Spellbound

By

Sparkling Acrobat

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Chapter 2: Burn.

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The doors creaked their sad little tune as they swung closed behind me and my hand tightened around the old wood of my broomstick. Nobody knew anything. I had asked the highs and lows, the major, trolls, bartenders, fairies living amongst the flowers, pixies living on the top of trees. I had questioned witches and wizards-even those who now called themselves warlocks. I had swept the village looking for information, but neither the gossips nor the reserved could help.

I swung my broom horizontal and sat sidesaddle on it. I was up in the air, right below the clouds, in seconds. A kid from the village above screamed in a squeaky, excited voice, 'Look, mama, a witch!' A witch, indeed.

A very frustrated witch.

For two months now, I'd been looking for any rumor or minor detail that might hint at what the witches in the east were doing. Nothing. There were no rumors, no suspicious activity. I sighed. Somebody had order a Witch Tracker to kill me and nobody knew anything. A low cloud swerved past me and I had to duck and move aside so that I wouldn't get caught in it. I didn't like passing through clouds; as romantic as it seemed, it just ended with me being wet.

The town's small houses and bent buildings were scarce when my house came into view. It was small and average, with a ceiling made of some material that couldn't resist rain and a shaky foundation that would send it flying with a strong wind. A house made to replicate the ones in town. My broom slowed down and, tiredly, I descended. I jumped to the ground and placed the broom against the outside wall of the house, the poor thing was old and exhausted.

"Rest a little now. Thanks for the ride."

I pushed the door open, feeling the magic charms and hexes that protected the house pulling at me, checking that I was allowed to enter. Smells of half-ready concoctions swirled around, wanting to be used. My house was all one big cirlce, a lot bigger than it seemed from outside and certainly more resistant. Cauldrons and books cluttered one side of the room; my bed and the kitchen were on the other side. A long time ago, my kitchen and working area had been one and the same. I have since learned that food and magical substances do not mix that well.

I walked to one of the brewing cauldrons, a thick green substance bubbled and gurgled inside. I immerse an arm till the elbow, my skin prickling. This one was ready. I rummaged my cupboard for a clean glass, my arm dripping green. I was frustrated and on my tiptoes when my fingers finally stumbled on a bowl. It was good enough. I dipped into the cauldron, and pulled it back before it got too heavy.

I had to do this. After weeks of searching for a counter spell, I had finally found one that might work—only I wasn't so sure I wanted it to work.

"I have no other choice."

I glanced at the cage sitting on the one of my many wooden tables that did not have the world on it. Spellbound, the little spider inside, scurried here and there, making its spider web. How easily I could crush that tiny little thing, rip it leg by leg.

It would deserve it. He would, the nasty Tracker that had tried to kill me. But I needed him alive, not dead, especially now that I couldn't get information anywhere else. He had to cooperate.

I walked to the cage, bending down to be at eyelevel with the ever-moving insect.

"Don't make this hard," I said and its blue-green spider eyes looked at me with something akin to hatred.

I reached inside the cage and grabbed it by a leg, firmly enough so that it wouldn't escape as it had tried to do the other times. I dipped the spider into the green potion and kept it there. My fingers started burning, my skin ablaze in fire for a second before the spider started to change shape, its hairy legs stretching and fattening, the hair growing back into it. I held fast, watching the transformation, waiting for it to stop.

It took a whole minute for the change to finish. The magic had barely started to evaporate when I felt my arm being pulled and a hand circled around my throat. My vision blurred, but I was ready this time. Magic swelled around me, his touch fuelling. I wrapped myself, pushing him away with all the power flowing out of me and trapping him inside.

By the time I could see clearly again, one of the cauldrons had been tipped over by the magic, its contents spilling on the floor. Spellbound stood by the workbench close to my bed, hitting at the restrictive magic around him. I walked a little closer and his face contorted as he screamed mutedly. I knew he wouldn't do it the easy way.

"You have an awful lot of hate."

He hit harder. I sighed and softened the magic around him so that I could hear him. A stream of cursing followed. I did not appreciate being called the ugly, smelly, fat underside of a troll.

"I can hear you now, Spellbound," I said after I had heard all the insults I could tolerate for a lifetime.

I almost expected him to be taken aback or at least shut up, but his reply didn't miss a beat. "That is not my name, you—"

The magic tightened. "I wouldn't finish that sentence, Spellbound." More cursing resulted. "Would you shut up? I need some information."

