Anya and the Secrets of Cupola

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You Can't Get Blood From a Turnip, But Can You a Parsnip?

Back at the library, Taika poured through Avaline’s spell books and notes. Anya kept busy by looking through a pile of books Taika had pointed out as the ones Gevin had been reading. “Defensive Maneuvers”, “The Use and Care of Your Short Sword”, “Horses on the Battlefield”.

“Gevin’s really serious about this sword fighting thing!”

“Hmm?” Taika’s nose was submerged in a spell book.

“Never mind.” Anya got up and inspected Avaline. “She looks wilted. I’m going to go get her some water.”

She took the water bucket to the nearest supply and filled it. When she came back in, she was nearly blown back out by Taika’s enthusiasm. “I’ve got it! We can try tonight!”

Anya caught herself on the doorframe, but splashed water on the floor. “O-OK. That’s good.” She went to get a mop to clean it up.

“We’ll have to go back to the cottage and transform Avaline back to her regular self.”

Anya stopped mopping. “Go back to transform her?”

“Oh yes, we have to go back. The Field won’t let us do it here.”

“But why would you want to turn her back?”

Taika explained, “I’ve spent a lot of time studying Avaline’s notes and spells, and I think I know how to change the animals back without the water fairies. But in order to do that, we have to have her human again.”

“Yeah, I heard Methuselah. I was there. But there’s no way we’re going to trick her into doing it for us.”

“Oh. We don’t have to—” Taika all of a sudden looked panic-stricken. She hastily scanned the library, stopping her attention at the parsnip. She grabbed the pail and watered it. Then she started filing away books.

“Taika?” Anya crossed her arms and walked across the room towards her.

“Hmm?”

“The plan? The spell to change the animals back into people again?”

“Oh. Yes. Well, it’s rather complicated, but suffice it to say we’ll have to take another trip to the cottage and change her back.”

Anya squinted her eyes. “You just said that. Taika, what’s going on?”

Taika stopped filing. Shifting her gaze to anywhere but Anya, she said. “It’s dangerous. I’m worried.”

Anya raised her eyebrows. “More dangerous than a troll or a pit full of lava lizards?”

Taika still refused to look at her. “Maybe.”

“Are you going to tell me what it is?”

She sighed, looked Anya in the eyes, and said, “Anya. You have to absorb Avaline’s powers.”

“WHAT?!”

Snort! “Hmm? Wha-what? Taika? ’Sit time to go home now?” Anya had woken up Otis with her yelling.

Taika calmed him down. “No, Otis. Sorry. Go back to sleep.” Then she whispered to Anya, “See what you did? This is why I didn’t want to tell you right now.”

Anya whispered through gritted teeth, “Look. I don’t care if his chair burst into flames. I am not absorbing evil powers, and we are discussing this now!

Taika lowered her voice further. “Anya, if you don’t do this, those animals will stay animals for the rest of eternity. Whatever spell she used to transform them also made them ageless as beasts, remember?”

Anya knew what this meant. She couldn’t sentence her father to eternity in a cage. But what of the rest of her family? What would happen to them if she became just like Avaline? She couldn’t stand the thought of doing anything bad to anyone, especially those she loved. Her voice broke with her next words. “Taika, I can’t become like her. Taika I can’t!”

Taika moved closer to Anya and said with a very soft voice, “Anya. There is risk involved. I don’t know what will happen when we transfer the powers. You may become a hideous hag that tries to destroy the universe. But you may also become the exact opposite with the ability to save countless lives.”

Anya walked over to the window. She watched what few Cupolians strayed this far from the center of activity.

Taika continued, “Remember what Methuselah said? It was her hatred that made her evil. You don’t have that hatred. You have love. I’ve seen it. When you tried to fight Canis, it was because you were trying to protect Basil. When you made extra money from the kitchen, you used it on your family instead of yourself. You are a selfless, loving person.”

