|When Nolan woke up, it took him a few minutes for him to realize that he was not in his room.
Abruptly, he sat up. Then where was he? And more importantly, how did he get here?
He breathed a sigh of relief. He recognized this place. He was in Nightside. But that still left the other question.
He turned to see his friend Sabrina Ravenstaff anxiously running toward him.
“Nolan, something really weird happened. I could’ve sworn I was in bed last night, but when I woke up I was here in Nightside!”
“No kidding? Me too! I wonder what happened.”
“Yeah.” Sabrina looked toward the entrance. “Hey, look! There’s Professor Falmea. Maybe she knows what’s going on.”
She rushed over to her. “Professor Falmea? Just a second, please. Hey, wait up!”
But Professor Falmea kept on going. This struck Nolan as odd. Professor Falmea, although, at times, strict, was always happy to help any interrogative student.
“Excuse me, ma’am!” Nolan shouted. “Sabrina was talking to you.” She still didn’t answer.
Nolan turned to Sabrina. “Not that people aren’t prejudiced here,” he said, “but this is ridiculous.”
“I don’t think it’s that,” said Sabrina worriedly. She stuck her hand out in Professor Falmea’s path as if to stop her.
She walked right through it.
Sabrina gasped. “Did you see that?”
Nolan could feel his eyes bugging out. “What was that?”
“This is a spell!” Sabrina exclaimed. “I think I’ve heard of this! It’s a really old Myth charm called a Confinement Spell. We’re still here, technically, but we must be, like, in another dimension or something because no one can see or hear or feel us except for the caster.”
“What?” gasped Nolan. “But then…who cast it?”
A maniacal laugh echoed throughout Nightside.
Sabrina looked at Nolan and gulped. “Malistaire?” she asked him, as if he knew the answer.
Suddenly, it dawned on him, as some of Sabrina’s past words came back to him.
“No,” he said slowly. “His brother.”
Four weeks later…
It was nearly a month since we escaped from Malistaire’s castle, blowing everyone’s minds in the process.
A lot had changed since then. As soon as we had arrived through the spiral door, Ambrose had gone and tightened security around the school. Now we couldn’t go anywhere without one of the guards or a heavily armed security troll breathing down our necks.
I also hadn’t seen a single necromancer anywhere since the fiasco at Malistaire’s fortress. Although all my fellow Theurgists seemed to be thoroughly convinced that they had all gone to join Malistaire, I wasn’t that sure. And I was getting pretty worried too.
And, as you probably all now know, Chris was no longer among us. I know; he was a traitor and he deserved it. But the pain of his death still hurt. Every moment, I half expected him to be right there beside me: laughing, smiling, cracking jokes, like he always did before.
I guess we changed some too. I found myself caring more for the safety of my siblings, making sure we stayed together every non-school hour. I noticed that we were behaving oddly well. Well, for us, that is. We were fighting less, anyway. And we seemed more in a hurry to get through our studies, doing quests on a daily basis. Perhaps it was because of the battle with Malistaire we knew had to come sooner or later.
And any free time we had we spent practicing in the arena. Take now, for instance.
It was not long after dark. Of course, the arena was closed, but Diego had permitted us to stay without even charging us extra tickets. Savannah and I were in the middle of what we agreed on would be the last duel of the night while Sadie, Samuel, and our new pet unicorn that we had rescued from Malistaire’s dungeon (whom we had decided to name Elvis) watched in the stands. I was a level thirty-three and she was a level twenty-eight, so we were pretty evenly matched.
I whipped a card from my pouch and cast Humongofrog, while Savannah did the same with a sunbird card. At first, I thought that I had won this round—no competition. But Savannah’s sunbird turned out to be a speedy little sucker. Every time my frog raised its gigantic foot intending to squish it, the sunbird was at least thirty yards away.
The next minute or so was chaos. The enormous frog awkwardly blundered around, the sunbird was going to drastic measures so as to not be squashed, and Savannah and I both yelled out encouragement to our creatures. In fact, it was so hectic that we didn’t even see Professor Ambrose stride in through the gates.
“Good evening,” he said, giving a nod to each of us. “My, you’re out late.”
