The Secret Seer
Anna and Sarah Bell followed the rest of the students back to their Halls, tired and full, after the start of term feast. The two roommates said very little to one another as they crawled into their warm four-poster beds, looking for their pillows. Tired as Anna was, Sarah had fallen asleep even before she did. She could hear her roommate’s rhythmic breathing in the opposite corner, while the very full moon lit Hobb’s cage sitting empty in the dark.
Seconds later, Anna was dreaming. She was cloaked in a dark forest, walking quietly by herself through the trees under the same bright moon. Although the setting was unfamiliar, the darkness surrounding her made Anna feel secure, the sovereign of everything she could see and sense. For some unknown reason, she felt more at home here, alone in the night, than at anytime in her life. Then it came to her, and she suddenly knew what she was doing there by herself in the woods. She was ravenous and eagerly looking to satisfy a craving for… something in the shadows. She was hunting.
She stopped to look back; she could smell something behind her, coming nearer with each passing second. She could hear it breathing, its heart beating. Anna closed her eyes and watched as the picture in her mind began to move through the trees toward the sound coming ever nearer. The brainless thing was unknowingly walking closer to its own death. As the picture in Anna’s mind raced through the undergrowth, her senses locked on the exact position of the thing wadding through the forest. Anna opened her eyes and smiled. She raised her arms and, without a wand or a door to lift her, she shot into the night sky. Effortlessly, she zoomed through the nearly black canopy to circle back and, like a predator, behind the thing walking into disaster below. She saw it beneath her now, muttering stupidly to itself.
“I’ve got you now, Grayson. I’ll have you out of Castlewood tomorrow,” the thing said, struggling to keep a steady pace. Squatting high in the branches behind the creature, Anna smiled evilly. It was Debbie Dunning. Anna could see her fat little body and short curly hair stumbling across the roots, swearing every few steps as she tripped along.
“Soooooo,” Anna whispered to herself, treacherously, “It thinks it’s following me. Looking to catch me, when in fact she’s the one who will be caught.” Anna let go of the branch she was holding, swooped silently through the green-gray mist covering the ground, and lightly touched down behind the girl. She watched her trip and fall into a thorny bush at her feet. Anna could instantly smell the girl’s blood from her cuts, and she closed her eyes to suck the air and the ecstasy of the warm flow.
“Oaf!” Anna growled, loud enough to be heard. Dunning scrambled to her feet and jerked a wand into the darkness behind her.
“Who’s there?” Dunning hollered, but nobody was there. Like an invisible rush of wind, Anna had circled around behind her again. She was playing with the thing, standing there in the dark with her arm out-stretched and shaking. Anna leaned in close behind her, her lips nearly touching the girl’s ear. She could smell her sweat, see the veins in her neck pulsating with the blood her frightened heart pushed through her trembling body.
“Are you hunting me tonight?” Anna whispered into her ear. Debbie gasped and whipped around once more. Too late, Anna was already behind her again.
“Where are you?” yelled the girl, her voice now breaking in panic.
“Drinking your blood, Dunning!” Anna whispered next to her ear again. The girl spun around and screamed when she saw Anna’s face next to hers. Debbie tried to bring her wand hand around, but Anna caught her by the wrist in mid-air without looking. She lifted the girl off her feet effortlessly.
“A succulent little piggy for dinner tonight,” Anna said, bearing her teeth. Dunning screamed as Anna plunged into the girl’s neck. The blood flowed like a gushing fountain into Anna’s mouth, and she smiled in wanting rapture. She could feel the girl’s struggling body deflating in her arms as she sucked the life out of her.
“Someone you love has been injured!” came an unexpected voice through the darkness. Anna opened her eyes and bolted upright in her bed. The dream was over, and Anna grabbed at her mouth in horror. There was a familiar, salty taste there and on her lips. Fearing the worse, Anna used a hand to wipe her tongue and held it up to the light of the moon shining into her bed. It was blood. Panicked, Anna wiped her lips and chin; she found more blood there. She had bitten her own tongue.
