Anna Grayson and The Order of Merlin

A Night of Knights

At five-thirty Anna was back in the turret room nervously waiting for Gwen. Although becoming the Lethifold had somehow settled her anger, she was still very anxious about Eric’s decision regarding the Presidency. Convincing herself her brother would never resign the post before he started; she thought it reasonable to assume her father must have talked him into accepting the job after all. After finding Gwen, they made their way back to the castle for the start of term feast.

“Um…Anna? Did they tell you where you would be sitting for dinner?” Gwen asked, as they entered the floor of the Rotunda.

“Ah… no. I guess I’ll just sit…” but Anna stopped when she realized the point of Gwen’s question. The five Union tables were full of students seated for dinner, each draped in their Union colors. Although amazing to see, the sight of it didn’t seem all that personally inviting to Castlewood’s first Guardian.

“Anna,” called a voice over the mulling crowd. Anna looked around to find her sister Tencha coming toward her. “Come with me. I’ll show you where you’re sitting.”

“Oh, okay… thanks,” Anna said, somewhat relieved. “I’ll see you after dinner, then,” she said, looking back at Gwen.

“Good luck… and try to relax,” Gwen replied with a smile, giving her a perky thumb’s up. Anna followed her sister who directed her to a tiny table sitting in front of the Searchers. A single chair sat empty at the table, which was covered with a small purple tablecloth.

Tencha pointed to the chair and smiled. “There you are kiddo – enjoy!” she said with a giggle, and then turned to walk back to her own seat next to Dowla.

Anna groaned. “You’ve got to be kidding?” Why couldn’t she just sit with the rest of the Servers, or with a member of her own family? She reluctantly sat down, avoiding the stare of those in the Rotunda she knew were watching her.

When everybody was finally seated, Professor Thordarson entered the room and the students immediately stood. The Chancellor stepped onto the platform and smiled.

“Please… please, sit.” He was dressed in red and gold robes, a flattened hat, and very dark glasses. His voice seemed to sing with joy as he spoke. “I know we’re all looking forward to our wonderful feast, but we do have some unfinished business that must first be attended to. Due to the unusual events of last night,” Anna felt her body slide down into her chair, “we have yet to announce the position of Student Body President for the upcoming year. And although our remaining Union Knights have done remarkably well in rising to the occasion and getting everybody settled in, they will need some help. So, without further ado, I would like to make these happy announcements now.”

Anna looked around, trying to locate Eric among all the others Servers seated behind her. She could see Sarah Bell at the table, looking much more comfortable than the night before, but still, no Eric. She noticed Damon scanning the room for their brother as well. Anna looked back over her other shoulder at the twins and mouthed, ‘Where’s Eric?’ Her sisters shrugged unknowingly as Professor Thordarson continued.

“The Castlewood Student President is a time-honored position of great importance. To fill this post, we look to our seventh-years with top academic marks and proven leadership skills for the benefit of all our students. And so, without further delay…” he paused as he removed a small scroll from the pocket of his robes. He unrolled the scroll and said, in a loud and very clear voice, “Our new Student Body President is…” Anna thought she felt her heart stop, “Nancy Dodimayer!”

An explosion of yelling and screaming suddenly erupted from the Laborers’ table to Anna’s right. The entire Union was on their feet, whooping, and cheering loudly as a tall black girl in Knight’s robes stood with a look of surprised shock on her face. As the girl made her way forward, Anna buried her face into her hands and uncontrollable tears of disbelief immediately burst forth. For the first time in her life Anna wished she had never heard of Castlewood. This was all her fault. Her brother had turned this honor down… because of her. She could hear the applause getting louder, and she looked up in time to see the new Castlewood President walking up the steps of the platform. Anna slowly turned to find her sisters stunned, their faces screwed up in horror and incredulity, completely astonished at what had just happened. She looked around and could see Damon standing at the Defender’s table, yelling over the cheering crowd, trying without success to get the Chancellor’s attention. A girl with dark hair sitting next to him was tugging on his robes and finally yanked him back into his seat to quiet him. He fell down into his chair, throwing up his hands in unreserved disgust.

