Chapter 13 - White magic
Chapter 13 –White magic
When the poisonous cloud was dispersed by the wind, a grim scene was uncovered. Chip Maplewood, the ranger of Saint Pierre, was lying on the ground defeated and shivering with fever. Monterey Jack and Zipper, former inquisition soldiers, were on the other side of the battlefield suffering from the same foul disease. The poison was burning them from inside, draining their lives second by second. In a matter of minutes everything would be over. Still, the heroes were clenching their teeth defiantly resisting the urge to scream of pain again.
Only two figures were still standing. Gadget and Lawhinie Hackwrench, black witches servants of the demon cat named Mephisto. Twin sisters they were, but their expressions denoted completely opposite feelings. While Lawhinie crossed her arms in despise and let out a disdainful grunt, Gadget grew pale and stunned at the sight of their sick friends.
"Oh Golly! Chip, Monterey, Zipper!" She ran from one to another and realized the truth. They were on the verge of a painful death. "Sister!" she glanced at Lawhinie with ire. "How could you! They only wanted to help!"
"Forget it, they can't help us" answered Lawhinie looking away. For a moment her voice was calm and almost sorrowful. "They are just... a bunch of peasants armed with wood and steel. Mephisto or any of his brethen would shred them to pieces in one second! No... Your so-called friends are useless to us"
"That's..." Gadget wanted to disprove her sister, but stopped crestfallen at mid-sentence.
Lawhinie turned around to look at her sister. The mad stare had returned to her blue eyes. She grinned wolfishly and raised her right paw that ignited in fire with a snap. "That's why I need power!" She remarked. "Enough power to defeat everyone who stands in my way, mortals and demons alike! So powerful, so powerful that even humans will bow defeated before me!"
The weak voice of the ranger responded to her. "That... never works..."
Gadget ran to where his friend was crawling, still lucid despite the pain. Filled with sorrow, she laid him up on her lap and rubbed his forehead, hot and soaked with sweat. Some tears welled up the witch's blue eyes as her friend struggled to speak again.
"It's a circle..." he said to Lawhinie. "It never ends..."
Lawhinie fell silent for a moment, but then she came back to her cocky self. "A circle? Bah! The poison is making you delusional, hero!" She was mocking him, but deep inside she felt a bit insecure about the ranger's words.
A burst of pain caused Chip to moan. "Unngghh!"
"Chip, please! Hold on!" begged Gadget with tears over her cheeks. Desperate, she placed her paw over the ranger's chest and whispered some magical words. "Heal!"
"Heal!" She ordered again.
Lawhinie laughed at Gadget with sarcasm. "Sister, what are you doing? We are not healers, did you know?"
"I don't care! I won't let him die here! Heal!"
Still, nothing happened. On the contrary, Chip grimaced and shuddered again. Lawhinie crossed her arms annoyed. Suddenly, something on the ground caught her attention.
"All right, sister. I think I found the perfect medicine for him and his companions"
Lawhinie stretched her arm and fidgeted her fingers. Chip's knife flew to her paw. "I think it's time to end their pain, don't you think so?"
"What!?" Yelled Gadget horrified. "No! Get away from him!" She held Chip closer to her and weaved her arm with rage to invoke a firewall around her. The spell failed, however, as only sparks and smoke appeared on the air. Lawhinie didn't even step back. Instead, she mocked her sister again.
"My, Gadget! You really are bad at casting fire!"
"I don't care, just stop!" the enraged witch ordered.
Chip opened his eyes. His vision was cloudy, his breathing was erratic and his arms weren't responding anymore. His entire body felt like inside boiling water, but above that burning pain, he felt the gentle embrace of the witch he had just met some hours ago. He was so close to her that he could feel her heart beating fast, full of fear and anxiety. She was suffering just as him. It was so unfair.
"Gadget" The ranger whispered with a weak smile. "It's all right… don't worry…"
These weak words only caused Gadget to give up and start sobbing. "I'm so sorry Chip! I'm not a healer! I'm just a…" She broke off for a moment. "A demon! That's what I am!"
