Mind Control

It was dusk. The sky was indigo, tinged with red. Tira walked down the weatherbeaten track that led to Coltbridge. Jemmy the warrior walked by her side and her familiar, Gloom the imp, was perched on her shoulder.

"Wish I could just fly us there on my broom, but my flying's still a bit crazy. Sorry," said Tira.

"That's an understatement," grumbled Gloom. "I'm still dizzy from that flight."

Gloom looked like a little blue-grey monkey, but her had claws and golden, slit pupiled eyes, like a cat. He put a little clawed hand to his head. "I don't think you're ready to swoop down from the sky and surprise anyone, Mistress."

"I don't wanna startle anyone," said Tira. "But it'd be great to fly properly. But now we'd better just walk."

"I welcome the chance to walk with you, Tira," said Jemmy. "It is most kind of you to escort me to Coltbridge. As always, you are courteous and considerate."

"Aw, thanks!" Tira was sort of glad she couldn't blush anymore, because she knew she would be blushing if she still could. When she first transformed into a witch, her skin had turned bright green and nothing would change it. There was always going to be magic inside her and everyone could see she was a witch.

She glanced sideways at Jemmy, taking in his big brown eyes, his freckled nose and cheeks, his strong jawline and his wavy brown hair… Just the sight of his face was making her moist.

"Just think, she hasn't had the benefit of a good old Coltbridge education," said Gloom. "And yet she is 'courteous and considerate.'"

"It is her nobility of spirit," said Jemmy. "Such things come naturally to her."

"Aw." Tira grasped his hands so that they could walk hand in hand. The feel of his hand in hers thrilled and exhilarated her. Oh gods, Jemmy was sweating because of the long trek. The smell of his sweat made her want to put her face close to him and drink in his aroma. Oh gods, she was glad her thoughts were private.

"Look up!" said Gloom, his reedy little voice jerking Tira out of her thoughts of sniffing Jemmy.

Tira peered up at the darkening sky. There was a cloud above them, of little black winged things.

"Bats!" said Jemmy. "Is this a natural swarm of bats?"

"I dunno…" said Tira.

"Hope there are no night-ghasts," said Gloom. "I doubt even your powers could control those beasts, Mistress."

"Tira can control any beast with her magic pipes," said Jemmy. "You've seen her wipe out the plague of rats that brought pestilence to Aryll. "And how she summoned beasts from the Underworld to bring down the Infernal Beast himself. These night-ghasts you speak of would not stand a chance against her power."

"Yeah, the pipes, are um… something I am good at," said Tira.

At that moment, a gust of wind blasted in their faces. It buffeted Gloom onto the track, where he landed on all fours. Now the wind swirled around them, blowing leaves and debris in a circle. High above them, a woman's voice called out:

"You can't keep me from my man, little witch."

There was a woman with bright green skin on a broomstick high above them. She had a long, beak like nose, and her vivid face was framed by dirty blond hair… With a chill, Tira recognised Millie, one of the Bedlam Hags. The Bedlam Hags were a trio of feral witches.

Tira raised her hands to cast a forcefield spell around them, but she was buffeted by a gust of icy wind. Gloom and Jemmy were buffeted too.

"I can control the weather, amateur," jeered Millie. "The elements themselves will bend to my will. I will deal with you in due course."

Tira felt herself gripped by invisible hands. Her arms were pinned to her sides. On the ground, Gloom gave a screech of protest as the invisible force gripped him as well. Tira could just about fit a hand into her pocket to touch her fingers to her collection of pebbles. These pebbles were receptacles for magic. Tira willed and willed her magic to flow into them, but it was as though it was stoppered by a dam. One of Millie's tricks. She had bound Tira's magic, like she had bound her body. The wind was dying down. With a thrill of horror, she saw Millie now had the handsome warrior on her broomstick and her green hands on his temples. Jemmy's eyes were glazed. Tira felt a surge of adrenaline and that redoubled her magical strength. Her power streamed through her fingers and into the stones, which broke through the hem of her dress and rolled onto the ground firing beams of light into Millie's eyes, who screamed as they dazzled her. Millie flew higher and glared down at Tira.

"Too late," she said, her blackish lip curling in a sneer. The Bedlam Hag held up a scroll of rigid vellum. "The warrior is now my perfect pet. He will obey the witch who holds this spell. And that witch is me. I will command him to put his seed in me and give me is child. Then we will be joined by blood."

