mila opened the box and, sure enough, it was the tiny pouch containing the Masterwort, the Imperatoria Ostruthium. “I completely forgot about this.”

“I remember now. Pegrah said to drink it hot and do it as soon as you got home,” Selena said. She filled the teakettle with water and set it on the stove to boil. “So, we make it hot.”

Demi grabbed a spoon and cup. She set them on the table in front of Mila. “Should we put lemon in? That’s the way my dad drinks his herbal tea.”

“No,” Endora was quick to speak. “She has to drink it straight. We don’t want this to mess up.”

“That’s for sure. Let’s actually do what we were told this time,” Mila said with a slight crooked smile.

 

5

 

“Did anybody get a weird vibe from Pegrah?” Selena asked.

“A weird vibe,” Demi said, as if she didn’t understand.

“What do you mean?” Endora asked.

“I thought he was kind of strange. It was almost like… well never mind,” Selena answered. She grabbed the kettle just before it let out a low whistle.

“I think he was very strange,” Demi said. “Honestly, I like Liddy a lot more. I feel more comfortable with her.”

“I liked him,” Mila said with an odd look on her face. “He saved me from being the laughing stock of Crow Hill.” She turned and looked at Endora. “What did you think of him?”

Endora shrugged. “He took care of the mess we got into and didn’t ask for anything from us. I did feel a little uneasy around him, though. Something seemed a bit out of sorts about him. Then again, maybe we were all just thrown off a bit by him.”

“I think he was intimidating,” Demi said.

Mila put the Masterwort into the cup, and Selena poured in the hot water. “There you are,” Selena said and smiled. “Drink up.”

“The faster you drink it, the quicker you’re done,” Demi smiled.

“Don’t give it a thought,” Selena said. “Just pour it down the hatch.”

“Hold your nose with your fingers and drink it down,” Endora said. “That’s the only way to get it over and done with. Do it real fast.”

Mila put the cup to her nose. The smell inside made her gag. She set the cup back down. “Oh yuck-o-rama,” she said. She squinted her face like she had taken a bite out of the world’s sourest lemon.

Endora giggled. “You look like the register when it made that silly face.”

Mila curled her upper lip, picked the cup up, and gulped it down in three fast swallows. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “That was the worst of the worst,” she said. “An old boiled shoe in molded cabbage would have tasted better.”

“She’s back to normal,” Demi laughed with a burst of relief.

“This calls for a small celebration,” Selena said. She reached into the cookie jar and pulled out a ten-dollar bill. “Somebody call it in.”

“I will,” Mila said, standing up to dial the phone.

“Since everything is back to normal, why don’t we have a slumber party night?” Selena asked.

“Sounds good to me,” Endora smiled. “What do you have in mind?”

“Pizza,” Selena said with a wink. “Then we’ll do some book learning on the magic, write in our books, take a swim, then we can veg out to scary movies and popcorn.

“OMG! That sounds like fun,” Demi said. “We can chill out with no worries.”

“I’m with Demi,” Mila said and put her fist out for a bump. “No more turning me into a cat.”

“So, no more spells, then?” Selena asked.

“No more,” Endora answered. “At least, until we learn better.”

 

 

 

Chapter Eleven

Something Dark and Terrible

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

In the early dark, Mila woke herself with a loud sneeze. She was surprised no one else heard her. Demi, Selena, and Endora were sound asleep. The television blaring must have covered the sound.

She eased up from the sleeping bag and tiptoed into the bathroom. She stepped as quietly and as lightly as she could. Mila flicked on the light and stared at her reflection in the mirror. She turned sideways for a better look at her backside. “Can’t blame me for checking,” she mumbled and reached for a tissue. She shut her eyes and let out a double sneeze. “What has gotten into me?”

If her eyes had been open and not shut when she sneezed, she would have seen the dark mist that flew out from her nostrils and disappeared through the wall behind her.

Mila shut the light off. She walked back into the living room and eased herself quietly back into the sleeping bag. Her eyes shut after the sneezing had stopped. She slowly drifted back into a deep sleep with a smile on her face.

 

2

 

The dark mist came out of the wall and brushed lightly over the girls while they slept. It made its way to the front door, escaping through a tiny gap at the bottom edge and out into the dark of the morning. It ran along the sidewalk unnoticed and spreading out into long thin whispers. The dark mist entered into every home, every neighborhood, and made its way through and across town, infecting everything. The mist even entered into the academy and slithered down the halls into every room, nook, and corner. Before the sun came up and the light of day dawned on Crow Hill, the mist vanished.

The girls didn’t suspect anything at all, especially since the mess with Mila was fixed and everything had finally gotten back to normal. They were not looking for anything bad to come to Crow Hill. If the girls could have suspected something, maybe they would’ve prepared, or maybe they might have stopped it before it began, but they didn’t. They couldn’t, because they were right where Pegrah needed them to be. They believed everything was fine… normal.

Little did the girls realize things were far from normal.

The bad had already come.

It came in with Mila. She had fallen asleep with the others watching movies, and sometime around two in the morning, the real worst of the worst came out of hiding.

 

3

 

Demi woke and gently shook Mila by the arm. “Hey, get up,” she whispered softly.

Mila opened her eyes and looked over at her. “What’s going on? Oh, no,” she whined, feeling the top of her head. “They’re not back are they? Am I a cat again?”

“No, no,” she whispered. “I had a nightmare.”

Mila let out a big sigh of relief. She knew she had gone to the bathroom before, and everything was okay, all except for the sneezing. It was possible something strange could have happened between then and now, but it didn’t. “What are you trying to do… scare the crap out of me?”

“Sorry,” Demi whispered. “But the dream really scared me.”

“Well,” she said and sat up. “Do tell.”

“Let’s go into the kitchen,” Demi whispered and quietly stood up. She grabbed the orange juice from the fridge, sat down at the table, and poured a half-glass.

Mila grabbed a glass and sat down across from her. “Okay, do tell,” she said.

“There was something in my dream… a dark fog, but it was stringy-like. It was moving everywhere, touching everything, and whatever it touched turned pitch black so I couldn’t see it any more. Soon everything was gone and there was nothing around me but the blackness. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.” She took a sip from her glass. “It totally scared me.”

“That’s a freaky dream,” Mila said, pouring the juice in the glass. “Maybe we shouldn’t have watched that fog movie last night.”

“The part that scared me is the feeling I had. I wanted to escape, but I couldn’t,” Demi said softly. “I couldn’t run from it. Whatever it was, I think I had become part of it.”

Endora had woken and was standing in the doorway listening. She heard almost every word said.

Demi noticed her. “Sorry if we woke you,” she said.

“No problem. I would’ve woken up anyway.” She grabbed a glass and walked over to the table to sit. “I wasn’t trying to listen in,” she said, handing the glass over to Demi to fill. “I had a nightmare, too.” She took the glass back and took a drink from it. “It was about the dark, but a little different. It was bad enough to wake me up.” She yawned.

“I didn’t dream at all,” Mila said. “If I did, I don’t remember anything.” She looked over at Endora. “Okay, spill your guts. What was your dream?”

“Well… I was standing alone in the sunlight in the middle of a large open field. I remember thinking how beautiful everything looked around me. Out of nowhere, a dark, murky mist that acted like a wicked wind started blowing over the field and everything turned pitch dark. I was afraid to move… afraid if I did, it would hear me, and it would come for me.” Endora took a drink and set the glass down. “What do you think it means?” she asked.

“It’s strange that both of you dreamed about something similar,” Mila said. “Dark fog or a dark mist and being scared of it.”

Selena dragged her groggy self into the kitchen. “What’s going on?” she yawned, shuffling her feet across the floor.

“Demi and Endora had nightmares,” Mila said, taking a drink.

“So?” Selena took a glass from the cabinet. She sat down and poured the juice. “We watched scary movies and fell asleep while they were running in the background. What did you expect would happen?”

“Did you have a nightmare, too?” Demi asked her.

“Nope,” she said, shaking her head. “I slept like a baby.”

 

 

4

 

Later in the morning…

Selena walked into the foyer, opened the door, and stepped out on the porch. The first thing she saw was a small boy on the sidewalk.

“Give it back. That’s mine,” little Sammy Cole whined. He sat on his Big Wheel on the sidewalk that ran under the weeping willow tree. He stared up into the tree.

Selena watched him argue back and forth with something in the tree. When she couldn’t figure out who he was talking to, she walked across the yard and over to Sammy.

Selena looked up at the willow. “Who are you fussing with?”

He sniffed in deep and wiped his runny nose with the back of his hand. Sammy raised his little arm and pointed up at the top of the tree.

She looked back up and saw nothing. “Sammy,” she said. “It’s not nice to argue, especially when what you’re arguing with isn’t there to argue back.”

He looked over at her with the nastiest glare he could make and stuck out his tongue. “Naah.”

“Sammy Cole, that’s rude. I’m telling your mom,” she yelled.

“I don’t care. I don’t care. Can’t touch me, girl with ugly brown hair,” he nagged her as he pushed one of the back wheels with his hand and rolled away. He followed the sidewalk around and into his driveway.

She walked away, thinking nothing short of wanting to chase him down and clobber the little brat. That was so not him, she thought. She shut the door behind her and walked into the living room where Demi, Mila, and Endora sat.

“Are you okay?” Endora asked. “You look a little flushed.”

“I’m fine,” she said, trying to shake the little brat out of her system. “Did you figure out anything about the dreams?”

“Nothing,” Endora answered. “I’m guessing it was just silly dreams. I guess you were right that it came from the scary movies.”

“Guess what tomorrow is?” Mila asked, changing the subject.

“We know,” Demi answered quickly, with a long frown sagging on her face. “Don’t mention it. Maybe it won’t come.”

“It will come,” Selena said, still trying to shake Sammy Cole from her thoughts.

“At least, I can go back to the academy as my normal self.” She patted the top of her head. “See, no more cat ears.”

5

 

Liddy wrapped her skeletal fingers around the blue crystal ball she held in her hands. She focused on the image of the four girls who had wandered to her home. She clearly saw one of them opening the front door and standing under a willow tree. It had never been her practice to peer into the world of the mundanies, but this time was different. This time she had a churning-gut feeling something was terribly wrong, and whatever that something was, it wasn’t going to be good. She watched until the image faded, and the ball clouded to where she couldn’t see anything.

She placed it on the table and walked over to the far bookcase. She climbed the ladder all the way to the top shelf and pulled out a thick book on the history of practitioners.

Liddy slowly climbed back down and walked over to the mirror. She put her hand on the glass and watched as it melted away into a silver liquid substance. She stepped her foot inside, then the other, and disappeared.

 

6

 

The room was huge. In it sat a long, oblong wooden table. In the center of it were five large, white, burning candles. Twelve red velvet, high-back Victorian wing chairs sat equally placed around the table. The walls were covered with hundreds of pictures, depicting ancestors that traced far back into their kind.

“Ancestors,” she said, greeting the pictures with a quick nod. She set the book on the table and took a seat.

The first picture to ever appear in the room hung in the center of the north wall. It portrayed a beautiful woman in a tall, pointed black hat and black cape. She held a broomstick at her side. Her name was Witch Gretel.

She moved her lips and out came a soft-spoken voice. “Liddy, my, my! I haven’t seen you in while. Where have you been? We’ve missed you.”

All the ancestors in their frames came to life and began talking at once to her and to each other. It was a madhouse of chatter. An extravaganza of witches and warlocks, each having something important to say, but nothing really amounting to anything.

“I missed you all as well,” Liddy said loudly with her hands cupped around her ears to drown out the noise. “But we have a problem. That’s why I’m here.”

At once, the room fell dead quiet.

Liddy removed her hands from her ears and turned the book open to page one.

“What seems to be the problem?” Sir Edmond asked, hanging beside the frame of Witch Gretel. Sir Edmond was not just a warlock, but he had been the greatest of them all, and it showed. He was a man who carried himself proudly. A tall, thin, and baldheaded man dressed in grey and always wore a matching top hat.

“Something terrible is about to happen in the mundanies world,” Liddy said. “I can’t seem to put my finger on it. Four new witches came to me, newbies to the magic, and now I fear that somehow they’ve unknowingly taken up with something bad.”

“Ahhh, not to worry,” Sir Edmond said, taking a deep draw from his long-stem pipe. “I speak for all of us when I say put your finger on it, and let it guide you.”

“Yes, yes,” all the ancestors agreed, shaking their heads.

They watched with intrigue as she ran her finger down column after column, page after page, until she came to a name that triggered her mind’s eye, and an uneasy wave rushed over her.

“Pegrah,” she whispered.

 

7

 

Whispers of Pegrah came out of the mouths of all those ancestors who had known of him throughout the generations. Liddy sat back in the chair and listened to them one after another. They spoke of every boring and every exciting detail until she had learned a great deal more about Pegrah than she ever knew, or had ever wanted to know.

When the last word was spoken, she shut the book and stood up to thank them for helping. “But I still do not understand how he could be connected to the girls, or what it is he is planning with them?”

A large, round brass bowl appeared at the end of the table. Liddy looked around at the ancestors staring at the bowl.

Witch Gretel smiled, and with a wink she said, “A quick peek of origin never hurt anything.”

Liddy stood in front of the bowl and peered into the clouded water. An image of the red-haired girl came clear. She watched as the familiar face sneezed. Mila, she thought. She saw the dark mist rush out from the girl’s nostrils and disappear into the wall. Then the water clouded back up and the image was gone.

“I think you have your answer,” Witch Gretel answered.

From the highest frames, way up top, Liddy heard the whispers falling down over her as a light breeze.

“Dughalord.”

“Yes, they’re quite right,” Sir Edmond said. “The dark mist is an ancient thing that has existed before time. I, myself, encountered such a strange and vile creature many, many, many years past. Nothing good comes from a Dughalord, and you can bet if it’s around, there will be double trouble, indeed.” He stuck his long-stem pipe back in his mouth and listened as the ancestors agreed.

“Yes, yes, yes.” Their whispers echoed around the room until all the voices fell silent and the pictures went back to being still images.

Before the last image fell silent, Witch Gretel spoke with a warning. “Be careful, and remember to not intervene in the mundanies’ world. Do not forget your oath. Your magic must remain in the Witch Maze, or there will be a grave consequence to endure.”

“Yes,” Sir Edmond agreed and blew smoke out of the picture frame.

Liddy watched the smoke spin into the air. She didn’t like the sound of the warning, but it was true. There would be grave consequences; she knew it. She nodded her head and agreed, knowing there was a possibility that if she helped the girls she would have to break her oath and endure whatever came.

“I understand,” she whispered.

She walked back to the book, picked it up, and disappeared through the mirror. She returned the book to the top shelf and went up the stairs into her room. She laid down on her bed, and the images of the girls flashed in her head. She couldn’t shake their faces. It was her and her friends all over again. How could she just turn a blind eye and let… whatever… happen to the girls? She would wait a little longer before deciding. After all, she had to formulate a plan. She just couldn’t go up against Pegrah and put an end to his magic, not without a huge fight, and did she really want to do that? Did she really want to get into it with a warlock? Then again… did she really have a choice?

Chapter Twelve

Gloomy Bad Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

“I know… I totally freaked this weekend,” Mila said, standing at the edge of the sidewalk.

“It’s okay,” Demi answered. “Seriously, I would have done the same thing. Any of us would’ve acted just the way you did.”

“We’re just glad you’re back to normal.” Endora smiled with a sigh of thankful relief.

“Demi’s right. I would have freaked, too,” Selena admitted. “I think you showed lots of courage.”

The loud sound of a door slamming caught their attention. The girls jumped and looked over at the neighbor’s house. Doctor Charlie Flynn, a tall and thin man with a soul patch on his chin stamped his feet across the grass and onto the sidewalk. He opened the door of his car, and just before he slid inside, he rudely yelled back at his wife, Ruth Flynn, who he left standing on the porch, “Don’t worry, I won’t be back.”

Ruth was a slender woman with short brown hair. A perfect homemaker and wife, she stood still as a hood ornament. Her face was blotchy red from the tears that flowed down her cheeks. She looked as if she had tossed and turned all night in her clothes.

“That’s not like them at all,” Selena whispered softly, staring out the corners of her eyes. “I’ve never heard one of them say a loud word to the other or to anyone else, and now they’re arguing.”

They watched Doctor Flynn get in his car, slam the door, and peel out of the neighborhood.

“Should we go over and say something to her?” Mila asked. “She’s just standing there. Do you think she’s okay?”

“No, don’t go over there.” Selena shook her head. “If she knows we noticed, it will just make whatever went on worse.”

“Mom always says never join in on an ongoing argument, and especially if that argument is between a husband and wife.” Endora tried to avoid looking at Ruth.

“I feel sorry for her,” Demi said.

“Well, I double hate arguments no matter who is involved,” Mila said. “It never ends well. Someone always gets hurts.”

“Let’s just pretend we didn’t see or hear anything and get out of here.” Selena suggested a walk.

 

2

 

A few houses down, six kids had been playing a game of Blind Man’s Bluff, and now they stood face to face with each other, arguing back and forth. One kid brought up that they should play Mother May I? Another called out, “Red Light, Green Light.” The argument grew and louder until it escalated into a knockdown squabble.

Selena, Endora, Demi, and Mila watched the parents hurry out of their houses and pull the kids apart. One of the parents glanced over at them and yelled, “Go home, nosey brats. This isn’t your concern.”

“How rude,” Mila snapped back.

“OMG, seriously, what has gotten into everybody?” Endora asked.

“Beats me,” Selena said. “I’ve never known anyone in this neighborhood to be so rude. It’s like everybody woke up on the wrong side of the bed or something.”

“Hi, Mrs. Duncan,” Selena waved at her with a big smile.

“I don’t think she saw you,” Mila said.

Mrs. Duncan, a seventy-two-year-old lady wearing coke-bottle lenses and fetching her morning mail, stepped off the porch in her pajamas and robe. She had big green rollers in her grey hair, blue fuzzy slippers on her feet, and thick knee-high stockings to cover over her varicose veins. She held her lower back and slowly bent down to pick up the morning paper.

“Hi, Mrs. Duncan,” Selena said again, much louder.

Mrs. Duncan glared at Selena with a nasty stare as the girls walked by. She never once opened her mouth, which was way out of the ordinary for Mrs. Duncan. She always loved to chat, especially with the neighborhood kids. The woman didn’t know a stranger.

They walked further along the sidewalk, almost to the end of the street. They crossed over to the other side and walked back to the house. No one seemed to be in a good mood anywhere they walked.

“Something isn’t right,” Selena said, walking up to her door. “Can’t you feel it? It’s like something strange is in the air and everyone is breathing it in.” She looked up at the clouds covering the sun.

Selena opened the front door, walked in, and peeked out the window blinds. It wasn’t supposed to be a gloomy day. The weatherman promised a weekend of beautiful sunshine. It looks like it could pour, she thought.

Demi stood beside her, peeked out the window blinds and up at the sky. “Maybe it’s the gloomy weather making everybody unhappy.”

“Not sure,” Selena said. “But something’s not right out there.”

Endora looked over Demi’s shoulder and out the window. “We’ve had cloudy skies before.”

Mila grabbed Kitty from the box and toted him upstairs. The four of them hung out on the bed looking at the books, talking about the neighborhood, the magic, and taking turns holding Kitty.

“Whoever said it was easy being a witch obviously has never been one,” Mila said with a smirk on her face.

“Want to try something?” Demi asked and looked up from her book.

“Wait,” Mila interrupted. “I thought we said no spells for now.”

“We did,” Demi answered. “But this isn’t a spell… not really.”

She jumped down from the bed, grabbed her paper jotter from her bag, and tore out a piece of paper. She sat on the floor and laid the paper in front of her.

Selena and Endora sat down beside her. “I see what you’re doing,” Endora said. “It’s like the light as a feather thing.”

“If we concentrate, we can make the paper float in the air.” Demi looked up at the bed. “Come on Mila, put Kitty down. He can watch from there.”

Mila left Kitty on the bed licking his paw. She scooted off the edge and plopped down on the floor with the others.

They held hands and focused on lifting the paper with their thoughts.

Demi led the chant. “Light as a feather, stiff as a board.”

The paper shifted over to the right.

“OMG, did you see that?” Demi said. “It really moved.”

“Of course,” Selena smarted. “See, we can do the magic without messing up. We just have to learn to own it.”

Mila glanced at Endora’s watch and stood to her feet. “I have to go,” she announced.

Mila threw her uniform back on. She tossed the clothes she was wearing in the hamper.

“What’s the matter?” Selena asked.

“Nothing… nothing really,” she answered. “It’s just time for me to get going. I promised mom to be back before dinner, and it’s close. If I break my promise, she’ll be mad, and I won’t get to stay next time.”

“Do you want us to walk you home?” Endora asked.

“No,” she said. “I got it.” She put her book in her bag and pulled it up on her shoulder. “Sorry I have to go, but I’ll meet you all in the morning.”

Mila said goodbye to the girls, petted Kitty, and headed downstairs.

Selena followed behind her. She watched as Mila walked across the yard and down the sidewalk. At one place, she stopped, turned, and waved at Selena. Selena waved back with a smile and shut the door behind her.

Endora and Demi watched her out the bedroom window until Mila was out of sight. “Do you think she’s mad or something?” Demi asked, concerned that maybe she done something wrong.

“No,” she answered. “I don’t think it had anything to do with the light as a feather thing. She had to go just like she said, just like I have to in a bit.”

“Me, too,” Demi said. “Dad will be home waiting on me.”

“Well, at least she’s going home normal,” Selena said as she walked into the room.

 

3

 

Mila stepped in the alleyway, feeling a bit on the edgy side. Midway through, she stopped dead still. Dillon was standing at the corner of the Pizzeria, leaning against the building with his back to her. He wasn’t looking her way.

She took a few steps forward. The closer she got to him, the more she felt the stupid and awkward feeling coming over her. Before she thought about what she was doing, she put her fingers on her sapphire stone, shut her eyes for a second, and mumbled in her thoughts. “Now, move along. Go away from where you stand.”

She opened her eyes. He was gone, back inside the Pizzeria.

Surprised it worked, she hurried out of the alleyway and dashed by the window with her head down. She dared not look in, hoping he didn’t see her.

She reached the backside of the academy and turned down the road that led to her home. She didn’t live in a three-story home like Selena’s or even a two story like Endora’s home. Her street was crowded with look-a-like duplex buildings lined in rows. Mila lived in the third unit with her mom and with her sister, Ingrid.

She opened the door and a strong familiar scent hit her nostrils. “Oh, god, not chili… again,” she whined.

Ingrid turned around. “So, baby sister knows where home is,” she smarted in her usual manner.

Mila looked at her bewildered. “I’m not late. Where’s mom?”

“Kitchen,” Faye yelled. “I’m cooking.”

Mila stepped into the doorway, leaned against the frame, and watched her mom set the table.

Faye Hill, a slender, brown-haired, blued-eyed mom who wore round spectacles and her hair up in a clip greeted her. “You need to get washed up,” she said and moved over to the stove. She picked up the spoon and stirred the chili.

“I’m not really hungry,” Mila answered.

“Well, you can eat some,” she snapped and laid the spoon down. “You haven’t grown too good for us, now, have you?”

Ingrid walked in and brushed by Mila with a big, annoying smile on her face. “Move out of the way… baby sister.”

Mila glared at her and let the words fly out of her mouth. “I told you not to call me that,” she screamed. She stomped down the hallway to her room and slammed the door behind her.

 

4

 

Endora and Demi put on their uniforms, said their goodbyes to Selena and to Kitty, and left together. They walked down the street, through the alleyway, and stopped in front of the Pizzeria before going their separate ways.

“So, I’ll see you in the morning,” Demi said.

Endora nodded. “I wish it was Friday again. I hate to think about Monday and being back inside the academy. I wish there was a spell to get rid of it.”

“That would be great,” Demi laughed. “Or they could turn it into some sort of a magic academy. I wouldn’t mind that at all.”

Endora laughed and waved bye as she walked in the opposite direction. A magic academy… that would be interesting, she thought.

Demi turned down her street onto a small roundabout. Her house was a cookie-cutter copy of the rest of the homes in the neighborhood.

Right away, Demi saw her dad’s car wasn’t in the driveway. She walked up on the porch and turned the knob. It was locked. She moved the mat under her feet for the key. She opened the door and stepped inside.

“Dad,” she yelled anyway.

He wasn’t there, and the house was mortuary quiet. She was alone. She couldn’t believe it. Where is he?

Demi walked down the hallway, into her room, and tossed her bag on her bed. She sat down and leaned back, letting out a long sigh. It had been a long weekend.

After she laid still for a few moments, she got up, walked into the kitchen, and found a note on the fridge.

“Meeting a client out of town. Be home soon. Love, Dad,” she mumbled.

She tossed the note in the trash.

It was so weird being alone. She knew she had wished to be left alone, to have the house to herself, and now she didn’t have a clue what to do. She grabbed a Coke from the fridge, sat on the couch, and clicked the remote on to CHNC local news.

She let out a gasp. The announcer was in middle of broadcasting a sudden rash of domestic disturbances and fights in the town of Crow Hill.

Her phone rang.

Demi jumped up, ran to her room, and grabbed her cell phone from her bag. “Hello,” she answered, out of breath.

“Demi, it’s me… Endora. I just got home. I can’t stay on the phone long. Mom’s getting supper.” She paused for a second. “Did you hear?” she asked.

“Are you talking about…”

“Yes,” Endora answered. “The whole town has changed overnight. Even mom is a bit on the grumpy side, and she’s never that way.”

“Do you think it has something to do with us doing the magic?” Demi asked nervously.

“No,” Endora said. “We didn’t do anything that would have affected the town.”

“What’s going on, then?”

“Not sure, but I wanted to call and make sure you knew that people are—”

“Not themselves. I get it,” Demi said. “Did you call Mila and Selena?”

“I called, but they didn’t know anything, either. They’re just as much in the dark as we are. I have to go. Mom’s calling.”

“Tomorrow, then,” Demi said, clicking off her phone.

 

5

 

Selena heard two car doors slam.

She looked out her bedroom window and down at the driveway. Mom and Dad were home. She grabbed her book and tucked it down into her bag. She picked up Kitty off her bed and sat him down into his box in the corner of the room. “Sorry, Kitty, but mums the meows for now.”

Harry Woods, average height, thin, green-eyed, and bald with a small diamond post in his ear came up the stairs, carrying two suitcases.

“Hi, Selena,” he said, passing by her doorway without so much as a glance in. He walked down the hallway and straight into his room.

Margie Woods, taller than average, brown-eyed and blonde haired, followed close behind him, scowling every step of the way. She passed by Selena’s door and glanced over quickly at it without saying a word.

Their voices were muffled through the walls, and Selena couldn’t hear what they were saying. She moved over to the doorway and leaned against the frame, listening. It sounded like an argument.

“See, I told you… We could have stayed one more day,” Margie yelled. “Selena is just fine.”

“I know it,” he barked back. “I just couldn’t stand your sister another minute longer.”

“What has she ever done to you but be good?” Margie questioned him as she threw open her suitcase and slung her clothes into the drawer.

Selena listened to every word and the weirdest part was, it was the first real argument she had ever heard them in. She walked into the hallway, down to their door, and stood. “Mom, is everything okay?” she asked.

Margie took a deep breath in and let it out slowly. “Everything’s good. Dad and I were discussing his inability to tolerate my sister.” She slammed shut the suitcase and set it in the closet. “You would think after all these years, he would, or could, put just a little bit effort forward and try to be closer with her. After all, she is family.”

“Funny me not liking her never bothered you before. You were okay when we left her, and the minute we crossed the Crow Hill line, you start.” He walked out of the room, grumbling under his breath.

Selena watched him go down the stairs. She turned back to her mom. “How’s my favorite Aunt Jen?” Selena asked, trying to change the subject.

Margie glanced around at her as if she didn’t quite catch what she said. Then the answer hit her. “She’s fine… she sends her love.”

Selena smiled and walked back to her bedroom. She shut her door, picked up her cell phone, and called Endora. “Mom and Dad are arguing,” she whispered.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’m all right,” Selena said. “But I got a feeling something isn’t right here. They never ever argue.”

“Don’t get in-between them. I mean, don’t take sides. You know how parents are. You’ll end up getting crushed from both. It’s a husband and wife thing.” Endora paused for a second. “Do you want to come over?”

“No,” she answered. “I’m okay, but I think whatever is happening to the town is affecting them, too.”

“Selena.” The voice drifted up from below.

“Hang on a second,” she told Endora. She opened her door, walked over to the top of the landing, and leaned over the banister. “What, Dad?” she yelled down at him.

“Come on,” he said, looking up at her. “I called in for Chinese.”

She put the phone back up to her ear. “Endora, I have to go. Dad wants me to run out with him for Chinese. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Okay, in the morning,” Endora answered and clicked off her cell phone.

Selena plopped on her bed, put on her shoes, and walked down the hallway into her mom’s room. “We’re going for Chinese,” she said.

Margie nodded her head and reached out her arms. She gave her a big hug, “I’m sorry, it’s just a silly argument.”

Selena smiled and hugged her back. “I’m glad you’re home.”

She hurried down the stairs and out the front door. Her dad was already in the car. She opened the door and got in. She watched him turn the headlights, turn the radio on, and back out of the driveway. Soon, they turned onto the highway and drove past the Crow Hill sign.

“Crow Hill Welcomes you. Population 1313,” she mumbled under her breath.

Chapter Thirteen

Folly Blunder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

The car passed the hospital in the neighboring town of Raven Row. Selena looked over at her dad. “Are you and Mom going to get a divorce?” she asked.

He quickly glanced over at her and then back to the road. “Why would you ask that? Are you afraid we’re not going to be a family anymore?”

Selena knew he was surprised that she had mentioned such a harsh thing. She stared out the window at the red light. “Maybe,” she sighed. “I never heard you argue before.”

“Your mom and I love each other very much.” He turned the corner into the parking lot and pulled into an open space. He turned off the engine and turned in his seat toward her. “One thing,” he said, and tapped her shoulder. “Just because two married people argue, that doesn’t mean the worst is to come. We are happy. We love each other, and we love you. Got it?” He winked at her and reassured her with a comforting smile. “Don’t you give it a second thought. Now, let’s go in. I’m starving.”

Selena shut her door and met him at the front of the car. “I got it, Dad,” she said. She reached out for him and gave him a big hug.

 

2

 

Monday morning already had its problems, but the day was just beginning. Mila, Endora, and Demi stood at the corner of the Pizzeria waiting for Selena. She was late.

“She better hurry,” Endora said, and checked her watch.

Mila turned to look down the alleyway. “Here she comes,” she said and shuffled around in her bag. “Good, I got it.” She held up her cell phone. “Thought I left it.”

“I know… I know. I overslept,” Selena said. She stepped up on the curb. “Mom and Dad were arguing when they got home. Then after we ate Chinese, everything went sort of back to normal. But forget about me sleeping. I was up all night playing string with Kitty.” She stopped and adjusted her skirt. “I totally hate these uniforms. What I would give to dress normal and cliff this thing.”

“Seriously, Selena… breathe,” Endora laughed.

“You’re right… okay.” She nodded and took a deep breath.

“We still have time,” Demi said. “Bell won’t ring for fifteen-minutes, but we need to go… like now.”

“So, why the fussing?” Mila asked Selena.

She shrugged. “I guess it was about my mom’s sister and Dad not liking her.” She flicked her hair back and adjusted the bag on her shoulder. “I think it was just his excuse to not stay longer. The whole thing was stupid.”

Suddenly, a guy in a black hoodie and sporting a backpack darted past them at full speed. He brushed by Mila, nearly knocking her off balance.

“Hey, freak punk!” she screamed. “Freaking rude!”

He glanced over his shoulder at them while he ran straight to the academy.

“Who was that?” Endora asked, watching as he entered into the open front gate.