Professor Thordarson reached out to the girl stepping nervously onto the platform and embraced her. He then reached into his robes and pulled out a heavy silver chain attached to the President’s amulet, the very same ornament Eric had given to Anna to hold the night before. Anna cringed as Thordarson draped the amulet over the girl’s bowed head, and then flinched again as the cheering from the crowd abruptly turned into a booming roar. Anna sobbed, shaking her head in disbelief as Thordarson backed away and began clapping with the rest. He glanced down at Anna and, for a briefest moment, she thought she saw a glimmer of understanding and sympathy. The Chancellor came forward again, and asked the girl to raise her right hand. The Rotunda suddenly went very quiet.

“Do you solemnly swear to uphold the laws and traditions of this academy, to preserve and protect its charter, and to lead, through positive example, the students of Castlewood — so help you God?”

“I do,” said the girl, in a voice filled with reverence.

“Way to go Nancy!” screamed a voice from the Labor Union table, and the crowd exploded into loud applause again. Nancy walked forward to the edge of the platform with the President’s amulet shining bright around her, with her hands held high, waving in jubilation. Anna felt sick as she turned to Damon again. There were three other Defenders now encircled around him, but he was still pounding the table in a fit of confused rage. Anna looked desperately for Eric, but he wasn’t anywhere in the room. Maybe he was too upset to be seen. Perhaps the faculty had recognized his hesitancy to accept the position, which lead them to choose another student without waiting for his answer.

The Chancellor handed Nancy another large scroll and then whispered something into her ear. She nodded, and then raised a hand to quiet the crowd.

“Thank you… thank you all so much for your support. Well… this is quite a shock,” she said humbly, and everybody laughed. “I would also like to thank Chancellor Thordarson, the professors, teachers, and the academy staff for putting their trust in me. I will do everything in my power to insure their faith has not been misplaced. I will also do everything I can to earn the trust of my fellow students, and act as a strong advocate for you throughout this upcoming year.” The cheering began again, and although Anna hated the idea of somebody other than her brother being selected as President, she could immediately see why the teachers were able to move so quickly to choose this girl to replace him. She instantly took charge.

“The Chancellor has asked me to announce this year’s new Union Knights. She unrolled the scroll Thordarson had given to her. “As I announce each name, would you please join me here on the platform?” She raised the scroll to eye level, “From the Server’s Union, Karen Scott.” There was polite clapping as the girl whom Anna had met earlier in the Server Hall stood and walked to the platform. As she approached the new President, Captain Dunning stepped into view and handed Nancy a bright, silver sword. She turned to the Knight and showed her the sword. “Do you swear to uphold the traditions and bylaws of your Union Dynasty, to obey the President and the Academy’s Captain of the Guard?”

“I do,” Karen replied stiffly. The President handed her the sword, which she accepted with a smile before hugging the new Student President. Nancy Dodimayer continued calling out the names, two boys, and two girls, for every Union. Anna waited, thinking she would finally see Eric accepting his sword again as a Union Knight, but, to her surprise, this did not happen. To the shock of almost everybody sitting at the Server table, Eric was not called to be a Knight. Anna broke down again, quietly sobbing alone at her table. Eric… where are you? What have you done?

Finally, the Knights for the Defenders were called, and to the Grayson’s surprise, Damon was named a Knight. Although still visibly upset about Eric’s failure to rise to the Presidency, Damon walked to the platform and accepted his sword. When the President had finished announcing all the names on the scroll, she handed it back to the Chancellor who then stepped forward again to speak.

“Congratulations to all of our new student leaders. I am sure they will do an outstanding job in the upcoming year. I do, however, have a few remaining announcements before we dig into this fabulous feast.” He stepped to the edge of the platform as the new President and Union Knights fell back.

