YOU CAN FIND Chapter 2 HERE
Chapter 4 HERE
Watching in her scrying bowl, Octava tittered as the woodcutters ran away. She pushed the bowl aside, straightened up and smoothed the cloth of her robe with one pair of hands while rubbing the other set of hands together.
“Hee hee, that ruffled his feathers. But it also gave me a chance to see Lostan in action."
She began to pace the floor of her cave.
I need to think carefully about this. It will take some doing to beat him and get his half of the sceptre. He’s powerful all right, but I have years of magic behind me.
She stopped in her tracks and stared out at nothing, as though in a trance. The memory of the sceptre’s creation came drifting back.
It was a time when Witches and Wizards were always at each other’s throats. It was a war of spells being cast and thrown—some more harmful than others. Wizards had always been more powerful than Witches. But Witches were a cunning breed. Each side received their quota of injuries. When this battle had gone on for far too long, the Great Wizard Narcam called both sides together.
Remembering the event, Octava felt as if she was there once more, listening to Narcam speak. She trembled, unable to move.
“This war must cease,” he boomed, banging down his staff so hard that the ground shook.
The Witches cowered and the Wizards gasped, for when Narcam, the oldest Wizard in the land—several hundred years old it was whispered—spoke, no one dared to utter a word.
“I have created this.” His voice thundered around them.
Narcam held high the sceptre, the light glinting off the silver and gold dragon’s head and tail.
“As one piece it holds the power to make its owner beyond the wit of others to defeat.” He took hold of both ends and pulled it apart to form two halves. “I give one half to the Wizards, and one to the Witches, as a token of peace and to acknowledge that both are as equals.” He handed one part to each side.
Octava stared into the space before her. Her vision was so real, her fear of Narcam so great, her insides turned summersaults as she relived that moment in time. Narcam’s voice continued to boom in her ears.
“While this remains in two halves, either side will find that any actions they take against the other will be futile. Do not be tempted to obtain each other’s half, for to do so could result in your own destruction.” Narcam touched the crystal pendant which glowed like a fiery flame, that hung from a cord around his neck and cast an eye over the crowd gathered around him. “Let that be an end to this war!”
Octava blinked and waved a hand in front of her face as though to dispel the memory. Little beads of sweat glistened on her wrinkled brow. She took a deep breath and started to walk over to the tin chest that rested against the wall at the back of the cave, when she heard a noise behind her.
* * *
Lostan replaced the sceptre within his cloak and stood.
So the Hag knows about this tree does she? Witches and scrying bowls, such a primitive tool of magic. But then Witches are a lowly breed. She forgets I know where her cave is and that she is the last of her kind around here. Want to play games does she?
He knew the Hag would have watched what had happened with the woodcutters, but enough time had passed for him to be sure she wouldn’t be spying right now. He opened the door to the tree and stepped outside. There on the ground lay the two black feathers. He also knew that while she had half the sceptre he couldn’t kill her, but he could certainly give her a scare. He picked the feathers up and laid them in the palm of his hand.
My turn now. She’s a greedy creature for flesh of all kinds. It’s true she likes young humans best, but she won’t turn her nose up at a free dinner. Let’s see how she likes this.
He waved his other hand over the feathers while he muttered the incantation. A steam of dark words slithered from his lips, misty tendrils that wrapped themselves tight around the two plumes. The black quills shuddered, twitched and shook, before shooting skywards towards their destination. Lostan roared with laughter.
* * *
“Buk, buk bawk. Buk, buk.”
Octava turned around. Her eyes widened as they settled upon the two black chickens that were wandering around her cave, pecking and scratching at the dirt floor. She licked her lips and for the moment, forgot all about the tin chest.
“Where did you come from?” She took a few tentative steps towards them. Her fingers on her hands flexed, ready to grab the prize she saw before her. “It’s been a while since I’ve had chicken.” She drooled at the thought of their roasted flesh.
“Cluck, cluck, buk buk.”
“Come to me my little darlings,” she crooned as she moved closer. The chickens pecked at the floor, not taking any notice of her. She lunged with outstretched arms and seized a chicken in each set of hands.
“Brrrr-awk! Buk buk.”
She held them out in front of her and admired their plump bodies. As she looked, they began to grow fatter and fatter. Her hands held on tight as their bodies began to puff up like balloons. Her mouth fell open as the birds expanded and just when she thought she could hold them no longer, BANG! The explosion threw her across the room.
“Ye gods!” She looked back at the scattered black feathers and laughed.
“Lostan. Ha! Is that the best he can do?”
She got up, fetched her broom and began to sweep the feathers into a pile. She was just about to push the heap out of the cave when she noticed it quiver. She remained glued to the spot and continued to stare. The feathers formed themselves into a tight ball which grew bigger with each passing second.
