"Bet you regret sticking your pretty Nymph nose into my affairs now!" Bitterweed guffawed smugly, watching me struggle with a lick of his flabby lips.
"LLLLMMM MMMMGGG GGGGNNNN!" I cried as defiantly as I could, but with a tight white rag over my mouth I didn't sound all that imposing.
Bitterweed, an ugly, white bearded gnome and notorious gangster, seemed to be revelling in my misfortune. "Hard to believe you're the one responsible for putting Bullion away," he snorted. "Equally hard to believe you ever thought it was a good idea coming after the Fungus gang again!"
I too was questioning whether it'd been a good idea. I was sitting on the dusty ground of a meadow on the outskirts of Daffoville, my back and wings pressed against a tall blade of grass. Thick rope made out of green vines were wrapped around each of my wrists and then pulled around the blade of grass, keeping my hands fixed over my head. My ankles had been bound together with more vines conveniently protruding from the ground, anchoring my legs in position. Then to prevent the use of my blue tinted wings heavy stones had been placed on the lower tips, preventing me from even flapping them.
I tried to quell the nervousness gripping my stomach when I realised I'd been taken to a gangster execution site.
'Great job Bluebell, another wonderful predicament you've stumbled into,' I thought almost inanely as I flexed my hoisted arms, the way they were bound pulling up my pink top and exposing my midriff. I twisted my hips, rubbing my blue miniskirt and dark leggings over the uncomfortable stones and wriggled my bare feet into the dusty ground. I'd kicked off my blue flat pumps when Bitterweed had grabbed me from behind after he'd caught me snooping around a suspected smuggling ring.
"Yyyyllll rrrggggtttt ttthhhssss!" I cried out through my gag, which had been washed with silencing powder to prevent me from uttering an escape enchantment. As it was, I could only watch on as Bitterweed pulled a whistle from his smart blue suit.
"Bullion's arrest cost our organisation huge numbers of petals!" he sneered. "At least I can dispose of the interfering Nymph who tarnished the Fungus Gangs reputation!" As he gave a shrill blow of the whistle, I thought what a great time this would be for a rescue.
But rescue did not come, and I could only look at the surrounding blades of grass as they parted in front of me, sending flies and dandelion seeds flying into the sky. Then through the foliage appeared a monstrous, green coloured insect. It was as tall as any Nymph with a thin body and abdomen, four spindly legs and a pair of huge, razor sharp pincers. It gazed straight at me with a pair of massive beady eyes that engulfed either side of its head, and chattered its beak like mouth inquisitively.
'Ok, rescue would be really fantastic, any time now!' my brain thought as my mouth involuntarily squealed in shock through my gag.
"Apparently some humans keep these beasts as pets!" Bitterweed guffawed. "I found this one in a nearby meadow after it presumably escaped. Old Marty here has proved an invaluable means of disposing of incriminating evidence. Well to be specific, disposing of nosy snoops privy to incriminating evidence!"
"NNNNMMMM, GGGGNNNN NNNNWWWWYYYY!" I pleaded as the beast towered over me. Saliva frothed from its mouth and dropped onto my legging clad knees. Its eyes swivelled in their sockets as it analysed which part of my body was best to attack first. I desperately tugged on my bonds and tried to fly away, but there was not enough slack for me to wriggle away from Old Marty.
But even as the situation began to look bleak, a whipping whirlwind suddenly descended from the sky. The beast hissed angrily as this vortex came between us, not daring to penetrate this freak natural event. 'Finally!' I thought as the whirlwind subsided, revealing an elderly Nymph man with bright blue hair the same shade as my own, with a long bushy beard and dressed in a simple hooded robe with a staff in his right hand.
"Hands off my granddaughter, you filthy Gnome scoundrel!"
"Grand Mage Lupin, how nice of you to fly by," Bitterweed hissed, not sounding particularly worried or surprised at the arrival of the most powerful Nymph Sorcerer alive.
"Presumably I was expected," Lupin boomed as he advanced on the gangster with his staff raised.
