Shifting by viettq58

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									Copyright © 2011 Rachel Humphrey – D’aigle

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Cover Photograph by Danielle Page Photography
   Book Two

    Meghan and Colin Jacoby fell through an archway, thudding onto a cold stone floor. On one
side of the archway, the silhouette of the Scratcher enclosing its wings around their Uncle
Arnon’s body faded, while on the twins’ side of the archway, they were met by suspicious stares
from the Svoda Gypsies.
  Colin, his back to the Gypsies, glanced at the culprit that had caused him to fall through the
pine tree. It was his book, Magicante. Instinct told him to hide it under his sweater.
   Why had his uncle done it?
   Meghan sat on the icy stone floor, her face blank. Words would not formulate in her mind.
   “Let me through, let me through!” a familiar voice called out.
  Colin faced the Gypsies, searching through the staring eyes as Jae Mochrie appeared in a stone
doorway about ten feet away; he held his arms against each side of the stone wall, as if holding
it up, out of breath.
   Meghan raised her head, becoming aware of the suspicious stares.
  “I don’t believe it. This is bad! This is really bad!” Jae darted across the room. “You’re not in
any immediate danger,” he whispered.
  Meghan bounced off the floor and jerked her confused head back and forth between Jae and
the other Gypsies.
   What did Jae mean?
  The twins’ only concern was to get home. Meghan finally found the strength to speak, but she
couldn’t form a complete sentence.
   “The Scratcher…wings … our uncle…go back.”
   The crowd inhaled at the same moment. Murmurs spread like fire.
   “Wings …”
   “He’s dead for sure.”
   “It would take a miracle…”
  Meghan’s breath drew heavily as she tried to comprehend what was happening. Colin
trembled as the truth began to sink in. Then, Colin’s head shot up.
   “Jae! Your dad and the other guy, are they…” he didn’t finish.
  “The guy that helped my dad is fine. Dad is hurt pretty bad, but he’ll be okay thanks to you
two. Which makes what I have to tell you even harder.”
  Meghan could not get enough air. Colin attempted to keep his mind focused on the current
moment, which was difficult, as their desire to get back to Uncle Arnon was mounting. Jae
dropped his head, heaving a great breath, preparing for what he needed to say to them.
   “By now, your uncle is most likely…”
   Meghan cut him off, finally knocked out of her stupor.

  “Don’t even say that! Open it back up! Now!” Meghan jumped back through the archway.
Nothing happened! Jae grabbed her and forced her to make eye contact with him. Colin took
hold of her hand, as comprehension of their situation became clear.
  “We can’t go back, can we?” he confirmed. His face tightened; he did not want to lose it, not
here, in front of complete strangers.
  Jae did not have the heart to answer and instead kicked the wall angrily.
  “This wasn’t supposed to happen.”
  Meghan slowly sank down to the floor. “Can’t go back,” she repeated.
  The crowd buzzed. It was clear that something like this had never happened before and no
one knew what to do. Jae leaned in to Colin’s ear.
  “Did any one see you use magic?”
  “Only the Scratchers and my uncle, I think,” answered Colin in a low, trembling voice.
  “Keep that and your book secret! This doorway won’t open again for three years. That’s why I
had to get home tonight. It only opens during the blue moon, which only happens…”
  “Three years, every three years,” finished Colin, dazed. Meghan heard him and stood up,
angry, instantly mindful of her stupidity. Why hadn’t she just listened to Jae and not come to
his aid? Then their uncle would not be…
  Outside, the crowd quieted, parting down the middle, serving as a corridor for someone
hurriedly approaching.
  “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Jae muttered apologetically. He backed away from the
twins. They waited breathlessly, unsure of what was to come next. A woman’s voice
reverberated through the stone room.
  “Jae, you are safe.” She said it as though it was simple fact and promptly moved on. Her fierce
gaze bored into the twins. It was Juliska Nandalia Blackwell, Banon of the Svoda Gypsies. They
saw Jae do a slight head bow as she spoke to him. Meghan and Colin decided to follow Jae’s lead
and performed a small bow. Juliska Blackwell’s face softened, but remained stern. She did not
speak right away.
  “Excuse me, Banon Blackwell, if I may speak on their behalf,” said Jae, coming to her side.
  She did not acknowledge Jae and slowly stretched out her thin, pale arm; beautiful silk red
gloves covered her hands. She stroked Meghan’s cheek, who didn’t breathe, wondering if this
was some kind of curse or spell she should be wary of.
 “What are your names, you first?” she demanded from Colin.
  “Colin Jacoby, ma’am.”
  Her gaze then swept to Meghan.
  “And you?”
  “Meghan Jacoby, Colin’s twin sister.”
  “Speak,” the Banon ordered Jae. Her eyes never left the twins.
  “If it hadn’t been for Meghan and Colin Jacoby’s assistance, my father would be dead. Saving
him got them stuck here.”
  Her eyes drilled into Jae, and she interrogated further.
  “Did they offer or did you seek their help?”
  Jae was noticeably losing his nerve.

  “They came to me, and being on my own, I accepted,” he explained.
  Juliska Blackwell whisked herself around to Jae.
  “We will need to speak further, but I will allow you to go home to your family tonight.”
  Jae knew this was his cue to depart, but the worry on his face sent the twins’ already weak
strength plummeting. Impending doom, they both felt it.
  The twins realized that the stone room had emptied, except for Banon Blackwell. She paced,
speaking coolly.
  “You must realize that this situation is most uncommon and will not be easily accepted
amongst my people. I have taught them, perhaps too well, not to trust outsiders. We cannot
survive if our safety is compromised! And no matter how good your intentions or Jae’s, your
uncle, if not dead, is likely being tortured and questioned about us.”
  Meghan’s legs faltered. Colin, in only slightly stronger shape, leaned to steady her.
  Juliska Blackwell helped her first.
  “I am sorry. But the truth is all I can speak. Nothing else has kept us alive for this long,” her
voice grew kinder.
  The thought of their uncle being dead was horrible enough, but being tortured for something
he did not know about was more than either of the twins could bear.
  The Banon released her steadying grip on Meghan and whisked around, motioning for two
women, who stood near the entrance, to enter.
  “Bring them! Nothing will be decided tonight. Tomorrow, the Viancourt will decide their
fate.” She dashed away, her deep red jacket flipping in the still night air behind her.
  Two women grabbed the twins, not unkindly, pulling them from the stone room, out into the
darkness. A crowd of at least a hundred shot untrusting glares at the duo, followed by
unwelcoming voices.
  “She will not let them stay!”
  “No. No way, it’s not right.”
  “Where then will they go?” another one asked. “They can’t go home.”
  “Spies!” someone shouted viciously.
  Two things were certain. One: they could not go home! And two: they were not welcome
  The twins came to an abrupt stop. A tall man with spikes in his hair, dressed in a long over-
sized coat, blocked their path. His eyes were unkind, showing no mercy. The twins recognized
him as the man named Garner Sadorus.
  “Who are you?” he demanded.
  The twins did not answer.
  “Oh get out of the way, Garner,” spat the woman holding Colin’s arm. “You heard the Banon.
This will be decided by the Viancourt, the entire Viancourt, Garner, not just you.” Her eyes
flashed, enjoying the confrontation.
  “And I, as a member of this most high position, have the right…”
  “Excuse me, Vian Sadorus, sir.” Again, Jae came to their rescue. “I will speak for them.”
  The man named Garner glared down at Jae, scowled annoyingly, and then gave up, stalking

  “Wouldn’t be good to get on his bad side,” whispered Jae. “Although, most believe that’s the
only side he has.” Neither twin could reply at that moment.
  The two women shook their heads at the confrontation and forged onward. Jae followed them
a few steps before a forced goodbye left him in the shadows.
  The murmurs of the crowd faded. The women held lanterns to light their way; the twins had
not even noticed where they had gotten them. There was no moon or stars, only black night.
They stopped at the entrance to a wagon. Inside, it was similar to the one Jae had stayed in back
in Camp Cobbscott, though smaller.
  The twins waited near the entrance as the two women disappeared into another room. They
were gone only a minute and came back with blankets.
  “You will have to stay in the wagon for the night, but its safe here,” the first woman said. She
was a small stout woman and went to the fireplace, waving her hand over it. “Fire will keep you
warm. Food you can find in the kitchen.”
  The twins sank into a sofa next to the fire, overwhelmed. The stout woman exited the wagon.
The other lagged behind, taking a seat across from the twins. She was a rugged looking woman
with short, somewhat curled hair. Her voice was not what the twins expected. Colin’s thoughts
said it best – a woman right out of a black and white movie, over-dramatic and to the point, and
he thought her face was pretty.
  “I’m positively ashamed for such harsh treatment, especially after you helped our Jae get
home. I’m sure you’re picking up that the Svoda aren’t so trusting to strangers.”
  “Jae warned us to be careful,” mustered out Meghan. She couldn’t think of anything else to
say, and worse, she thought, the more we say, the more we could get ourselves, or Jae, into
  “Yes, he’s a good boy. Hope the court isn’t too hard on him. What do they expect from a kid?”
  “Jae will have to go before a court?” questioned Colin, feeling oddly comfortable around the
  “'Fraid so. It’s the only way to get the whole picture, see. But don’t go frettin’ about that. Jae
can handle himself fine. My name is Billie by the way, Billie Sadorus.”
  “Sadorus? Are you related to the man named Garner?” asked Colin without thinking.
  “He’s my brother, sure. Stink of a man!” she said, winking. “But my brother none the less.”
She stood to depart. “I realize it won’t be easy, but do try and get some rest, will you?” She then
muttered to herself all the way out of the wagon.
  “What a way to treat two youngins. Shameful, that’s what it is. Sometimes I don’t know
what’s becoming of us all?”
  The door shut and they heard a lock clink into place. They were alone.
  Neither twin spoke.
  The desire eluded them.
  Colin moved to the other couch. Sleep came in waves, and included nightmares of their
uncle’s unknown fate. It was not until light began to fill the wagon that they got up, slowly
realizing that the previous night had not been a terrible dream. Colin was the first to speak.
  “What do they need to decide exactly, anyway?”
  “I think, whether we can stay with them or not.”

  “Why can’t we stay?” he whispered as if someone may be listening.
  “They’re obviously not fond of outsiders, Col.”
  “But what would they do with us?”
  “Like I’m supposed to have some idea?” she snapped back. “Sorry,” she added a second later.
  “I wish we knew how long we’re going to have to wait here,” Colin replied.
  Meghan finally said what was truly on her mind.
  “I cannot accept that there is NO way to find out about Uncle Arnon. I think as soon as we do
get out of here, we need to find a way.”
  “We don’t even know where here is! How are we going to find a way home?” asked Colin.
  “I don’t know. But we have to! The Scratchers follow these guys, so there must be a way!” she
said decidedly.
  With nothing more to say, they attempted to eat. They found bread for toast in the kitchen; it
was dry going down their throats no matter how much butter they spread on it.
  After hours of waiting, and not knowing their fate, the lock clicked open on the wagon door.
They sat down trying not to appear too eager and did not look up until they heard the familiar
voice of Jae Mochrie.
  “Guys, it’s me. Sorry I couldn’t come sooner,” he apologized, slumping down next to them.
“They wouldn’t let me come until after I’d met with the Viancourt.”
  “I hope it wasn’t terrible, Jae,” said Meghan, concerned about their only friend in this
unfamiliar world.
  “It was like filing a report. They needed a list of anything I’d done that could have
compromised our safety.”
  The twins were horrified.
  “Look, it’s not that bad. If I were in serious trouble I would not be allowed here.”
  “What about us? Have they decided anything?” she asked cautiously.
  “I’m not sure. I have to bring you to the court in thirty minutes, though. They held a private
meeting after I left.”
  “How far do we have to go?” asked Meghan.
  “That’s hard to answer.”
  “Where exactly are we?” asked Colin, hoping for a clearer picture.
  “A place called Grimble.”
  “Grimble? Where’s that?” Colin asked.
  “It’s a bit hard to describe. Maybe I’ll get to show you around,” Jae said, attempting to sound
  “How far away from home are we?” Meghan then asked.
  “It’s difficult to explain. When you go through a doorway you’re in another place.” None of
this made sense to Meghan, but Colin had read many books about portals to other worlds.
  “So, its not a matter how far,” he said, “but finding the right doorway to the right place,” he
  “More or less,” said Jae, catching on to their thoughts. “Unfortunately, from Grimble, there is
no way back to Cobbscott.”
  “You’re absolutely sure?” questioned Meghan, losing hope. Jae nodded.

  “We better get going,” he said. “We don’t want to make the Viancourt wait.” The twins,
though not eager to discover their fate, were desperate to get out of the wagon.
  “It’s not far,” Jae told them, as they followed a fog-covered path.
  “Are we going into a town?” asked Meghan, struggling to see Jae.
  “Yes and no,” he answered, confusing the twins. The fog cleared enough to see a group of
gypsy wagons lined up in a circle; as they climbed up the stairs to one of them, the twins’
attention was taken away by a ghostly shadow two wagons over.
  “C’mon, we gotta keep moving,” urged Jae, reclaiming their attention. “Once inside we have a
ways to go.”
  “A ways?” questioned Meghan.
  “You’ll see,” said Jae, with a slight smirk on his worried face. He opened the door and
motioned for the twins to enter ahead of him. They expected to see the same thing they had in
the other wagons, but this one was much different.
  It was a small village. It reminded the twins of the old fishing villages they often visited off
the coast of Maine. A few Gypsies hustled about, but mostly, it was deserted.
  “What is this place?” asked Colin in a stunned voice.
  Jae led them deeper into the village.
  “This is Bedgewood Harbor,” he explained. “It’s a small replica of our real home, in the
Bedgewood Isles, which is actually off the coast of Northern Maine.”
  “So your real home is really in our world?” confirmed Colin.
  “Yeah, it is,” answered Jae, as he directed them down a cobblestone street.
  Two older, proper-looking ladies sat outside of a small brick building. A sign dangled over
them: The Jackal Lantern. They wore 1930’s style dresses and sipped from delicate looking
  “Those are the Jackal sisters,” said Jae. “They put out our local paper. And, whatever they’re
drinking, it’s definitely not tea!” He laughed, nodding to the sisters as the trio walked by. The
sisters nodded back, politely.
  Moments later, it began to sprinkle.
  “Our weather here is the same as on the real Bedgewood Isles. I’m not sure how it all works
exactly. But it’s a small connection to home.” They had stopped in front of an ominous brick
  “I can’t go inside,” said Jae, holding open the door. The look on his face said, I hope I see you
  The twins stepped inside the building, gulping hard. Before they shut the door Jae explained
where they needed to go.
  “Take the winding stair up two levels,” he instructed. “Then take the staircase to your right
and go down three levels.” His voice cracked at the end.
  Colin wrinkled his brow. Why not just go down one level to begin with? Meghan heard his
thought, but ignored it, dragging him inside. One lone picture hung on an otherwise bare wall.
  “Nethanial Bedgewood, founder of the Svoda Gypsies,” read Meghan.
  “I guess that explains why it’s called Bedgewood,” said Colin nervously.

  Once up the two flights of spiral stairs, they reached a hallway leading to the right. A few
steps away another staircase headed downward. Upon arrival they came to an archway, with a
hanging sign.

Viancourt in session, do not enter!

  “Great! It says not to enter. Maybe we arrived too late,” Colin said. They decided to take a seat
in what appeared to be a small waiting room. The fireplace was unlit and the twins shivered as
they waited. They hoped to catch a glimpse of someone who could tell them whether they
should enter or wait.
  They waited, silently, their minds still trying to comprehend all that had happened, when a
pleasant voice came over a loud speaker.
  “New incoming message. Please listen carefully. In the case of Meghan and Colin Jacoby, a
decision has been reached. Please enter through the archway within the next thirty seconds.”
The pleasant woman’s voice came over the distant speaker again, counting down from thirty.
  Meghan grabbed Colin and dashed for the archway. As they passed through, an iron barrier
slammed down behind them.
  The building changed too, the walls now made out of wooden planks, like a ship. They
stepped cautiously down the only corridor, stopping at a door. Streaks of light snuck through
the cracks in between thick wooden planks.
  The door creaked as it opened into a dimly lit room, made up of nine wooden desks. The desks
were lined up in a semi-circle with a podium in front, which swiveled, to face an audience, or,
the nine desks.
  Behind the row of desks was an elevated chair, currently empty. Lanterns and candles were
the only light in the room and a smaller desk sat off to the side. A man hunched over it,
scribbling notes.
  After seeing the twins’ arrival, he jumped up, guiding them to stand in front of the podium, in
clear view of the desks. Only three of the chairs were occupied, two men (one being Garner
Sadorus), and one woman. The twins assumed they were the Viancourt. The court examined
the twins with great interest. However, not one of the three gave any indication as to what kind
of decision they had made.
  “Please stand for Banon Juliska Nandalia Blackwell.” The twins were startled as the man who
had assisted them announced the Banon’s entrance. A door opened from the back and she
elegantly strode into the room, wearing a long-jacket as before. This time, it was emerald green
and simpler in style. She took her seat in the raised chair behind the court.
  “You have come to a unanimous decision in the matter of the Jacoby siblings?” asked the note
taker. The three court members answered “Yes” in unison. The man returned to his desk and
began scribbling a transcript of the meeting. The one female court member, an older, rough
looking woman, whose nameplate read, Tanzea Chase, was the first to speak.
  “I have been led to believe that you lived with your uncle. Is this correct?” Her voice was cold
and the smell of mothballs emanated from her direction.
  Colin was shaking too hard to speak, so Meghan started.

   “Yes, that’s true, our Uncle, Arnon Jacoby, Ma’am.” Meghan tried to be courteous and
   Tanzea Chase continued her questioning.
   “What circumstances brought you to living with him?”
   “Our parents,” she gulped hard, “died when we were two years old.”
  Another member of the court spoke, his nameplate read, Darius Hadrian. His face was stern
and gave away no emotion.
   “How is it that you decided to help our Jae Mochrie?” The twins were not sure how to answer
this and Meghan trilled a silent reminder to Colin not to mention that Jae had told them about
   “We met Jae at the lake one day, back at Camp Cobscott,” explained Colin timidly. “Then we
asked him to hang out again the next day, and he told us that he would be leaving. We left it as
it’s been nice to meet you and all…”
   Meghan sent him a mind nudge to get to the point.
   He continued nervously.
   “The night you were all leaving, my sister and I did something we now realize was a very bad
   He took a deep breathe and retold the story of the night Jae got stuck behind, and how they
had found the fallen down pine tree and encountered the Scratchers. As Colin explained,
Meghan realized something: their current predicament was entirely her fault!
  It was due to her desire to go into the woods that began the series of events that brought them
to this moment! Moreover, she was the reason her uncle was likely dead, or worse, being
tortured, if he had somehow survived. Her knees wobbled and she grabbed the podium for
support. Meanwhile, Colin finished explaining their first encounter with the Scratchers.
   The group talked amongst themselves.
   “So, their story corroborates his,” Tanzea’s rough voice said.
   “Fascinating information! This could prove most useful, proof of a Scratchman,” said Darius
   Juliska Blackwell had not yet moved or spoken. Meghan, regaining her composure, was
captivated by her as she gracefully vaulted from her chair, facing the twins. The three members
of the Viancourt went mute behind her.
   “We are sorry for putting you through this, and we are sorry for your uncle. It has been
decided by this court that you will be permitted to live amongst us. There is no alternative. No
way to send you home.” The court clapped lightly behind her, although the twins noticed
Garner Sadorus and Tanzea Chase hunched over, whispering. The court arose behind her,
believing Juliska would depart the wooden chamber, but she lingered.
   “There are a few things you must understand,” she told them. “Though our guests here, there
will be certain events you may not be permitted to attend. Things meant only for the Svoda
people. Things that must be kept secret.”
   Both Meghan and Colin shook their heads that they understood. They were in an unfamiliar
place, with no knowledge of how to get home. At least they could stay.

    Jae will be so relieved, they both thought. The Banon exited the room in the same graceful
manner as she had entered. The court followed behind her, but not before Garner got in one
last scowl. He had been so anxious to question them yesterday, and today he had not asked
them one single question. The twins did know what to think about that.
  The note taker still hunched over his desk, scribbling away. After a minute he noticed the two
still standing there, awkwardly.
  “Oh, sorry, forgot. This way to get out,” he headed them off to another door. As he pushed
them through the door, he advised, “Go down a flight of stairs and then up two levels, and then
down a flight. Find yourselves right back where you started.”
  He slammed the door behind them.


   They could not get out of the building fast enough. A crowd of around twenty waited,
breathlessly, Jae in front. Colin gulped, seeing a few Svoda off to the side, glaring. Meghan
answered the group’s question.
   “They said we can stay.” Jae was instantly relieved. The glaring Gypsies stormed off, muttering
to each other. This clearly was not the decision they had expected. Jae introduced the twins to
his family.
   “This is my mother, Sheila, and my sister, Mireya.”
   “Oh, nice to meet you,” the twins replied, half-heartedly.
   Sheila was a frail woman, with short thin hair. She wore a knee length skirt and apron, with
tall tan boots. Mireya was a miniature image of her mother.
   “This situation is dreadful,” Sheila spoke. “However, I must admit I am glad to be able to
thank you in person, for everything you’ve done for my family. Helping my son return home,
and saving my husband from a fate worse than death. I’m deeply sorry about your uncle. Arnon
Jacoby was it?”
   “Yes, it is Arnon,” Meghan corrected.
   Sheila did not respond. An uneasy minute passed as the Gypsies dispersed, most ignoring the
twins completely.
   “While here, you are welcome to stay with us, it is the least, and the most, I can offer,” she
told them, abruptly taking hold of Mireya’s hand and speeding her frail frame down the
walkway. She yelled back, “Make sure you’re home early tonight, Jae.”
   “Yeah, I will, mom.” After she was out of sight, Jae said, “Why don’t I show you around a
little, help you get settled in.”
   Before they could begin, the trio noticed someone standing in the shadows of a nearby
building. It was Billie Sadorus. Seeing that the crowd had dispersed she strutted over, muttering
her satisfaction that the court had made the only right decision.

  “That took long enough! Don’t see why they couldn’t have done that last night. Keeping two
youngins locked up like common criminals! A shame! That’s what it is, a shame,” her voice was
raspy as it spoke the same mutterings the twins had heard the evening before.
  “Hi, Billie,” said Jae in an exited voice, after her tirade ended.
  “Glad to have you back, boy. Why don’t you and our new guests come over for a bite?”
  “I can show you around later, you’ll love Billie’s place,” insisted Jae.
  The twins were overwhelmed and not in the mood for visiting, but also did not feel they had
a choice. They tiredly agreed and followed Billie down a street called Scrooby, which ended
abruptly at a boat-shaped brown shingled cottage; crooked turrets protruded from the sides of
the cottage.
  “Make yourselves at home,” said Billie. “I’ll go get us a bite.”
  “Cool house, huh,” said Jae.
  “Where are all her belongings?” asked Meghan, noticing how empty the house was as they
stepped inside.
  “Our homes here are replicas. All our real belongings are still on our island, other than what
we could bring with us.” The place was empty, with the exception of some simple furniture,
and a few trunks stuffed with papers and books, most of which were strewn about.
  “Ah, I see you’ve found my papers. Sorry, I was filing some work. Can’t locate the file I’m
looking for,” said Billie, arriving with a tray of cocoa and the most delicious smelling chocolate
chip cookies the twins had ever smelled.
  “What do you do for work?” asked Colin curiously.
  “A little o’ this, little o’ that. Mostly I keep track of historical information. I like to collect
things. Keep a record of our journey. If you ever have questions about Svoda history, in these
papers lie your answers. I keep hoping one of these days my sad excuse for a brother, Garner,
will...” she trailed off, mumbling.
  “Garner Sadorus. I don’t think he likes us,” said Colin, forgetting it might offend their host.
  Meghan shot him a glare.
  Billie responded, as if speaking to the air.
  “Not a full day here and already they see how atrocious my brother has become.”
  “I don’t know if I’d say atrocious,” said Colin, trying to make up for his mistake. “But
definitely scary.”
  “Exactly! He’s lost touch with reality, that man! I don’t understand what’s gotten into Garner
these last few years. He’s changed. Listen to me babbling on about my sibling issues. Eat up,
drink up, and tell me about yourselves.”
  To Meghan’s surprise her brother started.
  “We were raised by our uncle and we just turned thirteen.” Meghan thoughts strayed to
Kanda Macawi, the Jendayas (especially Sebastien), and how at this precise moment they could
be mourning their uncle’s death, and wondering what had happened to them.
  Billie picked up their worry.
  “It’s a real shame I’ll say again, you two being stuck here. Must have plenty of people worried
about ya back home. If I knew of any way to even get a message to them, I’d sure help ya out.”

  “Thanks, Billie,” said Meghan. The twins knew that Billie would be a good friend in this new
world they were stuck in. She sat cross-legged on the floor, shuffling through some folders,
when a photograph of a woman slipped out. Billie’s rugged eyes saddened, and even though it
was a black and white picture, it was easy to see that the woman’s natural features were pale,
her smile addictive. A tattoo crawled over her left shoulder and up her neck. Jae sighed.
  “It’s been a long time, Billie? Hasn’t it?”
  “Yes. Such a long time.” Billie slid the picture back into the folder. “Oh, no worries now! We
all have loved ones we haven’t seen in a long time.”
  Meghan was about to ask what she meant, when Jae interrupted.
  “I hate to run, Billie, but I should show these two around, and get them settled in.”
  “Sure, sure, a ‘course. Thanks for coming and don’t be strangers. Stop in any time you like. If
you weren’t staying with the Mochries I’d have invited you both to stay with me. If it gets too
crowded, well, not to impose on your family’s generosity, Jae. But my door’s always open.”
  “Thanks, Billie,” replied Jae.
  She nodded then and went back to searching through her folders. As the trio departed the
twins noticed her slide out the photo of the pale, tattooed woman. It looked as though it broke
her heart to see it and she cast her gaze to the floor, clutching the photo to her heart. As pained
as they already were over their uncle, this depressed them even more. There was a lot they
didn’t understand about this place.
  Jae led them through Bedgewood, towards the Mochrie house.
  “I like Billie,” said Colin, unexpectedly.
  Meghan raised her brow, impressed. Her brother had met someone and not been shy around
her. She could sense the confidence he felt over Billie. This is good, she thought, blocking him
from hearing. She knew Colin would have at least one ally here, besides her or Jae.
  “She is great,” agreed Jae. “Couldn’t be more opposite from her brother.”
  “I can’t believe they’re even from the same family,” replied Meghan.
  “I don’t remember, ‘cause this was years ago, but Billie insists that Garner wasn’t always mean.
Says he’s changed since we started traveling again.”
  “How long ago was that, Jae?” asked Meghan.
  “About eleven years ago.”
  “Oh! So, until eleven years ago, you lived off the coast of Maine?” she said. “Wow, who
could’ve guessed we’d been camping a few hours away from a magical island?”
  “It is odd. When you think about it like that, I guess,” Jae chuckled.
  As anxious as the twins were about the unknown fate of their uncle, and their new life with
the Gypsies, it was becoming obvious that the Svoda had some serious problems of their own.
  As Jae led them into town, Colin and Meghan realized they had not gotten an update on Jae’s
  “In all the confusion today, we didn’t ask how your father was! Shouldn’t’ you be with him,
rather than showing us around?” questioned Meghan.
  “Yeah, we can wait,” agreed Colin.
  “No, it’s fine. My dad is getting better. I saw him this morning. He might even come home
tomorrow. It’ll still take a while for him to fully heal.”

  “What about that huge gash across his chest?” asked Colin.
  “We do things a little differently here when it comes to healing.”
  “Oh, right. Magic,” remembered Colin.
  “Not all injuries are so easily healed with magic. This time we were lucky!” insisted Jae. They
arrived back in the village center and Jae pointed out where they had come in. It was an odd
sight to behold. An ornate wooden door framed by two trees. Jae showed them which shops
were open, and as they left the main village, trudging closer to the Mochrie home, he pointed
out an old brick building, far off the road.
  “That’s our school.”
  “I hadn’t even thought about school,” said Colin.
  “Will we have to go? We can’t exactly be in classes that teach magic,” said Meghan, hoping
that maybe one thing could go right and she would not have to attend school.
  “Guess we’ll see,” said Jae, not knowing.
  On the twins’ next inhale the smell of the ocean overwhelmed their nostrils. The cobblestone
road they strolled down merged to one made of dirt. A cluster of shingled cottages, all colored
in dark browns and yellows popped into view. Green stiff shrubs lined the streets, breaking
only for small gated entrances. They passed a side street to their right.
  “That’s our closest ocean access,” Jae noted. As he said it, another strong whiff of ocean wafted
by, reminding them of their many trips to Maine. They stopped in front of an iron gate, which
Jae swung open.
  “This is our home while we’re here in Grimble, and now, I guess it’s your home away from
home, too!”
  The inside of the cottage was not what the twins expected. It was normal sized, unlike the
wagons. It was cozy and warm, small and quiet.
  Sheila, and Jae’s sister Mireya, were in the kitchen cooking over an old fashioned wood stove;
it was about four feet long and made of iron, with copper pots hanging overhead. Across from
the stove was a stone fireplace; a large pot simmered over the fire. Dried herbs and fruit hung
from the ceiling. A wooden table and chairs filled the middle of the kitchen, with a small sofa
covered in a plaid pattern shoved against the wall. The twins thought for a moment they had
stepped back in time.
  “Good, you’re back,” began Sheila. “Dinner will be awhile yet. How did you two like our little
  “It’s very nice,” answered Meghan sleepily.
  “Anything new on Dad?” asked Jae.
  “Nothing new,” she replied. “Show our guests where they will sleep. Oh, and there are some
packages upstairs for you two, things you’ll need.”
  “People sent them,” spoke Mireya. “They assumed you would need clothes and stuff.” Her
voice was young and giggly.
  “Clothes?” Meghan perked up. Jae and Mireya took them up a spiral staircase. The rest of the
cottage had the same old-fashioned feel as the kitchen. On the wall across from the staircase
there were two doors.

   “The one across from us, that is where we sleep,” said Mireya, in her playful voice. Meghan
glanced at the door, wondering if she had heard correctly.
   “Where we sleep?” she questioned.
   “Yes, we all share a room here.”
   Meghan and Colin were used to sharing a room, but the thought of two extra people was a
little daunting.
   Jae then opened a door on the left.
   “This is the bath room,” he said, emphasizing the word bath. Inside, a large porcelain tub
stood a few feet from the fireplace, with a bronze pump attached. There was a matching pump
latched to a sunken sink.
   “How do I run hot water?” asked Meghan.
   “That’s what the fireplace is for,” twittered Mireya, twirling her way out of the room.
   “Don’t worry,” said Jae. “We have ways of heating up water.”
   Another question popped into Colin’s mind.
   “If this is the bathroom, where is the toilet?”
   “Not inside. This is for bathing only.” Jae walked to the end of the hallway and nodded to a
small window. The twins peered through the window to a rectangular shack in the backyard.
“Outhouse,” Jae said, adding smugly, “Just beware.”
   “Beware of what?” asked Colin, not sure he could handle any more bad news.
   “Spiders, real big ugly ones. But they’re perfectly harmless,” he insisted. “They’re like statues.
You’ll rarely ever see one move.”
   “In the outhouse?” confirmed Meghan.
   Jae nodded yes.
   Both twins secretly took bets on how long they could hold it, before facing the outhouse
   Jae showed them into the bedroom. Once inside, the twins knew it would not be as bad as
they had pictured. Lining the side and back walls were four small curtained rooms. They were
surprisingly similar to the rooms the twins were used to: a bunk bed, with a chair and table
underneath, a small dresser beside the bed, and about three feet of space between the bed and
the curtain.
   “It’s small,” said Mireya, “but comfy.” She closed her curtain, hiding behind it. A number of
packages covered in brown paper lined the twins’ beds.
   “Actually, it’s not bad at all, huh Sis,” said Colin, trying to think positively about yet another
reminder of home, and their uncle.
   “Yeah,” she answered, hoping she could handle this many roommates. “Should I open these?”
asked Meghan, looking at her packages. Mireya’s curtain flew open.
   “Oh, yes,” she exclaimed excitedly. “I can’t wait to see what people brought. Even Banon
Blackwell had something delivered. That’s such an honor!”
  It was becoming clear to the twins that they would have even less privacy than they were
used to back home.
   “How can we thank everyone for being so nice?” she asked.

  “I wouldn’t worry about it,” said Mireya. “That’s what people do here. No one has real jobs or
money anymore, we all share.”
  “No money?” asked Meghan.
  “Not no money,” corrected Jae. “People still have it. It just doesn’t do us much good, living
like we do.”
  “So people share everything?” Meghan tried to comprehend. She also didn’t understand why
people would be nice enough to give them these things, especially when it was clear they
weren’t welcomed.
  “Share, more or less,” explained Jae. “Take the café. It’s always open and you don’t pay to eat.
We’re not a large enough number to charge each other and make any money. We save our
money for what we need from the outside world.”
  As Meghan sat down on her bed, ready to open the first package, she noticed a ladder leading
to a small loft.
  “What’s up there?”
  “Not much. A place to sit and study.”
  Meghan wanted to check it out; perhaps it could be a place of solitude.
  Colin climbed a few rungs of the ladder, stopping before he got too high. He noticed a short
door on the back of the loft wall. Jae answered his question before he could ask.
  “It’s a crawl space that connects the upstairs rooms. Don’t use it much.”
  “Wow, a secret hiding place in such a small cottage,” Meghan said, impressed. She opened a
package, deciding to save Juliska Blackwell’s for last, secretly hoping it would be something that
Juliska, herself would wear. The packages held dresses, skirts, tunics, shoes, scarves, hats, under
things, and a few of the long-jackets she’d seen some of the Gypsy women wearing. It was
everything someone away from home would need. A few of the items Meghan was positive she
would not wear, but Mireya showed interest, so she offered them to her. Mireya grinned from
ear to ear.
  “Thanks, are you sure? These are really nice.”
  “Yes, definitely sure,” replied Meghan. She decided to open the package delivered from
Juliska, changing her mind and leaving another to open after. She took out a black and gold full-
length long-jacket, exactly like the ones she had seen Juliska wearing.
  “It’s magnificent. What is it?” asked Meghan.
  Mireya touched the delicate gold and black fabric.
  “It’s a long-jacket, very popular. They are thin, so you can wear them even if it’s warm, or
over other clothes if it’s cooler. This is the prettiest one I’ve ever seen, besides the Banon’s of
  Meghan wanted desperately to try it on, but she was too dirty and in need of a bath.
  “That’s a special occasion long-jacket,” said Mireya, still in awe of the piece.
  “It could possibly be the nicest piece of clothing I’ve ever owned.” The last package included a
long sleeved sweater, with a jumper looking item. It had one button in the front to hold it
together, and then the rest was open.
  “It’s kind of a stylish apron,” said Mireya. “Not many Svoda women like them. They prefer the
front to be closed, then they don’t have to wear skirts or pants underneath.”

  Meghan loved it. As she put her new things away, Colin dove into his own packages.
  “How old are you?” Meghan asked Mireya, trying to think up conversation.
  “Eleven and a half.” Meghan was not sure what to talk about with a giggly eleven-year-old.
Meghan had never been one to enjoy giggling. Mireya continued explaining the clothes.
  “Those long shirts, with ties down the sides, they help keep things clean and out of the way,
which is good, ‘cause sometimes magic can be messy,” she twittered.
  “I won’t be practicing any magic in them, but thanks.” Meghan decided she needed a bath.
Mireya showed her how the bath worked and had Jae do the water-heating spell.
  Before Mireya and Jae left her to bathe, Colin slumped around the corner. Meghan did her
best not to break out laughing, although the urge bubbled up easily in her stressed-out mind.
Finally, she gave up and laughed, forcefully. Colin was dressed in a long man’s coat; it was thin
and maroon in color, with long sleeves. It was also so big on him that it hit the floor, and then
  “It’s not funny,” he sighed, looking downhearted.
  “Sorry,” replied Meghan, biting her lip.
  “I think it looks wonderful, Colin,” said Mireya, trying to be nice. “I do hope you will help
him,” she chirped to her brother, leaving the bath room.
  Colin scowled.
  “I look stupid, don’t I?”
  “Don’t worry. My mother can fix it. All the boys’ suits come extra long, so we can grow into
  “Oh,” answered Colin, taking off the coat.
  “I’ll give it to my mother later,” said Jae, peeking out of the bath room to see if they were
alone. He closed the door, rolling his eyes. “I’ve been dying for a moment that we could talk
privately. What happened at the Viancourt?”
  The twins described what had taken place.
  “They didn’t bring up you using magic, did they?” he asked Colin.
  “No, not at all. I don’t think they saw anything.”
  “That’s such a relief. I was afraid you’d be in there for hours.”
  Meghan got up the courage to confirm her and Colin’s worst fear.
  “So, we really are stuck here, aren’t we?”
  “Yes, I’m afraid there’s no way, not until the next blue moon. I’m sorry. This time it’s my
fault, plus you’ll be stuck away from home much longer than I was,” said Jae, his voice
apologetic. “If there were any way of finding out anything, even if it broke a hundred rules, I’d
tell you in an instant.”
  “We have no option, then,” said Colin, beginning to come to grips with their plight.
  Jae shook his head.
  The twins knew he spoke the truth, and that it was time to accept it.
  “We may be stuck here, Jae, but it’s in no way your fault,” consoled Meghan. “We made the
choice not to heed your warning.”
  She cut him off.

  “Nope! Won’t hear it, Jae. We’re here. There is nothing that can change that now!” She put on
a brave face. Colin could sense her fear underneath, ready to overtake the braveness.
  “Since we are stuck here,” said Colin, “tell us about this place. How does it work exactly? An
entire village inside a wagon.”
  “Kind of like the wagon back in Cobbscott, only on a much larger scale. We collect energy to
create this place. Although the village has actually shrunk a great deal in recent years, as we
find our magic getting weaker the longer we travel.”
  Colin took out Magicante and thumbed through it.
  “There is one thing I don’t understand.”
  “What’s that, Col?” asked Meghan curiously, not having sensed this in her brother’s mind.
  “Do you remember, after we got Jae’s father through, when Uncle Arnon showed up?”
  “Yeah, I recall,” she said snidely. As if she could’ve forgotten!
  “Well, do you remember when we left the trailer that night that I did not have the
  Meghan’s eyes widened.
  “I do,” answered Jae. “I remember asking you where it was.”
  “Why would Uncle Arnon bring Magicante to me? I can see throwing it at me, to get me out
of the way, but why did he bring it?” Colin fought off tears, but he was too weak to hide it from
  “It wasn’t your fault, Colin,” she tried to assure him.
  “But if I hadn’t forgotten my book, or hadn’t gone at all, Uncle Arnon might still be safe. Why
would he risk his life to bring me Magicante? It’s a handy book, but worth giving up his life
  “Colin, I think it’s vital that we try and put this out of our minds, for now. We should focus
on surviving the next three years. I think I’d rather curl up and die, than sit and worry.”
  “I’ll try,” he murmured.
  Footsteps shuffled up the staircase.
  “I think its best,” warned Jae, “to keep all of this to ourselves; using magic, the book… and
Meghan, I wouldn’t tell anyone about your run in with the Catawitch, either. Those things
could easily change the Viancourt’s minds about you staying here.”
  It was Mireya who had come up the stairs. As Colin departed the bath, Jae spun around.
  “I forgot. The other room,” he pointed to the room across from the staircase, “that belongs to
Ivan. He was with me the day I ran into you guys and dropped all my packages. He just turned
seventeen. Busy all the time. We don’t see him much. My parents took him in a few years back
after his grandfather passed on.”
  “That’s nice of your family to do that,” said Meghan from the bathroom door, recalling the
rude boy. She hurriedly bathed, allowing Colin time to clean up, too. After, they had dinner.
During the meal, another package arrived from Banon Blackwell, this time for Colin.
  “I already got mine, its beautiful,” said Meghan.
  Colin opened his. It was a black jacket, with a hint of gold fringe.
  “That’s what all the men wear to fancy type occasions,” said Jae. Colin tried it on over his
clothes. Again, it fell to his ankles.