“Don’t know. I couldn’t see his face. His hoodie was in the way,” Mila said. “But I know he’s a total jerk.”

“Nobody can be in that much of a hurry to get to the academy!” Demi yelled.

“Selena, what did your mom and dad say about Kitty?” Endora asked.

“I told her,” she answered. “She didn’t say a word, really. I don’t think she was overjoyed, but I know she’s okay with me keeping him.”

“He hasn’t talked yet, has he?” Demi asked.

“No,” Selena said, smiling. “But he did meow at me this morning.”

“Face it, the spell totally messed up,” Endora spoke. “Pegrah said, ‘What we did was reverse what was never there, and that what we tried to do could not be done, since there was no magic in the kitty to reverse.’ So, obviously, Kitty is just a mundanie kitty, or he would’ve spoken something by now. I assume you can’t make a mundanie a witch, a warlock or a familiar.”

“True, but he still has cute going for him,” Selena said.

“So, you’re keeping him?” Demi asked.

“It wouldn’t be right to ditch him just because he won’t talk,” Mila said. “That’s not his fault.”

“Right,” Selena agreed. “I’m keeping him.”

 

3

 

The academy grounds were swarming with the usual crowd of seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshman. They were hanging out in their known clicks, pretending to be happy to be back, but that was total fabrication. No one was happy, really, except for Mila, and that had nothing to do with her being back, but everything to do with being normal again.

Endora saw the hoodie boy go in the gate, so she knew he was lurking inside somewhere. She looked around at all the faces. She didn’t see him.

Selena opened the door. Endora, Demi, and Mila followed in behind her and rushed to their lockers.

Demi stood, facing the slim, metal door. She stared at the lock. Without anyone noticing, she touched her fingers to her ruby stone and concentrated. Open, she thought. Instantly, the lock released. She smiled, grabbed her books, headed down the east wing to the south wing and into first class. She sat in her seat seconds before the bell sounded.

Selena, Mila, and Endora rushed over to their seats. A hush fell over the room as they waited for Sister Gorgon to waddle her fat-self in. Demi turned her head to Mila and snapped her finger to get her attention. “I can focus on things, say what I want, and it happens. What about you?” she whispered.

Mila shrugged just as…

Sister Gorgon waddled into the room with her yardstick under her arm and a pile of books in her hands. She cleared her throat loudly. “Whatever it is that you’re doing,” she said, at the top of her voice. “Stop!” She set the books on her desk and scanned the faces in the room. “I’m not in here so you can waste my Monday.” She slapped the yardstick as hard as she could against the desk and made a loud annoying noise. Everyone in the room jumped. “Now that I have your attention…”

At the end of the hour, the bell rang and everyone hurried out of the classroom. Endora was happy to get away from Sister Gorgon, and she wasn’t alone. Nobody wanted to be near her any more than they had to. The woman did nothing but yell, complain, and slap that stick of hers.

 

4

 

The day dragged on, as Mondays usually do, until the lunch bell rang. The girls walked into the cafeteria and grabbed the table next to the exit door.

“Got something to tell you,” Mila said, sitting down. “On the way home yesterday, I saw Dillon standing at the corner of the Pizzeria. I hated walking past him because—”

“I think Mila has a crush,” Demi said and smiled.

Mila rolled her eyes, ignored her words, and continued, “So I put my fingers on my sapphire stone, shut my eyes, and said what I wanted to happen. When I opened my eyes… he was gone.”

Demi’s eyes widened with excitement. “And I opened my locker just by thinking about the lock and wanting it to open.”

“I haven’t tried anything at all.” Selena looked over at Endora. “Have you?”

“No, nothing,” Endora answered, biting her lower lip. “But you could try something now.” She looked around the lunchroom. “See that banner on the wall over there? Make it fall, Selena.”

She placed her fingers on her citrine stone and lowered her head as if she were saying a prayer. She focused hard on the banner. Fall to the ground, fall to the ground, she thought. She lifted her head and looked over at it. “It’s not working,” she said, a little disappointed.

Seconds later, before the next word was spoken, a loud crinkling noise sounded, and the banner fell to the floor.

“OMG, you totally freaking did it,” Demi said, quickly turning away from the banner.

“Okay, you’re next, Endora,” Mila said.

“Okay,” she said, and looked around. “Over there, that girl’s glass on her tray. The one sitting next to the water fountain. Watch this.” She put her fingers on her emerald stone and concentrated on the liquid in the glass. Liquid escape, she thought.

Suddenly, every glass in the lunchroom popped and bust open. Liquid spilled everywhere it could possibly go. Mila, Selena, Demi, and Endora watched as the sisters ran by their table and out the door. Some of the boys and girls got up and ran out behind them. Others sat in their seats, looking around strangely at all the broken glass.

“We better get out of here,” Mila whispered.

“And fast,” Demi added as she stood up.

“Lucky for us we had cans,” Selena giggled, going out the door.

“That was awesome,” Demi whispered.

They left the cafeteria and headed back to the plaza to sit until the bell rang.

“Do you think anybody suspected us?” Demi asked. “I mean we didn’t hang around inside or outside the door like the others.”

Endora raised her left brow and with a serious look. “I just wanted it to be her glass, not everyone else’s.”

“You should have focused harder. You know, directed it better,” Selena offered.

“I don’t think that was the problem,” Mila said. “I think she’s a lot stronger than she knows.”

 

5

 

After the bell, it didn’t take Sister Dagon long to get on the intercom and announce the folly blunder in the lunchroom was the result of a microwave malfunction causing a high-frequency pitch. With the announcement came early dismissal. Everyone rushed to their lockers and out the door.

The girls had a little over two hours to kill before it was time to go home. They happily left the academy grounds and grabbed Cokes from the machine outside the Post Office. They took a detour from town over to the park where they sat down at a picnic table.

“Question,” Selena said and looked across the playground. “Why let us out if they thought it was just a microwave malfunction?”

Endora sat on top of the table and stared out at the swings. “You don’t suppose they let us go because they knew it was the magic and made a bogus announcement to get everyone out so they could investigate?”

“The sisters did run out like they were frightened of something,” Selena noted. “You would’ve thought they saw a ghost.”

“Do you think they know it was us?” Mila asked nervously.

“Come on,” Demi said, jumping off the table. “I think it’s time we do some digging of our own, and I know just where we can start looking.”

Chapter Fourteen

Claws Out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

“Sisters, I think you know why I have called this council meeting. I know it is the first one we’ve had in a while, but there is good reason I have gathered us to this room.” Sister Dagon leaned her thin slumping body on the edge of the desk. “Today in the lunchroom, there was an incident.” She looked around at the staring faces and said the words she had been dreading to say, “An incident of the magic.”

“Somebody’s practicing?” Sister Gorgon gasped. “Who is it?” She tightened her fingers around her yardstick.

“We don’t know,” Sister Dagon answered. “This sort of mischief has not happened here in over a decade. Now… has anyone seen anything or anyone out of the ordinary? If you know anything, I don’t need to remind you what happens when they start… practicing.”

“Last time it happened,” Sister Gorgon spoke up. “It nearly destroyed the town.”

“Duly noted,” Sister Dagon said. “I remember too well.”

The room filled with loud whispers of the sisters rambling back and forth between themselves. Suddenly, a hush fell over the room when one of the sisters noticed a tall, thin man dressed in black standing in the doorway staring at them.

“It is our sworn duty to protect this town and those in it,” he said. “I assume none of you would have a problem doing the right thing.”

“Father Judas, please come in,” Sister Dagon said as she rose from the desk.

He stepped into the room. “Sister Dagon has so kindly filled me in on the lunchroom incident, which can only be explained in two words… the magic.” He slowly walked up and down the aisles between the seats. “We cannot allow Crow Hill to be infested with the likes of witches and warlocks… not again.”

“So, you think it’s one of the children?” Sister Gorgon asked.

“Don’t let youth fool you, Sister. They fall into it innocent enough, and when they’re ready, they rise to power,” Sister Dagon said. She walked over to the window and looked down across the grounds. “Nothing good has ever come from the magic, no matter what age.”

“If this has started here again, how can we get rid of the magic for good?” a sister from the back of the room asked.

“The same way we always have,” Father Judas said. He put his round-rim glasses on. “It’s almost always the young that start such practices.”

“Why now?” another sister raised her voice. “Why has it come back to us? We’ve been so careful.”

Father Judas leaned against the desk and rubbed his chin. “Because every decade, give or take a few years, somewhere in the world witches and warlocks come to power, and some of them find their way into this town. This place is a magnet. It attracts more practitioners than anywhere in the world.” Father Judas walked to the door. Before he left, he turned in the direction of Sister Dagon. “I trust you to be in charge of reporting to me when there is something legitimate to report.”

“Yes.” She nodded as he walked out of the room. “You heard Father Judas,” she turned to the sisters. “We must be vigilant. The moment you see something, or you think you see something, come to me with it. No hesitating with such matters.”

A soft-spoken voice from the newest convert spoke up as she stood to her feet. “But they’re just—”

“Children,” Sister Dagon said, glaring at the new convert. “They are, but they’re also witches or warlocks. It will do well for you to learn fast. A practitioner is a practitioner, and they are dangerous at any age. Crossing a young one or an older one can bring in the same destruction.”

The room cleared and Sister Gorgon walked over to stand by Sister Dagon’s side. They stared out across the grounds and at the open gate. “Hard to believe such a quaint town could be so far from ordinary.”

“It is,” Sister Dagon agreed.

 

2

 

Demi, Endora, Mila, and Selena stopped in front of a small one-room building that sat around the corner from the Beauty Shop.

“The Public Room? What are we doing here, Demi?” Mila asked.

“When I was looking up the date the town was built for history, Dad told me about a town history book that would help me out.” Demi took the key from her bag and unlocked the door. “And since he is on the committee,” she flashed the key at them. “I get access into the room.”

“Why are we looking now?” Selena asked.

“Call it a good gut hunch,” Demi said and walked in.

The room was dusty, unmonitored, and rarely visited – a tight cramped room that served as nothing more than a tuck-away storage for the town archives. Inside were records and books dating back to the founding of Crow Hill. Because the room was so small, the place was twenty degrees hotter than the outside, and the air smelled of old and aging paper. In the center an oblong metal table sat piled high with books and ledgers.

Endora followed close behind Demi. “So, when was the town built?” she asked, looking around.

Demi reached up and pulled a cord. A single 40-watt light came on and cast an eerie glow over the room. “Well, that doesn’t help much,” she said. Turning her attention back to Endora, she answered, “1691… that’s all I know. I never cared to read on further. I just wanted the date.”

Selena looked around at the mess of files, boxes, books, and the piles of papers that sat bundled and stacked on top of each other. “What are you looking for, anyway?” she asked.

“I hope you don’t think we are going through all this crap today,” Mila said. “We won’t make a dent.”

“No,” Demi snickered. “We only need one book. The rest is useless for us, really.” She shuffled the books around on the table until she was sure she had the right one. “This is it,” she said, lifting up a thick, musty book.

“Now what?” Endora asked. She watched Demi slide the book down into her bag.

“What does it look like I’m doing?” Demi smiled. “I’m borrowing it.” She pulled the cord and the light went off. They stepped out the door. “Don’t worry,” she said as she turned the lock. “It won’t be missed. I don’t think anyone knows it’s here but my dad.”

“So, what are we looking for in the book?” Mila asked.

“Anything really,” Demi answered. “My gut tells me if the sisters are onto the magic, then they must know something, and that something is probably recorded in the town’s history, which is why we need the book.” She glanced over at Mila. “You won’t get honest answers unless you dig for them yourself.”

“Wait, stop,” Endora said, standing still. She placed her hand on the top of the book and her fingers on her green stone. “No one will miss this book. It’s for our eyes only to look,” she chanted, as Selena, Mila, and Demi joined in with her.

 

3

 

A loud ring.

Selena reached in her bag, grabbed her cell phone, and looked at the name. “Hi, Mom,” she said, and placed her finger against her lips so the others would stay quiet.

After a long pause and a quick goodbye, she clicked off her cell phone and tossed it back in her bag. “I have something to tell you.” Her eyes clouded up and the corners of her mouth turned down.

“What is it? What’s the matter?” Endora asked, concerned.

“It’s Kitty. He’s gone,” she said. “Mom says she looked everywhere and can’t find him. Dad looked in the yard and through the neighborhood. There was no sign of him.”

“He’ll be back,” Endora said. “Oh, look at you. See, you’re already attached to the little fellow.”

“I know… I am,” she admitted. “Why are you so sure he’ll be back?”

She shrugged. “I know Kitty was happy with us. He won’t stray far from home; he knew he was loved.

“We’ll keep our eyes open for him. He’ll turn up soon,” Demi said. “I’m sure of it.”

“I was getting used to him being around and now… he’s somewhere else running… who knows where,” Selena sighed.

“Look at it this way… Kitty is out exploring. Most little animals are independent. Running around is what they like to do,” Mila said.

“That’s what worries me.” She wiped her eyes before her tears fell.

 

4

 

They slowly walked along the sidewalk back to the Pizzeria, comforting Selena all the way. Mila didn’t look in the window at Dillon; she kept her back turned to it, unaware that he was staring out at her from the other side.

“What are we going to do about the academy? I mean, how do we act?” Mila asked. “And what if they know it’s us?”

“Nothing,” Endora answered. “Absolutely nothing. We are going to act the way we always do and we’re not going to do anything to attract attention to ourselves.”

“No magic,” Demi said.

“Right,” Endora reluctantly agreed.

“Okay… so, let me get this straight,” Demi said. “There’s a swell of rudeness circulating Crow Hill. We’re not sure, but we think the sisters know something about the magic. Kitty is missing, and I have just stolen the only town history book.” She took a deep breath and let it out. “Did I miss anything?” she asked.

“I think that covers it,” Endora snickered.

“No, wait,” Mila interrupted. “You missed the before part about us. We did the magic and messed it up. So, we still need to figure out what we’re doing. Then there’s the million-dollar question about Endora’s mom… is she a witch or not? Plus, we have to dig through the town history, and who knows what skeletons are hidden there that we’ll dig up.”

“Seriously,” snapped Selena. “Kitty is missing. I don’t care about anything else.” She hung her head down. “I’m sorry, that’s not true. I do care about all of it?” She let out a long, depressed sigh. “I’m really worried about Kitty.”

Demi put her hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry, Kitty will turn up. Meanwhile, while he’s out there exploring, we need to do some digging and exploring ourselves.”

“Crow Hill is a small place. We’re bound to see him sooner or later,” Endora added.

“That doesn’t make me feel better,” Selena replied. “Think of him out there… all alone. Crow Hill is small to us, but to him… it’s the whole world.”

“I don’t care what you say,” the woman yelled at the top of her voice as she came barreling out of the bookshop across the street. She slammed the door behind her and made the bell on the handle jingle so loud it caught the attention of everyone who was near. The girls watched as the woman crossed the road and brushed rudely by them, mumbling under her breath.

“What got into her?” Demi asked.

“Dang you! Talk about total rude,” Mila said. “Am I right?”

“Shush, not so loud. I hope she didn’t hear us.” Selena whispered.

The woman hurried down the sidewalk, huffing and puffing mad.

“I don’t care if she heard or not,” Mila answered. “People in this town have forgotten how to be nice. They are downright rude, and it’s freaking annoying.”

Endora had a worried look about her. “I don’t think things are right,” she said.

Demi glanced over at Endora. “I told you that people didn’t seem to be themselves.”

The girls talked back and forth about everything under the sun, but mainly about the magic until Endora looked at her watch and announced it was time to go home. They said their goodbyes and departed to their own homes.

Mila started slowly walking, acting as if she were heading home. She had no intention of going there, not just yet. She waited until Demi, Selena, and Endora were out of sight before she back tracked to the Pizzeria. She walked inside and took a seat at the counter behind Dillon.

He turned around to see a pretty red-haired girl with a big smile staring at him.

“Hi,” he said happily.

She answered back in a soft, sweet voice. “Hi.”

Chapter Fifteen

Double Trouble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Liddy paced back and forth across the floor. She wasn’t exactly sure what she should do. Should she warn the girls? Whether the girls know or not, they need me, she thought. However, there is the matter of the oath. If she broke the oath, there would be consequences.

She shivered as if a cold chill had passed through her when she thought of what that could mean. ‘Nothing good comes from a Dughalord, and you can bet if it’s around, there will be double trouble, indeed.’ The words of Sir Edmond echoed in her head. If she helped the girls, she couldn’t do it without breaking the oath and suffering whatever came her way, but how could she stand idly by and do nothing? The thoughts struggled back and forth until the front door swung open.

She turned to see the door shut and a skinny white cat scurry across the floor. He came in and sat at her feet. She bent over and picked him up. “We have a problem, Snow,” she said.

He stared at her and leaned his head to the left and to the right. “Problem,” he repeated. “We have a problem?”

“It’s the four girls that came here. If I don’t interfere and help them… well, who knows what Pegrah is capable of.”

“And if you don’t?” he asked.

“If I don’t, things will be a lot worse. I fear that may be far worse than the consequence for me would be.” She petted his head as he purred.

“You’ll have to suffer the consequence for how long?” he asked.

She sat him back down on the floor. “I’m not sure. No one knows until the consequence is given, but I have to assume forever.”

“That’s a long time,” he said and licked his paw.

“Yes, but my mind is made up.” She snapped her fingers. “It is necessary.” She walked toward the mirror. “I’ll have to contact them before things go to the next step.”

Snow examined his paw closer. “What can I do?” he asked her.

“That, I’m unsure of, but if the time comes that I need you, I will call on you. At least I know you can be trusted,” she said and arched her brow.

“Clearly,” he said as he stood by the mirror. He sat comfortably on the floor, waiting for her to focus on contacting one of the girls. “Why not try Bright Bulb?”

“Who’s that?” she asked.

“I don’t know her name. It’s the girl with the short black hair.”

“That one was called Endora,” she said with a smile. “She should do just fine.” She stared at her reflection until her image faded and Endora appeared through the cloudy fog.

Endora sat on her bed writing in her book, the one Liddy had given to her. Suddenly, a loud long whisper startled her. She put down her pen and looked around the room. She waited, then she spoke, “Hello, is anyone here?”

“Endora, dinner time,” Cora yelled from the bottom of the stairs.

“Coming, Mom,” she yelled back and put her book into her bag. She got up, went downstairs, and into the kitchen.

“Connection broke,” Liddy said, frustrated. She turned from the mirror. “I need to try something stronger.”

Snow stood up and arched his back to stretch. “What will you do now?”

She shrugged. “I’ll give it another try later.”

 

2

 

“Smells good,” Endora said. She quickly forgot about the whisper she’d heard upstairs and sat down at the table across from Cora. “Mom, can we talk about Gram?” she asked. “We never really talk about her.”

Cora stopped chewing her food and swallowed. She put down her burger and took a swallow of her tea. “Okay,” she answered. “What do you want to know? Gram was a fascinating lady.”

“Anything you can tell me, I guess,” she answered, taking a bite from her cheeseburger. “I know very little about her.”

Cora shifted in her seat as if she were buying a few seconds of time. “Well… to start with, Gram was a lover of poetry. She wrote books of poems that I inherited.”

“Wow,” Endora gasped. “See, I didn’t know that Gram was a published poet. How long have you known that? And why didn’t you tell me?”

“Forever,” she answered. “When I was a little girl, I used to sit and watch her write. When she finished, I was always the first to hear her poem.” She got up and opened the door to the china hutch. “Here,” she said, handing a small book over to her. “This is small, but it’s one of my favorites. She called the book The Impossibilities Unimagined. And I didn’t say anything, because you didn’t ask. Funny, how you never went prowling through her books.”

Endora shrugged. “I guess I just never bothered to look,” she said, taking the book. “But I’m interested now. Is this mine?”

“Nope,” she shook her head. “It’s on loan. Finish it and put it back in the hutch, then you can get the next one.” She shut the door and glanced over at her. “We got a deal?”

Endora nodded. “Deal,” she said and smiled. “How many books did she write?”

“The hutch is full, and I have a box full in my closet. I would say about a hundred books.” She sat back down. “You know you will learn a lot about Gram in her writings. One thing… she loved you a lot, and one day all her books will be yours.” she smiled. “You’re growing up so fast. I know Gram is so proud of you. I wished you remembered her.” Cora let out a sigh. “She loved to bake apple pies as much as you loved eating them. I think she would have hung the moon for you, if she could.”

“Maybe she did,” Endora said.

Cora looked at her as if she had said something profound. “Maybe she did,” she whispered.

 

3

 

Endora took the book upstairs. If her mom knew about Gram being a witch, she didn’t say a word or let on that she knew of anything except that Gram was a poet. She picked up her cell phone and dialed.

A preppy Barbie voice answered the first ring. “Hello.”

“Demi, this is Endora,” she said.

“Duh, I know it’s you,” Demi laughed. “Perfect timing. I found some interesting stuff in the history book and a lot of other boring crap.”

“I was wondering about the founders. Did you find out who they were yet?” she asked her.

“I did,” Demi answered. You’re going to love this: there was a Thomas Brown, a Wilmot Hill, Jacob Woods, John Collin, and a Margret Webb.” She paused for a second to take a breath. “And get this, they founded the town, and ten years later, they were all accused of practicing the magic.”

“Are those our ancestors?” she asked with a tinge of excitement in her voice.

“Yes, it sounds like they are. Which means you’re not the only one who has witch blood in you.” Demi flipped through the pages. “And this, you’re not going to believe. Remember when I said I wished the academy would be a school for the magic?”

“Yeah, I remember,” Endora answered and listened carefully.

“Well get this… the academy used to belong to the witches and warlocks of Crow Hill. They ran the town, taught the magic, and an herbal lab was in it where a local warlock doctor called Sir Edmond Poe worked.”

“Seriously, witchy cool,” Endora said. “You mean we are living in witch and warlock territory. Wait until Selena and Mila hear… they will totally flip.” Before she hung up, she told Demi to call and let them know about their ancestors and the fact that they were all bloodline witches.

“I will,” Demi answered. She clicked off her phone and called Selena and Mila right after. When Demi finished, she laid her cell phone to the side. She listened to the sound of heavy footsteps coming down the hall. Funny, she didn’t hear anyone come in. She froze and sat still, staring at the doorway.

4

 

George Collin, a town-lawyer, short brown hair, with green eyes and dressed in a three-piece tailored suit stepped into the room.

Demi didn’t think to hide the history book, but she quickly thought of a backup plan. She would say she borrowed it for researching an assignment. He wouldn’t care, but he might not be happy she took it out of where it is supposed to be.

“Hey, what are you doing?” he asked, making conversation with her.

“Dad, OMG, you scared me,” she said. “I didn’t hear the front door open.”

He laughed and bent over to kiss her on the forehead. “I bought pizza.”

“Yay,” she said, looking down at the book. “I was doing homework.”

He stared down at the bed.

“I can explain,” she said, looking up at the concerned look on his face. “I know what you’re going to say.” She knew he recognized the book right away. He was the one who told her where it was, but she knew he wouldn’t approve of her five-finger-discount.

“I certainly hope so,” he said. “It would be a shame to do homework and not be able to explain your answers.” He reached down for the paper jotter. “A history essay on Crow Hill.”

Demi stared at the book and back up at him as he handed the paper jotter back to her. He didn’t seem to see the book at all. He walked out into the hallway.

“You coming?” he asked. “You know I hate cold pizza.”

“Sure,” she answered and jumped off the bed. She stepped out of the room and shut the door behind her.

 

5

 

Liddy was busy preparing to try and make contact with Endora again. She didn’t notice the door open or Snow scurry out without a word. Her mind was focused on making a stronger connection. She would need to use the power of the circle to help her. She moved over to a bare spot in the room and waved her hand.

A perfect and solid white circle etched itself onto the floor around her. She crossed her arms over her chest, leaned her head back, and shut her eyes. She focused on Endora.

When the vision of her face came clearly to her mind, she called out to her, “ENDORA! Imperium gratia expositus!” She stood like a statue on her feet. She saw Endora lying on her bed in the dark. She yelled louder at her, “ENDORA! Subsisito ventus!” Liddy waited patiently.

 

6

 

The night was darker than normal as the gloomy sky blocked the moonlight from coming through the window glass.

Endora had fallen asleep reading Gram’s poetry book. She tossed from one side of the bed to the other and drifted into a dream. At first, it was out of focus, then it became clear. She was standing in the middle of a field of tall witch grass. She heard someone call her name in the distance and narrowed her eyes to see. Whoever it was calling out to her was out of focus. It was no use; she couldn’t see who it was.

Chapter Sixteen

Rabbit Hole Slip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Behind her, a dark mist rushed across the field as if a huge tidal wave moved over the land. It covered the ground and everything went pitch dark. Endora stood still, listening carefully to the voice call out her name one more time, “ENDORA!” And then she faintly heard the words, “Subsisto ventus!” following, then the silence came. She stood in the middle of the pitch dark, afraid to move.

“Hello,” she called out to whoever it was.

No one answered. Nothing but an eerie silence filled the air.

Liddy opened her eyes and uncrossed her arms. “I know we connected. I saw her lying on her bed,” she said. “One more try.”

She shut her eyes, crossed her arms over her chest, and leaned her head back to refocus. Darkness was all she could see. She called out loudly, “ENDORA!”

She heard nothing but silence answer.

Something’s not right, she thought.

She opened her eyes, and, with the wave of her hand, the circle vanished around her. She moved across the room, worried for the girls, worried what would happen to them and to the mundanie world they lived in. If she didn’t do what she needed to do, things would change for the worse for everyone, including, eventually, the Witch Maze.

Pegrah would start in the mundanies world, then he would interfere with those beyond the veil, and with those in the Witch Maze.

No, I’m doing the right thing, she told herself.

 

2

 

“Thank you, my familiar,” Pegrah said, reaching his hand over to pet the top of his head. “You have been a valuable asset to me. I shall not forget your faithful loyalty.”

Snow lowered his head and purred. “Has she been stopped?” he asked with a grin on his devious, furry face.

“Yes, yes, absolutely,” Pegrah answered with his playful high giggle. He smiled and glared into the crystal ball. “Look for yourself. The circle is gone. She has given up because all she sees now is pitch dark when she tries to contact the girl.”

“And the girl? Bright Bulb?” Snow asked, staring in the crystal ball. “What becomes of her?”

“See for yourself.”

Pegrah waved his hand over the ball. A thin fog appeared, then cleared, revealing the pitch dark. In it, a shadow stood still. “She’s there, afraid to move. I think she will safely stay for a while.” Pegrah stood up from his chair and laughed. “That is, until the rabbit hole slip gets her.”

“Why hold Bright Bulb?” Snow asked.

“I will answer that, my familiar, with a question for you. Why is Liddy bent on contacting her, putting herself at risk by breaking the oath?”

Pegrah walked away from the desk and over to the mirror. He licked his long, skeletal fingers and slid his hand over one side of his head, then the other. He turned to look back at Snow. “You said that Liddy was out to warn her of me, and now the small matter is taken care of. I will not have Liddy or her friends interfering in my plans.”

“You will pay them a visit, I assume.” Snow said and jumped down from the desk. He trotted across the floor to the doorway and stopped.

“Correct,” Pegrah said. He stared back into the mirror. “You can go into the dining room. I think you will find a pleasant and adequate reward waiting for you.”

Pegrah put his hand against the glass and watched as it melted into a silver liquid substance. He stepped his foot inside, and then the other, until he disappeared into the liquid on the other side of the mirror.

 

3

 

The room was enormous. In the center, thirteen black-velvet wing chairs sat around a huge round table. The walls were covered from one side to the other with stone faces of goblins of every sort and size. Pegrah pulled out a chair and sat down. “This table is at order,” he said and looked around at the empty chairs. “All accounted for… say I.”

Thirteen voices simultaneously said, “I.”

Pegrah grinned and lifted his hands in the air. “Welcome, my goblin friends,” he said and glanced around. “It’s been awhile.”

Glasses filled with red wine appeared before each seat. Pegrah picked up his glass and raised it to each of them.

Twelve hideous, oversized goblins appeared in the chairs. They picked up their glasses and raised them to Pegrah.

The first goblin swallowed hard and set his glass down. “Why are we called here?” he asked with a chilling growl.

Pegrah set his glass down gently and looked at the goblin. “I have summoned you to the table for a simple celebration.” He grinned, and his eyes twinkled.

“Explain yourself,” the goblin spoke out.

“I’m returning back to the mundanies world. The negative energy that I need to enter is already at work, and soon I will be in there and take control of Crow Hill… and later, the world. Their pathetic paradise will soon become ours forever.”

“And what of the oath?” one of the goblins asked.

“Oath? What oath?” a goblin laughed along with the others.

“Precisely,” Pegrah said, standing up with a big grin. He picked up his glass and held it. “To Mila, my little carrier pigeon.”

“To Mila,” they repeated, looking around at each other, puzzled. The goblins picked their glasses up and drank.

“So, tell us, Pegrah,” the nearest goblin to his left said, “from the beginning, everything that has transpired.”

Pegrah sat down and told them everything, starting with the moment the girls stepped foot into his domain…

 

4

 

Endora was still afraid to move. She stood in the pitch dark alone. Whoever it was that yelled her name before was gone. The dark had swallowed them up and she was afraid that maybe it had taken her along with it.

Then it occurred to her that she had this dream before. “I need to wake up,” she whispered.

As much as she tried, she couldn’t. “Maybe, if I take a step and take another, I will get to the other side of the field, and I will wake up.”

Endora bravely took the first step, then the next, and the next. Just when she thought she would be all right, the ground made a loud whoosh sound and gave way beneath her feet. She fell down through a tunnel that seemed to go on forever. She landed with a surprisingly soft thud on the floor.

The room was round and lit by a single burning torch. She touched the creek-stone that covered the walls. She looked up to where she had fallen from; it was a long way. And at the very top, she saw the opening of a large round hole that looked like the mouth of a well.

I’m never getting out of here, she thought. “Hello!” she yelled loudly, thinking someone might be out there that would hear her.

No answer.

She held out her arms in front of her and looked – green polka dots. They’re back, she thought.

Now, she knew that it was no dream. Somehow, in her sleep, she was pulled into the Witch Maze.

She paced back and forth until her feet were tired. She sat down on the floor, remembering the last thing she did. She was talking to Demi. She clicked off the phone, grabbed Gram’s book, and fell asleep.

Then she was standing in the middle of a field, listening to someone call her name. The pitch dark came, the ground gave way beneath, and she fell down into this hole.

Tears swelled in her eyes. “And how long have I been out of my body?” she mumbled. “I want to go home.” “Home, home, home.” She repeated the word over and over until she drained herself from chanting. “What’s going to happen to me?” she questioned herself. “I’m not supposed to be out of my body for long.”

 

5

 

Endora wasn’t sure how long she had been there. Maybe it was an hour, or maybe three. Who knows? she thought.

Suddenly, she heard movement. She looked up and saw a white furry face peering down on her from the top of the hole.

He stared down at her and spoke loudly, “Bright Bulb, looks like you’ve found a new home.”

She jumped to her feet. “Cat, is that you? Can you help me?” she pleaded. “I fell into this place, and I can’t get out.”

“Well, now, that does present quite the problem,” he said, sitting at the edge of the hole. “Honestly, I do not believe you calling for home will work down there. You see, this is just not a hole as you perceive it to be.”

“What is it? Where am I?” she asked.

Snow laughed and tugged at his whiskers. “You’re in… shall we say, quite the rabbit hole, or you might think of it as a roach motel. You checked in, but you’re not checking out,” he snickered. He stood up on his paws and arched his back to stretch. “Not to worry, though, you’re safe down there.”

“Cat!” Endora yelled. “Are you going to help me out or not?”