Octava backed away, her eyes fixed upon the ball’s rapidly changing shape. From beneath it sprung two legs, from above it, a head, a beak and two beady eyes. It stretched out two large wings and fluttered them. The feathers had become a seven-foot-high black chicken.
“Arrgh.” Octava held the broom out in front of her, swiping it from side to side.
The chicken raced towards her, its beak snapping as it lunged at her. Octava ducked and ran between its legs. It swung around and scratched the ground. Octava prodded it with the bristle end of her broom. It caught the broom in its beak and began to shake it up and down.
“Heeeelp,” yelled Octava.
She was thrown first up to the ceiling then back down to the floor. She grasped the handle with both sets of hands clinging on for her life. The bird shook the broom from side to side. Octava was flung about like a rag, until she was tossed out of the cave.
From inside the cavern she could hear the chicken crushing the broom. She scrambled up the outside of the cave and looked around for something she could use to defend herself. To one side was a small pile of stones. She gathered them together, moved to the edge and waited.
She didn’t have to wait long before the bird emerged. It spotted her on the rocky roof that was much higher than itself. It backed up. It focused on Octava.
“Come on you black devil. I’m ready for you.”
She rolled up her sleeves and clutched a heavy stone in each hand. The chicken scratched the earth and rocked back and forth before charging. It snapped its beak and had a wild look in its eyes. Octava threw the first rock which bounced off its back. The bird was gaining speed as its great wings beat the air and dust gathered around it.
Octava watched. She had three rocks left. Her heart beat so fast she thought it would burst from her chest.
“Steady now,” she whispered as her hands shook.
The bird lifted its ink-coloured body off the ground. Its claws dangled beneath it. It was totally focused on its target as it sped towards her.
Not yet, not yet. Octava’s hands twitched.
She knew she must wait, but she had no control over her hands. She hurled the three rocks together. They flew through the air and towards the flying chicken. The bird dodged the first two. The third clipped it on the side. For a moment it lost height, but regained it within seconds and carried on. Like a heavy cloud it descended on her. Octava screamed as it hovered above her for a second, then, BANG! It exploded, covering her in a flurry of feathers and knocking her over.
She coughed and spluttered as feathers stuck to her mouth and nose. She stood up and slid down the side of the cave.
“Damn that Wizard! I should have remembered he can’t kill me while I have the other half of the sceptre. He’s just trying to prove he’s more powerful than I am. We’ll see about that.”
She brushed down her robe and went back inside the cave. “Now what was I doing? Ah yes, the tin chest.”
Octava walked over to it. Rusty with age, it whined as she lifted the heavy lid. Dropping down onto her knees she reached in and searched among its contents.
“I know it’s in here.”
She tossed various items to the side until she found what she was looking for.
“Ah there you are.”
She lifted the object that was wrapped in a dirty piece of rag and laid it down on her lap. She removed its wrapping and gazed upon her half of the sceptre.
“You belong to me.” She stroked it with a shrivelled hand. I am the last Witch in these parts. So what if I killed the others and took their possessions. It’s mine by rights. Lostan, he stole his half from Mystof. He did me a favour, she thought. I could never have got it from Mystof. Octava sat back on her heels and sighed. Too many wizarding eyes watching over him. A Witch would soon be noticed. But no one is watching Lostan, that is, except me. A smile spread across her cracked lips. And with the aid of a thread of Lostan’s hair melded into the talisman I created, that stupid boy turned up at the right time to cast the spell for me. “Soon you will be joined with your other half.” She caressed the dragon’s head. What of Narcam’s warning? said the voice in her head. “He’s bluffing. What could he do when I will have the power of the sceptre in my hands?” Octava smiled to herself as she pressed her half to her.
She rewrapped the sceptre and returned it to the chest. Closing the lid, she stood up. Her bones ached with the passing of time and her mind slipped back to the other Witches.
They rejected me because I was different. But I showed them, didn’t I? “Killed the lot of them,” she spat the words out. That silly little Witch Lily had that lock of hair hung around her neck. I knew as soon as I touched it, it was Lostan’s and that it would come in handy. I’d been watching him for a long time. “Why use magic for the good of others, when you can use it for the good of yourself?”
The words she uttered seemed to break the spell of the past and her thoughts turned to more immediate things.
I must plan my next move. But before I do, I need the boy, what was his name? Micos, that’s it, to bring back the talisman. Octava ran the fingers of one hand through her long greasy hair. I must have it if I am to defeat the Dark Wizard and claim the sceptre as my own.
She wandered over to one of the furnaces and picking up a metal poker, she opened the door.
“Doing nicely I see.”
Octava poked the small figure that was roasting to a crispy brown. She gave a gleeful chuckle and rubbed her other set of hands together before she closed the door again.
“Micos should bring it tomorrow as instructed. Not only will I have the talisman, I’ll have dinner delivered to my door as well.” She cackled with laughter.