“Someone you love… someone in your family, has been attacked tonight,” came an unfamiliar voice from across the room. Anna looked over and saw the small shadow of Sarah sitting upright in her bed.
“Sarah?” What did you say?” There was no reply. She could see her roommate from the side, her head lulled down against her chest. “Sarah? Are you awake?” Anna whispered. She reached over and pulled the curtains on the window open fully. The bright moonlight filled the room and Anna could now see Sarah more clearly.
“Someone from your family is coming to help you,” Sarah said, without looking up. Her voice was different, choppy, and lower than normal.
“What? What are you talking about? Sarah? Sarah, wake up!” Anna now realized Sarah was still sleeping. Anna wiped her mouth again. The bleeding had stopped but her tongue was still raw and very sore.
“Tomorrow… you will see the dwelling place of the evil one!” said the strangely shrill voice.
Anna jerked around. “What did you say?” she replied, in surprise. “Sarah! What was that?” Her roommate didn’t respond. Anna watched the girl slowly fall back into her pillow, grunted as if she were poked, and then quickly rolled over to face the wall.
She could hear Sarah’s breathing returning to its normal, quiet slumber. Anna lay back down and rolled over to look out the window.
“Great, a roommate who talks in her sleep. I hope that doesn’t happen every night,” she said, wearily. But what was that she said? Somebody in your family was injured? And somebody is coming to help? Anna smiled. I wonder what she was dreaming about? Then she frowned. You will see the dwelling place of the evil one? That comment sounded as if it was directed at her, because she had heard something close to that before when she was inside the mirror. The evil one, the one that altered her at birth, it said, was nearby in a prison of its own making. But Sarah couldn’t have been talking about that. That would be silly. Anna reached out and pulled the curtains on the window closed. As her tired mind drifted off to sleep again, Anna forgot all about her own dream of hunting in the forest.
Anna heard a far-off rapping noise in her head. It seemed to batter through her comfortable sleep like an intruder wanting in.
“Come in,” Anna moaned resentfully, and she rolled over hoping that, whoever it was, would go away.
Tap-Tap, Tap-Tap-Tap continued the sound.
“I’m sleeping here!” Anna said, more forcefully.
“Anna, I think there’s something at the window,” came a voice from across the room. Anna opened her eyes and saw Sarah, already dressed, and pointing at the window behind her.
“Huh? What? Oh!” Anna said, sitting up quickly. She opened the curtains of the window to see Hobbs pacing on the outer ledge. She slid the window open. “Good morning,” Anna said brightly. The owl hopped on the inside ledge, and then quickly onto Anna’s bed. The damp morning breeze entering the room told Anna it had rained during the night and the wet cobblestone walkways of Spellsburg below confirmed it. The owl puffed up his feathers and shook himself vigorously.
“Oh,” Sarah gasped, “she’s beautiful. Is she yours? What’s her name?”
Anna smiled as she smoothed the owl’s soft feathers. “HIS name is Hobbs, and yes, he is beautiful, isn’t he?” The owl dipped his head affectionately, begging for a scratch behind the neck, and Anna was happy to oblige.
“I think he’s gorgeous,” Sarah said, sitting on her bed to gaze at the bird. Hobbs unfolded his wings, as if to give Sarah a better look at his plumage. He hopped up, flapped once, and landed next to Sarah with a graveled screech. She eagerly reached out and smoothed the owl’s feathers back into place. “Oh, I wish my Mommy and Daddy would let me have a pet,” she said, scratching Hobb’s favorite spot on the neck. He gave her an affectionate nip on the finger, raised his shoulders, and hopped into the air again. With two easy flaps of his wings, he was back in his cage, preening in preparation for a nice rest.
“Where are you from, Sarah?” Anna asked, as she moved to unpack her trunk.
“Minnesota,” Sarah replied, walking over to Hobb’s cage to watch his daily routine. “I have five other brothers and sisters. There’s Judy and Joann; they’re the oldest. And then there’s Mark, Bill, and David. And then there’s me.”
