An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

UF: Stories written by users, both fanfics and original.

Moderator: LadyTevar

Post Reply
User avatar
drakensis
Padawan Learner
Posts: 239
Joined: 2009-06-27 12:00pm
Contact:

An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by drakensis » 2013-02-22 07:33am

Disclaimer - The W.I.T.C.H. comic book was created by Elisabetta Gnone, Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa and published by Disney Italia. No infringement of the copyright is intended.

Author's Notes: This story is based on the comic/novel continuity - although I hope it is still clear for anyone only familiar with the cartoon, there are some rather significant differences in the plot (for one thing, don't expect to see Caleb for a while). Astral Drops were first seen in episode 8 of the cartoon's first season and the end of issue #3 of the comic. It was only after starting this that I watched episode 8 of the second season and issue #23 of the comic, where Will's astral drop becomes a character in her own right. This story diverges from issue #4 of the comic and the corresponding novel (The Fire of Friendship).



W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.


An Astral Drop in Heatherfield


W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

My first memory is of a cave by the sea.

I didn't know who I was, or where I came from but I was facing a redheaded girl and surrounded by several others. All of them except the girl I was facing were in pairs, exactly alike in appearance and clothes. It took me a few moments to realise that I was paired with the redhead.

Her copy. An astral drop, she called me.

There were memories, but they were a thin shadow of those that the others had: the other three like me each appeared to have the full memory and mannerisms of their originals.

"Complete idiot!" one of the 'real girls' shouted. "Why did you make something like that? She's useless!"

My original hung her head. "I... when I was making her I was afraid that..."

"...that your astral drop would take your place in Heatherfield?" asked a blonde girl. I should have known her name then (it's Cornelia, I learned later).

"Well it's only a little mistake. Will can make another one," the first girl suggested. I couldn't help but feel a bit wounded at that. I was just going to be discarded? Then again, what else would one do with something that was useless? I wrapped my arms around myself, trying to crush the hollow feeling I felt at the idea.

Cornelia shook her head. "I don't think she can, Irma."

"Cornelia's right," the redhead agreed. "This is my problem and I want to solve it myself." She opened a knapsack and pulled out paper and a pen. "Look I'll write everything you need to do on this piece of paper. Can you read?"

I was relieved to realize that I did at least know that. "Of course. Er... just one question?"

She nodded. "Sure."

"Who's Will?"

There were groans from the other girls.

"I am," she told me. "But you have to pretend to be me."

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

"One more time, from the beginning," asked Will as we left the cave.

"Okay." I consulted the schedule she'd made out for me, feeling more comfortable with the idea with something concrete to guide me. And more comfortable with myself that Will was trusting me. "Seven AM, wake up. Seven-fifteen, shower. Seven-fifty-five, kiss for mom, breakfast and..."

Will nodded and picked out her bike for me. Riding it... yes! I knew how to ride a bike! Good! "Alright," she reminded me. "Follow the instructions so you won't make mistakes. And remember..."

"To learn the things I'm not allowed to do?"

She nodded again.

"Got it!" I assured her and mounted the bike.

It didn't take long to get out of sight of the cave but I couldn't help but look around in wonder. The whole world was new to me and the fact that it was dark anywhere not lit by streetlights really didn't matter. I pedaled until my legs grew tired, having completely forgotten about following the directions I'd been given to get back to Will's apartment.

Looking around I didn't recognise any landmarks except the river. My directions hadn't said anything about it, but I knew I'd crossed it so I headed for a bridge and stopped on the sidewalk there, checking the student ID in my pocket to get the name of the street. Maybe I could ask directions... otherwise I'd have to ride around checking street names until I got lucky.

No sooner had I put my - Will's? no, she'd not given me hers, so it must be mine - purse away than I saw a car with blue and red lights on the roof cruising past me. I wasn't sure what it was at first, but the word POLICE on the side gave it away.

I'd mounted the bike and was pedaling slowly (what do you want, I'd been riding for at least an hour, I was tired!) off the bridge when I saw the police car stop and then reverse slightly. There didn't seem to be anyone else around so I guessed that they must be doing it because of me - which was kind of scary because the police car was waaaay bigger than me and the bike combined.

(If I forgot to mention it, Will was thirteen and kind of short. So I was the same size, even if I was only a few hours old).

Fortunately the car came to a halt and the driver poked his head out of his window. "Hey, I thought it was you. Isn't it a bit late for you to be out?"

"...uh..." Will hadn't mentioned any men I should be aware of, much less any policemen!

He took off his hat so I could see him more clearly. "I'm Irma's dad, remember?"

Irma... oh, hey, that was the loud girl from earlier. "Uh... I'm kinda lost," I admitted sheepishly.

He rolled his eyes. "You kids... okay, where do you live?"

I told him. I mean, he was a policeman and he was Irma's dad. That was probably okay? Will could have mentioned that to me. Then again, she did give me directions to go straight home so maybe she didn't expect it to come up. I'd have to check my instructions as soon as I could.

Irma's dad whistled. "You really are lost." He reached into the car for a moment and the trunk popped open. "We'd better get you a ride home. Do you think that your bike will fit in the trunk?"

It did - mostly - although I needed his help to lift it in. Being short is definitely not my favourite thing.

Much to my chagrin, the first thing he did when we strapped into the seats (I was riding in the back) was turn around and go back across the bridge. I guess I must have crossed the river without realising it at some point.

"So do you have a boyfriend?" he asked, looking back over his shoulder. "'Cause Irma's got this boy Martin from her class who keeps dropping by and asking her out."

I felt my cheeks get hot for some reason.

"Heh. You kids grow up so fast."

Hey! I didn't say anything. What sort of conversation was he having anyway?

After a few minutes he pulled up outside a tall apartment building. "Okay, here you are. Want me to walk you up?"

I shrugged. "If you don't think I can make it that far. I'm gonna need your help getting my bike out of the back though."

"You're welcome."

I flushed again. "And thanks for giving me a ride."

"My pleasure," he assured me and got out of the car.

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

I was able to figure out locking up my - er, Will's - bike onto the rack without too much trouble and I even found her apartment on the first try. (Let's not talk about how many of the keys in her pocket it took before I figured out the right combination to open the apartment door.)

Now I meant to scout out the apartment and find which room was which before I went to bed...

Except that I was kind of tired, and the couch looked really comfortable...

The next thing I knew there was sunlight on my face and I discovered that somehow a blanket had found its way to cover me while I was sleeping.

Oh man! My instructions said I should sleep in Will's bed! I was messing this up all over the place.

"Well good morning, sleepy-head," a woman greeted me with amusement in her voice. Then she sneezed.

I thought quickly (okay, what passes for quickly when you're just barely awake). Will had mentioned a Mom, and she hadn't said anything about anyone else in the apartment. Then again, she'd not mentioned Irma's dad either. "Mom?" I rubbed my eyes and pretended to still be half-asleep. Instead of, you know, a quarter-asleep.

"Of course, silly." She reached down and tousled my hair. "You looked so adorable asleep on the couch I couldn't bear to move you. Were you..." Achtoo! "...sorry, were you waiting up for me?"

I nodded. I was obviously going to have to get used to this lying thing in a hurry.

"I'm sorry I was late," she said apologetically. "But I'm going to call in sick because of this cold so I'll be home all day today."

"Okay." I thought about my instructions. "I'll... come straight home from school?"

I got a big hug. There was something... oh yeah, I was supposed to kiss Mom! I think that was later but I couldn't see a clock or my instructions so I winged it and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

"Are you sure?" Mom asked. "I know you want to spend time with your friends."

My friends? Ah, Will's friends: Cornelia, Irma and... who was the other girl in the cave? Oh, but they were off on a Magical Girl adventure to rescue their other friend. So it would be their astral drops at school and after school, who'd all know each other because they had their proper memories and weren't defective like me. I sniffled a bit into Mom's shoulder.

"Oh Will... did you fall out with them?"

I mumbled something and let her draw her own conclusions.

"Oh honey. I'm sure they feel just as bad about it as you do. I'll put some extra cookies in your lunch. I'm sure that will help patch things up."

"Cookies?"

"Uh-huh!" She let go of me. "Now hadn't you better go shower and get dressed?"

With wonderful precision timing I was in the shower when the doorbell rang.

"Willll! It's for you!" Mom called from the door.

I spent a minute trying to figure out how to wrap myself in a towel and settled for scrubbing myself as I ran back into Will's room and pulled on the pajamas still laid out to wear for last night.

"Will!"

"Coming!" I called back and scurried for the door. Mom was waiting with a tall, long-haired boy wearing a hat and cradling a small rodent. I wasn't sure if I was expected to scream in terror or coo in delight so I settled for an awkward wave of the hand. "Hi."

"Um, hi Will." I think he would have waved back but his arms were fully engaged with a suddenly hyper little critter. "I brought the dormouse back. I know it's only..." He checked his watch. "Um... ten to eight..."

I accepted the little creature without protest - largely because I was mentally castigating Will as best I could. She didn't mention a pet, she didn't mention this boy... What else had she forgotten!?

(Okay, in retrospect, I was being unfair. Will had had perhaps fifteen minutes to write my instructions down. They could never have been good enough. Bear in mind, I had maybe twelve hours of life experience to judge by at this point, more than half of which I'd been asleep for).

"Thank you," I said politely, letting the dormouse (whatever that was) scramble up onto my shoulder and trying not to flinch as its claws dug in a bit through the pajama top. "I hope you didn't have too much trouble."

Matt gave me an awkward look. "I don't think my parents were terribly happy about him making noise all night. Particularly on such short notice." That was a little bit pointed.

Will! "I'm really really sorry. Yesterday was really crazy and everything came apart all at once." And I really really hope I can tell a convincing lie. "Please can you tell them I'm sorry?"

"Uh, sure. Is... everything okay now?"

I gave him a smile. "It's better. Thank you."

"Uh, any time."

Something over my shoulder seemed to give him qualms. "Er, I'll see you at school then?"

"Sure!"

Once the door was closed I turned around. Mom gave me a peculiar look. "Will, I know I rushed you, but you really could have finished buttoning your pajama top."

I looked down and saw that while I had covered the essentials, the boy must have seen my midriff where the top was gaping due to mis-aligned buttons. "oooo." My face was going red again.

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

I get the distinct impression I was running late when I reached Sheffield Institute. Something about the grounds being deserted as I locked up Will's bike and dashed inside.

Fortunately I the corridors weren't empty yet, so I was able to slip into the class room my directions from Will led to just ahead of the bell. I spotted Cornelia - or at least her astral drop - sitting a row back from where I wound up so I couldn't even look to her for guidance.

I had to focus: I'd slipped up earlier and had to do some pretty fancy footwork to get out of it. But I couldn't count on being that lucky again. I'd read and re-read the schedule until I practically had it memorised.

First class was Mathematics. How hard could it be?

Of course, it would help if I had any memories of any past classes. The teacher didn't ask me anything so I wasn't obviously ignorant, but that was just because he was new and gave everyone a test to see how good we are at maths. I took my best guess but the only part I was sure I got right was when I scribbled Will's name at the top. And even that was a lie.

"You're looking depressed," 'Cornelia' told me as she subtly guided me to the next class. Hopefully English would be easier.

"I think I flunked that test pretty badly."

She laughed. "Maths has never been your subject, 'Will'," she assured me. "We'll still have to think of a forfeit for you though. Maybe you should ask Professor Collins for tutoring."

"Professor Collins?" I dug into my bag and pulled out the class schedule. "But he teaches history, not maths... doesn't he?"

"Hmm... you really don't remember anything do you?"

I gave her a confused look. "What? You know I don't. Oh. Quick question. That guy in our class, long hair - two seats to my right..."

"Matt?"

"Okay. Are he and... you know, friends?"

"What, no!" She shook her head. "At least I don't think you are. Elyon had a crush on him though."

"Who?"

'Cornelia' gave me a pained look. "I'll tell you later," she promised as we went into the classroom.

English actually was better: we were supposed to read out from a play. Well I can read okay, or at least I thought I could. This was in some sort of old English (how that differs from normal English I'm not sure) with lots of words that I didn't know or that didn't mean what I expected them to mean.

Still it was better than Maths.

"You're really getting into this," 'Cornelia' muttered - I'd managed to snag a seat next to her this time.

"Well it's fun," I replied quietly. "Er... Shouldn't I enjoy it?"

'Cornelia' shrugged slightly. "Will's kind of shy."

"Oh." Another blunder.

"Well it's too late now," she advised. "Just keep going."

And that's what I did all the way to lunch.

The five of us gathered at what they told me was our regular table in the cafeteria.

"So you don't remember anything?" 'Irma' asked. "That's really weird. Dad said he had to drive you home last night after he found you roaming the streets late at night."

"I got lost," I mumbled around one of the cookies that Mom had packed for my lunch.

'Hay Lin' nodded. "It must be hard not to have Will's memories to guide you. But I'm sure they'll be back soon and everything will be alright."

The other four astral drops all nodded their heads, 'Taranee' being the most vigorous. Her original had been missing for days now, captured by Cedric when they had strayed through a portal into Metamoor: the world beyond. If the other four couldn't rescue her... Who knew what might be happening to her?

"But... what if they aren't?" I asked nervously. There was an ugly feeling in my chest. I wanted Will to come back so I didn't have to keep up this deception any more... but at the same time, the idea of her return frightened me.

'Cornelia' flicked her long hair. "Don't worry about it. I'm far too beautiful to be stopped by some monster from Metamoor."

"So what are we doing after school?" 'Irma' asked. "Want to go to the mall, Cornelia?"

"Sounds great," the blonde agreed. "Do you want to come along, Will?"

I shook my head. "No, I'm going to go straight home. It's on my schedule."

They giggled at that. I guess it must have seemed very silly to them that I had to follow a plan instead of having the information to decide what to do on my own.

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

Someone had trashed the bike shed (again, from Cornelia's comments). I will not name names (because I don't know the names) but I suspect the four boys who departed sniggering just as we got there. Just a guess. 'Cornelia' waved her hand as if that would straighten things out and looked notably put out when it didn't. I guess it would have worked for the real Cornelia.

"So, Elyon?" I asked quietly as we untangled our bikes from the pile.

"She's my best friend. We've been in the same class since we were little." Her face was expressionless. "The night after the Halloween party, Elyon lured 'you', Irma and Hay Lin into the gym and almost got you captured by two monsters from Metamoor. Then when we lost Taranee she was there with them."

"Oh."

"Yeah." With a grimace, the blonde examined her bicycle. "So why were you asking about Matt?"

"He visited me - Will - before school to return her pet dormouse. I didn't even know she had one!"

"That must of been awkward," she agreed.

I blushed at the memory.

"What's this?" 'Cornelia' gave me an amused look. "Oh, is Elyon not the only one with a crush on him?"

"It's not like that," I protested. "I just had a little... clothing malfunction."

She gasped. "Oooh! You're so bold! I never would have guessed! Irma and Hay Lin have to hear this. Tell me all the juicy details!"

"There are no juicy details." My voice may have risen just a little as I scrambled onto my own bike.

"Of course not," my fellow astral drop agreed with a sly grin. "He's really cute though, isn't he?"

I declined to comment and she waved after me. "See you tomorrow."

"Only if they don't come back," I whispered.

I paid very close attention to my route on the way back. Getting lost a second time would be really dumb. And it gave me something else to think about... whether our originals would return.

Don't get me wrong. I didn't want them to fail or for any of them to come to harm. Well, maybe Irma, but even then I only mean a little harm. Something to give her a scare or something. But...

Yes, but. Because when they come back, we all go away.

That's the whole point of us. To take their places until they return. After that they won't need us and we'll... disappear?

I honestly wasn't sure of the... magical mechanics and I hadn't thought to ask the other astral drops if they did. But surely our originals wouldn't want us to be around once they were here again. So that would be it. All the life I would have was what I had until Will came back.

(Okay, maybe concentrating on not getting lost wasn't doing a very good job of distracting me from thinking about this.)

It wasn't until I cycled into the yard outside the apartment building that I remembered what Will and Cornelia (the real ones had said) in the cave when I was created. She'd been afraid that I would replace her.

Could I do that?

I didn't so much dismount my - her - bicycle as fall off it. Everything I'd eaten at lunch came boiling up out of me and spattered across the ground and my shoes.

The idea terrified me with the power that it had over my imagination. The chance to wake up every morning for breakfast with Mom... to go to school and have my own grades and my own favorite classes and teachers... to be friends with Cornelia and Matt and Hay Lin and Taranee...

I wiped my mouth with the back of my sleeve and locked up the bike in a daze.

They wouldn't be my friends, I reminded myself. Not if I'd stolen away the life of their friend Will.

Could I pretend to be her?

What was I even thinking? I shuddered. She would hardly let me do that, it was her own nightmare. And I didn't know anything much about her life really. Anyone suspicious would only have to ask a few questions to know that I was an imposter.

It could never work.

And even to try would be to betray her.

Betray the girl who'd given me life, given me everything I had.

But only as a loan. Only until she takes it away from you, a treacherous voice whispered inside of me. Including your life.

My forehead collided with the apartment door. "Ugh." I leant against it, fumbling in my jacket pockets until I found the keys. Getting them into the correct keyholes was as bad as the night before. It might have helped if I could keep my eyes open without tears forming.

After a moment I gave up. I couldn't go in like this, Mom would know that something was up. I had to get myself together first.

I turned around and sat down in the hallway, back against the door. Okay, let's try to look at this logically.

If I was to take Will's place I'd have to make her disappear somehow, I realised. She'd never stand for it... and I'd be doing to her exactly what I was afraid of her doing to me.

Do it to her before she did it to me? That wouldn't make it right. And besides, like I'd thought earlier, I couldn't keep up the pretense forever. Maybe one of the other astral drops might have been able to, but I couldn't.

So I couldn't, shouldn't and wouldn't try to get rid of Will to take over her life. If she came back, when she came back... her life would be hers again.

I wasn't her and I wasn't going to try to be her. However much I wanted to have Will's life, I wouldn't give up who I was for it. I wanted my own life not a cheap copy of hers.

Making that decision didn't make my situation any better, but the hollow feeling that I'd been having ever since the cave began to fade away. Perhaps it was because I made the right decision... or perhaps it was because I had made that decision, not Will. I was going to take charge of my life and not surrender it to her.

Okay. I might not know yet what I was going to do, but I knew what I wasn't going to. It was a start. Fishing into my pocket I pulled out a hankie and blew my nose before mopping at my face. Okay, now to face Will's Mom before she wondered if I'd changed my mind about coming straight home from school.

This time I managed to get the door open on only my third attempt.

"Welcome home," Mom greeted me from the couch. She lifted the TV remote and muted whatever it was she was watching. Then she frowned. "Have you been crying?"

Well so much for my hasty face cleaning. "I'm feeling kind of sick. I sorta... tossed my cookies outside."

"Oh Will!" She jumped up and I got dragged into a hug. "Did you have a bad day at school?"

"It was... okay. There was a Maths test. I didn't feel ill until I was riding home."

She let me loose and then pulled a thermometer out of the various things she'd stacked on the table by the couch. (I think she'd just holed up there all day). "Do you think you'll be sick again?"

"I don't think so," I admitted uncertainly.

She stuck the thermometer into my mouth.

"Mmmm mmm mm?"

"Don't take it out for couple of seconds," she told me. "You might be coming down with something."

I sat obediently with it in my mouth until Mom was satisfied and checked the result. "Well you don't have a temperature." She gave me a little push. "Why don't you have a shower, put on your pajamas and we can curl up here until we feel better?"

"That sounds... really good."

"I'll order pizza," she offered. "Do you want the usual?"

What was pizza? Still, 'the usual' was probably safe. I nodded and headed for my bedroom to get the pajamas.

"And then we can talk about that boy, Matt."

Erk. That's pretty much the sound I made.

Mom gave me a little wave to get moving. "And remember to button your top properly."

It took me about ten minutes to get back into the lounge, having spent a good five of them in the shower. The hot water just seemed to wash everything away.

Mom was putting down the phone when I got back. "I didn't get to tell you this morning, but I was going to have a guest for dinner," she told me. "It's probably a good thing he couldn't make it with us both unwell."

"He?" Who had she invited? Not Matt, surely? Will's father perhaps? He hadn't been in evidence this morning and she hadn't mentioned him in the instructions.

"Mr. Collins." She waited a moment for a reaction that I evidently failed to get. "Your history teacher?"

"Oh! Professor Collins!" Why, oh why, hadn't I asked 'Cornelia' what she meant about him? "Why was he coming for dinner?"

That got a sigh. "I know it's difficult for you with him being your teacher, but Dean's a nice man. He's a friend, a good friend..."

"Just friends?"

"Maybe more than that," Mom conceded. "Would it really be so bad if I started dating again?"

Oh, this is just great. If I get this wrong... "I'm not... keen on that, Mom. But I can't actually think of a reason you shouldn't..."

"Thank you dear."

"I do think you could do better."

"Oh?" She arched her back girlishly and for a moment I was actually jealous. "Should I steal Matt away from you?"

"It's not like that, Mom," I whined.

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

Later I lay on Will's bed and looked up at the ceiling.

Her Mom had decided to have a nap after the pizza (which was apparently food and very tasty food at that). If I was lucky that 'nap' would last all night - having a cold must be tiring because she looked much sleepier than I felt and she hadn't had to go to school.

Of course that still left me with what to do about Will.

It seemed to me that there were two possibilities: either she would come back or she wouldn't. There was nothing I could do to influence that. And there was no way of knowing how long it would take before she could get back. If she took too long then I'd probably be found out before she got back.

That meant...

I rolled over on the bed and closed my eyes.

Okay, two plans. One for her coming back and one for when I decided she wasn't likely to come back. No, that was wrong. I'd need three plans: the third one for if someone figured out I wasn't really Will.

A nasty thought crossed my mind. Will had created me through magic. What if... 'something' happening to her in Metamoor would make me vanish? Could I exist without her?

There was no way for me to know. I'd have to ask the others at school tomorrow, see if they had any idea. I shivered at the thought. I could just... vanish. Without warning. Without even knowing I was in danger.

I wish I knew how dangerous Metamoor was for her!

So I need three plans. Ummmm... Run away? Sounded good, but where too?

And when should I give up on Will coming back?

I opened my eyes and saw the folded piece of paper with Will's instructions on it. They just covered one day. Did that mean I should expect her sometime tonight? Or just that I should try to follow them every day until she got back?

I didn't think there was school every day. I'd have to ask Cornelia tomorrow. I could probably keep up the pretense for another few days at school. I really ought to make a list of questions to ask her.

Climbing out of bed I rifled through Will's desk until I found a notebook I could write in. Oh! I could use this to write down what's happened so far, I realised. That way Will doesn't get caught out at anything she missed without her having to absorb me!

I was scribbling down about being ill when I got back from school - I didn't think I needed to tell Will exactly why I'd felt ill. She'd probably not be very happy with me. Well, more unhappy than she was probably going to be anyway - when there was a noise against the window.

I gave it a puzzled look - this was on the third floor! - and saw something small bounce off it. What? Was someone throwing something at my - at Will's - bedroom window? I scrambled over and unlatched it just in time for the next projectile to bounce off my forehead. "Ow!" I caught it and realised it was just a fleck of gravel. Still - it could have hit me in the eye or something.

Looking down I was about to give whoever was down there a piece of my mind when I recognised who it was.

Will!

The fears I had had for her dropped away - she was there, not missing any obvious bits and not acting like one of her friends had died. They'd made it!

Then reality sank in. It meant that I was going to have to run now. And she was between me and the way out.

I leant out of the window, pointed at the bike shelter, then at myself and down at the bike shelter. Hopefully she'd understand that I meant I would go down to meet her there.

With that done I closed the window, scrawled another few lines onto the 'list of things Will should know' and chucked the 'questions for Cornelia' list into the bin. I wasn't going to have any chance to ask them.

Two minutes later I had pulled the clothes I'd worn the day out of before out of the laundry heap (there was a basket, it was overflowing) and hastily dragged them on. Then I took a deep breath...

And wandered out into the apartment's hall. I didn't check Mom's room - although I was very tempted - instead I walked into the kitchen and replaced the bin bag. If Mom suddenly emerged, either on my departure or Will's return, my reason for being out was taking the trash down. The pizza box alone was large enough to justify not keeping it in the kitchen longer than necessary.

Will was waiting for me by the bicycle rack. I stopped halfway there and dropped the bag.

"What's the matter?" she asked and started walking towards me.

I raised my hand for her to halt and then gestured to the bag. "If Mom asks why you stepped out, you were taking out the trash."

"Good idea. You don't have to explain though. I'll remember everything when I absorb you." She took another step forwards.

I took a step back. "I'm not going to let you do that."

"What?"

I pulled out the list and dropped it on the ground. "This should explain." Then I turned and ran out of the yard and onto the street.

"Wait!" I couldn't see Will chase me, but from the sound of feet hitting the tarmac that's what she was doing. "Come back!"

I rounded a corner and got out of her line of sight. I only had to get half a block before there was an alleyway I could get into and hopefully she was tired from her adventure and wouldn't be able to keep running as long as I could. Once I was a couple of corners ahead, she wouldn't know where I was going.

Of course...

...nor did I.

I ducked and weaved through the streets, hoping I wouldn't run myself into a dead end. After a few blocks I ducked behind a car to catch my breath and listened out for any sounds of pursuit.

Nothing.

"Lost her," I muttered, slumping against the car.

"Lost who?"

"Mwaaaah!" I tried to jump up, lost my balance and fell over, knocking my head against the car.

Don't get me wrong, I didn't hurt myself or anything, it was just a little knock. The only serious damage was to my dignity.

"Whoa, that looked awkward," Matt said and crouched to offer me his hand. "Are you okay?"

"I think I'll live," I sighed. "I'm just having an... interesting day." I took his hand and he pulled me upright.

He grinned. "I know the feeling. Is your dormouse getting along okay?"

"He seems to be settling back in. Probably gearing up for another night time rampage."

"You mean he's like that every night?" the boy asked. "How do you get any sleep?"

"That doesn't seem to be a problem, just picking up after him in the morning." Hopefully I wasn't straying too far from the truth. "Mom says I'm a bit of a heavy sleeper."

"I guess he's the perfect pet for you them." Matt looked at our hands and I realised I hadn't let go after he helped me up.

"hehehe. Sorry." I loosened my fingers and let our hands part. What the heck is wrong with me?

"It's fine. So, who are you hiding from?"

"Just someone I didn't want to speak to right now," I hedged.

"One of those conversations you'd rather put off forever?"

"Exactly!"

He laughed. "I've had a few of those myself. If you don't mind some advice, it can be easier just to get them over with."

Well, I guess it was too much to expect him to understand. "Not this sort thing, believe me." I dusted off my pants. "I'd probably better get home before Mom starts worrying. Nice to see you again, Matt."

"Sure." I got a few paces and then he called: "Will? Don't you live sort of..." I turned and saw him pointing off in the other direction. "This way?"

"I'm... going round a couple of blocks. Just to avoid that conversation, you know?"

"Well, okay. See you at school tomorrow!"

"Sure!" That actually sounded rather nice. It was a shame that it wouldn't be happening.

I turned another corner and found myself on a busier street. Well this should make me harder to spot - there weren't many kids my age going in and out of the restaurants along here so everyone was taller than me. I pulled up the hood of my coat and hid my red hair, which might be kind of distinctive.

Okay, I'd gotten away from Will. But I still needed to figure out where to go.

A burst of noise as one door opened caught my attention and I saw that it came from a place called the Silver Dragon. Through the windows it looked warm and hospitable, quite different from the streets. More like the apartment.

Well, there was no going back. And I couldn't go in - I'd need money and I didn't have any.

I was just giving the Silver Dragon one last look when a familiar face caught my eye.

Unfortunately, she'd spotted me too. Hay Lin was wearing an apron and had just delivered a tray of food to one of the window table. She brightened - her face almost literally lightened - and gave me a wave.

Somewhat hesitantly I waved back and then forced a smile onto my face. I don't think that it was very convincing because she tilted her head quizzically and then said something to the couple at the table before scurrying in the direction of the door.

Oops. I turned and ran for the next corner.

I couldn't risk drifting around here any longer. Who knew who I'd run into next? Irma out for a drive with her dad?

I needed a destination, but for now, away would have to do.

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

The cave hadn't changed since last night: an opening in the cliffs behind one of what I guessed was probably one of several small beaches along Heatherfield's coast. The water was a little higher than I recalled but still a good distance from the entrance.

It was cold and it had taken a good bit longer than I'd expected for me to walk here. I hadn't appreciated just how much faster it was to ride a bicycle. And it would probably have been faster to come straight here from home - from Will's home - than to get lost a couple of times.

I hadn't thought of this cave when I ran away. Not until I was halfway across Heatherfield and pretty much lost.

Will and her friends might well come looking for me, but they'd look in Heatherfield first. It was the only place I knew and while I'm sure there are other towns and cities I'm not sure how to get to them. And I knew that except for Taranee and Will they'd lived in Heatherfield their whole lives. They knew it far better than I.

But if I could get through a portal to Metamoor... well I had no idea what I might find there, but how was I worse off than here? And they wouldn't have much if any better idea about it than I did.

Don't get me wrong, I had some idea that it was dangerous in Metamoor. But what were the risks compared to Will getting hold of me? Would they kill me twice?

There were, I found, just a couple of problems. What does a portal look like and how do you use it?

I'd combed the cave, which wasn't actually all that deep, from end to end without finding anything like another way out. The closest I'd found had been various carvings into the stone walls but most were simply pairs of names - invariably a boy's name and a girl's name together. A couple were more esoteric - there was one set of symbolised flames that had me excited for a few minutes - but nothing I could do to them produced any reaction.

"We closed the portal," a soft voice told me.

I swear, I must have jumped a clear foot off the ground. I'd thought I was alone!

For a second I thought that it was Will, but no. Too tall, too... mature. Will and I were barely out of the stage where we could be called little girls, but this girl hovered on the brink of womanhood with a cool confidence in her eyes. I think I envied her that the most.

Her clothes looked like they belonged in a disco or a party: a tight, belly-baring purple top with flowing sleeves that widened dramatically from her elbows to her wrists, a short skirt, knee high boots - and between boots and skirt striped tights covered her legs.

"Please," I asked her, almost begging. "Can't you open it? I have to get away!"

She folded her arms under her bust and looked me over. "I'm a Guardian of the Veil. It's my job to stop people from going through portals, not to help them." Then she lowered her face slightly. "Still... I can't say I've never used them when I really had to. Tell me, why should I make an exception for you?"

"Because I want to live." The words tore out of me. "I... I'm not a real girl," I confessed. "The others say I'm an astral drop. I was supposed to take someone's place - one of the girls who used this yesterday to go to Metamoor - so that no one noticed she was missing. And I did that! But now... now she wants to destroy me. She doesn't need me anymore."

"I know about astral drops," the Guardian told me. She paused. "They... they're not supposed to be more than reflections of the original."

I hung my head. "I'm... different. Defective, they said. I shouldn't be this way, but I am. I'm not her! I'm not Will and if she forces me back into herself... I'll be gone forever."

Her eyes went wide. "You're afraid?"

Jerkily I nodded my agreement and a moment later I felt her arms around me. It was like the morning before, with Will's Mom.

"You shouldn't have to be afraid. I'm sorry."

There was something in her voice that I didn't understand. "It's not your fault, but please! Let me go through!"

"It's too dangerous," she said regretfully. "For you as much as anyone. But I promise you, you won't be harmed."

"You can't be sure of that!"

"I can." There was total confidence in her voice. "You're right. You are different. It would be wrong of me to take away your life."

I wanted to believe that, to believe in her. But Will had powers I didn't understand, as did her friends. Could this Guardian really protect me from them? I blame these fears for not realising what was odd about her words until a moment later.

"After all," she added, "We're practically sisters."

Light swelled around her, leaving me blinking... and in the embrace of someone closer to my size. Identical in fact.

"Will!?" I choked, terror rising. She had me!

But the dissolution I feared didn't take place. Instead she just rested her forehead against mine. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "This is my fault. I never meant to do this to you."

"I never thought you did. Like Irma said, I'm a mistake."

Will's head moved against mine and I realised she was shaking it. "You're more than that. You're a living person."

"Y-you mean it? You're not going to..."

"No!" Her arms tightened around me. "If you had my memories you'd know I'd never do that. But I guess if you did, you wouldn't be you, would you?"

She started to say more but broke off as I started to sob with relief. Through my tears all I could manage to tell her in explanation was a mumbled: "Thank you."

Thank you for not killing me.

Thank you for believing in me.

Thank you for accepting me.

Thank you for being a far better person than I had imagined.

User avatar
drakensis
Padawan Learner
Posts: 239
Joined: 2009-06-27 12:00pm
Contact:

Re: An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by drakensis » 2013-02-23 05:34am

The door of the apartment opened and I heard the unmistakeable sound of several teenage girls entering.

"So who is it that you want us to meet Will?" asked Irma.

"It's not Elyon, is it?"

"Oh! Oh!" exclaimed Hay Lin. "It must be Miss Rudolph! She came back from Metamoor!"

"Hello! That wouldn't be good news! She's our Math teacher! Vive la revolution!"

"Sorry Cornelia, it's not Elyon. And it's not Miss Rudolph either."

"So who is it, Will?"

Well if that wasn't a cue, I didn't know what was. I should probably come out and introduce myself.

Sure.

Any moment now.

"I'll just go get her," Will promised them and opened the door to her - now our - bedroom. "Hey, did you fall asleep?"

Honestly, once she'd gone to school and Mom had left for work, I had - hey, I'd been up all night and no guilt over the fact that so had Will was going to keep me awake. But that had been hours ago. Since lunch I'd been reading some of Will's books. After all the big thing I was missing from my life right know was knowing things. I was so ignorant that even last year's school books were a step up.

Well that was the theory. Actually having read about half of her seventh grade history book I felt dumber than ever but it was better than being bored.

"Come on." She grabbed my wrist and pulled me out into the apartment. "Ta da!"

There was a moment's silence and then...

"Wiiiiilllll!" Irma pointed an accusing finger at me. "You sent your astral drop to school! You can't do that!"

"It is kind of cheating," agreed Cornelia.

"Oh who cares about that," her friend told her. "You can't trust them. Mine agreed to a date with Martin. How do you know she wouldn't start making moves on... on... on... Uriah!"

There was a collective "Eww," from all five of the rest of us.