With a sinister smile Bitterweed replied, "Oh absolutely." Then quick as a flash he withdrew a handful of yellow dust from a pouch and threw it to the ground around Lupin's feet. The stone surface began to bubble and simmer like a pot of boiling water, and my grandfather's feet were swallowed by the ground. He sank with incredible speed, and despite his tugs and wriggles the earth had soon reached his waist, then his chest, with his right arm and staff disappearing into the enchanted soil. The ground only solidified when it was up to his shoulders and exposed left hand, which along with his head were the only parts of his body he could move.
"Quicksand powder. Ingenious!" Lupin mused, not sounding the least bit concerned.
"Too right it's ingenious!" Bitterweed cackled in triumph. "I realised straight away your interfering granddaughter would be the perfect bait for my trap. Now I have you both at the mercy of the Fungus Gang!"
"Oh it's quite the ingenious trap alright," Lupin informed our would-be captor with a knowing smirk. "A trap for you that is!" Then he twisted his free hand in my direction and made a grasping motion with it. This summoned the magical energy he needed to yank the gag from my mouth.
I didn't waste a second before I shouted, "RELOSAS!" Instantly the ropes binding my hands and feet dissipated into a flurry of blue petals and my liberated arms dropped to my sides. I didn't have time to revel in my successful spell, instead rolling away the stone on my left wing as Bitterweed screamed at his carnivorous pet, "Get her Old Marty!"
I managed to scramble out the way as Old Marty drove its pincers into the earth where I'd previously been seated. Managing to roll away the second stone my wings were finally liberated, and they became a blur behind my back as I took to the air, circling around the snapping beast at my feet.
"Remember what I taught you Bluebell!" Lupin yelled as Old Marty took an angry swipe at me.
"That's really informative thanks!" I replied sassily as I tried to concentrate. Outstretching my arms I yelled, "Vortaxta!" From my fingertips tore a swirling tornado, similar to the one my grandfather had previously summoned, which I aimed at the creature. It gave a hissing cry as the force of my attack knocked it onto its back. I wasn't trying to hurt it, just spook it, and my attack had the desired effect. Obviously I wasn't quite the easy meal Old Marty had anticipated, and after flipping itself back over it scurried into the grassy meadow and out of sight.
Bitterweed gulped, suddenly a lot less self-assured with no pet for protection. Without saying a word he turned on his heel and tried to scarper, but I was ready for him. "Quintessitam!" I cried, linking my life force to that of the surrounding blades of grass. I made them wrap around his stumpy, jiggling legs. He squealed pathetically as I hoisted him into the air upside down, and he swung his arms wildly trying to break free but to no avail.
"Excellent work Bluebell, better than we practiced," Lupin congratulated as I landed by his sunken head, "Now how about trying out the Graveliski spell to release your poor old granddad?"
I smiled mischievously at him and replied, "I don't think I should. I mean you left me hanging on for quite a while against that creature!"
"Codswallop, I had the situation completely under control!"
"Can't the great Mage Lupin break free on his own?"
"Of course I can
given a bit of time
and some luck. Anyway we need to hurry if we're going to be on time for dinner!"
The dangling Bitterweed asked meekly, "Well you both seem busy, so I'll just be on my way then?" When he saw our angry, disdainful looks he immediately shut up and said nothing more.
A twenty minute Nymph flight away, a man with a hood pulled up to hide his face walked through the bustling Daffoville market place. He happily inhaled the familiar scents and listened to the vendors flogging their wares. Thirty years of exile and it was like he'd never been away.
His gaze was drawn to a group of young lady Nymphs. They were very pretty, presumably students from the magic academy, giggling happily with takeout cups of tulip coffee in their hands. He'd been like them once, a student with the world at his feet. But he'd rejected that quaint, idyllic life a long time ago. This group of sniggering girls had no idea of how he wanted to change their world. He believed it was his destiny to lead them and all Nymph kind into a brand new age.
For he could see what was lurking in the darkened corners of Daffoville; hiding in the treetops and concealed in the shadows of the oak trees. The market goers were oblivious to their malicious presence. He could sense their impatience, their hunger to begin the assault. With their aid he was certain that he would be able to finish the job he started thirty years ago.