“Last night, a great opportunity was delivered to us. The birth of a new Union is an extremely rare event, and, as the Chancellor of this fine school, it is incumbent upon me to do everything I can to make it successful. For the better part of the day, the academy staff and I have set upon the task of deciding how this new Union is to be sustained. Although we are very excited about the possibilities, our ability to preserve this Union, alas, remains in doubt.”

Anna’s heart dropped. What did he mean, in doubt? There was a low mummer among the students as they struggled to listen to the Chancellor’s every word.

“We have decided, therefore, in order to sustain this new Union and allow it to continue as a Dynasty, fifty students within these walls tonight must join the Guardians before the end of the school year.”

“What did he say?” whispered a number of students together. The murmur of voices was increasing in volume as everybody began to repeat what they had just heard. The Chancellor raised his hands to quiet the crowd once more.

“This…” he said in a loud voice, “will be a two step process.” He stepped forward to gather their attention once again. “First, I would ask all of you to consider your position within the current Union in which you sit, and, as we learn together what it means to be a Guardian,” he motioned a hand toward Anna’s table, “ask yourself if the possibility exists for a change.” The room was suddenly quiet. “And if, in this self-examination, you begin to believe that your interests and ambitions might align more closely to what you see here, please inform a member of the staff and they will see to it that you take the second step… and reenter the Mirror of Enlightenment.”

There was a sharp gasp from the crowd, which the Chancellor seemed to ignore. “Of course… any student asking to go through the mirror again,” he continued loudly, “will do so in complete privacy. No one need know of your search for the truth in this matter, other than you.” Professor Thordarson smiled kindly. “Change… is not something to fear, but something we should embrace if it brings with it even the remote possibility of the truth. I know many of you are questioning the validity of passing through the Mirror of Enlightenment a second time and you would be correct to do so. After all, up to tonight, no student has ever been given the opportunity to pass through the mirror twice. But…I am ready now to announce, for some of you, I am convinced passing through the mirror again will invoke a change of Union.” There was a growing rumble of descent in the crowd, but before the protestors could synchronize their objection, Professor Thordarson moved to quiet them once more.

“It has already happened tonight! One of our students has recently volunteered to reenter the mirror and, as a result, has been joined to the new Guardian Union.”

There was another sharp gasp of disbelief from the students and Anna jerked up in shock. Who could it be? At that moment, a door suddenly opened to their right and Professor Titan entered the room with another student following close behind him. It was Eric. Anna slowly stood, uncertain of what she was seeing. The color on her brother’s robes had changed from the black and royal blue of the Servers Union to the purple markings of a Guardian. Anna stepped back in horror as Eric walked up to her table, smiling broadly.

“Eric, what is this? What have you done?”

He reached out and took his sister’s hands. “I was out and about, searching for the truth.” He glanced down at his new robes and then chuckled. “And I… well… I guess I found it.”

“But your post… the Presidency… you should have…”

“I am your brother first, Anna, and I can help the school best in this way. As soon as Professor Thordarson told me how he planned to sustain the new Union, I immediately volunteered to reenter the mirror again myself. I only wanted it to validate what it told me six years ago when it placed me in the Server’s Union. And well… as you can plainly see, apparently it believed a change was in order.” Anna’s eyes began to blur with her own tears. She looked up and saw Damon now standing at the edge of the platform, looking at the two of them in utter disbelief. Tencha and Dowla ran over to join them.

“Eric — What the hell happened?” said Tencha, pushing her brother straight to look at his robes properly. “What’s going on? Does this mean you’re a Guardian now? What about the Servers?” Anna looked up and could see the students at the Servers table staring at Eric, a senior member of their Dynasty, a Knight, now standing in the robes of another Union.

Suddenly a voice called from the platform. “Eric Grayson!” They all turned and saw the Student President motioning Eric toward the platform’s steps. Eric quickly nodded and joined Nancy and Professor Thordarson on the stage.

