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  • Writer's pictureFiona Hamilton

Chapter 4: True Magic

“Welcome to my… humble home, young critters.” The hag said, “Come, sit. Don’t be shy.” She gestured toward a simple wooden bench that certainly hadn’t been there before and sat on a wood chair that was across from it. After a moment of waiting for the trio to sit down the hag snapped her fingers and suddenly Rienna, and her cats were sitting on the bench. The crone smiled at them, “You’re from the Crystal Sorceress realm, are you not?”

“Uh… unless you are referring to Sovereign Jenni, no.” Rienna said in response.

“Ah, so she goes by Sovereign now. She never did appreciate the title given to her by the rest of us.”

“Why not?” Rienna immediately asked.

Xio hissed and climbed up onto Rienna’s shoulder, digging in his claws for balance, and whispered in her ear, “This is a powerful magic being that you know nothing about, stop being so friendly!” He growled lightly and jumped back down next to his mother.

The witch continued speaking, “Well, though it sounds like a title that would inspire grace, it calls out that she herself is not the source of her magic, but really the crystals.” She paused and then said to Xio, “Don’t worry little pet, I knew you wouldn’t immediately warm up to me, so I cast a minor spell. Nothing big, just something to make her feel a little safer around me.”

“Where does your magic come from? And isn’t the Sovereign the only human to control magic? Are all humans out here magic? Is that how they survive?” Rienna burst out as a sudden wave of questions came into her mind.

The crone laughed, “Most magic, true magic, comes from the wielder. There is a store of magical energy in all creatures. Some species, like humans, don’t make enough of this energy to do anything with it. Most species have enough energy to give them a special talent, the rest of us are related to an ancient species that specializes in making, storing, and using, magical energy. So, yes, in a way, Jenni is the only human to control magic, but it is not her own, it comes from large quantities of crystals like the one you have.

“And dear pet, has she really taught you that your kind can’t survive anywhere besides her silly bubble? Surely you have already proven her wrong, yes?”

“There are other humans out here then? How can they survive outside the protection of the suppression?” Rienna asked.

The hag hesitated a moment, “Hmmm…well…” She looked up thoughtfully for a moment and then look back at Rienna, “No, sweet creature, no, there are… not any other humans beyond your ‘protection’.” She paused a moment then suddenly cried, “Goodness me! I’ve forgotten my manners, have some of my famous gingersnap cookies.” and a plate of cookies on a table appeared before Rienna. “Stay here while I make some tea.”

As the crone left the room Xio leapt onto the table and faced Rienna, “Don’t trust her. She knew about the crystal, she calls you pet and critter, she calls me pet, and anyone with this much control over magic is suspicious.”

“She seems rather nice.” Rienna said, looking toward the doorway that the crone had gone through, which of course was no longer there.

“Rienna! Look at me. She can summon cookies out of thin air but has to leave the room to make tea? She’s going to poison us! Or cast a potent spell of control or transformation! We have to leave.”

Rienna looked at him with a dazed look in her eyes, “I’m sure we’ll be fine… well, maybe fine…” a confused look came onto her face, and she started to come out of her haze. “Although she does seem older than she looks, if that is possible; she doesn’t quite talk like an old lady. You know, now that I think about it, I don’t know why I trusted her.”

“She cast a spell on you. Apparently she has to be in sight for it to work. That doesn’t matter now, you have a brain again. Look around and try to find a way out of here.”

“OK.” She said, finally coming back to her senses. As Xio jumped down and started to investigate every nook and corner with his mother, Rienna looked around at the rather small room. There was the bench, chair, and table with the cookies, but other than that there wasn’t much in the room. There were a couple of bookshelves in the back of the room, a fireplace towards the front, a cabinet on one side, and no windows. She started by looking at the books in the bookshelves.

There was only around 5 books on each bookshelf, scattered about. She pulled out the biggest book first. It’s cover was a dark green color with nothing written on it. When she opened it up to what was basically the middle of the book, written over and over again were the words, “Hello pet, this is a book. You’ll find nothing of interest in it, only I can see was is written inside it.” Rienna glared at the book as she put it back on the shelf. She tried the other books with the same or similar results. Inside the cabinet on the on wall was a note saying a similar message, “Hello again, this is a cabinet, it looks empty, but really it is just the entrance to a larger storage space that only I can access.”