  “Another item to grow into?” Colin asked hopefully.
  “I can fix that, along with your other one,” said Sheila. “Leave it on the couch over there, but
in the box. We must keep it nice. It’s a real honor to get a gift from Banon Blackwell.”
  “Is there some event we need to have these outfits ready for? We were told there may be
occasions we cannot attend.”
  “We do have lots of fancy affairs. Best to always be ready,” Sheila smiled. They ate quietly and
immediately after, Meghan announced she was ready for bed.
  “I realize it’s early, but I’m spent.”
   “I’m pretty beat myself, probably won’t be too far behind,” replied her brother.
  “I think that’s a splendid idea all around,” announced Sheila. “I’m going to make a quick trip
to see your father and when I get back, bed time.”
  No one argued. The dinner meal had filled their bellies, causing the immensity of their
gloomy tiredness to kick in.
  “Night everyone,” yawned Meghan, as she wound her way up the staircase. A chorus of sleepy
goodnights swept through the house.
  The boys and Mireya decided to stay up until Jae’s mother had returned from seeing Irving
Mochrie at the hospital.
  Meghan’s head hit her pillow, all thoughts left her mind, and exhaustion took over. She did
not awaken until the next morning.


  It took a few groggy minutes for Meghan to remember where she was. She sensed in her mind
for Colin.
  “You’re finally awake,” he said, catching her thought. “Hurry and get up. Jae’s practicing
  “K, gotta get dressed,” she mumbled, hurrying to make herself presentable. As she departed
the bedroom, a door opened beside her. A handsome, dark haired young man dressed in a sport
coat bounced out, surprised to see her.
  “You must be Meghan,” he said dryly.
  “Yes, I am.” Before she could say more, he raced down the stairs. She followed him, recalling
their first encounter back in Cobbscott. She wondered again, Is it really possible to know you
hate someone, so instantaneously? Ivan Crane ran out the back door, yelling hello and goodbye.
  Irving Mochrie had returned home late the night before and was sitting in the back yard,
clearly impressed with the boy.

  “Look at that, already off to work. Never an idle moment, that one!” Off to the side, Jae
balanced many items stacked atop each other; his hand balanced the items, but did not touch
them. Irving Mochrie, still heavily bandaged, noticed Meghan arrive.
  “Good morning. It is nice to meet you, properly, although I wish it were under different
circumstances,” he added.
  “I can’t believe you’re home already, after what those Scratchers did to you!” said Meghan.
  “Yes, that was some ugly business. But the wounds will heal! We all have a price to pay for
this lifestyle we lead. I’ve already spoken with your brother, but I must thank you personally
for your assistance, and, I am deeply sorry about your uncle. He would be proud of your
bravery, I am sure!”
  “Thanks,” she said, growing agitated that so many believed her uncle to be dead.
   “Pay attention, Jae.” Irving then scolded harshly. “You’ve got a month’s worth of work to
catch up on.” Jae looked tired. Meghan wondered if he’d slept at all, and had a twinge of guilt
for having such a restful night. Colin watched Jae intently. Irving shifted in his chair, wincing
as Sheila Mochrie joined them.
  “Can you believe Ivan, Sheila? Off to work again, already.”
  Jae lost his concentration and the stack of items plummeted to the ground. Irving glanced in
Jae’s direction, huffing.
  “Keep trying. Always keep trying, Jae.”
  “Yes, Dad.” He began picking up the items to try again.
  Irving went back to his conversation with Sheila. Meghan grabbed a meat pie that Sheila had
stacked in front of her, trying not to listen, but could not help it.
  “Not nice, Sis,” Colin sent.
  “They’re not exactly keeping it down,” she shot back.
  “We cannot judge the Banon,” Irving said. “Has she ever led us astray?”
  “No, she hasn’t. I was wrong to even think it!” Sheila disappeared into the cottage, followed
by Irving a moment later.
  “What was that about?” wondered Colin.
  “It’s okay to listen in on other’s conversations now is it?”
  “I got curious,” he shrugged. The twins twitched uncomfortably, believing they were not as
welcomed into the Mochrie house as they had been led to believe. Maybe they should take up
Billie’s offer and move in with her. Meghan got up the courage to ask.
  “Jae. It’s not a problem is it, us staying with your family?”
  “Problem? No. People are just a little slow to warm up to strangers is all. It’ll take some time,
but they’ll come around.”
  He wasn’t as reassuring as the twins had hoped.
  “What’s there to do around here?” Meghan then asked. Jae finished cleaning up his mess
before answering.
  “There’s always Grimble, otherwise, not much. I should warn you that tomorrow I’ll be back
in school. I haven’t heard any word as to what they’re going to have the two of you doing.”
  Meghan frowned. The way he said it was as if they needed to be kept busy.
  “There’s school in the summer here?” she questioned, distraught at the thought.

  “School is sort of always in session around here.”
  “How awful,” she replied.
  “She hates school, or learning, period,” Colin explained.
  “Is Ivan still in school?” she asked.
  “No, Ivan graduated when he was sixteen, already been working near a year. Youngest to
graduate ever! Usually we don’t get to graduate level until about age sixteen or seventeen.” Jae
sounded like he was trying to be proud of Ivan, but it came across as more of a sore subject.
  “How about today?” asked Colin. “Are you busy?”
  “Maybe I can talk my dad into letting me take you into Grimble.” Jae ran into the house and
came back out, smiling. “I can’t believe it, he said yes. Guess he figures getting you two
acquainted with Grimble is as important as magic practice.” They departed immediately. The
twins felt a nagging desire to keep their minds busy.
  “What’s Grimble like?” asked Meghan. Jae thought about it, unsure of how to explain. She
added, “Let me guess, another one of those ‘we have to see to understand’ things?”
  “Sorry, kind of.”
  “I’m sorry, Jae, but I’m a little confused,” admitted Meghan as they walked. “Why don’t you
stay here permanently? It’s safe here, right? You’re not that large of a group.”
  Jae laughed.
  “I forget how little you know about us. We are only one of nine groups.”
  “Nine?” repeated Colin. “When do you see the other groups?”
  “We don’t. That’s why we are working so hard to get back home, for good. We all have
friends and family in the other groups. It was done that way on purpose, so that if one group
was wiped out, the whole family wouldn’t be lost.”
  “That’s absolutely appalling, Jae,” breathed Meghan.
  “Yes, it is,” he agreed.
  The twins now understood Billie’s actions the previous day, too. The woman in the photo: she
had not seen her in eleven years. The picture was getting clearer.
  “No wonder they don’t trust anyone,” sent Meghan to Colin.
  “The words, welcome to Hell come to mind!” he declared. She had never heard her brother
use such a strong word.
  Outside of the wagon, the sky was darker and the foggy air smelled stale. There were trees,
but they were leafless and dead.
  “Is there a way, Jae, to at least keep in contact with the other groups?” asked Colin, hesitantly.
  “We do leave messages behind. Problem is, sometimes another Svoda group may not get them
for months, or years.” Jae stopped at a small stone bridge. Two tall dead trees grew up out of the
bridge, and the stream bed below had long dried up. With the exception of a few Svoda Gypsies
(who couldn’t take their eyes off the twins) the town was deserted. They crossed the bridge, and
so far, Grimble did not prove impressive. The buildings were empty and run down. Nothing
looked open for business. Then, as they stepped off the bridge, silvery shadows formed, some
floating in the air.
  Without any warning, one such shadow floated right by Colin’s face.
  “Was that a ghost?” asked Meghan.

  “That’s why it’s a little hard to explain,” laughed Jae, seeing their faces. “Grimble is a ghost
town,” he explained. All at once, silvery essences floated into and out of walls, buildings, and
even the ground. Some you could see straight through and some looked like they were alive.
Yet you could tell they were dead, as their movements flowed easily across the ground and their
bodies shimmered as they did so.
  “This isn’t like any other ghost town I’ve ever seen,” said Colin, coming around. “This is
  “Oh, I think one of them touched me,” whined Meghan. Jae and Colin broke into amused
  “It does take a bit of getting use to,” said Jae. “But don’t worry, the worst it can do is leave you
feeling the cold, creepiness of death.”
  Colin continued laughing at Meghan until he felt the rush of something icy against his skin. A
ghost floated up out of the ground on the exact spot Colin stood. It bellowed something about
getting out of the way, and flew off.
  “Not so pleasant, is it?” chided Meghan.
  “C’mon. Something I wanna show you guys,” said Jae. They jogged a few buildings down and
stopped at the least colorful candy shop the twins had ever seen. Each item was black, gray, or
some other version of that color. “Wait here,” said Jae, racing inside.
  A group of ghost children had gathered outside of the shop, arguing. Jae exited the store
handing the twins a black piece of soft candy. “Watch,” he said, nodding toward the arguing
ghost children.
  A few of the ghosts were daring another ghost to try a certain kind of candy, which he did not
want to do. Eventually, he caved. Seconds later, he was no longer a ghost, but a living boy! He
ran crazily, not believing he was alive again. Seeing the living Colin, Meghan and Jae, he rushed
over, rubbing his hands over their faces.
  “I can feel things again.” As instantaneously as he had transformed into the living boy, he
changed back into the ghostly boy. His smile faded and he went back into the candy store,
exiting with a pocketful of the candy.
  “Was that supposed to be funny?” asked Meghan, equally troubled and stunned by what she
had witnessed.
  “No, that wasn’t. He’s probably new here. The older ones are teasing him.”
  “What are we holding?” asked Colin cautiously.
  Jae popped a piece into his mouth, grinning smugly. The twins watched as his body dissolved
into a ghostly image.
  “It only lasts about thirty seconds,” he yelled down to the twins, floating higher and higher
into the air. “But it’s like nothing else you’ve ever tried!” Meghan didn’t wait. She popped hers
in and closed her eyes, hard, as if expecting something to explode. She transformed and floated
past Jae, on his way down.
  “This is so cool,” she shouted. “Colin, try it! It doesn’t hurt or anything.” Not wanting to be
outdone by Meghan he popped his in. Colin changed and passed his sister as she descended to
the ground. He drifted to the rooftop. Feeling unstable, he grabbed the building.

  A cloaked figure stood atop the roof. The figure held a leaf in its hand, speaking to it. A
distressed female voice replied back, seemingly out of the leaf.
  “We’re not ready yet. I hope it’s not too soon for them to be there.”
  “I think we can use the situation to our advantage,” argued the cloaked figure; it was a man’s
voice. He was cut off by the female voice.
  “Behind you!”
  The cloaked man turned, eyeing Colin, who let go of the roof and pointed himself downward.
Halfway down he began to change back, and plunged toward the ground. Meghan closed her
eyes, having no desire to watch her brother fall. Jae, thinking smartly, used magic to slow him.
He landed with a soft thud. Meghan and Jae scurried to his side.
  “Are you all right?”
  Colin rubbed his neck.
  “I think so.”
  “That was too close,” said Jae, relieved. “If you’d gotten injured, mom’d never let us have ghost
candy again.”
  Colin’s thoughts strayed to the man on the roof.
  “Jae, is there a safe place to talk around here?” he blurted out.
  “There’s a pub not many Svoda visit. Why?”
  “Let’s just go there,” replied Colin.
  Meghan and Jae eyed Colin questioningly. As they entered the pub, the twins and Jae caught
an adult aged ghost peeking around a corner. Was he spying on them? The ghost, noticing he’d
been caught, floated away.
  Jae scoped out a table near the back. One lone member of the Svoda was working behind the
counter, alongside a pretty ghost waitress. Jae bought three tonics and returned to the twins.
  “They like it when we come here. They need living people to do work for them sometimes,
for when other living people happen to travel through.”
  “Other living people travel through the doorways, too?” questioned Meghan.
  “On occasion,” he answered.
  Colin, impatient, interrupted.
  “Is it for sure safe to talk?” he asked Jae.
  “What’s up?” inquired Meghan, extremely curious. Colin waited for Jae to answer.
  “As long as we’re quiet, yeah, it’s fine.”
  “I saw something strange on the roof of the candy shop.”
  “I knew something was up,” retorted Meghan. “Otherwise you’d have never stayed up there
that long.”
  Colin ignored her and continued.
  “There was someone in a cloak on the roof, talking into a leaf that he held in his hand.”
  “What were they talking about?” asked Jae, unfazed by Colin’s news.
  “All I heard was something about not being ready and hoping it’s not too soon for them to be
  “Them?” questioned Meghan.
  “The only them being discussed at the moment is you two,” said Jae.

   The twins grew distraught. Colin sent a thought to his sister.
  “Are we safe here? Should we stay?”
  “Where would we go?”
  Jae interrupted their thoughts.
  “How strange, too, that he used a leaf. That’s definitely magical.”
  “Plus, I think it was the leaf that caught me looking.”
  Jae spit out his tonic.
  “You were caught!”
  “Yes, but only for a second because I started falling.”
  “What should we do, Jae?” asked Meghan, panicking.
  “I have no idea. But if it was you they were talking about, and then they caught you spying…”
  Another thought dawned on Colin.
  “Um, Jae. I don’t understand how it all works, but is there any way we could use a leaf to try
and reach our uncle?”
  Meghan perked up, but Jae promptly smothered the idea.
  “We do use leaves to send messages, but only in the same world we are in. I’ve never heard of
any way to gather enough magical energy to send one to another world, never mind figure out
how it would get there.”
  The twins resigned again in defeat.
  “So who could the guy on the roof have been talking to?” wondered Meghan.
  “It would have to be someone in Grimble,” Jae told them. The topic ended as from the corner
of her eye, Meghan noticed that the spying ghost was back, hiding in a corner.
  “How bizarre. I’ve never known a ghost to spy before,” said Jae, who shook his head, adding,
“Excitement seems to follow you two!”
  The trio decided to test the ghost. They left the pub and trekked slowly, to see if it followed.
  “Where do all these ghosts come from, Jae?” asked Colin as they walked.
  “Best I understand it Grimble is a waiting room of sorts. I guess this is where they come if
they have unfinished business to attend to after they die. Grimble is set aside though, for those
with some tie to the magical world.”
  “Some of these ghosts have died recently, then?” said Meghan.
  “If we died, is this where we would come?” asked Colin, catching on to Meghan’s train of
  “I never thought about it,” answered Jae. “I suppose it’s possible, but there are other places like
Grimble. It’s not the only afterlife ghost town.” Jae finally caught on to what the twins were
hoping, but dashed that hope straightaway.
  “I’m sure if your uncle were here, he’d have made himself known.”
  “If there are so few magical people, how come there are so many ghosts?” asked Colin.
  “I guess you’ll find out soon enough that the Svoda are not the only remaining magical clan.
We’re one of the biggest, but there are many others.” Jae then pointed out, “We’re definitely
being followed.” Jae motioned for them to take a path leading into the woods.
  “Why are you following us?” Jae demanded, confronting the ghost. The pale face of a young
man smiled at them, floating closer. The trio backed up, unsure of the ghost’s intent.

  “It’s really you,” he aimed his words at the twins. “I’ve waited such a long time, let me look at
  “I think you’ve mistaken us for someone else,” stammered Colin. “We’re not supposed to be
here, you see.”
  “Who says you’re not supposed to be here? You’re here aren’t you? I’ve been waiting a long
time, so if you don’t mind, I would like to speak to the two of you, alone.”
  “Why?” asked Meghan.
  “The short version, I have a message for you.”
  “A message for us! Is it from our uncle? Is he here? Was he here?” begged Meghan.
  “Arnon? Why do you ask this?” pressed the ghost.
  “How do you know his name?” Meghan asked impatiently.
  “I am afraid we have gotten off on the wrong foot,” sighed the ghost.
  “Spying didn’t help,” chided Jae.
  “I am not here to harm you, and anyways, that wouldn’t be possible, since the magic of ghosts
doesn’t work on the magic of the living.”
  “I’d forgotten that,” said Jae. He said to the twins, “Stay and get your message. I’ll wait in
town. You can find me when you’re done.”
  “We don’t mind if you stay Jae,” insisted Colin, unsure he wanted to be alone with this ghost.
  “No, it’s okay. The message is not for me. Besides, you can always tell me later, if you want.”
Jae left them alone with the unfamiliar ghost.
  “I must ask, what has befallen Arnon?”
  Meghan decided she wanted answers first.
  “What gives you the right to know?”
  The ghost asked them to sit on a bench nearby. He then floated to their eye level, the lower
part of his body disappearing into the ground.
  “My name is Eddy. Arnon is my brother.”
  The twins were speechless, and for some uncontrollable reason, Meghan fought off tears.
Eddy took out a piece of the ghost candy.
  “I’ve been saving this for a special occasion. They say ghosts can get addicted to the feeling of
being alive again. He put the candy in his mouth and there before them was their newfound
uncle, alive and breathing. His unshaven face chuckled.
  “Oh. How strange a feeling.”
  Colin wondered why they had never seen any pictures of him, and was about to ask when
Eddy interrupted.
  “How about, before I change back, a quick hug from my…” before he could finish they were
in his arms.
  It was the best feeling either of them had felt since their whole nightmare had begun. Almost
as soon as it started, their uncle’s body began to fade beneath them. The twins had so many
questions that they were not sure where to start. Meghan began, firstly, by telling them about
Uncle Arnon’s unknown fate.
  “I can at least say that I have not seen Arnon here, so that at least can give us hope that he has
survived. However…”

  The twins understood that Eddy knew no more than they.
  “Does any of this surprise you, Uncle Eddy?” Colin was happy to say the word uncle again.
  “No, nothing surprises me with your story.”
  “Not even the magic or the Scratchers?” asked Colin.
  “Not even those,” Uncle Eddy replied. “Which leads me to why I am here.”
  The twins listened eagerly.
  “May I see your book, Colin? The one you’re hiding under your sweater?”
  Colin was nervous to take it out, but obliged. He held it up for his uncle to see; being a ghost,
he could not touch it.
  “Pristine condition, marvelous news!” he exclaimed.
  “Can you tell us what this book is, Uncle Eddy?” asked Colin.
  “Yes. But not here or now.”
  “When?” pleaded Meghan, happy they would see their unfamiliar relative again.
  “We’ll start tomorrow. We have much to do and not much time to do it in!”
  “How will we find you? I hope we’ll be allowed to come to Grimble again,” said Meghan.
  “I think that with your good behavior today, they will allow you out of their sight while the
other children are in school.”
  “Good behavior?” croaked Colin, recalling the ghost candy incident. He retold the tale to their
  “That’s an odd tale, but don’t fret. It’s likely it had nothing at all to do with the two of you.”
Eddy didn’t look like he believed his own words. “My best advice is to be mindful of your
actions, and do your best not to make any enemies.”
  “We’ll try, but I don’t know about the Svoda,” said Meghan, rolling her eyes.
  “They may not be trusting yet, but give them time, and no reason not to, and you’ll be fine.”
  “Somehow, I think by us just being, we could get into trouble with the Svoda,” added Colin.
Eddy made a move as to pat Colin on the shoulder but his ghostly hand sifted right through.
Colin shuddered.
  “Sorry!” Eddy said. “I have not interacted with living people in a few years now. I am also
afraid our meeting for today must end.”
  The twins groaned.
  “No worries, I’m not going anywhere yet!”
  “Would you like to meet our friend Jae? We’re staying with his family.”
  “Do you trust this boy? Because I must admit, for reasons I will not currently explain, I must
remain a secret from your gracious hosts.”
  “Jae would never tell if we asked him not to,” answered Colin.
  “Our secrets keep adding up,” noted Meghan.
  “Perhaps they do, but all for good reason,” acknowledged Eddy.
  Colin raced away and was back a minute later with Jae.
  “This is our Uncle Eddy,” introduced Colin.
  Jae broke into a bewildered smile.
  “You’re kidding! That’s amazing.”
  Eddy then bid them farewell.

   “Meet me here tomorrow,” he said, as he vanished into the woods.
   The trio departed Grimble, crossing the bridge and heading back toward Bedgewood Harbor.
  “I’ve never seen that before,” said Jae in disbelief. “All the other ghosts I’ve met have
unfinished business in other places, but never have I seen one waiting for their business to
arrive here.”
  “Whatever the case, I can’t wait until tomorrow,” said Colin. Meghan agreed. It was one
bright spot, in a seemingly not too bright future. Her mind strayed to when they would have to
say goodbye and move on. Colin caught the thought.
  “Why couldn’t we stay here with Uncle Eddy?” he suggested. “Why not wait here for the
doorway to reopen?”
   “I hadn’t thought of that. We should ask him, when the moment is right.”
  Jae could not get over the twins’ uncle staying behind in the after life, waiting for them to
   “He wants to see us as much as possible,” said Meghan.
  “At least you’ll have something to do while I’m at school.” It was exactly what the twins
wanted to hear.
  “I think we should keep him a secret,” suggested Meghan, hoping they were not pushing their
  “You’re probably right,” agreed Jae. “Gets easier to break the rules once you’ve already done
it, huh?” he added in a low, insinuating voice.
   The twins unfortunately agreed.
   “Still,” worried Meghan, “it’s like we are teetering on the edge of complete destruction.”
  That evening, as the twins headed for bed, each noticed a small package on their pillows.
Hearing each other find a similar package they glanced out of their curtains.
   “Wonder what these are?” Meghan sent to Colin, who opened his.
  “It’s a notepad,” he sent back to her. Meghan’s package was the same and a horrible thought
struck her.
  “School! They’re gonna make us go to school,” she cried out, afraid they would have to stand
up their uncle. Colin came close to agreeing, until something slipped out of his notepad.
   “Look. I think its money,” he guessed. Meghan’s notepad was stuffed with the same.
   Jae entered the room and saw what they were holding.
   “Where’d that come from?” he asked.
   “It was on our pillows,” replied Meghan.
   “It doesn’t say who it’s from,” added Colin.
  “This is Svoda money,” said Jae, counting it. “You’ve got enough here to survive a long time.
Did I tell you our money is enchanted by mermaids?”
   “Mermaids? They’re real?” choked out Meghan.
  “Yup. They enchant the money, that way it takes on the shape of whatever currency we need,
depending of course on what world we are traveling in.”
   “It will change as we travel?” confirmed Colin.
   “Yeah, pretty cool, huh.”
   “Wicked cool,” said Meghan.

  “Who would do such a thing?” wondered Colin.
  “Someone who wants to help I guess,” said Jae. “You don’t need much to survive in the village,
but as I said, there are occasion’s money still comes in handy.” He hopped into bed. The twins
followed. Mireya was already fast asleep. Meghan counted her money, dreaming of a lavish
shopping spree.
  “It may be enchanted mermaid money,” she sighed, “but it’s still the most money I’ve ever
held at one time.”


  The twins worried they would not be allowed to go into Grimble on their own; however, it
had not been questioned. They were anxious to depart, but decided to wait for Jae and Mireya
to leave for school.
  Ivan had not come home the night before. Everyone assumed he was still at work, which was
apparently something he did often. Irving Mochrie, feeling recuperated enough, had left early
to try to catch up on his own work. He was a banker.
  “Jae,” Sheila hollered. “I need you to go down to the basement and grab a jar of blueberry
preserves for breakfast… don’t give me that look! Your father would never accept that
  “I’ll come with you,” offered Colin, following Jae to a small closet. On the floor of the closet
was a wooden door, which opened to a ladder leading down to a musty, dank and dark cellar.
He wished he had not offered to go. Jae climbed down. Colin held his breath and followed. It
took a minute for his eyes to adjust to the dark. The basement held boxes of canned foods, most
covered in dust.
  As Jae searched for the right preserves, a strange noise distracted Colin. It came from behind
and reminded him of feet, shuffling across gritty sand paper.
  “Jae, did you hear that?” he whispered.
  “I forgot to warn you!” gasped Jae. “I can’t believe it. Colin, meet Corny.”
  “Corny is a… person?” asked Colin, his nerves relaxing.
  “Yeah, old guy, lives in the basement.” Colin turned around and came face to face with a
toothless grizzled man. A wad of chewing tobacco punched out his cheek and the smell of the
tobacco turned Colin’s stomach sour. Jae went back to searching for the preserves.
  “Corny, nice to, ah, meet you,” gulped Colin.
  “You can talk all you want, he won’t talk back. He’s a little crazy.”
  “Really?” replied Colin not surprised by this fact. Corny gaped and grinned as tobacco juice
dripped down his chin. Colin hurriedly climbed up the ladder deciding to wait for Jae at the
top, hearing Corny shuffle his way back to his dark corner.
  “Who is Corny?” asked Colin as Jae’s head popped up into the house.

  “He’s real name is Cornell Tibbit. He went crazy after his family died. Some by illness, some
by old age, one by the Scratchers. He is the last in his family line. Poor guy, I guess he couldn’t
handle it.”
  “Why does he live in your basement?” asked Colin, thinking no matter how crazy he was, that
could not a pleasant place to live.
  “He chose to. We tried to get him to live upstairs, but he would disappear for hours. We
always found him in the basement. Eventually, we couldn’t get him to stay anywhere else.”
  “How odd,” said Colin.
  “Yeah, he’s a mess. Never talks. Grunts now and then. I’m shocked he came out of his corner,
he usually doesn’t do that.”
  “Leave it to me to attract the weirdoes,” joked Colin, in a mocking high-pitched voice.
  “Jae, stop lollygagging and get those preserves in here,” Sheila Mochrie’s voice ordered from
the kitchen. As breakfast ended, the announcement came that the twins dreaded to hear. “So
you’re aware, there are plans in the works for your education. I’m not sure exactly when, we
need to figure out what you’re normally taught. Billie Sadorus thinks she has a book about it
  The twins instantly thought of sneaking into Billie’s cottage and stealing the book.
  Sheila Mochrie sent them off, handing them each a bag lunch as they departed.
  “Do your best and make your father proud,” she said to Jae and Mireya, kissing their
foreheads. She waved to the twins; they were already opening the gate, eager to depart.
Mireya’s frame dissolved into a small group of girls walking ahead of them.
  “Do you have any idea what you’re going to do with your uncle?” asked Jae, once the trio was
  “Not yet,” answered Meghan, grateful that at least for the time being, she did not have to lie.
  “How about you, Jae? How behind are you?” asked Colin.
  “I can catch up. I have to catch up. Getting behind doesn’t go over well ‘round here. Besides, I
had a lot of chances to practice when I was on my own, best training I’ve ever had,” he said
  “You know I think you’re great!” said Colin enthusiastically. Jae laughed, brushing off Colin’s
comment, but his face gave away how thankful he was to hear it.
  “See ya after school,” Jae yelled. He mouthed, “Good luck,” as he disappeared from view,
leaving the twins alone. The twins waved back, noticing other students gawking at them.
  “Do these people ever stop staring?” asked Meghan under her breath.
  “Does not appear so,” Colin thought back to her.
  Up the road from the school, the twins slowed. Two unfriendly female voices rounded the
corner. The twins moved to the side of the road hoping to let whoever it was pass by.
  “Hurry up, Dulcy. You’re making us late again,” the first voice admonished impatiently.
  “I’m trying, Darcy. Wait up,” the second girl answered in a whiny voice. As the one named
Darcy spotted the twins, her eyes brightened with an ugly smirk. She blocked the road.
  “I was hoping I would come face to face with you two.” Meghan’s guard went up, and she
went into defensive mode. Colin shut down, unable to speak.

  “So what about it?” asked Meghan, her expression focused. The girl named Dulcy caught up to
Darcy. She twirled her shoulder length brown hair, snickering.
  “Lucky for you, my time is short,” the girl said. She strode closer, her tan face scowling
directly into Meghan’s. Her brown eyes were hateful and matched the color of her pulled back
  “What do you suppose this is all about?” Meghan sent to her brother. Colin didn’t answer.
Meghan glanced at him sideways. His face was blood red. “Okay, you’re not going to be any
help.” She put her attention back on the girls. “I’m still waiting,” prompted Meghan, her gaze
firm. Darcy’s eyes glared with fury.
  “Deliver the message,” she hissed to Dulcy.
  “You two better watch yourselves,” she warned, still twisting her hair. Meghan nearly
laughed and bit her tongue.
  Did someone say valley girl! What an idiot! She thought.
  “It’s clear,” Dulcy continued, “you’re just a couple of wolves in cheap clothing! We’re
watching you.”
  Meghan could not stop from laughing this time. Colin wondered if his sister had gone mad.
  “In cheap clothing… now that is an insult,” laughed Meghan.
  Darcy swatted Dulcy up side the head.
  “What?” she whimpered. “That was the message wasn’t it?”
  Darcy dug into Dulcy’s arm and tore away; glaring at the twins as she stalked passed them.
  “You complete ding bat!” Darcy spat out. “Sheep’s clothing. Not cheap clothing! How many
times did I tell you that?” The girls disappeared.
  Meghan, still laughing, was scolded by Colin.
  “What were you thinking?”
  “We can’t let them think we’re weak, Colin.”
  “Easy for you to say,” he muttered. They continued on their journey to Grimble. “We should
try not to make enemies. Remember what Uncle Eddy said about good behavior and gaining
  “I know, Col, but think about it. Those girls had their minds made up already.” He knew she
was right about the girls, but he still despised making new enemies. This was not a place they
could simply pack up and leave behind.
  As they entered Grimble, Colin realized he had not told his sister about Corny, living in the
basement. Part of him did not want to and wished she would discover him on her own.
  “He lives in the basement? Does he get out?” she asked, confused. Colin decided she did not
comprehend the old man.
  “No, I don’t think he gets out.”
  “That’s awful. They need to get him out, get some air.”
  “I don’t think he wants air. Jae says they tried but he refused.”
  “They must not be trying hard enough, everyone likes to get out.”
   “If you’re so keen on him getting some fresh air, maybe you should try,” he insisted smugly.

  “Maybe I will,” she retorted. Colin decided she would not understand Corny until she had met
him, and gave up the topic. They realized they were in the ghost town and quickened their
pace, easily locating the meeting spot. A rustle in the trees above distracted them.
  “Hey, look, Col.”
  His gaze followed Meghan’s pointing finger.
  “No way!” he breathed in disbelief.
  “It sure looks like it,” said Meghan. A bird with a scruffy crest and gray-blue body sat high in
the tree, watching the twins.
  “Maybe our eyes are playing tricks on us,” suggested Colin.
  “Sure looks like the same one to me,” said Meghan.
  “Maybe it accidentally went through the doorway, like we did?” he said.
  Uncle Eddy’s ghostly figure appeared.
  “Hi, Uncle Eddy,” the twins greeted in unison.
  “Hello back! Follow me this way, but carefully, we don’t want to be followed.”
  “Speaking of being followed, there is this strange bird, right up…” Meghan searched, but it
had flown away. “That figures, it’s gone.”
  “You’ve been followed by a bird?” asked their uncle, cautiously.
  “Not sure it meant to follow, but it is similar to one we’ve seen back home. It’s an unfamiliar
species, with a scruffy head, and gray-blue body,” answered Colin. Uncle Eddy floated high into
the trees, but saw nothing.
  “Lets get moving. Lots to do, sure it’s nothing.” They followed their floating uncle down a
path lined with dead trees, straying onto a smaller path, until they came to an abandoned, gray-
shingled mill.
  “It’s the only area I’m aware of that no other ghosts or Svoda typically come, and we must be
alone. I created this place from a memory,” Eddy told them. He saw the questioning gazes of the
twins and continued. “You may notice, as ghosts arrive or move on from Grimble, sometimes
things change. Like the buildings or the scenery. On occasion, even color will pop in
somewhere. Grimble is built by the memories of the residing ghosts. Many ghosts spend a lot of
years here, though, so some things don’t change.”
  The twins’ gazes turned to comprehension.
  “I realize that both of you must have numerous questions for me,” Eddy continued. “Firstly
though, I must warn you, that at least for now, the subjects we discuss are for your ears only.”
He rested his floating body a few feet in front of them. The twins got as comfortable as they
could amongst the dust and cobwebs, sitting on an old pile of wood.
  “How about for today, we start with one question from each of you. Then we will begin your
  The twins pondered what to ask first. Colin, still deciphering what he wanted to ask, let
Meghan go first.
  “Can you tell us anything about our parents?” she blurted out.
  Their uncle smiled sadly.
  “I assumed this would be one of your first questions. I am afraid I do not have much to offer
on the subject, any more so than you probably already know. You see, I died about a year after

your parents met. I do remember your mother was a striking beauty. Inside and out. Not that
everyone agreed with me,” he chuckled. “They did agree that she was one of the prettiest girls
they had ever seen, but she was also infamous for her temper.”
 So our mom had a temper… no wonder Meghan’s always…
  Meghan punched his arm before he could finish.
  See. Proves my point, his thoughts shouted.
  “And daring!” Eddy added, continuing. “Quick witted too. Now your father on the other
hand, I am afraid we were just not that close. He was a charismatic man, though. Well respected
in his community.”
  The twins listened intently; their parents were not a topic Uncle Arnon ever discussed. They
assumed it brought back too many memories for him.
  “I’m afraid that I don’t have much else to add,” said Eddy. “I never met either of you in
person, but something kept me here in Grimble. Something nagged in the back of my mind that
I had to wait for you.”
  “Honestly, Uncle Eddy, we’ve never known much about our parents, so even the little you
can tell is fascinating,” Meghan told him.
  “I’m glad. I only wish I had more to tell.” His face smiled compassionately as he turned his
attention to Colin. “Do you have your question ready?”
  He did.
  “How come I can do magic, Uncle Eddy?”
  Eddy floated back and forth for a moment before answering.
  “You are what the Svoda like to call lost ones, people who survived magic’s demise but whose
families didn’t join a larger clan.”
  The twins stared at each other in stunned silence.
  “Is that why we can talk to each other?” Meghan divulged the truth before she could stop
herself. It was a fact they usually kept secret.
  “Can you? No, I do not think that’s magic related. I would guess that has more to do with your
twinly bond,” he answered.
  “That’s why we traveled around with Uncle Arnon isn’t it?” asked Colin. “If anything magical
happened, he didn’t want us to get caught.”
  “Yes. I am sure he wanted to raise you away from prying eyes.”
  They were saddened again at the memory of their uncle, but Eddy continued.
  “And now you are with the Svoda. There is much you can learn from them.”
  “So where do we start?” asked Colin, eager to begin.
  “With the Magicante. If you don’t mind, Colin,” he gestured for him to take it out and hold it
open. The leaves glimmered.
  “Ah, Magicante! Any ideas on how this book works, either of you?” asked their uncle.
  “When we were in trouble and asked for help, it gave it to us. Although it was quite
unexpected, I might add. I guess you have to ask it?” answered Colin.
  “Make sure you say please, though, Uncle Eddy,” muttered Meghan. “It doesn’t do rude.”
  “A spirited book is it?” he chuckled. As his ghostly hands hovered over the leaf-filled pages,
the book came to life.

  “I see I’m moving up in the world,” a snide, bored voice announced. “Finally, someone with
experience. Dead, but knowledgeable, at least.”
  “See?” Meghan rolled her eyes.
  “Magicante isn’t just a magical book, it’s original magic,” continued their uncle. “Magic long
forgotten by most. If you ask for help, it may choose to help you or it may not. Or it may offer
help, but not in the manner you might desire or understand.”
  “Uh, okay. So I guess when we were first unaware of what it could do, it offered help,
knowing we needed it.” Meghan tried to understand. Colin butted in.
  “It didn’t offer me help when I was trying to save Meghan back in Cobbscott. Why?”
  “What do you mean?” she demanded.
  Colin realized that he had never explained to Meghan how he had gotten her home, when she
had first fallen ill under the oak tree.
  “Maybe before I continue, you should fully disclose to your sister what the book did and did
not do. First lesson- never keep secrets from each other.”
  “What are you keeping from me?” She bore into his mind trying to infiltrate his thoughts.
  “It wasn’t that big a deal,” Colin said, blocking her. “After you stormed off, the book told me
you were in trouble and I had to find you.” He explained the leaf tornado which led him to her.
“I wasn’t sure how to help you. I asked the book to get us out of the woods. But it wouldn’t, it
told me I had another way.”
  “Another way?” she questioned, adding, “I couldn’t even move. I was paralyzed.” Meghan
shuddered at the memory.
  Colin continued.
  “I couldn’t move you and the book wouldn’t help me. I panicked. All I could focus on was
getting you home, and BOOM! I was there.”
  “Without the book’s help?” she asked.
  The book answered her question.
  “Not with my help, lassie. He didn’t need it, did he?”
  “What I want to understand,” she whined, “is why can Colin do all this magic stuff, but not
  “Before we get to that, Colin, let me ask you, why do you think the book made you figure it
out for yourself, instead of doing it for you?”
  Colin recounted the incident in his head before answering.
  “I think it was because the book thought I should learn how to do it on my own.”
  “Correct. Magicante is a complex thing. Think of it as a textbook to end all textbooks. It will
not, however, perform what it thinks you should be able to do for yourself.”
  “So back to my question,” implored Meghan. “Why - can’t - I?”
  “Have you tried?” enticed her uncle.
  “No, I suppose I haven’t,” she answered less impatiently. “The first time the book helped us
we weren’t sure that it wasn’t a fluke. Even after the second time, and Colin doing magic, it
honestly didn’t dawn on me to try.”
  “Well,” Colin started, “when I did magic the second time, before the Scratcher attack …”
  “Again?” she questioned.

  Uncle Eddy gestured Colin to explain.
  “Remember when you sensed I was being bullied, and you came looking for me with
Sebastien and Jae?” Colin bowed his head, embarrassed to let his uncle hear that he had been
  “Yeah, I remember, you had this smug look on your face…” she exhaled and asked in a dark
voice, “What – Did – You- Do?”
  “It was a complete accident,” he insisted. “I didn’t realize anything would happen. I wished
that the boys would freeze, and they did. Then they started yelling. I was afraid someone might
see what I’d done, so I wished for them to shut up, and they did. I heard the spell wear off after
I ran away.”
  Meghan was dumbfounded that Colin had done magic, twice, before she had known about it.
What scared her most was that he had successfully kept this fact hidden from her.
  “He must be getting better at blocking me,” she thought.
  “Yes, I am!” He stuck out his tongue.
  She mimicked him and then folded her arms in disgust. Uncle Eddy eyed them both
  “I am afraid that before either of you can continue, this bickering has to stop. You must both
find peace with each other. Your bond is strong, but it needs to remain so. Remember… no
  Once again, the twins found themselves in trouble for arguing. They tried to put aside their
bitterness and continue.
  “So how do I do it? Magic, I mean,” asked Meghan.
  Uncle Eddy took a worried breath.
  “Let’s start with something simple. Perhaps the book will allow some assistance, since it’s your
first try.”
  The book answered, this time with a snide poem.

Assistance I will give,
For the one that lives,
Although her brain a sieve,
Oh drat! We all know she can’t do it on her own!

 Colin frowned at the odd poem, while sensing in Meghan’s mind a desire to kick the book.
 “What would you like to try, Meghan?” asked Eddy.
 “I don’t know,” she replied, unsure.
 “How about something simple, like color changing,” Eddy prompted.
 “Color changing!” she grinned. “How about my hair?”
 It wasn’t exactly what Uncle Eddy had in mind, but it would work. Colin rolled his eyes and
was about to make a joke, when Meghan gave him a glare; he put on a fake smile, motioning for
her to continue.

  “Book,” she tried to ask politely. “Hm hmm,” she cleared her throat. “Give me a spell to turn
my hair sky blue.”
  “As you wish your…” Uncle Eddy interrupted.
  “If you don’t mind, stick to the spell, thanks.”
  It sniveled and snarled under its breath. The pages flipped, stopping on a shimmering yellow
  Meghan was thankful to her uncle for stopping the oncoming onslaught of contempt. She read
the directions, which floated over the shimmering leaf.
  “Although an insult to my knowledge…”
  Hmpfff Meghan’s thoughts shouted.

A Spell for Blue Hair.

To have hair of blue in every strand,
Say three times, whilst waving your hand,
Blue hair everywhere.

To have blue hair just in stripes,
Please say thrice, while trying to be nice,
Blue hair here, blue hair there.

  Meghan stopped reading. “I’m going to try it!” She stood up.
  “But there’s more options, Meghan,” pointed out Colin.
  “I want the first one, all blue.”
  Colin was going to argue, but decided to play nice.
  “Okay. Here I go. My first spell. Hope it doesn’t go wonky and turn it a bad blue, ‘cause that
would suck.” She closed her eyes and waved her hand, palm side toward her face.
  “Blue hair everywhere,” she repeated it three times.
  After the third time, the hair on her head changed to a brilliant sky blue. She opened her eyes
and admired herself in a nearby broken window.
  “Too cool! I love…” she choked, looking down at her arms as bright blue hairs took the place
of her normally blond ones. “What the…”
  Torrents of laughter filled the empty mill, Colin couldn’t help himself; even Uncle Eddy got
in a good chuckle. Meghan’s hair was blue from head to toe, including her eyebrows and arms.
She hiked up the bottom of her skirt. All she could muster was a low grumble.
  “I guess,” Colin squeaked, “when it says everywhere,” he could barely talk, “it means
  Meghan grabbed the book, snarling. A steady stream of insults churned in her mind: Reviling!
Ridiculous! Conniving little … Dang book thinks its sooo smug! Well, I’ll show…
  A new bout of hysterics bubbled out of Colin. He had not laughed so hard since he could

  Meghan, humiliated, continued reading.
  “Since you’ve decided to be smart enough to read all I have written…”
  Meghan ignored the sneering remarks, and the hysterical laughter bellowing from Colin, and
read the final verse.