He looked to the sky and saw it was darkening as the clouds rolled in. He thought it a suitable metaphor for the darkness he was about to bring to this city, in particular against those he'd sworn revenge against. He turned away from the market place and began walking in the direction of the Royal Palace, eager to commence his plan.
"Oh you should have seen the look on that gnomes face. Utterly priceless."
"Yeah, one minute he was all like 'mwa ha ha you fell straight into my trap.' Then the next he was all, 'No spare me please.'"
My mum laughed affectionately as her daughter and father in law eagerly relived our adventures in enthusiastic detail. She adjusted the bandana in her short, light purple coloured hair and said, "So by all accounts a successful day out. Anyone for tea before dessert?"
"That would be splendid Lavender" Lupin replied.
As my mum poured him an extra cup of steaming herbal tea she asked my dad, "Any for you Yarrow sweetheart?"
"I'm fine!" my dad answered brusquely. I peered at the smartly dressed man who had just returned from an unscheduled weekend of work, his short hair exactly the same shade of blue as mine and my grandfathers. I could sense he was in a bad mood and I could hazard a solid guess why.
The reason I've never mentioned my parents in my earlier stories is because they are the last people to ever get involved in anything mysterious or adventurous, in complete contrast to my grandfather and me. Though I love my mum and dad to bits and wouldn't want them to be any different.
Truth told they craved a life out of the spotlight. Both born into wealthy families they rejected the high life of the Nymph upper classes, instead taking degrees from the Daffoville College, where they first met. Apparently my mum had no idea my dad was the son of the great sorcerer Lupin until after their third date. I think that's why my dad liked her so much. She was attracted to him, not who his family were. Happily married for over forty years, my mum worked as a teacher (and had taught me for a while before I was whisked to a specialist sorceress academy), while my dad worked as a lawyer.
I'd changed out of my dirty adventure clothes and into a long sleeved purple top, black miniskirt, navy blue tights and my favourite pair of blue ankle boots. We were sat at the round wooden dining table in the family home where I'd been born and raised. Positioned in the suburbs a good ten minutes flight from the city centre, it was a calm and safe neighbourhood hidden in the heart of the forest. It resided in the trunk of an old larch tree with flaking bark and prickly green leaves. I still came back regularly even though I'd technically moved out. I missed my mums excellent cooking, and my dad's madcap sense of humour.
But my dad wasn't laughing today, instead he couldn't take his eyes away from my granddad. So I went about changing the subject. "Granddad, you couldn't teach me how to cast spells without uttering the incantation could you? Only I've been gagged so many times that being able to cast spells without speaking would be really useful!"
Leaning closer over the table, as if imparting a great secret, Lupin told me, "Summoning magic with only a thought can be very dangerous when done without the correct discipline and mental strength. Incantations serve as keys to all the quintessence from which all magical beings derive their abilities. They ensure spells summoned remain under control. But without these words, it is like the door to your life force is thrown wide open. It is a vulnerable state you enter into, in which all you quintessence can escape. In extreme cases your life force can completely drain away, until your body becomes an empty shell."
"Basically I die then," I summed up, feeling a bit disconsolate. That wasn't the answer I'd wanted to hear.
But Lupin reassured me by saying, "One day you will have the strength to keep your quintessence under control, but that will come with age and experience. It will be the final stage of your training, and once you have mastered it, no punk Gnome or Pixie will be tying you up in a hurry!"
"Well I'd hope Bluebell won't get into any more situations where that happens to her in the meantime," my dad suddenly interrupted.
My grandfather, unable to stop himself, turned around in his chair and asked gruffly, "Is something the matter son?"
"Only having to listen to you regale us with your wonderful, adventurous tale in which my daughter was nearly eaten alive," my dad retorted, his eyes flashing dangerously.
'Oh buttercups here they go!' I thought miserably. You've probably guessed that the relationship between my dad and granddad was strained to say the least. Almost every time both men met they ended up arguing over something. And more often than not now, these arguments revolved around me.
My mum, as weary of their squabbles as me, tried vainly to change the subject. "Oh did you hear, Bark and Berry are getting married? They say they want the ceremony before she gives birth in
"You should have more faith in your daughter Yarrow, some of her achievements have been beyond remarkable!" Lupin exclaimed.