"Wait, you have to date Martin?" Cornelia brushed a long of blonde hair behind one ear. "Does anyone have a camera I can borrow? This is the sort of memory you'll want to treasure forever..."

"Try it and die, Cornie," Irma groused.

Will's hands formed fists at her sides, but I don't think she was seriously upset. "Guys, I'm the real Will."

Taranee giggled. "You would have done that if you'd thought of it, wouldn't you?"

"Maybe, but that's not the point."

"Then what is the point?"

"The point is that I goofed when I created her. She's not like the others..." A disturbed look crossed Will's face. "You aren't right? I mean... the other astral drops weren't afraid of us, were they?"

"I don't think so."

"Okay, that's good." She - my sister - paused. "Where was I?"

"You goofed." Cornelia raised an eyebrow. "Could you narrow that down for us a bit?"

"ikindofcreatedapersonandifiabsorbheritdbelikekillingher."

The other four girls looked at each other. "What?" "Huh?" "Will?" "oooohhhh!" Hay Lin seemed to be the only one who got it.

"I'm not a copy of Will," I translated. "I'm my own person."

"But... you're not a real person," protested Irma, cementing her status as my least favourite of them.

Will shook her head. "You're wrong, Irma. She is real. I know she is. And that means I can't reabsorb her. I'd be killing her."

Taranee and Irma gave her an 'are you nuts' look, but Cornelia nodded her head thoughtfully. "That makes sense. She got a B on yesterday's Math test. You'd never do that, Will, so her being a different person makes sense."

"I got a B?" She had to be kidding. "Really?"

Will rolled her eyes. "It figures you'd do better guessing answers at random than I would really trying."

I'd have responded to that but I was a bit distracted by Hay Lin's face. Given that it was about three inches from mine. "You must be the Will I saw last night outside the Silver Dragon," she deduced. "Nice to meet you properly... Oh! What's your name?"

"My... name?"

"Yeah, you're not Will, so who are you?"

I blinked. Huh. I honestly hadn't considered that. "I'm... still trying to figure that out."

Taranee pulled at Will's sleeve nervously. "Uhm, what are you going to tell your Mom, Will? I think she might notice if there are two of you."

"Only if she sees us both together!" Will explained. "She's at work a lot and we're working on a way into the loft - that way one of us can hide up there when she's at home. Or I'll be off with you on Guardian business and she can cover for me."

"Or I might go out in the evenings."

"But no sneaking out to discos," warned Cornelia.

Except for Irma the girls giggled, she just went red. "One time, just one time."

"Uh, I think I'm missing a story...?" I said.

"Irma used her transformation to sneak into that disco in town," Cornelia explained smugly. "She managed to get the attention she wanted from a boy but then she panicked and turned him into a toad."

"We turned him back!" Irma protested.

"After, like, a week!" clarified Hay Lin.

Will cleared her throat. "That reminds me. I don't think we should create astral drops again."

"What! But that means if we have to go away, you're the only one that doesn't get in trouble when we get back!"

"That does seem unfair," agreed Taranee. "Why should our families have to worry about us?"

"I don't want them to worry! But..."

"But what if you wind up with astral drops like me? How many of us can there be before someone catches on? You're creating life!"

Irma made a face. "This sounds a lot like health class."

"Let's not ever talk about this like that again," Will offered with her face paler than usual.

"Agreed!" Taranee almost shouted. "My mom would freak!"

"That's not what it's like at all," insisted Cornelia.

"And you totally wouldn't mind having another sister, would you?" Irma asked slyly.

The blonde tossed her hair. "Whose side are you on, anyway?"

"Don't fight," Hay Lin scolded them. She turned back to me and beamed. "I'd kind of like a sister sometimes. Do you think my astral drop would mind if I called her up sometimes just to be a sister?"

...what? "I think you'd be better asking her."

I gave Will an appealing look and she shrugged helplessly. "Look, just be careful, okay? We're responsible for anything they do - and I don't just mean in the 'Mom's going to blame me for anything she does' way."

"I'm right here you know."

"And I was standing right there when she started teasing me about Matt," Will reminded me with her cheeks burning. So were mine.

Irma cackled, apparently forgetting her romantic troubles. "Oooh. You both like him. So who gets him, or will you share?"

"Irma!"

User avatar
drakensis
Padawan Learner
Posts: 239
Joined: 2009-06-27 12:00pm
Contact:

Re: An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by drakensis » 2013-02-23 05:35am

"Oh no!"

I heard that worried squeal from below and rolled over on my improvised bed (in lieu of an actual mattress we'd managed to smuggle half a dozen old cushions up into the loft) to lift the little hatch set into the floor of my room. "What's the matter?" I asked poking my head down into Will's room below (hopefully it wouldn't occur to Mom to wonder at that hatch appearing after more than a week in the apartment - Cornelia's power over wood and stone was enviable now that she had had some practice).

"It's my dormouse," Will explained, looking up from the usually lively pet. "I think he's sick!"

"Do you want me to get the mop?" I offered, reaching for the knotted rope that I used to get up and down.

She lifted him up in both hands. "Not that sort of sick. Ill! He got into our jar of cookies."

"Are you sure he's not just sleepy?"

"I offered him the last one and he refused!"

"That sounds pretty conclusive," I agreed and scrambled down the rope. "So what do we do?"

Will gave me a panicked look. "I don't know! Mom's not home, who can..."

"Matt," we concluded in unison.

I picked up the dormouse out of Will's arms. "You're not dressed for going out," I told her. (Which was true, she was schlepping around a baggy sweatshirt and slippers, not exactly suitable for the cold, windy streets). "I'll call his house while you get dressed."

"Why do you get to call him?"

I rolled my eyes. "Because you get to go see him? I've no idea where he lives and if this is serious we can't risk me getting lost on the way there."

"Okay?" She gave her pet (one thing we did not share was a fondness for the voracious little critter - I guess I'm not an animal person) a scratch behind the ears before turning to what was now our wardrobe.

I on the other hand went to the telephone and leafed through the piles of contact details under it until I found Matt's number. "Someone really ought to organise these," I muttered quietly, realising that that 'someone' was probably going to be me.

I don't think Will was intentionally loading me down with her chores but it was just more practical for me to be the one doing them: I hadn't gone to school again so far, so I had much more time on my hands for things in the house. Besides, these were all things that I really ought to know how to do.

"Hi," I greeted the woman who picked up the phone. "Is Matt home?"

"Not at the moment," she replied. "Who's calling?"

"I'm..." I recalled that Matt's parents hadn't been too impressed at the dormouse's antics when Will dumped the pet on him before the mission to rescue Taranee. "...a friend of his from school. My pet's ill and I wanted to ask his advice. Do you know when he'll be back?"

"Not for a while I'm afraid," she told me. "But if it's an animal problem, he's working in my father-in-law's pet shop. It's Olsen's - on Almond Street - do you know where that is?"

"I'm not sure." I picked up the pen and paper that we kept handy for this sort of thing. "Could you give me directions?" She did and I scribbled away industriously. "Thank you very much."

"Thank you," Will said when I put the phone down. She was dressed warmly now and holding a towel which she used to wrap her pet up against the cold weather. "I'm going to dash, just in case it's something serious."

"Yeah, probably best," I agreed. "I guess you get to put off showing me more Maths."

"I don't see why you're so eager," Will told me, heading for the door. "It was just luck you got a good grade. There's no reason to think you're actually good at it."

"Well it's worth a try. You have the magic, maybe I get maths as compensation."

She laughed as she went out the door.

I watched her cycle away from the window and then went to the closet to get one of her spare jackets and another set of keys. After a few days cooped up here I really could do with getting out. As long as I stayed away from Almond Street, it should be safe enough. Just to be even safer though, I added a ball-cap from her closet and scraped my hair back into a short pony-tail. It was barely long enough to stay back but with a bit of luck I wouldn't be recognised if anyone who only knew Will casually happened to cross my path.

As I walked out of the yard my mind went back to Hay Lin's question a few days ago. Well, to one of the bubbly girl's questions.

What was my name?

Part of it I knew. Will had chosen to declare me her sister and perhaps one day Mom might know who I was and accept me too. So I was one of the Vandom family, even if only one of them knew it. I still felt warm at that fact.

But my own name, that was something I hadn't decided. I didn't even have an idea yet that I liked.

(Irma had suggested 'Bill'. If I wasn't sure that she'd enjoy the experience, I'd have drowned her in the bathtub for that.)

I looked at shop signs as I passed them, looking for inspiration. Not that I was going to call myself 'Pharmacist' or 'Ye Olde Bookstore' but...

Ooooh. Bookstore.

Will, I would have to admit, was not the most literary of girls. While she had a few books other than school texts, most of them had were obviously from when she was (a lot) younger and I'd read through all of them already, when school books got too dull.

Yeah, I'd had quite a bit of time on my hands over the last few days and school books are evidently written to be as boring as possible.

Anyway, perhaps I could get a better book here. I had a little money - Will had split her allowance with me in case I needed some money for an emergency - and it couldn't hurt to look even if I didn't buy anything.

There was a little bell thing that rang as I pushed the door open. The show was shadowy inside and it took a moment for me to realise that the leather-covered volumes on the shelves were actually books! They looked nothing like the bright and colourful children's books and cheap cardboard-covered school books I'd seen so far.

For a moment I thought that I was alone in the shop but then I heard the sound of footsteps and a man stepped out from behind one of the bookshelves. He was tall and thin with blond hair slicked back into a pony-tail. "Can I help you, Miss...?"

"Uh, I'm just... seeing if something catches my eye?"

"Of course." He bowed slightly. "If you need help, just call."

I nodded and started scanning along the shelves, picking out the titles that were embossed into the spines, sometimes in gilt. It took me all of a minute to realise I was way over my head. Some of the titles didn't seem to be in English at all and once I reached the third shelf I realised that some of the letters didn't seem to be from the alphabet.

"What the..."

There was a giggle from behind me and I turned to see a girl around my own age leaning against bookshelf opposite, hands clasped behind her.

For a moment I froze, looking at her. My face must have been quite the picture because she giggled again. It was, to be honest, a pretty nice laugh and I turned around and sat down with my back to the shelf, chuckling at my own plight. "Okay, I confess! I don't have a clue what I'm looking at."

"I think that shelf is Russian... or maybe Greek," she told me, then looked at me somewhat expectantly.

"Sorry, am I supposed to pretend I can speak those?" I asked after a couple of moments.

She grinned. "I think we can skip that bit if you want. There's some stuff in the back that might be a bit easier to get into."

"Sounds good." I scrambled to my feet. "I'm not really looking for anything particular, just something a bit more interesting than everyday life." Standing I found that I was a little taller than her which was an almost new experience for me. She had mousy brown hair about the same length as mine except for two thin braids that hung down in front of her shoulders.

"I know how that feels," she assured me and waved her hand towards the back of the store. "Over this way."

"Thank you."

I'll be honest, the books in this part of the store didn't look all that different. In fact, some of the scripts seemed even stranger... "I'm not sure that this exactly what I'm looking for."

"I guess they really didn't tell you anything," the girl said sweetly.

I looked back and saw her clothes change to a long green dress with a blue tabard over it. A silver circlet appeared in her hair and two silver ornamental rings capped her braids.

Ohhhh dear. This could be bad. Still.... maybe she was friendly. "You would appear to have the advantage of me."

"Looks like I do," she nodded. "I'm surprised the Guardians are letting a loose end like you run around."

"I appealed to their better nature." Did this place have a back door. A window? Well, another window - the one that I could see was a mosaic of coloured glass in the shape of a peacock and I rather doubted I'd be able to get out of it.

"So that's how you convinced them to put up with you, faker." She put her hands on her hips. "Well don't think I miss what you are. I've been watching you for a while. And I have the power to stop you."

"Stop me? I don't know what you mean. I don't even know who you are!" I darted away from her, trying to get away from her by going around the other end of the bookcase. I had almost reached the corner when the bookstore owner stepped into my path. Except he was also changing shape, changing into something that wasn't even human.

I recoiled, almost losing my balance.

"You're not going anywhere," the girl told me and thrust her hands forwards. A bubble of force formed around me, suspending me in mid-air. "You've done enough already, pretending to be friends with Cornelia and flashing your belly at Matt."

What? I flushed. How could she know that!? And why would it even matter to her? Unless...

Cornelia. Matt.

She'd told me that her friend Elyon had a crush on him. And later that she'd vanished, perhaps into Metamoor.

"Elyon?"

She curtseyed. "Elyon Brown," she confirmed. "Except that's not who I really am."

"Indeed," the towering snake man agreed, slithering around her. "You're far more than that, Elyon."

I crossed my arms. She had magic, evidently, and I didn't. I wasn't going to be able to fight her like that, so I'd have to find another way.

"So if you're not really Elyon Brown, does that make you a fake too?"

Her eyes narrowed angrily. "No, it makes my so-called parents fakes. After my real parents died, they stole me away from my brother and took me away from Meridian to Heatherfield. They pretended to be my family, the same way that you're pretending to be Will's sister."

"You shut your mouth!"

My hand hurt and I realised I'd slapped it against the bubble as hard as I could. As if it had been her face.

"I may not know your family, Elyon. But I do know mine. And don't you ever dare suggest that I don't love them."

Elyon walked forwards and looked me right in the eye. "And what are you going to do about it? You're nothing but an illusion and soon you won't even be that!"

"Now let's not be hasty," her companion suggested. "Remember the plan, Elyon. Our guest could be very useful to us, as long as she considers the consequences if she proves... uncooperative."

Elyon lowered her head submissively. "Of course, Cedric. You can trust me."

I have no idea how she took any reassurance from his toothy grin but once he had slipped away behind the bookcases, she took a deep breath and then eyed me up again. "You don't have any future in Heatherfield. All you are is a construct of magic. Once we defeat the Guardians you'd simply fade away. But Cedric and my brother want to give you a chance. We can give you a real body, and a new life in Meridian."

"That sounds like a sweet deal," I agreed warily. Something told me that it wouldn't be a simple as that. They would want something from me and they'd take measures to keep me to whatever they asked for. And what if they decided not to keep their word? I didn't like the look of Cedric - maybe I'm a little suspicious by nature - and Elyon hadn't been exactly trustworthy, luring me into this.

"And if you don't agree I'll simply make this bubble smaller and smaller until your body is destroyed. My magic is stronger than any of the Guardians. Stronger than all of them combined!"

"I don't think I'd enjoy that." I had to get out of the bubble. It already felt as if it might be getting smaller. I eyed its margins and I think it really was. That suggested that just by thinking about it Elyon was making it happen. "So what do you get out of this? We both know that I'll do what I have to in order to survive."

Elyon smiled. "The Guardians need the Heart of Kandrakar to fully master their powers. Without it, they can't keep closing the portals and trapping my people in Metamoor. I think they'd be a lot more reasonable - maybe we could even be friends again - if you were to bring the Heart here."

The thought of the bubble shrinking had been enough for that to start happening and I didn't think Elyon had actually intended to do that. I hoped not, because the ideas beginning to form in my mind rather counted upon my being right.

I needed to keep her talking while I put it together. "And what if I were to agree, and then go tell the Guardians about this shop? I imagine you'd know, and wouldn't get caught but there's got be a portal around here. Not to talk myself out of this deal, but I imagine you want some kind of safeguard?"

Magic seemed highly dependent upon intent and perhaps upon focus. If I could break hers, then perhaps it would break the spell.

Elyon gestured and the oily surface of the bubble faded away athough I could still feel it against my hand. "No one needs to know that this is around you, but I won't be taking it away until we have the Heart."

"What stops you from clenching it down on me if I chat with Matt?" I asked innocently.

She scowled at me. "Maybe you'd better not."

"But surely you're over him, now that Cedric is in your life. Why should I mess up Will's chances with him?"

There was colour in her cheeks. "You don't understand!"

"A lot of things, no. I think you're being a real fool about your parents. But your brother?" I changed by tone of voice. "That, I do understand."

"W-what?"

"You chose him over everything. Your friends, even the world you knew?"

Elyon nodded. "Yes."

"Then you know why I won't betray my sister."

"But you aren't really her sister! You said you'd do anything to survive."

I could see doubt and confusion in her eyes and I seized upon it. "If I took your deal then I wouldn't survive. Something might be left wouldn't be me. Because I'd never betray Will. That's who I am."

My ears popped as the bubble closed around me. Under that crushing power I was forced into a crouch and then into a fetal postion. Somehow I twisted to keep my eyes on Elyon. Her hand was steady... but her lower lip was trembling.

The pressure forced a gasp of pain with the last air in my lungs, but I kept looking at her.

Looking her in eyes.

Making her watch me die.

Magic was will.

And I had to shake hers.

The last thing I thought before red overtook my vision was that there was a pun in there somewhere.

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

When I woke up I was somewhere I had never been before.

Okay, that doesn't narrow it down very much, does it? It wasn't Heatherfield though. If anything, it looked like a picture from one of Will's history books, depicting the Middle Ages. I was sitting on a bench at the edge of a market square. Above the square reared up a magnificent cathedral.

"Is this... Metamoor?"

There was a giggle. One I'd heard before.

"No," Elyon told me. "This is Dahl's Eternal Summer."

"What?" I scrambled to my feet, looking for a way to escape. I couldn't feel the bubble.

The other girl declined to meet my eyes. "I decided not to kill you. You'll do just as well as bait for the Guardians. They'll be joining you here, soon." She offered me a cup of something frothy. "This will help you feel better."

I accepted the mug. It wasn't as if she couldn't have poured it into me while I was unconcious if she wanted to. "I don't understand. Who is Dahl?"

"He was a painter. I've brought you into his last picture."

"You can do that?"

She curtseyed. "I told you. I have more power than the Guardians. You won't be seperated from your sister for very much longer."

"No offense, but I'd prefer it if she drove you off with your tail between your legs."

Elyon looked surprised and then shook her head. "It's too bad you're on the wrong side."

"Funny, I could say the same for you." I drank from the cup and found the contents spicy and reviving. When I looked up at Elyon she was giving me an impish look. "Alright, what am I drinking?"

"Mead," she told me. "It's a little bit alcoholic. And it's replacing some of the magic that you're made of. Everything you eat will do that from now on. Eventually you'll have a perfectly normal human body."

The mug hit the ground. "Really?"

She nodded. "It was more difficult than I thought, but one day you'll be a real girl, Pinocchiolina."

"Pinocchiolina?" I rolled the name around my lips as I retrieved the cup from the ground. When I looked up, Elyon was gone. I was alone and out of place in this little celebration. Setting the empty cup down on the bench I slipped away into the gap between two buildings and hid myself behind a barrel.

Curling up on myself I wondered how today could get any worse. I'd blundered right into Will's enemies, almost been killed and now I was being used as bait to lure her into a trap. "If I get out of this I'm never leaving the apartment again without letting someone know where I'm going," I vowed. "Please be alright, Will. If you get hurt then I'll never forgive her."

My cheeks felt wet and I realised I was crying. How foolish I was to be saying I wouldn't forgive Elyon when she didn't need to to worry about me at all. She had her magic and she had me trapped. And a part of me didn't want to hate her even with this. She had spared me - more, if she was to be believed then she had given me a chance at a real life, of one day being more than just a magical shell that thought for herself.

Could I really hate her when she was giving me life almost as much as Will had?

I think that I could. Not for what she had done to me and for me. Those, at least I could call us square over. But if she followed through and sent Will and the others here... I wouldn't be alone, but all of them would lose their families. Mom would be alone, never knowing what had happened to Will.

That I thought I could hate her for, if it happened.

I don't know how long I sat there, trying to get hold of my feelings, but eventually I had cried myself out. With a sigh I took off my cap, tidied up my hair again, and scrubbed away the tear-stains with a hankie before I put the hat back on.

Maybe the Guardians wouldn't be captured at all. Perhaps they'd even rescue me without any trouble.

But if they were captured then I owed it to them to do everything I could to help. Right now that meant finding out everything I could about this place, this prison. Elyon had left so there must be some way out. I might not have the magic to use it, but if Will was here she'd have the Heart of Kandrakar, so that shouldn't be a problem.

So where was I? I poked my head out above the barrel and looked out at the market square. It didn't look so terrible - in fact there was festival atmophere. Men in fancy clothes that looked nothing like anything I'd seen in Heatherfield were carrying tall banners through the crowds of more plainly but still oddly dressed people moving baskets of food and barrels that I presumed to contain drinks. In some parts of the square partying seemed to have broken out already - a couple were dancing (not the sort of dancing I'd seen Will do to music on the television but dancing nonetheless) and a juggler was keeping five apples in the air at once, which was pretty cool I had to admit. The fat merchant watching certainly seemed to agree with me.

"What are you doing there? Up to mischief?" a gruff voice demanded.

I eeped and spun around to see a plump man with a stained apron giving me an amused look. "Mischief? Me? Uh-uh!"

He gave me a searching look. "Hmm. You're not from around here. Eying the food I'll bet."

"ehh..." I rubbed the back of my head nervously. Better to let him think he was right.

"Well there'll be plenty of food for everyone later, as long as they earn their keep." He folded his thick arms across the apron. "And since my usual assistant is off juggling I could do with another pair of hands."

I bit my lip. I really ought to to find out more about this place... but where would I even start? At least if I was doing something for this man I'd not have to come up with an explanation for who was or why I was here. I nodded my acquiesence. "What do you want me to do?"

As it turned out, the man was an innkeeper and what he wanted me to do was wait tables. Before you start thinking that it was easy, you have to remember that I'm not very large and I had to carry food and drinks around on heavy wooden platters. There weren't any lightweight metal and plastic trays so I struggled quite a bit.

"I don't think you'd better try to lift this one," the innkeeper told me, balancing six heavy tankards onto one such platter. It wasn't quite large enough for them so one tankard was stacked on top of three others. He jerked his head towards a rack of bottles. "Take one of those over to Master Van Dahl. And be polite. He's an important man!"

I pulled one of the bottles off the rack and held it up for inspection. "Uh, who's Master Van Dahl?" Hadn't Elyon mentioned someone called Dahl?

The innkeeper nodded towards a corner of the room, near the window. I could just about see a man at the table there, wrapped in a long cloak.

Even the bottle was surprisingly heavy, so I held it in both hands as I walked over to him. "Master Van Dahl?" I extended the bottle.

"Ah, thank you." He accepted it with one hand and set it on the table without looking up. "Please bring me..." He looked up and I saw a thin, sad face beneath shaggy brown hair. "I don't know you."

"Um... should you?"

"I know everyone here," he said confidently. "What did someone your age do that Phobos would punish you? Stare at him? Take one step too close to him?"

"Ah... I'm not sure who Phobos is. I got sent here by a girl called Elyon."

Van Dahl rose to his feet and bowed slightly. "I'm forgetting my manners. It has been far too long since I spoke to another living soul. Elias Van Dahl at your service."

"I'm..." I hesitated. "Uhm... Miss Vandom."

He gave me a sceptical look.

"I don't actually have a name," I explained. "It's a long story."

"Young lady, I have nothing but time. I don't even know how long it has been since Cedric trapped me here."

"Cedric? I thought that you said Phobos...?"

Van Dahl sighed. "Cedric is Phobos' right-hand man. Like yours, it is a long story." He gestured to the chair facing him. "Please, take a seat and we can exchange our tales."

I complied. If the innkeeper protested, well he had told me to be polite. And besides, it seemed I'd stumbled on the one person that could tell me all about this place. "Cedric, I've run into. Assuming we mean tall, blond and turns into a snake. He and Elyon are working together."

"I see. Tell me, have you ever heard of Meridian?"

"Elyon said something about it, that it was their home. I'm guessing that it's something to do with Metamoor?"

"Yes," he agreed. "Metamoor is another world from the Earth and Meridian is the great city that covers it. Long ago, or so my teachers claim, Metamoor was one of the brightest of all the worlds but by my time it had become a world of darkness, lit only by the Light of Meridian. To protect other worlds, a veil was drawn between the worlds, cutting Metamoor off from the rest of the universe. And then... the Light failed."

"I was a court painter, the most famous artist of all of Meridian, when it happened. The queen and her consort vanished mysteriously. Her daughter, the heir, was no more than a child and so the crown passed to her brother: Phobos. Life had never been easy in Metamoor, but under his rule it became unbearable. His sister also vanished mysteriously, and Phobos withdrew into the shadows. He didn't want to talk to anyone, showing himself only to his loyal whisperers. Orders went out to destroy every statue, every portrait, any image of him in all of Meridian."

"You'd painted him, I take it?"

He nodded. "I had; and as a skilled portraitist I could easily paint more. I decided to run away away from him. There were people I knew, people who were afraid of what Phobos would do. They helped me to escape from Metamoor to another world, a place and time where an artist would be respected."

I blinked. "I take it that you don't mean here."

Van Dahl smiled sadly. "No. You'd know it as Europe. By your calendar, the year was 1700."

"Um... Master Van Dahl..."

"I've been here a long time, haven't I?" he said resignedly.

"Three hundred years," I confessed. "I'm sorry."

He sank in on himself. "I knew it was possible, but... I'm sorry, I need a moment."

I needed a little time myself. Three hundred years? This had been going on that long? But Will said that she had been chosen as a Guardian just in the last few weeks. Of course, they had been picked by Hay Lin's grandmother, who died only a little later so there had been no chance for anyone to ask questions about the history of the Guardians. But surely someone would know, if I could only find them.

Someone cleared their throat and I looked up to see the innkeeper. "Is everything alright, Master Van Dahl?"

"Merely sober thoughts," Van Dahl assured him. "I gather my young companion has been assisting you? I'm afraid you'll have to get along without her for a while." He pulled himself to his feet, towering over me, and dropped a handful of oddly cut silver coins onto the table. "Come along, Miss Vandom. We should talk more privately."

The innkeeper wasn't as tall as Van Dahl, but he was probably twice as broad. Nonetheless I saw his face pale as he stepped aside.

"That man was afraid of you," I accused Van Dahl in a low voice as I followed him out. Yes, I followed him. Quite honestly, he was too important for me back away from just because he seemed a little sinister all of a sudden.

He hunched his shoulders. "I imagine some of them do, yes," he agreed. "This is my painting, I created it and I created them as well. I don't usually throw my weight around, but they aren't exactly inclined to argue with me."

"You created this?" I gestured around us. "All of this?"

"Well, that wasn't my intention."

"This sounds horribly familiar." He'd created them? The way Will had created me?

Van Dahl's eyebrows arched. "I look forward to hearing your story. But I'm skipping ahead of mine. I'd fled Metamoor and made a new life for myself. I could paint, dream, wish... and like others, I could love. But I had not truly escaped. Phobos send Cedric after me to make sure I was punished. He found me and - whether it was Phobos' instructions or his own inspiration, he bound me to my latest work."

"The painting was supposed to be named 'The Last Tear'. A village where no one has cried in a long time. The last tear is in a crystal bottle in the cathedral and the life of the village is just joy. An eternal summer... Cedric told me that he'd always heard that artists put themselves into their work. He created a portal into it and forced me through it."

"Then this place has been for hundreds of years?" I asked. "Don't the people here notice?"

He shook his head. "It's like a play. They're caught in a few moments and no matter what I do, they revert to those actions unless I'm right there with them and sometimes even then. I've lost count of how often it happens."

I followed him up a narrow stair into a loft overlooking the square. "And they don't remember anything?" The room's furniture was barren except for dozens of incomplete paintings.

"Oh, they do but it doesn't really matter to them. As far as they're concerned this is normal. They don't know what it's like to be hungry, or thirsty or tired. I've almost forgotten them myself, this place just isn't real enough for them to matter."

"But you were drinking whatever it was in that bottle."

"The wine wasn't for sustenance," he told me wryly. "I guess you're not old enough to understand. Lucky girl."

"You don't look three hundred years old. I may not get any older." I looked around at the pictures. "I see you've been keeping busy."

Van Dahl sighed. "I tried to at first, but I can't finish any of them. Without colours, it's useless even to try."

"Without colours...?"

"It's all an illusion. When I try..." He gestured impatiently. "See for yourself. Letting me take my paint and canvases was Cedric's idea of a cruel joke. He took away my ability to paint and then left it dangling in front of me all this time."

Looking closer I saw that the pictures were washed out and felt... hollow, incomplete. The colours were scarcely more than hinted at. "That's cruel."

"There is no end to Phobos' cruelty," he said. "So what is your story?"

I found myself a seat against the window sill, looking down over the market. "Have you ever heard of the Guardians of the Veil?"

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

It might be that I couldn't grow tired here, but I guess it must take a while to kick in because explaining my history really took it out of me.

Van Dahl gallantly offered me the use of his bed. I'm not sure he'd used it in decades so I didn't complain about the rather lumpy mattress. Mind you, I also didn't actually get under the covers or undress. That'd be just a bit icky under the circumstances.

It seemed I'd barely put my head on the pillow when my shoulder was shaken.

"Whu?"

"There's a disturbance outside," Van Dahl told me sharply. "That hasn't happened before, so I think someone else has come through the portal."

I sat up and reached for my sneakers. "Who?"

"Well that's the question, isn't it?" He slung his cloak around his shoulders, making it flare dramatically.

I was glad that my sneakers were velcro-fasten becase I really wasn't inclined to take the time to tie laces before scrambling down the stairs.

"What's going on?" Van Dahl demanded of the first person to cross his path.

The woman squeaked in surprise. "Oh! Master Van Dahl! It's witches! Five witches!"

I slapped my face.

"I see. And where are these 'witches' now?"

"They ran away!" She pointed in the direction of some houses across the square. "Captain Von Schliese is after them!"

Shading my eyes against the late afternoon sun, I saw girls scrambling on the rooftops. The colour of their clothes was distinctive and by squinting I thought I could see a head of unruly red hair. "That's my sister."

"The good captain is somewhat short-tempered, we'd better hurry before he does something rash." Van Dahl started running across the square, leaving me to trail in his wake. His longer legs widened that gap quite a bit and after a moment I also had to deal with another problem: people might get out of Master Van Dahl's way, but they weren't so considerate for a young girl.

The Guardians vanished from sight behind a roof as I ran. It seemed strange: I knew they had powers over the elements, so if they were threatened, why weren't they using those powers to protect themselves? I doubted that a handful of town guards could really threaten them...

Something was wrong, badly wrong.

Besides, the more obvious problem that I'd been used as bait to lure them into a trap.

"You hear him, monkey!" I heard Irma shout. "Get your sweaty hands off me or I'll bite!"

"Can I lock her away at least?" the mustachioed soldier holding her protested as I came into view of them. "She's hardly sweet." The Guardians were surrounded by the soldiers, Irma and Cornelia physically restrained. Judging by the fact that Hay Lin was on the ground - the girl loved to fly - I was going to go with the theory that she couldn't.

Also, all five of them were unfairly gorgeous.

I kind of knew that about Will already, but the rest of them?

About the only consolation was that I had a theory that this was what they'd look like in a few years, so there was a good chance I'd look like Will did now by then. If so then I had a lot to look forwards to.

(And if their parents ever saw the Guardian's uniforms then they'd be grounded until they that old for real. I'm not surprised they started a riot.)

"Captain, these girls are my guests and I am sure that this is nothing more than a simple misunderstanding."

"But -!"

I pushed past the guards, who were't expecting someone to do that, breaking my pace slightly to kick the guard restraining Cornelia in the ankle. "Will!"

She caught me in a hug. "Are you alright? Did Elyon hurt you?"

"I'm okay." I decided it wasn't the moment to let her know about the almost-crushed-to-death bit.

When we parted the guards had relaxed (except for the guard I'd kicked, but at least he wasn't holding Cornelia any more).

"As you can see, they were simply concerned for their companion," Van Dahl explained. "You can tell his lordship that I will take responsibility for them."

Captain von Schliese nodded sharply. "Very well, Master Van Dahl. But please keep them out of trouble."

Irma glared at their backs and then nudged Van Dahl under the ribs. "Wow, you must be important to be ordering them around."

"I have a certain influence," he conceded. "Miss Vandom tells me that you are the Guardians."

"I'm not sure how much help that will be," Taranee admitted. "We can't seem to use our powers."

Van Dahl nodded. "I can't say that I'm surprised, although I hoped otherwise. If the legends are true then your powers are over the elements, but we are trapped in an illusion: there's nothing real here for them to work upon."

"Elyon was able to leave, so there has to be a way that we can."

"I've looked, believe me."

Cornelia ignored Van Dahl's depressed face. "How did Elyon get hold of you anyway?"

"Believe it or not, I ran into her in a book store," I explained with a shrug. "I didn't know who she was until it was too late."

"Did she... say anything?"

"Yes, she did." I looked at Van Dahl, who was retelling his story to the other Guardians. "I guess we're not in any hurry."

"What happened?" It was odd just how... solid... the willowy blonde could appear at times. Well-rooted, down-to-earth... she was well suited to her powers.

"She lured me in, trapped me and offered a deal she - or at least Cedric - thought I couldn't refuse."

I got an aristocratically arched eyebrow.

"She wanted me to steal the Heart of Kandrakar for her. If I agreed, she'd arrange for me to have a new life in Metamoor. If I didn't... well she thought I was some sort of fake person, preying on your better natures. She thought that you would be well rid of me."

"Elyon would never do that!" protested Cornelia. "She's shy and gentle, she'd never kill someone!"

"But she would destroy a rogue astral drop."

Cornelia's eyes flicked away with me.

I reached over and took her hands. "Thank you."

"What for?"

"You said someone, not something. I think that that's why Elyon didn't go through with it when I turned her down. She could have killed something that threatened you, but not someone protecting their sister. I hope that that's true."

Cornelia met my eyes again, shifting her hands so that one covered mine. "No one doubts you're Will's sister. Although we really need to choose a name for you."

"Speaking of names, do you know why she'd call me 'Pinocchiolina'?"

Cornelia laughed. "Pinocchio is from a Disney movie: it's about a puppet that came to life and wanted to be a real boy."

"And Pinocchiolina?"

"I suppose she invented a female version to name you. Will that be your name now?"

I considered and then shook my head. "No, it seems a little too fancy for little old me."

"And your nose isn't big enough."

I put my hands on my hips. "There's nothing wrong with my nose."

"Pinocchio's nose grew every time he told a lie." She gestured to indicate a nose at least as long as her arm. "I guess you must be telling the truth since yours still looks like Will's."

I stuck out my tongue.

"Or maybe it's your tongue that gets longer," Cornelia corrected herself and we both giggled. "I don't understand why Elyon would run off like this though."

