Witch and wizard, p.15

Witch & Wizard, page 15

 part  #1 of  Witch & Wizard Series

 

Witch & Wizard
 


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  Chapter 93

  Whit

  AFTER WE DROPPED the kids off at Garfunkel’s, we decided to bypass Death by Subway and take a different route back to the prison. True to my word, I avoided directions from Emmet at all costs.

  This time Margo was my copilot. We were in the van alone; the others would meet us close to the prison gates.

  I’d done a pretty successful “abracadabra” on the van before we left, turning it an uneven shade of dark blue, with Idaho license plates.

  But that wasn’t the only big change.

  A short time ago I’d looked like I was about thirty years old. Then I’d changed back to a teenager—with no warning—right as I was going up the stalled escalator at Garfunkel’s. It had made me trip and fall down several steps. Very uncool.

  As Margo and I headed back to the prison, I thought about that and wondered, Has Wisty suddenly changed back into herself also? Has the spell simply worn out?

  I had no idea where she was, what she was doing, or what form she’d be in when I found her. Flat as a pancake, maybe? Or with one or two limbs, the rest left behind in a spring-action mousetrap?

  “You look worried, Whit,” Margo said with a concerned glance my way.

  “Well, yeah,” I said, in more of a “no duh” kind of voice than I’d intended. “Aren’t you?”

  “Yes and no,” Margo said, surprising me. “I mean, sure, anything could happen. But… I mean, this is my life now. It’s what I do. No parents, no brothers or sisters left. I have nothing to lose, really. And I have everything to gain by helping these kids and your mom and dad.”

  I sat in stunned silence. Then I said, “I’m sorry.” I actually couldn’t remember the last time I’d uttered those words with any real meaning. And I wasn’t exactly sure why I said them now. But it felt right.

  “Don’t be sorry, Whit! I’m no big hero.” Margo scoffed. “It’s heroic to face your own pain, and you’re the one who’s facing that right now. I get it. You have a sister you love in there. You have parents who were wanted, dead or alive, in there. The love of your life is dead but still haunting you. Oh yeah, and I hear you’re due to be executed on your birthday.”

  “Well, actually,” I said with a weak smile, “they revised the order to execute me immediately.”

  “So when is your birthday, anyway?” she asked.

  Wow. I really wasn’t sure. Time had felt warped. And with all the portals we’d traveled through, time actually was warped.

  I looked at Margo in surprise.

  “I think it already happened.”

  “Well, how about that?” Margo said with a rare smile. “And you didn’t even get to celebrate.”

  She continued to grin, her brown eyes shining brightly, and sucked in a deep breath. I knew a windup to a song when I saw one.

  “Don’t you dare—,” I protested, but she went on gleefully.

  “Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday, dear Whit…”

  She trailed off as her gaze shifted past me, and then she frowned. “What’s that? There, in the top windows of the main building?”

  I jerked the van to a sudden stop. “It’s flames. The prison is on fire.”

  Oh, Wisty, what have you done?

  Chapter 94

  Wisty

  “GET OUT!” I shouted. “Get out of here now! Fire!”

  The kids pattered barefoot down the metal stairs, most of them unable to take their eyes off me. One of them finally squeaked, “But the guards—”

  “Forget the guards!” I screamed with a new level of hysteria I didn’t know I had in me. “The guards are afraid of you. They’re afraid of me. They’re afraid of everything!”

  A new burst of energy surged through the kids. As soon as the first one reached the ground floor, I pointed toward the main doors, careful not to get too close to any of them.

  More New Order guards began arriving now, billy clubs out, but I rushed straight at them, arms open. They drew back as if I were the plague. “Stay where you are!” I warned them. “You come near me, and I won’t give you a choice between regular and extracrispy!”

  By now waves of kid prisoners were pushing through the main exit, escaping right underneath a huge portrait of The One Who Is The One. It occurred to me that I didn’t even know if Whit and the others were waiting outside.

