Copyright 2016 by Sara Wilson– All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, scanning, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This unofficial Minecraft novel is an original work of Sara Wilson which is not sanctioned nor approved by the makers of Minecraft. Minecraft is a registered trademark of, and owned by, Mojang AB, and its respective owners, which do not sponsor, authorize, or endorse this book. All characters, names, places, and other aspects of the game described herein are trademarked and owned by their respective owners.
The town of Swordclash was like nothing we’d ever seen before. Most of the places we’d visited in the past were usually full of small wooden cabins filled with families that looked after the dwellings, and probably a few small herds of sheep or cows. You could usually stand at one end of a village and wave at your friend standing at the other, if you wanted. This place, on the other hand, was enormous. We walked for a good hour through the streets of Swordclash, and didn’t come across the same buildings once.
We walked along, our heads craned upwards. The buildings seemingly reached up into the sky.
“Why do the people who live here need buildings so high?” asked Saunders, who was walking beside me. Dressed in his usual potion spattered overalls, he stuck out like a sore thumb in this new environment.
“There are so many people who live here, we’ve had to build upwards to save space. It’s kind of fun once you get used to it,” Sabrina replied. Sabrina was Sara’s friend, who had contacted her not long after we had defeated the giant that had been terrorizing Saunders’ village. We’d travelled out to meet her as soon as possible, and that was how we’d found ourselves in Swordclash.
“You live up in one of these?” asked Simon. He seemed awestruck by the prospect.
“Yep. The view’s fantastic, you know.”
“I never thought about building something so high to live in.” He looked rather green at the thought of it.
“Well, come up to my home and check it out for yourself. Maybe it’ll give you some ideas for your own place,” Sabrina smiled. She led us into a nearby building. On the ground floor, people were milling around in the lobby. To my eyes at least, it seemed like everybody who lived here was much more urbane and sure of themselves than we were. I reminded myself that if they’d found themselves in our neck of the woods, they’d probably feel as out of place as we currently did.
Sabrina opened a door and ushered us all into what looked like a very small, square room. Once we were all inside, she shut the door and pushed a button on the wall. Suddenly, the floor shook beneath us and we began to ascend rapidly.
“What’s going on?” I asked. Saunders and Sara were wide eyed in shock, whereas Simon looked as though he was going to be sick.
Sabrina laughed. “It’s an elevator! Have you never used one before?”
“We never really needed them back home.” I held onto the wall, feeling rather alarmed but trying not to show it.
“It’s quicker than using the stairs. I live on the 15th floor and who wants to walk all that way? Look, we’re nearly there.”
The elevator began to slow down, and eventually juddered to a stop. Sabrina leaned out and opened the door.
“This is my place, come on in.”
We all wobbled out on rather unsteady legs. Simon staggered his way to a nearby sofa and sunk into it. “Hey, this is really soft!” He bounced up and down on it a couple of times, the elevator ride forgotten.
“I only decorate with the best materials,” Sabrina said, making her way to another room. The home was all laid out on one floor, with several rooms walled off from one another. It was a long way from the one room wooden huts back home. Along one wall was an enormous window. I walked over, and suddenly I could see the whole of Swordclash laid out below me.
“Wow,” I breathed.
“It’s great, isn’t it?” Sabrina had reappeared, carrying a bowl of fruit. She offered it around.
Sara reached out and grabbed a bright red apple. She bit into it. “Yum” she said. “Juicy.”
“I had that window installed when I moved in,” she said, coming over to stand beside me. “Isn’t it fantastic? I told you the view was good.”
“You had it installed? You didn’t build it yourself?” I asked.
“No, I didn’t have time. I used to build a lot, but now I’m far too busy.” Simon gaped from across the room. For him, I knew, the concept of not building your own home was inconceivable. “I’m usually travelling all over the place, working.”
As we all admired the room, Sara asked, “You said that Marigold showed up here in Swordclash?” As she said it, the mood changed. Marigold was the witch that Sara used to work for, and the person who’d created the giant we had fought in the first place. Sabrina had written to Sara, telling her that Marigold had shown up in the city and was hopping mad about what we had done. As a clearly powerful witch, we were worried about what she’d do when she found us.
Sabrina nodded. “Yes, and I’ll tell you all about it. First of all, though, you must be tired. Let me show you to your rooms, then we’ll have supper, and then we’ll talk.”
We were all shown to our rooms, and when I saw mine, I was blown away by its opulence. Back home, in my fortress, I have a rather simple bedroom, just a bed in a room with bare stone walls. This room couldn’t have been further than that. A huge double bed sat in a room festooned with pictures, rugs, and other soft furnishings. I sat on the bed, and I sunk into it as if it were a marshmallow. I lay back on the three (three!) pillows on the bed, and wondered at the situation I had found myself in.
Before I could fall asleep, and believe me, I could have, there was a knock on my door.
“Come in,” I called.
The door opened, and Saunders peeked round. “You weren’t sleeping, were you?”
“Nope, but I could have. I’ve never had a bed this soft.” I sat up. “What’s up?”
Saunders stepped inside. “I’ve never been anywhere this nice. I’m too scared to sit down, in case I make everything dirty.”
I laughed. “You’ll have to wash your clothes for once.”
“Yeah, very funny.” Saunders smiled. “It’s something to tell the guys back home, isn’t it? Who’s ever even seen a building this tall?”
I nodded. “It’s weird. Out of all the places Marigold could show up, why did she show up here? It doesn’t strike me as the best hiding place for a witch. She’d stick out from a mile away here.”
Saunders shrugged. “I don’t know about that. She could find a top floor home and hide out. There are so many buildings, how could we ever find her?”
My heart sunk at that. Before I could reply, there was another knock at the door. Without waiting for a response, Sara opened the door and peered in.
“Hey you two,” she said, “dinner’s ready.”
Sabrina had put out an amazing spread for dinner that night. Our plates were piled high with roast chicken and vegetables, and the amazing smell wafting from the kitchen suggested that dessert was going to be just as delicious. We all ate in silence, savoring the food.
Eventually, Simon piped up around a mouthful of chicken. “This tastes brilliant,” he said. “Where did you learn to cook like this?”
“In the far reaches of the north, there’s a little town where they really know their food.” said Sabrina. “I learned a lot from them. They breed a rare type of chicken there that only lays eggs during the full moon.”
“I’m really sorry to be rude, Sabrina,” I said, “but we really need to talk about Marigold.”
She nodded, putting down her knife and fork. Everyone followed suit, Simon a little reluctantly. “We do. It was me who found her here.”
“What was she doing here?” asked Sara. As the one who had led us to the giant’s lair, she felt responsible for what had now happened.
“She was wandering around the park, a couple of streets over from here.” said Sabrina. “I approached her, because she looked lost and I wondered if I could help. She was walking around, picking flowers and muttering under her breath.”
“No wonder she sounded mad, she’d probably just found out what we’d done” I said.
“Indeed. I asked her if she was ok and she started ranting about how some meddling busybodies had ruined all of her plans. Then she mentioned your name, Sara.”
Sara blanched at this. “What did she say about me?”
Sabrina hesitated. “She said… she said you’d betrayed her, and that she was going to get her revenge.”
Sara went white. “She’s not kidding. When she’s mad, she’s mad. We’ve got to find her before she does anything rash.”