I didn’t hear him at first; my mind was still on the battle. “Come on, squash him! He’s only a stinking bird you id…oh, hi, Professor.”
He beamed at me just as Savannah’s bird zoomed up at light speed and, with its sharp beak, poked my frog in the eye.
“Ugh,” I said, disgusted, as flecks of gore littered the ground and the Humongofrog howled pitifully. “Uh…Savannah? I think we’d better call it off…”
We both waved our wands and the two creatures disappeared.
“Now,” I said, “you wanted to see us?”
“Well, actually, more specifically, you,” corrected Ambrose.
“Oh,” I said, getting the hint. “Okay. Savannah, can you take everyone home?”
“Alright,” she said.
“Why did you want to see me?” I asked as they vanished in a whirl of sparkles.
“Do you remember,” asked Ambrose, “when you rid Unicorn Way of a hoard of monsters of which Miss Nora Skullhorn was responsible? It was some time ago, I believe.”
“Uh-huh,” I said.
“What do you remember, then, about the monsters?”
Taken aback, I started, “Hmm…let me think. They were more powerful; I remember that. They knew more spells, their moves were kind of smart, and they had more health. They also broke some of the rules for proper dueling, like attacking on sidewalks and ganging up on people four to one.”
“Miss Spiritheart,” Ambrose began, “I believe that Malistaire has found a way to make many of these creatures at once. My guess is that he’s using these creatures to build up an army.”
I gaped at him. “An army?” I asked, horrified.
“Yes,” said Ambrose. “A multitude of these creatures capable of doing the things that you mentioned and, possibly, more. Can you think of anything else?”
I thought hard, still horrified at the prospect of a whole army of past Dragonspyre-level minions. Not much came to my mind, except…
“Malistaire will teach them how to duel to kill,” I said, with a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
“Yes,” said Ambrose gravely.
“So…it’ll be like that attack on Ravenwood?” I asked, shuddering slightly at the memory.
“I assure you, Miss Spiritheart, that it will be much more damaging than even that,” Ambrose said. “I believe that there will come a time when Malistaire will use is forces to launch a full-scale attack on Wizard City.
“Which is why,” he continued, “we’ll need our whole school on the job. And that’s why I came to you.”
“What for?” I asked, half bemused half terrified.
“Well, frankly, I am getting worried,” he said. “I have not seen a single death pupil since you arrived from Malistaire’s fortress. Nor have I seen any sign of Cyrus Drake. Although I fear for their safety, I admit that I also would like them here at the time of Malistaire’s attack, as Death is one of our most prestigious schools. So I would like you to go and find both. Quickly, too. We don’t have much time.”
“Um…Sir?” I said hesitantly. “Do you think that...you know…Professor Drake’s and the Death School’s disappearances might be connected?”
Ambrose hung his head.
“Oh, I didn’t mean it like that, Sir!” I said hastily. “I know Professor Drake would never—”
“That’s just what I think,” said Ambrose. It took me a few seconds to comprehend what he said.
“You mean,” I said slowly, “Professor Drake’s working for M—”
“Nothing of the sort,” said Ambrose. “But I still believe he did it.”
“How come?” I asked.
“Cyrus…well…he has always had a…troubled history with the death school.” Ambrose hesitated. “You do not know of this, I presume?”
I shook my head “No, Sir.”
Then I suddenly remembered something: Malistaire’s face, furious and white, only feet away from mine. He opened his mouth to speak, and…
“Well, there is something,” I said, a little apologetically. “When Malistaire was chasing us through the Spiral Door, right before we escaped from his castle, he said something about Professor Drake. He said that he, well, killed his wife,” I said in a very small voice.
Ambrose looked at me gravely.
I covered my mouth with my hands. “Oh my gosh,” I said. “So it is true!”
“As much as I would hate to say so, yes,” said Ambrose.
Dozens of questions were flooding through my mind at once, but the one that came out first was, “Why?”
“Why what?” asked Ambrose.
What I really longed to ask was, “Why are you still letting him teach here?” But I didn’t think that would be polite. So instead I asked, “Why did he do it?”
So Ambrose told the story.