The magical grip on Tira's arms was weakening, and she reached for the enchanted pipes at her belt. With these, Tira could command animals. She had already wiped out an infestation of plague rats and commanded rodent sprites from the underworld to take down the Infernal Beast. Now she put the pipe to her lips and willed herself to call out to the bats nearby.

The pipes didn't seem to make any sound that Tira could hear, but then a swarm of bats swooped down from the sky and buffeted Millie this way and that, causing her to shriek. Tira really hoped they didn't frighten Jemmy as well, but he wasn't making a sound. The young witch commanded the bat to take the scroll and bring Millie and Jemmy down gently.

The scroll fell from Millie's green hands and hit the track. Tira snatched it up with her free hand and stuffed it into her dress. Now Millie was casting small fireballs at the bats, which made them burn with an acrid stink of charred flesh, but the cloud of bats was growing. The broom sank to the ground and Millie was wrapped in a cocoon of furry bodies and leathery wings. The bats parted for Tira, and she took the pipes from her mouth and leapt forward and pulled Jemmy off the broom and onto the ground.

The bats were released from the spell and at the same time, Millie screeched and waved her arms, conjuring a blast of magic that made them disperse. Tira gripped Jemmy's hand, and with her free hand, she put the pipes to her mouth again. She remembered what Gloom had said earlier about night-ghasts. She focused her mind.

Night-ghasts, if you hear my call, then come and chase away that evil witch.

She put the power of her wish into the tune she played, and the pipes made a weird, dirge like call.

Millie had fended off the bats. She glared at Tira. "You'll get it now!"

But then there was a hollow shriek, and a strangely shaped thing covered in bristles, with huge leathery wings and bulging, frog like eyes came hurtling down from the sky towards Millie. A night-ghast had obeyed Tira's summons!

Millie shrieked and sent a bolt of lightening at it. Her lightening had devastating effect, leaving the night-ghast dead on the ground, but now a whole swarm of them were hurtling towards the Bedlam Hag, who took flight. "You've won – this time," she screeched, and then flew away from Tira's winged minions.

Gloom came scampering up to them. "She doesn't want to tangle with the cliff-ghasts, or whatever other critters you may throw at her," he observed.

Tira took the pipes from her mouth and turned to Jemmy. "Jemmy? Are you OK?" Jemmy stared ahead, his brown eyes blank. Tira felt her heart flutter in panic. "What's she done to you?"

"Didn't you hear the hag screeching about mind control? I did," said Gloom. "She also said that whichever witch holds that scroll can control Jemmy."

"Oh yeah," Tira remembered now. She pupped the scroll out from under her dress and opened it out. It was covered in weird esoteric symbols and seemed to writhe and changing shape as she looked at them until they fell into a recognisable order. A spell of command.

"Jemmy… if you can hear me, please say 'yes,'" said Tira.

"Yes," said Jemmy. But his voice was devoid of expression. It made Tira feel on the verge of panic again.

"Um… we've got to get you to shelter and quickly get this spell off you," said Tira. "Do you know a good inn nearby, Jemmy?"

"Yes," said Jemmy tonelessly.

"Please lead the way," said Tira.


An hour later, they reached the Blue Lobster inn, at the crossroads near to Coltbridge. Tira took Jemmy to a private bedroom and Gloom went with them.

Jemmy sat on the bed, gazing ahead with blank eyes. Gloom watched from the windowsill. Tira paced the room trying desperately to think of something to break the evil spell of mind control. She tried a simple spell of release, but that had no effect. She didn't want to try anything that would hurt Jemmy.

"Oh, Jemmy, you've got to snap out of it," said Tira, her voice quivering. "I wanna get you back to you family who loves you! After all we've been through, this awful spell can't take away who you are."

"Perhaps it wore off?" suggested Gloom.

Tira held up the rigid vellum. "Jemmy, touch your cute nose gently with the tip of your finger," said Tira. Jemmy did so. "OK, that's enough," said Tira. Jemmy resumed his rigid pose.

Tira turned to Gloom. "There, see, the magic's enslaved him. It's not gonna wear off." She sighed. "Look at his pretty eyes. He still looks handsome, even when the spell takes away his smile and his thoughts." She sat by Jemmy. "And you do smell pretty good too, gosh."