This morning, we split up and began combing the city, looking for Marigold. I teamed up with Sara, as I was hoping to glean more useful information about the witch from her. I also wanted to make sure she was ok. As Marigold’s former companion, she was at the most risk of harm.
Our little band had met Sara when we were following the giant’s tracks. She’d been living in a tiny home she’d helped make in the walls of a dank, dark cave. It had been surprisingly homely, with walls lined with old books and a roaring fire to keep the worst of the damp away. She’d been afraid of us at first, but once we’d explained to her the severity of the situation, she’d agreed to help us. I wondered if she regretted that now.
We walked the streets, eyes peeled for anything unusual. People scurried about on their day-to-day business, never stopping or talking to anybody else. Many, I saw, walked about with their heads down, flipping through books as they made their way around. I made a mental note to ask Sabrina about it.
As we walked, I asked Sara, “How powerful is Marigold exactly? What could she do?”
“I’m not sure, to be honest,” she replied. “When I last saw her, she was interested in creating mobs that would be beholden to her. She wanted animals and monsters that would do her bidding. Not scary if she’s looking to make a herd of sheep that won’t wander off, but if she creates a whole bunch of zombies, or creepers…” she trailed off.
I didn’t need to answer; I could imagine just how terrifying that would be.
“She’d have a whole army at her command,” said Sara. “An entire army of deadly monsters. We’ve got to find her before she can start making them.”
I nodded. “You know her best. Where would she hide out?”
“Somewhere quiet and secluded. I honestly don’t think she’s here anymore. It’s too busy for her here.”
“Agreed. From the sound of her, she wouldn’t put up with this. Which makes me wonder, why did she come here at all?”
Yesterday we came back together and decided that yes, Marigold the witch was no longer in Swordclash. With that decision made, the most pressing question was, what do we do now?
“We could start searching around the perimeter of the city,” suggested Saunders. “She can’t have gotten far.”
“It would take a lot of time and there aren’t that many of us. Also remember, she’s a witch, she can teleport. There’s nothing to say that she’s anywhere near here anymore.”
“Do we have a picture of her? We could start showing it around the city and see if anyone’s seen her?” asked Simon.
Sabrina shook her head. “Even if you had a photo, no one would stop and talk to you. They’re too busy, they don’t have the time.”
I thought how lonely that sounded, never being able to stop and talk with another person. How did anyone here ever make friends?
“She might have gone back to the cave,” said Sara quietly. Everybody stopped talking and looked round at her. “Most of her stuff is there. She’s probably gone by now, taken what she needed and ran, but there could be some clues as to what she’s up to.”
Everyone murmured agreement. “So, what do you all say? Shall we go and check out the cave tomorrow? If she’s there, we could well have a fight on our hands. Are you ready for that?”
“Ok, everyone to bed, then. We head out at dawn tomorrow.”
This morning, as promised, we all headed out early to go back to Sara’s old home. I offered Sabrina the chance to come with us, but she declined. “Oh no,” she said, “I’m too busy to go with you, and I’d only hold you back. I’m not an adventurer, after all!” She waved us off from her building’s lobby, and then disappeared back inside.
“What does Sabrina do, exactly?” asked Simon as we walked out. The city was oddly empty at this time in the morning, but Sabrina had assured that in an hour or so, everybody would be out and about as usual.
Sara thought about it. “I don’t know, exactly,” she said. “I do know she’s an expert on animals and other mobs. She grew up farming way out in the east, but ended up moving here. I think she’s an advisor, of sorts. I got to know her because I was told she was the best person to ask about magically producing sheep.”
“Pardon?” asked Saunders. He still looked half asleep.
“I lived with Marigold, remember? She wanted to know whether their wool would have any magical properties before she started making them, so I asked around and there was Sabrina. We became pretty good friends after that.”
We walked along in silence for a little while, and before long we were at the city gates. As we passed through them, Simon suddenly piped up again. “So, is their wool magical or not?”
“Marigold was hoping that it would multiply on its own, but no. It does change colors at random though.”
It took a whole day to trek back out to the witch’s old hideout, but eventually we found ourselves at the mouth of the cave. There was no longer a giant snoring within its depths, but we were all still wary of going in. If Marigold was still there, she could cause some trouble.
“Do you think she’s still there?” asked Saunders, peering into the gloom.
“Honestly? No. She’s probably picked up what she needed and left, but we shouldn’t let our guard down. She knows we’re looking for her, and will probably have left us a few surprises.” Sara’s face was grim.
I looked into the mouth of the cave with Saunders. It was so dark, you could only see a few feet inside before blackness swallowed the cave up. Simon, Saunders, and I had traversed the narrow path inside in almost pitch darkness when we came here the first time. If there were any traps, there would be no way we could see them until it was too late.
I picked up a pebble from the ground. “Stand back, I’m going to try something.”
Everybody took a few steps back. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” asked Sara.
“I’m not taking any chances.” With that, I lifted the pebble above my head and threw it overhand into the cave. At first, all we could hear was the pebble bouncing off the stone walls.
“Huh. Maybe it’s safe after … KABOOM!
Suddenly, the whole cave was aflame. Rock and rubble was raining out of the cave mouth, and families of angry silverfish were making their escape. They saw us, and attacked instantly.
“Argh!” yelled Simon, whacking at the ground with his shovel. After we’d whacked and stomped the silverfish into dust, we looked up again at the cave. The explosions had stopped and smoke was pouring out. A few fires still burned in places, but mostly they’d burned out, as there was no real fuel in the entrance.
“TNT,” said Saunders. “She knew we might go in there and start walking blind. We would never have seen it.”
“She’s more serious than I thought. I thought she might try and trap us, but actually try and blow us up?” Sara shuddered too. “I thought I knew her.”
Soon the smoke had dissipated, so we made our way in on tiptoe. The ground shifted under our feet where it had been blown loose by the TNT. The entrance was much wider now, but we still went through single file, with me heading up the pack. We picked our way through, slowly but surely. If there was another trap, I wanted to spot it before anyone else could fall into it.
After what felt like an age of walking, we eventually reached what remained of Sara’s old home. It has originally been carved directly into the stone face, but now there were huge holes and scorch marks in the outside walls. The potted plants that Sara had so carefully kept outside the front door were wilted and charred, and the front door was hanging off its hinges.
Sara’s face fell. “She destroyed it. I knew she could be nasty, but she knew how hard I worked on our home. She knew!”
Saunders put a hand on her shoulder. “I don’t think anybody knew. Come on, most of your stuff is probably still inside. We can fetch it while we look around.”
Inside, the house was no better. Books were scattered every which way, many with pages ripped out or covers torn off. Furniture had been turned over, drawers pulled out, rugs kicked up and swept aside. We could tell straight away that she had been looking for something.
I walked inside, kicking some books aside with my foot to make a space. “Sara? Any ideas what she was looking for in here?”
She walked in and looked around, her face falling further. As a librarian, seeing such disrespect to the printed word pained her. “There was probably some information in a book that she needed, I imagine. She never was patient, even at the best of times.”
“Are there any books missing?” asked Simon.
“In here? How could you even tell?” asked Saunders.
“Hold on, there is a way.” Sara began walking along the bookshelves, inspecting them carefully.
“What are you doing?” I asked, but she shushed me and carried on. She must have made three whole circuits of the room until she cried “Aha!” and pointed to an empty section of shelving, not very far off the ground.