He cursed one more time and then stopped for long enough to laugh humorlessly. "And you think you are getting it from me?" He asked, his tone laced with sarcasm, dripping with venom.

"Yes," I replied, my eyes fixed upon his. "I am."

He stood still for the first time, but it only lasted for less than a second. His fists clenched, a teeth-revealing smile flashing on his mouth when he enunciated, "You are out of your mind."

Maybe.

"Yes. I'm sure I'm the one who looks out of her mind right now." He hit the magic again. "Ok. Enough of that." I clenched the magic so hard that I could see the marks it was making on his skin. He wriggled, much like he had done when he was a spider. "Stop it. I have a proposition for you."

"I am going to wring your neck."

All his struggling was taking a toll on my strength, and my blood had started boiling. My instincts where recognizing him as a Tracker and I could barely keep myself in check.

"I am sure you'll try. Meanwhile, you are in my power and better listen to me," I said. His face contorted, about to start screaming again, so I added quickly, "You will turn back into a spider soon and I'll make sure to accidentally step on you then if you don't cooperate."

He stopped moving, his weight now limp in my magic, but continued glaring with hatred.

"I want your help," I said clearly, not wanting to repeat myself.

He looked at me steadily out of those green eyes. It was the most solemn I had ever seen him and it made him look dark and dangerous. My skin prickled, remembering the feel of the knife to my throat or the slow snaking sensations of the thread he had used to bind me.

"You said Aunt Erhen hired you to kill me. But somebody had to have given you information to track me down. Somebody, maybe several people, have to have told you where I was and how to get to me. I want to know who and where to find them."

He didn't skip a beat. "Erhen told me where to find you."

Rage flared inside me unexpectedly, the reaction of my emotions mixed with his presence, and the magic tightened again, constricting.

"She wouldn't have known. No witch knows where I am," I told him as his face changed to a mixture of pain and surprise. "Don't lie to me, Spellbound. Tell me who gave you information."

I loosened the magic.

A couple of moments passed before he spoke again, his voice uncertain this time, and once again I saw a flash of that boy who hadn't been defeated. Until now. "Why don't you tell me some things first, Amberine?" He said my name like it was disgusting and I almost lost my temper again. "How old are you? How come you can do magic without saying an incantation?"

I almost lost my grip on him for a moment. My heart quickened and I choked as I was about to speak. I still couldn't lie.

I couldn't tell him the truth, either. If he knew I was the witch with the Luck, he would never cooperate. He would want to turn me in.

"I'm old in witch age," I said, which was only a partial truth. I was rather old, by witch standards, but that wasn't why I could do magic without spells—that was part of the Luck.

"How old?" He asked, his eyes narrowing. "I understand that only the very learned and experienced of your kind could control magic without saying an incantation out loud. And you look rather like a child."

That was big coming from somebody who probably hadn't seen his twenty first year yet.

"I'm old enough," I said with finality, but I could see in the set of his jaw that he wasn't convinced. "Are you going to help me or not?"

"Why would I?" Skepticism laced his tone. "You turned me into a spider and left me in that damn cage for two months, eating nothing but bugs."

I rolled my eyes at him. "You tried to kill me—you deserved what you got, in my book."

His jaw tensed. "That's my job."

"Staying alive is my job," I snapped at him. "Listen, Spellbound, you have no chance of staying a human without me. I'm the only one who can lift your spell. And I swear I'll put you back in eight legs and tear each of them off if you don't help me."

I could see no reaction on his face, but his gaze became more intense and through the magic I had around him, I could feel his fear. Good.

His words were calculated when he answered, "If I die, all my information goes with me."

I let my mouth curl in that horrible way most creatures hated. I had thought he would say something like this, try to die in a false sense of heroism—most witch trackers were that way. I wouldn't let him.

"I didn't say I would kill you," my voice was low and I kept my eyes fixed on his as I talked. "There are so many other things I could do. I have always wondered how my curses and hexes would work on an enchanted spider."

"How long?"

I steeled. "As long as I need you."

He stared hard at me, huffing and seemingly trying to not go ballistic again. His voice was controlled, like he was both frustrated and angry, when he spoke. "What's in it for me?"

My mouth hung open for a second, my brain working to come up with a response. "Is keeping you alive not enough?"

He smirked in an absolutely annoying sort of way. "Hardly. I want to stay human while I help you."