"Nonsense…" replied Chip weakly as tears rolled down his eyes. "You are my beautiful friend… the one I love to fly with"
"Chip…" she said softly, and wrapped her arms around his dying friend, feeling the unnatural warmth of his body and his breath on her hair. She was so close to him that she could feel his heart beating fast, afraid of dying there. But his life was ending and she had failed to protect him. Unconsciously, her lips searched for Chip's. For her surprise, her friend was doing the same. They gently kissed each other at the same time.
"Oh please!" exclaimed Lawhinie rolling her eyes disgusted. "Stop that, sister. We are germans, we are supposed to be serious and practical!" The witch fidgeted with the knife's tip. "Anyway, time to end this drama!" She walked towards the couple with an evil grin.
Chip still had the strength to turn and look defiantly at Lawhinie one last time. "So… is this my glorious end?"
Lawhinie stopped her advance, baffled by that strange statement. "Glorious? Hardly, hero! More like…" Unexpectedly, from the corner of her right eye, a flashing sword charged at her.
"Get away from him!" ordered a girl with a fluffy tail that came out of the fire at full speed sword in hand.
"What the!" Lawhinie managed to jump back to avoid Tammy's surprise stab, but she was unable to react against the bat who tackled her at the same time from above. The witch received the full blow and rolled in the ground several steps away. Hurt and flinching, she stood up again to face her attackers. She had lost the knife as well as her beloved witch hat.
"Who in blazes are you, bat?" asked Lawhinie holding her injured right arm.
"The name is Foxglove, witch! And I'm here to defend my friends!"
"Oh really?" Answered the witch scornfully, and on the act she invoked a lightning from her supposedly injured arm, trying to surprise her opponent. The trick worked, Foxglove barely had time to cover herself with her wings, but aside from that, the spell didn't hurt her at all.
"Hey!" the witch complained. "Why are you not stirring in pain?"
"Magic resistance!" answered the bat. "And it's improving at every second, it seems!"
"How annoying! I'll have to conjure up something stronger for you!" Lawhinie started to float in the air in order to get more space and time to whisper the magic words.
"As if I were to let you!" Foxglove rose in the air and charged forth. It was a trap. Lawhinie bombarded Foxglove with small but fast fireballs that didn't need lengthy magic words. Foxglove was caught off guard at first but thanks to her echolocation skill she recovered and managed to dodge the second series of shots sent at her. Lawhinie continued to fly away trying to gain distance and seconds to conjure up more powerful attacks. On the ground, the battle looked impressive. Sounding explosions and flashing lightning bolts cast in all directions. Foxglove avoided each of them with mastery, trying again and again to get closer to Lawhinie.
Back on the battlefield, Tammy dropped her sword awestruck and ran to where Chip was lying… next to Gadget. "Chipper! What happened?"
"He is poisoned" explained Gadget swiping her tears. "I can't save him… nor Monterey or Zipper"
"Oh God!" whispered Tammy shoked. Then she saw how Gadget was holding Chip's paw on her own. Tammy's face grew red with jeolusy. "And… who are you, anyway?" she asked bluntly. "Hey, are you the witch of the cemetery?"
"Well, I met Chip in a cemetery… but my name is Gadget"
"But…" Tammy stuttered confused. "You are not… ugly" Actually, Tammy had to admit, the witch friend of Chip was quite pretty.
"Huh? What do you mean?" asked Gadget naively.
On that moment, a booming explosion sounded and illuminated the sky. Lawhinie and Foxglove were still fighting above them.
"Tammy…" Chip weakly looked at his friend.
"Chipper! I'm here!" said Tammy holding his other paw. "Please don't die!"
"Who?" asked Tammy clueless.
Gadget looked astonished at the girl. "Golly! Tammy Lombardi? Are you the daughter of Bethany Lombardi?"
"Bethany Lombardi? Who the heck is her?"
"There is no time! Lend me your paw!"
With some reserves, Tammy held his paw to Gadget. The witch grabbed it and whispered some magic words. "Please, don't get scared" she warned, just a moment before setting on fire Tammy's paw with fire sparks.
"Ouch!" Yelled Tammy recoiling her scorched paw. Suddenly, a white glow emerged and healed the burn. The girl gasped amazed. "What? What is this?"
"White magic!" explained Gadget just as marveled as Tammy. "I awoke it by making it react against my black magic, since you and I are natural enemies. Now please, use your magic to heal Chip!"
