Max thought he'd be nervous. Maybe even too frightened to answer. But when he opened his mouth to speak, his answer was surprisingly resolute.
"I want you to give me luck for the Faerieland Altador Cup tryouts this Friday," he said firmly.
"I really want to show to my friends that I can be just as good at competitions as them."
Max realized that he didn't actually know if using lucky charms or having a luck spell being cast was against the tryout rules. After all, it would be giving him an advantage over the others...
He pulled away from his thoughts, and stared straight at Jhudora, whose face was twisted in thought, instead. 'Better to just get this over with and not waste too much time on it,'he thought.
But maybe asking for external help made him a little like Jhudora herself. Even though he had been so confident before, telling Freya about how Jhudora wasn't actually evil, he wasn't actually so sure himself. And if she really did do evil deeds, then cheating with the help of a villain sounded just like something she'd do.
"Well, what would be the reward in the deal for me, little Bruce? I don't have time for charity, you know,"
Jhudora finally replied, with a hint of mocking in her voice.
Max didn't know. 'Of course she'd have a price. What was I expecting?' he thought nervously.
"I...don't have anything valuable, but I'm a hard worker. Maybe I could sweep floors for you or something...?" he said quickly, not wanting Jhudora to change her mind about helping him.
"You wouldn't have to come to me for help if that was true," Jhudora smirked. "You'd be busy practising right now."
Max slumped his shoulders, trying to hide the disappointment on his face. He didn't have anything to pay for Jhudora's services.
But Jhudora continued on. "I might just have a use for you, though. You could ask Illusen some questions for me when you go to play at the Altador Cup. If I didn't have anyone to do it for me, I'd have to ask her myself, and she isn't particularly 'friendly' to me, you know."
Max stared, stunned by the offer. Spy on Illusen?! She'd been so kind to Freya and him, hosting that Earth Day adoption event from which he'd gotten his little Biyako.
He had wanted to join the team, and see it win. He still did. He really, really, really wanted to prove to Freya that he was good at something. She was so perfect, and he was the often forgotten sibling.
But to betray Illusen's trust was another matter. Max knew, even though he'd tried to deny it, that asking for external help was cheating. It wouldn't be fair to the others who were also trying out.
He sighed deeply and looked up sadly. "I'm real sorry, Jhudora, but you see, I just can't. It'd be too hard to focus on winning, and tricking Illusen at the same time, you see."
Jhudora didn't seem too happy. "Are you sure, though? This is the chance of a lifetime," she said with disdain.
"Yes, I'm perfectly sure," said Max, with even more certainty in his voice than when he had first met Jhudora.
Jhudora, upset at his response, scrunched up her face in anger. "I already told you about my plans, though, little Bruce. You'd probably tell someone about it if I let you leave..."
Suddenly, she stood up and stretched her boney arms outward, and cast a thick purple smoke. Jhudora curled her mouth into a twisted smile, and stared Max right into his eyes, sending a chill down his spine.
Max was frozen at first. As his senses kicked in, though, he began to bolt for the castle door. It was hard to see, with all the twists and turns of the long, cascading staircases. The purple smoke didn't help either.
He expected to hear the cackling of Jhudora, pounding footsteps of his pursuers, but...
The castle was eerily quiet. When Max looked behind him, there wasn't anyone in sight.
'Strange,' he thought. Why wasn't Jhudora going after him? She had said herself how dangerous it was for him to know his plans...
Max was walking down Nixie Street slowly, towards his house. It was almost sunset, and the setting sun cast a soft golden glow over the street.
He'd fallen asleep under a tree, awoken by a dropped acorn from a passing squirrel above. It would be dinnertime soon, and if he didn't get back in time, his mother would surely get upset at him.
When the sight of the simple yet cozy cottage came into view, Max saw that Freya was reading one of her prized books on the little green garden chair.
When she saw Max walking towards her, she rushed towards him and almost pushed Max over as she hugged him tight.
"Where were you? I didn't want to tell mom and dad since they'd probably panic, so I did some research on Jhudora. I didn't find anything important, though, and I was just about to go and find you myself!"
Max was confused. He'd just gone to the park to play with his schoolmates, and fell asleep under a tree. Why was his sister mentioning Jhudora?
"Is this a joke, Freya? It's actually kind of funny. You do a great panicking face," he replied, laughing a little. Max began walking towards the dark log door of their house.
Freya just stood there, staring at him like he'd just grown a head of snakes. "This isn't funny. I was worried for you!" she growled.
Max opened the door, and inside he could see a steaming roast chicken on the table, surrounded by a garland of fresh lettuce leaves and a few bright red berries. He was surprised to see his sister so angry. Something must have alarmed her, since she usually talked about how important keeping calm is.
"Okay, okay, I'm sorry for whatever I've done," he said, chuckling and holding his arms up in defeat. "Anyways," he said, quickly changing the subject, "What'd you learn about Jhudora? The book you were reading looked really interesting."
It was a lie, since he never did like any of Freya's boring old books, but it seemed to do the intended effect of calming her down.
"Oh, the basics. The book mentioned she could cast smoke, drain health, summon spirits, and devise the most cunning of schemes."
But the book didn't mention Jhudora's most powerful skill.
Erasing memories at will.