“What’s different about that bit and all the other empty shelves?” I was confused.
“They’ve all had books pulled off them, but they were at random. She was probably pulling them off when she was mad and throwing a tantrum. This section, though, all the books are gone, every single one. Look.” She was right. That section was completely cleared of books.
“What section was it?” I asked.
“Magical creatures,” Sara replied. “I’m not sure if that’s a bad omen or not.”
“Did she take any with her? Everyone, dig through the books here and see if she left any of them.”
Everyone quickly dove in, picking books up and putting them back on the shelves when they weren’t what we were looking for. With all four of us, it didn’t actually take that long. Soon, though, we discovered that every single magical creatures book was missing. Maybe she hadn’t thrown a tantrum after all, I thought. She’d simply pulled the other books down and smashed things up to cover her tracks. She was cleverer than I thought.
Thursday – Day 6
After we’d cleared the room of discarded books, we decided to bed down for the night. No one felt really inclined to try out the witch’s old bedroom, and Sara didn’t want to go in her room right then, so we set out our sleeping bags on the library floor and climbed in. The floor was hard, but there was a fireplace and it sure beat sleeping outdoors.
“Are you sure you don’t want to sleep in your bed, Sara?” I asked. “It’d be a lot more comfortable than in here.”
She shook her head. “No. It’s too weird. I lived with Marigold for years, and I thought she was a different person entirely. Everything’s changed.” She trailed off sadly.
After that, I let it be for the time being. The night passed without incident, and in the morning we got ready to go. As we collected our things and were nearly out the door, Sara cried, “Wait! I need to get some of my things!” and ran out into the hallway.
“Where are you going?” yelled Simon after her.
“To my room! It’s only a couple of things, I won’t be long!” she called back. A couple of minutes passed, and suddenly, we heard a thump from the other room. Then, Sara: “Guys, help! QUICK!”
We all ran out into the hallway and saw what had happened. Sara’s bedroom door was locked tight, and water was seeping out below it. She banged on the door now. “Quick! The room’s filling up! It won’t take long!”
Simon pulled an axe from his back, and began chopping away at the wooden door. Despite being only wood, it was tough and a couple of times he had to yank it back out of the door, as though the wood itself was holding onto it.
Sara began to panic. “It’s up my shoulders now! Please, please hurry!”
“We’ll have you out of there soon, don’t worry!” Simon hacked at the door with a renewed fury. Soon, there was a chink in the door we could see through. Sara was swimming in a room full of water, furniture bobbing around behind her. We started to pull at the wood to remove it faster, and soon we were pulling whole chunks out and throwing them behind us.
Sara’s head was now nearly touching the ceiling, and she had to doggy paddle to stay afloat. “Help!”
“Nearly there!” With one last effort, we managed to break away enough of the door to get her out. Saunders and I dragged her out through the hole we had made, and a good amount of water sloshed out with her.
“Come on, we need to leave before the whole place floods!” We picked Sara up and ran from the house and through the cave, which was easy since half of it had been blown up the day before. We scrabbled through all the debris until we saw daylight, then collapsed, panting, onto the grass.
Once we’d recovered, I asked, “What happened? Did she set another trap?”
“Yup, she replaced a section of the floor with a pressure plate without me noticing. When I stepped on it, a hole opened up in the ceiling and the water started pouring in. She must have built a reservoir above my room to do it. She planned it,” she spat.
“She wanted to be rid of you,” said Saunders. “She knew you’d come back.”
Sara nodded. “She didn’t want me sticking my nose in this.”
“But,” I said, “that means she’s scared of you, and that’s not nothing.”
Sara considered this for a moment. “Oh hey, that reminds me, I did manage to save something.” She reached into her pocket and retrieved a sopping wet piece of paper. Unfolding it, we saw it was actually a small painting of her and Marigold from quite a while ago. Sara looked a lot younger, and if I hadn’t known about Marigold’s activities now, I would never have guessed that she was a witch. They both looked really happy and carefree.
“Look at this,” said Sara. “This was painted maybe two, three years ago. It was in Wellspring, which isn’t all that far from here. We lived there before coming here. I wonder if Marigold could be hiding out there. I think the house is still standing.”
“I can’t think of anywhere better to look,” I said. “Anyone else?”
Everyone shook their heads.
“Ok, well, let’s get back to the fortress and we can make a plan of attack from there.”
As we walked back yesterday, I took the opportunity to talk to Sara. She was walking a little ahead of everybody else, and was drying out in the sun. I walked up next to her, and we went along like this in silence for a bit.
To my surprise, she spoke first. “I didn’t know she’d turn out like this, you know. I wouldn’t have gone anywhere near her if I had known.”
“I know,” I said. I didn’t say anything else.
“I joined her because I didn’t really fit in in my own village. I wasn’t very good at building or farming or anything like that. Anything I made fell apart, and I couldn’t grow anything for the life of me. All I was interested in was books. I loved all the stories. I wanted to be like the heroes but I thought that life would never be for me. Marigold came through the village one day, and I came across her by accident.”
“I walked into her, literally. I was walking across the square while reading a book. ‘Greatest Adventurers of Our Time,’ I think it was. You’re in that one, Steve.”
I coughed. Now was not the time to talk about my past adventures. “You walked into her? Wasn’t she mad?”
“No, weirdly. I really slammed into her too, I really wasn’t looking where I was going. I fell on the ground, and she helped me back up and asked me what I was reading. I got all excited and started telling her about everyone who was in the book, and the other editions that I had at home.”
“What did she say to that?”
“She just smiled at me. She said, “It sounds like you know your books. Have you ever thought about being a librarian?” Then she offered to take me home with her. She said she needed someone to keep her library in order.”
“Sounds like the perfect job for you.”
“It was.” Sara smiled. “She had a much bigger library back in Wellspring. The whole house was bigger; it was a mansion really. Of course, she was a bigger deal there, too. Everyone came to her when they needed advice or healing.”
“So how did you end up in the cave?”
Sara frowned. “That, I’m still not really sure about. Marigold got more and more secretive, wouldn’t spend time with me, and spent more and more time locked away in her study writing letters. I have no idea who she was writing to, and I’m not sure I want to know. She got mean. Really mean. That’s when she started looking into magical creatures more closely. Eventually, she declared we were moving away and wouldn’t give me a reason why. I had to go with her because at that point I had nowhere else to go. She turned on the villagers, and because she hated them, they hated me because I worked for her. She took us to the cave and we carved that little house out. I took as many of our books as I could, but most of them are still back in Wellspring.”
We walked along in silence for a while after that, while I digested what she had just told me. It sounded like the witch had made a complete turnaround in her personality. Just who had she been writing to?
We eventually made our way back to the fortress. When I moved out here, I’d picked this spot to build my permanent home. Situated at the top of a mountain, if you stood on its roof or on any of its turrets, you could see for miles around you. I’d designed it to be as monster proof as possible. At the time I built it, I’d decided to hang up my adventuring boots for good. The best laid plans, and so on. Now, though, it served as a great base for our little adventuring party.
Everyone turned in for the night as the sun began to set. I went to bed but didn’t sleep much. I wasn’t sure that Sara was telling us everything. How could she have lived with the witch for so long and not know anything about her plans? What was she hiding?
Last night, I eventually must have fallen asleep, as I was awoken by an unusual noise in my room. It was a dragging noise, like something was being pulled around on the floor.
