Michelle Siva

The Castle of Secrets

I would have to dedicate this book to my younger sister, who, even when all seemed hopeless and no one thought I would ever finish the book, was there for me. Thank you.

Chapter 1

My parents never meant to hurt me. They would never do it on purpose. I slapped myself. How I wish I could better remember the night I was swept away. No, nothing I could do could change what my parents have done to me. Kyle has asked me to keep a diary of what has happened to me. He said it would help me get over it, but I’m not as sure. It’s actually more of a journal than anything else and these blank pages will soon be filled. OK, let me tell you my story. My name is Alyssa Torrey. Not too exciting, but it was what my parents have named me from the day I was born. Life was never fair to me, always trying to fit in: my parents constantly moving from house to house,

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dragging me with them. I didn’t think they could help it, but they had never told me why they did it, just, “Bear with me, Alyssa; it’s for your own well being.” Personally, it was worse for me than they could or would ever imagine. I don’t know if your parents are the type who like to move around, but I suppose you know a little of what it feels like to enter a new school, new town, and just expect to fit right in. I wasn’t the type to make friends easily. Of course there were the popular people, or maybe the good looking: but as in all stories, I was the odd one out. Not a nerd or anything, just too shy to step right into things like most other people. Wow, I think I’m getting away from the point. Well, it all started at Duncan High School (I always laugh at the name, it sounds like drunken) when I had entered my first period class, the first class of my school semester of ninth grade: English. Being me, I picked the seat in the very back corner, and looked around the class. The popular group was clustered together in the back, playing with makeup throughout the entire class period: typical. The football guys along with the good looking girls were mixed in randomly with them, flirting from time to time. I had to laugh at that. Then, of course, there was my group, the “middle” class. And lastly, the nerds, sitting up front with a paper and pen out, writing down everything the teacher said. Oh yeah, the teacher! Where to start? His name is William Sparks, Mr.

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Sparks to me. He was young, but still an adult. He was tan and fit. Anyway, he had nice facial features, complete with white teeth, and bright blue eyes. You could see a permanent calm complexion there, and the few wrinkles on his face showed how much he smiled. And also, considering he had done nothing to stop the preppy girls in back from doing their makeup the entire class, he was lenient. Over all, from what he showed me throughout my first English class, he was the best teacher out of all the schools I had been to, which was definitely saying something. But then again, I had better not get too used to him because next semester I would most likely move yet again. I had decided to confront my parents that night about having to move again. But I had always thought that every time I came to a new place. Why was this time any different? It was worth a try. I was in my room, boxes lining the walls. I was too lazy to unpack them at the moment, so I fished out a few prized possessions. I plugged in my CD player and started blasting a few of my favorite songs. Just laying on the floor playing a few emo songs was enough to get me in the zone to talk to my parents. You might be thinking why the heck I had to go through all this to talk to my parents, but it was harder than you think. They too hated moving, but

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for some reason kept doing it. Every time we moved to a different spot, they got irritated at everything, blaming inanimate objects for their problems. I liked to stay in my room most of the time, keeping to myself, but I had to show myself at dinner. We weren’t poor, so it wasn’t like we were scrounging for food, but we didn’t live in a mansion or anything. A one story condo with two bedrooms and a bathroom was more like it. By the time the table was set and the dinner served, my mouth was watering. I waited for my mother to start the conversation, waiting for the opportune moment. She didn’t let me down. “So, honey, how was your first day at school?” I pretended to be happy to make my parents in a better mood. “Fine, mother. My English teacher was nice.” There was an uncomfortable silence. I looked around and saw my dad’s green eyes boring into me, his dirty blonde hair in disarray. My mom was attacking her soup, grasping her utensil with uneven nails, giving away her nervous habit. Looking up she said, “That’s good darling. Make sure you unpack all your things in the next few days. We like a nice tidy house, don’t we?” Typical mother. I was annoyed with myself at letting this conversation go off topic, but I kept calm enough to

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say, “Yes mother.” Now how was I supposed to bring up the subject? “Uh, mom?” She looked up from her soup, her eyes gleaming in the dim light from the kitchen. I thought I caught a glimmer of something deep within her eyes, but it went away as quickly as it had come. I didn’t know why, but something had made me nervous and I faltered. “It’s nothing important.” Why did I always do that? “I’m just going to go to my room now and start to unpack.” I quickly got up and put away the dishes, and closed my bedroom door behind me. I heard my parents talking quietly in the other room, but I wasn’t interested and picked up the first box. It took me a while, but I unpacked enough to make my room look like a room. I jumped onto my bed, sighing on the way down. It was a big sigh that had come from deep within me. My father came in, looking as tired and haggard as usual. Pulling back my sheets, he helped me get comfortable. Even though it was way below my age, it comforted me. His big hands knew exactly where to tuck me in to make me comfortable. Smiling down at me, he patted my shoulder. Right when he was about to leave, he stopped and turned around. “I know how you feel about moving and all, but trust us when we tell you that we have no choice. We are trying to do everything we can, but there is only so much one can do.”

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This puzzled me. They often said that it was necessary to move, but never told the reason. Also, my dad had spoken. Not that he couldn’t, but he never spoke first, and if asked a question, would give a brief answer. I had half a mind to get up and confront him, but I knew it would do no good and drifted off into a troubled sleep. Getting up for school is hard, everyone knows that. Grudgingly, I packed for school and made a peanut butter sandwich. School was within walking distance from my temporary house, so I slowly climbed the steps toward my first period class. I looked over my shoulder and saw Mr. Sparks only a couple of meters away from me, leaning on the wall with an apple in his hand. It was a red apple, shiny from the reflection of the sun. A couple of bites were already eaten, another about to be devoured. I couldn’t take my eyes off the apple. It was so beautiful, and for some reason I could almost feel it call out to me. “Mr. Sparks don’t—.” Too late, he had taken another bite. I continued to stare at the red apple until I was jolted back to my senses because a book had just splattered onto the ground behind me. I looked up long enough to see Mr. Sparks look at me curiously and walked toward his classroom. The bell rang and people shoved their way to their classes, saying bye to their close friends. I

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dropped behind a bit, dawdling toward my classroom. I was the last to enter the noisy room, but when I did, Mr. Sparks looked up and his eyes followed me as I made my way to my seat. Throughout the entire period Mr. Sparks kept glancing my way, almost as if expecting me to do something. When the bell finally rang, I sighed in relief and ran outside to the grass field out back. People were sprawled out everywhere, eating lunch and laughing with friends. I sighed again, dreaming about what it would be like if I ever had a friend. My train of thought was suddenly cut off when a voice came to my ears. My head whipped around, bringing my straight brown hair with it. At first I thought it might be Mr. Sparks, but as I looked up, I saw a young guy. His brown hair was spiked and he had a few freckles on his nose. His tan skin shone in the sun and I looked up as he repeated his question. “Do you mind if I sit with you?” He looked earnestly at me with big brown eyes, adjusting his weight from foot to foot as he waited for the answer. His voice was deep and welcoming, but not too much so. I thought it sounded perfect. At first I just dumbly looked up at him, until the question finally registered. I fumbled for an answer, and ended up just nodding stupidly at him. “My name is Tristan. You’re in my English class with Mr. Sparks. What’s your name again?”

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“Alyssa,” I said simply. My face reddened as I noticed how dumb I must look. “Oh yeah, I remember. Umm, I decided to come over here and meet you. You seem like my type. Do you mind? I mean, I don’t want to bother you or anything.” I decided I liked this guy. Not only was he kind of cute, but he had a nice attitude. “No, that’s cool.” What else could I say? He visibly relaxed and took out a peanut butter sandwich. I stared in surprise as I also took out a peanut butter sandwich. “You like peanut butter sandwiches too? Without the jelly?” He nodded and looked down at my sandwich. “That’s so awesome! I make it every day.” “How interesting, so do I.” I was rewarded with an enthusiastic smile. He had the most wonderful smile, and I could do nothing but smile back. He started to laugh, probably because of my tentative smile, and it was infectious. His laugh was deep and it came from within him. I started to giggle, and by the time a minute was over we were gasping for breath, feeding off each others’ laughter. I wiped my eyes and told him that I hadn’t laughed so hard in all my life.

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Chapter 2

It had been several days, and I’d spent nonstop time with Tristan. I felt better about myself since I had someone to hold on to. But then again, things were getting weirder by the second. I had gone home, planning to talk to my parents again about not moving. There was the familiar scene at the dinner table again, my mother eating her food with gusto, and my father silently watching us with his intense stare. I decided to talk to my father this time, and cleared my throat to get his attention. My mother immediately looked up and glanced at him. They glanced at each other as if communicating, and then my father once again looked at me.

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I studied his familiar face, sadly looking back at me. He got up before I could speak and made his way over to me through the clutter of the room. He raised his hand and extended it toward my head. Resting it on the crest of my forehead, he moved his hand in a certain pattern. When he was done his peculiar motions, he meaningfully glanced at my mother and walked to his room. I sat dazed in my chair, more relaxed than I had felt in a long time. Then, suddenly, I felt something pulse through me that I couldn’t explain and I mechanically got up, did my dishes, went to bed, and immediately fell into a deep sleep. When I woke up the next morning I thought fleetingly about the unusual events from last night. To distract me, I had planned to meet Tristan out front until class started, and I called out when I spotted him. He walked toward me and extended a flower that I recognized as a poppy. I gladly accepted it, twirling it in my hand. Putting it behind my ear, we made our way to Mr. Sparks’ class again, who had grown increasingly strange when around me. That day, during homework period, Mr. Sparks walked up to me and signaled that he wanted to talk to me outside. I got up, wondering what in the world he would want to talk to me about at that moment, and followed him. When we were safely outside, he said the strangest thing. “Alyssa, do you believe in magic?”

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“No…” I said slowly. He looked thoughtfully at me, considering what to say. He bent down and picked up a poppy, just like the one Tristan had given me. Putting it in my face he slowly brought up his hand and carefully plucked a single petal off. I had the strangest sensation run through my body. It started at my head, like a throbbing, and then made its way down my spine, tingling as it went. It went past my stomach and all the way to my toes. Meanwhile, my eyes had narrowed and I stared at Mr. Sparks, with the poppy still in his hand and one petal missing. So many thoughts were running through my head; the most distinct one, though, was why in the heck would he do that to a flower? I felt I needed to protect that flower, and as I thought that, I felt a power run through me. It filled me up and I did the only thing that I think of doing: directed my thoughts to the flower and the flower only. It was a miracle right before my eyes. The poppy shimmered and there, right in front of me where moments ago had been a broken flower, sat the healthiest bouquet of poppies I had ever seen. I staggered backwards, once again aware of my surroundings. Mr. Sparks hadn’t fared much better and he looked surprised as he saw the flowers in front of him. I turned and ran blindly, scared that if I stopped, I would do something scary. When I finally stopped, I looked around and found myself in the nearby park. I sat down abruptly in the dead

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grass and looked mournfully out at the houses surrounding me. I thought about all that had happened to me. I hadn’t done that, had I? With the flowers and all? It couldn’t have been! I’m a normal person, not some sorcerer. Magic doesn’t even exist! My parents are normal, so why should I be any different? I was sure Mr. Sparks had something weird about him, so maybe he was the one to make the bouquet. But no, he was just as surprised as I was. I sighed; none of this was making sense. I could talk to Mr. Sparks, but I couldn’t pull together enough courage and gave up on the idea. I looked around and once again noticed the dead grass around me. I had a sudden choking feeling and once again the power welled up within me. I stiffened, afraid to move. Healthy grass poked through the dead blades and bright flowers sprouted. I was on the run again. This time it was a solid body that stopped me. We collided with a big ‘OOF’ and toppled to the ground. Panting, I looked at my attacker and recognized Tristan, dirt and bits of grass stuck to him. He was smiling and gracefully picked himself up. “Man, girl, you’re definitely fast when you want to be. You nearly killed me there!” He laughed for a second then brought himself back together. “Mr. Sparks told me what happened. I understand how you must feel.” He came close to

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me as if for a hug, then changed his mind and backed away, surveying me with concern. “How in the world can you possibly know what I’ve just been through? My life has now been officially ruined; I’m… magical!” The word felt awkward when I said it aloud. “I didn’t even know magic existed in the world!” Tristan kept a straight face as I ranted on about how my life was ruined and finally my temper broke loose (not that it hadn’t already). “HOW CAN YOU BE SO CALM!?” I yelled, then immediately wished I hadn’t. He didn’t seem to mind. “Please Alyssa. I know how you feel because the same happened to me.” He waited for my shocked look to go away. “Yes, Alyssa. It’s true. All magic users can sense their own kind, just like I did when you walked past me that first day. I knew I had to get to know you, and I have had so much fun.” He smiled an award winning smile, and my tear stained face couldn’t help but smile back. “I never knew…” I let my sentence die so I could get my thoughts in order. Tristan, my one and only friend, was magical. But what about Mr. Sparks? I asked Tristan. He made a weird face and said something I thought sounded a bit like gibberish. “Excuse me, but say that again?” “Mr. Sparks is what we call gybolisticater, gybo for short.”

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“Sure. Um, what is that? I’m a bit new to this whole magical thing.” Right when I thought that I had gotten my bearings, something new came up again. How annoying. “Mr. Sparks can only detect a magic user, but not use any himself. He is able to contact magic users and actually talk to them with his mind alone. Very few can do this, so he is very important to all magic users. He is able to transport information across the world in seconds with his mind.” He said this in a matter of fact way, so I decided to move on to the other questions bubbling up inside of me. “What can you do? I mean, you’re magical and all, right?” He smiled again. “This is the last question I am going to answer for now, you’ll find out the rest later. I am telekinetic, among other things. I found out when I was too lazy to get my pencil. Well, I suppose you can imagine my surprise.” I nodded, too amazed to speak. Behind Tristan, Mr. Sparks cautiously approached, not wanting to intrude. He was panting slightly, and I felt guilty for the trouble I had put them through. “Miss Torrey, sorry to come in at a time like this, but I just contacted your parents and they are on their way right now.” He tried to smile but only the corners of his mouth twitched. Overall, he looked nervous, constantly looking over his shoulder as if something was about to attack, which was odd compared to his usual calm composure. Now that I

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had brought myself together, neither of them looked all that comfortable. “Umm, why is everyone so nervous? You’re magical. I didn’t think you guys had to be afraid of anything.” It didn’t seem to comfort them, so I tried again. “Tristan,” he looked up, “what’s the matter?” Sighing, he glanced at Mr. Sparks (it still feels weird to find out that your teacher can sense magic) then turned back to me. “We are constantly in danger. Even now, our bodies are sending out signals that any magical user can feel, making them able to find our approximate location.” “It’s not like anyone wants to kill us!” I laughed, but it died when I realized that neither thought it was funny. “Right?” I didn’t feel so sure anymore. “Alyssa, you have to understand that these are very difficult times for us.” Tristan was all business. “Nobody magical is safe right now because—.” He was cut off by a blinding flash of light off to my right. I ducked down instinctively, and watched in awe as both my parents stepped out of the light, right onto the semi-dead grass. I felt power radiating off of them as they calmly looked at their surroundings, wary of any attackers. Nothing could prepare me for the sight I witnessed before me. My parents were not your normal mother and father, they were magical.