Tammy knelt next to Chip. "I don't understand but…" She weaved her paws over Chip's body, desiring he weren't on the witch's lap, and whispered some words. "Chip please, heal!" and mentally added: "So you can get away from her!"
A fading white glow surged from Tammy's paws, but there was no effect on Chip.
"Please, concentrate more!" Begged Gadget, while mussing Chip's forelock mercifully.
"I would, if you just stop doing that, witch!" Mused Tammy vexed. "Right, right! Here I go again!" The young squirrel closed her eyes, took a deep breath, forced her mind to blank and repeated the order more with more resolve. "Heal!"
Again, the white glint emerged. This time, it grew more and more. Chip absorbed the light and reacted arching the back and uttering a deep sigh. Immediately after, a black shadow jumped expelled from him, shrieking and contorting to finally dissolve in the air.
"What was that!" asked Tammy awestruck. "Never mind! Did it work?"
It was Chip who answered opening his eyes and smiling weakly. "Yes… I'd say so… thanks Tammy!"
"Chip!" exclaimed both girls with joy at the same time, only to look at each other afterwards. Gadget sheepishly turned away. Tammy, on the other hand, stared at her frowning.
Chip tried to stand up, but couldn't gather his strength. His head fell again on Gadget's lap. "Where… where is Lawhinie?"
"Hold on Chip, you are still weak!" ordered Gadget. "My sister is up there, fighting against Foxglove"
"And look! Foxglove is actually winning!" added Tammy pointing excited at the pink bat.
Above them, the dark sky was ablaze with fire and lightings, conjured up by Lawhinie and dodged swiftly by Foxglove. The rogue bat was almost touching Lawhinie, who was getting more and more tired and desperate with every passing second. On a certain moment, an exploding fireball launched by the witch as a taunt pushed Foxglove into a trap; Lawhinie ruthlessly attacked her with a lightning bolt right to her body. Impressively, the bat endured it whole without stopping her attack. Swearing, Lawhinie barely avoided the tackle, but not fast enough. Foxglove's blow managed to tear her elegant dress apart.
"Amazing…" admitted Chip wide eyed. "But, where are Monterey and Zipper?"
"Oh that's right! I forgot about them!" exclaimed Gadget turning at where the pair of knights were lying. "Tammy, they are over there! You have to help them too!"
"Understood!" said Tammy standing up and running in the direction Gadget pointed. She had no problems to find the heroes beneath the smoking debris of the battlefield. Nevertheless, Tammy hesitated for a second about helping the big mouse who had escorted her to the cage and locked her up. Another explosion made her come back to her senses. "No, I have to help him!"
She weaved her healing paws over Monterey and Zipper and closed her eyes concentrated. "Heal!" The white glow emerged more brightly this time. It was soon absorbed by the soldiers, causing the black shadows to run away from them retorting and dissolving.
Monterey opened his eyes relieved. "No more… pain… thanks, thank you so much!" Then he noted who had been his savior and couldn't help but shiver embarrassed. "Little Tammy!"
"Tammy?" asked Zipper turning to her weakly. "But how?"
"Well, how can I explain it…" answered Tammy scratching her head sheepishly. "It turned out I'm a witch after all, hehe"
A booming, powerful and flashing thunderbolt interrupted Tammy, making her jump terrified. Turning their eyes to the sky, the heroes gasped at the sight of Foxglove falling to the ground, burned and unconscious. Without wasting any time, Gadget cast her entangle spell to soften the impact of the fall. The magical bushes saved Foxglove and disappeared on the act. Tammy ran to help her friend, but stumbled and fell to the ground upon seeing the darkened, scorched figure of Lawhinie, descending slowly in front of her. The witch was tired, her long hair was mistreated and her clothes were smoking burned. Defeating Foxglove cost her too much. Lawhinie had to trick her allowing herself to be captured. On the moment Foxglove gripped her, she also hold her tight. Then, over Foxglove's frightful look, the cunning witch finally had the time to conjure a thunderbolt so powerful that they were both injured. It was the only way.
Lawhinie turned around, noticing that there was a young squirrel girl trembling of fear behind her. "Oh… I had forgotten about you, girl" she said nonchalantly, flattening her clothes and hair. "What's your name?"
Tammy gulped before answering. "I'm… Tammy Squirrel".