"She told me that she was from Metamoor her whole time. Her real parents died when she was very young and the people she thought were her parents fled here with her." I shrugged. "It sounds a lot like Master Van Dahl's story, to be honest, except that she claims that they kidnapped her from her brother."

"So who is her brother? That snake guy Cedric?"

I frowned. "I don't think so. I'm pretty sure she said something about Cedric and her brother. Plus she seemed to have some sort of crush on Cedric which would be pretty weird if he is her brother. How did she manage to capture you?"

Cornelia shook her head, flipping her long blonde hair from side to side. "It was Cedric. Irma saw some sort of lizard in the museum and we thought it might be connected to you disappearing - no offense, but Will said it might be the sort of borning place you'd like..."

"What's a museum?"

"You'll see when we get out of here. I spotted you in the picture and when we were all clustered around it... bam! He opened a portal and it sucked us through."

"Elyon said they were going to use me as bait when she left me here," I agreed. "I suppose it worked."

"So what do we do now?" Taranee asked from where the others were. "We don't have our powers... we can't even change back to our normal selves. Does anyone have any ideas for getting out of here?"

"You said that this is a world that never changes." Will looked over at Van Dahl. "Like living in a moment that doesn't move. Maybe that's the trap: as long as the picture doesn't change, we can't change the fact that we're in it. But if we were to change the situation..."

"Well how do we do that?" asked Irma.

"Well it's a painting." I looked over at Van Dahl. "You're the painter: how do you change a painting?"

"You paint over it." He looked hopefully for a moment but then shook his head. "But I don't have any paints, remember?"

"What do you need to make paints? Assume I don't know anything."

"She usually doesn't," added Irma.

Someone - I shall not name names - slapped their hand over Irma's mouth to shut her up.

"It depends what colours you want," Van Dahl explained. "It's a little complicated, but I keep the basic pigments as oils. When I need some I pour a little out and mix it with water to get the right consistency before I use it."

"Did you bring your pigments with you or did you mix them here?"

"Cedric threw them to me," he explained. "Do you think that he did something to them?"

"I'm hoping that he didn't."

I got some confused looks from the others.

"When you used the pigments before, where did you get the water from?"

"I... from the well." He paled slightly. "You mean all this time... I was that close?"

I spread my hands. "I don't know what we can use instead but..."

"It's a worth a try," Will agreed. "Good thinking little sister. And I have an idea what to try."

"What?"

"I'll show you." She started to walk away and the rest of us fell in behind her. After a moment Van Dahl moved up alongside her and offered reassurances to the townsfolk we passed, most of whom didn't seem too fond of the Guardians. Way to make a first impression girls.

To Van Dahl's obvious surprise, she led us to the doors of the Cathedral. "What do you have in mind."

"You said that this picture was supposed to be named for the Last Tear, which is inside the Cathedral. What if you tried mixing your paints with that?"

He raked his hand through his hair. "I don't know. But it can't hurt to try. I've never even been inside here."

"Really?" Taranee asked in surprise. "I would have thought... well, this era was very religious."

"I know. But I'm from Metamoor," he reminded her. "Christianity doesn't really mean very much to me, one way or the other."

Irma tried the door. "It's locked!"

We exchanged glances. Maybe it was nothing, but it certainly felt as if someone didn't want us to go in. And that might mean that we were onto something.

"If I had my powers I could open this in an instant," Cornelia proclaimed.

Irma was more constructive. "Is there another way in?"

"If there is then it's probably locked too." I exchanged looks with Will. "Do you think we could break the lock?"

Van Dahl stepped away slightly and called out to two men setting up a trestle table. "Hey, you there! Come to help us a little." He threw his cloak aside as the pair approached us. "Where's there's life there's hope, right?"

"Exactly, Elias. Maybe nothing will happen if we try..."

"...but we can be sure it won't if we don't!" I finished.

With three sturdy shoulders against it, the door was soon shaking, but it was a while before one of the hinges gave way. Without that to brace it, the rest of the door began to twist and eventually one of the boards cracked with a sharp retort and the men were able to kick the rest of it down.

A solemn air came over us as we went through the door. The success at opening it had left me giggling with triumph (however small) but the inside of the cathedral took my breath away.

"This is amazing," Irma whispered reverently. The interior was tall and airy, lit by rainbow streamers of light through the stained-glass windows at the far end. The columns supporting the vast, many arched roof were decorated with lavish frescoes picked out in gold that glittered in the light.

For once there was no arguement from Cornelia over Irma's statement: "Beautiful," she agreed.

"I wish I could paint this," Van Dahl sighed. "I had no idea it was like this."

"Well maybe you can." Will led us to a large stone table (she later used the word altar) and pointed out a small glass bottle lying on a pink bottle. "This has to be the Last Tear. Take it with you and mix the colours with it."

"I wouldn't do that if I were you, Van Dahl!"

The voice echoed through the cathedral and the seven of us looked around for the source. There didn't appear to be anyone but us there...

Will groaned and for a moment I thought she would collapse, but when I caught her arm she straightened. "A portal!"

Silver mist formed in the middle of the aisle, coiling into a circular pattern.

"Something's coming through!" warned Hay Lin.

She was right. A few seconds later a large, blue-skinned man rode through the portal. Rode, I say, because he was mounted on... I don't have the words. Irma later described it as a riding-rhino and I suppose that's as good a term as any.

"Frost the Hunter!" Will yelped.

"You're doomed!" the rider - Frost, I presume, unless WIll meant the riding-rhino for some reason - proclaimed. "There is no hope of escape!"

"Uh... if there wasn't you really wouldn't be here," I pointed out and then ducked for cover as he drew a sword that looked to be about as long as I was tall.

"She's right! Elias, this proves that we can undo the curse. Otherwise Cedric wouldn't need to send him."

"But..."

Van Dahl had to cut off his protests as the angry Frost spurred his steed forwards. We scattered left and right around the fast but not especially agile creature.

"Go!" Irma shouted to Van Dahl, pushing him towards the door. "Mix your paints! We'll deal with Frost."

"Good joke, Irma," complained Cornelia. "We don't have our powers, remember?"

The brunette shrugged. "So we improvise. Don't be so negative."

"The painter can wait," Frost snarled, bringing his riding-rhino around. Incongrously this placed him directly in the pool of light cast by the sun through the stained glass window. "Last time you ran away..."

"No offense, but we thought we'd try that again!" Hay Lin said cheekily and the five of them turned and dashed for the door. Will caught my arm and all but dragged me, which was a mixed blessing - it certainly helped me keep up with her longer legs but at the cost of slowing her down.

"You're not getting away this time!"

"Get out," Will called out. "Let him follow you!"

"Let him?" Cornelia asked incredulously, looking back and seeing that we were falling behind.

The thunder of the riding-rhino's hooves was barely behind the two of us as the others ran out of the door. Suddenly will used her grip on my arm to spin me to one side and released her hold sharply. She went one way and I went the other each of us colliding with the wall - in my case with a side order of pain to the shoulder that took the brunt.

Frost's triumphant cry was cut short as he turnd his head to watch Will and missed the fact that the arch of the door was considerably lower than his shoulders while mounted. He rebounded and from that height hitting the stone floor probably hurt almost as much as hitting the arch had.

"Come on!" Will scrambled up and grabbed me - still dazed - yanking me out of the door after the riding-rhino, which had slowed to an amble now that the burly hunter wasn't in the saddle. I'm morally certain Will was grinning manically as she scrambled up into the saddle, dragging me with her.

"Do you know how to ride?" I asked.

"Only horses!" She snared the reins and twitched them lightly. To my complete surprise it worked and the riding rhino started to obediently walk after the other girls.

"Urrr..." Frost staggered out of the catherdral, sword in hand. He caught sight of us and his face turned purple. "You'll pay for this, Guardians!"

"Not until you explain what you're doing here!" came a shout and I saw Captain Von Schliese at the head of a crowd including two of his soldiers and a considerable number of the men from the market. "Riding that thing in our cathedral, chasing after Master Van Dahl's guests... you've got a lot to answer for!"

The towering Metamoorian's jaw dropped. "Are you threatening me? Do you know who I am?"

"No, and I don't care." Von Schliese drew his own sword and the crowd produced various long, heavy tools. "This is our summer festival and you are invited to leave!"

Frost raised his sword, apparently not overly concerned by the numbers against him. The confrontation was interrupted however by a gleeful shout from one of the windows overlooking the square: Van Dahl's window. "It works! It works!"

We turned and I saw him leaning out of the window, waving a scrap of canvas. It was too high for me to make out details... but we didn't need to: it was almost dripping with paint. Rich, vibrant colours!

"It works, girls. The tear mixed the colours! I can paint again."

"Phobos's curse is broken!" Will shouted and raised her free hand, the Heart of Kandrakar alight in it. I'd seen it before but this was different. Then it had seemed a simple glass sphere, held in a simple but elegant silver setting. Now it pulsed with a pink light and and she raised it tear drops of magic hurtled away from it towards the other guardians.

"Air!" cried out Hay Lin as silver light engulfed her and she lifted off the ground, long pony-tails flapping in a wind.

Irma's magic was blue and at her call of "Water!" the contents of the nearby well rushed up at her command.

"Earth!" "Fire!"

The ground cracked beneath Cornelia's hand, a fissure forming and extending towards the suddenly paling Hunter, and Taranee grinned broadly as a fireball crackled into existence between her hands.

"This isn't your lucky day," Will proclaimed. "Now get out of here or you'll regret it."

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

A few minutes later the summer festival - delayed some three hundred years - was getting started. The seven of us had a table to ourselves: officially because we were the guests of honour, unofficially because the locals still weren't sure what to make of us.

Frost had fled the square back into the cathedral and presumably through the portal, since the search organised by Von Schliese hadn't found him. He'd left his riding-rhino behind and my animal-loving sister had already needed reminding twice that there was no way we could hide a large green rhino in Heatherfield, no matter how tame he was around her.

"Can you feel the wind blowing?" Van Dahl asked from the head of the table, watching bright banners flying around the square and a flurry of flower petals blown across our table. "I'd almost forgotten what it was like..."

"It's great, isn't it!" agreed Hay Lin. "And I didn't have to do anything!"

Even the townsfolk, for whom this was a genuinely new experience, seemed to be enjoying the new weather.

"What will you do now?" Van Dahl asked us.

"We'll - don't even think about it!" Will added, seeing me sneak a hand around a cup of mead.

I gave her an innocent look. "But it's really tasty."

"It's alcoholic! Mom would throw a fit if she though I was drinking!"

"What's alcohol?"

Irma laughed and leant over to ruffle my hair. "Your sister's a bad bad girl, Will. Flirting with Matt and now wanting to drink alcohol!"

"Get off!"

"It's bad for you." Will turned back to Van Dahl. "We'll return to Earth, but we'll leave the portal open for you."

The painter looked surprised. "But isn't it your job to close portals like this."

"Yes," she admitted. "But this one is the only way you'll ever be able to go home."

"This is my home now," Van Dahl announced, somewhat wistfully. "There is no one waiting for me now, not in Meridian or on Earth. Now that I can paint again it will be a good place. I can't wait to get started doing a painting of the inside of the cathedral."

"But if we close the portal, what if this all becomes nothing but a picture. You could..."

He shook his head to cut Cornelia short. "Then I'll never know, will I? There's nowhere else for me, Guardians. Not on Earth and not on Meridian. I'm asking for a favour: close the portal, so that Phobos and his followers can never trouble me again."

"Alright then."

"Will!" I protested.

"It's alright Miss Vandom," Van Dahl told me. "This is what I want. Please, give me the same freedom that your sister gave you."

"I... okay." I hung my head and thus as caught by surprise as he pressed something into my hands. "What?"

He shrugged, somewhat embarassed. "I did a little sketch earlier. I haven't had time to actually add any paint but I want you to have this."

I unrolled the parchment and saw a simple charcoal drawing... simple, but so perfect I skipped straight to wondering when he'd seen Will sleeping.

Then the clothes he'd drawn sank in and I coloured (according to the usually reliable Hay Lin) all the way to my ears.

"Ooooo!" Hay Lin exclaimed, looking over my shoulder (yes, even she is taller than I am, particularly when she's in Guardian form). "That's beautiful."

"Thank you," I mumbled.

He gave me a quick hug around the shoulders. "No. Thank you." Then he let go and took a step away. "Goodbye girls."

We chorused awkward farewells of our own and then: "Heart of Kandrakar," Will chanted. "Take us home."

Everything went pink.

When light faded we were in a large dark room I'd never seen before. "Where are we?"

"The museum," Cornelia told me. She turned me around and through the shadows I could see a large picture. Most of the details I couldn't make out in the darkness, but I could see a marketsquare and a cathedral.

"Is that..."

Will took my hand. "That's right. Dahl's Eternal Summer." She raised the Heart towards it and a beam of energy lashed out to the portrait, drawing out grey streamers of magic from the canvas.

I looked down at the drawing in my hand. "Why did he thank me? All I did was get captured and you all had to come and rescue me."

Taranee adjusted her glasses. "Maybe because you gave him something he'd been missing for a long time."

"What? Someone to paint?"

The last of the grey streamers dissipated in the light of the Heart and before it dimmed once again, I saw the picture clearly (if someone pink-shaded). In one corner of the square, outside his home, Van Dahl stood in front of his easel, smiling as he worked.

"No," Taranee told me softly. "You gave him hope."

User avatar
LadyTevar
White Mage
White Mage
Posts: 19928
Joined: 2003-02-12 10:59pm

Re: An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by LadyTevar » 2013-02-24 09:51pm

Very well done. I have fond memories of the TV show.
Image
Librium Arcana, Where Gamers Play!
Nitram, slightly high on cough syrup: Do you know you're beautiful?
Me: Nope, that's why I have you around to tell me.
Nitram: You -are- beautiful. Anyone tries to tell you otherwise kill them.
"A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP" -- Leonard Nimoy, last Tweet

User avatar
drakensis
Padawan Learner
Posts: 239
Joined: 2009-06-27 12:00pm
Contact:

Re: An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by drakensis » 2013-02-26 07:12am

Perhaps selfishly, my first thought on hearing raised voices from the kitchen was that Will probably wasn't going to be sneaking me leftovers from dinner.

I don't know exactly how much I need to eat - less than Will, in general - but it didn't mean I didn't like to. We didn't have any way to judge whether Elyon was right and that eating would now give me some degree of existence independent of Will's magic, but I didn't see how it could hurt.

My second thought was to take cover - I'd been using Will's desk to have my own stab at her Maths homework (I couldn't believe how much of a struggle she'd been having with it until I tried for myself. Any greater facility with numbers I have is less a matter of natural genius on my part and more that she kind of sucks at it) - before the inevitable so when Will stormed into the room and slammed the door, I was lying behind the shelter of her bed and thus out of sight from the door.

"Ugh!" Will grumbled, sprawling on the bed. "Why doesn't she ever listen?"

Her pet squeaked enquiringly and - knowing what would be most likely to calm Will down - I scooped the dormouse out from under her bed and dropped it onto her stomach. She automatically began to pet it, and I judged the tactic to be a success.

Sitting down crosslegged behind the bed I rested my arms on the mattress and my chin on my arms. "She said no to joining the swim team?"

"'No. Now clear the table'," she quoted bitterly. "Collins told her my grades are no good so I'm not allowed to do anything but study."

I hmmed sympathetically. Will had been all fired up about being asked to join Sheffield Institute's swim team for the local championships. Swimming was something she enjoyed and was good at (from the descriptions I wanted a chance to try it myself but the opportunity hadn't arisen), making it a welcome change from most of her classes. "Did she mention anything specific?"

Will shook her head. "It's not fair. I could try to bring my grades up but she has spoken and she'll never change her mind."

"I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault." She rolled over to face me, still holding her dormouse against her. "What makes it worse is that I've got history first class tomorrow with Mr. Collins. Mom will probably get a report from him on every detail before I even have lunch!"

"Is he really that bad?"

Will made a grumbling sound. "If he wasn't a teacher... and if he wasn't making moves on Mom... and spying on me for her... he might just be some old guy."

"So, if he wasn't involved in your life at all then you wouldn't care one way or another about him?"

"Pretty much."

I nodded. "Well that sounds pretty monstrous."

"Yeah, if you met him you could see for yourself." Then she sat up sharply. "Hey..."

I sat back. "Uh... hey?"

"You're pretty much stuck here all day, mostly, right?"

"Yeeeaah." I had an idea of what she had in mind and it excited me. Sure, it'd be wrong... but that just made it all the more exciting in some ways.

Will shuffled her pet around to her shoulder so that she could look me in the eyes. "But you'd like to get out some more, right?"

"As long as Elyon doesn't stick me in another painting."

"She couldn't do that if you were at school," my sister said triumphantly.

Yes! She suggested it! She's going to let me do it! "But doesn't that mean you'd be cutting school?" I asked. "Mom's mad about your grades already and I don't know most of the stuff."

"You'll be fine! You've read, like, every school book I have, cover to cover. I haven't done that yet. Besides, while you're at school I can get all my homework done for the week. Even if I can't go swimming that would mean I wouldn't have to miss doing any if some Guardian business comes up."

"Well..." Even my feigned reluctance - I didn't want her to think was a pushover - was slipping. "You'll do all the chores too? I don't want to get stuck with doing two days worth."

"Of course!"

"Just this once then." Yes! Yes! Yes!

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

I didn't even get into the school buildings before I got a reminder of the downsides of going to school.

Taranee was being backed against a tree by four guys I recalled from my first day, the ones that had probably trashed the bike shed. The only one I could put a name to was the spotty one with ginger hair (lighter than mine and Will's) gelled up in spikes: Uriah. However I did recognise the other three and mentally labelled them until I learned their actual names. There was the fat one, the tall one and the... eh, for lack of other terms the nervous one. He looked pretty reluctant to be involved in whatever was going.

"Let's go, Uriah!" the nervous one pleaded. "Kids are starting to get here."

"Shut it Nigel." The leader of the little pack jostled forwards and cupped Taranee's chin. "I just want this little girl to understand the rules around here. Her family has just arrived in town..."

"Ooo. I just moved here," I chimed in, having snuck up on them while their attention was directed at Will's... at my friend. "Are you going to tell me these rules too?"

"Whu- what! Where'd you come from?" spluttered the ginger-haired boy, letting go of Taranee and trying to muster an intimidating sneer.

I snapped my finger. "Oh wait, there's only four of you and there's two of us. You're outnumbered. Do you want to get... four more losers to hang out with you, so you don't feel intimidated? Wait, make that six. I have a pet dormouse and you know how bady you got hurt last time you ended up in a fight with a small furry animal."

The small furry animal in question was Will's dormouse. Uriah was, in a backhanded way, the reason she'd adopted the little creature and the cause of her first meeting with Matt. Not that I think that the ginger boy thought of the event that way.

"Yeah?" he snapped. "I still owe you for that."

"All donations to my lunch money are tax-deductable!" I have no idea what 'tax-deductable' means but I'm pretty sure he didn't either.

Nervous Nigel shot Taranee a look. "Uh, dude, there's people watching us on the steps." He hadn't even looked in that direction, but it got the other boys' attention.

We all looked and the only one there was Hay Lin, today wearing a shocking pink pair of goggles as a hair band and just taking her nose out of a comic book.

"People? There's like one little girl?"

"Uh, it looked like more..." Nigel muttered. Was it my imagination or was Taranee paying rather more attention to him than to Uriah?

"Whatever." There were other students arriving which I guess may have influenced Uriah's decision-making process (whatever that was). "Come on boys. We'll finish this conversation some other time."

They schlepped off, Nigel lagging behind them. He looked back and I saw Taranee give him a little smile and a wave.

"What was that about?" Hay Lin asked. "Were they bothering you?"

"I think one of them was flirting with Taranee," I teased. "And she liked it."

Hay Lin gasped. "Not Uriah!"

"No!" squeaked Taranee. "Nigel!" Then slapped both both hands hard across her mouth and if had been possible with her skin tone I swear she'd have blushed like a traffic light.

"You could do worse."

"Will!"

I grinned broadly. "Just saying. Hope it works out for you."

She hung her head. "My mom sentenced him to a year of community service for breaking into the museum. She's gonna hate him."

(This had happened during our own mis-adventure in the museum, but since Uriah's little band snuck in after the Guardians got zapped into the painting and were caught before we left, we hadn't seen any of it. All things considered I could live with that. Exactly what they'd been up to I didn't know, but since they'd apparently claimed to have encountered monsters, it was a safe bet that Cedric was involved.)

"Your mom?"

"She's a judge, remember?" Hay Lin 'reminded' me.

Whoops. "Uh..."

Taranee's eyes narrowed suspiciously behind her glasses. *You're not Will!* her voice accused in my mind.

"Yeah..." I scuffed my trainers against the grass. "I wasn't trying to hide that from you?"

"Shhhh..." Hay Lin hissed. *Talk like this.*

*Uh... this is kind of weird,* I 'thought', uncertain of how they were doing this or if they would hear me.

*It's kind of useful for talking about private business,* Taranee thought dismissively. *But where's Will? Is she okay? Did something happen?*

*She's fine, she's just... er, it probably wouldn't be a good idea for her to be in Mr Collins' class this morning.*

*She's cutting class? Maybe we could too!*

*Hay Lin! We can't do that!* Taranee sounded appalled at the idea. *What if we got caught? What if Will gets caught!*

*It should be okay just this once. She's gonna get caught up on her homework,* I assured them although the fact that Will had just gone straight back to bed once she was sure I was up and starting off her morning routine didn't reassure me. *Her Mom was complaining about her grades last night.*

*Well she shouldn't be cutting class then. I'd have suspected Irma of this but not Will.*

The bell went and I knew I'd have to hurry to get to class on time. Fortunately Will had given me a map to guide me between the classrooms. I didn't want to get her into trouble by being late.

As it was I managed to get into the classroom barely before the second bell went off. If I remembered my notes right, that one was the tardy bell so I was only just in time. I'd have checked, but I knew that one of the notes was an instruction not to look at the notes in class in case someone else got a look at them. Which wasn't going to make them terribly useful I realised.

"Welcome back," the teacher - Mr. Collins presumably - said archly as he saw me slip in. "Good of you to turn up on time... barely."

Well, my first impression was that he was a jerk. That was a point in favour of Will's opinion being right.

Cornelia leant over slightly as I sat down at the desk next to her. "Are you okay, Will?" she whispered.

"Just a little Uriah problem," I muttered back.

She rolled her eyes. "Better watch out for Mr. Collins. He got out of the wrong side of bed this morning. Donny already got sent to Principal Knickerbocker."

I nodded my understanding and hastily unpacked my notebook and a pencil from Will's bag, trying to recall who Donny was - other than presumably whoever had been sat at the only unoccupied desk that had paper and pen on it.

"This year's programme is extensive," the teacher announced, moving around his desk and stalking through the class. "And this is why I've decided to give you a healthy review."

He was heading in my direction I realised. Had he noticed something out of place. No way! I'd done everything right so far, hadn't I? I don't think Cornelia had noticed I wasn't Will yet and she had to know us much better than Mr. Collins (I'd have to tell her as soon as I got the chance or she'd be furious at being left out of the loop).

"Will!"

Urk!

"Can you remind us what life was like in the Middle Ages?"

It took a moment to sink in that he was just asking me a question and not unmasking me as an imposter. Okay, right... Middle Ages, Middle Ages... "Could you be a little more specific?" I asked to buy time to remember some of my information. "The Middle Ages lasted about five hundred years didn't they?"

"One of us is the teacher, who just asked a question," he told me with a nasty edge to his voice. "And it isn't you."

"Okay, okay. Um... it was the feudal period. Most people were peasants who had these little allotment type farms and couldn't grow much more food than they needed to feed themselves and had to give a... tithe, I think? - to the local baron..."

"Uh-huh." He raised his finger. "Well it doesn't seem that much has sunk in."

Hey! That's totally unfair. I had, like, ten seconds. There are two whole chapters in Will's textbook about the Middle Ages - that's more than a hundred pages. How could I possibly sum that up so quickly?

"Well I think there's a simple remedy here, Will." There was what I took for a mischevious look in his eyes before he turned away and I glared death at the back of his head. "Today we're going to move on to deal with the Renaissance period but you can also write me a report on the state of the man during the Middle Ages. Thirty pages should do it."

I looked at my notebook and then started counting pages. Ten, fifteen, twenty... oh no! Thirty pages is a huge amount of paper.

"Thirty pages?" Cornelia exclaimed.

"I think that seems fair," Mr. Collins agreed. "Would anyone else like to do the same report? Because that's as well as the regular homework for today's class..."

Cornelia shot me a pitying look but shut up. I couldn't blame her. What did I do wrong? Will's going to be furious and Mom's going to have a field day!

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

"Does he always do that?" I asked over lunch, which we were eating outsde on the lawn rather than the cafeteria where we'd be more likely to be overheard.

"He doesn't usually hand out punishments like that," agreed Cornelia. I'd filled her in after history on who I was. "Still, maybe you should have Will do the report. After all, she's had plenty of spare time today."

I get the distinct impression that she was a little bit mad at Will about swapping out with me for the day. That put her on the same side as Taranee, but the dusky-skinned girl was currently a bit distracted by Irma who had finished her own packed lunch and was now trying to wheedle away Taranee's last sandwich.

"She'll be back at school tomorrow," I pointed out and clutched at my hair. "I've never actually written a report before now, can someone -"

Irma snatched the sandwich out of Taranee's hands right before the Guardian of Fire was about to take a bite and the rest of us were forced to scramble out of the way as the brunette bolted with her prize, our other friend right on her heels.

"Seriously, leave it to Will. You let her get away with too much."

"Well maybe I'll give her the normal homework. But I must have messed up to get the extra report so I'll deal with it."

"You're incorrigible," Cornelia sighed.

I looked over at where Taranee had tackled Irma to the ground, causing the sandwich to go flying off into the bushes. "Are you sure you aren't talking about Irma?"

"Irma's insane, we all know that. But you're not really living your own life, you're just getting by on the scraps from Will."

"That's... not true." It sounded weak even to me.

She rolled her eyes. "Seriously, you clean up after her every day. You help with her homework... now she's sending you to school for her."

"It's just this once!"

"So far," Cornelia told me with a flick of her hair. "Why don't you leave her the homework and come over to mine for dinner. She can hide out in the library - no one would ever go looking for Will there - and you can see what real sisters are like."

"You have a sister?"

"Yeah, the little monkey." I'm pretty sure it was an insult, but Cornelia said it fondly.

"I'd like to meet her, but if I do what you say then I'd be ditching my work onto Will, maybe another time."

Cornelia sighed. "You're an idiot. But I suppose you're our idiot."

"Have you chosen a name yet?" asked Hay Lin. "Because we can't keep just calling you not-Will."

I shook my head. Who knew picking a name would be so hard? Will still hadn't managed to pick a name for her dormouse either.

"Why not Astra?" Cornelia suggested. "It's a pretty name."

"It is pretty, but I'm more than just an astral drop," I objected.

"I'm going to call my astral drop Yan Lin, for grandmother," Hay Lin decided.

"You're going to create one?"

"Well not now, but next time Mum and Dad need me to help at the restaurant," she explained.

Cornelia gave me a 'you see what you started' look.

"What are you talking about?" asked Irma, plumping herself down next to us, the squabble with Taranee apparently over with.

Hay Lin sprawled backwards on the grass, stretching her arms out. "We're picking a name for her!"

"You don't get to pick," I protested.

"But we can make suggestions, right?" Taranee asked.

"I guess."

"Well." She knelt down beside me and put one hand on each shoulder. "How about Minerva?"

"'Minerva'?"

"She was a Roman goddess. The story is that Jupiter split her head out and she jumped out, fully grown."

"Well that fits," agreed Cornelia.

"I don't know about having a historical name."

"It's mythology not history."

"Well I like it," Irma declared. "We could call you Minnie."

"Never mind." "Forget it." "Next suggestion."

"What'd I say?" Irma asked Hay Lin who gave her shrug rather than get into an arguement.

Cornelia checked her watch. "We're running out of time before next class. I don't suppose anyone's come across anything relating to Metamoor at all? New sightings of Elyon?"

"Not since the museum. Maybe they're backing off?"

"I haven't seen anything new on the map."

Taranee sighed. "Yes, but doesn't need the Heart of Kandrakar to show anything new? That's another reason Will ought to be here. If anything happens, she's halfway across town!"

User avatar
drakensis
Padawan Learner
Posts: 239
Joined: 2009-06-27 12:00pm
Contact:

Re: An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by drakensis » 2013-03-02 07:57am

*Cornelia! Not-Will!*

The two of us jerked upright in the middle of class, fortunately not while either of us was holding any of the chemistry apparatus we'd been working on.

"Careful girls," the teacher warned. "You're going to be working with an open flame in a minute so sudden movement like that could cause problems."

"Yes, professor," we chorused obediently.

Cornelia brushed at her hair out of habit, although it wasn't really necessary since she had tied it back with a pony-tail for safety during the lab. (We also got cool white coats and goggles, Hay Lin must love dressing up for this class). *What is it, Taranee?*

*Miss Randolph is back from Metamoor!*

*Who?* I asked, paying more attention to measuring out the acid we were supposed to be working on this class into test tubes.

*Our old maths teacher,* explained Taranee. *She's a sort of..."

*She's a lizard-monster from Metamoor,* Irma explained. *She tried to lure Will off to her house for some gnarly scheme but Hay Lin and I were on to her!*

*Hehe,* Hay Lin laughed nervously. *Actually she caught us sneaking around and Will had to rescue us. But she helped us when we went to Metamoor to rescue Hay Lin.*

*Well what's she doing here?* asked Cornelia. *Is she after Will again?*

*Worse! She's teaching us algebra!*

I almost dropped the pipette I was using when Taranee squealed: *Irma!*

*What? She's a fiendish alien. I'd think she'd have standards!*

Cornelia picked up a jar of metal filings. *Irma? Could you drop any other bombshells before we're actually working with fire?*

*Well she wants us to go to her house for tea and cookies after school,* explained Hay Lin. *I think we should - she says that she wants to help us. Plus she's way cooler than the substitute teacher.*

Irma sounded petulant. *I don't trust her.*

*She helped us in Meridian. If she hadn't, we might not have managed to rescue Taranee. And... we need someone who can tell us about Metamoor. Since grandmother died we haven't had anyone who can tell us what's going on.*

I nudged Cornelia as I saw the teacher heading back in our direction. We quickly started following the directions on the board.

*Hay Lin's right,* Cornelia decreed, drawing up a chart to record our results as I picked up the first spatula of filings. *But we'll go together, so someone has to let Will know to come. If she is up to something then having all five Guardians together should be enough to take care of anything that comes up.*

Taranee sounded embarrassed. *I can't talk to her like this when she's so far away.*

*We'll call her or something. Now if you don't mind, I do have a class to complete.*

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

"What's wrong?" Cornelia asked when she saw me lower Will's mobile from my ear.

"She didn't pick up."

The blonde rolled her eyes. "Typical. Did you leave a message?"

I shook my head. "If I leave a message and Mom is the one that gets it our secret would be out."

"She must have just stepped out."

"She shouldn't." I certainly didn't dare go out until school let out, in case someone asked why I wasn't at school. "Maybe she's asleep."

"At two in the afternoon?" asked Cornelia incredulously.

I shrugged. "I don't know." There were other possibilities of course. Possibilities that scared me. Had Cedric or Elyon struck while Will was alone?

Cornelia rested her hand on my shoulder for a moment. "I'm sure she's alright. I'll ride home with you after school and fill her in on the way to Miss Rudolph's."

"And..." I bit off the sentence before I could finish it.

"Then we'll find her."

I barely paid any attention to the last class of the day, although I managed to put up a pretense after the teacher threatened me with a detention. The minute the last bell rang I shoved everything higgledy-piggledy into my bag and ran out of the door.

"Will, wait!"

I almost forgot myself and reminded Cornelia that I wasn't my sister, before I remembered that she had to maintain the pretense as well. I slowed down and let her catch up.

"You know, you've got a lot to learn about being an Infielder," she grumbled.

"A what?"

"An Infielder. Look, you know Uriah and his crew?"

I nodded.

"Well they're Outfielders - the school slobs and losers. Infielders are the opposite, people like me."

Well I knew which I wanted to be more like and it wasn't those boys. "Please teacher, teach me."

Cornelia threw back her head and laughed. "Well one important lesson is that you can't ever look like you're taking anything too seriously. Because if you're having to do that then you're not in control."

"But we're not in control."

She gave me a reproving look. "Shhhh. That's a secret."

I was surprised how fast Cornelia could walk without appearing to hurry at all. I suppose her long legs helped with that. I had to trot a little to keep up but I tried my best to keep from showing that I was in a hurry. Even with Cornelia setting the pace we got our bikes and cycled off the grounds before most of the kids had even made it out of the building.

It was nice just to hang out, chatting with Cornelia as we rode. I made a mental note: definitely going to arrange with Will sometime that I can take Cornelia up on the offer to meet her family.

When we reached the apartment block, she paused at the bicycle rack, still perched in the saddle. "Do you want me to wait down here?"

"I'd appreciate the company," I told her. It was true... and if my fears proved right then I'd want a Guardian to be with me.

At the top of the stairs I did my usual fumbling around with the keys.

"Why do you have so many keys?" asked Cornelia, with an air of amusement.

I finally found the right ones. "Will keeps the keys from her old apartment on the same ring."

"Why would she do that?"

I shrugged. "I never asked."

The apartment was quiet and I poked my head into the sitting room and then the kitchen as I went past. No sign of Will, or Mom. Still, there was also no sign of a struggle. I saw the laundry basket was filled with bedding so she'd been here long enough to have done at least some of the chores.

"Will!" Cornelia called out.

No answer.

We exchanged looks and then I pushed open the door to Will's room. I half-expected her to be at the desk, wearing headphones or something that had kept her from noticing us or the earlier phone calls but the room was as vacant as the rest of the apartment.

"Where is she?" Cornelia asked.

"I've no idea." I moved a chair below the hatch and scrambled onto it so that I could check my hiding place. "See if you can find any clues."

"Sure." Cornelia looked around and added: "Frogs everywhere."

"Don't you think that they're cute?"

"As if." She shuddered slightly. "Horrible little slimy creatures." Then the elegant girl squeaked. "Er... there's something moving under the bedcovers!"

Looking down I saw she was right. Still, it couldn't be very large... maybe the size of... aha. Hehehe. "Oh, that's just my sister's pet." I paused as if in thought. "Uh, since you don't like frogs..."