“No can do,” he shook his head. “I didn’t put you there, but—”

“But who did? Cat, I’m warning you” She stamped her feet and shook her finger up at him. “You better spit it out and tell me who did this horrible thing to me. Who is keeping me here?”

“My, my, my… aren’t we full of questions?” Snow said. “I cannot answer them, but I will give you one word of advice: Do not attempt climbing the creek stones. It’s simply too high. One slip of the foot, and, well… you get the picture. You will not land as softly as you did falling in.” He turned and started to go away.

“Don’t go,” Endora demanded.

“I have to,” he said. “I can’t stay. I have to be on my way about. I have things to do.” He walked away from the hole, whistling a strange tune she was sure she had heard before.

Endora let out a scream that echoed back at her. She cupped her hands over her ears to shield them from the loudness of herself. She plopped back down, frustrated, and waited. I’ll get you back cat, just you wait and see.

 

6

 

Cora opened the door to Endora’s room. “Wake up, sleepy head,” she said. “Breakfast is done.” She turned and went back downstairs.

The smell of bacon, toast, and eggs filled the kitchen. Cora set the table, grabbed the newspaper from the counter, and laid it beside her plate. She walked back to the bottom stair. “Endora, come on,” she yelled. “It’s getting cold.” She waited for an answer. “Endora!” she yelled again. Still no answer. Cora went back in the kitchen.

Five minutes later, she headed upstairs. She walked into the room. Endora had not moved a muscle. Cora bent down at the side of the bed and gently shook her arm.

No response.

She shook her again.

“Endora, wake up,” she said.

Endora didn’t move a muscle.

“Endora, no joke, open your eyes,” Cora said, frustrated.

Still nothing.

“Endora, come on, open your eyes,” she said, shaking her harder. “I’m calling the ambulance.” She picked up her cell phone and clicked Emergency.

“Crow Hill Emergency,” a stern female voice answered. “How can I assist you?

“My daughter is not waking up,” she answered.

“Is she breathing?”

“Yes, she’s just not responding. I can’t get her to wake up.”

“What is your location?”

“I’m at house 13 Elm Roundabout.”

“I have an ambulance in route. ETA about two minutes. Could I have your name and the name of the girl?”

“Yes. I am Cora Brown, and my girl is Endora.”

“Thank you. I will terminate the call,” the dispatcher said. “The ambulance is nearing the roundabout and should be there in a minute.”

“Thank you,” Cora said and clicked off the phone. She looked over at Endora. For the first time in a long while, she felt terrified and helpless. What was happening?

The sound of the siren was loud, so loud that everyone on the roundabout came out onto their porches. Some stood out in the yards, watching and waiting. Others stood at their windows, peeking out between the slats. Two men wearing EMT jackets got out of the ambulance and rushed up to the front door with medical bags in their hands. Cora ran downstairs to open the door.

“Upstairs,” she said. She shut the door behind them and followed them into the bedroom.

“What’s her name?” one of the men asked.

Cora stood out of the way and answered, “Endora.”

The other man bent down over her and gently shook her arm. He called out her name, placed his fingers against her right eye, and forced it open. He shined a small bright light at the pupil. Then he did the same with the left eye.

No response.

He took a blood pressure cuff and placed it on her arm.

“How old is she?” the other man asked Cora.

“She’s fifteen,” she answered.

“Endora, can you hear me?” the man with the light asked.

Nothing.

A few minutes later, after no response, the men loaded Endora onto a gurney for transport. They took her downstairs and put her into the back of the ambulance. The neighbors watched as Cora shut the front door, jumped in her car, and followed behind.

 

7

 

Cora stared out the fourth story window down at the parking lot. She counted the cars and gave up when she reached forty-one. She looked over her shoulder at Endora lying in the hospital bed with an IV in her arm, a heart monitor hooked to her chest, and a blood pressure cuff attached to her right arm. What happened? she thought as she quietly walked over to the side of the bed. She stared at her daughter. Endora looked just like Snow White with her lily-white skin, black hair, and pink lips.

Cora looked over at the end table and picked up Endora’s emerald stone necklace. One of the nurses must have taken it off her when they put her gown on, Cora thought. She bent down and hooked it back on around her neck. “There,” she whispered. “Gram would want this on you, even now.”

The doctor stood in the hallway with some of the nurses. Cora could hear them talking. She tried to listen but the voices were muffled. Cora watched as Doctor Flynn grabbed Endora’s folder from the door and walked into the room. She knew him from Selena’s neighborhood and from her old days at the academy. “Charlie, I’m so glad you’re here.”

“Me too,” he said and leaned over Endora. He took his small light, looked in her eyes, and placed it back into his pocket. He looked over at Cora. “I know how hard this is for you, but, Endora is in good hands. She’s not in danger. Her vital signs are great. Her CAT and MRI came back normal. All the tests we’ve done indicate she’s in perfect health.”

“What’s causing this then? Why won’t she wake up? You can’t tell me this is normal,” Cora snapped. “She was fine when she went to sleep, and now, she won’t…” She stopped speaking almost as if her thoughts drifted somewhere else.

“Listen Cora, I understand,” he said and put his hand on her shoulder. “We’re doing everything possible. I’m on this. Trust me to take good care of her.”

She nodded her head, “I do trust you,” she said. “How long—”

“Will it last?” he finished her question as he signed his name in her folder. “It’s hard to tell. It could be a day, weeks, or, in the worst case, years, but I honestly think she’ll be out of this in a few hours.” He walked over to the door. “All we can do is monitor her and wait. So, be patient. These things have to work out on their own.”

Cora nodded her head as she stood at the side of the bed, staring down at her daughter. “I know you hear me, Endora. You have to tell yourself to wake up,” she said, taking her hand.

Chapter Seventeen

Message of Woe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Selena woke up. As usual, she dressed in her uniform, ran the brush through her hair, and grabbed her bag. She hurried downstairs, checking inside the bag for her cell phone and book.

At the bottom of the stairs, her dad held up his and hand. “Hey,” he said. “Where’s the fire?”

“Dad, OMG, don’t scare me like that,” she said, heading into the kitchen. “I’m trying to get to the Pizzeria earlier than Endora, Mila, and Demi. Last time, I kept them waiting.”

“Oh,” he said and reached into his pocket for a twenty. “Allowance time… right?”

“Thanks,” she said and gave him a quick peck on the cheek as he sat down at the table. “Bye, Mom,” she yelled up from the bottom stair.

“Bye, Selena,” Margie yelled back. “Did you eat? You need—”

Selena hurried into the foyer and out the front door, shutting off her mom’s usual breakfast rant. She walked as fast as she could down the sidewalk and into the alleyway, hoping to get to the Pizzeria first.

 

2

 

The morning had gone well. Demi got up, dressed, and hid the town history book beneath her bed. She brushed her hair and stood in the kitchen checking for messages on her cell phone. She opened the fridge and grabbed a coke. Before she bolted out the front door, she walked down the hallway, and knocked on her dad’s door.

“What?” he yelled rudely from the bed.

“Geesh, Dad, you told me to wake you before I go to school.”

“Sorry,” he said. “I was sound asleep.” He rolled over with the covers wrapped around him. “Come on in.”

Demi slowly opened the door and walked over to the side of the bed.

“Here,” he said, grabbing his wallet from the nightstand. He pulled out a ten. “Take it. Get some pizza after school or something with your friends.”

“Bye, Dad,” she said and walked out of the room. “And don’t go back to sleep.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he said and covered his head up with the pillow.

She shut the front door, took off down the sidewalk, and now, she was right where she was supposed to be, on time, and rushing along the sidewalk to meet the other girls.

 

3

 

“You beat Mila and Endora,” Selena said and smiled “That ought to dampen their Wheaties this morning.”

“Hey, look, there’s Ingrid with her squad following,” Demi said. “Mila won’t be far behind her.”

Selena watched as Ingrid neared the academy gate. “Why do you think she’s so popular?”

“Well… outside of the cheerleading and football team, I don’t think she is, really,” Demi answered truthfully. “Next year, after she’s gone from the academy, nobody will ever remember her. Varsity head cheerleaders are only popular when they’re in the moment. After that, who cares?”

“And here comes Mila.” Selena said and smiled. “Now, where is Endora?”

“I don’t see her, but if she’s not here in a couple of minutes, we have to start walking.” Demi said.

“Hi,” Mila said and walked over. “I see I’m not the last one here.” She ran her fingers quickly through her hair.

Selena reached into her bag and pulled out her cell phone. She clicked on Endora’s number. “She’s not answering,” she said and clicked it off.

“I wonder if she overslept.” Mila said. “It would be the first time that happened.”

“Don’t know,” Demi said. “But, we have to get to the academy before the bell rings. We’re already five minutes behind.”

The three of them walked slower than normal, hoping Endora would catch up to them before they got to the gate.

 

4

 

“What’s up with the cloudy day again?” Demi asked and looked up at the sky. “I almost forget what the sun looks like.”

“I know,” Selena answered and looked up. “It looks like it’s going to pour, but it never does.” She stopped outside of the gate and took one last look around. Still no Endora in sight. “I don’t know… but I think this time she’s going to be late for class.”

“Oh, well,” Mila said. “Guess she’ll catch up to us later.”

They walked into the gate, through the hurdles of boys and girls, and into the front door before the first bell rung. The three of them rushed inside to their lockers. They grabbed their books and took off to class. Math with Sister Gorgon… how boringly lame, at least, that’s what everyone thinks when they sit in a desk for a solid hour listening to her chatter on about algebra, or any other subject matter. It was like eating liver and cabbage and being told desert was liver and cabbage.

Mila, Demi, and Selena took their seats in the back row of the room, as far away from the front as they could get.

Sister Gorgon waddled her fat self into the room and slammed the door shut behind her. The chatter came to a complete stop. Without saying a word, she passed out the test, and every boy and girl in the class let out a loud moan.

“I hate these things,” Mila whispered over to Demi and Selena.

“It’s good to see you are so passionate about this test, young lady,” she said and walked around Mila’s desk with her yardstick in her hand. “Nothing like a good old quiz to get your day going.” She walked back to her desk and sat down. She reached over, grabbed the egg timer, and set it for fifty minutes. “You will have fifty minutes to complete the test. These grades will count as half of your final; now get to it.” Sister Gorgon scanned her eyes around the room looking for cheaters, but more importantly, she was looking for anyone who stood out to her… someone who possibly could be practicing.

Fifty minutes later, the bell rang…

Everyone rushed out of the classroom as fast as they could, and left their test lying on the top of their desks face down. Mila, Demi, and Selena stood at the doorway whispering to each other.

“Where is Endora?” Mila asked. “She missed the whole class.”

“I don’t know where—” Demi said.

“Gorgon will give her an ‘F’ for sure. There’s no makeup on that test,” Selena said. “She’ll fail for sure.”

“Run along, you three… out of the doorway,” Sister Gorgon spoke loudly. She snapped her yardstick against her desk. “My doorway is not your hen-pecking place.”

“OMG,” Demi said and laughed as she walked down the hallway. “That woman has got issues.”

“Oh, she’s a real hoot, all right,” Selena added.

“A real ray of sunshine,” Mila said and laughed.

 

5

 

They were standing at their lockers talking when Selena’s cell phone rang. She reached in and clicked it on. “Mom,” she said softly and looked around at everyone staring at her. “You’re going to get me in trouble.”

“Nonsense,” she said. “Father Judas is aware I’m calling.”

“Is something wrong?” Selena asked.

“Cora called me. She wanted me to tell you that Endora is in the hospital.”

“Is she okay? What’s wrong?”

“She’s in a coma.” Margie paused for a moment and said, “I know you won’t be able to concentrate. I arranged it with Father Judas, Mila’s mom, and Demi’s dad for you three to take off and go be with her. Cora thinks it might help the situation. Just go to the office and let them know you’re leaving the grounds.”

“Thanks, Mom,” Selena said and clicked off the cell phone. She slid it into her bag, shut her locker, and stood staring into the air at nothing.

Mila and Demi shut their lockers and looked over at Selena. “You freaking look like you saw a ghost,” Demi said.

“I feel… totally numb,” she said, shaking.

“What’s wrong?” Mila asked. “It wasn’t the test was it, because I think I aced it.” By the time Mila had asked her question, tears swelled up in Selena’s eyes.

“OMG, are you going to cry?” Demi asked.

Selena shook her head and wiped her eyes. “It’s Endora,” she whispered.

“What?” Mila asked. “What’s wrong?”

“She’s in a coma at the hospital. Come on,” Selena said. “We have to go to the office and be excused. Mom arranged it so we can all go and be with her.”

“She’s not going to die, is she?” Demi asked.

Selena glared back at her and for a second. The life felt like it drained straight out of her. “I don’t know. We just need to go.”

Father Judas had already signed the excuse slips and had them waiting with the admissions secretary. They walked out the front door, through the gate, and away from the academy grounds. They sat on the bus stop bench, waiting.

“It won’t be too long,” Selena said and shuffled her shoes against the sidewalk.

“What do you think happened?” Mila asked, sadly.

“I don’t know.” Selena answered.

“She’s going to be just fine,” Demi said. “Endora is strong.”

The bus pulled in front of the bench, and the door swung open. The girls stepped inside. Selena dug down in her bag for a dollar-fifty in quarters and handed them to the driver.

He tipped his hat to her. “Take a seat, ladies,” he said and watched from his rearview as they walked down the aisle and took a seat near the back. “No standing up until the bus comes to a complete stop.”

The hospital wasn’t far from Crow Hill, no more than a five- minute drive. Demi tried talking about some of the things she had found out in the town history book, and Mila tried bringing up spring break (which started the next day). Selena wasn’t interested in hearing about anything. All she could think of was Endora and how lousy of a time spring break will be without her.

The bus pulled up in front of the hospital. The driver swung the door open. It made a loud hiss sound that made the girls jump. They walked down the aisle and stepped out onto the sidewalk.

The building was a huge concrete four-story that looked more like a prison house than a hospital. Selena only remembered being here once before, and that was when her dad went to see a client who was having surgery.

Selena stood still and looked up at the top of the building. “Just think, four-stories of aches and pains,” she said.

“Or four-stories of treatment and healing,” Mila said, trying to brighten the moment.

Demi walked over to the door. “You two coming or what?”

Chapter Eighteen

Snow White

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

The elevator doors opened on the fourth floor. The three of them found the nurse desk and asked for the room number.

“4013,” the nurse said. “Only—”

“We’re family,” Selena said, looking back over her shoulder as they walked away down the long hallway almost to the very end where the big window faced toward Crow Hill.

The door was open.

They slowly stepped into the room, one after the other. Endora was lying still in a bed surrounded by machines. Demi stood on one side of bed, Mila and Selena on the other side. Before they could say anything, Cora stepped back into the room carrying a cup of hot coffee.

“Thanks for coming, girls. Endora is happy you’re here.”

“What happened?” Selena spoke softly to her.

“We don’t know,” Cora said. “I fixed breakfast and called her down. She didn’t answer. I couldn’t get her to wake. I called the ambulance.” She took a deep breath. “And here we are, waiting.” She took a drink of her coffee and sat down in the empty chair.

Selena walked over and sat in the chair next to her. After a few minutes, she asked, “Cora, would you like to go home and grab some stuff or something? We’ll stay here with her until you get back.”

Cora took another drink. “I guess I could grab some books to read and maybe a change of clothes. Maybe I’ll take a quick shower. I won’t be long, if you need me, I have Endora’s phone.”

Selena reached over and gave her a big hug.

“I’m glad you came,” Cora said. “Endora needs her friends more than ever.”

“We wouldn’t be anywhere else,” Selena answered and walked back over to the side of the bed.

Cora walked over, bent down to kiss Endora on the forehead, and moved her bangs away from her eyes. “I’ll be back shortly,” she whispered. “Mila, Demi, and Selena are here with you.” She smiled and glanced around at the girls, “She looks just like Snow White, doesn’t she?”

“I never noticed before,” Mila commented. “But she does.”

Demi stared down at her, thinking how Endora would love to hear that. She loved Snow White and the whole prince thing. “She does.”

“That’s one of her favorite fairytales,” Selena said. “Happily ever after,” she whispered as tears swelled in her eyes.

 

2

 

“Hello Endora,” Pegrah said He looked down at her from the top of the hole.

She looked up from the floor and jumped to her feet. “Pegrah!” she yelled. “I should have known. Why are you doing this to me?”

“Now, now,” he said, whisking his long finger back and forth at her. “I do not believe you are in such a position to ask anything.”

“I don’t under—”

“Understand? Of course, you don’t.” Pegrah sat down on the edge of the hole. “It’s very simple, really. I don’t like interference.”

“What do you mean?” she said. “I never interfered with you. How could I?”

“You didn’t, yet, but your friend Liddy is trying to contact you from the Witch Maze. That is interference to me. Interference which I will not tolerate or allow.

“You see, I have plans, and you, plus your little witchy girlfriends, are not going to stand in my way.”

“Pegrah, please let me out of here,” she begged. “And I promise I won’t say a thing… not to anyone. We can forget this whole deal ever happened.”

He laughed in his playful giggle and rubbed his fingers together at her as if he were playing the tiniest violin for her whine.

“Please, Pegrah, I swear I won’t talk to anyone. Just let me go back home to my mom. She’s worried about me, and my friends are worried, too. I can feel it.”

He waved his hand. Two blankets, two pillows, and two large baskets of food with drinks appeared on the floor. “Make yourself at home. I am sure you will find the accommodations exquisite.”

“How long are you going to leave me here?” she yelled up at him. “I can’t stay out of my body long… remember, that’s what you told me, and so did Liddy.”

“As long as it takes – a day, a week, a month, perhaps years,” he replied. “If you are out of your body for long… well, now, I can’t see how that’s a problem to me. See, that is your problem.” He waved his hand again and a large thick book appeared on the floor.

“Horrible Fairy-Tales,” she read. “What’s this?”

“You like fairy-tales… read something good for a change.” He stood up and quickly disappeared from her sight.

She let out a frustrated sigh, grabbed the book, and plopped back down on the floor. She opened it to the first page and began to read.

 

3

 

“So, how long will she sleep?” Mila asked.

“Nobody knows,” Selena answered. She sighed. “Cora’s been gone for a while. She should be back soon.” She laid her hand on Endora’s hand. “I want to try something. Touch your stones and concentrate on her opening her eyes.” Selena touched the citrine with her fingers and mumbled. “Awake from your slumber, Endora. Open your eyes.” She waited for a response.

No movement… nothing.

Mila sighed with disappointment. She was hoping Endora would open her eyes and everything would go back to normal.

Demi smiled. She tried to hold back the tears from running down her face. “We miss you,” she whispered. “Please, wake up.”

Doctor Flynn walked into the room, carrying his clipboard. “Oh, hello, girls,” he said, in a chipper voice. He tucked his clipboard under his arm, checked her IV, and looked at the monitors.

Selena asked, “What’s wrong with her?”

He glanced over at her. “Absolutely nothing threatening,” he said. “She’s in a temporary comatose state and, to be honest, there is no medical reason for it. So, we’re keeping a close eye on her. I’m confident she will come out of this soon and be back to her normal self.”

“Thanks, Doctor Flynn,” Mila said softly and watched as he walked out of the room.

“Well, you heard him,” Selena said and stared down at Endora, “You’ll be back with us soon.”

Cora stood out in the hallway talking with the doctor. When she finished, she walked back into the room and set her stuff in the chair. She spent the next couple of hours chatting with the girls.

 

4

 

The nurse walked into the room and let the girls know the bus would be out front in ten minutes. Selena thanked her for reminding them and grabbed her bag from the chair. She gave Cora a hug. Mila and Demi did the same before they left the room. The three of them bent over Endora, kissed her on the forehead, and rode the elevator back down to the first floor.

The ride home was quiet, until Mila brought up what nobody had wanted to consider. “What if she—”

“Don’t you dare even think about it,” Selena quickly smarted. She cupped her hands over her ears. “I don’t want to hear the words.”

“Seriously, Mila… no negative energy,” Demi said and stared out the window at the open field. “I wondered the same thing earlier, but we can’t think that.”

“That’s right,” Selena said. “No thinking bad thoughts.”

“Sorry,” Mila apologized. “I just don’t want anything to happen to her. I miss her already.”

“Nothing bad is going to happen,” Selena said. “She’ll be coming home soon. I won’t hear of anything else. Besides, you heard Doctor Flynn.”

The bus pulled back up in front of the bench. The door opened, and they stepped out onto the sidewalk. “Come on,” Selena said, staring at their sad faces. “Pizza is on me.”

The Pizzeria was almost dead empty. Hardly any seats were occupied. In fact, this was the emptiest they had ever seen it. They slid into a booth, even though they were not supposed to.

“Hey,” Dillon said. He walked over and set three Cokes down. “What are you three doing out? I’m on the school work program. I know you three didn’t sign up. You didn’t cut class, did you?”

Selena looked over at him sadly and said, “We just came from the hospital, seeing—”

“The short, black-haired girl,” he said and glanced around at them.

“Her name is Endora, and how did you know?” Demi asked.

“She’s usually with you, so I took a guess.” He flipped open his pad. “What’s wrong with her?”

“She’s in a coma,” Mila said. She glanced up at him with her sad green eyes. “We don’t know anything other than there’s no medical reason for it.”

“Bummer,” he said. “I hope she gets better.”

“She will,” Mila said.

“So, what’s it going to be?” Dillon asked. “The usual double-cheese?”

“No,” Selena said quickly. “We can’t eat our usual without Endora. We’ll have sausage and cheese, instead.”

They watched Dillon toss the dough into the air. Part of Mila wanted to go over to the counter and watch, but she didn’t want to leave Selena and Demi, so she watched from the booth.

Twenty minutes later, Dillon brought the pizza over to the table. “It’s my break time.” he said. “You don’t mind if I sit with you, do you?”

Demi scooted over beside Selena. Dillon sat down beside Mila and popped the top of his Coke can. “Care if I steal a piece from you?” he asked.

Selena shrugged. “Help yourself,” she said. She watched him take a piece and the first bite. “So, what gives?”

He stared at her as if he had completely missed what she said. “What?” he asked. “What do you mean what gives?”

“Why are you sitting here with us?” Selena asked. “We’re freshmen, remember? Isn’t that beneath you? I mean, you being an offensive lineman on the football team and a junior?”

“I don’t care about that crap,” he said, and snickered. “Besides, I could use some new friends.” He looked over at Mila and winked. “That rule is totally yesterday, right?”

Selena caught it. Now, it was obvious; he had a crush on Mila. I knew it! she thought.

 

5

 

The bell rang at the school and the front doors swung wide open.

Selena, Demi, Mila, and Dillon watched out the Pizzeria window as the boys and girls flooded the sidewalk like a huge cattle drive.

“It’s officially spring break… Hoo-rah,” Mila said sadly with a meaningless smile on her face. “You know the whole deal means nothing if Endora is in the hospital.”

“I have to go,” Dillon said. He slid out of the booth. “Break’s over, and the herd is coming.” He rushed behind the counter and waited for the crowd.

Mila rolled her eyes when she saw who was the first in. Ingrid, of course, with her faithful and totally clueless squad following right behind her.

“Well, look who it is… baby sister,” she said and walked over to the booth. She stood staring at the three of them. “You know, you’re busted for ditching class and you’re in our booth.” She looked at Mila with a devious grin, “Move it! You know the rules.”

“I don’t think we will get into any trouble at all,” Selena spoke up, and waved the excusal slip in the air.

“We just came from the hospital,” Demi smarted.

“Endora’s there,” Mila said, sadly.

The devious grin quickly faded from her face. Without a word, Ingrid turned on her heels and left them alone. She slid into the far booth with her squad following.

Mila whispered across the table, “Seriously, that’s the first time I’ve seen her speechless, and she backed down.”

“Come on,” Selena said. “It’s getting too loud, and I’m not in the mood for celebrating, or being around jerks.”

“Me, either,” Demi said.

Mila slid out of the booth. The annoying laugh of Ingrid’s that she hated so much sounded louder than she had ever heard it before. She hurried out of the booth and out the front door without hearing the words baby sister.

“Now, I see what you mean, Mila. I’m glad I don’t have a sister,” Demi said. “The thought of having a sister like Ingrid makes me glad I don’t have one.”

“Me too,” Selena said and reached in her bag for her ringing cell phone. “Hi, Mom…”

They stood in front of the Pizzeria while Selena talked on her phone. When she was finished, she clicked it off and put it back into her bag. “Well, they’re on their way out of town again,” Selena said with a long sigh. “And this time, for the whole Spring Break.”

“Which means you’re alone again,” Demi said. “You’re so freaking lucky.”

“It doesn’t feel lucky,” Selena said. “Seems like they’re gone all the time, like I don’t matter or something.” She hung her head down and stared at her feet. “This is not the way I planned or wanted spring vacation to start.”

“So, do you want us to stay with you?” Mila asked. “I know my mom will let me.”

Selena shrugged. “If you want,” she said. “But I’m warning you, I might not be a good host, or good company for anyone. I just can’t think about anything but Endora laying in the hospital. I mean, she was fine and now…”

“Of course, we want to stay,” Demi spoke up. “We three should be together. Endora would want it that way. It doesn’t matter if you’re bummed out because we are, too.”

“Yeah,” Mila agreed. “We can be bummed together.”

Mila and Demi dialed their phones. A few minutes later, they clicked them off and smiled.

“Well, then, let’s go to the house,” Selena said.

 

 

 

Chapter Nineteen

Fail Safe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Selena opened the front door. Mila and Demi followed in behind her. Normally, this would be a happy celebration time, but there was nothing to be happy about.

They walked in with their sad faces and went straight upstairs to Selena’s room. Selena walked over to Kitty’s box and sighed. “Still gone,” she whispered. She set her bag down on the bed, leaned back on the pillows, and stared up at the ceiling. “This bites. Kitty’s missing and Endora is in a coma… I don’t get it.”

Demi plopped down beside her. “I know exactly how you feel. I don’t get it, either,” she said and shook her head.

“Okay, I am officially bummed.” Mila said and sat down on the edge of the bed.

“This is going to be one fun Spring Break,” Selena said. She got up and walked over to the window. The sky was still gloomy and not a ray of sunshine in sight. “Even the sky is sad,” she sighed.

“OMG, I totally forgot. I’ll be back,” Demi said and stood up. She pulled her bag up on her shoulder.

“Seriously,” Selena said “You just got here.”

“Where are you running off to?” Mila asked.

“I need to get the town history book. I left it under my bed,” she said. “We have to have it. I need to keep reading it, especially over spring break.”

“You and Mila go ahead. I’m going to stay here.” Selena said. “But hurry up and go… straight there and back.”

Demi and Mila trotted downstairs and shut the front door behind them.

Selena watched them from her bedroom window until they disappeared. She turned from the window and grabbed some comfortable clothes for the three of them. She threw them onto her bed and quickly changed into sweats and a tee shirt. No matter how hard she tried to think of anything else, her thoughts came right back to Endora. And the more she thought about Endora, the more she thought that Cora was right, Endora was identical to Snow White.

She grabbed the big fairytale book off her shelf, reached in her bag for her cell phone, and clicked on Endora’s number.

“Hello,” Cora answered softly.

“Cora, it’s Selena. I was just calling to check on Endora. I was worried.” She opened the fairytale book to Snow White and stared.

“There’s been no change,” she said.

“Will you please call or text me if there is?” Selena asked. “I don’t care how late it is.”

“I will, Selena. Listen, Endora would not want you to worry over her to the point of where you make yourself nervous or sick.”

Selena agreed with her and said bye. Cora’s right, she thought. Endora wouldn’t want them to pout around. She would want them to enjoy spring break. But, how could they?

 

2

 

Demi opened the door to her house. The house was quiet and smelled like cigars, popcorn, and pizza. “Dad’s not here,” she said as she stepped inside. “He’s still at work. He’s been working late at the office a lot lately.”

Mila followed behind her. “That’s good, right?” she asked. “You did say he never left you alone.”

“I know,” Demi answered. “But it’s too weird being alone. I call Selena lucky because she gets the house to herself, but between me and you, I don’t think I like it as much as I thought I would.”

They walked down the hall and into her bedroom. Demi kneeled down and pulled the book out from under the bed. “Here it is,” she said and slid it into her bag. “That’s all I need.”

“You know what I just thought of?” Mila said. “Endora has the magic book and Gram’s book.”

“That’s right,” Demi stood up and noticed the gleam in Mila’s eyes. “Seriously,” she said.

Mila shook her head. “Cora is at the hospital. I know where the key is, and it won’t take us but a few more minutes to get there and back to Selena’s house.”

“I forgot to tell you with everything going on, but remember how we said nobody would miss the book. It was for our eyes only?”

“Yes,” Mila answered.

“Well, Dad caught me with it. He looked straight at it and didn’t see the book. That was totally witchy cool, don’t you think?”

“That means the spell worked,” Mila said with a smile. “That’s awesome.”

 

3

 

A few blocks away, they stood at Endora’s front door. “Let’s be quick about this,” Demi said. “Something about doing this gives me the willies, and I’m quite sure we are breaking the law.”

Mila quickly glanced over at her. “Don’t worry about it. Endora would have told us to get the books.” She bent down and turned the large foam rock over. “It’s a fake rock,” she said with a grin. She grabbed the key and opened the door.

They ran upstairs, took the magic book and Gram’s book from Endora’s bag. They shut the front door behind them and hurried off down the sidewalk without anyone noticing.

“See… simple,” Mila said. “I told you not to worry.”

They quickly made their way back to Selena’s and knocked on the front door.

“I was getting ready to call,” Selena said. “I thought you both might have changed your mind about staying.”

“Are you kidding?” Demi said.

“It was my fault, sort of. We went to Endora’s and got the magic book and her Gram’s book.” She handed them to Selena. “I knew where the key was, so we went straight in and straight back out,” Mila said.

Selena looked at the books and then back at her. “Did anybody…”

“No,” Mila answered, without letting her finish. “Nobody saw us. We needed the books for our studies, and, like I told Demi, Endora would have told us to go get them.”

“I called Cora,” Selena said with a look of disappointment in her eyes.

“How is she?” Demi asked.

“The same,” she answered. “No change.”

 

4

 

Selena ordered pizza, and someone besides Dillon delivered it. Later, they opened the books, and when darkness came around and the hours slowly crept by, Selena, Mila, and Demi fell into an unspoken game of quiet mouse.

Selena shut her book and laid her pen to the side. “Learning the magic is not as fun as what I first thought it would be.”

Mila yawned. “I know what you mean. It’s like homework.”

Demi shut her book. “You know what I think it is? We’re all just totally bummed because Endora isn’t here.” She opened the magic book. “Hey, I wonder—”

“What?” Selena asked.

“Remember, no magic spells,” Mila said.

“I know we said no more until we learn how to control it better,” Demi said. She opened the magic book and flipped through the pages. “But what if we do a séance. It’s not the magic… really.”

“Well, that depends on how you look at it. It’s somewhat the magic, just not the spell kind.” Selena said. “Why a séance?”

“I was thinking,” Demi answered, “If one can contact the dead, why not the sleeping? Maybe we can reach Endora and get her to wake up.”

“Do you think we can really talk with Endora?” Mila asked with a twinkle in her eyes.

“I think we can. Not sure if she can answer, but if a ghost can talk and give signs, maybe she will, too,” Demi said with a hopeful smile.

“It’s worth a try,” Mila said. “I mean, if we can tell Endora we miss her… well, maybe it might—”

“Bring her back,” Selena finished her sentence. “I hope you’re right.”

Demi left the book open. “We need a candle and something sweet smelling.”

“What about a honeysuckle candle?” Selena said. “Mom has one in the bathroom.” She ran upstairs to grab the candle and came back down into the kitchen. “We can have the séance in here.”

Mila cleared the table and sat the candle in the center. They shut off all the lights and sat down.

The night was perfect for a séance. The air was graveyard still. Energy was in the atmosphere, so thick, they could smell it.