If blue on your head is what you desire,
Then what you need is a way to inspire,
Sing it three times like a children's choir,
And if you’re lucky (ha), blue will be your outcome!

  “Be your… outcome?” She glared at the book, shaking her head.
  It took all Colin’s strength to stop laughing, and feel even the slightest bit of remorse. It was
possibly the most humiliated he’d ever seen her. Even more so than the night he’d found out
about her crush on Sebastien Jendaya.
  She mustered up what courage she had left and sang blue fire three times. The hair on her
body returned to its normal color, and only the hair on her head remained blue. “At least that’s
over!” she stated, plopping herself down. “I suppose,” she said, humbled, “That the first lesson is
to read all the instructions, first.”
  “The first lesson was no secrets, but alas, number two. Understanding the entire picture, even
on a seemingly simple task, requires complete knowledge of the situation.”
  “Don’t worry. Think I’ll remember that one.” She took a deep breath, and then said, “I still
don’t understand why the book helped us, before we even knew what it was?”
  “I am sure when you first needed help it realized you would not yet understand.”
  “So it’s a rude book, with a heart o’ gold?” she said smugly.
  “It is said that a little bit of the creator’s, let’s say, humor and temperament, seeped in during
the book’s creation. This book may have an off kilter sense of humor, but it will never fail you.
Again, I reiterate, you may not like the answer, or the solution, but it will never fail you.” He
then asked, “Do you both understand so far?”
  They shook their heads yes and he continued.
  “Now, I…” Eddy was cut off by a shadow moving outside one of the broken mill windows. He
chased it, yelling for the twins to stay put. They waited impatiently for their uncle to return,
their thoughts wandering.
  “If you’d told me a few months ago we’d find out our parents were magical, well, it’s so hard
to believe,” said Meghan.
  “I wish Uncle Arnon would have told us. Maybe things could have turned out differently,” he
choked. “He gave up so much to keep us safe. Maybe if he had found a group like the Svoda, he
could have had more of a home, or friends.”
  “But the Svoda hide, too.”
  “Yeah, but at least they still have each other.”
  Meghan did not reply.
  They remained silent, hiding their thoughts from each other. A few minutes later, their uncle
flew back in.

   “Saw a ghost, tried to follow him, but he disappeared before I got a real fix on him. Probably
accidentally happened upon this place, but can’t be too careful.”
   “Uncle Eddy, why is it so important for us to keep our magic a secret? Between the Svoda,
who are magical, and the ghosts, who are dead magical people, would anyone even care?”
   “Ah, yes. Something I did wish to discuss with you. Simply put, it may not matter much at all,
and yet, doing things in the right order always works best. Your magic will come out when the
moment is right, perhaps once they have begun trusting two new strangers.”
   Colin heard a hint of suggestion.
   “If I understand what you’re saying,” said Colin, “we should try to make a good impression,
get people to like us and then maybe they will be more accepting.”
   “Something like that, yes, Colin.”
   “It would make life easier if they’d stop gawking at us all the time,” huffed Meghan.
   Uncle Eddy laughed and then sighed.
   “It’s already getting later than I expected. I’d imagine you’re getting hungry by now, so eat,
and then off you go for the day.”
   The twins realized they had been there for hours already and were starving. At the same time,
they didn’t want their first day to come to an end so soon. They ate slowly. Even Meghan,
whose first magical attempt went awry, didn’t want to leave. But the end came.
   “Let’s plan on meeting same time, same place, tomorrow,” said Uncle Eddy as they departed.
   “We’ll be here,” grinned Colin.
   “One more thing. And this applies to both of you. Keep that book safe. Even if your magic
does become public knowledge, or you get upset with it,” his eyes rolled to Meghan. “There are
a lot of people who would love to get their hands on Magicante, and this one is meant for you.”
   Colin gripped it tighter.
   During the walk home, a few Gypsies passed them by; all taking double-takes of Meghan’s
blue hair.
   “I’m not sure this is what Uncle Eddy had in mind when he wanted us to impress the Svoda.”
   Meghan simply held her head up high and walked on. Once back in the wagons they met up
with Jae and Mireya. She ran up to Meghan’s head and touched it.
   “Wow, I love it! Wish my mom and dad would let me.”
   “You know dad would never,” reminded Jae.
   Meghan wished she hadn’t done it, realizing it was more trouble than it was worth.
   “I had it done in Grimble,” she lied half-heartedly.
   “How was your first day back at school?” asked Colin, taking the attention away from his
sister. Mireya’s eyebrows raised and she briskly walked away. Jae waited for Mireya to walk out
of hearing distance before explaining.
   “Not my best day. The class wanted to hear about my month alone. I told them about fighting
the Scratchers, don’t worry, they don’t know about you, Colin,” he added. “Then, I told them
how strong I felt out there, but when I went to perform a spell, I could barely pull it off. I guess
it’s so crowded here, I’m just weaker.” He frowned, hiding his face behind his stringy hair.
   Timidly, he continued.

  “For a minute, I wished I were on my own again. The power I felt out there, with no one else
to use it all up...”
  The twins were not sure how to reply. Jae changed the subject.
  “How about you guys?”
  The twins decided they could tell Jae what their uncle was teaching them. If he confided in
them, they saw no reason not to do the same.
  “I had a little fiasco of my own there,” said Meghan, retelling the story of her blue nightmare.
It helped cheer him up, and Jae wasn’t surprised at all that Meghan performed magic, seeing as
Colin had already done it.
  Before bed, Colin, hidden behind his curtain, opened Magicante, hoping to ask it a question
he knew it probably wouldn’t answer.
  “Book, tell me, is there a way to make myself taller?” Colin swore he heard the book sigh, and
then in a whisper it barked its answer.
  “Yes! By learning how not to waste my time!” There was a pause, and then more words
appeared, but in the form of a poem which the book did not speak.

Now if you don’t mind,
I’d like to unwind,
I think you will find,
That someone is going to arrive any minute now!

  “Huh? Doesn’t rhyme.” Colin shook his head, listening, as footsteps approached. He hid the
book at the bottom of his dresser and crawled into bed. Through the open bedroom door, and a
crack in his curtain, he spied Ivan Crane going into his room. His sister barged into his head.
  “Hey, Col. Awake?”
  “Yeah, I’ve been waiting for Jae to come up. Must’ve had a ton of school work to catch up on.”
  “I don’t think he has taken a break since he got home today. Just wanted to say goodnight,”
she said.
  “K, night, Sis.”
  A few hours later, Colin awoke as Jae sauntered in. Colin poked his head out of the curtain
and was about to rib Jae about working so hard when he heard sniffling. He sucked himself
back behind his curtain, holding his breath.
  What was the right thing to do? Ask Jae what was wrong, or pretend he did not notice. He
desperately wanted to wake Meghan, but decided it was best for at least one of them to sleep.
Colin supposed it could wait until morning. Confrontation was her strong forte after all, not his!


  Days had passed since Colin had awakened in the middle of the night, having overheard Jae
crying. After discussing it with Meghan, they decided to wait and see if Jae volunteered any
information. However, a chance for volunteered information had not yet developed, as Jae was
busy morning until late at night, typically with his father.
  The twins were also busy with their Uncle Eddy, practicing simple spells. Meghan had the
book help her change her hair color back to red, keeping a single blue streak, to draw less
  Colin had successfully used magic to pick up a rock, and hurl it thirty feet, hitting his target
straight on ten times in a row. He hoped there would be no occasion when this talent would
become useful…aka… a Scratcher attack.
  Meghan, however, struggled without the book’s help. She worked on creating fire, by
touching a pile of wood and telling it to burn.
  “You couldn’t start a fire, magic or not!” Colin joked.
  She could not argue.
  “I’m not sure why I’m even trying this spell. I’m all thumbs when it comes to matches and
lighters.” She persisted, though. For some reason she liked the idea of a roaring fire, but when
the day ended, the pile remained unlit.

  “Meghan, you better get up,” sent Colin from the backyard, a few mornings later. “If you don’t
hurry you won’t get to see Jae at all, he’s leaving with his dad, again.”
  “Okay, okay, I’m up already. What is with this place, getting up so dang early all the time?”
she mumbled haughtily.
  “If you’re worried about your beauty sleep, don’t bother,” he teased, laughing, which silenced
everyone at the breakfast table. It became awkwardly obvious that the conversation he had not
been attending to was not humorous. Colin stuffed his face with food, pretending it didn’t
happen and the conversation continued. A whisper found his thoughts.
  “Serves you right, little bro.”
  “Hey! Not fair,” he shot back.
  The Mochrie’s were having a heated conversation.
  “Maybe this will be your turn, Irving. Even Vinson Troast cannot ignore what a fine job you
do at the bank.”
  “I wouldn’t be so sure, Sheila. I not only have to pass the approval of Troast, but also Vian
Sadorus. I don’t think either of them wants me for the job. I’ve been hearing rumors about
Markus Scraggs.”
  “Since when do you pay attention to rumor, Irving Mochrie?” Sheila scolded. “What would
the rest of your family think if they heard you planning your life according to rumor?” Sheila
Mochrie decided the conversation was over. She got up and went into house.

  “Dad’s not fond of Vian Sadorus,” whispered Jae. “He bought the bank and demoted dad, who
was next in line to manage the place.”
  “I wouldn’t like him either if he’d done that to me.” Colin whispered back, and then asked, “I
don’t understand why you need a bank, if things in the village are free.”
  “In the village, yes. However, outside the village, not the case. Everyone has to chip in to the
town fund. We do odd jobs as we travel, like here, working in Grimble, so we can buy supplies
we need along the way. But, the businesses in our village are still owned by people, and Garner
owns a lot.”
  “How does he afford to buy businesses?” asked Colin, confused.
  “He’s old money, plus, the owners get small stipends to keep their businesses open. It’s not
much, but it helps.” Jae added, “Sorry I haven’t been around much, been helping dad at the
bank. He’s due for a promotion, as you heard.” Colin realized that he and Meghan should give
some of their recently inherited money to the town fund.
  “Better be off then, Jae,” said Irving Mochrie, darting his stern eyes at Jae to see if he was
ready to leave.
  Jae jumped up and said he’d be ready in a flash and ran inside bounding up the spiral staircase.
Meghan, at that same moment, was bounding down the stairs. She glanced through the staircase
window into the lit outdoor fire pit; she didn’t notice Jae rounding the staircase at full speed.
  They crashed head-on!
  Meghan fell back and Jae fell down a stair, thankfully catching himself before falling all the
way. He was back up instantly and held out his hand to offer Meghan assistance.
  “Sorry, always in a hurry these days. I was telling Colin, I’ve been helping my dad at the bank.
Should calm down soon, though.” She held out her hand to accept his help. It was nice to see
Jae, if even for a minute.
  As she grabbed hold of his hand, an overpowering sensation crept into her mind; intense heat,
followed by crippling pain. She doubled over, feeling as though her body was being squeezed
like a tube, emptying every last ounce of her breath. It felt like the last breath, the final breath
before death.
  Jae propped her up, setting her down on the stairway, letting go of her hand. Instantly her
breath returned and she began to feel normal again. Colin, sensing something wrong, snuck
  “What happened?” he asked, seeing her on the stair.
  “Don’t know. We ran into each other and when I tried to help her up she fell over.”
  Meghan did not speak.
  Irving Mochrie burst in impatiently.
  “Already, please.”
  Jae passed by the twins and ran up the stairs. Colin helped his sister outside for some air. A
minute later Jae was gone, followed by Mireya and her mother, leaving the twins alone.
  “What was that all about?” asked Colin.
  “I don’t know exactly. I… I saw Jae’s pain, as I touched him. I could feel it.” She scrunched
her face as she said it, leaving out the worst of what she had felt.
  “How can you feel someone’s pain?”

  “I have no idea. Maybe Uncle Eddy can help.” She departed at a quick pace, with Colin
begging for her to slow down. As they edged closer to Grimble, Colin finally dared ask what he
had been thinking the entire walk.
  “Were you able to see what’s wrong with Jae? What he is upset about?”
  “No. It wasn’t a specific thing.” After a minute, she continued. “I did get the feeling that
whatever’s bothering Jae has been doing so for a long time, and is something that might get
worse.” Not wanting to frighten Colin, she blocked the memory and left out the most important
part: Jae’s imminent death!
  As they arrived at the old mill, Uncle Eddy was not alone. The ghost of a younger boy floated
  “Who’s that?” asked Colin.
  “That is my new friend, Timothy.” He floated close to the twins, whispering, “Poor boy’s been
here nearly twelve years. Found some bully of a ghost named Duppy doing magic on him, poor
thing couldn’t even defend himself.”
  “He isn’t magical?” questioned Meghan.
  “No. Strange he would end up in Grimble, with no magical ties.”
  “He’s funny,” said Colin, watching the boy flutter around in circles above.
  “He has been quite a hoot. Timothy, come down for a moment.” The ghost boy dived and
abruptly halted in front of the twins.
  “Hi! You must be Meghan and Colin. Nice to meet you! So Eddy is your uncle? You’re so
lucky. How is it that you are alive and he’s dead? You didn’t tell me they were alive. Wow, I
never get to talk to alive people anymore.”
  “He sure is an excitable ghost boy,” sent Meghan to her brother, who nodded in amused
  “Nice to meet you, Timothy,” said both twins, together.
  “You too,” he said, and then added, “I have to go now, going to go help a new ghost child
arriving today. Hope I get to see you again. So many questions I’d like to ask an alive person.”
He floated away.
  “Bye, Timothy,” said Eddy. “Stay away from that Duppy ghost, eh.”
  “I will. I promise,” his voice trailed off and he was gone.
  “Okay, where were we?” said their uncle, getting comfortable on a beam hanging over the
  “Before we do anything Uncle Eddy, can I ask you about something that happened earlier this
morning?” asked Meghan.
  “Yes, of course,” he answered uneasily. He floated down off his beam, to be closer to her.
  “This morning I fell, and Jae grabbed my hand to help me up. Somehow, I ended up in his
mind and…” She glanced sideways at Colin, giving in. He would find out eventually anyway.
“There were feelings of wanting to hurt someone, and Jae not surviving. I don’t understand how
I know this, I just do.” Meghan’s fear overwhelmed Colin’s thoughts, and though he was upset
that she had not told him, he said nothing.
  Uncle Eddy frowned and then smiled.
  “I should’ve known,” he muttered.

  The twins waited eagerly for him to explain.
  “Meghan, it may not appear so at the moment, but what you have is a great gift.”
  “Gift? Is it a magical gift?”
  “In a manner of speaking, yes. Your gift runs in the family, your mother and your
grandmother and her mother... you get the picture. It’s no surprise to me that this would occur.
I should have been expecting it!”
  “Expecting what?” Meghan wished adults would get to the point faster.
  “The gift of sight,” her uncle answered without further delay.
  “So I can see things, and feel things, like Jae’s feelings?”
  “Yes, I would imagine you can see other things, too, glimpses of the past, present or future.
Out of curiosity, do you have any idea how the sight comes to you, what mode allows you to
  Colin was not sure he understood what his uncle was asking, but Meghan knew immediately.
  “Fire, its fire.” She read Uncle Eddy’s face; he looked surprised that she already knew this.
  Something dawned on Colin.
  “That’s how you knew about the Scratcher attack, back in Cobbscott, isn’t it?”
  “I guess so. I think somehow, I knew it was a vision of the future. I just didn’t really believe it,
at the time.”
  “I wish I knew more about having the sight,” added Eddy. “It is not a subject I am very
familiar with. Perhaps there are some books in the library that might help you, Meghan,” he
  “Books?” questioned Colin. “You obviously don’t know my sister very well.”
  Eddy chuckled, and Meghan glared.
  “Well, we’ll work on it,” Eddy added. “See what we can discover. Why don’t we have an early
lunch and then get down to the business of the day.” The twins ate in silence. Practice began
soon after. Today, Eddy used himself as a moving target. Colin successfully sent rocks hurtling
through his ghostly body time after time. Meghan watched, jealously impressed. Uncle Eddy
was thrilled. He had never seen someone take to magic like Colin.
  Meghan, on the other hand, was not having such an easy time. She now worked on balancing
items, as she had seen Jae do. However, she never successfully balanced more than three items
before they plummeted to the ground.
  Timothy returned, watching them practice. At the end of the day he escorted his new friends
on their walk home. The twins had not spoken the entire walk as Timothy had not yet stopped;
which for the present they found amusing.
  Before they reached the circle of wagons, the twins stopped in their tracks. Unfriendly
footsteps advanced from the woods, encircling them. Timothy flitted high into the air, watching
from a distance as the scene unfolded. Three figures emerged from the woods. Two they
recognized, Darcy, along with her partner in crime, the eloquent speaking Dulcy. The third was
a towering, skulking girl they did not recognize. She kept pace with Darcy and Dulcy as the
three ambushers circled their prey.
  “You were right, Darcy,” bellowed Dulcy. “Wait and they’ll come, and then we’ll see what
they’ve been up to.”

  “Shut it!” warned Darcy harshly. The skulking girl sneered as the trio tightened their circle
around the twins.
 “What do you suppose this is about?” sent Colin silently, trying to keep his nerve. Meghan kept
her eyes on their ambushers, showing no fear. This only elevated Darcy’s anger.
  “What do you want?” demanded Meghan.
  “We’ve seen what you can do,” Darcy stated, her eyes blazing. “And we think you’re spies!”
  “Oh, no,” sent Meghan to Colin. “Not good!” She made sure not to outwardly show her
  “I don’t think this is how Uncle Eddy imagined our abilities being found out,” stammered
  “It doesn’t exactly bring about trust, does it?” she sent back dryly.
  Darcy waited for a reply, growing fiercer as one did not come. Meghan cleared her mind and
Colin grew aware that she slipped into her own defensive mode.
  “Why should we care about what you think you’ve seen, Darcy?”
  Meghan obviously had no idea who she was dealing with. The other two girls jumped
backwards, as if complete fury was about to be unleashed.
  “It will matter to you when I get you both kicked out and left here to ROT! I’m going to turn
you in for what you really are.”
  “I see,” said Meghan. “What is that by the way, Darcy? Who are we?”
  The skulking girl stood at the ready, awaiting orders to pummel the twins. Dulcy, the worded
wonder, to the twins’ benefit, threw Darcy off her game.
  “Banon Blackwell is going to flip out when we bring you in as spies. We will totally be
rewardified.” Dulcy’s eyes rolled as she attempted to pronounce the word. “No, rewarided,” she
then corrected, still wrong.
  Darcy cringed.
  “Stop speaking,” she hissed, her nostrils flaring.
  Meghan took advantage of the momentary switch in attention and nudged Colin to step to the
left, which was now open, as Darcy had moved closer to her idiot counterpart.
  “Darcy, they’re trying to get away!” the skulking girl thundered, giving them away. “You
want me to pound ‘em?”
  Darcy whirled around facing the twins.
  “No one walks away while I’m talking to them,” she roared.
   “Oh, really? Watch me,” goaded Meghan, taking another step.
  “Are you trying to get us killed?” yelled Colin silently.
  “Look, you two… Ditch Witch’s!” Darcy stopped, gloating over coming up with such a clever
term. She waited until the other girls had a good laugh, before continuing.
  “We’re watching you!” she warned. “And when you screw up, which you will, we’ll be there
to show Juliska Blackwell who you really are. And then we’ll see who’s scared.” Darcy marched
away followed by her companions.
  Colin yelled at Meghan.

  “You don’t think we are in enough trouble, without pissing off that crew? I mean, why not
just walk in and announce hey, we can do magic and we’re here to spy on you and report back
to our evil people.” Colin was never good at arguing.
  Meghan took a huffed breath.
  “Colin, when will you learn that you have to stick up for yourself? So what if they get pissed
off! It’s clear they are not running home tattling to anyone. You heard them; they’re waiting for
us to screw up.”
  “More fun for them, then. I think Uncle Eddy would agree that we or I should say, YOU, just
screwed up.”
  Meghan threw up her arms in defeat.
  “That’s it, Colin. I’m not sticking up for you anymore. If you think you could have handled
that situation any better, then next time, YOU DO IT!” she stormed off crossly.
  Anger overwhelmed her; anger that she had to live with the Svoda, dealing with secrets,
bullies or magic. As she stormed her way through Bedgewood Harbor, her thoughts strayed to
Sebastien; she recalled the conversation they’d had back in Cobbscott. He had warned her then.
Don’t keep sticking up for Colin. But how could she not? He was still little, still her brother.
  Meghan did not want to go home. She veered off the road, taking the lane that led to the
ocean shore, suddenly needing to feel the bite of the ocean on her face.

  Colin slumped over on the wagon steps. Up above, Timothy, looking forlorn for a ghost,
floated in circles over him.
  “Sorry, Timothy,” said Colin.
  “Oh that’s okay,” he said shyly. “I hear people argue all the time around here.”
  “Hey, you won’t tell Uncle Eddy will you,” Colin asked nicely.
  “You mean a secret, between you and me?” Excitement rose in his voice.
  “Yeah. A secret.”
  “Wow, I haven’t had a secret to keep in such a long time.” He swirled around, happy as any
ghost could be and sang a little song, “I won’t tell, I won’t tell.”
  “I gotta go, Timothy, see you later, okay.”
  “Yes, later then, friend of which I know a secret.” Timothy held his hand up and saluted
Colin, then floated away.
  Colin headed into the wagons hoping to find his sister waiting for him, but to his dismay, he
did not. He walked through Bedgewood alone, feeling every staring eye. He realized that
without his sister, he was afraid. He wanted to hide, but instead, walked quickly to the school
and waited for Jae and Mireya, who instantly questioned where Meghan was.
  “Not sure. We had a fight.”
  “Oh, sorry. Maybe she’s already home,” twittered Mireya. She then ran off with a friend.
  “What happened today?” asked Jae.
  In reply, Colin asked his own question.
  “What can you tell me about a girl named Darcy?”
  “Not Darcy Scraggs!” muttered Jae. “Was Dulcy Hadrian and Daveena Troast with her?”
  “Dulcy was, and if Daveena is the biggest, scariest girl you’ve ever seen, then yes she was.”

   “Something else I forgot to warn you guys about. The Three D’s.”
   “The Three D’s. They have a name. I take it they’re not just nasty to us, then?” asked Colin.
   “No. They’re mean period. Darcy, she’s the worst. Daveena could crush any of us, but she
doesn’t do anything unless Darcy orders it, and then there’s Dulcy.”
   “She doesn’t seem to fit in,” Colin broke in.
   “Don’t let that stupid act fool you. She doesn’t have a decent bone in her body.”
   “Noted,” said Colin gravely.
   “So what did they want?”
   “Actually, they acted as if they knew about our magic,” whispered Colin.
   Jae froze in his tracks.
   “Do you think they do?”
   “Honestly, it’s hard to say. If she did know, though, will she tell?”
   “If it served her well to do it, Darcy wouldn’t hesitate,” exclaimed Jae.
   “Why not turn us in and get it over with then?” asked Colin.
   Jae contemplated before answering.
   “Knowing the Three D’s, they are either scheming some way to expose you, or,” he paused. “I
wouldn’t put it past them to try and pin this on someone else, too.”
   It took only a second for Colin to realize that Jae meant himself, and maybe even his family.
   “You have to tell the truth, Jae! Meghan would insist if she were here. We can’t let anything
bad happen to you, for hiding our magic.”
   “No, I can’t do it. I might be wrong, Colin. I shouldn’t have even brought it up. Forget I said
   “Why do they dislike your family so much?” asked Colin.
   “It’s not just us. They have a false impression that they pull more weight than the rest of us in
the group. Banon Blackwell keeps them in check though.”
   “If it comes down to it, Jae, I don’t want you or your family getting into trouble because of
   Jae would not hear it.
  “I can’t. If it does come down to it, I’ll stay behind with you and take full responsibility. I’ll say
my family didn’t know.”
   “But you would be away from your family again, which is how we ended up here in the first
   Jae could not argue this point.
   “Let’s wait and see how things play out for a few days,” suggested Jae. “I honestly don’t think
we’ll be in danger of anything happening right away. Fall’s practically here and we all have
school exams then, including the Three D’s. I think it’ll buy us some time.”
   Colin agreed to Jae’s thinking and they slipped inside the Mochrie house.
   Meghan was not home. They made an excuse at the dinner table thirty minutes later, when
she still had not returned. After dinner, Mireya headed off to meet a friend down by the wharf.
Jae sat at the kitchen table working on schoolwork. Colin paced the kitchen trying to reach out
for his sister; he could sense her, but she was getting better at blocking him for longer periods of
time. The house was deafeningly quiet.

  And then, it was not quiet. Distant screams echoed into the open windows.
  “What on earth?” asked Sheila Mochrie, from the back yard. Irving Mochrie rushed out of the
cottage to investigate, followed by Sheila, Colin and Jae.
  Billows of smoke were rising from the ocean shore. “The wharf, something’s happening at the
wharf!” Sheila screamed, charging down the road, panicked, as she remembered that is where
her daughter was supposed to be.
  Irving ran back inside, before following Sheila, hooking a belt over his shoulder. Colin and Jae
followed. Neighbors flew out of their homes and very swiftly, a crowd raced toward the wharf.
Colin was horrified to see they were preparing themselves for a battle. They each wore belts
like Irving’s over their shoulders. Each persons contained different items.
  Jae explained as they ran to the wharf.
  “Some carry potions, some weapons, and some store magical energy, so when they tire they
have a backup supply.”
  As they neared the wharf, Balaton (policeman of the Svoda) popped in from thin air and
attempted to survey the situation, with palms raised, poised for battle.
  Children were screaming and running to find their parents. None of the Svoda could imagine
what enemy they could be up against. Nothing had ever penetrated their entrances before.
  Mireya appeared, out of breath, yelling over the screams and chaos.
  “Come quick! It’s Meghan! Something’s happened.”
  Colin got a sinking feeling in his stomach. They followed Mireya to the edge of the wharf,
where a ball of fire reeled along the shore.
  “Meghan?” Colin gulped, in disbelieving horror. The flames engulfed his sister and yet did not
appear to be burning her. “Get out of there,” Colin pleaded, trying to race toward her. Sheila
and Jae held him back.
  “I haven’t seen something like this in ages,” said an astonished Irving Mochrie. He asked
Colin, “Has she done this before?”
  Colin tried to think of the right answer. Before he could, Balaton arrived, escorting Banon
  “Well, you’re definitely not a secret anymore,” whispered Jae. “But at least the Three D’s
didn’t have a chance to pull off their plan.”
  It was the only good thing about it! His sister was a walking fireball, and a good many Svoda
had seen her. The crowd relaxed their battle stances as Juliska Blackwell calmly walked toward
Meghan. The crowd murmured behind her.
  “What is this girl?”
  “She’s like the Banon,” another woman said.
  “A Firemancer, is it possible?”
  “What magical family is she from?”
  The crowd quieted, all eyes watched Banon Blackwell as she spoke to Meghan.
  “What do you see?” she asked in an eager voice, as if she instantly understood what was
happening, which relieved Colin, slightly, seeing as he did not.
  The fire that surrounded Meghan changed color, from orange and yellow to bright gold. She
faced the Svoda, and Juliska, and began rising off the ground.

  She drew up her arm and pointed it at the Svoda. Meghan was high enough that she was
pointing almost directly at Juliska’s head. To Colin’s amazement, Juliska, standing six feet from
Meghan, was not bothered by the heat; yet Colin could feel it some twenty-five feet away.
  Finally, Meghan spoke, and in a voice much deeper than her own.
  “Beware. Beware. They attack you where you sleep. Beware I say to all Svoda, they attack you
where you sleep.” She repeated this several times.
  Mummers buzzed through the observing crowd. Frightened faces looked to Banon Blackwell
for answers to this apparent prophecy.
  “What do you mean, girl?” one woman shouted.
  “Who attacks us? Who?” another voice hollered.
  “How will we know, if we’re sleeping?” a man asked.
   Juliska addressed the distressed crowd; her brilliant stare was enough to quiet her people. As
she turned back to Meghan, still floating high in the air, more Gypsies arrived, including Ivan,
followed by Garner Sadorus and the Three D’s. Colin swore that Garner had a look in his eye
which was not pleased to see Meghan, apparently prophesying. He also scowled at an infuriated
looking Darcy.
  “They must have really had a plan of their own,” thought Colin.
  The fire diminished around Meghan’s body and she slowly descended to the ground. Colin ran
to his sister’s side. Nobody stopped him this time.
  The crowd drew closer. Banon Blackwell bent over and touched Meghan’s face. She was
burning up. For a brief second his sister’s eyes opened, her mind once again linked to his. Her
thoughts confused him.
  “Mother, I want my mother.”
  “Mother? What do you mean? She’s dead, remember?” This frightened Colin more than seeing
her on fire.
  “She will be fine,” said Juliska Blackwell, cradling Meghan in her arms. “Take her to the
hospital,” she ordered her Balaton. “I will arrive shortly to handle this situation myself.” A
Balaton hooked on to Meghan’s limp body and instantly vanished. It was an uncomfortable
feeling not knowing where they were taking his sister. He reached out for her.
  “Meghan, can you hear me?” Her mind was weak, but she answered.
  “Yes, what happened?”
  “I’ll explain later. Stay linked to me though, okay. We may have trouble on our hands.” He
brought his mind back to the ensuing chaos around him, keeping Meghan’s link open, but
blocking her from hearing the conversation, as the Svoda gawked and pointed.
  Juliska conversed with her Balaton and two of Viancourt members, Garner Sadorus and
Darius Hadrian. After what seemed like an eternity to Colin, she finally spoke.
  “I am pleased to say,” she started, quieting the riotous people, “that what we have seen today
is proof! Proof that magic survives!”
  “How can we be sure they’re not spies?” a man yelled. Juliska was not happy about being
questioned and her voice grew more forceful.

  “I believe that you all remember I was once a lost child. Magic was with me the day I was
found by the Svoda.” The majority of the crowd accepted this explanation, but then began to
question Meghan’s words.
  “What then of the prophecy of the child? What will you do about this, Banon Blackwell?”
another man’s voice yelled out.
  “Once understood, we will, as always, do what is necessary. Now disperse. Go home and see to
your own families.” The Banon then whipped around, facing Colin. Jae stood next to him,
trembling; he knew from experience that this could mean expulsion for his family. He had lied.
There was no way to hide it!
  Jae’s mother, father and sister stood behind Jae. The Banon leaned over, to see Colin’s face
better. Her eyes sparkled unkindly.
  “Let me ask you, Colin Jacoby, who were your parents?”
  She was being too friendly, he thought. Colin stuttered, trying to think. What would Uncle
Eddy want me to answer?
  “Our parents, they uh, died a couple of years after we were born and we lived with our Uncle
Arnon Jacoby, until the day we got stuck, I mean, ended up, uh, here, while helping Jae get
home.” He hoped the reminder of their assistance would help their cause, but just as instantly as
he said it, he wished he had left Jae out of the picture.
  Colin cringed. He had messed up. Again.
  He saw Juliska raise her head slightly, her eyes swiftly landing on Jae. Just as swiftly, they
soared back to Colin. She continued her questioning.
  “And tell me, did your uncle ever perform magic?” Colin did not trust Juliska Blackwell.
  “I never saw him do so,” he answered honestly, glad that he had not.
  She narrowed her eyes, as if this helped her see if he was telling the truth.
  “Hm,” she said, under her breath. “One more question. Have you or your sister ever
performed magic before today?”
  He had been afraid this question was coming. His courage failed him. Colin thought
desperately for what to say. He did not want her to find out about the Magicante, or Jae’s
knowledge of their abilities. To Colin’s horror, Jae spoke up, stammering out his words in haste.
  “I’ve seen Colin do magic, but never his sister. I taught him a spell on the off chance he might
be able to help me against the Scratchers.” His family looked like they had been hit by a
boulder, and backed away from him.
  “Jae, no, you’ll…” Jae eyed Colin hard, and Colin shut up, realizing if he said the wrong thing,
he would only make things worse. Although he could hardly see how it could be any worse.
  Juliska Blackwell’s composure faltered slightly. The pitch of her voice went up as she spoke.
  “Were you aware of this?” she aimed her question to Jae’s shocked parents.
  “No, of course not,” said Sheila, adding, “Our son would only do what he thought was best,
I’m sure.”
  “Our boy knows the rules, Banon Blackwell!” announced Irving Mochrie. “Whatever
punishment you see fit, we will take as a family.” The disapproval of Jae’s actions was apparent
in his voice.

  “Jae Mochrie, you have put me in an uncomfortable position,” said the Banon. “You have
broken strict rules put into place to protect all Svoda. However, their world is our world, so by
an off chance, you have found two lost among us.”
  They waited, breathlessly. Two Balaton remained near the Banon awaiting her orders. She
stood tall and in charge, pacing back and forth, weighing her decision. Colin began to feel faint,
as if his energy was being sucked away. Finally, the Banon turned to Mr. and Mrs. Mochrie and
made her proclamation. Colin’s energy returned and he shook it off as fear.
  “I try to imagine myself in Jae’s position, questioning whether I would make it home or not,
and how best to defend myself, and it comes to mind, would I have not done the same as Jae,
knowing that strict rules are being broken. This brother and sister coming to live with us is the
result of a tragic accident, a completely unplanned event.”
  Colin thought she was taking an extremely long time stating her decision, and that it was on
purpose, to scare them further; he disliked Juliska Blackwell very much.
  “And so I come to this conclusion. By some blessed miracle, two lost souls have returned to us,
through a difficult path, yes. But home none the less.” She leaned in, pretending to touch
Colin’s cheek in a loving manner. She then added softly, “And yet, the rules should never be
broken,” she glanced at Jae. “My ruling is this,” the Balaton braced themselves to fulfill her
  “Meghan and Colin Jacoby will enroll in school beginning tomorrow! Jae Mochrie shall be
demoted from junior learner back to elementary learner. He will start his lessons over again
since there are rules he needs reminding of!”
 Jae’s parents, humiliated, but thankful to still have a home, humbly thanked the Banon. Irving
then seized Jae, dragging him home.


   Colin followed the Mochries, simply to avoid any more questions from Juliska Blackwell;
once he noticed she was gone, he slowed. The argument going on up ahead was ugly. He
decided it was a bad idea to head to the Mochrie home and decided to find Meghan.
  Colin arrived at the hospital a short time later, after asking for directions. A woman advised
him that Meghan was on the fourth floor, last room on the left. He found the room, no
problem. However, it was not his sister lying in the bed.
  Colin’s heart skipped and his face reddened. A young girl approximately Colin’s age lay asleep;
she was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. Her hair was long and silver and she
smiled as though looking straight at him.
  “Can I help you?” a voice snapped behind him.

  Colin’s nose sucked in the smell of mothballs as he turned around.
  “Sorry,” he jumped, spooked. “I was told my sister was in this room, Meghan Jacoby.” It was
Viancourt member Tanzia Chase. She flipped through a chart.
  “She’s not even on this floor, down a level, room nine.” She stood guard by the door and
watched him leave the floor. Colin noted that she locked the girl’s room.
  “Poor girl. She must be very sick,” he thought, “and to have Tanzea Chase as her nurse.” Colin
  He located Meghan’s room, but slowed before entering, hearing the voice of Juliska Blackwell.
Colin hoped she wasn’t fishing for information, and decided to listen, tuning into his sister’s
  “It’s hard to describe, and so messed up that fire does not burn me. Not that I want it to.”
  Juliska laughed and then replied in a motherly voice.
  “You know, Meghan, I sensed it in you right away.”
  “You did?”
  “I was not positive, let’s say it was a hopeful feeling. It has been too long since my people have
experienced such a thing. It is a good reminder that the world goes on, outside of our small little
daily world. Plus, to find a lost one with such talent! I’m afraid Firemancy is a dying form these
  Colin cringed. He felt Meghan’s growing love for this woman surging through her mind.
  “Sight is both a blessing and a curse,” the Banon continued. “One I have also managed many
years myself. However, your journey is just beginning, so please remember, Meghan, you are
welcome to visit me anytime, to discuss questions you have about your visions, or school, or,
anything. I realize you are here alone, and since I have the sight, too,” she laughed lightly, “I’m
always available to you, as I am to anyone needing my help.”
  Colin’s mind reeled. What was she doing being so nice, when only minutes ago she was so ill
  “At least I have my brother,” reminded Meghan.
  “Yes, of course. How could I forget?”
  “Actually, I can’t believe he’s not here yet, although…” she stopped, taking a sip of water.
  “Although…” Juliska prompted thirstily.
  “He may not want to see me. We had a pretty big fight,” she finally admitted.
  “I see,” said Juliska, leaning in with eager anticipation.
  Colin decided he had heard enough. It was time to make his presence known. He let himself
into Meghan’s mind; she smiled at the door. Simultaneously, Juliska’s gaze followed.
  Colin’s figure appeared, acting as though he had just arrived. His acting was poor.
  “Hey, Sis.”
  Juliska glided toward the door as Colin came in.
  “I must take my leave, Meghan, things to do, people to order around,” she winked
mischievously. Meghan smiled and then Juliska was gone.
  “I hope you didn’t tell her too much,” Colin said accusingly.
  “What do you mean?” she asked.
  “Uncle Eddy. The Magicante.”

   “Of course I didn’t tell her that, although, I honestly don’t think it would matter. I think I
could tell her anything.”
   Colin wanted to gag.
   “You may change your mind once I tell you what happened after your little stunt earlier!”
   Meghan huffed.
   Colin continued.
   “Jae made up a lie so we wouldn’t get kicked out! He’s in a lot of trouble. He’s home, right this
second probably getting killed by his parents.”
   “What are you talking about?”
   Colin explained how they had come running to the wharf, the Svoda preparing for battle,
only to find her in a fireball.
   “After they took you away, the Mochries stayed behind while Juliska questioned me on
whether I’d ever done magic before. Jae answered before I could stop him, saying, ‘Yes, but it
was me that showed him how’.”
   “But that’s not true,” said Meghan with heightening unease.
   “Banon Blackwell then made us all wait, while she weighed her decision.”
   “What decision?” asked his sister, looking to what Colin concluded was more properly
   “As to what the Mochrie’s punishment would be.”
   Meghan squirmed, trying to piece it all together.
   “She would have to, you know. Decide on a punishment. Picture your whole job is to keep
these people safe and someone breaks a law that could ruin all that. She would have to do
something in order to save face from the other Svoda.”
   “Are you sticking up for her?” asked Colin too loudly, getting the nurses’ attention in the
   “You gotta see it from both sides, Colin. What was the punishment, anyway?”
   “She decided to only punish Jae, not his whole family. She demoted him in school. I guess it’s
like being held back a grade or something, plus, we’ll be joining him!”
   Meghan was thoughtful for a minute.
   “It could be worse, Colin. At least our magic is out in the open, less to worry about. It sucks
that Jae had to take such a blow, I’m sure it’s totally humiliating. And it doubly sucks that we
have to go to school, too.”
   Colin knew she was being genuine and agreed with her there.
   “Honestly,” she continued, “I think Juliska did the only thing she could do. She would have to
dole out some form of punishment, but if you think about it, it’s not that bad.”
   Colin could see her point, but had a strong feeling that things were not that easy for Jae, or his
   “How long they keeping you here, anyway?” he asked, changing the subject.
  “Overnight I guess.”
  “Okay. Tomorrow I’m going to see Uncle Eddy and explain what happened, and that we won’t
be able to visit as much,” said Colin.

