|Madison Dawn sat at a long table in the commons of wizard city. Wizards milled around. It was the Day of Schools where every seven years wizards from all over came to celebrate the uniting of rival schools. This year’s festivities were hosted by the Life school. |
Madison had to admit, they had gone all out. Lily Evergreen, one of her closest friends, was the head of that particular school so of course she was in charge of decorating. The commons felt more alive than it had in years. Lily had summoned tall trees and creepers that grew up the sides of buildings. Animals buzzed with excitement and Lily had even managed a unicorn that stood by the lake.
Madison was surrounded by other heads-of-houses; Lily to her right and the pyromancer, Blaze Firesinger, to her left, and so on.
Suddenly the chatter of hundreds of people stopped, with a foreboding sense. With a loud crack, a face shimmered into existence. Like a picture, Galen Rubyeyes, one of Malistaire’s top generals and a powerful necromancer, smiled ruefully up at Madison.
“Ah, hello Madison Dawn,” he spat her name out. “were you enjoying this little break? Personally I would have let you finish this little festivity and then come after you, but my orders have me doing otherwise. I came to warn you of the army I’m sending through the Spiral.”
Silence. Everyone had the same thought: could Galen really send a whole battalion through?
“What game are you playing at?” barked Blaze.
“Me?” Galen asked innocently. Then he put more venom in his voice. “I’m playing the game of war, and one way to win that is with hostages,” He saw the shock on the crowd’s faces. “Yes, that’s right. My forces are holding twenty of your wizard students. But I’m willing to make an exchange.” Galen propped his elbows on the desk he sat behind. He looked directly at Madison, but she did not flinch away.
“You Madison Dawn. I want you in exchange for your students.”
This was met by instant uproar.
When the noise died down, Madison spoke, hoping her voice wouldn’t break. “Why me?”
“Isn’t it obvious? You are one of the greatest wizards of our generation. Many wizards look up to you because you have defeated so many of my forces with barely a second glance,” Galen said.
She took a deep breath. “What if I don’t agree to give myself up? What would you do to our students”
He grinned. “Why, when I attack one of the major cities of the Spiral they will be at the front of the lines, with no way to prevent them from being killed.”
Madison rolled the thought around in her head. She couldn’t let twenty students, or even one student, be killed by their own army. Giving her self up would be a small sacrifice to save the other students. “Let me see your hostages, I want to know your not double crossing me.”
The scene shifted and became broader. Wizards from all seven different schools sat behind bars. An electric buzzing thrummed around the bars. Madison thought Galen had had the bars electrified but she realized it was a magical barrier preventing magic from being used.
“Martha!” screamed Mark Seastrider, Diviner. A girl, first year by the looks of it, looked up. Madison saw the similarities between the brother and sister; same upturned noses and spiky green hair.
Galen walked into view. “Yes, I have your sister Markus.” He went back to his desk, the view-portal following him.
Madison looked at Mark’s grief stricken face, then at the crowd‘s. Alumni wizards, parents, children, and students, were all grim and quiet. Teachers had started to approach the table filled with the heads of school. Hannah Swift, a sorcerer, took Mark‘s hand. “What would you have me do if I agreed to exchange myself for them?” said Madison.
“No, Madison! You don’t know how dangerous he is,” said Blaze.
“Then I would set your students free and unharmed,” said Galen, ignoring the interruption. “And I would call off the attack on the city.”
“Which city are you attacking?” asked Madison.
“Well it wouldn’t be much fun if I told you, now would it? I’ll give you this much though. In three days time we will attack unless you turn yourself in. ”
“And what if I wish to speak with you?”
“Hmm . . .” said Galen. “Call me, I’ll tell you if you could teleport then or not.”
That was unsatisfying and told her nothing of his whereabouts.
“I’ll give you twenty-four hours for your answer. Then the deal is off and my prisoners will be on the front line of battle,” said Galen. He started laughing and with a pop, his image disappeared.
Chlorophyll had started running from Lily’s eyes. Mark still looked shaken from seeing his sister. Everyone seemed to be worried about Madison Dawn except Madison herself. Her thoughts lingered on the sight of twenty kids tired and battle weary sitting in a cage.
Headmaster Ambrose pushed through the crowd, pretty strong for a hundred and ten. “All-right, everyone. Go home! Do not come out until instructed to!” Then, quieter, he said to the table of school leaders: “Meet me inside Bartleby in ten minutes with your teachers.” and with that the old man left, muttering to himself while his pet Gamma the owl flew overhead.
Fifteen minutes later, seven students and seven teachers waited impatiently for the headmaster. Professor Greyrose sat there worriedly patting Madison’s hand, telling her everything was going to be all right. Trevor Mythcastor whispered heatedly with Cyrus Drake. Hannah sat next to Mark, trying to comfort him. Lily was still sniffling and Blaze looked like it was all he could do to keep from yelling at Madison. Timothy Battleheart was slumped next to Malorn Ashthorn. Timothy hadn’t said a word since Galen had appeared in the commons. Madison remembered Timothy had looked up to Galen, before he turned to the other side.
Finally, Headmaster arrived. “All right, all right. Settle down!” he said.
“Honestly, sir, I don’t see why we even need to have this meeting,” said Professor Drake. “We all know that Mal- I mean Galen will get what he wants in the end. Why not just hand over the little Thaumaturge over and save our selves a nice little battle.”
“Absolutely not!” screamed Greyrose. “You will not send my best student into the hands of that monster!”