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I stared. I stared for the longest time, gaping at my parents. I recalled Tristan talking about being able to feel other magic users, and I suddenly understood at that moment. All around me I felt a pulse, not too big, but when I concentrated, it was there. I noticed a slight tingling at my fingertips, almost like they were numb, but not as uncomfortable. I felt safe when I sensed them, like a never ending calm had enveloped me. I shook myself. My mind was wandering and I had to concentrate on what was happening. The light was now gone, faded away into nothingness, and my parents had wandered over to Mr. Sparks. In no time, the three were deep in

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conversation and would occasionally glance in our direction. Meanwhile, Tristan had started talking to me, so I took my eyes off my parents and focused on Tristan. “…power, and so they can teleport themselves from one point to another.” He probably looked at my blank expression and rephrased his sentence. “Your parents are the most powerful sorcerers in the world and can manipulate magic to do so many things that I can’t even dream of doing. The example right there was a very advanced piece of magic.” “Why haven’t they ever told me?” I said this quietly as if not trusting myself to speak. Tristan was deep in thought. “Possibly to keep you safe.” He looked up in time to see my parents make their way over to us. My mother looked near tears, and my father just looked curiously at me. “Bye then, Alyssa. I will leave this time to you and your parents.” Smiling briefly, Tristan made his way back to Mr. Sparks. I was almost afraid to talk to my parents, as if they were strangers. I told myself it was silly. They were the same people I had left this morning! They had been magic all their lives, so why was this moment any different? I remembered what Tristan had said about them being the most powerful sorcerers in the world. I was their daughter, so it was my destiny to also be magical. But it was too

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much to ask from me, just a 9th grade girl trying to understand geometry. I felt close to tears, but kept them in check, not wanting to show weakness. How could they keep such a huge secret from me, their only daughter? My mother came up to me (my magical mother), and held me to her. I was glad for the love and welcomed it fully. Then my father joined in and we had a family hug, something we hadn’t done in the longest time. At this point I was crying, not too hard though, just tears trickling down my face. It felt good to release my emotions, especially now, considering how much had happened in this one hour of my life. Letting go, my mother looked down at me and sadly shook her head. “You must be very mad at me right now and also bubbling with questions, but now is not the time for either of those things. We are being pursued at the moment, and so I’m glad you found out your gift when you did, or else you would never have believed us.” “At the moment, mother, if you said the world was going to end tomorrow I would believe you.” The joke helped alleviate the stress for the moment, and I was glad to see both my parents eyes glint with amusement. “So I guess you have now found out that William Sparks is a gybo and that Tristan is also magical. They’re helping us get away from Salek. We have been using all the magic we possess to

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shield our location, but I feel he knows where we are. He isn’t as powerful so he can’t travel as fast as we can, but we will be caught eventually.” She looked down at me with sad eyes and said, with a hint of exhaustion, “I assume that Tristan and William have told you all about Salek.” “Um, we haven’t quiet gotten there yet. But I understand he is evil.” I smiled at that. Even his name sounded evil. My father shuddered. “It’s not that he is evil, darling. It’s his motive that makes him distorted. His whole life was based around power, as you would expect, but he achieved it by offering large sums of gold as bribery. Sorcerers are supposed to be good people; we help the world in indiscrete ways, yet keep ourselves hidden. He, on the other hand, does just the opposite. When he found out he had the gift, he was filled with pride. He abused his power, using it in terrible ways. “As Salek grew up, he used magic more and more. At 16, he was banished from his hometown and roamed the world for 20 years, staying out of trouble and keeping hidden as much as possible. He has now stopped somewhere in Britain, and is trying to track us down.” He concluded his story with a sharp gesture and looked me straight in the eye. “Now it is time we introduce you to our world, for you have the most power out of all of us.” Being in constant danger 24/7 wasn’t the easiest way to learn magic. It was a hard art to learn

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and understand, especially with all the science involved. My father kept repeating that when using magic, you cannot disrupt the cycle of life. He explained that when I made the poppies into a bouquet, all I was doing was accelerating their growth, not making flowers out of thin air. In the field of dead grass, I was just nourishing the soil to help better grass grow. When using magic, you had to have an inner will. If I hadn’t wanted the grass to grow, and just ordered it to, nothing would have happened. I had asked about when they had come through the light, how that was not breaking the rule of nature. They smiled and encouraged the question. “We’re very glad you are so interested. It’s called a Star Door. You have to be very strong and only use it occasionally. The reason is that instead of using what’s around you and manipulating it to do what you want, you’re using the energy from within you. A lot of power is needed in making a Star Door and it makes the person using it become very exhausted afterwards. Since your mother and I worked together and used both of our power, we aren’t as drained as we could have been” Most magic wasn’t as confusing as this, and so I was quickly making my way through all the lessons my parents put me through. Everyone’s magic is different and we all have different strengths. I found out mine was to grow or mend

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things (my parents told me that mending was part of the gift), so those were the things I practiced with. I was given a ripped dish towel first, just to experiment with. I took one look at it and emptied my mind as my parents had told me to do. Looking closer, I noticed the stitching on the outside. It was in the design of flowers, snaking around the edge, all different colors. In the center was a red rose, coil within coil, making the flower have an almost 3D appearance. The rip went from the right top corner diagonally down to the center, cutting the rose in half, ruining the effect. I was sad that such a beautiful piece of art was ruined and no longer usable. The embroidery itself must have taken the artist many painstaking hours to finish. I felt angry that such a thing should go to waste. Now I knew what I had to do. Focusing on the dish towel, I felt a familiar feeling. The towel weaved together the loose strings to form an immaculate embroidered rose. I stared down at the towel in utter amazement, still not used to magic. I was tired from my first effort, but knew that it would come with time. When I had called upon my power, I had once again had that numbing at the end of my fingertips and the throbbing travel the length of my body, to the tip of my toes. I knew I would have to get used to that eventually. My parents were continually talking with Mr. Sparks as I worked my magic. Tristan would occasionally join in their conversations, but he

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mostly just stuck with me and ran me through some exercises. It was never safe anywhere, even in our own house, so we would move throughout the city, renting a hotel for the night or staying at either Tristan’s house or Mr. Sparks. This traveling tired me out, but it gave me time to think more about what was really going on in my life. I understood my parents concern about not showing me magic, but they had waited too long. If they had told me about magic, I confess I would have not believed them. I quietly argued to them at times about why they hadn’t just done what Mr. Sparks had done to me with the poppy. It was simple, but effective. “Sometimes, honey, not everyone is perfect. As your parents, we have done multiple things that we would do anything to take back. To be honest, dear, we were scared. We knew you would be afraid of us; resent us if we told you. We had never meant to hurt you.” Did I believe this? Sure I did, but I didn’t want to. My parents, the most powerful people in the world, were scared their daughter would reject them. For some reason that didn’t sound right. I had a feeling it was something deeper that they didn’t want me to know. I decided to take a walk, which was not a big deal except that we were being chased by an evil

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villain. I had to actually beg my parents to let me go outside. For most people it’s the opposite, like playing on the computer and your parents tell you to get off and get some fresh air. But I did eventually persuade my parents to let me go, telling them I needed the break so I could concentrate better. It was fall and the fresh air felt good on my face. I could smell the coming winter in the air. I shivered. Winter was my worst season. I hated bundling up all the time, and during winter, everything died. For some reason I thought of Tristan, with his spiked hair and puppy eyes, and it gave me a sense of warmth. I hadn’t spent much time with him lately because of my magic and wondered where he was. I suppose I had been very distant these last few days and he had not wanted to interfere. He was so sweet to me in those small ways that sometimes you hardly noticed, only to think back and say how stupid you were not to realize what he had done for you. I had just made up my mind to spend some one on one time with him so I headed toward his house to see if he was home. By the time I had walked 3 blocks, the wind had changed and I was shivering uncontrollably. With only a pair of jeans and long sleeved shirt, I was ready to quit and go to a warmer area, when I spotted a figure ahead. I nearly cried out with joy when I recognized Tristan, and jogged toward him. He was smiling, but it was different from his award winning smile. This one was strained, as if he had

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forgotten how. His clothes had also changed: almost too perfect. His hair was different, with not a single hair askew. About 3 yards away I stopped, wondering what had changed about him. Looking closely, I noticed his skin shimmer, particles constantly moving around and around his skin. I slowly backed up, but it was too late. With lightening speed, he reached out and grabbed my arm in a vise like grip.

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I was never the sporty type, though my parents had always encouraged me to join some team. I was forced to take PE, but even then I hardly tried, usually getting by with some low passing grade. When Mr. Simmons, my 8th grade PE teacher, had asked me to do a pull-up in front of the class, I had failed bitterly, walking away with the whole class giggling. But then again, people always say that you’re ten times stronger when your life is at stake. So if my PE teachers had sent a rhinoceros chasing after me, maybe I would have gotten an A for effort and for speed. This was the case at the moment.

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When the hand clamped down on me, I new instantly that this wasn’t the charming Tristan I was used to. This one had a determined look in his eyes, which probably was the reason I had tried so hard to get away. His skin kept shimmering and moving constantly, but started to move slower as I watched him intently. His skin started to get paler. I could see worry wrinkles around his eyes, and the wrinkles around his lips told me he had been once a very happy man. I tried to imagine him laughing, his deep brown eyes filled with amusement, but I couldn’t. His eyes seemed to have hardened because of this new lifestyle. Overall, though, he looked like a middle aged man, maybe in his thirties, but even so, he could not be trusted. I started to struggle, wiggling like a worm on a hook. I hadn’t fought so hard since, well, never. Being kidnapped by an evil magical person made you want to do whatever it took to save yourself. There was nothing I could do except wiggle even more, but he was strong and I wasn’t the athletic one, so I eventually gave up and went limp. His hand was still tightly around my arm, making a bruise that would soon show up bright purple. I knew without even thinking that this was Salek, the guy my parents feared, who had hidden away for twenty years and only just been found. I felt him move slightly and took the opportunity to twist out of his grip. Bringing my knee up high I hit

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him between the legs and made a run for it but, like a snake attacking, he grabbed my arm again. I could tell he was holding in a groan but his hand reach into his pocket, extracting a yellow pill. It was small and smooth, no bigger than my pinky nail, but I knew it wasn’t a good pill. I clamped my mouth shut, not letting anything enter. He had somewhat big hands, and extremely strong, but he didn’t bother using them to pry my mouth open. Guess what, he used magic. I was still not quite in to the swing of things and did not realize that magic could be used in this sort of way. Now was when I really started to panic. Magic was still not my strong point and no one had taught my how to repel magic if someone were to use it on me. Terror rang in my heart; I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my blood. I was no longer in control of the situation. I felt a faint throbbing in the air and knew he was about to use magic, so I concentrated on a pebble on the ground and focused my mind on it. I remembered my parents telling me that it’s harder to magically control someone when they are concentrating on an object and have blocked their mind from it. It was a small pebble, with some speckles scattered like freckles around the outside. Other than those white dots, it was completely black. It sat there with no life in it whatsoever. Just a dead thing.

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But even with the concentration, I was no match for an experienced evil guy. Eventually, I could feel invisible hands prying at my lips, forcing them open even as I tried to hold them at bay. When my mouth was open, the yellow pill descended into my mouth to the back of my throat, and before I could cough it back up, it had entered my body. I made one last desperate flow of magic and fell unconscious. I pulled myself out of the deep sleep. My thoughts were muddled and for a second I had no idea which way was up. Even focusing on a certain object for too long left me dizzy. It took me a while to realize what had happened and where I was because I had woken up in a dark, tiny room full of junk. Just junk, like a broken T.V. and a rusted wrench that didn’t work anymore. Despite my situation, I almost laughed out loud as I saw a rubber ducky on a shelf in the corner, but then stopped suddenly as I saw that its neck had been practically chewed off. Of course I was scared, scared stiff actually. But then I started to notice my hunger. At first it had just been an annoyance, but now I realized that I was ravenous. I wanted to know how long I had been here, but even before I was captured it had been a while since I had eaten. I had been so lost in

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thought when I left the house that I had forgotten about food. I looked around the room, trying to find out what to do. I tried to feel the pulses in the air that indicated that a magic user was near, and I was surprised to feel a strong vibe coming from my left. I knew that Salek would be close, but then I felt another pulse and realized that it had to be coming from the same room to be so strong. I was angry at myself because my mind wouldn’t let me think straight. As I tried to organize my thoughts I thought I heard a muffled grunt to my left. It had to be a guy because it was a low sound, but I wanted to know who it was. I tried to get up to see whoever it was, and I noticed for the fist time that my hands were bound tightly in ropes. I was preparing myself to use magic when I realized that I had forgotten how. I tried again but had the same results. While I twisted my hands to try to get out of the bonds I knocked over a box of stuff with my left shoulder. Everything spilled to the ground, but I heard the same sound as before: a muffled grunt. Kicking out with my legs, I hit something solid, and again it produced a muffled grunt. While my slow mind registered the fact that I had hit something alive, the lump on the floor rose. It definitely was a guy, but I was surprised it wasn’t anyone I knew. I could definitely feel his pulse now; it was a low mellow one that seemed to ooze

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through the air like lava. It had a calming affect, so I didn’t fear him. He wasn’t wearing much, but the clothes he was wearing were tattered with age. His jeans were in shreds and his shirt was hanging off his somewhat thin frame with a limp look. “Hi,” he said tentatively. His voice was raspy, and I didn’t blame him; he looked parched. “My name’s Kyle.” As I looked at him I saw that his face had a boyish quality, giving away his young age. “Hi Kyle. Umm, my name is Alyssa. What are you doing here?” I was overloaded with questions and didn’t want to bother with formal introductions. He gave me an odd look, but it was hard to tell what he was he was thinking with the little light provided. “I live here,” he said simply. I started to wiggle my hands around again, trying to find a weakness in the bonds that held me. Kyle moved toward me a step, then stopped. He looked over his shoulder at a small door in the corner that I hadn’t noticed before, and resumed his movement in my direction. I gasped as he pulled out a pocket knife in some hidden part of his garment, (pretty hard with his clothes as he hardly was wearing any material at all) and stepped behind me. I was frantic now, squirming against the ropes, desperate to escape. “Please stop moving, Alyssa, I might cut you.” This stopped me in my tracks. He didn’t want

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to hurt me? He had a knife and I was strapped down, very vulnerable, and he wasn’t going to stab me? I had some doubts about that. “Trust me Alyssa,” he said, almost angrily. “Everything’s going to be alright.” Could I trust him? “Why should I trust you? I’m tied up in some dark room where you say you live, and I’ve just been kidnapped by some maniac!” I looked at his face and immediately wished that I hadn’t said that. His gaze was sad, and his eyes looked pleadingly at me. “I need you to trust me. We’re going to need it later on, I think.” He silently cut my bonds, and I rubbed my wrists, still amazed at my luck. Turning around to face my savior, I noticed that he was already making his way over to the small door. Getting up, I called to him to a stop. As I waded through the junk, I noticed a small blanket and a pillow in one corner where the stuff had been cleared away. I knew now that he wasn’t joking when he said this was his home. It was awful, watching him standing there with barely any fat on him, and having to live in this small, dark room. It wasn’t fair, and I was going to help him, even though I knew it was highly improbable. “Why are you helping me?” I asked. “Because it’s the only thing I’m good for nowadays,” Kyle responded. He turned away at that and made his way toward the door again. But when

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he opened the door, I noticed a mansion about a quarter mile up a hill, green grass leading up to the front door. It was dusk and everything had a pinkish hue to it. I realized that the small shed I had just come out of wasn’t the main building but a kind of room where everything was stored. The house on the hill was pretty large, with many windows and a huge front lawn, and I got suspicious about why Kyle wouldn’t live there. Kyle turned on the doorstep and looked back at me. “Are you coming?” His hair was dirty blonde and a little scraggly, but not grossly so, and I was surprised to see that he had piercing green eyes that looked similar to my father’s, but that was where the similarity ended. He had angular cheek bones and a big forehead, but overall he didn’t look that old. My guess would be around sixteen, only a year older than I. I continued to make my way toward him, careful not to knock anything else over. By the time I was a few feet away from the door, I smelled the fresh air and felt an excitement of being free once again. I leaped the last few feet to the door and started to run across the grass, feeling the cool air whip at my face. I slowed down and dropped to the ground, giving in to the fresh sent of the grass. I had never before felt so relieved.

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I don’t know how long I stayed there, but it felt great to be free, just sitting on the grass with nothing to worry about. But then again, I did have something to worry about; I was a prisoner. I heard footsteps to my right and reluctantly sat up. Kyle was there, looking around nervously, mostly toward the mansion. “What’s up Kyle? Looks like you’re having a heart attack or something.” It was supposed to be a joke, but I knew it sounded lame. He seemed embarrassed by my comment, though, and immediately stopped his frantic lookout, but still looked stressed.

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“I’m OK. We’re just not supposed to be out here. My father would kill me if he knew.” “Oh. Well, in that case, I’ll go back inside for your sake. I know how it feels to be blamed for something you weren’t responsible for. It’s happened to me many times. Anyway, who is your father? He sounds kind of, well, strict.” I didn’t want to hurt his feelings in case he was really attached to his father, so ‘strict’ seemed the best word for now. He blushed and looked away. “No one important,” he said. I left him alone after that and got up, heading back to the shack type building. “No, wait Alyssa. There’s a forest over there. Would you like to hang out and get some fresh air? I don’t want you to be cooped up in my room.” I was a little shocked at the last bit and hesitantly accepted the invitation. I was still wary because he must have been one of my captors. Why else had I turned up in his room, all tied up? Should I trust him? As we headed over to the trees, we made some small talk, but nothing from our past or personal lives. At the time, I knew it would be a bad subject to get into. I found out that he was a really funny guy, though. He would always tell jokes or make sarcastic comments about Americans. That pretty much broke the ice between us and soon we were laughing our way deeper into the trees. He stopped at a clearing with a pile of blankets and

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pillows in the center. It was a pretty place with fall colored leaves on the ground and bright green ones still clinging to the trees. The ground was bouncy underneath my feet because of the ground cover, and soon I had picked up a pillow and blanket and was lying on the ground looking at the stars. The stars were splayed across the sky like a big blanket covering the earth, each one twinkling back at me, millions of light years away. As I kept staring, I clung to the ground, feeling like I would fall into the sky, with nothing between me and the world beyond. I could feel Kyle lying next to me, trying to find a more comfortable position. “I like to come out here on clear nights when I can’t stand that little room. It’s so peaceful out here that it makes me feel safe. I found it when I was eight and haven’t ever told anyone about it since, except you of course.” His voice faded out into the night with a hint of accent that I hadn’t noticed before. “Thank you,” I said. Then added, “For everything. I mean, like, for bringing me to this place. It’s beautiful here.” I looked around once more, soaking it all in. “I would never tell another soul.” He sighed deeply at that and rolled onto his side. I kept staring at the stars until I fell into a dreamless sleep. But Kyle wasn’t having a dreamless sleep. Next to Alyssa, he squirmed in his blankets, still

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asleep but seeing things as if awake. He saw his father, tall and powerful, right before him; his deep brown eyes staring at him and pale skin gleaming in the strange light. Kyle felt a shiver run down his spine. I was greeted by the birds as I woke up that morning, dew clinging to my blanket. I felt more refreshed than I could remember, yet got up feeling hungry. I glanced around, then looked at the blankets beside me. “Wake up Kyle. It’s probably time to be getting back.” The blankets didn’t stir and so I reached out my hand to shake him awake, but I pushed down on air and realized he wasn’t there. I began to get frantic and didn’t notice two pairs of eyes watching me from the forest. Getting up, I put my shoes on and started to walk around the clearing. I then tripped clumsily on an invisible rock, hidden underneath the mound of leaves. “Ouch! Crap, this isn’t going to be a good day,” I muttered, looking at my shoe for any new holes. I resumed my search for Kyle when I first noticed the man watching me. There were actually two; the first one was Kyle, and the second, whose name is feared by everyone in the magic world, was Salek. They were standing side by side, Kyle trying to hold back a laugh (probably because I