Rienna shut the cabinet and walked back to the bench and sat down and stared at the cookies. She usually didn’t like the taste of ginger, but the cookies on the table looked delicious. She almost decided to try one but she resisted long enough for Xia to intervene. Rienna slowly looked down at the long haired silver cat siting before her and sighed, she was tired, she hadn’t even wanted to come out into the Alyene in the first place.

Xia looked at Rienna soulfully and mewed softly. Xio was desperately still trying to find a way out so didn’t offer any translation. Yet Rienna thought she understood what Xia was trying to say. She smiled and pet her head gently. Xia purred and lifted up her front paws and bopped Rienna’s hand with head. In one fluid movement she landed in a standing position and rubbed Rienna’s ankles.

Xia meowed and walked toward the fireplace at the front of the room. She meowed again as she looked back at Rienna, her tail flicking softly against the ground. Once Rienna had walked to her, she called Xio over with a strange and cute gurgle sound. Xio came over and the mother and son talked together for a moment. They both turned towards Rienna, “My mom says that we can use the fireplace to escape. She will use her powers to lift us all up and out the chimney. She will then use her powers again to get us off the roof. Hopefully there won’t be another loop and we will be able to escape.” Xio explained then said, “You go first.” and started trying to push Rienna to the fireplace.

“Uh, okay then…” Rienna said, a little confused at why Xio thought he could push her to the fireplace, but he was obviously trying to get her to hurry up, so she didn’t ask any questions or hesitate; she went to the fireplace and ducked into it. Almost immediately, she was lifted off the ground and flown up to the roof where she was unceremoniously dropped onto the roof. As she scrambled to get stable, Xio, followed by Xia, flew up from the chimney and landed beside her.

“The phase squirrel, or whatever it is, came into the room right as we left. Start running for the woods as soon as you hit the ground.” Xio told her urgently. Even as he was speaking Rienna started lifting into the air. She was quickly flown down to the ground where she landed heavily. She started running just like Xio had told her, but she slowed down and looked back to see if the cats had made if off the roof.

They were both on the ground and Xia had picked up Xio by the scruff. She started running and Xio yelled at Rienna to hurry up and get to the forest. Rienna was still a little worried about leaving them behind, but once the squirrel appeared on the roof she started sprinting towards the trees at a speed she had never run at before.

The cats swiftly ran past her right before Rienna reached the trees, Xia’s powers pushing the two of them into the forest. They stopped and Rienna caught up to them. She looked back at the cottage, but was greeted only with trees as far as she could see; the witch was working her magic again, now knowing that they had escaped.

“Follow us!” Xio meowed as Xia started running forward again, this time at a speed that Rienna could keep up with.

Rienna didn’t hesitate at all this time; she ran after her cats as fast as she could, narrowly dodging trees and roots. Deeper and deeper they went into the forest. The trees got taller and closer together. The sky could hardly even be seen. Every once and a while they came across a fallen tree that they had to jump over.

After the third fallen tree Xia suddenly stopped and lowered her son onto the ground. “The squirrel has us in another loop.” Xio said, “We need to find it so we can get out.”

“There’s no point in doing that, critters.” The witch said as she appeared in front of them, “The loop has been deactivated since I’m here now. Why did you have to run? It always makes this much more work.”

“Rienna, run! If there’s no loop, we can get out!” Xio yowled at Rienna as his mother picked him up and started running from the hag.

Rienna ran after the cats, but as they ran the voice of the witch echoed above them, “You can’t escape from me. You are ants compared to my power, you have no chance my pets.” The trio kept running anyway, but they didn’t have much energy left and even Xia had slowed down noticeably, “You can’t run forever, pets, but I can wait for eternity, which is much less effort than using magic.”

Rienna tripped over a root and fell to the ground panting. Her cats ran to her trying to help her up, but her foot was somehow stuck in the ground. Then her knee was stuck in the ground as well and she started sinking. Suddenly the ground collapsed and all three of them started falling through the Earth. They heard the witch shriek in outrage before the ground above them started closing and they were in darkness as they fell. They were suddenly very tired and soon were asleep as they were falling.

You know better … I know … it was necessary … important … I don’t think … yes! … No, they’re mine … told you … no! … after they get rid of … why do you care … why… stop … get them back … I don’t … you … just wait …………...

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