I sat up, and in the gloom I couldn’t see anything unusual. The furniture in my room was rather sparse, as I’m not much for decorations, so I could see instantly that nothing was out of place. Deciding that I was just hearing things, I settled back down under the covers and prepared to go back to sleep.
However, just as I got comfortable, I heard the noise again. Drag. Drag. Drag.
I sat back up again, rubbing my eyes, and that’s when I saw my bedroom door open, as if to let something through, of its own accord.
Concerned again, I slid out of bed silently and picked up my sword, which was nearby in case of eventualities such as these. You can never be too careful. I padded after the noise, which was now moving down the stone hallway outside. I followed it all the way out into the foyer, and into another wing of the fortress.
Drag. Drag. Drag.
Before long, I realized that it was moving towards my library, where Sara had taken up residence in one of the small side rooms. I could have tried to stop it, but how can you stop what you can’t see? Whatever it was, it hadn’t yet noticed I was following it, so I stayed a few steps behind to see what it would do.
The noise made its way across the library and was in front of Sara’s door. There was no doubt now, it wanted her, and I had a good idea who had sent it.
The handle clicked, and the door swung inwards. I followed it in, watching where I stepped. The room was small, and I didn’t want to step on whatever was there and alert it to my presence.
For a while, nothing happened. Sara slept on in her bed, unaware of what was happening. Then, a potion bottle appeared as if from nowhere. It was full of a black, sludgy liquid that I didn’t recognize. It hovered over the bed, and the cork popped out of the top.
As the bottle began to tilt over Sara, I acted.
I leaped up at the air and swung my sword down. I felt something tug at the blade, and suddenly there was someone in the room with us. They were small, hunched over, and wearing scruffy black robes. The grey head turned round and I knew instantly who it was.
Sara shot up in bed at this, and looked round wildly. “Who? What is it? What’s going on?”
The witch, clearly panicked, dropped the bottle, smashing it against the wood floor. I could hear a worrying sizzling sound, but I was entirely focused on her.
“What are you doing in my house, and what were you going to do to Sara?” I asked her, holding the sword under her chin.
Rather than being afraid, Marigold just grinned at me. “No matter,” she said, “I’ll get her eventually, even if she is a slippery fish.” With that, she vanished.
No one got any sleep that night. Saunders and Simon had run to Sara’s room after hearing all the commotion, only to find me wielding my sword at thin air, and a sizeable hole in the floor where the potion had eaten through the floorboards.
“What was that?” asked Saunders, crouching down to look at it.
“Don’t touch it!” I said sharply. “We don’t know what it can do!”
“Don’t worry, I won’t. Simon, hand me that bottle, will you?” Simon grabbed an empty bottle from a nearby shelf, and handed it to him. With a quill he’d pulled from one of his many pockets, Saunders scraped as much potion as he could into the bottle.
“I want to test this, I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “Where did it come from?”
“Marigold was here,” said Sara in a quiet voice. “She came in here to get me. She would have too, if Steve hadn’t shown up.”
“She was in my room first, obviously looking for you,” I replied. “I think she was using an invisibility potion. I wouldn’t have known she was there if I hadn’t spotted her opening my door.”
Sara shivered at that.
“Well, you’re both safe and that’s all that matters. Come on, let’s go see what’s in this thing. Unless you both want to go back to bed?”
We both shook our heads. I didn’t feel like I’d sleep soundly for a long time to come.
In the morning, we gathered around Saunders’ workbench in the makeshift lab he’d set up in an unused corner of the building. He scooped bits of the now congealed potion out of the bottle and tested it on various items he had lying around, like a block of iron, a carrot, and an old, broken axe. Without fail, the potion ate all the way through whatever it was applied to, and usually a good chunk of the workbench too.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Saunders, holding up a book that now had a smoldering hole all the way through the middle of it. “I can’t tell what’s in it. Whatever it is, it’s dangerous.”
“She was going to pour that on me,” said Sara, wide eyed in shock.
“Well, she never managed to, because we’re looking out for you.” I turned to Saunders. “We need to bury that, before anyone else can get their hands on it. I dread to think what it could do.”
“Agreed.” Saunders picked up a shovel and headed out to dispose of the toxic goo.
To Sara, I said, “Marigold has some reason she wants you gone, and she’s tried hard. Is there anything you know that you think she’d want to keep you quiet about?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know. I really don’t. Honestly? I thought we were friends before this.”
I sighed. “We’ll just have to catch her and find out.”3
Today, I rounded everybody up before we set off to Wellspring. Simon had built a kind of rolling trap for the witch, in the hopes that we found her. I wanted to bring her back here, and I wanted answers.
“We don’t know what we’re walking into here,” I said. “We don’t know if Marigold will be there, or whether she’s been there at all. Sara has kindly drawn us a map of the area and the house itself, so we should know roughly the lay of the land. However, remember, she’s not above laying traps, and she’ll play dirty. Keep your eyes open and look out for each other.”
Everybody nodded solemnly.
To get to Wellspring, the quickest way would be by train. Walking would be safer, as it would be easy for somebody to spot us on the train and send word ahead to Marigold, but it would also take us several days. Going by rail meant we were sacrificing stealth for speed, since we needed to lay hands on the witch as soon as possible.
The train station was bustling when we got there, despite it still being early morning. Most people were waiting on the far platform for the train to Swordclash, and to my eye, they all looked rather grey and tired. We made our way to the only other platform, the one that led to Wellspring and beyond.
As we waited, a few people joined us on the platform. There were a few farmers wheeling boxes full of chickens to sell at market, a potion maker clanking with all the bottles he had slung over his back, and one woman who wore a cloak that obscured her face. She stood at the far end of the platform, away from all of the other commuters.
The train came in and we all clambered on with our equipment. There was a hairy moment when we couldn’t get Simon’s cage on, but with a bit of pushing and pulling we managed to wedge it through the door and into our compartment. I sat down on my bed and began sharpening my sword.
“Do you think you’ll need that?” Sara asked, clearly worried.
“Hopefully not,” I replied, “but it never hurts to be prepared.”
“Like when you battled the Zombies of Highwater!” she declared, then clapped a hand over her mouth.
“You battled zombies?” asked Saunders. “When was this?”
“When he was searching Highwater for the Sacred Axe,” Simon chimed in. “It was guarded by the Zombie Army, who were put there by the town’s corrupt mayor. He beat them all, got the axe and ousted the mayor. They held a week long party for you, if I recall correctly.”
They all gaped at me for a moment.
“Yes, that happened.” I shrugged. “It was a long time ago now. I don’t really go hunting for adventures anymore.” I carried on sharpening my sword.
“Why not?” asked Sara.
“I was tired. Things happened, and I decided it wasn’t for me anymore. That’s all there is to it. However, adventure apparently keeps finding me.”
Simon looked as if he was going to ask more questions, but as he opened his mouth, there was movement at the compartment door. Instead of asking me something, he got up and opened it. “Who’s there?”
There was no one to be seen. He looked up and down the hallway, and shook his head. “There’s no one there,” he said, shutting the door. “We must have imagined it.”
“All of us? Not likely.” I got up and opened the door myself. “Something’s going on.”
I walked down the corridor, peering into the other compartments. They were all empty except for ours, which felt rather odd. Shouldn’t the train be busier at this time of day? There was a lot of business to be done in Wellspring.