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almost tripped) and Salek looking as evil as ever, with no expression on his face. The two were similar in multiple ways and Salek looked even ganglier than Kyle, with his clothes hanging loosely around his frame. How can Kyle, the nicest boy in the world, be with Salek, the man who transformed himself into my best friend, then captured me and brought me here?! My thoughts were cut short when Salek began to speak. “Good morning, Alyssa. I see you have met my son, Klystron Delgado.” Oh, I thought, that explains why. With my mouth open in surprise, Salek smoothly went on. “My son has failed to mention this place to me, but no matter, we are all here together. Please, sit.” He sounded sincere, but I was still wary. I sat down on my blankets and arranged them around my legs so I could keep warm in the chilly morning. I saw him wait patiently by the tree while Kyle and I made ourselves comfortable. Kyle had a permanent solemn look on his face and I felt sorry for him. It must have been hard for Kyle to have the reputation of being a villain’s son. Not from experience, but from common sense. So much is expected from you as you grow up. “Kyle, from the looks of it, I see you haven’t informed our guest of our family ties. Pity, but it had to come out eventually I suppose. Now let’s move on. As you probably have guessed, my name is Salek Delgado, the man who disappeared for

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twenty years and only just reappeared. Goodie, let’s move on then.” I noticed a sly gleam in his eye, as if testing what I would do. “Please, sir. If you don’t mind me asking?” I said this as politely and with as little sarcasm as I could as not to sound stupid. “Not at all, Madame. After all, you are our guest.” I could tell he was playing the same game as I was. “Where are we? I haven’t had time to get my bearings yet.” I giggled lightly and looked innocently at him. “Why, Madame, I had almost forgotten to mention that!” He was teasing me, of course. “We are in Britain, if you please, somewhere in the southern part, though I will not tell you exactly where. Shall we move on?” “If you wish it, sir.” I still had on my innocent look. Through this whole thing, though, Kyle was sitting quietly off to the side, looking back and forth between us as we talked. He looked somewhat confused, but I had no idea why. “Very well. Hmm, but where to start?” He was looking into the air above him, thinking. “Ah, yes, for twenty years I hid.” He hesitated as if wondering which parts not to tell. “It was hard for me, especially since I had to take care of my son.” Salek looked at Kyle. There was a lot of compassion in Salek’s eyes, more than I would have

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thought from someone like him. I decided I wanted to know more about his family. “Sir, may I ask where your wife is?” A pained look came into his eyes, but I ignored it and waited patiently for the answer. “You are very straight forward, aren’t you? But for your answer, you have to know that I am a man full of emotions, unlike what most people would think.” I looked doubtfully at him. “I had a wife once, when I was about twenty-two years old. We had Klystron before our marriage, and so decided it was best to make our love public and get married. It was hard for me then, always hiding.” He was shaking his head sadly. “You have no idea the pain I had to go through to keep my wife and child safe. But alas, I knew it couldn’t last forever. On one dark night our small apartment was broken into and my wife was dragged off while she tried to protect our few belongings. They took her away and killed her that night. I couldn’t even do a proper burial. “I will never forgive those people for what they have done to my wife, but tried as I could, I couldn’t find them after that night. I dared not call the police for fear of giving away my identity, but instead I took my son and left the area. And that,” he said, “is pretty much the story of my runaway life.” I was actually starting to feel bad for him! To lose someone so close to you can be devastating.

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To think if my mother or father were to die tomorrow, or even Tristan for that matter. But I stopped myself before I could go further. This had to be some trick to make me believe everything he says. I can’t listen or else I might fall for it. This is all a part of his plan and I won’t give in. “That’s really a touching story, sir,” I said, smothering it with sarcasm. In a way I felt really bad for doing this because I truly felt sorry for him, if not for Kyle. I could see his face clearly. The pain of losing his mother must have impacted him immensely, and once again I wanted to comfort him. He looked so fragile sitting there on the leaves, so thin and frail looking. I guessed he wouldn’t have had any friends because of all the time spent moving. But now that I think of it, this situation sounds almost like what I have to go through. I have no friends, except Tristan of course, and I’m constantly on the move, always hiding from danger. I don’t think I looked so skinny, though, but that’s beside the point. “You may not believe it yet, but I’m not the guy you think I am. Whatever your parents said about me, it’s most likely wrong because they don’t know what really happened.” There was an uncomfortable silence following his statement as I considered what he meant. I looked at Salek and noticed he had another blank expression on his face. To break the silence I said, “I’m kind of hungry.” To tell you the truth, I

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was starving. I hadn’t had anything to eat since my capture, but all the confusion had made me forget my hunger up until now. Even though it was the truth, I saw Kyle bend down a bit to hide his smirk. He was a funny guy at heart and couldn’t help but laugh if somebody said something totally random, even in this stressful state. “I suppose we can fix that,” Salek said. “We can go get some food but I’m afraid it’s a bit of a walk. It’s this way, Alyssa.” I was confused at first. When we had trudged back through the forest, no one had roped my hands together or stayed too close in case I escaped. The two of them were actually off in front of me, talking privately to each other. They seemed comfortable together, unlike what I had thought before, and kept nodding at each other as if liking their idea. At first I thought they were both plotting my murder or something cruel like that, but then I caught the words like “food” and “store” and I relaxed a bit. When we reached the edge of the wood, I saw the house in the distance. It was about three stories high, including the attic, and I guessed it probably had some cellar in the ground as well. I headed in the other direction towards the shack, but Kyle called me back. “Alyssa, that’s not our house. It’s not even close to our house.” He chuckled under his breath. “It’s just a temporary place where you could sleep.

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It’s my room when we need a place to hide, but the area my dad and I live is different.” Today was full of surprises. “Yeah, you live in that big, old mansion over there, right?” “No, it’s just some random house. I’m not even sure who lives there. My dad and I live pretty far away from here, but with magic it won’t take too long.” I had never used magic to travel before and felt excited. This method was probably how Salek kidnapped me. I followed the pair until I saw a huge tree loom up in front of me. Its gnarled branches reached out as if to grab something and the roots at the bottom were weaving in and out of each other. It was an awesome sight. A tree so old and elegant that not even time could chase it away. Ten grown men could have circled around the tree, hand in hand, and not have made it around this rare beauty. I sighed as I stared at it, but was jerked out of my reverie as a low voice spoke to me. “Wha’er you lookin’ at?” I jerked my head around to find out who had spoken. “Who are you?” I said. “I’m the thing yur starin’ at so rudely,” it said. I stared in amazement as I registered that the tree was talking to me. My mouth was hanging open and I quickly closed it as I realized how rude it looked.

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“Umm, is it normal to talk to trees?” I said this in a terrified, squeaky voice. I hated myself for it. “No ma’am. But I dun usually talk ta people tha’ off’en, so yur special anyway.” I was even more amazed when the tree chuckled at his comment. When he did, it looked like the whole tree was jerking around, and the bark vibrated along with his laughter.

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Salek must have been very lonely for those twenty years, I thought. To have your wife taken from you and constantly moving. I bet he would have laughed a lot when she was around. I’m guessing this because he has some wrinkle lines on his face from laughing. But now that she is gone, he hasn’t been able to practice such a complex art such as smiling. Even as I watched him chuckle in humor at my reaction to the tree, it seemed strained and sad. I realized I was sitting on my butt just then, with a dazed expression on my face. I turned red a bit as I found out that both Kyle and Salek were laughing at me. The ground was soft from the layer of leaves and so it was harder to get up as my feet

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kept sinking and sliding over the foliage. Kyle was now curled up on the ground next to a gigantic root, gasping for breath and Salek was leaning on a nearby sapling, tears of laughter streaming down his face. I made my expression hard and stiffly got up. Putting my hands on my hips I stared at my enemies, trying to look intimidating. Of course it just made them laugh harder. I realized this and decided that the only way I knew to get myself out of this situation was to start laughing with them. I giggled a bit at my stupidity and fed off my own laughter. Eventually all of us were rolling on the ground. I was still amazed at how much I didn’t know about Salek, other than this dream to rule the world. “I’ve had enough o’ this nonsense!” growled the tree. “I know I started it all, bu’ tha’ doesn’t mean you all go spillin’ your hearts out!” He grumbled a bit and twitched a couple of leaves in irritation as we settled down. “Tha’s a bit better. Now, which of you wishes to travel?” His eyes, camouflaged in the bark, scanned the three of us. Salek stepped forward and I saw that he had completely regained control. If I had walked into the clearing just now, I would never have guessed in a million years that this commanding man in the middle of the clearing in front of this enormous tree had just been rolling on the ground, laughing. His blank expression was spread across his face again and he talked to the tree in a polite controlled voice.

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“Sir, we are sorry to have interrupted you in such a manner, but the three of us wish to travel through one of your portals.” “Once again ya ask th’ impossible, Salek.” The tree sighed and its breath rustled the leaves resting near his head. “Ya know I can only do one a’ a time.” “Aye, but there are two tiny ones here. They don’t count for much, just my own son, Kyle, and a new kid, Alyssa. It might take a bit more energy, but you don’t get much business here anymore, do you?” I could tell he was getting desperate, even though he held his composure. “Why can’t we just do one after the other,” I suggested. “M’ energy ‘as ta be renewed after each transaction and tha’ usually takes a while.” The tree sighed, drooping its branches. “Give it a try at least, Sir Gideon. Do us all at the same time, just so you can conserve energy.” Salek was pacing now. “Please, Salek, it is beyond my power.” The tree said no more on the subject. Looking at me he said, “I’m afraid I haven’t me’ ya before. The name’s Sir Gideon as Salek ‘as now mentioned. I have been alive more years than I’d like ta even think about, savin’ a few lives durin’ tha’ time o’ course. Good thing ta have the gift of travel.” He buried his gaze deep inside of me, and I started to

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fidget under the sharp gaze. “Hmm, I like yer gift. Makes me feel a renewed strength when yer near.” Kyle stood off to one side, while Salek recovered from Sir Gideon’s refusal and said, “You are being modest Sir Gideon. My own father went through here and was saved, you know that! He traveled to America instead of being killed by Lucas.” I looked curiously at Salek. “Lucas?” “A long time ago he started his feud. He tried to gain control over any powerful group he could. He can be so sneaky that he isn’t even known among most wizards, but frames others so that he isn’t the one blamed. He has caused so many conflicts, even in my own life, that I don’t know where to begin,” he said. Kyle came up behind Salek and nudged his father. “Time to go father, he’s here,” said Kyle, his voice cracking a bit in fear. “Can you feel him Alyssa?” It was a rhetorical question, but as soon as I felt the pulsing sensation, I nodded in fear. I turned around just in time to see someone come out of the forest. That was when I felt a quick beat that smothered me as if I was in a dark cloud, one where I couldn’t escape. I grabbed Kyle’s arm and felt cold sweat. He started to move forward so I followed him, copying his every movement. I tried to break the mental block and push away the cloud, but it felt so thick. Blackness crept into the sides of

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my vision and I wanted to just give up and lay down; just to give in to the sinking feeling. I was suddenly swirling downward into a deep black void, barren of any life whatsoever. I felt desolate without anything to look at, just deep blackness that never ended. Even if I could take a step, it felt like I would have fallen even farther than I already had. My feet were on solid ground at last but it didn’t seem to matter as the ground looked the same as everything else around me. I could have been upside down, but it wouldn’t have mattered in my situation. It had happened so quickly that I was very confused and scared. I didn’t know what to do. I tried to scream multiple times but it was swallowed up by blackness without even an echo. Turning my head was useless so I sat down, or what I thought was sitting down. I felt the ground and it seemed solid, and even as I put my eyes closer it was the same blackness of everywhere else. But just then I thought of an idea. I could use magic! But then again, I didn’t have anything to make something out of. If I want to grow something, I have to have an object to do it on. I thought desperately but nothing came to mind and I sighed in despair. I once again tried to touch the ground for any hint of where I could be but nothing new showed up. It could have been a few seconds or a few hours that I was sitting there, but I had nothing to help me judge how long it was. My eyes were wide

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open, but that didn’t matter because it was exactly the same when I closed them. I knew I would go mad any time soon. I began to question if I was even alive after a while and just to reassure myself, I felt my face and clothes. They felt real enough so I proceeded to pinch myself. I gasped slightly, but it escaped into the darkness. As I was brushing my hands over my pants once again, I felt an object not attached to my clothing quiver. I jerked back, expecting the worst, and held my breath. Nothing happened. Cautiously, I reached forward, and picked up… a leaf.

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The thing I had felt while inspecting my jeans was a leaf and I laughed softly at my jumpiness. The leaf was a bit damp and soiled, but it felt good to hold something from the real world. Suddenly I felt the pulsing of magic, followed by a tingling at the tip of my fingers. The leaf glowed slightly as I held it and I felt renewed strength and happiness. I found myself swirling upward and out of the black void that had captured me. Still clinging to the leaf, I approached a dot of light at high speed. It was swimming somewhere above me, growing bigger and brighter, almost like a far away sun. In all less than a heart beat, blinding light flooded my

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eyes and when I finally opened them again, I was squinting into another light; this one more artificial than before when I was laughing with Salek and the tree. As my eyes adjusted, I realized that it was a ceiling light. Looking around the room, I saw multiple people in the same situation as I was: chained down to an uncomfortable chair in a barren room with stone walls. Looking closer, I recognized Kyle and Salek among the few poor souls stuck in here. They were pretty close to me, maybe a couple yards away, so I risked a conversation. In the dim light I could see Kyle’s green eyes flashing my direction, giving away his fear. “Hey Kyle,” I whispered. “Do you know where we are?” He shook his shaggy blonde hair, but Salek answered for him. “We are in one of Lucas’s dungeons. Pretty sad place to be as you can see.” He looked around the dungeon. Salek continued, “He has an amazing gift to be able to lock his enemy in a forever binding darkness. At first I thought you would never make it out. The only person other than yourself who can free you is Lucas himself. But that is irrelevant, because it seems you are with us.” He seemed sincere but I had come to a conclusion not to trust him until further tests of his loyalty. I hadn’t quite understood the whole concept of the dark prison, but I decided to move on to my next question. “What happened after we felt Lucas’s

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presence?” I asked. “The last thing I remember was holding onto Kyle’s arm.” “Well, not even I know. At that point I too was in his clutches.” He glanced down at the leaf still crumpled in my hands. “It seems that leaf saved your life. It’s always good to have an object you are close to in one of your pockets in case of emergency magic use.” At that moment food was slipped between the crack in the iron door at one end. At first I thought it was pretty useless because we were all chained down, but a burly guard stepped out of the shadows from one of the corners. Picking up the food, he distributed it between each of the prisoners. The meal consisted of bread and cheese, and moving my arm around a bit, I figured out that the chains gave you just enough slack to hold the sandwich up to your mouth to take a bite. The meager meal was just enough to take me from starving to hungry, making me feel somewhat better. The people around me were devouring their food as well, the clinking of chains filling the chamber. Looking around, I saw Salek leaning toward the guard from his chair, whispering to him. The guard shook his head, frowning, then walked to the jail door where another guard was standing. They conversed for a moment and the second guard walked out of the cell. They were whispering too softly for me to hear either of the conversations, and wondered why Salek would want

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to talk to the guard. I put on a curious expression as Salek glanced at me, but he just shook his head and took another bite from his sandwich. “To continue our discussion,” he whispered, “I want both of you to promise me that you will obey me if times get desperate. I need all the cooperation I can get,” Salek said gravely. Kyle immediately gave an enthusiastic yes, but I waited for a second, contemplating my loyalties. If I said yes to this, I would be going against my parents, but then again, Salek might not really be the bad guy here and he might help me escape this prison. Finally, I gave a noncommittal nod of the head. “Very well. The magic Lucas uses to trap you in blackness can be reversed only one way, by using your magic in his prison. So when you felt the leaf’s presence and tried to use magic, the magic that bound you could no longer keep you there. It’s pretty much how the law of magic goes; two different powers can cancel each other out. “My guess was that while we were in blackness, Lucas ordered us to be locked up. I’m pretty sure at the moment that we are directly under his castle, so that will make it harder to escape,” he said casually. His last words caught me by surprise. I had been thinking of escape, but it was just a fleeting dream. The fact that he had actually said the thought aloud made it seem all the more impossible. Sure I

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had done some great heroic deeds in the past, like rescuing a cat from a tree or something, but not trying to escape from a prison cell hundreds of feet under the ground surrounded by a bunch of massive guards! I suppose I would have to go with the flow. As I was thinking this, Kyle was nodding his head furiously, obviously excited. “Now, I was able to get some information from the guard,” Salek continued. At this I leaned forward expectantly. “With some persuasion, he said that this is the fourth cell from the stairs and three levels down from the main building. He also said that it’s about one o’clock in the afternoon.” Salek leaned closer in and put his voice down to a whisper, glancing at the guard. “We’re aiming for midnight, but until then act normally.” “What are we going to do at midnight,” I asked fearfully. Salek rolled his eyes a bit but said, “We’re going to use some magic to bust out of here of course.” At that, he leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. Getting information was my top priority. I asked questions nonstop for about three hours until I concluded that it was hopeless and I couldn’t squeeze any more information out of Salek. Another platter of food was shoved under the doorway and I gobbled it down with enthusiasm, but I was soon finished and once again bored. My butt was also