Selena reached over and lit the candle. They held hands, and the room filled with the pleasant fragrance of honeysuckle.

“Whatever happens, don’t let go,” Demi said.

“I feel kind of silly,” Mila said. She snickered.

“Shush,” Selena said. “Let’s get serious. This is for Endora.”

Mila snickered again. “Sorry,” she said and snickered yet again. She just couldn’t help herself. “Okay, I’m serious now.”

The candle flickered back and forth. The three of them shut their eyes and concentrated.

“Endora,” Demi whispered. “Can you hear us? If you can, speak to us.”

Nothing. Not a sound.

“I don’t think this is working,” Mila whispered. “We’re not getting through.”

“You’re not concentrating hard enough,” Demi answered. “Try it again. We’re not giving up this soon. Endora, if you can, speak to us, or give us a sign.”

Nothing.

After a few minutes of nothing…

Selena let go of their hands. “Sorry,” she said. “Maybe we can try something else. I honestly don’t feel a connection.”

“Me either,” Mila said and let go of Demi’s hand. “Maybe it doesn’t work when people are asleep. I mean… she’s just sleeping, she’s not…”

“I’m sure it will work,” Demi said. “We’re just doing something wrong. Let’s try one more time, and this time really give it all we’ve got.” They held hands a little tighter and called out Endora’s name together, “Endora!”

The three of them waited patiently. Nothing happened.

“Obviously, we’re not getting through,” Selena said, “What now?”

 

5

 

Cora stepped out of the hospital room, stood at the end of the hallway, and stared out into the dark. Across the field, she could see the lights of Crow Hill. They were so close, but seemed so far away. She felt cold inside, almost numb to what was happening. What’s going to happen to my little girl? she thought.

She stood still, staring, and thinking about the last words Endora and she had spoken. It was true what she had told her. Gram would have hung the moon for her. The tears swelled in her eyes. She wiped them with her hand and made the decision that, whatever happened, she would be strong.

Cora stepped back into the room, sat in the chair, and opened one of Gram’s poetry books to read. Midway down the page, she happened to look over at Endora and quickly laid her book down. She darted over to the side of her bed.

There it was again.

Endora’s finger twitched. She reached for the call button.

The nurse came into the room. “Is everything okay?” she asked She went to Endora’s side.

“Her finger twitched,” Cora said. “I saw her finger move.”

“That’s wonderful,” the nurse said. She checked the IV and the monitors. “I’ll call Doctor Flynn and let him know right away.” She walked out of the room to the nurse’s desk and picked up the phone.

Cora stared down at Endora and smiled. “Wake up, Endora,” she whispered. “Mom is here with you. Everything is going to be just fine.” Her tears of sadness quickly turned to tears of hope when she saw her little girl’s finger twitch one more time.

Cora believed it was a sign that Endora was trying to tell her she was going to be fine. She sat down on the edge of her bed and laid her hand on Endora’s leg. “Mom is here,” she whispered to her. “Everything is going to be fine.”

Cora got up and walked over to the chair to grab the book of poems. She opened it to the first poem she ever heard Gram write. “The Crow,” she read aloud. “In a darkened wood, I found myself alone and forgotten where I stood.” She cleared her throat to choke back the tears from her eyes and read on. “A strange sound I know not, came to me like whispers in a dream. I thought it were the voice of an angel beckoning me from afar. It called out my name beneath the shooting stars…”

Chapter Twenty

Hello Gram

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Endora paced back and forth across the room, tapping her finger against her arm. She enjoyed skimming through the fairytale book Pegrah had given her, but she was more than frustrated and wanted to get home. She wanted out of this hole and there was no way to get out, unless Pegrah let her out, or someone came along that wasn’t trying to keep her here.

It’s a long climb to the top, she thought. “There has to be a way out of here,” she mumbled. “No magic is done without a loophole somewhere. If I could just find the loophole…”

She sat down to rest her aching feet. “Now, let me see if I get this straight. I can’t do magic in here, so I can’t reach anyone, or help myself, but magic put me in here. Where’s the loophole?” she asked herself. “Oh no! Liddy must have been the one trying to contact me. Pegrah said it was interference. That’s why he put me here… to stop her from contacting me so it wouldn’t interfere with him. But why? He said he had plans, and me or my friends wouldn’t stand in his way. Okay.” She paused a moment, her frustration mounting. “I don’t get it!” she yelled.

Endora locked her arms around her knees and rocked back and forth. “I just want out of here,” she whispered. “I want to go home. I want to see my mom. I want to see Demi, Mila, and Selena.” The tears swelled up in her eyes and readied themselves to fall. “Did you hear that, Pegrah?” she screamed. “I want to go home! You have no right keeping me here!”

It was no use, nobody was listening, except for…

 

2

 

Pegrah held her down by her neck. “Keep those eyes well open, Liddy, dear,” he said, waving his hand over the blue crystal ball. “See what your little witchy girl and your meddling has done. Not only did you break the oath trying to contact Endora to warn her about me, you have interfered in my plans.”

“Pegrah,” she said as she struggled her hardest to get away. “I demand that you stop this insidious nonsense.” She looked into the ball at Endora, and her heart sank. “What you have done is kidnapped a girl in her sleep and now you come here, break into my home, and harass me. The league of ancestors will not take kindly to this.”

He turned her loose, and she stood up, adjusting her dress. “I won’t have you doing this,” she said sternly. “It’s against the code, and I am quite sure you have broken a mundanie law or two as well.”

Pegrah opened the door. Two tall goblins walked in hunched over and breathing heavily. Each grabbed Liddy by an arm and dragged her across the threshold to the outside.

“Where are you taking me?” she demanded. She glanced back over her shoulder at Pegrah.

“As of now, you are my houseguest,” he mumbled, walking over to her. “And you know I don’t do houseguest well.” He lightly brushed her cheek with his finger. “Though a simple word of warning… It would be in your best interest to… shall we say… behave.”

Liddy glared at him. “You will pay for this, you and your trans- mutated goblins.”

Snow saw them taking Liddy away. He hid out of sight on the rooftop. He didn’t dare move and give himself away. He kept still as possible, watching, and then he walked away into the distance.

 

3

 

Demi flipped her hair back behind her shoulders. “I have one more idea. I don’t think we got through to Endora, or maybe we did, and she can’t answer. Whatever happened, contacting her didn’t work, so how about we contact the real dead?”

“Seriously… the dead?” Selena stared at her with her eyes opened wide. “And who do you suppose we contact?”

“I know,” Mila said with a doubtful tone. “Gram.”

Demi nodded. “I was thinking… if Gram could reach Endora, she could tell her to wake up.”

Selena stood up, walked over to the fridge, and grabbed three Cokes. “Here you go,” she said and handed the cans to them. “What about going into the Witch Maze ourselves and finding Liddy?”

“We really shouldn’t go into the Witch Maze without Endora with us,” Demi said. “Besides, if we end up somewhere we haven’t been, I wouldn’t know what to do. Would you?”

Selena sat back down at the table, and they held hands.

“Shut your eyes and concentrate only on Gram,” Demi said. She turned in the magic book to the invocation rite of the dead. “Repeat after me,” she whispered. Imperium Gram gratia ortus mortuus gratia terra!”

They repeated the words until Demi stopped, and their eyes opened. The flame on the candle rose high above their heads. “Are you here with us, Gram?” Demi asked, staring wide-eyed at the height of the flame. They waited until the flame settled. Suddenly, Gram appeared in a foggy mist sitting in the chair beside Mila.

“OMG,” Demi gasped and jumped.

“Do not be afraid,” Gram spoke in a low, soft voice. “Why have you summoned me, girls?”

Selena swallowed hard. She couldn’t take her eyes off Gram. The woman wasn’t decayed or anything like Selena had imagined she would appear. She was quite the opposite: black hair pulled up in a bun, light blue eyes, and translucent pale skin. She was very beautiful and not scary at all. “It’s Endora,” Selena answered.

Mila shook nervously. She had ever been this close to someone who had died before, and she didn’t believe in… ghosts, but now she had to believe. She took a deep breath and looked over at Gram.

“Gram, Endora is in a coma,” Demi said. “We need her to wake up, but we can’t reach her. She trusts you, and you’re the only one we could call on to help us. Can you reach her?”

Gram stared at their faces without uttering a word, and then she vanished.

“Gram!” Demi yelled. “Where did you go?”

“I am still here,” Gram whispered, fading back in. “Endora is—.” She faded back out and this time she didn’t return.

They waited.

After a few minutes, they let go of their hands, and the candle blew itself out.

“She’s what?” Mila said. “What was she going to say?”

Selena got up from the table and grabbed her cell phone off the counter. She checked her text messages… nothing. “Endora isn’t awake,” she said. “Cora would have contacted me.” She clicked on Endora’s phone.

After three rings…

“Hello,” Cora answered.

“Cora, this is Selena. How is she?”

“The doctor is with her now. They’re doing tests. I saw her fingers twitch three times. I was going to call you after the doctor was done.”

“Seriously… That’s good… right?” Selena glanced over at Demi and Mila, waving her hand back and forth.

“Well, the doctor isn’t saying anything yet. She’s still unresponsive, but she did move,” Cora said with hope in her voice.

“Let us know if anything happens,” Selena said.

“Okay, I will,” she said, clicking the phone off.

Selena set the phone down on the counter. “Cora saw Endora’s fingers move. The doctor is checking her now.” She sat back down at the table.

Demi asked, “Is she—”

“Awake,” Selena said. “No.” She shook her head. “But there is movement. That’s has got to be good.”

“So, what did Gram mean about Endora?” Mila asked. “Maybe she was going to tell us that she’s waking up.”

“I don’t know,” Demi answered. “And I don’t know how we’re going to find out what she meant.”

“We will have to wait,” Selena said. She arched her brows. “Endora would have loved to have seen Gram.”

4

 

Liddy sat in the chair, staring across the room at Pegrah. She watched his every move, and when she thought the moment was right, she asked, “What are you planning to do?”

Pegrah closed his book and stood up from his desk. He walked across the floor to her. “My plans, you mean… surely you have some sort of clue by now.”

Liddy pushed her spectacles back a touch. “I know that you have turned Crow Hill negative,” she said. “And I know that you’re about to go into the mundanies world. But why?” she asked. “Why waste your time there?”

“Waste of time,” Pegrah giggled. “The only waste of time I have committed is having to deal with the likes of those witchy girls and of course… you.”

“You know you’re not going to get away with this. Kidnapping a little girl and me. Not to mention, you have held the girl out of her body far too long. There will be consequences for her. The league of ancestors will—”

“Will what?” Pegrah snapped. “Punish me?” He walked over to her and bent down to whisper in her ear. “And what punishment do you think I would be so endowed with?” He smiled and stood back up. “Could they do any worse than they did before?”

“You can’t be serious,” she said. She knew now exactly what Pegrah was planning. He was going to go into the mundanies world and take over. “You’re using those girls in your diabolical plan. Pegrah, how could you?”

“My dear, dear Liddy,” he said and walked around her chair. “So content to stay in the Witch Maze and to abide under rule and thumb. Now, you dare to show a bleeding heart for the mundanies world; how considerably thoughtful of you.” He smiled, walked back to his desk, and sat down in his chair. He waved his hand over the crystal ball and peered in at Endora. “I will allow your release, and the girl, when I am ready. No harm will come to you or her, unless, of course, well… never mind. It is quite impolite to rattle on, especially when you already know the outcome of what I intend to say.” He grabbed a pen, opened his book, and began writing.

Liddy sat still in her chair, glaring at him. She remembered Pegrah from years ago, but she had forgotten almost everything about him until the ancestors reminded her of every sordid thing he had done. She learned how he had used the Dugahlord before and spread negativity in the mundanies world. As far as anyone knew, the mundanies were still dealing with the left-over negativity, and now he was about to do it all over again. She had to stop him somehow. She shut her eyes and thought of Endora.

Pegrah stopped writing. He looked over at her and shook his head. “Now who is wasting time?” he said, giggling. “You cannot contact her. Don’t bother. You’ll see her soon enough.” He stood up and yelled for the goblins to come and escort Liddy to the hole.

 

5

 

Endora stood up when she heard heavy footsteps. “Hello,” she yelled, staring up. “Who’s there? Hello!”

The goblin held Liddy down by the neck, forcing her to look down into the hole first. “Endora!” she yelled.

“Stand back!” the goblin growled down the hole.

Endora leaned against the wall. Her heart thumped hard against her chest. The next thing she heard was a soft thud to the floor.

Liddy stood up and pushed her spectacles back onto the bridge of her nose.

“Uh-oh” Endora gasped, rushing over to her. “Are you all right?” She helped her to her feet. “Why are you here?”

“Well,” Liddy said, brushing off her dress. She adjusted her glasses and said, “It wasn’t because I elected myself to be thrown down a rabbit hole. It was Pegrah and his irrational madness.”

“He put me here, too,” Endora said.

“I know, I tried to warn you about him, but he blocked me.”

“What is he up to?” Endora asked.

“He, like always, is up to no good,” Liddy answered. She scanned over the creek stonewalls. “And I suppose the magic is useless in here.”

Endora nodded and sat down on the blankets, “Tell me, what’s going on.”

Liddy sat beside her. “I will tell you, but first, you need a quick lesson in witches and warlocks.” She cleared her throat and spoke a little softer. “Good and bad have always existed in both witches and warlocks, just as good and bad mundanies have always existed in your world. What makes a witch, or warlock, good or bad is simple; if the core of their heart is stony, there’s nothing you can do to make it good.” She stared straight into her eyes. “Endora… Pegrah is stony. He only helped Mila so he could use her to carry a Dugahlord into the mundanies world. When it was released, it went through your town spreading negativity.”

“What is a Dugahlord?” Endora asked, curious.

“It is a nasty dark mist that invades what it will with negativity. It has no mercy, but seeks only to make matters and people worse.”

“But why?” Endora asked. “Why would Pegrah use something like that? Why would he do that to Crow Hill?”

“He’s done it so that he can generate enough negativity to enter into the mundanies world and, once in, he can start to control it.

“The world won’t let that happen,” she said.

“No, my dearie, you are wrong. You see, it’s not the first time he has done it to your world, and, so far, your world is still dealing with the left-over negativity from before. Of course, there is still a lot of good there, but if Pegrah goes through with his plan, all the good will soon die, and your world will lie in the bad. The place will become a haven for his kind.”

“I thought he was a warlock?” Endora asked.

Liddy stared at the wall and sighed out a long, depressing breath. “He is more than a warlock; he is also something else. He is half-goblin. –

a consequence he endured some time back. He is something, my dearie, that you don’t want to cross unprepared.”

“We have to stop him,” Endora said.

“There is nothing at all we can do from here,” Liddy said. “The magic is useless. Besides, it is going to take a good plan and all the power we can muster up. And you have been out of your body far too long. There will be consequences.”

“If we don’t stop him, we are done for. Right?” Endora asked with a worried look. She knew Liddy was right. She was out of her body too long, but she couldn’t let the consequences scare her. She had to stop Pegrah.

“If he’s not stopped… I am afraid everyone’s done for,” Liddy frowned. “Who knows what will happen if he is successful.”

Chapter Twenty-One

Go Home, Endora

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Gram stood in the middle of Dead Land. The fog was thin around her and hugged low against the surface of the ground. She looked down at the tops of her translucent pale feet as the moon of the dead shined down upon her. The combination of the fog and light made the land appear creepy and still.

Gram searched along the edge of the veil to see if she saw Endora waiting to get in. She passed by every face. If Endora was in a coma, she would be there waiting alongside others, but she wasn’t. That could only mean she was confined somewhere, or she was awake from her coma. Either way, Gram had to help her granddaughter.

She shut her eyes and concentrated. Suddenly, she was standing in the hospital room. She saw Cora and moved over to where she was sitting in the chair with her head leaning on the armrest. My sweet, sweet daughter, she thought and gently brushed her translucent hand against her hair. She stood in front of Cora, watching her breathe in and out. It seems like only yesterday, she thought.

She glanced over at Endora, surrounded by monitors and with an IV in her arm. She moved back to the bedside and lightly brushed her fingers against her cheek.

No response.

“Endora,” she whispered. “It’s Gram… wake up.” She bent down and kissed her forehead.

Still no response.

Gram stood back up. “Where are you?” she whispered and shut her eyes. In a flash and with all the strength of a ghost, she manifested herself in front of Endora.

 

2

 

“Oh wow.” Endora gasped and quickly stood to her feet. “It’s my Gram.” She recognized her from a picture her mom kept on her nightstand. “Gram, is it really you?”

Gram stood across from Endora and smiled. She held out her hand to her.

At first, Endora was afraid. She slowly stepped closer to her. Suddenly, she lunged forward and wrapped her arms around her.

“Endora,” she whispered. “Your mom and your friends are so very worried about you.”

Liddy stood to the side, watching. She was delighted that Endora had gotten the moment to hug Gram, but as charming and warm as it was, she interrupted them. “Gram,” she said.

She let go of Endora and walked over to Liddy. She hugged her as if they were not strangers. “Why is my granddaughter here in this hole? Who has done such a horrendous thing?”

“It was Pegrah,” Liddy said. “He has put us both here until we… until we are no longer an interruption in his plans.”

“I see,” Gram said. “Demi, Mila, and Selena summoned me to reach Endora to tell her to wake up.” Her eyes scanned around the walls. “I can see you are being held.” She looked over at Endora. “You were out of your body too long; that is why you now lie in a hospital bed in a coma.”

“Seriously, I’m in a coma?” Endora asked, glancing over at Liddy.

“Yes, dear, you are,” Gram said. “Time is crucial for you.”

“Can you get us out of here?” Liddy asked, pushing her spectacles back a touch.

“There is a long rope lying by the mouth of the hole. I can lower it down. You’ll have to climb the wall yourself, but I can hold the rope for you.” Gram faded away and appeared at the top of the hole.

The rope fell down the stone wall. Endora grabbed on. She looked up, “Gram, don’t let go!” she yelled.

A loud long whisper filled the room below, “I’ll never let go.”

Liddy stood behind Endora, “Be careful,” she said.

Endora nodded and started the climb. The wall felt like it went on forever. She didn’t dare look down. Endora kept her eyes on the wall and kept climbing upward until she reached the top.

Gram peered over the hole and looked down. She dropped the rope down and held to the other end with Endora.

Liddy climbed the wall. She reached the top. “We have to go quickly,” she said. “Pegrah will be in a rage when he finds us gone.”

Gram stood in front of Endora, smiling at her. “I can take her to the veil, there she can get back into her body and wake up.”

“I will need to get back to my place,” Liddy said.

“Will you be okay?” Endora asked. “What about Pegrah?”

“She will be safe from him if she hides herself on the wall of ancestors. They will protect her,” Gram spoke. She glanced at Endora. “But you have to return now. The longer you are out of you’re body the harder it will be to get back and the more damage there could be.”

Liddy smiled at Endora and watched as Gram took her hand, and they vanished, leaving the hole behind.

 

3

 

Liddy waited until they were gone. “Appareo virga, meus demus!” she yelled. A crooked broom appeared out of the air beside her. She grabbed it, hopped on, and disappeared.

Back home, she hurried in and over to the mirror. She wasted no time. She placed her hand against the glass, and it melted into a silver liquid substance. She stepped her foot inside and then the other, until she disappeared into the liquid.

“Over here, dear one,” Witch Gretel quickly whispered. “You can hide yourself in here with me.” Gretel reached out for her.

Liddy stuck her hand into the picture and jumped inside.

She stood side by side with Witch Gretel; both of them were dressed in tall pointed hats, black capes, and holding crooked broomsticks at their sides. The ancestors spoke not a word, but kept quiet and very still.

Pegrah sat at his desk, staring into the crystal ball. He looked up at Snow when he came dashing into the room. “They’re gone,” he announced and panted for his breath. “Someone helped them escape out of the hole.”

“Indeed,” Pegrah said and rubbed his chin. He leaned back in his chair. “Care to venture who?” he asked.

“You know?” Snow asked and tilted his head slightly to the right.

“There is nothing I don’t know,” Pegrah answered and stood up. He walked across the floor and over to the shelf. Reaching up, he pulled out a large spell book. “This book is more important to me than the thousands on my shelves. Do you know why?”

Snow slowly crept over to him, cowering to the floor.

“This book contains every spell throughout every generation of my ancestors.” He laid it on his desk. “I will be taking it with me, of course.”

“To the mundanies world?” Snow asked.

“Soon, I will be able to step into their world to claim it as my own.” He sat down in his chair. “Do not fret about the two escapees or their sidekick ghost friend, Gram. They would not have escaped if I had not allowed it.” He let out his playful mischievous giggle and reached down to pick up Snow. “It’s all in the simple plan, my familiar.”

 

4

 

Gram stood with Endora next to the veil. “Don’t be afraid of it.” The veil was a thick, heavy curtain of fog that hung to the ground. It went up as far as it could be seen, then disappeared into nothingness.

Endora held tight to her grandmother. This was too farfetched to believe. She was standing at the veil between the living and the dead. She looked around at all the faces waiting to cross over. “Are all these people dying, Gram?”

“They are,” she whispered softly.

“Were you afraid… when it happened?” Endora glanced over.

“I was afraid,” she said. “I was scared to stop living… of letting go of what I know to cross over, but once I did, the fear left.” She looked over at Endora and smiled. “Do not be afraid of the veil, it’s part of life. It happens to us all, sooner or later.”

“I won’t be afraid,” Endora hugged her. “Can I stay with you?” she asked. “I don’t want to leave. I could just cross over now and be with you. We could be together forever.”

“I know,” Gram whispered. “I don’t want to leave you either, but you cannot stay. It wouldn’t be fair to your mom or your friends; most of all, it wouldn’t be fair to you. We will see each other again soon. I promise.” She hugged her tight and let go. “Now, hurry and go,” Gram said. “Concentrate on your body, and you will wake up.”

Endora stepped away from the veil and away from the faces. “Just one more thing before…” She turned to take one last look at her grandmother.

Gram disappeared through the veil.

“I love you, Gram,” she whispered loudly, hoping that Gram would hear her from the other side.

Gram stood on the other side of the veil. “I love you, too,” she whispered back to her.

Endora heard her whisper. She smiled, shut her eyes, and faded from the presence of the veil. She could see herself lying in the hospital bed. She struggled to get back into her body. It was almost as if her flesh was pouring through a strainer, and then she remembered what Gram told her. She concentrated on the green stone – her emerald, on the color, and immersed herself into it.

She was floating in green ripples of air, suspended and looping through the ripples over and over again. Then the words popped in her head. ‘I can fly. Transporto!” Endora opened her eyes. She was back in her body. “Nailed it! Thanks Gram,” she whispered.

Gram stood on the other side and watched people walk through into Dead Land. She didn’t dare wander from the veil, not until she made sure that Endora wasn’t coming back. When she was ready, she turned from the veil. A small, pale girl stood beside her.

Chapter Twenty-Two

Awake, Alive, and Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

The woman stood behind the register in a pink uniform, holding her hand out. “One dollar,” she said.

Cora handed her the money and stared strangely at her nametag.

“Are you okay?” the woman asked.

“Yes. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to stare. That’s the name of my daughter… Endora. She’s in a coma,” she answered.

“I’m so sorry,” the woman said, feeling bad for her.

Core half smiled out of courtesy and picked up her coffee. She walked slowly over to the nearest table.

The clock on the wall showed 4:00 a.m.

She wished she was at home with Endora, watching movies and chowing down on popcorn. She felt bad because she didn’t call Selena back right away after the doctor saw Endora, but she had not gotten the test results back, and Endora still was in the coma. Besides, she hated being the messenger of no good news. Selena would understand.

Cora stared at her coffee cup until she drank every drop. She got up, tossed her cup in the trash bin, and stepped onto the elevator. She stepped out on the fourth floor and walked past the front desk. Two night nurses were sitting, drinking coffee, and gossiping. Cora walked into the room and looked over at Endora. Her eyes widened. “You’re awake!”

Endora stared at her as she adjusted herself into the moment. She looked at her arms… no polka dots. She remembered the hole, Snow, Pegrah. Liddy, and Gram. She even remembered the fairy tale book Pegrah gave to her.

“Are you okay?” Cora asked her, pushing the call button. She stared at her, waiting on an answer.

Endora slowly nodded her head.

“You had me so worried.” Cora stepped back away from the side of the bed when the nurse came in.

The nurse looked at Endora and smiled. “Hello, Endora.” She checked her monitors. “My name is Annie. I am one of the LPN night nurses.”

“Am I okay?” Endora asked.

“You are in perfect health, and now that you’re awake we can call Doctor Flynn. He will see you first thing when he gets here.” She checked her IV. “He will be so pleased to see you’re awake. You have been quite the little mystery here.”

Endora smiled. “I’m awake, alive, and back,” she whispered.

“Can she have something to drink?” Cora asked, “Maybe a Coke.”

“I don’t see why not,” Annie said, “But let’s make it Sprite.”

“How long have I been here?” Endora asked.

“Not long at all.” Annie smiled. “I’ll get you that drink.”

“Mom,” Endora said. “I had the weirdest dream.” (even though she knew, it hadn’t been a dream at all). “I dreamed I saw Gram, and I talked with her.”

Cora smiled. “Gram is something special, even in a dream,” she said. “Oh, do you feel like talking. Your friends have wanted to hear some good news. This will be a pleasant surprise. They’ve been so worried.” She walked over and picked up the cell phone.

 

“Cora,” Selena said.

A long pause…

 

2

 

“Hello,” Endora said softly.

“Endora, you’re awake,” Selena said and jumped up and down. “Wait…” she said.

Demi and Mila were sitting in front of the television watching a movie and chowing on popcorn. Selena walked through the doorway. They turned their heads and looked up at her. She pointed to the phone and mouthed, “It’s Endora.”

They jumped up and ran over to her. “OMG, let me have the phone,” Demi said. “Are you okay?”

“I’m good,” she answered. “Just a little tired.”

“Here, Mila wants to say hi.”

Mila took the phone from Demi, “Endora,” she said. “You had me so scared. I miss you.”

“Don’t worry,” Endora said. “I’m all right. Just a little weak.”

Selena took the phone back. “Do you want me to bring anything to the hospital?”

A pause of silence.

“Endora, are you still there?” she asked.

“I’m here,” Endora answered. “No, I’m good. Mom is going out later to get me some stuff. I’ll see you when you get here. I have something important to tell you.”

“Okay, we’ll be there later on today.” Selena clicked the phone off. She looked over at Demi and Mila. “Endora said she had something to tell us.”

“What is it?” Demi asked.

Selena shrugged. “I don’t know, but I think that Gram must have reached her.”

“Maybe she has a message for us,” Mila said with a big smile.

“Maybe,” Selena said. “But we’re not going to find out until visiting hours.”

 

3

 

Doctor Flynn stepped into the room. Endora looked over at him and waved.

“Well, did you have a nice nap?” he asked, and he winked at her with a big smile.

Endora laughed.

He checked over her chart and test results. “Everything looks one hundred percent good.” He glanced down at her IV. “I’m having that thing pulled out in a few minutes for you, and we can ditch these crazy monitors, but I would like to keep you here at least one more day for observation.” He looked over at Cora and then back at Endora. “How’s that sound?”

“Okay, I guess,” Endora said.

“Now, how are you feeling?” he asked.

“Tired,” she answered. “Like I just ran a marathon.”

“To be expected,” he said, looking down at his clipboard. “Are you hungry?”

She nodded, “Starving.”

He walked over to the counter, grabbed a menu, and handed it to her. “Just check off what you want and call the nurse. She will get you something to eat from our famous cafeteria.” Doctor Flynn bent down and whispered to her, “If I was you, I would get the double-cheese burger, fries, and a nice thick shake.”

Endora smiled. “Thanks,” she said.

“You’re welcome,” he said and stepped out into the hallway.

 

Cora followed behind him and stood outside the door whispering so Endora couldn’t overhear.

 

4

 

“Where am I?” the little girl said, standing beside Gram. She looked across the land with her and stared up at the dead moon shining down on the people. “Am I dead?” she whined. “I want to go home.”

“Yes, you are… dead,” Gram answered and looked down at her. “And this is what lies beyond the veil. Welcome to Dead Land.”

Gram looked out across the land. She didn’t speak a word. She held out her hand to the little girl and they walked together away from the veil.

Gram showed her the land, and told her because there was no magic in her, she would not have to wait, but she would soon return to the land of the living to live once again among the mundanies.

Gram explained to the little girl about reincarnation and that she would live again, but she would not remember Dead Land or those she met here. However, Gram’s time was up and she would have to decide to live again in the mundanies world or go into the Witch Maze to live.

She let go of the little girl’s hand and left her with the other ghosts gliding along the hillside beneath the moonlight.

Gram thought of the mundanies world and let out a long sigh. She stepped onto the narrow path leading straight up the hill. She stood at the very top and looked over the edge, down into the swirling tunnels. It was finally time for her decision.

One tunnel led into the mundanies world. The other led into the pitch dark and into the Witch Maze. She looked behind her and down below the hill at the thousands of ghosts staring up at her. From the distance where they stood, they would watch her and witness her decision.

Gram turned back around to face the tunnels and contemplate for the last time. She would never see Dead Land again, but her final decision she had made. She was sure this was what she wanted for eternity, and she accepted there could be no turning back. She stepped bravely over.

 

5

 

Cora pulled her car out of the hospital parking lot and headed down the highway to Crow Hill when Selena, Mila, and Demi stepped into the room. “OMG, look at you.” Demi said, bouncing her preppy-self around the bed to give Endora a hug.

“You look totally back to normal,” Mila said and bent over to hug her. “I missed you so much.”

“We all did,” Selena said, as she got the last hug in. “Now, what’s going on? You sounded like you wanted to talk, but couldn’t.”

“I didn’t want mom or anybody else around when we talked,” Endora said. “I know what’s going on. Remember how we were wondering what’s up with everyone being so… negative? Guess who is behind it.”

Selena stared at her and took one guess. “Pegrah, am I right?”

Endora nodded her head. “That isn’t all. Liddy said he only helped Mila so he could use her to bring in the negativity.”

“He used me?” Mila said, crossly.

“He did.” Endora glanced over at Mila. “He used you to carry a Dugahlord into Crow Hill. It’s a dark mist, something really bad.” Endora looked over at Selena and Demi. “I wasn’t in a coma, like everyone thinks I was. I was trapped in some hole in the Witch Maze. Pegrah put me there. Two of his goblins came and threw Liddy in. The bad thing is… it’s not over. Pegrah plans to take over our town and the world. I don’t know how to stop him, but we have to go into the Witch Maze and get Liddy; she’s hiding there from Pegrah. Hopefully, she will have some kind of plan waiting for us.”

“So, Pegrah is a mean butt after all,” Demi said. “How predictable was that?”

“Gram saved me and Liddy. If she hadn’t, we would still be in that freaking hole wondering how to get out.”

“Why didn’t you both use the magic?” Selena asked.

Endora took a drink. “You can’t do magic in the hole. It was like a nightmare I thought wasn’t going to end very well.” She glanced around at the three of them and smiled. “Gram knew exactly what to do, and I saw the veil.”

“What veil?” Mila asked and took a drink of Endora’s Sprite.

“The one between life and death that goes to a place called Dead Land.” Endora said. “Gram showed it to me. I didn’t get to go through it, or I wouldn’t be here now. When I left it, I reentered my body, and I woke up in this bed.”

“We tried to contact you, but we got nothing,” Demi said.

“That’s because I was inside the hole.” Endora glanced around at them. “Mum’s the word about all of this. Don’t say a word to my mom or anyone else.”

Selena smiled at her. “I’m just glad you’re back and it’s—”

“Over,” Endora said. “No, it’s just beginning. Pegrah will be angry and will want revenge.”

