The waves lapped gently against the shore, children were
playing happily in the sand as he walked along the beach. As he walked each
footstep disappeared as though he had never existed. Finally he came to the
rocks and found what he was looking for. It was glass bottle, beautifully made
in gold and green it sat in the water hitting against the rocks as the tide
pushed it more and more. He lifted it being as gentle as possible before
drawing his finger along the largest gold ribbon along the length of the
bottle. A gold mist appeared before him floating through the air until it
settled in front of him and solidified into a woman.
“Oh it’s you,” the woman said with a roll of her eyes, “You couldn’t have got me out of there sooner. Do you know how seasick I am?”
“I thought you were supposed to call me Master and grant me wishes,” the man laughed, “You are a Genie.”
“A genie called Jeannie,” she replied, “Someone was obviously having fun that day.”
“I apologise,” she said, “You have three wishes, Master.”
As he stared at her Jeannie laughed again.
“Why did you let me out?” she asked softly, “I was banished.”
“For something I did,” he reminded her, “Jeannie, you have the chance to do some good but I warn you now any tricks and I will stuff you back in the bottle with the lid on so tight no one will be able to open it ever again.”
“What do you want me to do?”
He smiled, “You’re going to the Wizard’s Keep and you’re going to guide two travellers through it to safety.”
Jeannie shrugged, “That sounds easy enough.”
“It would be if your sister was not being released as we speak.”
Jeannie’s eyes hardened, “She is no sister of mine. Send me to your friends and I’ll get them to safety. No tricks I promise.”
He smiled at her and with a wave of his hand she was securely back in her bottle.
“Now we just have to hope one of them lets you out,” he murmured before sending Jeannie to find Arianna and Logan.
“Admit it, you’re lost,” Logan said after an hour of walking
taking left and right turns at random.
“Would you admit it?” Arianna threw at him.
As he tried to think of a way to answer that she sat down and pulled out a cereal bar to eat. Logan decided to forgo the sugar food for the moment and looked along the shelves in front of him.
“Be careful,” she called, “Remember what happened when you stared too long at that painting.”
“I’m being careful,” he shouted back feeling the urge to stick his tongue out at her.
Arianna rolled her eyes as she took another bite staring morosely at the wall, Logan decided to leave her alone and continued his sight-seeing. As he came to the end of the shelf he came across a beautifully crafted bottle in gold and green. Fascinated he reached out and picked it up, it was amazing work to have got the shape as well as those colours which looked almost alive.
Carefully he drew his finger along the glass smiling at the cool feel before he ran his finger along the gold ribbons. Suddenly a mist appeared and he put the bottle down jumping back.
“What did you do?” she demanded annoyed.
“I was just looking,” Logan defended himself as a woman appeared before them.
Arianna hit his arm, “You conjured up a Genie. A genie do you have any idea how bad this is?”
“I get three wishes?”
Arianna gritted her teeth and found her eyes meeting the genie’s who gave her a sympathetic smile.
“He’s not too bright,” the Genie said, “Even if he is nice to look at.”
“Hey,” Logan cried.
Arianna frowned a little bemused, “You haven’t given us the spiel. Why not?”
The Genie smiled, “I’m Jeannie and I’ve been sent to help you. Assuming that you are Arianna Skylar.”
“Jeannie the Genie?” Logan asked amused.
“Yes, I know,” Jeannie rolled her eyes, “Have fun, I’ll wait.”
“Who sent you?” Arianna asked, “Who knows we’re here?”
Jeannie smiled and leaned forward before breathing, “Merlin.”
“Really?” Logan gasped.
“Impossible,” Arianna said at the same time, “Merlin hasn’t been heard from in centuries.”
Jeannie sighed, “Maybe not by you but I see him on a regular basis. He likes to annoy me.”
Arianna continued to stare at her with pursed lips.
“I am here to help,” Jeannie told them, “And I can prove I’m not the bad guy.”
At Arianna’s hard glare Jeannie stretched out her right arm and turned it over, as she did so a gold chain appeared around her wrist. Arianna moved forward and studied it intently.
“By the Gods,” she breathed.
“What?” Logan demanded.
“She’s a Peacekeeper,” Arianna told him.