“A while back,” he began, “both Cyrus and Malistaire Drake were almost ready to graduate from Ravenwood. Cyrus, the valedictorian student, was naturally at the top of the class. Malistaire, however, needed all the help he could get from his fellow necromancers. Even then, as I remember correctly, he barely managed to scrape a pass. But they were as close as any two brothers could be, besides a little feeling of superiority on Cyrus’s part.
“But the night of graduation, Cyrus had…a vision, if you will. Of a certain staff.”
My heart seemed to speed up several paces. “Malistaire’s staff?”
“Why yes,” said Ambrose, looking at me almost quizzically. “How did you know?”
“I saw it in the Hall—”
“Ah, of course, said Ambrose, smiling now. “You too have found the secrets of the Hall of the Prophecy. But never mind about that. We have a story to finish.
“It came to him in a dream. In his mind he saw a staff sitting in a notch on top of Pereputual Peak, one of the tallest mountains in the entire Spiral. And when he woke up, he knew that he must journey there. He left that morning, taking his brother with him.
“It took many days, but at last, Cyrus and Malistaire reached the peak. And there was the staff, sitting right there waiting to be taken. But alas, Cyrus did not know about the…special requirements. There was a curse on it, and when he reached out to take it…well, I will spare you the details…
“But when Cyrus woke up in the hospital about a month later, to his surprise, his brother was wielding the very staff that had denied him. It had accepted Malistaire’s touch. This upset Cyrus very greatly, for he was a part of the death school also. Oh yes,” he said as an answer to my startled expression, “Cyrus used to be a death student. One of the best too.”
I was utterly confused. Cyrus Drake…a death student? But he hated death!
“In the five years that followed,” continued Ambrose, “Cyrus became increasingly jealous of Malistaire, whose staff was showing its newfound wonders. I believe that in his mind, he thought he should be the one to carry the staff rather than Malistaire. He convinced himself of his superiority by claiming himself to be both the more talented and the more responsible until he actually believed it.
“About that time, Malistaire was becoming even more power-hungry, with a powerful staff to do his bidding. Cyrus saw this, of course, and used it against his own brother. Soon he had everyone in the school convinced that Malistaire was not the true owner of the staff. Malistaire grew furious at this. Not long after, there was a huge fight between the two brothers, and ever since then, they have seldom spoken to each other again.
“But this wasn’t enough for Cyrus. Having been convinced that he was the staff’s true owner, he snuck into Malistaire and his new wife Sylvia’s house to claim it. But they were there at the time, and he was already sneaking out when they spotted him. There was another fight between them, this one more furious than the one before. Cyrus tried to curse Malistaire with the staff, but, not being the true owner, he couldn’t control its power. Before he knew what was happening, Sylvia lay dead on the floor.”
My mouth hung open. I was speechless, utterly speechless.
“But,” I stammered, “I thought she got sick…”
“That is the cover story I invented,” said Ambrose. “Anyhow, Cyrus has suffered a great deal since then. But he found himself less miserable if he blamed something else. So he blamed the staff. He blamed death for the incident, and once again, he convinced himself of its guilt. So he went with his second school, myth, instead. He has hated the death school ever since.”
I found myself slightly revolted. I didn’t want to discuss this anymore.
“What do you want me to do?” I whispered.
“Find the necromancers,” said Ambrose, who seemed also glad to be out of this conversation as well. “We need them here as soon as possible. Oh, and it would help if you found Cyrus too. Not to worry,” he said as I flinched. “He wants to see Malistaire’s end as much as you and I. He wouldn’t dare harm you. Oh, and Miss Spiritheart? Would you kindly refrain from telling about Cyrus’s troubles to anyone else? Chances are that he would be given the sack, so, if you would…”
Without another word, he strode from the arena.
I stayed up all last night thinking about Ambrose’s request. He did seem to be asking rather a lot, but I was sure I could handle it…unless something horrible had happened to them. If Professor Drake really hated the Death School as much as Ambrose said…
But where did I look first? I had six whole worlds of the spiral to cover, not to mention Earth. But as most wizards didn’t even know about it, I was pretty sure that Professor Drake hadn’t hidden them there.