"Believe me; no-one is more proud of Bluebell and her achievements than me!"
"Then let me help her reach her true potential!"
"Yeah because you're such a fantastic role model."
"What does that mean?"
"Oh just leave it!" I snapped at them. Yet this argument was different. Normally their disagreements fizzled out after a few minutes. But now it had become personal, their deep resentments rising to the surface like bubbles in the Brambleweed swamps.
"You know full well what that means," my dad barked.
"Bluebell was the one who requested I provide her extra training. Why can't you respect her judgement?" Lupin countered angrily.
"I respect Bluebell's judgement! What I don't respect is yours."
"And what is so offensive about me spending time with my only grandchild?"
"BECAUSE I DON'T WANT HER TURNING INTO YOU!" my dad roared.
Outside the house, an owl hooted as it began the nights hunting, piercing the silence that now covered the dining table like a shroud. I looked first at my panting father, then at my stoic grandfather. I felt like I was going to be sick. As I rose from my seat I glared at them as I growled, "I'm skipping dessert. I'll come back down when you've decided what you think I should do with my life!" And with that I turned on my heel and stormed away.
"Bluebell, Bluebell!" I heard my mum calling after me, but I ignored her. As I thumped my way upstairs I heard her begin to shout at both men, but I didn't hear what she was saying. I could only focus on the anger and embarrassment they'd caused me. I reached my old bedroom and slammed the door shut behind me.
I wasn't the only one wishing she could be a million miles away at that moment. My good friend and flatmate Marigold exhaled in boredom as she flapped the concert programme like a fan to cool herself. The young princess, fourth in line to the Nymph throne, was attending a charity concert inside the large willow tree which served as the Royal Palace. The orchestra were playing Mosszarts fifth Concerto in Dandelion Minor. She just wished they were performing the latest single from the Bracken Boys instead.
She slumped into her high backed seat, smoothing over the creases in her daffodil yellow gown which reached the pure white ankle strap high heels on her feet, the outfit completed by white gloves that reached past her elbows. Her waist length golden hair was draped about her body to stop herself sitting on it. She gazed around the magnificent hall with wide arches constructed in the wooden walls, a shining marble floor under her feet and a huge crystal chandelier which countless fireflies were illuminating.
She glanced at Princess Honeysuckle, her older sister and future Nymph Queen, who was sat on her right wearing a gorgeous emerald green ballgown concealing her high heeled sandals with matching elbow gloves on her hands, a daisy chain headband in her short golden hair with a sweeping fringe. Marigold suddenly felt someone jab her in the ribs, and turned to her left as her older brother Ash whispered in her ear. "Don't worry sis, we'll be at the bar before you know it!"
Marigold covered her mouth to stop herself laughing, which along the front row drew disapproving looks from Prince Pine and his wife Duchess Holly, aka her mum and dad. Marigold and Ash looked at each other sheepishly, but were reassured when Queen Snowdrop leant forward and winked merrily at them. Marigold exhaled in relief along with her brother, who was studying to be a doctor and was dressed in a sharp tuxedo made out of woven reeds with smartly cut golden hair the exact same shade as his sisters.
The first bang was enough to rattle the magnificent bejewelled chandelier above everyone's heads, but people by and large ignored it. Only when a second was heard did people begin looking around in worry. The orchestra continued playing, but by the third bang even they stopped playing and were looking at each other in confusion. Suddenly the air was filled with flying Nymphs dressed in orange and green uniforms with helmets made out of hollowed out conkers. Members of the Elite Guard landed next to Queen Snowdrop and surrounded her in a protective ring. At this point Marigold and the whole audience knew something was seriously wrong.
Captain Ivy, a tall Nymph lady with years of experience among the guards, stepped forward with her short orange hair concealed neatly by her helmet. "Your Majesty, we have a serious situation. I must ask you come with me!" Then before Queen Snowdrop could object she looked up and shouted to the rest of the audience, "I'm afraid this performance will have to be postponed. If you could follow the Elite Guard to the nearest emergency exit!"
"Now hold your chipmunks Captain, what's all this about?" Queen Snowdrop insisted. "You make it sound like we're under attack."