  Meghan brooded. One second she felt on top of the world; she was Firemancer, like Juliska
Blackwell; someone who could teach Meghan how to control and use her abilities. However, in
the next moment, all her fears overwhelmed her, throwing her into an instant panic.
  “I’m tired, Colin. I guess I’ll see you when they let me out of here.”
  Her thoughts were clouded, but he sensed the tug-of-war going on between them.
  Colin decided to leave her and return to the Mochrie house. As he neared, passing the wharf
entrance, a shadow stepped toward him so he slowed. The shadow sped up, as if intentionally
wanting to run into him. Colin searched for a place to hide; it was too late. Daveena Troast’s
scowling face towered in front of him.
  “I’ve got a message for you,” she gurgled. For a tough kid, she had a funny voice. He waited,
assuming the message would be a knuckle sandwich, or something of the sort, but she stood,
staring, her arms folded.
  “And the message is?” he choked out.
  “We’re still watching you.” Her pudgy face scrunched up as she said it. After staring at Colin
for an entire silent minute, she plodded away. Colin raced the last few steps to the Mochrie
house, but stopped, afraid to go in. When he did finally dare to enter, it was quieter than he
expected. Sheila and Mireya calmly sipped tea. There was no sign of Jae or his father.
  “There you are, expect you went to see Meghan. How is she, the poor dear?” asked Sheila,
with no indication that anything out of the ordinary had happened.
  “Fine,” Colin said, questioning why they weren’t all yelling at each other. “She should be
home tomorrow.”
  “Jae and his father are out. Life must go on you know, and he’ll have to work harder now that
he’s been sent back to the beginning,” said Mrs. Mochrie. Her eyes stared blankly at a wall.
  Mireya smiled weakly and announced she was going to bed. Though hardly sleepy, Colin
followed her, so he wouldn’t have to talk any more.
  “Is Jae in a lot of trouble?” Colin dared to ask, before Mireya got into to bed.
  Her already weak smile faded.
  “This is the second time he’s been sent back to the beginning. Dad is none to happy about it
and told him he wasn’t leaving his sight this week.”
  Colin nodded.
  As he lay down his thoughts twisted between right and wrong. Perhaps Juliska, realizing she
had to dish out some kind of punishment, ordered the least possible, knowing what Jae had
done was not all that bad in the end.
  Still, Colin did not trust Juliska’s cunning nature; he was positive she did not trust the twins,
and worried deeply his sister could not see it.
  He also thought it odd that Sheila Mochrie did not question him after he had come home. He
reached out for Meghan to say goodnight. She was already sleeping.
  Tomorrow, before school, he would tell Uncle Eddy. Perhaps he would have some answers.

 “I have to say this is a little unexpected, so soon at least,” said Uncle Eddy. “They’ve accepted
you, though. That is good.”

  “I’m not so sure they have actually accepted us.”
  “If their leader has, then they will, too. Not that I don’t still have things to teach you.”
  Colin was pleased that their uncle was not angry or worse, leaving, and reached out for his
sister. She was blocking him.
  “When do you want us to come back, Uncle Eddy?” he asked.
  “Whenever you can, Colin. I will be here waiting.”
  Timothy came floating in then, talking to something neither Colin nor his uncle could see.
  “C’mon, almost there, a little bit farther,” coaxed Timothy. “Look what I found!” he
exclaimed. A kitten followed him, meowing softly.
  “Where did you find that, Timothy?” He leaned over to have a closer look.
  “In an ally searching for food. Poor itty bitty.”
  “He does look hungry,” Colin said, picking up the kitten, noticing the tuft of white hair on top
of its tiny head.
  “Searched all over for its mother, no luck though,” said Timothy, looking worried about the
kitten’s future.
  “I don’t see why I couldn’t keep him, or her. Which is it? asked Colin.
  “It’s a her,” pointed out his uncle. “Curious, though,” he added. “Wonder how she got here?”
  “I’ve seen plenty of Svoda with pets,” said Colin. “I guess I would have to okay it with the
  “I am sure they would not abandon a poor little kitten,” said his uncle, proud that Colin would
be so quick to take in the little thing.
  “Look at this,” said Colin. “She’s got two different colored eyes, one green and one white!”
  “Huh. So she does,” replied his uncle. The kitten snuggled up in Colin’s arms and fell to sleep,
lightly purring.
  “Guess I better go. I’ve got to get this little thing home, meet up with Meghan, and then, off to
school.” His voice did not sound hopeful in the least. “Bye, Timothy. Bye, Uncle Eddy.” They
both waved and floated away.
  By the time he reached the Mochrie house, Mireya and her mother were welcoming Meghan
home, Jae was asleep on the sofa, and Ivan and Irving were already off to work. Jae’s father had
changed his mind and not taken him to the office that morning.
  “Hey, Sis,” Colin said.
  “What’s that?” she asked, pointing at his stirring pocket. Colin took out the fury little mass.
  “Found it in Grimble, lost, hungry and no mother.” Everyone huddled around it, oohing and
aahing. Mrs. Mochrie went to the kitchen to retrieve some milk.
  “Timothy really found it,” he sent to his sister, adding, “Uncle Eddy wants us to come back
when we can, say’s he got more to teach us.”
  Meghan was relieved he wasn’t leaving them yet, too.
  After feeding the kitten and pointing out its different colored eyes, which Mrs. Mochrie ogled
at as inquisitively as his uncle had, she announced it was time for them to be off to school.
  “Lunches are ready. Grab one on the way out!”
  Colin reached for the kitten, which had made a home on Meghan’s lap. It hissed at him,
hiding under Meghan’s arm.

  “That’s it then!” decided Sheila Mochrie. The four children feared she had decided against
keeping the kitten.
  “Mom, it’s only a baby,” cried Mireya.
  “Don’t worry, honey. I don’t think its going anywhere,” her mother clarified. “The kitten has
made its choice.” The four gawked at Mrs. Mochrie as if she had lost her senses.
  “Mom, what on earth are you talking about?” asked Jae.
  “That’s no ordinary kitten you’ve found Colin Jacoby, that there is a Catawitch. You can tell
by the tuft of hair and her eyes. They always have one white one, just the females you know, no
male Catawitch’s.”
  Colin, Jae, and Mireya backed away. The only stories they had ever heard of Catawitchs
warned of their evil tendencies.
  “Oh, it’s fine kids. Meghan is a good girl, she’ll raise it well.”
  “Me,” squeaked Meghan.
  “Yes, it’s chosen you. You’re its master now. Or mistress if you like.” She said it matter-of-
factly, and then added, “I’ll go add some milk to your lunch. Strange, I wonder how it came to
be in Grimble?” she mumbled as she walked away.
  “I’m to take it with me?” Meghan said, not understanding.
  “Of course,” Sheila said, disappearing into the kitchen.
  The other three stepped closer.
  “I can’t believe it,” exclaimed Jae. “A real Catawitch, here, in my house.”
  Mireya, leaving her fear behind, bent down and gently stroked the kitten’s pointed ears.
  “What am I supposed to do with a cat?” asked Meghan.
  “It’s considered a great honor in the magical world to be chosen the master of one of these,”
said Jae.
  The kitten nestled into her soft sweater pocket.
  “This is weird,” said Meghan, shaking her head, as they departed for school.
  “You know what I love?” started Jae, “about the Catawitch choosing you, Meghan? Almost
any Svoda would die to be chosen. Man, people are gonna hate you!”
  Meghan frowned, beginning to understand.
  “I meant that, metaphorically speaking, of course,” added Jae, seeing her face. “They’ll be
extremely jealous.”
  “But everyone’s afraid of them,” she said.
  “I think it’s because the only ones you ever hear about are the bad ones. They’re actually rare
creatures, and I think their magical abilities have created an evil mystique about them. But
they’re only evil if their masters are, so we’ve got nothing to worry about, do we?” He grinned.
  The twins thought this was the happiest they had seen Jae in a long time. Meghan almost
wished that the kitten had chosen him instead.
  “I think I will keep this to myself, for awhile,” said Meghan. “I don’t need anything else
making me stick out right now.”
  “It’s going to get out, good chance my mother’s already told someone,” Jae informed her. “We
don’t get much news to spread around, especially anything juicy.”
  Meghan listened to the kitten purring softly in her pocket.

  “I guess Kanda was right,” she whispered.
  Colin over heard.
  “About what?” he asked.
  “That I need to accept I can no longer control anything,” she sighed.
   As they arrived at school, a paper hit Jae across the head; he bent down to pick it up.
  “What is it, Jae?” asked Colin. He didn’t answer, letting it fall to the ground, and kept walking.
Meghan picked it up.
  “Oh, wow,” she declared in shock.
  “What?” asked Colin.
  “It’s the Jackal Lantern, and there’s a crimes committed section in here, written by someone
named Magda Scraggs. Wonder if she’s related to Darcy?” she muttered sarcastically.
  “So?” replied Colin.
  “Jae and his family are the main focus.”
  “Still think Juliska Blackwell is so great?” Colin asked. Meghan dropped the paper and ran to
catch up with Jae. They didn’t discuss the article, but walked together into the schoolyard,
where the twins gasped and froze. Two life-sized, and life-like, statues of Scratchers towered
over them.
  “I keep forgetting there’s so much you guys don’t know,” Jae said apologetically.
  “Why are those here?” demanded Colin.
  “They serve as a constant reminder of what we are training for, what we have to overcome,”
he said, as if tired of repeating the pre-recorded responses he’d been taught.
  “That is sick and wrong,” said Meghan. “I was hoping not to look at another one of those.”
They continued forward; the eyes of the statues followed them as they passed by.
  “Are we in the same classes, Jae?” asked Colin. “What can we expect in here?”
  “There’s one beginners’ class, actually it’s technically called elementary level, so yes, we’ll be
together. It’s a lot of information, but you should both do fine.”
  “Not too hard, that’s right up Meghan’s ally,” jested Colin.
  “Ha ha, very funny,” she retorted. “To be perfectly honest, Jae, I’m glad you’ll be in our class. I
know I’ll need your help. It’s not fair, though, you getting into trouble for helping yourself stay
  “Fair does not have the same meaning here. If you break the rules, you pay a price, no
exceptions. But it won’t be so bad doing it together,” he said.
  “If I were Juliska Blackwell, or any one else here, I would be nothing but proud. Do they even
realize what you were up against? What do they expect?” Meghan practically shouted. Jae
stood, speechless at the buildings’ entrance.
  Mireya snuck up on the trio, nudging her brother.
  “Are you blushing?” she asked him.
  “No!” he defended.
  The four of them jumped in unison at the clanging of a bell.
  “We better go, don’t want to be late, especially on your first day,” said Jae.

  Mireya raced away, waving goodbye. She had already graduated from Elementary level. The
twins followed Jae closely. As they reached their classroom, they found the corridor was
blocked. The Three D’s. Great! thought the twins in unison.
   “I can’t believe they let a criminal into the school,” scoffed Darcy Scraggs.
  “Yeah,” agreed Dulcy. Today she was snapping gum, instead of twirling her hair. Before she
could say another word, Darcy motioned for her to zip it. Daveena laughed heftily.
  “Oh, Daveena, have you left Elementary?” questioned Jae, not in the mood to take any of their
taunting. “When was the happy occasion?”
   Daveena’s face went blank and she growled.
  “C’mon Dulcy,” ordered Darcy. “We don’t want to be late for our higher education.” They left
Daveena behind for the elementary class, which she had not yet successfully passed.
  The three let her enter the room first and made sure to go in the opposite direction. The class
laughed as she stumbled to her chair. Colin did not join in. Daveena scowled, but Colin felt
momentarily bad for her. Meghan caught a whiff of his thought.
  “She was about to pound you not too long ago, remember?” Colin still didn’t join in the
laughing, but lost his empathy for Daveena rapidly.
   A stout middle-aged woman appeared at the door’s entrance.
  “Since you’re here I expect you’ll be helping your new roommates,” she blathered upon seeing
Jae. “Exam time is not far away. I only hope we can get them caught up in time,” she spoke as if
the twins were not in the room.
  The classroom was windowless and a chalkboard covered the entire circumference of the
wall. A precariously hanging chandelier dimly lit the room. There were no desks. The students
each claimed a square pillow from a stack off to the side, sitting and creating a circle around the
teacher. Jae motioned for the twins to sit next to him. In the middle of the students the teacher
positioned herself onto another pillow, which then rose a few inches in the air, slowly rotating
as she spoke.
  “Silence please,” she requested. Speaking ceased. However, the student’s attention focused on
the twins, not school. “Yes, let’s get this out of the way, shall we. Two new students today,
actually three, including Jae.”
   The twins could not tell whether she liked Jae or not.
   “Tell us about yourselves, it’s not often we get new students among us.”
   Daveena, who had finally gotten situated onto a pillow, snorted.
   “We don’t need to hear from you, Daveena,” said the teacher dryly.
  “What should we tell them?” Meghan asked her brother, who answered only in grunts. He
hated public speaking and his face was already turning red. “Fine, leave it to me, again.” She
took a deep breath.
  “My name is Meghan Jacoby, and this is my twin brother, Colin. Until recently, we lived with
our uncle and had absolutely no idea we came from a magical background, until we met Jae
Mochrie, and ended up here.” She was sure they already knew that part of the story but hoped
it would suffice.

  “To introduce myself, I am Teacher Lindy. Now, any questions before we get started anyone?”
Numerous hands shot up, surprising the teacher. She called on a boy, no more than eight or
nine years old.
  “I heard that you guys battled Scratchers,” he blurted out enthusiastically. The other hands
went down; obviously, they had wanted to ask the same question.
  “This is true,” Jae answered on behalf of the trio. “And without Meghan and Colin’s help, I
might not have made it home.”
  “It was my brother who did it,” added Meghan. “Not me!” She didn’t want to discuss the
Scratchers. Her brother glared at her, having hoped not to speak; but the entire class, including
the teacher, waited breathlessly for him to tell the tale. As he opened his mouth, unsure of what
would come out, a meow penetrated the silent, breathless room. The teacher scrutinized the
students. Meghan’s sweater pocket stirred. All eyes in the classroom gaped at it. A tiny little
kitten face appeared over the top of the pocket, revealing its different colored eyes.
  “What have you got there, Meghan Jacoby?” asked Teacher Lindy. “How on earth did you
come about this?” she asked inquisitively.
  “My brother found her in Grimble and brought her home and I guess, she decided I was her
new master, or mistress.” As Meghan said the last part, recognition dawned on the class. An
electric buzz raced through the shocked students.
  “Well I’ll be! A Catawitch, right here in our little village! Aren’t you a lucky, lucky girl?”
Teacher Lindy was astonished.
  Having confirmation of what they were thinking, the class looked at Meghan (as Jae had
predicted), with extreme jealousy.
  “All right, back to work. The Catawitch stays!” The teacher’s plan backfired. The excitement
over the Catawitch overruled getting back to work. It confused Meghan that everyone was
stupefied at seeing one, since she had already encountered two during her short life in the
magical world.
  Teacher Lindy, realizing she was not going to be able to ignore the news, decided to change
her lesson plan for the day.
  “Since we find ourselves on the subject of Catawitch’s, let’s review the basics shall we? These
are important so take notes, class; never know when we might have a pop quiz.” The younger
students groaned but opened up their note pads and scribbled down notes, as she spoke.
  “Why does a Catawitch have two different colored eyes?” A boy called out an answer before
allowing the teacher to call on him.
  “Because they have one normal eye, and a white one, which is said to be able to see really,
really far.”
  “Oliver Stamm! How many times must I remind you of the rules? Do we ever allow blurting
out of answers in this class?” The teacher reprimanded the boy, who the twins guessed to be
around ten.
  “Sorry, I forgot, again,” he frowned.
  “Forgetting isn’t a good enough excuse anymore. To the board!” Oliver Stamm already knew
what was coming, and depressingly picked up a piece of chalk and began writing:

I will not forget to let Teacher Lindy call on me before answering a question.
Because it is disrespectful to the class.

  “How many lines this time, Teacher Lindy?” the boy asked, humiliated.
  “Since you can’t remember, after all the lines you’ve written thus far, Oliver, you can stay
right there until the end of the school day!”
  “But I’ll miss my other classes. I’m barely caught up from the last time.”
  “And whose fault is that?” the teacher asked.
  “Mine, ma’am, and I’ll have to try harder to catch up.”
  The twins sent rapid thoughts to each other.
  “I wonder if I have to raise my hand for everything,” sent Meghan.
  “Guess that’s what the huge blackboard is for,” thought Colin.
  “Okay then. Continuing with the lesson, the answer Oliver gave was in essence correct. The
white eye is believed to be capable of seeing long distances; the exact distance has yet to be
proven. There is also much debate over whether this eye can see more than just distance. That
just perhaps they can see into the very soul of the one they call master.” She paused, allowing
the students to finish their note taking, then continued. “How does one tell a good Catawitch
from a bad one?”
  One child raised his hand slightly then put it back down. Another raised her hand and waited
for the teacher to call on her.
  “Yes, go ahead, Maria.”
  “By their masters. Catawitch’s are loyal to them until death.”
  “Good, good. But also remember,” started the teacher, lowering her voice. “The cat chooses
the master, or in this case, mistress, based on their own predisposition for good or evil. Alas, this
fuels our fascination with these creatures, leading us to the ever burning question, are you a
good cat, or a bad cat? Sometimes, one never knows until it is too late.”
  Teacher Lindy’s eyes peered over her spectacles in Meghan’s direction, as if expecting an
answer. The class studied Meghan; the new stranger. Banon Blackwell trusted her. Shouldn’t
  “Why am I always being gawked at?” she complained.
  “Because, people want to know if you’re a good cat or a bad cat!” Colin sent, mocking the
  The class eventually moved on to another topic. The rest of the day went smoothly now that
the introductions were over. By the end, they had been assigned three essays, a take home quiz
and magic practice. They decided that Uncle Arnon was not that hard of a teacher after all.
Even Colin was a little anxious about the workload.
  It was too late to visit Uncle Eddy once school ended. Jae showed them instead how to send
him a message. They stepped outside of the Svoda Wagon. Jae held a freshly picked leaf from
Bedgewood in his hand.
  “Recordo,” he said, handing it to Meghan. “Say what you want written in the message.”

  “Uncle Eddy,” she dictated. “The first day went okay. Did you realize the kitten was a
Catawitch? It caused quite a bit of ruckus. We hope to come and visit soon, tons of homework
to do. Love, Meghan and Colin.” After she spoke, the message appeared on the leaf, briefly, and
then vanished.
  Jae took the leaf.
  “Uncle Eddy,” he told it. The leaf lifted off his hand and drifted away in the breeze. “Now it
will find your uncle and only he can read the message.”
  “That’s cool,” said Colin.
  “It’s a lot easier and faster than hand delivery,” said Jae.
  They raced home and dug into their homework. When Irving Mochrie arrived home that
evening, nothing seemed to please him more than seeing four students hard at work.


   A week passed. The twins had no time to think about anything other than school work.
Exams were fast approaching and the teacher was afraid they might not be ready in time to pass.
She scheduled an appointment for them with the school advisor, to see about studying with a
tutor. Normally, the students had months to prepare. They had only six weeks until early
November, and exam time.
  A short, stubby, balding man with a grumpy face met them in the hallway of the school and
motioned for them to enter the advisor’s room. The walls were bare and windowless, and the
only furniture was a small couch, desk and chair.
  The man motioned for the twins to sit on the couch. They did and waited patiently, as he
monotonously waddled his way to the chair, apparently in no hurry. Finally, he situated himself
comfortably, and in the same monotonous manner, sifted through a stack of papers that the
twins could only assume were about them. After carefully separating each page, he spread them
neatly across his desk. His mouth opened to speak, then closed. He opened a drawer and took
out a plaque. The name read, Muckle Mauch, Advisor.
  Colin was thinking, what kind of name is Muckle Mauch, which Meghan overheard and was
about to comment on, when at long last the advisor spoke. His rushed, high-pitched voice took
the twins off guard.
  “Okay, then, we have you in elementary, I see, yes. You’re a few months behind the other
beginners. If you plan on getting to the next level, which I suggest and know you do, you will
need some extra tutoring to catch up.” Colin and Meghan already had an extra tutor in Uncle
Eddy, but, of course, they did not bring this to Advisor Mauch’s attention.

   He continued, without letting them speak.
  “I would say three, no, four times a week will do. That should get you caught up on history
and beginner skills in time for your exams.”
   “At least its not every night,” thought Colin.
  “In a couple of days I will send a tutor to your house. You’re staying with the Mochrie family,
yes, yes all right. I won’t lie!” he barraged. “This will be a difficult six weeks for you, but, not to
worry! A little hard work never killed anyone!” He then laughed in his high pitched voice,
which reverberated off the barren walls. “After fall exams, there is no telling when the next
chance at passing the class will be, since we have a break for the holidays, and then of course,
we move on.”
   The twins gawked at each other and Meghan butted in without waiting, or asking permission.
   “Excuse me, sir, but moving on to where?”
   Muckle Mauch stopped; the expression on his face went blank.
  “Excuse me?” he asked, his eyes widening a little. Meghan wondered if she had spoken out of
turn, and would end up doing lines, instead of her homework.
  “This is not part of my job,” he explained. “I advise you how to succeed in passing class levels,
which should be your number one concern. However, I suppose, it’s possible you don’t
understand how things work.” He then took a long breath and said in a well-rehearsed manner,
“We are not advised where we will go next, that is for Banon Blackwell and the Viancourt to
research and decide.” Then Muckle Mauch added, “Get use to it. It happens every few months
or so.”
  It was not exactly the answer the twins were looking for but they had no chance to think
about it. Their advisor had them back on topic and scheduling tutor times in the blink of an eye.
  On their way to class, they regretted that the time was coming when they would say goodbye
to Uncle Eddy. Even more so, they regretted that the time they did have, would be lessened by
  “I know it seems inevitable, but we haven’t yet asked him about staying behind when the
Svoda leave Grimble,” said Meghan.
  “Somehow, I think I already know the answer, Sis. But we can still ask,” he added, trying to
keep up hope. They headed to class, which was already in session, running into Jae at the door;
he held a stack of books, with his hand on the doorknob.
   “How’d ya like Muckle Mauch?” he asked sardonically.
   “Considering all the tutoring he set up for us, not so keen right now,” answered Meghan.
   “Teacher Lindy asked me to grab a few books for her. You guys coming back to class?”
  “Unfortunately,” droned Meghan. Jae finished opening the door and entered, followed by
Meghan. Her eye caught a lit candle sitting in the corner of the room. That’s all it took! Meghan
touched the door knob and the floor swayed beneath her. From the corner of her eye, in the
flame, there was a shadow. She jerked her head away, not wanting to see it, hoping desperately
it was not another warning of an imminent attack. Colin steadied her, shutting the door gently.
   “Are you all right? Is it the Firemancy thing again?”
  “Maybe,” she said, wishing she hadn’t touched the door knob after Jae. She detested this new

  “We need to get to class,” reminded Colin.
  Meghan’s pocket stirred and the baby Catawitch poked its head over the edge, meowing
  As Colin took hold of the doorknob, Meghan turned and suddenly fled the school.
  “What are you doing?” Colin flung the thought at her disappearing figure.
  “Something I gotta do,” she sent back. She then blocked her mind.
   “Wonderful,” Colin said through his teeth. “What am I going to tell the teacher?” He entered
the classroom, and thought, half-sarcastically, and half-worried, “I think she’s completely lost
her mind!”
  Teacher Lindy was guiding a student through moving objects, without touching them.
  “Concentrate, Marvin. This is where you always mess up! I know you can do this.” The rest of
the class cheered the boy on as he focused on moving a heavy stack of pillows through the air.
The goal was to have them land neatly in an outlined square.
  Colin waited near the door, not wanting to interrupt or get in the way. Once the stack was
positioned nicely in the square the class cheered and crowded around the exhausted boy.
Teacher Lindy cheered happily.
  “Splendid job! You’re going to pass the exam this time, Marvin, I can feel it! Well done.”
  Marvin looked to be around eleven, and was one of the older students in the class.
  “Okay, back to your pillows and we shall begin again. Who would like to go next?” There
were no volunteers. Teacher Lindy noticed Colin working his way to an empty pillow. Her eyes
perked up. “Aha! Colin Jacoby. I think it’s time for you and… where’s your sister, still with
advisor Mauch?”
  At the name, the students squealed under their breath. The teacher gave them a, you’re-a-
naughty-class look, and the giggling ended. Colin tried in vain to think up an excuse.
  “Uh, she is… she fell ill, had to go home, I think.”
  “Home? Did she get a letter of excuse?” the teacher prodded.
  “A what?”
  “Letter of excuse, excusing her from school. Only valid written permission allows a student to
miss school.”
  “Oh, um, you’d have to ask Meghan. I’m not sure, Teacher Lindy.” Colin didn’t know what
else to say. He knew his sister did not have a letter of excuse.
  “Too bad,” she exclaimed. “Exciting day today, trying to move pillows.”
  “She’s a little too excited over such a simple task,” whispered Colin to Jae, while taking his
seat on a pillow. Jae winked his reply.
  “Since you’re here, Mr. Jacoby,” the teacher then said, “why don’t you take a turn?” She used
magic to move the pillow stack out of the square, strewing them about. “All you need to do is
collect and stack the pillows neatly, then move them into the square. The goal is to have them
exactly lined up in the square. In the exam, if you are outside of the lines you lose points!”
  Colin was instantly anxious, although he knew he could do this task, no problem. It was
completely different though, with a classroom of twenty scrutinizing his every move.
  “After fighting Scratchers, moving a stack of pillows should be easy, right?” he muttered.

  “All you need to do is reach out and feel the energy around you,” the teacher instructed.
“Collect it, focus on what you want to accomplish, and use that energy to move those pillows.”
  Colin had already practiced moving objects with Uncle Eddy. Piece of cake he repeated over
and over in his mind. Colin closed his eyes forgetting the students watching. He was aware of
the energy surrounding him; it felt diminished in the crowded classroom. There wasn’t enough
for what he needed. Colin peeked at the boy named Marvin, who was still recovering. It had
taken nearly all the energy he had to move them.
  “How can I draw more?” mumbled Colin. He reached out beyond the classroom, then the
school, and then, beyond the Svoda wagons, where copious amounts of energy were just
waiting to be collected. Within seconds he was over-filled. Colin’s eyes popped open. He moved
his hand swiftly. The pillows were collected and stacked. He hovered the stack three feet in the
air and then moved them deftly, landing them softly in the square, perfectly aligned.
  The class observed Colin in impressed stupor, including Jae and Teacher Lindy.
  “On the first try. So easy. Spectacular! ” she stammered.
  Colin smiled, quite satisfied with his performance. He was not tired at all and sat down next to
Jae, who patted him on the back.
  “That was great!”
  “How did you do that?” asked the boy named Marvin. “You don’t even look winded.”
  Colin answered honestly.
  “I could do it again. I’m not winded at all.” Actually he felt incredible. Powerful. Like the day
back in Cobbscott when he had tackled the three bullies. “I get what you mean,” he abruptly
whispered to Jae.
  “ ’Bout what?”
  “The power you feel. It makes you feel… huge.” Colin did not know how else to describe it.
  “I wish I could feel it again,” sighed Jae. “I haven’t since I got home.”
  Colin wondered if he could help Jae, but how? Jae already knew more than he did.
  The class forged on, with students trying their hand at moving the pillows. None of the
remaining students succeeded.
  Meghan never returned to class. Colin tried to reach out for her.
  “Blocking me. Figures.” He hoped she was not out causing another scene. The rest of the
afternoon crawled by. “At least tonight,” he thought, “I can finally visit Uncle Eddy.”

  Meghan jaunted out of the school and retrieved a note from Juliska Blackwell, which included
directions on how to locate her. She followed the map to the ocean’s shore, where a few
hundred yards out an island of rock jutted out of the water; a fort had been forged into the rock.
Meghan had to walk down a gravel road, which was lined with spike-like rocks, in order to
reach the entrance. Ocean waves crashed over the rocks, splashing her. Juliska’s private Balaton
guarded the entrance.
  “What’s your business?” one of them asked in a gruff voice. He kept his gaze straight forward,
not looking at her. The second guard’s eyes grazed down at her. He nudged his partner.
  “Jenner, its okay, it’s the girl.” The other one darted his eyes, curiously, then opened the gate.

   “You may enter. Banon Blackwell has alerted us to your possible visit.”
  “Thanks,” said Meghan, curtsying her way through, gratified. Juliska had told them to expect
her! Any insecurity Meghan had had about her unannounced visit vaporized into the mists of
the ocean.
  A woman dressed in business attire greeted Meghan at a stone door and led her inside. Before
Meghan could make her request to see Juliska, another ornate stone door swung open; Juliska
Blackwell elegantly strode into the room. She wasn’t dressed in her normal one piece long-
jacket, but instead, a long sleeved tunic, which was form fitted down to her hips then flared
slightly; it was a silky, crimson color.
  “Meghan. I’m so pleased you came. Join me on the roof top,” she said, winking. Meghan
followed Juliska up a stone stairwell to an outside room. The floor they walked on was carved
out of the rock. Juliska led them to the opposite corner, where a stone overhang could shield
them from the sun.
  “Please, sit,” insisted Juliska. Meghan did as she was told, sitting across from the Banon. A
table separated them, and before Meghan could speak, the same woman who had helped
Meghan into the fort entered with a tray of food.
  “Your timing could not have been more perfect, I was about to have a late breakfast. Please
join me if you’re hungry.”
  “Thanks, I am a little hungry.” She helped herself to a biscuit and jelly. After a few minutes,
Meghan could no longer hold back why she had come. “This may be bad mannered of me…”
she started.
   Juliska put down her fork and gave Meghan her full attention.
  “I’m not even sure how to begin. Something is happening, something terrible. Not to me…”
she said, adding wearily, “Unless you count being a seer in the terrible category.”
   “That bad?” asked Juliska, smiling sympathetically.
   “Sorry, I think I’m just having a hard time adjusting.”
   “That is entirely understandable, Meghan. It does take some practice and getting used to.”
   Meghan knew instantly that Juliska understood her.
  “Twice now,” said Meghan, getting to the heart of the visit, “I’ve had this overwhelming
feeling. It tells me something is horribly wrong. The frustrating part is that I do not know what
it is, or how to fix it. It’s all so mysterious. Not clear at all!”
   “May I ask, is this occurring around one particular person?”
   Meghan explained her encounters, leaving out Jae’s name.
  “Interesting,” replied Juliska, afterward. “As I’ve said, seeing is a gift and a curse. I’m sure
that’s a picture you’re seeing loud and clear.”
  “Yeah, that one’s easy to see,” Meghan replied, rolling her eyes. Meghan enjoyed talking to
Juliska. It was easy.
  “Sometimes,” said Juliska, “seeding out the problem comes down to experience and, well,
guess work.”
   “How do you guess?” asked Meghan.
   Juliska laughed softly.

  “Time, I am afraid. Learning to decipher what you feel or see. Understanding if what you’re
seeing is the past, present or future is a good place to begin.”
  “Even if I somehow decipher that, what can I do? I mean, say it’s a current problem, can I
interfere in someone’s life, if they truly are in danger?”
  “That depends,” admitted Juliska. “This is where things get tricky. You see, if it is the past,
obviously you cannot do anything. If it is the present or future, is it something you can fix? Is it
something you should fix? In the end, you must decide what to do with your knowledge,
  “Wow,” she replied, her eyes wide. “That’s so much to decide. What if I’m wrong? What if I
make things worse?”
  “I am afraid I may be burdening, more than helping today,” sighed Juliska.
  “I have a suspicious feeling,” accepted Meghan, “that the burden part, will be around for
awhile. I guess I just did not realize how complicated Firemancy would be. I don’t know why,
but I thought having visions would make things easier to understand.”
  “With time and practice, it will become easier, Meghan. No, easier is not the word I’m looking
for. Manageable. Controllable.” Juliska rose from her chair, pacing elegantly, deep in thought.
When she sat back down Meghan caught a glimpse of something crawling in her pony-tailed
hair. Juliska’s hair fanned out, falling around her shoulders.
  “Banon Blackwell, you’ve got a spider in your hair,” spat out Meghan. A glass-like, black and
silver spider posed on her shoulder, cleaning its self.
  “Not to worry. That’s Pajak, my pet. He serves as a fantastic hair piece when he sleeps.”
  A spider for a pet! When would this new world begin to make sense? Meghan was not fond of
spiders and this was the biggest one she had ever seen. It had to have been at least four inches
  Juliska ignored Pajak.
  “I’m going to give you something, Meghan. Something an, old friend once gave me. Pantin
Hollee,” she called out. The same woman that delivered the food came striding in.
  “Yes, Banon Blackwell.”
  “Oh, Hollee, when will you start calling me Juliska?”
  “As I have always answered, only when not on duty, and I’m never not on duty, ma’am,” the
lady called Pantin Hollee replied dutifully.
  “Oh fine, then. Will you please go to my study and grab an unused journal, and bring it to our
new Firemancer?” The woman nodded and departed. “I want you to keep this journal with you
at all times,” she then instructed Meghan, “and whenever anything occurs that you think is
Firemancy related, write it down. Keep track of where you were and who you were with. This,
after some time, may begin to give you a better picture of what may be happening, if certain
patterns arise.”
  “Okay, I will,” decided Meghan, as she was handed the journal.
  “Thank you, Hollee,” said Juliska.
  Meghan flipped open the journal, all the while keeping her eye on Pajak the spider.
  “Is Pantin a title or a name?” Meghan asked.

  “Title. Hollee is my most trusted personal assistant, and, she will show you out. Unfortunately
I must get back to work. But promise me, Meghan, if anything out of the ordinary happens, you
will come to me immediately. No work I am doing is more important than helping a new
Firemancer!” Her eyes twinkled. She leaned over to Meghan and touched her shoulder gently.
Meghan could not take her eyes off Pajak, who she swore winked at her.
  Juliska’s touch was powerful, energy emanated through her. It was easy to understand why
Juliska was the Svoda’s leader. Just then, Meghan’s pocket stirred and Juliska glanced curiously.
The kitten had been sleeping so soundly that Meghan had again, forgotten about her. Meghan
opened her pocket and let Juliska see the Catawitch.
  “My, my. To be chosen as the master and companion of one of these is truly an honor.” Juliska
gazed at Meghan with even more fascination now.
  “Thank you, Juliska, I mean, Banon Blackwell,” Meghan bowed slightly hoping she had not
  “I insist that you call me Juliska. I may not be able to force Hollee to do it, but frankly, it is
nice to hear my real name once in a while.” She winked and then departed, asking Pantin
Hollee to show Meghan out of the fort.
  Meghan hurried back into the village wanting to get started right away in her journal. She
stopped at the one open shop to get a pen. The man behind the counter showed Meghan his
selection; she couldn’t get over the fact that she did not need to pay. He simply bid her a good
day and sank behind a shelf.

  Colin found Uncle Eddy talking to Timothy in the old mill. After learning that Meghan had
cut classes and not made contact, Uncle Eddy insisted that Colin send a leaf, once she had.
  “We also found out that after the holidays we are moving on,” Colin then informed him.
  “I assumed that would be the case,” said Uncle Eddy. “We still have some time, though. Come
whenever you can.” This did not cheer up Colin, but he pretended to be happier, and told Uncle
Eddy about successfully moving the pillows in class.
  “I did it no problem. I couldn’t believe it was so easy.”
  “Good, good,” he answered. “I had no doubts that you would fit right in.”
  The rest of the hour his uncle helped him get a start on his homework, and they watched
Timothy play. Colin, too soon, realized it was time to leave.
  “No Meghan yet?” Eddy asked, hopeful of some news before Colin’s departure.
  “No, still nothing. She is completely blocking me.” Timothy followed most of the way back
and left him near the wagons. When Colin arrived home he spied his sister sitting alone in the
back yard, writing. He stormed through the house ignoring the Mochrie’s, and yelled at her.
  “Thanks for not telling me where you were all day! I had no idea if you were all right or not.”
  “I’m obviously fine! Maybe I didn’t feel like having you in my brain all day,” she whispered
angrily, hoping no one would overhear.
  “Fine. Whatever. I’ve got to send a leaf to Uncle Eddy and tell him you’re all right. He was
worried, too.” Meghan could see that her brother had been anxious, but for some reason, this
made her even more furious.
  “Don’t worry about me, okay? I went for a walk, I needed some air!”

  “You know, I don’t think you can play by your own rules in this place. You missed classes all
day, and the teacher is expecting you to have some kind of letter of excuse for not being there. I
think she is worried that you won’t have enough practice time to pass to the next level or…” he
  “Or what, Colin?” she barked.
  “Maybe you would enjoy being the only thirteen year old in the elementary class, when Jae
and I both pass, and you don’t.”
  Meghan jumped out of her chair and promptly left the backyard, huffing her way to her
bedroom, sliding the curtain closed as angrily as she could.

  Days passed without the twins speaking, and each time Colin tried, Meghan made herself busy
writing in her journal. Whenever Meghan thought she might try, Colin was busy impressing
some student, or the teacher, with his ever-increasing magical abilities; something she was not
improving on, and growing increasingly agitated by.
  The weekend arrived and they headed out to visit Uncle Eddy, not saying a word the entire
way. As they arrived at the old mill Uncle Eddy instantly noticed that something was wrong.
  “You might as well spill the beans,” he said. The twins ignored each other. This did not please
Uncle Eddy. “Listen!” he said, gaining their attention. “If there is only one thing you remember
from what I teach you, it better be this. I understand you have been through a lot these last few
months, but it is imperative that you stick together. You are both stuck here! You are both
starting new lives. If you work out your problems, rather than ignoring each other, you’d at
least be certain that you will always have each other.”
  Colin knew he was being foolish, but his sister had not been nice to be around lately.
  “That’s not true!” she objected, hearing the thought.
  “Oh, it’s okay to spy on my thoughts now, but I’m still not allowed in yours!”
  “If you were to try harder, you could block me out better!” she shouted.
  “Why would I want to block you all of the time, I don’t have anything to hide.”
  “And you’re saying I do.” She jumped up folding her arms tightly.
  “ENOUGH!” roared Uncle Eddy, stopping the twins in their tracks; it had sounded exactly like
Uncle Arnon. “Did you not hear a word I said?” he added firmly. The twins quieted, and
Meghan sat down, leaving her arms securely folded.
  “Uncle Eddy, you have no idea what it’s like to always have someone in your head, reading all
your thoughts,” she said hatefully.
  “It’s the same for me, too,” Colin said, trying to calm down.
  “At least you’re talking now,” said Uncle Eddy. “You two need to work this out. This talent of
yours can be of great benefit, but privacy of course is needed, for you both. You will have to
figure out a way to make this work. Your lives have been entwined together since you were
born. I am making this your number one priority! Remember, no secrets! If you let your bonds
fail, these next few years could be even harder to live through.”
  The twins knew he was right, but were not yet ready to admit it to each other; they did do
their best to get along the rest of the day.

  He had them practice drawing energy and using it to perform spells. Meghan was slowly
making progress, but was still far behind Colin; this irritated her tremendously, but she tried to
not show it. Colin congratulated her when her spells did work, and she thanked him nicely, and
by the end of the day they were back to getting along.
  Another day with Uncle Eddy was ending though. Meghan fed her kitten; she grew fast and
could no longer fit into her pocket. Timothy arrived, happy to see the kitten looking healthy.
  “Have you given her a name yet? I’ve thought up a bunch if you need help,” and without
waiting he began listing names. “There’s Waggles, Blackberry, although, she looks more like a
fuzzy peach, and then there’s Athena, Bashful, Buttons, Cuddles. Another one I like is Jingles,
and then Doodles.”
  “I think I’ve chosen one, but thanks, Timothy,” Meghan interrupted, realizing he could have
easily continued for hours. “I’ve decided to name her, Nona Jacoby. She will be an elegant full
grown cat someday; therefore she needs an elegant name.”
  “Nona it is, then,” said her uncle, as he escorted them to the edge of the mill, surveying the
  “What are you looking for?” asked Colin.
  “Just being careful. I didn’t bring it up, but last time you were here, Colin, I thought I caught
someone watching us.” The twins glanced around, hoping Eddy was wrong. Their thoughts
strayed to the Three D’s. “I’m sure it was my imagination,” he added. “Do be careful, though,
and remember what I have said today.”
  Timothy floated alongside, as always, entertaining the duo playfully, as they worked their
way homeward. They were caught off guard as a hideous looking ghost floated unexpectedly in
front of them. Warts and scars covered his face and his clothing was torn and burnt. Timothy
floated away, taking cover behind a nearby tree limb.
  “It’s Duppy, the mean one.”
  “Give it to me, now!” the ghost named Duppy snarled. Colin, as usual, froze up at the sight of
the confronting ghost.
  “Give you what?” replied Meghan.
  “You know what I want! My employer won’t be happy until I have delivered it.”
  Meghan began to move as if she meant to walk straight through the ghost, grabbing Colin to
get him moving with her.
  “Honestly, unless you can be more precise, you’re wasting our time.”
  The ghost then floated right up into their faces.
  “The book, the Magicante,” he accursedly grunted. “I want it now!”
  Meghan and Colin panicked over the knowledge that this ghost named Duppy knew about
  “Col, ghosts can’t use magic on us, right?” she sent him.
  “No, at least, that’s what Jae said when we first met Uncle Eddy.”
  “Better get Timothy outta here, then.” Meghan then shouted, “Timothy, go find Uncle Eddy.
Tell him there’s a ghost who wants our book.”
  Timothy was gone instantly and the ghost began backing away.
  “What? Afraid of our uncle?” egged Meghan. “Been waiting to get us alone, have you?”