Logan frowned, “Could it be a trick?”
“No,” Arianna said with an amazed shake of her head, “I know what that feels like and it can’t be faked. Trust me it’s been tried.”
“I was brought in not long after the Peacekeepers were set up,” Jeannie explained, “I’m only ever brought out for special occasions.”
Logan turned to watch Arianna as she mused this over not too sure how confident he was as she nodded reluctantly.
“Well I could use all the help I can get,” she admitted, “So, what are the rules?”
Jeannie grinned, “You’re probably the first to ever ask that.”
“I’ve heard about genies,” Arianna retorted.
“Am I allowed to ask?” Logan murmured.
“Genies are red magic users,” Arianna explained to him, “They need an accelerant, which in this case is a wish.”
“That makes no sense,” Logan frowned.
“The wish means they can take energy from the person making it,” Arianna told him, “It’s why they’re so dangerous.”
“Like if they wish for a thousand more wishes then it’s...”
“A way for them to get as much power as possible,” Arianna nodded, “Except they have the limit of three wishes per person put on them by Merlin.”
“So how can she help us if we’re only giving us power?” Logan asked.
Arianna grinned at him, “You’re learning.”
“I have a few extras,” Jeannie explained, “As a Peacekeeper I’ve been taught how to use potions for my magic otherwise I’d be completely useless.”
Arianna turned back to Jeannie, “Can you give us a few seconds?”
Jeannie nodded and sat on an invisible ledge to wait.
“What’s wrong?” Logan asked as Arianna moved him to one
Arianna sighed, “What do you think about her?”
“I’m not sure,” Logan replied, “She seems to be genuine enough but you said it yourself, this place likes to play tricks on you.”
“You can’t fake that band though.”
“Do you have one?” Logan asked.
Arianna held out her hand the same way Jeannie did and showed him her bracelet.
“So,” Logan said, “Are we trusting her?”
“We’re letting her come with us,” Arianna replied, “I don’t think I’d say trust just yet.”
Logan nodded, “Okay, you’re the boss.”
Arianna gave him a smile, “And don’t you forget it.”
As they walked back over to where Jeannie was standing waiting for them Arianna nodded at her.
“I guess you’re on the team,” Arianna told her, “But if you do anything to hurt either of us I will make you wish you’d been left in your bottle at the bottom of the ocean.”
Jeannie gave a quick nod before jumping to her feet again, “So, where do we start?”
“Well you have more power now,” Logan said to Arianna, “What about the tower?”
Arianna grimaced slightly, “We may as well try it but I have no idea if even together we’ll have enough to break through the spell.”
Jeannie clapped her hands together excitedly, “Oh I love a challenge.”
Arianna rolled her eyes, suddenly wishing she’d said no to this alliance but she had no choice now.
“Let’s get back to the tower and try to get up the stairs,” Logan started them moving.
As they walked through the corridors back to the tower Arianna kept watching their new partner, she seemed quite happy and relaxed especially as she tossed the bottle she’d lived in up and down.
Arianna suddenly reached out and plucked it from the air, “We don’t want you to break that. I’ll look after it.”
As she walked on she heard Logan.
“What was that about?”
“Whoever holds the bottle is in charge,” Jeannie explained although neither of them heard her finish the sentence very softly, “Or that’s what she thinks.”
They stood at the bottom of the stairs, the memory of their last
try of this made Logan groan. Jeannie and Arianna were getting ready to try and
remove the spell, or hopefully at least stall it so they could get to the top
of the stairs.
“Ready?” Arianna asked.
Jeannie nodded, the grin still on her face.
“Okay, Logan,” Arianna turned to him, “Make your wish.”
Logan stared at her.
“Her power comes from wishes, remember? Just make the wish it’ll be fine,” she told him.
“Jeannie, I wish to get to the top of these stairs,” Logan said.
Jeannie clasped her hands in front of her, “Your wish is my command,” she intoned, before adding with a cheeky smile, “Hopefully.”
As Jeannie released her spell so did Arianna, Logan watched astonished as he saw the barrier before them he hadn’t known was there. It wavered before disappearing.
“Let’s go,” Arianna ordered.
The three of them started up the stairs and to Logan’s surprise they reached the top very quickly. At the top there was wooden door dark and ominous.