"That's a frog!" Cornelia screeched and retreated to the door.

I couldn't help but laugh at the look on her face. I'm pretty sure a frog the size of Will's dormouse would be the biggest frog in the world. "...how do you feel about dormice?"

"Oooh, you..." she huffed.

Since there was no sign of Will up in the loft I scrambled down. "He's a mite feisty."

"Well unless Will's hiding in the bathroom, she's not here," Cornelia grumbled. She went over to the desk and started looking through the mess on it. "She couldn't have left a note or something?"

"Probably not," I headed to the door. "I'll check the rest of the apartment."

Will wasn't in the bathroom. I was checking the kitchen again, to see if it looked like she'd had lunch here when I spotted a blinking light on the ansaphone. Will couldn't have left a message on it in case Mom heard it, but perhaps it would explain why she had left?

"It's me honey," Mom's voice came from the machine when I pressed the button. "I'll be late today, but I'll bring something ready for dinner. Make sure you keep your cell phone on so I can get hold of you of anything comes up."

Nothing out of the ordinary there. Mom's left messages like that at least twice since I started living here.

There was another message though. "Hello Will! It's Vera! I have some great news for you! Come to the swimming pool when you can!"

...she wouldn't!

The machine flicked to a third message as I stared at it. "It's your Mom again. I forgot to say this first time I called. I love you, honey."

"I love you too Mom." Shaking off my fit of fear, I ran back to the bedroom and started looking for the orange sports bag that Will kept her swimming gear in.

"Did you find anything?" Cornelia asked.

"Maybe," I grumbled. "You."

"Just a lot of homework. Unfinished homework," she added for emphasis.

I groaned. "And I can't find her swimming kit! I can't believe she'd do this!"

Cornelia crossed her arms but kindly refrained from saying 'I told you so'. She was certainly thinking it though. "Well you can't go to the swimming pool to get her, so I'll have to. You got to Miss Randolph's and let the others know what's going on."

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

"Will!" Taranee cheered as I let my bicycle coast to a halt. The three Guardians were waiting across the street from the house that Cornelia had given me directions to. Then she looked up the street behind me. "But where's Cornelia?"

"Fetching Will," I said shortly, not wanting to get into what had happened, at least until I would work out my own feelings about it. How hard could it be to stay in the apartment for just one day? "She sent me to let you know it's going to take a while longer."

Taranee blinked. "Fetch Will? But where from? She should be in your apartment! What if someone spotted her out of school during the day?"

I crossed my arms and shrugged angrily.

"Aw, come on, Taranee!" Irma chirped. "No one would want to spend all day stuck at home with nothing to do but homework and chores. It would be like Hay Lin not writing on her hands anymore."

I looked over and the Guardian of Air was indeed scribbling something onto the palm of her hand with a felt-tip. "I can't imagine how terrible it would be to be cooped up all day like that," I snapped at the brunnette. "Oh wait, I don't have to imagine it."

"Yeah, but it's different for you."

"What is Hay Lin scribbling anyway?" Taranee asked hastily, moving between Irma and I in an obvious attempt to keep us from fighting.

"Huh. Good question." Irma scrambled over to her friend and grabbed her by the hand. "Lemme see! It's.... they make us... reserve..."

"No," disagreed Taranee, edging in to look at the hand from the other direction. "It's something like: where is someone... or..."

Hay Lin sighed and looked over at me. "I wanted to be discreet about it, but I'll say it out loud. There is someone observing us." She pointed with her other hand at Miss Randolph's house and I saw that the curtains over one of the windows had been pulled back and a grandmotherly-looking woman was waving at us in a friendly fashion.

"Oh man..."

"I guess we'd better go in," Irma decided. "Come on girls."

Hay Lin and Taranee grudgingly followed her across the road, then Hay Lin doubled back and towed me after them by one arm. I hadn't realised I was even invited.

The woman - Miss Randolph - greeted us warmly, having us hang up our coats in the porch before ushering us into her sitting room where she had laid out two plates of cookies and a tea set. "Now don't be shy," she insisted as she sat in an armchair at one end of the coffee table. "Do you like milk with your tea?"

I swear Irma's eyes were almost as large as her mouth (and she has a huge mouth) as the cups and saucers floated into the air and started to serve us without anyone laying hands upon them.

"Do you have magic too, Professor Randolph?" exclaimed Hay Lin.

The teacher smiled warmly. "All of my people have some magic," she told us. "Although we can mostly only use it for small things like this. They're nothing compared to the powers possessed by you guardians."

Irma looked away from the sugar bowl, from which tongs were currently moving a pair of sugar cubes into her drink in response to her signalling. "Why did you invite us here? Do you have anything to tell us?"

Her own tea in hand, Miss Rudolph leant back into her chair. "Last time that we met, girls, I was hiding in the underground passages of Meridian. Wandering in those dark places I had the chance to meet many refugees, rebels who hate and despise Phobos and his tyranny." She sighed. "Some of the most resentful and well-trained amongst them have presented themselves to Vathek, a servant of Cedric - who I believe you have all met."

"But Cedric is Phobos' lieutenant," I objected. "Why would they do that if they hate him?" I sipped from my own cup and hid a fluinch. Wow, tea was served hot. I'd prefer something cooler to drink.

"Ah, well that man claims to have left his master's service. Now he has offered to place all his knowledge gained in previous years at the disposal of the rebels."

"And so?" asked Hay Lin. "What if it's the truth?"

"Let us speak honestly," Miss Rudolph said kindly. "Do you trust me?"

"Certainly," agreed Taranee - rather uncertainly.

Hay Lin beamed innocently. "Sure."

"Then why haven't the two you touched them tea and biscuits? Do you think they're poisoned?"

Crumbs sprayed out of Irma's mouth. "Uh... They aren't, are they?"

I examined my own cup. "What does poisoned mean?" Neither Taranee nor Hay Lin had touched their own tea yet, I realised. Or taken a cookie.

Taranee glared intently at the suddenly nervous Irma and it didn't take a genius to guess that they were communicating telepathically.

"Irma is quite right, Taranee," the teacher told them and offered her the plate. "Why don't you try one of the coconut ones. They're delicious."

"You can read our thoughts?" the studious girl squeaked nervously. "But in Maths class..."

Miss Rudolph offered me the plate next. "Poisoning, Will, means having someone add something extra to food or drink so as to harm anyone who eats it. A horrible thing to do."

Not sure what the cookies were, I picked one at random. I'm not sure if it was coconut or not, but it was indeed delicious.

"The reason I asked if you trusted me," she told us, "is to illustrate how hard it is for us to trust Vathek. It is all too believable that he could still be serving Cedric's ends. Nonetheless, there are those desperate enough for any escape that he has persuaded them to join him in invading the Earth. And they intend to do so tonight."

"Tonight!" Taranee exclaimed. "Right now?"

"Within the next few hours. He was still gathering together a sufficient force, but he past planning to come through very soon."

Ah man. Now she was looking at me expectantly. Oh, no! She thought I was Will, that I was in charge. What would Will do now?

I placed my cup down on the saucer. "Can you tell us what portal he will use?"

Miss Rudolph rose to her feet and started pacing unhappily. "Unfortunately, no. I hoped that you could tell me that."

"I have the map of the portals with me..." Hay Lin offered. "But..."

"It's something to start with," Irma said hastily. "We have to assume it's a portal we've already come across."

"Well it can't be the gymnasium," pointed out Hay Lin. "Will closed that one."

"The same for the one in the cave is sealed," I added to make it look like I was participating. "But Vathek... it has to be one he would know."

"There is one here," Miss Randolph advised us. "But thus far it has been my little secret."

We looked at each other, somewhat at a loss. The silence was broken by my phone going off. I fumbled a little and then figured out how to get it working. "Hello?"

"Will?" It was Cornelia.

"Close enough."

She sounded breathless. "I haven't found her anywhere. We're just going to have to talk to Miss Randolph without her."

"Actually... we're sort of talking to her right now," I explained weakly.

There was an irritated huff. "I thought Irma was the one that was afraid of her."

"We may have bigger problems. I don't suppose you know of any portals that you haven't mentioned to the rest of us?"

"What? No. Why do you ask?"

I outlined the situation quickly.

She didn't hesitate. "We never did find the portal at the bookstore, did we?"

"...let me put Irma on the line." I handed the phone to Irma and looked over at the others while the brunette started talking a mile a minute to Cornelia. "The old bookstore."

"Of course!" Taranee exclaimed.

"We don't have much time," Hay Lin fretted.

"Then we gotta go!" Irma declared. "No, that wasn't to you, Corny." She held the phone away from her ear for a moment. "Thanks for the tea and cookies, Miss Randolph."

"You're welcome, girls." She gave the phone, still spitting out Cornelia's imprecations, an amused look.

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

I couldn't concentrate on my report.

The cellphone was on the table in front of me in the public library, next to the books I was trying to take notes from. I kept checking the time on it.

The Guardians had spread out to look for Will, but they had all agreed that I shouldn't do that. There was too much risk of Will and I being seen together.

Whether they found Will or not, the Guardians of the Veil would be at Elyon's house at six-thirty.

I checked the phone again. It was six-twenty-eight. Thirty seconds since I had last checked.

The book in front of me was talking about landowners and serfs. Two men, one of whom had everything and one who had nothing. I turned the page to hide the illustrations and mopped at my face with a hankie. Then I turned the page back, picked up my pen and jotted down a note.

The phone again. It had ticked over to six-twenty-nine.

I checked the page again and then turned it again.

Was that how it was for me and Will? She had everything and I got the scraps?

She'd called me her sister, I reminded myself. When Elyon captured me, she risked her life to come to my rescue.

The cellphone buzzed and I hit the accept button before I could get a nasty look from the other people in this part of the library. Apparently there was a rule about being quiet.

"Yes?" I hissed into the phone.

"It's Cornelia," she sounded stressed. "Irma found her. We're going in."

"Good luck."

I heard her sigh - I don't think she meant me to hear that - and then she took a confident tone. "Luck is what people who don't know what they're doing rely on. I'll call you later."

"Could I -" I broke off when I realised she'd put the phone down.

I'd just wanted to speak to Will. But perhaps it was for the best that I didn't. She was going into battle and I didn't know what I wanted to say.

At least they were together. All five Guardians working together... Vathek and his followers didn't stand a chance.

I clung to that belief as I jotted down page after page of notes. I wasn't sure how to turn the notes into a report, but Taranee had offered to advise me on that, so for now I just kept recording anything that seemed it might relevant.

My phone sounded again and I snatched it up. "Is everything okay?"

Mom sounded bemused. "Yes, Will. Everything's fine. I'm not as late as I expected though."

"Oh. Um, that's good." Which in general was true but was probably going to be really inconvenient once Will got back. Swapping places was always easier to hide when Mom wasn't at home.

She laughed. "So what mischief are you up to right now?"

"I'm at the library."

"You are at the library?"

She didn't have to sound quite that sceptical, did she? "Well you did say my grades weren't good enough and I have a huge history report that no doubt Professor Collins can tell you all about so it seemed like the place to go."

"Well, good for you, honey. I thought you'd be at the swimming pool with your friend Vera."

What? Oh, that message on the answerphone. "I wish I was. I thought I might go there when I was done here," I added since she might notice that Will's swimming gear was gone. "But this is taking longer than I thought."

"How about I pick you up then?" she suggested. "Can you be outside in a few minutes?"

"Sure." I started closing up the books I'd been looking at. "I'll see you then."

Shovelling my own things into the bag was easy enough but I had to scurry about to put the books back where I'd found them on the shelves.

"You know, you don't really need to put them back," one of the assistants pointed out, taking one book from me and placing it back on the high shelf I'd found it on. (There had been a stool first time I was in that aisle, but typically someone had moved it away). "Just pile them up on the end of the table and one of us will take care of it."

"Really?"

The assistant nodded. He was a nice looking boy. Well, I say boy - I guess he was college age or something. "Really really," he confirmed with a superior look.

I was far too impatient to hold that against him though. "Thanks!" I plunked the rest of the books into his arms and ran back to my bag.

There was a mutter of "Me and my big mouth," from his direction but I ignored it as I slung my backpack over one shoulder and dashed towards the outside. The library had been pretty interesting, really. I should probably come back if I got the chance.

Why shouldn't I get the chance? Will got to do whatever she wanted. Including going swimming or whatever it was she'd been up to instead of doing her homework like she promised me. I could just... come here. I didn't have to do the chores... she'd not even pressed me to do them particularly but I'd leapt at the chance to do something for her.

Will's bike was still locked to the railing where I'd left it. I was still getting it unlocked when a car horn honked and I turned around to see Mom's red station wagon pulled up against the curb.

She wasn't alone. Professor Collins got to the back of the car around the same time I did. "Do you need a hand with your bike, Will?"

"I think I can manage," I protested, trying to lift the bike up into the back. After watching me struggle for a moment he reached out and wordlessly hoisted it up by the saddle so that I could move it the rest of the way.

"Okay Will?"

I searched his face for any trace of the expression I'd seen earlier in class, the one that preceded that ambush. Perhaps it was my own inexperience but I couldn't see a sign of amusement... or had it been malice? "Thank you, Professor."

While he went back around to get into the front next to Mom I couldn't resist the temptation to clamber into the back, pulling the door down behind me, and then over Will's bike and the headrests to get into the back seat. Give me a break, it was my second car ride ever!

Mom shook her head in amusement. "You haven't done that in years, Will. Remember to buckle up."

"Okay, okay." It took me a little fumbling to get the belt around me. "Uh, since you're here Professor Collins, how long do I have for that report on the Middle Ages? I've never done a thirty page report before and I'm not sure how long it will take."

Okay, maybe it was a bit mean to call him on that in front of Mom, but after him dropping the assignment on me first thing in class today? He deserved much worse. I was practically giving him an easy time in fact.

He twisted in the seat to look back at me, which was kind of awkward since I'd taken the seat behind him. "I'm sorry Will, what report on the Middle Ages?"

What? "The... thirty page one? The State of Man in the Middle Ages? It was practically the first you did in class today?"

"Will, don't talk to Dean like that!" Mom snapped.

I realised my voice had risen a bit. "...okay, sorry. I didn't mean to shout."

"Well that's alright. But I'm fairly sure I'd remember asking the class for thirty pages of homework. If nothing else, Will, I'd have to mark all of it."

Was he really... he was! He was just... denying it! "You didn't give it to the class, Professor."

"Will..."

"You singled me out and set me a thirty page assignment. Now you're a teacher and you can do that. I get that. But now you're lying about it!?"

"Will Vandom! Do not use that tone of voice!" Mom slammed on the brakes and I saw her hands were white around the steering wheel.

"Susan..." Professor Collins reached across and touched her arm gently.

"I'm sorry Dean, but I think we're not going to be able to have dinner tonight," she bit off. "It seems that someone is going to be spending the rest of this evening -"

"Susan," he repeated, interrupting her flow. Brave man. I was shrinking back into the corner of the car, away from the anger in Mom's eyes. "Let's pull over a moment and calm down before anyone says something they regret later."

Rather jerkily, she started to do what he had asked.

The teacher took a deep breath. "Will, I admit I was a bit... unwell earlier in the day and I don't recall first period very well. I do not remember giving you that homework, but I may be mistaken." The car came to a stop and he opened his door. "Susan, could we talk outside for a moment?"

She followed him out of the car, giving me a repressing look. The angry words she and Will had exchanged the night before and on other occasions had never made sense to me - Mom was such an affectionate person - but now I could understand why Will found her so frustrating. She'd chosen to believe Collins over me without any hesitation at all.

With the doors closed I couldn't hear them talk but I was able to open it a crack.

"...a lot like someone else I know." I saw that Professor Collins was holding Mom's hand, rubbing the back of it gently with one thumb. "She's a sensitive girl and reacts very passionately. If someone in authority over you, someone in a position of trust, seemed to be persecuting you, wouldn't you be furious?"

The words sank in. She listened to him.

But he was the one whose fault it was in the first place!

"Do you really think Will would lie about something like that?" he pressed on gently. "I realise that I don't know her as well as you do..."

"I suppose not." She sighed. "Still, she should know better than to speak to you like that!"

"Sometimes when we're angry we all say things without thinking."

I closed the door gently. On the one hand, it seemed that Professor Collins was manipulating Mom, but on the other... he was doing so in a way that got me off the hook. Will off the hook. Ugh, this was confusing. What should I do?

I pulled my phone out of my pocket and checked for messages. Nothing. Were they alright? I realised that if everything did go horribly wrong then I might never know exactly what happened.

The phone was shaking in my hand. I thought it was vibrating for a moment and then discovered it wasn't the phone. It was my hand that was doing the shaking.

A soft hand pressed against the side of my face and I turned to see Mom leaning into the car over me. When had she opened the door? "Oh Will, what am I going to do with you?" She pulled me into a hug and I buried my face against her sweater to hide the fearful tears spilling down my face.

User avatar
drakensis
Padawan Learner
Posts: 239
Joined: 2009-06-27 12:00pm
Contact:

Re: An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by drakensis » 2013-03-03 03:01am

Later, much later, I was still nestled against Mom, this time on the couch in our living room.

"Maybe we shouldn't have come here," she sighed. "All we ever seem to do is fight."

"Here?"

"Heatherfield I mean. I know we both wanted a new start..."

Was it Heatherfield that made us fight? Made Will fight Mom, I mean? I hadn't thought that any of their fights were about the town. It was almost always something little I'd thought until I'd was in the middle of one of the arguments. Hardly worth the anger that they both felt.

But things had changed for Will on coming here.

She'd become a Guardian of the Veil, an important responsibility and one that she was hiding from Mom. I got the impression that Mom wouldn't be happy to learn about that, she'd probably insist Will stopped if she found out. That would be a huge fight if she tried to make her stop... and leaving Heatherfield would mean Will couldn't be a Guardian any more: all the portals she was dealing with appeared here.

Cornelia, Taranee, Hay Lin and Irma were all here in Heatherfield. So was Matt. No, Will would hate the idea of leaving Heatherfield.

If we left...

We?

It was hard enough to hide me from Mom around the apartment. There was no possible way that Will and I could both be in the car with her without her noticing something.

If they left then I would be left behind.

The other girls couldn't hide me for long - it wasn't as if I could pretend to one of them and their families would surely realise that something was wrong if 'Will' was still visiting all the time after moving.

I sniffled and Mom pulled me against her again. At least Professor Collins wasn't here right now to see me crying a second time today.

Sitting there pressed against Mom, I realised that I was being selfish and just thinking about myself. Being a Guardian wasn't the only thing that had changed for Will.

She'd gained a sister.

Was this my fault? She hadn't wanted someone to take her place but now she was sharing parts of her life with me!

"It's not Heatherfield," I told Mom. "It's my fault. I mess everything up."

"Oh, honey, that's not true."

She cuddled me more. Under other circumstances I'd have been perfectly happy to stay like that for longer (forever, for example) but the only thought on my mind in that moment was that Will should be here.

"You've made friends here, haven't you? Surely they're not saying that sort of thing about you."

"No..." I couldn't tell her it was Will's life - and hers - that I was messing up.

"Is this about the swimming?"

I tried to remember what Will had said. "It's something I'm good at, something I can do but I'm too dumb to be allowed to do it."

"Oh Will." She patted me reassuringly on the head. "You're not dumb. It's just... I know you can do better than you have. Better than I did."

"Better than you?" That sounded pretty unlikely. "But you're smart and pretty and..."

She blushed a little. "Thank you, Will. But so are you. I believe in you, honey... but I know that if you don't apply yourself a little more then you'll regret it someday."

There was a knock on the door and Mom got up off the couch to let Professor Collins in. He was carrying a big bag of chinese takeaway in one hand and his briefcase in the other. When we got to the apartment he'd given us some time alone. "Thank you Susan," he said when she took the takeout bag from him. "Feeling better, Will?"

Yeah. Some." I mopped at my face. "Sorry about shouting at you," I added reluctantly.

He nodded. "Alight. Now I've done some checking and I think I know what was happened. I should have explained things better to you. I'm your teacher and I should have been more responsible. I'm very sorry."

"So do I have to do the report or not?"

He pulled out a seat at the table and sat down. "I think it would be a good idea. I know your Mom is worried about your grades and an extra credit assignment like this could help pull your average up quite bit. If you really don't want to, I can let you off but I think that this would help you."

What was I supposed to say? That I didn't have time? That I didn't care? I don't think Mom would be too impressed. Besides: "Well I've already started doing research, I may as well finish it."

"That's the spirit," Mom assured me. "Why don't you get cleaned up for dinner. We can talk about some targets for you, ones where I'd be happy for you to join the school's swimming team."

I nodded. The way my face felt I could probably benefit from a washcloth. And maybe a change of clothes. "I'll be a moment then."

My - Will's - room was a welcome refuge.

For about three seconds as I stood with my back to the door, breathing deeply.

I almost shrieked in surprise as Will's head popped up above the far side of her bed. "When did you get back?" I hissed, not wanting Mom to overhear her daughter apparently having a conversation with herself.

"A little while ago," she told me just as quietly. Then she looked me over and frowned. "What's going on? You've been crying!"

"Going on?" My mind raced back over the day.

The horrible history class.

Will going missing.

Tea with Miss Rudolph.

Mom shouting at me.

Worrying about whether she was alive or dead.

"I wish today had never happened!"

Will looked wide-eyed. "It can't have been that bad!"

"Your dinner's on the table." And then I cold-shouldered her, climbing up into my little hidey-hole in the loft where I could curl up on myself and try to pretend that today had been nothing but a bad dream.

User avatar
drakensis
Padawan Learner
Posts: 239
Joined: 2009-06-27 12:00pm
Contact:

Re: An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by drakensis » 2013-03-10 08:37am

Things had not significantly improved a week later, after I had given Will my completed report to hand in to Professor Collins. With Taranee's guidance, I was fairly sure if would reflect the amount of work that I had put into it.

I took a certain satisfaction in the prospect that Will would have to maintain the standard I set with it. Her eyes were certainly disbelieving as she leafed through it.

She had not protested when I went to the library after she was out of school and essentially all day during the weekend. I'm not saying I was spending all that time on the paper - that would have been pretty boring - but I did manage to flesh out a thirty page report (twice actually, since Taranee's advice required a complete rewrite) well before Professor Collins' deadline.

Of course, since I'd been at the library for pretty much every moment when she and I could have been reasonably sure of talking without any chance of Mom overhearing us, I'm sure Will thought I was avoiding her - or at least the prospect of any extended conversation about my one day of school.

I'm not sure she was wrong.

For now at least, she wasn't trying raise the matter right now. As I watched from my usual perch just inside the hatch she posed in front of the full length mirror. "Ugh, I look like an endangered species in this outfit!"

"Well the dress works... although maybe it would work better if we were a bit... well, you know." I didn't comment on the boots which she was completely right about.

"Let's change again! I want to find something that will leave Matt breathless!"

The clothes vanished into swirls of pink energy and were replaced by another costume. This time her hair was up in a dramatic, spiky style and the dress... Oh heavens, the dress! Well, at least the sandals looked okay.

Apparently a girl - an older girl - had come looking for Matt at his grandfather's pet shop. Since Will was now working there part-time, something Mom was in favour of as a responsible activity, she'd agreed to take a message. Of course, ever since she had been fretting herself silly that Matt and the other girl were in a relationship.

I didn't quite get how changing her look was going to fix that - I mean, sure, Matt is certainly dreamy, but if I wanted him to get romantic with me I'd rather he got that way because of me being the way I am, not because I was pretending to be someone else. For now I'd filed that under the million and one things I didn't understand. Along with, you know, what getting romantic involved. It sounded exciting but I admit to being a little vague on the details.

There was the sound of footsteps from the hall and I pulled my head up through the hatch, preparing to quietly close. Instead of Mom though, I heard Cornelia's voice at the door.

"Excuse me, I'm looking for my friend Will. Have you seen her? I didn't know I was in the zoo."

"Quit joking," Will protested.

"Hi Cornelia!" I whispered, sticking my head out again. "How are you?"

She adjusted her hair and made a non-commital gesture. "And you?"

I point down at Will. "Keeping amused."

"Thanks a bunch." She looked over at our friend. "What do you think?"

"Do you really want my honest opinion?" Cornelia asked, although it was evidently displayed all across her face.

"No." Will banished the garment with a wave of her hands, revealing the sweater she was actually wearing. "I think mine is enough."

"Whatever you say." Cornelia hung her coat over the back of Will's desk chair. "Will, I need to talk to you about Elyon."

My sister perched herself on her bed and looked up at the blonde, "What about her?"

Cornelia turned away, gathering her thoughts. "Before we became Guardians of the Veil, she was different. She was my best friend for years! I don't believe she has turned into a... a monster!"

I half-closed my eyes, thinking of the girl under discussion. We'd only met once and it wasn't under the best of circumstances but... I hadn't seen a monster either. She'd been an enemy and as far as I knew, she still was. But other than that she'd not really been so very different from any of the other girls I knew.

Admittedly, she had powerful magic, but so did every other girl I knew more than in passing. It didn't seem to make a difference for them.

"I want to know why she has changed and if there is something left of the girl I knew," Cornelia continued. "But the only way I can find out is by going to Meridian and talking to her face to face."

Will gasped, brown eyes wide. She dropped her head, hiding her face from both of us. "It's a crazy idea, Cornelia. You know that."

Will had spoken, the decision was made and the conversation was done... hmm. This seems familiar somehow. Of course, Cornelia wasn't Will so she didn't explode in anger and storm out. Instead she gave my sister a hurt look an uncomfortable silence filled the room.

"Can I come over to your house tonight and meet your sister?" I asked when the silence grew too much to bear.

"I guess," the blonde agreed.

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Will leant back and looked up at me. "Last time you went out you came back in tears."

"As long as you don't run off I'm sure everything will be fine," Cornelia told her with heavy sarcasm.

Will flinched. "You know, sometime you're going to have to talk to me about what happened."

"Probably." I scrambled down into the room. "But not today."

She slumped back onto her bed. "Yeah. I get that."

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

"Will's only seen Elyon's worst side," Cornelia told me as we walked through Heatherfield, huddled under her umbrella. We probably looked like an odd pair: her tall and elegant in a skirt almost brushing the snow that had fallen over the last couple of days, me shorter with a woollen hat and heavy parka.

The snow looked very pretty through a window but I hadn't expected that it would be so cold.

"I suppose you've seen even less," she admitted. "But Irma and Hay Lin knew her before all of this happened. I'm sure they'll understand."

"I want to understand. She... scared me," I admitted. "But I don't think she's evil, just... I don't know. What was she like before?"

"She was a sweet girl and a good friend." Cornelia's face was wistful. "We used to share everything - she'd come to see me ice skate and show me everything she drew..."

"Artistic then? Like Hay Lin?"

"Yes! And we'd talk about boys for hours."

"There's that much about boys to talk about?"

Cornelia laughed. "Some of them, yes. You'll learn."

"Well she's got a boy now. Cedric. Now him..." I shivered and not because of the snow.

"If we could just get her away from him..."

I put my hand over hers on the handle of the umbrella. "I don't think any of us disagree that it would be better if she came back, Cornelia. But Metamoor sounds dangerous. How often have you been there?"

"Twice?"

"And didn't someone get captured both times you were there?"

"What would you do if they'd captured Will?"

I frowned and took my hand off the umbrella. "I see what you mean. It's like that is it?"

She nodded.

Up ahead was Sheffield Institute. It seemed fitting that the Guardians of Air and Water would be out in the snow, although it wasn't for fun. They had both been persuaded to sign up for an extra-credit class taking advantage of the weather and were tramping around the campus with cameras and the supervision of one of the teachers.

I fell back as Cornelia folded her umbrella and went in to explain her proposal to the other two. Crouching by a tree I scraped some snow off with my gloved hand. It was strange. According to Will it was all frozen water - like ice but less so. Quite amazing, although she didn't think so.

"Very good idea, Corny!" Irma told the blonde girl. "If you want Cedric's thugs to attack you, this is definitely the right plan!"

"She's right," agreed Hay Lin more seriously. The lightly built girl was almost swallowed up by an immense, heavily padded blue coat.

Cornelia huffed. "Never mind. I understand you don't agree."

"Hey, I just don't want to spend Christmas vacation in a Meridian prison!" Irma said with a grin. She elbowed Hay Lin. "What about you?"

"Not really."

Cornelia whirled away abruptly, hair and coat streaming behind them as she strode away. Hay Lin couldn't see the pinched, determined look on the other girl's face but she started after her anyway only to be called back by the teacher.

"I'm sorry, but I'm not going to be taking you to meet Lillian," Cornelia told me.

I fell in behind her, stretching my legs to keep up. "Why not?"

"I'm going after Elyon."

"Alone? Right now?"

She nodded. "You'd better go home."

"No."

"You can't talk me out of this."

"I'm not going to try. But you're not going alone either."

Cornelia stopped. "It's too dangerous. You're not a Guardian."

"These would be the same dangers that the others are warning you about. The ones you're planning on taking on alone?"

"They've made their decision."

"I've made mine." I spread my hands. "You aren't the only one with questions for her, Cornelia. So either you agree to me coming with you... or I'll follow you anyway."

She sighed. "Are you sure you're not Will? You're as stubborn as she is."

"Well we are sisters. We would have some things in common."

"You've got the annoying little sister routine down well. Alright. But you're not going to like where we're going."

She was right, I admitted, twenty minutes later as we looked at the store front of the apparently closed Ye Olde Bookstore. This was not somewhere that I wanted to come back to.

"You think she's here?"

"This is where Cedric invited her to, the first time they met. If there's anywhere I can find a way to her, it'll start here."

I squinted through the window. "If there is anyone here. Or anything to find."

"Let's find out." Cornelia took the heavy brass door knob and turned it. The door opened smoothly. Perhaps no one had locked it again after the attempted invasion the week previous.

We tiptoed inside and closed the door behind us. It was dark and shady, filled with the musty scent of old leather bookbindings. Much as I remembered it.

Cornelia started as a rustling noise came from further back. "Who's there?" She advanced fearlessly and I hastened to keep up. "Whoever you are, come out now!" she called as we went into the back room. "I know you're there!"

This part of the shop must have been caught up in the attempted invasion - shelves had been knocked against each other and the floor was littered by heavy books. Cornelia picked her way across the room without hesitation only to make a startled noise as she peered around one bookcase. "You!" she exclaimed a second later.

Swirls of green magic exploded around Cornelia and I backed up as the figure of my friend was replaced by someone even taller and more elegant, delicate leafy wings emerging from between the strands of her long hair. Her warm winter clothes were replaced by a mid-riff- and shoulder-bearing top, silky lavender skirt slit to the hip and high-heeled purple boots. "Vathek!"

Taller even than Cornelia and at least three times as massive, the man facing her was bald-headed and bundled in a heavy overcoat, sturdy pants and shirt that wouldn't look out of place anywhere on the street outside. He even wore a long woollen scarf in concession to the cold. However, his pale blue skin and patches of ivory scales made it clear that he was no human, even before I saw the clawed fingers and the pointed ears. "I wasn't expecting this, finding you here," he exclaimed, raising one massive hand to indicate her.

"Get ready to fight with the powers of the Earth!"

He turned away, striding back through the shadows of the shop. "I won't fight you."

Cornelia blinked. "You won't? Hey! Wait!"

"Isn't this the guy who was leading the invasion last time?" I asked, moving forwards to join her.

She nodded. "He was..."

Together we followed after the Metamoorian. "Cornelia?"

"Yes?"

"Is that skirt glued on?"

"What!"

"Well it's got that sort of spiral bit around your belly button..."

She folded her arms across it, defensively. "...it's magic."

We found Vathek behind one of the fallen bookcases, sorting through the books that had fallen from it. At first I thought he was just tidying up but he was checking the titles and I realised he was looking for something specific.

"I've seen what Cedric has done," he told us as we watched.

Cornelia crouched next to him. "What do you mean? Don't you work for him?"

The blue man looked sheepish. "I've had my eyes opened. My people have been suffering for a long time because of Phobos. I couldn't keep following Cedric after I understood that. I'm helping those who fight to bring joy and peace back to Meridian."

"Then what are you doing back on this side of the Veil?" I asked.

He looked up at me. "You... aren't the Keeper, are you?"

"Keeper?"

"Of the Heart of Kandrakar." Vathek lowered his head slightly and scratched the back of his neck. "Then you must be her astral drop."

"Her sister." I folded my arms. "And you're avoiding my question."

"I'm..." He paused and scooped up one of the books. "This. Caleb sent me to find this."

Cornelia swayed slightly and pressed one hand against her forehead. "Caleb?"

"Are you alright?"

"I... I think..." Then to my relief she steadied. An uncertain Cornelia was much more worrying than Vathek.

Vathek! I turned back and saw that he had loped off to one of the still standing bookshelves. It was bare of books through and to my astonishment he lifted the heavy piece of furniture and tossed it aside.

I reappraised my judgement over which of the two was more worrying.

The bookcase had been covering a hole in the floor and the Metamoorian hopped down it, landing with his shoulders more or less level with the ground. "Goodbye, Guardian, young lady."

"Wait!" Cornelia sprang to the hole just as he ducked his head down it. "If you're going back to Meridian then take me with you!"

"Us," I reminded her as she jumped down after him.

She ignored me. "If you have changed, maybe Elyon has changed too," I heard her say as I scrambled after them. Beneath the hole was a broad, dark spiral staircase. I had had no idea that there were tunnels like this under Heatherfield. Or was this a portal?

"Don't count on it," Vathek warned. He lifted a short length of wood that had rags wrapped around it and under his gaze flames sprang to life in the rags, lighting up the stair. "She has all but enslaved herself to Cedric."

Cornelia simply stared at him.

With a sigh, the man turned and gestured the direction of travel. "Well... we can hope." I hastened my steps to catch up and the three of us began to walk side by side towards the portal that would take us to the strange world of Metamoor. "Who knows? Maybe Elyon really has changed..."

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

My first experience of Metamoor involved water.

Lots of water. Deep water.

Neither Cornelia nor I had expected that the portal would have us emerge beneath water and Vathek hadn't suggested we should hold our breath. Was that an oversight or was he leading us into a trap the whole time.

Still, it was a learning experience. For example, I learned that I can't breathe water. Also, Cornelia's no better at swimming than I am and water has it's own ideas about where you wind up. Who knew that it moved!? Even without Irma around.