  “You wait long enough and my employer might decide to handle matters… differently.” The
ghost floated through Meghan; she ducked, but could not stop the eerie coldness from touching
her as Duppy stabbed through her body.
  Just then, their uncle arrived and with his ghostly hands, threw what resembled a ball of light
at Duppy, exploding him into a million tiny ghostly bits.
   “Are you both all right?” he asked hurriedly.
   “Yes,” they answered.
   “And the…” he said softly, hinting at the book.
   “It’s fine. What did you do to him? Has he moved on?” asked Colin.
  “No. Going to take him some time to put himself back together, though. You can’t kill
someone who’s already dead, and you can’t make them move on, either.” He paused, and then
added, “It’s called Sphaera. Saying the word allows magical energy to collect in the form of a
sphere, or in my case, ghostly energy, and this energy can then be thrown, subduing your
opponent. It does some serious damage, as you can see. In the world of the living, you would
only want to use this spell in dire circumstances.”
   “Pretty amazing,” replied Meghan.
   “Double amazing!” added Colin.
   Eddy chuckled with a hint of concern in his voice.
  “You’re close to home now, so I’ll leave you,” he said. “But first. Keep that book hidden. Show
it to no one. And don’t come back to Grimble until I have sent word that it is safe to do so.”
   “But when will that be?” protested the twins.
  “Not until I figure out why Duppy is spying on you and why he wants that book! Now go,
quickly. And thank you for your help today, Timothy,” added Eddy.
  Timothy floated alongside the twins, leaving them at the wagon’s entrance. They stepped
inside, secretly afraid that it might never be safe for them to return to Grimble.


  The twins were vexed. An entire week went by without a word from Uncle Eddy. Their
classes were getting more difficult as exam time rolled closer, although their tutor turned out to
be Teacher Lindy; she’d taken a liking to the twins, especially Colin, who was excelling in all
his subjects, unlike Meghan. The only time they saw Jae was in school; otherwise he was with
his father, or on occasion, Ivan. Some nights he did not come home at all.
  “I’m concerned about Jae,” said Meghan one night before bed, noticing once again, he was not
  “Yeah, me too,” agreed Colin. Meghan grabbed her journal and scribbled a few notes down.
   “What are you writing?”

  She answered hesitantly.
  “Something bad is happening to Jae.”
  “Can you use Firemancy to find out what?” he asked her.
  “Maybe, but I’m not sure how yet, which leads me to the journal. I started writing things
down as they happen. I thought it might help me decipher what I see,” she lied, feeling guilty
for not telling him it was Juliska’s advice. For some reason she felt protective of that knowledge.
  “Why couldn’t you tell me that before?” Colin questioned.
  “Not everything I do has to be public knowledge,” she replied hastily. Not wanting to argue
she added, “I just hope I figure it out, before it’s too late.”
  “We can’t interfere with how things are done here,” reminded Colin. Meghan shrugged,
departing the shared bedroom. She decided to take a bath, seeing as it was the only way to get
any privacy, when she ran into the boy named Ivan. After a speechless moment, he disappeared
into his room, saying only, “Goodnight.”
  “Ugh, that boy,” she snarled, not noticing Ivan’s door reopening. His spying eyes followed her
until she was behind the door.
  Colin lay on his bed, but sleep wouldn’t come. A light rapping at the window startled him; a
leaf was tapping gently on the glass. He opened the window and the leaf flew into his hand.
  A message appeared.
   “Timothy and I are fine. Still not safe to visit, so sit tight. There’s still time. Work hard for the
exams and if anything happens, leaf me.” Colin wondered why Uncle Eddy did not sign his
name on the leaf. He sent his sister a silent message, as she bathed.
  “Meghan, Uncle Eddy is fine, he sent a leaf.”
  “Great! Can we go see him?”
  “Not yet.” He heard her sigh.
  “Getting out of the bath, night, Col.” He grunted his reply. Meghan dried off and then sat in
front of the fire. She did not want to fear it. Fire was supposed to be her ally. Nevertheless, as
Meghan gazed into the flames there was no stopping the vision. This one was different, though,
as Meghan was transported, as if taking part in it.
  She knelt on a pillar in a dark cavern. Dim rays of light gave away the edges, not more than
six feet away from her on all sides. She crawled carefully, peering over the edge. She gasped,
falling back to the center; a dark abyss waited below.
  “Hello,” she whispered, her voice bouncing off walls she could not see.
  A noise from behind startled her. She slid around apprehensively. A few feet away, just out of
reach, another dim light snapped on, exposing another pillar. A small shape lay on it, moaning.
  “Hello,” she stammered. “Are you okay?” As the small figure rolled over, Meghan lost her
breath; the body was shrouded in bloody gashes. An arm stretched out to Meghan, and a weak
voice pleaded with her.
  “Meghan, don’t let it come back! I can’t fight it!”
  She searched in desperation for some way of getting to the other pillar, groping the edges of
her own pillar, until she came face to face with the moaning figure again. The figure used its
arm to shift the blood covered hair out of its eyes. Meghan felt her own blood drain to her feet
and felt lightheaded.

   “This can’t be happening,” she muttered. “I don’t want to see this!”
   It was Jae Mochrie lying on the pillar.
   “Please, don’t let it happen again, Meghan,” he repeated his plea.
  “Jae, I don’t know what to do, please tell me what to do!” Her eyes met Jae’s, but were
immediately frozen on something new: a faceless silhouette rising over him. Her eyes widened
and she struggled to find her voice. Jae saw the fear growing in Meghan’s eyes and he rolled
onto his back to look.
   “No. No. No,” said Jae, putting his hands over his face.
  “Leave him alone,” begged Meghan, but the figure did not stop. The silhouette fanned into a
dark mass, drowning Jae’s beaten body. With failing breath he screamed out in agony.
  “No! Not again! I won’t!” A new gash across Jae’s face appeared. His face jerked, staring
directly at Meghan. She stared back in horror. His eyes had changed; they were not the same
sad eyes she was accustomed to seeing. They were wicked. Then, they changed back to the eyes
Meghan recognized. Jae was fighting it!
   “Kill me!” he dared the shadow. “I won’t do what you want!”
   Meghan did not want to watch anymore and collapsed.
  The dark mass transformed again. This time, however, it became a faceless, living being. It
picked up Jae’s limp body, dangling him over the edge of the pillar.
  “Please don’t!” cried Meghan. Tears streamed down her face. She groped the edge of her pillar,
trying desperately to reach out for Jae. “Why are you doing this?” she sobbed in helpless horror.
What purpose did her gift serve, if she could do nothing but watch her friend suffer and die?
  Meghan took a daring glance at the being. Black burnished eyes pierced her own. She
screamed and the hideous being dropped Jae into the black abyss.
  Meghan’s screams grew distant; she lay on the bathroom floor, with one hand in the fire,
panting. Sunlight was creeping into the room; somehow, it was already morning. Her eyes
wouldn’t focus and she thought she might be sick. Someone lifted her off the floor, but didn’t
  She sat with her head between her legs and after a minute her eyesight returned and the sick
pit in her stomach subsided. And, as if she needed another shock to her system, Ivan Crane sat
in a chair near the entrance of the bathroom. She grabbed her robe and pulled it tightly around
   “Thanks?” she said dryly, as if asking a question.
  “I’d gather a pretty bad dream.” His voice showed no concern. She didn’t want to discuss it,
especially with rude stranger boy, who stared at her intently.
   “I don’t remember,” she lied. “But I’m fine now.”
   Ivan took the hint to leave.
  “I’ve had bad dreams,” he mused, halfway out the door. “But nothing that ever made me
scream like I was being murdered in my sleep!” His voice taunted her to argue, but she ignored
  “Great!” she said. “Screaming in my sleep, and in front of weirdo boy of all people.” With
exhausting effort, she made it to her bed, trying to forget the alarming vision replaying itself in
her head.

  Mireya got up and dressed. Meghan stayed quiet. After Mireya was gone she sat up, grabbing
her journal furiously ready to write. Suddenly, she was not so sure about writing it down.
Somehow, it would make it real, plus, Meghan didn’t think it was possible she would ever
forget the details of the vision. Still, she had promised Juliska. As she finished writing, changing
the name from Jae to “unknown boy,” there was a knock at the door. She wondered who would
be knocking, and hoped it wasn’t weirdo Ivan.
  “Who’s there?” she answered tentatively. Her brother poked in his head.
  “You up, finally?”
  “What are you doing knocking? Usually you just invade my head.”
  “I’m trying to be more… what Uncle Eddy said. More privacy.”
  “Oh. That’s really nice of you,” she answered, caught off guard by his behavior.
  “Breakfast is ready and it’s the Saturday, so no school or tutor today,” he reminded.
  “I’d forgotten,” she smiled. She came close to telling Colin about her vision but decided to
keep it to herself; besides, she didn’t want Colin to worry about Jae (more than he already was).
She fed Nona and ate breakfast. Spirits were good around the kitchen table, including Jae’s, so
Meghan did her best to shake off the nagging nightmarish vision.
  “That kitten is getting bigger fast,” said Mireya, playing with Nona.
  “She follows me everywhere now, and sleeps on my feet at night,” said Meghan. Nona’s white
eye gleamed. Meghan got the impression that Nona could look into her soul with that eye,
seeing anything she had hidden in there, but never sensed any need to fret about it.
  They took their books and went to the wharf to study. It was nice to be outside, as it had been
raining for three days straight. A few other Svoda children were there, each studying or
practicing magic. The threesome found an empty space near the shore. Mireya, being a level
above the three, studied with another group.
  The twins and Jae took turns questioning each other. They had to memorize the
predetermined answers that the Svoda used while in the outside world, in order to retain their
magical secret and their safety. Colin remembered the answers, but Meghan struggled. She
wished she had Colin’s memory. They spent an hour reciting the answers.
  Next, they needed to memorize the Svoda goals, also set in place to keep them safe and get
them back home, permanently. Jae and Colin also had these down, so Jae questioned Meghan.
  “The first one was something about secrets,” she replied, shaking her head in annoyance of
her poor memory.
  “Yes, it is,” encouraged Jae. “But you’ll need to be specific if you expect to pass.”
  Colin put the words own actions in her mind.
  “Oh, right, I got it. As Svoda, we must make sure our own actions don’t divulge any magical
secrets to the outside world, since that would compromise our safety.”
  Jae grinned.
  “Good job. How about the second goal?” This one was easier, since it was an off shoot of the
  “It is also every Svoda’s responsibility to watch over our fellow Svoda, and if compromises are
witnessed, report it to the proper authorities,” she answered.
  “You’re on a roll, Sis,” boasted Colin.

  “Maybe we should stop while I’m ahead,” she joked.
  “Actually, that’s not a bad idea,” agreed Jae. “This might be one of the last nice days of the
year. We can do more memorization later. Let’s do some actual magic, shall we?” Colin was
always up for magic practice. He had begun to draw small crowds of students, who could not
understand how he never got tired. Although Meghan was glad Colin’s confidence was
building, she unfortunately, showed little improvement.
  They spent the afternoon balancing and moving items; they used rocks, driftwood and books,
since they had no pillows. Meghan could not even get the items into a pile, never mind move
them. And in the exam, she not only needed to move them, but do it neatly. Colin and Jae
feared she would not pass the test.
  The afternoon passed rapidly, and before they knew it, the weekend was over and Monday
was back again. Fall exams loomed, a mere week away. Any place you were in the village,
students of all ages were cramming, and tension reigned thick.
  The weekend before the exams, the twins finally got the leaf they had been waiting for. It was
safe to visit their uncle. The twins took Jae aside after lunch.
  “Finally got a message from Uncle Eddy, it’s safe to go. We won’t be gone long.”
  Jae nodded that he understood.
  Timothy met them outside of the wagons and led them down a new pathway.
 “New place, your uncle scoped it out yesterday.” Timothy was floating in circles as he talked,
looking for any potential hidden dangers. Shortly, they were in a clearing near a small pond
with their ghostly uncle pacing back and forth, waiting.
  “There you are, there you are.” He said nervously, but happily. “Getting along better I hope.”
  The twins glanced sideways at each other and grinned smugly.
  “Good. There’s no lesson today, but I wanted to see how your progress is coming along. Do
either of you have any questions pertaining to your exams?”
  Nona trotted along with Timothy, playing near the edge of the woods. Meghan watched her
as an excuse not to discuss the exams.
  “I don’t think the exams will be too hard, Uncle Eddy, but we’ve certainly never been so
  “It’ll keep you both out of trouble,” he chuckled, winking.
  “I don’t get into trouble,” argued Colin.
  “Ah yes, but if you were not so busy, would you?”
  “I don’t get into trouble,” repeated Colin.
  Uncle Eddy laughed and changed the subject.
  “How about you, Meghan, how do you feel about the exams?”
  “Okay,” she shrugged.
  Colin knew she did not feel good at all.
  “I think the written part will be okay, but the magic, it’s just not happening for me, Uncle
Eddy. I suck.”
  “You don’t suck, Meghan, never think that about yourself. You need to concentrate and do
your best,” he told her kindly.
  She nodded, but did not feel confident about her chances of passing.

  “By the time your exams are completed, I hope to have located a safe place for us to meet
  “Do we have to wait for you to send a leaf first?” asked Colin.
  “I think it would be best for you to send me a leaf when you’re able to come and I will let you
know if it’s safe or not.”
  “Why are you hiding, Uncle Eddy?” asked Meghan unexpectedly.
  Eddy went silent. After a minute he finally answered.
 “There is a ghost out there determined to steal your book, Colin. I don’t want them to track
you down, by tracking me down. So, yes, in a way I am hiding. But this doesn’t matter today.
What does matter are your exams. Put all else out of your minds this week.”
  Meghan knew, somehow, that he was not telling them the complete truth. Perhaps he was
right though, today was not the day.
  He pretend hugged the twins, wishing them luck, reminding them to send him a leaf once the
exams were over. They pretend hugged him back and departed, followed as always by Timothy,
above, and Nona, trotting behind.

  The first exam morning was chaotic; no one had slept and anxiety was high. Sheila had even
asked Ivan to escort the foursome to their exams, just to be sure they arrived on time. Even
Irving Mochrie went to work late.
  “Hard work will pay off!” he told them as they departed, his face stern, but hopeful. Ivan took
the lead commanding them to hurry. He did not look at, or speak with them, the entire walk.
  “What is his deal?” asked Meghan.
  “Ivan, he’s actually quite shy,” answered Miereya. “And, oh, I don’t know, sometimes he’s
rather a big turd,” she giggled nervously.
  Meghan laughed, which she needed, as her nerves were getting the best of her. Ivan waited at
the school entrance, and then made, what the twins believed to be, an effort at a smile.
  “Good luck. I am sure you don’t need me to remind you how important this day is!” His eyes
grazed Meghan’s but briskly darted another direction. He then promptly sauntered off.
  “Does he have friends?” questioned Meghan. “I can’t even fathom who’d take the job.” She
couldn’t help but find his actions infuriating.
  “Ivan’s a workaholic,” said Jae. “I don’t think friends are high on his list of priorities. Dad
loves him for it, I…” he stopped, the twins waited but he did not continue on the subject. “We
better get inside.”
  Meghan, as she entered the school, felt eyes watching her; she whisked around recalling how
the Scratchers had given her the same eerie feeling. She saw nothing and shook it off as nerves.

  Behind a nearby bulky shrub, Ivan Crane hid, watching Meghan Jacoby walk into the school.
His eyes narrowed and he broke into a smug grin. “Too easy,” he snickered, as she turned and
gazed in the direction he was hidden. His smug smile faded as he deftly backed away from the
bush and continued on his way.

  The school was abuzz. All students had been routed into a small auditorium and organized
into their class levels; elementary, junior, advanced and graduate. The trio mouthed good luck
to Mireya, who was in junior level, and not expected to pass since it was her first try. Meghan,
Colin and Jae took their seats amongst the beginners.
  It had not been so bad being amongst them on their own, but sitting with a group of
youngsters, with an average age of eight to eleven, and with all the other thirteen and fourteen
year olds in junior level(minus Daveena Troast), they were uncomfortably out of place.
  This was not helped by Darcy Scraggs and Dulcy Hadrian, making sure to point out loudly,
the three sitting in the elementary section.
  “So Jae,” started Meghan. “There are four grades, and once you pass the four, you’re done?”
  “That’s not much, four grades,” she replied.
  “It’s not that easy,” he told her. “It takes some students three tries to pass one grade.
Everything has to be perfect, or you don’t move on.”
  Colin sensed his sister’s nerves tensing and caught onto a real worry: that he might go to the
next level without her.
  “It works well, actually,” continued Jae. “Most kids start school around age eight, a few
sooner, some later, like Daveena over there.” The trio laughed nervously. “With our traveling
schedule, most kids don’t get to juniors until age eleven or so, and then advanced level around
fourteen, and then graduate starts at about sixteen. Ivan was sixteen when he passed graduate,
the youngest ever; very smart and spectacular at magic.”
  “I suppose, when you have NO life, anything would be easier,” Meghan jeered slyly,
exchanging a knowing look with Jae.
  A bell clanged. The entire auditorium convulsed in unison. The advisor, Muckle Mauch, asked
for silence.
  “Today is an important day!” the advisor reminded. “Hopefully, you will all succeed and move
forward. Moving forward should be your highest priority, since it leads to full initiation.
Without getting through graduate level, you cannot attain full status.”
  “What’s he talking about?” sent Meghan to Colin. Curious himself, he threw Jae a questioning
look. He leaned in and explained in a whisper.
  “Initiation means you have pledged your life to the Svoda, sworn to the Svoda way of life.”
  “Oh,” they answered together.
  “Before we begin,” carried on Muckle Mauch, “We have a special guest, who will share a few
encouraging words.” A door in the back opened and the crowd squealed as Banon Juliska
Nandalia Blackwell strode in. A low murmur whizzed through the students.
  “I can’t believe it!”
  “She hasn’t come to exam day in ages.”
  “This is incredible! I can’t wait to tell my parents!” The students rose to their feet and
vigorously welcomed their leader to the school. The Banon’s eyes swept through the eager
young crowd, slowing briefly on Meghan; Colin would have bet his life that he caught the hint
of a wink. He knew it had to be true, when Meghan dropped her head in attempts to hide a

smile. He caught the sensation of something strange in his sister, but couldn’t place it. Juliska
began to speak and the entire school hushed.
  “I wanted to come here today and wish you all the best of luck. I realize this is an important
day to all of you and your families, and if you have put forth the effort, then you have every
right to be proud. I am confident your performances today will prove this.”
  It suddenly dawned on Colin what he had felt from his sister. She had a desire to prove herself
to someone.
  “That’s not like you,” he sent her. She cocked her head sideways, confused. “Never mind,” he
sent back, wondering if it was Juliska Blackwell she was trying to impress. Colin suddenly felt
sorry. Here was a woman who was building Meghan’s confidence, not that he personally
thought she needed that. But he knew she did not believe in herself.
  “Meghan,” he sent.
  “Yeah,” she sent back, listening to him and Juliska simultaneously.
  “You’re going to pass today. We’ve studied all the topics. Besides, if you get stuck you can
always ask me, it’s not like anyone would find out.”
  She grabbed his hand and squeezed it nervously. Her eyes said thanks. Colin had never let his
sister cheat from him before and he did not believe she would today, but if she knew he was
there for her, maybe she would do better.
  “Today starts a new future for you all,” Juliska Blackwell, continued. “I wish you all the very
best of luck,” she added, ending her speech. She swept hastily out of the room.
  “Each class to your test rooms please,” began Muckle Mauch. “Today’s test is a written exam;
all you need are your heads. Pre-approved pens and papers are already waiting for you. Being
caught cheating is an automatic failure.”
  The students filed out to their respective rooms. Each student in the elementary class (about
twenty students strong), was some form of pale, green, or blue. Teacher Lindy instructed them
to all sit down.
  “You have three hours to complete each exam today. I remind each of you that during your
lunch breaks, in between exams one and two, you are not permitted to discuss your results. You
may begin.”


  Colin opened his exam and instantly began writing. Meghan’s heart thumped heavily, and she
daydreamed about telling Juliska she had passed. She opened the exam. It took Meghan until
the last minute of the three hours to write out all the appropriate answers and examples
required; she checked over the exam hoping she had not overlooked any small details. Colin
and Jae had both finished after two hours, but she had not noticed. Colin sat in the lunch room,
keeping his mind opened to her (just in case), but she came out of the room looking relieved.
  “How did you do?” he asked her silently.

  “I hope good enough to pass,” she sighed. They all sat quietly, as some students came out
happy and some angry, and some, downright upset and crying.
  “If time is up,” whispered Jae, “and you’re not finished, you have to repeat the level.”
  Meghan did not realize how close she had been to an automatic failure, by finishing so close
to the final hour. At the same time, she felt terrible for the students who had worked so hard
and had to go home, failing.
  Her nerves came back as lunch ended and the second part was to begin. She had lucked out
that morning, but would it happen again? She turned the paper over.

True or false.

Magic used on another person is forbidden. T / F

Give examples based on your above answer, on justifications for using magic on another person.
(At least two required)

 This is much harder her thoughts betrayed. Colin was already busy writing, but sensed his
sister sorting through it.
  “I think this is a trick question, ‘cause magic is forbidden on others, so the answer is true. But,
they want a justified example of an occasion when you can use magic on someone.” After
talking it through, Colin sent her a happy impression, and she knew she was on the right track.
   The only time you would be allowed to use magic on another person is to defend yourself, or
if you had written permission from the Viancourt, or from the Banon, she wrote.
  Colin and Jae were nearly finished, though time was only half used up. They were both
confident and kept their focus as they finished. Colin sent a thought to his sister as he got up to
depart the room.
  “Get back to work and forget about me and Jae, you’re doing great.” She smiled, took a deep
breath, and continued.

  12. Give three specific examples, on why you would need to report the actions of a fellow

  She choked for a second not sure she understood the question. She heard Colin’s echo.
  “Talk your way through it again, like you did before.”
  Her brain was hard at work when Teacher Lindy announced, “One hour remaining.”
  She needed to hurry.
  It all came together.
  “This is the Svoda rule of turning in your neighbors if they do something to compromise the
Svoda way of life. All I need to do is write down three examples of rules that could be broken.
This one’s easy, seeing as Colin and I have already done that,” she said light-heartedly.

  “Now that you know you can, hurry up. You still have to write it all out, and be thorough,”
Colin reminded her, breathing a sigh of relief.
  Meghan began scratching her pen across her paper, finishing again, with only minutes to
spare. At the end of the day the twins had never been so exhausted. They were now allowed to
discuss their tests, as they were completed. Numerous children were going over answers and
trying to remember if they had answered correctly.
  “I did fine,” said Jae.
  Mireya wasn’t so happy; she hadn’t finished her exam.
  “I’ll be back in junior level again,” she said, sulking.
  “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” her brother comforted. “You’re already in junior level and
you’re only eleven, that’s really good. Keep it up and you’ll be vying Ivan for his graduation
  She hugged him and ran to catch up with her friend.
  “How about you guys?” Jae asked as they walked.
  “I did fine,” said Colin confidently.
  “You always do fine,” scowled Meghan. They both waited for her answer. “I’m not totally
sure, but, I think I did… good enough.”
  “They’ll give us our grades before we move on,” said Jae. “Guess we’ll find out soon enough.
Don’t get too relaxed though, we still have tomorrow to get through.”
  “Ugh,” grunted Meghan. “Tomorrow. I may have lucked out today, but tomorrow I have to
actually use magic.”
  Even Colin could not help her then. She would be on her own.
  The twins sent a leaf to Uncle Eddy before bed, informing him they believed they had passed.
The night was long and sleepless again. Chaos ensued once more, as morning arrived, and Ivan
again escorted them to their exam, day number two.
  “Thank you so much, Ivan,” said Sheila. “I didn’t expect to be so busy, but I’m the only one
working the library, since Martha is out having her baby.”
  “It is the least I can do,” replied Ivan, in a moment seeming almost human. “I am forever
grateful for your hospitality.”
  Sheila patted his shoulder lovingly. Ivan caught Meghan watching him through the corner of
her eye; she shifted away. Ivan darted outside, ordering them to hurry.
  “How exactly did Ivan come to live with you, again?” asked Meghan, as they walked. She
wasn’t sure why she even cared.
  “It’s a scary and a sad story,” said Jae. “His mother died when he was about three years old I
think, in some kind of freak accident that no one ever talks about. I guess even magic couldn’t
fix what happened. He lived with his father after that.”
  “What happened to his father?” asked Colin.
  “He was killed in the first Scratcher attack, back when we still lived on our island. We didn’t
even know they existed. I was a baby, then.”
  Thoughts of Scratchers surrounding their Uncle Arnon made their heads dizzy, and both
twins were instantly sorry for Ivan, who was on his own, like them; of course, the twins were

still holding out hope that Uncle Arnon was still alive. It was hard to feel sorry for Ivan for
long, as a minute later he was yelling impatiently for them to catch up.
   “At this pace you won’t arrive until tomorrow!” he insisted.
  After arriving at the school, teacher Lindy advised them to line up with their class. Some
students fought for front position while others vied for last. It took a minute for the twins to
realize you went in for your exam depending on where you were in line. They were in the
middle, behind Jae.
  “I don’t imagine it matters that much,” said Colin, hoping he had not screwed up by not being
more on the ball.
  “It’s all myth really. Some think if they go in first the teachers might be in a better mood, or if
you go in last, you have a chance of getting more points because the teachers are tired. None of
this is true though. The teachers grade each student equally severely.”
  Colin took Jae’s word for it, and the twenty children lined up nervously in the corridor. One
by one each student was called in; the twins had thought it would not take long for the line to
move, but with only one teacher doing the elementary exam, and each student taking an
average of fifteen minutes, time began to drag.
  “Okay, I guess there’s something to be said for going first,” added Jae, after two hours had
passed, and the trio’s nerves were at their peak. “I forget how the longer you sit and think about
it, the more nervous you get.” He looked apologetically at Meghan, whose anxiety was more
apparent with every passing minute. Finally, it was Jae’s turn. He wanted to let Meghan go
ahead of him, but once in line you couldn’t change places. It was an eternity before he came
out, thankfully, smiling.
  “Good luck,” he mouthed to the twins as he escaped out of the school. Colin was next; he
tensely entered the classroom. It was not Teacher Lindy as he had expected. Must and
mothballs. The examiner was Viancourt member Tanzea Chase. Colin had a hard time not
plugging his nose. She sat at a table with a stack of papers.
  “Name,” she asked, not looking up. Her wrinkled hands shook as she wrote. Colin wondered
how many jobs she performed. So far, he knew she was a member of the Viancourt, worked at
the hospital, and today was a school examiner.
   “Colin Jacoby, ma’am.”
   Her eyes glanced over her spectacles inquisitively.
  “Of course you are. All right then, task number one. Pick up that stack of pillows, hover them
above the ground for one minute, without any of the pillows falling.” Her tone suggested she
didn’t expect him to pass. Colin closed his eyes and gathered all the energy required, again,
searching outward beyond the school and into Grimble.
  He lifted the pillows easily, but the minute was terribly long. Tanzea Mothball Chase
scrutinized Colin’s every move. Not once did her eyes leave Colin and even look at the pillows.
When finished, Tanzea did not reply on Colin’s magic, but simply went on to the next task.
  “Take the stack of pillows and move them to the square; mind you, if they fall or shift, you
lose points.”
  Something strange happened during the test. Colin had the pillows moving in no time, but felt
another magical energy in the room, trying to push his pillows out of alignment. He fought it

and straightened them. Had Tanzea done it? He wondered. Why? Did she want him to fail, or
was it part of the exam? Colin’s nerves calmed as he finished and received what he believed
would be a perfect score.
  “Are you even winded, boy?” asked Tanzea frigidly.
  Colin answered truthfully.
  “No, ma’am.”
  “Hmm, okay, well number three, then.”
  He grew uneasy again. He had already done the exercise’s they had learned in class. Tanzea
had her head down scribbling notes. Colin questioned whether there was even supposed to be a
number three.
  “You see the chalk board that goes around the room? Without using your hands to write, I
want you to use the chalk and write out the Svoda goals.”
  Colin started to panic, but not for himself. He knew the answers, plus, collecting the energy
needed was easy, but could Meghan do the same? He collected himself, reached out for the
magical energy and pictured himself picking up the chalk and writing. He spoke the answer in a
whisper, while the chalk wrote.
  Colin finished and opened his eyes; the words were not only written, but in a perfect straight
line. Colin knew he had passed this part of the test, too. Tanzea Chase grimaced at the still not
winded Colin Jacoby with great interest, but eventually put her head down, scribbling more
  “You may leave. Send in the next student,” she spoke harshly. Upon leaving, Colin sent
Meghan a thought.
  “I’m on my way out, you’re next, okay.”
  “About time! You were in there longer than anyone,” she replied, her inner voice quivering.
  “I was!” he exclaimed, not realizing.
  “Thirty minutes, Colin! I’ve been going crazy, and if it took you that long, I’m doomed.”
  “Don’t think that way,” he pleaded as he passed her. “Remember to reach out and feel the
energy flowing around you, and then focus it on the task.”
  Meghan did not answer, and Colin could sense an impromptu desire for her to plug her nose.
  “Musty Mothballs?” he sent her. “The examiner is Tanzea Chase, from the Viancourt.”
  “Name,” croaked Tanzea, again not looking up from her papers.
  “Meghan Jacoby,” she answered, as calmly as possible.
  Tanzea looked up.
  “Ah, yes, I have notes here, let’s see. Where are those?”
  Meghan, if possible, grew more anxious, thinking, What notes? Did Colin have notes?
  “Here we go, that’s right, the Firemancer,” Tanzea smiled with smug approval. “You may not
be aware, Ms. Jacoby, but most seers do not thrive at hands on magic. I have been instructed to
test you, but that you have already passed. Unusual, yes, but it has been decided that your
studies will be aimed toward that of your talent. You will be informed of your course direction
at a future, yet to be determined date.”

  Was it possible to have such great luck? Meghan had not known that being a Firemancer
meant she would not be as good at normal magic. “What a relief,” she whispered, and then
wondered, Was it Juliska?
  “Your exam today,” interrupted Tanzea, “will consist of moving this pile of pillows to the
square.” She pointed to a pile of pillows half the size of the other students, and to a square only
two feet away. Meghan, feeling little pressure now, was able to get the pillows off the ground,
only a few inches, but off the ground, and moved them into the square where they plunked
down with a soft thud. She grinned, satisfied.
  “Okay, you’re finished, send in the next student.”
  Meghan nodded and hastily exited the school.
  “That was fast,” said both Jae and Colin, who had waited for her outside the school.
  “I did it though, moved the pillows up in the air and two feet into the square.”
  “Two feet, two whole feet,” mocked a voice from behind.
  Colin and Jae wanted to question her about this, too, but it would have to wait. Darcy Scraggs
emerged from the school.
  “What. An. Accomplishment! Look everyone, Little Miss Two Feet.”
  “Ignore her,” insisted Jae, motioning for the twins to follow him out of the schoolyard. Taunts
of “Little Miss Two Feet,” echoed as they departed.
  “Did they really only ask you to move it two feet?” asked Jae, after they had left the school
  “Yes,” said Meghan, horrified to realize how easy her test had been. “Plus there’s more,” she
admitted, afraid to continue.
  “I should hope so!” said Colin angrily. “I had to move the pile around the room, hold it in the
air for an entire minute, and then she asked me to write the Svoda goals on the dang chalk
board, without using my hands.”
  “You did all that?” questioned Jae.
  “Yes, I think she was trying to tire me out.”
  “But, you weren’t tired at all when you came out,” exclaimed Jae.
  “No, I wasn’t.”
  “How do you do that? It would be incredibly draining to think of the answer and write on the
board at the same time.” Jae spoke with a twinge of jealousy.
  Meghan felt humiliated. She had hardly done anything at all. Plus, she knew she had already
  “So what exactly happened, Meghan?” breathed Colin.
  “The teacher said she had been instructed to pass me and that since I was a Firemancer, I
needed to have my studies arranged as such, and that I couldn’t be expected to have the magical
prowess of others.”
  “That makes sense, I guess,” said Colin, still a little confused. “It at least explains why you’re
not making any progress.” It came out harsher than he’d meant it to, but Meghan ignored it.
  “Well, it’s over. For us, anyway,” said Jae, sounding exhausted. “Mireya still has one more
  “So even though she knows she’s failed, she keeps going?” asked Colin.

   “Practice,” was all Jae answered.
    The twins sent another leaf that evening to Uncle Eddy, telling him the tests were over. The
rest of the week went by much faster and at the end, when all exams were finished, pass or fail,
it was as if the entire village of Bedgewood Harbor let out a combined relieving sigh.

  It was Halloween, which meant that Thanksgiving and Christmas were not far behind. To the
twins, this meant they did not have much time left with Uncle Eddy. However, with exams
finished, they hoped to spend more time in Grimble. The perfect place to spend all hallows eve;
the ghosts went all out to celebrate their favorite night of the year. It seemed that nearly all
Svoda came out of the wagons to celebrate in Grimble, too. The twins hoped to see their uncle,
or Timothy, but neither ever appeared.
  “I can’t believe your father missed this,” hiccuped Sheila Mochrie, slightly lit on brandy. “It’s
so nice to have a little fun.”
  The twins and Jae agreed.
  “Why couldn’t your dad come, Jae?” asked Colin.
  “Behind at work I guess. Ivan’s not here either.”
  “That doesn’t surprise me,” huffed Meghan. “He doesn’t remind me of the type to appreciate
fun.” The three laughed, listening to Sheila softly humming to herself. At the end of the night,
as they neared the wagons, Sheila called out to a woman walking nearby.
  “See you tomorrow at the SLC, Verna. I’m thinking pies this year.” The woman named Verna
waved in agreement and disappeared around a corner.
  “Pies for what?” asked Colin.
  “For Thanksgiving. The SLC, it’s an initiated Svoda thing, totally boring. They get together to
plan the holiday’s feasts each year.”
  “Cool,” replied Colin, mostly thinking about eating the pies.
  “How could you possibly think of eating?” barked Meghan, her stomach sloshing with sugar.
  “I didn’t eat that much,” replied Colin.
  Having a sugar filled gut brought back memories of Sebastien; they would often pig out on
junk food together. Meghan blocked her thoughts then, trying not to think about Sebastien, but
weakened. She recalled the kiss she had snuck on him the very night she and Colin had come to
live with the Gypsies.
  “I wonder what he’s doing right now,” she muttered to herself. “Most likely he’d be home. I’d
probably be emailing him…” She missed him terribly.
  “Personally,” she then said, shaking off the pain, “I’m in no hurry for the holidays this year.”
  “No, me either,” agreed Colin. Neither twin was thinking of food at that moment, only of
moving on, and leaving Uncle Eddy behind.
  Once again, harsh reality had dampened a moment of fun.


  The days leading up to Thanksgiving were much more relaxed around the Mochrie house, and
a festive atmosphere enveloped the entire village. The day before the holiday, the twins
received a leaf from Uncle Eddy, asking them to visit.
  “I didn’t realize the Svoda would celebrate Thanksgiving,” commented Meghan, as they
stepped into Grimble.
  “It’s a part of history that in your world is a little, changed,” he said. “It had to be, in order to
keep magic protected and secret. You’ll understand more tomorrow. It’s actually a big day for
  Timothy appeared. “Hi guys.” They chorused hello back.
  Uncle Eddy decided that enough time had passed and it was safe to meet up at the old mill
again. He was happy to see them and Jae, but still did not allow Colin to travel with the
Magicante. Jae surprised the twins with ghost candy and they played with Timothy, high in the
air. He laughed hysterically, unable to remember ever having so much fun.
  “I wish this day would never end!” said Colin, catching his breath.
  “I don’t suppose there’s a candy that can make this day repeat?” asked Meghan, agreeing.
  “No, wouldn’t that be a nice one though,” thought Jae, grinning happily. The twins thought
he looked happier than he had in months.
  “Not to be the bearer of bad news,” said Uncle Eddy casually, “but like it or not, the day is
ending.” The twins were about to protest, when a bush outside the mill rustled; someone was
out there and it was not a ghost this time.
  “Show yourself!” demanded Jae, running out to investigate. The twins cautiously followed.
They saw a hand letting go of a branch, hiding a face, and the trio jumped into the bush,
attempting to catch the spy, but no one was there.
  “Where could they have gone?” questioned Jae. No one answered. Uncle Eddy and Timothy
searched from the air. They found nothing.
“When we first came out,” said Colin, “I swear there was a face in that bush.”
  Their uncle had the same concerned look as Jae.
  “I’m afraid too many eyes are upon us,” said Eddy. “Colin, keep that book safe.” Eddy then
turned to Jae. “I want to personally thank you for helping Meghan and Colin, Jae. I realize this
must be a burden. I know your rules are strict.”
  Jae shrugged, not appearing concerned. It was something the twins had forgotten, even
though they had just taken exams reminding them of how strict the rules were. Could this be
what was troubling Jae? Meghan felt confident this could not be the whole problem, not by the
severity of her nightmare, but she would be sure to write it down.
  Their uncle vanished, and Timothy, as usual, escorted them to the wagons. The three walked
in silence, having had their perfect day, again, ruined. Their brooding ended hastily as they

found themselves being ambushed, again. It was the Three D’s, and in the same location as
   “Trouble is not even close to what you three are in,” sneered Darcy Scraggs.
   “Do you think it was them spying on us?” sent Meghan to Colin.
   “I can’t picture them spying and not getting caught,” he shot back.
   “Colin, this is the second time they have ambushed us in the same spot. I don’t want to give
them credit any more than you do; however, they might at least be smart enough to spy
without getting caught.”
   “Touche,” he answered. “So how do we find out how much they know, then?”
   “Still working on that,” she replied.
   The twins and Jae stood back to back to back, watching the three girls circling them. Timothy
fretted overhead. Jae looked sick. The twins could tell he was thinking that this time, they did
know something. Colin was determined not to crash out of the picture again, and tried to calm
his nerves.
   “So Darcy, going to let Miss Hadrian do all the talking for you again? Its always so much fun
listening to her,” said Meghan.
   Dulcy reeled with anger and started to open her mouth, but Darcy motioned for her to shut it.
   “Why do you always need to make her more upset?” asked Colin.
   “I’m trying to keep her sidetracked while we think of a way out of this, and hopefully not
make things worse for Jae in the process.”
   “What is it now that you think we’ve done, Darcy?” asked Meghan. “You claimed you knew
something before. Far as I can tell, you’re full of crap.”
   What followed next was not what any of trio expected.
  An enormous blast of air swept Meghan off her feet; she flew backwards, her head barely
missing a tree.
   “Darcy! You’ve done magic against someone,” shouted a stunned Jae. “What is wrong with
you?” Jae was expecting the Balaton to show up any second. Being caught off guard, she hit him
next, leaving Colin standing on his own.
   “I have every right to use magic on you three! You’re hiding something. I’ve had some very
interesting conversations with a certain member of the Viancourt, and that certain member cast
a spell, allowing me to do magic and not… get… caught,” she taunted. “I suggest you turn over
what you’ve been hiding!” She aimed the demand at Colin, who was wide eyed with fear. “Oh,
don’t worry. I know you don’t have it on you, but I expect you to deliver it to me by tomorrow!
Then the authorities can deal with you, and you,” she spat at Jae, who assisted Meghan off the
   “Why are you doing this, Darcy? Do you hate my family that much?”
   “It’s not a matter of hate, Jae. It’s a matter of survival. You and your family have gotten lazy.
You’re becoming a hazard to the group.”
   “So that’s it. You and a few select others think my family is holding you all back. How so,

  “You three know so little,” she sneered, shaking her head. “Dulcy, Daveena,” she ordered,
snapping her fingers for them to follow her. They followed without further instruction. “Don’t
forget! By tomorrow! Or you’ll all be… homeless,” she jeered malevolently.
  Something snapped inside Colin. He faced the Three D’s backsides and raised his hand to
strike. Jae realized instantly what he was about to do, and at the same moment Colin sent his
spell, Jae shouted one to block it.
  “Emissio,” yelled Colin.
  “Obstructo.” Jae’s spell found Colin’s, blocking it from hitting its target.
  “It’s not worth it, Colin,” rushed Jae. “If that spell hit one of them, we would be in serious
  “I’m sorry, Jae, I couldn’t help myself.”
  “If I coulda, and got away with it, I would’ve done it myself!” he said bitterly.
  The three sat down on the ground and waited for the Three D’s to fully disappear. Timothy
floated back down.
  “Are you all right? Do you want me to fetch Uncle Eddy?”
  “No, its fine, Timothy,” said Colin. “I don’t think we should worry Uncle Eddy about this.”
  Timothy floated next to Colin’s ear.
  “Is this another secret?”
  Colin nodded yes.
  Timothy swirled high into the air in delight of having a second secret. Jae examined the scene;
Nona licked a small cut on Meghan’s arm, which went through her shirt. Colin hadn’t been
knocked down, so he was fine, physically speaking, and Jae was a bit disheveled, but uninjured.
  “I’m afraid I don’t have enough energy to heal your arm, Meghan. I feel drained here.”
  Healing wasn’t something Colin was ready to try yet.
  “We don’t look that bad,” said Colin. “We do need to come up with some kind of plan,
though,” he suggested.
  “Any ideas?” Meghan asked Jae. She lifted her arm, wincing; her cut was about two inches
long but not deep.
  “I did have a thought,” said Jae. “It’s possible, not likely, but possible she’s just still angry over
not being able to expose you.”
  “Hm, revenge, sounds fun,” Meghan said sarcastically. Nona attached her body to Meghan’s
arm and began licking her wound again.
  “What I’m wondering, more than anything,” said Jae, “Is how a certain Viancourt member got
hold of a spell that can hide doing magic against another person. I wasn’t aware anything like
that existed.”
  “And of all the people to give it to, why Darcy?” said Meghan, vexed.
  “When we say certain Viancourt member, we are talking about Garner Sadorus, right?” asked
  “Yes,” muttered Meghan.
  “If Garner wanted information, say for example, about two new strangers that Darcy would
have easier access to…” suggested Jae. “Remember the day you first met Uncle Eddy, when you
had the ghost candy, Colin?”