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becoming numb because of the hardness of the metal chair and a rash was forming where the metal chains rubbed my wrists. In the corner, I could just make out the guard snoozing against the wall. Most people around me were doing the same, but I just couldn’t seem to find a comfortable spot in my chair. Kyle had spent all his energy earlier while pressing his father for more answers and was now sleeping soundly in his chair, oblivious to his troubles. I wish it had been that way for me too, but I was too stressed from the day’s happenings to think of such a thing as sleep. I was now thinking of my parents. They would most likely know I was missing by now and probably be searching for me, although it seemed useless because they would have had no idea where to start looking. During my questions earlier, Salek had mentioned that no magic can leave this room, not even pulses. I was thinking about Tristan and Mr. Sparks as well. They were probably just as frantic as my parents, and I perked up a bit as I imagined the look on Tristan’s face as he thought about me. My parents would find me. I knew they would. I’m their only daughter, right? They’re the most powerful wizards in the entire world! But wait a minute; wouldn’t I just be leading them into danger? I started to bite my nails a bit, a habit I would always catch my mother doing. Yes, of course, if my parents did find me they would become easy prey. I closed my eyes at the thought

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and went limp with defeat. I felt a poke on my side just then and jumped, but it was only Salek, thinking I was asleep. “Time to get up, Alyssa,” he said tiredly. “It’s about midnight from what I feel.” From what he feels? Man he is good. “Use magic to break the chains, and don’t worry, I put some magic on the guard so he won’t wake up because of your magic.” He smiled briefly, but he still needed to work on it to make it look genuine. I nodded all the same and concentrated on my chains. They seemed melded from the finest of smiths, without a single blemish. The cold metal was lifeless, but I knew I could somehow crack it in order to get it off. I poured magic into the metal, but I felt a block. My magic would not go any further than the metal! I was starting to get frustrated as I continued to battle with the chains, but each time I met a barrier. I cursed the metal chain as if it were real and then I heard some quiet, muffled laughter above me. Looking up I saw Kyle, his face purple with the effort to conceal his laughter. “Alyssa,” Kyle whispered. “Your gift is for mending, not breaking.” He broke into another fit of quiet giggles, and explained again. “You can turn something into a flower, but you cannot break something in anger. To be able to free yourself from that hunk of metal, turn it into something beautiful!” He smiled as he said it, clearly pleased with his

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explanation. I was embarrassed, though, at having forgotten that vital detail. But he was right in a sense. Since making things beautiful or mending something was my gift, I couldn’t just break metal. Sighing at my ignorance, I concentrated on making the metal into a ring of poppies to remember the first time I had ever used magic. I opened my eyes and there in front of me was a thick circle of intertwined poppies around my wrist. But not only had I just transformed the chains that were binding me, but all the connecting chains as well. The chains that had once littered the floor now sprouted into flowers, which made the dungeon a whole lot more welcoming. The prisoners that were to wake up would be a little more cheerful as well, which was definitely a happy thought. I took pity on them, though, because by the time they woke, they would not be able to escape with all the guards surrounding them. I itched to wake them up, but knew it would be impossible to help them all get out of the castle. Salek and Kyle were smiling with me as well. I saw that Kyle had been thin enough to just slip the chains right off of his hands and Salek had transformed the chains into some sort of animal. As I looked closer, I noticed that it was a miniature eagle. That was a perfect symbol, I thought, because it represents freedom. The eagle was no bigger than my fist and could easily fit inside the palm of my

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hand. Kneeling down, I saw its intelligent black eyes probing me. “You may have it, Alyssa,” said Salek somewhere above my head. “Think of it as a gift from me.” Slowly, I extended my hand toward the brave little bird. To my surprise, it actually hopped onto my hand and a happy warble sound came from his chest. Salek nodded his approval and headed toward the cell door. Personally, I thought he was crazy. We hadn’t even thought up a plan. But what could I do? Earlier I had said to just go with the flow and that’s what I intended to do. As we tiptoed past the still sleeping guard and out into the hall, I questioned myself on why no one had tried this. With a little bit of magic and the right timing, you could just slip right out. But I learned the hard way because once Salek had taken the keys out of the guards pocket with no difficulty, I started to be more careless. Earlier I had slipped the tiny eagle into my pocket and just now decided to take it out to give it some fresh air. It’s brown and white feathers were a bit ruffled from the ride in my pocket, but it seemed pleased to be coming with me. I let it roam my palm for a second, then it took off into the air. I watched as its magnificent angular body circled my head then went in the direction of the guard. Later I had analyzed that it might have done this in order to impress me, but as it made its way over to the guard,

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it made a shrill cry. It did a looping turn and beat its wings faster in order to gain altitude, settling back on my shoulder. Paralyzed with fear at the turn of events, I looked at my two companions, then to the guard. The guard’s burly form jerked a bit and one eye slid open. To my utter amazement, the guard immediately woke up and put his hand to his forehead in salute. I looked at Salek for an explanation, but he wasn’t there and neither was Kyle.

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Perhaps I just missed a little part, but why had no one told me? Sometimes it’s just totally unfair the way people don’t tell you the most important things. With this situation, I felt like a loner. As I swirled my head around to look for Salek and Kyle, I only saw two ordinary, middle aged men. The one right next to me where Salek had been now stood a skinny, somewhat short man with thinning hair. Next to him stood a serious looking military man in a blue uniform, carrying a pistol at his side. The man next to me stepped forward and looked hard at the burly guard. It was a comical sight to see a little man terrorizing a guard, but I could definitely see fear in his eyes. As for me,

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I was standing stock still as if trying to melt into the background. “What’s your name, guard,” the short man asked. I could hear the venom in his voice. His head was tilted straight up as he looked at the guard. The man’s eyes widened in fear as the short man talked. “Jacques, s-s-sir,” he stuttered. “Well, Jacques, I will be sure to report that you have been sleeping on duty.” He patted the sweating guard on the chest and turned away, obviously pleased with himself. As he turned around to look in my direction, I saw him wink slightly and walk out the door. The only sensible thing that I thought I should do was walk out with them and pretend everything was just fine. As I exited the room, I saw, surprisingly, that Salek and Kyle were both waiting for me. “We have to hide quickly. Those men might find us here,” I said somewhat stupidly. Salek looked at his son and replied, “I don’t think they’ll find us any time soon, Alyssa.” He chuckled a bit then continued to explain when he saw my dumb expression. “I have the gift to change the looks of objects, including human beings. That’s how the chains became your lovely little eagle. Back there in the room, I changed all three of us. You two were body guards and I changed into Lucas’s side kick. He is the one who makes sure everything is in order in the castle. Man, I hate being short.” He said this last comment with a little

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humor, but I was still marveling that I had looked like another person without even realizing it! “Dad, can you please make me someone older,” Kyle asked. Salek looked kindly at his only son. “I suppose, Klystron, that this one time you could pretend to be a different person.” I watched in amazement as, right before my eyes, Kyle began to grow and his facial features became more defined. His eyebrows stood out more and his hair turned browner. I looked at him approvingly, for he had turned into a handsome young man of about 20 years. Salek turned to me and asked if I wanted to change as well. “I suppose that it would be better if I appeared a bit older,” I said casually, but in the inside I was bubbling with joy at the thought of changing and looking older than I really was. Salek smiled at my comment and nodded his head. I looked downward and saw the ground get farther away as I grew, and touched my hair, feeling it get thicker and curlier under my fingers. I looked into one of the glassy walls and stared at my distorted form. I could see just well enough to make out that my hair was now a dirty blonde and had waves all the way down to my shoulder blades where my hair stopped. I had light jeans on with a black shirt. Turning sideways I could see that no extra fat was hanging over the edge of my jeans and I was a lot more muscular looking

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than I was before. I was so excited and definitely ready for an adventure. So I thought. As we made our way up the stairs at the end of the hallway, I looked around at the other prison cells. Many were like the one that I had been in, but I could also see that some were worse. Looking inside the last cell before we ascended, I could just make out that the people were all in very uncomfortable positions. They were chained to the wall tightly so that they could not get up but neither could they sit down; they were forever in a crouching position, just hanging there, waiting until the day that they would pass into the next world. I stood there, transfixed by this subtle torture and knew that these people deserved a life. Tears came to my eyes suddenly as I saw the prisoners’ bodies, so frail and sickly looking. Salek had come up behind me and gently led me away from the site and I let him help me up the stairs. This could not go on. I felt anger and hatred, but most of all I felt a strong sense of urgency. I couldn’t just ignore the situation. I concentrated on one step at time, one in front of the other. Shaking my head I looked up and saw Salek putting his ear to the wall and looking worried. Walking up to him I began to feel a vibration under my feet and could hear pounding of feet on stone. “We need to hurry,” was all Salek said and he started running along the hallway the same way we were going. It was too late though, as all three of

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us figured out later, to try and run from the guards following us. The vibrations from the guards were getting more exaggerated and it was hard to run too fast. The guards, no matter how fast we were, just seemed to get closer. The hallway kept turning, so at least we wouldn’t be in plain view, but from Salek’s calculations, they were only about 10 yards behind us wearing bullet proof vests and armed with guns and lasers. It made me so much happier to know exactly what they were going to kill us with, I thought sarcastically. My breath was coming in short gasps by the time I spotted the first guard. He was huge, even compared to my new height, and I nearly tripped over my own feet. He grinned savagely as he spotted us and spurted forward, away from his companions and towards us. He was wearing a bluish gray uniform with red trimmings and a holster with a variety of different torture methods hanging from it. I saw him pull out a pistol from it and aim it right at me. I quickly swerved to the right as a bang came from it. My heart pounded and I thought I would faint with so much blood rushing into my brain. When Salek heard the first shot he stopped and turned around in one swift motion, taking out a knife in a hidden compartment of his shoe. It flashed through the air as he deftly threw it toward the first guard. His aim was true and the guard slumped to the ground in mid-stride. We saw

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another guard approaching Salek. Turning around he yelled, “Go to the door at the end of the hallway and get yourself out!” I hesitated for a moment, but he yelled, “You’re just going to have to trust me!” I took this time to run, grabbing Kyle as I went. I looked at his disguise and realized that he was smiling; he was enjoying all this excitement! His smile disappeared quickly, though, as he looked back and saw that Salek wasn’t running behind us anymore. “Just go!” we heard Salek shout from somewhere. Kyle faltered but turned back towards the door at the end of the hallway. I didn’t dare look behind me, but stared straight ahead at the door that would be our escape. I wrenched the door open and pulled Kyle with me. Closing the wooden door behind me, I heard a muffled shout and an all out scream of pain as we heard a body slump to the ground. I looked at Kyle and saw a single tear roll down his dirty face and knew that it could only be Salek who had fallen. I didn’t want to accept it, even though I had never really trusted him. Kyle looked away, ashamed to show weakness. He walked to the far wall and stood still, an inch from the rock, and suddenly brought up his arm and slammed it into the solid wall. I winced at the dull thud that accompanied this movement and took a step towards him. I watched as he slowly uncurled his fingers and cautiously turn his head in my direction.

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His eyes were bloodshot, but he was able to talk without his voice trembling too much. “I’m sorry Alyssa.” He sighed to control himself. “My father was the only person who I could hold onto without fear. He was the only man who I’ve ever trusted.” Stepping forward, I hugged him tightly, as if he was the only anchor to earth. He hesitated at first, but gave in and wept on my shoulder. “You can trust me,” I said. Kyle and I walked along the hallway Salek had said would lead us to our freedom. I had wondered why the guards weren’t pounding the door as we walked along, but I pushed that aside as I attempted to comfort Kyle. He just stared blankly ahead as I guided him. Bringing up his father wouldn’t be a very good idea, I decided, so I talked about unimportant issues. “This hallway in itself is amazing really. It must have taken a lot of labor to put these together. There isn’t a single niche in the wall! Oh, wait a second.” I looked closer at the walls and asked, “This was made by magic, wasn’t it Kyle?” He nodded absently and randomly said, “He really missed mother, you know. I bet they’re sitting together already.” It took me a moment to realize we were now on a different topic. “You mean like in heaven? I would like to go there someday. It seems…” I tried to think a

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word to describe it. “Perfect. It would suit your parents well.” He walked a bit ahead, only to stop and turn back towards me. His eyes were still bright green despite his cover and a smile spread across his face. A genuine smile. “I have to thank you, Alyssa.” “For what,” I asked. I didn’t think I had done anything right since meeting him. “For being there for me. I lost my mother when I was six and now my…father.” He choked on the last word but continued. “You’re the only one who hasn’t been taken from me. I mean, look at us right now, how far we’ve gone.” His smile faded and he sadly finished, “But we can’t keep going like this. I’m the one they’re after. I’ve been thinking a lot and realized that because I’m Salek’s son, they would have me killed as well. I’m as dangerous as they think my father was.” This was insane! They couldn’t be after Kyle only. I would have been left in the clearing with the tree if I wasn’t important. I shook my head, disagreeing with him. “I want you to go home, Alyssa, and leave your troubles behind.” He looked down at the floor and continued, “You’re beautiful, but I won’t be the one to cause you pain.” I closed my eyes tightly and let the tears slide down my face slowly. “I do not wish to be a burden, but I got you into this mess and I plan to get

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you back out. I know I’m a girl, but, well, it doesn’t really make a difference.” I reached out and grabbed his hand tightly. It was damp from his emotional outburst but I gripped it reassuringly and led him up the hall once more. I was captivated as I looked up into his eyes and stopped walking. He looked so desperate yet accepting of anything that came his way, and I felt his compassion as we continued to look into each others eyes. I leaned closer, feeling his body next to mine. He was no ordinary guy, he was— “Aw, how cute. The children of two enemies have fallen in love.” I pulled away quickly to notice a middle aged man in front of me. He was wearing baggy pants and a flannel shirt. When he smiled sarcastically, I noticed his big, somewhat yellow, teeth. At first it was anger at being interrupted, then fear at who this man might be. Could this really be the man we’ve been running from? I stepped back, but Kyle and I knew it was too late to react. “Good morning Alyssa, and you too Kyle. My name is Lucas.”

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I woke up in the hands of two guards. Looking at my new surroundings I noticed that I was in a nicely furnished room, the first I had yet seen in the castle. The room had an airy feeling, with mostly light colors such as yellow and orange. There was one big window at the end of the room with drapes thrown open looking out on a small lake and forest. The early morning sun shone through it onto a thick beige carpet and a wooden desk piled with papers. Sofas were strewn across the room, making the room seem homey. I wished I could just lie across one of the overstuffed couches and fall back asleep with the sun warming my body.

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My wish really did come true when the guards threw me, literally, onto one of the sofas. I sank into the cushion, enjoying the moment of being able to cuddle without disturbance. It didn’t last long, though, and I was pulled upright by strong arms and Kyle was plopped down beside me, to my own delight. Lucas strode into the room and grabbed his leather chair from behind his cluttered desk and wheeled it over in front of us. My mood darkened when I saw him enter. Sitting down, he leaned forward, putting his elbows on his knees, and began to talk. “I’m pretty sure you guys don’t want to be here,” he guessed. “But I’m going to make you like it because this is going to be your home for a while.” He let it sink in and continued, “As you can see, I have not chained you up, so you are free to roam the castle as you please. This is your home now, but only one rule exists. Any guesses as to what it may be?” he said, feigning interest in this whole subject. “Don’t leave the castle,” said Kyle, annoyed with the man in front of us and itching to leave the room. “That’s absolutely correct, Kyle,” Lucas droned on. “Not like you would be able to, of course, but I would suggest not trying it for the sake of your lives.” He chuckled then and looked me in the eye. “I would suggest taking off that gorgeous

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mask of yours now, it won’t do any good anymore because we all know who you are.” I looked at Kyle but he just shrugged and so I used some of my own magic to cancel out the spell. I saw Lucas nod knowingly, get up, and wander over to the window. “Of course you know that I will have to teach you more magic. You both have great potential and it would be sad to see it go to waste. I won’t be teaching you myself, but some of my trusted friends will be with you.” I wondered what ‘friends’ Lucas was talking about. It didn’t sound too friendly because of the sarcastic way he said the word, so I decided I wasn’t too excited to start a two person school and be taught magic. The next few weeks were hard for me. The only relief was Kyle, who would always tell me jokes about meaningless things. It wasn’t so much the castle that bothered me, but the thought that I had been taken from my family just to learn magic. Why here? Kyle and I would get up early in the morning to make it to our first lesson at seven and sit in class till noon. After an hour lunch in the kitchens, we would have another five hour lesson on a different topic and only then would we have a break. You might ask why we didn’t both just skip the lesson. We had tried that the first week and never tried it again.