The way he turned the words around made it sound like he was doing me a favor instead of him being my prisoner.

"I can't keep you as a human for more that a few minutes without breaking the spell on you, and then you wouldn't help me."

"Then I guess you'll have to come up with a new spell. I'm sure you can do it, a witch as old as you should be able to." There was contempt in his voice and something right behind his eyes told me that if I loosened the magic around him an inch more, he would attack to kill.

This was going to be a difficult relationship.

Three sound knocks on the front door made me break eye contact. "I'll be right there."

Carefully, I wrapped the magic around Spellbound so that it would tie him to the bed behind him, his protests flying around. I let him go, cutting the connection between the magic and I with a painful snap that sent ugly things down my spine.

A pale, thin boy that seemed almost younger than me looked down from his dwindle-y height. He was shifting his weight from one foot to the other, his gaze fixed right above my head.

"A—are you the witch Amberine?"

"I am."

He stayed silent for a while, so long I was about to ask what he wanted. But before I could speak, he shook and his eyes found mine. His face changed, like he expected me to be covered in sores and wrinkles, and I had cheated. His mouth opened and closed a couple of times, no sound coming from it.

"My name is Timothy," he let out, not stuttering this time. "I need your services."

My eyes went to Spellbound, still struggling with the magic bonds, but he had no chance of moving anytime soon. When I turned back to Timothy, he was peeking behind me, trying to see the Tracker.

"What do you want?"

"I need a lu—luck potion."

My fingers curled in a small movement, making parchment and an inked quill jet to my hands.

"What for?"

The pale face of the boy went red and his eyes, once again, seem to see through me, rather than at me. "Can't you j—just make the potion?"

I rolled my eyes. I had heard that question so many times before—all humans seemed to think that I could just magic their hearts' desires into existence, even though I knew nothing about them. Fools.

"I can't just make a luck potion," I said, quill poised to write. "It needs to be specific to the kind of luck you need or it won't work."

"Oh." He fidgeted some more. "Well, there's this girl… But I don't want any love potion! I just want some luck to—to ask her out."

"And who's the girl?"

"Ah," he hesitated. "Sally Calloy."

"The blacksmith's daughter?"

"The same."

I wrote the name of the girl down. I knew Sally only by name; her father, Roman Calloy was a stout man of deep pockets and deeper opinions. He had come for my services more than once, spells to enchant a hammer or a sword, or luck to make his business prosper. He would probably not approve of dwindle-y Timothy for his daughter.

That, however, was none of my business.

"When will you be using the potion?"

"Tomorrow, if it's ready by then. I wanna take her to the Festival of Leaves."

Festival of Leaves, my writing was curly and my lines diagonal on the paper, but it was good enough.

"I'll have it ready by five this afternoon," I said. "You can come with the payment and get it then."

"About that," he eyes shifted here and there. "How much do you want? For the payment, that is. I don't have that much money and—"

I smiled a little, because the boy seemed so nervous I thought he might snap. "I don't want money." His eyes widened at my words, and it had the unfortunate effect of making his look like a frog. "Your family has an herb shop, am I right?"

He nodded. "Mum grows them herself."

"There is a plant, it's called the Red Sage. Do you know what it looks like?" He nodded again, and I continued. "I want one of its flowers. If you bring me that by five, I'll give you the luck potion."

The frog look intensified. "But that's poisonous. Mum won't let me take it, I'll have to steal it!"

I waved my hand and the quill and parchment floated back to one of the cluttered tables. "That's not my problem. Red Sage for the luck, that's my price."

He delivered for a long time, no doubt having an intense internal battle I cared not for. "I'll bring it to you."

"Good. See you at five, then." I closed the door on an open-mouthed Timothy before he could start asking whether I was going to kill somebody with the Red Sage.

For a second, the emptiness of the living room startled me, the vague impression that something should have been there tugged at the back of my mind. But as soon as I realized what was missing, I saw the eight-legged spider squirming inside the magic I had left there to trap the Tracker.

A tiredness fell over me as I remembered my deal with that horrible creature. "You're inconvenient."


I dumped a cauldron full of clear slime on the trees by my house before going back in. All those ingredients wasted. Again. This was about my fourteenth attempt at getting the Tracker's special spell right. I had tried spells, potions, hexes, and even a curse—but none of them would work. I could feel it as the magic sizzled in them, getting ready for use.