I carried on, poking around in the compartments, and found myself at the very last one. This one’s window was open, which set off my internal alarm bells, so I stepped in quietly. As I did so, I heard a shriek from outside the train itself.
Sticking my head out quickly, I could see the countryside whipping past at an amazing speed. At the same time, the cloaked figure from earlier was floating outside in thin air.
“Hey!” I reached out, but I knew there was no hope of catching her.
She whipped her cloak out of my reach. I saw that she wasn’t floating, but in fact flying along on a broomstick. She shrieked again, and zoomed away from me on the broom. Before she did, though, I got a glimpse of her face as her hood fell away.
No. It couldn’t be… could it?
After my run in with the cloaked figure, the rest of our journey was rather uneventful. I kept my suspicions about her identity to myself, as I’d only seen her face for a fraction of a second. And what if I was mistaken? There was no reason to cause panic yet anyway. Just in case though, I arranged a guard duty on our door, in case anyone decided to come back.
We pulled into Wellspring Station in a cloud of steam. The town was a bustling village, full of livestock markets, farms, and small brick cottages. Someone had clearly been looking after the station, as they had planted a long row of brightly colored flowers along the platform. As we stepped off the train, I checked Sara’s map to find our first destination.
“The Wellspring Guest House,” I said, tapping the paper. “That’s where we’re staying. I wrote ahead, hopefully they’re ready for us.”
We walked out and wandered through the town, taking in the sights. People bustled past, guiding herds of sheep into nearby pens. Another man walked by with a huge bushel of corn on his back, ready for market. It was similar to Swordclash, as the streets were so busy and everybody had somewhere to be, but the difference was in the inhabitants. Here, people smiled and waved to each other. Sometimes, they stopped to have a conversation at the side of the road. In Swordclash, no one would ever even stop to look at each other on their journeys. Wellspring just seemed… friendlier.
“I can see why you liked it here, Sara,” I said as we walked along.
“Yeah, but I don’t think they’re pleased to see me back,” she replied.
As I looked closer at the villagers, I saw what she meant. When they saw us, villagers smiled and waved. When they saw that Sara was with us, though, the smiles faded, the waving hands came down, and they hustled away quickly as if they were worried to be seen with us.
“Oh dear,” said Simon.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said, more confidently than I felt. “Once people know why we’re here, they’ll warm back up to us.”
However, the further we walked, the more the crowds thinned out, and soon we were the only people on the road. Once or twice, I saw curtains twitching as people peered out as us.
“I see word’s got around,” said Saunders dryly.
“It’ll be ok,” I said, hoping I was right.
Eventually we reached the guest house, and we all trooped inside. The lobby was warm and roomy, filled with overstuffed armchairs and kept cozy by a roaring fireplace. I walked up to the reception desk and rung the bell.
From a back room came an old woman with her greying hair tied in a bun, a shawl wrapped around her shoulders and voluminous skirts swishing against her legs. She came to the desk and peered up at me through her half-moon glasses.
“Can I help you, dear?” she asked. “There’s a lot of talk going on about a band of ruffians roaming the streets, and I want to make sure they don’t cause any trouble here.”
“Well madam, I think we appear to be that group of ruffians. I wrote to you yesterday, remember? My name’s Steve, and these are my friends.” I waved a hand behind me. Sara sidled behind Saunders, as if she didn’t want to be seen.
“Oh?” She stretched up to look closer at me. “Steve, the adventurer? I’ve heard all about you.”
I thought I heard Simon snigger behind me.
“Yes, madam, that’s me. I booked us some rooms, could I take the keys for them, please?”
“Payment first, sonny.” She held her hand out.
I presented the old lady with four emeralds to pay for the two rooms we were renting for the night. “Is this enough?”
“Yes, yes, it’s all quite in order.” She turned around to get the keys from the wall behind her. Keys located and now in my hand, she looked more closely at the team behind me. “Quite a band of strapping young fellows,” she observed. “I hope you’re not thinking of causing any trouble?”
They shook their heads. “No, ma’am,” said Saunders.
“Good, good. Most adventurers behave, but some like to get rowdy and cause trouble. Why, only last week there were two of them kicking up a fuss in McKinnon’s barn. The cows weren’t right for days after that.” In the middle of her reverie, her eyes narrowed. “Why, is that you, Sara?” she asked.
Sara stepped out into plain view, her head bowed. “Yes, it’s me,” she said.
“I didn’t know you were coming,” said the old lady.
“Sara’s come to try and find the witch with us to stop her,” I said quickly. “I know she caused trouble here, and she’s made life harder for Sara than anybody else.”
“I heard,” she said. “I hope you find her, that witch needs a good talking to.”
“Hopefully a talking to is all it’ll take to get her to behave,” I said. Sara looked relieved, as though she had just avoided a firing squad.
“Indeed. You’re in rooms 23 and 24,” said the old lady. “I hope you have a wonderful stay. Breakfast tomorrow is at 7 sharp. I hope you have a big appetite, our chef is something special.”
“Thank you.” With that, we made our way to our rooms, which were at the end of a narrow hallway just off the main reception area.
I was sharing with Sara, and Saunders and Simon had the other room. We went into our room and Sara threw her pack onto one of the beds. “That was a close one,” she said, exhaling. “I thought she’d kick us out for sure.”
“If she wanted our emeralds, she wouldn’t have,” I replied. “Look around the place, it’s dead. She probably needs the money.”
Sara considered this for a moment. “That’s strange, though. This guest house is usually busy, that’s why I was surprised when you got us two rooms. I thought the waiting list would be weeks long. It’s a busy town.”
I thought back to the people milling around in the town center, and then the empty compartments on the train. It was strange, to be sure. “It could all be coincidence,” I said. “The owner seems rather meddlesome, maybe word’s got around and no one wants to deal with her poking into their affairs.”
“Hmm, maybe. I’ve never seen her before, though. It used to be a family that ran this guest house.”
“Things change, Sara. You’ve not been here for years. That family probably moved away in the meantime. It’s all ok.”
She plopped down on the bed. “I hope you’re right,” she said.
The next morning, at 7 sharp, we made our way downstairs to breakfast. The dining room was just as cozy as the rest of the guest house, but just as deserted. We sat down at our table, and observed all the empty ones around us.
“This is weird,” said Simon. “I don’t like it.”
“It’s fine,” I said. “I’m sure it’s fine. Chill out. Enjoy your breakfast; we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
The old lady shuffled out of the kitchen and made her way towards us. “Good morning, good morning!” she cried. “How are you all?”
“Fine, thank you,” I said. “What’s on the menu today?”
“Well, the chef is thinking of putting together some omelets for you all. They’re as fresh as can be, we keep chickens in the backyard and I collected the eggs myself this morning.”
“Mmm!” said Simon. “Sounds good!”
The old lady smiled widely. “Shall I get her to whip some up for you all?”
I smiled back, although the grin on her face was unnerving me slightly. “Yes please, that would be lovely.”
“Ok, back in a jiffy!” She turned and shuffled away back into the kitchen, skirts rustling against chairs and tables as she went.
“I’m sorry, but she’s freaking me out a bit this morning” said Saunders in a whisper. “Why is she so excited about breakfast?”
“What’s wrong with that?” asked Simon. “I love breakfast.”