“Wow, six children. Excellent. Well, you’ve met all of my brothers and sisters. I have two of each. I’m the youngest in my family too.”
“Yes, I spent some time with your brother Eric yesterday when he helped me move into our room. I like him, he’s very nice.”
Anna smiled agreeably. “Yep, that’s Eric. I know I’m not supposed to say this, but he’s my favorite. I don’t get along with the others all that much. We’re always fighting about something.” They spent the next thirty minutes chatting about their homes and what they would miss the most about being away. Sarah’s parents, it turned out, lived on the side of a ski hill, and gave classes and instruction during the winter.
“Wow, I’ve never been skiing before,” Anna said, as she headed for the shower. They continued their discussion as Anna finished her hair, and then she told Sarah how she had only received her letter from Castlewood the week before they arrived.
“Weird. And you were never able to do any magic before that time?” Sarah asked, watching Anna experiment with a variety of hairstyles. Anna opened her jewelry box, and Sarah watched in amazement as an assortment of pretty hair clips and pins jumped out and hopped about, hoping to be chosen.
“Wow, would you look at that,” Sarah said, peering under Anna’s arm.
Anna smiled, looking at Sarah in the mirror “Would you like to try one? I have to warn you, though… some of these clips don’t know how to behave in public,” and Anna told Sarah about her last ride on a Muggle school bus. Sarah laughed as she picked up the little red hair clip, which had caused all the trouble with the Drummond girl.
“So… you’re a nasty little tiger, aren’t you?” she said, stroking the back of the clip gently. Anna watched in amusement as the little red clip began to purr in Sarah’s hand and then pop open, hoping for a chance to go out. Sarah smiled keenly, looking up at Anna in the mirror.
“Go ahead, wear it if you like. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Sarah beamed as she moved next to Anna in the mirror and slid the clip into place, which snapped itself shut with an evil giggle.
“Very nice,” Anna said, admiring the adornment. She leaned in, “But I really think he’s just smoozing you,” she said distrustfully. The clip began purring again.
Anna felt a little pain in her mouth and then twisted her tongue to touch the sore spot she had bitten the night before. “Mmmmm,” she said, looking at her own distorted face in the mirror. She leaned forward and stuck her tongue out to have a look. “Geez, no wonder it bled so much,” Anna muttered incoherently. Then, remembering the night more clearly, she looked at Sarah.
“You were talking in your sleep last night, you know.”
It was as if Anna had suddenly flipped a switch on her roommate’s body. The look on Sarah’s face instantly changed from a happy smile, still admiring her hair, to one of deep worry and gloom. She slowly set her hairbrush down and walked away without saying a word. Anna watched in surprise as Sarah slowly headed back to her bed to sit. Her hands pressed down on the mattress on either side, trying to find a comfortable way to ask a question. Her eyes were staring out the window across the room.
“What did I say?” Sarah asked, apprehensively.
“I don’t remember, really… it was lot of muttering, but you were sitting up in bed, yakking away.” Sarah didn’t seem to like Anna’s answer.
“What exactly did I say, Anna?” Her voice was tense and gruff.
Anna frowned. The shy little girl Anna thought she knew had suddenly turned very stern. What started as a funny comment was definitely scaring Sarah for some reason. Anna set her brush down and walked over to sit on the bed opposite.
“Well, let me see,” Anna said, trying to remember. “I think you said something about a member of your family being attacked.” Sarah’s eyes widened. “Then you said someone from your family is coming to help… or something like that.” Sarah looked down fearfully, then up again.
“Anything else?” she said, in an almost mournful tone.
“Oh — yeah. You said, ‘You will see the house of the evil one,’ or some such thing.”
Sarah screwed up her face and tilted her head at Anna. “What does that mean?” she said, with a frown.
“I don’t know. You tell me… it was your dream.”