Keep my spell on the Tracker. Bind him to me. Let him stay a human.

I saw Timothy's luck potion swirling and colorless on my bedside table, calling for attention, and the fleeting thought of drinking it crossed my mind. A luck potion could give a witch enough affinity with the magic around to make better spells. I shook that idea from my head; Luck never worked quite right for me.

I was beginning to think it wasn't even possible. I had never had this much trouble making a spell—except for that one time I had been commissioned a hex to make a gun never miss a shot—, the ingredients and words I needed, the way to pull the magic around usually came naturally. But not this time.

Could it be the magic didn't want to work for a Witch Tracker?

Raising my hand, I made all the parchment on the floor float above my head. There was so much that it made a new, beige ceiling. A magical ceiling, because the parchments were covered in spells or incantations I had been trying out. I walked below them, looking at the backward writings in case I could suddenly phantom how to make them work.

Snapping made the parchment pages stack up in front of me; there was no use in keeping these—I couldn't risk one of them acting up. I put my index finger on the top parchment and, with a candle spark, lit all of them up in blue flames. They burned quietly, a silence unlike that of real fire, the blue flares undulating like sea waves in front of my eyes.

Dragging my now empty cauldron behind me, I sat down on my bed, where a new sheet of parchment and a quill waited for me. I stole a glance at the Tracker, now back in its cage knitting a little web. Maybe I should leave him like that, find some other way of getting information.

But how?

I had no leads, nothing I could hang onto. Somebody had sent a Witch Tracker to kill me, but not a single person had the faintest idea of who. Except for the Tracker himself. He had chased me down a cold trail; he had found me despite my many protective spells. He knew names and locations. I needed him.

My hand encircled the quill with enough force to break it. Good thing it was enchanted. The magic prickled and sizzled like it always did when I was trying to conjure a spell. It flew through me, letting me feel the words I should say, how the ritual should go, what ingredients I should use.

Belladonna seeds, it was almost a whisper from the magic.

I shook my head—clearly something wasn't right today. This was the fifth of all my attempts to get the enchantment right that I felt I should use belladonna. Only it hadn't worked! Belladonna seeds, like fairy powder, were powerful and aggressive, especially for binding spells. I had used the seeds several times, but they just wouldn't work right for this one. Their magic turned vicious as soon as they fell in the pot and obliterated all other remnants of the half-decent spells I managed to conjure.

Still, the magic was insistent that I needed the seeds for this spell, and I couldn't understand why.

I put the quill down. Could it be one of the curses? Maybe it wasn't letting me feel the magic right. Maybe—

"Stop!" I jumped off the bed and started pacing.

What was wrong with me? I knew it wasn't a curse; none of the curses was this benign. This was my fault—and the Tracker's. I could make up a spell I've never seen or heard of in such a short notice. And I needed to figure out who had sent the Tracker to kill me before they tried again. And try they would. I wasn't going to wait around for them to come get the luck, not now.

Magic soared from me in irritation at the knock on the door and some of the more precariously balanced pots on the tables rattled. I yanked the door open with a wave of my hand, and it hit the wall with a resounding scream as it unsettled the protective spells in the wood.

Timothy's frog face stared wildly around, his legs moving in a strange dance between leaving and coming in.

"I have your potion," I said, trying to calm down.

He nodded uncertainly and tried to step in, but the spells kept him outside, banning him. He eyes nearly popped out of his head.

I sighed and it was tiring. Extending my arms in front of me, I pushed at the spells, giving Timothy a slit to get in without being smothered to death. Or burned. Depends of which spell he upset. He came in, tremulous like an autumn leave.

"I ha—have the r—red sage," he got out, showing me the bright red flower in his hand.

I took it carefully and placed the little warm vial on his still outstretched hand. He eyes it skeptically.

"This if l—luck?"

I placed the sage on a wayward bowl without water and put an oversized lid on top of it. "It is."

"Bu—t, it has no color. It l—looks just like wat—ter."

I turned to look at him, which made him fidget incessantly. "I can add some color, if you like, but the potion will be the same. Luck has no color of its own."

I should know.

"Tha—at's fine."

He seemed about to run off, so I fixed him with a stare that had made stronger souls pay attention. "Remember to use the potion only when you told me you would and to do as you said you would. Otherwise it won't work."