  “The person on the roof,” he recalled.
  “I can’t be sure of course, but this could have something to do with what you saw,” guessed
  “Lots of interesting questions we’ve got here, too bad we don’t have any answers,” droned
  As they arrived home, in a daze, Colin noticed something astonishing.
  “Meghan, look,” he grabbed her arm from where Nona had just detached herself.
  “It’s gone, the cut, it’s not there!” Meghan picked up the Catawitch, snuggling it to her face.
“Nona, did you do this? You are by far, the coolest cat ever!”
  They tried to forget about the horrible afternoon as they entered the Mochrie house; once in,
it was not too difficult to do. Sheila and Mireya had spent the morning decorating the place in
autumn colors. The smell of pies baking wafted invitingly from the kitchen. They decided there
was not much they could do over the holiday about the Darcy situation; they’d have to let it
play out. One thing they could say for certain: Colin was not turning over the Magicante today,
tomorrow, or any other day!
   The rest of the day managed to be quite pleasant, with Mrs. Mochrie serving up a most
delicious pre-holiday feast, which Ivan missed, and Irving interrupted, with exciting news.
  “I’ve been promoted!”
  Everyone cheered and congratulated Irving on getting his management of the bank back. The
twins hoped it wasn’t a sick joke by Garner Sadorus, to give Mr. Mochrie back his old job, only
to strip it from him again once he had ousted his son, and the Jacoby’s.

  Thanksgiving arrived and the Mochrie house was full, being that both Irving and Ivan were at
home, rather than at work. The entire Svoda village was shut down, even the hospital; there
were no patients.
  Colin thought of the sick girl he had seen there. Who was she? Was she better, and if so, why
hadn’t he seen her around? His face reddened thinking about the girl. Meghan gazed oddly at
him, attempting to invade his thoughts. He didn’t allow it.
  At noon, three guests arrived for a pre-feast gathering. They included Billie Sadorus, plus the
Jackal sisters, owners of The Jackal Lantern. They were dressed in their usual 1930’s style
dresses, acting prim and proper, that is, until they downed Sheila Mochrie’s pumpkin brandy
(known to be the best in the village).
  “If we’re lucky, mom’ll let us try a little,” said Jae, licking his lips.
  “Could I get one of you youngsters to bring a plate down to Corny,” asked Mrs. Mochrie. “I
wish I could get him out of that dark cellar and up to the table, he’s just so darn stubborn.”
  Meghan arrogantly volunteered.
  Jae snickered.
  “Be careful, he might bite if you get too close.” The way Jae said it gave her the creeps.
  “You’re coming with me,” she said, dragging Colin along. “It’s a shame he won’t come up, he’s
missing all the fun,” she said, adding, “Of course, fun doesn’t ever last too long around here.”
They climbed down the ladder into the dank basement; one single candle was lit in the far
corner. Meghan held her skirt off the dusty floor. Colin held the tray.

  “Where is he?” she asked, straining her eyes to see. He wasn’t on his bed. Colin quietly put
down the tray and tiptoed back to the ladder, hoping to escape without seeing Corny. “Maybe
he’s out?” Meghan suggested, turning to face her brother. “Colin! Don’t move,” she whispered
with a voice that always wanted to make him run.
  “Hi there, Mr. Corny, sir. We brought you some Thanksgiving Dinner, still hot, over there,”
she pointed toward the tray.
  Colin felt Corny’s hot, tobacco-stenched breath on his neck, and decided to take a slow step
forward before turning around; he could not stand the thought of having the man behind him,
out of sight.
  Corny’s face hid in the shadows, but his gritty teeth poked through his unkempt beard. He
stepped forward into the light holding a tablet of paper in his hand; he ripped out a page and
handed it to Colin. It was covered in non-coherent scribbling.
  “Thanks, Corny, I’ll… hang it in my room,” stammered Colin, trying to be nice. The old man
tore out another page forcing Colin to take it; it was covered in the same scribbling. “We have
to go now,” he told Corny. Colin grasped the pages and then followed Meghan, who was
already half way up the ladder. As his head poked up into the house there was a pull at Colin’s
leg and he slipped down two rungs, coming face to face with Corny’s sour-breathed tobacco
mouth. Colin tried to hold his breath, and heard the tearing of another page. Corny vigorously
forced it into Colin’s hand and then shuffled back to his bed, ignoring the holiday dinner. Colin
scurried up the ladder. Meghan sat laughing in the hallway, explaining to Jae that Colin
apparently had a new best friend.
  “Ha ha, very funny, Sis. Don’t think you’d be laughing if it were you.”
  “No, but I would,” laughed Jae. “Sorry, but Corny taking to anyone, is pretty funny. You’re
the first person he’s gotten close to since he came to live with us.”
  “Great! Thrilling! Can we eat now?” he asked through his teeth, laying the scribbled pages on
the stair.
  “We don’t eat here,” said Jae, still laughing. “We all gather together for the real feast, later
tonight,” he added, getting more serious.
  “Is this one of those occasions we dress up for?” hoped Meghan.
  “Definitely,” replied Jae.
  Back in the sitting room, the supply of pumpkin brandy dwindled. Sheila permitted the twins
and Jae to try a small glass. It was like drinking pumpkin pie, but with a warming tingle at the
  Irving, Sheila, Billie and the Jackal sisters sat around the fire, with brandy loosened tongues.
Sheila listened intently to a story being told by the Jackal sisters. Meghan watched as Ivan
glanced over the sisters, one of whom caught his eye and winked; he shifted away, frowning
  “Something tells me those sisters aren’t so prim and proper,” said Meghan.
  “They are are quite proper, but the brandy does tend to bring out a sinister side,” whispered

  Billie smiled at them, tipping her glass in their direction, catching it just before the brandy
dripped over the edge. She made a funny face and put her fingers to her lips mouthing,
“Oops…” and then nearly did it again.
  “They’re looped,” said Colin, feeling cheerful.
  Ivan left the room without a word. The sisters and Billie were laughing hysterically; the older
sister named Kalila was finishing a story.
  “And to think, I came that close, that week, of publishing that story as our moral of the week.”
  “I caught it just in time,” yelped the sister named Kalida. “It was already headed to press.”
  “I say, that would have been mighty funny to see the look on Garner and Ravana’s faces, if
that story’d been published,” exclaimed Irving Mochrie, in tears from laughing so hard.
  Sheila slid out of her chair.
  “No offense, Billie, being he’s your brother and all,” Irving wailed, uncharacteristically happy.
  “What’s a moral of the week?” asked Colin.
  “It’s an article in The Jackal Lantern, a small story each week. There’s always some moral at
the end, something we’re supposed to learn.”
  It reminded Colin of Kanda Macawi’s fire side stories.
  Kalida Jackal excused herself and wobbled her way to the spider filled outhouse. It seemed a
long time before she returned, and when she did, her sister Kalila accosted her.
  “Did you take a wrong turn, sister? Fall in perhaps? Maybe find a handsome young man along
the way?” she winked, perniciously.
  “All… of the above,” Kalida responded, her speech slurred. This caused the adults to roar
again, this time, so much so, that Meghan, Colin and Jae decided it was also time to leave the
room. As they exited, they ran into Ivan coming in from the back yard.
  “Are the festivities ending, then?” he asked.
  “No,” answered Jae. “More like just getting started.”
  Ivan opened his mouth to speak then closed it, instead heading upstairs.
  “I’ll be down for the festival later,” he said, glancing over the scribbled pages Colin had set on
the stairs.
  “He is a strange cat,” thought Colin, as they followed him up the stairs a moment later.
Meghan caught onto that thought.
  “Speaking of cats, I haven’t seen Nona all day.”
  “Sorry, Sis, haven’t seen her,” Colin sent back.
  “She’s come to spending more time on her own these days. She’s probably out scrounging for a
nice juicy Thanksgiving mouse.”
  “Ick,” Colin thought as they entered the bedroom.
  An hour later, Sheila, slightly more stable, announced it was nearly time to depart. The boys
and Mireya were finished, and astonishingly, so was Meghan. Mrs. Mochrie had sewn Colin’s
jacket, and it now fit perfectly. Downstairs, the company had gone, and Irving and Sheila had
also changed into their holiday best.
  It had been decided in Sheila and Irving’s weekly SLC meetings (Svoda Liberation
Committee), that this year their zone would bring the pies, after Sheila Mochrie’s somewhat

slurred suggestion on Halloween. Sheila and Mireya had been baking all the previous day. They
each grabbed a pie and headed to the feast.
  Along the way, they met up with neighbors the twins had never properly met before, all
holding various food items. Unsure of where they were heading, the twins let the Mochries lead
the way; soon they had arrived at a cliff-side near the ocean, where they stepped into a deep
cavern. Hanging candle chandeliers lit up the room brightly, also making the temperature
inside nice and toasty.
  Two long tables crowded the cavern; the first was laden with food, and the second, lined with
chairs. They worked their way to the food table, setting down their pies. The twins were
shocked at the variety of foods already there; turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing,
sweet potatoes (cooked in brown sugar), and cranberry sauce, along with marshmallow salad, a
strange large noodle, and at least seven different sorts of pies, and best of all, ployes! The twins
could not believe it, seeing as it was a staple at many meals back home, and yet not a well
known item elsewhere. Then they remembered that the Svoda’s island was off the coast of
Maine, and were grateful that ployes were a staple during Maine meals.
  The twins took seats along side the Mochrie’s, and to their delight, Billie Sadorus sat next to
them. Jae explained a short speech would be given before the feast began.
  An announcement by her Pantin proclaimed the arrival of Juliska Nandalia Blackwell, and
seconds later, she stepped into the cavern, in fine fashion. The three members of the Viancourt
and their families sat nearest the Banon, and all Svoda rose from their chairs and bowed slightly
as Banon Blackwell arrived, claiming the head seat at the table.
  “Welcome all to another Thanksgiving Day,” her speech began. “We have much to be
thankful for this year. First and foremost, that we are still here to celebrate another
Thanksgiving Day!”
  Cheers went up through the crowd. Banon Blackwell smiled, pleased.
  “Secondly, that each and every day, we take steps that get us closer to celebrating this
magnificent holiday in our true home.”
  She paused as the crowd cheered again.
  “And lastly, to knowing that whilst we are stuck in our ever shifting world, that magic still
lives, as seen by the arrival of our newest Svoda, Colin and Meghan Jacoby.”
  The crowd turned their heads unexpectedly toward the twins. Colin was red all over, but
Meghan, determined that nothing would ruin her good day, nodded with great enthusiasm.
  Darcy Scraggs, sitting next to the Sadorus’, brooded over the attention Meghan was receiving.
Garner focused his cold stares on Colin, who leaned into a shadow to avoid them.
  On Banon Blackwell’s cue, all Svoda raised their glasses.
  “To our fellow friends and family! One day, we will all raise our glasses together!”
  An enormous cheer reverberated throughout the cavern and the feast officially began. There
were no servers, except on behalf of Juliska Blackwell, whose Pantin took care of her every
need. Soon, empty bottles of wine and brandy lined the table, along with dirty dishes and
leftover food. After a few hours the crowd began to disperse and Sheila Mochrie, still a little
tipsy, boasted about being glad that her zone wasn’t assigned to clean up the festival that year.
  “Jae, what does your mother mean when she says her zone?”

  “Each member of the Svoda Liberation Committee (SLC) belongs to a specific zone; it goes by
where you live. I think we have nine zones here, so about fifteen people or so in each zone.”
  “You said the SLC is an initiated Svoda thing?” said Meghan.
  “Yeah, they attend meetings every week with other zone members, to keep up with news,
announcements, work on ways to get us back home, stuff like that.” They reached the Mochrie
  “I am full and tired,” said Meghan. “I think I might take a nap and change.”
  “Don’t wrinkle your clothes,” giggled Mireya, dancing in circles. “You’ll want to wear them
again later.”
  “What’s happening later?” asked Meghan.
  “The story of the real Thanksgiving,” she answered, dancing her way upstairs.
  “Oh, right,” said the twins, in unison.
  “You said our history has the story wrong,” reminded Colin. Jae was about to speak when
another voice broke in.
  “It’s the retelling festival.” Ivan Crane had said it. “It is actually quite interesting,” he boasted.
  “Great,” teased Colin. “You’ll have lost my sister’s attention. She doesn’t go for interesting.”
  Meghan was not given the chance to defend herself.
  “Why would I give your sister my attention?” Ivan asked harshly. “She seems to have more
than enough to go around.”
  Everyone froze at Ivan’s icy reply, but none more so than Meghan, who stood in complete
awed silence.


  An hour later Irving Mochrie announced it was time to depart for the retelling festival.
Meghan still fumed over Ivan’s insult, and was not even close to blocking her thoughts from
  “Me, need attention? I’m simply trying to fit in and show people I’m not afraid! I do not need
attention! Where does he get off?”
  The ranting continued until finally, they arrived at the pathway leading to the festival.
Magnificently carved pumpkins lit the pathway, pitched on tall spikes or hanging like lanterns
overhead. A short distance later, they arrived at an outdoor amphitheater. Irving and Sheila
directed them to sit near the middle. A roped off section ran across the first row.
  “Two guesses who sits there,” said Colin, hoping to avoid Garner’s cold stares.
  “They do like to make a grand entrance,” whispered Mireya. Sheila gave her a stern look,
indicating that wasn’t nice, but then joined with her in a giggle, realizing it was true.

  “Think the drink’s still got our mom,” Jae said, as the twins got seated next to him. To
Meghan’s absolute dismay, Ivan arrived, plunking down stubbornly next to her. He nodded
politely to the rest of the family, ignoring Meghan completely. She sat with her nose in the air,
thinking, two can play this game.
  I wonder if he is aware of how viciously mean he is, her thoughts betrayed. I mean, is he
trying to piss me off on purpose? Or is it just a natural talent?
  “I wouldn’t take it personal, Sis,” Colin sent to her. “Ivan doesn’t appear to like anyone.”
  Meghan, for some reason, found her brother funny and laughed loudly. Her steaming
animosity melted, and Ivan made a point to converse with one of the Jackal sisters.
  Meghan did not understand what everyone was so excited about; listening to a speech was not
her idea of fun. She hated to admit it, but interesting was not her thing. A man came onto the
stage. His voice reverberated clearly through the amphitheater.
  “Welcome, welcome, the retelling will begin shortly, please be seated.” He jumped off the
stage and took a seat a few rows in.
  After the announcement, Juliska Blackwell arrived in high fashion wearing a woolen, but
sleek, form fitting long coat, with streaks of black and deep red. At her sides were the same two
Balaton that had been guarding the gate the day Meghan had gone to visit.
  “Juliska rarely goes anywhere without those two. The Wandrer brothers. They’re the last in
their family line. The one on the left is Jenner, and the one on the right is Jelen; real tough men,
don’t want to piss off that crew,” explained Jae.
  Meghan smiled slyly as she already knew them.
  The members of the Viancourt entered. Garner wore a new flamboyant coat, which was so
thick he could barely take his seat. His wife, Ravana was simply, but elegantly dressed. Garner
had taken the spikes out of his hair and slicked it back.
  Billie Sadorus was overheard to mutter, “Leave it to my brother to try and out do Juliska
Blackwell, the queen of entrances… bothersome pig.”
  The twins and Jae tried not to laugh, and Meghan noticed from the corner of her eye, that
even Ivan, the cold-hearted wonder, cracked a small resemblance of a smile.
  Tanzea Chase entered alone, dressed in a drab looking jacket, followed by Darius Hadrian and
his wife, Hannelore. They were followed by their daughter, Dulcy, twisting her hair as usual.
She clung to her wiser and fiercer counterpart, Darcy Scraggs.
  Darcy, wanting to make sure the twins noticed her sitting in the front row, waved vigorously,
with friend-faked enthusiasm.
  Colin could not take his eyes off the row. Garner Sadorus had allowed Darcy to use magic
against them, and wanted to steal the Magicante. Meghan, having been so sidetracked with the
day’s events, abruptly remembered today was the deadline to turn it over. They watched
intently, but no one in the front row gave any indication that the twins even existed, other than
Darcy’s feigned attempt at friendship.
  Someone doused the pumpkin lanterns.
  An echoing voice announced, “The time has come.”
  The crowd was instantly still. The night sky was clear and a single spotlight shined on the
stage where a young boy sat on a chair.

  “Welcome to the retelling of our journey to the Bedgewood Isles.” He spoke in a charming
  Squeals of excitement raced through the crowd, as the stone seats they were sitting in began
to shift. They tipped backwards so that the audience was looking into the dark, starless sky.
  “I love that part,” said Jae.
  “A little warning would have been nice,” muttered Meghan.
  Colin was too enthralled to care.
  A voice began speaking. It was not the little boy, but that of an experienced storyteller.
  “That’s Balloch Flummer, owns the book store,” said Jae.
  “The voyage was underway,” Balloch started. “Three ships across a vast ocean: the Freedom,
the Malden, and the Albion.”
  The night sky lit up with silhouettes of three ghostly looking ships, floating across as if sailing
through the stars.
  “The great ships held a people with hope in their hearts as they sailed to a new world, which
awaited them across the great Atlantic.”
  The watching crowd cheered madly as a ghostly crew worked the ships.
  “We’re watching a movie,” sent Meghan to her brother. “On, like the biggest screen ever!”
  “Finally, a history lesson even you can handle.”
  She did not reply, but continued to watch the sky as the narrator continued.
  “Our ships sailed for many days when a rainless storm erupted from the depths of the ocean.”
As he spoke, the scene in the sky changed; the ships began to rock violently with wind and
waves ravaging them.
  “Our magic began to weaken and the protection surrounding the great ships failed.”
  A massive eruption took place in the sky; the magical field that surrounded the ships
dissolved. “As our protection failed and our magic weakened, we were hunted by ancient
  Two gigantic birds, with wingspans as wide as a ship, soared into the sky and boos wafted
through the attentive Svoda crowd.
  “The Shrieker birds shrill cries alerted their allies that the hunt for our ships was over, and
thus, the battle began. The Freedom, the largest of the three ships, was the first to fall under
attack. Their enemy came from below the waters.”
  The sky changed again. Underneath the ship Freedom, two great heads emerged, one on each
side of the ships hull.
  “The Freedom’s crew fought the beast. However, the weakening spells of the crew were no
match for the Amphivena’s knife-like scales and tailless body.”
  Overhead, the Amphivena tied its heads together, wrapping itself around the ship, preparing
to crush the mighty hull.
   “While the Freedom fought,” Balloch spoke on, “the second ship, the Malden, was assaulted
by the Salt Spiders, the crawlers of the sea.”
  Hairless, web-legged fiends the color of the ocean began hurtling themselves on board the
ship. Lying flat, the salt spiders looked like malevolent doilies skimming the water’s surface;
jagged harpoons covered their thin legs, ready to launch at their enemies.

  “The Freedom and the Malden remained under heavy attack,” continued the retelling. “Two
were already dead on the Freedom, and one had been knocked overboard on the Malden, only
to be viciously murdered by the Salt Spiders.”
  On the ground, attention was given to the third boat, so the twins joined, assuming that the
Albion was next. The voice began again as the battle raged on overhead.
  “The Albion watched helplessly as their family ships were assaulted, and kept watch around
their own ship, waiting for what was inevitably to come.”
  The great ship Albion lunged upward with no warning, and from the sky, a crew member’s
voice echoed over the crashing waves. ‘We’re being hit from below! They’ll tear us to shreds.’
  “Surfacing under the Albion were the Slopikes,” explained Balloch, “whose jagged spikes
impaled the wooden ship. Their shells were indestructible, no spell could penetrate them.”
  The Slopikes were a slow but deadly force. The scene in the sky was chaos; three ships in great
peril. The Shrieker Birds dove between the ships, knocking people overboard, where they
would meet their doom, if not by the raging water itself, by the Amphivena, Salt Spiders, or the
  “Exhausted and losing faith that they could win, the ships resorted to their final energy
reserves: belts stocked with potions and stored magic. When all hope seemed lost, the raging
winds subsided. The storm dissolved, and was replaced by precious calm. Without the storm
absorbing their energy, the Gypsies were renewed.”
  The audience cheered.
  “With great effort and sacrifice, they began regaining control of their ships. Three men and
two women on board the Freedom attacked the Amphivena together, shooting a spell that
would cause any normal man to wither and die. The crushing beast released its grip on the ship
and faded into the depths of the ocean. The Freedom raced to the aid of the nearby Malden,
infested with Salt Spiders. Many people on board had been captured and rendered helpless,
having been bound in seaweed-like cocoons. With no known spell to repel the spiders, the
enemy began claiming the Freedom as well.”
  Balloch Flummer paused, beginning again in a lowered voice.
  “In our most dire moment, a young man fighting on the Freedom found himself backed into a
corner with nowhere to hide. The spider launched a harpoon at the young man, missing him,
but breaking open a barrel of fresh drinking water, washing away the salt water on the ship’s
deck. The spider recoiled, clearly in pain. Realizing instantly what this meant, the young man
ran through the ship shouting, ‘Fresh water! Use fresh water!’ Hope returned!”
  Balloch’s voice rang exuberantly as he continued.
  “Cries of Viridatas, the spell to turn salt water into fresh, were overheard by the nearby
Malden and they urgently began to do the same. Soon, they forced the Salt Spiders back into the
ocean, their webbed legs smoothly spinning their way across the calming waters. The cocoons
were cut down and the people freed.”
  Svoda shouted cheers at the sky.
  “One ship remained under attack,” the story teller reminded. “The Albion. The Shriekers,
seeing their allies fail, broke off their attack, soaring into the rising sun. No longer hearing the

birds call, the Slopikes ended their rampage on the Albion, and swam into the depths. The
damage to the Albion was severe. Half the ship remained under water.”
  The narrator took a break from speaking and the scene in the night sky changed to the
Freedom and the Malden racing to the aid the sinking Albion.
  “The Albion knew their beloved ship was lost. The Freedom and Malden approached,
lowering their boats to save the remaining passengers of the Albion, whose own boats had
already been released into the waters - boats which were nowhere to be found.”
  Balloch paused, before his lamentation continued.
  “The Albion sank, taking twenty souls down to the depths with her.”
  The audience went quiet, except for the sniffles of saddened Svoda. The narrator began again
and the scene above changed.
  “The two remaining ships searched in vain for the four boats released from the Albion. It was
believed they carried over sixty survivors. They found no sign that the boats had survived the
battle, and after the third day, the search was called off.”
  The storyteller’s voice broke up as he continued.
  “A mass funeral was held in respect for those lost during the battle. Four hundred and forty-
four remained alive, with over a hundred missing and presumed dead.”
  A long minute of silence took place then, as the Svoda paid their respects to their brave
ancestors. Then, the scene above morphed from gloomy darkness to brightly sunlit skies, and
the remaining ships sailed onward to their new home.
  “What do you think so far, Sis?” asked Colin, overwhelmed by the story.
  “I can’t believe we’re sitting outside under the sky, watching an action packed movie.” She
instantly sensed Colin’s anger rising. “Don’t worry, Col, I get the point. I just don’t understand
why they’d want to relive such a depressing story, year after year.”
  They tuned back in to the narrator.
  “The Freedom and the Malden arrived at their new home eight days later, battered and
beaten, but not broken. A few settlers, who had arrived months before, waited on shore,
alongside our Native American allies, the Tunkapog.”
  “Now you had to hear that!” exclaimed Colin, nearly out loud.
  “Tunkapog! Did he say Tunkapog? Kanda is a Tunkapog,” was all Meghan could manage to
send back.
  “The arrival was a sad day,” the story continued, “as the two arriving ships made port, and the
crew explained their nightmarish journey. The arriving settlers dauntingly moved into their
new homes. Homes built by those that had arrived before them, along with the aid of the
Tunkapog, who remain to this day, one of our greatest allies.”
  “Okay, this is too much!” said Meghan, accidentally aloud. She tried to shrink in her stone
chair, but glares and shushing ensued, including an extremely rotten look from Ivan Crane.
  After the crowd turned their attention back toward the skies, Colin sent her, “Good one, Sis.”
He added, “Does that mean Kanda knew the Svoda? Did she know we were from a magical
  Meghan did not reply.
  The story drew them back in.

  “By the end of the first day the ships were emptied. The Tunkapog set out to prepare a feast
for the weary travelers. Their knowledge of herbs and flowers not only tasted magnificent after
the mundane foods of the journey, but eased the settlers’ pain, too.”
  “Hm,” huffed Meghan. “No wonder I always felt so good after drinking Kanda’s tea.”
  Balloch continued.
  “The retelling will conclude tonight, with the same speech given by Nethaniel Bedgewood, at
the end of that first feast.”
  A new voice filled the night sky.
  ‘I am humbled to be amongst friends. We are forever in debt to our new neighbors, the
Tunkapog, for their help these many months in preparing our new home, and for tonight, this
needed and gracious feast. I am also delighted to learn that we were able to cure the Tunkapog
from the fatal disease brought here by bad magic.
  ‘To my fellow settlers, I have also made the decision that from this day forth, in memory of
our journey and those lost to us, that this day each year we will hold such a feast. It will be
called Thanksgiving, a day to remember and give thanks for what friends and blessings remain.’
  He toasted the entire group, which filled the massive beach. Cheers and cries returned the
  ‘If I could have your attention, one last time,’ Nethaniel then spoke. ‘I have made another
decision, one that affects us all. Now that we have a home, I feel it is only fitting that we also
have a name.’
   Full attention was on Nethaniel Bedgewood as he spoke, from the audience in the sky, and on
the ground below.
  ‘From this day forth, as a neverending reminder of the peace each and every one of us strive
for, we shall be known as the Svoda, the People of Light.’”
  The crowd in the scene roared, along with the crowd watching on the ground below. The
scene above began to fade and the sky once again became dark and starless, as a light snow
began to fall. The stone chairs moved back into normal sitting position, the pumpkin lanterns
were lit once again, and the crowd began to disperse.
  Ivan tilted his head toward Meghan.
  “Not what you expected was it?” he said snidely.
  “You talking to me?” she questioned.
  “I was simply noting the fact that you did not think this would be worth your time!” He got
up and left, leaving a speechless Meghan, for the second time that night.
  Colin and Jae swore they saw steam bursting from her ears, and after a tense minute, she
finally mustered out the words, “I hate that boy.”
  Sheila leaned her head on Irving’s shoulder as they walked home. He held her arm tightly in
one hand, and grasped his daughters in the other. Jae walked behind alongside the twins. Ivan
sauntered behind them, deep in thought.
  Meghan had the strange feeling he was watching her and wanted to turn around and throw
something at him.
  “Wasn’t that incredible?” exclaimed Jae.
  “That was pretty wild,” agreed Meghan.

  “Banon Blackwell stores up extra magic all year for that,” Jae added.
  Colin had questions he wanted to ask Jae, but Meghan cut him off.
  “This is not the place, Col, we better wait.”
  Before they reached the Mochrie house, Darcy Scraggs confronted the trio.
  “So, Mr. Jacoby, do you have what I asked for?”
  “No. I have nothing for you,” he stuttered back.
  “Well well well, going to be some trouble brewing, isn’t there?” She raised her hand as if she
were going to use a spell; the three gasped and ducked as Darcy shrieked with laughter and
scurried away.
  “Is it possible,” thundered Meghan, “to go just one day without having a problem around
  “What kind of problem?” It was Ivan, looking smug (so Meghan thought at least).
  “Just Darcy Scraggs, Ivan, been hassling us a lot lately,” explained Jae.
  “What about?” he asked.
  “Oh, no one thing, just our general ability to exist.”
  “Sounds like good ‘ole Darcy. Good luck with that!” He sauntered off, losing interest.
  “That was too close,” said Jae, relieved.
  “I agree,” chorused the twins. They hurried inside, where an odd scene was unraveling.
Irving, Sheila and Mireya knelt over the basement door, their ears glued to floor.
  “Is that knocking?” asked Jae.
  “Corny?” questioned Sheila.
  Irving bent over to open the door. The others stepped back, waiting as the door creaked open,
but nothing happened. They leaned in closer, when from the musty darkness below, a wrinkled
hand holding a tablet of paper pushed up through. Jae grabbed the paper and Corny’s hand
disappeared; they could hear the sandpaper shuffle as his glided across the basement floor.
  “I think this is for you, Colin,” said Jae, humorously. Colin grabbed it. The drawing was
identical to the others.
  “That’s four now,” counted Meghan. “You totally have a new best friend,” she joked.
  “Whatever,” he snapped back. Ivan’s eyes combed over the page from the top of the stair; he
took a fleeting glance at Colin and then disappeared into his room.
  “How strange,” said Sheila. “He does appear to have taken a liking to the boy.”
  “That’s good, for Corny,” replied Irving. They shielded their laughter, disappearing into the

  Later, upstairs, they waited impatiently for Mireya to fall asleep. Meghan had told Jae they
wanted to ask him about the retelling. Once she was soundly sleeping, Jae motioned for them
climb up to the loft. The twins eagerly followed. Jae opened the small door to the hidden crawl
space and they crawled inside. After two feet they entered a square room, which was tall
enough only to sit in.
  “We need to talk softly, but it’s safe,” he said, lighting a candle. Colin’s heart raced. He felt as
though he were passing along dark secrets to a spy, and as he thought that, he realized it was
somewhat true.

  “I’ve never figured out what this room was built for,” said Jae, “But it sure is handy tonight.”
  Colin’s curiosity got the better of him and he assaulted Jae with questions about the retelling.
  “That was an unbelievable story, Jae. Do those enemies still exist? Have you ever seen them? I
can’t believe there are scarier things out there than Scratchers.”
  “I can’t say for sure that they do,” answered Jae. “But our real enemy does; the one who
actually ordered those creatures to take down our ships.”
  “Who is that?” asked Colin, not sure he wanted to know.
  “The Grosvenor,” replied Jae. “Immortal beings,” he added in a low whisper.
  “That sort of thing exists?” muttered Colin.
  “Unfortunately. Do you remember when I told you, back in Cobbscott, that magic was nearly
wiped out a long time ago? The Grosvenor are responsible for the battle that caused that. They
even killed off their own kind, it didn’t matter to them.”
  “Their own kind?” questioned Meghan.
  “Vetala. Otherwise known as Vampyres. Not Vampyres in the sense of what your world
thinks of them, as they do not suck blood. What they do is just as monstrous though. They can
suck the life force out of any living thing,” Jae told them.
  “And the Grosvenor still hunt you?” asked Colin.
  “Yes, and if they get the opportunity, they will destroy all magic but their own.”
  “You mean they want to take over the world kind-a-thing,” Meghan confirmed.
  “On the bright side, though, even in all the years since that battle, they have not succeeded.”
  The twins exhaled in unison. They were now included on the list of magical things to destroy.
They saw no bright side.
  “Do they send the Scratchers after you?” Colin asked after a minute.
  “It’s likely. I think the Viancourt believes that the person you heard speaking to the
Scratchers, at the pine tree back home…”
   “The one you called the Scratchman,” interrupted Colin.
  “Yes. It is possible that what you saw could have been one of the Grosvenor, which is a
terrifying thought to consider, that one of them could have been so close.”
  Meghan did not want to think about terrifying any longer and decided it was time to discuss
the Tunkapog.
  “Did you know that Camp Agunkpot is owned and run by someone from the Tunkapog
Tribe?” she asked.
  “Yes,” answered Jae slowly. “That’s right. I don’t know why it never dawned on me before
now. You’re good friends with the owner of the campground, Kanda Macawi,” he remembered.
  “She is our longest friend,” said Meghan. “Our Uncle Arnon knew her long before we were
even born.”
  “I guess nothing should surprise me about you two anymore,” Jae noted.
  They sat for a moment trying to figure out what it meant. But again, there were no answers.
After awhile, Colin got a chill and they decided it was time for bed.
  “This new world we are stuck in sure keeps getting stranger and stranger,” sent Colin. “I wish
we could talk to Uncle Arnon. I have so many questions I want to ask him.”

  “Yeah, well that ain’t gonna happen,” she shot back more harshly than she’d meant to. They
were both tired of having no answers to their ever-growing pile of questions.
  The trio crawled out of the tiny room and disappeared behind their curtains.
  Two dreadful things happened during the night:
  First, Meghan had a nightmare that was identical to her vision of Jae, and once again, her new
ability forced her to watch her friend being tortured. She awoke, petrified. Jae had been happier
lately. Why would this nightmare return? A sense of helplessness settled like a veil over her
  Second, much to the dismay of Colin, he was abruptly awakened in the night by a foul smell,
and opened his eyes to see the face of Corny Tibbit bulging down at him. He handed him two
more sheets of paper, covered in the same scribbling as before, and then shuffled away.
  Jae was the only other in the room to witness the occurrence.
  “Weird! Wicked weird,” Jae said, locking the bedroom door.
  The smell of sour breath and the sight of rotted teeth sifted through Colin’s restless mind.
  Meghan, once again in a deep slumber, found her dreams invaded.
  “My dreams may be dangerous,” she silently yelled at him, “But yours are just gross!”


  An unexpected knock at the door interrupted breakfast. Ivan, who was racing down the stairs,
shouted, “I’ll get it.” Shortly after, he walked into the kitchen holding two letters in his hand.
  “Pantin Hollee delivered these.” He kept one and half-heartedly handed the other to Meghan.
Irving glanced at the letter in Ivan’s hand.
  “Is that what I think it is? Hard work does pay off!” Irving said, as if a point he had made a
thousand times, was now proven true.
  “What is it?” asked Colin eagerly. Meghan opened hers. Inside was a letter written expressly
to her.

To Meghan Jacoby,

You are cordially invited to the annual Up and Comer’s Christmas Dinner, as the invited guest
of Banon Juliska Nandalia Blackwell.

Formal attire required,
7pm on December the Twenty-First.
                                            Congratulations on this honor, Pantin, Hollee Troast

  “Such an honor,” breathed Sheila, dreamily. “Only youngsters Banon Blackwell feels are truly
worthy are asked to attend each year,” she added.
  Ivan’s letter read the same. Colin wanted to be happy for Meghan, but hadn’t both he and Jae
done better than she had on the school exams?
  Jae watched his father gloat over Ivan, who, if Meghan was being completely honest,
appeared to be humbly embarrassed.
   Sheila snatched Meghan’s letter, gazing longingly at it, reminiscing.
  “These dinners used to be grand balls when we lived on the island. They have been put on for
years, long before Banon Blackwell became our leader. How I dreamed of getting a knock at the
door delivering my invitation, but it never came.”
  She sighed, longingly, caressing Meghan’s letter. After a minute, Irving “hm hm’d” Sheila,
dragging her back into reality. She handed the letter back to Meghan.
  “Yours does not surprise me in the least, Ivan,” said Irving proudly. “I’ve never seen anyone
work so hard.”
   “Thank you, sir,” replied Ivan.
   Irving looked at Meghan questioningly but said nothing.
  “Oh, I forgot!” burst out Sheila. “I received your exam grades last night. They’ve been sitting
on the kitchen table all this time!”
   Irving shook his head at his forgetful wife.
  “You three all passed!” she went on. Mireya already knew she had not, and sat with a far off
look in her eye, dreaming of receiving her own invitation. Irving pinched his daughter’s chin.
   “If you work hard enough, you could get your own letter in a few years.”
   She giggled in reply.
  “At least I’ll have something to go on about at the bank for a change,” Colin overheard him
tell Sheila. “I can hear the jealousy now! Two letters in the same house! Has that ever happened
before?” he asked the air.
   “Getting to meet Banon Blackwell in person is a great honor,” said Ivan, in his usual dry tone.
  “I’ve already met her, in person,” Meghan retorted back without thinking. The rest of the
room went silent. Meghan realized too late what she had done.
   “When?” asked Sheila.
  To Colin’s knowledge, Juliska had visited her only once at the hospital. Meghan lied, or,
decided not to tell the whole truth, as she saw it.
  “Banon Blackwell came to visit me when I was brought to the hospital; the day I found out I
was a Firemancer. She offered me some advice.”
  “Well of course she would have,” realized Sheila, looking pleased. “Banon Blackwell herself is
a Firemancer.”
   Ivan glanced untrustingly at Meghan, as if she were not telling the truth.
  Colin looked at her the same way; he knew when his sister was lying as he had heard her do it
a thousand times before.
  She is hiding something from me, still, even after what Uncle Eddy said, he thought, blocking
it from her.

  The party broke up. Irving departed for work, Ivan followed soon after, and Jae slid into his
cubbyhole of a room. The twins followed into the bedroom. Colin was not sure how Jae was
feeling, but he was pissed!
  As Meghan entered the bedroom, she caught a glimpse of the wall behind Colin’s bed, now
almost completely covered by Corny’s artwork.
  “I don’t think you should go!” Colin spat out before she could speak.
  “Why on earth not?” she asked.
  “I just…” he stalled, finally saying, “don’t think you should go.”
  “You’re jealous!” she guessed, thinking how pathetic.
  “Am not,” he shot back. “I seriously think there’s something wrong with Juliska. I don’t trust
her. Sorry, Jae, I know you all look up to her.”
  “You don’t trust Juliska Blackwell?” Jae questioned, popping from behind his curtain. “Her
judgment is a little strange I guess, but the invitations are hardly ever fair. Someone inevitably
gets invited who doesn’t deserve it.” This statement, although made out of matter-of-factness by
Jae, threw Meghan over the edge.
  “So you both think I don’t deserve this?” she demanded, shaking her invitation.
  Colin tried to explain better.
  “It’s not a matter of deserving, Meghan. It’s that I don’t think she likes me.” It did not come
out right.
  “That makes no sense, Colin.”
  “You know what, forget it. I don’t want to argue,” he said, already sorry he had brought it up.
  “You started it… little bro,” she said abrasively.
  That was it. Colin exploded.
  “I hate it when you do that!” he thundered so forcefully that the walls shook.
  “Everything okay up there?” Sheila Mochrie’s voice rang up the stairs.
  “Fine Mom,” answered Jae, looking apprehensively at Colin. Mireya came running into the
room as Colin stormed off. He decided he needed to visit Uncle Eddy. Meghan sighed, and
chased after him.
  “Wait up, Colin,” she pleaded. “You should give Juliska a chance,” she insisted.
  “I’m not listening,” was all he replied, which infuriated her even more.
  “I was trying to be nice,” she yelled after him, folding her arms, looking as stubborn as ever.
Jae darted past Meghan, catching up with Colin, handing him a coat.
  “Girls,” he said jokingly.
  Colin was not ready to laugh it off yet.
  “I don’t have a choice in sisters, but sometimes...” he shook his head. “She gets me SO MAD.
And what’s worse, I fall for it every time.”
  “Why did she call you little brother?” Jae asked. “Aren’t you guy’s twins?”
  “She knows it’ll make me mad,” he answered, “And I am the older brother. I was born FIRST,”
he yelled as if she could still hear him.
  Colin thought about what his uncle would say if he showed up without his sister, and told
him they were fighting again; he would be more than disappointed. “I can’t believe Juliska
didn’t invite you, Jae, after everything you’ve been through.”