Sarah’s face fell as she thought for a moment and then looked up again. “Anna, do you have a way to call home?”
“Call home? Why?”
“You should do that right away.”
“You’re not serious. What? Are you saying you were talking to me last night?”
Sarah turned away, looking rather embarrassed. Her eyes turned to stare up at the ceiling.
“And you think this stuff is true?”
“Why would you think that?”
“Because it’s happened before. Many, many times before… at home.” Sarah looked up expecting Anna to say she was crazy.
“You’re crazy,” Anna said, smiling as if someone were playing a trick on her.
“I know. But you should make sure you’re brothers and sisters are all right this morning.”
Anna frowned. “You’re serious, aren’t you? You actually believe…?”
“Just do it, Anna. Okay?” Sarah said, folding her arms angrily.
“Sarah…What’s going on? What happened when you were at home? Did this happen there too?”
“And did any of it come true?”
Anna grinned disbelievingly. “But coincidences like this happen all the time, Sarah. I once heard about a man who had a dream one time and…”
“They always come true,” Sarah interrupted.
“But how do you know you were talking about me?”
“Because that’s how it works. Whoever I’m closest to when I’m sleeping is the one I’m talking about.” Anna leaned back, now folding her arms seemingly unconvinced. Sarah could see Anna was now rethinking everything she knew about her. She had seen this reaction many times before.
“Remember when I told you my family was afraid of me? Well, it wasn’t just because I could make things fly around the room. In fact, at first, my Daddy was very happy about my abilities. He had plans for putting me on TV and making a lot of money. He said I was going to be famous and travel all over the world.
“But some people showed up at our house from a place called the Ministry of Magic. They told my Mommy and Daddy that I was a witch. Then they told my Daddy I wouldn’t be allowed to show anybody what I could do. Daddy got very angry and tried to throw them out of the house, but they warned him that they would use their power to stop him from putting me in front of the Muggles. The Ministry would see to it that people would believe what they were seeing was a trick, a fraud. Finally, Mommy stepped in and told Daddy she never liked the idea of my being put in front of a bunch of reporters anyway. They had a big fight. And that’s when I started talking in my sleep. I told my brother David he would fall and hurt himself. The next day he did, and broke both of his arms. Then I said Mommy would be burned. A few days later, she had to go to the hospital because of an accident on the stove. I kept talking for months. Finally, my parents had to put me in my own room to make it stop.”
“Was it always bad stuff you were predicting?”
“No, not always,” Sarah said, and then a small smile curled on her lips, like she had just remembered some happier moment in her past. “I told my brother David everything he was getting for Christmas once. He thought that was pretty neat. Mommy and Daddy weren’t too happy about it though and they stopped the rest of the kids from trying to sneak into my room before their birthdays.”
Anna smiled cautiously. “So does this happen every night?”
“No. It’s really slowed down recently. In fact, it hasn’t happened for months since…” Sarah stopped short.
“Since what?” Anna could see Sarah hesitating. “What happened, Sarah?”
The girl looked up. “Since the night I scared my Daddy.”
“Oh…? What happened?”
“I was up late watching the TV with Daddy, and we both fell asleep on the couch. Apparently, I started speaking in the middle of the night and gave another premonition. I said he was going to die the next day.” Anna gasped, and Sarah jerked up. “But it wasn’t Daddy who died, it was Gluffy.”
“He was our cat. Gluffy was sleeping on Daddy’s lap that night. He was hit by a car the next day.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. That’s terrible.” Then Anna thought, “But at least it wasn’t your father who was hurt.”
“No, but we didn’t know that at the time. Daddy was so scared he didn’t sleep at all that night, and wouldn’t leave the house the next day. He even called a doctor-friend of his to stay with him the whole day at our home. He was afraid he was going to die.”
“Oh my God!”
“After we heard about Gluffy, Daddy was so relieved; he agreed to let me come here to Castlewood. I heard him telling Mommy he wanted me out of the house.”