“Yeah, but not as much as her. Steve, what do you think?”
“Yeah, it’s a bit strange. Maybe she’s just an old woman and she’s not seen much business. We should give her the benefit of the doubt.”
“I don’t know,” said Sara. “Something about her seems rather familiar. I just can’t put my finger on it.’
I shrugged. “Let’s just see what she comes back out with.”
Before long, she came back out, brandishing four huge plates containing four enormous omelets. She placed them down in front of us, backed away slightly, and said, “Bon appétit!” in a slightly strained voice. Then, she retreated back to the kitchen as quickly as she’d come.
I looked at my breakfast. It was enormous. Just as I was wondering how I was going to eat it all, Saunders said, “Er… is anyone else’s breakfast… glowing?”
We all looked at his plate, and as we watched, the omelet was indeed giving off its own, slightly green light. Soon, everybody else’s food followed suit.
“Nobody touches theirs,” I commanded, then picked up my knife and fork.
“Don’t eat it!” said Sara quickly.
“I’m not going to, hold on.” I sliced a bit of the omelet away, and inside it was bright green. Now that it had been opened, the glowing light was overpowering. It was now beginning to pulse faintly, too.
“Urgh.” Simon pushed his plate away. Everybody else quickly copied him.
“This is too weird for words.” Sara looked up, and said, “Hey! Someone’s watching us!”
Indeed there was. Through the small window in the kitchen door, a woman’s face was peering out at us.
“Hey! You! What’s going on?” I stood up to go confront her, but she disappeared from view. I instantly gave chase, and I heard three chairs clatter behind me as the others followed.
I burst through the kitchen door and looked around. The room was deserted, the dishes still steaming gently in the sink where they were waiting to be washed up. The window above the sink was open, footprints on the window sill.
“This way!” I jumped up and through the window, and just hoped the others would be able to catch up with me. In the distance, I could see a white clad figure dashing through the early morning crowds, getting ready to go to market.
I ran too, dodging villagers and the odd sheep to get to her. She could run, but I was faster, and I was soon catching up. She shot a quick look over her shoulder and panicked, leaping over a garden fence in her efforts to get away from me. I jumped it too, and I heard my team scrabbling over the fence as I sprinted on.
The chef kept running, I chased her through several villagers’ back gardens, inquisitive children peering through bushes and from trees as we barreled through. Eventually, we reached the end of the gardens and the chef hit a brick wall too high to climb over. She turned and grimaced, ready for whatever she thought I was going to do. I raised my sword, but then…
“Sabrina, is that you?”
She removed her hat, and I saw yes, it was Sabrina, Sara’s glamorous friend from Swordclash. I stared at her. The others quickly caught up with me, and to my surprise, it was Sara who spoke first.
“Sabrina! What are you doing here?” she asked.
She looked wildly at us, cornered like a rat with nowhere to run. She tried to dodge away, but Simon whacked an axe into the wall, blocking her path. She looked as though she were about to cry.
“Please! I had to do it, she made me!”
“Who made you?” I asked. I saw Sara open her mouth but I shook my head at her. “Later,” I said.
“Marigold! The witch! She told me to do it, I had no choice!”
“Were you on the train with us, Sabrina?”
She nodded. “Yes, that was me. You nearly caught me, too. I wish you had.” She looked genuinely remorseful, and I almost let my guard down. However, I resisted the urge. Anyone who was friends with Marigold was trying to hurt us.
“Why’d you do it?” Sara asked. I looked at her. “Sorry.”
“It’s a fair question. Why did you do it, Sabrina? You’re Sara’s friend. Why are you trying to hurt her?”
“Because Marigold forced me into it!” Her eyes were frantic now. “Remember I told you about meeting her in the park? That was true, but I didn’t tell you what else she did. She followed me home that day and knocked on my door. When I answered, she barged in and held me there with her wand. She said she’d do horrible things to me if I didn’t help her. She’s held me hostage, please don’t hate me!” She cowered as if she thought we’d hit her.
Instead, I hauled her up by one arm. “You’re coming back with us, and you’re answering some questions.”
Saunders threw Sabrina into a chair while Simon guarded the door, axe in hand. I knew he’d never use it, but Sabrina didn’t know that. I wanted answers, and I was going to get them. Sara watched warily from the other side of the room. Her friend had turned on her, and she wasn’t about to let her out of her sight. I couldn’t blame her. As we were walking back to the guest house, I had taken her aside.
“I know you’re mad,” I said, “and you have every right to be. However, we need to find out where Marigold is and what she’s up to. I need you to keep out of the questioning until I say so. After that, though, she’s all yours.”
“Really. Can you promise to keep quiet until then?”
Now, I sat in front of Sabrina, who was trembling. We hadn’t tied her up or held her down in any way, and she seemed quite surprised. However, we knew she couldn’t run. Where would she go?
“I’m going to ask you some questions, and you’re going to answer truthfully. Believe me, if you lie, we’ll know about it. If you cooperate with us, we’ll let you go. Does that sound fair?
“Ok then.” I got more comfortable in my chair. “We know Marigold took all the magical creatures books from the cave. What is she planning?”
“I don’t know.”
“Don’t lie to me, Sabrina.”
“I’m telling you, I don’t know! All she said to me was that she was going to create something the world had never seen before, and that she was going to get everybody back.”
“Get them back for what?’
“I don’t know for certain, but all the time I was working with her she was writing back and forth with somebody. She’d send the letters by attaching them to bats.” Sabrina shuddered. “I know it was a man, because she used to mutter about how ‘he would help,’ or how ‘he would show everybody.’ ”
Sara raised her eyebrows at me when I turned round to look at her. I shook my head. “Not yet.”
I turned back to Sabrina. “So, she was in touch with someone who’s helping her create some kind of dangerous, magical creature. Is that right?”
“Yes.” Sabrina was still shaking.
“Do you know where Marigold is now?”
“She was here! The old woman! Sara, you must have recognized her!”
“I knew it!” exclaimed Sara, her promise forgotten. “I knew I knew her from somewhere! No wonder she recognized me!”
“Is she still here?” I asked, urgently.
“No idea. I haven’t seen her since this morning. We’ve been staying here while we were waiting for you, but I’m guessing she’ll be back at the manor now.”
“I thought so.” I sat back. “Sabrina, I’m not surprised you got involved in this, but I am disappointed. Sara, it’s time for your say. Once she’s done with you, you may go.”
“Where will I go? She’ll come after me!”
“I don’t care, to be honest. With any luck, we’ll stop Marigold in her tracks and she won’t be a problem for you. Sara?” I got out of my chair and let Sara sit down.
I don’t know what I expected her to do. Maybe I thought she’d shout and scream, or disown Sabrina as a friend. Instead, she asked, calmly, “Were you working with Marigold before you wrote to me, saying you’d met her in Swordclash?”
“Yes.” Sabrina was crying again.
“You made us come all the way out there on a goose chase? But why? Marigold must have known we’d be looking for her after what she did.”
“That’s why. She wanted you out of the way, so she could search the cave for what she needed.”
“And to set those traps, I imagine.”
“What traps?” Sabrina looked honestly surprised at this news.
“Marigold booby trapped my room. I nearly drowned. Did you really think this would end well, Sabrina? Did you think Marigold would leave me alone? What did you think would happen?”