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I had gone to the first two days just to see what it would be like, but hated each lesson with a passion. I had talked to Kyle late into the night about what we should do about our new schedule and we both agreed we would skip the next day. Both of us slept in until the sun shone fully through our window and we both got dressed feeling refreshed. I decided to explore the west wing of the castle where Lucas (I shudder to even think of him) said the old chambers were where the royal family used to sleep. It made me slightly confused because I had thought that Lucas had been the owner of this castle. I wanted to know what family had lived in this castle and left it without a reason. Pushing at an old wooden door, I entered a large room with ancient tapestries hanging from the walls, some already fallen to the floor. I removed the cobwebs out of my hair and cautiously brushed the dust off the closest picture. I caught my breath as I saw Salek as a little boy of nine sitting on his parent’s elegant knee. I stroked Salek’s younger form and felt tears threatening to burst. The parents’ were sitting tall as they posed for the picture, backs rigid. Could Kyle really be royal and have lived in this castle? Kyle didn’t look royal. Before I came to the next one I heard wood splinter underneath a heavy weight. I whirled around and pressed myself against the wall. Sliding along it, I picked up a heavy piece of wood and held it like a club. I saw Lucas confidently walk into the

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room and look right at me without hesitation. I remembered that wizards send off a pulse and that it wouldn’t have been that hard to find me. Even though I knew I should have just given in, I didn’t like the prospect of him being in control of me again. He didn’t own this castle, Kyle did. When he got close enough, I clumsily swung my makeshift club at Lucas’s head. He reacted swiftly and grabbed it in mid air, tearing it from my weak grasp. I hesitated for a moment and then reached for my magic. I had learned a few things during my two days at school. Concentrating on what I wanted to do, I focused all my magic on this one task. In a total of five seconds, Lucas was thrown backward by an invisible hand and into the back wall. I stood in utter horror, amazed at my own daring, and saw Lucas pick himself up slowly and smoothly. This time I didn’t try anything because I knew it would be impossible to beat Lucas on anything. I felt an invisible string winding itself around me, and I felt it get tighter, almost painfully. I tried to resist it or cancel it out with my own magic, but met a barrier each time. “It was a good trick, Alyssa,” he sneered. “But you have no idea the things I can do. Your puny magic has yet to take hold, but for now, I am still in control.” With that, he spirited me away to my classroom where I was once again forced to study. Moments later after I arrived, Kyle was also

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hustled into the room by three big guards. I noticed a bleeding lip on Kyle, but the guards seemed to have gotten a beating too. The first one had the beginning of a swollen eye. The second and third had no visible injury, but I saw one fold and collapse like a leaf after letting Kyle go, and the second one crouching with his head pressed against the wall. I almost didn’t contain my laugh, and silently congratulated Kyle on hitting them where it hurt most. Then I remembered what I had done to Lucas. He might lock me up again or something awful like that. It felt good to get back at Lucas, but he was the head of the castle and could do anything he wanted to me. It was a scary thought and I almost wished I hadn’t done anything. Almost. Directing my attention back to the front of the room, I noticed our teacher, a man with graying hair and a somewhat large nose. In the lessons I had been to so far, I came to know this man as a genius, but to the extreme. Lucas had said that we would have the best teachers with us, but all this guy ever did was talk about everything he knew. He was very full of himself in that way, and from seven in the morning till lunch, he lectured us on how important it was to concentrate while doing magic. “Remember to always focus on your goal. When doing magic, all it takes is for you to want to make it happen. A good example was in the seventeenth century when Jeffrey Manical had to

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battle a twenty foot giant with only himself in order to get his wife and two children back, but…” I started to drift off at that moment and think about the picture I had seen. Kyle didn’t look royal in any way, but it might have just been because of his desperate state. Salek did have the leadership and the assurance of someone royal, but still not on my top list for a king. I remember something my father had said before my capture, that Salek had been only 16 when he was banished for using bribery to make people go against the King and follow him instead. Wait, but Salek was the king. This wasn’t making any sense! That’s when I noticed that the teacher had stopped speaking. Looking up, I saw his pale blue eyes fixed on me. Tentatively, I asked, “Yes, sir?” “I just asked you a question, Miss Torrey,” he said, trying to hide his annoyance. “I’m sorry, sir, but you were talking too softly and I didn’t catch what you had asked me.” I tried to make myself sound like an innocent girl, but it was hard. “For real, sir. I thought the story about Jeffrey was extremely fascinating, though, especially the way you told it.” I smiled sweetly at him and blinked a few extra times to add to the show. To my surprise he actually bought it and turned back to the board to continue his time line on Jeffrey Manical. I saw Kyle glance my way and give a quick wink. I was itching to show him the room I had seen in the west wing, and I looked at my wrist watch, but

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the time had hardly moved. Could Kyle really be the heir to the throne? The more I thought about it, the better it sounded; King Klystron. Gah, my imagination was going wild. I once again glanced over to where Kyle was sitting. The top of his pen was in his mouth and he was slouched in the chair looking out the window. His green eyes seemed to glow slightly with the sunlight and his brows were furrowed as if he was debating something with himself. He looked stressed about something, and somehow I didn’t think it was because the teacher was now assigning a boat load of homework. He dropped his pen down to his paper and started to doodle. I watched from the corner of my eye as he began drawing an intricate drawing…of me. In total wonder, I saw him start with the outline of my face and work to the inside. He drew my straight hair that ended below my shoulders and then my thin eyebrows that arched above my wide eyes. He drew with a confidence I hadn’t ever seen from him, and from the concentration on his face, he really cared about his talent. He made my nose look 3-D, so it added to the effect, and my lips were exactly as they looked in real life. When he finished, I could see he had drawn me with a thoughtful expression on my face, the way I usually looked when I was deep in thought. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the picture because it looked so real.

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Kyle glanced at the board where the teacher was feverishly writing notes, then to me. I blushed a bit at invading his privacy, but he picked up the paper, wrote a few words on it, and handed it to me. Once again I was staring at a replica of myself, but this time I turned it over to see what Kyle had wrote. In his flowing, neat cursive it said:

Meet me in the west wing tonight. I have to show you something. ♥ Kyle ♥
I looked at him curiously, but he just winked and started to copy down some notes. He seemed less stressed, so I guessed that he had been debating whether to show me this ‘something’ or not. I knew I should definitely go, but I also wanted to show him my something in the west wing, if he didn’t already know. That thought struck me. What if he already did know? Right when I reached that conclusion, the teacher dismissed us and I put the thought away. Eating was a major priority, especially when I felt my stomach growl, so Kyle and I raced to the kitchens. I loved to talk to the cooks because they had such interesting things to say. All of them had been there for quite a long time, so they knew a lot about

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the castle, and, of course, they made brilliant food. As I picked up my lunch from the counter and thanked the cook with a smile, I sat down next to Kyle. He was already digging into his mashed potatoes, peas, and turkey. He looked up at me and swallowed everything in his mouth all at once. “Ouch,” he said after his show. “It’s harder than it looks. Oh no, I think hiccups are coming on.” He was right, and in less than thirty seconds, his first hiccup came. He started laughing at my dumb expression and ended up on the floor. I had no clue why he was laughing because I didn’t know what my expression looked like, so I just sat there looking at him with his feet flying in the air. After his hiccups subsided, I asked him about his drawing and the message he had written. “Now that is for tonight. I’ll explain everything, but for now, I would rather enjoy my food.” I faked a sad expression at his comment, but couldn’t hold it and was soon laughing. “OK dumbo, do what you wish. I’m going to talk to the cooks before the break is finished. I suppose I will see you after the lesson.” I slapped the back of his head playfully as I left, and the last I saw of him was the fork moving with lightening speed toward his mouth. I shook my head. “Hey Mandy,” I said to the head cook. She was a large woman with rosy cheeks and mousy brown hair; just what you would imagine a professional cook to look like. Her smile always

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made you want to smile back, and that’s exactly what I did. Smiling, she said, “Hey pumpkin, has your day been nice? I hope so because I have a big surprise tonight! I’m going to make my favorite dessert special: Trifle. It’s going to have strawberries freshly picked from our garden here on the castle.” She smacked her lips in enthusiasm and smiled even wider. “Can’t wait, Mandy! I didn’t know there was a garden here. Where is it?” “Of course we have a garden. It’s right behind the west wing. The Delgado’s and the…the…” She shook her head and looked at the door. She bit her lip and continued, “The, uh, owners of this place loved to look out at it or walk through it. Umm, you should be going, dear, your lesson will start soon. Here, take a chocolate with you, you poor dear.” She shooed me out, looking worried if she had said too much, and closed the door behind me. I wondered about her reaction quietly while making my way to the next class. Kyle and I didn’t have these classes together because our gifts were different, and so in this class my teacher specifically taught me what I needed to know about mending and growing. It was actually kind of tolerable because we could use magic, other than having to memorize the history of magic in the morning class. As I entered, lost in thought, my teacher, a small man

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who had very petite features, was writing on a piece of parchment with a golden quill. Lucas wanted the palace to remain in the medieval era, so no mechanical devices were allowed. It was somewhat annoying, but left the place more mysterious, which I liked. Small, beady eyes looked up at me as I entered, studying me. His eyes were liquid black, sending shivers down my spine, but I calmly put my books down and greeted him. “Good afternoon Professor Mill,” I said properly. “It is nice to see you this fine day, Miss Torrey,” he began, using his old oak desk to stand up. He wasn’t old, so I wondered why he was relying so much on his desk. There were dark rings under his small eyes and every few breaths I could hear a small wheezing sound coming from him. I wasn’t stupid enough to ignore it, for healing was part of my gift, so I stepped in, holding out my arm to help him. “Sir, may I ask you what’s wrong? This isn’t just because you forgot to sleep last night, I am not that thick.” I sounded sincere, and I bet he realized that because he paused a moment before continuing to his chair. From the way he walked, I could tell that he had not been physically hurt, but bruised by magic. Who would have done this to an innocent teacher?

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It was hard to concentrate during that lesson. With the picture from that morning of Salek and now Professor Mill, I had a lot to think about. I was absently trying to mend a turtle with a cracked shell, but it wasn’t healing correctly and kept getting bigger, making me get frustrated. “No, no,” Professor Mill wheezed. “You need to make sure you focus on the crack so it will mend properly! We need to get you strong so you can face stronger opponents.” I pouted and leaned back in my chair. “Professor, do you really expect me to concentrate with you sitting there with bruises covering your face. Knowing my gift, I suspect that you do. I am

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also bored with this stupid turtle. I am capable of this tiny magic, and more than ready to move on to bigger and better things.” The small man wheezed a sigh and shifted on his overstuffed chair. “I am quite aware of your ability, Miss Torrey. I am also a teacher and am able to keep some things secret, like where I got these bruises. But I suppose I could let a few things slip.” He grinned a bit at that. “Am I right in saying that being a student gives you almost no authority compared to Lucas and his staff? Do you understand this ranking?” I nodded. It was simple, and of course I knew that I was a ‘lesser being’ than my teacher or Lucas. I wondered why he had to assure I understood, but his next statement caught me off guard. “Well, you do.” “Umm, I do what?” “You do have the authority; you have more, much more than us. Lucas knows this and feels he needs to protect his position.” “I don’t think I really understand you, sir,” and I really didn’t. “You will find out in time, but for now I will tell you that I think you are fit for your position. You were born for it, and good luck.” He smiled slightly and dismissed me with a wave. I waited expectantly for more. “I am done for the day, child,” he tiredly got out. “I know you won’t be able to concentrate

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anymore, so I will let you go to get some rest.” When I still hadn’t moved, he sighed and said, “Earlier I tried to tell Lucas that he should let you go, but he would have none of it. That’s why I have these bruises. Satisfied now?” I nodded and walked out of the classroom and through the gray halls, thinking about what the professor had hinted at. Did he mean that I had more authority than Lucas had? But that didn’t make any sense. I was born in some small town in Maine and have moved around continuously ever since. Why would I be special? It was frustrating to have to have hints bouncing around in your head without knowing the big picture. It was like a feast was sitting right before my eyes, but I could only eat a spoonful from each dish. I nodded absently to a guard standing erect at one of the wooden doors leading away from the stone corridor. He punched his fist into the open palm of his hand as he acknowledged me, and continued to patrol the door. I paused as I remembered the man. He looked nervous as usual and his bulky frame could not be mistaken; it was Jacques, the man who had guarded our cell when we had been locked up in Lucas’s dungeon. I hardly thought twice as I doubled back to stand in front of the guard. I was no longer afraid of him because I was under Lucas’s protection so he couldn’t harm me, but I did not like him either. He

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was just the same as every other inhabitant of this grungy castle; filthy beings that didn’t really deserve to live, except for the cooks of course, they made the food. Looking him in the eye, because I knew that it made him nervous, I commented randomly, “I heard something caused a riot down in the kitchens. I think it’s that hideous rat that you call a dog. I would rather it not cause any trouble in there because I was expecting a rather delicious trifle from the cooks. I would like you to take care of it immediately, Jacques.” He hesitated a moment, but then saluted and took off running toward the kitchens. I smiled slightly at his gullibility and turned toward the door. It was a medium sized door with oak panels that ran vertically. I looked curiously at the lock on the door and noticed that it was newer than most here in the castle. Most I had seen were a rusty black color with a huge hole for the key, but this one was silver and looked somewhat out of place. I tried to unlock the door with a bit of magic, but it wouldn’t open. I shrugged and walked away. The best part was just being able to boss the guards around. The problem with this castle was that it was too darn large with too many rooms and passageways. I was used to my little apartments that I would live in for short amounts of time that didn’t have these complicated twists and turns. I ended up

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having to turn back several times before I found my room again, and by that time, the clock was running low. I was meeting Kyle in about half an hour and it took at least several minutes to get to the west wing. Plopping down onto my king bed, I dipped my hand into my back pocket and brought out a crumbled piece of bread from the kitchens. At that exact moment, I felt a pressure on my left shoulder. I jumped slightly at the unusual action, but smiled as I realized that it was only the tiny eagle Salek had given me. I hadn’t gotten around to naming him, but it had always been swimming around in the back of my head. Looking at him now, I saw his beady black eyes and his white head with all his feathers slicked back. Smiling, I pinched some bread and handed it to my little eagle. With jabbing motions, he devoured the pile and reached toward my hand for more. I enjoyed watching him eat and laughed a little when he almost toppled over trying to get the last crumb from my hand. I was getting more excited by the minute at what Kyle would show me, and couldn’t wait any longer, so I left a bit early. I’m embarrassed to say that right when I grabbed my jacket from my drawer I stubbed my toe on the leg of my bed. It took at least a minute for me to recover, and by then I wouldn’t be that early anyway. I had also decided to take my eagle with me. He fit inside my jacket nicely, and I hoped he

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wouldn’t cause any trouble, which he was known for in the castle. Now, you might be wondering why I wasn’t thinking about home and trying to escape or anything. Actually, I was. Kyle and I would talk about it a lot and have discussions about what might be happening outside the castle. Once I had actually cried after we had talked together. As I walked toward the west wing I thought back to the moment and tried to remember what I had said. “Kyle, I can’t keep going on like this,” I had said. “You never know, Alyssa, luck might be on our side. A lot of people in this castle wish to leave as well, and maybe they can help us,” Kyle had responded optimistically. Kyle was always the one to say things that lifted your spirits like that, and he was so convincing that I almost believed him then. “Thanks Kyle, but it won’t happen, not with Lucas in control.” I remember saying. “If someone else were in control of this dingy castle, maybe, but not now,” I concluded. This statement had set Kyle thinking; I could see it in his bright green eyes that he had some sort of answer to something. He had looked curiously at me, then gotten up slowly and walked across the room towards me. It was somewhat intimidating as he cautiously approached me, his eyes staring into mine. “Maybe, Alyssa, maybe.” He stopped right in front of me, taking my hands in his. I remembered feeling tears forming in the corners of

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my eyes, and somehow ended up buried in Kyle’s shoulder. I sobbed something about my parents and how it just wasn’t fair. Nothing was fair in my life and sometimes I wished that I had never been born. But then again, feeling Kyle against me, so close and caring, made me change my mind. It might have not been fair, but Kyle was in the same situation as me, and he never cried about it. I cut off the memory as I approached the old wooden door. The last time I had entered the room was when Lucas had caught me skipping class. He hadn’t personally talked to me since, which was perfectly fine. I eyed the door warily, but knew I had every right to enter the room. It was my free time and I could do anything with it. Pushing lightly on the door, it gave way with squeaky hinges and bucket load of dust and cob webs. I coughed and blindly swiped at the cob webs while entering the room. After it had all settled, I walked farther into the room towards a window at the back. Looking out, I saw the garden that the cook had mentioned with all the fruit. It looked lush and well cared for and I longed to walk through it, just to get some fresh air. The eagle chirped, as if to agree to my thought, and I smiled. I turned at a noise coming from the door, and expected to see Kyle. I wasn’t disappointed as I saw him walking through the dust that he had just kicked up.

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I saw his look of surprise as he came in, probably not expecting me to be here before him. But it was soon replaced by a smile and he made his way towards me. “I thought I was early, but I guess not. Hopefully I didn’t hold you up too long?” He said it as a question, but I know it wouldn’t have mattered either way I answered, so I just shook my head briefly and he continued his way toward me. “I’ve been waiting all day to show you this and could barely concentrate on my lessons. I was caught twice for daydreaming by Mr. McCloggen.” He said this with a boyish voice, ready for mischief, and I could barely contain my own growing excitement. “So what’s so important that I have to travel all the way over here? I hope it’s worth it; I have a trifle waiting for me that one of the cooks made,” I said sarcastically. “Yum. Sounds good, but this is better. Follow me, it’s not too far.” Waving for me to follow, he made his way to a door at the far end of the room that I hadn’t noticed at first. It looked exactly the same as the first we had entered, and when Kyle pushed it, the squeaky hinges were the only noise to be heard except for the light breathing of Kyle and me. We entered a room similar to the one we had just left, except this one was smaller.