  “Yeah, but I also got into trouble. She would never get away with inviting me after demoting
me in class.”
  “I guess, but Meghan. Let’s be honest, she sucked.”
  “The Banon has taken quite the liking to her, it’s really not that bad, Colin. Maybe, just let her
have this,” he said, attempting to be the voice of reason.
  “I don’t have a choice, do I?” he shrugged. Colin decided to hold off visiting his uncle, and
instead they went to The Waterhouse, a small café in the village. “Looks a bit like snow,” he
  “It does,” agreed Jae. “Would be nice for Christmas.”
  “I wish I could see my Uncle Arnon,” professed Colin.
  “You must miss him a lot, huh.”
  “Yeah, but, you guys miss people all the time. How do you do it?” They entered the The
Waterhouse and found a seat near the window.
  “Personally, I don’t remember living any other way,” Jae said. “It is hard though, for those
that do remember.”
  Snow started falling. Colin noticed Ivan walking into a pub across the street called The Steel
Gin, and impulsively burst out laughing.
  “What is it?” asked Jae, wondering if Colin had suddenly gone mad.
  “My sister’s face, when she realizes she is going to the Up and Comer’s Dinner with one Mr.
Ivan Crane!”
  Torrents of laughter replaced his bitter feelings.
  Later, as they walked home, Colin decided he had been stupid to get upset with Meghan; after
all, a fancy affair was right up her ally.
  Moreover, with everything that had gone wrong, or could go wrong at any moment (like
another run in with Darcy demanding the Magicante), he decided to let her have the dinner
and apologize. He just hoped his gut feeling was wrong when it came to Juliska Blackwell.
  When they reached the Mochrie home, Meghan, Mireya and her mother were out shopping,
Irving was at work, and neither of them could tell if Ivan was home yet or not. Colin did not
recall seeing him leave The Steel Gin.
  “I think I’ll start some dinner, wanna help?” asked Jae.
  “Why not,” he said. “It can be our own little feast, to congratulate Meghan and Ivan,” they
laughed, “on their trip together, to the Up and Comer’s Dinner.”
  They headed into the kitchen and to Colin’s displeasure, sitting on the table was another
scribbled page from Corny.
  “Seven,” counted Jae.
  “They don’t make any sense. Look at this,” said Colin. The page was covered in black ink, with
what looked like letters, but in no logical order.
  “His mind is pretty screwed up,” said Jae. “Poor guy, probably trying to tell you he likes you
or something.” Colin set it aside.
  By the time they were finished cooking, the table was overloaded with food, and just in time.
All at once everyone began arriving home. Jae and Colin heard Sheila in the hallway.

  “So late, better get dinner ready,” she buzzed. When she came into the kitchen, she screamed
in delight and astonishment.
  Mireya lunged into the kitchen.
  “What’s wrong?” She saw the prepared table and giggled.
  “What a treat!” exclaimed Sheila. She kissed Jae on the head and patted Colin on the shoulder.
“I have such blessings,” she said. “This looks lovely, boys.”
  They also discovered that Ivan had beaten them home and had been upstairs the entire time.
Colin wondered how he could be so quiet. They hadn’t heard him moving at all.
  Meghan sat opposite Colin but refused to look at him. Mr. Mochrie walked in moments later
and joined the table. Jae and Colin gave a shared toast, congratulating Meghan and Ivan.
Meghan cheered up a little after realizing that the dinner was her brother’s way of saying he
was sorry. Near the end of the meal, Irving Mochrie cleared his throat and congratulated the
twins and Jae, on passing their school exams.
  “I should have mentioned it this morning, but in the chaos of the invitations, I did not. I
apologize. It is important to understand that passing is something to be extremely proud of.”
Irving glanced at Sheila.
  Colin had a sneaking suspicion she had told him to do it. Regardless, Colin was glad to see Jae
looking happier.
  “Oh, by the way,” said Ivan. “Another message arrived this afternoon.”
  “Busy day. What about, Ivan?” asked Irving.
  “Apparently, on the evening of the dinner, Banon Blackwell is sending a carriage to fetch
Meghan, and, uh… myself,” he said with sour hesitation.
  “A ride to boot, you’re just moving on up, you two,” admired Sheila.
  Colin couldn’t get jealous at this news; the look on his sister’s face, as the reality set in, made
up for all her anger towards him that day.
 I am going with Ivan Crane! I will have to ride all the way to Juliska’s with Ivan Crane.
Meghan turned stone cold. Then, she caught a hint in her mind of Colin laughing.
 “I’m never talking to you again!” she exploded, abruptly leaving the table, running upstairs.
The first one to speak, to everyone’s surprise, was Ivan.
 “She’s hard to understand, your sister,” he said to Colin.
 “Yes, she is,” Colin agreed, inwardly laughing about the irony of Ivan’s statement.

  Colin went to Grimble the next day. Safe or not, he needed to talk to Uncle Eddy. He
explained the Up and Comer’s Dinner, and ranted about how unfair it was for Meghan to be
invited, and how he was sure Juliska couldn’t be trusted. After finishing, Colin took a deep
breath, as he had spoken without taking one.
  “That was a mouthful,” said Uncle Eddy. “What’s really upsetting you, Colin? I’m sure it’s not
the dinner party.”
  “No, it’s not the dinner party,” he admitted shyly. “I wish Meghan would listen to me. I can’t
put my finger on exactly what it is, Uncle Eddy, I just don’t trust Juliska Blackwell. I have seen
her with Meghan, treating her all nice and special. Meghan always falls for that kind of thing.
Juliska looks at me though, as if I am some kind of annoyance.

  “And… When is it my turn?” his rant continued. “She always gets everything! I’m older and
smarter than her, only a few minutes, but older. She always calls me her little brother,” he
mocked. “And look at me! I am little! My little sister is taller than I am.”
  “I see,” said his uncle. Colin felt relief for finally saying what he had been thinking. At the
same time feeling humiliated for admitting it.
  “Come, sit, Colin,” motioned his uncle.
  Colin obliged.
  “Don’t ever,” commanded Eddy, “let anyone, including your sister, make you believe that you
are any less of a person because you might be smaller than them! Let me ask you something,
Colin. How do you feel after you use magic?”
  “Great,” he answered truthfully. “Powerful, like I could do anything.”
  “What’s stopping you from feeling that way all the time?”
  His uncle had a point, but still…
  “I can’t do magic all the time, Uncle Eddy.”
  “It’s not the magic that makes you powerful, Colin, it’s here,” he pointed to his head. “And it’s
here,” he pointed at his heart. “Back in Cobbscott, when you used magic to protect your friends
and sister, that was your head and your heart, Colin; courageous, unafraid, and quick thinking.
Be that person.”
  Colin mulled it over. Even with magic on his side, he was not sure he could portray that kind
of confidence all of the time. When Colin was ready to depart, he noticed Timothy was missing.
  “Ah, yes. Timothy. Haven’t seen him in a few days. Not too worried though, he always shows
up after awhile,” Uncle Eddy said light-heartedly.
  Colin decided not to worry, but found the walk home was lonelier than he had expected.

  The day of the Up and Comer’s Dinner arrived. Meghan and Colin had not spoken since the
big explosion over a week prior. Colin decided he would try that afternoon, before she left for
the dinner, hoping she would be in a good mood. The words just would not come out when he
  He, along with Jae, did all they could to resist making fun of her sour face as the carriage
arrived, and Ivan offered, begrudgingly, to help her in. As they watched the carriage pull away,
Colin bundled up and told Jae he was going for a walk. He was not jealous, but an ominous
feeling nagged at the back of his mind. It did not help that his sleep the previous night had been
disrupted, as he had been accosted again by Corny, delivering two more pages of the same
nonsensical scribbling.
  Colin wandered in no particular direction, and before long he stood on the wharf, allowing
the restless ocean to spray his face. It was brutally cold, but the smell of the ocean reminded
him of home. He wondered about Uncle Arnon, Kanda Macawi, and the Jendayas.
  Summer was long over and Sebastien’s school year was half over. What were they all doing
right at that moment? Was Uncle Arnon still alive? What did Kanda know about the Svoda?
Had she known that the twins and Uncle Arnon were descended from a magical bloodline?
These questions remained unanswered as he let the frigid spray of the ocean bite his face;
somehow it prevented his thoughts from overwhelming him.

  As the carriage pulled away, Meghan stuck her head out of the window and waved; she
noticed Colin walking toward the wharf and muttered, “Jealous.”
  “What?” asked Ivan, from inside the carriage.
  “Nothing,” she replied, bringing her head back inside. It was surprisingly warm. A small
fireplace stood in the center of the carriage. Smoke billowed through the top.
  Meghan and Ivan sat in awkward silence listening to the clip clop of the horse’s feet against
the slushy cobblestone. Nona curled up in Meghan’s warmed lap. Finally, Meghan decided she
would not have her evening start off badly and attempted to make conversation with Ivan.
  “So, Ivan,” said Meghan, catching him off guard. “What exactly do you do here? What’s your
  “I do my share,” he answered.
  “Right,” she said sarcastically.
  “You asked,” he replied hotly.
  “So you’re insinuating that I don’t?”
  “I’m not insinuating anything. You are not from our world. It’s possible you may belong here
now, but you have a lot to learn, Meghan Jacoby.”
  “I see. I’m not good enough for your world, is what you mean to say?”
  “As far as I see it, you don’t fit in here. Those who don’t fit in don’t make it!”
  “I’m trying my best!” she argued. “I can’t help it if I look out of place.”
  “See, that’s it right there. You thought I was talking about your… clothes. The problem is,
Meghan Jacoby, that you don’t take notice of what’s going on around you. If you can’t smarten
up, then…” he did not finish and looked out of the window.
  “Then what?” she launched back, completely insulted. “You don’t know me, Ivan Crane. You
spend all your time hiding! Do you even comprehend what it means to be nice?”
  It was the last straw for Ivan. He poked his head outside the carriage and asked the driver to
  “I will save you the trouble of having to arrive with me,” he said crossly, jumping out.
  “Is this your game, Ivan? Go from hardly speaking to me, directly to saying I am a stupid girl
without a care in the world? Drama boy,” she said half-jokingly, not believing he would choose
to walk in the bitter wind.
  Meghan wished she had stuck with her original plan and kept quiet. The snow was falling
harder, there was at least four inches already layering the ground. She asked the driver to stop,
sucked in deeply, and then climbed out.
  “Ivan, come back inside, it’s freezing out here.”
  The snow swirled around their heads. Ivan took an impatient breath and then hopped back in
the carriage. This time he allowed Meghan to get in on her own. As the carriage ride continued,
they warmed up nicely thanks to the toasty fire. Ivan leaned around the fire and held out his
hand, as if to shake Meghan’s.
  “Truce. For tonight at least, let’s agree to disagree.” His eyes shouted displeasure at the
arrangement but she leaned to shake his hand.
  An ember popped in the stove.

   Meghan was no longer in the wagon. A vision took over.
  It was dark and cold but she still wore her dinner gown. She got on her hands and knees
feeling carefully until she came to an edge. She crawled around the edge as a dim light appeared
over her.
   “Oh no, not now,” she uttered in disbelief.
  As in her vision each time before, a second pillar just out of reach appeared in the darkness,
imprisoning Jae’s beaten body. She closed her eyes, wrapping her arms around her legs and
rocked back and forth, crying.
   Something changed. An echo of a voice, distant, calling her name.
  “Ivan,” she sobbed. “Get me out of here! I can’t watch this again.” She witnessed the
loathsome being, drowning Jae in its shadow, and tried to remain calm.
  “What would Juliska do?” she asked. Meghan went over what had happened before she
appeared on the pillar. “I was shaking Ivan’s hand and something happened in the fire.”
   In the background from the second pillar, Jae’s voice pleaded with Meghan.
  “Please, make it stop. You can help me.” His voice made her believe she was close to figuring
it out.
   One fact dawned on Meghan, as each of the previous nightmares came into memory.
   “Ivan. I had run into Ivan each time.”
  She stood up, but was no longer Meghan. Ivan took her place on the pillar. She realized it was
not her own nightmare, but Ivan’s. Which meant, “He must know what’s wrong with Jae!” she
  Meghan was back in the carriage, lying on the floor. Ivan clutched her drained body, gently
putting her back in the seat. “I’m sorry,” he kept repeating, arrogance and condemnation gone
from his voice.
   “Why do you keep saying that?” she moaned.
   “I know what you saw,” he confided hesitantly.
  “I was right,” she exclaimed. “I got it right! It’s your nightmare I’ve been seeing, not my own.”
She stopped, “Wait. How did you know?”
  “The night I found you on the floor in the bath room, I heard you talking. I’ve had the dream
so many times…” his pained voice trailed off.
  Meghan was not sure how to feel. She had no idea that her gift would allow her to see the
deepest dreams and nightmares of other people. She squirmed, realizing that the reserved and
proud Ivan must be sorely wounded; but her desire to help Jae was stronger. Meghan, gathering
confidence, moved across the carriage and sat next to Ivan.
   “What’s happening to him?” she asked bravely.
  “I don’t have any answers for you,” he replied coldly, his nostrils flaring in conflicted anger.
He vaulted out of the carriage, which had come to a stop. They had arrived at their destination.
   “Ivan, wait, please,” she begged, trudging through the falling snow, with Nona at her heels.
  “Forget about what you saw, Meghan. I’m sorry you had to see it. But you can’t help!” Ivan
marched inside putting on his dry smile, pretending nothing had happened.

  Meghan had left her coat in the carriage, which had already driven away. She made her way
inside, wet, exhausted and shivering. This was not the entrance she had pictured herself
  Juliska greeted her guests at the door. Meghan waited in the shadows getting colder and
wetter, finally sneaking through the door after the last guest had entered. Juliska took one look
at her and whispered to her Pantin, “Take her to my room.” Pantin Hollee scurried Meghan up
a flight of stone stairs, down a long corridor and into a warm room. She dabbed a towel over her
wet hair.
  Her head hurt.
  Had she gone too far with Ivan?
  Had she not gone far enough? I should’ve forced it out of him…
  A door at the back of the room opened and in swept the elegantly dressed Juliska Blackwell;
she wore a long sleeved slimming gown in black.
  “I made my excuses and got away for a minute. Now tell me, what is this all about?”
  Meghan closed her eyes and tried to explain.
  “I discovered some information about a vision I’ve been having.”
  “Not good, I take it?” Juliska gathered from Meghan’s voice.
  “Have you been able to figure out what it means?”
  “No. I did put it together that it belonged to Iv… this guy.” She decided not to reveal her
  “It would appear you have a good start on the problem then,” she said, looking pleased. “Take
a minute and get yourself together, Meghan. Pantin Hollee will help you with whatever you
need. Remember, an honored seer understands she must always keep it together. Looking crazy
in public leads to, well, looking crazy in public,” she laughed lightheartedly. “As you must learn
to see, you must also learn to live with seeing.”
  Meghan sighed.
  “You always make so much sense. I wish…” she did not dare speak the words she felt.
  “Wish what?” Juliska asked. Her voice held the slightest tone of eagerness.
  “I wish someday I could make as much sense, to myself.”
  Juliska nodded and returned to her guests. Meghan let her thoughts stray to what she had not
dared to say… I wish I could live here with you. When I’m here I feel like I’m at home.
  The Pantin helped Meghan get cleaned up. Once ready, she led her to a back entrance, which
Juliska often used when entertaining. As she entered, all eyes focused intently on Meghan, as
Banon Blackwell welcomed her to the dinner from her own private entrance.
  Meghan smiled at the crowd, feeling envious eyes scrolling over her. Including Darcy Scraggs,
who to Meghan’s dismay was also in attendance. She searched for a familiar face other than
Darcy’s, but Ivan was the only other face she knew, and she highly doubted he wanted to see
her. In fact, he avoided her the entire evening.
  It did not matter however, as appearing to be Juliska’s guest of honor Meghan had no problem
meeting all of the twenty guests in attendance; which consisted mostly of older students she
had never met. They, of course, knew who she was, as the new kid in town.

  Meghan ignored Darcy’s icy stares and purposely paraded next to Juliska. As the evening wore
on, Meghan had nearly forgotten the incident in the carriage and was having the best time of
her life. After dinner, nearing the end of the evening, Pantin Hollee clanged her glass, gathering
the guests’ attention.
  “Banon Blackwell has an exciting announcement,” said Hollee with eager eyes. The small
crowd hushed, waiting with mounting anticipation.
  Finally, the Banon spoke.
  “It is time,” she paused dramatically, “for an Initiation.” These were words they had all hoped
to hear. The graduated students waited anxiously, each hoping they had been deemed worthy to
join the Svoda, as a fully-fledged and initiated member.
  “Ivan Crane! Please step forward.”
  The crowd was stunned. His name was not what the group expected to hear. Other than
Meghan and Darcy, he was the youngest in attendance.
  Ivan stepped forward and knelt before the Banon, with a look of overwhelmed awe on his
  “Your Initiation will begin after the transfer to our next world. Congratulations, Mr. Crane.
You have proven yourself a loyal servant to the Svoda.”
  “I am truly honored, Banon Blackwell, and I pledge my life to the Svoda,” Ivan replied
humbly. The small crowd clapped and crowded Ivan, congratulating him on his Initiation
announcement. Meghan stayed back, feeling confident he did not want her congratulations.
  Soon, the evening was ending and guests began to depart. Meghan started to feel ill. Her head
grew dizzy as she waited in line to say her farewells to Juliska. A few spots behind her in line
stood the ever-observant Ivan Crane, who noticed Meghan start to sway. He swooped in,
putting his arm around her waist.
  “There you are,” he said. “I was looking for you.” Ivan steadied her smugly. She wanted to
push him away, but realized she might fall over if he let go.
  “Ah, our newest Initiate, Mr. Crane,” said Juliska, her eyes brightening. “It’s been a pleasure to
have you.” She brushed a concerned hand against Meghan’s face, which was growing paler by
the second. “I trust you will get Ms. Jacoby home safely, and quickly,” she added, realizing
Meghan’s current condition was not suited for public exposure.
  “Yes, of course, Banon Blackwell. Right away,” he promised. “Also, thank you on behalf of
myself, and Ms. Jacoby, for your hospitality this evening.”
  He led the dizzy Meghan out the door, overhearing Juliska whisper, “Don’t be a stranger now,
  “You’ve become quite the little chum to Banon Blackwell, haven’t you?” he interrogated,
while assisting her into the carriage.
  “Are you making fun, Ivan? ‘Cause honestly, I’m not in the mood.”
  “In all honesty,” he said, “You look ill.”
  “Thanks,” Meghan responded sardonically, adding, “My head is spinning.”
  The carriage took off with a start. Nona jumped onto her lap meowing raucously.

  “What is it?” Meghan asked. Nona, somehow, slowed her dizziness, bringing a clearer picture
into her head. “Something’s wrong,” understood Meghan. “Colin!” she gasped. She had been
blocking him all night, but he had been trying to reach her.
  “I can’t feel him anymore, he’s…” She put her hands over her mouth, not daring to say what
she truly felt.
  Colin had always been in her mind; even when they blocked each other, the essence of the
other was always there.
  “Do you know where he is?” asked Ivan, not questioning how she knew he was in trouble.
  “When I saw him last he was walking toward the wharf.”
  Ivan dove into action, jumping out of the carriage, which was moving at a snails pace through
the falling snow. Meghan and Nona were at his heels. They tried to run but the heavy snow
impeded their progress. Meghan’s feet froze in no time; her dress shoes were no match for the
  As they neared the Mochrie house, Ivan veered off, grasping Meghan’s hand, forcing her to
come with him. Once inside he threw a pair of oversized boots and coat at her, while explaining
to the bewildered Mochrie family what was happening. They immediately dressed and minutes
later all raced frantically for the wharf.
  Meghan called out to Colin but he did not answer. They ran to every shadow that could have
been her brother, but the forms were either frozen drift wood or jutting rocks. Then a petrified
thought struck her.
  What if he isn’t here? The truth was that Colin could be anywhere. He might even have
wandered into Grimble. How would she ever find him? The bitter winds wailed with blinding
snow, making it near impossible to see.
  “Please answer me, Colin?” she begged. “I’m sorry, I’m not mad anymore! Please tell me
where you are.” The emptiness inside her flourished, and tears froze to her plump cheeks.
  “Are you sure he’s here?” asked Mireya. “How do you know he’s hurt?”
  “Because, he’s my brother,” was all she could think of to say. “And no, I’m not positive he’s
here, it’s the last place I saw him.”
  “He said he was going for a walk,” stammered Jae. “I’m sorry. I should have realized
something was wrong when he didn’t come back earlier.”
  “You couldn’t have known, Jae. Let’s just find him,” she said with growing desperation.
  Meghan and Jae both thought briefly on the demand they had not met: turning over the
Magicante to Darcy Scraggs.
  “I think we should sound the alarm,” said Irving. “We need more help.”
  Ivan sped off to heed Irving’s wishes.
  “We will have the entire village searching if we have to,” insisted Irving. “Don’t worry! We
will find him.”
  In the distance, over the raging blizzard, a bell clanged loudly. Lights popped on and the
Svoda village came to life. Ivan returned, and he was not alone. Two Balaton followed. Meghan
was glad that Ivan had already explained.

  “This snow is falling harder with each passing minute,” one of them said. “We need to hurry!”
  “We’ll check outside the wagons, too,” said the other. With a pop, they vanished.
  The group then left the wharf, feeling confident they had searched every inch of it. Meghan
was glad Ivan had forced her to wear boots; she couldn’t imagine what condition her feet would
be in if she hadn’t. She walked onward, recalling that Colin had not been dressed for this
weather either. The thought of him lying somewhere, buried, almost knocked her over.
  The group called out his name, but not once did they get a reply. Irving and Sheila forced the
group to stay together so no one would get lost; between their numbers and the blinding snow,
progress was agonizingly slow. Thirty minutes later a Balaton materialized.
  “Nothing yet, but anyone capable is searching. Banon Blackwell has been informed of what’s
happening and sent her personal Balaton to help.” A second later, he vanished. The group
trudged onward, making their way to the center of the village, hearing voices of other Svoda
calling out for Colin.
  The emptiness in Meghan’s mind was growing.
  “How could I let this happen?” she muttered.
  Only Ivan heard her.
  “What do you mean? You didn’t cause this,” he replied, through the blustering snow.
  “You don’t understand, Ivan. He’s my brother. My responsibility. My uncle would never
forgive me if I let anything happen to him.”
  “You cannot control what you cannot see,” Ivan told her. She was about to reply, when a faint
voice entered her head.
  “Colin! Where are you?” she yelled frantically over the storm. The group listened anxiously.
“He’s alive,” she yelled, “I can hear him.” Meghan remained cautiously still, sensing where he
was. The connection was weak. She slowly walked in the direction that felt the strongest,
leading them to a snow covered pathway behind The Steel Gin.
  She walked as fast as she dared, hoping not to lose his presence in her mind, when she
stumbled. There, below her feet and covered in snow, lay the blue and unconscious body of her
brother. The sight of him stunned her and she couldn’t speak.
  Irving, without hesitation, clutched Colin’s lifeless body, noticing his eyes frozen open in fear.
  “Balaton,” he yelled forcefully. Two appeared, one of whom immediately grasped Colin and
disappeared. Irving turned to the gathering crowd with a furious glare.
  “Magic has been used against that boy!” he declared. The gathering crowd stood in paralyzed
disbelief. This had never happened before.
  The connection with her brother failed and Meghan grew dizzy, slumping toward the ground.
She was caught before her head collided with a protruding tree stump.
  It was Ivan Crane who lifted her off the snow-covered ground.
  “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
  She gazed at him then, trying to remain conscious.
  “I don’t understand,” she murmured, grabbing his coat for balance. She then lost
consciousness and was whisked away as deftly as her brother. The Mochrie family, bewildered
and exhausted, rushed to the hospital and awaited news of the twins.


  Meghan awoke briefly. A nurse gave her something to make her sleep. Her last conscious
memory was that of her feet burning, the results of warming up too quickly.
  Her dreams were vivid and strange. One second she was in Ivan’s nightmare, except that Jae’s
broken body was joined by Juliska, Ivan, and the Mochries, all pointing and laughing
malevolently at her.
  Then, the next second, the pillar dissolved and the darkness turned to bright light. Meghan
found herself sitting on a rose petal watching a woman sleeping soundly on a floating feather.
  This merged into another dream, in which Ivan chased Meghan through the woods. She fell
and he gently picked her up off the ground, whispering he was sorry. Meghan did not think he
looked sorry though. Conflicted better described it.
  His face leaned into hers, his cold breath hitting her face as he searched her eyes for some
hidden truth.
  “Oh God! Is he going to kiss me?” She cringed away.
  He dropped her, his eyes turning furious. Ivan fell to the ground, yelling incoherently,
punching his fists into the dirt.
  “What you are does not change anything!” he shouted, as if regaining control of his conflict.
His eyes scathingly jerked from the ground to Meghan. He edged closer to her, like an animal
stalking its prey.
  “I will sacrifice anything that gets in my way!” he told her, pulling out a knife. Meghan
screamed, inching backwards across the ground. He pinned her easily, raising the knife over his
head, ready to plunge it into her body.
  Then, he was gone. She was sitting in a dreamy memory of the old mill in Grimble, with her
  “Colin!” she yelled, hugging him fiercely.
  “I was hoping I could find you,” he said. “It’s harder than I thought to track someone through
their dreams, though.”
  “You could not have found me at a better moment, Col. That last one was a doozy.”
  “What was all that about, anyway,” he asked, having caught a glimpse of Ivan with the knife.
  “Ah. Who knows! Stupid Ivan,” she blew it off, hesitantly adding, “I’m so sorry, Colin. What
  “Don’t be sorry, Sis. You found me, didn’t you?”
  “Yes, but none of this would’ve happened if I’d done what Uncle Eddy said, and kept the
connection open.”
  “True,” he replied. “But I have more important things to tell you, because I may not wake up
for awhile.”
  “I’m listening,” she said.
  “I was ambushed.”

   “By whom?”
   “Never saw anything but a shadow sneak up on me. But Meghan, they stole the Magicante.”
   “It’s gone,” he said.
   “What do we do, Colin?”
  “You mean what can you do? I don’t think I’m going to wake up any time soon, and I’m pretty
sure Uncle Eddy’s not going to be happy when he hears it’s gone.”
  “I wish he would tell us what is so important about that book. I mean, it’s magical and all, but
what’s in it that he doesn’t want any one else to see?”
  “I think that’s for you to find out, Sis. Just promise me you’ll be careful, whatever you decide.
Don’t go and do anything rash,” he begged, his voice growing more distant.
  “Colin, don’t go, let me stay,” she pleaded. But he was gone. Meghan bolted upright, inhaling
air deeply. The Mochrie household stood over her, anxiously, in the hospital room. The sunlight
told her it was morning.
   “Have some water,” said Sheila putting the cup to her lips.
   “My brother, how is he?”
  “I am afraid Colin is in a coma,” answered Irving honestly. “We are so sorry, Meghan. It
appears someone used some sort of spell against him. Doctor Stamm is working hard to sort it
out. Don’t worry, he will.”
  There was only one thing Meghan could do. As soon as possible, she would go to Uncle Eddy
and tell him what happened. Unfortunately, the visit would have to wait, as the doctor
determined that she needed to stay for one more day. The Mochries went home to get some rest
after the long night, minus Jae.
   “This letter came for you while you were sleeping,” he said, handing it to her.
  “It’s from Jul …the Banon,” she told him. “She says she’s sorry about my brother and hopes I
am better. She says not to worry, that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated.”
  “She is a good woman, Juliska Blackwell,” said Jae. Knowing that she was on the trail of the
culprit, her thoughts strayed to the Magicante.
   “Jae,” she whispered hesitantly. He leaned closer. “Whoever attacked Colin stole his book!”
  “I was so hoping that was not the case,” he sighed. “I can’t believe someone hurt him, and all
within the confines of the village. Something isn’t right!”
  “I was going to ask you, I thought the Balaton always came if they sensed magic being used
against another person.”
  “In the past I would have always answered, yes. Unless, someone cast another spell to allow
  “Darcy,” growled Meghan, already planning her vengeance. “Ugh! Not Darcy. She was at the
dinner last night.”
   “I can’t imagine it, but Garner could have done it himself. We’d never prove that though.”
  Doctor Stamm arrived then, insisting Meghan drink another sleeping potion and rest. She
fought, but he won in the end.
   “What’s your next move, Meghan?” asked Jae, as the potion kicked in.

  “I’ve got to talk with Uncle Eddy. After that, I haven’t decided yet,” she said in a slurred
voice, fighting sleep.
  Jae leaned in again, whispering in her ear.
  “Remember, you are the sister of someone who was attacked, it’s possible you’ll be followed.”
  Her eyes popped open.
  “I’ll be careful,” she promised. “I’ll figure out something. I have to,” she said, her eyes closing
  That evening, Meghan awoke feeling recuperated, but Dr. Stamm would not allow her to
return home until morning, and only with a promise to rest for another day. Once home,
Meghan thought she would go mad waiting for the right time to sneak away and visit Uncle
Eddy. There had been no more contact with Colin since the first night; he was deep in a coma,
farther than even she could reach. In addition, Ivan had barely shown himself since the night of
the dinner party. Was he friend or foe? She wasn’t sure what to make of him.
  Jae brought up dinner, and news; she was allowed out of bed the next morning. “I was hoping
to go into Grimble with you,” he added. “Turns out my father needs me at the office. I don’t
think I can get out of it.”
  “That’s okay, Jae, I can go on my own.”
  “What if something else happens, I’m not sure you should go alone.”
  “Actually, alone might be better. I can hide more easily if I need to.”
  “Okay,” he finally agreed. “Be careful, we don’t need you in a coma, too.” Meghan knew he
was genuinely concerned and wondered, since they were talking freely, if maybe he would
open up to her.
  “You sure do work hard, Jae,” she said. “You must be a great help to your dad.”
  “It’s all good training, I guess,” he said, shifting uncomfortably. “Dad takes me to work, mostly
so he can watch me practice.”
  “I’ve never seen someone work so hard, not even my brother,” said Meghan.
  “Colin’s smart, it comes easy for him. Not me. I think that’s why my dad keeps me working so
hard, he wants me to succeed now, so it won’t be so hard later.”
  “My Uncle Arnon always said school is important, but so is being a kid, which you can’t do
  “Your world is much different than ours.”
  “I’m learning that,” she said, thinking of the argument she’d had with Ivan in the carriage. She
yawned from the boredom of lying in bed all day.
  “You should rest,” he said, getting up. She didn’t want Jae to leave yet, he’d finally started
  “I’m not tired,” she insisted. “It’s just all this lying around, can’t help it.”
  “I gotta get into bed anyway,” he said. “Morning’ll be here fast enough. Night.” He
disappeared behind his curtain, as Mireya drifted in with another tray.
  “Mom thought you might want some tea before bed.” She exchanged the trays.
  “Thanks, Mireya.”
  “Oh, Ivan checked in on Colin tonight. Said he’s the same, no change. But that Dr. Stamm
feels confident they are getting closer to finding a cure.”

 “Ivan?” repeated Meghan.
 “Yup. Night,” Mireya chirped.
 “Night,” Meghan mumbled back, not looking forward to another fitful night.

  Colin slept, deep within a dream, running and spinning like an airplane in an open field.
Only, he was not alone. A girl with silver hair spun along side him. She looked familiar, but he
could not place her. She was, by far, the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, and she was
small, like him.
  “Do I know you?” he finally asked her.
  “No,” she replied. “I think, however, you might be the only person who can help me.” She
began to fade from the dream.
  “No, don’t leave. Who are you?” She had gone, the dream had gone, and Colin continued to
sleep in the darkness.

  The next morning, after Jae and Mireya were up and out of bed, Meghan heard scratching at
her bedroom window. Nona sat perched on the sill and her small paw scratched at something
outside. Meghan tiptoed out of bed to look, surprised at what she saw sitting in the snow-
covered tree; the bird that had followed them into the Svoda world.
  “Are you following me?” she asked, as if the bird could understand her. She opened the
window, allowing the cold air to rush in; the bird did not fly away. “What do you want? Did
you steal my brother’s book?”
  She thought about what she had asked and then said to the bird, “How could you steal a book?
You’re a bird.” She then thought about what she had said, again. “On the other hand, nothing is
what it appears in this world.” She eyed the bird cautiously.
  Nona jumped onto the branch. Meghan was afraid she might have her way with the bird and
kill it before she had a chance to understand why it had showed up at her window. To
Meghan’s bewilderment, Nona licked the bird’s tattered face. It didn’t even flinch. Meghan
reached out for the bird and it allowed her to pick it up.
  “You look awful,” she said, using her robe to wipe its snow-coated feathers. “I can’t imagine
what you want, but Nona trusts you, so you must be okay. Perhaps you’re just home sick, like
me,” she said.
  She took the bird to the bathroom and washed it, then made a little bed for it by the fireplace.
Mireya came in, instantly spotting Meghan sitting next to a small nest of towels.
  “Where’d that come from?” she asked. “It’s beautiful.”
  “Not sure. Nona found it outside the window, looks to have been roughed up.” The bird was
beautiful and now that it was clean, it was also terribly thin. Mireya stroked the bird gently.
  “You know what’s strange, Mireya, I can’t place it, but this bird seems familiar, like a distant
memory or something.”
  “Maybe you knew it in a past life,” she giggled in her playful manner, running off to see if
they had any food fit for a bird. Meghan let Nona tend the bird while she got dressed.
  Mireya came up the stairs with an old cage.

   “Mom found it in the basement. She said Corny’s back to being his old quiet self again.”
   Meghan didn’t care about Corny, but gladly accepted the cage, placing the bird safely inside.
Sheila Mochrie climbed up the stairs, covered in dust, with a small basket in her hand.
   “What a pretty bird,” she said. “Luckily, I found some bird seed.” She handed it to Meghan
and then disappeared back down the stairs. The cage was set near the fireplace to keep the bird
warm. Meghan gently placed the homemade nest inside the cage, filling the food and water
dishes. The bird stirred for a moment taking a beak full of the water, then collapsed again. Nona
jumped into the cage and rubbed her back against the bird, as if saying good-bye, and jumped
out, watching Meghan lock the cage door.
   “Okay, Nona. You ready to get down to business?” Nona meowed and led the way. It was not
overly cold, but the snow covered ground made it slow going; once outside the wagon, it was
gray, but there was no snow at all.
   “I won’t ever get used to this,” she said, taking off her coat and scarf, stashing them high into a
tree. She assumed that Timothy would show himself, but when he did not, she headed to the
old mill hoping her uncle would be there. It was empty. She grabbed a leaf, preparing a
  “I’m in the place we always meet, Meghan.” She kept it vague in case, as Jae suspected, she was
being followed. The leaf floated away. Ten minutes later, he appeared, and even for a ghost, he
looked disheveled.
   “If I could put my arms around you!” he cried. “It is good to see you up and moving. How’s
Colin, any change?” Meghan had asked Jae to send a leaf explaining what had happened, leaving
out the part about the missing book.
   “The doctor thinks he’s getting closer to finding which spell was used, but no change yet.” She
leaned into her floating uncle. “Jae feared I might be followed,” she said in a low voice.
   Uncle Eddy understood at once.
   “I expected Timothy to find me,” she noted.
   “Yes, getting worried about him. Haven’t seen him in nearly two weeks,” said her uncle,
seeming distracted.
   “Did he move on?” she asked.
   “No, I don’t think so, he would have said goodbye,” her uncle assured her.
   “I hope he’s all right.”
   “I’m sure he’s just busy getting himself into some sort of trouble. Oh, nothing to worry about,
I’m sure. I can handle Timothy. You need to be with your brother.”
   “Yeah, um, there’s something else,” she admitted reluctantly, searching for the right words to
explain, in case they were overheard.
   “What is it?” he asked, his voice distressed.
   “Colin lost his favorite thing,” she said softly.
   Her uncle reeled, already knowing she was talking about the Magicante.
   “I’m going to find it,” she promised straightaway. “I’m not sure where to start, though.”
   “Yes, well, that’s always the hard part, getting started.” He floated in circles for a minute
before letting out a ghostly whisper.

  “Meghan, I didn’t want to burden you with this, but it appears I have no choice. You must
find it! Failure is not an option!” Her uncle’s serious tone left her uneasy.
  “I know, I promised Colin I would find it.”
  Eddy checked one more time, to make absolutely sure they were alone, and then explained
what he meant.
  “It’s more valuable than I’ve let on, Meghan. And in the wrong hands, or stupid hands, it
could be made to do very horrible things; not only to the Svoda, but every… living… thing!”
His voice was so low she could barely hear him.
  “What do you mean by horrible things?” she asked, her unease turning to fright.
  “It contains ancient information, things forgotten by most and heavily sought after by those
who do remember. Power that could change the course of every world, for good or bad.” His
words petrified Meghan near as much as the thought of losing her brother. As she attempted to
comprehend what her uncle had said, Nona meowed a warning. Meghan was not sure how she
understood, but it meant someone was coming.
  “Meghan, I realize you’re confused,” said her uncle. “I’m sorry I can’t help you more. If my
presence is discovered many lives will be put in danger. You must figure this out! Or, well let’s
not think about the or! You can do this.” He smiled knowingly and then vanished.
  Meghan spent exactly three seconds staring blankly into nothing. Confusion could not even
begin to describe how she was feeling. Nona meowed again. Meghan jerked her head, instinct
telling her to follow the Catawitch. They escaped the old mill, sneaking out the back into the
woods, avoiding whoever had arrived.
  The farther in they went, the landscape changed. The dead and decaying trees thinned,
replaced with luscious green ones. A warm mist covered Meghan and she shed her sweater.
  “Where are you taking me, Nona?” The cat meowed and trotted along, seeming to know
where she was heading. After awhile, they stopped at a narrow pathway. Voices! Meghan
scanned the area. At the bottom of the path was a gully, lined with tiny huts built out of mud.
  “I can’t believe anyone lives in those,” she said, stepping into a flyaway spider web. She
wrestled the web off her, and then ducked as she saw something move between two of the huts.
  Two ghosts floated around the perimeter of the mud compound, keeping watch.
  “I hope you know what you’re doing, Nona,” she said. “Nona?” She was nowhere to be seen.
“Great, not even my loyal Catawitch stayed with me.”
  She peered into the huts, hoping to understand why Nona had led her to this place. She
inched her way closer, crawling along the ground. She spotted a fallen tree about ten feet ahead
of her.
  “Maybe I can hide in there,” she whispered, crawling along the ground. She saw the perfect
spot, a hollow big enough for her to… Meghan froze. Her gaze followed a shoe, attached to a
leg, which crawled backwards out of the very hollow she was heading for. The smallest noise
would alert this person to her presence. Meghan desperately searched for another place to hide.
A second leg backed out of the tree. Her eyes widened and nostrils flared as she realized it was
too late. She was on her hands and knees, facing the backside of her unknown companion.