“I don’t know!” Sabrina wailed. “I didn’t mean to hurt anybody!”
“Yeah, but you did.” Sara stood up. “She can go now.”
“You sure?” I asked.
“Yep. I have nothing else to do with her.”
“Simon, could you step away from the door please?” Simon stepped aside. “You’re free to go. But if we find you with Marigold again, we won’t forgive as easily a second time.”
Sabrina went to leave, then turned and faced Sara. “I’m so sorry,” she said, “I wasn’t thinking straight. I didn’t want anybody to get hurt.”
“Well, luckily nobody has been, yet. Goodbye, Sabrina.” Sara looked pointedly at the door.
Sabrina turned, sadly, and walked out of the guest house.
Yesterday and today we spent getting ready for our raid on Marigold’s manor. We knew we would have to eventually, but there was still groundwork to be done. Simon tuned up all of our equipment and weapons; Saunders locked himself away, making a huge array of possibly useful potions; and Sara and I walked around the town, trying to gather as much information as possible about the goings on at the manor. It was hard going, thanks to their reluctance to talk to Sara.
“Why did you even bring me?” she asked. “They don’t want anything to do with me. You know this.”
“Because they need to see that you’re fighting Marigold,” I replied. “It’ll take a while to change their minds, but eventually they’ll come around to you again.”
“I used to have friends here. She put an end to that,” said Sarah bitterly.
“Well, we’ll make her pay for that. Also, you have friends now, don’t you?” I smiled at her. She weakly smiled back.
After several false starts, we found a shopkeeper in a dark corner of town who was willing to talk to us. As we walked in, he was polishing a particularly dusty piece of glass, but when the bell dinged above his door he put it down and looked up expectantly.
“Good morning!” he said brightly. “How can I help you both?”
“Good morning,” I said. “I’m hoping you might have some information for me.”
“It depends,” said the shopkeeper, chewing his lip. “My memory’s foggy, you see. The only thing that seems to clear it is emeralds.”
“Really?” muttered Sara behind me.
“Is that you, Sara?” asked the shopkeeper. “I haven’t seen you in years. See you’ve found some new friends.”
She simply nodded at him.
I asked, “How much do you want?”
“Depends on what you want to know.”
“I need to know what the witch was up to when she came back here.”
He hmm-ed and haa-ed a while, tilting his head this way and that. “That’s expensive,” he said. “At least ten emeralds.”
“Don’t pay him! That’s extortion!” cried Sara.
“It may well be, but he’s the only person willing to talk to us.” I rummaged in my bag and fished out the ten emeralds, as requested, and scattered them on his counter. “Will you answer my questions now?”
Hmm. “Ok. Have you seen anything unusual going on at the witch’s manor since she came back? Did she meet up with anybody?”
He thought a moment. “There was the girl in the cape. Crept around a lot in it. Saw her this morning, in fact, she was leaving town. Did she anything to do with her?”
“She’s running away then,” Sara sniffed.
I ignored her for a moment. “Was there anybody else?”
“There was a man at one point. Older fellow. Long grey beard. He came in the dead of night, I saw him because I was out collecting ingredients at the time.”
“Ingredients for what?” asked Sara.
“Never you mind! Always nosy, you. Anyway, I saw him show up and I think he was trying not to be seen. I don’t know when he left, but I never saw him again.”
“I wonder if he was the man Marigold was writing to?” I asked Sara. She shrugged.
“It got busy over there after that. The girl with the cape was always in and out, collecting things for her. I heard a few explosions over there, too. Probably messing with things that shouldn’t be messed with.”
“I think I’ve heard enough. Sara, you ready to go?”
“Yup. Let’s go stop her.”
Yet again, we were ready for battle. In the still empty guest house, we tooled up and got ready to go. Simon hauled his portable witch trap outside, ready to come with us. No one was feeling enthusiastic.
“Remember the traps,” I said before we left. “She’s crafty, don’t forget it.”
We headed out as it was getting dark. The manor loomed large and imposing on the outskirts of Wellspring. Once, it might have been a well-kept and attractive home, but now it was overrun with weeds and broken debris. One corner of the roof was falling in, slates and bricks occasionally falling from it in desolate thuds. On either side of the door, dead trees swayed sadly in the breeze.
“Wow, she really let the place fall apart,” breathed Sara. “It was beautiful back when I lived here.”
We approached the door carefully. Taking my sword, I poked it to check for traps. The door swung inward on its rusty hinges, squealing horribly. Everybody grimaced.
“Well, she’ll know we’re here now,” said Saunders.
“Everybody stay together,” I said. “I don’t want to lose anybody.”
We crept inside, and felt our way further into the house. There were no lamps or torches, leaving most of the hallways in the semi gloom of the evening. Every now and then we heard far off sounds of glass breaking or things scraping across the ground, or smells none of us could quite describe.
“I don’t like this,” said Saunders. “We don’t even know if she’s here.”
As he said this, we could hear voices in the distance. I held up a hand to silence everyone, and we stopped to listen.
“We need to do this now. We haven’t got time!” An older man’s voice.
“We’re not ready! Sabrina’s gone, and those adventurers are still poking around! They’ll only interfere, and we won’t have another chance at this!”
“Marigold,” breathed Sara. I shushed her.
“Exactly. We’ll never get the chance again. The moon is nearly full. If we wait for the next one, they’ll have put everything together and they’ll try to stop us. We must go, now!”
That was all I needed to hear. Whatever they were planning, it wasn’t going to be good. I signaled to everybody, and we sneaked down the corridor towards the voices. There was a light under a door, which we moved towards as quietly as possible. The only thing we had on our side was the element of surprise.
“Ready the machine, woman!” the man cried behind the door. “We have only seconds left!”
As we reached the door, we heard a crash and an almighty howl. The light under the door bloomed, lighting up the entire hallway. Shielding our eyes, we opened the door onto the strangest scene I’d ever seen.
The room was a large stone dungeon that looked like it belonged more in an ancient castle than a falling-apart manor house. In the middle of the room, a large iron cage sat under an open hole in the roof, through which we could see the full moon clearly. The cage was currently filled with smoke, but something was thrashing about within.
The male voice belonged to an old man who stood with his back to us, wearing old, ragged robes and chanting loudly. The other occupant of the room, Marigold, was working frantically at a machine, feeding potions into slots and hitting buttons. She looked haggard, as if she hadn’t slept for a week.
We should have attacked straight away, but we were all so shocked we couldn’t do anything. As the smoke cleared, the man stopped chanting and turned around.
“Ah. We have company.”
Marigold stopped what she was doing and turned to us. When she saw us there, she screamed.
“No! NO! You can’t be here now! You’ll ruin everything!”
“Too late,” said Sara, stepping forward. “What are you doing? What happened to you?”
“Nothing that concerns you.” The old man stepped forward. “You must be that little band of adventurers that have been on our tail. Well, this is the end of the line. You aren’t going to stop us, not now. Not ever.” He raised his hands and began to chant.
“NO!” I ran forward and tackled him, driving him to the floor. Saunders and Simon ran to Marigold and held her by her arms, as they saw her moving towards the machine. I stood over the man, pointing my sword at him.
“What are you planning? Tell me, or you and this sword are going to get much better acquainted.”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” he said, smiling. He didn’t seem worried in the slightest. “I know you, Steve. I’ve heard all about you. Fond of waving that sword about, aren’t you?”