Nancy looked somewhat confused as Eric stood before her. “Surprises for everyone tonight, ay? Eric, I really don’t know how this happened. My being named President, I mean. I thought… well… all indications were that you…”

Eric smiled. “Nancy, you’re going to make an outstanding President, and I can’t think of anybody more deserving of this post than you,” Eric shook her hand and then quickly hugged her, “Congratulations, Madam President.” There was strong applause coming from the teachers’ balcony above them and the rest of the students, confused and somewhat dazed, politely joined in.

As Eric moved to return to Anna’s table, Nancy stopped him once again. “Hold on there, Grayson,” she called. Eric turned around and saw her smiling at Professor Thordarson. She stepped forward once more. “Eric, it would be a shame to let your talents and skills go unused this year. Although you cannot continue in your old role as a Knight in the Server Union… there’s no reason why you can’t be a Knight in your new Union, as a Guardian.” She reached around and asked for another sword from Dunning, and Anna could see the captain’s face fall into a disappointed grimace as he passed it forward to her. Nancy turned again and reached out to hand Eric the sword. “The school needs you, Eric. I need you,” She looked down at Anna, “and your sister needs you. Take this. Be a Knight for your new Union. Help us understand what’s happening and why the Guardians have come to us. Find out what we should tell those who will now come after you. Please… take the sword.”

Eric glanced over to Anna who stood trembling, not knowing what to say. He looked at Professor Thordarson who smiled to give an encouraging nod. He looked down again at the sword, lying in Nancy’s open palms and grinned.

“I accept,” he said proudly, and then lifted the sword out of her hands. Eric turned to face the students and, swishing the sword expertly left and right, he raised the flat of the blade to his forehead. “I promise to obey our new President, the Captain of the Guard, and to uphold the traditions and bylaws of my Union Dynasty.” He peered around the blade at Anna below him and whispered, “Whatever they may come to be. I will now, and forever more, be known as a Guardian Knight, protector of Castlewood Academy.” With this promise made, the Rotunda broke into warm applause.

Professor Thordarson shook Eric’s hand and as the he watched the first Guardian Knight make his way back to Anna’s table, he opened his arms wide to the crowd and joyfully proclaimed, “Let the feast begin!”

He clapped his hands twice and immediately the high ceiling in the Rotunda began to turn. The stone arches and beams dissolved into a pool of liquid, like that of a raging sea over their heads. Lightning flashed as the ocean above whipped about, looking to fall down upon them all. Then, from each inverted storm cap appeared…. a small bubble. Two or three at first, soon there were hundreds of bubbles of every size and color, dropping slowly and silently into the crowd below. The students laughed and oohed as each bubble finally came within their reach. They began to pop them, and when they did, beautiful butterflies of matching color shot forth from within. Soon hundreds of butterflies were swirling in a tight mass back toward the ceiling and the floating sea above them. The students watched as each reentered the water within the ceiling, and as they did, another bubble dropped to replace it. Laughing and clapping wildly, the students were amazed at the wondrous sight. Even tiny Sarah Bell was giggling and standing on her chair to get to the bubbles around her.

“They’re beautiful,” she sang out, as she jumped up to pop one over her head.

Finally, one of the bubbles reached the surface of the table unnoticed, and, as it touched down upon the tablecloth, it popped, leaving behind a platter of turkey in its place. Another bubble made it down, popped, and became a large bowl of vegetables. Soon, the students started to understand what was happening.

“No, don’t pop them…. I’m starved!” said a boy at the Defenders’ table, who sat to snatch up his knife and fork. Another bubble landed on Anna’s table, leaving behind a pitcher of pumpkin juice. Anna was laughing in marveled appreciation, as Eric took her glass and filled it to the brim. Within minutes, the tables were full of wonderful dishes of every kind imaginable, and Eric and Anna finally sat to eat. Soon, the laughing and cheering was transformed into the happy buzz of many students plowing hungrily into their evening meal.