“What? Why…but… that’s terrible! Sarah, that’s really awful. But… I’m sure he was just scared about what happened, right? He doesn’t feel that way now.”
“That’s what Mommy said too, but Daddy wouldn’t speak to me very much after that day. Right up to the time I left… he didn’t even say goodbye. I miss him so much. And they don’t have any telephones here at the castle to call home.” She looked up at Anna with tears forming in her eyes. Anna stood up and sat next to her on the bed.
“It’s all right, Sarah. After all of this, you have a right to be upset,” she said, putting an arm around her. “Listen… you can use Hobbs to send them a letter if you like. I’m sure he could get them a message for you.” Sarah looked up and then over to Hobb’s cage.”
“Do you think he would mind?”
“Not at all. Just write a note, tie it to his leg, and tell him where you want him to go. Make sure to tell your parents to give Hobbs a note back for you.”
Sarah smiled enthusiastically. “All right. I’ll write one today.”
“Excellent. Just tell them you made it here all right, and you’re meeting loads of new friends who think you’re great,” Sarah smiled appreciably at Anna. “And tell them how much you miss them.”
Sarah nodded, but then her face turned serious. “Anna… you will check on your family today, won’t you? Please tell me you will.”
Anna frowned. “Well, I’m still not saying I believe all of this, okay? But, if it’ll make you feel better, I’ll send Hobbs to check on my brothers and sisters today before we send him off with your letter home.” Sarah cautiously smiled.
“Anna, you mentioned I said something about an evil one? Did that make any sense to you?”
Anna hesitated. “Yeah, it did. I didn’t think much about it at the time, because… well… I didn’t realize you were talking to me last night. But I’ll have to admit, after you said it… I thought you might have been referring to something I was told in the Mirror of Enlightenment,” and Anna told Sarah about the evil thing the mirror said altered her at birth, something that was supposedly close by in a prison.
“But nobody ever said there was a prison anywhere around Spellsburg. How could you possibly see such a place?” Sarah asked, logically.
“Exactly. You see? It doesn’t make sense, does it? Maybe I’ll be the one to break your perfect prediction streak, eh?”
“Maybe,” Sarah said hesitantly, the first hint of self-doubt finally emerging.
There was a heavy knock on the front door. When Anna opened the door the hallway was empty, but a note was tacked next to her name. Anna opened the note and scoffed.
“What is it, Anna?”
“I’ve been given detention! Oh, I can’t believe it. My first day at school and I’ve got detention already? I hope Daddy doesn’t hear about this. He’ll have my skin.”
“Detention? But… what happened?”
“It’s that Debbie Dunning girl. Listen to this.”
It has come to our attention that you were involved in an altercation on the school grounds yesterday with another student. We have confirmed you actually threatened this student in front of several other witnesses. This is certainly a violation of the school rules set forth for the proper behavior of students among their peers (Article 51, Section 3, Paragraph 6 in the Castlewood Academy Charter.) As such, I am duty-bound to deduct 25 points from your Hall. However, being that the Guardian Union has not earned enough points to cover this penalty, you will be placed on detention. You will report to Mr. Kingston at the Castlewood stables immediately following your last class today. Other duties will be assigned to you upon your arrival as part of this reprimand. It is our hope you will avoid any further altercations of this type in the future. If this office receives another report of similar behavior this term, a letter of suspension will be submitted to the Student President’s office. A copy of this letter has been sent to your home.
Respectfully Yours, Gregory Dunning, Captain of the Crimson Guard, Castlewood Academy.
“Respectfully yours,” Anna said, sarcastically, “I doubt that!” She groaned. “Daddy’s going to kill me.”
“Oh dear. This is very serious, Anna. What did you do?” Anna told Sarah about the fight she had had the day before with Debbie Dunning.
“Well, it hardly seems fair that Debbie’s brother is the one giving out the punishment in this case,” Sarah said, with a scowl.