As the loudest bang so far made the entire room vibrate Ivy said in a quiet voice that only those in the front row could hear, "Your Majesty, we are under attack!"
Marigold could scarcely believe it. It simply couldn't be; who would dare to attack the Royal Palace? However Queen Snowdrop's expression did not change as she nodded to her Captain. Then she shouted in a jovial manner, "You heard the lady folks. I'm sorry for the interruption, and thank you all for coming."
This was the cue for the audience to make for the exit in a frantic yet orderly manner, in a way only the upper classes can move. Meanwhile Ivy requested that the Royal Family accompany her. They flew over the orchestra to a door on the far side of the hall, flanked by three guards, and ran through it into a brightly lit, red carpeted corridor. Marigold suddenly realised they were being escorted to the emergency passageway meant for evacuation. She'd been down there numerous times, but she'd never expected to use it for real. Her nerves increasing, she looked to her older brother and sister running alongside her to see they looked just as concerned as she was.
"What do you mean we are under attack Captain?" Prince Pine asked Ivy as they ran. "And why can't the Elite Guard contain it?"
"The Elite Guard is outnumbered and surrounded," Ivy replied bluntly. "We can hold them off for a while, hopefully until after you and the other guests have been evacuated."
"But who is responsible for all this?" Honeysuckle asked.
"We don't know."
"How can you not
"It's like we're fighting shadows. There's this unnatural darkness covering the Royal Tree. All we can see of our enemies are their devilish yellow eyes."
Finally they arrived at a portrait of Queen Snowdrop's grandmother riding atop a Barn Owl. Ivy twisted a nearby bust of King Apple VII to a ninety degree angle and suddenly the portrait and the wall behind it rose up into the ceiling, revealing a dark stone passageway leading downwards through the centre of the tree. As Prince Pine illuminated the way by summoning a tongue of flame that rested in the palm of his hand they suddenly heard a crash from an upstairs bedroom.
"They're in, they've breached the palace!" a panicked voice shouted.
"Quickly your Majesty, make for the boat. My troops are already prepping it for transport. I'll hold them off!" Ivy hissed as she bundled the Royal Family into the emergency passage.
"No, you can't stay here!" Marigold gasped in horror while Ivy and her men withdrew their batons from their belts. Ivy shot her a wink that tried to be confident, but somehow failed, as she twisted the bust back into position. Then the wall slid back down into position, concealing her from view.
"No, we have to let her in!" Marigold insisted, pounding on the stone wall now blocking her path back.
Ash was the one to wrap his arms about her waist and haul her away. "She's doing her duty. We have to do ours and escape to ensure the future of Daffoville!" he told her.
Somewhat reluctantly Marigold joined her family in descending the spiral stone staircase. She focused on the white ballgown being worn by Queen Snowdrop, the darkly coloured gem in her necklace reflecting the light from Prince Pine's burning palm onto the brick walls. As they walked in silence Marigolds thoughts drifted to Fern and myself. How could it have only been two nights ago that we'd stayed up gossiping in our flat until even the fireflies went to bed? Even if we all escaped, would our lives ever return to how they were?
After minutes of descending through the darkness they eventually arrived at a heavy wooden door. It led onto a dock concealed within the roots of the willow tree, right by the banks of the river that ran past the Royal Palace. A large sailing boat was moored against it, its sails unfurled and ready for cast off. Without hesitation the Royal Family all ran towards it. But they all stopped when they saw members of the Elite Guard lying unconscious to the side of the dock.
Then Marigold saw him, standing at the top of the gangplank blocking their path. He was a tall Nymph with blue wings, the dark hooded cloak concealing every part of his face save his sneering lips and the immaculately trimmed blue beard.
Queen Snowdrop recognised him instantly. "No," she murmured in terror. "No it can't be you, it's impossible!"
"Oh come now, did you honestly think I'd gone forever!" he smiled at her.
Prince Pine stood in front of his children, his wife and the Queen and yelled, "Everyone, run for it!"
But before they could even take a step, the figure raised his shrouded arms and uttered an enchantment Marigold was all too familiar with. "Bondara e Mufflisca!"