Anna looked at her brother’s new robes. “Eric, I wish you hadn’t done this. The family is going to be very disappointed. Don’t you think Daddy would…?”

“Father already knows about my decision on this, Anna. He not only understands my opinion, but he agrees with it as well. He believes, just as I do, that we need to put all of our attention into this new Union. This is far more important than any single honor that might be given to us.”

Anna reached out to hold her brother’s arm. “Why is it only the best people have to make all the sacrifices?” she said, reverently.

“The family should always be there when we need it, Anna. That’s the way Father has asked us to live our lives. It’s never a sacrifice when it’s family,” he replied, patting her hand lovingly.

“But what if there are no more Guardians? What if no one else is willing to walk though the mirror again like you did? Then all of this will have been for nothing,” Anna said, worriedly. Just then, a very large bubble slowly settled down on the floor next to them. It popped, leaving behind another empty chair at their table. Anna frowned and then looked up at Chancellor Thordarson sitting at the table in his viewing box. He smiled, and then raised his cup in salute to them.

“Apparently, the Chancellor is a bit more optimistic about our chances for success than you are,” Eric said, with a grin.

The rest of the evening was spent in happy conversation and delicious celebration of the start of term. In time, Sarah, Gwen, and the twins joined Anna and Eric at the Guardian table. They discussed their upcoming classes, and Eric gave them his insight on the various teachers and professors they would be studying with during the year. An argument broke out later in the evening when Damon joined their table. He was very upset when he found out why Eric had turned down the President’s post. Anna rolled her eyes at Gwen, knowing full well that, for someone like Damon, Eric’s sacrifice would be impossible to understand.

TWO

At the Grayson estate, Mister Grayson was at his desk in his office, working to finish the evening’s business. It had been a terribly, busy day and he was looking forward to going to bed early. Keeping busy was his only goal in the days following the children’s departure to school. It was the same every year. The summer holiday, together with Christmas and Easter, were the happiest days of his life, the time when his family was together again at last. He already missed his children, and he knew it was going to be especially difficult this year, because Anna wasn’t with him. Although he was proud and happy for his youngest daughter, he had unexpectedly grown dependent on Anna to keep him company while the rest of his children were away and at their studies. Mister Grayson was alone for the first time in his life, and, with a growing feeling of foreboding, he realized he didn’t like it. No… he didn’t like it at all.

He picked up a book and opened it to a marked chapter entitled, Merlin’s Guardians. He began reading from the very old and dusty pages, taking notes on some curled parchment to the side.

There has always been a great deal of speculation about a secretive group of wizards and witches who called themselves ‘The Guardians’. In their day, this group of powerful sorcerers looked to Merlin for leadership, but their goals and ambitions are of great study and interpretation fifteen hundred years later. The general conclusion of these studies suggest the Guardians had come together to protect the creatures, places, and objects of magic during the most troubling times in wizard history. During the rise of the dark wizard, Honszoil, there were eyewitness accounts of Guardians fighting against his evil minions in order to protect several magical objects they had sought to steal and use for their master’s terrible purposes. On its surface, this would seem a most noble cause, but there were also reports of fighting between the Guardians and the members of the legendary Wizard’s Cluster, who were looking to occupy some highly magical places in their battle against Honszoil. It would seem the aspirations of the Guardians were more in line with keeping magic, in all its many forms, safe rather than joining either side of the fight. In a now famous quote, a Guardian named Zelenak was reported to have said, ‘Who wins this battle is of little consequence if, in the end, all of magic is destroyed. We follow our Sithmaith to protect that which cannot protect itself.’

Mister Grayson finished scratching his notes and then tossed his quill into the center of the book. He stretched, settled back into his leather chair, and then slowly swiveled around to gaze up at the portrait of Victoria Grayson on the wall behind him. The man sunk low into his seat, staring at the lovely face looking down at him from the picture.