I yawned and turned over. My head was spinning, and I didn’t know what to do first when I got up in the morning.
My last thought was, This is impossible. Then I instantly went to sleep.
I was running down a long, dark tunnel, my breathing heavy. The voices of the missing death wizards called to me from the end. Nolan’s voice stood out in particular. Pumping my arms, I ran harder. But the tunnel seemed to go on for miles; the light at the end wasn’t getting any closer.
Suddenly, a hand pushed me from behind, and I was instantly only feet away from the light and the voices. I didn’t even stop to thank whoever had helped me. I dashed toward the exit, expecting to find all the awaiting necromancers.
Instead, there stood a minotaur, axe at the ready. And, I realized, the screaming voices were coming from his mouth.
Horrified, I tried to run. But he swung his axe at my head. I crumpled from the blow. I could feel something warm trickle down my neck. I tried to get up, but I couldn’t stand.
And then, the same hand that had pushed me down the tunnel grabbed me the collar of my robes and yanked me into an upright position. I whirled around and saw, not an arm, but a branch.
A tree branch.
I sat bolt upright in bed. Why didn’t I think of this before? Bartleby knew where Samuel was; why wouldn’t he know where the necromancers were?
I got up and got dressed, even though it couldn’t be more than five-o’-clock in the morning. I had to get to him right now. Or Cyrus Drake might do something horrible to them. I shuddered, imagining horrors.
I ran over to my dresser, put aside my copy of The Tale of Sierra Winterbreeze, and grabbed my wand. Then I heard a small whinny.
I looked, and there was a sleepy-looking Elvis behind me.
“It’s fine,” I assured him. “I’m just going out a bit early; that’s all. Go back to sleep.” But he stubbornly stayed by my side.
I laughed. “Okay, you can come.”
What seemed like seconds later, I was tapping the trunk of the great tree, Bartleby, awake.
He blinked sleepily for a moment. Then he looked down and saw me and Elvis standing there.
“Ah, Miss Spiritheart,” he said slowly. “What would you like this morning?”
“Well,” I said, “it’s about the death wizards.” His eyebrows rose. “I haven’t seen a single one since we got back from Malistaire’s castle. Professor Ambrose says I need to hurry up and find them. You wouldn’t, by any chance, know where they are?” I ended hopefully.
Bartleby nodded as best as a giant tree could nod. “Yes,” he said, “as a matter of fact, I have detected a hint of dark magic within my roots.” He paused dramatically. “More than one.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. But my question was drowned out by the voice of someone behind me.
“Miss Spiritheart!” said Ambrose, surprised. He emerged from the tunnel to the commons at a brisk pace, carrying a bundle of packages. “Goodness gracious, I wasn’t expecting you out this early!”
“Professor…” said Bartleby, and for the first time, I detected a sliver of urgency in his tone.
There was a split second in which Ambrose looked thunderstruck and Bartleby’s face was contorted into what was evidently a grimace.
“No…” said Ambrose, “…surely not…”
“Yes, it is so,” said Bartleby.
The packages tumbled out of Ambrose’s arms. I thought that I heard something shatter from in one of them.
“Professor,” I said anxiously, “what’s wrong?”
But I thought that I already knew. Surely no one else could make Ambrose look that scared.
“Malistaire?” I said. He nodded.
“But…but he’s not coming here?”
“Oh yes he is,” said Ambrose.
I gave a small little gasp. “What do we do?” I nearly whispered.
Ambrose looked at Bartleby as if he needed a point made clear. At last, he looked at me. “I think,” he said, “that our best hope is to try and fight him out. Lydia!” he shouted so suddenly that both Professor Greyrose, who was now emerging from the Ice School, and me jump. “Round up all members of the staff now! Then report to Bartleby; he will tell you of the current situation.”
Professor Greyrose, looking a little alarmed, nodded and flew away.
“Now Bartleby,” said Ambrose, “I suspect that Miss Spiritheart needed your assistance finding the death students; am I right?”
“Yes,” the great tree said. “It is probably the most peculiar case I have ever seen, though. I can still sense them, but…I can’t.”
“Right,” I said brusquely, for now wasn’t the time for riddles. “But do you know where they are?”