  “Out, out!” I shouted, my voice hoarse now. I was starting to feel a little hot and crackly, and I hoped I wasn’t cooked extracrispy myself.

  Flames started to lick around the office doorway, and then the whole room was ablaze. I’d left a stream of several fires in my wake. With any luck, after the kids got out, this hideous prison would burn to the ground.

  It seemed to take forever for the last kids to get through the hallway and out the doors as the guards avoided the flames in terror or tried to extinguish their own personal infernos. Meanwhile, I was getting so hot that it didn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that I might explode like a piece of popcorn in a microwave.

  By the time the last prisoner passed out the gate, the few guards who were left were ready for vengeance. They lumbered toward me, zombielike and charred, waving their billy clubs.

  “Uh-uh!” I warned them. “Or I’ll burn you to cinders!”

  Then I turned tail and raced out the exit myself, touching the walls and anything else I could reach as I went by. Streaks and handprints of fire marked my path. Cool—I mean, hot!

  Then finally I saw streaks of moonlight, and the outer doors ahead of me, and then, at last, the final gates.

  Please be there, Whit, I prayed. Please, wizard.

  The inner courtyard was filling rapidly with more guards and New Order soldiers. But then I heard Feffer barking like the hellhound she’d been trained to be. I could see her scaring the bejesus out of some guards as Margo herded kids outside to safety.

  I did a fast head count. Margo, Feffer, Emmet, Sasha… and yes, Whit! They were all there, helping the prisoners get away.

  I was gasping for air, feeling completely burned out, like there was nothing left of me for the fire to consume. Whit was looking all around, searching for me. Am I so unrecognizable?

  Then he saw me, and alarm flashed in his eyes. Fear—like I’d never seen on his face before, not even the time he fell out of our tree and broke his leg in two places.

  I tried to run to him, but the last thing I remember was falling to my knees and hearing a most hateful voice.

  “Wisteria Allgood, you are condemned to death!” it said.

  Chapter 95

  Whit

  I GAGGED AND CHOKED ON the smell of smoke and burning paint as more and more kids, hundreds of them, flowed out the doors of the Overworld Prison. It was a beautiful sight, really.

  Bless Wisty, I thought. She did it. Now I just had to make sure she was safe and had found our mom and dad. Where was she? Where were they?

  It had seemed like forever since we’d first caught sight of the flames in the prison windows, but it had just been minutes. “Hurry!” Margo was shouting as we herded more kids through the gates in a kind of fireman’s line. “We’ve set up an escape route through the sewers!” Margo yelled.

  I craned my neck, looking desperately for Wisty—as girl or mouse—but couldn’t see her anywhere.

  Was she with our folks? Or was my sister trapped inside the burning building? Had she been caught?

  The street outside was filled with kids who were gathered up by our second team, led by Sasha. Traffic had stopped, unable to move. Alarms everywhere were flashing and wailing. But still no Wisty.

  Then the last kids burst through the doors, and I finally saw her—totally aflame.

  It was different this time, worse—she was glowing more brightly, more white-hot than I had seen before. And her wild-eyed face, her newly gaunt frame, looked weaker, closer to terror and death than I ever could have imagined.

  She saw me, and her face—even through the flames—sparkled with hope. But then her eyes rolled b
ack in her head, and she dropped to the pavement like she’d been shot.

  “Get the van!” I shouted over my shoulder to Margo as I made a break toward Wisty. “I’ll bring Wisty!”

  “I don’t think so, wizard,” came a terrible, gravelly voice right behind me.

  Chapter 96

  Whit

  IT WAS LIKE a recurring nightmare of the worst kind.

  There loomed the foul Matron, swaddled in bandages and pale as chalk. Next to her was The One Who Judges, Ezekiel Unger—her brother, I remembered—still in his depressing black robes, looking like the Grim Reaper.

  Security “specialists” armed with scatterguns backed them up.

  Next to them stood… our Jonathan. Looking smug and complicit.