“She is so much like you, Victoria,” he said, longingly of Anna. “She has your fire and passion for life. There isn’t a day that goes by when I see her that I don’t think of you.” He laid his tired head into one of his hands. “I miss you so much,” he moaned, somberly.

Suddenly, there was a sharp clang in the adjoining room, and Mister Grayson raised his head to frown. There it was again… another sound, a thump this time, coming through his office wall. He stared at the door across the dimly lit space leading to his boardroom. He stood and walked over to the door, barely noticing how unusually cold the doorknob was as he entered the room.

The conference room was very dark, but still, even through the gloom surrounding him, he could see the space was empty.

“Meredith? Are you still here?” he called out, and then listened for a response. He finally noticed the chill in the air. “Strange… what’s wrong with the heat in here?” Mister Grayson stepped into the room and walked its full length toward one of the many fireplaces sitting quiet in the dark. He pulled out his wand and lowered it toward the logs sitting in the grate. “Incendio,” he whispered, and as the wood exploded at his feet, the man thought he heard something unexpected behind him.

“Sshh!”

Mister Grayson spun around and thought, for the briefest moment, he heard a whisper trailing off in the darkness.

“Decccceived….”

“Cookie? Is that you?”

There was a knock, a faint rap, that he recognized coming from his outer office again. He cautiously looked around, and then heaved a resigned sigh as he slipped his wand back into his pocket and made his way to the door across the room.

“Lights!” he said sharply, and the golden globes in his office immediately brightened. “Come in!” he barked.

Widwick stepped into the room holding a tray. “Iz brought you’s some tea, sir,” said the elf in his charming boyish voice.

Mister Grayson sat down at his desk again. “Thank you, Widwick. I’ll take it here, please,” he replied, looking up with a frown. “Have you seen Cookie and Gabby around?” he asked, glancing over to the door of his conference room.

“Oh… Iz just left them in the kitchen, sir. Would you’s like me to summon them’s for you?”

“No, that won’t be necessary. I just… wanted to know where they were.” He rubbed his eyes again. “I’m very tired, Widwick. Could you put the fireplace out in the next room before you go to bed?”

“Of course Iz will, sir. Iz would be happy to. Would you’s like some dinner, sir? You’s haven’t eaten anything tonight.”

“No, thank you. I’m… not very hungry.”

Widwick frowned. “Master Grayson, sir, Iz know what you is thinking. Old Widwick knows his Master well, he does,” the elf said, lovingly. “You is missing the children, you is.”

Mister Grayson smiled as he fell back into his chair. “Yes, old friend… I admit it; I miss them already,” he said, in an exasperated tone. “More than ever.” Then he abruptly snapped forward. “But there is work to be done, and the Ministry is counting on us to make sure we carry on properly even when it might be personally difficult.”

“Yes, sir,” Widwick replied sorrowfully. “Is the same for Gabby as well.”

“What do you mean?”

“Iz never seen an elf in such a state, Master. She misses Miss Anna, sir. You know, theys never been apart since Miss Anna is born. And now Iz afraid Gabby is feelwing rather… unelfish without her mistress, sir.”

“Rubbish!” Mister Grayson said, flatly. “This family needs all of us working together. You and Gabby are a part of our lives, a part of this family. We cannot be one without all.”

Widwick smiled proudly. “Iz tried to tell her, Master, but Gabby is set in her mind, she is.”

Mister Grayson thought. “Then I’ll speak to her personally. In fact, I have an idea I believe will help the family, and put her right.”

He took a sip from his cup and stretched. “Well, Widwick, I’ll be going to bed now. Can I get you to help me carry some of these scrolls upstairs for me?”

“Of course, sir.”

As Mister Grayson followed Widwick out the door, he peeked back at the portrait of Victoria behind his desk. “Goodnight, sweetheart,” he said softly. He slowly turned down the lights and closed the door.