“Hmmm,” said Bartleby, “I felt them in Nightside, but…”
Ambrose and I left, Elvis trotting along behind us, before Bartleby could even finish his statement.
“Hurry; we must hurry!” Ambrose said urgently. “Malistaire will be here within the hour!”
Even as he spoke, black clouds tinged with red began to block the morning sky.
“Anything?” I asked hopefully, somewhat desperately.
Ambrose shook his head. “No,” he said.
Ambrose then raised his staff, and as he did, a slight breeze ruffled my ponytail. And was it just me, or did I hear the softest of screams carried across the wind?
“I sense a deep magic in this place,” said Ambrose suddenly. “But what?” He seemed to be talking to himself.
Another breeze came around, this one stronger than before. But something was odd. Although it was blowing ferociously against my neck, that was the only place that seemed to be getting wind. In fact, now that I noticed it, what was left of the leaves on the trees didn’t seem to be affected at all.
An old feeling of unease flickered over me. What may have once seemed like a slight wind now seemed more like someone breathing down my neck.
I whirled around; no one there.
“Who’s there?” I cried out in alarm anyway.
No one answered.
Ambrose was now making complicated motions with his staff, as if painting an invisible picture in the air.
“Dear me,” he said to himself. “I don’t recognize any of this at all.”
“Ambrose?” I said.
“I think there’s someone here.”
He sighed. “Bartleby is usually right about things like these,” he explained. “But now I don’t see how he could be. I’m sorry, my dear, but we’ll have to search elsewhere.”
“But I felt…”
“I’m sorry, Miss Spiritheart, but I don’t see any sign of them.” His words were nearly drowned out by a rumble of thunder. Elvis gave a nervous whinny.
I slowly nodded. “Okay.”
But something in me told me that we shouldn’t leave. Some part of me was on the alert, and to my surprise it seemed to be the small part of my mind devoted to Conjuration—Myth magic.
I changed tactics in mid-sentence. “Professor, I really think we should—”
I stopped as a huge bolt of lightning lit up the sky, making everything in sight cast a shadow on the ground in front of them.
I tried again. “Ambrose, I—” Suddenly, I stopped, my eyes locking on to one impossible detail.
There were two extra shadows on the ground. No one was there to cast them.
I looked at Ambrose in alarm, but he had seen them too.
His brow furrowed. Then he looked up at the sky, even though the lightning was long since gone.
“Impossible…” he murmured.
His eyes widening, he traced his staff into an intricate pattern in the air.
Instantly, a purple dome appeared over the perimeter of Nightside. It was semi-transparent, yet it was somewhat darkened with what I thought looked like miniature storm clouds. Lightning coursed through it, filling the interior with an electric hum.
In the sudden light, the shadows were revealed again, and this time, a trace of a shimmer appeared above them.
“What’s happening?” I asked.
“A curse has been placed upon the Death school, said Ambrose darkly. “Lightning reveals this curse for what it really is.”
“So, it’s a myth curse?” I asked, knowing that storm was myth’s weakness. He nodded.
I watched as the shimmers above the two shadows became more defined, becoming two separate shapes: a boy and a girl. Soon I began to recognize the tanned skin and jet-black hair of Nolan Darkwind and the red-brown hair and dark green eyes of Sabrina Ravenstaff.
“Nolan! Sabrina!” I called out to them.
Both their mouths opened, but no sound came out.
And they weren’t the only ones. Hundreds of death students were materializing out of thin air: some by the tower and the graveyard, but most huddled in tight-knit groups around the edge.
“You guys!” I ran at Nolan and Sabrina and made to throw my arms around them.
Instead, they passed right through them.
Suddenly, a voice coming from almost directly above me shouted, “Get away, wretch!”
And out of nowhere, a hand came out of nowhere and slapped me full in the face. I fell to the ground with a scream of pain.
Elvis growled at my attacker.
Not thinking, I scrambled back up and whipped my wand out of my pocket. But it was the face above me that made me stop.
“Well, well, well,” said Cyrus Drake. “So it’s Spiritheart, is it?”
I noticed, however, that he didn’t make any move to attack me again. Perhaps what Ambrose had said about him was true.