I nodded, but it looked more like an involuntary shake of his head. He was gone before I could count to ten. It was sort of amusing, really, this deep terror I seemed to arouse in people. Poor Timothy must have gathered up a life's worth of courage to come see me.

Maybe I should have been kinder to him.

I side glanced at the squirming spider, then at the blank parchment on my bed and the blot of ink flowing out of the enchanted quill and into my bed sheets. There was no time for kindness these days.

The silence enveloped me, a strange cocoon, once Timothy left and I tried to shrug it off. I didn't like to feel defeated, not me.

The Tracker hung upside down from a ghostly white thread, its disturbing eyes bulging out like two green orbs. I kneeled next to the table, bringing my own eyes, bigger than its entire head, down to its level so that only the wire bars of the cage separated us. I could see my twisted magic binding him, forcing something much larger into a tiny spider with the help of the fairy powder I had used, which was darker than any of my spells could ever be. Still, there were strange knots and loops around this particular spell, ones that i hadn't done, no doubt a reaction to our natures.

"You had to make it complicated." I buried my face in both my hands, black hair falling all around my head, and breathed in. Deeply.

There must be something I hadn't tried. Some approach I knew but had skipped like, like—

Chalk.

Where was my chalk? I glanced at the piles and piles of parchment and leather-bound books lying around, my writing tools spilled over them. A groan escaped my lips. I needed to clean the place, again.

I spotted a piece of coal just under my bed. I had be using it for a potion to change the skin texture, to make wrinkles appear—or disappear, in the case of my client. This one was just a left over; it wasn't ideal, but it would have to work.

Chalk in my hand, I grabbed Spellbound's cage and placed it on the floor. My spell coiled tightly around him, sensing my intent, and a proud satisfaction rose inside me—I could feel the fear from the Tracker and it made me powerful. With the coal, I traced once, two, three circles around the cage. In the space between the circles, I wrote the ancient word, trying not to blur them. Words were important for witches; these words in particular were used by every witch, words of pure power. Magic surged in me, reacting to the summoning of the writings and I could barely keep it all controlled. I was unaccustomed to its strength, the forcefulness of its pull.

This was the reason I rarely did magic the way other witches did. The words were too compelling, the tracings too strong; it made the magic in me flow uninhibited.

Exactly what I needed right now.

I sat in front of the tri-circle, my legs under me, and raised my arms towards the cage. A soft glow spread across the traces, muted by the black of the coal and my own grip to keep the magic stable.

"I—" I choked, strained. "I call forth the magic."

It was like breaking a demon's seal. I couldn't keep it all in check anymore and its force hit my with a snap. My hair flew wildly around my face, and the room titled, askew. It hadn't been like this before—but that was before the Luck had unleashed. I hadn't been careful enough.

The cage in the center of the whirlwind of my magic rattled, the spider viciously hitting against its confines. The spell around it had loosened, but it wasn't gone, the knots weren't undone yet. My focus tightened. I would not stop until the spell was off completely; I wasn't even sure I could.

Cold chills ran down my spine, wayward souls tugging at the power, trying to take some. A screech pierced my very being, resounding in the closed space of my house, and it took me a moment of painful concentration to figure out it had come from me. I tried to keep the spirits at bay, not very successfully.

The beginning of a sentence was lost to the magic. "Command the binding to free," I faltered. I didn't know Spellbound's real name. "Free the Witch Tracker."

My hands shook uncontrollably and the magic shattered, cutting into my flesh with its ruthlessness.

I fell on top of the tri-circle, smudging the half-gone coal markings and the power they contained. I heard several things break, cauldrons, books, and semi-finished flasks of potions smashing and thumping against the floor in a racket, but I couldn't be bothered to look. My body was exhausted, my muscles pulled and sore, my breathing labored. The house was a blur of mahogany and black that didn't stop spinning for a while.

I was still shaking and in pain by the time I could almost see properly again. Magic lingered like unwanted static on the tip of my fingers, waiting to be used. I tried to get up, which resulted in a distinct shattering sound from my left.

Calm down. Focus.

The magic churning inside of my chest settled slowly, still upset, and my fingers stopped burning leaving an uncomfortable tingle behind.

The place was even more of a wreck now. It would take me weeks to clean all the spells that had fallen on the floor, not to mention that the bed glowed faintly, hexed. I would have to deal with that later. My gaze searched the chaos for Spellbound and I found the cage opened, wired in a disarranged mess on the opposite corner of the house. It was completely destroyed, the spider nowhere to be seen.

