The Book: Part Five
Freddy leaned over the railing and breathed in the fresh air, high in the clouds. This was a new experience for him, flying. The Shenkuu ship, the Swift Quintilc, pierced through the clouds easier than a knife through butter. Normally little details such as the Beekadoodles flying alongside the ship would have escaped Freddy; he’d have been lost in his world of thimbles. Something was different for him now; he was looking at the world through new eyes, eyes that could see beyond thimbles. Part of Freddy had gone down to the briny deep with the Irritating Pawkeet; it might just have been the insane part.
“Excuse me, Freddy wasn’t it?” a brown Mynci asked.
Freddy turned back, a contented smile on his face.
“Aye, I’m he,” he replied.
“Your prisoner, this John, is kicking up quite some fuss in the brig,” the brown Mynci told him. “He is claiming that you and the girl are the criminals... not he.”
Freddy’s attention was drawn to the sword latched to the Mynci’s Shenkuu armour.
“He’s lying,” Freddy replied simply.
“I am familiar with your past, Captain Freddy,” the Mynci continued, “Not too long ago we tracked your ship, and found you were transporting known criminals such as Quick-Fingered Sarah around the planet. Some of my men have also heard of you, and know you to be a pirate.”
“Aye, so what if I am?” Freddy asked.
“Piracy is a crime,” the Mynci replied.
“So is thimble fraud, theft of a book, and attempted murder,” Freddy told him, “which is what that Lupe did.”
The Mynci frowned.
“Very well, as General of the Shenkuu high-guard, I have no choice but to place you in the brig until such time as we reach Shenkuu. The Emperor can deal with you then.”
“I’m not sharing a cell with the thimble fraudster!” Freddy shouted.
Freddy frowned; perhaps his thimble enthusiasm wasn’t quite gone. Maybe losing the thimbles had just pushed him into a new type of insanity.
Maria waved her hand over the plate of Mint Rolls. They turned to jelly.
“It works!” she shouted triumphantly, “It really works!”
She hugged the book tightly in her arms. Finally, with the book in her hands, she could do actual magic. With the magic she could escape her old life forever. She could be free at last. The book seemed to speak to her, tell her how to perform the spells. It was giving her magic, it must have been. She’d filled the cabin with assorted flowers conjured out of nowhere, Snowbunnies that she’d pulled out of hats, and a table that she’d turned into a Crabula. She was a witch... an actual witch.
There was a sharp knock at the door, and a brown Mynci entered. Maria hastily closed the book and drew it closer to herself.
“What happened in here?” the Mynci asked.
“I’ve been... practicing my magic,” Maria answered him.
“I see...” the Mynci said, absent-mindedly staring at the Crabula which was sneaking up on a Snowbunny, “The Chomby you were with is a pirate, and has been locked in the brig along with the Lupe. Some of my men suspect you are also some kind of criminal, and should be placed in there with them. I however, am a fair Captain. Tell me who you are and I may be lenient with you.”
Maria drew the book still closer to her. Her mind raced as she tried to think up a lie. The Shenkuu soldiers couldn’t find out she had a book that was stolen from them.
“I am a student of magic,” Maria said eventually, “studying under... Edna, in the Haunted Woods. I only recently started; I was formerly a barmaid, as you can see.”
She did a faint curtsy in her ragged apron. This seemed to satisfy the Mynci.
“Then you are in luck,” he told her. “We shall be passing over the woods on our way back to Shenkuu. It would be our pleasure to drop you off.”
“What about Freddy and John?” Maria asked.
“They are both guilty of crimes, if what you all say is true. They will be taken before the Emperor when we reach the mountains. His judgement shall decide their fates,” he replied.
“Oh...” Maria said quietly.
Somehow, it didn’t seem right to abandon Freddy like that; it was partly her fault he was in this mess anyway.
“I will leave you to your studies,” the Mynci continued. “I ask that you don’t perform any magic that may cause lasting damage to the ship, though.”
With a last glance at the Crabula, he turned and left. Maria waited a few moments before opening the door. The corridor outside was empty.
Where would I put the brig on a flying ship? Maria thought to herself as she walked through the bowels of the Swift Quintilc.