"Tammy, huh?" repeated the witch walking to her. "That can be your name, but Squirrel… No, I can feel it; Lombardi is your last name. I'm as certain of that as I'm certain that this book" the grimoire floated to her paw. "Belonged to your mother!"
"My mother's cooking book! Give it back to me!" Tammy reached forward trying to grab the book, but Lawhinie pulled it aside and gripped the girl's arm, causing some white sparks to appear. "Let me go, you witch!"
"Tammy Lombardi, the white mage" Lawhinie whispered with an evil grin. "You are going to be very useful to me"
Gadget stood up and grabbed Tammy by her free arm. "Lawhinie, let her go! She is just a girl!"
"Hey you two, I'm not a girl!" Tammy chided. "I could be married by now!"
Lawhinie replied with a smirk. "You see sister? She says she is ok"
"No!" yelled Tammy. "That's not what I meant! Let me go!" Both witches were tugging Tammy back and forth like a puppet. Chip, Monterey and Zipper were so weak that they just witnessed the scene in awe.
"Let her go, Lawhinie!" ordered Gadget again. "Or else"
"Or else what, sis?" Lawhinie challenged her scoffingly.
"Or else… huh?" Gadget fell silent and glanced at something behind Lawhinie. The evil witch was left waiting for her sister's answer, until she also distinguished something in the air. Musical notes, melodic but faint, carried away by the wind current that suddenly become cold. Puzzled, Lawhinie turned around to the place where Gadget, Tammy and their fallen friends were already looking at a figure approaching beneath the smoke.
"Emm Please, ladies and gentlemen!" begged a shaky voice that Lawhinie haven't heard before. "Could you lend me your ears? My… my concert is about to start!"
"Dale!?" exclaimed their friends in unison.
"A bard?" asked Lawhinie incredulous. "Sister, is this jester another of your friends?"
Foxglove opened her eyes and immediately recognized her boyfriend. "Darling, what are you doing? Please, run away!" She tried to stand up, but her injuries made her stumble and fall again.
Lawhinie gave Dale a mischievous grin. "I'm afraid you are late to this party, 'Dale'. As you can see, your friends had their share of fun already. What a shame, they weren't able to keep up my rhythm, so I guess the party is over, come back next year!" The black witch waved him off contemptuously.
"But…" Dale gulped nervously and looked at his left side. Then he started to talk and discuss with himself: shaking his head at first, then falling silent and finally nodding with a sigh. Obvious to say, everyone was looking at him awkwardly. Grimacing, Dale faced the witch again and closed his eyes in concentration. His fingers started to play the lute with a sequence of fast, repetitive notes that annoyed Lawhinie on the act. She, having little tolerance, reacted in a more assertive way.
"I think I told you... to shut up!" Lawhinie attacked Dale with a quick lightning bolt. Incredibly, her spell bounced in a thousand sparks before reaching its target. Everyone gasped astonished.
"What? What's going on here?" the witch asked.
Dale didn't answer. The rhythm and speed of his notes augmented. The sounds became supernatural and not related anymore with those produced by a wooden lute. Enraged, Lawhinie let go Tammy's arm, who ran at once at Chip's side. The evil witch didn't care; her attention was completely focused on Dale now. Hissing, she attacked Dale with rounds of fire and lightning. It was useless, the bard stood on his place, unhurt at all. The song become more and more harmonious, as more instruments started to be heard out of nowhere: drums, guitars, flutes… even female chants. To make things worse, the cold wind augmented its intensity, dispelling the wildfire and cooling off the battlefield. Up in the sky, rain clouds started to gather and spin around pushed by that same freezing wind.
"Lawhinie!" said Gadget grabbing her sister's shoulder. "This is too dangerous! you have to escape!"
"To escape? From a bard? Never! I will defeat him and his childish magic!"
To everyone's horror, Dale opened his eyes. Luminous, glowing ignited eyes. He opened his mouth to sing, but the voice that spoke wasn't his. It was more like a human voice; serene, melodious, powerful. Just like a poet god claiming with sorrow to the heavens.