At his words an uncountable torrent of cords and black rags erupted from underneath the sleeves of his cloak. The ropes twisted and contorted in the air like flying serpents, and stretched from his body like the roots of a plant. Instinctively Marigold turned to flee, but she didn't get far before lengths of these cords ensnared her legs and quickly tightened around them, making her fall onto her side. She gasped for air as her fall winded her, during which time more of these enchanted ropes surrounded her. She tried to swat them away but only succeeded in entangling her wrists, at which her hands were drawn behind her back and swiftly bound together. More ropes wound about her chest, waist and shoulders, tightly constricting her wings and preventing her from flying away. Then her frustrated gasps were silenced as a black rag descended from the air and pulled itself around her lips, before making four circuits around her head and golden hair.
As her bonds were tightened further she looked around and saw Honeysuckle desperately trying to scream through the rag winding its way around her head as her already bound wrists were bound against her knees. Beyond her Ash was furiously fighting against the enchantment, his face flushing red as he strained with all his strength for his freedom. Her mum and dad had been drawn back to back, the cords making their wings crumple against each other as they helplessly gazed at their equally helpless children. Finally Queen Snowdrop was bound in a kneeling position, and while she had not yet been gagged she did not put up a struggle as the stranger descended down the gangplank towards her.
Going down on one knee the sorcerer laughed, "Not quite so regal and majestic now are you Snowdrop?"
"The correct form of address is your Majesty!" Queen Snowdrop snarled, without a trace of fear or defeat in her defiant voice.
"Not for much longer it won't be," the man sneered maliciously. "But in the interest of time I'll play by the rules. Tell me, your Majesty, where is my father currently hiding?"
"As if I'd ever tell you that!" Queen Snowdrop retorted.
The man merely put his arm on her shoulder and twisted her restrained body around so she could view her bound, gagged and thrashing grandchildren. With his deep blue eyes fixed on Marigold he said, "Because if you don't comply with my demands I'll inflict onto your family the same punishment you inflicted onto me. And I'll start with the youngest!"
"NNNNNMMMMM!" Marigold squealed in uttermost dread.
I unlocked my balcony door and stepped out into the night. It was growing cold, and I crossed my arms to keep out the worst of the chill. I loved the view from my old bedroom, looking out over the closely gathered larch trees with a clump of holly bushes directly underneath. I'd spent many an hour playing on here as a little girl. Sometimes I would sneak out of bed, and standing on my tiptoes I'd rest my arms on the wall and gaze up at the starry sky through the canopy. Now I had to bend over to rest my arms on the wall, but the stars remained the same, even though clouds were obscuring them tonight.
I was still angry. Partly because they were still treating me like a schoolgirl, despite the fact I was now a young woman of thirty four (remember we mature and age slower than you humans). But mostly because I was sick of having to pick a side, be it my fathers or my grandfathers. Then again I'd never known them to have an easy relationship. Especially since the day my family had been torn apart thirty years ago.
I was four at the time, only just learning to use my wings, so I barely remember anything. But if I stand in the correct position in my bedroom sometimes images flash through my head. Me sitting on my mum's knee while she cradled me, singing soothing melodies into my ear in a voice cracked from emotion and fear, watching the unnatural lightning strikes engulf Daffoville through the balcony doors.
"It's got nippy hasn't it?" said my granddad's voice, making me wheel about in surprise.
I eyed him angrily as he stood in the balcony doorway looking very sorry for himself. "You finished your shouting competition then?" I grunted.
"Well to be honest your mum has just finished shouting at me and your father," Lupin informed me as he leant on the wall at my side. "She reminded us quite rightly that it is not fair on you to be caught up in our squabbles
So can you forgive me for being a stubborn old fool?"
I stared at him, my expression indicating that I forgave him despite how angry I still felt. "You aren't a fool granddad. I just don't understand why you and dad can't agree on anything?"
"Because that is what being part of a family is about," Lupin told me with a hollow laugh. "Parents and grandparents dream of what their offspring will achieve from the moment they are born. Sometimes it is hard for us to abandon these dreams and support what you really want to do."