Okay, I noticed this mostly in retrospect. At the time I was mostly flailing widely and worrying about the fiery sensation in my chest.

I think I may have blacked out. I don't remember doing so, but I don't recall anything between that and being cold and wet on a stone floor, someone holding my nose and blowing into my mouth.

I'm pretty sure that Will had told me to slap anyone who kissed me, but moving my arms right now would have been way too much work. "Wurble," I managed when my lips weren't being molested.

"She's alive!"

Oh. Well that was good. I managed to open my eyes and saw an unfamiliar boy, a little older than I perhaps, moving back from me. A moment later I had a soggy blonde hugging me. It wasn't quite as good as Mom, but it wasn't anything to be upset about. "'nelia."

"Don't you start," Cornelia demanded, laughing in relief. "Irma's nicknames are bad enough." She looked up at the boy. "Caleb gave you CPR and saved your life."

"CPR? Wussat?" I mumbled. My throat still burned.

She sighed. "You'd stopped breathing. He was breathing for you until you started again."

That sounded like powerful magic to me! "That isn't like kissing, is it?"

"No!" Cornelia dragged her eyes away from gazing worshipfully up at Caleb. "It's... nothing like that."

So I don't have to slap him then," I concluded.

There was a chuckle and Vathek moved into view. "That must be a relief, Caleb." He reached down and helped Cornelia and I up to our feet, then steadied me as I checked to see if my legs were working better than my arms had been a moment ago. (They were, but not by all that much). "I lost you somewhere along the way. Fortunately Caleb saw you in the water and got the two of you out."

"But who are they?" a new voice enquired.

Looking around I realised that the chamber we were in - a tall room with beautifully painted columns that reminded me of Van Dahl's cathedral - was also occupied by a number of green-skinned creatures dressed not unlike the medieval peasants I had seen in books.

"They aren't like us, they can't stay here."

Another squinted suspiciously at Cornelia. "And she's ugly!"

"Hey!" the blonde snarled. "Have you looked in the mirror!?"

Caleb gestured for calm. "Settle down all of you." He put one arm around Cornelia's back. "I know that they can be trusted." He wasn't looking at me at all, mind you. Maybe it was just me but I got the impression that I was pretty much vanishing into the background compared to my glamorous friend. Well, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

My musing over whatever was going on with the two was disrupted - as were what they probably thought were covert looks at each other (I was two weeks old, not blind) - by a shout of alarm.

"We've been spotted!" one of the green-skinned people exclaimed, running into the the room. "Soldiers are outside."

"I knew it!" the suspicious one growled. He'd turned his attention away from Cornelia towards a safer target. "You must have brought them here," he accused me. Or possibly Vathek, it was hard to be sure the way his hand was wavering.

"Is this the end?" one of his companions asked nervously.

If it wasn't for one thing, my impression of these rebels would have dropped into the sewer. That thing was Caleb. The boy only raised his voice slightly but when he spoke it was with unquestionable authority. "Vathek, take one group with you. The others will come with me."

The towering blue man nodded respectfully. "Right." He looked down at me. "Can you run."

"I'd better, hadn't I?"

Instead he simply hauled me up off the ground and perched me on one shoulder. "What you'd better do is hang on."

Fortunately one of the scaly patches on his head was well placed for me to put my hand onto without incidentally poking his eye out or the like.

It wasn't until we were out of the room - part of a large, palatial complex I discovered to my surprise - that I realised that Cornelia wasn't with us. Craning my head around I could see a enormously long blonde hair next to Caleb's long overcoat near the head of the other group of rebels.

I said a word that I don't think Will knew I'd learned. I'm almost certain she'd be unhappy about my using it. I'm quite certain that Mom would be.

"Is something wrong?" asked Vathek.

"Nothing I can do anything about."

As best I could tell, we were racing to get out of the complex of buildings before the soldiers could get to all of the exits. What I couldn't tell was whether or not we were winning. From the shouting somewhere behind us I had the suspicion that not everyone was that lucky. I hoped Cornelia wasn't one of them.

Then I envisaged a bunch of guards - like Captain Von Schliese's except with scaly skin - trying to restrain a Cornelia who was fully empowered and angry to boot.

Hopefully no one with Cornelia would get caught up in the destruction.

I was just thinking that when Vathek stumbled. He wasn't the only one. The floor of the palace was shaking beneath us.

"Get out in the open!" I shouted as loudly as I could. I pulled on Vathek's head to direct him towards what looked like some sort of a park. If one or more of those buildings came down I wanted to be somewhere with plenty of room to run away from it. Well, for Vathek to run away, since if I couldn't rely on my legs when the ground was steady I certainly couldn't now.

There was a massive rumbling noise and I felt rather than saw part of the palace begin to collapse since Vathek dropped to his knees. That still left me above head height of most of the rebels and I twisted around to spot which it was.

The good news was that the building was going more or less straight down. The bad news was that it was the core of the entire palace. Dust was already rising like smoke from it. "Get down and cover your heads!" I called out and scrambled down from Vathek.

The big man didn't hesitate to drag me under the cover of his coat as the dust cloud swept across us. Given I was choking on it even through Vathek's coat, I can't imagine what it must have been like for everyone else.

As soon as the rumbling died down I started scrambling out from under my protector.

"Are you..." Vathek broke off coughing. "Are you hurt?"

I hawked up and spat dust out of my mouth. Hopefully Elyon's spell wouldn't make the dust part of me. "No but we need to get going. With all this dust the soldiers won't be able to see us."

His mismatched eyebrows... well, he didn't really have any, but that bit of his forehead moved upwards. I could tell by the scales above his right eye. "You're right. Everyone up! We've still got a way to go."

User avatar
drakensis
Padawan Learner
Posts: 239
Joined: 2009-06-27 12:00pm
Contact:

Re: An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by drakensis » 2013-03-11 04:37pm

The dust hid us from the guards well enough, but it also hid any landmarks. When it settled we were still far too near where the palace had been. Vathek hustled everyone into the smaller and far more humble buildings still standing until we could see if it was safe.

Judging by the blue-silver swirling that was taking place in the pit that had replaced the palace, I had my doubts. "Is that what I think it is?"

"Only if you think that it's a portal," he told me. "I've never seen one so large."

"That's... bad. I think."

He nodded slowly. "Phobos can't be allowed to use this... but a lot of my people will want to escape him through it."

I rubbed my head. "That's going to be kind of hard to hide. How many people are we talking about?" Medieval cities weren't usually larger than a few thousand people if the books I'd read were to be believed (I hoped so or my paper might bomb) and Metamoor seemed similar in a lot of ways.

Vathek shrugged. "No one has any idea how many live in Meridian and I couldn't guess how many would take the risk. Thousands upon thousands, I expect. The last mission Cedric gave me before I joined the rebels was to lead a smaller invasion. He said that Phobos believed that doing so could tear down the Veil for good."

Oh great. I could just imagine thousands of Metamoorian refugees spilling onto the streets of Heatherfield. "Then I can't let that happen."

"What gives you the right to say that!" demanded the loudmouthed lizard from earlier. "You don't know anything about our lives! Earth is rich and peaceful! We would be safe there!"

I shook my head. "You wouldn't be safe from Phobos on Earth. Have any of you ever heard of Elias Van Dahl?"

There was a confused grumbling but one of them nodded his head. "I know of him, one of the court painters that vanished after Phobos took over and started having his statues and portraits destroyed."

"He fled to Earth," I told them. "But Phobos sent Cedric after him and imprisoned him for hundreds of years. If you go through that portal then he'll send a whole army after you. And without the Veil there will be nowhere safe."

"Then what can we do!?"

"Do you mean about the portal? Or about Phobos?"

"The portal!" "Either!" "Prince Phobos!" "Both!" The rebels around the room crowded towards me, calling out answers that were really questions.

Vathek raised his hands for silence. "Wait, let her speak."

Well thanks, I thought disgustedly. Why did they think I had answers? I was just a girl who knew almost nothing and had no powers. I wasn't even from a magical world like they were.

Except that to them Earth was a magical world, I realised. One where there was peace and plenty for all. (Even I knew better than that.) A world that magical beings, like the Guardians, came from. If I was from there, why wouldn't they assume me to have some power?

"The portal has to be closed," I told them. "Let Phobos reach other worlds and there will be no hope for this one. That's the purpose of the Veil and why the Guardians must seal the portals through it."

"But why must we suffer under Phobos!?" called out one of the rebels.

I looked him in the eyes. "Isn't that why you are rebelling against him? To bring him down so that the Veil is no longer required. If all the Guardians were doing was containing him then why would Cornelia and I have come here? Portals can be sealed from Earth, but to stop Phobos for good we came here to gather information and to seek out allies: people like you!"

I was stretching the truth. Neither Cornelia nor I had such lofty goals when we came here. But in a way it was true. We both wanted to find out what was going on with Elyon. We knew Phobos had claimed she was his sister - had he taken her into his confidence? Or was this part of some grander scheme. Either way, by learning about her- talking to her - we would learn about his goals and perhaps be able to stop them.

"What can we do?" asked one of the smaller lizards.

"Trust in Caleb," Vathek told them. "Phobos is an usurper but there is a true heir, the Light of Meridian. If we can show her the truth then she can free us all from his terror. But we can't stand up to him if we're running away all the time."

The loudmouth shook his head. "You mean the princess. She's been missing forever."

"Phobos believes he has found her." All eyes turned to me. "Her name is Elyon. I don't know if she is the true heir, but she does have great power. If she is who he claims and if she can be freed from his influence then there will be hope."

Then, just as everything seemed to be getting back under control, another of the rebels scurried into the room. "Caleb's across the other side of the portal," he reported breathlessly. "The Guardian of the Veil from earlier is with him and another Earth girl, a smaller one."

Vathek blinked. "Another Guardian?"

"Let's take a look," I suggested.

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

It wasn't one of the other Guardians.

It was Elyon.

The girl was barely visible, surrounded by scores of excited Metamoorians, all of who seemed to want to talk to her, touch her cloak... or at least be able to say they'd seen her. I was pretty sure I was okay to walk, but Vathek had insisted on carrying me and I'd have not been able to make Elyon out at all if it wasn't for the added altitude.

"You won't leave us, will you?" one old - I presumed, from the balding head - man asked her.

"I promise!" she assured him, squeezing his hand reassuringly. "But don't beg, please."

"Huh," I muttered to Vathek. "Maybe she really is a princess."

Elyon looked up and saw us looming over the crowd. Her face seemed to pale slightly at the sight.

"I don't think she likes me," I noted.

Vathek shook his head sadly. "It's probably me. The last time we met was when I deserted Cedric." He lifted me down from his shoulders. "I saw your friend Cornelia near her, will you be alright with her while I talk to Caleb?"

"I should be."

But when I worked my way through the crowd the first blonde I came across wasn't Cornelia. "Oops, sorry," I said, realising I'd burst into the little circle around Elyon. But when I tried to back up, the press of people was too much for me to be able to move away.

Elyon waved at me awkwardly and I returned the gesture.

There was a tugging at my leg and and I found a little kid - perhaps half my already unimpressive height - was responsible. Kind of cute if you don't mind scales and since at least half the people I'd ever met had them, I was just going to have to not mind wasn't I? "Are you a princess too?" the kid asked me seriously.

I giggled slightly at the idea. As far as I could tell from my scanty education, the main thing Princesses did was to get married to someone their father picked out. All things considered, I would be glad to avoid that. "Not me!"

"But you look like her!"

"We really don't." I scooped him up and held him out to Elyon. "Here, take a closer look."

Elyon, not expecting a sudden miniature lizardfolk to be thrust into her personal space froze in place and I amused myself for a second by imagining her eyes going as wide as saucers. Then she spoiled my fun by taking the kid's hand and shaking it solemnly. He squirmed and I let him down. The minute his feet touched the ground he scampered away, shouting about how he'd "touched the princess' hand!"

This, of course, left me awkwardly faced with the princess for myself. "So you're really a princess?"

"Uh-huh," she admitted, looking a bit lost. "Er, you and your sister... are getting on okay?"

"...mostly," I lied.

Elyon turned her face away. "I'm sorry."

"Sorry about what? I haven't seen you since that thing with the painting."

"..."

I crossed my arms. "Fine, keep your secret. Just tell me this: were you joking about casting that spell?"

The other girl looked shocked. "Oh, no! I promise, you'll be fine. I don't know exactly how long it'll take though, so don't experiment and have the Keeper try to take back her magic or anything like that."

"I may have been born last month, but I'm not that dumb." I'd been waiting a while to use that line.

Elyon flushed. "Sorry."

"Anyway, that spell's probably the second nicest thing anyone's ever done for me. I'll forgive you practically anything for the sake of that." I gave her a hug (partly because she looked like she needed one and partly because if I didn't play nice with the princess I wasn't sure the rebels wouldn't do something nasty) and she returned it. "So did you get to talk to Cornelia?"

"She did," Cornelia confirmed, pushing her own way through the crowd. Well I say pushing, it was more that the crowd instinctively made way for her.

"And...?"

"We're still friends."

Elyon brightened as if this solved everything. Well maybe it did for them but there were a few other issues that might need to be dealt with. You know, Cedric. Phobos. All of Metamoor. Little things like that. "Good. So... what now?"

"Give us the rebels!" roared an angry voice.

The three of us, having been focused on our conversation, all practically jumped out of our skins.

The speaker was at the head of a group that were alike in only three respects that I could see: they were armed, wearing blue uniforms and had orangy scales. "Those who side with them will suffer the consequences!"

"Can't anyone around here speak without exclaimation marks?" I whined. It had been a long day, I think I was entitled.

Caleb stepped forwards, producing a sword from somewhere inside his coat. "Bow down to your Queen!" he shouted, pointing back at Elyon.

Evidently no one could.

"Get them!" the leader shouted and his men - soldiers I guessed - ran forwards. Some of the rebels, apparently no longer afraid now that they had a princess on their side, also produced weapons and ran forwards to block them from our little group. With others - less bold rebels or simple bystanders who had been drawn to the commotion - trying to get away, the streets around the portal almost instantly reduced themselves to chaos.

"Go and find shelter," Caleb called as he took the lead.

Cornelia had her own idea and the ground began to shake as she called upon her magic. "You can't do this alone!" Suddenly I had an idea of what might have called the palace to collapse, although how that had led to a portal opening was beyond me.

Two rebels jostled me and I was swept away from my companions. No one intended to collide with me, but with the soldiers pushing into the crowd and my being below the eye line of most of the participants of what I could only call a battle, it was almost unavoidable. I did my best to find my way back to Vathek - or at least to Elyon - but when I reached the portal, one of the few places that everyone else was trying to give at least a little space, I couldn't see either of them.

I did hear something interesting though.

"I'm not gonna like, this time the Heart of Kandrakar's made the trip awfully uncomfortable."

That sounded like Irma and for once I was glad to hear her voice.

"Look on the bright side, at least we've arrived now."

And Taranee! A bolt of silvery magic streaked through the air and from the gasp of surprise they couldn't be that far away. I ran to the edge of the pit and dropped to my hands and knees, looking down at them. Sure enough four Guardians were scrambling up out of the portal. "Girls, this way!"

Hay Lin flew up into the air over the portal and then came down to hug me, with the others not so far behind - only limited by not being airborne like her. "You're okay!"

I'd barely got loose of her when Will dragged me into an even more crushing hug. "What did you think you were doing, coming here?" she demanded. "You could have been killed!"

"I was thinking that someone needed to watch Cornelia's back, since none of you would."

Will released me and looked around. "And where is she?"

I hung my head. "We got separated."

'Great job then.' Will didn't actually say the sarcastic words but we both knew that she was thinking them.

"I see her!" Hay Lin called, having taken to the air once more. She directed powerful gust of wind down into the mob, aiming at someone I couldn't see. I missed sitting on Vathek - it gave a much needed perspective.

Will looked in that direction. "Then let's reunite the Guardians. We'll keep you safe, sis'." She extended the Heart of Kandrakar and called out "Earth!" A streamer of green energy swept out from her and Cornelia burst out of the crowd, her magic almost visible as she commanded the ground to dash away the soldiers menacing her and the rebels around her.

Irma grinned at Taranee. "Let's work together!"

The two Guardians clasped hands and then unleashed their power together on one group of soldiers. "An attack today; blows the enemy away!" called out the Water Guardian as the resultant blast of steam hurled the soldiers from their feet and blanketed the area with fog.

Scattered and unable to co-ordinate their efforts, the guards disappeared amid into the far more numerous crowd of the rebels.

"That attack was almost as fierce as your rhyme!" Hay Lin declared as she swooped past. "Wow! I see Elyon!"

"What!" Most of the Guardians whirled, readying themselves to defend against an attack. Instead they - like myself - saw Elyon scrambling beneath the blades of a rebel and a soldier in order to pull the young lizardfolk from earlier out of danger.

"Is that the same girl that locked me away in tower for weeks?" exclaimed Taranee.

"What are you just standing there for?" I demanded and ran forwards in Elyon's direction, ignoring Will's shout to come back.

There were feet chasing after me but I had been moving at an angle to come in from behind the soldier and he hadn't spotted me. The rebel had and he struck fiercely as I ducked down behind the soldier's knees. The blue-uniformed swordsman tried to step back and instead tumbled over me, dropping his sword.

Without the press of combat, the rebel fighter realised who he had been about to stand on and stopped fighting to help Elyon and her charge up.

"Why you!" shouted the soldier, scrabbling for his sword.

"I wouldn't suggest you do that," Taranee told him, putting one foot onto his chest and pushing him down.

The soldier didn't hesitate to close his hand around the hilt but he released it a moment later with a cry of pain. As I stood up I realised that the metal parts of the weapon were almost glowing with heat.

"Don't you know better than to try to hold a hot iron?" the Fire Guardian chided. "Now you can't hold a weapon in that hand until it heals. Maybe you should give up on fighting for Phobos!"

With a scream the soldier turned and fled.

"Thank you," Elyon exclaimed and then she paled as she saw which of the Guardians had assisted us. "Ah, Taranee..."

"I don't have a thing to say to you," the dreadlocked girl told her coldly.

The little blonde gave me an appealing look and I shrugged. "All you did to me was give me a scare and trap me somewhere for a little while. Taranee..."

The princess seemed to cringe in on herself. "I understand."

It seemed even the fiery Taranee wasn't immune to that pathetic look though - or perhaps it was the hateful glare she got from the little kid or the questioning look from the rebel fighter. "Maybe later," she allowed reluctantly. "Right now we have other things to do."

"You're not wrong there."

Honestly though, soldiers around us were already for the most part on the run. They'd looked fearsome enough as a group but once they were scattered the greater numbers of the rebels had swarmed over them one at a time. The ones that hadn't... well, I saw that at least two of them were lying on the cobbled streets and showed no sign of moving. There were rebels down as well although most at least seemed only injured.

"I think the fight's over," Taranee told me.

I pointed at the fallen soldiers. "Is the killing over?"

She shook her head. "You really are like Will, sometimes."

"Let me help," Elyon offered. She pressed her hands together and then gestured upwards. With a sigh a tall platform - a podium, Taranee later called it - shimmered into existence in front of us, complete with stairs up to the top so that we would be able to get up and look over the packed streets.

I scrambled up the steps, Elyon and Taranee following me. From above I could see further and the same story was being played out: the few soldiers remaining were the stubborn ones who'd managed to get themselves up against a wall or some other barrier that prevented them from being overwhelmed from behind. Even they were now being hard pressed - pelted with cobblestones and by gusts of air and waves of water from Irma and Hay Lin. As I watched, Cornelia yanked down part of a wall, half-burying a soldier beneath the rubble.

"Enough!" called out Elyon from beside me.

Heads turned below, people looking up at us.

"The battle is won!" I shouted. "Let the soldiers go, to spread the word."

They hesitated but Elyon pushed aside her dull cloak, revealing the pale dress she wore beneath it. "Do as my friend says!" she ordered. "There has been enough bloodshed."

That swayed them and cheers burst out from the crowd as they backed up and opened space for the remaining soldiers to retreat. A few of the blue-clad Metamoorians stopped to help up fallen soldiers and carry them away but most simply fled for their lives.

A cheer went up from the rebels. "We defeated them!" called one.

He was joined by other glad calls: "Our first victory!" "The first of many!" "The princess gave us strength!"

"H-hold on!" Elyon stammered as everyone turned to look at her after that statement. She scrambled down from platform but before she could reach the ground, hands lifted her up and she was raised up above the crowd by her new followers and supporters. "I'm not sure if..."

"Enjoy the moment," I advised her before I turned to use the stairs myself. Then I felt Taranee's hands against my back for a moment. "What -?"

"You too," she said with a chuckle and pushed me firmly off the podium.

I almost screamed but strong hands caught me and placed me onto a familiar shoulder. "Vathek!?"

The towering warrior gave me a sheepish look. "Maybe you should take your own advice."

"What do you mean?"

"'Enjoy the moment'," he repeated my words from a moment ago. "Three cheers for Elyon, the Light of Meridian!"

Cheers rang out and I saw Elyon blushing furiously at the naked adoration she was receiving. "Please, don't cheer me," she begged. "I've done nothing to deserve it. Cheer for yourselves, or for Caleb and my friends."

That didn't noticeably dissuade them, although it did add Caleb's name and 'The Guardians' to the names being shouted admiringly.

"They're forgetting someone," rumbled Vathek.

I twisted around to look down at him. "Who?"

"You, silly," Cornelia told me. I hadn't seen her approaching us.

"It's kind of hard for them to cheer for someone with no name," I pointed out cheerfully. Given how Elyon was squirming in embarassment at being the centre of attention, I was quite happy to avoid the same fate.

Cornelia simply smiled knowingly. "Oh well we can't have that. It just so happens that I have the perfect name for you."

"What! But you can't pick my name!"

"Do you think any of us chose our names?" she asked me. "Our families gave us our names, and you've had plenty of time to think of one for yourself."

"Yes, but..."

Taranee looked down at Cornelia and I pouted as I realised that the Fire Guardian was using her telepathy to speak to the blonde. "You're right, Cornelia. That is the perfect name for her."

"What are you three talking about?" asked Will as the other Guardians converged on our position.

Cornelia pointed up at me. "Will, I'd like to introduce you to your sister."

"We have met, Cornelia."

"But you've never been introduced," she said with a smile. "Will, meet your sister: Hope Vandom."

I stared dumbfounded down at them. "Hope?"

"It's a good name," Vathek rumbled. "You do seem to bring it with you."

Will nodded decisively. "You're right." She gestured for him to put me down.

"I think I prefer it here," I said warily.

"Whoa, you don't think she means her and Vathek..." Irma murmured to Hay Lin, perhaps louder than she intended.

The smallest of the Guardians shook her head, setting her long pony-tails flicking back and forth. "I think she, Hope, might want to stay here."

Will looked down at the floor. "Please?"

Vathek must have sensed my doubts for he reached up and patted my legs with one of huge hands. "Family can be difficult, but they're usually worth it," he advised and dropped to one knee so that I was closer to the ground.

I slid down - my feet were still some way from the ground and Will stepped forward and caught me around the waist, helping me the rest of the way down. She didn't let go of me, instead pulling me close. "Hello Hope. I'm Will. I hope we can be friends as well as sisters."

"...I'm kind of still learning about friends," I admitted. "And sisters."

Will nodded sympathetically. "Me too. Maybe we can learn together?"

Naturally the fact we were having a moment to ourselves did nothing to stop the rest of the world - this world - from moving on. And it wasn't something insensitive from Irma either. It was someone even more annoying: Cedric.

"Where are you, Your Majesty?" he called out.

I have to give him credit. He was standing there in front of a victorious rebel army - a small one perhaps, but still vastly outnumbering the tiny number of escorts who were with him. It was clear he was not there for violence though. There was no evidence of his giant snakeman persona visible for he was as human in form as he had been in the bookstore and he wore a long turquoise robe not so very different in style from the dress worn by Elyon, along with a long and heavily decorated ceremonial vest and epaulets.

"What is he doing?"

"If he fights here, he loses," Taranee realised. "Elyon would never forgive him for persecuting these people."

Faced not with violence but with courtesy, the rebels lowered Elyon to the ground like chastened children.

Cedric dropped deferentially to one knee. "We've been looking for you for hours," he declared - implicitly dismissing the battle which had just been fought as unworthy of mention. "Your brother is waiting for you at the palace."

Cornelia pushed her way through the crowd to stand by Elyon, the rest of us not far behind.

"Your coronation is near, Elyon," he continued, ignoring us. "And the prince wants to celebrate the occasion properly."

Elyon straightened with sudden confidence. "Yes, I see. Let's go."

We all blinked at the sudden reversal. I'm sure at least half of us braced ourselves to suddenly face her hostility. Vathek had counselled Cornelia and I of how deeply Cedric's influence ran with Elyon.

"Are you serious!?" Cornelia exclaimed out loud.

When Elyon turned to us, however, she was smiling. She took her friend's hands. "Your destiny is on Earth and to guard the veil. Mine is here, to care for my people."

It was entirely clear from Cornelia's sidelong look at Cedric where her concerns lay. "You don't know what you're about to face," she warned.

Elyon simply stepped forwards and threw her arms around the blonde. "Everything will be alright, Cornelia. I will never forget our friendship." They clung to each other for a moment before stepping back.

"Good luck," I mouthed to Elyon, past Cornelia's shoulder. "And be careful."

That earned me a nod of acknowledgement from her before she walked, tall and proud towards Cedric. The man and his elite soldiers fell in behind her, whether by plan or simply wrong-footed I couldn't tell.

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

Cornelia was talking to Caleb, with an eager and almost discreet audience in the form of Irma, Hay Lin and Taranee.

Will and I had other things to talk about.

"Are you coming home with us?" she asked awkwardly. "I'm sure Vathek would look after you if you stayed."

I had to admit it was tempting in some ways. Although, having made use of a Metamoorian toilet, not in others. There would be freedom here. Danger, yes. But it wasn't as if my life in Heatherfield was all that safe. "I'd miss you. And Mom."

"She'd miss you too. You're pretty much the daughter she wants, you know."

"What!?"

Will folded her arms. "You're brighter than I am. I could never have written a report like you did. You do all your chores, you're tidy..."

"I'm easily bored." I shoved my hands into my jacket pockets. "And you're the one that she loves."

My sister shook her head. "That's just because she hasn't got to know you."

"Will she ever?"

"I hope so," she told me. "When this is over. Maybe Miss Rudolph can help us get papers for you."

I wrapped my arms around myself. "She'll probably be furious with me. With us, I suppose."

"I know." Will hung her head. "But please, come back with us, give her a chance. Give me a chance. I shouldn't have gone off swimming like that, when you were at school. I was just so mad at Mom about the swimming team and Elyon tricked me."

"Elyon? What did she have to do with it?" I asked in surprise. "I thought Vera was the one who invited you out."

"There wasn't really a Vera at all - it was all Elyon in disguise. She was encouraging me just to get me away from everyone else. She even broke my phone so I didn't know you were trying to get to me. If Irma hadn't turned up at the pool, she'd have drowned me!"

I covered my mouth in shock. Drowning, the way I almost had when I came here. Had Elyon really tried to do that? "That's what she meant! She apologised earlier for something but didn't say what for."

"Well it'd have been nice if she'd apologised to me! Or to Taranee!"

"Did she get the chance?" I rubbed at my face. "Oh I don't know. She's done all this but whenever I've been around she's been mostly... well, she knocked me out and imprisoned me, but she's never seemed to actually want to hurt anyone."

Will sighed. "I suppose she might have wanted to capture me, not kill me. She'd conjured up a huge water snake. I couldn't even get loose to transform."

"I was afraid that something like that had happened - that Cedric had you locked up somewhere or... or..."

Will hugged me again. "I wish I could promise you that it was all going to be okay, but we know so little about this..."

"Well we know more now."

There was a squeal from Hay Lin that forced us to pay attention to something beyond the two of us.

"And here I was thinking Cornelia was cold and rational," Taranee gasped.

"But she's the exact opposite!" Hay Lin declared, pressing her clasped hands against one cheek as she watched Caleb give Cornelia a silvery flower. "Ah, looooove!"

"Well... he is a pretty cool guy."

"Oh?" Irma asked eagerly. "Spill the gossip! Does Cornelia have a rival?"

"Get real," I told her. "You think I'd try getting between these two? Cornelia would take my arm off and Caleb probably wouldn't even notice me. Mind you, if they weren't attached..." I paused and then nudged Will with one elbow. "...no, never mind, that'd mean leaving Matt to you. Couldn't do that to the poor boy."

She hung her head. "I think he's got a girlfriend already."

"What!?" explained Irma. "No way. I've not heard anything about that."

"She's older. Way older, with like a car and stuff."

I rolled my eyes. "All she did was ask you to give him a note for her."

"You didn't see the note!" she insisted. "They've probably been engaged for years or something like that!"

I wasn't in the mood for more drama so I changed the subject. "Here comes Cornelia."

There was something very melancholy about the way that Caleb stood alone and watched her walk away from him and towards us. I'd seen boys at school watch Cornelia walk away before, and that was when she appeared much younger and was certainly much more conservatively dressed. This was different though. It was almost painful to watch.

"Ehm... we can go now," Cornelia said hesitantly as she reached us, not meeting anyone's eyes.

"But surely we should get some more information," Taranee disagreed.

"I think you should tell us more about your friend there," added Will with a teasing note in her voice.

User avatar
drakensis
Padawan Learner
Posts: 239
Joined: 2009-06-27 12:00pm
Contact:

Re: An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by drakensis » 2013-03-14 07:46am

Will was having breakfast two days after New Year's Day when her phone buzzed. Things had been going better - not perfectly, but better - since our return from Meridian. Mom's birthday hadn't gone very well since it coincided with Irma getting backstage passes for a concert that weekend. Now I like listening to Karmilla as much as the next girl (as long as the next girl is Will) but I was a bit vague on how listening to them on stage is superior to the CD player.

The usual diplomatic exchange of views between Will and Mom had taken place, ending up with Mom cancelling the planned mother-daughter trip to Roseville (which sounded really interesting, except that there was zero chance I'd be able to pretend sufficient familiarity with it) and she had also forbidden Will from going to the concert.

I will admit that I had been a little out of line telling Will that I'd rather stay home and listen to her and Mom having another argument, but she had just accused me of planning to sneak out and go with the girls in her place, something that would be entirely too risky since the passes were courtesy of Irma's dad and he might well insist on dropping me off here afterwards, which would look kind of suspicious if Mom spotted him.

And then Mom had caught me in the bathroom that morning, forcing Will to spend half the day hiding in the loft while I had an excruciating awkward lunch. Mom was still fuming when I had to cover for Will sneaking out fight off another Metamoorian invasion. Doesn't Cedric ever have a new idea? And coincidentally the invasion was at the concert.

Where was I? Oh yes, the phone.

"Cornelia?" I said, recognising the caller ID.

"Will?" she asked.

"Hope. What's up this early in the morning?" I asked, keeping my voice down. She and Will had spoken just the last night, having dinner with the other girls at Irma's.

"I can't get in touch with the others." I could hear birds from the other end of the phone - she must have been calling from the balcony of her apartment.

"Hay Lin is talking to Irma and Taranee is talking to a certain Nigel."

"And how would you know that?"

"That wasn't me, it was Will's phone!" One of Will's powers was to awaken electrical appliances to some degree of intelligence. She could talk to them and get some measure of co-operation. It made me uncomfortable to be honest, particularly since I'd started to hear them too. The other Guardians could hear them, but I'd assumed it was because they were magical whereas Mom couldn't because she wasn't. If I could hear them...

I wasn't sure what it meant. Wasn't Elyon's spell supposed to make me less magical, not more?

"I heard it through the phone line grapevine, that's all," the phone added in explanation.

"Well, did Will tell you about the Interpol agents we met at Irma's house?" asked Cornelia.

"We didn't get a chance to talk yesterday and she only just woke up. What's Interpol?"

"The international police!" Cornelia hissed. "They're investigating Elyon's disappearance and they found out that her family's paperwork was falsified!"

"Uh-oh." That didn't sound good. If nothing else it meant that getting Miss Rudolph to set up false paperwork for me might not work, but if the police were poking around then who knew what else they might find out. "What else can go wrong?"

"They've been parked outside for hours! I must have made them suspicious last night."

"What for? They can't think that you had anything to do with Elyon disappearing!"

"I don't know! But the minute I step outside I bet they'll follow me. And we're supposed to go to Elyon's house today, to close down the portal in the cellar in case they manage to find it!"

I rubbed my head. "I guess that would look pretty suspicious. Okay, I'll tell Will and we'll see if we can figure something out." There were footsteps outside and I pressed myself against the wall behind the door, wriggling behind the free-standing full-length mirror that occupied that corner of the room. "Got to go!" Stabbing the end call button I held my breath as the door opened.

Fortunately, it was only Will. "Mom's getting dressed," she said quietly after switching on her CD player to mask the sound of our conversation. "You should be clear to get some breakfast soon."

"Thanks." I held out the cell phone. "Cornelia rang. Apparently Interpol are stalking her."

"Oh great. At least they're not watching us here. If they were they might notice you here."

We exchanged glances and then I pressed myself back into the corner while Will went to the window. "Okay, I think it's safe," she allowed after a moment and then gulped. "Wait, there's a suspicious looking guy down there. He's all covered up in a coat and hat."

"Well it is pretty cold out..."

Will squeaked and backed up sharply. "He just looked right up at the window! He's got to be another of the Interpol agents!"

I felt light-headed myself. What would happen if they caught me? Would I put in one of those rooms with the bright lights that make you confess to everything? "I'm gonna hide until he's gone! Is there any food that Mom wouldn't miss?"

"Cookies and fruit, probably." Will scratched her head. "She's dropping hints I should start thinking about cleaning up a bit, so I might be able to make a few things disappear for you. Do you want anything warm to wear up there?"

"I'll probably just curl up in my sleeping bag." That was a christmas gift from Cornelia - a very warm camping sleeping bag that kept me toasty warm even on the coldest nights. All the girls had been very generous at Christmas, something that made me feel a little guilty. After all, it wasn't as if I'd been able to get any of them presents.

(I'd tried drawing pictures since I figured that at least wouldn't mean spending money that Will was already sharing with me. The results hadn't been very impressive - and I don't just mean compared to Hay Lin, I mean compared to Irma's attempts at art.)

"Will!" Mom called through the door, "Could you do a little tidying up before you go out with your friends today?"