"Cold is the winter snow falls downmystical lights dance in the sky to the winds of nightSpell of the nature fill all my soulkiss with your wonderful song my land with love
Rage of the winter mould the horizoncover the mountains forest and lakesRage of the winter magical wonderenchanted fury majestic force"
With these words, a snow storm fell over all of them, raging and covering everything white. The fire was extinguished by the chilling wind; the temperature fell so suddenly that everyone started to sneeze and shiver, holding one another tightly. However, this wasn't just a weather spell. Lawhinie and Gadget fell yelling to their knees, freezing and growing weaker. Their magic was being literally dispersed by the wind, in the form of black mist coming off their bodies. The divine spell was punishing them both due to their demonic condition.
Chip saw when Gadget fell to the ground in pain. Despite his weakness, he tried to stand up and run to her, but Tammy held his arm fiercely and didn't let him move away. Turning to her irked, he discovered the poor girl trembling with cold, her eyes closed terrified of the otherworldly music and the wild storm. Then, Monterey appeared at the other side of the field. Lifting Gadget off the ground, he took her to where Foxglove and Zipper were already covering themselves. The big scottish mouse glanced at Chip with a nodding gesture that the ranger answered in silence. The chipmunk turned back to protect Tammy with his green cloak. Meanwhile, The song increased in volume and power. The storm responded in unison, sending a blinding wall of snow over the heroes and the witch.
"There are no words to describe the poetry of landscapeI can receive all the magic that my season givesTears of winter falling on me freezing my dark sidemy heart must be wide fair full light eyes
Rage of the winter mould the horizoncover the mountains forest and lakesRage of the winter magical wonderenchanted fury majestic force"
Desperate, Lawhinie gathered her last strength and recited her fireball spell. This time however, the fire didn't appear. Not even a spark. Actually, she realized with horror that her paw was covered with ice, as well as her face and ears. Without any strength left, she fell face down on the snowy ground. "No… " She whispered to herself. "I don't want to die! I don't want to go there!" She was afraid. Afraid of dying. Afraid of never be able to reborn again. Afraid of being sent to the punishment place and charging eternally with the guilt of… having condemned her sister to the same fate.Tears ran across Lawhinie's face. "Please, stop…" she begged without any hope of being heard. "I don't want to die…"
Coincidence or not, the strings of Dale's lute rip apart on that moment. The song stopped abruptly and well as the fierce winds. The storm calmed down to the point of turning into a peaceful, smooth snowfall reminiscent of a Christmas scene. The bard fell unconscious to the ground holding his beloved lute tightly. For some minutes, silence reigned on the battlefield.
Then, Lawhinie opened her eyes. She found herself lying on the ground, covered in snow and freezing. Her ears were aching and buzzing. She stood up slowly, panting and stumbling. In front of her, the bard was face down on the ground, apparently defeated. Nevertheless, the witch didn't even have the strength to speak or celebrate. Furthermore, the grimoire, the prize, was waiting for her nearby. She turned towards it when she suddenly heard the sound of a bow tensing up.
The ranger wasn't in better conditions than Lawhinie. The poison had weakened him so much he could barely stand on his feet. His previous injures were causing him great pain; he couldn't even breathe normally. Now, his whole body was freezing cold; he couldn't feel his ears or nose; his arms were having problems to keep the bow and arrow steady. His vision was so blurry and disoriented than he had to blink twice to properly focus his target. And for a moment, Chip wasn't sure who the girl in front of him was.
"Blue eyes... long orange hair... Gosh! I'm pointing to Gadget?" he wondered hesitant. Then, he distinguished his mouse friend being protected by Monterey, some steps away. The ranger's expression grew dark. "No, this is her sister! The evil witch that poisoned us and tried to take Tammy away! The one who set on fire this whole field!" Then, he noticed something else. "But... if she is evil, why is she looking at me with such fear?"
Indeed. Lawhinie's blue eyes were looking at Chip in trembling fear. She had no tricks left, no strength to run away. And now, an arrow was being aimed at her heart by the hero she almost killed some moments before. It was obvious to her what would happen next. She raised her paws slowly, mumbling something close to "wait", but faintly.
Chip didn't hear the plea. His ears were filled with the sound of wolves and horns, drums and ancient chants. This time, he didn't bother to look up; he already knew there were two ravens flying above his head.
"Destroy!" exclaimed one of the ravens.
"Build!" exclaimed the other.
"Do it!" was their order. Chip's eyes widened in realization of what he had to do. In silence, he lowered his bow and arrow.