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The one thing that caught my eye was a king bed against the far wall. Underneath the layer of dust, I saw light blue covers that matched the peeling wall paper. This room had carpet, unusual for the castle, and I sank into it with delight. With the light coming in through the window, it looked like I had entered an old fashioned bedroom, which actually wasn’t very far from the truth. There was another door to my left, which I presumed was the bathroom, and the walls were covered in paintings. “This was the bedroom that the king and queen slept in,” Kyle said, cutting through my thoughts. “It used to be the most elegant room in the castle, or so the people said. Everything was covered in a soft blue color so that when the sun that came through the window in the morning, it would slowly wake the couple up to a wonderful morning. The door over there leads to a joining hallway separate from the rest of the castle and leads to another room. That room housed the king and queen’s closest friend, the one who became their right hand man. “But one night it all fell apart and nothing was right anymore. The friend was banished from the castle forever and left with nothing but his family. After that, the royal family couldn’t stay anymore and so they left. Someone else took over in their stead, someone known as Lucas Carpollii. No one has dared challenge him since.” Kyle finished with a haunting note and it took me a while to

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realize that while he had been talking, he had led me across the room to an old painting. The picture was peeling, but not enough to hide what had been painted. Right in front of me was a picture of my parents, posing for their portrait. My mother had on a stern face that I hardly recognized, and my father sat with his daydream expression on his face, his green eyes as vibrant as ever. And, in my mother’s arms there was a baby, me. I backed away from the painting with mixed emotions. What was this painting doing here? Surely my parents were not friends with someone royal. If so, why had no one mentioned it? Wait a second. I looked closer at the picture when gold elegant writing caught my eye. It said:

Our thanks to King Stewart and Queen Helena
My breath caught in my throat. Stewart Torrey and Helena Torrey were her parent’s names. “This can’t be real!” I giggled nervously. But there was no mistaking it this time; the crown on both their heads and the gold writing was no lie. “How do you know all this,” I managed to stutter. He looked sympathetically at me and finished quietly, “because my father was their best friend; their right hand man.” I couldn’t absorb anymore information. I might have just exploded. I

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had just found out that I was royalty and he was trying to make me feel better by pretending like he knew what I felt like. To know my parents were stupid enough to hide the fact that I was a princess for all my life was even worse. I thought they should’ve known that I could have handled something like that. This was huge, but nobody had cared to tell me. Even Kyle knew! I started to get furious just then. He’s the one who showed me. Salek must have told him when he was younger, so he wouldn’t have gone through what I was going through now. I tore my hand from Kyle’s comforting grasp and screamed, “Why did no one tell me? I think I’m old enough to understand something like this. Why did someone tell you? Why are you the special one? I feel like I’ve been left in the dark.”

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Kyle felt troubled. He was expecting some kind of negative reaction, but not even close to what was happening right now. Alyssa had totally lost her temper, with no self control whatsoever and he was the only person around she could take it out on. Feeling like a hanging piñata, he stepped back, but didn’t go any further than that in case she somehow tried to hurt herself. She had grabbed a loose piece of pale blue wallpaper that had started to peel and fiercely ripped it off the wall. He didn’t quite understand her reaction to this new information. Sure she would be shocked, maybe even have an emotional breakdown, but not violence so out of

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control that he could feel simmering anger rushing off her in great waves of magic. His head was starting to spin as he felt her aura enveloping him. She was a strong sorcerer and it took all his energy not to start backing off again. Making up his mind, he reached out and gently grabbed Alyssa’s arm. He felt her pause for second and then round on him. The rage in her eyes was unmistakable and he hesitated for a second. He noticed that her knuckles were scratched and there was a cut on her cheek. This was definitely not the Alyssa he knew, but he had to calm her down somehow. His former plan was that once she recognized him, she would pull herself together, but one look at her eyes told him otherwise. Quickly thinking of what to do next, he tried to stall. He smiled weakly and said, “I think we should head back. I’m starving and somewhat tired.” Alyssa didn’t look as if she had understood, so he shook his head slightly and looked down sadly. It was partly an act, but he did feel badly for Alyssa. This wasn’t her fault. He knew he shouldn’t get too involved in her personal life anyway. Finally he mumbled, “I’ll be in my room if you need me.” With that he exited the room.

I felt myself being swallowed in my own rage. I thought my family trusted me. All my emotions that I had kept inside me for my whole life

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came spilling out in that one moment. All the pain, anger, loneliness, and confusion fused together in me and I couldn’t think straight. I knew I had to find an outlet and saw the pale wall in front of me. Grabbing the wall paper, I ripped it off with all my strength. It felt good so I continued with both hands until I felt my arms tire. Next, I started banging the wall. It was painful, but better than thinking about the knowledge of who my parents really were. I didn’t really hate them, but this had pushed me over the edge. It wasn’t just the moving around, but the problem of them not telling me the truth. This thought fueled my anger once again and I was just about to pick the painting up and rip it to shreds when I felt a cool hand around my arm. Swiveling around to meet my challenger, I recognized Kyle. Yes, I did actually recognize him, but it didn’t matter. To me he was just an object to help bring my frustration out on. I thought I saw a little fear in his eyes, but I hesitated only a second. He said something, but I didn’t care what he wanted to say. He was bigger than I was, maybe by a few solid inches, and wider as well, but then he also seemed so fragile. I was preparing myself for an attack when I saw him shake his head slightly and turn around, leaving through the door we had entered. That’s when I calmed down. I hadn’t realized how much I had hurt Kyle until he had

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shoved it in my face. I felt awful to have done this to him and I hated myself for it. Backing up against the wall, I breathed slowly. This was the first time I had ever lost my temper so much. I was known to anger slowly because of my carefree attitude, but this had proved that statement wrong. I glanced at my bloody knuckles and gingerly touched them. When I had hit the wall, the thin skin had scraped off, leaving an open cut. This will heal I thought, but Kyle’s pain won’t unless I do something about it. I knew I had to do something to say sorry to Kyle, but I didn’t know how. It wasn’t fair that I was in this castle, but I failed to realize that Kyle was in the same situation. We had nowhere to run with four walls surrounding us constantly, like caged animals restless to run free. That was when my eagle had decided to fly out of my pocket. I’m glad he hadn’t been hurt from my temper tantrum, but annoyed that I would have to catch him again. I let him fly around my room, but wasn’t so sure what he would do if I let him roam anywhere. He might just fly away and never come back to me, but somehow I didn’t believe he would do that. I watched him as he spiraled through the air to the opposite wall. He landed on the floor about a foot from it and started squawking madly. I walked toward the eagle and silenced him by picking him up and stuffing him into my jacket pocket. It was then

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that I noticed a big spider speedily crawling toward the wall. It was jet black except for a streak of red across its back. I hated spiders just because of the creepy way they walked. This time was no different. When I spotted it on the floor, I felt a tightening in my throat as I watched it take a smooth step. The graceful arch of its eight legs as it meandered quietly toward the wall made me want to wretch, but something held me back. It paused for a moment, as if contemplating on whether to move on, then leapt, sticking to the wall like glue. I jumped at this sudden movement, but stayed in my place, all thoughts of my former anger leaving me. Once again its graceful steps moved it up the wall, and stopped again as it became eye level with me in my kneeling position. A shiver crept down my spine as if the spider was actually crawling on me and I swept at my arm as if to brush it away. I felt that I should recognize this creature, but didn’t know why. It was a spider and that was enough to make me want to leave this wretched room. I felt my eagle struggling in my pocket and became preoccupied with trying to wrestle it back in so as not to attack the spider again. I thought this very heroic of me because if it were any other spider, I would have let my eagle rip it to shreds. By the time I had looked back up, the spider had gone, but that just made it worse. It could have been anywhere, even dropping from the ceiling into

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my hair. I shuddered at the possibility and left as fast as I could. As I walked along the corridor again, I thought of how I could apologize to Kyle for my actions. It was the first time I had lost my temper so ferociously, and didn’t know how to handle it. My rage had now gone, but I was afraid that it might surface again. I decided to go to the kitchens for some dinner before meeting Kyle, maybe even steal a bite of trifle. As I reached the kitchen, Mandy walked toward me with the trifle in her hands. “Just as I promised, Miss Torrey,” she said. I sighed at the formal name people called me by in this castle. “I told you Mandy, please call me Alyssa. Kyle is my friend and he does, so I think you should be able to as well.” She smiled knowingly, but ignored my request and placed the trifle into my open hands. “I think you deserve something sweet now and then, especially to put some fat on your bones.” She laughed lightly and pulled a spoon out of a fold in her many layered cotton dress. “But even though you need some sugar, don’t forget to also eat something healthy before you leave. I think I can make something fast so you can be on your way.” Mandy was true to her word and whipped up an omelet with cheese and some bread on the side. I shoveled it down and was on my way again with the trifle in my hands. With my stomach full and my

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emotions shoved aside, I was content. As I walked along, I looked at my delicious looking trifle. Mandy had put raspberries in this one and the angel cake at the bottom looked fresh. While I was intent on the cake, my eagle had wiggled itself free from my pocket and immediately dove for the trifle before I could react. I watched in fascination as he poked his dirtied head out the other end and snapped his beak. If he could speak he would probably have been saying, “This is my trifle, beware.” I giggled slightly at the mess he had made and what an oddball he was. Then it occurred to me. Gonzo was a perfect name. I had read about it in a magazine; something about animal names and what they mean. I remember that Gonzo meant oddball or bizarre. I shook my head. It fit. I was less worried about the task ahead, which I suppose was a good thing, and had a big smile on my face as I entered my bedroom. The first thing I saw, however, wiped the smile off my face completely. I saw Kyle. He was sitting on the bed, looking at me, with a blank expression on his face. He looked like an empty shell, but I suppose he was just lost in his emotions. I felt my heart go out to him because I knew that I had caused his pain. When he didn’t move or say anything I said, “Look, Kyle, I really didn’t mean to do…whatever I did back there.” The truth was, I really didn’t know what I had done. My emotions had been in control of me. Well, until I had my trifle, that is.

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Kyle just blankly shook his head and threw the covers over his body as he lay down. I was almost on the verge of crying, but I kept them in check; this was no time to lose control. I put a cool hand on his exposed shoulder and felt the slight pulse of magic that I had begun to get accustomed to. It was a little different than I recalled, but ignored it, thinking it might have just been the emotions he was feeling. “Kyle, please forgive me. I did something stupid back there that shouldn’t have been done, especially not to you. Not to you, the sweetest person I have ever met. The person who has always been there for me. Not to you, the most beautiful man on the face of the earth.” I was seriously spilling my emotions onto him. All this was true, and I knew I had to tell it to him in the most meaningful fashion I could. He looked up briefly and said, “You’re just saying that,” then buried his head back into the pillow. How in the world could I tell him it was the truth? I had one idea, but it was farther than I was willing to go. But for Kyle? I suppose I had no choice. Without a second thought to think of anything better, I shoved back the covers and pulled Kyle up and out of the bed. Now the two of us were sitting side by side on the cushy bed. I made him look at me, and I saw confusion in his eyes as I pulled him in closer to me. I wrapped my arms

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around him and kissed him. It was a soft kiss, but full of passion that I hadn’t really meant to put in there. He hesitated for a fraction of a second, but responded by putting more pressure on my lips. As I pulled away (and yes, I was the one to do it) he smiled malevolently and sneered, “You have no idea how long I have been waiting to do that, Alyssa.” That was when things went totally wrong.

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Sometimes people just have moments of hesitation where you totally know that something is wrong but everything looks fine when you take a look around. That’s sort of what happened to me, except it took me a few moments too long and a very disastrous few moments they were. My head was still spinning with the aftermath of that kiss, so I guess that’s why things got messed up so quickly. I was smiling slightly and was looking into Kyle’s green, deep eyes. I was so hooked. It was like taking some drug, but not like it at all. As I looked into Kyle’s eyes I started to daydream. I’m sad to say that this time when I looked into those eyes, I wasn’t thinking about Kyle

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at all, but about my father. He had those same eyes and I don’t know how many times I had looked at them this same way. I was about to lean forward to give him a father daughter like hug, just to remember the feeling of his warmth, before I realized that I was still trapped in this accursed castle and he was miles away. It was in this moment of realization that I felt something very wrong in the air. I felt a twisted blackness that started at the edge of my vision and began to pressure me from all sides. I remembered this feeling from what seemed like a long time ago in the forest so far away. I panicked. My first move was toward Kyle, but he was gone. I hadn’t remembered him leaving. Where had he gone? Had he fled towards the door? I swiveled my head because my eyes were glued ahead of me because of the oncoming blackness. I heard laughter; evil laughter that chills the blood. Tears streamed down my face as I fought this binding spell. I looked around the room and saw something that made my jaw clench in anger. Kyle’s form shimmered in the air and his outline began to change, shrinking and growing a bit wider. Kyle’s tattered garment was replaced by immaculate jet black clothing and a purple tie. Even in his unusual outfit, I recognized the man to be Lucas. A smile of triumph appeared on the villain’s face and he glanced over his shoulder to where three people appeared. There were two lean men with thin armor

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covering the most important parts of the body and the ragged form of Kyle sagging between them. A voice resounded in my head, echoing from side to side. The voice said, “This is my revenge, Alyssa. Remember what I have done and heed my warning. This is no game.” Darkness descended again and I used my magic to repel it, anger burning in my heart. With a burst of power Lucas’s magic disappeared and I could think somewhat clearly. “Don’t stop, Alyssa,” croaked Kyle. “Fight it, for me!” I screwed up my face in effort as another spurt of magic came towards me. I continued to fight, listening to Kyle’s desperate pleas, but Lucas was still too strong for me. “It’s no use,” Lucas thundered, though I could see he was having trouble as well. I saw the guards in the corner, looking frightened yet staying put and Kyle’s bright green eyes looking desperate. I knew that I had used up the last of my strength and with a shudder I stopped releasing my magic. The last sound I heard was a scream from Kyle and then my head hit the floor. I’m sorry. I have to pause for a second. As I’m writing this my head is spinning. All these memories are so vivid. I suppose Kyle was right in saying this would help. As I’m looking back at what I’ve written I realize that what happened happened.

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There was a lot that happened as well. Man, I’m not making much sense. I suppose I have to continue again, or else my train of thought will vanish… When I opened my eyes, there was darkness. Not complete darkness, I realized, for it was not even close to being like the darkness Lucas had put me in before. A faint glow came from the room itself, evenly spread to the farthest corner. I myself was stationed in the middle of it all, stupidly wondering if there was any way to pull my hair back; it kept getting in the way and was bothering me for it had grown quite long during my stay here at the castle. As time passed I noticed a certain spot on my head start to throb. I’m guessing Lucas’s guards hadn’t been all too careful with handling me. My back also started to ache with leaning forward so long, as well as my left bum cheek; it had fallen asleep. I could probably go on forever with my petty complains but I was also starting to worry about Kyle (the real Kyle). The last seconds when I had seen him before becoming unconscious he had looked haggard and not entirely alive. I remember seeing cuts all across his body and blood oozing from slices torn from his shirt. Then there was the part where Lucas had transformed. I shuddered. I had kissed that evil man

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and I hadn’t even realized it. Tears pressured the backs of my eyes and I sniffled. This wasn’t working out at all. I was going to have to find a way to do something and help Kyle. He meant the world to me and that was all the motivation I needed. Pushing the tears away, I searched for a door. There wasn’t one. How did I get here in the first place? Lucas must have done this because he knew that I was more powerful than he was! He was probably worried that I would use my powers to overtake him. My confusion canceled out my worry and I got up to wander around. That’s when I realized no one had bothered to tie me up. This was all too frustrating. I dug around in my beige cargo pants to see if there was anything interesting, but there was just a bunch of lint and (yes!) a hair elastic. As I tied back my straight brown hair into a regular ponytail I thought of all the long hours sitting in my room thinking about how to escape the castle. I had shared all these ideas with Kyle, but when I began to say them, they never sounded good or I would hear a flaw when I repeated my musings out loud. It had been stuff like going through the kitchens and down to the cellar where all the wine was kept. I had overheard the cooks talking about a door at the back of the cellar that led out the castle. When I told Kyle this, he shook his head and told me it had caved in years ago in an earthquake.