I ducked for cover again, in case she came in. Yikes, never mind Interpol! What if she'd heard me? I might want her to know eventually, but Will and I agreed it would take a lot of careful explanation or she'd blow up on us.

"Sure thing Mom!"

"And would you might turning the music down a little bit? At least until I've left the apartment? I can't hear the news."

"Sorry!" Will looked at me with one finger pressed against her lips as she adjusted the volume on the CD player.

After moment we heard Mom's footsteps moving away.

"Whew!" we mouthed at each other in unison and Will giggled. "I'll go get the laundry basket," she decided, looking at the clothes that had been kicked into corners of the room over the last couple of days. "Maybe I can sneak some fruit in with it, to tide you over."

"That'd be nice." I picked up a couple of sweaters that had been hung over the mirror for convenience and dropped them on top of yesterday's jeans before taking cover again as she went out the door.

Once the door was closed I scrambled up on the furniture to get up to the hatch in the ceiling. It wasn't particularly tricky - but Will's desk had developed a worrying creak after the first few dozen times I stood on it to reach and moving quietly was kind of important.

I was about halfway up the rope when its tendency to turn as I climbed brought the window into my line of sight.

The window and the rather startled face looking right at me through it.

While I was climbing a rope, which meant that my nightshirt (Will had declared two sets of pyjamas to be mine but despite the source, I preferred the long T-shirts that Irma had given me for Christmas) was riding up.

Oh come on! You'd have slipped too!

"Wh-" Thump. "Ow!"

Despite my best efforts I didn't get my feet under me onto the desk which meant that I landed on the floor. Fortunately there was a rug to soften the landing and even more fortunately I did manage to get my arms up to take the brunt instead of my chin.

"Honey?" "Hope!" Two concerned parties entered the room from different directions and then saw each other.

"I didn't mean to startle you," a mortified looking Vathek (Oh thank heavens it was only him at the window, I thought) protested. "Are you -"

"Aaaah!" Mom recovered from her shock and grabbed me by the shoulders, dragging me away from him.

There was a shout of "Mom!" and Will burst into the passage, the Heart of Kandrakar already in her hand.

"Will?" Mom looked down at me, then up at Will. "And Will? What is going on!?" She was still towing me away from the bedroom and I got a first hand view of Vathek sticking his head cautiously around the doorframe, evidently mystified by what was going on.

Will's view must have not been as good - or less charitably, she may have still been thinking of Vathek as Cedric's henchman. Whatever her reason, she shouted "Guardians unite!" and pink light filled the corridor.

"Wait...!" I managed to call out before Will pushed past us in full Guardian mode. "It's just..."

"Vathek!?" Will exclaimed at the top of her voice. "What are you doing here?"

"What did you just do!?" Mom demanded of her and then looked at Vathek. "And what were you doing in my daughter's bedroom?"

Honestly I felt more sympathy for Vathek at this moment, although given it was his fault I was probably going to be bruised from wrist to elbow for the next few days, that wasn't saying much. "Uh..."

They all looked at me.

"Oops?"

User avatar
drakensis
Padawan Learner
Posts: 239
Joined: 2009-06-27 12:00pm
Contact:

Re: An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by drakensis » 2013-03-17 02:52am

Will slapped her forehead and Mom turned me around firmly so she could look me in the face. "'Oops'? Wilhemina Vandom, what is going on here? Why is a large blue man in your room, and who is this!?" She pointed at Will.

I hung my head. "Um. That's Will."

Mom zeroed in on the most vital point immediately. "Will?"

She nodded guiltily.

"What in the world are you wearing? Is that padded?"

Will turned bright red and crossed her arms across her chest.

It took Will transforming back into herself, and then into a Guardian again, before Mom relaxed enough to let go of me. Mind you, her next words were: "I don't believe this." She leant against the wall. We hadn't even got to the explainations yet! So much for breaking this to her gently. Then she looked down at me with a perplexed expression. "If you're not Will then who are you?"

"...Hope."

"That's a lovely name, but do your parents know that you're sleeping over here? Because I would have appreciated knowing." She reached over and brushed my hair back from my face. "It's uncanny how much you look like Will."

"She doesn't have anywhere else," Will told her while I looked for words. "Look, can we talk about this in a minute? Vathek, what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be in Meridian?"

The blue-skinned giant dropped to one knee. "I bring a plea for help, Guardian. From Elyon!"

"Elyon?" asked Mom suspiciously. She darted into the kitchen and came back with a milk carton. "This girl?" she asked, pointing at the picture on the side. It was captioned: 'Elyon Brown - Missing'.

Vathek nodded solemnly. "Indeed, although I don't understand why her name is on that container."

"Because she's missing!" Mom put her hands on her hips. "Did you aliens abduct her? Her family must be frantic!"

"But her family is also in Meridian," he explained.

"It's a long story, Mom." Will looked over at me. "Another long story."

"Well you're not going anywhere until I hear those stories. Is this some sort of ungerground railroad for runaways that you've got mixed up in?"

"But...!"

"I've got a good mind to call the police right now."

I raised my hand. "May I at least get dressed? Please!"

She raised a sceptical eyebrow. "I'm not letting any of you out of my sight until I have some answers."

"Don't you have to go to work?" Will asked hopefully.

Mom's eyes narrowed. "I'll call in. Fine, the two of you can get dressed. You -" she pointed at Vathek, "- come with me. No childish games or I'll call the police right after I call work."

Vathek walked after her into the lounge with the sort of serene confidence that could only indicate he had no idea how much trouble we were all in.

Will grabbed for the nearest clothes, laundry heap or not - her attention was more on getting onto her phone to warn the others that we had been outed. Chances were that if Mom learned of the other Guardians - and it wouldn't take much now - that she'd contact their parents.

For my part I hesitated in front of the wardrobe and then pulled out a plastic carrier bag from the back. For whatever reason, I had set aside the clothes that were created with me all those weeks ago and now I dressed in them. If she forced me to leave I wouldn't be taking away anything of Will's... and the were warm and weatherproof. That might be important.

"Cornelia, there's no time," Will hissed into the phone. "You'll have to let the others know. We might..." She paused and gulped. "We might need to go to Metamoor and join Caleb's rebels until things calm down!" She had to take the phone away from her ear to protect her from the anguished squeal from the other end. "I don't like it either, but I don't see much choice!"

"You'd actually do that?" I asked as she thumbed the button to end the call. I could barely believe my ears.

Will's eyes were watering. "I hope it doesn't come to that. Come on, who knows what Mom has dragged out of Vathek by now!" She picked up Mr. Huggles - her dormouse, she'd picked a name at last - for moral reinforcement.

Mom fixed us with a suspicious look as we entered the lounge. "I think I said no games, Will. Not making yourselves up to look like each other more."

Will shoved her fists into her pockets and perched on the couch, Mr. Huggles scrambling up to cling to her shoulder. "Great. You're just looking for things to punish us for!"

"Don't speak to me like that! If you can't have an adult conversation, we can skip right to the punishments. Do you want that?"

Will scowled and lowered her head. "No," she muttered.

"M- uh, Mrs. Vandom, we're not disguising our looks. We really do look... well, identical," I explained.

Mom scowled suspiciously. "Because you're... an astral drop? Whatever that." She hesitated. "You are Hope, aren't you? You're not my daughter, are you?"

I swallowed. That brought back a hollow feeling I thought I wouldn't face again.

Will slammed her fist down on the arm of the couch. "Mom, she's my sister!"

"I think I'd have noticed giving birth a second time, or if not some time in the next thirteen years!"

"You didn't notice in the last month!" protested Will.

"This has been going on that long? Just what is this about Will!?"

"Stop it!" I shouted and buried my face in my hands. "Just stop it! Can't you not fight for once!"

Will touched my shoulder for a moment. "Vathek. What is Elyon asking for?"

"It is her parents," he explained awkwardly. "Her foster parents, who raised her here."

"I thought she blamed them for taking her away from Metamoor," I asked, not raising my head.

"I believe that she has forgiven them. She has seen how her brother imprisoned them." Vathek scowled deeply. "How he locks away anyone who thinks differently from him."

"Then why doesn't she ask Phobos to release them? Or her precious Cedric?"

The scowl slipped away. "Maybe she has. Maybe she no longer believes them as she once did. There is hope that he will not be able to deceive her any longer." He placed one hand on my head, ruffling my hair lightly at one word in his remarks. I'll leave you to guess which one. "I cannot break into the prison, Keeper of the Heart. If I could, many of my own friends would not suffer there. I have advised her to do as I do: to believe in the Guardians of the Veil."

"What!? Absolutely not!"

We all backed up at Mom's voice. "Mom!"

"You are not recruiting my little girl for some cockanamie scheme to break a couple of people out of a prison in some magical kingdom somewhere." She folded her arms. "And that's final."

"Mom!" Will bolted to her feet, the dormouse having to cling tight to avoid being flung away from her. "These people could be in real danger! You don't know what Phobos is like!"

"That's all the more reason that you shouldn't be involved!"

"I can do this!" I could practically feel the pulse in the air as the Heart of Kandracar slipped into her hand.

"No you can not!"

"Will!" I yelled as a flash of pink light engulfed us all. "Don't -" The light faded, revealing a stark windowless room with stairs leading up to a door set high in the wall. Since there wasn't a couch for me to sit on, I proceeded to fall to the floor. "Oh!"

There were an assortment of other cries of surprise and I realised that it wasn't just Will, Vathek and myself who had suddenly arrived. Or even just adding Mr. Huggles to that list.

"What happened!" exclaimed Cornelia. "Will!?"

"Wow, you just, like, teleported us all!"

Irma, dressed only in a bath towel, didn't look quite as impressed. "Yay."

"Will, are you crazy?" demanded Taranee. "What if someone saw us vanish?"

"Someone did," I grumbled. "That might not have been the best solution, Will."

"If I gave her another minute she'd have been trying to take the Heart away from me!"

"What are you talking about?"

Will looked over at Cornelia. "You didn't tell them?"

"She was still on the phone," the blonde explained, pointing at the handset that Taranee was still hanging onto.

"Getting on well with Nigel?" Irma asked slyly.

"I guess she didn't get the news either?" I asked.

"Oh, I did," she assured us. "But if this is my last chance of a decent bath, I wasn't going to miss it. I doubt they have decent plumbing in Meridian."

"What news?"

"Mom caught Vathek sneaking in to give me a message," Will explained. "Worse, she caught Hope as well."

"Oh man!" Taranee groaned. "How could this get any worse?"

Will and I exchanged looks. "Um..."

User avatar
drakensis
Padawan Learner
Posts: 239
Joined: 2009-06-27 12:00pm
Contact:

Re: An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by drakensis » 2013-03-18 06:01am

"I agree we don't have much choice about going to Meridian now," Irma agreed, "But I don't trust Vathek. What if he went back to serving Cedric?" The five of them had transformed into their Guardian forms, which at least meant Irma was more comfortably dressed.

Hay Lin nodded. "Irma's right. This could be a trap. Why won't you tell us where you found the portal that you came in through?"

"I don't know the way," he protested. "Your city is so strange, I was lucky I even found one of your homes."

"It can be a bit confusing," I agreed.

"Yeah, right." Irma glanced around the group. "What do you think, Corny?"

Cornelia gestured sharply and a wall began to spring up across the basement, cutting the more mundane parts of it off from the much larger space containing the portal and - at the moment - the eight of us. "I think we're all dressed up and the portal's open. If there's any truth to what you're saying, Vathek, we have to get moving. Now."

"Just one more thing." I gave Will a quick hug and then scrambled across the still forming wall. "I'll try to explain things to Mom."

"Hope!" she called out and Cornelia shifted her wall building efforts to leave a space for me to talk to me through. "You can't stay either! She'll hand you over to the police or something!"

"I'll try to talk her out of that. But right now for all she knows you've run off and won't ever come back. It's not fair to her to leave her thinking that."

Will frowned. "Maybe she's right. She -"

"She's afraid, Will. Afraid you'll be hurt. Afraid of losing you. Okay, shouting wasn't the smartest thing she could have done, but you know she's just as hotheaded as you are."

"Who are you calling a hothead?" she snapped and then flushed.

I spread my hands. "Let's face it, I'm a little less likely to start shouting back. That might give me a slightly better chance of persuading her."

"Mom isn't easy to persuade, unless you're Collins." Will scowled as she said the name and I could hardly blame him. He'd been sitting next to Mom at the school play just before Christmas, their relationship still going strong. "Still, if you turn on the waterworks you might have a chance. SHe almost melted when you teared up earlier."

Irma nodded wisely. "You're right. Hope's adorable when she's being a cry baby. Those big sad eyes are a devestating weapon."

"Shut up!" I don't cry that often. And it's not as if I don't have reason sometimes. "Look, even if you decide to stay there until Phobos was dealt with, you're not really planning on staying there forever, are you?"

Will didn't answer that for a moment.

"Setting aside the issues of Matt and Nigel -"

Taranee wrapped her arms around herself and Will looked wistful but said nothing.

"- I have one more compelling arguement. Remember what Irma said about plumbing? Vathek, does Meridian have flush toilets?"

He frowned. "I know what a toilet is, but how would you make one flush?"

The Guardians had vaguely horrified looks on their faces. "Good point," Hay Lin squeaked.

"Just promise me you have a plan," Cornelia pleaded. "My mom isn't going to like this."

"I have a plan," I lied, and just like that an idea popped into my head. "I'm going to go to see Miss Rudolph first. She probably knows more about this than any of us do anyway." I wondered if that was how Will came up with ideas sometimes.

"Ooh! Good idea," Irma agreed quickly. "Between you crying and Miss Ruloph's cookies, Mrs Vandom will be putty in your hands."

"Irma, do you want me to tell your dad that you ran away to join the circus as a performing monkey?"

User avatar
drakensis
Padawan Learner
Posts: 239
Joined: 2009-06-27 12:00pm
Contact:

Re: An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by drakensis » 2013-03-20 05:05pm

Want to know how well my masterful plan got before it was derailed?

Halfway to the gate out of the Brown's garden, that's how far I'd got when an official looking car pulled up and two people jumped out. The driver was a tall blond man and his companion was a smaller woman whose face was dominated by a pair of glasses even larger than Taranee's. Both wore long blue coats and from the way that they looked at me, I was obviously not who they were expecting - or perhaps hoping - to see here.

"Miss Vandom," the man started only to be elbowed by the woman.

"Will," she greeted me carefully. "It's good to see you again."

I waved my hand casually, wondering who these people were. Not teachers, not family... I walked towards the gate - there was no point doing anything suspicious like running away right now. For one thing, they were blocking the way out and I had no idea if there was a back gate or note. Bluff?

No, I decided. Not the best idea. They obviously had some expectations of Will and I'd probably be caught out quickly.

I'd come clean to Mom, at least partially. Maybe it was better to keep things simple.

"Sorry, you have the wrong girl," I replied once I was in easier earshot. "I'm guessing you think I'm Will Vandom?"

"You're not her?"

"An identical twin perhaps?" the man said sceptically.

I adopted a put-upon face and stopped outside of easy grabbing range. "Yeah, like I've never heard that before. I wouldn't mind if we were, honestly, but Mrs. Vandom says she'd remember having had twins so I don't suppose we are. And, uh, you would be?"

"I'm agent Maria Medina, from Interpol," the woman introduced herself. "And this is my partner, Joel McTiennan."

"International police?" I gave her a wide-eyed look. "Wow. How does Will know you?"

"We met last night, at the Lairs, just to ask a few questions about Elyon's disappearance. Now, since we've introduced ourselves... are you going to do the same?"

"I'm Hope." I stepped forward guilelessly and shook hands with them both. "So do you have any idea where Elyon might be? We're all worried about her." The second part was true at least.

"If we did, we'd have found her by now," Joel declared bluntly. "So what were you doing here?"

"Seeing if she's come back." I looked down at my sneakers for a moment, thinking of a plausible reason. "We've got a kind of pact. Someone checks every day and when they're back we let Cornelia know so she can shout at Elyon for scaring us all like this."

"Cornelia does the shouting does she?" asked Maria.

I spread my hands. "Girl's got a talent."

"I bet she does. And do you know anything about all your friends going missing this morning?" Joel pushed the gate sharply open and then headed up the path with quick, long strides. His coat billowed dramatically behind him as he called: "I'll see if they're inside!"

"What?" Well it wasn't a problem if he looked around, I had faith in Cornelia's wall as a defense for the portal.

Warm fingers closed around my wrist and I looked up in surprise to see that Maria had taken hold of me. "Will, whatever you're hiding, you can tell me," she pleaded.

"Uh... haven't we talked about this before? I'm Hope, not Will."

"That's not much of a cover story." She smiled slightly. "You should at least have added a family name."

I'd have folded my arms but that would have been kind of awkward with her holding onto me. "Oh come on. Call Mrs Vandom, she's met me."

Maria gave me a level look. "And I suppose you'll stay right here while I'm using the phone?"

"Look, I'm taking it on trust you're a police officer!"

She humphed. "Alright, I'll make you a deal. I'll call her if you sit in the back seat of the car while I do."

"Deal!"

"And you tell me your family name."

...Oh crab-baskets, as Irma might politely put it.

"Well?"

"That's... kind of complicated. Will says I can use Vandom but I don't think her Mom agrees. I don't have any other family name though."

"Oh come on." Now she looked like she wanted to cross her arms in frustration.

"Look, cross my heart and hope to die," I moved my finger across my chest in a sort of X-shape. "Stick a needle in my eye, I swear if I have ever had another family name I have no idea what it is!"

"That's... not how you cross your heart," she sighed and rubbed her forehead with the heel of her free hand. "Okay, just get in the back."

I had no sooner done so than she closed the door and did something fiddly with the lock of her door that locked both of the back doors. I was torn between surprise that anyone would build that into a car, sadness that there was so little trust in her that she thought it was necessary and irritation that I'd have to get out over the front seats if it came down to it.

Maria pulled out a notebook, leafed through it and then dialled a number that I was pretty sure was our home number. Well, the Vandom home number. I wasn't sure how welcome I'd be there now. Hopefully I could at least get a few things. The sleeping bag would be nice. Van Dahl's picture of me, which was up in my little loft, would be less useful, but meant more to me.

"Mrs. Vandom? This is Maria Medina, I'm with Interpol." Maria paused, listening to the reply. "Yes, it's about your daughter Will. I met her last night at the Lairs." More listening. "Run away, I see. Well I've just run into a girl who looks very much like her, but says she's called Hope."

A moment later Maria's eyebrows climbed up past the rims of her glasses. "Certainly." She reached back, offering me the handset.

I accepted cautiously. "Hello?"

"Is... is Will with you?" Mom asked tentatively.

"I'm sorry," I offered, rather inadequately I felt. "She's very... upset. I think she'll be back."

She hesitated and then, just as I was about to ask if she wanted to speak to Maria again, she asked: "Will you come back?"

I swallowed. "May I?"

She paused. "I want some answers, Hope."

Well I suppose it would have been too much to ask for. "I'll do my best. Assuming Interpol aren't going to lock me away for something or other..." I raised my eyebrows questioningly to Maria, who gestured for me to give her back her phone.

"Hello again..." She listened for a moment. "It's not quite that straightforward, Mrs. Vandom. As far as I can tell she's a runaway -"

"Running away from what?" I muttered rebelliously as she broke off again, and not due to my words.

"That could work, but what if she runs off again? Can you keep her under supervision at all times? ... No, I'm not suggesting putting her in a cell!" She looked up at me, holding the phone away from her ear. "If we take you back to Mrs. Vandom, will you stay with her?"

I hesitated, torn between a desire to say 'Yes, of course, forever if she'll have me!' and a fear of where that could lead. Shouting at me possibly. And now that she knew I wasn't Will, she'd have no reason at all to treat me kindly. I had deceived her, after all.

Maria shook her head and put the phone back. "I don't think -"

"I'll try!" I blurted.

She gave me a thoughtful look and then shrugged slightly. "Well, we can drop her off once my partner's done checking the Brown house. I'll set up a hospital appointment as soon as possible, we need to give her a complete check-up."

"Hospital?" I'd seen hospital shows on television. It looked like any number of awful things could happen there, with doctors always having to work miracles to save people.

Maria looked as if she wanted to laugh. "Okay, I'm not sure how long it'll take us to get to you. In the next hour or so, okay?" She hung up the phone. "I'm sure a tough girl like you isn't scared of hospitals."

I folded my arms and glared. After a minute she did giggle a little. "I bet you're used to getting your way everytime that you pout like that."

I was not pouting. "So you said Joel was your partner. Did you mean work or..." I trailed off teasingly.

She laughed again. "You little minx. The first; and if it was the second too then it wouldn't be any of your business."

User avatar
drakensis
Padawan Learner
Posts: 239
Joined: 2009-06-27 12:00pm
Contact:

Re: An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by drakensis » 2013-03-22 04:48pm

Joel drove fast and jerkily, I found. I wasn't sure exactly why, but I was glad of the seatbelt and gladder when he pulled up outside the apartment block. The lock on the door didn't move though until Maria was out of the car and waiting for me to get out.

"Where are the Browns?" he demanded once I'd pulled the latch of the door and at last it swung open for me.

I huffed. "I don't know." I wished that I did. It had been... well, maybe forty minutes? They'd be on the other side of the portal by now, of course, but how long would it take for them to reach the prison and what would they have to do there?

"One little girls missing," he grumbled. "Or tw and one that appears out of nowhere. What are you hiding from us?"

"Joel..." Maria's voice held a warning tone.

He turned back to look out the front of the car. "If anything happens to them, it'll be your fault for not helping us."

There didn't really seem to be a good answer to that. It might even be true, although I'm rather at a loss as to what he - or the entirety of Interpol - could have done about the situation and I wasn't about to ask any revealing questions. "Then I shall hope for a good anything, Mr. McTiennan, something I don't mind you blaming me for." I closed the door before he could reply.

Maria gave me a thoughtful look and then took my hand - at least it wasn't snaring me by the wrist this time - and led me to the door. We were barely inside when Mom came down the stairs.

"I saw you get out of the car," she explained and then gave me an awkward look before turning her head towards Maria. "Do you want to come up for a coffee?"

"That'd be lovely, but I'm going to have to turn in a report on this and get everything set up. How about I call you back once I know when the hospital can give Hope a check-up. We can talk then?"

Mom nodded in agreement and then reached out and took my free hand. "Come with me, Hope."

What else could I do but trail after her? I'd never, in my admittedly short experience, seen her like this.

She didn't say anything until we were in the apartment. She let go of my hand and pointed to a chair at the kitchen table. Once I was sat down, she took the opposite chair. "So you're Hope."

I nodded meekly.

After a moment Mom sighed. "I'm not going to hurt you."

How could I tell her that she already had? "I... you wanted answers. I'm not sure where to start."

"The beginning usually works."

"Oh. Well... I wasn't there for the beginning. I think it was... Halloweve?"

"Halloween?"

I nodded. "Yes, that's it."

"How does a girl your age not know Halloween?"

"I'm..." I calculated quickly, "Forty-three days old. I think I'm doing pretty well."

"Forty-three days?" She shook her head. "This isn't making any sense."

I groaned. "Okay, never mind that for now. There was a party at school for Halloweve."

"Halloween."

"Whatever. There was some trouble at the party, something about the fireworks I think. Some of the girls..." I paused and then realised there wasn't much point to trying to hide their identities since WIll had teleported them away. "Cornelia, Taranee, Irma and Hay Lin; had noticed that odd things were going on. Irma's dress changed colour. Cornelia's room tidied itself -"

"I wouldn't mind that sort of strange thing happening to Will's room every now and then."

I giggled. "Yes, well. That night all five of them dreamed of the Heart of Kandrakar."

"What's that?"

"You might have seen Will holding it just before we left. Pink glowing crystal in a silver setting?"

"I didn't get a good look before you disappeared," she said sadly. "Where did you go? That blue man - Vathek? - his home?"

"Well, not directly. To Metamoor, anyway. I don't know if Vathek even has a home of his own. Um. The two Interpol people didn't mention the disappearing so I suppose you didn't tell them about that?"

Mom shook her head. Her long black hair was almost as impressive when tossed like that as Cornelia's longer blonde locks. I felt pronounced hair envy: maybe I could grow my hair out someday? "No. Without evidence they'd just have assumed I was hysterical or lying. I wasn't sure about the first as it was."

I rubbed my head. "So they'd not believe in magic?"

"I rather doubt it. I'm not convinced myself."

That seemed a little odd. I'd literally never known an instant where magic wasn't a real factor in my life. Granted, a factor that I understood almost nothing at all about, but undeniably real. Then again, my life wasn't exactly typical. Then a more pressing concern presented itself and I blushed as my stomach rumbled.

Mom's expression shifted slightly. "Let me guess. No breakfast?"

I laughed awkwardly. "Not really. I was going to get some fruit but..."

She sighed and pointed at the fruit bowl. "Have something to tide you over. I'm sure we've got enough in the fridge to feed you for today... or we can order out if we have to."

I took an orange from the bowl and started to peel it.

"No wonder we've been going through so much food," she added after a minute. "I thought it was Will having her friends over all the time, not that I was feeding two teenage appetites full time."

"Sorry."

"It doesn't matter particularly, I was just thinking out loud. So you said that the girls all dreamed of the Heart of Candy-car?"

"Kandrakar," I corrected her mildly. "Yes, so they tell me. And the next day, when they were at Hay Lin's her grandmother had the Heart and explained they were Guardians of the Veil. There was lots of capitalisation being thrown around I guess."

"I think I'd like to have a word with her about dragging young girls into this," Mom declared angrily.

"Ah... that's probably not going to go so well. She died before I was created."

Mom made an angry noise that suggested to me that it might be for the best that Mrs. Lin wasn't around. If nothing else, Hay Lin and Will might have gotten dragged into the shouting.

"Anyway," I said hastily. "That's when Elyon disappeared. While the other girls were with Mrs. Lin, she'd gone to see a boy she met at the Halloween party. His name's Cedric and he's from Metamoor, another world ruled by Prince Phobos. I don't know exactly what happened but by that evening he'd convinced her she was Phobos' long-lost sister and that she should help him lure her friends into a trap. That was their first real battle and they barely escaped him. If they hadn't had the Heart and been able to transform... they might have been captured or worse."

"That's what worries me." She frowned. "Go back a bit, you said you were created?"

"Yes, this was a little later. Um, you remember when you had that cold and had to take a day off work?"

She nodded and then frowned. "Will went out that evening and didn't come back for hours! Was she off in this Metamoor place?"

"Ah... no, she was... chasing me down. Um. You see Taranee had been captured a couple of days before so the day before, everyone had gone into Metamoor to rescue her. Will had come up with the idea of creating Astral Drops which are sort of... magical puppets? She created one to take Taranee's place so her family wouldn't worry about her."

"A clone?"

"A what?"

"A clone. A... perfect copy of someone."

I shoved a couple of segments of orange into my mouth to give me time to think. "I suppose so," I agreed at last. "Although we're not exactly perfect copies. Anyway, since they didn't know how long it would take to find Taranee, they created Astral Drops for the rest of them before they went. So when you found Will asleep on the couch that night..."

"It was you?" she asked accusingly. "Oh that girl! Why didn't she tell me!?"

"..."

"What?" Her eyes were flashing with anger.

"Probably..." I gulped nervously. "Because she was afraid you'd do what you did this morning?"

To my horror, Mom's face crumpled from anger to anguish. "Oh god! What have I done!?" She buried her face in her hands. "Will's afraid of me!"

I went around the table and put my arms around her shoulders. It wasn't until she stiffened that I realised that that might not be the best idea. "She's afraid that you won't want her."

"How could she think that!? Will's everything to me!"

It wouldn't have been diplomatic to point out that at least while I'd known them, they'd also had at least one blazing row each week. Instead I hugged her tighter. "I know." There were tears in my own eyes. What would be left for me if Will never returned? What if my clumsiness this morning divided her from Mom forever? How could I ever forgive myself if that happened?

She put one arm around me. "You care for her too."

"Of course I do!"

She patted me on the back. "Let me up a moment."

Opening one of the cupboards she pulled out a dark green glass bottle and filled a glass with the dark red contents. It took me a moment to realise that it looked like what Van Dahl had been drinking when I first met him. "Is that wine?"

"Yes."

"Isn't that alcoholic?" I folded my arms. "Will said I shouldn't drink anything alcoholic. It's bad for me."

"It's not for you." She lifted the glass.

"Well if it's no good for me, how is it any good for you?"

Mom put the glass down. "You're too young to drink. What was it, forty-five days?"

"Forty-three. So I'm younger and probably healthier. Either pour me a drink or you don't have any either." I was not having Will come back and find out her Mom was ill for drinking something she shouldn't.

"Are you... I'm a grown woman! You're being ridiculous!" She gave the glass a guilty look and then looked back at me.

I did my best to look stern and unbending. Which probably wasn't very good, really.

She threw up her hands. "Alright." Mom poured the contents of the glass down the sink and put the bottle away. "So Will doesn't approve of drinking? That's reassuring."

"I think it's more that she doesn't think that you do."

"I don't as a rule." Mom looked defensive. "We were talking about you, weren't we?"

I let her get away with the change of subject - better to quit while I was ahead I felt. "Yes, we were. The thing is... well, Astral Drops are supposed to have all their template's memories. Taranee's did a wonderful job of replacing her, no one suspected a thing and Will... didn't particularly like the idea of someone being able to replace her."

"So she made herself a sister instead?"

"Not exactly. Or at least not intentionally. The rest of the Astral Drops were as intended: they knew who they were supposed to be and didn't have any objection to being re-absorbed once the Guardians came back. But WIll made a mistake with me: she didn't give me any of her memories."

"But surely you must have had some idea, or how could you have fooled me that day? Or got through school?" Mom shook her head. "You took a maths test that day, and you did quite well, didn't you?"

"I had some basics. Talking, writing, riding a bike. Besides that I was lucky and... well, honestly? Why would you suspect Will had been replaced by an Astral Drop?"

"I suppose not. So how did things go from you replacing her for a day to her chasing you that night?"

I grimaced. "Well, I'm not all that keen on being reabsorbed into her. I had a taste of being alive and I wanted more. So when she got back I ran away."

Mom moved closer and cupped her hand around my neck. "Where would you have gone?"

"Well I was going to try to get to Metamoor. I'm not sure how bright an idea that was now that I've been there, but I was mostly concerned with getting away from Will. I figured she'd not be able to find me there."

"How would you have got there? Magic?"

"There are portals. One of the things the Guardians do is close them, but I didn't know that at the time, just that Will and the others had used one to get there, so I tried to do the same thing. Of course, they'd closed it when they got back." I shrugged. "Will found me while I was still trying to figure out what was going on."

"And she decided to take in another stray?" asked Mom ruefully.

I... hadn't thought of it like that before. But no, she'd called me her sister. That had to be different from her decision to keep Mr Huggles around, didn't it?

Mom pulled me closer and wrapped her other arm around my shoulders. "I have to admit that I was expecting her to be a bit older before she brought someone else into the family. And I've no idea how we're going to explain this to the police."

What?

"But there's going to be some ground rules, young lady."

She didn't mean...?

"Uh... you mean I can stay?" I asked nervously.

Mom kissed me on the forehead. "Welcome to the family, Hope. You're grounded."

I don't think I could have come up with anything to say so I hugged her back. What did being grounded matter? Being forced to spend a lot of time in the apartment? That wasn't exactly unexplored territory for me.

She ruffled my hair. "We're going to have to figure out some new sleeping arrangements though. I had a look at that little loft of yours. It's very cleverly put together, but it's not good enough for my daughter."

"It's alright."

"No, it's not," Mom insisted. "It's a pokey little hole. If Will hadn't felt she had to hide you from me, you could have had a proper bed at least. Not a pile of cushions and a sleeping bag." She produced a handkerchief from her sleeve and wiped at my face. I hadn't even realised I was crying.

"Can I..."

She took the handkerchief away and raised one eyebrow.

"Can I call you Mom?"

"I insist on it," she told me and then we both needed to use the handkerchief.

User avatar
drakensis
Padawan Learner
Posts: 239
Joined: 2009-06-27 12:00pm
Contact:

Re: An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by drakensis » 2013-03-24 03:27am

For now Mom settled on Will and I sharing the double-bed from her room, so we worked together to switch the beds between bedrooms. She didn't mention for a moment the possibility that Will might not come back to share the bed with me. Nor did I. It didn't bear thinking about.

I was up in the loft, rolling up my sleeping bag, when the phone rang.

"Hold on a moment, Hope." Mom climbed down the ladder - she'd sniffed dismissively at the rope and when I protested, she'd asked archly what it was I'd fallen from this morning - and left the bedroom.

The sleeping bag wasn't particularly breakable so once it was rolled up, I dangled it out of the hatch and flipped it in the direction of the bed. It unrolled partly as it fell and bounced on the mattress. One at a time I flung the cushions I'd been sleeping on after the bag. Without them up here, there really wasn't much left: Van Dahl's drawing, a night-light Will had set up for me and three books that I'd have to take back to the library some time soon.

It all seemed much less cozy now than it had this morning.

"I did ask you to hold on a moment," Mom told me from the door. "Did you leave anything up there?"

"Just the breakables."

"Well pass those down carefully." She climbed the steps again and I passed her the night-light first.

"Is there a plug socket up there for this?"

"No," I answered, "But Will has a way with electrical appliances." I decided not to mention that Giles (the light) would also read to me sometimes when I was tired. All I had to do was hold the book under him and turn the pages when he told me to. It was sometimes comforting when I was lonely up in the loft, and it wasn't as if I had to worry about anyone but Will hearing his voice. I waited until she had both hands on the lamp before letting go and carefully removing the pins holding the drawing of me to a rafter. "Who was on the phone?"

"Matt Olsen. He was wondering why Will hadn't turned up for work at his grandfather's shop... What's this?" asked Mom when I passed her the drawing.

"It was a present," I told her shortly. "Please be careful with it."

"I will." She climbed down and rested it on the computer keyboard. "It's lovely, did Hay Lin draw this?"

I gathered up the books, ready to hand them down. "No, it was a Mr. Van Dahl."

Mom didn't reach up to take the books. "Wi- er, Hope. How did a man happen to draw a picture of you sleeping?" she asked, putting her hands on her hips.

"Well I was sleeping on his bed..." I saw her face going red and flinched. "Er... did I do something wrong?"

"And did anything else happen in that bed?"

I thought frantically. "I don't think so? What else would happen in a bed?"