Anya didn’t think any of that mattered all that much. She was absorbing someone’s magic, their soul. “And what about my family? What happens if I do become evil and start turning people into mushrooms?”

“Cupola will be safe. The Field will protect everyone inside it in case something goes wrong.”

“But you won’t.”

“Anya. I’m willing to do this. I know the risks, and I’m willing to take them.”

Anya paced the room, thinking. She supposed her family would ultimately be safe. At least until the Field collapsed entirely, and hopefully by then Taika could come up with something else. Also, if she disappeared, her family would have one less mouth to feed. They wouldn’t even have to worry about finding her another job. She stared out the window again and found her house in the distance. Her old house, where they lived before it all went wrong.

That’s when she thought of the other families with missing loved ones: their boys, their sons, their fathers. Clay was gone. Jeremiah was gone. Her own father was gone. And while she secretly hoped they were in that basement, there was no way to know for certain. But even if her dad wasn’t there, the rest of Cupola deserved their family members back. She couldn’t turn her back on them. She had a chance to save all those people, and she wasn’t going to let fear stop her.

“And what about Gevin?” she asked.

“Do you honestly believe he would ever leave your side?” said Taika.

Anya thought for a moment. Then she wiped her face, turned to Taika and said, “What do we have to do to get ready?”

“Nothing. We can leave at any time.”

“Let’s get this over with then.”

Taika gave a curt nod.

They left Otis, napping for a change, and aimed for the stables. On the way, Anya asked Taika to stop by her house and tell her mom she was spending the night in the kitchen again. Taika didn’t want to, but agreed the truth could be disastrous. They then rushed off to the stables where Gevin met them with Terrence’s old baselard in his hand.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

“What are you doing with that?” asked Anya in return.

“Practicing.” He held it up in the sunlight. “Terrence gave it to me this morning on his way to work. He bought a new one and said I earned this from the whole Veruca thing.” He shrugged the incident off as though it embarrassed him. “It’s used. It’s no big deal.”

So Terrence spent his hoard money on a new sword. Anya felt doubly guilty now. Maybe if she had told her family about getting fired sooner, Terrence could have saved the money for the family.

Taika broke her pity party. “We need to leave now, Gevin.”

“What? We just got back! I don’t have any horses ready, and I was really looking forward to sleeping for once!”

Anya said, “Gev, we have to.”

“Fine!” Gevin stomped off into the stables mumbling, “What’s somebody have to do to get some rest around here?”

“I heard that!”

Ignoring her, Gevin laid down his sword and walked over to a black stallion. “We can’t use the horses we used last night. They need their rest.” Gevin pointed out three horses. “These don’t get worked much, so be careful.”

They got to work saddling them up. Anya made sure she still had her wand; Gevin grabbed his sword and then, with precautionary potions in Taika’s pouch and a parsnip on her person, they set off trotting to the cottage.

It was a good thing Anya only had a stick to carry because her black stallion started going fast. Too fast. Halfway through the woods he ran under a low branch, causing her to get knocked off onto the ground. Taika immediately dismounted and began feeding her healing draughts. Gevin chased after the horse, but it was no use. Every time he started to get near, it would gallop away.

Gevin returned, sullen and throwing rocks at innocent flowers. “Stupid horse!”

“I take it you never found it.” Anya tried to stand up.

“No. It was laughing at me Ahnny! Laughing!

With only a slight bruise and a headache, thanks to Taika’s healing potions, Anya felt good enough to smile. She rode with Taika the rest of the way. Soon they arrived at the witch’s house. Anya’s stomach told her it had to be close to suppertime.

Taika warned them as they dismounted, “Careful now, Alexander might have come back and may be around here somewhere.” She toted one of Avaline’s overgrown spell books, while Anya held the bucket. They entered the cottage and went into the basement.

Gevin sat on the steps and watched while Taika placed the vegetated witch in the center of the biggest bare spot they could find. She told Anya, “I need you to make a cage for Avaline.”

Anya wasn’t sure how she was going to do that. They had brought no lumber, no tools, no anything. “How?”