A low flying bat flittered across our line of vision for a moment, interrupting our conversation. When it disappeared into the inky blackness I replied, "I already respect and look up to you, but that doesn't mean I want to be exactly like you."
"Quite right to," Lupin smiled at me. "There's nothing worse than living your life wanting to be someone you are not. Besides, as role models go I'm a pretty terrible one."
His comment confused me. "Since when was the most powerful Nymph sorcerer in generations a bad role model?"
"There are more important things to being a good sorcerer than simply being powerful," Lupin explained softly. "Bluebell, we share many qualities; our magical abilities, our dogged determination, our tendency to be airheaded and late. But you also have compassion, patience and modesty. And perhaps most importantly of all you accept people for who they are, faults and all. You didn't learn those qualities from me, which will make you a better mage than I ever was."
I was shocked at how vulnerable my grandfather suddenly looked. As a full moon peeped from behind the clouds his weathered face appeared weary, and his deep blue eyes seemed to mist over as they gazed into the lunar light.
Before I could ask what the matter was he continued, "Your father has a point. The worst thing that could possibly happen is for you to turn into me. I, in my arrogance and self-confidence, made mistakes that I regret to this day. Everything I have done during your life has been my way of atoning for these mistakes. But the guilt never fades, it just
continues." His words were beginning to worry me, but I think he sensed this and within seconds he was back to being the jovial, caring man that I'd always known.
"Ah but you shouldn't worry over the regrets of an old man," he exclaimed with a smile. "You are young and free and beautiful. You should be with your friends drinking and dancing. You have all the time in the world to become the great sorceress I'm sure you will one day be." He smiled affectionately at me, and I smiled back.
I don't think I'd ever felt closer to my grandfather than at that precise moment. And that, more than anything, made what was about to happen all the more cruel.
Our moment of peace was shattered by a familiar voice crying from above us. "Bluebell, Bluebell are you there?" We looked up as two Nymphs my age soared through the sky and made a hasty landing on my balcony. You'll remember them I'm sure. One was a classmate from magic college, a girl with shoulder length pink hair and thick glasses made out of dandelion seeds, dressed in a white blouse and pink cardigan, black knee length skirt, maroon tights and pink maryjanes. The other was her cousin, a handsome though scruffy boy with unkempt purple hair and unshaven stubble, dressed in a green hoodie, blue jeans and black trainers.
"Primrose, Moss, what are you both
?" I began, before Primrose cut me off by flinging her arms around my neck.
"Thank the sunflowers you're alright," she exclaimed clutching me so tightly it were as if she hadn't seen me in years.
"Sorry to barge in on you like this," Moss explained, as he struggled to catch his breath. "But after everything that's happening at the Royal Palace Primrose insisted we came to check if you were alright!"
"What's happening at the Royal Palace?" Lupin asked Moss in a calm yet unmistakably urgent voice.
As Primrose pulled out of her embrace she and Moss exchanged concerned glances. "You mean you haven't heard?" she asked us.
"Heard what?" asked my dad as he and my mum walked through the balcony doors. I briefly wondered if they'd been listening in on my and Lupin's conversation, but these suspicions quickly disappeared as I began to wonder what was worrying Primrose and Moss.
Primrose began to explain, "There's been an attack on the Royal Palace. The Elite Guard have been overrun and the attackers have taken hostages, including the entire Royal Family."
"WHAT!" my mum and dad chorused.
"Oh no, Marigold!" I exclaimed in horror.
"Who is the person responsible?" my granddad asked firmly.
Again Moss and Primrose hesitated as they wondered just how to break the news. Finally, with a trembling voice, Moss revealed his name to us. "It's Mage Foxglove!"
My mum gasped as her hands flew over her lips. My dad began to breathe loudly as he stared at the ground in shock. Lupin's expression was one of a man who had received the worst news possible, though news that he had long been expecting.
As for me, I felt only uncomfortable pangs of unease. For while I'd been young when Mage Foxglove had been exiled, I was more than aware of his capabilities. How he was once the most promising sorcerer in the land. How he had been corrupted by greed and ambition until he attempted to seize power from Queen Snowbell. How only my grandfather's intervention had prevented his ultimate victory.
And how he was also my uncle.