Mom muttered something I didn't quite catch. "Hope, did Will ever mention anything to you about the birds and the bees?"

I gave her a blank look.

"How about boys and girls and where babies come from?"

"You mean romantic stuff? Um... does talking about Matt count?"

"I rather doubt it." She shook her head and then reached up for the books. "I think we'd better have a little chat about this young lady. There are a few things about boys - and men - that any girl your age ought to know before she gets herself into trouble."

Why did I have a feeling of impending doom?

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

"I solemnly swear... no boy touches my unclad body... until I am at least sixteen... Is that sixteen counting from November?" I asked, realising a slight possible conflict between what I was reciting and my actual circumstances. Sixteen years from the date of my creation would be after Will's twenty-ninth birthday.

"Let's count that as your thirteenth birthday, Hope. Mind you, I wouldn't be upset if you waited a good bit more than three years, but that's all I'm insisting on."

"For the next three years, then... and either you or Will gives me a second opinon... cross my heart..." Mom stopped me and moved my hand through what was apparently the proper way of doing that. "...and hope to die."

"Good girl," she assured me and returned the banana to the fruitbowl. Seeing my horrified look, she removed it again and threw it into the bin. "That's enough about that I think. Now how about some... goodness, it's still more or less lunch time. Well, I don't know about you but I'm hungry."

Within a few minutes, the makings of some sizeable sandwiches were spread out across the table. Almost mystically my appetite had returned after vanishing about halfway through Mom's description of childbirth.

"I think we're going to have to talk about what to tell the police," Mom decided, spreading some butter over some thick slices of bread. "They will want to know where you are from and if they can't find some confirmation, I doubt they'll be too happy about me adopting you."

I drew my attention away from the important business of layering cold chicken over some cheese and ham on my own plate. "Well I don't imagine that it would be a good idea to lie to them..."

"It would be a very bad idea. The only reason I'm even considering it is that letting anyone know that Will is a Guardian of the Veil might put her in even more danger." She held up one hand. "And discussion of that part of your sister's life will have to wait until she returns."

I rubbed my hands. "Oh that's going to be fun?"

"And what do you mean by that?"

"Just that you both tend to finish 'discussions' shouting at each other."

Mom looked pained. "I know," she admitted. "But now she doesn't have to hide everything in her life from me. Maybe that will make things better."

"I hope so. Just... try to keep your temper in check? Please?"

"My temper?"

"Well you're the adult..."

She dropped her knife and gave me a look that I wasn't sure how to interpret. "You're going to take some getting used to, I can tell."

"Uh..." What was I supposed to say to that? "Maybe we should tell the police enough about the truth for them to draw their own conclusions," I suggested, going back to the previous topic of conversation. "It's perfectly true that I met Will, Irma, Cornelia and Hay Lin at Shell Cave and that I have no memory of anything before then. And Will really did bring me home from there and hid me from you for the last six weeks. If the police want to go looking for my past before that... well, let them."

She nodded and started adding honey to her bread. "That could work. There is one lead that they could follow though."

I gave her a blank look.

"Do you have any idea what a blood test of you will show? Or a DNA test?"

"I don't even know what they are... I mean... I probably have blood, but I'm not quite as... real as Will is." I didn't dwell on the differences, we'd already established that I hadn't had what Mom had delicately described as a 'monthly visitor' yet, whereas Will had started the year before. If Elyon's spell was still working and it performed as intended then I would probably get to 'enjoy' that too, sooner or later.

Mom nodded. "Mostly they'll be checking your blood for traces of disease and of drugs..."

"Drugs?"

"That's a conversation for another day, I think. The point is though, that they might well find anomalies that will suggest that you aren't... normal. And if that isn't a problem, your DNA will be copied from Will, which will show you to be my daughter and Tony's. I don't know what will happen if he gets contacted about this."

"Tony?"

"Will's father and my former husband." Mom looked sad. "I hate to say it, but I'd rather he never learned of you."

I nodded. "Well there's not much we can do about the medical tests except react to whatever they find as if we don't know it. Which will be easy because..."

"...we don't." She nodded her understanding. "It seems a little chancy."

"I seems very chancy. No offense, Mom, but if someone suggests cutting me open to try to answer any questions raised then I'm going to run away. Probably to Metamoor."

"I'm fairly sure that that only happens in the X-Files, Hope, but if they do try then I'll be with you."

The heartwarming moment was interrupted by the phone ringing again. "We're popular today. No, never mind, I've got it," I added when Mom started to get up.

The phone was just through in the living room. "Vandom Residence?"

"Will?" a man's voice asked. "It's Dean Collins."

I fought down the urge to drop the phone. He may have given me a B on the history report, but that wasn't buying me off for being mad at him giving it to me in the first place. "It's not Will."

"Susan? You're sounding..."

"Not Mom either. Do you want to talk to her?"

"Er... yes please."

"Mom! Confused guy on the phone for you!"

She gave me a look that would have been more intimidating if it wasn't the twinkle in her eye as she took the phone off me. "Hello? ... Oh, Dean!"

I was on my way back to my sandwich when she said, "Don't be silly. Hope and I were just having lunch. Why don't you come over in an hour or so. I'm sure she'd love to meet you."

"We've met," I murmured, hopefully quietly enough that the phone wouldn't pick it up.

Mom arched an eyebrow in a way that I realised meant she'd want to know all about that, and soon. Oops. Hopefully Will wouldn't get into trouble over cutting class that day. Well, too much trouble. I was still a little annoyed about her running off to go swimming, even if it was a plot by Elyon and Cedric.

"She's a friend of Will's but she's all alone in the world, Dean. I'm going to adopt her."

I didn't think that that was quite true, but I guess any talent I have for deception had to come from somewhere."

"Okay, I'll see you in an hour or so," Mom finished and put the phone down. "So when did you -"

The phone rang again. We exchanged looks and she picked it up. "Susan Vandom speaking. ... Oh, Agent Medina!"

Great. The call about the hospital check-up.

"Just let me get a pen..." Mom noted down some information. "Okay, we'll see you there." She didn't put the phone down this time, just tapping the release and then dialling another number. "I'm going to call work and let them know I'll not be in tomorrow morning either. You finish your lunch, and you can either plan what you're going to tell Agent Medina about yourself or what you're going to tell me about meeting Dean."

What a decision...

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

Dean Collins smiled somewhat uncertainly as I opened the door. "Ah, Will! I gather you have a new sister."

I shrugged. "I'm the new sister. Will's out."

He didn't come in when I stepped back from the door, instead giving me a disbelieving look. "Really?"

"I suppose you'll see when she gets back. Are you coming in or not?"

"Oh, uh, yes." He obediently came in and I waved him towards the lounge where Mom was waiting.

She greeted him with a happy "Dean!" and for a moment I overlaid the image of Will and Matt over them - not that there seemed to be much of an actual relationship going on there, at least that I'd noticed. But somehow, if it did work out, I thought that they might be like these two. So this was romance...

Somehow I couldn't see myself in such a role, but perhaps - as Mom had implied - I was still simply too young, in heart if not body, for such a thing. I could wait.

"I see you've met Hope," she told him after they'd clasped hands for a moment.

"Yes," he agreed, still sounding uncertain.

"For the second time, she tells me."

Professor Collins blinked and turned towards me, a questioning look on my face.

"Third time, technically," I clarified. "We met twice one day - you thought I was Will, which was kind of intentional since we were hiding my existence."

"Well... I can see how I'd fall for that. The resemblence is uncanny."

"You're not the only one they fooled," Mom agreed. "Apparently I've had two daughters since November and neither felt they ought to tell me."

"We're going to be paying for that for a long time, aren't we?" I asked.

"Yes, you are. In your case, you're going to have a lot of school to catch up on."

"I've been working on that!"

"I know and I am pleased about that, but you can't educate yourself as well from books as organised teaching can. Once school starts again, you're going to be taking some placement tests, young lady."

"I'm sure Principal Knickerbocker would be delighted to arrange that," offered Professor Collins. "I assume you'd like Hope to attend Sheffield Institute with Will?"

Mom nodded. "You already have friends there, don't you, Hope?"

"Mostly Will's friends, but yes."

"Well that should work out then," Collins said confidently. "I can talk to the Principal and I'm sure that something can be set up next week once school's back in session."

Then Mom leant forwards and asked a question I'd hoped that she wouldn't think of. "So, Hope, when you met Dean twice in one day, was one of those times at school?"

...rats. I need to learn to keep my mouth shut about incriminating details. "Let's just say there was one history class where Will might have said something unfortunate to you if pressed. She really wasn't too happy that you and Mom were talking about her grades, particularly behind her back."

They exchanged glances. "Well it's not as if I don't have an interest," Mom protested.

"I'm not trying to get into that argument again," I assured her. "Just... if you're upset about my grades I'd rather hear about it before it's used as an arguement against my doing something other than studying."

Mom flushed and Dean chuckled lightly, although he cut off sharply when she turned her head in his direction. "You know your own mind, don't you?"

I shrugged.

"I promise to talk about it with you, as long as I get the chance to," Mom assured me. "Between my work and Will always running off with her friends, I don't always have that opportunity."

Once I spread my hands slightly to concede her point, she added: "I can already tell you're going to be keeping me and Will in line."

I pointed at myself and gave her the 'who, me?' look. You all know the one.

Mom laughed. "And who was it who was giving me a hard time over a glass of wine earlier? I feel for my future grandchildren."

"I am not in any hurry." I shuddered. Mom's description of giving birth to Will had been... detailed.

That got a laugh from both of them. "Nor am I, sweetheart." Mom gave me a hug. "So why don't you tell Dean about what subjects you like at school..."

User avatar
drakensis
Padawan Learner
Posts: 239
Joined: 2009-06-27 12:00pm
Contact:

Re: An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by drakensis » 2013-03-28 03:29am

*Hope!*

I sat bolt upright as I heard Taranee's voice inside my head. *Taranee? You're back?*

"Hope, are you okay?" Mom asked, breaking off her conversation with Collins.

"Bathroom," I said hastily, dropping my spoon into the bowl of soup I'd been eating and running for that room. *Is everyone okay?* Her mental voice sounded fainter than I remembered it.

*We're okay. I can't talk long at this distance though. Are you okay? Miss Rudolph said she hadn't seen you!*

The news took a weight off my chest that I hadn't realised until it was gone. They were safe! *I'm with Mom and Professor Collins at home,* I explained quickly. *I'll fill you in once you're closer, but I think things are going to work out.*

*That's good. Do my parents know?* she thought worriedly.

*Not yet.* I'm not sure she heard me though. She didn't reply.

When I looked in the mirror I realised that there were tears running down my face. I wasn't sad or afraid any more, but now I was crying? "Silly," I told my reflection and used a cloth to wipe them away.

"Are you okay in there?" Mom opened the door a crack and saw my face.

'Will's safe', I mouthed quickly, before she could get the wrong idea. I mopped at my face again. "I'm sorry, everything just hit me at once."

"Oh honey, it's going to be okay." She put her arms around me.

"I know... I... I'm just crying for some reason."

Mom took the cloth and helped me dab away the tears. "It's been a bit of a strange day, hasn't it?"

I nodded jerkily.

Collins cleared his throat from outside the room. "Is there anything I could do to help?" he asked nervously.

"Put some plates over our bowls, Dean. We may be a moment or two." She waited until his footsteps told us he'd gone back to the kitchen. "He's a sweet guy," she confided. "I wish that Will could see that."

I didn't say anything.

"You don't like him either?"

Great. "I'm not getting involved in this, Mom."

"You're part of this family, you are involved."

"Mom... okay, look. The first time I met him, I'd really been excited about going to school. It wasn't something I'd been able to do: Will really didn't have to talk me into it, I was happy to. I could go out, meet our friends, have new experiences. And then, first class, history. I left that class feeling about two inches tall. I know he isn't always like that... but when I look at him I just can't forget that class."

"It was that bad?"

"It felt that way." I took her arm as she started to head towards the door. "Look, since then he's been okay and I get that no one's perfect. Don't make a big deal about it."

Mom scowled. "It is a big deal, Hope. It doesn't matter if it's you or Will, no one gets to have a go at my daughters."

"I think Vathek got off lucky then." Oops. I probably should not have said that.

"Oh really?" Mom took a seat on the toilet and gestured for me to sit down on the edge of the bath. "So what's your history with him?"

"Well, not so much personally. I met him in Metamoor after he joined the rebels there. The thing is, before that he worked for Cedric."

"This would be one of the enemies?" asked Mom. "I have to admit I have trouble seeing someone called Cedric as a problem."

"You wouldn't say that if you saw him. He's this horrible snake-man thing." I shivered. "And however bad Professor Collins was, he's a thousand times meaner. He had Elyon threaten to kill me if I didn't steal the Heart of Kandrakar for him."

"And Vathek worked for that monster?" Mom exclaimed. "How could you possibly have anything to do with him?"

"Well he stood up to him later. And he was pretty nice when I met him. I wasn't feeling so well after... uh, after coming through the portal so he carried me around on his shoulder most of the time."

"Well I suppose that that was nice of him." She still looked unhappy though. "It does leave me with a few questions though: why did the portal leave you unwell, why were you in Metamoor anyway and why is this Phobos your enemy. From what you say, Elyon is his sister..."

"Yes. And if he'd just taken her back and stayed there probably no one would have ever known. But she kept coming back, baiting the others and luring them into traps. From what we've seen, Phobos is a tyrant. We don't know for sure what he's after but with the way he keeps trying to bring down the Veil between worlds he wants to come here. And I don't think he's planning on bringing cookies and tea."

"This sounds more and more like a chidren's cartoon."

"That'd be nice."

Mom gave me a look. "How do you mean?"

"I've seen those things! No one's ever really hurt and they always end with a laugh." I hung my head. "I guess real life isn't that neat and tidy."

"Well maybe it is this time," Mom suggested. "You said that Will's okay, right? Are the others?"

I nodded. "That's what Taranee said."

"How did she tell you? Some sort of magical telephone?"

"She's a telepath - you know, speaking to me with her mind."

"A telepath!" Mom shook her head. "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. So they all have powers like that? Can she tell you when they'll be back?"

I spread my hands. "We're outside her usual range, she barely got through with a quick message to me. They're going to come here though. I expect they'll check with me once they're closer to see if it's safe to come in."

"Why wouldn't it be safe?"

I nodded towards the door. "Do you want him here for the explanations?"

Mom froze for a moment. "I..."

"Imagine, for a moment, having what's likely to be a... um... emotional discussion with Will, with him in the room," I suggested. I could imagine it all too well.

She sighed. "I guess not."

User avatar
drakensis
Padawan Learner
Posts: 239
Joined: 2009-06-27 12:00pm
Contact:

Re: An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by drakensis » 2013-03-30 02:23am

We found Dean in the kitchen, sitting awkwardly as if he were unsure if he was allowed to go anywhere else.

"Dean, I'm sorry, I'm not being a very good hostess today."

The teacher shook his head in denial. "Being a good hostess isn't as important as being a good mother, Susan. I understand that." He nodded to the covered bowls in front of our seats. "I'm afraid they might need to be reheated though."

"Well that's why we have a microwave." Mom took our bowls over to it. Once her hands were free again she pulled her cellphone out of her hip pocket. "Will texted me to let me know she's on her way home. I imagine she'll be a little while yet, but once she gets here I think I'm going to have to lay down the law a bit."

Professor Collins looked at her for a moment and then caught the hint. "Ah. Not the sort of conversation that would be helped by having someone she sees as an interloper around?"

"I feel rotten about this when I invited you over, but..."

"It's alright. Don't be too hard on her, Susan. After all, you have been talking about her needing to be responsible and I think it's hard to say she's taken too little responsibility by caring for Hope - more in the other direction," he finished with a nod in my direction.

I felt my cheeks colour slightly. "I can pull my own weight."

"I'm not saying you haven't," Professor Collins assured me. "I'm just pointing out that Will must have too."

The microwave dinged merrily and I - but not the two adults - heard it declare proudly: "All done!"

"Yeah, yeah," the stove grumbled. The pair of appliances seemed to have something of a rivalry.

Collins rose to his feet. "I'll see of I can talk to Mrs. Knickerbocker tonight about Hope's placement tests."

"On a Friday night?" asked Mom in surprise.

"If the last couple of years are any guide, she'll be getting an early start making sure that the school is ready for Monday morning," he advised us. "I think Sheffield Institute's more a home to her than her house is."

"I'm sorry," Mom said again to him.

"And I'm happy to help."

"Why don't you walk him downstairs, Mom?" I suggested. "I can take care of the soup."

She gave me a grateful look and once they had departed I put her bowl back in the microwave and dug into my own. I'm not saying it was the greatest soup ever made (it was from a tin, after all), but it was warm and filling, which was what I wanted right now. It also wasn't Mom's homemade soup, about which the less said the better. I might not have the widest range of experience when it came to food but I knew that Will and Taranee were competing in tales of culinary disasters by Mom and Mr Cook and that wasn't a good sign.

I'd finished the bowl and was running the tap to give it a quick soak before I put it in the dishwasher when the apartment door opened and Mom called: "Hello Hope, look who I found outside."

"Will?" I guessed. Wasn't Taranee going to give me a mental call when they were close?

"I'll give you partial credit for that."

"Hi Hope," Will grumbled as she was marched into the kitchen, along with the other four Guardians. "We got caught."

"No kidding. At least it wasn't Cedric or Frost," I pointed out. "Welcome home."

"Frost?" asked Mom. "Another of Phobos's people I take it?"

"I guess Hope explained about that," Cornelia sighed. "Yes. Nasty fellow who used to ride around on a rhinoceros-monster until Will left it locked in Van Dahl's painting.

"He was really nice once Frost wasn't on top of it," my sister reminisced.

There were a succession of eye rolls. I dreaded the possibility that Cedric one day thought to send a frog-monster after the Guardians - Will would probably be too busy cooing over it to do anything useful.

"The phone's in the lounge," Mom reminded the other girls pointedly. "Don't you have phone calls to make?"

"Yes, Mrs. Vandom," Irma, Taranee, Taranee and Hay Lin chorused, obediently. There was something odd about Irma's clothes and it took me a moment to realise that her sweater was definitely too tight for her.

"Irma, where did you get those clothes?" She hadn't had any except for her Guardian uniform, last time I'd seen her.

"I borrowed them from Elyon's wardrobe," she explained. "Why? I'll put them through the laundry before I put them back."

"Are you going to fix that seam too?" I asked her, pointing at one armpit, where the strain of containing someone noticeably more 'developed' than Elyon (or the rest of us) had evidently pulled something loose. (In fairness, I think Irma was just sturdily built as well. Elyon's kind of willowy).

"Er..."

Mom rolled her eyes. "Come with me Irma. Will's clothes won't fit you either but I guess I can lend you a T-shirt."

"So what are they making phone calls for?" I asked Will quietly once everyone else had left the kitchen.

"Mom told them they could call home and arrange to have dinner here while I explain about the Guardians or she could call their homes and explain she'd seen us run off with a shady looking guy. So why didn't you go to Miss Rudolph?"

"I was detained by the police before I even reached the street," I explained quickly. "They seemed to know you - Maria and Joel?"

"Oh, those Interpol people from yesterday! Do you think they suspect anything?"

"I'm sure they suspect something, but it's probably not the truth. Oh, they're probably going to ask some questions about how you found me down at that cave with no memories."

Will blinked. "What? They know about you!?"

"Yep. Mom's been very understanding."

"I knew she'd like you." Her face fell. "She must be furious."

"I think she's past that. Mind you, she still grounded me."

"That's so harsh!" Hay Lin exclaimed as she came back in. "How long for?"

"Pretty much until she says otherwise." I shrugged. "It's not a big deal: she's seeing about getting me into school too so I'll probably actually be getting out much more than I'm used to."

"But only to school. That's harsh," Will pointed out. "Do you think she's going to ground me too?"

We looked at each other. We both nodded.

"That's so cute!" Hay Lin declared. "Not being grounded," she added hastily, "But doing things together like that."

"I think you might want to focus on getting an exemption to your grounding for being a Guardian," I suggested hastily to Will. Who knew how long Mom would be with Irma?

Will looked surprised. "You think she'll agree to it?"

"I didn't say that it would be easy."

We were interrupted by an appalled shriek from Mom's bedroom: "No, you can't!"

The two of us were only a hair behind Hay Lin as we burst into the room. Irma - now wearing a Vance Michael Justin T-shirt that I hadn't even known that Mom had - was actually white-faced. "My dad's a cop!" she exclaimed. "He'll lock me away forever if he finds out about this."

"The fact that he's a police officer is precisely why you should have told him," Mom pointed out firmly. "Something like this should be dealt with by the police - or perhaps the army. Not young girls like you - or a single mother like me either." She made a shooing gesture. "Now, back into the lounge. Irma still has a phone call to make."

"Mom, you can't just tell everyone about this!"

"I most certainly can," she shot Will down firmly, but then raised her hand. "However, you'll get your chance to dissaude me in a few minutes. I admit I don't know everything, so I'm going to hear you all out first. But I'm warning you, you're going to have to have some pretty good reasons for me not to tell the authorities and I really can't think of anything you might say that wouldn't justify me telling your parents. What if one of you didn't come back from one of these... things that you do? Can you imagine how they would feel, never knowing what happened to their daughters?"

I'm not sure how much of that WIll actually listend to because her response was to stab an accusatory finger at the bed in Mom's room. "Is that my bed?"

"We don't have a third bed, Will, so you and Hope will be sharing for now."

"Sharing a bed!"

"No daughter of mine is sleeping in that pokey little hole."

"Okay..."

I caught Will's shoulder and pulled her out of the room. "Look at it this way," I whispered. "Now she has a single bed, she can't share it with anyone."

Will's eyes went wide. "Ew! I don't even want to think about that!"

"She gave me an extensive talking to about boys this morning." I put my hands on my hips. "I may be traumatised."

"Your Mom gave you The Talk!?" exclaimed Irma. She gave me a sympathetic hug. "Don't worry, we'll help you get over it. Hey, now that you're not a secret maybe I can set you up with Martin!"

"I wouldn't dream of spoiling your beautiful relationship," I told her sweetly.

"We're not in a relationship!"

"But you went on a date and everything."

"There was no everything! He took me to the Museum, as a friend! And only because my stupid Astral Drop agreed to it!"

"So you want to pawn him off on me?"

"Well it'd let you break into dating the easy way..."

Cornelia raised on eyebrow as we walked into the lounge. "Whatever she's trying to sell you, Hope, don't buy it."

"I wasn't planning to," I assured her. "So your parents are okay with you staying for dinner?"

She nodded. "Of course. So how did things work out here?"

"As far as anyone but Mom goes, you girls found me in that cave down on the beach and I don't remember anything before then."

"That should be easy to remember."

"Of course if she decideds to tell the police the truth, I guess that's not going to matter," I added.

"The truth? As in... all about us?" Cornelia's voice had a definite squeak to it. "But everyone would think we're freaks."

"Hey, we're like, superheroes!" protested Irma. "Are you done on the phone, Taranee?"

The other Guardian gave her weary look. "I promise, Mom, I won't be out late and you can call me here any time," she said into the phone. "Sure, I'll call you to pick me up when we're done. ... No later than eight, I promise. ... I love you too, Mom." Taranee handed the phone over to Irma. "Mom's going to kill me when she finds out about my being a Guardian."

I patted her reassuringly on the shoulder, trying to think of something to say. 'You can have my pokey little loft to hide in,' probably wouldn't have the right ring to it and besides, Mom knew about it now. Apparently a verbal response wasn't required because she leant against me and began to sniffle. I very cautiously put my arms around her shoulders and manuvered her towards the couch. Will perched on the corner so she could hug Taranee from the other side and Cornelia sat herself neatly beside me.

Mom waited until Irma had finished talking her mother into letting her stay for dinner and then waved the other to onto the other couch. "So, from what Hope tells me, your grandmother gave Will the Heart of Kandrakar and that's what gives you..." She looked lost for words for a moment. "Magic powers? And then this Phobos character started sending people after you?"

"It's not grandma's fault!" Hay Lin protested.

"Ah..." That wasn't what I'd said? Was it?

"Let them speak, Hope."

*That's not what I told her!* I thought, hoping that Taranee would be listening.

"We had powers before Mrs. Lin told us about the Guardians," Cornelia insisted quickly. "Taranee protected Irma and Will from the fireworks that went wild at the Halloween Party."

"Yeah!" Irma agreed. "And the minute Cedric had his claws into Elyon he had her help him set a trap for him. We'd never even heard of him, but he and Vathek would have captured me, Hay Lin and Will the next night if Will hadn't used the Heart to transform us!"

Mom's expression tightened. "Yes, that's more or less what Hope told me. I rather hoped that she was wrong."

She set me up!

"I'm sorry, sweetheart, but I had to be sure." She leant against the wall. "Dammit."

"Mom?" Will sounded about as shocked as I was. Mom swearing?

"So much for Plan A, which was to sling the two of you in the car and get as far away from Heatherfield as possible. And recommending to your parents," she looked at the others. "Do exactly the same, but in different directions."

"You can't!" at least three different protests arose.

"No, I can't. Because it seems fairly obvious that Phobos would keep trying to get at you so you wouldn't be any safer than you are now. And that's what matters here, girls. This magic kingdom or whatever it is got itself into a mess all by itself and that's very sad but there is no way on God's Earth that it's worth putting your lives at risk. Will's not even fourteen yet -"

There was a mumbled "Two more weeks," from my sister that everyone ignored.

"- and I don't recall any of you being much older - if any. You ought to be worrying about schoolwork and boys liking you, not something like this."

"I do worry about those things," Irma pointed out.

"You worry enough about school for both of us," Will added rather pointedly.

"Will, honestly how much of the trouble we've been having these past couple of months has been because you were doing all this on top of all this?"

"Mom, this is more important than that!"

"And other circumstances - where you weren't putting your life at risk and hiding it from me - I would be very impressed that you've taken responsibility for something important. In fact, I am impressed. But I still don't want you doing this. You're not a soldier! None of you are!"

"Elyon's my friend," pointed out Cornelia. "And she needs my help. Say you go to the government and say that they believe you... do you really think they'll care about one girl who isn't even from Earth in the first place? And incidentally? How are you going to convince them of anything without evidence? I won't give you any."

"Young lady..."

"Mom!" I spoke up quickly. Tempers were obviously getting high. "Can we have a moment?"

I don't know what she saw when she looked at me but it convinced her to nod. "Help me get some drinks then. What would you girls like?"

We took orders and withdrew into the kitchen.

"What is it, Hope?"

"Mom, I'm not sure how to put this, but..."

She opened the cupboard for glasses. "Start at the beginning?"

"It's sort of the other end. Look, if comes to the point that Will has to choose between you and the others, I don't see how it'll do anything but hurt all three of us."

The colour fled her face and one of the glasses hit the floor and shattered.

"Mom!?" Will called.

"Just a glass," I called back when Mom didn't answer.

"You think she'd leave?" Mom asked in a small voice. I wasn't sure if there should have been an 'us' or a 'me' at the end of that, but it didn't really matter in this case. Will had at least considered it earlier and while I'd decided to stay and try to work things out for her... if it became a permanent decision then I'd be going with Will.

Whether she wanted me to or not.

"I hope not. But if it comes to that, however she chooses... she will hold it against you forever."

"At least she'll be alive!"

"We don't know that either. She could be a Guardian for the rest of her life and never get so much as a scratch... or she could quit it and be hit by a car the next day. I know neither of those is the most likely but, we do know that if she has to make that choice then she'll be desperately unhappy."

"And would you?"

I looked away. "This isn't about me, Mom. It'd be her choice."

"What would you do?"

"In her shoes? Or yours?"

There was a long pause.

"I don't know, Mom. I don't want her hurt either, but it's her life. If she goes... I'll do my best to look after her."

Mom looked down at the broken glass. "I seem to be breaking everything today."

"You haven't broken anything important." There was a 'yet' that hung unspoken between us. I went to the store cupboard and found a dustpan and brush. "I'll get the glass cleaned up."

"Remember to bag the glass - we don't want it cutting through the bin-bags," Mom 'reminded' me and I got a paper bag to contain the shards against that possibility.

"Girls," I heard Mom say as she took a tray of drinks through into the lounge. "I've been looking at this from the wrong end. Why don't you just tell me about what you've been doing as Guardians. I shouldn't try to make decisions when I don't really know what's been going on."

I hid a smile as I rejoined them in the room and saw Irma giving an animated description of how she'd rescued Will from Elyon's water tentacle. (Literally animated, she was using water in her glass to show the way it had happened).

One crisis averted. Hopefully the next couple of dozen would be as 'easy'.

User avatar
drakensis
Padawan Learner
Posts: 239
Joined: 2009-06-27 12:00pm
Contact:

Re: An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by drakensis » 2013-04-02 02:04am

I'll spare you the recitation of the hospital visit. If you're at least my age you've probably been through the like or in some cases (I'm thinking of you guys) you really don't want to hear about it. About the only redeeming factor was that Mom and Will were there with me, since the doctors insisted Will went through the same tests (I think they just wanted to make sure that we weren't switching places to mess with their results) and even Mom had some tests done.

And then came the moment I'd been dreading: Me, Mom and Will sitting across a table in the police station from agents Maria Medina and Joel McTiernan of Interpol.

Mom had agreed to go with the original plan of pretending I had amnesia, at least until the others' parents had been told about their being Guardians, but that meant we'd all be lying - or at least be skating very carefully around the truth - to the police. If we got caught... then I get the impression that Mom would have a really hard time adopting me.

"So, Hope." Maria gave me a disarming look. "Are you ready to tell us where you come from?"

I put my head in my hands. "Remember yesterday when you asked about my family name?"

"Yes, and I understand that you've won Mrs. Vandom over onto your side of that?" She smiled to take the sting out of that.

Mom took my hand and squeezed it slightly while Will put her hand on my shoulder briefly. "I was more meaning the bit where I told you that as far as I know, I don't have any other family name."

She nodded.

"Well, that goes for pretty much everything else. I don't remember a family or a home. Heck, when Will found me I honestly didn't even realise I looked like her until she told me."

Joel made a disgusted noise. "Amnesia? Really? You couldn't come up with a story better than the sort of rubbish they put in kid's cartoons?"

I looked over at Will. "You see? I told you we should have come up with a lie instead."

"No lying to the police, Hope," Mom told me firmly.

I shrugged. "I'm sorry, but I really don't have any memories before then. If you have some way of shaking some loose then I'd be delighted to try anything short of being cut apart for samples. Believe me, you can't possibly be as curious about the answers as I am."

"You might be surprised," grated Joel. "Anyway, if you have amnesia how do you know your own name?"

"I don't, Cornelia hung Hope on me a month back. It's better than not having one."

"We had to have something to put on your christmas presents," Will added.

Maria rolled her eyes slightly. "Let's start with what you do remember. So where did you first meet Will?"

"Shell Cave - it's on a little beach not far along the coast. I guess it's a bit of a hang-out for couples - lots of names scratched into the stone."

That got me nods. "Can you point it out on a map?"

"I guess. I haven't seen a lot of maps but I'm pretty sure I could figure it out."

"Okay. I'll get back to you on doing that. What were you there for, Will?"

"Uh, getting the grand tour." Will shrugged. "Hay Lin, Irma and Cornelia were showing me some of the local hang-outs."

"Not Taranee Cook?" asked McTiernan sharply.

That got him a shake of Will's head. "Some family thing that evening, I think."

Maria made a note. "And this would have been, which day?"

"Wednesday the twenty-first," we answered in unison. I shrugged at her look. "Pretty obvious you'd want to know so we checked a calendar."

"I suppose it is obvious. Did you check a clock as well?"

"Not at the time, no. But it was after four o'clock. The sun was setting when I got there," Will remembered. "That might pin it down better."

"How did you get there?" Joel cut in sharply.

"On my bike," Will answered immediately.

For me part I shrugged helplessly. "I don't know. I guess I could have looked for footprints on the beach but I didn't think to at the time."

He glowered at me for a moment. "And how long were you there before Ms. Vandom and her friends arrived?"

"I dunno. Long enough to look around the cave all the way to the back."

"You didn't leave it?"

"I was nerving myself up to try when they got there." They both gave me incredulous looks. "Hey, outdoors is scary when all you know is a cave."

"And then you saw someone who looked just like you?" asked Maria.

"Well, I saw four girls. Checking my reflection hadn't come up on my to-do list," I snarked back.

"I thought the girls had walked me towards a mirror, some kind of practical joke," Will extemporised. "Irma cracking a joke about me having a twin sister didn't help. Still it did seem to be the most likely explanation."

Mom blinked. "You thought...?"

Will flushed slightly. "Why do you think I was dropping hints about sisters back then?"

"I thought you were making comments about me and Dean."

My sister's eyes were probably about as wide as mine. "Ewwww! Don't even think about it!"

And now the three adults were laughing at us. Wonderful.

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

To my surprise the results from the various tests would take a few days to be determined - it always seemed to take less time on television and the questioning by Interpol went on for what seemed like forever and a day. Surely they should have been done by then apparently not, which meant having to wait on tenterhooks for a couple of days.

Still, at least they weren't trying to lock me in a freezer yet.

This left me free for Mom's next little brainstorm. "Hello, Mr and Mrs Hale. Can I get your coats?"

"Thank you, Will," Cornelia's mother said graciously, taking off her overcoat before stooping to help her younger daughter with hers.

"Mom, this is Hope," Cornelia corrected her.

I smiled slightly and took. "How can you tell?"

The blonde paused. "It's something about the way you stand," she said thoughtfully. "I can't quite put my finger on it... anyway, this is Lillian."

The younger Hale daughter was very much a half-pint version of Cornelia and her bratty expression was probably an attempt at something like her sister's customary reserve. Or perhaps just a younger version. "Are you sure you're not Will?" she asked suspiciously. "Is this some sorta game?"

I finished hanging up the coats and ushered them through into the lounge, where Will was laying out some bowls of snacks on the coffee table. "See for yourself."

"Oh..." she said in surprise, looking back and forth between us.

"Remarkable," agreed her father. "And the two of you aren't related?"

"Not so far as we've been able to find out. The doctors are doing some tests, but who knows?"

"I wish I had a twin sister," decided Lillian.

Cornelia, Will and I looked at each other. Never going to happen, we all resolved (if probably for differing reasons). "You can borrow mine," Will offered.

I gave her a pained look.

"But only if you return her in good condition," she added, waving one finger.