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That’s when I started to get sleepy. My eyes fluttered closed for a second and the black walls that surrounded me faded, but then I shook my head and concentrated on my problem. I tried, but I just couldn’t seem to hold on to one train of thought before it would slip away again. My body forced me to sit down as my legs began to feel my fatigue and my head drooped onto my chest. It felt as if a sort of calm had enveloped me, shutting down all systems. I was in its power. In its power? Who was the ‘it’? This wasn’t right so why was I giving in? I did not want to be the puppet anymore. I opened my eyes, but even that was labor as I soon found out. I needed to focus my gaze on something, but the walls were blank. I began absently braiding my hair as I fought to keep my eyes open. When I realized I was doing this, I concentrated on it, but my movements were clumsy as if in a dream. My coordination was slowing down and I was too tired to lift my hands anymore. Giving up on my hair, I continued to slap myself on the face. That soon gave me a stinging red mark on my cheek and an even more exhausted arm. The moment I stopped moving or doing something, sleep enveloped me and I could do nothing but give in. I woke up in another dimly lit room and heard, rather than saw, that there was at least one other person in the room with me. I could tell by the heavy breathing and sniffling going on to my left. I

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was on my back facing a plain ceiling and my hands were tied now to the front of me. I was wide awake and I tilted my body to the side. The room was cold, I realized, and I felt goose bumps rising on my skin as I moved. Well this is great, I said to myself, I’m in a random room with a guy I probably don’t know and I’m cold. Now as I shifted, I glimpsed the guys’ dark green clothes. The boy wore it like a dress, although it was probably just a large shirt, and covering his legs were tan breeches ending in some comfortable looking shoes. There was a hole that was roughly cut for the head where a pale neck and long scruffy brown hair spilled out. This was no guy, I soon realized, this was a full-on grown woman. More like a young lady, I thought. Her breasts were still developing and she had slender arms that led to her petit hands. In fact, her whole body seemed rather small. As I made my careful inspection, she opened her large innocent eyes and looked straight at me. They were a watery blue which made them look almost transparent and that, along with the pale skin, made her look all very unreal. A stray strand of hair was lying across her face and she shook it out of the way. “What happened,” she asked. “Don’t ask me; I was hallucinating earlier. Bad times I say, no other word for it.” I chuckled slightly at what I had just said. I didn’t like magic

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when it did stupid tricks with the mind as it had done earlier to me. Just the mere thought of me kissing Lucas was revolting. She seemed a little confused at what I had said and I don’t blame her. She hadn’t been there. I looked around again and asked, “Why am I here?” She looked thoughtful, then replied slowly, “I’m not positive, but I think you were put into a magic room temporarily so that they could transport you to this room with me. Then, when they released you from the magic, you woke up here as if you had just been dreaming.” I shrugged and accepted the explanation, then concentrated on my bonds. They puffed into flowers just by a mere thought. Looking at her surprised expression, I said, “You’ve never seen magic before? You just explained that whole magical room thingy, so I think you do.” If she was here she had to know magic. This castle was built with magic, for goodness sake. “Oh, of course I know magic,” she said in a small voice. “I have only a small portion of it, though. My younger brother does too.” I nodded at that. “OK then, what are you doing here?” She shook her head and whispered, “I don’t know.” There was a pause, then she continued, “I was captured when I was six and have been here since. It’s the only place I remember now.” My jaw dropped slightly and I asked, “And now you are…”

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“Twelve,” she replied. There was silence for a few moments and then I got up to look for an escape. It was not fair. I felt sorry for myself because I had been locked up in here for a couple of months. This girl had been here for nearly six years! “There’s a door in that far corner, but it’s locked. Actually, I haven’t always been locked up in this room, you know. For some reason I was put in here, but not too long ago. I was with the cooks because they were teaching me to make apple pie. I thought I had done something wrong, but I still don’t know why they wanted me to meet you. It’s all so confusing.” The girl paused to catch her breath and continued. “I have wandered the entire castle from top to bottom and I’m given all the freedom I want except the hour a day when I am taught magic, though I think it’s useless because I haven’t a drop in me. There really are some interesting things in this castle, you know, but it does sometimes get lonely.” I looked at her and took in all she had said. I switched the subject because I really had no interest in the castle whatsoever and asked, “What is your specialty in magic, seeing that you at least have a little?” She giggled at my question and said, “Well, this is the thing Lucas hates about me. You see, although I do give off an aura of magic so he can track me, it is very faint because of my lack of magic

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so he can’t really track me as easily. And, to add to that, I can become invisible.” She giggled again, almost triumphantly, I thought. To prove her point, she dissolved into thin air and reappeared right beside me. “I can’t move through space, if that’s what you’re thinking. I ran over here after I made myself invisible.” I nodded thoughtfully, then thought about what she had just said. Could someone really move through space? I asked that question to the girl and she said, “Yeah. I remember someone telling me about it. It would be really cool if you could do it. You should try. You are a very strong sorcerer.” “You know what? I think I shall. For once I will take a risk. If I am successful, I will be back to save you. You have been more help to me than you know. By the way, what is your name?” “Trisha. Trisha Baruch.”

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I took a few steps away from my new friend and concentrated. I had no idea what I was supposed to do, so I just thought about where I wanted to go. Where did I want to go? If I went to Kyle it would be certain death because he was most likely surrounded by guards, so I thought about the outside of the castle from the window in my room. There was a forest a ways off, so I concentrated deeply about being inside that forest. I know it sounded selfish to just leave behind two of my friends in the clutches of Lucas, but I planned to get reinforcements and save them; I couldn’t do this alone. I concentrated even more. Now that I was thinking of why I was doing it,

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thinking about how important this quest was, and why I needed to be in the forest, magic flowed even more strongly in me. I felt like I would explode with the pressure pushing out of me, and my head was bulging with magic. Then I felt like I was being grasped by an invisible, strong hand and squeezed through a slit in the wall. I gasped at the force that was pulling at me. I couldn’t feel my body, but I sensed pain and knew I was still alive. The pressure continued to a climax when I thought I could take no more; then I fell unconscious. I woke up to the smell of freshness and there was something soft touching my aching skin. I had no idea how long I had been there, but I knew I was no longer in the musty castle. “The princess has finally awoken,” a voice sneered nearby. I lifted my heavy head to the sound and to my amazement, or maybe not, I saw Lucas leaning casually against a thick tree trunk. He touched his lips casually. “My lips still tingle. You are an excellent kisser and I haven’t had one like that for many years. Of course, I had not planned on you kissing me, but I guess I should have seen it coming. Ever since you came I have been having so much excitement.” He smiled cruelly and looked toward the castle in the distance. “I am so bored of that place. It’s so dreary and sometimes I just crave someplace where people actually respect me.”

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“Then stop kidnapping kids for sport,” I snarled at him. “Oh, but Alyssa, dear, it is not for sport. You understand so little.” “You are disgusting, you know. I’m only fifteen and you’re, like, fifty or something and you take pleasure in kissing me.” I spit on the ground as if to get rid of what happened. “Why did you pretend to be Kyle, anyway?” “Hmm, I’m pretty sure I did that just for fun.” He smirked slightly. “I love getting caught in the middle of tense situations as you probably know. Overall, though, I suppose I just wanted to get back at you for all the annoyances you’ve caused. Like that one day where you decided to just skip class and attack me. The professor was not happy at all, almost deciding to quit right then and there! I was able to convince him otherwise eventually. It was a nasty thing to do, but, well, we all have our fun playing little pranks on each other, now don’t we?” “Prank?” I yelled, disgusted. “That was a vile little trick! You have fun doing that kind of thing?” “I’m sorry I deceived you, though I think something a little less dramatic might have worked just as well. Whatever, it’s done, and you are here.” Darn. I was supposed to be escaping, wasn’t I? “Back to business, I guess. When you tried escaping from the room I had locked you up in, you

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made a sad imitation of a star door which you saw your parents do once, am I correct? Anyway, you didn’t do it correctly, which was perfectly expected since you were never taught how, so it kind of suctioned you painfully to the spot you asked, leaving you unconscious. I know whenever someone uses magic to get in or out of my castle so I came here on my horse,” he said, pointing to a picketed black horse a couple of yards away. Of course! I forgot that my aura was traceable by anyone and I had been unconscious for who knows how long. Wait. My aura. Anyone can feel it. I looked up at Lucas triumphantly and said, “You have lost, you know. I know that the castle blocks out all use of magic, thus untraceable, but I am now outside, am I not?” “Hmph, that’s what you think, but you have failed to realize that this is exactly what I want. I put you in that room with young Trisha so you would try this maneuver from the suggestion I casually gave to her before placing her there. Of course she had no idea of my overall plan, but it worked none the less.” “They are going to come and save me, my parents, now that they know where I am.” “Oh, dear! Someone save me,” he said sarcastically. “That is what I want, Alyssa. I want your idiot parents to come because then it would be easier to capture them. I have backup if I need it, unlike them.”

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The full force of the plan hit me and I suddenly understood. My parents would be walking into a trap. This was Lucas’s territory and he had many military trained people in the castle. This was the worst thing to know, now that my being out here meant capture to my parents. What was even worse was that I couldn’t do anything to stop it. Many miles away there was a middle-aged woman sitting on a stool close to the fire which was blazing in the fireplace. She had a far away look on her face and her eyes were red as if she had been crying. In fact she had been, for her young daughter had been missing for many months now. The fact had just washed over her again just moments before and tears came unbidden to her eyes. She whispered to herself to stay strong and that there was nothing she could do about it, but she had promised herself many times that if her daughter was still alive, pray hope, she would try to save her and get revenge on the kidnapper. “I should never have let her go to Tristan’s house, especially when I knew the enemy was so close,” she muttered. That’s when she felt it. It was weak after traveling so many miles, but she felt her daughter’s aura. For the first time since her daughter was captured she felt the girl’s magic flowing free. It was a miracle! She smiled.

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A man, also middle age, stepped next to her and knelt beside her, whispering excitedly. The woman was nodding and they stood up together to stand in the small room. There were now tears of happiness in the woman’s eyes. They held hands together tightly and in front of them shimmered a glowing door. They walked through it together with new hope, not even bothering to worry about what might happen on the other end.

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I was now in my room again, sitting quietly on my bed, brooding over what was about to happen and what had happened. Lucas had led me to his sturdy horse and suggested, with a smile, that we would ride together back to the castle. I had adamantly refused to ride on the same horse as him, for obvious reasons, like just being plain old too close, but he pointed out that the castle was quite a few miles away from us. “I will not ride in that saddle with you. I would way rather walk by myself, thank you.” He looked at me with what appeared to be amusement in his eyes. “Look here, missy. It’s going to be a five minute ride. Believe me when I

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say you do not want to walk back to the castle, at least not without me.” He had on another evil smile and glanced toward the castle. “The walk will not take me a half hour, and I need the fresh air besides. If I’m not in the castle in that time, you may put me back in your filthy dungeon. I know it’s no use for me to run, either, and I know it because you can track me wherever I am. Is that a deal, Lucas?” He was shaking his head at me. “Whatever you say, princess. I can’t physically bring you there so it’s no use trying. I will pick you up from your wanderings in forty-five minutes. That should give you a good enough walk. Good bye.” With that he galloped off. “But I said it wouldn’t take me that long!” I yelled at his fading figure. Lowering my voice, I said, “Whatever, I will meet him at the castle then. Maybe I should even sneak in so that he does end up going out and searching for me anyway. That would be pretty hilarious.” I started to walk toward the distant castle. It was a beautiful day. The sun was already high in the sky and butterflies were dancing in the wind. The forest I had left behind glistened with mystery and I shuddered to think about me being lost in there. Between me and the castle there was long grass swaying in the wind, browned from the sun. I plucked one and stuck it in my mouth.

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The walk felt good. I had been inside for a good long time and needed this. I suppose it would keep me from going completely mad and think about what would happen when my parents came and how we would all be locked up and there would be no hope. All of a sudden I wasn’t so sure I wanted to walk anymore. Being alone made me think thoughts that I didn’t want in my head. I walked a little faster and looked up. The castle had come no closer than ten minutes ago. I gave it no thought, though. After walking ten more minutes with it still not looking any closer, though, I began to worry. Maybe this was why Lucas had advised against me walking. Darn. I sat in the tall grass and sulked for a few minutes. Then I laid down on the hard earth and looked up at the brilliant blue sky. I did that until my forty-five minutes were up and I heard the thud of horse hooves on the ground. “Oh great,” I whispered under my breath, “He’s here.” As he came into view, I saw him quickly reign in his steed. He had on his cruel smile as he looked down at me from his powerful horse. “You didn’t get too far,” he said jokingly. “Will you come with me now?” He patted the space in front of him where he had made room by scooting backward. I shook my head angrily at him, but I knew I had no choice. Stepping close to the horse, I looked

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at him questioningly. Did he expect me to fly up onto the beast? But before I knew it, strong hands grasped my sides and heaved me upward and before I knew it I was straddling the horse. I had never gotten the hang of riding on a horse, especially with two people in one saddle. Also, Lucas set a hard pace which made it even more uncomfortable as well as bumpy. I concentrated on the black mane in front of me as it quivered with the movement of the horse. Lucas was way too close to me and I felt his body heat against my back more and more with each second, along with his musky scent and body odor. I had to get off. I was sweating profusely by the time he grabbed me with his strong arms and set me on the ground gently, to my surprise. He leaped off himself and handed the reigns to a young stable boy whom I had never seen before. “The boy will help you find your room from here. I have business to take care of. I expect to see you at the dining hall tonight at six to sort out what will happen to you, Kyle, and your parents.” He walked away, leaving me with a surprised look on my face. For as long as I had been here, I had never dined with Lucas, only in the kitchen with all the cooks and Kyle. It left me nervous.

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With the boy leading the way, we made our way through the twists and turns of the castle. At last I picked up the courage to ask the boy his name. “Granger.” I looked more closely at the boy and noted his blonde wavy hair that reached just below his ears and his brilliant blue eyes which seemed to have a light of their own. He had a pale complexion, but he was indeed a very adorable boy. I wondered how he ended up here. I didn’t note a very big pulse from him. “And how old are you, Granger?” “Eight and a half.” “And where are your parents, if you don’t mind me asking?” “Dead.” My hand flew to my mouth in horror. Poor Granger! So young yet all alone. “But then what are you doing here? It’s just not fair!” “I was kidnapped,” he replied without emotion. Actually, I hadn’t detected any emotion during our whole conversation. Well, if you call it that. He seemed to answer with as few words as possible for all my questions. I shook my head in wonder at this mystery. “Here you are ma’am. Your room.” He motioned to the door beside him and stepped back to let me through. “Thank you, Granger,” I said politely. “I might come and visit you sometime. It get’s quite

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boring if I have no one to talk to, especially now since Kyle is Lucas’s captive,” I sadly reminded myself. “That won’t be necessary,” Granger said. I stared open mouthed at him from the rejection but he continued and I let out a sigh. I had hoped I wasn’t that annoying. “I am assigned to you to look after you.” He bowed slightly and once again I was surprised that such a young boy would act so old and mature. “Well, come in if you want. I wouldn’t mind to have someone to talk to.” With a slight head nod, he stiffly came in and sat in one of my couches by the hearth. “So…” I started. “How long have you been in the castle?” “Six and a half years.” “That means you’ve been here since… you were two! That’s an awfully long time!” “I don’t know any other life, so it isn’t that bad,” he said optimistically. “And, well, why are you here? I doubt anyone would come here because they wanted to.” “I already answered that, miss, I was kidnapped.” Did I detect a little bit of impatience? He covered it up well if he did. “No, what I mean is why you were kidnapped. Did you do anything wrong to make Lucas want to get you? Or maybe you have a special talent, though I don’t detect much magic.”

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“I was only two years old when I was taken, ma’am, so I don’t think I would have done anything wrong.” This was definitely not going too well. I refrained from asking anymore questions on the subject and walked over to the fire to put more logs on. Poking at it, I looked over to the window where there was a bird stand Kyle and I had constructed together. On it there was my mini eagle which Salek had given to me. I whistled under my breath and the snoozing bird looked out from underneath his wing. With an excited chirp it spread its span of feathers to their full extent, which actually wasn’t very much, and swooped down towards me, landing on my shoulder. With one finger out, I stroked his back. I looked toward Granger and noticed he had a surprised look on his face. “His name is Gonzo because he’s such an oddball,” I said. At his name, Gonzo looked around as if looking for the person who said it, and I shook my head at how clueless he was. “I’ve never seen a bird like that,” commented Granger. “Such a noble animal I can tell. Do they always come in this size? That animal seems bigger than its body implies.” It was my turn to look surprised. This was coming from an eight year old! And he had never seen an eagle in his entire life because he had always lived in the castle. “Well, yes, they are called eagles and they are quite big in real life. This one happens

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to be made by magic and given to me by someone very special. He died, though.” He nodded sympathetically and then jerked his head toward the door. “You’d better get ready,” he said. “It’ll be dinner soon and you need to look presentable.” He looked at my jeans which were tattered and my cotton shirt which had collected bits of dirt and leaves. Nodding reluctantly, I made my way to the shower and closed the door.

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About an hour later, I was ready. I had on a nice shirt and a black skirt that I had borrowed. I hated dressing up, though, because everything was so uncomfortable and tight. With a nod to Granger, he led me through the door and down to the dining room where Lucas would be waiting. Formally, Granger opened the double doors leading into the hall and stood at attention a little to the side. But when I looked at him, he gave the slightest wink and a hint of a smile. I was confused by what he meant by it because I was in a completely awful situation and had to now dine with Lucas. Even though I didn’t understand what it meant, it gave me a sense of confidence; so, shaking

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off my nervousness, I straightened my back and walked in defiantly. The first thing I noticed was Lucas, who was sitting at the end of the table wearing a button up silk shirt with his dark hair slicked back. The floor was cold marble and it made a rapping sound as I made my way over to my chair which was an elegant mahogany wood with velvet red coverings. Glancing around, I took in the deer head plastered to the wall with a blank expression on its very obviously dead face. The center piece was made of multiple large acorns with green ferns sticking out at various angles and was placed on the long wood table which had been polished profusely. Overall, the room just looked like a large, empty tomb. Mostly because of the dead deer. “You definitely look the part,” Lucas said as he looked me up and down. “I’m glad you discarded your baggy jeans and t-shirt for tonight,” he said, eyeing my knee length black skirt and rose colored satin blouse one of the cooks had lent me. Lucas continued, “I have very special things to tell you before your parents show up. You want to look nice for them now, don’t you?.” My parents, I thought sullenly. Then I remembered something. “Was that the only time you pretended to be Kyle?” I asked suddenly. “I mean, the time you… kissed… me?” Lucas smiled bitterly and answered with a simple ‘yes’. I sighed with relief.

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Picking the chair next to the head of the table, we waited no less than five seconds before Mandy, the head cook, entered with a tray filled with food. There were appetizers first and the two of us ate silently. Then came the main course when Lucas started to talk. “You are a very important person, you know that, right Alyssa?” “I know that I’m leverage so you can get at my parents,” I said as calmly as I could. I didn’t want to talk about how important I was. I didn’t want to be here. “Well, that’s the obvious part, isn’t it? Let’s think deeper, shall we? Together now.” I just sat there. While nothing happened, I took a bite of my mashed potato and looked at Lucas. He appeared to be concentrating hard. Then I felt something pull at me. Next thing I knew, I was in a vision of when I was sitting at the dinner table with my parents. It was when I had brought up the subject to my parents of why we had to move all the time. I saw myself falter and ask to be excused from the table. I had three other visions like that one, all ending up with me not asking the question. Next I found myself in the west wing, watching myself tear up the room after finding out I was royal, with Kyle standing off to the side. The vision ended abruptly and I was once again staring at Lucas.