"What? Are you not going to...?" asked Lawhinie perplexed.
"No" said Chip with weary eyes. "This is not the right way. I still believe we can work together to save you and Gadget"
Chip's friends glanced at each other incredulous. Only Gadget smiled at him approvingly. Lawhinie, meanwhile, was so amazed that she didn't know what to say. "I..."
Suddenly, Tammy bolted off the ground to grab the bow and arrow out of the ranger's paws. "Wait Chip!" she said angrily. "This witch almost killed you! You can't trust her!" The white mage aimed the arrow at Lawhinie, who gave a step back nervous. "You'll pay for your crimes, witch!"
"Hey girl, put that down! That's not a toy!" exclaimed Lawhinie fearing for her life.
"Stop calling me girl!" Tammy chided. She was so annoyed that fired the arrow by accident. "Upps!"
"Sister!" Gadget closed her eyes and looked away expecting the worst. One long, silent second passed.
"Gadget, look!" Monterey shook her gently. "Your sister is all right!"
"Yeah..." acknowledged Zipper. "But that's good or bad?"
Fortunately, the arrow just managed to hit Lawhinie's right arm. Still, that kind of pain was completely new for her. She jumped around wincing and gnashing her teeth. "Auuch! Why you little...!"
"I'm so sorry!" apologized Tammy . "Please, let me take that arrow out"
"No, stay away from me!" ordered Lawhinie shooking her head. Then, she proceeded to take a strange red pearl out of her pocket. She threw it behind her and a portal appeared out of the blue. Chip and Tammy noticed there was an elegant dining room at the other side of the tunnel. "Gadget! Take care of that grimoire, I will come back for it!" Then, she turned towards Chip with a cold stare. "You almost tricked me with your tales of mercy, chipmunk... it won't happen again! Just wait, I'll have my revenge! hahahahaha"
"Sister, wait!" begged Gadget.
Lawhinie let herself fall backwards into the portal, laughing maniacally while covering her wounded arm. Once she was on the other side, the gate faded into nothing.
"You... forgot your hat" said Gadget dolefully, glancing at the pointy feathered witch hat lying on the ground. She picked it up, as well as the grimoire, and gave them to her octopus.
"So..." said Zipper looking sideways expectantly. "We won?"
Monterey also looked for any sign of that crazy witch. "I'd say yes... Yes! we won! We beat that witch! We should celebrate, Pallies!"
"Do you need a bard?" sounded Dale's voice behind of them.
"Dale!" exclaimed everyone in unison.
The bard approached his friends carried on Foxglove's shoulders. He looked really tired, but his innocent smile was still there. His paw was still clasping the lute he used to conjure a snow storm in the middle of August. His friends ran to hug and congratulate him.
"My lad! That was the craziest song I've ever heard! And the craziest storm I've ever witnessed, by the way!"
"It was amazing!" added Zipper. "I didn't know a lute could be played so fast!"
"Say that to me…" answered Dale faintly. "My paws hurt very much!"
"Still..." said Chip with suspicion. "How is that you conjured a snow storm just with loud music?"
"Oh that..." explained Dale sheepishly. "Would you believe if I tell you that an old bearded one-eyed traveler appeared before me and told me I could save you with my songs?"
Monterey, Zipper and Foxglove looked at Dale perplexed. Gadget opened her eyes wide but said nothing. Chip, on the other hand, grinned smugly and patted his friend on his shoulder. "As a matter of fact, I believe you, Dale"
"Great!" answered Dale with a big smile. "Because he sends you his regards!"
Chip chuckled. "Oh he does?"
Suddenly, Foxglove's ears caught some new sounds. "Hold Dale a second, please" she asked, letting Dale to lean on Monterey. The bat ascended in the air some meters and then she hurried back to her friends with a haunted look. "Guys, we have to run! Everyone is coming!"
"What do you mean 'everyone' ? Asked Zipper.
"Rodents, horses, Humans! Everyone! And even worse... my father!"
"Crikey! I guess a wildfire covered in snow couldn't go unnoticed that easily!"
"You are right!" Nodded Chip, and then he gave a last glance at stone Julien. "I'm sorry, we can't save you yet!" "Ok guys, I know the perfect place to hide! Follow me!"
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