“No it’s not, but Gwen tried to warn me at the time. I guess I’ll have to stay clear of all the Dunnings this year. Hey, you know, this might be a good thing. I wanted to get down to the stables anyway to see the academy’s horses. Old Debbie-D just helped me get there a little sooner than expected,” Anna said, with a smile. “Don’t tell her I said that, of course, or she’ll have me cleaning the boy’s toilets next time.”
Sarah giggled before her face turned serious again. “Anna, if you want to change rooms, I’ll understand. It isn’t fair for anybody to be in the same room with me during the night. If you think you might be more comfortable sleeping somewhere else…”
“Hold on there. Let’s take things slow, all right? Who knows… you might tell me I’m getting a terrible grade on my next test. It might give me an opportunity to do a little more cramming and turn it around. You never know. Let’s wait and see what happens, okay?” Sarah smiled.
“Well, we’d better get going. I think we might have just enough time to grab a bite to eat before my first class. Magical Incantations; how about you?”
“We’re in the same class. I can’t wait to try my new wand,” Sarah said, jumping to her feet. They gathered their books and set off.
Forty minutes later they were sitting in a large classroom, thumbing through a copy of The Standard Book of Spells, Grade One. Anna was laughing because Sarah’s hair had already been restyled twice by the little red hair clip. Their teacher was running late, and soon the sound level in the room was reaching a chaotic state. Airplanes made of parchment were now flying about, but they were barely noticed by Anna who was having another conversation with Sarah about skiing in Minnesota. Finally, the classroom door opened and Professor Titan walked in. He glanced up in time to see a balled piece of parchment sailing across the room. Quick as a flash, Titan whipped out his wand and, like a conductor looking for a change of pitch from his orchestra, he flicked his wrist left and up. The ball immediately stopped and reversed direction.
“Engorgio!” Titan whispered, and the small wad of parchment grew to the size of a very large beach ball. It flew right back into the arms of the boy who had thrown it, knocking him and the desk he was sitting in sideways to the floor. The class howled with laughter.
“Good morning, class,” Titan said, joyfully. He had already put his wand away, ignoring the boy trying to lift the heavy ball off his chest.
“Good morning, Professor Titan,” the students replied in unison.
“Welcome to Magical Incantations, Grade One.” He quickly took the roll and then looked up to frown. “Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s see those wands.”
The students each pulled out a wand and held it up except for Tommy Johnson, who had to admit in front of the entire class that he had forgotten his wand in his dorm room. Titan tutted loudly, and then handed the boy a large sunflower from a vase in the window to use instead. The boy turned pink in the cheeks as he waved the sunflower about as he would his missing wand.
“Now, then. I like a fast start. So, if you please, wands pointed up… and repeat after me, “Relashio!”
“Relashio!” they all said together.
The result of this simple word from the class was instant chaos. For a few students, nothing happened at all. For everybody else, however, sparks of different color and size shot up toward the stone ceiling. Professor Titan smiled appreciably at the booming fireworks high above them. Anna’s wand shot a jet of bright purple light, which seemed to catch Professor Titan’s eye at once. Finally, all was quiet again, except for one boy who was sitting in the center of the class, trying desperately to put out a small fire, which had lit upon his sleeve. As the students laughed, Titan walked over to the boy.
“Can I see that wand, Mr. Shovelton?” He held the boy’s wand up to the light along its length and spun it between his fingers. “Quite old, yes?” he said knowledgably.
“Yes, sir. It belonged to my Grandfather,” replied the boy as Titan continued his inspection.
“Ah, yes. There you are, see? You have a hairline crack right there. It’s causing you some flashback. Common thing, really, but… completely preventable.” He raised his own wand and muttered, “Reparo!” There was a slight clicking sound, and then he handed the boy’s wand back to him.
“There you are Shovelton, good as new. Make sure you pick up a wand maintenance kit at your earliest convenience. A little binding wax will keep the fibers from drying out on you again.”
“Thank you, sir,” the boy said, appreciably.