“Cyrus.” For the first time today, Ambrose looked angry. “I cannot allow you to treat my students this way.”
As he spoke, the purple dome flickered and died, and the apparitions of the missing death wizards did also.
Ambrose approached Professor Drake and drew himself to his full height (which, actually, was still shorter than him). Then he said, “Cyrus, Malistaire is on his way, and unfortunately, you have placed a seventh of the students in this school, also a seventh of our army, under a Confinement Charm.”
Cyrus cackled. At the same time, lightning flashed across the sky, giving this scene an eerie effect.
“Our army?” he laughed. “I’ve done you a service, old man. How do you know that they won’t run off to join their master the moment they’re set free?”
Ambrose’s eyes flashed with a fire that I had never seen before in him. “It is you who are mistaken, Cyrus. I trust every single student in this school, death included.”
This time, Professor Drake’s eyes flared in anger. “Perhaps you have forgotten, Ambrose, that little incident in which…”
“My memory continues to serve me well, even after all these years,” said Ambrose harshly. “And although you may have managed to convince yourself otherwise, the fault is yours and yours alone.”
Lightning flashed again, and a shocking scene met my eyes. Ambrose was glowering up at Professor Drake with an expression of nothing short of pure contempt. And then Professor Drake’s expression flickered. In that one split second, his expression was that of a small schoolboy caught in the act, of someone who has ignored the truth for years only to come back and look at it full in the face.
But in the second after, his expression turned back to one of hatred.
A tremendous earthquake shook the ground, taking me down with it. Ambrose and Cyrus, however, stood firm.
“Do you hear that?” Ambrose thundered. “Malistaire and his forces will penetrate the grounds. Every second you delay, those earthquakes grow worse, a part of Wizard City that need not have been is destroyed. Time grows short, Cyrus. Right now the only question is whether you will do it willingly or need be by force.”
“Professor!” I shrieked. Both men turned around.
“Quiet, girl; this is not your fight!” Cyrus screeched.
“He’s right,” said Ambrose gravely. “You must return to Ravenwood, Miss Spiritheart. Go join your siblings. I will attend to Cyrus.”
“Attend to me?”
“Go now!” shouted Ambrose, just as Cyrus let out a stream of rather foul cusswords that I was thankful that my younger siblings weren’t there to hear.
Without a second thought, I dashed out the tunnel, Elvis right behind me.
Yet I couldn’t help but feel that, with Malistaire on the way, Ambrose fighting Cyrus Drake in the middle of Nightside wasn’t the best omen.
When I arrived, Ravenwood was in a state of complete disarray.
Every single student (except, of course, for the necromancers) was outside at that very moment. Some looked fearful, some confused, and some just looked sleepy. Despite all the teachers’ efforts to keep them calm, they couldn’t fully quiet the amount of ruckus going on, especially when pets were added to the mix.
Professor Falmea stood up on a large, elevated platform, speaking to the crowd.
“…students Journeyman and under will be evacuated to Krokotopia,” she was saying, her voice magically magnified to talk over the students. “If you are a level twenty or over, you may stay and fight if you wish, but by all means you can join the evacuating students.
“Arthur Wethersfield will oversee the escape party,” she went on. I saw Professor Wethersfield trembling by the entrance to the Spiral Chamber, his umbrella in hand. “All evacuating students please join him now.”
There was a flurry of movement as students, both young and terrified out of their wits, ran to join Professor Wethersfield in Bartleby’s Spiral Chamber.
“No, I won’t do it! I won’t go!”
I looked around and saw Catherine’s sister, Madison Goldengate, with her lower lip stuck out and evident protest in her scowl. Catherine Fairyblossom looked at her pleadingly.
“No, Maddie, you’re only an Initiate. You have to go with the other students. Go on with your sister Meghan.”
“But you’re staying!”
“Yes, I’m staying. I’m a Magus; I’m going to try to fight him. They need my help here.” Although Catherine’s voice trembled, I could sense a hint of determination in her voice, and my heart swelled.
“I don’t wanna go! I wanna stay with you!” Madison sobbed, just as Professor Falmea put a gentle hand on her shoulder and led her away with the other students. “No!”