Gevin asked, “Yeah, can’t we just use one of the extra ones lying around?”

Taika answered, “I checked just to be sure, but none of them are large enough to hold her in human form. One of the spells in her books is just for these animals’ cages. So, Anya, you’re going to use your wand to create a cage around Avaline now that will hold her when she’s fully grown. It will also be a magical enclosure. That will be beneficial in case she tries to escape. Which I’m sure is inevitable.”

Anya and Gevin both had to agree with that. Anya asked, “What do I do?”

Taika held her arm out as if she were holding a wand herself and demonstrated. “First, you’re going to draw one in the right proportions. Then you’re going to say, ‘Build a cage good and tight. Build it with both strength and might. Make it tight enough to hold a witch called Avaline so bold.’ Be sure to include that last part so she doesn’t escape.”

“Wait a minute,” Gevin interrupted. “Why is it she didn’t have to rhyme or anything when she made a fire, but she does for this?”

“Because those were simple spells. When you light a fire, say a pre-determined password, or even move small objects, you can just flick the wand and say something simple. But when you’re creating something new, something out of thin air, you have to give it better directions than just ‘cage.’ Otherwise you could wind up with nothing more than a piece of paper with a cage drawn on it. It’s completely unpredictable.”

She turned back to Anya. “Now, are you ready to try it?”

“What if I can’t draw it correctly?”

“Just do the best you can.”

Anya took a deep breath, held it, and drew a generously sized, not quite perfect cube with her wand while reciting, “Build a cage good and tight. Build it with both strength and might. Make it tight enough to hold a witch called Avaline so bold.”

An Avaline sized wooden cage started to develop. Taika whispered, “Be sure to keep repeating the spell until it completely finishes.”

Anya kept repeating the words while drawing with her wand. As she did, a shadow of a cube formed around the potted vegetable. First straight lines went across the floor and under the bucket. Then they went up the sides. When they reached their desired height, they grew across the top and met each other. By the fourth repetition, the completed cage was there, albeit crooked. It had a door with a latch and a lock and everything.

Gevin stood up slowly and walked around it. “Whoa! That is awesome!” He looked at Anya. “What else can you do?”

Anya’s smile radiated her feeling of accomplishment.

Gevin turned to Taika and asked, “Can she make us some fry bread?”

Taika answered, “Technically, yes. But it’s complicated.”

“What do you mean complicated?”

“I know I said, ‘out of thin air,’ but that’s not literally what happens.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You can’t create something out of nothing. You can only transport what already exists. So when she made the cage, she in fact took wood from elsewhere and moved it here. In other words, somewhere out there is a tree missing a lot of limbs, or some person missing a bunch of firewood.”

Gevin asked, “So we’re stealing?”

“Technically, that’s very possible.”

Anya and Gevin looked at each other with great concern.

Taika continued, “Back before the Field, people would use locking spells to keep their possessions locked, or safe from unauthorized magical transport. That way when their neighbor made a new bed, theirs didn’t disappear. Nor did their pile of firewood or blankets.”

Anya crossed her arms and pursed her lips. “That sounds way too complicated to me.”

Gevin furrowed his brow. “Yeah, me too. Wouldn’t that just mean things went flying all over the place all the time?”

Taika answered, “I’m sure that when magic was common, there were statutes and regulations in effect to prevent theft and other problems that arose.”

Gevin’s eyes had glazed over, and Anya pinched the bridge of her nose. She asked, “Can we just move on please? My headache’s getting worse.”

“Sure. I’ll be right back.” Taika rushed upstairs.

Gevin asked, “What the gramwhats is she doing?”

Anya shrugged.

Taika came back down carrying the cookie sheet from the kitchen. “It’s time. Are you ready?”

Anya looked at the cookie sheet and raised her eyebrows. “To bake cookies?”

