Magic’s short black legs were moving almost rhythmically, trying to gain a foothold, trying to run and next to him Morris was spinning in his dreams, spinning quickly an intricate web of protection, and finally next to him was Hortense lying as still as death, white of face, not a muscle moved, no breath taken, or so it seemed. She was deeply under a spell of her own making, travelling the Dream world to find an answer to their troubles, troubles which started a few days ago…..
The day began normally, as usual on waking breakfast was eaten, flies consumes by Morris the spider, something unrecognisable eaten by Magic the cat, and Hortense had an apple, but on this unusual day during the eating of said apple, there was a sharp rapping on their front door. Well, in actual fact it was the only door, as the cottage was very small, but it was at the front, hence the grand title ‘front door’. Hortense opened it slowly, wondering who would be calling this early, and then wished she’d pretended they weren’t at home. High Wizard Roland stood there large as life, and he was very, very large. He also set his beady eye on her, thus keeping her from casting a spell to rewind the clock slightly and lock the door. ‘That’s the trouble with people’ Hortense thought waspishly, ‘they never trust you,’ whilst totally ignoring the fact that she would have tried if she’d been quick enough. “Hortense, I..” intoned the High Wizard hesitatingly “ .. no, we need your help. In fact without your help I don’t know what will become of Magic Wood and the Village.” The tone of his voice and the message it carried nearly made Hortense gasp, but she was made of sterner stuff. “What on Earth do you mean, High Wizard?… surely one of my lowly standing can’t help you?” Her eyes were sparkling with a mixture of temper and glee, which one would gain the upper hand she had no idea yet. High Wiz (for short) coughed slightly and motioned for entrance, and Hortense hesitated, as an invitation could not be rescinded unless one used a very powerful Rescinding Spell. (IT took a lot out of one, and aged you ten years, hence her hesitation) ‘Please come in, you are welcome in my abode’ she intoned, hoping that she wouldn’t live to regret her offer.
High Wiz walked in and sat down on the only furniture that would take his weight. A heavy chair which Hortense looked on as her very own, no-one, not even her two familiars would dare to encroach on her space without being the recipient of a deep dark look of warning. She waited patiently for him to settle himself while she stood, moving slightly from one foot to the other. At last he opened his mouth and uttered the words she had only dreamt of in her wildest of dreams. “We need your superior spell casting , Hortense.” She pinched herself, fully expecting to wake up and be disappointed once again, but no, this time it was a reality. She held inside the euphoria and kept her face straight with an effort, “Mine?” she echoed “you need me and my two familiars to help you in some way?” He gave her a look as of he knew she was holding back, but coughed again, almost in embarrassment. “It’s Velma” he offered in explanation, “she’s taken the souls of almost the whole of Magic Wood citizens and I only just escaped imprisonment” Hortense tensed at the mention of her hated enemy, Velma, the Dark Witch, who had belittled her at every turn, who had made her life a misery. “How on earth has she become so powerful?” Hortense enquired. “Surely AoSCaF (the Association Of Spell Casters and familiars) should keep her under control.” High Wiz went beetroot red, and spluttered a few indistinguishable words. “I didn’t get that High Wiz, What did you say?” she enquired softly. He gazed at her, as if he thought she was being difficult, but soon realised she wasn’t. He coughed again, and repeated, “It’s all my fault, I married her, and by doing so gave her access to the Magic Lantern. I hadn’t realised that this was what she was after all along, and didn’t love me at all” As he uttered the last words he started to cry, big sobbing breaths, and tears streamed down his scarlet plump cheeks. “Blimey,” She thought “married? Velma certainly had a thirst for power the only way she knew how. By dark deceit and pretence she had gained the Lantern” Hortense felt a feeling of pity wash over her, and she looked first at Magic then Morris questioning each what she should do next, they both looked at the High Wiz and she realised she should comfort him in some way.
“There, there” she intoned, whilst awkwardly putting her arms about his person, or at least as much as she could reach. This seemed to wake him to the fact he was sobbing uncontrollably, and he made an effort to pull himself together. She felt a wave of relief and quickly stepped back, as she was lost when older people didn’t act normally, surely High Wiz was old enough to know better? Velma was a dangerous Witch, and the thought of she and the High Wiz being together gave Hortense the shivers. She spoke out loud quickly to banish any further thoughts on the matter. “ So where is she now?” … He grabbed at the chance to set his mind straight again, and told her what had happened since she, Hortense had left Magic Wood, (left, as in banished by the Association.) and it seemed that Velma on marrying him and gaining more power had obtained the whereabouts of The Magic Lantern and also the very spell to use it. Also she was residing in High Wiz’s home, and had almost caught him out and sent his soul into the Lantern.
“I only escaped by the skin of my teeth, and I feel she’ll know I’ve come to you for help, Hortense.” and added as he looked at Magic and Morris, “and your two familiars of course” They looked at each other as if in no doubt they would like to be ignored, but too late, they should have both hidden away on sight of the Wizard. His eye had seen them, so they couldn’t escape, but then they wouldn’t try without their friend and mistress. Morris the King of the Spiders started to worriedly spin a shield of silk, and Magic the Black Cat licked slowly at his left paw, waiting for Hortense to turn down the Old Man and send him on his way. This was not a deceit of their concern surely? They’d been banished and that was that. “Yes” they both thought simultaneously, “she’ll tell him to go” “Ok, High Wiz, I’ll help you and Magic Wood” they suddenly, and surely mistakenly, heard her utter the words of agreement. Both heads swivelled to look at their mistress, mouths open wide. “ This is something which affects us all” she eyed her two familiars, knowing full well their reaction, and went on in explanation “ if Velma is not stopped Magic Wood will cease to be” They gulped, but held their nerve, as she knew they would, “Now, High Wiz, I need your help to guard our bodies while we all enter the World Of Dreams in search of the Magic Lantern and it’s counter spell.” The High Wiz smiled for the first time and lumbered to his feet, ready to aid her in her spell casting. This was going to be a busy day and night, as walking the World of Dreams was dangerous and could go drastically wrong.
The magic spell cast, intoned by all and set solid, the three comrades were now lying on the cottage floor, deeply held in stasis by the spell as their souls flew high and finally settled down under the Large Oak which marked the boundary of Magic Woods. Magic the Cat, was in his usual spot, held safe and secure round Hortense’s neck and shoulders, whilst Morris was in her apron pocket, peeking out at the world, at the heavy mist that denoted the Dream was continuing. Hortense cast her minds eye forward, but could sense no life at all, the village was empty of movement, but she could see the bodies still and white, lying as their souls had been taken, and she sensed them all, crying out for help. And she would help, the safety of her own and her familiars souls depended on it. ….
to be continued…..