  Despair descended on me like a funeral shroud. It had never occurred to me that anyone from Freeland could stoop to the traitorous level of Byron Swain, but apparently Jonathan had.

  “Jon?” Margo gasped.

  Jonathan just shrugged. “It’s too hard, and hopeless, living like you do. The New Order offers a better life,” he said. “It beats prison and death. I believe in The One.”

  Margo’s eyes filled with angry tears. She’d made me feel stronger before, and I wanted to make her believe that everything was going to be okay. Even if it really wasn’t.

  Words sprang into my brain. I didn’t know where they came from. “Margo, they’re afraid of us. They’re afraid of everything.” And then I kept on talking without really thinking, until it turned into a chant:

  They’re afraid of change, and we must change.

  They’re afraid of the young, and we are the young.

  They’re afraid of music, and music is our life.

  They’re afraid of books, and knowledge, and ideas.

  They’re most afraid of our magic.

  Margo stared at me and sniffled, her eyes wide, but the tears were gone.

  I scooped up Wisty—who was unconscious and nearly weightless in my arms—and said the words again. Louder and more forcefully this time.

  They’re afraid of us, they’re afraid of everything.

  They’re afraid of change, and we must change.

  They’re afraid of the young, and we are the young.

  “Silence!” roared Judge Unger, his pinched beetle’s face turning a shade of funereal purple.

  “Wait till I get my hands on you again,” the Matron snarled at his side, her icy eyes narrowing into thin slits that wouldn’t take a dime.

  “I don’t think so, Matron. Not going to happen,” I said. “Actually, you are petrified of us. And you should be. We have the magic. You don’t.”

  The next time I spoke the words, everyone—Margo, Emmet, Janine, the prison kids, everyone but Jonathan—repeated them with me.

  They’re afraid of us, they’re afraid of everything.

  They’re afraid of change, and we must change.

  They’re afraid of the young, and we are the young.

  They’re afraid of—

  “Enough! More than enough, actually!” Judge Unger pounded his fist into his hand, then raised it as if he would hit me. “The witch and wizard must be put to death at once!”

  In my arms, my sister suddenly opened her eyes. I stared at her in amazement.

  Wisty’s eyes had been blue before. Now they looked almost clear, like sea glass. Her hair was more auburn than its former red, more like our mother’s. Her eyes glowed, and she tried her best to smile at me. “Hey, brother.”

  “You and your sister are going to burn. Right here in this prison!” Judge Unger spewed powerful hatred our way. “The fire’s going to take care of our society’s problem once and for all!

  “You!” he snapped at the security specialists. “Take them back into the prison and lock all the doors! They like fire. Let them burn. That is my final judgment. It is the law of the land. I am The One Who Judges!”

  “No!” came a powerful voice.

  Wisty’s voice.

  Chapter 97

  Whit

  “I DON’T THINK SO,” Wisty went on as she unwrapped herself from my arms. I had no idea what she was up to, but I knew I couldn’t stop her. She turned her head slowly to look at the Matron, then stared at Judge Unger. I sensed a spell coming on, and I cringed involuntarily. We didn’t have time for trial and error.

  “Trust me,” Wisty whispered to me. She turned back to our accusers. “You say that you’re The One,” she said with a tone of authority I’d never heard in her before. “But your form will now become undone.”

  For the first time in all of Wisty’s spellcasting, a shiver went through me.

  “We’re a witch and wizard,” Wisty continued, her voice sounding stronger and stronger.

  As you can clearly tell.

  But since you don’t deserve

  Where you presently dwell,

  It is now with great pleasuren

  We send you off to—

  We all waited with bated breath… and fear, I must admit, and trembling. I almost didn’t want to hear her complete the curse.

  “Um, Roachland,” Wisty finished. “Where you will be judged a heinous criminal even under the laws of roaches!”

  She snapped her hands at Judge Unger, who actually cowered.

  “I give you all my power,” I whispered to my sister. “You speak for both of us.”

