Chapter 3:

THREE – The Magical City.

The Girl With A Secret

The girl wondered how they would manage to get to the abandoned castle. The boy warned her that they could not stay in public for long. The girl was in awe how vibrant and full of life the city was. She saw wizards, witches, talking animals and spirits everywhere. Odd items were sold in shops and foreign languages were being spoken. Magic had surrounded the girl. More and more eyes started observing the girl as she was walking through the crowd. The boy felt a sense of hurry and took out a hard-boiled candy. He placed it inside the girl’s mouth.

“This will suppress your magic and allow you to move around unnoticed. We have to hurry and meet up with old man Amadeus.”

The house was located away from the city’s heart. It was split into two parts and connected by a bridge between both sides. Vines were covering the walls and an observatory was at the very top instead of a roof. The boy knocked on the door. A woman opened it and let them in. She was wearing a yellow and white kimono. Her peachy-coloured hair was held in a bun with two chopsticks. The boy told the girl and the rest of the group to wait in the living room while he had a chat with her. The woman returned all by herself.

“You must be Hana. I’m sorry for the late introduction. My name is Luna and I run a magical music store. Maki went to talk to my grandfather. When you meet him, you can call him old man Amadeus. If you would like, I can show you around.”

The girl took up the offer. The fox and the toy followed. They crossed the bridge and went into the shop. The woman opened the front door and flipped the sign on the window from ‘closed’ to ‘open’. The girl was able to play various instruments as she used to teach music to the children back in her town. She helped the woman get everything ready. A beautiful, polished koto was placed outside of the shop on a rose-coloured blanket. The girl, intrigued, played a single note on it. The sound scattered and became visible. She played some more notes. And some more. The more she played, the bigger the notes danced around her. They started to paint a picture. It was a picture of the place where the snowdrops, bluebells and wild daffodils bloomed. The girl’s fingers were delicately gliding over the strings. Strangers had gathered around her. There was a gap of silence between her finishing playing and the applause of the audience. The woman was very impressed and told the girl that she could capture people’s heart with her music. The girl apologised for using it without her permission. A young girl grabbed the girl by her dress and stared at her for a long time without saying a word.

“I think Mimi really liked your performance. She is studying hard to become a great witch.”

It was the woman’s daughter that had taken a liking to her. She was wearing a fluffy, pink dress and a witch’s hat. Her big, green eyes were sparkling. A cute, little hummingbird was nestled on her shoulder. The young girl ran off into the shop to greet the boy who had returned. It was the girl’s turn to meet the old man called Amadeus. She climbed up the stairs to the observatory. The room was full of scripts, books and fountain pens. It was lit up by several candles. The musky, woody scent reminded her of the winter season. The old man was covered in a robe and was sitting on a big, black cushion. A big shadow was hovering behind him. The girl had heard about the creature in fairy tales. The body was covered in long, soft fur and the arms and legs were thin like sticks. The neck was long, and it had human hands. It was white as the morning snow and had the antennae of a reindeer; the face of an owl and a black tail split in two.

“Don’t fear. Blacktaeil is my familiar. She won’t harm you.”

The old man gestured with his hand to the girl to sit down on one of the cushions in front of him. He spoke in a calming voice and explained to the girl what the boy and him had discussed. The old man was aware of the situation the girl was in and was willing to lend a hand.

“It has been a while since I have left this room. I guess it is time for this old man to make an entrance into the world again. And here I thought my retirement would be serene and peaceful. It will take a couple of days to prepare everything. Until then you may stay with us.”

“Thank you for helping me.”

The girl’s heart was curious about the boy. So, she went and asked the woman who the boy was. The aroma of green tea was wafting through the house. The woman was holding her daughter in her lap who was nibbling on some crackers and feeding some to her hummingbird and the fox. The toy was standing silently in a corner.

“The old man is my grandfather. Him and Maki are childhood friends. You might wonder how that is possible. I don’t know the details but according to my grandfather, Maki’s internal clock has stopped. His heart and soul have been stuck in time for the longest time. I remember as I was growing up, he never did. Rumours say that Maki and my grandfather were disciples of a wizard who was hiding the philosophers’ stone. My grandfather however has never denied or confirmed it. I only know that both of them are carrying a huge burden in their hearts. Especially Maki. It surprised me to hear that a young girl as yourself was holding on to the stone. According to lore, possessors of the stone get cursed. They become very ill and their bodies and soul rot away. Usually, a mark appears on their body to show that they are the true holders of it.”

The shop had closed. The woman was putting her daughter to bed. The fox and the toy joined her. Her husband worked with normal people and therefore travelled around the country. He would sometimes be away for months. The girl had changed into a night gown. Instead of being in her bed, the girl was sitting in the garden behind the house. She was mesmerised by the koi fishes swimming in the pond. The dark blue night sky was reflected on its surface. The flowers around her were glowing and she heard whispers and giggles. Small, white beans with four chubby legs were crawling all over her body. They had no mouth. Only two green eyes. Some had a small bud coming out of their heads. They seemed to be attracted to the girl.

“They are Guardian Spirits that protect your house and warn you of danger or disasters. Once they sense a sudden change in magic within a certain radius, the bud on their heads bloom and they die, having fulfilled their task.”

The boy joined the girl and played around with the Guardian Spirits. The girl had realised something along her journey. That her heart felt happy whenever the boy was close. The girl wondered if they had met before, a long time ago. Spending time with the boy felt nostalgic to her. She was grateful for meeting him. The beans had stopped moving while the girl was lost in thought. They started to fall off of her, one by one. Their buds were blooming. Several shadows covered the moon. The woman came out of the house running. The old man Amadeus was standing on the platform that lead into the observatory. Two black tails hid the girl behind it. It was the old man’s familiar. The boy told Blacktaeil to take the girl inside. It grabbed hold of the girl and ran but before it could reach safety, the familiar burst into flames. The girl fell to the ground. The boy chanted a spell and one of his blue eyes changed to a golden colour. A magic circle appeared in front of him and out of it came a majestic dragon. It was slim and long with no wings attached to its back. Its leathery skin was the colour of onyx, making the shades of dark blue and lilac of its fur more luminous than they already were. The eyes were iridescent, and its long, wavy horns were glowing at their tips. The mane and tail were moving as if they were the current of a river. Its four legs lightly touched the grass. Ice blue coloured orbs were floating around its body. The fight had begun against the moths. Beans kept falling from high places. The girl wanted to help but was snatched away by one of the moths. She was in the air and being flown further and further away from the boy. In the blink of an eye, the girl vanished in thin air. The boy’s familiar failed to reach her.

The girl opened her eyes. Water was dripping from above. The air felt sticky and cold. It smelled of mold and dust. The girl looked around. Two pumpkin guards were watching over her. She had become a prisoner.

“Where am I?”

“You are in an underground temple. It’s the home of our master, Griselda, the Cursed Enchantress.”

The pumpkins were making grimacing faces. The girl walked over to the middle of the room where light was breaking in from above. She was barefoot. The pumpkins followed her.

“Have you ever left this place? Have you been above the ground?”

“No, we haven’t. We were born in the darkness and signed a contract with our master.”

The girl felt sad for the pumpkin guards. They had never seen the sun or the flowers. Nor the sky and the sea. The pumpkin guards were confused of why the girl had such a heartbroken expression on her face. For some unknown reason, the girl felt pity for the Cursed Enchantress. She remembered the words of her mother, to never judge another person’s heart. No matter what their actions or intentions might be, one could not possibly know what the true face of a soul was.