Which of course, sent everyone into a frenzy of yelling and accusing someone else. Madison Dawn just sat there, even though they were all talking about her life, no one seemed to notice she didn’t have anything to say about it.
“Look,” she said quietly, trying to tie down all the emotions running inside her head. The passionate arguing died and she stood up. “I really appreciate how much you all care. But, I don’t think you see how important it is to save twenty students, even if some of them aren’t powerful. Those wizards have family and friends that would eat our force from the inside out if we let those hostages die, for real. Not like a battle where you end up in the commons feeling a little dizzy. Dead as in there is no coming back. So to spare me Malistaire’s evil but letting those twenty die we would be striking a blow against ourselves, making us weaker and less organized than we are now.”
“Well put, Madison,” said the bustling headmaster as he tried to settle in his chair. Mark nodded with a new spark in his eye. Professor Greyrose patted her hand and Drake just sneered. “Sorry I’m late, I was sending word to other leaders in our neighboring worlds of our predicament. Gamma is awaiting their responses and should join us shortly.”
“What are we going to do?” cried Lily, green tinted tears spilling lose again.
“Yeah, I don’t want those students to die but no way are we letting Madison get in the hands of that creep,” said Blaze fiercely.
“What is the plan, Headmaster?” croaked Professor Balestrom after a short pause. Being the shortest one there, the only part of his froggy figure you could see were his eyes and his top hat.
“Well, I think that is up to Miss Dawn,” Headmaster replied. Everyone’s gaze fell on Madison. She again felt the need to speak.
“I think I should hand myself in,” she paused as her fellow classmates and a couple teachers made startled, angry noises. “But we should set up precautions in all worlds in case Galen still goes through with his attack. I don’t trust him. Even before he started working for Malistaire he liked to cheat the system. I don’t think Galen would injure me seriously, he’d want to keep me alive because he likes to gloat. Besides being on the inside of his hide-out might give us some useful information.
“As for protecting the different worlds of the Spiral I think we should station wizards and guards of that particular world inside and surrounding the Spiral gate. Since monsters can’t ‘port, they’d have to come through the Spiral. Since there is only one exit to the building holding the Spiral gate per world we could pick the monsters off one by one as they tried to leave.
“Heads of houses, I would suggest sending your Seconds to each world so we could supervise students willing to fight. You yourselves, I think, should go to the world where your magic originated to try to convince the leaders of the Spiral to let us go through with this plan, if that’s okay with you, Headmaster?” Madison tacked, then turned to the wizened man, her cheeks beginning sting with embarrassment. “I mean, I know don’t have the authority to order any of the people in this room-”
“No you don’t,” sneered Professor Drake.
“I think it is a good plan, and spoken with the passion of a Pyromancer,” said Madame Falmea, her hair ablaze as she glared at Drake with a challenge.
“And the peacefulness of a Theurgist,” Moolinda Wu said.
“The creativity of a Diviner,” choked Balestrum.
“The cleverness of a Necromancer,” Malorn Ashthorn said with the trace of a smirk. People nodded their agreement. Madison was blushing furiously now.
“Enough with the dramatics,” Drake rolled his eyes. “You all sound like one of those mortal motion pictures or whatever. I think we all agree Miss Dawn is a great student that could have fit into any school. But she obviously belongs in that freezing school of ice.”
“Well I’m glad she’s my student,” squeaked Professor Greyrose, patting Madison’s hand.
The tense silence that followed just gained more pressure as the seconds dripped by. Finally, Headmaster Ambrose cleared his throat. “I could have thought of nothing better myself. Heads of Houses, I would like you to notify your Seconds after we dismiss. I think we have made it clear that Madison wishes to turn herself over. But, my students what do you think?”
Lily spoke up first, smiling at Madison. “I’d be really sad if anything happened to you. But, if you want us to go where our magic originated, I’ll be going to Mooshu. I hope you can make it alright.”
“I won’t let you go by yourself, Madison,” said Blaze fiercely.
“Absolutely not.” admonished Madame Falmea. “If we are to follow the plan, then you must go to Dragonspyre.
Along with Lily and Blaze, Hannah was to go to Krokotopia and Markus was off to the newfound world of Celestia. This left Trevor and Timothy behind to travel with Madison for “protection” but she was not very close with either of them and would not have picked them first for their company.
“I’ll go to Grizzleheim, I have friends there that will allow me to speak to the king,” said Timothy nervously. He was usually shy and had not quite gotten accustomed to being in charge of students of the Death school. No doubt, the substitute for the School, Malorn Ashthorn and his haughty attitude and arrogance made it hard for Timothy to live up to his full potential.
Trevor gave a sheepish grin across the table that Madison only returned half-heartedly. She’d rather travel alone anyways, it was safer to all of the people she was trying to protect.
“Should we go ahead and send the message to Galen?” Madison asked the Headmaster.
“Yes, I believe we should,” he sighed. “Go ahead and tell him.”
Madison quickly sent a message to Galen telling him her decision to surrender. “Excellent. I’ll send you someone with directions to where I want you to come.” Galen replied.
Almost seconds later a low level henchman, most likely bought on the black market, came through the spiral door. She automatically walked up to Madison, ignoring the others, handed Madison a scroll, and walked back through the spiral.
Madison read it slowly then handed it Greyrose to read aloud. “Should we check out this place he wants you to go to?” asked Blaze.
“No, he would know. We can’t really expect anyone to do that,” Madison said. “I might as well just go there, I’m turning myself in, remember?” And with that, the
Heads of Houses were dismissed.
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