She felt a small spark in her arms, from the book.
Of course, she thought. The book can tell me.
Checking that there was no one around, she set the book down on the floor and let its magic enter her mind. The words surfaced from the depths, and she chanted them under her breath. The air in the corridor seemed to tingle slightly, and a green mist poured out from inside the book. It formed a shape in the air, an arrow pointing left. Smiling, Maria picked up the book and followed the green arrow.
With a few more castings of the spell, Maria found the brig. It was a small room in the depths of the ship, with a single guard outside. Maria ducked behind the nearest barrel before she was seen and asked the book for a sleeping spell. Once again, the words popped straight into her head, and moments later Maria stepped over the sleeping guard into the brig.
“The Captain won’t be happy,” John said, standing behind the bars inside.
“I didn’t come for you,” Maria said, glaring at him.
Freddy was locked in the next cell, patiently lying in a small hammock. Maria made her way over to the bars and blew the door open with a spell.
“You’re breaking me out?” Freddy asked, getting out of the hammock.
“I can’t just leave you here to rot,” Maria told him.
“Quite the little witch now,” John said from the next cell. “Have you stopped to consider that this ship is in the clouds? You can’t just jump overboard.”
“I have magic now,” Maria said smugly.
She turned to lead Freddy to the door.
“What about me?” John shouted at her. “You can’t just leave me here!”
“You tried to kill me back on that island!” Maria shouted back. “Now you want mercy?”
John’s mind raced as he tried to find some way of escape.
“My clients!” he shouted at last. “I lied to you; they don’t have a secret society.”
“As if I care,” Maria replied, still making towards the door.
“They are Faeries!” John shouted. “And if I don’t return to them saying something, they are going to come looking for that book.”
Maria stopped in her tracks. Faeries meant trouble for witches; she knew that much.
“I’m listening,” she said quietly.
“If you set me free, I’ll go meet with the Faeries; I’ll tell them the book was destroyed in the storm, struck by lightning or something. You’ll be off the hook. You can keep the book,” he explained.
Maria considered this. She knew the Faeries could never get their hands on the book. They’d destroy it, and then she would never have magic again. She couldn’t let that happen; the magic had set her free. The book had saved her.
“Fine,” she said, blasting open the door to his cell with magic, “but just remember I have the power to curse you now.”
Morguss picked up the charred remains of the wood in her hands.
“A fire,” she proclaimed to the rest of the witches.
“We can see that!” Jerdana said testily.
“We’re too late... Whoever lit it is long gone,” Edna said from over by some driftwood.
“Can you find it again?” Morguss asked Sophie.
“I’ll try,” the swamp witch replied.
Once again Sophie marched over to the undergrowth and returned with some twigs. She threw them in the air and scrutinised their landing positions.
“No idea, it’s moving quickly, I can’t see where,” she said eventually.
A collective sigh washed over the witches.
“It’s heading to the mainland; it must be,” Kauvara said quietly.
Edna stared into the distance, towards the Haunted Woods.
“Storm clouds are gathering,” she said to herself. “This is going to end badly.”
The other witches turned to face the same direction. The sky at the horizon did seem to be darkening.
“The Faeries will get it; we can’t catch up in time now,” Morguss said, firmly folding her arms.
“So it’s over?” Lisha asked innocently.
None of the witches dared to reply. Eventually, Edna looked down towards the ground. Her face contorted into a snarl.
“Blast it six ways to Sunday! We’re Witches!” she yelled at the sky. “We don’t lose!”
“What can we do?” Kauvara asked.
“The Faeries may get the book, but as long as I’ve got blood in my veins, I’m a Witch!” Edna said passionately. “We bring the fight to them.”
There was a brief silence.
“Attack the Faeries?” Lisha asked.
“Esmeralda did; why can’t we?” Edna said, turning to face the young Aisha.
“They’d kill us!” Kayla shouted.
“I’d rather be dead than not a Witch,” Morguss said, moving to stand behind Edna.
Sophie tightened her hold on the broomstick in her hand.
“Let’s get back to Edna’s Tower; we can plan things there,” she said. “I for one am not lying down without a fight.”
To be continued...