  It was as if lightning were moving within me, a feeling of quicksilver warmth that raced through my hands and into Wisty.

  Again, she snapped her hands at Judge Unger. This time, he shrieked, and a crackling burst of white light surrounded him, engulfing the monster from his head to the tips of his black riding boots.

  We all waited, hearts in our throats, and then, when the smoke cleared, the biggest, ugliest roach I’d ever seen lay trembling on the pavement.

  The Matron stared at the hideous creature, appalled.

  “You’re next,” Wisty told her.

  The Matron shot a glance at the security specialists, and they shook their heads. Whirling, they ran through the crowd as fast as they could. Jonathan too.

  The last I saw of the Matron, she was lumbering away, shrieking like a banshee. She had gotten our message; now she would help spread it—right up to the Council of Ones. The fight is on!

  Wisty’s eyes grew very large. “I think… we did it!” she said, her voice raspy and weak. Her eyes were turning back to blue again.

  “Eww!” I heard a kid squeal. I looked down to see a large rat darting through everyone’s legs. Suddenly, it seized the roach—and bit off its head.

  It struck me as being one of the top five grossest things I’d ever seen, but Wisty was having a laugh attack.

  “What’s so funny?” I asked her.

  “Now that’s justice!” she said as the rat skittered away with the rest of Ezekiel Unger’s roach body in its mouth.

  “You know,” she continued, “I like rats much better when they’re not bigger than me. They’re almost cute, don’t you think?”

  And then she fainted again.

  Yeah, my sister’s weird.

  Mostly in a good way.

  Chapter 98

  Whit

  NOW HERE’S WHAT my sister missed: I turned and saw that several of the prison kids were crying, bawling their little eyes out, shivering, cowering.

  The One Who Is The One had appeared—this time with no strong winds, no warning of any kind.

  He stood directly over Wisty and declared, “She’s good. She’s very good, Whitford. You both are. Of course, you must know that I had no intention of letting either of you be seriously harmed. No, no, no.”

  I finally found my voice. “I’ll bet you didn’t.”

  “I absolutely didn’t. That isn’t one of the prophecies. Even I can’t change those.”

  The One looked hard at me then, almost stared right through me. “You do know the prophecies about you and your sister, don’t you? That’s what all the fuss is about. Your parents didn’t tell you? You mean, no one has
? You don’t know?”

  I wished I could hurt him, but all I could do was dumbly mutter, “What prophecies?”

  “Oh Whit, Whit, poor Whit…. All right then, I’ll have to be the bearer of legend and myth. Listen well.

  “Prophecy One: a boy and girl, brother and sister, shall be born to Wiccans and shall achieve powers heretofore unrealized by any other Wiccans. That much is obviously true.

  “Prophecy Two: the boy and girl shall lead an army of children to victory…. Well, look around. You won the Battle of the New Order Reformatory, didn’t you?

  “Three: the brother and sister shall know great sadness, suffering, and terrible betrayal. Hope not. Think so.

  “Four: they must visit all five Levels of Reality, which no one before them has done, and learn the lessons of each level. Sounds even worse than middle school and high school.

  “Prophecy Five: well, I’ll come back to that one.

  “Six: ultimately, the brother and sister shall combine with an even greater power for the goodness and prosperity of all. Sounds exciting, no?”

  The One stared deeply into my eyes, and it was almost as if he were trying to know me better, to understand something about me.

  “So, Whitford, what do you think of all this? Am I friend or foe—or a little of each? Are the important things in life black and white, or maybe a little gray? Do fairies, elves, and gremlins exist? And will you ever see Celia again? I leave you with those weighty thoughts and questions.

  “And this one last prophecy, sweet prince: the Allgoods shall be executed. That is Prophecy Five. I’m sure that you and your sister will sort it all out. Give her my very best. Wake her gently.”

  Chapter 99

  Wisty

  “WHAT HAPPENED?” I asked dreamily when I opened my eyes and caught sight of Whit.

 
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