"Is that a babysitter I hear being volunteered?" asked Mrs Hale with a smile in my direction.

"What is a 'babysitter'?" I asked, offering around a plate of cookies.

Lillian took three of the cookies, suggesting she might be more a proto-Irma than the next Cornelia. Her mother took two of them off her. "One at a time," she reproved the girl mildly. "Someone who keeps an eye on younger children while their parents are out. Cornelia seems to feel she has more important things to do than watch Lillian some nights."

Cornelia shrugged with apparent indifference to that chiding. "Just make sure you get paid," she advised me. "Believe me, you'll earn it."

"Sorry to keep you," Mom greeted them, stepping through from the kitchen. "The vegetables demanded my attention."

"I know how that goes," Mrs Hale agreed. "You know Cornelia of course, but this is my husband Howard and littler princess Lillian."

Lillian beamed up at Mom in a fashion calculated to make her melt with sheer cuteness. The crumbs from her first cookie only added to the effect. Clearly I had much to learn.

Her mother gave her one of the cookies she'd taken off her a moment ago. "Don't worry about spoiling her appetite," she added drily. "Nothing seems to."

"Pleased to meet you both." Mom shook hands all round. "Would you like anything to drink?" she offered and then eyeballed me. Evidently I wasn't going to live that down any time soon. I obediently didn't say anything when Mrs Hale asked for glass of wine. Mr Hale said he would be driving and requested fruit juice.

Once everyone settled down with drinks - Mom had decided to have a soda, the same as we four girls - Mr Hale leant fowards slightly. "Ms Vandom... Susan... I was sorry to learn that Cornelia helped Will to hide Hope from you."

"I understand why they did it. And they didn't just hide Hope, they also looked after her so I have to give some credit for that." Mom's eyes flicked to Lillian for a moment and then she gave Cornelia a questioning look.

Cornelia's own expression was unhappy but she nodded. "Lillian, Will and I need to show Mom and Dad something. Can you help us?"

"What are you up to?" she asked suspiciously but she climbed to her feet.

"You'll see." Cornelia stood against the wall. "Now Will's going to draw a line to show how tall I am. I want you to make sure I'm being fair - that my legs are straight and I'm not up on my tip-toes or anything like that."

The shorter blonde all but tackled her sister. "Okay, I got you."

Will made a mark and wrote a C next to it. "Okay, squirt. Now Cornelia draws a line for me."

"My name's not squirt!"

"She also answers to Little Monkey."

"Girls!" the two mothers in the room warned while Lillian assaulted Will's legs - basically unnecessary since until Cornelia neither of us was wearing an ankle-length skirt so it would be pretty clear to her parents if Will was trying to fake the results.

"What exactly are you going to show us honey?"

Cornelia waved for her father to give her a moment. "So these are the right heights for us, okay?"

He nodded.

They were looking at Cornelia but I was looking at Will. The Heart of Kandrakar was already around her neck and it started glowing as if in anticipation even before her fingers closed around it.

The light drew attention: "What is -"

"Guardians Unite."

Mrs Hale cried out in shock as pink light swept up my sister. Her husband jumped to his feet, glass of juice crashing to the carpet when Cornelia was engulfed in a blaze of green. "Cornelia!"

And then they stood before us. Not girls any more, but women and delicately be-winged women at that. "Yes daddy?"

Words failed him.

"Cornelia's a fairy!"

Lillian's expert analysis drew an offended pout to her sister's face. "I'm a Guardian of the Veil."

"Hope isn't the only secret I found out yesterday," Mom explained, rather redundantly. She gestured for me to stand next to Will for contrast. The marks on the wall might not be be necessary for comparison with the two of us: Will was now clearly larger than me... in more than one direction. Just saying.

"And what is a 'Guardian of the Veil'?" demanded Mrs Hale.

"I'm guessing that it's a long story," Mr Hale said with a forced calm. He picked up his glass and looked at Mom. "Do you have anything stronger than wine?"

"I can find you something," Mom assured him. "As long as you don't plan to drive."

He waved the idea off. "We can take a taxi."

User avatar
drakensis
Padawan Learner
Posts: 239
Joined: 2009-06-27 12:00pm
Contact:

Re: An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by drakensis » 2013-04-03 04:35am

Lillian was beyond excitement and was yawning by the time we reached dessert and her parents were more or less up to date. Dissected step by step by parents, the story that the other two girls were telling was less gripping and more like some exceptionally boring lab report for school. "Are you tired?" I asked her quietly.

"No." She shook her head and yawned again.

"Yes you are," Cornelia disagreed.

"Am not!"

Mrs Hale gave them a weary look. "Don't fight girls."

"Well since you're not tired, would you like to meet Will's pet, Mr. Huggles?" I suggested quickly before it could turn into an arguement. Somehow I didn't think that that would go well.

Lillian blinked. "Is he cute?"

"I don't know," I admitted. "Why don't you tell me?"

The little girl pushed her chair back and took my hand as I guided her to Will's - to Will and I's - bedroom. "Are you really not real?"

Ouch. "You're the one holding my hand, Lili'. Do I feel real?"

"It's Lillian, not Lili'!"

"And I'm a real girl."

"Okay," she agreed with a pout.

I opened the door to our room and ushered her in.

"So many frogs!" she exclaimed. There were indeed frogs everywhere: stuffed toys, pictures, logos on bedding, clothes and all sorts of decoration. My sleeping bag (now sharing the bed with Will's duvet) was among the few things that didn't share that trend. Then Mr. Huggles popped his head up over the duvet and all the frogs ceased to matter. Lillian's eyes went wide. "He's so cute!"

"Don't scare him," I warned, catching the girl by the shoulders as she started to throw herself towards the dormouse. Her getting bitten would probably please no one. "Gently does it."

When I lifted my hands off her, Lillian approached the bed at a more sedate pace and dropped to her knees so that her face was on the same level as the rodent. "Hi, Mr. Huggles. I'm Lillian."

He squeaked back cautiously and then apparently decided to treat her the way he did Will: scrambling forwards and rubbing his furry flank against her cheek. It worked out the same way on Lillian: she giggled and rubbed at his other flank with one hand. (I'd frozen up and Will had to rescue me.)

"You'll probably be more comfortable up on the bed," I suggested after a moment and Lillian scrambled up onto the top of my sleeping bag without even looking back. Clearly I was reduced to furniture in comparison to the interest value of something small and furry. That worked out well for me so I could hardly complain. Instead I perched myself on the desk chair and opened the book Taranee had lent to me again. She and Hay Lin had agreed it was an absolute classic that I had to read but I was finding it heavy going and there were another nine hundred or so pages to go.

About fifteen minutes later I put my bookmark about ten pages further on than it had been, kicked off my shoes and padded across to pull the duvet over Lillian. This babysitting was easier than it sounded.

Eyes turned to me as I went back into the lounge, shoes in hand. "She's asleep."

Mrs Hale smiled slightly and rose. "Mind if I...?"

Mom followed her while I refilled my glass and asked if anyone else wanted some. Mr. Hale was back on soda, after his one glass of 'something stronger'.

"So you've never seen this Phobos?" he asked.

Will shook her head. "Just his work. I went into his garden once." She shuddered.

"His garden? What's so horrible there?"

"Actually it's strangely beautiful. Thousands upon thousands of black roses. But once you know that they were all people who sought to lead with him for mercy... and were transformed into a barrier around his palace..." Will wrapped her arms around herself. "You'll never look at a rose the same way again."

The dark mood broke as our mothers returned, Mrs Hale holding her phone in one hand. "That was adorable," she announced. "You have great promise as a babysitter, Hope. Can I take you home with us? We'll leave Cornelia in exchange."

"Mother!"

"Not a chance," Mom answered before I could think of a response. She put one arm around my shouldr. "Right, Will?"

"Yep." Will boxed me in from the right side. "She's ours and we're not letting her go."

Mrs Hale raised her phone and took a snapshot of us.

"I'll want a copy of that," Mom told her and got a nod. "And I think we're more or less up to speed on what the girls have been up to. The question is what now? The girls aren't too enthusiastic about telling the authorities."

...and there was the jaw of the trap closing around Cornelia. She might refuse pressure from Mom about demonstrating magic to the authorities, but what about her own parents? I wasn't sure.

"Well of course we must -"

"There would be problems with that," observed Mr. Hale.

Everyone else in the room blinked.

"Dear!"

"I can see the benefits of doing so - no offense, honey," he added to Cornelia, "But it would be bad enough if you were fighting a war as a grown woman, with professional training. On the other hand, telling the authorities about this won't necessarily make any of us any safer."

"What do you mean?" asked Mom cautiously.

He rubbed at his head. "Let's start with this: from everything that's been said, magic is both real and capable of things that at the moment our government could not reasonably protect themselves from. Which means that other governments can't protect themselves from it either, correct?"

"You can't possibly be thinking that the government - our government - would expect the girls to fight for them!? That sort of thing would belong in a bad TV series!"

"Our government? Probably not. But there are a lot of governments in the world and I imagine that several would want to have the girls working for them - or to be sure that they weren't working against them. And Elizabeth, that means that you, Lillian and I would be potential ways for unscrupulous people to try to control Cornelia."

"Oh my god," whispered Mom.

"It's not as simple a decision as it seems, is it?" he asked kindly. "And of course the other side of the question is that if this Phobos does win through, then he's going to be a very big problem if the authorities don't know about magic."

"Then we have to stop him." That was Will. "The Veil is keeping him on Meridian and as long as we can keep him from using the portals through it, he isn't a threat to the Earth."

"Caleb's resistance and Elyon should be able to take care of Phobos, particularly if we give them a little help," offered Cornelia.

Mom shook her head. "Meaning you go there again and you put yourselves at risk again?"

"We're at risk no matter what happens. At least this way we can put a stop to that."

Mrs Hale crossed her arms. "Cornelia, you seem to put a lot of faith in this Caleb. What makes you so sure that he'll succeed?"

"He's won at least one battle and I think Elyon listens to him," I offered. "The trouble is that we don't really know what Phobos plans to do, much less if he can pull it off."

"Then maybe we ought to meet him as well," suggested Mr Hale thoughtfully. "Would that be possible?"

"I..." Cornelia's cheeks were reddening.

"Oh Cornelia!" her mother exclaimed in realisation. "Don't tell me that you're involved with this young man!"

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

It felt a little strange to walk into Sheffield Institute next to Will. Our secret wasn't secret any more.

Mom had dropped us off, collecting Taranee on the way... and arranging to have dinner with the Cooks tonight.

"I hope this goes well," the dusky-skinned girl fretted. "My mother's going to be furious."

"The Lins were okay." Will was putting a good face on it I thought. Perhaps too good a face, I didn't think that Mr Lin had been too happy about learning the secret that his mother and now his daughter had been keeping from him. Fortunately Mrs. Lin had insisted that she was proud of 'her daughter the superhero' even if she was far too young and wearing far too little.

"You don't know her like I do. I'll be lucky not be be packed off to a catholic boarding school! Or juvenile detention!"

"Oh, is the Judge's little princess getting in trouble?" The voice asking wasn't a welcome one but it was easily recognisable. "Well Nigel will be welcome back with his real friends, even if you do tag along with him."

"Shut up Uriah."

The boy, backed by his usual bookends started his usual sneer but then he got a good look at us. "What the - there's two of you?"

I gestured at Will and Taranee. "There are three of us, Uriah. Try counting on your fingers."

"Smart-ass bitch!"

"Language, Mr. Dunn!" snapped the pompadoured woman who had arrived behind him. "Now get yourself to class... unless you'd rather start the term with a detention?"

The boy made a disgusted noise. "Whatever." His two remaining cronies fell in behind him.

"Now then, which one of you is Hope Vandom?" she asked slightly more pleasently.

I raised my hand cautiously.

"I'm Principal Knickerbocker. Professor Collins told me to expect you. Getting into a quarrel on your first day isn't the best of starts here, whoever started it." She made a dismissive gesture towards the other two girls. "Off to your own classes, you two. I'll take care of your sister, Miss Vandom."

She waited until they were around a corner before moving towards the school offices. "Come with me, Miss Vandom. I imagine you've had some coaching?"

"I've been studying," I admitted nervously. For the few weeks that I had had a chance to that was true. But most of the students here had been at school for years. Was I kidding myself to think that I could do as well.

"That's good of course, but though I say so as shouldn't, there is more to school than studies. Don't take Mr. Dunn's behaviour as an example to follow or as cause to provoke trouble with him yourself."

I nodded obediently and made a mental note to check with Cornelia about what was proper behaviour in school. I had some idea of course, but it never hurt to consult an expert.

"Will!"

I turned my head slightly and saw Matt approaching around the corner. "Are you okay? Gramps was worried when you didn't..." He broke off sharply as he saw Principal Knickerbocker walking next to me. "Uh, sorry Principal, I just..."

"You were just on your way to class?" she asked with a slight emphasis on the last word.

"Uh..." he hesitated and then pulled an envelope out of his pocket and held it out to me. "Just giving Will this note on my way!" No sooner than my hand closed around it than he backed up, giving me an apologetic look.

"Um, I'm..."

But he was gone.

"I'm going to get this a lot, aren't I?"

To my suprise the middle-aged Principal chuckled. "At least until people get used to you," she agreed. "You can give your sister the note at lunch." Then she gestured at the door to one of the offices. "But first we've set up this room for you to take some written tests."

When I looked inside, a small desk like those in the classrooms had been set up with a stack of paper booklets on it. The other furniture had all been pushed back against the walls and there was a clock set up so that it was plainly visible from the desk.

"All the exam papers have the time you're supposed to spend on them written on the front page," Knickerbocker told me. "If you run out of time before finishing just move on to the next. If you finish one early then note down on the front how long it took you and you can start the next paper early or go back to have another look at anything you had trouble with - make a note on anything that you go back to about how long you put in."

"Isn't that cheating?"

She shook her head. Amazingly it didn't loosen the mass of silvery hair at all. "Not as long as you keep a record of it. Remember, this isn't about passing or failing, it's about measuring your strengths and weaknesses. Now, do you have everything you need?"

I pulled my pencil case out of the bookbag I'd brought with me. It was the only thing in it except for my packed lunch and now Matt's note for Will.

"Good." Knickerbocker pointed across the hall. "There's a washroom there that you can use if you need it. My secretary is in the next office along, if you need anything else just let her know."

I nodded to show my understanding and I was surprised when she held out her own hand. "Good luck, Miss Vandom," she said and shook my hand when took hers.

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

"I don't know anything!" I declared with some despair, clutching at my head.

"Sounds normal to me." Irma reached over towards my lunch box and I slammed my fist down right in front of her hand to keep her from snagging my sandwich. "Well you aren't eating it."

I picked it up and took a bite. Mmm. Chicken. Then I realised she'd used my distraction to filch a cookie out of the box and crammed it into her mouth. "I hope that goes right to your waist."

"Probably a little higher," she said smugly. She was probably right too, blast her.

"I'm sure you're doing fine," Will promised me. "Remember that history paper you did for Proffessor Collins? You did great at that!"

"Yeah, but then I had a week to research the Middle Ages," I pointed out. "I don't think the Principal will let me go to the library to research answers for everything on these test papers. I'm only managing to answer maybe half the questions."

"You're not supposed to answer all of them." Taranee toyed nervously with her braid. "Some of the questions are supposed to be too hard for us, so if you could answer all of them then it'd mean you were smarter than all of us."

"Well that's not going to happen." Will mussed my hair. "You might be better at class than I am, little sis, but there's no way you're smarter than Taranee."

"Lot of good that's doing me," the other girl sighed. "Remember me when Mom locks me up."

It wasn't until I put my lunch box away in my bag that I remembered Matt's note. "Will, something for you."

She took the envelope. "What is it?"

"Matt gave it to me earlier, he thought I was you."

"Hope!"

"I didn't get the chance to explain!"

"Never mind that, what's the note say?" demanded Cornelia.

Will peeled open the envelope and extracted the note. "..."

"What?"

"M-matt..."

"Yes, we know it's from Matt," I reminded her.

"He's inviting me to the Lodelyday!"

There were high pitched squeals from the other girls at the table. "That's awesome!" "Go Will!"

"The... Lodelyday?"

Cornelia leant over. "It's the coolest restaurant in all of Heatherfield. Will's got a date! And it sounds like Matt wants to do this in style."

"That's good, I guess." Hopefully not too much style since presumably had the same expectations of restraint for Will that she had for me.

Irma reached over and nudged me. "Not jealous, are you?"

I thought about that. Was I jealous? I'd met Matt maybe two or three times. Nice guy but...

Voices were raised over by the door of the canteen - it wasn't warm enough for anyone but the hardiest to be eating outside today - and heads turned in that direction. Our heads included although Will remained rapt in the note until Hay Lin nudged her and whispered "It's Matt!"

It was indeed Matt. And Uriah.

"Well maybe she's going to need some comfortin'. Seeing as you ditched her."

Matt pushed back the brim of his hat and favoured Uriah with a bemused look. "Look, I don't know what you're talking about and I'm pretty sure you don't either..."

There was a nasty grin on Uriah's face. "Well if you were really serious about Vandom, you'd not have snuck a note to her sister, would ya?"

"Sister?"

Will grabbed my hand. "Hope?"

"Just that one, I swear," I said hastily. "And it's addressed to you, isn't it?"

She checked it. "Okay."

"I'm just feeling the trust," I grumbled.

"Sorry, it's just... everything else seems to be going crazy..."

"Just don't blame me if Mom hits the roof about him. Granted a date is a lot more normal than everything else going on right now."

"There are really two of you?" Matt's face paled slightly as he looked between us, having approached during our conversation. "But which...?"

"Uh, Matt... I can explain..."

"...that'd be nice."

I rested my chin on one hand and pointed with the other. "That's Will, I'm her sister Hope. I didn't get a chance to explain that this morning."

He frowned. "Have we met before?"

"Er... a couple of times." Truthfulness was allegedly the best policy. "And yes, I was pretending to be Will back then. So I guess I owe you an apology."

Matt sighed. "I hope there was a good reason."

"I was hiding." From Will, on one occasion, but that was beside the point. "And while Will trusts you, I barely know you. No offense."

"Alright." He looked over to Will. "Um. So, about..."

I cleared my throat. "One more thing."

"Oh?"

"If you hurt my sister, I will hurt you. Clear?"

"Hope!" Will's cheeks had gone almost as red as her hair.

Matt looked from me to Will, back to me. "Completely."

W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H. - W.I.T.C.H.

"I don't believe that you said that."

"What isn't to believe?" I asked Will.

"But what if he changes his mind about our date?" she hissed nervously.

"If he changes his mind because of little old me then he clearly wasn't serious in the first place."

"What's this?" Mom asked, stepping out from the shelter of the gate between Sheffield Institute and the street.

"Mom?"

"I came by to pick you up - or did you forget that you're both grounded? Now what's this about someone changing their mind."

"Matt asked me out!" Will explained enthusiastically and then her face fell. "When I'm not grounded, that is."

Mom nodded, not without a bit of sympathy. "Well, at least you have something to look forward to. So why are you two falling out."

"I just told him to behave himself."

That remark got a laugh from Mom and she held out her hand. "High five."

"What?"

"Oh, don't kids do that anymore?"

Will groaned. "Not you too, Mom!"

"Nothing against you dating, Will - normally anyway," she qualified. "But that doesn't mean giving boys free license either. "It's just as well to let him know that you have standards: that way he'll feel obliged to live up to them."

We reached the car and Will paused. "Mom, Miss Rudolph asked us - the girls - to see her after school. I know I'm grounded, but this could be important."

"She's the teacher from Metamoor?" asked Mom suspiciously. "I've been meaning to talk to her, but we're meeting the Cooks tonight."

I coughed. "Could we talk about this in the car?" Without, for example, all the other Sheffield students who went past hearing about everything.

"Shotgun!" Will called suddenly and hopped into the front passenger seat.

"Eek!" I ducked down, hoping that whoever had the gun wasn't about to use it. I'd seen them on TV! They were scary!

Mom gave me a puzzled look and then sighed. "Not a real gun, Hope. She just means she wants to sit in the front."

"Well why didn't you just say so?" I asked Will as I climbed back to my feet. "I don't mind." Actually I'd been kind of hoping we could both sit up back so it would be easier to talk, but it wasn't a big deal.

Will shrugged apologetically. "It's kind of a thing. I didn't mean to scare you."

I climbed in and then across the back seat so that I was sitting behind Mom's seat. "Okay."

"Mom, I've got to get together with the girls and see Miss Rudolph! The last time she called us like this it was because there was an invasion force about to come through one of the portals! We can see her before dinner easily!"

Seeing a gap in the traffic, Mom pulled out. "And what if it's a trap, Will? You should keep at least a couple of you back just in case."

"Miss Rudolph's not like that! She's harmless!"

"And what if someone's forcing her to do this?" Mom shook her head. "I really want to go with you on this..."

"But you've got to go back to work, don't you?"

"I know, Will. And I don't think my boss will be happy if I keep making excuses."

"Welcome to my life."

I couldn't help but laugh at the resigned look on Will's face, but the laugh cut off when she gave me a pained look. It was more true than it was funny, after all.

"Oh honey. I guess I didn't make it easy for you, did I?" Mom turned her head slightly. "And I expect you to be more supportive, Hope."

"Sorry," I mumbled in a small voice.

"Alright, can you call your friends. You can go to see Miss. Rudolph, but I want you to call me right before you go in to see her and as soon as you are done. And two of you should stay away - at the Cook's house might be best if Taranee's one of the two." Mom looked in the mirror. "Hope, I'm not going to make you stay home while your sister doesn't have to..."

"Thanks. Do you want me to come along?" I offered to Will.

She shook her head. "I'd rather you stayed with the Cooks. Maybe you can break the ice a little. Taranee's pretty worried about how they'll take learning about her being a Guardian. You're pretty good at talking people around."

I shrugged uncertainly. People I knew, maybe, but I'd never met Taranee's family. And was I really that manipulative?

User avatar
drakensis
Padawan Learner
Posts: 239
Joined: 2009-06-27 12:00pm
Contact:

Re: An Astral Drop in Heatherfield (W.I.T.C.H.)

Post by drakensis » 2013-04-09 01:22am

"You had to hide away all through Christmas?" Taranee's older brother Peter shook his sadly. "That just ain't right!"

I shrugged. "Well there's always next Christmas. And then I get to give presents as well!" Mom had even dispensed pocket money at the start of the week and I was looking for something special to give to Will on her birthday, which was only a couple of weeks away.

"Yeah, but you should be with family."

"I was." Okay, maybe with just Will, but right then she was my only declared family.

Peter rolled his eyes. "Sis, we gotta make sure this girl gets a proper Christmas next year so that she knows what she's missing out on."

Taranee nodded her head silently and her brother frowned. "Something wrong, sis?"

To my horror, the girl actually started to sniffle. "Mom's gonna kill me."

Hay Lin, Peter and I all the same reaction and within two seconds she was being hugged from all directions. "Whatever it is, it can't be that bad," her brother assured her with complete confidence. "I mean... I think she's warming up to Nigel." He paused. "A little."

That at least got her out of the funk. "You're just trying to make me feel better."

"Is it working?"

Taranee shook her head in reply to my question and then with an appalled look on her face started giggling.

"Tickling always works," Hay Lin declared sagely, fingers still probing at Taranee's sides.

I then made one of the classic errors of strategy. Right up there with going up against a Scilian when death is on the line. "Tickling?"

Hay Lin grinned but it was Peter that started tickling my ribs. "Whaahahaahaa!" I shrieked, and moved my hands to cover that vulnerable area.

"Somebody's ticklish." He sounded terribly entertained by that notion.

"Hands to yourself, buster!" I grabbed a cushion from the couch at let him have it to the face.

"Ow!" He was laughing through. "Sorry."

"No, you're not."

"No, I'm not," Peter admitted cheerfully. He made to throw the cushion back into my face but when I tried to catch it he twisted his wrist and it thumped against my belly. "So, who wants a drink?"

We all agreed that that sounded like an idea and Hay Lin moved smoothly onto interrogating Taranee about her last date with Nigel, which seemed suitably distracting for her but didn't particularly interest me so I trailed after Peter to help him bring back the drinks.

"So do you know why she thinks Mom's going to flip her lid?" he asked quietly.

I nodded. "Well, I've never met your Mom but would you say she's a little bit protective of Taranee?"

Peter held his arms wide, palms towards each other. "Just a bit."

"Weeeeellll...." I hesitated. "We're... and I mean mostly the others - I'm helping as much as I can... we're..."

"In a band?"

"What? Uh. No."

"So what is it you're doing that Mom's going to be upset about?"

Now what was I supposed to tell him? I mean, we were going to tell him tonight, but the plan was to do that with the rest of the family.

"You girls aren't dating each other, are you?"

Blink. "Uh... I would think that us all being girls would make it obvious that we're not."

Peter flushed. "That was a joke," he said hastily. "So what's the big secret?"

"I suppose you could say that we're doing something -" I considered saying 'a little bit' and concluded it would be a lie. "- dangerous."

He paused very fractionally in pouring soda into a glass. "You mean like, roller-blading?"

I shook my head.

"Surfing?"

"No, although I'd like to try that some time." After I get some swimming lessons. One near-drowning experience was quite enough.

"It's a lot of fun," he assured me. "Uh... dressing up as Batman and Robin and fighting crime?"

"Well... you're getting closer." Whoever Batman and Robin were.

Peter laughed. "Okay, okay, I'll wait." He picked up two glasses and nodded towards the other two. "So sis," he called as he led the way back into the lounge. "What's your super-hero costume look like, Tara'?"

There was an embarrassed squeak from Taranee. "Hope!"

"He guessed."

Peter looked from her to me and then put the glasses down on the table. "Again, I was joking." He paused. "You weren't joking?"

Taranee groaned. "Thanks Hope." She closed her eyes and focused for a moment. Swirls of orange magic burst into existence around her. It wasn't quite as dramatic as Will using the Heart of Kandrakar, and I suspected it wasn't quite as potent a transformation either... but it was quite enough.

The boy - young man really, he was about the age that the transformed Taranee appeared to be - sat down heavily. "Whoa. Is that you, little sister?"

I could see why he might have doubts: the normally demure girl's appearance was now - save for the glasses - far more warlike, with six stiff dreadlocks rishing from her head and snug shorts and tank top that did nothing to hide her more mature figure. She looked hot even before she conjured up a small ball of fire to hang in mid-air. "It's still me, big brother," she said firmly.

"You look... older. How in the world...?"

She folded her arms. "May as well call it magic, for all the explanation I got."

"And you're..." he gestured towards the fireball. "Taranee, you're scared of fire."

"I was afraid of how much it drew me in." Taranee reached out and placed her hand fearlessly in the fireball, drawing an alarmed cry from Peter. When pulled her hand back it showed no mark at all. "I don't have to be afraid any more."

"Maybe not of fire." He rubbed at his hair (which was bound into hundreds of dreadlocks and then lashed back in a ponytail) and then moved up to give her a hug. "I don't suppose that your new outfit is bulletproof is it?"

Hay Lin laughed. "Metamoor doesn't have any guns!"

"Who is Metamoor?"

Hay Lin and Taranee looked at me questioningly. "Hey, I didn't have time to tell him everything."

"Metamoor is another world," Taranee explained. "It's kind of medieval but they've got magic and there's a Veil that prevents travel between there and Earth. We're the Guardians of the Veil - our mission is to close portals that form in the Veil. So magic's more of a problem then guns."

Peter rolled his eyes. "Well that's much better... not. I suppose that you have magical costumes too?" he added, pointing at the two of us.

Hay Lin nodded happily, pony-tails bobbing. "Air!" she exclaimed and silvery magic replaced her blouse, sweater and skirt with her own W.I.T.C.H. outfit.

"Wow," he said appreciatively. "So I guess that means that if Taranee's Fire and you're Air that there's some sort of element thing going on? So what does that make you, Hope? Water?"

"I, uh, don't do that," I admitted.

"Too bad, I bet you'd have a cute costume as well."

I went red and Taranee picked up the cushion, throwing it at her brother's face. She pegged him squarely, sending him staggering. "Wow, nice throwing arm!"

"Were you flirting with Hope?" she accused. "She's too young for you!"

I'm not too young! Wait, what am I thinking!

Peter laughed and pulled lightly on one of Taranee's dreadlocks. "She's about your age isn't she? Does that mean that you're too young to be seeing Nigel? 'Cause that'd make Mom real happy."

"She's not even two months old, Peter!"

"Um, what?"

This fascinating conversation was curtailed when a car pulled into the drive. Taranee turned and looked out the window. "Dad's back early," she squeaked and reverted to her usual self. "And Mom's with him!" The ball of fire vanished.

"Why change back?" asked Peter. "I thought you were gonna explain all this?"

"Yeah, I just want to break it to them easily." She waved at Hay Lin frantically and the other girl shifted back before the front door opened.

"Peter? Taranee?"

"In here, Dad!" Peter called and a moment later the Cooks joined us in the front room.

"Hi kids," Mr Cook greeted them. He hugged Taranee and then Peter. "Nice to see you, Hay Lin. And... hmm, Will or Hope?"

"Hope," his wife told him, giving Taranee a hug of her own. "Are your family here already?"

"No... Will's seeing Miss Randolph after school and Mom's still at work."

Taranee peered up at her mother, adjusting her glasses and then touched Mrs Cook's face. "Mom, are you okay? You look kinda pale."

She kissed Taranee's forehead. "I'm a little nervous dear. Your father and I have been talking."

Hay Lin looked at me and I spread my hands slightly. "Do you want us to step outside a moment? If this is a family thing?"

The two adults exchanged looks and then Mrs. Cook shook her head. "No, actually it might be best... Particularly for you to be here Hope."

I pointed at myself. Me? Particularly? I'd only even met her once, this morning!

Mr Cook waved to the couch. "You might want to sit down," he said mildly. "This may come as a little bit of a shock."

"I sort of doubt it," Peter said, perching on the arm of the sofa and draping one arm over Taranee's shoulders supportively. "At least compared to what else I've been hearing today." Hay Lin sat next to the girl and I perched myself next to her, clasping my hands nervously.

"I... I don't know where to begin," Mrs Cook admitted after a moment's thought.

Mr. Cook put one hand on her shoulder. "Perhaps at the beginning. About... thirteen years ago, a little little before Peter's fifth birthday there was a terrible fire on the outskirts of Heatherfield. No one knows how it started and fortunately, no one was killed. One of the houses destroyed belonged to a young couple and their three-month old baby. She was upstairs in the house when the fire started and it consumed the stairs, so they couldn't get in and find her."

"The firemen arrived barely in time. Fortunately the little girl's crib was right above a support beam and the floor held together just long enough for one of them to get in and rescue her." Mr. Cook smiled slightly. "I used to volunteer to help the Fire Brigade back then and I knew him well. He told me afterwards that she was fast asleep the whole time. It was quite the miracle."

"The thing was," Mrs. Cook added, "There was something wrong with their insurance. The fire had destroyed everything the family had, there were just the three of them and the clothes that they were standing in. They'd even lost their jobs to the fire because the shop they worked at had been in the same fire." She closed her eyes. "They made what must have been the hardest decision of their lives: they couldn't support their daughter, so they gave her up for adoption."

"Whoa, wait on!" Peter exclaimed. He looked down at Taranee and I saw his arm tighten around her. "You're kidding me. You can't possibly mean what I think you do."

Taranee stared. "Peter?"

"Three months before my fifth birthday, that means the baby would have been born in March '89. The same as you, sis..."

Mrs. Cook dropped to her knees in front of Taranee and took her hands. "Taranee, the baby was you."

My friend shook her head in denial and her jaw worked for a moment as she searched for words. What emerged was a shocked tiny: "no."

"But - but there are baby photos!" Peter exclaimed. "I've seen them."

His father shook his head. "We knew that one day Taranee would be old enough to know, but until then we didn't want her to feel there was any part of her life she'd missed out on. The earliest pictures are of another little girl, Audrey, one of her friends back in Sesamo."

"You lied to me!"

"We always knew we'd tell you some day," Mr. Cook explained. "It just... needed the right moment. With Susan making arrangements to adopt Hope, this seemed... as good a time as there was ever going to be."

Taranee burst to her feet. "I... I can't..." she blurted and brushed her mother aside, rushing for the door. A second later we heard her feet on the stairs.

"Taranee!" Hay Lin ran after her while the Cooks looked torn.

"I guess I was wrong about you shocking me," Peter said after a moment. He rose to his feet. "I'm going upstairs too..."

Mrs. Cook took refuge in her husband's arms. "She hates us..."

"I don't think so..."

Their heads snapped around and I realised they'd basically forgotten I was even there. And that I was intruding on what was a private moment. Still, what could I do but continue?

"She's angry with you... that's not the same thing."

He gave me a rueful look. "I hope you're right."

"If you don't mind my saying so, Taranee seems a lot like you, Mrs Cook."

"Call me Theresa, please."

I nodded. "Theresa. I'm guessing you've been fretting all day about how Taranee would react to this."

She ducked her head. "Good guess."

"Taranee's been in about the same state since Friday. There's... a little something she's going to tell you... well, maybe not today. And she's been worrying about how you'll take it so I know what it looks like. Oddly enough there's a fire in this story too."

Theresa blinked. "Really? Don't tell me this is about the gym at Sheffield Institute burning down!"

"Well..." I checked my recollection of the others telling me about that. "No, well... I suppose that fire's part of the story but I don't think she was anywhere near it." Before she could ask more I held up my hand. "We're getting away from my point. What I'm trying to say is: can you imagine anything she could tell you that would stop you from loving her?"

"Of course not! She's my daughter!"

I spread my hands. "Exactly. Upset with you, certainly. Angry... well, understandably. Hate?" I shook my head. "I think I'll wait outside."

Before I could stand we heard footsteps on the stairs. After a moment, Hay Lin stuck her head around the door. "She let Peter in to her room. I'm..." She shrugged. "I'm sorry, I don't know what to do."

"I think we'll need to give them some time to get used to the idea," Mr. Cook said quietly. "Peter didn't know either so she has no reason to be angry with him. If anyone can help her now..."

I stated what I was beginning to recognise as one of the great truths: "Being helpless sucks."

"Succinctly put," he concurred and sighed. "I guess we still have to get ready for dinner. I guess this wasn't exactly what your mother had in mind when we set things up."

"Well not in detail..."

"Pardon?" he asked.

"Never mind, just thinking out loud." I corrected myself. "Let me give you a hand with that."

Post Reply