Professor Titan looked up at the ceiling and smiled at the few remaining pops of color against the dark, gray stone. “Looks like the Fourth of July, my favorite holiday,” he beamed. “Right then, let me see. Where did I see…?” his eyes set on Anna against the wall. “Ah, there you are, Guardian,” he said with a smile, walking over to her. “Wand please, Miss Grayson.” He gently it took from her hand and then looked down its length toward the light.
“Exquisite!” Anna smiled as he expertly twirled the wand between his fingers. “Outstanding balance. Perfection end-to-end. A little more polish, if you please, right there on the handle,” he said, pointing to a slightly dull spot near his hand. “Some index finger push causing a little wear there.” He stared at the wand keenly, holding it up between his two index fingers, checking for straightness. “I’ll be putting you in the center of my Christmas Array of Lights this year, Miss Grayson.” He looked up at the ceiling and closed his eyes. “I see your purple sparks surrounded by a circle of red and then blue.” He smiled down at her. “Ought to be quite a show this year, eh?” he said keenly, a huge grin moving on his face. Anna smiled as he handed the wand back to her. “Outstanding quality. Take good care of it. Nice to see it again.”
Anna’s face fell. “What? Have you seen this wand before, sir?” But Professor Titan had already turned away and was heading to the front of the class.
“Right, then. Raise your wands if, when you said the spell, nothing happened.” A few students timidly raised their wands into the air, including Sarah. “How’s that wand working for you, Mister Johnson?” The boy with the sunflower blushed again as the class sniggered. Professor Titan went about the room inspecting the rest of the wands that didn’t work, repairing some, and giving advice to others about the proper way to annunciate the spell.
“Your wand is perfectly fine, Miss Bell,” Titan said, handing Sarah back her wand. “Just deliver the incantation with a little more thrust next time, yes? I should think you’d see better results that way.” He gave her a gentle smile and a reassuring pat on the shoulder. The bell in the outside corridor rang, signifying the end of class, and Professor Titan walked back to his desk.
“I’d like you to read chapter one in your text, paying close attention to arm-movement. And for those who had trouble delivering your sparks, give it some practice outside before the next class. That’s all, you’re dismissed.” Then he quickly grabbed his bag and moved to be the first out the door. Anna tried desperately to follow. She was hoping to talk to Titan about her wand, and where he might have seen it before, but by the time she entered the hallway, he was gone.
So, it was on to The History of Magic. As always, many eyes followed Anna as she walked in and found a seat with Sarah against the wall.
“Howdy,” said another first-year girl with long black hair sitting in front of her. “Your name’s Anna, right?” asked the girl in a southern draw.
“Yes, hi. What’s your…?”
“Tanya Joe Wangstaff, from the great state of Texas.” The girl shook Anna’s hand gregariously. “But you can call me TJ.” Tanya Joe Wangstaff was a very pretty girl with very dark black hair in braids and a jovial, almost carefree, manner. “You mind if I ask you a question?”
“No, go ahead,” Anna replied, bending over to place her books beneath her, but as she leaned back against the stone wall, she immediately heard a voice.
Anna quickly took her hand off the wall. She recognized the voices as the same whispers she had heard on her first day, when her hand was somehow buried in the wall outside the castle.
“Well?” said TJ, sitting in front of her.
“Huh? What? I’m sorry, what did you say?” Anna said, staring at the wall next to her.
“I said, what exactly is a Guardian? I mean, what do they do?” Anna could see several other students now looking at her, listening curiously for an answer.
“Um. Well, it’s a little hard to explain, and I’m not exactly sure of everything myself yet,” Anna said, paying more attention to the wall than to Tanya Joe. She slid her hand under the desk and placed it carefully on the wall again.
“Greetings, Guardian,” came another voice as if from the other side of the stone. “We can help you answer the question.” Anna looked around, wondering if anybody else could hear the voices, but nobody seemed to notice the talking stones within the wall.
“That’s okay,” continued TJ. “I just became a member of the Defender’s Union, and I have no idea what that’s suppose to mean either.”