“I’ve got a really bad feeling about this,” Logan said.
Arianna rolled her eyes at him and reached out try the handle, to everyone’s surprise the door opened easily.
“Okay, this is getting creepy,” Logan said.
Arianna shook her head in annoyance before she walked in to the room. Logan followed her in as Jeannie shoved him forward and was surprised to find it was a cosy little study. There were several bookcases covering three of the walls while at the free wall sat a desk and chair. Finally in the centre of the room was a comfortable looking armchair with a man sitting there sipping tea.
“Welcome,” he said as he turned to them, “I must admit that took less time than I anticipated it would.”
“Who are you?” Logan asked before either woman could.
The man stood, “I’m Joseph. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you Arianna.”
Arianna shared a confused look with Logan before she turned back to the man; she studied him for several minutes there was something very familiar about him. Finally she handed her pack to Logan and moved onto the rug to face him.
“Why do I know you?” she asked, “And I don’t want some convoluted explanation that usually comes out of the mouth of people when I ask that question.”
Joseph smiled, “You are so like your mother it scares me sometimes. At least she was polite to me but then again she had to be or your grandmother wouldn’t have let her away with it.”
“You know my family?”
“I am your family.”
Merlin continued his walk along the beach. He knew he was coming close to having to re-enter the world again but he was hoping to hold it off as long as possible. His banishment for splitting the worlds would come to an end and he would have to deal with that.
The sorceress that was seeking the stones was, he hoped, going to get the stones back soon and then he could start passing on the big things to her. If she managed to do this then he definitely knew she could handle a lot more.
He just hoped that the surprise waiting at the top of the tower at the wizard’s keep wouldn’t throw her for too long. But it was something she needed to know.
Arianna Skylar’s life was about to change dramatically and although he wanted her to have this knowledge, he knew he wanted to protect her from it as well.
“Explain it to me,” Arianna demanded angrily, “How exactly are you my family?”
Joseph sat down again and with a gentle flick of his hand he drew a chair over across from the other side of the room. He motioned her to sit and Arianna slowly sat.
“I am your grandfather,” Joseph smiled at her, “I know this may come as a shock to you and I know it couldn’t come at a worse time but I’m your grandfather and I want to help you.”
Arianna let out a soft laugh making the others in the room look at her confused.
“What makes you think I believe you?” Arianna said, “I know this is a place where things get twisted. In fact if you were my grandfather then I doubt the road to you would be completely blocked.”
“It’s a test,” Joseph told her, “Arianna, this isn’t easy. It’s not meant to be easy. When has being a Peacekeeper ever been easy.”
“We’re leaving,” Arianna said as she stood; ready to walk out the door.
“Arianna Skylar,” Joseph stood, his voice was sharp making her stop in her tracks, “I’d suggest you sit back down and listen to me otherwise your journey in this place will not end well.”
Anger filled her eyes as she spun, “Are you threatening me?”
“Never,” he replied, “But I was sent here to help you through this and whether you like it or not I’m helping you.”
“I just...” she trailed off, “My mother told me that my grandparents’ died when I was two years old and she would never have lied to me about that. So tell me again who are you?”
“Your mother told you that because she had to,” Joseph explained to her, “Our family have a history, a history that one day I’ll be able to explain to you.”
“How about telling me what you have to tell me now and we can talk about other things some other time,” Arianna said sarcastically, “Or are you too busy for that.”
“Manners, young lady,” Joseph snapped.
“Prove to me that you deserve me being nice to you and then I will,” she shot back, “If you knew my mother this shouldn’t surprise you. Should it?”
Joseph started to laugh, “Oh I would almost swear she was in the room when you talk sometimes. I miss her; I miss your grandmother as well.”
“Is she still alive and hiding around here somewhere too?” Arianna asked softly.
Joseph sighed, “I don’t know.”
He stood again and moved to the desk sitting in the corner of the room, he picked up a book from the middle of the desk and returned to his seat.
“Here,” Joseph offered it to Arianna, “This is something you will need.”
Arianna looked down at the book she was being offered and stared in confusion, “I know the symbols.”
“They are the symbol for our family,” Joseph explained, “And it’s how you’ll find him.”