“We can do a protection spell,” Selena said. “When are you coming home?”

“Tomorrow. I already asked mom, and she said I could stay with you for the rest of Spring Break, as long as I called her constantly.”

“Oh, good,” Selena said with a big smile.

“Endora,” Demi said. “Before you go home tomorrow to get your bag, I wanted to tell you that Mila and me took the magic book and Gram’s book from your room.” Demi looked at her. “Don’t be mad.”

Endora stared at her and then it popped into her head that they used the key to get in. “No, it’s fine,” she said. “I’m glad you took it. Good thing mom didn’t see it, or I would have a lot of explaining to do.”

“So, what do we need to do tonight?” Selena asked.

“Nothing,” Endora answered. “Just keep the doors locked and don’t go outside. I’ll be there tomorrow.” She gave them each a hug before they left. “Oh, and on your way home, buy a candle. Tomorrow night, we’re going back into the Witch Maze.”

“Shhh,” Mila quickly said, and pressed her finger to her lips as Cora stepped into the room.

“I hope I wasn’t gone too long,” Cora said, and smiled. “Some cranky woman nearly ran me off the road.” She hugged the girls. “What has gotten into the people in this town?” She looked down at Endora and hugged her. “Doesn’t she look great?” she asked. “I guess I can’t call her Snow White anymore.”

“Seriously, you called me that?” Endora asked with a smile.

Chapter Twenty-Three

Peas of a Pod

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

The next evening…

Selena, Mila, and Demi were hanging inside the house. Mila had just finished reading the last sentence of a love charm. There were looks, laughter, and then…

Endora knocked on the front door.

They glanced at each other, jumped up from the couch, and ran into the foyer. Selena opened the door and threw her arms around her friend. Demi hugged her next, and then Mila. Before Endora went into the house, she turned to her mom sitting in the car. She waved at her to let her know she could go on. She stepped inside the house with a smile. “I’m here,” she said. “Better late than never.”

Selena shut the door behind her.

Endora set her bag on the couch. “So catch me up… what have you three been up to?”

Mila looked over at the books piled up on the table. “Just reading and studying the magic.”

“Being good girls,” Demi said with a grin and a snicker.

“What did you do last night in the hospital?” Selena asked.

“Mom stayed. We played cards, talked, watched TV… nothing grand. I’m glad to be out of there. I know she was, too. At least, not all of spring break is destroyed.” Endora plopped down on the couch. “Mostly, I’m glad to be out of that hole.”

“Why did Pegrah do that, and why not to all of us?” Mila asked.

Endora shrugged. “I don’t know, but he did say that Liddy tried to contact me and that was interference, which he wouldn’t allow because of his plans.” She reached into her bag, pulled out her book, and tossed it onto the table with the rest. “I remember he said ‘you or your little witchy friends are not going to stand in the way.’”

“And to think that I liked and trusted him.” Mila let out a long sigh. “You can’t trust anybody.”

“So, what you’re saying is, we are in the middle of whatever it is that is going on?” Demi asked. “So, what are we going to do?”

“I don’t know what to do,” Endora said. “That’s why we need to go back into the Witch Maze and talk to Liddy.”

“I, for one, do not like the idea of facing a witch or a warlock, especially one that knows what they’re doing,” Selena said. “How did we get into this mess anyway?”

Endora looked over at her. “I got us into this mess. Remember when Liddy told us that sometimes things mess up?” she sighed. “I should have listened. Now look, everything is messed up. Heck, even if I did know where to start to straighten things up, I don’t know how to fix it.”

Selena walked over and patted her on the shoulder. “We were all in it together, like peas in a pod. It’s not your fault. We all take blame.”

“That’s not important, anyway,” Demi said. “What is important is figuring out how we are going to deal with and beat Pegrah.”

2

 

They set the candle in the center of the kitchen table. Endora opened the magic book and hunted down a protection spell. “This ought to do it,” she said, “A witch bottle.”

“What is it?” Mila asked.

“What do we need?” Demi asked.

Endora ran her finger down the page, reading the words. “It says that a witch bottle is something that is used for protection from evil. I think we should make one and let it be for all of us,” she said. “We need a bottle.”

“Got it,” Selena said, reaching up into the cabinet. She took out a beautiful, clear decorative bottle with a corked top. “This was a bubble bath bottle I got for Christmas. I have been saving it… guess I know why now.”

“I like it,” Endora said. She uncorked the top. “It says we need to put in some sharp objects like nails and needles in the bottle.”

“Demi,” Selena said, “Go into the pantry room in the closet. There is a jar with nails in it.” She opened the drawer and grabbed a small box of needles.” She laid the box on the table. “What else?”

“Spring water.”

“Got that,” Selena said, opening the refrigerator.

“Salt,” Endora said.

Mila grabbed the shaker from the spice rack and set it on the table. “Here, you go.”

Demi brought a handful of nails and put them beside the shaker.

They stood around the table and watched as Endora pulled the cork from the bottle. She picked out nine nails and threw them in. “Next the salt,” she said. She poured it in.

“Now, the water,” Mila said.

“No, not yet,” Endora said, taking out a needle from the box.

“OMG,” Demi said. “Not again.”

“Oh geesh, you’re not serious.” Selena said.

Endora snickered. “A little prick from a pin will bring a drop of red to your skin.”

“Shush up,” Demi said, laughing.

“We all need to put in a small drop of blood from our fingers. I will go first.” Endora stuck her finger and wiped the blood on the tip. She threw it into bottle. “There. Just like that.”

Mila was next. She stuck her finger, wiped the blood on the tip, and threw it in. “Next,” she said. Demi stuck her finger and threw in the pin. Selena did the same.

“Now, the water,” Endora said. “Pour it in, Mila.” She handed her the bottle. “Fill it a little over half.”

“Done,” Mila said and smiled a little nervously.

“Now, repeat after me,” Endora said with her fingers touching her emerald. “Needles and nails, water and salt, protect our blood from outside assaults. “Imperium visvires gratia ortus!”

They chanted the words over and over, while Selena corked the top and sealed it down with duct tape.

“We need to put it in a safe place,” Endora said. “Like burying it… so it won’t be found.”

“I know,” Selena said. “Follow me.”

They followed her upstairs into her room. “Here,” she said. She pulled up the artificial rubber tree with its fake roots and dirt. “Sit it in the bottom.” She put the tree back over the top of it. “It’s safe there, and we can get to it if we need to.”

 

3

 

Snow watched as Pegrah picked up the spell book in his arms. He was preparing to leave and enter into the mundanies world. Snow couldn’t quite remember how he fell under Pegrah’s control, but it had happened, and he had been loyal to him all this time.

The cat wasn’t a bit sorry for his allegiance. He did what he was told and what he needed to do to survive. It wasn’t easy being a cat in the Witch Maze. You had to be someone’s familiar, and sometimes that meant doing things that maybe you didn’t quite agree with. Snow had made up his mind that he would follow Pegrah wherever he went in the Witch Maze, but he had to draw the line somewhere. He wasn’t going to break the oath and go into the mundanies world.

He had already heard the talk around the other dimensions… it wasn’t safe in there. They killed furry creatures like him. It was a harsh place, and no familiar liked harsh places. He was afraid Pegrah would make him go anyway, and he would break the oath and never be allowed back into the place he swore he would never leave.

“Quit your belly aching, Snow. You’re making me absolutely insane with your loud whining thoughts. Besides, you will go if I need you to go with me.” Pegrah walked over to his desk and opened the drawer. “Lucky for you, I don’t need you. I trust you will stay here and keep your eyes on my home and on that pleasant and adequate reward that I’m giving you.” He stepped out of the room and across the foyer into the dining room. “There you are, Kitty,” he said, reaching down to pick up a small black kitten.

Snow walked in the room and jumped up on the table.

Pegrah sat Kitty down beside him. “Make sure you are here and not out scampering about. I am leaving him in your care,” he said to Snow. “We wouldn’t want Kitty to get lost out there somewhere.” He walked out of the room and back across the foyer.

“Don’t worry Kitty,” Snow said and glanced over at him. “We’re perfectly safe here.”

Kitty hung his head down and narrowed his eyes as they filled with tears. He didn’t care about being safe. Being safe had not crossed his mind. He just wanted to go home, back to the girls, and back to his box. He missed them.

He missed Selena.

 

4

 

“I have a secret,” Selena said, looking over at Endora.

“What is it?” she answered. “It better not be about me,” she laughed.

“Guess who has a crush on Mila?” Selena asked.

“You did not just go there,” Mila interrupted.

“OMG,” Demi laughed. “I know who it is… Dillon.”

“Okay… he might,” Mila said and crooked a smile. “But he’s a junior, and I’m a freshman. It would never work.”

“You don’t know that,” Selena said. “True love conquers all.”

“Never mind Mila’s crush bug,” Endora said with a snicker. “We have to go into the Witch Maze. I have to let Liddy know we’re okay, and I need to know she’s all right.”

The four of them gathered everything they needed. Demi carved their initials into the wax. Mila dressed the candle. Selena put the candle on the fireplace hearth and in the center of the circle that Endora prepared.

“That’s got it,” Demi said.

“Perfect.” Selena lit the candle with a wooden match, and the four of them gathered on the sleeping bags that Mila had spread out.

The house was dark and very quiet. A strong scent of wax filled the air. Endora placed her fingers on her emerald. Before she spoke…

Selena looked over at her and whispered, “Are you sure you’re up for this?”

“No problem,” Endora said. “I’m good to go.”

“Shush, you two… serious time,” Mila said and put her fingers on her sapphire stone.

Endora smiled. “Ready?” she asked. “Here we go.” Endora softly cleared her throat and spoke the words loud, slow, and clear. “I can fly, I exist, I’m alive.” she repeated the words over and over.

Demi, Mila, and Selena also repeated the words in a perfect and unbroken chant. Just before their voices faded and they drifted out of their bodies, Endora spoke the magic word, “Transporto!”

The room went dead silent.

 

5

 

They walked slowly down the corridor until the glow of the light came and the pitch dark vanished. They made their way to the Tudor. “There it is,” Mila said, pointing. “I see the Tudor.”

“Now, that’s a welcome sight,” Endora said and smiled as big as she could.

“There’s the sign,” Demi said. “You are here. This is Liddy’s place all right.”

Endora reached her hand out to open the door. She quickly drew back when…

A horrible sneeze came from the face on the door. It opened its eyes and stared at the four of them. “Pardon me,” the face said. It wiggled its nose back and forth.

“You must have an awful cold,” Mila quickly said.

“Yes, yes, I do,” the face admitted. “Aaah-Aaah-Choo! I get one from time to time. It’s not easy hanging out here century after century. I’m afraid the sneezing is just a consequence of my inborn need to be rooted in doors.”

The girls glanced at each other and quietly snickered.

“Now, to what do we owe the pleasure of your second arrival?” the face asked. “To make it much easier on you, call me green man… everyone does.”

“We’re here to see Liddy,” Selena said. “Can we go in?”

“Be my guests,” the green man said, squinting his eyes with a wide smile.

Endora reached again for the knob and slowly opened the door. She stepped across the threshold, and, of course, she was polka dotted green again. It’s so good to be back, she thought. She took a deep breath and looked around the room.

“Where is she?” Selena asked. Yellow polka dots covered her.

“Grams told her to hide herself upon the wall with the ancestors,” Endora answered. “But I have no idea what she was talking about. Liddy, it’s me, Endora,” she yelled. “Where are you?”

The noise of their arrival alerted the ancestors.

Chapter Twenty-Four

Fly by Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

“Do you hear them?” Witch Gretel asked.

“I hear them,” Liddy answered. She climbed out of the picture as a small figure and jumped onto the floor. When her feet touched the old ceramic tile, she turned back into her full-grown-self. She walked over to the mirror and slipped into the other room. Liddy stood calmly behind the girls.

Endora sensed her and quickly turned around. She gave her a big hug. “I’m glad you’re safe,” she said. “I was so worried.”

“Now, now, dearie; I am all right.” She hugged her back, let go, and pushed her spectacles back a touch.

Endora wondered, “Have you seen Pegrah since—”

“Since he threw me into the hole? No, I haven’t seen him, which makes things even worse. It must mean he is preparing to go into the mundanies world.” Liddy turned around to look at her reflection in the mirror. “Follow me,” she said. She placed her hand on the mirror and the glass melted into a silver liquid substance. She stepped one foot inside and then the other, until she disappeared into the liquid.

Endora looked strangely over at the others and shrugged. “Just close your eyes and step through. Don’t be afraid,” she whispered. She stepped in and disappeared into the mirror. Selena followed behind her, then Demi, and Mila.

 

2

 

“Beautiful room,” Demi said and stared at the oblong table and the large burning candles.

Mila and Selena looked around at the ancestors in the frames. “This is so fascinating,” Selena whispered.

“Take a seat anywhere.” Liddy said and walked around the table. She pulled out a chair and sat down.

“Liddy, there is something I need to tell you that I should’ve told you when we were in the hole and forgot to,” Endora said. “Pegrah has a spy.”

Liddy stared at her while the others took their seats in the red wing chairs. The eyes of the ancestors widened as they leaned forward, carefully listening to every word.

“Who is it?” Liddy asked.

“It’s that cat, the white one. We saw him when we first came into the Witch Maze. He talked to us on your porch and disappeared. I didn’t see him again until he came to the hole. I tried to get him to help me; the little rat left me there.”

“Snow,” Liddy snapped.

“Is that his name?” Endora said.

Liddy nodded her head. “That’s his name, all right. I should have known,” she said.

“Well, who would think a cat would be a nark?” Selena said, arching up her left brow and looking around at Mila and Demi.

“In the Witch Maze, anything is possible,” Liddy answered. “That’s one of the problems here. It’s a different world than what you are accustomed to.”

“Indeed, it is,” Witch Gretel spoke up from the frame.

Mila scanned the wall, looking for who was speaking. “How is that possible?” she asked. “That woman just talked.”

Liddy stood up and walked around the walls. “All these people you see in the pictures are my ancestors and yours.” She moved over to the middle frame on the wall that sat closest to the mirror. “This is Witch Gretel,” she said. “She was the very first witch of Crow Hill.”

“Are they stuck in there?” Demi asked.

“No, each is living their lives where they have chosen to be, but their image is alive in the frames and quite able to communicate their thoughts and feelings.” She walked over to the next picture. “This is Sir Edmond.”

“How do you do, ladies?” he asked, sucking on his long-stem pipe.

“Pleased to meet you,” Endora said and moved closer to the picture. She looked around the room, “Pleased to meet all of you.”

All the ancestors began talking at once. Endora snickered.

“They are great,” Demi said. “I would love to have all them in my home.”

Liddy smiled and walked back to her chair. “Sir Edmond is the one that encountered that thing I was telling you about before.” She sat down. “The thing that spreads negativity, the Dughalord. Sir Edmond used to run an herbal shop in Crow Hill.”

“Yes,” Demi spoke up quickly. “You are Sir Edmond Poe. I read about you in the history book.” A sad look fell over Demi’s face. “It said they beat you with rocks, until you—”

“Died. Yes, dear,” Sir Edmond spoke. “Don’t you go fretting any at all. Death is but a doorway of escape. If you remember that, you will never fear it… or anything else.”

“Sir Edmond had a run in with the Dughalord,” Liddy said. “He said nothing good ever came from it.”

“Quite right,” Sir Edmond said. “Pegrah will use the mist to bring negativity, and then he will come in right behind it like a bad storm. Then there will be capital ‘T’ trouble. You can count on it.”

“How do we stop him?” Demi asked.

“You can’t,” he said. “Bad will do what it will. The only thing you can do is to pick up the pieces and mend what has been broken.”

“So, like it or not, Pegrah is coming to Crow Hill,” Selena said and glanced over at Liddy.

“I’m afraid so,” Liddy said with a very worried look on her face.

Then from the far wall, the soft-spoken voice of Witch Emma said, “You can’t stop the negativity, but you can temporarily neutralize it with a happy spell, of course, if one is willing to pay the price.” Witch Emma sat in a tire swing in front of a large plantation house. She was dressed in a long white fancy, lacy dress. She had long blonde hair and was holding an umbrella to shade out the sunlight.

“What is the price?” Endora asked. She wasn’t really sure she wanted to hear the answer.

Witch Emma looked over at Liddy with her big blue eyes. “I don’t know,” she said.

The girls glanced around at each other with a blank look on their faces. There wasn’t much choice, but not knowing the price was scary.

“No,” Liddy said. “The risk is too high.”

“Wait,” Endora said. “We have to do something. Crow Hill is not what it used to be, and it’s not getting any better.” She walked over and looked around the room at all the ancestors staring back at her. “I’m willing to take the chance.”

Demi, Mila, and Selena stood up from their chairs. Selena spoke for the three of them. “If Endora is willing, then we are.”

Liddy walked around the room. “I suppose it would work, but it has to be done from the mundanies world.” She turned to look at Endora. “Which means you girls will have to do it.” She pushed her spectacles back on her nose. “Are you ready for that?” she asked.

“Just tell us what to do,” Demi said.

“We can handle it. Right, Endora?” Selena asked and glanced over at her.

“Right,” she answered. “We can handle it.”

Mila spoke up, “Count me in.”

Liddy nodded her head in agreement. “Come on, then, we have much to do and little time to do it in.” She stepped back through the mirror into the front room.

The girls followed behind her.

 

3

 

“You girls are learning the magic by hands on.” Liddy shook her head. “That isn’t a good way to learn. That is not the way I wanted you too. So many mess ups happen and it takes a great deal of knowledge to correct them.”

She walked over to the rack of potions and searched over the labels, looking for the exact mixture. “Ah-ha!” She shouted and grabbed an obscure looking bottle with a face that looked hysterically happy. “This is the mixture that you need to neutralize the negativity.” She held it up to the light.

“Look at its face,” Endora said. “It’s so happy.”

“Yes,” Liddy smiled. “And if you do the spell right, the potion will temporary neutralize the darkness, and things will turn back to normal. For how long, nobody knows. It could be a week, a month, or years.” She handed the potion to Endora. “Take it to the register and set it on the counter, then come back over here. I have something to show you.”

Endora did as Liddy said and sat the potion on the counter. She walked back over and stood beside Demi, Mila, and Selena.

“I know this is way ahead of things, but I think they will serve you better if you each have one of your own.” Liddy pointed up to the ceiling.

The girls watched as four crooked brooms floated slowly down and sat themselves in front of them.

“These belong to you.” Liddy said, making her way around to the register. “Normally, I would have waited until you were ready for them, but these are not normal times you have fallen into. With Pegrah about to unleash on your world, you need your broom with you.” Liddy put her hand out and said, “Appareo!”

A crooked broom appeared in her hand. She let go of it. It stood on its own. “This broom will fly you where you want to go, even into the Witch Maze. Witches and warlocks for centuries have been riding their brooms. All you have to do is say ’Appareo!’, and it will appear to take you where you want. When you want it to leave, you say,’Evanesco!’” The broom disappeared. “Now, here is the trick-only magic practitioners can see the broom. No mundanies can see it.”

The face emerged from the back plate of the register, and the drawer flew open with a loud ding. The register opened its black beady eyes and looked back and forth at the girls. “As you must hurry and be on your way, a quick clipping from the tip of your finger, any such will do.”

Liddy reached in and handed Endora a pair of fingernail clippers. “Here you go, dearie,” she said and smiled. “Hurry, your time is short. You have to get back to your bodies.”

Endora took the clippers, snipped off a piece, and handed a slither of her fingernail over to Liddy. She passed the clippers to Demi, who snipped a slither, handed it to Liddy, and passed the clippers to Selena, who did the same, and then to Mila. When they finished, Liddy placed the clippers back in the drawer along with four slithers from their fingernails. The drawer slammed shut with a loud ka-ching.

“Hurry now!” Liddy said. “Take your brooms and fly by dark.” She handed Endora the potion. “You girls know what to do. The spell is in the magic book. Now, you must go.” She hurried over to the door and opened it. “Be careful. Remember, you’re dealing with Pegrah… a warlock.”

Endora walked across the threshold, carrying the potion and her broom. Mila, Demi, and Selena followed close behind with their brooms at their sides. They formed a line and straddled their brooms. On the count of three. they gripped their brooms tight and said, “Home.”

Nothing happened.

Liddy watched from behind and shook her head. “Oh, dear, I forgot to tell you the magic words,” she yelled. “Say, Virga, meus domus! Remember, the instructions to the brooms are in the magic book. Read it. Read the book, all of it.”

Together they said the magic words, and, in a blink of an eye, they were gone.

4

 

Selena stood on her doorstep. The porch light was still burning, just as she had left it. She looked over at her broom and said, “Evanesco!” It disappeared. Where is everyone? she thought.

Endora stood in front of her own home with her broom at her side. “What in the world,” she mumbled. “Why am I here?” She looked at her broom, “I guess this will take getting used to.” She grabbed the handle and said “Virga Selena domus!”

“There you are,” Selena said, laughing at Endora as she appeared.

Suddenly, Mila and Demi were standing with them laughing. “Evanesco!” they said together, and the brooms tucked out of sight.

“That is the best thing ever,” Endora said with a smile.

“It’s worth being a witch just for the broom,” Mila said.

Selena opened the door, and they stepped inside and into their bodies. Just as they opened their eyes, a loud knock came to the front door. “One guess,” she said, opening the door back up. She reached down for the box. “You are here,” she read aloud. She shut the door and turned around. “Here we go.”

Endora took the potion and smiled. “Let’s do this,” she said.

Mila walked into the kitchen, grabbed four Cokes from the refrigerator and shut the door. She turned around and jumped. “Dang it!” she gasped. “What are you trying to do? Scare me to death?”

Demi stood close behind her, snickering. She reached for a Coke from her. Selena sat at the table looking at the potion bottle, while Endora hurried, searching through the magic book for the spell.

“This is it,” Endora said. “And we should have everything needed.

“What will it do?” Demi asked, looking over her shoulder.

“It does exactly what Liddy said it would do,” she answered. “It neutralizes the negativity, so people can be themselves again… happy… and the town will go totally back to normal.”

 

5

 

Snow and Kitty sat on top of the desk, watching.

Pegrah stood in the center of the circle. The spell book laid by his feet along with a small black bag. He turned his head, looked over at them, and nodded with a short gesture of goodbye. He lifted his hands in the air and shouted from the top of his voice, “Imperium gratia ventus tergum gratia terra!”

A sudden hard current of air began to blow in the circle. Pegrah could barely hold his own balance. He stood in the middle of a furious whirlwind with a big grin on his moon crescent face.

Snow and Kitty couldn’t see clearly anymore. Something was happening. Pegrah’s body was fading and blending into the wind. Snow had seen this before. He wasn’t alarmed. In an instant, Pegrah was gone… along with the book and the bag.

The air settled in the circle and cleared.

Snow jumped down from the desk and went over to investigate closer. He sniffed around the floor.

Out of extreme curiosity, Kitty followed closely behind. Suddenly, the circle disappeared and faded into the floor as if it had never been there in the first place.

“He is gone for now,” Snow said with a slight smile of relief on his face. “He’s in Crow Hill, and something tells me he won’t be back too soon.”

Chapter Twenty-Five

Ready or Not

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Pegrah was carried on the wings of the wind through a narrow, long tunnel that seemed to go on forever; except it wasn’t forever. The portal opened and shoved him out onto the hard pavement.

He stood up. After catching his breath, he inhaled deeply, and coughed. “The mundanies world,” he mumbled. “I forgot how much it stinks here.”

He grabbed his book and the bag that was flung out behind him. Next to the road stood a large white sign. “Crow Hill – Population 1313,” he read aloud with a devious grin.

Appareo!” He bellowed and put his hand out for his broom. He shouted, “Virga academy!”

In a flash, he was gone and standing in front of the gate.

Evanesco,” he said, and the broom vanished from his sight. He quickly looked around at the academy and the town. “Such a mundane place of existence,” he said.

He walked along the sidewalk until he came to a two-story house. “Crow Bed and Breakfast,” he read and walked beside the white picket fence to the gate. He turned onto the sidewalk leading up to the porch, stepped up, and opened the door.

A small bell hanging above the door rang.

He shut the door behind him. “Hello,” he said as he walked up to the counter.

Muggy Moore, the town crier and gossip extraordinaire walked out of the kitchen and over to the counter, wearing her faded jeans and flannel shirt. “Would you like a room?” she asked, snapping her gum and pushing her short brown hair behind her ears.

He looked straight into her eyes and with a crooked grin said, “A room with the best view of your charming city.”

She stared at him and handed him the register book. He signed, and she slid a key across the counter.

Slowly, she said, “Room B.” His face is odd looking, she thought, but she tried not to stare for too long. She didn’t want to appear rude or anything.

She quickly bent down and grabbed a brochure from the counter shelf, pretending she wasn’t staring in the first place. She stood back up. “The view is fantastic.” She laid the brochure beside the key. “House rules,” she said, and smiled. “So tell me, Mr…”

He took the key and brochure and put them into his pocket, “Just Pegrah will do, and yes, I plan to be here for some time.”

Muggy stood speechless as she watched him walk up the stairs. When he was out of sight, she stepped back into the kitchen and picked up the phone. The first call went to her best friend, who quickly sent the usual stranger’s arrival through the wires.

He walked up the stairs, opened the door to room B, and stepped inside. He set his bag and book on the bed. He looked around at the fresh flowers and the antique wallpaper that was older than the town itself.

The bed sat along the center of the wall, facing the window. On either side were end tables with yellow Victorian oil lamps and an alarm clock. The whole décor made him want to throw up chunks of disgust, but if he wanted his plan to work, he had to deal with it to fit into their little community.

 

2

 

Mila stared at the potion bottle. “What will the potion do to Pegrah?”

Endora shrugged. “I don’t know, but it will throw a monkey wrench in whatever he is trying to do to this town, not to mention this world and the Witch Maze.”

“Liddy says he is going to come here and take over. I don’t think a little potion will stop him.” Selena propped her elbows up on the table and sighed. “I miss Kitty.”

“I know you do. So, do I. We all do. Maybe we can do a spell and try and find him.” She turned the page to a place where she had bookmarked by bending the corner of the page over. “We have a locator spell. I think it will find him for us.”

Selena smiled. “When?” she asked. “When can we do it?”

“Right after we do the happy spell thing.” Endora said. “Hopefully, it will stop Pegrah. If it doesn’t, at least it will buy us time.”

They got up from the table, turned on the backlight, and opened the door. They stood in a small circle in the backyard. Selena held onto the potion while Endora read the words. “Happy you will be when the negativity is neutralized in thee.”

The four of them chanted the words in a whisper over and over. When they finished, Selena opened the potion and poured it out onto the ground.

Imperium ventus gratia transmitto gratia terra!” Endora whispered. The potion seeped into the ground and slowly bubbled up into a white mist that ran unnoticed, spreading out in long, thin whispers that entered into every home. It seeped into every neighborhood, making its way across town, neutralizing everything that had been touched by the dark mist – the Dugahlord.

“Well,” Selena said. “Ready or not, it’s off and doing its thing.” She corked the bottle and noticed the happy face was gone; it was nothing but a plain colored bottle. They went back into the house.

 

3

 

“How about a movie, popcorn, and girl talk?” Demi asked.

“Seriously,” Selena smarted. “Have you forgotten already?”

“Kitty,” Mila answered. She looked over at Demi. “I’m surprised you forgot.”

“Nobody has forgotten.” Endora said and glanced quickly over at Demi. “She meant after we do the locator spell we can chill.”

“Right,” Demi said. “That’s what I meant.”

Selena unfolded a map of Crow Hill and laid it out on the table. Endora opened the book. Demi placed a marble in the center. They stood around the table and chanted, “Reveal and locate Kitty to me.”

Appareo, Kitty!” Endora said.

The marble rolled over to Selena’s house number and stopped.

Nothing happened.

“That’s impossible,” Selena said. “Kitty is not in this house. Trust me. I have searched all over this place and the neighborhood.”

Endora picked up the marble and tried again.

Selena gasped and cupped her hand over her mouth, “He can’t be—”

“Dead,” Mila gasped.

Endora shook her head. “I don’t think so. I’m sure you would have smelled a stench by now”

“What if someone took him?” Demi asked.

“Then the marble would show where, right?” Selena asked.

“I don’t know where he is, but if it’s not here, something isn’t right,” Endora said.

It was Selena’s idea to search the house again. They looked for signs of Kitty with not a single trace anywhere. After a few hours of finding nothing, the girls sat down in front of the television and dozed off from exhaustion.

 

4

 

The morning light shone through the blinds. Endora was up searching and reading Gram’s book. She was determined to learn all that she could. She wanted to be the best witch she could be… not the worst witch ever, and, right now, it seemed like she was the latter.

Demi and Mila walked into the room. Selena followed behind, shuffling her feet into the kitchen. She grabbed a glass of juice and sat down at the table. “I didn’t get any sleep,” she said, yawning.

Endora closed the book. “It’s Kitty, isn’t it?” she asked.

“I kept wondering where that little fellow got off to.” She took a drink. “And why it wasn’t showing on the map. We looked all over the house. No sign of him anywhere.”

Selena heard a car door. She got up and walked into the foyer, opened the front door, and saw Doctor Flynn with a dozen roses in his hand. “Oh, wow! Come over here,” Selena whispered.

They quickly ran into the foyer. “What?” Mila asked. “What’s wrong?”

“Look,” she whispered. “Doctor Flynn is talking to Ruth.”

They watched as he handed Ruth the roses and gave her the longest hug and kiss they had ever seen.

Endora smiled. “That is the best,” she said. “I’m glad they made up. I really like him.”

Selena shut the door. “Do you think that has anything to do with the spell we did?”

“Of course,” Demi said. “Things are going back to normal.”

“Question,” Selena said. “What do you think the ancestor meant when she said, ‘If one is willing to pay the price?’”

“That, I’m not sure of,” Endora answered. “I’m afraid to think about it.”

“Me too,” Selena agreed.

“Don’t, then,” Mila said. “Ignore it. Maybe there is no price.”

“Let’s just enjoy what’s left of spring break,” Demi said.

“I got it,” Mila smiled. “Let’s take a walk.”

The whole place was back to normal. The neighborhood kids were back to playing together. No one was fighting or arguing. The sun was out and shining brightly. None of the gloomy clouds were mucking up the sky. More importantly, the spell that Pegrah had done was neutralized. Not one person seemed out of sorts or angry; even Mrs. Duncan had been nice to them.

She came out of the house, picked up her paper, and looked over at the girls walking down the sidewalk. “Hello, girls,” she said. “Are you enjoying your walk today?”

“Yes,” Selena nodded and smiled at her.

Mrs. Duncan returned the biggest smile back to her. She disappeared into the house, humming a happy tune.

Chapter Twenty-Six

So Long, Judas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

“This is great, isn’t it?” Demi asked. “I can smell the flowers, the sun is out, and the people are smiling.”

“And best of all, the spell worked,” Mila said.

“Of course it did; our magic will always work.” Endora said with a wink. “Now, let’s hope Pegrah will stay far away.”

 

2

 

Pegrah walked across the floor and looked out the window overlooking the town. He had just missed seeing the girls walk by.

He rubbed his chin as he looked around at the buildings, the people, and at the gates of the academy. He had a plan to put into play.

He turned around and looked down at the clock. It is time to enact, he thought.

He opened the door and walked downstairs and out the front door. He went along the sidewalk until he found himself in front of the academy gate. He pressed his long skeletal finger on the call box button.

“Can I help you?” an old voice asked.

“Yes,” Pegrah answered. “I have an appointment with Father Judas.”

“What is your name?” she asked.

“Pegrah.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t have—”

“Look again, please,” he said.

“Oh, yes, of course you do. Come on in, sir.”

The gate opened and shut behind him.