"I thought he was sweating from the journey!" said Gloom.

"Jemmy's sweat smells good," said Tira. "Oh, Jemmy. I know you can't hear me, but you know I'd love to have your sweaty body next to mine. I'd never say that if you could hear. I'm just too embarrassed."

"That would be a strange thing to drop into conversation," said Gloom.

"Not just that. I can't tell Jemmy how I really feel," said Tira. "He's gotta marry a proper lady in Coltbridge. But I love him." She sighed. "I wish he saw me as more than a friend."

"You must be best friends now," said Gloom. "You've done quite a lot together."

"I wish he saw me as more than a best friend," said Tira. "Am I being selfish? Wanting to be close to Jemmy? I'm not expecting him to love me back the way I love him. But I want to stay by his side. If he wants to get married, I won't get in the way, but I wanna be able to protect him. Like, protect him from his feelings being hurt."

"You want to be his green wing-girl?" said Gloom.

"Right," said Tira. "And you accuse me of saying weird things."

"You don't know what a wing-girl is, do you?" said Gloom.

"Noo…" said Tira.

"And didn't it annoy you when Jemmy tickled you?" said Gloom.

"No, it felt good to be able to cling to him afterwards," said Tira. She gazed into Jemmy's deep brown eyes. "I'm a witch, but it's like you put a spell on me. Remember when you rescued me from Hollowell? They were gonna kill me because they hate witches there."

"I suggested that you threaten him to make him get you out of that cell," said Gloom.

"Yeah, and I ignored you, cos that's just wrong. And Jemmy wanted to rescue me of his own free will, cos he's good," said Tira, sticking out her tongue at the imp.

The witch put her hands on Jemmy's shoulders and gazed into his face. "Your free will is so important. I wanna get it back for you. When I look at your handsome face, I always feel better. Even after those horrible adventures when we had to fight the Canker. And the Infernal Beast. Being with you made me feel happy again."

She sat beside him on the bed. "I really wish you'd play with my hair and then kiss me and tell me you'll love me forever. I can't tell you, but I love you and I want to marry you. But you don't love me like I was your wife. If you did, I would ask you to marry me. But I think you don't wanna marry me. What would we look like together? I've got a bright green face, and you've got a complexion that makes me jealous. I still wish I could marry you. I daydream about you taking me in your arms and kissing me."

"You can make him kiss you now," said Gloom. "He's enchanted to do what you say."

Tira glared at the imp. "How dare you suggest that? I'd never take advantage of him. He can't possibly consent to a kiss when he's under the spell, cos the spell makes him do whatever I say. Do you think I'm a creep like Millie?"

"It would be taking advantage," said Gloom. "But you can sniff his clothes. That would not be taking advantage. I bet it's something you've thought about doing."

"Oh ha ha," said Tira. "You're not helping."

Tira returned to pacing the room. "We're gonna have to go and find Willow for help. She's an experienced witch. She must know something."

"Jemmy's friends and family will be getting anxious about him," said Gloom.

Tira sighed. "Well then, what would you suggest?"

"You hold the spell. You can command him," said Gloom.

"I don't wanna command him," said Tira. "I want him to be the way he was before the horrible spell."

"Then use the spell and command him to be the way he was," said Gloom. "Do I have to spell everything out. Huh. That was a pun."

"Ohh!" Tira felt a thrill of nervous anticipation. Could this work? It had better. What if it didn't? She held up the vellum and thought hard. "Um, Jemmy… I'm a witch and I'm holding the spell. You have to obey me. I order you to act from now on and forever, exactly as you would act if you were not under a spell. I order you to think from now on and forever, exactly as you would think if you were not under a spell. I order you to be from now on and forever, exactly as you would be if you were not under a spell."

She paused, her heart beating faster. Would it work?

Jemmy blinked. His big brown eyes no longer had that glazed look. "Very clever, Tira. It worked."

"Hey, I thought of it," said Gloom.

Tira gave a squeak and flung her arms around Jemmy. "Oh, Jemmy, I was so worried."

"I heard," said Jemmy.

"What did you hear?" said Gloom.

"I could hear everything, even if I couldn't speak," said Jemmy.

Tira drew back, feeling her face grow hot. "Wait, what? You heard everything? I – I … You heard everything I said?"

"I heard everything," said Jemmy.