“Sarah Spiritheart,” boomed a great voice suddenly. Maybe it was the power of that voice, or maybe it was the fact that it was my name being mentioned; but either way, everyone fell silent. “Come over here please.”
As if by a trance, I walked slowly over towards the great tree. Savannah, Sadie, and Samuel were there, all sitting on a tree root.
“It is time,” Bartleby boomed. “I feel destiny arriving fast as if carried by the wind. Malistaire has come here for one purpose and for one purpose only: to destroy the four of you. Now is the time to fight him. It is time to seal your fate.”
I suddenly felt small and insignificant. Trembling slightly, I began to wonder how I could even walk straight, let alone defeat Malistaire.
“Do not worry,” Bartleby said. “I have great faith in you. As of the outcome, I am not sure. All I know is this: your battle will be both horrible and legendary. It will be mentioned in years to come.
“I don’t know if we can do this,” I said. “I’m only a Magus, and I’m not even in Mooshu yet! How—”
Bartleby chuckled. “Give me your hand,” he said, extending a branch. On it, I laid my palm face-up, the one with the golden symbol: a leaf connected to a heart.
“This,” he said, “is the mark of a true healer.”
Many older life wizards gasped, and I distinctly heard Catherine say, “Oh!”
Bartleby continued, “I have never seen one shine as brightly as this before. It signifies a path of greatness ahead, for you and for your sisters and brother. If you want proof, there is none greater than this.”
Then he spoke in an undertone, signifying that his next words were for me alone: “I imagine you met Sylvia?”
“Sylvia…Sylvia Drake? Malistaire’s wife?” I remembered the maiden who had saved us from Malistaire’s dungeon. “You mean the woman with the long blonde hair?”
“Let me explain,” said Bartleby, still whispering. There can only be one true healer in the world at a time. For the one in the present to come to terms with her true identity, she must be visited with the image of the true healer before her. It was Sylvia Drake in the dungeon who opened your eyes, and it will be up to you, when you die, to bring news to the next one.”
I just stood there, marveling. So it was Sylvia who I had met in the dungeon. I had actually met Sylvia Drake, Malistaire’s deceased wife. Or rather, her ghost.
“Decide now,” said Bartleby in the same loud tone as before, interrupting my thoughts. “For alas, time is not on our side. Sarah Spiritheart, do you accept your destiny?”
I nodded, my hopefully determined look kind of thrown off by my terrified shudder. “Yes.”
“What say you, Savannah Swiftsong?”
“Let’s do it,” she said bravely.
She nodded. I beamed at her, giving her the thumbs-up.
“And now, Samuel Nighttamer.”
“Okay,” he said.
Then Bartleby lowered his voice again. “Where is the little unicorn that follows you around?”
“Who, Elvis?” I looked around, but he had disappeared. “I don’t know; he must’ve run off. Why?”
“I’ll say this,” said Bartleby mysteriously. “You may need him.”
“Need him? But wha—”
BOOM! This was the loudest yet.
Everyone looked at Bartleby in alarm, who nodded solemnly. “Malistaire’s forces are upon us.”
“Everyone in attack positions!” bellowed Halston Balestrom.
It wasn’t long before we saw them, but not in the direction we were expecting.
“Look!” shouted a Master life wizard, pointing toward where the infamous death school had once stood. All the life wizards could see them first, but in a few seconds, soon everyone would too.
It looked like a sea of black at first, but then it began to take shape. Both wizards and creatures alike were all flying this way—fast—on the backs of huge, roaring dragons.
“Steady!” cried Professor Balestrom.
I’m sure if I had looked at all the surrounding dragons, I would’ve seen a number of grotesque creatures of all elements that I couldn’t have even imagined up. But my eyes were only toward the two beasts in the front.
On the largest, most dangerous-looking one was Malistaire, because Lord knows he just had to have one for himself.
And on the one beside him was his Black Hand. All five of them riding sidesaddle with wicked smiles curving on all their faces.
All five of them.
For there, at the front of the beast, sat my former best friend, now my worst enemy: apparently-not-dead Chris Willowcrafter.
Now known as Marcus Deathspear.
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