Pegrah walked to the front door where Sister Dagon greeted him. “We close and lock the gates on the holidays… standard procedure. Father Judas will see you now.” She pointed up the stairs. “He is on the second landing, the third door down on your left.”

Pegrah placed his hand on the wooden banister and slowly climbed the stairs to the second landing. He walked down the long narrow hallway and stopped at door three. He put his hand on the knob and opened the door.

Father Judas straightened his collar and stood up from his chair. “Pegrah, I assume. Please, come in.”

He stepped inside the room and sat down. “Father Judas, I have… shall we say, a proposition for you that I don’t believe you can turn down.”

Father Judas stared at him and listened as Pegrah made his persuasive offer…

 

3

 

Downtown, Selena opened the door to the bookshop, and the girls followed her inside. They browsed the aisles, looking and searching.

Endora smiled and shut the book she had in her hands. “This one might be very interesting,” she whispered over to Demi.

“What is it?” Demi asked, trying to get a glimpse of the title.

“It’s called True Tales of Magic,” she said and flipped over to the back of the book.

“I think I found a good one, too,” Demi said, “Magic Myths and Truths.”

“What about you, Mila, have you found anything?” Endora asked.

“No, still looking, though,” she said, running her finger along the back of the book spines.

“Oh, I love this one,” Selena said and pulled it from the shelf. “Supernatural Creatures.”

“Here’s one.” Mila read, “Legends of Practitioners.”

They looked around the store for a few minutes, roaming aisle to aisle, and when they were done, Selena took all the books to the counter and paid for them with her dad’s charge card.

“Will this be all?” the short blonde-haired girl asked.

“Yes,” Selena answered.

Mila, Demi, and Endora stepped outside and stood waiting in front of the bookshop. Selena followed them out, carrying a bag in her hand.

The girls turned the corner and headed down the alleyway just in time to miss Pegrah coming out the front gate of the academy. They laughed and talked all the way back to Selena’s, where little Sammy came riding around the sidewalk on his Big Wheel. He came to a dead stop in front of them.

“Hi, Selena,” he said smiling from ear to ear. He offered her a piece of butterscotch candy.

“Thanks, Sammy,” she said, bending down to accept it.

A goofy smile came across his face, then he pushed the pedals on his Big Wheel and drove off.

“That was a big change from the last time I saw him,” Selena said. “All I wanted to do to that kid was clobber him.”

“And now, look how sweet he is being,” Mila said.

“No doubt the happy potion worked,” Endora said with a smile. “Let’s just hope Pegrah stays far away from Crow Hill.”

 

4

 

Pegrah slammed his fist against the bed. He noticed from the action of the people that someone had offset the negativity in this town, and now the residents were all nauseatingly happy.

He hit the bed again. How utterly sick, he thought. “Nevertheless,” he mumbled. “It won’t stop my plans. It just makes things a little more… intolerable.”

He grabbed his spell book from the dresser and opened it. He could counter the counter, but that would just be playing into a reciprocation game of which he didn’t want to waste time engaging. He had a good idea who was behind the spell. It had to be those four bratty, adolescent witchy girls and Liddy. He would take care of them in time.

He rubbed his hands together. In a few days, he would strike his first blow, so patience was no problem. Besides, they cannot rid the world of the negativity. The Dugahlord will just go and come back as it always has for generations.

A soft knock at his door.

“Pegrah,” she cleared her throat. “This is Muggy. I have your lunch.”

He opened the door. “How kind and thoughtful of you,” he said, taking the tray from her hands.

“House rules,” she smiled. “I serve breakfast and dinner. Snacks you provide to yourself.” She turned and walked back down the stairs.

Pegrah sat down and shoved down the lunch. He put the tray out into the hallway on the return cart. He shut the door and turned on the television.

“Fascinating,” he said, clicking through the channels. “I forgot how utterly unentertaining and dull the mundanies world could be.”

 

5

 

“But what do I tell everyone?” Sister Dagon asked Father Judas. “This is all such short notice. I assure you, it is going to mess things up at the academy, not to mention with the council.”

Father Judas shrugged and continued packing his suitcase. He tossed in his books and journals, along with his clothes.

“What will I tell the parents, the children, and the sisters?” she asked.

He glanced over at her. “You will tell them nothing. Just go on with your duties and keep the work of the council. Desist from nothing.” He walked over and stood in front her. “Promise me.”

She nodded her head. “I promise. I haven’t failed you in all these years, and I won’t fail you or this academy, or the council, now.” She turned away from him and walked over to the window She looked out at the parking lot. “Who will run the academy?”

“The appropriate arrangements have already been made,” he said. He took his Good Book and packed it away. He closed and zipped the top of the suitcase.

“Sister Dagon,” he said and reached into his pocket for a piece of paper. “This is a number. Show it to no one. It is for you only… to get ahold of me when you need me.” He handed it to her. “Do not lose it.”

Sister Dagon took the paper and placed it in her pocket. “You can trust me,” she said. “But tell me, why do you have to leave so quickly without even saying goodbye to the sisters or the children?”

He walked over to his bed. “My leaving has already been cleared and arranged accordingly. We can’t argue with hierarchy, can we?” he asked. “Besides, it’s still officially Spring Break. So, you can let the sisters and children know of my departure and my regret of not being able to say goodbye. I assume all the parents will be notified by the local newspaper.”

He grabbed the suitcase off the bed and walked across the floor to the doorway. He turned around in the hallway and looked back at her. “It isn’t my choice to leave, but sometimes, Sister Dagon, we have to do things that we don’t want for the greater good.”

The sister followed him down the stairs, through the back hallway, and out the far end service door. “Father Judas,” she yelled as he opened up his car door. She ran over to him and handed him her rosary beads. “Here, I want you to take these.”

“These are yours,” he said, trying to hand them back to her.

“No.” she said, refusing them. “They need to stay with you, Father. They have always protected me, and they will protect you out there.”

“Very well,” he said. He slid into the front seat and hung them on his rearview. He shut the door and started the engine. The car ran quietly as he eased on the accelerator and pulled slowly out of the parking lot, out the back gate, and onto the highway.

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Inevitable Pay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

The days and nights passed by quickly, and before anyone realized it, spring break had come and gone.

After Endora had woken up from the coma and the town had returned to normal, the girls spent most of their time riding their brooms from one place to another and reading all they could on magic, history, and tales. Each of them had grown a little stronger, a little wiser, and a little less unsure of themselves. One might say they gained a little witchy confidence.

 

2

 

The alarm went off.

Stupid clock, Endora thought and rolled over in her bed. Three minutes later, the door opened. She heard Cora say, “Sleepy head, wake up.” Endora didn’t move.

Cora felt her heart skip a beat. She yelled until Endora kicked the covers from her legs. Cora shut her eyes for a second to catch her breath and realize Endora was okay. “Are you okay?” she asked just to make sure.

Endora nodded and slowly sat up in bed and rubbed her eyes. Cora walked back downstairs into the kitchen and rummaged through the cabinets. “Here we are,” she yelled. “Pop Tarts.”

 

Endora dressed in her uniform, fixed her hair, and quickly put on her lip-gloss.

“Endora, where are you? You’re going to be late.” The voice drifted up the stairs.

“Coming, Mom,” she yelled and grabbed her bag. She dashed down the steps into the kitchen.

Cora was sitting down at the table with the morning paper. She held up a Pop Tart. Endora grabbed it, kissed her on the cheek, and out the front door she went. She shut the door behind her and hurried off to meet the others.

 

3

 

Endora stood in front of the Pizzeria, waiting.

“Hey, there you are,” Selena said, stepping out of the alleyway. “Mom and Dad didn’t get home ‘til late last night. They woke me up, giggling and dragging the suitcases upstairs. I even heard Dad telling one of his cornball jokes.”

“They weren’t fussing?” Endora asked.

“No, not at all,” Selena answered and smiled. “That happy spell was the best thing ever.”

Mila and Demi showed up a few minutes later. Demi was in a good mood and ready to get back into the swing of things. Mila was dreading going back into the academy.

“What’s wrong, Mila?” Selena asked.

“Not sure.” She glanced over at her. “I just have a weird feeling about going back there.”

“Do you think they know we are the ones doing the magic?” Demi asked.

She shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe… I don’t really know, but I guess we will find out soon enough.”

 

4

 

The girls walked into the gate and across the grounds. Everyone was there. Most everyone Endora knew came up to her and hugged her to welcome her back.

Five minutes before the bell sounded, Selena grabbed Endora by the hand. “Gotta go,” she said and smiled as she pulled her friend away from the crowd.

Inside, Endora smiled. “I feel like a rock star,” she said.

Demi laughed and opened her locker. “By the time the bell rings, the fame will die. Trust me on that.”

“This place is always rush, rush, rush.” Mila said.

“Let’s go,” Selena said. “Two minutes till bell-”

A loud ring and the classroom doors shut.

“OMG,” Demi gasped. “That was the shortest two minutes ever.”

“Crap! We’re late!” Mila whined.

“Now we have to go to the office.” Endora said. She prepared for the worst.

Selena was the first in. She used some lame excuse about not being able to find her shoes. Demi went in next and whined about not being able to get her locker open. Endora was the third one in. She didn’t say too much other than she had a late start because… well, you know, the coma thing. Mila walked in and said she was late because someone knocked her down in the parking lot, and her papers scattered everywhere.

Funny thing was no one got a demerit. All the late complaints were excused. They walked out of the office and smiled at the good luck that showered over them.

Demi blamed it on the happy spell.

Just before first class ended, Sister Dagon announced over the intercom that all boys and girls were to report to the auditorium. Demi, Endora, Mila, and Selena grabbed their bags and took off. They were the first ones in and quietly took seats in the very back next to the exit doors.

 

5

 

The auditorium quickly filled up. Every seat was taken and some of the boys and girls stood at the sideline, waiting. The roar of chitter-chatter filled the place from one end to the other.

When Sister Gorgon waddled her fat self out onto the stage and stood in front of the microphone, no one was paying attention. She smacked her yardstick against the microphone and made a loud crackle slap. The students jumped.

“Attention!” she yelled. She remained silent until every voice and sound hushed. A pin could be heard falling to the floor. “We called you in here today to announce that Father Judas has retired from the academy.”

“He didn’t say anything about retiring,” Mila whispered. “He would’ve said something, wouldn’t he?”

“Wasn’t he too young to retire?” someone else whispered.

“Attention! Attention!” she yelled again and waited for the silence. “We are not without a Father to run the academy.” She scanned her eyes quickly over the congregation, hoping to catch someone standing out of the normal crowd.

Mila watched her, and then noticed a man dressed in black with black hair pulled back in a tight ponytail walked up the platform steps from the side. His piercing blue eyes shined like diamonds.

Endora scooted up to the edge of her seat. “OMG!” she gasped. “Look! You know who that is, don’t you?”

He looked rather odd, but normal. His long, moon-shaped face was one that Endora recognized right away.

He smiled and looked around at all the staring faces. “It is a pleasure to be here at Crow Hill Academy.”

“Seriously,” Selena said. “Is that Pegrah?”

Endora nodded her head. “It is,” she said. “That’s him, all right.”

“Shush,” Mila said. “Let’s hear what he says.”

“As you have been told-” Pegrah rubbed his chin and then stopped. “Father Judas is no longer here. It is not important why he left…”

For fifteen minutes, Pegrah rattled on about the new rules and how the academy would be much better with the changes he was bringing. The last words he said before he left the platform were, “My name is Father Pegrah. I expect to be called no less and demand the same respect that you gave to Father Judas.”

 

 

 

6

 

Later, before the dismissal bell rang, Demi left class five minutes early and quickly ran to the lavatory. On the way back, she hurried down the long hallway where she spotted Pegrah go into what used to be Father Judas’s office. She slowed down her pace as she walked by and stopped at the door, wondering if she should go in and confront him or not.

The door opened.

The boy in the black hoodie came out and brushed by her. She followed behind him. “Hey,” she whispered loudly. “That was the second time that you—”

He turned around to face her. His black curly hair framed his face. Demi noticed his high cheekbones and his green piercing eyes that seemed to look straight through her. “That you brushed by,” she continued. “The first was my friend Mila, and now me. You should be more well-mannered,” she said. “Maybe watch where you’re going.”

He stared at her without blinking and casually said, “I guess I should say I’m sorry.”

“That would be a start,” Demi replied. “What were you doing in Father Pegrah’s office, anyway?”

“Not that it’s any of your business… I didn’t catch your name.” he said.

Demi smiled and then quickly noted. “I didn’t give it.”

He turned and walked away, leaving her standing and staring at the back of his hoodie.

“Just freaking rude,” she mumbled.

The bell rang, and the doors opened.

Demi was the first to dart out the front door. The hallway filled with the sound of metal lockers opening and slamming shut and the loud chitter-chatter of boys and girls rushing around.

Endora, Mila, and Selena stepped out the front door where Demi was waiting at the foot of the steps. “There you are,” Endora said, staring over at her. “Where did you go?”

“To the lavatory,” she said. “I saw Father Pegrah.”

“Seriously,” Mila said, “Don’t call him that; it freaks me out.”

“What was he up to?” Selena asked.

“I don’t know,” Demi said and adjusted her bag on her shoulder. “He went into his office and shut the door.” She glanced over at Mila, “But, I did see that mysterious hoodie guy, and I spoke with him briefly. He was coming out of Pegrah’s office.”

“Did you ask what he was doing in there?” Endora asked.

“Yes,” Demi answered. “But he didn’t say. Pegrah was in there, so who knows? Oh, I did make him say he was sorry for brushing by Mila and then me.”

They walked out of the gate and away from the grounds. No one wanted to go straight home, so they headed over to the park to sit and talk about what to do now that Pegrah was in town and the new Father.

“You know, I don’t even want to go back there,” Mila said.

“If we disappear, who will keep an eye on Pegrah?” Selena asked.

“That’s right,” Endora said. “We are the only ones in Crow Hill that know he is up to no good.”

“We should tell someone,” Demi spoke up.

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Welcome Home, Gram

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

The tunnel finally opened up, and Gram quickly stepped out into the glowing light in front of a familiar English Tudor. She slowly walked over until she stood in front of the window. Nestled tight against the inside frame of the window the old wood sign read, “You are here.” She touched the glass and smiled.

She walked over and noticed the green face rooted into the door, something she was quite accustomed to. After all, she had been a witch first before she had been a ghost. Now that she had entered into the Witch Maze, she was a witch again, and this time, forever more. She put her hand on the knob and before she opened it, she whispered, “Time to wake up, old green man, Gram is here to stay.”

He opened his eyes and recognized her right away. “Welcome home, Gram,” he said with a big smile.

She opened the door and stepped inside.

Liddy climbed down from the ladder, holding a book in her arm. She looked over at the door. “Gram,” she said, placing her feet on the floor. “You’re not a ghost anymore. What brings you here?”

“You don’t know?” Gram asked.

“Oh, my,” she said and pushed her spectacles back a touch. “You don’t mean—”

Gram nodded her head. “I’m sorry, Liddy. As I made my decision where to spend eternity, the ancestors took a vote among themselves and summoned me to them from inside the tunnel. It seems you have been found guilty of breaking the oath.”

“I see,” Liddy answered. She looked down at her feet. “It’s true. They are within their right to expel me. I expected as much.” She walked over to the counter and grabbed her bag, already packed and stuffed full of her spell books and blue crystal ball. “I’m guessing you are taking my place here.”

Gram nodded her head, “I am.”

Liddy walked around the room, looking at the potions and all the goodies she had known so well over the years. “I will miss it,” she said and let out a big sigh. “However, with you, I trust the Tudor to be in good hands.”

Liddy stepped over to the mirror and placed her hand on the glass.

Nothing.

“Of course,” she whispered. “I am expelled, that means I can’t open the mirror to say a final good-bye.” She turned around to face Gram with tears swollen in her eyes. “Tell them I will miss them.”

 

2

 

Gram placed her hand on the mirror and said, “You can tell them yourself.”

The glass melted into a silver liquid substance. She took Liddy by the hand and stepped into the mirror with her. They disappeared into the liquid.

The ancestors watched sadly as both witches entered the room and stood before them.

“Hello, ancestors,” Gram said. “I have done what you asked, but I have also brought Liddy in here before you. I trust she deserves a moment to say goodbye before she is sent on her way.”

“Of course, she does,” Witch Gretel said with tenderness in her eyes. “Liddy, please understand we must abide by the rules. None of us wanted you to leave. It broke our hearts to do so.”

“Yes, indeed,” Witch Emma whispered. “Everything will work out,” she winked and leaned forward. “Count on it.”

Liddy looked around at all the pictures. “I do understand,” she said. “I have no hard feelings, and I am not sorry for breaking the oath. I did so only to warn those girls of the danger that was coming their way. They couldn’t have survived without interference.”

“We understand,” Sir Edmond said, sitting on the edge of his seat. He took a draw from his long-stem pipe. “We adore you, my dear. We understand why you did what you did, and any one of us would have done the same thing. But rules are rules,” he said and leaned back. “And they have to apply. Remember, there is always the consequence.”

Liddy walked back to the mirror. “I will miss you all terribly,” she said before she stepped through.

Gram looked around at all of them. The ancestors were weeping, the tears were flowing, and, once or twice, she heard the sound of a loud sniffle. There was not one dry eye in the room. “She will be all right,” she whispered to them and stepped back through the mirror.

 

Liddy was standing by the door with her bag waiting. “They are sending me back to the place I have dreaded to return to. I’m not sure I-”

Gram moved closer to her. “You will be just fine. There’s a house in Crow Hill waiting for you. Your broom will take you there. You have friends there: Cora, Margie, Faye, and, of course, Endora, Mila, Selena, and then there is Demi. You will be with family again.”

“Gram, will I see you?”

“Not as long as you remain expelled. The Witch Maze is closed to you.” She placed her hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Liddy.”

She patted her hand and whispered, “It will be okay. I will be all right.” She hugged Gram and stepped over the threshold. She shut the door behind her for the last time. “Appareo virga, meus domus!” she called out bravely. Suddenly, her broom appeared at her side. She hopped on and vanished into the pitch-dark.

 

3

 

Ingrid sat in the booth across from Dillon with a large cheese pizza between them. “So, what are we doing here?” she asked him as she grabbed another slice.

Dillon swallowed and smiled back at her. “Does everything have to have a reason?” he asked.

She laughed. “I guess not.”

“Too many people have to have a reason why this is done or that is done. I just think it is nice to have no expectations but to sit and talk to others,” Dillon smiled.

Ingrid tucked her short red hair back behind her ears. “Okay, I get it.” She took a sip of her coke. “OMG, you want to pump me for information on my baby sister. You know she is a freshman, right?”

He scooted to the edge of his seat. “Shush, it’s not like that,” he said. “I just want to know if she’s seeing anyone. Can she date? Do you think I have a chance with her?”

“Seriously, I don’t believe we are having this conversation about a freshman. not to mention the fact that she’s my baby sister.” She took another bite. “But why don’t you ask her yourself?”

Dillon looked straight into her blue eyes. “Because I’m shy, and I can’t handle the rejection.”

Ingrid busted out with her loud, annoying laugh. “Bull,” she said.

“Truth is, you’re a junior, and you don’t want anyone seeing you with a freshman.”

Outside, Mila stood staring into the window at them. Dillon didn’t see her there, but Ingrid noticed her out the corner of her eye.

Ingrid reached over and touched Dillon’s hand. “Don’t sweat it none. I’m sure you two will eventually get together. The answer to your question is no, she is not seeing anyone. Give her time. She will be fifteen this summer. She can date then… that is, if she wants to stop playing dogs and cats long enough to notice a boy or two.”

Dillon shook his head a little, not understanding what she meant by cats and dogs. He smiled and grabbed another slice.

Mila quickly turned from the window and hurried toward home. Selena, Demi, and Endora had already gone, and she was glad they didn’t see her heart get crushed.

“Taking up with Ingrid. What could he want with her?” she mumbled to herself right before she looked up and bumped straight into Pegrah. “OMG, I am so sorry,” she said. Then she realized who it was she was talking to.

“Careful, young Mila,” he said and looked straight into her eyes. “Keep your eyes open. Never take a step forward without watching where you go. One wrong step, and you’re down a rabbit hole.” He smiled and touched her necklace with his long skeletal fingers, “Such a beautiful sapphire. One would hate to lose such a lovely piece.”

She stared back into his piercing blue eyes. He took her by the arm, pulled her closer to him, and bent down to whisper in her ear. “I know what you and your witchy friends did, and don’t pretend you don’t know about the happy spell you pulled off.”

“I don’t—.” she started to say.

“Listen carefully. Stay out of my way, or I will make you sorry that you and your friends ever dared to interfere.” He let go of her and flashed a crooked smile at her.

She stood frozen as he walked away.

 

4

 

Liddy hopped off her broom.

Evanesco!” she whispered and watched it disappear.

She might have been expelled from the Witch Maze, but she wasn’t torn from her power; at least she was staying a witch.

It could have been worse, she guessed.

She looked around the neighborhood and took a deep breath, but she didn’t know how much worse it could have been than standing here in the mundanies world. She bent down, lifted the mat, and grabbed the key beneath. She opened the door and stepped inside. A perfect little abode to dwell in, courtesy of the ancestors.

She walked through the house and checked out every room. Everything had been provided. All she had to do was enjoy and live her eternal life out here.

She pushed her spectacles back and sat her bag down on the couch. She reached in, took out her blue crystal ball, and held it in her hand. She stared into it, concentrating on the Witch Maze.

Nothing came.

Only a thick fog that was impossible to see through.

She cleared her head and concentrated on Endora. A clear image formed. She saw Endora in her room on the phone. She watched as Cora opened her door. She walked in with a large cup of hot chocolate and handed it to Endora.

Liddy cleared her head again and concentrated on Pegrah. Her eyes widened when she saw an image come into focus – an image that she did not expect.

Pegrah was sitting on a bed in front of the television clicking through the channels. She peered in closer and saw the clock tower sticking up through the tops of the trees.

“Oh no,” she whispered, and then the image was gone. “Pegrah in Crow Hill,” she mumbled.

She placed the ball on the table, stood up, and paced back and forth across the floor. “If he is here, then he broke the oath, and that means that he is expelled too, which is not good,” she said. “Not for Crow Hill, or the girls, or me.”

A loud, hard knock sounded at the front door.

“Who is it?” she yelled.

She looked out the peephole and saw nothing but a large cardboard box. She hurried and opened the door to read the label. “You are here.” She smiled and bent down to drag the box inside.

Liddy pulled off the tape and lifted the top back. She reached in and pulled out a note. She read,

‘Liddy, I threw some things together that I thought might come in handy. Don’t worry about the register. Payment has been made Gram.’

Liddy sat down on the floor and pulled out the face bottles of potions, candles, incense, spell books, and a couple of guardian statues. Then she reached in and pulled out a picture of the Tudor. She sat staring at it as the tears in her eyes readied themselves to fall. She would miss the Witch Maze terribly. In fact, she already missed it.

She got up and hung the picture up on the wall facing the front door. She stepped back to enjoy it.

Perfect, she thought as she straightened it up.

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Broom Give Away

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

“And to think, I said I liked him and trusted him.” Mila said.

“Don’t beat yourself up about it,” Endora said, holding the phone to her ear. “We all talked to him and believed him. Who knew what he was up to or that he would turn out to be our sworn enemy?”

Mila walked across the floor and looked out her bedroom window. “He really scared me. He told me to keep my eyes open and never step forward without watching where I go. He said, ‘One wrong step, and you’re down a rabbit hole.’” She walked back to the edge of her bed and plopped down. “I really think he was threatening me.”

“It was a threat, all right,” Endora said.

Mila swung her legs over and pulled the blankets up to her waist. “Then he said he knew about the happy spell we did. He told me that we should stay out of his way or he would make us sorry that we dared to interfere, and then he let go of my arm, smiling with that creepy smile of his.”

“And this happened walking home?” Endora asked.

“Yes,” she nodded.

“Did you tell Demi and Selena yet?”

“You’re the first one I’ve called,” Mila told her.

“That’s okay,” Endora said. “Pegrah is scary, but don’t be scared. We’ll think of something. I promise. Listen, I have to go before Mom makes her second round to my room. I wish she would forget about that coma thing. She’s mothering me to death with her double-checking.”

Mila snickered. “Okay,” she said. “See you in the morning.”

Endora clicked off the phone and set it over on the nightstand. She lay back in bed.

Not long after, Cora came up the stairs and peeked at her between the door gap. Endora had fallen asleep. Cora pushed the door open a little further and watched Endora flip over against the wall. She smiled, pulled the door closed, and headed downstairs.

 

2

 

None of the girls got much sleep. They woke up yawning, tired, and feeling completely drained.

Slowly dragging through her morning routine, Endora walked into the kitchen and stuck a Pop Tart in the toaster.

Even Cora was running late. She stepped into the kitchen, stretching and trying to get energized. She yawned and poured herself a cup of coffee. “Sorry I didn’t fix that for you. I don’t know why, but I tossed and turned all night.”

“No problem,” Endora said, giving her a kiss on the cheek. “I do have to get going.”

Cora nodded and started to speak when the door shut behind Endora. She smiled and opened the morning paper. Suddenly, she made a loud gasping sound and almost spilled her coffee. “Oh, no,” she mumbled. She set her coffee down on the table and quickly jumped up and grabbed the phone from the counter.

Selena had walked out the front door when the phone rang.

Margie reached over the counter and picked it up. “Hello,” she answered.

“Margie, this is Cora. Have you seen the morning paper?”

“No,” she answered, and took a sip of her coffee. She pulled out a chair and sat down at the table. “I’m just sitting down. Selena just left. What’s going on?”

“We got trouble,” Cora said. “Look at the first page. It’s the headline.”

A long pause.

“Double trouble is more like it,” Margie said. “I honestly did not see this coming. I thought that problem was taken care of years ago, and now it’s back.”

“Neither did I,” Cora answered. “Call Faye and let her know. We can meet for coffee and talk.

“I’ll be there,” Margie answered.

 

Cora hung up the phone and dashed upstairs into her room. She opened a drawer, pulled out her clothes, and reached into the far back, grabbing a black stone. She looked at it, and sat it down on the dresser so she wouldn’t forget to stick it in her pocket before she left.

 

3

 

Pegrah was in his office when Sister Dagon slowly opened his door.

“Come in, sister,” he said. “Have a seat.”

She stepped in and sat down in one of the two chairs that faced his desk. “What is it, Father Pegrah?”

He looked straight into her eyes. “The council,” he said.

“What?” she asked, “How did you—?”

“How did I know? I know everything that is going on in Crow Hill and in this academy.” He stood up and walked around his desk. “I also know there are practitioners here,” he said and dragged his long skeletal finger over the top of the desk.

She stared up at him and pretended she didn’t understand. “Practitioners?”

“Don’t play dumb with me, sister. I am not Father Judas.” He placed his hands on her shoulders. “You see I have done, shall we say, my homework, and you will no longer report anything you find to Father Judas. He’s not here anymore. You will report it to me.” He gripped his hands on her shoulders. “Do I make myself clear?”

She nodded her head.

He grabbed the back of her chair, swung it around to face him and bent down. He looked straight into her eyes. “You will keep your eyes open and bring me names. That is all you will do. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, quite clear,” she said, trembling.

“Very good,” he said and walked over to the window. He looked down at the boys and girls on the grounds. “We have much work to do here at the academy. There will be some big changes coming.” He glanced back over his shoulder at her. “You may go now, Sister Dagon.”

She got up from the chair and quickly ran out of the office. She ran down the hallway, down the stairs, and to the back of the building to her tiny room. She rummaged through her dresser looking for the slip of paper Father Judas had given her. She checked her clothes, in the Good Book and under the mattress.

Nothing.

Pegrah reached in his pocket and pulled out a slip of paper with a number. He smiled, crumbled it up in his hand, and let it burst into flames.

When the flame had gone out and the paper was ashes, he dusted his hands off and stared out the window. He saw Selena, Demi, Mila, and Endora sitting at the oak tree.

“Ah, yes,” he mumbled, “The young adolescent witchy girls.”

After a few minutes, he turned from the window and picked up the phone.

 

4

 

“So, what are we going to do?” Mila ran her finger back and forth across the ground. “I really have a very bad feeling.”

Endora looked around at all the boys and girls huddled together in their own social groups, laughing, chatting, and horsing around. She looked back at Mila. “Don’t be scared,” she said. “I think I know what to do.”

Demi and Selena listened as Endora explained. “When the bell rings, we won’t go back to class, we’ll go to the park, then from there we can go see Liddy. She will have an idea what to do.” She looked down at her watch. “We have ten minutes left.”

“I’m all for ditching the rest of the day,” Selena said. “I don’t feel safe in there with that thing walking the hallways.”

“Agreed,” Demi said.

They sat talking back and forth until the bell rang and everybody rushed back into the academy, then they snuck out the front gate. They ran all the way down to the park and hid among the trees.

“Okay,” Selena said. “Here it goes.” She held out her hand and called “Appareo virga, Liddy domus!” She grabbed her broom and was gone. Endora, Demi, and Mila followed close behind her on their brooms.

“Seriously,” Mila said, getting off her broom. “Why are we here in front of this house? This isn’t the Witch Maze; we’re still here in Crow Hill.”

Endora looked around the neighborhood. “Broom… wow, did you ever mess up.”

The door opened slowly and…

Demi gasped and jumped off her broom. “OMG, Liddy, what are you doing in Crow Hill?” She ran over to give her a big hug.

Selena stared at her as if maybe she were an imposter. “That can’t be Liddy. She’s in the Witch Maze.”

Liddy stood at the door in her sweatpants and sweatshirt, staring at the four of them. “I assure you, it most certainly is me.” She motioned with her hand. “Get in here before anyone sees you.”

The girls carried their brooms inside and leaned them against foyer wall. Selena saw the Tudor in the picture. “Okay, it really is you,” she said.

“Yes, it is me, now, have a seat,” Liddy said. “It’s a long, bittersweet story, and we have to start at the beginning…”

 

 

 

 

5

 

“…So, that’s why I got expelled,” explained Liddy. “I broke the oath, and this is the consequence. Now I’m bound to the mundanies world forever. I can’t return to the Witch Maze, and I cannot die anymore.”

“It’s all my fault,” Endora said. “This mess is all because I didn’t listen in the first place to simple instructions. I’m sorry, Liddy.”

“No,” Selena mumbled. “It’s not your fault. We’re all guilty. We wanted to play with the magic first. It was more fun than learning. Mila was the only one that said no.”

Liddy sat down in the tall winged-back chair. “It doesn’t matter who is to blame. We’re all in this together, and we’re all in deep. Pegrah has it in for all of us.”

“If anyone is to blame, it’s Pegrah,” Mila said. “I blame him.”

“Listen,” Liddy pleaded. “This is all extremely complicated. You should go to Gram… right now. She will be able to help some. That will give me a little time to sort out a few things in my head.”

“Where is she?” Endora asked. “I can’t get—.”

“To the veil,” Liddy said. “Right, but she isn’t there anymore. She made her decision and moved on.” She looked straight at Endora. “Gram took my place. She is in the Witch Maze. Go to her. I will be here when you get back. Trust me, I’m not going anywhere.”

The girls grabbed their brooms and went outside. They sat down, held tight, and called out, “Virga Gram domus!” In a flash, they were standing in front of the Tudor.

They got off their brooms. Endora ran to the door and opened it without even paying attention to the green man, who was watching their every move.

“Gram!” she yelled at the top of her voice and leaned her broom against the shelf.

Selena, Mila, and Demi stepped in behind her and shut the door. They watched Gram step down from the ladder. Endora ran over to her, giving her a big hug. “Gram, I missed you so much!”

“And I missed you, dear,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Chapter Thirty

Bittersweet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

“It’s so good to see you, Gram,” Endora said. “I thought I would never see you again.”