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“Ever since you looked at that picture of your parents, you never thought about actually being royal, did you? You denied it even when the proof was right in front of you.” Lucas said this calmly but there was a deeper current in what he said that made me listen. “So?” I asked quietly. “I don’t want to be.” “I know, and we can fix that,” he continued. “And what’s more, your parents can’t even tell you the truth. They have to use magic to stop you from figuring it out and to stop you from asking too many questions. I have never done that to you, have I?” I shook my head. “And to continue along that line, how many times have you moved? More than anyone should, I would guess.” As Lucas talked, I barely even took in what he was saying but at the same time I knew exactly his meaning. He continued in a smooth monotone voice about all the wrongs my parents had committed. Almost dreamily I nodded my head, believing his every word. At one point I thought vaguely that all Lucas was saying sounded insanely wrong, but the thought was gently pushed from my brain as wind would push a cloud through the sky; there it was one instant and gone the next. I barely registered it when Lucas had gotten up from his chair and walked to the far side of the room. Come to me. I looked around slowly, feeling sluggish, wondering who had spoken. Get up and

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walk toward me, the voice said again. Cautiously, I stood up and walked toward Lucas, who was the only person in the room to walk to. Stop, it said commandingly. As if I had no more control of my body, I stopped. The voice in my head laughed triumphantly. After that, my head started to clear a bit and I noticed my surroundings again. I could think on my own but I still felt a presence brushing my conscience. I should have been frightened, but I only felt a cloud of calm surrounding my body. “Alyssa, they are here at last. Your parents have come for you. I can feel them as they walk through these castle halls.” Lucas’s face cracked into and evil grin that only a villain could achieve. At his words, I expected to be worried that they were here as Lucas’s prisoners and it was all my fault, but instead I only felt happiness at finally being able to get revenge on the people who made my life miserable. My parents, who had never let me rest in a proper house and to get to know real friends. They, who would deliberately make me forget the question before it left my mouth. Lucas was better than that. He had said so himself! He wasn’t afraid to tell me things or be forced to move around. The presence in my head encouraged these thoughts and soon it was the only thing I could think about. Very good, it whispered. Soon. Oh so soon! Blood will soon be spilled, do not have mercy on

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those who have filled your life with pain, those who are liars at the heart. I found myself nodding at this logic. Did it not make sense? It was time for my parents to repay me with their life. It continued, I know how you feel. You do not want to be Queen. You do not want to be royal. I can make it so that you don’t have to assume that responsibility. I will rule and the world will be a better place, won’t it? You believe me, don’t you? I heard a sound and the double doors at the end of the hall opened as one. Granger walked in and, as he had with me, stood straight backed against the door as my parents walked in. They looked very different from when I last saw them. My father had a shadow of a beard on his jaw and my mother had quite a few more wrinkles on her face. Even so, they walked in proudly and quietly took in their surroundings. As soon as they saw me, they quickly made their way over with tears of happiness in their eyes. Do not let them touch you, the voice said instantly, its voice reverberating in my head with the force of a thousand speakers. I nodded slightly and stepped back from my oncoming parents. “Stop, do not come any closer.” As if to slow them down, I put my hand out, palm facing them, as a signal to stop. My mother, looking flustered at what I had just said. It seemed as if she was about to start

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forward again anyway, but my father stopped her and signaled for her to have patience. Lucas was smiling patiently in the corner and just now spoke aloud. “My friends! I invite you to have dinner with us. Alyssa and I were just digging in to the main course.” “Who are you,” asked my father. “Ah, of course, how silly of me to forget to introduce myself. My name is Lucas and I run this castle.” “You do?” my father asked, surprised. “But it was Salek who—he wanted the castle—it was him—” “Yes,” Lucas interrupted. “He does seem the type, doesn’t he? I’ll have you know that it was he who kidnapped your daughter, not me. He just made it easier for me to bring your lovely daughter here. Hmm, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to bring in his son now. Granger, if you please.” Granger hopped away to inform the guards to bring the prisoner in. “You have made this castle a prison for anyone who enters,” my mother cried angrily. “And what have you done to my daughter!?” Lucas just smiled and sat casually in his seat. Several minutes past and I could feel the tension in the room. There was a dragging noise and just then two burly guards came into view with Kyle in their wake. He was just as bad as when I first saw him after I kissed Lucas by accident. He was

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conscious and he painfully lifted his head to look around the room. His face had numerous scratches and a bit of blood dribbled down his chin. I could see his surprise as he saw my parents and then his eyes landed on me. There was infinite sadness in his eyes, but the voice in my head told me that he also caused some of my unhappiness and that he didn’t have the right to be in my presence. I believed it. Hardening my expression I stepped closer to Lucas. “Alyssa, please, listen to me,” cried Kyle. He had been roughly thrown on the ground and now struggled to stand. “I know you don’t want to be royal, but it is in your blood! You were born to be queen, so do not throw that life away so rashly.” His breathing grew labored as he leaned against the wall for support. “I had a lot to think about when I was locked away in the blackness of the dungeon.” He threw a glare at Lucas then said, “Do you remember when my dad died when we were being chased by those guards? I thought that I didn’t deserve to live. My father was ten times a better man than I ever would be and I was willing to just throw my life to the guards on the other side of the door because I thought I didn’t deserve to live. “I never paid you back for helping me get through it all and so now I will.” Slowly he came towards me. “I’ve had a lot of time to think and I want to say something that comes from deep inside of me.” There were now tears in his eyes and I

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wanted to comfort him with all of my being, but the presence held me back. “I love you, Alyssa. I have ever since I met you, and I just couldn’t see it for what it really was.” Inside of me the presence faltered as if it didn’t know how to handle such a deep emotion. In that split second, I was able to realize that I was definitely not being myself. As if I were caught in a web, I disentangled myself and stepped away from Lucas. Lucas looked lost for words. I ignored him and walked toward Kyle, who had a hopeful expression on his face. Taking him by the shoulders, I kissed him full on the mouth. I could sense my gift healing both his physical and emotional wounds. He answered back and held me tighter. Yes, this was definitely Kyle. Letting go I noticed he had a dazed, yet satisfied look in his eyes. Turning around, I ran to my parents and hugged them both. I felt exhausted from all that had happened and clung onto them lovingly. Yet all had not happened yet. There was a shrieking sound and I reluctantly stepped away from our family hug. Up near the ceiling Gonzo was circling and then dove toward the ground. I strained to see what he was attacking and saw that it was a large spider with a red streak on its back. It was exactly like the one I had seen in the west wing! I wanted to inspect it closer but never made it to the wall.

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I felt static in the air and a strong pulse of magic and right where the spider had been, Salek now stood.

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Salek walked into the room a little ways and looked at his son, “That was a wonderful speech you said earlier. You have no idea how proud I am to have you as my son.” “Dad!” yelled Kyle excitedly. “Are you real?” “Yes, son. Real flesh and bone.” As if to prove his point, Salek poked himself. Kyle smiled wide and hobbled over to his father. The two of them latched onto each other in a suffocating embrace and I almost made them stop for fear of Salek hurting his already fragile son. Salek glanced my way and opened up his arms as a greeting. I ran over and jumped into his

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welcoming hands and whispered into his ear, “I’m sorry I didn’t believe you were innocent. I’m ashamed to say that I only believed you after you ‘supposedly’ died.” Salek whispered back into my ear, “No worries Alyssa. You have nothing to worry about any more.” “Is that you, Salek?” My father asked, bewildered, cutting off our conversation. He directed his next question at me. “You know this man, Alyssa?” I nodded, still holding onto Salek. As my father spoke, his voice sounded angrier by the second. “Alyssa, I will not allow you to get near to that man. He is dangerous and cruel, with no heart for children!” He took a threatening step toward Salek and I. Salek backed away, pushing me to the side. He wasn’t exactly frightened, but wasn’t laughing either. I walked quickly toward my father, trying to figure out what to do. “Father, he isn’t the man you think he is.” “You don’t know what he’s done to our family. Get out of the way, honey.” “No!” But no matter what I said, he wouldn’t listen. Salek and Father kept staring at each other, not making a sound. “Don’t do this, Stewart,” said Salek, who was shaking his head. “If you give me a chance, I will tell you what really happened.” Then added, “Please.”

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With a reluctant nod, my father straightened up, pulled out one of the lavishly decorated chairs in the room, and sagged into it. Salek copied and soon the rest of us had grabbed a chair and gotten comfortable. “Uh, Mandy dear,” said Mother. Mandy poked her head in. “Would you mind bringing us some tea and maybe some of that delicious trifle you sometimes make?” With a nod she was off. Everyone’s attention was now on Salek. “Well, umm, I bet you all have a few questions but first I would like you to hear my story.” A few questions? I thought he had been dead all this time! “Right after Kyle, Alyssa, and I had escaped the dungeon, we were pursued by the guards. I ended up killing one and knew it was hopeless to defeat them all, so I told the kids to save themselves. Another guard approached and I turned my shoe into a sword.” He lifted up his foot, which, I just now realized, was missing a shoe. “It was a crude sword because my shoe had been full of holes and was almost useless, affecting the sword, but it killed the next guard who attacked me. That was the scream you heard. After that I changed into a spider and crawled away. It sure left the guards confused. Their job was just to kill me, not the kids. That’s why they didn’t go after you two. I realized too late that Lucas was already with you guys.

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“Anyway, I kept an eye on you two and waited for the right moment to show up.” He smiled as he finished his story. “You mean you’ve been alive this entire time?” Kyle looked unbelievingly at his father and carefully looked him over again as if making sure he was really there. “Really, I am truly sorry I could not tell you earlier but I would surely have been found by Lucas,” he nodded toward the still form at the end of the table. I had forgotten he was still there. “And so if I had changed back into my human form, I wouldn’t have been able to veil myself. When I was a spider I didn’t give off too much of a pulse.” I looked toward my parents to see what kind of reaction they had and almost wanted to laugh when I saw their faces. You could tell they were definitely confused. “Mr. and Mrs. Torrey,” started Salek. “It is an honor to see you again. I hope I haven’t scared you too much when I kidnapped your daughter but I didn’t think I had any other choice. Lucas was already heading your way and I thought that I could help save the only heir to the throne. Alas, I was wrong and I am terribly sorry.” He looked it too. “Salek, we kicked you out of the castle for obvious reasons. You boasted your power and did some terrible things. You were once even caught in the act! Why should we trust you now?” My father

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looked angrily at Salek, trying to make him falter in his story. “Ah, now that is a story Lucas should tell.” Everyone’s eyes focused on the head of the table, but Lucas was no longer there. We all heard a shout coming from outside the still open double doors. As one, we ran to see what was happening and saw… nothing. I heard feet shuffling on the hard floor and some grunts from a certain spot. It seemed to be struggling with something. All at once, Trisha and Granger appeared before me, holding something still invisible between their arms, fighting to keep it there. Salek quickly joined them and touched the object. At once Lucas appeared, looking angrily up at Salek. “Thank you Trisha and Granger,” said Salek kindly. “You went with the plan perfectly.” There were a few questioning glances and Salek explained, “They are brother and sister and both have lived at this castle for most of their life. They have helped take care of me and helped me capture Lucas. You see, I knew that with all the distraction I made, Lucas would try to escape, but I made these two kids stand out here, invisible, and get him. They both can become invisible. Anyway, as I was saying, it should now be obvious to you that Lucas is in fact guilty, because he ran from you.” Salek said this in a matter of fact way as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

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“You really are brilliant,” my father said grudgingly. “But why did he run away? I wasn’t even aware that he was bad. Before tonight, I didn’t even know he existed.” “Lucas,” Salek said, “I think these nice people would like an explanation of why and how you ruined their lives.” Lucas looked away, not wanting to be humiliated. Salek walked back into the now deserted dining hall and brought back a heavy chair. I blinked and when I looked back at Salek, he was now holding, instead of the chair, a small vile filled with some liquid. “Don’t make me do this, Lucas.” He turned towards me and explained, “This is a truth potion. It’s actually quite painful if you drink it, or so I’ve heard.” Without another thought, Salek forced open Lucas’s mouth, uncorked the bottle, and put only one drop into the man’s mouth. Lucas’s eye’s bulged and his jaws tightened. I could almost hear the silent scream inside Lucas. My instinct to heal was overpowering and so I reached for his hand. He blindly grasped mine back and held it tightly, almost to the point where I could feel my bones popping. He knelt on the ground in front of him and grabbed his stomach with his other hand. He slouched over with his head sagging almost to the ground, his slicked back hair coming lose from it’s gel. “Make it stop!” I yelled.

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Salek nodded and said sternly but quickly, “Lucas, listen to me, you need to tell us what you did that was bad in your life. Only then will the pain stop.” He opened his watering eyes slightly and took in the scene in front of him. Mother and Father were watching intently. Trisha and Granger were still holding each one of Lucas’s shoulders, thought they were no longer holding tightly. Instead they were watching him carefully. Kyle was near Salek; they all looked accusingly at Lucas. A tiny gasp came out of Lucas, and he slowly began to talk. “It started out with me just wanting power. I pretended to be Salek for a little while when the real Salek had gone out to visit relatives. I did some awful things so that you would kick Salek out. When Salek had found a new home, I blackmailed you saying that I would kill your little daughter if you didn’t let me back into the castle. I signed it from Salek to make it look like he was the one who wanted power. It worked and you ran away from the castle, leaving it all to me. I then broke into Salek’s house and took his wife, but made it seem like I had killed her. I left a note saying that I would do the same for his son if he told anyone about what I did. He ran away like you had, taking his son. I have lived here ever since.” “What happened to my wife,” asked Salek emotionally, his faced screwed up as if he was about to cry. Lucas shook his head violently and didn’t

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answer. When he didn’t say anything, pain wracked his body and he hunched over, his hand once again crushing my fingers. A groan escaped his lips and he said, “She’s in one of the dungeons.” Salek closed his eyes for a moment, smiling silently to himself. “Can it really be?” he whispered. Grumbling, Lucas sat down on the hard floor, pouting. “Stupid people,” I heard him mumble to himself. “Where did Granger and Trisha come from, Lucas?” I asked. He looked up at me with a new sadness in his eyes but did not answer me. “The potion should be wearing off right now, so you really can’t make him say anything,” said Salek, looking at me. He took out the truth potion and put it threateningly close to Lucas’s mouth. “Fine,” he said grudgingly. “Their parents somehow found out about my plan, so I kidnapped their children so they were be forced not to tell. It ended up that the parents died soon after the children’s capture because of a car crash, so I just took care of them here. No biggy.” He looked calmly around and said, “Is that all, or do you still want to squeeze more information outta me?” There was a dribble of clear liquid making its way down his chin and his face had paled. I guessed it was because of the potion. “No,” Salek sighed, “We are done here.”

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I looked at Kyle and smiled. Was my life ever going to get back to normal now that I know I’m magical, royal, and that I no longer have to move? The next few weeks were hectic. First off, we had to figure out what to do with Lucas. After he had confessed, we locked him in an extra bedroom so he could recover. When he had woken up later, he had yelled on the top of his lungs so everyone in the castle could hear him. He cussed a bunch and yelled that we should set him free at once. Salek scoffed at the idea, but I decided that he was nothing we couldn’t handle. We had learned from our mistakes. I convinced my family that alone, Lucas was nothing, and if he would plan anything else in the future, we would be prepared. Also, I had to explain everything to my parents about what happened to me after I was kidnapped, and I was also moving into the castle. My parents reclaimed their royalty and became rightful King and Queen. Oh, and Tristan came to visit me at the castle with Mr. Sparks. They greeted me warmly and I showed them around the castle. It was awkward, though, almost as if I was meeting two entirely new people. The thing was, I was the one who had changed. I’m different now, transformed by what has happened to me. I told this to Tristan and he sadly nodded his head in understanding. I suppose I wasn’t too let down

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when I had rejected Tristan because I had seen him flirt with Trisha. I think they will be cute together. Kyle and I have been having an awesome time, too, though. We’ve explored every inch of our new home together during our free time. Now that Salek is my parent’s right hand man, we won’t ever be separated. I’m the new princess and I’m starting to realize that it’s not as bad as it seemed. It’s a lot about luxury, but there’s more. I love that the guards who used to be under Lucas’s watch have now become our workers, though they say it’s much better than having to do as Lucas says. But it’s more than that. It’s being able to use the power you have to do something good in people’s lives. For example, the prisoners in the dungeon have been sent to the best hospitals and are being taken care of. They have also been asked personally if they would like to take up jobs at the castle and to have it their home. I’ve talked to most of these people, and they have enthusiastically agreed to work at the castle. We ended up finding Salek’s wife in one of the cells, thin and needing care, but still alive none the less. It was a happy reunion with much celebrating. The castle has a gleam to it that it didn’t have before. But there is still one thing that makes me think. As I walk through the village nearby in the crowded streets I keep thinking one thought: these people have no idea what I have been through.

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Michelle Siva (Séeva) is from San Diego, California. She has started many books, but has only decided to continue on this one. Michelle wrote The Castle of Secrets when she was fourteen. It is the first book she has written successfully and she hopes to write more. She was inspired to continue this novel because of her interest in fantasy and magic. She lives with her family, along with a rat, rabbit, and cat. She has lived in one house her entire life and plans to go to college eventually and study literature. Stay tuned for her next fantasy novel about an untouchable who tries to figure out the truth about his parents’ death. As he does, he accidentally enters an entirely new realm, changing his life forever.

siva.michelle@hotmail.com

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