“What you know about me isn’t important. What’s in that cage?”
Before he could answer, the smoke cleared properly and there was another blood curdling screech. We all turned around slowly.
In the cage was a monster we’d never seen before. It stood like a man, although its shoulders were hunched and it was covered in off-white scraggly fur. There were bald patches where its pink, scabby skin showed through. It turned round, and we saw that it had the head of a wolf. Its eyes were red and its teeth were easily deadly, growing out of its mouth and looking fatally sharp. It snapped and snarled at the bars, flecks of foam flying from its jaws.
“What is that?” screamed Sara. “What have you done, Marigold?”
“You wouldn’t understand!” Marigold screamed back. “You weren’t there! You never met the people who threw me out! They deserve this!”
“Who? Who deserves this?” I yelled. “You’ve lost your minds, both of you! I’m shutting this down right now.”
I moved towards the machine, Sara hot on my heels. I was ready to start hitting buttons, any buttons, in order to get rid of whatever they had made in that cage. In between all the screaming and howling, I never even heard the man get up.
“Good luck with it when I release it,” he called, and then everything was dark.
I rolled over onto my side. What happened? There was a man, and a monster, and all that smoke…
All of a sudden it came back to me. I jumped up and grabbed my sword. My team was scattered around me, waking up and moaning in unison. Nearby was Marigold, sitting hunched over and looking terrified.
“I didn’t mean for this to happen…” she whispered as she saw me looking at her.
The monster. Where was the monster?
As if summoned by my thoughts, I heard a low growling nearby. All too late, I wondered, where are we?
Saunders stood up. “We’re in Swordclash. What’s going on? How did we get here?”
“The wizard,” said Marigold, staying put. “Niflyn the Terrible. He sent us here to get us out of the way.”
“That’s great, but what about that monster?” Looking around, all I could see was grass and trees. Fog obscured my view as I tried to look further out.
“Where are we, exactly?”
“This is Pinnacle Park,” said Sara. “We’re not far from Sabrina’s building. It’s probably the park where she,” she said, gesturing at Marigold, “recruited her.”
“Can anyone see the monster?” I asked, slightly panicked now. I’d never fought anything like it before. How would I know what to do?
We all stared into the fog, looking desperately for the wolf/man hybrid. The growling grew louder.
“Marigold! How do we stop it?”
“You can’t! It’ll attack you and there’s nothing you can do about it!” She wrung her hands. “What have I done?”
I could hear branches and leaves crackling underfoot. Under the feet of something big.
“It’s out that way!” I pointed, and everyone dove for cover just as the beast came tearing out of the trees. I swung my sword at it, but it merely glanced off its shoulder, angering it. It roared and turned round to get me. A long paw, with deadly claws on the ends of its fingers, came swiping out towards me. I ducked just in time.
We circled around the park, eyeing each other. Everyone stared on in terror. Who was going to walk away from this fight?
I lunged again, hoping to take it by surprise. Not even fazed, the monster lazily swiped out, its claws catching me on my cheek. As I fell back, I felt the claw marks sting.
“Get away from it! It’s too strong!” called Sara.
I didn’t have the choice. It had to be me or the monster, or everybody was in danger.
We kept fighting, but it ducked my every move and I was getting exhausted. I couldn’t keep it up. The others tried to help, but I yelled for them to get away. I couldn’t risk anyone else getting hurt.
Just as I thought it was all over for me, I heard somebody yell, “Someone’s there!” Before I could even process what that meant, I saw a blur race towards me. On its way, it grabbed Marigold by the arm and yanked her behind it, ignoring her furious screams. It then barreled directly towards the beast.
“Look out!” Sara yelled to it. It paid no notice. It grabbed the monster by the scruff of its neck, and suddenly all three of them disappeared in a puff of purple smoke.
We were alone. I fell to the ground, breathing heavily. Was it over?
Just as we were about to get to our feet and try and find our way home, the purple smoke returned, and within it…
Clad in her dark cloak, she walked towards us. “Am I forgiven yet?” she asked.
“What did you do?” Sara asked. Saunders and Simon just looked at her, dazedly.
“I took them back to Wellspring. I saw that trap outside the manor? I threw the werewolf in, and locked Marigold in the house. I told her I’d be back soon, so I’ve got to be brief here. I’ll take you home. Where do you want to go?”
“I’m sorry; you’ll have to back up a bit. You have magical powers now?” asked Sara.
“I was learning under Marigold. Turns out I have a knack for it.” She shrugged.
“That’s an understatement. What are you going to do with the… werewolf, did you say?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I can’t damage it right now, I’m still too weak. However, hopefully I can tame it.” She plucked at her cloak. “I don’t know where the wizard went though. I’m sorry, I hoped I would catch him in time.”
“I think we can let you off the hook for that one. Are you able to take us back to my fortress?”
She nodded. “Yes, if you all come here and form a circle, I can teleport us all there.”
We stumbled over and joined hands. Sabrina closed her eyes, and suddenly we were flying through empty space, surrounded by the purple smoke. I head Saunders exclaim, “Cool!” Simon just screamed.
It was all over in a couple of seconds, and soon we all thumped down on the grass outside the fortress in an ungainly heap.
“Sorry,” said Sabrina, dusting herself off. “I haven’t quite mastered the landing yet.”
“Quite.” said Sara.
“Look, I have to go now, to watch Marigold and make sure she doesn’t get up to any more trouble, but promise we’ll be in touch soon? Niflyn is at large, and I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him.”
With that, Sabrina disappeared in a puff of smoke.
We’ve spent most of today wandering around the fortress in a daze. I patched up my face, which is going to sport some pretty nasty scars once it all heals up.
Sara has locked herself in her room and is furiously reading up on witches and wizards. I don’t know if she’s truly forgiven Sabrina yet, but all I know is it was lucky we were sent somewhere so close to her home. She must have seen us from her enormous window. I’ve felt very thankful in the past few hours for that window.
Sabrina seemed remorseful when we found her in Wellspring, but how bad can she feel when she developed magical powers through her time with Marigold? Sara says she’s already more powerful than Marigold ever was, so this could go either way. Will Sabrina stay true to her word and hold Marigold in check, or will she use her powers for her own gain?
For now, though, we need to regroup and plan our next mission. There’s a wizard on the loose, and we need to track him down.
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Diary of a Minecraft Steve (Book 2): The Amazing Minecraft World Told by a Hero Minecraft Steve (Minecraft Books) Steve and his friends may have defeated a giant, but now they have to deal with the giant's creator. Following an urgent message from a friend, the team travel to Swordclash, a town unlike anywhere they've ever been before. Worldly traveler Sabrina tells them that Marigold the Witch, who created a giant to test her powers, has found out what they've done and she's on the warpath! The trusty band of adventurers soon head out on a quest to find Marigold and stop her before she gets revenge, but soon they find that they're in much grave danger than they thought. Villagers flee from them, traps are set to catch them, and mysterious forces come for them in the night. What is Marigold planning, and how far will she go to achieve her aims? Follow Steve, Sara, Simon and Saunders as they attempt to foil her evil plot and save the world again! Scroll Up and Click on "buy now with 1-Click" to Download Your Copy Right Now * * * * * * * * * * Tags: diary of a minecraft steve, diary of a minecraft, minecraft books, diary, minecraft steve, jokes for kids, books for kids