Gram smiled and hugged her back. She glanced over. “Hello, girls. It’s good to see all of you.”

“Hi, Gram,” they answered. Smiles lit up their faces.

She turned loose of Endora. “Now, tell me what brings you into the Witch Maze?”

“Liddy,” Endora answered. “She said for me to come to you.”

“Oh, I see,” Gram said as she walked over to the counter.

“It’s a very long story, but I will, for the sake of time, give you the short version.” She glanced over at them. “Witches are older than time itself. Some say we have existed forever. Some of us choose to live in the mundanies world, and some of us here in the Witch Maze.”

“What about you, Gram?” Endora asked.

“I have lived a lifetime in the mundanies world and when I… died, I became a ghost for ten years. When my time came to decide, I picked the mundanie world, but the ancestors beckoned me in the tunnel, and I went to the Witch Maze instead to spend eternity to help family, a friend, and her friends.” She took a deep breath and sighed. “So, here I am.”

 

2

 

“Gram, does Mom know you’re a witch?” Endora asked.

“I will not answer that,” she said. “She is the one that needs to tell you. I will only speak for myself about that.”

“What about Liddy? Did you know her?” Demi asked.

“I met her in the mundanies world. I knew her before she first became a witch and after. There are lots of good witches and warlocks, but, as you know, there are bad ones. Liddy is one of the good witches.” She walked to the other side of the room, picked up a book, and brought it back to the counter. “When her baby was born, she named the baby and died shortly after. She became a ghost and was there for four years before I crossed the veil. We spent our time together until Liddy’s ten years were up, and then she made her decision to go into the Witch Maze. She didn’t want to return to the mundanies world. She was afraid to disrupt lives.”

“Where is the baby now?” Mila asked.

Gram slowly glanced over at Demi. “She’s here.”

“What?” Demi asked. “Seriously, are you saying that Liddy is my mom?”

“She is, but don’t be upset with her. She wanted to tell you herself.” Gram walked over and placed her hands on Demi’s shoulders. “She loves you so much. Liddy was so afraid of how you might react.” She let go of her shoulders. “So, she has been torn between telling you, or just letting your memory of her rest in peace.”

“I’m not angry,” Demi said. She looked into Gram’s eyes. “I just wish she would have told me herself.”

“How long have you been a witch, Gram?” Selena asked.

“Much like the four of you, I stumbled into it at a young age. I learned through studying and then experimenting with the magic. I wrote down much of what I learned in my writings and poems. Which you have now to read and study.”

“What about the stones?” Mila asked. “Who gave them to you?”

Gram smiled at her. “That is another long story all together. We don’t have time for that right now… but remind me later. Right now, you must go and get back to your world.” She looked over at Endora. “I know you are a strong witch, but you just came out of a coma. Don’t stay too long out of your body. You don’t want to try for a second coma.”

Endora agreed. She didn’t want to end up back in the hospital or in a rabbit hole. She walked over and took her broom. “I wish I could stay with you.”

“I know, dear,” Gram said and walked over to the door. “But you can come back to see me anytime. You know how.”

“We will,” she answered, giving Gram a hug. “I love you, Gram.” She opened the door and walked out.

Demi stopped before she walked out and looked at Gram. She gave her a big hug and thanked her for telling her about Liddy.

“You best get going, dear. Your mom is waiting to hug you, and I have the feeling you girls have much to do. Pegrah is still out there, you know.” Gram smiled and watched from the threshold as the four of them hopped on their brooms.

They waved to her and called out, “Virga Liddy domus!” They disappeared from her sight, and Gram shut the door behind her.

3

 

Liddy stood on the porch, waiting for them to show. Suddenly, they stood in front of her with their brooms at their sides. She invited them back in. “Is everything okay?” she asked, slowly closing the door. She walked over to the chair and plopped down in it.

Demi sat down on the couch and looked over at her. “Gram told me,” she said.

“Are you angry?” Liddy asked with a sadness in her eyes.

“I’m not angry,” Demi answered. “I don’t remember you. I was just born when you died, but that doesn’t mean we’re not mom and daughter. I knew that I felt something that connected us.”

Liddy took her spectacles off and wiped her eyes with a tissue that she had bundled in her pocket.

“Where does Pegrah fit into all this?” Endora asked.

“He is a very powerful, callous, and shrewd warlock.” She put her spectacles back on. “You girls should have never met him, not so early in your magic. That was not supposed to be.”

The time passed by as they sat and chatted about Pegrah. Then Liddy stood up. “You girls should go. It’s time for the academy to let out. You don’t want to arouse suspicions right now.”

They said their goodbyes and grabbed their bags. Demi was the last out. She stood up and walked over to Liddy. She gave her a big hug and said, “I’m really glad you are my mom. I love you.” She closed the door behind her

“I love you too, Demi,” Liddy said, and she sat back in the chair a little stunned but glad that, after all this time, her daughter did not hate her. Gram was right. She would have her family here.

4

 

Endora shut the door behind her. She was home. She dragged herself up the stairs, trying to process in her head all that had been said and all that was going on. She stepped inside her bedroom. She didn’t hear her mom in the kitchen or upstairs. She shut her door and called her broom, “Appareo virga!”

It’s not that she wanted to take off anywhere. She wanted to place a marking on it, so she would know at a glance it was her broom, and she could make a place for her hand to easily grip onto. She opened the dresser drawer and took out a long cord of white leather. She wrapped it around, near the top of the handle, and hung a pink fuzzy ball from it.

A few minutes later, the front door opened and shut. Cora walked in and set the box on the kitchen table. She darted upstairs and into Endora’s room. “I brought home pizza. Any takers?” she asked.

“Yes,” Endora said and bounced happily off the bed. “I’m starving,” She forgot all about her broom standing in the corner when she followed her mother out into the hallway.

Just before Cora went down the steps, she glanced over her shoulder. “Endora,” she said, smiling at her. “You should always keep your broom hidden from sight.”

Endora’s mouth fell partly open. She couldn’t believe what her mom just said. She followed her down to the kitchen, opened the fridge, and grabbed two Cokes. She set them down on the table. The kitchen was so quiet. It felt a bit eerie. She pulled out a chair and sat down.

Cora sat down across from her. She opened the pizza box and set a slice on her plate. She looked over at Endora.

“Mom,” she said. “You know, don’t you?”

“I know,” she said. “I’ve always… known.”

“Are you?” Endora asked.

“Yes,” she answered. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“If you knew, why didn’t you say something?” she asked. “Why did you keep secrets from me?”

“First of all, in my defense, every witch signs an oath in their generation. Sometimes they are the same, and sometimes a little different. They are bound to the oath they sign. If they break it, there is always a heavy consequence. I was bound by the oath. It wasn’t allowed for you to know about any of this until you came of the magic age.” She took another slice. “Now that you are fifteen, the truth can be told to you. You’re old enough to handle it… right?”

“What is the truth?’ Endora asked and reached for another slice.

“Well, the truth is that witches have always run in our family. The tradition goes way back with us.”

Endora shook her head and agreed. That much she had figured out on her own.

“I was fourteen… almost fifteen… when I found out that I was a witch. I learned magic on my own, just like you and your friends. I had a group of friends: Liddy, Faye, and Margie. We four were inseparable, just like you, Demi, Selena, and Mila are. Then Liddy died and passed into Dead Land. That left the three of us and the magic just sort of went dormant. We got on with life issues and raising our families. I guess you could say we forgot about being witches.”

“Liddy is here.” Endora spoke up.

“She’s what!” Cora couldn’t believe her ears. “Wait a minute,” she gasped. “She had to have broken the oath. That’s the only way she could come back.”

Endora’s face saddened. “It was my fault.” She explained, and they spent a couple of hours talking. When they finished, Endora bolted upstairs, called Selena and Mila to warn them that their moms knew their secret. And she told them that all their moms were witches, just like they were. Then she called Demi, making sure everything was all right with her.

She hung up the phone and grabbed her book out of her bag. She looked over at the broom still in the corner. “Evanesco!” she said. The broom disappeared from sight. She wrote everything down in her book.

What bothered her more than anything was Pegrah and how they could stop him. She hoped now that Liddy was here that she could help, and if she did, maybe their moms would help, too. Then, maybe, they would stand a chance against him. Without them, she wasn’t so sure they could do anything to stop him. Together, maybe they could all send him away forever somehow.

She closed her book and opened up Gram’s poetry book. She read through a few poems. She flipped through the pages, reading here and there, until she fell asleep. Gram’s words made her feel safe. It made her feel like Gram was close to her, watching over her, and protecting her. Little was she aware Gram was close and watching her closely from a crystal ball from the Witch Maze.

The next morning…

The alarm rang.

Endora rolled out of bed.

She put on her uniform, brushed her hair, and put on lip gloss. She stared at herself in the mirror and, for the first time, she imagined herself in a tall pointed black hat, a black dress, and hobnailed boots riding across a blue moon in a dark sky. “Okay,” she said. “I can own this.” I am a witch, she thought. A real witch.

She smiled at herself and adjusted her uniform. She grabbed her bag and put it up on her shoulder. It was time to go back to the academy. It was time to make a plan to defeat Pegrah.

Chapter Thirty-One

Fail to Recall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Liddy went from room to room, checking out her new home and getting used to everything in it. Being back in the mundanies world wasn’t easy to adapt to, but it was much harder to let go of the Witch Maze. It’s a lot harder than you think being immortal in a mortal world, she thought. It was, indeed, a harsh consequence, but she still had no regrets for interfering. If she had it to do over again, she would.

A soft knock at the front door.

She opened it to a long-missed face. “Cora!”

Cora threw her arms around Liddy and hugged her tight as she could. “Endora told me you were here.”

“Do the others know?” Liddy asked, inviting her in.

“No, not yet,” she answered.

“You want some tea?” Liddy asked, stepping into the kitchen.

“That would be great,” Cora answered as she sat down at the table. “We have a problem.”

“I know… it’s Pegrah, again,” she said, pouring the tea into the glasses. She walked over to the table and sat down. “Here you go, just the way you and I like it, ice cold with lemon.”

“You remembered,” she smiled.

“How could I forget?” Liddy pushed her spectacles back a touch and said, “Now, what are we going to do about Pegrah?”

Cora stared at her. “I don’t know. But I do know that Endora and her friends can’t handle him…not alone.” She took Liddy’s hand. “I missed you. I missed this… us… the magic.”

“Me too,” Liddy agreed. She stood up from the table, walked over to the hutch, and opened it. She grabbed a potion bottle from the top shelf. “This won’t stop him. It might slow him down a bit, at least until we can figure something else out.” She put the bottle down in front of Cora.

Cora took it and looked at the stern face. “Is this what I think it is, a—.”

“A forgetting brew? Yes, it is.” Liddy smiled.

“You got to be kidding me.” Cora set the bottle back down on the table. “You really think we can make him forget without him coming back at us, or worse, the kids?”

“I think it’s all that we can do,” Liddy answered. “At least, so he won’t suspect anything, and it will buy us time until we figure out better what to do.”

“How will we get it near him?” Cora asked. “You know we have to catch him off guard.”

“I think Mila will be our best shot at it,” Liddy answered. “We can have her spill it on him. He won’t suspect her since he thinks she is threatened by him.”

“I hope you’re right,” Cora said. “Remember last time dealing with Pegrah? It wasn’t so easy.”

 

 

2

 

Selena opened the front door and jumped. “OMG!” she gasped. “You scared the life out of me.” She put her hand against her thumping chest.

“Sorry, dear,” Faye said. “I was just getting ready to knock. I came to see your mom and you.” She stepped inside. Mila followed in behind her.

“Mila, what’s going on?” Selena whispered and pulled her aside.

She shrugged. “I don’t know,” she whispered back. “Mom just told me to get my bag and that we were coming to your house.”

“Where’s Ingrid?” Selena whispered.

“She isn’t included,” Mila answered.

Faye went into the kitchen and sat down at the table with Margie. Selena and Mila sat down across from them. They stared at each other, then Faye spoke up. “Both of you already know that Margie and I are witches. And, I assume, you know Cora is also.”

Selena looked over at her mom. “Why didn’t you tell me, Mom? Don’t you trust me?”

Margie reached across the table and put her hand on Selena’s. “It’s not that at all. I do trust you, but we signed an oath and it bound us to it. We couldn’t say anything to you until you became of the witch age, or else we would have taken on the consequence.”

“What was the consequence?” Mila asked.

Margie glanced over at Faye. “We don’t know,” she said.

“And we didn’t want to find out,” Faye said.

“So, what now?” Selena asked.

Margie let go of her hand. “I don’t know. Cora called me, and I called Faye; we met for coffee and talked.”

“You know about Liddy?” Mila asked.

“No. What about her?” Faye answered.

“She’s not in the Witch Maze anymore. She’s here in Crow Hill,” Selena said.

Margie and Faye looked at each other with smiles on their faces. “That is good news,” Margie said. “We couldn’t be happier. Except for the oath. Liddy must be sad about that.”

“But there is a horrible problem, and that is Pegrah,” Faye said. “You girls have made contact with a horrible warlock – a sworn enemy of ours.”

A knock at the front door interrupted them.

Margie jumped up from the table and ran into the foyer. She opened the door. “Demi, Cora, Endora,” she said and smiled. “Liddy!” She grabbed her and gave her a tight hug. “We just found out you’re here. I can’t believe it. How I missed you.”

Liddy hugged her back and followed Cora and Margie into the kitchen.

Faye stood up and gave her a hug. “Liddy, so glad you’re back,” she said.

Margie, Faye, Liddy, and Cora sat around the table, talking about past times while the girls listened in and ditched another day at the academy. They all chatted together about the present and the unfortunate time that was drawing near with Pegrah. Endora sat and listened to every word. She thought it was so witchy cool – two generations of witches at the same table.

“We know he won’t go away easy,” Cora said. “He’s already latched himself onto Crow Hill by taking over Father Judas’s place. Who knows what that monster is thinking.”

“Why here?” Mila asked.

“I can answer that,” Liddy said. “Pegrah is quite fond of the place. After all, it used to be his home.”

“Which is the reason he wants control,” Demi whispered.

“Yes, and the fact he wants to take over the world one step at a time,” Cora said. “Then the Witch Maze. Let’s face it… he wants it all.”

“Well, we can’t let him have it,” Liddy said. “And I have a plan that I think will at least buy us some time until we can come up with something better and more permanent.”

“I think her plan may work,” Cora said. “We should act on it immediately. Otherwise, Pegrah will destroy everything. Here’s what we need to do…”

 

3

 

“You know what to do, then?” Liddy asked and looked straight into Mila’s eyes.

Mila nodded and took the potion.

“Remember, you must pour it on him, and whatever you do, don’t let him see the bottle,” Cora said.

“Wait, I know,” Selena interrupted. “Take a paper cup and pour the potion into it and when you see him at lunch—.”

“Casually bump into him,” Margie said and smiled. “You know, a slight accident.”

“Remember,” Faye said. “Pegrah is not unwise. He will see right through you… unless you are very good at playing the fumbling fool.”

“You can do it, Mila.” Endora said and snickered.

“Right,” Demi agreed. “He will never suspect Mila.”

“I can do it,” Mila said. “What happens after?”

Liddy glanced around the table. “He will forget.”

“For how long?” Demi asked.

“That, we don’t know,” Liddy answered. “It’s risky, but it’s what we have for now, and that will have to do until we figure out something else to stop him.”

“We have to find his weaknesses,” Faye said. “Then we can work further.”

“Him forgetting will buy us a little time,” Margie added. “And time is crucial for all of us.”

“Face it, Mom,” Selena said. “It’s crucial for the whole world and the Witch Maze.”

Faye, Margie, Liddy, and Cora looked at each other and grabbed each other’s hands. “It’s good to be back,” Liddy said. “Let’s put this warlock out of business.”

“Agreed,” the two generations of witches said together.

 

4

 

The next day…

Pegrah entered the lunchroom and sat down at a table with the hoodie boy. Demi, Selena, Mila, and Endora sat across the room from them. “You got the cup and the potion?” Demi asked.

“I got the cup,” Mila said.

“Good, let’s get this over with. Here’s the potion.” Selena poured the bubbling liquid into the cup.

“Mila, be very careful,” Endora said, handing the cup slowly to her. “Don’t spill it on you, or anyone else but Pegrah.”

Mila stood up with the cup in her hand and carefully walked the long way around to the table where Pegrah was sitting. Before she got there, she stopped and looked nervously across the lunchroom at the girls. She shut her eyes for a second, took a deep breath, and charged toward the table like a runaway bull.

It was the moment of a perfect clash.

Mila let out a yelp just before her cup hit over the back of his shoulder and the potion spilled over him. “So sorry,” she said and picked herself up off the floor.

Pegrah jumped to his feet. He was taken by surprise and didn’t have time to think that it had been anything but an accident. The boy in the hoodie didn’t move. He calmly sat by and watched as Mila cowered.

“I’m sorry, Father Pegrah,” she said. “I must have tripped over one of the chairs or something.” She looked back behind her at the floor.

Pegrah snapped around and looked at her with a hard glare. He brushed off his shirt. “Well, Mila, aren’t we the clumsy one today. Watch where you step more carefully. After all, it would be a shame if you got hurt in your awkwardness.” He didn’t give her time to speak. He left her standing with her mouth gapped slightly open and walked away.

The boy in the hoodie stopped staring and quickly got up from the table. He followed Pegrah out the door.

Mila walked between the tables and over to the place where she had been sitting with a grin on her face. No one had paid much attention to the incident, except for Endora, Selena, and Demi, who had watched every move.

“OMG, you did it. You were totally perfect,” Demi said and smiled. She patted Mila on the back.

Mila sat down. Her hands were shaking.

Selena laughed. “Seriously, you are totally shaking.”

“She did it, though,” Endora said. “She really did it.”

“Liddy said it would take effect immediately. So, about right now.” Selena looked up at the clock. “The potion should start working on him.”

“Here’s to the countdown,” Mila said. She took a drink. It was hard to believe she just put a spell on a warlock. What have I done? she thought.

 

5

 

Pegrah slammed the door to his office and took off his shirt as he walked across the room. He opened the closet, grabbed a clean one from the hanger, and threw it on. “Mila, such a clumsy little witchy girl,” he mumbled. “How someone like that…”

The door opened and the boy in the hoodie walked in. He plopped down in the chair, threw his legs over the arm, and slid the hood off his head. His piercing green eyes stared blankly at the wall.

Pegrah sat down at his desk. “Now, we were discussing—”

The boy looked over at him. “Revenge.”

Pegrah leaned forward. “It’s not about revenge. It’s merely about teaching young pups who their master is.” He opened the drawer and grabbed a black stone. He looked at it very carefully, turning it back and forth in the light. “I have had this stone since I can long remember. It was given to me by an ancestor. There is one more person that has one just like it.” He stared over at the hoodie boy. “My sister.”

The hoodie boy lifted his legs up and turned around straight in the chair. “Sister,” he said. “You never said you had a sister.”

“Put it this way, witches have always run in the family. The tradition goes way back with us.” Pegrah put the stone back in the drawer. “She and I are two opposites who truly hate one another. I long for the day I can destroy her.” He stood up and walked over to the window. “And I know that she longs for the same.”

“Where is she now?”

“She is close by.” Pegrah stared out the window at the gate. “Somewhere outside this gate—.”

“In Crow Hill,” the hoodie boy finished the sentence. “You should have told me and not kept this secret.” He slammed his fist on the desk. His face quickly flashed to an amalgamation of a goblin and then back to the hoodie boy’s young, innocent face.

“I know what I am doing.” Pegrah slightly turned around. “And for the record, as long as your presence is here at the academy, you will be called Jacob Smith. Now, go find me that stone… Jacob.”

Jacob made a low grunt sound, got out of the chair, and slowly walked across the floor. He shut the door behind him and wondered down the hallway, disappearing down the steps.

Pegrah walked across the floor and out the door into the hallway.

“Oh, Father Pegrah,” Sister Gorgon said, carrying in a huge pile of folders in her arms. “I have those files that you said you needed me to get.”

Pegrah stared at her almost as if the words had slipped right by him.

“Father, are you okay?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said slowly. “I’m fine, just feeling a slight woozy. Thank you, sister, if you would be so kind to put them in my office on the desk. I will see to them later.”

Sister Gorgon sat the files on his desk and walked back out of the room, closing the door behind her.

 

6

 

Pegrah made his way downstairs.

The girls followed his every step and watched his every move. Then Endora got a bright idea in her head to boldly test the potion. The four of them walked behind him whispering loudly.

Pegrah turned around and smiled. “Girls, aren’t you supposed to be in the library with your class? Better hurry along before they count you absent.”

“OMG,” Demi whispered. She walked quickly down the hallway past him. “He didn’t even threaten us.”

“I think it’s working,” Endora said.

“How can we be sure?” Mila asked.

Selena grinned and said, “Wait here.” She walked back to Pegrah and stopped him with a question. “Father Pegrah, I almost forgot, I haven’t done that essay you wanted me to write. I couldn’t find the information I needed.”

Pegrah stood still, almost frozen, staring into her blue eyes. “Essay… I’m sorry, dear. I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage. I don’t recall asking you to do an essay.” He rubbed his chin. “What’s it on?”

“Mazes,” she said quickly.

“Mazes,” he repeated with a smile and a slight giggle. “Well, we can never know enough about them. I am sure you will get it done over the weekend.” He patted her back with his hand. “Now, run along before you and your friends end up with a demerit.”

Selena quickly walked back to where the girls were waiting for her. “Seriously, he is acting totally different. It has to be working,” she said. “He actually seems very pleasant.”

“Liddy was right,” Mila said. “It’s working. He has forgotten he is a warlock.”

“We have to let our moms know,” Demi said.

“Hang on,” Endora said, taking her cell phone from her bag. She sent a text to her mom. “Meet us at the Pizzeria after last class.”

Cora heard the ding on her phone, alerting her to the message. She picked it up and read. She sent it to Liddy, Margie, and to Faye. Cora was sure the potion had worked, and what Endora had to tell her had to be something about it. Then she thought, what if they messed up? What if that was Pegrah? She would worry herself until it was time to meet the girls.

The day passed, the last bell rang, and the girls made their way along the sidewalk to the Pizzeria. Dillon saw them coming. He came off his break early, opened the door, and went inside.

Cora, Faye, Margie, and Liddy sat, eating pizza and waiting on the girls to walk through the door. “I wish they would hurry and get here.” Cora said, “I’m anxious to know if it worked or not.”

“They will be here soon,” Liddy said. “Don’t worry, the forgetting potion will work. Even Pegrah is not immune to magic.” She took a drink of her coke. “The only problem is… a loophole.”

“When he comes to suspect something, he will eventually find or stumble his way into the loophole,” Margie said.

“Yes,” Faye nodded her head. “And we better have a plan by then, or it is going to be very bad for us.”

Chapter Thirty-Two

Leap of Faith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Dillon waited behind the counter. A minute later, the door opened and Mila, Endora, Selena, and Demi walked in.

“There they are.” Liddy said, watching them walk over to the booth. She scooted over. “Take a seat, girls, and spill your guts.”

“Well, do tell.” Faye said. “What happened?”

Endora told them about everything that Mila had done and what Selena did to test if the potion was working or not. “So,” she said, “we believe it’s working.”

“That was very brave of both of you,” Cora said, “But Selena—.”

“Checking could’ve backfired,” Margie said, with a stern look of correction.

“But it didn’t,” Selena said. “And now we know.”

Mila left them at the booth talking while she wandered over to the counter. She sat on a stool and propped her elbows up.

Dillon made his way slowly over to where she was. “Hi,” he said with a big smile.

“Hi back,” Mila answered. “Where’s Ingrid? I thought you two were an item.”

“Huh?” He looked strangely at her. “Where did you hear that?” He reached into the cooler for a Coke and slid it across the counter to her.

“Thanks,” she said. “It’s not what I heard.” She popped the top and took a swallow. “It’s what I saw.”

He stood there, staring across the room, trying to remember what she was talking about, and then it hit him. “Seriously,” he said. “You’re talking about the day we were in the booth. That was nothing. We were talking about you.”

“About me?” she asked, arching her left eyebrow.

“I was asking about you, silly,” he said.

“Really? About me?” she asked and grinned.

Faye glanced over and watched them talking. “What’s going on there?” she asked.

Selena snickered. “Dillon Percy, that’s what’s going on. I think he has a crush on her.”

 

2

 

Kitty stared into the crystal ball. He could barely see through the thickness of the fog, and then Selena’s face was there and only for a second before it faded. He let out a long sigh and placed his paw on the ball. He missed her. He missed the girls.

Snow crept into the room and jumped up on the desk. “So, tell me, Kitty, why bother missing them?” He sat down and peered into the crystal ball with him.

“I miss my home, my box, and I miss the girls. Things are different here,” Kitty answered. He turned his head away from the ball and looked over at Snow. “Be honest, don’t you miss the mundanies world?”

Snow sat down, licked his paw. “Never been there. Well, not that I remember. All I know is the Witch Maze and what they say about the Mundanies world. It’s not a good place to be.”

“Oh,” Kitty said, hanging his head down. “I like it there.”

“Besides, you can talk here, thanks to Pegrah,” Snow said with a grin. “How can the mundanies world equate with that?”

“It can’t,” Kitty said. “But it had love, and that’s not here.”

“Bah… what’s love anyway?” Snow asked. “It’s overrated.”

“I take it you don’t know what it’s like.” Kitty jumped down from the desk. “That’s a shame. It’s really nice to have someone that loves you.”

“Where are you going?” Snow asked, following quickly behind him. “We can’t leave the house. We’ll get in trouble. You’ll get me in trouble.”

“Trouble. As long as I’m away from the mundanies world, I’m in trouble,” Kitty said. The front door opened. He walked out and down the pathway. Before he reached the corridor, he turned to see Snow slowly walking behind him. “I’m going back,” he said. “You can’t stop me.”

“Please, don’t leave, Kitty. I have no friends here,” Snow said. “Besides, I promised Pegrah I would take care of you. What do you think he will he do to me when he comes back and you’re gone into the mundanies world? Or what if… he catches you there?”

“You could come with me,” Kitty said. He walked out into the distance. “Come on!” he yelled. “Come with me, Snow!”

Snow walked closer behind him. “I don’t think you understand,” he yelled. “I like it here, and what about Pegrah?”

“What about him?” Kitty answered back. “He’s the reason I’m not with those who love me. If it wasn’t for him, I would be at home, in my box, and with the girls.”

Snow caught up to him and made him stop to listen. “If you leave, you won’t be able to talk again,” Snow said, sternly. “Pegrah saved you from being a mortal cat. Not many cats get that opportunity. Why would you throw that away? You have it good here.”

“I’ll take the chance on not speaking again. Are you coming with me, Snow, or not?” Kitty asked one last time. “Or are you going to stay here trapped under Pegrah’s rule.”

“How can you turn your back on this place?” Snow asked.

“Like this,” Kitty answered. He took off running into the dark.

Snow stood in the middle of the corridor and let out a loud “Meow, come back, Kitty.” He waited in the same spot for hours alone, expecting Kitty would come back.

He never returned.

Snow left and went back to the manor where he cowered inside, trying to think of a plan to outsmart Pegrah.

Kitty disappeared into the pitch black and ended up on the sidewalk a few houses down from Selena’s home. He let out a meow and walked the neighborhood, looking for any clues that would show him which house to go to. He thought he knew, but wasn’t exactly sure he was right. So, he waited outside the place that he hoped would be it. If he was right, he would see Selena soon. She would see him and everything would be just fine.

He sat down by a tree. At first, he meowed, then he smiled, and licked his paws, hoping she would soon notice him.

Chapter Thirty-Three

We’re Not Done

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

“Seriously,” Selena said. She stood by the door of the Pizzeria. “I knew he liked you.”

Mila smiled and said, “He told me he was asking Ingrid about me. I thought… well, never mind what I thought.”

Jacob came around the corner wearing his hoodie. He seemed to be in a hurry and almost bumped into Endora. He grabbed her arm. “Sorry,” he said. His hoodie fell off.

Endora steadied herself. “It’s okay,” she said, staring at him. “You caught me off guard.” She quickly looked over at her friends.

“OMG,” Demi said rudely. “Is that all you ever do? Bump into people?”

“Sorry, again,” he said, looking back at Endora. “But since we all keep bumping into each other, guess I should at least tell you my name. I’m Jacob… Jacob Smith.”

“Endora,” she said and smiled.

“Well, since you always seem to be bumping into us, I am Demi.”

“Mila,” she said. “I’m the other one you almost knocked over.”

“You haven’t knocked me over yet, but I assume I am next. I am Selena.”

“You four hang out all the time, don’t you?” he asked, staring down the street.

“Yes, we do, always,” Mila spoke up. “Looking for someone?”

He smiled and answered, “Father Pegrah. He’s supposed to meet me here.”

“Of course,” Demi belted out. “Why?”

“Unlike you, I don’t have friends. Father Pegrah and the sisters have been kind to me. He’s helping me out. See, I’m an orphan, and the academy has been good enough to take me in,” Jacob smiled, covering his lies.

“Well, good luck with that,” Selena smarted off.

A few minutes later, Pegrah came walking up behind them. “Hello, Jacob. Hello, girls. It’s nice to see you all outside of the academy.” He smiled and opened the door. “Shall we?” he asked and glanced around at their faces.

“No,” Endora said. “I mean… we just had pizza. We’re on our way home.”

Jacob shrugged his shoulders and walked inside.

“Well, that’s too bad you girls won’t be joining us.” Pegrah smiled with a big grin. “Perhaps some other time, then.”

“Perhaps,” Demi answered.

 

2

 

Cora opened the door just before Endora walked into their house. “There you are,” she said. “We were just talking about you and the girls.”

“We,” Endora said, looking strangely at her.

“Yes, dear, we’re in here,” Liddy yelled.

Endora followed the sound of her voice into the kitchen. The four of them were gathered around the table: Liddy, Cora, Faye, and Margie.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“We wanted to give you something, Endora,” Faye said. “Have a seat.”

“Weren’t we all just together at the pizzeria?” Endora asked, sitting down.

“Yes, but we couldn’t have done it there,” Margie said.

“To many peering eyes, dearie,” Liddy spoke up.

Cora ran upstairs to the linen closet. She moved the pile of mix-matched sheets over to the side and grabbed the box from the far corner of the shelf. She ran back downstairs and sat herself down at the table. “Remember when Gram sent you the box?”

“Yes,” Endora said, looking over at her.

“Well, there was another box that she told me to hold onto until the time was right.” Cora reached over and sat the box on the table in front of her.

“Gram wanted to make sure that the four of you girls had accepted the magic and were working together,” Faye said. “Like a group.”

“Coven,” Liddy corrected her.

“Doesn’t matter,” Margie said. She reached over and opened the box. “Group, Coven, Sisters… it’s all the same.”

Endora leaned over the table and looked inside. She reached in with her fingers and picked up the diamond stone necklace. “OMG! This is way off the charts,” she said.

“We thought you would love it,” Cora said, smiling. “It is the fifth stone.”

“The one representing spirit,” Liddy said.

“Wait,” Endora said. “You mean, there is another one of us out there somewhere in Crow Hill?”

They nodded their heads.

“There is another of you, and you must find her to complete the circle,” Margie said. “We’re going to need her.”

“Yes, the circle needs to be complete before Pegrah remembers everything,” Margie said.

“It’s beautiful, just like the rest of them.” Endora held it up at the light. “So, how do we find her?”

“Simple,” Liddy said, reaching into her pocket. “Here is a spell that you girls must do together tonight.”

“Tonight,” Endora said, “But where?”

“Here,” Cora quickly answered. “The girls can stay here for the weekend. “I will go and stay at Liddy’s.”

“Call them,” Margie said. “Tell them to get over here.”