Only the dim portrait light was left in the room, which shined down on the painting’s surface with a warm amber glow. Within the darkness, the room’s temperature began to drop suddenly, and the floor started to groan from the ice forming quietly between its planks. The objects on Mister Grayson’s desk started to quake and wobble. A small statue on the corner began to vibrate so intensely it walked itself off the desk and crashed to the floor. The portrait of Victoria Grayson began to shudder as a whitened frost started forming around its golden frame. An ice-cold fog blew down upon the surface of the canvas, and an angry presence seemed to settle itself on the portrait. The face in the picture was pressed flat against the wall as the image of a hand became visible on its surface. The portrait light suddenly went out.

“Ssssssssssssssss,” hissed a voice, within the frozen fog filling the room. There was a terrible rip, a slashing sound, and then the loud bang of the door to the hallway slamming against its stops.

As the temperature of the room slowly returned to normal, the light above the portrait flickered and then popped on once again. The portrait still hung slightly tilted on the wall, but a horrible slash was now visible from one side of the frame to the other and across the neck of Victoria Grayson.

Mister Grayson made his way upstairs toward the bedrooms with Widwick following close behind. As he entered his room, Mister Grayson set his scrolls down and turned expectantly to see Widwick enter after him. The door suddenly slammed shut so abruptly that a small landscape on the adjoining wall fell to the floor with a crash. Widwick approached the now closed bedroom door and knocked.

“Master Grayson, sir. Iz have your…”

“Ssssssssssssssss,” came a loud hiss from within the room. Widwick stopped suddenly as he heard Mister Grayson’s panicked voice.

“Who are you? What do you want?” Widwick looked down and then stepped back in shock as an ice-cold fog began rising up from under the door, and he could hear some unknown voice shatter everything the elf knew to be normal within the Grayson estate.

“Betrayed! Decccceeeived!!!!” hissed someone inside.

“Mister Grayson?” yelled Widwick worriedly. He began pounding on the bedroom door. “Who is in there wif you’s, sir?” There was no reply, but he could hear the unmistakable sound of a struggle within the room. There was a loud thump, and then the blast from a wand.

“Stay back! Back — I say!” yelled Mister Grayson. Widwick heard another blast, the sound of something thrown, and then the unmistakable sound of somebody choking.

“Betrayed!” screamed the strange voice again.

“Help — help!” shrieked Widwick in the hallway and over the railings downstairs. “The Master is being attacked! Help! Upstairs – wez need help!”

The elf ran back to the door, trying desperately to turn the knob. There was a deafening crash and then a slam on the side of the wall that collided so violently, it knocked Widwick to the floor in the hallway. Jumping to his feet again, Widwick ran back, shrieking and throwing his tiny body into the massive oak door.

“Master! Master, I is coming to help!” The elf closed his eyes and, placing both hands upon the door to help focus his mind, he whispered, “I is coming, Master.”

With all the elfishness he had in him, Widwick concentrated on the magic necessary to Apparate through the door. There was a loud POP, and when Widwick opened his eyes he found himself standing in the kitchen. Screeching in self-disgust, the tiny elf raced through the door and into the dining room to the sound of screaming portraits ringing in his ears. Running through the family room and into the entranceway, Widwick galloped on all fours up the staircase. As he approached his master’s room again, he heard another blast from within, a swishing sound, and then a tiny section of the wall exploded outward. The elf saw something shoot past him, like an arrow just missing his nose. With a sharp twang, it stuck itself into the railing opposite. Widwick recognized the object immediately; it was his Master’s wand. The elf froze. There was another terrible smash, which sent a ceiling fixture in the hallway crashing to the floor, just missing the elf rolling to the side. Widwick could hear the sliding collapse of something heavy against the wall. Finally, there was silence.

“Master?” Widwick called, in a frightened voice. From inside the room, he could hear the ugly hissing sound begin to penetrate the silence once more.

“Ssssssssssssssss.”

There was a loud BOOM that seemed to shake the entire house, and the elf knew beyond any doubt that it was the sound of a body being thrown against the other side of the door.


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