“We need to replicate as many of the features of the original spell as possible. When Avaline cast the spell, it bounced off the cookie sheet and onto her. In order to change her back, we have to do the same. I need you to direct the wand at the cookie sheet, which should reflect the spell onto the parsnip, turning her back into a witch.”

Anya’s head hurt even more. “What am I supposed to say?”

“Do you remember what she said when she threw the spell at you?”

Anya thought a moment. “I don’t think she said anything. She just pointed her wand. That was all.”

“Without knowing the exact spell she used in the first place, I can’t tell you for sure what to use. Try, ‘change back’ or something.” Taika walked over to Anya and held up the cookie sheet in front of herself like a shield.

Anya rolled her eyes, sighed, pointed her wand at the cookie sheet and said, “Turn back.”

Nothing.

Taika maintained her position. “You do have to say it like you mean it. You can’t just flip your wand and mumble something and expect it to happen.”

Anya was getting very frustrated. “Fine. Change back! Become a witch! Avaline return!” The wand faintly vibrated with the last one.

Gevin climbed up the steps enough to peek from behind the wall.

More determined now, Anya called out, “Restore Avaline!”

A beam of magic shot into the cookie sheet and knocked Taika back, causing her to drop it to the floor with a loud clatter. Gevin’s immense eyes watched as Avaline’s pot glowed yellow, and then vibrated. The parsnip inside grew to about the size of a person. And then, POP! Where once was a parsnip in a pot, stood Avaline, exactly as she had looked before in the kitchen.

She heaved with angry breaths at the children. “How dare you! In my basement with MY WAND! HOW DARE YOU!!! ALEXANDER!!”

Gevin jumped out from the wall, readying his sword for battle. Anya whipped her head around, waiting for Alexander to show up out of nowhere. When nothing happened, they turned their attention back to Avaline.

Taika told them, “Now for the hard part.”

“That was the easy part?” exclaimed Gevin.

“Actually, that was the super safe and easy part. Now we have to transform the animals back into people.”

“NO! NO! INFIDELS!! THIEVES!!” Avaline screamed all sorts of angry accusations in the background at the children.

Gevin walked up to Anya with his hands on his ears. “Is there a mute button on that thing?”

Anya aimed at Avaline and yelled, “Silence!”

Avaline continued to jump up and down and scream through an open, but silent, mouth. Gevin lowered his hands and grinned. “Cool.”

Anya smiled with satisfaction.

“Anya, we need to begin now.” Taika’s voice was serious and quiet. “Gevin, I need some of her blood.”

Gevin shot her a look of alarm. Anya wrapped her arms around herself. Taika clarified, “Avaline’s blood. Relax, Anya.”

Anya relaxed slightly, but still felt apprehensive.

Gevin pulled out his dagger and took the bowl Taika handed him. He walked over to the cage filled with a jumping and silently screaming Avaline. “Any ideas?”

“Freeze.” Anya casually pointed her wand at the witch. Avaline froze into a block of ice. Anya clinched her fists in frustration. “Arg! I hate this stupid wand! Melt!” Avaline melted back to normal but remained dazed from confusion.

Gevin quickly poked her arm and collected several drops of blood before she started moving again. “Here.”

“We also need some of her hair,” said Taika.

Gevin cut a lock of her hair and handed it over as well.

Taika took the hair and stirred the blood around inside the bowl with it. “I need the wand please.”

Anya obliged. Taika placed the wand in the center of the room. She took the hair and drew a small circle around the wand with Avaline’s blood. She turned to Anya with hurried instructions. “Step into the circle, quickly. This magic is rare. It doesn’t last long.”

Anya closed her eyes. Her fear had come back, but she refused to let it win. She took a deep breath, opened her eyes, set her jaw, and stepped into the circle.

Gevin asked, “What’s going on? I thought we were transforming the animals.”

Taika explained, “In order to transform the animals back into people, we have to use the original wizard’s power. And since Avaline is unwilling to do that, we have to transfer her power into Anya.”

Gevin jumped out to stop her. “Anya, don’t!”

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