Endora took out her phone…

 

3

 

Kitty stood in the yard staring up at the house that he hoped was the right one. The porch light was on and most of the lights in the house were on. He stared at the third floor and watched what he believed was Selena’s window. Suddenly, there she was. It was the right house. He saw her moving back and forth across her room. He sat and waited. It’s her, he thought happily.

Selena threw a change of clothes in her bag, along with her phone and her book. She dashed downstairs, into the foyer, and opened the front door. She closed the door behind her and walked out into the yard.

Selena didn’t notice Kitty was there. Her mind was occupied with getting over to Endora’s. It had been awhile since she had slept over at somebody else’s house.

She walked down the sidewalk, hurrying along the way, when she heard a loud meow behind her. She stopped, frozen in her tracks, and turned around.

“Kitty, is that you?” she yelled.

She reached down to pick him up. “No way,” she said. “Don’t you know I have been looking everywhere for you? You had me totally worried. We didn’t know if you were coming back or what, and now you’re here. Where have you been?”

Kitty let out a soft purr and smiled. This is what he had been missing. This is what no one could give him in the Witch Maze.

“Well, let’s go,” she said. “You can’t stay here without me to watch out after you. Obviously, you can’t be trusted not to wonder off.”

She walked all the way, talking and asking Kitty all kinds of questions that she knew he couldn’t answer. He just sat in her arms listening. He didn’t care how much she rattled on. He smiled. He was home.

 

4

 

A soft knock.

Demi opened the front door. Her eyes widened. “OMG, you found Kitty!” she took him in her arms and squeezed him tight. “How?” she asked.

“What’s all the commotion about?” Endora asked as she walked into the foyer.

Mila followed behind her.

“Seriously,” Endora said. “Where did you find him?”

“Kitty,” Mila said, reaching over to pet him. “He is still so cute.”

“I came out the front door of my house and started walking, and there he was right behind me,” Selena said and smiled.

“Are you sure it’s him?” Mila asked. “It isn’t a look-a-like or anything?”

Selena reached over for him. “Of course, I’m sure it’s Kitty.”

They walked upstairs. Endora shut her bedroom door. “I have something to show you all.” She looked over at Selena. “Did you bring it?”

“Yes,” Selena answered. She reached into her bag and pulled out the chest.

Endora took it and lifted the top. She set it down on the dresser, opened a drawer, and pulled out the diamond stone.

“OMG,” Demi said. “That’s seriously gorgeous.”

“I know,” Endora said. “Gram held off giving it to us until we were ready. Mom’s been hanging onto it all this time.” She placed the diamond in the chest and handed it back to Selena.

“Why?” Selena asked, sticking it back into her bag.

“Gram wanted to make sure that we had accepted the magic and were working together.” Endora placed it into the box and shut the lid. “It’s the fifth.”

“Spirit,” Selena said.

Mila looked at Endora and said, “So that means…”

“It means that there is another one of us in Crow Hill,” Endora said. “We have to find her and complete the circle.”

“How?” Demi asked.

Endora opened her book and pulled out a piece of paper. She unfolded it. “Liddy gave us a spell that we have to do tonight. That’s why we have the house for the weekend. Mom has never ever left me alone with the house and friends for a whole weekend, so this has to be very important.”

Selena took the paper from her hand and looked it over. “We have to do this.” She handed it over to Demi. “I’m in.”

“Me too,” Demi said, and passed it over to Mila.

Mila scanned her eyes over the page. “Count me in,” she said.

“Good, because we all have to do it – that’s why we are here – or it won’t work.”

 

5

 

Liddy stretched out her legs and put her feet on the coffee table. “Might as well sit down, Cora. You’re not going to make things go any faster pacing the floor.”

She walked over to the window and peeked out between the slats. “You’re probably right.” She turned around and glanced over at Liddy. “What time are they supposed to do the spell?”

“Nine, and it has to be tonight,” Liddy said. “It’s the full moon.”

Cora plopped down beside her on the couch. She glanced over at Liddy and said, “You know, I really missed you.”

“Me too,” Liddy smiled.

“So, what do you plan on doing now that you’re back here, obviously to stay?”

Liddy shrugged her shoulders. “Not sure, but I know whatever it is, I will be right here in Crow Hill.”

“I assume it’s our right as the elders to come together and form the witch’s counsel and renew our magic.” Cora reached into her pocket for her black stone and laid it on the table.

Liddy sat up and pushed her spectacles back. “I haven’t seen that stone in a while.”

“I keep it in the dresser, but for some reason I thought it should stay close to me.” She picked it up. “Call it a funny feeling.”

“Are you thinking about him… your brother?” Liddy asked.

“Yes, and I don’t want to,” she answered.

“I wish I could remember what he looked like.” She turned the stone around in her hands. “But we were separated at a young age. All I can remember is hating him.”

“You never told anyone, have you?”

“No,” Cora said, shaking her head. She put the stone back on the table. “I never told anyone; there was never a reason to bring him up. We hate each other.”

“So, Endora doesn’t know she has an uncle out there somewhere?”

“Right,” Cora answered. “She doesn’t need to get mixed up with him. I don’t want Endora thinking bad about her kind. Family is important to her. I don’t want her to be… disappointed.”

“Could be… after all these years, he has changed,” Liddy said. “You know how some family can be.”

Liddy looked over at the large clock that hung on the far wall. “It’s almost time,” she said. “And I think you are right, we should form a witch’s counsel and renew our magic so we can oversee the girls and the new one coming in. They have so much to learn.” She leaned forward. “Besides, I think getting us back together is fate, don’t you?”

 

6

 

“Hurry up, Mila,” Selena said, waiting at the bathroom door. “Everything is ready… except me.”

The door opened.

Mila stepped out in a plain white cotton gown.

“That looks adorable on you,” Selena said.

Mila walked down the hallway and into Endora’s room. Demi and Endora had already changed and were wearing the same cotton gowns.

“Geesh, we look like we came off the same discount rack.” Mila laughed and plopped down on the bed beside Kitty.

“As soon as Selena gets in here, we’ll start,” Endora said, walking over to the window. She looked up at the moon.

“It’s almost time,” Demi said.

Endora heard the bathroom door open. “We’re ready,” she said.

They walked out into the hallway with Kitty behind them.

Selena was waiting by the stairs in her white gown, and she fell in line as Endora led them downstairs and into the kitchen. Five large white candles sat in a row. They took their places around the table.

Endora looked down at the paper she carried and said, “Grab the hand next to you, and concentrate hard. We need this to really work.”

Chapter Thirty-Four

The Calling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

They shut their eyes, and Endora said the words, “Imperium gratia ortus visvires addo quinque!” When the last word was out, one candle lit by itself.

Selena repeated the words in a whisper. The second candle lit.

Mila was next. She whispered the words, and the third candle lit.

Demi whispered the words after Mila, and the fourth candle lit.

Together, they raised their voices, “Imperium gratia ortus visvires addo quinque!” and the fifth candle lit.

They opened their eyes to five candles burning. They released their hands, and Endora touched her emerald stone with her fingers. “By the power of earth, I command the fifth to come.”

Demi placed her fingers on her ruby stone. “By the power of fire, I command the fifth to come.”

Mila placed her fingers on her sapphire stone. “By the power of water, I command the fifth to come.”

Selena placed her fingers on her citrine stone. “By the power of air, I command the fifth to come.”

Kitty laid on the kitchen counter, watching the candles burn. He was happy to be back with them, and he wasn’t a bit sad that he had left the Witch Maze. It was much better here.

Mila clicked on the lights, and they walked out of the kitchen into the living room, letting the candles burn.

“Should we blow them out?” Demi asked, following behind her.

“No,” Endora said and plopped down on the couch. “Liddy said to let them burn until they go out themselves. She made herself clear we are not to interfere.”

“What happens now?” Mila asked.

“Who knows?” Selena said.

“Well, whoever it is has to come to Crow Hill, if she’s not already here,” Endora said.

“So, how will we know her?” Mila asked.

Endora shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine.”

“Question,” Demi said. “Will she even fit in with us?”

“She has to,” Selena said. “She’s the fifth.”

 

2

 

Jacob stood in front of the house, staring into the dark with the hoodie over his head. He pulled out his locater compass and watched as it pointed straight ahead. “It’s there all right,” he whispered. He moved to the side window and saw a woman lying on the couch. He noticed the black stone on the table. “There it is,” he mumbled.

He waited outside until they fell asleep. He walked around to the front door and quietly forced it open.

He stepped into Liddy’s home without making a sound and lightly stepped across the floor until he was standing within reach of the table. He slowly reached down and put his hand almost on the stone.

Cora, feeling the negative energy, opened her eyes and saw the hooded figure. She jumped up and grabbed the stone. “Who are you?” she asked.

Liddy came running into the room, “What’s going on?” She glanced over at Cora and flicked on the light switch. “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” she answered. “But he has some explaining to do.”

Liddy glared hard at him. “It was Pegrah, wasn’t it? He was the one who put you up to breaking in here.”

Jacob grinned as his face flashed from an amalgamation of goblin back to a young man. “I am here for the stone,” he said.

“Did you see that?” Cora asked Liddy. “What do you want with my stone?” she snapped. She held it tightly in her hand.

He laughed cold and sharp. “It is Pegrah who wants the stone. Personally, I couldn’t care less about it, but you see, what you have seems to be sentimental to him.”

Cora glanced over at Liddy with a look of fright across her face. “It can’t be,” she said.

“So, who are you?” Liddy asked. “His troll boy?”

Jacob stared at Cora. “Are you his sister?”

“No,” she snapped. “Never.”

He lunged at Cora and tried to snatch the stone from her hand.

Liddy snapped her fingers and said, “I think it’s time to sit.” A chair slid across the floor, pushing his legs out from beneath him. He plopped down and Cora snapped her fingers. A rope appeared and wrapped itself tightly around his wrists and then his ankles.

“What do you think you’re doing?” he asked, shuffling his feet back and forth, trying to loosen the ropes.

“That won’t do any good,” Liddy said.

“Obviously, he’s with Pegrah, doing his dirty work,” Cora said and glared straight at him. “And about right now, the spell has kicked in real good on him. So really, he doesn’t even know that he sent him here.”

Jacob lowered his head and kept silent. He struggled against the ropes. They didn’t give. “What spell?” he asked.

“Liddy, what are we going to do with him?” Cora asked, ignoring his question. “We can’t let him go. He will run straight back to Pegrah.”

“I can send him back into the Witch Maze and bind him from returning,” she answered. “If I don’t, he will ruin everything.”

Cora nodded her head in agreement.

“Give me your hand,” Liddy said. She stood in front of him and readied herself to send him away.

“Come on, you don’t want to do this,” he begged. “I can be of use to you. I can spy on Pegrah for you. I can tell you what he’s up to.”

“You say nothing,” Cora said. “You have done enough damage.”

They held hands and raised their arms in the air. Liddy raised her voice “Imperium tu gratia evanesce quod baa obligatus!” Cora repeated after her, and then they chanted together in a perfect, unbroken pitch until he vanished.

“There, that’ll teach him,” Liddy said. “He won’t be coming back soon.”

All Cora could think about was her brother.

Liddy looked over at her. “If Pegrah is really your brother, what are we going to do?”

Cora looked scared. She shrugged, reached for the phone, and called Endora.

3

 

“Hello?” Endora answered.

“Endora, I’m going to tell you something, and I don’t want you girls to worry.”

“Wait, Mom,” she said, turning on the speakerphone. “What is it?” Endora asked, concerned. “Are you okay?”

“Liddy and I got paid a not-so-friendly visit,” she said.

“Seriously,” Endora said, “What happened?”

“It was a boy in a dark hoodie.” She answered.

“OMG,” Demi gasped.

“Dark hoodie,” Endora said. “That was Jacob.”

“You know him?” Cora quickly asked.

“Yes… well, not really. We met him a few times. He rudely bumped into Demi, Mila, and me. He introduced himself as Jacob Smith.”

“He said he didn’t have friends and Father Pegrah had been kind to him,” Mila said. “I thought that sounded fishy.”

For a second, Endora’s thoughts trailed away. “Mom, should we come there?”

“No,” Cora said. “We’re fine. We sent him back to the Witch Maze. He won’t be coming back.”

“What?” Selena asked.

“Yes, he was one of Pegrah’s troll boys – part goblin, and part mundanie.” Cora said.

Demi interrupted, “Is Mom okay?”

“Yes, she is just fine,” Cora answered.

Endora hung up the phone, disappointed. A part of her wanted to get to know Jacob. He seemed so nice and now… eeewh! “I have an idea,” Endora said. “Who wants to get even?”

“That’s a silly question,” Demi said. “We all do.”

“Two of us need to stay here and watch over the candles, and someone can come with me.” Endora glanced over at Selena, making her choice obvious.

“Count me in,” Selena said.

“Here’s the plan…,” Endora said, grinning with a little mischief in her eyes.

 

4

 

Endora and Selena stepped out on the porch. They called for their brooms, “Appareo virga!” and hopped on, saying, “Gratia somnium!” In a flash, they were gone from sight, and before they could speak a word, they were standing in front of Pegrah’s manor and face to face with Snow.

“Well, Bright Bulb,” he snickered. “I see you’re flying in style these days.”

“Funny, Snow,” Endora said. “You’re a freaking sideshow of laughs.” She stepped up on the porch and opened the door.

“Hey, wait a minute,” he said, running in after her. “You can’t just barge into Pegrah’s home.”

Selena followed in behind them.

“We are not barging in,” Endora smarted off. “We are here to find something.” She opened the drawer to his desk.

Snow jumped up on the desk and made a loud hissing sound.

“Don’t even think about it, fur ball.” Selena snapped. “Or else you will be the first toothless immortal cat.”

He quickly closed his mouth and cowered down, watching their every move. “What are you looking for?” he asked nervously.

“It’s called Imperatoria Ostruthium. You know, Masterwort.” Endora grabbed the small tin container. “Here it is.” She placed the tin in her pocket and moved over to the books. She grabbed Pegrah’s ancestral book. “I found it,” she said.

 

Selena walked around the room. She couldn’t help but wander over to the books on broom flight. She ran her finger across the spines and stopped when she came to The Gates. She grabbed the book and tucked it under her arm.

“That’s stealing!” Snow whined. “Pegrah will be displeased.”

“We don’t care,” Endora snickered.

“But you might,” Selena laughed and snatched Snow from the desk.

“What are you doing?” he yelled. “Put me down immediately!”

They walked outside holding onto two books, Snow, and the tin container. They reached out for their brooms.

Endora yelled out “Meus Alveus!” and she was gone.

Selena yelled out, following behind her on her broom with Snow clutched against her.

They stood at the mouth of the hole and stared down in it.

“Oh, no you don’t!” Snow yelled out. “This is kidnapping. You’re both going to be in the trouble for this. Wait until—”

“Until Pegrah comes. I think you will be waiting quite a while.” Selena said. She tossed Snow in.

He fell and yelled out a long loud meow all the to the bottom, where he landed on all fours.

They hovered over the hole on their brooms and looked down at him. “Not so pleasant down there, is it?” Endora asked loudly.

Selena stared down at the walls. “So, this is where Pegrah put you when everybody thought it was a coma?”

Endora nodded her head. “This is where I was stuck, and then Liddy was put in. It was Gram that got us out.”

“Okay, Bright Bulb, listen,” Snow begged. “I didn’t put you in the hole. I swear. It was all Pegrah’s doing. I had nothing to do with it. I was a mere stander-by… I swear to it.”

“Think of it as a roach motel.” Endora yelled down, and snickered. “You checked in, you’re not checking out. Oh, one word of advice, don’t climb the rocks. It is too high. One slip of the paw, and… well, you get the picture.”

“You’re joking, right?” Snow said. “You can’t be this sore.”

“Sorry, but we do have to go.” Selena yelled down.

They flew away from the mouth of the hole, leaving behind a grumbling, angry cat. When Snow saw they were not coming back, he let out a loud meow and lunged at the wall.

Endora and Selena walked through the front door, laughing.

Demi and Mila were sitting on the couch waiting for them to get back.

“So, about right now, Snow is trying to climb the walls,” Selena said and plopped down on the couch.

“He deserved it for what he said to me and for leaving me down there scared and alone.” Endora said sternly.

“Did you get what you went for?” Mila asked.

“Snow is in the hole,” Endora said. “And we got the Imperatoria Ostruthium and the books.”

“I don’t think we’ll see that rude snot for a bit,” Selena smiled.

Chapter Thirty-Five

Fundamental Matters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Endora walked into the kitchen and glanced over at the candles. They were halfway melted down.

“Hey,” she yelled. “Anyone for left over pizza?”

They grabbed their plates and took turns heating their slices up in the microwave. The girls wandered back into the living room to chill out in front of the television. Mila took a bite from her slice, chewed up her food, and then opened her mouth for everyone to see.

“OMG! That’s so gross,” Demi said and turned her head away.

Selena returned the gross back with an open mouth full of food.

“Seriously,” Mila said, “I can’t believe Jacob was one of those creatures. That totally freaks me out.”

“You think it freaked you out,” Endora said.

Mila laughed. “Just think if you two hooked up…”

“Don’t even remind me,” Endora said, glancing up at the clock. “It gives me the creeps.”

“And what if you got married? You would have had a half-goblin and half-human creature,” Selena said. “Now, that would be totally gross.”

2

 

The next morning, Ingrid undressed from her pajamas and put on her cheerleading uniform. It was practice day for the squad, and tonight was the last home game. It was the night that Crow Hill would take on the town of Raven Row, the ultimate of hoopla, and then summer would soon set in. Everybody would forget all about the cheerleaders, the games, and most of all, everything would become a memory forever more.

Ingrid was graduating at the end of the year and wouldn’t be returning back to the academy. The whole shebang of life was about to change for her.

She stood in front of the mirror, brushing her hair. It was all so completely ridiculous. Since when have I been so insecure? she thought. She laid her brush down, looked at her reflection one more time, and stepped out into the hallway.

Faye was sitting at the kitchen table, looking over her old books with a cup of coffee and a half-eaten chocolate éclair.

“What are you doing?” Ingrid asked. She looked over her shoulder as she reached into the cabinet for a glass.

“Just reading and looking over some of my old stuff.” Faye pushed them aside and said, “I think you need to sit down.”

“What’s going on?” Ingrid asked. “Listen, nothing bad today, please.” She pulled a chair out and sat down.

Faye stared at her and said the words as quickly as she could. “I’m just going to give it to you straight as I can. Mila is a witch.”

Ingrid busted out with a laugh. “I wouldn’t call her that,” she said. “That’s a little harsh, isn’t it?” She poured the juice into her glass and took a drink. “What did the brat do this time?” She set her glass down.

“You don’t understand, Ingrid. You need to listen to me and hear me out.” She grabbed one of her books and opened it up the first page. “Here,” she said and handed Ingrid a photo of her dad. “This is a picture of your dad. He was a warlock.”

Ingrid stared at the picture of a handsome man in a black shirt and black pants, holding a broom in one hand with his arm around her mom. “A warlock… you mean like magic… a wizard?”

“Yes,” Faye said and took the picture back. She looked at it for a moment. “What a handsome man he was.”

“And what about you? Are you a-.”

“A witch? Yes, I am, and so is Mila.”

“What about me?” Ingrid said. “Am I a witch?”

“We don’t think so. The day you were to become of witch age, when you were fourteen, you didn’t. Your dad was no longer around. I waited for you to come forward believing in magic. I thought it was possible that you were a late bloomer.”

“So, I am what… normal?” Ingrid asked. “And my dead dad was a warlock, and my mom and baby sister are… witches. So, how did I get left out of this freaky loop?”

“We think it is your heart. Most people in this world, from the time they take their first breath, already have decided within themselves to set their heart against the magic. They become unbelievers… mundanies. In doing so, they void out of the ancestral blessing.”

“So, you’re saying I rejected the magic?” she asked. “Why?”

“I can’t answer that, Ingrid. Only you can… in time.” She lifted her cup to her lips and took a drink. “Do you want to be a witch?”

Ingrid starred at her with a puzzled look across her face. Maybe it was more like a look of disbelief. Who could have ever imagined and of all days… why now? “So, why are you telling me this now?” she asked.

“If you want to be a witch, there is always a loop hole. We can go to the ancestors and plea.” Faye waited on an answer.

“And if I don’t?” she asked.

Faye stood up and walked over to the sink to put her cup in. “If you don’t, then you go on with your normal life.”

“But there is the matter of the calling that went out and the fifth position in the coven is being filled.” Faye said. “It might be yours, or you could practice solitary and possibly form your own coven, that is, with guidance… of course.”

 

3

 

Gram sat in the room inside the mirror. She looked around the walls at the ancestors staring back at her.

“Don’t you worry, it will all work out,” Witch Gretel said, leaning on her broom.

Gram looked terribly worried. She had a great fear building up inside her that something was going to backfire. “The girls have gotten in way over their heads,” she said.

Sir Edmond leaned forward inside the frame and took a draw from his long-stem pipe. He inhaled and blew out a large puff of smoke. He waved his hand in front of his face, stomped his feet, and let out a loud, hard cough. Then he spoke, “One never knows how deep the rabbit hole goes, until the rabbit goes in.”

Beneath Sir Edmond’s frame, Witch Sarah took her boom handle and banged the top of her frame.

“Hear now,” he said, “What’s going on down there?”

“Do I need to remind you, Sir Edmond, there is a fine line in the weakest, or in the strongest, of the magic, and that fine line is the loophole.” She looked over at Gram and said, “Pegrah will not stay in a state of forgetting forever. He will come back and with the taste of revenge. The girls need to come up with something and fast.”

“I know,” Gram said. “Perhaps I can—”

“Interfere?” Witch Gretel said. “Not unless you pay the consequence, and you don’t want to do that.”

“There must be another way,” Gram said.

“You signed the oath,” Sir Edmond said. “To break it is to leave the Witch Maze.”

“Is there anything at all I can do from here?” Gram asked, rubbing her hands back and forth. “Anything at all?”

Suddenly, the room filled with loud whispers of all the ancestors talking at once.

Sir Wellington hung on the other side of Witch Gretel. He tapped his cane against the inside of the frame, and the room fell silent.

“Pardon me,” he said loudly. “Pardon me, but I must inject something into the chatter.” He got up from his rocker that sat in the middle of a field of daisies and walked up to the frame. “Witches and warlocks are at their weakest when the spell is wearing down. Perhaps, if someone were to read it in a book… you know… book smarts are never interference.”

Gram’s eyes widened. “Of course,” she said and snapped her fingers. “It’s in my writings.”

“And if they were to stumble on it,” Witch Gretel said, “There would simply be no harm done to the oath.” She arched her brow and winked at Gram. “None at all.”

4

 

Pegrah sat up in bed in front of the television watching his favorite nighttime show. His bed was covered from one end to the other with all the files on every academy student. He was looking through each one, getting familiar with the faces, their grades, and their schedules. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to him. It was as if he had forgotten what he forgot, and it simply didn’t bother him because he didn’t know to be bothered about forgetting. He went about doing what he thought was his normal duty as a Father overseeing an academy.

He picked up Selena’s file and opened it. He looked at her picture very strangely and read the information. He took a second look back at her picture. Something felt really familiar, and then it dawned on him. “She was the one who spoke to me about the maze essay,” he mumbled.

He shut the file and moved on to the next one. “Mila Hill,” he read her name aloud. He opened her file, and a sudden flash hit him, an image of a red-haired girl tripping and spilling something on his shoulder.

Then his attention was pulled back to the television. He picked up the remote and quickly lost himself in flicking back and forth through the channels.

 

5

 

Endora woke up. She glanced over at Selena and Mila crashed out on the floor. They had all fallen asleep after the last candle burned out.

She stumbled out of bed, being extra careful where she stepped. Getting to the window was like walking through a maze. She heard the sound of a truck pull in and the back lift going up. She pushed up on the window to open it and looked out.

Around the street to the right, a large mover’s truck sat in the driveway. Endora watched as the movers took out box after box and toted them into the house. Funny thing was, she didn’t recall a house being empty in the neighborhood. “Oh well,” she whispered.

“What’s happening?” Mila asked, opening up her eyes.

“Somebody’s moving in down the street,” Endora answered softly.

Mila rubbed her eyes and pushed herself up from the floor. “Where?” she asked and glanced out the window.

“Over there,” she answered. “See the mover’s truck?”

They stood, watching the movers go in and out of the truck and in and out of the house, until Demi and Selena woke up.

The four of them went downstairs into the kitchen and broke open the cereal. When they were finished, they opened the front door and went out on the porch to watch.

Most of the neighborhood had found an excuse to be out in their yards or staring out the windows.

“Do you think it’s a family?” Mila asked.

“Yes,” Endora answered, sitting on the steps with her elbows propped on her knees. “They carried in three bed frames.”

Behind them, a scratching sound came from inside the front door.

Demi quickly turned around. “Oh, look, its Kitty.”

“Poor fellow,” Selena said. “We left him in there all alone.” She opened the door and let him out. Kitty walked across the porch and sat on the steps with them. He watched with them, sitting straight and still as a statue. His eyes fixed on the movers.

Endora reached over and rubbed Kitty’s head. “If I forgot to tell you, Kitty, I’m glad you’re back with us.”

Kitty twitched his tail, and when he started to open his mouth…

A loud, white SUV turned onto the street. They watched as it passed by and pulled up in front of the house. The driver’s door opened.

A man with dark hair, wearing sunglasses, a football jersey, and a pair of long denim shorts jumped out. He was carrying a cell phone. He walked around to the back of the SUV. They watched him pull out three suitcases and set them to the side. Then another door slammed from the passenger’s side, and a girl that looked their age came walking around to the back.

She was dressed in denim shorts, a large black tee shirt, and black ankle boots with the dark doll baby socks. Her hair was black with streaks of red, brown, and blonde running through it. She looked like a mellowed down pale-skinned Goth girl without the wild garb.

Mila glanced over at them and asked, “Do you think that’s her?”

“Who,” Demi answered, as if she had forgotten about the spell.

“Oh crap! Get there faster, Demi,” Endora laughed. “The fifth one of us,” she said.

“Do you think she will be interested in being friends with us?” Mila said.

“Don’t know,” Endora said. “But if she’s not, she’s not the one.”

“Well,” Selena said, standing up. “I, for one, am not getting my hopes up just to have them squashed like pumpkin mash.”

“Let’s go introduce ourselves and speak to her,” Mila said.

“That would be the neighborly thing to do,” Demi said, smiling.

Chapter Thirty-Six

An Ordinary Town, Maybe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Kitty stayed on the steps, watching the boxes and furniture go in.

Endora, Demi, Mila, and Selena pulled off their white gowns and put on their jeans and tee shirts. They brushed their hair, threw their shoes on, and darted downstairs out the front door.

“You stay here, Kitty,” Selena said. “Don’t even think about going anywhere.”

He watched them slowly walk around the sidewalk. “I hope they know what they’re doing,” Kitty whispered, and he kept watching.

 

2

 

The man with the sunglasses had disappeared from sight and into the house. The girl was leaning against the back of the SUV, watching the movers take her stuff out of the truck. She straightened up from slouching when she noticed the four of them walking toward her.

Endora was the first to say something. “Hi,” she said. “Just moving in?”

“Yes,” the girl answered softly and stared back at the four of them.

“My name is Endora,” she said and smiled. “And this is Demi, Selena, and Mila.”

“Are you sisters or something?” she asked.

They glanced at each other and laughed. “Just best friends,” Mila said. “But we’re as close as sisters can be.”

“Endora lives in the neighborhood. We’re just hanging out here for the weekend.” Demi said. “We all live in Crow Hill.”

“Oh,” said the girl. “My name is Belle Webb.”

“I like the name,” Mila said.

“Belle, is everything all right?” the man asked, walking over.

“Yes, Dad,” she answered.

“Hello, girls,” he smiled and took off his sunglasses. “I see you met my daughter. My name is Matt.” He looked over at Belle. “I see you’re not going to have any problems making friends here.”

“Dad,” she whined, rolling her eyes.

He opened the passenger door, reached in, and grabbed a briefcase. He walked back to the house and stepped inside.

“We’re on our way to the Pizzeria,” Endora said, “Wanna come? We can show you around town. That is… if you’re not too busy.”

“OMG, I am freaking starving. I would love a slice of double-cheese pizza,” Demi said.

“Seriously, we just ate cereal,” Mila said.

“When have we ever turned pizza down?” Demi asked, laughing.

“I didn’t say I was turning it down, did I?” Mila said with a grin.

“Come on,” Endora pleaded with her. “I’m buying.”

“Okay, let me tell my dad,” Belle said. She took off and ran up to the front door.

They watched her dad reach into his pocket and hand her a twenty. She kissed him on the cheek and ran back to the sidewalk.

“I can go, but dad said the pizza is on him.” She smiled for the first time and waved a twenty in the air. She almost looked angelic, in a Goth sort of way.

The five of them walked around town and all around the academy. They ventured over to the park and walked through, And Endora pointed out their favorite hangout places. They wandered back to the Pizzeria. Mila opened the door and they walked inside. The place was almost empty. Dillon was behind the counter tossing dough into the air. He smiled at Mila.

She smiled back and walked over to the booth with the girls.

“Who’s the pizza maker?” Belle asked. She watched as Dillon spun the dough around on his fingers.

“That’s Dillon. He’s totally got a thing for Mila,” Selena said, laughing.

“Shush,” Mila whispered with a big grin.

“Do you date?” Demi asked Belle.

She glanced over at her and said, “Nope. Dad says there is plenty of time for dating…after I am twenty.” She rolled her eyes. “He’s so lame.”

“We know what you mean. Our parents are all the same way,” Endora said. “So, what do you think of Crow Hill?”

“It’s okay,” Belle answered. “I mean… I just got here. It’s a little hard to tell.”

“So, you will be going to the academy?” Mila asked. “We all go there.”

She nodded her head. “Father Judas hired my dad as the new football coach. He starts when the school year begins. I will be coming in as a sophomore.”

“We will be, too,” Selena said. “And we’re so freaking happy not to be freshman anymore.”

“I’m so totally nervous about fitting in. I’m a bit weird for this town, don’t you think?” she asked, and looked around at their faces. “After all, it does seem a bit… ordinary… here.”

Demi, Mila, and Endora looked over at her with the strangest look on their faces. After everything they had been through, the word hit all three of them at the same time and they said together, “Seriously.”

“Don’t worry, you’ll fit right in,” Selena said with a big smile on her face. “After all, it is just an ordinary place, in an ordinary town, with ordinary boys and girls… like us.” She smiled as big as she could.

“Yes.” Mila agreed with Selena. “Ordinary,” she said with a big wink.

Belle looked strangely at them as if she hadn’t gotten the joke, if there was a joke being told.

“So, tell me,” Endora asked. “Do you like fairytales?”

She nodded. “Yeah, they’re good. I have a small collection.”

“And how do you feel about witches?” Demi asked with a big smile.

Belle let out a sigh and flipped over her wrist. She moved her rope and leather bracelets out of the way and showed them a pentacle tattoo with fire, water, earth, and air written at the four points and at the fifth point at the head, the word spirit. “I love them,” she said. “I don’t know why, but I always have.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The End for Now!

 

To be continued.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Consequential Magic - The Oath

Magic, Witches, and Ghosts... oh my! Follow four teenage girls as they become witches and find out that sometimes the magic messes up! Crow Hill is a small and quaint town with a huge problem. Four friends take an oath and through their own careless actions, they stumble into a mess of magic that opens a world of trouble. Follow Selena, Mila, Demi, and Endora as they encounter the strange. Go with them into the witches maze and meet the ancestors, ghosts, villains, a whispering register, talking cats, and so much more.

  • ISBN: 9781370249336
  • Author: Lizzi Cruz
  • Published: 2017-04-17 11:35:24
  • Words: 76740
Consequential Magic - The Oath Consequential Magic - The Oath