  A hand reached back to pull itself away from the tree, but instead, landed on Meghan’s face.
The color drained from the hand as it gripped her skin. Meghan didn’t budge. What if this was
the person responsible for hurting Colin?
  A face turned toward her. In unison, and too loudly, both parties cried out, “Meghan!” “Ivan!”
  The watchman ghosts belted over the huts looking for the perpetrators of the noise. Ivan
dragged Meghan into the tree hollow; it was a tight fit, which neither of them were pleased
about. After a minute the ghosts were satisfied that they had heard nothing and went back to
their normal rounds.
  “What are you doing here?” she demanded, in a loud whisper.
  “I should ask you the same thing. Why was your brother attacked?” She refused to answer,
not sure whether to trust him or not. “I’ve been tracking Colin’s attacker,” he acknowledged,
seeing her determination not to speak.
  “What! Why?”
  “The Balaton are looking for an insider. I think it was an outside job. Any reason you can
think of as to why that might be, Ms. Jacoby?” he asked curtly.
  And to think, I was beginning to believe he might be human, she thought. A stern faced Ivan
waited for her reply.
  “I have no clue who attacked my brother,” she stated. “Nona led me here.”
  His eyes widened.
  “That’s a good sign, then,” he replied, turning back to the ghosts.
  “Do you have any idea what’s going on here?” she asked him.
  “Best guess is that they’re guarding something.” Meghan’s first thoughts led to Colin’s book.
Could it be in the mud huts? Meghan was about to speak, when Ivan cupped her mouth and put
fingers to his own. “Shh.” The ghosts were coming around again.
  Meghan still wasn’t sure if she could trust Ivan or not, but she was glad at least, not to be
alone. She waited until the ghosts had rounded the next corner, and then decided to be bold;
she would have to, if she was going to talk Ivan into invading the huts with her.
  “It was over a book,” she admitted.
  “All this for a book? Are you sure?”
  “Positive. It’s not a monetary thing, well, it could be I guess. It’s what’s in the book that
  “We should get closer,” he decided.
  “Any ideas on how to do that?” she asked, glad he had not instantly abandoned her.
  “I’ve been spying for hours, and those two ghosts doing rounds take a good couple of minutes
on the other side. Do you see that small alley there?” he pointed in between two of the huts. “I
can’t quite tell, but I think there’s a cart or something we might be able to hide in.”
  “Okay,” she agreed.
  He nodded, shushing her again as the ghosts came back around. They waited, ready to spring
for the alley as soon as the ghosts were out of sight. Meghan went first, dashing through the
other side of the tree, followed by Ivan. They reached the alley. It was a cart, but it was filled
with skunky smelling rags.
  “I can’t get in that,” she complained.

  Ivan pushed her in, landing beside her.
  “Breathe already,” he chided. “It’s bad, but I’ve smelled worse,” he added, pulling a stinky rag
over them, for cover.
  “You’re getting quite the kick out of this, aren’t you?” she pouted.
  His dry arrogant smile answered her question.
  “I’m going to need a major bath after this,” she moaned.
  “I can’t argue with that,” said Ivan.
  She shot him a scowl.
  They cautiously peeked into the compound. Two ghosts played poker.
  “You’re cheating,” accused a scrawny ghost.
  “I ain’t been cheatin'! You take it back!” demanded a short, chubbier ghost.
  “I won’t,” the scrawny one goaded. The chubby one responded by throwing his cards at the
scrawny one. A familiar ghost appeared, scolding the players.
  “Will the two of you idiots shut the hell up! We got a big operation going on here. Go do your
  “Duppy!” Meghan asserted coldly. She then added, “He confronted Colin and me,” realizing
Ivan wouldn’t understand.
  “The secrets keep piling up, don’t they?”
  “I’ll explain later,” she huffed.
  Footsteps approached.
  “Do you hear that?” she asked.
  “Yes, not a ghost, either,” answered Ivan. “It’s coming our way,” he warned. They held their
breath as the footsteps passed by their rank hiding spot. Meghan took a daring glance over the
edge. Whoever it was, they were dressed in a deep red, hooded cloak. Duppy floated haughtily
to meet the hooded figure.
  “At last,” he said in a growling voice. “Bout time, too, my employer grows impatient.” The
hooded figure silently took a package from within its robes and laid it on the table. Meghan’s
gut told her it was the Magicante. Duppy hovered over the package, rubbing his hands together
greedily. “My employer will be pleased,” he sneered, pointing to an envelope on the table.
“Payment in full.”
  The hooded figure grasped the envelope emptying the contents; it was a roll of paper.
  “Huh, its not money,” muttered Meghan, wondering what was so important about those
papers that it was worth hurting her brother for.
  Meghan and Ivan ducked back into their stinky rag hideout, until the footsteps of the living
person were out of range.
  “Don’t know about you,” said Ivan, “but I’ve had enough of stinky rags.” He bounded bravely
out of the bin, landing with a soft thud.
  “Don’t need to say that twice,” she said, following him, although not quite so gracefully. Her
confidence was high though, knowing that ghosts couldn’t harm her.
  “Guard the package,” ordered Duppy, the instant he saw the duo.
  “How?” the two poker playing ghosts asked. “We’re ghosts, we can’t touch it.”
  “You idiots, maybe they weren’t aware of that. Besides, I wasn’t talking to you.”

   Another, very much alive, hooded figure exited one of the huts. All Meghan could see was
the figure’s eyes; a fierce shade of blue.
  “Okay, wasn’t prepared for that,” said Ivan. “Hope you’re ready for battle!”
  “Battle! You do realize I suck at magic, right?”
  Ivan rolled his eyes at her.
  “It’s probably not a good idea to let your opponent know that,” he muttered.
  “Oops!” she frowned.
  “Meghan,” he said in all seriousness. “I haven’t seen what this guy can do, but if I can’t take
him you’ll be on your own.”
  Meghan knew he was right.
  “Just tell me what to do, Ivan.”
  “Concentrate. Allow the energy to fill you, and then let it out. Preferably on the other guy,
not me if you don’t mind.”
  “This is not a good time for insults, Ivan,” she scolded.
  “I wasn’t. You knock me out by accident, and you’re left…”
  “Alone, I get it!” she said heatedly. “I’m not completely stupid, Ivan!”
  He shrugged, leaving her side. The hooded figure, who wasn’t much taller than Meghan,
observed their every move, while guarding the package. Ivan worked his way around the mud
  “No other people,” he mouthed to Meghan. Ivan began his interrogation. “What do you want
with that package?” There was no answer. Meghan crept around the opposite side of the huts,
happening across a ghost locked in a cell.
  “Timothy! What are you doing here?”
  “I knew one of you would find me,” he boasted happily.
  “Sit tight. I’ll get you out, okay. How are they holding you, Timothy? You’re a ghost.”
  “Magic, I guess. I’ve been stuck here two weeks.” Meghan kept her eye on the hooded figure
and Ivan, while she tried to free Timothy. The hooded figure stepped closer to the room where
Timothy was imprisoned. Meghan did not think it was possible, but Timothy, already dead,
turned paler than he already was. He backed into the farthest corner possible.
  “Watch out, not nice,” Timothy said, hiding his eyes.
  “Sit tight, Timothy. I won’t leave you, okay.”
  With swift movement, the hooded figure jumped onto the table, grasping the package. The
ghosts swirled overhead and the figure motioned for them to attack. They dove from all
directions. The ghosts might not be able to use magic on the living; however, being saturated
with the cold feeling of death each time a ghost sliced through their bodies was definitely a
distraction. After a minute, the ghosts ended their attack.
  “I need to get that package,” Meghan said to herself, regaining her composure. The moment
she had said it, the hooded figure glanced her direction, his shocking blue eyes squinting at her.
  He towered over the book, ordering the ghosts to attack again. As soon as Ivan found a brief
pause in the attack he threw his arm, palm out, at the hooded figure, who was not expecting the
blow. It knocked him off his feet and he skidded across the ground. An arm fell out of the robe.

Meghan jumped at the chance to get closer. As she reached out to grab the package, she saw the
arm. It was a young arm. They were fighting a child!
  The discovery did not stop the battle. The robed child fought back, shooting a heavy blow
toward Ivan, who blocked it. Meghan grabbed the package and fled back to Timothy. From the
corner of her eye she saw Ivan fly through the air, through a ghost, and land hard against a
  “Ivan,” she shouted, as he hit the ground. The robed child noticed that Meghan held the
package and lunged at her. She panicked, unable to focus and collect the energy to produce any
magic. Ivan picked up his head and with his last bit of strength, sent a blow toward the hooded
child. It was only enough of a blow to give Meghan the smallest of head starts.
  “Run,” yelled Timothy. “I can’t die again, get out of here.” She didn’t want to leave, but
perhaps she could run and find her uncle, and he could rescue Timothy. She spotted the closest
exit. The ghosts began diving for her. Then she saw Ivan lying on the ground. He was not
  “No. I’m not leaving,” she decided. She spun around and cried out, “STOP!” Taken off guard
by the command, the ghosts froze and waited for orders. The hooded child halted ten feet in
front of her, watching intently.
  “Tell me who you are, and why you want this book,” she breathed heavily. There was still no
answer. “I know you’re a child…” she taunted.
  A young male voice, stern, strong and calm, finally spoke.
  “Not that it matters, but I’m fourteen, hardly a child. You should concern yourself with the
fact that I am stronger than you, and my master will have that book.”
  Just then, a familiar Catawitch jostled around the robed boy’s legs. Her instincts had been
right. The visiting Catawitch in Cobbscott was evil.
  “Hello Meghan,” she purred.
  “This is your master? This boy?” asked Meghan. The robed child winced at the word boy.
  “I told you he wanted to meet you. You should have listened when you had the chance.”
  “Who is your master, then?” she demanded of the robed child. “What’s his business with my
brother’s book?” The boy didn’t answer, and inside Meghan’s head the echo of a voice erupted.
  “Oh, not now, Colin, it couldn’t be a worse time for you to contact me,” she whispered
vehemently. The ghosts above were getting restless, Ivan was still completely limp and Timothy
remained stuck in his prison. “I need help,” she uttered in desperation.
  The scene around her slowed, freezing in place, including Meghan. Beams of light emanated
out of Meghan’s thorn-covered locket, followed by the shadow of a woman sleeping on a
feather. She awakened and arose, her body a beacon of light.
  “Help is coming and you are ready for this, Meghan. You will know what to do!” The woman
stroked Meghan’s frightened face. Her skin shimmered like gold.
  The feather then claimed the woman’s figure and she again slept, her ghostly image regressing
back into the locket.
  The chaos came screaming back to life. Meghan took a deep breath as the ghosts began diving.
The hooded child menacingly strode toward her.

  “Ghost candy,” she remembered in a flash. “I can use it to do a spell against the ghosts and
then the kid can’t touch me! At least for thirty seconds.” She reached into her skirt pocket; she
had just three pieces left.
  “Here goes nothing,” she said, popping a piece into her mouth. The change occurred in the
nick of time. The hooded child threw a spell at her, which ripped straight through her ghostly
body. His blue eyes appraised her, obviously impressed at the unexpected move.
  The ghosts, also caught off guard by Meghan’s maneuver, paused momentarily, and then
attacked furiously. Meghan felt their energy and held out her hand, determined. “Sphaera,” she
bellowed. The energy pulled itself into a perfect sphere. This stopped the ghosts in their tracks.
She threw it at the closest one blasting it into a million ghostly pieces.
  “I did it!” she screamed, hurrying to collect another, knowing her time was short.
  “Attack her, bring her down,” ordered Duppy.
  Meghan stayed on the defensive and after blowing up two more ghosts her body started to
turn real again. She ate the second piece of candy and dispersed three more. The rest made a
beeline for the woods, not wanting to be her next target.
  She ate the final piece.
  Only Duppy remained.
  He faced her head on with a sphere of his own. She flew into the air and dove behind him, his
sphere missing her.
  “Hey Duppy,” she called out. He floated his hideous ghostly body around and covered his face
with his hands as the sphere hit him head on.
  Meghan changed back and fell to the ground, landing about twenty feet away from the
hooded child and his Catawitch. She picked herself up and almost instantly, fell over. “I’ve
drained myself,” she assumed, leaning her body against the edge of the mud hut, trying to
maintain her balance. There was no where to run. The hooded boy lifted his hand to throw a
  “This is it,” she cried. “I tried so hard, and still I failed.”
  In the split second that followed, Meghan’s loyal Catawitch, Nona, came bounding in. She was
small, but vicious and charged the larger, wicked Catawitch.
  Above the hut fluttered a bird, the very one Meghan had locked in a cage earlier that
  It shimmered, while diving at full speed. Beams of light began pouring from the bird’s body,
and then, the most unexpected thing she could have imagined happened!
  As the bird descended, its shape began shifting. The wings disappeared and arms formed.
Where there had been claws now were human feet. Tattered clothes replaced the feathers.
  A thunderous voice reverberated through the huts as the bird-human shouted a spell, and
then landed with a skidding thud. The spell hit the unsuspecting hooded boy, knocking him to
the ground.
 Without a second thought, the boy got to his feet.
  “Elisha!” he called out to his Catawitch. “Let’s go!”
  “The book!” she reminded.
  “Not today!” he shouted.

  His Catawitch vaulted into a nearby fire pit. The boy dashed to her side, grasping her back,
and they vanished, dissolving into the fire.
  Meghan closed her eyes, not believing she was still alive. Nona, uninjured, bounded to her
  “How did you know, Nona?” she asked, wishing her Catawitch could speak. Somehow, Nona
had known the bird was more than just a bird.
  Meghan heard the flapping of wings. The bird-human had already shifted back to into its bird
form again. It sat atop one of the huts.
  “Who are you?” she pleaded.
  It ruffled up its feathers in reply.
  “I wish you would tell me, so I could thank you properly. I guess, if you ever need anything,
you know where my window is.”
  The bird winked mischievously at her, then flew away.
  Meghan’s thoughts turned to Ivan. She tapped him gently on the face trying to wake him. He
did not respond. She knelt closer and discovered that he was not breathing. Meghan’s head was
spinning. Moments ago her own death had seemed imminent, only to be saved by a miraculous
bird-human. Now Ivan, who had risked his own life to save hers, lay dead.
  The Magicante sat next to her on the ground.
  Nona pawed at the book.
 Do I dare open it?
 What can this book possibly do to help me?
 Ivan is dead!
  She pulled it out of the package and flipped it open.
  “Mr. Ancient Magic Guy, um, I could really use some help.”
  “It’s about time you got around to something real,” the book said darkly. “I assume from the
dead boy’s body, you need a reawakening.”
  “What’s a reawakening?” she asked timidly.
  “Watch and learn,” the cranky voice of the book replied.
   It began to shake violently in her hands; so much so, she could no longer hold on and let it
fall to the ground. The leaves tore off the pages, spiraling over Ivan like a tornado. Golden
beams of light shot from the leaves slicing into Ivan’s body. After a minute the tornado slowed,
the golden beams faded, and the leaves reattached to the book, which promptly closed upon
  Meghan was not sure what she expected as she leaned over Ivan’s unmoving body.
  She gasped as Ivan drew in a deep living breath and his eyes flickered open. Meghan drew
back in awed exaltation, beholding the Magicante with indescribable new reverence.
  Tears welled up in her eyes.
  “Don’t look so disappointed,” Ivan said in his usual rude manner. She blew it off, helping him
  “You’re not dead!” she cried.
  “No such luck today, Ms. Jacoby. Where did everyone go?” he asked, noticing the deserted

  “They left,” she answered, not wishing to explain further. Ivan saw the book lying on the
ground and picked it up. Meghan worried he might keep it, or turn it over to the Viancourt.
  “So this is what the battle was over? An old book. Magicante,” he read the title.
  Meghan decided, then and there, not to tell Ivan he had died, or that Magicante had brought
him back to life. He laid the book down, rubbing the back of his head.
  “You were thrown against a wall,” she explained, apologetically.
  “That part I remember.”
  “Uh, excuse me,” a small voice interrupted.
  “Timothy!” She ran to his cell. “How am I going to get you out?”
  Ivan strolled over.
  “And who might you be?”
  Timothy regaled Ivan with a long introduction, while Meghan attempted to loosen the door
on his prison, to no avail.
  “Timothy,” she interrupted. “Who put you in this cell, a ghost or a living person?”
  “The one you were battling, I think. Alive for sure, it could have been…”
  “That’s okay, Timothy,” said Meghan, cutting him off, baffled at how a living person had done
magic on him.
  “I can tell you the spell to open this door,” said Ivan. “But for some reason, I feel too weak to
do it myself.”
  “I wonder why?” she mumbled to herself. “What is the spell, Ivan?” she asked, determined to
free Timothy.
  “Fenestra,” he answered.
  She repeated it twice.
  She poised herself and gathered the energy needed. I’m getting better at this, she thought,
raising her hand, with her palm extended.
  It opened.
  She had done it.


 Meghan picked up the book, tucking it under her sweater. Nona and Timothy followed close
by, as Meghan and Ivan made their way out of the woods.
 “Not that it matters at this point,” said Ivan. “But how did you get the book?”
 “Everyone just took off. Couldn’t tell ya why,” she lied, winking at Timothy.
 He was getting good at keeping secrets, too.

  Soon, they arrived at the old mill. Uncle Eddy wasn’t there so she left a message with Timothy
who set immediately to deliver it.
  “Be careful, Timothy. Don’t talk to any strangers.” Meghan had an enormous desire to get
Ivan home and checked out by the doctor, and to check on Colin, whose voice she had not
heard since the beginning of the battle.
  “You go along without me,” said Ivan unexpectedly, as they entered Bedgewood Harbor.
  “But you’re hurt,” she argued.
  “And what will I say happened to me?”
  “You fell.”
  “I have a… friend I can see, don’t worry. Go and check on your brother, tell him you got his
precious book back.” He was not exactly smug, but was not nice either. He strode off in a
direction of town she had never been to. Part of her wanted to follow him. She hoped Ivan
could be trusted.
  “He knows what he knows,” she resigned, continuing to the hospital.
  She hoped that the voice she had heard during the battle meant that Colin had come out of his
coma. To her dismay, his condition had not changed.
  “I thought for sure I heard you, Colin. I got the book back, so don’t worry. Get better, okay.”
She kissed his forehead and headed home.
  Her legs and brain were jelly. She followed Nona back to the Mochrie house and stumbled
 “There you are,” said Sheila. “I was hoping you would show soon. Not good to over do it just
because you’re feeling better.”
  Meghan almost laughed. I’ll try to remember that!
  Sheila made a funny face and wrinkled her nose as Meghan walked passed her. Skunk rags.
She didn’t have the energy to make up an excuse.
 It was good to be home, even if it wasn’t truly home. She bathed, ate, and sat downstairs,
dozing while waiting for either Ivan or Jae to come home. Hours passed, and neither returned
home that night.

  Colin’s darkness again turned into a dream world. This time, however, it was not the sunny
playful dream it had been before. The girl with the silver hair was back, hiding behind a tree
trunk, frightened. Colin walked around the tree trunk until he was face to face with her. He
walked around the tree three times before he found her.
  “I don’t have long,” she trembled. “They will discover I’ve gone.”
  “What do you mean?” asked Colin, gravely concerned for his dream girl. She vanished, but he
heard her voice. He walked around the tree trunk again, locating her.
  “They knew,” she said frantically. “Somehow, the last time you found me. They knew.”
  She vanished again, popping in behind him.
  He whirled around.
  “I need your help,” she whispered, disappearing again. Colin hurried around the tree trunk,
hoping she would return. She did, and he grasped her hand, hoping it would keep her there.

  “Who are you?” he asked her.
  “Catrina,” she whispered in his ear. “And I need your help, Colin Jacoby, as much as you will
need mine. You are the only one that can help me… ”
  Instead of disappearing, this time, her body turned ghostly. He hand fell through hers.
  “How can I help you?” Colin pleaded.
  “Please, don’t forget about me,” she begged.
  Viciously, her dark silhouette flew backwards into the nothingness, like someone pulling off a
veil from Colin’s face. Colin reached for her but his dream changed. He did not feel so heavy or
  Air moved across his face.
  “I’m waking up,” he realized.

  A voice echoed in Meghan’s head, waking her. She was slumped over in a chair. The voice
echoed again, this time discernibly. She bolted upright.
  “I’m awake! They’ve sent someone to tell you. Knew I’d get to you first, though.”
  “You’re really awake?” she questioned, grabbing her coat.
  “Yep, really awake.”
  “Going to wake everyone, they’ve all been so worried. I’ll be there quick as I can… big bro.”
  “Big bro,” he snorted.
  “You are my big brother, technically speaking.”
  “What the heck happened while I was out?” he questioned, not understanding this change in
his sister.
  “Short version, I got the book back! I’ll tell you about it later.” She bounded up the stairs,
wanting to shout that Colin was awake, but first, sent a leaf to Uncle Eddy.
  “Colin awake! Everything great! Will contact you soon.”
  She entered the bedroom where Mireya still slept and woke her gently.
  “What’s up?” she asked groggily.
  “Colin’s awake!”
  Mireya jumped up and down in her bed.
  “Yes! Thank goodness that’s over. I’ll wake Mom and Dad.” Mireya ran downstairs to her
parents’ room.
  Meghan knocked lightly on Ivan’s door but there was no answer. She wondered where he had
gone. She put it out of her mind, high tailing it down the stairs, just as a knock pounded on the
front door. She answered it before anyone else had the chance, realizing it would be the
messenger from the hospital.
  Oliver Stamm delivered the message on behalf of his father, the doctor. She acted as though
she was hearing the information for the first time and thanked him.
  “What a wonderful news,” said Sheila, emerging from her bedroom. “And right before

  Meghan, Sheila and Mireya traipsed through the snow, making their progress slow. Half way
there, they ran into Jae. He looked as though he had not slept, but had a smile on his face just
the same.
  “Dad and I were on our way home, when we got news that Colin was awake. I was on my
way to make sure you knew.”
  “Yes, we found out a few minutes ago,” replied his mother, fixing his untidy hair. “Why didn’t
you come home last night? I hope your father isn’t working you too hard,” she said as they
  “We worked late and fell asleep at the office. Sorry, we should have sent a message.” Jae held
his mother’s arm, keeping her steady over an ice patch as they reached the hospital entrance.
  Doctor Stamm’s tall silhouette leaned over Colin, along with Irving Mochrie, giving him a
thorough exam. Meghan ran to her brother’s bed and hugged him until he could not breathe.
  She ignored the fact that the doctor and Colin were mid conversation.
  “My son Oliver tells me you are quite talented, Mr. Jacoby. I’m afraid my boy is always a bit
distracted, loves to daydream too much.”
  “From what I’ve seen of Oliver, he does a great job,” said Colin. The doctor smiled and left his
side, giving him a clean bill of health. The doctor and Irving stepped outside of the room to
  “Don’t ever, ever, do that to me again,” Meghan demanded. Silently, she sent, “When I
thought you were dead… it was like part of me died.”
  Colin blushed, unused to this kind of attention from his sister.
  “I promise to try and never get attacked again,” he sent back to her.
  “How long will he have to stay?” Meghan asked Dr. Stamm when he came back into the room.
The doctor mulled it over.
  “Normally after such an ordeal, at least a week. But, seeing as Christmas is almost here, maybe
a few days will suffice, as long as he promises to rest.”
  “Thank you, doctor,” she said, relieved.
  “This will be a blessed Christmas,” said a teary-eyed Sheila. Jae sat down for a minute and fell
asleep almost instantly.
  “Irving, you’re working the boy too hard,” Meghan overheard Sheila say.
  “It’s best this way, Sheila. We’ll discuss it later.”
  A messenger arrived then, with a letter from Juliska Blackwell, addressed to Colin.

Dear Mr. Jacoby,

  I am thrilled to hear that you are recovering. First, let me apologize for this occurrence. The
actions taken against you will not be tolerated. Unfortunately, we have not yet caught the
perpetrator, but the Balaton continue their efforts. We will keep you posted as any new
developments arise.

Now that you are awake, if there is any information you can provide us to assist our efforts,
please speak to any Balaton or member of the Viancourt. Otherwise, I wish you a speedy
recovery in time for the holiday.

                                                                              Deeply sorry again,
                                                                      Juliska Nandalia Blackwell.

  Colin contorted his face in confusion. Juliska Blackwell’s words seemed genuine. Perhaps he
had misjudged her, truly being jealous over the attention given his sister.
  “Banon Blackwell will not rest until they have caught whoever did this,” insisted Irving
  Meghan secretly knew that it was not likely to happen.
  That evening, after returning home, Meghan found a package on her pillow. She took off the
leaf attached.
  “Meghan,” the leaf spoke in Juliska’s voice. “I had poor Hollee digging through trunk after
trunk looking for this book. I was beginning to think I had left it behind somewhere. This is
something a dear friend once gave me, and I wish to pass it on to you. I hope it helps, and as
always, my door is always open.”
  Meghan opened the package. The Firemancer’s Pocket Guide. Meghan spent the evening
skimming through it, enthralled. With each page she began to realize that being a Firemancer
meant more than just having horrible visions. She could learn to summon visions at her leisure,
or show other people what she was seeing. She could even learn to control the element that
allowed her to see: Fire.
  Meghan sent a heartfelt letter to Juliska, thanking her. A sense of contentment blanketed
Meghan. Yes, they still had many unanswered questions. In addition, they desperately wanted
to find out if their uncle was alive. But something told her she was exactly where she was
supposed to be.
  Over the next three days, Meghan studied the book, and sent continual updates to Uncle
Eddy. On the third day, Colin was released from the hospital. The Mochries arranged for a
heated carriage to bring him home. Once home, they sat Colin in a cozy chair next to the
fireplace, where he happily watched Meghan, Mireya and Jae decorate the Christmas tree.
  That evening, Sheila and Mireya delivered some last minute Christmas gifts, leaving Meghan,
Colin and Jae alone, at last.
  “I’ve been dying to hear what happened,” said Colin.
   Jae concurred.
  “I’ve been thinking about how to explain it all,” she said intently. “When it comes down to it,
I don’t think you can fully understand what happened, without having been there.”
  Her serious tone intrigued the boys.
  “I’m going to try something,” she finally said. Her eyes lit up and she motioned for the boys to
join her close to the fireplace.

  “I did some research the last couple of days, while you were in the hospital, Colin. So far, to
be perfectly honest, being a Firemancer has kind of sucked. I keep having visions I don’t want
to see.”
   Meghan left out the part that Jae was at the forefront of those visions.
  “Anyway, I did some reading and discovered something that makes being a Firemancer pretty
darn cool.”
  Colin smirked. His sister, reading? He had a faint thought, wondering if he might still be in a
   She heard him and frowned.
   To Colin and Jae’s astonishment, Meghan stuck her hand in the fire, swirling the flames.
   “That is so wrong,” shuddered Jae.
  Meghan continued swirling the flames until an image appeared. The boys gasped. It was
Meghan at the old mill, with Uncle Eddy. She transferred her memories into the fire, replaying
it for the boys to see and hear.
  She kept her focus, avoiding unwanted memories to appear, and keeping herself present and
in the moment, to avoid any new visions from taking place.
  After seeing the bird-human and the Magicante bring Ivan back to life, the boys sat in the
same awed reverence that Meghan had, a few days prior.
   “Wow,” muttered Jae. “The bird is a shapeshifter. Unbelievable!”
  “And the timing! One more second, and I would’ve been a goner, no question,” insisted
   “Are you sure I’m not still in a coma?” asked Colin.
   She pinched him hard.
  “Yeah, definitely awake,” he winced. “It’s all so unbelievable. I mean, I’m finally getting used
to the idea of magic existing, and now, I don’t even know what to think!” admitted Colin.
  “I’ve known about magic my entire life,” said Jae, “But even I have never seen magic that can
bring someone back from the dead!”
  “Speaking about that,” interrupted Meghan. “You may have caught it, but I did not tell Ivan
he died. I think until we figure out whether we can trust him or not, it’s just better that way.”
   The boys agreed.
   “I think it’s time for Uncle Eddy to tell us what’s going on,” Colin then blurted out.
   “No more stalling,” agreed his sister. “Let’s go tomorrow, we’ll sneak away.”
   “I’m supposed to stay inside,” reminded Colin.
   “We’ll go in one of those heated carriages. I’ll say it’s my Christmas present to you.”
  “Speaking of Christmas, I’ve got some last minute shopping to finish,” said Jae, in a sudden
urgent hurry to leave the room.
   “I guess I’ve got a bit of holiday stuff to finish up, too,” said Meghan.
   “I never had a chance to go shopping. I don’t have anything to give anyone,” Colin said sadly.
  “I shopped for both of us, big bro,” she said. “I’ll bring them down and you can help me wrap,
that way, you’ll see what we got everyone.”
   “Okay,” he agreed, still somber.
   “What?” she asked.

 “I don’t have anything for you.”
 “I already got my Christmas wish, Colin. You’re alive and awake!”
  “Who has done what with my sister?” Silently, he added, Give her a few weeks, she’ll be back
to normal.
 “I heard that,” she joked.
 He shrugged it off.
 “For now, I’ll take what I can get.”

  Christmas morning arrived and a light snow fell, blanketing everything in a fresh coating of
white. Sometime during the night, Ivan had finally returned. He nodded politely to Meghan,
but did not speak of the events that had taken place.
  A few hours before dinner, a carriage arrived. Meghan announced that as a gift to her brother
she had arranged a carriage ride around the village. Luck was with them as Mireya was busy
with her mother. However, luck ran out quickly as Ivan jumped up, snatching a coat.
  “Is it all right?” he asked.
  “Sure,” answered Meghan nervously. Once inside the carriage she asked, “How’s your head?”
  “I gather it’s safe to talk,” he said, glancing at Jae.
  “Its safe,” confirmed Jae.
  “I figured as much. I didn’t mean to tag along but I wanted to ask a question.”
  “Shoot,” replied Meghan.
  “What’s so great about that book that someone would attempt to kill Colin for it?”
  “That’s actually why we’re going into Grimble,” she said, wishing she had not allowed him to
ask his question so easily.
  “Grimble?” he questioned.
  “Yes,” she said.
  Colin took over.
  “We’re going to visit a dead relative.”
  “I knew you had to be visiting someone,” he nodded as if to congratulate himself on being
  “How did you end up at the mud huts, anyway?” asked Meghan. This was a question she had
been dying to ask Ivan. He leaned back, smiling pompously.
  “As I said before, I thought it was an outside job. Especially since you two were spending so
much time in Grimble. Then, I got help with that hunch when I came across Nona. She nearly
knocked me over one day trying to get out of the wagon. I assumed you would be with her, but
she was alone.”
  “She does that a lot, disappears for hours,” said Meghan.
  Ivan continued as if she hadn’t spoken.
  “I decided to follow her and she led me to the gully where the compound was. I staked them
out, in attempts to investigate whether they had anything to do with Colin’s attack. Which is
what I was doing, when we, uh, crawled into each other.”
  “Ivan,” she began, putting aside her pride. “I never thanked you properly for helping me.”

  His response was not the friendly response she hoped for, but it was better than his usual
  “I was there on my own accord.”
  “I want to thank you too, Ivan. Without your help my sister might not be here today, at least,
that’s what she tells me.”
  Meghan shot daggers at him.
  “I can’t say as I was much help. I think she had some luck on her side that day, too,” he said,
glancing at the book sticking out of Colin’s jacket.
  The look on Ivan’s face said, You’re not going to tell me what’s so special about that book, are
  The carriage reached the edge of the village and Meghan asked it to come back two hours
later. No sooner than they had gotten out of sight of the wagons, Timothy appeared.
  “Hey, guys, Merry Christmas.”
  They returned the greeting and followed him to the old mill where Uncle Eddy greeted them.
  “Merry Christmas everyone, Meghan, Colin, Jae, and, someone new.”
  “Uncle Eddy, this is Ivan Crane, he helped me get the book back, maybe saved my life,” she
admitted, dutifully. Colin glanced at her sideways about to make fun, but stopped himself.
  “I can’t thank you enough, then, Ivan Crane.”
  “Glad to be of service, sir.” He eyed Uncle Eddy curiously.
  “Sit, sit,” Eddy insisted. “Not much time, not much time.”
  Timothy kept Ivan and Jae busy, allowing Meghan to relay details of the ghost compound
  “Now you understand why it is vital to keep that book safe!”
  “Uncle Eddy, why am I supposed to have this book?” Colin dared to ask, hoping for an answer.
  “The book understands what it needs, ask it sometime. You never know what it might tell
  “Ask it? I never thought of that,” said Colin.
  Ivan and Jae grew weary of Timothy and joined the conversation with Uncle Eddy, who after
a few minutes pulled Ivan aside. Meghan assumed he wanted to thank Ivan privately, for his
help and left them alone.
  “Ivan, I don’t have much time, so I will be blunt. I can tell you recognize me. I beg you to
keep my secret and please, what you are planning, I implore you, don’t do it!”
  His ghostly face pleaded.
  Ivan stuttered his reply.
  “I don’t know what you mean.”
  “Yes you do, Ivan. There are things even you do not yet understand. It is all I will say.”
  Ivan stood alone for a moment and then put on a strained smile, rejoining Jae and Meghan.
  “We should be getting back soon,” said Jae.
  Ivan nodded in eager agreement.
  “Just a bit longer,” implored Meghan. She laughed, seeing Timothy swirl around Colin’s head
  “Timothy,” Colin said, curiously. “If you don’t mind talking about it, how did you die?”

  Timothy’s eyes widened and he whisked closer to Colin.
  “It was terrifying, actually. I died in a fire.”
  “Oh, I’m sorry,” replied Colin.
  “I lived in an orphanage,” explained Timothy. “One rainy night I was lying awake in my bed,
and I heard voices outside, so I tiptoed to the window. We got into a lot of trouble if we got
caught out of bed. When I looked out of the window, I saw four people standing in the
shadows, holding something in a blanket, and then poof, they vanished. I ran back to my bed
and hid under the covers. After a while, I snuck back to the window, but there was nothing
  “Then, out of nowhere there was something. A man, at least I think it was a man. His face
looked caved in and a bit yellow. I watched him point something at the orphanage and a few
minutes later a fire started. It burned everything.
  “I remember helping kids get out and then I got stuck in a room. The smoke was so thick I
couldn’t see. The next thing I knew, I was dead.”
  Colin thought that was the end of the sad story, but Timothy continued.
  “After I died, I decided to hang around for a few days. I guess I wasn’t ready to move on yet.
The headmaster of the orphanage was heartbroken. I remember him crying for three children
lost in the fire.
  “On the third night, a woman showed up, sobbing. I can still hear her voice, ‘I was coming for
you.’ She sat for hours staring at the rubble, realizing whatever she was looking for was gone. I
don’t know if the she ever found who she was looking for, or if they were one of the
unfortunate ones that died the same night I did.”
  Timothy floated higher into the air, indicating it was the end of his story.
  “I really hope you get to move on soon, Timothy,” said Colin. “This is not a good place for
  “It’s not so bad. It will be a lot more boring once you’re all gone. But I’ll go on helping the
new arrivals,” he smiled. Timothy became his happy, playful self in no time.
  Colin called Meghan over and explained what he had just heard.
  “Poor Timothy,” she replied, at the same time thinking something about Timothy’s story
sounded familiar. She could not place why.
  “I don’t mean to be a party pooper,” interrupted Jae. “But we really do have to get going.
Mom’ll be furious if we’re late for Christmas dinner.”
  “Yes,” agreed Ivan, eager to leave.
  “Yes,” said Uncle Eddy as well. “It is time for us all to go.”
  The twins hoped it did not mean what they feared.
  “Now? Are you sure? We still have almost a week before we leave,” reminded Colin.
  “I’m sorry, but it is time. Come, I believe I have two more pieces of that candy in my pocket
and I would love nothing more than one last hug.”
  Meghan fought off tears. Colin couldn’t hold it back, a tear dripped down his cheek. Out of
politeness, Jae and Ivan walked away, allowing the twins some privacy. Eddy popped the candy
in his mouth revealing a living uncle. They hugged him together, as hard as they could.

   “Okay now, I’ve only got a minute,” he knelt in front of Colin. “You are as tall as your actions.
Keep the book safe, and I am so very proud of you.”
   He turned to Meghan.
   “I couldn’t be prouder than I am right now, seeing what you have already accomplished.
Above all else,” he said to them both, “never break your bond.”
   They hugged him one last time and stepped back as the ghostly uncle returned.
   “It’s time,” Eddy said, extending his hand to Timothy. “Are you coming?” he asked
   “Really and truly?” Timothy replied, his ghostly eyes widening.
  “Really and truly,” replied their uncle.
   “I can’t believe it! I’m finally going home,” he shouted, readily grasping Eddy’s hand.
   The twins could not help but smile.
   “You better take good care of our uncle, Timothy,” ordered Meghan, through her sniffles.
   “You bet I will,” he said, as they floated higher and higher into the gray sky.
   Jae came over and waved alongside Meghan and Colin. The heard the echo of Uncle Eddy’s
voice, one last time.
   “Remember that you always have each other.”
   What they did not hear, however, was this:
   “You did a good job, Tim, keeping yourself in that cell, pretending you couldn’t get out.”
   “She fell for it just like you said she would, and she used magic all on her own, just like you
   “Yes, Tim, she did. I only hope I did enough.”
   “They have a rough road ahead, don’t they Mr. Gillivray?”
   The ghost who had called himself the twins’ uncle sighed, taking one last glance below.
   “Yes, Tim,” he answered. “A road even I wouldn’t want to travel.”

  The foursome slowly made their way back to the carriage. Once inside, Nona licked Meghan’s
face, then snuggled up between her and Colin, licking Colin’s salty, tear covered hand. It was
hard to stay sad for long. The streets of the Svoda village were lined with twinkling lights, and
the Mochrie house was full of good cheer. Ivan and Jae entered the house, leaving Colin and
Meghan outside. Footsteps trudging through the snow caught their attention.
  “Merry Christmas, Ditch Witches,” she croaked.
  “What do you want?” asked Meghan, bored of Darcy’s games.
  “I’m getting quite tired of you two screwing up my plans.”
  “Have you ever considered making better plans then, Darcy?” challenged Colin, much to the
surprise and delight of Meghan.
  “You will so pay for that,” she retorted. “One of these days, I will figure out what you’re up
too!” She haughtily strode away.
  “You know, Col, as much as I wanted it to be Darcy that hurt you, I don’t think she had
anything to do with it.” She hated to admit it.
  “No. I think she’s your basic run of the mill bully. But, I’m not going to worry about it today.”

  Meghan twisted her head, staring at her brother.
  The sun was setting over the horizon, the air was crisp, and today, nothing could dampen
their spirits.
  “C’mon little Sis,” said Colin, shifting his body so he could reach up and put his arm around
her neck. “It’s Christmas.”
  She put her arm around him, laughed, and they disappeared inside.

Much later that night:

  “Hey, Meghan,” it was nearly three a.m.
  “Yeah,” she mumbled.
   “Do you think we’ll get to meet some other long lost relative, wherever we go next?”
  “Doubt it, Col. Probably be much more boring than Grimble.”
  “Meghan,” he sent her a minute later.
  “Go to sleep, Colin,” she accosted.
  “There’s my sister,” he closed his eyes.
  “Goodnight,” she muttered as another echo filled her ear. “What now, Colin?”
  “Huh,” he replied. “I didn’t say anything.” He rolled over, opening his curtain, checking that
the door was locked. Corny had not visited him in a while, but they had decided to keep the
door locked, just in case.
  A reflection in the mirror, hanging on the wall across from Colin’s bed, caught his eye.
  Corny’s scribbling’s were readable! How had he not noticed it before? Corny had been writing
  “They will take it, keep it safe,” Colin read. He lay back down, dumbfounded, and very much
wishing he had been smart enough to see it before he had been attacked. He made an instant
decision to start being friendlier to Corny Tibbitt.
  “May need him on my side, if any one gets it in their head to steal the Magicante again.” He
tried to fall back to sleep but heard a distant voice from his sister’s head.
  “The,” and “father,” were the only words he could make out.
  “Meghan, are you dreaming, or playing a joke on me?”
  “Thanks to you, I’m not asleep enough to be dreaming, and I am way too tired for jokes.”
  “Then whose voice is in your head?” he asked.
  Meghan sat up.
  “That wasn’t you talking?”
  “Sorry, Sis, it’s a distant echo. Not in my head, just yours.”
  “If it’s not you, who is it? Why can I hear another voice in my head? This better not be the
next stage of my Firemancy, hearing voices!” she huffed. “Goodnight already,” she shot to Colin.
  He did not answer as he had fallen asleep.
  He dreamed of the silver haired girl.

  Colin bolted upright in bed, instantly and fully awake. It was still night and the Mochrie
house was fast asleep, including Meghan.
  “The hospital! That girl, Catrina, she was in the room I thought was Meghan’s.” His mind
finally put two and two together, realizing that his dream girl, and hospital girl, were one and
the same. He jumped out of bed sneakily getting dressed, and then tiptoed out of the house.
  The night air was biting cold. He entered the hospital and went to the level where he had first
seen the girl. The room was empty. A nurse he did not recognize slept behind a counter. Colin
cleared his throat, waking her.
  “Sorry,” he said. “I wanted to ask, where is the girl that was in that room?” He pointed out the
  “Girl?” she questioned, half awake. “Not sure who you’re talking about, young man,” Seeing
Colin’s disappointed face she added, “Sorry, kid, we never use this level for patients, seeing as
we barely ever have any. Just a break area now.” She leaned back in her chair, closing her eyes.
  Colin stared into the empty room and then left the hospital, wondering if he had remembered
  “No! That part was no dream. She was there.”
  Catrina’s words echoed in his head.
  “You will need me as much as I need you.”
  Colin replayed her warning, and knew he needed to find her, and soon.


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