"Hell."

I managed to stand up on wobbly legs, taking one or two hesitant steps before collapsing on the floor one more time, my eyes everywhere, looking for the Tracker. A prickle on my arm, a blur of black, and there it was, crawling on top of my hand on its fragile legs. I sighed in relief and grimaced at the pain that brought.

At least the Tracker was alive. I didn't even want to being thinking what would happened if I had killed him while trying to revert my own spell. However, he was still a spider.

I groaned, a fresh set of torture spreading through my body. I tried to pull myself together, rising to a sitting position and letting the spider climb on top of my arm where it couldn't be killed by a rampant enchantment floating around. He might well deserve to be killed, though—this was all his fault.

"Damn you for finding me."

Another screech pierced the air and, for a second, I thought it was me again, but this was higher and farther away, like a warning bell. Holding onto the wall, I wobbled to the nearest window and peered outside. It was dark already, a starless night, yet several lights danced near the ground, bobbing closer to where I was, trying to get past barriers only my clients could cross.

If I strained I could hear the yells, the desperation to get in, the hatred.

I stepped outside to see what the ruckus was about, but staying far enough from the crowd of townsfolk. Their faces were red and sweaty, contorted masks of dislike shining under the torches' light. Men and women who I had worked for pounded against the first barrier, armed to kill.

What the hell?

"What is going on here?" My voice projected over their noise, which grew rabid by the second.

Somebody from the front, the barber Edmund Wilkins, waved a glinting razor in my direction, spitting as he spoke, "Demon wench, how dare ye bewitch poo' Timothy Stock! We gunna run ye though and burn ye lifeless, unholy body at the stake!"

I stared at him, more confused than I was before. Spellbound moved to my other shoulder, partially hidden by my black hair.

"I didn't bewitch Timothy. Go ask him yourself."

Next to Wilkins, a pale woman broken in tears and screams, all the while seething at me. "We can't do that now, can we? You kill him! My poor, poor boy. My baby Tim."

I narrowed my eyes, taking a step back and summoning magic with my tired fingers. "I didn't kill Timothy either. And I don't know what you are babbling about."

"Like hell you do!" Wilkins exclaimed.

A short, burly man I recognized as Mr. Calloy, the blacksmith, stepped forward, his face a big crease of a frown.

"Missus Witchsight," he said in his low grumble of a voice. "This Timothy chap jumped from the clock buildin' and somebody heard him talk some nonsense about your potion not workin'—"

"'Twas Sally Calloy. Sally heard him," a voice shouted from the back.

Mr. Calloy stiffened. "Yeah. Me daughter heard and we find an empty bottle next to him like the very ones you use for your liquids."

I frowned to match his expression. "He shouldn't have drunk it. I told him—"

Timothy's mother hollered, her expression one of outrage. "So it was your fault, you demonic monster. You heard her! She confessed she killed my boy"

They weren't listening anymore. The mob pounded and stabbed at the barrier, which was much too weak from my littler stunt of magic calling. Their yells were an eerie, indecipherable background as I ran back into the house and shut the door behind me.

I could kill them all. But doing away with a whole town would definitely give away my location to whomever had sent the Tracker to kill me, then I would have to run or hide.

But I couldn't just abandon the house, everything I owned like that—

Spellbound moved frantically around my neck, almost crawling on to my face with urgency. Right. I grabbed my pouch from the bed where it lay, half-full of things I should have taken out a long time ago, and threw in the Red Sage and a little pot of Dragon's Breath that I had. I stuffed whatever else was at hand—handkerchiefs, a small knife, thread, some potion or another, and a bunch of herbs I could quite differentiate at the moment.

"Try not to get crushed."

Carefully, I put Spellbound on top of everything and closed the pouch. A bone-crunching sound, and I knew the first barrier had let them through. The others wouldn't last; the magic in them was not shaped to work against humans.

I grabbed the black witch's hat and coat from where they hung on my way to the back door. My broom was just outside, rattling, waiting for me. I put it in between my legs and pushed with all my might.

"She's trying to escape!"

I glanced back to meet a flash of deformed faces, a hand tightening around my heart.

The wind was violent, wushing so hard it almost send me tumbling back to the ground, but I held fast, secured my hat and coat on, and flew away just as my house became a giant flaming torch.