“The Guardians protect the rudiments of magic,” said the voices in Anna’s head.
“I think the Guardians are called to protect things,” Anna said out loud.
“Protect things? What things?” asked TJ.
“All things magical,” said the voices.
“Well, this castle for example. It is a very magical place. The Guardians would seek to protect it,” Anna said, surprising even herself with how logical she sounded.
“Protect it from what?”
Anna could see several students were now standing in the aisles between the desks and listening to their conversation.
“From those who would seek to claim it as their own, but destroy it in the process.” Anna repeated the message.
“I don’t understand, Anna. Who would destroy it?”
“Those who believe the acquisition of power more important than the magic acting as its foundation.” Anna tried to duplicate the thought word for word.
“Wow, that there’s a serious brain-cramp. You mean any evil low-down skunk of a wizard, trying to thieve these things, right?” Anna couldn’t help smiling.
“The seeking and taking of power is not limited to evil. The righteous intentions of Saints can be destructive as well,” Anna repeated.
Another student, standing one row over from the Laborer’s Union spoke, “So what are you saying? Good is just as bad as evil, because they both can be equally destructive to buildings?” Anna listened closely to the voices within the wall, and then smiled. The logic passing to her from the stones seemed so vividly clear to her now.
“Let’s say,” Anna explained, “that you have a rare and beautiful tree set in a garden. It’s a wonderful tree set apart from all the rest, and nobody would ever think to cut it down for any reason. Then, one day, somebody comes along and says they’d like to cut down the tree to fashion a weapon from its branches. What would you say to that?”
“I’d say no. That wouldn’t be right,” said a boy, leaning against his desk.
Anna listened attentively to the stones. “But what if the weapon was going to be used to stop an evil wizard? Would it still be wrong?” asked Anna.
“Well, I reckon that might be all right then,” said TJ, smiling and looking around at the other students.
“Would it TJ? What if this tree were one of a kind, the only one of its kind?”
“Well… I’d be all over that tree like a pack of dogs on a three-legged cat. I’d whack it down quick for the chance to rid the world of an evil bad-guy.” Anna laughed along with everybody else.
“But what if this evil wizard also needed the same tree to conquer the world? Wouldn’t you see to it that this one of a kind tree was destroyed rather than see it fall into his hands? Can you see it’s in our nature to destroy the tree rather than lose it?” There was silence while everybody thought about the question.
“Yes,” said Sarah, “I would destroy it before giving it up to somebody who intended to use it to hurt others.”
Anna turned to speak to Sarah directly. “But what if the tree represented something more than itself. What if the tree we’re talking about were… say… your legs?” Would you cut off your legs to keep this evil from taking over?”
“Well, I’d be thinkin’ it might not be fair because they were my legs,” replied TJ, “but if that’s what has to be done to put a varmint like that down, then yeah, sure, I might do it,” she said, confidently.
“Then here’s the important question, TJ. What if your sacrifice meant all those who came after you, all of humanity, would be forever born without legs because of your decision?” The students stared at Anna, not quite knowing what to say.
“Well that’s a little out-with-the-dogs, ain’t it?” said TJ, frowning. “I mean we’re gettin’ a little far-fetched now.”
Anna leaned in close. “But if the tree represented all things magical, the beasts and creatures, the wondrous places like Castlewood, the magical objects of legend, then it’s not far-fetched at all, TJ. If we cut down the magic that is the tree to destroy a tyrant, we change who we are more surely than if we cut off our own legs. Once the magic is gone, it’s gone for everybody, forever. We can’t go back, and we’ll never be the same again. Everybody you know, all future generations, might be Muggle-born.”
TJ looked at Anna and smiled. “So you’re saying the Guardians are here to protect the magical places and things from evil folk, as well as the good guys who might be just as destructive for all the right reasons.”
Anna leaned back and smiled. A number of voices from the wall seemed to be very happy with Tanya Joe.
“I think you understand this better than I do, TJ,” Anna replied.